Tag Archives: Short Stories

Short Stories, Revisions, and Advertising

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I’m currently working on a series of short stories that go along with my novels in the Arcana Revived series. I currently have about fourteen short stories written and in various stages of revision. One of them, Radiance, is already published as an ebook that you can download for Amazon Kindle. My plan for this summer, in between getting my first novel ready for publication, is to make some progress revising these stories.

Publishing short stories, however, is a relatively new and uncertain process. A few years ago, the idea of self-publishing a short story was one most people probably wouldn’t have considered. After all, before the ebook revolution, there wouldn’t have been much of a market for individual short stories. You can get short stories published in various literary journals and magazines, or as part of a collection with works from other authors, but that used to be it. A lot of this probably has to do with how impractical it would be to publish and print a hard copy of a 3000-10000 word story. Ebooks make this a whole different game, however, since an electronic copy of a short piece is more practical when it comes to publishing and distribution. You cut out the costs of the physical printing and mailing, which would otherwise make distribution of just a single story impractical and unprofitable.

A lot of authors I know have short works out as ebooks right now. My friend Elisa Knuckle has several short stories available for sale, including a sci fi story about virtual reality and death, and a fantasy story about the dangers of following magical wisps into the woods. I just downloaded these today and recommend checking them out. Drew Chial also has an ebook and audiobook called Terms and Conditions about the dangers of clicking “I agree” without checking first to make sure the fine print doesn’t say anything about losing your soul in the bargain.

Thinking about short stories like this makes me stop to think about what will happen to my current works after revisions are complete. At least one of my current shorts, Belladonna, is just about ready to be released into the world. But getting ready to send it out there makes me wonder how it will be received, and what I can do to try to make some money off my writing. I already have a bunch of free stories available on my blog, but publishing one as an ebook is an entirely different process.

First off, a published short story demands a lot more from me, as the writer. The short stories posted here on the blog don’t go through as rigorous of a revision process. I wrote them and revised them until I was satisfied, then put them online. The short stories I’m publishing for sale, however, go through critiques from my peers so that I can address any issues they might raise. A published story also needs more than just the story itself; the book needs to be formatted properly, including front matter, a title page, and cover art. All in all, it’s a longer and more complex process.

Then there’s marketing and advertising to consider. I mentioned awhile ago that I was experimenting with online advertisements for my short stories. At the time, I estimated that for my advertisements on Project Wonderful, in order to sell 1 ebook I needed to get about 80 “clicks” by people considering it, which took about 24,000 visitors to the advertising sites, and about 120,000 views from all of those visitors. This breakdown is an example of the sales funnel, which is a marketing concept that basically says you need to spread awareness of your product to a wide audience in order to get a smaller percentage of those people interested, then a percentage of those to give actual consideration to a purchase, then a percentage of those to actually make the purchase. In my case, this funnel represents online views leading to clicks leading to sales.

I recently started a new surge of online advertising. In the past two weeks, ads for Radiance have been displayed on hundreds of websites through Project Wonderful. The sites the ads have run on have garnered about 1.5 million views during that time (of course, there’s no guarantee that all 1.5 million of those views included someone looking at the ad on the sidebar instead of just at the website’s contents, but it’s a good number to start with). Those views have led to 171 clicks, which in turn have led to 2 sales. This is fairly consistent with my earlier results; about 1 out of every 80 people who take a look at the sales page decide to make a purchase.

In the future, I hope to continue with more extensive advertising campaigns, especially when my novel is released later this year. When the novel is out, I’ll most likely begin looking into some form of paid advertisements, instead of the free ads available through Project Wonderful. If free ads can lead to a couple hundred people seeing my short story for sale, I’ve got a pretty good idea what to expect in order to get the novel out there to be seen by thousands.

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Revisiting Old Short Stories

As I’ve mentioned recently, I’m just about to the end of my current semester at Rowan University. As of today, I’ve completed everything for one class except the final reflection/evaluation (which is essentially an argument for what grade I deserve), and everything for the second class except final revisions of two short stories. After that (all of which is due by next week), I’m finished until the end of May, when my summer course begins.

