Authors Answer 147 – Considering Economic Factors When Writing

Creativity is probably the leading reason authors write. They want to create stories that people enjoy. But how much does economics factor into writing books? There are several factors that may figure into how a person writes, including book length and more. This week’s question comes from Gregory S. Close.

Question 147 – Do you write purely creatively, or do you consider economic factors, such as how long the book will be, and how that would effect production/distribution costs?

C E Aylett

Purely creatively. If you approach it from the other direction you are boxing in your muse. And there’s nothing worse than a story that feels contrived to fit size (think of TV series Game of Thrones — wouldn’t we have liked a little more time to develop the Jon/ Dany relationship? Now it feels inauthentic because it wasn’t afforded the proper amount of time to develop, unlike him and Ygritte.)

D. T. Nova

I’ve paid attention to the length, but with more focus on pacing and tension than on economics.

Paul B. Spence

A little of both, of course. I write the book as creatively as you could wish. I do, however, keep in mind a certain size for the book. I try for ninety thousand to one hundred-fifty thousand words per book. So far so good…

Cyrus Keith

Word count is a factor. Many publishers today don’t want to even look at works less than 75,000 words for a novel. After that, I write what I want to write.

Gregory S. Close

Once upon a time I wrote purely creatively, and assumed that the merit of the work would drive how it was published, rather than things like page count, trim, how much shelf-space it would take up, etc. I thought that I was being economically responsible, but I really didn’t know how things worked until my first experience self-publishing. After surviving that, and realizing how much the size of a book effects the production cost, and thus the potential profit for the publisher and/or author (I only get pennies for every paperback of In Siege of Daylight that I sell, because of the print/production costs of a 600+ page, 240k word beast of a tome that it is), I changed my tune.

Now, I’m a lot more practical in how I consider my writing. I know that the sequel to Daylight will probably be equally huge. I can’t afford to invest the time in another epic and the money in the editing, cover art, trim etc. for another economically doomed novel. So, to be strategic, I have decided that if/when I write at all now, it is to be focused on the shorter, more contained, and potentially more profitable books (Greyspace, short stories and a couple of other ideas I’ve got kicking around). In theory, strategically marketing those more profitable works should allow for me to then pivot back to the GIANT TOTALLY EPIC SERIES. Back and forth I must go, if I ever want to make this work. It takes some of the fun out of it, but ultimately, planning ahead might make the difference between getting a chance to write full time or continuing to write part time, part of the time.

Eric Wood

Seeing as how I’m not published yet, I write solely creatively. I write for free right now, so if someone were to offer to pay me double I’d still make nothing. Perhaps one day I’ll have keep those factors in mind.

Jean Davis

When I set out to write a book, I just write the book. The story is how long it is. However, when it comes to editing that story, I then consider the overall length and what publishing goal would be the best for that particular project. I find it’s easier to focus on embellishing or streamlining after the initial creative process has had its way with the story. Too much pressure to meet a specific word goal makes it more difficult to get that first draft out. I get too hung up on specific word choices, efficient sentence structures or adding sufficient wordy depth to the plot, description, and characters.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

For the overwhelming part, I write purely creatively. I consider small factors, such as ensuring that the book is at least a certain length, but in general I don’t really let that affect my writing. Some would probably say that I should, because it might make my books more attractive to readers/publishers/etc, but for the most part I write because I love it and because I have stories to tell, and I don’t feel like obsessing over those “economic factors” do anything toward writing a good story. Creating something that is enjoyed by the people who read it is more important to me than creating something that checks off all the proper boxes as far as “proper” creation of a book.

H. Anthe Davis

While I’m aware of length and production issues (being an Amazon CreateSpace self-publisher in the print version, and therefore able to see what it costs per unit at certain sizes), I believe a book has to be the length it deserves to be. Can’t shortchange the plot or the characters just for space considerations. That said, there are always tweaks that can be made and extraneous bits that can be trimmed to keep the page count more manageable. I do what I can.

Jay Dee Archer

At the moment, I’m writing purely creatively. I’m not at the point where I’m considering economic factors, such as length of the book. I believe it’s more important to write what I think is a great story. Of course, I have the length of the book in the back of my mind, but also things like cover art. But if I’m thinking about economic factors, it will interfere with my creative process. Write first, worry about the other things later. But once I am considering economic factors, then I will look at what’s best in terms of being published, both independently and traditionally.

How about you?

If you’re an author, do you consider economic aspects while writing, or do you focus on it entirely creatively? Let us know in the comments section below.

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The End of Cassini: Crashing Into Saturn

On September 15, the Cassini spacecraft will come to an end. It’s going to crash into Saturn after orbiting it for more than 13 years. That’s a long time.

