I preach against procrastination all the time, arguing that it's a form of perfectionism, thinking you have to have all the answers in place before you begin writing. Instead, I tell students in my writing workshops that authors start out with a bunch of questions, and their stories are a way of discovering answers to those questions. Not only does that take the pressure off--you don't have to figure out everything before you put fingers to keyboard--it also makes for a more interesting story because if you didn't know something was going to happen, it's impossible for you to telegraph that to the reader.
All that to say, I've been procrastinating on Snowbound, the fifth novel in the Milligan Creek Series. Yes, I've been tremendously busy with other work, but I've also been fighting fear. Is the book going to be any good? Can I really pull this off again? Did I just get lucky the last few times? The same sorts of questions I ask at the start of any creative endeavour.
However, now that I've put out a novel a year for the past four years, by the time April rolls around, writing the next instalment of the Milligan Creek Series feels like exactly what I should be doing at this time of year. Also, thanks to the coronavirus, some of my other work has slowed down, giving me a bit more time. That and the fact I tend to wake up early (unwillingly), sometimes as early as 4:30 a.m., means I have a bit more time on my hands. So, on Sunday, with about 2.5 chapters written, I decided it was time to finally get the ball rolling.
Now here I am three days later. It's 5:58 a.m., I'm well into chapter four, and I'm more excited about this book than ever. Furthermore, I've committed to write about 1,000 words per day on the book until it's done. So, about a month from now, I should have a spanking new first draft.
That said, rather than working on the book right now, I'm writing this blog post. Another form of procrastination? It could be, so, time to get back to it . . .
The title of this post is a Homer Simpson quote, in case you're wondering. This is an interview I did recently talking about The Great Grain Elevator Incident and the Milligan Creek Series in general.
That's right, folks. All four books at one low price--just $9.99. You can get your Kindle copy here.
Currently, all four Milligan Creek Series books are in the top 20 on Amazon.com's Canadian Literature's best-seller list, and two of them are in the top 10. That's pretty exciting. I'm also getting a lot of great reviews, including a rating of 4.8/5 on Up the Creek! after 40 reviews. If you've read any of the books in the series and haven't reviewed or rated them yet, please take a moment to do so on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Goodreads. Such reviews and ratings improve the search rankings, meanings more people will be exposed to the books. Thanks!
It's from Briar's Reviews. She's been a big fan of the other books in the series so far as well. Here's an excerpt:
Milligan Creek is one of the best middle grade series out there. Seriously – it brightens up my mood like Harry Potter did back in my youth. This series is packed full of fun, small town vibes, amazing friendships and hilarity. It’s the perfect series for those middle grade readers who want more than picture books but less than the big Harry Potter series (this book is under 200 pages!) . . . Overall, this book is an absolute gem as expected! I absolutely loved this book and I’m so happy I was able to jump back into this world. It’s one of my guilty pleasures that brings a big smile to my face and makes my days brighter!
You can read the rest of the review here.
For some reason that I'm still trying to figure out, the Milligan Creek Series is currently exploding on Amazon, particularly my first book, Up the Creek. Ever since The Great Grain Elevator Incident came out, sales of Up the Creek have skyrocketed, particularly in the United States--to the point that as of this very moment, Up the Creek is at the top of the Canadian Literature chart, Unlimited is in the number seven spot, and The Water War is gaining fast at number thirty-four. It's probably only a matter of time before The Great Grain Elevator Incident also finds its way onto the chart. It's a bit surreal, but I'm enjoying the moment while it lasts!
I'm probably a surprised by this news than anyone because just five days ago, I wrote a post saying I hoped to have the first draft finished by the end of August, and here we are a day before the end of July, and I've already reached my goal!
It all started yesterday morning when I stumbled into my office at 6:11 a.m. (I usually write for 1-1.5 hours before breakfast) trying to solve a problem I'd left for myself on Saturday. Suddenly, inspiration struck, and I was off. Incidentally, I love it when my characters surprise me, because that means it's almost guaranteed my readers will be surprised, seeing as I couldn't possibly have subconsciously steered the story in a certain direction, dropping hints along the way. Unless my subconscious mind was already doing that for me . . .
At any rate, after that flash of inspiration, I started writing, thinking I would knock off a chapter or two. But, as with the final few chapters of The Water War, I just kept going--and going--until my typical quitting time of 4:30 p.m. By that time I had written just over 10,000 words, effectively bringing my story to a conclusion. I still need to add a bit more to the denouement to tie up a few loose ends, but for all intents and purposes, the first draft is complete. A huge load off my mind. Now the fun part begins--editing! I'd say I plan to have that process complete by the end of August, but I know I'll have it done sooner than that. Then it's off to my merciless beta readers--my wife (Heidi) and my oldest daughter (Gretchen). Once I get their feedback, I'll make a few final tweaks, and then we should be good to go. Meanwhile, Kierston is doing preliminary sketches for the cover. It all goes well, we are looking at a September release date.
I will say one thing: although I always knew roughly how the story would end, this book takes a much more serious turn toward the end than the previous three books in the series, with something happening that will change Milligan Creek forever. In this way, it mirrors some of the real-life events that happened while I was growing up in Foam Lake that inspired the story. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just leave it at that. The next time you hear from me, it should be to show you a preliminary cover sketch or maybe even a brief excerpt. Stay tuned!
Once again, I let nearly a month lapse on The Great Grain Elevator. There I was with a great head of steam, hoping to finish the first draft in June, but suddenly I was engulfed by a sea of other work, including finishing up my new documentary, releasing the latest issue of Meth the Immortal (plus a compendium of all three issues), and various other side projects that I do to keep the lights on. At any rate, I started up again yesterday, and the manuscript now stands at just over 28,000 words. Typically, these books run to about 45,000 words, so I'm getting close, and now my goal is to have a finished draft by the end of August. We'll see. The good news is, I just went through all that I've written so far and did an edit, and I'm still super excited about the book. I'm also about to get Kierston started on the cover, which always offers a good incentive to keep slogging. On that note, back to my draft.
My schedule in June has finally let up a bit, allowing me plenty of time to get cracking on book four in the Milligan Creek Series, The Great Grain Elevator Incident. I just cracked 20,000 words, which means I'm almost halfway to the finish line (novels in this series are running about 45,000 words). As in previous books, my characters keep laying waste to my outline, insisting on doing all sorts of things that I hadn't planned for. Thankfully, they're all smarter than me, so I just follow them around transcribing their antics. If all goes according to plan, I just might finish the first draft by the end of this month, which puts me on schedule to release at the end of August or early September. In the meantime, here's part one of a documentary on "The Disappearing Grain Elevator" to help whet your appetite.
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life