Book Launch Learnings 2 – Writing

Part 2 – Learnings about writing and publishing a book Series – Writing

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Yesterday I wrote about my planning process, today I write about… writing.

Before you begin writing a book, make sure you enjoy writing. Unless you’re planning on writing a ton of books, or you are certain to catch lightning in a bottle, writing is tough and not frequently rewarding unless the act of writing itself is of interest to you.

Time

The first question is time. You really need to find a way to make time for writing or you’ll get nowhere. I started by writing in the margins of my time. There is a reason it took almost three years to write On Swift Wings. I bought a fold-away keyboard for my phone and I actually wrote about half of the book the same way I did my planning, on the train, at lunch, whenever I had five minutes of time. Sometimes that meant that I didn’t write anything for a few days or weeks at a time.

One thing I did to buy myself time, no laughing, was to delete all my stupid games off my phone. I wanted to write a book, and it occurred to me that all the time I was spending tapping on games that are surprisingly addictive, and yet really boring and unimportant, was consuming those little blocks of time that could be used productively.

A second thought was to avoid social media. I didn’t delete them, but I made a conscious effort to not spend idle time scrolling through it. You’d be surprised how much you don’t miss out on things when you don’t read thoughtless nonsense all day.

As I got deeper in, I set aside blocks of an hour in the evenings to work, and that helped get the book done much more quickly. I set some goals for myself and posted them so that everybody could see what I was doing. It is a way of holding myself accountable. I don’t like letting people down, even if they don’t really care if I do.

Read and progress

A mistake that I made, writing over a long period was that I often forgot what I had written before. When I got to the editing phase this required me to go back and correct double-writings several times. I usually remembered what I wanted to write, I rarely stopped thinking about the book, but I definitely forgot whether I had already put it down a page or two back.

It is certainly easier if you re-read what you’ve already written to ensure that the contents and style flow the first time. If not, you’re in for an editing adventure. If you can write it all in one go… you might be a magical wizard. Most people can’t pump out a quality novel of 100,000+ words in one sitting. Take your time to cover your flow.

Be flexible

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I’ve stated in my planning blog that I wrote out the exact flow and structure I intended to follow including a very specific ending. As I wrote the story, I didn’t like the ending that I had originally envisioned. It didn’t fit with the tone and content of the story, and would have felt extremely out-of-place at the end of it. I believe that the readers would have felt cheated and confused. If I had rigidly held to the original plan, it would have made the story worse.

Similarly, at several other parts of the story, I realized while providing details and descriptions that the original plan left me with too little breadth to paint the necessary picture. I really wanted to avoid any deus ex machina fallacies, where suddenly a most fortuitous event magically gets the character out of a sticky situation. I wanted the story to provide reasonable solutions to problems if the main character could find it. At one point my editor, Bobbi, wrote a comment that read something like, “Isn’t that lucky?” She flagged something really important there that I had done inadvertently, and fortunately it gave me time to carefully fix it.

Re-write

The first time I write something, I usually get the gist of what I want and a readable story, but if I go back and read it, I usually criticize the crap out of it and re-write it several times. Each time I re-write, it keeps the plot, but I tend to add more literary devices, more vivid description, and better satirical elements. I know it makes the process much more time-intense, but taking the time to re-write is a really important part of my process.

A word of warning though. If I let myself re-write something too often, it becomes an overly-cerebral pile of nonsense that nobody wants to wade through. You have to trace through Beautiful Mind-style cobwebs of interconnected thoughts, often with key links deleted during the re-write.

Trust that you’ll cover any glaring issues during editing, but make it good enough first. Editing isn’t cheap or quick.

Check Requirements

Here is something I didn’t know when I started. Different genres expect different word counts. I was aiming to have a good book, I didn’t really care how long it turned out, but I wanted it to probably be >100,000 words. Depending on your genre, 100,000 words might be way too many or too few. Look up what you’re writing and find out. In my case, my editor suggested that literary fiction could be a little longer, so I got a bit lucky that way. Another consideration is that when printing your book; number of pages directly affects cost. I wouldn’t trade quality for a few pennies per book, but if you write a Tolstoy-like epic with a million words, it’ll eat your profits, and probably reduce your sales enormously.

