Franchises and Stuff

There’s a degree of palpable anxiety in the air.

The release date of the new Outliers volume is fast approaching and we’re perhaps 85% the way to complete. Much of what’s left is primarily grunt work: formatting, administrative, distributive. Being an editor for the project has me weighing in on techniques and methods to improve my writers’ skills. A great deal of the process boils down to something like this:

Step 1: The writer is tired and not as stoked because their creative energy was invested in writing the synopsis. They start writing.

Step 2: In the rush to finish it (and get to mentally rest), the writer blindly cranks out the first draft. The draft is never great, because in their haste, they:

  • overlook redundant sentences or even whole paragraphs
  • misuse form/from, pubic/public and other spell checker-immune horrors
  • forget to add a somewhere (hint: reread that)
  • use the same words, phrases and grammatical approaches too often
  • leave scenes too flat, or include an additional scene that doesn’t add much (I’m raising my hand on that latter point)
  • use too many words to superfluously describe something technically
  • or describe a technical matter badly
  • have POV errors galore
  • write plot holes

Step 3: Editor receives draft. Pretends he’s a proofreader and issues minor edits. Smiles and pats everyone on the back. Yay! Good job!

Step 4: …Editor suddenly remembers he’s an editor and the publisher. Transforms into Mr. Asshyde and starts tearing into the drafts. Process involves:

  • staring with total disbelief at a scene involving software security or medical operations that even a Hollywood writer would laugh at
  • researching appropriate details about said technical matters and rewriting section
  • wondering why the last two hours were blown making one single page look correct
  • cussing such profanity that would make a sailor blush
  • pondering what happened to that massive wound the main character received just one minute ago
  • privately wishing your own stories received this degree of abusive love
  • stopping pronoun juggling
  • consoling yourself with alcohol because you aren’t getting paid extra for this
  • finishing the last page and firing it to the writer, while finally understanding every story rejection you’ve personally ever received

Step 5: Editor wonders why people hate him.

I feel it takes frank honesty to transform a story one notch better than what it was. And I admit that fear is powering many of my decisions: if the series isn’t addictive, people will put it down. Great writing should be smooth, balanced between the eye opening and the jaw dropping, and leave readers hungry for more.

If your audience stops reading, they won’t talk about it. And that kind of silence is death.

And this is a factor that’s going to get tougher for me, because I have rapport with the five guys I’m working alongside. Outliers is a shared-universe, not another book series. Generally authors rarely allow others to develop in their literary universes, but the franchise nature changes the dynamic considerably.

Fellow authors whom I show our releases to swiftly pop the question, “Can I submit to this? When’s the open submission window?” And the reason I cannot give direct answers is because there’s a vision, a direction that the series is going.

Outliers is a road, and I hesitate because any writers joining us for the journey have to be prepared. Some are being readied even now, others are coming in time.

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Shut Up Brain… Wait, Don’t!

When I was younger, I had a problem. Maybe it was Attention Deficit Disorder or the like, but I kept having… ideas for stories and characters. It was bad. I had a friend or two who got frustrated with my bouncing around on our mutual creative opportunities.

As of late, that… energy, that constant inspiration, has returned. A name, a country, a single powerful word can sometimes spark an idea that becomes a character, a subplot, or even the start of an entire novel. I tried to go to bed and ended up staying awake, eyes open as an idea for a short story, a good portion of a fantasy novel and a political/crime thriller novel, in some way about India, danced in my head. No. I don’t mean one of these things, I mean three very, very distinct stories that stand out on their own despite a single, unifying theme. And yes, I do intend to write all three.

But ideas aren’t enough.

Growing up, we constantly heard this… heh. I’m sorry. This lie that a “single idea can change the world.” I’m sorry. I know better. I’m older and freshly aware how it’s not just inspiration that gets work published but solid work. Research times three times writing and sticking to it. Followed by proofing, editing and being prepared to rewrite entire swaths of work, if not the entire piece. That last point has certainly happened before and will happen again.

My fear as of late has been two fold.

