This one time at Writer's Camp…
I get asked these a lot and it occurred to me that I didn’t have a “Frequently Asked Questions” page here. It’ll save time and, hopefully, answer the basic questions. (Updated 6/10/2016)
- How many words do you write per day?
On average, I write about 2,000 words per day, typically five days a week. That works out to 259 days per year (roughly), and about 518,000 words per year, minimum. Some days I get about 7,000 words done, others only 1,000. But usually it’s at least 2,000 words a day.
- What is the most words you’ve written in one day?
Just over 26,000 words in a 24 hour period. The doctor was trying me out on some new medication and it caused me to stay awake for almost 3 straight days. In the middle of that, I wrote… and wrote… and wrote. Most of it was unusable, but some of it I saved (about 8,000 words worth).
- How do you get your ideas?
I have no clue. Really. They’re just there. Maybe they were uploaded into my brain by a peanut-munching muse?
- Do you write well with others?
Yes and no. I have both good experiences and bad working with co-authors. It really depends on just how interested the other author is. If it’s someone who really wants to write the book right now, then I work well with them, because we can finish a book in a very short amount of time (ex: Eric Brown and I wrote the sequel to Homeworld in about five weeks, including edits). If my co-author sits on a story for six months, well, then it’s just one of those “pound my head against the desk” moments.
- I want to have my book reviewed over on Shiny Book Review. How can you help make that happen?
By following the guidelines we have there. It’s easy.
- I always wanted to be a writer. What tricks can you share?
No tricks. Just keep honing your craft, I guess is the stock saying. Jim Baen gave me awesome advice once. He said (I’m paraphrasing it, because I don’t remember word-for-word what he said) “You’ll never be a writer if all you do is talk about it.”
- You said once that you’ve never gotten a rejection letter. Is that really true?
Uh… sorta, yes. I’ve never been rejected by a publisher. Agents? Yeah, a couple times, which is why I more or less have gone without one for so long. I’ve had two so far, but since I seem to do a better job at selling my books than they do… But, to be fair, I’ve never submitted a work to a publisher that didn’t meet their standards and wasn’t an entertaining story. I do my research on a publisher before I submit a story to them, and I also look at what they’ve published in the past before I do this and see who they’ve worked with in the past. I try to stay away from publishers whose authors I find boring. Some might call it “cheating”, but I call it intelligent recon.
Now, before you freak out and throw away your book in despair because you’ve gotten too many rejection letters to count, I am an extremely rare example. Most authors I know who are highly successful have had countless rejection letters.
- How do you find a publisher?
Seriously? In this day and age you can’t find a publisher? Google it. Type in the keywords that describe your story and add “publisher” on it and you’re bound to find something. As for agents… well, type in your favorite author and add “literary agent” to it. If your favorite author is successful and has an agent, that agent likes to brag about how great their clientele list is. Be creative in your searches.
- I have this awesome idea for a book! Will you co-author it with me?
I actually don’t get asked this one all that often, thankfully. The last time someone said this to me, I mocked him so hard he quit his job and moved away (he was a coworker). It’s not that your idea is bad, really. It’s not that I don’t like you, either. It’s just that I usually write with people I know (there has been one single exception, and that actually worked out well, but I don’t want to push my luck) and even then, sometimes that doesn’t always work out (I may have mentioned that earlier).
- Why don’t you come to more conventions?
Because traveling is expensive. I usually drive to them, and my hotel room usually runs over $100 per night. Throw in gas, food and so on, and I’m looking at about $400 for a weekend. Unless the con has me as a Guest of Honor (and that won’t happen until I’m a much more popular writer than I am now), it’s too pricey for me to attend more then 2-3 cons per year. It also sucks that I don’t have stockpiles of my books to sell, because that could potentially offset the costs of attending a con. Most cons have dealer tables, but I’ve found that the majority of them are sold out before I’m ever invited as a guest, so no selling of books for me. And, if you look at my con schedule, you’ll see that all of them are within easy driving distance of the Roanoke Valley, except for one (Libertycon).
- When is the sequel to Corruptor coming out?
Probably sometime after I’ve gotten it written. Okay, sorry, that was a bit too much sarcasm. Let me explain what happened.
