Thursday, January 7, 2010

Your life is on hold, we apologize for the inconvenience

So, it's been the day from hell today. My employers, a company of just under 100 people, bit the bullet and started the layoffs. All day, waiting to find out where the axe would land, and on whom. We are now a company of 85 people, and hope to still exist this time next year.

Right now, I'm hoping that I've managed to get the worst day of the year over with - and I was one of the survivors. I really feel for those who are now facing an ugly job market and putting their lives back together. Work, whatever it is you do, becomes a very large part of your life - and for writers, working a regular job of some description is usually part of the territory.

Since I'm not in any state to write a post, much less a coherent one, it's open thread time. A few thoughts to kick it off - what are you hoping this year will bring? Any bright shiny new things to discuss? Wonderful new toys?

As always, please stay away from the tar pits, especially the ones with the signs labeled "Contemporary Politics" and "Contemporary Religion". They bite.


Anonymous said...

So, how does one keep the stresses of Real Life from interfering with one's writing? Or is writing a useful stress reducing activity?

I have a tendency to withdraw from Real Life and spend more time inside my head when the outer world is trying to stress me. This is not the best way to deal, as it also involves withdrawal of support from family members who are also feeling stressed and in need of TLC.

On the other hand, I've found that I can put most things in perspective, having imagined, and done to Characters, much worse things than a mere lost job. Or fear of same and compassion for friends who did.

In a work of fiction, you have control. In Real Life, one all too often doesn't.

You can't drag your unemployed self down to the bar and wind up hired as a fashion consultant for Aliens who have just discovered pants. I doubt you'll be building a time machine in the basement, or a space ship in the backyard.

But it helps to think that you just might. As soon as you finish your resume, or the kid comes home from the hospital, or the insurance company coughs up a check . . .

C Kelsey said...

I started a novel over my Christmas vacation. It was a very interesting start. I'd spent weeks planning how it was going to begin, and what would happen. Then, for a reason I'll never figure out, I tried to write a totally different opening. That didn't work.

So back to the original beginning. Except the character (a genetically engineered lieutenant) was supposed to start seeing a lioness around... go all bumbly, and then become a sort of genetically engineered werelion.

Well, obviously, that's more fantasy than scifi, and I want it to be more scifi. So I changed the genetics around a bit. The result is a character going through what is a sort of violent cross between puberty and a hangover whilst trying to walk across the tarmac at SFO. Not what I expected. But very close to what I actually wanted to have happen. Writing is weird.

Oh, and don't forget to read Sarah's Big Idea entry at Scalzi's blog.

Anonymous said...

I cannot bring myself to write well when stressed out. I mean when totally stressed out, not just a little stress that everyone has in life. I don't know if this is a deficit in my ability to cope or what, but I can't concentrate on my story. I find myself telling myself that the story doesn't matter when life is going to Hell in a handbasket.

I've had a very stressful year (frankly, it's been the suckiest in a string of very sucky years), but things are looking up right now. I actually had a chance to decompress over the holidays and life might be making the return trip from Hell in its pretty, little handbasket.

What this means is that I'm excited about several short story projects I'm working on. I've been able to focus on these stories and figure out what I want to do with them. I don't have an answer on all of them yet, but they're at least in a happening stage.

In fact, my most exciting prospect might be the core of a novel that I've been wanting to begin. It's one of these that I might not can fit into a short length, so I'm wondering about a novel.

I'm a little worried about the waste of time though. I've always heard that the first novel for most authors stink, that it's a learning novel. I realize that it might simply be a stage that I have to go through in order to get to a subsequent and better (meaning publishable) novel. From a petulant standpoint however, I don't want a learning novel. I want a novel that might actually have the possibility of hitting the shelves. That's a lot of time to invest for something I know ahead of time won't have the goods to interest anyone.

I know that some authors have publishable first novels, but am I one of those "special" authors? I guess we'll never know until I write it, huh?

Linda Davis

John Lambshead said...

Dear Kate
I remember walking into a room in the late 80s where everyone was given an envelope. Around 40% were made redundant. I survived but there were sure consequences among the survivors.

Anonymous said...

Linda, if you want to write novels, well, you have to write novels. I've got two that will never be published, three with an agent, and zero sold.

