I’ve been reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog for a while now, and this post isn’t the first that’s set me to wondering what the best option for building a writing career is.
I agree with the basic premise, that the way to build a career is to write and publish, write and publish. The more you write, the better you’ll write, and the more you publish, the more chances you have of being found by an audience and making a living income.
The question is in the details. Write short stories or novels or novellas? How much should I revise, and am I hobbling myself with an unneccessary and/or unrealistic expectation of “good enough”?
Another of my must-read blogs belongs to her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, who has set himself a fascinating challenge. Over the next year, he’s going to write and publish 100 stories. He’s got a subscription plan and everything. And both he and Ms. Rusch are currently making a living at this – it isn’t a pie-in-the-sky plan, but a solid, this-works plan.
So why don’t I do something similar?
Start a new story a week challenge, only publishing each story as an ebook, probably for $0.99 since most of my stories are 5000 words or less. Post each to my website for a limited time, probably a week. Fill out the post with a bit of discussion on the writing of it, so that when the freebie goes away there’s still content as well as a link to the store.
Or perhaps a story every other week, since I’ll need to do up ebook covers and all the formatting… though that feels a bit like a cop-out, or like something I could use as one. An every-other-week pattern is harder to stick to than an every week, I think…
On the other hand, what if the stories aren’t good enough to sell? (There’s that phrase again.) And what about writing novels?
On the first hand again, is the idea of letting the reader decide, whether it’s good enough to buy based on sample, price, blurb, etc.
Stories can then be gathered up into collections, and sold at higher price points, even put up on CreateSpace so that paper copies are available.
And if I gain an audience, (Beyond my friends, because while I appreciate you immensely, I don’t want to make a living off you!) and start making money… well, then maybe I can cut my day-job hours, (eventually to 0) and have time to work on novels too.
Novels take a LOT of time, and I’m not very good at them yet, so it’s probably going to take several more tries before I have one I’m not too critical of to publish. Short stories I’m more confident with. (No wonder, I’ve had a lot more practice.) Short stories are also fun, and have that immediate gratification benefit.
I might be talking myself into this… but I’m still feeling a lot of fear and uncertainty. Would doing this make me a hack? If it does, is that a bad thing? Some people consider all genre writers to be hacks, and I’m certainly not shooting for “literature.”
Ah well, we’ll see. Opinions are welcome, but I can’t guarantee I’ll take any advice.
Happy Independence Day, fellow USians, and happy Wednesday to everyone else.
Didn’t write today… did some thinking, and some staring at the file, but something’s not quite right and I didn’t have enough brain to figure it out by the time I sat down to.
I think it might be point of view. Going off into the forest with Nile, Tonly would be entirely cut off from the action going on back at the colony… and Sephilla will be up to stuff that I want to show. So I could do some Sephilla POV, except that doesn’t quite gel for me either. I *think* what I might wind up doing is having Tonly stick with Sephilla as the Earthcorp goons slide down ropes into the clearing. Not sure if I’ll keep the fire or just have the goons be what sends Nile running. Maybe goons with flamethrowers on the ground instead of flame from the sky…
Anyway, that way I can keep the POV where it is, and get some interesting interaction between Tonly and Sephilla about what just happened, and keep the governor as a fairly immediate antagonist. I think that might work… we’ll see.
A whole scene or so!
The glances continued, and Tonly focused as hard as he could on finding any sign of the trail he had followed before, but there was nothing. He saw the trails of spoats and near-boars, and the innumerable skitterings of chikchiks and their brethren alternating effortlessly between ground and trees. Once, he even saw spoor that he could have sworn belonged to one of the rarely seen ligers, but there was no sign of human passage beyond that of his companions.
His shoulders hunched, and he kept his eyes on the ground, avoiding even catching the others’ body language out of the corner of his eye. What must they be thinking of him? It had taken so long to earn Sephilla’s trust and friendship. Weeks of encountering each other in the greenhouse and the fields, while she slowly started answering his questions about the native plantlife and ecosystem with more than monosyllables.
When she casually mentioned planning a new survey, he had itched to ask to join, but resisted the urge, sure that it would only offend her. Then she, just as casually, asked if he’d like to come along. He had been over the moon, even more than when he first stepped through the portal to Verdant.
Then he missed it.
And now, they must think he was leading them on a wild goose chase, maybe on the Governor’s instructions. Sephilla would never trust him again…
A sudden awareness jogged him out of his morose thoughts, and he looked up to see his trail, clear as day to that extra sensation that still felt like sight. “Here!” he shouted, looking down the trail into the lasher grove. There was something else, though, another trail following over the older sign.
He looked back the other way, and saw more trails stretching back into the forest and arcing away to skirt the lasher grove.
“This is where we started,” Cavish snapped, disgust clear in his voice.
“Tonly, are you sure you didn’t see this trail anywhere else? Somewhere further back?” Sephilla’s voice was gentle, as if she was coaching a particularly slow child.
He shook his head. He couldn’t have missed something like this, no matter how distracted he had gotten.
