Tag Archives: writing schedule

How long does it take to write a book?

Answer: I have no idea — even after writing nine of them.

Maybe some authors have a formula that produces consistent results, but for me, the question is too nuanced to allow for a simple solution. Here’s why:

  • No two novels are the same.
  • I tend to work on other projects in between drafts, which artificially extends the timeline.
  • I don’t consider a book “done” until it’s published.

In other words, the writing itself is but one portion of a much longer process that starts with choosing a worthy idea to pursue and ends the moment the product is available for purchase.

Sometimes it can feel like centuries pass between penning the prologue and typing “THE END.” | Image by Alan Jacobs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Often that journey has as many ups and downs—and plot twists—as the fiction itself.

Take Project 5, for example…

After writing the three books of The Renegade Chronicles and a standalone (and currently unpublished) Altaerran novel called Magic’s Daughter, I attempted to compose a book that would merge characters from both works. I abandoned it after 22 chapters because it felt like I was simply filling in the blanks, and truth be told, I was starting to burn out on sword-and-sorcery fantasy—as a writer and a reader.

I decided my next book would take a step in a drastically different direction. I chose the working title “Project 5” because, well, I hoped it would yield my fifth complete novel. (Not very creative, Ghost of David Past!)

In June 2006, I began plotting an urban fantasy novel set in present-day Earth. The cast included Benedict Strong, a nearly immortal magic-caster who defied his heritage by trying to live a normal life; Lady Pandora, a stage magician who used real sorcery in her shows; and a few others.

I wrote a couple chapters before losing interest.

Next, I embraced a completely new plot — a fantasy/sci-fi hybrid that would eventually become If Souls Can Sleep. Once that story got its hooks in me, there was no turning back. Here’s a snapshot of the steps leading from inception to publication:

Dec. 10, 2006 — Began brainstorming a new Project 5, starting with rough character descriptions.

Dec. 31, 2006 — Wrote the prologue and began researching sleep disorders while hashing out ideas for the plot.

March 5, 2007 — Wrote the first chapter and then drafted a chapter a month for the next two years.

Oct. 30, 2008 — Realized that I was trying to write three books in one; removed select scenes from the first draft and saved them for Books 2 and 3.

April 7, 2009 — Developed an outline for the remainder of the novel after finishing Chapter 24 to prevent “writing in circles.”

July 1, 2009 — Finished the first complete draft of If Souls Can Sleep.

July – September 2009 — Read through the first draft and made notes for editing.

Oct. 18, 2009 — Started working on the heavy edits.

May 2, 2010 — Finished the second draft.

May 3, 2010 – Sept. 4, 2017 — Did lots of other stuff.*

Sept. 5, 2017 — After finishing the second draft of Book 3 in The Soul Sleep Cycle, jumped into proofing and prepping If Souls Can Sleep for publication through One Million Words.

Sept. 20, 2017 — Finished the production and marketing schedule.

Sept. 21, 2017 – Jan. 29, 2018 — Tackled/tackling all of the tasks required to publish and promote the book.

Jan. 30, 2018 — Publishing If Souls Can Sleep.

* Nota bene: I set aside If Souls Can Sleep for seven and a half years while I worked on a variety of other projects, including writing and editing the next two books in The Soul Sleep Cycle; co-writing and publishing a children’s chapter book (The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers) with my wife; writing a few short stories (“The Lake Road,” “The Monster and the Mirage,” and “Ghost Mode”); reworking and submitting “Ghost Mode” and an older story, “Going Viral,” to various publications; and publishing the three novels and a digital collection comprising The Renegade Chronicles as well as a free e-book compendium (Capricon and Beyond). I also spent time marketing The Renegade Chronicles, creating an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for a pun-a-day calendar, and making this website during that time.

You could say that If Souls Can Sleep will be 11 years in the making when it publishes early next year—though, technically, the inception for the series goes back even further.

According to the first entry in my Project 5 notes, dated Dec. 10, 2006:

Years and years ago, I thought that it might be fun to write a story about a man who meets a woman that he swears he knows. And she seems to recognize him, though neither can say from where. At some point, he would recall her as a recurring character in his dreams.

