The Author Is Not The Character
I saw something today asserting that you could tell J. K. Rowling’s real political beliefs by something Harry Potter does several times in the series. This is utter motherfucking nonsense.
Yes, you can sometimes glean an author’s politics from their works, but not from the actions of one character, even if that character is the viewpoint character! You see — and I know this confuses the fuck out of some people, but I swear it’s true — what fiction writers do is ~gasp~ make shit up. Just because Harry is never punished or made to realize one particular action is wrong doesn’t mean it’s one Rowling would endorse in real life. It means that it’s what she thinks Harry Potter — this dude she made up — would do.
I don’t get it. The story I started earlier this week opens with a girl shooting the ground between her ex-fiancé’s feet and telling him that if doesn’t leave her family’s ranch immediately, she’ll shoot him next. Does this mean that I’m a gun loving conservative who thinks everyone should go armed at all times and shoot people who piss them off? No. It means that it was the accurate action for the character to take at that time and place.
What would I have done in her place? Given that he did keep approaching her after she’d told him to leave repeatedly, I could see hitting him, or, at the very, absolute least, calling the cops. But I’m not on a ranch in the year 2274 in another galaxy. She’s not me, and I’m not her. Our circumstances are very different; the societies we live in are drastically different as well. Our reactions to things should be different.
But, I can hear you saying, Rowling was writing a story set in the modern day! Yes, but she was still writing about someone who wasn’t her. Now, if she’d written lots and lots of stories any they all had viewpoint characters with the same attitude as Harry, then maybe there’s a case for that being how she really feels.
Or it could just mean that she thinks characters who feel that way are interesting to write about.
I’ve written a whole novel and a short story from the perspective of someone that I think needs a good slap upside the head. Do I think like him? In some ways that were uncomfortable for me to realize, yes, actually . . . the difference is, I went “Shit. That’s a horrible attitude; I should work on changing it” and he went “So what?” Do my stories show that his attitudes are wrong? Sometimes. Not as much as they would if I were trying to write some kind of moral thing, but I’m not.
Yes, I know, I know: I created the character and world. I chose to put or not put certain things into it, and by those choices you can see what I think is important. Not really. You can tell what I thought needed to be there. Or what was there when the character sprung into my mind, talking. If I had complete control over what I wrote, I’d be writing Tolkien-esque fantasy, not things about a ninja/assassin/comic book geek with attitude problems falling in love with a woman who happens to live on the planet he grew up on, or what seems to be a series about his father: an orphaned ranch hand turned spacer turned heavily decorated and respected military officer.
I don’t know why it surprised me to see people lobbing this accusation at Rowling though. I’ve seen people seriously saying that obviously GRRM thinks monarchy is the correct form of government, otherwise why would it be such a big deal in his series? Hell, I once saw a science fiction author saying that all fantasy authors were conservative just because they write about stuff that was in the past . . . because, clearly, you can’t write about horses and knights and castles and elves and believe in things like socialism and LGBT+ rights and other such stuff, right?
I just don’t fucking get it. I’m not my characters. They’re not me. I’m an author in rural Massachusetts in 2018. The viewpoint characters of my current works-in-progress include:
- a “perfectly honest merchant captain” who looks like a bipedal wolf, from somewhere in another galaxy that I haven’t named yet, in 2330
- his first mate, a middle-aged Human man who’s been a spacer since he was 14, who was from Earth, but left it when he was 7
- his chief pilot, a Human woman in her early 30’s, from a world that was pretty much founded to be an attempt at a directly democratic utopia and is so far doing fairly well at it
- an asexual teen male with superstrength in 1998 in rural Massachusetts in a reality where superheroes have been a thing long enough there’s legislation about them
These characters do share some attitudes and beliefs with me, but not all. And, as I said before, if there’s anything that all of them believe . . . and there probably is . . . then it’s a pretty good bet that it’s something I believe too. But, even if I write seven books about just one of them, you can’t look at just that one character and go “Ah ha! I knew Shannon wasn’t really a <whatever>!” All you know is how I wrote that character.
And I’m getting obnoxiously repetitive, so I’m going to stop there and go write about a teen male spacer in a distant galaxy 200 years from now getting in a bar fight.
The Yearly List of “What I’ve Been Reading”
I noticed it’d been a bit over a year since I did a post about what I’ve been reading, and that one was about a year after the last one, so, what the hell. I’ll make it a tradition.
So, the list (links are to Goodreads, because it’s what I’ve got open to make sure I don’t forget anything. From there you should be able to find a place to buy them if you want them.):
- Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss-Harvey
- All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (25th Anniversary Edition) by Robert Fulghum
- Argentine Tango Chronicles by Robert Fulghum (link goes to site you can LEGALLY download it from as it’s not published in the US for reasons explained there)
- In the Shadow of the Dam: The Aftermath of the Mill River Flood of 1874 by Elizabeth M. Sharpe
- The Queen Mother: The Official Biography by William Shawcross (I didn’t finish this one because it got too boring.)
- Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher
- Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (I didn’t finish this one because it got too repetitive.)
- Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
- Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff
- Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon
- The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
- The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher
- Azure Bonds by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb
- Flight from the Dark by Joe Dever
- Fire on the Water by Joe Dever
- Caverns of Kalte by Joe Dever (link goes to site where you can play through these gamebooks for free, LEGALLY)
- Kirsten’s Story Collection by Janet Beeler Shaw
- The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
- The War-Torn Kingdom by Dave Morris (link goes to site where you can LEGALLY download a thing to play through the gamebook)
- Meet Samantha: An American Girl by Susan S. Adler
- Samantha Learns a Lesson: A School Story by Susan S. Adler
- The Widowmaker by Mike Resnick
- The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan
- Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery
- Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery
Of the books I was reading when I made last year’s list, the three that aren’t on this list were ebooks I was reading when something corrupted (or something like that), and I needed to restore my iPod Touch and none of them were ones I was enjoying enough to bother with trying to find my place again.
I’m presently reading:
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
That’s it. Just one book! I know, I’m as surprised as you are, I assure you! But it’s what I’ve been doing lately, and it’s resulting in this weird thing where I finish books without having to renew them from the library the maximum number of times! Freaky, huh? (Okay, so sometimes I read one or more of the shorter books in a single day in the middle of reading something longer, but still . . .)
So, interesting things that I notice reading over that list: First, wow, that’s a lot of YA, some possibly actually Middle Grades; I have a theory on why that might be, but that’s it’s own blogpost. Second, there are only two sci-fi books on there, so much for that “keeping up with what’s going on in your genre” thing some authors say is so important. Third, I think it’s pretty obvious that I’ve discovered an author or two I love recently. (T. Kingfisher and Ursula Vernon are the same person; Kingfisher is her pen name for non-children’s books.)
