Luck Be A Lady… Of The Evening…

And all of us pay our dues…

I was going to write on economics – yeah, there’s some stuff left unsaid – but I realized I do have something left to say – also – which should be said today about the life of a working writer, the role of luck in any life, and the assumption people who do better than you are “lucky.”  (This also ties in with economics.  There is a tendency to think the rich are “lucky” – but in fact I suspect their ascent is not much different than getting successful in writing.)

Heinlein said that luck was how morons explain the works of genius.  This is unkind, and to an extent inaccurate, and I’m sure it must be the result of his getting one too many of the non-fan-letters I also get.

The prototypical non-fan-letter goes something like this: I love your work, and I’m a great fan.  I too am a writer, but I didn’t get the lucky breaks you’ve had and my three magnificent opuses, written twenty years ago – Whiner, Whiner Returns and Whiner Unleashed – have yet to be picked up by a traditional press.  I am, of course, too good to sully myself with that nasty indie publishing, so I’ll hold out for that million advance that is due to my genius.  I just wish I was lucky like you.

The funny thing is that I – who have never got an advance of more than 12.5K (and I was ecstatic when I got that)  get about one of these a month, sometimes more.

I don’t answer them.  I don’t answer them because my answer would be “you’ve written three books, twenty years ago and you’re “unlucky” because you’re not published?  Good heavens.  If I’d stopped at my first three books I wouldn’t be published either.  It took eight of them finished (and several more started) and about 200 short stories written before I started selling.”

But that’s besides the point.  I’ve told the story of how I broke in before.  For those who are new here, I wrote 8 books before selling the first (which was a 9th and I sold on proposal.)  Three of those books have now been published as has a half-finished one, which took eight years to sell on proposal.  The other six are probably unpublishable (unless I do it under deep cover and under another name) because, to be blunt, the entire world and premise are WEIRD.  As in, they make my kid’s book Cat’s Paw, look sane.  (And it’s probably telling that Robert and I came up with the premise of Cat’s Paw (sort of) together while building an upper deck on our former house one hot summer day.  He said, “Hey, I have this idea.”  I’m afraid I didn’t make it any more “normal.”)  It took me six books to realize it wasn’t a failure of craft, it was the fact that the world was WEIRD that was preventing publishers buying it.  (We’ll put it this way.  It was my answer to The Left Hand Of Darkness.  Imagine that world with a libertarian twist.  Yeah.  Unpublishable, possibly even in indie.  My husband called it the three fs world, two of them being feasting and fighting…)

As for short stories, they were a detour undertaken when a writing book convinced me that I MUST break in first in shorts.  Writing shorts ended up eating three years of my life, before I figured out it was actually easier to break in in novels.  Not wasted, mind.  Short stories focus your ability to start a story running and it helps focus the wording and characterization, too.  I’m a better writer for those years, and I continued writing a short story a week through the early years of my novel career.  But all the same, for the purpose of breaking in, utterly useless.

I sold a short story just before I sold my first novel.  Since then I’ve sold… around a hundred and twenty something (I haven’t counted lately) and have mumble (even less counted) in drawer (Or rather, drawer would be easy.  I have them in so many diskettes, old computers and scraps of paper that I’m forever shocking myself with discovering another one.)

Anyway… let’s say it wasn’t an easy path, and it didn’t get easier after “breaking in.”  For one, I seem to have, with unerring ability, broken in as the field had become the most dysfunctional it had ever been (and considering what I’ve read about the early days of publishing, that’s astonishing)  and my very first book came out a month after 9/11/01 and at least the figures I saw for sales were dismal.  Which meant that house didn’t buy my fantasy again (all my fault, yes.  Never mind.)  I wrote first historical mystery, then cozies for them for the next ten years, though.  By that point all my chances of being considered a hot property were gone, so I sometimes had four books due a year for them.  Meanwhile, I also wrote fantasy (and then SF) for Bantam and Baen and historical fiction for Berkley Jove.

I’m not going to pretend I was all right with the schedule that went between four and six books a year.  Look, I might end up – if I can stop getting sick, d*mn it – doing 4 books for Baen next year.  I’d like to, at least.  But those books would all be Space Opera and all connected and at least vaguely sequential.  Swinging from a book with the musketeers as protagonists, to one set in 19th century India, to a space opera was enough to give even me the screaming megrims.

However I did it because I had to do it, because little though I was making, we needed it, and because in the end if I’d stopped and got off the treadmill, I’d never be published again.  (In the alternate universe in which I know indie is coming, I tell them to bugger off, and do some furniture refinishing while writing for the drawer.  But then some of those books/series might not exist, and some of you guys like them.)

Anyway, life should be somewhat more relaxed now, because I’m only working for one traditional publisher.  But of course, I’m trying to get indie off the ground and in that I’m manager, cook and chief bottle washer.  And some of you are waiting from books from that side, like Orphan Kittens Mysteries, another set in Goldport and interacting with the characters of the other series.  Also, I’d like to write more for that one traditional publisher.  Which means… oh, about the same level of work.

And I sometimes wonder about the fragile little flowers who wrote three books, sat on their hands and waited to be discovered. (Not the ones who said “not worth my time” and went on to have productive lives elsewhere.  That’s their prerogative.  And possibly sane.  But the ones who continue to put all hopes in that one, two or three books.)   I wonder how they’d handle the life of a published writer who is not (yet) a headliner.  Let’s see this morning I found out that I might or might not have spaced page proofs (if I got them at any point, I completely forgot to save them.  This is not impossible.  The last two months are a complete blur.)  Which is, of course, an emergency if I did space them.  I’m also trying to write a blurb for another book.  AND  I have to go back to blog invites, apologize massively and send in some very late guest blogs to promote DSR.  AND I’m literally two days from finishing Noah’s Boy.  IF I can have two days.  Shouldn’t take more than two weeks, right?

I’m not complaining.  I’m working at what I wanted to do, and I make (not astonishing quantities) of money, and there’s a possibility of making way more.

My problem comes with people who give up and hold a grudge against those who make it; with people assuming I was lucky to break in, and lucky to stay working, when in fact I’d say there was at least the average (if not above average) number of unlucky breaks, I just kept working past them.

Luck?  Sure.  I mean, with all I said, it still involved a certain amount of being in the right place at the right time to sell my first book (and massive thanks for bringing me there go to Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.)  But luck of that degree happens sooner or later, provided you’re working your behind off and keeping alert to all possibilities.

Or, to paraphrase Kevin J Anderson “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

This is not to say some of you haven’t been unlucky.  But many  of you have kept working despite it.  (For instance I go in awe of commenter Cyn Bagley writing despite her fatal illness that would floor most of us.  And my friend Kate Paulk writes despite narcolepsy and, until recently, a more than full time job.  I’m not sure I’m “lucky” enough to manage either of those.  But they do it.)

All I’m saying is if you feel like destiny’s redheaded step child, you’re not alone.  Even the most successful professional I know suffered through a series of kicks in the teeth (and sometimes still does.)

Luck exists, and it might make a difference.  But if it’s not working for you, it is your job to ignore it and be successful DESPITE luck.  If you keep going, if you keep trying, if you refuse to cry “uncle” eventually luck gives up and lets you through.

If you’re too sane for that, and give up, then well…  it’s your choice and it’s not like any of us who made it (whatever you define as “made” — published/making a living/bestseller/Stephen King) didn’t contemplate THAT five times a day for years.  However, be aware it’s your choice and your decision and that those of us who broke didn’t necessarily have it easier.

But if you want it, if you really want it, don’t rely on “luck.”  Do it.

All it takes is insane work, alertness to changing conditions, and a bit of creativity.  If luck is not favorable ignore luck.

And may you have the fortitude to keep trying.

217 thoughts on “Luck Be A Lady… Of The Evening…

  1. You stole my quote from Kevin Anderson! 😀

    Too many people sit back and expect fortune to come to them instead of working to make itn happen. However, I doubt a lot of readers or publishers go door to door asking for the next great novel.

    It’s not luck – it’s taking advantage of the opportunity when such presents itself. Unfortunately, too many wait for opportunity to find them instead of seeking it out.

  2. When it comes to writing, I keep reminding myself that I was born on a Saturday 🙂 I also have a working theory that I’m the person who balances out the people who buy one lottery ticket in their life and win the powerball multi-billion dollar jackpot 🙂 Doesn’t mean I’m going to quit, just means I’ll slog harder 🙂 And then I, too, will be a lucky “overnight sensation” after decades of hard work 🙂

  3. I just wanted to say that I hope those six Unpublishable Novels will one day be available in some form, because they sound amazing. I would buy a copy today if they were, whether in publishable form or not. A bizarre world with libertarian tendencies sounds fantastic, but I won’t deny my tastes might be a bit eclectic compared to the average consumer of books 🙂

    1. That’s the thing with Indie. Probably 75% of what’s available is poorly written, has major plot flaws, lots of typos, impossible characters, and little entertainment value for the vast majority. There are still, however, a few people who would find those books fascinating, would buy them, and would read them over and over. Maybe there is only a small handful, but for them, that author is “the best”. The BIGGEST problem with Indie is that there IS so very much of it, and finding something that satisfies you by just paging through the stack is difficult. At least it’s available!

      1. All of which points out the value of branding — if somebody is insane enough to like one of your tales, they are probably insane enough to like more of them. Which means you owe it to them to help them buy more of your stuff. It is a kindness, saving them from the laborious slogging through the Great Indie Slushpile.

        Remember: you don’t have to be any good, you just need to amuse people enough for them to throw coins in your hat.

        1. Oh yes. Assuming those novels aren’t Indie published yet, I am very much hoping they one day will be when Sarah has some time for that!
          It can’t be too bad to have people waiting for you to take their money, right?

      2. > That’s the thing with Indie. Probably 75% of what’s available is poorly written, has major plot flaws, lots of typos, impossible characters,

        Good news of those who write and have higher standards: by merely doing several revision passes, we can immediately leap-frog past 75% of the competition.

        One thing that always makes my mouth hang open in incomprehension is when I’m at Amazon looking at an indie book…and the short description of the book has typos, ungrammatical sentences, and a premise that seems hackneyed and dull.

        Excuse me – this is your ONE PARAGRAPH to pitch your book…and you put less effort into it than I put into an inebriated tweet on a Friday night?


        1. Actually I have a scarier thought for you…

          Maybe THAT’s the best they can do.

          Something else to chew on — the novel might be fine. It might be sheer nerves at doing the short stuff and they overedited it and ended up with a total mess.

          Look, for years, I could write books, but I couldn’t write pitch letters. It’s HARD.

  4. Luck is random. Good luck and bad luck happen to everybody.

    But some people are resilient enough to cope with the bad stuff when it happens to them, and some aren’t. Some people are attentive and thoughtful enough to exploit the unearned breaks that come there way, and some aren’t.

    And make no mistake, even the most pure-windfall sort of luck (such as, say, literally winning the lottery) requires a certain amount of discipline and work to convert into a genuinely desirable gestalt outcome (as evidenced by the numerous stories of lottery winners promptly ending up bankrupt and divorced). Then there are folks like professional athletes and movie stars, who not only won the _genetic_ lottery (which is a minimum qualification for their respective professions), but had the additional good fortune of getting noticed and selected for greatness by a very picky system. Terrific luck! But do you have any clue how hard they actually work, even after they get that success, in order to keep it? (Here’s a hint: if you’re the sort of person who works a 9-5 job, and don’t either know any of them personally or have some previous professional experience that would show you what their lives are like, you _don’t_.)

