The War of Art, V

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. (Read Parts I, II, III, and IV). Here the conversation between Kabuki and her mentor ends, and she acts on what she's learned. That quote from Ghandi is just... the most universally applicable truism I can think of.

Part V of VI:

I turn Pro.

You imagine what you want to be
and you act as if you are that.
Ghandi said, "Be the change you
want to see in the world".
If I want to create, I must
treat it with the respect and
dedication that a pro would.
Do it every day the best I can.
I don't know if it is any good
or not right now. I don't
have perspective for that
at this time.
All I know is that for
this day, I have overcome
the worst parts of me.
I have overcome

Now I understand
The War of Art.

The Quiet

Just moved everything. Still no internet at the house. Not much time for writing yet. Got two more rejections, though the quality of them seems to be getting nicer (maybe it's the new query letter?).

And as soon as I get internet at home I'll start working on the third transport. Ever hopeful.

The War of Art, IV

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. (Read Parts I, II, and III).

When I first read this, I thought I knew what it meant to "consider yourself a pro." I thought it meant that I needed to have the self-discipline to just write, even when I didn't feel like it.

While that's true, I've learned going pro is even more than that. Ever since I sent out my first queries, I've been doing tons of research into the publishing world, and I've been reading the blogs of other authors - especially SF/F authors. In a sense, I've been living in the world of the pros, and I've discovered that I want it.

I think that sudden, unexpected desire is part of why I've written more in the last two weeks than in any given month previously. That desire is what has helped me go pro, at least for now.

Part IV of VI:
The pro knows that if you do the work, the muse will show up. You don't wait for the muse to show up first.

"Someone asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. "I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "fortunately it strikes every morning at 9:00 sharp."

That's a pro.

There is a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing that is hard. What's hard is sitting down to write".
Read part V.

Calculating Speed

I can type over 100 words per minute. That means, in theory, I should be able to write 6,000 words per hour and 48,000 words in an 8-hour work day.

While that's technically true, it's completely impractical. In order to write that many words in a day I'd have to think as fast as I type or plagiarize word for word. And to handle 8 hours a day, I'd also need superhuman finger strength and the sitting endurance of a tree sloth.

Physical typing speed is not what slows me down. In real life, I can write 500-1000 words per hour on a good day. That should mean I can write a full draft of a novel (80-120,000 words) in less than 3 weeks, but the problem is that most days I'm unable to write for even one hour. The rest of the time, I'm plotting, outlining, parenting, revising, teaching, parenting, brainstorming, playing Sudoku, blogging, decompressing, parenting, and parenting.

That's still just a theoretical rate anyway. In real life, it took me about 3 years to write the first draft of Travelers at 76,000 words*, a rate of about 100 words/day.** I started the first draft of Air Pirates last September and in 6 months wrote 16,000 words (130 words/day). The crazy thing is, after taking a break to do a bunch of querying for Travelers, I wrote another 7,000 words in the last two weeks, which is like 700 words/day!

Shoot, if I could keep that rate up, I could write a draft in 5-10 months. If only life were that simple. If you'll excuse me, I have to move the worldly possessions of eight people from one house to another, while simultaneously ensuring that the kids get to school and back, do their homework, obey Mom and Dad, go to sleep on time, and (in some cases) have a clean diaper and learn to classify a direct object.

* When I say word count, I mean only words left in the final draft. I don't count revisions, notes, outlines, brainstorms, or previous drafts. When the draft is done, I just ask MS Word what my word count is and record it. It's the simplest, most honest way to count, but it's not the most useful statistic if your question is, "When will the book be done?"

** Assuming 5 work days per week, 50 work weeks per year.

The War of Art, III

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. In parts I and II, Kabuki is expressing her thoughts to a friend. In this part and the next, the friend responds. The War of Art, mentioned here, is an actual book that I nearly bought once, but I think everything I want to get out of it is already in these excerpts from Kabuki.

The Art of War is also a real book. My brother and I used to read it as kids. I think everybody should read it, even if you only use it to excel at Settlers.

Part III of VI:
Have you read The War of Art?

You mean The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

No. The War of Art by a writer named Pressfield. It names that force that distracts you from your calling, "Resistance".

"Most of us have 2 lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the 2 stands resistance".

Pressfield explains that the only way to combat resistance of something you must do is to put in the time & due diligence daily. Consider yourself a pro beforehand.
Read part IV.

Christian Science Fiction

I often wonder, if Travelers ever gets picked up, what genre will it be sold as? It's essentially science fiction, obviously, but there's a fair amount of God and faith themes in the story too, and I honestly don't know how they would come across to a non-Christian reader.

Alex is an atheist. His wife was Christian before she passed away, and their son is kind of caught in between and attending a Christian school. In the future, many of the characters pray to God and believe the prophets are speaking for him. And then towards the end there's a Heaven-like scene and even an ambiguous image of a man, beaten and bleeding, hanging in the air with arms stretched out.

Is it too much Christianity for the secular SF market? I guess only an agent or an editor could tell me for sure. But is it also too secular for the Christian market? This book probably isn't, but other book ideas I have just might be.

Because of that, I'd rather not be categorized as a Christian author. Maybe I've heard wrong, but I understand it's difficult to shift genres, and I don't know if the Christian market is the right place for what I (usually) like to write. I've seen the books on Christian bookstore shelves, and most of them just aren't the kind of thing I enjoy writing.

There's something else too. I don't know how to say it exactly, so here's an example. I was reading a plot summary of The Oath the other day. It's got dragons, conspiracies, murder... everything a good urban fantasy needs. I thought it sounded like a cool story right up until the protagonist is told that he "must have Jesus on his side" to defeat the dragon.

Now this is sad (and worthy of its own blog post): why does the mention of Jesus automatically make the story feel cheesy to me? It says more about me than it does about the story, I know. Travelers borders on this, but I wasn't willing to go all the way and say, "You need Jesus to defeat Arad." I think because I wanted to sell, maybe even speak to, the secular market.

Besides which (and maybe this is why I find it so cheesy), I think a Christian reading Travelers would put two and two together without me ever having to be obvious about it, and I fear being obvious about it would automatically turn off a non-Christian reader. I'm not trying to evangelize with the book. If anything, I want both Christian and non-Christian readers to think - maybe for the first time - that there might be more to this life than we think there is.

I don't know if the story does that, but is it already too late anyway? Is the book already too religious for the secular market? I guess I'll find out, if it sells.

Status Report

For what few readers I have, this is probably what you actually want to know.

Following the excellent advice on Agent Query, I have been sending queries out in batches: no more than 10 agents every 2-3 weeks.

My first batch went out on May 14th. So far I have gotten a form rejection from 4 of these agents.

My second batch went out today. This batch is different in that some of these agents asked for a synopsis and/or as many as 50 sample pages (the most I sent out to an agent in the first batch was 5). I also have a revised query letter that I'm happier with. We'll see if any of that makes any difference.

I'll keep reporting here when there are things to report. In the meantime, I've finished outlining the air pirates story (which has a working title, but for the purposes of this blog I'll continue tagging it as Air Pirates) and am currently at 20,037 words on the draft.