Cassini has brought us an incredible amount of information. Some of it has been extremely exciting. Lakes on Titan, liquid water ocean on Enceladus, the spongy-looking surface of Hyperion, and the split personality of Iapetus. And then there are the rings and the atmosphere of Saturn. I talk all about that and why Cassini is crashing into Saturn in my most recent science video.

What are some of your best memories of the Cassini mission? Let me know in the comments section below.

Authors Answer 146 – Being Charitable

A lot of the big authors support charitable causes or projects. They could be for education, poverty, medical, or many other causes. With plenty of money from contracts and book sales, many authors want to use the money for some good. This week’s question comes from C E Aylett.

Question 146 – If you became a big-name author, like Rowling or Lee Child, what personal projects would you pursue/create with your fame and fortune? What causes would you support?

H. Anthe Davis

I’ve never looked into this, as I doubt it would happen, but I generally support environmental causes so I’m sure I’d start there. And probably give grants to some library systems.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan of the “Always Keep Fighting” campaign that was created by Jared Padalecki of the Supernatural TV show. Padalecki has suffered a great deal from anxiety and depression, and has used his fame and influence to create this campaign selling shirts with logos from the show in support of mental health awareness and support. I really respect that and admire the success he and his co-stars have had with the campaign, because I myself have also suffered – mostly in silence – from anxiety and depression. With that said, I’ve promised myself that if I ever do manage to become a big-name author with any kind of real ability to affect social influence, I’ll start my own similar pursuit to support those who don’t always know how to support themselves, because I know what it feels like to struggle with the idea that you’re all alone inside your own broken head.

Jean Davis

Assuming I was a big name author, I’d love to so some anthologies with lesser known authors to help get them noticed by readers. With anything resembling a fortune, I’d continue to support National Novel Writing Month to a better degree than I do currently. I’m sure there are many great causes out there, but that’s the one that comes to mind first.

Eric Wood

There are two I think I would support. Since I just gave blood yesterday, something I do often, I would support the blood drives. Perhaps I would get that license plate that says “vampire” for when I park at blood donor clinics. Being a teacher I would support education. Perhaps through breakfast programs or free lunches or simply rally the people around teachers and all they do. I would also consider creating scholarships for kids who wanted to pursue a degree in education.

Gregory S. Close

If I had the money and influence of someone like J.K. Rowling… Wow. I would love to contribute money, time and resources to raise funds and awareness for lesser-known diseases and cancers, like Langerhans-cell Histiocytosis (LCH). Ironically, it’s LCH Awareness Month in September and I always do some sort of fund raiser this time of year (this year, giving away free books and asking for donations in return: http://lightdarkandshadow.blogspot.com/2017/09/free-book-92-94-in-support-of.html). So hey – go get yourself a FREE BOOK! 🙂 If I had a larger social media presence, my tiny little effort would be magnified a thousand fold and might actually make a difference. That would be great.

I would also like to start a foundation (or contribute to an existing one) that focuses on teaching critical thinking, rational discourse and civility to youth. Social media has amplified how far and how fast ignorance can travel and propagate misinformation. We need to provide the tools for people to discern what really is fake news versus what some politician might claim is fake news for their own personal gain. People are arguing back and forth with very subjective, meme-based arguments that don’t make sense and don’t contribute to solutions. Love to help stop that.

Cyrus Keith

I have a dream of transforming run-down, crime-ridden neighborhoods from the inside out, being able to provide capital and a hand-up to bring local businesses back in, and provide incentives to clean up and provide self-policing efforts to reduce crime and renew hope for folks to get rid of ghettos one at a time.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. Personal projects? Powered armor? Practical nanotechnology? A space program? I’m not sure what you were looking for here. Causes? You mean like world peace? I’m not much of a cause-head. I think I’d probably support feeding and housing the homeless. While we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of people in other countries, we need to put our own house in order first. We should be leading the world in education and medicine… I guess I do have a cause of sorts.

D. T. Nova

Personal projects: An animated adaptation of my writing, maybe?

Causes: clean energy and human equality.

C E Aylett

In my twenties I spent a week in east Burma, around Kengtung area. I didn’t know anything about the place – we just happened upon a ‘guide’ at the Thai border when we went to get our passports stamped to enable our visa extension, and met with him a week later and off we went. He took us to some of the mountain villages which, unbeknown to me, we weren’t supposed to go to — tourists at the time were only allowed to stay — i.e. spend their dollars in — government owned hotels (i.e. all the hotels).

