Wren words, editing Su’s book & A-B testing – 2020 Writing Week 19

Mike GristWeekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

Last week this time I was at 55,000 words on Ghosts, the 4th Chris Wren thriller. Now I’m at 69,000. That’s 14,000 words across the 7 days, 2,000 words a day- pretty nice going really.

It started hard, though. I didn’t write on the weekend, and then Monday felt kind of like a lost day as I tried to figure out the precise next step. When I put the book down the Thursday before, it was with a twist I hadn’t at all expected coming.

It felt right though. Making it work, however, felt like scrambling to backfilling one of Trump’s whacko conspiracy theories. So Monday morning I researched, Monday afternoon I wrote something, Tuesday morning I rejected it, Tuesday afternoon I saw another way to make it work, and then finally the whole thing unlocked.

I roughed out the last 15 chapters in one go. Magic. From then on, it’s been serious writing, and it will be next week. I’ll likely get it done, it may finish just shy of 80,000. That feels short to me, though it’ll probably expand a little in editing – filling in gaps and such. It likely won’t shrink – it feels pretty tight already.

Plotting vs. pantsing

I’ve plotted before. The zombie books were all pretty much plotted out in advance, chapter by rough chapter. With Wren though, I can do that. I think this often – the fact is, both Wren and his father, the Apex, are smarter than me.

It takes me a long time to figure out what Wren will do sometimes – when to him it would be obvious. And the Apex is a devious, Moriarty-like bastard – who knows why he does the things he does?

Well, I have to. Setting off on writing each of these books is like riding a sail boat across an ocean. I have to have faith that the winds will carry me in the right direction. Whatever craft I’ve got I use to try and steer – but with such a mega-story as this, I can’t know everything in advance.

If I did try to plot tightly, I don’t think it would be very interesting. the reversal that just happened – I had no idea it would happen until I was right on top of it. After that, it seemed totally necessary. Obvious, even. things tie together neatly in ways I never could have predicted.

Su’s book!

So I am OK to share the secret now – my wife has written a book! I’ll leave it toher to announce title and cover when release rolls around – but it is really such good fun, a delightful chick-lit romcom lite about a Korean girl in Japan.

I was honored to help out with editing. We’re in the final stages now, getting a cover, smoothing final wrinkles, then release. I’ll mention it further at that time. It’s very exciting for her, and for me, really. It’s so different from what I write, but in editing it I got to adopt her voice a little and add a few interstitial bits, and that was fun.

Could I write romcom in the future? Well, maybe incorporate it into thrillers… It’s possible 😉

A-B Testing

I’m A-B testing a couple of new variables with my Facebook ads this week, and also severely cutting back & condensing my Amazon ads. The Facebook variables are:

  • Desktop vs. mobile

For a long time (forever) I have been focused on getting the cheapest clicks. CPC. CTR. I did everything I could to get them cheaper. I recently tried video ads to achieve this – I succeeded, thousands of cheap clicks – but no sales. And sales are key. So now I am focusing way more on conversion, and try to only run ads I know are working.

To that end, after a great FB thread, I’m experimenting with desktop only ads. They cost more – hence I was never getting them whe I optimized for low click price. Results are coming in slowly, but at the moment it looks like they are much more effective. I’ll keep running this one.

  • Split-testing targets

At the same time, I’m wondering which of my author targets are actually working for me. It is possible to know this too – so I made several ads targeting one author each, with analytics, and ran them. The authors are Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming and Lee Child. The ad is the same. The results?

It’s only been a couple of days – Fleming and Child returned a sale rate of 1 in 15 clicks, approx. Ludlum has had 80 clicks with no sale. Maybe he needs to be nixed off my list.

However, I was running this on mobile. I wasn’t running it for desktop, so maybe I need to run this again on desktop, if desktop does prove to be better. So many dang ways you can slice it.

  • Also, Amazon ads.

Some folks are saying it is bad practise now to have 100s of Amazon ads. It’s better to have all your star keywords in one ad, and only run keywords that work. Turn the rest off. So one keyword ad, one category ad, one auto ad, one ASIN ad.

I’ve done this.

Results? Too early to say. Not great. Spending some of my budget. Making some sales. Maybe coming out even? I only run little budgets because I’m not convinced it’s so useful.

And that is it!

By this time next week, Ghosts should be done and on first round edits, Su’s book could even be out, and hopefully I’ve mastered my FB ads and fine-tuned them down to a handful for each book.

PS – I have the Tokyo Writer’s Wrokshop tomorrow, online via zoom. I put in the first few chapters of Wren 1, to get their take. I used to attend TWW back in my OG days. It’s at 1pm there, so 5am here! They discuss a whopping 12 pieces each time, and it takes up to 5 hours. Wow, amirite? I’m behind on my reading – better get caught up, I’m waking up soon!

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