Monday, February 10, 2014

NINJA STUFF: The Distraction Of Reader Feedback, Accountability, and Cover Reveal

Hello there, Esteemed Reader. I hope this post finds you well. Though I'm posting this Monday, it's a Saturday morning for me. I've got coffee, Bob Dylan is singing softly (imagine, an English Major who likes Bob Dylan!), and Little Ninja is cooing beside me in a way that tells me I've got about 30 minutes before he'll demand to be fed again. Mrs. Ninja is getting some much needed sleep and the boys have the house to themselves, which means it's time to write.

I even know what I'm supposed to be writing (it's the story to go with the cover to the left of this). Today it's to be a sad scene between a husband and wife, one of whom is nervous about the state of their marriage, and the other of whom is a zombie. The situation is high stakes, the motivations of my characters are clear, so this scene should write itself:

"Honey, we need to talk."
Chomp, moan.
"Graghhahahaha. Mmmmm, brains."

But I can't seem to summon the willpower to get it done. It doesn't help that past me wrote present me a manuscript note after the last section reading: "this next scene is the heart of the character. Nail it." Oh, thanks for taking some of the pressure off, past me, ya jerk!

I turned off my internet, but it did no good. So to prime the pump, I thought I'd at least jot down a blog post. If I'm going to squander great writing time futzing around the house, updating this blog is at least more productive than playing Plants VS Zombies 2.

A famous writer recently said to me--okay, fine, it was Hugh Howey, but I'm starting to talk about that guy as much as I talk about Batman. I don't want him scared to visit Indiana because I come off as a stalker and there are other writers to be discussed now and again. But not other writers who posted this on my Facebook page

"I know that blogging helped me transition into writing by teaching me the joy of getting words down every day (and also the immediate positive feedback, which books take too long to get, which means giving up too early)."

Update: Little Ninja is now in his pouch on my chest and we're listening to Tom Waits.

While I'm talking up my hero Hugh Howey, I also have to link to this post about self publishing that every writer should read and that I wish I'd written, but I wouldn't have because I'm not that smart and it contains essential naughty language (fair warning). Good writing advice from a guy who's been there and come out successful on the other end is worth paying attention to, especially when he's giving it away for nothing.

And Howey's right, of course. Blogging is not only a distraction from writing, it does give me immediate feedback. Even after I write this 1000-word zombie scene (more chomping in the real version), I'll still have a good 20,000 words to write (lots more chomping) before I can turn All Right Now over to my critique partners, the YA Cannibals, who will require I do tons of editing before I can turn it over to my editors, who will require even more revision before I can make the story available to you, Esteemed Reader.

But I'm writing this post today, I'll look it over and polish it again tomorrow, and Monday it will be up at the blog and I'll get immediate feedback from readers as well as a notice from Mr. Howey's lawyer advising me of the new distance I'm court-ordered to maintain from Jupiter, Florida.

Sudden subject change: Writers who claim not to read their own reviews are either J.K. Rowling, who couldn't read them all if she tried, or are lying. There are probably some writers made of steel who never procrastinate during writing time and aren't even aware there are sites dedicated to discussions of books where readers are making their opinions of writers' work known. To my knowledge, I've never met one of these writers, but if you are such a writer, good on you. My hat is held to my chest in awed admiration as you pass.

The rest of us writers have to grapple with putting the feedback we receive from Esteemed Reader in its place. I'm not about to advise you how to do it as I'm still figuring out how to do it myself. Susan Kaye Quinn warned me not to get Yellow-Spotted-Sales-Checking Fever, but I totally got it anyway. Indie Authors can get up-to-date details on how many books they sell just as a blogger gets real-time updates on traffic and it's impossibly intoxicating to see those numbers move, made even more enjoyable as each time they move, I get money (that's new and quite rewarding). 30 books sold in an hour and I'm Stephen King, two hours with no books sold and I'm a destitute failure whom no reader could ever love.

And I read my reviews. I've checked Amazon and Goodreads more than once in a day like a spider watching his web, hoping for new reader feedback. And you writers reading this, don't try to act like you're better than me. I've had authors comment here on reviews two months later in response to an Esteemed Reader's comment. You've probably written a better book than mine, but you're the same reader feed-back addict I am. I see you twitching and doing the same junkie shuffle I'm doing hoping for that next fix.

If you've been an author for longer than me, and statistically speaking, you have, you've probably learned how to maintain a healthy relationship with your readers and their feedback. Fortunately, I've blogged for long enough to know that it does get better. I used to check my traffic stats here once an hour, but I eventually got to where I could check just once a day, and when I'm not blogging, I sometimes go weeks without checking.

