Tag Archives: Friends And Family

The Novelist’s Burden

novelistFeedback from my alpha readers is compiling for FRAGILE GODS, and the results are more positive than I could possibly have hoped.

Most (all?) believe that this is, hands down, my best work. Not only that, but I have been told by some already in the middle of best-selling fantasy novels by established authors that they would rather be reading FRAGILE GODS.

I cannot speak for the veracity of this claim; obviously my friends and family are prone to view my work more charitably than total strangers. But they are not flatterers, and more to the point, although I’ve been sharing my writing for years, I have never before heard this particular compliment.

This encouragement has served to fuel the flame and drive me to work even harder on this developing story — which is precisely why this website was created. I can’t tell you how refreshed I am.

The problem is that when I’m asked to share another chapter, I desperately want to. As a neurotic writer, I crave the approval of my readers, and to know that for once they are truly enjoying a story of mine with something like the same zeal and abandon with which I digest my favorite writers is like a drug. I want more. To get more, I have to hand out more prose.

But writing is tedious, particularly novel writing. It isn’t even just a matter of prose at the keyboard; there’s outlining that has to be done. There’s research to be conducted. Worst of all, there’s revisions. And revisions, and revisions.

This means that any scene I finish isn’t finished yet. Those of you who read the first preview for scenes 1 & 2 and then experienced the revised version know how much more polished it is. That revision, by the way, represents four or five different intermediate versions — not just a single edit.

About every three days, I finish a scene I’m dying to share. I want to print it out and hand it out immediately. But I know I’ll be doing myself and you a disservice, because in a few weeks I’ll have added so much more to the scene that the previous version might as well be in black and white.

More than that, I’m dying to tell you what happens, or drop hints as to what happens ahead in the story. But I can’t. I have to keep it all in.

Most frustrating of all, the completed work, the whole story, still only exists in my head. Even if I were impatient enough to print you everything I’d written to date, even if you gobbled it up, loved it, and begged for more, neither of us would be satisfied, because the story still isn’t complete.

I tell you, it’s a hard-knock life.

How to give the world 100 more hours per year.

I’ve come to the realization that I’m far better at non-fiction.

sweet-spot…which is disheartening, considering how much more I like fiction and would prefer to write it. Especially F&SF.

But it’s not surprising. I’ve had years more practice writing nonfiction. Every paper I wrote in college. Emailed stories to friends and family. Even those letters I wrote during class in high school, to be delivered in the hallway at the next break, which I will be mortified if any ever survived to this day.

Blogging continues the same trend; I am forever trying to examine life, analyze it, and reconstruct it.

Reconstruction for my own sake is easy. The hard part is reconstructing for others. Rarely are people persuaded, but persuasion is never my goal. (Dale Carnegie wrote that you can’t “win” an argument.)

My goal is to get people to RECONSIDER. Even if they land on the same side of an argument they did before, if they at least thought of it awhile longer, approached things from a different angle, my mission is accomplished.

The reaction I get most often is, “I still believe the same things, but I see your point.” Enough said.

So I’m starting my first non-fiction book-length project.

Correction: Define “starting”? This project has been in my mind for years and years. I’ve quoted notes of it to people, summarized chapters, written essays on some of the subjects therein.

Alright, fair enough; in terms of organizing and presenting these materials in book form, I’m starting my first non-fiction book.

And true to my brother’s advice (even more apropos for non-fiction I think), I have a specific goal in mind. A specific absolute goal that I want the book to accomplish, not just in the reader’s mind, but in the wide world we share.

That goal is give every reader 100 more hours per year. Obviously I don’t mean hours of life, or daylight, or other disparate phenomena I cannot affect: I mean 100 more useful, productive, valued, enjoyed hours.

How is that possible? What can anyone do to get more hours into a day, a week, or month?

I’m going to tell you. But while you’re waiting…

You can start by using your turn signal.

Discourse on the idea of “talented” and semi-related ramblings

Talent?I object to being told I’m “talented”. Originally, this applied to musical composition. For several years, I sat at a keyboard with my headphones on, plunking out utter crap. I alternated this with playing real pieces, which I then dissected bit by bit to find out why they work. (Later on I learned this was called “music theory”.)

Eventually I produced some pieces worth playing, even arranging…even performing. My friends and family, even total strangers, hailed me as talented wunderkind.

What hogwash.

Spend three or four years torturing your ear and you’ll get similar results.

