Category Archives: Writing Process
Being a writer is a process in insanity. Seriously. We mix creativity (which is a monster out of our control), our drive for expression, art, and understanding, with entrepreneurism. We are both introverts and extroverts. We create in the most intimate and vulnerable ways, then turn around and push it out into the world with our armor, shields, and swords.
Basically, never become a writer unless you’re also willing to have a smidge of a personality disorder.
Sometimes this hurts. Like, really, really hurts. The transition isn’t easy. If we have to force it, expect there to be some emotional backlash down the pipe. For example: you’ve just spent three solid weeks writing thousands of words a day. The real world has slipped away and you live more inside your fantasy world than the space you physically inhabit. You’ve stripped away all your defenses in order to feel as your character feels, hurt and hope and your character hurts and hopes.
It’s a raw place.
Not at time to be standing up on your rock proclaiming for all the world to criticize you.
And yet…the publishing schedule does not always allow for those precious moments to heal inside your cocoon and slowly reemerge into the harsh, bright world. Nope. Sometimes you’ve got work to do and that means tying those shoelaces tighter, cinching in your belt, and plummeting headfirst into the Colosseum of life without your Gladiator armor at the ready.
You can do it. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. BUT IT SUCKS! And in the end you are bruised, battered, and probably wondering if you’ll survive the night.
(Hint: You will.)
And despite all your best laid plans to have publishing and marketing time well insulated from your creative time, your schedule will fall apart again one day, and you will be forced to shift your creative gears, grinding as you seek out the right one.
If you are forced to switch from creative mode to entrepreneur mode in the blink of an eye remember that it’s okay to have a freak out afterward. In fact, the one thing you can plan for in a time of no planning, is that you will and should take some time afterward to have an OMFG WHAT DID I JUST DO moment. Take several days. Do not beat yourself up over being overloaded and do not feel less than because you became overwhelmed by the firestorm of the other half of your personality/job.
Having just done this myself, here are a few tips that have helped get me back on me feet faster than ever:
- Admit you are overwhelmed and accept that this is normal
- Talk to your friends. Not just once or twice, but many times. As much as you need to in order to stay tethered to that friendly connection. (And talk about more than the book.)
- Have a person. Someone (a friend, lover, sister, cousin, fellow writer) who knows your personality and your deep doubts and fears. They will hear what worries you most even when you can’t put it into words. Let them reassure you. Accept that they are right and your doubts are wrong.
- Get out of your routine. Go away for the weekend, have an outdoor adventure, visit someone you haven’t seen in a while…do something to put yourself outside of the microcosm of writing and publishing. It will get you away from the notifications, the routine, and help break you out of the little dark hole.
- Speaking of notifications: TURN THEM OFF. There is a time to be on top of book sales, ad views, clicks, and ROI. And then there is the point where you’ve done what you can do and you need to let it go. Close your browser, hide your phone, turn off all the dings, alerts, and shortcuts that let you sneak a quick peek when no one is looking.
- Don’t do social media for at least three days. Call someone. Have lunch or dinner with a friend. Hand write letters. Download Facebook’s group app if you use a lot of groups and want to stay informed but do not open Facebook! All the social medias will still be there in three days.
- Sleep. If you have trouble with all the anxiety, then talk to your doctor about a sleep aide that might be beneficial to you in times of extreme stress. The most important thing is that you actually get some quality sleep.
- Drink water and eat yummy food.
- Have fun again. The best book and marketing ideas come from being out and enjoying your life. Go do something really fun.
I write to music. We’ve talked about this before (and here and here) but I don’t know if I’ve ever truly articulated what that means. More on that below. First, let’s tackle the meat of this post: the music of Never Let Go.
It really boils down to three main songs, and then a handful of “soundtrack” songs. The most important of which is the inspiration song. This came on the radio and BAM! Two years of wondering if I’d ever write another Jake and Eve book was over. Yes, I was writing another book and this was what it was going to be about:
“Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor, featuring the amazing John Legend was the crux of Jake and Eve’s married life. They spent so many years apart that they are so very keenly aware of how lucky they are to be happy.
