Poor Progress

Wow, that week went fast, and I have very little to show for it.  The blog move is still in progress, and it was a crap week for writing.  It’s day 30 of Oaths of My Fathers, and I’m really only about halfway through it, maybe even a little shy of that.

Home life with the kids has been… well, scatological.

But still, I’m plugging along.

Mid-Month Updates and Bloggy News

I tried to come up with a more generic and boring title for this and utterly failed. So be it.

Anyway, the blog has been kind of quiet the last week or two. Partly this is because I’ve been putting a lot of writing time into Oaths of My Fathers. It’s currently about 40,000 words long, but I’m behind schedule on it. I want to get it wrapped up in the next couple of weeks as I start getting beta-reader feedback for Debts of My Fathers. For the curious, it’s a continuity thing. Before I do the final edits to a book, I like to draft its sequel. That way, if there’s anything I need to set up beforehand, there’s still a chance to put it in.

Debts of My Fathers is vaguely on track for a May release, but a lot of that depends on the beta reader feedback. My insecure writer’s ego is terrified that the book actually sucks, that the beta readers will confirm it, and that it will require extensive rewrites. But I feel this way pretty much whenever my beta readers are reading one of my books, so it’s probably not a legitimate reason to worry. Still, it’s hard to nail down exact schedules until I get that feedback.

Hell Bent and the draft to Stone Killer are pretty much on hold. I’m focused on getting Debts/Oaths done, but once Debts goes to the copy editor, I’ll pick up on that series again until it’s time to format and publish Debts.

But it’s also been quiet because it’s been a rough couple of weeks with my kids. I don’t talk much about them, but they’re special needs kids, and it’s just been harder than usual lately. There’s some sign of improvement two or three months down the road, but unfortunately, it is predicted to be one of those times where it will likely get worse before it gets better. So, in the meantime I’m trying to look upon it as a plot twist aimed at upping the stakes before our protagonist ultimately emerges victorious.

I’m also taking a little time to move this blog to a new domain. That’s right. As part of my goals for the year, Making It Up As I Go is making way for something with a bit more of a plan. Specifically, I am attempting to migrate the whole thing, archives, comments, and all over to DanThompsonWrites.com. At the moment, that domain simply forwards back over to here, but when I’m all done the reverse will be true. I’m still working out a few kinks, but I’m hoping it will go live in the coming week. In the meantime, I’ve been hesitant to get a bunch of entries queued up – hence the quiet.

Once that’s done, I have a laundry list of little blog improvements to do that have been building up. I didn’t want to do them pre-move, so once that’s done, several of them should show up promptly with a few more dribbling in afterwards. As such, there might be a few bumps along the way, but in the long-run, it should be better.

Also, I do plan on being in Dallas for ConDFW next weekend (Feb 21-23), but I’m not signed up for any programming. I haven’t tried to get on any panels, but the general word is that it’s hard for indies to make that jump. Maybe later in the year when I have another 2-3 titles out. (Crossing my fingers…) Still, if you’re going to be there, look for the long-haired, red-bearded, kilt-wearing Scotsman. We’re only slightly less-common than a Slave Leia at DragonCon.

So, that’s it for now. See you all on the other side of the domain move.

End of January Update

CalendarObliqueI hope to be doing monthly status updates on my big goals throughout the year, both to let folks know how I’m doing and to give myself a good kick in the ass. This is the first of those updates.

First, the numbers. In January, I wrote 42,906 words, of which 10,425 saw the light of day and hence fall into my “published” category. That’s roughly half as many as I should have written and about a quarter as many as I should have published. Hmm, trying to get those to 1,000,000 and 500,000 for the year. Am I worried? Not much. The justification is in the details, so here’s the breakdown:

Email/journaling/other-private: 7344 words. Much of this is just the overhead of being engaged with life and community. Nothing much to see here. Still, that’s only about 70% the rate I predicted in my planning calculations. I don’t plan on trying to increase this artificially. These are words I kind of get for free.

Blogging/Social-Media: 12,072 words. This is split pretty much evenly between my blog here and my activity on Google+. I don’t necessarily publish much original content over there, but I tend to post a lot of long comments. This one hit my original estimates pretty much even, though I’m heavier on the social media than I originally estimated.

