Little bit of a change of pace today.
I went out early and got grocery shopping done. While I was shopping, I was listening to a podcast: the guys from the Self Publishing Podcast were interviewing Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch. I’m only about halfway through the ‘cast, but it has been AWESOME so far! My favorite podcast and two favorite bloggers, all rolled into one. Can’t beat that!
If you’d like to check it out, I can’t recommend it enough.
My wife was out today from about 10:30am until 6:30pm, at a meeting for Arisia convention staff. Arisia is a Boston fandom con (SF&F) run every January, and she’s on the staff. In fact, this year, she’s the “Timelord” – the person in charge of tracking scheduling stuff and making sure things are happening/getting done on schedule.
I mean, c’mon – “Timelord of Arisia”? There aren’t a lot of titles better than that! (grin)
So she’s out for the day, leaving me with the munchkins. Which was good. Got to help them with their homeschooling a little. R is working on math: clocks and coins (she’s seven). She’s learning about telling time on an analog clock, which is tough because there really aren’t a lot of analog clocks anymore. She gets digital time pretty well, but converting back and forth between digital and analog was giving her some trouble. So we spent some time working on that.
I also replied to some fascinating discussions on LinkedIn and the Kindleboards Writer’s Cafe. Lot of stuff happening… Writers wondering what’s up with the Oyster ebook library, and why Smashwords is being so tight-lipped about how their distribution to that platform will work. (My theory is Mark Coker has been required to keep hush about terms because of the contract, and that he wouldn’t have signed Smashwords up unless the deal was a good one.) Some interesting chats about Google Books and the copyright lawsuit against them on LinkedIn, too.
The big deal for me today, writing wise, was that the Starship Episode 5 edits were in. So I spent most of the afternoon working in chunks on getting those edits taken care of. A lot of good changes to the manuscript, and I finished them all. Now the episode goes off for a final edit, and then it’ll be ready for publication.
If anyone reading this has been sitting around waiting on that episode, I apologize profusely for the delay. I hope you’ll feel this story is worth the wait.
I’ll also be producing a compiled version of the first five episodes, so if you haven’t started the series yet, stay tuned. Both episode 5 and the compilation ought to be out this month.
Susan (my wife) got home shortly after we’d sat down for dinner. It had been a long day for her, too. We were both pretty tired. She went upstairs after dinner to read for a bit, while I finished the last of the edits. Around 9pm, I was done, and we sat down for the season finale of the TV series we’ve been watching on Netflix.
Then I popped over to the computer, and hammered out another 45 minutes on the Ashes Ascendant manuscript. Got 1100 words done, which wasn’t bad at all – I figured today for a zero-words day, after all the editing, but the story is pushing ahead at a good clip at this point. The pace is picking up, like I said before, so my writing pace was excellent tonight.
And off to bed now, since work tomorrow means an early morning for me!
Totals for Day 8
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 1100 words Month to date fiction: 13850 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 618 words Month to date blog posts: 5556 words
Just a quick post today. This was basically a day off… Spent time with my wife, time with the kids, and time out with a good friend. I did get a couple of important things done on the writing end, though.
First, the edits for Starship 5 are in! Tomorrow, I will be going over those edits and getting the manuscript ready for publication. So the release of the fifth episode is happening VERY soon!
Second, I did manage to get another 800 words in on Ashes. I fit it in between various events going on.
And, still a busy night here, so I’ll sign off for now. Lot to do tomorrow, which will be a big work day on the writing end. See you then!
Totals for Day 7
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 800 words Month to date fiction: 12750 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 147 words Month to date blog posts: 4938 words
And now I TOTALLY feel like dropping the fantasy novel and getting back to some science fiction. (grin)
Got up this morning at 6am, off to work shortly after again. Another typical work day – doing a bit more there each day, as I get up to speed with how they do things there. Stayed from 7am until about 4pm. Worked through lunch. Wasn’t a bad day, wasn’t a particularly good day. Which makes it a step up from yesterday, so I’ll take it.
