To dream or to do

Last night I was talking with Sarah via IM and asking what I ought to blog about today. Normally finding a something to blog about isn’t a problem. The problem is usually finding one that isn’t such a hot button topic that we’d be invaded by trolls and an epic flame war would erupt. But the last five weeks have been filled with family issues to deal with, illness and, finally, writing. Lots and lots of writing. My brain is wrapped up in plot twists and turns and thinking in bloggish isn’t what it wanted to do. So, I turned to mentor and friend and twin by another mother, Sarah.

We’d been discussing various magical creatures and whether or not we need a “bible” for the shared world some of us are going to be writing in. The unanimous response is that, yes, we do. Not a true story bible, but at least one with basic world rules in it and then some references to some of the creatures we’ll be using. That, of course, led to a discussion of contract terms. The long and the short of that is, once we agree on the contract, one of us will be posting it here as an example of what we see as a working and fair shared world contract between authors. Even now, we’ve agreed that copy right will rest in the individual author, just as it does with any other optioned novel that isn’t a work for hire. Rights will revert back to the individual author after a set time unless the parties agree to extend the contract, again for a set period of time. If a publisher approaches one of the authors wanting to bring out that book or another in the world by that author, there will be mechanisms in the contract that will allow for that. Reporting of royalties will be quarterly, possibly monthly. That hasn’t really be settled yet. There’s more, as you can imagine, but these will be our individual works, based in a world we share. I’m excited about it and scared because I know I’m the novice in the group. But, scared or not, I’m looking forward to this new project and hope I do the others proud.

When I told Sarah that, I could hear her chuckling even though we were on IM. Then there was the figurative finger snap and she suggested that I write on Writers and Dreaming. I’ll admit, I was non-plussed by what she meant at first. Was she talking about how some writers have their plots come to them in dreams? Or was she talking about how being a writer is a “dream job”? (Pardon me while I laugh hysterically at that. Sorry, but a dream job is one that doesn’t require this much WORK.) Maybe she was talking about dreaming about how your family will finally understand that writing is a job and not something that can be turned on and off just because someone needs a shirt ironed or a sandwich made.

Turns out it was all that and something more. Writers are dreamers. We dream up these wonderful stories in our heads and do our best to get them down on paper — or electrons. We have closets or drawers or thumb drives filled with stories and notes and images that help us visualize our stories as we write them. Most of all we dream of having other people read what we write and like it.

It is that last dream that is so enthralling and so frightening at the same time. Look at how long it takes for most writers to even admit they are — gasp — writers. Many of us still haven’t told family or friends. Why? There are any number of reasons, ranging from fear of someone you care about making fun of your chosen profession to fear of letting a parent or loved one down. Still, we write. We dream those wonderful plots and those intriguing and often times irritating characters become family in their own right.

As writers, we have to ask ourselves if we are writing for ourselves only — and there is nothing wrong with that. I have a lot of things I’ve written that will never see the light of day. Why? Because they are too close to me. They were written to help deal with things that are not meant to be public. Most of us have different coping mechanisms. Mine is to write. So those things are often destroyed after they have served their purpose. No, these aren’t what I call bonfire fodder. These are my coping mechanisms and mine alone. These are my personal demons or others’ and no one else’s. — or writing so others can read our work.

And this is where the ultimate dream for most writers happens. Most of us do want others to read our work. At least that’s what we say. But how many people do any of us know who say they want to write but they don’t know how? Or they sent something off to an agent or publisher and that person didn’t like it and now they won’t send anything else out ever again because it is obvious they aren’t good enough? Then there are those who want to write so others can read their work but they want to be published by a “legitimate” publisher so no way will they pollute their work by self-publishing it or sending it to a small press?

Then there are those writers who, for whatever reason, write but never finish anything. The writers who have reams and reams — or megs and megs — of work stored away, just waiting for the conclusion to be added. These are good stories, maybe even great stories, but incomplete. Why? Is the author just a victim of popcorn kittens or are they afraid of actually finishing something and sending their baby out into the cruel world?

The why doesn’t matter. What does is that we, as writers, have to understand that the publishing world has changed. That means we have so many new and viable avenues available to us, avenues to publication that were not there just a few years ago. Most readers don’t give a flying flip about who your publisher is. Heck, most readers couldn’t name their favorite authors’ publishers on a bet. They have loyalty to the author, not the house (okay, this is a generalization. I don’t want my fellow Baen barflies coming to “remind” me about them. I did say most readers.) Readers want a story that entertains or engages and is well edited and formatted. That’s it. They don’t, on the whole, demand that story come from Random Penguin or MacMillan or Harlequin.

So that means, my fellow writers, you have to decide what you are going to do. Are you going to continue to hang onto the old guard, crying that you won’t publish anything until it comes our from a “real” publisher or are you going to look at what your options really are? Are you going to quit dreaming about being a writer and actually do whatever it takes to bring a quality product to the reading public?

