Stitching and Bitching with me today is Lyn Perry of ResAliens fame. Lyn is the publisher of ResAliens Press and the editor of Residential Aliens, a quality zine of speculative fiction (with some of the best cover art I’ve seen anywhere. You should check it out).
As Lyn starts asking his first question, I notice he’s working on a pair of baby booties. His large hands confidently work the small silk yarn on his triple-aught needles. It’s a lovely pattern. I am knitting a scarf out of some bulky blue stuff that you’d have to feel to believe.
Lyn Perry: As a full time writer, do you try to hit a daily or weekly word count or do you use some other measure of progress toward your goal of completing a novel? (Also, do you then try to complete a book every three months or so?)
Me: I use every kind of writing carrot I can dangle in front of myself. I really need goals and dates — I don’t think I could write without them. One of the strange things I do is to mark my word count at the end of each session in my current work in progress. Right in front of this, I have the word BOOKMARK in all-caps so I can search out my current place. This way, I can always see how many words I started out with and I know what to shoot for.
I aim for 2,000 words a day as a minimum. On a great day, I can crank out 5,000 words. On epic days (I’ve had a couple dozen of these), I can write 10,000 words over an eight hour period. Most of these are deleted or massaged into different form when I revise, but laying down the bones is the hard part.
As for larger goals, like completing a novel or a Wool story, I set a vague date in order to motivate myself. It’s usually something impossible-sounding, and then I finish a week early. It freaks my wife out and is no small source of stress and jubilation for me. I lose hair for three monster weeks of writing, then dancing around the room like a dork for beating my target. Living with me is not, to say the least, fun.
Lyn Perry: I see on your website that you’re about half way to a 60k word Wool #5. Do you set your novels’ word count and then work daily to hit it? Or do you simply write and see where it takes you?
Me: I outline my works early on, so I generally know how long they’ll end up being. Wool 5 might be 54K or 66K, but it’ll be within that 10% range. It’s kinda spooky, actually. Each of the Molly books came out around 100K – 120K, and I told just the story that I wanted to each time. I have no idea how this works out. It’s kinda like a black art.
Lyn Perry: Do you find that fans of e-readers want shorter novels? And right now your Wool stories are 99 cents on Amazon. Is this a discount or their normal price?
Me: I think fans want great stories, period. If you can make a 1,000 page brick of a book interesting all the way through, that’s amazing, and readers will eat it up. But more and more, I find myself wanting to finish things. I prefer half-hour TV shows because I can watch them with a nice meal and get on to the next thing I want to do with my day. I’m not “trapped” by my entertainment.
I know that sounds odd, but I have so many interests and distractions, that the things I should enjoy actually start to feel like work. I used to play more video games than I do now. When I try to get back into them, I find myself frustrated with the length of time it takes to get through a level, or get to a save point. I feel like I’m missing out on some other thing I could be doing, and this is just taking too bloody long. This might be peculiar to me, but if I could choose, I’d have more quality things that use up less time. Like a meal of tapas, I want lots of tastes and variety, without all the dull repetition we use as filler.
The 99c price was what I thought would be fair for the 15,000 word original WOOL. The second entry was over 20,000, but people were used to the price-point. WOOL 3 was 30,000 (see a trend?); WOOL 4 was 40,000; and WOOL 5 will be over 50,000 words (or the size of HALF WAY HOME, one of my novels).
At this point, I would say the series is very well discounted. The first book is a fair price; everything else is a bargain. I don’t just write these and throw them on the Kindle store, which is quite common these days. I do a half dozen revisions. I agonize over them. I work ten and twelve hour days on them. WOOL 5 is almost certainly going to need to cost more. I am agonizing over this decision right now. Do I risk upsetting fans who are getting used to the lowest price for ever-growing stories of the highest quality? Or do I risk not being able to afford to do this (writing full-time) and them not receiving more stories in the future? It isn’t an easy decision, or one I take lightly.
Lyn Perry: I see you offer to sign the paperbacks (or can you e-sign ebooks now? I think I saw that some place.). Does this mean you have POD books in your garage or do you order them as needed? (How does all that work, in other words, lol.)
