two weeks of #100DaysOfWriting
Okay, okay, it was two weeks until yesterday, but it’s close enough. Today’s day 15 (assuming I can count, which I couldn’t last week when I gave us two Day Eights…), and I’ve managed to write every day, which is pretty unusual for me.
I’ve done about…mmm. 7000 words, which isn’t really very many (particularly after last month’s, what, 65K+ and November’s …65K…?) but, you know, possibly the 120K in the past two months is taking its toll. Although really it’s more that I’ve…
So my projects this month were going to be proposals for trad pub projects. I started with one which is charming and delightful and would be lots of fun to write, and hauled myself through most of the synopsis before I had a Moment Of Clarity about what I’m trying to achieve, career-wise, in 2018. It amounts to Reinvention Of Self, and there are several irons in the fire in that regard.
Anyway, the project I’d gotten 80% of the way through synopsizing was a cute little CE Murphy style book, but a thing that happened, career-wise, after I wrote the last Walker Papers, was that both of my publishers at the time told me they wanted the Breakout Book from me.
As you might imagine, I also wanted the Breakout Book. I sent them many proposals. (Seriously. A lot.) They kept saying, “No, this isn’t what we’re looking for.” Eventually I said “okay, look, give me some guidelines.”
One of them, memorably, did so. They wanted me to write for their adult fiction line (as opposed to young adult, not, like, adult films). They wanted something without many science fiction or fantasy elements. They wanted something with “wide general appeal, like…Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games.”
I pointed out, with some frustration, that one could not reasonably ask me for non-fantasy/sf adult fiction with wide general appeal and simultaneously use *explicitly* SFF YA that gained wide general appeal through grass roots as an example. They, unfortunately, could not offer any greater clarification.
Shortly thereafter (and unrelatedly :)) my editor there got laid off, leaving me without much point of contact, and things have been heavily self-published-focused since, although I’ve been proposing things to agents and editors pretty regularly in the interim.
The point of all this is I’d been working on this charming proposal, and I realized: this is not a thing to reinvent myself with. It’s a CE Murphy book, which is fine, but it’s not something my old publishers would have bought. It’s not The Breakout Book.
So I thought, okay, if my goal here is really to reinvent myself, then I need to go big or go home. And there are two projects I have that fall under that category; one is an epic fantasy, and the other is…The Climate Change Series.
You know. The series I’ve been talking about for nigh unto a decade. The one I’ve taken stabs in the dark at, and backed away from. The one I’m…scared to write.
Here’s the truth, mes amis: I am not afraid of writing. I’ve never really understood people saying “this book scared me,” or talking about writing through the fear, or digging deep to, I don’t know, write with blood and marrow.
I mean, yes, in every book I write there’s a period of time where I think I’ve screwed it up and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written and I can’t actually write and I’m not doing the story justice and everybody will hate it. This, as far as I can tell, is entirely normal writer behaviour. But overall, writing doesn’t scare me. I’m confident of the storytelling choices I make (even when they cause readers to throw a book across the room, as memorably happened with one reader at the end of COYOTE DREAMS. Later, she said, she got EVEN MADDER…because she realized I’d been right with how I told the story, EVEN THOUGH IT WASN’T WHAT SHE WANTED. Deeply offensive behaviour, that! :)). At the end of a book, I feel I’ve done it justice. I’ve done the best I could, I’ve gotten it onto the page as well as I can, I’ve conveyed what I wanted to convey.
I am not *afraid* of writing. I really barely even understand what it means to be afraid of writing.
I am *terrified* of writing the climate change books.
(Michelle Sagara, who (correctly) thinks I’m generally weirdly confident for a writer, cheerfully told me that my nerves about the climate change books is the most normal writer-behaviour she’s ever seen from me. I’m like BUT THIS IS AWFUL, HOW DO YOU EVEN DEAL WITH IT?!?!?!?!?! She did not have a helpful answer. :))
So I’ve concluded that if I want to go big, I need to…face this thing. Do the climate change books. Even if they terrify me, which they do. (I’m afraid of dropping the ball. I’m afraid of failing my…vision? of hope and change. I’m…I’m just afraid, and that’s…I have no tools to deal with that!) I have…I have a lot of notes and some story excerpts and some…ideas. What I need to do is spend more time than usual wrangling them into plot and story arc and, probably at least as importantly, decide where my limits are, because part of the problem is that climate change is huge, and I’ve come to realize recently that I know a great deal more about it than your average joe, and the weight of that knowledge is part of what’s stymying me: it’s hard to narrow down my focus when I’m too aware of the scope. Which is overwhelming, and cannot, realistically, be tackled in one series.
