Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, August 17, 2015

Creativity tip: When you need inspiration, figure out what you need to know


I'm on record saying writer's block doesn't exist.

When I say that, I'm not saying that you won't experience a feeling of idea-lessness or that life circumstances will never get in the way of your writing. Lots of people go through stretches where it is legitimately impossible to write.

What I mean is that most commonly, that feeling of writer's block is just a feeling that you can actually power through.

When you head down that path, the absolute most helpful thing to do is to figure out the problem. Figure out why you can't think of an idea. What is it that you're trying to solve in the book?

Here's what I mean. I'm at a stage in writing my new novel where I legitimately don't know what's going to happen next. And I got stuck. I seriously couldn't think of what to write next. But rather than stare at the blinking cursor of doom, I started creating structure around the problem.

I know that the main character is currently at Point A, and eventually she'll need to get to Point B. So I started cataloguing some of the things that need to happen before Point B. Then I broke it up still further into a series of chapters. I started writing out some of the feelings I want her to experience before Point B, plotting out the ups and downs. I wrote down some of the bigger things I hadn't yet tackled in the narrative but wanted to, such as showing something happening in the broader world.

And I figured out the problem. I need to set a new plot line in motion, and I needed to do more work to get a sense of where she's going before I figure out the next step.

I still don't know precisely is going to happen, but this is the first step toward being unstuck.

Sometimes it doesn't work to confront a lack of ideas head on. It can be far more effective to create some structure around it, figure out what you need to figure out, and then power on through.

Art: Sebastian Hyller by Franz Joseph Winter






Friday, July 31, 2015

How to know when to leave your agent


Not sure what's in the air these days (well, besides nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and the smell of hot dogs seriously where is that coming from), but I've heard from several authors who are wondering whether it is time for them to leave their agent.

Also, I realize that this sounds like a lofty problem for the agent-less, the equivalent of a mansion owner wondering if they should get a new pool to replace the one they have, but I would encourage you all to read this post as well, not only because you may have an agent someday, but also I'm hoping to lay out some of the things you should and shouldn't expect of an agent.

Leaving an agent is a really tough decision, and one you absolutely should not take lightly. You are forgoing an advocate, you could possibly be burning a bridge, and it's incredibly important to act as rationally and non-emotionally as possible. But sometimes it's the right decision.

So. How do you know if you should leave? I'm going to divide this up into good reasons and bad reasons. A HUGE caveat is that every situation is different and you ultimately have to choose the best path for you.

Bad reason: Your agent couldn't sell your book.

Even the best agents strike out sometimes. This doesn't make them a bad agent. Sometimes it just doesn't happen with the first book. If they made a good faith effort to submit it, they did the best they could and it just didn't happen, and they still believe in you, that alone is not a very good reason to leave.

Yes, some agents have more clout than others, but the book itself and serendipity are way more powerful than any agent. If you like your agent and they just couldn't sell your book, I wouldn't hold it against them.

Good reason: Your agent has behaved unprofessionally or unethically

It can be so tricky for authors on the outside to know what constitutes unprofessional and/or unethical in a business that can feel very opaque. Especially one that tolerates a level of eccentricity that would make Edward Scissorhands feel awkward.

But if you find that your agent is being shady or doing something headslappingly bad like blasting your manuscript to 50 editors all at once on the same email thread, have a heart to heart. If they don't have an explanation that satisfies you, you may have your answer.

Bad reason: Your agent doesn't write or call you back immediately

You're not your agent's only client. Days are busy. You have one book to worry about, an agent is juggling dozens.

Give it some time. Be patient. Remember that snails look at publishing and think, "Whoa dudes let's pick up the pace, huh?"

That said...

Good reason: Your agent has gone incommunicado.

You should be able to get in touch with your agent. Maybe not immediately, but within a reasonable time frame. This is actually a very good thing to establish from the outset -- how quickly should be reasonable for responses?

If you try and try and try to get in touch with your agent and you just can't get in touch with them, you may have a problem on your hands.

Bad reason: You want to leave without being transparent about your concerns and giving your agent a chance to respond.

Good relationships depend on trust and communication. If you have concerns, express them. Your agent should appreciate your honesty and have good answers for you.

Especially when so much happens outside of view, and especially because you may not have insight into the customs of the industry, what can seem totally strange at first blush can make much more sense when your agent explains it.

Don't let things linger. If you're concerned, speak up.

Good reason: Your gut is telling you it's time to go.

You've expressed your concerns.

You have given your agent a chance to respond.

You listened to their response in good faith.

You have let some time go by.

You have gotten feedback and perspective from other knowledgable people.

You have reflected.

You aren't taking this decision lightly in the slightest.

You still think it's time to go.

Okay. It's your career. You have to make your choices. If you have acted in good faith, listened, and you just think it's time, it may well be time.

Art: The Signal by William Powell Frith






Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How should authors be paid?


There was an interesting kerfuffle recently as Amazon began transitioning some royalties over to pages read, as opposed to downloads. Will Oremus is one who thinks it makes sense.

