Blow the ballast, here we go!

So over on my normal blog, I talk about Science-Fiction on Fridays and originally at the start of the week I was going to do that here too this Friday. Maybe find something interesting to talk about in regard to what it takes to get into the SFWA, or something else that tied it to publishing.

But midnight starts the annual 3-day Novel Challenge. I’m taking the weekend off from being a publisher. Until midnight on Monday I’m just a writer. I like to talk about writing. And cheese. And occasionally sheep.

Someday on here I’ll go into the whole story of why we’re called Golden Fleece Press. Or maybe Kate will. One of us will happily drag you into the fabled land of crazy with us eventually, don’t worry. When we do, why I’ve mentioned sheep when I’m going to talk about World Builder’s Disease will suddenly, miraculously, make sense. You’re welcome.

I have fully realized, type A, un-treatable World Builders Disease. Like it needs a national day of recognition, it’s so bad. So I should understand the impetus to draw a map of your fantasy kingdom, or tell me the full five-generational family tree of your main character. I should have gobbled up those pages of genetic coding in Jurassic Park, instead of skimming past them to get back to the swimming T-Rex.

But I don’t, and I didn’t. I lose patience incredibly quickly with information I don’t need.

You think the next thing I say is going to be that you shouldn’t do all that, don’t you?

Not in a million years. Because that highly-detailed, rich background world hiding in your notebook will leak onto the page in a million other places. In places I want it, because it keeps your world and your characters from being weak card-board cut-outs. So watercolor a full topographical map of your kingdom. Figure out the exact science of gene-splicing your frog-bat. Determine exactly how Frank Idiot the Third is directly related to the Holy Roman Emperor.

Just only tell me the stuff I actually need to know.

This super short post is brought to you by the fact it is 11:28 and I’m already itching to dive into creating a pin-board of visual inspiration I shouldn’t have time to look at this weekend.

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Brace yourselves…

I’m going to try to be clever about taking and giving critique.

Well, I’ll probably avoid striving for clever. You know what they say about clever’s failure-mode.

There’s no good, sure-fire way to make yourself ready for critique. You work on anything–a piece of artwork, or a short story, or a novel–to the fullest extent you’re able, and then you turn it loose on the world. Hopefully, if you’re serious about it, you’ve turned int loose on a small section of the world the first time. A couple of friends from writing group, or some other people you trust to give you an honest opinion that doesn’t crush you. As writers we talk a lot about the importance of getting critique.

We don’t talk so much about how you’re supposed to give it. And that’s a little sad, because I think they’re actually more linked than people tend to assume. There’s an art-form to giving someone an honest opinion about their work without getting their back up. I speak from experience, I’ve failed at this a few times in my life. Thankfully not nearly as frequently as other people have failed at it in my direction. And maybe that’s part of my dues as a writer, developing a thick skin and learning to take the good suggestions no matter how much they piss me off.

I’m not gonna lie, if you’re in this writing thing for the long haul you need that skill.

But you need the other one too, you need to learn how to critique other people’s worth without making them get defensive and discount you. So, I’m going to give you a short 5 point list that I try to keep in mind every time I look at a new piece.

1) Stay Positive! No one wants to hear their stuff’s crap. Especially if it is. Find something nice to say. At least equally as often as you have a critique.
2) Don’t pull your punches. If there’s something wrong with a piece of work, it doesn’t help anyone to keep it to yourself. If you’ve got a problem it’s likely other people will too. There’s a little danger here, if you can’t tell your own soft spots, but you’ll learn in time.
3)Remember what you’re reading. There are different conventions for different genres. Things that work in a Romance novel don’t always work in mainstream fiction, or Sci-Fi, or Fantasy, or more or less anything else you can think of. The reverse is generally true. And I’m a big one for touting that the days of writing expressly to genre are dead, sure. You should still remember who the audience of the thing you’re reading is.
4)Read slow. If you’re not in the mood, stop and go back later. Imagine how much effort that piece of work has taken, and try to give it it’s best shake possible, just like you’d want someone to do for you.
5)Try really hard not to be pedantic. This one should be fairly self-explanatory, but it’s actually much harder than you’d think. One of the pitfalls of being a writer is our love of words, and–obviously–sometimes we get carried away. Okay, if you’re like me your general state is sort of carried away. Whichever. Potato, potato (If anybody gets that joke I will be unreasonably pleased).