    And writers? Don’t make me laugh. Yeah, there’s luck involved. But it’s not the sort of luck that just drops on people at random, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. More like “if someday your ship is going to come in, when was the last time you went to the pier to check, and why aren’t your bags packed, and why don’t you have Dramamine handy?”. A lot of people I’ve seen complaining about lack of success in their careers have made as much logical sense as people who want to win the lottery but don’t even _buy a ticket_.

    Hence, “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. Not, I’d say, literally _true_, but nevertheless a better guide to behavior.

    1. Luck is random. Good luck and bad luck happen to everybody.

      Luck is indeed random. But good luck and bad luck do not happen to everybody equally; if they did, that would be the opposite of random. In fact, if you have a big enough piece of bad luck, you die, and you are unable to have any good luck thereafter.

      (By the way, this is why the character of Teela Brown, from Ringworld, is impossible. She was the end product of an alien breeding program designed to select for good luck. In fact we are all selected for good luck, because in every generation, those with the worst luck of all die of accidents or diseases that luckier people survive or avoid entirely. Yet bad luck goes on happening, in the same old random distribution it always did. This shows us that luck is not a genetic trait — as if anyone were silly enough (pace Niven) to suppose that it was.)

      1. “But good luck and bad luck do not happen to everybody equally; if they did, that would be the opposite of random.”

        Well, that’d be why I didn’t use the word “equally”, now wouldn’t it? 🙂

        1. True, you didn’t. But for some people — consider those who die of SIDS, for instance — the bad luck hits so hard so early that none of the good luck (good genes, let us say) has a chance to make itself felt. So in some cases, the luck is all bad in effect.

      2. Who’s to say that we don’t have better luck than our forebears did? It could very well be an IMMENSELY long road to the top vis-a-vis luck.

        On the other hand, in Ringworld, I believe the implication was that psychic luck was not a trait that everyone had, just as telekinesis was not a trait that everyone had.

        1. Well, this is true. On the other hand, the very best available evidence (after a century and more of searching) suggests that psychic luck and telekinesis are both traits that nobody has.

          1. It would certainly be a bit of bad luck for whoever the scientists discerned as having such a trait as psychic luck. <Spell for Chameleon.

            As well, it might be so rare that Science would only discover it by sheerest luck. Standard statistical testing would be highly unlikely to reveal any trait occurring in one person out of a billion, for instance. Why, the odds against it would be astronomical!

            1. That’s an interesting comparison. Bink’s luck protected itself from being discovered, but Teela Brown’s didn’t, although hers needed to be taken to Ringworld, so that could be why.

              1. I quit reading Ringworld after the first book. Just too much too much– I couldn’t suspend my belief and I’ve got good suspension. It took me a long time to get back to sci-fi/fantasy after reading it unfortunately. Before that I couldn’t get enough sci-fi.

                1. I couldn’t suspend my belief and I’ve got good suspension.

                  That’s a fair assessment. An engineer whose name I forget pointed out that the Ringworld is in effect a circular suspension bridge, suspended from nothing and by nothing. Then it turned out that it was inherently unstable. I got about halfway through The Ringworld Engineers and just gave up. The more frantically Niven tried to retcon various ways of saving the Ringworld concept, the more obviously implausible it became. And the characters and storyline didn’t appeal to me enough to keep me going in spite of it.

                  1. I wonder… If you got major masses — planetary sized, but small enough to tide-lock easily — at the Lagrange points around the sun, and then strung really wide “bridges” between them, and had superscience grav generators… It wouldn’t be a smooth ring, but if the key masses themselves were in a stable orbit, could they keep the whole thing from getting hinky and bouncing into the sun in question? Or do I totally not understand the gravitational stuff? 🙂

                    1. The problem you run into with a system like that is the eccentricity of the orbit – since it’s not an exact circle, the velocity changes as it orbits, so it would continually be pulling back and forth.

                      The distinction of the Ringworld was that it was made of an unreasonably strong material, and was not orbiting, it was revolving around the star so fast that it generated a 1G centripetal acceleration outward.

            2. Standard statistical testing would be highly unlikely to reveal any trait occurring in one person out of a billion, for instance.

              That’s why science very rarely begins with standard statistical testing. First the trait is observed in the wild, so to speak, and its properties are identified. Then it is analysed to see how it works and why it occurs. Statistical analysis to find out how common it is in the population is merely part of this second-stage analysis.

              People have been searching for psychic luck for over a century now, without ever finding even that one person in a billion who possesses it.

  5. Louis Pasteur wrote, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

    As a game master, I have really good players. I’m currently running three campaign for a total of 13 players, all of whom are serious about roleplaying, nearly all interested in the worlds, and none suffer from power-gaming or rules lawyering. And I have people comment on how they don’t have my good fortune in my players. But I built up that population over a couple of decades of sustained work: running campaigns consistently every month, offering the most interesting campaign proposals I could come up with, networking to recruit new players through friends, and inviting in people who weren’t gaming but who had lively imaginations and would fit into a “collective storytelling” framework. And I see lots of people who have one little closed group of players and don’t try to bring in new people, and still less to introduce new people to the hobby—and who think that their groups getting stagnant is bad luck.

    The same logic applies to pretty much everything people attribute to “luck,” I think.

  6. I could handle normal “luck”. Right now I just wish the world would stop shitting on me.

    Okay, whine over. For those who don’t follow on facebook, I’m looking for a job that doesn’t involve commuting at levels that will kill me. My first attempt at a new job had a 2 hour each way commute, and damn near did kill me. Narcolepsy + normal workday + 2 hour commute in each direction = bad news.

    Meanwhile, there’s writing to catch up on, and hopefully enough coming in from somewhere that we don’t go under. Hubby’s salary isn’t enough to live on, unfortunately.

    Onwards, and something. Possibly involving working out why #2 cat (the wussy one) is scared to use the litterboxes in the basement.

    1. Ghosts. I recommend some infrared cameras.

      Okay — yeah, but Kate, you’re keeping on.

      And lately I feel like the world is taking a baseball bat to me too and I just want it to STOP chasing me around and beating.

      1. Oh ghod. I SO do not need haunted kitty potties. It’s bad enough figuring out where the smell is coming from THIS time.

        I’m keeping on because I swear I don’t know HOW to give up. Never found that box.

        And yes. Just stop beating on us for long enough to let us sort our bloody selves out. You start getting shellshocked after a while.

      1. Wayne, that 2 hour commute was to Philadelphia city. My only way in/through Philly is the 422/I76 corridor – aka about the worst damn road in the area. It starts being a parking lot before 6-30am, and just gets worse.

        Cherry Hill isn’t an option unless you’re talking 100% telecommute. But thank you for the thought. 🙂

    2. I could handle normal “luck”. Right now I just wish the world would stop shitting on me.

      I can identify with that feeling. Recent stroke, recent ulcer, ongoing clinical depression and other brain malfunctions, both parents institutionalized and need looking after, etc., etc., etc. And AFAICT, any job I have both the health and the skills for requires a degree that I haven’t got and can’t afford to get.

      Writing for money, for me, is Hobson’s choice. And because of all these other factors, it goes so damned slowly. I had planned to have about half a dozen books out by the end of this year. Instead, book #1 did not come out till August, and #2 is still in preparation. I don’t begrudge anyone the ‘luck’ of working long enough and hard enough to be discovered by an audience. I just wish I had enough luck with my general life to let me get on with my own attempt.

      As they say, it never rains but it pours. I wouldn’t mind, but every time it pours, the wind blows so that I can’t open my bloody umbrella.

      I believe I agree with your conclusion. ‘Onwards, and something’ is the only thing I can think of offhand.

      1. Whenever I feel like the rains are too much I try to remember that Flannery O’Connor had lupus in a time when that was a death sentence… plus she kept writing. How can I do less?

        1. Yes, indeed, Flannery O’Connor kept writing. The Complete Stories contains 31 short stories. She also published two novels and three books of miscellaneous stuff. Not bad at all, especially considering the quality of her writing. But I wonder what people would say to her nowadays — especially indie publishing gurus, who think that half a million words a year is a paltry output, and that the secret to success as a writer has nothing to do with quality — it’s VOLUME, VOLUME, VOLUME! Dean Wesley Smith would probably sneer at her and call her an amateur.

          If I can get sufficiently unstuck, I have about two days’ work to do on the last piece to finish a projected essay collection (on various aspects of J. R. R. Tolkien’s creative process, what I refer to as ‘the Tolkien Method’). I already have the cover art for that. My next novel (the first in a series) is finished except for the cover (and one minor fix to some of the chapter headings). Then there’s formatting to be done. It is conceivable that I could have three books to show for 2012. But people who are supposed to be experts keep telling me I am a failure, failure, failure, if I don’t have something new on the market every month — or every week. The gloom does not help me get work done, I can tell you.

          1. By the way, I do not mean to imply that all indie publishing gurus have contempt for quality and think it’s all about immense volume. (Isaac Asimov, the patron saint of prolific writers, only managed about half a million words a year, for heaven’s sake.) It’s just that there are several prominent ones who do, and they are loud and vocal and have many followers.

            1. The question, Tom, in the worldwide market place is… What is quality? A book I’ve been reading suggests that for the last 100 years, “quality” in publishing often meant “semi-disguised socialism” — though I’ll say that by the time I came in it had to be open.

              Ric Locke said that if you didn’t write in Martian (and even if you did) you were almost guaranteed there was a huge potential audience for you.

              Or to quote Kris Rusch “I don’t care if you think what you’re writing is crap. Put it all out. If you’re ashamed use a pen name. Let the readers judge.”

              I can tell you, for myself, that the stories selling well are NOT what I’d expect.

              So… what is quality? Let the future choose. Just write.

              As for number of words, like you this year I wrote a lot less than I should. Real life interfered. If you think Kris and Dean don’t understand that, you’re wrong. Dean stopped writing for almost two years while dealing with a friend’s estate.

              BUT while working TRADITIONALLY I had to go well over that half million words in the year I was ALSO homeschooling (and where one of the houses demanded two nitpicky re-writes.)

              I did it because I had to. I wouldn’t do it again for all the tea in China, but I had no choice.

              1. The question, Tom, in the worldwide market place is… What is quality? A book I’ve been reading suggests that for the last 100 years, “quality” in publishing often meant “semi-disguised socialism” — though I’ll say that by the time I came in it had to be open.

                Yes, that may be part of why I couldn’t even get a rejection out of New York in recent years. But that is not what I mean by quality.

                What I mean by quality is the ability to (1) tell an emotionally engaging story in (2) a vivid style that contains enough detail, and the right detail, to awaken the reader’s imagination, while (3) avoiding as many as possible of the solecisms and blunders that bounce readers out of the book. Plain, simple commercial writing, in other words; but honest writing, which communicates something about the writer’s perception of the world, and doesn’t merely push the buttons of a subset of readers with particular fetishes.

