Monday, July 31, 2017

Measuring Writing Quality

Last week, I read the book  Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind by James Scott Bell. It's the next book club read for the Insecure Writer's Support Group on Goodreads. Although it offers the usual advice about websites, mailing lists, ads, and other traditional marketing tools, Bell puts writing quality first. In fact, he not only suggests you focus on improving parts of your writing craft such as plot, character, dialogue, voice, and theme (there were a couple of others mentioned; I think setting was one, but description oddly wasn't), but he recommending setting goals of improving them by a set percentage every year. That was the part that really got my attention.

At my day job, we set Key Performance Indicators that are measurable--say, getting a certain score level on an audit, or updating/reviewing all documents in our quality system every year. I'm not sure how you would measure improving your plotting by 10% every year. Adding more plot twists? Spending more or less time on plotting? Getting feedback from beta readers, editors, and readers? Bell is supposed to answer question from the Goodreads group, so I should submit this question and to see what his answer is.

One of Bell's other suggestions is for something much easier to track--writing quantity. While many other people have recommended tracking your daily word count, this book finally pushed me into setting up a simple spreadsheet to track mine. My minimum is 500 new words every day, while targeting 1000. Tracking my word count does motivate me to maintain better focus during my writing sessions. It worked well until the weekend, as I was busy all day Saturday bringing Alex to and from a party, grocery shopping, baking three loaves of bread, making two pizzas, and cooking another dish for the week. By the time I had a chance to write, I was physically and mentally drained. Sunday we were at the Renaissance Faire until late, so the only writing I'll do is whatever I can manage after I finish this post.

Before I head off for another writing session, I'd like to ask what you think about measuring writing quality. Can it be done, or, as in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, must we leave quality undefined? Do you track your daily word count? If so, do you find it helpful? Feel free to answer in the comments.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Blurb for Summon the Seasons

Line edits are just about done for Summon the Seasons, though I'm still adding a few details to the text here and there. In the meantime, there are other parts to the publishing process that I need to take care of, like the blurb. Here's a rough draft; feel free to leave feedback in the comments:

Kay might be the youngest, smallest, and least confident Season Avatar, but she has the most powerful magic of all—weather magic. Only she can draw magic from Chaos Season, the magical weather storm that mixes up the seasons in Challen, and share it with the rest of her quartet. Now that she also has spirit magic and can contact the souls of dead Season Avatars, her quartet finally has a chance to unite all twelve Season Avatars and end Chaos Season permanently.

Achieving this goal will not be easy. Kay and her sister Avatars need three more bones from the dead Avatars. To obtain them, they must travel from one side of Challen to the other, evading the King’s Watch and Selathens who want to protect their patron demigoddess, Salth, creator of Chaos Season. On the journey, Kay’s deepest beliefs about her God and her longtime enemy, Dorian, will be challenged. If Kay loses her newfound courage, she will fall before Salth, and the rest of the Season Avatars and her country with her.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Three Squares for the Welcome Blanket

What you see on the left are three crocheted squares, about 10"x10". I was hoping to finish the fourth one for this picture, but I have to redo part of it. There will be sixteen squares in all, which will then be joined together to form a 40"x40" blanket for the Welcome Blanket Project. It takes me 3-4 evenings to complete a square, and the deadline for this project is September 5th. In order to make sure I finish the blanket in time, I've been crocheting during car trips, at restaurants, and wherever I can manage it. This crochet project may steal some of my drafting time for Dryads to Discover, but I'm nearly done with the line edits for Summon the Seasons. Perhaps Maria and I can work on the cover next month. In the meantime, I'll sure be busy during the final month of summer!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Draft2Digital and Findaway Voices

With Alex's guest post on audiobooks on Monday, I thought it timely to get an announcement from Draft2Digital about Findaway Voices, an audiobook production company that D2D just partnered with. I don't know much about it, but it seems similar to ACX, which is what I used to produce the audiobooks for Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes. On both sites, you set up your book, choose a narrator, listen to and approve the audiobook, and set up distribution. Findaway says they don't require exclusivity and give you more control over pricing than ACX does. Unlike ACX, Findaway does charge a setup fee, but apparently this is waived if you go to them through D2D. ACX allows you to do a royalty split with the narrator instead of paying a set fee per finished hour. Findaway doesn't have this option, so you do have to pay up front and hope you earn it back. I currently don't have audiobooks for the Season Avatars series. However, if/when I get to that point, it's good to know there are options available for indie writers.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Guest Post: The Audio Book Process

When I offered to host other writers on this blog, Alex J Cavanaugh was one of the first to respond. Read below to learn how his popular books became audio books.

Over a year ago, my publisher announced they would be moving into audio books. During the next two years, the most successful titles would convert to audio. I had no idea what to expect. Even scarier – my Cassa trilogy would be first!

Now, I can only tell this story from the viewpoint of an author with a publisher taking care of the audio. Self-published authors will take on a lot more work than I did during the process. But many of the steps will be the same.

Once my first book began receiving auditions, my publisher passed along the best ones. This is where my input mattered. I was warned that the narrator wouldn’t read my book exactly the way I’d envisioned it. I was just to select the best of the lot, the one who not only got the voices right but captured the essence of the story. My favorite was Michael Burnette – and fortunately, he was also my publisher’s favorite.

The narrator selected, my next task was to make a list. Since I write science fiction, the first part was to list all of the potentially challenging words and their pronunciations. I had to search through my manuscript for names, places, and things that might cause confusion. I had to type out the word and its correct pronunciation. (To the best of my ability – Ernx is easy to pronounce but tough to describe how to pronounce.)

I was also asked to list all of the main characters and describe them. What did they sound like? What was their personality like? The narrator would take a lot from what I’d written, but it helped him to know up front a bit about the characters.

After that, the narrator went to work. I received a chapter now and then, just to be sure the narrator was on track with everything. (Michael Burnette narrated all four of my books and put together the Cassa boxed set for audio, and only once during that time did he pronounce something wrong that had to be changed.) There was one instance where he selected a different pronunciation than what I’d envisioned. But you know what? His was better. So I let it go.

And I think that’s the biggest thing with audio books. As authors, we have this vision in our head of how everything looks and sounds. But so do our readers. And every one of those visions is different. Our narrators will also see our story in a different light. We have to accept that. No matter what, as long as the narrator is good, it will be all right.

I’m fortunate that all four of my books – and one boxed set – are available as audio books now. It blows my mind to see them offered in three different formats – print, eBook, and audio. Plus hearing them, especially with all the layers of special effects my narrator added – well, I can hardly believe I wrote those stories. (The last two in particular. Really, I wrote that?)

Even more fun – my publisher has been running a giveaway the past couple months on Twitter for all of their audio books. (And I believe one of mine is the current giveaway!)

So, if you get the chance to get into audio books, I highly recommend it. Just keep an open mind and work with your narrator. Let that person bring your books to life!

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Audio Links:

Dragon of the Stars



CassaSeries boxed set

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