There was, of course, more to the story, but a lingering question has (in a sense) haunted me from that point forward: Who are the strangers that appear in our dreams? Are they real people whose names we have forgotten—or perhaps never knew—or are they amalgamations that our minds concoct when it needs nonspecific characters for a scene?

My next book will contend that dream strangers are real people, even if they do not exist in what most would call the real world.

“Years and years ago”?

That initial inkling has evolved—maybe “mutated” is a better word—over the course of decades, which only underscores my belief that the life of a story spans far longer than the time it takes to write it down.

Regardless of when this labor of love actually began, one thing remains true: I’m looking forward to finally sharing If Souls Can Sleep with the world in 2018!

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Cancer: one hell of a plot twist

I wish I could say my intentions were altruistic, but that would be a lie.

When I first caught wind of the One Million Project—a charitable organization determined to raise £1,000,000 for cancer research by selling short story anthologies—my first thought was how the One Million Project and One Million Words, my publishing company, might work together.

After all, our brands sound awfully similar, and we both deal with fiction. If I could donate one of my short stories to help secure money for cancer research while gaining some exposure as an author—international exposure—that’s win-win, right?

Besides, I hated cancer.

Cover of the first One Million Project short story anthology

Proceeds from One Million Project anthologies are donated to great causes, including cancer research.

Or, at least, I disliked it in the same abstract way most Midwesterners lament hurricanes and earthquakes. They don’t happen to us, but we don’t like them on principle. I really didn’t have anything against cancer personally because cancer hadn’t affected me personally.

The fact is there is no shortage of causes in the world, no dearth of diseases that kill people or otherwise make their lives intolerable. I gave to the American Cancer Society a while back because a friend who knew someone suffering from cancer asked me to. I donated once and have deleted every follow-up email from the American Cancer Society since then.

Come to think of it, I delete a lot of emails and ignore many social media posts that advocate for activism. Can you imagine if you shared, liked, donated to, and genuinely cared about every injustice in the world? But, honestly, that’s what cancer research was to me when I told the editor of the One Million Project he could publish my short story, “Ghost Mode,” for free: one good cause is as good as another.

Maybe I was more aware of cancer than some of the other sicknesses and social issues sweeping our planet. Certainly, cancer has been around awhile, its presence ubiquitous in all manner of media. As it happens, I chose brain cancer as the instrument of one of my character’s death. I also remember pondering the possibility that cellular sabotage might be a side-effect of our species trying to evolve. Natural selection at work and all that. The premise of a sci-fi story I’ll probably never write.

However, cancer went from being an intellectual concept to a tangible presence when my dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in March.

I won’t go into the ugly details. Anyone who has ever come into contact with any disorder under the umbrella category of cancer knows it’s never pretty. Struggles seldom are. That’s why we use phrases like “the fight against cancer” and talk about sufferers as though they are warriors. Because they are—soldiers in an insidious civil war where their bodies are battlefields and the rebels will never negotiate, let alone surrender.

It’s tempting to portray cancer as a villain if you’ve endured the chaos it sows, especially if it robs a loved one of his or her life. Perhaps that’s why we personify natural disasters. When the enemy has a name, it’s easier to band together to battle against him.

I see cancer more as a plot twist. It can happen at the beginning, middle, or end of a narrative. For the patient, everything changes in an instant. Time splits into two eras: Before Cancer and After Diagnosis. And yet good can bubble up from the bad. Friends and family come together, gaining clarity of what is truly important in life. Individuals overcome.

Hope prevails.

I’m delighted (and blessed!) to report that my father’s prognosis is optimistic. I write this from his living room as he watches a TV show about fishing. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be doing some fishing of his own next spring.

Tuesday used to be a day of isolation for me—a pocket of time in which I could be creative and productive on my own terms. Life intervened with one hell of a plot twist. But all in all, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help my family. For me, this has been a reminder that fiction is fine, but the real world takes precedence.

Of course, I’m still writing as much as I can, when I can…hence, this blog post.

