Howdy folks and Happy Saturday. Happy New Year, as well.
I was really honored when Carrie and Sasha asked me to join the Genreality Posse. I’ve had a good time here and I hope my posts have been useful to you all as you chart your course in the Wacky World of Writing. It’ll be strange to not be posting here but I’ll keep posting about life and work over at Facebook and eventually on the Brand New KenScholes.com (still in progress) where I hope to bring back Discombobulated Pensivity in the Double-Wide of Life for a fresh go.
I use this time of year to take a good inventory of the ground I’ve covered, the ground I hoped to cover and didn’t, and the ground I didn’t even see until now but would like to cover next year.
All in all, I’m mostly glad 2012 is behind me. It was a year of losses and gains, some tied together. I think the biggest life change for me was that circumstances finally lined up for me to quit the dayjob and put my focus on writing full time. I can’t speak for others who’ve gone through this transition, but I can speak for me: It doesn’t necessarily line up just the way you think when you’re daydreaming about being full-time. Full-timeness comes with it’s own set of challenges and in my case, it’s come with some things to learn and un-learn. The biggest piece I’m learning now is how to effectively multi-task and strategically plan the other bits of writing business around the writing itself.
Another big accomplishment last year was finally, after over two years of on-and-off work, wrapping up Requiem and getting it in to Tor. In my pay-it-forward category of goals, my attendance at Cascade Writers was probably my most fruitful venture — that weekend with my group of writers continues to be one of my best ever coaching experiences and I’ve come out of it with a few good friends that I’m excited to watch as they launch their stories into the world.
For 2013, I get to experience this childhood dream of mine taking me around the world. I’ve been invited to the Imaginales Festival in France this Spring so of course I’m going. And expanding my trip so I can spend some time in Paris before and after the conference. I’ll get home in time to go on whatever tour we decide upon for Requiem’s release in early June. For conventions, I’m planning to attend Norwescon, Imaginales, GenCon and Orycon. I’m planning to speak at Cascade Writers though I won’t have a group this year. And in other pay-it-forward events, J.A. Pitts and I are tentatively teaching a workshop together (details to follow) and I will be spending a day teaching in a high school down in the Bay Area. I’m actually still building my 2013 goals so this is a pretty sketchy list.
Of course, the most important part of my goals have to be around production. In 2013, I’ll draft my story for Metatropolis 3: Green Space and do my co-editor duties on that project. And I’ll also finish the Psalms of Isaak — the goal is to have Hymn turned in before I head abroad in May. I’m reading the first four books now and taking notes with an aim to start drafting in a few weeks. Later in the summer, after the dust has settled from Requiem’s release, I intend to start diversifying my inventory with a jump out of my normal genre to write a short romance novel (think Nicholas Sparks) under a pen name. Those projects and a few shorter ones — fiction and non-fiction — will keep me busy.
I think my only closing advice for those who wish it is this: Know who you are and what you’re capable of…and remember to keep slinging the words. Write more. Write faster. Fix what you’ve written and put it into the world, then forget about what you’ve written and focus on what you’re writing.
And of course, I’m always an email or a FB message away if any Ken-sized questions show up for you.
Thanks for making this a warm and welcoming place to share my writing life and thoughts. I wish you a fantastic New Year and a happy writing life!
Trailer Boy…riding into the Genreality Sunset. [Queue End Credits]
Someone told me, about three published books into my career, that it was “unprofessional” to write “THE END” at the end of your manuscripts. That came as news to this professional writer, this writer who’d been paying all her bills with writing for several years. Not a single agent or editor had ever mentioned it to me, and when it disappeared during copyedits–well, so did the symbols I’d used to indicate page breaks and the formatting on my chapter headings.
Bottom line is, if “THE END” is considered a no-no, it’s not a make it or break it no-no. I promise you that not a single editor in the history of acquiring fiction has ever looked at a book and gone, “What a gorgeous piece of writing! What marvelous characters and splendorous plotting and expert pacing. This is a highly marketable work. Too bad they wrote ‘The End’ — REJECT.”
