Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Analyzing Genre Expectations

I just returned from WisCon, which was a delightful, warm, sort-of summer-camp version of a con. I had a great time. I also got to visit the farmer's market and get a wonderful jump start on spring. 

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: How to analyze genre expectations for your genre.

You know, I have one answer to this question, which is pretty much the same as what KAK said yesterday: READ.

I feel like people are often looking for the shortcuts in this business. And certainly there are the shovel-salesmen eager to sell the gold-miners the newest-fangled device that will make their job SO MUCH EASIER. So, sure - there are tools and surveys out there that purport to analyze trends and bullet-point the expectations of the hot genres. 

But nothing substitutes for reading. And reading what's current, as well as the canon the new stuff builds upon. Genre and the expectations readers bring to their reading are fluid and ever changing. I once advised an aspiring author - a woman who'd been very well published 20 years before, had a life-lull, and was looking to get back into it - who hadn't read anything published in her genre in the last couple of decades. She couldn't understand the feedback she was getting from agents and editors because her reading lens was calibrated to what amounted to ancient history genre-wise.

Also, reading refills the creative well. All writers begin as readers first. (At least, I hope so. A writer who doesn't love reading seems to me like a fish who swims but doesn't like water.) If you don't have time to read, make the time. Replace watching shows or scrolling on your phone with READING. You don't have to finish everything you read (I certainly don't), but you should read at least some of what's popular and what your readers are reading.

Did I mention read? Yeah: do that. 


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Great (Genre) Expectations

 This Week's Topic: How to Analyze Genre Expectations of Your Genre

Pithy answer? Read in your genre. Then read in the adjacent genres. Then read the genre/authors that frequently get lumped into your genre by salesmen and gatekeepers only to wind up flamed by readers. What are the similarities? Differences? What themes, tropes, and archetypes have endured? Which ones have changed? 

Think you've got a handle on it? Great. Go read a dozen or so review sites for your genre (or watch Booktube reviews, or both). Make it a mix of review styles. Find those that have one reviewer and those that have multiple contributors. The reviews of value can pinpoint what works and what doesn't for the reviewer. Lots of times it's a plot issue, poor pacing, or flat characters that leave a reviewer feeling less than love for a book. But if an author hasn't delivered on the genre expectation, the reviewer will notice and decry it. It'll be a reoccurring objection in assorted reviews about the book.  

Feeling like you've got a clue now? Wonderful. At this point, you should be able to sort reader expectations from reader entitlement. Test yourself. Do a web search, and make sure Reddit results are in there too (opinionated avid readers abound there). Can you spot personal preferences over genre expectations? Group-think and trends versus genre expectations? 

Have you noticed it yet?
Genre expectations aren't that numerous.
Regardless of genre.

You're confident at this point, aren't you? Excellent. Now, be bold and ask the question on your socials. Once you get through quality-control expectations, you could find some succinctly-worded gems. 

Of course, asking for opinions could cause you to rue the day you ever followed my advice. 😇

Friday, May 26, 2023

Who Reads Me

I've gone and done it again - forgotten what day it is, what my name is, all the things. New day job started on Monday and the transition has been -- transitiony. Apparently, I don't handle that as well as I'd like to. So once again, my apology. Technically, in my time zone is still Friday. Barely. So let's go. 

What's my demographic.

SFR has a small but dedicated audience. It's a rare reader who wants me to get scifi in their romance and romance in their scifi, but like Reese's Peanut butter Cups, the two things are better together. When I contemplate where to find readers, I start with the obvious: I market to readers of other SFR writers and SF writers who write with romantic elements. Cant I say that the great bulk of my readers identify as female? Yes. But in no way do I want to say that's who my books are for - that's not for me to decide. I will claim gamers as potential audience but only RPG gamers and probably only RPG gamers who identify as female who are between 20 and dead. When I'm buying ads, I'll probably split my audience by age and do A/B testing to see what kind of click through I get from each so I can then laser in my targeting.

