Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Writing Wednesday: The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment

Hello and welcome back to another Writing Wednesday! After the non-stop rhetorical thrills of Prose Summer Camp, I thought we'd ease back into the bigger writing picture with a look at that classic writer pass time: how to break a reader's heart and have them beg you to do it again.

That's right! Today's post is all about how you as an author can build characters and structure plots that will make total strangers stay up all night feeling real feels for made up people. So without further ado, let's dive into...

Writing Wednesday: The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment

I've talked about the importance of building reader investment before on the blog, but that article mostly focused on the mechanical plot tricks behind getting readers on board with your story. Today, we're going to go for the heart and talk about how to create, build, and manipulate your reader's emotions to create a story they'll never forget.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Should You Form a Writing Business?

Hi Folks,

Travis here again! Back in my popular Your Author Brand post, I mentioned talking about businesses, as in, should you form a company as a writer? Judging by the comments, this is a very widely desired topic, so that's what we're going to talk about today. I'm sorry it took so long, but this is a massive topic and I had to do a lot of research.

I'm sure ya'll always hear that you should treat your writing like a business. This time I'm going to talk about the literal version of that statement - making your writing into a formal company.

Disclaimer #1 - Because we live in America, this is intensely USA oriented information. I'm sorry if you're looking for business advice in another country.

Disclaimer #2 - I am not your legal counsel nor your qualified accountant. We do not have a client relationship. I'm telling you what I've found and heard so that you can go look into more and proper details. Don't tell the IRS "but Travis said so!" because they won't care. If you want to do anything I've talked about here, go sort it out with an actual accountant or lawyer!

Now that's out of the way...

Should You Form a Writing Business?

The title is a question, and rightfully so. This is not a black and white choice. There are many benefits to starting a company, but there's a lot of drawbacks, too. Success as a writer is not dependent upon creating a fancy business. There are decades of successful writers who never formally created a company for writing. Honestly, this very question is relatively new on the scene thanks to the self-pub revolution.

So should you start a business? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, and the one we're going to start with is income. There are three types of author income, and which kind you make will completely change the landscape of whether or not forming a business is right for you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Surprise! Have a Heartstrikers Short!

So there's no official Writing Wednesday post today because I am getting everything together for the No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished print edition, which should hopefully be out at the same time as the ebook! (YAY!)

But while there's no writing post today, I do have a treat for you guys. Remember that post a few weeks ago where I asked you if you had any questions for Bethesda? Well she answered, and the result is below...


That's right, you don't have to wait until No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished launches on August 5th for more Heartstrikers! I've got a special short story featuring everyone's favorite terrible parent spilling clan secrets that you can read right now.

Even better, it's free! The only thing you have to do to get this story is sign up for my New Release Mailing List!

Wait, whut?

Hear me out! This isn't some kind of spammy email pester service. I only send out emails when I've got a new book coming out or when I'm giving away something free, like this story! Even better, people on my mailing list get everything first, like this story!

If you want to get first dibs on all my new stuff and you don't mind getting the very occasional email (seriously, I think I've sent out 3 this year), then I hope you'll sign up for my list. All it takes is an email and a second of your time. As soon as you sign up, you'll automatically get a welcome email with links to download all of Bethesda's terrible secrets. How awesome is that?!

So if you're dying for your Heartstrikers fix and you're not part of my mailing list yet, I very much hope you'll give it a try. (And if you're already signed up, THANK YOU! I hope you enjoyed the story!)

I'll be back next week with a real blog post and (hopefully) some fun Heartstrikers release swag! Until then, I really hope you enjoy Bethesda's story. Obligatory social media links are here: Twitter / Facebook / Tumblr / Google+. Follow me for fun updates!

(Oh, and Trav will be here on Monday with a really fantastic business post. He's actually writing it behind me right now, and it looks so cool.)

Until then, keep writing and reading! Enjoy the story, and I'll see you next week!


Monday, July 11, 2016

The Science of Protecting Your Creativity

Hello everyone!

Travis is forced away from Pokemon Go (aka, "walking off a bridge waiting to happen") to put together a really awesome blog post on creativity! But first, great news! The first three books of my original series, The Legend of Eli Monpress are on sale!

The book that started it all!

So if you can't wait another second for No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, you can get books 1, 2, and 3 of my *completed* Fantasy series about a charming wizard thief and the poor bastards who have to try and catch him for $5.49 each wherever ebooks are sold! You can also get these books in their omnibus edition (pictured above) for $9.99!