One Million Project’s fantasy anthology is slated for November or December. When it comes out, I’ll still be excited for “Ghost Mode” to reach an international audience, but the release will be much more meaningful than that. And even though he’s not a sci-fi kind of guy, I’m dedicated the story to my dad.

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‘Where can I buy your books?’

Yesterday, The Renegade Chronicles were officially published…which means I can finally answer the question above.

Book covers of The Renegade ChroniclesI emphasize “finally” because even though any publication process—whether traditional or indie—tends to be a long slog, the story of this particular fantasy series is half a lifetime in the making. Without further delay, here are the three ways to read The Renegade Chronicles:

Paperback editions

Rebels and Fools (Vol. 1), Heroes and Liars (Vol. 2), and Martyrs and Monsters (Vol. 3) are all available as paperbacks. You can order them via Amazon.com, but I’d be extremely appreciative if you ordered them directly from the printer, CreateSpace, since Amazon takes quite a big cut of every sale.

E-book editions

Currently, the digital versions of the The Renegade Chronicles are available for Kindle exclusively (though that may change in the months ahead).

Digital collection

The best deal by far is buying the three-in-one digital collection for Kindle. For $9.99, you get all three novels as well as a comprehensive appendix detailing the people, locations, and magical items of the world in which the series is set.

The story behind the story

So many people over the years have asked when they’ll be able to read my fantasy series on something other than desktop printouts and PDFs (and not received a satisfactory answer). I feel compelled to share the following timeline, if only to illustrate the longevity of the project.

  • 1990 — In sixth grade, I wrote a short story that introduced two characters who would eventually star in The Renegade Chronicles.
  • 1993 — I wrote another fantasy story that would serve as a rough foundation for the plot of Rebels and Fools.
  • 1994 – 1997 — I began building the world of Altaerra while in high school and wrote many episodic stories about characters around the world, including many of the people that populate The Renegade Chronicles.
  • 1997 – 1999 — As a project for an independent writing course in college, I wrote two-thirds of the first novel.
  • 1999 – 2001 — I finished what would become Rebels and Fools and rewrote the entire novel my senior year since my writing style and skills had improved significantly along the way.
  • 2002 – 2003 — I wrote and edited the sequel while living in Zhangjiagang, China.
  • 2004 — While querying literary agents for the first two books, I wrote and edited the third book.
  • 2005 – 2014 — Due to a lack of interest from traditional publishing companies, I moved on to other projects, including a standalone fantasy novel, a sci-fi series, and a children’s book.
  • 2015 — I began exploring the idea of starting my own indie publishing company to produce my works of fiction. I reviewed all three volumes of The Renegade Chronicles to see if I still believed the stories had merit—and to evaluate how much work would be required to get them print-ready.
  • October 2015 — I edited Volume 1.
  • November 2015 — I edited Volume 2.
  • December 2015 — I edited Volume 3.
  • February 2016 — I laid out the print editions of all three novels and composed the front- and back-matter (e.g., acknowledgments, about-the-author page, etc.).
  • March 2016 — I formatted the e-book editions of all three novels as well as the three-in-one collection. I also created the exclusive “People, Places and Peculiarities of Altaerra” appendix. On March 29, 2016, I published all iterations of the series—two days ahead of schedule but not a moment too soon.

Now, at last, let the binge reading begin!

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It’s a…business!

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, author David Michael Williams brought a new publishing company into the world.

By Claude Covo-Farchi from Paris, France via Wikimedia Commons

  • Name: One Million Words LLC
  • Lengths: great
  • Weight: pretty darn heavy

I’m delighted to report the delivery was quick and painless—less than an hour in an attorney’s office. And yet a lot of labor went into the small business since its conception. From entertaining the idea of entrepreneurship to determining which projects to tackle first to drafting an official business plan, there’s been no shortage of Ts to cross or Is to dot.

Truth be told, the One Million Words “brand” predates any of the aforementioned planning. I’ve been using that name in conjunction with my marketing communications since 2010 and bestowed it upon this very blog in 2012.

Going forward, One Million Words LLC will publish the novels of mine that aren’t picked up by the traditional market, including The Renegade Chronicles, my forthcoming fantasy trilogy.