The shiny newness of having blog traffic has worn off and I know that apparently no matter who I interview or what book I review, it will never get as many hits as my review of Bunnicula, this blog's traffic grand champion (shrugs). I may never again write another post for writers as popular as the number two winner, A Pound of Flesh, No More, No Less: A Post About Editing, and most of my posts will not be as popular as the interviews with writers and agents and other folks more interesting than me, which is as it should be.

The thing to remember is that those traffic-champion posts didn't start out any more popular than the other posts at this blog. I wrote them, edited them, posted them, and then wrote the next post and the next. While I was busy generating new content, readers were linking to the old posts and word of mouth was spreading. My post about editing is nearly three years old, but when I check the traffic stats Monday evening, I have no doubt it's readership will be 3-5 times greater than this post. This post might catch up, but it will take time and by then I'll be more concerned about my newest post.

What appealed to me about indie publishing in the first place was that in some ways it makes writing books like writing blog posts (but professionally edited). I was reading a new review of All Together Now not too long ago instead of writing and I read this:  "I'll be looking forward to more from Robert Kent."

"Score," I thought, "this reader wants another book!" Then, immediately after that thought, "too bad she's never going to get it as I spent my writing time reading her review."

All Together Now is done. There's nothing left for me do except occasionally promote it and eventually translate it to more formats (hang in there Nook readers). I need to leave it online for Esteemed Reader to find it and recommend it and that book is going to do what it's going to do. By the time it's getting more traffic, it would be nice if there were some other books for readers to buy. I feel this is a more successful strategy than hoping this particular reviewer remembers what she said whenever I get around to finishing the next book.

My time is not better spent just promoting my one book anymore than I would spend my blogging time promoting one post. Old posts becoming popular raises the traffic to new posts and new posts bring attention to old posts and there's plenty of traffic to go around and as they're all part of my blog, no matter which post wins, I win. And so it must be with books, except that traffic comes with money:)

Which brings us back to Hugh Howey, of course (someone call security). There's a writer who gets way more reader feedback than me and interacts with his readers, yet still keeps the books and blog posts coming. He doesn't have a day job or a new baby, I suppose, but he also has way more stuff to deal with (mo readers, mo problems). So, as always, when in doubt, I opt to imitate the behavior of more successful writers. Therefore, All Right Now will be a story of zombies attacking different levels of a silo deep below the earth. Just kidding--I'm saving that for my erotic Wool fan fiction:)

What I'm going to do is write in public to keep myself accountable, Hugh-Howey style. If you go to his webpage right now (and you should've gone to read that blog post I told you about instead of this), or the websites of a million Howey imitators, you'll see word counts for works in progress (why is there no countdown for the I, Zombie sequel?), which makes waiting for the next Molly Fyde a little easier.

I'm going to turn this blog from a distraction to a motivator. I want to have All Right Now in reader hands by October of this year, if not sooner, which means I need my first draft no later than March. As of right now, I have 7,701 of an estimated 25,000 words before I'm done. It has taken me since January 1st to get to that many, which is sad, sad, sad (you get a new baby and see how fast you write).

Update: Little Ninja is now kicking me from a boppy pillow and we're listening to Blondie.

I don't know how well this is going to work, but writing a book about zombies is in my wheelhouse. I know how this one ends and I've already planned most of it, which means I just have to write the thing. I think updating this blog with my word count will keep me honest and certainly will embarrass me if I don't reach my goal. If this works, I may do it with the next book as well. Honestly, Steven Novak's cover is so pretty, why wouldn't I want it gracing my blog as soon as possible:)

And now, because I found it helpful, here is more wisdom from Susan Kaye Quinn, who could save me a lot of time if I just applied her advice the first time around:


  1. Dude! Let me know when you write that erotic Wool fanfic. We can get matching restraining orders. ;)

    Good luck with your wordcount! I'm off to do the same, once I close down my browser and stop reading other people's blog posts - which is infinitely easier than writing my own, but also takes time. Back to the word mines...

    1. Enjoy the word mines. Better there than a day job, which is where I'm at (and also why I can occasionally comment on social media).

      "Hi, I'm a Porter for Silo 1"
      "Grrrrr! Me zombie!"
      ***sexy music***

  2. For what it's worth: I'm right there with you when it comes to word count challenges... I do my best writing in horrible places, like the food court or on the bench waiting for kiddo to finish gymnastics.

    Hope the words come easier from now on! Oh, and cut yourself some slack as a new Ninja parent :-)


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