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Now that *that’s* over…

Home from the Dean Wesley Smith novel workshop.  Two query packages are in the mail, three more will follow those as soon as I unpack and transfer the right files to the right computer and update all my folders.

Once again, learned so much at the workshop that I can’t even begin to sum it up.  Re-affirmed that ebooks are a good idea (balancing with NY publishing), and learned great things about POD stuff that I hadn’t even started to investigate on my own yet.  Having a professional, proofed query package is a great benefit of the novel workshops, but the real meat of learning at these things is in all the side information, the stories, the questions that others ask and answer, and so many other little details (not to mention the cool people I meet and the books I get to read…).

But now, it means I’m done with that novel until I get a full request.  So what’s next?  Well, here’s the rough plan for the rest of this year:

Plan for rest of October:  write a handful of short stories and mail them.  Get the world-bible nailed down for my ebook project.  Keep things in the mail.

Plan for November: Write the ebook project book 1 as a nanowrimo (hey, why not, right?) and start back in on TVMoSS as soon as that’s done.  Also write another handful of short stories and mail them.

Plan for December:  Get ebook novel ready for launch in Jan.  Finish TVMoSS (or as near as I can given I’m going to lose a lot of time due to holiday stuff).  Write another handful of short stories and mail them.

It looks like a lot, but Oct/Nov are usually fairly productive times for me, so I’m not too worried.  I just need TVMoSS done by Feb 1st, and the ebook book 1 done by December-ish (to get time to edit, clean it up, and format before Jan.).

So yeah, that’s about it.  I’m planning a post on my library project, so hopefully now I’m done with that mind-eating novel I’ll get something up on this blog that’s at least nominally interesting on a more regular basis.  Thanks to everyone who encouraged and supported me while I struggled through finishing this last month or so, you guys are awesome!

By the Way

My story “Insect Effect” is up in the Autumn issue of Contrary magazine, you can read it here.

I’m nearly done with my thriller novel, so things will be quiet for the next few days while I make a final push on it and hopefully find time to edit for my dyslexia before sending it out to first readers and for the workshop.

I’ll be back with a post or two whenever I finish.  Until then… so long, Internets 🙂

So… The Eeeevolution

No, this post isn’t about evolution.  It doesn’t matter what I think about evolution anyway because I choose to believe in the Flat Earth theory, which has hot light and cold light and an anti-moon and… (I’m kidding here. Seriously. But google Flat Earth Society if you really really really have to).

This post is about the e-book revolution or whatever you want to call it and some of my history/thoughts at the moment on the whole thing.

About a year and a half ago I decided that this writing thing was for me and that I should give it a real go.  I found a blog called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by an author named JA Konrath.  It kind of blew my mind in many ways for many reasons.  Relevant to this particular topic is that Konrath is currently making a very cushy living doing e-books (he’s also traditionally published) and is very candid about his path and where he’s at.

Back then I figured that self publishing was still pretty much the same as vanity publishing and not really an option for what I wanted.  That’s changed, clearly.  I decided to keep reading everything I could find about ebooks and to follow Konrath’s posts and the comments (more and more e-authors post good comments on his posts, and comments online can be gold.  Except on you-tube, and sometimes even then).

Konrath posits that all you need for success as an ebook author are four basic things (and I’m way paraphrasing from memory, so forgive any inaccuracies, they are mine and not Konrath’s):  1) a good book 2) a good cover 3) a good blurb 4)  a low price point (he recommends, I believe, under 5 dollars).  I don’t think being traditionally published hurts, but he does have an interesting point.

About six months ago, I decided that I would get my feet wet with ebooks in a big way as soon as I fulfilled a couple of conditions.  The first was to sell at least two short stories and be getting more personal than form rejections.  The second was to have a couple more novels for traditional publishing written and submitted.

I set the first condition because that is where I felt my writing would need to be, ie at a level that has proven it can sell, before I would be comfortable with trying to achieve tenant one of the checklist (write a good book).  I set the second condition because a) writing is practice and having a few books written before I write more books is always good and b) I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking away too much time from other parts of my business plan.

I have fulfilled condition one and will have soon fulfilled condition two.  Which means that starting early next year, I’ll be going ahead with operation e-book experiment in which I plan to put Konrath’s theory to the test.  The publishing world is changing, there’s no doubt about that.   This might be paper book nostalgia talking, but I lean toward trad publishing doing all right in the end and sticking around.  I don’t think the big publishers are going anywhere anytime soon.  But e-books aren’t going to either, and I see really no way the author who stays on top of this stuff can lose.

