Monthly Archives: November 2013

A New Project For A New Project

I’ve pretty much decided to emulate Dean Wesley Smith in one blogging project, at least for a little while.

He’s doing a year-long series called Writing In Public where he catalogs what he does each day.

Myself, if I’m going to treat writing as my day job, I want my weekends free, so I probably won’t be blogging about what I do on the weekends (mostly because it involves sitting around watching TV, playing video games, reading, or really boring errands like haircuts). But it seems to me that posting a daily wordcount and an estimate of how many hours I spent writing will help keep me on task. In effect, I’m using my little audience as motivation to write.

You can do your part too… if I don’t post on a weekday (holidays excluded), nag me in the comments or drop me an email. That will keep me accountable to you, the reader.

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Prepping For The Next Project

While I am intending to release Librarian “into the wild” so to speak soon after it comes back from editing, I’m not starting work on the sequel quite yet… I’ve got another idea that’s been niggling at my brain for a while that I want to get written.

I’m not sure, however, if I’ll release the second project right away, or wait till I complete and write the rest of the story started in Librarian. There is something to be said for continuing one project til completion, but right now the other idea is fully formed enough to get started on.

I guess we’ll just see what the future brings.

If I don’t post tomorrow, I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

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My New Writing Mentor

…and he doesn’t even know it yet… unless he’s read the email I sent praising his work earlier today. 🙂

The man is Dean Wesley Smith, and he reveals things about the writing business that I’ve seen nowhere else. For example (emphasis his):

“That is the only way to do it.”

How often do writers in this business hear that phrase? Some writer or editor or agent telling the young writer to do something as if that something was set in stone. Nope.

The truth is that nothing in this business is set in stone.

Nothing.

And everything is changing so fast, what might have been true three years ago is very bad advice now.

For example, three years or so ago a wonderful new professional writer in one of the workshops here e-mailed a well-written query with ten sample pages and a synopsis of the novel off to an editor in New York from the workshop. The next morning she came out of her room smiling. Overnight, the editor had asked to see the entire book. So being am imp, I went to that publisher’s website and printed off the guidelines, which said in huge letters “No electronic submissions and absolutely no unagented submissions.”

Lucky for her she hadn’t bothered to look at the guidelines, or listen to all the people who said she needed an agent, or believed there was only one way to get her book read at that company.

Now, I would have asked here why she bothered even going to a traditional publisher.

Nothing in this business is set in stone. Nothing.

Of course, that little story about not looking at guidelines will cause massive anger to come at me I’m sure.

As will my question as to why she even bothered with a traditional publisher.

Mr. Smith has been, and is, author, editor, and publisher, so I daresay he knows whereof he speaks. And what he speaks flies in the face of a lot of “conventional wisdom.” Since I often question conventional wisdom myself, it makes sense that I’d enjoy the writings of someone else who does the same thing.

If you’re thinking of trying to be a writer, are actually working on a manuscript already (for NaNo perhaps?), or have one sitting in a drawer or on a shelf gathering dust, read what Dean has to say. He’s a welcome breath of fresh air in an often stodgy business.

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Bucking Trends

Those of you who’ve been reading me for a while know, I enjoy messing with stereotypes. I also enjoy bucking trends, when I can.

Over on my favorite writing forum some time ago, there was a discussion about whether or not the zombie fad was over. I argued that it is, but also argued that following fads is doomed to failure anyway.

Look at it this way… Hunger Games is the latest book fad, among sci-fi and fantasy genres, at least. And yet, Hunger Games itself is unlike most of what came before it. Post-apocalyptic sci-fi has been around for what seems like forever, but before Hunger Games it was always a niche market. What Suzanne Collins did successfully was start a fad, not follow one.

You can go back in history and find this happening over and over and over again. Harry Potter did it, for example. Eragon is a bit of a mixed bag, stories of people riding friendly dragons have been around since at least the late great Anne McCaffrey, but Christopher Paolini at the very least restarted a fad that had faded.

