Saturday, November 27, 2010

A war for middle ground, begat by tiny green demons

In a previous post, I mentioned a resolution to double the writing I had already completed this month, which at the time was two blog posts (one here, one on bleacher report) and three chapters of the novel. On yesterday evening, I fulfilled that goal. For those of you so inclined, at least some of the evidence is here. The chapters (which now number six and an introduction) you'll just have to take my word for. It's coming along. I told a friend about how surreal the process was of taking a chapter from its roughest, least realized state to something I was much, much happier with. And so, one piece at a time, I'm building me a road.

The destination I've always been confident in knowing, but the dips and curves, the climate and conditions, those have always been foggy, to use a pun. The other day, on an email group I'm plugged into, one of those terribly long streams was compiled and compiled and sent to me. I try to keep abreast of such things in as far as figuring out what the conversation was about and where it was going, in most general terms. This one had to do with some discussion board somewhere, or shall I say a battle field, and on opposing sides were mixed groups of readers and authors.

And even that isn't most accurate; the group/forum/board belongs to the veteran, most-involved posters the way a city belongs to people. They don't own it in any pure or true sense, but it's where they eat and sleep so they feel very responsible for it. And there was a gripe, a long-standing grudge that had finally boiled over, against authors who would come by and take advantage of the significant readership and dive bomb self promotions. At the beginning of the email I received, the other authors seemed concerned about what this meant and how it could be addressed, but ultimately divulged into a movement to go over, en masse, and post the first group into some sort of submission, or at least, understand what all the fuss was about. Naturally, the innocent curiosity and calm explanations were responded to with bullet-shaped rebuttals. As usual, it was two groups failing to empathize with one another.

The people on the group are there to discuss specific genre fiction. To talk to each other about the sorts of things they like to read, and everyone is welcome to do so. At some point, someone realized it was a good place to promote one's work, and the stream became a flood, hence the hubbub. The authors, at least the ones I heard from, were trying to understand how best to market to their readers, and began by explaining their position, which was contractual obligation to overturn every stone in search of promotional gold (because as they belong to smaller houses, there is no money to pay for advertising, or at least, desperately little), and a societal drive to make as much money as possible within whatever subjectively reasonable means (we are, after all, Americans). It was overall a sad and negative situation.

I'm hoping against hope at this point that my March release comes to fruition. I think to myself that there's little to stop it, but evidence in the past has showed me otherwise. And when that time comes, I will be expected to engage in some level of promotion somewhere (I would like to, after all, actually make a living doing this; read: make money doing this). To that end, I read the entire multi-page post, even the deleted comments, and picked up some decent bits. Apparently, there are places that review books if they're given a free copy. I will likely harvest double-digit numbers of these places, and send them copies. Of course those will be free for them, not free for me, which illustrates one of the sticking points in that very lengthy dramatization. The authors asked "Well, what if you don't have money for promotion?" and the readers replied "Tough." What's the old saying? You have to spend money to make money? Perhaps a better plan would be to make enough money to move away from this place, somewhere pastoral and imaginary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A simple update about complex things

I wish these hiatuses of mine indicated some great, fiery period of productivity, but really, how little I commit to this blog has nothing to do with how active I'm being otherwise.

I did start the novel, successfully turning NaNoWriMo into NaNoStarMo (see what I did there? magic). I'm ten thousand words in and mostly happy with what those words are, their order and arrangement. Working with a friend in his scene shop at his theater, I was holding a screw gun, staring down at a nailed together structure that would, once install and painted, be the wall of a set and realized that we do sort of the same thing. Emphasis on sort of. There's a handy manual filled with useful knowledge like invincible knots and saw horse designs and how to hang something from the ceiling so it swings, doesn't swing, or can even raise up and down after being affixed. For writers... well, I guess you could say the book hasn't been written yet, ironically.

