It Isn’t All Just Writing

Today’s wordcount is at negative 300 so far because I had to tear apart two chapters that were revealing information too soon and then write new words to replace what I tore out.  So I figured I’d take a break and do some non-writing writing stuff.

And man is there a lot of it to do.  Before you start writing for money you basically have the luxury of just writing.  Or maybe reading blogs or forums or books about writing craft, but really it’s just write when you want to, don’t when you don’t.

But the minute you start writing for money–either subbing stories or novels to publications or agents or editors or self-publishing–you start to find your time getting sucked up by these other things that are related to your writing but aren’t your actual writing.

To give an example, here’s my current to-do list:

  1. Get my old Mac set up to run Vellum and then update eight files that have validation errors on Kobo when I use a Word file to upload there.
  2. Load those files to Kobo once done.
  3. Create FB ads using mirror audiences from three sign-up lists I have from various giveaways I participated in.
  4. Email Amazon about linking the editions of short stories I just pubbed through Pronoun that were previously listed direct with Amazon so the reviews transfer over.
  5. Add more titles to Google.
  6. Submit a few proposals for an upcoming conference I want to speak at.
  7. Create a PowerPoint for a talk I’m giving at a library next month.
  8. Figure out where to go for wide distribution of my audiobook titles and then get all 18 titles published there.
  9. Publish a title that came out of Select wide.

Those were just the items that came to mind when I was writing the list.  Little things, like updating links for my short stories that were moved to Pronoun, didn’t even make the list but those had to be done, too.  And keeping track of ads and adjusting them as needed.  And reacting to any new developments that need my attention.  And…

Good thing I’m not popular enough to get invited to do interviews or attend cons.  I don’t know how successful authors manage to balance it all.  Some days it feels like I’m working on my writing for the entire day and yet my wordcount is negligible.  And it’s all because of these little things that eat away at my time or my focus.

At least a lot of them can be done while I’m unwinding watching television at night and need something to occupy my attention.  But still…

I’d almost recommend that authors hold off on trying to make money off their writing for as long as possible while they just write, write, write.  Then again, I think without the motivation of potential sales I would’ve written far less than I have at this point and be nowhere near where I am on this whole journey.  So…You take the bad with the good I guess.

Posted in General Musings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Books Aren’t Cars

Huh?  What the hell do I mean by that?

I mean that a person buys a car and they drive it off the lot and it starts to lose value and continues to lose value.  And that, with rare exceptions, a car built in 1970 isn’t going to be as valuable as a car built in 2015 no matter how much usage it has or hasn’t seen.  Cars depreciate in value over time.

Books aren’t like that.  For a new reader, a book, regardless of when it was published, has the same value as when it was first published.  Maybe even more as it builds up a reputation and following.

The reason I’m writing about this today is because I got into a bit of a tiff with someone recently who was basically saying that older books should be priced cheap.  This person didn’t understand how a book, a classic of the genre, could still be priced at $9.99 in ebook.  They assumed the book should be priced cheap because it was old.

My reply was why price it cheap if it’s still selling at $9.99.  For new readers that book still has value as a new book.  (I should note that I just went and looked that book up on Amazon US and it’s ranked at 13,000 so it’s doing just fine with its $9.99 price tag.)

I only discovered Robin Hobb’s books last year.  I read all of them.  I didn’t even stop for a moment to say, “Wait, when did these books come out?  They shouldn’t cost that much.”  What I instead said was, “Oh, thank God I’ve found a good author that I haven’t already read.  Give me.”

What this person was failing to grasp is that readers are not one monolithic group that all behave exactly the same.  There are bargain hunters who will only buy books on sale or used or will borrow from the library.  There are trend chasers who probably aren’t going to ever buy a cheap book because it somehow implies low quality.  There are new release buyers (like my mom) who buy a book by a favorite author the day it comes out without even looking at the price.  And many other types of readers on top of that.  Different price points expose you to different readers.

