Friday, December 30, 2011

Miscellaneous Paraphernalia: Kindle Fire is Fantastic

I can't believe I haven't posted since December 5th. It's just been one of those months, you know? But at least all of the frenzied preparations led to what would arguably be called the best Christmas the McCabe household has ever had. I've been cleaning up the debris ever since.

Among other things I got a much needed upgrade in computing power. A brand new computer with... lots of fancy stuff that my husband could tell you all about. But alas, all of my documents are still on the old computer and I'm not sure when I'll be able to get them transferred over. That includes my current WIP so I'm a bit at a loss when I start thinking about writing. Though I've written an outline for a short story that I started working on yesterday.

My husband got both an IPad and a Kindle Fire for Christmas. He's been having fun with the IPad so I've had the opportunity to play around with the Fire. Now, I've really loved my regular Kindle since I got it. The convenience of carrying all those books around in a little package is the best thing for readers since... words. Plus there's all the free and affordable books on Amazon. I've been in heaven.

But, guys, the Kindle Fire is AWESOME.

I've seen a lot of people say they just can't imagine switching to an ebook reader because the paper book experience is too different and too special to them. I can certainly understand that sentiment. I've always loved the way that paper books appeal to the senses. The way they feel and smell. And the early Kindle models certainly were a huge departure from that. My regular Kindle, with it's little keyboard and the flat way the screen displays the text, almost looks more like a glorified calculator than anything else. So while I love its convenience, I'm not enamored with how it feels to read on it.

The Kindle Fire is completely different. Now, I'm not very tech savvy so I don't know what the technical difference is between the way the screen displays in the Kindle and the Kindle Fire, but the Fire's text looks much more like all those books on my shelf. Is it the font? The layout? The way the screen is lit? I don't know, but the display looks so much more like a book. It even has the book's title at the top of the screen.

Of course the most obvious difference is the lack of buttons. You operate this baby by tapping and waving your hands like a Jedi. (And yes, that does make my inner geek squee a little.) And it struck me almost immediately how similar the motion I make whenever I turn the page on the Kindle Fire is to the actual motion of turning a physical page. The moment I realized how close the Fire had brought me back to the experience of reading a physical book (as compared to my regular Kindle) I knew I was hooked forever.

And I begin to think that this is the device that is going to convince all but the most die hard physical book devotees. This is the one that is going to tip the scales for now and forever. Once you go Fire you don't go back. (Speaking of which, you don't mind if I sort of commandeer your Kindle Fire, dear, right?)

Plus on the home screen you can see a nice two inch tall cover picture of all the books on there. And you can make them spin round and round. My son loves that. (He's not the only one.)

Millions of people have been getting new Kindles for Christmas and the ebook market this next year is going to soar. I'm very hopeful about the future, especially the future for self publishing authors. 2011 has been a rough year for me in many ways. (It's always tough adjusting to a new baby in the house.) And my writing which I had been so fired up about a year ago really suffered. But I've begun to make more progress again this fall and I'm absolutely determined to publish in 2012.

My goal for 2012 is to get my first novel and as many short stories as I can manage self-published. I'd like to get the first story up before the end of February and then move faster after that. (I still have to learn a lot about the actual mechanics of doing it, so I'll give myself some slack for the first one.) I am going to spend time write and/or editing every day. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, but it has to be time spent making forward progress. I want to get to a place where I have the discipline necessary to write more than one book a year. 

I hope you'll all be here to encourage me during the year ahead. I'll do my best to encourage you as well. Good luck in 2012!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: You Don't Need Validation

Disclaimer: This post is liable to be controversial. Please note that even though I fully intend to self publish, this post is not meant to be a self publishing vs. traditional publishing post. It is not meant to advocate one path over the other. 

As I have wandered and explored the blogosphere for these many months there has always been a certain trend among writers that disturbed me. This is the desperate need for validation.

Aspiring writers, as a general group, tend to be obsessed with getting the approval and acceptance of all the right people in traditional publishing. Writers rewrite, reshape, and polish themselves and their work over and over and over again just to get a nod from certain people in the industry. They query and submit and grovel before these literary behemoths. They wait and wait and wait and then are rejected and then do it all over again as many time as it takes. "Just one acceptance and I'm in," they tell themselves.

