In the self-publishing world we often talk about things like marketing, editing, cover design, building a platform—and all of these are things you do AFTER writing your book. But the actual writing, the writing craft, is even more important. Let’s talk about how to get your book right.
Writing your best possible book is something that takes time—time to produce, obviously, but also time to perfect. Writing is a skill that gets better with use, but just like any other craft the quality of your practice makes as big a difference as the quantity. In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, Draft2Digital’s resident authors talk about how they’ve honed and improved their own craft, and how you can see impressive improvement in your own work.
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book, thriller, words, genre, writing, craft, read, write, mark, draft, characters, nick, full length novel, digital, writer, authors, romance, story, talking, practice
Well, hello, everyone. This is Kevin Tumlinson with self publishing insiders. And we we have, of course, Mark Leslie Lafave off to my right and down below us. Nick Thacker, a good friend of drafted digital, I should have let you guys introduce, we always do the whole everybody introduced themselves thing and I blew it. Sorry, guys, but
I’m glad and glad we’re all able to hang out today on this blistering cold day, at least in our part of the world, except for Nick, who’s in Hawaii. So
we have mark, you’re up, you’re up way, way north. You and I are bookending the country where the bread on the US sandwich. You’re in the frozen north, and I’m in the frozen South right now. And Nick is sort of the pickle off to the side. Yeah, that’s the side of the plate. I’m the I’m the toothpick you take off before you eat the sandwich.
Now I’m and Alyssa, who works with us at drafter digital as popped in on YouTube to say hello from snowy Oklahoma.
And it is not unusual in my experience where there’d be snow in Oklahoma. But it is unusual for there to be snow in Texas, especially the parts of Texas that that I hail from so there’s no snow but there’s there is enough sleet and ice on the trees outside this hotel room. That it is a wintry Wonderland out there.
kind of unusual. So speaking of unusual, how are you guys doing?
Well, clearly he was talking and talking to mark. But I’ll go ahead and answer since I’m probably more unusual than everyone else. I’m doing well. Man. I’m doing good. I I miss these kinds of things. I miss doing doing live stuff with you, Kevin I miss. Well, I miss the invitation that I know Mark has sent me 500 times to come live on his his shows. I’m sure he I’m just positive he sent them. I know. I know. I’ve just missed him. So I apologize. Man, it’s the time difference when I’m ready to have a drink live. You’re not you’re already sleeping. Hey, don’t put me in a box. Man. I am a writer. So you could you know, it could be 9am for me, and I’ll drink with you. If that’s what it takes. I’ll do it. Yeah, just for you. Yeah.
Yeah, when Mark and I started working together draft a digital, we no longer invited each other to each other shows. So those avenues are closed, I guess why not do like nepotism or something? So Really? Yeah, no, but it did it felt wrong. It’s the same reason I haven’t had like Dan wood or, or anybody else on course, I kind of put Worsley on a hiatus there for a while. So let’s let’s get into things because people aren’t tuning in to hear our personal woes. And podcasting was but they are here, hopefully, to talk about improving and honing your writing craft. The three of us happen to be authors. And I think we can all safely say we do fairly well, at the author business. And part of that is marketing, of course, and marketing is something we talk about all the time, in every avenue drafted digital, because it’s the one thing authors want to know about the most. But there is a component to writing that is simply about the craft. And when we say that, we mean you know, the actual skills of writing the actual shaping of story, little little things like plotting and, you know, characterization and that sort of thing. And I’m actually writing a series on our blog, it started this week about characterization, better characterization. And you can see the first post at draft a digital comm slash blog right now.
And that that’s going to be a fun exploration actually started out as it was going to be two posts, and I think it’s up to five now. So there’s only one on the website at the moment, but I went a little overboard
the exploration of characterization but so when it comes to now and by the way, everybody watching this and tuning in live, be sure you ask us anything we can take your questions, we’re gonna we’re gonna kind of just go back and forth with things as we go along here but we’re happy to take questions on craft, or anything else that strikes your fancy will try to answer everything. So please be sure to ask your questions. If you’re listening to the podcast, you missed out on the live questions, but that doesn’t mean you’re gonna miss out you can go and go to DDD, live calm, to make sure you catch up on the future broadcasts of self published insiders. And you can always pop over to our blog, our YouTube channel, our Facebook channel and ask us any questions you want there to so we’re happy to help you out. So okay, so talking about craft. The first thing I wanted to do and I have a little something to guide us if we if we need it but I think the three of us know the business in the art of this
well enough that we can kind of speak off the cuff we want. But how do you guys perceive writing craft? Mark? Let’s Let’s start with you. How do you define craft? And sorry my head’s I’m wearing a drafted into a hat. In the video, they dread the self publishing insiders official.
Like the brim with a message there except yours.
