Monday, February 21, 2011

KILLERS (Sequel to Serial) at the Cutting Edge of Collaboration

This was a Google docs conversation done in real-time between Blake Crouch and Joe Konrath.

BLAKE: So, Joe, you’re watching me type this, right? Even though we live over a thousand miles apart...

JOE: I am. And you're watching me type this. In fact, I'll purposely make a typo, and watch you correct it as I'm finishing the sentence (which you just did.)

We're using Google docs (http://docs.google.com), which is an online storage method that allows several contributors to all have simultaneous access to a single document.

Now you and I have collaborated on many previous projects. For the original SERIAL, we each wrote our introductory sections, then wrote the third part together by trading emails. It was cool, but not very fast.

Then, for Draculas, we used Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) which allowed us and the other two authors (Jeff Strand, F. Paul Wilson) to all save and access MS Word documents by sharing the same folders on four different computers. While that was cool, Google docs is even cooler.

BLAKE: Before we started writing KILLERS, which we can talk about in a minute, we did a dry run on Google docs, just to test the software out. I knew immediately that it was going to change the way we collaborated. For people unfamiliar with Google docs, I’ll explain what it’s like to be in the document.

It looks like a standard Word doc, with some formatting toolbars at the top. The difference is, I not only see my cursor, I see Joe’s as well, which is pink at the moment. While I’m typing, I see you typing, and at first, that can be a little jarring and distracting (particularly when you correct or change a sentence as I type, like you’re doing right now!).

I can scroll up and down the doc while you write, but it doesn’t scroll the document for you. I feel like this makes the collaboration process so much faster, easier, and more interactive. You?

JOE: It's pretty cool. I never would have guessed that co-writing could be so easy. While it is a bit odd at first to see someone changing the sentence as I write it, it actually is both time-saving and simpler than going back and doing multiple rewrites. Two pairs of eyes on the same story at the same time means it takes less than half the time finish.

As for writing over each other, we worked out a system. When one of us is finished for the moment, we type a #. That means I'm ready for you to pick up the scene, or vice-versa.

BLAKE: I have a hunch that Google docs is responsible for KILLERS being three times as long as SERIAL. The writing just seemed to flow in this format. I felt more immersed in these scenes than the ones in SERIAL, because I could watch my co-writer create them in real time, and he could watch me. I have never experienced a collaborative situation like this before.

JOE: Do you think it might be daunting for potential collaborators to try and write together using Google docs? Some writers are slower, more deliberate. Others despise their first drafts and don't let anyone see them until they've been reworked extensively.

BLAKE: It could absolutely be daunting, and probably not something to just dive into without doing a little experimenting first, to make sure you’re comfortable with your co-writers. If you’re overly protective of your sentences, or don’t like someone looking over your shoulder while you write, this may not be the approach for you. But I find this method helps me to think faster on my feet, and lets the scene evolve more organically, instead of it being overly-thought out. On my own, I’m a slower, more methodical writer, and sometimes that has its drawbacks. Sometimes, you just need a freestyle approach to challenge yourself.

One of the other things we used was Skype, so that we could send each other instant messages while we were in the Google doc. Frequently, we’d IM each other, with something like, “I’m not feeling that line,” or, in one case, “are you sure you want to take the story in that direction?”

JOE: What I actually messaged you was: "You really want to stick that up her ass?" BTW, that turned out to be my favorite scene in the novella.

BLAKE: And I did, and it turned out to be my fave scene in the novella (ha! - we just wrote that at the same time). The thing about Google docs, is that it strips away all barriers to collaboration, most importantly time. So if you can get comfortable with your co-writer(s) and let your guard down and allow them access to the way you write, it can really take the story to unexpected and spontaneous places. That’s what I love most about this software.

JOE: I love correcting your mediocre prose as you write it. Saves me the time of having to try and explain to you why it isn't working.

But seriously, my truly favorite part is when we're both working on the same section at the same time and then start

BLAKE: finishing each other's thoughts.

JOE: LOL. Yeah. It is truly instantaneous, and really gets the creative juices flowing. It's the written equivalent of a conversation. But it's a conversation you can change, shape, and mold, and it is forever saved as a document.

