On Perfection

February 27th, 2012  |  Published in writing

If you spend enough time going through writing advice, you will eventually come to something about not allowing the need for perfection to prevent you from actually finishing anything. Or “Never let the perfect become the enemy of the good”. Perfection is, after all, something that we strive towards rather than something we achieve. What has me thinking, on the other hand, is the flip side.

Back in July of 2011, I had finally finished The Root of All Things. It wasn’t perfect, in fact I think that it was probably the weakest of the Broken Shores stories, but it was good I had reached the point where I wasn’t sure what needed to be done to improve it. So I posted it and started working on the next story, Trust and Vulnerability (which was about a different character so there was no continuity to worry about), which turned out much better. Then I posted The Forked Path late last week, which continues the story begun in The Root of All Things.

Only after looking at the site stats over the weekend and seeing a bunch of hits on The Root of All Things but none on The Forked Path did I realize my mistake. Of course there’s nothing to be done about it now (perhaps I should have just put in a link for The Forked Path and noted that it was a continuation but could stand alone, who knows). I guess that the take-away from all of this whinging is that when it comes to perfection, like in so many things, the Middle Path is what we should hope to achieve. A prospect more difficult than it sounds, I am sure. Back to writing.

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February 14th, 2009  |  Published in announcement

My first piece of fiction has been published!  It is called Valentine, and you can check it out over at Flash Scribe.  I won’t say too much more, other than to thank my awesome wife, without whom this never would have happened.  Enjoy

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Faith In Publishing

January 9th, 2009  |  Published in Uncategorized

I probably don’t need to tell you about the dismal state of publishing these days, so I won’t.  What I do want to tell you about is where I see hope.  Mainly that is the in electronic publishing.  First, let me tell you about what brings this up.

I recently submitted a couple of pieces of flash fiction to a new publication called Flash Scribe.  Although they do not offer vast sums of money as I would prefer, I really like flash (my favorite piece that I have written is Bob: Employee of the Future) as a format and figured, ‘what the heck?’  So a couple of days go by.  Then I get an e-mail saying that they couldn’t open one of the files that I sent them.  Two things.  One is that it only took them two days to reply.  I realize that flash is, by definition, very short, but they still have to be on the ball to have that sort of response time.  The second is that they did not automatically reject it, which would have most certainly been much easier.

This is the sort of behavior that I simply would not expect from traditional media.  Why?  Because they are traditional, and therefore, by definition, established.  To them, innovation is not an opportunity, but a threat.  It is innovation that will save the industry, but for innovation to occur, people must take risks (especially on unknown writers like myself :).  In short, I want to say that innovation is a necessary condition for hope, as it is rarely the past that saves the present from the future (quite the opposite, but that is a different debate).  In addition, I want to wish the best of luck to the various people and groups that are making a go of doing things differently.

Disclaimer – I have yet to get word on my submissions, and I am not writing this as an attempt to flatter my way into anyone’s good graces, I just thought it needed to be said.

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May 11th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, Misc, Publishing, Society, writing

Recently I have gotten a job with a bookstore, one of the big chains.  So far, it has been great to be just surrounded by books.  On the other hand, I have been able to see first-hand how many books get sent back.  I had heard about the numbers (only 5% of published books being profitable and whatnot), but seeing the sheer volume of books that are returned is something else entirely.  Although I feel some of this could be avoided by actions on the publishers part (advertising books other than Harry Potter, for example), part of it also has to do with the shift towards digital fiction, a shift which has been suppressed by the publishers.

With digital fiction, the means of publication is very simple, just about anyone can create a text file, a PDF, or an e-book (although that takes slightly more work).  The means of distribution is also very simple, once its on the net, anyone can access it.  The problem now is the means of publicity.  It matters not how good your fiction is if no one can find it.  Personally, I envision a dedicated Reddit style site that people submit fiction to, but right now there isn’t one (the best that I have been able to find is the scifi subreddit for genre works).  The other side of this is that authors need to start making an effort to read fiction online, to help bootstrap things.

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The Changing Face of Short Fiction

May 9th, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, Publishing, Stories, writing

So how long, really, is a short story? Common definitions define the top end of the length spectrum at anywhere between 7,500 to 20,000 words. Those numbers are for the most part, arbitrary. I mean if you define a short story as having a maximum of 10,000 words, then what is it about that 10,001th word that puts it over the edge? Silly, right? A much better definition is the functional definition famously espoused by Edgar Allen Poe in “The Philosophy of Composition”, which defines a short story as a story that is able to be read in one sitting. This may seem vague, as how much can be read in one sitting will vary from person to person, and indeed for one person from one situation to the next (reading at home vs. on a train, for example). On the other hand, it is much more reasonable than arbitrary word counts.

