17 Apr 2014, 8:06am
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Two More Things To Say To Young Writers

Yesterday, Chuck Wendig wrote a post called Ten Things I’d Like To Say To Young Writers (the man likes his lists) and I think it’s good, solid advice. Me, I’d like to add two more things. Here goes:

Really study text that works.

Have a favorite short story? Retype it. A favorite novel? Type out that first chapter. There really is no substitute for retyping a whole mess of text–just reading it, even aloud, doesn’t bring the same focus. Then read it through with a yellow legal pad next to you and, every five pages, jot a line describing what happened.

How quickly does the book get to dialog? To the main characters? How quickly does the book describe what the main character is searching for, if it does at all? How much space on the page is given to description of people or places? How soon does the conflict start? Depending on the genre and the style of book, the answers can be quite different.

Best of all is to choose a successful book that is very like the one you hope to write. Study it. Try to get a feel for it, because:

Understanding how a piece of writing makes readers feel is the real prize

The universe is full of writers who crap on a keyboard and call it gold. Those people do not understand the way readers respond to their text; they know what’s in their head, they’re sure that’s what they put on the page, what’s wrong with readers/editors/agents/the world that they can’t see the awesome?

But, in fact, it can be very difficult to judge your own writing the way a reader will. We might hope the scene we just finished will be scary, or funny, or sad, but until we show it to complete strangers we’ll never really be sure.

What move people never say is that the ability to accurately understand the effect your own words will have on the reader is the first (and most difficult) step to becoming successful. So try to get a feel for your own books the way you do when you read the ones written by other people. Revisit stories you wrote the year before. Invite readers to tell you how they reacted to the story (but never what they think you should do.) Understanding those feelings are the way to mastery.

26 Mar 2014, 12:53pm
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Kindleworlds expands to include Veronica Mars(!)

You guys know about Kindleworlds, right? It’s a system that Amazon set up some months ago to let people write, publish, and sell fanfiction based on established properties like The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, GI Joe (not the movies) or “The World of Kurt Vonnegut” (and so on). All you have to do is follow the content guidelines and not suck. Complicated, right?

Well, today I discovered that there’s a Kindleworld license for Veronica Mars, but only for the years covered by the TV series. The content guidelines make it clear that anything taking place after the end of season three is verboten.

Yet again, I wish I could be prolific. It would be tremendous fun to tear off a quick VM whodunnit, preferably hammering at the class warfare aspects and digging into the private lives of some of the supporting characters. (Like Cliff! “These are my people, V.” I love that dude.)

Alas, I do not have the time for it. Even as a novella or something, it would take too much time.

25 Mar 2014, 12:36pm
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Sample of new Veronica Mars audiobook, read by Kristen Bell

Posting an audiobook segment to YouTube is a great idea. Give it a listen.

Let’s face it: these links won’t be getting their own blog posts

Like most people, I follow a link or check out an article and think “I should share that with folks!” Twitter’s good if you have nothing in particular to say about it (or just want to add something snarky), but some stuff deserves to be talked about. Well, I’ve gotten in the habit of leaving browser tabs open that I want to get to later, then leaving them sit for way too long. Blogging! Who has the time!

So, instead of just giving up and closing those tabs, I’m going to list them here with a little note about why I thought they were worth reading about:

To Stop Procrastinating, Look to Science of Mood Repair. Note: this article did not get me to write an extensive response to it.

Amazon-owned Audible lowers royalty rates on self-published audiobooks Is this the first sign of the long-expected rise in Amazon’s sales commissions?

Ian Rankin: ‘It took 14 years for my writing to pay’ Bestselling UK writer talks about how long it took him to find success. Ten books! Funny, after this Kickstarter is done, I’ll have ten books out, too…

From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life? A lament on the fact that nothing is guaranteed for writers, especially sales. No mention is made of the economic collapse, of course.

Making Compelling Arguments through the Power of Story Author (and professional marketer) Kameron Hurley offers great advice on writing blog posts people will want to share.

