Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Well, I Broke My Brain

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

So, believe it or not, I’ve just got about got some critique copies of my novel ready (I ordered the first proof for myself mere moments ago).

Naturally, being the typical, pathetically insecure writerly type, I am now convinced that it sucks beyond all redemption. My response to this was to spend all last night reading 1-star reviews of popular books on Amazon, both traditionally published and indie. While this helped at the time (for some reason), I then had nightmares about reviews of my own work piling up. Although, in my unconscious’s defense, most of them were not negative. Strangely, though, the highly positive ones scared me just as much.

So a word about this whole indie publishing thing. Since this book is the first of a series, I’m not bothering to give it away until at least one sequel is ready. In fact, I will probably do little if any marketing until then. So I expect all of two people to ever find and buy it at first, but I’ll be getting my foot in the door.

I’ve also been sampling some of the indie lit out there on my brand new Kindle (thanks, honey!), and what I’ve tried so far is, honestly, subpar. Not badly written, as one might suspect, just kinda . . . meh. Yet the titles I’ve tried, not to name names, are ones that are selling reasonably well despite their indie status, and have boatloads of glowing, seemingly authentic reviews, so what do I know?

Another worry I have is that maybe I have lost interest in most fiction. I used to read a lot more back in high school when I had more time for such things, and I’ve only grown more cynical and impatient over the years since. I’ve put down several popular, traditionally published novels lately, wondering what the appeal is. I never used to do that. I’m almost afraid to go back and read some of my old favorites. Take, for instance, the Wheel of Time series, which is finally scheduled to be concluded next year under the hand of Brandon Sanderson. I plan to go through and read the whole series then, as I liked what I read of the series–12 years ago! Was I even the same person then?

So, yeah, I’m a mess. If I go read some Heinlein and discover I don’t like it anymore, I will probably go cry in a corner.

Of Enthusiasm and Existential Crises

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

One of the great emotions in life–and increasingly rare in this aging cynic–is that of enthusiasm. Having spent most of my life in school of one sort or another, I am acutely aware of the hopefulness I experience at the beginning of every school term; soon I shall be learning new things every day, expanding my horizons and improving my lot in life. The blank notebooks and unopened texts ache to be scribbled with my penetrating insights into the sum of man’s knowledge.

Soon, however, reality sets in: the daily grind wearing me down, the inevitable shortcomings of the instructor, the insufferable idiots surrounding me, the textbooks that are contractually forbidden from just getting to the point already, my own imperfect memory betraying my best intentions. By the end of the semester, I am happy to forget the whole experience. Rinse, lather, repeat.

After so many years of this cycle, only the faintest glimmer of hope remains, and is extinguished before my first class is over. And this is how I feel in the course of study for a subject I actually like, so you can imagine the severity of my existential crisis when I dropped out of my last program.

I even felt this enthusiasm before I joined the military–I was going to be a shining example of a young patriot, by Jove. Reality kicked my ass good and hard.

Now, the fraction of my spirit that hasn’t been crushed has turned to other pursuits, the ones I wish to discuss being filmmaking and writing.

Some of my friends and I have always been interested in indie filmmaking, but we never did anything due to the usual litany of real-life circumstances. However, at one time, I had great enthusiasm for the idea. But the more I thought about the cost and complications involved–besides the fact that the ultra low-budget indie scene of the 90′s is long dead–the more and more it drifted into the background.

Recently I watched a film called Feeding Frenzy, from the geniuses at Red Letter Media who created the Plinkett Star Wars reviews (which are, without hyperbole, the best art criticism in any form ever created). It’s a nearly zero-budget film that’s a spoof of 80′s “rubber monster” movies, and it is surprisingly smart and entertaining despite its obvious rough edges. So, naturally, the creativity bug hit me, and I practically raved like a madman, “Why aren’t we making movies?!?”, “Oh, look how much the price on such-and-such camera has come down!”, “We’ve got the script, let’s aim for shooting this summer!” Then I do the worst thing possible and listen to the creators’ commentary on the Feeding Frenzy DVD, and the trials they went through just to make this seemingly simple movie were, quite frankly, staggering. The realities hit me again–I have no money, time, equipment, cast, crew, or know-how. I lapse into my usual I-have-wasted-my-life despondency.

