The First Million Words

Not My First Chicken Story

Well, surprise, surprise. The things that a person can forget! I recently discovered that Home to Roost is not my first story featuring chickens. Actually, I suppose it was my mother who made the discovery. She was going through a box of school things, and found two stories I’d written.

Sadly, one of them was 75 percent illegible. I tried working it out, but just couldn’t. Must’ve been from first grade, based on the penmanship. Fun fact: In first grade, I would try to write stories for my teacher to read to the class. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to put spaces between the words, so they were really, really hard to read. My teacher, Ms. B., would try to get me to add the spaces. Instead, I started putting boxes around the words. It didn’t really help–it just cluttered up the page.  But I digress.

The other story was legible (fortunately?). I’m not sure what grade it came from. It was found among my younger brother’s old school stuff, but it was definitely written by me. Why? When? No idea. But here it is. I’ve kept the typos intact.

 

UNTITLED. UNDATED.

By Chauncey Rogers

 

one upon a time there was a cool little boy named Payton. One day he was outside and a giant chicken suddenly picked him up! It was a good thing Theo was outside, jumping on the trampoline. He jumped up and grabed on too.

The chicken flew them all the way to Fiji. “Vwow!” said Theo. They were walking along when all of a sudden Indeans jumped out and tired to chop their heads off. Theo and Payton looked at eachother, then they pulled out their swords and chopped the Indeans to bits. Then they stole the ded Indeans boat and sailed back to America “Where were you?” asked Chauncey. “To the store.” said Payton.

The End

Review Thoughts

Okay. So, I have an idea, and a complaint. The idea, I can do something about. The complaint… well, it may just be the way things are.

But first, the idea.

I think that one of the biggest challenges is getting reviews. It’s this circular scenario where, to get a sale, you need a review. To get a review, you need a sale. Sure, you can twist some people’s arms and get them to read your book ahead of release, and then hopefully get some more reviews after release, but it’s still a tricky thing. I only got reviews from about 25 percent of my early readers, and thankfully have added a few more since then, but there needs to be more for this to work.

But life is busy and tricky, and when I’m asking someone to read my book, I’m competing with busy social, professional, and family lives for my potential reader’s attention. You’d either have to be an egomaniac or an idiot (or both) to expect people to give up that much time. Honestly, it’s totally awesome whenever anybody does it. I mean, if they read your story, they’re choosing that as entertainment over many, many, MANY other options.

So, I’ve had an idea. It seems to me that part of the problem is that people’s time is limited. However, people far cleverer than I have had ideas about how to get rid of that problem–multitasking. And the best way to multitask while “reading” is to not read at all. Nope! Instead, listen to an audiobook!

Now, I tried doing a professional reading of Home to Roost back before I’d even released the print/ebook edition. But I dropped the project. I have the materials available to do it (I think), but I’m not entirely positive that it would be high enough quality for Audible, and right now don’t want to go through the hassle of figuring out if it is or not.

But my epiphany was Hey! Why not do a good-enough audiobook? Not one to sell, necessarily, but one for my early readers? Maybe, just maybe, that would help expand the number of early readers that I have, and hopefully by quite a bit. Then (again, hopefully) I’d be able to get more reviews early on, and have more success with selling to other potential readers.

The nice thing about it is that I already do an out-loud reading as my final read-through before publication. All I need to do is setup a microphone and do some editing afterwards.

Anyways, that’s my plan. We’ll see how it goes.

My complaint is this: I got my first one-star review. It sucks. The reviewer warned all potential readers not to “waste their time” on Home to Roost.

Oh well. I knew that not everybody would love my work. Still stinks, though. She said it was too weird and dark. Of course, based on her Goodreads lists, it was the first time in her life she’d ever picked up a horror book. Unfortunately, my book was the one where she discovered that she didn’t like a genre.

The other thing is that Amazon gives me reports on how far people are reading in my books. It’s not that detailed of a report, but it gives me a solid idea. I know that my one-star-reviewer didn’t finish Home to Roost, and that’s perhaps the most upsetting bit. She read 75 percent of it in 3 days, which is way faster than I read most books–and especially faster than I read books that I don’t even like. But, then she stopped reading and warned others to do the same.

And that’s just lame. It’s like walking away from a joke before the punchline, and then telling people that the joke wasn’t funny. It’s like watching a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, then shutting it off halfway through and saying, “Yeah, that guy was totally lame. He showed promise early on, but then after the Mexican-American War was just a drunk and a failed businessman.”

Bah! And, by the way, she did say that my book showed promise early on.

Okay, complaint over. I’ll try to never do that again on here.

Lions and Tigers and Publishing

It’s almost been two weeks since I published my first novel, Home to Roost. It’s been quite a learning experience. For one thing, even when you’re publishing online, the actual process of publishing can be fairly involved. I don’t know what else I was expecting.

For indie publishing, a lot of people who are publishing on Amazon will use CreateSpace to do a paperback run of their book. It’s really easy to find reviews of CreateSpace’s services. I chose not to use CreateSpace, and instead used Amazon’s KDP Paperback program (it’s still in beta). Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon anyways, I figured that the services wouldn’t be all that different.

Having never really used CreateSpace, I’m probably not qualified to do a very detailed review. However, I can say this: I’m perfectly happy with KDP Paperback. If you have a handle on formatting, are willing to look up a few terms, and have a couple of hours to fiddle and tinker, then you can get a fine paperback copy of your book printed.

