To Be Continued…

Lately I’ve read the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. While I’ve enjoyed them (a lot) they’ve been read maybe a month apart so there hasn’t been as much of a gap between them as there will be reading future ones. This will matter because while the main plot is tied up, there’s an ongoing story through the series, leaving questions that probably won’t be answered for years.

This isn’t unusual for fantasy, but I’m not sure whether this is ongoing or planned for a certain length of story. It’s no different from TV series that end a season on a cliffhanger (although it’ll usually be less than a year to wait [Unless it’s Sherlock]), but they can irritate me (especially if they’re the kind that also end each episode on a cliffhanger, so you never have any sense of resolution from the stories, which more often than not lead into the next one with little break point).

I know that ongoing series are what traditional publishers look for, hoping they’ll have more audience retention than a series of stand alone novels. Does it also run the risk of alienating readers with knowing they’ve got a year (by most traditional schedules) to wait for the story to continue?

With TV series we’re more used to waiting for answers, and it’ll only be a week till the next fix, even if that doesn’t answer the questions (although viewing habits are changing with new technologies). You can’t control the audience’s pace of moving through a book as easily, so reading quickly through a good book could face a more jarring end if it finishes unresolved.

It can get the customer to stay with the series if it’s as well-written as Aaronovitch’s stuff, but I can’t be sure if I’ll feel the same by the time the next one comes out, or whether I’ll have forgotten the dangling plot threads by then.

 

My Use of Ongoing Stories

I tend to shy away from more overt uses in my stuff since I don’t do many series (I switch, trying to find something that’ll catch on [and as inspiration takes me]). The only time I’ve intentionally started with an overall story planned was the Shadows of the Heavens series of novelettes, which I released on a weekly schedule. Even they didn’t have the overall story too overt to begin with, but all had been written before the first was published.

I’ve done other projects with overall stories more roughly planned, such as Blade Sworn (which had a conclusion but the larger story not quite seen in the background won’t be expanded on unless the book starts selling), and the Tales of the Thief-City series of short stories (which I’m planning out the remaining parts of story for, so they should be released on a close schedule).

I’m unlikely to commit to larger ongoing stories until I start seeing more sales that’ll make it worthwhile (while sales are low sequels aren’t likely to gain me many readers [unfortunately most of my stuff at the moment is sequels, but ones spun out of the previous story rather than part of a planned larger story]). Even then, I don’t know how I’d feel committing to a seriously long project, and the last thing I want to do is start one and then leave readers hanging if I can’t carry it through (or get so bored that the work’s likely to be boring).

Tales of the Thief-City revisions

I’ve given a slight polish to the published short stories of the Tales of the Thief City series. Only a couple of typos in the later ones (that I found. I thought there were more when I read through them before writing Dreams of the Dead, but that could just be my irritation with not having time to fix them then). They’ve also had the customary tweaking that I can’t help doing, as well as some to get them prepared for the print edition.

Since I’m intending working on the remaining stories in the series in the following months, I’ll have enough to make a print collection. And since I wanted to fix some typos and awkward phrases it’s more efficient to format them for print now.

 

Formatting

As part of my regular process the last couple of rounds of revision are formatting it for print, and then reading the print proof for errors that show up easier in print (or that I just happen to see in that format). The main cause of tweaks in this phase are getting rid of widows and orphans (one line of a paragraph that appears on a separate page from the rest of the paragraph. These are to be avoided). Some places advise fiddling with the character spacing, to increase or reduce the number of lines by making text narrower or wider, or having the occasional blank line at the bottom of a page where it’ll be less noticeable, but I prefer using it to force me to rewrite and hone the language. Some lines can still get stretched due to justifying lines where there’s large words in surrounding lines, but stretching them is better than the alternatives.

[When the print version is done to my satisfaction, meaning the text is in its publishable version, I then have to format it for eBooks. This primarily means ensuring chapter breaks are formatted correctly, making sure there are no leading or trailing spaces (which cause problems for Smashwords’ conversion). The latter is the most laborious, even with Word tools letting you display them. I do two versions, one for KDP (Amazon) and one for Smashwords, with the main differences being chapter breaks, and front and back matter.]

 

Plans

So after I’ve got Grey Enigmas ready for publication (I’m provisionally planning for April, but I haven’t got it formatted for print yet, and Createspace can easily take a month to deliver the proof internationally, so that could change) I’ll get back to work on Dreams of the Dead. There’re still a few things needed that I haven’t quite worked out yet, but overall I know most of what needs doing for it.