So I return to the cheapest and most solitary of artistic pursuits, writing. I need to finish that novel anyway, right? Miraculously, I am close to that point, and if my previous post is any indication, I was rather enthusiastic about becoming an “indie author” online. After exploring this dank, hopeless, rightfully shunned corner of the Internet, I just . . . Jesus Christ. The millions of man-hours these people pour into fruitless marketing and networking, their completely unjustified optimism (if not downright delusion), their bitching about the traditional publishing industry. Of course, that’s the next level, the thousands of wannabe authors scrambling at the virtual gates of the publishing houses like so many Depression-era workers. The very thought of it is so instantly sad and soul-crushing.

That being said, I’m still sold on my idea of just giving my book away, then just leaving it at that and not obsessing about my online “career”. I don’t have the time or constitution to jump through all these hoops, whether for elusive success as an indie author online, or with the print publishers. If it turns into something more, then great, if not, well, I had fun working on it. I guess I should pursue the traditional route if I want to be a “legit” author, but if there is one thing that’s obvious it’s that publishing, TV, and film executives are extremely poor at predicting what will be popular. Sure, they turn away scores of genuinely awful projects, but how many gems have never seen the light of day due to this system? (And how many abject failures have they greenlighted?) Since I can make this particular product so cheaply in this day and age, why not skip the middleman and let the customer decide? And how many poorly edited, amateurish titles have been released by publishers lately? Their standards seem to be getting lower everyday anyhow. Not that I consider this license to release a substandard product, but now that the end is in sight the usual pathetic artist’s anxieties have a firm grip upon me.

So, yeah, that’s how I feel.

On Writing, Waiting, and the Future of Publishing

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Guess what? I finished the second draft of the novel! At least, I finished transcribing (and editing as I went) everything in my notebooks. I’ve yet to incorporate the chapter intros I mentioned earlier (by which I mean, three bloody months ago–I officially hate time). Turns out I grossly overestimated how many words my handwritten pages contain, so the whole thing stands at over 95,000 words at the moment, which is probably a better length anyway.

Next, I plan to have a cheap print-on-demand version printed up strictly for my own edification (and round of minor edits), before I print up some copies for others to critique.

After that, well . . . I think I’ve gone crazy (again). I’m seriously thinking of giving the middle finger to whole traditional publishing route. And no, I am not going to pay some vanity press to make me feel good about myself. The fact is, in this day and age, it’s more of an uphill battle than ever for a new fiction writer to gain legitimate representation or get a publishing deal right off the bat. Most new writers end up wasting a ton of effort sending out their work, only to be rejected months, if not more than a year, later.

So, I ask, what freakin’ century is this? I can put my work online in e-book form and have it available to the whole world in seconds. Well, you ask, why would readers take a chance on paying for something by a no-name newbie like me? They probably won’t, honestly. So I am giving away my book for free.

Think about it. The hardest part for any new author is gaining a fan base, even if they are published. And while traditional publishers provide many valuable services for established authors, they don’t do a whole hell of a lot for the new guy. The system is completely outdated, really. Eventually, virtually every new artist will have gained a following online before he or she is signed to a professional deal, mark my words.

This way I can see if people like what I write, and they will take a chance if it is free. If they all say it stinks, well maybe it will be time to re-think things. If it is decently popular, I will continue. I could even charge for the sequel if it is popular enough. Maybe someday this will translate into a viable career, maybe not. But with some fans on board I’ll have a lot better chance.

There are already a few new writers who have done this, so I need to strike while the iron is hot; before every schlub on the planet puts his NaNoWriMo dreck on the Kindle store. So as soon as I have what I think is the most professional product I can produce without actually being a professional, my book will be available to all, free of charge, probably under a Creative Commons license.

Welcome to the brave new world of publishing.