Like today at work I saw a flyer, approved to be hung on the announcement board, for a book signing. I work at a school, so, the fact that the book was obviously sci-fi impressed me into doing some research. And I hesitate before using negative phrases, but something is to be said for the kind of places that will prey on young authors and work with them in a limited fashion to produce something that could stonewall one's career. Not that the book on the flyer I saw was one of those stories, but I did find several places where the publisher was being badmouthed, and the company's site itself is bereft of thorough or even moderate proofreading. There are signs, and then there are omens. I'm set to be in place, earning my pay check during the hours in question, but I wonder if I'll be able to make some time to go to the person's event. I'd want someone to come to mine, after all.

Something else that's news that has little to do with my recent efforts is that I got a mock-up for my release that should (barring setbacks similar to my previous, still slowed, release) be out in March. It's interesting how a visual of something can make it more real. Honestly, up to that point I had never considered the book as much of one until I saw what might be the cover for it. Of course, I annoyed the nice artist over the course of half a dozen emails, asking that the letters be moved just so, or the background be cropped differently. Currently though, I have an email praising her efforts and giving the latest draft my blessing saved, just waiting to be sent. So that was fun.

Also, because I have the kind of awesome people that push others to achieve as friends, I found myself on a more professional looking sports writing consortium type contraption and recently, published this article. Admittedly, it was an older piece which I threw into the mix just to see how the system worked, but I got some good feedback from honest to goodness editors. It doesn't pay, but the story got more hits in a day than anything I've done to date. And three tweets, whatever that amounts to.

So I haven't been as productive as I could've been, but I also haven't been slacking entirely. I think the commitment I'll make is to double the writing I currently have done before the end of the month. Ready, set, procrastinate.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

There are excuses and then there are reasons

Sometimes, when people tell me it's this month or that month, I wish I could retaliate with some well-prescribed barb, but mostly it is out of my own lack of watching or reading or embracing any sort of news. I don't know how long November has been "National Novel Writing Month" (I also just figured out how to say the acronym) but it seems like for the past couple years I'm re-reminded at the end of October. Thankfully, even people that both know I'm a writer and that November is what it is don't ask me if I'll be writing a novel. Not that I'd go so far as to tell them off, but it would avoid the slight mote of sadness that I won't be.

This year I have an excuse, though. I wrote a novel this year already. Actually, I wrote four. None of them took less than a month to pen, but they were all started after January 1st and drafted before now. I also sort of cheated. Because as I'm finding out with the new idea I'm working on, from the concept itself to actually putting words on a page somewhere has taken weeks if not months. It's much harder, I'm re-remembering, than simply putting ducks in a row, or even caring for and hatching each individual duck then arranging each linearly. It's more like thinking up the word duck, then physically creating what that thing is, then putting them in a row. My fantasy novel took years of musing; it was slow and off and on, and in the beginning I didn't even know that that is what I was doing, but it's clearer now. But even focused and conscious, this new story is a bear.

But, the whole point of things like NaNoWriMo is to create initiative where previously there was none. Tomorrow I'm going to finally wash my car. Next week, I'm finally going to visit that friend I said I would. Those are just examples of course (I mean, it's cold and wet outside). So, given how much progress I've made, and where I had wanted to get to this year, perhaps I will use all the energy in the air and make November my novel starting month. I mean, if I really, earnestly wanted to draft this entire thing, I probably could. However, it wouldn't be very good, or even mildly good. And I want it to be great. So, this is a fair compromise I think. So, basically, I have this week and next week because madness ensues towards the end of the month (which makes me wonder, do all these other writers pen their way even through the turkey day festivities and xmas shopping? so far as effort goes, isn't November only 3/4 of a month?).

And now for my monthly optimism. Ahem. Some of you may have noticed the comment (one of the very few) at the end of my last post. This person is not real. Clicking on the name will send one to a site to get help on taking standardized tests. And if that wasn't enough, there's the message itself. Given how enthused I was to actually receive a comment, it might have been more than a bit of a let down to know that it was not a person, but a robot, and not even a robot in need of a friend. Instead, I've chosen to hope that it means that the grand internet has found me, and decided that my site is a good place to ensnare travelers with his tarnished goods (you know, because the traffic is so high). I can almost smile.