Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday 20

No biz post today -- I've got some books to ship out -- but the floor's open. Any questions? (Loyd, I'll move yours over to these comments in a sec.)

(The explanation of the Friday 20 feature is here.)

31 comments:

  1. 1 l loyd wrote in previous comments: BTW, I assume 20 Question Friday is on. Last week you said,

    "Whatever genre I write, I start with characters. World building is serious fun, but if the characters aren't there first, I can't see their world through their eyes."

    I've always seen the world built first. How does your way change world building? Give some examples if you can.


    I think my way of world building allows me to discover the world through the character (along with the reader) versus having everything set up first and then trying to fit the characters to that world. I think my method is a pretty good defense against too much narrative and too many infodumps, too. Characters are more interesting to me than setting, so any setting I filter through my characters' POV first is going to be more fun to write.

    Example: [The following excerpt is from Blade Dancer, and it shows Jory Rask's first impression of her dead mother's homeworld. I'd already written about Joren in an earlier book, but I saw the world through Jory's eyes and thoughts, which allowed me to keep the setting the same but give it a different spin for the reader]:

    Joren wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. Oh, it was just like the planetary survey data said – the seventh planet in a single-star system, big, multilife form sustaining, etc. The moment I stepped off the launch at Lno Main Transport, though, I knew they’d missed a few things.

    I breathed in deeply. "Nice. I could dab the whole place behind my ears."

    The air smelled like flowers. Colors were sharper, clearer. Even the gravity felt right – on Terra, I’d always felt like an oversize, lumbering t’lerue. Now I felt my muscles shifting, as if finally relaxing after twenty-five years of tension.

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  2. My question is about writing in several genres. Whether it's one pen name or ten, there is still (usually) only one writer :). How do you handle both mental switching from one genre to another and the business side of it? Especially the genre
    whose audiences are separate -- like, say, SF and romantic suspense -- would you say that writing four books in one genre and writing one book in four genres is the same, business-wise, or does the latter feel more like working four times more because of the separate business-related efforts (proposing, promotion, image-building and brand name building, market research, etc). Thanks in advance!

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  3. Daria wrote: How do you handle both mental switching from one genre to another and the business side of it?

    Mentally speaking, I think it's all attitude and confidence. I never heard that old myth that a writer can't write or be published in more than one genre until after I was published in three, and even then it still made no sense to me. I read a wide range of genres, so why wouldn't I write in them? I get bored easily and like a challenge, too, so multi-genre writing is fun and keeps my interest level high.

    Preparing proposals and selling books is not difficult for a series once the first book in the series has sold. I simply have to pitch the next installment in the series, or a standalone set in that time or universe. Standalones and new genre ventures are tougher, but if you've done your homework you know what's selling and what direction the trends are taking the genre, and you can tailor your submission to stay (somewhat) within genre bounds but really stand out from what everyone else is pitching.

    Whatever genre I'm writing in, I do the same amount of legwork on self-promo: I read for market analysis, play with ideas, write my weblog, and give away signed copies of my books. I believe in investing in very limited, creative self-promotion -- that's why I comissioned the Darkyn web site -- but not just for the sake of doing it. Writing the books is what I do best, so I generally stick to my strengths and let the publishers handle the marketing.

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  4. Anonymous11:51 AM

    Will you be writing more books about Cherijo and Duncan --- tying up the loose ends (don't want to elaborate or I'll spoil it for those who haven't read Rebel Ice yet)? I think in a previous post, you mentioned a seventh book. If that is the case, is there anything you are able to share about it?? Thanks, Cathy

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  5. This isn't a writing question, but it's something I've wanted to know since I started reading your work.

    How do you pronounce "Viehl"? :-D

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  6. Cathy wrote: Will you be writing more books about Cherijo and Duncan --- tying up the loose ends (don't want to elaborate or I'll spoil it for those who haven't read Rebel Ice yet)? I think in a previous post, you mentioned a seventh book. If that is the case, is there anything you are able to share about it??

    That's a timely question, Cathy. Yes, there will be a seventh StarDoc novel, which I'm revising at this very moment. The working title for that novel was ClanSon but my publisher has just decided to retitle it Plague of Memory. Tentative release date for PoM is January 2007. This book finishes up my present SF contract, so I don't know if there will be an eighth novel in the series yet, but I'll keep you all posted.

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  7. Zeek wrote: How do you pronounce "Viehl"? :-D

    Lol. It's pronounced Veel with a long "e." Or if you're into Italian food, exactly like the "veal" in "Veal Parmigian."

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  8. "It's pronounced Veel with a long "e." "

    Aha! Thanks!

