Friday, November 20, 2015

Obstacle Course

The leaves are off the trees. The cold wind whistles outside. First flurries of snow are expected soon. Must be deep fall. Welcome to the eastern edge of the west.

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James Young, some writer, Suzanne Dome, A.R. Crebs and Todd Hunter
at Wichita's very excellent Air Capitol Comicon. Photo by Trevor C. Welch.

I was on a writer's panel at Air Capital Comicon and one of the questions was typical of such things:

What's the biggest obstacle to getting published?

My immediate response was "finishing your stuff". I guess I was channeling Chuck Wendig but it doesn't change the truth of the statement. These days you can publish easily through the Internet so the only thing that really is holding you back is your own fear or ignorance of how to do it.

But the key is to publish well. Do everything that needs to be done to make your story as good as it can possibly be. That means:


  • Beta readers to tell you how the story goes for them. You don't have to take their advice but you do have to consider it.
  • Your own time editing the piece as best you can. But realize that you will not catch everything. You're WAY too close to it. And you've read it already a thousand times or more.
  • Professional editing. This means paying someone to give it another read for the things you've used beta readers and your own time for. Don't skip this step.
  • A good cover. Yes, you have to pay for that too.
  • Formatting and design. Do you know how to set up your book to go live on the Internet? You can learn if you choose to invest the time. Are you familiar with the concept of book design? Do you know someone who is? Because this stuff matters.
So I'm here to tell you that writing is hard. There's a lot of work that goes into it. A lot of time beyond just slinging words on the digital page. All the stuff publishers do still needs to be done by you, the independent publisher.

But what's the biggest obstacle? Finishing. Don't give up. Keep going. Get the work done. All that stuff in the list is easier when you've got something to show for it.

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I've been turned on to a couple of podcasts this week that I want you to know about. The first comes from my friend Rob who listens to a wide variety of stuff and he tends to point me at things he knows I'll like. So far he's never been wrong.

So in turn I recommend to you that you check out The Message podcast. It's got elements of X-Files, Warren Ellis science fiction, War of the Worlds and NPR's Serial. Here's the pitch:

The Message is a new podcast following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.

Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in starting with Episode 1.
The Message is a co-production between Panoply and GE Podcast Theater, unlocking the secrets of healing with sound technology.

If you're like me then you might cast a doubtful eye at GE producing a podcast. There's a long history of corporations putting together art for the sake of art in the early days of radio and television. They of course are recognized for being involved and not all of them embedded commercials in the stories but many did.

This podcast doesn't. It does connect to GE through the disclaimer that they're working on science similar to what's used in the show. That's all the background stuff.

As for the story itself, it's put together in short installments that have dropped weekly. The last episode comes out Saturday and I'm excited for it. This isn't a huge investment of your time and I think it's a worthwhile way to spend about an hour in a cool story.

The other show I'm joining already in progress is The Black Tapes Podcast. Creepy stuff that taps into   primal fears, then twists them around bony fingers. It starts out rocky, like most podcasts do, but seems to find its legs pretty quickly. I'm digging deeper into it because the beginning of it captured my attention and imagination.

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It's a good time for entertainment in general, isn't it? I mean there are maturing and mature means to tell stories. Black Mirror. Marvel's TV series. The CW's DC adaptations. HBO. AMC. The above mentioned podcasts. Welcome to Nightvale.

Then there are authors like Richard Kadrey, Robert Reed, Nnedi Okorafor, Connie Willis, Jo Walton, Liu Cixin, Ann Leckie. Comic creators like Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, G. Willow Wilson, Mike Carey, Gabriel Hardman.

Look, even SyFy is re-rebranding. They're moving through into the realms of science fiction again, and not just silly stuff. Hell, CBS has a superhero show on in primetime. We nerds have it good. The future sure looks bright for genre.

We owe a debt of thanks to George Reeves, Nicholas Hammond, Lynda Carter, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno for stoking the fires all those years ago. And to Glen Larson, Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Gene and Sylvia Anderson, the team at BBC, Jack Webb, Steven Spielberg.

Even Andy Griffith for Salvage-1. I fully embrace the full range of genre, good and bad. It's formed me into who I am.

Yeah, it's a good time for genre. But it always has been. It's easier to find now. That's the only difference.

I've rambled a bit too long maybe. More next time. 'Til then, be good to each other.