What's worked for me as a novelist*

  1. Live my life, pay attention, ask hard questions, engage in deep conversations, and follow my curiosity.
  2. Notice a story I want to exist in the world.
  3. Write it.
  4. Edit it.
  5. Finish it.
  6. Share it with people who have a specific, personal reason to love it.
  7. Publish it (myself or with a publisher).
  8. Reflect on what I can learn from it.
  9. Repeat.
*I suspect that #1, #5, and #9 may be the most important. The order of #6-#9 varies. Only time will tell if this continues working for me. I reserve the right to switch things up entirely for any damn reason I please. This may or may not work for you.

Complement with advice for authors, my conversations with fellow writers, and finding your voice.

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Eliot Peper is the author of Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Cumulus, True Blue, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. His writing has appeared in the Verge, Tor.comHarvard Business Review, VICE, OneZero, TechCrunch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and he has given talks at Google, Comic Con, Future in Review, and SXSW.

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How Reading Books Instead Of News Made Me A Better Citizen

In this new essay for Techdirt, I share an "attention experiment" I conducted during the 2016 election that was life-changing—and ultimately inspired the Analog Series. The lessons I learned from it feel uncomfortably relevant today.

Here's a taste:
Reading was no longer an exercise in rubbernecking and literature armed me to face the challenges of the present with fresh eyes, seek out other points of view, and put the political turmoil into perspective. Taking ownership of my media diet turned the stories I read into sources of strength, fuel to fire my own personal and public life.
And:
We are what we pay attention to. The stories we read don't just inform, entertain, or inspire, they shape our identities, become a part of us.
Complement with this Chicago Review of Books interview about the power of social media, using science fiction to imagine the future of the web, and imagining new institutions for the internet age.

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Eliot Peper is the author of Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Cumulus, True Blue, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. His writing has appeared in the Verge, Tor.comHarvard Business Review, VICE, OneZero, TechCrunch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and he has given talks at Google, Comic Con, Future in Review, and SXSW.

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Seth Godin's new workshop for creatives

For me, writing a novel is an emotional rollercoaster. Here's the 1980's montage version: bursting with ideas and enthusiasm—>thinking "wow, this one is different in a good way" as I whiz through the first few chapters—>insidious doubts gather in my mental shadows until—>somewhere around the halfway point I have an existential crisis that this book won't, can't work—>after extensive struggle, the crisis resolves into a new understanding of the story itself—>momentum builds until I'm experiencing the excitement of reading the climax even as I write it—>etc.

It turns out that this doesn't get easier. It's a rollercoaster I board ever time I write a new book. The only difference experience makes is that now I know that I'm buying a ticket when I embark on a new story. The rollercoaster is an integral part of my process. I choose the rollercoaster.

Realizing that the rollercoaster is a choice is crucial. It means I'm signing up to do the work. It means that when things get tough, I recognize that the struggle is the work. It means that when fear rears its ugly head, I face it—clear-eyed and even-keeled.

Seth Godin is one of a few extraordinary people who have contributed to keeping my keel even over the course of writing nine-going-on-ten novels. His blog, books, and podcast have been a constant source of energy and a welcome reminder to do what I know is right. So I was eager to volunteer when Seth asked to interview me for his new creativity workshop.

The Creative's Workshop is for writers, designers, and artists who want to deepen their craft together. If it's anything like his other workshops, participants will find it transformative. In Seth's words, "You’ll learn to find your voice, to do work that a professional can stand behind, to make a living while making a difference." Check it out, and then go make good art.

Complement with my advice for authors, how to overcome the post-launch blues, and three tips for building a writing career.

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Eliot Peper is the author of Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Cumulus, True Blue, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. His writing has appeared in the Verge, Tor.comHarvard Business Review, VICE, OneZero, TechCrunch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and he has given talks at Google, Comic Con, Future in Review, and SXSW.

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How CEOs are using sci-fi to imagine the future

Susan Lahey wrote up a wonderful feature for Zendesk Relate on a SXSW panel I participated in last year alongside Malka Older, Kevin Bankston, and Tim Fernholz:
In the 2002 movie Minority Report, the main character walks through a store where artificial intelligence customer service devices greet him by name, ask how he liked recent purchases, and suggest other products—long before that became a reality. And, as Peper pointed out, the Kindle was built to spec from a fictional product in Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. "In fact," he said, "the original program for Kindle was called Fiona after the character who used it in the book."
And:
"Borges was one of the most influential writers for both science fiction writers and computer scientists,” [Peper] said. “Even though his stories were written in the 1930s and 40s, they prefigure many of the weird contradictions that the internet has presented to us both psychologically and sociologically." 
Borges’ stories, Peper said, "are so mind-bending they’re like yoga for your brain. I get super weirded out reading his stories. They read like a puzzle, which makes them super useful for people working on really difficult problems."
Complement with why business leaders need to read more science fiction, what sci-fi can tell us about the future, and three amazing sci-fi writers talk about the future.

