2018 July & August Bi-Monthly Goals — Derek Barton

July Goal

It’s time for more goal setting and goal results!

I do want to apologize that I skipped out of sending a post for May & June.  The only goals I had for those two months were to produce The Bleeding Crown and the audiobook for Consequences Within Chaos.  So for those two months, I was successful, but the effort was all-consuming.  I am frankly still worn out!

 

Now for the results of March & April Bi-Monthly goals:

  • Outline new chapters for subplots and additional material – Finish by 2nd week of March  (Success!)
  • Finish writing new subplots/additional material – Finish by 3rd week of March (Success!)
  • Complete 3rd Wave of edits & send out to Beta Readers – Finish by end of March  (Success!)
  • Complete 1st Wave of edits for Elude #1 – Finish by end of April (Not completed in April.)
  • Complete the Cover for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of March (Not completed until late May.  Went through over thirty variations!  But the result worked out and I am very happy with the cover.)
  • Get feedback from beta-readers – Finish by end of April (Not completed in April.)
  • Complete the 4th wave and final edit for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of April (Not completed in April.)
  • Write a separate blog entry outside of goals and The Hidden Saga — Finish by 2nd week for April (Not accomplished.)
  • Walk 1 mile a day (60 miles for the two months) – Complete for both months (Sadly this didn’t happen either as I donated every minute into getting The Bleeding Crown ready for release.)
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month – Complete for both months (Success!)
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks – Complete for both months (Success!)

So the overall results were not pretty — 50% of the goals my lowest scoring yet — but I am still very happy with my latest novel.  I have taken the time after the book release to recoup some and will be able to jump into the horror/action/thriller.  Already, the work for Elude is going very smoothly.

 

Now for the NEW goals for July & August Bi-Monthly goals:

  • Complete the Audiobook for In Four Days.
  • Create/organize this year’s 2018 Indie Fantasy Book Giveaway with several other independent authors.
  • Add a new page to the site showcasing associates and people I have worked with and what they can do for other writers.
  • Find at least two places to do a book-signing appearance.
  • Schedule one or two more comic-cons or book festivals by the end of the year.
  • Finish editing for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Design the book cover for Elude #1 & #2.
  • Write the end of Elude #3.
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month.
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks.

You may notice that I didn’t include any health or personal goals here.  I am working on finding a better balance with my free time with writing work and health/fitness time.  Plus I have a family that I want to see more of!

In 2016 and 2017, I walked up to 3 or 4 miles nearly every night.  In 2018, I have fallen into a bad pattern of not walking and spending a lot of time on my writing.  But my health has seriously suffered and I am my heaviest weight ever.  I am admitting this because I know that I can and will do better.  For now, I will be posting my writing goals.  Once I have decided what direction I want to take with my health, I will then maybe include those personal/health goals.

It has already been a successful and productive year and I hope to keep it growing.  I hope each of you has also had an amazing year.  Thanks to everyone who has supported me or been a cheerleader — IT IS GREATLY APPRECIATED!!

 

 

 

 

 

2018 March & April Bi-Monthly Goals — Derek Barton

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It is that time again to recap my progress on the Bi-Monthly goals I had for January & February and reveal what I want to accomplish this March & April.

For January & February:

** Complete the 2nd wave of edits for The Bleeding Crown — Finish by 3rd Week of Jan  —  This has been completed, but now I have a ton of writing and adding of material to bolster the manuscript.  I have two people helping me do even more in-depth editing and that is nearing the midway point.

** Start 1st wave of edits for Elude #1 — Begin by the 4th week of Jan — Started and worked up to the third scene.  I will continue this project with more intensity once the editing and additional writing have been completed for Bleeding Crown.

** Work of Cover for The Bleeding Crown — Begin by 2nd week of Jan —  This project took up a lot more time than it should have and I used it as an easy excuse to avoid writing…  The additional chapter material I have left for The Bleeding Crown is complex and will take a lot of plotting and organizing (battles, chase scene, etc!).  So far I have 12 different covers worked up but I am not happy with any of them.  I will be putting up the “favs” so far for a vote on my newsletter for this month.  Please let me know what you think!

** Complete Marketing Campaign for The Bleeding Crown — Finish by the 4th week of Jan — Started but not in earnest as I still have more research on proper marketing techniques to accomplish.  I want to advertise but I need to be sure it is the best use of my marketing budget.  If anyone has suggestions — things that have worked well for them, please comment below!

** Complete story subplot and finalize The Bleeding Crown (25,000+ words) — Begin by 2nd Week of Jan — Wrote only 8,000 words of the 25,000 I need.  This goal will definitely be carried forward and will have to be done PRONTO!

** Finalize work on Marketing Campaign for Consequences Within Chaos Audiobook — Begin by 2nd week of Jan  — The audiobook is still being worked on but the project had a setback due to some unforeseen issues.  No worries, as it is coming along and sounds great, however, I pushed this goal to the backburner until the audiobook is closer to being completed.

** Write a separate blog entry outside of goals and The Hidden Saga — Finish by 2nd Week of Feb — Really happy with this accomplishment and the blog itself has been attracting a lot of attention.  If you missed it:  Essential Elements of Book Covers

** Lose 15 pounds by end of February — Lose 2 pounds a week  — UGH.  I seesawed back and forth with a few pounds both months, but overall not much success.  Damn Burger King and its 2 for $6 offer!!  LOL    I am going to change the goal focus next month.  I want to start with baby steps to ensure that I have some weight loss.  In other words, I am going to make a goal as walking a mile a night for the next 60 days which equals to 60 miles.  I know that sounds like a lot, but last year I was in the habit of walking 3 to 4 miles each night.  Then if that works, the next goal set will add some possible weightlifting or dietary goals.  This should kickstart my weight loss, but we shall see!

** Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month — Completed by Feb 15th — Done and will continue to carry this goal forward.

** Keep up The Hidden saga on the website every 2 weeks — Finished by 4th Week of Feb — Done and will continue to carry this goal forward.  If you are behind, CATCH UP!  Chapter 8, Chapter 9 & Chapter 10 are available…

So… excluding the Audiobook goal, I completed 6 out of 9 (67%) which isn’t horrible and getting closer to “success” (80%).

Now for the next Bi-Monthly goals:

  • Outline new chapters for subplots and additional material – Finish by 2nd week of March
  • Finish writing new subplots/additional material – Finish by 3rd week of March
  • Complete 3rd Wave of edits & send out to Beta Readers – Finish by end of March
  • Complete 1st Wave of edits for Elude #1 – Finish by end of April
  • Complete the Cover for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of March
  • Get feedback from beta-readers – Finish by end of April
  • Complete the 4th wave and final edit for The Bleeding Crown – Finish by end of April
  • Write a separate blog entry outside of goals and The Hidden Saga — Finish by 2nd week for April
  • Walk 1 mile a day (60 miles for the two months) – Complete for both months
  • Send out Monthly Newsletters by 15th of the month – Complete for both months
  • Keep up The Hidden saga on website every 2 weeks – Complete for both months

Thanks again for everyone’s support and interest in my progress.  I am super thrilled with the storyline for The Bleeding Crown and anxious to hear everyone’s input on it.  And Elude is also an exciting project that I cannot wait to sink my teeth in.

Let me know if you had any suggestions for marketing!  What was your experience with Facebook ads?  Any success with Amazon Ads or did you have a different source for advertising?

 

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The Essential Elements of Book Covers — Derek Barton

Covers

When there are hundreds of new books traditionally published or self-published on a daily basis, how will your work stand out?

When a reader scans through the Amazon or Kindle online sites and spends one to two seconds on your novel’s image, how will you keep their attention?

These are just two of the critical questions you should ask yourself and give serious thought to when it comes to your book’s cover.  The easiest way to make or lose sales depends on how you present your novel.

It is just that simple, and yet, IMPORTANT.

I have possibly two or three of my own works coming out this year so I wanted to be sure I had all the available tools and weapons from the industry at my disposal.  Thus, for the last month, I have been reading articles, documenting notes and discovering just what the professionals consider a “professional book cover”.  What were the keys to the “best” covers and what are the strikes that torpedo cover art?

Here are some of the laws or elements that the professionals have suggested and I have outlined here for you!  They are broken down into three subjects:  Overall Principles, Style and Typesetting.

Overall Principles:

  • Keep it simple!
  • Let the cover “breathe” —  keep the cover open and not crowded.   If they don’t know what to focus on, they are just going to skip past it.
  • Use no more than three different colors and include black, white, or grey.  
  • Focus on a theme or emotion.  Relate it to what your story is about.  This is your novel’s billboard after all!
  • Find good imagery.  Don’t use anything blurry or cluttered which can confuse the reader and make them move on.

 

Style:

  • Place a darkened border around the edges to make the cover POP or stand out.
  • Beware using centered text as it creates a “wineglass effect”.  This effect has become cliché and earmarked as amateurish.
  • Create an imaginary box for implied margins.  All your words, titles and names should stay within the box and not go to the edge of your page.
  • Consider “ghosted boxes” or page divisions for text.  This can help keep fonts colors from blending or contrasting with your image colors.
  • Composition – make a grid of your cover and keep in mind the placement of each itemThis will prevent clusters or odd centering issues.

 

Typesetting:

  • Limit your cover to as few typefaces as you can.  The fewer fonts you have the more simplistic, cleaner look.
  • Avoid script and calligraphy typefaces!  If the title or YOUR NAME is hard to read, then what is the point?  I broke this one myself on my first book cover version — It may look awesome to you, but if the reader cannot tell what it says, then no one will care what it says.
  • Distressed text should not have uniform letters.  If your font looks like it has marbling, be sure that there isn’t consistent marbling in each letter or it will not look natural.
  • Don’t stretch or condense words!
  • Kern your text – letter spacing.  Kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result.  It will also prevent your words from being misinterpreted.

As I stated above, these are just the most consistent laws or elements discussed when describing the fundamentals to book cover art that I have found.  There are other factors that can produce or reduce sales.  And sometimes there are “break out” covers that will not adhere to these rules and are very successful.  It all comes down to fan judgment and book sales success to really know if you scored well on your book cover design.

I truly hope that this is beneficial to your own book cover creations and if you have a suggestion or an element that you would suggest, feel free to comment.

 

2017 Bio Blog — Derek Barton

JJ 2016 #2

 

Recently I noticed a trend on Youtube.com where writers were making vlogs and answering questions about themselves as well as writing rituals and practices.  So, I thought I would do this as well and even throw in some random personal questions.  You can learn a few things I do as well as learn something new about me at the same time!

I will start with the writing ritual questions first and then get down to some random and fun facts about me.

