Progress Report

Written By: Bill Quick - Nov• 10•11


(Cover, Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work)

 

I’m coming into the homestretch on finishing the first draft of the initial book in my trilogy, The Rise and Fall of the American Republic, currently titled Death and Destruction.  (The second and third are, respectively, Revolution and Rebirth, and Vengeance and Victory).

Unfortunately, just finishing the first draft means the work only continues.  Copyediting is always a necessary PITA.  Because I’d like to sell these books in a package deal, I need to do detailed outlines of the second and third, as well.  Then they go off to my agent, Caitlin Blasdell, who was also my editor at Harper Collins, and she will work her editorial magic upon them (probably considerably more magic than I may be able to find at any publishing house, given these parlous times).

The book seems as if it’s taken forever, although it’s only been five months – but I was once used to doing five or six books a year.  This is a big one, though, and my industrious habits had gotten a bit rusty, so I probably shouldn’t beat myself up over it too badly.

I do have to say that Richard Presssfield’s Do the Work was a huge help in getting me back on track with good writing habits.  Yeah, you ought to read it – especially given that it is free.  And in this case, you get one hell of a lot more than you’re paying for.

So, I’m hoping to have everything wrapped up and out of the house by Christmas – which will be a wonderful holiday gift for me.

Then, of course, I start work on the next one….

What Sells?

Written By: Bill Quick - Nov• 04•11

Quick, Get Me A Flashlight | According To Hoyt

Doesn’t matter anyway. Literary value is a will o’ the wisp and has been used for centuries by those-who-know-better to tell the masses what ’orrible little people they are and what ’orrible ’horrible taste they have. (Shakespeare. All that blood. Ghosts. Inaccurate history. Rotted the mind like cheap candy. A favorite of truculent apprentices and low brows. Why, he had the violence happen right htere on the stage, while all the well bred people knew the way to do it was to have a messenger come and announce it. In the more fraught plays, messengers crossed back and forth on the stage, but it was good taste. Everyone knew that. As a literature major I’ve had to read those plays. They’re very illuminating of the human condition. Like Tolstoi.)

What literary value is not is a predictor of sales, unless you are talking ONLY sales to a small subset of status-insecure people who want to show how intelligent they are. Now, there are any number of those and there are scam– er… authors who make a living off them, but I am not an artist – I work for a living – and I’d rather sell stuff people genuinely enjoy.

The question is… what is that?

And that is the question all writers who are actually serious wrestle with constantly. If you claim you’re not interested in selling – which actually means you’re not interested in having folks read what you write – then you’re probably a liar. If not, the obvious question is, why are you writing in the first place?

Oh, sure, I understand that the internet now gives everybody a platform to blather anything you like, and people don’t need to pay a red cent to read it, so, technically, you have no need to sell your work. If that’s you – if that’s what makes you content – then stop reading this now, because what I have to say will be of no interest to you. Nor will your literary exibitionism have much interest for me, given that I hew to Samuel Johnson’s admonition: “”No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

I’ve spent well on to 40 years trying to figure out what sells. There don’t seem to be any guarantees, and certainly trying to figure out what will bring the Stephen King/Harry Potter/Tom Clancy lightning down on your head is probably a mug’s game.

That said, a good story seems to be a necessity. By that, I mean a plot that makes sense and has a logical, interesting progress to a satisfying ending. Happy endings – that is, where the hero triumphs over the fascinating problems you have littered his path with – seem to work better than tragedies. Everyman characters rising to the occasion are always popular. People want to identify with heroes, although you need to keep your villains reasonably sympathetic as well. Pure black only works with anarchists and hipster fashions.

Oddly enough, it takes many would-be writers a long time to figure out even these basics. I blame the plethora of creative writing courses that populate the modern academic curriculum, wherein wannabes are instructed that lapidary prose and endless character dissection are the ne plus ultra of good writing.

Story? Plot? Attractive, likable characters struggling and triumphing over near-insurmountable odds? How passe. No, even worse than passe. Reprehensible. To be avoided if you value the purity of your art.

Let me tell you this: If you call your writing your art, you are probably going to be able to number your readers without using all of your digits. You want to be rich and famous? Learn what average people like to read, and then do your damndest to give it to them.

At Last…Success!

