There are many ways to procrastinate

DSC00326 - Copy (350x233)Faced with the prospect of reading my first novel for the umpteenth time, I find myself coming up with all sorts of other things to do instead.

It’s not that I hate it (yet).

But we’re close.

(Fortunately, there was a long enough break in between draft six and draft seven that I’d forgotten many of the little details, which made it enjoyable enough to read again.)

But I don’t generally re-read things.  Even books I love.  I’ve made a few exceptions here or there, but there are so many books out there to be read that I can’t imagine re-reading any of the ones I’ve already read, no matter how good.

So, I look at my manuscript and I think, “Really?  Again?  Do I have to?”  But I do.  Because I need to accept all the changes I made for draft seven and read it clean to make sure there aren’t any new issues and that everything flows.

And then I’m going to ship it off for a while so I can pretend it’s in circulation while I work on other things for a bit.

Like the second draft of the second novel.  And finishing the third novel.  And finishing these short stories I have in progress.  And maybe self-pubbing the one that I can’t find a market for.

That’s what I was doing yesterday instead of finishing this novel up.  First, I went on Amazon and tried to locate some top-selling short stories to see what the average length of a decently-rated 99 cent short story was.  (Answer: about 37 pages, although there is one author on there who has books in the 10 page range.  Although I will add that almost all of the ones I saw were single stories.)

Then I decided I needed to learn how to design book covers.  I tried a few programs I had on my computer (Paint, PowerPoint, etc.), but they couldn’t do what I wanted.

(This is what happens when you grew up around sign design software.  I used to go into work with my dad and create designs to put on my notebooks and then print them out in vinyl.  Paint doesn’t come close to what professional sign design software can do.)

Once I decided I didn’t have a program that would work, I decided to go buy one.  Which meant some research.  Photoshop was out, because it’s expensive and probably far more than I need.  I ended up with some random and cheap logo design software that seems to do the trick. (Although it crashed on me at one point, which made me unhappy.  Fortunately, I hadn’t done anything too complex at that point.).

And then I spent a couple hours watching TV and playing around with cover designs.  I have something I’m happy with.  It probably violates every rule on book cover design that’s out there.  But I’m a special snowflake, so I decided my covers should be too.

I followed my own rules:

  1. It needs to look good in black and white as well as in color.
  2. The text needs to be clear and easy to read.
  3. The basic design should be something that can be instantly recognized as by me.
  4. It needs to look good in a small size as well as a large size.
  5. It needs to be neutral in terms of genre or type

The third and fifth ones are the problem.  But I look at what I’m writing and I think that the only thing they all share is me.  So, I can either choose to brand things as part of a genre – “this is yet another great sword and sorcery story” or I can choose to brand things as by me – “yet another thought experiment by M.H. Lee.”

I had originally thought I would write certain pieces under a different pen name.  Like this short story with no home.  It’s contemporary fiction.  Possibly women’s fiction.  Not quite romance, but maybe.  So is the second novel I wrote.

But the first novel and many of the other stories I’ve written are speculative fiction.

So, do I court two separate audiences?  Or do I try to find an audience that will trust me enough to read both?

Watching my mother read (and man does she read), has taught me that readers are willing to move outside their comfort zone if you can hook them.  (For example, she reads Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb books.)  So, maybe someone who reads this contemporary fiction piece will be willing to try one of my speculative fiction pieces?  And if I spread them out across different pen names, no one will do that because they won’t know that the author is the same person?

(I can say that as a reader, it never occurred to me before I started to think about writing that authors I liked might be publishing other books under other pen names.  The only time I was aware of it was when the cover of a book announced that fact.)

It’s a risk.  Especially for a new writer.  I would probably be better off leveraging existing fan bases.  But that’s not the way I write.

I think.  I still haven’t pulled the trigger on this.

The other issue is the length.  The story in question would be about 10 pages long.  It seems too short to publish alone.  But I’m not sure I want to publish it with another story.  I have another story I could put with it.  But that story isn’t as strong as this one.

I’d also thought that if I was going to self-publish some of my short stories that I’d publish three at once so I could offer free copies of one to people in the hopes that if they liked it they’d then buy one of the other two.

I don’t know.  I’m not quite there yet.  But I certainly managed to spend a fair amount of time on it yesterday at the expense of all the “real” things I need to be doing.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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