May 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
Here’s a little bit of humor for the weekend:
This pretty much represents my creative process. The binge eating and discouraged napping wedges might be smaller, but only because the random internet surfing wedge would be larger.
What’s your creative process?
April 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
So … it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. Partially, it’s because I’ve started a new (well, returned to an old) job, which has freed up my evenings a bit, which in turn has gotten me back to work on my novel. Which is the other part of “partially,” really. All good news, then, being that I’m happier at work and finding time to write.
Part of the joy of being back at the new/old job is that I get to chat with my friend Paula whenever she isn’t up to her neck in software code. Okay, she’s always up to her neck in software code, but every once in a while, we cross paths in the break room and steal a few minutes to chat. She told me about Ilona Andrews’ blog post on ebooks and hybridization, which I’ve just read and thought it worth sharing, since I’ve kind of been hung up on the changing landscape of publishing. Andrews says:
Some people don’t want to bother with self-publishing and I certainly understand that. Others treat the idea of working toward traditional publication as some sort of idiocy. It’s each author’s prerogative to steer their own career. For us, I believe hybridization is the way to go.
And then goes on to explain why. It’s good, thought-provoking stuff, and a post I’ll definitely re-read when it comes time to decide what I want to do with my novel.
I think ideas are the easiest part of it. A lot of people believe, “I could be a great novelist or a filmmaker if I had just one good idea.” But really, I think the execution is more important than the ideas. An idea is just an adhesive that you use to stick a reader to a character. But the adhesive doesn’t last for very long. And then if the reader hangs in, they’re only hanging in because they care about that character.
It’s almost like—the best and worst bubblegum is Juicy Fruit. Because it tastes so good when you first chew into it, but the flavor goes out of it after about 30 seconds, and then you’re just chewing this nasty lump of concrete. And a good concept can be a little bit more interesting than a stick of Juicy Fruit, it can have a little bit more flavor to it. But I do think all the nutrients are in characters. The satisfying meal is who these people are.
This struck me because of another conversation I had with Paula, in which we were trying to figure out why we only kinda like the new Syfy show, Defiance. We were specifically trying to figure out why Firefly worked from the get-go, while we struggle to connect with the characters on Defiance. A few lines later in the interview, Hill nails it:
The thing I like about Whedon’s work is, he’s always very careful to give every character their moment. A moment where they will stand revealed as hero or villain or clown. And that’s what I believe about both literary fiction and genre fiction: You can have great setpieces and a great concept, but people really want to fall in love with characters. They even want to fall in love with your bad guys.
Defiance has shown the spotlight on each main character briefly, but I don’t think any of them—including the main character, Nolan—have had their “moment” yet. But I digress. The point is, there’s a lot of gems of writing wisdom in that Joe Hill interview. Go read it.
So, apologies for the long silence. In the future, I’ll try to be a little more bloggy. (It’s a word … now …) I’ll at least try to remember to share inspiration, tips, and interviews with great writers as I find them. Until then—keep writing!
April 12, 2013 § 2 Comments
St. Martin’s Press has published five serial novels in the past year, ranging from historical fiction to erotic romance, and has three more in the works. Penguin’s digital romance imprint, InterMix, is testing serialized romance and erotica, and has released three titles so far, with several others on the way. The science-fiction and fantasy publisher Tor recently published a science-fiction epic by John Scalzi in 13 weekly episodes.
Click through to read the entire piece. It’s pretty interesting—especially the bit about Amazon.
What comes around goes around, I guess. I’m currently reading Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days (actually, my antique copy is titled A Tour of the World in 80 Days), and when I looked up the history of it, I discovered it had been published as a serial novel, with each chapter going to print in the newspaper on the day the chapter was set. This caused many readers to believe it was a true story, and gained Verne a lot of attention.
I wonder if you could do something similar today. If so, what do you think the story would be about? Could be an interesting writing exercise …
April 6, 2013 § 6 Comments
For several hundred years, writing has been a job. That is, a writer wrote something, and someone paid to read or perform it. Sometimes, people paid writers before they wrote anything. In olden days, those people were called “patrons.” Today, they’re called Kickstarter contributors.
But there’s a new model of publishing that’s emerged in the last year or two, or perhaps it’s been around longer and is just now gaining the spotlight. In this model, you write something — a song, a play, a short story, a novel — and then give it away, trusting your readers to pay when they read it. It’s the “leap and the net will appear” philosophy applied to the writing biz.