I sold Corruptor to the publisher in February 2005, with a tentatively scheduled publication date of November 2007. Between that time, I moved to Virginia, my publisher had a family member die, and I went through a bunch of life changes. The MS was lost in transit between the publisher and myself for the editing process, which, as you know, needs to happen before it gets published. I was sitting around getting more and more annoyed as the deadline for the book to be released drew closer, completely unaware that my publisher was doing the same thing waiting for me. So I wrote the sequel to Corruptor in November of 2007 (including a 50,000 word binge over Thanksgiving weekend) and asked my publisher if she was interested. My publisher was sorta surprised to hear from me (and evidently my new email, which I had forgotten to give to her) and then we got back onto the correct page. Unfortunately, a few of the early editors and I didn’t work well together, so Corruptor was delayed until 2010 while the editing got fixed. I have the sequel on my computer, but I made some huge mistakes in it that are being corrected now (primarily, changing the main character was bad. It’s like that time when the producers of Fast and the Furious deciding that John Paul Walker was the breakout star of the movie, while Vin Diesel was just some guy… and damn near killed the series) and Obliterator is almost ready. Now, will the publisher be interested? Who knows at this point.
- Do you have a favorite genre you like to write in?
Not particularly, though I’ve called myself a science fiction author for as long as I’ve been writing. I typically don’t try to cram the book and characters into a preconceived genre at first. I let them sow their wild oats, have some care-free and youthful moments, before I bring the harsh reality of adulthood onto them. By that time, they’re pretty well-defined characters who have decided what they want to be and how to do it.
…okay, so I think of my characters like children. It’s not the worst plan in the world.
- I loved your Kaiju books. Any plans on doing more?
Yes. I’m currently working on the sequel to Murder World: Kaiju Dawn (titled Murder World: Kaiju Dusk) and signed a contract for something called Kraken Mare (coauthored w/ Chris Smith) in Jan 2015 (update — June 2016 — Kraken Mare is finished available for purchase). It’s more of a horror/military SF book than straight Kaiju, but still. After that, Eric and I are planning on pitching a couple of books to a publisher (we’ve got them in our sights already) for a modern day Kaiju series. Not sure what’s going to happen afterwards, mainly because I owe quite a few short stories to various anthologies and I still need to finish a few other sequels (notably, the sequels to Corruptor).
- Can you explain the whole “Sad Puppies” thing and defend your support for them?
Explain it? Hell, there are tons of people out there who can and have explain it better and far more eloquently than I ever will. Here, here, here, here, and here are good places to start (note: those links are for supporters and detractors. Don’t ever accuse me of playing favorites). Now, defend it? What, precisely, is there to defend? Some people disagreed with what they determined were worthy award-winning novels and short stories and decided to vote otherwise. The idea gained steam after Larry Correia (I may have linked him twice above, not sure) decided to actually take the challenge seriously and encouraged his fans to get involved (side note: “slate” is telling people to vote in perfect lockstep with one another, a “list” is something else entirely). Well, they got involved and it turned out that hardly anyone ever nominates people for these prestigious awards. So imagine their surprise when a ton of authors who have never been considered for any sort of award like this before were found to be headlining the finalists panel. Hell, imagine MY surprise to discover that I had the most nominating votes for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author!
I lost, big time, which came as no surprise (my ballot had me at 4th, the rest of the voters decided that “No Award” was better and it bumped me down to 5th… whatever), and suddenly the SHTF. I was done at that point (seriously, the crapstorm which erupted from Sad Puppies 3 caused me to lose 6 months worth of writing time) and declined any and all potential nominations for Sad Puppies 4. From a business point of view, this is a smart idea, since God knows I can’t afford to spend any more time dealing with politics over something that resembled a phallus mounted on a wooden pedestal. From a personal standpoint, I was tired of being called racist, sexist, bigoted, and who knows what else because I agreed with Sad Puppies that some of the stuff being nominated for a Hugo Award was just plain silly. It seemed (to me) that it was less about the quality and entertainment value of a novel and more about who wrote it and what “boundaries” they broke. Conveniently ignoring the past 60 years of boundary breaking in SF in general.
You want to break boundaries where things are boring and staid, and is in desperate need of an image makeover? Try American Literature & General Fiction. That genre is boooooring.
- Do you have an English degree?
Haha! Ahem, sorry. No. I think they’re overrated and, unless you’re going to be working in academia or as an editor, it’s almost worthless. I don’t mean to sound crass, and I can already hear dozens of MFA’s sharpening their knives, but in my defense, the authors who I love to read the most don’t have English degrees. The only author I “sorta” like to read and who has an English degree is Stephen King.
- Can I write in one of your universes?
- Why not?
Because of the cautionary tale of H. P. Lovecraft and how one can lose the IP rights of their own creation.
- So you hate fanfic?
Not at all. But it’s no longer fanfic if you’re making money off of my creations.
- You suck, your writing sucks, and your book sucks!
Thank you. I’ll remember that the next time I’m at the bank, depositing a royalty check. There may even be tears.