I recently released the first two stories in the Powers, Masks & Capes Universe and I figured I’d give people a glimpse into the backend of why and how it came about.
The basic idea was that they offered a bunch of cover prompts, you chose the ones you liked the best and based off (I believe) random ranked selection, you got given a cover.
In my case, I didn’t actually choose any covers. I nixed one cover which I had seen too much (all the covers were based off stock art) and the rest I liked enough to be willing to take and use as a prompt.
When I finally received the Technopath, I immediately knew it had to be a superhero story. Specifically, it had to be a supervillain story.
And the Technopath wrote herself. The biting wit, the caustic tone to her voice, the cynicism, it came alive without prompting. The world decided to breathe its way to life through her, being one of those characters and worlds that just refused to be quiet.
I can’t speak for all writers, but for me, some characters, some worlds just come alive without needing any real ‘work’ on my side. Often, it’s in genres or things that I know very well, but sometimes, the character voice is so strong it writes themselves.
In those cases, writing is not just fast, it is effortless. Thousands upon thousands of words get written in a day, and a short novellete like this gets done in 2-3 days.
Other times, you struggle, and pushing out even a few hundred words is a pain. Sure, you can push, and the more time your butt is in the chair, the more words get down.
But some stories, some series, some worlds just want to be written.
At least for me.
Releasing the Technopath into the derby also highlighted how important a fan base was. I won’t mention the exact numbers, but let’s just say that it barely cracked double digits in terms of total number of books borrowed/read.
And it was even less since I had it in KU for a while, which meant I earned less than $0.20 per full read.
But I knew I wanted to keep writing in this world. So… I started making tiny plans in my head for them.
The Paragon was the second novellete in the series that I wrote, and it was done in (again) four or five days. It took longer, partly because I had to go back and edit the work due to having dictated a chunk of it. The character didn’t sing to me to the same way, but I loved the concept of creating a ‘Superman’ character, but with a justifiable reason why he’s a little… off sometimes.
The cover itself isn’t as good as my usual ones, and that’s entirely my fault. I should work on finding a proper cover at some point, but I just hadn’t much time. Nor did I want to spend a lot since the financial return on writing novelletes and shorts are incredibly low.
I’m (mostly) underwater for most of my shorts, once you include narration, editing and cover cost. Even when I’m profitable, it’s in the double digits level of profitibality. And since this isn’t tied into an existing series (like A Thousand Li: the Favored Son), I don’t expect much from it financially.
It’s still a ton of fun to write.
Then Why Write It?
That’s the obvious question of course. Why write something that won’t earn much? If I spent the same amount of time writing a A Thousand Li short or a System Apocalypse short, I’d obviously earn more, if not writing a full book.
The simple answer is because I write to tell stories. As a discovery writer, I don’t necessarily know what the hell is going to happen when I write. Certainly, even when I do have rough outlines (objectives or ‘ends’), the ending and how I get to the ending is not entirely fixed.
Writing works like these let me explore the stories my brain tells in a concrete way. After that, once it’s written, well… I might as well publish them. 🙂
As for why novelletes and shorts instead of full novels? Partly, because of the entire conceit of the Power, Masks & Capes universe. It’s a World War Z meets superheroes conceit, an interviewers notes of a superhero world. Sort of like Marvels. And as such, it has to be short – 10k is about the average I’d expect here. A little longer, a little shorter perhaps.
But also, it’s a craft thing. Learning to write shorts and novelletes forces me to be more concise on my plots, teaches me beginnings, middles and ends and with new characters, develop a world and character for them quickly and make them (hopefully) memorable. It also lets me try different ways of writing, switching out the perspectives and voices.
I don’t know how well I do, but the more I practise, the better I’ll get.
And I get to do that in the few extra days when I’m not working on the ‘main’ series, which means it can be done. Whereas if I tried to write a full novel (even a short 40k novel) it would take much, much longer (at 2k a day, 20 days. If we assume 1 day a week, that’s nearly half the year).
Nevermind the fact that tapping into different stories lets me write faster as I get a boost in creativity, allowing my brain to rest on the the ‘main’ stories and my subconscious decide what next to do.
I’m having fun with the novelletes I’m creating. Shorts for the Power, Masks & Capes universe and the Eternal Night universe will be written and created through this year, at least a few more each before I’m done along with the shorts for the Patrons. Each will be set-up to be self-contained, so they won’t necessarily need to be read in order, and there’s thus no ‘end’ to worry about.