And how did I discover these books? Let’s break it down by method instead of by book, because I like seeing the statistics for this sort of thing:
- Kept seeing it at the library and thought it sounded intriguing: 2
- Read it before: 9
- Author’s website: 1
- Wanted a book on local history because I wanted to know more about local history: 1
- Had been recommended on a blog I trusted: 1
- Got it for free for supporting the author on Patreon (because I like their short stories) so figured I might as well read it: 1
- Was reading samples of stuff in that subgenre until I found something I liked enough to read all the way through: 1
- Wanted more by an author: 3
- Saw a conversation about it that made it look intriguing: 1
- Wanted to finish a series I was enjoying: 3
- Recommended to me because I mentioned liking another similar book: 1
- Is early Forgotten Realms, so it’s not like I need another reason: 1
Breaking down the largest category, “Read it before”:
- Parents left it lying around so I read it: 1
- Found wandering around bookstore aimlessly after finding nothing in the Young Adult section I wanted when I was about 12: 1
- Sequel to something I’d liked: 5
- I don’t remember how I first encountered this book: 2
Looking over those lists, I think I finally understand why marketing is so hard for me to do. I have no bloody idea how to sell a book! Unless I already know the series or the author, I seem to discover every single book in a different way!
The Dumbest Author Blog Post Ideas I’ve Found
I was looking for the list I was working through and mostly mocking last year as I’d misplaced where I’d copied down the ones I wanted to do. I couldn’t find it, but I did find some spectacularly dumb ideas.
And, yes, all of these were from lists allegedly targeting authors.
- “Hijack the news . . . avoiding horrible stuff of course.” I guess this could actually be effective, but it seems a little too cold and calculated for my tastes.
2. “Moments and pictures from your vacation.” First of all, look at the built in class/income assumption! Who the fuck can afford a vacation any more? Secondly, most of the time when I read or even here people talking about their vacations, it’s very much a “you had to be there” thing. Some events really lose something in the re-telling.
3. “Day in the life.” Every single list I found suggested this! I don’t fucking understand it! Look, authors are generally pretty boring people. I’m pretty sure that even if I was ever Rowling or King famous and rich, my ordinary day wouldn’t be that different than it is now . . . except maybe it wouldn’t have been a store brand English muffin I had for breakfast.
I got up, I played with the kitten, I had tea I let steep too long and an English muffin for breakfast, I played with the kitten again, I thought about writing a different blog post and decided not to, and now I’m writing this post . . . this is fascinating stuff, truly.
4. “Pics of household improvements.” What the hell?! I thought that was a specialized niche of blogging. Unless it’s something really cool. And who needs a list to be prompted to share something really cool on their blog? Which reminds me, I have a picture where my kitten looks like an eldritch horror. (I caught him mid-stretch in bad lighting.) I should post that some day.
5. “Craft-y stuff you’ve done.” I hate the assumption that just because someone is good at/interested in one art form they are good at/interested in all others. I write. I take pictures. I sometimes dabble in cover design . . . and generally end up swearing at Photoshop in languages that may or may not actually exist. That’s the extent of my artistic skillsets. Oh, I can draw stick figures. That’s it! I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.
6. “Talk about and show pictures from your weekend.” This assumes you have interesting weekends. I guess I could post screenshots from whatever video game I was sucking at that weekend, or the cover of the book I was reading, or pictures of the grocery store I went to, but that really doesn’t seem worth the time and effort.
Also, this . . . as well as most of the ones above . . . if followed would make a blog much more a lifestyle blog than an author’s blog. I guess I could post cat pictures every weekend. That’s a thing author’s do.
7. “What you wear while writing.” Why is this a thing anyone cares about?! I mean, I’m amused to discover — via Twitter and across several unrelated conversations — that I’m far from the only author who has to change out of jeans before they write to be comfortable, but a whole blogpost about what I wear when I write?!
8. “Best free apps.” For what? Or just in general? And if so, why is this specifically a thing on a list of things for authors to blog about? Again, this seems like really generic blogging advice.
9. “The eulogy you want read at your funeral.” Because that’s not creepy and morbid!
10. “Photos from hometown.” I haven’t been to my hometown in over a decade and have no intention to go back any time soon. So why the fuck should I do this? I mean, I could make a post about my hometown and how it’s affected how I turned out . . . but that’s mostly going to be a post about why I don’t trust the criminal justice system and how stupid I find evangelical Christianity and how stupid the whole Satanic Panic thing was. I don’t think that’s what this sort of advice is going for. (Google “West Memphis Three” and you’ll at least understand what I’m talking about.)
11. “Photos from family reunion.” First, not everyone has or goes to family reunions. Second, it’s not cool to share people’s pictures online without their permission. Third . . . how is this author blog related?!
I get the feeling that a lot of these are supposed to be “things you can blog about besides doing constant book promotion” but they seem way too generic to be on a list that’s specifically for author blogs.
12. “How to set up a blog.” I am not google.
13. (This one is a direct quote). “How to research keywords for effective blog post SEO.” I’m not even one hundred percent sure what this means. I understand that there are a lot of self-pubbed authors who for some unfathomable reason think that having a blog that is likely to come up high in searches for various things will lead to book sales. I don’t understand how this is supposed to work though. I suspect it’s about as useful as the “follow other authors on social media and increase your sales” advice.
14. “List of things to do when bored.” More generic blog advice! Also, if I’m bored, I write. Or go see what the kitten has gotten himself into because I shouldn’t have the opportunity to be bored if he’s awake. He’s a rather mischievous and clever little dude.
15. “Pre-moving checklist.” First, I don’t understand people who need checklists for every goddamned thing they do. I like making checklists, but I don’t need them. Second, how in the hell is this related to an author blog?!
16. “What you’ve learned during a move.” Again, generic. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever learned anything during a move beyond “moving sucks” and “We own a lot of books.”
Oh, no wait. During a recent move I did learn something useful: Dropping a box of hardback books on your toe can bruise the nail so badly that it takes most of a year to look normal again. I don’t think I can make that into a whole blogpost. Maybe if I’d taken pictures documenting it . . . but I really don’t think that’s anything anyone would want to see anyway.
17. “Photo a day for a typical week.” Sunday: picture of the cats. Monday: picture of the ten zillion inches of snow outside. Tuesday: picture of the cats sleeping. Wednesday: picture of the ten zillion inches of snow taken from the office window. Thursday . . . you get the idea, right? My typical week is not exciting.
Now, I do take pictures most days, but I understand that not everybody is as fascinated by things like “the way the light was shining through that glass onto the tabletop” as I am, so I don’t inflict them on others.
18. “A to do list from your daily life.” What is with all these generic and boring as hell ideas?! I don’t want to read anyone else’s to do list, and I don’t assume anyone else wants to read mine!
19. “Using astrological signs to create deeper characters.” Okay, this one is author specific. It’s just also stupid.
20. “Explain analytics.” I cannot write a blogpost about something I don’t understand, nor have no interest in. Also, I’m not google.