I’m certain there is more that I’m forgetting, but my window of time for the day is closing.

Tomorrow: editing.

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I hope that this section on writing is of some value to you. If it is, comment here or get a hold of me through my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!

Book Launch Learnings 1 – Planning

Part 1 – Learnings about writing and publishing a book Series – Planning

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Planning seems a right logical place to start when talking about the learning and ideas relating to writing a book. In this entry, I’ll discuss planning and inspiration. This entry will likely be more personal and less transferable, but I’m sure there will be some useful gems in each entry.

This is meant to be thorough, but hopefully it will give some insight into my thoughts and maybe increase your enjoyment of the book knowing the work put in behind the scenes.

Inspiration

I always felt like I wanted to write a book, it has always been on my to-do list. The idea of sharing my thoughts with the world, and even more, to discuss them, is very appealing to me. I wasn’t sure that I ever would but it was always on my mind. I wrote my entire master’s thesis in a month, start to finish, 180 pages, so I knew I could write something of length but I was never a top performer in language arts, I performed best in social studies and math, and I think that gets reflected in my work. Any reader will undoubtedly notice the political and economic themes apparent throughout. A source of inspiration is the real world and some of the challenges that are apparent in today’s society. Writing on social media hardly seems valuable, as that forum has long ago become a shouting match within similarly interested echo chambers. A book, I feel, has more potential to cross political boundaries.

The second source of inspiration was my children. When I read Gulliver’s Travels to my son as a baby, I saw a style that was similar to my own, and subject matter that could be used as a platform to share my thoughts and initiate conversations. My children are inspiring because I want them to know me and who I am, regardless of what happens to me. If I can make the world a better place for them through my thoughts, that is my highest objective.

Pre-planning the foreword

When I started writing On Swift Wings, it was originally just meant as a way for me to vent my own thoughts into something permanent. Writing is my way of interpreting and handling all the myriad news and information that is perpetually bombarding me daily.

I actually wrote the first draft of the foreword before anything else. It reads more difficult than the rest of the book because it was really the foundation upon which the rest of the book was written. I considered it the bare bones, and many of the themes and macro-scale ideas are introduced there. I wrote and rewrote, edited and restructured the foreword a dozen times before I even started writing anything else. The foreword was in some ways the mission statement for the book, a bit like a personal reminder of why I was writing it, and a talisman reminding me which way to go as I waded through the actual process of writing.

The foreword may be wickedly over-written, but it is something of which I’m very proud. It is the highest hurdle in the entire book and it comes right at the front. I’ve been criticized for including it in the book, but without it I feel that the rest of it is greatly diminished.

Don’t feel bad if it is tough, it is meant to be a challenge, and it is based on an important element of verisimilitude from the original.

Respecting the original (But not too much)

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https://www.gutenberg.org/files/829/829-h/829-h.htm

It was originally just meant for myself and those I love but as it got clearer I felt compelled to make something bigger of it as I mentioned in my inspiration. Once I decided that I wanted to write a book based on the world of Gulliver’s Travels, I knew I had to show respect for the original work. The first rule I created was that I had to respect the original immutable facts of the book, regardless of how uncomfortable they were. I could bend and shift things, but some things don’t and can’t change. The best example of this is on the island of the yahoos and Huhuneem. The feral yahoos are black and Gulliver spends quite a lot of time trying to figure out if they are human or not. It would hardly make any sense that magically they would have changed colour and were now Caucasian, Asian, or any other. That led to an uncomfortable bit where I had to figure out how to handle that without making it seem that black people are somehow inferior to others. The original book has some pretty crazy racist overtones that I wanted to avoid duplicating if possible:

These differences are common to all savage nations, where the lineaments of the countenance are distorted, by the natives suffering their infants to lie grovelling on the earth…

