Book signing

So the book signing in Hadley, MA took place on Sunday as per schedule.

First off, I must say a huge thank you to the Hadley Barnes & Noble folks.  They were very friendly, wonderful, and I feel did their best in the face of whatever is going on in B&N’s HQ these days.

Which brings me to the full detailed version.  Again:  local store awesome; corporate to blame.

  1. Is 1 week prior to Father’s Day a good date to have a Teen Fest thing?  I don’t know, maybe something closer to July or closer to Memorial Day or nearer to an approximation of Spring Break?  Suffice to say the teens that were there were shopping for Daddy, not for themselves.
  2. Advertisement.  You’re Barnes & Noble for crying out loud.  Did you leave all the promo up to the individual stores?  I hope not.  Especially for something you were doing across all your stores.  This is a good time to get maximum bang for your advertising dollars by running national ad campaigns to draw attention to this thing.  Sure, local stores do a little on their social media and in-store, maybe local papers to highlight just who is going to be this store’s guests, but … come on.  Then again, B&N doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on marketing.  I mean, have you ever seen them advertise much?  Never mind their stores, how about the Nook?  Their stores are their primary POS for the thing, and their website, but how many B&N banner ads have you seen on websites, or radio/tv/billboard/newspaper adverts have you seen for the Nook, the B&N website, or the physical stores?  Sorry guys, but you’re second or lower to Amazon (who is an evil evil bunch of people whose downfall I shall cheer greatly) … follow Avis car rentals’ example “We’re number 2, but we try harder” philosophy!
  3. A clearer vision and communication of what the Teen Fest would be.  Looking around online at what other stores were doing, it was rather mixed methods and mixed thinking.  Some stores had workshops that … well … someone explaining how to write a long line description – you know the dreaded Twitter Blurb!  Okay, first off, that’s hard for a lot of writers to do.  Come on, for crying out loud, we just took 400 pages and 500 000 words to say “boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, they date and fall in love and get married and have 65 kids, 8000 grandkids, and 14 goats, and the kingdom was saved!” we really aren’t going to squeeze it all down with ease.  I mean, a writers’ panel with Q&A for geeky fannish teens to come to, certainly, but traditional writers’ workshop kind of stuff doesn’t tend to be a crowd draw for any age demographic, targeting it to teens is going to get you maybe 3 people.

Honestly, I rather expected something like this.  I mean B&N was virtually the only bookstore around in the part of Georgia I moved from so it was the place that got people like Steve Harvey … and few people showed up because few people knew about it.  I now know why Terry Brooks‘ appearance that same day in South Hadley, was at a little place called Odyssey Bookshop.  Big name authors often are very expressive about wanting to support the small mom & pop sort of stores.  Which, I believe, is definitely a big part of it.  But it’s also that I believe the smaller stores have a better means of reaching people and bringing folks in.

A small bookshop actually is more likely to have regulars engaged both in face-to-face conversations as well as social media interactions.  Your smaller bookshop is more likely to have the customer walk in for a copy of Wintersmith and wind up staying to chit chat for 3 hours while browsing around for 2.  Watch folks at a big chain store, they walk in, pause at the display of the latest from Stephen King, then make a beeline for what they’re there for, spend a few minutes finding it on the shelf, a couple more minutes looking around that same few feet to see if there’s anything else by that author they want to grab, then back to the cash register.  If they stay, it’s to drink coffee and use the free wifi.  The small shoppe is almost always in a location with a lot of passerby foot traffic and so puts out a chalkboard sign that is colourful and attention getting so all those window shoppers and bankers-off-to-lunch pass and see it.  B&N is starting to trend itself into malls, but there’s no chalkboard signs.  B&N isn’t likely to take out an ad in the paper.  Small shoppe knows that most subscriptions doesn’t equal most readers, they know the little (usually free, so ads cost a little more, but it’s worth it) local indie paper (i.e. The Metro Spirit in the CSRA) is the way to go and put in a good sized ad there.  The little shoppe also knows that an investment in a few minutes with a desktop publishing software, a printer, and a few dozen sheets of paper taken around to the local coffee shops and other places with a bulletin board … or adhered to a few strategic lampposts …

Really; never blame the local personification of the chain store.  They’re following corporate dictates which nearly never make the slightest sense and trying to run on a very restricted and controlled budget.  It’s the folks in HQ who deserve a great big “Are you one drugs?” response.