Alright, small monstrous things, go and do. I’ll see you again on Friday.

Crossed Fingers and Held Breath

The most exciting part of this whole press business is getting to read some great stories. (Even if we never accept them for a magazine. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good or intriguing.)

And I found a novel that I’m interested in. Now comes the anticipation. Will the author say yes?

After that, it’s editorial and a quick, fast dive down into marketing, production, and those wonderful sorts of things.

(I have learned more about copyright, ISBN’s, and book distribution than I ever really wanted to. Publishing’s still a dark morass of hundreds of years of history, changes, misinformation, and half-heard hearsay – no matter how much you can find on the internet and in books these days.)

So, hopefully, a break out novel coming for GFP. (Or more!)

So far I can confirm :

Wee Tales Vol. 1 coming in early October. (Pre-order through the Kickstarter and get nifty extras)

Cherry Blossom Express by Kate Ressman coming in late October.

Refractions Vol. 1 coming in early November

The Fandom Universe: Indelible Ink: Essays on the Harry Potter Fandom

The Case of the Armadillo  – the first in a series of kid’s mysteries inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Next year :

Wee Tales Vol. 2 in April

Refractions Vol. 2 in May

 

Chuck Wendig’s Got Some Ideas on Self-Promotion…

Chuck Wendig's got some great information for writers on his site. He runs regular features on writing. Give him a look.
He's also a great example of voice. You really won't confuse one of his posts for anyone else's.

How To Promote Yourself And Your Books On Social Media Without Feeling Like A Soul-Selling, Sleaze-Sucking Slime-Glob

In my experience, most authors dislike self-promotion.

Some downright despise it.

And they detest it for good reason: becoming a marketing or advertising avatar for your own work feels shameless. It feels adjacent to the work — like it’s something you didn’t sign on for.

I JUST WANT TO WRITE BOOKS, you scream into the mirror around pages of your manuscript, the pages moistened with saliva and tears. I DON’T WANT TO BECOME A HUMAN SPAM-BOT, you cry as your teeth clatter into the sink, as your ear plops off, as your nose drops away. In all the gaps, a faint glimpse of whirring machinery, gears turning and conveyor belts churning, all of your mechanisms pink with the slurry of Spam…

Thing is, you’re probably gonna have to do it anyway.

Reasons?

First, publishers expect it, to some degree.

Second, if you’re an author-publisher, it becomes wholly more necessary.

Third, readers expect it, too. That one sounds a bit strange, but trust me — I follow a number of writers and their social media channels is exactly how I find out about their new books. I want to have a little promotion thrown my way because, fuck it, I’m a reader — or in some cases a full-blown fan — and I wanna know when New Books By Awesome Authors exist.

I know. I know.

 

Read the rest on Terribleminds

Quid Pro Quo

Ha. Ha ha ha ha. I have officially learned to embed things in WordPress. Tremble before me, legless mortals.

There’s something unbelievably difficult about having to ask for help. It’s something we do the absolutely best to beat–figuratively–out of small children. We focus so much on teaching them to stand on their own feet, to learn to do all the things they need to do all by themselves, that it never occurs to us that they might someday need to ask for help without utterly harpooning their self-esteem.

But today I’m asking for help. Help us pass the word around. Re-press this, or share it on Twitter or Facebook. Talk about it at your reading group, or when you sit down for coffee with that friend who’s got three grade-school kids. And then, next time it comes up, ask us for help.

*wonders off signing the beginning of Circle of Life*

Mayday Mayday!

Kate and friends have done some really cool posts recently about building a community, and marketing yourself so as not to become a pile of product in someone’s basement but I’m going to shift focus.

