Posts Tagged ‘indieauthors’

This month, I completed and published my first novel, Bay City Runaway, and last week I dusted off an older project and began writing it.  It’s a different kind of novel–more of a mystery and perhaps less emotionally intense.  Bay City was rather dark and moody–like me sometimes. I constructed a scant three-act outline for Bay City and jumped right in because it was primarily a character-driven novel, I gave myself a lot of freedom with it, loosely aiming for the outline.  I feel good about the results, but this new book is a different animal.

I feel like writing a mystery has to be tighter, so I’m taking a more structured approach.  I wrote succinct character descriptions and fleshed out a much more detailed outline–chapter-by-chapter.  I have some qualms about doing it this way.  I don’t want to over-plan.  I want room for spontaneity and organic development, but I have more pieces motion in order to make it the ending pop like a good mystery.

In some ways, it’s easier to write with such thorough planning.  I take a peek at the chapter description (usually a couple of sentences) and begin typing with the goal in mind.  But I leave plenty of room to surprise myself. For me, writing fiction is strongly akin to reading fiction.  It’s true that I have a very strong idea about what’s going to happen, but I don’t know exactly how that will translate into words and scenes.  I get to enjoy it as it unfolds.  I get to be the very first reader!

A book has a life of its own.  It’s easy to say, “Well, David. You’re the author you have total control over everything that happens.  You’re the God of this world.”  In a sense, that is true, but that’s not my understanding of God.  Yes, I believe God can do whatever the hell he or she wants, but that doesn’t mean he does it.  God gives us free will and watches our lives unfold, sometimes working closely with us, sometimes just along for the ride.  I feel that my characters have some level of freedom to do what makes sense for them.  I can’t always make them do what I want because I don’t really know entirely who they are when I begin writing.  A common remark from my small circle of readers is that the characters feel so real.  Perhaps that is part of it.

Another thing I’m doing differently is formatting a bit more as I write.  I’m writing in MS Word, which is how I format and produce a file for Amazon KDP, but in the past, I’ve written in Google Docs.  The problem with Google Docs, for me, was that it was so much work to take a Google document and format it for print and Kindle. I’m hoping to save some time and formatting errors by doing it this way; the risk is that it will pull me out of the creative flow.

I’m also not in a feverish rush.  I wrote Bay City in a manic fever, perhaps worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish it.  But I’ve done it now!  I know I can write a novel!  I’m taking a steady, relaxed pace–enjoying myself!  I have no deadline and very little riding on this…

except for my hopes and dreams, of course.

shutterstock_1704911602Writers and would-be writers may dream of making a full-time career of writing, but that is becoming an increasingly rare option. Traditionally-published authors are not getting the kinds of advances they used to receive and independently published authors often spend more money than they make, so we must have day jobs to support ourselves and our families.

Although I’ve been writing for over twenty years, I am fairly new to professional writing, and I am an indie writer at the moment. I’m successful in that I’ve written and published five books. Am I earning a living at it? No. Do I make enough money to take my wife out to dinner from time to time? (Laughing) Yes! Is my writing good enough to read? Hell yes! Quick aside. I don’t like the term “self-published.” Many equate it to “vanity publishing” which, as we all know, is a monstrous abomination (see sarcasm.) Heaven forbid someone invest money to produce and share their art. Remember when labels and radio stations got to decide what would like to listen to? What music is good or bad? At that time, we had no idea what we were missing. Now we have an infinite world of music to try out. We, the consumers of art, should get to decide what is good whether it be music, painting, dance, or writing. If you’re reading this and are an indie writer, know that you are a writer. PERIOD. Ok, aside over.

And so, I must balance my writing and my day job. Here’s what I’ve learned, given my circumstances. My current job has a rather strict shift schedule, which is unusual for my career as a software engineer, but it’s what I have, and it’s too good a job to care either way.

I start at 8 am. I get a fifteen-minute break at 9:45, a forty-five-minute lunch break at 11:30, a fifteen-minute break at 2:45, and I get off at 4:45 and then write for an hour in the evenings. I can write as much as I want on the weekend–usually around two hours. That’s an average of 92 minutes a day. How did I write the first draft of my last book, Bay City Runaway (84,000 words), in five weeks with that schedule? That’s around 2,400 words a day, or 29 words a minute.

1.    I’m a better-than-average typist, thanks to Keyboarding I and II in high school.

2.    I have Bipolar Affective Disorder, which many writers have. Even medicated, I can ride a solid six weeks of hypo-mania (mild elevated, productive mood), and that’s when I do a lot of my writing.

3.    I don’t stop to edit, reread, or do a lot of planning. I construct a very scant outline at the beginning of the project (or not at all) and shoot for the main points as I write, permitting myself to break my plan. I know that I can fill in gaps, descriptions, themes, etc. in subsequent drafts.

4.    This is the most important key to productivity with writing: It takes a lot of courage, but I think it’s the reason most would-be writers don’t write anything or why writer’s block occurs. BE WILLING TO WRITE UTTER CRAP; otherwise, you will likely never complete a project.

