I did that interview with Simon Whistler…
http://rockingselfpublishing.com/author/simon/ (link opens in new tab)
…that went live last Tuesday, and from doing that interview I bumped into Hugh Howey, and from doing that, I encountered an entire series of links to writers who have done the HARD math on self-publishing.
I’m only giving you two. There are many, but these two are CRITICAL if you’re a writer.
I have not done THIS math. I have never seen THIS math done before. I didn’t even know which questions to ask to get me to this math.
(Aside from deadline math, I suck at math.)
Fortunately, both Hugh Howey (the author of WOOL that I keep raving about) and Courtney Milan (whose work I have not yet read) are Good At Math.
And really, really good at explaining what the numbers mean, and why they matter to you, the writer.
Howey and Milan have done math on self publishing vs. commercial publishing. It is mind-blowing.
Go here to read Hugh Howey’s thing first:
Hugh has discovered the actual numbers of print books vs. ebooks in a limited but relevant sample, the numbers of these that are commercially pubbed, the number that are self-pubbed, has gotten a good idea of the size of the market, and is going to knock your
http://authorearnings.com/the-report/ (link opens in new tab)
You’ll need what he’s discovered before you read Courtney Milan’s math, because with his dissection of the book publishing market and where self-publishing stands in it, you can the understand the absolutely mind-boggling importance of what Courtney Milan has discovered.
So now read Courtney Milan:
Courtney is going to show you what commercial publishing contracts are worth versus self-pubbing your own work over time. She, too, is going to knock your socks off. (Assuming you put them back on after reading Hugh.)
She’s also going to give you a downloadable spreadsheet so you can test things yourself.
http://www.courtneymilan.com/ramblings/2013/08/19/know-what-your-rights-are-worth/ (link opens in new tab)
What’s MY take-away on this?
I have printed these off. I have read them and re-read them, but I have not yet taken them apart piece by piece to work into my own publishing plan, or used Courtney’s spreadsheet so get the important view on what my personal sales numbers mean.
I was already done with commercial publishing. Now? Even that one book I was considering as my last connection to traditional publishing is off the table for anyone but me.
This is not THE happiest day of my life. But it’s up there.
What’s YOUR take-away on this?
If you read these two articles and go through them (with a math-savvy friend if necessary), at bare minimum you will understand the potential, revised-and-edited value of those unpublished books in your inventory—or the rights you’re considering selling to publishers.
Potentially, this is much more than that. Potentially, depending on what you decide to do with the knowledge you gain, this is the information you need to create the life you want to live for yourself.
I got 2058 words on the first story in Tales from the Longview, a planned 60,000-70,000 word series of 6 or 7 10,000-word stories set in my Settled Space universe, which is also the home of my Cadence Drake novels.
This was my original concept for the series:
After the development of the origami drive, Sleeper ships became useless…for a while. But old technologies can find their place in the future—with the right mission, and with an owner who can take the long view.
It’s a bit thin, but the Sentence for the first story is stronger:
A criminal sentenced to the Death Circus for daring to love discovers a second chance at life within his death.
So here’s going to be my process:
I’m going to write each of the six or seven stories first. I’m also going to self-pub each story separately, and then going to do an anthology of them when I’m done.
After I complete one story, I’ll put together the How To Write A Series Expansion module for that story. Then I’ll publish the story. Then write the next story. Then do the next module.
Students of the course will receive the multiple story drafts (I think of them as “dailies”) as part of their course.
After I have each module together, but before I’ll take it live, I’ll send out one last call to the folks on the How To Write A Series Expansion list, (which will also include lesson reminders and links), and will make sure that you get the best price on the course available.
If you’re interested, in the How To Write A Series Expansion, sign up here:
If you’re interested in reading the fiction as it comes out, sign up here (NOTE: This is my Readers’ List, so if you’re already on it, you’ll get a notice telling you this if you try to sign up again. No harm, no foul.):
Simon Whistler and I discuss self-publishing, commercial publishing, ethical self-promotion, and a LOT of other information on getting your writing career up and running.
Simon has a great site and a long list of other interviews, a free course on building your own author website quickly, and much more:
Yesterday I fixed all the typos and formatting errors my beta testers found.
