So you want to write a book?

Jul 19, 2013

Progress continues to be good. I went past the psychologically significant 80k barrier on Monday and I’m currently at 82,351 words. I’ve had a little less time available this week due to work commitments, but that’s still pretty reasonable. We’re set up for the finale now, which is the last fifth of the story. I’m predicting about another 20k words to go – will I hit my deadline of the end of August? So far, so good.

I’ve had quite a few folks pledging via paypal this week. I’m not sure if that’s a response to the reading of the prologue from LaveCon or some other reason, but a warm welcome if you’re one of those recent pledgers, it’s great to have you aboard. Thanks also to those who have upgraded their pledges too, post kickstarter.

I wish websites had gauges like this… 🙂

The website went into overdrive as well, partly due to the aforementioned prologue, but there seems to be a flurry of visits. I can’t quite attribute this to anything particular, but it’s encouraging. I’ve been doing a few preparatory tweaks to the SEO side of things. (I notice John Harper has also been doing this too). This is aimed as ensuring that this site gets picked up by Google and the other search engines when you type in stuff like “Official Elite Dangerous Novel” – try it and see what happens! 🙂

Writer’s forum? Still pretty quiet. Actually, deathly quiet. One or two posts per week.

And here I go, courting controversy once again…

There is a little concern growing on the forums at large over some of the book projects. Some of the writers have yet to make an appearance in the forum and, in some cases, they’ve not been able to provide updates to their pledgers either. This is a shame, but, sad to say, not really unexpected from my viewpoint. You may recall I predicted this in the kickstarter comments. I didn’t feel comfortable making too much of it at the time, because it would have detracted from the overall wave of enthusiasm and… who was I to judge? From your perspective, I was just another one of the satellite project owners. My opinion had no weight.

Time has moved on, I can afford to be a little more vocal with my opinions. You can make your own call on which projects are tracking well and are delivering on what they set out to do. I hope you trust me now. As with many things in life; Caveat Emptor.

A great opportunity and a great responsibility…

Given the number of these ‘satellite’ projects that were funded back in Jan/Feb, I feared it was inevitable that some might fall by the wayside, either due to their owner’s underestimating the work involved or some unforeseen circumstance.

That’s the nub of the matter to be honest. How much effort does it take to write a book? I can only relate my own experience, but this is roughly what it looks like for me.

  • Plotting = 80 hours
  • First Draft = 250 Hours
  • Second Draft = 150 hours
  • Third Draft and polish = 100 hours

Well, it’s a start…

So, 600 hours, give or take. You need to add more on top of this if you’re self-publishing, which many of the authors are (cover design, typesetting etc). If you’re doing everything by hand you won’t see much change out of 800 hours worth of work for a decent length novel produced to a good level of quality. If you divide that across a year (assuming you are aiming to release around March 2013), that means you’ve got to be averaging somewhere near 15 hours per week through the year. That’s a lot – particularly if you have a day job, family or other commitments. If you haven’t started yet… as the Americans say… ‘you can do the math’.

Writing something of this length is a graft too. It’s hard work. Sometimes you need to slog, sometimes the muse grabs you and you rocket ahead. 100,000 words, or thereabouts, is a lot of text to tippity tap into a laptop. It’s not far short of a megabyte.

There’s also skill involved. Weaving a story with multiple arcs, having convincing dialogue, making the characters compelling… this is an artform. You can’t just decide to be good at it from the off. I’ve been working on this for years and I’m still learning the craft. In no way shape or form am I an expert. I look at my 2006 era work and cringe. Most authors do when they look at previous work.

Given this, I didn’t think it was at all unlikely that some of the projects owner’s might have bitten off more than they could chew. Perhaps they were too ambitious, perhaps they hadn’t done their homework properly.

Fortunately many of the book projects do look certain to deliver at this stage, which is encouraging, but I can understand the disappointment that some pledgees (is that a word?) feel in backing a project which seems to have disappeared into a blackhole.

I backed all of them too, so I’m a pledger as well.

Project owners do have legal obligations to pledgers with a kickstarter funded project, there are also moral ones, particularly when several thousand pounds are involved. if a project is going awol – pledgers to that project do have rights, particularly if there has been little or no communication from the project owner. (I don’t know if this is different on Indiegogo, but I imagine it is similar.)

This is what a kickstarter project creator has to sign up to.

This is what a kickstarter project creator has to sign up to.

I took this this stuff very seriously indeed. I can’t afford not to. My work is already in the public domain. This is high profile stuff and it’s also legally binding. If I don’t deliver my name would be trashed across the internet and my dream of ultimately being able to take up writing as a going concern would be at an end.

Those who fail to deliver also have a net negative effect on those of us who are trying very hard to ensure we honour our commitments. It really saddens me to a read comments to the effect of “I’ll never back another book project on Kickstarter again.” That’s a really unfortunate outcome and distressing to me as a writer. There are many good books yet to be written and this makes it harder for potential authors to get going.

I’ve had some comments here to the effect that perhaps I’m over communicating by comparison.  I’m treading a bit of a line, but I’m doing my best to find balance. Waffling on to you folks does give me some down time away from the hard work of writing the book – it actually helps me to stay motivated too – I find it really useful.

I do feel a huge obligation though; you folks committed more than seven thousand pounds to me, and most of you didn’t know me from Adam when this all kicked off. There’s a huge responsibility there (both legal, moral and the simple plain fact that I’ve put my own reputation as a writer on the line and on-line in a very public way) and I feel compelled to give you everything I can by return. Yes, you’ll get what I hope you’ll think is a great book, but hopefully you’re also getting something valuable in the meantime – a view into the creative process, an insight into the crazy mind of a writer, the whole process of putting a book together.

I’ve talked about the community in the past, but I find it so significant. I’m only in this position because of the generosity of the Elite community at large. That is a massive privilege and responsibility. I’m conscious the community is watching. I want to give back to that community everything I possibly can. This ‘thing’ that we’re all involved in isn’t going to happen again in this way. I want to make the most of it.

Will I deliver on my promise? As Jayne Cobb would say… Damn Straight! Am I getting the balance right on the comms? You tell me. What do you feel about the other projects? None of my business? Have you backed some that are aren’t giving you the feedback you think you should have?

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