Maxwell 5 is almost here!

The fifth Maxwell series, Stoke the Flames Higher, by Peter Grant, will be released this week!

Stoke the Flames Higher

As such, I thought I’d give you a look into the blurb writing process. Because blurb writing is akin to poetry; it has its own rules (tag line, kicker, no passive voice), and length constraints. And what is the blog for, if not to discuss how the sausage is made?

From Peter, kicking it off because I was staring at a blank page and going “uhhhhh”:

Steve Maxwell must take a diplomatic mission to Devakai aboard his unarmed communications frigate. They’re trying to figure out how to deal with the Kotai, a fundamentalist religious sect that threatens stability on that planet, and on Athi, and on other planets as well… but they’re arriving just in time to get caught up in a coup d’etat.

Can the mission escape alive? Can Steve get them out of the system in the face of missile-armed enemies? And can he reach Athi in time to warn them what’s coming? Thousands of fanatical terrorists are headed their way, determined to triumph or die in the name of their God… and Steve’s right in their line of fire.

My reply:
Too many new terms for a reader: you want at most three in a blurb. Also, too many questions. But it got my brain in gear, and after reviewing the top 50 books in the same mil sci fi category as this one’s going into (to get into the mindset of “what are customers looking at and liking?” I sent a try.

Two worlds, torn apart by a common fanaticism – and the Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!

Major Brooks Shelby has been given an impossible mission: to be a peacekeeper on a world where fanatical guerillas want no peace. His best friend Lieutenant-Commander Maxwell, has his own problems: finding the source of their fighters and funding on another planet, while hosting a diplomat and fending off her pet journalist.

The marines are being worn down with smuggled high explosives and suicidal martyrs, while an infiltrated bureaucracy does its best to block any progress on the other end. Brooks and Steve are determined to find a way to take the fight to the fanatics – but the enemy has its own plans, already in motion, to cleanse the unbelievers from the soils of both planets…

Peter’s reply: We’ve got the basic form hammered out, now to work on minor changes. Or not so minor changes, because I write long. (Y’all may have noticed, in these blog posts.) And I write in passive voice, where active verbs are far better. So “Shelby has been given” changes to “Shelby has”. Meanwhile, Peter wants to emphasize the attractive annoyance of the journalist.

Two worlds, torn apart by the same fanatics – and Lancastrian Commonwealth forces are caught in the middle!

Major Brooks Shelby has an impossible mission: to be a peacekeeper on a planet where fanatical terrorists aren’t interested in peace. His best friend, Lieutenant-Commander Maxwell, has his own problems. He must transport a diplomatic mission to find the source of the fighters and their funding on a second planet, whilst fending off an attractive, persistent, nosy journalist.

The Marines are being worn down with smuggled high explosives and suicidal martyrs on one planet, while an infiltrated bureaucracy does its best to block any progress on the other. Brooks and Steve are determined to find a way to take the fight to the fanatics – but the enemy has his own plans, already in motion, to cleanse the unbelievers from both worlds…

A couple passes later: note that we’re not only hammering out verb forms, but also trying to remove any word that’s too similar in successive sentences. And, I may have an ellipses addiction. Beyond that, even if we increase the journalist (and the more words you spend on a person, remember, the more the reader expects them to be a major character), if you’re piling up adjectives, it’s time to move to a phrase instead.

Two worlds, torn apart by a common fanaticism – with Lancastrian forces caught in the middle!

Major Brooks Shelby’s impossible mission: being a peacekeeper on a world where radical terrorists want no peace. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell’s sticky situation: finding the source of trained fighters and funding on another planet, while transporting a diplomatic mission and fending off a journalist determined to find some sensational dirt.

The marines are being worn down with smuggled high explosives and suicidal martyrs, while an infiltrated bureaucracy is doing its best to block any inquiries. Brooks and Steve are determined to find a way to take the fight to the enemy – but the faithful are already moving to cleanse the unbelievers from the soils of both planets!