Which all means that instead of throwing myself headlong into a bunch of smaller proposals for the month/100 Days Of Writing, I’ve had to completely recalibrate my goals. I did finish the charming little proposal, because I’d put enough work in that finishing it was only another few hours’ worth of effort, but it’s now sidelined. I started writing another short story for KISS OF ANGELS, the Patreon-first Old Races short story collection, which is nearly done and if I finish 2-3 more stories this month I can get it out to the world pretty soon. I’m going to be writing a new book in February/March (either the next Heartstrike book or the next Austen Chronicle, I haven’t decided yet), for self-publishing purposes, and I’m going to be working on the climate change series in the background for the first quarter of the year. Or longer, if it takes longer.
…anyway, so that’s why I’ve done about 7000 words this month instead of 30K or something. O.O :)
Revamping my Patreon!
One of my big projects for 2018 is Revamping My Patreon, which has now largely been accomplished. First off, of course, I’ve been running a Patreon a while now, and you’ll find short stories, book proposals, even whole novel drafts here, immediately available when you become a patron.
But I’m offering lots of new fun stuff this year! I’ll be writing individual pieces of flash fiction, ranging from up to 250 words all the way to stories of 10K in length on commission, so you get what you ask for! I’m looking forward to that. :)
Another goal–in fact, the first couple blogs have been posted for these–is to have a lot more patron-first blogs before they go out to my regular blog, and I’m doing a live-blogging-the-writing series that will probably remain Patreon-only.
I’ll also be wrapping up the second Old Races Short Story Project, which is a collection of stories set post-Negotiator-Trilogy, and which will set the Old Races universe up for potential book-length sequels, which I may or may not ever actually write. :) Subscribing to the Patreon gets you early access to those stories, credit in the acknowledgements, and a complete e-book once the project is done.
The Patreon, right now, is almost halfway to an early release of a CE Murphy novel, which is one of my long-term goals for it–I have great hopes of being able to release one or even TWO novels early to the Patreon crew, and even possibly writing a couple of bonus novellas a year. So there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on there, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all! ♥
Guest Post: Chaz Brenchley & the Crater School!
It is my delight and honor to host my friend Chaz Brenchley on the blog today. I met Chaz online, and then through the Irish/UK con circuit, oh, several-many years ago now. Most lately he’s been working on a project that I’m utterly in love with, both in concept and execution, and he’s here to talk about it–and its crowdfunding support system–today!
One of the joys of living in the heart of Silicon Valley is that NASA Ames is just over there, and SETI HQ is even closer. We live among the cool kids – and the cool kids like to share. I went to NASA for the recent transit of Venus; and ever since I moved here, I’ve been going to SETI’s weekly colloquium where planetary scientists and cosmologists talk about the latest discoveries, or the specific projects they have on a new mission, or the latest weird theory that’s almost a guaranteed Nobel prize if it should ever prove true (“but right now there are only two people who believe it, and they’re both in this room”), and like that.
So there I was with planetary scientists at my fingers’ ends for the asking, and lots of Mars talk going on around the time of Curiosity’s landing, so it’s really no wonder that I started thinking about Mars fiction. Real Mars, not so much, for it is dry and inhospitable and I have written my desert books already – but old Mars, Mars with canals and an atmosphere and aliens? Oh, yes. Very much yes.