Fiction: 23,490 words. The bulk of this was on Oaths of My Fathers during the last week or so, currently at about 17,500, and the rest was some back-and-fill on Debts of My Fathers before it went out to beta readers. Here, I’m only at about 40%, but I knew January was going to be a slow month for new words of fiction. My initial focus was to get Debts of My Fathers out the door to beta readers, and while editing can take a lot of time, it does not add many words. In many cases, it actually cuts them down. So, while I did get to add a few words to the total during my edits to Debts, the words-per-hour was abysmal. Still, I’m ripping along through Oaths at a pretty good clip, and if I can keep to the schedule, I will actually wrap it up late in February, and that will put me pretty much on target for new fiction written.

Published: This is the 10,425 words mentioned up top, and it’s woefully lagging behind the pace at about 25% what it should be. But this one is always going to move in ragged jumps with the publication of books. I’ve pushed Debts of My Fathers one step closer to publication, so I feel pretty good here.

WinterSnowAs for the other smaller goals, here’s a quick look…

Meet up with other writers I know online: I haven’t done much here yet, but I have mostly laid out my convention schedule of the year. ConDFW in February is likely but not yet certain. AggieCon is a possibility for the first time in years, though I still have to deal with a conflicting engagement. ApolloCon is proving difficult due to child-care issues, but I think I’ve got that sorted out. ArmadilloCon should be fairly easy, but due to some other conflicts, I may only be able to do one day. FenCon is also pretty much certain but not yet nailed down. I confess that DragonCon is tempting, but I have to wait for a few other things to settle down before I can even seriously contemplate it.

Beef up the website: Nothing is visible yet, but I’ve actually been making good progress here. I will almost certainly be moving the blog within the next month to a new URL. MakingItUpAsIGo.com will forward you to the new one once it’s up and running. I already have the new URL, and I’m looking at a couple of other hosting services to see if I want to switch service providers at the same time as the move.

Improve my health: Meh, this one has gone nowhere. On the other hand, I haven’t exactly backslid either. January was a month of rolling crises here at my house, and I’m afraid to say that self-care like exercise is one of the first things that goes out the door when things get tight. Note to self and others: that’s not a particularly good strategy.

GroundHogSo that’s it for January. Let’s hope the good things continue in February and the bad things disappear like this nasty winter. So someone, please, put a shade structure over that damn groundhog tomorrow. He really needs to not see his shadow.



This blog is now officially one year old. My first post was little more than “Hey! This is my blog!” and a brief introduction. I didn’t have any grand plans then. I can’t say my plans are that grand now either, but at least I’ve got some momentum.

And momentum is exactly what I was lacking a year ago. I had been piddling around with my writing for years… well, decades really. I felt I had a lot of stories to tell, and I thought my writing was rising to a professional level, but I was not getting anywhere. Of course, I wasn’t trying that hard, either. I had a couple of leads on agents, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to proceed. For that matter, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to proceed.

You see, somewhere in that tentative agent hunt, one of those agents had asked an important question: why do I want to be published? This was different than the age-old question of why do I want to write, and notably, it was a question I had never asked myself. At the time it was asked, my only answer was that it seemed to be the next logical step, but writing and publishing are very different tasks, and just because I enjoyed one was no reason to think I would enjoy the other.

The other lurking question was whether to pursue traditional publishing at all or head out into the lands of self-publishing on my own. “No unagented submissions” was the rule of the day, and even getting an agent was a dicey proposition. Meanwhile, a legion of scam artists were eager to pounce on my dreams and turn them into debts and disaster.  And the self-publishing evangelists were making claims that seemed too good to be true.

To say I was stuck would be an exaggeration of my forward motion, but that had changed two weeks earlier. I was having lunch with a friend, and we were both bemoaning our lack of progress. He was trying to make the jump “above the line” in films, and I was trying to move forward on some kind of writing career. We had both been stuck for years, and we didn’t see anything obvious that was about to yank us forward.

And that’s when I said it. “I don’t want to be having this same conversation in two years.

