Finding my way back to the inner pantser

In the writing industry, there are two common types of authors; the planners and the pantsers. If you haven’t heard of the latter term, it applies to writers to let the story emerge without really thinking about it. Whilst some individuals prefer to meticulously plan every chapter, draw up character sheets and have a detailed concept before they even start to write, pantsers normally have a few important story milestones to reach, a character or two at most and then just write. J. K Rowling is a famous planner of her novels, creating spreadsheets to easily guide her writing. I, however, am a complete pantser. I’ve never been able to plan a book in my life, and the idea of sitting down and writing out a chapter by chapter summary before I’ve even started makes me shudder. I actually don’t think I could even do it because many of my ideas spark from creative thought as I’m in the process of writing my fantasy novels.

Writing a series = Pantser freak out

However, herein lies the problem. Writing a standalone novel isn’t too tough if you just have to sit down and let the words flow. You can tighten up aspects of your book when you’re doing the edit. But, when you’re writing a series, all manner of complications begin to arise.

Spirits of the Middlelands is now progressing nicely, and I’m about one third of the way through (Hooray). Inside Evil was pretty easy to write, The Tower of Souls practically fell out of my mind and onto the page, and Spirits of the Middlelands? Gosh – it’s been causing me problems. I’m not sure whether it’s because I took time out to write CRYO and Pacifier 6, or whether I’m trying to wind so many strands of information together that it’s blowing my brain, but getting the flow has been hard.

So many threads

Spirits of the Middlelands is the third novel in a five book series, and whilst being the middle segment, there’s a lot to factor in. There are questions that need to be resolved from The Tower of Souls, for example. How did the Queen of the North Realms survive? Why was the girl able to cross over? Will the portal in the basement now be a doorway between worlds? These are all questions that need to be answered.

Then there is the lore around the Ammokra itself. What is it? Where did it start? Can it be stopped?

Then there are the individual story elements of each novel which need to tie together so you get the ‘Aha’ moments. Characters need to be progressed; Martha needs to be developed as a Gatekeeper, Roberta needs to prepare herself for life in hiding, Karl just needs to find an actual role in life.

Time to breathe

I’ve spoken about the threads as they’ve really begun to become problematic. How on earth can I write freely when there are so many elements that I’ve got to try and include? It’s for that reason that I’ve suffered major writer’s block for a couple of weeks. I like sitting down and watching Martha and Susan drink gin, or Roberta and Sam solving problems. I don’t want to feel as if I’m pulling teeth to get them to say or do anything.

Luckily, I’ve realised that the planning needs to step back, that I can go through the intricacies of the story in editing. That’s the time to add the little nuances and important features that will wind the entire series together. For now, I’m sitting back and let the characters do their own thing again, and truth be told, it’s working. Martha’s acting odder than ever, Roberta’s becoming more feisty and even Karl’s created an entire storyline that was never planned. This is the way I like it.

So what’s the entire point of this post? Basically, it’s to say; Don’t force it. I was trying far too hard to MAKE the story work instead of it letting it CREATE itself. Don’t stress on the first draft…just run with your thoughts and sort out the details later. You’d think I’d have known this by now…obviously not.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Let me know in the comments!

How to sell eBooks in Second Life

I’m always looking for new ways to sell books. I haven’t yet managed to get that snowball effect with my novels, and am far from getting that crucial 1,000 sales on Amazon, so at the moment it’s hand selling all the way. Not that I mind, it’s nice to actually talk directly to most of the people who buy my stuff, but it takes up a lot of time – time that I’d rather be using to write.

I’ve been in Second Life for a number of years now, doing little bits and pieces here and there. I’ve always believed that it would be a great place to sell books, especially ebooks as, like Second Life, they’re virtual. There are some large readers and writers communities online, and if you could just access these groups, you’d have a great audience to reach out to.

But, just what is Second Life?

Second Life is, simply put, a virtual world where you can build anything. Think of a computer game where you take the role of the main character and adventure through levels to complete quests, and in the case of MMO’s (million multi-player onlines) make friends, build guilds and journey through the game together. Now think of a platform where the developers haven’t created the world in which you land, but have left it up to you to create. We won’t go into the extreme complexities of building, but suffice to say users have created some stunning and creative places to visits, from New York and London replica’s, to fantasy lands with waterfalls, mountains and secret forests to explore.

