November 21, 2017, 07:05:27 PM

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Re: Original Sources for Fantasy That sacred texts site seems like a pretty great resource for inspiration on mythic fantasy and world-building, thanks for sharing it!
October 03, 2017, 06:19:01 PM
Re: "Murky middle" problem with outlining a story When I'm stuck like that in the outlining process, sometimes I brainstorm on random scenes.  Almost like imagining a snippet that might appear in a movie trailer for your story.

For example, just start thinking of your setting and some of the themes involved.  Maybe you start to picture a wild chase on foot through a marketplace, with the heroine dashing after some rambunctious thief.

From there, start working backwards to figure out where that scene fits.  Where could there be a marketplace like the one you pictured?  At that stage in the story, what could be stolen that is precious enough to elicit the sort of action-packed chase scene you imagined?  Then think about what you want at that stage of the story.  If she needs to meet another character around then, maybe they're the thief, or maybe they help her catch the thief.  Or maybe she wins them to her side because the thief stole from them instead of her.  Or maybe you need to show her character, so the chase ends with mercy, or a lack thereof.

Once you plant the scene where you need it, and figure out what you can use it for in that spot, then tendrils drift out into the rest of the story, filling in even more of the middle.  If the thief stole money, then to make that dramatic, she must want money.  Suddenly, you're filling details elsewhere with scenes to show how a woman raised as a spoiled princess struggles to manage her finances.  Or maybe you decide she's flawed and greedy, and you show her chasing down the thief to demonstrate that quality of her character... which of course, is a detail that will need to spill over into other scenes she's in.

The more bits and pieces you fill in like that, the more of a cohesive vision you'll build for yourself of your setting, characters and the final story.  When you've done all your work, in the end those patchwork scenes will seamlessly unite even though you didn't know exactly where each would go when you first imagined it.

October 04, 2017, 06:33:31 PM
Re: Why I don't generally recommend self-publishing. I'm still new to all this, but it's an issue I've considered quite a bit.  It's interesting to read through this and see that despite the voluminous verbiage, the principle arguments are only two-fold:
1) Self-published authors don't hire editors.
2) No one takes self-published authors seriously, giving them a huge marketing disadvantage.

The first, as a writer, is very easy to address - just hire an editor.  I hire two per book; a professional developmental editor (I use Writer's Ally for that step) to give the story polish, and then a copy-editor to clean up any typos (which I hired freelance).  My first copy-editor didn't do a great job, but one marvel of self-publication on something like Amazon is that when I find mistakes that slipped through, I can fix it very quickly, and remove the error from everything that goes out from that point forward.  For the second book I hired a better copy-editor.  Those are expensive steps, but if you want a quality product, they are unavoidable.

Which brings us to the second issue.  People expect self-published work to be crap.  Hell, some of my reviewers put in remarks on my grammar, like I'd uploaded a six-hundred page grade-school report.  Even in this thread, a number of commenters discuss the lack of editorial polish like it's an inherent aspect to self-publication.

The irony bridging these two elements is that traditional publishers screw up this stuff all the time.    R. Scott Bakker writes some amazing stuff, but I remember reading one of his books (White Luck Warrior, maybe?) where for the entire novel he had a guy who kept talking about fighting 'duals'.  I cringed every time, yet he's available in brick and mortar stores around the world.  I've seen errors in Stephen King and others who have no excuses to budget or inexperience.  It happens to everyone; but when it happens with an indie book, everyone rolls their eyes and claims it's an aspect inherent to self-publication.

A majority of self-published works are crap, but as the technology has rendered a number of publisher services increasingly superfluous, the main advantage they are left with is credibility.  A new author published by a major house gets professional reviews with no proof of sales (I need to prove $3k in sales before a number of places will even look to review my book).  A new author published by a major house gets their literal stamp of approval before anyone has read the book.

The trade-off is that you spend years going through their song and dance, vying for a spot on their limited roster.  You're not building readers, you're not paying off developmental costs, you're just circling the airport, hoping they clear you to land.

With either traditional or self publication, the entire trick is overcoming the default presumption of not being good enough for traditional publication... so the option is whether you want to try and overcome them by courting publishers, or try to overcome them by courting readers directly.

Given the usual multi-year pendency required to court publishing houses, as an indie author, if I can build to just over 2k readers within 6 years (and presumably continue to grow from there), then I've gotten a better deal.  I suck at marketing, but looking at the numbers, I decided to gamble on my own entrepreneurial efforts, and never actually sought traditional publication.  You've got to court the readers eventually regardless, so courting publishers first seemed like duplicative work to me.

That course certainly carries penalties, but you can't fairly compare the two without including the several years head start that self-publishing gets you.  To overcome the competence perceptions among readers, so far I've found two expenses most worth the effort:
-A cover.  People judge covers very heavily.  If you toss up a proposal on 99Designs though, you can get some really solid stuff for super cheap.  Plus, you can engage those designers for more than just the book cover... they can make website elements, business cards, forum signature banners, and all sorts of things using the same elements.  A professional looking cover is a major step to overcoming self-publishing prejudices.
-Professional reviews.  I used Kirkus, and they liked my book a lot.  Being able to tout an organizational review goes a long way to making your work look professional.  Despite being willing to review any book, Kirkus has a reputation for blunt honesty in their reviews - indie authors pay them for that service, but even major publishers pay them, they just get it as a subscription for all their books.

Self-publication is still a marathon of effort, but it's a mixed bag of advantages and disadvantages.  You start earlier, and manage things your own way, but you're also missing a lot of the expertise and connections traditionally published works get you, and you have to find that stuff on your own.  The challenge is to use that head-start productively to engage your audience and establish credibility.

I wouldn't give an automatic 'no' to a publisher who was interested in my work... but not being forced to rely upon them gives me an enormous range of options and flexibility in negotiation I wouldn't otherwise have.  For those of you who habitually discount self-published work, I encourage you to look beyond that, because the world is changing fast.

October 09, 2017, 06:32:13 PM
Re: Reading a book series out of sequence I feel like if a series can't be enjoyably read out of sequence, then the author's individual stories probably aren't as polished as they should be.  Then again, I feel similarly about spoilers too, and enjoy filling in the backstory on things so, for me, knowing what happens at point B doesn't really diminish my interest in following the journey that began at point A.

This is also the point at which I lament my pre-Kindle days.  I know a series that fits that perfectly... the author started with a book about a siege, then wrote a series of both prequels and sequels about characters and events that spun outwards from that siege.  Unfortunately, all the names elude me entirely, I can't think of a good angle to search on it in Google, and the paper versions I owned are long since surrendered. :(

There are tons of examples though.  People advise the Star Wars movies are best enjoyed out of sequence, and the vast library of books in the setting happen at all sorts of different times in relation to each other.  I remember that the Dragonlance series had a bunch of prequels and sequels and midquels, and whatever elses, and while stories were often told in three-book chunks, the stories themselves didn't necessarily require being read in chronological or publishing order.  My father adores Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels, which (as near as I can tell from the two I've read) don't seem to require any particular sequence.

November 14, 2017, 03:31:59 PM