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Doing audiobooks

I'm setting up as a pro voice actor, so if audiobooks or voice acting interest you then please feel free to check my website out here:

Also if anyone's coming out to World Fantasy or to SFContario then please do look me up.

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Accepted to Odyssey

I have been offered early admission to Odyssey.

I'm looking forward to having a single teacher / editor look at a lot of my stuff over a few weeks, so that I get a better idea of directions that it would be valuable for me to pursue, given who I am and what I make. I also can't wait to meet my future classmates -- who, if they're anything as excellent as my Taos peeps are -- will have more than a lot to teach me.
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Now is the time of the year when we make goals

The end of the year. A good time to figure out what to do with this next one.

My goal is simple: 300,000 words of new writing.

Sounds like a lot? It's 1,000 words per day, all but 65 days of the year. I write every day, and I can write 2,000 words each day without trouble. In the last three months I wrote about 100,000 words, so I'm easily on track.

By the way, if you're a writer I suggest trying something similar. It's fun to get so much done, and creates its own sort of momentum. It now takes about two hours per day to get a first draft of 2,000 words done, and the more I write the better I get. What was holding me back from writing so much? I used to think I could only write about 250 to 500 words per day worth reading. I was wrong.

About a third of my word count will be TV pilots (okay, maybe a couple TV specs too, but I think pilots are the better way to go). A third will be novels, and a third short fiction.

Here's to a productive year!
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The Award Pimpage Cometh

This coming year I will be nominating for the Aurora awards. These are similar to the Hugos in the way that nominations and voting happens, but they're specific to sf and fantasy produced by Canadians and landed immigrants. If you've got something you'd like to make sure I consider for nomination, please feel free to send me a pointer to or copy of the work (one work per category please).

And if you too are nominating for awards this year, I would like to point you towards one story of mine published this year: "Tiny" (200 words), which appeared in AE Micro, May 2010.
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What writers can learn from Harry Potter

I was reading a conversation on a forum about YA fiction, and the conversation naturally turned to Harry Potter. I would have posted this there, but I thought it would be interesting for many people to hear, so I’m blogging about it instead.

There’s other things I could talk about with the HP series. I could talk about how the series uses wondrous magic that is made easily accessible in neat juxtapositions with daily life. I could focus on how this sort of mash-up came at just the right time. But you probably got that already from reading the series, or whatever else you’ve read. So I’m going to talk about the series less as YA, and more as a Blockbuster series. The biggest thing (I think) that can be learned from the Harry Potter series is how a series can evolve from rather lackluster beginnings into a real phenomena.

The first couple of books seem so-so, but for a lot of people they had enough interesting stuff going on and were well enough written that this was enough to get them to go read the next book–or at least to listen to their friends and relatives who told them that things were getting better and they should check out the next book. Each book got better until Prisoner of Azkaban–after which the real breakout book of the series, Goblet of Fire, turned the series on its head and made it into a phenomenon with a true potential to be remembered.

PoA was really well-written, tight, but short and to the point and very much in the same vein as the earlier adventure series, which were very much still kids books (yeah, with heavy content, sure, but the Narnia series dealt with fairly heavy issues too). Still, it was a really great read, and it made people highly excited for the next book–which Rowling took her time on, since with enough excitement she could do that. And taking the time paid off: GoF was a giant of a book compared to the earlier novels, with a billion sub-plots, a highly complex set of red herrings for a set of who-dun-its rather than the simple one central who-dun-it of the earlier books. And then of course the series turns entirely on the last few chapters, when Harry is faced with the real danger of Voldemort, Stuff Gets Real, and the promise of not just how the next book will go is set up, but the promise of how the series itself must change and grow is provided to the audience.

This is the best written book of the series, and infinitely more complex than the earlier books. If it weren’t for the author getting better and better at her job like these books demonstrate (if you haven’t then you’ll have to read them to see exactly what makes each book better than the last), then the series would have maybe kept an audience but never really gone anywhere, or just as likely flopped. But as important is that the book already had an audience that developed from the earlier books in the series.

