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Posts by kilteDave

It’s a Twofer!

Or, you gave me the power! MuahahaHA*gasp*HAAAA!!1
For the inaugural installation of Noob Notes, I’d first like to make it clear that I very much fall into the audience for this. I’m still a noob when it comes to writing and publishing. I don’t know what I’m doing, and this entire series is part of my ongoing effort to not know what I’m doing a little less. Kinda like how shrinks become shrinks so they can fix themselves. I want to fix myself as a writer.

Also in this opener, I’ll be looking at openings. So, an opening opener! (Don’t try to wiggle out of this: you were warned.) In the Art of War-
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Tuesdays Are Mine!!1

Mine! *thunder cracks* MuahahAhAHAhahAHA!!!

*cough*

Thank you. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let me give you a brief rundown on some of the changes around the ol’ MGC. I’m moving from the fourth Friday of the month to every Tuesday afternoon. That’s right: more Dave. (I’ll pray for you, you poor, lost souls.)

To that end, I’m going to be starting a couple of regular series. First off, Noob Notes. Since afternoon posts are often shorter, punchier, and full of great pith, I’m going to reach out and grab an aspect of the writing process and wring the juice out of it, then serve it up with my characteristic verve- Read more

The Calm at the Eye

First up, a little state of the writist. Mrs. Dave, Wee Dave, and Wee-er Than Wee Dave Dave, and I are in the midst of a cross-continental PCS (permanent change of station) move to an undisclosed location on the left coast. It’s actually going to be in spitting distance of where I grew up, which should be interesting. I’ll be able to do locational research for more of the Edge of Faith books, which should help. Also attend my twentieth high school reunion this year. Which, again, could prove interesting.

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Sharkskin and Rhinohide

A while back, we (by which I mean somebody who actually does stuff ‘round here, like Amanda or Sarah) asked for suggestions for topics, and I’m swiping one from the compiled list.  One or more of you, our valued readers, asked how a newbie writer could become part of an established community when uncertain of the quality of their output, how to get feedback, and how to start feeling real. Well, be warned: perspective incoming.

 

The writing side of publishing may well be the least organized industry in existence. Do you write? Words, strung together into phrases, used to cast spells to vaporize the unworthy convey meaning from one thought-having thing to another? Congratulations: you’re one of us (one of us, one of us, one of us). Like most quasi-social organisms, we tend to agglomerate into loose communities.

 

Unlike more regimented industries (i.e. those with established lines of training and accreditation) and owing to our own, often peculiar natures, writers (as well as other artists) tend toward the odd, and often the Odd. Which is reflected in our communities.

 

All humans do this, but in writing, the strange little in-rules that govern human social group interactions are what organize (Hah. Hah.) how our industry works. For a given value of works. So what you’re asking is really, “how do I become good enough friends that a group of writers won’t ignore me?”

 

I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but we’re more or less cantankerous, and really only seek out social contact so we can abuse each other in print. *reads the preceding, looks at his half-full mug* Ok, that coffee was too dark. Gimme a minute.

 

–One dollop of cream later—

 

Much better. My apologies. What you’re looking for is how to become accepted by writers, when what you need to be doing is looking at befriending lonely, often curmudgeonly, and always strange individuals who happen to interact on a somewhat regular basis.

 

The secret, speaking from experience, is this isn’t actually very hard to do.

 

The biggest part is just showing up. Odds are good you already know a writer. Or several. If you’re here, you rub elbows with several, of varying degrees of success and notoriety (not the same thing), and frankly, the MGC is a good place to start. The method is the same as any community: find where your interests and the community intersect, and participate. A few years back, I decided (based on some interactions at a convention) that I wanted to expose myself (shaddap) to more of what a handful of writers did that wasn’t just their fiction. I started frequenting blogs, and (here’s the trick) commenting on a regular basis. This was more than a little emotionally risky. I don’t often have much of great wisdom or insight to offer. I’m not nearly as well read as a lot of our readers, let alone my fellow Mad Genii (can’t put that back in the bottle). I can, however, turn an amusing phrase now and again, and that kind of repeated presence establishes you as a regular. It led directly to me posting here at the MGC. In short, pay your dues. Become part of the community by becoming part of the community.

 

Now, as to quality of writing, I don’t have anything new. You may well not have anything “good” when you first become accepted by the rest of us crazies. On the other hand, you could be the next sliced bread of the publishing world. For most writers, success seems to come much later than quality of prose. We’re an industry founded upon preference (specifically, the taste of others), and as the ancients had it, in matters of taste there can be no dispute, though you wouldn’t know that from the state of, well, anything. At least on the internet.

 

Is your writing any good? Well, beyond a certain basic level of craft – past the rules of good grammar, can you put together a story in ways that don’t have readers putting your words through virtual walls – whether your writing is any “good” depends less and less on what you can control that the question becomes meaningless. Becoming a better businessman helps, I’m told. Though again, success seems to depend a great deal on luck. And from my industry contacts, luck looks – over time – more and more like hard work and persistence. So, keep at it. Keep writing, keep showing up, keep learning, keep pushing your personal limits. That’s how you get better at anything, and writing – being a skill – is no exception.