Being at the end of the semester and realizing I’m about to have a lot of free time available is making me consider what to do next. For starters, I’ve refined my writing schedule with the hopes of finding more time to work in Arcana Revived over the summer. I’ve blocked out a minimum of 10 hours each week to be spent on that work (in addition to 3 hours writing blog posts, at least 4-6 writing paid Rowan University blog posts, 10 hours doing Graduate Assistant work for Rowan, and whatever additional writing I can squeeze in on my phone when I’m away from home [yes, that’s about 30 hours a week of writing in addition to my full time day job]). The question, of course, is how will that minimum 10 hours be used?

First off, I’ll be working on Manifestation in order to get the novel ready for release. Second, I’m continuing to write the first draft of Mutation (as noted by the progress on the red sidebar to the right). In between those, however, I also plan on working on some more Arcana Revived short stories.

I currently have 14 short stories written in the Arcana Revived universe. Two of them, Crying and There’s No Such Thing As Monsters are flash fiction pieces hosted on Ravenheart Press, run by my friend Eve Jacob. If you want to get a taste of my writing, I’d definitely love for you to check them out (along with the other flash fiction pieces at Ravenheart). If you enjoy those, there’s also my published short story ebook, Radiance.

The other stories I’ve written are mostly first drafts. One I’ve mentioned a few times on the blog, Belladonna, is on Draft 6. A couple of others are on Draft 2 or 3. The reason most of the other stories haven’t been revised is because my primary attention has been on Manifestation, since I want to get the novel out before releasing other short stories in the world. Since I’m close to releasing Manifestation now, it seems like a good time to start working on some of these stories. A few of them won’t be released for quite awhile, since they relate to the later books in the series. For example, Questioning Angels actually takes place in between Book 2 and Book 3, so I obviously won’t release that until after Book 2 is complete. About half of them, however, would be fitting to release after Manifestation, and my hope is to release them one at a time after Manifestation is out but before Book 2, Contamination is ready.

So over the next few weeks I plan to revisit some of these stories, revise them, and get them ready for publication. I might post a few samples from some of them, once I think they’re ready. In the mean time, stay tuned for updates on my overall progress on the novels, the short stories, and life as a whole.

When You Haven’t Written Anything New

So if you read my blog posts on a regular basis, you’ve probably seen a lot of posts lately about critiques, revisions, and my general thoughts on writing. I’ve been focused primarily on two projects this past month: revisions for both Manifestation and for the short story Belladonna. Both are being critiqued right now, and revisions are mostly on hold waiting for people to give me their feedback.

Since I’ve been so focused on revisions, however, I haven’t written much of anything new. I have made some progress on Book 4, but it’s not a major priority right now; I only work on it when nothing else has my attention (and I probably won’t focus on it for awhile, since revising and publishing Book 1 needs to come before writing Book 4). I also haven’t written any new short stories, or really anything other than blog posts, since December.

I’m starting to feel like my creative juices are backing up. I noticed recently that I’m spending more time daydreaming. Which is especially strange since I had noticed I barely spend any time daydreaming for the last year and a half. I am very focused when I daydream; I actually plot out elaborate daydream story lines and play them out for days if not weeks until they reach a conclusion. It’s something I’ve done most of my life. Yet the more and more I worked on my new novels, the less often I found myself developing these elaborate daydream story lines. I figured it was because I was channeling all that creative energy into my novels, and the fact that I’m daydreaming more now tells me I may have been right.

I will probably start writing some new short stories soon. After Radiance and Belladonna, there will be many more stories to come. I have a long list of ideas in mind right now, including origin stories for several more important characters in the series, and an adventure story where some of the minor characters get their chance to shine in the spotlight. I’ve been letting these ideas simmer for awhile, but they’ll probably get written soon, just because I will need an outlet.

