Saturday, November 18, 2017

A lot going on in the publishing world. I'm not ready to talk about it yet. Still trying to figure it out.

Funny thing is, all the changes may work out to be a good thing. Or not.

Still too early to tell.

So that's why I haven't been posting as much.

Vague enough for you?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ten personal rules of writing.

What's worse: Getting a rejection--or never hearing back?

I hate to say it, but I think the rejection is worse. The never hearing back allows you to decompress. The uncertainty doesn't really matter, not if you are going to keep on writing anyway.

The current book is a little soft. I'm not digging into it deeply, but that is kind of on purpose. I needed something light to write, something I could just dish out every day. Even if I only write 1000 words a day for the rest of the year, this book would come in at over 70K words. I'll miss a few days because of the holidays, no doubt, but I rarely only write 1000 words.

Just another story to set into the book bank.

At some point I really need to go back to the book bank and start finishing stuff up.

The real project will be next year. The new thriller. I'm throwing two ideas for books together, trying to use the strongest character, doing it in third person, and I will be trying at least to have it somewhat outlined before I start. I really think the book would benefit if I can avoid flailing around for the first 50 pages and really start the story where it needs to start.

I want to really get this book right. Of course, that is a formula for writer's block, so I have to be careful. I have a whole bookshelf full of books about gold mining, which seems to be a reoccurring element in my books, and it might help to read them.

This I know:

1.) Research always helps. It give the story telling detail and often sparks ideas.

2.) I can't meander the first 50 pages again before the story takes off. I need to start where the story takes off.

3.) I need a strong central character. I don't like Duncan stand-ins, they feel amorphous to me, whereas specific strong personalities other than myself are much more fun to write and tend to be stronger.

4.) I should write in 3rd person. 1st person is very attractive and easy to write, but it's hard to gain any real depth, and besides I like have numerous POV characters.

5.) I like numerous POV characters, but I need to set a limit. I think no more than 4 or 5, if I can help it.

6.) I need to write the book to the end quickly, and then go back and fill in with perhaps more characters and elements.

7.) Note taking wouldn't be out of bounds. I often have ideas while writing, then think I'll remember them, and only later when I'm finished will I realize that I left out something that would have been nice to have.

8.) Rewrites are incredibly important. They make a decent story a good story.

9.) The more time I have between rewrites, the more perspective and the more willing to change.

10.) I shouldn't second-guess myself or let others critique the 1st draft. Finish it, and only then make changes. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Jump Forward

I was stuck for a couple of days.

Finally gave up and went for my walk without my laptop and of course the answer came to me. Hurried back to my car, quickly drove home, and wrote one of the two chapters I conceptualized.

The answer was to Jump Forward to where action is happening. It had been intended as a set-up chapter, where a POV character is responding to events. It was terribly boring. So I ditched all that and went directly to where things change.

Jump Forward.

That's probably a pretty good rule for writing altogether. Skip all the explanations, set-up, meandering character development. Because all of those things can be done within the action if you're clever enough.

For most of my books I've struggled with the first 50 pages. I discover my stories by writing them. I've tried to outline but I just can't seem to do it. In fact, most of the time I don't really understand the book until I've finished the first draft. That's why I don't interrupt myself with second-guessing when I write a first draft. I immerse myself in the story and finish it, and only then do I look back and see what I'm missing or what I'm doing too much of.

The pattern that seems to be developing is that I write the first 50 pages and then the story kicks in. So that's probably where the story should start. But I have just enough set-up on the first 50 pages to be unable to shed them. I can usually cut a good 30%, but it is usually pretty unsatisfying, both because it isn't a perfect solution and at the same time I'm cutting stuff I like.

So what I need to do is figure out those first 50 pages in advance,  jump forward to where the action really starts.

Jump forward, then jump forward again. And again. Action scene followed by action scene, always progressing toward the end of the story.

There is one trick I've learned. Write as fast as I can to the ending, and then go back and add elements that are missing.

Some books the beginning works, but the ending doesn't. Or the ending works, but the beginning doesn't. Or the beginning and ending works, but the middle doesn't work. Everyone once in a while all three work, but it's rare.

Linda and I are coloring mandalas at night when we're watching TV. So what happens is that you try to guess which colors will work well together, and sometimes you get them right and sometimes you don't but once you've chosen the colors you really can't do anything about it.

The point is no amount of experience can keep you from guessing wrong. Each mandala is intricate and different. So there isn't a point at which you can eliminate mistakes because there is always an element of guesswork.

To extend the analogy,  each time I start a book, no matter how much experience I bring to it, there is a certain amount of guesswork, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. There is a steady progression in writing ability that isn't necessarily reflected in a steady progression of story quality. Some of my very early books are probably better than some of my later books, and it was simply a matter of hitting on the right subject in the right way.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

I was undecided about what to write next, but I wanted to keep writing, so I chose a silly little science fantasy that probably isn't all that good and I'm not sure where it's going but I'm having fun with it. Just writing each chapter as it comes. It may not come to anything, but it's keeping me going and I'm experimenting a little with style and process.

Basically, I'm letting my clunky stuff emerge. Instead of waiting for each sentence to feel fully formed, I'm just jumping at it, clutching the words, slapping them on the page, and wincing. I'm moving characters around and having them talk. About half the book is probably missing.

Like I said, it's an experiment, but it isn't that bad. It reads better than it should. In a way, it's giving me a chance to learn what's really necessary to the story and what isn't.

It may end up being a throwaway book, but it's better to keep writing than to wait around for inspiration.

I do want to write another thriller, but I want to have a killer elevator pitch, high concept, something that can be described in one sentence. "The Donner Party Werewolves" or "Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush" or "Wild Pig Apocalypse."

I do know that whatever I choose will be action packed from the start, very little backstory, just straight ahead plot. Again, probably more of an experiment than anything else.

