Posts tagged novel
First, he was right – publishing is facing a lot of problems.
Second, that digital technology and distribution were on their way to solving many of those problems.
The list of problems was very different from the ones we hear so often. Nothing about indie bookstores being in trouble, or bad contracts, or the other stuff. It was all meta-analysis of the industry as a whole, and therefore kinda interesting! I thought I’d give a few of those problems AND the likely solutions here. The solutions that are already happening are happening because of digital. Or perhaps a better way of putting it: digital is happening, and happening so fast in book publishing, because digital presents new solutions to many longstanding industry issues.
We have a younger generation which is more focused on “gizmos” than on literacy.
That younger demographic is encouraged to read by the very devices they want to use; the internet is a blossoming ground of reading and writing, and it’s becoming well understood that those who can write well and in a convincing manner can attract a large audience to their work through that medium. The internet mandates a certain level of literacy.
Fiction today seems mostly dominated by tired plots and bad writing.
The tired plots are largely due to major publishers attempting to guess what readers want to read – and then overproducing tons of that specific band of content. Digital publishing, in contrast, opens the doors for ALL content (which means yes, a lot is bad). Readers then get to decide for themselves what is good and what is not; what they want to read and what they don’t. Readers as a group are *exceptionally* good at this.
Literature is lacking in notable masters, and often less skilled writers are marketed as “masters” of their craft without merit.
It’s been hard to determine who the true “master” level writers of fiction are, because fiction sales were dominated by publishers with narrow buying requirements, sponsored book placement, and big ticket marketing moves. Again, digital opens the doors for people with mastery to do very, very well (by reaching an audience!); with virtually unlimited choice of books, and the ability to sample them all for free, readers simply aren’t going to buy books they don’t like. Mastery of writing implies the ability to reach readers: masters of writing fiction will do remarkably well in a free market. On the plus side for publishers, freedom to publish gives them a chance to learn (by watching for successful work) which writers are masters of their craft.
Longer works are the norm, giving readers less time to explore more books.
Longer books were, again, the result of print retail demands in a print dominated market. Digital books have no physical shelf space. My 3k word short stories are selling at a slow but steady pace; so is my 45k word novel. In fact, there is strong evidence that while most readers prefer novels in the 60-100k word range even in ebook form that there is a growing desire among readers for shorter novels (40-60k words). And those shorter works are certainly more profitable for the writers creating them (more than twice as hard to write a 100k word novel as a 50k word one, in my experience; but income does not even double and often does not go up at all). Short stories, novellas, and short novels are back and growing in a big way.
The price of many books is prohibitive, especially in a still-recovering economy.
Books are getting less expensive. Writers can now sell an ebook for $4.99 – and earn about six times as much per copy as they used to get for an $8 paperback. Even selling at the lowball 99 cents, a writer will earn only pennies less per copy sold than they earn from that $8 paperback. Ebooks open the door for books to become less expensive, easier to acquire, and more abundant in terms of selection choice. Publishers are finding ways to reduce their expenses to compete with these lower cost works (or are simply losing market share). Lower prices are good for the readers and the market.
Digital SOLVES problems.
Digital isn’t just growing because it’s the “cool new thing”. It is growing precisely because it DOES solve so many of the problems with which publishing has been faced. The end of returns, which are a huge money sink for publishers. The opening of new options for writers. The ability for publishers to use self published books as a “farm league” from which to pick winners for future representation, and the associated ability for writers to tell them *no*, if the deal isn’t good enough.
Are there other problems in the industry you can think of? How can we push technology to help solve those problems? Looking at the problems an industry has today is the key to seeing what the changes will be in that industry tomorrow.
I don’t really feel like running out new predictions right now. Maybe tomorrow.
Instead, I thought I’d take a look at 2011, and then ahead at 2012, and set some goals.
Dean’s written some amazing articles on goal setting. He’s done similar articles before, but these just rock. Excellent reading, and very timely – hey, we’re all looking ahead at the new year, right? Check them out:
2011 was a good year. I published three short stories and a novel. I met a ton of really amazing people, and learned a great deal. But it’s time to push things to the next level. Now, I’ve got a lot of changes coming down the pipe. This is going to be a huge year, with a lot going on. So goals – real, achievable ones – are going to be critical.
1. Write more.
I have a brand new book; a little moleskin pocket sized planner. Aside from tracking dates and schedules in it (the obvious), it’s going to be used to track my writing. When I write, how much I produce, what frame of mind I was in. I’m going to use that to figure out when and where my best times for writing are, and build a better schedule for getting more done. I’m going to track every new word of salable fiction and nonfiction, and I’m going to make sure there are a lot of them.