    ::homer simpson voice::

    ""mmmm veal parmigian"

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  9. Zeek stole my question. I have a hard time pronouncing names.

    I've got another one. :) I've heard some comments about how you shouldn't stop your series for too long. Meaning if you had planned an ongoing series and they say -- I'd like to see something that isn't that -- what could a writer do? Can you insist that you should continue the series?

    Have you ever had a publisher say they didn't want any more to a series at any time?

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  10. zornhau1:42 PM

    Just read Blade Dancer. Loads I could ask but...

    PBW: Would you list Leigh Bracket as an influence?

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  11. Pixel faerie wrote: I've heard some comments about how you shouldn't stop your series for too long. Meaning if you had planned an ongoing series and they say -- I'd like to see something that isn't that -- what could a writer do? Can you insist that you should continue the series? Have you ever had a publisher say they didn't want any more to a series at any time?

    I pitched StarDoc as an open-ended series and originally intended to write ten to fifteen novels in the series. The publisher chose to put the series "on hiatus" after book five and offers me a contract to write assignment standalone novels with new characters and more epic storylines set in the same universe.

    I wanted to continue with the series, but if I wanted to work, I had to write what the publisher wanted. It may be different for blockbuster bestelling authors, but a midlist writer like me is in no position to insist on anything. Also, I was a house author by then, and I couldn't jump ship without sacrificing a growing, popular backlist. It wasn't a tough choice. I did what they wanted.

    But: I kept the series alive for my readers by writing StarDoc short stories and novellas and posting them on my web site for free. I also used crossover characters like Ana Hansen and William Mayer in the new standalones from the SD series books. I actually tried to sell Rebel Ice as a serial novel to a couple of SF magazines, but they bounced it. Even after the publisher publicly labeled SD #5 as the "final" book, I asked the readers to hang in with me and kept writing for them. I was planning to self-publish the sixth book if I had no alternative, but I hadn't yet exhausted all my alternatives, and my backlist was still selling.

    In fact, my readers bought so many StarDoc novels over the last three years that they've kept all five in print. Many also wrote to my publisher asking for book six. When my SF publisher Roc merged with Ace, I took the chance and pitched book six to my new editor, and because my numbers were so strong she bought it and book seven.

    Series are tough to sustain in today's market, and I don't want to give anyone false hopes. But if you're willing to keep your series alive for your readers, and you focus on building your readership, it is possible to achieve a series restart as I'e done.

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  12. Zornhau wrote: Just read Blade Dancer. Loads I could ask but...

    Oh, to be a fly on Zornhau's reading room wall as he read and muttered "What . . . did she write . . .What?" Lol.

    PBW: Would you list Leigh Bracket as an influence?

    I hate to admit it, but I had to Yahoo her to find out who she was. I am an admirer of several of her screenplays. Blade Dancer was loosely inspired by a couple of things, mainly the Saga of the 47 Ronin and the many retellings of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

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  13. zornhau3:33 PM

    She had the same knack for delivering an epic tale in not very many pages at all. Plus - for her time - a remarkable erotic undertow.

    If you ever get around to reading her, I do hope you'll share your impressions.

    (I think there's a fantasy masterworks edition coming out soon.)

    Oh, and actually I thought you came up with rather convincing martial arts, except that the best techniques rest on utter simplicity. I would have had them spend hours on cutting practice, and on getting the move just right - because going early or late by a fraction of a second means death.

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  14. Anonymous3:46 PM

    PWB,
    Thanks for keeping this blog ;o).

    1.What do you think it's a better choice for a new writer:
    a. to work over and over his first novel to make it as good as he can (sometimes writing/rewriting/changing the plot for months or years )or
    b. to move on to the next novel (after a decent revision/rewriting) and not spending too much time and effort on just one novel.

    2.On how many novels do you usually work at the same time?

    3.How do you manage not to waste your time surfing the Internet?

    4.What genre is hot right now?

    5.Is there a genre where you think it's easier for new writers to break into?

    6.What do you think about writing for the market? Do you write for a possible trend in the market?

    7.Do you think that writing fast results in better writing? (e.g. pondering for minutes over every word, compared to fast/free/speed writing)

    8.Do you ever write in longhand?

    9.How do you manage to focus on the task in hand (and not get distracted by various possible interferences)?

    10. How do you overcome fear (of failure, or of success, or any other fear)?

    Best Wishes,

    Pencilone

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  15. Anonymous3:47 PM

    (I asked a question last week, so feel free to hold off/ignore this one if you get too many to deal w/ this week. Don't wanna be a question hog!)

    Just a follow-on to the series question -

    Assuming you are allowed to keep a series going, how often should you come out w/ a book in it? Once a year? Once every 6 mo? Is every-other year pushing the boundary for keeping your audience hooked, etc?

    thanks!

