Writing Posts from J. Timothy King's Websites

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NaNoWriMo Progress Sheet

Social Media Information Overload, ©2012 Mark Smiciklas CC BY-NC 2.0

NaNoWriMo begins the day after tomorrow. To control my progress, I’ve created a spreadsheet that dynamically recomputes, each day, how many words I need to write in order to stay on track.

This is a method I’ve used before, based on principles used to manage software projects. Because software projects have a lot in common with writing projects. Most notably, they’re both creative endeavors, and you never know at the beginning how the project is going to look at the end. A write could use any of the widely available Agile software-development project tools out there. But this is a lighter weight tool, a simple spreadsheet, which doesn’t have as many features, but I’ve found it sufficient for a one-person writing project (like a NaNoWriMo novel).

Here’s a link to my NaNoWriMo Progress Sheet (OpenOffice Calc), or in MS Excel format. (Right-click on the link, and save the file to your hard drive.)

Here’s how it looks:

 Click to continue »

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of year again!

Time to gear up for National Novel Writing Month. (Yes, that’s a thing.) More affectionately known as NaNoWriMo (rhymes with “Hwang Ho ice floe,” which is not an actual thing).

As you may know (which almost rhymes), NaNoWriMo is an annual event during which participants attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of November.

In the past, I’ve taken great pleasure in dissing NaNoWriMo. Because it’s a sprint, and serious writing is a marathon. Because it’s never worked for me to produce a novel, or even to motivate me to write something I did not want to write. Because it encourages writers to spew out tens of thousands (literally) of crummy words, rather than honing their style and focusing on the story they want to tell. Because I myself have never actually “won” NaNoWriMo, even that year that I drafted From the Ashes of Courage, because the story was complete at only 45K words.

Nonetheless, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. Or at least I’m going to give it a shot. Here’s my NaNoWriMo profile: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/timk.  Click to continue »

Dear New Indie Author…

Doh! (© 2008 striatic CC BY 2.0)

This is a real note I just sent to a new author of a software-development book:

I’m an independent author and software developer. I saw your posting on G+, and it sounded potentially interesting. I signed up for the email to download the ebook, thinking I could review it on my SD blog.

However, by the time I opened the email, the embedded download links had expired, and now your system forbids me from downloading it at all.

The single, solitary thing a new author with a new book needs is attention. Your book needs reviews. It needs people writing about it and telling their friends about. I’ll be blunt: sending these people a download link that expires in 20 minutes is extremely stupid.

Now, instead of telling all my colleagues and readers about your book, I’m not going to tell them anything. You lose. Sorry. Better luck next time.

#CharacterStory Writing Prompts 2012/05/14

New York #flickrmeetup
Photo © 2012 Markus Spiering
Click here for original image.

Use one or more of the prompts below to inspire one or more character stories:

  1. Write a story with the scene depicted by the photo at top of this post, “New York #flickrmeetup – Come and meet us at the High Line!” (Click for a larger view.)

  2. Write a story with a character who periodically lapses into talking like a mobster (or in baby-talk, or in the voice of Sylvester the Cat, etc.)

  3. Write a story about loving your enemies.

  4. Write a story that involves mass transit.

Please comment below with a link to your story!

Keep writing!

Writing Character Flaws

“Love Thyself,” © 2010 Kaili Williams CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Click here for the original photo.

Inspired by the Pendragon Variety Podcast relaunch episode—in which the Pendragon ladies vamp on the topic: “Character Flaws – Balancing Your Character’s Awesome”—I decided to expound on… uh… character flaws.

First things first: We’re all told that our characters should have “flaws.” But what are these mythical creatures? What makes a flaw?

  • any imperfection in a character?
  • something that gets the character into trouble?
  • something that makes us unsympathetic to the character’s plight?
  • something that keeps the character from meeting his needs?
  • a dysfunctional character behavior or habit?
  • a self-defeating character trait?
  • a physical characteristic?
  • an emotional characteristic?

While many authors and commentators ask this question, I’m not sure many have given a good answer.

And asking Google does not help. For example, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:  Click to continue »

Self-Publishing for Fun and Profit

Photo © 2008 Quinn Dombrowski CC BY-SA 2.0
Click here for the original image.