The great thing about science fiction and fantasy readers is that most of us will cross the streams. We usually read both. So while I might focus most of my advertising efforts on self-identified scifi readers, I won't hesitate to enter fantasy spaces in a limited way to do a little cross pollenization. I'm not spending money on ads at the moment. As I finish up a WIP, I begin working my author FB page and Instagram page and Tik Tok (if I'm going to commit to doing that) to develop engagement. No selling. Just engagement. Generate page views. Generate interaction. Start conversation if I can. That way, when I finish a book and begin promoting, my ad buys will be served to people who have already seen, heard, chatted with me. If I want to tap a PNR or fantasy audience, I tap the author coop I belong to. Newsletter swaps, blog swaps - there are plenty of options that aren't going to chew up a lot of money. 

It's not a great marketing plan yet. In part because I don't have production nailed down yet. I need something flexible but scalable over the long haul. I do still firmly believe that the best advertisement for your current book is your next book. But a plan for helping people find your books is a good and necessary thing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Fantasy: Marketing and Demographics

 This Week's Topic: What Are Your Target Demographics? How Do You Advertise To Them?

I write High, Contemporary, and Urban Fantasies that are not intended for children. For the sake of marketing, that makes my target demographic "adults." But, beyond the vaguery of "adults," who are the readers I'm trying to reach? 

According to the Fantastic Insights Survey, there are two camps: Dudes in their 20s and women in their 60s. 

  • The Dudes: like to read paperbacks or on smartphones
    • will pirate works if he thinks the author/publisher is being greedy 
      • aka if he deems the book is priced too high
  • The Women: like to read paperbacks or on e-readers

In 2018, Sage Publication* surveyed SFF readers. One fascinating takeaway was that most SFF readers (87%)  developed their love of the genre before the age of 15. According to the survey, SFF readers:

  • Read an average of 5 books a month and 2 magazines
  • Come from a family of readers
  • Fans of SFF TV and films (plus games and fandoms)
  • Believe experience holds more value than education
  • Consider themselves open to new and/or contrasting opinions
So, with this glimpse of the two primary audiences, where and how do I advertise to them? My advertising dollars go further when I focus on the audience of women. Not only do women have greater purchasing power (true across most industries), but also they're also more receptive to small businesses. In author-speak that means they're more receptive to indie/self-pubbed authors. They're also more likely to subscribe to newsletters from trusted sources, be those sources industry-based (like BookBub) or favorite authors.

Where and how do I advertise? My primary goal in advertising is driving series awareness. I don't have enough of a backlist to push my brand (aka my author name) to generate a profitable ROI from building brand awareness. Until I do, getting readers to buy a complete series is my marketing goal. (Remember, a basic marketing principle is to be clear with yourself about the goal of your marketing plan. It prevents you from wasting $$ and getting distracted by new/unproven sales-services pitches.) I spend my advertising efforts in the following places:
  • Amazon: There's not a lot of creativity or flexibility behind the ad campaigns there. However, I do run both Brand and Sponsored Product campaigns. 
    • I wish other major retailers to allow us to do the same. Even better if we could coordinate it via an aggregator like D2D.
    • My works are sold "wide" (aka across multiple retailers), therefore, I'm excluded from the Kindle Unlimited programs and exposure. 
  • BookBub: Yes, of late, getting a featured deal in the US is akin to drinking from the Holy Grail (and often just as elusive), but rarely is there a loss on investment. Because my marketing goal is series awareness, I accept non-US/Int'l featured deals when they're offered. I run the discount in the US and Int'l even if the BBFD isn't sent to those markets. Why? Because friends share info and there is no benefit in excluding a geographic market when my goal is building awareness.
    • I do not, however, pay for BookBub Ads--that little graphic at the foot of their newsletter--because both CTR and ROI are abysmal. Not at all worth the money.
  • My Newsletter: I only drop a newsletter when I release a book, which goes against the Best Practice of regular monthly communication. I just don't have that much to share with a reader nor do I have a robust backlist to fill the BUY ME slots. I much rather the reader be pleasantly surprised when they hear from me rather than have them despise seeing my email addy show up in their box because I've become a nonsense pest. 
    • My New-Release-Only practice does exclude me from newsletter swaps, which are an excellent resource for raising awareness (as long as you do your due diligence beforehand).
  • Special Interest Promotions / Group Campaigns: Periodically, a group of authors will band together to run a group promotion where certain books are discounted to either free or $0.99 (or some other enticing discount). Whether it's a book bundle or a first-in-series, these are great opportunities to get your book in front of readers of authors of the same or similar sub-genre for minimal effort and usually no cost (beyond the loss of selling your book at a discount). 
Now, I ought to advertise on Facebook, but...sigh...I have personal issues with Meta and their lack of security (and integrity) surrounding financial data. There are smaller deal-based newsletter-blast companies who are happy to take my money, but the ROI isn't there to justify the ad spend. They work better for romance audiences than other genres. 

