Have you got questions? I might have the answers!
Every once in a while I get questions thrown at me – about writing, about being a writer, et cetera. All writers are different, so my answers will vary wildly from others, but if you are interested, ask away and I will do my best to answer.
Here are a couple to get us started…
Q: How long does it take you to write a book?
A: That depends on a lot of variables.
When it comes to non-fiction, it is pretty straightforward. I wrote Get Organized, Stay Organized in just under six weeks and then took another six weeks to revise it. In late 2017, I revised and updated it, and that took about a month because I wanted to add another section and I was juggling marketing, writing in four blogs, et cetera.
Most of my fiction books take at least a year, possibly two, to complete. But I am still not able to write for hours each day. That is changing as my writing incomes grows, I don’t need to clean as many houses, so I can write more. I would estimate that a 90,000 word count book takes me approximately 300-500 hours of solid writing to knock out a rough draft.
Q: Do you use Word or some other specific writing software?
A: Until recently I used Microsoft Word. I know some folks who use GoogleDocs but I really recommend Scrivener. It took some getting used to, but having all of my notes, timelines, character descriptions, images and more all in one place is absolutely perfect!
Better, Scrivener allows me to write my manuscript and then compiles it in the format I need (.epub, .mobi, a manuscript for editing or submitting to an editor, and much more)
Q: Do you write every day? How long do you write for?
A: I try to write each day. That said, sometimes weeks go by with little done. One look at my track record with self-publishing five books in eight years illustrates this quite well! That said, I’ve also spent a lot of time wavering about writing, doubting myself and more. At the time of this writing, I have re-dedicated myself to the process. I want to write as many interesting, suck-you-in good stories as I can. The more I write, the more stories I have to share with the reader. Right now I’m attempting to write at least 2,000 words per day. Sometimes that is done in a couple of hours, and other days it seems to consume most of the day. I imagine it will get quicker as time goes by.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: Everywhere. Sitting in a drive-out lane at Wendy’s way back in 1997 gave me the idea for the Plague Tales, later renamed and combined with a science fiction story I wanted to write – that book became Gliese 581: The Departure.
Sometimes, just a scene or, as I call them, a snippet, pops into my brain and I write it down. And then weeks, months, even years and decades might go by without me turning it into a full-fledged book.
Ideas are like stars in the sky – far too many to count and too numerous to each have their own story.
Q: Do you have a clear idea of where the story is going before you begin to write it?
A: Yes and no. It all starts with a “snippet” – a scene or idea in my head. For Gliese 581: Departure I knew I wanted to write a sci-fi novel that included a journey to Gliese 581g, the discovery of an Earth-like planet announced in 2010 by Steve Vogt. I began to write it,, but had no idea what the “conflict point” was. Eventually, I thought, “I’ll add a saboteur!” But I still had no idea why the man wanted to kill everyone off. It sat there, for a couple of years, until I thought of combining it with The Plague Tales, another “snippet” in which I imagined a woman, naked in a drive-thru, eating until her stomach exploded.
Often the entire storyline does not reveal itself. I have a general idea of where I want to go, and then I pull it out of my ass as I write. Yes, you are reading writing pulled from my butt. What an image!
Q: Do you write in order?
A: Nope. Not at all. In War’s End: The Storm, when I realized I needed to kill off a character I really liked, I literally wrote the book around that chapter. I couldn’t bear to write it, it was truly painful for me and I dreaded it! Finally, I wrote the chapter immediately after it, where the characters deal with the aftermath of the character’s death. Only then did I manage to push it out, crying the entire damn time.
In Schicksal Turnpike, I kept getting stymied over the first chapter, the ONLY chapter I had written some three years before. I plotted the book out, set in chapter names and wrote notes in each of the chapters about what they were about, and then began writing in whatever chapter took my fancy.
If I try to go in a straight line, I tend to get bored. A bored writer makes for boring prose.
Q: So, are you able to make a living as a writer?
A: Ummm…not yet. I have a couple of jokes I usually tell people about this whole writing thing I do. When I’m meeting a potential cleaning client (yes, I clean toilets on the side) I tell them “I’m a writer, that’s why I run a housecleaning business.”
I also will tell folks, “It was a good month, I earned my monthly latte from Amazon!” And until the last couple of months, that’s about what I could expect, somewhere between $3-$10 in income from book sales and pages read through Kindle Unlimited.
That said, it’s gotten better recently. That doesn’t mean it will stay better, but with this month’s dividends I can probably buy TEN lattes at Starbucks now. I’m really quite proud of that.
Yes, the goal is to have my writing income replace and exceed my cleaning income. So far that hasn’t happened, but I remain eternally optimistic.
Q: You write some really dark stuff. Why?
A: My mind is dark…sort of like my soul.
Just kidding. Well, mostly. Despite my penchant for merrily killing off characters, most of the world’s population in Gliese, and murdering in cold blood some of my favorite characters, I’m actually a pretty happy, upbeat person in real life. I like to think of myself as a “realistic optimist” – I try not to be a downer, but for some reason my stories kind of come out that way. I like to write about really dark things happening to people, and then watch how the character comes through it and on to the other side – it’s a story of the triumph of the human spirit. Those that survive the journey at least.
My plans for a fantasy series, The Chronicles of Liv Rowan, will likely be far more upbeat than my usual fare.
Q: I see “A Kapalaran Universe Novel” on your fiction series Gliese and War’s End. What’s that about?
They all occur in the same universe – just at different points in time. I like working with the same family names and throw in references to the other books kind of like Easter eggs appear in DVDs. You don’t have to have read the other series to understand the basic story, they are just a little added in bonus. Eventually, I will add characters ancestry charts so that readers can draw the parallels in different families to where their ancestors or descendants appear in the other series.
Shortly I will also add Schicksal Turnpike and The Chronicles of Liv Rowan to that mix and they happen in this order…
- 1950s through 1990s – Schicksal Turnpike
- 1990s through until now – Chronicles of Liv Rowan
- Now until mid 21st century – War’s End
- Late 21st & early 222nd century – Gliese
Kapalaran is the Filipino word for fate. And in the Kapalaran Universe, all of these stories revolve around the concept of fate – how it affects us, what we do when handed a bowl of misfortune, and the people that we become in the face of deep, life-changing adversity.