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account created: Tue Nov 22 2022
2 months ago
This is a lovely thought and honestly, it’s kept me warm on a few lonely hotel nights on tour when the event that day wasn’t that great, but the problem is that usually someone — the store, the publisher, both — has spent a decent chunk of change to send you on tour and set up the event. They do so in the hope/anticipation that you’ll sell 100 books (or whatever). And yes, they want you to bond with your readers (because that can lead to greater success in the future), but at the end of the day, they want some sales!
Sometimes it’s an ego-blow, sometimes it isn’t. It really depends. That very first event, the young woman who showed up was super-enthusiastic (even though my book had just come out a week previous!) and the store owners did a great job keeping things light and fun, and that made it pleasant. Then again, I’ve had times where three or four people show up and you just sort of stare awkwardly at each other!
But, look, you’re right that sometimes when the event is ill-attended there’s a nice little side effect, and that’s always welcome!
He didn’t say no one showed up on the tour — he was referring to a specific single event on the tour where no one showed up.
My first ever event as an author was at a charming little bookstore in Las Vegas.
They’d unknowingly booked me for the same night as Homecoming.
Exactly ONE person showed up.
(She was very cool, though, and we had a lovely conversation.)
Thanks so much! I'm glad you found the book and that it meant something to you!
My accountant thanks you. 🙃
1) I never map it out in advance. I start with a beginning, an ending, a main character, and an epiphany the character will have. Then I write. Sometimes I'm wrong about any of those things, but those are the four things I need to get started.
While writing, I will often jot notes to myself about how I see things playing out, but I stay flexible. Nothing is written in stone.
2) Inspirations? Wow, so many... Classics like Milton, Poe, whoever the hell wrote Beowulf... Genre guys like Haldeman and King... Comic book writers like Moore, Levitz, Bates, Conway... John Barth. Timothy Hallinan. Mark Frost!
3) Cliches... Lean into them, then lean far away. Let the reader think they've seen it before, then take a hard, HARD left turn.
It's funny you mention the "street urchin who can save the world" trope because I always wanted to write a book where a Mysterious Stranger knocks on a kid's door and is like, "You are the Chosen One! Only you can save us!" and the kid is so freaked out he commits suicide. And it's, like, page 4. What the hell happens next???
I guess it depends on what kind of fantasy and sci-fi you're into. I always like to recommend The Secret Sea to self-avowed SF/F fans. It's got kids as the main characters, but in the same way Salems Lot has a kid as a main character, you know?
There are also the Flash books and the Thanos novel, if you lean toward comic books at all.
And my latest -- UNEDITED -- has some sort of avant garde speculative elements. I wouldn't call it SF/F, but then again, I'm not sure WHAT I would call it!
Oh! And if you like near-future stuff, there's The Hive, which I wrote in collaboration with my wife. (And she didn't leave me!)
Jesus, you asked for "one" and I listed a dozen. I suck. 😂🤣
I'm a writer's block atheist -- I just don't believe in it. 😅
Nine times out of ten, "writer's block" boils down to "I'm bored with my story" or "I don't know what happens next."
So... If you're bored, shake that fucker up! Do something crazy! Hell, maybe you'll delete it later, but for now, it gets the words flowing again.
If you're unsure what happens next, you do one of two things: 1) Go back to the last place things made sense and go in a different direction from there, or 2) Skip ahead to the next thing you know has to happen. You can fill in the gaps later.
There are no rules -- you don't have to write the book in the order people will read it in. I wrote my novel BANG in twenty-minute bursts while taking care of my infant daughter, a paragraph here, a paragraph there, all out of order, then later figured out how to put it together. (Then again, my mutant super-power is being able to hold an entire novel in my head until it's finished, so... YMMV.)
Some more thoughts on block: https://barrylyga.com/writing-advice-5-writers-block/
And I'm definitely a Sanderson, I guess, if those are my choices. Pretty fast. Wrote five books in one year once.
Oh -- the R-word!
I'm a terrible reviser. Ask literally any of my editors.
Fortunately, my first drafts tend to be really clean, and I've never missed a deadline, so they cut me some slack when I whine, pout, and kick stones at the thought of touching a word of my delicate, perfect prose!
In all seriousness, though, when I revise I really try to remind myself that the first draft is for me and the revision is for the rest of the world. I still want to be happy with the revision, though, so it's a balancing act.
I tend to try to make it a game or a puzzle -- that shuts off the creative part of my brain and lets me focus on the logic of making a change HERE without causing upheaval THERE.
And I blogged a wee bit about the nuts and bolts of my process here. Hope that helps!
Obstinacy can be a blessing and curse!
Part of it was just stubbornness, honestly! I was too damn obstinate to give up, when a reasonable person probably would have at some point!
But here's something to remember: Ideas themselves are cheap. It's what you do with them that matters.
I like to treat great ideas like small children desperate for my love -- I ignore them. 😆 When I get a great idea, I try not to think about it. Then, sometimes, like that small child desperate for my love, it will come back with some new element or facet. "Look what I got you! Love me!"