The villagers had never seen white people before, and the children were hesitant to come near us, though massively curious at the same time, peeking around walls and then hiding if we looked their direction. Their hospitality was unmatched by any other place we went that whole year trip and one place in particular stands out in my mind, though I don’t know the name of the place exactly. They threw us a party, we danced all night and in the morning we had to wait until our guide had sufficiently recovered from the night before. Turned out he was into the black smoke and we had financed his addiction as this happened almost every day. So, while the men all seemed to do nothing but smoke opium, and the women seemed to have gone off to work the paddy fields from early morning, we were left with the children and the grandmothers. We had a pack of playing cards and a biro and some paper and the kids completely enthralled by us trying to teach them card games (not very successfully) and drawing around their hands and stuff. They particularly liked it when we tied our sleeping guide’s shoelaces together! (he-he) The kids were crying out to learn, it seemed to me, but there was no school for them, which was part of the oppression of the people. Turns out that area of Burma had only recently opened up to tourists and was historically where most of the rebel action happened. (Yes, research countries before you visit them!)

Anyway, getting back to the question, if I had that amount of success and it was politically possible, I would finance some schools or education projects in that area. If felt like such a waste of young minds and we could see their futures laid out before them, no hope of escape. The people were so lovely. They didn’t have much but they gave us everything they had in terms of hospitality and I would love to go back one day.

Jay Dee Archer

As a strong supporter of education and the sciences, I would probably give to one of many causes that provides good quality science education to those who are not in a good position to receive it. For example, scholarships for low income students who want to study the sciences in university, or an organisation that promotes the sciences in communities to encourage people to be more scientifically literate. With the increase in the number of people who deny climate change, are anti-vaccination, deny evolution, and get fooled by con-artists who promote dangerous pseudoscientific “cures” that don’t actually work, I think science education is more important than ever. Awareness needs to improve. That and I’d like to support clean energy.

How about you?

Which causes and projects would you support? Let us know in the comments section below.

I’ve Never Watched Game of Thrones!

You read that headline correctly. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. Of course, I was living in Japan when it started, so I was very far behind by the time I moved to Canada. But also, I’ve only read the first three books. I explained why I haven’t watched the TV series in this video:

So, what do you think? Should I watch it? Let me know in the comments section below.

Social Media Book Tag

Time to get caught up on the blog posts for VEDA! Uh, that’s about 20 videos to catch up on.

For this one, I did something called the Social Media Book Tag. I had to relate different books to different social media platforms, based on the nature of those platforms. It was an interesting exercise. Find out what I said:

Which books would you relate to the social media platforms? Here’s a list of the questions:

Twitter- Your favorite shortest book.
Facebook- A book everybody pressured you into reading.
Tumblr- A book you read before it was cool.
Myspace- A book you don’t remember whether you liked or not.
Instagram- A book that was so beautiful you had to Instagram it.
Youtube- A book you wish would be turned into a movie.
Goodreads- A book you recommend to everyone.
Skype- A book with characters that you wish you could talk to instead of just reading about.

Let me know how you would answer these.

Authors Answer 145 – Tropes and Cliches

What’s the difference between a trope and a cliche? In literature, a trope is the use of figures of speech, basically. But it can also refer to common themes to various genres (for example, dark lords and the chosen one type of hero in fantasy). But that sounds like a cliche, doesn’t it? However, a cliche is something that is overused so that it loses its original meaning. This week, we’re talking about that, and the question comes from Gregory S. Close.

Question 145 – Do you avoid tropes and/or cliche in your writing? Why or why not?

Cyrus Keith

Tropes and cliches are WAY too much fun to totally leave behind. Overuse can make a story boring and pat. But if your can combine tropes into something totally new, you can do magic with it. Just learn that fine line on which to balance.

D. T. Nova

I avoid specific tropes that I don’t like.

But there are others that I consciously use, and almost certainly some that slipped in unnoticed.

It’s not possible to avoid all popular tropes, and not productive to try.

I avoid cliches like the plague. Wait a minute.

Paul B. Spence

I’m glad you make a distinction here. A trope is part of what defines a genre. A cliché is a tired, over-used idea that probably needs to go away, at least most of the time. I write science fiction. Tropes of this genre that I use include starships, intelligent machines, aliens, and ancient technologies. The trick to keeping a trope from becoming a cliché is to try to think of new and interesting ways to describe your tropes and don’t get lazy. I try to avoid clichés, although I should point out that I said “probably should go away.” Using a good cliché in a new way makes it interesting.

Jean Davis

It really depends on the story. There are times when relying on tropes can make introducing ideas, characters, or world elements easier for both the reader and writer, allowing them to put more focus on making the original parts of the story shine. Relying too much on clichés and tropes may be seen as lazy writing. However, if you’re writing satire or humor, there is certainly a time and place for both of those things.