You’d think we were almost done, but now that we have a long form we’re happy with, it’s time to break out the knives and go for the drastic editing challenge: 100 words or under. Because promotion often has a character limit, so the shorter, punchier, and more attention-grabbing you can get, the better. Also, the limitations of short form can drive you to make cuts to the long-form that really make it shine, even if you don’t end up using the shortest thing you can come up with.

So first effort on under 100 words:

Two planets, torn apart by the same fanatics – and Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!

Major Brooks Shelby must keep the peace, on a world where radical terrorists want no peace. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell must trace the source of those terrorists’ fighters and funding, dealing with diplomats and fending off a very nosy journalist.

The marines are being worn down by smuggled explosives and suicidal martyrs, while traitors are doing their best to hide the truth. Brooks and Steve must find a way to stop the enemy… but the fanatics want nothing less than Armageddon!

And second effort, wherein you can see the same removal of duplicated words, remove of any conjugation of the verb “be”, and trying to go light on clichés. (Cliches, like hot sauce, are best used sparingly. If you’re covering your blurb in clichés to convey information, or slathering your food in hot sauce to make it edible, then the underlying item needs to be removed and replaced with something better. Here you go:

Two planets, torn apart by the same fanatics – and Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!

Major Brooks Shelby must keep the peace, on a world where radical terrorists want submission or death. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell must trace the source of their offworld fighters and funding, deal with diplomats and fend off a nosy journalist.

The marines are up against smuggled explosives and suicidal martyrs, while an infiltrated bureaucracy stymies the diplomats. Brooks and Steve must find a way to stop their enemies at all costs, because the fanatics are about to unleash their own Armageddon!

How many passes do you end up doing on your own blurbs? Do you bounce them off another person, or do you just write and edit them yourself?

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Reading on a Budget

As we were working on the family budget last night, I looked at the line item for Kindle Unlimited, and pondered canceling it for a moment. I haven’t been reading since… August. Maybe even since late June. I just haven’t had much time. The First Reader shrugged when I asked him what he thought “I don’t use it.”

Actually, he does, he just doesn’t always realize it. The man reads whatever I put on the kindle account, if it catches his eye, he just doesn’t often ask me for specific titles. But it did get me thinking about a couple of things. First isn’t really related to books. Well, sort of.

Reading time is usually important for me. It’s how I retreat from the world, relax, and come back refreshed and ready to go again. I haven’t had much of that (up until very recently and more on that later) for months, which isn’t a good thing. The First Reader reads for much the same reasons, and his reading has been on lunch breaks, mostly. He also goes through kicks where he’s reading one author, and we mostly own those books in paper. Both of us are, normally, voracious readers, which is why Kindle Unlimited seemed to have been a good idea when I signed up for it a year or so ago. If you didn’t know, you can borrow up to ten titles at a time. Once you read a book, you can return it and immediately borrow another. In other words, unlimited reading material and yes, the author gets paid (although reviews per read are lower, please keep in mind reviews matter if you want to keep books coming from a favorite author).

Reading seasons, at least for us, fluctuate. I’ve not been reading much. The First Reader and I, talking a while back, discussed these dry spells where reading (and I should clarify that this pertains to fiction, I’ve been reading massive amounts of scientific papers and textbooks) is difficult. It feels weird to us, like we’re somehow ill and it’s unsettling to not be able to read. I discovered that my ‘dry spell’ was broken once we were moved into the new house, by a small thing that wasn’t possible at the old house. We have a proper bathtub. So I can sit and soak in the tub and read. I can’t indulge often – perhaps weekly – but I have confirmed something else by doing this.

My fiction creative well is somewhat linked to my reading. I’ve been getting flashes of stories since I was able to do this. Not much, yet, I don’t have the time to let it be more than the illumination of scenes in a flashbulb moment. But they are coming. I was beginning to wonder if I was broken.
But back to the kitchen table discussion. We try to sit down now at the first of the month and formally plan out what will be spent that month. With the kids here, and the move to the rented house (and the long-term plan of buying a home in a few years), we’re trying to be intentional about money. It also makes me think ahead, and realize that with school ending in less than two weeks, I’ll have reading time again. And writing time! And… actually, it’s a bit scary, the whole school-done thing. I need to ramp up the job search, but I also want to write like heck to get some income rolling in down the line.

