sartorias: (duel to the pie!)
writers vs. critics then--and now. Writers are encouraged (expected! in some cases) to be personalities online. So . . . does that mean responding to reviews, or not?
sartorias: (handwritten books)
A post on beginning to self edit.

Right before the holidays, I visited a classroom of writers who'd done the NaNoWriMo challenge for their semester project, but much of the discussion might be useful for those who've got that first project done, and are wondering what next? How do I approach whipping this into shape?

So many different processes. What works for one makes no sense to another. What's your strategy?
sartorias: (Flian's music)
A couple days ago, a reader posted a playlist for a series of my books, called "Glory/Damnation. The images are large, so I did the link instead of bringing it over.

It's so interesting to see what music people listen to while reading. Being a visual reader and writer, I've always used music as sound tracks. Back in the sixties, you had no control over what the radio would play; if you could afford it, you bought a record, and got up and put the needle over and over at the track you wanted. I remember once I was really sick, and this story spilled out of me while I curled up in a chair next to my dad's stereo, which we were not allowed to play. But as long as he was at work I played it anyone. I must have gotten up and down fifty times as I played certain tracks over and over while scribbling my pages over two days. I remember the black things kind of swirling at the edges of my vision--and wrote them into the story.

Some music inspired stories, some fitted themselves into soundtracks for writing or for reading. Like, I was reading Gone with the Wind, and Holst's St. Paul's Suite became its soundtrack. For Mary Stewart's Madam Will You Talk, Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain. Certain rock songs went with certain characters.

Over the years, I'd talk about this, and of course no piece of music that I fit together with a book matched with anyone else's. But that's fine--it's interesting to hear what others match with a text.

What music, if any, do you have permanently matched with a work?
sartorias: (drawing the drawing the drawing)
It surprises me that anyone would ask me how to market when you have no money, since I'm crap at it (but I try different things--will be trying one in a couple weeks again) but I've had two people ask me about this in the last week, and one in person, part of a cooperative of older women who have all written books and are putting together their own publishing venture. (And I'll put the word out when they're ready to go live.)

I'm hoping to get a discussion going--better suggestions than mine, which are based on also patterns in what I observe as I cruise the net.

DOES: If you are already blogging, being interesting about other subjects besides your piece. If you get comments, someone's finding you interesting, and they might linger long enough to look up your stuff. If you have charisma, then you're more likely to have huge success. We have all heard about these big successes, and not all of them sank megabucks into publicity. Long, rambling, repetitive screeds full of superlatives about your own efforts are probably ante-charismatic.

Cover art that catches the eye. This seems counter-intuitive in ebook sales, but nope, pictures still rule. And it's really, really hard to do on a zero budget--my only suggestion is try to find artists who want something you can trade.

Biggie: write a great book! And if you think it's great but the world isn't rushing to buy it, then try to improve!

DON'TS This is related to the above: talking on your blog endlessly about how great your own work is won't sell books. The internet is flooded with writers because publishing is easier than ever, and they all think they are great. Get beta readers who actually know what they're doing, and get copyeditors, and listen to them.

A big don't is, long cane-thumpers about how tasteless "New York Publishing" is and how they don't understand real literary merit, or true literature. Likewise how bad everything else is in your chosen subgenre.

Sock-puppet reviews, bad idea. Ditto flogging your relatives, buddies, or writing group to write five star reviews. Though yes, we've all heard of people who supposedly had big success this way, but there are a lot more books selling nothing on Amazon with fifty stellar reviews all saying the same thing, "This book is brilliant!" or even more telling, talking about how wonderful the author is. And if the socks get exposed, that's negative publicity--though who knows, maybe it sells a few books out of curiosity?

Constant tweeting and Facebook exhortations fall into the black hole of all the other kajillion.

If a reader genuinely loved your piece, ask them to blog about it, saying why. Because the biggest, most powerful, most sure thing any of us can hope for is word of mouth. Even a trickle helps. But there's a good chance that it's going to be more convincing if it doesn't come from you.

MAYBES: I've seen discussions for and against offering a piece as a freebie for a limited time, or as a loss leader. The loss leader only works for a series. The freebie thing gets debate--some feel it's a total waste, as there are a lot of people out there who fill their Kindles with freebies and then don't read them. Others feel it's good publicity, though I haven't heard anyone say that it works without a whole lot of $$ spent on other forms of publicity.
sartorias: (drawing the drawing the drawing)
. . . I do an interview The usual questions, also what superpower I'd like to have, and what three people I'd invite to dinner . . .
sartorias: (1554 S)
Six writers offered their top three mistakes at a Loscon in Los Angeles a few years back.

