Sunday, November 27, 2016

NaNoWriMo Done

Well, we've come to the end of another NeNoWriMo, and I must say...thank God.  It shouldn't be a secret that I detest this artificial creation of writing desire.  I think that if you need a special month someone else designates to write, then you don't really have the motivation to be a successful writer.

To start with, writers write.  It's what we do.  It should be all year, not just the 11th month of the calendar because it's suddenly a fashion trend.  If you can only find the motivation to write in November, how do you think you'll sustain that the rest of the year?  Yes, I know that some people say that NaNoWriMo inspired them to really get into it, but I view this as the exception rather than the rule.  It's like all those who make a New Year's resolution to go to the gym - they go the first three weeks, and then they abandon the project since they were artificially inspired(meaning the rest of us who actually go to the gym regularly can get back to our workouts in peace).  Motivation has to come from within or it'll fade.

Then there's the lack of quality in NaNoWriMo inspired work.  Yes, I think a person can write 50,000 words in a month(I've done this ac couple of times myself), but most work produced so quickly is more of a vomit of vague generalities rather than a serious production of work.  Maybe that 50,000 words is meant to be a first draft, and God I hope so, because most of that produced so quickly isn't likely to be very good.  I can write 2,000 words a day when I'm doing a new book, but it's not a stream of thought - I consciously prepare for what I'm going to write so it has sufficient depth and isn't just a jumble.

And although technically 50,000 words is a novel, I think it's little more than a shallow one.  Most novels, in my opinion, need to be at least 80,000 words to give sufficient depth to the story.  Perhaps folks use NaNoWriMo to get started, but I've found that most either think NaNoWriMo is for a complete novel, or they abandon their project once December 1st rolls around.  Like I said - lack of year round motivation will not produce success.

Now maybe this will all piss you off.  "How dare he!" you'll exclaim.  "I love NaNoWriMo, and he shouldn't disparage it!"  If you like NaNoWriMo, then why should the rantings of an unpublished author matter to you?  I find it shallow, but so what?  If my disparaging of the month is enough to discourage you, then you were never going to make it anyway(see above for motivation).  Either you're inspired to write or you aren't.  If I'm sufficient enough to piss you off about your favorite month as an arteest, then imagine what flipping the calendar to December would do.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Getting Started

The first time I started writing with any passion was when I was in the 4th Grade.  My teacher, Mrs. Joyner, gave us all little blue notebooks and told us that we would spend an hour on Fridays writing something creative.  Afterwards, we would choose a few stories to read to the class, and I was determined to be one of those chosen.

As we began this little endeavor, I found that it fired up my imagination.  I was a big Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers fan, and the sci-fi of the late 1970s and early 1980s fueled my imagination, so I designed my own space opera saga.  It was a dumb little story about Earth staving off a massive intergalactic empire with a cast of only 20 warriors, but I was nine, and I didn't have the depth and context of realism at that point.  I just wanted a story where things would go boom and folks would fight impossible odds against a demonic alien.

It also gave rise to my lifelong desire of writing.  Despite my weak plot and laughable story, my nine-year old classmates were enthralled(like I said, we were nine).  I found the aphrodisiac of storytelling, and it was then that I knew I had to write.  I kept going by expanding the 4th Grade story into a full novel in 5th Grade(which turned out to basically be a Star Wars story with new names and settings), and then I worked with some friends on a V inspired story in 6th Grade.  After all this re-imagining, I felt something was missing and quickly determined it was originality.  These stories were fun, but they weren't really mine.

I think a lot of writers underwent a similar journey - find a story you like, rework it a little(since we know how to make it better), and then finally figure out that we need to create our own worlds.  How did your love of writing begin?  Was it early in life, or did something trigger it later?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Justifying The Story

A while back, I wrote a post in which I spoke about justifying the ending of a story.  Basically, it said that in order to have a great ending, the story must be equally epic.  The more I pondered it, the more I realized that the reverse is also true - the ending also has to justify the story.

Here's what I mean by that - Johnny Carson used to say that the longer the build up in a joke, the funnier the payoff needs to be.  In other words, you can't just pull the audience along and then give them barely a mild pop in the conclusion.  The building of suspense and the creation of tension is great, but it has to result in something that makes the audience go, "HOLY SHIT!"