If you've ever wanted to try my older series but never got around it, this is a great chance to do so on the cheap. So get out there and try a book! Eli swears you won't regret it, and in this at least, he's always trustworthy!

Okay, okay, sales pitch done. Take it away, Travis!

Hi Folks,

Today I'm going to talk about the neuroscience and biology of writing. While this isn't a bio-hacking article, we're definitely going to go over how to maximize ideal conditions around the neurology that writing depends on. Also, I get to say that having sex will make you a better writer, so this is a great article!

Where'd this come from? Well, as a programmer looking to cut more and better code I've read lots of articles about how to boost, though conserve is more appropriate, the mental output potential of my biology.  This research has been ongoing in my life for years now and I've used it as just a grunt coder, as a lead developer, and as Rachel's partner.

Everything here has a strong scientific backing and has been tried and tested by us. It's gonna be exciting!

So, let's talk about...

The Science of Protecting Your Creativity

The weird part of this article is that it's less about finding boosts, which would be bio-hacking IMO, and more about avoiding penalties. See, there's a lot of boat-anchors weighing down the creative mind. Some of these are just the normal mental challenges of life. Many, today's topic, are biological and can be reliably avoided with simple habits or life changes.

To start off with, 

How [part] of your brain works

There's been loads of neuroscience research on how our brains work under different conditions. What's really important is how we have basically two different modes focus and not-focus. Yeah, that article I linked was huge and dry, so please let me summarize.

Your brain has one area that we're particularly concerned with and that is the pre-frontal cortex. Other than language, this is one of the most important parts of a writer's brain. It governs a lot of what you'd consider to be your 'conscious thought' and it has two modes or configurations if you will. I'm going to call the mode A and mode B, those aren't technical terms however.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Writing Wednesday: 4 Quick and Easy Ways to Make Your Writing More Interesting

Hello everyone. Happy Canada Day/4th of July/random week in July, and welcome back to Prose Summer Camp!

This is going to be our last Prose Summer Camp post for the year. We've had a really good run these last two months, but I've covered just about everything I wanted to cover about prose level writing, and I'm ready to get back to my true love: obnoxiously over-detailed analysis of big-picture writing issues! Hooray!

No such thing as too much organization!
Before we go, though, I wanted to talk about the part of prose level I probably think about the most, and that's how to make my actual writing clearer, more readable, and more interesting for my audience.

This is something every writer strives to do. Who doesn't want to make their words more interesting? But while I obviously can't tell you what words to write because I don't know your story or you're style, I have learned a lot of tricks over the years. Some of these have come from editors, some from reading and studying better authors than myself, and a few from my own trial and error.

Big or small, these are all tricks I use in my own novels to get and keep reader attention (or at least keep eyeballs from glazing over). As you'll see, they're all pretty simple. So simple that you might already know them, actually, but fingers crossed that I can deliver something new!

But first, as always, this disclaimer:

**This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. If you don't like my writing style, knowing how I dress up my paragraphs might not be useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you.**

Now that's clear, let's get to the list!

Writing Wednesday: 4 Quick, Easy Ways to Make Your Writing More Interesting

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Project Management for the Writing Business (with bonus Heartstrikers 3 sample chapter reveal!)

Hello everyone!

I'm up to my neck in work all of a sudden, so we're taking a quick break from Prose Summer Camp. Travis has come to the Writing Wednesday rescue with an AMAZING post about how to manage your writing schedule like the pros (or at least these pros) do.

Before we get into that, though, I've got a treat for you. As you know, the third Heartstrikers novels, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, comes out on August 5! I realize that's very far away, so I've put together a little something to tide you over. How about...sample chapters?!

You can also preorder the book right now. You know, just to be safe. Bob says it's dangerous to go alone. Take this.

And with that, I have to go back to the word mines. I really hope you enjoy this sneak peek, and I know you're going to enjoy Trav's crazy awesome post about project management!

For real, if you want to be a writing professional with a reliable timeline (or any kind of development professional since we got all of this from our joint background in programming), this stuff is gold. I was really blown away.

And with that, take it away Travis! 


Hi Folks,

Rachel and I sit down from time to time to plan out the writing schedule. Today I'd like to talk about the process and tools we use to generate our calendar with. This is a non-trivial question for a writing business, so I hope you'll find this info handy. It's all methods that I've learned from years of working in the programming industry, which is surprisingly similar to the book writing business.

