Jim Butcher's Blog

January 7, 2015

I don't make statements like this a lot, and I don't really feel like engaging in a huge debate. But there's something I need to say regarding Charlie Hebdo.

God knows I have little in common with the folks who died. I doubt we'd have agreed on very much. Looking over some of their work, I find myself rolling my eyes a lot.

But I do agree on at least one matter with them--they should be free to speak their minds without fear.

I saw this tweet attached to one of the cartoons responding to the massacre:

"Still mortified about our fallen cartoonist colleagues, but free speech will always win."

No.

No it won't.

The history of the human race demonstrates /very/ convincingly that free speech is the /exception/ to the human condition, not the rule. For millennia, those who spoke out were imprisoned or killed. Hell, you could say something that wasn't even subversive, just inept and stupid, and be destroyed for committing the crime of lese majeste.

Make no mistake. What we have today is a level of freedom and self-determination on a scale unparalleled in the history of our species. We live in what is, in many ways, a golden age. So much so that we give tremendous credit to the adage, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

But everyone always forgets the first half of that quote:

"Under the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword."

I'm not sure I know of anyplace that's ruled by anyone "entirely great." That adage wasn't a statement of philosophy, as it was originally used: it was a statement of irony.

Don't believe me? Look around. Notice that everywhere you go in the world, whoever happens to be ruling seems to have a great many swords.

Still, the idea contained within the quote is a powerful one--that intangible ideas, thoughts, and beliefs can have tremendous power. And that's why we should be paying close attention.

After all, intangible fear can be mightier than the sword, too. Hell, it has been for quite a while now. Don't believe me? Try getting on an airplane without taking your shoes off in the security line. While you're doing that, try cracking a joke about having a knife.

That's the power of fear, guys.

We. Are. In. Danger.

The threat isn't aimed at our government or our borders or our resources. It's targeting something far more precious--our identity. It's changing us, who we are, how we live, and not for the better.

The Western world has got the biggest and sharpest sword the planet has ever known, yes. But the extremists are armed with a weapon just as powerful: Fear. And these nuts are really good at using it.

There is /one/ way that freedom, freedom to speak, to choose, to grow, to believe, to improve, survives in the face of violent attack.

Free men and women defend it, violently if necessary--or it dies.

It's that simple. It really is.

If we forget that, if we forget that there are predators in the world who very much want to destroy those freedoms in the name of their god, their philosophy, their politics, if we forget that our freedoms /can/ and /will/ be taken away if we sit staring and do nothing, they are as good as gone.

Freedom doesn't defend itself.

We have to do it.
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Published on January 07, 2015 20:14 • 13,983 views

December 7, 2011

Okay, for the folks who want to know, here's what I'm up to lately. :)

Over the past four months, I've been busy working several different things. First, I've been getting in some quality LARP time on weekends at least once a month. Hooah! It's really cool to not work weekends!

Oh, and some writing too:

First, our LARP organization is putting together a second rules set, one which hopefully will effectively transcend the stickiest problems of the current system. Chapters will be able to run whichever they like, but our hope is to create a system that is so nifty that you can't NOT want to play it. That's been a HUGE amount of work, and is going to be more, but we're getting to the point now where I'm impatient to have it finished because I wanna go PLAY it! It will be some serious fun.

I've done a trilogy of short stories with linked characters in which Bigfoot is Dresden's client. They take place spread out over the length of the series so far. The Bigfoot stories were about 40 percent of a novel in total page length. Then I sat down and wrote out the foundation for two more series: the first was a Black Company-inspired fantasy series which would be a prelude trilogy to my epic epic fantasy epic. The second is a steampunk fantasy series, with lots of airships, crystals, goggles, manners, and Hornblowerism. The steampunk stuff seems to be ringing the beta readers' bells, so I think that will be the next project I go to town on.

