What would you like to see?

With a New Year now on us, and with most of the Mad Ones still trying to dig out from under last year’s obligations, this is a pretty good time to ask you what topics you’d like to see us discuss in the upcoming year. So, we’re throwing the door open and the microphone has been turned on. Speak clearly — well, at least try not to let auto-correct do too much damage to what you meant to type, and give us some ideas for the blog. We’ll be back tomorrow with Cedar’s post and then back on track starting next week.



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45 responses to “What would you like to see?

  1. Jim McCoy

    First off, I’d like to say that the recent posts about the mechanics of how to make an e-book out of a finished manuscript have been freaking awesome. The problem is that I can’t say that, because they’ve actually be more like awesometacular (which is even better) or something…

    What I’d like to see more of is marketing tips. Once I’ve written the thing, converted it and uploaded it, how do I get the thing noticed? Being a first time writer with no following can make things pretty rough if I go self-pub and I’m not so sure it would be much easier if I get published by most houses. Some help with that would be terrific. Keep up the good work guys!

    • Seconded. I know I want to avoid the “turn the volume up to 11” approach, and the whiny, wheedling “buy my book because I’m broke” approach, because i know how much they turn me off, but I don’t know what to do that will get results.

    • Bob


      Buy my book. It slices and dices and gets into all the hard-to-reach places, cures baldness, rheumatism and the warts. Puts a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It’ll solve all your problems just like The Secret only better, and if you don’t then all the cool kids’ll laugh at you.

    • This is a good idea. And it’s a topic that changes constantly, so we should revisit it from time to time anyway.

    • Angus Trim

      I fourth it.

      I let my obsession for writing run, and find I’ve finished seven novels by the end of the year, with an eighth well on the way. And none of them are published. It does feel like I’ve accomplished something, having written 420k words, but “finishing” needs to be done now. Two are nearly ready to “go up”, the two articles on formatting were really timely for me.

      Thank you very much.

      • Laura M

        Angus, given the numbers you’ve got you might be a good candidate for this technique: http://www.hughhowey.com/the-liliana-nirvana-technique/

        • Angus Trim

          Thank you

          That looks very interesting, and since I actually have two in the hole, and one right behind it, this could be fun.

          Thanks a lot.

      • Bob


        Dude, you’re a god.

        Can I like, bottle you or turn you into some pills?

        Or more seriously, write an ninth book: a how-to.

        • Angus Trim

          Oh, it won’t take a book. A couple of paragraphs maybe…..

          Start out, don’t have a life.

          For me, beyond that it was work for a writing group where the writer’s manager changes his mind weekly, and your work gets thrown out without being looked at.

          Stick with it, develop more writing discipline and eventually a little bit gets through………

          After things collapse, decide to continue writing. Write the first novel with the idea of going the trad route. Learn hard way about agents and gatekeepers.

          Look at age and decide you don’t want to wait several years. Did I mention, don’t have a life?

          Then dive in. I go into a week intending to write four hours a night {I work full time}, and a full day on Sunday. My bottom line is twenty hours a week, and I usually get that.

          I did mention, don’t a life, right? Your life is your writing. Besides, the Korean lasses you used to spend your time with just want to help you spend your money anyways…..

          After a year you suddenly realize that you’ve read a couple of writer’s blogs, and hopefully learned something. You have seven novels written, but nothing published, except as a co-author from your writing group days. The only thing that was good for in retrospect, is developing the writing habit.

          Biggest key though is not to have a life……

          • Bob

            I hear and obey, sensei! Consider me unlifed!

          • Laura M

            What’s your genre?

            • Angus Trim

              In the old days, the first five would be considered an heroic fantasy. The sixth would be the beginning of an urban fantasy series. The seventh the beginning of a historic fantasy. The eighth {one I’m writing now}, back to the urban fantasy.

              • Laura M

                I asked because one of the things I wished I had understood better with my first books was the relationship between tags and rankings in subgenres. I was hoping your books were science fiction, because I know some of those tags. The point I’m meandering toward is that if you tag your book properly, when you sell even just a handful, you can get a ranking in the top 100 of one of these sub-genres.