21. “How to write the opposite sex.” I could, maybe, write a blogpost about how obnoxious I find the idea that people need advice on how to write characters whose gender is different than theirs. But the last time I tried it turned into me pretty much doing nothing but swearing and abusing caps lock and bold. So I probably won’t.
Also, what’s the opposite of nonbinary? Gender has more than two options, people!
22. “Capitalize on Twitter trends.” Same as with the very first thing in this list, I can see how it would be useful, but it feels too cold and calculated.
Besides, let’s go see what’s trending on Twitter right now, shall we? “#St.Patrick’sDay”. Nope, don’t have anything interesting to post about that. “Cambridge Analytica.” No idea what that’s about so can’t blog about it. “BetsyDeVosSchoolImprovements”. That’s probably one of those allegedly funny hashtags where people make really dumb jokes. Not interested. “#EvacuationDay.” Don’t know what this one’s about either. “McCabeFired.” I don’t do politics except in the general sense on my blog. “John Dowd.” Don’t know who this is. “John Brennan.” Don’t know who this is either. “#powerofculture.” Don’t know what that’s about, but maybe it could be something that would make an interesting blogpost. I’ll investigate in a minute. “#crdh.” No idea. “#ImLuckyThat.” This is either a sarcastic or saccharine hashtag. Sarcastic, it’s better suited to something tweet length. Saccharine, I’m not interested.
So, “#powerofculture” is the only one that might, possibly, be a trend I could capitalize on. So I’m going to go see what it is. It’s about some event going on near-ish by. Can’t capitalize on that either then. Also, twitter trends change much faster than I write blogposts, so this is useless advice anyway.
Really, given how short posts for most of the ideas in this list would be, I wonder if they aren’t assuming much, much shorter posts than I write.
23. “Create a cartoon about writing.” See above for rant about assuming good at one art form equals good at all.
24. “Bookmark design.” I know that giving out bookmarks is supposed to be a good form of marketing. I also know that most people who are going to give a self-pubbed author a chance read mostly ebooks, and that most readers have plenty of bookmarks anyway. And there’s that whole “good at one art form does not mean good at all” thing again too.
25. “Business card design.” I’m pretty sure authors don’t need business cards. I know they’re supposed to be useful as a promotion tool, but I’m pretty sure that whole idea was made up by someone who makes business cards. And . . . do I need to say the other part again?
In addition to these stupid ideas, one site specified that author’s should never rant on their blogs, they should always try to keep things inspiring or no one would come back.
I, obviously, think that’s a bunch of bullshit. I’m not interested in inspiring anyone. I’m in the business of entertaining people, and my “brand” (for lack of a better word) is sarcastic and ranty. It’s what my narrators are like for the most part too. If I wrote blogposts that were all inspirational and shit, what you’d get when you read my books would be a totally jarring experience.
But my reasons for blogging so many rants and so sarcastically isn’t a calculated marketing thing. That’s just who I am. I’m not sure I could be inspirational if I tried, honestly.
Questions To Ask Before Writing A Novel And A Realization
These are compiled from various sources and occasionally rephrased some.
And the questions will, of course, be followed by my commentary. And the answers for one of my current works-in-progress, something that presently has the wonderful working title of Ren/Vik. I am so good at titles!
1) What is the protagonist’s biggest regret? (This is supposed to have something to do with the “heart of the human condition” and make the character more real and identifiable and all that. I don’t think that the heart of the human condition is failure and regret. That is one hell of a pessimistic outlook on life! The answer for Ren? I honestly don’t think she has one. First, she’s only 17 so she hasn’t exactly had much time to have regrets, not big ones anyway. Second, she’s quite a bit the “everything is an adventure” sort. She tends to look at things as “Well, that sucked, but at least now I’ve learned something not to do again.”)
2) What is the protagonist’s goal? (This, of course, is supposed to be what the story is about. This one leads to my realization later on in this post, and is something I’ve ranted about before, so I’ll just get to my answer: Ren’s goal is to get through Dagger training. That’s not what the story is about in the slightest though.)
3) What is your biggest hope for the book? (I’m supposed to think about this before I write?! I don’t even know, most of the time, if I’ve got a book length idea or a short story or yet another “Great start, now where the everloving fuck is this going?!” thing! My biggest hope when I start writing is always that I finish the motherfucking thing this time! I mean, ignoring the pleasant daydreams of winning a Hugo and outselling Rowling. Those are dreams, not hopes.)
4) How do you want the book to look and feel? (The site explained that they meant format, size, all that sort of stuff. This is not before ever writing a word stuff! Don’t worry about what it’s going to look like printed before you’ve even figured out if you can write it. Jesus Christ, people! Talk about putting the cart before the horse.)
5) What’s your budget for the book? (Again, this is not something to worry about before you even know if you can finish the book! Don’t worry about what it’s going to cost to edit something and get cover art when all you’ve got is an idea. I get ideas all the motherfucking time. Very few of them get to the stage where I need to worry about this sort of stuff.)
6) How will you feel when you finish the book? (I don’t understand at all why this is something to think about before writing a book. The site offered no explanation either. As for Ren/Vik, I’ll feel relieved to finally be fucking done with it, same as I always do when I finish a story. Then I’ll immediately be seized with ten million ideas for bits I should’ve done differently.)
7) How will you celebrate finishing the book? (Again, this is not something to think about at the beginning. For that matter, it’s not something I ever think about. I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated finishing a story. Probably because I’m too busy just feeling relieved that I finally did it.)
8) What’s the theme? (Okay, I admit that my feelings about this one are not wholly rational. Many years ago when I spent all that time on that rpg forum that I’ve mentioned before, there was a dude — the author who accused me of being illiterate, in fact — who was really big on the idea that all campaigns had themes. And as he was a very respected rpg author, there’s a segment of the hobby that latched on to this idea. Add to this too many literature classes during the misguided time I was an English major and . . . long story short, if I never see a discussion of theme in anything again, it’ll be too soon. That said, in both gaming and writing, I’m a very firm believer in emergent themes. Trying to force a theme results in things that beat you over the head with it too often, in my experience. So I don’t believe in asking yourself this before you write. That said, now that I’m something like 85k words into Ren/Vik . . . I’m still not sure what themes there are, actually. Something about family, most likely.)
9) What is the one sentence summary? (I don’t think I will ever figure out the importance of this one! I mean, I know that the idea is so you can easily answer people who ask about what you’re writing, but one sentence?! I can’t think of a single book I love that I can summarize in one sentence. I did manage to summarize No More Lies in one sentence once, but it was possibly a run-on and was certainly longer than most people mean when they say this. I know some people see this as a weakness in the story, see it as meaning it lacks focus. I see it as a strength. It means I wrote something more complex than a lot of the shit out there these days. For Ren/Vik, an honest one sentence summary would be something like “Sarcastic people banter non-stop.” And that’s not me being self-depreciating. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written. I’m not sure what this says about me.)
