The Pre-Production Process (SPP #130)

This week, the guys talked about the pre-production process. The way Sean and Johnny develop their stories with beats has evolved constantly with each project, and it’s always getting better.
We also had tons of great questions from viewers about how Dave handles pre-production. With Sean and Johnny always going on and on about THEIR beats and production process, it seems everyone (myself included) was very interested in what Dave does on his end.
Some very interesting stuff came out of the conversation!
Here’s the video version:

Show Episode Transcript

Self publishing podcast episode number 130.
This episode of the self publishing podcast is brought to you by 99 designs, the online market place that helps you get outstanding book cover designs at an affordable price. Start your custom design today at and enjoy a free power pack upgrade valued at 99 bucks.
Welcome to the self publishing podcast where if you want something done right, you`ve got to do it yourself. And now here are your hosts, three guys who took the red bill and the blue pill Johnny, Sean and Dave.
Johnny: Hey everyone and welcome to this self publishing podcast, the podcast that follows three full time authors as we attempt to change the face of any publishing. Join us in our trail blazing guests as we shove aside boundaries, freely experiment and occasionally screw up. I`m Johnny B. Truant and my co-hosts are Sean Platt and David Wright, and as we share our journey with you remember that, despite what some people may tell you, there is no one true path to being a successful writer and your mileage may vary. That is a long intro. I like the new intro, but I feel that’s it`s too long. But we wanted to get a lot of things in there, we wanted to get the– this is added advice like– I mean it`s kind of advice, but it`s really not. It`s like kind of like this is what we are doing and we wanted to get– I don’t know, we need to get a lot of stuff in there, but it was so much simpler before.
Sean: It`s typically Roman Sans party, is what it is.
Johnny: I know these people could have used an editor.
Sean: Yeah, we should have had Dave do it.
Dave: Yes.
Johnny: Speaking of Dave’s next week– no I said Dave’s plural. Next week we will have two guest, it`s going to be an all star extravaganza. It`s going to be Dave…
Sean: And one of them has a fancy mustache.
Johnny: Yes, and I want him to be a character in the second Dream Engine sequel. He is David Gaughran and Joanna Penn will both be joining us next week. We`ll be recording that on Halloween. Two people with accents if you watch live, it will actually be on Halloween. It will not be scary though, so those of you with small children still shouldn’t let them listen.
Sean: Dave`s favorite day of the year.
Dave: It is.
Johnny: Do you stay in and be moody?
Dave: Yes, it’s a departure from my normal days. No I actually get out and spread the moodiness.
Johnny: Spread the moodiness. I wanted to mention something before we get started…
Dave: Wait, wait, wait. I have an answer to Sean’s question. I believe children don’t come to our house on Halloween.
Johnny: They probably are afraid of the bear. I can’t believe Sean and I made the same joke.
Dave: But any way–
Johnny: That’s really regent too, like bear Halloween, it doesn’t even make sense. Do you also celebrate summerween?
Dave: That’s another thing all together.
Johnny: All right, so here is the thing I wanted to mention. We are part of a– and of course in true you know Johnny fashion where I`m prepared, I don’t actually have all of the details, so hopefully Sean will be able to fill in the details, but we are going to be part of a…
Sean: Are you expecting details from me, I don’t even know what you are talking about, but I can all ready tell you I`m not prepared.
Johnny: Okay well that– good, so we are doing we are doing well– is we are going to be– we are part of a Facebook promotion event called march to a best seller. Sean actually put– had something in the original about match to best seller, or is it match to best seller 2. And it`s one day sale on books for authors on November 7th and so– books for like 99 cents. So I don’t even remember what we contributed. Oh I`m not allowed to talk about what we contributed.
Sean: No.
Johnny: Okay. So I`m not allowed to talk about that. Okay great, so there you go, there I have closed the loop on that one, little bit of mystery, but you can go ahead and say that you will attend because what it is will be good, and then we will talk about it– we will be able to talk about it soon.
Sean: Yeah and it is awesome.
Johnny: And, but even if you hate us, like there is lots of other good books. So you can go ahead and sign up to be part of that at self publishing So what`s going on with you guys? Why are we here today?
Dave: Well we are going to talk about pre-production.
Johnny: Okay, it`s good.
Dave: We have some comments already.
Johnny: Oh, good.
Dave: Buddy Got says I wonder if Dave`s pre-production process involves him meditating while new age music is playing and he is chanting peace and love over and over again.
Johnny: When he– when you started the name new I thought he was going to say the name nude.
Sean: I did too.
Dave: I too. Garrett Robinson says inquiring minds want to know how much of Dave’s pre-production time must be spent in the basement.
Sean: Or in the just like abject anger.
Johnny: In anger or in the basement, he could do both.
Dave: Monica Lionel says she is watching live this week. We are sorry Monica.
Sean: Really, you have nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon?
Dave: She must be like suicidal or something.
Sean: Well, this isn’t going to help.
Dave: Better off Undead well though.
Sean: No, Better off undead has helped no one, never.
Johnny: Do you…?
Sean: Worry about it? No that means it’s actually helpful.
Johnny: Yeah, I feel like we need voice mails to– we don’t, I`m trying to do like six things at once. And so today we are going to talk about pre-production. We are going to talk about the beats process. We actually did a– Sean and I did a thing recently with Joseph Michael, the learn scrivener fast guy who we really like and we go into a lot of sort of…
Sean: Oh! My God let that guy blow.
Johnny: They call it scrivener porn. So we were talking about the– it was actually the Dream Engine two beats which the working title is the tech engine, and the people aren’t– because it’s a scrivener audience like his thing is learn scrivener fast and they were just like ah, like he did a screen share thing where he was going through, and this will part of Fiction Unboxed 1.5. He is going to do a tour of that file for that too, but I guess it’s just like that was so fun and we`ve been talking about pre-production so much and beats so much that it`s– I have many superlatives to say about.
Sean: Well it`s just that it`s evolved so much since just the way we did it a year ago. A year ago was– we were a few weeks away from Write Publish Repeat coming out. And our process was, I mean the core of the process was the same, but man has evolved and just you know it’s really become something almost totally different. The term beats 2.O really is fitting, it’s the next generation.
Johnny: Do you– speaking of speaking of the sequel to the Dream Engine, do you want talk about what you may have or may not you may have been doing before the brochure began Sean that you were all excited about?
Sean: Yeah I just started; I just started the edit of the first words. So…
Johnny: Do you want to give away?
Sean: Actual…
Johnny: Do you want to give a little more background for the whole [crosstalk 07:30]
Sean: The actual writing…
Johnny: Or should I just keep talking over.
Sean: Yeah, just go ahead that’s cool.
Johnny: That’s cool.
Sean: The actual writing has started. What we are doing, we are doing this Unboxed 1.5 is a little different than the first Unboxed, which the first unboxed really was live, and that was just murder and there was no reason to do that again. For this one it was more about capturing our stuff and then posting it, but one of the things that made the first Fiction Unboxed so difficult, was that we would– we had to post live to the blog every single day, after we had finished you know whatever we were doing that day and some of those– I mean it was hard.
