Tag Archives: Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig on why social media is a misunderstood opportunity for writers

The wonderfully foul-mouthed (foul-texted?) Chuck Wendig wrote an excellent post post about how writers should use social media:


Go forth and read! At the least, you should get a smile or two out of it. 🙂

The Hijacked Hugo Awards, 2015: New Tales of Beset Manhood

Ignore the dinosaurs

Well, that at least was what I intended to do when I first found out what was behind the exceedingly odd list of Hugo nominations this year. What, no Asimov’s? No F&SF, Strange Horizons, Interzone, or any of the other big names besides Analog? And who in the blue blazes is this John C. Wright person, who has THREE nominations in the novella category, as well as one each in short story and novelette? I cannot think of a single heavy-hitter in SFF in my lifetime who has dominated the ballot that way. And how in the world is some unknown publisher by the name of Castalia House so prominent among the nominations? And PATRIARCHY HOUSE? Where in the world are we now? How can this possibly be the specfic world I know and love?

I haven’t been very active in the SFF community for a number of years, although it is still what I read and write. But aside from the Villa Diodati workshop for writers of specfic in Europe, which I founded almost a decade ago, I don’t often go to the places where writers in my genre hang out anymore, aside from a few intimate spots on the Internet. Before all this crap hit the fan, I hadn’t even heard of the poor Sad Puppies (not not to mention their more rabid counterparts, the Rabid Puppies), who feel so irked and threatened by ethnic diversity and literary SF that they started a campaign to free “their” genre from the yoke of what they call “SJWs” (Social Justice Warriors, a term I also only learned today) and lead it back into the “Golden Age” of SF.

The problem is, it’s my genre too. And I never liked the “Golden Age” of SF. In high school, I cut my teeth on The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, still two of my favorite books. Those books are all full of politics and gender issues and sexual diversity. The freedom to make up worlds like that was what I always loved about speculative fiction.

This new big uprising of the dinosaurs hit me out of the blue. And I tried to ignore it, I really did. But then I realized I had to add my 2c just so I could get all this crap out of my brain and get back to important stuff like writing and translating and preparing for the next trip.

Here a quote from the discussion thread over on the Passive Guy blog from “Kudzu Bob”, a supporter of the poor Sock, er Sad Puppies:

As for the SJWs, they think that racial, religious, and sexual diversity is a supreme good that somehow magically increases the sum total of human happiness, but is this really the case? As sci-fi fandom has grown more and more heterogeneous in nature, it also has become more and more divided against itself, at least to judge by recent developments. And if diversity makes people more miserable rather then less, then the SJWs are doomed to failure, no matter how noble their intentions.

Um, no. I don’t have any noble intentions. I don’t vote for what I think is best for world peace, I vote for what I like. Certain tropes bore me and make it impossible for me to read to the end — while for some readers it will be precisely those tropes that will make them clap their hands enthusiastically. There should be room for both of us, for all of us. I like diversity. I realize that there are many people out there who do not, but that does not mean they are liberating me from some onerous chore when they impose their uniformity on me. I don’t feel any misery in the online and face2face SF community I have, despite our national, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and religious diversity. We get along just fine, thank you, despite our differences. Sometimes we even learn from each other.

I also like “literary” SF. I admit, I have a PhD in English Literature, (luckily the eggs that will now be thrown at me are only virtual) but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be entertained. For me, SF with a literary sensibility gives me the best of all worlds: great plots with beautiful language exploring meaningful themes. Not tough guys stomping out monsters or conquering new planets. Of course there is a place for that for people who want to read it, but how in the world did it become something that involved some poor sad sock puppies hijacking the Hugo ballot?

This all reminds me of a little kerfuffle in the SFF community 10 years ago which inspired an article I wrote with Jay Lake for IROSF, which is still online, although the zine has folded, “Tough Times for Beset Manhood: Or, Where Has Good Old Golden Age SF Gone?” The Sad Puppies movement is definitely (among others) a male thing. While the poor deprived male puppies put a handful of token women on their slate, the list is predominantly male authors. With the exception of one woman writer (whom I know and like), I can’t find a single woman who supports these poor puppies.

This is much bigger than the few flame wars on various discussion forums that inspired me and Jay 10 years ago, however. It has deprived a number of writers whose names were not on the sock puppies list of a chance to be nominated for a major award.

I feel like a sad puppy today too.