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There are no shortcuts

Sorry for the long time with nothing but social commentary, but I’ve just not had a lot of new things to talk about.

Well, not today.

My wife, who has infinitely more patience for internet discussion forums than I (mathematicians, please feel free to correct me, but infinity is how many more times than less than nothing is something, right?), was noticing how a lot of aspiring authors, especially of an age equal to or less than our own (she was born 1980 & I 1981) seem to think there’s a secret formula to a) turn whatever idea they have into a novel & b) for it to sell.

Well, I’m here to tell you absolutely free that yes such a formula does exist!! [Try to imagine that sounds a bit like the twin sister of that bearded guy on all the infomercials]

A) Sit your arse down (you may stand if desired, but it’s liable to get uncomfortable and awkward), put letters together until they form words, put words and punctuation together until they form sentences, put the sentences together until they make paragraphs, those you’ll group into chapters, and finally you gather you chapters into a novel (advanced authors can group novels into series).

B) Put it out there, and don’t give up.

That’s all you can do.

Yes, if you want to write something as, largely, ephemeral as a Harlequin Romance there’re formulae to follow and it will turn you out a cookie-cutter story quickly and you can usually get Harlequin Press to buy it. Not knocking it, for one thing some really phenomenal authors have written that kind of thing, and some if the greatest Western & SciFi stories were that. But those authors took the formula in hand and, pardon the expression, made it their little bitch; it followed them, rather than the other way around. It set the parameters of the story, but they still has a story to tell.

There’s no special trick that will guarantee you’ll finish the thing, except not giving up.

Outlines? No, I couldn’t even outline my finished work if my life depended upon it, let alone something I haven’t written yet; I don’t really have the faintest clue how. You can try it, if you like, some authors dig it and others hate it, and still others (such as myself) are mystified and intimidated by it.

Character questionnaires? They’re fun, the better of them can possibly be a handy reference tool, but remember that you probably couldn’t fill one out completely for yourself and six friends and, even if you can, you probably won’t have an accurate picture of any of you … so they shouldn’t be your alpha and omega of characterisation.

It doesn’t matter if you sit down with Pantera at decibel levels that would shame Grand Funk and a Big Gulp full of Jamesons, lock yourself in a sound proof room with incense, try to use a laptop while sitting zazen, or spend the day on the London underground with a BIC writing on Kleenex. It’s just got to work for you. You probably shouldn’t ritualise it over much or you’ll find yourself so caught up in ritual that you lose track of ideas; really, that spark of inspiration isn’t going to wait while you to fire up the Yanni CD, brew that special herbal tea, paint your toenails, take a bath, and chain the family and neighbours in your basement (yes, I’m sort of making fun of a few people from a thread on NaNoWriMo).

There’s no secret to making it a great story, either. Doesn’t matter if you wrote it in one draft or fifty (though excess drafts can lead to a too sterile narrative, but excess is a relative quantity), it doesn’t matter if you go over it with a fine toothed thesaurus or strip out every scrap of descriptive language, axe murder every adverb or add fifteen to every sentence. None of those tricks you find touted are a magic solution. Some help in certain genres, some work for certain types of writing (non-fiction, scripts, etc.) because, contrary to a new popular attitude, writing is not the same across all things. What is necessary to ensure accurate and logical textbooks is useless to a novel, what helps keep a short story streamlined can ruin a script, and so on. All that can make a story great is a mix of perception from the reader, talent of the writer (yes, there’s such a thing as talent, and all the piano lessons & practice in the world will no more turn you into Bach than all the writing exercises in history will make you Rudyard Kipling), and some stories are more liable to resonate with people than others (according to someone, Pat Rothfuss I think, that’s going to ultimately be the human heart in conflict with itself).

