Indie Author Day

Yesterday (yes, I am writing this post on Sunday; it wasn’t possible to get started sooner with this topic) was the 1st Annual Indie Author Day. If you weren’t aware of it, this was an event organized as a collaboration of multiple public and municipal libraries to celebrate indie authors.

Not every public library system celebrated, and those that did had differing levels of participation. From the example of my own local library and from some others that authors in my facebook feed promoted, the program varied a bit but had roughly this program:

1. One or more panels by supposedly independent authors (more on this later).
2. A 2pm live-streamed Video conference to be projected for all attendees (if you’re curious, that conference can be re-watched on Youtube. I thought it was a little dry, myself, and with a bit more self-congratulatory back-patting than I prefer, but there were a few points made that some of you might be interested in)
3. A meet-and-greet of local authors (well, at least those who attended.  Every other local author I knew of didn’t go, and I knew nothing of the ones who did show up.  But it was probably the highlight of the thing, as it allowed indie authors to get to know their fellow indie authors).

This was an event that some libraries did better than others.  Chris Kennedy’s report of the Virginia Beach Library’s program seemed to run so much better than my own (in the Loudoun County Public Library system.  While I am going to be a critical of the program in this blog, however, I am giving them big kudos for having the event at all; several library systems didn’t bother), with more programming:  Virginia Beach had three panels of authors, several of whose names I recognized, against Loudoun County’s single panel, none of whose names I knew.

Also, the Loudoun County meet-and-greet session was mixed in with demonstrations of their Espresso Book Machine; I’m all for them pushing that (these could be good tools for supplemental self-publishing POD distribution, as I mentioned once or twice in my Self-Publishing Roundtable, but more of the machines need to be installed nationwide before they become much more effective than a curiousity), but it should have been at a seperate time (perhaps an hour earlier, leading into the rest of the event).

I also could have wished for better guests for the “Indie Writer” panel.  It wasn’t that the people who were there didn’t belong (well, some of them belonged; I question whether the corporate consultant with no connection to the publishing industry who “self-published” his business book on corporate consulting back more than a decade ago, mostly as promotional material for his business, and who used a vanity press to do it, really qualified as an “Indie Writer”), but… well, there were no headliners. There were no people especially experienced with most of the challenges of independent publishing of fiction (one short fiction writer who mostly wrote for anthologies, one person whose books were originally published with a small press publisher that has since gone defunct, one self-published textbook writer (whose dully-delivered advice consisted, from what I remember of it, of discussing the difficulties of dealing with peer review as an indie.  If you’re writing textbooks, that would be very good advice, but most writers, especially most indie writers, don’t have to deal with that), and the final panelist was the aforementioned vanity-press-published business writer).  These guests all had something to contribute to a panel on one aspect of indie writing or another, but all of them really had limited knowledge on the subject.  No-one really knew indie publishing.

This was an event intended for indie authors and aspiring indie authors.  The aspirants may have heard something new, but the panel spent most of its time dispensing advice which most writers (even most of the aspirants) would have heard a million times before.  It would have been nice if the panel discussing indie publishing and writing had someone with recent experience publishing and writing indie books.

And the panel went on far longer than it should have.  Technical flaws prevented the librarians from connecting with the live video (they had the computer projected on the screen, so I was able to witness the error and all the things they tried to fix it.  All they really needed to do was refresh the web browser, but these librarians, having tried repeatedly to ensure the laptop was plugged in to the power strip, eventually decided that the only way to fix the problem was to replace the lapstop with a different one.  I’m still not sure what they were hoping would happen by replacing the power cords).  Then the librarians got bored and decided to shut the video-conference down and move on to the meet-and-greet session, which I’ve already mentioned was itself interrupted by the Espresso Book Machine demonstration.

So… the event was a little disappointing, technically flawed, and had other issues I won’t go into here (for example, they had a table of cookies as “refreshments.”  Some of these cookies were bone dry, almost dessicating the mouth of those who ate it, and the library offered nothing to drink with them.  You had to go out of the programming room and  into the hall and find a water fountain to wash them down).

