Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nine Days of STARWIND

Okay, technically, this is about how I'm nine days into editing STARWIND.  But "Nine Days of Editing STARWIND" isn't nearly as nice a title.


So, yes.  Nine days in, at two chapters a day, which means I'm... a tiny bit over 69% of the way done.  I was really hoping for a rounder number than that, but I'll take it.  Things are going quite fast, and I'm glad for that; this is largely the quick-and-dirty edit wherein I make sure everything works and all the pieces are in place and I don't end up having a character enter the cockpit twice in the same scene.  (Again.)

I've also added about 1500 words and will surely add the remaining 150 or so to bring the book to 100K total, which is kind of awesome.  Yes, I'll cut quite a bit when it comes time to edit the book by hand, as always, but since sci-fi and fantasy books are usually on the longer side, I like the idea of it being a novel of good size.

But enough about the technical aspects.  How's the actual story going?

I'm really pleased with it so far, which makes me happier than I have time to explain.  For the most part, everything is working, and a lot of the stuff I was worried about hasn't happened.  The characters generally come off as who they're supposed to be, though the dialogue will need some work to sound more natural.  I was also concerned that the story itself would seem too... unmoored, I think, might be the best way to put it, since it jumps from world to world every few chapters.  But that doesn't seem to be happening, for one simple reason:

The Starwind itself.

Having the ship as the main location of the story, where all the different events start and end, has worked out better than I'd planned.  The ship really comes off as these characters' home, which is what I was going for, and that's tremendously gratifying.

Considering how much I've been racked by doubt and worse over the past few months (or just all my life), it feels really good to go over my work and feel like I've done it well, even more so when things I wasn't even consciously trying for have worked out.  It remains to be seen if readers will feel the same way about it, of course, but I can worry about that later.  Right now, I'm enjoying this initial trip through the story, and I'm looking forward to eventually sharing it with people.

Speaking of that: for anyone who's interested in beta-reading STARWIND, I have a quasi-deadline.  Yes, there's a good reason for this, I swear.  I'm going on the Writing Excuses Out of Excuses 2016 Writing Workshop and Retreat, and that's in mid-September.  I plan to have STARWIND in a readable version by the start of August.  If you want to read the book, and can do so in the month of August and be able to give me feedback by the start of September so I can make any changes I need to before the workshop/cruise, please let me know.  ^_^

Next week: IWSG.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Self-Publishing

With all the talk I've made lately of my trouble with getting my writing anywhere close to publishing, I've had a lot of people point me toward self-publishing.  I don't know if I'd call it the elephant in the room, because usually people don't tug on your sleeve, point, and say "LOOK AT THE ELEPHANT.  LOOK AT IT.  LOOOOOOOOK."


I've never wanted to self-publish, because my writerly dream has always been to be like the people whose books adorn my shelves.  I want the career.  I want writing to be what I do, my entire job, the thing I'm known for if I'm known at all.  I want my books out there, on shelves and in shops, where people can pick them up and read a little and decide to take them home.

This is the part where I can't continue without acknowledging that the world has changed.  I know that digital sales are big and will continue to grow.  I don't know if they'll ever take the place of physical books, but that's beyond me right now.  I know there's generally not a stigma to self-publishing anymore; I know it's no longer the realm of the desperate and the painfully amateurish.

But I have real trouble seeing myself getting what I want out of writing by doing everything myself.

From what I've read about self-publishing, it means being in charge of a whole lot of things that I know nothing about.  I know that, were I to get traditionally published (insert bitter laughter here), my job wouldn't be limited to just writing.  But I know that there would be people whose entire job is to handle aspects of publishing that aren't my job, and I'm good with that.  Hell, I'd much rather have it that way.

Full disclosure: a lot of why I don't want to self-publish is it would feel like giving up.  I know that's ridiculous, but it's what I think.  The whole thing rings of "nobody wants it, so I'll put it out there myself".  And I have enough trouble with the 'nobody wants it' aspect that I know, I know, that if I self-published and it went poorly, it would absolutely crush me.

It's one thing to query agents and hear back "no" or silence.  It's another thing to put your stuff out there and get the same thing back from your would-be audience.

