Episode 7 - Puppetmaster Mike
Mike is taking over hosting, and, on average, most podcasts die on episode 7. Hopefully Mike hasn't doomed us!
In this episode, we talk about multi-million dollar book deals, social media for authors, and puppets. Our Tech Topic this week is Gist, StackEdit and Scrivener and one possible way of using these tools to write. In craft talk, we discuss the importance of writing every day - how touching the medium makes you better.
What's Happening Online
John Scalzi's big science fiction book deal
Science fiction author (and blogger) John Scalzi just signed a deal with Tor Books to produce 13 books over the next 10 years. The deal is reportedly worth $3.4 million. This is the most significant deal for the science fiction genre, and Tor is on the right track with this deal. Scalzi's Redshirts and Lock In series are both being optioned for television. While Scalzi has never had a number one best seller, but his back catalog sells a reported five-figure number of books monthly.
“One of the reactions of people reading a John Scalzi novel is that people go out and buy all the other Scalzi novels,” Mr. Nielsen Hayden said.
If you break it down by book, there have been much bigger deals, but this is a good sign for authors out there cranking out quality work.
Social media for authors
(5:00) Eric found an article that rings the Typehammer bell in a blog post by Chuck Sambuchino What Does a Literary Agent What to See When They Google You. The biggest question: Do agents Google authors who send them a query? Answer: YES!
We've discussed professionalism here on Typehammer, and that's exactly what agents want to see. Are you an authority on what you are writing? Especially important in non-fiction, this does apply to fiction as well. Authors are marketing and branding themselves.
You are creating your own online presence:
If an agent brings you on, they want to know you can market. While the publisher is going to have a marketing plan in place, it is still going to be reliant on the author to do the marketing; to go out and meet the people online.
While not specific to authors, check out Branding Yourself by Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy. They discuss a lot of the things that help to build your brand online - the things agents will discover in their search for you.
Twitter and content curation
We talked Twitter followers. Eric moved his writing tweets to a new account @elmwriting because he wants to curate those tweets. For followers, he prefers to search specific hashtags and lists.
The conversation moved to talking about where we curate our writing online. Eric has put works in progress on the web in different places, but is more interested in centralizing his writing in one place online. He isn't interested in keeping minimum viable products (unfinished stories) online either.
There are some challenges with keeping things separated between the day job and writing. Mike wondered if Eric ever thought about a pen name to distinguish writing from software development. Eric responded that he only uses a pen name for certain very specific genres and Mike admitted he uses the pen name "John Uhri" for that same genre as well.
John cited this conversation as the reason Episode 7 is the last Typehammer episode ever.
In the past, Mike tried to separate out all of his interests into different sites, but today puts everything together in one place, including the puppetry.
Puppetry? What the --?
Eric was not aware of Mike's interest in puppetry and felt there should have been full disclosure of this hobby. Mike countered that his wife didn't know about puppetry until after they were married.
Mike felt that keeping everything separated was too difficult, and now believes that it is just him
The Tree Book
(12:34) Mike came across the Capsula Mundi project which replaces the traditional method of burial by making it a green project where your body fertilizes a tree grown from your grave.
In a similar vein is The Tree Book, a children's book with seeds implanted within. After reading the book, it should be planted and will grow into a tree.
Works in Progress
(14:00) Mike is drunk with power from hosting and decided to mix up the order of the podcast.
For works in progress, John did manage to write 1500 words despite a crazy week. What he wrote was a flashback scene for his vagabond story, but he's not sure if it will be used or not because one of the characters in the scene may not play a significant role in the story.
(15:15) Eric finished the rework on the Prince of Pigeon Hill. Feedback from his beta readers made the story better but were easy to fix. He sent the query letter out to another agent this week.
The rewrite for Don't Wake Up is happening, but slowly and painfully.
John asked what Eric's rewriting process looked like. Eric prints out the copy and makes his edits on paper.
"Basically, it's a lot of chicken scratch."
Eric enjoys cutting too much: To the point where its dangerous and he begin to cut words important to the story.
For a 60K word novel, 30-40% was written longhand then transcribed back on a keyboard.
Eric also wrote another 1500 words on Road of Fire.
(17:19) Mike wrote another 1100 words written on The Breed. He started the third chapter with a rough outline of points and is filling in the details as he writes. For this story it seems to be a better approach for him so he doesn't miss anything. He won't be posting the chapter until he edits it.
Mike wrote a story about B.B. King, the legendary guitar player who died recently. King had a profound affect on Mike's playing style and Mike spent hours practicing one of King's techniques. The 800-900 word post on that topic will get posted somewhere, although Mike isn't sure where.