I keep coming back to horror because I think it's the genre with the most possibilities. Any story can be turned into a horror story. The perimeters are pretty broad. I can write in the real world and yet indulge in my dark fantasy inclinations. It isn't what I expected to be writing, but I keep coming back to the fact that the genre is most suitable for my strengths and weaknesses. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I don't enjoy world building.

I mean, I love fantasy. I think I have a feel for fantasy. But I know that part of what I love about "Lord of the Rings" is the completeness of its reality. It's as if Middle Earth actually exists. There is a palpable and pervading sense of nostalgia.

But when I try to write fantasy, I just want to tell a story with some interesting characters without all the effort it takes to construct a world around them. I think that's the main reason when I came back to writing that I started in the horror genre, and why the horror genre still attracts me. I can place the story in the real world. The only world building I need to do is the supernatural nature of whatever the threat is, and I can do that much. That much is fun and interesting.

Historical horror, the same way.

With thriller novels, the problem is the opposite. I don't like to have to research all the "realistic" details of a plot, the police procedures, the types of weapons, and on and on.

But I can force myself to do the work, but...I feel like thrillers require me to be an adult and I'm not sure I've ever been an adult.

Or I can just go off and merrily write "Gargoyle Dreams" and "I Live Among You," which are self-contained stories requiring no world building or research.

I could write these stores all day long.

Currently, I'm on a science fantasy book, which is usually not satisfying to either SF fans or Fantasy fans. Heh. The usual world building problems are coming up. In a way, the plot of a fantasy is contingent on the world, the religions, the geography, the customs, etc. My problem is that I plot my books, and then try to fit a world into it, instead of the other way around.

In my "Tales of the Thirteen Principalities", I've written two full novellas, one novella 2/3rd finished, and another 1/2 finished. In each story I've discovered more about the world I'm writing in. My goal is to write half a dozen of these novellas, and cross reference the different aspects of the world I discover in each story, which I can do as long as I don't publish. The stories are already probably more detailed than any other fantasy I've written, and it is because each story has brought out a little more of the world.

Anyway, I'm going ahead with my current little science fantasy and hoping it comes together. It's a little dangerous. I've got about 10 books set aside that I don't think made the grade, and this could be another one of those. But it is better to write everyday in my opinion than wait around for the killer idea or inspiration.

As I've mentioned before, whenever I'm confronted by a dilemma, I ask myself "What is the moral high ground?"

The answer here, I think, is that I probably need to challenge myself in my writing. As fun as "Gargoyle Dreams" and "I Live Among You" are to write, and as well as they come out (and I do think they are as good as anything else I've done) they aren't a challenge, and if I'm ever going to get better (and after this many books, that's a question) I need to push myself a little. At the same time, let myself write "fun" books every other time as palate cleansers so to speak.

I've held off writing my Trilogy. I have in mind an epic fantasy, when I'm ready. Everything else is in preparation for that. But I'll know going in that world building is absolutely crucial. I've learned that much about myself by writing.

Monday, November 6, 2017

D & D and Stranger Things

We sold out of most of our D&D this past weekend.


It's great that people are finding or being reminded of what a great game this is by a TV show. What's more, the kids in the show are so appealing that it gives the game a nice halo.

I've put in an quick order this morning, and then will stock up for Christmas next week. How cool. Everything old is new again.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Buying toys with a vengeance.

I tend to cycle through my product lines at Pegasus Books, paying close attention to one at a time.

These last few months, it's been toys. I'd sort of neglected them over the last few years, picking up one or two, here or there.

When I finally got around to doing something about it, I kind of went crazy. I ordered mostly off the liquidation lists. The weird part about liquidation lists, and this is true of new books as well, is that the stuff I can order there at a steep discount probably range from 00 to 80% desirable, while if I was ordering new toys at regular discounts, the desirability range is 00 to 100% and I try to order the 90 to 100% toys anyway.

In other words, other than absolute standouts, there is no point not ordering a decent toy every time it is offered.

But inevitably, there are more decent toys than I can afford, and even more importantly, than I can make room for.

It occurred to me the other day that the way my store works is that I consistently OVERLOAD it with product, to the point where I have to be very creative in how I display, or I let some overflow spill out into places that it shouldn't probably be, or I am forced to remove older product.

This last option is always there, but the overflow generally stops just short of that.

Not this time. This time I told Cameron to just remove any old, dusty, or yellowed toys to make room for the new ones. It should brighten up the store. It's not that the new toys are any more likely to sell. I find with toys, posters, T-shirts, and other accoutrements that it's very difficult to know WHAT will sell and that I'm continually surprised.

Yet another reason to buy toys that are being taken off the lists by the wholesalers.

Another reason to buy this discounted product is that by the time I get it, it has cycled through the bigger stores so...ironically, I'm likely to be the only one who has them. The long tail theory that I just need that one person who wants that one toy.

Meanwhile, I had the brainstorm of asking my Facebook friends and followers what new books I should order. I had five books I wanted to order, and I needed to push that to twenty books, so I had an open call.

Boom. Great suggestions, one after another, and as soon as it started I decided to order every single book suggested if possible with the thought that one person's all time favorite book is probably a worthy book.

I was hugely gratified that I already had about 2/3rds of the suggestions in stock, which if I may say, means that I have a pretty good sense of what people are looking for. But it was a fun exercise and I'm going to do it again soon. Maybe should try that with games, or graphic novels, as well.

Finally, enamel pins are a thing, especially in comics, but I noticed that there were enamel pins for books as well. I found an outlet with 40 different titles, from Lord of the Rings to Pride and Prejudice, all great books. I couldn't resist and ordered 20 of the titles and they are now in the store.

If you love books, you should check them out. They are very cool.