I've spent the last few months conducting a number of experiments and thought I'd mention them here.
Look for a summary of 2014 and plans for 2015 in separate posts.
Finally, I've decided to add progress meters (on the right) for short stories still in the submission process. When finally published by Perkunas Press, they will have full pages here and on the Perkunas Press website.
I conducted a blitz for four months aimed at improving my Facebook and Twitter audience. Rather than advertising my books (bad form) except for the occasional sale, I focused on providing interesting content covering a wide array of topics. In other words, I posted about the things I like — archaeology, landscape, language, surrealism, and dozens of other subjects.
My Facebook friends said, “hey, neat!” and hardly grew at all. Twitter, on the other hand, where I had little presence, grew to hundreds of followers. That was gratifying, but the advice to “make friends and have conversations” still eludes me. I've found new people to follow, but conversations don't seem to make sense in that medium.
I also dabbled in Pinterest and lined up Tumblr and Instagram to explore, but I've eased up on this for now. When my next book is published, I'll do announcements on Twitter and Facebook, and see if I can detect any impact, especially from Twitter. If not, then this is not a great use of my time, and I should ratchet back to a more normal level (yet to be determined).
This blog has suffered as a consequence. I expect to be posting more regularly, and with a greater focus on actual news rather than just amusements and general items of interest.
Workshops & Lectures
I've become a real devotee of Dean Wesley Smith‘s workshops and lectures. His somewhat acerbic and dismissive manner sometimes requires accommodation, but he and his wife Kristine Rusch have an invaluable perspective on the publishing industry and the important issues for long-term fiction writers. It's always difficult to find a mentor whose sensibility accords with your own, and these two do it for me, covering both craft and business concerns.
Most recently, I've been concentrating on issues of productivity. DWS's workshop on the topic, and his lecture on practice, have really pushed my particular buttons, and I'm in the middle of new experiments based on them. Is it coincidence (probably) that my recent short story The Visitors, conceived as a practice piece on setting, was just accepted by Strange Horizons?
Watch out for hidden costs — I was finally convinced, by the workshop on productivity, to pick up a dedicated laptop just for writing. 🙂
Up until now, I've been a “plotter” (outliner) rather than a “pantser” (seat of your pants) in developing a new book. (And I'm an outliner in real life, too). Since Structures of Earth is the first book of a new series (The Affinities of Magic), I've been feeling the burden of developing it “just right” to sustain a long series of books. That's not difficult for me from a plot perspective, but it's been slowing down my creative writing rather distressingly and leaving me concerned about the “life” of some of the scenes. Rather than pick at it over and over again, I decided to pause it temporarily and began another new series, The Chained Adept, writing entirely without outline.
DWS describes this as “writing into the dark”, and it certainly is. I'm about a third of the way into it — so far, so good (as the falling man said on his way down the cliff). I'm hoping to discover if this is a more comfortable procedure for me. If I like the result, I'll go back and rework Structures of Earth and push forward with that using new ideas for how to inject life.
Some writers like to search the internet for pictures that remind them of their characters or landscapes. I've always found that too time-consuming. But I was finally pushed in a related direction, and picked up most of the Profantasy software for world and character creation. This is aimed more at role-playing game designers than writers, but I find it very useful for writers, too.
The character cards are at just the right level of detail for me to visualize my characters. The world-building begins with entire planets (Fractal Terrain) or star systems (Cosmographer) and goes down to the level of individual cities (City Designer) and below. Serious learning curves here, but you can ultimately produce your own maps for inclusion in books, and since my genre is primarily Fantasy and Science Fiction, you can see how appealing this is. Look for more detail in posts on The Chained Adept.