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Eliot Peper is the author of Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Cumulus, True Blue, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. His writing has appeared in the Verge, Tor.comHarvard Business Review, VICE, OneZero, TechCrunch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and he has given talks at Google, Comic Con, Future in Review, and SXSW.

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William Gibson on tracking reality's Fuckedness Quotient

I interviewed William Gibson about tracking reality's Fuckedness Quotient, how to avoid terminal shortsightedness, and the creative process behind his new novel, Agency:
I think I’ve learned that we need, individually, to find those areas in our lives where we do possess agency, and attempt to use it appropriately. And it seems to me that’s evidenced most attractively in maintaining an operative sense of humor.
And:
I’ve long assumed that historical fiction is fundamentally speculative. We revise factual history as we learn more about the past, and we alter our sense of how the past was in accordance. Our sense of what the Victorians were about bears little resemblance to our parents’ sense of that. If the Victorians were able to see what we think of them now, they’d consider us mad. Given that, the creation of an imagined past is like the creative of an imagined future, but even more demanding. The most demanding form of science fiction, it seems to me, is alternate history, of which I’d offer Kingsley Amis’s The Alteration as a singularly successful example.
And:
I have a nagging suspicion that evolution (a wholly random process, though too few of us understand that) has left most of us unable to grasp the idea of an actual apocalypse being possibly of several century’s duration. The jackpot began one or two hundred years ago, it seems to me. I myself can dimly recall a world before utterly ubiquitous injection-molded plastics. Toys were of metal, wood, rubber. Styrene was as exotic as Goretex, briefly. I’m yet to discover any record of a culture whose imagined apocalypse was a matter of centuries. I doubt anyone has ever stood out on a street corner wearing a sandwich board reading “THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END IN A FEW HUNDRED YEARS”. Even before we became as aware as some of us now are of climate change, and of the fact that our species has inadvertently caused it, we seemed to be losing our sense of a capital-F Future. Few phrases were as common throughout the 20th Century as “the 21st Century”, yet how often do we see “the 22nd Century”? Effectively, never.
Pick up a copy of Agency and complement with Nick Harkaway on algorithmic futures, Cory Doctorow on dystopia as a state of mind, and look to the liminal.

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Eliot Peper is the author of Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Cumulus, True Blue, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. His writing has appeared in the Verge, Tor.comHarvard Business Review, VICE, OneZero, TechCrunch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and he has given talks at Google, Comic Con, Niantic, Future in Review, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and SXSW.

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Interview on Balance the Grind

Hao Nguyen interviewed me about creative process, motivation, and workflow for Balance the Grind:
When I start something, I finish it. Finishing projects is enormously empowering and propels me forward with tremendous momentum into new projects. It’s a snowball effect for creativity.
And:
I follow my curiosity. I used to read books that felt 'serious' or 'important.' I constantly found that I didn’t have time to read, and that when I did, it felt like work. Then I switched things up and whenever something piqued my interest, I’d lose myself in that rabbit hole until my enthusiasm waned, and consequently waxed for something else. Now I read fast and my intellectual curiosity is insatiable. It’s the primary guidepost that informs my work and life.
And:
Be kind to yourself and others. Lend a hand to others trying to forge their own paths. Notice things you want to exist in the world, and then make them. Share work you’re proud of with people you care about. Enjoy the ride.
Complement with my advice for authors, how cultivating connection can boost your creativity, and five lessons I learned writing Cumulus.

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Eliot Peper is the author of Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Cumulus, True Blue, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. His writing has appeared in the Verge, Tor.comHarvard Business Review, VICE, OneZero, TechCrunch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and he has given talks at Google, Comic Con, Future in Review, and SXSW.

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Ted Chiang on the most interesting aspect of time travel

Past and future are the same, and we cannot change either, only know them more fully. My journey to the past had changed nothing, but what I had learned had changed everything, and I understood that it could not have been otherwise. If our lives are tales that Allah tells, then we are the audience as well as the players, and it is by living these tales that we receive their lessons.
This passage from “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” in Ted Chiang's Exhalations short story collection hints at one of the reasons I love reading science fiction like Chiang’s: Not to catch a glimpse into the future, but to inspect the present more closely, and from fresh angles—learning lessons along the way.

Complement with Danny Crichton's new TechCrunch book club for which Exhalations is the inaugural pick, Alexander Weinstein on the art of writing short fiction, and why business leaders should read more science fiction.

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Eliot Peper is the author of Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Cumulus, True Blue, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series. His writing has appeared in the Verge, Tor.comHarvard Business Review, VICE, OneZero, TechCrunch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, and he has given talks at Google, Comic Con, Future in Review, and SXSW.

This blog exists thanks to the generous support of loyal readers. Become a member.