Monday, April 30, 2012

Thinking about my Audience

With Book 1 in the hands of the publisher, I've been thinking about my audience.  Some will like my book and some will not.  Of those that don't some will simply tell me why they don't and others will pick it apart and offer a better way -- the way they would've done it.

I've seen that before.  Back in college, I was involved in gaming.  Friends of mine decided to host a gaming convention and needed adventures to run.  I offered to write one, partially for the experience and partially because there was little elsewhere I wanted to do to help.

The adventure was for the Marvel RPG and I know it had issues.  But one person who played it called my up on Friday night around 11 PM (or perhaps it was even later than that, I don't remember) and went through the list of things wrong and what to do about them.

I listened and thanked him only because it was the quickest way off the phone and back to sleep.

My novel will field people like that too.  And to them I have little to say expect perhaps that I know my novel isn't perfect.  But it is good, good enough to be published after years of struggle and strain.  So if you can't say anything nice...

Also remember that the novel is the first one in a series.  There is a lot of set up and introduction of characters because the series is a long one and a few short chapter introducing the main characters isn't so bad particularly since once I'm done with that, I don't look back.  The adventure starts and you are on your way.

Book 2 and subsequent books are different.  Almost no time is spent introducing the characters.  The action starts almost immediately.  But Book 1 is different and rightly so.  If anyone disagrees, fine; you are entitled to your opinion, but don't tell me how to do it better.  I'm the writer here.  This is my ball and my backyard.  If you don't like it, move on it.

That said, I'm hoping most people will like and enjoy the story and come back for the next book.  So far, from the people who have read the earlier drafts, that seems to be the reaction, which is encouraging.  Now I have to make Book 2 as good or better than Book 1.  That's no small feat.  Book 2 is over 100,000 words.

No wonder I'm so busy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting a Bad Reputation

I've been reading a Stephen King book I never heard of, Eyes of the Dragon.  It's good.  I'm enjoying it.  But I'm reading the Kindle version and the quality of the book is poor.  There are typos all over the problem.  I checked Amazon and other readers reported the same thing.  What gives?

I expect this sort of shoddy quality from self-publishing work, not from well-known writers.  What surprises me is this is not the first e-book like this I've seen.  So why am I reading the electronic version if the quality is so poor.  This is going to give this format a bad reputation and make me go back to paper.

I don't really want to but I don't want to read a story that I can't follow because or typos and grammatical error either.  Publishers really are going to have to watch this.

Of course, it is possible I'm reading a pirated copy of some of these books.  Not in the Amazon case, but some of the free books I've gotten.

Ironically, books from Project Gutenberg seem to be of better quality and I can access the source to create a Kindle version or PDF version if I want to.  Given this and the lack of flexibility built into commercial e-books (the one I pay for), why am I paying for them?  The quality of the Gutenberg book is better and they are free.  Of course, the selection is restricted but there are so many classics I've not read I can spend some time with Dickens and Poe and Dumas and several other 19th century writers for a while.

But I'll finish this Stephen King book I started first I think.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Back to Work

I spend the weekend getting the word out about my publishing deal and now it is back to work for me.  What surprised me about that experience is that a lot of people expressed interest in my book.  Okay they are all friends and family but that didn't happen when I self-published.  This leads me to a few conclusions:
  • Self-publishing is smack.  Why?  Because anyone can self-publish.  For avid readers, self-publishing is great because they have more content to wade through and much of it is free or very low cost.  But most of us aren't avid readers.  We don't want to wade through anything badly written and let's face it the quality of self-published material is all over the place.  The one check against this is the publisher.  We rely on them to pick good material to place under a label.  So the fact that I've got a publishing deal signals that my work is good enough to read.
  • People want physical books to read.  I know that this flies in the face of the industry and current trends but the fact is many people still don't have e-book readers and they won't be getting one.  Why?  Because books -- physical books -- don't require batteries.  Because books don't require instruction manuals.  Because a Kindle does not smell like a new unopened book and never will.  Of course, the interest in my book and the requirement for physical copies of it are mostly because my friends want my to sign it.  They hope that one day I will be famous and the signing of my first book will be valuable.  I can't speak to that.  Only the future knows what is coming.  But I do think that emphasis to go electronic has been pushed more than it should.  Physical books still have a place and we shouldn't be trying to change that.
That's it for me.  I've got work to do, more now than ever.  After all, Book 1 makes a promise to the reader.  Now I have to deliver on it by completing the other books in the series.  Not that I'm complaining.  I've been waiting my whole life for exactly this moment.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Meeting the Publisher

In my life, and I assume in the lives of many, there are events that change you forever.  Some of these include:

  • Leaving your parents home and going to graduate school
  • Buying your first house
  • Getting married
All of these moments share several things.  They require a lot of work and planning.  And when the day arrives to do this thing, you know.  You feel it.

