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Author Goals For 2022

I'm a bit stuck on making edits to Ruination (Pacing issues, ugh...), so I thought I'd stroll in a month late and go over my goals as an author for 2022. So, without further ado:

1. Finish Ruination

Back in mid-December, I hired four beta readers for my finished draft of Ruination. Within a month I had all of the feedback I needed. I'm happy to report that the feedback was positive, but like with any first draft, some things need to be addressed. For a few weeks now, I've been working on these things. I'll probably go into more detail in a separate post, but in short, there are two more major aspects which need fixing.

One is the early portion of the story. As it involves cancer research and espionage/intrigue, there is a lot of setup for the reader to take in. At the moment, the first couple of chapters involve a heist to draw readers in. Things slow down from chapter 3-7, so readers can understand character relationships (They will all become suspects to the main character by chapter 8). The other purpose of this slower section is to show the reader how the main character's cancer treatment works. There is, however, chapter 7, which sticks out to me as slowing things down too much. It involves a rough ride to work for our main character and a pitch to his university's dean which goes south quickly. My thought is to cut this one out and add elements of it to other chapters, but it is important for things to come. Still, the initial incident which really sends this novel into "Psychological Thriller" territory doesn't happen until chapter 8, over a quarter of the way through the story. That's taking too long to get to the point.

The second issue involves the ending. I've mentioned in previous blog posts that I wanted much of Ruination to be subtext. Our main character is worried that someone is out to get him, but the psychological aspect to the story is that we can't be sure if he's right or if claiming sabotage is his mind's way of coping with difficult times. By the end, it's never explained out loud what happened. I wanted readers to come to their own conclusions based on evidence sprinkled in throughout the novel. Among my beta readers, their biggest issue was almost unanimous: They wanted more answers by the end. See, I was so obsessed with the psychological aspect of Ruination that I setup too many mysteries without payoff to any of them. I won't spoil these mysteries, but the course of action seems obvious: Answer some of the questions, while leaving one or two mysteries for readers to ponder on (And perhaps solve on their own with the subtext of prior chapters).

This is all easier said than done, of course. I had hoped to finish the revisions by the end of the month, but that seems unlikely, especially because I'm struggling with those early chapters and their pacing. Still, I'm hopeful that by early-mid February, I'll be able to send the story in for line editing. I have a good feeling about this one, which is why I don't want to rush out of editing and regret putting out something that could have been great instead of just okay or good. Time will tell...

2. Begin Decimation

Well, it would be more accurate to say, "Continue Decimation," actually. I've mentioned in the past that my original idea for Ruination was completely different. When I would pitch the idea to friends or family, they would usually assume that it was a Psychological Thriller. After being told that enough times, I decided to combine some ideas that I was saving for a later story while putting my original idea on hold.

Decimation is to be a sequel to Ruination, in a way. It will have almost none of the same characters while answering some questions of the original novel without even having to reference it. My goal here is to give readers several, "Aha!" moments while also allowing the story stand on its own.

While this novel will have plenty of Thriller elements and intrigue, it won't so much focus on the psychological aspect as it will general paranoia and mystery. I am already six chapters in and know exactly where I want to take the story. I'm hoping that post-release hangover doesn't get to me and I can finish the draft up within a couple of months!

3. Website Improvements

With so many improvements needed for my website, I've given consideration to hiring a third party, but I don't like the idea of relying on someone else for a website. Not when I make little to no money on writing. It seems counter-productive to spend even more money on a site with such little traffic, so for now my goal is to make whatever improvements I can on my own.

You may have noticed some updates in the past few months. The biggest change has been the expansion of the Dark Savior Series page. There is now a Magic Guide where readers can get a better understanding of magic and how it works. In addition, I go into detail about mage classes. There's some information here which hasn't been spelled out entirely in the first three books, so if you want to be ahead of the curve, this is the place to look!

Looking at the expanded Dark Savior page, you'll see that there are other pages which aren't yet linked: a location guide and a glossary. I had intended to complete these pages months back, but it never came to fruition. Once I'm on a workday schedule, I tend to use what little free time I have on writing the latest novel. But kind of like what I'm doing now, the plan is to take moments where I'm struggling on my current project and mix things up by working on the website. Sounds productive in theory, right? We'll see if it pays off. :P

A page for Ruination needs to be made. Even though I feel good about the story, I haven't done much in the way of promoting it, yet. It all begins with a page for it, so hopefully soon.

