Getting closer to point "Writing-Burn-Down-Zero"

My new day job that I started earlier this year comes with a longer commute on the train. Time effectively spent with writing on my current book, a science fiction thriller romp with a lot of “citations” from classics such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “The Terminator”, or “Independence Day”. The writing process for me comes in several stages. Ideation and plotting are the core creative parts, fleshing out the story from a one liner (“A bunch of stranded aliens try to steal back their spaceship from US military”) to a fifty chapter structure. After that it’s writing. The most challenging part. Will the story idea hold up to hundred-thousand words? Will the characters be interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention for such a long time? Will all the plot-lines play out as sketched out?


Let me explain “Writing Burn Down Zero”: Burn down is my take on agile project methodology, adapted for writing. The fifty-plus chapter cards are my task repository, writing one after another — not necessarily in chapter order — is like developing a piece of software. One function point after another, each chapter stands on its own, with own drama and cast of characters, reactive or active, and with a small cliff hanger at the end. And the long list of chapters slowly burns down like a candle, two steps forward, one step back , putting flesh to the bare bone, creating life.

“Burn Down Zero” for my latest story approaches fast, I am running out of things to write, that moment when my burn down list will be empty. All chapters will be there. The story is there. All the characters are in. All stories within the story are resolved.

The story will be far from done, don’t get me wrong here. All over the place, I entered my open issue code “xxx”: missing story twists, missing descriptions, holes I found and was too lazy to resolve, missing characters. The next phase of work, resolving the xxx’ses, will take me as long as writing the story itself and usually adds ten percent of additional word count. I hate what’s ahead, but I love approaching Burn Down Zero! (Anytime next week)

The story is there.

It works!

I’ve made it this far!

A good feeling.

The Year So Fast / Upcoming

2018 is almost over and 2019 knocks at my door. I managed to publish my usual two books, the German version of Teen Monster Hunters and the English follow-up Teen Vampire Hunters. Which is good, I guess. Sales-wise the monthly checks came in from my various publishing platforms, but definitely not with the numbers I’d like to see. It remains an inner struggle to spend time with non-writing activities. Maybe I should heed a friend’s advice and hire someone to run social campaigns to extend my readership.

The second route in 2019 will be the conventional publisher route. I have 11 full size books under my belt, have the basic handiwork of a writer, and the discipline to deliver on time. My current project is aimed at a broader thriller scifi horror audience and hopefully an agent or publishing house will be interested.

On a personal level, there are also big changes ahead. I am switching jobs, leaving behind a lot of very nice colleagues. The new job is a bit cloak and dagger, so I will not elaborate. I might need to establish a sort of topical firewall to separate truth from believable fiction when writing crime and spy stories.

And so it goes… 2018. Thanks for the memories. Good riddance to lost opportunities. 2019, it’s in my hands to do it better.

Teen Monster Hunters republishing

That was another long hiatus from blogging / socializing. I spent a while translating Teen Monster Hunters, which led to some rephrasings and corrections on the English version, too. As my previous publisher closed shop a few days ago, I relaunched the eBook once more. And so it goes into Kindle Direct first for the next three months, should be up and running in a few days. Next update is the print version.

Teen Monster Hunters by Alex Ames Submission KDP.jpg

All About Eve...

Writing like crazy on three items at the same time. And then, as if there was nothing better to do, I would stumble tonight on the TV over "All About Eve". It had been a while since I last saw that one and I was immediately riveted again. Witty dialogues, wonderfully atmospheric, carefully staged and incredible cast. I am usually not a nostalgic, but 'they don't make movies like that anymore!'

Wikipedia "All About Eve" under Fair Use Policy

Wikipedia "All About Eve" under Fair Use Policy

So what is going these days? My rom-com chick lit start-up novel got the treatment a second round. I put in a lot of work in order to complete and edit and then decided to stop once more. The story is good, but not good enough yet. There are three women who in the course of the story will fall in love with three men. That is the easy part. But I have not figured out yet how to make the three fall-in-love cases unique. So far all three cases are pretty much the same. The male is the dominant one, making the female realize that her way is the wrong way and that she should put trust in steady relationship. Once is fine. Two maybe with a little variation acceptable. But three in one book in one fifth act is too much. As I ran out of ideas and lack the right tactic, I decided to shelf the book for now. 

What happens in the meanwhile? The next Teen Monster Hunter novel is in the making. Teen Vampire Hunters is going well, I am not measuring yet, but all chapters are defined and in place, so it is all a matter of writing and sticking to the formul. The first Teen Monster Hunters book was indeed the first one, introducing the main characters and the story format. But Teen Vampire Hunters will be the first one out of the regular story stack that will be sequence agnostic, meaning: you can read them in any order you like. There will be no overlap and no development that makes it necessary to stick to a sequence. All in "the formula". 

And then there is the German translation of "Teen Monster Hunters". Mostly to the benefit of my youngest son and his school peers. One of my books is always an appreciated gift or token, so the German version will go well with the locls. And maybe gives me opportunity to organize a reading one of these days, locally.

Edit, Edit, Edit! All in the name of "Good"!

I hope, I do not complain too much about the editing process as such. It is simply a brutally boring work but it needs to be done. Received back the edited version of my newest Young Adult novel. Grammar and spelling I already approved mostly unseen. Writing in a non-native language gives you almost no argument NOT to accept these type of errors. That took ten minutes. 

What takes ten days is the content edit: Rephrasing, rewriting, logical error. See below one of the many examples. 

Typical edit for rephrasing

Typical edit for rephrasing

What brings me through this phase is good music in the background. Yesterday it was a rediscovered Gerry Rafferty's City to City. Tonight William Fitzsimmons's Derivates enriched by Halloween, Alaska. Enough, I shouldn't write blogs, I should edit my manuscript!

From the Writer's Desk - March Update

Long time no hear. Working on various things at once, but most importantly, I switched projects in mid-stride. In my last post I tracked the progress for the next romantic comedy. A month ago I decided to put the writing on hold and concentrate on a new project. A bit of a longer explainer might come later, but I am almost done with what I set out to do. 

The new project came as sort of a Sunday night inspiration, writing a young adult novel based on "a formula". It took me about two days to work on the formula and then I simply started writing. I am now at 35K words of a 50K words target and hope to be done by end of April. That is the great thing about being an independent unsuccessful author — you can turn your ship on the top of a pin at moment's notice, as you are only responsible to you. The story based on the formula came out almost exactly as I envisioned it to be. A little too short after the first A-Z run, working on bolstering it up now. Thinking about illustration, too, but not sure how that will work, timing wise.

Going into Young Adult novels has another consequence: I'll need to restructure my website. Right now, I just have the content split in three sections: the blog you are reading now, English novels, German novels. This might not work as I'd like to keep kids and grown ups separated. Option would be to create another pen name and keep both identities apart. Or structure the site according to genres: Mystery&Thriller, Romantic Comedy, Young Adult, and German Young Adult. Let's see how flexible Squarespace is.

Another update from the back catalogue: Five for Forever is oscillating in the Amazon book charts. Don't worry, nothing spectacular. But this weekend it made it up to the 2000 of Romance and Woman Contemporary charts again after a while in the 10000-range. There seem to be buyers, after all. Hope they enjoy and recommend it.