I thought this was interesting: So What Do You Do Brendan Deneen, Executive Editor of Macmillan Entertainment? Short version: he hires writers to write work-for-hire novels in company properties, which he then sells to Hollywood.

The Internet is Fucked (but we can fix it) An argument to declare the internet a public utility, create real competition, and fix the terrible internet-access situation in this country. I’m sold.

Is Genre Fiction Creating a Market for Lemons? Cheap ebooks as used cars.

Is the “Seattle Freeze” a Real Thing? Science says yes! For those who don’t know, the Seattle Freeze is a sort of chilly demeanor that makes it difficult for new arrivals to make friends.

14 Mar 2014, 2:17pm
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I am writing rpg gaming stuff now and it is hard

I’m supposed to be working right now but I’m not, and the reason is simple. Work is hard.

While The Great Way is getting an editorial working over, I’m putting together the game supplement for it. (For those who don’t know, I promised Kickstarter backers a Fate game supplement for the setting of those books.) Currently, it’s almost 10,000 words long, and not even half way done. Turns out that explaining your world-building takes time.

What’s more, writing game stuff is giving me major decision fatigue. With fiction, putting the sentences together is comparatively easy: There are characters who want things, places for them to pursue their desires, obstacles to overcome. That talk. They look at stuff. Maybe there’s a smell. It’s pretty straightforward.

In contrast, game material is all summarizing and making careful decisions on how stuff should work. What invokable aspects suit the capital city of this empire? How best to describe this sort of magic? What’s the best way to portray non-human intelligences without doing the xenophobe thing of giving them all a single personality? What if a player wants to play one of those non-humans?

Everything is as spare as possible, while trying to be as interesting as possible, while being as balanced as possible, while not contradicting anything I put in the trilogy, much of which I made up on the fly because shit sounded cool.

What the hell was I thinking?

6 Mar 2014, 8:17am
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New Kickstarter Update Posted

This morning I posted a new Kickstarter update. It includes a status update and some nice interior art. Check it out.

5 Mar 2014, 6:38am
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Using Scrivener, once again

There comes a point when you’re (I’m) typing a long comment somewhere and a simple thought suddenly springs up: I should be posting this to my own blog!

Well, I’ll link to it instead. Author Sherwood Smith is working on a switch from her old word processing program to Scrivener, and I thought I would share the (rather simplistic) way that I use it. It’s not exactly in-depth, but it’s what I’ve managed to kludge together from all the bells and whistles the program contains.

Anyway, check it out. If you use Scrivener or are thinking of switching to it, there might be something useful there.

Also, if you haven’t read Sherwood’s work, I liked Inda but she has newer stuff, too.

Wrecking the idea that popular art is superior to unpopular art

There was a great piece on Morning Edition yesterday about art that becomes popular versus art that doesn’t. Is there some quality that makes some art successful and preserved forever or is it all just random chance?

Obviously, the big problem with a question like that is that you can look at only one timeline; there’s no way to look at an alternate world where the Potter books never took off (or they did, inevitably).

For those who haven’t clicked the link (you can listen to the short news piece or you can read a transcript of it) a Princeton professor decided to create a number of alternate virtual worlds to test the hypothesis that popular art becomes popular because of its inherent qualities rather than random chance. He created a database of music by unknown, unsigned bands and invited thousands of teenagers to listen and download their songs for free.

Those teenagers were randomly sorted into nine different “worlds.” In one control group, the teens did not get the chance to see which songs other teens selected. In the other eight, they did.

Try not to be wildly surprised, but different songs became popular in different virtual worlds. A song that was number 1 in one setting was 40th (out of 48) in another. Further experimentation established that there was a minimum level of quality below which popularity was not possible, but after that there was no predicting what would be successful and what would not. Read it yourself if you’re curious.

My problem with this is not the assertion that popularity does not come solely from quality, and that a piece of art that is well-known is not inherently better than something obscure. It’s always been perfectly obvious to me that wonderful and excellent books could/should have been popular but weren’t (I’m not talking about me, now).

