Something new for the new year

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Happy new year!

Holy moly, I have absolutely sucked at blogging this year. This might be my second or third post? I don’t even know and I’m way too lazy to even bother checking. Anyhow, for the past few new years’ days, I’ve taken a few minutes to ‘burn’ a work that seemed to have died the previous year. I’m not doing that this year. In part because I haven’t actually finished anything new and in part because The Dark Queen of Darkness didn’t die this year. Last year at this time, I was pretty sure that’s what was going to happen. My wife, however, convinced me to just get off my lazy ass and just self-publish the damn thing.

I made the decision to go forward with Self-Publishing back in August as a 40th birthday gift. While this is proving to be a little bit on the expensive side, it’s still cheaper than trading in my car for a faster model or other similarly foolish mid-life crisis activity.

The status so far is that developmental edits are back from the editor (The extraordinary Jettimus Maximus) and I’m working through them. The suggestions she’s sending along are thoughtful, helpful, and very much in-line with my vision for this story. As I write this, I’ve worked through roughly the first hundred or so pages of the book a couple of times. What I’ve got revised so far still needs a lot of work, but I’m liking the changes so far. The narrative does feel tighter.

This is my first time working with an editor for creative work. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the developmental edit. What struck me about it so far is that it isn’t anything like a critique. We’ve all done those and they definitely serve a purpose, but that’s not what this is about. It’s structural and focuses on things like themes and character development, plot and pacing. To be honest, it covers the ground that a typical critique or beta-read is going to miss. Those often recommend suggestions to tighten up your writing or will help you find issues, but won’t necessarily provide you with concrete strategies for correcting the issue or finding larger problems that aren’t obvious.

Sometime in the past, I wish I could recall when or the actual context, I read a blog post posing the question: Do I need a developmental editor? I don’t recall the conclusion, but it seems like it ran something like: It’s a nice to have, not an essential. At this point, I think that my conclusion is that this is an essential cost. No, many of us can’t afford to hire someone. It’s not free, nor should it be, but there are editors out there who will do this for a reasonable price. What’s more, if you intend to sell your book and it’s been well polished, you’re going to sell more copies, thus the cost of editing should pay for itself.

If you’re considering a developmental edit, and you should be, but don’t know who to go to, I would recommend Jette.

In any case, I’ve got a tremendous amount of work still to go on this book, maybe even more than it took to write to begin with, but I’m now convinced that it’ll be money well spent and readers will find this story a page-turner with endearing characters and at least a few laugh-out-loud moments.

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Self-pub vs. Traditional: A Decision

Before I go anywhere with my decision (I’m sure you’re guessing where I landed here), I’d like to pose a quick question:

How do most writers earn their living?

If you didn’t say “Day job,” You’re in a minority. Yes, there are loads of professional writers maybe even one of them will read this blog, but if Twitter is any indication, writers with day jobs outnumber the full-time paid writers by something like six billion to 1. I’m absolutely no exception.

Last winter, the question of ‘making a living’ manifested itself under my bed and set-up shop, taunting me for nights on end. It all started with the comment: “I’d slit my wrists if I had to read much more of this.” As far as professional critical feedback goes, this is pretty much the pinnacle. The comment wasn’t the whole of it though, just the start. The other key part involved the addition of a new project at my day job which meant weekends being basically spoken for. With all of this on my mind, I concluded that not only is the quality of my writing improving much more slowly than I’d imagined, but also that my day job does, in fact, pay pretty well and is important to my family. This led me to the realization that I am absolutely not going to be able to replace a real paycheck with writing anytime in the near future. While I recognize it’s possible to work hard and shift careers like this, I’ve got way too many other responsibilities at this stage in my life for that to be truly practical. All of this led me to the understanding that not only is traditional publishing well outside the realm of possibility for me, I don’t really want to pursue it anyhow.

My logic is this: If I got an agent and a book deal (big fucking if here, I know), but if that’s what I worked to, the best case scenario* is that I’d be subject to deadlines I didn’t set, egos that don’t belong to me, and pressure to produce more or less the same thing I already did that everyone liked so much AND AND AND I get to continue working my day job to feed my family & put a roof over our heads….

Why would I pursue this again? To remove all of the enjoyment from something I like doing without even getting a real pay-check? No, just no. If I’m going to work a second job, it’s going to be on my terms.