Today I’m doing usability fixes: rebuilding worksheets that left my beta testers lost or confused, moving things around in the Geek-Deep Worldbuilding section to make it easier to understand how the included videos and worksheets connect to the whole Geek-Deep worldbuilding process…stuff like that.
Will take a few days to do this, and I will no doubt introduce a few mistakes that will NOT be caught, because I’m not doing another round of beta-ing.
I’m going live after I finish this.
- Formatting for PDF, Kindle, ePub, Print
- Cover art
- Course and worksheet uploading and page setup
- Early-Bird private purchase page link goes out
- Take the course live on my site
- Link to the HTTS Boot Camp Member World Clinic coupon goes out
- It’s not too late to get in on the HTTS Boot Camp World Clinic Members-Only Discount.
- If you don’t already have a free membership, create one here: https://howtothinksideways.com/create-your-free-general-membership-account/
- Make SURE you’re on the Boot Camp mailing list: http://howtothinksideways.com/classrooms/htts-boot-camp-member-updates/ Most of the time you’ll be added to the list when you join, and will need to confirm that you want to receive the updates, but many legacy members do not receive the updates, and sometimes the sign-up widget glitches.
- Take the course live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and MAYBE Kobo if they have stopped unilaterally discounting and hard-setting my prices. If they’re still being cute with their goddamned penny discount (which causes me problems with my pricing on Amazon, B&N, AND my own site, I’ll just skip Kobo).
Believe it or not, even with this long list of things yet to do, I’m actually almost done. So if you’re already on the World Clinic Early-Bird or HTTS Bootcamp Update lists, next week is when you need to start watching for [World-Clinic-LIVE] notices.
Sometimes show is better than tell. Okay, USUALLY show is better than tell.
So for those of you wondering if worldbuilding works with or is necessary for YOUR genre and YOUR work, here’s Chapter 1 of Holly Lisle’s Create A World Clinic. THE WHOLE CHAPTER.
World #1: The Dot World
Build Your First Complete World In Five Minutes
I’m going to hold off on the introduction for a few minutes, in favor of trying something different.
I’m going to walk you through building your first world right now. So grab a pen and a piece of paper. A napkin will do just fine if it’s all that’s available, or lined paper from a notebook, or the back of a page of the stack of email printouts sitting on your desk. Or that memo from your boss…
Whatever. If it’ll hold ink and you’ll be able to read what you’ve written once you’re done, it’ll do.
You’re going to build a small world, but big enough to give you what you need for a story. And by the time we’re done with this first exercise, you’ll already have a start for your story, too.
Here’s how this works. I’m going to do my version of the exercise as I write this section, so my answers won’t be canned or polished, and you’re going to do your version of the exercise. I’ll give you the answer I get for each step, along with some variants so you can see some of the possibilities—but this will work much better for you if you don’t see my answers first. So I’ll start on a fresh page after I give you each question you need to answer, and before you go to the next page, write down your answer.
Let’s build a world.
With your pen and paper at the ready, I want to you imagine that you are standing in a dark room. It’s small, and it has a ceiling, a floor, and four walls, but you can’t see them yet, because it’s absolutely dark. Don’t worry. The light will go on in a second.
But before it does, the room has one other thing in it, not including you. When the light goes on you’re going to see it…but odds are pretty good that a word or an image just popped into your head suggesting what the thing in the room with you is—so if it did, USE that.
It doesn’t matter how silly you think it is. It doesn’t matter if you can’t imagine how that word or image could matter. Or how you could get a story from it.
All that matters is that this time, you use the very first answer you get.
Okay. Now the light goes on, and you see the thing in the room with you.
Write down what it is.
My answer is: The paint on the wall.
What this means is that my Muse, also known as my subconscious mind, or right brain, has decided to be a smartass. Don’t know if you have a good working relationship with your Muse yet or not, but my relationship with mine is…interesting.
And because sooner or later, most folks who rely on creativity to put food on the table develop equally interesting relationships with their Muses, I’m going to detour for just a second here. This matters, and I guess this is as good a place as any to discuss the bare bones of it.