It’s not pithy enough to be a Nike slogan, but it had the same effect. I dusted off this domain – registered but idle for years – and started blogging. I finished the edits to Beneath the Sky. I finished the draft to Hell Bent. I wrote the draft to Ships of My Fathers. When the new year came around, I finally answered my questions about publishing and made the decision to self-publish Beneath the Sky.  In May I did exactly that. Since then I’ve done first pass edits to Ships of My Fathers and launched into the draft of its sequel, Debts of My Fathers.

I’d like to say it’s been one steady roll of successes, but I’ve had my stumbles along the way. Publishing Beneath the Sky took longer than I had hoped, and I feel like I rushed the cover. The draft to Debts of My Fathers stalled over the summer due to distractions from a house full of special-needs kids and some problems with how the third act was shaping up. I’ve resolved those now, and I’m heading back in to finish it up. But now I’m two months behind where I wanted to be.

Still, I’m eager to keep moving and confident that when next September rolls around, I won’t be having that same stuck-in-the-mud conversation. Tasks that I’m still hoping to finish off this year include: finishing Debts of my Fathers, polishing and publishing Ships of my Fathers, getting Hell Bent into the hands of my beta readers, and writing the first draft to the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer.

As for the blog, I have a few changes in mind. Some of them are cosmetic, but a few are content-focused. I will probably be dropping my intermittent blog entries on making gold in World of Warcraft – though for the record, I did punch through the one million gold mark this summer. (Fanfare?  Cheers?  Golf clap??)  Instead of talking about gaming, I’m going to take a stab at writing more short fiction. This is something I have not done regularly since the 1990’s, but I want to give it another shot. The SF/F essays will continue, and I will likely continue to talk some about writing and publishing. The book reviews will keep coming along as fast (er, I mean, as slow…) as I read them, but I’m thinking about adding some columns on movies as well.  Podcasting is still a possibility, but it’s iffy.

I hope to have two or three more books in print by the time this blogiversary rolls around next year, but other than that, I have no idea where this is all headed. As always, I’m making it up as I go.

Un-Marketing My Book

One thing that’s been drilled into my head since I got into writing – long before indie publishing – was that writers are increasingly responsible for their own marketing. The major publishers will do virtually nothing for you unless your name is King, Rowling, or Clancy, and as an indie, it’s all up to me anyway. But while I understand that indie publishing means treating my writing like a business, all this marketing stuff never rang true for me. Why? Because it never seemed to matter to me as a reader.

I think about the last hundred books or so that I bought/read and my reasons for choosing them. The vast majority of these were because I already liked the author’s work, and in many cases the book was the next one in an ongoing series. A few others reached my in-pile because a friend recommended them to me. Some got there because I met the author and became interested in what they had to say. A few got there because one of those authors recommended it. And finally, I grabbed a few simply because the cover caught my eye, and the blurb on the back sounded interesting. Not one book got there because of a Twitter thread, a Facebook page, or a teaser video on YouTube.

I’m not unique in this. I recently read the results of a survey in which they asked people why they purchased their most recent book purchase. Alas, my google skills are not up to the task of finding it again, but I remember the gist of it. The top two answers were 1) because it was the next book in the series, and 2) because they liked the author’s other work. Those two answers accounted for about 70% of the responses for their most recent purchase. The next answer was that the book had been recommended by a friend, and it scored close to 20%. The last 10-15% were a mix of “saw it in the bookstore”, “read a review”, and so on.

One of the lessons to take from that is that the best marketing you can is to get another book out to your existing readers. After all, if 70% of what your readers will buy is going to be from authors they already know, then give them something new of yours to buy.

Of course, that only works once you have readers in the first place. How do you get those readers? That’s what that last 30% of the survey was about. The biggest among them was recommendations by friends, a.k.a. word of mouth. There’s not a lot I can do about that except try to be worthy of a recommendation. The first book is out the door and is as good as it’s ever going to be, so I can’t actively do much more about that. However, I can put out another one. If they didn’t like the first book enough to gush fanatically, maybe the next one will strike the right spot.

