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Category: Writing Life

What This Week May Hold 01 23 – 01 30, 2017

Whale Breaching Whale Hello There

So starts a new week.

That’s one of my favorite things about Monday, you know. The fact that it is the beginning of a new week. I suppose I could say that my week actually starts on Sunday. Sundays are one of the busiest days out of the week for me and my family because of church and church activities.  So I prefer to look at Monday as my start with Sunday as something of an in between.

These are some of the things this week will hold.

Announcement of the 2016 TNT Horror Contest Grand Prize Winner

In fairness, this was supposed to be announced on the 18th. But they needed more time to figure this out. So it’s very much a hope that they will make the announcement this week, not a guarantee.

*phew Cue the rattling of xylophonic nerves clanging up and down my back. I’m vacillating between happy thoughts and worst case scenarios.

House in the RainOn the bright side, all nine of my competitors are lovely people. I’m not going to pretend I don’t want to win (I do), but there is comfort in knowing that no matter who wins, the grand prize is going to someone I like. (One of the downsides of competing too much with your enemies is that if you lose, it smarts doubly.)

But hopefully they will release the details and make the formal announcement soon. And hopefully they will let us know.

Either way…it’s going to be all right. More great opportunities to practice patience, trust, and think with joy.

Another Short Story

I hadn’t done it intentionally but I have drafted a short story each week this month. Actually I’m up to five at this point.

For the longest time, writing short stories was almost impossible for me. They kept growing and expanding, and over the past few months, it has suddenly become much easier. It’s always been true that short stories are capsules of a larger tale. They are a window that we use to look in on a small bit of a character’s life. But, perhaps it was greed or ignorance or both, I always struggled to get this into my stories.

I would start off with a short and then, as I reached the main points, it expanded. Sometimes writing is like wrestling an anaconda that’s in the middle of a growth spurt. I have realized that I am dreadful when it comes to accurately estimating how many words are needed in a story.

But I am getting better at cutting a story off and saying, “no, no, it’s enough to look at this point. I don’t have to catch it all. Just this portion.” And when I find myself resisting this, I remind myself that I can always come back and reveal more of the story later. Setting many of these shorts in the same world has also reduced pressure.

Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories.Ray Bradbury once said, “It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” I can be a bit of a contrarian. But I’m hoping in this case, he’s correct.

Catch Up With the Paperwork

Maybe I’ll never really be caught up. Each day I try to take five minutes and clear off my work space, file the papers I have, and prep for the next day. The key word here is try.

If you could see my desk right now. I have three mugs, two water bottles, a stack of five notebooks, the checkbook register, and a mass of loose leaf papers. Not to mention a dozen or so pens and pencils clattering around my laptop and probably four or five cat toys I can’t even see.

Paperwork, particularly on the law firm side of things, always backs up. Not that it’s so good on the writing side of things. I have a whole box of notebooks that need to be transcribed. A few of my novels are hand drafted in there, and they have no backups. Prince of the Waters Below, Phoenix Shattered, Why Am I On a Quest with a Minotaur, String of Pearls, and a couple others are hopefully in that bin. I’m not entirely certain.

Anyway I’d like to get the mountains under control. All the loose leaf paper is probably the highest priority, particularly given that my cats like skiing through the mounds of paper.

For Mercy’s Sake, Woman, Promote Something

I abhor promotions, and there’s really no good reason. They don’t have to be intrusive. They aren’t bad. But it’s easier for me to find excuses not to promote one of my stories than it is for me to find excuses not to run.

I am actually taking a couple courses that help with promotions and advertisings. And I just have to get over this hump. It’s utterly psychological, and even though I don’t feel like other authors who do this are horrible, some secret part of me must believe that I will become some greasy haired, mustachio twirling troll (and trust me, I don’t look particularly fetching in a mustache).Octopus Running Nope 2

So I figure I’ll tackle this the same way I tackled running and spiders. One little step at a time. Scream. Flail. One more step. Repeat.

Wrapping Up Projects

I thrive having multiple projects to work on. When I get stuck on one, I slide over to the next one. The one downside to this is that I have many projects open, and I would like to get some of them done.

Sometimes having multiple projects open like this makes me feel overwhelmed when combined with other situations. So…it’d be nice to wrap some of these up more.

Anyway, it’s going to be a great week. I have many more goals, but these are just some of the highlights. What about you? What are you looking forward to in this next week for you?

The Tendency Toward Silence (The Quagmire of Mental Questioning and Self Paralysis)

cropped-Old-Typewriter1.jpgI wonder how many people silence themselves because they think their words have no value.