Your left brain is your editor, the driver of your body when everything is calm and no tigers have just started growling behind you, your internal grown-up. Your right brain is a perpetual kid, one who believes everything it sees and hears, one who loves to play, one who balks when commanded to work. (It’s also the part of you that will get your feet running and have you up in the top of a tree before you can think about it if those tigers do start growling—so it has many uses.) But if you want to build a career as a writer, you have to learn how to deal with both halves of your mind. And telling your right brain—your Muse—that the idea it just gave you is stupid is a real fine way to make sure that part of your mind goes off in a corner and doesn’t give you any more ideas for a good long time. (This is how writer’s block is born, incidentally.)
Your You/left brain/conscious mind is smart and articulate and organized, but it is not creative. So if you tick off your Muse and give it an excuse to shut down and quit playing your game, you are going to have a bad writing day. Or week. Or year.
Having been dealing with my particularly cantankerous Muse/right brain/subconscious mind while having to be creative on deadline for the last twenty-five years, I have learned the importance of using the ideas it gives me, no matter how weird or unworkable they seem initially, and then working to make sense of them.
EVEN, and this is important, when I suspect the idea was intended to make things difficult for me.
The paint on the wall. Ha. Ha. Very funny. My muse could have told me, window with bars on it, or ancient door, or even dead body, and I would have had an easy time of this. But it didn’t, so now you get to see what to do when your Muse decides to get cute. And because it’s good practice, no matter what answer your Muse gave you, you’re going follow the same steps I do this time.
I have to dig deeper. I need to ask a follow up question, and I need to ask it in a certain way. It cannot be a question that can be answered with a yes, no, or maybe, as with the question, “Is there anything unusual about the paint on the wall?”
My subconscious mind just rolls its metaphorical eyes at that one and says, “Maybe.”
This is not helpful, but your subconscious mind won’t do things just to be helpful. It likes to play, and the only person it has to play with is you.
So you have to learn to ask questions that can only be answered in a useful fashion.
This is my follow-up question:
“What is unusual about the paint on the wall?”
Before I write down the answer to that (though my Muse just told me the answer, and it is, in fact, pretty interesting), you need to ask a follow-up question.
Here are some variants that will work:
- Why does this___________ in the room matter?
- How did this ____________ get here?
- What is unusual about this __________?
- Who (or what) is this, and how did he/she/or it get here?
- When did this ___________ appear, and under what circumstances?
- Where did this ___________ come from? (Or where does this ___________ go?)
- Why is this ____________here?
Just answer one of the questions above (or one of your own devising related to your specific situation), but answer it at whatever length you need to give yourself the information that will allow you to understand what you’re dealing with, and answer any follow-up questions you need to ask to those questions. Don’t turn to the next page until you’re sure you got the full answer.
What I Got
So here’s my question again: “What is unusual about the paint on the wall?”
And because of the way I work with my right brain, I’m going write out the answers I just got in the form of a conversation. Yes, I do know this is bizarre, and you are not the first person to raise an eyebrow and suggest that I might want to seek care, counseling, or perhaps a nice padded room.
I do this because it works, because it lets me develop good story ideas quickly, and because I actually hold these conversations inside my head, though my right brain answers in images (and other sensory data) more often than it answers in words.
I just don’t usually do this in public.
Holly: What is so unusual about the paint on the wall?
Muse: It’s black, and it’s high gloss.
Holly: Okay…why does that matter?
Muse: Because it hides the blood.
H: (thinking carefully to avoid potential booby traps) What about Luminol, which makes blood on surfaces show up?
M: Not an issue here.
H: Why is it not an issue?
M: Because Luminol doesn’t exist yet.
H: So I’m in the past?
M: (No answer. My Muse does not answer stupid questions, and that was one.)
H: (trying again) Well, the black paint suggests intent to me—that the room is going to be seen by people, that the person who painted it needs to have them not know about the blood, and that the room serves two purposes—people go into it voluntarily, but maybe people die there, too. So who owns the room?
M: An artist. (I get a flurry of images here, so what follows is the flow what runs through my mind.) Blood on the walls, part of the process, passion and imbuing each painting with a different soul, love and murder at the same time, blood in the paint, a lot of dead women, a lot of live men who buy the paintings in this room, the room where they’re hung, and the artist working on painting after painting in quick succession, and then not working at all until all but the most perfect paintings, which he keeps for himself, are sold.
