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>Who ate all the pies?

by Dave Freer

>To quote from the article Amanda mentioned yesterday…

‘Turow began with authors’ fears about piracy and lower income: 25% of net in “e” is less than a traditional 15% royalty. Newberg made her first point: “What are publishers doing to justify not giving authors 50%[*note]?”

Miller countered that “terms differ from publisher to publisher”. Newberg shot back, “some terms are much better than others and we’ll have to go public and some of you will look bad”.’

Now, expressly stating that I am not implying in any way the people reported are paedophiles or anything like that… but am I alone in having the vile little image of some creepy individual saying ‘It has to be our little secret. If I tell anyone you’ll be in _trouble_.’?


Let’s just clarify something: there is NO ADVANTAGE that I can see for writers _or_ readers in secrecy about what writers earn or royalty percentages or numbers sold. It all needs daylight, openness and not threats and secrecy. It’s NOT 15% – that’s BEST rate offered on hardbacks – Most midlisters won’t see that and few NYT best-sellers will average that.

Here are typical rates: newbie paperback 6% of cover price (up 100 000 copies hahahahaaaaa, and then increasing 8%) (and 4000-6000 copies would be what you might sell, unless there had for some reason been a mighty large laydown, with a lot of copies in a lot of stores. This is not something that the writer has any control over. In 1970, apparently that figure would have been… about 40 000 copies. Yes. Newbie income has been decimated.)

midlist PB 8%

Hardbacks start 10% for first 5K, 12.5% 5-10K, 15% 10K+. And 17K can see you on the NYT best-seller list.

Yes, some authors do sell a LOT of books. But the reality is that’s only 5%… of the best-sellers – or perhaps 0.5% of the authors not in small press. Include small press and you can make that 0.001%

I’m a great believer in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiment. Society’s mirror – which lets other people see our conduct and pass approval (which is sweet to us) or disapproval (which makes us, a social animal, uncomfortable) – works. We also base our valuation of people to society on how much they are approved of. With society becoming larger and more amorphous this is often measured by the rewards that society gives to individuals (one of the reasons for the display of wealth and symbols thereof). Given the above, can anyone tell this dumb bunny here why secrecy might be of any benefit to either authors or readers?

If we love and respect an author we are pleased if they are well rewarded. I certainly don’t have a problem hearing that Terry Pratchett is rich. I am, au contraire, delighted.
Or perhaps it fulfils a need to pretend that we’re approved of — whereas if society knew we were earning $4000 as an advance (quite typical for a newbie) for a book that took us a year to write, well, that says society doesn’t value us much. Perhaps if you’re into self-deception this works for you. I really don’t think this is a major reason OR reflects in any real way what society thinks the author is worth.
So what does that leave? Well, I suppose authors who are overpaid (and yes, they exist – industry darlings who get enormous advances they never get near to earning) wouldn’t like it much, and neither would those who overpaid them. But, pardon my insensitivity, I (and 99.9% of readers and authors) really couldn’t give a toss about their inadequacy being exposed. I fail to see why it benefits the rest of the authors or readers.
The only other reason I can see is that if it was public knowledge, the next publisher would have no incentive to offer a better deal. On the other hand if everyone’s deals and sales numbers were public knowledge… well, that becomes irrelevant.
Of course I am avoiding mentioning the three elephants in the room. Because they like to stomp authors who hold ‘our little secret’ up to society’s mirror.

I’ve just got the bill for my 3 cats and 3 dogs month in quarantine – $7000. – 6 animals one month – average it out about $35 a day…

Which when I look at the $7500 advance that I will get for the current book (I contracted this a while ago and I am a co-author and only getting a share of the money. My advances now are higher, but still around 50 cents a copy I sell (Hardcover+pb + e-sales I find the final figure averages around $1 per copy sold – and that’s because I get a reasonable e %. People do worse) And I always earn – and Baen pay – royalties) and the time it has taken me to write it (which is long for me, but normal for many) … that’s $35 a day. Based on the previous books this will sell, eventually, about 30-35 000 copies, and I will earn a little extra. But for now… that’s it.
Or if I take my yearly income and divide it by hours worked $6.00-$9.00 an hour. I earn enough to scrape along on by working a LOT of hours.

