Category Archives: Doing Good in the World

Happy Thanksgiving

Here we are again, another Thanksgiving holiday that someone tucked into the NaNoWriMo month. Who made this schedule, anyway?

You can be sitting at 2300 words, 49999 words, or 250K, but note that it is a good thing to take a bit of time off to visit with family, watch some sportsball on the telly, and enjoy a nice meal. NaNoWriMo is a “nice to do” thing, not a “must”. So go ahead and take a bit of time off to enjoy yourself if you can.

The Fictorians are thankful for things like family, friends, enjoyable things like writing stories, attending conventions, etc. We’re also aware and have good wishes in our hearts for those who are serving in the military, near or far; those who are alone or are struggling with a mental illness; those who cannot afford to feed themselves beyond simple sustenance; and others who may be in a low point. We ask that you think of others and try to bring some real holiday spirit to boost the end of the year. Volunteer somewhere, pick up an errant tin can and toss it in the trash, be polite to others even though everyone is frustrated from all of the early Christmas shopping deal trips. Reach out to someone you haven’t heard from them in a while.

If everything is prepped and you’re waiting for guests, feel free to jot down a few words towards NaNo. Just understand that there are more important things, so don’t neglect them just to reach an arbitrary goal for something that is transitory.

Peace and health to you and yours from all of us at the Fictorians.

Finding Momentum When It’s Gone

I work on one big project at a time. The art of juggling two or three big projects at once is lost on me, as all the projects start to blend together in a weird, self-referencing word-soup. That means my writing process is a one-step-at-a-time deal. For a few weeks, I will do nothing but planning, plotting, and outlining. Then, for a few months, all I’m doing is writing. And then for up to year after that, I’m editing.

After I’ve been editing my work for so long, I’m often intimidated when I think of going back to writing. I’m worried I haven’t learned anything, or that I won’t apply what I’ve learned when I edited. I’m worried the flow and creativity has been stilted by too much editing work. I’m afraid I’ve lost my voice. I’m concerned I’m too focused on what will sell instead of what it is I’ve got to say.

It’s taken some time for me to learn how to get back into writing after time away. The “just sit down and write” advice doesn’t always cut it. You can plan your time down to the minute and regiment yourself to your schedule, and that works for a lot of people. Most people. But that doesn’t take care of the lack of confidence or the worries, and making myself sit in a chair and stare at a screen doesn’t help me find the heart of why I’m writing.

Over the years, I’ve learned the painful lesson that inspiration is incredibly important to my writing and my creative identity. It is true that, many times, you’ll have to write when the muse isn’t slinking around your shoulders and whispering in your ear. However, I think it’s easy to become distracted working that way – distracted from your core, from the reason you wanted to write in the first place. Viewing writing as a job, as work, is allowing it one step closer to becoming your job instead of your vocation, and divorcing it from passion altogether. In the day to day, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia. I’ve found it’s vital to be able to stop and ask myself what I’m looking to accomplish with the project in the first place. What am I trying to communicate?

Those answers don’t always come immediately. I often have to search for them. This is how:

  1. Journal
  2. Go to a natural history museum or cultural center
  3. Watch a documentary or two about subjects that I know very little about.
  4. Go for a hike/ go camping. Don’t allow myself my phone or any digital tethers
  5. Allow myself to daydream. Allow myself to forget my schedule and my to-do list
  6. Use my hands to make. Bake. Work on a motorcycle. Throw a pot on a wheel. Learn glassblowing. Draw. Make. Learn. Do. And let the mind wander

*Bring journal or a notebook when doing 2-6

These things have helped me focus back on my voice, consider my point of view, helped me remember what is important, and reminded me of our connection points as humans and therefore what we can all relate to on a primal and emotional level. I find allowing my mind to wander on these subjects through art, journaling, and being a student of life and nature itself helps focus my mind and prepare it for creativity and communication.

I mean, I get it. I sound like a neo-hippy. Check that language, man. Connection, point of view, creation, daydream, communication. All I’m missing are some essential oils to drip all over this blog post and some vegan gluten-free cookies for you, my awesome readers.

I acknowledge that most people can just put ass-in-seat and write, treating it like a job. Set a timer. Schedule writing time. Have strict daily, weekly, and monthly goals. These are all fantastic strategies to get you back on track with writing after a long break.

But if you happen to be somewhat like me, you need reflection. You need to ask yourself questions about not only your story, but why you’re writing it. And then you need time to think through the answers. Our culture has made it easy to become very busy very fast – to work through a to-do list everyday, go to bed, wake up, and repeat. But if you’re finding that you need less structure, more time – prioritize that. Prioritize time. Loosen your daily schedule. Allow four hours of writing time instead of two, knowing that some of those four hours may be you taking a walk, sitting outside, listening to music, thinking. Sometimes a few of those all at once. I think you’ll be surprised to find how much inspiration follows you on those walks and mind-walks, and soon, you’ll be back in your seat and writing, refreshed, collected, and ready.

The Publishing Consortium

Around seven years ago, I was looking to self-publish some of my old tales that had reverted back to me. I also had a couple of friends that were looking to do the same thing. At the time I was working full-time in the IT field and had some extra funds I could use to buy a block of ISBNs from Bowker, the company that controls them in the United States.