It got me thinking. How should authors be paid?

What about all those used book sales that authors aren't compensated for? Library borrowings? Back to the patronage system?

Anyone got some creative ideas?

Art: Money to Burn by Victor Dubreuil






Monday, July 27, 2015

The last few weeks in books 7/27/15

Photo by me. I'm on Instagram here.

It has been a while!

My time has been stretched in the past few weeks due to travel and moving (to Manhattan of all places), but I am now hoping to return to a semi-regular schedule. Hello! Nice to see you.

I've been collecting lots of links over the past few months. Let's see what we've got.

First up, this coming Saturday I'm going to be speaking at the Writers Digest Conference in NYC. There's still time to register! I'll be talking about staying sane during the writing process, which seems like it's not possible but I SWEAR that if you do these things... okay yeah it's not totally possible.

Remember when we all compiled our top 100 movie lists? That was excellent. The BBC went and did their top 100 American movies, and I have to say it's a pretty solid list.

The BookEnds blog is back with a vengeance (well, it's back with some smart and author-informative posts). Some recent ones I took note of are how you should think twice before granting an agent an exclusive, and how if you are seeking publication, it's important that you don't think of it as a hobby, but as a job. That means buckling down, setting deadlines, and pushing through, especially when you don't have the luxury of time. And maybe you should put some thought into your query.

The juggernaut of a franchise known as James Patterson (who also I believe is the name of a writer too), is starting a children's imprint with Little, Brown. And oh by the way Patterson's novels have now sold over 300 million copies.

You're probably not really done writing your book.

E.L. James has a new book out, Grey, told from the perspective of Christian Grey, natch. The sequel I'm waiting for is the novel told from the perspective of Charlie Tango, Christian Grey's helicopter. E.L. James, I'll get you started!
I was born in a warehouse, but I'm so much more than that. They told me I should just fly, hover, do my job reliably, and someday be sold for scrap metal after a long career. They told me I could never attract the attention of a self-made billionaire with a fondness for girls who bite their lips. 
They were wrong. 
I give my inner helicoptress a high five as I settled into the SeaTac tarmac, obeying Christian Grey's skillful, artful commands. If I had a lip I would bite it and shyly mumble my appreciation.
If only they could see me now. 
YOU KNOW YOU WOULD BUY THIS BOOK.

Ahem.

We all know that writing can be a solitary pursuit, and it can sometimes be tricky to get things done at home when there are things like chores and TV and people who call themselves "family members" trying to distract you. Behold, the rise of the writer's space.

There are a lot of writing competitions out there, some more reputable than others. Writer Beware takes a look at some of the red flags.

And finally, do you want to be a beer editor? I mean, of course you do.

Have a great weekend!






Friday, July 10, 2015

Comic-Con here I come!


I'm psyched to be returning to Comic-Con this weekend for two incredible panels!

Check these out...

Tomorrow at 6pm PT in 25ABC I'm going to be hosting a panel on choosing the right publishing path for you:
Authors Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series), Seanan McGuire (October Daye series), Cora Carmack (Losing It) and Elizabeth Briggs (Chasing the Dream series), along with editor Adam Wilson (Simon & Schuster) and literary agent Holly Root (Waxman Leavell Literary Agency), discuss the various options for publishing fiction and how to determine what works for different genres. Moderated by author, former literary agent, and all-around publishing guru Nathan Bransford.
And then on Sunday, I'm hosting a blockbuster young adult panel at 3:45 in 5AB:
Strong protagonists, engrossing romance, humor, action, and angst! Join panelists for this popular annual Q&A session and chat about the hottest new titles and trends in YA fiction. Moderated by Nathan Bransford (The Jacob Wonderbar series) and featuring Alexandra Bracken (Darkest Minds series), Rae Carson (Girl of Fire and Thorns series), Susan Dennard (Something Strange and Deadly trilogy), Alan Gratz (The League of Seven), Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me series), Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), and Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes).
I know!! So excited!

If you're going to be at Comic-Con let me know and/or come say hi. Don't be shy. Unless you're wearing a Greedo costume, in which case you had better watch yourself as me and Han go way back.

See you there!






Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I miss the blogosphere


Where have all the bloggers gone? Long time passing. I want to know.

I miss the blogosphere.

There was a time, between 2007-2009, when everyone had a blog. It was peak blog. Blogspot and Wordpress. Blog rolls and tagging. Blog awards and comments of the week.

I started feeling the decline in 2011, and in 2013 it was really apparent. Now, it's a veritable ghost town.

Maybe I'm just getting old, but I really miss that time. Peak blog coincided with economic calamity, and the entire world was on edge (note: I don't think there was a connection. I think.). But there was something comforting in the sense of simultaneous community and individuality, people pioneering their own space but making sure to check in on what everyone else was doing.

And sure, people are still tweeting and Facebooking and Tumblring, but there was a time when people put their thoughts out there, in detail, took the time to go around and read what other people were thinking, in detail, and left thoughtful comments. In detail.