The scene hit me like a bolt of lighting (appropriate, I know!) Eve standing at a cold sink staring out the window thinking about how hard she holds onto Jake, loving him like she might lose him. He comes up behind her and whispers in her ear. I wrote the book from there.
But like every other book I’ve ever written, the inspiration song is just that: inspiration. I don’t actually write to the song. This is what I actually listened to while writing:
It’s this verse in particular
I’m a hold my cards close
I’m a wreck what I love most
I’m a first class letdown I’m a “shut up, sit down”
that screams “Jake” to me, but there are so many more lyrics in this song that make it his story through and through.
And what has happened with every single book I’ve ever written? (about halfway through writing) I hear a song that stops me dead in my tracks. THIS SONG is THE SONG!!! It is the story I’m writing and everything I feel when I making words! I fall in love and listen to it like a broken record until I finish writing. For Never Let Go, it was this song:
“This mess was yours, now this mess is mine,” is the heart of Jake and Eve’s story, more so in this book than the other two. “You’re the reason that I feel so strong, the reason that I’m holding on.” *dies* “Mess is Mine” is the song of Never Let Go. Period.
To listen to my entire Never Let Go soundtrack and hear all the music that inspired the book, visit my Spotify Playlist here.
So, at the beginning of this post I mentioned that I don’t just listen to music when I’m writing. I don’t simply find inspiration in songs. I swear I have this out of body experience when it comes to music. I always have. For as far back as I can remember. I see entire stories when I hear a song. The music may only last for three minutes, but in my head it is so much more. A few lines become entire backstories. Entire worlds. I can see hundreds of pages of context from that one song.
Before I could write, I would act out these stories by dressing up. I would force my poor sister to play along. Elaborate sessions of make-believe were all carried out to a soundtrack. Namely Olivia Newton-John, but there were others.
When I got older I realized I didn’t want to act out these stories I saw, I wanted to write them (I just didn’t have that tool when I was younger.) The first time I was taken away and wrote an entire book to a CD was the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack. I would put on my headphones and listen for hours, making up books in my head.
It isn’t any different today, except that I actually do write entire books based on the stories I see in my head after listening to a single song.
These are the songs that transported me to the world of Jake and Eve in Never Let Go. I hope it helps transport you into their world as you get ready to read their final book. Let me know what you think of the songs and the book (out May 24th, 2016!)
I like to think we all have a healthy fear of failure, but I know some of us have a bigger fear than others. Mine is kind of huge and it prevented me from doing a lot of different things with my life. Over the last month I’ve had to force myself to look that fear in the face and do what I’ve been dreading…read The Storm Inside.
I haven’t read it since I wrote it. It was my first book. It was three years ago. And I haven’t cracked that baby open and looked at it with two since I hit publish. Excellent sales, wonderful reviews, and heartfelt fan letters could not convince me that the words I put down in that book were anything but embarrassing (and no, I’m not talking about the smokin’ hot sex scenes.)
I was paralyzed, so I ignored it. I didn’t market the book the way I should have and as a result I’ve stunted my potential as a working writer. Over the holidays I had to take a long hard look at who I wanted to be. You can either be a successful writer who is proud of your entire body of work, blemishes and all, or you can hide in the shadows of “one day.”
So I’ve done it. I’ve re-read the entire book (sometimes peeking through my fingers because WHAT THE HELL DID I WRITE? Someone start a cold shower, those sex scenes…Jake’s story…their love??? Holy hell, what a book!)
I’ve given the whole series new covers and blurbs, and stepped outside of my own fears of failure because no one finds joy in hiding. Meanwhile I’ve been reading a half-dozen “first novels” from authors I consider my contemporaries and I learned a few things.
- It’s enjoyable to watch the transformation of a writer through their books. I don’t look down on those wonderful stories of love and triumph because of the typos or head hopping (it was only once.) I smiled because in the next book and the next book the writer grew stronger and my love of the author grew right along with it. I know I have readers who feel the same way. I love you guys.
