New Blog

In an effort to keep things closer to the chest, I’ll be hosting the blog on my own server from now on.

The new blog will be clean and minimal, focused on the writing. Easier for me to maintain and easier for you to find the content you want.

I’ll keep this one around for posterity and maybe move some of the posts over there, depending on how much time it takes, but for now it’s a clean slate.

So follow me over to the new home at http://blog.brianjjarrett.com.

See you there.

Resolutions

2016-new-yearI’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I think if you’re going to do a thing then the best time to start is right now. Forget that “I’ll wait until Monday” or “I’ll do it next month” nonsense; just cut the shit and start already.

It ain’t gonna be any easier come Monday.

That said, I do look at the new year as a clean slate of sorts. More of a planning timeframe, if you will. An accounting period.

I wrote more than a quarter million words in 2015, with 75% of those words written between August and December. In other words, I fucked around for the first seven months of the year before figuring out how to be productive.

But that’s all good now because it’s given me a blueprint for the future. I write 1,500 words per day and at that rate I’m on track to write more than a half-million words by year end. Crazy to think one can do so much by working on it an hour a day. That’s why I always say that it’s about consistency and not speed.

The theme for 2016 is writing. Write better. Write often. Write more.

I’m not sure exactly what I’ll have completed by year end since I work on projects that suit my mood at the time. So when a book is done I consider what mood I’m in, pick an idea, and run with it until it’s complete. After that, I do it again.

What I write depends on the mood. That I write is predetermined.

I’m considering doing some short fiction and packaging it up in a collection for next year. I have an idea for six short stories, all unique but built from the same inciting event. That’s a short story every other month…pretty doable.

I’ll be publishing Badlands #3, my Mothman book and my weird western this year. Probably the next Yesterday In Black book too. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll write that sci-fi book I’ve been thinking about or a sequel to The Crossover Gene. It’s a blank slate, after all.

So check back later and I’ll keep you up to date. Sign up for my newsletter if you like; you get a free book after all. And don’t forget to buy my crap while you’re at it.

Weekly Digest, Episode 1

Well, look at that. Here’s the first weekly post. I’m one for one, right out of the gate. :)

Let’s talk about the last several months to get up to speed here. Here are my word counts, totaled by month, since I started Chris Fox’s “sprint” methodology (August is low because it’s not a full month; only 20 days):

  • August: 31,275
  • September: 46,523
  • October: 42,226
  • November: 42,597

December is sitting at nearly 34,000 words (I’ll probably hit 39-40k by end of month).

Let’s talk about this past week’s counts (12/20 – 12/26):

  • Sunday: 1,203 words, 2 sprints
  • Monday: 1,418 words, 2 sprints
  • Tuesday: 1,015 words, 2 sprints
  • Wednesday: 1,556 words, 2 sprints
  • Thursday: 1,485 words, 2 sprints
  • Friday: 751 words, 1 sprint
  • Saturday: 930 words, 2 sprints

Total: 8,358

Friday was Christmas, but I wrote. How did I do it? I only did one sprint instead of two (it was Christmas, after all), but 30 minutes is easy to fit in. My wife took a nap and the kids were busy playing with their new crap. I sat down for 30 minutes and worked, simple as that. Then I took the rest of the day off.

If you didn’t read my other posts about sprinting, here are the Cliff’s Notes: a sprint for me is thirty minutes of uninterrupted writing time. I close the office doors, put on some music, figure out my next scene, set a timer and start writing. (In a later post I’ll go into more detail on what a typical day looks like for me, but for now this gets the point across.)

You can see some days I struggled with the words. Some days are harder than others. Just a fact of life. It doesn’t excuse me from putting in the time and hitting the quota.

See, my quotas are sprint counts, not word counts. That’s critical to remember.

I set a quota of two sprints per day. Rarely do I ever miss. I gave myself a break on Christmas, for example, but I still wrote. I strive to write every day. I’m currently at 41 consecutive days without a miss, my longest streak  yet.