Suffering for your art is over-rated. I don’t know about you, but I like having three squares a day and being able to spend time with my family. I don’t like getting rejection letter after rejection letter because what I’ve just submitted doesn’t fit with what Publisher A is looking for right now or my novel, while well-written and entertaining, just didn’t “speak” to Agent B. I don’t appreciate spending hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours writing a novel and then editing it and only getting a small percentage of the sales price in return. Because I know the book wouldn’t exist but for me and for my work and dreams, I choose to find ways to bring it to the public that rewards me for my hard work, not someone else who may give me a token payment some time down the road.

But the whole point of this is simple: as writers we are dreamers. We have to be. But there comes a point where we have to ask ourselves if we want someone else to read our work and, hopefully, pay to read it. If that is our goal then we have to quit dreaming and take steps to make that dream a reality. We have to persevere, understanding that none of us will get rich overnight. Writing may be our dream but it is also our profession, our job. We have to treat it that way. So, sit butt in chair and write. Then send your work out to your alpha and beta readers. While they are reading it, start on your next project and, at the same time, decide what you are going to do with the finished work once you get it back from your readers. Then follow through. That is the most difficult thing for many of us. But, in order to make our dream come true, we have to.

Quit dreaming and start doing. My TBR stack is getting shorter. I need something else to read. In the meantime, here are some of my titles I’ve kicked out of the nest and sent into the big bad world. Check them out, buy them so my cat and dog will quit nibbling at my ankles 😉

N51t3Z2-LznL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-47,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_octurnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

serenadecoverthumbNocturnal Serenade

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

nocturnal hauntsNocturnal Haunts

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.


    1. I told my youngest (16 years old) the other day that I’m not a writer. When she looked at me for an answer to that I said “I only write when I want to.” A couple of days after that an adult noticed what she was drawing and suggested that she’s an artist. She looked at me and said, “No, according to my Mom’s definition of being a writer, I’m not an artist because I only draw when I want to.”

      The thing is that she had a job to draw a bunch of pictures illustrating yoga poses for small children. She was going to get paid for it (how often does *that* happen) but she never did it. Drawing when she didn’t feel like drawing was too much like work. I figure it’s easy for me to be super supportive and praise her talent and ability and I can even believe that it’s possible to support yourself and make a living as an artist, but it’s got to be treated like a job or it’s not a job. Same with what I do.

      So… long (and self involved) way of saying… yes… a good dose of set hours and serious effort. Treat it like the job it is. I don’t know anyone who makes a serious go of any creative endeavor when they wait around until they feel like it.

  1. Regarding shared world contracts… thoguht about asking Eric Flint & his various co-conspiritors for the 1632 world t&cs?

    1. in fact since I’m one of them I probably have a version somewhere. Probably in a filng cabinet in a disused toilet in the basement behind a sign saying beware of the leopard

      1. There is a difference between this type of contract and ours. I’m assuming Eric built in stuff to protect his world — since it is his world. This world would be shared-created, with each of us holding a different stake in it. I’m going to make my lawyer come up with it. You should hear the nervous breakdown across the net 😉

        1. Maybe find one of the old “Thieves World” contacts as a base. The reason I brought up 1632 was that the contract was typically Baen (i.e. short and sweet). “You can do this, you can’t do that. Sign here. The end.”

          I have to say that in my experience with open source programming and the like, things work better with a benevolent dictator (even if he occasionally calls people perkeleen vittupää).

          1. The contract really wasn’t meant to become the focus of the post. It was really mentioned only as a bridge to show how the conversation went yesterday. I appreciate the suggestions, but knowing what we have planned, I think we’ll rely on our own IP attorney to draw up the contract. That way we can be sure it works for our needs.

            1. I think we’ll rely on our own IP attorney to draw up the contract

              Which should be the take-away from that portion of the post. Have an IP attorney that looks to you for payment when it comes to contract negotiation.

              1. Yep. Even if your agent, if you have one, says the contract is good, it never hurts to have an attorney look at it.

    2. I have a feeling Sarah or Dave may do so. But both have worked with co-authors and in shared worlds before, so they know the dos and don’ts.

  2. I recommend a live in writer. I can play muse and not have to do something I hate, actually writing. That is because i am not a writer and I know it. In a different time I could have been sitting around with a bowl telling people things though

    1. You keep deluding yourself that way, Sanford. There will come a day when you’ll find yourself “writing” something and then wondering why you ever thought you couldn’t do it. . . bwahahahahaha

  3. The most famous case of popcorn kittens in non-fiction remains Fredrick Jackson Turner (PBUH). He wrote and presented what became THE defining article about the history of the US West, one we are still arguing over. He published one book, and his editor said that his tombstone should read, “I got a book from Fredrick Jackson Turner.” Why? Because F.J.T. could not stop digging. His research files would form the basis of a good research library, and probably a dozen books easily. But he never got around to writing. He never thought he had enough material, and kept digging, or would find something neat and hare off after it. And I suspect, given the knots he turned himself into over the title of a potential book, he didn’t want to release anything but the perfect book. And we all know how that ends.

