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Posts tagged ‘Sarah Hoyt’

Talking to the other side

And no, I don’t mean dead people. I mean non-writers and writers whose usual fields aren’t the ones we frequent.

Why? Well, between the furor that seems to have finally died over Sarah’s analysis (and anger) over a non-fiction author’s assumption that fiction is easy – just making things up (and therefore more amenable to self-publishing and not getting destroyed by changing times), and the non-fiction author’s response (and challenge) I realized that yeah, we do tend to get wound up in our own universe and frame of reference and forget that there are other people out there with other points of view.

For those who choose to read the comments, especially on Sarah’s blog (things got rather… ahem… animated – I had fun playing with the guy who was either criminally dense or deliberately obfuscating, and may have crossed a few lines there, but that’s me for you. I like playing whackatroll, and seeing how much it takes before the brains splatter everywhere or they start flapping and frothing and contradicting themselves… What? I never said I was nice). Um. Anyway, I realized that between the Mad Genius Club and Sarah’s blog, there’s been quite the evolution of views and development of a new paradigm.

So here’s where I see it. Apologies if this is way too obvious for anyone: I’m trying to look at where we are here from the perspective of someone outside.

Essential vocabulary:

  • Heinleining: fitting the salient details seamlessly into the narrative and action, without overloading the reader with details
  • Good research: in the fiction world, especially genre, this is research that’s mostly or entirely invisible but makes the whole piece feel solid and ‘real’. Even if it’s about cyborg zombies.
  • Time: a mysterious entity no author has enough of.
  • Money: see ‘Time’.

Where we stand: in the middle of an ever-widening chasm, trying to keep enough appendages (virtual or otherwise) attached to something so we don’t plummet to our metaphorical deaths-as-writers in the gaping pit that used to be traditional publishing. Traditional publishing is the corpse kind of sort of straddling the gap. I know it’s still twitching: ignore that. Some kind of parasitic outgrowth could still find roots in there and produce something, but for all bar the uber-bestsellers and the industry daaaaahlings (they’re the ones who got gifted with the numbers that should have been credited to the midlisters – visit The Business Rusch for details – that thing is deader than dead, the serious kind of dead that doesn’t get up and start lurching around. There may be a bridge somewhere off in the distance but most of us are right here near that corpse, since it used to be what fed/kept/chained us. Us in this case not including me personally. I’m generalizing here, okay?

Where we’re going: sod if we know, but we’re trying anything that looks good in case it works. Most of us figure that the more different tactics we can get into the mix, the more likely we’ll find one that lets us survive as writers, and maybe even thrive. We’re all banking on the long tail concept – our potential audience is now everyone in the world who can read English (say about a billion people), so we can do well with a really tiny proportion of those people as fans – and cumulative volume – twenty books or more at $5 apiece, which nets an independent $3.50 a sale from Amazon (I’ll use them as the example), each selling 100 copies a month is $350 x 20 – $7000 a month. And since the independent is the one controlling what’s there, those books never go out of print. The first one starts earning a few sales a month when it’s put up, and it’s still earning five years later when the author’s entire trunk list has gone up and there’s now a good, solid income stream. Length doesn’t matter – independents can put up short pieces (short stories, or for the non-fiction minded, monographs) that take a lot less time to write, and have a fat-looking list, all of it selling for not too much, but continuing to sell for as long as there’s an internet.

The catch – and there’s always a catch – is that it takes time for all of this to build. A young writer doesn’t have as much to publish as a more established writer, and none of us have enough money or time. It takes time to properly format anything for ebook reading, and money to get a cover that won’t scream “stock art” or “amateur” (Ask Amanda if you want info on her epublishing online course – she’ll let you in and give you the website. Or just scroll back through the history here until you find it.). Unless you’re one of those fortunate individuals who are good artists as well, in which case you’re going to need more time. So it’s slow. Most of us are holding two or more jobs. Some of us the “day job” is writing for traditional publishing houses, for others it’s a salaried thing. It’s still a time sink.

The key thing – and probably the only thing keeping all of us going – is that there’s hope where there wasn’t before. Within the last couple of years, self-publishing has become both possible and a viable way to enter the market as a writer. We’re not limited to the stale old “just like the last big hit, only different” that’s all mainstream’s managed for years. We’re not having our books – and careers – killed by editors who think we’re not “sexy” or “interesting” enough to justify selling. We’re not being nixed by glorified accountants who reward meeting the sales prediction even if it’s bad and penalize not meeting it when it’s good. (You outside the field, you’ve wondered why there’s so little that interests you in the bookstores now? That’s why. You’re not jaded. Fiction’s been murdered by glorified accountants who think one book is just like any other book. Sarah’s posted about that, too.)