I used to set a quota of 1,000 words per day. Once I hit it, I’d quit it. That produced fewer words in the end. By setting quotas around sprints (duration) I don’t artificially limit myself to a word count.

I break my sprints into 30 minute intervals. That’s about the longest I prefer to sit and peck away at a scene or chapter. Yours could be longer or shorter. I get up in between, usually to take a shower and think about my next scene, then I sit back down and get sprint #2 finished. After that, I’m done for the day.

Why only two sprints per day, you ask? With my schedule that’s good for me. It keeps me productive while not burning me out. I tend to be a workaholic, so if I don’t put a cap on things I’ll burn too hot and too fast. Two sprints nets me an average of 1,500 words per day. That consistency is key, but that’s a topic for another post.

How did you do last week? If you wrote more than 8,000 words then congrats, you’re better than I am. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you wrote a thousand or so. Less? Maybe you didn’t write at all.

But…but…the holidays…family…work…responsibilities…porn…[insert excuse here].

That’s okay, let it go. The past is gone, so focus on the future. Remember, your future starts tomorrow; not next year, not next month. Tomorrow. Hell, today if you like.

Regardless of when you start it, your future should not include excuses. We’ll talk about that later too.

I’ll be back next week with more rambling, word counts and random crap. Until then, if you read, keep reading. If you write, keep writing and reading.

More In 2016

I’ll probably spend more time here in 2016. I’ll shoot for weekly posts, give or take, to give you some insight into what I’m doing and how it’s working. If you’re a reader, maybe you’ll get some insight into how I write the books. Maybe that’ll interest you, maybe not.

If you’re a writer, then maybe my lessons learned can also help you. I’m not a bestseller and I’m not an old pro, but I’m a full-time career person with a family who writes at a pace of six novels a year. So if you’ve been making excuses about why you “don’t have time” to write or writing feels more like work than fun or you just can’t squeeze out more than a book every other year then maybe my experiences can inspire you.

Or maybe just piss you off enough to actually write. That still counts as inspiration, right?

I’ve written eight novels. One of them will never see the light of day (you guessed it, my first novel). Three of them are finished, but waiting to go out to my editor. The rest are ready for you to buy. I also have some novellas and short stories out there. Buy those too.

I got back into writing five years ago and made out like a bandit during the “Kindle Gold Rush”. I’ve survived the sales decline after those glory days and I’m still hanging on after the “KU Apocalypse”. I’ve seen other writers come and go in the past five years, but I’m still here. I’m tenacious, if nothing else.

2016 will be all about production for me. No focus on marketing my books or frenetic sales checking. No worrying about sales rank and all that business. With my mind laser-focused on writing new words, we’ll explore that in depth.

I’ll talk about consistency and I’ll share word counts. I’ll talk about rewriting traps and bold choices, about making self-doubt my bitch and staying focused on things that matter (and ignoring things that don’t).

I’ll piss on uppity attitudes about “real literature” and being a “hack” and “writing fast”. I’ll talk about why consistent is better than fast. I’ll talk about the hard truths I’ve learned from this business and the craft of writing itself. And more. All kinds of stuff to talk about.

If that sounds like your kinda thing, then tag along. 2016 is going to be a fun year.

Looking Back at 2015

As we near the end of another year, I’m again reflecting back and forecasting the future. This is usually a time of rueful regret and desperate hope for me; regret that I didn’t achieve the goals I’d set for myself this year and a desperate hope that next year will be better.

This year I’m neither ruefully regretful nor desperately hopeful. And that’s a good thing.

If you’ve been following along with this blog you’ll know that I found a new writing methodology, a discipline if you will, that has allowed me to quadruple my output. Four months in and not a sign of letting up, I’m now producing at a rate of six novels per year.

You’re going to see a lot more books coming your way from me next year. Mostly that’s because I’m now more disciplined with my writing, but also because I’m going to forego rewriting in 2016.

