|August 17, 2013||Posted by annathepiper under Writing|
I was asked the following question on Google+:
How do you deal with characters who suddenly hare off and do something you really REALLY didn’t plan?
This is an excellent question, and requires a bit of a longer answer than would fit comfortably into a social networking comment. So here, y’all get a blog post!
A lot of writers I’ve heard address this topic will swear up and down that YOU ARE THE WRITER, BY GOD, so you, not the character, are the one in charge of a character’s actions in a story. From what I’ve seen these tend to be people who have more active plans in place before they start a book, so they’ve got clear ideas at all times of what they expect a character to be doing. Maybe they’ll even have a full outline sketched out.
Me, I’m not quite that much of a pre-planner. I’ve completed four manuscripts to date, and am about to complete a fifth. So far, my way of doing this is to have a general broad picture of what the book’s supposed to be about, going in. This is very similar to how I used to do plots in my days of playing MUSHes, where we’d do things called ‘tinyplots’–i.e., a general broad, open-ended idea of a plot concept–and then the characters on the game would then roleplay the plot out. It’d often go in unexpected ways due to the live, real-time nature of the RP, and that was a known and expected thing and considered to be part of the fun.
Now that I’m writing, I go in with that same broad idea of how the plot should work and some core character concepts for the major members of the cast. I start writing, and maybe I’ll get in a few chapters or so and then take a step back and think, “okay, now what happens next?” I’ll do a little bit of planning, then write that bit, and then do a little bit more planning, lather, rinse, repeat, until the book’s done. I’ll usually be taking notes in an outline file, with chapter summaries, as I go. It’s been a very organic process for me and usually it works.
However, sometimes I will have a character go HI I NEED TO DO THIS NOW, completely out of the blue. This is usually code, in my brain, for “Okay Anna, you haven’t thought something through well enough”–either my concept of what that character is supposed to be like, or else something about the overall plot. It happened to me early on, in fact, in the writing of the book that eventually became Valor of the Healer, and what I did at that point is to just readjust what I was intending to write in the chapters in question and keep going. I was still within the broad overall concept of what I wanted to do, so I wasn’t blocked.
But in another book I’ve got that’s still a work in progress, I hit a point where I realized that what I’d written so far just felt wrong. So in that case I just ditched that draft and started a new one. I was only four chapters in, so it wasn’t quite as severe a situation as having to completely trash most of a book.
How about the rest of my fellow writers out there? How do you deal when your characters raise their hands and go AHEM I’M DOING THIS NOW?
|January 7, 2013||Posted by annathepiper under About Me, Publishing, Writing||
Every so often well-meaning family and/or friends ask me questions like “So when do you get to quit your day job?” or “When do you get to be the next Tolkien/J.K. Rowling/Stephanie Meyer/Amanda Hocking/etc.?”
Which are lovely questions and I do appreciate the support, but the long and short of it is, the likely answer to both of these questions for the foreseeable future is “I don’t”.
For a writer, especially these days, getting to a point where quitting the day job is feasible is extremely hard. For one thing, I live in the United States, and while I’m fortunate enough to have a good job with good medical benefits, if I left that job, those benefits would vanish. And getting health coverage on your own? That’s just about as hard as trying to support yourself as a writer. And after all the medical adventures I’ve had over the last ten years, frankly, I ain’t leaving a well-paying, benefits-providing job unless my books start selling a few million copies a year.
Which brings me to the second question, i.e., will I ever match the sales levels of those aforementioned famous authors? Probably not.
Because let’s get real here, folks–even though I do have a trilogy about to start coming out via Carina, I do remain a primarily digitally published author. In 2012, I sold 143 copies of Faerie Blood to the general public (which doesn’t count the Kickstarter backers). Some of those are print copies, but the majority are ebook. The maximum number I’ve sold per month is just over 50. The minimum is 12. Given that I suck at self-promotion, I’m deeply grateful that I’ve managed to score even these numbers–but still? They’re tiny numbers.
And I don’t honestly expect them to change much when Valor of the Healer comes out. A few reasons for this.
One, people still keep periodically saying to me, “Well gosh Anna, I’d love to read your books, except I don’t like ebooks/can’t read them/can’t afford an ereader/etc.” Whatever the reason, it boils down to “I’m not going to buy your book.” So the fact that I’m a digitally published author means that I don’t pull those readers in.
Two, even though I do have print copies of Faerie Blood, you do still have to buy them from me directly. This takes effort, more effort than just walking into a bookstore and picking a book off the bookshelf. There’s an inevitable delay between “asking me for the book” and “actually getting it so you can read it”.
Three, it’s going to be a tough sell to get Carina’s majority book-buying audience (which is coming out of romance) interested in what I write (which is to say, SF/F with romantic elements). Likewise, it’s going to be a tough sell to get SF/F readers willing to look at an epic fantasy trilogy sold by an imprint of a company primarily known for romance–because there’s still a lot of genre snobbery out there, and a lot of it is unfortunately directed at romance. So I fully expect there to be some level of “well, she’s published via a romance imprint, her book must be a romance novel, pass” in play.
