Throwing Down the Gauntlet


Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

Related Post Roulette

60 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Thanks for giving away the basic premise of my friggin book, dude.Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp says:

      I just assumed that you’d write about how strange women, lying in ponds and giving swords to people, is no basis for a system of government.Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Right with you. I’m thinking SF, not fantasy, for mine. But it’ll be kooky late-Heinlein SF, so it won’t take itself too seriously.Report

  3. I’ve been planning on doing this. A writer friend of mine suggested I spend October doing research, writing character biographies and plot outlines. This seemed ripe for making excuses (“I couldn’t write my novel because I have so much character research to do!”) I decided to say f-it and just write whatever pops into my head. I’ll fact check later.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My Left Behind slashfic has some interesting plot twists, or so I have been told…Report

  5. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    Count me in. I’ve already done a novella, and I’ve been researching for a novel for the last few years. If I see any one of you guys put out a book where computers threaten our personal liberties, I will know that you stole my idea.Report

  6. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    I’ve always wanted to put “Novelist” on my resume. Looks like there’s gona be some tense competition in the sci-fi realm.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      *eyeroll* yeah… If I were wanting to get published, I’d go novella or short story. But that’s just me… Some places want to help authors get better. Others are looking for finished products.Report

  7. Avatar A Teacher says:

    As a NaNoWriMo winner in 2008, I have some thoughts as to this:

    First, it is very very easy to get behind. If you want to hit your writing goal, you have to plan for Thanksgiving to eat up a lot of your writing time. Also, unless you have a book style that allows it to “write itself” it helps a LOT to have an outline of major events that you knock out as you go along.

    Second, self publishing is a lot harder than it looks if you want to be serious about it. My 2008 book is still in the process of being edited and prepared for ~SELF~ publication. Most people suggest you should allocate a year for a NaNoWriMo work to be ready for general consumption. I admit part of my delay has been that in Mid July as I was finalizing the cover art to self publish I got an email from an agent asking for more of my manuscript. It’s been since then with no word back, which I think is better than a rejection so that project is in writing Limbo.

    Third, Self Publishing has a bad reputation. My wife is a volunteer Advance Copy Reader. She gets AC’s to read and then review on Amazon. She gets the books for free, they get reviews and honestly many times she sends the book back half finished rather than read it and leave a poor (if honest) review.

    Now all that said……

    I’m planning on writing a novelization of an Augmented Reality Game that I wrote for class this year, following two teen superheroes trying to figure out the clues as well as learning to work with each other despite their disparate backgrounds (one’s an exchange student from Ireland with frost powers, the other is the “bad girl” who has studied magic to become a pyromancer). Last time I did this I posted all of the book as I wrote it on a blog, mostly as I didn’t expect anyone to ever want to read it when it was done.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      First, it is very very easy to get behind. If you want to hit your writing goal, you have to plan for Thanksgiving to eat up a lot of your writing time.

      I actually took the opposite tact: Try to be done by Thanksgiving. Use that as an incentive. My main fear of planning to be working on Thanksgiving is that I would think “Ugh. I had to work today. But I’ll have some days off around Thanksgiving!” and procrastinating.

      The other thing I did that helped was set up a spreadsheet. A goal for each and every day, measured against what it would take to get to 50k and what it would take to get to the estimated word count of the entire project (around 115k). That helped keep me from falling behind.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      self publishing has a bad rep for a few reasons.
      1) it’s often used as a gimmick for people to publish vanity shit.
      2) Editors help — they seriously seriously do. I know someone who’s done significant editing work in a number of fields — it’s not just getting the names consistent, but improving the creative work — tightening, etc. That said, some people can do it themselves, or have a willing significant other to lean on.
      3) Why not just break it up into smaller bits (or trim down to a novella) and try and get it published? There aren’t many sci-fi mags, but they do pay, and they have a vested interest in improving authors.
      4) rather than self-publish, one might want to look into something like what Tales of Mu is like — serialized fantasy.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Anyone who self-publishes should hire an editor, in my opinion. You absolutely *need* outside eyes.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          eh. some people are natural editors. but they tend to throw out 99% of what they write.
          The people who are natural “creators” just sit down, barf up a section, and fix spelling/grammar/consistency later.Report

        • Avatar A Teacher says:

          The problem with hiring an editor is that they can, literally, cost thousands of dollars. The best editing is a peer group to share and read because often they work for donuts.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            … if you submit a novella for Analog, the editing’s free. they pay you to publish your stuff. Granted they may not pay much, but you retain rights to publish in other forms (I think…)Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp says:

      I appreciate you comments. For me, this would be my first novel, though I’ve had several aborted attempts. I expect it to not be great, but given the timeframe I’ve given myself, I’ll be going for a more pulpy feel than the great American novel.Report

  8. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I’d love to, and the timing is perfect, but I just don’t have anything ready this time around. I have too much to do on the novels that I have already written and languish in editory.Report

  9. Avatar wardsmith says:

    I don’t think I could write a whole novel. Would a collection of short stories count? Short stories are easy (and fun), novels seem like they could end up as work.

