On Thursday, Joe Konrath published a guest post by cozy mystery writer Tim Myers. At the end of the post, Joe Konrath also launched the eight hour e-book challenge. Basically, the idea is to write, edit/proof, format, create the cover and publish an e-book in an eight-hour period, all from scratch.
A bunch of people at Kboards decided to accept the challenge and started writing. At first I was on the fence. But since it was a weekend and I had just finished rewrites on a post-apocalyptic novelette (coming soon from Pegasus Pulp), I thought, “Why the hell not?” and decided to give it a try.
First I needed an idea. On my harddrive, I have a folder named “Inspiration”. It’s full of images – photos, bookcovers, concept art, fashion illustrations, etc… – that I find interesting and that I collected from around the web. When I’m low on ideas, I look through that folder, pick an image that inspires me and start writing. So I opened my inspiration folder, found an image I liked (this whimsical piece of concept art by Jonny Duddle) and started writing.
I wrote in the voice of an old pirate spinning a tale in a disreputable harbour bar. However, my narrator as well as the other characters still needed names. Now characters either show up on my mental doorstep with names attached (as was the case with Stella d’Anvers, Arianna Delora, Carrie Ragnarok or Holly di Marco) or I have to wait for them to reveal their names to me (which can take a long time – I’m still waiting in the case of the Traveller). Now my old pirate narrator did not show up with a name attached. But I didn’t have the time to wait for him to tell me his name either, so I had to force the process and give him a name.
Now there is a brand of Danish cheese that I quite like. I always thought the name sounded a bit like an old sea salt spinning sailor’s yarns, so my narrator now had a name, Old Jakob Mommark. The other characters quickly acquired names as well. For the Captain, I pictured a pirate with a bushy red beard, so he became Captain Scarlet. It’s a good name, so good that Gerry Anderson used it in one of his puppet series of the 1960s, which I was not consciously aware of at the time. I pictured the first mate as a skinny guy, so he became Mr. Bones. Meanwhile, Mr. Scrabbles just sounded piratical. I named their ship the Bloody Skull, because it’s great name for a pirate ship.
I typed the whole story pretty much straight through, with a break for lunch. The only research I did was trying to describe the “plants” as rubbery without using the word, since the story is set at a time (late 17th century) before rubber was known in the Western world. However, the properties of natural rubber were well known in Asia and Central and Southern America long before the Europeans caught on. And since my story was set in the Caribbean, my narrator might well have come across the substance. The only question was how he would call it. So I read up a bit about plants that were used as sources of natural rubber in the region and found the guayule plant as well as the Castilla elastica tree, which was called “palo de hule” in Spanish (since I doubt that Jakob Mommark speaks Nahuatl). I wasted about fifteen minutes on researching rubber plants.
For the cover, I looked through a collection of public domain vintage art and finally found an image of pirates burying a treasure. The red leather background is pretty much the same template I use for several of my historical covers, so I can whip them up pretty quickly by now. I also made a piratical vignette as a scene divider.
I let the finished story rest for a few hours, while I watched TV, then gave it a read-through and corrected any typos and other issues I found. Now my first drafts are normally pretty clean these days, but I usually do several passes and pass it to a beta reader as well. Still, this was supposed to be quick and besides, the first draft was mostly clean (if there had been mayor issues, I would have done another pass), so into formatting it went. I’ll probably give it another read-through in the next few days and correct any lingering typos I find. Now my formatting and conversation process is pretty streamlined these days and Old Mommark’s Tale doesn’t have much dialogue (typographical quotation marks are the biggest pain in the arse during formatting IMO), so I got it done in half an hour. Another hour and I had uploaded the story to all retailers and only needed to wait for it to go live. I also made the book page here on the site in that time.
All in all, not counting breaks and the retailers’ processing times, I got Old Mommark’s Tale, a short story of 3750 words, done in about seven hours.
Will I produce all my books this way in the future? Nope. First of all, this challenge only works for short stories. And I do like to have a bit more time to let a story “settle” before going into editing/rewriting/proofing mode. And if my cover creation and formatting process wasn’t as streamlined by now as it is due to more than two-years of indie publishing experience, I wouldn’t have made the challenge.
I view this challenge as something of a mini NaNoWriMo. I wouldn’t want to write this way all the time, but for one project it was fun. Plus, this proved that I can do it. IMO the main purpose of challenges like NaNoWriMo or Michael Moorcock’s infamous “book in a weekend” sessions or Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing in Public project or this eight-hour e-book challenge is to demonstrate that it is possible write and publish something from scratch quickly without overthinking it and still put out a decent quality e-book. This is also enormously helpful in defusing potentially harmful myths such as “Writing fast is writing badly” or “If you haven’t rewritten something at least X times, it cannot be any good”. If you’re struggling with perfectionism, a challenge like this can help you break through those blocks.
And here is the result of the eight hour e-book challenge: Pegasus Pulp presents: Old Mommark’s Tale
In a tavern on Tortuga, the pirate Old Mommark recalls an adventure of his youth and tells a tale of an uncharted island, a great treasure, the gruesome Captain Scarlet and the even more gruesome monster that dragged him to his doom. But is it a true story or just sailor’s yarn, spun under the influence of too much rum?
For more information, visit the Old Mommark’s Tale page.
Buy it for the low price of 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Casa del Libro, W.H. Smith, Nook UK, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books and XinXii.