That’s right. I have to do I have to duck down so you can see my, my mug. But Mark, how do you look at crap. I mean, craft is a thing. I mean, I remember when I first got into writing, I first started writing it was reading craft books, it was Oh, now I’m not be everyone’s hiding is just me. It was nothing about the craft of writing. And I realized, the more I wrote the the better I got at the craft. So I think of craft as an ongoing exercise that you’re always always learning always getting better. And and I get better from a combination of sort of three or four things. main one is reading a lot, reading a ton of books, understanding the different books that I love that what I love about them, what I don’t love about them writing a lot, because the more I write, the better I am at my craft, and it’s just that practice, it’s the constant drills. And then it’s also I’m continuing to get books on the craft of writing. And it’s on dialogue, on character on setting on structure. And I think Sasha black just recently I just got her
a book about super bad villains and about good guys, and then also about pros, because it doesn’t matter that I’ve been writing. Let’s not talk about how many decades I’ve been writing, but there’s constantly always something to learn. So for me craft is is a is an ongoing target that I’m never going to hit and I’m constantly going to be better every time. Every time I sit down at the keyboard.
I love that answer mark. That’s I mean, literally said one of the words that I was gonna throw in there. I’m sorry, my boy.
Am I gonna delay? I’m a huge delay. I think you’re in the spotlight dude.
My bad. Sorry, guys. I think I’m Yes. My internet issues. So wonderful. Sorry about that. Um, yeah, Mark, you said the word that, that I would.
I mean, I think that will always fall from my lips when somebody asks about craft or really writing in marketing in general. And that’s practice. I don’t think that practice is craft. And, you know, there’s obviously a difference between the words, but I was trained as a musician. I have a trombone degree, you’re welcome. Everybody needs to know somebody with the trombone degree. He mentioned how useless that is. But I grew up learning how to practice, you know, middle school band all the way through college degrees. And, you know, we used to say this, this, obviously, not a quote from us, but somebody said that, that amateurs practice until they get it right. But professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.
So when I’m writing, you know, I think to myself, man, is this something that whatever I’m trying to do with his craft? Is it my turn to make it seem believable? Am I trying to make the bad guy come across as a good guy, or vice versa? And why? And in doing that, am I doing this in a way that’s the absolute best way possible? Have I practiced enough at this sort of thing? To be able to pull that off and just know that it’s going to work? The answer most of the time, for me personally, is No, I haven’t practiced that enough. Because we as writers don’t really have a good way to practice other than just reading more and more books, which is certainly valid, but there’s no such thing as authors that just will write an entire book and then throw it in the trash can solely for practice. Like that just isn’t something we do. I’m not necessarily advocating for that. I think we should publish books and get them out there but I cannot separate the idea of practice from craft and so I love what you said Mark about it’s there’s always something more to learn there’s always something more to do. There’s always something more to to you know, explorer as a writer.
Love that. Looks like we have other guys.
Yeah, I’m sorry. I don’t know.
Yeah, and I think my internet connection here in the hotel may not be as great as I had hoped. So I apologize if I drop out you guys can more than carry this. If I disappear again. But yeah, you guys are completely wrecking the little slides that I had built because you basically just went through
in your intro.
So um, let’s I want to I want to while I’m here and not disappearing, I want to try to answer we can jump in and answer a couple of questions.
So this one actually is not about craft, but we can we can certainly answer this does the book automatically connect to find a way voices from your drafted digital account? Or will I have to connect it manually?
And this is coming in from Tulane on YouTube and well, you it is not automatically connected, but you can use us to input or basically port it over to find a way with essentially the press of one button. I mean, it’s not very difficult. Once you’ve reached the end
of the process of publishing your ebook, for example, you usually get this little pop up that says, you know, do you want to start a print book? Do you want to start an audio book, and you can, if you’re in DVD print, you’ll get that print notification. But from the E book, you can port it on over to to,
to find a way voice’s with all the metadata and everything intact. So you can do that from there. And we have a video on that on YouTube. So you should be able to find that if you search our YouTube email@example.com slash drafted digital and you can always email us at support at drought to digital comm to get some more info.
So, uh, here’s here’s a question from Casey, also from YouTube is 40,000 words too short for a novel? Would you like to answer this? This This reminds me of when Kevin and I co wrote a series together many, many moons ago.
I kept referring to his published novels as novellas, because I wasn’t entirely clear on on what I thought a full length novel was that he kept my 16,000 word novels. Yeah, these these were certainly in the realm of full length novels, but I kept calling them cute little novellas.
Totally unpretentiously. I might add,
I, you know, or even shorter. novelette. Yeah, I think Casey, this, this is one of those points of contention for writers. And so I I don’t really want to get into the weeds of trying to define what is or isn’t a novel, because that’s just a word in different different smarter people than I have come up with their own definitions. In my world, which is thrillers, action adventure, Clive cussler, type stuff, Dan Brown 40,000 words is probably too short to call a full length novel. And so what what I’m getting at is that, depending on what you’re writing, what genre there’s expectations that readers have, for how long a book should be. And if you’re not hitting those expectations. If you’re writing sweet romance, and there’s not a happy ending, then you’re not really writing sweet romance. So there’s some genre expectations, right?
And so it’s the same with length, I think 40,000 words for thriller is going to be too short, get 20,000 more 25,000 more words, then you kind of get into a short thriller, but absolutely a full length novel. My books I know Kevin’s books,
the in that genre are typically 80 to 100,000 words.