I wonder if anyone else gets this itch when they haven’t written anything in awhile. Do you ever feel like you’ve got too much creativity bottled up, and you need to let it out?

How to Decide Which Story to Write First

If you’re like me, you’re usually juggling multiple projects at once. Often this leads to a question of which is the most important one to work on, and which can be put off. For the sake of this post I’ll set aside blog posts, school projects, paid assignments, and anything else with a deadline or schedule; those are things that “get done when and because they have to get done,” and therefore the decision is (theoretically) out of your hands).

Juggling multiple projects can come in a few different forms. Some people I know struggle between writing novels, television scripts, and plays. Others might have several novel ideas and aren’t sure which one to focus on. Or if you’re like me, you’ve got novels in revision, novels in writing, short stories, and poems. My personal “to do” list of writing currently includes the following:

  1. Finish revising Manifestation.
  2. Start Draft 2 of Contamination (and eventually also Draft 2 of Collapse).
  3. Continue writing Book 4 (untitled) of the Arcana Revived series.
  4. Continue revising Belladonna.
  5. Start revising any of the other 8 or 9 short stories I have in first draft form.
  6. Write new short stories.
  7. Revise poems for the second collection of The Poetry of Gabriella Palladino.
  8. Write new poems.
  9. Revise the musical novella Giapelli.

That’s a pretty hefty list. And that’s not counting blog posts, school projects, or anything that isn’t part of Arcana Revived.

So how to prioritize? Well, there’s probably tons of advice to be found. Googling “How to decide which writing project to work on” brought up 98,000,000 results for me. But rather than try to summarize any of that or rehash the advice of others, I’ll just go through my personal process.

First and foremost comes the question “What does my Muse want me to do?” Sometimes, she isn’t saying anything. Many Muses don’t follow YOUR schedule. They expect you to work until they’re ready to come along. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King said that he has to sit down and write every day, even if it means churning through without inspiration. Then, when his Muse is good and ready, he comes along and dabbles the inspiration. What this advice basically means is don’t wait for inspiration to come to you; work hard every day, and it’ll come when you least expect it (and hopefully it’ll come when you’re at the keyboard and not in the shower).

So if my Muse shows up and tells me to work on something, I listen, because who knows when she’ll be back? Sometimes that means I start writing a new short story despite having 9 other short stories that need revision still. It’s best to get down what I can while the inspiration is fresh, or else I risk losing it altogether.

But let’s say I’m not feeling any specific inspiration today. I therefore have a long list of things to do and I need to pick one. My decision making process basically goes like this:

  • Am I away from home? If so, I can’t revise because I don’t have Scrivener on the computers at school or on my phone. In this case, my solution is “Write a new (poem/short story/chapter of Book 4). When I write new, raw text I can do so on my phone’s Writer app, on my laptop, on a school computer, or whatever. Then I transfer the file back to my home computer afterwards. Polished, revised text, however, can’t just be worked on from any old device. I need my main computer (where I keep my primary files) for that. If I started using Cloud storage I might be able to work around this limitation, but even then, writing on my phone isn’t good for formatting and such. My phone’s app produces text files with no real formatting, so I need to copy those into a proper Word or Scrivener document to be cleaned up.
  • If I AM at home with access to Scrivener and my main WIP files, I prioritize revising over writing. After all, it doesn’t do me much good to finish writing Book 4 before Book 1 is released, now does it? The only reason I’ve made almost 20,000 words of progress on Book 4 so far is because I write on my phone (such as when it’s slow at work). I then come home, copy those words into my main document, and set the writing aside to focus on revisions for the rest of the night. This makes Manifestation the top priority.
  • If I’m home and plan to work on revisions, I might also ask myself “Do I need critiques/feedback before continuing this?” For example, I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I’m awaiting critiques on Manifestation. As a result, I’m working on revising Belladonna instead. Belladonna is a lesser priority, but I’ll work on that until I get the feedback I need. Likewise, later this week I’m probably going to ask for critiques on Belladonna. When I do so, I’ll probably work on a different short story or poem while awaiting those critiques. This can also be a good way to keep up with multiple projects at once: keep them on a rotation based on which you “can’t” work on right now and which you “can.”
  • Last, I’ll ask myself “Do I even know what to DO with this piece right now?” We’ve all been through this. You know you’re supposed to work on a certain project, but you stare at the screen, uncertain what to do with it. When I get like that, I switch to something else. While Belladonna is the primary short story I’m working on right now, if I were feeling blocked on it, I’d start working on Soldier of Light, Man of Faith, or Demons of the Mind instead, just to give myself something ELSE to do. That’s more productive than staring uselessly at the screen. And all of those stories are eventually going to join Radiance as individual ebooks, so they’re all important to work on.