When you work hard at something, really hard, and people then call you “talented” or “gifted”, it’s not complimentary. In fact, it’s insulting. It glosses over the effort you’ve spent day after day, failing miserably, sometimes deliberately, just so you can learn one more thing for the next day. It implies that you woke up one morning, rolled out of bed, and began producing impressive work.

Thomas Sowell puts it into better words than I:

People who want to be complimentary sometimes tell me that I have a “gift” for writing. But it is hard for me to regard as a gift something that I worked at for more than a decade—unsuccessfully—before finally breaking into print. Nor was this a case of unrecognized talent. It was a case of quickly recognized incompetence.

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In the same article as the above quotation, Sowell describes his haphazard method of writing:

Write when you have something to say, don’t write when you don’t.

That’s kind of how blogging works for me, and yet on a just-under-once-per-day-average I produce content. Sowell’s method is sharply contrasted with writers who have a designated time of day and just write.

I suspect I’m in between, but I may lean towards Sowell’s personality. I just don’t want it to take years to finish books.

How to combine the two in an effective method? Simple…have more projects going at the same time. That way if something doesn’t strike me as an evident next chapter in one book, there are several others to which I may be motivated.

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My mother-in-law once told me that she wanted a dime for every time I said, “I have an idea for a book” and didn’t write it. Then she’s be wealthier than I could ever hope to be.

She has a point.

On that note, I’ve taken up my virtual pen and begun drafting two non-fiction ideas.

The first has been in my head for several years: The Philosophy of South Park, a detailed analysis of South Park’s sharp social commentary.

The second is quasi tongue-in-cheek: Get Your Way, a guide to simply getting your way in things like driving, office politics, family quarrels. Much of the methods I describe involve being an unrepentant jackass, which I hope will be taken for entertainment rather than advice. Still, the processes are true; if you follow them, you will get your way. Even if you’re not a very nice person for doing so.

The Solution

I’ve found the solution to my woes below; in retrospect, it’s pretty obvious, but it takes a step back to see the whole picture. (If you haven’t read the post below, do that first. It’s the fundamental error of blogs that when updates come close together, “newest on top” is less effective.)

I need total strangers to read my work.

People with no tendency (conscious or subconscious) to be charitable to my work, people who will absolutely tear my work limb from limb if it deserves it. And conversely, if my story is awesome, to tell me unbiased that it is. What would be more help than either is if they acknowledge parts that need improvement side by side with scenes that don’t work.

I’ve been a member of online writing groups in the past; each week, one person submits and the other other 4-5 critique/feedback. They’re great because you get people from all walks of life. They do tend to fall apart, however. Person 3 may be late to submit, then Person 4 goes on vacation, the emails get further and further apart.

Still, I think I should rejoin one, maybe more than one. If one falls apart, immediately join another. And another. Etc.

In the meanwhile, my beloved loyal readers, give my stories to your friends and family — people who don’t know me — and have them write directly to me at jason.r.peters@gmail.com with their impressions, good or bad.

Website Updates

windowslivewriterfeediconsandfeedreaders-103ffrss4I’m not sure if you can technically call them “updates” for a brand new website that is still under construction in some ways.

Nevertheless, I’ve added some content to the site in the last couple of days I thought worth mentioning.

First, I’ve fleshed out three sub-pages to my Completed Projects page, explaining my philosophy and approach to Short Stories, Nonfiction, and Novels and the roles each of these projects play in my writing career.

Next, I’ve included the full text of two nonfiction articles; previously self-published at Helium, I can no longer sell first publication rights for them so I lose nothing by posting them here. More will follow in the days to come.

Third, I’ve included the first half of two short stories: Perfect Justice and New Magic. If you haven’t read these before, have a look. Or even if you have read them, feel free to peruse them again, suggesting improvements as you go.

I’ve also added pictures to practically every page and post, and enabled avatars in comments. I’ll be adding my own avatar later this evening. I don’t know how they work yet for end users, since I enable mine in the administrative back end, but if you figure it out let me know. It’s possible I may need to add a “login” feature to the site, but hopefully not. (I want to keep it as simple as possible.)

I plan on adding links to the bottom of teaser content (partial stories and sample chapters) which direct readers, “Where’s the rest of this story?” One idea I had is to include an option to buy a single copy of a full story from me for $1-$2 (or $1 per chapter for novels), but I need to research the legality of doing this and then publishing first north american rights from an intellectual property standpoint. In any case, I will add a “request this story” option and close friends and family will of course be entitled to full versions of any story they wish.