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift (1726)

Recognizing the need to respect the original, but certainly not willing to repeat 18th century attitudes was a challenge, and I needed to study the book and what people thought of it. I read several reviews and commentaries about the book and wrote pages of notes. I wrote about the meaning of various metaphors from the book and made sure I fully understood the contents therein. I compiled a comprehensive stack of notes about each chapter, location, the geography, politics, characters, themes… everything that I could gather to make sure I respected the immutable boundaries. I still wouldn’t claim to be an expert on Gulliver’s Travels, reading a few websites doesn’t really make anybody a qualified expert, but I feel that I was at least a competent reader.

The Plan

Once I had the research completed and the compass provided by the foreword, I started to plan out the rest of the contents of the book.

I had a small black notebook from SAIT, a local college, and I just started writing out ideas. I carried the notebook with me everywhere. I’d jot down ideas while on the train, when waiting for something, at work when I had down-time while a model or program was processing or code compiling. I read a number of comedians’ books who say they just note any funny thought when it came to them, even in the middle of the night. I considered that, but if I let myself dwell on current events and politics too much in bed, I don’t sleep. If I couldn’t carry the notebook around, I used a website called dynalist.io to keep track of ideas.

Author-drawn map of Loogenage, closely based on original map of Luggnagg

First I wrote out each of the islands that would be visited. In 1726, Japan was an exotic place, barely more real than the fictional islands of Gulliver’s Travels to the majority of the potential readers. Most of them would never have an opportunity to visit Japan and it was included in the book, I believe, to lend some realism to the story. In today’s world, Japan ought not be treated with the same sort of fictional brush that was presented in Gulliver’s Travels, so I included it only as a passing mention. In fact, there are few places of the earth, accessible today be a plethora of modes, that one might consider to be so exotic as the fictional lands of Gulliver’s Travels. I chose to focus all but the intermediate steps on the islands of the original. As one of many twists, I decided to have my character visit them in reverse order. Another twist that I added was to recognize that a 18th century ship’s surgeon from England would like pronounce and spell words differently, so names like Luggnagg, Houynhhnms, and Blefuscu would necessarily be spelled differently by my main character.

Island Overviews

The first notes about each island are humourously short. Two or three sentences that only describe the most significant thoughts, themes, and changes from the original.

Character Development

Next I constructed the main character. I prepared a backstory, gave him some depth, education, family, etc. I made a special note to myself that he has not read Gulliver’s Travels. I treated this as flexible, but a guideline I would use while writing, and updated as something in this character guide needed adjusting to fit the narrative. It was important that when writing I didn’t accidentally describe the main character as uneducated in one chapter and later a scholar, for example.

You’ll note that I never wrote the main character’s name in the planning. I didn’t have a plan for that. I didn’t like anything I came up with, so I just kept referring to him as “C” in my notes for main “C”haracter. Ultimately, this played an important part when I eventually had to name in while writing.

Causes of Stranding

The next part of the plan involved figuring out ways that the main character would get stranded upon these islands. In the original, it was pretty much shipwrecks and sea-related maroonings. In today’s world, this doesn’t seem a very reasonable expectation of an average guy. Unless I made him a sailor, which would have put me in a difficult position, as I’m not a sailor and have little experience in that area. Most international travel is by plane, so I needed to study aircraft, crashes, and reasons why a plane might go down (without immediately and necessarily killing everybody on board.)

The End

Next, I wrote the end of the story. I follow the mantra, “Start with the end in mind.” I think this comes from Covey. Anyway, if I don’t have a target, my writing meanders without meaning and goes nowhere. I won’t write about the details, but I was very specific about what I wanted to happen with the main character, what he would have learned, and how he grew. A little laugh though, after writing the book, I didn’t feel the ending reflected the tone and I completely changed it.

