What’s the Secret Formula?

On Fridays we go live. Visit my Facebook page to join us and ask me some questions while I read a few pages from one of the G&B books.

The third question I get asked, and not nearly as often as the first two, is if I have a formula. The answer to that one is yes, I certainly do. It is my secret to finishing a novel. My first consideration is word count. Eighty-five thousand words makes for a nice novel that fits well into the industry standards. It seems a lot of aspiring novelists think they are just going to start writing and it will start where it starts and end where it ends. But the reality is that a novel that is too short is a novelette, or essentially a long short story. The opposite is a novel that is too long. At a point, around 90,000 words, the novel starts to get expensive to print. If you write a 150,000-word epic, the book is going to be expensive to print, ship and publish. While our novels are a labor of love for us writers, books are a matter of overhead and profit for publishers. Eighty to 85,000 words will result in a book that is big enough to look like a book and cheap enough to publish that it can be sold at a price where people will buy it and there will be enough left for the author to realize some royalty. Remember while you are writing, the printer, the publisher, the shipper and the distributer are all going to get their shares before you are. Keeping costs down is always a consideration. That’s just a fact of life for writing and bears consideration.

So, what is the secret formula? Thirty 2,700-word chapters are going to give you an 81,000-word novel. Adjust accordingly: fewer chapters with more words each, or more chapters with fewer words each. When I hit 55,000 words, I start working toward the ending. By then I usually have chapter notes to the end anyway, so it is a straight shot. That’s a pretty simple formula to work off of.

I’m Dying to Know…

Every Friday I go live on my Facebook and answer questions and read a little of one of my books. If you have anything you’ve ever wondered, drop me a line on my page!

The second question I get often is if I outline my stories before beginning to write. And the answer is yes, I do. But my outline is generally scribbled on papers stuffed in the back of my desk, notes that I’ve been jotting down for months before I even get started. By the time I begin writing, I have a loosely organized idea where to start and where I’m going. As I write, my outline progressively gets abandoned and I begin making notes in a .docx in the folder where I keep the book chapters while I am writing it. As one chapter after another is written, the notes get assigned places in them. By the time I’m halfway through with the book I have the chapters mapped out with notes on each one, all the way to the end. They get switched and tweaked a little along the way, but by the middle of the book I have a pretty good roadmap to the ending. So in a loose sort of way, my books go from outline to notes to outline.

Any Questions?

Every Friday, I go live on my Facebook and answer questions from friends, fans and readers. Stop by my page to ask me anything you’ve ever wondered about writing a book, self publishing, or even what the guys’ favorite beer is…

When people talk to me about my books, a couple of questions come up almost every time. The first is if I set aside a certain time every day dedicated to writing. I answer that no, I don’t have to. I think that the most important aspect of writing is knowing what you want to write about and have somewhat of an idea how you want to get there. I do sit down most every day and write, but not because I have set aside some time in my day to do it like it is some kind of chore; I sit down most every day because I have a story to tell and I enjoy telling it. I want to write every day.

Stay tuned for more frequently asked questions.

Local Author: Micah K. Chaplin

Micah K. Chaplin

How many books have you written and what are the titles?

I have written and self-published five books to date:

You’ll Never Know

A Promise Worth Breaking

Riffs of Regret

Dropped Third Strike

Behind in the Count

What genre of books do you write?

I suppose they could all be put in the romance genre. The most recent two are baseball romance.

Are you working on anything right now?

I have a hockey-themed romance project in the editing stage. I drafted the entire thing in 22 days last November. Most of my books have been written or at least started during November, which is National Novel Writing Month. 

I’m also still trying to finish writing the third installment of my baseball romance series. I’m currently stuck at about 85 percent completion. 

What is your preferred genre to read?

I like to read romance, fiction, and mystery/crime.

What are you reading right now?

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Why did you decide to become an author?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. In high school and college, I mostly wrote poetry. The summer after I graduated college, I had a lot of free time while I searched for a job. That’s when I wrote my first novel. I published it a few years later.

What’s the character in any of your books that you relate to the most?