Headed home, and got stuck in slow traffic, so it took a while. I was pretty tired, so I made some coffee and headed upstairs to my computer. Checked emails, caught up on Twitter a little. Read up on some new stuff coming up in the publishing end of things that look interesting:
1) FlipKart started taking indie books last month, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get onto their site. It’s not quite as clear as KDP or Nook Press. But now, Smashwords is going to distribute to FlipKart. Suddenly, Smashwords is looking much more interesting. For those who don’t know, Flipkart is a big internet retail website for India. And India has more English language readers than any other country in the world. It’s actually possible that India has more English language readers than the entire rest of the world…not sure. So it’s a huge market, and a growing ebook market. Finding ways to break into that market would be a Good Thing.
2) Oyster – a service opening up in a few weeks, which will charge $10 a month for readers to be able to read books from their stocks. Pay the monthly fee, read books (I gather as many as you want). Again, Mark Coker’s Smashwords has stepped into the breach here. Smashwords will distribute ebooks to Oyster when it launches. I don’t yet have details about how authors will get paid when their books are borrowed on the Oyster system, but I’ve known Mark (peripherally) for a while now. He’s a canny man. He wouldn’t have made the deal if it wasn’t worthwhile, so I suspect this is something to jump into with both feet.
As a result, I’m suddenly VERY interested in Smashwords again, where I was leaning away from using them anymore, just a month ago. I’d had great luck with Draft2Digital uploading to Apple and B&N, and can upload direct to B&N and Kobo anyway. Smashwords was looking a little superfluous – go figure that Mark would jump in and find more ways to add value to his distribution system. I will happily pay Smashwords the small percentage of sales they keep, if they’ll keep finding me new markets for my books!
Took a brief nap until after six, when my wife called me down to dinner. Which was pancakes and sausage: what we call “silly supper”. The kids always enjoy it when we do that.
After dinner, it was back upstairs, and a little more reading on the Oyster thing. Trying to find out as much as I can in advance, which unfortunately isn’t much. But I’m intrigued.
Then I got to work. Put in an hour on Ashes Ascendant, and just about exactly 1200 new words. Then it was time to get the kids to bed, and watch a TV episode with my wife. We’re working through the first season of Lost Girl on Netflix, which is fun, and interesting, and urban fantasy – so it’s nice to keep me on track for writing the Blackwell urban fantasies.
After the show was done, it was closing on time for the LADEE launch, so getting back to writing just wasn’t happening. I debated climbing the hill in the park near my house – highest point for many miles all around. We’re just west of Boston, you see – and inside the range to be able to see the launch, according to the web pages I was looking at the other day. The rocket was launched from the Virginia coastline, which made it the first rocket launch far enough north that I’d have a shot of seeing it. So a high vantage point seemed smart. However, the park is closed after sunset, and I had visions of trying to explain to a police officer why I was up there… (grin)
Staying put finally won out, so I pulled NASA TV up on my computer instead, and watched the launch that way. Then, because I had to, I peeked out my bedroom window at about the time when I ought to have been able to see the rocket.
And there was a little bright light out there, flickering through a tree branch. Was it a star?
No, it was moving. A plane, perhaps? I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Then NASA announced the stage two engine shutoff on my desktop, and the light went out.
NASA called the stage three ignition, and it came back on.
I called my wife over, shut off lights, and got ready. She wasn’t at all sure it was the rocket.
NASA called the next stage shutoff, and it vanished from sight. Which was about as much proof as either of us needed.
We just saw a craft, built by people, carrying a cargo to the moon, as it was leaving Earth to begin its voyage.
For a science fiction writer, that moment when you see a glowing point of light that you know is the real thing…it’s a hard moment to describe. It makes me want to write better – makes me want to inspire more people. I want people to read things I write and dream big dreams about reaching into space. I want them to grow up and make those dreams into reality.
I’m SO in the mood for writing more science fiction right now. But I’m going to stay the course, and finish the Blackwell novel. Then I’ll probably shift gears back to something near-future SF. Because getting into space is something that I feel in my heart we ought to do. We are a curious race. We have always, whenever we reached a new vista, taken whatever risks were necessary to explore that new place. I’ll probably never get to go there myself, but if my writing helps encourage others to take those steps, I will be satisfied.
Totals for Day 6
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 1200 words Month to date fiction: 11950 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 1076 words Month to date blog posts: 4791 words
No escaping it – into full on work days now. Up at 6am, out the door after a quick shower, and then at work before 7am. There until almost 4pm today. Hit email over lunch break, so I’d have less to do there when I got home. And had an absolutely awful end of the shift; really rotten on a couple of counts. So I was tired and a little fried when I got home.