I’m rambling. I think my point, lost somewhere in the weeds up there, is that I can’t be the only reader who has to justify their book habit in a budget meeting. I even have the advantage that as a writer, I can argue it’s necessary for business reasons. As that businesswoman, I am acutely aware that my readers won’t even look at my ebook if it’s 9.99 or more. Well, they might. If it’s available through their local library. So I scrutinize my pricing, and I put my work in the KU library, and as a result even though I haven’t put out a new novel in well over a year now, I have a steady trickle of people reading my stuff, and buying it. I imagine if I looked around at promo sites, and put some money in advertising, I could swell that trickle, but until I’m ready to push the next book, that’s not in the budget either.

So for me, Kindle Unlimited is worth the ten dollars a month. It’s a fairly large pool of reading material, and as with any book marketplace, Sturgeon’s Law applies. You will have to look to find the good stuff, although for me the alsobots help with that. And there are scammy books in KU, which offend me not just as a reader but a writer. The scam is that someone figured out Amazon calculates pages read not on each click of the page (good news to the privacy conscious) but on where in the book you are when you sync with wifi again. So the scammers put in TOC links, or other links, which when the reader clicks, take them to the back of the book. Voila! KU is tricked into paying out for hundreds or thousands of pages read. This kind of crap makes it harder for real authors, and in some ways is almost worse than the poorly-written crap that just makes people give up after a few pages. (hat tip to George Phillies for the article link).

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, shameless promotion. I do get a little ad money if you sign up for the free trial through this link, in interest of full disclosure)

Oh, and I don’t read on my tablet in the bath, although I could (large Ziploc in case of splashes or sleepy author dropping), instead I’m working through some of my paper TBR pile. Having just moved, I can see all my books again. And it makes me aware of how deplorably disorganized they are… nope. Not touching that until after graduation. The list of to-do-while-I’m-supposed-to-be-writing is growing ever longer.

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Announcement

Apologies to Jason for top-posting on him but I wanted to ask everyone to send all their good thoughts and prayers out. I just had a text from Sarah. She is currently in the ER. No diagnosis yet but there is the possibility of a heart attack. I will update this post as I get further information. In the meantime, I know she and the rest of her family would appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts.

Update (1515 CST)

I just spoke with Sarah. They are going to keep her overnight for observation. She sent her thanks for all the thoughts and prayers. I’ll post another update when I know more. Keep the good thoughts going. Thanks!

Update 2

Check out Sarah’s blog for more information. She has updated what’s going on. Of course, we may all have to gather to sit on her to keep her in the hospital until the doctors say she is ready to come home. She is just a tad stubborn. VBG.

Update 3 — Saturday Morning

I just spoke with Sarah and she said to assure you reprobates that she is feeling better. Being Sarah, she wants out of the hospital NOW. I reminded her that there are enough of us willing to come tie her to the bed that she might want to reconsider. In the meantime, she has a battery of tests to go through. Her doctors want to make sure they find the root cause of what happened and get it treated once and for all.
 
For now, she is comfortable and chafing at the bit. I’ll update again when I know more.

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Field Guide for the Pursuit of the Elusive North American Literary Agent — Part Three

(Part Three — There Really Is No Reason)

Unsurprisingly, after months of apathy from various agents who I have queried, I have decided to suspend the search for litterae procurator americana. I will be the first to admit that I am not the most patient of men, but after six months of nothing — not even a standard form rejection letter — I decided to see how fast I could sell the novel myself to a publisher.

It took me twelve hours.

Twelve. F*cking. Hours.

(Note: that breaks my previous record of four days)

I’d never worked with this publisher before, though we’d met at conventions throughout the years. Never had any sort of working relationship with him or anything, and yet I was able to secure a contract within hours of contacting him. Not only did he write the contract for the novel, but he was also interested in the sequels that follow.

