The possibilities of focus

I’ve been so scatterbrained, lately. Depressed, for sure, which has led to months without significant work, but which has also led to this recent paucity of focus. I spent most of 2011 reading, researching, and planning toward writing my vampire duology, with the intention of being able to write both books rather quickly – possibly within November, for NaNoWriMo. I wrote roughly half of the two books (most of one, and part of the other) in November, and have eked out another 6 chapters or so for them since then, but I still have about 20 chapters remaining to write.

There’s so much work yet to be done on these books. Beyond the 60+ good hours of writing it will take to finish the first drafts, there’s initial editing so I can send to my Beta Readers, then days or weeks waiting for them to get back to me with their feedback, then re-writes and edits based on that feedback and possibly (if I can convince anyone to re-read the books so quickly) a second round of the same. Once I’ve got the basic text in good shape I’ve got to do another close read (copyediting) before I begin recording the audio version – a step which always finds new errors and awkward sentences/dialogue in the text, and which I prefer to do before publishing, when possible. I’ve got to do the interior layout, which shouldn’t be too difficult at this point and with all the experience I have, but I’ve also got to design the cover in three ways, for each individual eBook as well as for the paper/limited-edition/flipbook, hopefully all as a single image. I’ve got to do fundraising (possibly via Kickstarter) to pay for the paper edition, which almost certainly takes weeks or more. Actually podcasting the audio version may take up to a year, though it’s the hundreds of hours of recording, editing, and assembling them which I’ll want to have done before publication. After all that, getting the eBooks ready will be a snap.

Why am I thinking about all this? I just noticed January has slipped away, almost without my notice, and February is at hand. Tomorrow I’ll process the data on January eBook sales and (possibly) update the prices on some of my books/eBooks, according to the formula I rolled out at the start of the year. This has reminded me that Phoenix Comicon is coming up at the end of May; hopefully the significantly lower prices this model affords my paperbacks will result in increased sales at Comicon. This has led me inexorably to the idea that, if possible, I’d like to have my vampire duology flipbook on hand and for sale at the Phoenix Comicon. Which led to thinking about everything in that last paragraph, and more.

Part of the ‘more’ is all the other projects I’ve been working on lately, in my lack of focus, especially the interactive book on writing and publishing. I mentioned on Google+ last night that, in addition to beginning to write that book, I spent some time mapping out its (quite complex) hypertext structure; it’s intended to be read in a non-linear way, like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book as well as a cross between a memoir and a how-to guide for independent writing and publishing, and it’s been percolating up through my mind for years. At the current stage of mapping and note-making, I’ve already got forty-plus chapters/chunks started; if no more occur to me, and they’re each the 1500+word chunks they’ve been becoming so far, it’s already shaping up to be book-length, complex, and interesting. I’ve got at least another 60 hours of work just writing the thing, and possibly over 100 hours, the way it’s been going.

(I won’t even mention each of the other projects I’ve had queueing up and being worked on by my scattered thoughts and efforts, except to say that if I continue on as I am, none of them -certainly not the vampire books- will be finished by Comicon.)

According to my calculations, if I seriously applied myself, I could finish the first draft of the vampire duology in six or eight solid days of work, since I’ve already got it all well-planned and developed. The same is roughly true of the book on publishing; six to ten long, hard days of dedicated work and I could have a first draft complete, from where I’ve already got it. The work would be intense, draining work, and would require me to (somehow) overcome the worst elements of my own insanity; what I have been trying to figure out is whether, if I actually applied myself and accomplished those things, would I have the time needed to get either (or preferably both) projects ready for sale in time for Phoenix Comicon. All that extra work I listed off in the second paragraph – can it be completed and the finished books delivered to my hands before the end of May? And if so, is it worth it to me to try to do so?

If I set myself to these tasks/goals, to this deadline, the aspect most at risk for being potentially short-changed is the editing/rewrites. Getting people, even family and close friends, to read a single book and give feedback (even just basic spelling & grammar, to say nothing of content) in as little as a week or two tends to be a huge fight and to carry a significant attrition rate. I dread sending out two (or worse, three) books with the intention of getting meaningful feedback on any limited timeline, for free. I don’t know how long professional editors would take to do the work, but I know I can’t afford such a thing right now. There are some other parts of the work I can accomplish while waiting for feedback, such as cover design, or working on the other title, but if I expect to incorporate any meaningful changes to the text, the bigger time-sink of recording the audiobook has to wait. I can probably start fundraising before completing the final edits of the text, which helps even out the timeline, some.

