The Weight

The one piece of advice you’ll find from successful authors is: Read. It’s one of the surprisingly few agreed-upon mantras; you gotta read as much as you can.

This always intimidated me because a) I do not read very fast and b) all these successful authors always talk about how they “devoured every book they could get their hands on”. That wasn’t me, and I think that anxiety can carry over to today’s spec fic writer when it comes to keeping up on your own genre.

I picked up How to Write Tales of Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, partially because it’s such an old text and I was curious. While Bradbury’s “Thing at the Top of the Stairs” is always good, many of the articles collected are showing their age.

Today’s writers know they live in a constantly shifting market. Genres are visiting one another more often these days. They’re interbreeding and creating adorable little monstrosities with Fantasy’s face but obviously Horror’s eye color. We are enjoying what I would call an unprecedented mixture of genre, where the ghost of the horror story can freely walk into urban fantasy or even sci-fi and feel welcome.

And then, of course, it’s that much harder to stay sharp, stay relevant. What’s the best balance for all the weight? For all the reading you must have to do? This has been one of my largest personal demons in my effort to commit myself to writing, and I imagine other people struggle with it, too.

I couldn’t imagine having full-time college, a full-time job, and still manage to read dozens of blogs every morning, get my hands on new SF/F anthologies, read up on the new trends in spec fic, and still scratch out some time to pen words down. Never mind dealing with other creative people!

But that’s okay. It’s a process. Especially for science fiction in fantasy, I think, the growth, the gestation period, is crucial. So I’ll share the concept that allowed me to alleviate the stress that came from the inability to devour all the books.*

When I was in therapy in my younger days, I told my psychologist I wanted to be a writer, and he was practically delighted, because he said, and this sticks with me every time I sit down at my keyboard: “Writers are singularly gifted in that they draw from everything, all the time, to create entirely new things that only they can produce.”

It really blew my mind. I still wonder if he was waiting for a patient of his to be a writer so he could bust that one out. Look at it; it’s a lovely sliver of dialogue. Savor it, digest it, print it, pin it, frame it, you’re welcome. But, yeah, I think it’s advice worth following.

If you feel like the Weight is an alien concept to you, or you are only worrying about all you need to read because I just mentioned it now (sorry!), then relax. Finding your pace as a reader will help you forge your path as a writer. Do you have to put the time in? Absolutely. Do you have to break your comfort zone and do research and make the time to write? Yup.

But you still have a pace, and you still have that singular gift of a unique voice. One that no one else has heard before, that no one will hear after you. Sure, when you start out it may sound like a mod of your favorite authors, but keep at it.

The voice of the speculative fiction author is one that uses comfortable words and a familiar hand to bring us to exhilarating, mystical, and quite often terrifying new places. And that’s all kinds o’ fantastic.

*sidenote: I would still take the superpower of being able to read a book by touching its cover. Would totally be the coolest thing in the world.

 

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Don’t Forget To Laugh

I deserve a great big smack. Yup, I forgot my 8th deadline. In my defense…wait, I’m not sure I have one. Can I just apologize?!

I don't know what happened...

I don’t know what happened…

I decided last month I would write about the thing we often forget when immersed in writing – our sense of humor. I can attest to the great amount of laughs we all imbibe in. Yet it isn’t talked about often enough, in my not so humble opinion. I want people to remember to smile – even as we get hit with “tough love” critiques, rejections and the inevitable “What on earth were you thinking in chapter X?”  Maybe that is just me.

Not completely, anyway.

Not completely, anyway.

So many thing about writing just plain hurts. But if you look, you’ll see plenty of laughs. Especially at yourself. For example, one writer talked about sending a query to an agent with “Dear Agent.”  *cough* Yeah, I did that too. Oops. Needless to day, I had a rejection email.

The query trenches, or preparing to self publish, is enough to test a writer’s dignity, skin thickness, and make them wonder if they truly have enough talent.

I'd say this hit the shark on the nose...

I’d say this hit the shark on the nose…

It’s during this time many show their humor. Whether passing around virtual cups of caffeine, wine, chunks of chocolate or rashers of bacon, humor is used to cheer on the writer-ly community. And it can be a sanity saver. I send emails of thank yous, talk to several writers who gently keep me off the ledge, and make jokes at my own expense to keep schlepping forward. We chose a hard road to travel. No matter how you publish, working towards the end imagined, getting smacked down is going to happen – and often. Getting back up can be an accomplishment in, and of, itself.