While I'm intentionally targeting female-identifying readers because I want that 85% of purchasing power to sweep my works up in their tide, my graphics and content draw a line when it comes to sexual allure. The primary reason for that isn't advertiser restrictions, it's genre confusion. Because fantasy romance is a growing sub-genre of romance and female-identifying readers dominate Romancelandia, I don't want to deceive the readers who are buying in the same spaces I'm running ads. Don't get me wrong, I love Romancelandia and because I do, I don't want the reader to feel like I've pulled a fast one on them. If my marketing message alludes to an HEA--even if it's not explicitly stated--I'd merit the rancor of a reader feeling deceived. So, while sex sells, I'm very conscious of threading the line between eye-catching fantasy and faux romance adverts. After all, I want to attract readers and keep them

*Menadue, C. B., & Jacups, S. (2018). Who Reads Science Fiction and Fantasy, and How Do They Feel About Science? Preliminary Findings From an Online Survey. SAGE Open.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Now Serving Number . . . Writing What's Next

Most of us who've been writing for awhile operate under this sneaking suspicion that there's some deep, insider secret to publishing. If only we could suss it out, we'd finally, FINALLY, be set. We'd know what to write and when to write it. We'd write best sellers and we'd finally get to sit with the cool kids.

I don't want to alarm anyone but I think I found that secret. One of them anyway. It's this: There are no right answers. Not to any question about writing.

There are answers that might be better than others but even that word 'better' is up for debate. Better for whom? And why? Who gets to decide that? Maybe now you have some insight into how and why I overthink everything ever. It's a gift and a real pain in the ass. It turns the whole question of what to write next into a whirlwind of second guessing and analysis paralysis. There's very little fun involved. Given all of that, I had to come up with a system. Two systems actually.

1. Orders of precedence - write first anything constrained by contract or owed to another entity you do not wish to disappoint. If no contract, write first anything that is already underway and write it to completion. If nothing is currently in the works or contracted, write whatever will feed the fire of whichever audience burns brightest. If there's no obvious audience salivating for a book from you, write what you please.

2. Bright, shiny new ideas that popcorn up while I'm in the middle of a WIP must take a number and stand in line.

In practice, this means I have a way to direct myself toward completing a project. I have a few checks to weigh story ideas against. Most of the time, there's a clear answer to what I should write. The second system - the one about new ideas is a defense mechanism. There's nothing like hitting the sagging middle of a WIP to generate bright, shiny, compelling, BETTER story ideas. The big secret about that, though, is that those stories, too, have saggy, boring middles to be muddled through. Ask my pile of half finished projects how I know this. I had to come up with a redirect that worked for me. When a new idea comes courting, I stop what I'm doing and jot down notes about the idea - bare bones. I want just enough to scratch the itch of capturing this flash of seeming brilliance </sarcasm> so I can follow the thought later when I come back to the idea to flesh it out. If I can. By dignifying the idea with a page of summary and a named file folder in Dropbox, my brain lets me get back to what I had been writing without the tugs and pulls of needing to chase the new thing.

However. I'm finding I need a new system to handle what I should write next and that's because there comes a time in most every life where writing fails. Or we fail. Or imagination fails. Or physical or mental illness claims all the space and the spoons we had to write. Sometimes the 'should' part of 'what should I write next' is the worst and most self-sabotaging question we can pose to ourselves. Some days you can't answer that 'should' question. Then it might help to default to asking 'what can I write?'