Right. Mark? What about you what, what’s your typical word count, I usually am in the 60 to 85,000 word realm, when I want to call it a novel, I will call it a short novel if it goes below 55. I because I write a lot of speculative fiction. I’ve always used the SF w a science fiction writers of America designation for short story novelette novella, novel, but I even still call some of my stuff, this is a short novel, because you’re going to be able to the reading time, or or whatever it is maybe four or five hours, as opposed to eight to 10 to 12. So but again, as Nick says, it’s really about the reader expectation. And I think there’s another question about Casey asked just maybe as a follow up while we’re on this, talking about when agents talk about numbers of pages, how many words per page are they talking about? And I think I’m not really good at the Evergreen pages because of fonts and everything. But using standard manuscript format, 12 point fonts, usually a
specific kind of fonts that they’re looking for. What is the pay? What is that? 350 words per page? Or what’s the Yeah, it’s 50. But is it 350? If it’s, if you’re if you’re using like, Times New Roman, 12 point type, and your margins are like, I think it’s half inch, left and right. It’s typically going to be between, actually, there’s a range, it’s like between 250 and 350.
And I used to say, 500, because I guess I had my margin set really narrow. So all my pages were 500 words. But if you’re, if you’re
exactly right, so yeah, if you if you aim for the 300 mark, you’re probably going to be about right. If you’re looking at that for Patreon. But the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t really matter.
They said a lot of programs, like Scrivener, for example, will give you both the printed page count and the estimated paperback page count. So you can use that to get a pretty decent estimate.
I don’t I don’t most people don’t look at page count that most people are looking for a word count for for these things because then they can plug that number in to whatever formula they use internally. And Mark makes a very good point is in that various organizations have their own definition of what a minimum link for a novel is. If you are participating in like NaNoWriMo
National Novel Writing Month, the target for a book in that in that competition is 50,000 words. So, if you just use that as your minimum target, you’re probably going to be okay in most instances. But Nick’s absolutely right, that stuff only applies. It applies by genre. And so kind of get familiar with what the standard word length is for your genre. Although I will say in the thriller genre, Ian Fleming’s books weighed in at around 40,000 words. That’s true. Yeah, there’s always the exception that proves the rule. Right? Yeah. What?
James Bond, but
Ian Fleming, by the way, if you don’t know is the author of the James Bond series. So the autobiographical James Bond series, I would say, is it isn’t really autobiographical? I mean, I know but I mean, he he was basically James Bond. Yeah. Yeah. Now, by the way Alyssa is is doggedly answering these questions in the comments. So if we don’t give you a satisfactory answer, and we might occasionally give you an answer that’s contradictory to her answer, just go with her.
Here’s a comment. from Richard on Facebook. I just finished the first draft of an epic fantasy novel 148,000 words. Fantasy writers can say hello, in and under 5000. Can’t Say hello. And under 5000 words, which is absolutely true. Which I don’t write fantasy ladies. This is why I don’t write epic fantasy.
Although good friend of ours, Ernie Dempsey wrote I just wrote a thriller that was like 140,000 words. Yeah, I mean, I’ve definitely done that. But its purpose.
Was that mark wasn’t a fantasy thriller.
A fantasy thriller? Are we is that where we are now? So speaking of genres, when it comes to writing craft, now I’ve I’ve done cross genre writing, I think Mark, you have as well. And Nick’s done some at least with sci fi and in thrillers, how does that shift and change the way you handle and approach craft?
Huh? Who wants to? Who wants to answer that? First?
I think I’m gonna make some better. How about you, Mark? Yeah.
Depending on so like Nick mentioned romance, right. So you can’t have a proper romance without the expectation of a happy ending, right? You can’t have a thriller without the expectation of some high stakes, and some suspense and not being sure whether or not the you know, the heroes are gonna survive or win or defeat the whatever, then oftentimes, you can’t have horror, without a sense of fear of foreboding or dread or darkness. Sometimes with, again, those high stakes, thinking about science fiction, fantasy, there’s, there’s there’s specific tropes. So I think, when you’re approaching the genre, you’re always and this is really, really critical is understanding what it is that has drawn a reader to the genre, and making sure you’re given expectations, I’m going to take us back to a writing exercise that I really like to play with, and because of edited anthologies and I’ve had the opportunity to,
to read stories from really, really good writers that can kind of play on you give them a theme or a single theme, love. For example, I did, I did a an anthology on fear, and another one on love. And the fear one was not meant to be a horror anthology, it was that these are books about fear. All I wanted was to feel fear, when I read them, and I wanted stuff from across genres. And so you can take fear and you can do it for suspense, you can fear it can be in a romance story, it’s the fear of, of that relationship, not working out, or whatever. And then similarly, you can take something like love. And we even have on our books to read page right now this brilliant listing of all of these different books, that it’s love stories. And the whole idea is not necessarily romance, the romance is a big part of it, but different kinds of love, bro, romance, right? Love. It could be the love that a parent has for a child, it could be the love, like you think of Marley and me and a story like that, that love between a pet and human. And that’s the kind of thing that when I think about different genres and different approaches, is taking
a scene or a setting, or something like a fixed thing. And then approaching it from fantasy approaching it from science fiction, approaching it from romance, and seeing how the exact same little incident can be driven by the elements of the genre. And for me, that’s a great writing exercise to make sure that I’m, I’m sort of picking up the right pen when I’m writing those scenes.
