Straight Out of the 80s!

The big news of the week was that I finished the ‘Script Outline’ draft of my military sci-fi book. The working title is ‘Maelstrom 1: Valkyrie’, because who writes less than a trilogy nowadays? Seriously, though, there’s definitely more than one book in the idea behind it, and this first book only takes things up to a certain point.

The Script Outline (I’m using capitals there because capitals make it a ‘thing’) has taken a lot longer than it was supposed to, but I’m not yet completely distraught about that. I had hopes of publishing in November, but as long as it’s before the end of the year, I guess that’s okay. And, either way, having found a copy of my old novel, Promenade, to mercilessly edit down and put out there – well, it might be better to push that to market first and perhaps leave this until the New Year, when I might be most of the way through a second instalment. In fact, as I write, I’ve literally just talked myself into that.

Anyway, as I was saying, I’m not so worried about how long the Script Outline has taken, as the point of it was to hopefully do away with a draft while simultaneously completing a detailed (as it turns out, very detailed) outline. The idea is that my next (1st, I guess) draft will be a lot better than an ordinary first draft would be, that I will have already learned many of the things I need to learn about the story. Well, that’s what I’m sticking with.

My hope is that, after this, I’ll have an editing / proofing draft, and then a final draft via a proof reader, and BOOM… book.  This is not how I will ideally work on every book, as I’d at least like to have a proper ‘editors’ draft before proofreading, but that is simply going to be too expensive this time around.

As for Promenade, trust me when I say that book has already been mercilessly edited for many years before now, as it was originally completed in 2002. Although, like some poor, mistreated captive, it has barely seen the light of day, read by only a handful of people that weren’t its creator. No… no proof reading for Promenade, that one’s going to be the guinea pig, and the sooner I can shove it out onto the market, the better.

I’m actually quite daunted by putting my script version of the Maelstrom book into Scrivener, as I’m now starting to do. I know it’s going to reveal all those research / world building / background and character points that I’ve failed to adequately explore as I’ve gone along. The whole thing is going to look like a mess, and I’m going to have about three times as much work as I thought I would have, I know it! However, I also know that, somewhere on he other side of all that, is a book and a story world I can keep exploring. Plus, it might even be fun along the way. For one thing, as I wrote the last pages of the script, I was surprised by how many things just seemed to slot quite neatly into place, and it’s a great feeling on a book when that stuff starts to happen.

You wouldn’t think I’ve been writing books for years, would you? But when it’s your own, somehow it makes you feel more like a newbie. Not sure why, would have expected that to work the other way around, if anything. Plus… sci-fi. Somehow, military sci-fi is quite intimidating. I’ve never properly written sci-fi before, and, I don’t know… there’s definitely more fear of getting stuff wrong.

Couple of other things to finish of this slightly rambling post:

‘Constitution’ by Nick Webb. I was very critical about this in a previous post, mainly because the set-up stage of the book felt like Battlestar Galactica rehashed. I would just like to say that, although I haven’t changed my mind about that aspect of it, the book has nonetheless turned into a superb read. Am currently a little over three-quarters through, and have found myself really drawn to the characters and the situation, and the pace is just electric – not to mention some situations that are h-a-r-s-h on the characters. Always gotta love that.

And finally, Alpha Smart Neo 2. I’m writing this post on one of these wonderfully retro little beasts. They’re like eighties tech, but made in the zeros, or later. I’m currently just using it as a plug-in keyboard on my phone. I don’t know quite why I’m doing this, my laptop is just upstairs, except for the fact that I just like writing this way. It also has its own little LCD screen, and can – literally – ‘write’ it to MS Word – or anything else – when plugged into a PC later on.

Maybe I love using this rather outmoded technology because I grew up in the 80s. Speaking of which… can’t wait for season 2 of Stranger things later this month!