I took these notes, and thought that posting their lists might kick off some discussion.
sartorias: (desk)
Using Diana Pavlac Glyer's new book on how the Inklings worked as a group, I wanted to talk about writers' groups and process and maybe get some discussion going.
sartorias: (desk)
Emerging from the hideousness of having to disassemble ten thousand books, the closets, the kitchen, because a week ago a black widow crawled across my pillow just before I was going to turn out the light and go to bed. Result, inspection, surprise, termites eating the walls, black widows everywhere. Expensive treatment, massive work, my hands hurt so much I have trouble holding a glass of water.

Enough of that.

Sara Stamey, whose Ariadne Connection I thought a vivid, extremely tense thriller with an infusion of the fantastical, writes about the Hemingway Complex.

Her life: wow.

At the end, she asks if writers need a Hemingway Complex or can one write from pure imagination. The easy answer is, of course they can: Patrick O'Brian apparently never set foot on a tall ship, and he certainly couldn't have experienced the Napoleonic wars. Contrast that to memoirs written by people in harrowing experiences who managed to render them utterly banal.

Some of that can be attributed to talent, but I also think that memory is an issue here. It's such a weird thing, memory. We can remember every detail of something we've read with as much passion and emotion and even a sense that we could smell, taste, or touch the experience as something we actually experienced in our physical selves. People we've read about -- fictional characters who never breathed -- can be as real as relatives. And more precious to us.

It seems to me anyway that merely recounting physical experiences can be handled by journaling--or journalism. Fiction writers's minds--imaginations--take sights, sounds, smells, impressions and string them together into patterns that spark meaning in others' minds.


Feb. 16th, 2015 06:45 am
sartorias: (desk)
I'm currently sitting in a very fine hotel in mid-Dallas, waiting impatiently for the sun to come up in case I might get to see some rain.

My train has been delayed (bad weather up in Illinois?) so I have a couple extra hours to kill. Will use that for some reading and maybe writing, but first a con report.

I've sat here for some time contemplating this. I know that superlatives make a boring report, so let me say at the outset that I had a terrific time. The Texas fannish community really knows how to put on a con, and how to treat people well.

Next year's guests will be John Scalzi and Seanan Macguire; when their names were announced, the audience of course fizzed with excitement. Whereas Rachel and I were kind of default guests--their invited guests had not been able to come, so we were invited fairly late in the game. I've been a default GOH twice before, once here some years ago, and once for a Mythcon, when they had not one but a couple of GOHs have to back out for various reasons. At these pretty much no one had read anything of mine, and were pretty indifferent to my presence. So I regarded myself as a regular con goer, except that my way was paid. (And at Mythcon gave a talk.)

So my baseline has been a friendly indifference with a side order of "Who are you again?" This weekend I was surprised and delighted to discover some people who had read and liked my books. It was interesting to me how different people responded strongly to specific things but not others: one woman likes Exordium most of all, and hastily added that she liked the Inda books, too. Someone else made it kind of clear that she did not care at all for Exo, or the adult fantasy, but wanted more of the stuff for little kids. Another person liked the Dobrenica series, but seemed to be indifferent to other world stories.There were several who thought I'd only written Crown Duel had brought tattered, much-read copies to sign.

Interactions with fellow writers are always interesting, and I bought a bunch of books by people I either hadn't heard of before or who I hadn't tried.

I think the best part of the con for me was talking to writers at various levels along the path, and sharing experience. This was not about my stories, but about discoveries, sometimes self-discoveries, as a writer, and how to self-edit, how to handle critique, pitfalls of self-publishing (and here Rachel had excellent advice--she's a far savvier marketer than I am and has been doing really well with her Werewolf Marines; of course it helps that she's a really good writer).

This is where all the stupid mistakes I've made can be shared so that others won't make them, and all that I have painfully and slowly learned as a visual writer (and am still learning) can be articulated to speed someone along the path. Win/win feels good. There's a two page workshop that I do that is always a hit; it was here, too. I run it as a medium, not an authority--everyone participates but with their eyes shut except for the author of the piece (no names given) which gives them a chance to separate self from text while seeing others respond to text.

Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend, and so back to work!


Nov. 14th, 2014 06:12 am
sartorias: (Dog nosy)
So I signed up for it yesterday. (My nom de guerre is, astonishingly enough, sherwood_smith.) I chose to follow a handful of names I recognized, skipping over ones I thought might post so often I'd quickly get overwhelmed. If I do get the rhythms of it in my head, I can add them later--and more.