How can Second Life help sell books?

Like all online worlds, Second Life has an economy. Lindens (L$) can be bought for real life dollars so that you have money to buy commodities in-world. Lindens can also be pulled out of the game and into real life accounts, and this has enabled many people to make their entire living through selling items and services in Second Life. So, in theory, you could sell books for Lindens in Second Life and then draw the money out into your account.

BUT, with linking to Real Life items, the process is made even more simple. 

My Second Life bookstore

About four weeks ago I created Best Books (Inside Evil readers will realise the significance), a Second Life book store that would contain Real Life books. The premise is simple; Second Life residents browse Best Books and can find a range of novels, read the samples, learn about the author and then follow a purchase link to buy on Amazon. I met with many people that said it might not work, I learned that Amazon had once been in Second Life in an attempt to do a similar thing and that it wasn’t cost effective. However, over the past few weeks, I’ve sold four books. That’s more than I’ve sold at Kobo, or Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble, or Diesel. In addition, because I’m using my affiliate Amazon account, I made some affiliate money off the sales too! It may only be four, but those are new readers, a new audience, and any one of them could be the individual that blogs, writes, tells 1,000 friends about my book.  Anyone of them could start that all important snowball.

How can I help you sell books in Second Life?

The best thing about my new venture is that YOU, authors, can take advantage, even if you have no interest in getting into Second Life yourself. Best Books currently costs a minimal amount to run, and I hope to be able to fund the SL venture on the money earned from affiliate sales. This means that the cost to advertise your book in-world is a big, fat, ZERO. Yep, I’m charging nothing. It’s FREE.

I already have several authors interested in participating, with my view to building Second Life’s best and biggest eBook store. As I gather more books and attract more readers, I want to hold book readings too. There’s also the opportunity for book signings, with people being able to visit Best Books, talk with the author and request a Authorgraph right then and there.

GET INVOLVED

If you’re an author and are interested in getting involved in the venture, please don’t hesitate to contact me through my email address: geoff_wakeling@hotmail.com. If you want to visit me in-world, then please feel free to hop on this link and head to Best Books. Otherwise, just email me and we’ll talk about how it works and what I need. Generally, all I’ll require is cover images, blurbs, your samples (the same as Amazon’s preview), book genre, author picture and biography…the same media pack that you’d normally supply book reviewers with.

In Summary…..

If your books sales are streaming in, then it’s unlikely that you’ll need to advertise in Second Life. However, no matter what your sales figures may be, I always think it’s important to reach out to new readers and possible audiences.

Can you sell your Real Life books in Second Life? Yes, I’ve proved it, I’m selling copies of Inside Evil and The Tower of Souls already and I’m quite surprised by it.

So, if you want another avenue to get noticed, to showcase your work, and to help drive up your sales, then get in touch and lets build this virtual bookstore!

The Tower of Souls is here

The Tower of Souls has landed! After six months in the making – less actually, because I didn’t actually start writing it until about May, 2012 – the sequel to Inside Evil is now available at Amazon and Smashwords, and will soon be available at iBooks, Sony, Kobo, B&N etc via the Smashwords distribution network. I’m really happy with this sequel and feel that it’s a great new story for the series, adding to the world that was already created in the first book, and throwing in some new elements which I hope readers will be eager to sink their teeth into. Whilst Inside Evil was very much a mystery paranormal, The Tower of Souls opens up the new fantasy realm of Gathin and is probably best considered a contemporary fantasy novel. OK, so switching genres may not be the best idea, but as I mentioned in my previous post, indie authors can pretty do as we please – we just might not make all our readers happy!

You may have also noticed a new page appearing in the top bar –  “Exclusive Content“. Whilst still in the works, those who have signed up to the newsletter will soon be able to access exclusive character biographies, encyclopaedic entries for Inside Evil lore, objects, creatures and places, in addition to information as to how I developed certain aspects of the books. Newsletter subscribers will be able to access this content with a password and will be updated as new items become available. More coming soon.