How many? I’m going to shoot for 366,000 words. (It’s a leap year, 1000 per day.)
I’ve never even come close to that before. It’ll be a huge challenge, from the perspective of history. But then again – since I write about 600-800 words in a 25 minute sprint, it’s not really that much per day. In the back of my mind, of course, is the idea I might be able to exceed that, but life has a funny way of breaking in, so let’s just keep it there for now.
Specifically, on the writing front, I plan to publish Ashes Ascendant, finish Dead In Winter, and publish that. Those will finish off the first three Blackwell Magic books. I also still plan to produce the serial fiction work. I got a great start on that in November, but need to re-examine how I can approach the genre. It was my first try, and there were a lot of flaws (primarily, because I wrote a novel instead of a serial!). I will also finish the rewrite of Accord of Honor – which my wife assures me needs a new title, so it might get one. Science fiction in the not so distant future, this is a “lost book” of mine, or almost was anyway. The file was lost in a hard drive crash, but I had a paper copy, so I’ve been retyping it into the computer, rewriting as I went. The resulting story is not the same as the first one was – there are big chunks simply scrapped and rewritten – but it’s much improved from the first attempt to tell the tale, and I’m very pleased with how it’s coming.
I’ve also had a lot of requests for basically a “step by step guide” to the mechanical parts of self publishing. Where to upload. How, exactly, to convert. How to do a basic POD book. All the basics, all in one book. I know there’s a few out there, but when I queried one LinkedIn group in a half joking post, I had a bunch of replies back saying yes, please do! So the outline is done on said book, and I’ll be cranking it out this year.
2. Follow Heinlein’s Rules.
A while back, Dean wrote a blog post where he mentioned the book those rules came from. It’s a great little volume, “Of Worlds Beyond: the science of science fiction writing”. I got a copy of the original 1947 edition for Christmas this year. It felt vaguely like getting a copy of the Gutenberg Bible. ;) I mean, this is THE BOOK. The source of the rules which spawned the careers of so many writers. And I was holding an original edition in my hands. How cool is that? I may love ebooks, but hey, some print books have value as a symbol beyond the actual words contained within the spine.
For those who don’t recall, Heinlein’s Rules are simple:
Heinlein’s Rules for Writing
- You must write.
- You must finish what you write.
- You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
- You must put the work on the market.
- You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
In this new age of publishing, those rules are still valid. Only the market has changed. The rules themselves are still as simple – and simply powerful – as ever. So I intend to follow those rules. I will write. I will finish each piece. I will rewrite based on editorial suggestion. I will get that work up for sale as soon as is possible, and keep it there so that it sells.
3. Business building.
I’ve begun formatting and editing for other writers. Doing ebook and print book formatting, and copy editing manuscripts. So far, I’ve had a bunch of really happy people, and I plan to continue working in this venue into the new year. I watch all the time as writers are caught by this or that questionable – even scammy – operation that sucks them for every cent it can. I feel firmly that hiring folks for basic one-time fees is the best way to go, and I put my money where my mouth is. I’m making those services available to writers at fees that are reasonable – complete with a free set of revisions, and phone-walkthrough assistance in the upload process if necessary. I’m enjoying the work, it’s extra income I can certainly use, and it’s helping writers become successful publishing their work. I don’t intend to set a goal for how many of these I will do, but I will continue to make the services available so I can help writers achieve their own goals.
There’s a lot to do. It’s going to be an amazing year, in so many ways, for so many people! I look forward to the challenges ahead, and the work ahead, and the new experiences and things to learn. 2011 was remarkable.
2012 stands ready to be incredible!
Well, that was certainly interesting. I did 44,000 words in three days, 24,000 words on the last day.
And I’m done.
I had a little time to spare – about a half hour. Thanks, everyone who stopped by and said hello. Thanks for the retweets, the Facebook comments, and especially for the comments here. All the encouragement was welcome, and I’m enormously grateful!!
I’m doing an excellent job with the output. I was churning about 2k words per hour today. And while not all of it is perfect prose, it feels pretty good. Now, of course, the challenge is the same as every year: maintain. Continue working, now that NaNoWriMo is over.
NaNo gives us all an excuse to write. A chance to do something different once a year. But if you want to BE a writer, then that’s not enough. It shouldn’t be enough – should feel like it’s not enough, somewhere in your gut.
One hour a day for me is at least five hundred thousand words a year. How could I possibly agree to settle for anything less than that, and still feel like I’m taking writing seriously? Easier said than done. But honestly, if one is serious about something, is an hour a day too much to ask?
