Jan 252018
 

Short stories are making a comeback. This is no doubt due to the advent of ebooks and self-publishing. And although I personally rather read longer stories, I thought it a good idea to try writing a short story myself. Once finished it would be a good marketing tool, as free short stories are often used as reader magnets for a mailing list sign-up.

And how hard can it be to write a short story? It’s usually not more than 15,000 words and it can be a spin-off or part of an ongoing series, meaning that your characters and world are already developed. Easy peasy, or not?

I started writing my short story in November 2016 and wrote an optimistic blog post about it. Now 14 months later, the short story still isn’t written. Why not? Because I discovered that writing a short story is exactly the same thing as writing a long story, with the difference that it’s even faster paced.

Structure
Structure is very important in the writing of a good story. And as it turns out, it doesn’t matter if this story is 8k or 80K in length.
I’m a plotter, so I love structure, be even I didn’t realise that it was an integral part of a short story as well. So when I started writing the short story in 2016, it didn’t feel right and I abandoned it for more urgent projects. But last December I realise that having a short story as reader magnet was now the priority, so more than a year after I started it, I decided to revisit my short story.

Standalone
Not only did I need to come up with a proper structure for it, I also wanted to fit it within the existing set-up for my series. For although it is a standalone story which can be read, or not read, without influencing or losing track of the rest of the series, I did want those fans who took the time to read it, get that same feeling they have when they read my 80K books.

I even wanted those loyal fans to find hidden Easter eggs, little things that hint towards upcoming books, but also slightly look back at the books that came before. Things that won’t matter if you don’t read them, but give this extra dimension to the series as a whole for those who recognise them.

Writing
It took me six weeks to come up with a proper plot and structure and last Sunday, I started to write. It’s so much fun ‘being back’ in Milbury and follow the adventures of Paddy and Vinnie. And although not a full blow ‘murder’ mystery, there is a mystery for Paddy to solve.

Keeping it short
My biggest challenge now is to keep the story moving forward. As I ‘only’ have 4000 words for each of the four acts, it’s vital to keep only those bits that keep the pace in the story. Not that easy as this morning I discovered that I had already written 4000 words for the 2nd act, while there are still very important plot points to write about.

Where I normally have about 20K words for each act, I now need to be very strict and cull all those things that aren’t moving the story along.
I’m starting to realise that writing a short story is a craft, just like writing a full-length story is. It’s a craft that I will have to keep practising, to perfect it.

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If all goes according to plan the first draft of Peanuts! the 16K short story will be finished before the end of January and ready to go to my editor on the 1st of February.

Related blog post:

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Nov 162016
 

beachchair_01This week I have taken a few days off from my day job, giving me a leisurely eleven days of freedom to do whatever I want.
Initially I was planning to use this week to write parts of the How To book my friend Eva and I are co-writing, but we’re still in the plotting phase of that, so I needed something else to do.

Marketing Course
Luckily there was still Nick Stephenson’s marketing course Your First 10.000 Readers, of which I have so far only done the first two modules. Well, only…
Each module exists of about four to six videos, each between 15-20 minutes long, packed full of information that the student, me in this case, can implement right away. And instead of watching all the videos in one go, I decided early on to take it a step at the time to avoid getting inundated with information and loosing track (and will-power) along the way.

The fun thing of Nick’s course is that students can join a member’s only Facebook group, where they can ask questions and support each other. Nick often joins in the conversation on Facebook, giving more in-depth information, also about his own experiences as a successful indie thriller writer.
Many students on the group have shared that implementing the whole course took them close to a year, so I am feeling I’m doing the right thing by taking it slow and doing the homework as I go along one video at the time.

Existing Books
So far, my writing career has produced five non-fiction books in two very different genres. Over the last few months I have tried to implement a few of Nick’s marketing ideas for those books, but last weekend I had a brainwave.
Interesting as those books are, and proud of them as I am, at this point in time they are not going to help my author-entrepreneur business. The first two books are sold out and near impossible to turn into ebooks, so there’s no money in that. The last three book need additional editing, specially as the dialogue in them is quite bad. But is that worth it at the moment?

I thought about this for a while and realised that no, it’s not worth it at the moment. Editing those books and re-publishing them would take a lot of time, on top of which they are in a very specific niche, which will never sell hundreds of books a day. Also, I know that I will in all likelihood never write another book in that genre, so why should I want to build a mailing list for them?
Again, fun as those books are, they are too nichy to help me further my business at the moment.

Mailing List
Setting up and growing a mailing list is the core of Nick’s course. In actual fact, it should be the core of any business.
Last Saturday I watched the first video of Module Three, called: Convert traffic into subscribers. In other words, how do you get readers to give you their email address, so that we can contact them again about the new books we have written?
Video One of Module Three was all about setting up a so-called book funnel, ‘trapping’ readers and asking them to give you their email address for some extra exclusive content.

I thought perhaps I could to implement this with my existing non-fiction books, but then realised it wouldn’t help as they are too nichy and I don’t need mailing lists for them.
I realised that what I needed to do was setting up a funnel for my new cosy mystery series, of which only Book 1 is written, but still in the editing phase. Luckily I have enough feeling for marketing that I knew I should implement this book funnel as soon as Book 1 comes out in May 2017, so that I can reap the rewards as soon as possible. But how?

Book Funnel
Book funnels are often used by indies who write series to draw in more readers. But those people have existing series of five or more books.
In such a case they make the first book in the series cheaper, or permanently free, and offer the second book for free to anyone who joins their mailing list. But my Book 2 isn’t coming out until December 2017, so that means that if I used Book 2 as a ‘reader magnet’ for my book funnel, it wouldn’t be set up until then.
And that is out of the questions, as I want my funnel to start as soon as Book 1 comes out.

magnetShort Story
I soon realised that I needed an extra story, a relatively short one, set in the same world, that I could write within a few weeks and publish at the same time as Book 1. This short story would then act as the reader magnet, attracting people to my mailing list, after they have bought Book 1 for only 99 cents. On top of that the short story would only be available to the people who subscribe, so not actually be for sale on Amazon. It would be exclusive content that not everyone has and therefore more appealing to acquire by surrendering an email address.

I have always envisioned that Book 1 would be sold cheaply, and when more books come out, become permanently free, so realising that I could use it as a book funnel together with a short story, wasn’t that much of a shock.
What of course was a shock, was that I needed to write an extra story pronto, so that it can go through the proper channels of editing etc. before being published alongside Book 1 in May. Suddenly I realised what I would be doing with my week off from my day job. Where I thought I would get ahead with Nick’s marketing course, I now realised I would again do more homework; this time writing another story.

It’s now Wednesday and I have five days left until I go back to my day job. So far the plotting of the short story is coming along nicely and I hope I can start the actual writing this weekend. It seems that Module Three couldn’t have started at a more opportune time and I’m going to make the most of my holiday in the coming days.

Related blog posts:

  1. Help! I’m Writing a Short Story
  2. Making a Full-time Living with Writing
  3. Learning a New Craft

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