Author Archives: Gregory D. Little

Capclave: One for the Mid-Atlantic

I’m going to ask for a couple of indulgences here in this post. The first comes in the form of a plug:

I’m sure a lot of you have heard of Humble Bundle, but how about StoryBundle? It works in a similar way. Namely, you pay a surprisingly small amount of money for a surprisingly large amount of quality ebooks. Look, I get it. Everyone would like to give indie authors a shot, but there’s so much to read out there, how can you know what’s worth your hard-earned money?

Well, with this month’s Truly Epic StoryBundle, you can get FIFTEEN books for just $15 dollars. This includes a mix of genre stalwarts like Brandon Sanderson, R.A. Salvatore, and Michael A. Stackpole, as well as a bunch of talented newcomers, including four Fictorians (myself, Kim May, Scott Eder, and Quincy Allen). PLUS, you can direct a portion of the proceeds to go to the Challenger Center, a charity teaching space science to kids! This deal is CRAZY, and it’s only on for about another week, so you’d best jump on it.

Here’s the link: https://storybundle.com/epic

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On to the post, and the second indulgence: a little whining:

Those of us FSF writers/fans who live in the Mid-Atlantic have it rough. With the proximity of both Washington D.C. and historical sites aplenty for both colonial times and the Civil War, area writing has a much heavier focus on politics and history than it does on sci-fi or fantasy. Correspondingly, there just haven’t been a lot of cons in the area (the more recent addition of Awesome-Con is a welcome one). That’s why I’m so grateful for Capclave.

Capclave has been around only since 2001 officially, but before that it was Disclave, which ran from 1950 until 1997. As you see on the link, that final instance proved the doom of the convention, when a fire sprinkler incident flooded the con hotel. But the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) wasn’t done. Capclave rose from Disclave’s ashes and has been going strong ever since.

Located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the con is an easy drive for anyone in Washington Metropolitan Area or further afield, if you can tolerate a jaunt on I-95. For a local con without the name recognition of something like DragonCon, Worldcon, or SLCC, Capclave nabs its share of high-profile Guests of Honor. I’ve only managed to attend one Capclave myself (as I’ve written before, my con time is extremely limited and only growing more so), but that one had George R.R. Martin himself as the GOH. It was a pretty great experience to meet one of the finest fantasy writers of our day just a few hours from my home, and the con was bustling in no small part due to his presence. Heck, I even won a spot in his kaffeeklatsch, which was pretty cool!

Capclave has another plus over some of the larger cons: it’s run by a local group of FSF fans who just want to put on a good time for their like-minded fellows. Despite the lack of corporate money, the event organizers did a great job and I was very impressed with how smoothly things ran. This smaller con atmosphere is the perfect place to discover some lesser-known authors as well, and I met several rising stars whose names I hear more and more, as well as getting introduced to my now-favorite podcast, Welcome to Night Vale. Hat tip to E.C. Myers on that one.

So consider this my second plug of the post. If you, like me, are a writer of strange things in the strange land of the Mid-Atlantic, don’t despair that you’ll never find writers of anything more than Civil War biographies and … politicians’ biographies. Capclave is here for you.

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Know Who You Are and How You Write

Ask a dozen writers for advice on how/how often to write productively and you’ll get a dozen answers. Everyone will eagerly tell you the system that works for them, urging you to replicate it precisely on your way to success. But as we all know from a million ads for personalized products, everyone is different. Given the same topic, no two writers will produce the same story. In the same way, no two writers will find the same process.

We’ve written about this before, of course, at length. But in a month about momentum, it’s one of the most important topics to reiterate: no, you don’t need to write every day or write a certain number of words per session. As I see it, “writing regularly” as a concept boils down to two core principles:

  1. Wanting to write
  2. Making time to write

But there’s a third principle as well, one that sits outside of writing regularly but is equally, if not more, important: don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t managing the kind of regular writing you want. I’m speaking to you as someone who is suffering from a momentum problem myself, right now. An unexpected promotion earlier this year at my day job has left me with a lot less energy in the evening, and I spend half the weekend recovering mentally. There are some nights where I force myself to sit at the keyboard and pound out words, and after a bit they do come. Then there are some days where any attempt to do that just leaves me frustrated and with nothing to show for it. Believe me when I say I’ve failed to follow my own advice a fair bit this year.

But you can’t let yourself go down that rabbit hole, because unless you are one of those writers that thrives on pressure and recrimination, you’re just going to make the problem worse. A lot of people publicly call out George R.R. Martin for his writing, and whichever side of that debate fans might take, does anybody really think that the knowledge that thousands of fans are furious at him all the time is making The Winds of Winter happen any faster? Well, the same is true if your biggest critic is yourself. You have to be in a good head space to write well, and you’re never going to be in a good head space if you’re constantly battering yourself for not writing faster. If you try to force it, you’ll either end up with nothing or writing that’s so bad you’ll feel worse than when you started.

