December 5, 2013

What I've Been Up To

Hello again, gentle reader(s). In case anybody's wondering where I've been and what I've been up to the past couple of months, here's the info.

Largely, things have been quiet here at FTS because I haven't had a lot to say about what's going on in the world. There's only so many times you can look at political bullshit going on in the world and say, "is't that some political bullshit?" The powers that be provide us with lots of said excrement, but its not really worth talking about.

For the past month I've largely directed my creative energies toward National Novel Writing Month, as usual. This year was different because my project for Nano was a sequel. The Endless Hills is book two of the trilogy that began with The Water Road back in 2009. That tome, along with last year's project, Moore Hollow, are both to the point where I'm ready to do something with them, but I'm not sure what that something should be.

When I started writing fiction in earnest several years ago I never really gave any thought to what would happen when I had a "finished" product.  I didn't do it to find a new career or seek stardom, although it would be nice for people (aside from my lovely, supportive, and insightful wife) to read the stuff.  To the extent that I started with short stories the process there is pretty straightforward - finish story, polish 'til it gleams, submit it directly to magazine/website/anthology. No muss, no fuss, but plenty of rejection.

Speaking of short stories, I've joined an online critique group, Critters, that caters to writers of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.  The deal is that in return for reading and critiquing the work of others, they do the same for you.  I've found it extremely helpful, particularly reading what other people are writing.  It forces you to think critically about a story, what its trying to do, how it might do it, etc.  That really carries over to your own writing.  The feedback I've gotten on a couple of short stories has been very helpful.

I also got a chance to take in my first West Virginia Writers conference up in Elkins. It was a good chance to hang out with like minded folks and learn some good stuff.  It certainly won't be my last.

But back to publishing novels, which is a whole different story from shorts. If you want to publish with one of the big houses, you need to get an agent first. That means sending queries and manuscripts out all over the place and hoping they connect. If you are interested in working with a smaller press you can submit directly to them, but the query/manuscript process is largely the same (frustratingly, just about everybody does it a little bit differently). Either route will give you what most people think of as "real" publishing - an editor, cover designer, layout specialists, and all that. It's the gold standard.

On the other hand there's the increasingly respectable avenue of self publishing, particularly in electronic (Kindle, etc.) format and particularly in the sci-fin/fantasy ghetto in which I live. The author retains completely control (and a bigger cut of sales), but you have to either contract out all the work a publisher normally does or do it yourself, which opens up all kinds of potential problems. In addition, marketing primarily electronic books seems like a real effort. All in all, I'm not sure I'm up for it.

Regardless, any decision on which way to go (or to go one way with one book and another with the other) is put off until the first draft of The Endless Hills is done. It's a bit more complex than The Water Road. That book only had two main characters with stories that paralleled each other. This one's got about eight "main" characters, many of which converge at one point, but many others don't. Lots of plates to keep spinning!

Musically, I've got a song in the can that needs mixed and given a new name. The working title is too stupid, even for me. It starts out heavily indebted to OMD's "The New Stone Age," but then goes in a different direction. I've also embarked on a cover of "Kashmir," so we'll see how that goes.

That's it. Regular service (or semi-regular, at least), resumes next week.

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