And yet I applaud our library for at least trying.  So many public libraries look down on indie writers, and others refuse to do anything to support their local writers.  Ours… well, they don’t know what they’re doing, but at least they and the other two hundred Indie Author Day participating library systems are TRYING to reach out to and support the local writing community.  That’s what libraries should do.  And, if the local writing scene supports it, the librarians at the library will learn what it takes to make an event like this successful.  If there’s interest, they will add more programming, put more effort into the scheduling, and learn better what kind of panelists would interest other writers.

So, if you were at an Indie Author Day event yesterday, or knew of one taking place at your local library, great!  Let your librarians know you were glad they held it, and offer suggestions for what you want to see at such an event in the future.  Ask them to request certain guests in the future, if you know someone (local; they aren’t likely to make much effort reaching out to someone who isn’t already part of the community) who would be good for the panel.  Encourage them to expand the program, either in terms of hours or in terms of more support for Indie Authors (or both, if you think you can pull it off).

If you weren’t, try to find out if your library did participate.  If they didn’t, ask them to look into joining in the event next year.  Show interest in getting your library to support local writers and indies.  If enough people show interest, even the most anti-indie of librarians will eventually (if grudgingly) start doing something for indie authors.

It’s worth the effort.  Libraries can be a great resource for a writer, both in researching for your next book and marketing your existing ones, and events like this would be a great way to connect with them.

Sick Days

You know, when you’re self-employed, you don’t get such things as sick leave or the like. You do, however, still get sick, and sometimes it’s so bad you lose time.

For the last week and a half (almost two weeks), I’ve been fighting off the worst head cold I’ve had in years (surprisingly, I had all the symptoms of a case of the flu except the usual accompanying fever. I wasn’t always coherent during the worst of it, however). I haven’t been able to write at all, not in my book or on my blog (though I was able to manage a Facebook post or two).

During that time, my mother won a blue ribbon for one of her quilts at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza.  During one of my less lucid days (the early phase of the cold brought on a bought of insomnia that left me unable to get much sleep for several days on end; I think this was about when I finally started getting some sleep, but I was still perpetually tired when I was awake), I also had my 39th birthday (egads!  When did I get that old?).  And I’m sure there were other “life goes on” moments that I just can’t recall right now…

The kicker is, though, that I missed last Sunday’s blog, and don’t really have much more of a blog than this for today.  I’m still a little under the weather (though I am VASTLY improved), but I hope to get back to writing this coming week and I think I’m still on track to get at least one, maybe two more books out before my appearance at Ravencon.  Wish me luck!

Keeping Up With the Joneses…

I am sure people here recall me mentioning “The Merrimack Event” on this blog on occasion. Maybe not — I only bring it up every third or fourth blog post. Some day in the not-so-distant future (as in, between now and Ravencon), I hope to get this book out there.  But it is still in the “needs work” category.

The thing is, “The Merrimack Event” is old.  It’s actually older than In Treachery Forged (well, sort of; I started The Merrimack Event first, then wrote most of In Treachery Forged, then finished The Merrimack Event, then finished In Treachery Forged).

When I decided to turn to self-publishing, I sat back and evaluated everything I’d ever written, seperating it into several categories.  There was the stuff that just needed a polish before it was ready (sadly not that much; there was In Treachery Forged, which was the first book in a novel series, and the Rink of War, which was the only “ready” story one out of a much larger collection of novettes, novellas, and short stories taking place in a shared universe, and Voices — a very short story (just barely above “flash fiction” length) which I still need to find a place for), stories that were looking good but weren’t finished yet (the novel now published and entitled The Kitsune Stratagem, plus a few other things which I’m not discussing yet as I still haven’t worked on them since), and a depressingly long list of things I rejected as unpublishable.

(Yes, that’s right — as a self-publisher, you have to learn to reject your own manuscripts if they aren’t good enough).