Some might say not enough people consider this possibility. The world is certainly a chaotic place, particularly in certain locations. Twitter and Youtube come to mind along with almost every site that includes politics and social commentary. In some places, a bit of silence would be more than welcome. It would be a great blessing. And there is certainly much benefit to choosing words, tempering responses, and sometimes simply allowing the silence to sit.

But the need for silence in one place does not mean that silence is needed in all places at all times.

Perhaps less anger. Perhaps more listening. And perhaps silence while gathering thoughts. Perhaps silence while contemplating the next step. Perhaps silence while choosing. And certainly not every thought must be spoken or every idea followed.

But those unspoken words and unfollowed ideas can swell inside us. They come to mind, and when we swallow them down, they lodge in our chests and smolder. Sometimes they choke us. Other times they vanish.

And there can be, I think, just as much a regret for not saying certain things as there can be for saying the wrong things.

I might be projecting.

Despite my recognizing that I have a bad habit of pouring out words and then locking them away, I have made limited progress in dealing with this bad habit (recognizing there’s a problem may be the first step, but it cannot be the only step). It’s difficult because so often I find myself holding back, and within minutes, I become mired in an intensive cycle of questioning.

keyboard-909156The same series of questions runs through my mind. “What value is this bringing?” “Are you really the right person to say this?” “Why should you say something?” “Are you sure this is the best way to say that?” “Is this really important to say right now?” “What if it comes across the wrong way?” “What if it’s misinterpreted?” “What if there’re errors that you missed even though you keep going over it?” “What if I’m showing off?” “What if I could do it better?” “Is this Christian enough?” “Is this anti Christian in some way?” “Am I Jesus juking?” “What if this comes across as insincere or inauthentic?” “Is this cliché?” “Does this really have any value?” “What if someone else has covered this and done it better?” “Is this taking away from someone else?” “What right do I have to say anything?” (Humorously enough, I go through the same agonizing cycle of questions when it comes to sharing posts, pictures, memes, and the like though sharing often adds a few additional questions to make the process even more fun.)

Add to that the people who police language and parse out what is acceptable and what isn’t and how wrong it is for some people to speak at all and how self indulgent the culture as a whole is. (Sometimes I can just hear the teeth sucking and tongue clicking.) And then I wind up with a massive slop of paralysis that typically results in abandonment.

The funny thing is that these questions and even an awareness of these individuals are not bad in and of themselves. In some cases, these matters can actually make the project stronger.

This sort of introspection becomes problematic when it results in paralysis and projects cast aside, particularly when those projects are finished in all but the finishing touches or the publication.

It is a sucking silencing spiral. As soon as I finish a post or a tweet or a story or a video, these questions form in my mind in rapid succession if I don’t send or publish fast enough. Wattpad has proven to be an anomaly but perhaps it also has the answer. I, for some reason, feel fairly free to post stories there.

Part of that is also driven by my fans and the fact that I know I would let them down if I didn’t finish the stories. But I am amazed that I was able to start writing on there at all. The fact that people are waiting for updates to the stories helps silence the questions and make me realize my mind’s foolishness when I get bogged into this mental quagmire.

Still I often find myself wondering who I am to speak. Particularly in the larger world or even on social media. Constantly measuring the value of what is to be said and then often dropping it for one reason or another.

It becomes easier to see how negative this is when I look at other people. When speaking with fellow heart-792179writers, students, artists, creators, and the like, I find encouragement falls from my lips easily because what I want so deeply is for them to create and share. To pour out and expand. To hone their skills and ply their trades. I want to hear their voices even when I don’t agree with them and even when it isn’t the best. It’s quite hard to have a conversation if they don’t speak because, even when silence speaks volumes, words and creations still have value, and it’s easier to connect when there is a combination of words, actions, and pauses.

I can’t think of anyone I would tell to be quiet forever. (Maybe a few whom I might ask to calm down or at least stop screaming.) Yet so often I shunt my own work into a drawer and decide what I have to say is irrelevant.

Silence can be a choice. It can be beautiful, beneficial, and much can be revealed within it, but we are not meant to always be silent.

No one has stolen my voice except those to whom I gave the power. Far too many times, I am the one who steals my own voice with incessant questions about my own value. I am my cruelest enemy. The harshest things my enemies have said of me reflect the worst fears of myself, and because I fear that it might be true, the words sting and have their power.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter much. It’s only in the moment that it seems so massive. Despite all the questions I inflict upon myself, I want to speak and to write. It’s easier when I have a justification, but sometimes the desire alone may be sufficient justification. (Perhaps desire paired with recognition that people are free to respond and further dialogue may be necessary and that no one is required to listen or participate.)

We will never be perfect, but for some of us, there is a need to release our works to the world. And, more importantly, you are the only you that exists, and while you should strive to be your best, you cannot wait until you feel ready or perfect to share that voice with the world.

