Thursday, January 17, 2019

Worldbuilding vs. Timewasting

Here's my eternal struggle: finding that balance between the worldbuilding that is necessary for me to understand the world as a whole, and thus tell the story well, and the worldbuilding that is just me wasting time or procrastinating.

Part of that ties to the fact that I ended up doing a lot of worldbuilding well before I really got started with proper writing. My worldbuilding process for Maradaine was tied to the process of Learning How To Novel. And I definitely enjoy an in-depth worldbuild process. I'm fascinated by the idea of doing a deep, wide and thorough worldbuild without, necessarily, knowing what the novel is or is supposed to be. I like using that as a process of discovery.

Now, is that necessarily useful? Is it good for me to spend too much time worldbuilding. What does "too much" mean? I'm the wrong guy to answer that question, as I do adore going deep into the "too much".

Part of that is because, when I get stuck with the writing, I like to fiddle with maps. Thats a process that I find relaxing and engaging and creative, and let's me restore my juices and get back to the real writing work.

So, for some non-Maradaine projects, I'm trying to restrain myself to the worldbuilding I need for the story. We'll see if that works. It's a different kind of process, and I'm a little nervous about it, to be honest. So, we'll see.

But that does remind me, I've got some new maps to draw...

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Trying to play Moneyball with Book Promotion

The publishing business is pretty strange. There's plenty of money being made, tons of books being sold, and if you scratch the surface, you'll see that no one really understands what works and what doesn't.

For real, if you go to a bunch of writers-- successful ones!-- and ask, "How does one sell more books?" you tend to get a bunch of shrugs. You will get that occasional person who talks like a marketing guru, but more often than not, their advice is not particularly useful.

This is, in part, because the ground is always shifting, tragedy-of-the-commons style. If someone comes up with a Great New Way to promote books, soon TONS OF PEOPLE are all doing that same Great New Way, and it's just so much screaming into the hurricane.

There's also the factor that book promotion just feels like ugly business. None of us know what's right, but we do know when someone's doing it wrong, and it stands out. Badly. For example: book trailers. There was a period when everyone was trying them, and most of them were terrible. Mostly because they were made by people who didn't know the language of film or the language of commercials. Too long and used that time badly.

Is there some Great New Secret, some perfect formula to get readers interested, to get books in their hands? I don't think there is, but maybe-- as how the Moneyball idea changed baseball-- there's something out there that requires a line of thinking from a different industry completely. Maybe there is, and I don't have the mindset to see it.

I've got a friend who talks about books having "stickiness", that when someone reads it, they "stay" in the book. They want to live in there, think about it all the time, tell others about it. And, he thinks, if you get enough people to "stick" into a book, they create that natural marketing machine for you.
And maybe he's right? It's an interesting idea, but right now I don't know how one might implement it. So, for now, like everyone else in this business, we're throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.

(Which, for the record, is a stupid way to check if your pasta is done. Just eat it, that'll tell you. No need to throw it against the wall.)
(And maybe that's a metaphor for this whole endeavor.)

All right, back to work. Do good things, people.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019: Planning for the future

Man, this is an auspicious start to the new year, hmm? Late for the first blog post.

In my defense, the Christmas "break" screwed up my sense of what day it was. Part of the challenge of working from home, and essentially working every day, is "day of the week" tends to be less meaningful.

But this year I feel a need to up my game, in terms of organization, planning, and even taking down time. I certainly feel I could be more productive, use my time more efficiently, and I'm going to need that in the years to come.

Some goals for this year:
-Of things you'll be seeing, I've got A PARLIAMENT OF BODIES coming out on March 26th, and SHIELD OF THE PEOPLE in October. Both were quite challenging books to write, and I'm pretty pleased with what they do and how they move the Maradaine saga forward.
-In things I'm doing, there's the final edits on SHIELD, which should be done and turned in this month.
-On the drafting front, I'll be finishing THE FENMERE JOB (about halfway through the rough draft now) and THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY, which will close out Phase I of the Maradaine Saga.
-Along the lines of "closing out Phase I", a big part of the next year is organizing my plans for things I'll be writing once I finish PEOPLE, as well as some smaller projects, some non-Maradaine things, and more or less continuing to lay out impossible goals for myself because that's how I roll.

