The Story’s The Thing!

ScholarSome ideas die hard.

That is the ailment of the month. A document keeps expanding whenever innovation strikes, as elements of a new novel are jotted down. It’s a yarn built upon twin short stories, both pitched to various publishers but rejected with encouraging remarks. A lack of depth is the usual problem, and that is the much sought solution.

The background for SFF novels often times becomes a double-trap for young authors. Fledgling word-smiths frequently fly by the seat of their pants, relying on strictly their imagination to fill in the blanks. At worst, the results are derivative of that writer’s most recent literary conquest. At best, their concoction is remarkably original but devoid of particulars and technicalities which audiences crave– with proper delivery.

Likewise, the note-taking developer types with their pseudo God-complexes can become so involved with research into each organization, country and character that production slows to a crawl. However should the effort avoid the pitfall of becoming a textbook of fiction, the outcome is often an achievement.

Such truths could sour hopes for the junior scribe. Yet the most memorable books often borrow strongest from true life. Robert E. Howard is said to have once stated, “There is no literary work, to me, half as zestful as rewriting history in the guise of fiction.” J.R.R. Tolkien drew heavy inspiration from Norse mythology including Elves, Dwarves and Der Ring des Nibelungen. And George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire draws inspiration from the War of Roses and, some believe, a few other sources.

Admittedly these facts are a deterrent. There is little pleasure to be derived from the crestfallen countenances of dreamers-turned-skjalds for whom this is the lesson du jour. The fusion of economics, history, politics, culture, religion, psychology and science and/or the occult into a tale is no trick. Such intellectual pack-rats authors can become, for no esoteric knowledge is worthless.

The cynicism is due to timing. National Novel Writing Month has nearly arrived. An event that floods publishers and book delivery platforms with thousands of manuscripts. An event sponsored and encouraged by various groups who financially benefit from the stoked competition that spawns the deluge. An event that sparks the yin and yang of ambivalent emotions; a desire to be encouraged and see folks succeed, yet fearing the earnest zeal of effort that shall be futilely deflected against an uncaring public.

There is the rest of the year to be a scrivener who needs no crutch. For now, the innovations shall brew and storm, a time of rest from the inferno that serves others and not the creator. And December shall be the month when the ink touches the page.

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Tough Times For Authors

A BBC article has reported that 5% of authors made 42% of income from published works in 2013. The number of authors who can make a living writing has dropped from 40% (back around 2003) to 11.5%. I strongly recommend you read the article yourself.

The news made me grimace a little. Something like this wasn’t entirely unexpected by any means. A first hand look at sales reports illustrates how difficult it is to earn much. But seeing one’s fears in the raw numbers does give me pause.

When someone encounters a disheartening situation, it pays to take a pragmatic glance at ones’ goals. My personal objective was to build my name enough that perhaps I can comfortably write full-time when I retire. As it stands, my retirement is no less than 30 years away, and a lot can happen in those three decades. This report proved that the market has changed, and is probably preparing itself for a kind of bubble in the next couple of years.

marchingtimeBubbles, at least in the context of markets, are never fun. Amazon’s e-publishing services are a blessing and a curse in this regard, for they opened the flood gates and removed barriers to entry. I can’t complain, because if Amazon hadn’t offered these services, our anthologies like Far Worlds and Marching Time would never have been published. And some of the publishing companies I’ve worked with might not exist either.

But as Amazon has removed our inhibitions, they’ve also gone on to inflame our passions. Although not the only company to do so, Amazon’s print-on-demand service CreateSpace is a proud contributor to National Novel Writing Month. In 2013, there were over 310,000 contributors to that and more than 42,000 winners. Even if as little as .5% of just the winners decided to push their work onto Amazon in the next year, it creates a deluge of new titles for sale. And that doesn’t include the other 268k non-winning contestants who could finish and submit later.

The pressure is not going to alleviate for a while. It will eventually. There are many of folks who will realize that they only ever had one story in them. Others just wanted to crank out a novel for the sensation of accomplishment. And still others may realize that being a full-time author was not quite what they hoped to be their calling.

In the end, the situation only serves to reinforce the same rule that being a writer is tough and persistence is the only way it can pay off. I guess it finally makes sense of that old phrase how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy Halloween 2014

Today is Halloween. Tomorrow is NaNoWriMo.

I’ve been bad this year. I came in with a huge list of stuff I wanted to do for my New Years Resolution, and very little of it was actually finished. I’ve invested in other pursuits, most relating to writing, but not the path I set for myself.

I won’t beat myself up for this. I refuse to. Opportunities came up that didn’t exist in 2013. I wrote and wrote and haven’t been able to reward myself the same way one can with short stories. More than anything, I want to finish up these longer stories and get back to writing shorts for a while.

So, on that note. While I will not be committing to NaNoWriMo, I will be stealing its thunder and trying to do 1,000 words a day. An easy pace that shuts down a chapter every 3 to 5 days and puts me on the fast track to wrapping this up. I don’t like to feel rushed, but I cannot commit to any new assignments until it’s finished.

Happy Halloween folks!

awesome

Movember + NaNoWriMo = Evil Plot

Just wait until I finished the *second* draft...

Just wait until I finish the *second* draft… Full beard time, baby!

That’s a mighty fine NaNoWriMo novel you got there. Mind if I take a look?

BOOM! :{

Come on. Did you really think people just grow a mustache? Evil mustaches must come from evil deeds. And what finer way than to destroy the hopes and dreams of terrible, terrible writers? It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. A conspiracy among editors.

More to Come

Yesterday night, I finished my final short story of the year for The Black Wind’s Whispers although the page count really stretched the definition of “short.”

The length is bothersome, but it was critical to make a sharp story to explain the origin of the driving plot device. My first draft was summarily rejected. So I struggled to improve the power of the story. This took legitimate research and expounding on details, and the end result hogged word length more than I intended. Perhaps there will be cuts.

Based on certain definitions, the tale is somewhere between a short story and novella. I am debating either reducing its length or cutting it into two parts and separating them somewhere within the anth. I know a good spot within the story to do just that. I will discuss our strategy with the editors soon.

I will be fighting hard to get the book published probably late next week. In the mean time, I got to push the contract out tonight (no more delays on that).

With five (perhaps six) stories under my belt, I think I’ll finish the year by shooting a few more rejections at Every Day Fiction (and learning patience from their critiques). Research a few publishers and see what’s cooking. Then fail to complete a novel for NaNoWriMo, and by fail I mean probably not even start.

I leave for London tomorrow. I may or may not post once more before then. Expect a few BLW pictures when I return.