Rejecting self-rejection

So… some good news. Not only am I eligible to receive the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, two of my stories are included in the reader anthology, Up and Coming: Stories from the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Writers.

But those stories would not have been included in the anthology if I’d been left to my own devices. More than that, I probably wouldn’t have been acknowledged as eligible if I not for a fortuitous push from my writing friends.

When I finish a story or an art project, I’m usually incredibly pleased it. I’m proud of the result.

… for like, 17 seconds.

After that, the narrative changes.

“I hate it.”

“It’s stupid.”

“The whole idea was kinda stupid to begin with.”

“Anyone who sees it will undoubtedly think that I’m stupid.”

“This new project I have in mind is way better, and I probably should have been working on it instead.”

I’m far more likely to trunk a story than I am to submit it for publication. And awards contention? That’s never even been on my radar. Awards are for the authors that I go out of my way to find and read.

So when the call went out for Campbell-eligible writers to submit their published works, I read the announcement and associated qualification criteria with a detachment that was too bland to be wistful. I thought, “Some day… some day.”

But according to the eligibility requirements, my clock was already ticking. ‘Some day’ had arrived.

A new writer is eligible for the Campbell for two years following her first qualifying sale in a professional market. That’s it. Then the window closes. And my first thought was, “I won’t submit. But maybe next year. Maybe. If I have some better stuff published.”

I took myself out of the running after barely even acknowledging my eligibility.

Luckily, a special guest sat in at my weekly writing group meeting. Mary Robinette Kowal is both a Campbell and multiple Hugo Award-winning writer. My writing group have all attended Mary’s seminar courses, and the Campbell anthology came up when she joined us for our online meeting.

As an aside, I’ve benefitted from several of Mary’s writing classes. If you’re quick enough with a computer to get in before they fill up, I highly recommend her as an instructor.

Go.

Go, now.

Find her online at maryrobinettekowal.com or @MaryRobinette on Twitter.

Aaaany who… I mentioned that I wasn’t going to submit for publication in the anthology and she slapped me around for being a dolt. The gist of the admonition being, “Don’t self-reject.”

Which seems obvious and true. I mean, if you never ask an editor to publish your work, the answer is by default a no. They don’t even get the choice if you’ve already drafted the rejection for them. The same is true for awards.

Submission, rejection and resubmission are elemental components of success as a writing professional. But I’m so good at giving myself reasons not to participate in final, commercial activities of a working artist.

Why is that?

For one thing, words on a page are a poor reflection of the iconic imaginings in a writer’s mind. I’ve found the same to be true of music, and perhaps this is something endemic to artist pursuits of all varieties.

I believe Guy Gavriel Kay had the right of it when he said, “I don‘t know a serious artist in any field who does not wrestle with the limitations of their own talent and energy, the space between the imagined work and what is produced.”

My own stories – irrespective of how well others appreciate them – always fall short of my expectations, even if only in some small measure. That they will always fall short is something I need to become better at accepting.

The harsh clarity of hindsight is another challenge.

I’m always learning some new piece of writing craft. It’s super easy to look back at completed works through the lens of whatever writing-nit I’m currently picking away at. The older the story, the more nits I have to pick.

Combine rear-view cynicism with a chronic excitement for each new, shiny idea and it’s easy to see how completed works struggle to compete against the vision of future accomplishments. I find it way too easy to write-off a good story as ‘just practice’ or ‘an interesting learning experience.’

But self-rejection is a miserable return for the investment of effort that the creative process demands. So rather than let my two-year window of Campbell Award eligibility swing shut, I’ve pulled aside the curtain and thrown the shutters wide.

Two of my stories appear in the Up and Coming anthology. I’m super excited to share those pages with friends I’ve made at writer conventions, classes and seminars.

Writers like Marin Cahill and Sunil Patel who attended the Writing Excuses Retreat with me in 2014. Jeanne Kramer-Smith who was in my first-ever writing class. Jamie Gilman Kress and Kim May who I met at my very first Worldcon in 2013.

I’m under no illusion that I’ll win the Campbell Award; that honor will be reserved for a writer better equipped to compress the gap between their imagined work and what manifests on the page.

But I’m part of a freshman class of blossoming science fiction and fantasy writers. I’m proud of that. And I’m very thankful that I didn’t pass on the opportunity to be included in the anthology or our debut works.

The Up and Coming anthology is free to download and available only for the month of March, 2016.