Well, to that list I humbly suggest adding meeting with your publisher and signing your first publishing contract.

That's right, Virginia, the deal is done.  I signed with -- (wait for it) -- Aziza Publishing, a small press based in Boston.

I must admit to having second and third thoughts about signing, but I always have second and third thoughts.  Sometimes I think that I think to much.  I suppose that part of the writer's curse and what I get for living a large part of my life in my head.

But I signed nonetheless because Aziza will help me learn more about the publishing process and the publishing world.  Sure I learned it myself and stop writing for months.  Who wants to do that?  Not I.

Besides, there's nothing like a being led into a strange new world by a professional with lots of experience. So I will learn from them and at the end of the contract if I'm not I'll find a different publisher or perhaps I will self-publish then.

So wish me luck and start saving your pennies.  A paper copy of Aure the Topaz will be available early in 2013.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Technology Tidbits

Every since I replaced my Palm for a smartphone, I've been wanting the phone to support the use of a stylus because I think it gives a better user experience.  The problem, however, is that most smartphones do provide a place for a stylus so it is one more thing to keep track of.  You also need a special kind of stylus, one with a rubber tip because the touch screen expects a certain amount of surface area to be active in order for the touch screen to recognize that someone to pressing down on it.

To this end, I experimented with several types of styluses.  The elago is cool because it connects in the sound port of the phone.  If you don't use your phone as an MP3 player (which I don't) then that makes it easy to keep the stylus with the phone.

Another interest twist on this is a pen made by Kesington.  One end is a pen and the other is the rub tip for the smartphone.

In an effort to make my iPad more useful, I decided it was time to purchase a wireless keyboard.  I got one from LogicTech.  It came with its own batteries (which surprised me) and synced to the iPad easily.

The action on the keyboard is not the same as the action on my desktop computer but that may be because the keyboard is new.  I don't know yet.

However, typing with the keyboard is far better than typing with the onscreen keyboard and it is now possible for me to write anywhere.

My only concern is battery life.  I don't have data on that yet so I will have to wait and see if I am constantly changing batteries or not.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Double Life

Most writers live a double life:  their "normal" life that lets them pay the bills and get on in this world and the other life -- the one that lets them write.  If you are lucky these are the same, but for most that's not true. The writer has to find time to write and sacrifice relationships, experiences, and other things he or she would normally do.

I find this a very sad state of affairs.  In an age where anyone can be recognized and be granted fame or fortune (or perhaps both) courtesy of the Internet and a viral video or blog post, I have to say isn't time we drop the charade?  Let writer write.

I know that's not likely or even possible for a lot of economical and financial reasons but I'm tired of all the charades and gaming playing I do in my life and just want a simpler way.

Maybe I'm just lazy.  Maybe.  I can feel myself wanting to slow down and not work as hard, at least on most things besides my writing.  And I suppose if I wrote every day I might feel differently.  But that's the double life at work.  All the intrusions from that life prevent me from writing daily.  And since I identify with my writing life as the real one, it feels like I'm only half alive.

And that's not likely to change any time soon, I don't think.  A pity.  I much prefer my writing life to my other one.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Revision Cycle

In my recent post on revision, I noticed that I didn't actually spell out the process by which I am revising my second novel.  It requires a Kindle or some other e-book reader.  Here's the process:

  1. Create an e-book of the draft and put it on your e-book reader.  This is preparatory step.  You do it once and then never again, unless you repeat this whole process.
  2. Read one chapter of the book, using the notes feature in the Kindle (or what other feature there is in your e-book reader) to leave yourself comments.
  3. The next day:
    1. Incorporate the comments from the chapter you read into your draft of that chapter and then print out a copy of the chapter.
    2. Repeat step 2 with the next chapter of the book.
  4. The next day, read and markup the printout you made.  
  5. The next day: 
    1. Incorporate the comments from the printout.  This chapter is now complete.
    2. Incorporate the comments from the Kindle on the next chapter and print it out.
    3. Repeat step 2 for the next chapter of the book.
  6. The next day, repeat steps 4 through 5 until the whole book is revised.
I admit that it takes a while this way to revise the novel.  But I want to go slowly so I can think about each scene one at a time and make revision on a scene that are needed.  Using this approach, I've already expanded several scenes that needed more detail and cut melodrama from several others.

