My Chessiecon Schedule

Those of you who’ll be in the Baltimore, Maryland area during Thanksgiving weekend might want to stop by the Radisson North Baltimore Hotel and drop in on Chessiecon. Chessiecon is the science fiction convention formerly known as Darkovercon.

I’ll be speaking there this time, and here’s my schedule:

Date Time Topic Location
Friday, Nov. 25th 3:00 – 4:15 Gadgets in Fiction Greenspring 1
Friday, Nov. 25th 6:45 – 8:00 Care and Feeding of Critique Groups Greenspring 2
Saturday, Nov. 26th 10:00 – 11:15 Dive! Dive! Submarines in Science Fiction Greenspring 1
Saturday, Nov. 26th 1:45 – 2:15 Book Reading Greenspring 2
Saturday, Nov. 26th 6:45 – 8:00 Book signing Atrium

chessielogoThat schedule is subject to change. I’ll post any changes here as I find out about them. There are many other things to see and do at Chessiecon, other than attending my panels, readings, and signings.

Why do they call it Chessiecon? Chessie is a huge beast thought to inhabit the Chesapeake Bay environs, but few have seen it and it may be mythical.

Hmm… that describes me!

Anyway, I’d love to see you at Chessiecon. Please attend. You could get a priceless selfie taken with—

Poseidon’s Scribe

The Cure #2: Writer’s Block

Long-term readers of this blog will recall I’ve written about writer’s block before, both here and here. I divided the difficulty into two types, major and minor. I’ve discussed the symptoms of both types but only discussed the cures for minor writer’s block.

writers-block-2Today, I’ll delve into major writer’s block (MajWB) and its cures. I define MajWB as the state of being unable to start writing a new work, a condition of long duration. It can last for years and can end a writer’s career.

I’ve never suffered from it, and hope I never do. It must be especially devastating to those for whom writing is their primary source of income. One thing we can rule out in discussing MajWB is the current work in progress; it’s not a matter of being stuck in a plot hole, or being dissatisfied with certain characters. MajWB is the state of not being able to perform any creative writing whatsoever.

With Minor Writer’s Block, I considered that the block was most likely a symptom of something else, an effect. To resume writing, the blocked writer should work on the cause.

Although the causes of Minor Writer’s Block can be large or small, the root of MajWB can only be large. Nothing but a significant event or condition can cause you to be unable to write.

If we assume a writer has MajWB, then presumably there was a time when he or she was writing, and then a later time when not writing. In between, something happened; some significant change occurred. These changes include:

  • A major illness or disease
  • Major depression
  • An ended relationship, whether by death or other cause
  • Financial straits
  • A feeling of failure
  • A feeling of inferiority in comparison with previous success

Whichever of these it is, it must be addressed, not the inability to write. The writer needs to examine what it is about the cause that is resulting in a block. I have no magic pill here, no universal cure-all. Each of these causes will be different, as will the writers involved.

Some authors may be able to resume writing by remembering why they became a writer in the first place, and returning to that frame of mind. Others may find it useful to use the event causing the block as an inspiration for further writing. That is, they could seize the raw emotions of the disease, depression, lost love, etc., and incorporate them in stories.

If some perverse writer’s demon told me I had to endure major writer’s block, but I could pick the cause, I’d choose the last one—the belief I couldn’t live up to past success. This can afflict writers who produce best-selling first novels. It might be difficult to recapture that achievement. At least that one presupposes there has been past success!

You can find out more about writer’s block from reading this post by Ginny Wiehardt, this post by Jeff Goins, this list of famous author’s comments compiled by Emily Temple, and this Wikipedia article.

I believe cases of MajWB are rare, so you should never have to deal with it. Still, forewarned is forearmed, and now you’re both. Although I’m no doctor, I am—

Poseidon’s Scribe

When Is Your Story Ready?

On one hand, you’re anxious to send your story to an editor and see it published after its many revisions. On the other hand, you’re not sure it’s quite ready yet.