The blogosphere certainly had its unfortunate flame wars, but it seems like the book portion Twittersphere and Tumblrverse in particular are now optimized for peak outrage, one s***show after the next, with nothing ever meaningful really seeming to come of it.

This is some uncharacteristic techno-nostalgia for me, but I think 2007-2009 was a pretty great time, (Internet-wise at least), when people were putting their thoughts on digital paper and thinking thoughtfully about what other people were writing. And making actual real-life friends! I met some of my dearest friends through my blog.

Am I missing something? Have people picked up and moved to another, better place?

What do you make of the decline of the blogosphere?

Art: Sunland Landscape by Audley Dean Nicols






Monday, June 8, 2015

What I learned about writing from a broken tooth


I recently had quite a health ordeal, and for some reason it reminded me of writing and publishing. Probably because everything does. Bear with me on this one.

A month back, while in the early days of my new job, I bit into a piece of toast and felt a sharp pain in one of my molars. I didn't think that much of it -- I've had some jaw/tooth aches in the past that didn't amount to much -- and I went about my business, planning to check with my dentist if the pain didn't go away. Then, a week later, I proceeded to get immensely sick, coming down with a 104.5 fever. (Spoiler: I survived!)

On top of that, my tooth still hurt like crazy whenever I accidentally bit into something, so as I was recovering from that illness thanks to the miracle of antibiotics, I went to the dentist. Sure enough, I had a broken tooth beyond repair and an infected root. It's probable that my illness was connected to the broken tooth, as a point of entry for some bacteria or another. Annnd I had to have the tooth extracted. Which I really didn't want to do. But I had to.

Now, thankfully, I'm on the other side of everything. My tooth is gone, my gum is healing, I can finally eat normally again, and I'm back to 100% health. Win!!

So why am I telling you this?

Last night as I was eating a delicious crab sandwich without any pain, I got to thinking, "You know what? Having *no* tooth is better than having a broken tooth."

Indeed. And then I saw a commercial for Entourage, which reminded me of agenting, and then THIS BLOG POST WAS BORN.

There are so many times in your publishing life where it's tempting to hold on to something that's broken. Maybe you have an agent who you kind of realize is not a good agent, or you are presented with a publishing deal from a micro publisher you're not totally sure about. But, having an agent is better than having no agent, right?

No.

Just as my broken tooth wound up getting me sick, a bad agent can do immense damage to your career if they send your manuscript around badly. It's harder to find another good agent to take you on, and publishers may not reconsider your manuscript if they've already seen it. They can also set you back from looking for a good agent. And unscrupulous "publishers" out there can take advantage of you financially.

Having *no* agent is better than having a bad agent.
Having *no* publishing deal is better than having a bad publishing deal.

You may worry about the appearances of losing something that felt hard-earned, and no doubt it's painful in the short term, but you have to think of those bad actors like a broken tooth that you need to extract in order to restore yourself to publishing health.

You will heal. You'll get back on track. And you'll realize you're better off. Good riddance, broken molar.

Art: The Toothpuller by Carvaggio






Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How do you keep track of your ideas?


The first rule of inspiration is that the best ideas come to you in the precise moment when you are least equipped to write them down.

How do you make sure you don't lose those ideas? How do you keep track of them?

My method is pretty simple: I email them to myself. Chances are my phone is nearby and if it's not, I'm probably too panicked to have a good idea anyway.

I may have a problem.

What about you?

Art: The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone by Joseph Wright






Friday, May 22, 2015

The best way to thank a writer: write a review


Read a book you love and want to let the author know how much you enjoyed their work?

Do it publicly. Write a review.

It's hard out there for a writer. There is a vast ocean of books, and making yours stand out is a daunting challenge. So when writers hear directly from readers via email -- yes, absolutely, those notes are deeply appreciated, but I've heard more than one writer say they are tempted to shout from the mountaintops, "PLEASE SAY THAT ON AMAZON."

Or Barnes & Noble. Or Powells. Or Goodreads. Or Twitter. Or a blog. Or all of the above. Something, anything public.

Reviews matter. They make it more likely that other people will buy the book, and sales are what will keep the author's writing career afloat. If you love a book and write a great review you can help cancel out those negative reviews and help the author where it really counts.

Sure, don't hesitate to reach out directly to an author to tell them how much you appreciated their book. They'll love it even more if you include a link to a great review.

Art: The Two Sisters by Auguste Renoir






Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How will you publish your work in progress? The results!

With the obvious caveats that this isn't scientific, different audiences, etc., here are the results! How are we planning to publish our work in progress? Let's find out.

After very similar results in 2013...


And last year...


We have a bit of a change this year! The number of people planning to self-publish and not even considering traditional has risen from 10% to 15%:


Though the people who are still planning to go traditional first is still roughly the same.

What do you make of these results? Will these approaches change over time or have people solidified into traditional and self-publishing camps?






Related Posts with Thumbnails