Tuesday, July 3, 2012

More on writing: Stross and Mapes

First, an article about Creston Mapes.  The article is at Amazon and discusses how wonderful the options for e-book publishing are for struggling authors.  I have and love a Kindle myself but can see this article needs to be taken with some salt.

Creston was certain that the books deserved a bigger audience. So, he decided to take advantage of Amazon’s independent self-publishing platform, which allows any author to bring their books directly to market. He got the rights back to those three novels, put his own covers on them, and used the self-service platform to put them on Kindle.
“That’s when the magic happened. Kindle Direct Publishing enabled me to promote my newest book, Nobody, for free during one weekend in February. I told my author friends, and they helped share the Kindle Store link for Nobody with their circles of friends and readers.”
Creston smiles. “Blast off,” he says.

Although I am cautious, his story rings true.  Other authors have reported similar results, particularly authors who did not get publishing deals.

I have waded through self-published books and, while recognizing some good ideas, have cringed at the style and details.  Perhaps Mapes was lucky to have a commercial publisher vet and edit his work (I don't know if this happened, but that seems to be what publishers are for) before he self-published.  Nobody can be found here.

Two years ago, the Big Hominid discussed what editors are for.  He favors the Grammar-nazis and I have to admit that seeing mis-typed words, even when the meaning is clear, takes me out of the narrative and I need to consciously work out the problem before re-immersing myself.
Stross is an author I have become an admirer of.  His 'Laundry Files' series - which is not about dirty clothes, but spies and intelligence agencies in a world with Lovecraftian elder intelligences interfering.  Amazon just downloaded his newest book to my Kindle mere hours ago.

At Reddit, he recently answered a lot of questions.  I didn't notice this in my first readthrough, but he discusses some of the issues brought up in the article above:

Biggest message: find your customers and sell them what they want to buy. DRM is bad for business. Territorial rights restrictions are bad for business. Amazon are utterly hateful and evil -- they will kill you and establish a monopoly if they can -- but their one redeeming feature is that they're good to customers: so learn from them.
He goes into detail about Amazon here.

On writer's block:
Writers block: when I get it, it's because my subconscious spotted that I'd make a huge structural mistake in constructing a novel before my conscious mind became aware of it, and threw on the brakes. So I've learned not to sweat it: take two days off, then back up a chapter, read through, and try to work out why I'm suddenly uneasy about continuing.
Many authors have stressed the importance of writing ideas down and I have discussed commonplace books (used for day-to-day to-do lists and ideas and ...) on this blog.  Stross apparently doesn't go this route:

[–]argibbs 11 points  ago
I believe Roald Dahl used to keep a little notebook with all his ideas in, and would jot stuff down whenever andwhereever the idea struck. (might not have done, it's been years since I read that nugget). Do you keep a stash of ideas on file (and if so in what format?), or is it simply you write whatever idea strikes most recently? (Related to but not the same as having extra books filed away for when writers block strikes.)

[–]cstross[S] 33 points  ago
No, I don't keep anything on paper (except within an actual novel in progress, at which point I need a file to keep track of plot threads, characters, and so on). If an idea is compelling enough it'll stick in my head until I am forced to write it. If it's forgettable, who cares?

[–]wanderingtroglodyte 15 points  ago
I'm pretty sure if my family had a banner, our crest would be someone deep in thought, saying "Must not have been important."
97% of our conversations "I was going to tell you something! I uh.. uh.. eh.." "Must not have been important!" Click.

I have enjoyed Stross's Merchant Princes series which I understand to be based on Zelazny's Amber series.  I feel Stross's version to be darker and grittier and also quite original; I can see the ancestry in some of the events but it feels fresh and new.  Here is Stross on plagiarism:

[–]brokenlocomotion 12 points  ago
How do you make sure you aren't "inadvertently plagiarizing?" I think up ideas a lot but am sure they have already been done somewhere or that I am ripping something off I have read and cannot recall specifically. Original creativity seems difficult.
And thanks for the books...I love science fiction and appreciate the work that goes into putting out novels to entertain us.
[–]cstross[S] 34 points  ago
First: plagiarism requires you to copy someone else's words. You can avoid this by, er, not copying! Writing your own story around the same ideas is not plagiarism; at worst, it's being unoriginal.
Having said that, you're right: coming up with truly new ideas is hard. But I've got a method: I look for a couple of obvious ideas that have been done before (try: folks who can travel at will to parallel universes; in their home world they're the aristocracy, because: magic powers) and then look for the second-order side effects: stuff that other authors didn't dig into (for example: wrt. the previous idea, what are the consequences of these folks' ability for the ongoing economic and political development of their world? Can it have negative consequences? If so, what are they?)

Read more at the link above.

1 comment:

Creston Mapes said...

Thanks for the mention!
Creston Mapes