Looking into SEO is another key factor. Every year I tell myself to do this, but it's not something that interests me in any way. Usually, I end up forgetting about it. To be fair, searching, "Jim Clougherty" on Duck Duck Go (Google is for chumps) brings this site up in the first result. However, if I search for "Gold Fever", I get nothing. "Gold Fever Dark Savior" does bring my site up... but far down the list, behind some lovely sites which are putting my book up for illegal download. -_- Point being, I need to start putting myself in a better position to succeed, and SEO is one of the best ways to do that.

Finally, getting some retention is important as a self-published author. You don't want readers who have enjoyed your stories to forget about the books to come. This is why a mailing list is going to be one of my top priorities, moving forward. I do have a page for this set up, but it looks cheap, it's difficult to find, and no one has signed up for it! A month ago, I wrote a short story about Wolfgang, one of the antagonists of Gold Fever. I've seen plenty of authors use free short stories or novellas as incentive to get people signed up for their mailing list. My goal is to do the same thing and get some people interested in news letters.

4. Writing More Short Stories

Speaking of short stories, I have many more in mind that I'm hoping to complete this year. Most of them are meant to be supplemental to the first three books of the Dark Savior Series. There are plenty of character motivations and settings that I didn't have room to go into detail on in the books, so the material is near-endless. As mentioned before, the Wolfgang story is done, and when Ruination goes into editing, my plan is to write a short story about Lucia's time as a mercenary. These Dark Savior short stories will stem from the first three books and be used as an incentive to join the mailing list.

I have some unrelated short stories in the pipeline, too. I found two which I made for a creative writing course in the bygone era of 2012. I plan on rewriting and putting them on the site for free. I figure it's a good way to give readers an idea of whether they'll enjoy my writing or not. In addition, there's one other story I had in mind that has yet to be written. It would be about prehistoric men and the origin of the uncanny valley. Or at least, a fictional retelling of why we get freaked out by things that don't quite look human.

5. Attend a Writer's Retreat

I don't know too may other writers personally. Maybe five in total. It's difficult to have so few people who relate to the process in your life. The common person doesn't really care about elegant variation or where to insert breaks. They just want to be entertained, and let me tell you, there's nothing entertaining about the skeleton of a book to the average person. I've tried talking to people about the writing process, and I can see the disinterest building with each passing second unless I talk about the story itself! A writer on the other hand will understand those struggles and minor victories.

I figure going to a retreat would be a nice way to meet some fellow authors. At this point, I'm biding my time. COVID has spiked in my area this past month, but I anticipate that it'll calm back down come summertime. So, look for updates on a retreat sometime from June to September!

And you better believe that I'm taking a camera along to obnoxiously film the highlights for a vlog. :D

6. Rewrite of Gold Fever?

I'm not sure if I want to do this or not. It's been on my mind since finishing Ruination's first draft. I feel good about the story. I feel that it's my best-written and has the potential to draw people in. My worry, then, is that these same people will jump into Gold Fever while expecting the same level of writing, and then come away disappointed. I learned so much throughout the first three books of the Dark Savior Series, but it doesn't compare to the increase in quality seen in this most recent story, as far as I'm concerned.

The idea would be to have the same story as the original Gold Fever, but told differently. The narration would be more consistent, there would be more showing than telling, some needed context would be added, and some unnecessary parts would be cut.

So then, is it time to get all "George Lucas" up in here? Not so fast. There are some serious disadvantages to doing something like this. First and foremost, a halting of progress on other projects. I am committed to getting the above done before working on a rewrite of any kind, but think of just how long that would take! Almost as long as writing a novel to begin with! I also risk angering anyone who enjoyed the original Gold Fever. They may not like the changes, or worse, feel cheated for reading an inferior version of the story. I would have to spend hundreds of more dollars to get it re-edited and re-listed, as well.

Even if it all works out, does it end there? Shouldn't I re-write Seven Seals and A Gathering of Strangers, too? Well, not necessarily. Those novels don't have as many narrative issues as Gold Fever. Changes could be made, but an entire rewrite wouldn't be necessary, I think.

For now, I'm sleeping on this idea. Sometimes you have to accept the past and move on, but on the other hand, there are six more of these books planned. It may be in my best interest to hook readers with better writing. I guess we'll see...

There are a few more small things here and there that I'd like to get done before 2023, but I feel this post has gone on long enough. I'm hoping that this has refreshed my mind a bit and I can get to finishing up my current project. In the meantime, be on the lookout for the aforementioned site updates, short stories, and the official release of Ruination!

- Jim

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