In yesterday’s post, I distinguished between the “indie author” and the “self-published author.” A reader named Wendy commented, with a question.

This is a distinction that I originally got from Bob Baker, author of 55 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Book on the Internet. Bob got his self-publishing start with a book about indie music marketing, back in the mid-90′s. He told the story in a recent interview about self-publishing:

In 1996, I self-published the first crude version of the Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook… one of the first books to advocate self-reliance and taking your music career into your own hands (as opposed to “getting signed” to a record label, which most music business books were all about back then).

My DIY perspective came in handy when the traditional music biz began to crumble around 2001. Before long, going the “indie” route became the way to go…

Eh. So the book industry is 10 years late.  Click to continue »

What the End of Borders Means for Authors

Photo © 2009 The Ewan CC BY 2.0

First of all, a clarification: when right-wingers talk about “closing the borders,” this isn’t what they mean.

The big news over the past week is that Borders Books is officially going out of business.

Book lovers have expressed grief and dismay. One Borders fan called it “a case of internet outsourcing.” He’s not too far off the mark. And this has been coming for a long time. (The photo above was taken a year and a half ago in Oxford.)  Click to continue »

A Sneak Peek at the Ardor Point #2 Outline

I’ve been working on-and-off on this outline for over a year and a half now. I could go down the list of excuses and reasons why it took so long. – And it’s still not “finished” yet, but I can’t stand it anymore, so I’ve started on the “zero-draft.”

I’d like to share with you my outline for the novel, and some stories around it, how I’m using my process on this novel. I’m hoping this will give you some ideas or inspirations for the story you’re working on.

The Summary

The process I follow starts with a one-sentence summary of the story, as many writers do. My original sentence went like this:

A newlywed bride, at a romantic, seaside cottage on her first wedding anniversary, as the onset of economic depression threatens to tear her marriage apart, finds joy.

I didn’t really like that. Too vague. Too blasé. Too blech. But it was enough to keep me focused on what I wanted the story to be about.

However, I revamped the sentence when I started the zero-draft. Here’s how it stands now:

A devoted newlywed wife struggles with her marriage when a recession threatens her husband’s career, and finds an unexpected source of strength.  Click to continue »

More about Book Covers

Related to last week’s extensive post on book-cover design for indie authors and publishers, Roger C. Parker posted over the weekend a few more tips for better book covers.

He also linked to a page of interactive book-cover makeovers at Dunn+Associates Design’s web site. For a kick, check out a few, and think about how the “before” and “after” designs use the 10 elements of book-cover design that I talked about last week. Pay particular attention to the title and front-cover graphics. How do the new designs use these more effectively than the “before” covers. Especially if you’re wrestling with a book cover right now, this little experiment should inspire you, if not give you a spark of enlightenment.


P.S. With at least one of the book covers in Dunn Design’s exhibit (Mark A. Williams’s Your Identity Zones), the author rejected the book cover that his publisher preferred. Traditionally published authors should understand book-cover design, too, in order to use whatever influence you have with your publisher to ensure your book gets an effective design. (Although, as far as I can tell, both the “before” and “after” covers of that book were good covers. The “after” version was marginally better, because it had more focus—less clutter—and highlighted the title more. So it might split-test significantly better than the “before” version. Yeah, at some point, I’ll have to write an article on how to split-test a book cover.)

-TimK  Click to continue »

How to Design Your Book Cover

Cover for "From the Ashes of Courage," so that you can see how I made use of cover elements, and how I could have made better use of them. (Click for a larger view.)

As an indie author, you probably need to understand book-cover design. Traditionally published authors have their publishers’ experts to design their covers (whether or not those experts are worthy of the designation). Self-published authors, just printing up a few copies for family and friends, will probably be satisfied with the très kewl cover design tools at Lulu. But us indie authors need something more than a bare-bones, stock cover. And we don’t have the budget for a professional designer. And even if we do, we don’t have a publishing company helping us choose the designer. So we need to understand book-cover design, if not to design a decent cover ourselves, at least to know what to work on with our designer.

So what makes a good cover?

The cover is the first thing a prospective reader will see of your book. This is true whether she’s looking online or whether someone hands her a copy, or even if she happens to see a copy in a bookstore.

When someone picks up a new book for the first time, watch them. Here’s what they do:  Click to continue »