How writing a story a day in May is making people feel
What people are saying about StoryADay May this year.
Let’s start StoryADay May off right!
Well, that doesn’t make it sound like I’m getting above my station, does it? Delusions of godhood? Surely not!
But there is a world I’ve been inventing. I’ve written parts of two novels set in this world. Every time I struggle to finish them, I run into the same problem: there are lots of gaps in what I know about the world. Not knowing, slows me down. I thought it would be easier to write in a fictitious world than to make up stories that seemed realistic to people living in the same world as the setting. I’m not sure ‘easier’ is the word I should have used. “Fun”? Yes. “Stimulating?” Yes. “Easy”? No.
So I’ve decided I’m going to devote a lot of my StoryADay May to writing stories set in the main city in my world.
This morning I’ve been slaving over a spider-like mind-map, full of different areas of life that might be fodder for stories: Family life, politics, beliefs, green issues, city life, socializing…Each little branch represents an area of city life that I might want to explore. Having decided upon that, I will (I hope) decide on what kind of conflict could arise, who might care about it, and what their story is.
I like well-defined assignments, and now I feel like I have one for the whole of next month.
Think of StoryADay May as the parent who made you play scales between piano lessons; the coach who inspired you throw endless pitches at the side of your house in the evenings; the teacher who made you do fractions over and over and over again until it finally clicked and you started to see the music between the numbers.
In the last episode, I talked about how I was writing a months’ worth of blog posts AND an ebook at the same time (using WordPress and Scrivener).
Today I’m coming with an update: the book is ready!
I did enjoy putting the book together with Scrivener and I discovered that it has a really powerful ‘compile’ feature that outputs all kinds of ebook formats (including the .mobi format I wanted for Kindle).
However, in the end I was (gasp!) up against a time crunch and wanted to Get It Done! I didn’t have time to play around (more than four or five times) with the Compile function to try to get it all right, and then to figure out how to attach the cover image and…
Since I’ve made Kindle ebooks before by creating a Word document, converting it to “.htm” and uploading that, that’s what I did this time. I used Scrivener’s compile feature to give me a Word file that I then formatted the way I wanted it (minimal formatting, just using styles and page breaks) and then converted to HTML.
I will, I swear, learn to use the very cool Scrivener functionality for that at some point.
Kindle covers should be 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 pixels on the longest side. I’ve made a few before and have a kind of template set up, so I opened up Photoshop Elements and made my adjustments, then saved it as a .jpg. Boom!
Did you know it’s free to upload a Kindle eBook to Amazon?
I always assume people know that, but really, why would you? So now you do. It’s free. I set the price and Amazon takes between 30-65% of the list price, depending on the royalty structure I choose and the territory it’s being sold in. Compared to traditional publishing deals this is pretty sweet (except I don’t have a team of professionals to help me out, nor an advance. I also don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission to ‘get published’ though and I have access to a massive, well-oiled selling machine that will handle most of the technical stuff for me, so I call it a deal).
It’s perfect for someone like me, who is using ebooks as an educational resource for my blog readers.
There’s more to tell on this ebook project — including pricing, promotions and results, but I’ll save that for another day.
Wow, winter has come quickly.
I mean, it’s November and we’ve had snow already, and its not that I’m surprised at having to scrape frost off my windscreen at 7:55AM, it’s just that that it’s so sudden. October spent a good part of its time this year pretending to be August (or at least early September) and then it turned around and dumped three inches of snow on our unmowed grass and previously-thriving tender annuals. I was still growing cucumbers — cucumbers! 1
So, November is here and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again. I must have heard of NaNoWriMo for the first time just a couple of years after it started, thanks to Debbie (who, by the way, has a book coming out, of which she is the illustrator. She is a multi-talented thing, that Debbie and if she wasn’t so adorable, and hadn’t fed my neices and nephew candy at Halloween all those years ago, we’d have to travel to Toronto with a sack full of squirrels who had been carefully briefed.), but I didn’t ever pluck up the courage to try it until last year, after I had spent the previous May writing a story a day. At some point during the year it occurred to me that writing a little bit each day on the SAME story might actually be possible – and maybe easier than having to come up with a different one every day.
