Wednesday, October 30, 2013

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Coming up on November, so NaNoWriMo time again. Here is an interesting set of posts on whether it is better to plan out one's novel in detail, or to just start writing and see where it goes.

On planning:

On just going with the flow:

I'm usually some combination of both. I often have an idea that has been perculating in my head for years, often decades, where I have daydreamed various scenes here and there while walking the dog or shoveling snow. So I have a general idea of what the novel is about, who the main characters are, and where the novel is going, but with really only fragments of scenes here and there and big gaps between. No real structure or outline. So NaNoWriMo is a chance to get what I have down on paper and to see if I can connect the dots. The end result is often very different than where I started, and I occasionally write myself into corners by writing blindly; but on the other hand, I often generate new scenes and characters I would never have thought of if I were using a disciplined outline. By writing myself into corners, I force the protagonist to come up with a way to extricate himself, which I would never have thought of in an outline, because I would have known better than place him in that corner in the first place, if I had had a plan. So my hero is much cleverer and a much faster talker than he would have been otherwise.

It's true that I have had to cut whole sections of the novel that haven't worked out, because by going in that direction I precluded something that I realized had to come in later for the novel to work, or that went against character, or otherwise didn't work out. But at 2000 words a day, I could afford to dump a ten or twelve page section and try again; whereas if an outline had called for that scene and it had taken me a month to write, I would be far more reluctant to give up on it, persisting to the point of such frustration that I might be tempted to abandon the whole project as undoable.

I'm also quite a slow writer and tend to write longish novels, so has taken me two to three NaNoWriMo to get first complete draft. Now is the time for outlining, to make sure that I haven't lost track of any of the bits I started with (I lost two of the main characters there for awhile, and had to go back an account for their absence) and that everything works logically. I was actually surprised to find that my subconcious had indeed planted many of the clues in early chapters to foreshadow the unfolding of the mystery, even though I had had no idea what that mystery was when I set out.  So having a first draft, I can go back and get a plan for the revision; I can use what my subconscious provided as raw data and use the resulting outline to tighten everything up so that the structure really works.

Or at least, that's the plan.  Come Friday I start work on my new novel (opening scene clearly in my head, though getting that scene down on paper is a whole other thing) so will have to see how far on the back burner the previous novel gets pushed.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Buy Your Favorite Author a Latte

Reading a "review" of Five River's new Dave Duncan release on Amazon, I was taken aback by someone rating the book was one star because it was priced at $4 for a novella. The reviewer made it clear that he hadn't actually read the book, but was merely incensed at the price.

Leaving aside the obvious disservice of erroneously giving a one star quality rating when really the complaint is about the cost rather then the quality of the writing, I simply don't get the attitude that authors, editors, cover artists and publishers should all work for free. An unfortunate result, perhaps, of the burgeoning self-publishing industry where substandard authors—desperate for an audience—price their books at $0.99, or give it away free in hopes of attracting readers. I understand the principle of giving away the first book in a series in hopes of attracting sales to more recently issued volumes in the series, but what we're seeing is a race to the bottom.

Promotional giveaways notwithstanding, in general you get what you pay for.

Or to put it another way, I don't get why some people seem to believe that writing should be sold by the pound or linear foot. Fifty Shades of Grey is 528 pages long but does that really make it worth a cover price three times higher than Duncan's novella? To me, it should be the other way around: Duncan's books are the ones worth reading. Once you get past the actual paper costs (not relevant in digital books), there is no reason to assume that longer should necessarily cost more, or that shorter needs be massively discounted, to the point where writing and publishing are no longer economical.

I think a novella by Dave Duncan is worth $4. I pay more for my morning latte. Dave's novella took considerably longer to read than a latte to drink, and the pleasure of that reading lasted longer yet.

If the cover of the latest issue of, say, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine included a short story by Dave Duncan, I would have immediately paid $6 for the magazine to get that story. Indeed, I did renew my subscription to NeoOpsis  Magazine awhile back because they had a Dave Duncan short story in the latest issue. So why is it that some people suddenly find $4 an outrageous price for a novella when its a standalone package?

I love Duncan's stuff, and I want him to write more of it, so am willing to pay him to go do that. Specifically, to write the next two books in this series. A consumer will end up paying $11.95 for all three novellas in the series. And you know what? I'm okay with paying $11.95 for a Duncan novel or story collection. His books are worth at least that much of my coffee money.

So here's the thing: if you ran into your favorite author at the mall, wouldn't you offer to buy him a latte if you got to sit and listen to him tell a story for an hour?