Writing Resources

I was talking with another new author recently and we got on to the topic of what we use in writing our books. So here’s a breakdown of my writing resources, for anyone curious about the process.

My most important writing resources are my imagination… after all, it creates the stories! Followed second in importance by the patrons that support me, paying as little as $1 for advance access to everything I write, and third is the thousands of beta readers that read the rough second drafts on the free sites and provide invaluable feedback!

Second drafts? Yup, as Terry Pratchett says, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

Here’s all the technical nitty gritty…

Being an IT guy, I started off using Microsoft Word for writing my book. Then I learned about Scrivener and have never looked back since. It’s just so much better for writing, planning, character development, name generation, compiling and, well, pretty much everything that relates to writing a book! Plus it’s a fraction of the cost!

My main computer is an old iMac, although I also have Windows and Linux computers in my house… hey I’m still an IT guy at heart. The decision to buy an older used iMac was so I could use the original, tried and true Scrivener program. Literature & Latte do have a Windows version, but it’s been in a perpetual beta test for years (I hear they’re finally at the RC or Release Candidate stage).

A big bonus is that Scrivener also works on my iPhone and iPad and they all synchronize via Dropbox. Believe it or not, most of my book is written on my iPhone and iPad, whenever I get a few minutes of free time. I do use the computer for writing as well, but it’s main purpose is editing and compiling. My backups go to iCloud and other cloud storage services.

For grammar checking small snippets, I use GrammarChecker.io, but my primary grammar checker is Pro Writing Aid, because it can work directly with my Scrivener files.

For my Book Covers, I use SelfPubBookCovers.com, they’ve been great and even when I need a cover customized they’ve put me in touch with the original creator and they will give me a quote for the modifications I’ve requested.

For my stunning book advertisements, I use BookBrush.com. They make it easy to create awesome advertisements for pretty much any social platform or application.

For my website, I host with my own hosting company, Hosting Hero (a play on my old Computer Hero IT company) using the Managed WordPress plans. Then for my theme I use Divi from Elegant Themes, a truly customizable page builder for WordPress. For wikis and resources for each of my series, I register the domain names through my hosting company and then redirect them to the social wiki’s I’ve created on Fandom.com.

For all my graphic needs I use 123RF Stock Photography for the major graphics and use Gimp to edit them and if I have to make maps I use either Inkarnate or Wonderdraft.

Why Aliens and Cowboys?

Traditional nomenclature is usually spoken as “Cowboys and…”

Originally did call my story Cowboys and Aliens, but the story grew into a series and many people commented on the similarity to the 2011 movie or the graphic novels of the same name.

Fortunately, I have some smart beta readers, one of my readers mentioned, why not reverse it to be Aliens and Cowboys, since the premise of my series is almost the exact polar opposite of what the movies and graphic novels were about.

So that’s how the series got to be called Aliens & Cowboys.

1 Year Update

Well it’s actually been more than a year, but it’s close enough, as I realized I hadn’t posted anything since my 6 month update. Plus the first chapter of Book 3 (The King of Atlantis) has just recently hit the sites.

I’ve been busy writing and editing. The first book is just going through a final re-read before it gets self-published. The second book is going through the editing process and I’m several chapters into the third book.

I have talked to several publishers, but they’ve all turned me down, but they’ve given me some great feedback. The primary reason for being turned down was because my chapters are too long, and “120K words is too big for an author’s first novel. You need to cut it down to about 80K words!”

A couple of the publishers expressed concern that I was posting the story on free websites, but others commended me for doing that, as it was collecting public feedback and growing an audience, plus I was using the feedback from the readers for editing and storyline development.

Long story short, it looks like I’m going the self publishing route!

Anyway, without further adieu, here’s the stats from the biggest sites, I’ve got the story published on many more sites than these, but Stories Online and LitErotica are by far the biggest and they provide statistics.

Stories Online
194,052 Reads, 1,328 Votes averaging an 8.04/10 score (80.4%)

252,794 Reads, 15,462 Votes averaging a 4.72/5 score (94.4%)

Why would I post the stories for free?

I’m a member of several writers groups and quite often you’ll see people asking, “What about posting the story on the free websites?”, and most authors will laugh the person out of there citing, “That’s crazy talk!”

Those are either authors who already have a huge following, or are hobby authors that haven’t done their homework. It’s pretty easy to get a copyright, plus you can join your local writer’s guild and get all sorts of advice to protect your work.

Now here’s why I choose to publish on the free sites.

1. It builds audience!

If it’s a good story, readers will want a copy of it. Plus the books are usually a lot more heavily edited and refined than the online version they’ve read.

With an audience and followers, you have easy access to people that already like your story, so it’s easy to get user reviews. If a published book doesn’t have reader reviews, it often gets shuffled to the bottom of the search results.