Damn, I sound like a paid spokesman.

BLAKE: Wish Google was paying us. At least the software is free.

JOE: So let's talk about working on KILLERS, and what it's about (other than things in asses.)

BLAKE: It’s the sequel to the short story, SERIAL, which featured Donaldson (written by you), a psychopath who drives around picking up hitchhikers and killing them, and Lucy, my character, a hitchhiker who travels around the country killing the drivers who have the misfortune and poor judgment to give her a ride.

At the end of SERIAL they were both involved in a horrific accident of their own making. I think everyone assumed they were dead, but, as often happens with popular characters, they found a way into a sequel. In this case, they each wake up in a hospital room on the same floor, gravely injured, under arrest, but still wanting desperately to finish what they started--to kill each other.

JOE: We got over one hundred 1 star reviews for SERIAL, so of course we had to write more about these two. And once again we followed the same structure. You wrote a scene. I wrote a scene. We didn't show each other our scenes. Then we hopped into Google docs and tried to kill each other.

It was like playing tennis, or paintball, or chess, because we were both trying to win. While our characters interacted, we didn't use any interior monologue, so we didn't know what the other one was thinking, or any of the prior set-up (how injured they were, the weapons they carried, the plan they had.)

I can't think of anything I've ever written that was more creative, spontaneous, and downright fun.

BLAKE: In some ways, writing like this feels more like a performance than the drudgery of solitary writing or even standard collaboration. What you just wrote is accurate. It’s like playing a game. Cause and effect unfolding right before your eyes and although we have a broad idea of where we’re going, the journey from A to B is constantly a surprise.

We had a blast writing KILLERS

JOE: And writing this quickie interview.

BLAKE: and I hope that translates into a more intense experience for the reader. I also hope more writers explore collaboration through software like this, because it really stretches different muscles than sitting alone at a keyboard, slogging your way through a story.

JOE: Now I encourage everyone reading this to buy KILLERS, and judge if the story works or not. It's available right now on Amazon for $2.99, and will soon be available on Nook and every other ebook format.

Buy it right now, or I'm deleting my blog. :)

About KILLERS

Guess who's back?


A sequel two years in the making...

First there was SERIAL...

Acclaimed thriller writers Blake Crouch and Jack Kilborn pitted their skills against each other in a psychotic game of serial murder. Crouch wrote about Lucy, a hitchhiker who killed drivers. Kilborn wrote about Donaldson, a driver who killed hitchhikers. Then they brought their characters together and tried to slaughter one another on the page.

SERIAL has been downloaded over 350,000 times. The film rights have been optioned, and it is currently available as an ebook, in print in various collections, and forthcoming in audio.

Now comes KILLERS...

At the end of SERIAL, Donaldson and Lucy didn't die. When they each wake up in a hospital, under arrest for their crimes and guarded by the police, each burns with a single, overwhelming desire:

To escape and finish what they started.

That's going to be difficult with the deputies posted outside their hospital rooms and their life-threatening injuries, but these killers are hell-bent on finding a way.

Beyond a thrilling piece of horrifying suspense, KILLERS takes the collaborative literary experiment begun in SERIAL to the next level. Crouch wrote the first part. Kilborn wrote the second, and then, unaware of each other's opening section, they wrote the third part together in a Google Doc where they could simultaneously write in real time. All bets were off, and may the best psycho win.

At 18,500 words, KILLERS is a full-length novella, almost three times the length of SERIAL. This ebook contains KILLERS, a Q&A with Kilborn and Crouch, author bibliographies, and excerpts of Crouch's BREAK YOU, and Kilborn's, Konrath's and Crouch's SERIAL UNCUT.

80 comments:

Livia said...

Joe -- I've been meaning to ask. How do you handle profit sharing on coauthored projects? Do you set a separate amazon accounts? Does one person handle it and forward payments to the other author?

Michael said...

Joe, I just wanted to let you know that I've been trying the $0.99 experiment with my book The Righteous, the suspense/thriller set in a polygamist enclave. I got a big boost on Saturday from a popular blog and shot up to the 200s in the overall rankings. Although I've slipped a little, I'm still in the top 500 and I'm hoping to drive sales to the sequel, Mighty and Strong. It's just one data point, of course, but it's working for me so far.

