Peeling back the layers

I said yesterday as I kicked this writing thing off again that I’d share some of my goals and a look at the organized chaos that is life as I know it with everyone. Holding true to that I want to write this post in two distinct headings. First I’ll share some overall information, then break down the goals and my methods of tracking, so those interested can keep me on track and see how things are coming along.

Photo by the author taken while hiking in his hometown.

Photo by the author taken while hiking in his hometown.

To begin, let me say that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this writing thing. Some folks want to be published in magazines, or with a literary agent get a book out through a publishing house, while still others self-publish, or any combination of the above. I am in no way discarding any method that I am not actively pursuing, I have just made the personal choices that best serve my family and my goals.

In a quick overview the goal is to self-publish through several online “bookstores” my short fiction stories as well as some other projects I have in the works. At the same time I am doing that to get some work “out there”, I am working on a novella/novel that will follow a more traditional route. I have no clue if this will really work for me or not, nor will I pretend to. But I have done the due diligence to research the avenues, and I feel this is the best way to proceed. As I stated yesterday, I’ll give it a good solid go and not leave it laying by the wayside until I am certain the dream no longer has wings.

Staring down the problem (in the mirror)

Each day the goal then is to move short stories through the process of completion, until ultimately they are published as an e-book. I will be doing all the work of each step myself from the writing, to formatting, designing and laying out the cover, and so on. This is not because I think my skills are superior or because I love the idea of being self-sufficient, but rather because it is the most cost-effective way for me to get things up and running.

Here is a quick(kind of) look at my process. As with publishing methods, there is no “correct” way to get the stories living between your ears on to the page (or screen). I find that though I am often a less stringent organizer that I need some structure to my writing process.

I took an honest look at how I worked and killed a few conventions that I had established for myself over the years. One of the worst offenders was my pride, thinking it superior to write without an outline or a stringent plan that I was “bound to”. For some folks I believe it is superior, but for me it was too often either a hurdle or an excuse. So that ideology went out back and took a bullet behind the ear.

Making a brief outline allows me to organize the jumbled scenes that play in the theater of my mind at all hours of day and night. Taking the time to write up a character bio keeps me from trying to remember details that I’d otherwise invent in the moment (did the police captain have blonde hair, or was it grey…). It also allows me to really flesh out a character, to make them more “real”. And though it is often seen as unneccessary for short stories, I need to research some things to make my stories work. If I say the town the tale is set in is 200 miles from Chicago, I need to see what that area is like. If my police officers are searching for a suspect in the woods, I need to know what methods would likely be used.

So seeing what it would take me to get this down to a regular routine was a process, a somewhat annoying and I daresay chafing process. Now that it is done however, I can more clearly see what I need to do each day/week to hit my goals.

I’ve always been crazy, this is hopefully going to keep me from going insane

Ok, time to get practical. I’ll share my it-makes-sense-in-my-head process and take from it what you can use. Or if you aren’t a writer and just read this to show your support for my dreams (hi Mom, thanks for reading) you’ll have a better understanding of what I do when I brew a pot of coffee and check out.

The goal in all of this discovering what works and making a routine up is to get the drafts and jumble into tangible, and marketable, books. My intention is to self-publish 30 ebooks in 2015, but I wont yet set that number in stone. I have to see how the design and publishing elements go after I actually finish writing one. The process is designed to maximize my potential to keep writing though.

After a brainstorming session where I come up with several broad topic ideas, I isolate 3-4 of them for further developing in the short-term. The other ideas are filed away for later, knowing I’ll need a lot. Then I figure out the unique needs of each story. Does one need a good bit of research? Is one jammed full of characters? Is the plot of one extra complex? I also decide which one will be simplest to write for whatever reason.

Then I break down each day into goals based on each aspect. I’ll identify what stories need research, and what type is needed. I will decide how many “round” (major, important) characters I’ll need. I figure out which plots have complexities that need worked through. And finally I will see what one I can get to putting fingers to the keyboard and start writing.

Here is a quick example from a recent day:


  • Small town crime (police story)
  • Settings for a historical adventure series
  • Concepts for a character in an action series I have on the back burner

Character development

  • Biographies for the adventurer(s) in the series I mentioned (there were a lot!)
  • Biography of the character basics for back burner project
  • Begin thinking through character roles needed for a sci-fi series I am dreaming up


  • Outline the introductory story in the historical adventure series (in the process developed more of a sci-fi twist)
  • Outline the crime story I researched for


  • Pump out 2,000 words on my novel (my daily goal regardless of other projects)
  • Begin writing crime story

That was my plan for one day, and by God’s grace and with the help of my lovely wife running such a tight ship I cleared the entire list. Now I need to replicate that every day I am working. The process allowed me to develop, in whole or in part, no less than four short stories. All but one of them I have plans to make into a series of stories following their respective characters through several (mis)adventures. By working in this way I hope to always have a story working. As I get closer to completion of one of the shorts I will have to add formatting and cover design to the task list as well.

Part Two (you thought part one would never end, huh?)

Well, that concludes part one of this post. It also sets up my daily goals pretty well, so this last bit will be really short. With the looming goal of publishing as many short stories as possible in 2015 I set out to define things for myself. I need to bang away at the novel each day, but not let it distract me from the short story projects that by all accounts will make up most of the earnings initially.

A typical short story for publication is between 5,000-10,000 words. Knowing my tendency to be long-winded (this post as an example) I figure 8,000 will be my average, and will be my number for the goals I set. Each day then I want to accomplish the following:

  1. Write 2,000 words on my novel
  2. Write another 2,000 words in a short story, allowing me to complete at least one a week
  3. Do the needed planning to have another story in the works as soon as the first is finished
  4. Make time to do the publishing work, including cover artwork

This is all to be done in a typical 8 hour workday, so as not to let it become an obsession or take time from my family or church activities. It will take a lot of discipline for a guy who for years has had no schedule to keep nor anyone to answer to.

Thanks for peeling back the layers of my often sanity deprived mind with me and seeing how the dysfunction functions. If you have contact with me throughout the week in person or electronically feel free to hold my feet to the fire and see how I am doing with the writing goals I have established for myself. And if you know of anyone who might benefit from any of this information, please send them the link to this article. God bless.



One thought on “Peeling back the layers

  1. Pingback: Celebrating the little victories | Dave Dunmire's Writers Block

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