The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

Tag: writing

Beginning at the End

Route 66

As mentioned previously, I’ve been working my way VEEEERRRRY SLOOOOOWLY through Holly Lisle’s ostensibly three week course on How To Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck. It’s taking me closer to three months. This is partly because making the time to write has been quite the challenge lately (and has become even more so since I started my job search); but I think it’s mainly because I’ve been going through it in order, doing all of the exercises, and nothing has been coming together satisfactorily, because the part I actually needed to read and do first is the part that was saved for last: figuring out the ending.

Some writers can write a story without knowing how it ends. Many even prefer it that way. They enjoy not knowing where they’re headed until they arrive there. I am not one of those writers. For me, a story is more like a road trip. Just picking a random direction and taking off with no clue where I’m headed would make me anxious. I need to have a destination in mind. If I know I’m driving to, say, Jacksonville, Florida, I can take as direct or as meandering a path as I want, sticking to the Interstates or getting off to check out all of the mountain overlooks and Navy battleships and reptile and ‘gator farms between here and there, stopping at every Stuckey’s along the way. As long as I have a road atlas and I know I’m headed in the general direction of Jacksonville, it’s all about enjoying the journey.

Sometimes I only have a fuzzy idea of the ending. Sometimes the ending changes on me halfway through the book. Sometimes, I know a good portion of the story, but can’t see the ending. Sometimes, I’ll start writing it anyway, and the ending will come to me once I get started. But sometimes it doesn’t. That’s why I haven’t been working on Radium Town lately. I’m stalled out because I don’t know where I’m going with it. I know the characters, I know the monsters, I know that there will be an epic confrontation somewhere near the end, but… I can’t see it, or what happens afterward, how everything wraps up. Which makes telling the story difficult for me, because without knowing the ending, I don’t really know what the point of the story is.

And good flash fiction, I’m coming to understand, is very much about getting to the point, which you have to drive home in about the space of a tweet. I did the exercises for the beginnings and the middles. I had characters, I had problems, I had complications… but I didn’t know the point until I got to the Endings lesson. And once I knew the point of the stories, I realized that everything I had previously written was wrong. Wrong protagonists, wrong POVs. Some of the stories I’d started were just wrong for this format.

Apparently, for me it’s best to write flash fiction backwards.

So now I’ve got two of them done [UPDATE: Make that one — I just submitted the other one to a local coffee shop e-zine]. I’m pretty happy with them, currently. The other three (the assignment was to write five), I need to throw out entirely and go back to the drawing board. But this story collection is finally starting to come together, so I’m happy about that.

Hell, or Oklahoma? (I think that question might get asked a lot.)

So last week was… well, not Hell. But it was Oklahoma in the summertime without air conditioning, which can be easy to confuse for that other place. At any rate, it was one of the most difficult weeks in recent memory, speaking on a purely physical basis, and not much got done that wasn’t taking cold showers and giving the dog cold baths and sipping cold drinks and watching DIY air condenser repair videos on YouTube and generally hating life.

We first noticed that the condenser fan had stopped running toward the end of the previous week. At that point the temps weren’t so bad, so we didn’t panic. We were able to jerry-rig a screen on our patio door (which doesn’t have one built in), open some windows and turn on all the ceiling fans, and between the low-90s temps and the steady breezes, we were comfortable enough that Matt thought maybe he could take the time to learn how to fix it himself. I give him an A for effort and an A+ for tenacity, and I do believe he learned a lot. But by the time Thursday rolled around and it still didn’t work, the breezes all died away and the heat index ratcheted up to 111, he was ready to throw in the towel and call in my brother, who repairs ACs for a living.

Now I’m sure you’re asking, “Jean, if you have a brother who is an AC repairman, why on earth did you suffer with a broken AC for an entire week before calling him?” And there is an answer for that, albeit a lame one, and it is that we were afraid it would be awkward. See, in all the time we’ve lived here we’ve never had him over, and we both hated the thought that the first time we ever invited him over was to fix our air conditioner. Now, in our defense, we don’t know where he lives or what his place looks like, either. I guess we’re not really all that close. We usually see each other at Mom’s house on holidays and other occasions, and we text each other on occasion, and that’s usually enough.

Still, it felt awkward enough that we put it off for as long as we could. Of course, in true big brother fashion, he was happy to take time out of his Saturday to come take care of it. He replaced the capacitor and did some rewiring and got it running again, much to our relief. We paid him in pie and a promise to have him and my SIL over soon to feed them dinner and not ask him to do any manual labor. And thus endeth our week of pain.