What exactly is “rewriting”? For you writers out there, I’m following Dean Wesley Smith’s advice on rewriting. For you readers out there who don’t care about that, don’t worry. Just know that it means I’ll be able to produce much more quickly and that the books should, in theory, be better because of it.

Despite spending the first half of 2015 stuck in the mud, I still produced quite a bit of work this year. I finished a bunch of open projects, I wrote a new crime novella and a new Mothman-inspired horror novel. I’m currently halfway through writing a “weird western” novel (western meets horror) and while that won’t be completed in 2015 it’ll be finished by the end of January 2016.

Speaking of the Badlands trilogy…book #3, Out of the Badlands, is finished! Yay! It will go off to my editor in January, publishing (tentatively) late March. Once I get a solid date from my editor I’ll put up a preorder page and send out an email to my mailing list. So get on that list if you’re not already.

In additional to Badlands #3, 2016 will see publication of my Mothman horror novel (titled It Came From the Mountain) along with that weird western, tentatively titled The Saint, the Sinner and the Coward.

After that, I’m not entirely sure what’s next. I might just have another zombie book in me. I swore I wouldn’t do another one unless I had a unique story to tell. Well, I think I have one. If it survives the outlining process then I might start on that one in February. We’ll see. I’ll send out a spring newsletter to keep you in the loop regardless.

What’s the future look like? Pretty damn bright right now. I’m loving writing, loving the idea of not having to rewrite and looking forward to publishing as many as six books next year. If you like my work then hopefully you’re looking forward to reading them. Win-win, eh?

In the meantime, you can preorder my crime novella right now, titled Yesterday In Black, from Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords. It comes out on December 15th everywhere, including Barnes & Noble (sorry, their system won’t handle preorders yet). Check out my other stuff here and don’t be shy about telling all your friends. ;)

Until next time, take it easy.

New Preorder – Yesterday In Black

Yesterday In Black Cover 100x160You heard right. All that productivity I’ve been yammering about is finally starting to bear fruit. My editor is due to have my first crime novella back to me tomorrow, so I’ll be publishing it on December 15, 2015, just in time to stuff your virtual stocking. You can get it on preorder right now from Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords (sorry Nook readers, B&N’s system won’t allow preorders).

Here’s the gist:

Three years ago Tom Miller lost his entire family to a brutal serial killer. Now drowning in alcohol and haunted by the ghosts of his past, he decides one night to finally end it all.

But when he sees the face of a murdered little girl on the evening news, Tom thinks he might know who the killer is. Desperate to stop the next murder before it happens, Tom mounts his own investigation—and quickly finds himself in over his head.

When the next little girl goes missing, Tom will have to come to terms with his past and face his demons in order to track down a monster. But with time running out and his leads falling short, his chances at finding the killer are quickly diminishing.

Along with a child’s chances for survival.

Sounds awesome, right? You know it does. I had a great time writing this one and I think it turned out nicely. I plan on doing a whole series of these books, taking Tom all over the place as he hunts down the hunters, bringing those motherfuckers to justice.

In other news, I’m currently about 1/3 of the way through revisions on Badlands #3 and I’m just about finished with the first draft of a new monster novel called It Came From the Mountain. My homage to Mothman, if you will. Look for both of those books early next year. And if you missed it, check out my Halloween-themed short story Cycle. You can pick that up for less than a buck. My kids loved it, so if you’re looking for third-party validation, there you go.

Stay up to date on all things me by signing up for the newsletter. And if you really want to make my day, buy some more of my crap here.

Until next time, take it easy.

Brian

Productivity 2.0

Recently I raved about Chris Fox’s brilliant “sprint” method of writing, an approach that has allowed me to quadruple my output of new fiction words. I thought it would be a good idea to post those word counts here so that others could see just how doable it is.

So here are screenshots of my spreadsheet, broken down by the partial month of August and up through the most recent day of September:

sprint_screen_shot_Aug

sprint_screenshot_Sep

After a month of this approach I can say that I’m just as motivated as I was when I started. In fact, I might even be more excited about it now, especially after I’ve seen what I can accomplish.