I’m currently in the midst of an experiment on my pen name fantasy novels.  They were priced at $4.99 which when I released them felt bold and daring for an indie author putting out their first book with no following.  But you know what? I just bumped them up to $6.99.  Why?  Because the cover can compete with trade published books and that’s who I’m putting it up against with my advertising.  I’m running AMS ads on the books and every single author I chose has books priced $6.99, $7.99, or more.  By upping my price, I’m showing that my book sits alongside those books.  Pricing cheaper actually might cause a reader to pause and dig in and wonder why my book is cheaper instead of simply one-clicking.

The results so far are promising.  I don’t knock it out of the park, but I have seven sales of book 1 at $6.99 for the month so far on Amazon.  In the nine days before that I’d had two sales at $4.99.  I don’t think I was running ads, though, so that’s not really apples to apples.  A better comparison might be the first nine days of January where I had 9 sales at $4.99.  So, basically, I’m netting the same.  $32.  But if my sellthrough to book 2 stays steady, then I’ll be making more long-term.

One of the benefits to being a no-name author that isn’t being watched like a hawk is that you can do these experiments.  If I’d raised the price of the book to $6.99 and hadn’t been able to sell a copy, then I’d drop it again.  Being higher priced also gives me more wiggle room with promos.  It’s much sexier to advertise a price reduction from $6.99 to 99 cents than $2.99 to 99 cents.  Or to be sitting at 99 cents and have nowhere to go but free.

Price is an individual choice.  All I’m saying is don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to price cheap because you’re an indie or because the book is older.  To new readers it’s a new book.  And most aren’t going to think about who published it unless you give them a reason to.  (Or unless a bunch of others have given them a reason to because they’ve been burned far too many times.  Something far more like to happen at the lower price points.)


Posted in General Musings | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Shit Writers Tell Each Other…

I’m currently watching a discussion that I’ve seen happen before where a writer is asking about taking a series of books that are currently wide and putting them into KU for a bit.  (For those who don’t know, to have your books available in KU you have to pull them from all other distributors.  So no iTunes, Google, Kobo, B&N, etc. while your books are available to borrow on Amazon.)

Keep in mind, these are books that the author says aren’t exactly selling at the moment. (Although, honestly, I’m not sure that’s relevant to the discussion.)

Anyway, there’s already been one author and there will definitely be a second (because it’s her site and I know her opinion on this) telling this poor person who is just trying to sell their books that if they pull their series from being available wide that all of their readers who read them wide will hate them forever and never read them again.

Now, maybe that’s true for people who have a rabid and devoted fan base who buys everything they release on day one and check back constantly asking when the next one will be out.  (You know, the GRRM and Patrick Rothfuss type of fan.)

But fact is most writers are forgettable even when readers read our books and enjoy them. Or if not forgettable, not so memorable that readers would develop a personal grudge against them for using different distribution channels at different points in time.  As a matter of fact, I’d expect that the only ones that would even notice that had happened were other writers.

What do I as a reader do when I’m thinking of getting a new book?  I go to the bookstore.  Do I see a book by an author I like?  Yes?  I buy it.  No?  I buy something else.  That’s typical reader behavior.

But you know who does notice something like that?  Other writers.

And who do authors talk to more, their readers or fellow writers?  Fellow writers.  And boy do writers have opinions! (Half of which are unfounded gibberish based on limited personal experience. And I include myself in that description.)

Think about this…

I can point out to you a good hundred writers I’ve seen criticize 50 Shades of Grey and/or Twilight either at conferences or on forums.  To the point they were foaming at the mouth in outrage that such dreck could possibly be published and loved by readers.

Funny, though. Readers loved those books.  I’d be happy to write a book so hated by fellow writers and loved by readers.

That’s just one little example of the many, many times I’ve seen writers give strong advice on something readers don’t even care about or notice.  Or, better yet, feel the exact opposite about.  (I’d probably tell Nora Roberts not to head hop in her novels but I suspect that head hopping is something her readers love.)

So, you know, ask fellow writers for advice if you must, but just keep in mind that after a few years at this they really aren’t thinking like your core audience anymore and nine times out of ten you’ll be much better off asking a few readers what they think instead.

