In which Rob Rogers and Michelle Muenzler talk me off the ledge at ArmadilloCon

I got back from ArmadilloCon yesterday. All in all it was a nice convention and I had a great time. My panels went very well and I got to see a lot of friends. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing is better for a writer than to talk to another writer. No one understands a writer like another writer.

Which is why I want to give a special shout out to Rob Rogers and Michelle Muenzler. After Rob’s reading Saturday night we three sat together in a room and talked about writing. (While also eating the fantastic homemade cookies Michelle was carrying around for the convention!) I told them about the trouble I was having with the novel. They gave me a lot of good advice and things to think about. Just talking about it out loud to other writers who know what I am going through was good therapy if nothing else.

I really valued that impromptu meeting more than anything else that happened, I think. These conventions always have a part in recharging my batteries, so to speak. This was something special that happened and I wanted to give them both a special shout out before I wrote about anything else that happened at the con. Thanks, guys! 🙂

 

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Writing from the Heart

Writing from the heart is something I believe writers always attempt. Writing is a very organic and visceral process with real, and all too often challenging, mental exercises thrown in for good measure. When you add on top of that writing from the heart then you have a lot to deal with.

Part of the problem I am having with this nove is I cannot find a way to write it from the heart. I have the entire story in my head. I know every character and every motivation. But I cannot find a way to express that. No matter how hard I try I keep failing. Is it because I know the story too well and there doesn’t appear to be room for experimentation? I don’t believe it. I’ve been writing long enough to know better.

When I look at what I have written it seems dense to me. What I mean is, not necessarily overwritten, but not able to free flow. I know there’s a key to this. I also know maybe I am not ready to write this story. Maybe I will never be.

I have to find a way to write this from the heart. As it reads now it’s stilted and cold. Something like that not only will never be published, it doesn’t deserve to be published.

It’s like every other western story out there. And we’ve seen enough of those. Let someone else write that story. Not me.

There’s a key in there somewhere. I am determined to find it. Maybe I need to throw it all away and start completely over. Not use any of what I have written so far (100 pages) and start completely over. I am beginning to move in that direction. I’ve tried everything else. Kind of scary because of all the work I’ve done so far and then if I try this what if I fail again?

I mean…again? Let’s face something else here. I’m obviously trying too hard. Nothing but frustration will come of that.

All I have now are shadows. I want the heart.

 

Sometimes writing from the heart has all the substance as shadows....

My Updated Schedule for ArmadilloCon

Here is the updated schedule including a signing and reading on Saturday. I think this schedule is pretty set in stone so I don’t expect any changes from here on out.

Hope to see you there! 🙂

 

Fr1800SB Writing Multiple Genres
Fri 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Sabine
B. Crider, K. Hoover, A. Latner*, C. Mills, F. Summers
Fantasy? Science Fiction? Mystery? Historical Fiction? Why do “our” writers tend to cross or blur the lines?

Sa1400DR Signing
Sat 2:00 PM-3:00 PM Dealers’ Room
N. Barrett, K. Hoover, A. Latner, J. Rountree

Sa2200SM Reading
Sat 10:00 PM-10:30 PM San Marcos
Kenneth Mark Hoover

Su1000SA The Hard Stuff
Sun 10:00 AM-11:00 AM San Antonio
B. Mahoney*, B. Frank, K. Hoover
The challenges and rewards of writing — and reading — hard SF. What recent discoveries will be the next smash novel? (A Higgs bosun walks into a Catholic church…)

Su1200SB Attracting and Building an Audience for your Work
Sun Noon-1:00 PM Sabine
L. Antonelli*, E. Burton, K. Hoover, P. Jones, E. Moon, C. Neill
Marketing for the writer. What you can do to get your work noticed by readers.

Sometimes a Banana is just a Banana. And a Story is just a Story.

There is an apocryphal quote attributed to Freud: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” There’s no evidence he ever said this, and later SNL did a skit where they substituted the word “banana” for cigar.

But it got me to thinking about stories and how we view them from different perspectives Re: writers and readers.

I was reading a web site dedicated to a writer which got me to thinking, and remembering, how often I have seen things like this in many other areas, especially book reviews. Mostly it is especially directed toward well known or popular writers but sometimes amateurs get dinged on it, too.

Very often readers misinterpret or deconstruct a story in ways the writer never intended. Or they subscribe certain beliefs toward the writer when all he was really doing was just telling a story.