As for selling it? Well, you’ll never sell what never leaves your hands (literally and metaphorically). Whether you self-publish or traditionally do so, you have to try.

There’re things that help.

First off, yes, having written the current popular formula … assuming you haven’t finished in a saturated market that is beginning to reach critical mass and be transitioning to something else. If you like the style of story, fine. But I suggest you not write it just because it’s what’s selling right now … not unless you’re an experienced writer who can knock out a clean manuscript to shop to an agent or to post to iBooks in only a month or three, because you’re unlikely to finish while it’s still In.

Secondly, don’t get discouraged. Remember, it took a long time for the Beatles and J K Rowling to get a contract. They both could wallpaper a room with rejections. If you’re self-publishing … remember that, by and large, people don’t read. Even NYTimes Bestsellers might only have got a thousand sales, and they probably had the help of ads that cost a couple thousand dollars each.

Thirdly, don’t give up. Taking down a story that isn’t selling isn’t going to sell it any better. If it ain’t costing you to offer it, don’t remove it. If you’re traditionally published … try talking to your agent to see if they can help you get some better publicity or something.

Finally, edit. Self-published especially, since you’re not going to sell very well if you’ve a book out that looks like it was written by a schizophrenic toddler with Tourette syndrome, but even if you plan to submit it to an agent/publisher it’s not going to impress them to look at a garbled parody of English (or French, Portuguese, or whatever you wrote it in); they’re buying your writing, not your glorious idea … besides, even if they love the idea, they’ve got to be able to find it inside all that text, and they can’t do that if it’s unintelligible.

One trick that does really help, though: read. Doesn’t have to be the genre you’re writing in (might even help not to be, but that depends on you), but read. The kind of writing does matter, it does no good to read novels to learn to be a poet, but beyond that just read for the simple pleasure of it. Don’t pull the story apart like some literature class assignment looking for themes and plots and cheeseburgers and … buggered if I know, I was never lying when I said I paid all but no attention whatsoever in my literature classes … just read. By doing so you’ll, the same way a child learns to speak by listening to people around her talking, you’ll start to get an idea how to tell a story.

Really, if the only thing you’ve ever read is a book about how to write (or books) it’ll show. There’ll be something unnatural about it to those who can’t spot the signs, and the rest of us can probably damned near say which writing manuals you used.

Stephen King, American author best known for h...

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

― Stephen King

Writing, like life, can’t be hurried and still maintain quality. Kraft Easy Mac might only take a minute in the microwave, but is it really anywhere near as good as the stuff your nana made from scratch with three kinds of real artisan cheeses and homemade pasta? Probably not, unless nana was real shite in the kitchen. And, unlike the Easy Mac which, news flash younger readers, used to take something like five minutes, there’s nothing much that can speed up writing except, maybe, spending time you could otherwise be writing doing exercises in Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. So, if you never want to be better than mid-list (if that high) forget about shortcuts, forget about tricks, forget about anything except what it takes to keep your story moving, your fingers on pen/keyboard, your characters from wandering off to play strip poker, and so that you can remember that Bridgette has curling green hair now because of that spell that backfired in the third chapter.

And seriously, folks, who besides Dean Wesley Smith actually ever wants to be known for churning out literary Easy Mac?! (don’t ask).

A discussion, I hope.

English: Ellen DeGeneres in 2009.

English: Ellen DeGeneres in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was an article I found on Facebook, shared it too as I recall.  The Best Way to Change Minds:  Come Out, Stay Out, and Speak Out.

Of particular note, for me, is the first paragraph:

Last week my friend, Professor Jenny Boylan of Barnard College, penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Trans Community Can Change Minds by Changing Discourse.” I think it’s very important that our scholars are finally being provided with a platform to reach a far wider audience, and Jenny is one of our most articulate spokeswomen. It’s also important to note that — gasp!trans women are Ivy League college professors. I will even go so far as to say that what she said is less important than the fact that she is published in The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. That will have a great impact on accomplishing what she stressed as the goal of her piece: changing the nature of the public discourse around trans persons and the experience of being trans.