The first is that the inspiration will go away. Nothing is worse than seeing the golden goose fly away of its own accord, but sometimes that happens. I know it will happen again, be driven off and return in time. While I wouldn’t call these periods without the inspiration writer’s block, it is easier with inspiration than without.

The second, and what I fear far more, is that I get bored of something. That is the worst. If I’m bored writing, then something is very wrong. And that something is going to be reflected in the writing itself. Boredom is the very antithesis of writing because if you’re bored writing it, then it will be boring to read. Which begs the question of whether it was worth writing at all.

And I’ve certainly felt that before. If it’s just a short story then there’s no harm. In the long wrong, a short story isn’t that big a deal. To have boredom strike in the middle of a one-off novel is not good, especially if there has been quite a bit of work invested in it, but I can deal with it so long as it’s not on contract.

But what if boredom strikes in the middle of a novel series?

Now that scares me. I’ve written my first novella and I’ve been drawing out the work for the sequel. And although I feel confident that the sequel will have plenty of interesting aspects going on for it, what if there finally reaches a point in writing a sequel that I get bored?

Hell, who even likes to do sequels unless it’s a story that finally gets at something one wanted to write or do in the first place? How many boring origin stories led to outstanding sequels about what we really wanted to see? But what if it goes on? What could dry one’s interest out like writing about the same characters and dealing with the unresolved plot details that I’ve held off on.

I suppose that’s something I’ll worry about when it gets to that point. But I’ve been bored before. And I have to make a promise to myself not to let my writing sag or try ridiculous, unrealistic twists just to keep in new or fresh. If I just can’t take a character or aspect further, perhaps it’s time to give it out. Keep the original stories and let others play with that intellectual property.

Sometimes, the greatest tales have come not from the people who originally invented a universe or character, but from the people who came after, took the idea like a rugby ball and ran with it.

If I ever forget, remind me.

The Dilly

Laundry. That's what's up.

Laundry. That's what's up.

I got distracted again.

If you have to ask why, it was because Dark Moon Books sent me an email for an alternative history anthology. Before long, this ended up in the email in-boxes of several Boltholers.

Before you knew it, we all agreed to write for it. So my own personal ebook anthology got pushed off. Again.

Out of a 6,000 word maximum limit, I already have 2,000 words written. I hope to be done by Tuesday at the earliest and Wednesday at the latest with the first draft. By then, I will need a break to step back and stop being so attached to my own writing. I have to kill my pride.

Then I’ll proof my story before turning it to a history expert and to the rest of the Boltholers for proofing. Why am I doing this instead of my own anthology? There was some discussion on the Bolthole about the value of self-publishing against being published by a company.

It seems more valuable, at least early on, to be published by another company as it indicates a degree of professionalism; working within deadlines, working with other people. It’s also technically cheaper (if accepted) because editing and the cover artist are covered by the company.

It’s frustrating to jump on every chance that comes along and continue to push off my own project. But getting published by full companies is far more valuable. So off we go again…

Let His Name Be Known

What I currently almost look like in Space Marine.

What I currently almost look like in Space Marine.

Deep breath, man. Deep breath.

  • Short story summary? Check.
  • Short story synopsis, between 500 to 1,000 words? Yep, got it.
  • Short story sample, 1,000 words? 1,000 words exactly.
  • … Short story name? Duh. Yes.
  • My contact info? My name, email, cell phone and Bolthole handle.
  • Font at 12? Yep.
  • Font is Times New Roman? Yes already.

Still… I guess I’ll sleep on it. There’s time.

Tonight, I plan to work out using my amazing new 40 pound dumb bells, play some Space Marine and get some sleep.

Space Marine is becoming a challenge in multiplayer. Many of my opponents are now 30 to 40 range, and that’s a big deal. Sure, I can copy their load out when they beat me, but it keeps me from playing how I want to play. Tonight I’ll make level 15 and get my second perk slot. Not game changing, but I’ll take any edge I can get. On the bright side, I earned the Vambraces of Hate. I didn’t even know I wanted these until I got them. They look like something M.D. Geist would wear. I’ll post some screen shots later.