New year challenges and goals forthcoming later in December. It’s going to be a fun, fun year. =)
For now, though, this challenge is won!
EDIT PS: I’ll put up another article, either tomorrow or the next day, talking a little more about process, method, anything I think might be useful to someone else from the experience. But for now, fingers need a break! Brain too… =)
Can’t waste too many words here – sorry – not much time, and much to do!
I have about seven hours left. I have about 12,000 words left to write. I’m producing almost 2000 words an hour though, fingers flying, words spilling onto the page.
The challenge started with three days and almost 44,000 words to write. Today has been insane, but it’s almost over. I am SO taking a day off tomorrow.
Thanks, any of you who’ve been sticking with me through this. I’ll report back at about midnight with the final tally.
So I’m at 25.456 words right now. That’s only 24,544 words remaining.
The good news is, I made about 13,000 words today. And I’ve got a great outline for the next 12,000 or so words, which means they will flow *really* fast. I’m finding that if I have a paragraph blurb for each scene, I’m closing on 2000 words an hour.
Tomorrow is going to be the real test. That’s at least twelve or so hours of typing left to go. And to maintain that speed, I’ll have to take periodic breaks. Spend a half hour at some point writing the rest of the rough outline. And playing with the kids often enough that they don’t sneak up behind me and strangle me with my headphone cables.
Off to bed now. Early rise, and back to work. At this point, I have less than 24 hours remaining to finish NaNoWriMo.
Anyone started a betting pool yet?
Every doggone year, I want to do NaNoWriMo right. I want to get out there, and write not just 1600 words a day – but more than that!
And every doggone year, it seems like things just explode around me every November. Instead of getting more work done, I get less. Instead of having more wordcount accomplished by the end of the month, I find myself wondering if I can actually finish NaNo at all.
In 2009, I had to write 20,000 words in the last day, in order to finish the book in time.
In 2010, I wrote just over 25,000 words on November 30th, in order to finish By Darkness Revealed. Yes, that was a NaNoWriMo novel. Yes, the second half of the book really was written that fast. No, that was not a very fun day. Although it was exciting. And I noticed that the writing from that day was overall more crisp, more clear, and LESS in need of editing that the first half. Go figure.
So this year I’m sitting at something like 6000 words done on the 26th. I have work tonight, and work tomorrow night. If I’m lucky, I might be able to pull out a couple thousand words before Monday. Which leaves me three days.
About 72 hours.
To write maybe 42,000 words.
I’m off from work all three days.
Yes, I’m going to do this.
And as penance for being a dummy AGAIN this year, I’m going to let you all watch.
I’m going to update this blog at least daily, at least briefly, with little bits about how I’m doing. I’m also going to tweet progress on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. So you can root for me – or mock me, if you prefer – on Twitter if you want to follow my feed there.
Forty two thousand words.
Signing off for work now. I’ll see you on Monday. ;)
Writers, I’m going to guess most of you are following Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. If you’re not, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. There’s very few websites I’d consider “required reading” for the modern fiction writer. That’s one. Passive Voice is another. Kris Rusch’s Thursday blogs on the writing business are right up there as well. Oh, just check my Links on the sidebar. Every website I have is there for a reason – they’re ALL worth checking out.
But anyway, Dean. There is an enormous wealth of information on his site, from his “Sacred Cows” articles debunking the myths around writing and publishing (sort of like Mythbusters, but for writers), to his New Age of Publishing, Thinking Like a Publisher series, and tons of other assorted posts, Dean gives from decades of experience writing over a hundred books. Really not kidding – super, super stuff there.
Back in January, he announced that in addition to his other writing, he was going to write a hundred short stories this year. He’d already done one a week before, so he wanted to make it really challenging. He would post each one on the website; he’d make a cover, and publish them to the major ebook sites. And he’d tell us how long he spent doing those things. The stories would stay up on his website until he wrote the next one, then he’d take the old one down.
The year started off well, but…life happened. And Dean wrote a post recently where he mentions that he’s only done 28 stories so far this year. Math wizards have already figured out that means he needed to write 72 more stories – and this was September 25th, with just 97 days left to go.
Most people would give up. Or at least, scale back expectations. No – instead, he wrote “But I still think I can do this, or give it a good run, … So not tossing in the towel just yet.”
This isn’t just a challenge anymore. This is epic, epic stuff. =)
My gut wanted to say I’d match him story for story for the rest of the year.
My head said that was crazy talk. I have work, and kids, and NaNoWriMo coming up in November, and two novels to finish and get out the door. So I bit my tongue and just posted an “attaboy!” comment to his post, saying how inspirational he is.
