The Fictorians

Posts Tagged ‘writing life’

Can You Hear the Voices?

12 July 2014 | 1 Comment » | frank

Do you hear the voices tooGrowing up, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I was such an avid reader, it just made sense. My mind naturally turned to stories and I invented whole worlds. I could see the fantastic places, hear the voices of the characters.

Hearing voice is not considered healthy in most professions.

I tried to drive the imaginary friends away, tried to tell them I didn’t want to hear their stories, and for a few years I was successful. But they kept coming back.

Eventually I admitted I had to write and I dove into the process, not caring how long or hard or difficult it might be. That proved I was in the right frame of mind to become a writer. I absolutely love the process of exploring my own little worlds and actively seeking out those voices that I alone could hear. And even though some people look at me funny when I tell them I write fiction novels, this is the one career where you’re supposed to hear voices, where it’s all right to carry on conversations with yourself for days at a time.

I have so many people to talk to, I could sit silent for days just listening.

But even better than exploring worlds of imagination, I love it when I can bring those worlds to life for other people. I love talking with someone who has read one of my stories, looking them in the eye and seeing their excitement as they discuss a scene or a character that they felt a particularly powerful connection with. They heard the voices and they saw the scenes.

The story came alive for them.

Power of Books

By Mladen Penev

Those are the moments that encourage me to keep writing, keep striving to improve my craft to bring these stories to life. It’s incredible to think that a few marks on a page can trigger visions of unseen worlds and make real the personalities and relationships of people who never existed anywhere except inside my head. A lot of people love a good story, but not everyone is a storyteller.

I am.

A little crazy I may be, but I’m loving the journey and I’m bringing a lot of other people along for the ride.


Forming the Fictorians

2 July 2014 | 1 Comment » | clancy
The first Superstars of Writing Seminar

The first Superstars of Writing Seminar

When I went to the first Superstars Writing Seminar in Pasadena back in March of 2010, I thought I was going to get some sound business advice from successful writers – and I did. In spades. I had many expectations which were all exceeded by lengths of football fields. I also thought I’d meet people and make some nice acquaintances – wrong. So very wrong. I made friends. Lifelong friends and writing peers and a writing family we now call The Fictorians.

I remember clearly one night in Pasadena, we were walking back to the hotel after a night of food and beer at a local pub. I was talking with Kevin J. Anderson and I was saying that the group of him, Rebecca Moesta, Dave Farland/Wolverton, Brandon Sanderson and Eric Flint reminded me of the Oxford group that met regularly to talk writing which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I asked how a group like that formed because it seemed to enhance everyone’s writing and careers.

Kevin said, “Look around.”

I did and what I saw were all the people who I’d been hanging with at every break and meal. The ones who’d gravitated together and felt a connection. I saw people I liked, respected and thought had awesome ideas they were working on in their writing. I saw people like me. People who wanted to be writers, took their writing seriously and were taking steps to succeed in this cool and difficult profession.

When I looked back at him, he said (and I paraphrase), “You’re doing it. Right now. With these people. This is how groups like that are formed.”

We left that seminar, with emails in hand and a goal to stay connected. We live all over the world. We write in different genres. Some of us have met in person again in Las Vegas for one of ours to renew her vows to her lovely husband. We’ve seen each other at other Superstar Seminars since the first one. We have conference calls and stay connected via email and social media. We have areas of expertise that the others can tap into with a simple request. We’re friends and peers.

I have one other writing group that I feel this way about, and I value those friends as well.

So, when someone asks me what is a moment that makes me love being a writer, I think of my friends and fellow writers. The people who support me and keep me motivated. Who inspire me. Who share a dream with me. These are people who keep me going when times are hard.

Because I’m a romance writer, I use the ‘L’ word a lot and I’m going to use it now. These are people I love for all they give me and pull out of me and share with me.

It’s four years later, and Kevin was right. We’ve become one of those groups. We’ve been through bumps and growing pains. People leave the core but remain on the peripheral, some return, some never left, but we’re still together, doing what we love and supporting each other. We are the Fictorians. And I think we’re Fictorious!