But like I said, for the most part, it wasn’t that terrible. We spent a lot of time out on the patio, and on the worst day I took my laptop to the library to get some work done. Poor Matt, though, had to stay home to make sure the pets didn’t overheat. That was our biggest challenge, especially keeping Pete cooled off, because he was really having a hard time with it. Basically, we kept him wet pretty constantly and fed him a lot of ice. Toward the end, I rigged up a bandanna with a pocket to hold an ice cube that he could wear around his neck, which seemed to help.

But that was a week of lost productivity immediately following another week of productivity loss due to me simply feeling like crud all week. So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I made up a lot of ground yesterday by doing all of the laundry, plus some mending, and vacuuming and other house work. Now I need to get some articles written and finished up while there’s still enough daylight left to do some yard work. After a weekend off, though, I’m having trouble getting the writing gears fired up again, so hopefully writing this post will give them a bit of grease and get me going.

Speaking of writing, it’s been two weeks since I’ve even attempted fiction or thought about the direction I want to go there. Once I’m caught up, I need to sit down and do some serious thinking in that regard. At any rate, I think it’s pretty much a given at this point that I won’t be doing the July session of Camp Nano. But good luck and happy writing to any campers who are.

Five Writing News Tidbits On a Friday.

Here’s a quick and random Friday Five to update everyone on what’s happening in my corner of the writing and publishing world.

1. Last Friday, I submitted Eucha Falls to a horror anthology for consideration. As of today, their submission tracking system says it’s #705 in the queue and their average response time is 20 days. And so I wait…

2. I’m still taking a break from Radium Town as I work my way (slowly) through Holly Lisle’s latest free course, “How To Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck.” By the time I’m done with it, I should have a new flash fiction anthology ready to publish, with a couple of stories set in the Dominion-verse.

3. Otherwise, I’m pondering the future of my writing career and the path I want to take. As much as I enjoy self-publishing, the entirely DIY model is SO much work — really, I can’t overstate how much work is involved in producing your own book, especially if you care about quality — and my marketing reach is pretty limited. I’m thinking about shopping the Dominion trilogy around to some publishers, or maybe even some agents, to see if I can get it picked up. Even a small indie publisher would lift a lot of the burden off of me and extend my reach.

4. Along that same vein, I’m considering serializing Radium Town. I think it would lend itself well to serialization, and if I could get it into the Kindle Serials program, I could be earning on each episode (not to mention building a fan base) as I write the novel. I need to do more research before I decide on that, though.

5. I don’t really have a five, but Friday Four sounds lame. Oh! But I guess this counts as a #5 – if Eucha Falls gets accepted to that anthology, then I will be mightily encouraged toward writing more short stories for paying markets and seeing if I can turn that into a regular income stream. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Let’s just wait and see how EF does for now.

In other news, we’ve had a lot of wicked weather this week, with more expected this afternoon and evening. Last night, a major storm passed right over us, with enough rotation to make the rain fall at odd angles while it dumped a bunch of hail on us, before moving a few miles southeast and turning into a full-blown tornado. Some roofs got destroyed in Broken Arrow, but nobody was hurt, thank goodness. I hope tonight’s weather stays on the mild side. Or misses us altogether. If you’re in Tornado Alley today, stay safe!

Is Kindle Worlds just kindling a storm?

Yesterday, Amazon announced that it’s starting Kindle Worlds, “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.” Naturally, people have thoughts about this. I’ve seen opinions ranging from “Yay, this will totally legitimize fan fiction!” to “Boo, this will totally destroy fan fiction!” to “… what’s fan fiction and why should we care?”

I have a few thoughts of my own; the first of which is, this is not fan fiction. Despite the label Amazon is trying to put on it, fan fiction is by definition unlicensed and unpaid. The fact that these stories will be both licensed and paid makes them, by definition, NOT fan fiction, regardless of whether they started out that way.

What it does make it is licensed, work-for-hire franchise fiction–the same thing as all of the tie-in novels you see on the shelves for Star Trek, Star WarsDoctor WhoBuffy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The writers who produce those books work for very similar contractual terms and with pretty much the same guidelines. Back in my fan fiction days, I was interested in breaking into the tie-in novel market, and I sent away for the submission guidelines for Buffy, and also checked into the guidelines for Star Trek. What I saw then is pretty much the same thing I see here: don’t deviate from canon, keep it family-friendly, no cross-overs, etc., and whatever you write becomes the property of the franchise, to be used as they see fit with no further compensation to the writer.

The big differences are these: one, whereas for years fanficcers have argued that professional tie-in novels are nothing more than paid, legitimized fan ficiton, Amazon is coming right out and calling it that. And two, the traditional method of obtaining licensed novels involve paying hand-selected professional writers a sizable advance for their troubles that is in keeping with guidelines established by the Writers Guild of America. By lowering the bar for entry to amateur fanficcers, Amazon (and the licensors they’re working with) are able to get away with paying less than the going professional rate.

