The pursuit of realism and armors made of butter in fictional fights.

Every prospective writer goes through that investigative phase when he attempts to cram as much “real” data about the subject he is going to write as he can. For people in the adventure/fantasy genre, that usually means weapons, fencing, that sort of stuff. “The story must have realistic sword fightings!” and all that. Well, I’m here to tell you that you probably shouldn’t bother. Both in books as well as visual mediums, there’s a tool way more abused than weapons: armor.

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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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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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From Somali dung catcher to King of the Hobos, how poor will you be as a writer?

My recent (a few hours ago, in fact) entry into an online group where the business side of writing is discussed has put me into an accounting mood. So I have been playing and running some numbers to come up with my (or yours) expected return as a short story writer. That’s the key concept here since novelists or self-published authors will have to come up with their own numeromantic equations to see how much they need to sell to not be ashamed of saying that they are writers.

It’s really not a complicated thing to calculate since the short story market is relatively open and static about key economic data. If you know their payment and rejection rates, you can improvise the rest.

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Psychology of writing: word accessibility

You can pick out a skilled painter or draftsman because they keep their eyes on the canvas or paper without having to constantly check every line they draw by comparing it to the model or original image, or having to look up, again and again, pictures of what they have to draw on google images. They trust their instincts and skill, and their lines are precise, and they have developed the necessary muscle memory that allows them to be skillful artists.

All the arts have that, a combination of skill, knowledge, and automatism that baffles the uninitiated. It’s mostly years of experience and practice. Well, I said all the arts, except writing apparently. There doesn’t seem to be a writing equivalent for that process of learning the fundamentals that other arts have, like painting has color, tone, and values, while draftsmanship is mostly line, shadow, and perspective.

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November 30 post: To sum up…

this has been a productive blogging month. And I didn’t have to put in that much extra effort, which is interesting. I haven’t made a post every day, and certainly not a flash/short story each day (and I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that anyway) but this will be the 24th post this month, which is quite good. I have written a few short stories, I have started something that may become a larger work, and I wrote a few posts on writing that have become quite popular, at least compared with my usual numbers.

Thanks to all of you who found some of the posts interesting and shared them. I may despise Twitter, but I can’t deny a good chunk of this month’s visitors came from there.

And what’s in store for December? Well, I’ll continue writing small chapters for Project Contact, but perhaps at a slower pace because, honestly, I don’t even have the general layout of the story — I was pretty much improvising as I wrote them. I have a few ideas for other posts about writing too, and I’m going to start a gaming project but that’s something I’m not going to publish here though (not in its entirety anyway.)

I’ll keep myself busy. And if you want to do the same, remember that you don’t have to wait for any magical month, ruleset, or gamified online community to start pounding that keyboard. You can start tomorrow, or right now, if you want.