Being a Better Writer: Getting in the Zone

Welcome back, all, to another Monday! I’ve got to type fast with this post, as I’ve got another shift at my part-time today. This time, it’s in the afternoon rather than the morning, however, so as long as I keep my fingers moving, you’re getting a Monday post! Really quick, however, before I get started: some quick news updates!

Jungle is currently sitting at about 190,000 words (check the “Current Projects” page) and is over 50% done! The only part that saddens me about this is how long it has taken me—now I fully see the effect of working part time and trying to write a book: I just don’t have the same amount of time. I’ve been cutting back personal time, however, and gotten my monthly goals back on a somewhat reduced track … but it still sucks, because I’d really like to finish up Jungle and get started on the editing for Shadow of an Empire so that I can get that out by the end of the year. Granted, I could just stop writing massive epics … but what’s the fun in that?

Discord Day Care, meanwhile, is almost ready to go up. I’m going through the last stages of Beta right now, giving it the final polishing touches. That just leaves me with a cover to find, and to get it all uploaded and ready to post. The publishing schedule for the story, I have decided, will follow the timeline of the story itself. Each chapter will be published as it occurs in the story, in real-time. The only thing that won’t match up will be the dates. I debated back and forth about the best way to do this, but concluded that for Day Care, a publishing schedule like this one should work best. So be excited, it’s almost here at last!

Just a bit more, I promise, then we’ll dive into this week’s topic. First, last month’s Patreon supporter post was a pretty in-depth look back on the origins of my first book, One Drink. It’s something I’ve meant to do for a while now, and yes, for those of you supporting me on Patreon, you can expect in-depth retrospectives on each of my other works to make their way to you as time moves on. Those of you who are not Patreon supporters, it’s only a $1-pledge to become one, and you’ll get access to some behind-the-scenes stuff and previews. Plus, you get the satisfaction that your dollar helps support content like Being a Better Writer!

Now, last, I swear, and then we’ll be on topic: The Rolling Sale. No defined date on this one yet. I’m still working out some details. But the general idea is that it will be a month-long or so event, starting with One Drink and stretching up to Colony. The general idea will be that the first title in the chain will go on sale, alongside an announcement of tiers for the next sale. The more copies go out, the deeper the discount on the next book in the chain. Ditto for when the sale shifts to that title. Kind of a “the more people take advantage of this, the better it gets for everyone” angle.

Right, that’s all the news. Now on to today’s topic: getting in the zone.

So I’m fairly certain that some of you may be scratching your head over this title … and that’s partially my fault. After all, there are a lot of “zones” authors tend to get into when writing. There’s getting in the character’s heads. There’s getting into the world so it feels like we’re living and breathing it. And there’s even just hitting our stride and typing out endless chains of smooth sentences that come together to build the perfect paragraph. Technically, there are a lot of zones in writing.

But today, I’ve going to talk about the most general ones. This is, actually, a requested topic from a reader who wanted a bit of advice on this matter. I don’t recall their exact, word-for-word question, but it went a little something like this: When you sit down in the morning and get ready to write, how do you get yourself into the mindset to write? How do you clear your head? How do you pull yourself away from the rest of the world and immerse yourself in whatever fantastical world you’re putting together?

And … the truth is, this time, that there’s actually a magic bullet.

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Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic

Oh boy. I woke up this morning to see this article on the front page of r/books, and you  know … I’ve never fisked anything … but this piece couldn’t be ignored. For those not in the know, a “fisking” is when someone replies point by point to the salient points of an article, offering a piece by piece rebuttal. I’ll let you read the original article first, so you can get it in your mind, but it’s just part of the continuing—You know what? You be the judge. Read the article, then check this rebuttal.

The quoted article bits are both quoted and italicized. My responses are the normal text.

So, let’s get started.

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It’s a Jungle in Here

So, Thursday update …

You ever have one of those moments where you’re all gung-ho to do something, and then you sit down and your mind goes blank? Yup, that’s me at this post right now. So I suppose I’ll just go with the basics, starting from the top.

First, don’t forget about the Birthday Sale! Seriously. Even if you’ve already bought my books, April 19th (which is now just six days away) will be a great day on which to share one that you particularly enjoyed on Facebook or another site or what have you. So please do, as it would be really helpful.

No, it really would. Right now it seems the biggest wall I’m running into is just getting my name out there. Which, in today’s very crowded world, isn’t easy.

Anyway, that’s my pitch. Please share a book when April 19th hits!

So, on to other news: This month I have been working my tail off. See, the last three months I’ve come in just below my quota every single time. And that’s a reduced wordcount quota of about 60k-70k, on account of me having this other job I have to spend time at. And quite frankly, while I’m fairly tired of that job, I’m not so tired that I can’t do the math and see I’d be homeless without that little income (it’s risky enough and I cut far too many corners even with it).

In any case, I decided that this month I was going to get things back on track. Saturday is no longer a break day, for starters, and I’ve become a lot more stringent with my time. The result: I am keeping up with my quota this month. Which means a quicker turnaround for some of the newer stuff down the line.

Speaking of which, the update on that.

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Back in Business

You know, it’s funny, but I always find that it takes me a few lines worth of errors to readjust to using my big, awesome keyboard again. Just like it takes me a little while to adjust to using someone’s laptop keyboard when I’m traveling and going to make a post. The fingers go to the expected locations, and … Whoops! See? Well, you can’t, because I fixed it, but just there, with the “whoops,” I did it again.