Do I think this is rather sneaky? Yes. Do I think it’s inherently evil? Not really. I think it’s a smart business move, and just another way that Amazon is pushing against the traditional publishing mold and trying to maintain their lead in shaping the future of publishing. I think they’re a little wrong-headed in the way they’re going about courting the fan fiction crowd, but I understand their reasons for doing so.

Do I think this will endanger the online fan fiction community in any way? Nope. I do understand that fear–that the production companies licensing this fiction might see this as a way to put the fans on a leash and give them more legitimacy for cracking down on unlicensed fan fiction; but, well, they don’t really need more legitimacy to crack down on fanfic if that’s what they wanted to do. And licensed fiction already exists. This is just a way for Amazon to profit directly from it by making a large portion of it exclusive to the Kindle. This is, first and foremost, about Amazon shoring up a market share where they see a potential for profit. They don’t really care about quashing or regulating fan fiction. What they care about is giving the fan fiction crowd a reason to buy Kindles.

Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this development in the comments.

What to do with Eucha Falls?

Originally, my Slenderman-and-dream-inspired short story Eucha Falls was intended to be a free release, just a quickly thrown-together e-book with previews of both my novels in the back, more of a marketing tool than anything else. But then I grew attached to the idea of having a cover done by an illustrator whose work I follow (and adore) in the Marble Hornets fandom, which would really be a perfect fit. And in the interest of paying her for her work, I’d have to charge for the book. I suggested a profit share, but she prefers a flat fee, for which I can’t blame her in the least. She offered to do it for a very reasonable fee, but it’s still high enough that I’d have to do another pre-sale on Indiegogo to raise the funds.

Which, I think, is doable. I could pull my other unpublished horror novelette, Hungry Child, out of mothballs and finally do a revision to fix all the problems the beta readers found with it, and package them together for a paperback so I could offer signed copies. Maybe also throw in a few flash fiction pieces to flesh it out and make sure everyone gets their money’s worth. And if somehow the IGG campaign took off and became wildly successful, we could also talk about maybe doing that graphic novel version that Matt was all excited about.

But then yesterday I found out about a horror anthology that Ellen Datlow is putting together, and she’s accepting submissions, and in an unusual twist she’s accepting stories up to 10,000 words. EF is just over that and it wouldn’t take much trimming to get it under the limit. And if it’s accepted, it would mean a pretty decent paycheck. Not to mention a traditional publishing credit, plus it would expose my work to a much wider audience than I’m able to reach on my own. AND the anthology has the same title as my very first finished novel, which if I were superstitious I would take as a sign.

Hmm. Writing it all out, it kind of seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

There is a downside, though. Mainly, the waiting. If I submit it and it doesn’t get accepted, then I’ll have wasted weeks or months in which I could have been using the story to promote my whole body of work, just waiting to be rejected. If it DOES get accepted, then I’m sure I’ll have to wait some contractual period of time before I can publish it as a stand-alone, or in any other collections. Or do that graphic novel. 😉

But again, if it does get accepted, I’ll get paid more in one fell swoop than I’ve earned in total royalties during my entire self-published career to date. Which, admittedly, isn’t very much.

I’m thinking I should follow the money. What do you think?

Happy New Year!

It’s a new month and a whole new year, and my post-NaNoWriMo break is officially at an end. That means that I’ll dig in and start editing Dominion of the Damned this week, and it also means that my blog semi-hiatus is at an end, which means it’s about to get a lot more chatty around here.

Coming up, I’ll be sharing some publishing and sales stats, doing a walk-through of the editing and publishing process with Dominion, and posting more indie author spotlights and interviews, as well as some indie book reviews…although those will be few and far between at first, because finding time to read is a challenge, and my To Read queue is long, and I still haven’t yet gotten around to reading Dance with Dragons. Or Ghost Story. Yeah, I know. So much for all that reading I said I was going to be doing over my December break, but that’s what happens when the “day job” becomes insanely busy.

I’ll also hopefully be posting more on the crafting side of things. I’ve made a few things here and there, but I’m always too lazy to take pictures and post them, so I need to remedy that. After all, part of the whole point of moving from Livejournal to WordPress was so that I could have a category devoted to crafting. My crafting has slowed down along with the TV season (since I usually make stuff while I watch TV), but the former should start to pick back up along with the latter, and I’ve got a long list of things I want to make.

So that’s what’s ahead. Hopefully, 2012 will be a productive and creative year, full of glorious, amazing mistakes. And I hope it’s a good one for all of you, as well.

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