The fact is that I will always be able to find a few thousand reasons why I shouldn’t do something. Whatever that might be. I had hoped that my other habits and tasks would make it easier. But it hasn’t. What can be done I suppose is to recognize when the questions become irrelevant and then refuse to be silent when silence is not actually the best or necessary course. How well that works, we shall see.

The Thrilling Ride Continues

Life often seems like the world’s most terrifying rollercoaster ride. Sometimes when I look ahead, I cannot see how all of the moves will complete without severing limbs or chopping heads. Yet somehow, each time, all that must be done gets done.

Why Yes, Bluebeard, I’d Love To was completed on time. Those last 500 words (which ironically were scattered throughout to connect the scenes rather than in a single spot) were among the hardest, but after I got feedback on it, I wound up having to revise the ending almost entirely. But it became much stronger. Between my friend, Debbie, and my husband, James, I realized that the ending needed a stronger tie in with the beginning.

Having those trusted people whom you can rely on to give their honest opinion are invaluable. I am so grateful for them.

In the revision process, I realized that I have at least two other stories that will come from this. The first is what happens from Silas’s perspective with his djinn friend, Hupomone. The second is what happens when Hupomone intervenes and what happens to Peter after she finishes with him.

Until then though, I need to locate the final draft of Parnimo’s Prize. I wrote it in a notebook while in Reno, but I can’t find the notebook now. It’s somewhere. It has to be. Worst case scenario though, I’ll just rewrite it again. I’ve rewritten this ending almost twenty times. Only seven chapters. How many times can it be rewritten? Apparently at least twenty-one.

The time isn’t wasted though. Multiple rewrites used to frustrate me. Each one has value. And each draft gets saved. There are many ways to end this story, and I can’t use all the ideas. Playing with them to see which one works and which one has the best flow has been time consuming but invaluable. The ones I don’t use will get woven into another story. Or perhaps they’ll get their own spin off.

On the bright side though, I am nearly done with my Wattpad Block Party Summer Edition II. This will be my fourth party, and  my readers, once again, have given me insight into what they want. Diamond Dust also went live on Sun Kissed Romance today, and I can’t wait to wrap up that novel. It’s different writing a spy novel, but I’ve always wanted to, and I’m finding it delightful. Now, in addition to the other novels, I’ll need to find time to finish my fantasy story for the Sun Kissed Fantasy anthology.

Anyway, I hope to have an exciting announcement soon. We shall see. Have a beautiful day regardless!

#WriteWeMay May 02 Favorite Dedication

So the second challenge requires that we share our favorite dedications. There’s so many good ones out there. Rick Riordan’s false apology for the cliffhanger and J.K. Rowling’s beautiful commemoration to her readers and C.S. Lewis’s sweet letter to the real Lucy are among the ones I find most inspiring.

But when it comes to favorite dedications, I must confess…I love this one. Funny DedicationIt makes me laugh every time. A dear friend sent it to me, and it is just the perfect dedication, don’t you think?

 

As for whether I will use such a dedication one day, I’m not sure. Somehow I can hear my mother saying, “Oh, honey…I’m sure you don’t have any enemies.” (She sincerely believes that enemies are just people to learn to love. If I brought my theoretical enemies over,  it would go something like this, “Oh, it’s so nice to meet you. Would you like a cup of tea and maybe a cookie? Some banana bread? Maybe a sandwich?”

“Momma…you’re supposed to be giving them the silent treatment.”

“They’re probably hungry, honey. We can give them the silent treatment later. But don’t you think that might hurt their feelings?”

“Momma…”

“Do you know if they have any food allergies? What do they like?”

“They take their tea with tacks and arsenic.”

“No, they don’t. Now,” slipping away from me to stand in front of my enemy. “Do you want anything to eat or drink? If you’re staying for awhile, I’d be glad to make something else if nothing sounds good. What’s your favorite food? And remember if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.” 

“Oh,” enemy says, “I wouldn’t –”

“It’s no trouble. Now have a seat, and let me put the kettle on. It’ll just be a minute.” Then off she goes to the kitchen while enemy looks at me with confusion. I follow my mother to the kitchen and she says, “could you find out whether they’re staying for dinner?”

“Momma, I’m trying to be intimidating. These are my enemies.”

“I think you’re very intimidating, sweetheart.” Of course she says this with the most motherly tender smile and then frowns slightly. “I hope I didn’t embarrass you. Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. Do you want me to ask them to leave?”