Yes, Mark said.
All right, and that’s good. And that’s
the only thing I would say that I’m kind of I’m chewing on right now in my own career is that I’m not entirely sure thriller is a genre. You know, I say
Write the thriller genre. And we all know what that means. Because there’s literally a genre link. We can click on Amazon or whatever store to go get into mysteries and thrillers. And I write in, in that sub, you know, sub niche, right.
But here’s the deal. I started drafting and outlining a book on how to write thrillers and I couldn’t quite nail down what that was. Yeah, sure. There’s tropes. You know, but those tropes aren’t really for thrillers, as much as they’re for the genre beneath the thriller, which is like action adventure, in my case, or mystery, in some cases, Detective mystery. And so what I’m getting at is, I think, this cross genre stuff, what I what I’ve experienced is I’m actually writing sci fi with a thriller bent, or that the style called the style, the style of thrillers, which means, you know, there’s some tropes within the thriller expectation, which is things like, you know, the use of high stakes mark, the stakes have to be ramping up personally, professionally, psychologically, throughout the entire book. Well, that can happen in a romance that can happen in a horror novel.
And, you know, usually in a thriller, we know, one of the key components of a thriller, Thriller style is that we know generally who the bad guy or girl is at the beginning or toward the beginning, whereas in a mystery that’s reversed. We don’t know who it is, and we’re trying to find out who did something. It’s the whodunit, right. So both of those can be styles that are plopped on top of any other actual genre, you know, historical fiction, historical romance, horror, whatever. And so an example is like, you know, the expanse which we just finished the last series of which was terrible. Don’t even talk to me about it. But the first book in that series, Leviathan Wakes, you know, James sa Corey, it’s actually two authors did a great job making this sci fi everybody would say it’s sci fi, it’s probably hard science fiction, because it’s, it’s got a lot of grit and detail and stuff in there. But it’s also a mystery, because somebody dies at the beginning. And they got to figure out who did it at by the end. So it’s like they’re plopping this stuff. So they’re, they’re mixing genres, if you will, but they’re doing it in a way that that their core audience sci fi fans is not going to be upset because not missing any of those tropes. But they’re also going to bring in people who enjoy the mystery. And of course, there’s thriller aspects and romance and all that as well, like any good novel, but I don’t know that that’s really an answer, guys. I just thought I would kind of throw that out there something I’m thinking about. And as I go forward, I’m like, you know, like, what am I really writing here? What is genre? You know, what is this stuff?
For? There’s pretty good analysis. Kevin, you’re still with us? Right? So we had
first of all, I think so. Am I with you? Can you hear me?
Maybe? Yes. Hello?
Maybe hands. Okay. So, sorry about that. I mean, I,
I get no.
I get no indication that I’m not online. So I don’t I don’t know. So I apologize to everybody. If I’m glitching. Out. Can you hear me?
Yes. Okay. Well, I’m assuming that you’re hearing me Alyssa shared with us this, the promo that Mark mentioned the books to read calm slash, RL slash love stories. That was what came up earlier. In addition to that,
we’ve had a lot of people ask us asking in the comments about tribution DVD print. So there’s a little bit of a, there’s a link here that you can go to draft a digital.com, slash print underscore, beta underscore invite, to get a little bit of, to kind of get on board and maybe join that beta. We’re working on a few things behind the scenes, it’s, there have been some challenges that have been kind of fun to encounter and
just trying to get through everything it actually needs to be for DVD authors, so I’m sure is there. We’re gonna get to it.
use it all the time. Dude.
I’m gonna step in for a sec. It sounds like Kevin’s breaking up. He sounds like a Cylon. Is that what you’re getting?
Yes, I’m definitely getting some Cylon ish, some silent ism, less elonis. Well, maybe continue that since as well. So he can figure out the hotel Wi Fi. Maybe we can keep going on craft line. I have some things to share. related to specific exercises that I do that helped me awesome. Do you have some as well as Jay mommy? I do? Yeah, I’ve very few. So hopefully you don’t take the ones that I have. Well, why don’t you go first? Well, I was gonna, you know, when we talk about craft beer, there’s the what we’ve been talking about. What I’ve been talking about is this kind of lofty idealism of craft and all that’s important. But then, you know, as a writer, when it comes down to it, you have to put words on the page and so
Some of the things some of the I should say the probably the best book that I’ve found.
And I’ll say it’s probably the best because it was the first one that I found. And so there’s some sentimental value to it. But it is a really good book, if you get a chance, pick up Dwight Swain. He’s the guy who taught jack become so seen Instructure guy, this was his teacher. It’s called techniques of the selling writer. And it’s the old original one is like a big yellow, ugly University Press looking book. And I think he taught it Oklahoma actually. And it’s, it’s just really granular and practical is what I love about it. And so one of the things he says in there for developing a character is picking an adjective of description and a noun of vocation.
