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Monday, 24 December 2012

SCHEMES O’ MICE AN’ MEN.

Twice in this blog I announced the impending publication of collected blog posts. My schemes drifted from the template. Instead, I published WITCHES, THE MADONNA GAMBIT, and WEREWOLVES ahead of REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE. I published those tales ahead of my second REPORT, too.
   Life gets in the way. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about the physical workings of an office. Gremlins feature. Time is spent fixing things that shouldn’t have broken. Do your best, in writing, to take those events and make something of them. I took a broken desk and parlayed the experience into fodder for my next blog. Stay tuned.
   Over the summer I put a novel together. At least, I thought that’s what I did. I rushed the idea, and I knew I rushed the idea as I rushed the idea. That’s okay. These things happen. Adapt. I had straightforward pieces of writing to munch my way through. These were linked by a delicate plot mechanism.
   That delicate plot mechanism was adjusted with all the skill of a Swiss watchmaker taking a hammer to a jar of nitro. After the resultant blast, I picked up a few pieces and retreated gracefully. (That last sentence was a lie.)
   What happens when your schemes gang aft a-gley? You translate for non-Scots. My schemes went astray. Not too far. Collected blog editions were still in the works. I could return to the fractured novel once the smoke cleared.
   It’s okay to make mistakes. I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of time on airy nothingness. That happens, though. Dust yourself down and look beyond the nothingness you weren’t working on. See something, anything, worth salvaging or conjuring into substance.
   Learn from errors. Fix the fixable. Put a foot wrong then set that step right. I blog weeks ahead of the game so I can turn to work on actual work. Problem. I saw that I wouldn’t immediately put out collected editions of my blogs. Solution. I could’ve gone to the automated blog posts and silenced my wayward announcements.
   Instead, I preferred to let the writing stand as scribbled – as a sign that things don’t always plan according to go. I’d operated to very strict publishing deadlines initially, knowing I’d loosen up on deadlines in the next phase. The more I published to deadline, the more I felt that way. Why?
   Publishing to a date, a second date, and a third date was hard to do. A lot of things jumped in my way. Well, boo and hoo. No, I’m not complaining. Publishing strictly, I might have lost sight of a great many items if things were slightly worse for me at the time.
   With a more flexible approach to publishing, I can take account of life’s complexities with a lower likelihood of bursting a vein. Concerning my first three publication dates, I knew the hour of publication. On the day, my plan fell apart and my first stab was delayed for a few hours while I took care of an arcane piece of formatting.
   How important is it to have deadlines? Almost as important as having the material. First you generate the material. Very important. Then you publish to a deadline. Very important. My first bloody stab at self-publishing worked. The deadline was kept. Almost to the hour.
   Second stab. Same tale of success. To the hour.
   Third stab. No fresh news there. Same story. To the hour.
   So much for winter/spring. Then I generated material over the summer. Kept myself busy setting up projects. Designing covers. Manipulating artwork or photography. Editing. Thinking – managed a bit of that. I read articles on the business, chatted with colleagues, and I planned. Unsurprisingly, I also changed plans.
   One approach worked. Another avenue was blocked. I learned. Hell, I even enjoyed what I was doing – how about that. With the summer’s end, I wanted to dive back into the publishing side again. I’d avoided a rigid clockwork existence. Nothing wrong in that – if you are a cog and all is right with the mechanism.
   Writers must avoid being too tightly (or loosely) coiled.
   There were technical issues with blog posts. I didn’t set a definite deadline for blog publication in a collected edition. Instead, I went for a fluid approach. And I’m glad I did. I was able to check a whole load of things. The same went for the second collection. Because the first collection was delayed, the second one had to follow the familiar trail worn by the first.
   I embarked on my FICTION FACTORY publication schedule. October arrived. Could I put out two stories before the end of October? Yes. WITCHES was written in three days. THE MADONNA GAMBIT took longer to write as I incorporated an old piece of fiction into the story. If I’d written from scratch, I’d have done the piece in three days.
   Stitching the old to the new took careful work. I didn’t want to trip up over myself. The same thing happened with WEREWOLVES. I used an old piece of writing as the foundation for a new story, and gave myself an extra week to construct the tale.
   Delay isn’t always bad. I felt that extra week paid off. My loose plan was to put a story out every week from late October. I’d do this three times, and then see to other projects. A change is always better than arrest. I had semi-loose deadlines. WITCHES had to be available by Hallowe’en, to mark my first year of blogging.
   Even allowing for differences across the world, thanks to multiple time-zones, I should be able to publish on the day I publish. If I feed my Scottish story in at one end and an American company takes that story on at the other and the company dictates the time of publication…
   Then if I publish late in my day, it’s still the same day – only earlier – in America. For some reason, that’s never been the case. Amazon always backdates publication by a whole day. WITCHES was published on the 21st of October 2012, not the 20th as stated by Amazon. I published late enough on my 21st for Uncle Sam’s calendar to be on the same page. Still, the story was thrown back in time.
   My schemes didn’t go a-gley. THE MADONNA GAMBIT was published on the 28th of October, or the 27th if you believe Amazon. Two stories, a week apart, before Hallowe’en. I kept things fluid. Job done. If I’d had difficulty getting the work seen to, then I’d have imposed a strict deadline of the 31st.
   No need to burst a vein. Bursting a vein, or a gut, will delay writing and publishing projects. Unless you work through the pain. I’ve never written from a sick-bed, and I possess no desire to join the ranks of writers who have done so.
   My plan continued. “I’ll publish WEREWOLVES by the 4th of November if I can.” It soon became clear that I needed an extra week. So I gave myself an extra week. I published on the 11th, or the 10th if you listen to that scamp Amazon.
   What am I trying to say? I’ve published to strict deadlines that were so tight that I could go in and publish at a precise minute of a set hour. And I’ve published to loose deadlines that were still deadlines. One option isn’t right with the other being wrong.
   The broad idea to publish to a deadline is right. Should I have published WEREWOLVES as intended, a week earlier? No. Other considerations come into play. Publish when you are ready to. Out of the three stories, all three were ready for publication when published. Not before.
   Except. Mm. I rushed publication of WEREWOLVES in one respect. Didn’t credit my artist on the Amazon page. I spotted that and fixed the glitch by publishing again. There’s a delay of several hours before the story goes live on the Amazon network. You think you ticked all the right boxes and filled in the appropriate sections. Think hard. Then check anyway.
   What am I trying to say to would-be professional writers? Write your story and see that your story is published at some point. Let go of your tale. It doesn’t matter if you let go of your tale with a stopwatch standing by counting down the seconds until launch.
   And it doesn’t matter if you look at the colour of the sky and think it’s time to send that file off to Amazon. As long as you do publish before you drop dead. It’s a bit harder to publish after. That’s a technical issue.
   When I set my strict deadlines, I published. And when I set my loose deadlines, I published. I know that I’m going to have strict deadlines for some projects and loose ones for others. The biggest deadline of all is unavoidable. (DEATH.)
   Have a plan. Be prepared to change that plan. Don’t panic if events conspire against you. Try to react in such a way that events conspire for you. Your schemes may be best laid, by mouse or man, and still fail. That’s no excuse to ignore planning.

NEXT BLOG: MARK TWAIN.

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