Played a few rounds of the Rome 2 game, which gave me about an hour of recovery time. The game is a little buggy, but fun. Honestly think I might have liked the original better than the new version, but I’m giving it a little more time before I make that call. One plus about a game like that is I can play it in small, bite sized chunks. And it pauses well.
Right around then my wife was leaving for a meeting, and I started on the kids’ dinner. Which they ate. Kinda. It was an unenthusiastic day all around. 😉
Got upstairs after dinner and did some non-writing job work for a while. Finally kicked off writing around 9pm, and got 1300 words done before my wife got home around 10. I’m still working on Ashes, and this part is practically plodding. The good news is, I can feel that I am about two scenes from the tipping point. This book is something like a roller-coaster: long, steady build up, and then a rocketing ride to the finish through the second half. Once that part takes off, I think the speed is going to increase dramatically. I can feel those scenes itching to get out. So much so that I almost opted to start on a later scene, skip ahead a little bit. But that’s not my usual work pattern, and I had a feeling it might hurt more than it would help. So I’m working my way through these last scenes of build up.
Things go “bang” in about two or three more scenes. And stay that way for the following 20,000 words or so, I suspect.
Well, I’ll find out for sure over the next few days! 😉 Looking forward to it.
Totals for Day 5
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 1300 words Month to date fiction: 10750 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 387 words Month to date blog posts: 3715 words
Today was a slow day. Got to get up late – 7am – because I had to go to the doctor’s for a physical and some bloodwork. Stuff I needed for the new job. Got that done, then off to work. I got there about 10:30. Work is…a little confused right now. But the folks there seem nice, and I’m giving things a little while to settle down. Trying to learn what I can about how they do things; it’s always a little different everywhere.
So I was there until about 3:30pm, then headed for home. The drive took over half an hour, and I got in a bit after four. Was tired and a little out of sorts (from the rather disorganized day), so I hit the computer for email and a little surfing. Talked with my wife about getting the Rome: Total War 2 deal. I’m fond of the series – nice blend of strategy, tactics, and long term planning. And the deal I’d seen for about a quarter off with the first expansion free was still running, even though it was supposed to have stopped when the game released September 3rd.
Yeah, I like computer games sometimes. I try not to spend TOO much time playing them, but they’re a fun diversion.
So I got the green light to buy the game, and started it downloading. About halfway through the VERY long download, I ran out of steam. Just too tired to stay awake, so I napped for a while while my wife made dinner. She woke me up just before it was done, and I served everyone.
By the time dinner was done, it was around 7pm, and I was back upstairs, talking with Susan and trying to get the game to load up. I loaded it. It crashed. Hard. Rebooted my computer. Loaded it again, got to play for a short while, but it crashed as I was entering my first battle. Again, had to reboot my desktop. Guessing I have something set too high for the computer to handle, and I’ll have to turn the settings down. My computer isn’t some sort of gaming monstrosity; it’s just a decent desktop. So I’ll fiddle with it another time. Checked into Kindleboards briefly, and then watched some TV with my wife for an hour after getting the kids to bed at 9pm.
At 10pm, I started writing, and got an hour in. Oddly, I found I had to do some quick research in the middle of the writing. That’s unusual for me, but I realized I knew darn little about the African campaign in WW2, and that I needed at least a broad frame of reference for the story. So I spent maybe half an hour getting the general overview. I’ll do more in depth reading later, and make corrections in the text if I am off on any specifics. But mostly I am shying away from specifics – the story is set in the modern day, so all I need are broad strokes from the war.
All in all, I got a little over a thousand words done. My lowest wordcount yet. But I’m still doing a good job, overall, for monthly count. I am noticing a trend of downward movement in daily fiction counts, though, so it’s something I want to keep an eye on. Need to get the work done, even if I’m coming home a little tired. That’s the challenge, of course!
Totals for Day 4
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 1000 words Month to date fiction: 9450 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 595 words Month to date blog posts: 3328 words
I set my alarm for 5am last night, with the idea of waking up, getting ready for work, then spending an hour writing.
