Posts Tagged ‘writing life’
As things have developed, both public and private, I have decided that my I need to change my priorities in the upcoming months. To that end, I need to put By Elves Abandoned on the back burner and work on other things. Instead of working on those other things and feeling guilty about not hitting wordcount goals for NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to simply let that go.
The book still has a lot of potential, and I expect to pick it up again before too long, it’s purely a matter of timing. Maybe my own personal NaNoWriMo will come in February, we’ll see!
Suburban Jungle will keep going, and punting on NaNo will hopefully give me time to fix up lingering issues I’m having with the current storyline and the direction the comic is taking generally. Fortunately, that only takes me a couple of days a week and could be done at night or on the weekends as needed. I am also still working on finding a publisher for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania.
How Not to Suck at Overwatch is also going to go quiet for the foreseeable future. It was a fun project and I enjoyed it (and I’m very grateful to the friends and fans who made it possible), but at least for now I have other things I need to concentrate on.
As for what I am working on, that’s not in a stage where I’m ready to tell the world. But when the time comes, I will! But until then, I’ve got commissions to finish and a comic to draw, so I’d better get to work.
When I started trying to brainstorm for NaNoWriMo this year, I had nothing to go on. Months of shopping Sky Pirates of Calypsitania around to agents had received mostly chirping crickets, with the occasional “You’re a good writer, but… nah.” On the advice of J.M. Frey, I decided to write a more “mainstream fantasy” novel that would help me get my foot in the door, figuring that once I had a body of work, it would be easier to get people to buy in to other stuff.
But again, what to write? I can craft prose all day, but creating a compelling story is much tougher. Finally, with nothing else to work with, I said, “Fine! I’m taking some of my unplayed RPG characters, tossing them into a scenario, and writing it as a book!”
On the good side, it definitely got me rolling. I have some protagonists and a broad story arc, and that’s all good. However, there is one big problem with this framework, which is: most RPG campaigns, even good ones, tend to be a never-ending string of fights. Whether it’s orcs or stormtroopers, the “filler” of an RPG campaign is generally going to be battles with monsters… which can make for dull reading.
Yes, the blow-by-blow of a tense action scene can be exciting. Bilbo’s encounters with trolls, goblins, spiders and dragon (and later Frodo’s encounters with ringwraiths, orcs, trolls, more orcs, more ringwraiths, more orcs, easterlings on oliphaunts, more orcs, a giant spider, still more orcs, and a giant pit of lava) are iconic. But what really makes a battle interesting is not who slashed what or cleft the other in twain– it’s what changes as a result of the battle.
And that’s where the neverending string of fights in a D&D game fall down as fodder for a novel. As a rule, they don’t change anything, other than to nibble away at resources. In a novel, the “five rooms full of orcs” at the front of the level that lead up to the “boss” at the end would lose readers after the second fight. “We’ve seen this already!” would be the cry of the frustrated reader. “Get on with it!” (And they’d be perfectly right to do so.) The first fight with orcs is interesting, because it’s new, which means it changes things. The fight with the boss at the end is interesting, for the same reason. (And presumably the boss has some kind of plot coupon or other thing to make them worth fighting in the first place on top of that.) The stuff in the middle? Gets mercilessly summarized unless and until it makes an impact.
So this is where my NaNoWriMo project actually hits an uphill climb: I have more or less completed act one, with the hero about to set off on her journey with her new companions. While I have the next big change– the “boss” of the next section so to speak– worked out, I need to figure out interesting and relevant things that will take the character from here to there. In a D&D game, this would be an overland journey with some random encounters, ending in a dungeon complex, easy peasy. For a book? It has to matter, or be cut. And that’s the tough part.
NaNoWriMo has launched! The first scene of By Elves Abandoned is written, and I think it’s a good start. I’ll be posting it to my Patreon tomorrow for supporters after my morning re-read.