                By this standard the Fifty Shades books are short on quality: they appeal enormously to a starved audience that wants female-submissive heterosexual bondage stories (but was generally too PC to admit it), but from the reactions I’ve heard from readers outside that group, the plot and the characters are much too thin for it to have any appeal to those who aren’t interested in that particular kink. Whereas Lolita, for instance, said things about human nature in general, dominance and exploitation in other forms besides the overtly sexual, and said it with a certain amount of philosophy and a lot of panache; so that you don’t have to be interested in stories about middle-aged men boffing underaged girls to appreciate it. In fact, it helps if you’re not. People who are looking for porn to scratch that kind of itch are rather likely to come away from Lolita outraged, because it does not treat their obsession with the indulgent moral toleration that they expect from their fapping material.

                Of course there is a wide range between these books, and neither Fifty Shades nor Lolita represents the extreme end of the continuum. Now, I don’t disapprove of button-pushing work as such, though I think I’ve made it clear that I do not regard it as the highest form of literature. But I have the handicap of being an emotionally honest writer: I have never learnt the techniques of catering to a fixation in the audience that does not happen to interest me. I could not, for instance, write M/M slash fic to save my soul, because that whole vein of eroticism is opaque to my imagination, and if I tried to write it, it would be too obvious that it leaves me cold. I have to have the feeling that in some respect I am telling the truth, at least about my subjective experience and personal beliefs, or else the well goes dry and the words will not come. And the particular things that push my buttons (in a positive way) are just not things one can build a profitable audience with. Rule 34 applies, but it doesn’t guarantee that there will be many people who like what you like.

                So I have to fall back on the tried and true formula of popular fiction from The Iliad on down, and try to do it well. Very few writers have done that form well while churning out a story a week. Ray Bradbury did for a while, in his twenties, but even he slowed down with age. I find that I can write interesting fiction only when I am at the peak of my mental abilities — three or four hours per day, as a rule, until I begin to flag and get tired, if I am in health; zero hours per day if one of my illnesses is affecting my brain functioning, which has been the case more often than not since my stroke. It is thoroughly frustrating; and it is more frustrating to be told that there is no point in writing at all unless I crank out a lot more wordage than I am physically able to do.

                1. Actually if I can write four hours a day, I am pretty happy. Also it is zero when I am not feeling good. I woke up today looking like I was fighting all night, and I haven’t been able to write a word on my stories. I seem to have a lot to say about other things though. 😉 So welcome to the club– writing is physically hard work, too.

                    1. Because — squirrel!

                      Squirrel? Where? Where? Where where WHERE?

                      ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF ARF—

                      Uh, I mean, I really do pity these poor crazy people who don’t have perfect concentration all the time. Because it’s not like that ever happens to me, nuh uh, no sirree Bob.

          2. You are being too sensitive Tom– I am sure Dean would say no such thing. 😉 Good luck with your endeavors though. I try and work on one short short (400-800 words) a week to put up on a blog. I am also working on a novel that I haven’t been able to work on for about three weeks now. UGH. (illness and what-not).

            Since I started this indie-madness I have four novels up (1 1/2 years) almost seven collections of shorts. A biography about my illness and some reflections. Many of this stuff I wrote before my illness and I have taken out of the drawers. Some of it is actually new. Some I wrote during my illness and I had to relook at them. Chemo does a number on the head sometimes so I had to actually rewrite a bunch of the stories.

            But, overall I feel good at what I was able to accomplish this year. I just don’t seem to have enough energy or enough time. I have three novels on the burner (working on) and two novels that I started several years ago and I need to finish. I did a lot of 1/3 novels ;-)… Charge!!!!

            1. Also – I make my own covers– thanks Sarah for the Dreamstime– I found an image I could use for my next collection of shorts. Plus I do my own POD interiors. I was a typesetter in another life so it isn’t that hard for me. 😉

              1. I have a professional artist who does my covers in exchange for editorial work (she writes SF on the side), but she has been laid up with severe migraines. Her medications stopped working and it took several months of trial and error to find a replacement that did the job. It wasn’t until this past week that she had both the health and the time to finish my cover design. Troubles all around, and my own by no means the worst.

                1. Does she take suggestions about the migraines? I used to have migraines until I found out that one of my triggers is aged cheese (most cheese actually except feta or goat cheese). Please pass it on to her– it really helps–

                  Plus the researchers are found out recently that aged cheese is a common trigger for migraine sufferers. Vit C also helps when you are in the middle of a migraine. I mean you don’t have to pass it on– but it might help her.

                  1. Mine is… pine trees. No, I’m not joking. And I grew up in the middle of pine forests. I found out that was it when (because we had cats) we put the Christmas tree in my bedroom. OMG was that hellish. Since then I’ve found I do better with artificial, anyway.

                  2. Oh, she went through every single item in her diet to see if they triggered her migraines, and they all came up negative. It turns out that her problem (like mine, when I have my occasional migraines) is plain old hypertension. Unlike me, though, she goes on having migraines even when her blood pressure is normal, unless the hypertension meds are supplemented with other things. Finding those other things is the tricky part. Apparently there is a certain class of antidepressants (I don’t know which; she can never remember the name when I ask her) that has this effect for her when used off-label, but these drugs also tend to lose effectiveness after several years’ use.

                    1. ummm – atmospheric pressure does it for me too… but only when I have eaten something that triggers–

                      ouch, ouch– well it sounds like she has other problems as well as her migraines– she has my sympathies– I had my first migraine when I was 20. Plus I had a faux stroke with it.

                    2. I may have mentioned it to you before, but my wife’s peripheral neuropathy gets stirred up by electrical storms, and we just had a thunderstorm here, in freakin’ December!.

                      Stupid weather.

                    3. I rarely have migraines, or the actual headache part, but I have all the other before and after symptoms, including auras. Have been having them since my early 20’s. For me one trigger seems to be bright light, at least I see more auras during that part of the spring when there is still snow on the ground, if we also have clear sunny days, and then around midsummer – again if we have sunny weather – than any other times of the year.

            2. You are being too sensitive Tom– I am sure Dean would say no such thing.

              Actually, he told me that to my face (figuratively speaking) — called me an amateur, and doomed to failure, because I let slip that I had once spent three years working on one book.

              1. Well – was it a first book? I spent almost twenty years on my first book– It was a coming of age story, which I published March this year or last year… oh well. It would be reasonable for a first book. Anyway– I am probably an amateur still– until I can start to pay for all the extras by selling books– then I would be professional.

                I don’t get upset when I am called an amateur actually because it just means that if I sell enough pass to that professional status. Now if he had called you a hobbyist I would be insulted. 😉

                1. It was and wasn’t a first book. That is, it was me returning to my first book many years later, with greatly improved craft and experience, and rewriting it from the ground up. Oh, and by the way, my present intention is to self-publish it as an eight-book series; it’s long enough for that, easily. But DWS did the (wrong) math and told me that I was destined to fail because I was only writing 80 words a day.

                  1. Having known Dean for over ten years, let me share a secret: sometimes he says things like that as a kick in the butt. He thinks that’s what you need to spur you to work more/try harder.

                    Yes, he often misjudges (and he’s made me mad as fire, more than once.) But let me tell you something — my husband and I were talking about our relationship with K & D yesterday and we both realized the times we’ve disagreed with them, facts/future history proved us wrong. So now if they say something that sounds wrong, we are very careful about dismissing it.

                    1. Well, he was dead wrong when he said that I was only writing 80 words per day. That was based on his own assumptions about how long a book should be, and also on the assumption that I was only writing one draft. Neither the facts nor the future history could possibly prove him right about matters of existing fact. He simply guessed, and guessed wrong, and used that as a stick to beat me with. And when I called him on it and showed him the math, he sneered harder and said I was evading the issue — among other things.

              2. Depends. Were you rewriting it to death? He would say that.

                Rewrite — I know, I know, but it’s true — requires way more skill than writing. Unless the book is ten years old, and you can see its flaws clearly, you’re less likely to have a good book after three years of beating on it than before. It’s counterintuitive, but I speak from experience. There is a reason the Minoan Fantasy Saga needs to be rewritten from word one. I spent five years working on it. It has everything but the kitchen sink. And it makes no sense whatsoever from an emotional/narrative point of view. You lose track of what the reader sees when you spend that long on something. You just do.

                1. No, my problem was that I was rewriting it to life, and discovering just how much life there really is in a long-form (multi-volume) fantasy. The things are Hydra-headed: they sprawl and ramify and grow all over the place, and all your best intentions of sticking to the story cannot stop it, because all that sprawl is the story.

                  Every writer who tries long-form fantasy has to go through this learning experience. It happened to Tolkien, who once wrote to a fan that he had reached Chapter XXXI in ‘the new Hobbit’ and required six more chapters to finish it. In the event, he needed 31 more chapters (and about seven more years). Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin learned this lesson the hardest way, by doing it in public and publishing as they went along. They both set out to eat the elephant, without having figured out just how damned big an elephant it was. Jordan died before he could finish; Martin looks like he may make it, but he does not appear to be a well person and I should not be surprised (though I would be sad) if he, too, died with his major work unfinished. Ars longa, vita brevis.

                  As I was saying to my father the other day, it’s like a lumberjack setting out to cut down a row of trees that all look about the same size. Only as he goes along does he discover that this is an illusion. The closest tree looks the same size as the farthest tree, but that farthest tree is miles away and is actually a monster a thousand feet high. He will need better tools than a plain old axe if he wants to chop through that trunk faster than it grows back.

                  1. On the long-form multi-volume fantasy front, let me let you in on a few little bits on industry laundry (which I heard at a convention – industry gossip can be very enlightening).

                    Jordan’s epic was initially planned and sold to his publisher as a trilogy. That’s why the first two books have so much more plot in them than any of the later ones. He was offered large amounts of money (the writerly equivalent of winning the lottery, except a damn sight harder to crack) to expand the thing, so he did what any sane-ish writer would do and said “Of course I can do that.” The rest is 12 very fat volumes in which the plot advances on average 3 days and 30 miles apiece.

                    I don’t know if Martin got a similar offer, but I wouldn’t be surprised: in a field where making 30,000 a year is good money anyone with that kind of offer would be an idiot not to take it.

                    Having my own sprawling fantasy Epic With Everything currently buried in my files until I work out how to make it manageable, I submit that what you’ve got is probably a combination of something where you’re not entirely sure what the story actually is, multiple stories sharing the same time frame and universe (in which case one of them is the core story and should be the first book(s), then the rest become ancillary pieces – this is easier to diagnose than to fix, which is why the Epic With Everything is still unpublished). Festering subplots can be trimmed, but if you have more than one main character, you’re not writing for modern reading.

                    The nice thing about indie is that this doesn’t matter unless you want to make buckets of money. You can take three years per book and get your trickle of income from them. You’ll build a fan base, but you’ll build it much more slowly than someone who’s writing multiple books a year or multiple short stories (and yes, I’m a natural novelist, too. Short just doesn’t happen unless I force it).

                    The old nonsense from the industry that it’s no good if it didn’t take at least a year can go to bed. So can any other nonsense about speed of writing vs quality of writing. Some people write fast. Some take longer. In the current world, if you are a slow writer, you probably won’t be professional in the sense of “making a living from it”, but that won’t make you a better or worse writer than the person who does write fast.