This method of short writing spurts probably only works with a daily writing discipline. If I wait for days, weeks, or months to write, I lose the flow. I forget all the little seeds of suspense I had planted. It just doesn’t work! There are days when I only write 200 words. There are days when I write 4000 words. It averages out over time.

Editing, drafting, developing, getting feedback from beta readers, designing covers, publishing, marketing–these things may take longer and a lot more patience, but at the end of that month or two of steady writing, you have a damn book! Maybe not a good one, but that’s the thing people who want to be writers never get–a book. They plan and plan and tweet and read, but they do not write. They write the first thousand words and then spend the next months posting about it on social media, worrying that it is no good. Did you know that writers used to write entire books without Twitter and Facebook or telling anyone about it at all? The truth is, the WORST book is the book that never was never written.

There are thousands of articles, books, classes, seminars, and podcasts on how to write a book, but eventually, a writer must write–even if it’s terrible! Hopefully, with patience, diligence, practice, courage, and help from other writers, teachers, editors, beta-readers, or maybe even a publishing house, it won’t stay terrible.

There is nothing wrong with having a day job. I prefer the stability and benefits. Many of the great writers had day jobs. Perhaps it even gives you more to write about. You do not have to write eight hours a day or even ninety minutes, but you do have to write! So quit reading this article and write a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, or a whole chapter! Oh and don’t write on your work computer!

David Wilson-Burns, author of Whiff and My Wife Says I’m Complicated, offers his gritty and emotionally potent debut novel, Bay City Runaway, a story of two runaways finding each other in their escape from abuse and tragedy.

James, a thirty-something software wiz with a drinking problem, runs away to San Francisco to escape a tragedy in his home state of Oklahoma. In front of his favorite pub one night, a teenage girl with a nasty bruise on her face asks for a cigarette. He sees her several more times and gives her food and smokes. She appears to be living on the street, running away from abuse. Late one night, the frantic teen, Amy, shows up at his China Town apartment. Having nowhere else to go, she seeks shelter and protection from her abuser, who could show up at any time. They form an unlikely and complicated friendship.

Wilson-Burns’ moving and engaging novel brings to vivid life the struggling, lonely alcoholic, the precocious, street-wise teenager, and the sexually-charged complication of a would-be girlfriend, Kyra, as their lives become intertwined.

He also captures 1990s college life as he tells the story of how a new friend, Zach, helps James win back the girl he will marry, leading up to the tightly kept secret of the tragedy that puts him on a plane to San Francisco in 2007.

In gripping detail, Wilson-Burns delves deeply into how alcoholism can grow from little seeds into a tragic and disastrous bloom.

Wilson-Burns uses his expressive, straightforward writing style to create an emotional experience for the reader and brings a deep sense of redemption and faith in humanity into his characters and story. Those who have experienced alcoholism in their lives will identify powerfully with James and Amy’s struggles. He shows how love, friendship, and faith can redeem the running, lost, and hurting.

Bay City Runaway: A Novel

Still my most popular stories, Whiff: A Novella and The Smell Collector are certainly still available to read for free online.

“The Smell Collector” was a serial I published many years ago.  It is a whimsical and quirky story of a man with limited social skills and an extraordinary sense of smell.  For a full blurb click the above link.

“Whiff: A Novella” is the product of an editor who read The Smell Collector and said “Dude!  You need to write this as a book!”.  So I did–smaller than I had expected–but perhaps that is all it needed to be!  Whiff is written from the perspective of the main character, Jim Bronson.  Although the quirky nature of the original serial is evident, it is more in the style of literature.  Both are short reads and have something unique to offer.

If you are looking for light and funny, read The Smell Collector.  If you are looking for a more in-depth literary experience, then Whiff.

It means a lot to me when people read and comment on these stories.   Enjoy!



About ten years ago I wrote ten short parts of a web serial called Bay City Runaway.  Here’s a five chapter teaser.  It’s about an alcoholic who has left Oklahoma in the 2000s to live in San Francisco to get away from his old life and the demons that haunt him, and his entanglement with a seventeen-year-old runaway girl.  There is plenty of 90s background story as well.

Once every year or two I’ve gone back and reread this incomplete work and I found it to have some potential, but I could never figure out how to continue it.  Then a year ago, I sat down and wrote a sketch of what it could be if it were a novel and revised the existing writing into a form more suitable for a novel.  Then I put it away again and didn’t think about until I logged into Wattpad a few weeks ago and read some comments.  People had read my original incomplete serial and were asking me to write more, so I did.  I added about 1200 words.  It felt good.  It felt so good that I decided to write ten thousand more.

Now, I feel I have something to work with and the motivation to do it.  So I’ve taken most of it offline and have written about 25k words.  I think this will be my first full-length novel.  I self-published Whiff: A Novella on Amazon, which I’m now publishing as a serial to gain some readership, but I couldn’t get more than 32k out of it.  I believe Bay City Runaway will be more than twice that making it my first complete novel.

I’m writing at a pace of between 2000 and 3000 words a day, mainly on my lunch hour at my day job as a software engineer.  That’s a lot to expect in one hour or even in a day, and I’d be surprised if I could keep that up for long, but it’s very gratifying for now.

Don’t expect anything very soon.  I have a long way to go.  But it is a thrill to be writing again!