Not Quite as Slow

All right. The new Yamada story is completed, beta- read, revised, and sent out into the world. Working title is “A Minor Exorcism” and it runs just under 5000 words.  I’ll post when I know where or if it’s going to be published before it winds up in the new collection.

Which I now think will happen, if not anytime immediate. I’ve been going over the list of uncollected Yamada stories, and they shake out like this:

 

 

 

  1. The Tiger’s Turn
  2. Three Little Foxes
  3. The Sorrow of Rain
  4. Uzumaki of the Lake
  5. A Minor Exorcism

Clearly, not quite enough for a proper collection. I’ve got at least one more in mind, after that we’ll see. The first collection, Demon Hunter, contained ten, and I’d like to match that. If the delay is too long, I’ll do a short collection of six. I’ll also likely divide the stories into two sections, those occurring before the events in The Emperor in Shadow , and those following. Yamada’s life has changed, and the stories reflect that.

I’ll also likely have more than one mock-up of the eventual cover. Maybe I’ll post those here when I have them and ask for feedback. Some of you out there have been reading Yamada from the beginning, so you should have at least some input. Fair?

Time to get back to work.

Slow Going

I’ve gotten slow.

Normally it shouldn’t take more than two weeks for a novelette. Here I am at a solid week and I still haven’t finished a short story. It’s not because I don’t know how the story goes, I do. It’s not because I’m not working on it, I am. Not really sure about the because, actually, but I’ve got my suspicions.

To begin at the beginning, I’m a member of a flash fiction writer’s group. I’ve been in writer’s groups before. Back in Mississippi we had a very successful writer’s group that produced several published stories and even one Nebula nomination (not me, alas). I hesitated about joining the local group simply because it was flash fiction, which I’ve never been a fan of, but I was curious about the local scene, so I finally put my misgivings aside and very glad I did. It’s a talented bunch and flash has its own challenges. When I think of flash, I think of anything under about 1500 words. Nuh-uh. Here we have 500. Max. Some groups go even shorter.

Start with a challenge word. We write whatever we want, but it has to include the challenge word for the week. Three of those week’s words resulted in new Yamada stories. In 500 words. Still wrapping my head around that one myself. Naturally enough, for each of those I had to leave a lot out and imply a lot more…which meant I naturally wanted to expand them. The first one sold to BCS last spring. Working on the second one now and have plans for the third, but here’s the thing–I am writing very slowly. Yes, now we’re back to the subject of this digression. Which there wouldn’t be room for in flash, but there you go.

I think flash has me in the habit of drafting more carefully. Fine in a rewrite, but it tends to hamper things on a first draft. First draft should be more like careening down a hillside on a bike with no brakes. Even so, I usually end up with a 6-7 hundred word draft that has to be cut to 500. So when I do the same thing on a story that would normally run in the 3000+ word range, that doesn’t work as well. It slows you down.

Now that I’m aware of the problem, I can make a conscious effort to fix it. But of course first I had to become conscious that there was a problem. Which I should have realized when it took me six months to write a novella when I’ve finished full novels in three. Or an entire week to only get two thousand words of what I think will be a 3500 word story, once I’ve put in all the stuff I had to leave out the first time.

Wisdom is uncertain. Learning is optional, but better than not.

To Sum Up….

I used to hate writing synopsis. Now they merely annoy me. In another ten years or so, I might even learn to like them, if I live that long. It once helped me a bit to think of them as “writing a story about a story,” which is true but redundant. Now I think of them as retelling the story to make the story sound as good as you actually think it is.

Only you’ve got 3-4 hundred words, tops. Preferably less.

What I’m really talking about is ad copy. First the book is judged by it’s cover. I know, you can’t do that…but EVERYBODY DOES. So saying you can’t is kind of pointless. It reminds me of that scene from Shogun when a daimyo does something horrible and likely illegal and the hero asks, “Can he do that?” To which the answer, of course, is “He has done it.” So it’s reality. You can argue with reality, and lord knows I’ve done my share of it, but you don’t usually win.

Next it’s judged by the description. The ad copy. The synopsis. Great books have lousy copy. You see it all the time. Does it stop the book from selling? Not if word-of-mouth or other advantages override the fact that its description sucks. Does it help? Not even a little. Does it hurt? Quite a bit. I don’t have control over the ad copy of all my books. Some of it I think is terrible. Some’s not bad. As for the rest, I’m working on it.

All writing is hard, but some is harder than others.

 

Updates on Updates

"Night, in Dark Perfection" illo by YK

“Night, in Dark Perfection” illo by YK

First of all, I have a reprint from Clarkesworld #59, “Night, in Dark Perfection” in Science Fiction World, the Chinese SF Magazine. I’d give the link but it doesn’t seem to be working at the moment (Gov. interference or just a down server, your guess is as good as mine). I do have the illustration, by an artist who wishes to be known as YK. I’ve included a scan of the first page, though I don’t read Chinese, so I’ll take their word for it. 🙂

And yes, finally, the rough draft of the novella project is complete at just over 35k words. Tough to say how close to the final word count it’ll be. I usually end up adding more words than I cut out, and I cut out quite a few. This time, however, there are a few continuity issues I’ll have to address, so I really don’t know. The working title is “Little Fire and Fog,” but that’s likely going to change…as will significant portions of the text. Rough drafts are called that for a reason.

The novella has to sit and cool for a bit before I tackle the rewrite, which is fine since there’s a short story I want to tackle next, then probably back to the LoP series, barring the unexpected. I can’t leave Marta hanging fire forever.

Nostalgia For What Never Was

I’ve heard, and been told, that there was a time when all a writer had to do was write the next book. Sure, an occasional book-signing or convention appearance was a good thing, but otherwise marketing was handled by the publisher and we didn’t worry our pretty little heads about it.

I don’t think that was ever true, or at least not the extent of legend, except perhaps in one category. That is, if you were exclusively a short story writer, then all that mattered was getting the next story as good as you could make it and getting it out. You hoped, certainly, that enough readers would like your work to create a level of demand, maybe even for a collection every ten to twenty years. Marketing, on any real level, was out of your sphere. My first fifteen years or so as a writer  I spent solely on shorter works and in that mindset, which served well enough at the time.

These days, writing is only part of what you do. And if you self-publish in addition to whatever else you’re doing, it may not even be the biggest part. Mainline publishers either don’t do any marketing at all outside pitches to the distribution channels, or do it perfunctorily at best, so whichever route you’re taking, marketing and promotion is pretty much your responsibility.

My problem is that I suck at it. I’m trying to learn, don’t get me wrong, but it’s an uphill climb. It doesn’t come naturally to me and no matter how much my head knows the necessity, my heart is elsewhere. I don’t want to look at spreadsheets and numbers, and writing ad copy is not like writing a book or story, and even though one serves the other they are definitely not the same thing. A separate skill that has to be learned, along with SEO and things like “keyword relevancy.”

That “ivory tower” idea is looking better and better, even though it’s pretty much a legend too.