Archive for November, 2009

28
Nov
09

middling

I’ve reached my least favorite bit of novel writing again, the end of the middle. In the beginning everything is peachy, I’ve got drive, energy, and none of my plans have turned out to be stupid wastes of time yet. As I write the energy dissipates and problems emerge – I start to uncover gaping idiocies, characters make very good points about why they would never do something like what I needed them to do for the plot, etc. The novel is starting to go off the rails.

Every time this happens, I struggle desperately to hold it on course, and sometimes this gets me through. Other times it just means wasted words on a plot that’s not worth keeping (see previous novel). Either way, I always run into the wall at the exact same place, the 2/3 mark. It’s the place where my bright beginning seems like hair brained scheming, but the end is still so far away I can’t see the finish line. Every morning I wake up feeling like I should just stop, go back and edit my way into something resembling a coherent plot. Sometimes, I give in, but not this time.

I’ve talked before about the novel as a wicked problem, a problem you don’t know how to solve until you’ve solved it. This was true two novels ago, last novel, and it’s true now. The 2/3 mark is where I’m deepest in the problem, my feet haven’t been able to touch bottom for a while, and I’m getting really tired of swimming. But I know if I keep going, push through to the good scenes that are still there, I’ll finish. Of course, the novel will be terrible, but my first drafts are always terrible. I’m just starting to realize this is because I’m secretly a much better reviser than a writer.

Some people really don’t need more than 2 drafts. Some writers just seem to know where their story is going. Some writers take dozens of drafts. All of that is fine, if we all wrote stories the same way, our stories would probably all be the same. It took a while, but I think I’ve finally made my peace with the idea of being a rewriter rather than a writer. I like to tell myself  this skill is because of my amazing problem solving abilities, but really it’s because it takes me a while to have all my good ideas. This is fine, writing is not a performance art. So long as I get the story right by the time it goes out, nothing else matters. Now to just keep repeating that until the novel’s actually done.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and good luck with all your projects!

25
Nov
09

Navel-gazing and turkey. Except turkeys don’t have navels.

At a mock-Thanksgiving dinner a couple of weeks ago, someone brought up how people in the city where he’d recently moved tend to introduce themselves based on their creative work, instead of their day jobs, as opposed to the other way around here in greater Boston.  I don’t know how much of this was just his impression or if it actually is widespread,  but it did get me thinking about how we construct identity.  It took me a very long time to be able to introduce myself first as a writer, even though I’ve thought of myself that way for years.

But with family, it’s different.  And with Thanksgiving coming up, it’s on my mind again.

For one thing, you’re not introducing yourself in most family situations; maybe Uncle Edith doesn’t really remember what it is you do for a living these days, but what you did at the reunion in ’94 has cemented your identity in his mind as “the one with the macaroni.”  And it’s really hard sometimes to ask the same people who saw you throw a tantrum over Lego bricks to take you seriously as a creative artist.

I don’t know if anyone else has this problem, but I get this weird defensiveness about my writing in family situations that is completely out of proportion to everything else.  It’s as if I feel I have to justify my work by bringing up the practicalities, the business side of things, rather than the more fun parts of it.  Even though I’m very lucky in that my family enthusiastically supports what I do, there’s still part of me that expects to be asked “so how is your real work?”  Call it my own insecurities poking through.

In the past few years I think I’ve mellowed a bit on this point, or at least have stopped automatically defending my work.  Some of it is probably because of the books, but I think more has to do with me accepting that yes, this is my real work.

I’ll be spending this Thanksgiving with my in-laws, which means I’ll probably miss the story about the gnomes (or whatever strangeness comes out of this year’s dinner).  But for all other writers and musicians and poets dreading family dinners, here’s to you and your real work.  Enjoy the turkey, even if the ham’s a little dry, and remember that no amount of questions over dinner can make your work more or less real.

—-

(Also, best thing about Thanksgiving?  Pie for breakfast on Friday.)

22
Nov
09

Never assume you know your readers

Sorry about the Sunday post… AGAIN. Fridays keep blowing up in my face, mostly in good but terribly busy ways.

