Archive | March 2013

Progress Report

31st March 2013
Mark is a very diligent student of writing <LOL>

None of the FB meters I looked at really work to display writing progress in a useful way. This is partly because it’s not a simple process, and just counting the words written only addresses an element of the whole. I promised a report, and here it is in longhand.

How I arrive at these estimates

This is purely the way I work, for the books I’m writing. I divide the process of writing a book up into four main sections, listed here with the approximate percentage of effort:

25          Construction
25          Plotting
40          Writing
10          Editing

Construction comprises all the preparatory work: design the world, outline the story, outline the characters and locations. This element always gives me a good feeling, because all the subsequent books in the series after Sleight of Hand benefit from the construction work done there. Obviously, new elements require additional work, but lots gets carried over.

Plotting takes an outline of a story and fleshes it out to the point it is possible to write. For example, I know from the outline that Miss Scarlet must find Colonel Mustard in the library, polishing the candlestick. Plotting tells me how to get the characters there at the right time, the colonel’s motivations for polishing the candlestick, and the high points of their conversation.

Writing is self-explanatory.

Editing is everything that takes it from a draft on my laptop to the finished ebook on yours, and includes production work like formatting, arranging ISBNs and creation of the covers.

These are ideal numbers. Sleight of Hand took lots more construction. Hidden Trump took lots more editing.

The estimates for all current projects in expected order of completion:

Raw Deal, prequel to Sleight of Hand. Approximately 40,000 words. 70% complete, expected to be published in May 2013. Amber in the Denver police force.

Wild Card, book 3 of Bite Back series. Approximately 130,000 words. 47% complete, expected to be published in August 2013. Amber deals with the aftermath of the Assembly in Hidden Trump, and is tasked with tracking down the rogue Were. This is the longest and most complex of the current writing, and that means that my confidence in this estimate is only moderate.

Saigon, book 1 of Bian’s Tale series. Approximately 90,000 words. 50% complete, expected to be published in December 2013.

<TBA>, book 4 of Bite Back series. Approximately 120,000 words. 39% complete, expected 2014.

Hacha del Diablo, pre-prequel to Sleight of Hand, Approximately 40,000 words. 40% complete, expected 2014.


I’ve been neglecting my blog, for which I apologize to you. What has kept me away from finishing the half dozen blogettes I have waiting on my laptop is the pressure to produce the next book in the Bite Back series. This is not your fault, for reasons which I’ll come to. Suffice to say, at the moment, I would be head down in book writing this morning were it not for a conversation I had yesterday. 

To set the scene, let me re-state that I seldom get upset by reviews. This is, in part, because ‘I have all the sensitivity of a rhinoceros’. However, that throwaway line doesn’t really capture the essence of what happens when I read reviews of my books, and I read every review I come across. The process I go through is split between emotional and rational. It’s very left brain – right brain. If the review is positive, I use it to polish my ego, which lives in my right brain, and then mentally add weight in the writing engine to the things mentioned. If the review is negative, I throw it at a set of analytical cogs in the left brain. These are:

What is the reviewer *really* saying?
Is it justified?
Do I want to change anything?

By the time the review is spat out of those cogs, there’s little emotional charge left. Anything I think I should change gets added in to the weights in the reading room.

The final decision on change, incidentally, for both positive and negative reasons, I leave to the future me when I’m actually at the point of plotting or writing about whatever it is that was mentioned in the review.

All of which is fine, and I recommend the system to any writer. And all of which is bypassed when I get feedback verbally. There are different parts of the brain engaged when the ‘review’ is in a conversation as opposed to a written text.

It’s not as if I haven’t received this feedback before, but it completely missed the analytical engine and went straight into the right brain and pissed me off.

The offending comment was ‘vampires are such an overdone theme’.

I have a deep well of witty rejoinders and cutting phrases, but along with 99.9% of the population, this well is capped off while I’m actually up on my hind legs and trying to speak. And the person making the comment is a friend and a writer. All I managed was my standard defense – ‘I’m enjoying writing it as much as many people seem to be enjoying reading it.’ Whatever.

With the conversation over, I retrieved the comment and sent it to the analytical cogs.

She said the area is overdone. That means there are a lot of books about vampires. Yeah? How many books are there about crime? Am I being unfair? Okay, how many books about murder? Still unfair?

Okay, how many books about serial killers? Yes, but people are now saying that serial killers are overdone, too. Fine, how many books are there where boy meets girl, they begin by hating each other and then fall in love? How many books are there about aliens? How many books are there about medieval kingdoms? With magic or dragons? Or both?

The vampire arena is *not* full. There is no reason to say that there are too many books about vampires any more than there are too many books about serial killers, romance, aliens or epic fantasy.

What she was really saying was that a lot of the books about vampires aren’t worth reading.

Whether she is justified or not will have to be another blog, because I promised myself I would spend no more than an hour on this. But to short circuit my analytical cogs and come to the last question – the answer is no, I’m not going to stop writing about Athanate just because there are a lot of books about vampires.


Postscript 1.

It is not your fault I’m feeling under pressure. The writing pressures at the moment come about because I’ve decided to spend more time writing the prequel than on Wild Card – about a ratio of 2:1. I know, if you’re reading this blog, you’re likely to want that ratio reversed at the least. But sitting here as an Indie author, I have to think about marketing and timing, and I believe a freebie prequel will mean a whole lot more people get to enjoy Wild Card a month or two later than anticipated.


Postscript 2.

Having thought through all my cutting rejoinders, I emailed my friend and told her I rejected her comment and listed the reasons why. I got a <LOL> back, and her own rejoinder, that if we were now going to have this conversation by email, she would apply her own analytical cogs to prove her case. I await her email.