This leaves self-publishing. I get the freedom to work with an editor of my choosing, have full oversight and final decision making on cover design, AND I get to choose to publish whatever the hell I like on my own terms. Yes, this is an expensive road and I’m conceding that the financial results are going to be underwhelming, but I think once I start getting my stuff out there and picking up readers, I might make enough to cover my costs and maybe make a bit more to cover the next project. PLUS, if I have to put writing aside for a stretch to deal with life, I can do that on my own terms.

Anyhow, with all that in mind, I’m going to start working with an editor in November to bring The Dark Queen of Darkness into shape. My target release is September 2019. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about that as I being the process of working with an editor and getting set-up for self-publishing.

 


*Yes, there is another best-case scenario, which runs something like “…but J.K. Rowling… and now she’s got more money than the queen!” Okay, yes, that sometimes happens, but I’m not a J.K. Rowling and won’t ever be. I’m going to be Dave S. Koster (and sometimes another pen name), and that guy is pretty sure ‘viral success’ is always something that happens to someone else.

Another year, another book to burn.

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Last year, I burned one of my own unpublished books to close out the year. It was meant as a way to put the book behind me and move forward. A way to force myself not mope or wallow in self-pity at an accomplishment that revealed itself to be a failure. This year, I’ve decided to do the same, and for much the same reasons. What I didn’t expect was that it was a bit more painful the second time around. No, I didn’t burn myself, and it’s not that it’s exactly hard to burn a bit of paper, after all, it’s just wood-pulp and people have been burning shit like that for a million years or something. Hell, people are so good at burning stuff, we do it accidentally all the time. In any case, as difficult as it was to close out this year’s writing efforts, I expect closing out 2018 will be worse yet, but I’ve got an entire year to fret over it.

The good news for 2017 was that I managed to finish full drafts of two books and write about half of a third. It’s a pretty good showing, considering my first book took over ten years to finish. What I learned with my first book and second books, however, was that once done you have two options, revise/edit/publish or don’t. And to call them options is a little more than generous. In general, most of us get stuck in the revise/edit stage and never make it beyond. A writer could revise a book for their entire whole life and never get it to the point where a publisher will never take it and self-publishing just seems silly. Hell, a ton of authors do just that – churn away to no end. And this is why I’ve started to burn them.

This fall, at the writer’s conference, an author was asked for some general advice for writers, without a breath of hesitation she said, in a South African drawl, “Write the damn book.”  (Yes, it’s a direct quote, she even put that shit on SWAG pens.) Then she elaborated, saying something to the effect that if you’ve been working on a book for longer than a year, put it in a box and shove it under your bed or just burn the damn thing. This is hard advice to swallow when you look at people like JK Rowling who reportedly took 6 years to write Harry Potter, and don’t even get me started on the long awaited books from Rothfuss and Martin, but those folks are a sort of magic writing unicorn the rest of us aren’t. The rest of us have to keep moving and improving and trying new things, if we don’t then we remain stuck in a rut retreading the same old ground for years, burning countless hours of creativity and time on a project that is clearly struggling.

Even though I hadn’t yet heard this advice, that was what I was thinking when I burned Wine Bottles last year. It was very much on my mind this year, as I burned Deep Space Helpdesk … And yes, that was the one I got very positive feedback from an agent on. However, I’ve spent the past month and a half revising the first quarter of the book and I’m still not satisfied. Honestly, I think I’ve lost the thread of the story. The soul went out of it some time ago. I could have burned Dark Queen of Darkness too, it was the other book I finished this year and after the trashing I got from an agent, I probably should have done. Fear not, Hexe will get her chance on the flames next year, no doubt, and if I work very hard I might get to burn two next year.

If you’ve even read this far, you may be thinking: “Dave, you’re giving up, don’t give up, I thought you were more stubborn than that?”

It does feel like giving up. We make these things and want them to go on, be re-told and enjoyed. And I’d be lying if I said that this whole thing didn’t make me upset. The reality is that it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Either the concept works and you go with it or it doesn’t and you move on.

In this case, all I can say is that I’m not giving up as much as I’m moving on. There are other stories that will not be written or seen if I continue spending my few precious writing hours banging away on a book that simply fails to pull together a coherent theme and compelling plot. Perhaps, someday, I’ll return to the concept and give it another go, time will have passed and maybe I can re-imagine the concept into something that does work, but I know that the time is not now.

So, going into 2018, without Deep Space Helpdesk around my neck, I’ve got just the one book to revise and that leaves me mental and creative freedom to move forward with new projects. Maybe I’ll even get that break out novel, whatever it is, finished this year. Who knows? But I’m going to find out.

Happy new year, and happy writing, friends.

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