I’m also finding that I’m producing better first drafts because of writing faster. I can keep more of the story in my head due to the fact that I’m so consistently (and recently) involved with it. I can immerse myself in the world each and every day, until the story is finished. This, by the way, also makes the writing fun, the whole reason for doing this in the first place.

Where I’m finding that I’m slowing down is in the revisions. Because I keep feeding the “word machine” fresh outlines each morning, I’m producing more content than I can revise. I don’t know that I’ve cracked that particular nut quite yet, but I’m leaning toward Dean Wesley Smith’s approach of little to no revision. Yeah, I know. Writing is rewriting and all that jazz…or maybe it’s not. Think on that one for a while.

I think I’m going to try the first draft/one revision approach and be done with it. After that it’ll go off to my editor. Maybe it won’t be “perfect” (whatever that is), but perfect is boring. And who the hell wants to read a boring book?

I’ll update later and let you know how this approach continues to work out. Until next time stay well and buy my crap.

Brian J. Jarrett 2.0

2015 has been a year of change for me. I’ve altogether given up drinking sugary soda, began exercising regularly, cut back my food consumption and I’ve forced myself to get more sleep. I’ve dropped more than twenty pounds, I don’t catch a cold every month and I can sit down without having to unbutton my pants to allow room for my gut.

But with all these improvements in my life, I still struggled with my writing. I procrastinated too much. I produced very little. Most days, I’d been lucky to hit 500 words. And I surely didn’t write every day. Up until last month, I was averaging around 350 words per day.

You don’t get too many novels written at that pace.

Up until the beginning of August, I was happy with 500 in a day. 1,000 words and I felt like I was pretty well on track. 1,200 words? Well, shit. I was on fire. Writing every single day, without a miss? Unheard of and impossible.

Now, if I were to write 500 words every single day, I’d be working at a snail’s pace.

How the hell did this change so drastically? Well, I’m glad you asked. A writer friend of mine, Keith C. Blackmore, told me about this book he’d read recently called 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. He said it helped him write more words and have more fun doing it. I figured, what the hell? I’ll check it out. So I bought it and read it while on vacation in Florida last month.

With all the positive changes I’ve made in my habits this year, I’d been planning on working to improve my productivity anyway, so the timing was perfect. I cracked open the book and a light bulb went off for me. I decided I’d start applying the techniques to my own writing when I got back home and back into my regular routine.

On the first day I tried it, I wrote 1,800 new words in a single hour.

Since then I’ve written every single day and I’m bursting up to 2,200 words an hour.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it isn’t. And it’s not even that difficult. It required some changes to my routine and adopting a writing approach that centers around the concept of “sprints”. A sprint (in Chris’s terms) is a set period of time in which you write as hard and fast as you can. You don’t even stop to fix spelling errors. It’s critical to perform these sprints at a time of day when you will not be interrupted and to have your novel’s scenes plotted out (which is the way I already do it).

I get up at 4:45 a.m. Monday through Friday and do two, thirty-minute sprints. I get anywhere between 1,500 to 2,200 words out of this hour. On weekends I write at least two sprints, usually more. All while working a full-time career and actually spending time with my wife and kids. Ta-dow.

If you are a writer and you want to improve your speed and productivity, BUY CHRIS’S BOOK. Seriously. He goes into all the necessary detail while not boring you with bullshit. It’s changed my life and has unlocked a well of creativity and productivity that I didn’t think was possible.

Having said that, you know where I’m going. I’m producing like a maniac. So far since adopting this method a month ago, I’ve written 48,000 new words. I finished the first draft of my Badlands novel Vengeance In the Badlands and I’m almost finished with a 40,000 word crime novella that I’ll be releasing before the end of this year. That’ll be finished by next week, after which I’ll knock out the last book in my Badlands trilogy, Out of the Badlands.