Looking at the options, I could spend $125 for each one or, if I purchased in bulk, the price dropped down to a buck each. I decided to buy a thousand-block and founded The Publishing Consortium, which is a cooperative for a bunch of publishing imprints for my friends and my own little personal publisher.

It took quite a bit of research to find out how I was able to legally assign ISBNs without getting into trouble. Bowker would rather sell a couple of high-priced ISBNs at a time, so some of the information was buried.

By registering sub-imprints, I was able to create an entry in Bowker that would show up when someone looked up the ISBN to see the imprint that published the title. Even though The Publishing Consortium is the overall owner of the block, I was able to give out contiguous small blocks for my friends who needed non-CreateSpace assigned ISBNs. For the most part, I gave out chunks based on how much they planned on publishing. Several got 20, and some received 50. Originally I was going to charge five bucks each so I could buy more when my thousand-block ran out, but since most of my friends are authors and are therefore, by extension, not rolling in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, I don’t think I’ve received anything except lots of goodwill and continued friendship. Oddly enough, I think I’m ahead of the game.

Small press publishers looking for a place to park at a convention.

If you’re considering setting up your own imprint, I would recommend you go with the cooperative plan unless you happen to have $1500 you can spare. Yes, the price of a thousand-block went up 50% for an imaginary number. It’s better to get ten folks to toss in $150 each, and you can register all of the publishers as an imprint. I always use ISBNs on print books, and sometimes I also assign them to ebooks. What some folks don’t know is that your ebook ISBN is good for all versions, including MOBI, ePUB, and even PDFs. If bookstores wish to buy copies, they won’t see those dreaded Amazon-owned ISBNs.

You can also set up more shared functions between all of the small publishers. Perhaps you can share editors, artists, layout experts, and even marketers. By trading specialties, everyone can contribute something and all of the members will benefit. As they say, a rising tide raises all boats. When all the boats works together it’s called an armada, which can be a powerful force.


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist and poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

 

Authors Lie to Tell the Big Truths

When we pick up a work of fiction, we are seeking to lose ourselves in a beautiful lie. While some readers are driven by the need to escape their reality, most use fiction as an emotional exercise, a way to live vicariously through the adventures of another and stretch the limits of what is possible in our own lives. This latter sort of reader won’t be satisfied by fantastic worlds and flashy plots. While they may be entertained by these elements, they want to sink their teeth into some deeper meaning, a truth that resonates not only with the story, but with their own experiences.

The first step in delivering this deeper human truth is establishing a sense of empathy between the readers and the characters. No matter the culture, or even the species, of the protagonists and points of view, their motivations and choices must ring true. Would we be willing to accept a teratogenic dwarf that cons his way into the admiralcy of a space mercenary fleet? Sure, no problem. However, if Miles VorKosigan were to suddenly give up his military dreams and decide to become a farmer? We’d call shenanigans. Readers invest in characters, not stories. We must see them struggle against impossible odds and make choices that lead them to victory. No matter how fantastic the persona, it is only when our characters are true to their natures and goals that we as readers can invest in their struggles.
Once our readers invest in character, they will begin to look for a link between the protagonists’ fictional journey and the questions and struggles they face in their own lives. Sometimes these truths are topical and current. As an example, I can write countless blog posts about racism, discrimination, prejudice, and fear, but for the most part will have a hard time convincing those who disagree with me. Rather than arguing with my audience, I could make my characters argue for us. Furthermore, by couching my argument in the terms of a fantastic lie, I remove ego and defensiveness from the equation. After all, I am talking about my characters, not about them, right? I could make my protagonist an anthropomorphic bunny who is trying to break a species barrier and fulfill her childhood dream of being a police officer. I pair her with a fox conman and force her to question her own views of predators and foxes in particular, with whom she has had bad experiences in the past. As she questions her prejudice and preconceptions, so will the audience. In so doing, I use my fantastic lie to proxy larger, current social struggles and make an argument for diversity and inclusiveness that is more likely to achieve meaningful success than a thousand angry blog posts.

However, as writers we aren’t limited to current social questions. There are some truths so profound to the human experience that variations on their stories are repeated across generations and cultural barriers. We want to believe in a world where a hobbit from the Shire can face and destroy the greatest evil of his world because sometimes we feel small and powerless. We want to see Aragon and Arwen marry because if they can find a way for their love to survive war, distance, and hardship, then our own romantic futures aren’t hopeless. We want to return to the Shire with Sam because we need to believe that all the chaos and pain of living is for a greater purpose – home and family. Though we might not have the perspective to see the arc of our own lives, we can spend hours, days, or weeks with a story to gain the catharsis we need to push through our own struggles.

As writers, we rely on our readers to willingly suspend their disbelief in order to work our storytelling magic. However, no matter how fantastic and entertaining we may be, our stories must ring true on a deeper level for our readers to commit to the tale. It is only when our characters are believable, empathetic, and when their decisions and struggles resonate with our own experiences that we can truly connect with a story. Readers want to believe the lie, not only because they seek to escape reality for a time, but also because in so doing we seek to understand the truth of our own world.