Generalized randomness

I had a really great post all lined up for today, but my wife vetoed the subject matter, which was [redacted], and therefore I have to come up with something on the fly. Suffice it to say that it was a thought-provoking and interesting and you probably would have gotten a lot out of it. Oh, well.

So, since we are working off the cuff, I suppose I should give you a rundown of what’s happening in my neck of the woods. First of all, I’d like to direct your attention to Rosie the Ripper over there on the sidebar. You will notice that Rosie is now available not just in ebook format, as has been the case for the past seven months, but also in trade paperback. The paperback was put together by the great folks at Fight Card and it’s a very attractive piece of work. I recommend you buy three: one for yourself, one for a friend and another to keep in a plastic sleeve for future generations.

I’ve actually been thinking a little bit about doing a sequel to Rosie. She’s sort of my Rocky, so it stands to reason that she should have at least six stories about her. Plus a musical and a couple of lackluster video games. Let’s make this happen, people.

Big plans are afoot for the blog, but you’ll have to wait until late August to learn what they are. Sorry.

In the meanwhile I continue to work on various projects, trying feverishly to accomplish something before my August break. I have three novel outlines in differing stages of completion, three novella outlines likewise incomplete, plus a pile of what I call outline roughs that need to be turned into outlines at some point. I am definitely a very busy man.

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[REVIEW] Ninja: AD 1460-1650

Ninja: AD 1460-1650Since 1969 (forty-five years!), Osprey Publishing has been releasing slender books on military topics both famous and obscure, concentrating primarily on the machines of war and the uniforms of soldiers who used them. Osprey’s original books were all about the planes of the Second World War and pretty much set the pattern for those to follow: lots of high-quality illustrations of the subject matter, plus enough historical context for the reader to get where they fit in the scheme of things.

Over time it was inevitable that Osprey would run out of military uniforms to highlight — ANZACs in Vietnam? Sure, why not? — so Osprey has branched out into new and interesting directions. They’ve never left the realm of combat, but they’ve taken on some unusual topics for a publisher concerned primarily with formalized warfare in the more-or-less modern age. The particular book under discussion today: Ninja: AD 1460-1650.

I’m a history guy and spent pretty much the entirety of my time in higher education with my nose buried in historical documents and academic writing on said documents. Despite that, I’m really tickled by Osprey’s no-frills approach to the subjects of their books. Every Osprey title is very slim, never more than 90 pages, but they manage to pack a great deal of entry-level history into every one of them. When it comes to certain things — like the French Indochina War, for example — you can hardly do better than Osprey’s book if you’re just looking for a solid overview and a jumping-off point for deeper study.

Ninja is a perfect example of what Osprey does so well. The topic of ninja is fraught with pop-culture nonsense, but has also been the subject of serious academic study, so there’s a ton of material to unpack and not a whole lot of pages on which to get the work done.

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Second verse, same as the first

I’m going to write today about a topic I’ve covered multiple times in the past, so if you’re a longtime reader you’re probably going to want to move along until tomorrow when I do a couple of new reviews. The subject: revision. Excitement, I know.

I bring up revision again because I recently had a discussion with a writing friend about the role revision has in his writing. He asked me — because he hasn’t read all the posts I’ve done about it, apparently — if I revise as I go, revise at the end, or just leave things alone. My response was about as simple as it gets: I don’t do any revision on anything unless I absolutely have to. He then wished a slow and painful death upon me.

In the past I’ve had some pretty hard words for the concept of revision. I won’t say I’ve softened on the subject all that much, but I’ll try to clarify for those following along at home. The short version is that I don’t like revision. I don’t see the use for it in most cases and, therefore, I don’t do it. And I don’t care what your creative writing instructor said.

Ernest Hemingway said, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” I’m of the opinion that the truest sentences, the ones which are the most you, are the first ones that come to mind. Not the ones you suddenly think of later, not the ones your editor tells you would make for an improvement, none of that. It’s the stuff you spun out of thin air when you first put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. True sentences are unvarnished, maybe even crude, but they are honest.

Is there no instance when coming back to a piece of work will make it better? Of course there are. I recently wrote an entire book from the ground up, completely throwing away my first version, because there was a different/better way to tell the same basic story. And sometimes, yes, the true sentence can be made truer through introspection. But, and this is what I’ve been saying all along, revision is not necessary for writing to be good.

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Just keep swimming

Should you be writing right now?If I leave you with one piece of Writing Wisdom™ today, let it be this: don’t stop writing. Don’t. Stop. Writing. DON’T STOP WRITING!

When I finished the rewrite of Meaner Than Hell at the end of April, I was poised to dive directly into a new novel project the following week in May. I had two complete outlines and both were solid, so it was just a matter of sitting down and doing it. But I didn’t. I figured, why not take a week off? It wouldn’t kill me. So I took a week off. And at the end of that week I took another week off. And at the end of that week I took another week off. This pattern continued until I’d taken off the entirety of May and June, producing precisely 0.0 words.

I resolved to make a difference in July. I had a truncated daily schedule, thanks to my son’s school hours, but I could still write two or three thousand words every day if I set my mind to it. This made it possible for me to do the first two novellas in The Tsuru Cycle by the time I took my second scheduled summer break in August.

July came. I… sat on my ass. Oh, I did some writing, but I produced very little and only sporadically. As of today I’ve written half of one novella when I’m actually supposed to be halfway through the second one. This is not good.

If I really knuckle down for the next few days, I can get my work done for the month and July will be saved, but only if I write every day without fail. I can’t take anymore breaks. I have to work. If I was in an office and performing this poorly, I’d be fired. That wouldn’t be acceptable and this isn’t acceptable to me.

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Burnout paradise

You may notice that I write reviews here. In fact, there was a time on this blog when I wrote nothing but reviews. Reviews, reviews, reviews. Day after day and week after week. Reviews. And there’s a good reason for that: they bring people to the blog.

I may be a fairly successful writer in the UK, but I’m largely unknown in the United States, and that’s where the majority of blog traffic comes from. Consequently I don’t get a lot of web searches for sam hawken author (or whatever) and instead get a lot of searches that bring people to the many, many reviews I’ve written over the course of four years.

There’s nothing really wrong with this. I first started writing reviews for my own amusement, but they are on the blog to be read, so I’m not going to complain when people read them. Some days the only traffic I get to the blog are readers looking for my reviews. They could not give a hooting hell that I’m a prize-listed, bestselling author. They don’t have the first clue who I am. All they know is that I have a review for Forced Vengeance that they want to read.

My original goal when it came to reviews was to write a review for every book I read, every movie I watched and every game I played. From time to time this has become a serious chore, as I’ve had backlogs as high as thirty or forty reviews waiting for my attention, and all because I’ve gotten totally burned out on writing the things. Eventually I do come back to them, but burnout is seriously hard to shake.

I find myself in a similar place today. I only have a couple of reviews to write, and ordinarily I would post both of them today to clear out my review queue, but I just… don’t want to write them. I know I should write them and I know I could write them, but I’m not in the right frame of mind.

Now you may recall from many previous entries on this blog that I’m not a big fan of the “when the mood strikes me” approach to writing. A fictioneer of whatever stripe you happen to be, writing is your job and you have to treat it like one. Blogging is something of a special case, though. Unless you’re earning a living or a reputation from your blog, it’s really just an appendage to the actual work of writing. Great exposure if people actually go there and read things, but otherwise little more than a glorified hobby.

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