My objection here is that the good professor chalks popularity up to “chance.” In fact, he (or at least the reporter covering his work) hits the idea of chance very hard. But that’s a black box.

I’ve talked about this sort of thing before, but there are a lot of effects that people attribute to chance simply because they are not well understood. What I would like to see is an experiment that examines the way those songs became popular in each virtual world. Was it an early surge? Was there an early surge that faced a backlash, with the more popular work getting a secondary surge? I’d like to know, and by that I mean that I’d really really like to know.

#SFWApro

17 Feb 2014, 7:16am
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You know what feels good? Selling fiction.

In Spring 2013, I was invited to take part in the Walk The Fire 2 shared-world anthology and I thought writers write and they sell stuff i should say yes and make money. After confirming that this anthology would have more gender parity in the table of contents, I accepted. The Kickstarter made goal, I wrote the story, boom.

Except there was a problem. The editor explained that the story broke the guidelines. It took me a while to figure out why, but the speculative element in the setting was that people would step into a special sort of fire here and emerge from another fire elsewhere. Essentially, teleportation.

However, somehow I got it into my head that this was like a wormhole through spacetime, and that not only could they travel through space, they could travel through time, too.

Oops. I apologized, obviously, and offered to write a new story. The editor thought it might be best for me to hold off for the third antho, but I’d helped pitch the Kickstarter and I didn’t want readers to back a book I wouldn’t be in.

So I sat down and wrote an honest-to-god science fiction story (if you don’t count the teleporting fire thing) set in the far future. Last night I got a note from the editor saying they wanted to accept it without asking for changes.

That feels good. After spending two years on this stinking trilogy–not to mention KEY/EGG, which has languished on my hard drive since the dawn of time–it’s nice to have a short-term goal and payoff.

17 Feb 2014, 6:28am
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The Dunning-Kruger-Howey Effect

As a followup to the post I put together linking critical analyses of Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings report, I have something brief to say: It’s clear that Howey’s data isn’t all that great, which he knows. It’s also clear that the conclusions he’s jumping to–even before he gets to analyzing B&N or whatever he’s doing next–are not supported by the data.

That’s too bad because this could have been the data I’m looking for. The book I published before last was self-published, and this year I expect to self-publish five more times. As I consider small press offers to put out the books, it would be really helpful to have numbers to look out.

Sadly, despite Mr. Howey’s bold conclusions, I don’t. Yeah okay the guy keeps talking about the limits of the data he’s collected, but he also talks as though the data has proved him right. Actually, he’s claiming to be proved righter than ever.

As the links in that previous post demonstrate, that’s not the case. It’s pretty clear that, once Howey got the data, he didn’t really know how best to use it, nor did he know what was absolutely not allowed. The enthusiasm and certitude behind his conclusions are textbook Dunning-Kruger Effect.

We’re all prone to confirmation bias. How many people dismissed what he said without really looking at it? How many people really looked at the report, recognized the flaws, then decided to believe it all anyway? It’s easy to believe flattery. It’s easy to stand in the mirror in just the right way to catch yourself at a good angle. We exert that sort of unconscious control all the time; that’s why we need smart knowledgeable people who know the rules. Howey may know how to write a bestseller but when it comes to data analysis he’s just another thriller writer. Also, it seems that his “Data Guy” is really just “Coder Guy.”

It’s too bad. I could have used expert advice. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any to offer and he doesn’t even know it.

Link farm for informed critiques of the Author Earnings report

ObDisclaimer: I self-publish fiction and plan to self-publish more fiction this year. I am not philosophically opposed to the Author Earnings Report that Hugh Howey has begun. I am seriously dubious about several of its conclusions and some of the ways they are presented. For example, I don’t like that his comparison of reader ratings runs only from 3.0 to 4.5 instead of from 0 to 5, which is the actual possible range. Anyone who has looked at graphs knows that “zooming in” is a way to make minor differences appear more important than they are.

