Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Demands We Put on Ourselves

 As a writer, I don’t demand nearly enough from myself. Most especially, in terms of word count. Regular production is absolutely necessary to nurture both the quality and quantity of work. And my fiction output just isn’t significant enough. I may write 400 words a day – but much of it is usually spent revising the previous days output. I cut the original back to 200 and add 200 more. For a total gain of… Couldn’t be zero, could it? No wonder I’m not getting any novels finished. I need to reset the production requirement to 400 original words. Or 1,000! But even if I can’t do that, even if my usual method only produces 200 words a day – when all is said and done, it enables me to finish a 3000 word short story in just over two weeks. Which is about what I actually accomplish.
     Between job-hunting, freelancing, blogging, and non-fiction/content production, I put out the equivalent of a couple short stories per month.
     My biggest artistic goal this winter, is “getting a story into the Exile Anthology of New Canadian Comedy.”
     Both editors were fans of “Nunavut Thunderfuck.” Claude Lalumiere was instrumental in the change from the old boring title to the current one. The words were in the story, I just hadn’t recognized them as a great title. So Claude is clearly a shrewd editor of comedy.
     And Corey Redekop is not just a rising star in the literary arena, he’s also one of Canada’s most active and charismatic promoters of fiction in any guise, and based entirely on electronic encounters, he seems to be a funny guy..
     Even Exile publisher, Michael Callahan, was a fan of that story.
     So when the comedy anthology was announced, I decided that if I want to be taken seriously as a nutbar writer, I need to have something in there.
     Voila. I came up with an idea and started writing. Ta-da, It took me two weeks to produce “Rated F for Family” and it was good.
     But not fucking good enough. Corey and Claude turned it down. Now what?
     Task one: look at the story and figure out why they turned it down.
     I had aimed for a sort of Canadian George Saunders vibe. But achieved a strange sort of Hallmark meets Red/Green patina. More Wayne and Schuster than Kids in the Hall. Strangely old fashioned and not consistently funny enough. Kinda sweet.
     What? Wait. I don’t do sweet. But… there are places in the story where that works – and places where its folksy and literary aspects are perfectly balanced and there are some good laughs. Well, maybe chuckles. Or at least smiles.
     Damn you editors for making me so freaking self-critical! Damn you for making me try again!
     On the other hand, I still have a week left.
     And I’ve started working on a genuinely subversive story about the psychedelic state that incorporates onomatopoeia and synesthesia and makes me laugh out loud. It will almost certainly appeal to a much smaller demographic than the other story – but that’s what I get for using my own voice rather than trying to tap into the style of George Saunders.
     Will I get it done by Feb. 7? I don’t know. But it might be okay anyway, since THIS time I grabbed a brain and conceived of the story as having TWO potential homes. There’s an American anthology called Ghosts on Drugs that pays six cent a word US. That’s more than The Exile Anthology. This is a no lose proposition.
     Unless, of course, neither of them like it. Then I’m back to square one. With a really hard-to-market story and a bag fulla blues.
     Not like that hasn’t happened before.
     Fucking editors… 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Question of Effective Self-Promotion

Last year on Linked In, I published a post about personal branding - where I looked how diversified or focused your personal brand is, and whether it was better to separate your writing career and your day job into two distinctive online identities - or just to throw it all into one bowl and hope that it amounts to a tasty recipe.

With David Nickle, whom I used as an example, he has always worked hard to keep his journalism separate from his fiction writing. While he's allowed the two identities to overlap (he used to be concerned about how the people who followed his beat reporting in The Mirror newspapers would react to his wild and crazy and sometimes icky horror fiction. While he maintains separate Twitter accounts for each persona (@DavidNickle and @byDavidNickle), he has realized that one reputation can often enhance and complement the other - no matter how unrelated they are.

I have been much less deliberate with the separation of my identities and I have a few extra identities - which results in some strange gaps and overlaps. My Linked In account is very focused on my day job persona as a magazine editor and (non-fiction) content creator. My Twitter and Facebook accounts are sort of catch-alls, but Facebook leans toward family and fiction writing with a dollop of stone sculpting and other art. The DLSproule on Twitter is pretty much a writer - of both fiction and non-fiction. The blog you're reading has been mostly about my fiction with a few posts and ads about the art and my sculpting site. is completely about my own sculpting and that of my life-partner, Laura Belford. is also mostly about the fiction with a nod to the artwork. I have another site called that focuses entirely on the business/non-fiction/content creation and content strategy side.

Each one of these sites requires regular updating - which makes me occasionally fear that I am spreading myself too thin. Then again, I don't imagine that someone thinking about hiring an editor for their financial magazine is the least bit interested in looking at my sculptures.

What inspired today's post is my growing conviction that I am wasting my time on Linked In. It contains more than 20 blog entries that I wrote exclusively for that site. They are well thought out, topical and serious looks at issues affecting the business world and society in general. And I  put a great deal of thought and effort into each one. It seemed very worthwhile when Linked In was promoting them regularly and some were getting in excess of 1,000 views. But for some reason, they have stopped promoting me entirely (they larded one post up with a few thousand fake views - trying to appease me somehow?)  If so, they're trying that on the wrong guy. I don't give a damn about numbers unless they represent actual readers who I'm engaging with my ideas. Perhaps I've offended them somehow. Maybe I'm being too political, too self-promotional, putting in too much opinion, weighing in on contentious issue, being too diverse, not diverse enough or otherwise not fitting into their algorithm. Most of the followers I do have seem to be from the US, India, Kenya and New Zealand. And when my best posts are getting 20 views  - while one of the most mediocre ones got almost 5,000, I am forced to wonder whether it's worth it. Doing so has neither got me a job/job offer nor brought me any new freelance business, and it's taking time away from the other websites where I don't blog regularly enough - and from real stomping through the streets job hunting.