  • When do you write?  I am a night owl which is perfect for my writing as I need the quiet time to be free of distractions.  These elements help me to immerse into my writing zone.  With my day job I am fortunate that it starts later in the day and I can sleep in!  Usually, I write from 11 or 11:30 pm to 1:30 to 2am.
  • How do you review what you wrote the previous day?  There is a lot of sound advice out there on how to produce more material on a daily basis.  The best tip so far that I picked up suggests to work non-stop and do not edit until you have completed your manuscript.  I cannot say that it was easy to resist the edit bug, but Consequences Within Chaos‘s first rough draft took me three years to write (I wasn’t as serious about writing and producing as I am now).  The Bleeding Crown, my sequel’s rough draft has only taken five months… I would say that this is proof enough that it helped me crank it out much faster.
  • What song is your “go to” when you are feeling uninspired?  I prefer to listen to classical music when I write.  Nothing but instrumentals.  At first, I used Pandora, but now I like to find large blocks of “epic music” on Youtube.  I let them play in the background as I work.  Depending on the type of story or my mood this can vary, but I do not have a “go to” song necessarily.  Soundtracks from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings or Braveheart also have been able to motivate me.
  • What do you always do when you are struggling with writers’ block?  To avoid writers’ block and staring at a blank screen, I work up detailed outlines.  There are many benefits to outlines and developing character backgrounds.  Prepping is the key to getting into that writer zone — that moment your writing flows from your fingertips and there is no struggle to find the right word or dialog.  I have already seen the scene in my head and now I can concentrate on relaying it in the best descriptive details I can.
  • What tools do you use when you are drafting?  I used Microsoft Word like everyone else at first, but now I prefer the writers’ program called Scrivener.  It seems that there is no middle ground in opinions on it.  You either LOVE IT OR HATE IT.  I love it!  It has a great setup to store the work, organize the notes, templates for character write-ups, outlines, everything all in one file and place.  With Word, I had a million files.  Scrivener also lets you have split screening which comes in handy often.
  • What are the things you cannot live without when you are writing?  Pretty much what I have already discussed:  Scrivener has become an integral part of my work.  And Outlining a must.  Before I realized that I work best with a map of my story, I failed to complete most stories and/or lost interests or energy in the storyline.
  • How do you fuel yourself during writing sessions?  Diet Rockstars and Popsecret Homestyle Microwave popcorn.
  • How do you know when you are done writing?  For a typical writing session, I am done when my eyes are blurring and I cannot easily put a sentence together.  I strive for a certain word count (or if I am feeling energetic, I try to do a particular scene in one shot).  My goal is 750 to 1,000 words in a session but it depends on the night, the scene I am writing and my energy level.
  • How do you persevere on projects to finish them?  Again, outlines have become the “light at the end of the tunnel” for me.  However, they can be a detriment as well if you let it completely control your writing.  In some cases, writers have complained that they are too confined by the outline or they get thrown off if they have an idea that flows outside the outline.  Or if you do like I did at the end of my first book — I kept seeing how close I was and I literally blazed through the last part to just get to that “The End” statement.  It didn’t lend itself well to the story and took a lot of rewriting.  Now that I am more experienced I have a little better control of myself.  Whatever is the case, one important factor to remember is that outlines are constructs for your use, not words set in stone.  If something strikes you suddenly and it isn’t in your outline, then simply add it. See where the idea takes you in the outline.  It is much easier to amend, add or subtract from an outline than if you change your whole story, rewrote a massive amount of text to only find out it doesn’t work after all.   As you can see, I approach writing now much more on an organized, structured viewpoint (I have poured myself into reading a lot of advice books and writing craft material).  With my word counts per day and scheduling, I know roughly when I am going to be done. I would have to say that of the various stages in writing, outlining has become my favorite.  Building that foundation produces that momentum and drive I need to finish.  I know how the idea is going to end and now I just have to write it out so that I can share that fantastic story and ending with you!
  • How do you keep consistency in your novels?  Scrivener has become a large help with keeping notes and such, but I also utilize Excel charting, Pinterest for story sources and Word files for isolated notes (you can import these into Scrivener as well).  Also, I read once that if you go back through your manuscript after you write it and plot out all the events on a timeline as they occur in the prose, you will see any possible plot holes or events that happen out of order.
  • How do you handle when you are stuck in your plot?  OYYY That is so hard to get through.  I have encountered that when a question occurs to me that I haven’t determined the answer for yet or it has happened when I haven’t really fleshed out the outline enough for that part of the story.  Take a short break, move on to the next part or go back to your outline to further think of ways to move through the block.  Give yourself some distance from it so as to give yourself another vantage point to see the issue.  Also, sometimes you can hit up other writers to bounce ideas off or you can hit the internet for possible answers or options.
  • How do you come up with ideas to fill out your outline?  Pretty much the same answer as the above question.  Maybe think of a new subplot that would add to the story that you could weave into the outline?  Be careful though.  Don’t add filler or fluff just to make word counts.  Readers will see right through that.  Make the quality just as important as the quantity as well.  Filling up the outline takes a lot of thought and this is where I have had “writers’ block” and frustration, but ideas eventually come.  Some writers let their subconscious mull it over as they sleep or during the day while on their day jobs.
  • How long did it take to write your first draft and how many edits?  I already said that the first draft was three years, but it took another two years of editing, refining, reworking and adding to the story.  Then I had to determine which path I was going to take:  Traditional or Self-publishing.  I am truly happy with the self-publishing route and the entire process has been very fulfilling.  I have learned a massive amount about my writing, myself and the writing industry over the last year.  It has also enhanced my work and my techniques.  I am passing a lot of what I learned in blogs like this so you can also jumpstart your own paths.
  • How long do you wait to revise your first draft?  This time I waited over 5 weeks (it was not easy) but was way worth the “time off” to recharge, work on other projects and was a bit of an award for working so hard.  Now I am in the heart of my first edit.  Industry experts suggest 6 weeks.  It just so happened the first of the month came up during the fifth week so it felt right to start then.  The first time I didn’t take any time off after writing to wait to edit.
  • Is there a genre that is outside your comfort zone that you think would be fun to write?   Currently, I am a horror/medieval fantasy writer and I love both.  I like to write horror just a tad more but I love to read fantasy so much that I write fantasy stories for me.  I used to read an Ed McBain’s detective novels (87th Precinct) and Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes series has also inspired me to write in the “hard-boiled grim detective” genre.  I will be writing my Elude Novels during the NaNoWriMo Challenge this November.  I have been excited about it and so far I have gotten some really positive reactions from the samples posted online.

