Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Chuck Wendig on Being a Happy Writer

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Thanks to Tobias Buckell for linking to Chuck Wendig’s post, 25 Ways to Be a Happy Writer, or at Least Happier. One of my favorite bits:

20. See Failure as an Instruction Manual

Failure is illuminating. It reveals every broken board beneath our feet, every crack in the wall, every pothole in the road. Do not shun failure. High-five it. Hug it. Engage in lusty pawing with it. Failure means you’re doing. Everybody fails before they succeed. Failure is how we learn. Failure is part of the grand tradition of figuring out how to be awesome.

Totally correct. About anything, really, but in particular anything having to do with the creative arts. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of experimentation, a lot of try-fail-try-fail-try-fail, and did I mention a lot of practice? to make it up the Creative Arts Mountain. If you can’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll never make it to the top of that mountain, and if you’re afraid of making mistakes, you’ll be so paralyzed you’ll never make it past the foothills.

Read them all, noting that most of them are delightfully profane. :)

Angie

February Stuff

Monday, March 4th, 2013

I’ve been on the Oregon coast for the last week and a half, doing two workshops back-to-back. It was a grueling experience, as the single workshop I did last year was. And it was awesome, and I’ll definitely be doing it again. I got lots of writing done, and I SOLD A STORY!! Which got the all-caps treatment because it’s my first professional sale, as in more than five cents per word, holy freaking yay!!! :D

I’m going to have a story in Fiction River’s anthology How to Save the World, edited by John Helfers. (Scroll down a bit — it’s the second book.) Holy sheep, I’m gonna be in a book with David Gerrold!

I’ve been trying to break into mainstream SF/F for ages, so this is a huge deal for me. I’m still getting this really silly grin on my face whenever I think about it, so I beg pardon of anyone who sees me and thinks o_O about my state of mind. :)

I wrote almost 29K words in February, which is good — I’m still well ahead of quota for making my 2013 goal. My wordcount meter says I’m at 27%, so I’m where I was hoping to be at about a week into April. That’s great; I love having padding on my quota. I was hoping for more in February (January was over 35K) but there were several days when I was in the workshop and frantically reading rather than writing. I count those days well spent, though. I also killed my streak, but I was anticipating that, too. No prob; doing an Oregon workshop is one of the better reasons I can think of for having days with no actual writing.

The workshops I did were The Business and Craft of Short Fiction, and the Anthology Workshop. The Antho Workshop is a repeat for me; it’s worth doing over and over, and many writers do. I took a ton of notes, especially at the first one, and learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know before, which is the point. (Wow, a story that’s in a continually extended option with Hollywood can make you a buttload of money, even if they never make the movie!) Great info; it’s going to take a while to absorb it all.

Currently I’m sitting in a hotel room in Portland; I have a flight home at 2:30. I’ll do some writing today, then fall into bed (ten hours last night, still not caught up) and my next Thing To Go To is a dentist’s appointment on Thursday.

Oh, yeah, didn’t blog about that before. :/ So on Wednesday two weeks ago, Jim and I were having dinner at this little cafe across the street. They have these really good ice cream sandwiches — two chocolate chip cookies, made in-house, with in-house ice cream in the middle, then freeze the whole thing. So I was eating my ice cream sandwich when one of my crowns (upper incisor) snapped off at the gum line. :( Luckily I had a root canal before they put the crown on, so it didn’t hurt; I was just damn startled, and then all ACK!! when I realized what’d happened. And that I was getting on a plane Saturday morning to go to the workshops. [headdesk]

I went to my dentist the next morning and they put in a very fragile, non-functional, temporary tooth-like object, cemented to the teeth to either side on the back. I was warned not to bite anything, and not even to brush. And when your dentist tells you not to brush, you know your fragile dental work is FRAGILE. I was very careful, but it was a bit wiggly within about 24 hours. I had some vague hope that it’d last at least until the second workshop, but no luck; it came out just a bit over three days after having been installed. So I’ve been going just over a week now with this huge gap in my front teeth, and talking a little funny.