I understand why this happens. All the writer does is write the story. That’s a pretty hard lift in itself as you know. But once you write the story you are done. What you intended or what you meant by your story may or may not be seen by subsequent readers.

Because the reader brings his own life perspective and makes the story his. There’s nothing you can do about that and you shouldn’t want to do anything about it. The reader isn’t wrong in his interpretation. It may not be what you intended, but that’s not the reader’s fault. It’s not your fault, either, as  a writer. That’s part of the organic process, the subtle give and take between writer and reader. We’ve all experienced it to some degree on both sides of the fence, I think.

So it’s very natural the reader might perceive elements within the story that were never originally intended by the author in the first place. He might deconstruct the story in ways you never thought possible or viable or reasonable. He also might see relationships and connections in the story that are there, but which you missed completely.

It got me to thinking about all this and the dynamic that plays itself out between writer and reader. To be sure some readers completely miss the point. Then again so do some writers. But that subtle interchange between thought and process and mental integration on both sides never fails to fascinate me.

It’s an intricate puzzle. Maybe someday I will be able to figure it out. 🙂

 

Yay! My Schedule for ArmadilloCon!

My schedule for ArmadilloCon has arrived. These are the panels I will be attending as a guest. If I am not mistake there will also be a reading and probably signing scheduled as well, but I don’t have the times for that yet. When I get them I will list them as well.

 

Fr1800SB Writing Multiple Genres
Fri 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Sabine
B. Crider, K. Hoover, A. Latner*, C. Mills, F. Summers
Fantasy? Science Fiction? Mystery? Historical Fiction? Why do “our” writers tend to cross or blur the lines?

Su1000SA The Hard Stuff
Sun 10:00 AM-11:00 AM San Antonio
B. Mahoney*, B. Frank, K. Hoover
The challenges and rewards of writing — and reading — hard SF. What recent discoveries will be the next smash novel? (A Higgs bosun walks into a Catholic church…)

Su1200SB Attracting and Building an Audience for your Work
Sun Noon-1:00 PM Sabine
L. Antonelli*, E. Burton, K. Hoover, P. Jones, E. Moon, C. Neill
Marketing for the writer. What you can do to get your work noticed by readers.

 

Hope to see you guys there! 🙂

 

 

Rules are made to be broken, except when they’re not.

As a writer, the only time you should break the rules is when you know the rules beforehand.

Fortunately, in writing, there are no rules. Which is why you must be extra careful before you go around breaking them and drawing attention to yourself.

I know. Sounds screwy and somewhat zen-like. But there’s a lot of truth in it. Many classics have withstood the test of time  because they are stories which, in one form or another, broke rules. These can be rules of grammar, pacing, POV, format, a lot of different elements. You can name just as many as I can off the top of your head, probably more. Novels like Lolita, Tropic of Cancer, Dracula, Blood Meridian, Moby-Dick, 1984 and on and on.

But you have to know what the basic rules are before you go around breaking them. That means you have to learn your craft inside and out. You have to do your homework and you have to keep your mouth shut and listen when professionals are talking about writing. Because you know what? You can tell instead of show…but only if you know how to show instead of tell first. You can mix POV in a scene. But only if you know and understand why it’s normally not done in the first place.

There are lots of others like this. You can break all the rules because writing is not a protocol exercise. It’s an organic creative process. Because it is organic it has the leeway already built in so you can leaven your imagination into it and make something truly memorable, truly artistic.

I am a big believer in breaking rules. You should be, too. But learn what they are first and then when you do break them it won’t be because you’re an amateur, it will be because you are empowered. 🙂

Sorry, but this is not why I write. And I can’t change that.

Okay, it’s been a while since an update. It’s not like I’ve been completely lazy. We have a lot of family and personal things going on around here this summer and it has eaten into a lot of my time. I mean, I haven’t been camping this summer (much) so that should give you some idea how busy I’ve been. (And it doesn’t look like I will be going camping until September at the earliest.)

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. What I want to talk about is a decision I have made about my writing.

I have two or three more stories to get out on Argo Navis Publishing before WorldCon in Chicago this year. That’s cool and easily doable. But after that I think I am going to turn away from self-publishing for a while. If not forever.