Right now I want it simple and linear. Or as linear as this kind of a thing can get. Already I see the rippling edge of chaos . . . just going through the signup (do you want to allow your location?) threw me back to this very weird, oh, call it experience I had back in my grad school days, around 1974. Someone had made some pot brownies for a party. I took a piece, figuring they might give me a mild buzz, but I liked that--it was relaxing in those horrible days when I was working six days a week in a restaurant and attending seminars in grad school. For three years, I pretty much never had a day off.

Anyway, pot brownies. I had no idea how strong those babies were. Before long I lay on the couch, utterly unable to move. Not even my jaw. I was aware of my heartbeat slowing way, way down, but I couldn't even get worried over that. Instead, I lay there contemplating the sparks of synapses leaping between nerves. It was like tiny sparks arcing between points in this shadowy gray mass that looked more like a thunderstorm does when you fly above it than it looked like brain matter.

I recollect the relief when the synapses, which had slowed, began to multiply, and I could no longer count them. Then I watched in delight as sparks flew in incomprehensible patterns all over those low gray clouds . . . and that's what Twitter reminds me of. Millions of tiny spark-lights arcing in impossible-to-discern patterns.

Though maybe I'll discern them. Or maybe not--I can't see it ever replacing LiveJournal, where I can write a post like this one. But I can also perceive the lure of immediacy. Anyway, the impetus was our editor at Viking saying that maybe [ profile] rachelmanija and I could do a Twitter conversation about our book. Heaven knows it needs the publicity--until a brief flurry yesterday, it was practically a stealth release, it had had so little advance notice. No arcs handed out at BEA or even ComicCon, etc etc blah blah.

I don't know what good a Twitter conversation would do in that world of millions of voices, but hey. I'll try most anything once, if it's free.

Meantime, off to yoga in a while, then back to work, while eyeing this phone, which bleeps at me every so often.
sartorias: (Fan)
The landscape is all so beautiful. Gentle hills and tree-cupping valleys marked by charmingly curving waterways--this is glacier carved territory, smoothed by centuries of rain and flourishing greenery, unlike the drama of tectonic violence at my end of the continent.

From Tuesday night until Saturday morning early, I enjoyed intense sensory experience--walking about Montreal, talking books, writing, and all related subjects (and the thing is, everything is related) with [ profile] papersky and [ profile] rysmiel.

Except for a brief hour or so at the peak of Friday, the air was deliciously cool, which makes walking about so lovely. Actually Friday wasn't hot, but it turned out the direct sun, northerly as it is, was too much for me for a time. These meds I'm on have a lot of "DO NOTS" attached, and strong sunlight is one of them. So [ profile] rysmiel (who kindly gave up half a day of work to explore the botanical gardens with me, as well as some of the niftier downtown streets, where we were able to spy out some really good street art) and I cut short the gardens. I didn't get to see flowers, which are heading toward winter hibernation anyway, but got my fill of trees, most still hanging on to summer green, with sudden bursts of brilliant color here and there. What makes some trees flash out like that, while all the others around retain their uniform green? I could see patterns of air movement in the reddening of sides of trees around water, but that doesn't explain those single color-flares among the shadowy greens.

The joy of really, really good food and a stream of excellent conversation, always coming around to books and writing, is difficult to articulate without resorting to burbling superlatives and a great deal of hand-flapping. So I won't, though maybe I'll try to think out the why of the intensity of the enjoyment . . . is it the sense of maybe connection? Of being understood? Of not having to be afraid of being boring? No, that fear never leaves me. If I come out of my head I'm always checking my companion to see if they are looking away in the manner people do when they wish they were elsewhere.

The sense of a city readying for winter is totally new to me. But I get this feeling of okay, here it comes, we are going to get every jot of enjoyment before it is time to close the windows, pull in the window boxes, shut up outside work projects. (Which go on year round at home.)

Came away with a cluster of book recommendations, not surprising.

Was glued to, and charmed by, Helen S. Wright's A Matter of Oaths, a delightfully diverse space opera, on the train ride down from Montreal, got off at Albany, where I was met by [ profile] asakiyume and before we left the parking lot, there we were, talking writing!

EDITED TO ADD: You can read it for free here.

We joined her dad in this charmingly pretty town adjacent the state capital. He is a writer, too; was bemused to discover one of his short works on the Nebula ballot recently, as he isn't a part of the sf world, though has attended a couple of cons. We got deeply into the history of small press publication (poets have a tougher time hitting print than about anyone else) and writing and characters and cultural patterns and aging and children and what makes behavioral patterns happen.

Now it's time to trundle my aged bones out of this comfortable bed, and get ready for a delightful day of exploring in nature, and more good talk.
sartorias: (desk)
Writing about Writing . . . Me and the creeping dust motes. (Which could also stand for my rate of improvement!).
sartorias: (desk)
Harry Connolly writes sensibly on persistence.