Which just goes to show you that writers are going to receive a lot of advice with words like “must” and “have to” and “never” attached to it — a lot of advice that tells you there is only one way to do things and you will never ever be published, never ever have a career as a writer, unless you do it like that.
And I’m here to tell you: Screw ’em.
There’s one rule: write. (Well, there’s two: “write well” — but that can get so wonky and eye-of-the-beholdery that I’m not even going to try to define it.) Everything else: what you write, how you write it, when you write it, how you market it, where you go with it — that’s all up to you. More than ever before, there is no “one” path (and even when I was starting out, pre-digital revolution, there were plenty of paths, and I didn’t get published until I figured out that the path I was being advised to take, even by well-meaning mentors, was not right for me).
The thing that works for you may be anathema to me, and vice versa. I may not even be aware of the thing that’s working for you. And that’s cool. There are many, many roads to get there.
Now, having said all that, I’m going to give you my top six bits of writing/publishing advice. (It was going to be five, because people like “top five” things, but what the hell. No rules, right? Besides, six is a “perfect” number according to the ancient Greeks.)
This is advice that has worked for me, and worked for me well. They may also be my favorite pieces of writing/publishing advice, you know, this week. Things change.
1. Get in late, get out early. I think this is Elmore Leonard. This is advice I always have to keep on the forefront of my mind, because I’m one of those writers who would otherwise be tempted to tell you the backstory of every character that pops up on screen, and would have seventy five epilogues about the main characters great great grandchildren and fourteen prologues explaining the entire political history of the world… the story is the story. Focus.
2. Keep secrets from your reader at your own peril. Writers are magicians. Our work is all about the reveal. Obviously, you start every story with a whole mess of secrets–the biggest one being, of course, what is going to happen–and when and where and how you reveal them is the whole point of the story. But you know what’s not the point of your story? Keeping the secret. If your work starts to become about the secret instead of the story, people get bored (Note to M. Night Shyamalan). If you take too long getting there, people get annoyed. This goes double when it’s the narrative host (i.e., POV character) who is keeping the secret. Nothing makes me put a book down faster than the POV character who keeps very obviously NOT telling the reader what is driving him/her. Can it be done well? Sure. I liked The Sixth Sense and Speak. But ninety nine times out of a hundred, if your character is keeping a secret, they can probably trust the reader. Remember the advice of Hitchcock: suspense is what happens when the viewer knows there’s a bomb under the cafe table, even if the characters don’t.
3. When writer’s block strikes, it means you’re making a mistake. Back up to the last part you loved and try again. Unlike HelenKay, I do believe in writer’s block. I think it’s our subconscious telling us something we’re doing isn’t working. Maybe it’s a plot point, or a character choice — sometimes it’s even been a character name. But when I hit the impassable mud of writer’s block, I know there’s no choice for it but to back up and try another, drier, road.
4. Write for your reader. I am about to blow your mind: people are going to hate your work. You cannot please all of the readers all of the time, and trying to is a losing battle. In this day and age of Amazon and book blogs and Goodreads, you’re going to run into all types of readers, and they all have a different idea of what makes a book good. My last book, which generally got the best reviews of my career, also got plenty of readers who hated the very parts that other readers said it made their favorite book of all time. Some people aren’t into the very thing that made you want to write the book in the first place (::coughcough:: killer unicorns). And there’s nothing you can do about that. Write for your reader. Write the hell out of what you do best for the reader who loves that very thing. There are more of them than you think. And, connected: Write for your reader. You are trying to entertain them. There’s nothing wrong with giving them what they want.