And so, you know, for a character, you know, obviously, there’s going to be more to it than that when you’re drafting out your character. But as a jumping off point, he uses that that the adjective and the noun of a vocation to essentially launch all of his characters. And then the second thing that I really loved in his his book, and I won’t get into it, here is how he broke broke up all the chapters, how to write chapters, everything is either a scene or a sequel, which is a seen as a goal of conflict and a disaster. So something doesn’t go right at the end of the scene. And then the sequel is almost like the breath, the inhalation, you know, it’s like, okay, we can kind of adapt, we’re gonna pick a new goal. And then the next scene is that new goal, you know, and the disaster at the end of that scene is that goal not being realized. So he just does this over and over and over again, but it gets really granular even tells you how to use motivation reaction units, which is horrendously named way to write individual sentences in your novel. And so you can what I loved about the book is you can he’s got the high level stuff that he talks about, but then he really digs into some very specific, you know, how do you write sentences that make sense?
Putting it simply, you know, for thrillers, which is kind of what he wrote, he wrote a lot of pulp type fiction, you know, he, he would just say, sentences need to be linear, you know, obviously, artistically, we can do whatever we want as writers. But if you don’t know, if you’ve never practiced this stuff before, start from from from square one, you know, this has to happen before this has to happen. And so don’t say this happened. But it happened because this happened. That’s a sentence that doesn’t quite work, you know. And so he argues, you know, say a happened, and then B happened, and then go from there. So that’s just one of the, I should say, three or so specific things, all from that book techniques of the selling writer. So if you’re out there, and just getting started with some of this stuff, I highly recommend that it’s a very easy to read one. And he did actually sell a lot of stories. So he knows he knows his stuff. I like what I like about that, as you talked about the adjective, just descriptive, and then the noun vocation, because it was simplified, so that you can kind of then drill down into it. But I level like, like a plot summary. Now you can quickly go back and especially especially if you’ve got a lot of moving parts and characters, that’s really helpful. Because one of the one of the things I learned this from Dennis Hamill, who’s a brilliant writer, out of Brooklyn, New York, and, and his novels, every single book he’s ever written, he’s a Pete Hamels brother. But he is just brilliant. And he gave me this personal advice, I was very lucky to get it from him, as he said, Go for a walk with your characters, and listen to what they say about what you’re seeing. And so what I try to do when I’m trying to differentiate, sometimes I get like that vanilla voice that it’s Oh, it’s just mark talking.
Sound like actors, median guy. So what I try to do is I try to go for a walk with one character on my right in my mind, and one character on my left. And I look really funny as people notice me talking to myself, but I listen to the character on my right, and how they describe a sunset, how are they describe a car going down the road? Or they see somebody walking their dog? And how they, how they see it, how they perceive it, and how they would describe it? And then the person on my left, how would they see it? How would they describe it? And in the nuances of the differences is where those characters is the different character traits because maybe somebody’s terrified of dogs, their reaction is going to be different. Maybe somebody had a really bad thing happen that associates with sunset. So sunset provides an emotional, visceral reaction that the other person’s like, well, it’s beautiful. What are you talking about? And so that’s something that I often do with with characters, I either go for a walk with them if I can, or I try to have them describe the exact same thing and see what the differences are. And that helps me with both the characterizations of who they are their backstory, but also the voice right and the dialogue and the way they’re gonna say something. Yeah, I love that. Am I back by the way, can you hear it? Yeah, it seems like it is. Yeah. Okay. So yeah, let’s let’s take advantage of that while it lasts. So that’s really interesting marketing, I think. So one of the things that I have done in the past
To have I have little conversations like that with fictional characters, often I do too, but they’re just in my head. They’re not actually characters in my books is that sometimes it is helpful to say that stuff out loud though, because I know Nick no right now.
I promised it was a plug in my air pods.
I walk around with my air pods in so that you know if I’m talking to one of these, these characters, nobody even questions it. They just think I’m as nuts as the next guy.
So while while I’ve got working everything Alyssa actually popped in with a question, asking how do you figure out what the expectations are for your genre? Well, unfortunately, it’s not allowed Alyssa. So no, I can’t answer that. We can’t answer that. That’s nepotism.
Um, I know for me, when I because you know, Nick, you and I have a history. When it comes to thriller writing. I was writing sci fi, when you and I first met, and you’re the one actually kind of you dared me to write a thriller. So you’re responsible is what I’m scheduled
To learn the, the tropes of thriller writing, mostly, for me came down to reading as many as I could get my hands on. That’s more of the kind of mind, you know, mind sweep approach. You know, I’m just out there plugging in on the grid and seeing what what I find? What are some better ways? I mean, how did you discover the tropes of thriller writing?