After Goblet of Fire, the books don’t really get better. They get worse, in fact, in many ways. The last book is, in my view, a failure because Rowling hadn’t developed the chops to write the satisfying ending she’d promised for so long. Taking Harry out of Hogwarts–which could have opened the series up in a billion different ways–instead closed everything down because Rowling was trapped inside of the formula that had made her books work before. The formula become a crutch–one she was an expert with, but one that had to go in the last book, and she wasn’t up for the challenge of writing without it. Which isn’t to fault her; it would have been nearly impossible to satisfy most everyone with the last book, once their expectations were so high. Still, that doesn’t change what worked so well about so much of the series. Many of us kept reading because we’d been brought in, spent the time on the early books, read the great breakout books that snagged us for the rest of the series–and then no book was so bad that it tossed us out the door thereafter, until possibly the last book (and that was too late if, like me, the last book didn’t work for you).

So what I think we can learn from the HP series is: If you manage to get to write a series, you’ve got get it out there and get get better at it (duh), and–here’s the important point: After two or three books you cannot feel scared to break through the mold you’ve cast and turn the whole thing on its head. Preferably to turn it on its head in an interesting way that will keep an audience with you from then on. Don’t be scared to take this chance, because it is this chance that makes breakout novels, and break out novels make breakout series. Also, if you can, then learn to do what Rowling did not manage to do; learn to write outside of your formulas before you need to go without them, so that when you do need to go without your formulas then you’ll still have a chance to be writing at or above the top of your game–which is where your audience will expect you to be. In other words, be willing and ready to get the series to break out more than once, if you can find a way.

Not a short order. This isn’t about writing and selling a book or even your average series–this is about making and selling an industry-changing (perhaps culture-changing?) series, which is what I think series writers should be shooting for as often as they can be. Put against that goal, the willingness to risk the series in order to make it truly great doesn’t seem like an unreasonable set of expectations to me.

Mirrored from West of Wonderland.

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Rewrites, outlines, novel plans

Submissions are going out today for the first time using my new system.

This weekend is a rewrite-and-outline weekend; I'm going through all the great comments on my stories, and making sure I've dealt with everything (or at least everything I presently have the skill to deal with). And then I've got three things to start developing.

Two are novel ideas. One is an epic fantasy with a major twist. It's a brilliant idea that I told to some of you. It will be very research-intensive, with an elaborate plot and a variety of viewpoint characters. It intimidates me, but I'm looking forward to breaking it nonetheless.

The second a novel I originally wrote thirteen years ago. Thirteen! I have been shaking my head at that thought all day long. I tried reading it over my last draft again today. It's a giant pile of crazy, interesting ideas - and a real mess. I can't understand it anymore, and I wrote it. It's got huge problems throughout, in everything about the writing, but it's got an excellent basic concept. So I'm starting from concept, and scrapping everything else. Including names. This story maybe intimidates me more than the former book idea. But I think half the intimidation factor in this case is that I remember the difficulty I had writing the other versions. I have to get past that, and to do I may need to tackle this one again before I can go on to something else.

The third is a spec episode or three that I need to begin playing with.

I won't be able to get far with any of these this weekend, but if I can get the basic lines of the story in mind I'll be happy for now - as long as I edit the presently completed stories into useable shape.
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A new submission system

I find that I don't submit very often right now. Partially this is because I have only a little bit to submit, but also it's because I haven't had a very good system for it.

I made a spreadsheet today, with a list of potential markets for each of the works I've got ready to submit, and those that I'm nearly finished editing. I'm putting them order from best choice to worst, and then I'm going to send out each piece to their top choice. At the same time as I send out the first choice, I'm going to prepare a copy for submission to my second choice. I'll put it in an envelope, stamp it and everything - all except label the envelope. Then I'll set the second choice submission aside, and if the piece is rejected at the first submission locale then I'll just need to label the second choice envelope and send it off. At which point I'll set up for the third choice, etc. If the piece gets accepted, I can reuse the envelope for a submission that needs the same amount of postage.

This way I can't let a piece sit; the next copy is already ready to go out, so there's no real work involved in shipping a new submission out when the first one comes back. I have no control over editors' turnaround, but I do over my own.

Also I'm trying out an attempt to write one micro-fiction piece each week. So far that's ended up getting me a couple short stories at 1200 and 1400 words. I now have 10 stories total to polish up and shop around - and hopefully that number will tick upwards by one each week for the next while. I'm making myself no promises on how long I'll keep this up, but it could be a good system for me.