Buoyed Up

The big news this last week in the writing world is the wild success of Brandon Sanderson’s kickstarter. It’s been amazing to watch, frankly, and despite not having read much of his (Tolkein is sufficient to all of my high fantasy needs, forever, it seems) work, I’ve been over here cheering it on when I could look up from Real Life(tm) and catch a glimpse. It’s at, I think as of time I write this, 22 million dollars. I say again… I’ve seen entire islands for sale for less than that amount of money. Go, Brandon! *wild cheers and applause*

There are, inevitably, the naysayers and detractors who find themselves with a handful of sour grapes and a desire to pull this author back into their crab bucket where they can eat him at their leisure. The usual suspects are heard from with slights and perjorative language… and that makes me sad. They are missing the point. If you follow that link to the snip of an article, and then read the Passive Guy’s comments, you’ll better understand the sort I’m talking about.

And, by missing the point, I mean this: Brandon Sanderson’s success buoys up all authors. His kickstarter is creating buzz about books in a very big way. Sure, this will likely lead to more movies and TV and possibly video games as well (my son and I had a lively conversation last night about all the good movies stemming from written material. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it may not be wrong either), but the consumers of written material should be ecstatic over this story. It means books are not dying. They live, and man! Are they popular still! I was pondering this not long ago, as I’m a writer. I love books, and I read almost every day (not fiction every day any more, though, but that’s a different post). My retired husband is a voracious reader, and goes through a book or more a day. My kids? Different story. They read, but it’s more likely to be fanfiction. And many people are switching over to audiobooks (which is also another post for another day).

My friend and fellow author Martin Shoemaker (and you should definitely check out some of his books, he writes some amazing stuff, like Hard SF with heart) was talking about being a microSanderson and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tease him. “Hey!” hands on hips. Looks up at Martin. “I am not micro!”

What Martin meant, and he’s perfectly correct, is that most of us authors don’t have – may never have – the reach that the other Sanderson has. What we can do is take away from this some lessons. One – reach for the stars. To reach the stars, or heck, even low earth orbit, you have to do a helluva lot of work. You have to understand the dynamics of what you are doing – not just writing great stories, but marketing, and engineering campaigns, and so much more. It’s work. We have to put in the work if we want to see our book launches not explode on the pad. Two – find out what our audience wants, and give it to them. The other Sanderson knew what people wanted: not the promise of books, but actual in-the-can just-need-to-publish books, with some sweet backer cookies to go along with the words they wanted to read. I suspect the follow-on afterswell of ‘wow, that’s popular I think I’ll jump on the train’ may have surprised even him. But it shouldn’t have. It’s human nature to either want to join the party… or try to piss on it from the edges and kick dirt. Frankly, I’d rather have some fun than chow down on the bitter fruit covered in ashes of despair. Which brings me to something else… Three – have fun with it. The other Sanderson was doing something he was gleefully enjoying, and that’s infectious, folks. Be relentlessly cheerful, and people will start cheering along with you.

So! Here’s my challenge to you, good friends, fellow authors, and readers who support us. Let’s help out one another, rather than trying to pull down one who is succeeding. I’m not going to ask you to buy a book, today. Nope. I’m going to suggest that you think about what you’re doing, and how you could do it better. Just a little better, doesn’t have to be a big thing. Me? I’m going to celebrate having turned in a story last night just under deadline. Then I’m going to start writing the next one. And I’m going to contemplate how to grow my audience, even if it’s by one person. One person a day? Funny how these things get exponential after a while.

So share your ideas in the comments, and let’s get better together. We can all be microSandersons. At least until I put on my high heels! Ok, Martin’s like a foot taller than I am. Hey, Martin, we have to get our photo taken together the next con we’re both attending!

44 comments

  1. Yesterday was a 3,000 word writing day in order to submit by a deadline. I have to inconvenience a whole troop of electrons to generate another 3,000 words by Sunday at midnight for a completely different story.

  2. 5,500 words yesterday. Ugh. Had to ax a fight scene and start rewriting it this morning. Have to do more wicked, evil things to the MC. Make the zombies meaner. Add more impossible tasks. Things were going to get too easy for him, can’t have that. 599 words into the new fight scene. I keep getting distracted on the way to the end, which I’ve ideas on.

    Decided to post the story on Royal Road in addition to the blog. More eyeballs, more chances to fix plot holes and continuity errors. And the inevitable dreaded typo. It’s supposed to be from not fro. Spellchecker won’t catch that one. It does, however, flag “bloviate.” Which is odd.

