Lifeless

They Shoot Movies, Don't They

My fabulous editor suggested I get an agent once Lifeless was complete. She listed the pros and cons while describing the traditional publishing process. The pros list was compelling; easily contracting cover art, engaging in successful marketing, and scheduling promotional events practically requires a publishing contract.

I'm still self-publishing by choice. I get why this is can be confusing. Many writers (and book lovers who wish to be writers) dream of a publishing deal, a multi-book advance, to see a big studio buy the rights to their book. Unfortunately, those hopes are both totally unrealistic and, more importantly, problematic in my little universe. I love books, but I might just love movies more.

Eventually, these stories will be made into television shows or movies by me, my husband and his future production company. I'm excited to share my books with the world, but I see publication as stage one on this adventure and not the destination. 

There are filmmakers that I admire and I'd love to work with them. But there are many others who perform purely to the whims of business, as represented by studios, producers, their agents and theater owners. They reduce female characters to obstacles or motivations for males, plot subtleties to heavy-handed exposition, and anything deemed too intricate is reduced to rudimentary parts. These are the filmmakers who I would never want to touch my work. As an author on a publishing contract, you rarely have a say. 

Directors who are talented, ambitious, and have proven themselves as moneymakers still struggle to produce high-quality films in their own vision. Working with a dream director who is tied to a studio may be prohibitively complicated.

For now, my goal is to complete the many stories I have started. The dark fairy tale for my daughter, the teleportation story for my husband, and everything in between. One after another, I'll get them done while I look forward to what comes next.

Research!

I've just completed Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku in preparation for my second novel. I love researching a topic that I find intriguing, jotting down notes as I go, finding inspiration by a particular fact or theory. I haven't stated anything earth-shattering here; research for fact-based fiction is common sense. While some research is always good, too much is always bad. Here are two examples.

I have a shelf at home that contains some of the physical books I ordered to prepare for Lifeless. These are in addition to the digital books, articles, and research papers I had studied before completing my first draft. Several of these physical books took their sweet time in transit - they were rare, out of print, or the shipping was just slow. In either case, I no longer needed them when they miraculously appeared on my doorstep. I was satisfied with the work I had completed on those topics. Now there they sit, with their facts, silently judging.

I keep thinking of taking them up, tweaking some things in the book. But I know me - I'd look at the cited works in the back and I'd find other handy materials. Just two more books, then I'll be done, I'd think. But those books would have interesting citations. And thus I would fall down the rabbit hole, my orange highlighter tumbling in after me.

There is another problem when researching a fiction book too deeply. Facts are not rigid and interpretations are endless. Sure, you've read the most popular research, but you know the historical dubiousness of popular research! Then of course you could talk to experts, but experts often disagree with one another. Who do you trust? If you wait long enough, new discoveries will be made that reveal the inaccuracy of 30% of your reference material. So you fix those things; you keep thinking of that expert in your audience, given the book by a well-meaning friend ("look at this, Betty! I saw 'rocket engineer' on the back and thought of you!"). You don't want to disappoint that expert.

My greatest challenge, and I know I'm not alone here, is accepting that you will disappoint that expert. If you don't disappoint that expert, you'll disappoint another one. You can't win over everyone. Someone will call you a lazy writer who didn't do enough research. That's OK. Your goal as a fiction writer is to create a coherent world for your characters to inhabit, to suspend disbelief, and to move on to something else when you are finished. Out-of-control research can prevent that from happening.

And when all else fails, be vague. :)

Hello, World

Several months ago, I found a short story I wrote when I was 9. The story wasn't anything special - a rip-off of Star Wars where the princess saves everyone on her own. The remarkable part of this discovery was how long I have been writing stories. As I've bounced around the country, I've dragged stacks of stories held in notebooks, boxes of loose sheets of paper and so many bytes. So many bytes.

Before I met my husband, I rarely shared my work with anyone. Now I'm beginning the long journey towards publishing. Experts are looking at my first book and it is excruciating. Part of me is excited to share the results of eight years of researching, outlining, fact-checking, revising, doubting, deleting, panicking, restoring and re-revising. But I'm still that kid who hid her stories in a shoebox. So we'll see how this goes.