So that’s basically it: Muse > Write New Stuff Away From Home > Revise At Home > Switch Gears When Blocked.

Anything I missed? What’s your process?

Belladonna

So I mentioned the other day that I was shifting gears a bit. Manifestation is currently in the hands of four people who are reading it and preparing to offer me critiques. Meanwhile, I’m refocusing some of my efforts on another project, Belladonna.

Belladonna follows the origins of Maelyssa Southeby, or “Mae” for short. She’s a teenager living in San Lorien during the events of Manifestation. Like Maria Vasquez, the main character of Radiance, Mae undergoes an arcane change that unlocks a mysterious power like no one has ever seen. Throughout the course of the novels, Manifestation, Contamination, and Collapse, Mae becomes a major player in the events that unfold. Belladonna, however, shows how it all got started.

I originally wrote Belladonna back in September, when the Kickstarter for Radiance was still going on. I then left it to sit for awhile. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King suggests that after the first draft of a piece of writing is complete, you should stick it in a drawer somewhere and not look at it for like six weeks or more. That way, when you come back to it, you can look at it with fresh eyes. So that’s what I did with Belladonna, and I’ve just now started revising it.

I ended up getting some new ideas today, and as a result I added quite a bit of new material to the story. Belladonna has now been increased from 4500 words to over 10,000. That’s quite a bit longer than Radiance, which is about 3000 words. It’s possible Belladonna will be trimmed down a bit during revisions, but it’ll still be a nice long story, and a lot of action takes place in those pages.

I probably won’t be finished with revisions of Belladonna any time soon. I just finished Draft Two, but most of my stories get four, five or six drafts before they’re finished. I’ll probably work on Draft Three later this week. Then, by the time I finish that and get started on school next week, I’ll end up needing to get back to Manifestation. Then what will most likely happen is when Manifestation goes to my editor on March 6th, I’ll dive back in for a fourth revision of Belladonna. Then there’s a good chance the short story will be released (as an ebook) around the same time as Manifestation comes out. Maybe a bit sooner, since a 10,000 word short story takes far less time and effort to polish up than a 120,000 word novel.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress. It’ll be some time yet before the story is released, but when it is, I hope you love it.

#NaNoWriMo Day 28, a.k.a. Thanksgiving

Hi there! It’s Thanksgiving, or something!

So this has been a rough week. I didn’t write anything on my novel Monday or Tuesday, and Tuesday night I legit almost cried from the stress. Now, I DID write about 6000 words on other projects for school and stuff, but my novel was sorely neglected.

So I made up for it by writing nearly 13,000 words on Wednesday. By the end of Wednesday I was extremely brain dead and it was 4:00 in the morning. Then today I had two turkey dinners (one at my dad’s house and one at my friend Chris’s) and a few Smirnoffs. So I’m barely functioning right now from the combination lack of sleep plus too much food plus alcohol.

I did, however, do some writing today. About 1000 words. In between turkey times. And since I haven’t shared an excerpt, here’s a little something. It involves, Maria, the star of the short story, “Radiance.” Now, my original plan was for Maria to enter the main novel series in Book Two . . . but I also planned for Book One to kinda end where Book Two now ends. But “Manifestation” ran longer than expected, and when I was only halfway through the planned story, I was at over 120,000 words. I also built up to a really nice climax at around that 120,000, and decided that was the perfect place to end “Manifestation.” But as a result, the second half of that “arc” ended up being Book Two, “Contamination” (which also ran longer than expected). As a result, Maria’s time to enter the story doesn’t arrive until Book Three, “Collapse.”

