Summer Writing Project 2015 Results!

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Alas I did not win the SWP2015.  However, I do not look upon it as a failure.  No, I choose to see it as an opportunity.

I am going to self publish Lexus on Amazon.  I had already decided that if I didn’t win the competition I was going to do this for two reasons.

First, in the contest I was limited to a 40k word count.  The limitations on length meant that there were certain aspects of Lexus that could have been better.  For example, there is a big rivalry between the titular character Lexus and another pirate called Vendetta but this doesn’t come across in the story.  Instead, she acts as a minor hindrance where before she had been a major obstacle.  Also, J.S.T (the protagonist’s sister) wasn’t as much use as she had been in the original text.  She’s just there, like a cardboard cut out, going through the motions. ‘Yeah I’m the protagonist’s sister, don’t mind me.’  The reason?  A 40k word count limit.  There were so many amazing scenes that got pushed aside for that very reason, leaving some characters severely under developed.  Having said that, I would still like to keep the story quite focused.  I will not be adding any additional characters.  Instead I will extend, add or lightly amend scenes.

The second reason is that I enjoyed writing it, and many people enjoyed reading it.  I really think I’ve found something with Lexus and with the right amount of work, who knows.  It could even become a best seller one day.  I even have some ideas for spin-offs, sequels and prequels.

So a little disappointed but not deflated!

Lexus will be on Jukepop until the end of October.  I know I have a couple of people still reading it, so I will let them finish.

Until then, stay tuned for further updates!

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Lexus

space devil cover 2.0

When I started my ‘Creative Summer’ back in the middle of May, one of the tasks I set myself was to enter a novella onto Jukepop as part of the Summer Writing Project 2015.  I knew I wanted to do something different, so I looked through some old projects for inspiration.

That’s when I rediscovered Lexus.  I wrote it when I was 16, but it stayed unfinished because I didn’t know where it was going and I wasn’t really sure how to approach the titular character.  When I picked it back up, it was mostly incomplete with only a brief opening sequence, a few crucial and fragmented middle scenes and the finale written.  So, I thought, what a better way to challenge myself than by getting it together in a few months?

So, what is Lexus about?  Well the official blurb on Jukepop is:

‘Evrin is no stranger to perilous situations. Yet all his experience counts for nothing when he crosses paths with the notorious and deadly pirate Lexus. After a series of unfortunate events, he becomes her prisoner and is forced to fight alongside her just to stay alive. If he doesn’t find a way to escape soon, the only way he’ll make it home is in a body bag.’

Essentially it follows the protagonist Evrin, a retired intergalactic special forces operative, as he becomes tangled in the criminal world through the titular character Lexus – a dangerous, ruthless space pirate.  The central and most prominent themes of the story are corruption, law and order.

It was fun to write but it presented many challenges.  For starters, the original text would easily have been 90k-100k words when completed.  I had to condense the story, concepts and characters into a much more focused story.  This meant singling out the essential parts and stripping away everything else.  I had to dissect the story to understand what made Lexus, well … ‘Lexus’.  The end result was an intense narrative which I think does the story better justice than its initial format which was at best a tangle of characters and sub plots that really didn’t add much.

So … what did I get out of it?  Would I call it a success?

Well, for starters, after the first month of the competition, Lexus was in the top 10, so I was obviously doing something right.  Because of this, I was invited by 1888’s The How The Why to do a podcast along with my fellow authors who were in the top 10 with me.  I’ve never been interviewed before for anything – let alone my own work.  It was nerve-wracking but it boosted my morale.  You can listen to it here.

In the final leg of the ‘race’, I finished in third place in terms of raw votes with just over 900.  I lost out to second place by about 9 votes.  Of course the criteria to win this competition is not just raw votes – after all the serial I came second to has more than twice the number of chapters as I do.  The same goes for many other entries.  What they are looking for is the highest number of unique readers and how many of them followed the story from beginning to end.  Unfortunately I can only determine how many unique readers and views I had – I don’t have access to the stats of other stories.

Winning the competition would be an obvious way to determine the success but the results will not be announced until the 1st of October (and even then they are about 8 hours behind me, so it is likely I will not find out until the morning of 2nd October).

So while raw, objective data would be preferable, I just don’t have it.  Instead, let’s look at the more subjective data of the  feedback for now.

Overall, it seems fairly positive.  Though there were some ‘negative’ ones, they were mostly on the sci-fi elements – such as one hilarious oversight on my part involving a ‘hovering wheelchair’ – the ‘wheel’ in wheelchair being superfluous if it was hovering.  Not bad considering this was my first sci-fi.  So I amended that.  Most readers expressed a connection to the characters, they enjoyed the content and the twists at the end, which I count as a major win.