Clay Hackett (Flickr, Creative Commons)

A bunch of people who have said much more meaningful stuff than me on the issue:

Matthew David Surridge

Charlie Jane Anders

Chuck Wendig

John Scalzi

Sea lions on the Oregon coast for Terribleminds Fiction Challenge

Note: I’ve long wanted to participate in one of Chuck Wendig’s Friday Fiction Challenges, but somehow I never seem to have the time. This week, I’m a bit ahead of myself, and I decided to give it a shot. This on the 1st “fourth” of a story — which someone else should take up next week! If you want to play and see how it works, check out the rules here.

And now for my open beginning:

“I’m not going back to Germany.” Deirdre scuffed the damp sand with her white Reeboks, erasing a random dog print. “There’s nothing there for me anymore.”
“But what about your job?” Mandi asked.
As opposed to Deirdre, Mandi had never left the Oregon coast. Now, just shy of forty, she looked as if she had become part of the landscape. Her long hair, beginning to gray, was frizzy from regular walks on the beach, and her long linen dress was tye-died in shades of sea and sand and driftwood. In the decades they had known each other, her figure had gone from skinny to comfortable. Deirdre envied the way she seemed so at home in her own body, in her self.
“I quit,” Deirdre said. “I wrote the letter this morning.”
The moisture in the air was somewhere between a heavy fog and a light mist, obscuring the coast with wisps of gray and leaving only the edge of the water visible to the eye. Clouds of fog moved in the breeze, transforming the landscape from moment to moment, hiding one feature and revealing another. There was little wind, but it was cool and damp. It was late summer in the rest of the world, but the Oregon coast had its own seasons.
They walked through the sand in silnece for a while. “A bit radical, don’t you think?” Mandi finally replied. “I mean, you have it pretty cushy over there in Germany. Four weeks of paid vacation, plus. A functioning health care system. A lot of people would envy you.”
“Yeah, I know — but I’m homesick anyway. Besides, everything there reminds me too much of Torsten.” Oh, how she hated the way her voice broke when she said that.
They were walking into the wind, and Deirdre pulled her parka tighter. Beside her, Mandi had her funky leather coat buttoned up to her chin. A rocky outcrop took shape ahead of them through the mist, and the hotel on the bluff loomed above them to their right.
Mandi took a deep breath. “I know you don’t want to hear this, Deirdre, but you really need to consider dating again.”
Deirdre shook her head. “I’d rather hang out with my sea lions.”
The sea lions of Siletz Bay were a comfort to her. In good weather, she would sit on a log in the graveyard of driftwood near the end of the bay and watch them for hours at a time. She had even started giving them names — although she had to admit that she wasn’t sure if she was always giving the same names to the same sea lions. She wasn’t exactly an expert where sea lions were concerned.
“Yeah, well,” Mandi said with an exaggerated grimace. “You know what I think of that particular hobby.”
“Avoidance strategy. But hanging out with the sea lions gives me peace of mind. And I thought you were the one who was so keen on healing and inner harmony and all that, huh?”
Mandi shoved into her shoulder playfully. “Sure, you need that too. But you also need to learn to let go. You’re doing the same thing with your mother’s house.”
No kidding. But how, how did she learn to let go? “I’ve gotten rid of most of the furniture now.”
They came around the outcropping of rock, and the overpowering stench hit her like a fist to the stomach.
“What the hell!”
The smell was like the contents of the sea, emptied out and rotting: more than a scent, a physical thing. It took her by the throat, plunged to her stomach, and made her gag. She ran away from it, towards the ocean, and fell to her knees in the wet sand, coughing.
“What — was — that?” Deirdre choked out.
“It’s a dead sea lion,” Mandi said, taking deep breaths of air far away from the stench behind them.
A sea lion. She leaned over, her hands resting on her knees. Tears from her dry heaves and things she didn’t want to think about mingled with the mist in the air and the salt of the surf. One of her knees had grazed a rocky protrusion from the outcropping and her jeans were soaked, but none of that mattered.
Mandi knelt down and put her arms around her. “You okay now?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Deirdre wiped her cheeks and looked up. A sea lion bobbed up near the shore where she knelt, dark and sleek, staring at her with his brown, brown eyes. His gaze was steady. She took a deep breath and smiled. Perhaps it was one of the ones she had named, one of the ones she had spent her last few weeks with as she walked the beaches of her former home, looking for something to hold on to.
The sea lion gave a very human-sounding grunt and dove below the surface again.