There’s a little bit of me in every character in every book. But I’d probably say I relate most closely to Cori in Riffs of Regret.

Has anyone ever assumed a character in one of your books was inspired by them? Were they right?

I’m not super subtle with my character influences. But most of the people the characters are based on never read my books, so I don’t have to worry about that.

Have you self published, or worked with a publishing company?  How was that experience?

I have self-published all of my books. I like having total control of the product from start to finish, including pricing. It’s a lot more work, and it means I don’t have any help with marketing, but that’s the tradeoff. I mostly write them for fun and as an outlet anyway. It’s not meant to be an income.

Where can we buy your books? 

My first two books are pretty hard to find these days as that publishing company went out of business. However, my most recent three are all available on Amazon. Just search for Micah K. Chaplin.

Buy Micah’s Books here!

I’m not dragging my feet.

Today I submitted Welch Avenue Wizards for publication. It is the fourth novel in the G&B Detective Agency Series. A lot of people have been asking me when the next one was coming out, and I didn’t know. But it seemed like I was writing a lot, just nothing was getting there. It felt like a long time between Where the Hell is Angie and Welch Avenue Wizards. So I counted on my fingers and figured it out that the first three came out over a period of eight months. It took nine months from Angie until Welch Avenue Wizards was ready for publication. So I pondered a bit about why, and I realized that I actually wrote two novels during that period of time. I wrote Case of the Cold Case as well. So mystery solved. I’m not slowing down in my old age. That’s nice to know

I’m sure that people are going to start asking about Cold Case. Well, yes it is almost ready to publish. I still have to go through it one more time to check for errors that have slipped past us, but it is that close, one read away. I even have a cover for it, which is usually the very last obstacle for me. I’ll sit on it for a while though. I’ll let people read Welch Avenue Wizards first. In the meantime, I’m writing Case of the Femme Fatal, number six. And it is close to first draft, so I’m kind of excited about that. The important thing here is that my readers, and I appreciate my readers a lot, won’t have to wait nine months for the next one. Happy reading, and enjoy the Welch Avenue Wizards.

Almost there.

WWW Proof.

 

Sunday afternoon and we just finished going through the proof of Welch Avenue Wizards, and I think it is a good book. Going through the proof is one of the last things we do before it gets published and released to sell.

After we published Case of the Missing Tucker we started a process where Denise reads the whole book out loud to me. Three reasons for that: The first one is that it forces her to concentrate on each word. She catches a lot of errors doing that, many more than we were catching before we started reading it out loud. The second is that it lets us hear how the story flows. There is a big difference between listening to the flow when she reads it out loud and just looking at it on paper. This one flows well. The third is that I get to listen to it, to hear if it sounds like a good book or not. I can sit back, stare out the window, disassociate myself from the written word, and listen to it. It has to sound good to read well. Welch Avenue Wizards passed all three tests.

If you look at the picture you will see a bunch of little tags flagging pages in the book. Those are mistakes. But they are just little things, a letter capitalized that shouldn’t be, a comma instead of a period, missing quotation marks. That’s what we find when Denise reads it out loud instead of just going over it visually. All and all, that is actually a pretty clean book. Probably the cleanest thus far at this point. It won’t take much to fix those errors.

We also have just a few things that need to be tweaked on the cover. The synopsis and the author bio on the back cover doesn’t look just right. It will take a little time, but it is not a huge undertaking. Like I said, a little tweaking should take care of it. Then it should be ready to publish. Stay patient another week or two.

Who’s who?

Tucker card front

People who have read my books and who know me, come up all of the time and tell me that they know who the characters are in my books. Like they are in on the conspiracy, wink wink, nod nod. It is interesting who they think that the characters are, considering that I don’t know who they are. Yes, I will admit that certain characteristics of certain people find their way into my characters. It would be pretty hard to write a novel and take particular care not to base any of the characteristics of the any of the characters on anyone I’ve ever known. But there is one character in my novels who is based on real life. That would be Tucker. You know, first book, therapy dog named Tucker gets dognapped. Case of the Missing Tucker.