Alone and Old in an Online World

A much better week. Have been really on top of my freelance work, so that I only had about an hour’s work come Friday. Really thought I might finish my scripted outline later that day, but hit an unexpected bit of burn-out in the afternoon. A little surprised, as I didn’t really feel all that tired, but my brain just stopped cooperating for a bit.

Writing really is all about focus and concentration. There’s a sports saying about ‘having your head in the game’, and I often feel this aptly describes writing. If my head isn’t in the game, things will go very slowly.

Not dwelling on that, though, as I’m close and the week had another big achievement. The thought of book marketing thrills and terrifies me in equal parts. Although far from being computer illiterate, I am of an age where, unless you had the sort of interest in computing that would, a decade later, lead to a job making sites for that new inter-web-net-thingy – the thing that nobody but businesses with something to sell could yet see point of – you didn’t learn much about them in your most formative years. My IT teacher owned a farm and wore tweed, and the lessons mostly involved playing some skiing game based around dots and lines on the school’s BBC Micros. Oh yeah, 32KB of computing power!

With this in mind, I just need my online experience to be as straightforward as possible. Many of the concepts around marketing and SEO can be hard enough to grasp because of the unnecessarily complex language often used to describe them, so I don’t need to be struggling with the websites and software side of things.

Although the proverbial bow of my research into marketing has a few strings, by far the most useful tool has been a website and book by Joanna Penn. She, like others, stresses the do-or-die importance of the email list. So, I decided to see if I could add one to my WordPress.com site.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know. Get a .org self-hosted site, it’s so much better, with so much more control. I must confess, tech-fear is what initially stopped me, but right now it’s fear of the other publishing costs that will need to be met. – More immediate things, like a book cover and some sort of paid editing. It’s not that expensive to get the hosting and all that, but right now it will be a cost too much.

That said, if I couldn’t effectively collect emails through the .com site, it would be a big issue. No problem, though, I found something that tells me about embedding code into a text widget (a silly word if ever I have heard one), or if not another widget with a pop-up box. Not ideal, pop-ups are annoying, but better than nowt.  Neither worked, consistently changing my code, or just displaying it all as text on the site. Some research revealed that this is a ‘safety feature’, which can be got around if you pay the $200, or whatever, for a business subscription. Not happening.

I battled with this for a while. Quite a while. Too long, one might say, but the answer did ultimately come through a live chat with a WordPress.com advisor who was very helpful. It was, however, somewhat convoluted.

First, I had to start a MailChimp account. Fair enough, I knew they were one of the bigger email marketing companies and was planning to start using them at some point. It’s free for my current purpose, at least, and their site seems fairly convinced they can help my future marketing efforts in ways I don’t yet (and maybe never will) understand.

Then I had to make a Wufoo account, so I could make the form for my site. My form only included three fields – I did toy with including just one field on my mailing list sign up…. any guesses which? Still… Wufoo account. Then I had to link the Wufoo form to an email list I had made in MailChimp. Then export it for WordPress.com, which creates some html it actually won’t go changing. Then, finally, I can drop it into that text widget.

I mean, w-o-w; for something a lot of people with a website are likely going to want to do… what a fuss! Yes, I could have just used a WordPress contact form to collect email addresses, but it wouldn’t have been a great way of doing it. Plus, yes, automatically sending it to a MailChimp list will, I’m sure, pay dividends and make things easier later on.

It’s just… I dunno… is everything going to make me feel this out of my depth and confused? Of course, there is that non-techie, old bloke sense of achievement for getting there and sorting it out, but I’d still rather things just, you know, happened without me having to be sat there until 4 in the morning. Really… 4 in the morning.

In other news, I got hold of a copy of my old novel, Promenade, which I wrote about 15 years ago. I thought all digital copies of it lost, except for the possibility of a floppy disk somewhere in the tip that is my garage. Yes, I had many, many redundancies, but take your eye off the ball for enough years, you’d be surprised how they can all get unexpectedly stripped away.

So, I’m thinking ‘publishing dry run’. Make my mistakes on something that I’m not currently spending a lot of time writing. Could be good.