The Righteous: $0.99 suspense/thriller.

Joe Konrath said...

With collaborations, one person uploads the book, then pays the other one, either monthly or quarterly, using paypal.

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

I was going to ask the same thing as Livia did, just how you manage to pay each other. That's a good way to do it. Now this book is a novella, right? Are you going with a lower price as a result? Or do you stick with $2.99?

How long did it take you two to write it together? And how many words did it end up at? Just curious!

Thanks Joe and Blake!

Karly
www.karlykirkpatrick.com
www.darksidepublishing.com

Michael said...

Yes, that's what I'll be doing with my co-writer for Implant, Jeff Anderson. I've written (and sold) several shorter pieces that were collaborations over the years and it really helps if you're friends before you start and that neither person is overly fussy about the sanctity of ideas. At some point, you've got to give way to the other writer.

It can be fun, though, to work outside of the usual isolation.

Brian said...

Google Docs is a beautiful thing for writing - get the rest of your life on Google as well - including your phone ie Android.

Joe Konrath said...

Are you going with a lower price as a result? Or do you stick with $2.99?

For the moment, we'll stick with $2.99. It's a lengthy story, very intense, and we like that price point.

There's always the possibility of us dropping the price, but SERIAL UNCUT is doing very well at $2.99, and we expect a similar performance form KILLERS.

All this fear about the "race to the bottom" is unfounded. While people do buy more 99 cent ebooks than $2.99 ebooks, I believe $2.99 is the more profitable price point.

Blake Crouch said...

"How long did it take you two to write it together? And how many words did it end up at? Just curious!"

Hi, Karly - the way Joe and I tend to work is to talk about an idea for a while and work up an outline in Dropbox. We started thinking about KILLERS back in November I think. Jeroen ten Berge had our cover art ready six or seven weeks ago. The actual writing seems to happen in intense bursts. For instance, we actually started writing KILLERS (our opening scenes) about two weeks ago, and we spent the last week writing and editing the 3rd collaborative section in Google docs. It's 18,500 words, a little less than a third of a novel.

V. Furnas said...

Joe, very informative as usual. I have talked about writing collaboratively with a dear friend of mine thanks for the nuts and bolts.

Michael said...

Most of the collaboration process sounds like what I'd expect. The Google Docs thing, however, is amusing. Does one of you ever rewrite a sentence and have the other person change it immediately back?

wannabuy said...

@Joe"All this fear about the "race to the bottom" is unfounded. While people do buy more 99 cent ebooks than $2.99 ebooks, I believe $2.99 is the more profitable price point."

Buying in preparation for two trips (one business, one with the family):
Four books at $1
Two at $2.99
One at $6.49

I'll read all seven, so none of this 'buying at $1 and not reading.' I only bought that many $1 books due to 'reading out' my favorite authors and thus I am trying out new authors. :)

I'm with Joe. Once you have fans, $2.99 (But I'll pay up to $6.49; the higher the price, the more I delve into the reviews).

Neil

wannabuy said...

I should note that I blogged the latest AAP sales numbers (w/charts)

Print books did well in December. Ebooks rocked!

Neil

Blake Crouch said...

Good info, thanks Neil. This points to the fact that it's still all about earning fans. If someone has read your work, and you release a new one, but they'll only spring for .99 and not $2.99, they aren't a fan. Fans will pay $2.99.

Selena Kitt said...

Ah, now this sounds like a blast!

LMK if you need a beta reader :)

msthriller said...

Blake -I love the cover - Jeroen does such great work. I can't wait to read it and see how the story turned out.
I understand how you handle payments on collaborations but what about taxes? I assume that Amazon sends you a 1099 with your gross income.

Blake Crouch said...

Umm, yeah, taxes. Honestly, I don't know. I haven't looked at my 1099 from Amazon yet. I have a feeling I will reflect payments made to co-writers as fees and lower my stated income that way, but I have to check with a tax person. I have a feeling there will be a glut of blog posts all over on this subject as April 15 approaches.

