Sometimes when we choose a name for one of our fictional characters, there are unintended consequences.
Case in point: when I developed the Sissy Jupiter outlines for my new series, her name was loosely based on "Sissy Jupe", a character from Charles Dickens' "Hard Times". The writing group was thinking of where story ideas came from and one exercise we played around with was to take an old story or tv show and add "in space" after it.
Gilligan's Island... in space... a tour of some interesting planets leads the USS Minnow (for example) into an ion storm and they get stranded on an uncharted planet.
Wagon's West... in space... which became Star Trek.
You get the idea.
So I thought, hm, Hard Times ... in space, and that's where Sissy Jupiter came from for my mid-20s female protagonist. So far so good.
But when I discussed my cover and my manuscript with beta readers and others, it became clear that the name "Sissy" signalled a YA story, and that's not the audience I was writing for.
So Sissy is retired. I may resurrect that name for a future YA story, but for now, the name doesn't work.
Allow me to introduce to you... Piper Madison.
I completed the first draft of the second book in my new Sissy Jupiter series this past week. 18 days to write. 74,300 words. Sure, there are typos and some inconsistencies that I'll fix up in my first revision (underway), but this is a good way for me to write. I don't try to make each section perfect before moving on the to next: I focus on getting te story out of my head and into the laptop.
I didn't always write this way. The Ross 128 trilogy took much longer to complete because I spent a fair amount of time polishing my prose as I went. Effective, but wow it took a while, to the point where I would struggle to write two novels in a year.
Now, I begin with my plotted roadmap so I know my major plot points and generally what happens in each section. Then I sprint to write. Usually I write in 14 minute sprints. I've learned that seems to work well. Then I do something else for a few minutes and then return to the story... tweaking the plot or the upcoming scenes as the characters take on lives of their own.
I typically begin writing around 7:30 in the morning and I finished around 1:30 in the afternoon. I take frequent breaks, work on other things like my coaching clients or workshops. In the afternoon, I don't normally write unless I'm particularly inspired. This way, I write between 4000-5000 words per day.
So now what? The first book in the series is with beta readers for a few more days. I'll spend about a month revising and polishing the second book, then send it to beta readers (maybe... I'm actually rethinking whether this is helpful or not). Then I'll plot out my roadmap for Book 3 and start writing that in late June or early July.
I'm torn whether to publish the books as they're finished, or hold off until they're all done. Pros and cons to each. If I publish as I go, then I can test my promotional ads, generate some interest from my audience. On the other hand, readers will want to keep reading the series, so I want to make sure the other books are available. This helps with sales, too, as I've learned from my Ross 128 series.
With summer almost upon us, I know I'll be spending many days camping and fishing, and that will eat into my writing plans. So there's that, too :)
Oh, that image above is a new cover/title I'm considering for Book 1. Your thoughts are always welcome!
If you want to test out different covers or titles or blurbs for your book, who do you ask? It's true, we really don't know what will resonate with our readers, so testing is a critical aspect of our indie writing and publishing. Time and again, I'm surprised by what I think is brilliant only to have my readers not like it that much. So, test and test again until you find what works.
But, who can you ask? If you've developed a list of followers and fans, that's an obvious place to begin. They already know you and like your books, so they want to see you succeed. So set up a poll and email them for their input.
Alternatively, you may have a few other writers who are also knowledgeable about your genre and also want to see you succeed. You can approach them too for their input.
I made the mistake of polling a group of generic writers on possible titles for my Sissy Jupiter novel. It's now with beta readers and I wanted to get a sense for which title resonated. Even though I made it clear I was looking for input only from those who write and read that genre, I got all kinds of feedback from all kinds of others.
What began as an exercise in narrowing down the nuances of my title ended up in some complaining that a YA audience or younger might be horrified by possible misinterpretations. These comments were from writers who did not write in my genre and I suspect didn't even read my genre.
That was a big mistake and got me questioning a lot of things.
Fortunately, those I knew wrote and read science fiction and its many sub-genres, were more sensible, so after scratching my head for a while, I stuck with their opinions.
All this taught me (again) about a few things:
Picking up on yesterday's blog, another reason why we take bad book reviews so personally: we see ourselves as writers. Identify as writers (even when the Imposter shows up). So if someone doesn't like our book, we conclude that they don't like us.
And everyone wants to be liked.
If someone doesn't like our book, and tells the rest of the world how much our story sucks, we take it very personally. This is an attack on who we are.
But, your book is not you. My books certainly aren't me. You can dislike my books, that's your privilege, but the onus is on me whether I see that as an attack on who I am or not.
If someone doesn't like my work, I choose to see that either as an indication that the reviewer isn't my target reading audience, or that it's a threat to my identity as a writer. I choose.
You have that choice too. Always.
So... you've written your novel, beta tested it, thrown it out there on Amazon, sold some copies to followers on your list and even got a few reviews. You're delighted that most of them are supportive and positive. And then...?
That one negative review comes in from someone you don't know and probaby hasn't even read the book.
Still, that's the one you focus on. What went wrong? Why does this person hate me? I thought my story was okay, and I get this?
It's a curiosity of human nature that we always tend to focus on the one negative review even if most of them are good. Why is that? Why do we place so much weight and importance on the one bad apple? Like in the picture above, our attention goes directly to the apple that's half rotten, not the good one.
I'm no psychologist. I know nothing about why we behave the way we do, and the best advice I've seen about dealing with that one bad review is to ignore all reviews, good, bad and ugly. I think if we're able to do that, we can continue focusing on creating our art. We don't allow ourselves to think we're wonderful, and we refuse to get sucked into a shame spiral by wondering why some people don't like us.
Here's something I tell my writers. Seek out their favourite authors on Goodreads or Amazon and check out the reviews. Not the gushing ones, but the bad ones, because they all have them. See? Even the brilliantly successful authors have bad apples in the barrel. Do you think they spend as much time as you do on worrying why their story didn't resonate? Nope. They simply refuse to take any of it personally and get back to work.
We should do the same.
Hi, I'm David. I write science fiction from a Christian worldview that promotes hope. Want to know the darker details? Click here.
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