So that's what I've got on my plate. We'll see how I do.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Holiday toast

Folks, 2018 has been quite a time.  A crazy, disheartening year in many ways, but I've made the best of it. 

So, we made it!  Raise a glass.

(For me, said glass will have a whiskey sour.  I go very simple: three parts whiskey, two parts lemon juice, one part simple syrup.  There are plenty of variations, but I don't mess with that when I make it at home.)

So keep doing good work, hold your head up, and keep your powder dry.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Books to look for in 2019

How is this year already almost over? I still have plenty of goals to fulfill over the next... eleven days?  So I need to keep my nose on that grindstone. 

But not before sharing a few books that I'm looking forward to in 2019!

TITANSHADEI've been excited for this debut from one of the newest in DAW's stable, Dan Stout, for some time.  1970s-esque secondary world fantasy buddy cop story with disco and 8-tracks?  YES PLEASE.  

JADE WARI thoroughly enjoyed Fonda Lee's first Green Bone Saga novel, Jade Cityand I'm very excited to see what she does next with this one.

THE SOL MAJESTICJust the other day Ferrett Steinmetz tweeted about this book about a gourmet restaurant at a remote space station and THAT IS ALL I NEED TO HEAR.  Let's have at it.

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR:  I've been aching for a good rival-factions-from-alternate-futures time war story, and I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO WRITE IT.  So thank goodness that Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone have.  WANT.

That's just a handful of things on my radar.  (Of course, A Parliament of Bodies and Shield of the People are as well.)  Hopefully I will be getting them in my hands and getting a chance to read them.  Looking forward to it.

What 2019 books are on your radar?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fade to Black

So, it's time for those end-of-the-year lists, and one of the classics is the Bad Sex Award, and this year it's some really glorious badness.  Looking at these ignoble entries, I'm reminded of why I tend to err on the side of "fading to black" when things are going to go much past kissing. 

Of course, anything resembling erotica or explicit sex would not fit in with the tone I've set for the Maradaine books.  Those tend to fit in the same category as PG-13 movies/primetime television, in terms of what I'm going for with them.  Not quite YA, but certainly friendly to a YA-seeking audience. 

BUT-- I've got a non-Maradaine project on the horizon, just in the planning stage, and I think the tone and feel for that one is going to want something a bit more explicit.  We'll see.  Still sorting it out, but I'd like to think this is an opportunity to build a new set of tools for my writing toolbox.

Or an opportunity to make that year's awards. 

But that's a challenge for tomorrow.  Right now I'm working on Shield of the People and The Fenmere Job, both of which will have their share of kissing and fading-to-black.  Who's kissing who, and when do we fade?  Well, you'll have to see.  But I will say that characters who were noted by some readers as not getting to kiss anyone in earlier books will be kissing people in these.

Back to work.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Holiday Books

So, I have to confess, I'm not much of one for holiday books.  I certainly would struggle to pick a favorite.

Of course, I do have a deep fondness for A Christmas Carol.  It's a fantastic story, that's at the same time deceptively simple in structure, yet rich and complex in execution. And I kind of love that it went from concept to in-stores in six weeks as a "damn I need some fast money" ploy.  Which: mad respect.

On a simpler level, I love A Visit from St. Nicholas.  It's such a pure and delightful story of Christmas joy, and there was a time when I could recite it for memory.  Now I might stop and stumble a bit if I tried.  But as a story, as a piece of poetry, it's a deep favorite for me. 

I think both, for me, represent something fundamental and pure about my feelings of the season.  Like: hey, here's a little bit of the magic of Christmas, and maybe, just maybe, experiencing it will make you a slightly better person. 

That's how I like to think of it, at least.