Monday, May 24, 2010

Progress Report: 5/24/2010

So I wrote the agent who's looking at Rose & Jade, and nothing terrible befell me. A crack did not open up in the ground to swallow me up, and I was neither struck blind nor covered with boils. Peculiar, isn't it? I do have a sore shoulder, but I think that can be traced to a more obvious cause.

Anyway, the agent says that he is now showing my story to a few other readers to get a consensus. He tells me that this is a time-consuming process and apologizes for the slowness. All this sounds fairly promising to me. My limited experience with agents so far is they don't need any kind of consensus to tell them what they don't like, and it's not time-consuming when they're telling you to blow off (generally, they're very polite about it, so don't take that to mean they're deliberately mean. It's still no fun). I know that a project has many chances to de-rail and it could easily happen any time, but it is kind of encouraging to have gotten a little farther down the tracks this time.

Also: I now have a laptop! A fine Mac laptop inherited from my good friend Andrew, and much more potent than anything I could have afforded to buy. Now it's a matter of getting some writing done on it. Work continues to dominate, but the end of this stretch is in sight. Perhaps a couple more weeks before the schedule settles back into something that permits breathing and a re-channeling of creative energy.

Work itself can be very rewarding, at least. Sometimes I get to work with material that is simply outstanding, as was recently the case. I have been writing the copy for an audio program with Howard Thurman, and it's been amazing to listen to him. He was Martin Luther King's spiritual mentor, to create the historical context, and I thought that the hook for the package copy would be about Thurman's legacy, his place in the Civil Rights movement, and that sort of thing. What I realized is that if someone walked into the studio and recorded the same material off the street, it would still be awesome.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Progress Report: 5/17/2010

I just did something that I was advised not to do, which is to bug the agent to whom I sent my manuscript to see how it's coming along. It occurred to me after sending the email that I never did confirmation from him that he'd gotten the manuscript in the first place. I just assume it went through, but sometimes with large attachments, things don't work properly.

So we'll see.

Sometimes, you have to ignore advice. Actually, I'm getting to the point right now where I've hit advice overload. How to get published, how to write for the mass market, the rules of dealing with agents, the rules of contacting editors, the rules of structuring a story, the rules of character, the rules of dialogue, the rules of... AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHH!

Many bits of advice contradict one another, or at least don't line up properly. Many other bits of advice seem sound, and then you see exceptions littered all around. So I think it's time to put a bit of a hold on advice. It can get paralyzing after a while.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Progress Report: 5/10/2010

Still deep in the busy stretch for work, and that looks like it will last well into June. Which means that my blog updated here will probably be pretty light, barring some kind of wonderful agent news or something like that.

George R. R. Martin just invited a pretty hearty debate about fanfiction over on his blog (link here), and I think we got down to the heart of the matter on his third post. I haven't read all the replies, but judging from how his tone has changed, enough people must've told him that he was overestimating the issue about legal fears. Many authors have made a peaceful relationship with the fanfic community. Indeed, if you read Free by Chris Anderson, you can easily see how a robust fanfiction community can ultimately help the profits of the creator by creating free publicity and interest. It certainly happened with a lot of anime and manga.

It's not really a legal issue, it's a personal issue. The short of it is that he doesn't want his view of characters or a story poisoned by some writer's crappy or disrespectful version of things. And since most fanfiction (though not all) is pretty bad, it's a legit concern. Once you strip away his reason-based arguments, which can be refuted or challenged, what it boils down to is an emotional response from a man who takes stories very seriously. And I respect that.

(I find it fascinating that Martin brings up Alien 3 as an example of how stories can get spoiled by a bad installment. I can't think of a movie I hate more than Alien 3, so I really sympathize with his point on that.)

Martin also says that "consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds," which accounts for his own ventures into the grey areas of fanfiction. He contributed pretty heavily tot he whole Suduvu character battle thing, including some pieces of fanfic all his own. And yes, it was supposedly all done with permission (I have my doubts about that... Aragorn and Gandalf were in that contest, and I don't see Christopher Tolkien as giving his blessing for that sort of thing). It was still fanfiction. Publishing a RPG based on your world and characters is also entering some fuzzy territory, since it's basically giving permission for people to play in your world with your characters.

What it boils down to is that his real emotional objection is to bad fanfiction... and indeed, bad fiction in general. Not poor writing, but existing characters abused by authors who either don't understand them or don't respect them (a problem that exists whenever you switch writers -- he brings up both comics and the Alien movies as examples). Since there's no way to police fanfiction quality, and since much of it is indeed quite bad, Martin is pretty much against it as a rule.

I can respect that. Even when I was writing fanfiction, which I don't really do now (I dabbled again with the Suduvu thing), there were only some things that I felt like being a part of. Mostly I did Ranma 1/2 fanfiction, of course. I thought Ranma was the perfect subject for fanfiction, because the original material was both good enough and bad enough. The author, Rumiko Takahashi, never took it very seriously. In fact, some of the storylines she wrote were embarrassingly stupid, and would've been scorned as fanfiction if they hadn't actually been part of her canon. This is to say nothing of the anime version, which got unwatchably bad after a while. So while you had a core group of fun characters and wide-open possibilities in Ranma, it was also hard to abuse it much worse than the original creator already had, unless you went for something really depraved.

I may differ with Martin in vehemence about fanfiction, but I've pretty much gone off it myself. It's more fun to play in worlds of my own.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Progress Report: 5/3/2010

At work, there are three basic speeds:
  1. Busy
  2. Very Busy
  3. Mega Hyper Super-Overdrive Busy (in a white wine sauce)
Last week, and this week as well, we're on the third option. In fact, we may be on the third setting until about mid-June. At which point I am likely to invoke the "I need to take some days off or I'll melt into a puddle of useless protoplasm" clause.

Such times of Option Three are traditionally not very good for writing, since there's so much energy being dumped into work. However, if I let stuff like that derail me completely, I'll never get anything accomplished. So I signed up for

I haven't had much luck with finding a critique group, though I've been testing options since late last year. Ruling out the local, face-to-face options, none of which seem to work, we're left with the Internet. is a big online critique community for Fantasy and SF writers, so it seemed like a good place to start.

My feeling right now is that I would eventually like to narrow it down and develop a smaller, more personal critique circle, where all the writers know each other and commit to supporting and improving each others' work. For now, it seems the best option is to make some contact with other authors through a larger site and see who clicks.

In laptop news, my good friend Andrew offered to pass along his old Mac laptop to me, which is terrific. The sole hurdle to this is prying it from the clutching hands of his psychotic tenant. Have you ever met someone in real life who was such a walking, talking stereotype that you would never dream of writing that person as a fictional character? That's what this tenant is like. She is, in many ways, stranger than fiction.