So Johnny would finish his words, I finish my edit, we`d post each of our stuff to the blog and then we would send an email through AWeber and it was just– like it was 11:30 at night some nights, you know when we’re on the project all day from like 5:30 in the morning. It was just; it was those long-long-long days. So what we`ve done this time is we’ve actually had our first story meeting, and Johnny has written his first batch of words and we just– we were kind of collecting that all, and we are actually getting transcriptions as we go and we will be putting all of it up on the site.
So every day we’ll have a blog post just like we did for the original Fiction Unboxed, we are just kind of creating the content ahead of time. So we will be running like a week ahead of the actual posting, and I got to edit the first words today and it was really exciting to jump right into the world and it was a lot of fun, I`m really looking forward to the project.
Johnny: It`s an interesting…
Dave: Can we do…
Johnny: Go ahead Dave
Dave: Can we do a Dave Unboxed where I like, write like 5000 words and hit them all, and just throw them away and then bitch about it for about an hour?
Sean: I thought that would be…
Johnny: The funny thing is that you are joking, but I think that would be a legit product.
Sean: No, it would be amazing actually; I think people would rather…
Dave: Watch me not get a book done in 30 days.
Sean: Dave Unleashed, Dave Untethered, like Dave…
Dave: Untethered, is that a blame poster?
Johnny: He is off his tether; it’s like when underdog got away in France.
Sean: I think it would be really-really fantastic, and if you are willing I`m so there. But yeah– what were you going to say Johnny?
Johnny: What we said because we– like Sean said we have already recorded. We are working ahead to be a synchronous and prepare better and one of the things we said in the intro video that we recorded was that, Fiction Unboxed gave you a very raw look at our process. It was like let`s just– here it is. Here it is live and we are going to scramble like mad, but I think that 1.5 is going to give you a purer look at our process, because normally when we write a book, believe it or not we are not trying to conduct a live event and post things to the blog, and so this gives us time to settle into the story and not be manic and nervous about it, and not have to worry about are we fulfilling this are we fulfilling that.
And we will have Q&A sessions for it, but it won’t be– other than that there aren’t these live demands on us. So it’s really pretty cool and I`m a week into it now, and that`s a big chunk and it’s a different level of exploration of the process. Sean, have you read any of the development diaries yet or no?
Sean: No, I haven’t.
Johnny: Okay so one of the things, but I did say this to you personally was that I realized like–because every time we do something like this, we get a little bit more insight into things that we have been taking for granted. And I was very aware this time of how I was trying to sort of check off lists that are on a check list when I begin a new book, and especially a sequel. So it was like we had to establish what happened between the end of Dream Engine one and the beginning of Dream Engine two.
We have to introduce some elements of the world that we know we’ll need later. We have to introduce characters without being info dumpy. And there’s all these things that we need to sort of– it’s kind of like pushing a boulder. It takes a lot of momentum at first and then it’s easy, and so those first few days there was a lot of– it wasn’t as smooth and there was a lot more like okay stuff I have to get in. I have to check off those boxes, and over the past two days it’s really gotten to the point where, okay now we are in flow, like now this is the point where the magic stuff starts to come out, and Sean I know you are not far into it, but just like in Fiction Unboxed one there are some things that are just like wow Holy shit, like where did that come from, and it explains this whole thing that we are going to need for the world.
Sean: Well I love– I don’t know how much we actually want to talk about this story here, but those two first scenes were actually born at the summit. You know the opening scenes there we talked about it in the room, and they don’t really change that much in tone and in temp. And what’s really cool about them is that basically one is an interrogation of the scene, and then the other one is a reaction to the interrogation of the scene with Eila.
Dave: You can`t have an interrogation scene, there’s a trick.
Johnny: There are no memory wipes, no children in jeopardy.
Dave: You have an interrogation scene in every single collective lingual book except for crash I think.
Sean: Yeah, but this is steam punk interrogation which is totally okay.
Johnny: Right, they are speaking to the new ones rather than some other machine.
Sean: I love the name of the new ones by the way, awesome and giant LOL and Gerome.
Dave: Okay, let’s get a little more insight so that we can…
Johnny: That’s why you shouldn’t let me name people. I was so annoyed by that. Okay so maybe we should go down too much of the rabbit holes but…
Sean: Well, the point is in all of this that it was really cool that– that we could do 1.5 this way because our intent was– you know we talked about this a lot before the first one even started. The fact that we had to make all that up at the beginning. Normally even if Johnny is just writing based on skeletal beats, we`ve still marinated with the idea for a while like we know you know a month ahead of time what we are going to write. So there is some amount of becoming comfortable with the idea. With unboxed it wasn’t, we knew we were going to write something, and then on day four there is the idea finally and now we can go, and now we have been talking about this for a few months, we have the summit. I spent a month on these beats which is the longest I’ve ever spent on beats…
Johnny: Oh my God the beats. It`s amazing where this world has gone. We were accused, he knows he was accusing us via email of having this all staged because there is so much to the world.
Dave: we have experiments.
Johnny: We were accused; he knows he was accusing us. I`m okay with it, but I`m accusing you not [crosstalk 14:40]
Sean: Yeah the language on the email was actually, I won’t tell anyone I promise just admitted it, but that was– we had to go back and we had to– this was just different we had time to settle with the ideas. And so we had an opportunity with 1.5 to do a better job, not necessarily with the draft, I mean I think we did the very best job we possibly could have with the Dream Engine. I don’t think it could have turned out better than it did, but with 1.5 we had two goals. We wanted the package that we were producing to be more beneficial to the people who consumed it, but also to be easier to consume. Because you know we say like wow, 24 hours of content for unboxed, but that’s like– that’s a lot to get through and there is a lot of…
Johnny: It’s not necessarily a positive thing.
Sean: Right, and so there is a lot of amazing stuff there, but it’s also ra ra ra fact you know like you don’t need to see our rap party. You don’t need to see the setting expectations video. Those things don’t belong in 1.5., 1.5 should offer you know half the content and twice the value. Like that’s what we wanted to deliver.
Johnny: Want to see Dave do a rap party.
Sean: He does tend to thresh up, and would you like a link to that video?
Dave: Would you like to die?
Sean: Because that was– I think that was as close to a rap party as he ever gets.
Johnny: All right, so let’s move into…
Dave: We have got classic comments in the forum.
Johnny: Okay yeah, I was going to say let`s move into pre-production.
Dave: I love that together we are with that by the way. You are okay, let’s get into the topic.
Johnny: Now hold on no, hold on, you are cock blocking me. I was going to say before we move into the topic, let’s check to see if there are any comments. I`m not shitting you about that, I want credit for going there first. So go ahead.
Dave: Well, first the YouTube comments. Buddy Got says the world wants Dave Unboxed, Rachel Davies agreed, she says I think it will be popular. Mike Campling says Dave Unboxed doesn’t sound right, sounds a bit kinky to me.
Johnny: I`m not even kidding, I think that would be a fantastic YouTube series, Dave Unboxed.
Sean: Seriously out there, how much do you guys want to see Dave participate in Fiction Unboxed two?