Now, of course, it’s about the transgender community.  Applicability, a word I learnt from the late Professor J R R Tolkien‘s lovely writings on the subject of storytelling, though means it says so very much more.  Amazing how much storytelling and life can have in common if you take a moment to look around and see it.

I’m rather torn on the subject myself.  This is why I hope this will be a discussion in the comments.  It’d be interesting to see the varied opinions and discourse on the matter.  I’m a private person.  I don’t like, as I’ve said before, giving details about myself.  I’ve no problem standing up for people.  Race, sexuality, gender expression, gender identity … we’re all people.  I stand up for people because first off, it just seems the right thing to do.  None of my business if someone is a woman, man, or other.  Doesn’t matter the slightest to me if they’re Buddhist, Pagan, Jew, Christian, Islamic, or pray before an old Pepsi can from 1973.  I certainly can’t imagine being too upset about anything that two or more consenting people might like to do with/to one another.  Above all else, I’m not going to say that someone doesn’t deserve the same rights as anyone else just because of who it is that they love and find attractive.

My point is; do people in the public eye – authors, actors, politicians, etc. – do we have some obligation to be out?  And out about any of it.  Out about being heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, pepsisexual, transgender, transvestite, transatlantic, or transmitted; anything.  Does it matter?

I do feel that we should certainly speak our minds if we’re willing and able.  I’m somewhat able and somewhat willing, so I do.  But that’s not because of our being public.  I think that’s just a very good and human thing to do.  If you want to be objectivist about it and find some self-serving reason for it then how about Martin Niemöller‘s words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Should it matter if you are gay or trans*?  Should it matter if I am?  Your cousin?  Should it be enough that you don’t feel that anyone should ever be treated as less than human?

So I do, I ask:  am I right or wrong?  Is it enough to speak out, even if I will not come out cis/trans/queer, gay/straight/bi/other? I am out on one point:  I’m an out redhead and an out woman.  I’m also an out writer (exceedingly vague reference to The Notebooks of Lazarus Long).  Does it add some weight to what I say if I am Cis or if I’m trans?  If I’m gay or straight?

The article seems to think so.  At least taken in an extrapolated form.  To be fair, the article itself isn’t talking so much about the Laverne Coxes, the Ellen Pages, the George Takeis of the world.  It’s talking about the guy who bags your groceries, the woman who delivers your mail, etc.  It’s about advocating by simple example.  By not isolating yourself, as a trans person, estranged from anyone who ever knew you as your assigned gender to begin fresh and reborn as your true gender in another town all alone … It points out that, if no one can really identify with an issue, put a real face and person to it they’re not really going to feel much point in supporting the cause.  Little girls like Jazz, women like Laverne Cox; they may seem unreal to people, or isolated curiosities.  George Takei and Ellen DeGeneres; same thing.  They plant the seed, the curiosity, the vocabulary.  They shout the issues from the rooftops, but the ones who prove them right are the gay parents at the PTA conference for their’s daughters’ school; it’s the little boy struggling to be allowed to play for the boys’ team instead of the girls’; it’s your trans brother and your lesbian sister-in-law, your bi cousin.  That point I don’t argue with.  Those who know me I’m out about my sexuality with, my marital status, etc.  What I can’t seem to make up my mind about is this:  does it matter in either direction to the public?

Funny I should say this, given my post about representation, but I guess it comes down to this:  representation in my work exists.  I’d assume that my characters present far more valid role models than myself.  You get to know them, you see their thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, all of that – you share a bond with them.  Me?  What am I?  A dyslexic typist who happens to occasionally take it into her head to string several English words together in something like a logical and coherent order.  Does this make me the kind of public figure whose personal details matters for representing anything or anyone?  I can paint landscapes populated by cis/trans/queer alike, homo/hetero/bi/pan/a whatever, but I can do that regardless my gender, race, height, weight, bust size, inseam, zodiac sign, sexuality, etc.

