The Cozy Experiment, Part Three

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying some holiday fun. Patrick and I have been embracing the holiday spirit with our traditional activities, which include eating too many cookies, assembling a new LEGO set or two, hanging out with family, and seeing the latest Star Wars movie. We also watched all the Futurama holiday episodes, AS IS TRADITIONAL. And we watched some of those super-corny Christmas movies. My favorite of the bunch was Netflix’s The Knight Before Christmas about a Knight who was thrown forward in time to fall in love with a modern woman. That’s some quality cheese, my friends.

Today’s post is a quick update on my Cozy Experiment, which I’ve written about here and here. If you’ve been following along you might remember that I have three cozy goals: Have More Fun, Write More Books, and Publish More Frequently. And to test my goals out I’m writing cozy mystery novels.

Header: An old-fashioned typewriter and the words "the cozy experiment" in a white circle.

During my last update, I mentioned that I’d written the first draft of a novel in three weeks. It was fun, but it also wiped me out. In November I repeated that process but I did it more slowly and took the full month to write a first draft. That was still plenty fast, but I had actual days off and the process was much less stressful. With some practice behind me, I can say that my first two goals of Have more Fun and Write More Books seem quite achievable.

Publishing More Frequently

In December I decided to tackle that third goal: publishing more frequently. The first thing I did this month was set some scary deadlines. I went to the front page of my website and added a notice saying that I’d have new books out in December and January. Stating my deadlines publicly lit a fire under my butt for sure. And it forced me to divvy up my work schedule. I only had so many days for editing, and so many days for proofreading, and so on. Patrick started working on our template for the ebook early in the month and we hustled.

Our goal was to get The Case of the Missing Finger out on December 23rd, and we released it on the 19th. It’s been an educational month, and a good one, but not everything went smoothly.

Lessons Learned in November/December

  1. Having a deadline is great because it breaks me out of my perfectionist cycle. I could have easily spent months tweaking that story and worrying about it, but because I had a deadline, I was able to publish more quickly.

  2. It’s great that I want to stick to a release schedule, but I need to put some buffer in that schedule. I got sick this month, and I ended up working anyway because I hadn’t built in any leeway. And I was sick for ten days instead of three because I never got the rest I needed.

  3. My proofreading process wasn’t sufficient! I released The Case of the Missing Finger and the ebook had a bunch of errors in it. As you might imagine, I was very annoyed with myself for letting that happen! Back in the day, when I iterated on a manuscript for a year or longer, I was better able to pick up things like missing words and typos. But how do you fully proofread a book in three days, after you’ve been staring at that same book for a month? It’s tough, because the eye tends to skip right past errors when you’re familiar with those sentences. I’m talking about big glaring errors, like my character Violet becoming Violent.  So I spent two days listening to the book in audio, going word by word, listening for errors. It turns out my ears are better at proofreading than my eyes are! Patrick uploaded the fixed manuscript tonight and I breathed a big sigh of relief. Audio proofing will be my new process until I’ve got the cash to outsource proofreading entirely. It’s slow but it works. To the very kind reviewer who wrote a review of my book and who didn’t say YOUR TYPOS SUCK, LADY, you have my eternal gratitude. And big thanks to my internet friend M who sent me an email and politely pointed out that the manuscript was looking sloppy. We all need friends who will tell us when we’re walking around with our fly unzipped. 🙂

  4. Writing these cozies has shown me that I love the traditional cozy genre! For the new series I let myself lean into the sentimental and the slightly-silly, and it’s been enjoyable. I worried that I’d be irritated by the no-cussing restriction (something most cozy fans prefer) but it’s been no big deal. My previous mysteries were more amateur sleuth mysteries than true cozies, and cozy-cozies are pretty darn fun too.

  5. Also, working on multiple books in the same series at the same time is rather efficient. For example, I wrote the first two cruise cozies back to back before going back to edit them. That allowed me to edit book one with a greater knowledge of the characters and what’s coming next.

  6. Writing “to market” can be great if you enjoy the genre. Before writing my cruise ship mysteries, I read other cruise ship mysteries. I took a week or two to learn what readers like about those stories, and then I included some similar themes in my books. On the one hand, that sounds very calculating, doesn’t it? But doing market research hasn’t stopped me from making this series entirely my own. In fact, the idea for the mystery came to me long before I did my research for this series. The story is 100% mine, but a few of the tropes (Ellie being a single woman starting over, for example) were taken from my research. Old-me would have thought that “writing to market” made me a money-grubbing hack, but now I can see it’s all about understanding readers better and making a few tweaks to fit reader expectations.

Anyway, I might be too deep into the nerdy authorial weeds with this post, but I wanted to say that it’s been an interesting month and I’ve learned a lot.

Moving Forward

The Cozy Experiment continues! In January I’ll post about my goals for the upcoming year including what books I plan to write. (hint: Not just cozies) I’m expecting a fun and busy multi-book year with a lot of new releases. That’s something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time, so it’s exciting to put those plans into motion. Scary too.

Thanks for following my Cozy Experiment, blog buddies, and Merry Christmas. 🙂