Within days of the contract being signed he had already commissioned a contract and put an editor onto the project. In the publishing world he moves at the speed of light, apparently. Which is great for me, my readers, and those who really, really hate me.

But all this fieldwork has laid bare the root of the question I had originally posed when I came up with this idea six months ago: what use is an agent these days?

I understand that they are supposed to represent the author and help finagle the best contract they can for the most amount of money, but with the advent of indie and the explosive growth of small press publishers, it really makes me wonder why agents continue to function in a strict role that worked in the 60’s and 70’s. An antiquated system designed in a bygone era, and yet they call my friends backwards and old fashioned.

Heh.

So, without further ado, here is the cover of said novel. Coming soon.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00045]

 

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Yipping At The Dragon’s Feet

There has, since Sarah announced the shape Sad Puppies 5 will take, been a minor flurry of squawking from the Intertubes (overwhelming my regular diet of cute cat pictures too, damn it) to the effect that I did Sad Puppies 4 all wrong and that what Sarah is doing isn’t Sad Puppies at all and she should change the name or go all attacky or something.

This, of course, on top of She Who Must Not Be Named claiming Sarah was “tedious” (hell no. I’ve seen Sarah half asleep and ill and she was anything but tedious. Of course, it’s possible She Who Must Not Be Named But Has Mucho Influence In The Publisher Named For a Mountaintop (okay, I may be overdoing the ironic capitalization here) simply doesn’t get anything Sarah says so she just figures it’s got to be boring because if it was interesting she’d totally understand it. Or something. She couldn’t possibly be trying to other and dismiss a fellow female and an award winning author. She’s a light-maker: she wouldn’t do that.

:sharp twanging sound followed by a spray of scattered metal bits:

Oops. There goes another sarcasmometer. I really should stop going off on these little tangents.

Anyhow. The point I’m aiming for today is the idea that because Sarah isn’t aiming Sad Puppies in the direction of the Hugo Awards the name ought to be changed because Sad Puppies is all about the Hugos.

It’s not. The Sad Puppies name comes from Larry Correia’s timeless observation that crappy message fiction makes puppies sad, and of course sad puppies is one of those things that’s obviously inherently double-plus ungood, what with puppies being supposed to be eternally cheerful peppy bundles of hyperactive slobber, waggy tails, and probably yipping.

Note that it’s not message fiction in general that makes puppies sad, just crappy message fiction. Really good message fiction is fine (and usually gets to be really good by wrapping the message in a damn good plot with damn good characters and all that other fictiony stuff the literatsi like to sneer at).

This of course means that anything Sarah does aimed at celebrating really good fiction is by definition a valid Sad Puppies campaign. It can’t help but be relevant to the Sad Puppies theme (political hacks may wish to take note, if they have demeaned themselves so far as to read a heretical blog that’s mostly about writing genre fiction: the way you stay relevant in a changing world is to have a set of – preferably admirable and achievable – broad principles which you apply to more specific goals based on what is more urgent at any given time. Unfortunately this advice may prove to constitute a hostile work environment for political hacks, none of whom have shown any evidence of possessing any principles beyond “stay in power”).

Of course, there’s a non-zero chance this little tempest in a teacup (or possibly a B-cup) is inspired by something other than sincere concern for the state of the genre. After all, if Sad Puppies isn’t aiming at the Hugo awards, who can stand as the scapegoat du jour?

Pff. What am I thinking? The answer is already out there and taking nominations.

That’s right, nominations are now open for the 2017 Dragon Awards. All their categories are taking nominations for works published/released between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. They’re encouraging early nomination, but since there’s still six months of releases before the window closes I personally won’t be nominating until rather closer to the July 24 nomination cutoff.

As always, when dealing with anything related to a Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness, read, watch, play, then nominate the works you think are absolutely the best of the year’s offerings.

