I recently finished the first draft of a long-overdue fantasy novel called The Broken Heavens, last in a trilogy. Instead of celebrating, however, I found myself filled with post-post weariness. Endings are bittersweet, and this one was especially so. While I began writing this series in earnest about ten years ago, the kernel of its idea – a world where the invaders were alternate versions of the protagonists – ...Read MoreRead more
I write messy, incoherent first drafts. It sucks. But most of the time I’m okay with it. It’s my process, and it’s why revision exists.
Drafts aren’t what readers see. After getting that first blush of the book on paper, I spend each subsequent iteration fleshing out worldbuilding details and refining dialogue and fixing structure. Few people want to read about a bunch of characters expositing about the plot over ...Read MoreRead more
This is the time of year when I’m astounded at how many of my peers have made the event rounds at various conventions and festivals this year and still had time to, you know, write books. And pay bills.
The vast majority of events in my career – and certainly every event early in my career – were and are self-funded. Even when I was invited as a participant to ...Read MoreRead more
There is a theory that storytelling is how we create our consciousness. This is why we can’t remember being infants. We only pick up the ability to remember events when we’re two or three years old – about the same time we figure out how to construct narrative. Once we can tell stories about the world and ourselves, we become truly conscious.
So if the stories we tell about ourselves ...Read MoreRead more
Welcome to the club. I’ve been writing and publishing novels for seven years now. I also have a robust Patreon following where I produce short fiction for members paying a monthly fee, and I am always hustling to re-sell projects, whether that’s short stories or foreign and film rights on novels. I still pick up the occasional freelance project and magazine column, because I still have a student loan and ...Read MoreRead more
I’m coming off a 16-hour editing day working on a novel called The Light Brigade, which comes out next year. The editing flurry was my fault – the book was three months late. Any later, and it was going to have to push to another publishing season.
Pushing a book out is a pain to everyone involved: the publishing machine is a capitalist enterprise like any other, and a ...Read MoreRead more
On winning the Oscar Award for best original screenplay, Jordan Peele admitted that he started his winning script for the film Get Out at least 20 times. Why 20? Because he just didn’t feel he could get the script to work, no matter how many times he tackled it.
Author N.K. Jemisin relates a similar struggle in the writing of her masterful novel, The Fifth Season. In her acceptance ...Read MoreRead more
You will fail more than you succeed. You will remember the failures more often than the successes.
The people who believe in you now will believe in you always. Get rid of everyone else.
Readers will love your work. They will think this means they love you. They will be wrong, but do not correct them. You will no longer be yourself when you’re among readers, but an amalgamation of ...Read MoreRead more
Fear often masks itself as procrastination.
I’ve been thinking about that statement more as I turn on my computer every morning and stare at my list of tasks for the day, the week, the month, the year. On top of my writing career, I have a full-time job in advertising, and that’s gotten tougher to balance year-over-year. Our time is finite. Jobs eat a lot of it. Once, I would ...Read MoreRead more
In 1692, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the island of Port Royal, plunging over half the city into the sea and flooding what remained with a sizable tidal wave. Port Royal was infamous for its reputation as a rollicking pirate haven, and the disaster that descended upon it that day was largely tacked up to God’s vengeance. It’s always easier to blame God than poor planning or simple ignorance.
Same ...Read MoreRead more
I have spent an inordinate amount of time this year Being a Writer, and far less of it doing the writing part. Oh, the words get done. In fits and starts and large binge sessions, I squeeze out stories in a few days and large swaths of whatever novel is in progress over a week at a time.
But an increasing amount of my waking hours have been spent reviewing ...Read MoreRead more
I brought my dogs to a new dog park this weekend, one frequented by experienced dog owners who enjoyed socializing their dogs. The park I usually go to is less frequented, with fewer dogs, and the owners are all worried and anxious sorts. Their dogs tend to be unsocialized, which contributes to their own fear about their dog’s potential behavior, and then their anxiety gets to the dogs, too, making ...Read MoreRead more
We all want to learn how to write books faster. The pace of the news cycle today has heated up to such an extent that for those of us who aren’t in the 1% of writers, if we don’t come out with a book a year, it feels like the world has forgotten us amid the buzz of ever more intensifying world horror. I’m not immune to this pressure. Juggling ...Read MoreRead more
There are few things, for me, that are as equally depressing and energizing as reading a really great book. Great books are why I got into this business in the first place, which is why I’m often so shocked when I hear from other professional writers that they don’t read anymore. Try asking a panel of professional writers at your next convention to name five books they read this year. ...Read MoreRead more
The best writing career advice I ever received wasn’t ‘‘write every day’’ (because I certainly don’t), but, ‘‘Don’t quit your day job.’’
