Sorry I haven’t been able to respond to all of the comments. I’ve joined two large box set collaborations, both set to come out before the end of the year, so between those and my already crazy writing schedule, my time has been strapped. I figured I’d take some of the more common questions I’ve been asked and convert them into a blog post. If I didn’t get to your question with this, I encourage you to give me another nudge and I’ll try to with the next post! And sorry if this has some errors, I only gave it a once over and my brain has the tendency to read what I should have written, even if it isn’t there. >_<
Reader Expectations Within a Genre
I was asked about genres and how I know what the expectations are for readers in each genre. One of the best ways to figure out what readers in each genre are looking for is to read reviews. I’d give you some examples for mine, but most of my bad reviews are just people complaining about the length or the fact that my heroines always wear impractical shoes.
Look for common complaints and common praises and you’ll start to notice trends. For example, in New Adult books, a cheating hero has a much better chance of redemption than a hero in a paranormal romance, where fidelity is one of the cornerstones of the genre.
Different genres have different expectations and once you figure out what those expectations are, you can begin to mold your story around them. It’s important to remember that these conventions can bent and broken, and in fact some of the best and most unique stories run contrary to reader expectations. What you always have to remember though, is that for each convention you break, you better be following two, because if you go crazy and try to make your story too unique, you’re probably going to end up pressing way too many buttons with readers.
Writing on a Tight Schedule
I’ve always set very aggressive deadlines and I often found myself scrambling at the last minute to finish. Later, I began setting more lax deadlines, but was still scrambling at the last minute to finish. My problem had nothing to do with the deadlines and everything to do with procrastination and poor management of time.
With my current serial, I’ve been much more organized and it really shows in the cohesiveness of the story, the quality of the writing, and my overall quality of life. Here’s how I’ve managed this.
First off, I drafted my entire serial out before I started writing. I did a pretty loose draft, about a 2,000 word summary per book that outlines all of the major plot points. I kept it loose intentionally that way my characters have room to breathe. I think it’s a really good idea to keep plotlines flexible because characters can change so much between drafting and actually writing. The last thing you want to do is hit a point where you’re trying to cram your characters into a plot that just doesn’t really make sense considering how they’ve grown and evolved. That’s something I can talk more about later.
So, after I did my initial draftings, I went back into the first book and drafted each individual chapter. I’m going to post a couple pictures of my scrivener files so you can see what this looks like. Basically, I do anywhere from 250 to 750 words per chapter.
You can click on the image and enlarge it to get an idea of what this looks like. As you can see I’ve done a skeleton draft of Chapter 4, writing down the dialogue and a handful of actions that will take place. In the upper right corner is where I monitor projected word count versus actual word count and where I make note of chapter deadlines.
So now I have an overall draft of my book and individual chapter drafts. In the past I’ve been a strong advocate for pantsing, which for those of you who don’t know, is sort of like discovery writing. You have a general idea of what you want to happen and you just say to hell with plots, I’m gonna figure this out as I go. When I say that, some of you are probably thinking YES THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE! and others are appalled. I can say that my best writing is a combination of these, but for now I’m going to focus on the plotting aspect because I think that’s way more important for effectively managing your time.
The overall draft is going to help you to do the chapter draft and the chapter draft is going to help you write way more efficiently. Instead of scratching your head and wondering what to write next, you’ll have the chapter draft to refer to at all times, which basically makes writer’s block a thing of the past. I also like to assign mini-deadlines to each chapter to keep myself on the ball. I never think of reaching a specific word count per day, my focus is always on doing a minimum of one chapter per writing day and a maximum of two. At least for myself, writing more than about 4,000 words a day really burns me out and the next day I’m much less enthusiastic about my WIP. It’s important to recognize your own limits that way you can pace yourself better.
A 30,000 word book, which is about 100 pages, takes me around two weeks to write from start to finish. To give you a breakdown of my most recent book, I spent two days drafting the 13 individual chapters, which left me 12 days. Most of the days I wrote at least one chapter, some days I had good momentum and I finished two. On days where I knew that I would be distracted (like payday) I didn’t schedule any writing at all. I try to rush and push myself to exceed my mini-deadlines in the first week that way if life happens and I miss day in week two, I’m still ahead of the game.
I remember somebody asked about Amazon’s adult dungeon, aka where the naughty books are hidden away. I want to just go over that really quickly because there isn’t too much that you need to know about it. For those of you don’t know, here’s what happens when you submit a book through KDP. It goes through filters and certain content will trigger flags. After the automated filters, the book is reviewed by an actual person. They review the cover as well as the flags to ensure that the book doesn’t contain any banned material, such as underage erotica. There a are a few things that can get your book put in the adult dungeon. Nudity on the cover is a big one. Obviously you can have male chests, but you don’t want any female breasts showing. You also don’t want to show any butts or genitalia. Those are the ones I know for sure will get you put in the dungeon. I’ve also heard people say that sideboob, hands over boobs, and straddling can get you there as well, but take those with a grain of salt.
The other things you want to be conscientious of are your blurbs and your titles. I know for certain that if you talk about pseudo incest in your blub, you’ll probably get shoved in the dungeon. That’s a very lucrative subject and if you decide to write about it then be sure to use words like taboo. I’ve heard authors say that the word “sexy” in their title has gotten them dungeoned, I don’t know how true that is, but I’d err on the side of caution.
I written thirteen erotic romance books and I’ve never been dungeoned. Basically, if you want to keep your books out of the adult dungeon, just be smart. Make sure your cover is sexy, but not smutty and make sure your blurb and title conveys what your book is about without going into graphic detail. A blurb is like a nice dress. It should emphasize your assets while still leaving something to the imagination.
Unlimited and All-Stars
My inbox is flooded with people asking about KU. Please keep in mind, while I’ve always been open about my successes and how I’ve done the things I’ve done, it doesn’t make flat out asking me what I’m earning not rude. So, um, don’t do that.
I was initially turned off by the idea of an All-Star program, as were many of my friends. We assumed it would just be doled out to all the people who already had special deals with Amazon. We were all surprised yesterday when a lot of us got an email. August was a pretty slow month for me and I didn’t even expect to scratch that list, but I actually received one of the larger incentives. It’s not something I would plan my finances around, but I personally know a few authors that only had one or two moderately selling titles in KU that still took home one of the $1k bounties.
A lot of you want to know if I think KU is worth it. I would say yes, with caveat that it is if you aren’t selling strongly on any other channels. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve already released a few books and been at it for several months. I’ve found a good deal of success in the program, but when I pulled out my sales were beginning to really pick up on Barnes & Noble. If I ever decided to pull out of the program, it would probably take a while to regain that momentum.
A few rules of thumb when transitioning into KU:
- Don’t pull your books from other vendors mid-series. Make sure your series is complete and your dedicated fans have time to finish it, a least a week.
- On that note, give your readers fair warning, again, at least a week, that all of your books are coming down from other vendors.
- Establish a No Kindle? page on your website so that fans without a Kindle can enjoy your book in their desired format. Be sure that you are prompt in distributing these copies to your fans.
Anyway, I hope this stuff was helpful. Feel free to ask me more questions, I’m going to try to squeeze another blog post out before the end of the month.