                    1. The old nonsense from the industry that it’s no good if it didn’t take at least a year can go to bed.

                      Indeed. And it always could, as far as I’m concerned. People tried to think less of William F. Buckley when they found out he dashed off his National Review editorials in 45 minutes and sent the first draft to press; but he was Buckley and those critics just made themselves look foolish. I find that I can write essays like that, though my essays are usually longer than Buckley’s editorials and the time is increased accordingly. (‘Style is the rocket’, which I mentioned somewhere in this thread, took me a whole night and part of a second to write. It is something over 6,000 words long. Fiction, for me, goes slower, because there are so many more things to keep track of at once.

                  2. Oh, how true. I made several stabs at a novel that failed miserably, though my shorts were creeping up in length all the time.

                    Then one snuck up on me in disguise as a novelette. Which had its problems since I then had to go back and revise it twice to put in everything I had left out in hopes of keeping it short before I realized that was impossible.

                    I worked on it for years. Most of the time it spent on the backburner while I worked on other novels, mastering the form, with two big burst of revision.

                    Now I just try to keep it on the market.

                1. That reminds me — Cyn, if you want someone to proofread a story or two for you pro bono , let me know. It’s been on my mind to make the offer for a couple of months now, but school has been my first priority. However, as the end of the semester is in sight, I might as well make the offer now. I do have experience working freelance as a line editor and proofreader, both for indie authors and for traditionally published authors, for what it’s worth.

                  Let me know. My email address is sueshep at mit dot edu.

                    1. That’s true enough, but there’s a limit as to how much proofreading I can get done in a month.

                      If regular readers of this blog want to send me an email, I can take the first five or ten people and proofread a story or two for them, with the caveats that a) it won’t get done all at once, b) I’m looking to help with short stories, not novellas or novels — call it 10,000 words, max, as a sanity check — and c) if your story needs more than mere proofreading, I may respectfully decline. I won’t be rude about it or anything, but it’s better to spend twenty hours helping ten people than to spend twenty hours trying to wrestle a single story into readability. And I can’t really dedicate more time than that to pro bono work.

                      If people are actually interested, I can try to set things up so that I can volunteer to do this two or three times a year. Probably can’t do much more than that, I’m afraid.

                    2. That was admittedly poorly phrased on my part. I don’t mind if you send me a novella, Cyn; I’ve seen samples of your writing. But if I volunteer to proofread for folks in general, it’s useful to have some ground rules in place; there’s no guarantee that the people who I know from comments would be the ones to take me up on the offer. No offense intended, guys.

                    3. Not a problem Susan – I agree with you 100 percent. At this point I have a collection of short stories I am preparing for digital and POD. In the works is a novella, which will be a little while before I am reading to send out for proofing so you’ll be on my list when that one is ready. 😉 Thanks for the offer–

          3. Sorry, but the secret to success in indie IS volume (though a certain quality is needed.)

            I don’t think Dean would sneer at her — nor would I — some of us simply need to produce more to stay afloat.

            1. How much volume? DWS appears to insist on a minimum of a new title published every week. That’s nice if you write nothing but short stories, but it’s flat-out impossible for a novelist. As I mentioned upthread, Asimov His Own Self did not write enough wordage to meet DWS’s volume requirement.

                1. Unfortunately, I don’t get ideas for short stories very often. By this I mean, once every year or two if I’m lucky. Novels are what I prefer to read, and they are overwhelmingly what my brain prefers to write.

                  I wasted a lot of time trying to write short stories (because that was what you were supposed to do to pay your dues and break in) before I figured out why none of them were any good.

                  1. Are there ways to break your novel? Before you scream — in Portugal because of the nature of the language — even 60k word novels here were serialized in three. It’s amazing how they found breaking points, but they did. (Novels grow in Portuguese.)

                    What I’m saying is, it’s best to have three segments of 50k words that you sell at 4.99 each than one 150k word novel that sells for 9.99.

                    Jordan and Martin (still, because he broke in much earlier) were/are working for publishing expectations that no longer exist — or at least not in indie. (Actually not in trad. either. they’re now asking for 100k words.)

                    1. Already done; as I mentioned somewhere or other in the thread, I am planning to release the thing in eight books. But it is still one novel; and complaining because I spent three years writing an eight-book series doesn’t sound quite such an open-and-shut case, does it, now? But when I mentioned that fact to DWS, that was one of the points where he accused me of shirking the issue and then changed the subject.

                    2. Well, that’s because you started by misusing the word, and yeah, it would cause that reaction. Sorry, if someone came to me and said, “I took three years to write a novel” I too would assume 100k words and afterwards would assume they were giving excuses.

                      You misused the word. I don’t care if it’s a single book. If it can be broken in eight, it’s not one novel, it’s three.

                      Take my musketeer vampire thing. It’s one very long book, but I sold it as a trilogy and it will eventually be issued indie as such (one more year.) I might sell an omnibus, but first comes the trilogy.

                      And in indie, the volume is more important than the length.

                    3. You misused the word. I don’t care if it’s a single book. If it can be broken in eight, it’s not one novel, it’s three.

                      I beg to differ, Ma’am, but if it is one continuous story running the entire length, it is one novel. This usage is well established. Virginia Woolf detested long books and used to sneer at them; one of her favourite terms of abuse was ‘four-volume novel’. This usage is still current: Wikipedia (I just checked) describes À la recherche du temps perdu as ‘a novel in seven volumes’.

                      The thing that defines a novel is its narrative structure — not that it is a very rigid structure; but at any rate a novel needs to have a beginning, an end, and some amount of middle (which can vary tremendously in size). This is the essence, as Aquinas would say; the binding is an accident. If you depart from this, you immediately involve yourself in silly contradictions. For instance, you would have to say that The Lord of the Rings was three novels when Allen & Unwin published it in three volumes; but the same book is one novel when it is published in an omnibus edition. You would also have to say that Tristram Shandy is one novel today, but was nine novels when it originally appeared. And I don’t know what you would have to say about Dickens’ novels, which were serialized in newspapers a chapter at a time; or about your own Witchfinder, for that matter. Is it 67 novels and counting, just because you’re releasing the draft in serial form?

                    4. Good G-d man. I don’t care what Virginia Wolfe called it. You were using the wrong terminology for the market NOW — i.e. the one we’re all using now. It can be one STORY but it’s eight novels or a “series” because that’s what the market would call it now.

                      I don’t particularly care if 30k words were “novellas” until very recently (and still are in some places) and if in the golden age they were “novels” — I call them short novels, because I want people to understand me.

                      Look — my degree is in linguistics. Using a word in a form other people don’t get is not purity. It’s miscommunication.

                      Yes, okay, say “it is an opus in four volumes” if it makes you happy. But don’t say “it’s a novel.” Even Martin doesn’t say he’s writing ONE novel. No, he’s writing a series.

                    5. Good G-d man. I don’t care what Virginia Wolfe called it. You were using the wrong terminology for the market NOW — i.e. the one we’re all using now.

                      All right, then. How many novels is The Lord of the Rings? And is it really a different number of novels from itself, depending on the binding?

                      The terminology you’re using now is inaccurate, confusing, and misses essentials to focus on accidents. In any case, I bloody well told DWS how long this thing was that I spent three years on, and he still said I was only writing 80 words per day. He insisted on that even when he knew the facts, because by that point his mind was already made up.

                      By the way, I was a linguistics major, too, though I had to leave university without taking my degree; so you don’t get to pull rank on me for that.

                    6. I’m not pulling rank — If you were a linguistic’s major you now language exists in a moment.

                      You can call Lord of the rings Frappe for all I care, but if you call eight volumes a novel, people will think it maxes at 200 k words or so. if you’re okay with that, go for it.

                      I always ASSUMED and heard Lord of the Rings referred to as a trilogy.

                      You can say it is one “work” but it damn well isn’t “a novel.” Oh, it might be in some essential “novelness” place — but if you call it that no one will understand it because that’s not what ANYONE ELSE NOW calls eight volumes of writing.

                      Now, if that’s your goal, carry on!

                    7. P.S. to the last: I notice you fixed on Virginia Woolf, and carefully ignored the fact that a current Wikipedia article has exactly the same usage. And this usage is standard: nobody, and I mean nobody, calls Proust’s magnum opus a series of seven novels just because it was published in seven bindings. If the publishing industry wants to change its jargon in such a way as to get a fundamental term wrong, that’s its own funeral. I am not dealing with the publishing industry, thank God, and don’t have to edit my language to suit the party line of the day. I am surprised that you should expect it of me.

                    8. Dear Mr. Simon,

                      I WORK IN THIS INDUSTRY. If you approach an editor and tell him/her you have a novel in eight volumes, they’ll think you’re doing 10k word “volumes” and an episodic novel.

                      I could give a fig what Wikipedia says or what someone calls Proust’s opus. I am talking about current marketing lingo, which you bet your behind is what Dean heard too.

                      As I said, for all I care, you can call it eggs with bacon on the side, BUT if you’re talking to someone in the industry, be aware they’ll make assumptions based on the words you use and how they’re used TODAY to market novels/series.

                      If you don’t want to sully yourself with using what you consider the wrong word, they call it “eight volumes” and when asked tell them the length.

                    9. I’m not pulling rank — If you were a linguistic’s major you now language exists in a moment.

                      I know that’s the party line according to Chomsky. I am also of the opinion that Chomsky was an absolute disaster for the field. His Holy Grail of a universal generative grammar not only excludes most of the phenomena of human language from the purview of linguistics, it is almost certainly nonsensical in its own terms — logically impossible to achieve, as a matter of information theory. But that’s neither here nor there—

                      Look, language is said to exist synchronically, and it really doesn’t: because language takes time to utter, and it changes even while, for instance, I am writing this reply to you. What most of my professors never understood, but the professors of historical linguistics knew perfectly well and carried in their bones, is that language also exists diachronically, as a thing that maintains its continuity even as it changes over time. To prefer Monday’s usages because today is Monday, and reject Sunday’s usages as hopelessly antiquated, is to fall prey to the lowest and worst kind of snobbery: chronological snobbery — the mere worship of passing fashion. In this context I note that the King James Version of the Bible remains to this day the most widely read and respected English translation, while scores of newer translations (that sought to ‘update’ the Bible by putting it in the dialect of the moment) have fallen by the wayside; and people still read Shakespeare for pleasure and even understand him, while thousands of ‘modern’ authors have been utterly forgotten.

                      So no, language does not exist ‘in a moment’. Nothing that takes more than a moment to happen can exist in a moment. It is just the fashion among postmodernist linguists to pretend that the current moment is the only one that matters; it saves them the trouble of learning the whole picture of language (or a language) through history.

                      I always ASSUMED and heard Lord of the Rings referred to as a trilogy.

                      Tolkien was very explicit on that point. As far as he was concerned it was a single work, as unified as he could make it; publishing it in three volumes was purely a publisher’s decision — he had nothing to do with it, and regretted it. But I come back to the point, because you keep evading the issue: Is it one novel when published in one volume, yet three novels when the very same text is published in three volumes? If so, the term ‘novel’ has no meaning.