This came to me as I watched Designated Survivor recently.  The show is creating a lot of intrigue, both political and action.  However, I wondered how much longer this could go on.  The story has to eventually reveal the people behind the plot to blow up the Capitol, and the longer they go on without doing so, the more the audience will expect it to knock their socks off.  Perhaps the producers are afraid of the big reveal because, after that, the show essentially becomes The West Wing with Keifer Sutherland.  In the movie Sneakers, the story writers spent so much time building up such great suspense that when they finally revealed that the villain behind all the intrigue was a lone guy with a megalomaniacal personality, it was like deflating a balloon.  I was similarly disappointed in The Da Vinci Code when it was revealed that (*SPOILER ALERT*) Teabing was the bad guy the whole time, something any competent reader could've picked up on halfway through since he was one of the only major characters, and I doubted they'd make Robert Langdon the villain.  The Da Vinci Code made it seem as if there would be a lot more behind the search for the Grail, but it ended up being simplistic and a major letdown.

Keep these things in mind when you write your novel.  I think some of us are so worried about writing a good story that we forget about the ending.  We craft intrigue and allude to big things, only to write an obvious or underwhelming ending.  That will piss the audience off in a heartbeat.  Richard Matheson, I think, did a great job of justifying his story in I Am Legend(the book, not the horrible, horrible movie).  He brought us into a world of one man against the vampires, and then revealed to us that Robert Neville was the real monster of the story and was feared by the vampires trying to rebuild society.  It was one of the few times when reading a book when I went, "Whoa!"  Had Neville simply gone in, wiped out the vampires, and restarted the world, I'd have been okay, but the book wouldn't have been a classic.  Matheson's end point made the path we traveled worth the journey.

So remember both parts of your work.  Both the story and the ending are important, and one can't exist without the other if you want to get more people interested.  Focusing your creative energies on only one aspect would be like working out only one arm - your right bicep may look great, but people will avoid you because you look weird.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Planning The Beginning

As I've said previously, my first novel, Akeldama, comes out next May 18th.  Some have asked why I'm waiting so long since the novel is ready.  Couldn't I just go ahead and upload it to Amazon now and be done with it?

There are a myriad of reasons I've waited, but the biggest one is that this isn't some lark - it's a business.  Were releasing this novel merely a one time deal, or if this was only going to be a hobby, then I could better understand just putting it out there.  However, I intend this to grow into a full time profession.  So, some ask, why then the long lead time?  Does it really take so long?

The short answer is - of course not.  On the other hand, I'm otherwise still employed, have been out of the country, and I have been unable to devote my full attention to this venture.  Now that I'm starting this in earnest, there are lots of things to consider - tax IDs, creating an S-Corporation, setting up an imprint, setting up my business account, etc.  These things don't happen overnight.

Moreover, planning these things out also doesn't happen overnight.  If you're a traditionally published author, with an agent and a publishing house, they aren't the kinds of things you give a lot of thought to.  At the same time, traditionally published authors should also not rush headlong into this process, since they have to consider querying, who to query, how to write a synopsis, and so on.  Each route takes time; it's simply a matter of what you spend that time on.

That's the whole point to me - take the time to plan.  Lay out all of your options and plot the best path forward.  Sure, you can go out and do stuff in about a week, but you'll put forth a shitty product.  The layers involved in this are so complex that it takes time to understand them all and how they interact.  There are other considerations too, like tax seasons.  I know that half the audience's eyes just glazed over, but what sense does it make to incorporate and prep everything on December 5th?  That creates a tax burden for that year for hardly any season.  Why not wait until January to do what you need to so that you have the luxury of work behind you?  Yes, maybe that's lazy, but I want to have something tangible before combing through IRS regulations on April 15th.  And sure, maybe you got started at that point because you had some great insight into the market(maybe 10,000 people said they wanted your book by Christmas), but that's rare.  Most book purchases take place in Spring or early Fall(taking advantage of either upcoming vacations or the start of school).  If you release when the market doesn't care, you'll sabotage yourself from the get-go.

All I'm saying is to be patient if you can afford to be.  Building a successful business takes meticulous planning, and it still might fail.  Don't increase your chances of failure by rushing into stuff before you're ready.  Remember, writing your novel is the easy part.  Making it a success is where most folks fail.