- Most people don’t notice the stray typo so I really, really, really need to stop acting like HRH Queen Gatekeeper of Novels is going to cast me out into the barrens of Never Writing Again and Laughed At in Infiniti. No really, every book has typos, even the #1 NYT Bestsellers. Some people read books and get their panties in a bunch over every little nuance, but most people just want a fucking good story. Write a good story. Hire good people. Do better when you know better. Keep moving forward.
- I don’t take my own advice. I give pretty good advice, but I let my fear stop me from putting it in motion for myself. It’s been a good lesson to see several of these authors take my advice and succeed. It was a good smack in the face to realize if I’d done the same thing I wouldn’t have been cast out into the Barrens and might actually be pretty darn happy.
- I’m good at what I do (and I don’t need anyone to tell me that.) I used to admire those people who could throw themselves onto the fire without thinking. How did they write a book, put it out there, tell everyone it was the best thing since sliced bread… and have people believe it? Sure, some of those books were awesome, but most of them? Average. Totally and completely average. But the author had brash confidence and took the audience along with her. It’s taken a bolt of lightning and seeing my writing critiqued for me to realize that no one needs to give me permission to say my stories are good. No one but me is in charge of being proud of my work. My success is entirely up to me. I’m write damn good stories.
- “Fear is the Enemy” is not just a saying people throw around. Fear is the wall that stands between failure and success. Which side do you want to stand on? Do you want to live in the shadow of fear, or do you want to put that behind you and stand in the sun? (I live in Florida, I can tell you the sun is very enjoyable.)
Putting The Storm Inside out all over again has already transformed my life. It has sat in the iBooks Top 5 in UK for the last week and Reflected and Lightning have jumped up the paid charts…reminding me that the only one holding my books back is me. It was terrifying to re-read my book, but it’s turned into a lovely experience to re-edit the books. The new paperback proof is on the way to my mailbox right now. I’ll be sure to share the pictures with you all when it gets here!
One of the magic ingredients of serials is pricing. It’s magic because the pricing is what allows readers to find you, but it is also magic because of all the options it provides you. When you’re writing a single novel you only have one product to work with, and you likely only have a little wiggle room in the pricing of that single product. But over the course of writing a serial you instantly create a small backlist that gives you a few more options for testing your market, finding your audience, and learning where your sweet spot lies.
For someone brand new to the industry or still building a customer base, 99 cents and free are your best friends.
99 cents is low entry point for readers. If you have a great cover, gripping blurb, and fantastic first few pages, then you are likely to start selling a few copies, even without any fan base. Most readers are happy to pony up 99 cents for something new and exciting. Plus, once you get the first three books in your serial out you can lower the price of your first book to FREE! And free can be magical.
There are a lot of marketing options out there for free books. Even using the hashtag #FREE (and combo that with #iBooks or #Kindle) on Twitter will grab you a few eyeballs. If you combine that with some inexpensive advertising and politely ask some relevant blogs on Facebook to post your freebie then you can start to generate some buzz!
Why is free magical?
It sucks in new readers, helps build reviews, and your mailing list. Free books get more reviews because they get in front of more eyeballs. More reviews means more options for paid advertising. It also makes you look good! But the real gold mine is in building your email list. Put a link in the back of your book asking readers to signup for your mailing list to get an alert when the next book in the serial releases. Facebook comes and goes, advertisers decide who makes the cut, but everyone who subscribes to your newsletter sees what you send out. My biggest jumps in sales are always after a newsletter goes out announcing a new release and my biggest signup point is the back of my first free book in a serial.
And by the time Book 5 comes out you’ve got a nice little fan base going. I recommend going wide to all the retailers (unless you don’t have the time/energy.) Release to all retailers and make Book 1 permafree until sales taper. When your sales taper off is the time to reevaluate your sales strategy, reprice your books and your bundle.
Here’s what my pricing strategy looks like:
Book 1: 99c/Free (when book 3 releases)
Book 2: 99c
Book 3: 99c
Book 4: 99c/$1.99 (after the series is complete)
Book 5: 99c/2.99 (after the series is complete)
Box set: 3.99
I play with my prices all the time. For a while I actually put my Tease series in KU (due to family issues I didn’t have the time or energy to keep up with all the retailers and sales strategy. For six months I focused solely on Amazon.)