Most of the rejections were short stories, barely begun unfinished works, and the like, but there were at least three works which, while not necessarily finished, had already reached full novel length.  The first was a historical fiction entitled “The Little Ring-Giver” about a barbarian mercenary hired by Rome to fight against Attila the Hun; it ended tragically (the hero is killed before the end, so his lover disguises herself and plots to marry Attila and murder him on their wedding night).  It… well, let’s just say it had a silly plot, overly purple prose, and a poor grasp of the “historical” aspects of historical fiction.  The second was a prequel to Oedipus Rex (I may have mentioned this here, before — in High School, I was required to read this play several times; when I was forced to read it one too many times in College, in an act of self defense I decided to do something to make it (a) more interesting and (b) to make sense of Oedipus’ punishment (if it were modern times, I think he could argue the situation the Greek Gods put him in was entrapment of the worst kind).  The problem with this one was I couldn’t decide whether it should be prose or script, and wound up with an awful amalgam of both.  The third novel-length manuscript of my own I rejected was another historical fiction; a highly improbable bit of Naval combat during the Napoleanic wars.  I actually might still write a novel with the same premise of this one, some day, but just about everything else from this book (bad research, bad dialog, purple prose, improbable plot twists,and more) means I’ll have to start over from scratch.

The Merrimack Event was the only significant item of a final category, however — things that were “not publishable yet, but still salvageable.”  It was in… rough shape, and had a lot of dust on it, but there was a lot of promise in it as well.  It had been through three or four revisions already, at the time, and with all of that work into it I was loathe to abandon it entirely.  So, after “In Treachery Forged” was released, I dusted the cobwebs off of The Merrimack Event and started to revise it… again.

It needed a LOT of work just to get it good enough to send to an editor, and it took me almost as long to get it to that point as it would have to write the thing over from the beginning (only for my chosen editor to vanish without a trace before I could get him the manuscript, which is a good part of the reason why it’s not already come out), but in the end I felt the story had been “salvaged.”

Which brings us to the title topic of this post.  The Merrimack Event still needs editing, but at this stage I’d say it is a “publishable” book.  Or, well, it was when I last touched it… but, uh, there’s a problem, as I was reminded earlier this week:  It’s a scifi novel, but some of the scientific tech that was in it has, well, proven not to be so fictional at all.  The book hasn’t “kept up with the Joneses,” so before I can do anything with it I  need to go back into the book, dust off the cobwebs, and “update” it, so that things that either looked unfeasible but weren’t, or which I figured wouldn’t catch on but did, don’t get so emphasized as “new.”

For example, I need to make sure that the engineer doesn’t call touchscreen keyboards a poorly adapted “new” technology (a real example from the book), even though… well, if you’re reading the blog on a Kindle Fire, you’ve probably already got one in your hand.  Back when I first wrote that scene, touch screens seemed a lot more impractical (something which might work, but no-one would favor a touch-screen keyboard over a tactile keyboard).  Obviously, time has proven that my read on that was wrong, but even though the story has been edited many times since it became clear that touchscreens were here to stay that scene has never been changed to reflect reality.  Now, the character discussing it was talking about how his service was being forced to adopt new technologies before the bugs had been worked out, and how he prefered more retro technologies in these cases, but given that this story is supposed to be set hundreds of years in the future one would think that any of the bugs he discussed would have been worked out by then.

I’m not alone in having this difficulty.  During the 2009 Marscon (a good convention, but that year it was at a horrible hotel; I didn’t go back until they changed hotels), author John Ringo (who really would have a worse time of it than me, considering he was writing “near future” science fiction and The Merrimack Event is more distant-future space opera, so the stuff I can write about can be even more off-the-wall) pointed out that there were one billion engineers and scientists on Earth (note: I don’t know if this number is even close to accurate, but the point stands even if it’s a lot less), and there’s only one of him trying to stay ahead of them all.

