How I’m building my new pen name: Eighteen months (and two books) in

I have a pen name I’m hoping to build into a nice second earner. Some diversification if you want to call it that to keep me from relying on only one genre to keep me afloat and happy as a writer.

The only problem is that I’ve written so much slower than I had planned to write that the pen name has suffered—a lot.

My main focus has always been my main pen name, and I don’t ever see that changing. Those are the books I most want to write. I really want to write this pen name series too, but the drive just isn’t as strong as it is for some of my other series. And there’s the fact that the other series pay the bills, so I also have to take that into consideration.

Since I don’t do promotions* as a general rule, my promotion of choice has always been to write more books. It’s a great strategy if you have a series, and I have multiple series. Every time I release a new book in a series, I get sales of the previous books and some crossover sales of my other series too. So it works.

But you’ve got to release books!

I’ve released exactly two books for this pen name since I began this experiment back in June 2015. :o

I released book two a full year after book one. It looks like book three is going to be eight months behind book two. Releasing this slowly isn’t going to generate momentum. I know this, and my earnings for the series prove it.

On the other hand, I have earned some money on these two books even if it’s not a lot, and I’m quite happy about that. I do believe if I could speed up releases, the series might do all right in the long term.

So that’s something I’m hoping for in 2017. To write more of these books and see if it helps earnings. I love this series and I don’t want to have to ignore it just so I don’t go broke.

The details

I pulled the first book out of KDP select the moment I knew about when I’d be releasing the second book.

When I released the second book, it was DOA on Amazon. I was disappointed. I’d hoped for more.

Going wide with both books at once did generate some momentum on Apple and I sold a few copies there.

I really did intend to experiment with price on these books when I started this experiment but I just haven’t done it. I might still do it when I release book three.

The numbers

(I’ll have to consolidate all my reports of individual title sales into one, which I haven’t done yet, because it’s going to be so much work. I really never thought I’d need that much detail…)

*** I’m back! That took a long time! (Two entire days, to be exact.) I’m not breaking sales down by date, just by title, because anything more is just more trouble than it’s worth when working with so many different vendors.

*** In fact, adding up sales for the titles is more trouble than it’s worth—because I’m not really interested in those numbers even now that I’ve done it through the end of 2016. I don’t think I’ll update the spreadsheet going forward. I just don’t care about title sales. Nothing in the report surprised me. My brain has obviously been doing just fine consolidating the information I see in my sales reports and keeping me informed in a general sort of way about the profitability of my various series.

Sales of the pen name books for 2015 & 2016

Book One 984.29
Book Two 371.70
Series Total Earnings 1,355.98

There are a few numbers that aren’t in yet, but any changes to these numbers for the end part of 2016 will be minor.

As for expenses, all I have invested in these books are my time and skill, some stock art, and the domain fee for the pen name website.

Not sure I’ll bother with another update unless (until) the pen name takes off (a thought I haven’t given up on at all). I just need to write more to get there!

*I hate promoting. If it ever becomes 100% necessary to success, I guess my writing career is going to bite the dust, because I’m just not interested.

I have two writing streaks going!

Addendum to the aside about my writing streak: I have two writing streaks going now.

  1. >100 words a day for three days
  2. increasing words per day for three days

So—awesome?! start to the new year. ;) (Stop laughing! *evil glare*)

Not only that, but I don’t feel feverish today, don’t feel sick, and don’t feel all that tired either. So good health too.

I think I’m losing weight but since I’ve abandoned my scale (it’s in the closet) I can’t say for sure.

I’m pretty happy with abandoning all these metrics of success and failure and the goal setting stuff. I feel free.

I need, now, to translate that into more writing and some real weight loss. 2017 seems like just the year for it. :D

Happy new year, everyone!

Coming up next: a new year’s update on the progress I’ve had building a pen name. Spoiler! I should’ve just written more books for my main name.

New year, no plan

Today begins the new year. On the other hand, my plan hasn’t changed. In case I haven’t done a good enough job of laying out that plan, here it is again.

There is no plan.

Here’s what I wrote in one of the Google+ communities I’m in.

2016 words written: 220,071

Definitely want to see some improvement in 2017, but this is the year of no goals and no timers! I’m ready to fall in love with writing again.

I’m hopeful a little less focus on goals and a little more focus on just writing as much as I can will prove to be a winning combination.

In fact, I just told my daughter I’m making year 2017 the year I quit trying stuff I’ve already tried (goals, schedules, timers, sprints, etc). My word counts have actually gone down, not up, since I started in 2012 and I’m done with beating myself over the head with this stuff.

