Just a Quick Update

I thought I’d just give you a quick update. This past week not only have I started writing regularly again, I’ve also renewed tracking my day to day output. I’ve discovered this is a very effective way of exercising the necessary discipline to write.

I’ve taken the remaining four and a half months of the year and divvied them up–giving myself one month per book. For the half month remaining of August (’cause I started about a week ago), I expect to write upwards of 1,070 words per day–every day. This should give me just over 86K words by the end of the month, which should be enough to finally put A More Perfect Union to bed.

September I’m wrapping up The Music of the Spheres, the next Jonathan Munro Adventure. I’ve scheduled only 683 words per day to finish this book, bringing it also to 86K words. October will see the end of The Blood-Eater Coven, the second book in the Dragon’s Eye Cycle, which has been lingering far too long on the shelf. I need 1,059 words per day to wrap it up. November I’m working on Wizard Sky Pirates!, aiming for 1,411 words per day to finish it at 100K words. Or so. Then, finally in December, I’ll finish New World Order: Anarchy, which needs exactly 1,500 words per day to complete it by December 31st.

Given that National November Writing Month trains writers to churn out 1,667 words per day, each of these is attainable. Rather easily, in fact. Okay, maybe not “easily,” but especially given how few words I need to write in September, I have a feeling I’ll be able to get a jump start on these other books to wrap them all up by the end of the year.

So that’s the plan. And I really do believe that daily tracking of my writing goals is the key to completing projects quickly. This is what I’ve attained so far this week:

And I’m not done.

Total words per day
14-Aug 68,225 1,481
15-Aug 69,331 1,106
16-Aug 70,497 1,166
17-Aug 71,930 1,433
18-Aug 72,552 622
19-Aug 73,802 1,250

I reached my target today and then some. I’m already 432 words ahead of where I need to be.

Feels good to be writing again.

King of the Mountain?

Just thought I’d share this. I went to my Amazon.co.uk Author page and pulled up the rankings for the two books that are doing so well over there: The Lost Scrolls and The Elixir of Life.

Sales Rank

Couldn’t find a way to get the dates showing the same, but no matter. Clearly something happened right around the start of the year that shot the book up to number one in its category (Christian Suspense Fiction) where it has remained pretty much at the top ever since. I think there’s been four books that have temporarily dislodged it out of place, but it keeps rebounding back to number one. The second book, consequently, is doing extremely well also.

All this makes me wonder: what do the Brits know that Americans don’t? 🙂

Oops!

The good news is, I caught it now. I’m only 50K words or so into this story–The Music of the Spheres. I’ve been working on it off and on for a couple years now, and this month is my attempt to finish it. What did I catch? I’m so glad you asked.

I just caught on to the fact that this story takes place in Kiev, Ukraine (and points further east) in the middle of winter. It sorta begins on New Year’s Eve, in fact.

And what do I do for research? I spend my days on Google Earth looking at pictures of the city so I can accurately portray it, along with numerous other photographs available via the internet.

What do all these photographs and Google Earth have in common?

Summer.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve got pages and pages of description for this book giving my best verbal interpretation of this city and countryside as I see it in these images–and I’m supposed to be writing about the bloody winter! Here I am, 50K words in, and I just now realize I’ve been describing the whole thing in the wrong  season! Gaah!

Like I said, it’s a good thing I caught it now. I can’t imagine how stupid I’d feel if I’d actually read this to someone or worse, sent it off to my publisher, with such a glaringly bone-headed error in the entire story. The good news is I’ve got some time off coming up, so I’ll have a few days to go through and pick out all the little tidbits of summer and replace them with winter.

Okay, I feel better. Back to writing.

 

Recovering From Some Changes…

So after a major life change in my family, I’m back to writing again. Two pretty large events totally threw me off pace this past September. Even mentioning them in the context of writing feels a little out of place, and I don’t want you to think that I don’t regard these events as highly significant. The first was the passing of my mother-in-law. It was expected and yet unexpected. She’d been suffering from a debilitating disease, and yet when the time came, it took us all by surprise.

Naturally, I didn’t do any real writing during this time. Just a couple hundred words or so when things settled in the evenings, and there wasn’t anything better to do.

The second event was a new job, which I am just now starting to settle into. I’ve been promoted to an assistant manager of a new house. Actually, it’s a new house with new guys and new staff: Yikes! My company rarely does this, but this was a special opportunity. Nevertheless, it’s been marvelously chaotic as we learn to adapt to new responsibilities and new routines. Finally, this week, my work schedule seems to have settled down to a dull roar, and we’ve grown more comfortable with the new guys to not be quite so stressed out as before.

Still, this morning met the third day when I have successfully reached my 2k word goal. I’ve had to let go of two projects–Nicholas and the next Jonathan Munro Adventure, both of which were falling behind as it is. Nicholas, being a Christmas story, is better released next October. And since the second Jon Munro book, The Elixir of Life, hasn’t come out yet (November!), it’s okay to hold on to it until we reach the new year. This does put me back a bit on those projects, however.