Johnny: Because it`s not what we are doing, what we are doing now is 1.5. So we are talking next year.
Sean: Right. This is something for next year and the strongest idea I think that I have right now, it wouldn’t work without Dave. Dave would absolutely have to be a part of it, and so like he needs to hear your love.
Johnny: And dude I`m feeling a little bit of like I`m excited, but the idea of writing a book in 30 days with everybody– it’s like sharing with everybody is no longer novel to me. I`m just like, okay we need something else for two, like it’s just been there, done that.
Sean: Right and the two idea is something noble, it`s another point to prove. And that was why this is two or 1.5 instead of two also is because it just expands upon the original premise. It`s not a new premise, and two will have to be a new premise.
Johnny: All right, so continuing with the comments Dave.
Dave: Okay, so over in the forum, let me get in order here. Kayla says we hear a lot about pre-production process that Johnny and Sean do. What pre-production process does Dave go through and how has it changed going on over the years?
Sean: He clenches his fists a lot.
Johnny: You have got to sign for Dave Unboxed to see that.
Dave: My pre-production process involves…
Sean: Has a week of diarrhea.
Dave: Yes lots of crying, no I will go over like the previous books. Assuming we are writing something in the series which seems to be the case most of the time. I need to go over what we have written before.
Sean: What about fresh stuff though because I think most people will be more curious about fresh stuff because that’s, we’ve done that a lot.
Johnny: He is using fresh in the hip hop sense.
Sean: I mean go ahead and talk about revisiting a series, but also like when it’s blank, but what`s a pre-production for you like.
Dave: Well, we are doing something soon, I will talk about that in a minute, but basically I will plot everything out in note books, and sometimes like index cards and I will plot scenes out of the research. I`m kind of always researching because I`m always reading nonfiction and sometimes like something will spark an idea, or it will lend itself to one of the worlds that we write in, like I might read about some scientific breakthrough or something, and that might lead me down a rabbit hole where I’ll all like just start investigating like worm holes or something.
Sean: Where do you store that stuff, do you use like Evernote or?
Dave: Unfortunately at the moment I`m very unorganized, I know that will shock a lot of you.
Sean: No.
Dave: I write it down and I have like 20 note books, and I will forget which note book it`s in, but I`m trying to get Evernote back into shape because I did use Evernote for a little while.
Sean: Case in point this is called doing the Dave.
Dave: Fuck off, so yeah I`m trying to get Evernote system in place where I can be a little more organized. Right now it`s kind of all over the place, but you know I will draw maps like ForNevermore I drew maps, and I will a lot of times I will put down character notes that I have or back stories that I have. It’s very rough, it’s kind of all over the place, it’s not super organized. The way Sean does it for Johnny is actually ideal, it’s very good. But I think in the planning stage because Sean writes a long script, and it’s all nice and neat and very organized. But I`m kind of– I work in sort of a phonetic sort of way, where I like I’ll scribble the ideas down, I don’t– when I`m in the idea phase, I don’t write in Scrivener. I’ll write a lot of times by free hand, so I have to write in my notebooks, I have to write on paper something.
It just– because usually I`m not– even if I`m at the computer, I will want to write in the note book, it`s just something– because it`s always the way I`ve done it, and it just feels better, it works with my mind and the way that I`ve always done it, plus I`m also an artists and I like drawing on paper.
Sean: But that’s important too, to realize that there is no right way. I think that the common denominator in preproduction is that it`s necessary. You know, like I think that to just start writing like you can do that and there is a thrill to that for sure, there is a joy to just you know pencing it. But I think if you want to write fast and you want to write well, I think having some idea even if it`s just a very lose frame work, I think having some idea will help. I think some amount of preproduction helps, unless it`s like short story or something, but if you are writing a book, if you are writing a series for sure. If you are writing a serial– like you want to have some preproduction.
Johnny: Were there any other…
Dave: We have more. I need to ask. I know Sean writes beats for Johnny, but there must be some process before that. How do you side– how do you decide which stories to write, what kind of discussions do you have before actually writing the beats. Do you sort of make up the loose story first in the story meeting? How does that work?
Johnny: These might be questions better answered once we get into the nitty gritty, do you agree?
Sean: Okay.
Johnny: Were there any other like first sort of comments so we want to call out Dave Unboxed, anything like that, or are we moving out of topic here?
Dave: Yeah, I`m doing a shitty job of this, yeah one second.
Johnny: Shame, for shame Dave.
Dave: Yeah, Monica Lionel says you a definitely so more FU.20, Anita said that Dave should definitely or absolutely be part of FU2. I love FU2.
Johnny: FU is fantastic and now it’s FU2, oh my God, that’s so awesome.
Dave: All right, so.
Johnny: All right, so if we are going to move on and talk about preproduction I think the first logical place to start with that is like what would you do about a book cover, and if don’t have a designer lined up then people are going to need to do that step themselves, right?
Dave: No-no-no, not if they want to sell their book. You do not want to just throw some half ass book cover on your book. We have all seen people who thought they could do their own cover, horrible stock images with an even worse type faces. They may as well call their book “Don’t Read Me,” because when it comes to book covers…
Johnny: Oh shit, you weren’t supposed to tell anyone about that.
Dave: When it comes to book covers you owe it to yourself, your book, and your readers to get a professional cover.
Johnny: What if they don’t know any cover designers, what hope does a mere mortal find in determining, like finding the ideal designer. I mean like I’ve asked this question week after week after week and I`m just not getting it though.
Dave: You need to pay attention because we have a sponsor. We have a very important sponsor.
Johnny: That would be selling out.
Dave: 99designs, and they– this place has tons of designers waiting to deliver you even you Johnny a professional quality design in just a week or two.
Johnny: Why is this the first time I`m hearing about this. How long have we had a sponsor? What’s their name again?
Dave: 99Designs [Crosstalk24:45] so you start off by filling an online brief with details about your book cover. Then dozens of designers compete to deliver you the best design, and after the initial designs you get to pick the ones that you like and get feedback to help you shape the final book cover. The designers will all be competing for and you can even run polls, you get your readers or customers involved in the process of choosing your design which is an awesome way to bond with readers and get them excited about the book.
We’ve used 99 designs several times now for book covers and are our Sterling and Stone logos and also in Unicorn, and we`ve also been super impressed with both the quality and the speed which they get our designs created.
Johnny: Would you highly recommend 99designs or just a little bit?
Dave: Very highly recommend them, and the best part is…
Johnny: Ah there`s is a best part, good I was hoping.
Dave: There is a best part and I know you probably won’t remember this either Johnny, because you are just so scatter brain.
Johnny: I have note here that says be careful of cover design companies because you could lose everything.
Dave: No, see I knew it, you weren’t fucking paying attention, the best part is that with 99 designs, they offer a 100% money back guarantee so you have nothing, zero to lose.
Johnny: Well, then I would say that I would like to start my custom design today at, because I just recalled something about having a free power pack upgrade which might be valued somewhere around 99 bucks. Power pack upgrade makes your designs stand out from the crowd; it will bold your listing, highlight it, the prominent background, and feature it before those slobs with their regular listings. So visit to get started on a great design. We are actually– I think like days away maybe or whatever from doing another 99design contests for a logo right, so that could be cool.