On the other hand, I posted a story series online years ago.  Never promoted it, never advertised it, just threw it onto a fiction-posting site and let people find it.  I posted the final part of those stories almost eight years ago, and they still get hundreds of hits per month from all over the world and have racked up hundreds of reviews, every single one of them positive.  (I didn't think that was possible on the internet.)

So it's entirely possible that I just need to get my work out there.

This is hard for me to consider, since there's no way to know how things are going to go and no way to take something back from being self-published if I go that route and it goes poorly.  For now, I'm going to focus on editing STARWIND (two days in and it doesn't suck, so that's a plus) and see how things go with that.  I have some agents noted down who might be interested, and I have some small presses I'm looking at if that road goes nowhere yet again.

For the future, as per usual, I have no idea.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fifteen Years of the Same Problems

This entry was largely inspired by my last one.  Which is possibly the most depressing inspiration I've ever had.

I started writing my first book in June of 1998, late at night in a dorm room I was soon to move out of.  I finished it three years later, in May of 2001, and for some reason, I thought it had a chance at getting published.  Self-depreciation aside, that's a hell of a thing to look back and see.  I've been trying to get published for fifteen years, been writing books for eighteen years.  And that's not even counting the assload of stuff I wrote, short stories and long stories and random bits and pieces, for years before I finally started on what would actually become a book.

And in all the time since then, it feels like very little has changed.  I'm still sitting here, trying my damnedest to get these ideas and stories out of my head and into actual words, and having a hell of a lot more misses than hits with that.  I'm still struggling to write something that comes out worth a damn and feels like it has a chance at getting published.  I'm still waiting to hear anything but "no" or silence from an agent.

Fifteen years is a long, long time to have the same problems.

I know that comparing ourselves to others in this whole writing thing does no good, and I know there's confirmation bias at work when I feel like everyone else out there is doing better than me.  But it's really damn hard to not do that.  I read an article recently on a blog where an author talked about how they'd started writing around five years ago, and how important it was to not give up, because now they had an agent and had sold two of their books, which were soon to be published.

And I'm sitting here thinking, "You telling me not to give up is like complaining about the phantom pains from your missing finger and the life adjustments you've had to make to account for it, while I'm sitting here with no legs and a plastic bag where my intestines used to be."

I try to make colorful metaphors when I'm angry.  It's a little more productive than yelling.

I know this is all stuff I've talked about before.  It's stuff I'll talk about again during the next attempt at publishing, whether that's with STARWIND or whatever comes next.  (This is the part where I'd hint at things I'm working on, but I'm getting absolutely fucking nowhere with any of them, so I don't even feel like being cryptic.)  That's why last week's entry was an inspiration for this one - it feels like every problem I have to talk about here, it's something I've already talked about.

Where am I going with this?  I have no idea.  I've thought about putting the blog on hiatus, because I'm tired of listening to my own whining.  I don't think that would do any good, though.  It helps to vent a little, and I do appreciate the support from y'all in the comments.  But it's one thing to have the same problems for fifteen years.  It's another thing to keep babbling about them for the few people willing to listen for four years straight.

As usual, I don't know what to do about any of this other than keep trying.  Even if it feels like Sisyphus himself would call me a fool.

Next week: might be thoughts on the start of edits on STARWIND.  Might be a hiatus announcement if the book turns out to suck.  We shall see.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Still Antagonized

Or, "I'm bothered that I'm still having the same sort of problems I had more than a year and a half ago."

I have more ideas for stories than I'll ever be able to write; I long ago accepted that I probably won't live long enough to get every one of them into a viable form and actually write those stories.  But it when I can pull enough of an idea together, see more of it, and figure out what that story is supposed to be, I keep running into the same damn problem, and that's the story's antagonist(s).

Most of my ideas start with someone interesting doing something interesting.  It's a good place to start, yeah?  The problem is that, for a story to work, it can't be about just that.  Okay, it could, but even I would get tired of 90,000+ words of someone just going around being awesome, even if I created the person.  There needs to be someone or something working against that person, some way to create a conflict.

This is elementary stuff, and I'm a little embarrassed that I'm sitting here trying to figure it out.  But damn if I don't have trouble making it work.