I got to thinking about that a little.
If we back away from chances to fail, we also back away from opportunities to be great. Dean isn’t a great writer because of his successes or because of his failures; he is a great writer because he is not afraid to fail.
Another writer, Bob Mayer, has a statement he believes in so strongly that he made it the name of his publishing company: “Who dares, wins.”
I’ve paused a few times in the writing of this. Because I take this sort of thing seriously. But if Dean’s going to keep going with his challenge, I will do my utmost to match him.
That’s what this is about: I will match Dean story for story til the end of the year.
Sometimes with longer stories; maybe sometimes with short ones. You’ll get to see them all – I’ll follow the same rules he has. I’ll be writing fast and streaming the work up here for you all to read, but each will be pulled down as the next is posted, available only from the major ebook retailers from then on. Some of the stories you’ll probably hate. Hopefully, some of them you’ll really like.
Should be an interesting time. It’s a lot of writing, but practice is how we get good.
Because it’s crazy.
Because it’s epic.
Because it supports the effort of a man I respect and admire, while at the same time pushes me to excel.
Because sometimes, you have to Dare to be Bad. ;)
And because if we do not dare, we cannot win.
So, a few new changes to the blog over the last 24 hours!
First, I added a new column. The new column has links to my books and short stories on various vendors (just Amazon and Smashwords for now, but I’ll be adding B&N soon as well). I can already see that becoming a problem down the road as I get more stories up. I think I need a slider or something…! Not yet. But can definitely see the need. If anyone out there knows a good tool that I can use with WordPress to show images and text links in a scrolling manner, I’d be obliged to hear about it.
I also added a new page – contact me! I’ve got links there to Facebook, Twitter, and my email. I’ll always try to respond to every email. Might not be right away, but I do love hearing from readers, so I’ll get back to you. There’s also a link to a newsletter sign-up. And another link to the same newsletter in the side bar.
What newsletter? Well, it’s new, too. =) I’m using MailChimp to collect the email addresses of readers who’d like to hear about upcoming book and short story releases. The list is private, of course, and will be used sparingly; but if you’ve enjoyed By Darkness Revealed, for instance, and would like to read “Ashes Ascendant” when it comes out, then the newsletter is a great way to hear about the release.
Yes, soon. =)
And to top it all off, I’ve decided to try something really different, and participate in a blog hop.
Never having done one before, I have no idea how well this will be received, but…why not? As a character from my kids’ favorite show says “Get messy! Make mistakes!” One could do worse than follow the advice of Ms. Frizzle.
So I’ve signed up to offer a giveaway for the 7th through 10th of October, as part of the HOP FOR RED OCTOBER.
And what am I giving away, you ask?
Something with monsters, and magic, and a little mayhem.
Something with darkness, and sinister beings, and a battle against a renewed evil.
For the next few days, til the blog hop is done, every person who signs up on my newsletter list will receive a coupon good for a copy of By Darkness Revealed on Smashwords.com. That will include all major and most of the minor ebook formats – Kindle, epub, even PDF. Download and enjoy in the format of your choice, just for signing up.
One reader who signs up in that time will receive a free print copy of the book, autographed by the author however the winner would like.
But that’s not really enough; so here’s a little advance news. A short while before Ashes Ascendant is released to the world, I will be doing a drawing for several people to win ARCs – advance release copies – of the book. The winners will be chosen from folks who’ve reviewed By Darkness Revealed at the location of their choice. Amazon, B&N, Apple, Smashwords, Goodreads, your own blog – doesn’t matter where, and multiple entries will be awarded for reviews at up to three locations.
So, you can sign up for the newsletter now, get a free ebook, maybe win a free print copy of the book, AND get more information emailed to you about an upcoming special giveaway of a privileged few advance copies of the sequel!
All for signing up with a newsletter? Yes!
To make it really easy, here’s the newsletter link:
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy the book! And check out the other blogs in the Hop here:
One challenge in fantasy writing is the craft of designing a magic system that makes sense – that’s believable for the reader – but which is flexible enough that you can continue to toss out new curves over the course of a series.
Often, writers will fall back on some set of tropes that they’re familiar with. The opening to Eragon, for instance, reads a lot like a write-up of a Dungeons and Dragons game. The writer seemed to quickly realize that wasn’t going to work for the long haul, however, and crafts a magic system which is fairly unique for the rest of the books.