                      You can say it is one “work” but it damn well isn’t “a novel.” Oh, it might be in some essential “novelness” place — but if you call it that no one will understand it because that’s not what ANYONE ELSE NOW calls eight volumes of writing.

                      Gee, someone should tell Wikipedia that they’re doing it wrong. In the article ‘Novel’, too — it’s all about what kind of narrative a novel is, and nothing about how many volumes it’s published in.

                      Now, if that’s your goal, carry on!

                    10. Tom- You need to be careful of wikipedia– I went to check on what they had on my disease and it was years out of date. When I asked for changes, I was told “no” because I wasn’t a doctor– only a patient. So Wikipedia’s accuracy in most cases imho is in question. I check their sources before I believe them. 😉 Good God, they had that a person with my disease will die in five years. With the new treatments I have been able to hang on for ten and hope to carry on for another twenty. However– that is a prime example of what you find on wikipedia– old, out of date information. Sometimes correct, and many times not correct.

                      So calm down– I think it is amazing that you were able to write eight novels (with one narrative) in three years. Let’s NOT split hairs on if it is one novel or eight. It is still amazing especially if you are doing it while dealing with a stroke.

                      Hope you get this out soon– and do well if you decide to do indie.

                    11. Um. Tom? Actually, regardless of what literature affiffionados (each with his offifial bottle of offifial lemonade) (er, sorry, Flanders and Swann joke slipped in) call a “novel” has nothing to do with what Joe Average buying a book calls a “novel”. Me, I’d call Lord of the Rings three novels. Ditto to Proust’s books. Same as Tad Williams To Green Angel Tower which was split and sold as volumes 1 and 2 – that’s two novels to me, with a continuing plot. Not “one novel in two volumes”.

                      Also, not ONE author I’ve ever talked to thinks of their series as “a novel”. It’s always “X novels” or “a trilogy”, or some such, with the length of each book usually in the 100 – 200k range – although that’s starting to shift now, moving back to the Golden Age novel size of 60k with 100k being a “big” novel. If the series is a continuing story, it’s multiple novels with an overarching plot. If it’s not, it’s episodic with different characters carrying the plot of each novel. But it’s always more than one novel.

                      It’s always a good thing to use the terminology as it’s used by the people you’re trying to sell to. If I saw “a novel” for sale for $40 I’d say “screw that” – but I’d buy a set of 5 or more novels in a series for that price. I dare say I’m not alone.

                    12. Tom- You need to be careful of wikipedia– I went to check on what they had on my disease and it was years out of date.

                      My point stands regardless. The point here is that the Wikipedia article was written recently (and edited since then). Whether it is factually correct or not is irrelevant; the thing is that it is a recent and highly public example of the word novel being used in the sense that Our Hostess insists is obsolete. If it caused confusion, someone would have changed it; anybody can. Therefore I conclude that nobody was confused by it; ergo, that usage of the word is still good current English.

                    13. So calm down– I think it is amazing that you were able to write eight novels (with one narrative) in three years.

                      First, I am calm; you wouldn’t want to see me when I’m not — but thank you for your concern.

                      Second, I did not actually finish all of the material that will go into those eight eventual books in those three years. I suppose it should shame me to say so, but somehow it doesn’t. Indeed, it was my original intention to write that one narrative in such a way that it would be published in three parts, but could be broken up into seven if publishing economics made it urgently necessary. Then one of my beta readers pointed out to me that I had overlooked a perfectly good dividing point (in structural and dramatic terms), which would make it more natural to divide the whole thing into eight parts instead of seven.

                      You see why I prefer to save the term novel for the narrative as a whole, and not for the individual chunks? Until it comes out in print, nobody actually knows how many books it will be divided into — but it is always the same thing that is being divided.

                  2. Tom– you are write about one thing– not every one can write a short story. I have the other problem. It takes a lot of effort for me to write novels. I like reading novels, but I started life as a lyrical poetry (very short poetry I might add) and I am better with shorts. It doesn’t mean I don’t play with novels. I work on them too. It just means I have a lot of voices yelling in my head about why I am not writing shorts about them. 😉

                    1. I have this block with write–right– and have since I was on chemo.

                      I hear you; believe me, I hear you. I am so lucky my stroke didn’t affect my vocabulary. I did, however, have to teach myself to type all over again, because my right hand kept falling behind my left and I kept typing wrods otu fo rdoer.

                    2. When I gave myself concussion by collapsing in the bathroom, my reading speed went way down, partly because I destroyed peripheral vision. It’s still not up where it was.

                  3. Dear Mr. Simon,

                    I WORK IN THIS INDUSTRY. If you approach an editor and tell him/her you have a novel in eight volumes, they’ll think you’re doing 10k word “volumes” and an episodic novel.

                    I could give a fig what Wikipedia says or what someone calls Proust’s opus. I am talking about current marketing lingo, which you bet your behind is what Dean heard too.

                    Dear Mrs. Hoyt,

                    I DON’T WORK IN THIS INDUSTRY. I use words in their generally accepted meaning, not in the passing meaning that they have been assigned as a kind of weird internal code by the inventors of industry jargon. Marketing lingo does not interest me one iota. What does interest me is whether a given usage helps or hinders clear communication. When ‘novel’ becomes merely a synonym for ‘a book of fiction’, it becomes useless as a word. The structural and literary meaning of the term is one that is not covered by any other English word; whereas the marketing and bookbinding usage is perfectly well covered by the word ‘book’.

                    No good purpose is served by making ‘novel’ merely a five-dollar synonym for ‘book’. I therefore insist on preserving its unique and proper meaning, even if some other people want to confuse the issue and destroy a perfectly good differentiation in language. Language is all about differentiation: it is about coming up with different names for different things, and if you use different names for exactly the same thing, you destroy the difference and make the different things impossible to express concisely.

                    I also happen to put great store by logic, which is a subject about which most publishing people, in my experience, know nothing and care less. If the same work of fiction can be one novel or three, merely because it is issued in different bindings, then ‘novel’ is not a useful term for describing a work of fiction. One does not equal three, except in transfinite mathematics and Trinitarian theology. I will tell the entire publishing industry to go and boil its head before I will outrage my own reason by claiming that 1 = 3. Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders.

                    1. Tom, Sarah, you’re awesome. Being able to come home after a day of dealing with people who manage to misunderstand the instruction of “Enter command X and then put item Y inside this marked area”, and find two well-read, literate people having an argument over the modern interpretation of the word “novel” makes me squeak with laughter.

                      Thanks for making my night! It was a novel experience.

                    2. Dorothy, I did telephone tech support for 7 years, so I know exactly what you’re talking about.

                    3. One of the guys I worked with swore that on his previous helpdesk job he had gotten one of the classic story calls: Someone called and said their monitor was blank. “Is the monitor turned on?” Yes. “Is the computer turned on?” Yes. “Can you check behind your desk to see if the monitor is plugged in?” I can’t see anything. “Why not?” Because the lights are out. “Why are the lights out?” Because the power is off.

                      *Facepalm* *Headdesk* Ow! That was my hand! I should move it first, next time. 🙂

                    4. You wound me – everybody knows that for a wooden door you have to use a wood magnet. Unless it’s the door to the dust closet, of course, in which case you have to use a dust magnet.

                      And then there was that girl I recall from High School who was a boy magnet … and one co-worker who was a trouble magnet …

                    5. Another classic customer service rep–
                      My hubby worked as a service computer rep (civilian) for the Army when we lived down in Panama City, Panama. One of the secretaries was complaining that every time she put her floppy disk into the computer, all her data was lost.

                      I know Wayne– you have an idea what she was doing. When my husband got there, he found that she stuck the floppy to the metal file cabinet with a magnet… ARG–

                      He had to explain that the magnet was wiping away her documents.

                    6. > Dear Mrs. Hoyt, I DON’T WORK IN THIS INDUSTRY


                      What’s your goal here?

                      I wasted about a decade of my life in various pools of bad memes. At some point I decided that if I wanted better results I needed better memes, so I changed them…and it worked.

                      Let me pause and define what I mean by “bad” in the context of bad meme: “a belief or behavior which DOES NOT WORK to get me what I claim I want”. Thus, a bad meme is not FALSE, it’s merely non-useful.

                      Anyway, one of the bad memes I had was quite common in the Aspergers / SF-fan universe: the desire to beat up other people into using my terminology.

                      Recall that above I asked “what’s your goal here?”. That’s a serious question: what IS your goal here? Is it to (a) get advice on how to break into publishing? (b) to complain about how you were mistreated and misunderstood and thus garner sympathy? (c) to show an audience that you have a better knowledge of what the word “novel” means than Sarah does? (d) something else?

                      I’m going to assume that your goal is (a): to get advice that helps you on your path towards fulfilling your goal to get published.

                      If that’s your goal, then I suggest that you’d be better served by listening to Sarah’s advice and taking it. Sarah has told you three useful things:

                      i) you would be well served by listening to the things that Dean says
                      ii) you would be better served by working faster or working on shorter things
                      iii) you would be better served by using the term “novel” in the same way that everyone else in the field uses it.

                      Now, if your goal IS to have more success in the publishing field, you should strongly consider listening to Sarah.

                      If your goal is (b) to complain, I suggest that you’re not getting the reception here you want.

                      If your goal is (c) to show the audience your erudition, again, you’re not getting the reception here you want.

                      If you goal is (d) something else, you should define that and work towards it.

                      Right now your behavior seems to indicate that your STATED goal is a, but your actual REVEALED goal is something of a mix of b through d.

                      Sarah is wonderfully giving of free and useful advice. If I needed help on my truck’s clutch, and a wonderful mechanic freely gave me time to talk about the problem with the transmission fluid, I would not be well served by arguing that – TECHNICALLY SPEAKING – the fluid in question is hydraulic fluid that just happens to be in a transmission.

                      My two cents,


                    7. I still remember one unnerving black-out. I had two computers running. Only one went down. (The other ,of course, had a battery.)

                    8. tjic:

                      I believe I have exhausted my welcome here, so if you want a reply to your questions, you’ll have to ask me privately. (Click on my name above, and it will take you to my website; there is an email link at the bottom of the home page.) However, I must say that your tone makes it seem rather as if your questions are purely rhetorical, and motivated chiefly by the desire to tell me that I am a damned fool. My apologies if I have misread you.

                    9. Sigh. You have no exhausted your welcome. I was merely trying to point out SEMANTICS should not be the hill you choose to die on. And I got very exasperated at your deciding this was the most important thing in the world.

                      I don’t care if you’re right about the nomenclature — you might very well be — I’m telling you that no one will understand you if you insist in using it.

                      Take Larry Correia’s name. He mispronounces his last name, which is Portuguese. He pronounces it as Americans would. If I insist in pronouncing his name “correctly” in public, people will say “who?” I want to communicate, so I pronounce it correctly. MUCH later I might say “Oh, by the way he mispronounces his name.” at which point it’s funny and not confusing. (I told him that too — I like Larry.)

                      THAT was all I was trying to point out. Everything else was your reading of it.

                    10. Sigh. You have no exhausted your welcome. I was merely trying to point out SEMANTICS should not be the hill you choose to die on. And I got very exasperated at your deciding this was the most important thing in the world.