Woot, woot! And now, on to another Overwatch PotG commish…
First item of news: Issue Five launches on November 14th. I’m still kinda trying to figure out what I’m doing with it, but I’ve also reached the point where if I don’t set a deadline, it’ll languish, and I need to force my mental waveform to collapse (so to speak). I’m also going to be working on NaNoWriMo at the same time, and posting chunks of the NaNo project to my Patreon page for supporters.
Which leads to the topic of Patreon. I think I need to just come out and say it: I am terrible at running a Patreon. I have never been good at the “business hustle” part of being a professional artist, it’s just an alien world to me– and honestly, mental bandwidth I’ve been burning on trying to figure it out has been not just wasted, but siphoned away from the actual process of making the art. In short, I can run the business or make the product, but I can’t do both, and I need to stop trying.
How does that effect my Patreon? Well, my first inclination was to simply delete it entirely. But the strange thing about it is that many of my supporters have said they don’t really care about the “rewards” levels anyway, they just want to support my work. It’s kinda like the old Paypal tip jar, just a little more formalized.
So I’ve decided to leave the Patreon up, but I’m going to remove the reward tiers and make it a simple binary, “yes, you’re a subscriber, or no you aren’t” system. All subscribers will have access to all the Patreon content, which will include immediate comic page postings, draft chapters of books in progress, and so forth. I am also looking at changing it to a “per posting” model, and would be curious to hear any opinions folks have on the topic.
In any case, I’m going to make this change now, between monthly cycles, to give people plenty of time to adjust and/or bail if they wish.
Thanks for your patience! I hope to have some cool stuff for you soon.
Including the first cold submission to Tor, I have now been sending queries for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania to publishers and agents for five months. I have received:
- Six form rejections
- One personal response that my writing was strong but the agent didn’t feel a personal connection to these particular characters
- Four chirping crickets
But today starts a new week, and so this morning I’ve sent off two more queries (including one to an agent who, even if she doesn’t care for the book, just seems like a cool person and I started following her on Twiter). As more responses come in, assuming they are more form rejections, I’ll keep sending more queries out, until this book sells.
Because that’s the thing, I believe this book will sell. It’s the kind of book I keep wishing somebody else would write so I could read it– and if I want a book like this, surely other people must too. It’s just a matter of connecting Book A to Readers B. I don’t expect it to become the sort of thing that makes it to supermarket shelves, necessarily, but I do think it’s a very entertaining first novel and is the good launching point of a career. I have seen (and read, and have in my personal library) books that are weaker on all fronts and yet are quite successful, and if those books can do it, so can mine.
So I keep calm and query on. There are hundreds (thousands?) of good literary agents out there, and if I get through the list, well, I’ll start over. And in the meantime, I will continue to work on the next book while waiting for responses.
We’ll get there.
On the value of good manners, the agent who passed on Sky Pirates of Calypsitania last week wrote back in response to my thank you note to say, “I think your writing is very strong and I wish you the best in your agent hunt! For me, I just didn’t fall in love with the characters in the way that I’d need in order to be a great advocate.”
This, while it may not sound like much, is actually hugely helpful feedback. When you send out query after query and get the same boilerplate “not a good fit at this time” response, you begin to question every little aspect of what you’re doing. “Is my query letter too amateurish?” “Am I committing enormous grammatical blunders that I just don’t see?” “Is my adventure story about airship pirates really just a string of vapid clichés?” “Are the weird relationships and social outliers in this story too off-putting?” “Am I a hamfisted hack and everyone’s just been too nice to say so?”
This tiny bit of specific feedback makes all that junk go away. Being told by an industry professional that my writing is very strong is a bonus, I won’t lie! But the real value here is knowing that it was a matter of personal taste, rather than a systemic problem with the work. There are plenty of books out there that are great books, but I just don’t get into them. The entire corpus of Ernest Hemingway, just for starters.
What that means, in real terms, is that I have to just keep putting the book in front of agents until I find one for whom the book clicks. Of course, that was my plan anyway, but I feel a lot more secure about it now. Even if this particular agent and I end up never crossing paths again (although there’s no reason we might not), she’s done me a great favor and I’m grateful for it.