Archive for March, 2010
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Joe Nassise
I’ve long been a proponent of diversification when it comes to my writing career. I’ve written original novels for major US publishers. I’ve written original novels for major foreign publishers. I’ve dabbled in writing comics, written role-playing game supplements and rulebooks, and have ghost-written for a major on-going series. I’ve even put together a project strictly for the mobile phone market. The more irons I have in the fire, the more successful I will be, has always been my thought process.
Which is why over the last week I made the decision to jump into the digital realm with both feet. Noting the success that fellow writers such as Joe Konrath and Lee Goldberg have had with selling their back list on Amazon.com, I followed suit and created Kindle editions of several works, including my debut novel Riverwatch, a novella, More Than Life Itself, that was previously only available in the UK market, and all three books in the Templar Chronicles series – The Heretic, A Scream of Angels, and A Tear in the Sky.
To help them stand out from the crowd, I commissioned new cover art, something eye-catching and provocative. Along with adapting them for the Kindle, I also used Smashwords to create editions in other formats, most notably for the Sony Reader and the various Palm devices.
I must admit I hemmed and hawed over putting up the Templar books. The first, The Heretic, is the only one that has seen publication in English. (Editorial changes at my publisher prevented the next two books from seeing the light of day, despite the fact that the series hit the bestseller lists in Germany, was optioned for film production, sold to three different books clubs, and was adapted into a comic book series.) I was concerned that making them available in digital editions would prevent them from selling elsewhere, but when it came right down to it, I finally decided that I really didn’t have a lot to worry about in that regard. And more importantly, I wanted the fans of the series to finally be able to have their questions about the fate of certain characters answered for them.
Next week, I’ll also be serializing Riverwatch for free on my website and the first of several different iPhone apps of my works should be available on iTunes.
The point of all this is to try and reach readers that I might not have reached otherwise through more traditional means. Do I know what is going to work and what is not? Of course not – but that’s the point of diversifying like this in the first place, to test the waters and see where they take me.
So tell me – what new mediums/formats/platforms are you most interested in?
Monday, March 22nd, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
Sasha’s posts about choices from a couple of weeks ago (here and here) really struck a chord with me, because I think she’s exactly right. We do control more than the story, and we do have choices when it comes to our careers. This is why it’s important to actually have a plan for your career. What would you like your career to look like? Whose career would you like to emulate? How do you do that?
Our purpose here at the blog is to talk about some of the gritty realities of working as a writer. One of those realities is the ability to say, “No,” and to walk away from a deal. When the deal benefits someone else instead of you, the writer, you have to be able to walk away.
I’ve been sitting on this news since last July, because I wanted to wait until the situation progressed a little farther and I saw what kind of fallout there was going to be. This is really the first place I’ve talked about this in any detail. Okay, here it goes.
I left my publisher. When it came time to negotiate a new contract for more Kitty novels with Grand Central last summer, we couldn’t come to an agreement that we were all happy with. When Grand Central said, essentially, “Take it or leave it,” I left. And it was as horrible as any breakup. All the metaphors I come up with are failed relationship metaphors: All those years we spent together, all the good times and feelings, all wasted now, overshadowed by fighting and ill will. Was it something I did? Am I in the wrong here? And the thought, in hindsight, that maybe I should have left a long time ago.
It’s been very strange, because while lots of us have heard of situations where a publisher drops an author, it’s relatively rare for the author of a successful series to walk away from a deal. Or for a publisher to let that successful series go. I haven’t had much of a model to go on, or much of anyone to ask for advice. When I tell this story to hardened pros, the response I’ve been getting is, “What? Are they crazy?”
The point of contention here wasn’t money — it was the non-competition clause, which we had argued over before. I have two stand-alone contemporary fantasy novels I wrote when I was waiting to see if the Kitty series would sell, and I’ve been trying to get those out there. Grand Central rejected them. I really wanted to sell them elsewhere. Grand Central really didn’t want me doing anything under my own name but the Kitty novels. I really wanted to do them under my own name. So, it was an issue of control. I wanted to be able to diversify my career, publish other novels, expand my audience, and so forth. My agent and I offered compromises, which Grand Central did not accept.
Walking away was not the hardest thing I’ve ever done because Grand Central really didn’t give me a choice. They had one vision for what my career should be, and I had a different vision. I had to go with my gut on that one. For them I was just another author, one of many. But I only have one me — I am my only business. I have to look out for my own interests, which I felt Grand Central was not doing in this case. What was hard was leaving my editor, who I really like and who really knows her stuff, and leaving a publisher that did a good job with the books. But I have more stories to tell. My name is worth something right now and I have to strike while the iron is hot.
