Razor Mountain Development Journal #39

This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead! You can start from the beginning here.

Last Time

I wrote the book description for Razor Mountain.

The Author Bio

Earlier this week, I discussed yet another part of the book that isn’t actually the story: the author bio. This seems like a small thing — and it is, compared to the story itself — but it’s still part of the overall package, and one more little way to sell yourself to potential readers.

If you read that post, you’ll know that I need to craft something short, in the neighborhood of 50-100 words. It needs to be third-person (“Sam is great,” not “I am great”). It should tell the reader a little bit about who I am and what my perspective is, not just where I’m from and what my job is (although these are common defaults in author bios). It should also include a link to my website or social media.

For a first draft, I started with my bio and the tagline on this blog, added a little bit of personal history, and finished off with the requisite bit about my family situation.

Sam Johnston is a software developer by day, and a writer by night. He’s been writing fiction since grade school, when a particularly morbid class assignment had him write a future obituary for himself. “Best-selling author” seemed like a nice way to be remembered.

You can find his serial fiction, ruminations on craft, and radically open writing process at www.wordsdeferred.com. Follow him on Twitter, at @DeferredWords.

Sam lives in Minnesota, with his wife, three children, and one tiny dog.

This is 79 words, right in the sweet spot. However, there are a few things I’m not entirely happy with.

I’m hesitant about saying “it seemed like a nice way to be remembered.” It’s supposed to be a little jokey, but  it might suggest that I’m just writing for the fame and fortune, which isn’t really the case at all. (It’s kind of amazing to me how much fame and fortune the average person thinks most authors have.)

I also decided to rearrange the family bit and the website bit. I’m not sure if it’s worth linking Twitter at all, because 70% of the time I’m just using it to advertise my website. Still, I occasionally post, and it’s another avenue to get people involved. Book Twitter is still a thing, and some people live on that site.

The bio also doesn’t say too much about what I like to write about. That’s largely because I have a hard time nailing down what exactly I like to write about. I like to read a wide variety of things, and I like to write a wide variety of things too. I don’t want to be locked into a single genre (though I tend toward speculative fiction, or at least some element of the fantastic). I know I don’t much like the idea of writing a series of books, because I’d rather write more completely different books that have nothing to do with each other.

After revision, the bio looks like this:

Sam Johnston is a software developer by day, and a writer by night. He’s been writing fiction since grade school, when a particularly morbid class assignment had him write a future obituary for himself, and he liked the idea of being remembered as a story-teller. He thinks the best stories are filled with impossible things.

Sam lives in Minnesota, with his wife, three children, and one tiny dog.

You can find more of his fiction, ruminations on craft, and radically open writing journals at wordsdeferred.com. Follow him on Twitter, at @DeferredWords.

Getting Feedback

The other thing I’ve been looking at this week is pre-publishing feedback. I’m a plotter. I like my outlines and I like to be prepared. So even though I’m planning to post Razor Mountain serially, as I’m writing it, I still want to revise and polish those chapters before they go up.

It may seem a bit odd to try so hard to polish when I’m forcing myself into an inherently seat-of-my-pants process, and maybe it is odd. To me, posting these chapters as I write them just means that I want to make my first drafts as good as they can possibly be. Even if I’m posting as I go, I still want to put the best possible product out into the world.

As much as I like to write, the truth is that I really don’t have any close writer friends. One of the reasons I started this blog was to make more connections with fellow writers. My wife is always my first reader and editor, but she doesn’t write. She can give great feedback about where the story doesn’t work for her. In addition to that, I’m looking for other readers and critiquers, preferably writers as well, who can offer feedback, chapter-by-chapter, before I post.

To that end, I’m looking into a few options. One option is online critique groups. These are websites that typically involve some sort of credit system, where you submit work for critique, and you submit critiques of other people’s work. You need to keep up a certain amount of submitted critiques if you want your own work to get reviewed.

Another option is more like critique match-ups. They’re a bit like dating sites for writers. These forums or services let writers advertise their work and look for other readers and writers who want to critique it, often in a small group or “swapping” critiques.

There’s also one other avenue I’m looking at…

Who Wants a Critique?

…and that avenue is this blog. This is a blog about writing, and you’re reading it. Perhaps you are also a writer with some work that could use revision?

I’m looking for fellow writers to critique my novel, one chapter at a time, as I write them. It’s going to be 41 chapters, and I’m planning to post one per week. So, that’s a commitment of close to a year. However, I’m not looking for charity. I will happily exchange your critiques for my own. If you have short stories or a novel in the works, I’m ready for some quid pro quo!

We’re going to be most useful to each other if you’re writing something in the neighborhood of sci-fi and fantasy. I also expect to do a trial run of a couple chapters or stories, so we can decide if we’re a good fit before making a commitment.

If you’re interested, email me at wordsdeferred@gmail.com, or DM me on Twitter @DeferredWords.


I wrote my author bio. I also did some research into online critique groups. More on that in the future.

Author: Samuel Johnston

Professional software developer, unprofessional writer, and generally interested in almost everything.

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