Now for some more personal stuff and random questions 🙂

  • Where were you born?  I am originally from a small town called Warsaw, Indiana.  I moved out to Phoenix, Arizona in 1996 and have loved it for over twenty-one years!  Summer year round is amazing.
  • What is your favorite pizza toppings?  I am a huge Hawaiian Pizza fan but it doesn’t take much to please me with pizza — just throw a couple types of meat and some cheese on it and I am there!
  • If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?  I love Snow Crab Legs!  Thanks go to my wife for showing me the great wonders of crab.
  • Where have you traveled outside the country?  I haven’t done much traveling, but I have been to Rocky Point, Mexico and various parts of Canada.  I would love to see Australia and Scotland in my lifetime though.
  • Who has been the biggest influence in your life?  Why?  The two authors that really influenced me are from two opposing genres — Stephen King, of course, made me dream of being a writer — many writers and would-be writers growing up in the 80s would agree with that.  I devoured every novel or short story I could get my hands on.  In my late twenties, I started reading fantasy and that became my new obsession.  I read and collected everything by R.A. Salvatore.  These two authors definitely shaped my writing voice.
  • What do you think is the best television show created?  I am really invested in the Game of Thrones series which should not shock anyone.  My favorite before that was Dexter (you see a theme here?  Fantasy/Horror.  I cannot seem to escape this trend!).  I have also really liked Penny Dreadful, Star Trek, Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead.
  • What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?  I am a huge fan of racquetball, pickleball and tennis.  I also love hiking and occasionally I like to lift weights — which I need to make more routine!  Movies and video games are also a great source of inspiration and entertainment.  Absolutely love my family and spending time on the weekends with them especially.
  • Proudest moment in life?  Can’t help but say the moment when I first held Jessiena, my two-year-old daughter!  Every element of my life has led up to this wonderful little life in my hands and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!!
  • Do you have any tattoos and/or piercings?  I have a large shoulder tattoo that I am very happy with.  I designed it — it has a black Celtic knot in the center of a ring of three black, tribal dragon heads.  The knot represents the many convoluted ways you can take in life and the dragon heads represent the three aspects of my Past, my Present and the Future me.
  • Favorite holiday or time of year?  October and especially Halloween is the best for me.  It really brings out the creative side of me and I like to work up new costumes each year.  They tend to be nearly all undead but with twists or unique differences.  So much fun!  My wife is also going to dress this year (she hasn’t in a long time).  She will be doing the Day of the Dead look maybe.  Jessiena will be a tiny scarecrow.  She’s going to be so adorable!

Okay, I think that will do.  Hope this was useful and you got some helpful writing tips.  Or at least a little fun for your day!

Happy Halloween, Everyone!

Halloween 2015

Bi-Monthly Goal Recap & New Goals Set — Derek Barton

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July & August Bi-Monthly Goals 

In early July, I detailed how I came across an idea of Bi-Monthly Goal Setting by YouTube blogger, Kristen Martin

Overall, my goals were ambitious and probably a bit unrealistic.  However, I did accomplish the biggest goals in my opinion and I am very proud of that.  I will be a bit more strategic with the new goals and I want to have more balanced goals for the next two months.  When you work a full-time day job and have limited time and energy at night, you have to decide on priorities.  Technically, I was not successful in meeting 80% with getting only 7 of the 15 goals, but that is okay as it teaches me even more about myself and lessons on better goal-making.

RECAP: 

  1. Finalize my Chapter Outlines for The Bleeding Crown
  2. Complete the First Rough Draft of Bleeding Crown
  3. Complete 52,000 words written (52 days * 1000 words)

So the good news is that I did finalize my outline and I was able to finish the first draft of Bleeding Crown on August 26th.  I started it back on March 26th which means it only took me five months which is a huge step forward compared to previous efforts.  

The bad news is that the draft monopolized all of my writing time.   It was a lot harder than I thought it would be getting through the end of the book.  Pretty much all else had to be set aside while I tried to finish.  

What happened was that I had some big, lofty ideas for my characters and I was not sure how to get them to that point.  My original outline had been completed with too many broad strokes and I had to really take a lot of time to work up my plans for the events.  Even once the plan has been determined, writing the scene was not always as cut and dry either.  Anyway, I ended up with over 43,000 words for the two months (which is over 80% of my goal of 52,000).

  1. Outline first two books of Elude Series
  2. Write out three more Elude Sections

As stated above, almost everything had to be pushed onto the back burner in order to get The Bleeding Crown rough draft completed.  I did get two sections of Elude posted to the website (total of 4).  I will be “progressing” the goal of working up Elude’s outlines onto my agenda for the next two months.  I am excited by the potential of this book series and will be working up the backstories and characters so that I can use this series for the NaNoWriMo Challenge. 

For those who are not aware of the Challenge, it is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November.  Writers all over the country and around the globe take the entire month of November to write up a story of novel-length size (50,000 words).  I have never done this before, but have wanted to try it in years past.  This year I WILL TAKE THE CHALLENGE!

 

  1. Compile and create an Ebook on the Writing Craft from my past blogs:

I did put this together and even got an exclusive offer by a new editing company.  They will work on the manuscript for free and give me their recommendations.  I wanted to see what they can do.  The Ebook is only 11,000+ words, yet I feel it will be a fun and worthwhile read.  I hope to have it out on Amazon and Kindle by the end of the year.  Current working title is Rookie:  Pitfalls of Year One.  It is a guide on self-publishing and writing craft techniques.