Anyway, I suppose this is a long way of saying “Guess who’s back!” Or returned. Or whatever. For me it’s a return to work, for others a sad “awww …” as I left once more.

Enough semantics. I’m back! Arrived late last night.

And … no, I haven’t written anything today. Still unpacking, etc, etc. Jet lagging a little, oddly enough. Which doesn’t make sense because west to east … Oh well. Whatever. Anyhow, this post needs a point! I mean aside from going “Hey hey, I’m back!”

Okay, I actually do have some news for you guys. A couple snippets of it, in fact.

The first bit? There’s a new Patreon supporter post going up today! As soon as I’m done here, I’m bouncing over there (I’ve already got the tab open) and I’m putting it together. For those who are Patreon supporters, this time you’re getting a fun treat: A sneak peek at some of the new characters that are being introduced in Jungle (that Colony sequel you should be really excited for). Nothing that spoils anything—so nor worries there. I’ll cut anything that drops too much info. But you’ll get not only the character sheets themselves that I wrote up, but also some of the side stuff that’s been developed since then. Thoughts, impressions, changes to the characters as they came to life, etc. So if you’re a Patreon supporter, pop on over and take a look! And if you’re not, a dollar a month is all it takes!

Now, the second bit of news, this one concerning my books and the month of April, which starts tomorrow. What could those two have in common, you might ask? Well, there’s one thing in particular about April that’s quite special, at least to me. Those of you who’ve been regulars here for a while might know this already, but …

April 19th is my birthday.

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Two Years Online: Looking Back and Racing Forward

What’s that? A special event? You’re right!

As of yesterday, Unusual Things has passed its second annual landmark. That’s right, as of March 2nd, 2017, Unusual Things is now two whole years old!

Holy cow. Two whole years. Which means that it’s been over four years since my first book was released. And maybe three, three-and-a-half since I started writing posts about writing that would transform (or evolve, take your pick) into a weekly series called Being a Better Writer.

But the work hasn’t stopped there, either. Since the creation of this site, I’ve released several new books, completed drafts on a few more yet to arrive, started a Patreon account … and who knows what all else. I’m probably forgetting a few things.

It’s been a busy year. Few years, really.

Anyway, my point is that it’s the second anniversary of the site! And you know what that means!

Stats! Oh yes. It’s time to dig in and see how the site has done compared to the first year, and how it’s doing overall! So, to start—

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Kindle Unlimited, LTUE, and Other Things


So, I actually like seeing reads for my books on Kindle Unlimited. Especially for Colony. And not just because Colony is long enough that I pretty much make the same amount of money off of a KU read as I do a purchase. Nor because I like KU—which, for the record, I do; it’s as close as we’ve gotten to “Netflix for books” so KU readers, enjoy! But because it’s one of the closest available methods I have to tracking reader’s reactions to my work short of reviews, ratings, and sales.

See, KU gives me, the author, access to the daily page count totals for each of my books. Someone read 100 pages in a day? I can see that. Not who it was, nor when save a date, but I just get to see that someone’s reading my book.

The thing is, I can sort of track someone’s engagement with my books. And I can see how, over a few days, they get sucked further and further in, until reading Colony is all they’re doing. The first day, someone will read maybe 100 pages. The next day they’ll read 100 more. Then the day after that … they’re reading 150. Following that? 300. From there it turns into a sprint to the finish—we’re talking 500 or 600 words in a single day.

I love seeing these little patterns in my KU readers. It’s a good way to tell how readers are being engaged with my books—they’re getting caught up in the action as the book moves towards the end! Granted, I still get those who read through the entire 1100+ page work in a single day, which is also good and fun to see, but it’s pretty satisfying to “see” a reader go through this progression of “Okay, this is pretty good” followed by “Okay, this is really good” to “Drop everything I need to know how this ends now!

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It’s That Special Time of Year Again …

Ah, what a wondrous time of year it is! Calculators are being dragged out, receipts are checked, and math skills are brushed up on. Everywhere you can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth  of … oh, wait a moment.

There’s nothing wondrous about this at all. It’s tax season. I got my wires crossed. My mistake.

Yes, it’s tax season again. Hooray.

Okay, so some of you are probably slightly puzzled. Maybe you’ve not done taxes before (I know I have some young readers), or maybe you’re thinking “Eh, you’ve got a few months, right?”

Nope. See, I’m self-employed. My taxes are due March 1st. Which is very soon in tax terms.

Also, being self-employed really means you don’t get to see a lot of the safety nets others do. Like standard deductions. They’re there, but they don’t take nearly as much effect. To put this another way … I’ve never gotten a tax return in my life. Well, save that one time I accidentally wrote the IRS a check for a dollar more than I was supposed to.

In other words, the dawning of another tax season means another nice hit to my bank account. Glad I’ve managed to save a little money this year, because it’s about to disappear.

I wouldn’t be so annoyed about it if I wasn’t well below the poverty line. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not begging for cash here. I’m living within my means, limited as they are. But dang, you’d think being so far below that line would matter … but no, it really doesn’t.

Is there a point to this post? Well, as of this moment, not really. I’m just griping. Darn tax season. There, that was the last one. But I probably should provide something other than a cautionary … Huh … You know, discussing finances and some of the differences of being a Self-Employed Author would probably make for a good Being a Better Writer post. I’m making a note of that now.

Right, anyway, other news and stuff. First of all, let’s hit the big elephant in the room. Well, at least, for me: Colony.

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