I don't consider the time either wasted, or even invested, really. I enjoy writing, for all I bitch about some parts of it. If I sell a manuscript, I'll be utterly elated. If I don't, I'll keep on writing because I enjoy it.

But until I tried it, I really didn't know how. I got a lot of input, mostly on Baen's Bar, and got better, and I may be almost good enough to be publishable.

But you _can't_ get there without practice. You might luck out and, and the first one be salable. Might not. There's only one way to find out.

Anonymous said...


All are valid thoughts on the subject. I guess it's just a change in direction for me, one in which there are a lot of unknowns. At least with short stories, I have some footing. And I enjoy the shorts. The novels are unknown. But, yes, there's only one way to find out.


Rowena Cory Daniells said...


Sorry to hear about the woes of your working life. Here in Australia we seem to have come through the global financial crisis with moderate pain.

Although everything from power to car registration is going up by 15 - 30%, so we are going to feel it this year.

I was listening to a radio program about classical music once and the announcer was describing the life of this composer (can't remember his name). His wife died then he lost both his daughters to illness and during these horrible years, he went on writing the most beautiful music.

I think the things of beauty that creative people make, whether they are books, music or art, are what brings them inspiration and keeps them sane, as well as inspiring others. It is a gift, even if it is hard work at times.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Kate. I have also been on the 'sinking ship'. I technology development company I used to work for that had around 200 employees shrank to 120, then 60, then 40 - and they were mostly executives. I was one of the last to go, but it was not too much fun waiting for the bullet. Like around twelve others I got my marching orders two week before Christmas - some things never change.

No matter how bad things get - just remember you can use all that in your fiction. That always cheers me up.

Nicely put, Rowena.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Linda, sweetie, I wrote EIGHT novels before I was published. One of them has since been published under a deep-undercover name (no, I can't share. Yes, there are reasons for it) did very well, and the next one will probably sell as well (or better) One was rewritten to become Darkship Thieves. NOW, after seventeen SOLD novels, one of them is OBVIOUSLY three or perhaps four novels pressed into one. I need to clean enough time to get a proposal for it written and out there. That one, btw, was the closest I came to publishing while still deep-unpublished. The other five are, I regret to say, not only unpublished but frankly not something I even WANT to write now. However, was the time writing them wasted? No. I made mistakes in them that could have killed my career, had they occurred after one or two publications. Not grave enough to keep me "out" but grave enough to stop me cold with the public (Oh, like having a cast of twelve, all first person. Or having my character do repugnant stuff.) I learned. A LOT.
And Kate, you feel like I did after world fantasy 03 when most of my friends who'd come into the field with me had been "fired" and I had negotiated a side step into mystery but felt like I'd stepped off the Titanic and onto the floating grand piano. I cried for about a week, just in reaction. Exercise helps, as does a good punching bag.

Kate said...


For me, writing is a stress-reducer - up to a point. When the stress gets high enough that I can't write, there's serious trouble brewing because I've just lost my pressure valve.

And while I"m highly unlikely to end up as a fashion consultant to newly Pantsed aliens, I can always take malicious pleasure in redshirting those who cause the stress.

Kate said...

Chris K,

It's interesting how those things evolve, isn't it? Somehow what ends up on the page is never quite what you *intended* to write...

Kate said...


I'm glad things are looking better for you. I can assure you that I am a very special writer indeed. I have unpublishable first through about tenth novels, another five or so maybe with a lot of work, then I get into the ones that are seriously saleable.

Kate said...


I sympathize. It truly is hellish. Today was a bit like walking on eggshells. You end up with a kind of not-quite-PTSD from it, and this open wound no-one really wants to talk about.

Kate said...


There are times with writing when I wonder if the pain really is necessary to give the writing depth. It seems to be the same with musicians and artists and other creative types. We take our suffering and make something magical with it.

Which is not to say that given a choice, I'd pass on the suffering part, please, and just take the magic.

Kate said...

Chris M,

OUCH. And yes, how very, very typical.

It is indeed grist for the mill - it just takes a little time to get past the rawness.

Kate said...


I'm not sure which of us has the bigger collection of unpublishables!

And yeah, it's that kind of feeling, wondering just how long you're going to be floating - and whether you only prolonged it for a bit or there's actually something better waiting.