Tell me, don’t show me your characters’ emotions.

I have written other posts criticizing common bits of advice given to writers, and I have in fact hinted that I believe the emperor to all of them is naked, so here it is: Show, don’t tell. What is it good for? Not much really.

There are also some elephant-in-the-room-sized clues hinting that all this Show, Don’t Tell thing may be, at best, platitudes, and at worst, nonsense. First of all, the entire history of human literature. Pretty much everything written before the last 100 years was 90% Telling, with Showing sparkled here and there to enhance or highlight certain key passages.

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Thoughts on biases and manuscript reading from the other side of the Atlantic

Via one of the blogs I follow (Amatopia), I found this interview with veteran author Paul Clayton. He talks a bit about his life and work and then he is asked about where he believes publishing is going and how his late works, most of them self-published, tie with that.

Clayton claims traditional self-publishing is too slow and that the selection process has become incestuous, compromised by what I guess could be described as either identity politics or just a very homogenous editorial class.

But I was never one of these dominant, mega-selling, white males. I was a “mid-list” author, as my first agent told me. But now, anybody that looks and sounds like me, is, in my opinion, wasting their time trying to get past the 20-year-old female, or feminized male, junior acquisition editors and interns. Especially if they write about what I would describe as “traditional America and Americans.”


But along came eBooks and they have given my writing career, such as it is, new life, although not as vibrant and visible as traditionally published books. You CAN publish without waiting five years, but so can everyone else.


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To fictional characters and minions: please, stop charging to your deaths.

You know you are reading fantasy because everybody is a suicidal lemming with no self-preservation instinct. In fact, you know you are reading modern fantasy because everybody (especially the bad guys) cares about his survival as much as the random pin-headed monsters that populate video games: “Oh, look, here’s that guy who has killed hundreds of [insert enemy] like me. Let’s attack him! I’m sure this time will be different!”

Knowing that the writer of a story is drawing most of his (probably unconscious) inspiration from movies or video games —worse, that he is not aware of that and believes he writes “realistically”— has been for a long time my #1 source of reading wrath and frustration. And there’s hardly a better place to see that in action than when characters are trying to murder each other, and since I’m talking about fantasy & adventure stories here, that seems to happen quite a lot.

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2018’s last post: wrap-up, updates, plans, and so on.

As is my yearly Christmas custom, I have gone down with something nasty, most likely a strand of the bubonic plague. So because I have been hibernating or coughing my lungs out, I have not been able to do as much stuff as I’d wanted, including posting here. But I feel better now so it’s time for the obligatory wrap-up post.

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Project contact, chapter 7

Howard made a final call to Svoboda. He told him not to leave the building, not even through the back doors even if that seemed like a safe route. He reassured him and told him that everything would be all right. He warned him and admitted that they would soon hear shoots, but he lied to him about everything else: about their odds, about the bleakness of their situation, and everything else. And the old man believed Howard, probably because he was desperate to believe him.

The moaning coming from the enfolding shutters grew into a shrill rattle. With a sudden yank, the security shutters were ripped off from their foundations by the truck, which peeled away a good distance, followed by a rain of plaster and chunks of stone. The double doors stood there upright, comically detached from their surrounding torn-off wall.

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Project Contact, chapter 6

Howard knew there was no time to lose. The assailants outside weren’t going to let them a few moments to mourn, breath, or pull themselves together, but he found himself unable to muster the energy to rally the people around him, or even himself, out of their glum stupor. He tried to latch on a plan, a course of action to spur everybody, but his thoughts were constantly interrupted and diverted by the faces and names of the men and women down below.

Some of the scientists were starting to stir, or were trying to call those in the lab, to no avail; others were curled against the walls, looking nowhere in particular. Svoboda was talking to someone on the phone, in Dutch, and two junior scientists were sitting down a desolate and silent Wickerman. The cops, although still shocked by their friend’s treason, looked level-headed enough, so Howard focused on them.

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Myth: the pulps paid badly (and by badly I mean better than anybody today)

My previous post on the economics of writing short stories has generally been received in a way I was not expecting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always overjoyed when someone reads my posts and comes to the conclusion that what needs to be done is to write MORE! That’s the spirit! But that’s not really what I thought was the most notable conclusion.

Perhaps I was being too timid and afraid of spelling it out, but there’s no need to hide it anymore: don’t try to make a living writing short stories, it’s impossible. The numbers simply don’t add up.

Of the examples I wrote, the only one who managed to get somewhat close to reasonable money was the guy who wrote more than a million words per year, never got distracted, barely ever rewrote or edited anything, and got more than half of his stories into magazine that paid, on average, 4 cents per word. Ah, yeah, and he had to publish between 72 and 110 or so short stories per year, and that just to get the equivalent of minimum wage in some Western countries.

Now, if you read that and you get all hyped up to write, by all means, do it, but don’t expect to make any serious money. Write because you love it or because it gives you a few extra hundred bucks from time to time, but that’s it. You are not going to make a living out of it, in fact, I’m not even sure there are enough pro-rate magazines out there to actually publish all the crap you’ll have to write just to be able to survive.

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