The latest take on this new model is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s venture, HitRECord:
BIG NEWS: We’re gonna be on TV!
“Hit RECord on TV” is gonna be a new kind of variety show. I’ll host the show and also direct our global online community to create short films, live performances, music, animation, conversation, and of course, more! Each episode will be focused on a different theme. And like always, anybody with an internet connection is invited to contribute.
Amazon Studios is a similar creature. You write a screenplay or teleplay, upload it, and let others read it for free in the hopes that someone will deem it worthy of making into a movie or TV show. I have an Amazon Studios account, and actually got a little recognition at first. I thought about chucking novel writing for scripts as a result, but the more I learned about Hollywood, the less I wanted to be a part of it. Besides, I love books more than I love movies, which means I want to make books more than I want to make movies. Simple math, in my mind.
But I come back to the idea of giving it away, of leaping and waiting for the net to appear, and it continues to appeal to me. John Scalzi certainly found success that way; he published Old Man’s War as a serial novel on his blog for free, posting a chapter a day and offering the complete book for $1.50 “if someone was impatient.” He landed a traditional publishing deal a month after he started giving away his novel, and now it’s a classic.
So there’s evidence that it works, this whole idea of giving it away. But it’s unnerving, isn’t it? It is to me. I mean, my net gain from my Amazon Studios experience was a hat, a t-shirt, and a mug. Not exactly filthy lucre, and certainly nothing I can pay the mortgage with. So I’m not sure why I feel like it’s such a cool idea, but I do.
Would you give your work away, trusting your audience to pay for it as they could?
April 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I spotted this on Galleycat.com and thought it was worth sharing: A publisher called Grand Central Publishing is using Twitter’s new micro-video app, Vine, to make no-cost videos that act as trailers for books. Check it out.
Chuck this in the Guerrilla Marketing for Writers category.
What’s your opinion of book trailers — either low-budget or high-end? Have you ever bought a book because it had a good trailer? I don’t think I have.
March 31, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Need a quick kick in the pants? Neil Gaiman has it for you over on his blog.
I’d add to it, but really, what else is there to say? Runners don’t start off running marathons; they run every day until they can. Ditto writers.
Seems pretty obvious, but sometimes we need someone further down the path to call back and remind us to keep hiking.
March 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is one of those landmark science fiction classics that any good sci-fi reader should have read a long time ago. Either I’m not a good sci-fi reader (HA!) or I’ve just been distracted by other, equally landmark SF titles, because I didn’t get around to reading Haldeman’s book until recently.
I didn’t know much about the book when I bought it, other than it was categorized as “space opera.” From the introduction, I learned that Haldeman had a hard time finding a publisher for the novel because it was heavily influenced by his time in Vietnam, and publishers in the early 70s didn’t think readers wanted books about Vietnam. Boy, were they wrong.
The plot centers around Mandella, who we first meet as a private in the space marines, going off to train on the outermost world in our solar system, Charon. From there, we follow Mandella through his career as he reluctantly advances in rank and continues to fight—for 1,000 years.
Maybe it was knowing that Haldeman drew on Vietnam for this book, but several times throughout The Forever War, I was reminded of the novels and short stories of Tim O’Brien — particularly The Things They Carried and Going After Cacciato. Like O’Brien, Haldeman’s book isn’t about battles and killing the enemy so much as it is about the time in between the battles and the experience of being a soldier in a seemingly senseless and endless war. It’s about coming home to a society you don’t recognize anymore, about being an alien among your own people—or, more accurately, about “your own people” being the aliens.
The Forever War is simultaneously dated and relevant to right now. Haldeman’s interstellar war began in 1997, so right away the story seems a little musty. But the experience of being a soldier—be it in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or on a distant planet in the far future—that doesn’t change much. You train, you fight, you lose friends and parts of yourself, you fear, you dread, you love, you hope, and you sometimes die. If you make it home, you find that home is a strange, alien place into which you no longer fit. If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone waiting for you to help you make sense of it all. If you’re not, well, you probably end up going back to the war.
In his foreword to the edition I read, John Scalzi sums up what makes The Forever War a classic:
“The first is that it speaks to the time in which the novel first appeared. There is no doubt that The Forever War did this … The second thing is tougher, and that is that it keeps speaking to readers outside its time, because what’s in the book touches on something that never goes away, or at the very least keeps coming around.”
As much as we wish it to be otherwise, it seems that there will always be war. And as long as there is war, Haldeman’s novel will remain relevant, and thus remain a classic.