Sean: I feel like we should take a bow after that that was just a priceless.
Johnny: We got an email recently asking like for tips on ad reads, or how do we get such and that’s not even a joke like how could we– you know what are– because we do a good job with our ad reads.
Sean: Yeah because apparently this atrocity converts, which is a little shocking to us to do, but yeah.
Johnny: Yeah, so we basically said just, well I don’t want to say something that will make it sound too bad. So let`s just say that we are. [Cross talk] [00:27:18]
Sean: We shall be ourselves that what we say. We said be yourself.
Johnny: Yes we did say be yourself.
Dave: A couple of more comments before we get back to– or get into the discussion. Now I’m at Dave Unboxed, Brian says as inspiring as Johnny and Sean`s giant bags of self confidence are…
Johnny: Yeah, that’s what I call it.
Dave: My biggest self doubt riddle pet monkey like myself. There would be a ton of benefit to see how Dave gets his Mojo flowing.
Sean: We all agree.
Dave: I`m a yes on Dave for FU2.
Johnny: It involves many scented oils.
Dave: Christine miles say how you could have something called FU2 without Dave. Yes to Dave.
Sean: I love the, I`m more excited now because I just realized it’s FU2.
Johnny: I`m imagining the logo for it is like a stamp, like FU2.
Sean: I know, I’ve been thinking logo too little finger. I wonder what 99 designs for the logo.
Johnny: There you go.
Sean: You know what is awesome about it, is because when we first had Fiction Unboxed, we went out of our way to not abbreviate FU, right.
Johnny: Specifically every single time unboxed we called it unboxed every time.
Sean: Right, but by the you are in FU2 like you are one of our peeps, we are allowed like FU2 if they could be part of the branding where we could have done that.
Johnny: But no one is getting Fiction Unboxed 2 without going through one and probably 1.5.
Sean: Right, so there are already you know they are well versed in our shenanigans.
Dave: Well enough about FU, let`s talking about process in beats in what we all do, get this shit going.
Johnny: All right, I want to talk.
Dave: Enough with the nonsense.
Johnny: I want to talk before– this is preproduction stuff, but it’s not– it’s an unknown, I don’t think we`ve told the story about preproduction and it’s cool. I`ve been wanting to talk about it for a while.
Sean: Are you telling the story that I think you are going to tell?
Johnny: Yes. I love how there is no way I cannot answer that in the affirmative. Like who knows is– so we just now we have a pre order up for Axis of Aaron, which we have been talking about, it’s– I`m so proud of this book, it’s my favorite of all books and it’s got some really flattering initial praise. And so if you want to look at the description and stuff and just see– because the cover is what I`m going to talk about. So if you want to see the cover, it’s and if you a look at that cover– so here is the way Axis of Aaron was born.
Sean and I are walking around Southwest, Southwest this year and Sean says have you heard of Jason Gary and I’m like at the time I hadn’t heard of Jason. Jason we had him on the show a while ago, he used to be a cover designer, he is not really any more. He just had a really good release with his book Eleanor. And so anyway Sean says have you heard of Jason Garry and I said I don’t think so, and he said he`s got these great covers and he’s got a bunch that are pre made covers like they are already– he has done his Jason Garry magic, but he just kind of doesn’t live with like images that he likes that he thinks are cool and stuff. And so he says I have this really ridiculous idea. I just kind of want to pick a cover and then write– just come up with a story for it.
So this is– Fiction Unboxed started with nothing. This idea started with a cover and so I`m like okay that’s weird, but at this point like do I know we can pull stuff like this off. So we go back and we look though Jason Garry’s premade covers and we batter back and forth after I came back home. And Sean is like just send me some of the cover ideas you like just by title, and so because he puts in dummy titles and stuff. And so I said well I like this and I like this and we went back and forth and we ended up on this cover that was the one you see right there, but it was called Axis of the World by Leonard Amass. So– Because he just makes up something, right. And he said I don’t know, it seemed Axis like…
Sean: I`m a little disappointed in myself for not having a Leonard Amass in the book though.
Johnny: Oh yeah that would have been good. So any– and it would have been easy too. So we said well we like the Axis cover, and the book just became Axis. We didn’t know what it was about, but it was called Axis because it had this cover called Axis of the World. And Sean creates this extensive pre-production beats package which is part if the Scrivener for beats video series. And it’s the subject of that, like he goes through that beats package in the Scrivener beats series and describes the preproduction. It was the first time we had done what we are calling beats 2.0 with casting and location scouting and the full on beats where it takes weeks to do them. And what became the Dream Engine one beats and now the Dream Engine two beats and also the Flore deblank in the middle were all these beats 2.0, and it was born at this. On the basis of a cover.
And so we are getting towards the end, we’re like so what are we going to call this book? And I’m like we just call it Axis of the World, like why not? And we ended up deciding on calling it Axis of Aaron because Aaron is the name of the island where it takes place. But in true realm and sense or at least platinum true and fashion, the name ended up informing the book. And so there are points where it’s thematically an axis, and I love that story because it’s one more instance of there is nothing special about ideas, you can pull it from anywhere.
Sean: Yeah, it’s one of my favorite things ever now. And it’s really just because it really did come from– I mean it didn’t come from nowhere, but really like we wanted a girly cover and he was already kind of phasing out.
Jonny: He wasn`t doing custom covers, we were like this is the only way we can do one.
Sean: Right, and so we thought well we`ll just pick one out, and I literally didn’t care. I’m like just Johnny pick the one you like best, and like I`ll make a story up for it. Like it didn’t matter to me at all, and I just starred at the cover and thought what kind of…
Johnny: We talked about what our ambitions was for the book that would come out.
Sean: Yeah, so because his covers have like a certain literal quality to them, and thus far on both of our sites you know we’ve done a lot of genre fiction, like that’s what we write. And so we thought it would be fun to kind of break form just to see if we can do it, or to prove that we can to write a book that would be “literally as fuck.” And so that was– I said I don’t care what cover you pick as long as it can be literally as fuck. And so he picked the Axis cover, and I just thought of a story of a guy you know like kind of losing himself.
And then it could have like a supernatural bend to it, but that was almost kind of a mystery, a little bit romantic, a lot mysterious, a lot surreal, and of I just tried to make up a story that would match the cover.
Johnny: So do you want to talk about the process of what went into the pre production and sort of from– and answer Anita’s questions sort of from genesis to…?
Sean: Yeah, well before we actually started this, I don’t think we actually had a discussion right; it was just a matter of you picking the cover.
Johnny: In this case yeah I mean maybe we should give examples across all of our lines and stuff, but in this case you are right we didn’t have.
Sean: So I will stick with Aaron or Axis for a moment. With Axis I felt like– I think that part of the reason and I love talking about the stuff out loud because I don’t know really know the time when answering the question. And I think beats 2.0 were born in part because we had a little more heavy lifting to do because there was no store for it. There was nothing that we you know we talked about ahead of time, it was just– we had a title, we had a cover and that had to kind of propel us through the project. And so when I was doing the beats, I had to kind of tell that story to myself, and so it really was a quick work you know I was just– I was patching ideas together and I started with a town.