But here’s a little glimpse of her. Naked. (By the way, there’s major spoilers below. Sexy spoilers):

            The girl that stood before them had a body that seemed to be made out of ice. Glimmering crystals covered her flesh, and when she moved her head, her hair crunched like footsteps in the snow. She was also completely naked. Her crystalline body was like a translucent ice sculpture, carved by the hand of God himself. Gabby found her eyes drawn to the girl’s more sensual curves, and her face grew warm.

            Callia caught Gabby staring at the exotic stranger and smacked her on the arm. Hard. “Oww!” Gabby said. She rubbed her arm and tore her eyes away from the beautiful creature of ice to look at Callia. Callia crossed her arms beneath her breasts and gave Gabby a look. Gabby blushed deeper and lowered her eyes to the ground. “Sorry.”

            “Gabby?” the ice girl said. She stepped closer, then flinched when she crossed into Gabby’s aura. Gabby backed away, trying not to look directly at the very attractive, very naked ice girl. “Gabby Palladino?”

            Gabby looked up at the girl, catching another glare from Callia as she did so. She forced herself to keep her eyes on the girl’s face. She looked familiar, though it was hard tell with the way the light almost passed through the girl’s translucent face. “Maria?” she asked. “Maria Vasquez?”

            Callia leaned over towards Gabby and asked, “You know this girl?” The look in her girlfriend’s eyes wasn’t a pleasant one.

            “Yeah,” Gabby said. “She went to my school. But . . .” Gabby looked between Callia and Maria. “Maria, you weren’t at the school when the fire happened, were you? I thought you dropped out senior year?”

            “My mother was ill,” Maria said. Her crystalline eyes roamed the air around Gabby, tracing along the edges of her invisible aura. “She is preserved now.” Maria’s eyes seemed out of focus. Something about her eyes reminded Gabby of Minori. Like her mind was someplace else, just as Minori’s seemed to be when she spoke about Mithriel.

            Gabby frowned at the word “preserved,” and exchanged a look with Callia. “But what are you doing out here now?” she asked. “And why are you naked?”

            Maria looked down at herself. She ran her fingers down her skin and a sound like ice skating drifted through the air. “Cloth doesn’t stay anymore,” she said. “My new skin is too cold, and too sharp.”

            Gabby looked at Maria’s skin, and got another sharp look from Callia. She wasn’t looking at the ice girl’s curves, however, and instead studied her skin itself. It was hard to get a good look from the distance, since she couldn’t move closer without overloading Maria. It looked, though, as if Maria’s skin was covered in razor sharp crystals of ice. It looked almost like diamonds.

            Maria stepped over to a nearby Mimosa tree and scraped the back of her arm down the smooth bark. She left shallow gashes down the length of it, along with a layer of frost. “I have to be careful what I touch,” Maria said. She stepped away from the tree, leaving frosted footprints that turned the grass to icicles. “It’s not safe to be around me.”

            Gabby felt a swelling in her heart. “I know what you mean,” she said. “It’s not safe for me to be near people with powers.” She looked at Callia with a questioning glance. Callia arched an eyebrow and gave a small shake of her head. Gabby turned back to Maria. “You should come with us.”

            Callia glowered, then turned away and looked down at the ground. Maria arched an eyebrow and asked, “Come with you where?”

            “We’ve been gathering people with powers and taking refuge,” Gabby said. “The government is after us. All of us. It’s not safe, especially for you to be out here alone.”

            Maria turned and looked to the west. She stared for a long moment, then nodded. The motion brought the sound of crunching snow. She turned back to Gabby and Callia and said, “I’ve been avoiding people so I won’t hurt them. But if you understand this,” she held up her hand and turned it before her face, watching the light stream through her translucent skin, “then maybe you can help me.”