So, give us time. Give us patience. We’re figuring this out as we go, and many of us are escaping an abusive relationship (with the publishing houses) as well, so the process is going to be a little (okay, a lot) messy. But we’ll get there in the end. We might even figure out where ‘there’ is.

What to write about?

by Amanda S. Green

That’s the question that’s been staring me in the face not just this morning as I try to figure out what to blog.  I’ve been up to my eyes trying to finish the rewrite and edits on Nocturnal Serenade so I can get them to my editor as well as doing what needs to be done around the house and for NRP.  Add to that the fact that I’ve had a con, a writers workshop and helped with the library friends bazaar yesterday and you have a very tired writer.  Worse, you have one that finds herself at her wits end when it comes to dealing with folks who seem to want something for nothing.  As a result, I am having to sit — hard — on the impulse to wax political today.

So bear with me as I try to make some sense today.

I’ve worked on Nocturnal Serenade, off and on, for several years now.  I’ve always known where the story is going.  The problem has been how to get there.  As I’ve finished the first draft and started the rewrites these last few weeks, I’ve known something was wrong.  Something just didn’t feel right about it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Now, I know I’m my own worst critic and it worries me when I actually like something I’ve written, especially during the edit process.  But this was more than that.  This had the feeling to it like I’d left something out.

I talked it over with Kate and Sarah — sorry, guys.  I know I’ve driven you crazy with it.  I sat down with pencil and paper and took notes.  But it didn’t dawn on me what was wrong until I forced myself to put it to one side and start working on a different project (and, Sarah, there will be payback.  I promise).  Suddenly, it dawned on me.  There were several things wrong with the plot, not the least of which was, as I said in an earlier post, that one of the minor characters had to be repositioned motivation-wise.

But it was more than that.  I had several very distinct plot threads that needed to come together, not just at the end, but earlier.  I hadn’t laid the proper breadcrumbs for the reader.  I was committing one of the “sins” of writing I detest: springing the end on the reader without proper foreshadowing.  So, with that knowledge in hand, I once more started pestering Kate, running new ideas and concerns past her.  She listened and didn’t kill me — something I’m sure took a lot of self-discipline.  But I finally knew what was bothering me about the novel.  Now I had to figure out how to fix it.

This sort of reworking of a novel isn’t something that can be done by just adding a line here and there.  At least I can’t do it that way.  The first three chapters had major revisions to them.  Some scenes were added and others deleted while yet others were moved to other locations in the book.  New chapters were added.  And, as I have done all this, guess what, the book started talking to me again. No, that’s not quite right.  It’s been yelling at me again, demanding my full attention and pouting when it doesn’t get it.  So, with few exceptions, I’ve been writing and editing in my free time this week and, hopefully, will soon be handing my editor a book he’ll like.

One of the issues I’ve had to consider when writing Serenade is how much sex, if any, to put into it.  When I was shopping Nocturnal Origins around, I received a lot of very supportive rejections.  Editors and agents liked the writing and the voice but either wanted it to be in first person or wanted sex, lots of sex.  Somewhere along the way, they’d forgotten that there is a difference between urban fantasy and paranormal romance.  Origins was UF, just as Serenade is.  More than that, the issues and pressures the lead character was having to deal with pretty much precluded her doing much more than just surviving and learning to accept the changes in her life.  After all, she’d just found out that monsters really do exist and were very much a part of her life now.

But Serenade is a new book.  Mac has had time to start accepting and adapting to this new world she finds herself in.  She’s still not sure about it all and there is a lot of unresolved anger and frustration because the truth had been kept from her.  But she’s also a very healthy female with an equally healthy sex drive.  Add in a man she’s drawn to and, well, you get the picture.

So, now I have a new balancing act to master:  how much sex to put in to stay true to the character and yet not turn what is still an urban fantasy into a paranormal romance.  The mystery is still the major part of the story.  The romance is a very minor part.  Yet, I guarantee you, when Serenade comes out there will be those reviewers who condemn it for not being “hot” enough while others will bitch because there is sex in it.

This is why I have come to accept what Sarah and Dave have been telling me for a long time.  You can’t take reviews to heart, especially those posted on Amazon, Good Reads, B&N, etc.  Why?  Because you can’t make everyone happy.  More than that, there will always be that one reviewer that will leave you wondering if they actually read what you wrote.  All we can do is write the best tale we can and cross our fingers.  It’s a crap shoot from there as to whether the readers will like the book or not.

And my fingers are crossed that will not only like but also recommend Nocturnal Serenade to their friends — assuming I get it to my editor before he kills me.  Until then, it’s back to work.