To which I'd add (in re improvement) writers who declare that their lack of success is because they write literature while the rest of the world writes (and reads) crap are probably not going to improve. We don't actually get to decide if our stuff is "literature." That's entirely up the the readership. And "classics" are up to future generations.
sartorias: (desk)
There continues to be discussion of authors responding to critics and readers. I hear of twitter storms (since I don't do Twitter) and see links to furious exchanges--the latest being the Felicity Savage one.

This is nothing new.
sartorias: (desk)
I'm going through all my stuff, tossing things. In excavating a box of school stuff, I found notes from a teachers/literacy conference I went to in the mid-eighties, before I got an agent. My notes were scribbled while I was standing, because I got late to a one-person panel by a New York agent who was giving a talk on the Ten Rules for Writers. Turned out the room was absolutely packed, and he was already halfway through when we got there.

This was before internet and ebooks, but I thought it worth typing up these notes before I toss the notebook.

6. Every writer believes that his work is unique, his style poetic, his plots dynamic, his characters live and breathe, that he is a genius. Every writer.

7. Those who complain the loudest about schlockmeisters in mass market are not better as writers, they just aren't selling.

8. If you have a pet theme, write an essay. If you must form a novel around it, then give it to your antagonist, and put your protagonist in opposition. This might not make a better story, but it ought to help you resist the impulse to preach at the reader.

9. There are all kinds of reasons for writing fiction, but 'writing for success' is the worst, because 'success' is a mirage. The harder you chase it, the faster it recedes.

10. Take tea with Aunt Minnie. Everyone has an Aunt Minnie. She thinks you're a slacker. She loves to point out your faults. She lives to tell you how to do whatever you do better. Take tea regularly with Aunt Minnie, and you'll be in practice for the critics.
sartorias: (handwritten books)
Thinking about the power of the image--and yet how no one can successfully control or predict it completely--got me thinking about the power of image. That is fundamentally important for us visual writers.

I riffed about it over here. I promise, it's short! I don't know how boring it might be since I am talking specifically about my experience, rather than ruminating on my experience of others, but if you read it, and you are a writer, feel free talk about your own process. Especially the asking of "Why" that can lead to a river of stories; I refer there to Katharine Kerr's post on series.

Many denigrate series, and I watch and think of my lifetime roman fleuve, and think uh oh! Well, we are what we are!

* the icon is used for writing, but those are actually two handwritten books, one from 1970 and one from 1985.
sartorias: (handwritten books)
Writer and lipizzan horse-wrangler Judith Tarr has been coming out with interesting stuff this past couple weeks.

First there was the League of Shattered Authors, which opened up discussions all over the net, and here is an unflinching look at the personal fallout.

But there are good times, too, as this interview makes clear.

What makes a writer write? I wonder sometimes if the urge to commit communication to paper is inborn. When I come across diaries by people who had no claim to fame--and knew they had no claim to fame--unpublished during the writers' lifetime, like the almost unremittingly grim diaries of Miss Weeton, a governess for a large part of her life, it convinces me that some people just have to.

Fiction writing is another remove from committing one's life to paper; many think it entirely frivolous, and it certainly belongs to those in comfortable enough circumstances to be able to do it, yet story is so tightly bound into the human condition. So many motivations for doing it, especially over the long haul, as [ profile] janni has been exploring of late.
sartorias: (Fan)
[ profile] superversiveon bad creative decisions, and how George Lucas lived the experiment and at the other end of the spectrum, [ profile] asakiyume listens to Junot Diaz

I think one of the toughest challenges for a writer is connecting the good bits. It's wonderful when our brain presents us with a unified story that all we have to do is type out. When it doesn't come that way, there are so many ways to cope. Looking at what these two writers learn from two other writers is a way to stand back and examine creativity from several angles.


Feb. 10th, 2013 07:17 am
sartorias: (Fan)
I have been up in the redwoods for a week--nature's art. I'd post a picture but they are all turning sideways and as yet I don't know how to fix that. My hosts, Deborah J. Ross and my long-time best friend Dave Trowbridge and I have had an excellent time, talking writing, going out for walks, and when we want to, each retiring to a room to write. Yesterday, Deborah and I went into town to meet with some other writers, Juliette, Cliff, and Gabrielle (also an editor) and had a splendid time talking about writing. Oh, I should not leave out nine-year-old Niall, who is a dedicated writer and reader as well.

So today's post is about art, and how we value it. (By 'we' I mean ordinary folks.)

I will be without wifi as I travel back down the coast, in case anyone responds and there is resounding silence.

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