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Accountability Post 2021 Week 25

Introduction to the Accountability Post 2021 Week 25

Plotting continues for book 2, Epsilon Eridani. I’ll bet you’ll be completely unsurprised at the approach I took! I’ve also had to build out some new parts of my world, which I take as a good sign — at least, if you want to cover new ground, and I hope my readers do! Finally, I continue to think about launch strategies, and I’m still not sure what approach I’ll take. Let’s start by talking about plotting!

Accountability Post 2021 Week 25: Plotting Mania!

Thank Heavens for Katherine Cowley and Dan Wells!

I had struggled to write the Book 1, 61 Cygni, for decades. I would say literally, but misuse has rendered that word meaningless. So, I’ll say that when I say decades, I mean decades. As in, since the late 1980s.

That’s CE (or AD), by the way.

After trying a lot of stuff that didn’t work, I took the uncommon step of trying something new. Beats didn’t work. Neither did wishful thinking! Which is a shame, because I invested a small fortune in time on that approach. Back in December 2020, on my search for ideas, I came across a post by Katherine Cowley. That post pointed me to Dan Wells’ YouTube series about Story Structure. That series did what almost 30 years of fruitless effort couldn’t. It gave me a way forward. By the end of May this year, I had finished the second draft of Book 1.

Before discovering Dan Well’s series, I had written beats that covered about 1/2 of Book 1. That means that even though I tried to adopt the concepts and techniques that Dan Wells talked about, a lot of that effort went into retrofitting what I already had into the new structure. It went well, which the Reedsy developmental editor will (I hope!) confirm. Now, I’m starting off with it. Did it help by using it from the beginning?

In the Beginning…

The short answer is “Yes.” The slightly longer answer is “I think so.” The full answer is a little more complex. It felt right to keep the same number of plots/subplots in Book 2 as Book 1. I used Dan Well’s recommendation to assemble the main plot first. What’s interesting about his approach is that it doesn’t work start to finish. In fact, here’s how he suggested we approach plot:

Plot SegmentOrder in Appearance Order of Operation
Plot Turn 124
Pinch 136
Pinch 257
Plot Turn 265
Resolution 71

Basically, he suggested we start at the Resolution and work backward. Instead of me talking through it, please go check out the series of 5 videos. I not only like the approach he recommended. I liked the examples he used. One example does more for me than 200 pages of explanation.

So did it help? I think the answer is yes. So far, I’ve finished the 7 points for the main action plot and have chosen the six characters whose arcs I want to present. There’s a lot of overlap of Point of View (POV) characters between Book 1 and 2. Melchizedek Conrad and Atticus Porter show up, as well as Liam Martin and Jack Booth. Helmine Stein and Ira Malhotra join the cast by replacing Quaid Adair and Linda Southfield. Malhotra played a role in Book 1, and I liked the character so much I wanted to give her some more screen time.

As of Sunday, I’d completed laying out all seven points for all six characters. This coming week, I want go through the plot points one more time, then braid them. There’s a chance that by my next accountability post, I’ll have word count to report!

The EU Asteroid Fleet Takes Shape!

I had to sketch the general outline of the European Union’s space fleet in Book 1. Good thing, because it’ll play a larger role in Book 2. I’d already defined the class of ships that I’ll feature. They’re called Maarten Tromp class patrol ships. They take their individual names from European mountain ranges. The ship that showed up in Book 1 (though I think I didn’t disclose its name) was the Monte Titano. Though thinking about it, maybe I should choose a mountain range as the class name and individual peaks as ships…

That would leave the Generals’ names for larger ships. Or vice versa. Hmmm….

So I’m building out the EU Fleet. I also have to build out the German government of that era, because there’s stuff going down there. I’ll also have to build out the federal government of The Middle States, which is in Little Rock Arkansas. There stuff going down there, too!

World building is so much fun I could spend a lot more time doing it! But I’m trying to maintain discipline. In other words, I don’t want to give myself an excuse not actually write!

Choosing a Launch Strategy

When it comes to a launch strategy, I think I like the approach that Nick Stephenson takes in his program Your First 10,000 Readers. His goals are to minimize dependency on a single distributor, like Amazon, and to drive traffic to your own website so you can manage and direct traffic. A couple of years ago, in an attempt to force myself to write, I bought one of his courses, and I learned a lot from it.

