July 17th, 2007


[process] Coming attractions

I am being interviewed by a reporter today for my comments on steampunk. That will be interesting. If I come up with anything especially useful, I'll make a note of it here.

Also, I've recently been asked for blog posts on flash fiction and the novel contract. Watch this space. (Feel free to weigh in now in comments if there's something about either of those topics you'd like me to touch on.)

[process] Brute persistence

kenscholes and I were chatting briefly in IM this morning. He's working on the sequel to his profoundly excellent novel Lamentation, and the discussion was about process. We agree on the success formula:

Brute persistence

kenscholes:naturally, there must be talent and skill in appropriate doses. But the production engine is persistence.
jaylake:people seem to have a hard time with that
jaylake:as if writing were some mystical, magical act
kenscholes:yeah, because they're lazy and want a magic bullet.
kenscholes:or because they're scared and want a magic bullet.

It's amazing how often I get asked "How did you break in?" My answer is almost always some variation on "I write a lot, and I fail a lot." People really do want something more (or less) than that, it seems.

Write. Fail. Write more. Fail less. (See "brute persistence" above.)

[books] The big pimp! Night Shade's having another great sale

My good friends and publishers at Night Shade Books are celebrating some exciting new releases with a sale. They've got a few big titles coming in, and need to clear space in a big way!

Until midnight on Sunday, July 29th, they're offering 50% off all in-stock and forthcoming Night Shade books. Use the coupon code NSB0750, and there is a four book minimum order.

jlassen says:

Just to entice you a bit more, we've just added a whole bunch of new forthcoming titles to the site, including new novels from Greg Egan and Walter Jon Williams, the new Detective Inspector Chen novel from Liz Williams, the fourth and fifth Clark Ashton Smith volumes, and a post-apocalyptic anthology called Wastelands that will include stories from Stephen King, Jonathan Lethem, George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Gene Wolfe, Nancy Kress, Octavia Butler, and a whole lot more.

In addition, for those that keep asking, we're reprinting a bunch of classics. Volume one of the Clark Ashton Smith series is sold out, but will be reprinted in September. Volume one of the Hodgson series will be reprinted in January, and volume two will be reprinted in May.

Check it out, score some great new stuff. While you're at it, why not pick up a copy of Trial of Flowers?

[process] Microfiction and the working writer

A friend who's teaching a writing class right now asked me about my now-dormant storyword project. Its earlier incarnation is at http://storyword.blogspot.com/. See also "Cletis and the Duct Tape Spider" at http://www.jlake.com/old/cletis.html

She'd been asked by a student about how it was I could pull off writing a flash fiction every day.

It's an interesting question, because to me, it doesn't really have an answer. Like Nike, I just did it.

The history of storywords is that at WFC in Minneapolis in 2002, frankwu was complaining that people would say to him, "Oh, you're an artist. Draw me a picture!" He asked why no one ever asked writers to tell them a story. I said I was up for it, and we spent a good portion of the weekend roaming the halls demanding that people feed me a word so I could pass it back to them immediately in a bit improvisational oral flash.

I thought this was a pretty cool creative exercise, so I took it up as writing form, for quite some time. It's not about doing polished, or even sellable, fiction. It's the writerly equivalent of morning calisthenics — let the creative muscles unwind, without the judgmental process of editing.

How to do it? Take a random word, preferably something a little quirky. Try "recondite" or "amanuensis." If you don't know what it means, don't sweat it. Treat it like Pictionary, or a sniglet, or a pun. Build a little story around it.

The cool thing is there's lots of story telling bricks in our mentarium. "Once upon a time..." "The fiery-haired princess..." "The man with no name, riding a skeletal horse..." Yes, they're cliches, but in oral storytelling, people don't notice. If you're doing this aloud, use those elements to think a sentence or two ahead while your lips are moving. If you're doing this in writing, use those elements to lend your effort structure. Think of them as a sort of catapult that launches the story, or booster rockets that keep in flight. Yes, you're stalling. So what? As long as your lips are moving, or your fingers are typing, you're meeting the purpose of the exercise.

A minute or two or three or five later, you have a story. It doesn't have to be a good story, or even make a lot of sense. But you'll have something with a beginning, a middle and an end. Do it daily for a month or two and you will have acquired the comfortable habit of concluding those narratives on which you embark. (And believe me, anyone can start a story &mdashl finishing stories is where most aspiring writers are defeated.) At that point, the only thing standing between you a novel is a hundred thousand or so words of middle.

The serious point here is that doing microstories, either orally or written, is a way to cue the creative process, and train yourself to structure in a very compressed way. It's fun, it's silly, and it's something real writers do.

I invite you to leave a flash piece in comments here, and read what others leave. Use "recondite" or "amanuensis," or offer up a word of your own. Only one rule — be kind to each other.

[process] Contracts

Another question which crossed my inbox recently was about what to watch out for in contracts. I've posted on this before, but I'm too lazy to look through my 17,246 back posts to find it, so I thought I'd take it from the top.

First of all, I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice. I am not a literary agent. This is not business advice. These are my opinions and experience, presented as possible thinking guide. With luck, smarter people than I will contribute in comments to correct my errors and misstatements and present further wisdom.

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One last thing. Everything is negotiable, but that doesn't mean people will negotiate everything. You need to know what's important to the people you're negotiating with. For example, payment schedules might be flexible (cash flow) but royalty rates might not be (revenue). Understand what's reasonable, and act reasonable. I've never gone wrong trying to be nice about things, even when I have been irritated or upset.

Let the corrections and flaming begin in comments.