My short story The Doom of Sallee is a historical fiction about Barbary pirates and North African politics. It is set in Eric Flint’s 1632 universe and appeared in the November 2015 issue of the Grantville Gazette.

Brothers In Arms is a novella written for Star Citizen’s Jump Point Magazine. It is a tale of two ne’er-do-well brothers trying to go legit on the edges of colonized space. It was originally published in four parts starting May of 2015.

Best wishes to all the new writers out there, whatever your genre might be. And remember, don’t self-reject! I look forward to reading all of your work for many, many years to come!

 

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News post on Droblar.com

Panel six is up over at Droblar.com and we have our first good look at Dani running from the wolf. I hope everyone is enjoying the story so far.

I’m both surprised and intimidated by the traffic that Droblar is getting. I’m definitely motivated to hold fast to the schedule and to keep the quality of the artwork and writing the best I can make it. Each week feels like a scramble, especially with my commitments to novel and short story projects. That said, I’m still very much enjoying making Droblar.

I wrote a news post to accompany this week’s update. I’m reposting here so that readers of the blog will know that I’m writing text updates to go along with each new panel now. This first post is a little longer than what I think will be the norm. It covers the following:

  1. News updates
  2. Publication times
  3. Image resolution

News updates

As I mentioned, I’m including a short post (shorter than this one) to accompany each new panel. I think it will be a good way for me to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on with the project. It should also save some time answering everyone’s questions. Maybe someday we’ll get some Droblar forums set up. Until that works out, please keep the comments and emails coming. I am surprised and flattered by each and every one. My hope is that a little news-snippet with each update will help people follow along and allow new readers to get caught up. I’m certainly still learning as I go, so let me know what you think.

Publication times

So… my publication schedule is “every Tuesday”. To date, this has meant midnight on Monday. I’ve been excited to get each post up as quickly as possible. The pages take a ton of work to make and it’s pretty rewarding to see them go live.

However, I’m not convinced that midnight Alaska-time is the best time of day to publish. I’m going to play around with the timing on the updates and the announcements over the next couple months to see what gets the best response. I really don’t like to self-promote. I know that I need to, but it’s work to make myself do it. I’m also allergic to spamming Twitter and Facebook with update notifications. I need to wring the most coverage out of each notification.

If you notice the update time changing, that is why. I’ll still update each Tuesday, the exact time of day will vary a bit for the next dozen or so updates.

Just FYI.

Image resolution

Huge shout out to Dave Hamp ( @thedavidhamp ) for suggesting that I up the resolution of my original artwork.

The Surface is great. I love it. But I’ve missed the fine detail that I get when drawing by hand. I’ve been drawing the panels at 600×800 and 300dpi and then saving down to 150dpi JPEG.  It’ve been somewhat frustrated that everything has been coming out looking thick and blocky.

Dave suggested some changes and I’m super enamored with the results. This week’s panel was drawn at 300 dpi again, but I upped the image size to 1800×2400. It takes much more time to illustrate at this resolution and I think the result is totally worth it. I hope you all enjoy it as well.

Check out Droblar.com and let me know what you think in the comments! =)

Drive Write: Droblar.com Launches

Drive Write podcast

Drive Write: Episode 12 – Droblar.com Launches

This week on Drive Write, I give a mid-month update on my NaNoWriMo progress. I also introduce (formally, and kinda/sorta for the first time) the Droblar webcomic. I talk about why I started drawing, how the story came to be, and some technical and scheduling challenges that I’m learning to navigate as I go.

The artist I mentioned who got my attention focused on #SundaySketch-ing is Jake Powning. Find Jake and examples of his incredible swordsmithing at his website.

Enjoy, please visit the comic site at droblar.com, and feel free to leave questions/concerns/critiques in the comments.

Three More Sleeps…

Three more sleeps and then I launch the Droblar web comic. (-_-;)

    That’s me sweating bullets, by the way. ^

Thanks Google for the emoticon.

I have to admit that I’m nervous. I’m not sure how to pace the script. I’m not sure how to pace the artwork. I don’t want to draw every movement – functionally animating the darn thing. I don’t want to be too sparing with the artwork and run the risk of leaning too heavily on narration.

… but wait, there is yet more rending and gnashing.

I’m still learning how to draw. I’m still learning how to illustrate on my Surface Pro 2. I know how I want all the characters to look but there are still several that I’ve yet to draw. Like… even once. I also most certainly do NOT have anything close to 360° references for, well… any of them. Nor do I have a handle on conveying emotional states in the artwork.