And Authors are not alone in this...
And Authors are not alone in this…

This is a fixable issue, and will be corrected before the book goes out the door… but the next time you read a science fiction book, and something fairly everyday is discussed as impractical or impossible, remember that technology can advance in unpredictable ways, and unexpectedly fast.  And that the technological prediction might have been made longer ago than you might realize….

So, I had a Blog for this week…

So, I had an idea for a blog for this weekend focused on “Awards Season” (referring to both the Hugo Awards and the new Dragon Awards). The thing is, I really, really want to avoid alienating any potential audience I have, so I’d really like to avoid controversial topics on this blog… and oh, boy, have the Scifi\Fantasy awards become controversial over the years.

I thought I could write a post without touching the controversial bits — focusing largely on how midlist indie writers can just ignore the whole mess these awards have become — but… well, in the end, I couldn’t do that.

So, instead, I’ve scrapped that blog post (don’t ask for me to show it to you — I’ve already deleted it, and there was no back-up, and I have zero interest in reconstructing it) and instead decided to write one on why I don’t have a blog post this weekend.

And, because I try to plug them at least once in each of my blog posts, go ahead and buy In Treachery Forged, In Forgery Divided, and The Kitsune Stratagem if you haven’t already.  (I’d write a blog post on why you shouldn’t just continually post “Buy my book!” like this, but I think I did that already with my Self-Publishing Roundtable post on marketing.  Ah, well — it’s been a wierd week)

A Quick Sunday Blog

Just a quick blog, today (because I got out of the habit and almost forgot to write one), where I’ll give a bit of a status report.

I. On Conventions…
I have nothing new to say about Ravencon (outside of a second reminder that I’ve been invited to be a guest there next year). It’s still more than half a year away, and I really don’t expect a lot that I can tell you for most of that time.
That said, it occurs to me that it’s been a while since I updated the convention calender. I think I’ll be doing that over the course of the next week, so if you know of any new sci-fi conventions, or local conventions I may not have heard of, PLEASE let me know. (I’ve been making this plea for several years, now; I’ve had exactly ONE person ever give me any info, and it was for a convention I already knew about. Still, hope springs eternal).

II. On my future books…
I’m currently writing In Division Imperiled, Book III of the Law of Swords series. I figured that, with the way I ended In Forgery Divided, you readers would want me to get that out as soon as possible.

It’s going well and I’m writing steadily, albeit much slower than I’d like, but I fully expect that there will come a point that it stalls out and I need to take a break from it (it’s happened in the middle of every book I’ve ever written).  When that happens, I will set it aside and FINALLY start pushing the long-delayed “The Merrimack Event” out the door.

When both of those things are done, I think the next project will be By Claw and Arrow, the sequel to The Kitsune Stratagem.  For some reason, even though I personally believe this is better written than In Treachery Forged was, this is a less popular series.  If I’ve learned anything from In Forgery Divided, however, it’s that releasing Book 2 can inspire new interest in Book 1; here’s hoping that’s the case, here.

And I’m not projecting my plans past that.  I tried that when I started this whole self-publishing thing, and I fear trying to keep to those plans was partly why In Forgery Divided was two years overdue.

III.  Other News

I don’t really have any other news.  I do have other creative projects I’m doing outside of writing — some I’m doing myself, others I’m waiting for other people on.

For example, my mother is writing some (non-fiction, in case it needs to be said) books on sewing and quilting; eventually, she may finish one of those, and I’ll be helping her publish those.

For another example, I had an idea for a computer game, which I’m working on during my “off hours” (i.e., hours where I am not able to work on my books).  The best way to describe it, I would think, would be “Sid Meier’s Pirates meets Skyrim.”  It’s so far outside of my capabilities to create a computer game of this scope I don’t even know why I’m bothering, but I’m hoping I can at least get enough done on it that maybe it would be worth something to someone who could do it.  If anyone has any suggestions for what to do after I’m done with the part of the game design I’m capable of doing (which would include, uh, none of the programming), please let me know.