So the other night my husband and I went to a local place called Taco Stand which serves…. wait for it… tacos! Delicious tacos! It’s cheap, tasty, and very popular with families (what kid doesn’t like tacos?). This makes for a weird mix of townies and students, groups that are normally oil and water in our little University town, but it also means I run into people I don’t normally see. Unfortunately, this mixing has a bad habit of spawning the “what are you doing now, oh you have a book coming out!” conversation I thought (back before I was published) I would love having, but in reality is always pretty awkward given most people’s vague notions of fantasy and weird ideas about how authors spend their time.

This particular night I ran into a woman I used to work with at the church (my first job out of college as a designer/receptionist and, coincidentally, where I wrote my first novel), named Tami. Even though Tami was older than me and a mother with kids, we were cohorts in the trenches at our job, fighting against the pretty terrible decisions of those above us, and I always enjoyed her company. But, other than work stuff, I didn’t know her or her husband very well, always thought of them as a fairly conservative couple. So, while I was happy to see her looking so well, I was pretty anxious when she came up to say hello after four years and the “what are you doing now” conversation came up. I took the cheat way out and just told her I had a book coming out. Fortunately she had a tray full of tacos headed towards a table of hungry children, so the conversation was truncated and I fled to the other side of the room, safe (I thought) from having to explain yet again that no, my book was not Harry Potter or Twilight or Eragon.

Fifteen minutes later as my husband and I are walking out, Tami stops us. My heart sinks. Here it comes. I can almost see the Oprah question in her eyes. She asks what kind of book I wrote. I tell her fantasy, and to my utter amazement, Tami and her husband are immediately excited. What kind of fantasy? Epic like George R.R. Martin? Urban? Her husband lights up as he tells us how much he loves Joe Abercrombie and how upset he is that Patrick Rothfuss hasn’t put out a second book yet. Tami’s asks who I’m getting published by, and when I tell her Orbit she knows exactly who I’m talking about and tells me she loves their stuff.

At this point, my mind is blown. Here is this woman I worked with for a year, whom I thought I knew as a conservative small town lady with her husband who owns the local office furniture store, more likely (I thought) to read Rachael Ray than ever read Rachel Aaron, and they’re asking me what fantasy books mine is like. What new books can I recommend? Will my book be suitable for their 10 year old, who is already an avid fantasy fan? (My books are not YA, but they have no cussing or sex, just bloody swordfights, so I said maybe to that one. Tami assured me they’d both read it first, and I actually believe they will.)

In the end my husband had to pull me away from the conversation so we wouldn’t be late for our party. Still, I got a very valuable lesson about making assumptions about people, their reading habits, and my future audience. When I wrote my books, the reader I had in my head were people like myself and my husband – geeks, gamers, internet nerds, people who wrote fanfiction in highschool, etc., etc. But there are fantasy readers out there who never go to cons, get involved in geek culture, or even consider themselves geeks. They just like a good fantasy story.

Being so deeply involved in geek culture it’s easy to forget that there are people outside the bubble who buy the same books I do. Who may buy my book if they come across it. Fortunately, this encounter was a very gentle wakeup call and not the foot-in-mouth disaster it could have been. Still, lesson learned.

20
Nov
09

RWA-MWA Drama, Contest Winner!

No post today, folks. Since I spent a good chunk of yesterday in jury duty, I lost a day of writing, and as I’m already behind on Book 3, today was catch-up. I did, however, post a little rant on my own blog about the “Harlequin Horizons” drama and how it impacts me as a fantasy writer. Check it out.

And I haven’t forgotten that today is the end of my ARC giveaway contest! I got a lot of great entries by email and in the comments of the post, for a total of sixteen magnificently made-up gods. Thanks to all who participated!

The choice was tough. Frankly I wish I had more ARCs, because some of the entries were hilarious or just beautifully-written; our own Rachel Aaron’s was a case in the latter point. In the end, though, I was seduced by Jackie M’s entry:

Elena Niobe is the goddess of Falling Things. She has no home, and no homeland, and is most often found in the company of caravaners, nomads and transients. She has control over waterfalls and rain storms, market prices and dominoes, meteors and stars tumbling into black holes. She is a perfect savant with numbers, and can speak any language, but she is completely illiterate.

