Statistics for September and October so Far

Sorry I’ve been MIA. I was super busy with writing work at the beginning of the week and then a whole bunch of personal events happened. I’m not sure what my word count was, but please feel free to post yours in the comments below.

One of the requests when I asked what people like on this blog was statistics. Since I haven’t been submitting short stories, I really haven’t had much in the way of statistics. But since I’ve implemented some changes in the way I work, I’ve actually made some sales! Not many sales at all, but when you go from zero to some, it’s a big deal.

So here are a few statistics. These are all for my pen name:

From August to now I posted two full episodes of a serial story. Scenes went up 3-5 times a week. The episodes were 25,000 words together. The first episode went up for free on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and All Romance in September.

Blog Views

July: 51
August: 231
September: 658
October Already: 524

Downloads of First Episode:

All Romance: 94
Amazon: 268
Smashwords: 153
Barnes and Noble: 148

Trickled down to 13 actual sales of other books.

I know, I know. I should probably be embarrassed to post the numbers. But honestly after not selling anything I’m feeling like I’m starting to do some things right.

I hope you’re feeling good about your writing. I should be posting more regularly this week!

Actual Writing Advice: Schedule Your Writing Goals

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Back in July I told Julie and Heather that I wanted to do X, Y, and Z. Heather said, “Show me the schedule.” So I sat down at Teamup.com and filled out a calendar for the end of July, all of August and the first week of September. It took three hours.

X is done. Y is daily and on going. Z is incomplete. I have to have Z done by the end of this week. It was actually supposed to be done at the end of August. Obviously I overscheduled. But by golly, I am not adding anything more to that schedule until it’s done.

Having a specific schedule to adhere to is a real boost. I like to check off things when they’re done. I don’t let myself move on until everything is complete. It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to write a book this year.” It’s another to say, “I’m going to write one chapter a week. I’m going to be half-way done by July 4. I’m going to have a full manuscript by Dec. 31.”

It’s good to say, “I’m going to write every day for two hours.” But I think it’s even better if you say, “I’m going to write two hours a day and have a short story done by Saturday.” It keeps you honest with yourself. Maybe it will prevent you from spending that two hours on Youtube, or reading news articles, or twitter. Sometimes I get done with an hour and I’ve done nothing but check stuff on the internet that isn’t related to my writing project at all. If I have a looming deadline, even a self-imposed one, I can click on my schedule and say, “Better not go through my WordPress Reader right now. I need Z done in two days!”

I know some of you out there schedule your goals. Do you have any special tricks that keep you focused?

Actual Writing Advice: Online Presence, Twitter

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I have an acronym to sum up my feelings about Twitter: WtH?

I chose to try out Twitter first under my pen name because I had a novel coming out. Maybe I could get some sales from there. The first day I signed up, I got several follows. Really? Were people just chomping at the bit waiting for my pen name that only had a novella out that no one was buying to arrive on Twitter?

No. Continue reading

New Bling!

Look, I’m blogging on Monday!

This is going to be a short post to let you know about some new features on the site. Obviously there is a new appearance. I haven’t changed the rest of my website yet, but that will come soon.

I finally have a follow button!! It’s over on the right. You can put in your email address and then you’ll recieve email notifications of the posts. Horray! Please subscribe!

I also have a Like button now. If you particularly enjoy what I’ve said please press the Like! Of course, I LOVE comments, but sometimes I appreciate something without having anything to say about it and push the Like button.

I also think you can follow my blog as a wordpress.com user now and it will show up in your Reader.

The other stuff is mainly behind the scenes. I’ll be back tomorrow with A Writer Reviews Bellwether by Connie Willis. So be sure to come back or Follow me so you don’t miss it!

–Melinda

 

Christmas in July

I have a friend who does amazing crafts. She’s doing a lot of Christmas stuff this month and calling it her Christmas in July. We took a drive all the way across the border into Colorado this weekend and went on a short hike. I saw what looked like a Christmas tree growing in the middle of a tree stump. So here’s a picture to inspire those of you doing projects this month:

And for those of you who missed it, Holly’s book is out for preorder on Amazon! I wish there was a cover image, but I guess we have to wait. Go check it out!

Summer

My schedule seems too unpredictable and full to set a word count goal. I had two home improvement projects last week that took a lot more time than I thought they would. One of them I did and the other my son did, but he needed help getting a part that didn’t exist.

Sadly, I’m putting the story away I’ve been working so hard on. Definitely not a great feeling, but it’s time to cut my losses.

I have more things to look forward to this summer so I’ll be enjoying those. I wish my writing career would fall in line with the rest of the good things in my life.

Good luck to all of you out there finishing up projects. I hope they go well and come out like you planned them!