At some point during working on it I’ll at least write up outlines of the remaining parts of the story, maybe even write a few. The current plan has another seven short stories, although there’s space to include others should they occur to me.

While the published stories play into the overall story, I’ve so far only had a vague idea of the shape of it. Some story beats I’ve known from the beginning (such as the identity of person or persons responsible for certain actions), while others have come as I’ve gone along (what and where is Nexi, and what will be Rax’s ultimate fate). The remainder may feel more cohesive, and from here on in events in previous stories – and especially the next short story – while have a more noticeable effect on the ongoing narrative.

 

The current stories are available for free for the next few weeks (at which point all but the first will go up to 99c) at Smashwords and associated retailers. Amazon will do whatever Amazon decides, so some might be free there if you want to try.

Smashwords

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Glyphwar

I’ve just released the sequel to Glyphpunk.

GlyphwarGlyphwar

With the Society and Alliance in decline, the monarchs unite to depose the usurpers. They’re hardly powerless, and growing threats from outside the kingdoms and within could be enough to send everything spiralling towards war. And that’s before Thjorn’s plans reach fruition.

 

 

 

Available at:

Smashwords

Amazon.com

 

Pricing

There are ongoing discussions (and, this being the internet, probably full-on flame wars somewhere) about the flood of free eBooks out there. I’m guilty of that (in very small part), and when I started it was still a valid promotional method. Amazon was particularly useful, with one of the first I price-matched there getting thousands of downloads in the first days (how many free downloads actually get read is another matter).

The number of downloads have diminished over time as more and more free stuff is published, and Amazon have kind of hidden free stuff that’s not free as part of their KDP Select program.

[Also, their price-matching facility, never that reliable to begin with, has become extremely flaky. Which is understandable: It’s not going to make them any money, so why should they put any effort into it?]

I still keep anything shorter than a novel (and one of my novels which has a sequel) free, mainly because there’s no way to price them less than 99c. There are various arguments for and against doing this, the most prominent being that the flood of freebies can see everything lost in a crowd, and that it tends to devalue the work.

While most of the short stories and stuff I price free does take less time to work on than novels, it’s not necessarily proportionally less. Even the shortest tend to have at least (probably as a bare minimum) a week’s work, after all the thinking and revisions.

The idea has always been to use the free stuff in the hopes they’ll spend money on the other stuff, but that’s had limited success. So I’ll try something else.

 

Tales of the Thief-City

I’m now considering pricing some of my shorter work. I’ve been hesitant with the Tales of the Thief-City series as those who’ve read the existing four parts may be put off at suddenly having to pay for the later parts (which I’m planning to get to work on soon, and publish on a more regular schedule).

The way I’m intending to proceed so as not to disappoint them is to make them (not including Dreams of the Dead, which is an associated novella, and not part of the actual series, that will be 99c) free for the first month (so those following the series should have time to get them) and then put them up to 99c. I’ll be leaving the first in the series free, but will price the others sometime next month (by which point I should have revised the text slightly and tidied up a few typos as I go over them in preparation for working on the others).

 

I’m not sure when, or if I’ll price the other stuff. I’ll probably keep a few free though, if only so I have something moving.

Stoneweaver Revised

I’ve updated Stoneweaver (between drafts of Grey Enigmas and waiting for the proof copy of Glyphwar), since as my free novel its bugged me that the writing is a few years old (probably half a decade), and doesn’t reflect my writing with what I’ve learned since then.

It’s primarily suffered a cosmetic overhaul, with some surgical weight loss: I’ve rewritten most sentences to clean up the language (cutting a further 10% from it).

Structurally it’s unchanged, because by a certain point the story becomes fixed in my mind so unless I see (or have pointed out) gaping plot holes I’d have a hard time changing anything.

There are elements I probably wouldn’t have done that way if I was writing it now – such as short chapters in the beginning constantly switching viewpoint character – but that’s the way the story now is for me.

[Switching characters every chapter is something I tend to do anyway, but I understand the theory that doing it with short chapters at the beginning of the story can make it hard for readers to associate with the characters. Sometimes I’ll counter the inclination by spending more time with one character to begin with, but it depends on the story, and what feels right.]

The cover could also do with revising, but I don’t have any idea what exactly I want to change it to (and the sequel, Coral Throne, would also have to be changed), so one thing at a time. The text is the bit that bothered me, and the most important part for readers.

 

Stoneweaver is available (for free on Smashwords, sometimes on Amazon, if they feel like it) at:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Smashwords