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  16. Anonymous3:57 PM

    I tried to post this and then it vanished (I hope I'm not posting twice)
    PWB,
    Thanks for keeping this blog ;o).

    1.What do you think it's a better choice for a new writer:
    a. to work over and over his first novel to make it as good as he can (sometimes writing/rewriting/changing the plot for months or years )or
    b. to move on to the next novel (after a decent revision/rewriting) and not spending too much time and effort on just one novel.

    2.On how many novels do you usually work at the same time?

    3.How do you manage not to waste your time surfing the Internet?

    4.What genre is hot right now?

    5.Is there a genre where you think it's easier for new writers to break into?

    6.What do you think about writing for the market? Do you write for a possible trend in the market?

    7.Do you think that writing fast results in better writing? (e.g. pondering for minutes over every word, compared to fast/free/speed writing)

    8.Do you ever write in longhand?

    9.How do you manage to focus on the task in hand (and not get distracted by various possible interferences)?

    10. How do you overcome fear (of failure, or of success, or any other fear)?

    Best Wishes,

    Pencilone

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  17. Anonymous3:59 PM

    OMG! I did post twice! Please have my deepest apologies.
    Pencilone

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  18. *grabs back of popcorn and waits for answers to Pencilone's fascinating list o questions*
    ;-)

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  19. Zornhau wrote: Oh, and actually I thought you came up with rather convincing martial arts, except that the best techniques rest on utter simplicity.

    I will keep that in mind, thank you, my friend (for those who are mystified by this exchange, Zornhau actually practices and teaches what I only imagine and write about.) I'll also look into reading some of Leigh Bracket's book work; she sounds like my kind of writer.

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  20. Pencilone wrote: 1.What do you think it's a better choice for a new writer:
    a. to work over and over his first novel to make it as good as he can (sometimes writing/rewriting/changing the plot for months or years )or
    b. to move on to the next novel (after a decent revision/rewriting) and not spending too much time and effort on just one novel.


    I think new writers should do a little of both a. and b. Diligently working on and rewriting that first novel until it feels right is important; even if it takes some time the writer should feel satisfied with the work. There are some first novels that are so stunning they do get into print, too, so don't automatically discount the first effort as garbage.

    There should be a time limit to working on the first book, though, so it isn't the only thing the new writer ever writes. So work on that first book, but also set a deadline for submitting it and moving onto the next project.

    2.On how many novels do you usually work at the same time?

    On average, three. In the worst months when deadlines start colliding, five or six.

    3.How do you manage not to waste your time surfing the Internet?

    While I'm on the internet I set a kitchen timer for ten minutes, and when the bell dings I log off.

    4.What genre is hot right now?

    Crime fiction and dark fantasy seem quite steamy. :)

    5.Is there a genre where you think it's easier for new writers to break into?

    I won't kid you, nothing is easy to break into anymore. Romance has the largest market share, so there are more slots available, but it's the hardest genre in which to make a name for yourself.

    It's good to experiment, but of you write in the genre you enjoy most, odds are that you'll likely do your best work. The best you can do always has a better chance of breaking out.

    6.What do you think about writing for the market? Do you write for a possible trend in the market?

    I don't write for trends because most of them never last. I do watch trends because I have a sizeable inventory of full manuscripts, partials and proposals that I might be able to sell when they fit a particular trend (like my 1998 proposal for the Darkyn books, which sold in 2004.)

    7.Do you think that writing fast results in better writing? (e.g. pondering for minutes over every word, compared to fast/free/speed writing)

    Natural speed is a plus, but writing without hesitation results in better writing.

    8.Do you ever write in longhand?

    Yep, when I was a kid. I still have the notebooks, too.

    9.How do you manage to focus on the task in hand (and not get distracted by various possible interferences)?

    I remove most of the distractions, and the rest is simply focus. I have to set multiple alarm clocks when I'm writing or I forget to do things.

    10. How do you overcome fear (of failure, or of success, or any other fear)?

    Face it down. I was always a shy person (I was; quit laughing) and had a tough time meeting and talking with strangers. I'd never talk to anyone about my writing. Then I got published, and I knew I had to overcome my fear or I'd be the Great Unknown Writer.

    I started going to open mike poetry night at Barnes & Noble and making myself read some of my terrible poems to the crowd. Afterward, I forced myself to mingle and talk. It was the seventh level of hell for me, but I knew I had to do it. When I felt more confident, I joined a local writer's organization (the story doesn't get better from here, so let's leave it at that.)

    If facing down your fear doesn't appeal to you, talk about it with family or friends. You shouldn't deal with something like that alone.