 

A writer Reviews: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Happy Monday!

Sorry I’ve been MIA. I went on vacation for ten days. Of course I thought I would prepost before I left, but I was too busy writing and getting five people ready for a cross-country road trip. I ran out of time. I hope that you got lots of writing done while I was gone. Feel free to post your word count in the comments of this post. I wrote 0. I didn’t even take my laptop with me. I did talk to Julie about the story. We were out visiting her, and though we were mostly taking a whirlwind tour of DC, I did slip in a few conversations about the story. And guess what? I’ll be rewriting the beginning again. Fortunately, most of what I’ve written in the second half of the book can remain without a major rewrite.

And now, on with the review.

You must read A Short History of Everything by Bill Bryson. If you’re a writer, there are loads and loads of interesting anecdotes to inspire stories. If you’re not a writer, you should read it for the loads and loads of interesting anecdotes anyway :)

I didn’t actually read it, but listened to it. The first version I heard was an abridged version read by the author. I love his voice. The version we listened to on the trip is the full version. I really liked hearing all the new stuff, but it was read by somebody else. He had a good voice, but it wasn’t quite the same feel as the author.

For your Monday inspiration, I’ll leave you with a few quotations from the introduction. It’ll make you feel really good about your life, I swear :)

Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn’t easy, I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize.

To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once….

But the fact that you have atoms and that they assemble in such a willing manner is only part of what got you here. To be here now, alive in the twenty-first century and smart enough to know it, you also had to be the beneficiary of an extraordinary string of biological good fortune. Survival on Earth is a surprisingly tricky business. Of the billions and billions of species of living things that have existed since the dawn of time, most-99.99 percent-are no longer around….

Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favored evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely-make that miraculously-fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result-eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly-in you.

Female Characters: A Debate

I’ve been thinking a lot about opening chapters and crafting relatable characters. I’m so appreciative of all of you who like my Rapunzel character, but overall, I seem to struggle with likeable female leads. Even with Rapunzel I hear from readers that she’s a little too over-the-top, a little too crazy.
My romance heroines are sometimes called bitches or selfish by those who don’t like the stories.

Actually, it seems people either love my female characters or they hate them. I didn’t intentionally write them to be divisive. I write females to be independent and smart with some sort of flaw they have to fix or at least come to terms with during the story.

So what’s going on?

Recently, I read three stories: two urban fantasy and one romance. It occurred to me that the two stories that have a female lead start with the character caring for someone else. In the urban fantasy, she has to save her sister. In the romance, she’s the mother figure for her employees. In the urban fantasy with a male lead, he’s abused by his dad and strikes out on his own. We are made to like him based on how others treat him, not how he treats others.

Hmmm. I began to run through beginnings of stories I like. Bilbo launches his adventure without caring for anyone or anything but his own comfort. Harry is another orphan story—we feel sorry for him and want him out of the bad situation. But in A Wrinkle in Time, Meg gets in a fight to defend her baby brother.

Do female characters have to be caregivers at the beginning of a story for people to relate to them? Why can’t a female strike out on her own for an adventure without any other reason—like a male does?

So I researched. It’s not exhaustive by any means, but I think the findings were interesting enough to post. I picked at least two books from each decade starting in the sixties. They are all fantasy or science fiction. I only looked at the opening chapter. Some of these books I’ve read all of, others only the first chapter. My theory was the boys in the very opening scenes would be unattached while the girls would be caregivers to someone or even an animal.

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, 1964: Taran, a boy, wishes to be a hero but has to be a pig keeper and learn lessons instead. He wants to make a sword, but his mentor forces him to make horseshoes.

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, 1968: Lessa is shown as orphaned. She’s also destroyed much of her hold as revenge to Fax who conquered her hold in the past. But it’s contrasted with her attachment to the watch-wher who she cares for when no one is watching.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, 1973: Meg is seen right away defending her baby brother. It is refreshing that in the same chapter we see the baby brother takes care of her possibly more than she take care of him.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, 1979: Arthur Dent is completely unattached to everything but his house. He’s launched into adventure when not only his house is demolished for a highway, but the earth is demolished as well.

The Hero and the Crown by Robin Mckinley, 1984: Aerin wishes to go on a diplomatic war mission with her father and army. She isn’t shown as caretaker to anything. She just wants to get out of the castle. It’s a Newbery Award winner and definitely an exception to my theory.

Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! by Terry Brooks, 1986: Ben is a widow who hasn’t gotten over the death of his wife. So the reader does see that he can care. But widowing is a bit of an adult version of being an orphan. Ultimately he’s driven to purchase a Magic Kingdom in a different world because he has no attachments in this world.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, 1997: Great beginning with her rebelling against the enchantment she’s given, but ultimately the first chapter ends with her caring for a sick mom and bargaining for her to get well.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone by JK Rowling, 1997: Harry is seen as a baby after his parents die. The first time we see Harry as a child, we hate the Dursley’s, his foster family. Our empathy for Harry hinges on how he’s treated by them, not how he treats others. He does have a “Sucks to be us” conversation with a snake, but I wouldn’t quite categorize it as caring for the snake.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher, 2000: Dresden is a supernatural detective just trying to make money.

Horn by Peter M. Ball, 2009: Miriam Aster is also a detective dealing with the supernatural. Refreshingly, she’s just in it for the money like a man.

Personal Demons by Stacia Kane, 2009: Megan is a radio talk show host who has psychic insights and cares about her caller.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, 2006: Kovac is introduced with a female partner. There’s a gunfight. He doesn’t seem to try to help her much. It’s implied that she can handle things herself. She dies. His feelings for her aren’t clear.

Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell, 2010: Maddy is a cyborg, but we first meet her as a nanny caring for two children whose lives she saves.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, 2006: This one surprised me. Percy cares about a friend who is crippled in the very first chapter.

Pegasus and the Flame by Kate O’Hearn, 2012: Another surprise: Emily has a healthy relationship with her dad while being independent and capable.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 2008: We see Katniss right away as the caretaker for her whole family.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner, 2009: Thomas wakes up with amnesia and beaten up. He’s incapable of caretaking at the beginning of the book.

These last two are both vampire books, both with female leads. One is hugely popular, and the other is written by an award-winning author but is not nearly as well known:

Sunshine by Robin Mckinley, 2003: The defining lines from the first chapter: “It was a dumb thing to do but not that dumb. There hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake in years. And it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life.”

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, 2005: The defining line from the preface: “Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved.”

Eventually both characters are attacked by vampires. The Sunshine character is attacked because she was trying to get away from her family and friends. The Twilight character thinks she’s saving her mom who’s being used as bait.

Do we sympathize best with female characters who are caretakers? Do authors and publishers consciously make the decision to put females in a position at the beginning of a story where they are taking care of somebody else, even an animal? Or is it something subconscious?

And why do we love stories where males are victims of circumstances or even not victims and get to strike out on their own without a care?

Looking at my stories:

Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mom: Caregiver.
A Sunset Finish: Stephanie can barely take care of herself.

Romances:
Sienna: Kindergarten teacher, caretaker.
Grace: Victim of circumstances. Trying to put her life back together. Not a caregiver.

So I’m fifty fifty. But the current story I’m working on definitely starts like a male beginning—Gwen wants to break away from her family and get out on her own. Readers don’t always relate to her.

What is the beginning of your favorite story like?

Please post in the comments below. I’m really interested to hear what you think!

#10kwordsaday Check in

So you can search #10kwordsaday on Twitter if you want to see my hourly words counts each day. I didn’t reach 10k yesterday. I got stuck on a chapter during the afternoon. I know you’re not supposed to spend major time on one chapter when you’re trying to get a high word count, but it was too important to the story to not give it time. I knew I hadn’t written it correctly the first time through and couldn’t let it go.

But last night my fingers were on fire. I reached a word count of 6500 for the day. I had one hour of 1400 words, which is nearing my best. I’m poised at a good starting point this morning, so I’m hoping to reach 1500 the first hour.

Julie hasn’t read what I wrote last night, but so far she’s given me the green light on the first five chapters as far as plotting and pacing go. There were, of course, problems, but none to make me stop and reassess and bitch and moan.

How did you guys do? It looks like I have three takers for the wordcount marathon! Please post your word counts for yesterday. And if you want to join but haven’t, please speak up in the comments below! Everyone has a different goal, so don’t be shy. The important part is writing every day.

Inspiration for the day from Julie Shober:

10k Words a Day

My middle child has been doing the math for me on how many words I need to write a day to finish my book before school is out for the summer on Friday. With every restart, the word count has grown bigger and bigger. I’m now at 10k words a day that I need. I’m estimating the book will be 60,000 words long.

Yesterday, I spent 5 hours at Starbucks and wrote 5500 words. I didn’t manage to hit my top speed, which is 1500 words an hour. But I did get in one 1200 hour. I’m not sure my goal is possible. I’m pretty tired from yesterday. But I’m teaching music this morning and that always wakes me up.

Check in tomorrow and I’ll let you know how many words I got written this week. Feel free to post your daily word count too! We’ll make this a marathon week. Even if your goal is only 500 words a day, let me know. The important part is making that goal every day.