“No, Momma. Just…don’t hug them when they leave.” )

 

Anyway, point being, I’m sure that if I were to dedicate a book to my enemies and threaten destruction, my dear mother would probably want to do something to make sure that everything was all right. (Seriously, she’s pretty incredible. She doesn’t have a vindictive bone in her body, so I don’t know how she wound up with me for a daughter, lol. Aside from the biological explanation, of course.)

What about you then? What’s your favorite dedication? What’s a dedication that you’d like to write in one of your future books?

#WriteWeMay May 01 First Works

2016-04-29 18.58.39#writewemay If you’re a writer, you should consider doing this. I’d love to see what you are all up to, so feel free to share in the comments and even include links to your work if you like. The first question is “your first work.”

Well, on the subject of first works, it all depends. Below is the notebook where I wrote my first stories. My mother made the notebook for me and filled it again and again with reams of lined paper. As you can see, I had a deep affection for cats.
 
When I finished my first draft of the Portal (now Identity Revealed in the Tue-Rah series), I put it in this notebook. So I printed off that front sheet of the story and included it with the rough draft. I may share that first page in full text later.
2016-04-29 18.58.54For the record, this draft was never submitted for publication. As much as my parents loved me, they knew that my writing was nowhere near the quality needed to actually write a good story though they were encouraging in other ways.
2016-04-29 19.01.44My first published in a physical book story was “For Your Eyes Only,” an exceptionally sentimental story involving a wealthy young man, a poor young woman, the unfortunate societal influences trying to keep them apart, and a vindictive dragon who wasn’t as bad as he seemed. Oh and some curse that turns people blind when they get near dragon gold. I wrote the story when I was 13 or 14, I believe. But the story was published when I was a little older.
 2016-04-29 19.02.06
I have debated whether to include this one, but perhaps it does count. My theoretically first published book was actually Darys: A Vampire’s Trial. A limited number were printed as part of my honors thesis project (yes, I actually managed to get my advisors to let me write a historical fiction) and it is part of the university’s collection. I think my sister may have my copy of it (I’m having her work up illustrations for a republication). So I have no picture of that one, but it is a hard cover in a rather odd shade of beige with white lettering.
There were a number of other publications in online magazines as well as ezines and a couple newspapers. But I didn’t print any of them out, and the newspapers are stashed in a box in the attic. I think…I can sometimes get a little careless with my proofs unfortunately.
So anyway, those are my first publications. What about yours? And if you haven’t yet reached that, what would be your dream publication and for which story? And what would the cover look like?
All the best to you, my friends! Let’s write wondrous stories in May! (Please excuse the funky formatting. I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it.)

The Things I Love Most About Serial Fiction

The Things I Love Most About Serialized Fiction

Serialized fiction has been around for quite awhile. It was exceptionally popular during the Victorian era, and it is becoming increasingly popular now. People don’t have as much time for leisure reading as they once did, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have time for stories. While books like the Mysteries of Udolpho reveled in long drawn out descriptions, modern readers want their storytellers to get to the point. Even those who enjoy

immersive worlds such as Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Shannara Chronicles, and so on still need stories that can fit into their day. And the time spent on reading is no longer a long leisurely afternoon (though honestly I still look forward to those), but rather 10 – 15 minute intervals scattered throughout the day.

Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite serial writers. He sometimes wrote several at once, crafting intricate storylines and complex characters simultaneously.
Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite serial writers. He sometimes wrote several at once, crafting intricate storylines and complex characters simultaneously.

Serial fiction allegedly began in the west during the 1600s in response to the Stamp Act. To save on the tax and cost, writers and publishers started selling smaller sections of stories. And serials became even more popular during the Victorian era with renowned authors such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstoy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. For Dickens and Dumas, most of their livelihood was based on these serials.

When I read many of these stories, I had no idea that they were serials to begin with. After all, I had the final copies. One thing that they share though are flowing narratives and often large casts as well as multiple story lines. But there are a few other things that stand out from serialized fiction that I love just as much.

Serials Offer Opportunities for More Surprises

In this case, I’m starting with the biggest reason I love serials: they are more surprising. The traditional novel is often structured with three acts and set to fulfill certain expectations and beats, similar to the traditional movie. That can, unfortunately, lead to a certain level of predictability. Stories that follow this must hit certain beats, and once you have read more than a few, you know what’s coming unless the author leaps off the beaten path. For instance, in most chick flicks, you know that there will be a misunderstanding, and if the misunderstanding happens around the 2/3 mark, it’s fairly likely that the couple will be back together. Similarly, if a villain is unmasked too early in a movie or book and other factors are present, you can bet that it’s a red herring and the real baddie has yet to be revealed.

But with serials, it’s harder to do because you don’t know how long the series is going to go or what all it will cover. The covering of the beats may or may not happen. A serial is placed in the main genre that fits it, but the narrative itself will continue to grow and adapt along with the characters, and that may change. As such, you can always guess what you think will happen, but it isn’t quite so easy.