I think the best shot I have for writing lots and lots of words is making sure I’m having so much fun doing it that I can’t stop myself. :)

Truly, no joke, that is my plan. That’s this year’s big experiment. It came about because of yesterday’s thinking about goals, and how much they haven’t helped me progress as a writer.

Here’s to a happy 2017 and lots of words written. :)

Why 24 minute sessions?

I’m writing in 24 minute sessions today (and yesterday) and I thought I’d explain why.

24 minutes = .4 hours.

That’s why. :D .4 hours is very close to my favorite session length of 20 minutes but has a nice and even decimal equivalent in hours, much like 30 minutes at .5 hours.

Really, that’s it. That’s the reason for 24 minutes instead of 20 minutes or 25 minutes.

As for why it’s not just an even 30 minutes… Well. 30 minutes feels so much longer than 24.

It does! I’m not kidding. 30 minutes throws up all kinds of mental blocks for me that 24 minutes doesn’t. So there you go. Who said humans were rational beings? We really aren’t. :)

An experiment for today

I wrote a post or two yesterday but decided after posting to delete them because they just didn’t feel like they represented what I was really thinking and feeling even just a few hours later. That happens sometimes, so the best way to deal with it seemed to be DELETE. :D

I’m doing an experiment today, with breaking up my writing into chunks that I’ve scattered throughout my day. I’m really hoping to get 12 sessions of 24 minutes each done by the end of the day. I’ve already completed two.

Hours Words WPH
1 0.4 86 215
2 0.4 213 533

.4 hours = 24 minutes :)

I’ve scattered them out with breaks between pairs, but the breaks aren’t really meant to be breaks as much as opportunities to do other things—distractions, in other words, but useful distractions.

The hope is that by allowing the distractions, and planning for them, I will accomplish a lot more and not feel a bit of guilt about any of it! Let’s just call them structured distractions. :D

And I did put these on my calendar, but it’s not a schedule, it’s a plan. :D

Schedules feel so set, don’t they? As if you miss a start time, you’ve failed. Plans feel flexible. Sure, it’s a bit of a game, but all of life is in our heads, and I’m just playing to the referee.

I have several things to do today that ARE on my schedule, and those can’t change, so I’ve used it to see how many sessions I should do at various points in the day to stay on track. It’s working well so far.

I need to finish 4 before lunch, 4 before dinner, and 4 more before bedtime. If I finish all these today, I’ll end up with 4.8 hours of timed writing.

Anyway, off to write more, because I do want to finish the next two by lunch and stay on track. :)

3 0.4 276 690
4 0.4 299 748

And the numbers continue to improve. :D

Hours Words WPH
1 0.4 86 215
2 0.4 213 533
3 0.4 276 690
4 0.4 299 748
5 0.4 287 718
6 0.233333 207 887

My final numbers. Unfortunately, I had to take a nap. The caffeine withdrawal is getting to me. I had a cup of decaf coffee hoping that would be enough to stave off the headache, but it didn’t work. Just not enough caffeine. I finally ended up drinking about 3/4 a cup of green tea when I was supposed to be finishing session #8 but was in actuality only on session #6 because of the desperately needed nap. Said session was interrupted when I had to leave for a family event.

The event lasted longer than I thought it would and made me more tired than I expected. I came home and did some puttering around online and didn’t even finish session #6 (as you can see in the table above).

Well. Tomorrow is a new day. :) I can only aim to fit in 10 sessions because of more family obligations, but I’m going to try for a full 10 sessions! :D Wish me luck.

Changing how I monitor my daily average word count

I track my daily average word count in a number of ways, including yearly and monthly, and more recently, since 9/19. You see that last one in my word count posts. I’ve been adamant that I’m not going to change the start date for that count and I haven’t. Until today.

I decided today to change that column in my spreadsheet to hold a 30 day rolling average instead.

What I realized today is that there’s a problem with using a set start date for the average I’m using to monitor improvements to my daily word count. Over time the average becomes weighed down by the past and the present gets lost. If I have 90 days of numbers, the current 30 days are 1/3 of the average. If I have 180 days of numbers, the current 30 days are only 1/6 of the average. As the history of numbers grows larger, the average becomes less representative of the present and how I’m doing now.

A 30 day rolling average will be much more focused on current progress and will tell me if I’m doing well now and let me to see course corrections more clearly.

New schedule update

So is this a new schedule update or a new schedule update?