Wrapping Up June and Our Summer Sanity

30 June 2014 | No Comments » | clancy

checklistDid we make it? Did we survive the June heat and the mid-year failures or successes? I learned a lot and got reminded of more. So for me, this was a good month… on the Fictorians and in achieving my personal goals. If you missed anything, here’s a quick summary with links.

Evan discussed health and writing and finding a balance between the two which I am always in need of rem
inders about since staying healthy for me usually means trying to avoid the potato chips. Guy showed how to take our writing with us when we’re out enjoying the summer. As he said, not typing doesn’t mean you’re not working. Creativity takes a lot of thinking and observing life around us. I reminded us all that sometimes we have to say No to other things so we can achieve success in writing and in life. Being stressed out about being over-committed is no one’s friend. Nancy shared some tools for organizing our complicated and busy lives. And who can’t use better ways not to drop all those balls we’re juggling.

Sherry gave us insight into her thought process on deciding to self-publish and then how she succeeded at it. I know I’m reading her book on Silencing Your Inner Saboteur and getting a lot out of it. I loved Frank’s Go Big or Go Home post. We have to take big risks to get the big rewards. And Brandon’s discussion on how your environment can impact your productivity resonated as I have been displaced from my office for weeks during some construction work being done on my house. I liked Mary’s take on how despite having health challenges, we can be productive if we play to our strengths when we ‘re strong.

Ace gave us some ideas on ways we sabotage our goals and ways we can score with them. Quincy’s post on sacrifice and being in writing for the long haul reminded me that if we just keep at it, we can be a success. And it is a grind, but a worthy one. I found Lou’s post funny and true. Focus, discipline and being consistent are key. Colette reminded us that we can get away from the summer heat by attending a cool Con. James showed how tricky setting reasonable and attainable goals can be. Jace showed how recalibration is just needed sometimes to get going again.

My dear friend Kelli Ann gave some concrete tools for taking any derail and getting the train back on the tracks. I loved Kristin’s post on how we all fail, but that doesn’t have to define our success. Kim talks about using good planning skills and realistic expectations to keep us productive and sane. Nathan makes a great point in that what we choose to do with our time is a statement of value. As I’m heading off to a four day writing retreat, this was an affirmation of what I’m doing with my life and career. And after watching the video of Jim Carrey’s speech (all 28 minutes), feed your soul , folks! It was completely worth it. I found Tristan’s post on reassessing goals refreshing. He had a lot of goodl ideas on looking at goals that were helpful. And finally, John’s post on consistency speaks to a variety of types of consistency, all of which are important.

I hope you enjoyed the month and got as much out of it as I did.


27 June 2014 | Comments Off | fictorians

A guest post by John D. Payne

John Payne cover (1)I chose to write about consistency because it’s something that I myself need to work on. So I’m going to keep this in first person and talk about some of the ways I want to be more consistent.

1. Consistent writing
A professional writing at a decent clip produces about a thousand words in an hour. At that pace, you’ll have the first draft of a nice fat novel in one year even if you only write 15 minutes a day, as a number of successful pros have observed. That’s a lot of result for not much effort.

So, two summers ago I made a goal to write every day, even if only for a few minutes. I have months where I pretty much pull this off, and months where I’m not terribly close. But even with this spotty record, the last two years have been my best in terms of output.

Output matters. Lots of writers have been quoted as saying that the first million words anyone writes are just practice. This really is just a variant of the ten thousand hour rule, that it takes lots of time to become successful at anything.

And not only will churning out lots of stories help me develop my skills as a writer, but it will help me feel more confident and comfortable with my voice. Rather than expecting that everything I write has to be perfectly polished before I can move on, I can be a little more forgiving of myself and have fun as I go. It’s like playing with legos. I pour out a bunch of ideas, grab my favorites, and then assemble them in whatever way strikes my fancy. I’m just having a good time making a bunch of cool stuff.

I’ve tried inspiring myself to produce more in different ways. The desire to finish my first novel was a powerful motivation. Weekly submissions to my writing group make good mini-deadlines. And of course deadlines written in contracts and attached to paychecks are the best of all.

It also feels good just to keep a streak alive. That’s the secret to Tony Pisculli’s online writing tracker, The Magic Cricket. There are lots of others out there. The thing that has worked best for me so far is a calendar with stickers. It feels good to see all those gold stars.