For one post anyway. I don’t know where we’ll be on Thursday yet. If you expected fore-thought out of me you’ve come to the wrong blog.

Like about eighty percent of the things I do, I didn’t over-think the title of the blog. I sat there and stared at the little blinky cursor until something came to me. And someday we’ll talk about the level of over-thought I give to the other twenty percent of things–case in point, I spent twenty minutes last night picking the appropriate poisonous herb for a three paragraph short story I wrote for funsies–but for tonight we’re going to talk a little about the art of procrastination.

I am a master, level 80–complete with diamond kit armor and special con-attendee only pet–procrastinator. In a two hour span of time I should have been editing I can simultaneously catch up on a TV show, write a short fanfic, vacuum everything that doesn’t move in my living room, knit a cup cozy, do the dishes, make my cat compulsively lick his nose 12 times, and plot an entire novel.

When I’m supposed to be cleaning the house, or working on a craft project for a present I can write an entire series in a month.

I was thirty-two when a friend looked at me one day and asked if it’d ever entered my mind that possibly maybe conceivably the ridiculous hamster wheel that is my brain might be just slightly ADD. That whole utterly no focus/extreme focus cycle that spirals out of control at the most inopportune of times certainly has those benchmarks.

Since sometime in June I’ve been all extreme focus. I have been unusually, unbelievably productive. I’ve done advanced business schedules, and websites, and content updates, and magazine layout, and crap-crackers I don’t even know what else. I sat down this weekend and porked my way through two full weeks of slush–because even when I’m being productive I can still procrastinate.

There’s a point where the extreme focus has to go away. Where I need to step back and charge my batteries with something else for a while. Am I a little concerned I’ve just landed myself in a spot where that’s not possible? Absolutely. We’ve got a schedule, and there are great whopping portions of it that require all hands on deck, especially here in the beginning.

The art of procrastination lies in learning to read your brain’s “Mayday” signals. Accepting maybe the best thing you can do is take a minute and let it do what it wants, lose focus for a while before you lose focus completely. And then giving yourself permission for it.

Even with everything else I had to do this weekend, I watched most of The Civil War by Ken Burns–I have an unreasonable, strange crush on Shelby Foote–and Clue. I’m not even a little sorry. I read a veritable raft of Captain America fanfic, and I’m not sorry about that either.

While you’re giving yourself permission to relax, check out our ‘Research’ page up there to your left. I promise it’s not really research. Well, unless you’re like me and freaking everything is research in one way or another.

Introversion and the Writing Life

This is a spectacular piece on introversion and coping mechanisms. And I cannot do it justice but to grab a blockquote and add a link.

 

But mostly my introversion and anxiety is toughest in social situations required for my career, things that you may not think are vital to the writing life, and, in general, aren’t until you can actually write. My day job has endless social opportunities, most of which I am able to avoid, but one must make the twice-annual drinks or dinner with colleagues trek, and for those I prep stories and anecdotes and nurse my one beer and work at trying to react to stories and anecdotes like a human would. Out in the novel writing world, though, when we go to a convention it’s not just *A* lunch or *A* dinner, but a multi-day affair of panels, readings, signings with fans, drinks, dinners, lunches and breakfasts. Cons are a mad affair, one that’s gotten easier as I’ve gotten to know people, but no less exhausting.

Folks who see me at readings or panels often comment that I’m a great public speaker, and are horrified to learn I’m introverted.

How do I hack this? Pretty easily.

I actually prepare for it.

I know, right!? Blasphemy. Mad talk. But I prepare book recommendations and a few talking points based on the panel description before I even go. I prepare things to chat with about for folks I know will be there. I go over socially nice things to say. When I’m moderating a panel, or doing a reading, my prep is more extensive. I might spend 30 or 40 minutes coming up with questions and getting them in the best order. When I get there, I write down everyone’s names in order, if I’m moderating, so I can call them by the correct name. It’s also certainly not unheard of that I’ll have a drink before a later panel – a time-honored writing tradition.

Read the full piece from Kameron Hurley.