About six years ago, I was sitting in the audience at ICON listening to Cory Doctorow talking about Little Brother and Creative Commons. I had just finished writing Sand and Blood and my first novel was about to go into the world. Even though I was hoping that Sand and Blood was a runaway success, I knew there was a good chance it wouldn't and the things Cory said resonated with me. In specific, the connection between Creative Commons and the various software licenses that I had used and understood for years (LGPL, MIT, Apache, etc).
When I actually published Sand and Blood, I spent a day trying to decide if I wanted to go with CC BY-NC-SA (like Cory did with Little Brother) or All Rights Reserved like most of the other authors I knew in the area. In the end, I didn't go with Creative Commons and put my book out with all rights. I figured once it “paid out” (money spent on the book was less than the amount I made), I'd switch it over to Creative Commons then.
I always hoped I'd be a great writer and people would love me right away, but that didn't happen. My skill level for marketing and self-promotion is obviously a major blind spot for me.
What little feedback I got pointed out that I had written something that wasn't going to be an instant classic. Hell, it wouldn't going to be a classic or even well-loved. There was usually a comment about how difficult the names were, the abusive relationships, or the fact the main character was most definitely not a hero.
In other words, this review says it well:
This story started out very slow, and the main character, Rutejìmo, was an intolerable dumbass who makes every wrong decision possible in every situation he finds himself in.
I like this review for quite a few reasons. It is honest and to the point on that I set out to make Rutejìmo to be the guy next to the chosen one (Chimípu). Fortunately, the rest of the review made up for the brutal opening:
Graciously, there is a turning point where the story and characters noticeably improve and finally begin to grow on you. I want to keep this review spoiler-free, but I will say that the rest of the story after the turning point more than makes up for any negativity that might have sprung up while reading the first half! It's a story of redemption, growing up, and bravery, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Fast forward to ICON the next year. I'm sitting in the audience of a different room, listening to Jim C. Hines and Scott Lynch talking about expectations. It was a point in my life because I gotten through many of the stages of writing and accepted that Sand and Blood wasn't for everyone but there were still folks out there that may love it, it was just impossible to get my book into those people's hands.
In that panel, one thing I came away was their suggestion:
Write more words and don't be a dick.
I don't know why, but that was one of the things that really pushed me to start on the new plan: to switch the license of my books over to Creative Commons and to start posting them weekly. It was my synthesis of Doctorow, Hines, and Lynch. I figured that it would eventually solve the problem Doctorow wrote about in About Little Brother:
For me — for pretty much every writer — the big problem isn't piracy, it’s obscurity (thanks to Tim O’Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy.
The Weekly Posts
So I started posting Sand and Blood weekly. I figured I'd go with the web comic model, post it free and give the opportunity to support me if they like it. When I ran out of chapters of Sand and Blood, I moved into Sand and Ash and later books.
This week, I hit a major milestone: I've now posted two hundred consecutive chapters on my website. All of them have been in the same setting (Fedran) but they show different parts of the same world, part of my “master plan” for how my stories tie together in a world war:
- Sand and Blood: 30 chapters and 69,127 words.
- Sand and Ash: 36 chapters and 78,803 words.
- Sand and Bone: 35 chapters and 82,749 words.
- Second-Hand Dresses: 44 chapters and 101,045 words.
- Flight of the Scions: 46 chapters and 125,562 words.
- Raging Alone: 9 chapters and 13,852 words (so far).
That comes out to 471,138 words, just shy of half a million. This is my “write more words” that I set out to do almost four years ago. I think I've done that, though probably not in the manner Jim and Scott was considering.
The “don't be a dick” is a little harder. Overall, I'm pretty cooperative. I'm aware of only a few cases where I've been blocked for saying stupid things (almost always stupid in my case, I spend hours going over what comes out of my mouth) but I don't think anything for being malicious. No idea, “being a dick” is one of those things other people have to tell me about; it isn't something I can self-evaluate.
Four years ago, Chuck Wendig's Shit Volcano was also relatively recent in my head. That is why I've been working on getting my novels edited (two phases, one development/line and a copy editor) before I promise a novel to the front page of the main site.
I managed to do that with the three Sand novels but I haven't been able to balance the checkbook to get the other novels edited. I'm planning on that, but there are factors that prevent me from doing that for another year or so (daycare is expensive). I'm always working toward getting those novels edited, the versions on my site are “live” in that I tweak and fix them as I can.
The biggest question is where I see myself in the future. Will there be another hundred chapters? I'm planning on it. Actually, I think I've committed myself to aiming for four hundred chapters which will bring me to about ten years of working in this setting.
This is also the “checkpoint” that I wanted to give myself, to see if I think there is something to writing. I know writing is a long-term project, ten years might not be enough, but I'm hoping that I will get a sense of accomplishment with my writing, be it posts, likes, readers, or even patrons. That is why you might see me reference “this decade” when I describe my writing.
I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out. There are a lot of stories I'm considering. As usual, if you are interested in my writing, consider following me on my website or any other social network I frequent.