Eighty percent not being a jerk
The 80/20 rule of surviving publishing, and other notes from Moose Jaw
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This month’s essay + recs roundup comes to you from the prairies. Reading time is 8 minutes.
I spent the latter half of last week in the little prairie town of Moose Jaw as a guest of the Sakatchewan Festival of Words. Despite Air Canada’s best attempts to lose me in the Calgary stampede, I managed to get there two days after the festival had begun, and partook in a reading and a panel. During Q&As, a lot of questions familiar to many writers were thrown my way—What inspires you? How did you conceptualize this character? Are you a plotter or pantser?—but one struck a chord with me.
What have you learned about surviving in publishing?
This is a loaded request, in that there is no one answer, and the answers differ for every author. In fact, you may receive contradicting advice and both will still be correct. Surviving the long game as an author is no easy feat—just see how many drop out of the publishing game after their first few books (the average number is 3).
I may have published 4 novels with a few more on the way, but let’s be honest—I’m still out here simply surviving like everyone else. So I thought about it for a hot second, then decided that maybe I could give this audience the three biggest lessons I’ve learned.
Publishing is a business
Define success for yourself
Don’t be a jerk
In Case You Missed It
Did I mention that I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday (21st) and Friday (22nd) this week? On Thursday, I’ll be signing Stranger Things: Lucas on the Line pre-release copies at the Penguin Random House booth (6-7pm, Booth #1514/1515). On Friday, I’ll be on two panels to talk about writing tie-in novels, including the panel above with other Stranger Things authors. (Also: Lucas on the Line releases next week!)
Where to find me in the coming weeks
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Mandel is a fabulous writer, something I learned back when I read Station Eleven for the first time in 2016. You can see this brilliance throughout Sea of Tranqulity, which is really a novel about time-travel and its meaning on the human existence—its closest parallel, for me, is the TV show, Loki. I have my own thoughts about whether the book itself makes for a cohesive narrative as a whole, but I believe that when it comes to these “thought novels” (multi-character, genre-defying stories that span time and space, christened “speculative epics” by Lincoln Michel or “operatic fantasies” by Brandon Taylor), Mandel does well to place one squarely in each place and time, in the mind and matter of the character. So, while I can’t say I left this book with a strong takeaway emotion, the reading journey was quite pleasing, perhaps even near blissful.
🌐 On the interwebs
Fantasy author Kate Elliott on longevity beyond the debut
⭐ This pertinent tumblr note on the “grey area between an Offensive Stereotype and ‘thing that can be misconstrued as a stereotype if one uses a particularly reductive lens of interpretation that the text itself is not endorsing’”.
⭐ Flatbush Misdemeanors, Seasons 1&2
LMAO. This show tackles a lot of dark-adjacent topics like poverty, bullying, incarceration, youthful angst, anxiety, frustrating relationships, etc. So why is it so hilarious? I believe it’s because they almost aren’t even acting. Flatbush is the real “everyday New York” that other New York TV shows attempt to capture, except without the Hollywood gleam.
As you can tell, I’ve been enamored by dramatized audio podcasts lately. These two are my latest jam. Listening In stars Rachael Brosnahan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fame, and Passenger List is spearheaded by Kelly Marie Tran of Star Wars fame. Both are very good, if different, shows. Both are mystery-thriller dramas (without science fictional or fantastic elements, a first for me), but they are exciting in their own way.
⭐ Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
I only recently got one of the new PS Plus subscriptions, which allowed me to nab this game on a free. I hear it’s tough to beat, and I haven’t gone far into it so I can’t say. Honestly, I barely beat games anyway, unless they’re short ones. I just play until I get tired, then I move on to the next, lol. Perhaps this game will be one of those. Until then, I’m really loving the visuals, worldbuilding and storytelling. Gripping.
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