How The Hell To Do This, Part The Third: Do Your Research
No, I’m not talking about market research, at least not in the sense that the term is normally used; I’ll get to that later. And I’m not talking about research for your actual story; you should be doing that anyway, if you’re ever treading into an area where your knowledge base is less than expert-level. I’m talking about genre research–about acquainting yourself with the basics of what’s going on in whatever genre you happen to be working within, even if it’s very fuzzily defined.
For a lot of people, this isn’t an issue; they get into writing what they write in the first place because they’re voracious readers and they’re totally up on all the current big names and all the books getting a lot of critical and consumer attention. But I honestly was not one of those people. I love SF and always have, but when I started writing it for publication, I was woefully ill-informed regarding the state of the industry, in terms of who the people to watch were, and in terms of who was producing the work that was getting people excited. I had to give myself kind of a crash course, and keeping up with my reading is still something I try to work on. It’s reading for pleasure, but it’s also frankly part of the work.
How The Hell To Do This, Part The Second: Pay Attention
Learning to write regularly is one of the most important things when it comes to this business – maybe actually the most important, and if I can call myself prolific by any stretch it’s because I’ve managed to hammer my brain into that pattern. But it’s a little hard to ignore the fact that writing regularly doesn’t do you a tremendous amount of good unless (at some point) you write about something.
Getting ideas is sometimes tricky and sometimes not. I’ve written about it before, but I think it’s worth saying something about again here. In that last post, I said that I think it’s not that I have more ideas than I used to but that I’ve learned how to pay attention to them. I still think that’s true, at least to some degree, but that still doesn’t do much to address the question of where they come from, and how one might get an idea when one is having trouble doing so.
So I’m returning from completing my first draft of the Mars novel thing – now officially called Communion – and I want to get blogging regularly again. To that end, I thought I’d start kind of a blog series within a blog series: less musing on how the muse side of this works and more – sort of as a way to pump myself up, if nothing else – a collection of practical things I’ve learned, in about two and a half years, about the nuts and bolts of writing and being paid for it.
I’m still learning, so some of this is probably going to be wrong. I’m just me, so some of this will probably not apply outside that case. That said, as a social scientist I’m a great believer in taking what little we know and doing the best we reasonably can with it. So.
How The Hell To Do This, Part The First: Make It A Habit
Okay, so, a number of things have happened since I last posted.
First: THE NOVEL IS DONE. Well, the first draft is. But I generally write relatively complete first drafts, so I don’t anticipate very much needing to be done to the structure of the thing in the editing stage–which I plan to start in a couple of weeks. I may have to vanish again right about then but for the present I plan to return to at least a semi-regular posting schedule.
Second, my numbers station-inspired story “The Cold Death of Papa November” is now up to read for free at Three-Lobed Burning Eye. You can also hear me reading it at that link (and you can download the mp3 for ipodery). I really do love that weird piece of… something. The story, I mean. I’m glad it’s been loosed on the world. And the rest of that issue of 3LBE is very worth your time.
And finally, another plug for Shadows & Tall Trees #2: Issue #1 sold out, and it’s very likely that this one will too, given the limited print run and the fact that people seem to like the magazine. So if you want it, I’d get it sooner rather than later. It is also very worth your time, and not just because of me (seriously, Steve Rasnic Tem’s piece in there is way unsettling).
And that’s it for me for now. But watch this space.