So there we are, society.

For this book this author is worth the same as dog-kennelling for one by that measure. Or about 5 paperbacks (in the US), or 1.3 hardbacks a day.

Is this realistic?

Does something have to re-adjust? Is it the amount books cost, the amount e-books will sell for, the transparency of the system, or…

Is this what we value our authors at? 6% of cover price? (because they also have expenses, like… dogfood. You can’t say that is all profit, any more than the other 94% is all profit) What do we value the rest of the process at? Given the distribution of the money, what can be cut? More of that 6%?

Are we prepared to have very, very few full time authors and the rest with second jobs or supported by partners (which both are not good for my writing, to be blunt)?

Do we want new authors fed into the system? (Because that costs, and will need to be subsidised by something. Or we have to be prepared to place near zero value on them.)

Do we readers want to choose what we like and that to finally decide what becomes a best-seller, rather than have someone who takes marketing and distribution decisions decide what we might like and can be allowed to choose from?

What do you think?

Who ate all the pies?

[* 50% in this case refers to of the publisher’s net. Which translates 50% of the profit after the publisher takes their costs and expenses out. The author does not get 50% of the net. His gross is 50% of the publisher’s free and clear pure profit – out of which he has to pay his agent, taxes, expenses. What’s left (if anything) is his share of the profit. If you want real 50% then the author would have to add his expenses in too, and the remainder would be equally split. Oddly, I don’t think this will happen ;-)]

>The Inmates are Obviously Running the Asylum

>(Before I get to today’s post, I want to take a moment to thank all the men and women who have given their lives in the service of their country. Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the U.S. I tip my hat and offer my sincerest thanks and prayers to those who have served, those who are currently serving and to their families and loved ones. Thank you.)

Anyone who has a Kindle, or who has been following the never-ending saga of the Agency Model proposed by certain publishers, knows that Amazon and Penguin Books have finally come to an agreement. The terms of this agreement haven’t been released. All we know for sure is that Penguin books published since April 1st are finally appearing in the Kindle store. Oh, we know one more thing — a number of these books have prices that aren’t just surprising, they are absolutely unbelievable.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is now available as an e-book. Now, my first question about this is that it is advertised as the “Centennial Ed. HC) edition. Well, last time I looked, a book on the kindle was made up of nothing but a bunch of electrons and was not — could not — be hard cover. But it gets worse. The Kindle version is listed at $27.99. Yes, that’s right, $27.99. Now, I have to wonder what Penguin Publishing was thinking when they set this price since the school & library binding version is $14.88, the tpb is $15.82, mmp is $9.99, the audio version is $23.07.

Okay, maybe this is just a fluke and Penguin hasn’t completely lost its corporate mind. So let’s look at some others. The Help by Kathryn Stockett has been out for almost a year and a half. That means it is out in paperback at $10.20. The Kindle version — $12.99. According to Kindle Nation Daily, this is $3.00 more than it had been offered in the Kindle store prior to the Agency Model blowup. (Check out the KND post. It has a lot of good information not only about the possibility Penguin is giving Apple preferential pricing but also how we, as consumers, can let our voices be heard.)

Jim Butcher’s Changes, which is offered as a hard cover at $10.95 by Amazon is being sold as an e-book by Penguin for $12.99. This is $3.00 more than the paperback price announced for the same book. (In fairness, I’ll note here that the pb won’t be out until next year.)

One more example: Sue Grafton’s U is for Undertow has been out since December. I can buy the hard cover from Amazon for $18.45 — less than that if I buy from one of the Amazon associates and not Amazon itself. Yet, if I want the Kindle version, I’ll have to pay $14.99. This is almost twice as much as they will be selling the pb version when it comes out later this year.

To be fair, this oddity in pricing isn’t reflected in every Kindle book being released by Penguin. Sarah’s No Will But His is listed at $9.99 for the Kindle and the tpb is being sold for $10.20. That is reasonable for an e-book being released at the same time (relatively speaking) as the tpb or hard cover.

