Friday, May 30, 2008

Dry spell

Seems like there's been a bit of a dry spell where westerns are concerned. It's a good news / bad news sort of thing, though. The bad news is that there really aren't any good western movies or TV shows out right now (reruns don't count). Publishers are getting reluctant to start up anything new and the western sections in a lot of bookstores are dwindling down to the ol' reliables like tried and true series, L'Amour and such. The good news is that this just happens every now and then in this business. Westerns rise and fall in popularity, much like other genres such as horror and private eye fiction. It's a cycle, which means it'll be on the upswing before too long.

Of course I don't mean that westerns are drying up or dead. They're just in a lull. Personally, I think it's funny when anyone says that westerns or any of those other genres are dead (especially funny when they say horror is dead, but that's just irony...or a pun). I've heard this stuff from readers, writers, editors and publishers. Some time goes by, then those same people say the genres are being revitalized by some new movie or something else. Now, it could be that movie or just the mood of readers in general that brings a genre up or lets it fall. Whatever causes it, those peaks and valleys happen. I've written in a good number of other genres and they're all affected by these things to some degree.

There's still work to be done and stories to be written. When readers get tired of a genre, maybe writers should try to put another twist on it or do something a little different. If something's stagnating, shake it up! It doesn't have to be revolutionary, but get out of the rut. Otherwise, you just need to stockpile some stories and wait for the mood to change on its own. Then again, the publishers don't help matters when they are reluctant to buy anything too far outside of their lines. It's the old story of trying something new vs. going with something that's more likely to sell.

Eh, this is why I don't like talking about the business part of what I do. Writers write and publishers do the business end. Some writers are real good at the business angle, but I hate it. I just want to write and write some more. Dry spells come along and sometimes they cause writers to hang up their pens. It's the stuff that drives a lot of writers to the ol' whiskey bottle. Then again, if we tough it through the valleys and make it to another peak, we get paid to do what we love. It's not an easy job, but it's a rewarding one.

Fortunately, I've still got work to do so I'd better get back to it. I've settled on a new title for that Compton book: Outlaw's Reckoning. I like the sound of it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What's in a title?

Actually, a lot.

Usually, I come up with a title before I start a project or get one not long after I'm into it. I like my titles to have some meaning and reference something in particular as opposed to something that just sounds cool without being specific to the story. I like there to be that moment when someone's reading that they go, "Oh, that's where the title came from." It's a dumb little thing, but I always think about it. I've done my fair share of ghostwriting for other series and get sick of stuff like, "______ River Vengeance" or "Hellfire on the _____ Trail". Just fill in the blanks and you've got about six dozen different books in a dozen other series.

I don't always get to use my own titles, which can throw me off. THE MAN FROM BOOT HILL wasn't my original title for the series. I didn't like it at first, but it grew on me and I like it just fine now.

Some titles are happy accidents, like NO ANGELS FOR OUTLAWS. That one just came out as dialogue from Nick's father and I instantly knew that had to be the title for the next one.

Some titles can be somewhat generic, but still very cool and appropriate for the book. The reason I'm bringing all of this up is because I'm trying to think of a title for the next Compton and am having some trouble. I had an original title in mind, but that got shot down. It's fine, because I wasn't too crazy about it anyway. The problem is that nothing else is coming to mind. Oh well. I'll think of something. Times like this, it's always good to just keep chuggin' along and wait for that title to hit you. It will hit you. If little creative things don't hit writers every now and then, they shouldn't really be writers.