Donald Wells said...

I had SERIAL on my Kindle for weeks but I just got around to reading it yesterday. The funny thing is, when I read the last page you left me wanting more-and now I can have it. Thanks Joe.
The Fix-it Man

Karly Kirkpatrick said...

Awesome! Thanks for the info, Joe and Blake and good luck with the new story. Viva $2.99! :D I hope to look into some shorter works to fill the void between novels, so it's good to know I can price it at that, I'll just specify it's a shorter work.

Thanks!

Karly

Jeff Strand said...

In exchange for my share of DRACULAS royalties, Joe let me watch him roll around naked in his piles of gold.

Derrek said...

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who uses Google Docs! Two of my favorite things about it are:
1) The documents are saved in the cloud, which means if you have a computer with internet access, you can get to your document and pick up where you left off.

2) Since it is in the cloud (saved on Google's servers) you don't have to worry about your hard drive crashing on you and losing all of your work.

I strongly encourage other writers to check it out as another tool to help out with writing your story. You can also upload documents from your computer as a way of storing them in case of disaster.

--Derrek
http://blog.lanternum.com

ezbeanz said...

Dropbox is a cool program. I use it to backup my manuscripts and book files.

Selena Blake said...

I've used Google Docs in the past to collaborate on projects and even critiques. It's a great basic word processor, in my opinion. Perfect for getting the words down and especially for sharing/collaborating. The only problem I've run into is the comparability with Word. My publishers all require Word for its Track Changes (which I adore!)

Selena Blake said...

Like ezbeanz, I also use dropbox. And I'd highly recommend it. I feel much more organized since I've started using it. I don't use it for collaboration but to keep my documents backed up and synced between computers.

Blake Crouch said...

@Michael "Does one of you ever rewrite a sentence and have the other person change it immediately back?"

Constantly. And then we either agree that it's an improvement, or complain and return the sentence to its former glory.

While we're talking about cool software, I've gotta give a shoutout to Freedom which has greatly upped my production. For those unfamiliar, it locks you out of the internet for extended periods of time. Highly recommended.

Michael said...

"For those unfamiliar, it locks you out of the internet for extended periods of time. Highly recommended."

Thank you. I have definitely got to check that out.

no-bull-steve said...

Sounds like a very cool technology. Thanks Joe!

Joe Konrath said...

In exchange for my share of DRACULAS royalties, Joe let me watch him roll around naked in his piles of gold.

It's in the collaboration agreement. I have to do it every Thursday, via webcam.

On an unrealted note, my cover artist, Carl Graves, spent a few days over here with his family. During that time his wife read every Jeff Strand book I have in the house. She loves you.

But then, she married Carl, so her opinion is suspect.

JD Rhoades said...

Fascinating. The closest non-musician writers may ever get to playing in a band.

Blake Crouch said...

Dusty - the cover art to Storm Surge is amazing!

Stitch said...

Heh... I always know when to check this blog for a new post: When I stop getting emails about new comments on the last post! =)

Donna Caubarreaux said...

I just read Serial this morning, and loved it, so much so, that I didn't hesitate to buy Killers.

And if no one has read Desert Places yet, do.

Many thanks for all the information, especially with writing with another author.

I definitely plan to be an 'indie' author.

JD Rhoades said...

Dusty - the cover art to Storm Surge is amazing!

I have you to thank for the referral to Jeroen. We're working on one now for LAWYERS GUNS AND MONEY that's pretty awesome, too. It'll be up very soon.

Bella Andre said...

Joe,
Great sounding book & I love the Google docs tutorial! :) Another friend was just telling me about it recently. Will have to check it out.

I also wanted to come on today to say thank you, yet again. You see, I heard about your blog last March, got inspired to put up my first self-published ebook a few weeks later...and yesterday in a 24 hour period I sold 1,008 self-published ebooks! (My $5.99 book, Game For Love, led the way. It's currently #26 on the BN.com bestseller list!)

May there be even more thank you's in the future! So, again, THANKS for the info, the inspiration, and the chat we had last summer.