Of course, I could edit faster, but my goal is to get each scene complete and correct.  I will pay an editor to do a copy edit on anything I miss.  But only I can look at a scene and know if it is doing what I need it to do, what I want it to.  So my time here is an investment in the novel to make it better so it can sell.

Hope you find this approach helpful.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Writing is a Lonely Business

A few years back, when I decided I would finally focus on what first drew me to writing -- writing fiction, I had to make a lot of changes in my life.  At the time, I had a small web site consultant business.  I had to close it down because web site development is very labor intensive and requires a lot of mental focus.

That wasn't a hardship really because the business was not very active.  But one of the people I worked with came to me last year looking for help on a site.  I had to turn her away.  I didn't want to but I didn't want work on my novel to be interrupted either.  I set the priorities and I abided by them.

The same is true elsewhere in my life.  I've not seen friends for months because often I am busy, alone, typing at this keyboard trying to find the words I want.  Funny thing about that, however, none of my friends have come looking for me.  Well, one did.  But the rest have not.  I would have thought otherwise after months and months of isolation, someone would've noticed and reached out to me to get together.

That never happens.

And that makes me angry.  And it hurts.

I've never been someone with lots of friends.  Nor have I been very popular.  But I had thought someone would have made an effort to contact me to say hi.

Oh sure, there are lots of reasons why people don't.  They live far away.  They are busy with their own lives.  They have been meaning too but keep forgetting.  The list goes on and on.

And sure I could initiate the contact.  But I always do that.  And I'm tried of being the one to send the email or text, or place the call and make the arrangements.  I'm a natural organizer you see.  But right now, the only thing I want to organize is my writing.

So I guess I'm going to be lonely for a lot longer.  Good thing I'm well practiced at it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Battling Fear

As a survival mechanism, fear is very important.  It keeps us alive.  We heard a strange noise, we are afraid and our adrenalin increases so we can run away or stay and fight.

But when fear becomes so intense that we do not act or we act out of fear then fear itself is the enemy.  In my view this sort of behavior is rampant.  It dominants much of why we hate and dislike others:  we fear the differences.  And it is the cause behind much violence because if I hate you enough to act on it, then I am likely to harm or kill you.

In terms of writing, fear can stop you from committing words to the page.  You fear failure or perhaps you fear success.  We call it writer's block.  I've written about my experience with writer's block early in this blog so I won't repeat it.  Instead, let me talk about fear.

Fear and I are old companions.  I've never been afraid to fail; hell, most of my life is about failure.  I was the embodiment of Charlie Brown, you see.  Rather, I had a fear of success.  It is easy to fail.  You don't try very hard and fail is assured.  Succeeding is much harder and for many years I was afraid of succeeding because then I had to maintain that level of success.  People expected it of me and at the time I was ruled by the expectation of others.

But when I burned out and had to relearn how to write, all that went away.  I let go all those mind games (one never really knows what other people expect of you) and focused on making peace with myself.  You see, one of our biggest fears is we aren't who we think we are.  I think I'm a nice person but in fact I'm not. I'm a mean, insensitive, bastard on some level and I had been fighting with myself about this for years.  But when I stopped fighting and harnessed that mean SOB for writing, things began to click.

These days I see no point to be afraid of too much.  Sure, you want to be afraid of radiation exposure or anthrax, but the odds of such exposure are small.  But if you are afraid of someone because they are different I see no point in this.  My advice is to exam those feelings honestly and objectively.  I think you will find there is no ground for them and you might even discover nice people you can be friends with instead of fearing.

And I'm not saying it is easy to combat one's fear.  It took me months and occasionally I relive the experience.  But it is worth the effort I think especially if fear is holding you back from writing or experiencing some part of life.

So fight your fear and come out writing.