    On the depressing front, I sent an email invite to this to my author friend (about 40 books or so published) and he told me sci fi only garnered 6% of the fiction market. He’s made millions from writing, but alas no fiction. We had a little contest between us and wrote our own short stories. He loved mine, hated his own and offered to get mine published. I wasn’t interested, especially after he volunteered to edit it. My main premise was continually changing the point of view in the story. He tried to redo everything from the same POV because he said readers might get confused. I’m kind of a snob, if the damn readers can’t handle it, they shouldn’t read it. 😉Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Double dare you to submit it to Analog. It’s always worth it to get a rejection slip from them… (and yeah, you’re allowed to be bitchy if you think the editors are killing your story. just be Coherent.)Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Sci-fi has a much smaller market share than fantasy these days. I have an author acquaintance that’s great at both, but does exclusively fantasy these days for just that reason.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        analog published Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, after all. Let’s just say that the editor’s looking for more fantastical stuff again, last I checked.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Fantasy’s current renaissance might be played out, though.

        I say go for hard-boiled crime fiction. That always has a market.Report

  10. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    I’ll decide in 16 days.Report

  11. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    May I propose that each participant give his novella to another participant for editing before the volume gets published? And that we start a private mailing list for those of us who will be doing it? Encouragement, ideas and the like are often best discussed in private.

    My working title — you heard it here first — The Second Leprechaun. No, it doesn’t make sense yet.

    I made an outline and realized it’s not going to be Heinlein. It’s going to be roughly the same kind of fiction I always write. Sort of.Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp says:

      May I propose that each participant give his novella to another participant for editing before the volume gets published?


      And that we start a private mailing list for those of us who will be doing it?

      Also seconded. I haven’t set up a listserv in years. What’s the easiest way to do it these days?

      My working title — you heard it here first — The Second Leprechaun. No, it doesn’t make sense yet.

      Since we’re sharing, mine is Murder at the Time Traveller’s Convention.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Your title makes me want to read your novel.Report

      • Avatar Leah says:

        So very in favor of a listserv. I usually find Google Groups are the easiest way to make those work.

        I’m doing NaNoWriMo, too, but I’m kinda cheating. I’m not planning on writing on novel. I’m using the timecrunch to work on writing up some of my transhumanism/philosophy of medicine stuff as a big coherent thing.Report

  12. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Egads. I wish I had time to do this. Free editing from other smart people sounds great.Report

  13. Avatar Andy Smith says:

    I have published both fiction and non-fiction. I paid an editor for advice on two of my novels, and I found the advice very helpful, made the stories much stronger. It was not cheap, but not outrageous. I think it helped that I did not seek this professional advice until I had had some experience writing, because the editor didn’t have to spend time and energy pointing out tips I eventually learned on my own. He got into finer details that I probably never would have figured out.

    My experience is that friends and colleagues, no matter how well-intentioned, simply can’t be objective–let’s even say, ruthless–enough. Someone who doesn’t know you, has never met you, and is getting paid for his time will be, or should be. I think the peer group suggestion that Teacher makes is a reasonable alternative–I have been taken advantage of such groups before–but if these people are not professionals, but beginning writers like yourself, their main value will be seeing the story the way potential readers do. They may be very helpful in making you aware of problems that the typical reader will have, but in my experience, a pro is much better in providing constructive advice–detailed steps you need to take to fix the story. Whether paying the pro is worth it obviously depends on your means, and how important the book is to you.

    One of the novels was published by a small one-man operation, not much in sales, but I was just happy I didn’t have to pay him anything, and got the book in hard copy as well as kindle. There are actually an enormous number of very small publishing operations around, each with its specific likes and dislikes. I self-published one of the non-fiction books, was satisfied how it worked out, but it was fairly expensive and I would not do it that way now. It’s very easy now to put books online, make them available as kindle versions through Amazon, and there are options for advertising.

    BUT…most people in the business will tell you it’s much easier to break in with non-fiction than fiction. According to an estimate I read, the fiction market is so saturated that there is only an average of fifty candidate readers for every book. Non-fiction can find a market more easily if you pick the right subject and are willing to work hard to do the research on it.Report

    • Avatar Andy Smith says:

      Oops, should have said: “I have taken advantage of such groups before.” But the original almost expresses an alternative experience.Report

  14. Avatar Plinko says:

    I really want to do this, I’m actually close enough on an idea to actually start writing. On the other hand, November is my heaviest work month of the year with 8 days overseas followed by jet lag recovery followed by a week of defending and/or re-doing everything I did while overseas, then Thanksgiving. It won’t really lend itself to starting at a blank Word Processor for several hours a night.
    I would love to follow what all y’all are doing and help give feedback though. Got to get the Literature degree used somehow.Report

  15. Avatar JG New says:

    It is unbecoming to a Gentleman, all this scribbling.

    But I wish you all luck.Report

  16. Avatar Alex Knapp says:


    If you want to play, send me a quick email and I’ll invite you to the Google Group that Leah was kind enough to set up for us. That way we can talk editing, encouragement, etc.Report