Just because we sit or stand at computers all day and make stuff up doesn't mean we aren't working our hearts out. We're spinning some of these stories out of the essence of ourselves and yes, it's likely that we get energy back from what we do, or else why do it? But the rest of our lives might not be quite so generous about returning dividends on spent energy and we overspend ourselves. Writing can be a refuge, it's just a good practice to treat a refuge gently, with respect. It can be freeing to throw off expectation for a little while and plunge into a story that doesn't have a logical place in your catalogue and nothing to recommend it other than it might be fun to try to write.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Resisting the New Shiny: How to Decide What to Write Next

 I've just returned from Nebula Conference and this moment was a highlight: the photograph of SFWA past-presidents in attendance. From left is Gay Haldeman, SFWA Ombudsman; Joe Haldeman, SFWA Grandmaster and past-president; Michael Capobianco, past-president; Karen Silverberg, novelist; Robert Silverberg, SFWA Grandmaster and past-president; and lil' ol' me. Quite a heady experience!

This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking about the Picking and Choosing—how do you decide which idea to write?

This is the eternal question, with many factors affecting the answer.

Some factors are practical, especially if you make your living as a writer, as I do. To keep that income flowing, I have to think about the next book in the series - both for the sales and to keep my readers happy - and I have to look at what's selling best for me. Likewise, in working with my agent - the fabulous Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency - I coordinate with her on what she thinks she can sell for me, along with her schedule, balancing me with her other clients on reading, editing, etc.

Then there's the creative side...

As we develop as writers, one of the primary skills and disciplines we must learn is how to *finish* a work. There are a lot of would-be authors out there with a few to dozens of unfinished manuscripts. It's a thing and you HAVE to learn to overcome it. A big piece of learning to finish a work is setting aside the New Shinies - the ideas that turn up, alluring as fae lights in the darkness, luring the unwary writer into a merry chase that leads nowhere. By the time the writer returns from the wild pursuit of flickering delight, their work in progress has aged and they have nothing to show for their efforts.

Then again...

Sometimes an idea descends and demands to be written. It's only happened to me a few times, but it's happened recently and - though I have lot practice, skill, and discipline at resisting the siren song of the New Shiny - I finally capitulated to writing it. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Ideas! Ideas! Which Becomes the Next WiP?

 This Week's Topic: Picking and Choosing -- How Do I Decide Which Idea to Write?

I'm feeling a little feisty this morning (no reason for it, just feelin' it), so the smart-ass answer is "the next idea is the next book in the series."

But what if I've finished the series and am pondering what trilogy to begin next? Oooh. Ah. I, uh, um, hmmm... Usually, I pick the story that I can clearly envision from start to finish. I know the main characters; we've had long, intimate discussions in my dreams. The major and minor plot points have arranged themselves in linear escalations of failure and success. The nature of magic and its rules are suitably different from my other works. The only things missing from The Next WiP are the details. 

Hahahaha. {slaps knee} Bought that did you? 

Yeah. I wish. That kind of clarity only happens when I'm in the throes of working on another book. Ya know, at the most inconvenient time. The time when I can't afford to deviate from the current WiP lest I lose the vision and multiple threads I'm weaving to the final climactic moment. When that future book intrudes on a WiP, I jot down as little as I can to assuage my imagination's OOOH SHINY moment, then get back to the project underway. Whiiiiich means that by the time I'm ready to take on a new series, the urge that once accompanied the intrusive idea has faded. 

Unless it hasn't. 

Maybe it's merely mellowed, ripened, and matured. Maybe now, that simmering idea has developed more intriguing aspects, a better magic system, clearer challenges, and more unique characters. Maybe that once intrusive idea has spawned two more robust major plots that then comprise a complete trilogy. Maybe now, I can see the story not as one novel, but as three. Maybe now it really is ready to become the Work In Progress.

Yaaassss. Come to me my precious. Let us jot down the skeletal plots for all three books in the trilogy, then begin the beguine.

