Category Archives: Writing

A Look at the State Of Publishing: Traditional, Indie, and Self

I know author Kristine Kathryn Rusch mainly from her short stories in various science fiction magazines, but the truth is she writes across multiple genres and –apparently because sleep bores her or caffeine works particular wonders on her nervous system– she also edits, publishes, and shares all sorts of insights about said writing, editing, and publishing.

So when someone posted her thoughts about state of publishing in 2017, I thought it was worth a read… and you might, too.

The Nitty Gritty of Writing a Non-Fiction Book

As I mentioned last week, I’m giving a talk tonight for actors on mass auditions and indie casting. And I’ve previously written a lot on my company website about indie casting.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that I’ve thought about distilling and refining those thoughts into book form (and several people have suggested it — leading me to believe it’s a decent idea).

Enter Joanna Penn’s exhaustive article about how to write a nonfiction book. I especially like the time she takes on breaking down why one would want to write a nonfiction book and how that would translate into the audience one goes after. That’s one of those angles that can be all-too-easy to forget until you have 20/20 hindsight. I also appreciate the way she demonstrates how a book can factor into selling your overall brand or business, which should probably be part of one’s strategy.

It might be time to revisit the notes I’ve made about potential casting books…


Peak TV, Sci-Fi Edition

Somewhat riffing off my post from Wednesday, I’m once again considering our current golden age of television (aka Golden TV Age II: Serial Storytelling Boogaloo).

There’s so much great television to check out, there are whole series that have come and gone that I haven’t gotten to yet.

Alison Herman over at The Ringer delves into what this means for science fiction –and “genre fiction” in general– as they hold greater sway over pop culture on both the big and small screen (and yes, the screen definitions are becoming more moot in some ways). It raises many big and small questions. For example, will people who’ve read the Silmarillion more than once feel vindicated by Amazon’s 4,000 Tolkien series? Will Adam Savage make another appearance on The Expanse? Will I ever get around to watching more than the first episode of Lost?

As always, stay tuned.

You Can Get There From Here… After a Long Journey

Working on a long, long term project due to launch later this year has me thinking about various film projects stuck in development hell that have finally seen the light of day -er- distribution.

The new hotness that is Altered Carbon (on Netflix as of February 2nd) was adapted from a 2002 book. Several friends have already mentioned about the differences from the book (some bigger than others), but I only recently learned more about how long it’s been in development. Basically, it was optioned the same year it was published and, as with so many projects, found an outlet via Netflix’s mad rush to create content. If you’re not averse to Game of Thrones level sex and violence, it will definitely scratch your cyberpunk itch (and did I mention Max Headroom himself (Matt Frewer) makes an appearance?).

Also on Netflix as of last Fall, is Scott Frank’s western mini-series Godless. This project appears to have started in a similar form to Altered Carbon, albeit as an original feature film vs. an adaptation. In both cases, the creators found the feature film format wouldn’t hold the story and so they expanded things to fit a larger canvas. Scott Frank goes into the long process of bringing this project to some form of screen on a great episode of Scriptnotes from last year. If you enjoy westerns that comment on westerns, like Unforgiven, you’ll probably like this (if you want it to live up to its marketing as a woman-centric western, you’ll likely be disappointed).

Finally, on a note closer to home, the indie period horror/mystery Dinner with the Alchemist has VOD distribution as of yesterday. I know a bunch of the people both in front of and behind the camera. And even though indie filmmaking is invariably an entrepreneurial activity, there are plenty of ups and downs — and persistence plays a huge part. In this case, the screenwriter, inspired by historical documents, has been working to bring this story to the screen for over six years. The project was thundering into production, got halted, and started again. And you’ll notice from the IMDb page that it’s in one sense from 2016 — and yet they needed to keep working until now for online distribution.

So here’s to light at the end of the long journey — or I guess in the case of all three of these examples, dark tales.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Quid Pro No

Mark Evanier added to his long-running series on “Rejection” last month. This one is about his own personal experience that writers (and others) don’t actually get hired by friends who then hire them back.

I’m not going to lie, I probably like this because it scratches me right in the confirmation bias. Nevertheless, his personal experience rings true with mine. People like to work with people they know, sure. But they also want to work with someone who can deliver for the project in question.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’ve experienced being on both sides of the equation. I know that sometimes I’m not the best choice. And when I’m called in as a “pinch hitter?” You better believe I do my best to make sure that even if I’m not the first choice, that I’m not a bad choice (one acting role with a couple hours notice comes to mind).

