You may remember I mentioned last week having trouble with a story because it was one-paced. Pace is one of those terrible things to try and do well, because there are several components to it. It’s a bit like patting your forehead and rubbing your belly, or like my efforts at operating an excavator. Yes, it DOES look easy when someone skilled does it. Ridiculously easy in fact. Appearances can be deceptive: I mean you might look at me and say ‘ugly and dim-witted…’ oh. Well, moving rapidly on. A lot of writing is like my excavator ditch-digging efforts, where because there are four ideally co-ordinated actions and I find one on its own a bit of a challenge, the trench tends not do what I want it to do.
Naturally this is the silly ditch or trench’s fault, just as it is the reader’s fault when he gets bored and decides that it’s the right time to clip his toenails or pluck his ear-hairs, rather than bothering to read your book. Read more
For we were just the product
Of the ever spinning wheel
Round and round we go (The Strawbs, round and round.)
I read a story by a fairly well-known author the other day. The dialogue was good. The character was moderately interesting. The pacing was somewhat monotonous… but what made it a chore was that it had no clear ‘axle’… It was just a recitation of events. It had a beginning and a middle and end. The hero did something… but something essential was missing. That ‘axle’
Hmm. One of my own writing concepts. Therefore, probably mildly loony, at best. I’m going to have to explain what I mean. Read more
‘I am a watchdog. My name is Snuff. I live with my master Jack outside London now. I like Soho very much at night with its smelly fogs and dark streets. It is silent then and we go for long walks. Jack is under a curse from long ago and must do much of his work at night to keep worse things from happening. I keep watch while he is about it. If someone comes, I howl.
We are keepers of several curses and our work is very important. I have to keep watch on the Thing in the Circle, the Thing in the Wardrobe, and the Thing in the Steamer Trunk – not to mention the Things in the Mirror.’ A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny, 1993
To some authors drowning one’s readers may have a certain attraction… I mean, if you think your customers are deplorable idiots who should read your work because it will help to ‘educate’ them on the correct attitude to the cause du jour, I can quite understand it. After all, they fail to respond correctly most of the time. But while it may well be a very fashionable desire these days, it’s got serious drawbacks, besides wet paper. Read more
“ ’ad a problem with that supernatural stuff once, ” muttered Big Jim in the middle of my story. “Yer want to stay right clear of demons and them Exhaustists, young feller.” He shook a warning finger the size of my wrist at me.
I blinked. Big Jim, with tattoos weighing 200 pound… and him weighing another 250 more (It was heavy ink) six foot ten… wide, hands that weren’t like hams around his beer, more like entire pigs … him with a bald shaved head, and a Doberman called Killer, well, he wasn’t the sort of bloke you’d think would be inclined to take Halloween stories seriously. I thought the only spirits he believed in came in a 160 Stroh Rum bottle and he thought they were pretty weak, at that. “My shout,” I said, getting us a couple more beers. “What happened, Big Jim?” Read more
Argh. This diet is killing me. I made one of those classic mistakes. I complained to my Doctor. So he made things worse. I said I was tired and falling asleep onto my keyboard. Now, in part I was wondering if the black dog might be physiological…
Did he say: “Write a more interesting book” or “Go fishing” or “go diving, at least you’ll drown happy” or even ‘get more sleep’? Noooo! Instead he made me even more tired, giving me anemia. Well, taking away some of the precious, rare blood in my caffeine stream. Read more
There’s no ‘right’ kind of sf (or fantasy or anything else, for that matter.) Only what sells, and it sells – or at least an author – or genre keeps selling (no matter how hard you market it) because readers enjoy it. It’s a big world with a complex range of kinds of people who enjoy different things. Just about anything will find some buyers who enjoy it (if they can find it, or even know it exists).
Of course some kinds, some subgenres, some authors sell better than others. Part of that comes down to everything from covers to marketing and availability – But the truth is some books/authors/subgenres/etc just have a wider appeal than others. Some would sell more even if the playing field were completely level, the process transparent and even-handed, with no politics, no agendas and no dahlings. It would almost certainly not be all the SAME books that do well now, but some would do better than others – some authors write better in the opinion of a larger number of people, some subjects are more interesting to more people. Read more
A thing of many weak parts united into an object of strength… No, actually, I’m not talking about a novel. I’m talking about a light steel construction shed. A kit which the engineers say is cyclonic rated. Of course, it could have something in common with a novel, but generally most novels have at least one strong component. Based on what I’ve spent the last four weeks doing, that’s only necessary because most authors are not engineers.
This may (or may not) be a good thing. It is, however, in the same sense that Mount Everest is, and Alma Cogan isn’t (this for those of you deficient in Python is called ‘logic’. It is quite rare.). Read more