The smack down comes from everywhere...

The smack down comes from everywhere…

And now you know my secret. Laughing. Find a reason, no matter how hard I fell, to let others giggle, guffaw, chortle or snicker. Granted it might be because I did a carpet slide into the closet trying to get out of bed, klutzing my way into the dolphin pool at Sea World, forgetting my name when talking to someone I admire, the self – V8 smack for stupidity when sending out a query, or laughing at my rough drafts – it’s worth it.

hamster checkmate

Lesson? Don’t let the mistakes get you down, or the rejections, or the long days and longer nights. We are here to help you smile again.

live long

Social Networking: CAVEAT SCRIPTOR

Proceed with caution.

Much has been written on the effective use of social media, especially for authors. We hear the importance of building platform, and several sites are devoted to some of the most important aspects of using social media. Mostly, they focus on writing effective copy, branding one’s self, and building your “tribe.” I won’t go over those with different wording on the same subjects, and since I don’t Tweet and haven’t posted to my own blog since October, I’m not so super-qualified to write on those subjects.

I do want to discuss what I’ve come to discover is, to me, one of the most important aspects of social networking, specifically Facebook, since it’s where I spend most of my online social time.

I have many online “friends” from among our AQC writer compatriots. We chat rarely but often comment on or “like” shares and posts. We get to know each other’s likes and dislikes. A most important step in finding your “tribe.”

Why?

We become personally invested in one another. Even an occasional response to a comment is a personal connection. Every source I’ve read says that developing a personal bond, or link, or whatever you want to call it, with your friends or followers is the most important thing you can do toward finding and developing your tribe. People need to care about you to care about your product.

I can say for sure that those are the people whose posts I will read, and when they post that their book is available, I’ll grab it for my “stack” of Kindle reading.

But there is an opposite of that and we can easily sabotage ourselves.

Many authors, since that’s primarily our group of interest, have both personal pages and author pages. Their personal pages tend to be where they (we) show their interests, social and, sometimes, political leanings. Author pages, on the other hand, tend to be, in many cases, mostly self-promotion.

If there is nothing coming from that author but “here’s my book,” “here’s my book cover,” “here’s how to win a free ARC of my book,” and, oh yeah, “here’s another book you might like,” one, at least this one, becomes very quickly disinterested.

You may not want to share with online acquaintances the same personal info you share with family and close personal friends. Honestly, I’m not in love with reading where you have breakfast or that your kid finally learned to poop in the toilet (true post.) But, still, even if I overdose on funny cat/dog memes or love/hate political memes, I still feel more invested personally in those authors, maybe because of their wicked sense of humor or whatever, and consequently, I want to support them because they’ve personally interacted with me.

Isn’t that why we’re repeatedly told to personally reply to comments made to things we post?

Personal connection.

And there’s the rub. A tenet of effective social networking is not to pitch one’s self or one’s book or blog tour constantly. It may seem professional to only post things pertinent to your work, but, there’s no personal connection in that, and therefore, no feeling of belonging to that person’s “tribe.”

You can certainly refuse a friend request and refer someone to only Like and Follow your author page, but you are likely losing that person as a tribe member. If the only posts I see from a particular author are self-promotion, I soon pass right on by them.

I don’t pass by those fellow travelers with whom I share even a modicum of rapport. Because we have exchange on a personal level, I will always go to their author pages when they post from there.

But when all I see from an author is self-promotion, if that author doesn’t want to be a “friend” and let me see who they are, their likes, dislikes, random silly comments and such, then I’m not invested, and I don’t bother.

We know that a simple act of unfriending someone can have negative repercussions. (Although there are trolls, certainly, who deserve not just being unfriended, but having their heads held in a toilet.) We don’t need to friend everyone on the Interwebs. I’m only suggesting that, when deciding whom to friend and whom to refuse, we proceed with caution.

If you decide to refuse a friend request but want that person to follow your author’s page, and that page is only about your book, its cover, its pub date, etc, and maybe some friends’ books promotion, you’ve chosen not to allow that person to be part of your tribe.

That’s not how to build an audience, and what is platform but audience?

And when it comes to buying and helping to promote someone else’s book, whose are you going to buy?

I’d put my money on the one by the person you feel you know, with whom you’ve had some personal exchange. You may not even particularly love their genre, but you feel connected to them, so you’ll shell out that $2.99 and put in on your e-reader. Right?

I bet so.

I’d love to hear what you think in that regard.