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The Irrelevance of Race – Christopher Nuttall

The Irrelevance of Race – Christopher Nuttall

 

[Author’s note – I’ve said some of this before, but it really needs to be said again.]

Back when I was 12, or thereabouts, my teacher read us a story.  (I have forgotten the title.)  A group of schoolgirls were visiting an old folks home, where they met a bunch of old ladies and chatted to them.  One girl sat down next to a sweet (and blind) old lady.  Unfortunately for her, the old lady – after exchanging some mindless conversation – went off on a racist rant about black people ruining Britain.  She praised the girl, told her she’d do well for herself and warned her to stay away from blacks.  And then she patted the girl’s hair …

… And discovered that it was springy.

I cannot say the story made a great impression on me at the time.  The boarding school I was unlucky enough to attend was pretty much a foretaste of hell.  Being, as I was, at the bottom of the totem pole, I was more concerned with avoiding discrimination against me than discrimination against others.  I could, and did, sympathise with people who faced discrimination.  But, at the same time, I was always wary about assuming that they were genuinely facing discrimination.  No one seemed interested in doing anything about my problems.

For what it’s worth, I consider the story to be quite believable.  I knew two girls in Manchester, both of whom were of Indian ancestry (but born and raised in the UK).  One of them had an accent that was perfectly Lancastrian, the other had a very pronounced Indian lilt to her voice.  And yet, the former was more wedded to her culture than the latter, who was practically culturally British.

I effectively forgot the story until the Fireside Report sprang into my awareness and its claim, that black writers were staggeringly underrepresented in published writing, sent hundreds of publishers and editors into a flurry of virtue-signalling.

I was not impressed.  And the reason I was not impressed was simple.

I have been writing for over twelve years.  I’ve honestly lost count of the number of submissions, mostly rejected, that I’ve made.  But I can say, with great certainty, that none of the publishers (or agents) I applied to asked for my race.  They asked for my name, address, email … and very little else.  There was nothing in what I sent them to suggest I was anything other than a WASP …

… And yet, I got a string of rejections.

Most of them were useless, from the point of view of an aspiring writer.  “Dear Sir.  Thank you for your submission.  However, we are unable to publish your work.  Good luck.”  Short, pithy, and completely useless when it comes to explaining WHY the book was rejected.   A handful were more detailed, but even they weren’t much use.  It wasn’t until I had been writing and submitting for several years that I got feedback worthy of my time.

And it wasn’t until I did slush reading myself that I started to grasp why this might be so.

The (few) publishers with open submission polices are deluged in pieces of writing that are utterly unreadable.  I started with the intention of giving every last piece of work a serious look and ended by feeling as though it was a complete waste of time.  I saw manuscripts that were unedited, manuscripts that were composed of nothing but MS edits, manuscripts that didn’t suit the publisher at all (or didn’t meet submission guidelines), manuscripts that were openly fan fiction (a big no-no) … I honestly don’t know what some of those writers were thinking.  I never know who the authors were – I never had the time.  All I could really do was write a short note saying why the items were rejected and pass them back to senior staff.

To prove that there actually had been discrimination against non-white authors, all other factors would need to be eliminated.  But the Fireside Report writers were completely incapable of doing anything of the sort.

For example, writers are not created equal.  Writing is a learning process.  A writer at the start of his career is going to make mistakes, many mistakes, while a more experienced writer will avoid them.  Were all the writers who submitted to a given magazine at the same level of experience?  I would be very surprised if the answer was yes.  It would be rather more likely that some of them were newcomers, while others were mid-range authors.  (The truly advanced authors don’t need to send in blind submissions.)

And, even if there was a policy of rejecting non-white authors, how could they be sure they were rejecting non-white authors?  Blind chance?  It seems a little unlikely.

Furthermore, it is terrifyingly easy to get discouraged.  You write a story, it gets rejected … do you give up?  Do you see the rejection as a chance to grow, to study what you did wrong, or do you try to find a way to blame it on someone else?  Writers are egoists, plain and simple; writers need to learn to balance their egos with a realistic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.  Blaming a publisher for rejecting you because of your race – when said publisher has no way of knowing your race – is utterly unhelpful.