If you think Penguin is only trying to slow down the sale of e-books, think again. In my opinion, to kill those sales, check out this article. Penguin’s David Shanks says this about e-books: “more than 90%” of the business was still in paper. “We need to protect as long as we can the apparatus that sells physical books.” While I agree that we need to promote bookstores and find a way to let them remain in business — especially the independents — you can’t put the genie of e-books back into bottle, no matter what the publishers want.

To me, this paragraph sums it all up: In the end, while Prichard spoke of ours being “one of the most exciting times,” Galassi [Jonathan Galassi from Farrar, Straus and Giroux] spoke of it being a “scary time”.

Unfortunately, it is scary for all of us, and for authors in particular, because of the way publishers are burying their heads in the sand and, on the whole, refusing to adapt to new demands and desires from their readers, new technology and changing times.

So, what is your tipping point on prices for e-books. How much will you pay and why?

>Why I Write (or not) — by Tedd Roberts

>(Let’s give a big welcome to our guest blogger, Tedd Roberts. After reading his post, tell us why you write. What drives you and how do you balance it with the rest of real life? — Amanda)

I read my first SF book nearly 45 years ago. At the grand age of 6 I had a book I dearly loved, entitled “Our Sun.” For a grade-schooler it was fairly typical, large dimensions, nice pictures, not too many pages. However, for a first grader it was unusual. There were a lot of *words* on those pages, and was well beyond Early Reader quality. You may have guessed that it wasn’t *meant* to be science fiction, but it was science, and so much of what was in it was speculation of what we would find when humans ventured to those other mysterious planets in our solar system, that it fired my imagination in much the same way as SF.

Over the years I read voraciously, to the point of having read *all* of the SF books in the school libraries and got first dibs on new books even before the librarian had a chance to check them out. [“Time Enough for Love” and “I Will Fear No Evil” *must* be okay for kids because Heinlein wrote all those nice juveniles!] At college I loved the fact that the campus bookstores had great SF paperback selections.

From an early age I just *knew* that I could write those stories. Just ask my parents and sister – they’ll tell you how I tried! Then, just over 10 years ago I found myself recuperating from a near fatal illness. I spent 6 months in a hospital bed, and found that I had time to write (and the combination of medications and disrupted sleep schedules provided such vivid dreams on which to base my stories). During that time and over the next few years as I tried to find ways to occupy my mind during long-distance travel, I wrote well over 100,000 words toward novels. Yes, plural. I should have finished at least *one* Great American SF Novel if only I had been writing just one. Alas I was trying to write three totally disconnected novels, and was less than halfway done with each one.

Fast forward the rest of the ten years and I have since refined my style and better learned how to approach writing. Right now it’s mostly short stories, and I am building up at least one novel-length story as a series of shorts. I’ve scrapped most of what I wrote in the early days but have kept the outlines. They still are demanding that I write them, it’s just that I’ve changed my approach to the plot as I’ve studied and practiced my writing.

But at the same time I’ve learned another important thing about my own writing mode: how – and when – not to write. You see, I’m a scientist, a research and academic professional, for whom scientific writing is my career. Unlike Isaac Asimov or Carl Sagan I can’t dash off 100 books of nonfiction and expect people to actually buy them. My field isn’t like that, and I don’t have the Asimov/Sagan arrogance of considering myself an expert in everything. Also unlike the scientists portrayed in the novels of “Doc” Travis Taylor or Dr. Gregory Benford, I can’t cogitate on a problem for a few days, then sit down and write a 50 page paper in half as many hours and send it off to Science or Nature and expect it to be published as-is. Nor am I near retirement like Dirk Wyle, the Pharmacology Professor-turned-author who began writing mysteries as his academic duties wound down.

Scientific writing is a painstaking process. In my field it consists of about 1-2 years of data collection, then a three month process of analysis, preparation of graphs and figures, writing, editing, revising the figures, re-running the analyses, rewriting the text, then finally submission – usually late on a Friday when I had been *certain* the manuscript was complete the previous Monday. After about a month in review, the editorial and peer comments come back, and the whole process of editing and revision starts over, usually taking another month. Since professors are expected to publish 3-5 articles a year, that means there’s another article or two in preparation at the same time and it’s a never ending process.

