Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Too Busy to Write Right

I’ve been wanting to write, honestly I have. It’s just that I’ve been too busy writing. As you know, The Killing Scar is drafted, but that was only the beginning of the work. First I had to edit it, which means I had to re-read it, not an easy task when I just wrote it. It sounds like a lousy pitch for your book that it’s the last thing in the world you want to read, but it’s true. But that’s done now. As soon as I get the cover, I’ll preview it. Then, if the beta readers don’t threaten to turn my ms. over to the police as evidence of a literary crime, I’ll publish. That’s a big “if.”

In the meantime, I have to start outlining Marauders from the Moon (due out in June, and when am I going to start it?). And at the same time I’m re-reading The Choking Rain, because one of the problems with maintaining a series is that you can’t always remember the details from one book to the next, and I don’t want that problem. Yes, I could create a bible (which I probably will if this goes on), but I don’t have one and I don’t have time to write one. (See paragraph above.) It’s been a while since I wrote Rain, but it took a long time to finish, so re-visiting it isn’t a picnic, either. (Honestly, these are good books, you just wouldn’t know it to listen to me.)

Anyhow, I didn’t want more time to go by without touching base. The government might shut down, but my publisher has a schedule to keep, and believe me, he does not like it when I slack off. It may be a while before I get back here.

–Okay, okay, boss! I’m going back to work… Sheesh, what a grouch.

#SFWApro

 

Advertisements

Another One Down

So I’ve finished The Killing Scar… That’s the third in my renamed “Nemesis” series. I have one more planned, Marauders from the Moon, then I will stop and assess and see where I want to go from there. I’d like to continue the series; it’s fun to write, and I’m really starting to get a feel for the characters (some of whom demonstrate an alarming degree of independence).

After the lightning round that was drafting The Scent of Death (57 days), I had hoped to make equivalent speed with this one and finish by the end of November. But that didn’t happen, and then with the holidays, things dragged. I blame myself, but I won’t schedule another book to end in the fourth quarter, I think.

I have the cover for Scar on order, and the plan is to publish at the end of February. But it needs editing, and proofreading, and I need to start outlining Marauders if I’m to publish that this summer… That would make three books in one year. Life was a lot simpler when it took a year to write one book.

But who ever said simple was fun?

#SFWApro

It isn’t easy being a writer. Or any kind of creative person. If it were, everyone would do it, and the world would be an even more beautiful place. But it isn’t, for reasons that most people could come up with if they were to bother: How do you get ideas? How do you stretch those ideas out to cover several thousand (or several hundred thousand) words? How do you find the time? The list goes on.

If you’re a writer, however, you’ve already come up with answers to these questions. (Well, all but the last three…) But even then, there’s the problem of persistence. Not the persistence it takes to submit and re-submit the same story to various markets maybe four dozen times with no reason it will succeed. (I think my record for rejections before a sale is 44.) That’s a long-term sort of persistence; I’m talking about the day-to-day, the persistence it takes to complete a single project, especially a novel.

2017 was a very hard time for writers (at least liberal writers). The year was a socio-political mess (no matter whose side you’re on), and outside events kept getting in the way. This doesn’t count all of the large and small personal crises and problems that nip at your available time (the kids are sick, your boss was mean today, a death in the family). Maintaining your focus in the face of these events is hard. They make you not want to write; they slow you down. What’s the point of creating a fantasy world when the real world is so screwed up?

And maybe that is the point. When we’re writing, when we’re creating, we have control. Our worlds are only as screwed up as we want them to be–and we can fix them (or not). I’m not saying that we should concentrate on our stories to the exclusion of the real world, but perhaps being able to exert some control in here will help us feel we can exert some control out there.

So we can’t feel guilty about focusing. At the same time, feeling guilty about not focusing just makes it worse. This is a hard life we’ve chosen, but then, Life is hard. And we get through it every day.

Just remember, your characters have it even worse than you do.

#SFWApro

 

 

2017 in Review

I wasn’t planning to write one of these, but it occurred to me, almost too late, that while 2017 has been a horrible year for many people (for reasons outside the scope of this blog), for me, professionally, it has been not only successful, but actually profound. This was the year that everything changed, maybe forever. With that in mind (and because, like all writers, I’m just obsessive about these things), I’d like to list some of my achievements over the past twelve months.

Summarily, I sold five short stories this year, one of which was a reprint. I had four stories published, mostly those I sold last year. Just as importantly, however, I sold a record number of copies of my various self-published books, particularly in the fourth quarter. I hope to see this trend continue in the new year.

But sales were only part of the story, and not the largest part. Where a novel used to take at least a year, in 2017, I published two, and am dangerously close to finishing a third. One was written in less than two months. This represents a huge leap forward in my production, and opens up an new business model where self-publishing may become a viable part of a hybrid career path (self-published novels/traditional short stories).

I also expanded my authorial presence this year, appearing on three panels at my second consecutive Loscon as a guest. At no time did I faint, get horribly sick, or otherwise condemn myself to 1 million hits on Youtube.

And last but not least, two of my stories appear on the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List for 2017.

All in all, I’m pleased. I’m writing, I’m selling, and I still have a few ideas on the drawing board. So to all of you out there who support me, or support other writers, and especially to those who are trying so hard to make it when all the odds seem to be against you, have a Happy New Year. Make 2018 the year you want it to be.