The blunt truth – which anyone outside Human Resources Departments and Social Justice Bully mobs will tell you – is that merit is far more important than appearance.  Publishing is a business.  A wise publisher will not choose his or her authors on race, gender or politics, but on their ability to write.  I have been told (I have no idea if this is actually true) that young black men are disproportionally represented in American basketball, because they are taller and have better hand-eye coordination.  Is there actually anything wrong with this?  Only a complete nincompoop would insist on a racially-balanced team when there are games to be won.

When writing is concerned, merit is a relative concept.  There is a military-SF writer I practically worship, but I don’t care for his fantasy, even though I love fantasy books.  Some writers are simply more comfortable in some genres than others.  And there’s a fantasy writer hundreds of people praise, but I don’t like him.  And someone must have bought all those copies of Fifty Shades of Grey and all the other romance novels published over the last few years, even though I wouldn’t dream of wasting my hard-earned cash on them.  One man’s favourite writer is another man’s despair.  (“They publish this crap, yet I can’t get a publishing contract?”)  No writer has 100% market penetration and no writer ever will.

A writer’s race is utterly irrelevant.  Why?  Because hardly anyone sees the author.

I have been reading science-fiction since I was five.  In all of that time, I have only ever looked up an author’s appearance once.  (I was going to meet him at a convention and I wanted to make sure I spoke to the right guy.)  I couldn’t help seeing a few photographs of various authors, of course, but I never deliberately sought them out.  Why should I?  And if someone asked how many black authors I read, I honestly couldn’t answer … because, at base, I don’t know what most of my authors look like.

No one judges a book based on the author’s photograph on the dust jacket, assuming there is a photograph.  They judge the book by its blurb, by its cover, by the words … by everything that actually matters.

We have been told that the shortage of non-white authors is a problem.  And we have been told that publishers are going to make a greater attempt, in future, to publish works by non-white authors.  And I can honestly say that this, far from being helpful, is going to be actively harmful.

The problem with ‘Affirmative Action’ is that it is corrosive.  It assumes, largely incorrectly (and, in the case of publishing, almost certainly incorrectly), that businesses do not hire non-whites because they’re racists.  People who believe in AA rarely realise that there might be other factors involved in the decision.  Bob might not have gotten the job because he has an arrest record longer than my arm; Jim might not have gotten that promotion because he was beaten by a better candidate.  Instead of working to tackle the root cause of the problem, they attempt to use the law to redress what they see as social injustice.

Their good intentions have completely predicable unintended consequences.  Those who appear to gain from AA are resented by those who don’t gain from AA.  If they happen to be poor at the job, their co-workers start whispering that the only reason they got the job was because of AA.  Those who are promoted above their (current) level of competence don’t get the experience they need to do the job properly (and, if they believe they honestly earned the post, they get a nasty shock when they discover they’re not ready for it).  And, worst of all, a poor AA hire drags down the reputation of everyone else who might have benefited from AA.

Humans are inherently tribal creatures.  As I have blogged before, people have a tendency to divide the world into ‘us’ versus ‘them.’  ‘Us’ is a group of individuals; ‘them’ is a vast hive mind.  This is obvious nonsense, but it’s the way people think.  People who appear to have benefited from AA fit neatly into the ‘AA Tribe’ and whatever negative feelings a person has towards one of them will spill over onto the others.  Why not?  If one member of the tribe is bad, why not the others?

The thing that makes this so dangerous is that it is both an emotional and intellectual reaction and thus extremely difficult to disprove.  Classic racism can be discredited because, at base, it is a purely emotional reaction.  But dislike based on the sense (perhaps correctly) that your boss was promoted because he/she/whatever is a member of a protected class is much harder to dismiss, because when the emotional reaction fades the intellectual reaction is still there, proving that you are actually right.  Your boss is incompetent.  You know you should have got the job.  And why didn’t you?  He’s a member of the ‘AA Tribe.’