:) Bella
http://www.BellaAndre.com

Tara Maya said...

Great title, JD Rhoades.

Sam said...

Hey Joe, any quick update on "The List" at 99 cents?

Does a #200 seller at .99 still earn less than a $2.99 book at #1,080?

Maybe you're waiting till the end of the month...

Coral Russell said...

I'm such a Google Ho... I've been using this for awhile and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! I did some collaboration on it, but it's perfect for edits... but not everyone is converted. Which means I still have a job to do! lol My uncle told me a long time ago - You know what would be a good story? If a crazy hitchhiker was picked up by a crazy driver! Now I'll have to read your two books as well and see what happens. :)

Jason said...

Awesome! I just bought it at B&N online for my Nook. Glad you got it on there that quickly. I love surprises like this...

I like how the cover manages to show that it's the sequel to SERIAL as well as showing several other books by you and Crouch, all without being cluttered.

J. Noel said...

Wow, that is so incredible.

Quick question: How did you do the editing? Same manner as when you both wrote together? Realtime as well?

Or did you revert back to email, going back and forth with your revisions?

Extended Imagery said...

Does a #200 seller at .99 still earn less than a $2.99 book at #1,080?

It's earning less. But my sales across the board have risen slightly. I'll tally it all up at the end of the month, see if it is worth it to keep it at that price.

Extended Imagery said...

Quick question: How did you do the editing?

Yes, we edited at the same time,in Google docs. It was a joy to do.

Blake Crouch said...

Bella - congrats, that's a HUGE day! Hope you celebrated!

Bella Andre said...

Thanks, Blake! I'm very excited about it...and even more excited to see that it looks like today will be a repeat!!

Does working on my sales spreadsheets count as celebrating? :) Fortunately, I did break up the workday with a nice lunch with the family in the vineyards (I live in the CA wine country).

:) Bella

jeroentenberge said...

Thanks Jason.

Kayanna Kirby said...

I currently use google docs to write my novel. I've lost work I've done before and google docs allows me to feel safe writing because it backs up my work every few seconds. Also, I download the file on my computer also for safe keeping just in case.

Jim said...

One question. Should I hold out for Killers Uncut?

I had downloaded Serial for free shortly after it came out, but by the time I got to reading it, Serial Uncut was out. Bought, downloaded, and read from virtual cover to cover in an afternoon, and was glad I had waited!

- Jim

FishSama said...

Totally gonna use this for editing stuff for Reaver. My wife and I used to use a third party note pad thing similar to google docs, but I forgot the URL a long time ago. lol Good stuff!

bornoutofbinary.blogspot.com

Gary Ponzo said...

I'm curious if the word count for an ebook varies from print? For example, Blake said Killers was 18,550 which is a little less than a third of a novel--is 70,000 words a sufficient amount for a thriller?

Nicholas La Salla said...

Congrats to both of you for getting that book together! It's no small thing to write a book by yourself, much less to do so with another ego present. I don't work too well with others.

- Nick

bowerbird said...

blake said:
> If someone has
> read your work, and
> you release a new one,
> but they'll only spring for .99
> and not $2.99, they aren't
> a fan. Fans will pay $2.99.

whoa. it's bad luck to diss
_any_ paying customers...

-bowerbird

jack said...

Joe. i am amazed how every blog that you write offers me and my co-author new ways to make my pocket fuller and my book faster. Put those two things together and that means we get fatter wallets faster. Just wanted to say thanks

jtplayer said...

"If someone has read your work, and you release a new one, but they'll only spring for .99 and not $2.99, they aren't a fan. Fans will pay $2.99"

Agreed.

There's no disrespect in that statement at all. In fact, "fans" will likely pay a lot more than $2.99. Sure, they'd be pleased as hell with .99. But 2 bucks more shouldn't be a deal breaker.

bmillios said...

I'm not sure I'm seeing the logic behind the Skype IM chat thing. If you use Skype, get handsfree microphones, and talk it out.

Or, use (gasp) a landline, again with a headset or hands-free set up. (Cellphones will work - but the minutes would probably kill you.)

Blake Crouch said...