But the real problem is the mindset. Scientific papers require a detail-oriented approach. Facts, measurements, statistics. The language is stilted, passive and formulaic. Contrast this with writing scientific grant proposals. Proposals require the same facts, but the approach is one of persuasion. As a proposer I must convince my peers that not only do I understand all of the known facts, but that only *I* have the means to discover the (appropriate) new facts.

A totally different mindset is required for review. Sooner or later my penance for being a published scientist or funded researcher is to participate in peer review. Whether manuscript or grant proposal review, the reviewer has to put themselves simultaneously into the roles of reader and author, understand the facts, find the flaws, and most importantly: provide coherent feedback so that the editor/funding agency can make a decision, and so that the author/proposer can revise if appropriate. There are certainly many scientific authors who are poor reviewers, just as there are poor authors who are excellent reviewers. It is a different approach to writing even if the topics are the same.

So, for a scientific professional that wants to be a fiction author, there has to be a mental switch. As a reader I do *not* want a physiology dissertation in my fiction, and while a certain amount of persuasion or critique are valuable, I want my fiction to entertain. On the other hand, there are purists in the scientific publishing world that insist that *any* infringement by popular or colloquial style is unscientific, and has no place in professional publications. For an author/proposer/reviewer, it is even more imperative to separate the different mindsets. For me, I have to have a switch that says “*now* is the time to write that story.” Furthermore, as long as that switch is set, I *cannot* work on any of my professional scientific writing, and I cannot let go of my story idea until I get all or most of it down in a way that captures the essence of my inspiration. It is why I have recently concentrated on short stories, blogs and popular science essays. For when that switch is set to fiction or popular mode, I *have* to finish what I am writing before I switch back. Each story costs me a couple of days, and I write from about noon to about 2-3 AM until I am finished.

As I gain skill I suppose I will learn to write chapters and scenes while the switch is in Fiction mode, and come back to write the next one a few weeks later when I can afford to set aside the scientist for a day or so. The only problem with doing so now is that unless I am fully in fiction mode, the scientific author in me wants to go back and keep revising the prior chapters even though the novel is not finished.

It is past midnight as I write this. The concepts I am writing about have been nagging me for two days until I could no longer resist, and the mental switch was set to Blog mode. Now that I am nearly done, I feel the mindset reverting back to Scientist mode much like a scholarly Dr. Jekyll to my literary Mr. Hyde. Until researchers such as myself perfect a direct brain-to-machine linkage to get these stories quickly out of daydream and into print, I will continue to keep my different modes of writing separate, lest I find myself submitting short stories to Nature, and scientific papers to Analog.

>Beyond the End (The Other Side)


What lies on the Other Side?
Does this question conjure up creepy images of the afterlife? The shadowy realms that border graveyards? OK, ignore me, its my horror frame of mind at the moment as I contemplate a Brisbane ghost story.
What I really had in mind was probably something equally horrific – well at least for me. And that is what lies on the Other Side of my last work in progress.
I usually conceive the story before I start. I might fill in gaps as I go, and everything certainly comes alive, but by the time I am steaming toward the end I am picking up some appreciable pace. By the time I write to the end (I’m talking first draft here, not all the other thousand times I rewrite it) I am sometimes so pumped that I can hardly sit in the chair. I guess I’m a finisher – which probably explains the trouble I have with beginnings. Or starting something.
Once I’ve finished a project, I have a pretty massive creative crash. Going from that level of immersion into a new project is tough for me. I know this is the absolute opposite of many others, but facing the first, blank page of a new world is like sitting on the floor after harakiri contemplating my entrails in a state of mortal agony. OK. Might be getting a little dramatic. I guess you probably realise I am there right now. Related to this is my problem of holding onto things way longer than I really should.
Don’t get me wrong, starts are exciting as well. Its fun being able to leap conceptually in any number of directions and give birth to something completely new.
So how do you face The Other Side? The period of completion after your creative project? Do you jump for joy, light up a cigarette and crack a bottle of champagne? Do you crash mentally and emotionally? Do you breath a sigh of relief and reach excitedly for the parchment?
What is the Other Side like for you?


>Or: why I quit facebook and don’t tweet.