    1. Oh those dusty trails we’ll ride down in the name of research. I think many of us are guilty of haring off after some obscure bit of research and then finding something else and then something else until we almost forget what we were first looking for. I know that’s happened to me more than once. Then we have our own Sarah who has often bought multiple copies of research books because she forgot she’d already bought it, at least once, before. (Runs to avoid the fish being thrown at her)

  4. Dreaming…more real than possibly you know.
    I find myself half-awake, letting my subconscious roam. Unlike dreams, though, I can remember much of it when I finally grab that first cup of coffee. Jot the essential down and wait a while before doing more. But a number of plot devices have suggested themselves in that half-dream state!

  5. “Look at how long it takes for most writers to even admit they are — gasp — writers. Many of us still haven’t told family or friends.”

    This really struck me. I’ve told no one who actually ‘knows’ me that I’m trying to write. But I’m okay sharing this knowledge with perfect strangers. As with publishing, the information age has made these sorts of connections so much easier, although perhaps less rewarding.

    To learn that some of you who have actually published (no matter the mechanism) still face that issue is both comforting and discomforting 🙂

    Also Sarah mentioning in a past entry that “I suck” is universal to almost all writers really made me sit up and take notice.

    Thanks all,

    (crossing fingers this isn’t a double entry after a odd wordpress error)

    1. Scott, welcome to my world. I don’t know what it is about telling family and friends that you are a writer that is so scary. But it is. It is also something we all deal with differently. Good luck and keep writing.

  6. I’ve mentioned it to a lot of my family members over the last few years since I left the military and decided to become a professional writer. I’m not sure how many of them will actually believe me until I can present them with a dead-tree copy of something with my name on it. Soon, I hope. A further hope is that they don’t just shift to asking about getting a Real Job. /shrug

    I’m working on actually acting like a professional, too. That’s proving to be harder. Getting a clue to my rhythms of writing. Do I write best in the morning, or afternoon? Evenings are generally out – for now – as Mrs. Dave likes to have my attention when she’s home from work. Eating regular meals seems to help, as not doing so leaves me feeling attenuated and grouchy, which makes for rough going when it comes to wording. Regular exercise helps, as well. And normal amounts of sleep. But all of that’s just a framework. Without the butt-in-chair time to go with it, it’s just spinning of wheels.

    So that’s what I’m working on now, and the Pomodoro Technique seems to be helping. I can sit and write for an entire day (assuming I have it), but there ends up being a lot of staring-into-space that happens, and not in a particularly useful way, such as when I’m world-building or working on character backgrounds. With the little timer ticking away (I like the one on my phone, as it doesn’t make noise until the end) I feel like I have an easily reached destination. Also, I’m racing that little clock. It’s kind of exciting. And word-counts are going up. Some day I may actually hold my average performance up to people like Sarah and Larry and not feel like I need a dozen extra hours each day for the words-making.

    1. The hardest part – for me – was dealing with the ‘real job’ thing. I think I worked exceptionally hard to get results to prove it damned well was a ‘realjob’. Years later i realize no one believes you, bar those who actually have done it or see you slogging. I am one of the lucky folk who can get by on a few hours sleep, so I pushed up my number of hours a lot, by starting early -4 AM, and pushed my word-count by setting daily and monthly targets.

      1. Oh, we won’t even go to the “real job” thing, Dave. That is one of the main reasons I still haven’t told certain members of my family that I write, much less that I’m a writer. These are the folks who don’t understand someone can work without going to an office at least five days a week. They don’t get that you can work as hard, or harder, sitting at your desk in some corner of your house, working on your computer for hours each day trying to write the best book you can. To them, that’s just telling stories, not working. Sigh.

        1. My immediate response is, “I can get paid for ‘just writing stories,’ so why not do that instead of an office job that I hate with a commute that makes me violent?” The logic seems inescapable, but maybe that’s just me.

        2. “Just telling stories” is a goal worth aspiring to, in my eyes. Could be a function of how I grew up, though- ‘telling stories’ was what we all did. Telling a good story out loud can lead to a good story on paper- that’s how I used to judge whether the writing I did for classes was any good or not. If it couldn’t read well out loud, it got canned.

          Getting the “real job” fish thrown at you can hurt, especially from people you actually care about. Then again, that morning commute can be a painful thing, too. *grin* There’s things like that in any job (in most any part of life worth living, too), and if the minuses start to outweigh the plusess, you cash in your chips and go.

    2. I’ve been using the Pomodoro for the day job after I read about it here or at Sarah’s blog. It keeps me from checking my email when my brain wants to detour. Knowing that the timer will go, I don’t even look at the clock on my computer. It’s very freeing.

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