Written By: Bill Quick - Nov• 03•11

The Big Idea: Richard Kadrey – Whatever

Richard Kadrey’s “Sandman Slim” series is one of my favorite sets of fantasy books from the last few years, so it’s a pleasure to bring Kadrey back to the Big Idea to talk about its latest installment, Aloha From Hell. This time around, and with a nod to his series’ main character, Kadrey’s here to talk about the value of persistence, even when by all indications you’ve been entirely left for dead.

Call it coincidence, serendipity, whatever. I’ve known Kadrey’s work for decades, but hadn’t read anything recently, until I discovered (through an Amazon recommendation, of all things – and that will be the substance of another post here shortly) his Sandman Slim series. I read the first, Sandman Slim, and immediately glommed onto the remaining two (so far) in the series and, as it happens, I’m reading Aloha from Hell right now.

I have to confess that, aside from my enjoyment of the books, my first reaction was utter envy. Why can’t I come up with a character/concept like this? The closest I ever came was my Calley/Berg duo in the Dream Trio series, but I’m still looking for that Killer Koncept.

Anyway, read Richard’s inspiring tale of ultimate success after a period of depressing failure. It will help you keep the dream alive. And a big thank you to John Scalzi for the interview.

Money Talks While Dead Tree Dies

Written By: Bill Quick - Nov• 02•11

Another Nail in the Coffin | madgeniusclub

But the Amazon story first. On the 16th of this month, the New York Times published an article about Amazon bypassing publishers and signing authors to contracts to publish through Amazon. For some months now, Amazon has been introducing “imprints”. Several well-known authors signed exclusive publishing contracts with Amazon. There were a few ripples when that happened, but nothing like the response to the Times’ article last week. The specifics are pretty simple. This fall, Amazon will publish 122 titles. These titles will be across a variety of genres and some will be digital and some hard copy. Among the authors will be self-help guru Tim Ferrias and actor/director Penny Marshall.And the cries of foul were heard far and wide from legacy publishers.

According to the Times, “Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.”

So let’s look at that statement. While I can’t speak to whether or not Amazon is “aggressively wooing” top authors, it would be a fool not to. The same publishers who are crying foul are the ones who backed the agency pricing plan for e-books. This is the plan that lets the publishers set the price for their e-books so there is no competition across the different e-book retailers. Worse, the general reading public doesn’t understand that Amazon can’t control the prices for those books from the agency model publishers, and it is the one on the receiving end of the bad customer feelings.

Look. People still like to read. The digital transformation is changing the delivery mechanism that lets them read, but they still like to read.

The entrenched publishing structure is demonstrating that it is entirely unable to adjust to the digital transformation, and so, sooner or later, it will collapse and be swept away by new, more savvy, competitors. That’s just the nature of markets and creative destruction.

If Amazon comes up with better models, then it will prevail. It certainly seems to understand the implications of digital creation, marketing, and delivery far better than the dying dead tree houses.

I don’t think we are heading for unalloyed chaos in terms of book marketing. Just what the new structures will look like is still up in the air, but that new structures – including gatekeeping functions – will emerge is, in my opinion, inevitable. The amount of money at stake more or less guarantees it.

Keep Trying Till We Find Something That Works

Written By: Bill Quick - Oct• 28•11

Witchfinder — Free novel — One | According To Hoyt

*As I said, I’m going to start posting a novel here, a chapter a week. This is being posted as I write it, so it’s in pre-earc (for those from Baen) or in close-to (but not quite) -first draft state. Once it’s finished it will undergo editing and then it will be published in some form. I’m going to put this up with its own category so you can find it. And yes, I’m going to put up a donate button eventually — as soon as I figure out how to do it. Yeah, I know, what can I say? — and those who donate $6 or so WILL get this, revised, when it comes out. I’m also going to have a cover for this soonish. Until then, bear with me. Yes, those of you who are in Baen Diner have seen two chapters of this before. The difference is, this time I finish it “in public” which is a bit of a window to you on how things work out. Oh, yeah, this is a fantasy set in the same universe as the Magical British Empire, but not in the same world (at least to begin with.) And it uses a Scarlet Pimpernel archetype, which I ALWAYS wanted to do.*

The blueprints for the future of publishing are being drawn via a process of trial and error right now. Here is another experiment.