Heart of Gold will have a sequel

My steampunk novel, Heart of Gold, is complete. It only awaits the final revisions before sending off. But for a further gift, a sequel has explained itself to me as well! I have begun work on Spark, the second in the series. So should I have a series title as well as a title for each novel? Does that make the book cover more cumbersome, or the series easier to remember? Should the series title be long, as in ‘Tales From the Widowmaker Fleet’… medium, as in ‘Widowmaker Fleet’… or short, just ‘Widowmaker’? What do you think?

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Steampunk Tale

It took me a surprisingly long time to finish it, but the steampunk story I intend to offer to Lyrical is finally done. It’s a steampunk adventure, with pirates and romantic elements.

It’s going through my critique group now, and my own revision process, and will be offered to them soon! Stay tuned!

Native Lengths

One of the things I learned at Worldcon (and bear in mind I’m talking about the consensus of a lot of conflicting or multi-toned advice from a lot of different authors, editors and publishers) is that if you are not used to reading short stories, don’t write them. This makes sense to me. After all, the kind of thing you most read for pleasure is probably what you’re going to be good at writing: if you’re a mystery reader who doesn’t usually crack a fantasy novel, you’re not going to be well prepared to write any fantasy. (Not to say you shouldn’t try, just that you’ll be better at writing mysteries, most likely.) So the same thing probably holds for lengths and types of story.

I don’t read short stories myself very often. Some, but the form is not what I spend most of my time with. And it is a different form, requiring some different skills to do. It’s not what I’d call my native length.

I always thought my native length was the novel, pure and simple. But here I am suddenly taken with a novella, which is what I produce when I try to write short stories. And it occurs to me that it’s the fourth one I’ve written recently. So what is that about? I don’t read novellas all that often. Is there something different about the novella that makes it easy for a novel reader to work in? Is it just that I can’t keep my ideas down to short story length?

Oh well, for whatever reason, I seem to have two native lengths: the novella, running around 25k words, and the novel, anywhere from 80k up.

My Children Do Not Read

When they were little, I read to them, and when they got a little older I had them read to me and each other. They saw me reading, all the time, and I do mean ALL the time. They were surrounded by books and forbidden none of them. We went to the library a lot. All the things that we’re told, as parents, to do to make sure our children grow up to be readers, I did. And they read comic books, lots and lots of comic books, anime and manga, and watch movies. I’m fine with all that, but I don’t understand why they don’t also read novels.

It’s not so much that they can’t read well enough to get through their lives; they can. It will severely hamper their ability to get into colleges and do any kind of clerical work, because their spelling, punctuation and grammar are not particularly good. But they can do the basic things necessary to getting through life in 21st century America: traffic signs, forms, menus, questionnaires.

Still it bothers me. For one thing, I’m a writer. Most of my mental expression, what I call my inner landscape, is furnished with the concepts and information gathered from books and stories. My writing is the most important part of my inner self. But they show zero interest in reading anything I’ve done; it’s just too novelly, no pictures, they don’t want to take the time to follow it. If the girls don’t change their ways, they will never see who I really am, on the most fundamental level.

It might not be that way forever. I certainly know my own mother better now, as a person, than I did when I was a teenager. So I’m not pessimistic about it. But I hope that someday this tragedy will be amended.

…And Build Another Bookcase

I said this in the previous post, but I’d like to expand on it. This post is aimed at people who want to write fiction–not comic strips, not graphic novels, not anime screenplays, but fiction short stories, novellas and novels.

Read.

That’s the gist of my argument. If you don’t read for pleasure, you are probably holding onto the wrong aspiration. If you don’t read a LOT, you will have a hard time succeeding. Read everything you can get your hands on, whether it’s good or bad, in all your spare time. Read in the bathtub, read on the toilet, read while you eat, read when you can’t sleep, read while you’re waiting for the people ahead of you in the grocery store line to finish writing their checks.

But why?

Partly simply because in order to speak a language, the best way to learn it is to immerse yourself. If you read a story, especially a piece of dialogue, you will find that it doesn’t really, not REALLY, sound like people talking in real life. The way the author wrote the description is not at all the same words you’d use in your head, if called upon to look around you. Fiction writing is a language of its own, and within that sea of language, you will want to have your own current of voice. You won’t get it unless you read copiously.

Also because you need to develop some discernment. Throughout the life of a writer, there is never any end to the learning process; a writer who believes they know everything about writing has stopped learning, changing, growing, and getting better. There’s no upper limit to ‘getting better’ as a writer. It’s important to develop a facility for knowing what you like and what you don’t like, and then why you do or don’t like it. Those are steps along the road to knowing how you want to do it yourself.

Also because it keeps you in practice. A writer has a strange connection to the world. Speaking only for myself, I see everything in terms of text. A line of text goes through my head at all times; what you say to me has “she said” after it in my head; I am always describing things that catch my interest in writing in my brain; people around me turn into characters; and most telling of all, I can’t pronounce or remember a new word until I know how to spell it. This is because I’ve had my nose in a book since I was six years old. It allows me to practice writing even when I’m not writing.

It’s very important to read the kind of thing you want to write. In many cases, this goes the other way around, too: what you mostly read for fun is probably what you’ll end up writing. However, it’s also very important to read other kinds of things. By all means, don’t get trapped by genre lines, either in reading or in writing. All fiction, and most nonfiction, has value to your writing career. With the possible exception of Thin Thighs in Thirty Days.