4. Protect the Work. In this day and age of Amazon and book blogs and Goodreads and people tweeting reviews directly into your inbox that they claim are not for you, you really can’t avoid seeing what people are saying about your book. Lots of people. And you know what they say about too many cooks. We’re living in an age where readers are far more involved in your day to day process, where consumers are reading ARCs and you are expected to discuss intimate aspects of your career choices on Facebook. Option one: pull a J.D. Salinger (or Suzanne Collins — didn’t hurt her sales). Option two: Grow the kind of tough protective covering that would make Emma Frost jealous. I try a combination of the two. Keeping in mind my reader (see number 3), I let the haters hate, and ignore them. I have stopped reading blogs that use authors as punching bags to boost their readership and egos. I also keep some things private. It doesn’t help me creatively, to talk about my work online before I’m done. I’ve even kept my agent and publisher from announcing deals until I was ready before. The speculation and uninformed opining –even if well-meant–is really distracting. But I’m still working on a balance. Find out what works for you, keeping in mind that the bottom line is the work. Not the promo, not the blogging, not the twitter. Protect the work. the work is all that matters, even online.
5. Your career is not this book. Your career is your career. It’s far too easy, especially for beginning writers, to work endlessly on a project that isn’t going anywhere. Your career is about more than one book, Hopefully, it’ll be about fifty. So if a project isn’t selling, set it aside for now and work on something new. You aren’t putting it away forever. You are loving your career. And for us established types, it means sometimes admitting that we need to try something new — new genre, new series, new house. Our career is about our career. The work will be there. Nothing is ever wasted.
Thank you to all of my fellow Genreality bloggers, especially to Sasha for working so hard on this blog and for inviting me to be a part of it.
Go. Write. Win.
I am probably the newest member around here and am sad to see Genreality go. I was thrilled when Sasha asked me to join in. A place to talk about writing or publishing or anything I felt I needed to say? So amazing. Getting to be a part of something great with these fine authors? Priceless.
2012 was a good professional year for me. I had many releases and signed new contracts. I also signed on with a new publisher, Berkley, and agent. I have high hopes for 2013 as well, but we’ll see. Truth is, some of that is out of my control but a lot is wthin it. I know I need to write and read and write even more. Continuing to treat this as the business it is the key for me. I actually mentioned to someone yesterday about being ready to get back to work now that the holiday is over. The person, well-meaning but not exactly tactful, laughed and gave me the “did you get a job?” thing. Yeah, I have a job. A great job where I set my schedule and get to work from the couch. But it is work and I have to do it, and be serious about it, because no one is going to do it for me and the mortgage company doesn’t except free ebooks as payment. Oh, how I wish…
My final advice is simple. I recently spoke at the UC Riverside MFA program and said:
I don’t believe ‘writers’ block’ exists, if it doesn’t exist it can’t be in my house. When I get stuck on a scene, I just keep writing – I can fix stuck, I can’t fix blank.
I truly believe that. So keep writing, keep believing and don’t let doubt and excuses derail you.
Best wishes for a safe, happy and prosperous 2013!
“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Stephen Wright
As we close up Genreality and begin a new year, it seems like a good time to discuss the myth of having it all. As comedian Stephen Wright points out, you really can’t have everything. But this doesn’t stop us from (self-defeatingly) trying.
Planning for a new year or for a successful project begins with resource management. How much time and energy do you have to work with? What outside resources can you rely on to free up more time and energy for the project at hand? Nobody has infinite resources, and while it’s easy for me to envy writers who have older kids and aren’t trying to juggle a career around diapers, they have plenty of demands on their time, too.
Ways to outsource tasks on your list can be as simple as deciding the yard really only needs to be mowed twice a month instead of four times, or hiring somebody to clean, or getting a family member to babysit on a regular basis. Whittle down to the things you really do have to do and can’t put off or offload.
Another approach is to look at ways to create more energy. It’s true that working out leads to feeling more energetic but to get there you have to fight the tired glued to the couch feeling and begin. Same for eating right; in the long run it’ll lead to more energy. In the short term it means investing in the time to make better nutrition choices and maybe cook more. It’s the same old boring advice, but the best way to get the most out of your time is to get enough rest, eat right, and exercise.
How do you do that? Add walking to your daily routine whenever possible. Park further away from the store when you shop, walk to the day job, or just take a walk a couple of times a week. Lift weights; I’ve been doing the 12 Second Sequence workout on and off for years, and it really does get great results in 2 20 minute workouts a week. In November and December I really was so busy I could only do it once a week, but I stuck to that 20 minute commitment and it paid off.