In the meantime, pick up your copy of The Tower of Souls now if you want to continue Roberta and her friend’s stories. And, if you haven’t yet read Inside Evil, there’s a nice little price drop and you can now pick up the first in the series for just $2.99

The Tower of Souls Cover Reveal

There’s something about receiving cover art that makes the whole book publishing process seem real. Even when you type that last word of a novel, the excitement quickly fades to the terror of editing. It’s hard to think of your novel as a product whilst it’s just a small word document on your hard drive.

Today I got the artwork for The Tower of Souls, and it suddenly sprang to realisation that, by the end of next month, I’ll have written and self published another book. Two in six months. I’m quite impressed with myself!

Here’s the new cover, which I think has all the lures and attractions of Inside Evil’s artwork whilst distinguishing itself in its own right. What do you think??

The Tower of Souls Update

The past week has been spent plunged into my fictional realm in a bid to complete the first draft for The Tower of Souls. Though it took me years to finish Inside Evil, it’s taken me a few mere moths to get back into writing. The last few days especially has found me hard at the grind stone, and anyone who is a regular at the Kindleboards ‘Thousand Words a Day’ thread will have seen that I’ve been managing several thousand words per day.

I can happily say that tonight I finished the first draft of The Tower of Souls! I’m so overjoyed that I’ve finished. It came to circa 70k, so after editing, where I normally end up actually adding words, it’ll probably be in the mid 70s. The race is now on for a proof read and first edit, before it goes off to a second pair of eyes for the first read through!

On track for an end of August release, WOOHOO! 🙂

The Tower of Souls – the first excerpt

I’ve been working on The Tower of Souls, both actively tapping away and passively thinking, perusing and dreaming about it. It’s funny when you start a new novel and it gets under your skin; it’s almost all you can think about it.

Today I’ve been working on a chapter with Susan and Martha and thought I’d do something that I never did with Inside Evil; post a short except. Bear in mind that this is a first draft and only cobbled together today, but I thought I’d share this brief passage that involves one of my favourite double acts.

                                                                                               

The Tower of Souls; Except

Christmas had come and gone in Ridgewood. As Susan stood at the window of Martha’s kitchen, she looked out upon the grey scene. Though snow had brightened up the quiet little town in the weeks preceding December 25th, rain had arrived on Christmas Eve to wash away the crisp white sheet that blanketed her surroundings. Within hours, the beauty of the white landscape had been washed away to slush, and though evening temperatures continued to plummet, there was no new snow to provide fresh beauty to the town.

Susan sighed as she plunged her hands into the hot water and continued to clean dishes. The past few days had been extremely difficult; the first Christmas without Vanessa had been as bad as she thought it might be. Much to her husband Bernard’s displeasure, Martha had been invited for food, drinks and more drinks. They had sat in almost complete and uncomfortable silence around the table, with Martha occasionally attempting to make light conversation with Bernard.

“Why can’t you just leave us in peace?” he said finally, the words spilling from his lips with tired anger.

“Bernard, I’m so sor-“

“You have nothing to be sorry about,” Susan interrupted, before turning her eyes on her husband. “How dare you-”

“How dare I?” Bernard shouted with indignation, “That’s a bloody joke! This woman, this interfering manipulative woman ruined our marriage the day she stepped into OUR bookstore.”

“What marriage?” Susan said, almost rolling her eyes, “We’ve been pretending to love each other for years. We only stayed together for Vanessa’s sake.”

“Well, how lucky for you, dear,” Bernard replied with sarcasm, “She’s dead, you can leave me now.” And, with that he pushed his plate away and stormed out of the room.

Susan had not needed any heeding, and despite Martha offering to leave whilst advising her friend to let matters simmer down, Susan knew that there wasn’t any going back. She’d known for a long time that her marriage was over, and since her daughter’s death she and Bernard had only been growing further apart. With Bernard glowering in the front room, Susan had filled a suitcase with clothes and left with the promise of a bed at Martha’s. Little did she know that as soon as the door to her family home had slammed, Bernard, teary eyed and regretful, had wandered the house looking for his wife, not believing that she’d actually gone. No, Christmas had not been pleasant.

As Susan heard the front door open and the rustle of an umbrella being shaken, she looked up from the foamy suds that filled the washing up bowl. A small movement caught her eye, and she noticed a small purple spider was spindling on a small length of silk attached to the top of the window frame, gently descending to the countertop below. Reaching out with soapy hands, Susan squashed the tiny creature with her index finger, before wiping the oozy innards from the paintwork with a sponge and turning to smile as Martha bustled in.