Let’s face it. I’m completely winging this.

You know what, though? I’m launching on Tuesday regardless.

I like the story. I want to share it.

I had a chance to talk to Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary and Writing Excuses fame at WorldCon this past September. I attended a small group meet ‘n’ greet called a coffeeklatch. In fact, it was the morning after the Writing Excuses cast won their Hugo. The coffee was attended almost exclusively by fans. That’s cool and all, but I was hoping to talk nuts ‘n’ bolts about graphic novels and web comics.

My disappointment was short lived, however. Howard took an extra 15-20 minutes after the scheduled meeting to talk one-on-one with me. Thank you Howard for being cool like that. Anyway, I think the conversation was instrumental in pushing me from sketching scenes from the story to actually telling the story.

Much of the conversation can be summed up as, “Get over yourself, Andy. Stop inventing artificial hurdles and excuses to not share the story.”

So… I’m not.

I’m diving in with plans for success. If things go pear-shaped, I’ll regroup and adjust accordingly. But for now I am going to give it my best and be content (if not happy) with the results.

Another thing that Howard mentioned really stuck with me. Interestingly, it was nothing more than a passing aside during an unrelated conversation with a fan during the coffee. The comment was that you’re never going to be happy with the artwork. I think that’s true. I’ve spent enough of my life engaged in various artistic endeavors to know that the more you know, the more you realize there is to know – and to learn.

Artwork is like that. I’m absolutely certain that when I post the 200th panel for the Droblar story, I’ll look back and wish like hell that I could take a mulligan on panels 1-199. But I won’t. I’m going to do my best and I’m going to tell this story. I need to get it out of my head and onto the page. By the time I finish it, there’ll be a dozen more clamoring to get out. I’ll take what the Droblar teach me and those future stories will be the beneficiaries of the lumps, bruises, and learning experiences that I’m sure to encounter over the next several years.

This is a big commitment, but I’m excited to see where it goes. My goal is still to publish only once a week. We’ll see how things go. As I get better with the characters and with my tools, perhaps I’ll be able to up that to twice per week. If I do, fans of the Droblar and regular visitors to the site will be the first to know.

Dani Miller and the Droblar are coming. Drop by droblar.com on Tuesday to say hi, and please accept my thanks for all the support!

The Droblar Are Coming

Unless you’re very, very new to the site, you probably know that I’m working on a graphic novel for my kids. I’ve decided to publish it as a free webcomic online at Droblar.com. The plan is to launch Droblar on Tuesday, November 5th. From that point on, I’ll update weekly on Tuesdays.

Where I’m at right now

The Droblar are coming!I’m still playing with the process of digitizing the artwork. Currently, I draw the comic in pencil on paper and then ink it by hand. From there, I scan the inked artwork into a cheap Photoshop knockoff for coloring and type setting.

Needless to say, it’s not the best system and I’m certainly not taking advantage of the best tools.

So!

Later this month I will receive a shiny, new MS Surface Pro 2. I will name her Igor and she will assist me in bringing my abby-normal creations to life. She’ll have a swanky, touch-sensitive stylus, a fresh install of Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro, and a steep learning curve.

My goal?

Master the derned thing as quickly as possible so I can settle on a coloring/typesetting process. If I can avoid shelling out the $50/mo for Adobe’s CS suite, then… uh. Good!

I can see now why artists need kickstarters for their projects. If you want to do something well and on a schedule, it takes planning and a budget. Go figure… o.O

So that’s where we’re at. Igor should show up toward the end of the month. Until then, I’m drawing deeper into the story. I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to get faster. And I’m trying to tell a better and better story.

Cheers and stay tuned!

-Andy

Too excited not to share

Ok. Ok, ok, ok.

I probably shouldn’t be posting this, but I just gotta. I’m way too excited about the project not to share.

This is only a test panel for stylistic choices, pallette selection, and whatnot. For instance, I know this isn’t the font that I want to use. I’m not sure yet about the dimensions. Etc, etc. Blah, blah, blah.

BUT STILL! They live! My little droblar guys are live, inked and in color!

As soon as I figure out how I want to publish the story, I’ll start posting them to a dedicated website. I already have one reserved (droblar.com), but for the near future these little fellas will live only on the blog. Also, new panels won’t come out very quickly as I only draw on Sundays.

I’m rambling.

Aaaaanyway, the story is finished. All that’s left is to draw it. And I’m awfully excited to say that it will look…

something…

like…

THIS!

Droblar - Page One