“That’s it, then,” Lily said. She pursed her lips, staring into the grove. “Either we go in, or we call it quits and head home.”
“Tonly, it’s a lasher grove, a big one. It might be the biggest I’ve ever seen.”
Sephilla was still using that soft tone of voice, and he realized she was trying to break it to him gently that they were giving up.
“I’m going in,” he said, starting to work his tether’s fastenings loose. “I have to know.”
“It’s suicide,” she snapped.
He paused, feeling lanced through by the heat of her gaze, but then he shook his head and pulled another lace loose.
“He came back once,” Lily said.
“He can see where the tendrils are,” Cavish said. “If we followed in his footsteps…”
“You are all insane,” Sephilla growled.
Another lace came loose, but Cavish walked up and pushed Tonly’s hands aside so he could redo it. “Better keep this on, just in case. If I stumble, I’m counting on you to bring me back to the ground. All right?”
“All right,” Tonly said, smiling cautiously up at the other man. Realizing how hunched he was, he tried to straighten his back and shoulders.
“That’s better,” Cavish said, slapping his shoulder. “Lily? Want to hook up to me?”
Lily scowled, shaking her head. “You know I can’t do that.”
Tonly knew, at least. Sephilla had given him all the safety lectures, and the graphic evidence backing up each regulation, back when she’d been planning to take him on a routine survey. No untethered work in unsurveyed or dangerous areas. No solo work in the forest ever.
He steeled himself to look at her, expecting another death-glare. Instead, she was staring toward the lasher grove, looking almost wistful.
“It would be irresponsible,” she said, but she sounded uncertain.
“More irresponsible than leaving this mystery unsolved?” Cavish seemed to be trying for casual, but his body was tense.
Sephilla shot him one of her sharp looks.
Cavish raised his hands in mock defense. “I’m just saying what you’re thinking, boss. And if you need an excuse to be ‘irresponsible,’ how about this: why did the Governor set Tonly up for this, and what did she expect to get out of it when he came back? If we can’t stay a step ahead of her, pretty soon Earthcorp is going to have this whole planet buttoned up, and us colonists will be nothing but slave labor. Right?”
Sephilla glanced at Tonly and raised her eyebrows.
Cavish shrugged. “I figure at this point, he’s one of us.”
Tony nodded when she looked back at him. “I’m so far out of compliance with the contamination protocols that they couldn’t let me back into the main dome even if they wanted to.”
A little smile crossed her lips before she snapped back to being stern. “That’s not the same as being one of us. I’m sure the Governor would make an exception if you dug up enough dirt on us.”
Tonly chewed at his lower lip, thinking. She didn’t sound like she really thought he’d do that, but as one of the colony’s leaders she had to worry about things like that. But she was giving him a chance, if he could figure out how to explain.
“I’ve always loved plants,” he started. “Right from my first pansy, when I was three or four. But I’ve never felt them the way I can feel them now. It’s like I can almost talk to them, if I can let go of my animal thought patterns enough.”
He laid a hand on the trunk of the nearest tree, feeling the sap moving through its phloem. It felt like happiness. After a moment, he shook himself, remembering that he had been saying something. It took another moment to remember what, and then he grinned, looking around at his fellow colonists. “There’s no way you’re getting rid of me now. I belong to Verdant.”
It’s almost bedtime, and I haven’t written yet. Probably not going to either…
I need to figure out getting back to writing in the morning, I think, before my mind is full of the day.
So, I realized today that I’m trying to impose too much order on the sky-krill story. This is first draft, this is the time for dream and chaos and wacky shit that doesn’t make any sense but sounds way cool. Stuff can get tied together in a way that makes sense later on, in the rewrite, but for now I need to work on turning the internal editor off, and letting the inner child play. (No matter how warped she may seem!)
After that, the sense of presence came and went, sometimes announced by more hooting, or childish giggles. Other times, Tony was the only one aware that the stranger was close, silent amidst the secondary growth of the mid-canopy.
They rounded the lasher grove and circled around, the others giving him expectant looks as they came close to where the trail he had been following would have brought him out. After a couple of hundred feet, Cavish snapped. “Tony! That trail’s got to be around here someplace.”
Tony closed his eyes, trying to summon the state of mind in which the trail had been so clear, without losing himself completely in it. He opened them again and looked around, but there was nothing. No sign, no feeling, nothing to tell him that he had passed this way before. He shook his head. “It’s not here.”
“Ok, so maybe you changed course somewhere in there. We’ll just keep circling around until you find it.” Sephilla turned and kept leading the way, though she glanced back frequently.
Tonly gazed in the direction of the lasher grove, the curls of its youngest tendrils just visible where they were growing down the side of the blue-green trunks. He swayed, suppressing the desire to walk straight in, and wondering where this new self-destructive urge of his came from. What had happened, out in the spawning, and during the three weeks he was gone?
Side note – Tonly was a typo, but now I’m wondering if it’d be a good name for him. “Tony,” after all, is very present-day, while everyone else so far has unusual-for-2012 names. I haven’t decided what year this is set in. Far-ish future, but I may never specify exactly.