Look at the porn industry (stay with me now…).  The internet caused a huge shake-up in porn. Huge.  The giant piles of money turned into more disparate piles of money because suddenly everyone with a camera could produce and distribute porn.  Sound familiar? But there is still porn. And still money to be made in porn, lots of money.  Even for amateurs.   I look at publishing the same way*.  Things are going to change, but books won’t go away.  The author provides the product and as long as people want to read, there will be demand for what I do for a living.

So basically, conditions fulfilled, I’m jumping on the e-train.  Stay tuned for a post about the specifics in another month or two (as soon as I have some cover art for a preview, perhaps?).  I think the future for authors lies somewhere in the happy middle between trad and indy.  They are both ways to make money, to find readers and connect with an audience.  Each has advantages and disadvantages, and I think there is, in the end, a way to get a bit of the best of both worlds.

*I just know that somehow I’m going to get flack about this porn/publishing analogy. Sigh.

Novel Writing Overdrive!

I’ve just been reminded that I need to have my novel for the Novel Workshop in October done by September 10th.  Glancing at the calendar, that’s really not very far away at all. Meep.

This wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue as it seems like if I’d finished the novel I am currently working on (which is very nearly done, I’m over the middle hump but desperately trying to figure out how to make it long enough).  See, I don’t want to workshop *this* novel in October.  I want to workshop the one I intend to write after the current novel.

You know, that novel that I haven’t even started yet.  Oh, I have characters outlined, and a rough idea of what happens. And sort of the setting.  And I did some research, if you can call reading a few westerns and watching Deadwood and Silverado again “research”.  But hey! Who doesn’t love a challenge, right?

So it is time to go into novel writing OVERDRIVE!  You know, that magical “extra” gear that really tough people are supposed to have. Or race cars, or something.  Counting prior social obligations and leaving Saturdays free for “hi, still married” time, I have exactly twenty one writing days until September 10th.  21. Days. That’s like three weeks. Awesome.

Not a problem. Right?  So my goal will be five thousand 6250 words a day on each of those twenty one days.  This pace should give me two finished novels.  At least if I totally fail it I have the first finished novel as my back-up for the workshop.  But I’m not going to fail.  Even with a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I can probably find 4-5 6-7 hours a day for twenty one days to you know, do my job.  (I was almost at this pace before Starcraft 2 pwned my life).

And the plus side is that will leave me with the 10th through the 30th to actually write something for WotF fourth quarter.

Well, time to put the writing into overdrive.  Just think of it as my writer-fu leveling up. A lot.

Clarifying Myself, Again

Wow, I didn’t realize that my musings on whether or not to apply to Clarion/Clarion West would stir up the pot so much. Heh.  I guess it’s like writing anything, you never know when something will strike a chord or a nerve.  (Some of this post is also in response to some private conversations, so don’t think I’m necessarily replying here to any one person, I’m not).

So, to clarify, because clearly some misunderstandings about what/why I’m debating applying/going.

First, for the people who’ve just found this blog and haven’t read any of my older posts where I try to explain my process/speed/goals etc… I recommend this post.  And again the caveat, everything I say here applies only to me.  It might resonate with others, but I’m just talking about my experiences, my thoughts, and my writing life as it applies to myself.

My last post was just me wondering about Clarion and if it is what I need right now in my writing life.  That was it.  I asked for experiences/thoughts from those who had gone (or even just applied, I’m always happy to hear other people’s reasons for things) so that I could figure out for myself what I want to do.  I would never apply to Clarion without planning what might happen if I got in, that’s just silly to me.  One, it would be a waste of the application fee if I decided not to go and got in, and two, it would be poor planning in general (it’s six weeks! Even self-employed as I am, taking six weeks off/away from home isn’t simple).  So if I do apply, you’d better believe I’ll have sorted out how to afford it and if I want to go or not.  Hence my wondering aloud about whether it is what I need right now (or really, almost a year from now).

And, frankly, I don’t think that Clarion is for everyone.  It isn’t just a matter of being able to do the work (one story a week? Read the goals/speed post. I’m really not worried about the work load).  I’ve talked to a double handful of people who’ve been through one of the Clarions now and while some rave about it, some don’t.   And I don’t know if it is right for me. That’s all I’m debating.  No value judgments here, just personal musings.