Also, Howey is planning to do additional surveys to include vendors like B&N but he’s already rushing to judgement on the “best” path for authors after only looking at Amazon data.

To be clear, I would like it to be true that self-publishing will bring in a lot of money; I’m just skeptical of Howey’s report and waiting for some expert analysis. As I find that analysis, I plan to link to it.

That’s what this post will be. I don’t plan to link to praise or skepticism here unless it actually examines the methodology of the report. So:

2/13/14:
Digital Book World points out that the AE report is heavily focused on successes. See also this unrelated post on Survivorship Bias which predates the AE report.

UK Crime Writer Steve Mosby points out an excluded middle in Howey’s conclusions, along with raising other questions.

On Absolute Write, author S.L. Huang points out problems with the statistics and what’s excluded, along with other issues.

Agent Joshua Bilmes points out this isn’t the first time someone has tried to calculate earnings based on a list of bestsellers and that Amazon’s rating system is hopelessly compromised.

In the comments of the AE report, author Ramez Naam points out some basic errors in assuming royalties (even if they could be accurately calculated by Amazon sales ranks) equal payments to writers going the traditional route. There are a great many comments on the report itself, but few are substantive.

A more in-depth comparison of pricing and rating.

Later:

Comparing self-publishing to being published is tricky and most of the data you need to do it right is not available by Mike Shatzkin

2/14/14:

Porter Anderson talks about the cultural push behind the report and against it. However flawed it is, it’s seen as a powerful argument.

At Futurebook, Philip Jones lays out the contradictions between Howey’s admissions of his flawed data and his sweeping conclusions.

Digital Book World, which had criticized Howey’s report yesterday (see above) now claims it supports their own (much disputed by indie authors) findings.

I’d meant to include only analytical posts, but this is something I see quite a lot:

First let’s be clear. This data is pretty shonky. There’s no real way to tell how accurate it is. But, in the absence of transparency from the industry itself (either Amazon of the Big 5) it’s the best data we writers have access to. And the story it tells is shocking.

So the data is “shonky” but the narrative is too exciting not to buy in. So far, this is a very common reaction.

Jim Hanas calculates his “Hugh Howey Income.” Mine is zero dollars, which is, I promise you, wildly incorrect.

2/16/14:

This post by a person who creates studies and databases will likely be the last one, because it’s just what I was looking for. The author of the critique has no bias one way or another in terms of how to publish fiction, and she has informed and detailed critiques of not only the way the data was put together but by the sweeping conclusions that Howey presents. h/t @mlvwrites on Twitter

I’ll add more of these as they cross my path. I think that last one does it. If there’s another critique as informed that touches other issues, I’ll add it but I won’t be actively looking any more. Also, I plan to write up a little something later on, summarizing what seems to be going on with this report and the furor around it.

Spoke too soon: This examination of Howey’s methods by Courtney Milan is really excellent.

12 Feb 2014, 5:42am
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Boring is easy to duplicate

Chad Orzel, (the scientist blogger who wrote How to Teach Physics to Your Dog) wrote a response to my own post about persistence, which was itself… actually, let’s just say there’s a conversation going on and leave it there. One thing I should point out: Chad has no reason for feeling guilty about “breaking in” the way he did. Blogging is writing, and he clearly put in the hours to do what he does well.

That said, not everyone kicks off their career in “ridiculously unlikely” ways. I mailed cold queries to the agents, which is the most boring way to start off in the whole world. It’s only after breaking in that things got weird. So, that’s a method anyone can try deliberately.

11 Feb 2014, 4:41pm
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“Legacy John” claims he’s been misquoted

Yeah, I’m aware of the website http://www.authorearnings.com/, which supposedly contains the results of a big data-crunching project instigated by Hugh Howey. Apparently, a coder/analyst/whatever approached Howey with the idea of taking self-reported sales to Amazon sales rankings and using them to analyze Amazon’s bestsellers list to see which types of books (self/other/small press) do best for authors.