Let me think I`m reverse engineering this in my head. I think with that I kind of started with locations because I wanted to find places that matched the cover, and it wasn’t an island originally. That was actually something that Johnny changed on day one, I think when he was actually writing it. It was okay this has to be an island because he needs to be more isolated. It can’t just be a sea side town, but the way that I had written it in the beats was just that it would be a sea side town somewhere in New England. And I specifically said that we cannot ever define where it is, it just needs to be New England somewhere.
So, because there is a lot of ambiguity in the story, and so I wanted the beats to have that deep feeling of ambiguity also. And so I just looked through a lot of shutter stock stuff, I looked through a lot of Google images; I just found places that looked like they belonged you know in the same world as the cover. And the more I looked, the more I got more carried away and then I went to the casting, then I found– because this was such a blank slate. This was really was casting like– it was just the characters came from the people who I wanted to be in the story. The main actor is just like I went with somebody who I felt their personality really matched in a couple of roles especially– should I do the allegedly thing?
Johnny: No, I`d really rather not. Let`s just say that he is sort of an invisible sort of a person, he is not, he doesn’t have a strong personality type, maybe a little self effacing quiet and…
Sean: Yeah, very quiet and he is an actor I really like, it`s an actor I really-really like, he has deep eyes, you can tell he is thinking a lot more than he is saying at all times, and I felt like that would really go for the type of character I was trying to produce. I think that the character names in this actually I think had a lot more to say than character names usually do. Eben Shale [phonetic] is the main character’s name which I felt immediately gave you a feeling of you know Shale is a BT term, but also its brittle and he is very brittle.
Amy Fray is his female kind of companion on the island, and I think that Amy fray like you need to look at the word Fray. It’s a fragile word and so it was just matter of kind of stitching these people together and the more I kept telling myself the story, the more I kept adding to the beats. And then if did the thing I`ve never done before, which was to basically tell myself the story in a rough synopsis and that’s like probably 2000 words for this particular story. And it’s just, this happens and this happens and this happens and that is pretty much like the normal beats I would have given Johnny for any project before Axis.
That’s the style of beats that in Write Publish repeat, he refers to as cliff notes told ahead of time by somebody who was barely paying attention. So that was in the synopsis, but once I did that I kept reducing it down you know like a stock being cooked down to where I first had just the whole story that I was telling myself and then I told it into– okay well here is the rough story ark. Okay now here it is in an elevator pitch, now here it is in a single sentence, and what is interesting about that is that that is virtually unchanged. Right now if you go to the Amazon product description, the self publishing, that product description and the headline right under the title, that’s pretty much exactly what I gave Johnny on day one.
So we had just– it was the same idea as before where we had the long story that I was telling myself and Johnny, but then we also had kind of an elevator pitch and a single sentence. So just like one sentence synopsis which is kind of powerful because it really informs the story that you`re trying to tell, plus we had all these locations and we had all of the cast, and each of the cast at this point, I`d never done this before. So in like the beam, we would say if I were making this movie, this character would be played by this person.
Johnny: And he did it really loosely like he did it like this is kind of who I imagine and we did I very occasionally. And the one I remember is and we had this in Write Publish Repeat is Sean suggest which is very– well no that’s not actually whom I’m thinking of. Sean said very off handedly like he was describing Kay Drefus the hooker assassin and he said, he imagined him being like Mila Kunis. And that didn’t feel right to me. Like once I started writing I didn’t– because I still have a lot of Mila from That 70s Show and so and she was obnoxious like Jackie I’m not sure…
Sean: Jackie of Black Swan.
Johnny: But see I hadn’t seen Black Swan, and so I had a real different vibe and said I don’t know I think it’s more– like if we are going to stick with some sort of celebrity who might play in a movie I said I see her more like Natalie Portman. And that’s the way we did this originally, but in this he fully cast, like I don’t– I`m trying to decide how we can talk about this, because it is a mind bender and there are some serious spoiler sort of things. But I want to know if you can talk about the casting of Amy and in a way that doesn’t give anything away, it’s just kind of a shifting reality, shifting timeline thing.
Sean: Yeah, so each of the characters instead of just having like a one sentence description with like this is who I would cast if was I making a dream movie, they had full on– like some of them are a few thousand words long. Their histories, their– who this person was and how they are related, and again like I think this has become just a part of the way we do things. I think it`s kind of necessary to a well told story, and you know we want to evolve our process, we want to make our books better and better and better. But I wasn’t doing this for any reason other than we don’t really have much of a story here, so this is kind of the story. And it was how it was born, and for the casting of Amy I needed somebody who could both kind of look a little older, and look a little bit younger and so…
Johnny: Because reality shifts around Eben in this movie, in this book, like that’s the key thing. It’s a distorted reality sort of thing.
Sean: Right, and so I said in fact when I showed these beats to Dave, he said you do know how young she is, right? And I said yes, but it’s because that’s the way that Eben sees her. Eben sees her…
Johnny: Like the first line of her description was Amy is cast young on purpose, like right away and that gave me a huge clue as to how I was going to write her, how I was going write any scenes involving her, that sort of thing.
Sean: Yeah because she is somebody that– the basic set up for the story is that Eben, he spent time on Aaron the island as a kid. Three different summers and Amy lived on that island with her father, only her father because her mother died when she was really young. And so Eben kind of formed who he was during these summers on this island with Amy. And so even though they are in their thirties now, he can`t help but see her through that lens and that systematically very its core to the story that we are trying to tell. And so we needed somebody who wasn’t that old, but who you could imagine very clearly what she would look like because she has poised this– the actress is young but she has a lot of poise. You can definitely see her as an adult, and so that became– the casting just got more layered than it ever had before.
Dave: We had a question which I think should kind of help steer this.
Sean: Yeah absolutely, manage the questions yeah.
Dave: My question is how do you tell do the beats go and in what order. I know they have spoken about having the summary beats before each chapter, then the paragraph version and the one sentence version. All those were concurrently shortest or longest, longest or shortest as in do you have a general idea of the one sentence summary for your book before flushing out the overall theme for the book in paragraph before figuring out what goes where bla bla bla.
Sean: Absolutely not, it depends on the project, but for Axis I only got to that one sentence after breaking it down and by breaking it down and breaking it down. And I was really going for the pure– so now I have this 2000 word synopsis, what is the purest way I can tell that. And I couldn’t get that one sentences from the synopsis, so I broke it down into a rough story art and I broke it down into another later pitch, and then I broke it down into the sentence.
And I could have stared at that synopsis for days and I don’t think I would have come up with a sentence as pure as that. Which you know I think that was just a matter of really shaping the clay, but I think there’s other books where it’s the opposite you know you almost come up with the idea and you know what kind of story you want to tell in a sentence, and you are able to do that because you keep expanding upon the idea. So– and in fact there is a book and I don’t want to talk about this book at all, but there is a book that I had outlined for either Johnny or Dave and we may still do something with that at one point, but that actually went the opposite. That was a sentence first that kept getting expanded and that was actually the idea on its head, because I kind of knew what story I wanted to tell, and I just kept telling bigger and bigger versions of that story.