But that will probably have to wait. I have at least one more short story to get in before the year is up. It's for the "Dangerous Women" anthology, and I'm leaning toward writing it from Molly's point of view, in the time between Ghost Story and Cold Days. Come the new year, I'll start Cold Days. With any luck, there will be snow on the ground when it happens, and I can write the first few chapters with the only light in the room being reflected from the snow outside. That would be perfect. :)

Someone have a word with the people who schedule the weather, will you? :D

I'm just about done writing short stories. I've got two more next year and maybe one more novelette for the second short story anthology, and then I'm done with them. I need to focus on writing, you know, novels. :)
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Published on December 07, 2011 16:55 • 9,565 views

November 3, 2011

The Most Important Thing an Aspiring Author Needs to Know
---------------------------------------------------------

I've been giving a lot of advice on technique in this journal, an introduction to the craft and science aspects of writing a solid story. Now I'm going to briefly venture off into new territory. I thought I'd start by telling you the most important thing you need to know if you want to be a professional author: TANFL.

There Ain't No Free Lunch.

Nothing worth doing is easy. Nothing worth having comes free. That's as true in life as it is in your prospective writing career, but I think it's important enough that it needs to be said.

Writing is a LOT of work. Breaking into the industry is a torment worthy of the fifth or sixth circle of Hell. Face that. Expect it. Deal with it. It's going to be difficult.

It's difficult from the get go: you've got to work your tail off and give yourself carpal tunnel just to make it to the front of the rope-line outside Club Author. There's no guarantee that you'll ever get in. There probably aren't going to be very many people who are actively supporting your efforts. You'll probably have more than one person say or do something that crushes your heart like an empty Coke can. You'll probably, at some point, want to quit rather than keep facing that uncertainty

In fact, the vast majority of aspiring authors (somewhere over 99 percent) self-terminate their dream. They quit. Think about this for a minute, because it's important:

THEY KILL THEIR OWN DREAM.

And a lot of you who read this are going to do it too. Doesn't mean you're a bad person. It's just human nature. It takes a lot of motivation to make yourself keep going when it feels like no one wants to read your stuff, no one will ever want to read your stuff, and you've wasted your time creating all this stuff. That feeling of hopelessness is part of the process. Practically everyone gets it at one time or another. Most can't handle it.

But here's the secret:

YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD WHO CAN KILL YOUR DREAM. *NO ONE* can make you quit. *NO ONE* can take your dream away.

No one but you.

If you want it, you have to get. You. An author can't help you. An editor can't help you. An agent can't help you. If you want to climb that hill, the only way to do it is to make yourself do it, one foot in front of another, one word after another. It will probably be the greatest challenge most of you have ever faced.

And here's the kicker: THAT IS A VERY GOOD THING.

If you stay the course and break in, you are going to acquire a ton of absolutely necessary skills. You have to learn to motivate yourself to write even when you don't feel like it: Discipline. You're going to have to learn the ropes of the business, and how to work with an editor: Professionalism. You're going to face what might be years of adversity, facing a monumentally difficult task and you're going to overcome it: Confidence. You're going to do it with very little active support, and when you look back at this time in the future, you're going to know that it was something YOU did all by yourself: Strength.

TANFL, guys.

Breaking into the business is a daunting challenge. But you aren't going to BEAT that challenge. You're going to transcend it. The very nature of the adversity is going to give you the strength and skill you need to overcome and succeed.

You want in? Here's what you do:

1) Make up your mind that you are going to protect your own dream. If you've got its back, your dream is invincible.

2) Cultivate patience. Prepare for the long haul. Building your skills to a professional level can take years. So can building your professional character.

3) Put your Butt In the Chair and start writing. Period. No excuses. There is no substitute for BIC time. It's part of the price you pay.

4) When you get done with a word, write another word.

5) Repeat steps 4 and 5 until your dream comes true.

Secret number 2-- THE PAIN IS WORTH IT. If it had taken me TWENTY years instead of nine, IT STILL WOULD BE WORTH IT.