 

Now, on being real. Insert a math joke here. And another, because I’m pushing limits. This is where the title comes in. You have to consider yourself a real writer. Nobody is going to do it for you. At least until you have fans. Decide what Real Writerness is going to look like, and work toward that. Is it an author page on Amazon? Or a Real™ book that you wrote in your hot, little hands? What about a publishing contract with a Real Publisher™? Or a regular income from a handful of successful series?

 

I know authors with multiple novels by multiple publishers who aren’t considered real writers by some readers. Usually for obscure emotions linked to emotional issues. I freely admit that – at this point in my life – I’m more than a bit of a dilettante. It’s not that not a writer, but I don’t keep to a schedule, I don’t meet deadlines, and the whole endeavor looks more like a hobby than a business. In my own defense, I have toddlers, and looks can be deceiving.

 

And that’s the thing about being a writer: it’s complicated. On one level, you determine whether you’re a writer. Do you write? That counts. Do your peers accept you? That counts, too. Do you have readers? That also counts.

 

The best approach seems to be more or less what I’ve already described: join a community of writers, practice the present imperfect of the craft, and develop a hide thick enough to shrug off the proverbial slings, arrows, and fiery darts of the naysayers. External and internal.

 

 

*flailing and tantrums, divers alarums*

Amanda just reminded me today’s my day. Mrs. Dave is in the middle of a five week course in Virginia Beach, and I’m playing single dad, and we’re out of bananas. And apples. It’s that bad, ’round here. Not excusing, just summing up.

 

Referring to the title, we’ve been seeing a lot of unprofessional behavior from all quarters recently. What have you learned to do, or bot do, recently, about how to behave as a professional writer? I’ve been watching some authors do everything they can to drastically cut down their potential market. That just seems … ill-advised to me.

In the spirit of the thing…

I had one of those nights where I slept like the proverbial rock. Trouble is, I’m still scrambling to get a couple of brain cells to rub together. I’ll be back later with actual thoughts. In the meantime, what’s everybody working on? How’s that going?

 

UPDATE: The littles conspired to prevent writing time, tag-teaming naptime and requiring ALL of Daddy’s attention. So, no post, but I’m pleased everyone is doing well.

You Don’t Look So Good

You may have not noticed, but I’m not Jason Cordova. I know this comes as a shock. I mean, we’re both writers, both devastatingly handsome, and he’s almost as brilliant as I am, and while – much like Batman – he and I have rarely been witnessed in the same place at the same time, allow me to confirm that we are indeed separate entities. Also, this is not a plot – nefarious or otherwise – on my part to take over the Friday slot at MGC. I want that stated up front, in no uncertain terms. It’s not like I want more advertising. More articles under my byline. More books sold … bestsellerdom … film options … a burgeoning media empire …

 

Sorry: I kinda spaced out there, for a moment. The bare facts are Jason has a thing he’s going to do later this month that he wants to write on, so we’re trading slots. Simple as that. Seriously, nothing ulterior or underhanded about it. *cough* That said, he’s going to get into some nuts and bolts about writer-as-business stuff toward which I, for one, am eagerly looking forward.

 

Get to the point, Dave, I hear you say. That’s right, I heard you mumbling, you in the back. Well, let me fill you in on a little of the back alley RumInt (that’s Rumor Intelligence, for those not in the know: the gouge) that’s floating around my darkened corridors of the Interwebz. Word on the street is that attendance at Book Expo America this week is pretty thin on the ground. One notable attendee with an accounting background suggested an estimate of no more than ten thousand. I’d honestly be surprised if that included vendors, but still. That’s …

 

Look, nearly two decades ago, BEA had right at 30k attendees, all told, including industry professionals. By 2015, that had slipped to just a bit over 17k. I don’t care who you are, you can’t claim that your industry is healthy when the pre-eminent business gathering – the one where publishers make announcements about upcoming books, and where vendors make purchasing decisions for the year ahead, and where your special events include people of international profile (this year would be an Evening With Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’m crushed that my schedule wouldn’t allow) – has slipped in attendance by that much over not-quite a decade.

 

If these numbers are legitimate – and I’m taking them right off the pdf of the official BEA fliers they circulate – then tradpub is looking more than a little green around the gills. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the attendance at the major convention is a fair barometer for the general health of an industry. Sit down, tradpub. You aren’t looking so good.

 

The other half of this is the aggressive – I’d say extortionate – pricing of tradpub ebooks. There’s no reasonable excuse for pricing electrons at the same price as a mass market paperback. No inventory, no printing fees, no additional salaries paid. Everybody works with digital files, and it’s almost push-button simple to format for ebook. (And the too-aggressive pricing of the mmpb, for that matter. Why buy an inferior paper copy of a book when Amazon will sell you the hardcover for not much more? And if you need something for a flight, odds are you’re more interested in an e-copy, anyway.)

 

Indie is eating tradpub’s lunch, and that’s only going to become more apparent as time goes on. The concern is that while traditional publishers work overtime to prop up shrinking markets (and really, work to ensure those markets shrink even further. I’m looking at you litSF) their tumble into financial insolvency and eventual obscurity is going to make for a rather volatile time for those of us laboring in the word mines.

 

I don’t really have an answer. I suspect there will be opportunities aplenty for those with the drive to exploit them. Keep writing. Keep publishing. Keep a weather eye out.