Kindle Unlimited did affect my pricing strategy, but I was surprised by how successful it was. Even with the first book at 99 cents instead of free, readers kept picking it up! Instead of buying each book individually (because I had raised the price of every book in the series) they purchased the box set. The box set looked like a really great deal since buying the series one at a time wound up costing close to $10. The series also did well with Kindle Unlimited readers. Not so well that I stayed with KU, but for the circumstances we were in at the time, it was a very effective change for my serial.
And that’s what I want you all to keep in mind. There is no single formula for success. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Follow your gut instincts and keep in mind that your readers come first.
Pricing is one of your biggest assets in serial writing. The flexibility, options, and strategy give you so much to work with in a short period of time. In my next post I’ll be discussing the writing process and how to schedule your serial. You can also check in tonight on First Draught! The entire show is dedicated to serials! You can find the links and information on the First Draught website!
When it comes to strategy with romance serials it’s all about the numbers.
Who is your target audience, how hot are you writing, what do you want to charge, and how many words are you willing to invest into your cause? The kinkier you write, the less words you have to write, and the higher you can charge (because erotica is considered a high demand genre with a thirst for very specific content.)
But the hotter you write, the more you run into advertising and visibility issues because many places will not promote explicit content. If you’re like me, you write very hot and use certain four-letter words. So be conscious of what you’re writing and what opportunities that will afford you (and which doors that will close.)
In general, 15k words for $0.99 is a sweet spot. When you write shorter, readers b*tch about paying for your words (unless they are super hot addictive words. For instance, straight up erotica can go as short as 4k words as long as it’s kinky.) If you write too much longer than 15k words then you aren’t maximizing your cost/word ratio (unless you are charging 2.99.) While we all love to write, we also love to put food on our tables. Don’t spend a lot of time writing words you can’t charge for. The point is to put out a fun, exciting, sexy product, but to also maximize your earning potential.
Keep your first episode on the shorter end. It is your hook episode and the one you’ll want to make permafree (depending on sales strategy). With Tease I made each episode a couple thousand words longer hoping to unconsciously make readers feel more and more satisfied, and giving me the option to charge more for later editions. Readers definitely felt satisfied, but I found that I was reluctant to charge more for later editions, which made my extra work kind of pointless. And by extra effort, it was almost doubling my turnaround time by episode 5.
And when you think about it, going back to the TV strategy, every episode is the same length except for season finales or specials. So I now try to keep each episode in the 15-18k word range. Five episodes is a good format for two reasons: 1…it winds up being approximately the same length as a full novel which gives you more strategy options down the road. And 2…when you bundle them up at the end, it gives you the ability to charge a reasonable amount for your work.
What do I mean by that? Well, if you write a three book serial and the first book is free, but you’re only charging $0.99 for each of the next two books then your entire series can be bought for $1.98. That doesn’t give you much power to price the box set at different levels unless you start playing around with prices.
Which brings us to pricing! Stop back for my next post where I’ll talk about pricing strategies and why they work. If you haven’t, please be sure to read my first post on How to Write Serials: Format. In that post I discuss the basics of the serial format and how to plan out your writing strategy.
Have you checked out my latest serial? Tempt was just the featured excerpt of the week over at Cosmopolitan.com!
It was amazing timing because you can read Tempt: Volume 1 for free from any retailer!
Hello everyone! I’m so happy to be posting this as part of the Get It Together Blog Hop. I’m Alexis Anne and I write contemporary and erotic romances like The Storm Inside and Tease! Like many of you, my life is one of barely controlled chaos structured around schedules and lists, fueled by caffeine and determination, and laced with insanity. I’m a mother to two active soccer-playing boys, wife to a busy soccer-playing engineer, and am attempting to launch three new series in three different genres this year. Oh, and I also contribute to the First Draught Writing show and podcast (They put me in charge of podcasts!).