            Gabby nodded. “We can help,” she said. She looked to Callia, who still wasn’t meeting her eyes. She touched Callia on the arm. “Right?”

            Callia looked up and gave her a forced smile. “Right,” she said.

Gabby and Callia’s stories won’t be seen until “Manifestation” releases next year. But if Maria intrigues you, I’ve published a short story about her origins. It’s 3000 words and serves as a stand-alone story in the “Arcana Revived” world, and shows you how Maria got to be the way you see her above. The ebook also has a poem written by none other than Gabby Palladino, as well as an excerpt from “Manifestation.”

She Ran

This short piece of fiction was written as a writing exercise during a class at Rowan University. It was an experiment with pacing, trying to write a piece using only one-syllable words. While the piece is short and was not written for any specific purpose beyond practice, I found the results interesting enough to share.

The piece was inspired by Gabriella Palladino, protagonist of “Manifestation.” Enjoy.

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“She Ran”

 

She ran.

She ran far. She ran fast. She ran on and on as far as her legs could take her. She ran past men, past kids that cried in the night. She ran past homes that burned and flames that would not go out. She ran past death on all sides, death that she could not get past, but still she ran on.

She ran to the woods, far from home. She ran with the hope that death would not find her there. With hope that she would not see one more lost life, lost hope, or lost dream.

She ran from the thought that she had crushed those dreams.

She ran with the weight of the one who stole that hope.

She ran with the hope that death would fall far back.

She ran.

Vote for Storytime Mondays

I have a huge number of available stories that can be posted here, and I’m having a bit of trouble trying to decide which one should be tomorrow’s choice. So I figured, hey, let’s see if anyone has a preference.

So if you’re interested, you can vote for one of three options by posting a comment here. Whichever option gets the most votes will be the story I post for tomorrow’s “Storytime Mondays.”

Option 1: “Time for Reflection”, a medieval fantasy short story, originally written around 2000, in which a pyrokinetic man named Ketrin explores the abandoned ruins of a mine.

Option 2: “Fragmented”, a futuristic Sci Fi story, originally written spring of 2012, about a girl named Kit. Kit has a dual mind (half biological/half computer) that starts to break down, leaving the two halves exposed and vulnerable.

Option 3: “A Hard Time in the Big Easy”, a modern fantasy story originally written February 2011, which is a story about Gabby. This is actually the first story is ever wrote about her, long before I “rebooted” her for “Manifestation.” (Note: The original story was part of a collaborative storytelling site, and as such I can only post my sections, leaving out the later segments that were written by others. Therefore this story will be in the form of a stand-alone sample chapter. It stands quite well on its own, though.)

If there is enough overall interest, I’ll carry over the two options that don’t get picked into next week, add a new third option, and hold a new vote. That way each week there’d be a new selection, but the initial options would stay in the running each week until they get picked.

So which story would you like to read?

Storytime Mondays

Storytime Mondays

There has been a severe lack of stories making their way onto this site lately. The only posts I’ve been making are occasional blog posts updating about my revisions (or lack thereof). I’ve decided to fix that.

Like many writers, I have about a bajillion old stories sitting around. Many were written in creative writing classes. Some were written for fun. A lot of them SUCK (at least, in my own overly-self-critical opinion). But what they all have in common is that they’re all sitting on my computer, collecting proverbial dust, and not being read.

So starting tomorrow, and continuing until I go, “Oh, CRAP, I forgot I was supposed to do that this week!” I will be posting something new every Monday. The content will range from short stories, to poems, to random writings I have lying around. Some might be excerpts from the ‘old’ Gabby and Tock before I rebooted them for “Manifestation.” Some will be other characters I wrote in the same setting with them. Some will just be old story ideas I never did anything with. Hopefully, though, they’ll all be interesting.

And if you follow me on Twitter (@cantrelljason) feel free to nudge/nag/remind me if I forget!