Why did I wait to tell the news instead of spilling it all over the blogosphere while it was happening? Lots of reasons (besides the fact that I’m pretty private anyway).
1. Grand Central still had Kitty’s House of Horrors and my true nightmare scenario was that they would somehow delay its release. Now, this would have benefited no one, least of all Grand Central. But remember, I was thinking worse case scenarios here. Happily, that didn’t happen. The book came out on schedule and hit the NYT list at #16. And now my contractual obligations are fulfilled and I can move on.
2. I had to sell the series to a new publisher. I’m one of those writers who is superstitious about talking up deals before they’re finalized. I really didn’t want to air any laundry (much less dirty laundry) before I found a new publisher and established a working relationship with a new editor. Happily, this is now accomplished. I turned in Kitty #8, Kitty Goes to War, the first novel on the new contract, in November, and it’ll be due out in July.
3. Emotion. Emotions ran really high there for a little while. The worst thing I could have done was blog while I was in that state of confusion, uncertainty, helplessness, bafflement, etc. Especially before I knew how it was all going to work out. (This is also why I think blogging about relationships is a bad idea…)
The Kitty series is now with Tor Books. How do I feel about having a new home? Well. Pretty good, actually. Tor also bought those two stand-alone novels. When I pitched the series, I included — and Tor accepted — the Kitty short story collection, gathering all the Kitty and related short stories that have appeared in various publications over the years as well as an original novella. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for years, and something Grand Central wouldn’t do at all. So, I’m hopeful that I’m now with a publisher that is interested in my whole career rather than one specific series and nothing else.
There’s still uncertainty. Maybe Grand Central was right, and me branching out and publishing non-Kitty books will tank my career (that’s what I kept getting told, anyway). Another issue: Grand Central still has the rights to the backlist, books 1 through 7, as long as they keep them in print. Which should be a no-brainer — it’s minimal effort income at this point. But who knows. But whatever happens, at least I’m following the path I think is right rather than knuckling under.
Saturday, March 20th, 2010 by Sasha White
Sometimes when I’m stuck for a story idea I turn to magazines for inspiration, and I’m not reading them. Yes, I admit it. I just look at the pictures.
What I like to do is flip through them and when a picture catches my eye, I stop, stare, and try to figure out the story of the person within.
Perfume ads are my favorites, maybe because they’re designed to elicit emotion.
Take a look at the one below, doesn’t it make you wonder about her? I mean, where’s she going? Or is she coming form somewhere? A date maybe? Maybe with a guy who was so not her type. Yeah, she probably gets lots of dates, but they don’t seem to go anywhere, when is she going to find Mister Right? Maybe she’ll find him when she opens her eyes and takes a better look at the guy who’s been her best friend since childhood- the guy who sees her for who she is, and not just how she looks.
Now this one…MUSTANG, so many possibilities here….Not sure which one to run with.
This ad makes me think of a very adventurous couple. One that’s been together for a while, and likes to spice things up every now and then, especially with a bit of exhibitionism. See how he’s looking at the camera? It’s like he wants to be sure that all eyes are on them.
Now these ideas come to me because erotic fiction is my genre. I’d love to see what ideas one, or all, of them inspire for others. Please share any ideas that come to mind in the comments…I’m curious.
Friday, March 19th, 2010 by Rosemary
So… I was watching the Shark Movie marathon on SyFy last weekend… (Don’t judge me. You are seriously missing something if you’ve never seen Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.)
And on comes Spring Break Shark Attack. The plot isn’t important. Sharks swarm. Co-eds get eaten. What IS important, at least for this post, is that when Dorky Guy, Hunky Guy, and Hot-but-supposedly-smart Girl get on a boat to lead off the bazillion sharks chowing down on the spring breakers, Hunky Guy gets stuck through the shoulder with a harpoon. Something with a tip like this:
And Hot-but-supposedly-smart Girl… Pulls the harpoon out.
Me: Oh. My. God. How did that even happen? How would you even DO that, let alone thing it’s a good idea.
Mr. RCM, on his way through to the kitchen: You’re expecting realism from a movie called Spring Break Shark Attack?
And yes, I was. Well, okay, maybe not from THAT movie, but no matter how fantastic the premise, I expect realism about realistic things. Hot Girl might not know that it’s better to leave a foreign object in place until you get to a hospital. But there’s the problem of the ginormous barb on the end. Anyone with Earth Logic could not not realize that pulling that out would do much more damage than just leaving it in.
It’s called Earth Logic. Even a fantastic world will have it’s own rules, but no matter how bizarre the situation presented to your characters, they still have to make their decisions based on reason that makes sense to the reader.