“I got it,” Martha beamed as she held aloft the large tome that she’d received from Sam Carter. “It’s exactly as she said it would be.”

A curious thing had occurred the previous night. Susan, though going to bed early, had been suffering from her usual early morning insomnia, and around 1am had finally given up the attempt to sleep and had instead crept down to the living room for a late night tipple. She thought, for a few seconds, that Martha had beaten her to it when she saw her friend standing at the drinks cabinet, before realising that Martha was actually staring into the large mirror mounted on the wall above. Drawing closer, Susan had seen the animated image of an older woman shimmering away, before the reflection in the glass was replaced with Martha’s familiar face. Martha pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear as if nothing untoward had occurred, saw that Susan had entered the living room and immediately pulled out a bottle of whisky.

Now, standing in the kitchen on the following morning, Martha pulled Susan across to the table as she pushed up the sleeves of her mauve cardigan and dropped the large and old looking book onto a small breakfast bar.

“How was Sam?” Susan asked, realising that she hadn’t actually seen him since the night that Roberta fell from the cliff.

“Dishevelled,” Martha responded as she flipped open the thick leather cover to reveal the first page. “I’m afraid I was too keen on getting my hands on this to spend any time with him.”

Upon the first page of the faded pink paper was a list of names and dates pertaining to the previous owners of the tome.

“Mrs Peacock. She must’ve been the woman in the mirror,” Martha said as she drew her index finger down the list.

Susan peered over her shoulder and saw the inscription below, letting out a small gasp as she did so. “Martha Wittle.”

Martha grinned with excitement. She seemed unfazed by the fact that a woman had appeared in her mirror in the middle of the night with instructions to pick up this book; a book which was obviously predestined to make it into Martha’s hands.

Leaving the table momentarily, Martha disappeared into the living room. Susan flipped the page and found that it was blank, the pale and slightly water marked pink paper feeling fragile under her fingers. Page after page was blank, with the only slight marks being those of age related trauma.

“Martha, it’s empty!” Susan called out.

“What?”

“It’s blank!” Susan shouted again, raising her voice as she did so.

“Bring it here would you?” Martha said, popping her head around the doorframe before once again disappearing. “I think I have a little trick to solve that.”

                                                                                

For those of you who’ve read Inside Evil there may be a few titbits of Martha’s future in this except. For those who haven’t, I hope I haven’t given anything too much away!

Inside Evil; The Tower of Souls

It’s official, the sequel to Inside Evil that I’m currently writing will be called The Tower of Souls. You may think that, as an author, I ought to have known the title before I started writing. However, many authors actually finish entire novels before the title pops into their mind. In a similar way that characters grow into themselves as the pages are written, so too does the overall story arc, and often the title. And now, 20,000 words in, The Tower of Souls has ruminated in my mind for long enough to set down its official anchor.

What can we expect from The Tower of Souls? Well, to be completely honest, I’m not even sure yet. When I was in the throes of writing Inside Evil, a lot happened which I’d never envisaged. I have set milestones that I work towards, but the storytelling in between is left largely to my fingers and the characters themselves. Do I know where Tower of Souls will finish? Yes. Do I know what is going to happen along the way? Not entirely.

I can tell you that our favourite characters, Roberta, Sam, Susan, Martha and Karl will all be back, with Sam moving to the forefront a little and having his own Point of View (POV). As Roberta explores the dangerous world of Gathin, she’s going to discover the true horrors that shadows Ridgewood, and she may come to realise that her part in this story is not a mere accident. Meanwhile, with Roberta presumed dead by her friends who have been left behind, life goes on. However, shaking off the experience that was suffered in the final days before Inside Evil’s conclusion isn’t easy and, Sam in particular, will struggle to adapt.

Several further reviews have come in for Inside Evil, making me know that taking a breath and hitting that ‘publish‘ button was the right thing to do. Now, even I am excited by the story unfolding on the screen before me. Over the coming weeks I’m also going to post a little competition for one reader to have a very specific character placed within Gathin, allowing a creative fan to have their concept immortalised in an eBook form. But for now, and with a tentative release date of September, I need to get back to tap, tap, tapping away.