Portrait of a sea lion in the water
Photo by Tambako The Jaguar, Creative Commons license

Some hard truths about writer’s block

Chuck Wendig posted a great article on writer’s block today, “Writer’s block might be…” If you haven’t read it yet, I thoroughly recommend it — as long as you don’t mind his regular use of four-letter words, that is. 🙂

This problem that “writer’s block might be” particularly struck home with me:

Doubt In What You’re Writing

Problem: This thing you’re working on just ain’t working. It’s not writer’s block. It’s the material. Something wonky is hiding in the various gears and dongles of your wordsmithy. You halt because you instinctively recognize that you’re charging forth into an uncertain reality, as if you went back in time and stepped on a butterfly and now you’re back and something feels wrong and you can’t tell what it is …

Solution: A few ways to go here. First, say “f*ck it,” keep writing. Act like nothing is wrong. Persevere and write through it and eventually the solution may present itself. Or: stop writing forward and start looking backward. Flip through and see if you went wrong somewhere, if there’s some moment in the story where you feel like you took it in a wrong direction, or see if you can spot a plot-hole whose heretofore-unseen absence of logic has been haunting you like a gibbering ghost rising from past pages. Or: take a good long long at the story. Is this really the story you wanted to tell? Is this your heart, minced into narrative, or is this the story someone else wants you to tell? Sometimes writing to a market or to another person’s expectations feels unnatural, like we’re wearing someone else’s underwear. It’s halting, jarring, unpleasant — and it can lead to creative blockage. Here, I’m afraid the solution is to go and write the thing you really want to write. The thing that speaks to your storytelling soul. The thing that is your blood on the page.

This seems to be a part of my problem at the moment. I know there is a spark of enthusiasm in A Wasted Land, a central idea that made me start it in the first place, but at the moment that enthusiasm seems to be drowning in the daily word-makery. I had the same problem for a while with Shadow of Stone, My solution was to sit down with pen and paper and “talk to myself” for a while, ask myself what it was about the idea that originally grabbed me and made me want to tell the story. At the moment, I’m doing much the same thing for A Wasted Land — and coming up with new scenes and ideas in the process. So it seems to be working. 🙂

Another problem that Chuck points out is also contributing to my present slow progress, I think, “Uncertainty About Where The Story Is Going.” I do have most of the big plot points for A Wasted Land mapped out, but things in between are looking very fuzzy, and I’m not quite sure what to put there. Working on that as well, while I try to regain my enthusiasm.

There’s one thing that’s also messing with my drive to write at the moment that Chuck doesn’t mention:

Lack of Success

And no, this is not the same thing as Fear of Failure. I know I can write. I’ve been published traditionally both in novels and short fiction, I’ve been nominated for and won awards, the books and story collections I’ve self-published have gotten lots of good reviews, none of them from my grandmother (I haven’t had a grandmother since I was sixteen). None are from any other family members either.

But the thing is, when I first started out as an indie writer, and my books were selling hundreds of copies a month, that started a wonderful feedback loop that inspired me to write more.

When the marketing strategies I was using stopped working and my sales dropped more and more, that sent me into a downward motivational spiral. Of course, it was complicated by the Big Translation Project, which left me with less time for writing. But knowing I have to relearn the whole marketing gig before my books start selling again is discouraging. In 2012, I had tons of drive and enthusiasm for my writing. In 2014 it’s more like, yeah, okay, let’s knock another 500 words out — I’m not a writer if I don’t write, right?

The empty brain

What my brain looks like on a negative feedback loop. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.)

Sales, praise, good reviews: it might sound like a pretty superficial need. And “need” is probably too strong a word anyway. I’m still writing, after all. I’m pretty good at shrugging off bad reviews too. My philosophy has always been that I’m writing the books that I would most want to read myself. Nonetheless, knowing I don’t have much of an audience I’m writing for besides me is a bit frustrating at times.

So what about the rest of you? What’s your biggest problem in getting motivated to write?

