Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Be like dandelions"

C. A. M. Lindman (1856–1928)
In a previous post I mentioned a talk by Neil Gaiman — his 2013 keynote speech at the Digital Minds Conference. It was received fairly quietly when he made it, because he said a lot of stuff that particular audience didn't necessarily want to hear. But that's not the part of the speech that really stuck with me.

I love Neil, and my agency doesn't pay me to say so. He has some very cool philosophies that I embrace. In his speech, he says to the audience, "Be like dandelions."

What he's talking about is getting your work in front of as many people as you can, as many ways as you can. I'll stay away from the aspect of that philosophy that I know bothers at least one of my co-bloggers: the idea that readers downloading books for free is a good thing (easier to say when you're a bestseller and able to pay your bills). The aspect of this I really latched onto is the "as many ways as you can."

I think this is a critical piece of advice for authors today, whether indie or traditionally published, or somewhere in between.

My life often feels overwhelming. I work a day job. I'm a single mom half the time. I have book deadlines. I'm always struggling to make ends meet, and I never feel I get enough accomplished.

In 2012 I contracted with Tor for two books, and then last year I contracted one more. Those books until recently have been the entirety of my publishing career, because frankly it was all I could handle. But as we all know SFR is a tricky genre. It's hard to get your name out there, and your work noticed. The jury's still out on whether my first three books will sell enough copies to get me another contract.

Since I'm not likely to quit, I decided the best thing I could do while working on my next book is try a few new things. Shorter works. Edgier works. Different heat levels. Different formats. Different audiences. All of them my signature blend of romance and geeky spec fic.

Except for the occasional procrastination-inspired infidelity, I am typically a monogamous writer, sticking with one project until it's finished. So this is a real challenge for me. But I'm convinced that it's the way to go, and that working on multiple projects might even help me to be more efficient by keeping me inspired and warding off writer's block.

So to illustrate my point, here's a list of the irons I've got in the fire. I cannot possibly compare to the unstoppable (and undoubtably sleep-deprived) Pippa. But for me, this is bustin' out.

  • LOST THINGS, FOUND THINGS — This is the new book I've been working on, and I am super excited about it. It's set in Portland, a town I adore. A little physics, a lot of mythology, and a sexy couple with a date with destiny. You can read a short excerpt (and see photos from my research trip) here.  
  • A HEART FOR COPPER — This steampunk fairy tale is the "choose your own adventure" style short story I wrote for SilkWords, the company where I work as senior editor. It's also going up on WattPad, where I'll ask readers to vote at each choice point to see the next segment of the story. (Or they can buy the whole thing with all the choices here.) It will also be available soon in the Kindle Store. 
  • THE GARDEN RULES — An erotica short (first in a series) I'm going to publish using a pen name, either myself or in partnership with my literary agency (TBD). I'll admit I went into this thinking it might be a good way to make some extra cash. But I ended up really having fun with it. I originally planned to submit it to Kindle Shorts. Actually I did do that, and got a request for the full story. But then I decided the margins are much better to go KDP. 
  • RED — A zombie-ish story that started out as a piece of flash fiction. It's been on the back burner for months, but the idea stuck with me. It's a gritty first-person, present-tense SFR, and I wasn't sure whether it would have a large enough audience to merit devoting a lot of time to it. But I had this idea to use it as a WattPad experiment. I've posted the first two parts, and will squeeze in more work on it as I can. The plan is not to have a plan. I'm not plotting in advance. I'm truly pantsing this one, one scene at a time. Yep, told y'all I was bustin' out.  
In another of Neil's talks, he tells the story of a woman who was trying something new and feeling anxious about it. He told her: Pretend you're a person who can do this. I think he's onto something. 

Are you spreading your writerly seeds? I'd love to hear about your projects!


  1. Good luck on all your irons! Like you, I'm trying to expand into new places and work on more projects. So far it is working pretty well. I AM feeling more creative! So I like that a lot. Love the idea of believing you are that person. Thanks for a great post!

  2. Sleep? What's that?! Lol.
    Yeah, in principle I agree (though I have a big issue with said author and piracy) and the most oft repeated advice I see about what is good promotion is...writing another book. Last year I wrote. By the end of this year, I'll have put out 6 titles, adding to the previous 4. Ten titles in a mixture of genres *should* qualify as spreading my writerly seeds. We'll see how that works out.
    Good luck on all your projects!

  3. Thanks, Pauline! Great to hear you're having good results with this yourself. Funny I always thought I didn't have time. Now, when I have a free hour because my daughter is playing with the neighbor kid, instead of thinking "I can't make any headway in an hour," and cleaning the kitchen instead, I open up one of my smaller projects and see what I CAN do.

  4. You're amazing, Pippa! And more evidence that working on a lot of projects makes you more, not less productive.

  5. "Pretend you're a person who can do this." This. Love this quote.

  6. Me too! I've tried it, and it really does work. Has a way of cutting through the self-doubt. And it's not a lie. In so many cases the only thing that stops us succeeding at something is fear of trying.

  7. I'm typically a monogamous writer too, but after reading your post I'm inspired to try playing the field (so to speak) a bit.

    I have three novels and four short stories in the works, and if I focus on what I'm inspired to work on at the moment I sit down to write, the creative flow might come easier than trying to force my hand to finish one work at a time. I also need to start getting some short works "out there."

    Anyway, great advice. I'll let you know how it works out.

    And good luck on your projects. (You know I'm super excited about LTFT.)

  8. Thanks, Laurie! Yeah, I know that drive to keep going on one thing until it's finished. I've always worked that way - not just in writing, but in day jobs - and it's a tough shift to make.

    I think this may be particularly helpful when I'm working on a new novel, because The End can seem so far away that it's easy to doubt and get locked up.

  9. I have to admit the idea of actually writing the first drafts of a work is pretty all-encompassing for me. I tend to live in that world even when I'm cleaning the house or brushing my teeth! So stepping outside it to write something else is difficult for me. I can do it if I'm in revisions on the first work or the work is a little stuck, which is what is happening now. I'm in final revisions on one novel, polishing drafts on another, and a very slow first draft of a new one. Meanwhile I thought I'd give a short story in the same "universe" a try, for possible submission to the SFR Quarterly, to generate some buzz before UNCHAINED MEMORY comes out. That would be about the best I could do, though. I guess you'd call me a serial monogamist!


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