Friday, February 10, 2012

Indie Insider - Ty Johnston

How many words do you do write a day? Where do you do it?

My word count is all over the place. Some days I only write 500 words. Other days I write 5,000. If I had to guess, I probably average about 2,000 words a day. I’m usually slower at the beginning of a project, and then again right at the end. The middle section of a novel is where I seem to write the fastest. In the beginning, I’m feeling things out, the characters and environments and plots, etc. Towards the end, I’m not wanting to let go of the story, so I hold onto it for a while.

As to where I write, again, it varies. I probably do most of my writing at home in my bedroom, but at least a couple of days a week I take a laptop out to a book store or coffee shop and spend a few hours writing. I can write in public easy enough, but I can’t edit because there are so many distractions, so I tend to do my rewriting and editing at home.

Do you think that people judge a book by it’s cover? Who makes yours?

Covers are a funny thing. You ask a hundred readers if they are influenced by a cover, and probably 80 of them will pull out the old individualistic argument that “of course not because I think for myself.” Then you look at the top sellers and realize pretty much all of them have solid covers.

I’m not sure a great cover is enough to get a reader to buy a book or e-book, but I do think great covers help to draw readers’ attention.

I do my own covers. I worked in the newspaper industry as an editor and graphic designer for nearly 20 years, so I feel fairly capable of churning out decent covers. Great covers? No. Why? Because I’ve found there’s a difference between good newspaper design and book design, and I’m still learning to some extent, though with each novel I feel it has a better cover than the one before.

What do you do when you get writers block?

Oh, gosh. I have a looooong story about writers block, but I’ll try to keep it short as possible. I spent the late ‘80s and much of the ‘90s writing short stories, then it finally dried up on me about ‘97 or so. I hit a wall. At the time I didn’t know what it was, but looking back I realize it was fear. Fear of success. Fear that I was a lousy writer. Probably some other, lesser fears mixed in. I went five years without writing hardly a word of fiction.

Then about 2002 I read a book on screenwriting by Syd Field. It was a rather dry book, but it broke storytelling down into a format that to me was almost like simple math. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and within those structures are lesser events which need to occur. Just for kicks, I decided to try to write my own screenplay.

Two months later, I had finished it, then when on to write another. It was quite freeing. Screenwriting really breaks storytelling down to its most basic elements, and I could focus upon those without having to worry about whether or not I was spewing forth great prose. By the time I had finished my second screenplay, I had found my writers block had vanished. I then returned to prose writing and have been doing so ever since. I might someday write more screenplays, but for now I’m having fun churning out novels.

That’s how I dealt with writer’s block. As far as what I could advise others, I always say: Allow yourself to write badly. Yes, I realize how that sounds, but it’s the truth. If you want to break through writers block, stop thinking every word you write has to be golden. A lot of what one writes isn’t going to be very good, but some of it will. Eventually, with experience, there will be more good than bad.

How much time do you spend on social media per day? What do you concentrate on?

How much? Way too much! On an average day, I probably spend two hours on social media, but I’m including blogging. I use Facebook mainly for friends and peers, but I turn to Twitter pretty much only for promotions. I tend to focus more on blogging, on my own blog and guest blogging on others’ sites, because I feel I’ve had more success there, and I get to meet a lot of people I otherwise might never know.

Which narrative form and tense do you think is the most difficult and why?

I personally tend to think a first person omniscient narration is the most difficult to write because there is so much that could be covered. The narrator, or narrative voice, knows everything, and deciding what and what not to reflect upon can be difficult.

I prefer to write from a third person limited perspective, and I’m willing to jump around in novels to show different characters’ points of view. Some readers don’t like that jumping around, but others seem to enjoy it or at least don’t mind.

As for tense, I find present tense more difficult to write, at least for novel-length projects. I can keep up present tense in a short story pretty easily, but I find it more difficult in longer works. Present tense offers a notion of immediacy, and I find that drains away in longer works. In other words, how can something be immediate if it’s going to take me a week or longer to read it?

Do you use a professional editor, critique partners, or beta readers? What is your process?

This is another one that’s both yes and no. I do not hire out a professional editor for my novels, but I’m fortunate enough to have enough friends who are or have been professional book editors or professional newspaper editors. They are my beta readers. I return the favor when I can.

As for my process, I complete the first draft without any major editing. During that draft, I try to do as little editing as possible, but it seems I’m always noticing some little error whenever I look back to check some facts or some such. After the first draft, I try to set a manuscript aside for a while to give myself a little perspective. Six months would be perfect, but it’s usually more like a week. Then I go through that first draft and do a rewrite on areas I feel need it, as well as some editing.

After that, I do one more run through the manuscript, usually only cleaning up minor mistakes and the like. After that, I e-mail off the novel to my beta readers. Usually within two weeks to a month, I begin receiving feedback. Once I’ve heard from at least a couple of people, I start back in on the manuscript again, fixing what I think needs fixing, changing what I think needs changing. After that, I usually give the novel one last read, a final hunt for minor errors. Then it’s publishing time.

That being said, with today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to make corrections. More than once I’ve gone back to a novel and found an error, or I’ve had a reader point something out to me. I always make corrections, and within a day or so the corrected version is available online.

How important is it for an indie author to use a professional editor?

More than important. It’s an absolute necessity. Never trust your own eyes, because I promise you will glaze over your own mistakes. Friends and relatives are nice to have as beta readers, but often they will be leery of pointing out errors. If one can’t afford to hire a professional editor, then I suggest getting as many beta readers as possible, and looking over one’s own manuscript at least a dozen times. And then some.

Start making friends online with editors and publishers and other writers. Don’t push your novels on them, but after you’ve known some of these folks for a while, I’m sure some of them would be willing to read your work and offer advice. But not me. I’m busy. Sorry. ;-)

How long does it take you to create a book from start to finish?

No longer than six months. I’ve finished one novel in as little as two months, but I think that was a fluke. I’d say I average about four months. Three months to get the first draft down, then a month for editing and to hear back from my beta readers.

Please list three unique blogs or web sites for writers that you read on a regular basis.

Blog of Dean Wesley Smith:

A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing:

Razored Zen:

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Though I am probably best known (among my three fans) as a fantasy writer, specifically epic fantasy, my interests as a writer are much broader. Right now I do tend to focus upon fantasy, but I’ve also penned some horror tales and one more literary novel that contains no speculative elements. I don’t wish to be one of these writers who only writes one type of novel or only writes one series, though there’s nothing wrong with that if one wants to do it. It’s just not for me.

By stating this openly, I’m hoping readers will come away with the idea that I am not a writer of just one genre or type of novel. Yes, I write fantasy and horror, but I also plan to write thrillers, dramas, more literary works, maybe even some science fiction. I might even pen something off the wall, maybe comedy. It really depends upon my mood and thought processes at any given time.

Finding me online:




Where to find my e-books:


Barnes & Noble:


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