I feel like I’m seven again. :P

Anyway, this is fixable, although it’s going to be expensive. Civil Service has notoriously lousy dental insurance, and the Pacific Northwest has notoriously expensive dental care, for whatever reason. So the bill for an implant is going to be very large, and our insurance isn’t picking up a dollar of it. This is our tentatively planned cruise for this year, going into my mouth.

I just hope my other crowns last longer. At least I know to stay away from the Market Cafe’s ice cream sandwiches; that was the most expensive dessert I’ve ever eaten, by a couple of orders of magnitude.

Angie

January Stuff and Onward

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

The Koala is still missing, but I’ve joined a challenge through a mailing list I’m on. Participants each picked a wordcount goal for the year, and we divide it by fifty to get a weekly goal (assuming two weeks of vacation per year) and report our progress each week. There’s a secondary challenge to see how long we can maintain a writing streak, meaning writing every day for X number of days, “writing every day” meaning producing at least 250 words — no adding one word and calling it a writing day. :) So far I’ve written every day since January 2nd (I didn’t do any work on the first) and I’m well over quota for making my goal for this year of 250K words, yay. I’m not counting on that lasting, since my productivity is at the mercy of my brain chemistry, but it’s great to see a buffer building up.

I added a wordcount meter-thingy to the sidebar of Angie’s Desk to track my progress. Apologies to folks who read the other sites, but I don’t want another separate thing I have to update regularly across three sites. Hopefully I won’t completely embarass myself over the course of the year, having this out in public. [crossed fingers] I’ll update the meter-thingy every Sunday night or Monday morning, when I send my wordcount to the guy who’s organizing the challenge.

My total for January was 35,454 words, which is my best month since December of 2011. (I think I mentioned a little while ago that 2012 was a massively sucky writing year? :P )

I finished the third Sentinel Novel a few days ago, which is another major milestone. It still doesn’t have a permanent title; I’ll figure that out before I submit it. This is Manny’s story, and since Manny used to drive an ambulance, I’ve gotten some feedback from a couple of friends in the medical profession on how I’m handling medical type stuff. I need to incorporate those comments, and also go over the whole thing with sandpaper looking for typos and stray commas and inconsistencies and such. I expect to get it subbed soon, though, and that’s pretty awesome.

Since wrapping Book3, I’ve been kind of bouncing around, doing a bit of this project and a bit of that, not really finding anything I can settle on. I have a lot of partials on my hard drive, and I’ve worked on a few of them. I also started something new, but that was more in the way of getting an idea down in pixels before I lost it, rather than being ready to do serious work on it; I think that one’ll probably stew for a while before I focus on it. But I’m feeling like a whole litter of popcorn kittens right now — I always have a lot of ideas/stories I could work on, but having just finished a big project, I also have an opportunity to work on whatever I want, and it’s hard to commit to any one thing because so many things look cool and interesting. :/ I figure I’ll let myself bounce around for a few more days, then settle into something. Note that I almost always work a bit here and there on various projects; what I’m looking for is something to be my main project, that one that gets most of my attention.

Until then, I guess I’ll keep poking around, working a little here and a little there. Eventually it’ll all come together like biorhythms and I’ll finish three things in a week, and that’ll be cool too, LOL!

Angie

A New Year Starting With Free Stuff

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

I hope everyone had a great holiday and is humming along back at work. I’m doing well — could hardly be worse after 2012 — and have a couple of major goals for this year. One is to write at least 250K words of fiction. I’ve done that before, should be able to do it again, and have joined a challenge through one of the mailing lists I’m on to help encourage me along the way. On track so far, yay.

The other is to get into indie publishing this year. I have backlist stories that are sitting on my hard drive, unavailable to anyone who doesn’t hang out on pirate sites, and I need to get those back up and available. I also have stories that’ve collected multiple positive rejections — the kind that say, essentially, “Good story, well written, not buying it, enjoyed reading it, looking forward to reading more from you.” If you have to be rejected, that’s the kind of rejection you want to get, but it’s still a rejection. I have some stories that’ve gotten multiples of these, from multiple professional editors. I figure any story that multiple pro editors thought was well written and enjoyed reading would probably be enjoyed by readers too, so I’m going to start putting them up myself.