10) Is this story “on brand” for you? (There are valid reasons to use a pseudonym — an author I love uses one for her books for adults since she’s primarily a kid’s author and doesn’t want parents assuming that anything by her is kid-safe — but this really isn’t a thing to think about before you put a word on paper. In fact one of that author’s books she thought was a kid’s book at first until people pointed out that despite having a kid as the protagonist, it was dealing with stuff that wasn’t kid stuff. So, Ren/Vik . . . let’s see, lots of sarcastic people bantering with each other non-stop. Pretty sure that is my brand. Also pretty sure that’s my life. Did you know there are actually couples who are only sarcastic with each other when they’re mad?! Go figure.)
11) Why are you the best person to write this book? (This one — and lots like it that I’m not including here — say they’re equally valid for fiction and non-fiction, but they really aren’t. I’m the best person to write Ren/Vik because I invented both of them. And co-created the setting. I mean, who the hell else could write about two people who live in my brain?!)
12) Why do you need to write about your protagonist? (I’m pretty sure “because she wouldn’t shut the fuck up while I was trying to write something else” isn’t the sort of answer they were looking for here, but it’s the only sort I could ever give.)
And then there was a page that said it was questions to ask before writing a novel, but looked to me more like questions to ask yourself while revising (if you’re the sort of person who uses questions to guide your revision process. I’m the “rewrite the bits that aren’t good until the whole thing is as good as it’s going to get” sort.). Things like “Is there anything you could do to raise the stakes?” and “Is the reader going to sympathize with your protagonist?”. I guess maybe these sorts of questions are helpful to the detailed outline sort of writer, but that’s so far from my mindset that I got nothing out of the questions except confusion.
Now, for my realization:
All the stuff about the protagonist’s goal and how that is what guides the book and stuff like that made me realize something, something I’ve sort of noticed before, but not to this extent:
All of the sci-fi and fantasy I’ve read and watched hasn’t had nearly the impact on my writing that the Little House books, the Anne series, and Little Women did.
I feel weird saying that. Most of sff fandom dismisses those books as out-of-date patriarchal crap. And, to be fair, there are bits of each that make me roll my eyes as an adult. Many fans of those books (do note that I said “books”; I’m not talking about the TV series and movie fans) love them for reasons that annoy the shit out of me, because they’re about “a more innocent time”, because they “show women in their proper roles”, and other seriously cringeworthy stuff like that.
But I love them for two very big reasons, probably the reasons that there are still people out there discovering and loving them today, decades after they were first published:
1) The characters felt like real people. Anne especially. A kid whose imagination runs away with her all the time? At thirty-seven, I identify with her only very slightly less than I did at ten.
2) They showed you how people lived. Sure, Little Women really is about the March girls overcoming their personality flaws and becoming better people, but who reads the book for that? But none of the I-lost-count-ages-ago times I’ve read it have been for that. I’ve read it to go to Civil War era Concord for a while. I read the Anne books to go to late Victorian Prince Edward Island for a while.
And All-of-a-Kind Family should be on that list too, I realize now. I think I even read it before the rest of those. (Not before Mom had read me Little Women though. I don’t remember not knowing who Jo March was, that’s how little I was then.)
I was reading something the other day about how the books we read growing up shape what authors write, and I’ve come to realize just how very, very true it is. I didn’t read The Hobbit until I was eleven. I’d read the whole Little House series by then. I read the whole Anne series by then. (Most of it in one day. Outdoors. I remember the sunburn well.) I’d read at least the first half of Little Women myself by then. (The part originally published as Good Wives didn’t keep my interest well for until I was older. I still don’t like it as much. Though I love Professor Bhaer.)
I’ve seen many authors around the same age as me talking about Dragonlance as one of their early influences. I didn’t read the Chronicles until high school. That favorite of female authors around my age, Mercedes Lackey? I didn’t hear of her until I was in my early twenties. And I think my opinion that she’s highly overrated is probably because I didn’t discover her books during that magical period when they’re just what some people need. (My wife has the same opinion on why the Dragonlance stuff doesn’t speak to her the same way it did me.)
My influences at the age where apparently writer brains start forming opinions on what makes a good story were slice-of-life stories from a different era, before the idea that stories had to have conflict and such to really be stories had taken hold. The aesthetics of my setting, the technology, all of that stuff — that came from Star Trek and Star Wars. But the stories? The bits I think are worth writing about? That came from a bunch of kids’ books showing me how different people lived. This means that, even when I’m writing a story that is plot-driven (I’ve got one in the works right now!), I’m not thinking about it in terms of arcs and tension and all that sort of stuff. I’m looking at the characters and writing about what they’re doing. That’s all I’m ever doing.
I think really the best way to summarize my writing is that I’m always writing slice-of-life . . . it’s just sometimes that particular slice-of-life is more exciting. And sometimes it’s 85,000 words of people being smartasses to each other.
Time For Another Edition of “Things I Said While Revising”
This time there are two cats with me!
But still no other humans.
‘”If’ . . . ‘since’ . . . ‘so long as’!”
“‘Bloody’ is what I’m hearing there.”
“That is a horrible sentence.”
“That wasn’t so bad.”
“Ah! Don’t do that!” (This was at myself after, while trying to italicize something, I accidentally deleted everything and typed an “i”. Thank the gods for Undo!) (No, I don’t know how I managed that. I’m talented.)
“‘To a lot of people’.”
“‘The bigger part though’.”
The Patreon Bullshit
(And probably other stuff because it will be a miracle if I ever make a blogpost that doesn’t wander all over the place.)
So, for those who don’t know Patreon is a site that basically lets you pay people various amounts of money on a recurring basis in return for various rewards . . . or sometimes just for the knowledge that you’re helping a creator you like keep the lights on while they make more stuff.
Long story short, they recently decided to charge an additional 2.9% plus 35 cents on each payment someone made to creators they’re supporting. That was bad enough because many people pledge $1 to lots of different creators, meaning that, for example, what had once been one $10 charge that gave $1 to ten people would now be ten different $1.38 charges.
This was supposed to be for the good of the creators, because now instead of 80 to 88 cents per dollar people gave them they’d get 95 cents per dollar.
Yeah, you’d pay 38 cents more for each $1 pledge and the creator gets between 7 and 15 cents more and the credit card processors get the rest, and this is somehow supposed to be a change to benefit the creator.
Anyway, that was bad enough. To stay within my budget I was going to have to end my support for one creator and spent most of an afternoon trying to decide which one.
Then I saw this: https://twitter.com/juliedillon/status/939210129261473792
If the link should happen to not work, it’s a quote from Patreon’s growth manager saying — in marketing speak — they don’t want to have lots of creators who only make a little money. The linked blogpost talks more about this sort of thing and the general gist of it is that they don’t mind losing creators who aren’t making much because having only the ones making lots of money will make them look more attractive to other artists who are already making lots of money.
In other words, “Screw the little guys” is pretty damned close to official company policy.
