Three Pieces of Advice for Building a Writing Career

Want to build a writing career? Do these three things.

WRITE. Many people say they want to be writers, but rarely actually write, finish, or publish anything. Don’t fall into that silly trap. If you want to be a writer, write. Write stories, articles, books, whatever you want. Fight through the fear of what other people might think. Write, finish, and publish your work to the world. There’s no other way to learn.

READ. Can you imagine someone saying they want to be a rockstar but that they “don’t have time to listen to music”? You’d be amazed how many “aspiring writers” don’t read. Reading is a superpower. It gives you access to the best ideas of humanity’s greatest thinkers. Read whatever you want, follow your enthusiasm.

MAKE YOUR OWN WAY. There are mountains and mountains of writing advice out there that cover the creative process and the business side. You can easily paralyze yourself by trying to internalize all of it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned writing and meeting other writers, it’s that there is no one path to building a writing career. So don’t waste your time trying to replicate others’ success. The only jobs you want are the ones you have to make up.

‘Null States’ Maps Out the Geopolitics of Tomorrow

My review of Malka Older's new science fiction thriller that brings the future of democracy to vivid, divisive life ran in The Chicago Review of Books. Read the review right here.

Older's series hits the center of my Venn diagram of weird obsessions: imagining the future, gorging on international street food, seeking out crazy adventures, and making sense of geopolitics. She's one of the smartest people thinking about how technology is changing our political institutions and her novels yield deep insights in addition to pulse-pounding entertainment.

For a peek inside her brain, see my in-depth interviews with her here and here. We discuss how our systems of governance are changing and the underlying trends that are shaping the future.

Check out the review and then read her books, you won't be disappointed.

Dystopia is a State of Mind

In the new Scout Incoming Transmission, I ask Cory Doctorow which questions will define the future. Read the interview right here.

He points out our most pernicious assumptions and how we need to update our world views and institutions to accommodate technological change.

We discuss his new novel Walkaway (featured in the latest edition of my reading recommendation newsletter), his activism with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and where he finds strength in his darkest moments.

I found his book and the interview moving and provocative. Give it a read and let me know what you think. I promise it's worth your time.

You can find more Incoming Transmissions from authors like Malka Older, Alexander Weinstein, and Kim Stanley Robinson here.

BANDWIDTH coming May 2018

I just signed a three book deal with Amazon Publishing and my new novel, Bandwidth, will come out May 2018.

Bandwidth is a near future thriller that explores the geopolitics of climate change and how algorithms shape our lives. Imagine Mr. Robot meets House of Cards, with techno utopian activists hacking the global feed to influence the psychology of world leaders.

I'm super excited to work with Adrienne Procaccini, Colleen Lindsay, and the whole Amazon Publishing team to bring the story to life. Speaking of teams, I'm also extremely happy to be partnering with DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim for literary representation. He's a (possibly evil) genius.

(Hot tip: If you come across a possibly evil genius, recruit them.)

To pay it forward, I'm donating 15% of the Bandwidth advance to support Michelle Welsch's incredible work improving education in Nepal. Whether or not our science fiction stories imagine better worlds, we can all do our part to help build one.

More details to come. Join my reading recommendations newsletter for updates.

For now, I’m off to start working on book two.

Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction

My first-ever piece for Harvard Business Review explores how science fiction can help us overcome false assumptions. Science fiction reveals how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be. Science fiction isn't useful because it's predictive. It's useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. This is a topic very close to my heart and I hope you enjoy the essay:

I'd love to hear what you think. Let me know what science fiction stories have changed the way you see the world.

How technology is changing what it means to be human

In the latest Scout Incoming Transmission, I interviewed award-winning writer Alexander Weinstein about how tech influences our lives. Weinstein has so much to say on the underlying trends that shape our future and the most important philosophical and ethical challenges we face. I recommended his stellar debut short story collection, Children of the New World, in a previous edition of my reading recommendation newsletter, "Akin to a literary Black Mirror, each story powerfully illustrates how technology impacts our lives and forces us to confront what it means to be human. In dissecting the future, Weinstein reveals hidden truths about the present."

In the interview, Weinstein shares how he identifies and analyzes the ways technology is changing our lives, what makes the best speculative short stories so powerful, and what we can do to prepare ourselves for a world of accelerating change. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Fun fact: Reading Children of the New World is one of the things that inspired me to write my very first short story, True Blue, which debuted at #1 in its Amazon category last month.

Bound adapts Cumulus into a digital serial with art and extras

I'm excited to finally share a project that's been in the works for almost two years. Matt Hannus reached out to me back in September 2015 after reading the Uncommon Series. Matt is a veteran game developer and told me that he was launching a new company leveraging the flexibility of digital media to tell stories in new ways on mobile. He was hoping to rope me in to develop a story for the platform.

His vision resonated with me. When we read on the internet or on our phones, we read mostly nonfiction: blog posts, news articles, personal essays, etc. But in the world of books, fiction vastly outsells nonfiction: we read many more mysteries, science fiction stories, and romance novels than we do nonfiction books. Why is that? Why do we read nonfiction on the internet and fiction in books? There are as many answers as there are armchair media pundits, but it seems to me that there might be an untapped opportunities for storytelling on the internet.

Fast forward two years. Matt and his team raised investment, transformed their vision into a product, and just this month shared that product with the world. Bound is a new mobile app that combines serialized prose, art and audio with community features from the best storytellers in "geek genres" like science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. The app is available for free in the iOS App Store and you can download it right here.

Bound launched with exclusive content based on the new novel The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, and Purgatorio, a sci-fi adventure series by award-winning author John Shirley, based on the Midnight Star: Renegade mobile game universe developed by Industrial Toys and best-selling author John Scalzi. Bound has also announced agreements with acclaimed creators Gunslinger Studios, former Pixar and Telltale Games creative Stephan Bugaj, award-winning game writer Matt Entin, and writer and linguist Nick Farmer (Nick and Stephan both happen to be friends of mine).

So I'm honored and excited to announce that Bound just released the first three episodes of their adaptation of my science fiction thriller Cumulus (new episodes will come out weekly). Cumulus takes place in a world that we seem to be barreling into. Tech consolidation, ambient AI, crumbling public institutions, escalating economic inequality, persistent surveillance, these are all things that have migrated from science fiction into reality. Bound's platform will bring that world to life, enriching the narrative with original art and extras. If you've read Cumulus, you'll get a kick out of the redacted emails from Graham's Agency operations, scandalous news articles documenting Huian's rise, and even Lilly's Lancer profile. It's been a delight seeing how deep their sourcebook goes, and I can't wait for fans to access it. If you haven't yet read Cumulus... what are you waiting for?! 🤓

We all read books, watch movies, and play games. Bound is leveraging the malleability of digital media to build something new and unique, an example of what the future of storytelling might look like. Check it out and let me know what you think.