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What the Price Is Right Can Teach You About Selling Books

Most weekdays, pup and I break for lunch right when The Price is Right is on.  So we sit there and watch it for about fifteen minutes while munching on whatever I’ve managed to fix myself that particular day.

And I sometimes find myself shaking my head at what I see.

For those of you who don’t know how it works, four people guess what the price of an item is and the one who comes closest to that price without going over gets to go on stage and maybe win more things like a brand-new car.

Let’s give an example because I want to talk about that last person to bid.   This is where things tie back to writing.

So, let’s say we’re watching the show and the contestants have to bid on six pairs of designer sunglasses.  Contestant A bids $750.  Contest B bids $1000.  Contest C bids $400.

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

Let’s say Contest D bids $700.  (I’ve seen it happen.)

Was this a smart bid?


Why not?  Because, unless Contestant D is going for the bonus money for being right on the mark (which almost never happens and is a fool’s bet), that contestant just cost themselves about two hundred and fifty possible chances to be right.

How so?  Because had they instead bid $401 then they would be a winner if the price was anywhere between $401 and $749.  But, given their bid, they’ll only win if the price is between $700 and $749.

What if they bid $1?

Was this a smart bid?

Probably not in this case.  Unless those sunglasses are really cheap, chances are the price is not below $400 so even though they’ve been told that $1 is “the bid” and there are t-shirts dedicated to the concept of bidding just $1, it’s actually a strategy that only makes sense when there’s a realistic possibility that the actual price of the item is below the next highest bid.

On the other extreme, what if they bid $1200?

Again, not a smart bid because the next highest bid is $1000 and any price between $1000 and $1200 is going to go to the other bidder, not them.

Now, here’s where we tie things back to selling books.  I’ve watched the show enough to see contestants win in all three scenarios and then go on to win even more prizes and walk away with $50,000 in cash and prizes.

They’re winners, right?

Doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing or should tell others how to win.  The guy who bid $1 is going to walk around telling people, “Bid a dollar.  That’s how I won.”  And the other two guys are going to say, “Well you just gotta bid what you think it’s worth.  I read up on prices before I went on the show so I knew what those glasses would cost.”  Or, worse.  “When in doubt, average the two prices you think are closest to the price and bid that average.”

Or worse yet, people are going to study who wins and say, “Well, folks who bid $1 were ten times more likely to win than those that bid any other price” without seeing the nuance of why that bid won.

See, it’s possible to succeed and have no idea why you actually succeeded or to have simply been lucky.

Which is also true in publishing.

(And, no, I’m not saying it’s always true, so stop right there.  Many people succeed from hard work and study and knowing how things work, but there are always those few who think they know why they “won” who really, really don’t.  And taking advice from them is not going to help anyone else win unless they too win by sheer happenstance.)

So, yes, listen to how others succeeded, but dig deep enough to know whether there was actual thought and strategy behind it before you follow in their footsteps.

Posted in Writing | Tagged ,

A New Year, Time to Write

When I was growing up I wrote a lot of bad poetry.  It was my way of dealing with all the drama of home, including a terminally ill father.  After he died I wrote even more.  It’s not publishable, I suspect, but it did what it needed to do which is help me get through an emotionally traumatic time in my life.

My dad wrote a lot of poetry as well.  I had at one point thought I’d publish it and share it with the world but having looked at it recently I realize that it was cathartic for him and is emotionally resonant for me because I knew him, but…I won’t be publishing it anytime soon.  It doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have written it, though.

He needed that outlet, just like I did.

I suspect this next year will be rough for many of us.  If you find yourself lost, adrift, unable to articulate the angst or trauma or fear you’re feeling, grab a pen, grab some paper and write.  Poems, stories, journal entries, whatever lets you get a handle on things and keep going.

It doesn’t have to be pretty.  Or artful.  Or even good.  Burn it after if you want.  Tear it into little teeny tiny shreds if it helps.  But for many of us (especially the types that would find their way to a writer’s blog), writing will help get you through.

And if you’re not that type then get out there and run or box or lift weights or hike alone in nature.  Or find the best damn book you can and get lost in it.  Or a movie or a t.v. show you can binge watch.  Whatever keeps you going and lets you disconnect for a couple hours.