On a positive note, however, this does mean I should be able to finish the remaining four books in plenty of time, even going over my typical word count if need be. Jefferson’s Road: God and Country, Descent, A Glass Half-Empty, and The Blood-Eater Coven are all past 40k words and still climbing. I have hope that, maintaining the 2k word goal, I’ll have these books done, perhaps in time for Christmas.

Off stride a bit…

I confess I’ve been off stride this past week. Fact is, after cranking out better than 42K the first two weeks of July, the last week has been an absolute bust. Less than 1300 words for the entire week!

In all fairness, it’s been a rather busy week at that. My Mom came up to visit us, and we’ve had some car repair issues on top of the kids needing to be ferried all over creation (okay, it’s mostly my wife who’s done that last bit – though I’ve done a little), and we’ve had get togethers on back to back Sundays. All of which conspires to almost nothing written. It’s going to take some effort to get back on track. The word counts I booked prior to this by going over my minimal word count of 2k won’t be enough to cover the loss of an entire week, so I’ll have to stretch to pull this off.

Which brings up what I think is the real culprit behind the word count fiasco. On at least two of my stories, I’ve felt the plot lines sorta getting away from me. And I’ve faced a set back on a third – meaning the heart of the story hasn’t even begun yet because I’m still dealing with leftover issues from the previous novel. It’s been a little disheartening. I suspect what I’ll have to do is sit down and outline these two books, see if I can’t get a handle on what’s supposed to happen so I can avoid any rabbit trails leading to rabbit holes.

On a side note, and perhaps related to the discouragement over all, is the realization that I haven’t approached my writing career as strategically as I ought to have. The prevailing wisdom is to write an individual series, and then release books in that series close together (like months, not years as in the traditional model) to avoid confusing the reader. Writing multiple series is all well and good, but typically this is done one at a time.

On the other hand, I can’t exactly back off on the books I currently have available to just concentrate on one series or another. Well, maybe I could, but I don’t think it would be beneficial overall.

Jefferson’s Road is the closest to being done series I have, so there’s no question I’ll keep writing that. My Janelle Becker books are the best selling series, so it makes sense to keep doing them as well. Given that Topheth has sold so little to this point, I suppose I could pull it down, rename it something more recognizable (I’m thinking of “Burning” or “The Burning”), and then sit on it until I’ve got at least two more Janelle stories ready to go.

Definitely can’t do that with the Jonathan Munro Adventures, so those books are off the table as far as this is concerned.

That leaves me also with the Dragon’s Eye Cycle – a different genre, admittedly, and the Spilled Milk books.  Would there be wisdom in pulling these books and then re-releasing them when I have the rest finished? I doubt it with Spilled Milk, but Eye of Darkness, possibly. I might consider changing the title, and then re-releasing it under a pseudonym, so that I don’t confuse readers with what Michael J. Scott writes. I haven’t sold so many that it’d make a huge dent in matters, so it’s something to consider.

Of course, Turning is still out there as well. I haven’t pushed this one at all, and there are far more to write. I could pull it and then finish more before resubmitting it.

But the real solution, I suspect, is to plan out an entire story arc for a series, write the books ahead of time, and then only release them one a month once they’re all finished, fully edited, and covers professionally done and consistent. I have two unfinished books that might serve toward that end, so I’m not exactly starting from scratch here. It will take some tweaking to make these two books – both stand alones – fit into a single series, but I believe I can pull it off.

So this will be the next strategy, even as I work on finishing the current series that I have. I’ll let you know if I decide to pull anything down and then release more strategically in the future.

Update on Turning and Other Works in Progress

Well, the good news is that I’ve finally got the edits from my girls for Turning, which means I can at last initiate the rewrites and final edits before releasing this book. We had a pretty good discussion about it this evening, going over the things they did like, didn’t like, and any suggestions they had. There’s a few minor tweaks I’ll be implementing starting tonight, not the least of which is reformatting the book from a 6×9 to a 5.5×8.5 cover size. My goal is to have the edits done and the book available by the end of the month. Okay, actually, it was to have the book available at the beginning of the month, but schooling got in the way (technically, it was Algebra that got in the way). The good news is that I should still be able to take advantage of the coupon I received from Createspace via NaNoWriMo for a free printing of five books–that’ll go a long way toward helping us locate more BETA readers, I expect.