                For example, I didn’t figure out that colonization was a subgenre in SF until a couple of months in. You can put yourself in that category by putting the word colonization in your tags. I have a tag for “orbital debris,” because I hope to catch people who just watched Gravity and can’t get enough of things hitting each other in orbit, but that isn’t a thing in Amazon’s rankings, so it does me no good. However, if you have starship troopers, you want to tag your book with “space marine.” Then if you sell 8 books in a day, you might show up in the top 25 for that subgenre. Amazon doesn’t have Human Wave on its list, but I use it as a tag because goodness.

                Fantasy has to have its equivalents. When I go to the Amazon search bar, and plug in “fantasy” under “books” I see that there is “Paranormal and Urban,” “Dark,” and a bunch of others, including “Epic.” Don’t forget these tags, because they will help your rankings and thus your visibility, especially if you go the Liliana Nirvana route. If you already know all this, my apologies for droning on, but I did a lot of reading, and still didn’t get this aspect until a couple of months in.

                You do know that you have to report back on your progress when you start publishing, right?

                • Angus Trim

                  I think one might want to be careful with the tags. The first series could possibly cross genres, and I’m not sure that would be a good thing. It takes place in a future three hundred plus years after our current civilization crashes. After the population drops to less than five percent of the current levels.

                  But I feel more comfortable calling it a “heroic fantasy”, or a “swords and boots” type thing. It’ll probably wind up fitting in “Epic” and “Sword and Sorcery”, but might be able to clip the “Alternate {future} History}, the SF “Military”, and the “Post Apocalytic” [sp].

                  I’d be more than happy to report back in, but don’t know that it’s a good idea. Stepping on hosts’ toes not a good way to stay on a site.

                • You might want to check out this KDP help entry on required tags to fit into certain sub-categories. They’re NOT the same as the categories you select when you submit your book (Which do not correspond to the categories Amazon sorts books into on the retail side).


                  • Laura M

                    Acck. I was just looking at that and about to post it, too. That’s also really helpful. Me, I’m going to go refine a few tags. I’m also this close to unpublishing one of my books at D2D and Smashwords and putting it back in Select. The problem is that Smashwords shows 80 downloads of the book over the past few months. On the other hand, the downloads are not resulting in sales, and those downloads are likely just sitting in various ereaders and slowly sinking to the bottom of the TBR lists.

  2. Th e Old Sarge

    Please — please! — keep up the “superversive” theme.


  3. Laura M

    I would love to see discussions of sub-genres within F/SF. I would also like to see a new post on Human Wave, because those are inspiring and make me happy. Lastly, I would like to know if anyone else out there writes bourgeois, legal science fiction so I can do a little cross-marketing with them.

    • There are so many sub-genres… and Laura, Pam Uphoff has a book or two that encompasses both lawyers and SF.

    • Angus Trim

      I’m sure that its true that there are a lot of sub-genres. But I for one am a little out of date. Having a stroke seven years ago, and having fallen out of the loop, so to speak, I’d love a bit of a conversation or seven on the sub-sub-genres.

      Never mind that some of the definitions have changed in the last forty years. What a space opera today is, for instance, a bit more inclusive than what it was forty years ago.

  4. Pat Patterson

    I’d like to see some sci-fi (or fantasy) farce lessons.

  5. Pat Patterson

    Anybody interested in suggested music tracks to accompany text? Ringo was doing a lot of that, and I think Baen even published a book with accompanying music.
    I’d also like a meditation on cats as writers’ tools, vs. dogs vs. no pets at all.

    • Ah! I’d planned a post on this soon, glad to see there is a little interest. I will say that it’s deeply individual for each writer.

      • I’ve found it varies with the book and characters. Some work well with epic music, some with Strauss and other classical stuff, Russian Orthodox music is good for others. That said, the soundtracks to the “new” Battlestar Galactica work great for any tense, faintly creepy “What was that? Did you hear that? You go first” scenes, at least for me.

  6. Bob


  7. And mysteries as sub-plots in SFF. Does it need to be the main problem, or is it best–for readers of SFF–if it is secondary to the main story problem? Or both. Whatever.