Here are some examples of feedback towards the end (WARNING SOME OF THESE CONTAIN SPOILERS!):

From Ryan Watt

‘As I sat on the beach, finishing this story today I thought: This is such a wonderful summer beach read story, for the sci fi fan at least. You do amazing action sequences, you use female characters in great roles, you connect people in your world in ways I didn’t expect, and it is just a fun read! Thanks for putting it up here. I am really glad I finally had the chance to read it.’

From Cameron Floyd

‘This was a satisfying end it ties everything up but hints that things might not be over although this might just be my desire for a sequel talking! I have to say as the first thing I have read on this site, this is an excellent example of scifi done differently and well. I enjoyed every minute of it. My only disappointment was in how short this was and how some characters didn’t get as much development as I would have liked but this is still really good. You had some amazing characters, who were fun and interesting and I liked the subterfuge of expectation. I agree with other comments this would make an awesome summer read and that you do have fantastic, fully rounded and powerful female characters! I would be interested in any other projects you have in the works. I can see you have another story on here so I might even read that!’

From M. Howalt

‘This has been a fast-paced space adventure with lots of fun along the way. We’ve seen amazing technology, not-so-lost artifacts and cool weapons, but at the heart of the story are characters motivated by friendship, love, duty, loss, and personal gain, and they all have backstories and plotlines that converge in an organic, believable way. An enjoyable ride! Thank you for sharing it! :)’

From Andre Clemmons

’22 chapters of pure sci-fi awesomness!! It’s like a summer blockbuster of a serial you’ve created here, and it was an amazing experience to read!! Can’t wait to see what else you create here on Jukepop!! :)’

From Cherry Algrave:

‘Wow just wow I have no words for what just happened. I promised no spoilers though so I’ll try to review as best I can. not the way I though it would go but SERIOUSLY Lexus was right Syrus is an [*****]. A huge, gigantic [*****]!!!!! I know this probable makes me less of a person to say so but good on Lexus a little sad Evrin of Tokaiba didn’t really get to take him in. Hope this isn’t the last we see of Lexus! AWESOME FINALE I LOVE IT SO MUCH PLEASE WRITE MORE!!!!!!!!’

From Ellie Barstow:

‘When I heard you were adding the remaining chapters, I waited until they were up and waited to comment until the end. I must say this is not what I expected but this is a compliment! I went back and read this from beginning to end and the clues left are superb and subtle. The tension and action build chapter by chapter until before we realize it we are caught in this hurricane of happenings! I must also say that although not what I expected the ending was fantastic. I could see some comments pressuring a romantic relationship between Evrin and Lexus, but that to me did not seem viable. The thing that worked best was that abrupt killing of Syrus almost out of nowhere. It just worked it tied in with her personality, and everything had been working up to it. Their fight scene was short but strong. I had wondered what two powerhouses like that would do when near each other and it was handled phenomenally. I think you made excellent use of setting and the technology of the world. I also liked how nearer the end all the storylines converged and we saw how connected everyone was. Every character becomes useful – Tokaiba really comes into her own towards the end when her motivations are laid bare. You realize at the end that every flashback and bit of exposition served the end which is how a good story should be. I had been concerned about your use of flashbacks in the grand scheme of things but now I see I needn’t have been! What is most impressive is your integrity. I think Lexus behave consistently and remained an enigmatic, chaotic character up to the end, even when we found out her back story, she still stands as this not quite good but not wholly bad element which binds your whole story together. To say sci-fi is not usually my thing is an understatement but you may well have converted me. I am actually sad to see this story end, but I feel content, the ending tied enough up but left me wondering what would happen to these characters? My only criticism is that some characters were not as developed as other such as JST and Vendetta but given the length of this story that it not surprising. Thank you for a glorious journey! I hope you will submit something else on Jukepop soon!’

All in all, I’d call this a success.  I’ve learnt so much from the experience – the most useful being how to untangle ideas and be harsh about which ones are good for the story and which, though perhaps good, are unnecessary filler.  It was also a great exercise in telling a story in less words than I am used to.  Every scene, bit of dialogue and character had to work over time.  This is something I have always struggled with since I am a stickler for detail.  That being said, there is always room for improvement.

Going forward I plan to submit another project but that’s another subject for another blog post.  What is important now is that lots of people seemed to enjoy Lexus and I’ve improved vital aspects of my writing such as pace, world and character building and relevant exposition.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who read Lexus.  Your comments were really helpful and it meant so much that so many of your were willing to give the story a shot and read it to the end.  If you haven’t read it but are interested, you can check Lexus out here.  Additionally I have a facebook page dedicated to Lexus and any other work that takes place in that universe.