Jim Butcher’s Dresden novels have their own fairly unique tropes. Wizards can’t be near technological devices without messing them up, for instance. Wizards have a pool of inner power which they can use up, and replenish by resting. Wizards have varying levels of power. But as the series rolls on, we see those tropes shift somewhat – we learn, for instance, that the “tech restraint” was true even hundreds of years ago – that magic interferes with different things in different times, but always has “issues” with something common to the non-wizard. We learn that stimulants can temporarily boost magical power (at some cost!). And Butcher gives us a much better idea, as the series goes along, what that variation in power level is like.
Getting to classics, Tolkien hardly uses wizardry at all. Actual spell casting is something he brings to the fore only rarely in his Middle Earth books. But when he does, he focuses on one particular element of magic common to almost all excellent fantasy: cost. In his case, there are deep veins regarding the price of power and the corruption power can bring with it, using the Rings of Power as the tool to discuss the issue.
Orson Scott Card’s Hart’s Hope creates a world where magic is created by killing something. The larger the creature, stronger its life force, and closer to the magician the being is, the more magic you derive from the killing. And Card takes that thinking to its logical and fairly frightening conclusion.
It seems obvious on the surface: magic must have limits. If it didn’t, wizards would use magic for everything, and writers would have a hard time crafting interesting stories about someone who had so much power with no cost. It’s possible, of course to create stories where magic has no cost – you CAN create a fun story about magic without price. But at that point you need some other limit instead. Someone who could only create a 10-watt light in their hand could have no cost involved in the process and probably not unbalance a story. Someone who can create any size light of any intensity should probably have a price involved which grows larger as the light gets bigger and/or brighter.
In the Ryan Blackwell novels, I’ve fallen back on the familiar trope of magic wearing out the spellcaster. Use magic too much, and you won’t have anything left for later. Ryan, however, has a couple of twists. His story takes place on top of a huge ley line nexus. This gives him a well from which he can draw extra magic – at some risk (cost!). That same well has a tendency to attract dangerous elements of the magical world, though (cost!). And in fact, as Ryan learns, the more magic one uses, the more likely one is to attract the attention of certain parties who move against powerful new magicians. Sometimes just to eliminate future rivals. Sometimes as food. Sometimes a little of both.
That’s not really a cost, exactly, but it definitely creates a “threat” around the use of magic!
In the end, part of what will make a magical story memorable and interesting will be the way you set up the magical system, and the unique/creative elements you invent for your magical milieu. The less you rely on “standard tropes”, or at least create strong twists on those tropes, the more unique the magical element of your story will become. Creating interesting costs can be a challenge, but having some twist which differentiates your story from others will lend it strength, interest, and memorability.
Spotted an article by way of the Passive Voice blog which tweaked a few thoughts in my head.
Some of the pertinent bits:
Reading an old fashioned novel seems to be dying out, with people increasingly too busy or too stressed to sit down and actually read. On the rare occasion people do sit down to read, it is often a magazine, a newspaper, a celebrity autobiography or with recent technological developments, a Kindle. For many people this is not an issue, the human race moves on as technology moves on, but will the book be forgotten? Will the Kindle have the same effect on books as MP3 players did on CDs? Or will those who appreciate the value of an actual book continue to do so?
You can read the entire article here.
I read this sort of thing often – people scared about changes in culture, about ebooks eroding print book sales, about bookstores moving from the building down the road into online stores. It’s change. Change makes folks nervous. But I’ve never like the whole “sky is falling” routine. The only constant in human history is that things have always changed.
I don’t understand the assertion that “reading an old fashioned novel seems to be dying out”. We’re living in a time when last year, despite global financial issues, more novels were sold than in any other previous year in human history.
Dying out? Hmmm.
Yes, there are many things out there which compete with reading for our time. But there always have been; there have always been other entertainment options available. The form these various activities take vary from era to era, but their existence is nothing new.
I think the author is confused about the nature of the ebook, as well. Once, most books were hand copied, with gorgeous illumination works embedded on each page. Every page of your average book was a work of art in itself. With the advent of the printing press, these unique books went away.
But I think most would agree that the printing press was a wonderful invention.
So too with ebooks. With a distribution cost approaching zero, the ability to send and receive virtually any book instantly, almost anywhere on the planet, ebooks are changing the function of books more completely than anything since Gutenburg’s press. Yes, the pressed paper pages are on their way out in favor of electron-based digital work. Much like the printing press replaced the illuminated manuscript, there are some elements of grace and beauty which will be lost in this transition.
But when all is said and done, the printing press opened new doors for literature – and the digital book is doing the same. And like the printing press, I think we’ll all look back in hindsight and agree that this has been a good thing.