To help me along with that, I downloaded and printed out the Smashwords formatting guide, figuring that was a good place to start. Then, in a great piece of serendipity, I heard that Adobe is giving away free copies of a lot of its older-version software, stuff that it’s been using phone-home DRM on for a number of years while newer versions have been released. It’s no longer cost effective for them to maintain the validation servers for their older packages, so rather than cut off all the customers who’ve handed them money for their software packages, they’ve released free, non-DRMed copies of this stuff, and it’s open for anyone to grab. The list includes both Photoshop and InDesign, and I’ve grabbed copies of both. If you’re thinking of indie pubbing, or if you’re doing it already but have been saving up for expensive high-level software, I highly suggest you grab it too: Free Adobe Software. I have no idea how long this is going to last, so get it while you can.

And major props to Adobe for being cool about this. Plenty of companies in the same position just say, “Too bad, buy the new version, here’s a percent-off coupon,” and leave it at that. Making sure that the honest customers who’ve handed them money in the past can keep using the software they’ve paid for is a class act. Letting other people (like me) try these older versions for free is also very classy, and might make them some money in the future, if I like these tools and decide to upgrade.

Angie

Duotrope Transitioning to Pay

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

For anyone who uses Duotrope and hasn’t seen yet, they’re switching many of their features over to pay-only on 1 January. According to their announcement, they’ve been trying to keep the site completely free, supported by voluntary donations, but the fact is they haven’t made any of their monthly goals since 2007. They’ve been saying for some time (at least as long as I’ve been using the site, almost three years now) that if they couldn’t fund the site through donations, they’d have to switch to charging a fee, and that’s what’s finally happened.

On another page, they talk about how the change will affect their statistics collection, and it sounds like they won’t be taking much of a hit there.

After our subscription model was agreed upon, we went back to those numbers and determined that while a significant drop in the user base was fully expected, we should be able to retain somewhere between 75% to 80% of the submission reports we normally receive.

Equally important is the fact that we will also decrease the amount of unreliable data. On average every year, 28,000 submission reports get ignored in the statistics for a large variety of reasons. Once again, looking at the type of user submitting this information, we predict the unreliable data could decrease by as much as 90%.

It sounds like they were getting most of their good data from people who were voluntarily donating money anyway, so that shouldn’t change.

I love Duotrope. I use it as a major source of my anthology listing posts, and I also use it to track my own submissions, and to find markets for my work. I’ve signed up for a year’s subscription, which cost $50 if paid all at once; paid month-by-month, a subscription is $5/month.

I encourage anyone writing, particularly anyone submitting short fiction to magazines and anthologies and webzines, to support Duotrope. They’re an awesome resource for writers, and I look forward to using their services for many years.

Angie

Guest Post: What Does Love Look Like?

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

I have a guest post up at Jessewave’s today called What Does Love Look Like? where I’m talking about how a writer shows the reader that the characters love each other. One might think that’d be pretty basic, but plenty of romances seem to have a hard time getting the idea across.

Also, today is my birthday! (I’m 49, if anyone cares.) To celebrate, I’ll be doing a drawing from the names of all the people who comment on my post at Wave’s today, up through noon Pacific time tomorrow, and the winner will get their choice of one of my published e-books, including the out-of-print books. So come over and read and let us know what you think. :)

Angie

Survey for Writers

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Michael J. Sullivan is conducting a survey for writers. This includes writers of long fiction, short fiction, poetry and non-fiction, and who’ve been published traditionally (New York or small press) or indie, or not published. From the intro:

The publishing industry is in great flux and traditional publishing paradigms are breaking down. The recently released Taleist Survey looked at self-published authors but ignored those published traditionally (both through big-six and small press) and also didn’t take into consideration “hybrid” authors who have feet in on both sides of the door. In order to get a better picture about the CURRENT publishing landscape, as well as what paths writers are pursuing I’ve created a survey and need writers (both aspiring and published) to help bring some clarity to today’s publishing climate.