Still, perhaps I’m wrong.  I’d love to hear what others think:  does my sexuality, gender-status, marital status, etc. matter?  Never mind me specifically, I mean anyone.  Does J K Rowlings’?  Does Stephen King’s?  George R R Martin’s?  Neil Gaiman‘s?

Is it me or is that a long list of Caucasian, cisgender, heterosexual people?  Look, writing as a profession or even hobby doesn’t actually need representation, does it?!  I mean, the anonymity of the pen/keyboard?  How many authors use pseudonyms!  I mean … people know this right?  I mean were I gay or bi or whatever, that wouldn’t make a difference to whether or not some little girl who falls in love with my books decides to take up the quill and tell her own tales … would it?

Damn, now I can actually see arguments both ways.  Stupid blogpost … bad blogpost, no cookies!

Life would be so much easier if humanity weren’t so caught up on the idea of finding reasons to look down on one another.  I mean, aside from obvious ones like rape, murder, theft … people are starving, and there’re religious groups spending money and energy on fighting the legality of Portia and Ellen’s marriage.  Really?!

Still, these comments are no less moderated than any others.  Your comment won’t show up unless you have a previously approved comment or unless I hit the magical, mystical approval button.  But, you know, discuss away.  Between the comments and my own soul searching, maybe I’ll get around to writing up some kind of bio about myself.  Maybe I won’t.  I’m still leaning to “it doesn’t matter”, besides … could turn out I’m just as status quo as Ms Rowling; at least with the silence there’s a mystique.

What’s so great about Hemmingway?

Ed Greenwood

Ed Greenwood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not just Hemmingway, but Jane Austin, Steinbeck, Stephen King

I’m not saying they’re awful, though I can’t stand three sentences in a row by a single one of them. I simply ask why are they sainted in the annals of recent fiction and literature? Certainly why do so many blogs and forums dispensing cheap writing advice swear by them as such deities of the written word?

Why is not the advice to first ask who the person likes to read the best and say, “Read that carefully and think about the things the author does that you do and don’t like. After, try to borrow and unashamedly steal those techniques you love and consider how you might do differently those which you loathed.”

How boring would the world be if all writers were determined to be the next of only a small pool if very similar writers?! (Rather dry ones, in my opinion) Would the world read even less than already it tends to do?

I do believe some works do deserve their deification. The Discworld series by Pratchett is undeniably brilliant and holds the attentions and imaginations of scholars and huddled masses alike; The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, and Wizard of Oz too are inarguably timeless classics, along with the adventures of our good bear who “lives under the name ‘Sanders’.”

Still I would not presume to tell anyone they ought to write more like Tolkien, Milne, or Carroll. For one they’re ill suited to a suspense-horror.

I suppose it’s the idea that King is a famous best selling author so must know something … please note, so is Seanan McGuire, J K Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer. Rowling, outsold and outsells the others in that list combined, yet you’re supposed to not write like her … so I’ve no idea how King is a god.

The others are all classified Literary Fiction, which is somehow superior to all other sorts (Literature majors who try to write the stuff say so, and they’re experts and should know, right?) despite being that dry boring stuff we’re made to read in Literature classes which probably turned rather a lot of people off reading altogether.

To each her own personal gods of the pen, be it Mercedes Lackey or Lawrence Block, Ed Greenwood or Danielle Steel, Dean Koontz or Louisa Mae Alcott … when you write study the master who you so loved you wanted to write, carry on that writer’s legacy. The acclaimed saints of writing need no undue worship unless you happen to favour their styles.

P.S. Is it me, or is the list of people you’re supposed to strive to write like nearly always Americans, primarily from around the Depression?  Never minding the rather selective era, but … why are we excluding other English speaking authors … or non-English (they don’t say English or American lit, just lit — I’m fair certain a Frenchman would have something to say about the superiority of, say, Voltaire to any six Americans you care to pick.

Writing about writing

I’m going to take a tiny break from my poking around the NaNoWriMo forums, and unburden my mind on something.