Gregory S. Close

A trope is a shortcut. Anytime you use a shortcut, it lets you get where you need to go quickly, but often at the expense of admiring the scenery along the way. Using the shortcut isn’t bad in and of itself, sometimes we really don’t have time to tell every bit of every journey for every character, and a little bit of shorthand can go a long way to keep the story moving. I try to be careful about tropes and cliches, using them to paint broad strokes while taking the time to surprise a little with the fine, detailed, brushes.

Eric Wood

I try to avoid cliches like the plague. I don’t think they add any sustenance to the meat of the story. I lose interest when I read other writers using it. However, a good metaphor will last longer than the leftovers growing in the back of the fridge.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I think I probably avoid a fair number of tropes and cliches, just because I want my stories to be different, you know? For instance, with my zombie novel, Nowhere to Hide, I avoided a lot of the common explanations for the apocalypse, like military testing, nuclear waste, and so on, because I wanted people to get something a bit unusual out of my story instead. That said, I also embraced several common zombie cliches in the writing of the story because sometimes the cliches are what make something fun. I think the key is to look at the tropes and try to decide which are ones that people will be disappointed to not see, and which will make them roll their eyes and groan. It’s not always easy, because peoples’ moods can change like the wind, but if you’re a great lover of the genre you’re writing in, it shouldn’t be too difficult to put yourself in the place of the reader and figure out which cliches they’d like or not like.

H. Anthe Davis

This is a tricky question. First off, not all tropes are bad; they’re just noticeable patterns in the character arcs and stories of several thousand years’ worth of human literature. The idea of a Hero’s Journey isn’t devalued because it’s a recognizable pattern; what may devalue it is in how the trope-y aspects of said Journey are handled. Do you play it straight, in an obvious and hackneyed way? Do you change things up, or start something that seems like a Hero’s Journey but turns into a very different kind of tale? Humans are pattern-makers, and we often enjoy recognizing the bones of a story — no matter if the meat grown on those bones is familiar or strange. I personally can identify certain tropes in my writing and characters, but I make damn sure that the tropes aren’t ALL that defines them — that the characters are people in their own right, breaking out of their constraints wherever they can, and that the story goes in an organic direction defined by those characters. Whether this follows, or twists, or averts other tropes doesn’t matter to me, as long as it feels right.

C E Aylett

Depends on the trope or cliché’s purpose. If it has no purpose and is used out of casual habit, then I would look to eliminate it in edits, but if it has deliberate intention, then yes, I would use it.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends. I mostly avoid using cliches. If it has a place in something I’m writing, I’ll use it. But mostly, no. As for tropes, I do use them, but I don’t want to use them in the typical way. In some genres, especially fantasy, tropes are extremely common. Quite often, they’re expected. A lot of readers want to see some tropes. I’d rather give them a twist on the tropes, something fresh. But I wouldn’t abandon them. Used correctly, they can work very well.

How about you?

Do you like to see cliches or tropes in the novels you read? If you’re an author, do you use them or avoid them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Did You See the Eclipse? I Did!

This is the second solar eclipse I’ve seen in six years. The last one was in Japan, and it was a total eclipse. This time, we had a partial eclipse here in Edmonton. I made a solar eclipse viewer with a cereal box, and it performed wonderfully. Curious to see the results? Well, check it out!

The things that I observed with the viewer that I found interesting were:

  • I could see clouds when they passed over the sun.
  • While the image was sharp, the camera found it to be difficult to focus on it, mainly because of the contrast between the dark box and bright light of the eclipse.

Outside the box, when it was at maximum eclipse, I noticed the following:

  • It got darker. It was still sunny, but it was a very odd sunny. It was like we had a 70% less bright sun. Things that I normally would have squinted at, like the white garage door, was no longer very bright.
  • It became cooler. It was a significant drop in temperature, and I wanted to wear a jacket. It was a 25 C day. That’s warm. But with 70% of the sun covered, the heat was less, and it felt cool.

I would have loved to have experienced the total eclipse. When I was in Japan, it was cloudy. I didn’t notice much of a cooling and while it did become significantly darker, it was still cloudy, and it wasn’t as impressive. I could still see the eclipse through the clouds, though. And yes, I did look at it without protecting my eyes with glasses. I couldn’t see it with the glasses, actually! The clouds were just the right thickness to be able to see the eclipse. But don’t worry, I only glanced at it quickly. And then when there was a break in the clouds, I used the glasses and took pictures through them.

Did you see the eclipse? Let me know!

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.