I have many reasons for this, and it’s not because I haven’t sold any stories. Actually, I’ve done better than I ever thought. No, it’s because I don’t like it. I don’t like the feel of it. I don’t like the fact it takes away a shit-ton of ordinary writing time away from me.

This decision has not been made overnight. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been struggling with this, probably way more than I should. But I’m a writer first and not a publisher. It’s not me. It’s not who I am. I don’t feel comfortable in that role at all. Some people do, and that’s good for them and I wish them well. But we’re talking about me.

I am a writer. I am not a publisher. Nothing I can do will change how I view and define myself, and how I have always viewed and defined myself.

It takes away too much time. Writing is more precious to me than self-publishing stories. That’s probably just me but I can’t help the way I feel. I can’t live or do something that goes against my basic nature. It’s not for me. It’s not. It’s just not.

Not to mention I’ve got so much else to concentrate on right now I feel overwhelmed. I don’t know if I will continue writing. Though I suspect I will. Maybe I will chuck it all and drive a truck for a living. My father did. It was good enough for him even though he and I were estranged. Then the new novel Haxan from CZP comes out in a couple of years. I’m not completely stupid. I know the business has changed enough I have to do a lot of promotion for Haxan and that’s fine. I actually like doing that because I like going to cons and libraries and blogging and whatnot. So that’s okay.

The second reason I am thinking about leaving self-publishing is because I have never written anything so I can see my name in print. Hell, when I first started writing professionally I used the pseudonym “Alden Crealock” because I didn’t care about my personal name. That wasn’t my motivation for writing then, and it’s not my motivation now. I only use my real name today because I don’t care whether it’s my name or some pen name up there below the title. For me, the story is first. The name has no bearing.

That’s not why I write.

Finally, it’s too easy. All right, I try to go the extra mile and have good covers, good editing, good style and formatting and all that stuff. Not because that’s my name on the cover (we’ve covered that) but because if I am putting a story out for readers I want them to have the best experience I can provide for them, and enjoy reading it. Because I’m also a reader, as well a being a writer.

To be honest, I think most people in this business feel that way. They want to produce a good product. But for me it feels too easy. That’s how I feel. I can’t help the way I feel. What works for other people doesn’t always work for another.

I can’t help the way I feel. It feels easy. And I kind of know it’s easy because there’s some really bad crap out there. I mean, it’s awful. It’s embarrassing. The writing is appalling…because it’s so easy to publish. Now I must be fair. I’m not giving every publisher a pass here, either. Some publishers make a living, a very good living, publishing really bad stuff. That’s their business model and that’s fine for them. Readers like it and they know their market. I wish them well.Writing is always hard enough anyway no matter what you are working on or publishing. I don’t have to read it, and don’t. But I do understand what writers go through. If nothing else I understand and sympathize with that.

I’m old-fashioned, I guess. I like sending a story in to an editor or publisher and having them decide whether or not my story is good enough to be published. I have always said, and I really believe this, that writers are the absolute worst people to decide whether their story is good enough to be published or not. No one, and I mean no one, is more ill-suited to pass judgment on his own work than a writer. We’re simply too close to it. So I do like having someone else make that call.

Again, just me.

I can’t help but wonder if some people are saying, “Okay, that’s easy for you to say. You’re a member of SWFA and HWA and even if a lot of readers don’t know you a lot of editors do and they know what kind of quality and professionalism you bring. I don’t have a track record and I’m trying to build one.”

I understand that, too. I’m only saying this is not who I am. I’m a writer, not a publisher. I can’t pretend otherwise. Does that mean I no longer want you to buy my stories? Of course not. That’s not what I’m saying.

I am saying I can no longer be someone I am not. I’m a writer, but that doesn’t mean I am going to abandon any story I have put out there for readers.They’re my stories. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of everything I write, otherwise I wouldn’t have published it in the first place. I sure as hell would have never sent it to an editor to be considered if I wasn’t proud of the story.

Oh, well. This is the current state I’m in. I seriously think (about 95% sure) I need to go in another direction. Because this is not me. It…it just doesn’t feel right.

It’s not who I am, and I don’t like it and it makes me feel uncomfortable. It would be like me going out and creating my own Wikipedia page about myself. That’s just…I don’t know. And I don’t care if that’s the way the business is now.

That’s not why I write. It never has been. It never will be.

So. Yeah. Moving on, I suppose.  Of course, this is me we’re talking about so everything could change by suppertime. Thanks for listening, anyway.  🙂

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