A couple of weeks back I deleted my facebook account. I don’t miss it. I hardly ever used it, and each new “update” just made the web page more painful. Besides, I really don’t like the “all your data are belong to us” attitude betrayed by the steadily less private privacy controls.

Which brings up a question: we writing types tend not to be social butterflies. We’re not going to write a novel in tweets or facebook updates. Heck, most of us won’t write one in blog posts (and we won’t mention my collection of dust-gathering blogs…). Where that gets fun is the ever-increasing requirement of publishers that their authors do their own publicity.

That’s not the question. The question is this: in a massively networked future society, what happens to the introverts who don’t want to be networked every which way? While there’s always been an element of “who you know” to success, it’s been possible to slip past that gateway and do well anyway, whether by luck, competence, or some other factor. When it’s all networked together and your network is what determines if you can be trusted with anything from a McJob (if they still exist) up, what happens to the person who doesn’t have and doesn’t want a network?

It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? For me it comes down to the question of whether the future that seems to be approaching at speed is one where I have a place. And that’s before you consider the question of control – which is a minefield all by itself.

I like instant messaging because I can control who I see and who sees me. I’m not splatting something to the entire world. If I make a blog post, I know beforehand it’s going out to the whole wide world (or the portion of it that’s interested in what I write, which is a rather smaller group). I like knowing which is what, and having control over how much of it random strangers can reach. Or maybe that’s just illusory – but the issue of virii and hacking is a different one again.

Is this a writer thing, or is it a geek thing? (Geeks will often choose to have more control even if it means more complexity, where the general population tends to go for simplicity at the expense of control). Or is it an introvert versus extrovert – or, just possibly, a Kate-weird thing?

What do you think? What do you want out of the facebooks and the twitters and whatever replaces them?

>Wrestling with an angel

No, I’m not trying out titles for the latest WWF-romance (Shut up you, if Amish-romances are all the rage, you can too have WWF romances as a sub-genre) and I’m only referring to Jacob’s fight with an angel in an allegorical sort of way.

What I’m talking about here is trying to “close” a novel. Oh, I know Dave and I have both talked about the point when everything magically comes together and you just coast to the end. You hit this point where you’re in a special frame of mind and a particular “state of grace” and you just seem to coast through the hard stuff. I’ve heard of painters and musicians describing this state, too. It’s like your subconscious has been doing all the hard work, and suddenly it all meets and is perfect.

Only sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes – and this is usually when the novel, for whatever reason is important to you, or significant in some way – you struggle right up to the end. And I end up locked with it, in single combat, feeling like either I finish it or it will finish me.

And when this happens – Gentleman Takes A Chance; Heart and Soul; Darkship Thieves – I am always terrified I’m doing something mortally wrong. So, in addition to the novel itself, I’m wrestling with my fears and my lack of understanding of my own writing.

I am starting to believe that this effect, which seems to grow strong with each of my last five novels is the result of my refusal to compromise.

You know what I mean. To bring the novel to the paper, you compromise a little. You give here, you pull there and you say “Yes, yes, a scene with a cast of thousands and a hundred elephants would be nice, but damned if I know how to write it, so I’ll do the guy and his friend and they just TALK about the elephants and the crowds.” I’ve done this for years. Only suddenly, it’s not enough. I want the noise and surge of the crowds – metaphorically speaking – the heat of the day, the smell of unwashed bodies, the plop of the elephants’… Well, you get what I mean.

So – what should I do? Is it worth wrestling with the angel, even if you know in the end a part of you is going to be lost to this book, a part of you injured or captive in the text? Or should I let it go and learn the art of the possible? Do you ever finish books and feel like it flinched off what should be a “drag me kicking and screaming” ending? Or do you feel that the ends should just tie lose ends and sort of let you down easy?

The question, my friends, is do you want the end to come at the climax, like a clap of thunder and a clash of cymbals? Or leisurely and quietly like an apres-l’amour cigarette? Are there endings you prefer for a certain type of book? Why?

Let me know what you think. I’ll be right here, wrestling with an angel.

>The Core of Characterisation — by Rowena Cory Daniells

>(Rowena is away from her computer, but she left this for us. Enjoy!)
It always comes back to characterisation, for me. Whether it is a movie or a book, I have to care about the people, otherwise why would I keep reading/watching? If a book is really memorable, I find myself thinking about the characters for days afterwards.