Let’s see what the hard deadline would be… Phoenix Comicon runs May 24-27 (Memorial Day Weekend, except without the Memorial Day), which means I’d want to have any items for sale there on hand no later than Tuesday the 22nd, for booth setup Wednesday. LSI typically takes about a week from when I send them the files before they approve a title for printing, then another 3-5 days to print, then I have them shipped via UPS Ground (because shipping heavy things like cases of books any faster is prohibitively expensive), so to be conservative I need to submit the files three weeks before I need the books on hand, at the latest. That means I have to have the book ready for print on or before May 1st.

Yow. 90 days.

If I go mad (in a good, hard-working way) for the next couple/few weeks, I can finish at least the vampire books by the end of next week, and possibly all three books the week after that, and get them to my Beta Readers before mid-February. I’ll need not less than a week after I think I’m done editing the book to work through the audio version, probably at least two weeks, plus time to make final changes to the layouts & text after that, so I should say I need to be done polishing the text by mid-April. That doesn’t sound so bad.

Of course, if I continue to have trouble focusing, trouble writing for long periods, or writing at reasonable rates, even with significant daily work it could take me until mid-March to finish the first drafts. Ugh.

What if I need significant re-writes? These books are important to me. Important that they express what I want them to express, even to casual readers. Not so important that they read like mainstream fiction… they’re not even in the same realm as that. But important to me that they’re good, that they do what they set out to do. Tell the stories they were meant to tell. I don’t know. I don’t really even know how to do re-writes. (Ooh; I’ve just added another chapter/chunk’s beginning to the book on writing/publishing, about my editing/rewriting process, or lack thereof.) If my Beta Readers all come back to me saying something like “we don’t really believe Emily is in love with Nicholas; you have to show it, make us feel it, it isn’t there”, or “we couldn’t buy in to anything Nicholas and his group were doing; it was obvious you disagreed with everything he had to say or tried to do”, I may just have a total breakdown, as that would mean most everything I’ve worked so hard to accomplish (in one of the books) I had failed at, compromising the work straight to the core. I might have to take another year on the re-writes, or I might just publish as-is, with the admission that I’m a shitty writer… I don’t know where my emotional collapse would leave me, after excellent feedback like that. (Although, really, I’m just kidding myself with ideas like that; I have never in my life received feedback of that caliber. I don’t know whether it’s because the people reading my books understand my intent and I’m actually doing what I meant to do, or whether my goals were so far beyond the beyond that no one even know what was wrong, and that I’ve secretly, quietly, been a dismal failure all these years. (On the other hand, based on the comments in the worst of my reviews, the one and two star reviews, the single-sentence reviews, the reviews from people who admit they quit reading in under 50 pages… the things those people hate about them are generally all the things that were so important to me to accomplish, or were at least intentional. Not failures of writing, but failure of readers to appreciate what the author was setting out to do. The polarizing effect of my work has become quite encouraging, lately.)) I feel like time is my enemy, at times.

Still, even with worst-case responses, if I can get any meaningful feedback out of people within a month of sending them my books, even that should give me enough time to accomplish significant rewrites, if necessary. Whole chapters, or plot-lines, could be replaced in the time remaining… So I suppose that’s what I’ll have to do. Start applying myself. Intensely. Finish three books’ first drafts in the next three weeks, and have them ready for publication within the next three months.

I’d be tempted to find some money in the budget to order a bunch of modafinil, but I suspect that, if all goes to plan, I’ll be done (or very nearly done) with the most intense part of the work before the drugs arrived from my international pharmacy. If I didn’t have an unnatural aversion to 1) seeing doctors and 2) dishonesty, I’d be much better off convincing a local doctor to write me a prescription for the stuff, and picking it up at my local pharmacy the same day. Somehow, violating federal and international laws bothers me less than either of the things involved in obtaining modafinil the way I’m supposed to. Oh, well. If I had modafinil on hand, I wouldn’t have even had to question any of this, as getting this level of work done would become nearly trivial. *sigh*

I’d better go get to work.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

3 thoughts on “The possibilities of focus”

  1. I am going to use my last doses of modafinil to switch from nocturnal to diurnal, and to try to write … let’s aim for four or five chapters, today. Get a good start. Wish me luck.

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