Layout

Next, I basically wrote the framing for the story. I planned out each act and chapter, I wrote what effectively became the subtitling for each chapter. “The author brings together artists and creative minds…” Then I started adding details about each chapter. I would write key ideas and points to highlight, satirical elements, and deeper considerations. The layout became my step-by-step guide for the actual writing. The layout consists of thirty pages of notes and reminders so that I didn’t accidentally paint myself into a corner, or contradict myself. When it comes to writing, this layout made it far simpler to maintain the storyline and just focus on using literary devices, language and quality.

All together, I filled up an entire notebook before I wrote anything other than the foreword of the book. Thorough planning was crucial to keeping me on task.

Next Post: Writing

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I hope that this section on planning is of some value to you. If it is, comment here or get a hold of me through my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!

Learnings from book writing/publishing

As I celebrate the 1st anniversary of On Swift Wing’s launch, I’m going to try to post once each day about each element of the book writing and publishing industry, starting with my original thoughts and ideas going into the things that I’ve learned. If anybody is interested in writing their own books, hopefully this will be valuable information. Of course, you can always reach out to me as well, I’m an open book… if you’ll pardon the absolutely intentional pun.

  • Planning
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Cover Design
  • Publishing
  • Launching
  • Marketing
  • Reviews
  • Awards

If there is anything else about which you’d like to know more, just let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

I’ll try to target one subject each day, but cover it with as much thoroughness as possible and as much meaningful insight as I can whip up.

Everything will be done through the lens of my first novel, On Swift Wings, which is available at stores both online and physical everywhere.

I’ve also made the first five chapters available for free:
https://brettwiens.com/part-one-the-island-of-the-huhuneem-and-yahoo/

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On Swift Wings – 1st Anniversary Relaunch

It has been a year since the launch of On Swift Wings, my debut novel. To celebrate, I’m relaunching the award-winning novel with a new cover and a new website design.

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Cygnus is an average young man working for an airline. When something goes wrong on a transcontinental flight, he is thrust into the adventure of a lifetime.

Many challenges lie ahead of Cygnus. His survival depends on his wits as he encounters mysterious islands occupied by human-enslaving horses, immortals, a race of sorcerers and necromancers, anti-intellectuals, giants, and miniature human civilizations.


On Swift Wings is an action and humour-packed satirical adventure fantasy, rich in vivid detail, following the style and structure of Jonathan Swift. If you like satirical comedy and classical fantasy, you’re sure to love this award winning novel by author Brett Wiens.

As has been the case since its original launch, 20% of all author royalties are being donated to the Children’s Hospital.

Preview the first five chapters

or

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Available at most bookstores in hardcover, paperback or digital format.

1st Anniversary – new look Relaunch

In a few weeks (July 1) On Swift Wings will have its first anniversary and to celebrate I’ve commissioned a new cover and a new look for the novel!

I’d like to do this for a few reasons.

  • The novel has been out for a full year, and I have learned so much about book publishing in this time, I want to celebrate by treating myself to a fresh design.
  • It makes the existing cover unique, and a sort of first-edition for the book. After the new cover is completed it will not be available anymore, so you’ll have something of a collector’s item when Brett M. Wiens becomes a household name… even more of a household name.
  • I believe that the current cover doesn’t tell the reader very much about the story. It doesn’t tell me that it is an fantasy/adventure/satire at a glance.
  • My click conversion rate on Amazon is obscenely low. I have the reviews now, and readers have been enthusiastic about the book, but everybody does judge a book by its cover, and I want the cover to encourage people to give the book a try.

I have a few options (plus unlimited revisions) for the new cover and I’d love to get your thoughts, votes, and feedback. A fun little distraction from the strange world in which we find ourselves these days.

Option 1 – Yellow Font, Green Water, Drowning Cygnus
Option 2 – White font, Dark Blue Water, Plane Crash Cygnus
Option 3 – Castle on cliffs, Calm water, Sun shining on Cygnus

You can also comment on this post directly, or reach me at my Facebook page.

You can also preview the book by clicking below, or preview the first five chapters by clicking here. If you haven’t had a chance yet, give the preview a try, I’m confident that you’ll enjoy the story.