Having an available audience, you can give them a discount code to use to buy the book for free or cheap, in exchange for a review! Reviews are gold!

2. Make a couple of bucks!

It’s called anticipation! If a story is really good, people don’t mind spending a couple bucks to have the latest chapter… especially if it’s a well written story. I’ve no doubt some authors actually make more money with their Patreon following than they do from their actual book sales.

Many writers and artists have a Patreon page these days so fans of their work can support the creator. Most people don’t mind spending a buck or two to support their source of entertainment, readers know that the words don’t just appear, it takes a lot of time and thoughtful contemplation to write something and have it make sense and still relate to the rest of the story or even foreshadow something that will happen in future chapters. It’s like having a backstage pass to the creation.

On my Patreon page, patrons can pay as little as $1 PER CHAPTER to get advance access to my scrivenings.

$1 is something that everyone can afford, and it’s not like I sit at home writing for hours each day and pumping out 5 chapters per month! Often it’s simply 1 chapter per month, maybe 2 if I get on a roll!

By charging per chapter, rather than per month, you don’t get charged without getting something tangible in return!

3. Free Editors and Guinea Pigs!

Many of the people reading on those free sites, do actually appreciate that they’re getting something for free, especially if you’re giving them a great story, and they try to be helpful.

Many readers act as free editors. They will point out glaring plot holes, spelling and grammatical mistakes and stuff like that. Plus it’s quick and easy to make edits for future readers… they see a more refined story and give the chapter a good vote! The higher your vote count and ratings, the more readers you get. See #1!

4. Criticism

I know that sounds weird, but with most free sites, there’s always assholes who seem to just enjoy trying to stir up shit! I’ve gotten some pretty scathing emails from readers.

While 99% of the time their criticism is baseless and non-constructive… everybody is entitled to their opinions! Criticism makes your skin tougher and acts like a reality check. If it’s all sunshine and roses, that’s the same as getting a participation award just for showing up, it breeds laziness and entitlement, which is a big part of the reason why the world is in the sad state it is!

6 Month Update

It’s been six months since I started publishing my story Cowboys and Aliens to various websites, all of Book One (The Cowboy and the Aliens) has been published to the sites and I’m now working on getting it actually published to Amazon and other book stores.

I’m also going to be selling the book directly from my website (after learning how much of a cut the various online bookstores take).

Here’s the tale of the tape after 6 months from the two biggest sites that self-publish to…

My story has been downloaded 283,447 times, it’s being actively followed by 1,495 people, it’s been voted on 11,219 times and the ratings are 4.71/5 (94.25%) on Literotica and 8.03/10 (80.3%) on StoriesOnline.

One week later!

Well the first 4 chapters of my story have been on StoriesOnLine for a week now and I’m totally stoked now!

Over 10,000 downloads so far! Over 300 people have added my story to their library so they’ll know as soon as I add new chapters and Cowboys and Aliens is rocking a 7.69 score which is one of the highest scores of all new stories added to their site in the past month!

I just submitted Chapter 5 to StoriesOnline, but you can currently already read up to Chapter 7 on my Patreon page.

Here’s some of the comments I’ve gotten so far… I removed the names to protect the innocent (ha ha ha)…

Keep it up, everyone is waiting for the next chapter

Chapter 1, I thought very good. By the end of chapter 2, I was thinking this has possibilities. By the end of chapter 4, I was wanting more, more, more. Keep it up, this story has a chance of 9.5 or better.

This was a very good story until near the end; then it became an Awesome Story. I’d love to read more, soon. Please continue.

Well this looks like it’ll be FUN!
I for one am looking forward to seeing where you go with it!

Scared Sh*tless

Well yesterday I decided to actually start publishing some of my story to StoriesOnline.net.

I can honestly say that last night I didn’t sleep very well, I was so nervous for taking an idea that I started back in grade 9 or 10 (some 30+ years ago) and actually publishing it for everybody to see.

Here it is 4am in the morning and I still haven’t seen any email notifications for comments, votes or anything. Well it turned out those all ended up in my junk mail folder!

I checked my story and the first chapter has been downloaded over 3100 times and the second chapter almost 2400 times with the story scoring 7.79 through 137 votes, and thankfully there was some good constructive criticism and some volunteer editing.

The stories posted to my Patreon account have been edited and therefore will be slightly different from the ones on SOL.

You’re doing what now?

Since I’m not doing IT anymore, I started looking for another hobby. I like to keep my mind busy.

I’ve been an avid reader of stories and books of years. So I’ve decided to try my hand at writing.

My first story is called Aliens and Cowboys, so as not to be confused with the Cowboys and Aliens movie and graphic novels, in fact, it’s the polar opposite! Thus Aliens and Cowboys and it’s actually an expanded version of a story I wrote back in Grade 9 or 10 called “Turtle Island”.

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