I say “supposedly” above because as I write this, high traffic has crashed the site. [Update: I accessed it a few minutes ago.] The only place to find the data at the moment is on Joe K*nr*th’s blog, and he’s added long exchanges with a straw man figure “Legacy John”.

Which… ugh. So. Much Smug.

As a so-called hybrid author who has self-published before and will self-publish again this year (thank you, Kickstarter backers) I’m interested in this analysis. Unfortunately, Howey and K*nr*th are not exactly the most trustworthy of sources. If confirmation bias were a medical condition, both men would have to be kept alive by a machine in some ICU somewhere. Anyway, the numbers are interesting but I’m reserving judgement on them until someone with more time and expertise picks them apart.

Women online receive threats of physical harm, part 2,000,342

How surprised would anyone be to learn that Shay Festa, the “Quid Pro Quo” book review blogger I wrote about over the weekend has not only been called a cunt and a bitch but has also received threats of physical harm?

Over a book review policy?

I really, really hope that no one who followed one of my links to her site was involved in that at all, because if my blog posts start inspiring threats against women online, I’m not going to write them. It’s not worth it at all.

In the meantime, I want to thank Michelle Sagara for pointing out this blog post: Reviews: A Service for Authors? by Chrysoula Tzavelas.

The gist of Tzavels’s post is that the Bookiemonster site is open to reviews by indie authors, who constantly struggle to get reviews of their work so they can stand out from the crowd. She suspects (and the request for more reviewers seems to confirm) that they’re inundated with books from people with little other opportunity to find critical attention and who are desperate to stand out from the pack. Self-published writers are likely to be a major portion of the Bookiemonster readership, too. You know, in the old days of the turn of the century, it was a truism that the main readership for self-published fiction was other self-publishers. They were all reading each other’s work. I thought that had finally changed with the release of ereaders, but maybe not for everyone. Maybe it’s only the bestselling self-pub and hybrid authors with a readership beyond other authors in the long tail. I’d be interested to know where that stands.

Anyway, it demonstrates the way subtle pressures can drive people to make decisions they wouldn’t ordinarily make. Like doctors who, with only their patients’ best interests in mind (as far as they’re concerned), schedule as much followup care as they need to make their monthly nut, so too does a site like Bookiemonster respond to subtle incentives. I had recommended that Ms. Festa turn to her readership for the SEO books she was seeking; readers are incredibly generous, especially if they’re grateful for the writing being offered. What hadn’t occurred to me was that the readers and the writers might be pretty much one and the same.

In any event, none of that matters now. Ms. Festa has posted a mea culpa followup post called Sometimes We Just Get It Wrong, in which she expresses gratitude for the non-vicious, non-threatening feedback people have given her and withdraws the whole idea of asking authors for likes, follows, and upvotes. I will say: far too many people would have looked at the most extreme criticisms she received–the name-calling and the threats–and used that to dismiss all criticism. That’s what Bill Keller did after his disgusting editorial about cancer patients and social media, and that dude writes for the NY Times. It’s to her credit that she sorted the rage-aholics from the fair responses, even ones that were extremely critical, like mine.

And that’s that.

30 Jan 2014, 8:55am
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Kameron Hurley’s post on persistence

Last week, Kameron Hurley wrote a long guest blog on writers and persistence. If the descriptor ‘long’ makes you hesitate to click, be assured that she does that writer trick of being interesting the whole way through.

She makes a good point: Persistence is how it’s done. And by “it’s” I mean “become a professional writer”.

However, there are a few things I want to add, because I don’t think “You have to be persistent” is enough. I think it’s useful to talk about how, as well, and that sometimes persistence is bullshit because the goal is bullshit. So:

1. Persistence is just the pursuit of the goal via managed expectations and the certainty that writing professionally is a thing that can be learned. That’s it. If you can stop yourself from thinking “This book I’m writing is going to win an award/make me rich/get me laid/win the admiration of the right people” that’s half the battle. The other half is recognizing that, even if you fail this time, you can do better next time.