And very much within that spirit, I wanted to steampunk it up a bit; and there was a lot of talk at that time in my social media about how steampunk tended to assume British Empire overtones, as though that were the only choice, and how it so very much was not. So I thought somewhat about that – but I did keep coming back to the British Empire, because I am far from home and the more time I spend in California the more inveterately Brit I become, and because I am the son of an Empire brat (Grandad was a major in the Scots Guards; Mum was born in Rangoon and grew up in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, speaking Malay more readily than English), and because above all I was really curious. If Mars were a province of the British Empire, how would that actually work? How could it happen, and what would it mean – to the Empire, and to European and world history? And to Mars, and to the presumptive Martians? How do you impose colonial rule on a race that has no concept of empire, or statehood, or governance? And does it make a difference if you’re there by their courtesy, via their aetherships, for reasons you still don’t understand? And how do you negotiate even the broadest heads of agreement where you can barely communicate at all?
And, and, and. This is one way that fiction happens, with a whole slew of questions that need answering. So this last couple of years, I have been writing stories that seek to do that. The first of them, “The Burial of Sir John Mawe at Cassini”, was published in Subterranean and picked up by Gardner Dozois for his Year’s Best SF anthology; the second – “The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal” – appeared this year in Lightspeed’s “Queers Destroy SF” special issue (Oscar Wilde on Mars!). And I’m working on T E Lawrence on Mars, and A E Housman on Mars, and I’m irretrievably bogged down in a novel about Kipling on Mars (for many of these stories begin with “Y’know, if Mars were a province of the British Empire, [X] would so have gone there…”).
So there’s that, and I am passionate about it, beguiled by it, almost obsessed with it.
But I have other passions too, lifelong passions – and one of those is the Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. Sixty books, written over forty-five years: the tale of an English boarding school established in the Austrian Tyrol, with all that that implies. Mischief at midnight, practical jokes and punishments, prefects and dormitories and matrons and mistresses; but also adventures on a much greater scale, for these books were written in real time through the war and the girls witness anti-Semitic cruelty and take a stand against it and have to flee the Nazis themselves. And retreat first to Jersey, which turns out not to have been such a good idea; and then spies come after them, and the makeshift migratory wartime school yields some of the best stories in the series. And then after the war the school moves to Switzerland (for it needs to stay close to the TB sanatorium that brings in many of its pupils, and staff too – and that supplies another constant theme to the series, loss and survival and the comforts of faith), and things go on much as before until the author’s death in 1970.
These books have a cult following, including some surprising names that I shall not bandy here. And just a few weeks ago, I was walking home from the farmers’ market when I suddenly thought, “Y’know, if Mars were a province of the British Empire, the Chalet School would so have a sister foundation there…”
It’s already established in the canon that boys are sent home to the great boarding-shools of England; but aethership journeys are expensive, and space is at a premium. Of course they’d want to educate their girls locally, oh yes…
And so the Crater School was born, in a failed hotel built as a Norman castle, on the rim of a crater lake inhabited by a Martian naiad. Just across the water from a sanatorium, for Mars comes of course with its own diseases; and there are Basque shepherds on the slopes and Dutch families on the canal below, Indians and Chinese in the great port cities, and and and…
And I’ve stitched all this together into a Patreon project, and we are going to have so much fun, it ought to be illegal. Or at least see us sent to the Headmistress on report. You can read the first two chapters for free here, and the Patreon page is here, if you’d like to support the Crater School for this term and beyond…
Writing Wednesday: Patreon patronage
A while ago I was muttering about how I wanted somebody I *knew* to have test-run a relatively new distribution opportunity for self-published writers, and one of my friends said, “Er, Catie, you’re the one who does that. You go charging off the cutting edge and we all wait to see how it works out and then follow, having learned from you.”
I said “!” because I didn’t know that was a thing I was perceived as doing, but since it apparently is, I’m gonna talk about my experiences with Patreon now. :)
I’m on my second Patreon project: the one currently running is an Old Races Short Story Project, plus occasional extra sundries as I happen to do them. My first project was MAGIC AND MANNERS, a Jane Austen pastiche in which I asked the all-important question, “What if the Bennet Sisters had too much magic rather than not enough money?” (It will be widely available in October! Or November if things go badly, but definitely around then!)
Patreon has two options: one is that patrons pay a creator Per Thing, and the other is that patrons pay a creator Per Month.