In fact, the patron saint of fantasy, JRR Tolkien, created something far more than a fad with Lord of the Rings, to some extent he still defines the epic and high fantasy genres to this day.

I’ve gone over all this before, I am pretty sure (and I’m too lazy to go and look right now). However, my deep antipathy towards fads has made me look at the kind of stories I want to tell. And they’re not following fads as far as I can tell.

Librarian — which I still want to get back to someday — offers something rarely seen in a fantasy novel: a disabled protagonist. Stephen Donaldson did it to some extent, but beyond that I’m not aware of any successful fantasy novels or series with a disabled main character. The trend was, and is, to have the protagonist be a heroic figure of some sort. Even humble Frodo Baggins has his share of heroism, going on with his task even when things looked bleak.

My current work in progress, which hasn’t really started yet, will feature a cleric as the main character. Clerics are often included as secondary characters, but rarely do they take center stage, while wizards as magic users are very common in fantasy literature.

I’ll be honest, part of it is sheer cussedness and not wanting to do what others have done, but I also think that this way I can tell stories that haven’t yet been told, and I think that’s a worthy goal for any writer.

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In Which I Sound Like A Grump

Some time ago, there was a post on my favorite writing forum about a program to encourage people to read books by female authors.

Now, I am likely going to alienate a few people with this statement (maybe more than a few), but I don’t consider the way the author’s reproductive organs are plumbed when deciding what book to purchase and/or read.

Seriously. It never even enters my mind. I look at author’s names only to see if I’ve read them before. If I have read a given author before and enjoyed it, I’m more likely to seriously consider another book by them. If, on the other hand, I’ve read a previous book by an author and didn’t care for it, I’m going to be skeptical about buying another of their books.

Beyond that, what I want from a book is a good read, and there are just as many good female authors out there as good male authors. Looking over my bookshelves, I see male authors like L. E. Modesitt (the L is for Leland), as well as female authors like Anne McCaffrey. Though their styles are different, both are highly successful authors who are still selling books.

I think these efforts to promote one gender of authors over the other do a disservice to literature in general. Should I read a subpar book by a female author — just as there are great authors of both genders, there’s also bad authors of both genders — just to look good in the eyes of the people pushing those efforts? Sorry, not gonna happen.

If you want to see more female authors, teach women to write well, and they’ll sell books on their own without external “read female authors” efforts. Louisa May Alcott, among many others, proved that many years ago, and it’s no less true today.

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The Familiar vs the Unique

Something I’ve been pondering for a while… is there any real benefit to creating unique names for things like the days of the week in a fantasy book?

I’m undecided, in part because some of my favorite books — including L. E. Modesitt’s Imager series — use different names for weekdays than we Americans do. I haven’t looked them up, but they appear to be French or pseudo-French, as are a lot of the names from those books.

On the one hand, changing something as small as the name of Monday can really help the reader immerse themselves in a fantasy world.

On the other hand, it can confuse the reader. Does X day come before or after Y day? Some books I’ve read — and I can’t remember which specific ones at the moment — simply called them “Oneday,” “Twoday,” and so on.

The floor is open, what do you think?

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Wizards With Day Jobs

One of my favorite fantasy authors is L. E. Modesitt. One of the reasons is because his world, while it is infused with magic, has a lot of realism to it.

A large part of that realism comes from the fact that most of his wizards have to have some sort of day job.

He’s got “black” and “white” wizards, and in a flip of the usual colors, the black wizards are generally portrayed as good guys, and the white ones are almost always portrayed as bad guys — despite the fact that he shows a sympathetic white wizard in several books.

Most of his black wizards are involved in some sort of trade. Two that spring to mind are a carpenter and a cooper (barrel maker). The white wizards are generally part of the ruling class of their nations, but even so, we see white wizards doing things like cleaning sewers (using magic, of course) and serving in the military.

To me, this seems a lot more realistic than a wizard with no visible means of income. What do you think?

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