Okay, not everyone can improve. If you’re in a coma, no. If you’re so convinced you’re already a genius that you think every rejection Proves What Fools They Are, no. If you’re incapable of learning that text affects readers in ways that the writer might not intend, no. But for someone who can pick up a manuscript they “finished” last year and think “Look at this paragraph! I’m not still making this mistake, am I?” there’s no reason to expect they can’t make their goals.

Plus, it’s the big goals–that vile four-letter word: hope–that breaks the will to write. Like a weary traveler, writers think their destination is just over this next hill. And the hill is so steep and muddy and exhausting, they force themselves to push on, only to discover that the other side is just more road leading off into the distance.

If you fervently hope this is the book that will win an award or become a bestseller, and it doesn’t? That shit is disheartening as hell.

Plus:

2. Nothing bad happens to you if you give up.

Sure, you probably won’t finish that book, but if you get more time to spend with your friends, go hiking, maybe volunteer at a food bank? I can’t really see how that’s a bad thing.

The point has to be this: Do you want to write more than you want to do other things? Video games/TV shows/Other time wasters notwithstanding, if creating literature is not really what you want to do, you might as well be doing something else. You’ll be better off. Fuck persistence.

3. I know some people will bridle at the word “literature” but that’s what writers make, even if it’s Bigfoot porn. Maybe it’s not great literature, maybe it’s rote, or trite, or commercial or derivative. Maybe it’s a big steaming pile of goatshit. Who cares?

4. The point is, it’s really really hard to put aside those big expectations, but one of the best ways to do that is to drill your focus on the book. Whenever I start daydreaming about the reception my book might get (basically, whenever I get weird, starry-eyed high hopes) I stop, remind myself that those thoughts are poison, then refocus my attention on the characters, the voice, the plot. Whatever. Not only does this help throttle the strength out of Hope, that miserable enemy of all good things, but it helps keep my energy and effort where it belongs.

5. What’s more, the idea of a “successful writer” (earning enough to forsake all other employment) is a really strange thing. As Ursula Vernon says, pro writers are simultaneously “fetishized and devalued.” As soon as you start finding fans for your work, people encourage you to toss your day job. Then they complain to you in emails that they got a computer virus from a pirate copy of your book and where can they find one that’s safe and free?

The truth is, writing as a day job is completely awesome and completely nerve-wracking. Not everyone wants to spend harrowing hours wondering if they can pay their rent, or tightening their food budget yet again until that check turns up. Add to that the unhappy fact that a great many writers outlive their own careers and you have a pretty stupid career choice.

And, even if you keep the day job, Persisting can take up a helluva lot of your free time.

But let’s say you want to go for it anyway and stick with Persistence:

6. As I mentioned above: big daydreams are poison. If you can be zen about how well the book will do after you finish, that’s great. If you can’t, there are a few tricks that can help distract us from inflated expectations: first, pay attention to how much a mid-list author makes and how many copies they sell. That’s where realistic expectations should be set. Whatever genre you work in, someone out there is sharing their numbers. Check them out.

Second, a trick I use is that I don’t write for a large audience. I pick three people to write for. They become my primary readers. I choose new ones for each book and never tell them, but when it’s time to ask myself how a scene will play for the reader, I don’t have to picture a long line of people in line at B&N. I have specific people in mind: Will she feel cheated by this revelation? Will he like the way this character changes?

Even if I don’t know anything about them except what they post on their blogs (and yeah, some of the primary readers are pretty much strangers to me) I can do the important work of imagining the effect of the story without poisoning myself.

7. Not matter what anyone says about talent, inborn ability, natural aptitude, or whatever, people can teach themselves to write better. I mean, seriously, if there’s a placebo effect for sleep, there’s a way to improve writing, too. Obviously, that subject is too big for this post, but knowing it to be true is the important thing. You don’t have to give up after any one particular failure.

8. But what if you do all these things but still can’t make persistence work?

Hey, for a person struggling with depression, who’s caring for a sick loved one, who is utterly freaked over impending job loss, or who is generally overwhelmed by life, no worries. Writing is secondary to all sorts of other things, like health and family. Don’t be hard on yourself.

