There's more to fantasy than an unlikely backwoods hero seeking to defeat the evil overlord, and in Khaiblan Rewound (a working title only), I intentionally decided to depart from that common plot to make my first foray into the sword-and-sorcery subgenre. NaNoWriMo is a good opportunity to experiment with new things, since it's only a one-month commitment, and I started Khaiblan Rewound for NaNoWriMo in 2011. If you click the link above leading to the story, you'll see it goes to Wattpad rather than a place to buy it, because I still have not completed the story. Inspired by the creative openness of Ksenia Anske, I decided to begin posting first-draft chapters of Khaiblan Rewound on Wattpad to see if I could get any input from readers. To date, I've posted two chapters. Reader input? Well, not yet.
One of the common ideas you will find in discussions about entrepreneurial activity and business development is that you should pay close attention to what you measure, because what you choose to measure also defines where you focus your attention. In turn, this often (but not always) leads to improvements in the area(s) being measured. This is applicable to indie writers. Unless you are writing only for enjoyment, with zero interest in sharing your work with others, your writing goals will be best served by treating your writing as a business. This is true whether you are cranking out a new novel every month or you only plan to publish one book in your life.
In my last blog post, I mentioned that I wanted people to give me the worst-possible feedback about my books, because that will help me focus my attention where it is needed most. (It's not about being a masochist, really—I'd be happy if everyone thought my books were flawless!) All things considered, it's not surprising that my blog post asking for feedback did not actually generate any. That's OK, I didn't expect a rush of critiques.
However, I came up with a rather unusual idea. After pondering it for a good long time (30 seconds? maybe it was 45), I moved forward with it. I'm really glad I did. It turned out much better than I expected. Read on if you'd like to know what secret magical incantation... er, never mind. Read on to see how I used Amazon Mechanical Turk to get inexpensive and useful results.
Creating something without feedback is a good way to get bad results. If your creation is good but you assume it's bad, the bad results will be failing to share something that others would appreciate. If your creation is bad but you assume it's good, the bad results will be sharing something that is not (yet) something that other people will enjoy. Creators are poor critics of their own work. Without feedback from other people, it's up to luck to correctly identify good or bad work and act accordingly. This should be obvious, right? Unfortunately, many people seem to not understand it. I've seen creators unwilling to accept thoughtful critiques from others, and I know that people can be hesitant to give negative feedback on a creative work, especially if the creator is a family member or close friend.
In the years since I first decided to write a novel, my idea of “success” in writing has changed. When I started writing that first novel as a teenager in 9th grade, “success” meant finishing a complete, novel-length first draft. I achieved that the following year when I reached the end of that story. Knowing I could do it once, “success” then became finishing another one so I would know the first wasn't a fluke. I achieved that measure of success in 12th grade. Along the way, and well into the next books I would write after high school, “success” started looking more like having readers; not just any readers, but complete strangers, readers outside my circle of family and friends. That, too, is something I have accomplished.
My shifting definition of “success” advanced in 2010 when I had, for the first time, one of my books available on Amazon and available (at least through special order) in brick-and-mortar bookstores. My long-term “success” picture always included some vague and dreamy ideas about earning royalties, but that became concrete when I reached the point of my publishing career when I had a book with an ISBN, works registered with the US Copyright Office, and slowly-increasing royalties from sales to people I don't know. What does “success” look like to me now? Read on and I'll share some thoughts on that!