Friday, March 25, 2016

Don't Neglect The Work to Create the Work: Setting Bibles

This one is for the world-builders of speculative fiction: publish your bibles.

This is a good thing to do for multiple reasons:
  • You have a new revenue stream born of existing efforts.
  • You gain an audience related to your fiction works, also born of said efforts.
  • When someone comes to adapt your fiction, you have a document ready to go for them to conform to.
  • You have a guideline for fan works to follow, promoting fan engagement.
The document that folks working on shared IPs--comics and TV shows originally, now including videogames and films--is a "setting bible". It is what it implies: the Word of God (figuratively) dictating what Is or Is Not.

Speculative fiction routinely deals in world-building, which is where the development of a setting bible becomes well worth the time invested in its creation. By properly preparing it as an encyclopedia-style manuscript and publishing it after the fiction works, you engage the very same processes by which series-based fiction revitalizes entire IPs without having to crank out yet another installment.

If your work becomes attractive enough to get a license, then having a bible handy makes your end easier because you can add their reliance upon it as part of the contract. It gives the artists you've worked with another chance to get their names out there (and thereby build their audience, brand, and business). It gives fans something concrete for their speculations. By publishing it, you get legitimate revenue via the Collectable Item route that Special Editions and Limited/Signed Copies do.

Otherwise, at the very least make your own damned wiki for it and run it yourself. There will be a wiki if you do your part right. Might as well be one you own and control.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Writing Update: The Plan to Publishing Success

The Burning of Hugo is well into re-writing. I expect to have the manuscript complete by the end of May, and I hope to have it published and available for sale by the end of June.

The Solador series remains mired in restructuring, but after Hugo goes out the door I expect to get back on track and finish the first book later this year.

There is a caveat here.

You're looking at a one-man operation running on a shoestring. That means I have my expectations set for something far short of Stephen King, so let me explain to you what the plan really is: the launch of a system.

Dilbert creator Scott Adams explains the difference between goals and systems in this blog post (which he also uses to plug his book on the subject). Summarized: a system is a feedback loop procedure intended to iteratively transform current failure into future success regardless of what specific things are done or achieved.

Well, that's exactly what I need. I am intimately acquainted with failure, and one of the things that's been dogging me for decades is how to deal with it. Adams' talk of systems got my attention specifically because it does just that.

The point of taking a system approach to planning is that you anticipate failure and make it part of the plan. That's why systems works on an iterative basis; each failure--anticipated or not--is intended to provide improvement opportunities, much like being an athlete that's serious about self-improvement takes each defeat as just such an opportunity. What failed, how, and why? Find the answer, and you find the fix; do the fix, and move on.

So, the first round of releases will NOT be the sorts of things my traditionally-published friends see as routine (and don't directly handle). I'll do my best to put down good covers, launch them, etc. but I have no expectations of matching Mike Cernovich's 10K sales within a calendar year for Gorilla Mindset and without help I am unlikely to get the aide that Brian Niemeier did for Nethereal which made that book succeed as it did. I lack the means, for now.

But, if enough people do buy what I publish, I'll be able to take that and put it towards not only the next offering but also towards future re-releases that will have that polished look and feel to them (cover and all). That's what the new publishing paradigm allows: iterative product improvement at no cost to the customer (and therefore no risk). I can just hold back on print versions (for now) until the digital end gets to a state I am willing to fix into print.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Knowing Your Strengths and Building Upon Them

Writers have certain things they do well. Me? Action sequences. I have a visual sensibility that translates well to writing those things, and I think it's the frustrated artist. (I can't draw for shit, so I learned to paint with words.) Furthermore, I prefer to do action sequences as my go-to scenes for plot advancement; I find it challenging to show character by doing than saying, in the same way that professional wrestling finds a challenge in storytelling through the action of a match.

This seeps into everything else now. I want to spend words on the casting of a spell, to show the reader by doing how the magic works and why, and- no, let me show you instead:

"Go ahead. I shall handle this, and I'll be with you lot presently." Robert drew a pouch from inside his doublet and smiled.

The others looked at each other, then at Robert. They nodded and departed, making haste as the growling behind them grew louder. Robert turned to face their foe. He opened the pouch and drew from it a ball of odious material the size of a marble. Hold it before his face, he drew in a breath and calmed himself as he focused his mind. The growling grew louder, and now in the torchlight he could see not one foe but a small pack of them. The growling differentiated into a dozen growlings, and their withered form revealed them to be ravenous undead revenants.

Robert saw fire in his hand, and then he saw words where the fire in his hand rested. The words he spoke, old and powerful, in the low-but-rising tone symbolic of an erupting blaze as he shook that hand as if to strike a spark. He felt the words hit the ball in his hand, and he saw a spark ignite the ball. Fixing his gaze upon a revenant just behind the leader, he cast the flaming ball down the way as if throwing a grenade, and then he shielded his eyes.


The growlings became squealings as the fire grabbed at them as if a hawk's talons, and then consumed them as fire consumes dry wood, leaving only charred bones behind. Robert's smile became a smirk, smug in satisfaction. Without hurry, he turned about to rejoin his companions.

Not bad, eh? Now, I wouldn't do that for every casting of a Fireball, but for the first time or for notable situations, I'd do that. Once I've put down what using magic, or flying a robot, or whatever, is like then I am free to play with it for purposes of dramatic effect or characterization.

Trying to do this with dialog is tricky, but applicable, as it involves making use of beats in the scene to fulfill that purpose. Until you get used to knowing when NOT to use "said", it's something to avoid in favor of doing the basics until you can't get them wrong; it's a Crawl Before You Walk thing.

Friday, March 4, 2016

That Face When You See How Badly You Need to Rewrite

Judgement of Solador needs revision something fierce. I knew that months ago. I reviewed the manuscript recently, and narrative structure flaws leaped off the page and beat me about my face like a chimp strung out on smack.

I said months ago that it had to be re-written into a trilogy. Now I see why, as I completely fucked up the execution of the core premise for the story: that Omelas's "forsaken child" works better as a dehumanized celebrity idol, worshipped as a public hero (and upon whom all expectations get heaped, and blame shifted for failure), and considered to be no more than a fleshbot to be used up and replaced by his superiors.

The first few drafts maintained the premise, but failed to really bring it out and work it to its conclusion. I now see that I need to expand the story to accomplish that goal, and then to finish the story I need to build out to a trilogy; the first book runs with the premise straight, the second twists it in one plot thread while presenting the counter, and the third takes the counter to its conclusion.

If I can do as least as well as other recent dystopic trilogies, I'll be happy.

If I can do this better (my actual objective), I'll be elated.

And the only awards I care about say "Pay to the Order Of" and "I Want More Booky-Books From YOU!"