Which brings me to; it’s always better to do a little consistently than to do nothing or to try to do too much and set yourself back. Do a little exercise. Eat one apple instead of a second slice of pizza. Write one page while your toddler plays with an older sibling. Decide if raked leaves are really worth while, and if so, can somebody else rake them?
Your life is lived one day at a time so getting the life you want in 2013 comes down to planning your days and your weeks to make it happen. You can’t have everything. But you can choose the things that matter most.
My new year is starting off with a new book in stores, The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance. I’m glad I chose to write the story, I’m happy to have contributed here with my merry cohorts, and I hope we all enjoy more of what we want and value most in the new year to come. Happy New Year!
Here I am in the last hours of my winter break, twelve days off the day job, and I’m wishing for one more day, one more week. Really, what I want is to give up the day job and settle into the life of a gentleman writer. I know exactly how my days will go, what activities I’ll use to fill my hours. It’s a bitter-sweet pipe-dream that I will harbor and hold dear to my heart until the day I can bring it to fruition. In the meantime, I look back at 2012 and consider what I did well, and those things I should’ve done better.
Of course that way lies madness. We can all find flaws in the plan, once things are long completed whether successfully or in failure. I know I wish I’d exercised more, and gotten off soda sooner. But in reality I’ve been soda free since June of 2012. That’s a huge deal in my book.
Speaking of books, my third published book came out from Tor in 2012. I can walk into a bookstore (virtually or in meat space) and find books on the shelves with my name on them. I’ve dreamed of that my whole life, and I saw it into reality. It took a lot of hard work, and no small bit of luck, but there you have it.
I step forward into 2013 with no books under contract. While I’m sixty percent or so done with the next book in the Sarah Beauhall series, I’m writing it for hope, faith and love. I won’t know if Tor will pick up the next contract for a few months yet. I’m hopeful, but we are in a tumultuous period in the publishing industry and the definitions of success continue to morph. I have faith in this series and faith in my editor, agent and publisher. I know deep down that this book will find its way into the world in one way or another. I do hear from some of you asking for the next book, wishing it was sooner. I’m writing as fast as I can and will just hope that the winds of fate and the publishing industry catch up with those desires.
I do have a short story collection coming out in 2013 — Bravado’s House of Blues — for anyone who would like to see some of my more diverse work. It will be coming out from Fairwood press in the second half of the year. We are still in the early stages of this conversation, but it’s been announce in Locus, so it has to be real.
I’m optimistic for 2013 in a way I wasn’t for 2012. I didn’t have any strongly negative expectations for 2012 when we rang in that year, but the economy was in free fall, we were facing another contentious election year and the world grumbled with the undertones of discontentment and anguish.
I think 2013 will be a year of great discoveries. We see more promise on the medical fronts with specific genetic targeting for both cancer and organ replacement as well as work on telomeres, brainwave interfaces and advanced prosthetics. We are making great strides in the areas of communication, electronics and alternative energy. We continue to explore the universe and make new discoveries every single day.
While the American people will continue to bicker and fight in their bi-polar dance between the old and the new, the fear and trepidation of change, and the joy and wonder of the future, we, along with the rest of humanity, will stumble forward to a new and better world.
As we dance our Texas two-step of making progress and falling back, in the end it will find ourselves further ahead than we dreamed and lament our slow pace of progress. It’s who we are, it’s in our nature.
For me, I’ll read more, take more time off work to pursue my dreams, spend time with my family and friends, and create more stories to share with the world.
Who knows, one of these novels could hit and the dream of being a full-time writer could come to be reality. Of course, we need to make further progress on a reasonable healthcare solution. That is paramount. We need to support the artists and the dreamers. They show us the way to the future.
But we are smart monkeys. I think in the long run, we will find our way forward to a civilization where the poorest of us will be able to make their way with dignity and a hope for improvement, while the wealthiest of us will offer a helping hand with compassion and grace. (Hey, I write fantasy, okay?) I believe this year will begin the long grinding climb out of the political insanity that has gripped our country and we will find our way once again on a steep path to a productive and fulfilling future.