Dave: Derrick asks has Johnny written beats for anything Sean has done, and also how much research in world building do you Dave before starting on the beats. I think any of us can answer this, so I do sometimes pounce a couple of scenes before beating out the story in order to get the feel of it.
Johnny: I have never written beats for Sean, there is a few reasons for that. Number one is we`ve settled into a pretty clear workflow with Sean and I, and I`ve always written the rough draft and I kind of don’t want to not write the first draft. Like I think we are comfortable with our roles, I would reevaluate that if Sean was like I`m tired of doing beats, but he seems pretty happy doing beats especially these flashed out ones, because I think we are playing to our individual strengths. I like articulating and I think Sean likes building. I know you like articulating too, but I have– I did write beats for myself with fat vampire, but only once I got to later stories, and even then they we really sloppy and they we`re definitely beats 1.0, so I`ve never done that.
Sean: Yeah I like every part of the process, so like I just I want to lean into whatever the collaboration is going to yield the best results basically, and I`m not an idiot like clearly what we have in Romans hands is magical and the system just keeps getting better and better. And so like I just want to do what I’m good at in that particular partnership and so writing beats is clearly it. Johnny is clearly exceptional at rough drafts, so like that.
There was a question that I don’t want to slip by and it was from Anita about how do we choose what project to go with next, and that’s actually one of our hardest things because we want to write everything. This is we actually just– our meeting this week was about deciding what to do next and what to do next year and we want to do everything, like there is all the stories that we have all ready started, we want to just keep on going on forever, and we have new ideas. And now we each want to write something else that’s literally as fuck and it’s just we just want to keep on going and going.
So it’s very difficult, and in fact I was just working on a short story idea that– it’s a platinum readers exclusively that they will get soon, and it’s just a very simple idea that I just really love how well executed it is, and I like doing stuff like that even though they are just single sheet ideas basically. So choosing stuff is very difficult, I think we have to find the blend between what is most commercially viable and what you know speaks to our hearts the most, you know the same exact thing is true with Dave and I.
You know we are trying to find out what do our fans want most, what are we most driven to do, and what would be the most commercially viable you know project to work on. And this year has been so focused on building and not really focused on driving revenue, and we want to start driving revenue early next year, and you know and focus more there. So our decisions for the early part of next year and the rest of this year are definitely more mathematical than I think any of us would prefer, because ideally we just want write what we want to write, but you can only do that for so long.
Johnny: What was the question for you Dave, research and stuff?
Dave: Hold on, yeah do I research and do I paint some scenes and stuff? Yeah I do research and I do paint probably more than anybody here just to kind of get a feel for the story. I really like to keep my options open, and a lot of times the story that I initially or we initially come up with, with the beats and stuff, I deviate far from it because I find something more rich and complex just from having spent time in the story world. I forgot, okay go on.
Johnny: I actually– the idea of beats and so I actually have two things to say about beats and testing the waters and so forth. One is that I– when Sean gives me beats, I consider them to be a set of beneficial fences in which to put my part of the art, and so I like having all of those things set. In terms of rules about the world not necessarily about the stories that’s going to occur, so there are times when I will deviate from the rules as Sean has established them, but I like having that fence and I try to work within it. I try and say okay, there is something that occurred, there were vast sections of the Axis of Aaron beats that were “wasted” because it’s a standalone, we’ll never come back to them, and I didn’t mention the Hoe bad bridge I may have had a mention, but it was rare…
Sean: I think it had a one mention.
Johnny: And there is a whole story about something where somebody was under the bridge and they came up and saw the red, I didn’t use any of that. It was like in Eben’s back story, and so that stuff gets wasted, but if I see a place where something like that needs to be mentioned, an anecdote needs to be mentioned, I like having it. That said I think I may have told this last time. Sometimes I deviate really-really far from the beats and Leflore de blank which I wrote– we wrote, I articulated Johnny the beats for Lexi’s line, she just gets final cut, so it`s basically planned true but under Lexi’s name. And those– I mean Sean just finished editing it up and you saw how where were your beats versus where I ended up like really-really different.
Sean: Yeah, but even with that like I never ever consider that time wasted ever and for Leflore like it was more important, I had to build the world. It’s California, it’s a flower shop, it’s…
Johnny: And that is a series, so those won’t “go to waste” as much.
Sean: Yeah, there is other stuff there that can come back, but I never ever think about it as wasted time. It’s wasted time if– as long as I`m delivering it on the day that I`m supposed to deliver it, then it’s– I`m good. I’ve spent the time I was supposed to spend on it and now it’s going to the next place down the assembly line, and I gave Leflore, Leflore actually ran kind of expensive on the time spent just because like I was into it, I was making up people and that was fun. With the thing that I did for Dave, one of the concerns that he had, he’s like I like this, I like this story, I like this package like I want to do this, but I feel like there is so much I have to learn, and I was trying to tell him no not really, like you don’t have to learn it. Like just read it once and then do your own thing. Like do your own version of the story, I`m okay with that, I don’t feel like my work isn’t being respected if it’s ignored. It’s supposed to inspire and inform more than anything.
Dave: Okay we have a question here. Joan says here is something I`d like to know about the guys planning stages, how do they chose their deadlines since each project is different, length, theme etcetera, and the guys who make big point not to miss deadlines while some of us do, and not me. What’s the process of setting the deadlines? Is it based on estimation on words per day? If so how do they come for the editing stages, words per day team the view of the overall process, that’s what he said.
Sean: Do you want to take that Johnny?
Johnny: I actually wasn`t paying attention, sorry. I had a rare Dave moment where I got a squirrel moment here and I was following something else.
Sean: All right okay, so then I will take that. Okay so word count….
Johnny: You think I can’t answer it just because I didn’t hear the question? Let me try.
Sean: That was my hypothesis. I think that– the question was Johnny just so you can be on the same page.
Johnny: Okay, I`m excited now.
Sean: Was about word count, how do we decide on deadlines you know word counts are all different and tones are all different and all of that. We are pretty systematic at Roman`s end. It is pretty easy to say, oaky we are going to have this word count on this amount of days, and we do run over sometimes for sure and we run over on beats too. I expected to be done with the Dream Engine beats about ten days…
Johnny: The Dream Engine two which the new…
Sean: Sorry, the Dream Engine two. Yeah the Dream Engine two beats I ran about ten days late on, I mean they weren’t late, he wasn’t waiting for me for an extra ten days. I knew going into it that I would have to readjust and at two hours a day so I was to– they ran 20 hours over, and this all just preproduction, this is not writing time.
Johnny: And he is not done with them.
Sean: Right. I actually got into a whole section, I was like okay I give up, I surrender, but those aren’t beats for one story really. I don’t think we can even compare the Dream Engine two beats because not only are we kind of preparing for two and three, we are also kind of preparing for two through seven. You know we see seven books in the series and we are also– these are word docs that are going to go to everybody who is writing in the world and I feel a responsibility to build a really amazing easy world for everybody to inhabit.
