For context: I'm an Army Officer and I spent most of my time in Civil Affairs, the international relations arm of the military. I'm doing a series of lessons learned and how they can apply broadly to EA. The views expressed in this article are my own. This is about a novel I wrote, and this is how I run after action reviews.
I usually do a post mortem on missions using the following format, and I thought it would be useful to look at my EA project through my operations lens.
What was supposed to happen?
I wanted to write a serial fiction piece that showed EA values in action. Spoiler: it is harder than I thought it would be. A lot harder. I thought HPMOR would be a great guide, but I'm not as good a writer as that other guy.
I also wanted to write a cultivation type novel about a Sect Leader. Those two ideas intersected. Cultivation novels are popular on royal road.
What actually happened?
I wrote roughly 4,000 words a week split into two chapters and had them posted both in royal road and my patreon. A side goal was to build up a backlog for my patreon subscribers. I mostly use patreon money to fund artwork for my fiction and if I made more it would pay for editing and narration for future audiobooks and other author stuff. I went from having zero patrons to two to five a month- I fixed a lot there. The most was about $25 a month. This puts me in the top 1% of writers on RR, and with the exception of a few chapters on wattpad, those two sites are where my work is.
Also this was part of two contests. APRIL WRITEATHON, and a previous community magazine contest. In all I wrote about 95k words or about 340 pages of novel sized print worth of story and finished a project, between January third and June 10th.
Sustains (keep doing this!):
Immediate feedback- I have been working my butt off on marketing through shout out trades and networking with other writers on Discord. Near the end, 560ish people followed my fiction which is a far cry from my next closest one Red Mist at about 100. They are different genres, and uh let's just say Red Mist had a lot more editing put into it.
Consistency- As I set out with zero backlog.... I had to write consistently every day about 700 words to keep up and then to get ahead it was a struggle. For some people that's a lot of work. I wasn’t running any of the prose through either of my writing groups because it was so much brain to page. Having children was a big issue on this front, but you know... I did it anyway.
Writing to "market"- I'll eventually get this edited and put it up as an ebook but the Immediate feedback of writing in a popular genre? Love it. My next RR project will be a litrpg and I am already 16k words into it. Based on how popular the market is, I'll probably write this next one as a trilogy.
I don't think that using EA as a base will draw a large crowd, but if I can Weave EA into my writing, then that might have more of an impact.
Improves (things I could do better next time):
Not writing the whole thing before posting-
I have learned a hard lesson here. I will not be releasing anything until it is good and done through one or the other of my writing groups and then I read it twice etc. With Red mist everything that I posted was my best work. Thankfully RR was very forgiving so yeah. Serializing the process forces you to write every day. I did not like that pressure. For future projects, I will be pre-writing a full book ahead or so.
Getting more reviews- I worked hard on getting reviews for Red Mist and it shows. It is still highly ranked. Sect Leader, I didn’t go out and go for reviews, but I did ask my readers for some reviews. The algorithm values reviews and review swaps. This is why I will be setting up ARC reviews for every book launch hopefully getting ten to thirty people to review it. Also, getting more shout outs and shout out swaps were great.
EA in the focus- Guys not going to lie. It is very hard to espouse EA beliefs without coming across as preachy. I am going to circle back around and try to get more EA into my work but I also tried to make it pretty rationalist. It is long form fiction and I enjoyed it a lot and I wouldn't have written it if I didn't love it. But seeing a ton of views didn't hurt.
It wasn't difficult to portray people realistically, but it did shock some of my readers when the small town denied the impending threat of a coming slow moving terror.
I'm going to let it sit for 30 days and then go and begin editing it. It may sit for longer as I want to work on something else for a while. I don't envision a direct sequel, but I may return to some of the characters. As with any writing project, if I didn't enjoy writing it, then I wouldn't have kept it up. I don't need to make any money off of this, but it would be nice to be able to get some art commissioned.
The main B story character (The aunties, a greek chorus) got a lot of the spotlight, and I got the feedback that for the most part, my characters didn't have enough bad stuff happen to them. I'll need to fix that in the second draft.
Inconclusive. I've learned a lot, but if I want to give EA what it is worth I'm going to drill down into specifics and see if those will lead to a better story.