Just pretend it’s either. It is a new schedule, and this is a new update.

Here’s the thing: I really like the new schedule. Here’s the next thing: I haven’t been able to stick to it for an entire day once since I set it. Not all three blocks for all three 2 hour sessions. That was Sunday. This is Wednesday.

Today I’ve managed to miss hitting the 2 hour goal for the first block (by 14 minutes) and skip the second block of time (1:00–3:30) altogether. I’m still okay for the third block to start at 6:00 and run to 8:30, so that’s good, but I really need to make up that second block, so I’ve planned to give it a second attempt at 9:00 pm.

If all this is true, why do I like this schedule?

  1. Because I really feel the need for structured work hours right now, while everything else seems to unstructured around me (and it is).
  2. Because it’s helping me rein in the time I spend not writing during writing time.
  3. Because it’s nice to have time where I don’t expect myself to be writing.

A new writing schedule

I have a new writing schedule. I wasn’t sure I was going to try a schedule again so soon, but I realized I just wasn’t getting anything done without one right now. So I created this one. (I’ve been sick and I’ve found it’s really hard to work when you feel sick.)

9 to 11:30
1 to 3:30
6 to 8:30

Of course, I keep finding myself wanting to push all the writing time closer together, with very short breaks between, but I stop myself, because it feels pretty obvious to me that one reason this one is working for me (and it really is at the moment) is because of those generous breaks. They give me time to breathe and they help keep writing from feeling like all work and no play.

My goal for each 2.5 hour block is finishing a 2 hour timed session, during which I pause for breaks and come right back to the computer.

I didn’t finish all the time yesterday, and I haven’t (and won’t) finish it all today, but I have finished considerably more than I’ve been doing and I’m really happy with that.

Trying something different

So, yesterday I set a goal to write for 8 hours. I set my countdown timer for 8 hours, and I started it whenever I wrote.

I made it to just under 4 hours to go and 3,073 words for the day before I gave up and went to bed. :)

It sounds like a fail, but it was very much a win. I needed 3,417 words yesterday and I got the closest to reaching my goal since I set it.

I’m trying to do the same again today, hoping to reach 6,000 words.

My pace is off, so even if I reach 8 hours of writing, I might not make it, but I’ll definitely end up with something worth crowing about. I’m already down to 6 hours and 26 minutes, and I have 744 words written. I believe I’ll at least make it to 3,000 again today, and I haven’t given up hope my pace will improve and I’ll reach the record-breaking 6,000 words I’d like to reach. I only need to speed up to 817 words an hour for the rest of the time to do it.

1. My writing sessions are as long as I can make them before I have to stop for a break.
2. Timers are no longer interrupting me when the words are flowing, reminding me I need a break (I don’t need the reminder because my bladder makes it so that breaks happen too frequently already.)
3. I am more aware of total time invested in writing for the day and how much total time I have left to reach my goal.
4. I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, but it’s been a few years, and it’s working now, so I’m going to keep it up until it doesn’t work. :)

Why I’m (mostly) forcing myself to stick to writing one book at a time

I’m writing this down because I’m sure I’m going to forget it, just when I need to remember it most.

Taking too long to finish a book is a sure way to bore me! I have to start finishing my books faster, if I want to save my love of writing.

Because honestly, it’s starting to bore me. I’ve written a lot of books. There aren’t many things in life that hold my attention after I’ve finished—hell, half the time I can’t even finish.

I’m not a finisher by nature. It’s a real chore to finish.

But books aren’t books if they don’t get finished, and I sure can’t sell unfinished books.

If I lose interest in a story, the story loses out, and the quality does not improve, trust me on that. Writing slow causes me to lose the threads of the story, and to lose motivation, while writing fast keeps my brain in the story, excited and creative. This even applies at the micro level, because my sentences flow better when I don’t constantly tinker with them. I know this is true. I still have to fight that desire regularly. :)

I come up with more ideas, faster, when I’m writing a lot. And I enjoy writing so much more when I’m writing often and fast than I do when it’s a slog and I’m agonizing over plot decisions or worrying about word choices.

If it’s not fun, I’m not going to do it. That’s just the truth.

Blame it on ADHD or laziness, or whatever, but it’s true. If it’s not fun for me, I will do everything in my power to avoid doing it, and when you’re your own boss, that gets to be a problem.


Well, I feel better having gotten that out. Now, on to the next post and the day’s writing.

If you have a similar issue, comment and we’ll have fun talking it out. :) Seriously, I love talking about this stuff.