 

  1. Design bookmarks for my books

I failed to even attempt this as I had limited time to get through a hefty writing goal. 

 

  1. Get the character portraits from artist by August and start getting Poker Card and Calendars made

This did not pan out as well as my artist had too many other obligations at this time.  It is something I still plan on doing, but I will have to research and find alternatives. 

 

  1. Complete two Giveaways (one on Kindle Review and my own Indie Book Giveaway):

The giveaways were successful and very rewarding (I received an email from the grand winner of the Giveaway I had created.  She had been restricted to bed by serious health conditions and this was great timing for her to get all the books).  They also helped with my email list and brought traffic to my author website.  I plan on participating or sponsoring future giveaways, so keep an eye out for news!

 

  1. Complete one Newsletter a month:

Both newsletters were sent out without issues. 

 

  1. Read one writing craft book a month:

Fail!  Ugh.  No time to read.  I did listen to books with Audible, but these were strictly as entertainment.   

 

  1. Prepare for book convention in Tucson:
  2. Get booth banners:

While I would like to attend, finances right now will not allow for comic-con participation.   I am thinking that with the possible sales from the non-fic book and/or Audible version of Consequences Within Chaos, I will have a bit more opportunity to do the conventions and book festivals next year.

  1. Strive to walk 3 miles a night, workout set at least once a day:

I fell off the diet wagon these last few weeks.  So, I cannot give myself a pass on this goal, but now that the rough draft is not so pressing, I hope to re-establish my routine and even add weight lifting into the regimen.

  1. Create a book trailer video:

This was postponed.  I am not sure that I am going to do one, so, for now, this will be taken off the goal list altogether.  Making and compiling a video would take away a lot of my writing time.

 

September & October Bi-Monthly Goals

  1. Outline first two books of Elude Series.
  2. Develop the list of Elude characters and develop their background.
  3. Create a NaNoWriMo Prep Folder in Scrivener and complete the list of development items.
  4. Write 1,000 words per day – blogging, outlining, writing (61,000k).
  5. On October 1st, start editing phase for The Bleeding Crown.
  6. Design book cover for Rookie: Pitfalls of Year One.
  7. Write new book blurbs for all my works and revamp all of the Amazon ads.
  8. Complete a newsletter for each month.
  9. Find a part-time post or two – extra income to help with new bills and investment in writing projects/marketing.
  10. Lose at least 15 pounds in the next two months through refined calorie counting/nightly walking/weight lifting.
  11. Read a writers craft book, listen to podcasts and youtube blogs weekly on marketing/writing.
  12. Start a new series of blog posts.
  13. Research and find alternative artists for projects (i.e. poker cards portraits, calendar and bio cards).

This goal set seems a little more in line with what I have time to do and will not spread me out on too many other projects at once.  I guess time will tell!  

 

 

Immerse or Die! — Derek Barton

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Yes, I am stealing this title directly from a great writing website, Creativity Hacker  created by the author Jefferson Smith.
Or… rather I am paying homage to it.
Why?  Because one, that title is sure to catch your attention and it has a literal punch to it.  And I want your attention with this blog.  Two, this is one of the most important things you have to know as a writer in my opinion.  If you are not pulling that reader in and capturing their complete attention, then you are not fulfilling your obligation to take them away from their lives and take them by the hand into your world, your story.
A break in immersion occurs at the point when a reader has to stop and analyze any sentence for any reason. If they are thinking about your words, they are not thinking about your characters.
The concept behind Jefferson Smith’s Immerse or Die is that he takes new submitted books and reviews them while doing a 40 minute walk on his treadmill.  If his “immersion” is broken three times, he puts the book aside.  Later he writes up his reviews and then posts the results. He highlights the stories that live through the test period so they get full glory and recognition.
I spent a lot of time there and learned a lot from his ideas and rules to keep readers immersed in the story.
Look at the following chart that shows you the outcome of his reviews in 2015:
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Here is the Blog Link to his blog review.
Here are some of the most common errors to keep in mind especially when you are editing!
 