I got the idea for that novel before I even thought about Tucker, and there were other dogs who belong to friends and relatives who popped in and out of my head while I was thinking about which dog would be my missing dog, but Tucker stuck. Tucker was the perfect dog for the story. And while in real life Tucker has never been dognapped and held for ransom by some ne’er-do-well named Higgins, Tucker does live with my cousin Beth, and he is a famous therapy dog.

My cousin Beth sent me one of his recently printed trading cards. A therapy dog with trading cards. If he had had trading cards when I wrote that book, I certainly would have figured out a way to incorporate it into the story. But he didn’t. I guess I could just write another novel with Tucker and his trading cards in it. Maybe, we’ll see.

There is one other character that is based on a real live person. That person said that she wanted to be a character in one of my novels, so I wrote her into one of the stories that has been published, and I just wrote her into another that is coming soon. She makes a good character. I’ll let you all figure out who that is on your own.

Printer woes.

We arrived at our place in San Juan on the fifteenth of January, just in time for the San Sebastian street festival, and considering that we live on San Sebastian Street, called Calle San Sebastian down here, our first weekend was riotous for sure. We had great fun, but when the festival was over it was back to work.

When we got here, I had but four or five chapters to go with Case of the Welch Avenue Wizards. Those last chapters always go fast. I’ve got most of the story told by then and I know how it is going to end. The trick is to let it end. Sometimes I push it and then when I go over it later I have to massage it. It feels better to nail it the first time through. So I finished the first draft in short order. All in all, the rewrite went pretty smoothly. There were some rough places, but that’s to be expected. Then came the first edit, some more polishing, and then we came to the point in the process where we format the manuscript and print out a copy on the printer to go over together before I upload it to the online builder where it becomes a book eventually. That’s where the woes begin.

The last time we were down here was in September, so the printer has been sitting here dormant for many months, first of all. Secondly, we don’t know how much black ink was still in the cartridge when we left, but regardless, we were not getting any ink to come out of it. No problem, they carry printer ink at the Walgreens down the hill a half dozen blocks.

So down we go to Walgreens. No problem, and we had to send a postcard from the post office on the way. Yes, Walgreens has printer ink, every cartridge it seems but the one we need. That’s too bad, but what the heck, it means a trip to Office Max, which is next to the mall. In San Juan, we live in a big city, and like most big cities parking is at a premium and public transportation rules. Between busses, taxis, Uber and walking, we get anywhere we want to go quite easily without our own car. So we Ubered to the mall, spent a couple hours there, then walked over to Office Max. Great, we got our ink cartridge, caught an Uber back, and we are in business.

Yesterday Denise got the whole book formatted, searched for some possible errors in consistency, and printed the manuscript. That’s when we learned something. We learned that the standard ink cartridge for our printer down here will print 250 pages. Welch Avenue Wizards is 295 pages. Dang, looks like another trip to the mall.
In the meantime, I started writing my next novel, Case of the Femme Fatale. I’m three chapters into it already. But for now, the Welch Avenue Wizards is on the way. We are close. All that is left is the final touches and a cover, and we are up and going. I think that if you are a fan of the G&B Detective Agency, you are going to like it. I’m excited, both to get Wizards done and available, and to sink my teeth into Femme Fatale. That one is going to be fun.

New books, Edgar Awards, and a nice note from a friend.

Here is an update on what is going on at the G&B Detective Agency. I finished up the first draft of The Case of The Welch Ave. Wizards. I’ve started on the rewrite and it is going pretty well. It should not take long. After that it goes through editing and then I will polish it up.

Edgar Awards Nominees 2019

The official list of nominees for the Edgar Award came out, and yours truly is not on it. Honestly, it is a truly prestigious award and I’m glad that I entered. There is always next year. On the up side, my Kindle Select account showed a very noticeable uptick in all of my books shortly after I sent Case of the Cold Case in for judging. I can only hope that some people took notice of my writing. Anyway, it was a good experience.