Why do they do it?

They need acceptance and they need validation from the system before they can consider themselves real writers.

I came across a blog post yesterday which shouldn't really have astounded me and yet it did. It was entitled "Dear Agent". I've seen many such "dear agent" posts but this one was the most piteously sad. You see, the bulk of the post was little more than a video of the song "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick and the words "This about sums it up". The main verse of the song, of course, goes like this:

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I'd love you to love me.
I'm beggin' you to beg me.

The singer also goes through a list of the things he's willing to do to have his feelings reciprocated:

I'll shine up my old brown shoes.
I'll put on a brand new shirt
I'll get home early from work
if you say that you love me.

I say the post was piteously sad, even though the author almost certainly meant it at least partially in jest, because even if you try to laugh it off, this is exactly how many, many aspiring authors approach traditional publishing.

Do you see the problem? I do. Here it is: publishing is an international business and authors are approaching it like a romantic relationship. They are approaching it from an emotionally needy position. They want to be wanted. They need to be needed. They'd love to be loved. They'll do just about anything to get that validation.

But today is the Insecure Writer's Support Group and I am here to tell you that you don't need their stinking validation.

Now, I am NOT saying that you shouldn't traditionally publish. I'm saying, don't go into it from an emotionally needy position. I'm saying, don't treat publishing like a relationship. I'm saying, don't grovel or rewrite yourself just to get a publishing deal. It's not worth that.

Validation is something that ultimately, if you persevere, you will get from your readers. From their reviews and their letters of thanks. Don't look for it from people who only care about the saleability of your writing. Look for it from the people who buy your writing just for the joy they find reading it.

Right now it may seem like you'll never get to that place. And perhaps, if you focus on trying to please and impress the industry instead of just selling books in a business-like manner, you won't. But if you stop looking for your validation from them and become more secure in your role as a supplier of a product that there is an increasing demand for, you can succeed and achieve great things.

Believe in yourself.

I realize that this is a somewhat hard post to swallow so here is some validation that is good for everyone.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thoughts on... Prologues

I wrote a prologue for my book this week. It kind of changes the focus of the book in general so now I'm going to need to lightly edit the 3 1/2 other scenes I had finished to match the tone. I don't really mind that. I felt they were missing something anyway. I'm hoping that my prologue will give the main story context and more driving force. I like stories that are clearly going somewhere, not stories that meander or that I can only guess what the point of them is.

But here's the gamble I'm making: the prologue (and the epilogue that will accompany it) make the "main story" essentially one long, complex flashback. The prologue/epilogue are thousands of years later than the main story. This is a format I intend to employ with a least a few books in a series. Each book's "main story" will be a stand alone story, but the prologue/epilogue from book to book will be connected.

Now, every time I see prologues discussed on blogs and forums and such the advice is "Better safe than sorry." In other words, steer clear of them. But I think that part of being a good writer is knowing your target audience and that means knowing the genre that you're writing in. As often as not, the general advice about writing that you find here and there isn't aimed at any particular genre and yet the tropes and expectations from genre to genre are so varied. I think you need to think about when such advice may not necessarily apply to you because of what you write and who your audience is.

I write epic fantasy. And while I haven't read everything the genre has to offer, it seems to me that prologues are an accepted and welcome trope of the genre. And many prologues in epic fantasy will involve some sort of inciting incident from the distant past that set the events of the main story in motion. Large passages of time are usually not an obstacle for epic fantasy readers.

Of course, what I'm doing is sort of the opposite of that. It's entirely possible that essentially making the plot of my book one huge chunk of backstory to the prologue and epilogue will be an unpopular move. I'm one of those weird people who can never get enough of backstory. I just want to know everything and anything that ever happened related in anyway to what is going on now. I fear that I'm an anomaly and that the vast majority of people aren't as obsessed with the history of fictional worlds as I am. Ah well, I can only write the kind of story I would like to read.

Alas, the prologue of 1957 words was my only progress this past week. But it's better than nothing, right? I'm going to try really hard to make more progress during the coming week.

How about you? Do you enjoy prologues? What do you think is the greatest danger of including a prologue?