Had a great time at the signing for Destination: Future at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. There was a pretty good crowd there, a really intelligent, engaged audience which was great, My favorite part was the question/answer session afterward, in which I got to pretend that I know what I’m talking about when I talk about writing.
One of the questions was, if I understand it correctly, why do we write for the traditional model of publication? Why not just write and put stuff out there on your own, on the internet, or through self-publishing, etc?
For me, I submit my work for traditional publication because I think the gatekeeper is valuable. I want another person’s eyes on my work because if I don’t get that I don’t have any way of knowing if it’s any good or not (fun fact: all writers secretly think their work is terrible). And it’s the only way the work can get any better, having that other person helping with the process. This is, again, where I talk about what a wonderful editing experience Destination: Future was, working with Z.S. Adani. Sue Blalock supplied the best way of summing all of this up: validation. Having someone actually pay you for your writing tells you that, maybe, you don’t actually suck ALL the time.
Another subject was (and I can’t remember if this was a direct question or something that just came up), what parts of writing flow easily, and which ones take a little more effort. Jay Lake says that all writers come with a few cards already in their deck: plot, characterization, dialogue, setting, etc, and spend the rest of their careers developing skills to complete the set. For me, Character and dialogue seem easier, but I am still really hopeless with plot. I can come up with characters and a situation, give them obnoxious things to say to each other, but when it comes time for the action to start they just kind of look at me waiting for something. The novel I’m currently revising was a direct result of my trying to get good with plot and at this stage of the process it’s still a bit (?!) of a mess. The story I’m trying to finish right now is having similar difficulty coming to a sense-making ending. There are times when it’s really temping to lay out all the options and get out the ten-sided dice, but I’ve actually done that once, and the result wasn’t pretty.
All of this to say, I still can’t believe that sometimes I get to go to bookstores, read my work, and sign books. It’s only through the spazz-wrangling of my wife and some pretty good pharmaceuticals that any of it happens at all.
Oh, and I need to mention that awesome parallell parking job my wife did with a mini-van in the miracle space right in front of the bookstore. Parking in SF can be it’s own kind of horror.