Dear Bowerbird: I don't base my comments on what I think will bring me good or bad luck. I base them on what I believe to be true. I stand by what I said. True fans aren't blocked from purchasing my work because it's $2.99. Doesn't mean I don't appreciate every sale, even at $.99, but my theory is $.99 is like, $2.99+ is love.

Blake Crouch said...

@Gary - my novels range from 70,000 words to 100,000. I feel comfortable calling anything over 60,000 words a novel.

Blake Crouch said...

"And if no one has read Desert Places yet, do."

Thank you, Donna, much appreciated.

@Jim: you could wait for Killers Uncut, but why torture yourself? ;)

Kippoe said...

Can't wait to read it

bowerbird said...

blake said:
> I don't base
> my comments on
> what I think will
> bring me
> good or bad luck.

yeah, i can tell that! :+)


> Doesn't mean
> I don't appreciate
> every sale,
> even at $.99,
> but my theory is
> $.99 is like,
> $2.99+ is love.

how many people
in the whole world
_like_ you as a person?

how many people
in the whole world
_love_ you as a person?

i rest my case.

-bowerbird

bowerbird said...

and while i'm here...

***

blake said:
> For instance, we
> actually started writing
> KILLERS (our opening scenes)
> about two weeks ago, and
> we spent the last week
> writing and editing
> the 3rd collaborative section
> in Google docs.

wow. i wouldn't have
the balls to put out
something i just wrote.

because whenever i
come back to something
a month or two later,
there's almost _always_
something that i _must_
change, even if just a bit.

and i would surely want
my _best_ customers
(the ones who buy early)
to get the version that
i had _improved_upon_,
not the one i first wrote.

but, you know, maybe
that's just me. could be.

-bowerbird

Blake Crouch said...

"how many people
in the whole world
_like_ you as a person?

how many people
in the whole world
_love_ you as a person?

i rest my case."

I don't think that's as profound as you think it is.

"wow. i wouldn't have
the balls to put out
something i just wrote.

because whenever i
come back to something
a month or two later,
there's almost _always_
something that i _must_
change, even if just a bit."

If you know your story going in, know what works for you and what doesn't, know your characters, and you trust your creative decisions, you get to spend your life creating stories instead of revising them.

jack said...

Blake said

"If you know your story going in, know what works for you and what doesn't, know your characters, and you trust your creative decisions, you get to spend your life creating stories instead of revising them."


wow. you show a lot of patience to an open attack. i would have just ignored them or told them to get lost; in a not so polite manor too. cause its kinda tacky to attack someone over an opinion. just saying.... Bowerbird 0 Blake 5

bowerbird said...

blake said:
> I don't think that's
> as profound
> as you think it is.

i don't think it's
"profound" at all.

it's just common sense.

"love" is a pretty high bar
to be expecting of people...

"like" lets a whole lot more
come through the door...


> If you know your
> story going in,
> know what works
> for you and
> what doesn't,
> know your characters,
> and you trust
> your creative decisions,
> you get to
> spend your life
> creating stories
> instead of revising them.

well, like i said, blake,
maybe it's just me...

but i've learned that,
for me anyway, it is
always best to let a
major work percolate
after i've just written it,
or made extensive edits.

i'm not afraid to write
in real-time, as i have
demonstrated right here
on countless occasions,
because i _do_ trust
my creative decisions...

but if i have the chance,
i prefer to let it percolate.

by the way, how many
books have you written
with a collaborator
using google-docs?

-bowerbird

p.s. and, to be honest,
i've seen far too many
beginning self-publishers
rush a book out too early,
and then regret it later...

you have experience, so
i am _not_ putting you in
that category, but i would
advise any beginners that
they should not try this...

bowerbird said...

jack said:
> wow. you show a lot of
> patience to an open attack.

oh please. i made no "attack".

i clearly indicated that i was
making reference only to my
own experience in the matter.

i even included the phrase
"but maybe it's just me"...


> cause its kinda tacky
> to attack someone

and it does not become
an "attack" if you merely
repeat the word again...