I’ve always loved the artwork of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and when the British TV series came out, I looked forward to watching it with some reservations. I loved it.

It wasn’t historically accurate, but this didn’t worry me because I think it distilled the passion and the excitement of being involved in an art movement. Having lived as a starving artist in Melbourne, I can relate to this.

Instead of staid, stiff Victorians, the brotherhood came alive as young men, their lives full of passion, rivalry and self doubt. Characterisation again!

The web contains lots of useful tips on writing craft, here’s an article on characterisation that covers the nuts and bolts. Top 10 Questions for Creating Believable Characters, by Ginny Wiehardt.

Richard Harland has written 145 pages on the craft of writing with a whole section on characterisation.

And here, from the Writing Room, there’s an article on How to Write Great Characters.

What made the TV series about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood come to life for me was their character flaws. They were whole people. They made mistakes, they embarrassed themselves, they cared passionately, they failed to see through things and they tried to repair mistakes – they were human.

Whenever I run a workshop on characterisation I cover all the usual things. Then I ask the attendees to come up with two words to describe their character. The words have to be conflicting. So we end up with a Cynical-Romantic, or a Faithless-Priest. Once you distill your character into two conflicting words, you have the core of their inner conflict.

And just to show how important characterisation is:

Have you seen any movies or read any books recently, where the characters lived on for you afterwards?

>There’s a whole world in my reader’s mind

>Reading is a form of enchantment.

Perfectly simple really. It is a kind of magic transmuting by means of little black glyphs a bland piece of paper into an entire world, a place so full and rich and with such images in it, that they are REAL (at least while the spell holds).

And yet… we writers are fairly inept magicians. Our attempts at turning people into newts almost inevitably end up with them getting better (even those who were rather newt-like to start with, tend to return to this state.) While this has undoubtably saved a large number of politicians, bank managers and people who were unfortunate enough sign rejection letters from a life of swimming around in small muddy brooks avoiding herons, it does bring one back to the question of just how reading enchantment is done.

And the answer is not so much by what is written by the author as by what is already in the head of the reader. The writer does not so much put the wonderful world there as to allow the reader’s imagination and background to paint a picture so rich and detailed it would take a thousand volumes to describe. It can work for backgrounds, it can work actual things happening. Actually that’s what put me in mind of writing this piece – I wrote a bit in my Flinders Island blog about a suicidal tree-frog ( )
in which I sort of hinted at the possibility of a heavy sofa being dropped on my head. I didn’t actually say it was (it wasn’t) but the image was conjured… by what was left _unsaid_. Matapam made a comment on what she’d imagined, and I thought that I must actually talk about this.

Tolkein was probably the grandmaster of this. Here is a piece from his “On Fairy stories” – which in its original form was a lecture Tolkein gave at St Andrews University as his Andrew Lang Lecture explaining how the reader (hearer) ‘saw’ that magic. “If a story says ‘he climbed a hill and saw a river in the valley below’ the illustrator may catch or nearly catch, his own vision of such a scene, but every hearer will have his own picture, and it will be made of all the hills and rivers and dales he has ever seen, but especially of The Hill, The River, The Valley which were for him the first embodiment of the word.”

Look, cinematography has come a long way. There really is no need for those poorly lit scenes where you don’t quite know what is happening, you just catch glimpses of it. Hell, there is more of that now than in 1950 movies. You think that’s because directors are all plonkers? (well, okay… incompetant then). No. It’s because they have learned to hack into what Tolkein writes about there. They’ve learned they can NEVER give an actual, precise image which is MORE real, MORE convincing, and nearly as ‘wide’ as the one you conjure in your imagination… given the cues.

And, dear writer, is the true magic-working of the writer. Not showing the pictures but shaping the reader’s imagination to show the pictures. Filling in the pieces of framework, often very precisely, so that the image the reader creates in his or her imagination fits the story. Any fool can describe something precisely. And a fair number of people can come up with colorful language usage to do so… but to take the reader into that magical world, you have to frame and direct the reader’s imagination to release it.