Here’s where I stand now with the G&B Detective Agency: I’m going to put Case of the Cold Case back for a little while. I might enter it into another competition if I can find one that is a good fit. The Welch Ave. Wizards is coming along nicely and I hope to publish it soon. I’m shooting for April or May. The seed for G&B Detective Agency: Case of the Femme Fatal has been planted and it is starting to sprout. I’m anxious to get my table cleared and to start writing it.

“Hi Rollie! I read the 3 books in a row and I loved them! They are so funny and engaging! I particularly enjoyed the insights on police work. I read a lot and I found these so interesting and refreshing! Thank you for creating such wonderful characters! Already waiting for the next one! Say hi to Denise!
Edlyn”

Thanks all, for the support. I recently got this very nice text from a friend and neighbor of ours in Puerto Rico. She read all three of my books back to back. I am so happy that people enjoy them, and I’m especially happy when they get back to me with such a nice note. I’ll try to post a little more often and keep you all up on the latest.

And now a word from my editor.

 

When it comes to being an indie author I’m pretty lucky. Indie authors generally have to send a fully formatted and edited book to the publisher. They also have to supply their own cover art. If an indie author wants to compete with the traditional publishers who have their own in-house editors and artists, they are going to have to find their own editor and pay for those services. Unfortunately, a lot of indie authors forego these two most important steps in the process to save money, and it shows. This is where I’m lucky. I want to introduce you to my editor.

Denise actually lives in Ames, so that is convenient. She is a native of Story City, IA and an Iowa State University graduate. She holds a BA and an MA in English. For a time she worked as an editor for ISU Press. She then went to Engineering Animation, Inc., as a technical writer, then to Quester IT as Manager of Content Development, and then to Phasient Learning Technologies where she served as a Director of Content Development and retired as VP of operations. Quite a good resume for a guy like me to snag up. The luckiest thing about it though is that Denise is my wife. If you want to keep publishing costs down, marry your editor. I will add that Denise’s sister is a graphic designer for a grocery chain, and also my designer for the covers of all of my books. So you might say, when it comes to in house editors and artists, the big boys got nothing on me.
I asked Denise to talk a bit about our editing process:

For us, editing begins as Rollie is outlining the story in his head, often before he even sits down at the computer to write. He talks about what Max and Skip and the gang are doing, and we talk through ideas of how that might go. So I know the story from the outset.

By the time Rollie publishes one of his books, I have read it at least three times. I start the substantive edit before he finishes his second draft, reading two or three chapters at a time to catch inconsistencies in the storyline, discrepancies with characters and places, any flow issues and grammatical errors that catch my eye. I follow the Chicago Manual of Style and keep a style sheet for consistency both within and across the books. We discuss things like flow and character development, and I might suggest alternate wording or even changes to scenes if it feels necessary. I perform this edit on the computer, right in the chapter files. Small edits I just make, while larger things I either flag for discussion or we hash out as I go. We don’t always agree.

Once the substantive edit is complete and all the changes accepted, I compile the separate chapters into the template to make the book. It took us a while to find a process that works best, but by Where the Hell is Angie? I feel like we have a system that catches most problems. For the first copyedit, I print out the book and we read it side by side at the dining room table: I read each page, marking each change on the page and flagging the page with a post-it flag, then Rollie reads the page and tries to catch anything I miss. When we get through the entire book, I enter the changes in the document and Rollie uploads the book to the printer and orders a proof.

When the proof arrives, we do a final proofread together. For Case of the lonelyfarmer.com, we happened to be on a road trip at this stage, and we discovered that me reading the book aloud to Rollie caught errors that my eyes alone didn’t catch. So now we take a vacation at the proofread stage so we can take advantage of long stretches of time together. (Does this practice also make the trip tax deductible? I must remember to ask Eric, our tax preparer!) For this stage, I again make edits in the book and flag pages with post-it flags. By this point, we hope to find only typos and misplaced commas, but this time we found a spot where the two bikers (you’ll have to read Angie to see who I mean) eat lunch twice on the same day, a few chapters apart. Oops!

Max, Skip, Monica, Milton and the rest are old friends by now. I look forward to each new book so we can catch up.