I did M&M as a weekly serialized novel, with Patreon’s Pay Per Thing option, with a promise to not post more than one chapter a week, and with a guess as to how many chapters it would run, so that patrons could decide how much they wanted to/could afford to pay per chapter.
It worked, but frankly, I don’t recommend serializing something on Patreon that way.
The problem is that on the creator end, you end up getting nickel-and-dimed on micropayments and percentages going to the site. If I post 5 chapters in a month and get paid Per Thing on it, and someone donates $.25 per chapter, or $.05, I can end up actually getting nothing at all from their donation after the credit card fees, which do not like tiny tiny payments at all. This isn’t good for anybody! My patron has spent fifty cents (or whatever) in support of…credit card fees…and I have given chapters away! (Which frankly bothers me a lot less than the idea that people who are trying to support me are only succeeding in supporting a credit card.)
I think there’s a great window of opportunity for Per Thing support on Patreon, but serializing a book is not the way to take advantage of it. I think it works better for more one-off kinds of projects: songs, completed books maybe, poems, paintings, I don’t know. Not chapters, though. Not in my experience.
I therefore debated with myself a lot over whether I was going to do Per Thing or Per Month with the new Old Races Short Story Project. My goal is to post a story a month, plus some extras, but Patreon WILL let you *not* charge for something, so I could’ve kept doing Per Thing.
But this is a thing I’ve noticed by running crowdfund projects: lots of people are actually interested not just in The Thing, but in Supporting The Artist. Especially if it’s relatively convenient. Many people have $5 (or whatever) that they’re willing and able to spare per month to help artists, you know, not starve. Or pay the rent, or the cable bill, or just basically worry a tiny bit less about all of those things so they can do more art.
It makes practically every creator I know twitchy to imagine going out and just…asking for money. “Hi! I’m a writer! Give me some money so I can write, please!” We almost all feel like we had damn well better provide something in exchange for that money. We almost all always *do* provide something in exchange…but honestly, my experience has been that most of the time, patrons say “No problem,” if there’s no new content that month. Especially if they’ve been warned in advance, as I did when I switched my Patreon from the M&M project Per Thing payment system to the ORSSP By Month system. I did that in May or June, and told my patrons I’d be starting the new ORSSP in September.
I lost a handful of patrons, but I expected to lose *most* of them, and was kind of stunned that I didn’t. And now the new project is underway and I’ve picked up more patrons, and I’m getting near to my funding goal, which is enormously exciting to me. So I’ve learned that Patreon is a spot where creators can potentially go to just hang in there for a few months if life gets chaotic (as, gods know, mine did this summer), because a majority of patrons really do seem to be there to support the artist; the stories and whatnot are sort of a perk.
I’m trying to come up with some closing statements here and not doing very well. I think the Per Thing model is a really good one, especially for bigger ticket projects (hello, Amanda Palmer), but I didn’t like it for myself for a weekly Per Thing. I’d no doubt be happier with it as a monthly Per Thing rather than a weekly one, but there’s an ease in the Per Month payment, because that way I don’t have to set it to trigger a payment on a piece when I post it. (That burned me last year, when Patreon’s user interface wasn’t as good/I hadn’t grimly memorized what I had to do, and I ended up posting several things for free, which was aggravating because it was so easy to do accidentally more than because I hated to post the chapters for free…)
A thing to remember going into it, though, is that Patreon isn’t Kickstarter. With all that that entails, good and bad. It’s not a huge cash cow, generally speaking. I know artists whose Patreons will cover a nice dinner out with drinks, monthly (or, more practically, the cable bill). I know others who are actually breathing more easily because they’re paying the mortgage now, and others who can buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks once a week with their Patreon funds. It doesn’t have that shiny video-game high-score goal thing that Kickstarter does, or the pressure of SUPPORT IT NOW BEFORE IT DISAPPEARS! And that’s not its purpose, of course, but it does mean it’s a very different kind of fundraising and success has to be judged very differently, and realistically.
The payment problem on Patreon was my fault. Twice I set the stupid thing to “patrons only” and totally missed the other place where I was supposed to set it to “paid creation”.
I’m in a really bad mood right now.