The survey is designed so that you can skip sections that don’t apply to you (for instance if you are not yet published). As a way of saying things, I’ll provide my analysis AND raw data to all those who participate (minus any identifying information – such as email address).

I thank you in advance for helping myself, and other authors, get a better handle on what to expect in regards to publishing in 2012.

I think this is a great idea. The Taleist Survey is being discussed pretty widely, but as Michael points out, it had a number of blind spots. If you’re a writer, I encourage you to take this survey and toss your data into the pot.

Angie

April Stuff

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Writing: 5058 = 1pt
Editing: 67,875 = 13pts
TOTAL = 14 pts

Koala Challenge 9

No subs last month, sucky writing, but lots of editing. That’s probably not going to change this month, either, with my novel in process. I’m going to have about 5 days to do edits on 114K words toward the end of May, then it’s going through two rounds of proofing (which I’ll get to go over and make changes on) and they’re looking to release in late July. [flail] This one’s definitely going through faster than the last one, and once I get edits back I’m not going to have time for much else. Oh, did I mention the spousal unit and I are going on two out-of-town vacations…? We leave for a cruise (Alaska) this coming Friday, edits should be waiting for me when we get back on the 18th, I hope, and they’re due on the 25th, which is when we fly down for BayCon so I have to get it all done in time to send it before I go.

I’m actually lucky my vacations dovetail with the schedule so well, otherwise we’d have to do some scrambling, and with a schedule this tight, that could’ve been awkward. On how long we have, I guess it’s just a matter of what they have in the pipeline at the time and which slot they decide to put a book into. Hidden Magic got slotted far enough down the line that the schedule was almost leisurely (although it didn’t feel quite so slow then), while Emerging Magic was slotted sooner and needs to hustle.

Still wish I were writing more, but at least I’ll have a new book out soon, which is very cool. :)

Angie

New Contracts and a Sale

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I just sent back the contract for Emerging Magic, the full length sequel to A Hidden Magic. At the same time, I signed a contract for a paperback edition of A Hidden Magic, which is awesome. :) I’ve been hoping for a paperback for a long time; I’m looking forward to signing a copy and handing it to my mom. I’m also interested to see whether there are any differences in the process, from my POV, for a paperback. I don’t know whether Torquere does paper galleys, frex.; I never had a reason to ask before. I’ll find out now.

Hidden Magic took almost exactly six months from acceptance to publication, and Emerging Magic is about 50% longer, so I imagine it’ll take at least six months. At least it’s in the pipeline, though. I haven’t had anything new out in a while and I’m looking forward to getting back into it.

While I’m on the subject, Amazon has two of my books at 20% off:

A Hidden Magic is $5.59
A Spirit of Vengeance is $3.43

I have no idea how long these prices will last, but if you’ve been thinking of getting one or both, this is a good time.

Angie

A Good Negative Example

Friday, April 20th, 2012

So I was clicking links from blog to blog and I came across something that was posted a year ago. It’s okay that it’s not current; the point I want to make about it is general rather than specific, so timing is irrelevant.

The blog post was called L.J. Smith Got Fired From Writing Her Own Novels. (For anyone who doesn’t know, as I didn’t, Ms. Smith wrote the books from which the TV show Vampire Diaries was made.)

Well, that perks up one’s interest, particularly if one is a writer. Then I read the post, which purports to contain an actual e-mail written by Ms. Smith herself.

First a caveat: there’s been some discussion as to whether this is authentic. Someone who linked it opined that, seeing as how no one — not Ms. Smith herself and not her publisher — had jumped up to refute it in the year since the post went up, it’s probably authentic. I’m willing to buy that, so far as it goes.