If you do find yourself in this vicious cycle, first take a breath. Cut yourself some slack. Quit comparing yourself to the fastest, most prolific writer you know. We all know that person, and it’s not healthy, because you aren’t them (unless, of course, you are the fastest writer you know, in which case you’ve earned a break). You aren’t a failure as a writer because you need a break.

Once you’ve given yourself some time to clear your head, think back to the last time you were writing at a rate that made you happy. What were the circumstances then, and how are your current circumstances different? And, crucially, was that pace sustainable? I’ve twice written drafts of 100,000+ word novels in under three months, but I was so burned out after each instance, I was unable to even look at my laptop for another three months. So that pace works when I have a deadline looming, but otherwise is no good for me, because I can’t sustain it long-term. With a full-time day job, 3k-5k words per week seems to be my sweet spot for sustainability, but even then, life can (and does) get in the way. You have to be both flexible and forgiving.

In the end, only you are responsible for your own well-being as a writer. No one is better equipped than you to know when it isn’t working, and no one is going to step in and tell you that it’s time to try something different or to step away for awhile. Only you can know that about yourself. But you have to remember to listen.

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

The Sun is Setting on Setting

[Still not apologizing for the puns]

I’ll admit that when I first came up with the setting topic for this month, I worried we wouldn’t see enough variety of posts. As ever, the combination of our regulars and some really stellar guest posts turned out a month of surprising breadth of topics, which actually shouldn’t have been surprising given the literally infinite forms a story’s setting can take. I hope that you’ll take the advice and experience you’ve read this month forward with you as you tackle your own setting challenges. Please join me in thanking our posters this month for such a great set of posts. Starting tomorrow, Jace will take us to the topic of building and maintaining momentum, which for this writer, hard at work on the first draft of his next novel, couldn’t come at a better time! Thanks for reading!

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath. He lives with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

When Setting Defines (or Defies) Genre

There’s a rule of thumb I’ve referenced in multiple posts here at Fictorians regarding how the kind of universe your story exists within helps define its genre. The rule was brought to my attention via Daniel Abraham in a Clarkesworld post on grimdark fantasy that’s well worth a full read. Mr. Abraham in turn attributes the rule of thumb to Walter Jon Williams, and I’ll quote the relevant passage of the Clarkesworld piece (one of their “Another Word” series of posts) below so that no meaning is lost in the paraphrase:

“In fantasy, the world is essentially benign; in science fiction, the world is essentially amoral; in horror, the world is malefic. Put in terms of illness, fantasy evil is an illness from which the world must recover. In science fiction, evil is a social construct put on a universe that simply is the way it is. In horror, evil is the natural deformity of the world from which there is no way to recover.”

— Daniel Abraham, “Literatures of Despair,” Clarkesworld, 2013

Now, as with any rule of thumb, there are grains of truth to this surrounded by sand-hills (salt-mountains? I’m not clear on what kind of “grains” this metaphor refers to, and so my metaphor is collapsing) of wiggle-room. I’ve spoken at length about how genres tend to bleed together and how often works of fiction fail to fall squarely into one genre or the other.

But for the sake of argument, let’s take this rule of thumb at face value. Close examination of the physical (or metaphysical) underpinnings of what makes your fabricated world tick can help you decide what kind of story you should be telling, and even how that story ought to end. For those authors who have an easier time coming up with fantastically detailed worlds than they do defining a particular story to tell within them (you know who you are), here is one way to narrow down the multitudes of options. It can also be a useful set of guideposts to pantser-style writers who find their story getting away from them in ways they don’t like, as opposed to ways they do.

And that’s not all the rule is good for. Like all rules, it’s good for breaking. Say your goal is deconstructing a popular genre. Well then, perhaps your Tolkienesque epic fantasy story can run afoul of a universe where everything is horrible all the time and the heroes can ultimately lose or the horrific truths forming the foundation of your world can be unexpectedly defeated by the actions of the protagonist, fundamentally restructuring everything that came before. Nothing can be as exhilarating (if done well) or as frustrating (if done poorly) as a twisted expectation.

If you do go this route, I recommend a “frog in boiling water” approach, even though that particular metaphor is untrue (it turns out frogs are not that stupid). Begin with the obvious notes of one genre but quickly introduce a discordant note that points to the genre your story will eventually more into. Gradually shift from one to the other as the plot progresses, so that the transformation feels necessary by the very end. This is particularly effective in shifting from fantasy or science fiction into horror, particularly if you can ramp up the dread while staving off the final realization in the reader until the last possible moment.

In the end, it’s best to think of this rule of thumb, like any rule of thumb, as a tool rather than a boundary. Just remember another saying I’ve become fond of: don’t tear anything down before you understand why it was built in the first place.

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His novels Unwilling Souls and Ungrateful God are available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, Dragon Writers: An Anthology, and the upcoming Undercurrents. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.