Click Here for Preview

Also, please, please, please review the book! Somebody I know once said that they wouldn’t read a book that didn’t have a 4-star average with over a hundred reviews… I’m only 91 reviews away!

Thank you, and may your world always grow!

BW

Free Preview

While the world continues to be paralyzed by the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic, I thought I’d give people something entertaining to chew on for free.

I’ve released the first five chapters of On Swift Wings to the website. I hope that you’ll enjoy this sample of the book.

The first five chapters set the stage and introduce the reader to the first island in the novel.

Fans of Jonathan Swift’s classic, Gulliver’s travels ought to recognize some familiar elements, and hopefully feel that the style is reminiscent of the original work.

https://brettwiens.com/part-one-the-island-of-the-huhuneem-and-yahoo/

If you’re feeling it, you could just dive right in and get the whole book up front, I certainly wouldn’t complain!

More than anything, I hope that you are all safe and well during these challenging times. May your world always grow!

BW

I Knew/Know Nothing

I’m continuously surprised at how little I know about things. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been dabbling with advertising again on Amazon and Facebook. I toyed with this a little bit a few months ago to little success and had kind of given up on the idea. I saw an ad for a free Amazon Ad School by Bryan Cohen and figured I’d see if there was anything to it that I hadn’t already figured out.

Yes, there was. A lot.

Despite not really having enough time to fully throw myself into it, I learned a ton about harvesting keywords, tools to help with that, how to write better ad copy, the structure of Amazon advertisements, etc.

See if you can see the point where I started advertising on this curve!

I went from nobody looking at the book to nearly half a million impressions and hundreds of clicks basically overnight.

Make a lot of advertisements and people will see them.

I got connected to a bunch of great Facebook groups through that little free course, and one of them pointed me towards Reedsy who are putting on their own little free Facebook ads course. I’ve done a little Facebook advertising too, but it hadn’t led anywhere either.

What did I have to lose? Maybe I could apply some of Bryan’s advice to Facebook too, so I am taking that course too. One of the best things that course is teaching me is to do split test advertising, where you post several different ads and see which ad copy or picture, or demographics work best. Facebook charges a small amount for every impression, while Amazon charges for clicks.

Maximize clicks while minimizing reach.

Holy moly! Coincidentally, this L33T click count comes on only 28,072 impressions. Hopefully that will result in a few more eyes on the book, and a material increase in readers. I’d love to know, since all of these links are coming to this webpage, whether people are actually buying the book, or if people have suggestions about what I can do to improve any further.

For those of you who have watched the ad in either place and are interested, drop me a line! I’d love to hear from you! I’m learning a lot, and compared to where I started last year, “I will release this book, hope that people tell other people and it might catch on like wildfire…” I’m much better informed. Really cool.

Expect to see a few more updates to this site. I think I might release the first few chapters of the book online in the coming days as a bit of a sample for interested readers.

Right now, my world is really growing, may yours grow too!

BW

(Seriously though, let me know what you’re thinking!)

Also, reviews are still in great demand. Thank you to Michael and Snowflake for their recent posts on Amazon!

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Troll’d – I need your help!

Please help!

If you’ve read On Swift Wings, or are in the process of reading it, please help me by leaving a positive review on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, and Amazon.ca. My rating got hit (hard) by a troll this weekend, and it has decimated my ability to promote my book. Read on for more details. I can’t tell you what to give or say, but a subtle suggestion…

A more pleasant sight…

The Attack

4 Tips for Chatting with an Internet Troll
On Swift Wings got trolled.

I started a free online program to better educate me on Amazon ads offered by Bryan Cohen, the “5-Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge.” As I was setting up the first ad for the challenge, I noticed that my average review score on amazon.com had taken a precipitous drop on the weekend. Where I was averaging 4.33 stars (on a paltry 3 reviews), On Swift Wings had suddenly dropped to 3 stars on average. Unfortunately, I thought, somebody really hated my book. That would be ok, I certainly understand that as a subjective medium, my book is hardly going to be loved by everybody, but it is the first truly negative review to-date. I’ve had a couple people say that they had a hard time reading it for the level of difficulty, or that they just weren’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, but a 1-star review is a first.