Four, even among the digital book-buying public, it’s going to be hard to stand out from the crowd. It is supremely easy to self-publish these days. Anybody with a novel and the tools to slap together an ebook can do it, and so the major ebook vending sites are awash in an overwhelming flood of digitally published work. Just because a book’s out there though doesn’t mean it’s good, or that people are going to be able to find it, or that they’re going to actually want to read it when they do.
Five, hell, you guys, I know a lot of authors in print who struggle to sell enough copies to quit their day jobs. I know of authors who, despite the fact that they are well-lauded in their respective genres, despite the fact that they do in fact have day jobs, despite the fact that they’ve gotten titles onto the New York Times Bestselling list, still have to struggle to make ends meet. I’ve seen authors in print have series collapse out from under them because print sales have taken such a hit over the last several years–authors who have then had to either start writing under different names, or choose to self-publish the rest of their series via Kickstarter, or what have you.
“Writer” is very, very seldom synonomous with “rich”.
Long story short–if the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy performs better than Faerie Blood, even if just to the tune of a couple more hundred copies sold per year, I’ll be happy. I’m not in this for the money; that’s what I’ve got the day job for. I’m in this to share some stories with you folks, and I’m in it for the long haul and the hope that each time I put out a book, I’ll maybe pick up a small number of new readers. Maybe eventually, I’ll hit that critical mass and be somebody who can get talked about on the same level as Butcher or Richardson or McGuire or Priest or what have you.
Till then, I hope y’all stick around. And be on the lookout, because Valor of the Healer is COMING.
|May 2, 2012||Posted by annathepiper under Music, Writing|
Memo to my brain:
No, you may NOT write a short story based on the Le Vent du Nord song “Le dragon de Chimay”. No matter how awesome a mental image you have in your head of a dragon breaking out of chains that hold him underground and surging up into the open air in desperate search of his lady love, and finally transforming back to human shape before her…
… damn, that’s an awesome image, innit? And it is NOT HELPING that I’m totally seeing this young woman and her “preux chevalier si tendre et amant”, as the cathedral collapses on him and he’s forced into dragon shape and she frantically tries to dig him out and no, no, no, dammit brain! You have a novel to finish and a novella to finish and a whole other novella to write and plan for all these lovely Kickstarter people throwing money at you, so STAY ON TARGET!
You are, however, totally allowed to geek right out over the translation of the lyrics, and listen to the song as many times as you like.
Because yes, folks, I like this band so much I want to write them fanfic. Or in this case, songfic!
|February 3, 2012||Posted by annathepiper under Writing||
Tonight I found a message waiting for me on Facebook from someone who said she’d just finished reading Faerie Blood and really liked it–and that she was volunteering to jump in on beta reading Lament of the Dove for me. To which I had the following reactions:
One, holy crap, a complete stranger actually read my book and wrote in to say she liked it EEE!. This does not happen to me very often at all, people. Faerie Blood hasn’t sold more than a few hundred copies to the best of my knowledge, and believe me, I’m still totally double-taking at the thought that people I don’t actually know have actually read it!
But with that in mind, O Internets, I urge you: if you loved a book, take the time to write in and let the author know. It doesn’t have to be effusive or detailed. It can just be ‘I really enjoyed your book, thank you so much!’ Even hearing that much is music to an author’s ears. We’re putting our darlings out there in the hope that somebody will in fact read ‘em, so any proof that they’re getting read? Gold.
And two, holy crap this complete stranger wants to read more of my work! Sure, it’s work that hasn’t actually been published yet, but in some ways that’s even more awesome. That’s taking an active interest.
So I’ve flung back a Facebook note to the person in question, and we will see where this goes. In the meantime, public mad props to Ghislaine for taking the time to write in!
All the rest of you? If you loved an author’s work, thank them. And if you’re an author, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that your readers are made entirely of awesome. Or that your beta readers kick up the awesome another order of magnitude entirely. Hug your beta readers today!
|August 12, 2011||Posted by annathepiper under About Me, Valor of the Healer, Writing||
Which is to say, I’m going to take the entire week of Labor Day off since I have the vacation time to spare, and work on finishing my edits. To further this goal, I will be also dropping off the net for the duration of that week. I’ll still be answering email, but I won’t be monitoring Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, and for the most part I’ll only be answering email sent directly to me (as opposed to any of the mailing lists I’m on, or comments on any of my posts).
Noting this now by way of general accountability. I may post status updates during that week–again, for purposes of accountability–but I can’t guarantee I’ll answer any comments on them.
We’ll see how much I can get done before then; any little bit I can get done before does after all further the goal. And anything I can write above and beyond finishing the edits on Lament will be bonus. Christopher and Kendis are looking VERY expectant in the back of my brain, you know.
So there you have it. If you think you might want to get a hold of me during that week for whatever reason, email, text, or phone will be best! If you think you should have those means of contacting me and you don’t, let me know.