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Publishing A Half-Million Words a Year
A half-million words a year. To achieve that, write 1,370 publishable words a day. Every day. Every single day. If you want to take a day off weekly, increase that to 1,600 words. Plan to take full weekends? Up the count to 1,918 a day.
That can be done, right? Sit down. Type words. But I said publishable which means only the words that survive for a final product. All the rough drafts, edits, and things-that-will-never-see-the-light-of-day don’t count.
That’s exactly what I do every year. A half-million words published. It’s my goal again for 2022.
The challenge for me isn’t achieving the count, but where do I publish the words? With the end of 2021 approaching, I’ve thought about what my focus will be next year. Today, I will share those thoughts with you so that you can react back to me (drop a comment to this post, send me an email, or add a social media comment to the share).
In the broad categories of where I publish to get to a half-million words, here are my thoughts:
For each of the last three years, I’ve published one book: The Lottery (2019), Jaxon with an X (2020), and Liars’ Table (2021). For this upcoming year, though, I plan to bring two books to market, both in the same town of Millerton North Carolina
The initial draft of the first should be completed by the end of this month. I will work with my editing team to make revisions with a goal of bringing the book to market in the spring.
The second book is more challenging. I maintain a notebook of ideas for potential novels and have it narrowed down to two possibilities. I’m flushing both out to see if they have enough legs to make it to novel length and then will decide which one to focus on. Assuming all goes well, it would be released in the fall.
For 2023 and beyond, I have several ideas in my brainstorming books, but too early to know which will follow. Some are in Millerton like my other books, but some aren’t. A couple are so different they may never come to market because they are so far from what I’ve written. For now, though, let’s focus on the coming year.
Musings & Micro-Short Stories
I started the Monday Musing just over a year ago. Each week finds a growing audience, so they seem to be hitting their mark. The format is open enough for creativity and evolution and closed enough to tie them together. Some weeks are random thoughts (like this), but others are micro-short stories.
Micro-short stories are one to two thousand words long that seem to fit best as a weekly Musing—like last week’s The Red Balloon (Except Silver)—or as its own post—Osprey’s Tall Tale. The stories are fictionalized but usually based on real events. As I say, they are totally true except for the parts I make up. And, yes, I have a vivid and weird imagination, which is good for this job but somewhat dangerous in social settings.
I expect the Musings will continue to evolve. I’m toying with dropping the “Monday” from “Monday Musings” to give some flexibility of when to share yet maintain a consistent branding.
In between the healthy (and commercial) length of novels and the quick and dirty micro-short stories is the never-never land of short stories (up to ten thousand words) and novellas (ten to forty thousand words). These poor things are neither short enough to be a blog post nor long enough to be sold as books (though some people try). In the old days, they tended to be sold to magazines, but few such outlets exist today and even fewer pay.
This past year, I wrote Fish Tale as a part of Liars’ Table, but then carved it out in the editing process. It worked well as a stand-alone short story as both a marketing tool for the book and an enticement for people to sign up for my newsletter.
Not all of them fit that well, however, despite having a lengthy list of ideas. One I’m planning to release early next year is already largely written, but has nothing to do with any of my books. Another is perfect for a Halloween story and might come out around September / October. Sadly, it links more to a novel I’ll probably never write simply because it doesn’t fit at all (think werewolves, so I’d probably have to do that under a pen name).
The problem isn’t just that they don’t tie in to my current or planned novels, but where do I put them for readers? My thought, for sure, is to give them to my newsletter subscribers. For Fish Tale and the novella Alone Together, I used BookFunnel which allowed people to download the story to their Kindle, Nook, Kobo Reader, iPad, or whatever and read it just like they would any ebook. Some people find that convenient and others hate using a third party service even though it’s free (to them, with a reasonable charge to me).
Maybe I also put them out somewhere for others to read (Medium?) or just as a really long post on the website. Not sure right now and wide open to ideas.
(Note: Yes, at some point I can assemble short stories and sell them as a collection, but I don’t plan to make that a focus for now).
The other long form of fiction writing is the serialized novel and the short answer is no, I do not plan to do one in 2022. Long-time fans will remember Pestilence which I shared weekly back in 2018. I love the characters—Travis Makepeace, Cooper Gatley, Andrea Fletcher, and more—and promised to revisit them to see where they are now. Unfortunately, the story of a virus sweeping the globe and changing the way we live seems inappropriate at the moment. I’m thinking no one would want to read that. Timing is everything, so Trav and Coop will have to wait.
The Thundering Herd (aka, The Dogs)
My plans have come together for the other areas of my writing, but this is the hardest for me. My dogs are a big part of my life and always will be, so there will be no change around the house. The challenge, though, is how to best tell their stories.