The trick is running the fine line between too much and too little. And often little cues like the choice of diction can have disproportionately large impacts.
So who does it well? And had you actually realised it was being done?

>It’s Your Turn

>I’m a bit under the weather today, folks, so I’m going to throw open the blog. You can ask a question or post the first sentence or paragraph of a work in progress (but no more than the first paragraph, well, first two paragraphs). The floor is yours. I’ll be checking back in every couple of hours to comment. Have fun and remember this piece of advice — if you have sinus and allergy problems, Dallas is the Spring is not the place to be unless you like living on benadryl.

Edit: Here are a couple of topics I’ll throw out:

  • Should you be able to download the e-book of a novel for free if you’ve already bought the hardcover of the book? How would you prove purchase?
  • What is the deciding factor for you in reading a new author?

>Getting it Done

>Laura Anne Gilman started her professional life as a book editor for a major NYC house, fitting her writing into the remaining available hours. In 2004 she switched that around, becoming a full-time writer and (in 2010) a freelance editor for Carina Press.

She wrote her first original novel, Staying Dead, when everyone said that urban fantasy was dead. She recently sold the 10th, 11th and 12th in the Cosa Nostradamus series to Luna. Contrary as always, in 2008 she wrote The Vineart War, an alternate-historical fantasy, when everyone was looking for urban fantasy, and sold it to Pocket, where it became a 2009 Nebula nominee for best novel. She thinks being contrary’s a pretty good way to run a career.

Find out more at or follow her on Twitter: @LAGilman

Getting it Done.

There’s nothing quite like reading over your WiP and realizing that the opening segment does not exactly lead off from where you left your characters heading When Last Seen in the previous book. Fortunately I was only a few degrees off, so was able to massage things into line with a minimum of cursing and self-loathing.

But I’m not here to talk about that.

I should, I suppose. I could talk about what I did and why, and explain how this is all Totally Normal, but I find myself strangely disinclined to do so. I’m worried, I think, that someone will read it and say “oh, that’s not how I do it, I must be doing it wrong” [You may be thinking “oh my god she’s doing it wrong, she’s an idiot,” but I don’t worry so much about that.]

Part of this hesitation comes from discussions during the break periods of Word War, the on-line writing workspace I belong to. We have a mixed bag of folk – some multi-published, some just starting out, some in-between, and what comes up a lot is “oh, but how do YOU (a pro) do it?” and its illicit partner “oh, but it’s DIFFERENT for you, you’re published, I’m not.” And I cringe each time a variant of those questions/responses is trotted out, because Process is internal, not external, and nobody’s brain works like mine/yours/his/hers, so nobody’s process should be exactly the same, either and —

and I’m going to set this apart because I think it’s really important —

When a writer starts a new project, nothing that came before matters.

Pro, amateur, hobbyist or die-trying newbie, we all sit there and face the same questions: “how do I do this? How do I tell this story to the best of my abilities, and dear dog, what if nobody likes it?”

The trick isn’t to be perfect. The trick is to get past not being perfect and get it done.

The only how-to advice I ever give would-be writers is the classic “AiC” — put your Ass in the Chair and start writing.

Everything after that? You’ve got to discover it for yourself.

Someone who has written-to-completion before has (hopefully) learned a few coping skills, some tricks and shortcuts that get them to the desired point with less hesitation…but they picked up new doubts and confusions along the way, because it’s all a learning curve, right up to when we cover the keyboard that final time. And, each and every time, we make a new (and hopefully more interesting) mistake.

Different brains, different mistakes…different solutions and different results. And that’s good. That’s what creates all the different writers, and all the different stories.

So if you’re reading the blog or the Twitter or the essay by Famous Writer Dude and think “oh god, that’s not me, I’m never going to make it” or “I never thought of that, why didn’t I think of that” in a negative, despairing way — STOP. What works for you is what works.

Or, as I have in the sidebar of my journal, where I see it every day:

You sit down. You tell a story. You do it any damn way it comes out that works consistently for you. You hope people like it. You hope people pay you for it. You do it again. And again. That’s all I got. Zen and the Art of Writer Maintenance. You can cheer me on and I can cheer you on, but in the end? In the end it’s down to how you get your getting done, done. So get it done.

So how do you get it done?