Clarity!  Be careful when you are writing your prose. Keeping it simple and at the same time “poetic” is a very fine line that you have to tightrope walk.
The Hemingway App Editor is a great, free resource that will help your writing. It will identify and highlight sentences that are not in an easy to read format or structure.  It will also detail what grade level the work is.  The lower the grade the more relatable it will be to the readers.
Another way to keep the reader immersed is avoiding Echo Words, Echo Headers and Repeat Passages.  This one was a huge problem for me and I was not even aware of it until I applied the rule during my own editing phase.  I had repeat words and overused phrases everywhere!
An example of an Echo Word or Echo Header is when the writer uses the same word for several sentences in a row or within the same paragraph in the prose.
Example:   The robot failed to stop the invaders.  Henry saw the aliens slip past the machine. The robot raced behind the attackers as they bolted up the stairs.  At the top, the aliens pounded upon the metal doors. The robot then sounded the alarm to alert the compound.
Yes, this is an obvious example, but it does happen often. Other examples include when you use the character’s name over and over on the same page.  I try hard to limit it to three or four times.  Also over using the pronouns instead of the name can be very distracting or repetitive to the reader.  Repetition equates to lack of unique description or lack of originality in the work. Come up with synonyms like the man, the boy, the warrior or the teacher, etc.
Another problem I still wrestle with revolves around names.  If you have too many names that sound similar or use the same starting letter (i.e. too many M or T names), readers may get confused on who is doing what.  If you have too many complex names (which is my dilemma), then the readers are always pulled out of immersion as they are trying to pronounce the name.  I felt at the time since I was establishing a fantasy world then they wouldn’t have the usual Bob or Mary names.  Yet, my “style” overrode my “message” and I got a lot of feedback on reviews about the complexity of the names. It was obvious that it stuck with my readers and thus, they weren’t always immersed in the tale.
Plot or Story Continuity is also critical in immersion.  If the characters are doing something in one scene based on knowledge of an event that has not happened, that will cause any reader to stop, shake their head and try to piece the puzzle together.
Or if the characters act out of character or do something for no reason, this also frustrates the reader.  Be sure on a final read-through to take the time to write out your plot events on a timeline as they happened.  You should do this even if you are a writer called a “pantser” (write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style writer) and do not use outlines.  You have to be sure that during your editing you didn’t move a crucial point or event out of its correct time.  The timeline will keep you on track. And it is easier to spot any potential plot holes or inconsistencies.
Keeping immersion also means that the reader can feel, breathe, smell, hear or even taste the elements of the scene.  They are living through the story and not being told a tale. One way to dull your prose or separate your reader from the character is using Filter Words.   Filter Words are just that – words that appear when the reader’s experience has been filtered through a character’s point of view.
Filter examples (and any tense of the words):  To Hear, To Know, To Decide, To See, To Notice, To Feel, To Think, To Assume, To Believe and To Note.  There are a lot more out there, but this gives you an idea of what to look for.
Here are two paragraphs as an example:
Danny thought about tomorrow’s car race and he wondered how he would perform against all the other, more experienced drivers. He heard a car horn blare at him from the traffic waiting behind him.  It was then that he decided that he had to put aside his worries and do the best he could.
Without filters…
A vision of roaring race cars flashed across Danny’s mind.  The day of the race had almost arrived.  How would he do against the other more experienced drivers?  A car horn blared behind him from an impatient driver and interrupted his thoughts.  He shook his head to clear away the doubts.  “I have got this!” he said aloud to himself.
Not all uses of the words above are considered filtering. But, it is a tough trap to avoid and like I said before, one must walk a fine line. Restrict your Filter Words to when they are critical to the meaning of the sentence.
The last Immersion Alert I want to hit upon is Exposition — The “writer’s diarrhea of the mouth”.  Do not fill your pages with tons of historical facts (real or imaginary) or with complex, scientific exposition.  If you do not bore the reader, you will certainly confuse them.  Yes, you can relay some, but everything has to be in moderation.
Also in step with this, don’t fill your pages with huge paragraphs or have exhaustive chapters.  The reason for breaks in writing is just that:  a mental and physical break for the reader.
The current readers today are conditioned to fast action or events happening at the same time or in rapid order Producers have designed video games, television shows and movies to cater to short attention spans.
Fine-tuning your writing so that the reader lives through the character is a tall task, yet it is a very rewarding endeavor.  Don’t water down your message or limit your story’s potential by ignoring the rules to immersion.  After all, the very reason we spend hours pouring over our writing is to bring the reader inside, right?
In terms of jumping into a character’s skin, I try to immerse myself in the role as much as possible to bring me closer to them. All I do is what’s required to achieve what I want to achieve. – Dougray Scott

ONE YEAR BLOG-ANNIVERSARY!! — Derek Barton

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The picture is to pay homage to one of the books that most inspired me to be a horror/epic fantasy writer:  The Shining by Stephen King!

 

Jack and friends have come out to celebrate with me on MY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY writing my blog!!

 

I am super thrilled to celebrate and mark this occasion.  It certainly doesn’t feel like I have been doing this blog for a whole year!  What an incredible journey it has been — in a good way filled with a lot of personal growth and accomplishments that I didn’t think were possible.

Just a few stats that I would like to point out.  Since July 17th, 2016:

  • Visitors to the site:  659
  • Views on the different pages:  1603
  • Visitor countries:  19 different nations (including Japan, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Romania and someplace called Guernsey!)
  • Blogs posted:  37 (this will be 38th!)
  • Stats for July 2016:  79 visitors, 219 views
  • Stats for July 2017:  184 visitors, 244 views (and the month hasn’t finished!)

 

Been an unbelievable year and I am ecstatic to see what the next year will bring! Thank you for being with me this year and enjoying the ride with me.  You are all my favorite passengers! ha!

 

Now back to work….

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JACK A DULL BOY

ALL

WORK

DULL BOY

 

 

 

 

2017 Bi-Monthly Goals for July & August — Derek Barton

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July & August Bi-Monthly Goals

Recently, I came across an interesting video blog on Youtube from fantasy novelist, Kristen Martin. She outlined her “bi-monthly” goals for the months of January & February. I liked the process a lot and I could see how it would be a great motivator for me.

The main aim is to break down your “bigger picture” goals into easier, more obtainable goals. These can be both professional as well as personal. The other part of the process is to publicize them as this gives you a sense of accountability. If I can accomplish at least 12 of the 15 goals then that is 80% which is a “winning” and successful score!

I will be revamping these again in September. I will give you a rundown of how I did and then a new or revised list.

Here are my goals for the next two months:

1. Finalize my Chapter Outlines for The Bleeding Crown: I am a big time “plotter” as they say in the industry. I write faster and have better quality of work if I know where I am going in each chapter.   You can think of it like a road map.  Some authors write by the seat of their pants (“pantsers”), but when I did this, I found I would always get lost. Then I would lose enthusiasm for the story and not finish. For this story, I know exactly where I am heading and how I want it to end. The difficulty is to determine all the little steps along the way on that road getting to the finale!

