Astra Nullius publication schedule changes in 2018

The first year of Astra Nullius weighed in at 54,000 words over 12 installments. About 3,000 additional words were cut as I made edits to scenes that weren’t working, and around 12,000 words are sitting in documents that are in the process of being turned into next year’s stories.

That’s a decent chunk of text for an amateur author, and while there are a few tweaks I’ve considered making, I’m happy with my work overall. While I’ve written longer stories, this was the first year I held myself to monthly deadlines and routinely published my work. I learned a lot about writing, editing, and marketing in 2017.

My biggest lesson: serials are meant to be, well, serial. Dumping a huge chunk of text once a month makes it harder for readers to follow along as the story unfolds. Starting in January 2018, I’ll be moving to a weekly publication schedule. One new point-of-view scene will go up every week, and I’ll start moving into longer, more complex stories that don’t fit neatly into 4,000-word blocks. You’ll be getting the same amount of content, with around 1,000 words published per week, plus some possible bonus stories if I have the time to finish them.

The email newsletter will keep going out once a month, since a weekly newsletter would get annoying pretty quickly. I’m also working on a nicely formatted ebook version of the first year’s stories, which I’ll send out via the newsletter when it’s completed. I’ll include a few different file types so folks who prefer to read on e-readers, tablets, and phones will have options that aren’t eye-straining walls of text on a white background.

I’m excited about everything I have planned for the crew in 2018; it’s been fun establishing the world they live in, but now it’s time to raise the stakes. The galaxy’s about to get way more dangerous, and the crew of the Benevolence is going to have to make some changes if they want to keep on flying.

2017 Wrap-up: The end of the beginning

Usually, I devote a little blog space at the end of the year to quantifying the work I’ve done and making grand plans for the year ahead. But this is 2017, and a series of color-coded graphs can’t quite capture everything that happened.

I didn’t do much formal tracking of my word count this year. If I had, you’d see long lulls punctuated by spikes of feverish activity. You might be able to pick out periods where I got deep in the weeds of stories that didn’t pan out. You’d see the same scenes getting picked at over and over. I didn’t write with my usual joyful abandon in 2017. A lot of the words I ground out were hard won.

Keeping up with Astra Nullius was, in some ways, the easiest piece of longform writing I’ve ever done. The short story format allowed me to toss out work I wasn’t enjoying and play with interesting ideas that weren’t robust enough to be entire novels. This year, I made a point of setting aside the idea that I was writing something intended for traditional publication and just let myself write what I wanted to write.

In other ways, this was the hardest writing project I’ve ever embarked on. For the first few months of stories, hitting publish or even just sending a draft to my beta reader was enough to leave me shaky and anxious for days. When I started publishing Astra Nullius, I hadn’t let anyone read my fiction in five and a half years.

I wrote the first story for Astra Nullius in October 2016. Hillary Clinton was cruising toward what looked like an easy victory, and while I had plenty to worry about in my personal life, I was optimistic about where my country was headed. The fantasy world I was creating was a fun sandbox to play around in: the messy end of a Star Trek-esque utopia, viewed through the eyes of libertine heroes who want to bring back the good old days but spend most of their time just scraping by.

2017 was a weird period for us all. Talking about my personal life has never come easy to me, and it’s been especially hard this year. It was a weird, frightening, overwhelming time in my life, and I ended up slamming face-first into a lot of major life events in very quick succession.

I think it’s pretty obvious how all that played out in my fiction. I’d originally planned Astra Nullius as a loving send-up of pulp scifi, a goofy homage to a genre I’ve always turned to for comfort. What I actually wrote was stranger and sadder, a story about how victory sometimes looks like making it through another day.

I’m excited about everything I have planned for the crew in 2018. It’s been fun establishing the world they live in, but now it’s time to raise the stakes. I’m also changing the publication schedule and working some new ways to read the series that won’t require readers to slog through eye-straining walls of text. Stay tuned for more updates in the next few weeks.

National Novel Writing Month 2017

I’m going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. I’ve written upwards of 20,000 words in a month before, but a full 50,000 is going to be a stretch for me.

While it’s not likely that I’ll be stumbling over the finish line on November 30th, I’m hoping NaNo is the kick in the butt I need to work ahead on Astra Nullius. I’ve got big plans for 2018, most significantly a change in the way I’m publishing stories. Starting in January 2018, instead of dumping a whole story on the site once a month, I’ll release one point-of-view character’s segment once per week. This means I can be more flexible with the lengths of my stories, letting them end when they need to end instead of forcing everything into the same 4000 to 5000-word box. It also means I’ll have space for some fun pieces of short fiction that don’t quite fit into the arc of a longer story, like snippets of characters’ messages to each other.

A new thing I’m doing: commissioning art

Now that I have some spare cash from a new job and I’m not throwing all my extra money into a downpayment savings account, I can finally start doing something I’ve wanted to try for a while: commissioning work from artists. This is Sera in her usual outfit, drawn by Pukaon on Tumblr. I love it!

This is Sera’s typical outfit–she cleans up nice when she has to, but rarely feels the need to go out in anything fancier than this. I wanted her look to be a cross between Han Solo’s iconic vest and Kaylee from Firefly’s coveralls. She’s very much inspired by both those characters: rough around the edges, morally flexible where local trade laws are concerned, frequently rushing to fix a busted ship, easily distracted by doe-eyed brunettes.

Sera is by far the easiest point-of-view character for me to write, which is why she’s been disproportionately represented in my stories this year. Even when she’s not the focus of a story, her impulsivity and her shady past are great sources of conflict. I’m jazzed about getting the chance to roll out her character arc over the next few years; she’s got a lot of old scars, both literal and metaphorical, and some of the decisions she makes are going to change the shape of life on the Benevolence in a major way.