Posted in Life | Tagged ,

On Compliance…

Gee, I’m blogging a lot this month. Must be because I have a novel I need to write…

Recent events have me thinking back to this fundamental truth that I’ve known for a long while: No one person (at least in this world without magic powers) can destroy the world.  We talk a lot about men like Hitler or Mussolini but we don’t often talk about the thousands and thousands of soldiers who were out there implementing their orders.

And it’s easy to think that everyone of those soldiers was evil.  That they were corrupt at their core.  But that’s just not true.  Read Ordinary Men if you want to understand how a group of normal, average men were transformed into mass killers during World War II.

Also read The Lucifer Effect by Phil Zimbardo for a more recent study of how normal people can be led to perform “evil” acts.

Because here’s the deal.  We as humans or as part of American culture or Western culture or whatever it is have a predisposition to comply with authority.  Your boss tells you to do X, what do you do?  Do you sit back and debate whether X is the best move for the company or the best use of you as a resource?  No.  You just do it.  If you think it’s stupid or misguided maybe you shrug your shoulders and tell your co-worker about it, but you do it.

If your doctor tells you that you need a surgery RIGHT NOW, do you sit back and ask yourself whether you really want that surgery or do you go along with it?  (When my grandma fell and broke her hip and shoulder a couple years back I honestly believe if she’d had the time and pain-free ability to think about it she would’ve actually said, “Thanks, but I’ve lived a good life and don’t want months of rehab and a life that will now be constrained by limited movement and pain,” but no one explicitly gave her that choice they just acted as if and moved ahead and so she had the surgery.)

Almost every single person goes along with what their doctor tells them.  It’s hard to put the brakes on and say “no” when you have an authority figure telling you the answer is “yes”.  Especially when they won’t even do you the courtesy of debating it.  I recently asked my doctor about the side effects of going off a medication I’m not sure I need to be on and his response was “Keep taking it.  Happy Holidays!”  Well, fuck him, right?  But it was really, really hard for me to decide to go against that statement.  He’s so certain.  He’s so adamant.  He went to school for years, he must know what he’s talking about.  I shouldn’t question him.

But…many many many years ago my father had a kidney transplant performed by a world-renowned surgeon, a man everyone treated like God.  Afterwards my father wasn’t doing too well and my mother got very concerned about him.  The doctor told her the surgery had gone great, the kidney was doing well, it had all been a success, not to worry.  But…my dad wasn’t doing well.  Finally, because my mother dared to question God (as she likes to phrase it), they realized/acknowledged that my dad had pneumonia.  And because he was on immunosuppressants due to the transplant, it was running wild.  Long story short, my dad lived.  But after three months in the ICU and losing the lower lobe of one of his lungs.  If my mother hadn’t questioned?  My dad would’ve probably died when I was six.

Sometimes questioning authority makes you an idiot.  Or an unnecessary obstacle.  It exposes you to scorn or anger.  It may cost you opportunity or even your job or your health.

But sometimes you have to question.  Sometimes you have to outright refuse.  It’s not enough to say, “I was just doing my job.”  Or “It wasn’t my place.”

And trust me what I’m saying is not as easy as I make it out to be.  A few weeks ago I was confronted by this yet again in such a small way.  I was at writes’ group on a night when it was maybe 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  About an hour and a half into it one of the writers said they had to run outside to check on their dog who’d they’d left in their car.  I was stunned that they would do this.  Internally I was thinking, “Who the hell is stupid enough to leave a dog in a car in this kind of weather?” But all I said was, “Why don’t you bring the dog inside.  I’m sure the bookstore won’t mind.”  (And privately thinking that if the bookstore did I’d raise holy hell.)  But I didn’t confront this person.  Neither did the other three sitting there with me, all of whom are dog owners and all of whom were sharing glances about this.  And when they brought the dog back inside and it was shivering terribly and they had to wrap it up tight, the most I was able to do was respond when this person said, “I didn’t realize it would get so cold so fast” with “Yes, it’s really not safe to leave your dog in the car in this kind of weather.”