Now, you see, I’d been planning on launching a Patreon this year. People don’t want my stories when they’re 99 cents but do when they’re free, and all Universal Nexus stories are under a Creative Commons license anyway, so I really can’t bring myself to charge for the stuff I write anymore. But, as much as I hate it, we do live in a society where money is a useful and needed thing. So I was basically going to say “Hey, give me a dollar a month, and I’ll let you read stuff before it’s published.” You’d be paying for early access. Or just because you liked the idea of me having a little bit more spending money. (And there would’ve been niftier benefits for giving me more per month than that.)
But, I don’t write marketable stuff. Unless there’s an untapped market out there for character-focused, slice-of-life stories in a space opera setting, I’m never going to make a lot of money at this.
And Patreon said they don’t want people like me.
So — while I’ll still find some way to get money to the creators I was supporting — I’m not using Patreon at all any more. If they don’t want me as a creator because I’d make them look bad, then I don’t want to give them 5 cents from every dollar I gave a creator on there.
I’ve seen people criticizing withdrawing your support for creators, saying that doing so is “putting your politics ahead of people being able to make a living”. No. Because this isn’t an empty political statement. This is refusing to support a company that has said it doesn’t want my business. They don’t want my business, they don’t get my business in any fashion. That’s not politics, that’s principles.
Besides, it’s not like I’ve gone “Well, I guess I have more spending money now since I’m not using Patreon any more.” It’s changed what method I use to get money to creators, but I’ll do everything I can to get money to them. Because I still care about them. Even if Patreon doesn’t.
As for my plans to make a Patreon for myself this year . . . I don’t know what I’m going to do now. There aren’t any alternative sites (yet, apparently there’s one that’s in invite-only beta right now) that have all the things that made Patreon a better idea than just putting up a PayPal or Ko-fi or whatever link. The closest alternative doesn’t let you give your supporters any rewards, and that doesn’t appeal to me. I feel like — even if you are just paying me because you like me and don’t give a damn about my stories — I should be able to give you something as a thank you, even if it’s just a picture of my cats or something. The suggestion I’ve seen to get around that by setting up an email list of your supporters and emailing them the rewards sounds like the sort of thing I’d utterly fuck up. So, that’s on hold for now.
(Though if anyone does feel like sending me money, just tell me and I will find a way for you to get it to me.)
Disrespecting Fans By Not Publishing Crap . . . And Other Stuff
It looks like entitled whiny “fans” have stopped saying (for the most part) that authors “owe” them books on a certain timeframe.
Alas, this does not mean that they’ve stopped being entitled whiny “fans”. Far from it. Instead their new tactic seems to be to whine that the author is “disrespecting their fans” . . . even when the author has said the book is delayed because he had to cut a large piece out and put it back together. In other words, even when the book in its present form is a piece of shit!
So as far as I can tell, this alleged fans think it’s perfectly respectful for an author to release a book that sucks on the date it was first supposed to come out, but horribly disrespectful to wait and release when it doesn’t suck.
That’s some damn special logic they’re using there. Like it has less acquaintance with Earth logic than some of the things my five-month-old kitten* does. I mean, I’m pretty fucking sure I’m not unique in preferring to spend money on books that don’t suck regardless of how many years I have to wait for them! How the hell is it disrespectful to only want to give your fans a good book?!
You know, I don’t think I’ve seen this in any other field. I can’t think of a single time I’ve seen a music album delayed and the fans went “They should just release it as it is now; it’s disrespectful to us to make us wait any longer!” Or a movie.
What makes books different? Why do people see authors as just content creation machines, churning out books like a factory churning out socks?
I have a theory on that, one I’ve brought up before. My theory is that since anyone who’s bitching about a book being late can write — i.e. make marks on a page that represent words, they assume that writing fiction is simply a matter of sitting down and writing word after word after word for eight hours a day, five days a week, until the story is done. Which is, to be fair, how some authors write first drafts. (I do two hours a day, five days a week, of which only about ninety minutes is spent writing. I get more done this way then writing for longer periods, as I don’t burn out nearly as badly or as quickly.)
I was just watching a video where an author is explaining, in response to a fan question about why the book is taking so long, his revision process, and still there are lots and lots of comments about how he needs to just write for eight hours a day, five days a week “because it’s his job”!
I’m not sure how much clearer anyone can make it that there is so much more to making a good story than just getting the words out. Hell, I write pretty fast. In that ninety minutes of actually writing a day I mentioned earlier, I average around 3000 words. (Many professional authors — some rather famous ones even — consider 2000 words enough for the day.) Three thousand words a day times five days a week means I can write fifteen thousand words a week. When revising, unless I happen to be working on one of those places where the first draft was golden, I average about eight hundred words of progress in the same amount of time.
And I usually need to do three or more revision passes.
So, let’s look at something the length of one of the books by the author that’s “fans” inspired this post: 399,000 words. I could write something that long in about 133 days, but each revision pass would take about 499 days! So, let’s assume four revision passes. That’s 1996 days. Plus the 133 it took me to write it in the first place. So that’s 2129 days to finish the book. That’s — remember, this is working five days a week — about eight years!
And that’s assuming I never take an extra day off. Or hit a really crappy section revising. Or lose a chapter to a hard drive crash. In other words, that’s assuming an absolutely ideal set of circumstances which would never happen.
So, obviously, the solution is to do as these people say the author should be doing and write (and presumably edit) eight hours a day, five days a week. Then I’d only need two years, right?
Well, no, actually. In all likelihood what would happen if I tried to work on any one thing for that long every fucking week, I’d never get through with it. Because, in my experience — and it seems this is true for at least some other authors as well — the longer I spend on it at once, the more likely I am to run out of mental energy and end up doing things that are just plain stupid. Which means I then need to fix those. Which means more hours.
I think a big part of the problem right now is that the mystique of being an author is no longer existent with so many so very publicly sharing with their fans their process.** Specifically the number of authors who stress that if you want to be a professional author you have to treat writing like a job, when job in too many people’s minds means “thing you do eight hours a day, five days a week for money” instead of “thing you take seriously and don’t treat like a hobby if you ever hope to make money at it,” which I assume is how most authors mean it. So these “fans” assume that any author who isn’t turning out books at a steady pace is clearly not taking things seriously at all.
I’m not really sure what can be done about this. I regularly see authors who work slower explaining why their books come out at a less steady pace, but yet this attitude, and the misconceptions that feed it, persist.
And, now for an update on my own slow book:
No More Lies hasn’t been touched in months. One of the problems is that I realized that I cut too much of the bits that were just characterization and setting flavor out in the last revision, so it’s a lot drier than I want it to be. So I’ve got to put those back in. And fix the last of the timeline problems. So . . . it’s probably going to need another revision pass after this one, as much as I hate the idea.
If I work on absolutely nothing else (which won’t happen), I could have it ready to publish in about a year. My current best estimate is that it will be out in 2020. That’s six years after I finished the first draft, and five years after the first release date I proposed.