Bonus: I'm going to post a spreadsheet that you can download and use to do this for yourself!

Project Management for the Writing Business

How many days can a full time writer write if a full time writer can write full time?

It's not 365
This is a question that all managers in all businesses have to learn and, in my experience, end up learning the hard way. Why the hard way? Because it's a lot less than anyone ever thinks it is and it's not intuitive. For example,

there's not that many writing days per year!

Looking at this, a very diligent author can optimally cram in 234, eight-hour work days of writing. That's only 2/3rd of the year. This isn't the whole picture though, the number is actually much lower.

Toss in the overhead of full time work life as well as running an author blog and now we're down to basically half of the year for writing. I'm not done yet though! How much of this time is actually spent writing?

Later on, I'm going to link you to my Book Timeline Estimator spreadsheet. Right now though, I'm going to use it to give you an example of how much time goes into a sample Rachel Aaron novel.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Guest Post: Loss Leaders, or How I learned to Stop Being Poor and Love the $0.99 Book

Hi Folks,

Last Monday, I talked about why 99c should not be your go-to regular novel price. We got a lot of good feedback on this post! The best counter-point was from USA Today bestselling author Annie Bellet, who has graciously agreed to do today's guest post.

Annie Bellet is the USA Today bestselling author of The Twenty-Sided Sorceress, which Rachel loved and is free right now! So check it out.

Her other notable works include the Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division and the Gryphonpike Chronicles series.

She holds a BA in English and a BA in Medieval Studies and thus can speak a smattering of useful languages such as Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Welsh. Which is pretty darned cool!

Her interests besides writing include rock climbing, reading, horse-back riding, video games, comic books, table-top RPGs and many other nerdy pursuits.  She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a very demanding Bengal cat.

This is a great guest post ya'll as the comments on my anti-99c post were mostly all about loss leading. So today is going to be very on point!

(Just a quick word. I realize in hindsight, that maybe I didn't setup my post properly. Long and short, I was talking about people who do things like price entire series at 99c, price book 3 at 99c, or otherwise use it as a long-term, regular price for too many of their works. It wasn't meant to say, "never use 99c".)

But while I could have been clearer, I'm very happy it lead to such a great conversation! So, are you ready to look at the loss leader strategy and how you can rock out with well-done 99c pricing? Here's Annie Bellet!

Guest Post: Loss Leaders, or How I learned to Stop Being Poor and Love the $0.99 Book

Pricing. It’s a scary part of self-publishing. What is a book worth? You’ve put dozens or even hundreds of hours into a work. You’ve (hopefully) paid for editing and wow-factor cover art and smooth formatting and your book looks like a million bucks to you. It’s weeks and months or years of blood and sweat and tears.

I’m going to tell you something scary but first a little caveat. This is all my belief and based on my own experiences and what I’ve observed after six years of self-publishing and putting up over forty titles. It is not the last word nor a 100% script that everyone can or should follow. Nothing works for everyone all the time. Nothing. Anyone who says “this is the only way” is either deluded or selling something. The following is just my experience and based on my own data and data I’ve gathered. Take it as such.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Anatomy of a Scene

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Prose Summer Camp!

Today, we're going to be taking a look at the workhorse of fiction, the scene. But first, announcements!

First, on Monday, Trav had a great post about why you shouldn't price your novel at $0.99. For the record, I absolutely agree with everything he says, but (as we always say around here), our way is not the only way. Case in point, after we posted the article, the awesome and very successful Annie Bellet contacted me on Twitter to tell me that she and several other authors have had fantastic success pricing at $0.99! This lead to a great discussion which I begged her to put into a post, and she gracious obliged. So, next Monday we'll have a guest post from Annie about why you should price your novel at $0.99! I've already read it, and it's going to be awesome.

Secondly, we've added a ton of new posters to the shop! Including this little beauty...


Folks, I've got one in my hands right now, and it is gorgeous! The colors are so much more vibrant than on screen. We've also got posters for the covers and art for One Good Dragon Deserves Another (finally) and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished as well, and they look just as good. You need more dragons in your life, right? Head on over to the swag shop to take a look and get some special Heartstrikers art for your walls!

Now that's out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks, with...