I've notebooks filled with OOOH SHINY brain dumps. Before I choose the next series, I flip through my scribbles until one of them jumps up, calling Mr. Kotter! Mr. Kotter! (if you don't know that reference, get off my lawn!) No, I don't write to trend. I'm far too slow a writer to catch a wave. For me, the next WiP is the one that is fleshed out in my head, the one that has clear plots whose salient points can be bulleted in a short outline, the one that is actually three so I can properly seed and foreshadow as the series arc builds, the one that still makes me curious about the minor twists and the enticing details, the one that still makes me eager to sit down and put the words on the page.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Writer's Business

Most of the time, we writers labor in isolation whether writing or working the business side of publishing. Taxes, contracts, negotiations (if you don't have an agent doing that for you), covers, marketing copy, and hiring subcontractors - it can be a lot. But there are times where one lonely writer's business is every writers' business. The WGA strike is the perfect example. An entire class of writers aren't being compensated fairly for their work and that matters to all of us. If it doesn't, it should. What impacts one part of the publishing world eventually escapes containment to infect the entire industry. Writers who stick together to fight for fair wages and workers rights continue writing into the future without having to sell a kidney to keep food on the table.

Another way one writer's business becomes every writers business is via tell-all blogs and databases that call out the so called 'professionals' who take advantage of writers. Witness the SFWA Writers Beware website. This is a resource that exists solely to call out bad actors in the industry - those who prey upon writers with less than ethical practices. Other authors offer in-depth blogs, classes, communities, or mentorships around the best business practices for writers. Some focus on traditional publishing, others on indie publishing. There's information out there for just about every writer and, in some cases, the Writer Beware website can help route out those of dubious value.

While you don't want to be glued incessantly to the dramas engulfing the publishing business, you do want to remain aware. Supporting a writers' strike in one sector of the business has a net positive ripple effect on your own business. If nothing else, it teaches us to never work without a contract or complete control of our intellectual property. Writing and the business of writing can be isolating pursuits. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry, however, pulls you out of isolation a little bit. It gives us the opportunity to engage in the larger body of writers, leaning on each others' business experience and expertise.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Understand Your Brain

clusters of pale pink crabapple blossoms covering the practically invisible branches

If you’re new to the writing game you may think that all you’ll be doing is writing. And while the writing part is the most essential—no words means no no business side—a major chunk of your time will be spent on the non-writing tasks.

That sounds strange, doesn’t it? 

As Jeffe mentioned yesterday, we’re creatives and not many of us are business majors. The marketing, the profit loss spreadsheets, and the inbox are things that we need to do. Let’s call them the necessary evils…and they don’t count as writing. 

I do enjoy spreadsheets because I love data. But I’ve never tracked writing time vs. business times. It would be interesting to have a real percentage. What I can tell you without plugging anything in is—and here is where my advice related to the business side of writing comes in—my business hours take place in the afternoon and occasionally the evening. 

Designating what hours I devote to the craft of writing and what hours are slotted for everything else, those necessary evils, is important. Once up on a time I tracked my productivity and from that data it was clear that my brain is most creative and productive mid-morning. 

Understanding how your brain works gives you another tool to level up your writing. If you're a night owl who gets visions of sugar plums dancing around your head in the middle of the night, that's when you should write. If your day job ends late afternoon and your brain turns on its fun zone, that's when you should write. Maybe you're one of those rare people who bounce right out of bed, ready to face the day and a blank page, that's when you should write. 

If you haven't taken the time to break down how you're wired, I hope you will. It could be one of the keys to your maximum productivity. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

The Business of Writing

This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking the business side of being a writer. 

In our fantasies of being famous and beloved authors, we envision many things: bucolic writing sessions, romantic candlelit garrets with wine- and quill-strewn desks, celebrations with adoring fans, bookstore windows filled with our bestseller. (What's yours? I'd love to know!) We (or, at least, I didn't) don't picture ourselves slaving at the computer, going cross-eyed over royalty statements or struggling to ramp up on the newest social media trend.

Many of us creatives don't love the business side of being a writer. I mean, there's a reason we took literature, theater, and art classes in college instead of Economics, and that we only knew where the business school was because we occasionally had to meet one of our friends there. With a few exceptions, as creatives, business is not our favorite learn.

But we have to learn to do it and we have to learn to do it WELL.

If we don't, people will take advantage of us and, believe me, there are plenty lined up to do just that. There are ample cautionary tales of authors handing over the business aspects of their careers to someone else and losing everything. Even if it doesn't go that badly, we run the risk of making foolish choices out of ignorance. 