Serials Change the Reading Experience

Confession time. I’m a speed reader, and I retain what I read. I read Game of Thrones in a day. On the one hand, this is great because it means I get to read more books. But on the other, it is quite saddening because I get through the book so quickly I can’t savor the experience. (And please don’t

A hot cup of tea, a good book, a cool place to read...and I am a happy woman.
A hot cup of tea, a good book, a cool place to read…and I am a happy woman.

suggest that I slow down. I’m afraid I’ve tried that, and that doesn’t work.) It’s just a part of me that I have accepted.

But serials do change that up a bit. See, with a serial, I do not have the whole book in front of me. Instead, I have to wait as it is released chapter by chapter. It whets my excitement for the story, and it forces me to continue to come back, wondering what is going to happen and concocting exciting new theories. It only takes me a couple minutes to read most of the modern serial chapters, so I can fit it in at various points throughout the day whether I’m waiting for a representative to take me off hold or a client to show up for his legal consultation. And though it takes only minutes to read, a good serial segment keeps my mind engaged for quite some time.

Serials Are Great Rewards

Maybe it’s just my because I’m a bit cantankerous, but I do need rewards to keep at my highest productivity levels. Having something to look forward to makes it so much easier to deal with a trying client or push through a rough day. And let me tell you, when you have found a great serial, opening up that new chapter is the perfect reward.

Books take us on wonderful new journeys and introduce us to incredible people. It's my favorite way to travel.
Books take us on wonderful new journeys and introduce us to incredible people. It’s my favorite way to travel.

My favorite way to enjoy this reward is curled up in the corner of the couch or in the back corner of a room. (It’s very important to have walls to your

back and sides so that people can’t sneak up on you while you’re engrossed in that fictional world.) Sometimes I brew myself a cup of peppermint tea and other times I just kick off my shoes and start reading.

And while it’s true that you can do this with a traditional book that requires a bit of will power that I don’t have. If I have the whole book in front of me, I will probably binge on as many chapters as I can cram in.  And it’s also quite likely that dinner will be whatever I can whip up or is left in the fridge.

 

A New Player Has Arrived in Serial Storytelling

There are already some great platforms out there for serial storytelling. One of my favorites is Wattpad, which has been the home to some of my best writing friendships. And now there’s a new one called Radish.

Radish is similar to Wattpad in that it offers serialized stories through an app, but it also allows readers to purchase stories through the app and read chapters early. In some cases, the stories are even exclusive to Radish. And I am writing some of those stories! (I’ll tell you about the serials I’m doing and what you can expect in another post, and you can sign up for updates about my work on Radish here: radishfiction.com/?a=JMButler.)

This must be turned into a plushie! It is adorable.
How can you refuse the Radish? He’s got so many great stories to share with you! You should stop by and see if you find a new favorite!

The app is brand new, and it just rolled out into the iOS market first. Now if you can’t find it, you may have to look under the iPhone only option in the app store. You can use it on an iPad and so forth, but it seems to only be showing up under that category. You can go here to check it out.

I’m so excited to see this project take off, and I know that the folks at Radish have been working hard. You can view their landing page as well to see some of what they are offering. While most of the stories on there are romance, I promise that it’s not only romance. There are great non romantic stories on there as well ranging from fantasies to mysteries to horror stories.

As time passes, I look forward to seeing the Radish Team further develop this, including additional rollouts to the Android platform and web app as well as commenting and interaction features. And I am even more excited because I get to read some wonderful new serials. Just in time too because it’s tax season, and lawyer life gets a lot more stressful right about now.

Talk Story to Me Episode 007 and Radish Blurb 01

Talk Story to Me is now back up and running. I’ll get into reviews once more. But today I’m going to talk about an exciting new serialization app and a little bit about the surprise I’ve been promising you. I’m now practicing embedding videos into WordPress. The guide makes it look easy, but I’m not holding my breath until I see the final product after I click “publish.”

 

The first blurb promo is up now as well. This one is for Carole McDonnell’s new serialized novel, Daughters of Men

 

Thanks so much for stopping by! Keep stopping by for more surprises. It’s going to be a fun ride.

P.S. It worked the first time! Oh my goodness! This is wonderful! Do you know how often that happens for me? Hardly ever! This month is closing out beautifully.

Nanowrimo 2015 Day 01

Today is the first day of Nanowrimo as well as the first of a new month. New beginnings always excite me. They hold so much potential. November 1 is a particular favorite because of Nanowrimo.