I lasted seven whole minutes out of bed, after shutting off my alarm, before deciding discretion was the better part of valor and climbing back into bed. Hey, I’ve never really been a morning person. And I’m still trying to adjust from being able to sleep in until 8 or 9am. But I do want to keep trying to get some writing in early. I have this idea, you see, that if I start off those work days with some creative fire, it’ll help make the entire day go better. By starting off with the writing, I set the writing up as a priority in my mind. I also head into work knowing I’ve already accomplished a good chunk of what I wanted to get done for the day.
At least, that’s the theory. Actually making it happen is going to require some changes in sleep patterns!
Work ran late today, and I didn’t get home until almost 5pm. I’m usually 7am-3pm, but leaving late put me in traffic, which made me even later.
On the plus side, I don’t have to be up until quite a bit later tomorrow. I have a doctor’s visit tomorrow morning – just a physical for the new employer, but it had to get done. So I have to be at the doctor’s at 8am, instead of work at 6:45.
Works for me. Otherwise, I think I’d have had to get to bed before this.
Home at 5pm, and fairly burned out. The scene I was left with was a rough one. It’s more or less introducing a new major character to the series, and I needed to do it right, but I wasn’t quite sure how to fit her in. So instead of writing, I hit the email that had piled up all day. Then dinner, and I was finally ready to really get to work around 8pm. I wrote for a bit, chatted with a friend on the phone, then watched a TV episode with my wife for a break after getting the kids to bed at 9pm. By 10:30 I was back to work, and wrapped up a little bit before midnight to write this post.
I’m totally into unwritten ground now in the novel. Fun stuff. I have a decent idea where things are going, but there’s lots of room for new stuff to crop up along the way. And I still don’t know just how it’s going to end, yet.
But I’ve managed to keep on track as far as wordcount goes on this first day of the challenge plus work hours. Which is good. My biggest worry is getting derailed by being too tired from work, physically or emotionally. If I can maintain a steady pace, then I think I’m in good shape. Looking at the totals, I’m still holding well ahead of the curve. Which is excellent, since I’m sure there will be some days ahead where I get little if anything done. That’s just the way life rolls – things happen!
Most of all, I’m really happy with three straight days of steady progress.
Totals for Day 2
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 2450 words Month to date fiction: 8450 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 558 words Month to date blog posts: 2733 words
A good day today.
Got up at 9am again. Last day off before the work week. Got up in a good mood, checked email – and saw a bunch of comments on yesterday’s blog posts, which made the morning even brighter. Loved hearing from folks – thank you all. I may not reply to each and every comment made in the weeks ahead, but I’ll try to do so for as many as possible.
The morning was email, some replies on LinkedIn, and about a thousand words for a new scene in Ashes. Worked with the kids on their homeschooling off and on, and helped fix one of our twin girl’s laptop – it was shutting off every few minutes. Just needed a reboot, as it turned out. It’s my old machine, and starting to go, but it’s a good machine for a seven year old.
After making everyone lunch, it was back to work. And here, I guess I need to explain this story a little.
I’m working on “Ashes Ascendant” – the sequel novel to “By Darkness Revealed”. Originally though, Ashes was going to be a short story, since I am planning a mix of short stories and short novels about the main character, Ryan Blackwell. Then I realized it was a little longer than a short ought to be. But not quite long enough to be a novel. I didn’t want to introduce novellas into the mix, as I thought it would be confusing to readers. So I was in a bind – a story too short and too long for the series I was working. I set it aside for a long time, and worked on other things.
I’ve since come up with some great additional material, and a solid character arc that takes Ryan through the story. Really, I know the arc more than anything else. I know what Ryan is going to learn in this story – the feel, the flavor. I don’t know precisely how it’s going to end, although I have rough “beats” lined up for a chunk of the story. The ending is a bit of a mystery still, which ought to be fun.
But I’ve got a lot of new material I’ve been writing, alongside a bunch of old material from my first run at the novel. Today, I hit the old material. Some of it I kept. Some of it I tossed out. Some of it, I tossed out the actual text but kept the scene, rewriting the scenes from scratch. Even the stuff I kept needed some tweaks to bring it in line with the rest of the story.