Cause here's what you get: ding.

When it's all done and you're holding your first novel in your hand, you're going to look back at your breaking-in period and wonder what all the drama was about. All the things that wrenched you inside out during the torment will suddenly seem small and unimportant. Know why? Because much like Scott Pilgrim, you have leveled up. Ding.

You're going to look back at that time with pride, having overcome seemingly impossible odds against succeeding. You're going to look at upcoming challenges as if they were a bottle of champagne to be savored and then gleefully smashed.

The true reward of breaking into the industry against all the odds isn't money. It isn't fame. It it isn't respect.

It's you.

It's confidence. It's satisfaction. It's well-deserved pride. Suddenly, the other challenges in your life are going to dwindle as well, because you know you'll be able to handle them.

TANFL.

Ding, baby. Ding.

Go write.
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Published on November 03, 2011 01:20 • 9,455 views

April 22, 2008

How to Get Your Story Started
or
Organizing This Frickin' Mess

by Jim Butcher
**************************

So you've got a great idea for a story. You've got some good characters, some
good plot, maybe a great scene or two in mind. You're ready to plunge in!

If only you could figure out WHERE to plunge in.

Be wise and listen to me, young padawan writer: get a few things organized
first. It'll save you enormous headaches in the long run. I'm going to share
what I do before I start a novel wit
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Published on April 22, 2008 22:11 • 3,079 views

April 5, 2008

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Published on April 05, 2008 21:06 • 848 views

November 19, 2007

Climaxes
********

Caveat, on this article as on all the others: This is not the whole sum of wisdom on writing craft, forever and ever amen. This is intended to be a place for aspiring writers to /start/, a little bit of foundation with which you can begin to develop your own style. If you work with this stuff here, it can be an immense aid to you in developing your skills to a professional level. I know it's true because this is exactly the stuff that I learned, and it worked out all right fo
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Published on November 19, 2007 00:08 • 635 views

December 29, 2006

For those who don't know it, I've stumbled into podcasting now. Well, technically, FRED has gotten into podcasting and I sort of stumbled along after him. The Butcher Block (Fred named it, not me) is going to be a quasi-regular podcast about my books and so on. The first one is all about the TV show, and addresses several fan concerns that have been raised as publicity and details for the show have been released to the public.

Check it out! :)

http://butcherblock.libsyn.com

Jim
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Published on December 29, 2006 13:28 • 557 views

December 28, 2006

SEQUELS

And no, we're not talking about book 2. We're talking about the original meaning of the word sequel--the part that comes after, the next in the sequence. In the scenes of a book, you're getting all your plot-pursuing and action-taking and choice-making done.

Now you get to the hard part.

Getting your reader to give a flying frack about it.

To do that, you've got to win them over to your character's point of view. You've got to establish some kind of basic emotional connection, an empathy
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Published on December 28, 2006 23:30 • 670 views
SCENES
----------

Scenes are important. Scenes are where all the plot in your book happens. Any time your character is actively pursuing his goal (as opposed to a character who is pausing to reflect or react emotionally to the events of the story) he is engaged in a SCENE.

The basic structure of a scene is simple. Your POINT OF VIEW character sets out in pursuit of a SPECIFIC GOAL. Someone else (usually, but not always, the antagonist) actively, knowingly tries to stop him. There is a CONFLICT
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Published on December 28, 2006 12:53 • 532 views
I have learned a couple of things here.

1) You guys are way too kind. I mean, I was mostly posting those reviews because . . . well, they were just MEAN. I mean, for every one of those reviews, I've gotten three or four who were just as down on the books, but who laid out their reasoning for it in a calm, reasoned manner. I don't mind that kind of critique. It doesn't send me into raptures of delight or anything, but it doesn't faze me, either. That kind of thing can really be very useful.
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Published on December 28, 2006 12:43 • 625 views