I’d say there are two drawbacks to his plan, but in reality, there are two drawbacks to managing the marketing myself, regardless of which method I use. First, it’s going to take a ton of time to build an e-mail distribution list. I don’t have experience with the techniques I’ll need to use, and that causes apprehension. Second, I’ll need to interface this WordPress site with MailChimp or other e-mail management program. That’s not hard, but it’s something else I’ll need to maintain. And it’s something else that could go wrong and degrade a reader’s experience.

Long story short, I’m still thinking about what approach to use.

Accountability Post 2021 Week 25: What’s On Deck for Next Week?

Starting tomorrow, I intend to focus on making sure I have the right plot points for all seven plots/subplots. Once that’s behind me, I intend to braid those points into a compelling, exciting, and satisfying plot that readers will adore and speak highly of for centuries.

Failing that, I hope to at least braid it together into something better than a tangled, confusing mess. I want to aim high but be realistic at the same time!

If all goes swimmingly this week, I ought to start writing. We’ll see! You know how real life can be.

Accountability Post 2021 Week 25: Closing Thoughts

Have you ever written a series? How’d you build a mailing list? I’d love to hear your experience. Please drop me a note in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Accountability Post 2021 Week 25

  1. My first attempt at a series, I was plotting them four books at a time. Admittedly, they were novella length and that meant that I could easily do that.

    However, I’m about to start work on a complete rewrite of the series and my goal is to completely plot out the entire series before I start writing. It’s a massive task, but I think the benefits will outweigh the effort.

    As for release structure, the two that I think you’re probably going to look at are a rapid release of one book a month for three months or something slower. The rapid release idea is great if you can keep it going. I think it’s better to set your readers expectations. If they think you’ll release a book once a year, they won’t get annoyed if you’re not releasing every month.

    Now, for my craziest take. I’m not sure if I will do a newsletter again. I did one before and used BookFunnel with a lead magnet to create a list. Honestly, organic traffic is much better. The list won’t be as big, but you’ll know that they are there for you and your story. I have so many free books on my iPhone that I will probably never read all of them. I also feel like this post you do here is effectively what you would put in a newsletter anyhow. That means you either need to write another similar piece for that or drop this one. You could send it to the newsletter and then put it here later, but then it’s not exclusive so there’s no need to be on the newsletter. I feel like I’d rather they signed up for the site and get the updates that way. It also means that someone can find all the old posts and read those.

    I know it’s considered best practice, but I can’t seem to get the idea to work in my head. Maybe I’ll regret it, maybe I won’t.

    1. “However, I’m about to start work on a complete rewrite of the series and my goal is to completely plot out the entire series before I start writing. It’s a massive task, but I think the benefits will outweigh the effort.”

      Having written without an outline before, at least in terms of how I write, I think you’re 100% right. I have the overall arc of the first three books worked out. I also have portions of future arcs laid out. I had thought that might be enough, and it might be. I’m not sure. You’ve got me thinking about that.

      “If they think you’ll release a book once a year, they won’t get annoyed if you’re not releasing every month.”

      That’s a good point. Reader expectations could make or break the books! I keep reading that you don’t want to make readers wait too long, especially for the first several (3? 4?) books. My sense is that I’ll try to prep the first three books and release them 2 or 3 months apart. I might even set expectations in the second and third books’ afterwards. Maybe. I’m going to study that a bit more.

      ” I’m not sure if I will do a newsletter again.”

      You’re not the first person that I’ve seen say that recently. Maybe it depends on the writer. Some can leverage a mailing list, some can’t. In my wife’s business, she rocks her mailing lists. I’m afraid I’d dump tons of time and get nowhere.

      “I feel like I’d rather they signed up for the site and get the updates that way. It also means that someone can find all the old posts and read those.”

      I’m kinda thinking that way, too. I want this site to feel like a conversation, and I’d like folks to feel comfortable. Ironically, because I don’t like public engagement, I want to offer my readers access to my thought processes. I’ve often imagined what it would have been like if Tolkien or Frank Herbert had shared their creative processes.

      That might be something distinctive for my readers. And hey, if they don’t like it, they can ignore the site and enjoy the books! Their choice!

      I like comparing notes with you. It’s going to be interesting to see when we throttle up our marketing campaigns!

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