> cause its kinda tacky
> to attack someone
> over an opinion.

how curious... bald hypocrisy,
right there in black and white.

i am amused. :+)

-bowerbird

jack said...

bowerbird said:
:how curious... bald hypocrisy,
right there in black and white.

i am amused. :+)"

I am not claiming tact. thus the "bowerbird 0 Blake 5". It was even a bit childish to be true. But then again, that was the point i was making. I'm glad i could amuse you.

Jack

bowerbird said...

jack said:
> I'm glad i could amuse you.

i'm glad you could too, jack. :+)

-bowerbird

Joe Konrath said...

because whenever i
come back to something
a month or two later,
there's almost _always_
something that i _must_
change, even if just a bit."


Good on you. It's important to know your limitations.

When I come back on something a month or two later, my reaction is, "Wow, I nailed it."

I've written 24 novels. If I can't get it right the first time, I'm in the wrong business.

Jude Hardin said...

Blake said: If you know your story going in, know what works for you and what doesn't, know your characters, and you trust your creative decisions, you get to spend your life creating stories instead of revising them.

Joe said: I've written 24 novels. If I can't get it right the first time, I'm in the wrong business.

Every writer I've ever talked to, or read about, or heard of, has felt exactly the opposite. I think Robert Crais was the first author I ever heard say, "Writing is rewriting." He's had just a little success...

Sorry guys, but most writers simply do not nail it the first time, no matter how many novels they've written. I won't even present a first draft to a beta reader, much less offer it for public consumption.

Blake Crouch said...

Jude - my first novel Desert Places, I rewrote the last hundred pages, and the end multiple times. Locked Doors, I rewrote the last half. Abandon, same story. Snowbound I got right the first time. My new novel, which I'm releasing soon, I got it right the first time. This isn't to say they weren't heavily revised, but the story itself was pretty much intact from the get go. The mechanics. Short stories several years ago were very difficult for me. I wrote a dozen in the last two years, and I don't start one now unless I can pretty much see the whole picture. That's been my learning curve. Joe and I didn't just throw some shit together and release it. This isn't our first draft. Our last two days, after the thing was done and we'd read it, we were in the final Google doc for about ten hours, meticulously going through every single sentence. While we were writing the third section we were each going back through the previous paragraphs and fine-tuning. We wrote it fast because it's pretty much all we did for two full weeks and these were characters we knew well. I've approached stories both ways...no idea, or a vague one, of where it's going, and a very solid idea. The first does involve a lot of rewriting, but it's not the cool kind. It's the soul-crushing, time-wasting kind because you didn't do you homework starting out. I've been there, done that, not doing it again. Check out a book called SAVE THE CAT which was actually written for screenwriters by a guy named Blake Snyder...the BEST book about writing I've ever encountered. Story is not a mysterious thing. Narrative is a science, and when you understand the structure fully, much time can be saved.

Sorry to go on a tear here. I'm just happy to be talking about something other than money and the price of ebooks - ;)

Jude Hardin said...

Hi Blake:

Yes, it is cool to be talking about craft for a change.

I would never say one method is superior to another. Every writer has to find what works best for him or her. I do think, though, almost every manuscript will benefit from what bowerbird called a percolating period, followed by a page-one rewrite and a detailed assessment from an experienced editor (followed by a back-and-forth with said editor until everything is as close to perfect as possible).

With self-publishing it's very easy to skip most of that process, and I think that's one reason we see a lot of sub-par ebooks being released.

I'll check out SAVE THE CAT. Thanks for the recommendation.

Robin Sullivan said...

It never occurred to me to use Google Docs Michael and I are always passing back and forth versions through dropbox - I'm going to have to check this out further.

Robin | Write2Publish | Michael J. Sullivan's Writings

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> Good on you. It's important
> to know your limitations.

it sure is... :+)


> When I come back on
> something a month or
> two later, my reaction is,
> "Wow, I nailed it."

oh, that's my reaction on 99.7%
of my words. which is why i am
so glad to be able to edit those
other 3 words in every 1,000...

otherwise, so close, but so far!