My reservations about applying/going: one, the round-robin critique style.  I’ve done it, lots.  I don’t really enjoy it anymore.  I think, personally, that it is too easy to get hung up on minor things because you are “critiquing” and therefore have to find something wrong, and I think it is easy for a writer (especially a beginning writer) to try to take everyone’s suggestions and possibly re-write their story into mush.  This has been my experience with round-robin style.  Feedback is good (I have a couple groups of first readers, whom I treasure and love (when I don’t want to kill them) and should probably bake cookies for more often).  Too much feedback just for the sake of having to say something, not so good.  I’ve also got my editing cycle down to a science that works for me.  It’s a quick cycle, and while I learn from feedback, I don’t re-write in the traditional sense anymore. Ever.  If a story is so broken that I’d have to do a major edit, I start over.  I’m a learn by doing sort, and doing for me is writing, not rewriting.

Second, six weeks is a huge time commitment.  It’s also something I’d have to plan my writing goals around.  I don’t write nearly as consistently when I’m not in my home space, so I’d have to try to adjust for that.  I’m also an introvert, and social situations drain me, so that is also something for me to consider. While I’d be getting a story a week done at the least, as I said in my last post, I’d be experimenting a lot (after all, isn’t that what workshops are about? Stretching yourself?) and don’t know how much of that writing would be in the “do over” category.  Next year my plan is to write four novels for e-books and four for traditional submission.  Losing six weeks means a bit of a time crunch.  It’s doable, but I’m lazy, remember? So I’d definitely need to plan (and being an introvert, honestly I’d probably lose more like eight weeks- the one before Clarion and the one after on recovery).  Clarion/CW’s focus is on short fiction, and while I’m still writing some short fiction (goal is to keep 40-50 shorts out at a time, writing to replace the ones that sell), I’ve transitioned to novels because my goal is to make a living and novels are good for that (and I like writing them).

So yeah, those are my current thoughts.  I know that I’d learn a lot and meet many interesting people if I applied/went.  I don’t doubt that for many people, Clarion/CW is a great stepping stone in their writer journey and that the experience is amazing.  These are things I’m considering and weighing against my other thoughts.  Basically, it boils down to this:

Do I want to go to Clarion or Clarion West? Yes.  Can I afford to go money-wise? Maybe (I could figure it out).  Can I afford to go time-wise? Maybe (again, I could figure it out).  Do I need to go in order to have a career as a writer? No.  Is Clarion/CW the best use of my time and resources for my writing/career goals right now in my life? I don’t know.  And that final question is all I’m trying to answer here.

Hopefully that clarifies things.

Now, to put down the blog (and Starcraft 2), and go finish this novel.

O Munde, hodie aliquid vincam!

Clarion Musings

So, first… my sale. I have sold “No Spaceships Go” to Daily SF, a brand new magazine that will apparently start publishing later this summer/fall. So go subscribe now, because besides my story, it looks like they have lined up some top authors (including fellow PDX writer and Hugo winner David D. Levine).  I’m pretty excited.  More details whenever I get them.

Also, in other internet news, both Clarion and Clarion West have posted instructor lists for 2011.  And wow, they are impressive (okay, when aren’t they? seriously. Sigh).  Clarion list is here.  Clarion West list is here.

As always, I kinda want to go to Clarion (either Clarion) because writing with both my potential classmates and under the tutelage of professionals such as those listed above would be freaking awesome.  I’ve only applied once to Clarion West, and was form rejected.  Which doesn’t shock me, it was my first submission to anywhere, ever. (Feb 4th 2009, for those of us ie me keeping track).  And frankly, I mostly applied because I really wanted to meet Elizabeth Bear whose work and work ethic I super admire.  Probably good I didn’t get in, since I don’t know how I would have survived.

I almost applied to Clarion last year, but decided I couldn’t afford it and took a couple of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops instead (which, for the sake of honesty, I almost didn’t get in to.  While there’s no formal audition like for the Clarions, Dean isn’t a guy who pulls his punches and if he thinks someone isn’t ready, he’ll say so.  I’m not sure I was ready, but I am grateful. *grin*).  And between discovering those workshops, reading Dean’s motivation posts (and Kristine Rusch’s posts on freelancing), and deciding to truly follow Heinlein’s Rules for Writers, I pretty much completely revolutionized how I was going about getting to my goal of making a living at writing fiction.

So… Clarions.  Should I apply? On the one hand, I imagine I’d have a blast and learn a ton.  On the other, can I get in? Or afford to go if I did? And, strangely enough, can I afford to take 6 weeks out of my writing schedule to focus on workshop stuffs?  I know they write a story a week at the workshops, but frankly, for me, that’s really not an issue, even with additional work like reading on top of it I’m pretty sure I could keep that pace without blinking.  But could I keep up my novel/novella/shorts schedule during Clarion/CW if I got in?