The color of her skin and shape of her face changes to blend in with her current company, but her eyes are always black, and her dark hair is always streaked with gray. To discover Elena Niobe in human form brings immense fortune; to break her trust by revealing her to others brings the worst of calamities. And she cannot stay for too long in one place–for while she always has the power to make things fall down, the longer she makes a home for herself, the less able she is to stop things from falling. Her favorite lovers have all a bad habit of dying abruptly and tragically.

The best way of winning her favor is to do something truly kind for someone who has either lost their home, or who has never had one. Conversely, she does not look well on those who exploit the vulnerable.

Lovely. So, Jackie, please send me your mailing address and I’ll drop the ARC in the mail to you ASAP!

16
Nov
09

Something to do with all that spare time you have

I’m an information junkie. I like to know things. I don’t like to be in the dark and I want to know the rules of the game.

In other words I LOVE the internet!

I’ve ranted before about how I have little patience for writers who don’t understand how the publishing industry works. (By the way, that hasn’t changed. I still think that if you can’t be bothered to understand how this industry works, then you shouldn’t be trying to break into it. Would you go into police work without learning the basics of the legal system?)

But, I also understand that the internet is a huge and often intimidating place, and it can be hard to find the information you need amidst all the other “noise” out there. So, I’m going to get y’all started with some helpful links.

First off, some other group blogs that are almost as wonderful as The Magic District:

http://www.deadlinedames.com/

http://www.sfnovelists.com/

http://magicalwords.net/

http://storytellersunplugged.com/

http://www.ninc.com/blog/

 

Other incredibly useful blogs:

There are many sharks in the publishing waters. Read Writer Beware to learn how to avoid them: http://accrispin.blogspot.com/

The wonderful Miss Snark. Alas, she’s no longer blogging, but the archives are a goldmine of information. http://misssnark.blogspot.com/

Agent Kristin Nelson shares TONS of knowledge: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/

So does BookEnds Literary Agency: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/

And Dystel & Goderich: http://dglm.blogspot.com/

And Nathan Bransford: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/

 

Various posts that have fantastic info:

This post has links to a dozen other awesome posts. Read them all! http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2009/10/publishing-related-backlist.html

A good explanation of how royalties and advances work: http://apparentlyaprilynne.blogspot.com/2007/12/do-math.html

Sub-rights! http://apparentlyaprilynne.blogspot.com/2007/12/sub-rights-or-yet-another-reason-you.html

Word count limits. Why they exist, and why they matter: http://editorialass.blogspot.com/2009/06/is-there-word-count-cap-for-debut-novel.html

 

These are just a sampling of the links in my “Writing” bookmarks folder. What online writing/publishing resources do you find invaluable?

 

15
Nov
09

a consumer’s take on why ebook readers still have a long way to go

As an author I’ve been thinking a lot about ebooks – how they’re changing/may change publishing, if we’re going to eventually move to the ebook business model of high royalties instead of advances, (but not piracy, I’m with Cory Doctorow on this one: An SF writer’s biggest problem is obscurity, not piracy) etc. So from the writer mind side I’m wringing my hands, which is kind of stupid, because my reader mind (which is deeply tied to my consumer mind) is pretty made up on the subject: ebooks, specifically ebook readers like the Kindle and the new Nook, are a bad choice if you like owning books and saving money.

Continue reading ‘a consumer’s take on why ebook readers still have a long way to go’

12
Nov
09

ARC Giveaway Contest!

OK! In just over 3 months now, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms will launch. (February 25, 2010, to be specific; you can preorder now at most of the major online booksellers.) So I’m getting ready to go into hardcore promotional mode. Keep an eye on my own website for lots of changes in the coming weeks — a new look for the site, more giveaways, sample chapters, and more, all up to the big day.

But that doesn’t mean the Magic District will get short shrift. Ergo, I’m kicking things off here with the first of two Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) giveaways (the other will be at my site in a few weeks). Details below the cut.
Continue reading ‘ARC Giveaway Contest!’




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