So, just like all of you, I’m busy as f**** and the one thing I do that keeps things somewhat balanced and moving forward is the careful management of my choke points (aka bottlenecks), a family Google Calendar (see Lindsay Emory’s post), white boards, and more notebooks than any one person should own.
No seriously. They’re everywhere. Including my nightstand and… apparently… my drying rack, stored carefully under my hat?
I like having goals I’m working toward, but on my own time. Writing is such a creative process that I’ve found things like to do lists, word counts, and tracking to be counterproductive to my life. Instead of focusing on my story, I’m tracking progress. Instead of creating, I’m worrying… and worrying means I’m not working.
So I write everything down. It gets it out of my head and I can reference back to it any time (without the pressure of a to do list staring me down.) As crazy as my stacks of notebooks look, it’s actually controlled chaos.
Instead, I spend enormous amounts of time finding creative ways around my choke points and bottlenecks. This often involves looking at the situation from a new angle and figuring out how to get around it.
What is a choke point? Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition:
a strategic narrow route providing passage through or to another region
something that slows down a process
Maybe I’m a problem solver by nature, but my mind doesn’t go to “what is my process” so much as “how can I make my process more efficient?” I do this by identifying my choke points and eliminating them. Like Michael Cena.
Worry is a major choke point for me, which is why I like to wake up and start writing over coffee. Whether it’s a list of scenes that need to appear in the next book in my serial (explain Theo’s tattoo, establish Allison’s back story, explain Nicki’s connection to Higgins, sex scene A, sex scene B, dark moment) or writing a scene that came to me in the morning fog of sleep, that is probably my most creative time of day, so I prioritize it. If I don’t get my morning quiet time, I become a basket case and all the dominoes in my house fall down.
So I make sure everyone in my house knows this time is sacred. The kids don’t talk to me until my cup is empty (I also wake up extra early so that I have maximum time before they wake up.)
The hubby kisses me goodbye and doesn’t take offense if I’m deep in thought instead of gushing over him 😉 And I keep a notebook on my nightstand. I write by hand as often, or more, in this morning time.
Another choke point is spending unnecessary time fretting over scenes and writing order (I’m a plotter BTW.) I usually write in order, but lately I’ve been writing critical scenes first, then filling in the others second. I prefer to write in Word, but if I need to, I import into Scrivener and use all of it’s wonderful tools to break up scenes, rearrange chapters, and keep my pre-plotted story arc in check. There’s no shame in using multiple products to get to one finished product and I’ve found that moving back and forth between the platforms is both easy and effective for producing a good product.
My family is probably my biggest problem. I love them to pieces… and that’s exactly my problem. I can’t think (which means I can’t create) if I know we’re two weeks behind on laundry, there is no food in the fridge, and every dish we own is dirty and sitting on the counter waiting for the maid (that we don’t have) to come take care of it all.
We had to find a way to be more efficient and effective as a family. That’s where minimalism and Amazon come in. We got rid of all the things we didn’t need. We realized we had so many things. Things that were dragging us down with extra chores, clutter, and immense feelings of guilt. So we got rid of the extra dishes, clothes, and stuff. This article was a great guide for us.
My other family choke point was the dang groceries. To keep writing we turned to eating out instead of cooking/cleaning (on top of homework and soccer practice.) Eating out is a temporary solution, not a lifestyle. It’s expensive, too. So the guilt started to get to me.
Until I realized Amazon and One Pot Meals were the answer to my overworked writer-mom prayers. Between two day Prime shipping and the Prime Pantry Box, my life has been transformed. Laundry detergent arrives by magic. So do craft supplies for the school projects. All my dry goods arrive in the Pantry Box (pasta, chicken stock, canned food, cereal, toilet paper, etc), which frees us up to actually make a run to the grocery store since we now only need to run around the edges for fresh food (bread, produce, dairy, etc.)
You can check out my go-to one pot (or two pot) meals here. They’ve saved me a ton of time while getting us some decently balanced meals.
