State-of-the-Thing: April (’23) Edition

I started the month of April with a business trip. It’s great to get out of town for a while, and I actually love flying (not so much the being crammed in a metal tube with a bunch of people part, but the leaving the ground and being up among the clouds part), but it does tend to have the downside of knocking me out of my routines a bit.

Luckily, I was still able to scrape some writing out in the evenings, even if only a little. I had some long days in the office I was visiting, and had to do a lot of talking, paying attention, and generally had to conduct myself like a proper adult, all of which are things that don’t always feel natural.

I contain multitudes. It just happens that some of my multitudes would probably eat some of the others in an apocalypse.

It was an overall successful trip, though. I got to challenge myself and grow my confidence, and after all that business-ing, I came home reinvigorated to tackle some action-packed make-believe.

It’s not just been all writing, however. I’ve talked about it a little bit before, but apparently it’s not enough to just write books. I have to SELL them too. Yuck. But that means throwing some focus on social media promotion and thinking about in-person sales opportunities.

I have two events on my schedule for this year, which is a pretty sparse event calendar by design until I complete the second book. My first event is the Tallahassee InfinityCon in July.

This will be my third year at InfinityCon. It’s always a great time with a lot of fun activities, and I get to meet other awesome creators. I also tend to sell out of books, but I am a little worried about oversaturating that particular market a little, so I’m working on changing up my promo materials a bit, advertising the upcoming second book, and really pushing my social media pages so readers can follow book 2’s progress. I also want to have a new and improved version of Bloodlands available.

The original formatting for Bloodlands had some weird spacing issues that I couldn’t figure out during the initial publishing phase. I’ve since figured out that, for the most part, it was my own fault. While it’s common practice now to include only one space between sentences, the standard used to be two spaces after a punctuation mark. Google tells me that this hasn’t been the formatting fashion for quite some time, but I was taught to do it that way in my English/writing classes throughout college. Imagine my embarrassment to find, after formatting and publishing a whole book, that I’d committed the publishing equivalent of writing a check in the grocery store check-out or printing MapQuest directions for a road trip. Erasing the extra space between sentences ended up fixing most of the formatting quirks.

That alone might not be reason enough to go through the proof copy process all over again, but I also wanted to add an excerpt for Nightlands into the back. One of the few less-than-perfect reviews that I’ve gotten on Bloodlands (though admittedly, I don’t check reviews as often anymore, so I may have more by now), complained that they felt there was more story to be told. And I’m just like…

But I can’t blame people for not knowing about it, especially when I haven’t been as active on my socials until recently. New readers will definitely know about it with an except in the back of Bloodlands, so the aim is to have that completed and Bloodlands re-issued in time for InfinityCon.

Of course, this is just my Word app in dark mode, but it’d be cool as hell if the pages could be black.

In other planning news, the official cover for Nightlands is in progress. Rather than doing a full-on sketch this go-around, I talked through some ideas with my Photoshop-savvy husband, who then put together a draft of the cover. It’s shaping up nicely with only a few more tweaks to make, but you can look forward to a cover reveal soon.

Finally, that brings me to what you’re probably actually here for–updates on the progress of Nightlands. While my overall productivity has remained on-target (measured in daily word count), I started to notice that my overall progress was… not where I needed it to be. Time for some problem solving!

It just so happens that problem solving and coaching others through problem solving is a big part of my non-writing work (for which I occasionally, but not often, put on fancy work dresses). Something that I’ve learned throughout my career is that while it’s important to measure the habits and behaviors that will help us get to our end goal, those measurements can sometime drive us to the wrong habits and behaviors if we’re not careful.

Daily writing, for example, is a great habit that absolutely contributes to the end goal of completing and publishing the book, but if word count is the only metric I’m measuring myself by, then I’m ultimately prioritizing quantity over quality. That’s actually good for a first draft. Less so for a rewrite where things need to get fixed. What also tends to happen is that I might, in a pinch on a particularly busy day, write a bunch of fluff or filler material (scenery descriptions, internal character reflections, meandering dialogue) that helps me hit my word count but doesn’t progress the plot. I often end up needing to go back and rewrite to set myself back on course. This is a cycle I like to think of as hamster-wheeling. Doing a lot of work but getting nowhere.

So I’ve modified my measurements/metrics. I still track daily word count to encourage the good habit of daily writing and because monitoring my work on a daily cadence gives me a better opportunity to problem solve proactively if I notice a lull in my work. But I’m also tracking chapter completion per month and prioritizing that as my measurement of success. That way, I’m not encouraged to spin my wheels in the name of word count, but to slow down and course correct if needed in order to ensure the plot advances.

Which brings us to our current state:

We’ve still got a little ways to go, but we’re making progress! And with that progress, I’m starting to plug some of the holes and fix some plot-related issues that just didn’t quite work in the first draft.

No excerpt this time, but I will leave you with a quote graphic I haven’t shared yet:

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