#SFWApro

There are a lot of “rules” associated with writing, most of which are deceptively simple in form and exceedingly difficult in practice, like: “Write what you know.” How many of us have actually had to deal with the kinds of travails found in most literary novels, let alone destroyed a space station or carried the One Ring? Or my favorite: “Show, don’t tell.” It took me years to figure out what that meant, and now I spend so much time trying to follow it, it slows the whole process. And then, of course, there is the school of thought that says the rules are only there for when you’re starting out, but when you’re established, you can break them. This never made much sense to me; in what other field of endeavor do you succeed so you can get worse?*

But there’s one rule that stands out, not because it’s confusing, but because it’s hard. I believe it’s the Number One rule, the One Ring of rules, if you will, because if you can master it you can throw the rest into a volcano…

“Write what hurts.”

Yeah, that. Think about it. All you have to do to succeed in this business is to put down on paper for the world to read the most excruciating experiences you can imagine. (Again, write what you know.) If you can do that , if you can grab onto to your feelings from these moments and express them with brutal honesty, readers will not be able to help devouring your work. You will grab them by the heart and not let go. You will sell and take home awards and be admired.

And of course you will have dredged up everything in your life that you’ve been trying to forget since you were 13 years old. That’s gonna hurt. It has to hurt, or you’re not doing it right.

Now no one says you have to follow that route. Lots of writers make perfectly comfortable careers out of books whose plots and characters are no thicker than the pages upon which they appear. Writing as pure entertainment is not only lucrative, but necessary, and requires no soul-baring. If that’s your path, follow it, as far and as long as you can.

But if you want to write something Deep, and Meaningful, then you can’t skirt this rule. You have to obey it, or at least try, as slow and messy and painful as that journey will be. And unlike therapy, it’s hard to do lying down.

Still, I guess it’s cheaper.

 

*Other than politics, of course.

#SFWApro

Don’t Insult Me

If you know anything about me by now, it’s that I’m all about the work. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Respect the reader. You aren’t Amazon or Facebook or a cable company (unless you are), with a near-monopoly and the assurance that people will use your product regardless, because they have little choice. You are one creator among thousands, and a button-push away from oblivion (at least as far as any individual consumer is concerned).

Which is why is makes me so angry that concern with craft is going the way of the dinosaur. I’m not talking about self-publishing; that’s an easy target. True, the attention to details varies wildly, but it’s the Wild West, and anyone venturing therein knows that he’s taking his chances. I’m talking about people who not only know better, they have lines of defense against such things: editors and proofreaders and continuity-checkers.

More and more, the big players are getting away with throwing whatever garbage they want on the page or screen and calling it “art,” whether it’s re-making a classic movie with new characters (The Force Awakens), or re-booting an old series with a “new timeline” and forgetting everything that made the old series worth re-booting (Star Trek), or just the awful writing in a best-selling series of thrillers (where do I start?). And the reason they get away with it is because people will buy into a big, splashy franchise simply because it is big and splashy.

Now, such franchises aren’t invulnerable–unlike some of their stars. The DCU has suffered badly (by its standards) for its treatment of Batman, Superman, and the Justice League. (This year, it is appropriately ironic that Wonder Woman saved the day for the boys.) And maybe enough losses at the box office will effect change, although it will be slow, if it comes.

I’m not asking that every book, TV show, and movie be a classic, or even good for that matter. All I’m asking is that if you want my money, you respect me for more than my wallet. I have a brain. I appreciate entertainment created by someone who cared enough to do it right (e.g., the scrolling prologue of Star Wars).

And if it’s big and splashy as well as smart, I’ll gladly be your fan.

#SFWApro

 

 

I’d like to win a writing award some day.

This is hardly news; every writer wants to win an award someday, except for those who already have, and I am fairly confident in saying that they want to win more awards some day. There are, of course, writers who say they don’t care if they ever win any awards, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if they did.*

I don’t feel bad about this; to be honest, nothing I’ve done has merited such treatment (although a few years ago, when the Hugos were being manipulated by block voting, I did think that I had an eligible story which was equal to anything the block voters were putting up). In fact, I have my doubts that I ever will write something that special. Which is why it’s a darn good thing it’s not up to me.

I’m sure that many writers have finished a story and thought, “Damn, that’s good, even if I do say so myself. This could actually get nominated for something.” (Actually, we all say that pretty much every time we finish, but occasionally we recognize that it might just be more than fantastical thinking.) More often, though, I think that we write something hoping against hope just to get it published, and when it is nominated for an award–let alone when it wins one–we are stunned because we don’t think it’s good enough.

I mean, face it, we never think it’s good enough; it’s never really done. There is always a verb to be made more tangible or a sentence or two to be shaved (and I actually sold a story after just such an operation), but part of the trick of being a real writer is to know when to let go. After all, if it’s rejected a few times, you can always go back and edit then. But to think it’s not only finished, but award-worthy? That’s beyond most of our capabilities. Writers are the worst judges of our own work.

And that’s why it’s best that other people nominate us for awards. The best award, anyway, is having people buy what we write. Maybe we even get fan mail. But we’re writing to be read, not for trophies.

Still, it would be nice, some day, to stand at that dais and thank my wife, my readers, and my tenth-grade English teacher. Just don’t ask me how that might happen, because I’d be the last person to figure it out.

 

*There is a continuing topic question in the community: Would you rather be known as a commercially-successful writer or a critically-successful writer? There are about twice as many answers to that question as there are writers.