I don’t know. I don’t actually write nearly as well, especially on longer works, when I don’t have the comfort and stability of my home schedule and daily routines.  I can make myself get some work done, but not with the focus I have at home.  And I’m sure that between hanging out with fellow writers, doing the workshop stuffs, and the various functions and parties etc… I’d be pretty socially drained and low energy, which is not a productive state for me.

So if a) I did get in and b) could afford to go, then the question I’d have to consider would be is it worth losing potentially an entire novel’s worth of writing production?  I realize I’d come out of the workshop with six short stories, though as to publishable state I can’t say.  I hope that if I went I’d be really pushing myself in terms of how I’m writing and what I’m writing about, which might render whatever I write as a do-over, but workshops should be about risk in my opinion.  No point going to learn something and not really pushing yourself to stretch out of comfort zones.

So yeah, that’s basically what’s going on in my head now.  The line-ups for teachers looks very awesome, but between money and time lost, I just don’t know if the workshop would be worth it at this point.

Things to think about.  Fortunately, I have time.  I probably won’t make final decision until Feb 2011.  By then, if I’m remotely on target, I’ll have five novels being shopped to trad. publishers, book one of my e-book series out, and at least 40 shorts circulating (unless editors buy more/all of them..nudge nudge universe).  So I’ll see where I’m at.

Anyone else thinking about applying? Anyone who reads this been to one of the Clarions? What were your experiences?

(And, of course, there is always Odyssey as well, which I’ve heard lovely things about from both the woman who runs it and writers who have attended.  So much to consider. Meep.)

Feet, Meet… Wet

So after a lot of thinking about it and some very good discussions with people at the workshop this last weekend, I’ve decided to get my feet wet with the whole electronic publishing thing. I already had plans for an experiment with longer fiction, which I’m going to talk about closer to the things happening date (not for months… stay tuned!). But I hadn’t really thought about putting up short fiction yet.

However, I do have a few literary stories that have made some submission rounds (you think spec fic mags are slow to respond? Try the lit fic world, whew). A couple even got nice rejections from what I think are prestigious literary magazines (and certainly ones that pay fairly well). Two of my stories got me into graduate school (MFA program which I then dropped out of…). So I know the stories aren’t horrible, they are just hard to place.

And now they are available online. I bundled two surreal shorts together, and then put up the longer ones separately. Will I sell any copies? Who knows? But I haven’t resubmitted them in a bit (even though it would have increased my race score I guess) and so they weren’t doing me much good sitting on the computer. If you want to read them, they are cheap (inexpensive?) and found here for Kindle and here for other formats (the sidebar there has the other two stories).

So I’ve decided to change my submission habits a little.  I still intend to submit every story I write to every pro-paying magazine and to the handful of good semi-pro zines that I love.  If a story then doesn’t sell to those magazines, I’ll put it up online.  It’ll take a while for each story to make those rounds (looks like about a year to two years so far), but at least there will be no trunk.  I’ll also probably (depending on if/how well anything sells online) put up stories of mine that I have sold and then gotten the rights back from.  This ebook stuff is a brave new world and interesting changes are coming for everyone, and damn but I want to be a part of that.  I think it’s good to stay on top of the changes and for me to get my feet wet learning how to put things online.  There are readers out there and they’ll vote with their dollars on the quality of things.  Plus it is good practice for writing blurbs, right? *grin*

Anyway, as other stories finish the submission rounds, I’ll be slowly putting them online.  I have a great friend doing my covers and I spent quite a few painful hours learning to format for Kindle.  It’s a fun new thing to try at the very least.  And as I said, I have a crazy/awesome idea for an experiment starting up in a few months, so eventually I’ll post a nice long thing about that.

Meanwhile, I am running into my own writing deadlines full speed.  I signed up for another novel workshop in October and haven’t even started the book I want to workshop.  So I guess I’d better stop blogging and go (have my characters) kill a few people and wrap up the current novel.  Lots of work ahead, but I feel good about.  I’m so busy between writing and Starcraft 2 that I’m (mostly) not even stressing about WotF results.  Crazy 🙂

Hope Has a Flavor

Last week was filled with disappointment and rejections. No news for me on the second quarter of the WotF contest yet, which means I’m HM or worse for the fourth time (looks like the finalists have been notified). Got a form letter rejection from one place that had held a story for final consideration, heard back about another (rejected as well, though very nicely). Oh well, back into the mail they go. For now.

And yet, I feel good. I went to a workshop on how to pitch ideas and write blurbs this weekend and got my mental ass kicked… and I still feel good. Hopeful even. Happy. Why? Because I sat and listened to a bunch of professional writers discussing this interesting new publishing world (and the interesting old publishing world) and I have to say, these are damn exciting times to be starting a writing business in. I came home with new skills, new ideas, and the germs of exciting plans that will be revealed soon (and more on that sekrit project I keep mentioning).