And the fact you KNOW this makes it impossible for someone to talk you out of it.

To introduce AA – in any form – to publishing will be utterly disastrous.  If an author is marketed as a ‘non-white author’ (however described) it will convince readers that the only reason they were published was because they ticked a diversity checkbox.  Particularly, of course, if they don’t like the book.  You can market an author, perfectly legitimately, as a SF author, a fantasy author, a romance author, a detective author … you can’t market an author by something that has no bearing on writing skill.  And if you do, a single bad author – in the estimation of the readers – will damage the rest.  This is not logical, but it is often true.

And in an industry that is practically tailor-made to remove race from the equation!

The people who asserted that ‘people of colour swept the 2016 Hugo Awards’ were essentially missing the point.  The Hugo Awards are not (were not?) diversity awards – they’re awarded for excellence in SF/Fantasy.  Or at least they should be.  Skin colour and gender has nothing to do with writing skill – the gloating over the awards going to non-whites strongly suggested that the Sad Puppies had a point all along, that awards were being handed out for factors other than merit, factors beyond the writer’s control.  And this threatens to poison the careers of writers who deserve their awards.

It’s a radical suggestion, I’m sure, but maybe – as fans – we should concentrate on what unites us, rather than divides us.  I am a Babylon 5 and Doctor Who fan.  I have something in common with every other Babylon 5 and Doctor Who fan.  Does it matter, does it really matter, if the fan next to me at the con is black or female or wearing a cosplay outfit that conceals everything?  Of course not!  But talking about diversity only reminds us of the differences between us.  (Just as managers have discovered that mandatory diversity training in large organisations sends racism, suspicion and general discontent skyrocketing.)

I don’t care if a writer is white or black, male or female, young or old or anything else that can be used to draw lines between people.  All I care about is being entertained.  And frankly, I think that’s true for everyone.

Now, if you want to be a serious writer, how should you proceed?

First, write a manuscript.  Set yourself a goal – 100’000 words, perhaps – and write out a story.  The first time is never easy, but keep going.  Try to make sure the book is completely self-contained, even if you do plan a long series.

Second, when the book is complete, submit it.  Find a publisher who takes slush submissions and submit your book.  Follow their instructions to the letter, even if they want you to write everything in an obscure font.  You do NOT want to give the first readers any excuse to reject your book (and thousands of books get rejected because the author didn’t follow instructions) or to dislike you personally.  I was told, once, about a writer who noted that he would sue the publisher if his book wasn’t published.  There is no way such a lawsuit would actually get into court, let alone end in anything other than total humiliation.

Third, write another book.  And another.  And another.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll get your first rejection letter midway through the third book.  Keep going anyway.  The average writer needs to write at least a million words before producing anything publishable.  That’s ten 100’000-word manuscripts.

Fourth, when you reach the fifth or sixth manuscript, hire a consulting editor (there are some links on my site) to do a conceptual edit.  This person will be savage – and that is precisely what you want.  The edit will tell you what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it.  Learn from this.  Then continue writing manuscripts.

Fifth, when you reach the tenth manuscript, you may be getting somewhere with the publishers.  You can also try looking for an agent at this time.  If not, start putting your later books up on Amazon Kindle.  (NOT the first manuscripts.)  Try to use this to build up a reputation as an indie writer.  Prepare yourself for critical remarks because you will get them; keep a lid on your temper and DO NOT reply.  There are no shortage of stories about indie authors behaving badly.  Don’t be one of them.

Sixth … keep going.

It’s easy to get discouraged.  It’s easy to fall in the trap of believing you’ll never make it, or that ‘they’ are keeping you down, but keep going.  It’s worth it.

And no one will care about your race, your gender or your creed … only about your ability to write.

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Sinus headaches aren’t my friends

I know I owe a post but it isn’t going to happen until the head stops pounding so badly I want to chop it off. So here is your chance to give me some ideas about what to write about. I’ll check back in later and, hopefully, feel well enough to post.

Thanks!

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