Depressing discoverability issues, an update, and #WIPpet Wednesday

The other day, I read a great post by Chuck Wendig about book discovery, and how much more difficult is getting to find “channels of discovery” as an indie author. As long as you don’t mind profanity, I highly recommend it for anyone who is considering going indie or has already self-published. He provides a lot of numbers, a lot of uncomfortable opinions, some suggestions for what to do to get out of the deluge, and a nice graphic I’m going to link to, illustrating how tough we all really have it:

Quoted from terribleminds

The thing is, it’s getting harder and harder to be an indie these days. Partly it has to do with the mountains of ebooks being published that Chuck points out, and the way many readers are starting to feel burned and are shying away from self-published books. Another thing playing a role is that traditional publishers have started wising up and are no longer making the same mistakes they were a year or two ago — mostly regarding pricing. A couple months back, Toby Neal wrote a great post about this, and the “indies getting clobbered” meme bounced around the net for a while. (You can read a good response with more details at The Digital Reader.)

Does this mean that we should all return to traditional publishing? For me, it does not. And that goes for anyone who writes in a genre that publishers think doesn’t sell, like Arthurian fiction, or who writes stuff that’s hard to put a label on, like time travel with a literary plot and a romance sub-plot that doesn’t end happily-ever-after. (Yes, if you read last week’s post, you are right in assuming that’s my non-genre description for Chameleon in a Mirror.) Or anyone who doesn’t want to wait for over a year to never get a response from an agent or a publisher and has had to pull a submission more than once in order to be able to submit a manuscript elsewhere. Or anyone who has been traditionally published already, and for whatever reason does not want to go that route anymore.

We have to develop much thicker skins — and we have to try even harder to make sure we put out a quality product. That’s the only way we self-published authors can win back readers we’ve lost.

I, for one, haven’t given up yet. And that’s what my update is all about. 🙂 I still haven’t managed to get Chameleon in a Mirror published — but soon, I hope. Making the changes from the line edits sent me took longer than I’d expected. But I’m done now, and I’m on to formatting. I had a bit of a setback yesterday, though — for some reason, Word ate all my italics when I was about halfway through with the formatting. I only noticed when I saw that a title of one of the many Restoration plays I mention was no longer in italics. Since I didn’t know when it happened, I figured it would be too dangerous to try and recover the version with italics using “undo”, so now I’m manually going though the HTML version I created to get a clean copy and searching for the HTML tag “EM”. Sigh. It might have been easier to just start reformatting from the HTML file, but I’m already 7 chapters in, and it doesn’t make much sense to start over again now.

Have I ever mentioned before that I really don’t like Word?

Anyway, that’s the sum total of my update: edits added, formatting almost done.

Now on to the fun part of today’s post, WIPPET WEDNESDAY! My math for today’s date is simply to add up all the digits: 2 + 6 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 4 = 15. So here are 15 short paragraphs from Chameleon in a Mirror, the next scene in Billie’s pov, after the string of her lute snapped. (For the sake of clarification, when she arrived in the past, everyone assumed she was male because of her pants, her height, and her slim build.)

The door of the changing room opened, and Aphra entered. The playwright took in the lute on the floor and Billie’s reddened eyes and shook her head. “A broken string is nothing to cry about, Will,” she said gently.
Billie sighed and wiped her face with a Kleenex she pulled out of the pocket of her jeans. “It wasn’t the string.”
“I imagine not. Is London too great a challenge for you, fresh from the colonies as you are?”
“I — it’s not London. I’ve been places you probably never heard of, places you couldn’t even imagine.”
Aphra sat down next to her, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Did you run away, lad?”
“Not exactly. It’s not what you think.”
“‘Tis rarely what people think.”
At that oh so appropriate answer, Billie found herself chuckling, despite the hopeless situation she found herself in. Or imagined she found herself in.
She took a deep breath, reaching for the top button of her silk blouse. “I’m not what you think either.”
“Now, lad, restrain yourself!” Aphra said sternly. “There are still many others in the playhouse. I’ll –” Her voice died away as Billie opened her blouse to reveal her undershirt and minimal amount of cleavage.
Aphra’s eyes went wide and she let out a ringing laugh. “Excellent masquerade, Will! Or what should I call you now?”
Billie raked her mind for a name that might suit and lit on the lines she’d recited in front of the mirror. “Clarinda.”
“I see you do not yet trust me,” Aphra said with a faint smile. “So be it. I, too, have my alias. You may call me Astrea — most people do.”
Apparently Billie’s chosen name was in the pastoral pseudonym department, the kind given to figures in poetry and plays; Aphra had just offered her own pen name in exchange. But hey, how was she to know? She was a literary critic, not a historian. Which didn’t bode well for her if she really was in the seventeenth century, and not breathing shallowly on the floor of a classroom at Blackfriars, plagued by unusually vivid dreams.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts. 🙂