Got it anything mark, I really don’t have a whole lot to add. So once you jump in, if you want, I honestly reread a lot like under the expectations come from understanding it. And the only way you can properly understand it is to read it. I mean, the other thing you could potentially do is talk to people who read it, and ask them, what they look for what they get out of it. And that should help you. But again, if you’re not, I’d say this. I mean, if you’re not willing to read in the genre that you’re writing in, I would dare say you, you have no business writing in that genre. If you’re not, if you don’t understand it enough from the point of view of the actual reader, because you’re gonna be, you’re gonna be like, missing the boat in a major way. Yeah, yeah, I agree with that, man, I think, obviously read and I think that was sort of, and I kind of alluded to this idea that I would write this book on how to write a thriller. And it’s still sitting there, you know, in obscurity in my harddrive somewhere. But it was hard because I, you know, I feel like I know intuitively what what these some of these tropes are, whereas I don’t know them for the horror genre, because I don’t actually read horror, you know, and so I wish there was something maybe there is, if somebody knows about this, if there was some website or some book out there that just listed all of the different tropes and all the different genres that are typical, typical for that genre, you know, so typical, historically. What that book, what’s the expectation? Yeah, and I think the reason it doesn’t exist, Kevin, is that exactly what Mark said, like, if you don’t have any business writing in sci fi, if you don’t know the difference between hard sci fi and what would it be called soft sci fi.
There’s like wishy, bolts, and yeah, there’s
sub genres of sci fi that I’ve lost. I’ve lost track, and I don’t, it’s hard for me to say what some of my books actually fit into, like, you know, Ender’s Game, it could be considered, in a sense, military sci fi. I guess it is military sci fi. But it’s also more of a it’s all character driven. So it’s not quite the same as other military sci fi read. So
anyway, look, coming of age, it’s also right. Yeah, I mean, you can read that novel. If you change the setting of that novel. It might it wouldn’t change the story at all, you know, not necessarily except for all the floating around in a battle room kind of thing. So Alexis gray, another fine DDD employee as popping in these all these folks. By the way, I think they all secretly in some cases, and Alexis case, not so secretly want to be authors themselves. So we’re all authors at DDD. Basically, we’re all there trying to win the same goals. You guys are trying to win. So Alexis asks, Why, while you’re writing, do you go back to earlier parts of your writing to reread or edited? Or do you save rereading and editing entirely for once the draft is done? And I can tell you, I use a process I stole and modified from Dean from Mark Mark’s good friend Dean Wesley Smith, which he calls I call it looping and he calls it was he call it mark, writing into the dark? Yeah, in writing into the dark. He’s got a process that’s called
gosh, I can’t remember I started calling it looping. And now I can never remember what he calls it was very similar, but he loops back every 500 words, reads and rewrites and uses the momentum to just keep going forward. If you haven’t read writing into the dark. That’s an excellent book. I highly recommend
Especially if you’re a pantser, like me,
but he, I took that and I, what I do is I write my day’s words. So I’ll write, you know, 2500 words will say that’s what my current daily target is. So I’ll write my 2500 words, then the next day, I read and edit those 2500 words before I write the next 2500. And not only is that end up adding to my word count, so that I don’t have to write as much at the end of the session. But it you know, it helps me get my head back into the story helps me kind of get back into the rhythm of it and the momentum of it. And the next thing, you know, the next 2500 words are fairly easy to write. But I like I like the 500 rule, I think that that’s probably a pretty good target. And in most cases, that’s about a, as we discussed earlier, that’s a little over a page. So that’s a pretty decent amount of writing to do in one quick session, and then go back and edit and keep going. What about you guys? Do you guys do anything like that?
You know, I, when I moved out here, I just changing rhythms and stuff, I started dictating a lot more, and I dictate in the car.
And so you know, I’ll drive to Hilo or whatever, which is a 25 minute, it’s about a chapter and a half away,
and a chapter and a half on the way back home. And so I’ve got these three chapters that which is roughly 3000 words for me. And so that’s kind of my daily count, that I try to hit. And what I’ll do is, because I’m such a phenomenal writer, I will I will draft the first draft of everything. And it’s just pure drivel. I mean, it’s absolutely, it’s literally just characters walking around doing nothing, and they all look and sound and feel like me, because when artists shut the neck, inevitably, one of them or many of them will get shot in the neck, that’s called the neck shot trademark, you know, that we all know, that is the shotgun vacher shot in the neck. And, and there’s like no plot, there’s nothing at all. And so what I have to then do is take these 80,000 words of crap and and go through and drop in, like, you know, story and important plot devices. And so I love the fact that I’m not writing live, you know that writing, so other people can read it immediately. I, I have to go back from page one and start dropping in like, well, this happened in the last chapter, you know, who is it that said, if there’s a gun in the last scene, you have to introduce it in the first scene or something like that, right? It’s all these things that I yeah, yeah, Chekhov’s gun. Right? If we have to, if we see it at the end, we want to drop it in the beginning. And so I know I’m kind of joking a little bit. But what I do is I’ll go back in this genre that I’m in, there’s puzzles. And
I mean that like, actually, it’s not like a crossword in the middle of the book. That’d be cool. But like, like the thriller genre typically has puzzles.