So the time spent wasn’t just like on the one book. I don’t think we could have justified that amount of hours on just beats for the book, but by and large I think we are pretty good at estimating our time, and there are some things where it’s definitely easier to beat out than other stuff. It’s definitely easier for Johnny to write than other stuff, but what that means is that he`ll just work harder on the stuff that’s harder, it’s not like hell miss those deadlines.
Johnny: It’s not like I take longer. You can get a pretty good feel; we’ve been pretty good about guessing. So we thought Dream Engine one wanted to end up around 100,000 words and it did. We thought Leflore would end up around 100,000 words and it was pretty close. It took me a little longer because it was slow, it did– so when I was waiting for Sean’s beat`s I actually worked longer on Leflore.
So it was actually a good pairing, but with Axis we had originally– we knew it was going to be long because we knew it was going to be deep. Like there was going to be a lot of philosophical sort of exploration stuff that was going to occur and there were going to be these really serial crazy scenes and– but about, I mean we deviated a lot on those beats too, but that was a case where we had during Fiction Unboxed we had started the practice of Sean following right behind me as– so I would write, and then I close the Scrivener file and then he would edit pretty close like enough that he was just a day or two behind it, and he points off so if I hit a snag I could move to a B story for a day, and then we could have a meeting you know pretty quickly.
Sean: Yeah, and that became part of our process.
Johnny: And we couldn’t have done it without it. If I had set out to write Axis, it was just so complicated, it was so much like what’s real, what’s isn’t real, what’s this time line, what’s this person thinking, what’s this person know, and there were a lot of knots that we had to do, there was a lot sort of recurring elements like the things that were seeded throughout that built to the climax. There were things that needed to be mentioned early, and then sort of called back to in a very specific ways later, and we had several things we wanted to avoid doing that were traps. Sorry.
Sean: Yeah, and one of the dangers of not Leflore, of Axis also was that if we did it wrong, it’s just terrible.
Johnny: It looks terrible.
Sean: Like it had to be done right.
Johnny: Literally as fuck as a hairs breath away from pretentious asshole.
Sean: Yeah, right and so we really had to be careful and so it was another one of the things that made Axis expensive is that we both had to go over it multiple times to make sure that it didn’t have– Leflore is an easier thing right, like I beat it out, Johnny does the draft, edit polish, off to Lexi, she can make it all dirty or whatever and then off to Jason. And so that’s just more linear and Axis didn’t– Axis we originally estimated at 100,000 words and again…
Johnny: Well I wanted to explode to 120. Well I’ve actually told the story, Sean gave me the beats early May maybe, and Fiction Unboxed was scheduled to start June 1st, and I knew I had a few days going into June before we`d actually start writing, and I figured during our brain storming days I`d still be writing, so I had a month in change and we dragged a little long. And what it began to feel like was I was going to have to rush. And I said this a few times before, but that was the first beats package like that and I just– I fell in love with the beats.
The language I used in a blog post I may or may not have published is that they broke my heart, like it hits a lot of my pain points, like the immutability of the past and regrets and there were all these things and so as I`m reading this I`m realizing– like I felt a responsibility like Sean said he felt a responsibility to the Dream Engine world, I felt it to this story and I knew that we couldn’t go back because this book cannot have a sequel, it cannot. We are doing something very-very wrong if there is ever a sequel to Axis, and so we had to get it right the first time, and once it started to feel like I would have to I might have to…
Sean: You just want to write a sequel to Axis?
Johnny: I know, but it…
Dave: You don’t ever challenge him.
Sean: I know what are you doing?
Johnny: Well you know maybe you could still horn in the middle of Axis, there is a way we could make it work I suppose, but we certainly have no plans. And so we needed to get it right and I`m looking at these beats and I`m like I feel like I know these people, I feel like I know this place, I feel like I spent these bitter sweet forgotten summers with Eben and Amy on Aaron. And I didn’t want to short change it, and so once it started to feel like– well when you get into June I can just kind of hurry up and no, no, I can’t. So what Sean is saying is that in my mind I wanted to allow it dilate to 120,000 words, but it ended up at 150. It just, it needed the depth, it needed to be able to explore all those things, but it’s rare that they catch us off guard. I mean Dream Engine two which again is tentatively called the tech engine is supposed to be around 120,000 words in rough, and I think that’s about right. I think that’s what we`ll do, I think plus or minus 10,000 words will hit that.
Sean: Yeah, I know Dave just one more second, let me finish a thought. So we’ve had two things that have run grossly over schedule and one was Axis, and it wasn’t really over schedule because we kind of knew…
Johnny: We knew it was going to go over schedule.
Sean: And it was going to be what it was going to be so…
Johnny: We knew we couldn’t short change it basically; we had to allow room to do that.
Sean: Right, we built that in where a lot of our other stuff is more like the stuff that Dave and I really developed you know episodic. An episode is this amount of words and for this particular series and so Roman sands 1.0 that first year our stuff was more like that, and you know I`ve referred to Axis as oh it’s the sports car you can afford to buy you know it’s like okay we can afford creatively to do that now and we are going to do that. The other book that ran really over budget was Write Publish Repeat. We had plans for that to be kind of a lean how to at 50,000 words, and it ended up two and a half times that long, yeah.
Dave: All right, questions. Melprim Rose asks, do you cast celebs or everyday people; I will answer that real quick. We cast celebs because it easier for us, it’s sort of a short hand and prior I haven’t. I would just come up with people in my head not based on celebs or real people, but I think it’s a good way going forward because we are working on the same thing and it easier for everybody if you like kind of keep track of you know what somebody’s hair color looks like, or their eye color, stuff like that, and not screw up the facts. Another question…
Johnny: Sorry, it gets easier…
Dave: You are going to go.
Johnny: well, it gives you a comment from a reference, and it gives you a body that works.
Dave: Let everybody answer the question. [Cross talk] [01:03:42]
Sean: I cast both, if it’s like for Johnny, if I cast somebody that’s in real life we have to both know that person, so that it’s a common frame of reference.
Johnny: But with actors you are getting access to a body of work. So you know Natalie Portman in Black Swan is different from Natalie Portman in Star Wars episode one or whatever. You know what I mean those are different worlds.
Sean: Thank God for that.
Johnny: Right, but my point is so actually one of the things that Sean didn’t mentioned in casting is that he doesn’t just give me any photo of a celebrity. He is not like this is who I cast. It’s from a specific role, so that I know like what mode they are in.
Dave: Next question. Buddy Got says he’s excited about Axis of Aaron, also Cary says is there some sort of story behind where the name Ebin came from, it`s pretty unique.
Sean: I just really liked the– how it sounded.
Johnny: Robin didn’t get it, she’s like is this Ebon or Ebin? I know she is crazy I thought of it was Ebon.
Sean: Shale, I wanted his last name to be Shale and so I needed a name that went with Shale, and I liked– like I wanted it to sound, Ebin sounds like a quiet guy’s name, like that’s all.