I spend an awful lot of time writing about writing when I only have one book out, don’t I?

Seems strange, especially to me.

Thing is, Tolkien wrote a bit about writing and he only ever released two books (Lord of the Rings, for those who don’t know, was only a trilogy due to paper shortages).  I certainly don’t believe I’m half the author that Tolkien was, nor do I disregard his academic writing … but his fiction is only two works.  Silmirilion, and others are unfinished and posthumous publications.

Thing is, a person who writes can know a lot about writing without being published.  If this were not true there would not be writer discussions everywhere on the internet, and before that on Usenet, and before that on Fidonet, and before that on select BBSes, and before that in various paper newsletters or coffee shoppe/library based clubs.  No, a person can have an hundred titles published and not know anything about writing, and a person can have nothing published and know everything.  It’s like saying someone with a degree in something is more knowledgeable than someone without one — not always true, the difference is that one met certain criterion in a university, the other just spent a lot of time in careful study.

I don’t propose to know all about writing.  I certainly would never claim to, on purpose, write literary works — if for no other reason than my outright distaste for every single example of such that I’ve ever encountered.

The thing is, we all find something that works for us — we share that for those who it might save some grief and pain.  Somewhere out there is another writer wired a bit like myself who is staring, tears in her/his eyes, struggling to compose a tale upon the cold, lifeless screen of a computer.  Sweety, turn off the machine, grab some ink and paper, give that a try.  Hurray, another story rescued!

Also, one cannot write without reading.  This is stated time and again.  Someone had to be the first writer, someone had to be the first blacksmith, so I suppose it’s not quite true — someone can work it out from nothing but it’s going to be pretty unlikely.  Even our friend Mr First Blacksmith, he probably knew something about making bronze, and Mr First Bronzesmith learnt something from Granddaddy Copper or Tin-smith, both of whom learnt all they needed from Ugh Goldsmith who figured out the shiny yellow rocks look neat if you smash them with some dull gray rocks, and goes all runny if you get it near that neat fire thing his cousin Og No Eyebrows discovered last week.  So, I say, you must read.  The first novelists read poetry.  What did the first poets read?  I honestly don’t know, it’s not an area of history that ever much intrigued me, but I would guess that they listened to story tellers who recited a kind of epic poetry.  From this you learn techniques (a hotter fire makes these funny rocks sweat out grey shiny stuff), you learn methodology (no, no, hit the metal, son, not your thumb, works better — trust me).  Most importantly you learn what inspires you (what?  I can’t turn everything into a smithing analogy)!

If you read enough, and then write enough, you discover these details (oh!  hit the metal with a hammer!  Who knew!?) which some will call rules of writing and others rules of thumb.  I provide rules of thumb.  For certain kinds of fiction it’s important to follow strict structures, to only put that she wore green shoes if it’s vital to some later or immediate aspect of the story (at the very least it has to be symbolic).  For others, this isn’t so important.

This is why I tend to say, do it or not, it’s up to you and the necessities of your story.  Because that is the key:  It’s.  Your.  Story.

Believe me, I haven’t read all there is to read, but I’ve read enough to know that one thing is Truth:  in the course of human history, there is no truly new idea in how to write.  Someone will have tried something like it somewhere.  And in this age, someone will have published it at some point and in some place.

As I said:  Do the characters eat?  I don’t know, dear, do they?  Do the characters have sex?  Is it that kind of story?  Fade to black or graphic detail?  Is it that kind of story?  Do I describe their clothes?  Does the narrator notice the clothes, or care?

I cannot stress enough, that there are no literary police who will charge you with being in violation of code 43-b of the Rules of Writing if you don’t do what some literature professor or creative writing instructor told you to then confiscate your literary license.  TELLS, yes, sort of, it’s called marks and they tend to be bad if you don’t follow the instructor’s instructions — but that’s a whole other matter.  Believe me, Jo Rowling, Stephen King, J R R Tolkien, Robert Heinlein, Charles Dickens, A A Milne, Frank L Baum, Edgar Rice Burroughs, E E “Doc” Smith, Arthur C Clarke, William Shakespeare, Voltaire, Geoffrey Chaucer … and so many more, names we know, names we love, names we cherish, names that will live on or have already long endured … they broke The Rules, or at least some rules.  Other rules they followed, some rules weren’t rules yet, some rules aren’t rules any more.

