Monday, June 24, 2013

Writing Forums

I love when October comes. The crisp fall air and changing leaves heralds the annual cleaning and reopening of the NaNoWriMo forums, and eager writers young and old gather together to spend the following month writing their novels. Most other forums I visit fall by the wayside for me during that time while I'm finding old familiar faces among the crowds and making new friends, plotting and helping others work out their details, playing games and recruiting artists for character sketches or cover art. It's almost like an online festival that lasts for two glorious months. In December, things slow down. There's still straglers, and at first, it's almost like it's not over yet, but slowly, gradually, people begin to vanish and the forums slow to a crawl. The party's over, time to go home.

That's...well, bad for me. I enjoy forums. I like being active and making friends and plotting and planning and playing games. It's great inspiration for me to keep going. I thrive on having connections with other people to push me onward. Thus far, the only times I've managed to finish stories have been, well, NaNo. I write my novel, edit a little, and then fall off the wagon and not write seriously again until the next NaNo. I should be writing every day, even a little, but I'm not. I have a small support group, but I don't have the people to compare myself to. I don't have the wordcount bar of NaNo that pushes me forward, to reach my goal, to keep up with the people rushing ahead, to prove I can do it.

So I joined another forum, the Absolute Write Water Cooler. God of Ephemera linked me to it, and I signed up almost immediately. I've been idly chatting and just feeling my way around for now. Not rushing to be able to get critiques or make friends. I'm the complete new guy here, not like on the NaNo forums. It's intimidating, and I don't want to mess up or get a bad reputation for myself so early in the game by saying the wrong thing or posting where I'm not supposed to. So for now, I'm just taking it slow and getting the feel for the people and the place. Hopefully this'll be part of the push I need to start and keep a schedule. We'll have to see.

Next Camp NaNo next month. Not sure if I'm in or not yet. I do have a half-finished sequel calling my name. Any of you guys up for it?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reading List

Just a short update this week. I'm still editing, still plotting, and doing a LOT of reading. I just finished On Writing by Stephen King (a wonderful mix of autobiography and writing advice) and started A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King, the author I met at the comic book convention. It's a first-person-present super-hero novel, something I've never seen before. Superhero novel, I mean. I've had a bunch of ideas myself for superhero stories, and was wondering whether they'd work in novel form or not. I'm trying to make a good study of this one for that exact reason, to get an idea of how to best handle my own ideas.

On top of A Once Crowded Sky, I've also got Neil Gaiman's new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane on its way to me right now, and Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long War is also due out which means, if my father-in-law continues his tradition of sending us the newest Pratchett book at release, it may potentially be on my doorstep in a few days as well. So much to read, so little time!

At the end of On Writing, Stephen King has listed a very long list of books he read while working on some of his own, with an additional three pages of even more books he'd read since making the first list. I've been tracking the books I read in the sidebar here, but only the most recent three. To help me keep better track of my reading, I've gone ahead and added a page called Reading List. I'm going to start tracking the all books I read there. If you want an opinion on any of them or have questions, feel free to comment on the page and I'll get right back with you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Writing as a Business

Sorry this is coming so late. It's taken me a few days to figure out what I want to say and end up with something I was happy with. I didn't think this was going to be this difficult.

I had a busy weekend when it came to making writing connections. I went to the romance writers get-together I mentioned a few weeks ago on Saturday, and Sunday met an author at a comic book convention. Both were wholy enjoyable experiences, and I got some good information from both, as well as a few networking connections.

One thing I got from both that I had never really thought about before was that, once the book is done, writing is a business. Just like with a regular job, it's about networking and who you know and who they know. It's trading business cards and having a public image, even if you don't have anything to show for it yet. When my friend told the author at the convention that I was an "aspiring writer", the author asked if I had a card. I had nothing to give him to help him remember who I am, even though he told me to feel free to contact him if I had any questions when I'm getting started with the querying process. I just have to HOPE he remembers "the girl from the convention who talked to you about writing superhero novels". The romance writers meeting was specifically focused on social networking and using Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest as writers. I got a business card from a woman who's "rebranding" with a new penname, and heard another talk about how she built up her twitter following before having anything out and how that affected her sales when her first novella came out. There was so much discussion about "brands" and "public image" and "networking" and other buzzwords you associate with businesses, and I never once thought about them as a writer.

But it's not wrong, really. If you want to be published traditionally, you want to know someone who knows someone. Yes, you can send things blindly, and yes, you can still get an agent or a publisher that way, but it's going to be a LOT harder. It's probably easier if you've got a network that can give you a boost over all the other people trying to get to that agent, that editor, that publisher. If you can say, "Oh, I'm ____ from Twitter, we talked about x and y a while back." If you can namedrop someone who told you to contact them. If you're self-published, you can make your book free for a while to get it out there, get people to know your name at the cost of sales. Or you can have a Pinterest and Twitter set up and let your followers know when your first book is coming out with a Facebook fan page waiting for them to join. Your friends and followers can retweet and repin or share on facebook. Do you want to roll the ball all the way there yourself, or do you want to give it a nudge and watch it go as social networking does its thing?

It really got me thinking. I'm not an "advertiser". On every blog I've had, I've kept my identity secret, not that it matters since almost every follower knows who I am anyway. Aside from one private forum, I don't advertise them anywhere that's attached to my real name because I want anonymity. When I'm finally done editing and the query letters are going out, though, there's nothing for anyone to find. Nothing to tell them who I am. No webpage or blog, no facebook account, no twitter, no pinterest, nothing under my chosen penname that an agent or publisher could use to see "okay, this girl's got people who might be interested in something with her name on it." I have no public internet presense, and I've been rolling changing that around in my head since Saturday. Setting up a pinterest account for my penname, making a twitter and learning how to use it... I'm still not 100% set on anything. All I'd ever thought was "write book, edit book, query until acceptance," but that's the old fashioned way, isn't it? In this social, online society, we've already seen changes in getting regular jobs. Why should I have thought that getting professionally published would be different? And yet, I managed to get my job the old fashioned way.

I don't know. I'm just in this place where I'm trying to figure out what steps to take now, and it feels like there are a lot more options to choose from. They all get me where I want to be, ideally, but what path do I take to get there?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I just finished reading Volume 1 of the Complete Stories of Isaac Asimov on Saturday. 600 pages of Asimov's shorts stories, and it's not even all of them. There's a second volume somewhere I need to pick up. Mind-blowing how much there is, but not surprising considering he was one of the most prolific authors ever. I've read a few of his novels before: Caves of Steel and Nemesis. I greatly enjoyed the first, while the latter had some high points and low points. I would have said I enjoyed his work, but he wasn't one of my top authors. I admired him, certainly. He's one of the only authors to have published books in every dewey decimal, if not the only one. Science fiction and, really, modern technology are the way they are today because of him. I deeply admired him, yes, but I wouldn't have said he was one of my favorites.

What a change one book can make. While the two I read before were enjoyable, they didn't even begin to scratch the surface of the complete brilliance of Asimov, and I suddenly understand WHY he's so highly spoken of. I thought I had an active muse, that I had a lot of ideas. I realize now I have nothing on him. Asimov asked "what if..." at every little thing, and he made it work. He took the simplest of ideas and made a story around it. I keep trying to come up with other words to describe it, but I just keep sticking on "brilliant" because that's what it is. Pure brilliance.

So now I'm at that place. You know, when you find a new favorite author and all you want to do is find everything they've written and read it. I at least need to get through some more of his robot stories: I, Robot and the like. And knowing how much Asmiov's written, I know I've got a long path ahead of me. I'm looking forward to it.