Just leaving a quick note today, with a link to a good article. Sometimes, life does explodey things. Kris and Dean call these “life rolls”. Best advice is usually to stop, breathe, acknowledge them, and then prepare to step forward again.
It was not a writing day today. Will try for one tomorrow, but no guarantees.
Here’s the article. A good one.
The writing will still be there tomorrow. And I think it’s wise to spend time on all the things that matter to you.
Totals for Day 13
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 0 words Month to date fiction: 16900 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 84 words Month to date blog posts: 7573 words
I rolled out of bed at about 9am. Not a work day, so not a problem. Spent the morning hanging out with the kids and wife. Helped her cook up a dish to bring to a party she was going to, and made chocolate chip cookies for the kids. Also checked email and did a few posts to LinkedIn. I’m not counting those toward writing totals. I value the LinkedIn discussions – they’re about publishing and writing, and educational – but they’re not something I can produce and publish. So I’m counting only my publishable fiction & nonfiction, and my blog entries for purposes of this challenge.
My wife left around 3pm. I spent 3-6pm working up the courage to post that first challenge blog, and then figuring out what precisely I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it. Then I made dinner, ate with the kids, and dished out cookies for dessert.
Then back to the computer for a bit while they wound down. More email answering. Finally, I was doing a little writing, as best I could between the kids needing help with this or that. Didn’t get a whole lot done, and it was creeping along. One of those days where you can barely get words down.
Got the kids to bed at 9pm. Wife still not home, and the kids stayed a little noisy til around ten. Just one of those nights… Still, made forward progress, and then even more once they settled.
Wife got home about 12:30am, and she filled me in on how things went for a half hour. Then I polished up the last bit I was working on, ended the chapter for “Ashes Ascendant”, the next Ryan Blackwell urban fantasy novel, and wrote this post.
Not the banner day I was hoping to start with. I had daydreams about kicking the challenge off with a good 8k+ word day. (chuckle) Not too worried, though, as it was a good start. Part of what this challenge is about is building the habits of success – continuing to push, not in little spurts, but every day.
So I’ll call today a win. Made some good headway, and I’m pleased with how the story is going.
Totals for Day 1
Fiction Wordcount: 3100 words
Blog Post Wordcount: 1440 words
Couple of days ago, author Chuck Wendig made this post on his blog:
NOT EVERY WRITER WANTS TO BE A PUBLISHER
This is something I see often enough: an author talks about losing a series or having some difficulties with a publisher or whatever, and someone from the crowd eventually says, “You should self-publish. We want more of you, the money’s better, we’ll support you. Plus, so many options! Amazon! Kickstarter! Bookflipper! Pub-Burger!” Sometimes it’s a polite suggestion, sometimes it’s double-barrel proselytization and they start spouting off “facts and figures” along with a dose of venom against the oppression of the traditional system.
Some writers just want to be writers.They don’t also want to be publishers.It’s just that simple. Neither wrong nor right. It’s a personal and professional choice.
Self-publishing is an act separate from writing.Not every writer has the time, the talent, or the interest.
Both writing and publishing take work. Self-publishing demands the work of both.
Worth it for some, tricky or undesirable for others.
This isn’t meant to dissuade any author from going that route. It’s more to dissuade everybody else from haranguing authors about self-publishing when it’s just not in their wheelhouse.
All of the above is very true. And this is a great article. I understand the point of view. I mean, who among us HASN’T felt overwhelmed when our job suddenly starts demanding some new adaptation or new technology or new training? It can be doggone scary. So yeah, there are some writers who don’t want to be publishers.
I suspect that will be LESS true in the future, however. I mean – back when I started writing, nobody knew how to use computers. That was a tech thing – you had to be a serious nerd to have a home computer back in 1980 or so. But somehow, now, most writers have managed to pick up those incredibly difficult computer skills, so that now it’s rare indeed to find a writer still espousing the virtues of her manual typewriter.
Likewise self publishing.
Yes, you need to learn how to find your very own editor and cover designer, which means you need to learn what good editing and covers look like. And you probably ought to learn how to format your own ebooks, too (hint: it is roughly the same level of difficulty as exporting a PDF from Word, and my six year old was exporting flawless Epub and Mobi files – two years ago, when she was four).