As for some of other reasons, “saw it in a bookstore” is a little out of my reach. This is one area where traditional publishers really can flex their marketing muscle. They pay bookstores to place certain titles in prominent locations or arrange them face-out instead of spine-out on the shelves. While you should be able to order my book at a bookstore, it won’t be sitting around in the impulse-buy section.

However, the online stores of Amazon and Barnes & Noble have some programmatic recommendations, i.e. “people who bought this also liked these…” If one of your books pops up there with an eye-catching cover, you can reap same benefit as those bookstore placements. A click-and-scan is about as good as a pick-up-and-gander. But how can I maximize that? How can I have more chances at that kind of thing? Perhaps the most effective way is to have more books out and available, since that puts more covers into the eyeball hunt.

Sensing a pattern?

Yeah, both my gut and my research tells me that the best use of my marketing time and energy is in getting more books out there rather than in trying to promote this first title. Once I have three, five, or even ten titles out, it might make more sense to invest the energy into all those flashy marketing schemes. It would require about the same effort then as it would now, but later on I’ll have a shot at selling them five or ten books instead of just one. Then I can hope to hook them for the long term, while now about all I can hope for is to become that guy who wrote that book… hmmm, I wonder whatever happened to him?

Now, I am going to do some activities that qualify as marketing, but not so much for their supposed marketing power. Instead, I’m going to do them because they’re FUN!

I like to blog, particularly about geeky things like SF/F and even some gaming. That’s going to keep going. In fact, it’s going to be hard to shut me up about it. Ostensibly, it does have a marketing purpose in that it lets readers connect with the author as well as provide a hub for news and sales links. But it also gives me a place to blather on about ray guns and FTL drives. I may do a few “guest blog” spots for other blogs, but that’s about all I’m going to do beyond my original focus.

I like going to SF/F conventions. I have made a lot of friends in those communities, and it’s a great opportunity to geek out with fellow fans face to face. I mean, where else are you going to have a random conversation about who would win the epic Enterprise vs. Galactica showdown? (FWIW, I say it’s the Enterprise for the simple reason that Galactica has no FTL sensors.) But there are valid marketing reasons as well. If I ever end up on a panel, people who’ve never heard of me will get a chance to hear me blather on about Cylon spirituality or the cost of using magic. Plus, there’s also all those people arguing over whether a hockey stick made for a good wizard staff in the TV version of the Dresden files.

I should say, though, that these con folks are not merely my fellow fanatics and… ahem, cult members. They are also what you might call mavens. If you’ve read The Tipping Point, you’ll recognize maven as one of the roles various people play in the viral spread of ideas. In the word of mouth network, mavens are the domain experts. If they like something, their recommendation carries a lot of weight. Getting an idea (or a book) in front of them is worthwhile.

But even without that, I’d still be going. I’ve been attending SF/F cons for twenty years, and with or without my books, I plan on going for twenty more.

And then there’s some stuff that just looks fun.  One final bit of fun marketing I might try is something I saw another author talking about this morning.  The idea is to take snippets of dialog from the book – the lines that really stick – and turn them into little postcard images. She then posts them to a Tumblr blog.

It reminds me a bit of an old Heinlein collection called “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”, a beautifully illuminated collection of snappy quotes from the various Lazarus Long books. (Note, the original is long-since out of print, and a newer book of the same title is not at all the same thing, but I did see a copy of the original on Ebay just now for less than $40.) Since I often use fictional quotes as chapter heads, I could see this as a fun exercise. Maybe toss in a few bits from SomeECards as well. If I do this, I’ll be sure to link to it from here.

But other than those three things (blogging, cons, and quotes), I’m just going to keep up with the writing. I have two more books going through the edit process. One is in the same universe as Beneath the Sky, but it’s not a sequel. Instead, it’s book one of what feels like a five-book series. It’s tentatively titled Ships of My Fathers. The other is an urban fantasy about a reporter living in a cross-realm version of our own Pittsburgh, dealing with demons, wizards, and the occasional fae. It’s tentatively titled Hell Bent and is the first in an open-ended series. My goal is to get at least one of those out to readers this year, probably starting with Ships of my Fathers. I also hope to write the sequels to both of those to get out the door next year.