How do you know when you’ve truly finished a story?

writing-vs-sculptureWe could seek advice from accomplished authors. Unfortunately, the various quotes I’ve compiled run the gamut from the ‘don’t edit at all’ extreme to ‘seven revisions might not be enough.’

  • Robert Heinlein: “They didn’t want it good; they wanted it Wednesday.”
  • Laura Lippman: “You have to be able to finish. The world is full of beautiful beginners.”
  • Michael Crichton: “Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”
  • Isaac Asimov (paraphrased from my memory): I write a first draft and never change a word. If they want a five-thousand-word story, I type five thousand words and stop. With any luck, I’m at the end of a sentence.

Thanks, Famous Writers! Great quotes, but not particularly helpful. Next I turned to the blogosphere and came up with some useful posts on the topic by Chris Robley, Dr. Randy Ingermanson, Bryan Hutchinson, Jessica Clausen, and James Duncan. I recommend you peruse those posts at your leisure for more in-depth advice.

Here’s my distillation of guidance from those blog posts, mixed with my own experience. It boils down to your attitude toward the story:

  1. Are you proud of the story? Are you proud enough of it that you’d be happy to see it in print, with your name as the author? If so, it may be ready, so long as it’s not a false pride, and instead stems from the confidence that you’ve done all you can to make the story good.
  2. Are you tired of, or even sick of, working on the story? Your creative muse is aching to move on to something else, and the thought of spending more time on this story is depressing. If this is truly a reaction to working on the story, not the story itself, it may be ready. If you’re sick of the story itself because you think it’s terrible, or you can no longer summon up the enthusiasm you once had for it, it probably still needs work. In that case, it may be best to set it aside for a few weeks or months so you can look at it fresh later.

At some point, you need to decide: (1) submit the story for publication, (2) shelve it for a while and edit it later, or (3) abandon it. Sometimes circumstances will force your decision—things such as an editor’s deadline, the desire for publication, the fickle muse’s yearning for a different writing project, etc.

Sometimes, there’s nothing forcing you to decide and you’re still stuck in limbo, wondering if the story is ready. At that point, you might want to ask yourself whether it’s the story’s readiness that’s in question, or yours. Has the story become a sort of child, one you’re trying to protect from the harsh world out there?

If so, remember: you’re a writer, and writers create stories for readers to enjoy. Time to let that story out, and let it find whatever acclaim or obscurity it will, while you move on to write the next one. You can do this; take it from—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Book Giveaway!

There’s just no way to believe this–they’re giving away copies of a valuable, new anthology. I worked hard to get a story in there, and now someone’s just offering it up for free?

Here’s the deal: check out Goodreads between now and November 11th, and sign up for the giveaway. You might win, and they’ll send you a copy without any fuss at all, without you laying down so much as one thin dime. There’s no justice in the world, no justice at all.

catseye_final-72dpiHere’s the enticing book blurb:

Egyptian cats. Victorian cats. Space Cats. Cat stories in pre-history Mexico, grim magical worlds, during the zombie apocalypse, and a typical neighborhood give a glimpse into the mysterious lives of felines. And each cat, whether friend or fiend, believes in this truth: In a Cat’s Eye, all things belong to cats.

Cat-lovers and readers of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror will find a tale to sink their claws into from an international roster of authors.

Featuring fiction from Jody Lynn Nye, Gail Z. Martin, A.L. Sirois, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Doug C. Souza, Oliver Smith, Jeremy M. Gottwig, K.L. Borrowman, Gregory Norris, Christine Lucas, R.S. Pyne, Steven R. Southard, Joanna Hoyt, Elektra Hammond, A.L. Kaplan, and Alex Shvartsman.

In a Cat’s Eye is purr-fect reading for a dark night–just beware of paws on the stairs.

That mention of “space cats” might be a reference to my story, “The Cats of Nerio-3.”

Anyway, you’re wasting time reading this post when you should be surfing to Goodreads to enter the book giveaway. Go there now. Win the book. There will be plenty of time later for you to thank—

Poseidon’s Scribe