Everything else, you have to do anyway. Marketing, promotion, accounting, all that jazz? Guys, I’ve done both the trad route and the indie route. There’s no real difference in the level of complexity of any of those things, whichever path you choose.
If anything, I found that the indie route allows more time for writing, and less time dealing with publishing hassles.
There’s no guarantee that your self published book will earn you as much as it would via a regular publishing deal. But then, there’s no guarantee that book would get a regular publishing deal, either. If the average indie book earns say $100 a year, as some folks say – well, do recall that the average submission to a major publisher earns something like a penny. Ever. Because most submitted books are terrible, just like most of the self published books which earn poorly. If your book isn’t ready for prime time, it’s not going to do well. Being ready for prime time doesn’t mean it will automatically win through (how many times was Rowlings rejected?), but those low averages are skewed by all the books out there which just were not ready.
We’re rocketing toward a future where agents are busily going into publishing themselves or going out of business. Where publishers are actively scanning the bestseller lists for authors of good self published books to pick up. There’s some suggestion that self publishing might even *replace* agents as the first gatekeeper. If that happens – and it might be happening now – in a couple of years you’ll see all the Writer’s Digest articles about “how to self publish so you can get a traditional deal”.
But even if things don’t pan out that way, the writers coming up through the ranks today are learning ebook self publishing as part of their basic training. Those of us in the old guard may or may not feel warm and cozy about this stuff, just like those of us back in the 80s were iffy about losing our typewriters for those ‘computer’ things.
But it’s changing, with or without us.
That change isn’t an option.
How we choose to react to that change is up to us.
Way back, some of my first long fiction books were the Skylark and Lensmen series by Doc Smith. These were fun stories. By the time I read them, they were all in book form, of course. But originally, they were serialized in magazines. So were later works like Heinlein’s “Farmer in the Sky”, most of which first appeared in Boys Life.
People would read a section of the story, and then have to wait a week, or often even a whole month, before they would get the next section of the story. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember those days. A child of the 70s, the day of the serial was long over before I was reading. But the format was once the dominant one for fiction. Good stories got serialized first, then compiled into books.
And readers loved it.
Today, we have our own echoes of that old style. Soap operas, and their evening counterparts on TV, carry us through long plots from one episode to another. Comic books still play out these sorts of episodic fiction in much the same way they always did. But prose has been a long time coming back around to the serial mode.
Then last year, a lot of exciting things started happening. Serials started popping out in ebook form. And they started selling. Amazon noticed, and opened up a new serial label for fiction produced under their imprints. TOR noticed – and John Scalzi got to write one of the first of the great new serial novels, “The Human Division” – which, by the way, is fantastic. Definitely worth the read if you like science fiction!
I’m excited about serial fiction making a comeback. I find that I enjoy reading these nice chunks of story. I enjoy the anticipation of wondering what will happen next, and having to wait a little while to see. I’m glad Scalzi is putting new episodes out weekly, not monthly…!
But We Can Do More, Now
So far, the serials produced have pretty much followed the old model. Take story, write it so that it is broken into logical parts, each one a segment which will be published separately. Then when a set of episodes is done, compile them into a full sized book for the audience that prefers to read the whole book all at once. That’s how it was done in the early 20th century. Heck, that’s even how it was done in the day of Charles Dickens.
But is that the only way to do serials? I don’t think so.
I think that, today, we have more to bring to readers.
We have better connections to our readers, for one thing. We can get very fast feedback from folks reading the story. Readers can be involved in the stories in a way they never could before. Sure, by the time they read episode 3, episode 4 is certainly already written. But their feedback might be able to directly influence episode 6. The internet has given readers a way to reach favorite writers in real time. And it opens the doors for a lot of new potential in serial fiction.
Readers can be part of the story in ways that were never possible in old-style serial fiction.
Readers: how would you like to connect with a writer, during a serial season? My new work, STARSHIP, launches officially today. It’s a science fiction serial set in the very near future. Humanity has its first starship, far sooner perhaps than it had any right to possess one. It’s a story about people, though – about people life has beaten down, who try to reach for the stars regardless.
And I’d love to connect with readers as the story moves forward. I am excited about the opportunities for readers to engage in the process of storytelling. I’d love to hear from you! How can STARSHIP become our story?
STARSHIP Episode 1: Ad Astra is available from all major ebook retailers. Following episodes will be released weekly, until the first story (five episodes, forming a novel-length story in total) is released.