Such a small moment, but a failure by me.  Because we’re programmed to go along, to be agreeable, to not create conflict, to not put our nose in someone else’s business.

I’m trying to overcome that, to push back when needed.  It’s hard.  But there will be people in the next few years whose choice to comply or go along or to push back or refuse will impact the course of all of our lives.  It may be something as simple as turning away while someone commits an act of hatred to something as complex as agreeing to build a nuclear weapon.

The world is a tinderbox right now.  We all need to stand strong and be sure we’re not the one that lights the match.

Don’t comply blindly.  Don’t go along when you know something is wrong.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Problem with Pen Names

I have three, no scratch that four, blogs for my various pen names.  I have two twitter accounts.  I have a personal FB page and two FB author pages.  I have ten email addresses related to my writing and six user profiles across three writing forums.  All because I have too many pen names.  (Which won’t easily combine so it is what it is.)

Which makes posting any sort of news problematic.  Do I post it on my personal FB page for writers and other friends who know me to see?  Do I post it on the blog for that particular pen name?  Or on one of the forums I frequent? Do I tweet it to the world?

What do I share and where?

If I’m in a promo (and I’m in a couple this month) do I just share the promo on the pages for that pen name?  Or maybe my personal page as well as the ones for that pen name?

It all gets very confusing very fast.

And if I share the same piece of good news across author names then what’s the point of having those different author names because an astute observer could just tie them together?  After all, some of the purpose behind the pen names is just marketing categories, but not all of it.

Which is all to say I’ve had a couple pieces of good writer news today and was at a loss for where to share it.  One ended up on my personal FB page because it’s broad writerly news not tied to one specific name and of general interest to my friends and not something I could broadcast publicly under any specific pen name although I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.  The other ended up posted in a writers’ group I’m part of on FB because it was one of those things that only fellow writers would care about. (I just sold my 50th paperback of the month which is an awesome little achievement for me but irrelevant to pretty much everyone but me.)

Someday I will hit a point in my career where keeping separate pen names simply won’t work.  Someone will out the ones they know or I’ll need to make public appearances or someone with way too much time on their hands will connect the dots.

That day will be both a relief and an annoyance.  Until then I get to feel like I have twenty fractured identities, none of which fit together well…

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , ,

A Reminder About Depression

It’s been a looong time since I’ve mentioned depression here on the blog.  But on Twitter today one of the folks I followed shared a link to a blog post I thought was worth sharing by someone who is struggling to bring themselves out of a bout of depression at the moment.

So check out Moving Forward by Stepping Back by Nena.

It’s interesting to me to think back on those earlier posts I shared about writers and depression.  It’s definitely a risk in this field.  But what I look back at now is that when I shared them I myself as a beginning writer wasn’t feeling any sort of depression.  I shared the articles because I’ve had people close to me struggle with depression–to the point of trying to kill themselves–so I know how hard that struggle can be.

But the longer I’ve walked down this writerly journey the more I’ve found that there are aspects to it that really do challenge me and my own mental health and balance.  I still wouldn’t describe myself as depressed, but I would say that at times social media and the influence of the outside world weighs upon me.

It’s so judgemental and opinionated.  I see one of those articles like, “The Five Things You Should Never Say To…” and my gut clenches.  (The latest was what you should never say to a waiter/waitress like they’re some monolithic whole that all think the same way.)  Or I see someone post an opinion and then get attacked and called out and threatened for it.  Or, well, politics.

It turns out in my real-life personal world I’m very good at weeding out people who will drag me down emotionally.  In fact, I’m almost ruthless about it. But I can’t do the same online.  It’s either too visible to try to do so (why’d you unfriend me, why’d you unfollow me) or it just blindsides you (even “safe” people like or share things that can drag me down the rabbit hole).

And I keep thinking, I just need to walk away from social media.  But when you’re trying to keep up with an ever-shifting landscape that’s hard to do.  Walking away from forums and blogs and FB and Twitter means walking away from knowledge and connection and when you’re trying to make money off of your art, that’s something you don’t want to lose.

But maybe, sometimes, mental health matters more.