In the meantime, I’ve been plugging away at the other six. I’ve got four of the six current WIP’s above 20K words. The other two are bumping their heads on it. I may decide to narrow the field a bit and give more attention to the books that I’m more productive on, but I haven’t done so just yet. I really like the idea of finishing six books together, but it’s probably unrealistic to expect that I’ll get all six done in a year’s time. Besides, I know that readers of Jefferson’s Road are chomping at the bit for the next installment, and I do want to get it out to you this year. I also have to give priority to Music of the Spheres. Even though Elixir of Life is due out in November, I kinda want to have the next book ready to hand over to Rochelle when that happens. That leaves me the opportunity to pick amongs the four remaining books for the two “most likely to succeed” (ie: get finished). I have to choose among Descent, A Glass Half-Empty, The Blood-Eater Coven, and Nicholas. And waiting in the wings, I have a Middle East thriller called Rock of Ages that has around 16K words or so (I think). That’ll certainly give me fodder for 2014.

I’ll let you know once Turning is ready to go. Later!

More Lost Scrolls come to light

For those of you who’ve enjoyed (or are enjoying!) The Lost Scrolls, my wife put me on to this little tidbit regarding sales of some fragments of The Dead Sea Scrolls that hit the news recently.

Here’s the link:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/dead-sea-scroll-fragments-to-hit-the-auction-block/

Amazing to think that so many of these fragments are winding up in the hands of private collectors–but also so cool that we’ll at last hear of their contents soon. Look at some of the prices paid for these fragments. Now imagine what value the original autograph manuscripts of the New Testament might have!

Almost Famous…

Who knew?

So I took my kids to the 8th Annual Teen Book Festival at Nazareth College here in Rochester this past weekend. They volunteer to support the authors as they interact with the kids and readers throughout the day. My wife was out of town, and I planted myself on my butt in a WiFi alcove near the cafĂ© and proceeded to write. All told, I churned out over 7,000 words that day – which may be a personal best (it’s at least in the top five).

And I probably would’ve done more, except that something sort of unusual and kinda cool happened.

I was typing away, when a lady I’d never met before sat down beside me, reading her Kindle. There were also some teens sitting across the alcove that I spent a little time chatting with–enough to distract me from my keyboard. At any rate, as I typed, I happened to glance at the woman’s Kindle (idle, purely nosy curiosity), and I noticed a symbol on the top of the page she was reading – a kind of swirly-gig that looked exactly like the scene break swirly-gig used in The Lost Scrolls. I thought, “Now that’s odd…” So I looked a little closer and read, “Dr. Jonathan Munro…”

Stunned. Absolutely stunned.

I said, “You’re reading my book!”

She said, “I know. That’s why I sat down beside you. I didn’t want to interrupt your writing, though.” Then she told me that she’d even facebooked the fact that she was sitting down beside me as I wrote while she read my book.

Wow.

We had a marvelous conversation. Her name is Deb, and she works at the Phelps Community Library. Make a long story short, she suggested an invitation to come do an author reading at the library sometime in the near future, and we’ve begun connecting via email toward that end.

She totally made my day. To hear from someone I know that likes my books is pretty cool, but to hear it from a stranger who just happens to sit down beside me? Even more so.

Back from Break, Hard at Work

Been a while since I put any posts up, and a friend recently queried as to what I’m working on. Granted, he’s primarily concerned with what happens to Peter in the next Jefferson’s Road book (don’tcha just love those cliffhanger endings?!), but it did put me in the mood of letting you all know what I’ve been doing in the past several weeks.

I brought my “hiatus” to an end around the beginning of February. It was a little difficult to get back into it. I found myself only able to generate a couple hundred words every few days at best. But I stuck at it, and around mid-February started tracking my progress again. Since then, I’ve been much more consistent in cranking out words, though you’ll note that I’m not working steadily on any one project.

No, in classic “Michael J. Scott” style (which is to say, utterly scatter-brained), I’m working on six different novels all at the same time. So here they are, with the word counts as of February 15th and the words generated since then:

In The
Widening Gyre
God And Country The Blood-Eater Coven The Music of
The Spheres
A Glass Half-Empty Nicholas
65,117 4,923 3,625 6,134 9,546 1,197 7,286 1,300 4,237 3,254 5,170 2,240

So you can see, all these books are getting at least a little love. I still need to do a little more on MOTS and BEC, just to bring them up to the 2K range, but I’ve made consistent progress over all. I’ve added almost 20K words in a month’s time. Not exactly as much as NaNoWriMo numbers, but fairly respectable nonetheless.

Dad wants me to hurry up and finish Gyre, and all I can say is that I am working on it. I’ve broken 70K words, and we’re nearing the climax of the tale. In the meantime, I also know that God And Country is a high priority, and so is MOTS, frankly. My second Jonathan Munro Adventure “The Elixir of Life” is coming out this summer. I’d like to have a manuscript to send to Rochelle before it comes time to put together 2014’s catalog. But I’m a long way from that, and the outline isn’t even finished.

Frankly, I don’t know to what degree a hiatus worked for me or not. I know I’m not “burned out” like I was, but I also noticed the struggle I had to restart after taking a month off. I’m starting to think that maintaining a regular pace would be better than burning the candle at both ends like I did. I guess we’ll see how it turns out this year. I do hope to get at least four of these books finished this year, if not all of them. And I’ll keep at it until they’re done.