Saturday, December 12, 2015

Professional and Artistic Goals for 2016.

Louis Shalako

While we never quite know what the future holds, it’s not a bad idea to set some professional or artistic goals for 2016.

It would be a very good idea to write at least one, and probably two books in the Inspector Gilles Maintenon Series. With six already out, a couple more wouldn’t hurt the passive discoverability of the series.

This year I wrote five novels ranging from 60,000 to 70.000 words. With effective time management, simply by working on a project, (any project), every day, we can probably do the same again. I published four of those myself and the fifth one is currently under submission.

With five pen-names, it isn’t always possible to go strictly by the roster. If I had an idea for a Harold C. Jones story, and maybe Constance ‘Dusty’ Miller’s turn is next, I would probably go with the idea I had rather than stall and delay and wait for inspiration to hit just to keep things in proper rotation.

I read something recently on boredom, and how a writer might reveal it in the work without being properly aware of it themselves. There might be something in that.

There are times. Having taken the exciting leap, and having written some erotica in various sub-categories, it no longer feels risky to write for heterosexual women, gay men, or the more macho, he-man stuff that Ian Cooper is known for.

It’s just not that hard to write military fiction. Not once you learn how to produce routinely, not after reading history all my life, and watching a thousand documentaries over the years. The ideas are there. You just have to create some fictional characters and put them into play and see what happens. Zach Neal has been doing pretty well for us, outselling all the other pen-names and the thing to do is continue to support that side of the operation. (That’s not exactly the same thing as saying I have a production schedule.) Over the course of the last year, I regularly wrote one or two thousand words a day, and yet getting much more than that was pretty rare. In that sense, writing has come down to a routine. Being retired, it gives me something to do, which isn’t always the best motivation. Also, for me it’s more of an end-of-life thing. Look, I’m not dying, but I have a place to live, a car, a bit of food in the fridge. I’m not a youngster trying to break into a tough industry—and as far as the industry goes, I can kind of take it or leave it. 

That kind of objectivity is a new thing.

Rejection isn’t nearly so bad as when I first started submitting stories and there were rejection slips in the inbox, ah…several times a week. Back then we had some pretty high hopes.

The other thing is sales. To write a novel, and then see it quickly die, only to sell a handful of copies a year is very un-motivating. How do we stand it? I don’t know, but some of us are stubborn enough to find other reasons to do it. Even then, yeah—there are days when it’s definitely drudgery, sheer misery in some of the administrative jobs like pricing, proofreading, blogging when you have nothing to say, or whatever it is, that one job that really sucks.

The risks are still the same, but nothing really bad has happened, and maybe it’s just a matter of perception. It might be a good time to load up on some additional risks. That’s probably one reason why I wrote a novel to submit this time. It ups the ante if nothing else. Being productive gives us that luxury.

There have been times when it seems as if I have lost some of the early enthusiasm. Let’s be honest, sometimes it really is work to write a story. To work at it is the only way to produce anything.

Way back when, I was jamming them out just as fast as I could. I was also submitting them. 

Some of those submissions were inappropriate to the magazine, the market or the genre. 

Some of them were just plain shit stories. They weren’t going anywhere, and maybe that’s the difference a few years later. I’m still spending just as much time sitting in the chair, but (possibly) putting more time into the quality of the original idea. If you don’t have an idea, you have essentially nothing to write. Where would you possibly begin, right?

Our goals for the year are guided by a few years of experience.

In 2016, it might be a good idea to write more short stories. Generally, I finish a novel, and then write short stories for a while until I get another substantive idea, something that might come in at book length.

Last year, I didn’t place a single short story, although I have sold some small ones in the past.

While the professional markets are one thing, very competitive, with thousands of submissions a month, picking off a few stories for one or two or three cents a word wouldn’t hurt my feelings too much. All you have to do is to wait until their publication license expires, and then you can submit it elsewhere as a half-price reprint or use it yourself, in which case I make a cover worth about $8.00 and publish it. Once you have the stories in the can, they are your property and you can do anything you want with them.

We answer only to ourselves.

I see lots of people having fun with their poetry, and I have been sort of neglecting it. No promises on that one, but.

Other than that, we’ll see what happens in 2016 and just try and have some fun with it.


Editor’s Note: We need to give Ian a middle initial, and then his author page would have a dozen titles anyway. So just cleaning up certain aspects of the operation is another goal.

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