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  21. Anonymous wrote: Assuming you are allowed to keep a series going, how often should you come out w/ a book in it? Once a year? Once every 6 mo? Is every-other year pushing the boundary for keeping your audience hooked, etc?

    Assuming your publisher will buy what you'd like to publish, I recommend at least one, or if possible two, series books per year. If your series is an immediate national or international bestseller, you may be able to go every other year with publishing the next installment, but that kind of thing could kill a midlisted series.

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  22. Question:

    How does one find the time to write free-lancing with working on one's novels?

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  23. I hope I'm not too late on this question, it's still Friday in my corner of the universe. ;)


    I have been entralled by the Jorenian culture in the StarDoc series and especially in Blade Dancer. Can you tell me how you came up with the rituals (like bonding, the embrace of the stars, etc) and the terminology, like "walk within beauty" and Chosen, etc. Their mindset, the fierce protection of anyone in the HouseClan, things like that. It seems so realistic and so plausible. And it's a fascinating culture. I remember when I read StarDoc I was just in awe of it.

    Thank you,
    Erin K.

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  24. PBW said: When I felt more confident, I joined a local writer's organization (the story doesn't get better from here, so let's leave it at that.)

    Sorry to ask another question, but would you recommend joining a local writer's organization? I've been thinking about it, but I am shy too. I just wonder if people actually learn things at meetings, or do you simply read poetry to one another and pat each other on the back? (That's what I always thought happened.)

    Feel free to ignore this one until another time. I was just curious.

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  25. Tamith12:52 AM

    I'm not sure if I've made the Friday cutoff point, but: How do you handle writer's block? Do you force yourself to keep writing to get past it, or do you take it as a sign that some element in the story is not working, and requires more thought or a different approach?

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  26. Guys, it's been a long day, and I'm going to bed -- so if it's okay, I'll answer the remaining questions here in the a.m. :)

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  27. zornhau7:16 AM

    Start with "Sword of Rhiannon", if you can find it. There's a slightly snotty review here:http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton/aced30.htm

    (And, if you ever need authentic swordplay, you know where to come. Anything to establish Western Martial Arts in people's imaginations.)

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  28. Joel wrote: How does one find the time to write free-lancing with working on one's novels?

    Paying work should always comes first, but if you work out a reasonable writing schedule that meets your deadlines, and stick to it, you can set aside some time for on-spec and freelance writing.

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  29. vamp_writer wrote: I have been entralled by the Jorenian culture in the StarDoc series and especially in Blade Dancer. Can you tell me how you came up with the rituals (like bonding, the embrace of the stars, etc) and the terminology, like "walk within beauty" and Chosen, etc.

    Thanks for the kind words. The Jorenian culture is based on a conglomeration of rituals, behaviors and attitudes that I admire (and occasionally question) from many human cultures and belief systems, both modern and historic. I researched social attitudes and practices from Regency period England, 18th and 19th century Native American tribes, ancient Scandanavian cultures, as well as islander tribal peoples like Samoans, Maori and Hawaiians. At first the Jorenians were to be my personal, idealistic metaphor for the type of people I hope human beings would evolve into someday (keep in mind that I created them when I was a teenager), but they grew out of that and over the years evolved into what they are in my books today.

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  30. Pixel faerie wrote: Sorry to ask another question, but would you recommend joining a local writer's organization? I've been thinking about it, but I am shy too. I just wonder if people actually learn things at meetings, or do you simply read poetry to one another and pat each other on the back? (That's what I always thought happened.)

    I joined a few when I first started out as a pro, but I quickly discovered that I am not, to borrow a friend's terminology, into group-think. Also, some are very expensive, what with the dues, conferences and charity drives, etc. while others prohibit unpublished writers from joining. That said, I know many writers who have told me that they've benefitted in numerous ways from joining writer organizations.

    My advice would be to attend a few meetings of any group you consider joining (most will let you do so as a guest) and decide for yourself whether you want to get involved or stay out of them.

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  31. Tamith wrote: How do you handle writer's block? Do you force yourself to keep writing to get past it, or do you take it as a sign that some element in the story is not working, and requires more thought or a different approach?

    I don't get writer's block as I understand the concept. I didn't know there was such a thing, but I love to write, and I never get tired of it, which probably helps a lot.

    My discipline is to write every day. I am faithful to my discipline. If I hit a snag while I'm writing, I tag it for later editing and write past it. If I find a problem when I'm editing, I fix it. If I don't feel like writing, I keep writing until the feeling goes away. I don't doubt myself and I don't waste time looking for reasons to doubt myself or the work.

    Your mileage may vary, of course. :)

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