This July, I’m going to use Camp Nanowrimo as another way to push myself to greater heights of accomplishment. Given my lack of consistency over the last few months, I fear that this will be like running a marathon without proper preparation. But even if I don’t make it to 50,000 words by the end of the month, every word I write will prepare me for what comes next. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from Dean Wesley Smith, it’s that every month is Nanowrimo if writing is your career.

2. Consistent finishing 
When I was younger, I got bogged down trying to perfect and polish stories that weren’t even finished. Since then I’ve realized that finishing something is a better use of my time than trying to get the beginning of something perfect.

Everything I write is in some ways an experiment, and not all of it will be equally appealing to me, or to readers. That’s hard to accept, because of course I want everything I produce to be of the very finest quality. But as Clausewitz said, quantity has a quality all its own.

For one thing, every story I finish (and get out there where people can read it) helps me build an audience. I love both Pat Rothfuss as much as I love John Scalzi and Brandon Sanderson. But I have a lot more of John and Brandon’s work on my shelves (both digital and physical) because both of them consistently put out new books for me to buy.

In addition to daily wordcount goals, I also have goals to finish stories. At the Superstars Writing Seminar, Kevin J. Anderson (a very consistent producer) said that there’s no reason any new writer of genre fiction shouldn’t submit a new story to the Writers of the Future contest every quarter. I’m very glad to say that I’ve followed that advice, and I recommend that everyone who’s eligible do the same.

This year, I have two goals relating to finishing. I want to start and finish a new novel between this summer and next. And I want to finish a new story every month, even if it’s only flash fiction. After all, every story I finish is a story I can sell– which is good, because I also plan to continue submitting a story to a paying market every single week. I’ve done that for the last two years, and although I’ve only made one sale so far it has also taught me a ton about this business.

3. Consistent self-education
No matter how well-informed I am at this minute, no matter how perfect my business strategy is for today’s market, continuing to educate myself is just plain necessary. Of course, as with any other non-writing activity (social media, etc.), I need to always ask myself: Would I Be Better Off Writing? But without self-education, my career will not move forward.

I need to learn about every part of the industry– and the industry is constantly changing. Covers and interior design, blurbs and back cover copy, contracts, marketing, printing, etc. Fortunately, there are lots of people who are sharing their knowledge and teaching me how to do things myself: Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Joe Konrath, The Passive Voice, Hugh Howey, etc.

Even if I become the pampered darling of a big New York firm, or in some other way outsource everything but the actual writing, I need to know enough to protect myself. I hate taking my car to the shop and not knowing whether I really need to spend $700 to get that O2 sensor fixed. Educating myself means I don’t just have to hope that everyone else is being nice to me. Trust, but verify, as Reagan and Gorbachev agreed.

4. Consistent niceness

As with most any career, it’s a good idea for me to be nice. This means more than just handing my business card to big names in the industry (although I do that). First and foremost, I have an obligation to fans to be approachable and friendly. After all, it’s their good will, and of course their money, that ultimately fuels my career. And it’s important to be consistent about this, because even one bad moment might turn into a story that floats around the community for years to come.

Speaking of having a good reputation, I want to be someone that others want to work with. That means three things: doing good work, delivering on time, and not being a horrible, horrible jerk. Neil Gaiman rightly notes that you can get by on just two out of three. But if you want to maximize the chances that people will send work your way, shoot for all of the above.

So be a mensch. Mensches make the world go round, as my dissertation advisor told me many times. One way I practice meeting my professional obligations is by participating in a writing group. Every week, other people read my submissions and give me valuable feedback. The least I can do is return the favor.

There’s lots more to say, but (as usual), I’m over my word count. So I’ll just close by saying that writing this blog has helped me realize two things. First, there are lots of ways that consistency can help me as a writer. Second, I’m not bad at all of these.

So, as you’re revisiting your goals and thinking about what you’re going to do with the second half of this year, don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself credit for the things you’re doing well. After all, feeling good about how you’re doing makes it easier to maintain a consistent effort.

Good luck!

John D. Payne Bio: John Payne (1)
JOHN D. PAYNE is a Houston-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, and literary fiction. His debut novel, The Crown and the Dragon is now a major motion picture.


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