    Piddled around with artbreeder for a while. Still no cover. Today I learned that Art Breeder hates sci fi and loves fantasy. This makes me sad, because sci-fi is at least 80% of what I write lately. If you want decent fantasy covers and character portraits, it is a moderately useful time sink.

    Now I’m mining other books for bits I can swipe and use to make the current chapter (12) not stink. 95,000 more words to go to make a full book. If it makes it that far. Wildly optimistic estimate of two and a half months, give or take. Theoretical Act II needs fleshing out, but that’s probably two-three weeks away. Act II is the meaty problem of future Dan. New goal is get chapters written ahead of arbitrary deadlines instead of scribbling out the last thousand words before breakfast.

    Luck to all in their writerly goals, and don’t forget to put radios in your space suit helmets. That is all.

    1. For SF covers check out DepositPhotos stock art. There’s some good stuff that could be used without modification. Yes, you run the risk of someone else having the same art. But it’s cheap.

      1. Stuck on mid-week chapter. Going to have to do some rewriting again. Chapter 12 was rewritten several times. This one needs rewrite for entirely different reasons. Monday and Tuesday stories will be a bit slower paced than last week, but things are going to be picking up again… right near where I’m stuck in the rewrite.

        More Dr. Z is on the way. He’s got responsibilities now. And several impossible tasks to do. Escape, which keeps getting sidelined. Save the pod people, who need a doctor or they’ll die soon after they get out of the pods. Figure out how to get to the two pods on the docks and get them somewhere safe. Without dying or getting bitten. Again. Deal with the… well, you don’t know about that yet. Or the other thing. And prevent thing two. Plus all of this is on the time limit of power failure.

        …And then there’s the problem of him being bitten. He’s not a zombie. Yet. When will he turn? Will it even happen at all? He knows he’s feeling sick. What’s up with that? Will he even be safe to be around other human beings, what with the hunger to drain things growing in the back of his mind? And what about the fuzzball? Where does it fit into all this?

        One thing’s for certain. Dr. Z is going to have to come up with some creative solutions to pull even some of this off- if he survives.

        Chapters resume Monday at 0:00 GMT.

        1. Take your time. I will lurk for new chapters. 🙂 though I stubbornly refuse to believe that Dr. Z will zombify. It may be a close call but I always was an optimist when reading. Die maybe. Not zombify.

          1. I have rules that my books follow. One of those relates ever so slightly to what you just wrote.

            There must always be at least a chance that good can prevail. No matter what. No matter how dark the world becomes. No matter what may eventually happen even to the main character of the story. I have zero interest in writing another stupidly grey goo world where everything sucks and everyone is dying and there is no light that cannot be snuffed out in an instance, no innocence, hope, or lasting joy. There will always be hope. And it may just be in the last place you look for it.

          1. *snrk!*

            You do realize WC is slightly less than toaster sized right now, right? He can’t eat a whole zombie yet! At least, not in one sitting. Though he does eat a lot.

            Further revelations of just what, exactly, a Wampus Cat is will have to wait for now, though. There’s wickedness afoot, and Dr. Z still has miles to go… Figuratively speaking, of course (he really needs a nap soon).

            1. Fair enough. the mythological one was Cougar sized, I figured this was a kitten. *shifty eyes* don’t mind me. My brain usually has a dozen or so threads of ‘I wonder’ as I go through any story and discards and manufactures new ones with new data.

              1. Some of the mythologies placed it even larger. I know, I heard tales of the Wampus Cat back when I was a young ‘un. *chuckle* My take on it is slightly different. Further specifics will be coming in… somewhere past five chapters, I think. Got to introduce (spoiler removed) and get (spoiler removed) before (spoiler removed). Then we shall see much more about WC kitty.

                1. No worries. Right now the kitty is the least of his worries as long as it stays PUT and doesn’t try to follow him into zombie land.

                    1. No promises needed. Given the amount of problems Dr. Z has, WC is still likely to be the least of his worries. It’s a cat. Cat does what cat does. Zombies and good intentioned Post-docs have little control over the mind and action of Cats.

  3. No words yesterday. I’ve been teaching some emotionally draining material this past week, and it left my writer brain flat and numb, along with the rest of me. I’m hoping for words today.