Write of Passage

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Earlier this year I found myself in a writing rut.  I was writing, of course and I had a project on the go, but somehow I couldn’t get it right and I didn’t know why.  I had been working on it for a few years and had 3 books already written, the first being close to a final draft, but something wasn’t right.  I had to do something and quick.

So, I submitted it to Jukepop, a website specialising in serialised stories.  The idea is to add a story a chapter at a time.  Authors and readers often offer feedback through the comments function.  There is also a tool called ‘analytics’ where you can see how many people have read your story, if they drop off after a certain chapter, what the average chapter reading time is and what gender and age they are and even where they’re from to give you an idea of the demographic your story is appealing to.  I had been hesitant to do this.  After all, The Brotherhood (my ongoing project) has taken years to develop.  I didn’t want to give it away for free or worse, risk it getting stolen.  However, this has turned out to be one of the single best decisions I have made in a while.  I received valuable feedback that offered a window into what wasn’t quite working.

This inspired me to try something to jump start my creativity.  I called it my ‘Creative Summer’.  From May to the end of September, I assigned myself certain tasks:

  • Write at least one short story a month and enter it into a competition.
  • Submit a new project to Jukepop to apply all I’d learned from The Brotherhood feedback.

Now while these seem like very simple, easily achievable targets, I would like to point out that I do not do short stories.  I have always worked on much larger pieces, usually a minimum of 90k words.  The Brotherhood project as a whole is likely to span 5 books, with between 100k – 150k words per book.  I do not read short stories either.  I tend to read work that is serialised – such as trilogies or book series (such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson or Lord of the Rings for example).  Getting a congruent story together complete with characters worth caring about and a cogent plot in no more than 2000-3000 words was a nightmare for me.

As for the Jukepop project, I challenged myself to start a new story that was a different genre to The Brotherhood, which is a YA urban fantasy featuring demons and a demon hunting organisation.  There are sci-fi elements as the setting is an alternate reality not all too dissimilar to ours BUT it takes place in the year 2150, so technology has come along a little bit.  My final decision was to go full sci-fi – enough to make it very different from The Brotherhood without being too jarring.

This also happened to coincide with Jukepop/1888/Black Hill Press’ Summer Writing Project 2015, which was perfect.  Essentially, the competition gave you between 1 June 2015 – 30th August 2015 to submit a novella (max 50k words) a chapter at a time.  Readers could vote per chapter, but essentially the 3 winners would be the ones with the most unique readers who followed the story from beginning to end.  So I entered my sci-fi project Lexus.  Not only was I creating something shorter than I was used to but I was also using a genre I have little experience writing in order to push me out of my comfort zone.

This blog will look at how much success I had with this venture as well as my plans for the future.

As a closing statement I would say that if anyone is looking for a writing community, Jukepop is the one for you.  Fellow authors are amazingly supportive, they offer invaluable feedback and there are some fantastic stories posted on there by some incredible authors.  Best of all, its free!

Although you have to sign up for an account, you don’t get spammed and you don’t have to give a million and one personal details.  The minimum you need to give is your email address.  That’s right, you can leave all other fields blank – you don’t even need to give your name.  Of course, the more information you give the better, because this helps other authors with the analytics I mentioned earlier.  For example, if you fill in your DOB, gender and what country you are from, an author gets an idea of who their story appeals to.  They won’t see these details of course; only that a certain number of people of a certain age bracket from a certain country voted and read their story.  Names will be left out of it.

Your profile will only show your name and where you are from (if you provided these details).  You have the option to give as much or as little of your address as you are comfortable with.  Most people merely put which country they are from while a few also put down what county/state.

The only emails you receive from Jukepop are notifications when serials on your bookshelf have a new chapter uploaded (think of the bookshelf like your list on Netflix – you can queue as many stories as you are interested in to read at your leisure) and when somebody has replied to a comment you have left or written on your wall.  Even then you can set these to daily, weekly or off altogether.  So no emails from third parties.  No Nigerian Princes.  No viagra or penis enlargements.  Just useful, relevant stuff which, as mentioned, you can turn off anyway.  Great, right?

So a free to join community that does not spam and is chock full of supportive members – what more could you ask for …?  A mobile/tablet app you say?  They have that too!

Honestly, I don’t think I would’ve come half as far as I have this past summer without Jukepop and its wonderful authors and readers!  So what are you waiting for?