So, I’ll see you around, and I hope you enjoy my un-marketing.

Got Busy

Sorry for the missed posts the last couple of weeks. I do most of my blogging on the weekends, and I was travelling (actually camping) the last two weekends, and then I got caught flat-footed when the week arrived. I’m getting back to the content queue now.

In other news, my self-publishing efforts are moving forward. I setup my publishing company, Quantum Forge Press. It has a domain, a blank website, a bank account, and ten ISBN numbers. I’m starting on the book cover now. While I missed my self-imposed deadline of April 1st, I’m still hopeful about getting it out this month.

See you later!

2012: The Open Road Before Me

Yep, it’s goal setting time! I don’t generally do resolutions as they tend towards wishy-washy half-promises that evaporate by February. I prefer goals, since they’re less about making abstract changes and more about achieving concrete objectives. So, I thought I would share my writing goals for 2012.

The short of it is this: My goal is to publish two books this year, write two more, and keep up with the bloggy stuff.

Now let’s try that a bit slower.


I have decided, for now at least, that I’m going to pursue the self/indie-publishing route rather than traditional publishing. I’ll say a lot more about that in a later post, probably next week, but for 2012 and probably 2013, that’s the course I’m taking.

My first novel, Beneath the Sky, is pretty much ready. (I would argue that it’s not really my first novel, but that, again, is a whole’nuther post.) It still needs my copy edit pass, and then I’m seriously considering hiring a copy editor I know to give it a professional combing. You know, catch all the their-there-they’re stuff.

However, even then, it will be ready as a manuscript, not as a book. I need to do the formatting for Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc., as well as for print books. Yes, I intend to go with both e-book and physical book versions. That’s not as much work as you might think since it’s really only three formats: Kindle, e-Pub (which Smashwords will translate and push for you), and whatever format CreateSpace wants.

I will also need to do the cover. In a previous life, I was a half-decent artist and a pretty good graphic designer. However, I haven’t painted anything in over a year, and even that was a year of not painting much. As much as I’ve focused on my writing lately, my painting has been quite stalled. (Ironically, it was my frustration with a book cover commission that did a lot to sap my passion for painting.) So, I’m a little undecided on this. I could whip out my artistic toolbox and see if I can muster something up, or I could go to one of my artist friends and ask them to paint something for me. I can provide sketches. I just don’t know if my current skill set can make those sketches look good.

As a side note, if you’re interested, here are a few of my pieces from that former life:  Night StormAging ImmortalThe Offering (a little racy), and Priestess of Tides (more than a little racy).

So, while I think I understand the basic process, I’ve never done it before and don’t realistically know how long it’s going to take me. However, as a ballpark, I’m going to aim for three months, so hopefully I’ll have something to show for my efforts in April.

As for the second book, Hell Bent, I have more work to do on the manuscript itself. It’s not yet ready for the beta readers, but that task is coming up soon, well before Beneath the Sky is likely to see paper or Kindle. Then, once I have some reader feedback, I’ll be fixing all the holes and lame characters that they find, and then… well, it will need to simmer a bit. But then hopefully it will just need another copy edit pass (possibly a professional one), and then formatting, cover, etc. In short, it will need all the things I discovered Beneath the Sky needed but didn’t know in January. My goal is to get this one out in the latter part of the year, maybe as early as July, but to be safe I’m giving myself until October.


So, I’ve written two drafts in the last fourteen months, and that span included a stretch of about nine months when I wasn’t writing any fiction at all. I hope to avoid another nasty stretch like that and crank out two new drafts in 2012. As I’m trying to alternate between SF and fantasy, the first one this year will be fantasy. In fact, it is likely to be a sequel to Hell Bent, since that was written intentionally as the first book in a series. Of course, before I set finger to key on that one, I’ll need to have gotten good enough feedback from the beta readers of Hell Bent to feel confident that a sequel is in order. I hope to write that one sometime in the spring to early summer, probably after I get Beneath the Sky out the door.