But it will be a much, much better book for the wait.
But I guess this means I’m disrespecting the one or two of you who were eagerly anticipating it. I’m sorry I’m not charging you money for a shitty book, I guess.
Oh, right! I was going to work into this rant an example of why revision can take so long! Pretend there’s an intelligent sounding segue here:
I started writing No More Lies as a short story in 2011. I switched it from third to first person and started over. Then I started it over as a novel. (Well, it was supposed to be a novella, but it didn’t get the memo.) Throughout all of those attempts, and the first revision pass, the first paragraph barely changed. I’d switched the pronouns when I switched it from third to first person, and I’d rephrased things slightly because I was getting a headache trying to figure out how to punctuate a sentence, but other than that, I hadn’t touched it.
Then I reread it after ignoring the story completely for months.
It wasn’t right. There was no other way to put it. That first paragraph that I’d loved so much, that I’d read over and over for six years, wasn’t right. It didn’t sound like the narrator. It sounded like I would say it, not like Bobby would. So I had to rewrite it.
This is how an author can expect to have a book ready to publish in one year and then end up revising it for nearly ten. Something can seem perfect the first several times you read it, and then one day you realize it’s all fucking wrong. Oh, maybe it’s technically perfect, but there’s a lot more to writing than technical skill. Hell, many of the changes I’ve been making this year in No More Lies have been to make the narration less perfect because it fits the character better. Even in third person, the narrator has a voice of their own and needs to be consistent, and that can be hard to manage. (I remember a fantasy novel I once read that was mostly written in a very prosaic and down-to-earth style, then, wham, a beautifully poetic passage in the narration. It pushed me out of the story because it was so jarringly different. Someone should’ve caught that before it was published. It was technically perfect — I’ve reread that passage a few times just because it’s so beautiful and well-written — but it didn’t fit at all with what was around it.)
Pretend there’s another clever segue here:
So, I’m doing Nanowrimo again, this time aiming for ten thousand more words than it takes to “win”. Why? Because fifty thousand has gotten too easy and I like a challenge. Or because I’ve taken leave of my senses. Jury’s out.
Halfway into the month, and I’m at 280 words over halfway to my goal. Because I’m me and as allergic to working on one thing at a time as I am to having marketable story ideas, this word count is spread out over four stories. One of these stories was inspired by a dream I had the morning before I started writing it, another is a reworking of something I wrote eleven years ago, one is something I started last Nanowrimo, and one is something I started last winter some time.
The one inspired by a dream I’ve written around five thousand words of and suspect it will be the first book of a series. Which is just fucking wonderful when you revise as slowly as me. I’m going to have to deal with some of the sort of “fans” I’ve been ranting about if it gets popular at all. Yippee!
The reworking of the old thing is about ten times it’s previous length at almost nine thousand words. I used to have a tendency for my stories to sound more like summaries than stories, you see. I’m stuck because I got to a point I’d been picturing for years and suddenly realized it wouldn’t work with the way Sweytzian society has developed as I’ve worked out more about the setting. Fuck.
The one I started last Nanowrimo is over thirty thousand words long, and I’ve just gotten to the second month of a story that takes place over two years! I’m a little worried I’m going to end up with something Game of Thrones’ length here. But I’m having a lot of fun with it because the narrator is possibly more sarcastic than me. (Okay, more like she says in the narration the sort of stuff I think but don’t say because I’m a coward, and she’s a Kavaliro so is possibly genetically missing the whole “fear response” thing.)
And the last one I’m twenty-nine thousand words into and need to read back over and make notes so I can make sure I get all the subplots I’ve introduced tied up — or at least left open in a dramatically interesting and potentially sequel hook-y way. I think it’s almost done, though.
And then there’s the three stories I’ve been meaning to work on this month but haven’t gotten to yet . . .
Oh, and the secret project I alluded to a few times last year — not the one I couldn’t discuss, that one was cancelled by the publisher because of internal problems they were having, the one I was just saying I wasn’t ready to talk about — has been delayed because I’ve spent so much time this year writing instead of revising. I, at this moment, expect it to happen next spring or summer.
* His name is Smokey, and he and technical problems are the main reasons this is my first post in a long time. It’s hard to blog when you’re trying to get a kitten to stop biting your laptop. And when said laptop decides the OS is corrupt after the power goes out in the middle of an update.
** I’m pretty sure that sentence could be phrased better, but I’ve already been working on this for over an hour due to kitten distractions — his toy went under a door twice — and my computer locking up, so it’s the best I can manage. This kind of supports my point about mental energy, come to think of it.
I’ve Done It!
The Crown of Eldrete is, so far as I can tell, now removed from all ebook markets. The print edition still exists because it’s more tricky than just clicking a button or two to remove a print edition from Amazon/Createspace, but since as far as I can tell Mom is the only person who ever bought any print copies, I don’t give a damn. If you really want to order a copy of a book that is no longer canon . . . thanks for the money, I guess?
It’s weird. I remember how excited I was to finish writing this book and how excited I was to publish it, but I don’t regret unpublishing it at all. This isn’t — though I had to convince a little, obnoxious voice in my head of this — because it only ever got one positive review and that was from someone who seemed to have not read it closely . . . the review implied it was straight up fantasy instead of me repurposing fantasy tropes in a space opera setting. It’s mostly because the last two times I’ve tried to reread the book, I’ve not been able to finish it.
I admit, it’s not uncommon for me to read things I wrote in the past — even things I loved and thought were near-perfect at the time — and dislike them. But this went far beyond dislike. I couldn’t finish reading something I fucking wrote!
Hell, I couldn’t finish something that was around 20,000 words! That, regardless of who wrote it, is astounding. I read roughly 700 words a minute on average. I’ll put up with a lot of annoying shit for half an hour’s worth of reading. And I couldn’t finish this book.
Now, part of that is that my perception of how some things in the bigger picture of Universal Nexus should work has changed since I wrote it. But if that were the only problem, eh, I’d just let it be and if called on it by fans someday make reference to “alternate legs of the Trousers of Time” or something equally geeky. So clearly there was more than that.
I’ve written a whole rambly post or two (Do I ever write any other kind?) about why I released it in such a relatively unedited state and what I would do if I were to rewrite it, so I won’t go over that again. Besides, ultimately, the problem with it . . . the reason it’s no longer for sale . . . the reason I couldn’t finish reading it the last two times I tried . . . is very simply this: It wasn’t a book I wrote for me.
Now, I know there is a school of thought among authors and wannabe authors that goes, roughly, that you shouldn’t write for yourself if you ever want to make money at all, that you should write what the market wants. And I’m not going to argue with that. If your goal is to make money.
My goal isn’t.
Now, a lot of people seem to see the alternative to writing for money as writing to illuminate deep shit about the human condition. In case my phrasing didn’t clue you in, I don’t go for that much either. If you get something deep out of my work, cool. I mean, I’ve gotten deep truths about life out of fucking books about a certain scimitar wielding, lavender eyed, drow. I think a person finds universal messages where their ready to see them for the most part. But, if you get anything deep out of my work, it’s not because I deliberately put it there, that’s for damned sure.