How much time do I spend on the business aspect of my writing life? A lot. At least as much time as I spend actually writing, possibly even twice as much, or even three times. Because I'm a hybrid author, self-publishing my books counts as me running a small, highly exclusive publishing company. It takes hours every day. On the trad publishing side, even though I have an agent who is amazing and efficient, I still have to spend a fair amount of time on back and forth with her - all business. And then there's conventions and conferences, which are basically all business. Chatting with my author friends is fun and social, but also? Business.

The way I see it, since I write full-time and have no other job, anything I spend my time on that isn't drafting or editing words counts as business. I take it very seriously.


Tuesday, May 9, 2023

The Business Side: Taking Time to Reward Yourself

 This Week's Topic: The Business Side -- Time Devoted, etc.

How much time do I devote to the business side of being an author? Depends on where I am in the cycle of production. Could be as little as an hour or as much as a whole damn day.

Promotions, sales planning and analysis, data tracking and analysis, advertising revisions and analysis, graphics design and analysis, website design and maintenance, social media, budgeting, continuing education, backmatter updates, and more are all part of the business side of writing. Were I in a cycle of pitching to traditional publishing, then the querying, synopses, submissions, and tracking would fall under this massive umbrella too. Heck, even penning this blog post falls under the business category.

So, how much time do I spend working on the business side? Normally, 1-2 hours a day. Yes, that includes social media time too. Haha, no I'm not particularly active on the socials, and I've gotten more reticent as the years march on. It's because I have nothing particularly interesting to share with the world. Instead, I'm all up in my head, playing in the fantasy I'm building. 

Naturally, if I'm putting out a new product (aka releasing a book), then I spend more time getting all the ducks in a row for the release, but that rarely takes more than a week. A day for ARCs (list cleanup, file distribution, etc). A day to handle any crises that came up during production. A day for all the uploads. A day to update the website. A day to build and schedule the promotions. A day for the newsletter (content creation and list cleanup). For anything that involves playing with technology, I automatically add an extra 25% in estimated time to complete the requirements because technology is great when it works and an expensive frisbee when it doesn't. Also, while I set aside the day for certain tasks, if the poltergeists don't attack, then once I'm done, I have free time. Ya know, the rarity of having no other obligations or responsibilities while still having the reward of completing the day's assignment?

Y'all do that for yourselves, right

Give yourselves breathing room? 

Celebrate the routine and minor accomplishments?

For those of you gasping over me taking a whole day to devote to business stuff, thus inferring that I do not work on the WiP on those're correct. I don't. It's a micro-holiday. A mind refresher. A chance for my subconscious to fribble around with whatever plot point or impending sticky wicket in the story. Letting your analytical brain dominate while your creative mind cogitates belly button lint is a good thing. If your WiP is always on your mind--if it's a slave driver whipping you with guilt--then burnout is on its way. We don't want that. That's no fun. That takes forever to get past. 

Micro-holidays. Tiny rewards. Breathing room. Embrace them. Think of them as team building, if you must. You and your awesome team of one. Any decent business manager knows the importance of rewarding their employees. So, don't be a dick, especially to yourself. 

Friday, May 5, 2023

Embrace the Boredom

I am visiting the PNW this week. We're in Port Townsend for a day or two before moving on to our next spot so you get a glimpse of the Victorian history that makes the town famous before we talk about staving off boredom while writing long books.

Some people naturally write short books - this can be anywhere from 55k words up to 75k. These people are good at getting to the point and at diving right into conflict. Then there are those of us who revel in complication. Our books are long, usually 100k. Possibly more. Possibly much, much more. We wouldn't know simple if it started chewing on our faces. I feel it's important to acknowledge that neither is superior to the other. Stories are still the result and there is no perfect length for a book. So before we dive into how not to bore yourself to tears whilst writing a longer book, let's acknowledge that not everyone is cut out to write long books. Just like I am not cut out to write short. No. That's wrong. I can write short. I have done. What I cannot do is write simple. I'm allergic to straightforward plots without dozens of other threads woven through. The one time I forced myself to do so the plot was - well - weak. So don't feel badly if you start a long book and it just doesn't work. It may not be your strength. Don't volunteer to be the fish who tries to climb a tree. With that painful metaphor etched in your brain, let's talk long books.

Long books need a lot of plot. They need extra conflict. They need bigger stakes and bigger problems to be solved. You probably won't find many stories about saving the world or all life on earth that run about 55k words long. It just usually takes a little longer to get to there. Longer books are where you bring in secondary story lines involving secondary and tertiary characters - so long as it all contrasts or reinforces the main story. In longer books, complications breed complications, raising tensions and obstacles for characters to overcome. This also means that your characters have a lot to conquer in themselves. Whatever their flaws or weaknesses that keep them from solving all the problems right now, they need to be either deep seated enough or the character obstinate enough to need extra time (and extra pain) to bring about real change in the character. It's a lot to juggle and it's what you'll need to keep yourself tuned into the rise and fall of conflict across the long expanse of words you have to write. So how do you keep from getting bored? You don't. Sorry to break it to you but when you write longer books, you get bored. It's just part of the process. You've been in the story for so long, mucking around in the workings, solving problems, working out the bumps and stops, there's simply no human way to not get sick to death of it. You will. So your only hope is to plan for it and to push through it. Unless. Unless you can take a pause and look for a twist even you didn't see coming until you go to this 'wow, I hate this story' spot. Sometimes it works and you'll plow on with renewed energy and a mental note to rewrite your synopsis. The rest of the time, you just have to embrace the pain of 'story doesn't care how you feel, hush up and put the words in'. The good news is that your boredom will rarely last past the ramp to the 3/4 crisis. The other good news is that just because you're bored, it doesn't necessarily follow that readers will be. You're bored because familiarity breeds contempt. You're too close. Knowing that won't dispel boredom, but it might be enough assurance to get a few thousand more words out of you. The only other advice I can offer is to remember to turn into conflict. Your characters might not like pain, but you need to love it for them. Think of a long book as your villain origin story - learn to enjoy torturing your characters (and thereby your readers) for fun and profit. That makes the long slog a bit more entertaining.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Advice for Writers: Combatting Boredom

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is somewhat cryptic, at least how it's noted on our calendar: Long books - how not to get bored.

It's not entirely clear to me who's attempting to avoid boredom here. The writer? The reader? 

Hopefully not the reader! Most of us readers who love to read long books are totally in it for the long, for the full immersion into another world, living other lives. I suspect the principles for writing a long book that won't bore readers are the same as writing *anything* at all. We never want to bore readers.

So, I'm going to assume we're asking about getting bored writing long books. How to avoid that?

You can't.

Sorry, but... sometimes writing is boring. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it's agonizing. Writing novels, especially very long ones, requires a particular skill set of paying attention to, and working incrementally on, a work that takes a very long time to complete. 

The whole point is not to try to avoid boredom with the process. The point is to revise your expectations. 

Writing is work. This is why there are so many people who SAY they always wanted to write a novel and such a vanishingly smaller percentage who have. An even smaller percentage of that subset ever write more than six books. It's hard work and there's a reason we distinguish work from fun. Writing may be occasionally fun, but it's always work.

What's important to keep in mind is that the experience of writing is not the experience of reading. Don't conflate the two. One of my least favorite pieces of "writing advice" is the saw that "if the writer is bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it."


Writing takes vastly longer than reading. Every one of us who has spent months writing a book that releases at midnight and then wakes up to comments from readers who read it overnight understands this truth viscerally. Writing a novel, especially a long novel, requires patience and attention over a long span of time. 

So: don't worry about finding ways to not get bored while writing long works. Accept that boredom is part of the process. It's part of the price we pay. 


Tuesday, May 2, 2023

The Long Yawn, Erm, Yarn (Push)

 This Week's Topic: Long Books -- How Not To Get Bored


Push the reader.

Push the reader into the next chapter.

Push the reader into the next chapter by making them hungry.

Push the reader into the next chapter by making them hungry for the answer.

Push the reader into the next chapter by making them hungry for the answer to What happens next?


Push your characters.

Push your characters into the next chapter.

Push your characters into the next chapter by making them hungry.

Push your characters into the next chapter by making them hungry for the answer.

Push your characters into the next chapter by making them hungry for the answer to What happens next?