Saturday, May 31, 2014

Conventional Wisdom

You really want to know why I still go to science fiction conventions when I have so many reasons not to go?  OK, here are a few:

First,  I find it extremely difficult to write while on the road and many conventions require extensive travel.  I often think that lost time could be better spent on writing (this is probably a delusion on my part.)

Next, there's the cost.  Sure, I get a free pass on fees, but for that benefit I am obligated to entertain the paying guests by sitting on panels and BS-ing with others in the industry about whatever comes to mind.  The panel subject is usually just the starting point for a wide-ranging bull session.  To be completely honest, I generally enjoy panels and especially answering the audience's questions.

Then I have to pay for travel, the hotel, meals, etc which, while a valid business expense, is also a drain on my rather thin earnings, as it is for all the fen who go.

There's the hassle of fans, most of whom ignore me, damn it!   Overall, it's a miserable experience except for the Green room, the hallway encounters, the panels, and all the other opportunities to share moments with fellow writers, editors, fans, and publishers.  From these I always gain insights into the business, develop new friendships, hear of opportunities, and generally make myself known in the industry. I have never been to a convention where I didn't come away with valuable information or new ideas to play with.  Another benefit are the dinners and lunches with your peers - nothing is more fun that being with a group of writers letting their hair down over a few drinks and some God-awful food.

Sure, I could (and do) keep up with the same people on social media. It's nice, but nothing beats a hug or handshake from a fellow writer at a con. That brief but intimate physical contact reassures me that all that lonely dark time spent on the keyboard is worth doing.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Methods and Pace

Sorry, but with last week's Nebula in San Jose and seemingly endless SFWA Board meetings, dealing with all the financials, and with Balticon staring me in the face, I have not had time to write a lenghty blog piece this week nor, to be honest, write ANYTHING on the multiple projects I have open, the novel being the top one and the delay is making me crazy.

When I started writing it was nothing to crank out story on a weekend and then spend a year going editor to editor to find a market.  As I grew more accomplished I took a bit longer to complete a story and only spent half a year before running out of editors, mostly because so many magazines failed in that period of my career.  Much later (some say too late) I became conscious of style and started taking a bit more care, a bit more time to compose and finish a story.

So much of my perception of methods and pace derived from writing short stories quickly and getting to sale or rejection faster.  I've tried a few novels but they were done quickly and usually I felt so bad about them that I never marketed them to publishers.  I'm starting to wonder if I am too impatient a writer to endure the long slog a decent novel requires.

But on Monday all this will be behind me and I can settle down to writing once again.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

But Enough About ME

I am not going to talk about my progress on the WIP. Nope, not a word, even though it is threatening to overwhelm me.  Gods, I can't sleep at night worrying about alternative ways of handling scenes and "did I forget to add that?" nightmares.  But, as I said, I don't want to talk about it.

One of the big questions on everyone's mind recently is whether self-published authors can be considered as professionals by other writers.  To understand the depths of this question you need to understand that most "other" writers today came up prior to or during the digital revolution. The eldest members started their careers pounding the keys of manual and electric typewriters, correcting drafts with white-out and tape, mailing bulky envelopes, and then waiting weeks for the rejections to arrive before investing more time and stamps to try a second market.  Writing was hard and tedious work before near-instantaneous communications.  For many of the old school the delay between the final draft and acceptance/publication was a matter of years as the work went through the hands of copy editors, proofreaders, printers, distributor, and finally, into stores.

Todays self-pub writers spin tales on computers, clean them up with software tools, and have their beta readers respond via e-mail before "publishing" their work on line.  Even though a very few of the self-published reap great rewards, the majority labor in vain to earn a pittance, if that, but all consider themselves as authors. It costs little but time to self-publish and that time is often saved by cutting out experienced editors, skilled copyeditors, and professional graphic composers.

Is it any wonder that there is resentment as the newly published sneer at the "other" writers who question which of the self-published are worthy of being called professional writers?  There should be no doubt that money earned is one criteria, but what about those in the great majority whose sales are modest or non-existant?  Small print runs and poor sales are not unknown in the physical book market yet those published authors are considered as professionals. Is there some magic lower level of sales that marks the line between a failed scribbler and someone "other" writers consider as 'professional?"

From my perspective the entire question is one of recognition and acceptance.  As writers all of us need to find a way of granting respect to those availing themselves of the new  markets being created.


Friday, May 9, 2014


I like to collect little snippets of advice from other writers, especially when they pertain to something I happen to be working on, and even more when they reveal something I hadn't considered.  As an example Paolo Bacigalupi made this remark the other day about completing the first draft of his WIP:

" ...[now]  I can pretty much see the whole book inside my head. I can see how each part interacts with every other part. How every change affects the whole."

 And this from Brenda Clough, who has finally reached that delightful point where the first draft is done, done, done!  

"We are now at that blissful stage of the writing process where, the first rocket-speed draft being done, I can brood over the work as a whole like God hovering over the surface of the waters...."

I have not yet reached that blissful state with my own attempt at noveling. Instead I am still marching ever onward toward some place I can finally resolve most of the arcs I've created.  I am intentionally not planning on bringing everything to a conclusion, leaving those to the imagination of whoever eventually reads it.  Yeah, I'm nasty that way.

With all the back and forthing I' m doing as I edit the first section and build on the third I am almost, but not quite at Paolo's point where I can look back to see the grand expanse of this little tale and am far from achieving Brenda's God-like knowledge of a satisfactory conclusion.

In the middle of the book is a few chapter's worth of words that presents problems in that the series does not bridge between the somewhat edited first section and the loose, stream of consciousness thing I'm composing on the fly in the last.  Do I cut the 10K words that stand like a plinth or try to sculpt it into something that is acceptable.   Cut or create, that it is ever the question with a novel.

Maybe I should go back to writing another short.


Saturday, May 3, 2014


The novel is progressing rather well, I think. I've stopped editing Chapter One to insert something I thought about at the sixty-five thousand word mark and started modifying Chapters Two through Six to carry those ideas forward, which reminded me of something I'd forgotten to expand upon later in the rough draft ... somewhere.

This back and forthing, rummaging through the messy parts of the draft like a frenzied squirrel looking for someplace to bury a nut, is wearing.  I hope that soon, very soon, there will be no more jumping about as the skeleton of the plot solidifies and I can begin to move steadily along to a resolution that still evades me, but sits tantalizingly close  just beyond reach, on my mental  horizon.

But first I need to figure out how to resolve a few of the four arcs, or was that five?

It's the lack of resolution that impedes my progress. In real life there is seldom resolution.  Things fade away, get forgotten, or ignite some new chain of events that will also fail to be resolved. Of course there are some things that do get resolved, such as (hopefully) paying next month's bills, gassing up the car, and foraging necessities in the nearest superduppermarket.  But other things in our lives stubbornly refuse to resolve - like an argument with your spouse that you think resolved but is only the basis for another round or two.

I like stories that wrap everything up in a neat package so you don't sit there afterward saying over and over "I wonder what happened to...." or "...afterwards."

This draft doesn't look to be one of those. I hate stories that demand a sequel, or another story in the same  universe.  Nope, write to the end and forget it. Unless, of course your vast public demands it, a contract beckons, or the editor forces your hand.  Yeah, I might change my mind for any or all of those.

But instead of finding resolution I sit here writing another blog post about the lack thereof.

Back to work.