And that’s it for this week.  Maybe I’ll have something more interesting next week.

The BIG News! (Manage your expectations — it’s not that big)

I have good news (for me)! I want to manage your expectations a bit, though — it isn’t a new book coming out (though it may push me to try and finish up another book or two a little faster).

I’ve recieved my first ever invitation to appear as a programming guest at a convention — in this case, Ravencon. This isn’t out of the blue. I had to apply to be a guest, but I doubt that all applicants get accepted, so it’s nice to get the invite.

Now, I’ve been a PANELIST, before — I used to regularly appear as a fanfic panelist at numerous Anime conventions of various sizes (Katsucon, Otakon, AnimeUSA, and the very first Nekokon), starting in the 90s (whether it was 97 or 98, I can’t be sure) and last appearing in 2005.  And I was scheduled to appear on a panel at CapitalCon, before that convention was suddenly cancelled.  The difference (in part) is the number of panels the guest is required to appear on, the amount of promotion that guests recieve, and the expected credentials of a guest versus a panelist.

So, it’s my first appearance as a pro, the first convention where I (should) be on multiple panels, the first time I’ll be on a panel at a sci-fi convention (as opposed to an anime convention), etc., etc.

For a lot of writers, it’s just a bit of fun and an opportunity to meet their fans. At this point in MY career, however, it’s a major milestone; an acknowledgement of my bona fides by an organization that frequently deals with professional writers.

I would really like to get two more books out between now and then. Having briefly heard about my editor’s schedule over the next few months, that schedule could be tight (I use a different editor and cover artist for each series, so if I actually take the time off of writing “In Division Imperiled” to release it, I could easily push “The Merrimack Event” out in time. I’m still only half-way through the next Maelgyn book, though, and apparently the earliest the editor of THAT series can start work on it is next January. For perspective, when it came to “In Forgery Divided,” my editor started work in a September and I didn’t get it out until that March. Ravencon is in late April, so I’d need to get it done faster than that. And that’s assuming I get the book finished by January; if I take the time off to get “The Merrimack Event” out, it might take me longer than that. Sorry, I write slow).

Schedules might be tight, but I’m going to aim for that as a goal, anyway; I might not make it, but I can try.

And then all I have to do is try not to embarrass myself too badly in front of the crowds at Ravencon.

Back in the Blogging Business… Tentatively

So, I’m sure some people out there, who didn’t see my last post, are wondering where I’ve been the past few weeks. Well, I mentioned recently that I was expecting the Sunday Blogs to be less regular, but I wasn’t intending quite so long a break between posts.

Part of the problem was sheer “laziness,” I’ll have to admit. I haven’t been working on posts for this blog quite as much as I used to, because the times I normally spend on it have been cut down somewhat and I haven’t worked to free up additional time elsewhere. The bigger issue, however, was that my blog software went haywire, and I was trying to figure out how to fix it without wiping out all of my previous blog posts to do it.

I won’t go into details as to what was going wrong (a few details are in the last blog post; I was originally intending to delete that post, but I figure I’ll just leave it archived for now). Suffice it to say the problems were bad enough that any new blog posts taking more than a few minutes to write were almost impossible to add.

Things are fixed, now, however… I think. The problem seems to have been caused when my ISP tried to “update” my WordPress software, which I had already manually updated to the latest version. One update corrupted the other in a few minor ways, and suddenly the whole blog was lagging like mad, things were going haywire, and I had to temporarily disable and delete several plug-ins (I’ve now been able to re-install most of them, but I lost my entire statistical history. A relatively minor loss compared to what I’d feared, but still an issue).

But I am back in business… I hope. And just in time — I have some very good (at least for me) news to share; I just need to make things official, first. So expect an announcement next weekend, and maybe a resumption (at least an irregular one) of the Sunday Blogs.

Edit:  Comments closed to prevent spam.

