It’s been almost a week since Chris and I went official with our announcement of the Official SFF Chronicles Podcast (which reminds me; we will definitely be working on a snappier name for it…) and the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far. One of the initial reasons I had for wanting to do a podcast was to help create something where I retain a sense of control (rather than submitting myself to the endless rounds of rejection that typify a writer’s existence). Another reason was for it to be a learning experience for us as hosts and writers. By talking through certain ideas, topics and themes with other qualified individuals I hoped it would improve our own understanding of them.
These are reasons for doing a podcast, but there’s another reason, and it’s the one that explains why we’ve attached the SFF Chronicles name to it. Though my own successes as a writer have been extremely modest, they’re still not trivial, and having any sort of thing published through the traditional means of publishing probably stratifies oneself in some degree. And my own success have come about almost entirely because of the connections, the understandings, and the relationships that I’ve built from being a member of SFF Chronicles. Will Self once said that, “The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.” To me that’s only a half-truth. Self, perpetually adopting the persona of curmudgeonly misanthrope, probably has to keep such utterances forthcoming to stay on-brand, but he’s at least right about the fact that only you – the writer – can sit down and project the words from your brain to the page. Nobody else will do that for you (unless you’re hiring a ghost writer… but let’s face it, people hiring ghost writers are unlikely to be reading a writing blog). But that doesn’t mean that the process of creating a book is entirely isolationist; in fact to create the best possible piece of art you can it’s required to draw information from other – and the right – sources.
Writing is, like speaking, a means of communication that is searching for the truth, as my esteemed guest Peat might have said a couple of weeks ago. And so you go off, committing words to the page in the hope that once done you’ll have something from which others can derive some meaning, and maybe even some pleasure. Or, at least, you’ll have something from which meaning can be derived. And using others as a resource is a critical part of that.
At least, that ought to be the case. A great many writers seem to believe that things would be better if they kept their works entirely to themselves, and would prefer not let anybody see them until they’re absolutely ready. There’s of course some sense in that in the ultimate form; nobody should publish a book until all the tics and infelicities have been expunged. But unless you’re an absolute genius, the chance that you’re going to create a fully-formed work of brilliance out of their hat on a first draft, and without any sort of input from the outside world, is practically zero.
Then there are the George McFlys of this world, who don’t share their work because they don’t know if they could take that kind of rejection. Unfortunately rejection is part of the ride, and any writer who’s been at it for any length of time will tell you that the rejections do get easier. And very occasionally they’re actually quite helpful.
And a significant number of people still don’t share their work because they fear that people will steal it. I only understood this argument in a vaguely theoretical way; yeah, it could happen, but if you’re a writer inclined to plagiarism you will, if you have any sense, steal from the Stephen Kings and Haruki Murakamis of this world, not li’l ol’ Bob who’s asking you to critique the first five hundred words of the first draft of his fantasy novel.
So splendid isolationism is a bit of a myth. Or, at best, its usefulness is extremely limited. I’ve written four novels now (five if one includes The Book That Shall Never See The Light Of Day, and which is kept in a hermetically sealed cardboard box somewhere on the outer fringes of the plateau of Leng) and sharing them with members from SFF Chronicles in their various stages of draftitude has taught me which novels to keep, which to jettison, and which to develop in ways I simply wouldn’t have considered if I’d kept them to myself. The chances of Man O’War being published would have been nil. There are several Chronners who kindly gave me their time, knowledge and opinions, all of which were fed into drafts of Man O’War and made it publishable. Ditto The Green Man (ok, it’s not published yet, but I wouldn’t even have completed it without input from others). It took a village to raise those books, and I’m pretty sure that goes for all the other books that have been published by members of that site, and most books published by anyone for that matter.
SFF Chronicles has been a source of great inspiration, information, and at times frustration, but doing the podcast for Chrons is a way of sharing information further throughout the community. It’s not like the podcast will have all the answers, but hopefully it will share some ideas about how talking to people about what you’re writing will help to set you on the right path.
We’ve started looking for guests for the Podcast and have secured at least four so far, which is a brilliant response for the first week. I can’t wait to release details of which books and films we’ll be discussing, and with whom we’ll be speaking, but there are a few other things to be sorted out first.
Last week I published the final part of my novella Resurgam here on the blog. Last Friday I published the first chapter of my next novella, The Gigantomachy Of Antonios Costas. It’s kind of set in the same shared universe as Resurgam, though very loosely. This time it’s set in Athens, and features a sort of Lovecraftian, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park style vibe as we follow a group of researchers who go looking for Greek antiquities and treasures after a sinkhole appears in central Athens. I hope you enjoy it!