Sorry to say, I don’t have any “baby pics” to share. However, a logo or wordmark might be appropriate farther down the road.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue working toward my late-March milestone of making Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters available in paperback and digital formats.

Stay tuned for the next big announcement!

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One Million Words…and more

I’ve written some pretty strange things over the years.

Just last week, I wrote the text for a sell sheet that compares website services to automobile maintenance—despite knowing next to nothing about cars. Years ago, I scripted a mock press conference starring the chancellor of a public university and the ice-cream-cone mascot of a local burger franchise. Once I even dedicated a newspaper column to the topic of dust.

Subject matter aside, I’ve had the privilege of producing a wide array of written works throughout my professional life, including journalistic articles, press releases, text for various marketing brochures and websites, ad copy, scripts for television and radio commercials, and a job posting modeled after the inscription on Tolkien’s One Ring of Power.

But few things pushed me farther outside my comfort zone than the business plan I recently put together.

That’s right, soon One Million Words will be more than just an informal brand for my fiction. In the next few months, I plan to start my own business to better coordinate my writing and publishing efforts.

Last month, I struggled with the question “What now?” I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to jump into the next book of my current series, revisit some of my older works, or explore something completely new. Before I could determine my next steps, I needed to map out my goals. And if I were really going to treat my writing like a business, the numbers had to have a say in the solution.

In other words, if I wanted to survive, I needed a source of income.

While I remained (and still remain!) hopeful my agent will be able to sell the first two books of The Soul Sleep Cycle, I couldn’t bank on that—given how slowly the traditional publishing industry moves.

Which meant I needed to find another revenue stream in the meantime.

The Renegade Chronicles—a sword-and-sorcery series I wrote years ago—was the obvious low-hanging fruit. My goal is to self-publish those books in paperback and as e-books in the first quarter next year to maximize my sales window in 2016.

As much as I’d love to plow forward into Book 3 of The Soul Sleep Cycle, I now find myself contending against an admittedly aggressive deadline. There’s a chance that in between editing and proofing The Renegade Chronicles, commissioning cover art, refining my marketing plan, and publishing that trilogy, I’ll be able to crank out a character profile or two as well as a chapter outline for If Dreams Can Die, but if not, it will have to wait until April.

These past few days, I’ve been spending as much time staring at spreadsheets as Word documents. As much as I crave the chance to sink my teeth into something more creative than business planning and editing, the left side of my brain thrives on organizing tasks and timelines.

It’s a lot of work—and a far cry from my carefree approach to fiction back when I first penned The Renegade Chronicles—but no one ever said living the dream would be easy.

Truth be told, I’m quite pleased with how the business plan turned out (and sincere thanks to Denise Grover Swank, whose business plan at The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing served as my model). While it’s intimidated to see a list of 50-plus to-dos staring back at me when I open my spreadsheet, it feels damn good to have a destination.

And now I must return to a task that’s at least as daunting as writing a business plan: coming up with better titles for the three Renegade Chronicles books.

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Pondering my next writing project

My favorite questions tend to start with “what if.” Lately, however, this writer has been asking himself, “What now?”

intersection with many signs and directions

Source: Ernie & Katy Newton Lawley, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawley/59402926/ via Wikimedia Commons

Ever since I started plotting out If Souls Can Sleep nearly nine years ago, I’ve had a clear path in front of me when it came to my fiction. The road wasn’t always a straight line by any stretch—for instance, my wife and I wrote a children’s book in between the first and second draft of If Sin Dwells Deep—but I always had more tasks than time to complete them.

Until last week.

With the first two installments of The Soul Sleep Cycle in my agent’s hands, I find myself at an unexpected crossroads, where past, present, and future compete for my attention. And for the life of me, I can’t decide which path is the most prudent.

Option 1: The Past

Once upon a time, I wrote a sword-and-sorcery fantasy series called The Renegade Chronicles. I couldn’t get agents or publishers interested. Rather than invest more time in fixing it, I decided to try something completely different. The result was If Souls Can Sleep.

