The storyline for the book is coming together very quickly. I keep track of the status of each part of the storyline in a spreadsheet. Here’s the “status” column of the chapters/scenes (chapter/scene titles deleted):
R = Ready
M = Mostly Ready
N = Not Read
W = Waiting for more info
As you can see, a substantial number of blocks are either Ready or Mostly Ready.
At this point, we’re focusing on clearing those “N’s”. “M’s” are OK – that usually means there are a few details to be worked out or looked up.
Although I keep track of status, wordcounts, etc in spreadsheets, I use OneNote to organize the storyline:
You can see that the story is broken into 3 parts, and under each part is a chapter/scene. It’s difficult at this stage to tell exactly where the chapter breaks will be. As a general rule, each new “scene” will likely end up as a chapter, but there can be cases where a single scene spans multiple chapters or, more often, multiple related scenes form a single chapter.
Right now, it’s all about the story, not about the structure. And the story is coming along very nicely.
Another fruitful brainstorming session yesterday, but I want to talk about what got it started as it provides input into our (esp my) method.
I have a system I use when I’m actively writing a book. I dedicate 1 hour a day, 6 days a week to “writing time”. I try to do this about the same time each day and I follow a routine. I think this helps “prep” my brain for the task.
Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame, but also a bestselling non-Dilbert author) recounted his method for keeping up an exercise routine. Each day, when it’s time to exercise, he puts on his workout clothes and drives to the gym, regardless of whether he actually feels like working out. He gives himself permission to turn around and drive home if he still doesn’t feel motivated when he arrives. But he said he’s only done that a couple of times in all the years he’s been working out.
The key is that the process of dressing, gathering his stuff, and driving to the gym boots up the “workout” routine in his brain. Research demonstrates that our brains are wired for routine. Common actions get transfered to the “basal ganglia” at the base of the brain – the “habit zone”. Once stored there, the habit routine can be kicked off easily and the basal ganglia will take care of getting everything ready to go, and even performing the actions, if appropriate.
This is why you can drive somewhere while thinking of something else. Your “habit loop” in the basal ganglia is doing the actual driving.
I try to use this brain bug to my advantage to get the “writing loop” running.
If I sit down to write and I don’t feel very motivated, which happens a lot, I don’t worry about it. I keep a list of non-creative tasks, like research, for times like this and work on those. After a while, I often find my creative juices flowing as I imagine the characters in these environments.
Or I just start reviewing and editing what I wrote the day before. Often I’m “in the zone” before I realize it.
This is the first book where I’ve tried to apply this disciplined approach to the story creation process. I still allow the natural, back-and-forth-over-dinner process to take place, but I also put in my hour at the computer.
Yesterday, I was feeling unenthusastic. At this stage, there’s plenty of research to be done, so I picked up one of those tasks. Avoiding spoilers, it had to do with learning about a venue important to the story.
Very much to my surprise, I found something inspirational almost right away. By researching real things in a real place, I was soon bubbling over with ideas for our fictional story. I finished my hour by showing all this to Jean, and the brainstorming really got into high gear.
These new, more real, venues suggested new aspects for the story, and I had that wonderful feeling of things slotting nicely into place.
In a future post, I’ll talk about some of the other things I do to keep myself motivated and keep the project moving forward.
We had another good brainstorming session on our walk today, but that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, I’m going to take you behind the scenes of book marketing – “Indie” (independent author) book marketing in particular.
A primary impetus (pun intended) behind writing The Bicycle Waltz was to promote the wonderful activity that is Cued Ballroom Dance (this name is easier to promote than Round Dance, which is why we prefer it).
But sales of The Bicycle Waltz (TBW) haven’t been high enough to really get the attention of non-dancers, which undermines the promotional value. So, I spent several months doing a deep dive on book promotion.
One of the things I learned is how to better use Amazon Advertising – basically, paying Amazon to promote your book (“sponsored” ads) while people are searching for, or looking at, other things. We decided to see if we could buy a little love from Amazon by paying for advertising.
I bought some software (KDP Rocket), and used it to generate appropriate keywords. We set up our campaign and, voila… nothing. No matter what I bid (the campaign “bids” for keywords against other advertisers), Amazon just won’t show our book to customers. Catch-22: Amazon doesn’t want to show your book if it isn’t selling well, and it can’t sell well if Amazon doesn’t show it.
So, that’s we why launched a $0.99 “Countdown Deal” for the ebook over the weekend. Note that, at this price, we will almost certainly lose money – the tiny royalty could never cover the cost of the advertising. But, within reason, we’re willing to take some losses to help get the word out (we’re still in the red on At’s Amore and the Zazzle store, but, hey, it’s all in a good cause, right?).
I also paid to have the book promoted on various discounted book lists, blogs, websites, etc.
It’s difficult to tell how well the promotion is working. Amazon Advertising doesn’t seem to be showing our book much, but sales have picked up (presumably through the discounted book lists). In fact, we sold enough to become the #1 Bestseller in the (admittedly small) book category “Ballroom Dance”!
That’s kind of fun. That was something I learned in my research as well. Amazon will automatically pick categories for your book, but you’re better off picking them yourself. Books about Ballroom Dance (which contains both fiction and non-fiction) seemed like an excellent fit. And, it’s a small category, so it’s easier to hit #1!
Notice the new cover, by the way?
It’s an attempt to make the cover more “click friendly” for the advertising campaign. Personally, I’m not a fan of it. But it does rather represent Shelly and Alan, doesn’t it?
Hopefully, the increased sales triggered by this event will at least get Amazon to show our ad. Keep your fingers crossed (and tell your friends how much they’ll love the book)!
This is the first in a series of blog posts about the creation of “Book 3” – the sequel to The Bicycle Waltz and At’s Amore.
Had a great brainstorming session today! I (Paul) had been entering our earlier ideas into my OneNote structure (subject of a future blog post), so I took Jean through the notes from beginning to end. Lots of great ideas came up along the way. Then, right at the end, Jean mentioned an idea she had for a particular scene. I was initially cool to the idea, because I didn’t see how it helped to move the story along. Then, boom! One of those blinding flashes of insight that I love most about writing. I suddenly saw where it fit. It was as though there had been a gaping hole there before and I just hadn’t noticed it. My inner Shelly said, “Exactly. That’s why I did that other thing.”
More discussion ensued, lunch got cold, and pretty soon Jean’s “scene” was a sequence of scenes telling its own little story, and moving the main story along.
On days like this, I really love this job!
I promised not to insert spoilers, but here’s a hint: Think of something that combines Alan’s engineering skills and his talent with kids – and then add dancing! I can’t wait to write those scenes!
Many readers have asked about a sequel to The Bicycle Waltz and At’s Amore. We’ve been kicking around story ideas for some time, but with the COVID-19 shutdowns, we expect to have a little more time in the coming months to really get down and work on the book.
But our free time will be intermittent as we often have our son, his wife, and our grandson with us. We take care of little Dillon (as in Dillon Beach – our own family trips were the inspiration for the scenes in At’s Amore) while Brian and Anjali work.
Anyway, we thought it might be fun to take our readers behind the scenes as we work on the new book using this blog. We’ll avoid spoilers, but we hope to give you an idea of our process – and our progress.
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