I struggle so much to remain creative over on the dogs’ website. I’m approaching 5,000 posts in nearly a decade-and-a-half telling their tales (about their tails). That doesn’t even count several years of stories before that in other forms. For the past couple years, I’ve felt like I repeat myself more often than not.
As passionate and enthusiastic as their fans are, the numbers support my thoughts. For the last several years, daily reads and visits have dropped steadily.
So what do I do? I’ve long thought a better solution might be to merge those stories into my micro-short stories on this website, much like I did with Canine Decorum. The best and funniest of the photographs I take of them could easily become social media fodder for the author pages. The biggest question is how do I get from where I am (daily short takes with a photo or two) to where I want to be (longer but less frequent stories).
The other idea I’ve toyed with is writing a book about The Herd over the years, mixing in tales from the dogs past with the ones present. It wouldn’t be a chronological book or even a story so much as a collection of thoughts and tales I’ve learned living with them.
(Note that the dogs also have a newsletter, not to be confused with the monthly newsletter below. It is largely an automated reminder of the new posts on that website).
Marketing / Newsletters / Photography
Along with the big tasks above comes the routine writing and marketing. In big chunks, they are:
Monthly Newsletter—Subscriber count for my monthly newsletter grew by 56% over the past year. The surveys expand the number of responses and comments each month. My last subscriber survey indicated high satisfaction with all of the parts of the newsletter. I don’t foresee any changes.
Books Read—Out of the hundred books a year I read, I share the best books with a short synopsis. I don’t get big volume of traffic from this, but the people who read them appreciate the comments. I plan to continue.
Photography—Pointing a camera isn’t the same as writing; yet, it’s story telling. For the coming year, though, that will remain in the background. I’ll share cool images, but without a big strategy of any sort.
The one place I’ve been cutting back and will continue to do so. Frankly, I hit a breaking point in January, tired of the constant bickering and toxicity. A social media vacation helped me gain perspective on what mattered and what didn’t.
I closed my Tumblr accounts and scaled back the others. I did experiment with some newer entrants into the social media world, but none of them are particularly intriguing. I only posted 58 times this year on my personal Facebook account when I had been doing it one to two times a day. About half of the posts this year were actually sharing a memory from a prior year.
I would walk away from social media in total except for one thing—it’s the number one way new readers find my books. Until I come up with a better answer, I need to maintain a presence.
For the coming year, I expect to use primarily my business social media accounts, predominantly Facebook, with a goal of getting people to read the things I’ve mentioned above. Much of that will be paid advertising since business accounts have such poor reach.
I will monitor those accounts for comments and personally respond as appropriate daily.
I follow a number of good friends who post fun things and comment on those posts. I also participate in a number of private social media groups, mostly about writing. I plan to continue both of those.
For following other authors and websites, though, I’ve revved up my use of an RSS reader (Feedly) so I can keep track of other blogs and websites directly.
So my writing goals for 2022 are fairly straightforward. These pieces will get me to around a half-million words published in various forms:
- Publish two to three books
- Publish a weekly musing with either thoughts or a micro-short story
- Publish two to three short stories
- Publish a monthly newsletter
- Publish summaries of my favorite books read
- Continue publishing about the dogs, but evolve that platform to a more creative space
- Continue evolving my use of social media to a healthier place
What do you think? I welcome your comments and thoughts as I figure these things out.
Kobo VIP Sale
Amazon may be the big retailer for ebooks in the US, but Kobo is huge globally. I personally buy most of my fiction from them and am a member of their VIP program. For only $10 a year, VIP members get a number of perks, including 10% off the retail price of over a million-and-a-half titles. They also run VIP special sales with even deeper discounts. Click to get all of the details of their VIP program.
To be clear, this sale is only at Kobo and only for their VIP members. Enter Promo Code DECVIP to get the discount.
Disclosures to keep the lawyers happy—those are NOT affiliate links. I am not connected with Kobo in any way other than I am a VIP customer and my books are sold through them. I do earn royalties if you buy my books just like I would if you buy them anywhere else. If you buy any other books from them or join their VIP program, I do not earn a penny or receive any special consideration.
Books Read – When These Mountains Burn
Interesting Links – Aerial Alaska
The beauty of Alaska has long intrigued me and talented photographer Mike Criss can bring it to life. This video is a few years old, but it caught my attention recently and I thought you might enjoy it.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
For those of you who’ve wondered, yes, Siberian Huskies can and do fly with ease—especially if deer are on the other side of the fence. Though the tail gives away his identity, this is Landon, who is nicknamed Boom Boom for his bouncy ways. He hops, skips, jumps, and flies rather than walks. No sense in being boring.
Background title image is courtesy Camilo Jimenez
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