Monday, February 24, 2014

Things I Learned as a Writer in 2013

Because nobody asked, but I'd like to codify it for myself, here are the top five things I learned as a writer in 2013, in no particular order.

1. IT'S A BUSINESS. This point will not be foreign to anyone who has published through Amazon, but it bears repeating. I've never been all that business-minded, and setting up my payments for Amazon was a real trial. Being Australian made it that bit harder, as I had to register with the IRS, and there was no shortage of paperwork to be done. I'm almost glad that my book wasn't a roaring success, because then I'd have to deal with some nightmarish tax issues. As much as I'd like this writing thing to simply be just about the writing, that's not how it is. If you want to make money, you've got to run it like a business.

2. DON'T SWEAT THE FIRST DRAFT. The first draft of Jack Manley was a mess. Scenes were repeated. Characters changed names half-way through. Inconsistencies abounded. It was a genuine train-wreck. But here's the thing: you can fix all of that stuff. It took me a while, and it was not an easy process even for such a short book, but I got there eventually. It's a learning process, and I expect that my next book will not be quite so disjointed, but what it taught me was not to worry so much about what I'm writing on the first pass; just get it on the screen and come back to it later.

3. BOOKS DON'T SELL THEMSELVES. Psst, let me tell you a secret: my book has not sold a ton of copies. More like a few pounds. I haven't done any paid marketing. I focused on Facebook, Twitter and giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads. None of these have pushed my sales to any significant level. I'm considering some paid advertising, but I'm not even certain that this will make a difference. What I do know is that there are hundreds of thousands of ebooks out there, and with that amount of volume it's hard to get noticed. I need to get out and push this thing if I want to sell some books.

4. THIRD-PERSON CINEMATIC. This is what my writing style is called (at least according to noted writer and homophobe Orson Scott Card). If you read Jack Manley you'll notice that at no point does it go into the character's heads, and there are no interjections from the narrator. I tried very hard to keep things visual, to keep the narrative rattling along as fast as possible. Everything is described from the outside, and that's Third Person Cinematic. It's the style I naturally gravitate towards, to the point where I'm having some trouble getting into my protagonist's head in The Lightless Labyrinth.

5. RELEASING THINGS IS AWESOME. Seriously. It gives me a massive charge to know that I have a book out there and available on Amazon. I am a bona-fide self-published writer, which is a pretty damn radical thing to be. So don't expect this thing to slow down: I'll be doing this thing until I die, because it's what I love to do most.


The Lightless Labyrinth - 871 words
Marvel Guidebook - 0 words

Yes, those word-counts are super-low, but this week at least I have some decent excuse. Firstly, I have entered Jack Manley into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, which could net me a cool $50,000 publishing contract (to be honest, I'll be happy just to make it past the first two rounds). Secondly, I have been formatting said book for Smashwords. It should be available through them within the week. So not much actual writing got done, but plenty of writing-related activity. I call it a win.


What I've Been Reading
Marvel Comics from 1964

What I've Been Playing
Super Mario Galaxy on the Nintendo Wii (I finally finished it, only to discover that I need to play through the whole thing again as Luigi. Not right now, Shiggsy!)

Friday, February 7, 2014

What I Read in 2013

Here's the list of books I knocked over last year:

About Time vols. 2-5 by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe
English Grammar Essentials for Dummies
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Sub-Mariner Vol. 1 by Bill Everett
Sandman vols. 1-9 by Neil Gaiman
A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan
The Quest for Tanelorn by Michael Moorcock
The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Beasts of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells
The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth by H.G. Wells
In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells
The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The War in the Air by H.G. Wells
The Wheels of Chance by H.G. Wells
Kipps by H.G. Wells
Tono-Bungay by H.G. Wells
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules verne
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
The Armageddon Rag by George R.R. Martin
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone
The Citadel of Chaos by Steve Jackson
The Forest of Doom by Ian Livingstone
Starship Traveller by Steve Jackson
City of Thieves by Ian Livingstone
Deathtrap Dungeon by Ian Livingstone
Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos by Terrance Dicks
Good On Paper by Andrew Morgan

So I read fifty-two books last year, which is the most I've done in a long while. It came at the expense of my comic reading, but them's the breaks.