For many years, I’ve had the notion to go back and self-publish the TRC. After all, just about every article I’ve ever read about becoming a profitable author espouses the virtues of having a large number of titles for sale. Some of those same sources heavily imply that quantity trumps quality…

Then again, just as many advice columns say that an author’s No. 1 marketing tool is a well-crafted manuscript—in other words, the best story you can write.

(And what to do when writing tips contradict?)

Last week, I reread the first third of Book 1 of the TRC to see just how much dust had collected over the past 14 years. While it wasn’t as cringe-inducing as a feared it would be, one thing was clear: that book, along with the other two, would need copious edits.

The best-case scenario would be a performing a series of substantive edits on all three books, cutting out superfluous text, fixing awkward words and phrases, and eradicating all types of typos. In addition to removing excess, I detected a dearth in setting and sensory details throughout. The prologue was rubbish, too.

Pros for revisiting the past

  • Repairing something that’s already written is bound to be easier than starting anew.
  • This is the fastest way for me to publish several books in one fell swoop—and, hopefully, start generating revenue.
  • I invested seven-plus years in TRC, so dedicating another six to twelve months seems like a small price to pay in order to potentially profit from all that work.
  • If TRC finds an audience, I have a slew of storylines saved up for that particular universe.

Cons for revisiting the past

  • After so much time away, I’m not particularly passionate about this project.
  • Even with substantive edits, the final product will not reflect my current skill level.
  • Therefore, it will take an awful lot of willpower to refrain from completely rewriting the series, which would be quite time consuming.
  • More editing? It’s been more than three years since I wrote a new book—or, more precisely, co-wrote The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers—and I’m itching for the chance to jump back into the more creative aspects of creative writing.

Option 2: The Present

With at least one book left to write in The Soul Sleep Cycle (and hopefully a few more), I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t eager to wrap up the major story arc that I started back in 2006. However, I’m reluctant to invest the time in Book 3 before I see whether the first two garner any interest—and sales—either via traditional publishing or indie publishing.

To forge ahead or take a break from the series—that is the question.

Pros for living in the present

  • I already have a pretty good idea of what this book will be about and what needs to happen before the end.
  • Having just finished major edits to If Sin Dwells Deep and minor edits to If Souls Can Sleep, the complexities of the story are still fresh in my mind.
  • I’m still very excited about this series, and, honestly, I can’t imagine not writing this book at some point—if only for closure.
  • If traditional publishers don’t buy the trilogy, I’ll have three books ready to self-publish simultaneously. (Hey, it works for Netflix.)
  • I’m confident that the project would push me creatively and that I’d be proud of the final product.
  • While not as easy as editing TRC, writing Book 3 of The Soul Sleep Cycle would still be simpler than coming up with a completely new idea for a novel.

Cons for living in the present

  • If ISCS and ISDD don’t prove profitable—regardless of whether I or a traditional publisher sell them—then spending time writing the next book in the series would be rather pointless. (See also: The Renegade Chronicles.)
  • Even with my new writing schedule, it could take me a couple of years to plot out this story, write it, and then edit it.

Option 3: The Future

I don’t know about other writers, but I always have a slew of story ideas rattling around my gray matter. I jot down some of these story starters in a Word file. In most cases, a few paragraphs are enough to placate that which is threatening to distract me from my current project. Such was the case with a young adult time-traveling tale, a twist-filled take on a traditional fairy tale, and a book about zealots bent on triggering Armageddon.

But then there are stories that can’t be so easily exorcized. For more than a year, I’ve found my mind wandering to a new novel—or series—codenamed “Changelings.” Last week, I finally relented and wrote a few pages about a potential plot and the people to populate it.

Could this be my next novel?

Pros for embracing the future

  • Jumping into a brand-new book would be undeniably energizing, not to mention fun. (I haven’t written a first draft a story since “Ghost Mode” in 2013!)
  • I already have a viable avenue to explore: Changelings.

Cons for embracing the future

  • I have no idea whether any of my ideas, including Changelings, will bear fruit.
  • Even if I were to write a complete manuscript for Changelings, there’s no guarantee it would be publishable.
  • Planning aside, starting afresh will surely be the most time-consuming approach. If my goal is to publish something pronto, this option is out of the question.