If you’d like to hear about new releases as they’re available, you can sign up for my newsletter here!
Forgive the “taste of home”, please. When searching for a mountain image to include, I briefly considered a variety of peaks. Wikimedia has a huge array of creative commons images of mountains. Peaks from all over the world. Tall crags. Famous mountains. Gorgeous photos.
So I picked Camel’s Hump instead, this relatively low mountain in Vermont. It’s not particularly famous, but it’s a great hiking site. Amazing trails, and some great faces for climbing if you’re into that. Am I still missing Vermont a little, since I’m including a Vermont mountain as my focus image? Yeah, probably.
Neil Gaiman made an outstanding speech last Spring. He went before a bunch of students graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. If you haven’t listened to the whole speech, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. There are few speeches I’ve heard which are so down to earth and inspirational at the same time.
Here’s the video, if you’d like to watch now. It’s about twenty minutes long, and worth every second of the viewing:
But the part I wanted to focus on is at about 3:40 into the video. There, Neil talks about his goal – his aspiration to be a writer, to make a living telling stories. And he uses the metaphor of a mountain. He envisioned that goal as a distant mountain. And, he says, he constantly asked himself whether new opportunities he found took him closer to the mountain…or farther away. If something brought him closer, he took that path. If it brought him farther away, he passed. His entire journey, then, was a walk toward his own personal mountain.
It’s a great parable for artists of any sort, but of course because the original metaphor related to writing, it works brilliantly for us storytellers.
David Farland wrote a related piece recently, in his “Daily Kick in the Pants” series. Titled “Make Writing Your Only Plan”, David discusses how many writers set themselves up for failure by having “backup plans”. They end up building careers in the backup plans, because frankly it is easier and safer to build a career in just about any career with a steady paycheck than it is to survive as a freelance storyteller. We become addicted to those paychecks, to the (false) security of knowing we have money coming to us in a consistent and predictable manner. I say “false”, because we all know that those jobs are not really secure – they can and do go away – but the consistency feels like a secure safety net.
So we settle into that job, and it starts soaking up more time. We get a little more pay, get married, have kids, acquire a mortgage, pick up more bills (which make us more reliant on that paycheck), and over time life simply erodes what was once the real goal: writing stories.
Oh yeah. Been there. I think many of us have. It’s a struggle to maintain a focus on writing in the face of heating, electric, and cell phone bills.
David suggests that we remember we are writers first. He says “If you’re stocking shelves in a grocery store, see it as a means to an end. Remember that you’re a writer first. You only stock shelves to pay the bills until your writing career takes off.” And of course, the same thing is true whether you’re stocking shelves or pulling down six figures in a fancier career. If your goal is to be a storyteller, then THAT is your profession, and anything else you are doing to earn income is simply a means to an end… A way to keep food on the table until you succeed at your primary career. It’s hard to make that shift in focus. It takes effort to shift your priorities and still keep your job. But ask yourself: does your job take you closer to your personal mountain? Or farther away?
And to tie it all up, Dean Wesley Smith recently wrote what is perhaps the best blog post of writing advice I have ever read. Titled “The New World of Publishing: How to Get Started Selling Fiction in 2013″, Dean goes into his views on how to go about building a career in this new environment we find ourselves in. He talks about a bunch of paths one can choose, and a lot about the myths and pitfalls which can stand in the way of a writer trying to build a career. And then he goes on to summarize a bit, saying:
Telling a good story is an art form. As with any art, the art takes time to learn.
Make writing new words your main focus. Make learning business and craft your secondary focus. And get your work out for people to read.
Don’t get in a hurry.
It really, honestly, is that simple.
And that hard.
Neil Gaiman says “Make good art.”
David Farland? “Make sure that each day, your writing takes precedence.”
And Dean says that it really is that simple – and that hard.
Which pretty much sums up everything, if you think about it.
Now go write.
In the wake of Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath’s discussion of Eisler’s move to self publishing (turning down a $500,000 contract in the process), Dean Wesley Smith has posted some thoughts that he disagreed with their views on how to get help in those bits of publishing a writer wasn’t able to do, or didn’t want to do: things like covers, formatting, and uploading the books.