H.G. Wells was the obvious winner here, with twelve entries to his name. I have a lot of time to listen to audiobooks while I'm at work, but I also don't have a lot of money to spend; consequently, I've been listening to a lot of works in the public domain. I started with Mr. Wells, determined to get through as many of his books as I could find, naturally starting with the sci-fi and working outwards. I enjoyed his better-known works well enough, but was surprised to find some gems further down the list. The First Men in the Moon was particularly entertaining, and I was oddly touched by The Wheels of Chance, a book about a downtrodden draper's assistant going on a bicycle holiday. On the whole I think he's a better writer when working outside of the science fiction genre; the characters are more vivid, the worlds more well-realised. His sci-fi books were more innovative, and more immediately iconic, though, and thus much more well-remembered.

I also delved into the other two grandfathers of sci-fi, Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Verne was enjoyable, if a touch episodic for my tastes. Burroughs I loved. The first Tarzan book is much better than you'd expect, and his John Carter novels are tons of fun. They get repetitive after a while, and Burroughs' reliance on coincidence borders on the absurd, but for pulp action-adventure of the era you can't do much better. He's possibly the earliest author that I'd read for pure pleasure.

George Martin's The Armageddon Rag was very good. A Memory of Light was a fitting wrap up to the epic Wheel of Time series. Sandman was pretty much as amazing as I'd been led to believe.

The Worst Book I Read in 2013: I'm giving this to the gamebook Starship Traveller by Steve Jackson. It's a lazy piece of design from a normally brilliant gamebook writer. Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos by Terrance Dicks was a contender, but I had to admire the ruthless efficiency of its prose; while I didn't enjoy it particularly, it certainly did the job it set out to do. Marvel Masterworks: Golden Age Sub-Mariner Vol. 1 was also in the running, but in comparison to other comics of the 1940s it's rather good.

The Best Book I Read in 2013: This is tough. Looking at the list objectively it's probably Moby Dick, only I found that book to be extremely tough going.  The Armageddon Rag was damned good, utterly gripping. There are probably a good four or five Sandman volumes that could win it. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is my favourite book of all time, but I'll discount it on the grounds of nostalgia-blindness. A Memory of Light must be acknowledged for the sheer magnitude of the task that Brandon Sanderson pulled off, and pulled off well. But I think I'm going to give it to Sandman Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman and various artists. It's a volume of short stories mostly divorced from the ongoing saga, but each of them is brilliant. I find that I like Gaiman's work best in the short form, and here he knocks it out of the park with every story.

Reading Plans for 2014: I'm going to continue with the classics, as I have an iPod and the spare time to use it. Once I've listened to all the Burroughs books in the public domain I'll branch out into some less genre-based stuff, maybe Jane Austen or Dickens. I'd also like to read some more modern works. Of all the books I read last year, only three were written within the last few years, so I want to focus on some genre fiction by modern authors.  Perhaps China Mieville or Patrick Rothfuss or Joe Abercrombie. My tastes have become a little stale and old-fashioned. Also, I want to read more comics. There are literally tens of thousands of stories set in the Marvel Universe that I haven't read. I'd like to remedy that.


It's still the three major projects at the moment. I'm nearly finished a first draft of part 1 of The Lightless Labyrinth. Once that's done I might fling it out into the wild to be savaged by vicious alpha readers. I've nailed down a format for the Marvel Guidebook I'm working on, and am now knuckling down to do the writing. I plan on creating a test volume containing all the Marvel super-hero comics from 1961, just to see how it comes out and whether it actually makes for a good read or not. Finally, I've just about hashed out the story for Jack Manley and the Interchronal Deathmatch Tournament, which will be the opening storyline if I decide to go ahead with an ongoing serial.


The Lightless Labyrinth - 1,948 words
Marvel Guidebook - 1,455 words


What I've Been Reading
Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 by those guys in the title
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

What I've Been Watching
Transformers: The Movie (the rad animated one, not the crap recent one)

What I've Been Listening To
Armageddon by Guy Sebastian (not by choice, even though it's quite a good pop record)

What I've Been Playing
Super Mario Galaxy on the Nintendo Wii