So what happens when we bring technology into the mix? Reading on a computer is a much different experience than reading a physical book, and the comparison is not necessarily negative. I won’t go into the details of how the two mediums differ, but I will say that electronic text lends itself to shorter reading times. On the computer, for example, there are a million other things going on which conspire to prevent the reader from sinking large amounts of time into something like reading, and this trend will only continue as we get more multi-purpose mobile devices that also act as e-book readers. Second, dedicated readers will also have a tendency towards shorter works, albeit to a lesser degree and for different reasons. The reason I say this is that they are more convenient than paper books (or at least this is where they are heading, currently the point is debatable), and so they lend themselves to the reading in the short periods of time between other things.

As a result, the average time a person spends reading without interruption (a sitting) will shorten. This means that stories broken into smaller and smaller chunks (flash fiction) will become the normal medium of fiction. This is not to say that long-form fiction will go away, because it won’t, just that more of it will be distributed serially. Personally, I think that this is a good thing. As a writer, it forces me to look at scenes as individual stories that contribute as a whole.

I would like to give one example of how this could work (beyond my own project, Uprising, of course). I have just finished reading Word War Z, by Max Brooks, which was fantastic, and for those of you who are not familiar with it, it consists of nothing but fictional interviews with survivors of a global zombie war. Part of the appeal of the book was that most of the interviews were short, and so it was easy to pick up and put down. On the other hand it was written in such a way that it was nearly impossible to put down (partially as a result of knowing that I could at just about any time, I’m sure).

If they were available, I would gladly read other stories that were written in this format, but there aren’t. Instead, its something that we’re going to have to do for ourselves. Which is a topic for another day (a day that will probably be sometime next week, in case you were wondering)

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No Flair for Publicity

April 22nd, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, Flash Fiction, News, Publishing, SciFi, Stories, writing

One of the most underreported things about writing is that, unless your name is Steven King or J.K. Rowling, you have to publicize your work.  There is good reason for this, as I imagine most writers have at least some affinity to the romantic idealization of The Writer, sitting at his or her desk, creating art that will last centuries and change the world.  Unfortunately, partially as a result of this, I myself have missed an important opportunity.

Last week I started posting pieces of flash fiction as part of a larger project, which for now I am calling Uprising.  If I had thought it through, I would have realized that I should just start a new blog for the project, but I didn’t.  That mistake has been rectified, and the project has a home of it’s own, at http://uprising-story.blogspot.com which you should visit immediately.  I am awfully optimistic about the project, and I invite you to help that optimism be borne out.

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The Purpose of Science Fiction

April 22nd, 2008  |  Published in Fiction, Publishing, SciFi, Society, Stories, writing

Sometimes, when I am writing, I worry about how accurate my depiction of technology will be, but I have recently come around to the point of view that it doesn’t matter all that much, so long as it is internally consistent and has a compelling story/characters. This is because only one of Science Fiction’s jobs is to deal with the future. Another is to take situations that we see today and look at them in a different light, from different perspectives, stripped of all the glit that is placed on them by tradition, the media, and society in general.

One of the reasons that I’m bringing this up is that I’m currently working on my Uprising project, which is the first science fiction that I’ve written in a while (having mostly been focusing on fantasy). I’m sure that the majority of my predictions will either go too far or not far enough, but I’m not writing simply to try and guess what the future might look like, I’m writing with the hope that readers will be able to positively affect that future.

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I guess that I’m just a quitter.

April 18th, 2008  |  Published in News

So a little over two weeks ago, I wrote that this site was going dark.  As you can see, that isn’t the case.  I’ve still been writing, but I really want to post, as well.  What will be happening, though, is that I plan on posting more fiction and less meta-fiction.  Part of the reason for this is that I’ve come around to the point of view espoused by Warren Ellis, about how media for the web shouldn’t be constrained to the standards set by print.  As a result, I will try posting stuff that is extremely episodic (less than a thousand words, probably more like four to five hundred).  The first of this stuff should be going up shortly.

I still strongly believe that one of the things that will have to happen here is the advent of a better way of . . . advertising isn’t the right word, but its close.  Basically, I will continue to work on my fish project, as well as looking for alternatives.

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