So for anyone out there that’s feeling overwhelmed or dragged down or just weighed upon by all those other voices clamoring for your time and energy?  It’s okay to turn them off.  Yeah, sure, maybe you miss a little here or there, but it won’t be the end of the world.  (And if it is the end of the world, well…it’ll be a little too late at that point anyway, right?)

Now to just follow my own advice…I have a novel to write after all.

Posted in General, Life | Tagged , , , , ,

Clawing My Way Forward One Day At a Time

I should be writing, but I’m not.  So I figured it was a good time to stop and reassess and maybe tell a story that might give someone somewhere a glimmer of hope…

(Maybe.  Or be that last nail in the coffin of your writing aspirations, depending on  if you’re a half-full or half-empty sort.)

Okay, so background and context:

I’ve been at this writing thing for five and a half years and in typical me fashion when I decided I wanted to be a published writer I started off with a bang by writing a novel in the first six weeks or so.

It sucked.  I think I had point of view and tense okay because I’d read enough novels by then that that part was almost intuitive, but the story itself and the structure sucked.

So I rewrote it.  And rewrote it.  And rewrote it.  And nine drafts and one year later thought it was good enough to query.  I admittedly didn’t query hard but I got a “send the next one” rejection from an agent, which was cool.

In the meantime I got derailed by another agent who informed me I needed to master the art of short story telling first, get pub credits on that side, and then I could sell a novel to the big guys.  So there went a year of writing short stories.  And I came close with those, too.  I have some very nice personal “almost bought it” rejections from the top markets.

But I really wanted to write my novels.  And I was tired of talking around my stories on here without being able to talk about them.  (Of course, thanks to pen names I do that now anyway…)  And I figured why sell my work for token rates if I could instead keep control of it myself.

So I self-pubbed.  Two non-fiction titles under a pen name (because I had no platform and no chance of selling those trad), five short stories, and a short story collection over the course of four months.  (With horrible covers by the way…but live and learn, right?)

I even had a plan.  I was gonna write and publish a short story a week until I got that momentum and that audience.  But…life.

So one cross-country move and a full-time work project that sucked everything out of me later, I didn’t write or publish anything for almost ten months.  But I had made some good money, so I went full-time, writing my butt off (sort of), hoping against hope that I’d get something out there that would earn me enough to stay full-time.

I didn’t.

And I found that being full-time for me was a bit of a waste because I am not a write-ten-hours-a-day person.  On my best day when I wrote 9,406 words I did it in about three hours.  And that’s probably my max and I couldn’t do that day in or day out.  (Likely a non-fiction day, for those who just freaked out.)  Me full-time is me putzing around on the internet reading blogs and getting stressed by the latest writerly drama.

But it was a good year for me.

Half a million published words later I’d learned a lot.  Like romance does sell easier.  Same with novels.  Same with related titles.  And that a cheap genre-appropriate cover could do just fine.

And the year wasn’t a complete bust. I’d seen glimmers of hope here or there.  Two titles that sold easily right away and gave me my first $600 month.  (Chump change to some, but nice numbers to me.)

But I didn’t pursue those successes.  (That’s that whole write to market discussion.  If I were just writing to pay the bills I’d be all over erom and probably making six figures by now, but there are easier ways to make money for me that I’d probably enjoy/not enjoy just as much.)

At the end of that year I took my heart in my hands and finally published a fantasy novel I really believed in.  (Under a pen name, of course, because who wants to leverage all the hard work they’ve already done.  That would be silly.)

And it did okay.  But not as okay as I’d wanted.  Not enough to pay for its cover.  Not enough to shoot it up the charts.  And I probably cried and doubted my ability to continue and wondered if I was a talentless hack after all.

But I got fan mail!  And friends who’d bought it raving to me about it on Facebook!

So I told myself I needed to put out the full series and then it might take off.  And even though I knew it would mean going into some serious debt, I was prepared to do that and get those books out in the next six months.


I got a work offer and I couldn’t exactly turn down money.  (No move this time, yay.)  And then I got another work offer.  (I didn’t go looking for either one, but I’d told myself I’d take work if it came along.)

And I started to find some balance.  The work pays the bills.  (Almost, mostly.)  And I still get the time I need to write.  (Usually.)

