Tag Archives: writing process

The value of persistence

IMG_20180420_072542So I’m posting here a photo of my Sir Julius Vogel award. It’s cool, and I guess I’m bragging a bit. But see those three folders underneath? Those are my rejection slips. You know, the letter you get from a publisher who for one reason or another isn’t taking your story. Gathered over more years than I care to admit.

I think there are about two thousand. I have a feeling I’ve lost some over the years.

Most of them are form rejections. Some are very nice personal rejections. One is a disappointingly rude personal rejection (I haven’t submitted to that magazine since).

And there, standing on the shoulders of all those rejections, is an award. To me this is the value of persistence. I mean this to be encouraging. Keep at it. Keep going. Pursue what you love doing. It’s not about the award (though that’s nice), it’s about loving doing it.

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The Map Maker of Morgenfeld

The Map Maker of Morgenfeld thumb

I have a new novel out, and this one has a bunch of intriguing things about it. Intriguing to me, anyway.

First, it’s a fantasy, which I don’t often write. That said, there are no wizards or magic or dragons, no vast armies of conquest, no hero smiting demons with a terrible swift sword. This novel grows out of my younger self’s love of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series (I even shamelessly bastardized the name).
My style is very different from Peake’s. Well, of course, writing has changed over the years, and while Peake wrote some wonderful books, they are a product of their period. I like to think I’ve captured something of their essence in my own world.

Secondly, I wrote the novel while traveling. In April and May of 2017 we had a fabulous voyage to Santiago, Easter Island, the Atacama Desert, Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Almost six weeks away.

I wrote every day. Usually stolen moments in the evenings, at kitchen tables, or in dining rooms. Once or twice in noisy cafes.

The trip was awesome. But it was cool to maintain that writing momentum throughout. Especially with the focus on a project. I suppose elements of South American culture and lifestyle may well be wrapped up somewhere in the book.
Thirdly, or perhaps this should be my first item, I wrote the novel on a phone. We traveled light. Carry-on luggage only. Taking a laptop, with a bulky charger, would have been a nuisance. I discovered the cool little Rapoo bluetooth keyboard. I bought the Docs2go app, which allowed me to format the document nicely as I went, and also to track my word count.

I designed and 3D-printed a stand for the phone. I bought a travel wallet, one intended for money and cards and documents, and used that to create a neat little package for the keyboard, stand and phone so they could all just drop into my backpack easily.

All of those elements make The Map Maker of Morgenfeld perhaps my most unusual novel so far. I’m sure that traveling influenced the writing. I’m sure that the restriction of the phone influenced the writing.

I hope it all worked out into a readable, enjoyable book.
The cover illustration is near-perfect for me anyway. By Grandfailure | Dreamstime. It really shows the clutter and maze of Morgenfeld better than I’d pictured it.

Available all over, in print ($12.99), and as an ebook ($5.99), KindleSmashwords, and so on.

Q&A with me at Asimov’s From Earth to the Stars editor’s blog

asimovs march april 2018I neglected to give anything more than a passing mention that I got interviewed at the Asimov’s blog, specifically about my story in the March April 2018 issue.

The interview is here. I talk with the editors about my process for creating “The Billows of Sarto”, and my general writing process, and a few other things.

Check out the other interviews on the site too. You’ll build up a pretty good picture of authors writing for Asimov’s today.

 

Failing to success

 

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Low Memory – image by Luca Oleastri

After writing about a novel a month for three months as part of Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge, I thought why not try for one more novel in the following month. With the challenge, there was some flexibility, in that up to half of the novel could be written in the previous month. The challenge  ran through June, July and August. I began the first novel on May 18th, and wrote about 14,000 words by May 30th. Less than half the novel. I finished the last of the three novels on August 22nd. So it took a bit over three months to complete the three.

 

I decided to have a go at writing a novel within a calendar month (yes I know about nanowrimo). I started Low Memory on September 1st. Come September 30th, I hadn’t finished. I’d written 53,000 words and the novel wasn’t finished. It feels like the story wants to be longer, so I’ll continue to the end. All three of the challenge novels were 50,000 words or under.

So I failed. Failed to write a novel in a calendar month. But guess what? There’s success in there. It feels like the novel will come to an end in the next few days. Probably close to 60,000 words. So, even though I didn’t write a novel in a month, I will have written a novel in around 35 days.

I’ll call that a success.

How Hard is Writing?

keysI write a lot. I guess that’s a given. I love it. Love making up new worlds and new places. Love playing with new characters, throwing problems at them and seeing what happens.

I study a lot too. I take courses. I attend workshops. I read ‘how to’ books.
One thing I’ve noticed in several of these is how the author or presenter suggests something along the lines of “writing is hard” (one author even had a similar phrase in bold type in the middle of the page).

I would counter that with ‘writing is fun’. Sit at a desk and play. Make up whole worlds. Crush them with asteroids or oppressive rulers or dragons. Build a family putting themselves back together after tragedy. Track down a killer. Have a struggling musician succeed after so many setbacks.
Warm the hearts of your readers.

I love it.

I love it so much that I write every day. Recently someone asked me how I have such discipline. My response? It’s about the same amount of discipline as it takes to draw a breath.

As long as it’s fun, I’ll keep writing. I hope that my sense of enjoyment comes through my books for my readers. Yes I would like to do this full time, and I’m not there yet. But even without that, I still get to have the best fun ever, every single day.

I don’t fret over the writing. I let it be. I write the best I can, with the skills I have. I work on learning new skills along the way.

And I keep having fun.

Because writing is fun.

(Oh, and the author who bolded “writing is hard”? They’re a far more successful author than I (my congratulations). But also, crucially, they’re a very good business person. The book with the phrase was about marketing for writers. Now to me, marketing is hard. That’s why I was reading the book. To learn something about marketing.)

Novel three underway, novel two passed in.

glass baysmbig sur cover sm

Once again I’ve been caught up in the writing and forgetting to post. I think that’s a good thing.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m taking Dean Wesley Smith’s three novels in three months challenge. Heading into the last three weeks now, with the third novel well underway.

I completed the second novel – Glass Bay – and got it turned in on time. It turned out to be the second of my Emily Jade thriller series. It’s been a couple of years since Big Sur came out and I was starting to wonder if I would find the next book in it (my thriller Taken by Surprise, from last year) has an appearance from Emily, but it’s more like a side book, with a diff103339c0684d4020197c34075c956ca076bdabdcerent lead character (I just noticed that on the cover of the two Emily Jade books I’ve got “Author of Taken by Surprise).

Once I have Mr Smith’s first reader notes back I’ll get it underway with fixes and tinkering and underway to a copyeditor. Hope to have it out before the end of the year.

And a funny thing has happened. Not only have a learned a whole lot about writing, but I’m having fun writing a novel a month. Wondering if I might try to keep it up as a challenge for the rest of the year. That would be fun too.

Three novels in three months: Novel number 2 update

glass baysmAs I’ve mentioned, I’ve taken on Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge to write three novels through June, July and August. I completed the first novel late in June and, somehow, I’m already nearing the halfway point in the second novel.

It turns out that this new book is a sequel to my 2015 novel Big Sur – and Emily Jade thriller. I’d wanted to write the next novel in the series, but have been distracted by, you know, writing science fiction (insert self-deprecating grin here.

Draft cover here – image © Claudio Arnese | Dreamstime. I don’t know if that will be the title even, but it’s kind of got the look I want.

Important thing to point out: this challenge is fun. Really. It pushes me along. It gets me focused. It gets me in the chair. And whenever I’m focused and in the chair I’m definitely having fun. I hope the fun comes through in the book.