How can we do otherwise? We are not always the brightest, or the strongest, or wisest, but we are a persistent bunch and that can go a long way toward success.
Taking this down to a more local and personal level, you are reading this on an amazing blog called Genreality. I was first introduced to this place of words and wonder by my good friend, Ken Scholes. I subbed here a few times, then in 2012, I was asked to help pick up an alternating Wednesday slot with the estimable Charlene Teglia. Well, for the first time you will get words from both of us on the same Wednesday, as this is our last hurrah.
Genreality is closing its doors to new content. While it will remain open in an archival state, you won’t be getting new words from any of us at this address.
But if you are interested to hear what I’m thinking, want to follow up on the news of my career or just ask questions, you can always find me over on my personal blog — , on Twitter at JAPITTSWRITER, or on Facebook at my author page or my personal page.
It’s been a great ride. I’ll miss this playground. Keep in touch, keep reading, keep pursuing your dreams.
I know I will.
Five Years ago I was feeling a bit lost in this big bad cyber world of publishing. I was a National Bestselling author of erotic fiction, multi-published with an agent, three big New York Publishers as well as a great ePublisher, yet I still felt … unanchored. After thinking on it for a while I figured out that I felt that way because despite my accomplishments, I was still basically a newbie to this world.
I’d only been writing for 6 years, and was woefully under-educated about the business. I’d simply set out to write, and it happened. I was one of those writers who thought, “Hey, I’ve got multiple contracts, and am on my way!” I soon realized there was so much more to this than writing a good story…at least if I wanted to build a lasting career. I wanted to learn what the Big Name authors did to make things work, and because there is always more than one way to do things I figured it didn’t matter what genre they wrote in. So it was with a somewhat selfish intent that I set out to build a group blog of successful, multi-published authors, all of them best-sellers in their own genre.
In January 2009, Genreality was born. For the past four years it’s been a large part of my life. I’ve learned from some of the best authors out there, and surprisingly, some people have even learned from me. 😉
It’s going to feel funny to not be here every week, (even though I will be blogging on my own site )but I’ve no doubt I’ll be back here often, searching through the posts/archives for inspiration, tips and advice, and the occasional kick-in-the-pants reality check about the business. I really hope that many of you will also do the same.
Thank you to all the authors who’ve been part of this group over the years. Alison Kent, Lynn Viehl, Joe Nassise, Jason Pinter, Bob Mayer, Rosemary Clement Moore, Candace Havens, Ken Scholes, HelenKay Dimon, J.A. Pitts, Diana Peterfruend and Charlene Teglia.
Ms. Carrie Vaughn, you and I are the last original members standing. I cannot express how thankful I am to you for being part of this blog. Without your enthusiam and encouragement, right from the get-go, we might never have gottenoff the ground. You’ve been here from the first day, and I’m so glad you stuck with it, and are here at the end. You are not only a talented woman, but a generous one. You’ve always been one of my favorite authors, over the past several years you’ve become an inspiration, and I’m honored to call you a friend.
Now…Carrie left you all some wonderful short bits of advice yesterday, and for my last bit of advice I’m going to leave you with a movie trailer. Me, I find inspiration in many places, and movies are a big well to draw from. It’s not really story ideas I get from them, but the inspiration to keep going after what I want, and to keep dreaming. This clip is from the movie Take The Lead with Antonio Banderas. The tagline for the movie is Every dream begins by taking One Step.
The stories inspired by the life of Dance instructor Piere DuLaine, and it’s about him, and the way he believed in the talent of a group of problem kids. Check it out….
“You can get whatever you want,” DuLaine says.
Rock shakes his head and replies. “Nah, only some people get the shit they want.”
“That’s true,” Dulaine says as he looks Rock in the eyes. “And those are the people who show up to get it.”
You can get whatever you want, if you show up to get it. Show up, put the work in, don’t give up, and you will find success at whatever you chose to do…even writing.
Thanks to all of you for helping to make Genreality a success.