Janus Transition #2: Forward, Only Forward!

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Prep the double espressos, warm up those typing fingers and check yourself in the mirror: this is going to be a real bitch to write.

The desire to keep on retrospecting is strong.

Now cue generic image, maybe a few more crap metaphors and a bit of self obsessed waffle.

Ready? Because we’re going forward, and only forward!

SO, ANYWAY, YOU WROTE A BOOK?

Yep, and submitted it too.

Then, this week, it happened: the first reply from an agent appeared, sitting all by itself in my In Box early one morning. I held my breath. There was always a chance that it was going to ask for my manuscript, but I think we all know what it said…..

But hey, at least it was a polite “no thanks.”

Fair enough. I’ve heard people get crushed by this sort of thing – after all, you just poured your damned heart into your work and some faceless peep at the end of an email just says “nah, not today.”

But not me. I’m thinking: “bring it on!”

Let’s be real: publishers are conservative and profit orientated, wary of books that don’t just glide into a saleable niche. And there are options, new horizons in publishing. I recently was introduced serendipitously to Unbound by a guy who I meet walking his dog in the morning. It’s a essentially a Kickstarter for books. You submit a synopsis and if it gets funded they print it.

Not saying that’s the way I will go, but it’s certainly more proof of a diversity of options.

Anyway, once I’m done getting rejected – which is likely due to the industry and due to my ‘issues’ with pitching (see last week) – I’ll be freed from the worry of whether to take a deal or not, because in all honestly, would I turn it down?

I don’t want to be a hypocrite, but I suspect the potential is in all of us.

All of that is beside the point. Whatever the state of the novel, it’s clear that one book isn’t enough to really make much of an impact. I need to get busy with pushing myself forward.

So first: the novel takes a back seat. I’m not forgetting it because it’s (nearly) ready to publish. It does needs a couple of plot tweaks and some fresh beta readers for feedback (oh, and some cash to get editors, cover designs etc).

Second: I’m getting involved in more social media. For example, I just joined Reddit’s /r/fantasy. With 666k (no kidding) fantasy fans on the the forum it’s a good place to start poking around in search of those beta readers, feedback, and opinions about fantasy. Also of note was the bi-monthly self promotion post. My post garnered little attention, but hey, maybe I just need to work on writing decent promos.

(NB: I was put on to this by a remark in the back of the excellent Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft who was publicised by Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off)

Third: What I need to focus on right now is YOU, the reader and giving you something to get your teeth into. This fact would be true even if I got published. Even with a deal I’d still need to do social media, keep on platforming and making myself visible.

So the big questions that naturally popped up in relation to this was “what am I going to do with this blog?”

BLOGGING OR BLOGGER?

Let me start with a little back story. I got a like from The Art of Blogging and I followed a link to his post Are You A Blogger or Just Blogging which  really resonated with me:

Everyone who blogs and has even a single e-book for sale on their site is out to conquer the world. Just like the thousands of people who have self-published a novel, the name of the game is promotion. Networking. Linking. Joining a community. Branding yourself. One of the best strategies for all of it is blogging.

Yep, I was doing self promotion. Hell, my blog carries my name as brand, but as The Art of Blogging continues:

The best and most effective blogs are about the reader. About delivering value, however you want to define the word. A blogger who forgets about delivering value merely promotes… until the promotion itself becomes the blog. It becomes just about selling something (which ironically tends to sell less).

Ah, so was I delivering value? Promotion shouldn’t be about just pushing yourself, it should be inherent in the work that you give your audience. I think that at times I was just blogging and not thinking like a blogger – doing this was a chore instead of a thing in and of itself.

So I want to get more a bit more serious about delivering material that you as readers can enjoy with less of the “woe is the writer’s journey” talk.

In that respect, I was thinking about……

FORMAT AND CONTENT?

Last week I mentioned Fritz Lieber. I truly loved Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser’s adventures through the world of Nehwon, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they inspired Terry Pratchett more than just a little bit. The Book of Lankhmar and its sequel came out as a Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks, but as I explained, the books themselves were originally a collection of shorts from fantasy pulp magazines.

All of this got me into thinking about how I would go about reimagining this blog as something more focused towards the reader. Could I mould it into something more like a more pulp magazine? And if I changed up the format, could I deliver on the content? It’s a challenge, but it’s also a fresh approach that could work out well if I can maintain consistency and quality.

So, a few thing to think about here: What would I call it? I should give it a fresh title to move it away from simply promoting my name – a mistake I probably picked up from a “how to promote yourself” blog post somewhere……

So anyway, a fresh name….. Erm, I’m working on that, but feel free to sling a few suggestions my way.