This can make it a challenge sometimes when you need to have your hero make a wrong decision or do something that might seem foolish later (like go off into the haunted woods alone in a storm). Her reasons for doing so have to make sense based on the evidence available to her as well as her mental state and her goals and motivations. You have to justify her actions to her, and by extension, to the reader.
So don’t let a lack of Earth Logic make a reader throw your book against the wall. On land or sea, on the planet or in outer space, your characters always have to make decisions–wrong or right ones–based on reasoning that an Earth-based life form can follow.
Thursday, March 18th, 2010 by Candace Havens
Here’s what I know about myself. If I stall for a few minutes with the writing, then I know I’m afraid of my book. It isn’t that I’ve run out of things to say, or that the book really sucks. It’s fear. That horrible, wriggling thing that destroys the creative process. Usually, it happens some time around page 160 and then again on 220. If you think about it, that’s about when we are hitting a major plot turn in the book.
There are some people who have a block before they ever sit down to write the book. You can stare at the blank pages for hours/days/months.
I get it. I do.
I promise you don’t have to suffer like that any more. Once you acknowledge the fear and can name it, it’s usually much easier to push through. Ask yourself why you are afraid of this next bit? What’s happening with the characters that doesn’t feel right? What is it that really scares you?
Whatever the answers, don’t let that stop you. There are ways to work around the fear. When I’m writing non-fiction and I can’t think of a good lead, sometimes I start the story with a quote I know I want to use. When I’m writing fiction, I have lots of different tricks to share with you.
SMASHING THROUGH WRITER’S BLOCK
- I’m sorry but there’s no such thing. It’s all mental. It’s important to tell yourself and to identify the problem.The most important thing, especially on a first draft is to remember that it is a FIRST DRAFT. It is supposed to be crap. Give yourself permission to write crap and you’ll be amazed by what happens.
- That blank page can be so frightful. I know. It’s the unknown. Write anything. I started a book with the follow: She watches someone die, and then she collapses. That’s how Like A Charm began. Write anything down. It’s a draft. You can go back and change it.
- Move away from your computer. Grab a notebook, pick a scene and write. Or pick a character and write about him or her. Put them in a place and let your mind go.
- Freewrite about anything. Just start putting words on a page. I saw a guy at Starbucks and just write. It doesn’t have anything to do with your book but it will help you.
- You can also do timed writing. For 20 minutes you are going to do as much as you can and just put anything on the page.
- very quickly three minutes I want you to take this phrase and do what you will with it. Don’t think just write.
- I couldn’t believe… you have three minute
- You can do a character study, interview them, get to know them better. Find out what they want to do next.
- Have you written a synopsis for the book. This might be a good time, even for pantsers, yes I’m one, to sit down and plot a little of the book. Just what they want to see happen next.
- Skip ahead and write the next scene where you know what happens.
- Brainstorm, even better brainstorm about what happens next or why you are blocked with a friend.
- My NO. 1 favorite tool to smash through writer’s block, is to write the end first. It’s worked for everyone I’ve told. Once you have a beginning and end, it’s just middle parts to sort.
These are the things that help me. What works for you?
Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 by Bob Mayer
Writers aren’t the only creative people who experience these feelings of being a fraud or concerned the world will found out they are an imposter.
“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m not very good. It’s all been a big sham.” Michelle Pfeiffer
“Sometimes I wake up before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me. I’m fat. I’m ugly . . .” Kate Winslet.
First, it’s important to realize everyone has doubts. What’s debilitating is if you feel like you are the only one. You’re not. Studies of people who are identified as feeling like frauds range in percentage, but the overall number is high. In fact, studies show that many of the most successful people feel it the most. The higher up the ladder one goes, the greater the fear is of ‘being found out’.
Doubts can be good: they can inspire you to become better. If you combine your doubt with your passion, it can motivate you to great success. Studies have shown that women who score high in the area of feeling like a fraud tend to compete harder to compensate for their doubts. Interestingly, men who scored high on feeling like a fraud, tend to avoid areas where they feel vulnerable to avoid looking bad.
There is a thing called The Imposter Syndrome. Many people have great difficulty internalizing their accomplishments. All those things they’ve achieved: degrees, promotions, publication, best-seller lists, etc. are thrown out. Instead, people look to external things like luck and contacts that had little to do with their own efforts as the reason for the successes they have achieved. Inside themselves, many people feel like they are ‘fooling’ everyone. What’s particularly hard about that is the more success a person achieves, the greater the fear of being found a fraud becomes.
Some ways to gauge how much of The Imposter Syndrome you have: The more you agree with the following statements, the higher your IS:
- I can give the impression I am more competent than I really am.