The next issue of the OpeningAct.fm newsletter will go out on Tuesday. Mike adjusted the newsletter schedule and Tuesday's will be the day the newsletter now goes out.
Gist and Scrivener
(19:09) Eric uses StackEdit.io to write during his lunch breaks at work. As a writing tool, it works great, but by default files are kept in the browser. That means writing stays on the machine on which it was written.
StackEdit does have the capability to push writing to other data sources like Dropbox, Github, Blogger or Wordpress, but Eric likes to use Gist. Eric pushes his writing to Gist from his work computer and pulls it back down into StackEdit when he gets home to continue his work in progress.
It's not the best way to do it, but Eric is trying to get his workflow ironed out.
(20:11) Scrivener is considered the workhorse tool for writers. It can track changes like Gist, but Eric doesn't want to work in Scrivener. He's trying to find a way to pull in a repository from Gist or Github into Scrivener, but hasn't found a good way to do that.
Since Eric works in sections, he doesn't want his entire document in Scrivener until its time to put together a finished product. Scrivener is also a desktop-based application (Mac and Windows only) that requires a license for each machine. Since Eric sometimes uses other computers to write, he can't just install a version of Scrivener on those machines.
At the same time, Eric doesn't really want a web-only version of Scrivener. He wants to get his words down, and all the features of Scrivener just get in the way during the drafting and editing process.
Eric's ultimate dream would be to pull an entire github repository into Scrivener to do final editing and publishing. He can track revisions in Gist, but not in the way he'd like.
Scrivener is great for the end game.
(23:20) In Episode 3: Wonderful Acts of Procrastination, we discussed ProWritingAid that works very well for first-pass editing. Mike has been using it but recently tried Grammarly, especially their free Chrome browser extension. The beatiful thing about the browser extension is that Grammarly's tools are available anywhere you type online. For ProWritingAid, one must cut and paste the content into their site.
Like ProWritingAid, Grammarly has a premium version with additional tools and reports.
Listen N Write
(24:40) When John writes the show notes, he's often switching back and forth between a text editor and audio player. It's inconvenient to switch and he hoped to find software that would allow him to start, stop, pause and rewind the audio without leaving the text editor. Listen N Write was a free tool he found and has been using for the last few show notes. It's not a great tool, though. Simple things like cut-and-paste don't work which is really frustrating.
The fact that I can control the audio track from the same program I'm typing in is a huge benefit. The drawback is that the text editor isn't very good.
Craft Talk: Write Every Day
(26:58) Eric pointed us to An Evening with Ray Bradbury, a presentation by Ray Bradbury from 2001. In the video, Bradbury says you must write every day. If you want to write a novel, you should start with short stories even though they are harder to write. He says you should write 1 short story every week for a year, and he guarantees that at least one of those stories will be good. Not all, but at least one.
(28:19) In another form of art, The Daily Spoon is a site from an artist in Norway. He carved a spoon every day for a year.
There is a classic story from the book Art & Fear that ties together The Daily Spoon, Ray Bradbury's speech and Eric's belief on touching your work everyday. From Art & Fear:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
When you touch the medium every day, you create things. You destroy things. But in so doing, you get better.
Slap those words down.
The real art in writing is in editing; knowing what to cut:
“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
- Truman Capote
It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.
- Antoine de Saint Exupery
Writing That Pays
(30:08) Tor.com has reopened their site for new fiction submissions. (They were closed to submission while they made through their slush pile.) Tor wants speculative fiction:
We define “speculative fiction” broadly, including SF, fantasy, horror, alternate history, and related genres.
Stories should be under 12,000 words, but they may consider works up to 17,500 words. Published rates are 25 cents a word for the first 5K words, 15 cents a word for the next 5K, and 10 cents a word thereafter.
John is still considering a submission to BattleCorps.
Eric has considered submitting stories but hasn't had time to clean up short stories for submissions. Most online publishers don't want stories that have been published anywhere else online, and Eric's story Field Boys has been online, potentially making it hard to sell.
(32:59) Each week we like to put each other's feet to the fire and set some goals.
Now that life is going to be less crazy, John just needs to slap the words down this week.
(33:19) Mike plans on getting the next issue of OpeningAct published on Tuesday.
He's also planning on finishing chapter 3 of The Breed. He may put the story down for a while until he figures out where the story is going to go.
(33:56) Rewrite of Don't Wake Up continues. Eric's feeling stuck with the rewrite. Some things won't be touched, but there are major things that need to be changed in this one. He has big story issues to fix.
Progress will continue on Road of Fire.