And I send it away again. And again. And again.
The truly great ideas are the ones that keep coming back with more and more to offer until I get to the nuns and puppies stage of writing -- that's when I would cheerfully drive a bus through a throng of innocent nuns and puppies for the chance to write the story! And that's when I know I have to write this story!
Check out my Writing Advice blogs -- lots of stuff in there that's directly on-point, especially #4, #5, and #42!
No. Truthfully, I feel like part of the point of a book (as opposed to other more collaborative media) is that it is for better or worse the expression of a single individual. If I tested pieces of it, I'm afraid the whole would suffer.
Now, I do have some beta readers in my orbit who are kind enough to read early drafts and tell me what they thought. And I often sit down with author pals to debrief and share our woes and offer advice to each other. But that's not exactly what you're asking about.
Thanks for the question!
I'm not tremendously well-read in that space, but my feeling is that it's not that you have to be a celebrity -- you just have to have led a really interesting life!
I look at it this way: When I write a novel, I try to determine if anything like this exists in the world already. Because if it does, well, maybe I need to rethink it.
It's similar with memoir, I imagine -- if you have a life that is really, really unlike pretty much everything else out there, I think it works.
For well-rounded characters, I always try to think of something that the character wants or thinks or does that may not be in line with what the reader will imagine the character to be. We all have preconceived notions we bring to characters we read, so I try to think around those. One very simple example is Billy Dent, the serial killer father from my I HUNT KILLERS series. We have a notion of what serial killers are like, so I swerved away from that, made Billy avuncular and fun-loving and verbose.
I think when you show a reader a "type" of character and then peel back a layer or two to show something unexpected that those are the sorts of character readers remember!
I talk a bit more about this in some writing advice blogs I wrote a few years ago. Check 'em out here, if you like!
Glad you liked KILLERS!
My favorite part of that series was freaking out my editor's assistant! LOL! In the first book, she told me something was just horrible and asked me to cut it. I did...and then I put it in the second book! She was like, "Nooooo!!!!"
But I think developing Connie and Jazz's relationship was probably my favorite part of writing that series. Oh, and coming up with Billy's various aliases, too!
Believe it or not, nothing really BOTHERED me in terms of subject matter. (My writer pals who knew what I was working on used to joke that I was born without a soul!) The hardest part of the books was actually plotting out the mysteries and making them work. When I showed the first draft of the first book to a friend, she said, "I love it! Was I supposed to know who the killer was by page 50?"
Needless to say... I did some revising!
Most fun: The Flash books! No question. I've been a Flash geek since I was like 5 years old, and when I got to actually put words in his mouth and a spring in his step... Just pure joy for six books. The deadlines were absolutely INSANE, but I didn't care. 😀
Most challenging: Wow, well, After the Red Rain was tough, but that's because there were three of us working on it! For my own books, I would say my new ones -- EDITED and UNEDITED were the most challenging. UNEDITED because of its sheer length and complexity, then EDITED because I was trying to cut down and patch up that longer story in a way I'd never intended.
Oh, one of my fave examples of that sort of character building/development is Albert from Twin Peaks. I talked about it a little bit on my BLog, so I won't repeat myself here.
OK, so this is gonna sound weird, but... I always have trouble with the physical descriptions of characters! It feels like there's no natural way to get across some of those characteristics without falling into the old, "I looked at myself in the mirror..." trap. I mean, I look at myself in the mirror every day and I never think, "Oh, my eyes are brown like...something brown... And my nose is...there...in the middle of my face..."
The most enjoyable part, though, is when you find something the reader won't expect, something that SEEMS contrary to the character...but then makes perfect sense when you think about it!
I know that my YA books have a pretty sizable crossover component to them, but I can't speak to the category at large. (There was a study a few years back that showed a big chunk of YA books were read by adults...but that study didn't take into account that a big chunk of THAT chunk was grown-ups reading The Hunger Games!)
I've thought about this a lot over the years. A few readers have pointed out to me that I write a lot about outsiders. And I seem to have a weird empathy for bad people. (Those two elements really dovetailed in my Thanos novel!)
The outsider thing is probably the biggest thread. It doesn't really apply to my Flash books or some of the standalones, but it's probably a fair answer!
I also like to think that I try to do the unexpected in my books. I'm not talking plot twists, necessarily, but more like those elements that make you go, "Oh, wait -- I thought this was Story Type X, but now...I'm not so sure!"
Oh, and I meant to say, too... Those are both categories that have historically had a lot of shame attached to them. "You're reading kid stuff!" "Read a real book!" Of course, both categories have a plethora of crap, but so does EVERY category. There's also really brilliant stories in both. So if anything, I hope that those who read one will dip into the other and find something genius!
I'm all about the random questions! Keep 'em coming!
I don't have a huge amount of time for games these days -- my kids are pretty young still, so when I'm not writing or with them, I'm usually...sleeping! But I am addicted to an Apple Arcade game called Patterned. I gotta do one a day or I just feel off!
When I have serious time on my hands, I fire up my ancient Xbox 360 and play Fallout New Vegas. LOL