                      Thank you, Ma’am. I figured my welcome was exhausted when you started shouting (that is, replying to one of my comments in all caps). I was raised to believe that the height of good manners is knowing when to leave, and also that in such cases it’s best to err on the side of caution. (I once threw myself out of my own New Year’s Eve party for being rude. That was twelve years ago, and I have never allowed myself to host a party again.)

                      Allow me to say, at this point, that I am sorry I shouted back; also sorry that I fixed upon such a small point in the whole argument. My greatest weakness, perhaps, in discussion and debate is that I can be lured into a sort of tunnel-vision stubbornness in arguing small points. A friend has told me that I am the verbal equivalent of a street-fighter: I argue desperately and with all my strength, because I can never trust that my opponent will be bound by any Marquess of Queensberry rules. This is not one of my endearing traits (supposing I have any). I hope you can forgive me for inflicting it upon you needlessly.

                      I myself was exasperated that you seemed to have chosen DWS’s incorrect arithmetic as your hill to die on. He made, as I was trying to say, an incorrect assumption about how long the project I spoke of was; and when I pointed out that it was longer and therefore that his figures did not add up, he stuck to his original figure and resorted to simple abuse. I have seen him do the same to other commenters who disagreed with him on points of fact. This is not one of his endearing traits (and he does have a fair number).

                      Where the semantic point becomes important (to me) is here: To you and the industry and the book-buying public, a single narrative may indeed count as three novels, or eight, or fifty, once broken up into that many books. But not even the author knows how many to count it as before it has been broken up. Since mine has not yet been published (and the number of pieces is still subject to change), I have to say, as Gimli said to Legolas in the film: ‘That still only counts as one!’ To do anything else would be like saying how many slices there are in an uncut pizza.

                      If I may have your permission to return (briefly, I hope) to the real point at hand, here is what I am trying to figure out: DWS tends to express himself in overly absolute terms, which perhaps he does not altogether mean. He has preached a good deal about how you must publish a story every week, and this will produce a certain amount of profit after five years. Pass over the fact that nobody has ever actually followed his plan for five years, because there was no commercially viable outlet for ebooks five years ago. The big problem is that he writes as if anybody who does not fulfil that volume target (or anyone who only writes novels or other long books) should expect zero income. His prescription therefore is not helpful to me; it is, as the saying used to go, ‘not addressed to my condition’.

                      So what I am really trying to find out is if you (or someone) have any advice for a writer whose skill lies almost entirely in long-form work, and whose health won’t allow him to reliably pop out a novel every month or so. If I am spared any more serious illness, I shall probably have three books out by the end of this year, having released the first one in August; with a decent prospect of three more in the first half of 2013. Three books in half a year used to be considered a very respectable output, and it still is by most people — but by DWS’s stated standards, it is nothing. I said earlier that I refuse to admit that 1 = 3. I have even more trouble with 0 = 3.

                      If you have any thoughts about this matter, I should be very glad to hear them; with the proviso that ‘Listen to DWS’ is not a helpful answer, for reasons I have tried to explain above. Much of his advice is very sound indeed, but his numbers are not something that I can keep up with.

                    11. Get it up there as soon as you can, in as many segments as you can.
                      Look, I can’t do a story a week — not now. There was a time I could but my commitments were fewer.

                      Here’s what I’m going to give you though — more segments is better than one long one. I talked to someone who is making 1k a month from short stories, serialized, some segments only 1k words. He puts out one a week, but his stories are a novel in episodic form.

                      And when you decide the first segment, put it up. Give it time to find an audience. Expect almost movement till the second goes up. (Try for around 50k words. Try to put them out regularly, even if that’s “every three months.”)

                      I’d go Amazon prime for the first three months, and take the first free when the second comes out (change it at that time too, and put a link to the second at the end of the first.) Then take the second free when the third comes out. (with links to first and third.) etc. After three months,(make sure you select the limited prime time. You have to select it, or it auto-renews) put first into the other venues — smashwords, kobo — and then each segment as it comes off. And keep doing it.

                    12. Thank you very much. That sounds feasible — though 50k is a little short for my segments in this case. (It would be, as Tolkien said to Rayner Unwin, like the way the Oxford English Dictionary was first released — in little paper-bound sections like ‘Onomastical to Outing’ and ‘Simple to Sleep’. A necessary procedure at the time, but not very helpful to people who wanted a dictionary.) The first segment (which is now ready to go except for conversion to ebook formats) is about 80k. Future instalments will probably be in the same range, for narrative reasons.

                      If I may, I’d like to blow the horn for my cover artist, Sarah Huntrods. That first volume has been delayed because she was ill, but yesterday she delivered the ebook version of the cover. It’s rather different from most indie covers — painterly rather than photographic in style. She says she was deliberately trying to evoke the style of a slightly retro cover design executed in gouache. At any rate I like it, though I may be no judge; I think she has both talent and (what matters more) design skill. You can find a low-resolution version of the cover here:


                      P.S. Never having heard Larry Correia pronounce his name, I would have guessed almost the correct Portuguese pronunciation. I would have got the R wrong — the trilled R, as in Spanish or Italian, instead of the ‘back R’ found in German and French. (I speak some Spanish but no Portuguese.) So I wonder why Americans call him ‘Korea’. Perhaps he has a lot of Seoul.

                    13. HE pronounces it Korea 🙂 So does everyone else with the name in the US. And that pun was horrible.

                      Well, perspective — my great grandmother collected most of the family library. Because the village was mostly subsistence farmers, the booksellers sent a well… traveling salesman, with a bunch of chapters of the current novels, on a string attached to a pole. She bought her reads every week, a chapter at a time. CAN be done. (It would have driven me nuts, but..)

                      When she had the full book, she saved up to have it bound.

                      Likewise, you could do 50 thousand words, then release “collections” or Omnibus(es) of two or three segments, thereby maximizing visibility.

                    14. And that pun was horrible.

                      I believe the polite response for me to make at this point is ‘You’re welcome.’ I think I remember that from Emily Post, but I could be wrong.

                      Likewise, you could do 50 thousand words, then release “collections” or Omnibus(es) of two or three segments, thereby maximizing visibility.

                      That might be possible; though after releasing the first book as an 80k chunk, it might be not quite cricket to change methods midstream. The only serious downside is that I would need more cover art that way. I shall consider it, especially if the next segment takes longer than I anticipate. Thank you.

                      By the way, I’m glad you mentioned KDP Select, because I was thinking of that as an option and forgot to ask about it. Perhaps we should send each other blank messages, since you’re very good at answering the questions I don’t ask, but we both seem to get hung up on small details in the things I actually say. (*rueful grin*)

            2. My thoughts precisely — the bigger the pond, the bigger a fish you must be to stand out. Quality mattered with tradpub because the machinery existed to push quality (for certain definitions of quality, of course.)

              Indie, by removing the gatekeepers, reduces the importance of quality as a way of being noticed. It is a street fair, and the people with the biggest, flashiest displays are the ones who will catch the eyes. The standard here is not “good” so much as “good enough” and those who complain about the failure of the market to discern and reward quality are just another variant on the folk complaining because “Writer A just got lucky.”

              1. I found that if I rewrite… that something that was so interesting about the story in the first place can be lost. I do an edit– to check for misspelled words and grammar problems (I still miss some). Plus I make sure that the structure works at least to me. Then off it goes to the market.

                1. Yes, you DO need to edit, and run it by first readers. But you can beat the “life” out of a story by what I’d call “sentence rewrite” (not for grammar) and leave it utterly flavorless. I call this “boiled oatmeal.”

                    1. Sort of. Grey goo also requires you don’t have someone to cheer for. The thing is, you can tell a story in words SO perfect the reader can’t FEEL the story. The words get in the way.

                    2. Replying here to Our Hostess, because the nesting limit has been hit:

                      The thing is, you can tell a story in words SO perfect the reader can’t FEEL the story. The words get in the way.

                      That’s not perfect words, that’s just masturbating in public. If the words get in the way, they are by definition not perfect for the purpose of telling that story.

                      The trouble, of course, is that creative writing teachers, and all too many editors, fall in love with prose style and believe that storytelling is all about stringing pretty sentences together. As Aristotle observed, style (in prose or poetry) is the easiest thing to master. The hardest is coming up with an original plot — which is why most of Greek literature consists of retellings of the same reliable old myths and legends. Euripides never had to figure out what should happen to Oedipus next, so he could just spread himself on the technique.

                      At the risk of blowing my own horn, I wrote a piece last summer called ‘Style is the rocket’. I offer the link here to save the trouble of restating in detail what I said there, supposing that anybody is interested in pursuing the argument that far:


                    1. And you survived, and retained the ability to write tasty stuff? I salute you, Ma’am. My hat would be off to you, if it were not for the complicating fact that I have lost my hat and it is off due to brute circumstance.

                    2. Ummm – you should be congratulating Sarah too. She had more years learning how to write English lit style than I did. *running faster than Tom before Sarah realizes what I just wrote

                    3. No. You’d be absolutely right. H*ll, I taught it and can revert to it with frightening rapidity. (Scares the boys when I frame something so they can figure out how to write it. They’re STEM, so they can’t think “humanities” easily.)

                      Part of the acculturation was learning to think differently. I had been thinking in English for years, but … Portuguese has a spiral-form to thoughts. Now thinking in Portuguese feels like going insane. So, first I had to retool my mind. I probably shouldn’t count my first two or three years of writing.

                      But mind you, I should have won literary prizes. (Yes, I’ve buried those stories. Why do you ask.)

          4. I’m slowly crawling through the comments and yours made me pull up short. No one — and especially not Dean Wesley Smith or Kris Rusch — say quality has nothing to do with success. If you can’t put two words together so they make sense, or you can’t climb down off your literary high horse long enough to write an interesting story, it won’t matter how many books or stories you have out because no one will want to read anything after the first one. The key is to get something that is well-written and entertaining out there and to follow it up with something else that is well written and entertaining. You have to remember that readers want to be able to pick up another book by an author they like in pretty quick order after reading something by that author. If you don’t have something else out there, you run the risk of them forgetting about you. So, quit complaining that you are a “failure” according to some folks and publish.

            1. You are making a hell of a lot of assumptions about someone you don’t know. ‘Literary high horse’? ‘Can’t write an interesting story’? I’d like to hear what evidence you have in support of either of those claims.

              1. Tom, if you reread Amanda’s comment you might, just possibly, discover that her remarks were of a general nature and did not specifically apply to you. As she has (presumably) not read anything of yours she could not possibly have been describing your writing so much as she was describing the type of attitude which was the genesis of Sarah’s post: people whinging about “fairness” and “lock” rather than make the effort to understand a market and attempt to adapt to it.

              2. OMFG, man, get a grip and quit taking everything as a personal attack. I was writing in generalities, not specifically to you. What I will do is suggest you go back and read what Sarah has said, not only in this post but in her comments back to you and to others — and this time think about what she said before you react. Consider them in context and remember that she’s been doing this a long time, both as a traditionally published author and as small press and self-published. Then go back and read some of her other posts on publishing both here and at Mad Genius Club ( Think about it. Consider it. Think about it some more. Then decide just who has been overreacting and jumping to conclusions.

