East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing a little/Writing a lot


Yesterday I overheard an interesting discussion, and that’s what I’d like to tell you about, but first, a heads-up.

Writing_a_Novel_Cover_FinalI mentioned in the past the StoryBundle as one of the tools that I am using to keep reading in these times of money shortage and other disasters.
They have an offer up called The Write Stuff Bundle 2017 which is highly recommended – you get books about writing by the likes of Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lawrence Block and Dean Wesley Smith, among others. You also get an 80% discount on Writer’s Café, an excellent writing software. You don’t pay much, and a share of your money goes to a charity.
Nice and smooth1.

Now I mention this because the bundle includes Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing a Novel in Seven Days, that is quite fun to read, and proposes a very interesting challenge.

Which brings me to the discussion I overheard yesterday, the gist of which was

It is better to write just a few stories rather than write a lot, what really matters is that the little you write you sell to a big publisher and then you land a big prize

And this is a theory I do not subscribe to.

I think I already bored you to distraction with my theory that self-publishing and digital publishing have brought us back (or forward) to a new age of pulp writing.
Not just in terms of contents (which is debatable), but in terms of practice: writers writing a lot of stuff, fast, and selling it for cheap, covering those niches where the readers are, and finding a way to thrive (or maybe just survive) in the proceedings.

ray-bradbury-writing-quoteSo, my rationale is, the more I write, the more I sell (hopefully).
It means writing a novel in seven days (I did it once, and would love to do it again2), it means putting in eight hours a day at the keyboard, it means being on it 24/7: taking a walk thinking about the dialogue, cooking dinner while searching for a way out of the corner in which I painted myself
It may mean using two or five aliases, not so much to hide my identity, as not to saturate the market.
It may mean doing work for hire, or work with publishers once in a while.
But it’s all part of the package, and it’s a work, and it’s fun. And sometimes it pays.
The trick being, of course, to turn that sometimes into often, possibly always.
But basically, in my world, word-count equals earnings, and it’s OK like that.

The alternative, the single once-in-a-while novel sold to a big publisher that makes a splash, gets you a national prize, puts on the telly, a lands you side gig writing for a newspaper or a magazine is something completely different.
The key word being make a splash.
It’s not about hard work and getting the words right, but it’s about marketing.
And it means it takes effort and success out of your hands, and puts them in the hands of the boys in marketing, and makes you a pawn in a game that has very little to do with writing 3.
And I don’t doubt a big publisher likes this model a lot – because it means focusing publicity and production on a single title and a single writer at a time, trying to funnel all the readers in that direction. Big numbers, big money. Also, the award-winning writer that made a splash becomes an on-demand worker, writing a new book only when the market can’t flog his earlier work anymore. In the interim, let him pay his bills with his weekly column on the local newspaper.

Indeed, I know a couple of fine writers, here where I live, that are being given a hard time by publishers because they write too much.
But if the stuff you write fulfills readers requests, if the guys are buying everything and keep asking for more, it’s not too much at all, right?

Or am I missing something?
(the comments are open as usual)

  1. For the sake of balance, I might also point you to the Humble Bundle site, where they are selling a ton of books and audiobooks by Brandon Sanderson, that are highly recommended and you might like to check them out. 
  2. I’ll have to get back to this in a future post. 
  3. this is not to diss award-winning colleagues, far from it – what I mean is, the number of variables in the big publisher/awards model are just too many, and a lot of those are out of the writer’s control. Which is something the writer should be aware of. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

7 thoughts on “Writing a little/Writing a lot

  1. Personally, I’ve always been a short story kind of guy. I don’t have anything against novels per se, but I just always enjoy a well put together short story. My second choice being a novella/novelette.

    Although going back to the 70’s and 80’s when you used to see all those action series, short novels that ran in the 160 page length, mercenaries, western gunfighters, spy/espionage. etc., those weren’t too bad either.

    I originally picked up on your writing at swordandsorcerymagazine.com with “The Altar of the Toad”. I then proceeded to get al the Aculeo & Amunet kindle books from Amazon.

    I’ve since bough the first ‘Hope and Glory’ as well as ‘Bussafusco’. Personally I enjoyed them both, with my preference being for ‘Bussafusco’. An issue I had with ‘Hope and Glory’ was that within the individual chapters some of the transitions between the scenes were a little abrupt. As if they could have been fleshed out a little more. Almost as if you were under time or maximum word count constraint. Otherwise I enjoyed the premise and the steampunk backdrop.

    Anyway, as a short story aficionado, I vote quantity!


    • I’m totally with you about short stories, novelettes and 160-pags novels: I can still enjoy a big fat novel, but these days I really prefer something short and fast.
      Thanks for reading my stories.
      About the first Hope & Glory story, I think I was actually trying to pack a 25.000 words novella into a 12.000 words novelette 🙂
      It was the first story I wrote for the setting, and I was experimenting with a lot of things. Hopefully, the next stories will run a lot more smoothly 🙂


  2. The big problem with getting short stories out there anymore is that there really aren’t any venues left. All the old magazines and digests such as Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, etc, as well as all the fanzines that were out there in the 60’s, 70′, and 80’s all died in the 90’s.
    Sure, you still have quite a few digital fanzine/blogs out there, but it’s just not the same. E-publishing provides an outlet, but the key is being able to get some name recognition so that people will actually look for your stories.
    In any event, I see by your latest blog post that the new Bussafusco is coming along, so I’ll keep my eyes open for it over at Amazon.


    • For self-published stories, there is little that can be done apart from blogs and social media, and hoping in the word of mouth.
      But there are a lot of good magazines still operating out there, both in print and in digital format. The real problem is the competition. There’s a lot of good writers out there 🙂


  3. I’m really enjoying Tor novellas at the moment. As a sci-fi/fantasy fan, I got fed-up with ploughing though giant bricks of books and the novellas are a nice antidote. I particularly liked Angela Slatter’s ‘Of Sorrow and Such’, Emily Foster’s ‘The Drowning Eyes’ and Paul Cornell’s ‘Witches of Lychford’.

    Tor’s website also publishes short stories on it, many by well-known authors. The cover artwork is also impressive as well. I usually print a couple off to read and they nicely occupy a lunch hour!


  4. Pingback: Marathon or 100 meters? | Karavansara

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