The Badlands books are messy in first draft because of all the wheel spinning I did earlier in the year. I also wrote most of the manuscripts without an outline, which was a royal pain in the ass. I tried, man, I tried, but goddamn it’s tedious, slow and NOT FUN AT ALL. And if I’m not having fun, well what the hell is the point?

So what does this mean to you as a reader? Well, brother, it means I got a lot more shit coming your way. It’s looking like I might have three books out this year. Wrap your head around that one: three book in a single year! Unprecedented for me. It also means that since I’m not stuck in the mud anymore I’ll be able to write a bunch of other books that I’ve been planning and just haven’t gotten too. And the books are better because I’m getting through them so fast and keeping all the scenes and plot points top of mind. When you spend a year writing a book, you forget half the shit you wrote at the beginning of the year and end up rewriting the hell out of it later on. That’s slow, slow, slow progress, my friend.

On a side note, I’ve also let go of a lot of the fear and self-doubt that was holding me back. I just don’t give a shit anymore and it’s wonderful. I write, I create and I have a lot of fun doing it. I think this epiphany for me is worth its own post. You’re also going to see a bit more of myself coming through on this blog, four-letter words and all. So get out now if that sort of thing bothers you. You really shouldn’t be reading my books anyway if that’s the case. They’ll just end up pissing you off.

So stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted on the progress. Better yet, sign up for my mailing list and be the first to know when my new shit hits the virtual shelves. Plus I’ll give you a free book just for signing up.

Until next time, take it easy. And while you’re at it, buy my shit.

 

Alive and Writing

With 2015 nearly half over, it seems an update is well overdue. The lack of updates this year isn’t so much about nothing happening, but more about there not really being any real milestones reached (or none that I thought to be worthy of a post).  I think I’m far enough along on things to talk about them now, so here we go…

Badlands Book Three

The good news is that the manuscript for third book in my Badlands trilogy–Out of the Badlands–is halfway to completion. I hit 50k words this week and I expect the manuscript to clock in around 100k words. So far I’m on track to deliver the book by end of year. I’m really, really working hard to make that happen because I don’t want to delay its release again (it’s already going to be published a year later than I originally planned).

Another Badlands Novel

Around the beginning of last year I nearly finished the manuscript for another Badlands novel called Vengeance In the Badlands. The novel follows one of the main characters after the events that took place in book #2, but the story goes on its own tangent and thusly falls outside the trilogy. The good news is that because its already so far along I think I’ll be able to release it later this year, directly on the heels of book #3. Keep your eyes peeled for that or make it easy on yourself and sign up for my newsletter so that I can let you know about all my new releases (you’ll also receive a free ebook for signing up).

Other Works

I have a couple of other projects in the pipeline. These won’t be released until next year, but I’ve done some work on them already. I’m planning a novella crime series about a damaged guy who hunts down serial killers and I’ll be concurrently working on a new novel. I have a few ideas in the works for said novel, but it’s too early to say which one will grab my attention. It’ll be a surprise for both of us, I suppose. :)

Sales & Marketing

Sales continue to be mediocre, even on Amazon. I’ve seen sales really climb on Kobo and Barnes & Noble is holding a steady third place. After my experience in Select at the end of last year, I won’t be heading down that path again anytime soon. Right now I only have two short stories in Select; for me it just doesn’t work for my novels.

I did, however, temporarily reduce the price of my first Badlands book to $.99 for a few months on all platforms. It really helped to move some additional copies, anywhere between two to three times more. But like any sale, the price has to go back up again or it’s not really a sale. Still, book one is a dollar cheaper than the rest of the books to make it just a little easier to pull the trigger and give the series a try. When book #3 and the standalone novel are released, I’ll probably run another sale on book #1, dropping it to $.99 again. I might even try to get a Bookbub ad to see if I can move some copies.

That’s about all for now. Remember, if you enjoy my work the best thing you can do to help is tell your friends. And if you really want to be super helpful, leave a review. It really does make a difference.