                1. You said, ‘If you can’t put two words together so they make sense, or you can’t climb down off your literary high horse long enough to write an interesting story,’ etc. — in the very next sentence after a ‘yours’ which was clearly a personal reference to me. I didn’t get that you had stopped making personal references and were now using ‘you’ in the generic sense. I apologize for misunderstanding.

      2. “As they say, it never rains but it pours.”

        In some cases [*COUGH*], it’s more a constant steady drizzle — enough to prevent one accomplishing what one needs to accomplish in order to move forward, but never enough such that people on whom it isn’t Drizzling cannot point to someone on whom it has Poured and say, “You Should Be Ashamed Of Yourself”, and refuse to so much as listen to one’s story, much less actually do anything helpful.

  7. There is much that is good about persistence. It really is a noble quality. But some people should quit.
    Let me tell you about my aunt Toots. She is safely dead.
    I would go over to her place with another uncle.
    The whole family was strange. The father – Buck – was gaunt and silent and had an entire wall of the living room covered in horseshoe trophies.
    Their boy was so strange I refused to go in the woods with him. Madness shone out of his eyes and he had an inordinate fondness for guns.
    The mother was in her 50s when I would visit. She dressed like a teenager of her generation still. Poodle skirts and ankle socks. When she sat it was theatrical. She swirled her skirts and made a show of simply sitting. She would not allow anyone else to speak. She kept this monologue going and would suck in breath between sentences because she was afraid somebody else might say something if she paused too long. To the point once she didn’t suck enough air and her eyes rolled back in her head and she rolled off the couch flat on her face. Simply because she wouldn’t shut up. No wonder the father was silent.
    She fancied herself a writer.
    Dear God.
    She had four huge filing cabinets full of stories. This was before computers. But it was all hand written. No typewriter…
    She was absolutely convinced when she finally got her break – all this back copy would be sold. She would sit back and the money would roll in.
    What did she write?
    Children’s Christian Lit-er-a-ture.
    So horribly sweet Jesus himself would have gouged his eyes out after two or three pages to have his name stapled to this – stuff.
    There are times and situations giving up is not only wise and beneficial, after all those endless wasted hours could have been used for knitting or something. But for those around you it can be actual charity.

    1. The thing is, if she were alive today and indie-pubbed, she might reach an audience of like-minded people, or post for free on-line and hook up with other people who wear poodle skirts in their ’50s. My trash is someone else’s treasure, and vice versa, and all that. (After all, there are lit-snob types who look on SF&F with the same amount of disdain. ;-))

            1. *chuckle* I’ve written for a furry ‘zine which was so stringent in the “no, we will NOT have any furversion here!” that I couldn’t get published one which had, A: a kit born out of “wedlock” and B: one of the protagonists seducing an antagonist (with basically no description of anything but lecherous flirtation and a bit of ear-licking) to smack him with a sedative. Lords, some poor furvert looking for smut would have to use a microscope.

              Oh, and another one didn’t make it in for overt propositions and some ear-licking.

              But #1 later became a Never Before Published short story in the saga, and #2 got into a small press anthology, so it’s all good.

              (As for slash? Oh, just ask me about the degenerate slashfic I’ve written. Muwhahahaha!)

  8. Luck is the residue of design.
    Branch Rickey

    Said the guy who invented Baseball’s farm system, based on the idea that increasing your resources and investing in their development increases your chances of success.

    Sports offers many examples of this principle because so much of what goes on happens out in the open, mostly. Basketball coach Bobby Knight is quoted: “Most people have the will to win, few have the will to prepare to win.” When Michael Jordan was in High School he met plenty of basketball players with more “talent” — but few of them had the discipline to develop their talent as fully as he.

    The effort that is required to succeed and remain successful is often under-rated by onlookers. Think those Victoria’s Secret Angels are just blessed by the genetic lottery? NFL star Tom Brady has reportedly tried the workout routine of his wife, model Gisele Bündchen, and said it left him in the dust. Those inclined to dismiss that as husbandly gallantry should read this description of the pre-show conditioning regimen of one of those genetically blessed:

    The physical training is brutal. For the past three weeks, [model Adriana] Lima has been working out twice a day. She boxes, jumps rope, and lifts weights.

    During training, Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For the nine days before the show, she drinks only protein shakes that contain powdered egg—no solids.

    Right before the show, Lima “dries out.” Two days prior, she’ll drink regularly, and starting 12 hours before, she’ll cut liquids entirely. The process can cause models to drop eight pounds, Lima told the Telegraph.

    1. With all due respect to Mr. Rickey:

      Bullshit. I have followed auto racing for near-as-makes-no-odds four decades; I have seen all too many instances where the best-prepared, best-designed, best-of-everything team didn’t win, all due to (as Two-face once put it) “Blind, simple, stupid, clueless, doo-dah *LUCK*. Best example I can find: , but there’s *many* others.

      In racing, the saying is: “I’d rather be Lucky than Good”. There Is A Reason For This.

      1. Perhaps you’ve noticed that some racing teams are consistently in position to be “lucky”? That is by design. It doesn’t much matter how lucky you are if your car isn’t in the race.

        For thirty some years teams developed by Branch Rickey were consistently in position to be lucky.

        1. Yeah, that’s how we can tell that Lady Luck is a real perverse and ungracious soul.

          I’m working on a story in which a monotheist religion worships Fortuna. There are many theological views of her. One is that one. 0:)

  9. There are people with a lot worse health and problems that I have. My hubby is the mainstay of my life. BTW I think that if I hadn’t had this type of bump in the road (illness) I would probably still be working in electronics or teaching creative writing. I had a job teaching poetry around the time I became ill the first time. So it is a blessing in disguise. My complaint is that I just don’t have that much energy–

    Anyway– “what’s luck gotta do with it” re-phrasing Tina Turner. I am also a Saturday’s child. Everything I have done from typesetting, electronics, and now writing has been hard. 😉

  10. So … We can expect “Noah’s Boy” availabe from Baen by January?
    I’m only part way through “Gentleman Takes a Chance” so there isn’t any rush.

  11. My dad used to tell me that “Luck” was what the lazy called hard work. My experiences haven’t disproved that a bit.

    I do feel in awe at Cyn’s ability to keep going — cheerfully, and I can only say I wish I could do something to help. The same goes for Sarah, Kate Paulk, and a half-dozen others. I have physical/medical problems too, so I know what it’s like to get up each morning and fight to start the day. This website frequently helps.

  12. “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

  13. I seem to recall Kipling calling Luck “tricksy and wincing and jady/ kittle to lead or drive.” (“The Wishing Caps.”)
    “Largesse! Largesse, Fortune!
    I’ll neither follow nor flee.
    If I don’t run after Fortune,
    Fortune must run after me!”

  14. My problem comes with people who give up and hold a grudge against those who make it …

    Two animals will see a fellow of their species trying to escape and pull them back down. Rats and humans.

  15. Sadly, I’m not industrious enough to really make my own luck that well, yet I have the monkey on my back of always wanting to try something (generally not in writing, but now working on a couple of stories).

    Too lazy to be successful, too driven to give up. Blah.

    1. Ugh, I totally know what you mean. It makes me feel a little better knowing I’m not the only one stuck in that middle. It gets worse with my tendency to turn “Someone should…” into “I should…” and tackle every potential project that comes along. Maybe we’ll get over it when we grow up? 🙂

      1. I dunno, I just read a meme that says if you haven’t grown up by the time you’re 50, you don’t have to, and that means I only have to hold it off for two more years.

        1. But I certainly do know what you mean about feeling better when you know you’re not the only one.

  16. I always wanted to be a writer – oh, ever since about the 6th grade – but being practical, I knew that I’d have to have some other marketable skills to support myself. And one other thing – I was really afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle criticism or rejection at all, that I would just curl up and snivel miserably to myself after every rejection letter. Possibly the military, or maybe the experience of blogging back in the early days kicked that out of me. I flogged my first two novels around to the usual agents and trad publishers in 2004 and 2005, and was purely amazed at how cheerful I was, slinging the constant stream of ‘thanks but no thanks’ form letters into the trash. “Your loss, mush-for-brains!” I’d say, and settle down to write another chapter on the next book with increased vigor and enthusiasm.

      1. Oh, the temptation is always there – but blogging for three or four years before I essayed the books really gave me a lot of confidence in my writing. THERE WERE PLENTY OF READERS OUT THERE WHO LOVED WHAT I WROTE! *lowers voice* But I was pretty surprised at how well I handled the rejections. Eh – if they didn’t think my proposal was marketable to their potential clients – well, it wasn’t MY fault they didn’t appreciate good writing. And I did have enough of those letters where they did honestly say good things about the chapters or even the whole MS provided. So a book about a pioneer wagon train party probably wouldn’t sell to an audience mad for yet another volume about the Tudors … oddly enough, that is still my best-seller, even though I hardly market it any more.
        Someday, one of those now-desperate agents may reconsider and approach me. I amuse myself, thinking of the form letter I might send them…

        1. I got one of those “it’s not quite dreck, but” reviews this year. My first response was white hot anger- “did you even read the manuscript?” Followed by “OK, what is in here that I can use?” Followed by “if you had a clue you would understand that what you are asking for is impossible, as it says in the introduction.” With a final, “OK, here’s what I can use, here’s what I can ignore, and here’s stuff to consider and to have good reasons for ignoring if I choose to ignore it.” So at least it was a semi-useful hatchet job. I still wonder if the reviewer suffers from literal-itis.

          1. I have my spouse read low-star reviews for me. If they’re too low and don’t have anything to say that isn’t contradicted by an honest review from someone else*, I don’t read the low-star review. They’ll just make me grind my teeth.

            (On the other hand, I got a truly funny 3-star review on one, which is mostly accurate! Though I only remember writing 3 smut scenes, not 5. 😉 )

            (*E.g., “EW, TOO MUCH BIOLOGY!” vs. “This is a fascinating element of the narrative!” Clearly a Tastes Differ thing.)

    1. Unfortunately– I have this tendency to plot revenge. DANG– those berserker genes can be so inconvenient. I have a pellet gun and will use it. *waggling the pellet gun at the critics

    2. I never wanted to be a writer. I would much have preferred to be a doer – the hands on version – rather than tell stories about those who do. But I never figured out a way to get rid of the characters and their stories which keep pushing into my mind, and since by now I’m old enough that it’s pretty obvious I am never going to do anything like learn how to build bridges or find new mineral resources somewhere interesting (mud and insects included in the interesting part… I guess I’m a bit weird in some ways), well, might as well try this. I do like playing with those characters and in their worlds, anyway, so at least it’s fun in parts. Writing them down and trying to turn those into actual stories, like something with a beginning, middle and end included, and keeping all that at least sort of logical, not always quite so much, that can feel like work. 🙂

      I’m scared of criticism too, lots. Getting negative criticism, and also about the thought which ones I should, perhaps, take to heart, and which just forget. How do you tell what is valid and what isn’t? Well, something like ‘your hero has black hair and blue eyes in the beginning, but halfway he is suddenly getting described with brown hair and grey eyes’ of course (not mine, but I remember reading one western as a kid where the heroine’s hair color changed three times during the story, and it wasn’t all that long, something in some of the series where one came out once a month that used to be sold as magazines – she went from a brunette to golden haired to a redhead – I remember checking, a couple of times, while I was reading it but yes, same woman, and no mentions of hair dyes or the hero wondering about it – okay, could have been the translator’s error too), but some other stuff can depend simply on the reader’s tastes. I have had a bit of that, one person who read a story said she couldn’t follow the plot at all and wanted a lot more explained, while another said he got it with what there was well enough. So, should I have done something to that story or not?