While the image thing is a work in progress, I shall focus on the more important question of content. My plan is to build a schedule based around the creative work that I enjoy writing and get it out regularly with less of the random, “I don’t know what I’m doing” blog posts.

Let me toss out a few ideas:

Short Stories: I really enjoy writing these quicker, one off stories. Many of them are drawn from material or settings that are lying dormant, so it’s pleasing to be able to actually put them into play, one way or another. I also feel these quicker shorts are more applicable to the modern rate and style of internet entertainment than something like a whole novel.

Mini-series: building on short stories, there will be a little runs of mini-series.With all the material in storage, turning some of them into a run would be a satisfying challenge There are some dark fantasies, some surreal, and I’d really like to bring an episodic story inspired by Jack Vance to you. It was originally called The Honey Song and was mostly comedic, and I remember having some great ideas thrown in there.

Crow & Other Oddities: like I said about the last post ( Cassandra Says Hi, Dickhead) there is a certain joy, a Bukowski feel of just bashing out something random like the little outbursts of Crow. I enjoyed writing these small, snappy posts and have a few ideas about developing them a bit more. What do you think?

Five Years In a Yurt: okay, a working title. While I want to cut down on the generic writer’s journey posts, I’d like to know what readers think of an actual memoir. As some of you know I have lived in a yurt for a good five years now. Things are about to change, and so everything in my life feels like it’s shifting. A memoir of that phase puts it all to bed.

Specific to this is how, under the current UK climate of economic marginalisation, we tried to solve our housing/money problem while I became a writer and house husband raising a toddler. At the same time, by providence it seemed, I was approached by an ex-con to write a very surreal memoir regarding the loss of his half-brother, stolen insurance money and revenge.

Now his memoir has gone nowhere despite his desire for “closure”, whereas I feel I am finishing one phase and moving to another. Central in my mind is “what makes a good narrative?” because for all of my client’s perceptions of his story being a best seller in the making, it’s just too unfocused and doesn’t resolve.

So instead of random posts, I want to deliver my reflections as a memoir in chaptered sections.

The Mind-Thistle Run: this is a very specific idea that I will be delving into in a future post. The narrative itself was flawed due to time constraints, but I so enjoyed writing it. It got some real love from Fantasy Writers Forum and so I thought why not do something with it? More next time.

More Reviews: every magazine needs reviews, and I’ve certainly for plenty I can write. Key to this will be developing better write ups as some of them have been too brief or lacking detail. What would you say to popping in a few music reviews too? How about “top vinyl to write surrealist fantasy to”?

ONE LAST THING: WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?

So let’s assume that this all moves in the right direction, the bottom line for me is that I still have to pay the bills (as well as raise a bit of cash to self publish), so how would people out there feel about signing up to something like Patreon?

I’ll post the question on Reddit in a bit, but perhaps you’d like to tell me how you feel about paying $1/$2 a month to support an author/content creator – assuming that you like the material, of course.

One thought that bothered me was that , while I see lots of content providers using Patreon on platforms like Youtube, is it feasible for a writer to ask for patronage given how slow it can be to produce material?

As for rewards, in all likelihood that would entail giving subscribers free copies of collected shorts or full novels, either as e-books or physical copies depending on length of subscription or total donations etc etc. It’s all going to need a little more research, but it’s a start…..

What about you? Do you support anyone? Or know of authors that run a Patreon gig? I’d love to hear some thoughts on it.

EXCITING TIMES

Well, if you’re still here then you can see that there’s plenty for me to think about, and a lot of work to do. But I’m getting myself ready, got the attitude, and I’m organising. Hell, I’ve even gone to town on a small white board with objectives written out on it, and how about getting one of those Rocketbooks….

(Man-oh-man! I do love the idea of digitising my notes instead of having half a dozen notebooks with scraps in different places).

The main thing now is to start developing from the groundwork I’ve set, and move it forward, and I’m finally excited about doing something that feels like it’s going be more rewarding for everyone involved than just saying “I’m writing a book”. Like I said last week, there’s got to be better, more dynamic ways to go about this work.

Nor am I going to lie either, because I’m just a tiny bit scared about all of this going tits up. The challenge is there, waiting to be embraced. But as the Tick says, “Hey, so I broke a few eggs, but the omelette is huge!”

Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you soon.

DJC

NEXT: Brain Boil – Developing the Mind-Thistle Run


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