For the record, I hate this sort of work, which is why I put it off. I was half tempted to toss out EVERYTHING I had already written and just redo the entire thing, but there’s some good stuff in there and I didn’t feel like I would do it better on a second run.
So, this afternoon between about 1pm and 5pm, I trashed about 2500 words, tweaked about 4000 words and put them in the right place in the story, and wrote 1900 new words. I’m not counting the tweaked words toward my word count, but getting that stuff done was a big step forward for this story. I have another 2300 words to go over, and then it’s clear sailing – I’m in new territory at that point, and writing fresh story.
At 6pm, we had company come over for an ice cream party – some friends of the kids, and their parents. My wife and I talked with them for close to two hours while the kids played. It was a good time, and a great way to slow down after a busy day. Then upstairs to watch a couple of episodes of “Lost Girl” via Netflix with my wife. It’s an interesting show – and watching urban fantasy while writing it works for my creative headspace.
It’s about 11pm now, and I’m just finishing this blog post before heading to bed. Have to be at work tomorrow for 7am. Not looking forward to the early morning, but then I’ve never been an early morning person.
Tomorrow is another day, and we’ll see how well I can continue to do with wordcount over the next four days, when I’m working 7am-3pm.
Totals for Day 2
Daily Fiction Wordcount: 2900 words Month to date fiction: 6000 words
Daily Blog Post Wordcount: 735 words Month to date blog posts: 2175 words
Today was a busy day. Aren’t they all? (grin)
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
It’s the first of September.
A month ago, writer Dean Wesley Smith launched a new challenge for himself. For one year, he is going to “write in public”. Every day he is putting up a new post, talking a little about his day, his writing process, what he got done, and how he did it. He’s calling the series of blog posts “Writing in Public: A Year in the Life of a Professional Fiction Writer”. He kept it up all through August, and it’s been an awesome read. You can catch his first post here. As a secondary goal, he’s planning to write about 100,000 new words each month, for a new monthly magazine he wants to put out – of all his work!
Understand, Dean’s been doing this for decades. If you haven’t read his blog, then you don’t know his history – which involves over a hundred traditionally published novels and over two hundred short stories sold to various venues. He knows his craft; he also knows his methods, and has built up systems for getting things done over the course of decades of work. So what he’s doing, really, is giving the rest of us a peek at those methods and systems.
It’s been fun to watch. But what about doing more than just watching?
A month ago when Dean first started this crazy challenge, I asked him if he’d be offended if I tried to take up the challenge as well. His reply?
Kevin, completely up to you. Remember, this is for a year. It’s the long push that’s important here. Might want to bring the elephant down to a month to start. (grin)
So of course, I chickened out.
Hey, I have THINGS going on, right? I have three young kids. At the time, I was job hunting (found a new one, and starting full time this week, in fact). I need to earn a steady income to keep the roof over our heads and the fridge full. And writing isn’t paying more than a bill a month or so. I still did some writing in August, but it’s WAY easier to avoid the accountability. To continue just plugging along as a dabbler, instead of pushing myself.
I didn’t get nearly as much done in August as I would have liked.
And I had a month to think about this idea of this challenge. I raised a bunch of objections for myself.
1) Who’s going to want to read about MY writing process, anyway?
I’m not DWS. I haven’t been doing this for decades. So why would anyone want to read about my writing work?
I do have one thing going for me, there. I have another job, and kids – two things Dean doesn’t have. Most writers aren’t in Dean’s boat. We can’t wake up at noon and write off and on until 4am, then go back to sleep before waking up to do it again the next day. We need to fit in writing around the day job, at least. It’s a different challenge. What I experience as I push myself to excel might have some value for other writers who want to do the same thing.
Or maybe no one will read it. At this point, I’m OK with that result, too. Because by holding myself accountable. I will be making myself do a little more, and push a little harder. Whether or not anyone reads these posts, they ought to help ME write more. And that’s a win all by itself. The data I will collect – about when I wrote best, when I worked faster or slower, and how I found space in my life for more writing hours – should pay more dividends in the future as well.
2) What if you fail?
Failure is embarrassing. We’re brought up to hate it. But I’ve done some reading this month, and I think that’s a poor attitude. Failure is only bad when we don’t learn anything from it. Or perhaps when we fail because we didn’t try.