And we’ll put Sudoku in the next one. And it’s got these different, different things you have the characters have to solve. And so I can try to build that puzzle up in the outline stage upfront, or I can just sort of know I want to have them figure out this clue. I don’t really know what the clue is. But I’ll just kind of say, into my, into my microphone, they figure out clue. And then next thing you know, and so then I have to go back and kind of drop it in but but by the time we get to the end, I’ve already got some things that I’ve written that I can use, maybe there’s an airplane that they in airplane crash that they found, well, that can be part of you know, that the journey. So it’s this really gross, ugly, squishy way of writing a book. It’s not very linear for me at all. Which is weird, because it used to be a little a little more straightforward. And I’m finding and this is a craft thing as I’m getting better. And as I’m practicing and challenging myself in new ways. For whatever reason, maybe I’m a masochist, I’m doing it this way. Because I feel like it’s producing better books. That may not be the case next year. But for now, that’s kind of what I’m what I’m working with. Well, here’s the key thing. And this is something I wanted to advise on that before I get there. Lin, who is also like me, a disciple of Dean Wesley Smith’s writing workshops, says she calls it cycling, where you go back and do the the looping the cycling, cycling. That’s the word I was looking for. Yeah, cycling was the word. So Nick, you get the 80,000 words out, and then you go back. And I wanted to say this, Alexis, specifically, one of the risks of cycling or of that process is well, provided you’re always making forward progress. But not everyone always makes forward progress. They go back and they just rewrite, and then they get stuck at the same place again. So I try like, like Nick has, I want to get it out first, because you can’t edit or fix or revise or add life and characters and a meaning and Sudoku puzzle pieces and all those things until you have something to work with. And that’s one of the biggest challenges that I find a lot of writers will encounter is they want to get it so perfect. So chapters one through three are just impeccable, beautiful prose, the best prose you’ll ever read, but they don’t have chapter seven through 30. And so I think
That’s one of the risks that you can run into in that process. I think cycling comes from the persistence. Like, you know, Nick says, I’m not done until I have 3000 words and a chapter done that day, because you’re always making forward progress. So provided you can cycle and go forward. And you’re always adding to it not only removing, you’re going to actually have a finished piece of work to work with, which I think is kind of important. Yeah.
In practice, like, I don’t know how many times I’ve had to just drive back to Home Depot, because the words weren’t there yet. Because I’ve already gotten the stuff I need to get, but I will turn it around, I don’t have the words like I gotta get the words down. You know, they love you. They love they know me, they’re like, Hey, get the words in. If you were a sculptor, you could not you could not carve David, unless you had the marble and having the rough draft, the the ugly, 80,000 words of garbage is your marble, and then you go back then the editing and rewriting is where you shape that into a classic statue. It’s such a great story, too. And I just want to know what the client was doing, though. Because I know clients, I mean, I’ve done web work and stuff. I want to I wanted to hear the client who paid David, and got to watch him as he worked and comes in every day and going.
Is that this
arm? Is that his leg? His legs like that?
Is that really where you’re going to put the bicep? I mean, I’m no expert.
I have a good friend of mine has popped in. This is someone I’ve known for most of my life. Carrie Dotson is asking curious, generally, how long does it take for a complete story to get to the shelves?
And that is a question I think most mostly about, you know, not just craft but the you know, the regimented practice, and discipline of writing. I’ve, you know, I am I’ve, there are some wild stories about me out there. And they’re all true about some of the crazy things I’ve done to write experimental things to write a book in first, like, you know, 30 days and 15 days, and then I wrote one in one day. So the answer to that question is kind of hard, because it can be, it can be almost any timeframe, if you’re willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to do it.
But the key here is discipline coming back to it each day, or at least as regularly as you can manage. Some people don’t get the luxury or the privilege of writing every single day life can be challenging. But if you are consistent and persistent, you know, you can set your own timeframe, I have a formula. In my in my book 30 day author, I give a whole formula for how to do this. It’s really just stupid, simple. I mean, it is, how many words are you trying to hit? What’s your target, and then you would divide that by the number of days in your deadline. So if you want to write, you know, 60,000 words, in 30 days, you figure out exactly how many words you need to write per day. And if you’re going to take weekends off, or take, you know, you’re only gonna write three days a week, yeah, that’s going to factor into that as well. So that’s one way to approach that, do you guys have anything more coherent to add? I guess.
For me, I’m kind of on a schedule of about every three months, which is slower than I’d like, but faster than a lot of you guys from the traditional world.
You know, it’s doing this as a self published author,
it’s, it’s challenging to get to feed the beast, you know, you got to constantly be uploading books and, you know, can stay relevant, basically.
But I’ve, I’ve tried to go faster before and the the quality has suffered. Now, I’m not going to say that my quality is ever great, but it’s, it’s worse than, than I allow if I try to go a little faster than that. And so what I’ve done so three months from start to finish, this is my answer. And so what that means is what I’ve done is I’ve developed a process where I’m not necessarily releasing them every three months, you know, I may write a bunch and use marketing and advertising in the interim to keep you know, the income steady. And then I might drop a series, you know, a co written series of six books, whatever rapid release format that already been written. That brings up a good point, I only my what I was talking about earlier, was only about producing the manuscript and not did not include things like editing and rewrites and getting the cover design, that sort of thing that that stuff. I typically do that in a 15 day stretch too.