Despite this Post, Fall is My Favorite Time of Year

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

So this little thing called National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming up, where folks attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in November. I hate NaNoWriMo, yet I always sign up for it (I cannot boast of a single “win” after several years of participating, I’m afraid). Part of its appeal is the community that comes together to root for each other–but I hate people, so this has never been a big draw for me. Also, I swear the community is overwhelmingly female teenagers writing fanfic, and sometimes I feel a little creepy just browsing the forums. Many participants start a hopeful blog in October to document their little adventure, only to find that keeping up with the novel is hard enough, much less blogging at the same time, and the blogs inevitably dry up after two or three posts. It’s a bit sad, really. And nobody reads anymore anyway, so why are we bothering?

I don’t know. I guess we’re just a little crazy. If nothing else, NaNoWriMo acts as a handy goalpost for me. I had wanted to finish the second draft of my fantasy novel by the end of the month so I could start something fresh for NaNoWriMo. Of course, I’m also a wearied engineering student, as I’m not foolhardy enough to assume the whole professional novelist thing will pan out. I’m not saying I’m giving up, but the necessary mental energy is at a premium these days. So, any writing I can get done is a victory of sorts.

Minor novel update: while the second draft is delayed, I did manage to write some additional back-story that will appear as snippets in the chapter headings. Huzzah!

15,800 Words in Four Days

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

So as it turns out, there is an upside to going back to school and not having a functional car (both rather depressing tales I’d rather not get into just now). Faced with many hours with nothing in particular to do while waiting for my girlfriend to get off work, I’ve been workin’ on that novel. To be more specific, I finished it.

No, seriously. As the title says, I estimate I wrote 15,800 words in four days’ time; I say estimate because it’s not on a computer but rather in 10-cent spiral notebooks I stocked up on at a back-to-school sale years ago. This was enough to make the push to the finish line. I hardly believed it happened. I got there, and had to consciously remind myself, “Oh yeah, this is the end of the story.” I’ve been working on this particular iteration of the story for two-and-a-half years (there have been several others), but it’s the first one I’ve finished.

Well, it’s not an end exactly, since it’s meant to be the first of a series, but I don’t think I left too much hanging. But we can talk about that later.

I’ll probably let it gestate for a couple weeks and then start editing the heck out of it (because, honestly, it’s a mess right now–I left many of the finer details to the wind in order to just keep going).

If only I was always this productive . . .

(Oh, as a side note, I think the movie reviews I wrote actually helped get the writing juices flowing again. Thanks, Criterion!)

Update: the whole thing stands at about 113,000 words, if you were curious.

No Script Frenzy for Me :/

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Well, Script Frenzy starts tomorrow; I participated in it in its first year and “won” according to their current rules, and didn’t do squat for it last year. I’ve got a few ideas on the burner, but nothing really developed enough for my liking . . . aaand I kinda promised myself I would complete a rough draft of my fantasy novel before I graduated (May 15), so I should stick to that methinks.

I’ve actually made significant progress on said novel since last publicly admonishing myself. I’ve been writing some of it longhand in a 10-cent spiral notebook (back-to-school sales for teh win!). I enjoy this because (a) I have a more visceral connection to the words, my hand aches and I feel like I have “worked” when I’m done (b) on a computer I can’t help but edit as I go along, writing in ink it’s not that easy and I just keep going (c) it might be my imagination but I seem to write more concisely (while still getting the point across) when I am forced to scribble every letter (d) I can do it anywhere (it’s 2009 and I’m still laptop-less) (e) I am less distracted by important things like lolcats and Benny Hill-ifying Youtube videos (f) I am not obsessively checking my word count, because I can’t.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, it works for me and I like it. And computers can be counterproductive sometimes.

This is How Novels Don’t Get Written

Friday, March 13th, 2009

So I was “workin’ on that novel” today (my epic fantasy in case you were curious), and while I knew it had been longer than it should have been since I last worked on it, I was nevertheless surprised when my computer showed it had last been edited on Janurary 24th, about 7 weeks ago.  At this rate, I might actually be done in 20 years.