2014 Wrap Up

Believe it or not, 2014 is gone. Today is the last day of the year, so it seemed fitting to wrap up the year for me with what I’ve learned and what I have planned for 2015.

KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited

I didn’t have much luck with Kindle Unlimited. I opted all my titles in in October and saw total borrows across all seven titles reach around 30 each month. My sales went down and my revenue went way down (a 30-40% drop).

I think the mistake I made was going all in with my entire catalog. The borrows and the revenue simply weren’t there and with 40% of my sales coming from outside Amazon, I lost my ass.

I don’t necessarily think the program is inherently  flawed, outside of requiring exclusivity. I think it’s great for short works and for some of the titles in my catalog. I still think it’s valuable to use Select when first launching a new title, depending on the reader base.

I just released a new $.99 short story, exclusive to Amazon and KDP Select. I’ve opted all my other titles out of Select. For 2015 I’ll utilize Select selectively (no pun intended) if at all. With Amazon no longer performing for me as it once did, I just can’t go all in and ignore the other sales channels.

Productivity

I wrote 40k words on a novella this year and finished a 72k word novel. I also wrote a 7k word short story. I published the novel and the short story, but the novella probably won’t see the light of day until late 2015.

I ran into a little bit of writer’s block near the end of the year, after I’d made a big proclamation to produce a shit-ton of words. Reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog really helped get me out of that rut and made me question a lot of my assumptions. I think I’ve been focusing so much on the finished product that I lost sight of the most important part of writing: having fun. Writing the actual words became a means to an end, not an enjoyable activity.

I dug myself out of my rut by writing a short story near the end of the year. I didn’t worry about anything but the writing. It was a blast. I did maybe two or three revisions on it; much, much fewer than I normally do. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing in the past couple of years and it’s a lesson I’ll be taking into 2015. I’m already at work on Badlands #3 with 5k words in the bank. It’s really been a pleasant and fun experience just taking it a scene at a time.

The Market

My sales continue to decline as the market floods with new work from indies and traditional publishers release more of their backlist in the $4.99 and under range. Traditional publishers are also running more sales on their digital titles, further competing with indie-level pricing. Kindle Unlimited is sucking paid sales away from indies at an increasing rate, making selling books even more difficult. With borrow payouts settling around $1.30, many indies (including myself) are seeing their revenue decline.

So what does this mean for me? Well, business as usual. I’m a full-time programmer, so writing is my second job. If I sell fewer books, I can still pay my mortgage. I’ll survive. And I’m certainly not going to quit, as have some others. I’ve wanted to publish to an audience for a long damn time, so I’m not going to squander that opportunity.

I’m not planning to focus much on advertising in the near future. I just finished up year one in a five-year plan that includes completing my best-selling series and fleshing out my horror and sci-fi thriller offerings. Over the next four years I can realistically expect to finish at least five novels, so that’ll provide me with a reasonable backlist. Then I can shift more of my focus to advertising and growing the business. Until then I’ll be focusing primarily on the writing and taking the sales as they come.

Reading

I read a handful of books this year, but not as many as I’d like. In 2015 I plan to read a lot more. I bought a ton of them recently (I admit, I horde books), so I have a huge to-be-read pile waiting for me.

This Blog

I don’t see much changing with the frequency of updates to this blog or with the content provided. I write what I feel is relevant here, when I think it needs to be written.

New Work

My main focus for 2015 is going to be finishing up my Badlands series. Out of the Badlands (Book #3) is first on the list. I might be able to release my novella in the same series next year, but I don’t want to make any promises. If I can get to more work next year then I will, but it’s not on the project plan.

So there you have it, my thoughts on 2014 and my plans for next year. All in all it’s been a sobering but educational year for me. Sure, the market is tougher than ever now, but the opportunity to reach readers without the need to genuflect at the feet of the Almighty Gatekeepers remains alive and well. This is still the best time ever to be a writer and I’m super excited about the opportunities the future holds.

Take it easy and I’ll see you next year!