Then, somewhere in there, I need to do a first pass edit on my just-completed-last-week draft of Ships of my Fathers. There are two reasons for this. First, I want to keep the pipeline full so that I can do a similar 2+2 goal next year, and second, because I want to get the beta reader feedback to see if Ships of my Fathers is worth a sequel. Why? Well…

The second draft I’m planning to write in 2012 is a sequel to Ships of my Fathers. Much like Hell Bent, it was written intentionally to be the first of a series. However, while I can see Hell Bent leading to any number of books, Ships of my Fathers is much more likely to be limited to a 4-6 book run. Hell Bent can easily be “the continuing adventures of…” whereas Ships of my Fathers is headed to a very specific destination. Once it gets there, it’s either “live happily ever after” or “let me toil eternally in anguish for my mistakes”, and no one wants to read that. Or at the very least, I don’t want to write it.

This might be leading me to a soft fur-lined trap of bouncing back and forth between these two series for 5+ years, but that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. On the other hand, if I can pull off 2+2 for a year or two, maybe I can up the ante to 3+3 and splice in some extra variety. But for now, I’m shooting for 2+2 to keep the pipeline flowing for the next year.


I’m reasonably happy with what I’ve been doing with the blog so far, and I’m likely to keep the same kind of schedule, namely an essay on Monday, a writing/publishing article on Wednesday, and a book review on Friday. Other things will pop in randomly, but that’s the basic idea. However, I do plan on two relatively minor changes.

First, the Monday essay is going to see a few multi-part essays. When I started brainstorming ideas to write on, I ran into several that I really wanted to expound on but would require far too much text for a single blog entry. Well, too much for an entry I expected anyone to actually read. So, I held off on them until now. After all, I didn’t want to start the blog with “A Study of the Interstellar Migration of Butterflies, parts 1 through 22”.

Second, as I get more into the publishing game, the Wednesday column is going to turn a bit more personal as I share the gory details of the process, especially this first time through. Later, I’ll probably shift more to talking about the actual writing stuff. That may very well bore readers to tears, but I’m afraid it’s inevitable: if you give a writer a blog, sooner or later he starts blathering about voice, pacing, and the superiority of the Oxford comma.

Note: my original concept for this blog was to do it as a podcast, likely a weekly one, where the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday entries were simply different sections of the podcast, probably coming in at the 20-40 minute range. However, some hiccups with recording and sound editing kept the blog on hold for over a year before I finally set the podcast idea aside, at least temporarily. I don’t expect to pick it up again this year, but you never know. However, even if I did add it as a podcast, I would almost certainly keep the text portions as they are.

So that’s it for 2012. Hopefully, I’ll be greeting 2013 with success. At the very least, I’ll be greeting it with a big raspberry for all those Mayan calendar doofuses… doofusses… doofi… hell, why doesn’t the dictionary ever conjugate the one word you really need?

Brief hiatus

Alas, I have been attacked by two of the November problems that regularly plague NaNoWriMo participants as well as the sane portions of the population: visiting relatives and visiting germs.  The cold seems to be departing just as the relatives descend.

But fear not, I will return to the regular Monday-Wednesday schedule soon enough and will likely expand to Fridays as well.

First Post

Ah, that first blog post… when the page is still fresh, the comments spam-free, and the possibilities limitless! What should I say? What epic wisdom shall I impart? What… what…


I think I’m going to take a page from the great Emperor Vir Coto and say I just can’t think of anything all that momentous, and now that I’m actually saying it, it’s too late to go back and fix it.

Welcome to “Making it up as I go”, my little blog on science-fiction, fantasy, and a few bits of my life mixed in with it. The title refers to how I write fiction. I am not an outliner. I am more of a seat-of-the-pantser. I may have a notion of where I’m going, but I pretty much make it up as I go. I paint the same way. Heck, I suppose I live the same way. Sure, later I’ll lie about it and say it was all part of a grand design, but by then it will be too late. The internet is forever!

I am still sorting out my posting schedule, but I hope to be fairly regular, or at least more predictable than the blog title would suggest. At the moment, I have just completed the zero-draft manuscript for my second novel “Hell Bent”, and I am editing version 2.1 of my first novel “Beneath the Sky”. I also have an interest in podcasting, so I may be adding a podcast in parallel to the blog.

In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the ride. I have no idea where we’re going.