If you’d like to be writing but you seem to spend all your time hanging with friends, checking Twitter, watching TV, or shooting zombies on your Xbox, see about about nothing bad happening if you give up that dream of being a writer. It’s kind of a dumb dream and you clearly would rather be doing something else.

9. Oh, what’s that? You really would like to put aside the games and internet and do the persistence thing, but it never seems to happen?

First, put the distractions away. Alternately, take yourself away from your distractions. I write outside my home b/c my family is very disruptive. I also have an app that blocks my internet for a set period of time. Maybe that will work for you or maybe not, but give it a try.

Second, keep in mind that it is much easier to fail in the face of luxury than in adversity. For many of us, adversity spurs the spirit to strive, but luxury gives us excuses to seek pleasure right now. (I used to have a sign in my office cubicle that read “Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.” My boss didn’t get it.) Take a hard look at the luxuries in your life–even if it’s something as simple as Bejeweled or Twitter on your phone–and limit them.

Last, friends of mine used to have this game they played every day called “Fresh Ten”. Every day they would write ten new words in the WIP, then post them online. After they did that, they could close the word processor and be done for the day, or they could write a little more.

Maybe even a little more than that. Just having to do ten new words a day gave them an excuse to sit down and start. Not every day was productive (and not every writer works every day) but it’s how we build our habits.

Well, that was longer than I would have liked, but I liked Hurley’s post and wanted to respond. I’ve struggled with persistence, too, and thought it might be helpful to offer a few mental tools that I’ve used to keep going.

Like Hurley, I hung a sign at my desk regarding persistence, but mine was a quote from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

If you’ve been kind enough to read this far, you deserve a reward: Kameron Hurley’s book GOD’S WAR is available on Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

27 Jan 2014, 5:24am
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Infographic Hell

Apparently there are companies you can hire to create infographics now? I mean, it makes sense, but I didn’t realize it was a thing. Anyway, people love stats about books and reading, so these guys have put together an infographic called “The DNA of a Successful Novel.”

It’s the usual bullshit. “Books priced at $3.99 earn the most revenue!” “Ninety nine cent books sell the most copies!” I also seriously doubt that science fiction earns more than romance, even if you combine it with fantasy.

And of course it doesn’t touch on the actual content of the books at all: voice, character, plot, none of that. It’s page counts, prices and genres.

Still, if you’re wondering if more people will finish a short book or a long one, they got that covered.

#sfwapro

25 Jan 2014, 11:20am
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“If I were more trite I’d be successful!”

I’ve been neglecting this space lately except for link salads and new announcements (Twenty Palaces print edition! Buying from B&N earns more for me than Amazon orders do!) mostly because I’ve been on a big push to finish initial major revisions for all three books in The Great Way.

That’s done and I’ve sent them to my agent. Next I have a short story to revise and more Kickstarter work to wrap up. Unfinished tasks unrelated to actually making the trilogy include:

* Fate game supplement for TGW.
* New revision for A KEY, AN EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK.
* Fate game supplement for KEY/EGG.
* Straighten out notes for Twenty Palaces short story.
* Write Twenty Palaces short story.
* Compile that story plus others (with introductions) into a collection.
* Assorted tasks associated with all that shit, including covers.

Actually, that list doesn’t look too bad from here.

However! In an attempt to remake the habit of posting here, let me resurrect a post that I started and abandoned last July(!) regarding British crime writer John Connor, spurred by this advertisement interview.

Mostly, I was annoyed by this quote:

He says: “It’s been a struggle all along. If you come at it from the point of view of wanting to write something interesting and worthwhile and entertaining, well, those are the three things that makes it hard if you want to produce something other than some stupid trite piece of content.

“You set yourself a goal of doing any of those things in one genre. It’s easy to do two of those, but doing all three feels like one long compromise. It ended up being a long way from doing what I wanted to do at the start.”