2. Complete the First Rough Draft of Bleeding Crown: I have been putting a lot of effort into writing the first draft and have three quarters of the story down. Unfortunately, I am quickly coming up to the end of what I had written for the outline. Thus, goal #1 and goal #2 go hand in hand. If I don’t do #1, I won’t get near #2. Sighhhhhh

3. Complete 52,000 words written (52 days * 1000 words):  This ties into the other goals, but even if I finish The Bleeding Crown, I have my Elude series.  I want to accomplish this so I have even more on my site and Amazon for my readers to dig into.  A 1,000 a day is actually not that hard for a lot of writers (Stephen King does over 3,000 every day), but that IS his only career… HA!  Once I can comfortably do this on a daily basis, I will be increasing it.

4. Outline first two books of Elude Series:  A lofty goal for me, but without the stretch goals I won’t know for sure what I can actually accomplish or not, right? I am enjoying this genre as much as I enjoy my fantasy work (both have my biggest love – horror).  I was inspired to write the Elude story after reading Stephen King’s novel Mr. Mercedes which is a great “grim detective” series (he also added a lot of horror elements to this genre story too!).  The novels are all going to be relatively short (under a 100 pages each) as I want them to be an on-going series and I want to build that anticipation element to it.  Plus right now “short is in” on Amazon and writers are finding success with this approach.

5. Write out three more Elude Sections: I am including the first five sections of the first book for Elude on my blog. Would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions or if any of you have questions about the story. Another appeal to this work is that it takes place in my city Phoenix! I moved here when I was 26 and fell instantly in love with it. Now I can take you, my readers, on a whirlwind tour through Vicente’s eyes!

6. Compile and create an Ebook on the Writing Craft from my past blogs: I have kind of already done a part of this. I put my self-publishing and writing blogs together, but have not edited or refined them in any way. The idea is to put them in a non-fiction ebook. It will be my take on the writing craft and what has worked well for me and what has not gone according to plan.

7. Design bookmarks for my books: I do have a couple of bookmarks already that I can sell when I get back into the comic-con game. But I want more and will be coming up with some new ideas from the books. I want to sell these also from my site.

8. Get the character portraits from artist by August and start getting Poker Card and Calendars made: This is another lofty goal as there are a lot of characters from Consequences. Plus, he’s also got a busy schedule and life! This is my goal, but it does require some successful production from him as well.

9. Complete two Giveaways (one on Kindle Review and my own Indie Book Giveaway): I have signed on for another book giveaway on the site Kindle Review. It’s called A Midsummer’s Dream. A cool production that I am happy to be a part of. The other giveaway, of course, is my own, The Indie Fantasy Book Giveaway, which I have been heavily marketing. It has been slow growing, but I am seeing some success with it. This will also help me out on building up my email mailing list. I do love the website traffic I am seeing from the giveaways. This month has already broken my all-time records for most visitors in a month!

10. Complete one Newsletter a month: July’s was already sent out last week and I should have another one out in the first week of August.

11. Read one writing craft book a month: Reading about my writing to me is incredibly essential. It has raised the level of my writing in a short time. It has helped me learn what the current trends are and given me the tools to produce a more polished product than when I started writing again back in 2010.

12. Prepare for book convention in Tucson: I would like to go this convention, but not sure how financially set we will be for me to do so. We have had some setbacks lately and it has stalled my participation in the comic-cons or book shows. Not only do you have to pay to take part and reserve a table, but you also have to pay for the inventory to sell. There is also expenses for travel and any hotel accommodations to consider if you are not doing it locally.

13. Get booth banners: Again this is an investment I would like to make, IF I can get back into the comic-con circuit by the end of the year. I may have to stall on this one and let it go on future month goals coming up.

14. Strive to walk 3 miles a night, workout set at least once a day: The heat in Phoenix this year has been devastating. Last year we did have one or two days over 120 degrees. This year it has been over 120 degrees off and on for a week and a half. The days it hasn’t reached 120+ has still been very oppressive. When I try to walk at night, I have gotten severe headaches. This heatwave won’t last forever, but it sure does feel like it. I moved to get summer year round (lived in the Icy Hell of Indiana for 26 years) – I don’t regret the move, just cannot wait for our normal weather to come back. This fitness goal is to help me with my bigger goal of losing weight. I want to lose 40 by the end of the year!

15. Create a book trailer video: Another high bar goal, but I have been toying with the idea. I have a lot on my plate and with my day job, it doesn’t give me a lot of “free time” to experiment and toy with the technology out there. It may happen, especially since I now see it is not that hard or even expensive to do. The time to research and find all the images is the obstacle.

This is a lot of minor goals, but if I can accomplish this in two short months, then my overall success for the entire year will be very fulfilling indeed. I realize that there is a good chance that most of these will not get completed, but it still helps having them written out so that I see my targets and the road ahead that I need to take.

Taking Advantage of Obstacles… — Derek Barton

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It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. -Abigail Adams

 

Last week my home computer crashed and died an ugly death.

I didn’t hold a funeral or even a memorial.  I buried it away quickly in a cabinet like a guilty secret and tried to not to obsess over it.

Why?  Because this is a serious financial setback – I just don’t have the means to replace it easily.  I am even writing this blog at work on break (shhhhh don’t tell! LOL)

I have had the computer since 2009 and I knew the day was coming that I would have to replace it, but… I had a fantasy hope that it would last yet another year or more.  That little voice in my head kept saying, “Let me just get my sequel done and then maybe I could afford a new one!”

The rub of it all is that I was gaining serious momentum on my book.  I had written four and a half chapters so far with a goal that by October the first draft would be complete.   Now, everything has been locked away in my Scrivener program, imprisoned unjustly within the hard drive.   Yes, some of the outline has been saved to my Google Drive folders, but I was very lax in updating my work to the Cloud.  Lesson learned.

My father did point out that “there was this somewhat known writer guy called Shakespeare who didn’t own any computers and he managed to get quite a bit produced…”   SIGHHHHHHH  Thanks, Dad!