Anyway, what actually happened was that Ms. Smith was approached by an agent (?) who worked for a book packager, with an offer of a job — writing a series of books that’d already been created, as in the idea and characters and such had already been developed and they were just looking for someone to do the writing itself. It was a work for hire contract, so the packager owns the series and characters and such, not Ms. Smith. So when (about a year ago, I suppose) Ms. Smith was fired from writing “her” books, well, they were never actually her books.

Ms. Smith, in the e-mail which she supposedly wrote, said:

When I was called by an agent and asked to write the vampire trilogy, that agent wasn’t from a publisher, but from what is now Alloy Entertainment, Ltd. And they are a book packager. A book packager sells books, already made with covers and all, to publishers, like HarperCollins—my publisher for The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. And both these series were written “for hire” which means that the book packager owns the books the author produces. Although I didn’t even understand what “for hire” meant back in 1990, when I agreed to write books for them, I found out eventually, to my horror and dismay. It means that even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries. And from now on, the books will be written by an anonymous ghostwriter, just as Stefan’s Diaries are. It will say “Created by L. J. Smith” on the cover, but I am not allowed even to change a word in the ghostwriter’s book.

She describes the work-for-hire process as though it’s some sort of alien concept — strange and confusing and clearly unethical — she says, “You might wonder why the book packager and Harper would do this to me,” as though the whole point is to Do Something To Her, as though it’s obviously personal. They’re being incredibly mean to her because they’re mean people and they do mean things for no reason. And at the bottom of the letter, she says “I’ve worked so hard to make Vampire Diaries a good series, only to have the unthinkable happen to me. And I have no one but myself to blame for not being submissive enough.”

[headdesk]

Ms. Smith’s problem isn’t that she’s not submissive enough. Her problem is that she was incredibly ignorant of the business in which she works. Note that an agent of the packager approached her — she had enough of a track record to draw that sort of offer. No one contacts a random unpublished newbie and offers this kind of opportunity, and looking through her Goodreads listings, there are a couple of books that came out before the earliest Vampire Diary book. So she wasn’t a complete newbie, she was multi-published already, she’d been around — and yet she’d never heard the term “work for hire?” Seriously?

And when she ran across a term in her contract that she didn’t understand, she didn’t ask anyone about it? I wonder if she even read her contract, or whether she just signed where the nice agent (who, from how she’s described, worked for the packager and not for Ms. Smith) told her to? [sigh]

(I also wonder whether that agent got 15% of everything, despite representing the packager’s interests and not Ms. Smith’s.)

When I went to Oregon to take a workshop in March with Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, there was a sign on the wall of the workshop room that said “You Are Responsible For Your Own Career.” Dean and Kris both emphasize, in their workshops and on their blogs and in personal conversation, that writers need to treat writing as a business, to learn the business, to behave as businesspeople do in every other business. That means reading your contracts, it means getting a knowledgeable advocate on your side if you don’t understand everything in your contract — and that means an IP attorney, not an agent — and it means being ready to walk away from a contract if the publisher (or packager, in this case) won’t give on a contract clause that you personally consider a deal breaker. People who sign contracts they don’t understand have no one to blame but themselves when those contracts turn around and bite them on the ass. Not understanding her contract was Ms. Smith’s mistake, not being insufficiently submissive. On the contrary, she was far TOO submissive toward whoever it was who told her she should sign the contract without understanding all the terms in it.

What happened was Ms. Smith’s fault and nobody else’s. The packager and/or publisher didn’t mistreat her — she was hired to write their series. She apparently fought them on edits and disagreed with them on the direction the series should take, so they fired her and hired someone else who’d do the work as instructed. It was business and there was nothing personal about it; no one did anything “to” her.

Hopefully Ms. Smith will hire an IP attorney to go over her contracts from now on, and explain to her what they say and what it all means. If so, then she’ll have learned something, and that’d be a positive outcome to an unfortunate episode. From everyone else’s point of view, at least she can serve as a good negative example — if you’re a writer, don’t do what she did.

Angie