A lot happened this week. Some of it was good, especially around The Sword of Sirius Book 1: Red Flag Warning. Some of it was not so good, like the news around Evolution’s Hand Book 5: Split Infinities. Some of it was pretty good, like what happened with Evolution’s Hand Book 6: Unnatural Crypsis. And some of it was a lot more than I expected, like the news about The Sword of Sirius Book 2: Collapse Zone. Instead of continuing to drop names of various books, let’s take a look at the numbers, then dive into the details.
Progress Report 2024 Week 02 By the Numbers
After several weeks of word counts above 10,000, I finally missed the mark. Sort of.
You might expect me to lament not writing over 10,000 words this week. But I won’t, because the reason I didn’t write as many words is that I finished Red Flag Warning. It was kind of sudden. I thought I had one more chapter to write, but when I sat down to map the chapter in my mind, I realized I had already finished Owen Payne’s arc in his previous chapter. At the time, I thought that was simply the third chapter of his Plot Turn 2. Nope. It was his Resolution.
I started writing Red Flag Warning on October 17, 2023. I finished on January 5, 2024. That’s about six or seven weeks. That includes the pre-work of casting, building sets, and all the research needed to support the plot.
Just to put this into perspective, I started writing Evolution’s Hand Book 6: Unnatural Crypsis on June 11, 2023 and finished on October 15, 2023. That’s four full months. Red Flag Warning has half the number of arcs, but it took a little more than half the time to write. That fits with my observation that I tended to go a little deeper with the characters.
Finishing Red Flag Warning’s first draft is not a bad way to start the year!
The Bad News: It Was Bound to Happen
Silence and Tumbleweeds
You might remember that I worked with a Fiverr freelancer for the covers of Evolution’s Hand. Notice the past tense? Yeah, it was bound to happen: I tried to contact the freelancer, didn’t get an answer, and started digging. I found that their Fiverr account (I’d tried to contact them via Fiverr mail), Instagram account, Twitter account, Facebook account, Pinterest account, and website had been abandoned. Four books into a six book series, and my cover artist disappeared.
This is business. Providers come and go. It’s not something I need to get worked up about. So, I started checking around, with three goals: first, I wanted to find a cover artist to come up with something in the same spirit as the first four covers to finish Evolution’s Hand with a consistent look; second, I don’t want to re-do the first four covers, because they’re working and I like them; and third, I want to find a second cover artist so I’m not single-sourced.
Back in my progress post for 2021 week 36, Lynn suggested I check out The Cover Designer. I had liked that artist’s work when I looked at it back then. Still do. But it’s more like what I’m looking for for The Sword of Sirius, so I think I’ll ask them to bid on Red Flag Warning.
All the Eggs in Two Baskets
For the last two books of Evolution’s Hand, I looked around a bit more. Dale L. Roberts is a YouTuber whose work I respect. In one of his videos, he recommended MIBLART. So I opened a help desk ticket with them. In that ticket, I explained my situation and was initially horrified when they said they’d be glad to help — they just needed the original’s artist’s permission to continue.
Fortunately, I had the original PhotoShop files, so I could take the cover apart.
We went back and forth a few times. Since the original artist had supplied the PhotoShop file to me, I was able to disassemble them and give MIBLART the names of the fonts on the cover to prove they weren’t proprietary. They finally agreed (saying “we can continue the series design under your responsibility” — that’s not ominous or anything), and I have the order in. I should see the first draft next week.
During the conversation, MIBLART was prompt and courteous. I liked what I saw in their portfolio. I’m hopeful!
And since the original covers were works for hire, I’m not too concerned about taking responsibility for asking another company to continue the covers — especially after making a good faith effort to contact the original artist. I should own all rights anyway. We’ll see how that works out!
More Good News: Unnatural Crypsis
I had to throttle back my Crow’s World of Anime review workload because I changed jobs and needed more non-committed time (I hope just during my initial adjustment period). I had been publishing daily. This season, I eliminated three of the four seasonal series I review. The net effect is that I can focus more on learning stuff for my new job. An unintended consequence is I have a little more time for non-writing writing. Which is to say, things like marketing — or proofreading.
Last week, I kicked off the second draft of Unnatural Crypsis. I’ve tried to incorporate everything I’ve learned so far. My process is this:
- Select the next five chapters
- Put the first one through ProWritingAid’s Grammar checker
- Put the first one through ProWritingAid’s Style checker
- Repeat for all five chapters
- Read the first chapter out loud and make adjustments as necessary
- Repeat for all five chatpers
- Select the next five chapters
I’ve found that a batch of five chapters takes me about two and a half hours to complete. On Sunday, I tried two batches, and boy did I feel it that evening. Editing is a lot more taxing than writing! But overall, this is good news. In a couple of weeks, I should be ready to send Unnatural Crypsis to the beta reader. By the end of February, I should have it back from the beta reader, and if I stack proof reading with the next cover, I might be able to publish by the end of March.
Unexpected News about The Sword of Sirius Book 2: Collapse Zone
On Sunday evening, I wanted to do something to help my writing, but the thought of trying to work on even one more chapter from Unnatural Crypsis didn’t appeal to me. So, I built the Scrivener project for Collapse Zone.
That might sound like nothing, but it’s actually a bit of a time investment, given my setup. I don’t copy the *.scriv directory, which is one way the vendor suggests doing it. Instead, to make sure I get rid of accumulated cruft, I create a new project. Then, I copy some items folder by folder, like:
- Character Starting Points
- Ships, Stations, and Equipment
- Planetary Systems
I didn’t think I’d get this far for another couple of weeks!
Then I have to adjust the rsync scripts I use to bring down changes from my server or save to my server. I write most of the time on my MacBook Pro, but sometimes I write on my Mac Studio. I keep all of my files centrally located on a Mac Mini I use as a server, and it uses BackBlaze to backup the files off site. I also use Google Drive to backup to Google.
Yes, I’m paranoid about my data. And yes, I’ve needed to rely on that paranoia to recover files in the past.
I also began sketching the character’s starting points, which means I’ve selected the POV characters for the book:
- Ira Malhotra
- Owen Payne
- Luisa Brunnerr
Yep — same ones as Red Flag Warning. This is part of a trilogy, after all. I even have the broad strokes of the main plot sketched out. This is a lot more work than I thought I’d have done at this stage. I consider this good news.
Progress against Last Week’s Goals
Here’s how I did against last week’s goals:
- Write part 1 of Ira Malhotra’s Resolution: Done!
- Write Luisa Brunner’s Resolution: Done!
- Write Owen Payne’s Resolution: Done!
- Write part 2 of Ira Malhotra’s Resolution: Done!
- Send The Sword of Sirius Book 1: Red Flag Warning to an alpha reader: Done!
- Begin incorporating proofread into Evolution’s Hand Book 5: Split Infinities (stretch objective): Done!
Goals for the Week in Progress Report 2024 Week 02
Here’s what I hope to accomplish this week:
- Finish the second draft of 30 more chapters in Unnatural Crypsis
- Flesh out the character starting points for Collapse Zone
- Flesh out the character ending points for Collapse Zone
- Select likely tropes to play with in a nod to writing to market for Collapse Zone (stretch objective)
What Do You Think?
Have you ever tried writing to market? Did you enjoy writing a book you designed to fit a market as much as one wrote without trying to write to market? I’d love to hear about your experience — feel free to share in the comments!