All of this makes my creative time as a writer possible. Without it, I was stopping. I was obsessing. I wasn’t writing… which is kind of my job. We eliminated the choke points and it freed me up to do my job. I hope this helps you find balance and productivity in your own creative endeavors!
Apps and Websites I use to manage my life:
Canva (creating book covers, teasers, and otherwise visualizing the stuff I see in my head)
Feedly (an RSS feed so I can stay up to date on all my favorite blogs and websites in one place)
Buffer (scheduling my social media)
Check out all the rest of the stops on the Get it Together Blog Hop and enter the Rafflecopter here!
What? You thought I’d post this all at once? Did you not read the title? We’re talking about serials! Of course this is going to take several posts! (Yes, I know I’m the only one laughing…) This is the first in a series of posts here and on Wattpad, plus I’ll do a couple of videos because I want to. When I’m done I’ll bind it all up together and put it out there as a finished product, but I figured if I’m going to share with you all how I write serials, I should take you through it exactly as I do it. One step at a time. One finished product in the end.
I’m messy. I go part by part. I’m okay with unfinished and a little raw. And only in the end do I pull it all together. It’s kind of the fun of serials. I love that it’s a little messy. I think it might be the most authentic “me” when it comes to writing. I never quite feel myself when I’m writing a novel. Not because I have anything against novels or beautifully polished masterpieces (because I love those!!!) but because writing (to me) is an art form. And art is a process. And art is sharing your world with the people it’s supposed to affect. So I love serials because it allows me to share my art with my readers as I’m creating it. Volume by volume. They get to come along on the ride and, in some ways, become part of the art along the way.
So first things first. Ideas and structure.
You’ve got to have an idea that can be told serially. What is a serial? It’s one story with many moving parts and pieces. Think of modern television. Many shows are now told episodically. There is one overarching story being told over all or half of a season. Each episode tells its own story as part of the bigger picture. It’s a glimpse into one aspect of all the moving parts bringing us to the eventual conclusion at the end of the season. There are some stories that aren’t suited to this type of storytelling, but there are others, those with multiple plot elements and multifaceted characters, that are absolutely perfect.
So before we delve into each of these points, let’s look at a few case studies. By far my favorite example of serialized storytelling on television is the BBC2/Netflix series Peaky Blinders. Each season is six episodes. Those six episodes tell the story of the Peaky Blinders gang, their leader, played by the incredible Cillian Murphy (whose accent in this is like silk!), and their cat-and-mouse war with Chief Inspector Campbell, in the aftermath of World War 1. Each episode gives us a piece of the puzzle while still leaving us feeling like we’ve seen a satisfying story. Another reason this series is such a great example for serial writers to study, is because in season two the story takes on a different, continuing arc in the characters stories. Two seasons with examples of how to tell one larger story with six smaller pieces. Take a look at the trailer:
Another good example is another BBC show, Broadchurch. Over the first series we follow the story of the death of Daniel Lattimer, and eventually discover who killed him. It is one story told over several addictive parts. In series two another related story arc is followed over several episodes. It is a slightly different example of how to approach a second set of serials than the Peaky Blinders example above, but both employ similar technicques. Do not watch all of this recap video if you haven’t watched all of series one (and think you might want to). It will ruin the end of the series and trust me, it was a good ride!!!
My final example is actually an American show! Arrow isn’t neccessarily what I’d consider the strongest writing, but the serializing of the storyline over the course of each season is! Comics have been in the serial game for decades and there is a lot to learn from reading them, or watching shows like Arrow and The Flash which approach the story arcs a little differently than my first two examples. In Arrow you are much more likely to find tighter story arcs unique to each episode with only a sprinkling of the larger plot. One of my favorite devices from the series is the generous use of flashbacks to Oliver Queen’s mysterious past. In some ways there are two stories constantly being told throughout the series. One much bigger story going deep into the past, and one happening in the present. They are juxtaposed in really fun ways and the storytelling totally makes up for the writing!
All right butterflies! Study up on serials and we’ll meet back next week for more! Happy studying!
Do you like to be tempted and teased? Start my Tease serials absolutely free!