And at that point, I have the jump-off point for a story.
If I need to, I can build more details into the room before I start writing, or I can ask more questions about the artist, or the women, or the buyers.
But I can write the whole story in one room, in a handful of scenes, and I already have the critical key to this world.
Glossy black paint.
This is what worldbuilding is, and this is why you do it.
Worldbuilding has nothing to do with putting a map in the front of your novel.
It has everything to do with:
- Getting good questions that help you come up with story ideas.
- Getting good answers that help you tell your story.
- Finding the fixes for broken projects—you know, all those 30-page novel starts you did that never went anywhere, and you don’t know why…
- But mostly, worldbuilding is what brings your story to life for your readers.
When You’re Finished…
Let folks know what sort of world YOU got. I invite you to post your exercise below.
If you’ve been following along on the live beta testing on CREATE A WORLD CLINIC, I’d like to know if you’re getting a clear picture of what you’ll be able to do with the book, or if you need to know something different.
What questions do you still have that haven’t yet been answered.
Please ask them here, and I’ll figure out a format that get you some answers.
ADDED 01/16/2014: Beta Testers chosen and notified. Beta copies go out today.
I had two folks on my very short beta tester list pass on this project, so I have two spaces for new beta testers.
Tell me why you want to be a beta tester on this project, what sort of writing you do, and what you can bring to the beta test.
I’ll pick the first two folks who convince me they’d be great testers.
I want folks interested in the course to be able to get an objective idea of what Create A World Clinic will let them do, and how they’ll be able to use it for THEIR needs before they lay out money for it.
So beta tester comments as they’re working through this course will be public.
Beta Testers: Create a new reply when you complete each section test, and include:
- One sentence about what you thought you’d get from the section
- One sentence about what you actually got
- And one sentence on how you’ll be able to use what you learned in your work
- You can add more if you want, but three sentences will be enough if you’re pressed for time.
The finished draft (book plus worksheets) comes to 66,491 words.
I’m printing out the draft now to give to my editor, and tomorrow will be contacting the folks on my beta tester list to see who will be able to do the necessary worldbuilding orgy on my schedule.
Meanwhile, I’ll be putting together the various videos, downloadables, and other things that will be included in the book purchase, or in the World Clinic Expansion upgrade.
And doing cover art.
And setting up the classroom, forum, and downloads.
But right this second, I’m dancing in my chair. Done, done, done.
I DO NOT YET HAVE A DATE, EVEN AN ESTIMATED ONE, for when the book will go live. It will be soonish.
However, now is the time to make sure your free HTTS membership is working.
I’m offering a Members ONLY One-Day Only 20% off discount on the course:
- short (under 5 minute) demo videos
The short demos (the same in all three versions) are:
- Set Demo
- Core Point Demo
- Pass-Through Demo
- Secondary Point Demo
- Disposable Point Demo
- White Space Demo
- Point Name Demo
- General Question Generator Demo
- Character Generator Demo
- Plot Generator Demo
- Conflict Generator Demo
the class upgrade:
- short (under 5 minute) demo videos,
- PLUS forum discussion groups
and the Expansion:
- short demo videos
- full-size maps
- long (half-hour-ish discussion-demonstration videos)
The videos for the Expansion are:
- Building A Dot World In Real Time
- Building A Line World In Real Time
- Building A Tube of Toothpaste World In Real Time
- Building A Container Universe In Real Time
- Building A Knowable Universe In Real Time
- Building An Infinite Universe In Real Time
- The Classic Geographic Map as a Fictional Tool
- The Timeline Map as a Fictional Tool
- The Genealogy Map as a Fictional Tool
- The Live-In Map: The Advantages of 3-D
Because of the amount of work that is going into the videos, the price on the expansion will go up after the initial release.
To get the discount, you’ll need to already have a working free account at http://howtothinksideways.com/
And you’ll need to be signed up for the HTTS Boot Camp Newsletter. http://howtothinksideways.com/shop/create-a-world-clinic/
The discount coupon will ONLY be offered through the newsletter, and you’ll need to be logged into your account to make sure purchasing the course does not break any other courses you have.
So please take the time now to make sure your account is working. If it isn’t, create a support ticket here: