The writing game appears to be fraught with long periods of silence while you wait to hear from publishers on the acceptance or rejection of your work. As frustrating as that is, nobody has discovered an answer for it. ‘First thing you learn,’ as Lou Reed was fond of saying, ‘is that you always gotta wait.’ I’m cranking on ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater’ while I wait, and ‘Planet Ugh’ has been drafted and is out for comments.
So while all that is going on … there’s just silence. Will they love it? Will they hate it? I don’t know. The suspense is supposed to kill my audience, not me. I comfort myself with a couple of quotes … you might find them useful:
Be patient, but never idle – Franciso Alvarez
I learned that all things come to those who wait-provided they hustle while they wait. – James Cash Penney
These little mind-bombs encompass where I’m at right now. I have some adulting to do while I wait for my dreams to come true. Go make something awesome!
Well, there you have it: two different movies in the theaters that show the full range of science fiction in all it’s glory.
I won’t spoil either movie for you, but I’ll say this much. If you want to learn how different science fiction can be from itself, you need look no further than the movie theater right now. The Arrival and Doctor Strange show how you can combine elements of the Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy genres to make a basic three-act story or a thoughtful, moving tale that asks ‘if you had it to do all over again, would you?’
I’m happy, because it means we get to experience the full spectrum of sci-fi again. We’ve needed that for a very long while.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against the Marvel Comic Universe. It’s just that, well let me put it this way: I love pizza … But I don’t want pizza every day. I love blues music, but after a while I need something in my life besides Stevie Ray Vaughn. ‘Variety may be the spice of life, but don’t look for it in the movie theater,’ we’ve been told over and over again.
It took directors like Christopher Nolan making movies like ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ to smash through the conventional wisdom that hard sci-fi didn’t appeal to mass audiences anymore. Now we’re seeing more and more science fiction … real science fiction … coming at us and to that I say “Bravo!”
Now, as much as I love real science fiction, I want to add some caveats:
Stories are designed to be enjoyed, not categorized
Not every hero has an ‘origin story.’
Sci-fi doesn’t have to follow the typical three-act story arc
I’m going to talk more about those thoughts later on but wanted to get this thought pushed out to make room for everything else I’m thinking about. Happy Monday, go make something awesome.
You were different, you knew that, but it wasn’t supposed to matter. Chubby cheeks, frizzy hair, funny glasses and ratty sneakers. A nose that goes on for days.You were last to be picked at kickball but the first to get picked on. Who decided that, you asked. No one could tell you why. You wanted to play with them, but you didn’t know how. Nobody had a crush on you in school. You danced to a different drum, but no one would ever join in.
It wasn’t just the kids – the adults were in on the game, too. Silent, cruel legions of moms with warm smiles and cold, calculating eyes. Their children were to be pushed forward while you were held back. Nothing personal, kid, their eyes said, you can get ahead, just as long as you aren’t ahead of me. You saw it happening, but you didn’t know why. You had learn to be strong, to stand up for yourself, on your own.
I saw you when you woke up that morning. You were what, twelve? Fourteen? You knew you were different. The aching beauty of blossoming youth … what was that? Your body wasn’t made for designer clothes. Your budget wasn’t made for expensive shoes. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram filled up with pictures of your peer’s amazing adventures. Parties, ball games and concerts. First dates and camping trips … bittersweet events that will eventually make up the nostalgia of childhood are not to be yours. The adventures and romantic experiences in coming-of-age movies were interesting, academic ideas … but you never knew them for yourself. … someone was having the time of their life, but it wasn’t you.
Without giving away the store, let me say that I’m working on a proposal and will keep you posted. Mesh is ‘Fight Club meets Stranger Things.’ Meanwhile, I’ve updated the Novels page and added a new project page to cover whatever Mesh turns into.
The backstory is interesting unto itself but there’s too many details I can’t share yet. Suffice to say, I have some very supportive friends in the publishing business. They’re giving me a boost to get a book pitch in front of agents. As soon as I have a solid, working process, I promise to come back and explain how it all works.
Remember what I said about building audiences for fun and profit? How about that part where I said ‘use your powers for good?’ Now it’s time to put that into practice. I just finished watching this video and it’s an amazing explanation of neurolinguistic programming, emotions and how videos become viral. Understanding how people think is the first step toward ensuring that you engage with them correctly when building your audience.
I don’t know about you but I love those ‘For Dummies’ books. They make so many complex topics accessible and they do it in a non-judgemental format. In fact, I remember buying the first book Dan Gookin wrote, “DOS for Dummies” and picking up other ‘For Dummies’ books as time went on. I know I’m not the only one who likes the ‘For Dummies’ books – they’ve got 2700 titles and they’ve sold 200 million books.
The one thing that got me thinking was the ‘A Reference for the Rest of Us’ tagline. I think this might be significant to the evolution of science fiction. As it stands, science fiction is rigidly stratified, filled with class warfare and there are many cringe-worthy examples of ‘teachable moments’ on all sides. I’m not here to point at the problem, I’m here to talk about a solution. Here goes: Continue reading
My life is something of a science project, and I think I’ve stumbled onto something. Let me start out by expressing this in appropriate nerd language:
Question: How do you maintain creativity over time?
Background: Many writer friends talk about ways to avoid or recover from burn-out. It seems like you can’t do one kind of creativity forever, you need to switch it up from time to time to remain fresh. How do you do that?
Hypothesis: I think the three-field system of crop rotation can also be used for human creativity
Continuing this discussion about building audiences. All artists are entrepreneurs, and all entrepreneurs are artists.Real artists ship. The game of professional creativity was never for the faint of heart. This blog series is simply about accepting the art and process of building an audience. It’s just as necessary to authors as a copy of The Elements of Style. You’ll never be in a place where you can afford to only listen to your inner creative voice. Audience building is integral to the Author Trip, full stop.
So let’s continue that discussion. Keep in mind, though, that it takes much persistent and gentle attention to build an audience. You need to understand the mechanics, but you’ll still need to apply them and everyone does this in their own way. Just like our matchstick Minas Tirith, you’ll be working at the micro level while being painfully aware of the macro. You’ll push through the ambiguity and doubt with a blind faith that your effort will lead you somewhere. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should we believe in you? Let’s now consider some more ideas about audience building: Continue reading
I watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy about once a year. As a fantasy series, there’s a lot to recommend. One thing I enjoy about the films are the sweeping, epic visuals of cities like Minas Tirith. Like me, you probably saw the matchstick sculpture of Minas Tirith that I use throughout this post. To me, it’s the perfect metaphor for the process of building a sci-fi audience. As with this matchstick sculpture, you’ll find that audience building is a slow, painstaking process made out of many small pieces.
Now, before you write me off because I have less than 200 followers on Twitter, let me establish a few things: I’ve built audiences before. Before I pivoted and started the business of telling scifi stories, I had a side business in social media marketing. SEO, blogging, inbound marketing, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram … you name it, I’ve done it all. I’ve had Twitter audiences in the thousands … I’d love to tell you more but am forbidden by the NDAs that I signed. 😉
So when I started InkICan, I wanted to make sure I did the job right. No paying for clicks, no buying fake followers … I’ve watched people go this route and I’ve also watched them crash and burn. I’m an author and an entrepreneur. I’m trafficking in dreams, emotions, hopes and fears. This is too important to me. I’d rather take my time and get the job right. I apologize in advance to any of the bubbles I may be bursting with this breakdown. Please keep in mind that I have zero skin in the game, it doesn’t matter to me if you sell your book or not.
What follows are some lessons learned about the process of building that audience. It’s not a step one-step two-type process, it’s more of a state of mind. Believe me, there are plenty of “How to Build an Audience” blog posts out there that do just that. This isn’t one of them. One thing I want to stay very far away from is the formulaic ‘Do this to get 10,000 followers’ posts you often see on author blogs. Anybody can get 10K followers on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t believe me? Google ‘Buy Fake Followers’ and follow the instructions. All you need is a valid credit card. After you spend the money, you’ll quickly understand the truth: bots don’t equal audience. Let’s now cover a few basic ideas so that you can start building your own ‘matchstick castle.’ Continue reading
My name is Jackson. I am a private person who lives, eats, and breathes sci-fi. When I'm not talking about my writing projects, I talk about stuff related to the science fiction genre and community.