I didn't have this problem with STARWIND, because the book's about a race/scavenger hunt, which means no matter what's going on, the main characters have someone and something to work against.  They're trying to beat the other racers, they're dealing with whatever's between them and the items they need to gather, so on and so forth.  The book didn't need one specific antagonist because the entire situation was one enormous conflict.  Unfortunately, I don't think I can apply this to every story I want to tell.

Working in various flavors of fantasy as I do, I tend to think of an antagonist in terms of a Big Bad, someone who's working directly against Our Heroes or someone whose work Our Heroes are seeking to thwart.  The people I create for that role are never as interesting or detailed as the heroes, and this is one of the reasons my plots fall apart - there's just not enough opposition, nothing to keep Our Heroes from getting things done.

Or worse, I run into what I think of as the Marvel Movie problem.  I create a villain who has a connection to the hero, is just developed enough to barely be interesting, and then kill them off.  (Yes, as much as I love the Marvel movies, they really need to stop with the disposable villains.)  And then I realize I'm doing that, and close up the plotting document, muttering to myself.

...now I'm thinking back to an assignment in my seventh grade English class, in which we read different works and identified the type of conflict they displayed, and how I could use that to keep myself from falling into the trap of always thinking there has to be a Big Bad.  And now I'm wondering how I could have not thought of this earlier and put it to use in a way that could have solved this very problem.

(This is no longer a blog entry, it's now a therapy session.  Funny, I didn't think I had one of those until Friday.)

Okay!  So... I didn't go into this entry expecting to find the root of my own problem along the way.  But, me being me, I'm sure this won't actually solve everything, it'll just give me more to work with.  So, what about the rest of you?  How do you develop whatever it is that's standing in your characters' way?  And how do you make it work out with the rest of the story?  I would love some advice so I don't fall back into my same old problems yet again.  >_<

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG: The Post-Book Blues

I thought I finished STARWIND two Mondays ago.  I actually finished it three days after that.  Either way, the first draft is done, and I won't pick it up again and start editing until at least the 19th, possibly until the month's end.

So... now what?

The obvious answer is, of course, work on other stuff.  And believe me, I planned to.  I thought I'd be able to get right back to all the other plots I'd been working on before I started STARWIND.  Hell, I even said that I'd take a short break before getting back to work.

It's a good thing I don't have any problems with admitting I'm wrong, because ye gods, was I wholly mistaken on this one.  I've spent most of my time since finishing the book not working on anything, and hardly able to add more than a few bits here or there when I do.  And it feels very strange.

When I was writing the book, I joked that I didn't have much to say or was having trouble saying things because I was using up all of my words on the book.  I really should know better than to make jokes like that, y'know?  Because that's what it's felt like over the past week and a half - like when I sit down, I'm trying to run on empty.  Like I don't yet have my words back.  I've managed to add a few sentences to something, based on stuff I came up with at work, but that's it.

I don't get this, because I genuinely do want to get back to these things.  There's a six-page rough plot in there somewhere that came from me blending three other ideas together, two half-baked chunks of three pages' worth of ideas that started off as the same story but split from each other in some bizarre sort of textual mitosis, and a short series of early ideas that might be me coming up with how to make something work I've wanted to for years.

And, full disclosure: I'm kind of scared to open any of them, as I'm worried that I'll look at them and think they're crap.  Even thinking about them now, I'm worried that two of them have magic systems that are too similar.  Why I'm worried about that, I don't know, as odds are good I'll only ever write one of them and odds are great very few people, if any, will ever see it, but...

You get the idea.  This is my great insecurity for the month, having almost no drive to work on stuff and worried that I'm going to hate it if I do.  I know there's only one way to deal with it: open up the files and see what's there.

Yet most nights, assuming I even open my word processor, I just stare at the "Open" file box, and don't actually bring anything up.

I know this is something that will pass with time.  I'll give my brain and soul a little more rest and get back to everything when I'm ready.  And when I do open those files again, I'll probably like what I see.  It's just hard to convince myself of that right now.

Maybe I just need to plan for longer recovery times after finishing a book.