From a certain point of view, August WAS a failure for me, because I didn’t meet the writing goals I had set for myself. I failed even though I never started the challenge, because the private goals I did set were not met. If the thing we should derive from failure is some sort of learning, then what I ought to be taking away from August is “what you did last month DIDN’T work – time to try something different!”
Maybe I won’t manage this challenge, either, but I certainly intend to give it my best shot. And I’ll learn something from it regardless.
3) You don’t have time for this.
Yeah, there’s the big one. Because, of course, none of us do. Really. None of us have time to step out, step up, and do the things that matter to us.
Except that’s a lie. We have all the time we need for the things we want to do. We just have to dump some of the things that are less important, but sometimes find ways to fill our days anyway.
The New Challenge
I’m going to take Dean’s advice, and stick to just one month. For 30 days, through the month of September, I will put up at least a short blog post every day. I may not write every day, but if I don’t write, I’ll mention briefly what else I was up to. I’m going to use the little image I put together for this post for each one in the series, so they’ll be easy to spot. I’ll tell you as much as I can about the writing process, what I was working on, when I was doing it, and how I was fitting in those words.
And because I’m not Dean, I’m going to hit a 60,000 word target this month, rather than his 100,000 words. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to do 100,000 words! But 60k in a month will be my best month ever. So, baby steps.
If you’re interested in following along as I go down this crazy rabbit hole, welcome. I’ll spend some time answering questions people leave in the comments as I go along.
Wish me luck! This ought to be a lot of fun!
Once, there was a broad river. On one side of the river lived many mice. Those mice would wander about, collecting eggs from the various birds that built nests throughout the area. For some mice, it was arduous work; for others, it was joyous. But it was work nonetheless.
The mice would gather their eggs, and bring them to the river. The river was so wide that none of the mice could see the other side. Swimming across the river was unthinkable. But on the far side of the river were men and women and children who loved their eggs for breakfast and baking. In exchange for the eggs, the humans would give the mice cheese.
Luckily, some enterprising souls had built steamships to cross the river. They steamed from the human side to the mouse side, gathered the eggs from the mice, and brought them to the men and women. Then they would bring back cheese to the mice. It wasn’t a bad life. The mice had to collect a great many eggs to get enough cheese to eat, because most of the cheese the men and women paid for the eggs went into maintaining the steamships. But the mice knew pretty well how much cheese each day’s work would bring.
Not all eggs were alike. Some were rare eggs. Many were bad eggs. The rare eggs would bring a much higher price, and the bad eggs? Well, the steamboat owners would refuse to take them, leaving the mice who had gathered them hungry and wistful. But mice who wanted cheese would learn which eggs were good, and which were not.
So things went for a very long time, until one day, an enterprising man built a bridge across the river. And everything changed.
The bridge owner invited the mice to bring their eggs onto the bridge. And he invited the men and women to come onto the bridge as well, to select the eggs they wanted from the selection.
“It won’t work!” said the angry steamship captains. “People want eggs that we’ve checked for quality.”
“It won’t work!” said many of the old and experienced mice. “We need the steamship captains’ services.”
But in a short while, it was apparent to everyone that things had changed. Soon enough, about a quarter of the egg traffic was happening on that bridge. The steamships still plied the waters, but they could not sell as many eggs as they once did. So they couldn’t pay as much cheese as they once did, either. The reduced cheese payment led many mice who had been using the steamships to sell their eggs to check the bridge out.
“We’ll just try the bridge today. Test it out. See how it goes.”
Some were thrilled by the results. Others were less happy.
The bridge was a raucous place. Thousands of mice sold their eggs on the bridge, and the number of men and women buying eggs there was so great they were difficult to count. But some of the eggs were terrible – old, rotten, stinky eggs. The good eggs, and even the rare and precious eggs, were difficult to spot in the mess. So the bridge owner began to give the mice spots on the bridge based on how well their eggs were selling. The mice whose eggs sold best got the best spots, where lots of men and women would see their wares. The mice who could not sell any eggs were given spots that were much harder to see.
“It won’t work,” the steamship captains muttered. “The men and women can’t tell good eggs from bad. They need us for that.”
But oddly, it seemed to be working. Some men and women complained long and loudly when they bought a bad egg. But that was noted by other people, and the mice selling those bad eggs had trouble selling more. Overall, the people buying eggs were content.