Test Post

My blog software has gotten a bit wonky, which has made writing my usual Sunday Blogs next to impossible. This test post is to see if I can still edit POSTED blogs (as I appear unable to edit un-posted blogs and save that data from session to session).  Certain data and settings aren’t saving from session to session, my stats plug-in is sending me monthly statistical breakdowns in email every 30 seconds instead of every 30 days, and more. I’ve sent e-mails to various tech support providers (ISP, WordPress, and the affected plug-in authors). I’m hoping to get everything fixed soon.

This test post will remain up until I’ve got enough bugs worked out to start posting regularly again.

I’ve Been Neglecting This Blog Lately…

So, two of the past four weekends, I’ve forgotten my Sunday Blog. I almost forgot it tonight, as well, but I remembered in time to make this post. Oops.

Mostly, I’ve just been forgetting to post the things I’m writing.  That’s partly because I haven’t been very good about realizing what day of the week it is, lately (weekends and weekdays have seemed to be a lot alike), but part of it is just that I’m not sure what to write.

I have a lot of posts I’ve started waiting for completion for this blog, but all of them require more time to write than I usually put into this blog in a week (and, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how long my blogs can usually get, so you might have some idea why these would take a while).

I could continue to talk up my already released books, like In Treachery Forged, In Forgery Divided, and The Kitsune Stratagem. I could give progress reports on my ongoing projects, such as The Merrimack Event (uh… yeah, I need to do something with that. I haven’t done anything with that manuscript since the last time I talked about it, even though it just needs an editor and cover art to be released) or In Division Imperiled (without giving spoilers, I can’t really say much about it beyond reciting my depressingly low daily word counts. I’m hoping the writing will speed up before too long, because I like the content I’m writing more than I usually do when my writing slows this much).

However, these are exactly the sorts of things I’m trying to AVOID talking about on this blog. I want to come up with content that is, you know, interesting — not stuff that will drive readers away.

I might have an idea I can get ready by next week, but if anyone has suggestions for what they want to see out of this blog in the future let me know. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if posting becomes a bit more irregular.

Note:  Comments closed due to spambots.

On Giving (and asking for) Writing Advice

I thought I had posted this blog last week.  I could have sworn I had, but when I went in to write this week’s Sunday blog I discovered I hadn’t.  Nor was there any mention of it on my Twitter or Facebook feeds.  Oops.  So, slightly revised to accound for the week’s difference, here is the blog that was supposed to be out last Sunday.

Earlier this (or rather, last) week, in a writer’s group on Facebook, a fellow poster posed the following question:

“How do I best handle a character’s accent?”

I can’t find the post in question any more (either it was deleted, Facebook’s notorious “algorythm” is hiding it from me, or it just aged too far back for me to find it), but it had me thinking.

I might have been able to help that person. I like helping my fellow writers, where I can. I’ve done a lot of study just for that reason, and have learned tips and techniques that I’ll probably never use professionally just so that I can give advice when it’s asked for.  But that means, when someone asks a question like “How do I best handle a characters accent?” I come up not with one, but dozens of possible answers… yet I also know that such a question doesn’t provide nearly enough information to give a quality answer, and depending on the details I may not know the right way to answer it:

What genre is the story written in?  What language do your characters regularly speak in?  When is it set?  How important is the character speaking it?  Why is portraying the accent important?  How thick is it?  Does the accent come from regional variations or a foriegn language?

All of those questions matter to my answer.

If your characters don’t speak English (or whatever language you’re writing your novel in), that adds a complicating factor — a French speaker, for example, will have different pronunciation oddities when they’re speaking Japanese versus when they’re speaking English.

If your book is set in the past or the future, colloquialisms will be different, possibly too different for modern readers to recognize (as I said in a previous post, you can’t use the phrase “making lemons out of lemonade” in a setting where they haven’t discovered the lemon, yet.  Similarly, without appropriate context to set it up, it’d be very hard for most modern readers to know what you’re talking about if you refer to brothels as “stews” or candied plums as “suckets.”  And it’s very hard to establish a character’s accent and provide the appropriate context at the same time).