Prose Summer Camp: Anatomy of a Scene

So far in this series, we've talked about the small, technical details of good writing like improving sentence structure and how to write good sentence level description. We even had Bob come in to help us with dialogue

Now we're going to zoom out a bit and take a look at a larger, but still fundamental, aspect of good novel writing: the scene. As always, though, a disclaimer:

**This is how I write. All of the tips below are drawn from my taste and experience as a writer. If you don't like my writing style, knowing how I plan my scenes might not be useful. This is fine! Everyone writes in their own voice. I hope, of course, that you will still find some it helpful, but please don't take any of this as me setting down the One True Path of Writing. I'm just telling you what works for me in the hopes that it might also work for you.**

Now that's out of the way, let's talk about what a scene can do.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Let's Talk Numbers: Why You Shouldn't Price Your Novel at $0.99

Hi Folks,

We're back from Colorado, so that means our more regular posts can resume. Thank you again to Kameron Hurley for filling in for us with her amazing gust post about hybrid authorship! (Seriously, go read it if you haven't! It's good!)

Today I have a short one about pricing. Let's talk about pricing a full length novel at 99c as a standard, not sale, price and the horrible problems that can create.

For this post, please keep in mind that I'm talking about full length novels. Short stories, serials, and novellas definitely have different pricing rules and this discussion may or may not apply to those arenas.

Why You Shouldn't Price Your Novel at $0.99

Every now and then, we see people doing this. They have a a shiny new book, a full length novel no less, and they release it for sale at a $0.99 cover price. Rachel and I cannot help but cringe when we see this happen, because we understand the faulty logic that's happening behind the scenes here.

Why would someone do this? There's basically three kinds of authors who put up full novels at what is a discount price.
  1. Those who are part of the book mill brands who write a book a month, don't edit or copy edit it, and just go for quantity over quality as a publishing strategy.
  2. People who are trying to build readership, often desperately so.
  3. Folks who don't think their books are worth full price.
It should come as no surprise that Rachel and I disapprove of the book mill approach. We don't think that it's good for the industry in general. Worse, the people we've see who pursue this kind of business model often talk about how soul killing it is, so y'all can see why we dislike this practice on many levels.

Now, people who are pricing their books at 99c as a means of building readership faster, those people I want to talk to the most today. For insecure authors, I'll be hitting on that topic near the end of this post.

Most everything I have to say about pricing low to build readership can be summed up simply as,

Using $0.99 as your regular price point is trading long-term gains for short-term ones.

Starting out, new authors need to build readership. It's the first and last item on their agenda besides writing the next book. Additionally, most people understand that lower price = greater volume so pricing to move is the logical tactic.
"Tactics without strategy are the noise before defeat"
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Persistent bargain-basement pricing is engaging in grievously short term tactics without really considering their impact on the future (ie the strategy for a healthy long-term career). There's three major issues with using $0.99 as a regular price point for full length novels.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Writing Wednesday GUEST POST! with the amazing Kameron Hurley

Hello from COLORADO!

Yes, I'm standing by a frozen lake. Yes, I am wearing shorts. 10,000 feet, baby!
As you've probably surmised from the pictures, we're on vacation this week. Fortunately, this works out in your favor because we've got the amazing (and Hugo award winning!) essayist, author, feminist, and all around whipsmart lady Kameron Hurly here on the blog to talk about making the jump from trad to self-pub and back again!

I've read many of the essays from Geek Feminist Revolution and I love them. She has a ton of essays featuring deep, critical thought on geeky topics up for free all over the internet. It's a type of deep introspection genre that's very hard to find in genre fiction especially, and as a member of the SFF community, I absolutely love what she does with and for my genre. I'd be super stoked to get her on the blog for any reason, but she is especially perfect for today's topic, and let me just say, we are ALL in for a treat.

So, without further ado, here's Kameron to talk about the business of taking an indie project to NY!

How to Repackage a Self-Pub Project for Traditional Publication

Hello, everyone! And thanks to Rachel for hosting me. Today I’m going to talk about my recently-released essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, and how my agent and I worked to repackage and pitch content which had already appeared around the web into a traditional publishing deal.

As a general rule, unless a self-publishing project sells a lot of copies, it’s difficult to get traditional publishers interested in them. I know! It sucks, but you’ll hear this a lot from agents and publishers. It really has to be a legit phenomenon to stir up interest, especially now that there are so many more self-pub success stories. Even essay collections like the one I pitched can be a difficult sell if more than 20% of the content you propose for the collection has been previously published online.
So how did we do it?