All I want, is to write something like the stuff I like to read. Maybe that’s selfish and short-sighted. Fucked if I care. Ray Bradbury said “You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing.” Last I checked, he wasn’t some obscure author nobody ever read. Pretty sure I can find a Louis L’Amour quote saying pretty much the same thing, and he sure as hell isn’t obscure.
The Crown of Eldrete though . . . I started writing it because I had a cool idea. This is not a bad thing; it’s the only reason I ever start writing anything. Somewhere along the way, though, I started adding stuff because I felt like they were elements a story was supposed to have. It’s more plot-driven than anything else I’ve ever written (yet it got reviews that said it had no plot, go figure), and it has bits that . . . I wanted to have character depth and growth and all of that stuff that you’re supposed to have, and I shoved it in where it didn’t really fit.
Yes, my concept for Lyndsey has for a long time been that she has a constant conflict between being an adrenaline junky and wanting to live long enough to see her kids grow up . . . but that’s not something I should’ve resolved in a couple of scenes. Because, well, constant. This was supposed to be the first book of a series. She should’ve been struggling with this throughout. And — since Universal Nexus is a setting, not just one series of books — maybe it shouldn’t have been resolved at all yet. (In the rpg version of the setting, which is the same as the written one in broad strokes but varies in details, this problem was eventually resolved by her quitting the Daggers, after some deep soul searching and painful conversations with people she trusts to give her good advice, and becoming a martial arts instructor and competitor. I think that’s a much more interesting character arc than what happened in Crown, personally. I’ve got a rough draft of part of that story written. Maybe I’ll finish it someday.)
Likewise, with regards to the plot . . . I don’t really understand how you do plots. I’ve tried finding things to help with this. This, actually, is how my “collecting bad writing advice” hobby started, in fact . . . there are so fucking many things that assume the only two types of plots are the motherfucking Heroes’ Journey and formulaic romance novel. I can’t find anything that would help someone write the kind of story I enjoy, I’ve discovered.
Earlier today, while trying to write a description of the story formerly known as Jake Becomes Mithoska for a secret project, I finally realized just, exactly, what kind of story it is I’m writing.
I’m writing, when I just write the way that comes to me naturally and don’t give a damn about what anyone else is going to think of my style or any of that crap, a fictionalized memoir. The first few lines, as they’re presently written, of the chronologically first Jake story establish that it’s a story he’s telling his grandkids and great-grandkids. The earliest versions of Universal Nexus stories, the ones I wrote years and years ago back when bits of it were still using names from the properties it all started as crossover fanfic of, frequently used the idea that these were stories being told to other people. I abandoned that at some point for reasons that I’m sure made perfectly good sense at the time.
But I’m going to un-abandon that. I write in first person for a variety of reasons, some of which are, admittedly, to cover flaws in the technical side of my writing, but mostly it’s because when I’m writing I’m not thinking “what should happen next to advance the action/increase tension/whatever else it is I’m supposed to be worrying about”, I’m thinking “and then what happened?” And, to me, that kind of approach lends itself to a meandering first person story. (Not as meandering as my blogposts, I feel the need to stress . . . at least not after editing.)
I guess the simplest way to put it is, I’m not interested in telling you how Lyndsey and her distant cousin Taliza and a handful or rebels and Daggers got the titular crown back, honestly. If I were to ever rewrite the story — this is still just as big an “if” as the first time I mentioned it, ages ago — it would be Lyndsey telling the tale of what happened to her during the Dagger mission where she met her distant cousin and they got this crown back and found her great-great-grandfather’s sword. Because Lyndsey is Lyndsey, there would be fight scenes, there would be the bits with Vik bitching at her . . . though those would be completely rewritten so she called him out on his hypocrisy, but there would also be completely new bits that are recounting a fun game of kista with her friends during a bit of downtime, bits that show who she is — not in a “This scene increases the readers’ understanding of the character” kind of way, but in a “This feels like an amusing/fascinating/whatevering is appropriate story told by someone” way.
Lyndsey’s not a writer. She’s just someone who loves talking about her adventures. So that’s what a story about her should feel like. It should have all the bits she’d tell people about, not just the bits that are relevant to the plot arc and character arc and all that other stuff. Because that’s how I prefer to write: I’m just kicking back and letting the people in my head tell a story to me.
And then I’m cleaning it up a bit so it makes sense to other people too.
(And that sounds a little bit crazy, but, eh, I don’t give a fuck. I’m probably not completely sane — I mean aside from the anxiety and OCD, even. I’m not sure anyone who is a good writer . . . by which I mean good storyteller, not necessarily someone who’s good at the whole technical side of writing thing . . . is. Like I’ve said before, no sane person would go “I’m going to dedicate my life to a career that is pretty much guaranteed to mean perpetual poverty!”.)
(And, yeah, I wandered all over the place in this post. I had coffee with lunch. It wasn’t decaf. Blame it if there’s any bit that really seems to come out of nowhere.)
What I’ve Read Since The Last Time I Did A Post Like This
For a few years I was making grand plans to get stuff I’d wanted to read for ages and not gotten around to read. The end result of these plans was that I pretty much wasn’t reading anything, because I’d be trying to read those books when I didn’t really feel like it, and I wouldn’t let myself start reading something else until I’d finished those or given up on them because I’d decided they were too horrible to finish.
I abandoned this in favor of a system of reading whatever the fuck I felt like a year or so ago. Then I started making nearly weekly trips to the local library last summer. So, I’ve found lots of books in the past year that aren’t things I’d ever known existed. And been reminded of things I’ve wanted to read for ages but forgotten even existed.
And then we moved last month and there were built-in shelves in the bedroom and I ended up unpacking some books I hadn’t seen in over a decade.
This list is just the books I’ve read since last June (links are to Goodreads):
- The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower
- I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas (illustrator)
- All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown by Sydney Taylor
- All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzi and Christina Lamb
- Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne, and J. K. Rowling
- More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown by Sydney Taylor
- A Gathering of Widowmakers by Mike Resnick
- The Outpost by Mike Resnick
- True Grit by Charles Portis
- The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
- Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
- Reilly’s Luck by Louis L’Amour
- Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
- Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
- Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire
- Second Star by Dana Stabenow
- Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick
- Cartoon History of the Universe II, Vol. 8-13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome by Larry Gonick
- Heller with a Gun by Louis L’Amour
And the books I’m currently reading:
- The Widowmaker by Mike Resnick
- Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey
- A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
- Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
- Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
(Yes, I’m only reading five books at once right now! I’m amazed too!)
