Sooner or later, we all have to tell our friends and family what we’re doing with our time.
I’m a writer, I spend my time writing, but when someone asks if I’m working on anything, I tend to answer with as much vagueness as possible. There are a lot of reasons for this, the main one being that no matter how much I might be in love with my story, talking about a work in progress makes me feel like it’s the lamest thing anyone ever wasted time on. I’m almost positive that’s how my talking about it makes you feel, too.
A close runner up in the reasons for being vague is the question, “When can I read it?” Not because I don’t want you to read anything I write. Although, if you and I know each other, I’d really rather you not. (What if you hate it? What if you think I think everything my character thinks? What if you tell my mom I said a bad word? What if you want to talk to me about it the next time we see each other and I come off sounding like a doofus who couldn’t string together a sentence to save her life?)
This is getting off track. Anyway, what I’ve been doing with my life for the past two months is make these: Bad Decisions and Bad Influences.
Now a short Q&A:
Q: Do people actually buy short stories?
A: Apparently so. Fifteen people have bought Bad Decisions so far with almost no marketing. People also download short stories when they’re free. You can see the nifty graph I made illustrating that in Week 6’s Progress Report.
Q: You’re not a man from Arkansas.
A: That’s not a question.
Q: Why E.M. Smith?
A: Why not?
Q: This isn’t going anywhere. I’m leaving.
A: Wait, I was just kidding! You’re right, I’m not a man from Arkansas. E.M. Smith is one of my pen names. He writes only action/adventure and non-paranormal thrillers. Besides Earl Mason Smith, I have two other pen names—one who writes romance and one who writes paranormal, urban and epic fantasy. Each one has his or her own backstory, personality, and style.
Q: I find that hard to believe.
Q: Hey, I’ll ask the questions here.
A: Ask one, then.
Q: Why did you do this Insanity: Writing experiment?
A: Mostly because I was stuck in an endless cycle of edits on a much larger book that’s coming out later this year (under a different, more recognizable pen name) and I wanted to do something else for a while. Also because I needed to get some hands-on experience with the self-publishing process before I tried to format and sell a full-length novel.
Q: I own a Kindle or have the Kindle Reader app. Should I buy Bad Decisions and Bad Influences?
A: If you like black ops stories with lots of guns and action, yes. If you like stories of wrongfully accused former troublemakers redeeming themselves, yes. If you like sweet romances, inspirational Christian fiction, or lyrical writing, probably not.
Q: Why not?
A: There are a lot of cuss words in both stories, mostly due to the fact that the main character is a scared, hurt, angry young man who doesn’t have the patience to express himself in more flowery, less vulgar terms. I have tamer narrators in upcoming works that might be more to your liking.
Q: I’ve heard reviews are important for self-published writers. Should I put a review of your story on Amazon?
A: Actually, no. If you’re related to me or friends with me, we could get in trouble for “shill reviews.” Even if you were to write a 100% unbiased, honest review, we could get in trouble. For serious.
Q: Will there be any more Bad stories?
A: Yes. At least three more, according to my current breakdown of the larger arc.
Q: Why didn’t you tell anybody before now?
A: I was doing an experiment. Telling people about an experiment will skew the results.
Q: Your experiment was done yesterday.
A: I was really tired. Now, if you wouldn’t mind reading from the card…
Q: [sigh] How did you do in your 5k?
A: Thanks for asking! Josh and I got 2nd place in our age groups. You can read all about that here.
That’s pretty much that. Feel free to ask any other questions in the comments section below or wherever you saw this posted.
The Workout (Month Two):
Golly. Just golly.
In 5k news, my dad had the boys for the weekend, so Josh and I skipped the Run through the Jungle and went to town for some grownup coffeehouse hangout time. Best decision we’ve made in recent memory.
The Writing (Month Two):
I still feel like I spent last week lazing off, even though my word count was up. Part of the problem is not being able to decide whether to ditch Bad Coffee and go straight for Bad Dreams (which in my original plans was Bad Decisions #3) or to stick Bad Coffee out. It comes down to whether Bad Coffee adds anything to the overall story arc—something I’m still trying to figure out.
Offering Bad Decisionsfor free over the weekend (Thursday-Monday) was a total success. The story was downloaded 496 times, went to the double digits (#33 at its best) on Amazon’s Action & Adventure Bestseller List, and gained one review (5-star). I promoted the story in two ways: changing one of the Amazon key words to “free,” and tweeting about it being “#free for #kindle.” Here’s a graph illustrating the Number of Downloads on any given day:
Thanks to the good people at Create-a-Graph Kids’ Zone for helping me make the graph. Apparently, it’s not important to label the axes, but whatever.
I can’t say conclusively whether tweeting helped. My results might’ve been skewed by time of day, holiday status, and day of the week. For example, Friday and Saturday tied for fewest downloads. On Friday I purposely avoided putting up any promotional tweets, on Saturday I put up three. Sunday my numbers climbed with zero tweets.
Thursday and Monday my numbers were high, but Thursday might’ve been new-freebie-on-the-block downloads and Monday might’ve been a result of the “last chance to get this free” tweet. Also, most of the downloads on Monday came at night—yes, after I posted the only tweet for the day, but also maybe because everyone was back from the holiday vacation and wanted something to read. There were just too many factors to say for sure whether tweeting made a noticeable difference.
The truly sad news is that my Excel chart usage took a dive sometime in the past week. I didn’t label it with actual calendar dates, only day numbers, so figuring out what the last day I recorded was is going to take some doing. You saw my cool graph, though, right?
I’m going to be straight with you guys—I didn’t get much work done during Week 5. It was “Recovery Week,” but I still feel a little guilty about how many days I took off.
Recovery Week isn’t about not doing any exercise, but about doing less to raise your pulse and more to make you flexible and strong. Or something. I only did the Recovery Week’s workout—Core Cardio & Balance—a few times and I wasn’t paying much attention. Then Josh and I spent the next three days at the Lake vacationing with my family. My whole family. Everybody’s spouses and kids. Fourteen people. To quote Shaun T again, “That [stuff] is Ba. Nanas.” And other than swimming, I got no exercise over the weekend and I had my mommy cooking for me, so you know I ate good.
We began Month Two, the “Max Interval” stuff on Monday. I’m not sure I’ll live through this.
I wrote a total of 334 words on Bad Coffee. Six of the seven days I didn’t write anything at all.
Josh and I have a 5k this weekend—the “Run through the Jungle” here in town—and I’m also offering Bad Decisions for free from now through Monday. (My hope is that it will be a “Take a copy, leave a review” sort of sitch. We’ll see.) More on how all that goes in Week 6’s update.
I should mention that my Excel chart also took a hit during Week 5, but I updated it later. It wasn’t that hard to update, considering I didn’t write at all on the days I didn’t use my chart to keep track.