Clearly, not all of us have a choice in this matter, as steady day jobs continue to be eradicated and the ‘‘gig economy’’ becomes the norm. I’ve been laid off from at least half a dozen jobs in my adult life, and I’m not even 40. Many of ...Read MoreRead more
One of my favorite publishing stories is from an established short story writer who tweeted that a story of his had been rejected from a magazine. Within a few minutes of sharing that, the editor of the publication e-mailed them and apologized for the rejection. ‘‘Our new slush reader didn’t recognize your name,’’ the editor said, and promptly bought the story.
The myth of the meritocracy runs deep in publishing. ...Read MoreRead more
Like most people trying to stay above water in this tricky economy, I’ve been looking into ways to use my time more effectively. I have a bushel of novel and short story deadlines, a busy day job, and I’m feeling increasing pressure to sell more work now while the getting is good.
To get even this far, I’ve given up a lot of things. It’s been my policy to play ...Read MoreRead more
The abysmally low payment terms for science fiction and fantasy short story markets have been a sad topic of conversation among writers for decades. Gone are the days when writing and selling a short story would pay your rent (unless you’re selling to Tor.com).
Rates for writing short fiction are even lower than those for modern magazines and newspapers, which may be hard to wrap one’s head around, but having ...Read MoreRead more
From the December 2015 issue of Locus Magazine
Talk to any career writer, and you’ll hear a lot of anxious worry about sales, about events, about what to say or not to say online, about bad reviews or no reviews, about sexism and table placement and publishers who don’t invest enough in their authors’ careers. You’ll hear about health concerns, about checks that don’t come on time or don’t ...Read MoreRead more
From the August 2015 issue of Locus Magazine
I had a conversation with my spouse the other day about how ‘‘boring’’ my life had become the last few years, ever since I got a real professional job and stopped moving house all the time. My life had become a long marathon in an exhausting desert, and could no longer be carved up into amusing scenes and anecdotes.
That meant that ...Read MoreRead more
From the August 2015 issue of Locus Magazine
While standing in line with my spouse to get onto the Book Expo America (BEA) show floor, we started up a conversation about how easily the plain paper badges could be forged. All you need is a good color copier. As we bantered back and forth, the woman in front of us kept looking at us sideways. The third time she did ...Read MoreRead more
Like a lot of new writers, I got through years and years of rejection slips by believing I was simply misunderstood.
I suppose you could chalk a lot of this up to being young. But I also knew very little about writing, or publishing, or how to tell a good story. That trifecta of ignorance led me to invest in a lot ...Read MoreRead more
I’m asked, often, what I feel about ‘‘the haters’’ or ‘‘the detractors’’ who don’t like me or my work, and I think it’s an odd question, because, to be blunt – I don’t care what those people think. Spewing unrestrained and unabashed vitriol across a page or in a public forum has always been a great way to call attention to oneself, ...Read MoreRead more
There are two very broad schools of thought when it comes to teaching new writers the ropes: one is the kinder, gentler ‘‘you’re a special, beautiful snowflake of win’’ school of teaching. Writing and publishing are difficult enough, the thought goes; exercises in bruised ego and disappointment. Why discourage so many up front when plenty will be discouraged later? We should nurture ...Read MoreRead more
In conversation with my agent about a potential project a few weeks ago, I said something to the effect of, ‘‘But what can they give me besides a cover and copyedit? They don’t have a strong distribution platform for this kind of fiction, and they don’t have a strong structural editing team. I have a large enough following online now that I ...Read MoreRead more
I often find myself getting asked tricky questions from new writers, but the trickiest of all is this: they want to know how I’ve managed to have a career while speaking so publicly about my beliefs and values online.
I’ve been writing on the internet since 2004, and publishing in more traditional venues since 1996. And I have a distinct set of ...Read MoreRead more
I get into perennial discussions with other authors about whether or not blog posts, or bookmarks, or reviews, or carrier pigeons, or flash mobs sell books. The cold reality is that any of these tactics, when done as a one-off, probably doesn’t sell more than a book or two, unless the person convinced to buy a book during that breakdancing skit at ...Read MoreRead more
From the June 2014 issue of Locus Magazine
One of the most interesting parts of working toward being a career novelist is watching how many of your peers stay in the game. My first real brush with the death of the dream was after I attended Clarion in 2001. By the end of the workshop, we already had several folks who’d come into it with the expectation that they were ...Read MoreRead more
From the December 2013 issue of Locus Magazine
Telling people who don’t read science fiction and fantasy that I write it is still awkward. My mom used to tell people I wrote ‘‘novels like Stephen King,’’ even though I can’t watch a movie more supernaturally terrifying than Ghostbusters without enduring fierce nightmares, insomnia, and night sweats. I prefer corporeal, knife-wielding villains I can hit in the face.
But as a ...Read MoreRead more
From the October 2013 issue of Locus Magazine
Families are full of secrets. Publishing is no different.
There are the ho-hum secrets – the affairs, the folks who stole money from now-dead relatives, the folks who aren’t paying their taxes. There are also bigger secrets. These are the secrets that matter, the ones that could help others in the family if they were shared. These are things like mental ...Read MoreRead more