Of course, there are other possibilities. I could focus on non-fiction, repurposing some of my old Generation Why? columns or mining this blog for writing-related topics in order to make my self-publishing debut. Or I could give into one of my friend’s urgings and try my hand at a biography of some fascinating historical figure.

But the fact is my passion for writing has always focused on fiction.

“What next?” has almost never been a problem for this writer. Perhaps I should spend a little time exploring past, present, and future—each in turn—and see which project captures my soul. Then again, I suspect I already know where my heart lies.

Perhaps that’s another advantage of “living the dream.”

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Living (and writing) the dream

Hi, my name is David. Remember me? I used to write articles about writing on this website.

I’ll spare you the clichéd “Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’ve been busy” post. (Snore.) I’ve never met a writer who wasn’t woefully short on time or an author who boasted copious opportunities to type the hours away. Why should my situation be any different?

When a guy’s calendar sports more words per page than his manuscript, he has to prioritize. So even though I acknowledge that marketing is important, at the end of the day, I’m a fiction writer. If I’m going to produce a novel amidst real life’s diversions and obligations, fiction must come first.

Therefore, I make no apologies for my long absence here…though I’m hopeful there will be fewer in the future.

While I haven’t lost (much) sleep over a dearth of blog posts recently, I have succumbed to some tossing and turning due to a general lack of productivity—specifically, the slow rate of progress on the rewrite of my current novel, If Sin Dwells Deep.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the “hour here, hour there” approach hasn’t been working too well. Yes, I know that some time—any time—is better than none and that the mark of a professional is being able to “turn it on” whenever the chance to write arises.

And maybe there are those out there who’d say I’m lucky to have had regular, if sparse, pockets of time allocated for writing each week. Indeed, some authors say spending a little time writing every day is the best approach.

Not for this writer…

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, the starting and stopping—or, rather, having to stop just when I was getting in the groove and then having to retrace my mental steps a few days later—was a recipe for frustration.

The Dreamer by Halfdan Egedius [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Dreamer by Halfdan Egedius [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Part of the problem, I realize, is the nature of my current manuscript. A lover of mind games, I tend to write books with complex plots, and the main focus of the rewrite of this particular novel is a redistribution of revelations. Even after an extensive period of planning and organization (in the form of an incredibly comprehensive scene-by-scene outline), it has proven difficult to keep track of what plot points have been shared when—and what new surprises should be sprinkled in next.

My story about dream drifters was becoming something of a nightmare.

Fortunately, my tale has a very happy ending. As of this week, I have taken on a new role at the website and marketing agency where I work, and my new schedule includes one day away from the office each week. So instead of seven one-hour stints, I’ll now have that same span all in one session to focus exclusively on my fiction (i.e., plowing through as much writing and editing as humanly possible).

The new schedule also afford me some additional pockets of time for fiction-related activities, such as industry research and, yes, blog updates. As if things couldn’t get any better, my new role at the agency focuses more on content: copywriting and editing, along with creative concepts, website population, search engine optimization, and website analytics.

No pinching, please. I don’t want to wake up!

Tuesday was my first “fiction-only” session, and I edited two and a half chapters—the equivalent of about half of a months’ work under the old stop-and-start paradigm. My original (self-imposed) deadline for getting If Sin Dwells Deep to my agent was December 31, 2015. I expect I’ll be able to do much better than that now.

Improving my pace not only moves up the timeline for finishing If Sin Dwells Deep, but also means I’ll be able to tackle other objectives sooner, including exploring the option of self-publishing The Renegade Chronicles, investing more time in marketing, and imagining new stories to tell.

New stories? Imagine that! I’ve been working on the first two books of the Soul Sleep Cycle, on and off, for nearly a decade. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around pursuing a new plot—difficult but delightful.

And, of course, I’m eager for the day I can use this blog to announce that Book 1 of the Soul Sleep Cycle (whichever novel turns out to be Book 1), has evolved from a pipe dream to a finished product available for purchase.

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