I may be a little obsessive, but I read every review carefully and this one wasn’t particularly helpful. The review is below.

Not exactly a glowing positive review…

I looked into the reviewer to see if she was typically positive or negative and found that she reviewed four books on April 9 (her only reviews), and all of them received one star.

It doesn’t appear that this is a legitimate review, in fact, none of her reviews seem particularly credible. They are not verified purchases, there is no content to the reviews, and she re-uses the same or similar title and text. I don’t know why she targeted my book and these others, I’m not aware of any enemies that would do such a thing.

Sadly, this one negative review has a pretty catastrophic impact on my book. The first thing people look at when evaluating a book from an unknown author is the average star rating.

Here are her other reviews:

Book TitleStarsReview TitleReview Text
On Swift Wings1/5HorribleNeeds Too much improvement
Shadows Over Greystoke Grange1/5Not Worth ReadingWaste of time
Taking Back Tomorrow1/5HorribleNeeds Too much improvement
Silent Betrayal1/5Not Worth ReadindBad writing
A history of helpful reviews.

Please help me counterbalance this negative review with some positive ones!

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a preview look here:

Click Here for Preview

You can buy a copy here, and determine whether this troll is wrong or even more wrong.

Thank you! May your world always grow!

BW

New Review and Webpage Relaunch

https://onlinebookclub.org/images/online-book-club-org.png

One of the largest online book communities (onlinebookclub.org) finished its review of On Swift Wings yesterday. The review is excellent, but their keen-eyed reviewer was able to identify a dozen typos in the book and by rule had to deduct a star for that. The three star (out of four) review provides the most detailed review summary I’ve received thus far and some glowing praise.

The descriptions of the unknown lands were very vivid. I can still picture some of the scenes in my mind very clearly, days after completing the book.

I truly appreciated the writing style of the book. It has its own unique tone and the author’s use of language was skilled and enjoyable.

Overall, for me, this story was a pleasure to read. The fantasy aspects were engaging and kept me wanting to find out what would happen next. The social commentary was done with a clear and thoughtful voice. It was easy to follow.

I recommend this book to those that enjoy considering the state of the world, societies and how we all fit together. Readers who relish stories of different people in foreign lands will also appreciate the novel.

Snowflake for OnlineBookClub.org
https://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=137836

Per the reviewer’s notes, I’m preparing the revision with my formatter, Indie Publishing Group, a new version should be available in the next couple days. The reviewer also would have liked to know more about some of the loose ends regarding other characters, but I intentionally kept some things vague to allow the reader to imagine for themselves.

Hopefully these changes will be enough to earn that coveted fourth star.


The other cool news is I’ve completed a redesign and relaunched my webpage right here at https://www.brettwiens.com. The new page features the book trailer more prominently, adds a review format to the front page, and more links to retailers and review sites. I will be adding details from the most recent review shortly.

Furthermore, you can now choose to be added to my mailing list. I promise to use it only sparingly to announce either new book releases or significant deals.

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Give the book a try by clicking the preview below, or grab your own copy today!

Read a preview, grab your copy!

During these challenging times, a good book delivered to your phone, tablet, kindle, computer, or even to your door might be just the remedy!

May your world always grow!

On Swift Wings Wins!

2020 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Award Winner

March 23, 2020 – On Swift Wings was today announced the Regional Literary Award Winner for the Canada West Region. It was also awarded second place in the Humor/Satire category.

The full list of awards winners can be viewed here.

The annual literary awards were established to honor writers who self-published or had their books published by a subsidy publisher, small press, university press, or independent book publisher geared for the North American reading audience and written in English.

Get your copy of this award winning novel today! The cover art will be updated with the award seal soon.