See, Connor (actually a pen name, for some reason) is a former prosecutor, and he pretty much hates the way popular mystery and thriller writers portray crime and its effects.

Which is completely fair. He has real world experience and he can call bullshit on what he (and others, too) call the torture porn aspects of the genre. Frankly, I’m not such a big fan of torture porn either, so I’m sympathetic.

And getting the emotions right–that is, treating tragedies like tragedies and not excuses for heroic rage–is a laudable goal. He earned another measure of sympathy with that one.

Still, it’s painful to see him blaming his perfectly ordinary midlist career on his integrity. Without having read any of his books:

First of all, as pen names go, “John Connor” is terrible. It’s bland. It’s easily misspelled (as “Conner” or “Jon”). It doesn’t even let the cover designer set his last name in huge type; six letters isn’t bad, but a four-letter long last name has size. It would be more memorable if he followed Donald Westlake’s advice of using a super-common last name and an unusual first name. “Connor Johns” is a better pen name than what he’s chosen.

Second, I’ve read plenty of books by actual cops and other people with law enforcement day jobs, and while it’s great for marketing, for the most part I prefer books by outsiders.

It’s not that I’m against realism; it’s that realism often has a certain plodding flatness to it. Every job comes with a certain amount of tedium, even the sort they make hit TV shows of. That’s why you don’t give the boring rote work to the lead character; that’s for the supporting cast to explain with a phone call. That’s why you don’t have them wander aimlessly through the clues; make that shit into a trail. Be fun.

Third, if you approach your own genre with this attitude:

“I have experienced those crimes – that’s half my problem. I’ve experienced them and I know what they’re like which makes me think: ‘You can’t do that just for entertainment!’”

Maybe you should be writing something else.

#sfwapro

14 Jan 2014, 4:05pm
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How to save publishing, according to Hugh Howey

“Part of the problem is that the major publishers ignore the genres that sell the best. This is a head-scratcher, and it nearly caused a bald spot when I was working in a bookstore. I knew where the demand was, and I wasn’t seeing it in the catalogs. Readers wanted romance, science fiction, mystery/thrillers, and young adult. We had catalogs full of literary fiction. Just the sort of thing acquiring editors are looking for and hoping people will read more of, but not what customers were asking me for.”

You know what? The last time I walked into a Barnes & Noble, I stood looking at all those shelves full of books and thought “Jeez! If only I could find books that I want to read!” Too bad those multi-million dollar corporations don’t have a sharp guy like Howey around to explain to them how their business works. All you have to do to get bestselling authors to renegotiate their contracts en masse is to put them on a mailing list with struggling midlisters! Gosh, it’s so simple! Amazing that no one realized this before.

And yeah, get out of New York City, publishing! Why would you want your business in a hub full of smart, creative people who share your interests and might have the skills your company needs. Telecommuting! Email! The car-centric hell-hole that is Houston! Because efficiencies are less important than an easily understood number like “rent in Manhattan.”

(Actually, most of that post is pretty embarrassing. h/t Mr. Hornswoggler) #sfwapro

10 Jan 2014, 12:03am
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7 Jan 2014, 11:49pm
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Twenty Palace Print Edition Now Available Through Ingram

Twenty Palaces cover, small imageThe process of setting up my book in Lightning Source is now complete. That means you can buy it from Barnes & Noble or any other brick and mortar store that sells books. If you like buying from indies, swing by your local shop and ask them to check the computer for you.

They might ask you to pay ahead of time, because the discount is thin and I made them non-returnable (to keep the price low) but the books are finished and ready.

One thing: a friend offered to do the interior design for this one, and she matched the book design of the other books in the series beautifully. Seriously, I’m not sure if she wants credit for this, but she did a fantastic job; the inside of the book looks fabulous.

Any complaints about the cover are on me.

In other news, I have a lot I want to blog about and no time to write it. My life is consumed by homeschooling, revision, and trying to get enough steps every day to satisfy the FitBit parasite attached to my wrist. More on that another time.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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