Hi, Gang. Craig with you again today. Honestly, there is a fudge in that title, because it depends upon what you call success. If you’re all about sales, volume, and bestseller lists I don’t have success.
I’m more motivated by delivering a good story that readers will enjoy. In that regard, I’ve been quite successful this year. As a small recap, I have a science fiction novel, a longer fantasy novel, and a noveloid length publication that is more designed for the short-read market. Oh, there is also one short story that was included in an anthology. This post isn’t about tooting my own horn, it’s to give you some leads on how I accomplished all that.
In the interest of full disclosure, most of the science fiction story was written in 2019, but I also published three books that year. I do all this and hold down a full-time job. You can, too.
The first trick is mindset. I enjoy writing like some folks enjoy other hobbies. It’s what I want to be doing in the first place, so I don’t look at it like work. We’re poor folks at the Boyack house, so long weekends at the trap range aren’t part of the mix. Writing is a relatively cheap hobby. A year long supply of clay pigeons and shotgun shells, not to mention the fees, will add up to more than my cover art and a jug of Help-Craig-Think.
Number two on the list is living documents. I’ve posted about these before, and my systems have evolved over time. They are less written texts today and more Pinterest or music playlists. More cutting edge stuff.
As an example, names are a source of struggle for most authors. I keep a list of interesting names I’ve discovered on my phone. I may never use one, or I may manipulate it into something else, but it’s a great way to avoid hours of hand wringing. Besides, it’s not that hard to change later, but I kind of get stymied when I reach a point like that. I’m not one of those who can write “placeholder” in my manuscript and move forward.
That’s one example. I have Pinterest boards for thugs, elderly characters, locations and settings, magical items, bladed weapons, guns, and much more. When I need something it’s easy to flip through and find what I need.
I’ve written about my storyboarding process here before. That’s the next tip on the list. I have seven boards ahead of me. Three of these are finished, and the others range from some I could start writing and fill in the gaps along the way to one with a pile of index cards that hasn’t developed a plot yet.
Don’t take any of this as the gospel according to Craig. You need a system that works for you. Maybe you have a stack of notebooks or something. I need peace and quiet to draft new material, and that’s hard to come by.
Filing away a Pinterest spaceship, or adding a creepy index card to a storyboard takes seconds. It’s the kind of thing I do while my wife is watching reality television. It doesn’t seem like much, but it grows over time. I even use the Notes app on my iPhone. In that case it’s mostly a word or random thought. I have single word notes for Garum, Theriac, and Orichalcum. I can’t seem to remember the words, but two years from now when I need them, I’ll know what they are and it’s a quick Google to flesh them out. (Knock yourselves out, Google them.)
These first tips all involve working ahead. Everyone has story ideas outside the project they’re working on. Why not make a few notes, or start a pin board for them. When you’re ready to tackle the story look how far ahead you’ll be.
My next trick is writing two stories at once. I never thought I could do it until I forced myself. We all hit that wall in our stories. I used to tap my head and fuss for weeks while I worked out the issues with my plot or character arc. What I found out was that nothing could speed up this process. Two weeks wasted with zero productivity. (And a dent in my head.)
Not today. Now I close one project and open the other one. It’s amazing how the original project seems to work itself out whether I dwell on it or not. What I have is two more weeks of productivity on the alternate story. There have been times when the alternate becomes a finished manuscript before the main one. Fine by me.
Finally, I have a great support group. My imagination and drive are pretty strong. Grammar and punctuation are works in progress. I have a group of people who give me feedback and help make my stories better than they ever could have been. The indie author community is full of great people. Find someone you can exchange chapters with. They might be great at your weak spots, while you might have some strengths they could benefit from. In the electronic age, we no longer have to be in the same room and could be on different continents.
I have at least two storyboards that need a romantic sub-plot. If any of you really know me, you might be snickering right now. My group is outstanding at these, and you can bet I’ll be paying attention to them.
To sum it all up, it takes a certain mindset. Be willing to work ahead. Sometimes those notes become a story. Start an outline or storyboard. Scoop up one of the names you have and charge forward. When you need a setting or special item, flip through your graphics. (You can look at mine, too, if you like.) When you hit that wall, take up an alternate project until the issue resolves itself. And find some like-minded friends.
I published just under a quarter-million words this year, and if I can do it, so can you. I haven’t worked on anything since early summer, either. I’ll probably start two new projects in November.