Thursday, August 09, 2007

Regrouping Time

I forgot to mention yesterday when announcing the new release date for Don't Hex With Texas (aka book 4) that when you're marking the calendar for the release date, go ahead and mark your calendar for about a month ahead of that to go by or call the bookstore where you plan to buy it and ask if they're going to be carrying it. If they aren't, ask to special order it. Even if they are going to be carrying it, you may be able to ask them to reserve you a copy or special order it. It might not hurt to explain how with the last book you had to go around to ten different bookstores to find it, you've been waiting way too long for this book, and you want to make sure you get a copy on release day this time (or whatever applies to your situation).

This will have multiple benefits. For one thing, it increases the chances that the store you go to will have the book for you on release day. You won't have to drive from store to store if you've special ordered a copy. This may not work with all stores or chains, but the special ordered books are sometimes ordered through a different system and shipped differently from the regular stock, so you might be able to get a special ordered copy even if there's yet another distribution mess-up or if the store just hasn't gotten around to opening the latest shipment and getting it on the shelves. Meanwhile, if a store that wasn't supposed to be carrying a book starts getting a number of customer requests and special orders for it, they may try to get some copies in their store, and if a chain starts getting lots of requests and special orders throughout the chain, the chain my up its order and distribute it to more stores. Plus, whichever person you talk to at the bookstore may be intrigued by a book that customers are enthusiastic about, and they may then pay more attention to the book. So, win-win-win! And don't worry, I'll remind you as we get closer to the end of March.

To answer a few questions that came up in comments:
Writing protest letters won't do any good. The catalog for books coming out in fall/winter (that goes to booksellers so they can order stock) has already gone out, so it can't be moved back to an earlier season. The book also hasn't yet been copy edited, the cover hasn't been designed, and the promotional info for the catalog hasn't been written.
The delay, however, does not mean I can rewrite the book to incorporate what I planned for book 5. Book 4 was completely written and turned in last October, long before the book 5 decision was made. In fact, back then, they were telling me how well my books were doing and how very excited they were about the whole series. The book has been through a couple of rounds of editing and is going into copy edits. The stories for books 4 and 5 are very different -- even in different settings -- and I can't possibly imagine a way to stick them both into one book, even if they'd let me have a book that long. I do think book 4 has a good ending that will still be satisfying if that's the end of the series, but I haven't given up on a stroke of magic that will allow the series to conclude the way I want it to (most of my daydreams do include some small degree of groveling and begging for that book, and I'm already thinking of irrational demands to make before I let them buy it from me).

In other news ... I may have reached the point in this new book where I need some structure. I ran out of steam last night, mostly due to sheer physical exhaustion, and I realized this morning that one of the scenes I wrote last night will have to be entirely scrapped and rewritten before I can move on with the book because I made a very basic beginner-type mistake that derails the plot. That, to me, is a sign that it's time to step back and really think about what needs to happen. I'm right at about the 1/4 mark for the targeted length, so it makes sense that this is the point where I need to do some planning. It's also good timing because I'm heading to ArmadilloCon tomorrow, and that means today is going to be busy with stuff like laundry, organizing and packing. I can think about the book while I drive back and forth to Austin, see if I can pick out theme songs for characters and scenes from the music I listen to, and maybe do some pen-and-paper outlining and brainstorming in my hotel room in my spare time.

I think the first thing I'll do is analyze my characters. Normally, I figure all this stuff out before I start writing, but since I mixed things up this time, I'll go back and look at what I've got. I'll figure out what archetypes I'm working with, what major things each characters has to learn or accomplish, what their goals are, etc. I'll figure out what their dominant traits are and some action tags to demonstrate these traits. And then I'll look at how the characters interact -- where they might mesh, where they might clash, what influence they might have on each other. That then will help me figure out some of the major plot elements and turning points, since a lot of plotting is really just about putting characters through the wringer. Knowing the characters means knowing what will be a challenge to them, and plot is mostly the challenges that keep the characters from their goals. The interaction is important because that creates conflict and it will also influence the outcome. I have a few different romantic pairing possibilities, and the outcomes will have a major impact on how the story ends, so I need to know up front who goes together and how that will work out. I don't have a lot of research to do since most of the info for this book draws from my existing knowledge base, but I do need to look some things up and plan some settings, which may mean roughing out maps and floorplans. Once I have all that figured out, I can come up with a plot outline that covers the major turning points and the resolution, and that will then help me be on target for writing the rest of the book (or, in this case, writing a synopsis and polishing enough pages for a book proposal to, hopefully, sell it before I write it. But I may write more just because I'm having fun).

Of course, all that is subject to change if I come up with a new way to work that works for me.

The weird thing I've noticed is that when the writing is flowing, the rest of my life also tends to fall into place. Yesterday, I actually exercised and did some housework. I'm still not sleeping well, though, but that tends to happen when the brain is on full-speed-ahead.

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