- I often compare myself to those around me and consider them more intelligent than I am.
- I get discouraged if I’m not the ‘best’ in an endeavor.
- I hate being evaluated by others.
- If someone gives me praise for something I’ve accomplished, it makes me fear that I won’t live up to his or her expectations in the future.
- I’ve achieved my current position via luck and/or being in the right place at the right time.
- When I think back to the past, incidents where I made mistakes or failed come more readily to mind than times when I was successful.
- When I finish a manuscript, I usually feel like I could have done so much better.
- When someone complements me, I feel uncomfortable.
- I’m afraid others will find out my lack of knowledge/expertise.
- When I start a new manuscript, I’m afraid I won’t be able to finish it, even though I’ve already finished X number of manuscripts.
- If I’ve been successful at something, I often doubt I can do it again successfully.
- If my agent tells me I’m going to get an offer on a book, I don’t tell anyone until the contract is actually in hand.
Overall, people who feel like imposters are constantly judging their success against the achievements of others rather than viewing what they do as an end in itself. For writers, this can be very dangerous, because there will always be someone who is doing ‘it better’ or ‘is more successful’.
A technique to fight feeling like a fraud is to use a version of my HALO concept on yourself. HALO stands for High Altitude Low Opening parachuting. Basically, the HALO approach starts from way outside yourself, diving in until you can see things clearly. Step outside and view things as if you are a stranger to yourself. Look at your resume. Look at what you’ve accomplished in life. Ask yourself what kind of person would have achieved these things? Could a fraud have done this? When I query a conference to teach or apply to lead workshops or do keynotes, I have to send my bio. Sometimes I stop and read it and ask myself: what would I think of this person, if I didn’t know them, but just read this?
Focus on positive feedback. However, don’t ignore negative feedback. The key is not to let the negative overwhelm you. In the same vein, avoid ALL hateful feedback. 99 out of 100 emails I receive from readers are usually positive. The bad one though used to really bother me. Nowadays, when I open an email and I can tell it’s going to be nasty (aka: I burned your book it sucked so much) I stop reading, hit delete and smile. I figure they must have really been engaged by my writing to have such strong emotions.
I don’t look at Amazon reviews or rankings any more. First, you have to realize that only a certain segment of the population posts reviews on Amazons. It’s not a true sample of the population. Also, the motives for posting reviews often have nothing to do with your book.
On the flip side of feeling like a fraud, some people tend to over-rate their abilities. A self-serving delusion is almost necessary in this world to just get out of bed in the morning at times. But take it too far and it can destroy you.
I have all my published books in my office on the top of two bookcases, all lined up. The row is over three feet wide. I look at it sometimes to fight the feeling that I can’t write another book, that I can’t get published again.
You have to believe in yourself. If you’re unpublished, walk into the bookstores and don’t let all those published authors overwhelm you. Use them to motivate you. Tell yourself you belong there. I always look and say: “Hey, these people got published, why can’t I?”
List and post your accomplishments. They can range from a picture of your family, degrees achieved, awards won, whatever. Put them where you write. Use them to remind yourself that you are not a fraud. YOU ARE REAL.
(from Warrior Writer: From Writer To Published Author)
Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by Joe Nassise
As an active member of the Horror Writers Association, I’ve been asked to cast my vote on a referendum of change with regard to the Bram Stoker Awards. For those of you who might not be familiar with the Stokers, they are given out each year in recognition of superior achievement in a number of categories, including Novel, First Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, Anthology, etc.
One of the issues at hand is to reactivate the Stoker category for superior achievement in a screenplay.
While horror films are a major component of the horror industry today, I’m not a fan of this category for the simple reason that I know the vast majority of those who used to vote in the category did so on the basis of watching the film rather than reading and judging the screenplay alone. (FYI – The screenplay award was deactivated several years ago, during my time as president, no less.) The Bram Stoker Awards are, regardless of category, supposed to be for excellence in writing and writing alone. (This is also why I have some issues with the anthology category, but I digress.) Voting for a screenplay based on the finished product, which in my view is largely influenced by the directorial choices, the actors performances, the editing and cinematography, is not being true to the spirit of the awards.
Those who support the reactivation of the category do so mainly on the argument that no good film ever came from a bad screenplay and judging the screenplay based on the finished product is no different than judging a novel after an editor has helped a writer tighten it up.
I don’t buy that argument, but I’ve been known to be wrong a time or two and thought I’d get some outside opinions to see what others thought on the subject.
So what say you? Can a screenplay award for writing be legitimately awarded after watching only the finished films and not reading the screenplays? Why or why not?