And there’s another point.  It’s so hard to agree on these rules that it’s possible to have these discussions.  If Rules for writing truly existed, beyond those needed to codify how one communicates via the strange glyphs upon a page or screen, then there would be no question and no discussion:  one would become a writer the way one becomes a plumber, or an accountant.

Time and again:  Art has no rules, no boundaries.  Art is imagination, and creativity.  We say ‘think outside the box’ when we want someone to be creative — we tell them to step beyond the bounds of laws, rules, status quo, etc.  In our imaginations, men walk upon the moon, upon alien worlds; in our imaginations we explore the depths of the sea and soar among the clouds; in our imaginations we can send a picture around the world in the blink of an eye; in our imaginations we can converse with cats and have tea with dormice.  Some of these things have, since, become reality — but first they were imagined, and first they were the stuff of fiction, first they were novels or epic legends, dreams of eccentric geniuses.

It can never be stressed enough, and I am not alone, so many of the artists we all adore so often stress the same advice:  do not shackle your dreams.  Do not stifle your story with boundaries and Rules.  Reserve “should” only in name of advice, “Should Veronica wear high heels with that kind of dress, do you think?”  If you can dream it, write it, because if you can dream it you can inspire that dream in others — and that’s what it’s all about really, sharing our dreams and imaginings so that others can enjoy the same journey we did.

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules

Gaiman’s 8 Rules

These, by and large, are really common sense,. But really that’s why I absolutely love reading Neil Gaiman. Not his books, though several of his are on my to-read list, the only one I’ve managed to get around to yet is Good Omens (very awesome, by the way), I mean him.

Really it does all boil down to: If you want to write, have a story or, better yet, have characters and see what story they present you and then try to keep up.

Write! You’ll never get your story told if you put it off.

Once writing, keep at it. I add the corollary of get the idea down, if not now, ASAP! You may truly not be able to get it down right as it happens. Maybe you’re making love, or driving, or cooking, or skydiving. Inspiration hits at inconvenient moments, but as soon as you can spare a moment get it down. Don’t wait. If you wait you’ll forget the tiny key that made it brilliant and you’ll be left with something flat and lukewarm instead of the vivid fizz that might have made that scene one of the greatest of all time.

Finish. See it through to the end. Even if you have to backtrack several times, even start from the beginning again and again. See it through. If you believe in the story tell it.

Write your story. Once upon a time a brilliant story would be published by someone. These days the major publishers are a bit hung up about genre and marketing and other things, but the beauty of today is you can put it out yourself or find a smaller publisher who is looking for brilliance, not trends. Jo Rowling, Stephen King, and Terry Pratchett should write those stories, you shouldn’t, and any agent or editor who tries to convince you to twist your story into that of someone else, fire them. Walk away and find another.

I love what he says too about having friends read it and how to take their advice. It’s quite true too. In one story I wrote, one friend simply asked questions about a scene – it was a scifi tale with odd paper, but she didn’t grok it. I looked at the scene and realised I knew what it meant, and some folks who were fans of certain SF, the newest example of which is Firefly did too, but to everyone else I had to explain the scene for them to get it. I rewrote it. More brilliantly than I’d had it. Another friend, though, pointed out specific passages and started suggesting changes. His suggestions hurt the narrative, broke the flow, and glitched the carefully wrought illusion of reality to bring the reader’s mind back to the fact they’re merely taking in words on a page. He was, in short, horribly wrong.

No matter if you read his work I do suggest one make a point to read his thoughts and anecdotes as much as you can. He’s almost always fun, and so often wise and … bloody brilliant. Take these rules for writing. Now extrapolate them. Make them apply to other things in life. See the wisdom yet?