As for royalties, I’ve seen quite a few people confused about how those would work for KDP paperback. I think I can break this part down:

You get 60%, minus production cost.

So, if your book costs $10, and costs $4.50 to print, then you’ll get $1.50 in royalties for every copy sold.
10 x 0.6 = 6 ; 6 – 4.5 = 1.5

It’s pretty simple.

For Home to Roost, I just set my prices so that I’d get roughly the same amount from royalties, whether a reader decided to purchase the paperback or the ebook edition.

Now, I had assumed that there would be much higher numbers of sales for ebooks compared to paperbacks–after all, $3 is quite a bit cheaper than $11.50. But I was wrong. They’re actually pretty even. I think that unless people own an e-reader, ebooks are just too uncomfortable for many people to read.

Anyways, I’ll do some more focused posts on what I’ve learned later. Be awesome til then.

 

Current Word Count: 354, 345

My Current Word Count

Well, I’ve published a few short stories now. They’re not free on Amazon, but hopefully Amazon will price match soon and make them free. They are free on Smashwords, where one of them as received a 4/5 star review. It’s something!

But, like I said, they’re short stories–none more than 5,000 words. So, since my current word count is much higher than that, where has everything else come from? I’ll break it down really quick, for anyone who cares, though only in approximations.

  1. I’ve written lots of little things before, having been writing since the second grade or so (although, I didn’t attempt my first novel until the third grade, naturally). I’ve counted all of that, taken together, as about 15,000.
  2. My first, more serious attempt at writing something of length occurred while in college. It was something of a horror/drama, about a weak man being dragged by his escaped convict and abusive ex-wife to her remote and isolated childhood home, so that they could face her buried demons together before she kills him and herself–or, tries to, at least. I wrote about 15,000 words into that (Project name: Closure), before giving it up when school got heavier and whatnot. It obviously didn’t go too far, but it was rather encouraging. I managed to write quite a bit in not too long, and while the writing wasn’t very good, it still happened, and was, in a way, empowering.
  3. The summer of 2013 saw another abandoned novel project. It was a ‘new’ take on the Peter Pan story, but it got convoluted and out of control rather quickly, and was abandoned after around 70,000 words. I had the story mapped out to the end, but some of the things would have been quite forced, and it was already longer than my target word count of about 60,000 words. The project name for that one was The Last Pan. And, while it too was abandoned, it felt like a really big step forwards.
  4. The third try’s the charm, right? I started writing Home to Roost in April of 2016, and finished the rough draft…sometime later. September? August? I don’t recall. But it came in at 110,000 words, had a beginning, middle, and end, and received positive feedback from early readers. I’ll be publishing it next month.
  5. Angela of the Stars was my next writing project. The rough draft is finished, sitting in my hard drive and waiting for some revising. The setting for the story was rather ambitious, compared with Home to Roost, but hopefully I’ll be able to wrestle everything nicely into place for the final draft and a release this summer. That story came in at 120,000 words.
  6. The last bit of writing that I chose to include in the count was my short stories. Like I said, they’re short, so taken altogether I counted them as about 10,000 words. I mostly do them as a writing exercise, or as something to do when I need a break from the bigger projects, but I publish some, and think they’re pretty fun.

And that’s where my current word count comes from. There’s been big improvement already–enough so that I wouldn’t feel too bad asking somebody to fork over $3 to read my novel. However, there’s still a ways to go.

And, since I’ve talked so much about word counts, let me give you a few examples of word counts from well-known stories:

  • Goosebumps stories: 20,000-25,000 words
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 77,000 words
  • War and Peace: 587,000 words
  • King James Translation of the Holy Bible: 783,000 words
  • Artamène/Cyrus the Great, which holds the distinction of being the longest novel ever written: 2,100,000 words

 

Current Word Count: 343,105

342,176 Words (and counting….)

That’s how many words I’ve written so far. 342,176.

There’s a saying that you might hear tossed around every now and again that goes like this:

“Write a million words–the very best that you can write–then crumple them up and throw them in the garbage. Now, with those first million behind you, you are ready to begin to write.”

It’s said different ways and attributed to different people (David Eddings, Jerry Pournelle, Ray Bradbury or John D. McDonald), but the idea stays the same.

I don’t know if it’s true or not. I could imagine some people being talented long before they hit a million words. Others, I’m sure, reach that milestone and still struggle to make their prose enjoyable.

Well, my wife and I have decided to try an experiment and chase a dream.

I’ve always wanted to be an author.

Actually, allow me to rephrase that: I’ve always wanted to be a successful author. I’ve wanted to be other things as well, but always in addition to being a successful author. It’s a wish that I believe many people have–to share their ideas and have others pay money to read them, money that could have been spent on donuts or movie tickets or a plethora of other goods.

We’ve chosen to go after that goal and see how far we can make it. If, once we’ve hit a million words (or gone a bit past it), it seems like we’ve run our course, then we’ll know that we gave it an honest effort, and we’ll be satisfied knowing that we dared.

So, if you care to, you can join us in our undertaking. I’ll be writing here every so often, sharing some of the things I’ve learned about writing, some of the other things going on in my life, and whatever else might seem post-worthy on my way to my first million words.

 

Current Count: 342,503