Today Dean, Joe, and Barry all posted a chat they had where they discussed these different opinions. Dean insisted that these services were “day labor” and that authors should resist paying a percent. Joe was adamant that they were worth a 15% fee to agents-turned-book-packagers who would take your book, edit it, slap on a cover, format it, and put it up online, managing the book and sending you a check when sales came in. Barry sort of took a middle road.
I am firmly on Dean’s side in this issue. There’s so many holes in the percentage idea that it would quickly turn into a nightmare, I think. Let me hit some of the major points here. More >
The Republican sponsored budget bill passed the House this afternoon. Among other things, the bill shuts down all funding for National Public Radio and PBS television.
Now, OK – I know that NPR is something of the “Democrat” radio station, more or less the liberal answer to the ultra-right FOX news stations. I can understand that being a target under fire by the right while they have the power to do so. Undermine the left’s media, and you undermine the left’s ability to get their arguments out. Much like the concerted attacks on unions throughout the country, that’s sort of an expected strike. I don’t approve, mind you – but I do understand it.
But PBS? Seriously?
I can see it now – Republicans campaigning on the slogans “Death to Big Bird!” and “Elmo leads the way to wickedness!”
No, I can’t see that. Won’t see that. Because they know darned well they’d never survive the public backlash.
Folks, these shows are important. They provide education to kids whose families don’t have the thousands of dollars to spend on pre-school. There’s literally no good alternative station out there. Disney offers a variety of fairly standard shlop – entertaining, sure, but not educational.
Sesame Street is practically a national institution. It is that way because it has had value for generation after generation of viewers, kids who’ve learned their letters, learned to count, learned how to get along with others, learned about friendship, about music, about reading, about…well, about most of the more important things in life, I think. The show has stuck around through all these decades because it is one of the best TV programs ever produced, period.
The other shows on PBS have a much higher than usual focus on learning, too. Fun learning, sure – but shows like Super Readers, Dinosaur Train, and Sid the Science Kid are all about learning while kids are entertained. And they work.
I think that this attack on the education of our kids is inexcusable. I think it is shameful. And I hope the folks that voted for it get the treatment they deserve by their children, when they get home tonight.
Most of all, I hope our Senate and/or President have the sanity to kill this bill cold.
A number of things have converged in my mind, of late.
There’s been a renewal in the short fiction world, for one. People are selling shorts – and doing decently with them! – for the first time in quite a while. Dean Wesley Smith points out how it’s possible to set up a solid residual income selling short stories as ebooks. Joe Konrath was blogging the other day about a novelist friend he convinced to write his first short story, publish to Kindle, and he’s already in the top 500 ebooks for a 6600 wd story selling at $2.99. That means he’s getting a ton of readers. Lot of other folks are hopping on, writing from true short length through novella/short novel length. More >
Ryan Blackwell is the protag in By Darkness Revealed. He’s also the viewpoint character for “Cat Fight”, a short story which will be appearing in the not-too-distant future in an anthology. With one short novel just about done, and a short story as well, my mind has naturally been shifting toward what else to do with him?
Well, as far back as November I was already planning to write more novels. The 40-50k word novel seems to fit his stories well so far. Short – fast – episodic content. Lots of hard-hitting magical action packed into short spaces. I started the second novel late last year, and I’ve picked it up again this week to finish it. But I’ve also been looking at the short story I wrote, liking the look of it, and realizing the shorts are just another good way to mix it up with this character.
So I put in 2000 words tonight on another short story, this one set between two novels (“Cat Fight” is set after the second novel). When done, I’ll have a novel – short story – novel – short story tempo that should work pretty well. I’ve already got the rough idea in my head for novel #3, in fact. And with the speed I can get short stories out and printed, this short should release almost the same time as By Darkness Revealed. Nothing like getting a couple of complementary works up right on top of each other.
This sort of serialized fiction is something I’ve thought about a lot. I still have some regular, full length novels I want to do, including getting back to the science fiction trilogy I’ve started. But I think serials have a lot of promise in the ebook world. They’re pretty fast to write. They promise good, reliable, fun reads. And they can be priced at a level that makes them an easy purchase (Darkness and other short novels will start off at $2.99 for ebook formats; the short stories will be 99 cents when I release them as singles).
I’ve got a new concept for a serialized work that I’ve been tinkering with in my subconscious for a couple of months now. It’s an extension of the same sort of idea. I’ll go into more detail about my thoughts for that – a real serial fiction, not just a string of related novels and shorts – in my next post.