  8. This may be something too specialized for MGC, but a list of legal sources for writers who sell books outside their home country. Not just international copyright and tax stuff (like Amazon and the VAT change in the EU). For ex, in the next Cat book there’s a chapter that might slam hard against Britain’s anti-religious-defamation law because the baddies are Islamists. Where can I find out the specifics so I know if I need to not sell the book in the UK (what are the penalties if someone whines, are there disclaimers you can use to get around the clause, any legal precedent)? That kind of thing. Which may be too abstruse for MGC.

  9. Pat Patterson

    How about something with Dancing Maidens and the Eunuch?

  10. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I tend to find particularly useful the pithy discussions of genre and sub genres, how a specific one functions, and what the readers will expect. I also like hearing about writers that demonstrate the genre well.

    Normally, I’d take the opportunity to ask about a specific genre or format. I got some really good answers about thrillers last time, and I’m still working on them.

    I just read a thriller where I had a number of concerns about feasibility issues. I could cover them in detail at maybe the length of the story. The action and pacing pulled me on, even skimming some near the end. I have something to learn from that writer.

    • Yeah. Thrillers are all about pace. Don’t let the reader stop for a breather.

      • Dan Lane

        Maybe a post about controlling the pace? Or specific stuff about believable combat, dialogue, that sort of thing. I’ll be along for the ride regardless while work has slowed down again and the office pc doesn’t like a lot of websites I read for news and such, it doesn’t mind MGC. *grin*

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I think you may have given me this excellent advice before.

        I’ve been keeping it close at hand.

  11. Luke

    Fun community involvement. Nominally exercises.

    (Hacktastic attempt at an example follows. Telling it, I’d drop the “h”s.)
    Add to the story:
    Once upon a time, there lived a hedgehog, and his name was Herman. Herman was a bit of a hermit, and lived by himself way up in the High Hedgerows. One day, Herman heard a scream and a loud hiss. Now, Herman was hardly heroic, so he took to his heels. Bursting out onto the road, who should he find but the renowned knight The Brazen Codpiece (because it was by that ornament that he was most well-known).
    Help! Help! Cried Herman…

  12. Let’s see. I’m going to suggest things that I’ve used with the online writing workshop that I have run for the last… Cripes, has it really been over 20 years?

    Yep. Anyway, one thing that I do is read alongs. Take a book, like Swain’s or something else, and summarize, speculate, make up exercises, help people walk through it. I usually do a chapter a posting, but your book mileage may vary. Also non-writing books — Drive, Tipping Point, The Oz Principle come to mind.

    Another thing is contests, of course. Take a theme or something, and submissions, critiques, and voting. I usually get the members to run the things, with some prompting. Incidentally, a challenge that has been surprisingly well liked by my members is the simple one of writing a story a week for six weeks. I always participate, and several other members join in, and we grind out stories for a while. Fun for everyone. If we were doing it for MGC, I’d recommend posting the stories over on Expecting Something Written, then vote for the best of the week, and post that here on MGC, maybe with comments.

    Oh, I also do exercises. Fairly often, a weekly try this out.

    Techniques, contests, exercises… Oh, something that quite a few folks do, and you do sometimes, is just posting snippets from works in progress. Sometimes with comments and discussion about what you are thinking or trying to do, or not.

    Ah! What about shared world writing or something? Take a setting or world, and invite submissions (short stories, world building, character sketches, whatever) which are read by a panel of volunteers (not you guys at first) and the “winners” then get judged by the MGC member of the week. Selected ones are then posted. Critique, editing, and other cleanup are left as exercises for the readers?

    Oh — what about posting writing problems? I’ve noticed that we’re all problem solvers, and if you suggest something that you are having trouble with or wondering about, we are likely to jump on that and chew it to bits. So do it deliberately.

    Hum. I often suggest that my students keep a reflection journal. What happened, what did I do, what did I feel, and what would I like to do next time? Something simple like that. In one class, they said they really didn’t understand, so for a while, I kept a journal and posted. If any of you have a writer’s journal (morning pages? That kind of thing?) and would be willing to post from that, it might be interesting.

    Just some ideas. Hope they help.

  13. Luke

    Dialogue. We hates it, my precious.