Me: Man, I wish I had a garage, especially up here in frigid Boone, N.C. My wife and I make do with a simple covered carport, which is a bad place to keep books. What’s great about Print On Demand technology is that we don’t have to keep very many. I like to have a half dozen of each of my books for when I do author events, signings, or family reunions. If I get a flurry of orders, I can use these to fulfill the signed copies and get myself new ones. I use two different book printers, and both are phenomenally fast. The old days of indie writers paying thousands of dollars to print hundreds of their books are long gone (except for people duped by vanity presses). It is now criminally easy to publish your thoughts into a book (and inversely proportional to this is how difficult it is to sell said book).
Thanks for the questions, Lyn!
And as always, my guest and I are surrounded by a few fellow knitters. They’ve been talking about Ryan Gosling and the Hunger Games when they haven’t been eavesdropping on Lyn and I. A few Goodreads knitters take the opportunity to ask me a question or two while I’m counting to see how many stupid stitches I just accidentally dropped:
First up is Amber (Atodee on Goodreads), who has a few questions. She’s got some nice cabling going on with her sweater. She clicks her stitch counter and clears her voice.
Amber: Is there anything that inspired you to use a silo as the setting for Wool?
Me: No. I thought it was a completely original idea. I came up with this story five years ago, back when I first started dreaming up the Molly Fyde character. The two other books I wanted to write besides the Molly Fyde book were WOOL and THE PLAGIARIST (I didn’t have the titles at the time, just the ideas). Later, I decided these two novels should be short stories and be published with two other stories in a themed collection. When it looked like I’d never get all four written, I threw the two I had already completed on Amazon, and the rest is viral and word-of-mouth history.
What was crazy was, just a few years ago while the story was still gestating, I saw an old missile silo was up for sale and able to be converted to a doomsday bunker. It was a cool coincidence, but not too surprising that someone else would think of living below ground for safety. In the fifties, everyone was thinking of this. So maybe it was my childhood of nuclear disaster drills, sitting against a wall with my head tucked between my knees, that gave this story its start.
Amber: The second is something I’ve actually been curious about for a while! I’ve always wondered about how an author determines whether his/her character is a male of female. I’ve noticed that you are comfortable writing from both standpoints, so in regards to this: Do you find it challenging to write from the opposite gender’s point of view? Do you ever find yourself perhaps switching a character’s gender, or was Juliette, for example, always a female in you mind?
Me: Juliette was always a female, no question. My favorite characters to write are strong females. Your question has me wondering for the first time why this might be. (Which is why I love being asked probing questions; they force me to voice opinions and motivations that I’m not even aware of!)
One reason might be that I love the tales of underdogs struggling against the odds and finding some measure of victory or satisfaction, even if what they win in the end isn’t always what they set out to discover. It’s a classic formula for weaving a story, and I really love the pattern. My Molly Fyde books are all about this (hence the irony of her phonetic name). Even Half Way Home could be said to deal with this, as the protagonist’s sexual orientation also makes him an underdog (in the outsider sense, never in the weakness sense).
I was raised by a strong woman, am in love with a strong woman, and have a strong woman for a sister. I admire each of them. Perhaps my fictional heroes are based on my real ones? I think this is probably a great deal of it.
And no, I’ve never found it difficult to write in a woman’s voice. I don’t think any author worth their salt finds it a problem to personify both genders. We write in a variety of voices that we aren’t familiar with: voices of those much older than us, much wiser than us, who work in professions we’ve never had, suffered through losses we may never know. All of these voices require a vivid imagination, some sense of the human condition, and a watchful eye in real life. I can’t imagine a book peopled by a single gender; every writer has to write a lot of both perspectives. Great question, by the way.
Wow. Look at the time! It just flies when the needles and tongues are clicking. Hope you enjoyed listening in. Be sure to keep an eye on ResAliens. Friend them on Facebook. It’s an awesome zine and a great publisher.
Until next time!