Of course, because the work pays the bills, I no longer have this urgency to finish those books NOW.  Which means I finished one and got it out there but the third in series probably won’t be out until next summer.  (It seems I am more on a traditional publishing timeline than a self-publishing timeline, but that’s okay.)

And that novel has started to do better with some steady advertising and picked up some more nice reviews.  (Writer’s Digest gave it an almost perfect score in their contest this year. Yay.)

I just hit the point where I’ve grossed $1,000 off the novel, which makes it my first standalone title to hit that mark.  (One of my romance series did that a long time ago.)  So, steadily but surely, things are moving upward.  Year 2 of self-pub was better than Year 1 and Year 3 was better than that and Year 4 is looking to be the best yet by a long stretch.

Some days (most days) this writing thing feels like I’m clawing my way up a sheer rock face and hanging on by bloodied fingertips, but that’s just the way it is for some of us.  And I’m too gosh-darned stubborn to quit.  (And it seems too full of ideas…I’m planning to focus on two of the pen names next year, but I have a “maybe, also” list below that with six titles related to four other pen names not to mention the folder full of other ideas I’d love to pursue if only I had all the time in the world.)

So if you’re out there and starting out and getting bummed by how slow things are going, don’t give up just yet.  And don’t think that just because a title doesn’t take off right away that it never will.  I made more in audio on the first title I ever published in one month this year than I did on that title the first two years it was out.  You just never know, so don’t quit, adapt.


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The Confidence Not to Explain

I’m in the midst of a reading binge at the moment and I’m on book three of a very popular fantasy series and, as a reader, am experiencing a certain amount of frustration.  Now, problem once you start writing is that I don’t think you can ever really read just as a reader ever again.  So it’s quite possible that what I’m about to mention is something I notice because I write and that your average everyday reader wouldn’t notice, but it’s bugging the hell out of me and this is my blog where I get to discuss these sorts of things, so I’m going to.

What is the issue?

It feels like the author of this book took a lot of flak for their worldbuilding in books one and two and decided they had to explain themselves in book three.  So, thankfully not as part of the main action and dialogue, this book is full of verbose explanations around why this world works differently than our world.

It’s like someone asked, “Hey, such and such cataclysmic thing is happening in this world so how is x even possible at all?” and the author either thought, “Oh shit, I didn’t think about it, better come up with a good explanation” or “Well, let me let you in on this absolutely irrelevant bit of worldbuilding that explains that.”

Either way, I don’t think it’s necessary and I think it probably has the exact opposite effect of what the author intended.  Because there were probably 1-2% of readers who cared about this at all in books 1 and 2, but now, with the author stopping to point it all out and explain it, every single reader notices the discrepancies and has to buy into the explanations for them.

Getting a reader to buy into your exact explanation for something is a helluva lot harder than just leaving it up to readers to explain for themselves.  (Just like with character descriptions.  The more detailed you are in describing a character, the more of a disconnect you’ll likely have with your readers on what that character looks like.)

This author needed the confidence to say, “This is my world, this is how it works.  It’s internally consistent and if you’re bought into the world you shouldn’t have a problem,” and left it at that.

If they really wanted to explain themselves to that 1-2% of readers they should’ve done it on a blog.  Or in the appendix.  Or an expensive, special edition compendium on the world.  Anywhere but in the midst of the story.

After all, part of reading any story (especially spec fic) is the suspension of disbelief.  Sure, it’s cool when it all works in accordance with how we think things work today, but…it’s fantasy.  It’s a completely different world.  Or it’s sci-fi, five hundred years in the future and in a part of the galaxy we’ve never seen.  It needs to be somewhat close to modern understanding, but not 100%.  Not if it’s a good story.  (I mean, Star Wars.  Really?)

Personally, I prefer those authors that have the confidence in their story to not explain those kinds of things.  Ideally, they’ve thought about them and know that x is possible due to a genetic mutation or whatever, but I’d rather they just wrote the world they’re writing and made sure it was internally consistent and didn’t stop to try to convince their readers to agree with it.

But maybe that’s just me…

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