So you know, I’ll get into a pretty nice rhythm where I can write a book in 15 days, spend another 15 days getting it ready for primetime and releasing, but then I tend to want to schedule releases,
you know, 30 days out or something so that I can kind of start getting some
Pre orders and things like that. It just I don’t these days, I don’t know that that really helps anymore. There was a time where you wanted to have a bunch of pre orders because it got you bumped up certain lists, but I’m not sure if they applies anymore. You guys may know better than I do at this point.
All right. Um, so we had a question. This may be or we’re at 1245. So we can’t take too long to this, we need to wrap wrap up. But this, this is not craft. But I didn’t get to it, I want to ask if you would have any advice to give. Regarding my situation. This is from Skype on YouTube. And sorry, if I’m mispronouncing your name, my friend, I am currently promoting my books through Facebook, what other what other platforms for promoting? Should I try?
I am a huge fan of the price promotion sites like bookbub, where you can actually do ads as well as price promos. But written word media.com, I highly recommend because you can use bargain booksy, free booksy red feather romance, there’s so many different tools there and more affordable and a little bit more accessible in terms of you know, one in every 10 book bubs gets accepted maybe. But you have a better odds, a written word media. And I find personally that the investment on those targeted ads, because they’ve done all the work and identifying the audience can be really, really beneficial. Yep.
book, book funnel also has some promotional tools. It’s cross promotion, stuff, his mailing list stuff. So that’s a good a good resource I recommend when you do those cross promotions, focus first on building up your own platform, your own mailing list.
And second on sales, mostly because that is such a great platform for building your mailing list. And that mailing list will actually benefit you a great deal more than direct sales down the road. So Nick, did you want to throw something in here? Those are all good. Yes. Story origin. Somebody just mentioned in the comments. Good friend of ours, Evan, go over there running that that’s a good one. What are those, those swaps, I’m the same as Mark and I love bookbub. For their ads, they’re they’re a little more transparent than Amazon I find, which I like and Facebook even more. So because you can get very granular data, you can target exactly who you want. And it’s a little more expensive, because people aren’t exactly warm, you know that they’re scrolling through Facebook, not through an Amazon book list or something, right. So you typically will will pay a little more per click. But I I generate a lot of a lot of clicks, a lot of sales through Facebook ads. And shameless self promo here, if anyone is wondering about bookbub featured deals, I get one every three months, sorry, every two months, pretty much on the dot now. And I’ve had that going for about four, I got actually one coming up on Sunday for one of my books. So I wrote a book about it, called bookbub mastery. And it’s it’s a model, it’s a, essentially, a system that you put in place where you’re submitting at certain times and making sure that you constantly are in front of their face, so they can’t ignore you. And eventually, the idea is you get accepted, assuming certain boxes are checked, like you’ve got a cover and reviews and all that and I go through all that in the book. So if someone’s out there, you know, going out, I wish I could get a bookbub feature deal. You can, you know, go check out the book. If you don’t want to pay for it, send me an email, I’ll give it to you for free. I don’t care. I’m trying to get the information out there. But bookbub mastery is the name of that one. And that’s obviously because bookbub as far as dollar spent is the absolute cheapest way to get eyeballs on your book period. Excellent. All right. So we’re running a little over we’re gonna go and wrap up but thanks guys for first of all for being here, but also for covering for me when I went all glitchy.
There silently we were like, I think we panicked. We didn’t know what to do, Kevin, I can look at it. Like most of the communities that I belong to when I when I’m not there, it just ceases to exist. So for those of you who are tuning in, either here on Facebook or on YouTube or via the podcast, make sure you subscribe to us on YouTube, go to youtube.com slash drafted digital. Also pop over to Facebook and go to facebook.com slash drafted digital and follow us there. We are constantly creating new content, uploading new things, we got a whole bunch of stuff coming down the pike that you’re going to want to tune into, make sure you bookmark E to D live.com. So that you get a little Countdown to when we have these live sessions. We do these at least once a month and we will occasionally we’ll do special interviews. I got one coming up with Mary Robinette co wall here in the next month or so and that’s going to be an interesting one. I love her. She She and I go way back at this point. We mentioned this earlier and it was a much longer URL but if you’re interested in the DVD print, go to draft a digital
COMM slash print beta, I assume that still works. So you can go there sign up to be a part of the beta, we are kind of doing some things behind the scenes to make that work better. And law URLs, man, I gotta I gotta boil these down draft to digital accom slash blog is where you’re going to find things like what I mentioned earlier, the blog on characterization, and we got a blog about point of view and protagonists up there right now. And finally, finally, tune into self publishing insiders.com. That’s right now it leads to the blog, and we’re gonna be creating a landing page for this stuff. Eventually, there’s purely about the podcast, but that’s where you’ll be able to look and listen and read along with these broadcasts, the YouTube shows the podcast itself, and a transcript of these things. So who is it for this this round of self publishing insiders? Thank you so much to mark Leslie Lafave. And Nick Bakker for joining me. Thank you to you for joining all of us and take care of yourselves and we will see you all next time.