If the character speaking this accent has a small role or only appears in the story for one scene, at most, you have less time to show that accent, and subtler accents will be harder to demonstrate to your audience (despite that rather oversimplified and cliché bit of writing advice, you may have to do more “tell,” less “show,” if you want your readers to know this character has an accent).  If this character has a major role and will appear repeatedly throughout the book, you can take your time to let the reader see it properly.

Why is it important that this character speak with an accent?  Is it a subtle clue (or a read herring) that this character is a spy?  Is it being used to ostracize the character?  Is it just to add color to the story and background to the character?  All of these questions will affect how the accent is best portrayed, whether it should be subtle, whether it is something the reader can\should notice early on, etc., etc.

How thick is this accent supposed to be?  Any accent thick enough will be “noticed” by your other characters, though they may not necessarily be able to place it.  The thicker it is, the more the other characters can react to it.  The subtler it is, you’ll have to give other clues to your readers to show it off.

Does the accent belong to a foriegn language (i.e., Russian) or is it regional (i.e., Southern)?  It makes a difference in how easy it can be to portray an accent — you can show a milder Russian accent just by slipping in the occasional “da” or “nyet,” but if you want it to be a REALLY thick Russian accent you may have to learn a few basics of Russian Grammar to portray the sorts of mistakes your Russian character will make in his speech.  A Southern accent can be portrayed with a few “Y’all”‘s, but you might be better off adding in some uniquely Southern sayings like “Bless their heart,” instead.

This is why I’ll probably never write a book on writing advice. For all too many of the questions that writers actually need advice on, there are too many variables for a “one size fits all” answer.  When you try, you end up with trite, over-generalized catch-phrases like “Show, don’t tell!” and suggestions that might be beneficial in moderation, but taken to the extremes often recommended will have you performing surgery with a chainsaw on your manuscript, like “get rid of all your adverbs!”

Let’s face it — while I like to think I’m a first-rate storyteller, I’m not perfect (few of us are).  From a technical perspective, I’m not the best writer around.  I’m aware of what my flaws are, and do my best to improve on those flaws and to fix them where possible (I don’t obsess over them, however — I’m a strong believer in “the perfect is the enemy of the good enough.”).

Even so, while I will read (or listen) and consider anything any other author has to say on the subject of writing, I generally disregard any “writer advice” that doesn’t fit my personal tastes.  I feel blindly taking such advice, even of people who I acknowledge are better technical writers than I am, might make my writing worse, not better.

That includes “get rid of all your adverbs” and “show, don’t tell.”  There are SOME occasions where both principles will help (I nearly ruined “The Kitsune Stratagem” because I was using adverbs to handle point-of-view problems; thankfully, my editor pointed out the issue and I was able to fix it.  Fortunately, he was a good one, and didn’t tell me to get rid of ALL my adverbs, as some do; he just pointed out the problem and let me cut out the adverbs that needed to be cut and leave in the ones that made sense to leave in).  That said, there are plenty of times where using an adverb makes more sense than not using one, and many times where yes, you do need to TELL people what’s going on rather than show it.

Too much of the writing advice out there has become so generalized it actually harms writers more than it helps them (like Elmore Leonard’s “10 Rules for Writing” AS IT IS POPULARLY REPORTED.  His actual rules include tons of caveats that are almost never included, and those caveats are IMPORTANT, as he details examples for why\how\when they might be broken.  And even with the caveats, I think he’s a bit too strict on several issues).  As Kristine Kathryn Rusch says, follow these rules too strictly and your individual “voice” is gone; it all becomes “Serious Writer Voice.”

I always try to help my fellow writers where I can.  I’m more than willing to answer questions.  But if you have a specific question for me, know that (1) I may need a LOT more information before I can answer it, and (2) I may not have an answer… and if I do, make sure my advice actually works  for YOU.  Don’t let anyone’s “rules for writing” kill your voice.

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