Johnny: I promise this will be quick. But this is an example of why like Sean is very good with names and I`m not. So he cast Cora’s father as Samuel Mew, that was his character name, and I said I think I accidentally named him, and you were too fucking dumb to change my stupid naming, so now I’m like…
Sean: Because I don’t want to be like oh Johnny can’t name anything.
Johnny: No always change it if you don’t like it. So now his name is Gerome, like why did I name him Gerome? That so doesn’t fit, so now his name is Gerome, so there you go.
Dave: Thomas Danny has a question for authors working without collaborators. How would you suggest juggling preproduction and actual production splitting it up, Sean doing the beats and Johnny doing the writing, you able to half your time and expenses. What`s the best way to cut time and expenses as a single author?
Sean: I would do exactly the same thing. If I were writing all by myself, I would make myself the preproduction package and then I would start writing the draft.
Johnny: And it would just take you longer which it does.
Sean: Yeah it would take me longer, but I would also– what I would probably do is stack it, so while I`m always having something in the preproduction phase, and we can even talk about this for nonfiction if you want, and talk about the thing that I`m doing now. But regardless I would always be pre-producing something, and then I would be writing something, and I would do those as it is two different projects. Now that because this is my full time gig, so like I would do that, but if I only had like an hour a day or something I would do it linier. I would beat everything out, and then I would write, and then I would go into the editing mode.
Dave: And I think some people have an idea that we are kind of– that somehow two people working on something makes it quicker. I don’t know, it might make it a little bit quicker because like the edits going back and forth, but we are all work on the draft, it`s not like one person just writes some sentences and the other person writes the whole damn thing. We each like have our turn on the draft, so we edit and we go through a few times editing, so it`s not like you know we…
Sean: [Inaudible] [01:07:26]
Dave: Right, you have got to think between the two of us.
Johnny: I feel it’s faster.
Sean: Yeah, between the three of us, there is a couple of hundred hours that we are spending on writing and publishing each week. So like that’s a substantial amount of time. Like we are doing all this fulltime, but I still think that I would write a faster draft by having spent the time in preproduction. So I don’t think that your– regardless of whether you are working alone or collaboratively, I think that there is so much value in the preproduction process.
Johnny: I`m surprised you don’t feel it`s faster with two people Dave.
Dave: It is a little bit faster, but I don’t think that it`s– I think people are having a misconception of the work involved. Like one person doesn’t do anything and the other person– like one person only does beats and the other person only does writing. It’s a little more mixed than that. At least on our end I think, I don’t know.
Johnny: Yeah I think it’s actually– I would argue it’s probably less than half the time with Sean on my projects than what I would take on– well that’s maybe not true because I wouldn’t probably do as elaborative preproduction on my own, but I guess we do have a bit more compartmentalized process.
Sean: I do think as a general statement you could say we get better quality in less time.
Johnny: It is better.
Sean: We get better quality because the pre production would not be as good, the production– no one element would be as good, it’s because we are putting two minds together that we are able to make– even if we spent the same amount of time on it, I think we end up with a better product than we possible would just all of us working on our own.
Dave: Yeah, we do kind remove with the beta reader stage by bouncing the ideas back and forth, because we have a good idea of what works or doesn’t so.
Sean: That’s well said.
Johnny: Any more questions or comments?
Dave: I don’t see any more, hold on I just check real quick.
Sean: Okay, I will take a second and talk about how you can use this for nonfiction too, right. Like clearly you are not going to do casting, you are not going to do location, but that preproduction, getting your ideas all out I think is really important, and the beats package that I`m doing right now, I`m like so-so-so excited about because it’s– we’ve been talking about this for a year and a half, and we are finally doing it. It’s auto responders for our imprints and mostly for Sterling and Stone, and it’s preproduction just like anything else, and I`m just in the Scrivener file every day, and right now it`s just index cards, okay the emails have to come in this order and I’m moving them around and…
Johnny: We`ll handle these the same way. I will be able to write these emails faster if Sean has already done the thinking about what needs to go into them.
Dave: Right, so we`ll be able to get them and what’s– this will be a cool project. It’s still really in the infancy stage, but there will be emails to write and there will be blog posts to write and you know everything will work together. And it should be really-really cool and unique to the world of fiction I think when we are all done, and– but it’s for handling it you know we are story tellers. So even our nonfiction stuff is storytelling, you know when we did the Fiction Unboxed is coming out on December third the actual book, and it’s a true sequel to Write Publish Repeat.
Johnny: Should be available for preorder, but it’s not quite up yet as in when we are recording this.
Sean: Yeah, it’s any moment.
Johnny: Any moment now.
Sean: But that was that was mapped out even though its nonfiction, it was mapped out clearly there was no casting or locations or anything like that, but the elements of the beats, this happens and this happens and then this happens, it was very heroes journey, and so I think nonfiction is that way. Write Publish Repeat was beaten out I think you can use Scrivener in that way to have your index card and say I need to say these six things, I need to say these six things in this chapter, and then re arrange it so that– because I think that nonfiction, your nonfiction is always going to be better if it has some elements of storytelling to it. Because that’s what people want to read, they don’t want to read dry facts. It doesn’t– they are not going to bond with it, they are not going to care about it, they are not going to be inspired to leave a review. It has to be a pretty remarkable piece of dry nonfiction to do that, even a good but not great informational piece that has a nice story element to it, that really makes the reader feel at home and cozy when they are reading it, I think is always going to perform better.
Johnny: Any final questions comments Dave?
Dave: Just final comments. Dave Confurd [phonetic] says preproduction on one project and writing another project in time gives you something to work on no matter how you feel, no excuse for not working on something so…
Johnny: Also a different mode, writing is different from planning.
Dave: Monica Lianel says I worked with a collaborator for five novellas and it’s not necessarily less time, there is a lot of communication back and forth, I just stopped collaborating because of the time investment, and my collaborator couldn’t keep up with my production schedule. I think the difference is in quality not time like they are saying. The novellas we produced together were better than one I can do on my own, but I`m faster on my own.
Johnny: We are definitely faster Sean and I; maybe because we are both like we are like…
Sean: No, I would be faster on my own than working with Dave for sure, but my quality wouldn’t be as good, like there is no way, like the closest thing I had to that was threshold and it’s the thing that I`m the least happy with and see how it`s done, because it wasn’t as collaborative. So collaborative time with Dave can be expensive, but it`s always worth it.
Johnny: All right, so I guess that finishes us up. I will say that if you– if anybody is wondering about Axis, Fiction Unboxed 1.5, the Fiction Unboxed book, these will all be on the blog we are talking about it all. So that’s it for the self publishing podcast, and I don’t want to plug Write Publish Repeat because we plug it all the time. But if you do want to get into the net like I said follow the blog, and thanks so much for listening and we will see you all next week.

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One Reply to “The Pre-Production Process (SPP #130)”

  1. Daniel Rose

    Great episode, your pre-production process has been the most useful thing I’ve attempted to emulate in my own processes.
    And of course the frankly awesome ad read. That’s my favourite part of every episode, gets me every time.

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