I’ve been doing Nanowrimo since I was 11 though my parents didn’t give me permission to sign up on the official site till I was a fair bit older. It was a great experience with lots of fun along the way, and it stretched me. That first book was less than ideal, of course. It had so many holes and tons of problems. (I think one character’s name even changed halfway through, and many other details spontaneously changed or became contradictory, lol.) But I was glad that I did it.

I’d encourage all writers to give it a shot. While it is a great challenge to complete 50,000 words during one of the busiest months of the year, that isn’t the only reason to do it. There’s a spirit of camaraderie throughout this month as thousands of writers support one another in this endeavor. It’s about shutting off that inner critic, dig into the stories that you have inside you, and start exploring them. You can’t fail in this. You won’t do it perfectly. In fact, you’re going to miss some days. You’re going to fall behind. But that’s okay. The point is to get as far as you can and get as much of the story down as you can. Every year I have found material that I can use.

Now some of my tutees, students, and friends have asked me to consider doing an additional challenge this year: write my Nanowrimo novel live. I’ve received a lot of questions about my process as well as what it looks like when I write. And since I’m not comfortable with people sitting next to me and watching what I write, recording it through a screen capture along with commentary on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it seems like a better choice.

I finished conducting some tests, and it looks like I can do this. I’m a little concerned about the upload speeds because the Internet is often slow. It can take an hour to upload 15 minutes. So there may be some delays. My other concern is how long a video with an actual writing session is going to run. After all, writing a novel takes a lot of time. (Not really sure how long, but I guess we’ll find out.)

What I’ll do to offset this is doing a brief recap that details what I did, how it’s going, and what tools I used. That way if you don’t want to slog through the whole video, you can get the highlights.

To help facilitate this, I’ve come up with some rules for myself.

  • All the writing will take place in front of the camera. This is going to be the hardest thing for me. But when I’m not writing on the screen capture, I won’t be working on the story.
  • I’m starting entirely from scratch, and I will document the whole process.
  • If I use a notebook while on camera, I’ll be sure to show you what I’m writing if I can.
  • I will be doing minimal editing before uploading to Wattpad. I’ll include that as well.

Since I’m trying to document the whole process, I’m starting with a fresh story. I’ve had this title and cover rattling around for awhile, potentially going to one or four stories. But I’m not going to use a story that I have already started. The story will be based in part off a dream I had, but that’s more for the general premise. I don’t even have character names yet or the Scrivener files prepped.

Frankly, I’m rather nervous, but I’m also excited. This is going to be a great month. I hope that I don’t fall flat on my face. I imagine there will be a fair bit of dead space and staring at the screen because that camera is going to add loads of pressure, lol.

So what about you? Are you doing Nanowrimo this year? Feel free to let me know what your project is and leave a link if you like either here or on the Youtube video. Have a wonderful night!

 

First Annual Story Fair

One of the things I love most about being a freelance writer, author, and an attorney who shares a firm with her husband is that I get a decent amount of flexibility. Which means that on days like today WPC2014-Giveawaywhen I have legal work that needs to get done, I can still take breaks and participate in fun opportunities like the First Annual Story Fair!

The first annual Wattpad Story Fair is today Sept. 19th at 12:00 – 12:30 and 3:30-4:00 PST. Join me and the amazing Wattpad Class of 2014 to learn about all the exciting things we’re doing for fellow Wattpadders! It’s going to be a blast!

The WPC2014 will be appearing at two time slots – 12-12:30 and 3:30-4:00pm PST. Learn more about our Profile Makeover Contests, Twitter Chats, Story Reviews, and awesome articles on how to succeed as a writer. We also have this amazing giveaway from the WPC2014 going on – Books, ebooks, interviews, chapter dedications and chapter critiques! So please stop on by!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1628644337393871/The Celebrity Story Fair Submission 03

Oh, and before I forget, I’m also being featured as an author! Yay! Today I’m focusing on my first ever sweet romance with no fantasy and no paranormal elements: The Celebrity. I’m also giving away some great prizes plus a special Reader’s Dream Package if you sign up for my newsletter http://forms.aweber.com/form/13/666935913.htm or answer questions on my Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/jmbutler1728
 or at my “booth” at the fair https://www.facebook.com/MALICEAUTHORS/photos/gm.1634720403452931/905388482877091/?type=1 .

I hope to see you there!

 

 

Review of the Fiction Serialization Site, The Micro Times

Just recently I discovered another site that is looking for stories. It describes itself as a modern version of the Victorian serialization, and it promises to put readers in touch with great up and coming authors while connecting authors to voracious readers. The site: The Micro Times.

Here are my notes on what I’ve seen on the site. You can scroll straight down to the bottom to get my general thoughts or read the individual sections for a more in depth overview.