    1. I was thrilled to see Brandon S. doing so well. He writes book that people enjoy, and this will allow him to do even more of that. I really hope his experiment is a success.

  4. Woah, Brandon!! I’m not a fan (just doesn’t hit my Interesting Spot) but lordy, that’s one helluva show of confidence that he delivers for his readers… and that readers still WANT it. May all our works find such a following!!

    I would like to give him shit over making up the same word I did, tho… I used “Stormlight” to name a dog back in 1991. Great minds? 😀

    1. Like you, not a fan of the genre Brandon writes in, but whoah… Talk about Go Faster Brandon. Write! Write! Write More

      Hat off to the man. Well done. In fact, he has lifted me out of my despondency over my own lack of words, and here’s hoping I can leverage that to finish my next story.

  5. Vaguely recognize the name, but in the “Huh… think I looked at his stuff before, wasn’t interested. He’s making a ton of money off a kickstarter? That’s nice.” and carry on.

    How silly to be mad someone else is having success!

    That said– oooh, the description of the awesome collectable version book sounds really nice….

    *********

    Here’s something to make people smile:

    (Hey, it helps ME remember to try to make things better.)

  6. Another one that doesn’t care for his books, but I’m extremely happy for him and wish him the best in his project.

    I’m happy to see anyone succeed.

  7. I’m editing, very very slowly. Too many things happening in the real world as my father dies by inches. The dark side of modern medical care, you know?
    But we persevere.

    I’m glad Brandon Sanderson is succeeding. He’s proving that if you tell a good story and give the fans what they want, they’ll pay you.
    Besides, readers read far faster than writers write so we need lots of writers to keep up with readers.

    More people would read if only they could find the books they like so we need more writers telling their own stories.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your dad. Spend the time with him you can, whatever happens you won’t regret it.

      And good luck on the editing too.

  8. Congratulations on getting your story in and before deadline too. That has to feel good.

    Me, I got about 90% through the scene I didn’t want to write, before ran out of immediate time to write on it. Will finish it up later tonight I think, but it seems to be working, threats of death by hamster were issued, and I think things are spinning towards the conclusion of that story.

    Given this thing started out as just a goofy title, and a need to do something to figure out the relationship of a couple characters, it’s turned out way more than I was expecting.

  9. Got about 2,000 words in yesterday. Had to throw in the towel on one story. It just wasn’t happening. Characters sat down and glared at me, refusing to move. So, I left them there. I hope they get a nasty sunburn! I moved on to two other stories and those are progressing smoothly.

  10. I actually don’t know if I like Sanderson’s stories. I was only vaguely aware of him before I decided that Tor delenda est.
    And since that’s been his publisher…

    I thought about jumping on this one, but $40 for pigs in a poke is a bit rich for my blood.

    In general, I’m happy to see him doing this well. Just because he seems like a nice guy, and tells stories people like.

    Would I like to see one of Tor’s more profitable authors ditch them?
    Indeed I would.
    Would I love it if their other top earners were inspired to follow his lead in jumping ship?
    Oh, I’d be delighted.

  11. I’ve seen a depressing amount of envy and anti-Mormon bigotry in the responses to his massive success. The other side just can’t ever be happy, can they?

  12. Cedar,

    Totally off topic, but last weekend, I went looking for the hair sticks you mentioned in your pocket stuff post last February. I might have found a farcebook page by Bjorn Bladeworks you mentioned at the end of the old post, but no other website or distributor. Do you know the best way to order the “self-defense “ hair sticks?

    Thanks!

    1. His FB page for the hairsticks is called Murderneedles. Message him directly from Bjorn Bladeworks or post in Murderneedles.

    2. That’s me! I’m Bjorn Bladeworks!

      I planned on starting a website last year, but things happened, which I won’t go into here.

      You can join my Facebook group for now, just search “murderneedles”

      1. Hi,
        Thanks for responding. I don’t do the farcebook, but I’ll email you directly.

        Thanks!

  13. My family has a bunch of Sanderson fans so Mom and five of the siblings (including me) went in together to support the kickstarter. We backed it at the highest level and are looking forward to the year of Sanderson.

  14. What’s the best Brandon Sanderson book for a newbie to see if he likes the author?

    1. I enjoyed Mistborn, but it is his first and I’m told he really developed.

      And I am reminded that he wrote Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians. It’s middle-grade, but a hoot!

      1. Mistborn wasn’t his first, Elantris was, and I think Warbreaker (his weakest) predated both.

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