      1. I guess I’m a bit weird in some ways

        You hang out here, don’t you? (runs from Sarah)

      2. Well, you’re where I am. I’d rather have been an engineer, but I still would have written, because the stories push.

        Things like hair color changes usually mean the writer is REALLY burned out. I mean REALLY. I had to fight this sort of thing when I was exhausted.

        1. I have spend half my life trying to get rid of the characters and their stories, stop thinking them up. No luck so far. I guess the only way to deal with this really is just to write them.

  17. It’s sad to think about, honestly.

    What I see are people who (choose one or more of the following):
    a) Let the industry beat them down,
    b) Were too scared to approach the industry and thought they could come at it sideways,
    c) Got bad advice about how to approach the industry,
    d) Do no research into the industry at all,
    e) Do no research into the current market/state of the industry.
    I’m almost willing to bet that any combination requires (e) and most likely (d) as well.

    So they’re thinking to themselves, “Here is a writer who I see as successful and whose career I would like to emulate. Through reading her books (or not), I feel like I know her enough to approach her this way. I’ll bet if I talk about how I’m a writer too and complain about my lack of success, she’ll at least offer to read my work. Maybe she’ll teach me the secret handshake and I’ll finally get that success/glory that I deserve.”

    I just think it’s sad.

    Not in a, “I would offer a hand to them.” sort of way, because it’s also hideously rude and I find it appalling. But I feel sorry for them because they’re not reaching for success. They’re waiting for it to come to them.

    With me, it’s always been a variation of, “I’m not where I want to be yet but I’ll be there one day.” I’ve probably put it off longer than I should have, afraid to start and get crushed under the wheels. But I didn’t shelve my dream and wait. I at least worked at it from time to time and traveled to get new experiences and studied.

    I wonder how many of them did anything more than, at best, studying to see if they could find the secret handshake.

  18. Good morning! I was referred to your site by friend downrange, once he found out I’m giving a go at the indy scene. Love the articles and agree about perseverance. I’ll write whether it ends up being marketable or not… it’s more work, but more rewarding than playing computer games, and more fun. At any rate, the thing you said which prompted me to comment: I would love to read a Left Hand of Darkness book with a libertarian bent to it. (!)

    1. Egads. You’re all nuts. It’s actually a series… I couldn’t figure out why in LHOD an hermaphrodite species would be communitarian (As far as we can tell tribes came from having to look after pregnant women. If everyone can get pregnant… well…) So the breed (they’re actually humans — bio engineered humans by someone trying to create equality!) has as a natural unit parent-children and is mostly nomadic, though they’re defending themselves from invasion, so they’re trying monarchy, (it’s what the enemy has, so…) and it REALLY doesn’t come easy and the tension is… where the fun is.
      Of course I also couldn’t figure out the whole cyclical gender changing because well, seems too complicated for my head, so none of that.
      It’s in paper. In (I think) the attic. Also, in 5 1/4 diskettes if they’re still readable.
      Let’s say given how much more I’ve written, it would need a complete rewrite anyway and right now it’s not a priority to put out yet another series that people will expect a book a year in. BUT I’ll take in account the fact you’re all nuts. And it will probably eventually appear…

      1. There are stories of yours, that I know you’ve published, that I plan to read because I’m taking them on faith. Because, you know, you’re _you_ and I’m confident that I’d enjoy them on that basis alone, even if the description doesn’t exactly pull me in.

        This one? Yeah, this one I’d buy based on that as a blurb, from an author I’d never heard of, whose competency at making stories interesting I thus had no special reason to trust.

        Do with such knowledge as you will. But with you sitting back and scoffing at the idea that anyone would care, it seemed downright immoral to neglect to communicate it.

        1. Well, I know they were publishable, because I got rejections telling me so, but that the editor(s) hated “the world, the characters and the philosophy” so… I guess I internalized the “no one wants this”

          1. Ouch. Well, if nothing else, I feel certain I’ll find it more readable than the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Besides, since when does disagreeing with a philosophy stop people from reading a book?

            (Well… okay, yes, I spent most of One Second After rolling my eyes. But that wasn’t because the main character was sexist; it was because he was a raging idiot. “Hello, boy whom I’ve never met! You are male, so I will give you my daughter’s gun. Clearly a boy will naturally know more about gun safety than my daughter, who has only been to the range with me a bunch of times, and who I’ve drilled in gun safety since day one. Now, run along, kids — have fun swimming in our drinking water!”)

            My point is, if the story is interesting, I’ll read to the end even if your characters’ worldviews are completely alien to me. At worst, I’ll snark at the book while I’m reading, which does nobody any harm.

      2. Ever read Ursula Le Guin’s “Left Hand of Darkness”?

        The planet has a similar (but not identical) premise.

        My cultural anthropology teacher suggested it to me in college to write a report on.


        Facts are stubborn things, but not nearly as stubborn as fallacies.*

        On Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 8:30 AM, According To Hoyt wrote:

        > ** > accordingtohoyt commented: “Egads. You’re all nuts. It’s actually a > series… I couldn’t figure out why in LHOD an hermaphrodite species would > be communitarian (As far as we can tell tribes came from having to look > after pregnant women. If everyone can get pregnant… well…) S” >

        1. I believe that is what Sarah meant by the acronym LHOD. This particular was apparently a reaction of sorts to it.

          1. This particular *story* was apparently a reaction to it. Ye gods. Ack, final-papers-week brain…

          2. Sorry, I missed that line. Must have been reading to fast again.


            Facts are stubborn things, but not nearly as stubborn as fallacies.*

        2. The series was an answer to LHOD. She went for “communal” raising for the kids and all that, and you know me — by now — such things get under my skin. It’s like “poke the Sarah with a hot iron. See her twitch” — the twitch ran to eight books before I got it through my head NO publisher would buy this.

          I actually think if I redo it, I’ll redo it as first-contact, because it’s easier to get into.

      3. You know why I would be interested? To see if it was the crazy viewpoint or what I considered at the time to be a horribly plodding storyline, that made me hate that book.

        I have learned to ignore the inherent lunacy in human hermaphrodites as a norm, so I may read LOHD again sometime, if I can pick it up cheap.

        1. Well, in my case, they were designed so, in pursuit of “equality” — didn’t work that way.

          Also, of course, they had a ton of issues. But I didn’t have the cyclical gender switching because even bio-engineered that was plain weird.

      4. Much as I don’t like a communitarian system, I actually think it makes more sense, rather than less, in the case of the hermaphroditic humans as described. If the parent is as vulnerable as a “normal” female is during the last part of the pregnancy and afterwards, and the normal individual is physically somewhere between the strength and aggressiveness of a “normal” man, then a larger group would be required to provide for the soon-to-be and new parents.

        Her short story, “Coming of Age in Karhide” shed a lot more light on the group structure and the physical dynamic – it was an extended family type of group, not so much like a tribe as such, and it wasn’t exactly cyclical gender changing, so much as it was a cycle similar to a “normal” woman’s, but their exposure to hormones/pheromones in the air determined which sex they would manifest when they went to the local sex house for their period of being in heat (of course, she used made-up terms, but that’s what it meant).

        1. There is even precedent in the animal kingdom for gender change based on hormone concentrations. Some animals change sex and become male when there are no males available. I can’t remember if there are any that change the other direction.

                  1. DF writes great aliens because he knows fish. Me? Not a fish person. Not an alien person, either. I’m SURE I could write an alien, but only if I really had to, and I’d prefer to make him/her/it/fish “Unreadable.” Because aliens SHOULD be…

                    I should point out my reply to LHOD wasn’t so much to her premises as to… well… the book and the seventies feel of it. For her premises, meh, she did her homework. But my reply was “yes, but what if it was like THIS?” I was particularly interested in the idea of a bioengineering of humanity designed to make us all more alike and communal backfired spectacularly. 😛 Because that’s the sort of mind I’m blessed with, as you guys probably know by now.

                    1. Fantasy writer here. I had to devise a rule to escape Tolkien influence.

                      that rule was, “Is this elf NECESSARY?”

                      Actually, usually the character could be human. And so I stuck to that.

                      I am afraid that I have seen other aspiring writers who perhaps should have mastered that question.

                    2. LOL. You know you just gave me a new catch phrase for critique, right?
                      My own particular issue in fantasy is centaurs. I’m not even sure why. I probably should start asking “Is this centaur necessary?” (SHUDDUP Y’ALL.)

                    3. They are if you’re just “horsing around”. [Very Big Grin While Flying Away Very Very Fast]

                    4. One thing to keep in mind is that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, you DO NOT want a centaur on your team for tug-of-war, because as is well known, the centaur will not hold.

                    5. Oh, that’s really… bad. And I can’t think of a way to respond to it, even after looking up the blasted poem, dangit.

                    6. tehehehehehehe

                      I’ve hit the centaurs too. Once critiqued a story where it would mention, every so often, that the main character is human.

                    7. Mine are goats– I think because it was one of the animals I used to milk and tend as a youngster 😉 Even the domestic goats have impressive personalities.

                    8. You’ve got good reason not to trust elves, they are sneaky little bassards.

                      (Although the most hilarious is Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books where the elves are trailer trash).

          1. I believe that same species can change back when no longer the big fish in the pool. Being female gives you fewer chances of hitting the reproductive jackpot, but you’re more likely to get them.

          1. Memories of Bester’s “The Men Who Murdered Mohammed” have me thinking the origin of genetically adapted hermaphroditism was a scientist being told “go f— yourself.”

      5. F M Busby’s _The Breeds of Man_ have humans with cyclical gender changing. They’re the result of a genetic fix to problems caused by an AIDS cure. The cure did work against AIDS but had an unfortunate side effect. Mind you, the gender changing was unexpected. [Smile]

      6. Yes! Please publish these some day. I liked le Guin’s stories and didn’t mind the politics back in high school but I’d definitely like your take on the ideas.

      7. It’s in paper. In (I think) the attic. Also, in 5 1/4 diskettes if they’re still readable.
        Sure, I can read 5 1/4″ diskettes … gimme a flint and steel to get the PC started … 😉

  19. Here’s a crazy thought.


    I try to write a poem or two a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. If I bundled them up every month, maybe charged $0.99 for them, are there people out there crazy enough to buy them?

    And would they buy them, knowing that they can get them free on my blog?

    And if I did so, should I write them under a different name than my sci-fi/fantasy stuff?

    1. I write poetry too– I changed my writing because I couldn’t sell my poetry anywhere. I have bundled a few of my poems and have sold a few for 2.99. But, it is not my big seller– my biggest seller (drumroll) is my book on my disease (mostly reflections) and my poetry about the disease.

      1. I should mention that I am a published poet. My work has appeared in Acumen, Bibliophilos, Dark Eye Glances (when they were online), and many others. They always pay in a free copy– no money. I got my first money from a short story that was published in Bibliophilos.

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