Readers Versus Writers

Anyone can create a series on the site, and anyone can read. You just have to have the rights to the story you are uploading as well as a cover. It doesn’t look like this would be a good location for fanfiction as that runs into various copyright issues and the fact that one is profiting off another’s intellectual property.

Format and Setup

Right now, one of the larger weaknesses is that the format is rather clunky for searching, and it is difficult to see what books are available. You can’t just browse all the available books. But you can search for genres in the search bar. Also you don’t scroll down. You scroll to the side. Rather counterintuitive, but this may be my American showing.

Currently it seems to be just web based. The contract is clear that readers cannot download multiple copies. Actually it doesn’t look as if there’s anyway to download anything, though the contract discusses downloads. It does not look as if there is an app right now, but the structure of the site and its features as well as the contract language suggest that there might be one soon.

There are some nice features such as the ability to change font size or invert color. And, as a side note, I like the cheery but subtle palette they’re using. The artistic feel is quite nice, and it appears fairly professional. It would be a pleasant site to read on. Plus it makes all the books look like actual books on a table.

Getting Around on The Micro Times

There is a guide on how to succeed at The MicroTimes, but it is sadly small and exceptionally general in its content. (This blog post will be significantly longer.) Much of the site suggests that it is still a work in progress. If things go well for it, I expect it to be a sleek platform.

Fortunately, the site itself is mostly intuitive. You can figure out just about everything you need.

Library and Book Availability

The vast majority (right now probably 90%) of the available work is from various classics that are in the public domain. Good news is that you don’t have to worry about paying for these. They’re free in their entirety.

The few non public domain works typically have the first chapter free (though most of these books aren’t completed and don’t have more than a few chapters) with each subsequent chapter costing a credit or two. I am not sure where you check to see if the book is uploaded in its entirety.

There is no browse feature as mentioned before. And it is not clear how you remove a book from your library once you’re done with it. You cannot organize books at this time, though there are two automatic lists to allow you to sift through books you have started and books you haven’t read.

Payment

Authors retain 90% of what they earn on the site. (The contract does include a fairly standard, “we reserve the right to change this” which is what most other paying platforms seem to use.)

Payment is made through Paypal. You have to earn 10 GBP or your currency’s equivalent to receive a payout. They offer payment in multiple currencies ranging from the US dollar to the British pound to the euro as well as a few others. Assuming you charge an average of 2 credits per chapter with only one free chapter, you would have to have someone either read almost 500 chapters or have your 26 chapter book read  20 times to reach the payout. (Bearing in mind of course that the 1 British pound is roughly equivalent to $1.50 right now).

However, with that said, 1000 credits costs only a little more than $16 US currency. So you’re essentially selling each chapter for a few cents. At first, I thought you started off with a few free credits to try some stuff out, but that’s not the case. And that also answers how they are going to stay in business. You do have to pay upfront if you want the non public domain stories. The packs range in credit size from 500 to 10000. There isn’t a discount for buying larger quantities of reading credits.

Security

The Micro Times is a closed community. You have to have a password and account to enter and read. Paid chapters cannot be accessed even as previews. I really like this security feature. You can’t google up various books on the site.

However, unlike Wattpad which has programs in place to prevent copying and pasting, users can copy and paste free chapters and presumably paid chapters that they have access to. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though as the same can be done to Kindle and Nook ebooks.

Community

Users can review books and rate them as well as “like” individual chapters. However, there doesn’t appear to be a community component in either forums or comments on the individual chapters. You can connect through your Facebook, G+, or Twitter account, but you cannot do much more than say that you are reading something or invite others to join.

Writers

It looks pretty basic to get a story setup. Unlike on Amazon or Wattpad, there is no cover creator. Covers are supposed to be 620 x 420. But there is a general cover that appears on all initial works that includes the title and subtitle as well as the author’s name.

Other than that, you upload it the same as you would on most other sites. You set which chapters are free and which chapters require credits. You input keywords as well as a short summary, and off it goes. The story appears with a table of contents. Users can then rate the overall work and “like” individual chapters. It doesn’t appear as if there are places for comments (which would actually be nice.)

The dashboard gives you an overview of what people are reading and where they are stopping. You can see your overall payout and your high marks. The tool that looks most valuable to me is the one where you see where readers stop. I don’t have any paid chapters up yet, so I don’t know how this works in depth. Just what was shown in the brief overview.

This doesn’t look like the kind of site where you can advertise. Essentially, as a writer, it looks like all you do is write the best story you can and then let it go out and make its way.

Likely Culture and Potentially Successful Works Here

The philosophy behind the site is intriguing. They claim to love authors and the Victorian serials. Their goal is to provide an author centered platform with a focus on these serials. If this is all true, I really like that. And I’m all for keeping a variety of businesses about and not relying only on a single massive corporation. (Not saying corporations are evil, but competition gives them a better incentive not to treat authors poorly.)