Now, like I said, that’s just the books. That’s not counting having read an entire webcomic (Digger, by the amazingly talented Ursula Vernon) in one day recently. Or my on-going project to read every single Marvel issue of GI Joe . . . which was going very fast until I hit the point where they started coming out with dumb shit like the Eco-Warriors, and even Larry Hama can’t do much with ideas like that. Or the day I spent reading blogposts about medieval book bindings. Or the day I spent learning about inaccuracies in the historical costumes in movies. Or the days I’ve spent reading articles about politics. Or all the book samples I’ve read. Or . . . do you get the idea now why I consider it fucking stupid that some people only look at lists of books read for a year to calculate how much people are reading?
Now, why did I make this post? Because I saw someone the other day — and this is something I’ve seen frequently before from authors and, perhaps especially, from wannabe authors — talking about how they don’t have time to read for fun any more because they’ve got all this reading to do for research for their next planned work and to keep up with their genre.
I can’t wrap my head around that mentality. First of all, if you don’t enjoy what you’re researching, then why the fuck are you writing a story that involves whatever it is you’re researching?! If you aren’t interested in something, then don’t write a story where it’s a major thing. This is simple logic, people!
Second, why do you have to keep up with your genre? Yes, I’ve been reading more sci-fi than I usually do the past year, but, well, look at the publication dates of those books. I’m not reading anything new. I’m reading stuff that interests me.
Why did I read what I’ve read? Let’s see:
- Caught my eye in the library: 2
- Recommended by my wife: 2
- Liked other stuff by the author: 14
- Re-reading a book I knew I liked: 2
- Fucked if I can remember: 1
- Saw the movie and wanted to read the book: 2
- Saw some quotes from it and wanted to read the whole thing: 2
- Wanted to finish the series because I liked the plot even if the style left a bit to be desired: 2
- Trying to figure out why other people love it so much: 2
Unpacking “Liked other stuff by the author” to see how I discovered those authors in the first place:
- Sydney Taylor – I don’t remember if Mom suggested I read All-of-a-Kind Family or just left it laying around after one time when she read it and I read it. At any rate, it’s Mom’s fault I discovered her.
- J. K. Rowling – Saw the first Harry Potter movie, decided to check out the books.
- Mike Resnick – This one is actually a kind of amusing story. I’d gotten him mixed up with someone else and started reading one of his short stories as a “prove to myself that I’m not the worst writer in the industry” thing. (Look, it’s a weird way to deal with anxiety inflicted inferiority issues, but it works, okay?) Instead, I ended up loving the story and wanting more like it.
- Louis L’Amour – My mother and grandfather read him a lot, so I grew up with his books around. I never finished one until a few years ago, though, for whatever reason.
- P. G. Wodehouse – Several of my favorite authors cited him as one of their favorites, so I had to try him out.
- Seanan McGuire – Someone linked to a blogpost where she described a character as the child of Batman and Dazzler.
- Dana Stabenow – Again, I don’t know if Mom recommended her or just left one of her Kate Shugak books laying around and I picked it up.
Oh, and I’ve got Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes reserved at the library right now. Why? Because this is possibly the longest I’ve gone in years without reading fantasy and I’m missing it, and this book’s negative reviews say that it’s “too D&D like” and “not dark enough”, which makes it sound perfect for my tastes.
So, in short, I’m not reading anything because I think I should be or because it’s directly helpful for something I’m writing.
That is not, however, to say that these books won’t have an influence on what I’m writing. I’m mimicking, somewhat, the structure of All-of-a-Kind Family for the first Jake book (now tentatively titled Jareth’s Son) because I think it’s a good way to introduce a young reader to a different culture. Some of the books listed about have shown me what not to do in various ways . . . one never let the characters catch a break, another was great until the last chapter which left me so depressed that I’m not sure I’m going to read the sequel, one had a romantic twist at the end that I saw coming about a quarter of the way into the book, etc. And some have had a direct influence . . . I got character ideas that have blossomed into at least the starts of stories from two of the Mike Resnick books, for instance.
And I’m going to end this post here because I just realized I’ve been up six hours and only had a handful of chips to eat, which explains why I’m having trouble thinking clearly. Sorry if this got too hard to follow.
Well, at least I have a backup . . . sort of
In late March, Time Machine quit working properly. It was an easy thing to fix, something I’ve fixed at least twice before . . . basically my computer couldn’t write to the Time Machine drive and it would’ve taken about five to fifteen minutes to fix.
But, you see, it would’ve involved rebooting, and I discovered it while I was in the middle of something. Then I kept forgetting about it until I was in the middle of something, until it’d been so long since it’d made a backup that I didn’t feel like fixing it and letting it because it slows the computer down some while it runs. And the cat likes to unplug the external drive Time Machine is on so I needed to do it sometime when I could sit here and keep her away from the motherfucking cord.
And then we moved and I had more important things to do than get this sorted out. And then in the course of a week my iPod Touch got stuck in a rebooting loop and I broke the screen on my phone, so I decided it was probably best if I didn’t try to fix anything more technologically advanced than a pencil for a while. (This was, possibly, a good decision. I apparently had so angered the gods of technology that a fucking ball point pen, with plenty of ink and a good tip, suddenly wouldn’t write when I tried to use it!)
And then my hard drive corrupted. This, honestly, shouldn’t have surprised me. I’d been losing hard drive space mysteriously for some time, my Spotlight index was needing rebuilt every other time I rebooted, and a few days before I’d gotten a notification that an app was corrupted, and then had that app work perfectly without doing anything. So something was clearly very wrong.
So, one day my computer is acting . . . well, like a six-year-old computer with a nearly full hard drive that’s been on for over a week. Nothing unusual, really, just very slow. So slow it’s basically locking up about once an hour, but not quite. Then, right as I’m thinking “I should probably reboot and do that kind of reboot that clears the caches,” it does lock up.
Upon rebooting, it starts installing an update. Okay, it’d been pestering me about there being one to install for awhile, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. No big deal.
It gets partway through and turns off.
I try again and again and again. Same thing. I try the cache and other stuffs fixing reboot thingy. No luck. I google for likely problems and solutions. It’s suggested that I boot to Recovery Mode and try to verify the disk.
I do so. It can’t be fully verified. I try Repair Disk. It can’t be fully repaired. A message appears on my screen informing me that the hard drive needs reformatted.
Fuck me. This was on May 10th. It turned out that the last Time Machine backup was on March 23rd!
I have — because I always expected something like this to happen, and because she likes to read stuff I’ve written — been in the habit of sending my wife what I’ve written every day for a long while. So while I’ve lost everything else for the past month and a half, I at least have everything I’ve written.
I just have to go through emails and copy it back into documents I can work with.
And please don’t suggest I use any sort of cloud storage instead. My last experiment with that did result in some stuff getting irretrievably lost. No clue why. The file looks like it’s there, but trying to open it just gets an error message. I can’t afford that happening to stuff I’m writing. And there’s no way in hell I could backup my whole computer to the cloud . . . I’d like to, just to have an offsite backup, but we’ve got satellite internet, so that’s definitely not happening any time soon.