So I tried it.
I did write – fairly coherently – on the same story every day last year and what was more, I enjoyed it. It was the most fun part of my day, even when it was hard. It made me happy for the rest of the day, even when I was fretting about which words when in which order and how to get my characters from here to there at the right time so that they could bump into that character – who didn’t want to be bumped into.
I had planned out my characters and the major events in the story, so I was was pretty confidence of reaching the end. I did reach the end: the end of November, that is, with my 50,000 words and my “winner” certificate. And I felt great.
What I didn’t feel so great about, however, was the shape my story was in. I could tell it wasn’t quite working and that made it hard for me to push on, when November was over, and make it to the end of the actual novel. I couldn’t quite tell what I was doign wrong. I knew it needed a massive revision, but I didn’t know where to start.
I put it aside and spent the past year listening to other authors talk about their writing process in podcasts and lectures. I read about writing. I read books. I hosted StoryADay May again, and even ran a contest. I got lots of heart-warming feedback from other writers who enjoyed StoryADay. I failed to take part in the wonderful Write1Sub1 challenge, although I consider myself a charter cheerleader.
Lots of writerly information was swirling around in my head looking for a catalyst to start some kind of reaction 2.
Happily for me I found it right at the start of October and have spent all of that month ignoring the crazy weather and instead sketching out the bones of my next novel. I had to fight hard to stop myself jumping back in time and revising last year’s NaNo novel which I really loved, but which was ugly and in need of a fix.
So this year I’m writing a simpler novel, with the idea of trying out Larry’s techniques. They’re based on screenwriting formulae. I’ve watched (and loved) enough TV shows and movies for the idea of a formula to seem normal and natural to me 4. This book has given me insights into what I was doing wrong last year and what I might do right this year.
My plan is to write, write, write and keep writing past the end of November, to get to a proper novel length (50,000 words is a little short).
I’ve started out with a plan, a knowledge of my characters, notes on what scenes have to happen when. On Oct 28 I was super confident. On Oct 29 I was still working on the outline. On Oct 30, well I think I spent that day going “huh?” as we got snowed on. On Oct 31 I was busy and on November 1 I was nervous.
Yesterday, Nov 2, I remembered that, even with all the planning in the world, writing stories is actually quite hard. Much time was spent staring at my screen, trying to wrangle the first 800 words of that day’s quota into shape. Then I remembered that the first 800 words are always the hardest, every day 5. Which is why I’m rambling here. Even though they’re not novel-related, I’m hoping these words will serve as my warm-up. Tomorrow I’ll write something that’s not about writing6.
- which, as it turns out is a lot harder to type than it should be. “Cumumbers”? “Cumcumbers”? Wake up, fingers! ↩
- 17 years of marriage to a chemist finally makes up for not having taken any chemistry classes ever! ↩
- This book spends wa-ay too much time on the sales pitch of why his method will work and why you shouldn’t resist it even if you’ve always resisted outlining. Speed-reading will be your friend until you get to the meat of the book, and even then, you’ll have to let your eyes slide over a thousand analogies that reinforce the point a thousand different ways. But the essentials of the book are really worth it. The editor, however? Should possibly be fired… ↩
- in fact, part of my preparation for NaNo last year was to deconstruct a classic Trek episode and see where the high points and low points came – how far into the story. I just couldn’t quite figure out how to DO it in my novel ↩
- It’s why 750words exists! ↩
- It’s a pet peeve of mine, when writers write fiction about ooo, let me think, a writer. Especially a writer who is slaving away at a local newspaper when what she really wants to be doing is writing novels…wah wah wah, use your imagination! ↩