Anyway, I realized that there was just no way around this for now and I decided to focus on my audio script work.  I am adapting Consequences Within Chaos into an audio book to be sold on Audible.com.  While my heart is still longing to write The Bleeding Crown, I am having an interesting experience with developing the audio version for Consequences.

In the past, I always made the quick assumptions that the audio book process was complex, expensive and not really well accepted by the readers.  This has proven to be quite the opposite!

The steps are pretty simple:

  1. Write out your book as if it were a script.
  2. Find a voice actor or read and record your own voice.
  3. Post it and sell it through Audible and/or other audio book sites!

So writing the book into a script format is time-consuming but can be a rewarding experience in itself.  I am sure there are more formal processes for the work, but I just did highlights and notes throughout the manuscript for the voice actor.  You have to be sure exactly how you want names to be read, how you want voices to sound, how much pausing or dramatic emphasis on passages you want and you have to guide the voice actor on scene or dialog pacing.

The part where one has to find a voice actor and afford the actor’s services sounded pretty overwhelming at first.  However there again, the process is well-designed for amateurs like me.  You can actually find voice actors on your own as I happened to (I met a few at the Galaxyfest Comic-con I attended in February) or you can post/advertise you are looking for one online or you can hire through several sites (like Fiverr.com).

Once you have a voice actor, payment for that actor can be done two ways:  a one-time payment for said services agreed upon by both parties OR a split of the royalties received for the audio book (the contract will be for as long as the book is selling on the site).

Once the recordings are completed (and if you decide to record your own reading of the book, you can gain a lot of good tips from www.youtube.com videos on how to make the recordings and what settings you need), you will need to download them onto http://www.acx.com/ if you plan on selling through Audible.com.  This site is very similar to what https://www.createspace.com/ is for Amazon.

Also here are some more factors to keep in mind for the recordings (obtained from acx’s guides):

ACX Audio Submission Requirements

Create top-quality audiobooks, and maximize your sales potential by providing the best overall listening experience.

Audiobooks uploaded to ACX must adhere to the following requirements. The ACX Quality Assurance team may reject titles that do not meet these standards, and their retail release may be delayed. The following requirements help ensure customers get a great listen.

Your submitted audiobook must:

Each uploaded audio file must:

More information on how to meet these requirements can be found below and in our Video Lessons & Resources, and many of the terms used here can be found in our Audio Terminology Glossary.

There is a lot of extra details they have on the site to further break it down and easy to complete.

And lastly, here is a sample of the research I found on the internet about marketing audio books and how audio books are having an impact on the market:

Data from the Association of American Publishers (APP) released this week showed U.S. book sales from January to October last year grew 0.5 percent, although overall revenue for publishers during the period was down 2.8 percent at $13.2 billion.
However, one area that is experiencing strong growth is audio books. The APP said audio book downloads increased by 38.1 percent in 2015 and services such as Audible, where users pay a monthly subscription to access a library of audio books, are growing.
“Audible membership growth is consistent at 40 per cent year on year, as more consumers realise how well audiobooks can fit into their busy lives,” explained Tracey Markham, country manager for Audible, to CNBC via email. “Audible members globally listened to 1.6 billion hours of audio content in 2015 (up from 1.2 billion in 2014).”  — CNBC.com

 

While the week did start out like a blind, three-legged horse at the race track, I did find a way to make it productive in spite of the broken down computer.  And I hope that this also opens your eyes to the possibility of audio books of your own and how really easy this process can be.

With any luck (I used up all my bad luck already right?) this will become a successful new venture in audio for me!!

A New Land to Behold… — Derek Barton

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Recently I have been toying with the idea of making maps for my fantasy worlds detailed in Consequences Within Chaos, the prequel Seyde in Blood and my upcoming sequel The Bleeding Crown. 

There are a lot of debate on whether maps are a hindrance or a benefit to your story.  I think that like any other writing tool or technique that a writer can use, it should be considered carefully for each story, thought out thoroughly and done on a case by case basis.  Not every story will warrant a map.

The first important question to consider is:  will it add to the story for the reader?   Do you think that there may be too many names floating about in your prose or do you feel that the layout of your places are pretty straightforward for the reader to follow?  When I read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I had to often look at the maps to keep the story straight in my head.  For that matter, he had so many characters going all over the place and working with so many different characters, I even made an Excel Spreadsheet to keep the names straight!  But Mr. Martin has such a great talent and incredible story that I forgave him as a reader and put in the extra effort.

Another question:  Do you feel that the map is going to help you as the writer?  Will it guide you in keeping all the facts straight and keeping an accurate idea of where each character might be?  Or will a map also give you inspiration or show you where you have room to grow?

When you do decide, you will also face the dilemma of where are you going to get it?  Are you going to draw it yourself and if so, do you have the right amount of cartography skill?  If you are not taking up the challenge to create it, then what resources do you have to get one?  There are a ton of “free map images” out on the net, but then you may have to make concessions or even possibly alterations to your story.  Perhaps you might be wise to invest on getting it professional completed.  There are also many websites that will provide map-making services or websites like Cartographers Guild that has a forum for questions and/or advice.

Overall, the questions surrounding the “to map or not to map” debate really comes down to time, resources and whether or not it will benefit you as a writer and/or the readers.

For myself, I have started my sequel and I think it will be a positive addition for the readers to see where the lands are and maybe help give the readers a better perspective of all the key lands that are involved in the story.  My plan is to make a map of both worlds detailed in the books.  And yes, I do plan on designing the maps myself.  I designed several in my old Dungeon & Dragon days and found that it really provoked ideas and plots (usually evil plots to mess with the players!! haha)

I will keep you all in the loop and hopefully share my maps soon!!