I’m thrilled to be a part of this stuff. There is so much for me to learn, and things are changing all the time. It’s awesome to attend Dean’s workshops and be surrounded by pros living and doing the things I’m working on doing. I feel more like a professional myself these days, growing all the time.

So yeah, I’m exhausted and excited and my brain’s full of stuff I need to sit down and really process. I’ll work on that and hopefully get some more comprehensive posts out about my plans and my latest writing adventures.

It’s a good time to be a writer.

Exoskeleton Fail

I am back from vacation. I made the mistake of thinking 85 strength sunblock applied twice over (a few hours apart) would do the trick. Managed to burn myself so badly on the first day (snorkeling twice, swimming in pool, then a 2+ hour walk in the afternoon) that I spent the rest of the trip wishing I could levitate so my burn body wouldn’t touch anything. Yeah. Not fun.

I spent most of last week on painkillers swathed in aloe and hiding from the sun (though I probably made the burn worse by venturing out multiple times… it was too lovely there to be able to hide indoors. Which should mean lots of writing done, right? Not so much. See, the worst burn is my shoulders, arms, and… hands! Also, I scraped up a few knuckles on some rocks (but I got to touch a sea turtle, so it worked out).

I got a couple chapters done and an entire other novel outlined. That second bit was an accident, but I was so inspired by the landscape and the ideas hitting me that I had to at least get the gist down in outline form.

I can still finish the current novel by the end of the month. If I put my head down and go. (Burn is healing, the blisters have split, the skin is starting to fall off like crazy… TMI yet? *grin*). So that’s the plan. Write like the wind and get this novel done so I can start the next one.

Oh, and I averaged one rejection a day while I was gone. Gave me lots of admin work to do today. Got all but one story back out, it is in an envelope waiting on the mail tomorrow, so it is basically done and out. Nothing like a stack of “thanks but no thanks” waiting for you to return. Fun day I had today, heh. I’m really missing short story writing though. Haven’t gotten a new one out in a few weeks and it feels weird. I did get notice that yet another story is under “final consideration” somewhere, so that’s 4 now I get to live in suspense with. Strangely, I feel fairly calm about it. I guess I’m so focused on getting the writing done that once something is out the door, I don’t worry about it too much. It’ll either sell or it won’t. Meanwhile I’m learning some neat new tricks from some of the books I’ve been reading and (hopefully) implementing that stuff in my own writing.

So that’s the story of my vacation. Time to get back to work…

Working on Vacation

My novel isn’t done yet, and I leave in two days to go on vacation for a week. So I’m bringing my netbook and intend to represent the iconic image of the fiction writer drinking an umbrella drink on a hot beach with the laptop open, working in the sunlight. Only, I’m Irish and don’t want to be a crackling lobster, so I’ll be in the shade instead. Covered in Zinc. Glamorous, I know.

I’m hoping I can focus and get at least 30,000 words done, which will leave about a week’s worth of work for the week after I get home before I head out to another workshop with Dean Wesley Smith. This next one is on pitches and blurbs, which will be perfect timing for finishing a novel. I intend to get the first three chapters cleaned up, a synopsis, and query letter done at the same time I finish the novel so I can use what I learn at the workshop to get this novel sent off. That will be novel number three.

Got two nice rejections, one on the fantasy novel, one on the sci/fi novel. So I switched which editor had which and will see if maybe the new stuff is more to their tastes. So far I’ve only gotten one form rejection on my novels, which said they were returning the material unread due to not being agented. Oh well. I sent it back out (and actually doubt that no one read it, since the packet wasn’t mailed back in the order I sent it and it was missing the top paperclip, so something happened to it on its journey between envelopes). The hunt for publication continues. This part is boring. Thank god for writing/working on new stuff. If I had all my hopes on the stuff I’ve already done, I think I’d be going crazy by now. The rejection on my full stung a little more than I’d expected, but I made myself get the query back out. Keep it automated and done, that’s how I manage to move on.

Besides, I get to go drink fruity girly drinks on a beach in the sun shade while writing about serial killers and thieves. There are definitely worse jobs 🙂

Oh, and my grandmother is apparently passing on her super-old awesome typewriter to me. I think I’ll have to type up a story and send it out that way just for old time’s sake. (I wrote my first stories on an old typewriter my parents had in a closet. They were two page epics with no punctuation). I wonder if you can still buy carbon paper and such. I’ll have to check. Maybe I’ll write a short story ode to the pulps with a crazy title. Sounds like fun.