Another thing about the bridge was that the eggs there tended to cost less. Without the cost of the expensive steamships to maintain, and with only a small percentage of the cheese they earned going to the bridge owner, the mice were able to charge less cheese for their eggs, and still be much better fed at the end of the day. Not all mice did well; but those who consistently brought good eggs day after day found they were able to earn more cheese for the same work than they had using the steamships.
The grousing among the steamships began anew.
“They’re ruining the value of eggs!” complained the steamship captains. “They’re pricing too low, and soon men and women will think eggs are worth less than they ought.”
But despite the lower prices, the mice selling on the bridge continued to be better fed.
“They’re hurting my egg sales!” complained some of the older mice. These mice had become adept at finding eggs that people really wanted. And the steamship captains had learned to give their eggs special placement in shops, so they always sold. But on the bridge, these mice were just like anyone else. Without the special placement, their sales would drop. These mice railed long and loudly against the bridge.
But the sales on the bridge continued to climb.
Some cunning steamship captains saw ways to profit from this. They began charging the mice cheese to ferry their eggs across. “Give us some cheese,” said these captains, “and we’ll bring your eggs over. Then we’ll pay you a part of the cheese we get for selling them.”
Smart mice saw this for what it was, and avoided these captains. But some mice brought their eggs to these steamships – usually the most desperate or newest egg-gathering mice. The quality of these eggs was poor, but the steamships didn’t check them for quality. They took cheese from the mice, smiled nicely, brought the eggs over. And when they didn’t sell, and the mice were even hungrier than they had been? The steamship captains smiled toothy smiles, and suggested that for another payment of cheese, they would help the mice market the eggs once they were on the other side.
That didn’t work either, because men and women can tell bad eggs from good ones, and refused to buy the bad eggs. The mice were left poorer and sadder. And those steamships who had concocted the scheme were left with a tarnished reputation, with the other mice worrying what else they might do to try to skim more cheese. Mice began to avoid these ships, in favor of other ships and the bridge.
Other steamship captains saw the changes, and saw the old way of doing business fading. Instead of charging the mice cheese to transport the eggs, they began offering better services to the mice.
“Yes,” they said, “we do keep some of the cheese earned from selling your eggs. But we package those eggs up in beautiful ways. And we have worked hard to earn the trust of many men and women over the river. They buy eggs from us because they know we always, always, bring the sorts of eggs they like.”
Some steamship captains tried to do this, and failed. They were not able to effectively reach enough men and women. Their job had always been transporting the eggs, not dealing with the people who bought the eggs! Those ships grew worn out, carrying less eggs with each year. Eventually, they stopped crossing the river completely.
But other steamships understood that dealing with the people buying the eggs was the most important thing they did, now. The bridge made getting eggs across the river simple and easy. Any mouse could do it. The steamships were no longer necessary. So the steamship captains became experts at reaching the people who bought eggs, instead of just experts at shipping the eggs from one place to another. And they knew they had to treat the mice well, because the mice could leave them at any time, and use the bridge instead. Without the mice, the steamships had nothing to carry, nothing to sell.
The mice who used these ships were very happy with the cheese they earned.
The mice who used the bridge? Some of them were very happy indeed. Others were moderately happy. Some grew discouraged, because they could not sell their bad eggs, and didn’t understand that they had to gather good eggs to sell. Some were OK with just the chance to earn a few scraps of cheese. Others earned a great deal of cheese, enough that the good steamship captains would take notice, and offer to carry their eggs, perhaps even give them special placement in the shops on the far side.
The one thing everyone who survived understood was this: the bridge was not going away. It was too easy to build bridges, once you understood the principles involved. Even if a catastrophe tore down the first bridge, other bridges would be built – and in fact, some competing bridges went up, and much commerce moved to those bridges. The idea of the bridge had changed the way everything worked.
Because mice could sell across the bridges, they no longer needed the steamships.
Because the mice no longer needed them, the steamships had to make the mice want to use their ships instead of the bridge.
What they discovered was that when they did this, everyone was happier – mice, men, and captains alike. The bridges continued to have as much traffic as before. But the steamships and the mice who used them had a good share of the cheese, and were content.