It also helps that, 26 years running,  the people I’ve met who insist on this baseline “you hire someone simply because they’re a friend” are uniformly schmucks.

The Hollywood Spec Script, RIP

Columnist Chris Erskine has a humorous, but not inaccurate assessment of  the state of the venerable spec script: the thing Hollywood doesn’t like at all…. until it loves it.

I really want to see the Scriptnotes crew comment on this.

Launch: A Publishing Journey in Podcast Form

Continuing on this week’s theme of writing and publishing, John August, has launched a new podcast called, well, Launch.

I’ve mentioned his Scriptnotes podcast before, which is well worth a listen if you’re interested in screenwriting. But John August doesn’t confine himself to scriptwriting. He has a company that makes apps related to scriptwriting. He’s made writer’s aids and a decent card game. And now he’s written the first of a series of novels about a young boy named Arlo Finch.

His Scriptnotes co-host, Craig Mazin, might claim it’s because August is a robot (or possibly a Chronicom), but he approaches each new project with an effort to make it the best possible version he can. That’s certainly the case with this podcast, Launch.

It’s a limited series –I believe only 6 parts– and three of them are online now. The final two parts, yet to be recorded, will detail what happens as his book (and requisite book tour) is launched. I’ve raced through the episodes online thus far and am eager to listen in relative real-time. You might be, too.

New Year’s Resolutions: Getting Published

When it comes to writing, most of the beginning of this decade, I was mainly focusing on regularly writing: simply putting in the time. That’s where I worked to write 20 minutes a day, every day (with occasional time off for good behavior).

For the past year or two, I have been tracking pages written and finishing drafts — not simply time writing. This year, the logical continuation is to understand what to do when those finished drafts amount to a novel.  I’ve done research on this in the past… but that’s far enough in the past that it’s probably a good idea to check again (the research was also focused more on magazine articles and short stories).

I’ll certainly check out Writer’s Digest, a resource I’ve used before, both as a writer and, briefly in the 90s as a publisher. And readers may remember my post from last summer about Russell Nohelty and his company, Wannabe Press.

I was also interested in the “traditional” route — knowing that the traditional route has changed a tad in the past few decades. So I was happy to stumble across Jane Friedman’s one-stop post on the steps to get traditionally published.

Naturally, it links to additional information about the various steps and sub-steps, but if you read through the entirety, she has some good summaries of both the pros and cons of self-publishing as well as pros and cons of traditional publishing. She has some great questions about what a creative wants out of their creative work that might help direct said creativity.

I’ll post more about book publishing later this week.

Ursula K. LeGuin, RIP

88 years is no small feat, but when my wife and I talked, we agreed, it would have been nice to see Ursula K. LeGuin, who passed away last week, reach a hundred.

Far and beyond the worlds she created was her perspective: on writing, being a writer, and, well, managing to live this crazy life and perhaps make it a better place while being a writer.

I only discovered her work later in life –which is all the more unforgivable when you realize she taught at my college briefly– but nevertheless, the books were there, waiting.

The first book I read, The Dispossessed, is not one of the most mentioned, though evidently well received when it came out. Here was a great science fiction novel not only full of worldbuilding, but also woven together with an elegant literary device playing with time — all the while not only exploring the concepts of anarchy and capitalism, but also how mathematicians and physicists think. It’s hard to explain how the book affected me so personally. It is neither melodramatic nor maudlin nor close to my own experiences. And yet, the impact is visceral.

From reading the remembrances from across the globe, I’m not the only one who made such a deep connection to her works:

I would be remiss if I didn’t also pass along a link one of my brothers shared: her receiving a lifetime achievement award at the National Book Awards in 2014:

The loss is real. But the books are there, waiting.

When Mickey’s Ears Perk Up

Copyright is always a topic of interest to writers and public domain in the United States is of added interest what with Congress’ tendency to extend copyright.

As it happens, a whole host of published works (films and books) are set to enter the public domain next year. Timothy Lee notes in an article for Ars Technica that, strangely, that might happen. (He also links to his excellent 2013 article on the same subject).