Given the current setup, I predict that fast paced romances and suspense stories will be the primary focus. Chapters that are between 1000 and 2000 words would be an easy reading length (though I recommend pricing that reflects the length) for the current format.  There are no page breaks in the chapters. Just a single page filled with text. Cliffhangers as well as stories with many promises of future secrets to be revealed are likely to be popular.

That isn’t to say that slower paced stories that focus on the details and a deeper experience can’t succeed. But I suspect that they will be more niched.

General thought here, but I wouldn’t recommend uploading chapters in parts. I could see readers getting testy, even if the chapters are long. Instead, just refer to each one as a whole chapter.

Also readers are probably going to expect better quality here. At least I would. If I can go to a site like Wattpad or Writing.com and read all the work I want for free, then when I go and pay, I’m going to expect better quality. Not literary prose, of course. Just no rampant grammatical errors or stuff that looks like it belongs in a random person’s journal. In other words, make sure you post more polished work rather than the initial rough draft.

Terms

First, please note that none of this is legal advice. I’m just giving my general thoughts as I’m browsing through this. It is up to you and you alone what you do, and if you have questions, you need to consult with your own attorney. And while I did read the contract in its entirety, this is just a general impression of what is currently up. Last but not least, the contract can and possibly will change as the site continues to grow, and it expressly states that it has that right to update its Terms and Conditions.

The contract in the terms and conditions (aside from being a pain to read because all of the first letters are capitalized, no matter what) appear fairly typical. The Micro Times wants non exclusive rights, which is typical and the best deal for writers.

One thing I’m a little uneasy about is a clause that says if someone plagiarizes your work, you only have two years to bring a complaint. It uses the nebulous term “when the cause arises,” but I am not at this point clear whether that is at the point of discovery (which would be reasonable and is probably the case) or when the plagiarism starts (which would, in my opinion, be unreasonable).

They do prohibit copying the content and uploading it elsewhere if it is not your own. So people aren’t allowed to go on and scrape together content as they sometimes do on other sites.

They have a fairly strict no plagiarism rule. If it’s alleged against you, you have to take your work down. Then you can defend.

Pornography is not permitted, but it’s not clear whether erotica is excluded. The typical “no promoting illegality” is also present. There’s also a “Moral Right” cause, but I don’t know what that means. It may be a UK legal precedent as it’s in the section that typically discusses not uploading instruction manuals on committing crimes and so forth.

All in all, it looks fairly standard.

General Thoughts

Initially, I thought that The Micro Times was going to be another attempt to rip off Wattpad’s model. There are some similarities, of course, but its goal is different. Plus it is trying to compensate writers from the start, which is a rather novel idea.

Now, truth be told, compensation for authors is not going to be very much. Assuming I charge 2 credits per chapter for a serial novel of 120,000 words that winds up having 60 chapters, I wind up with 120 credits, which would probably equal $1.72 after they took out their cut. Paypal is going to take another sliver of that plus taxes, so let’s just round down and say that each book will make $1.50. If I were to sell that same book on Amazon, I would probably sell it for $4.99, and, after fees and taxes, probably earn $3.00. (Please note that these numbers are approximate and not exact.)

But…I don’t think that means The Micro Times should be discounted. Subscription services are likely to become even more popular as seen through Oyster, Scribd, Kindle Unlimited, and so on. Particularly among romance readers (Scribd actually just recently started culling some of its romance entries if I recall because there were too many and romance readers are voracious).

The Micro Times does not charge a flat fee, which means that writers aren’t fighting over a potentially limited pool of funding (one of the criticisms of KU). If a reader likes what she’s reading and wants to purchase the credits, she can do so and spend it on the author with the author benefiting. It also means it’s less likely that you’ll get hate readers who are just reading it because it’s free and they want to trash it. At best though, The Micro Times  is probably going to be a source of passive income for most authors, though I do like the fact that you don’t have to worry about marketing here. You just upload and move on. I wouldn’t expect to see any great movement on any stories right away, but that may mean I’m just cynical.

While there’s still room for improvement on the site, I have to say that this one catches my eye more than any of the other Wattpad similar platforms, and that’s primarily because it’s doing its own thing. I’m curious to see what happens with The Micro Times, and I appreciate their pluckiness and their stated goals.

So yes, I’ll probably dust off some stories, polish them up, and upload them. There is a risk that I won’t ever reach the payout. But I’m intrigued with this program, and one thing is for certain. It isn’t going to succeed without some great content, and I think I’m willing to take a gamble and see how it goes.

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