> I've written 24 novels. If I
> can't get it right the first time,
> I'm in the wrong business.

well then, yes, god has truly
blessed you, joe konrath...

like the old saying goes,
"practice makes perfect".

not to mention that old
carnegie hall routine...

plus, you know, you're lucky.

nonetheless... regardless,
i am still going to continue
to believe that the reason
you and blake uploaded
your book so soon is _not_
something as pedestrian as
"experience", but because
you both have huge balls.

thus, most of you beginners
should not try this yourself,
_unless_ you have big balls...

-bowerbird

Robert Burton Robinson said...

I use Google Docs spreadsheet to record my daily sales of each of my Kindle books. It allows me to look back at the sales for each day and analyze trends (often having to do with change in price). I set up formulas to calculate royalties (daily and ongoing total).

All I have to do is enter my sales for each book at the end of the day (usually around 10 p.m. for me), and the spreadsheet does everything else. If my Barnes & Noble sales continue to pick up, I'll probably start tracking those with a Google spreadsheet too.

And, of course, the main reason for using Google Docs instead of Excel is that I can access the spreadsheet from any computer, or even from my smart phone. Very cool.

At some point, maybe Amazon will offer this detailed information via KDP, or as part of their Author Central tools. But until then, this is working great.

Robert Burton Robinson said...

If you want to get a look at the Google spreadsheet I created to record and track my Kindle sales, go here. Create a Google account if you don't already have one, and log in. You should be able to copy the spreadsheet. Then you can edit it.

See the comments in the spreadsheet for an explanation of how it is set up. It should be fairly easy to understand if you have experience with spreadsheets. If you don't, then you should probably skip this, since I don't have time to give personal training on it. ;)

Okay. Back to writing my second Rebecca Ranghorn mystery, ICY HOLLOW. Just thought this might be helpful to some people.

Joe Konrath said...

I won't even present a first draft to a beta reader, much less offer it for public consumption.

Neither do I. Whatever I give my beta readers is solid, except for typos and little mistakes. My betas catch those, and what they miss, my proof reader gets.

Even then, some mistakes can get through. But that also happens on Big 6 books. With ebooks, it's an easy fix--just upload a new version.

Sitting on a manuscript that's ready to publish, out of a fear that it might not be perfect, costs money. Every day an ebook isn't live is a payday you'll never get back. Time is money, quite literally.

Which I think I'll blog about right now.

bowerbird said...

joe said:
> out of a fear that
> it might not be perfect

"perfect"?

who mentioned "perfect"?

let's be realistic... :+)


> Every day an ebook isn't live is
> a payday you'll never get back.

on the other hand,
e-books are "eternal".

so sales from any one day
-- or any one _month_ --
will fade to immateriality...

and then you die, of course.

-bowerbird

Anonymous said...

Joe, congrats on killers. I love the cover but it's not translating well to the Amazon lists because the bottom 2/3 is coming out too dark and undefinable. A possible solution would be to lighten that part of the cover, and throw a headlight beam onto the blood in the road to accentuate it. Then I think it will come alive.

Joe Konrath said...

so sales from any one day
-- or any one _month_ --
will fade to immateriality...


Eternity begins today, but you only have a finite time to live.

It's better to start getting paid now rather than next month.

Joe Konrath said...

I love the cover but it's not translating well to the Amazon lists because the bottom 2/3 is coming out too dark and undefinable.

Can you point out a list it's on? I haven't seen it on any lists yet, so I don't know if you're correct.

Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

Joe, got to Kindle and type in "J.A. Konrath" and it will pop up as one of your books, in the same size it will eventually appear on a list.

Whereas in Serial the treads are identifiable, they are not so much in Killers. I'm not being critical, just trying to help. I notice the same types of things on my own covers. They look great on a full size computer screen but need tweaking when reduced to a postage stamp size.

Take care!

Stitch said...

@Joe:
"My betas catch those, and what they miss, my proof reader gets. Even then, some mistakes can get through."

I noticed a few typos in The List when I read it a while ago. If you're interested, I'd be happy to email you the info.

(I really enjoyed the read, by the way!)

Joe Konrath said...

I noticed a few typos in The List when I read it a while ago. If you're interested, I'd be happy to email you the info.

Sure, send them my way. Thanks.