Many of my friends have shared some pretty harsh views of Linked In and I'm beginning to believe them. I know that I need to maintain a presence there - but am beginning to think that  their so called "Job Seeker Premium" package is a complete waste of money.

When Linked In doesn't promote my posts, I get far more readers on my own sites than I do on theirs. If no one is reading, does it matter what I'm posting there? Would anyone care if I talk about my fiction writing, my sculpture or the bunions on my butt? (I just made that up BTW - I don't really have bunions on my butt - eww).

At any rate - I'm beginning to convince myself that I should invest more of my time here and pay far less attention to Linked In. Thanks for listening, eh. Hello?  Hello?  HELLO-o-o-o...?

Or maybe I should just find a monastery or ashram or something to hide away in...

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Work in Progress

I am not a hugely prolific writer although I have been trying hard to increase my output over the past few years.

I have a number of short stories that are just at the idea stage. I will often write a couple paragraphs setting the scene, creating a POV character and hinting at a conflict or inciting incident – then I see where it goes from there.

I currently have half a dozen of those in my Work in Progress folder. Some of those almost seem to work at that nascent length as flash fiction and a few, in the 100-1000 word range have been submitted to various markets. One called “The Crowd in the Mirror” has received good feedback, but needs to be fleshed out a bit, so it may remain as a short short. It’s very topical though, so I need to do it soon. “Imported Spirits” is glib, but doesn’t have the character depth to be truly scary or funny. I can’t decide whether it’s worth revisiting. "Illumine" (AKA “Enlightenment”) was enormous fun to write. I currently have the original 475 word version which is not as polished but has a sense of humour that the 950 version seems to lack. I still like it – but am running out of viable places to send it and suspect that it is destined for the “trunk” – the place where unsellable stories go to molder. I no longer submit to non-paying markets (and refuse to send anything to the growing number of markets that do not reply to submissions). Several other stories are still at the idea stage, waiting to be unfolded.

I have currently have three sizable stories that started well, but went off the rails along the way. One was actively disliked by friends and family who are good enough to read my early drafts. I need to make the protagonist more sympathetic or find a different protagonist. If I can pull that off, I may be able to fix the story, which is sitting at about 4,000 words. Another story, with the working title “The Boko Bag” started as a short short, and grew to 4,000 words before I realized that it too had character problems. So I rewrote the whole thing from the POV of a different protagonist. It only works though if I hold onto my original anti-hero. So it’s essentially telling two interweaving stories at the same time. It’s currently just under 10,000 words and is a bit of a mess. I’ve been letting it sit with the intention to come back to it – but am not sure I ever will, since it’s somewhat topical but may not be in a year’s time. “Unembraceable” has been rewritten from top to bottom three times – going back out to the market each time. Judging by the stack of form rejections it has received, it seems it’s still not working and since I have a newer, more accessible story on a similar theme – “Unembraceable” is probably headed for the “trunk.” My story “The Unraveling” is the first story I wrote upon coming back from a twelve year period where I simply stopped writing. I’m finally coming to terms with the realization that it is a troubled story that still isn’t sure what it wants to say. It will be rewritten if I manage to get inspired again, but otherwise, it may join some of its pals in the “trunk.”

Then there are the stories that are on the market and better damned well find their editors because I am completely happy with them. While I would be willing to revise them at the request of an interested editor – they will otherwise just stay on the market until they sell. If that doesn’t happen within a year or two, I will consider self-publishing them.

“They Fell Away” is an 8,500 word horror novelette that I’m very proud of. A few of my well-established writer friends say that without either a reputation or an editor who adores everything you do, a story (especially a horror story) of that length may simply never sell. It’s simply too long for 95% of the markets.

“Ladder of Ashes” is a 4500 word horror story that has just recently started looking for a home. Editors seem to like it (although, so far, not quite enough to buy it),  but I am confident it will eventually find a good home.

“The World's First Fireproof Woman” is a weird, sf/comedy/experimental story that several editors have hovered over but no one has yet committed to. It has a strange format and…well, it’s just strange. But it’s also short enough that it can keep going back out with a reasonable hope of finding its place.

“Rated F for Family” Is the one I just wrote – specifically for a particular market. It’s humourous and short, and humour is subjective enough that if the editors I wrote it for don’t want it – I am quite sure it will land softly and quickly somewhere nice. I have yet to write a humourous story that hasn’t sold, which begs the question, “what are you doing writing that horror stuff?” But then, I do have about a 50% success rate with horror, and it provides an outlet for my dark side. So shuttup and let me write….

Is that all there is, you ask? Well, pretty much. “Rapunzel and the Tower of Song” was exclusive to this blog, though I appear to have taken it down so it may be heading to the marketplace.  I have a couple of stories that have been somewhat popular on Wattpad – “The Burning Man” and “Bloom,” which I may eventually take down/rewrite/try-to-sell. And I have a couple of stories that have appear nowhere but in my collection, “Psychedelia Gothique” that may eventually resell somewhere else.  And then, there are the novels in progress – three of them – and that’s a whole 'nother story.