MaxBarry.com
too cool for school

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Wed 17
May
2017

Ask Max: Normal Service Resumes

Writing

hello?

Normanshire

Hello! Hi there!

Crazy thought, have you ever considered banging out books Heinlein style? One draft, then DONE. Launch it and go to the next, and the next, and the next. Get 10 books done in the time of 1. if 50% of people don’t love it, you are still 5x better off than 100% liking that x10 draft work. And honestly? I bet 80% of the people will STILL love your work. The only person stopping you is that unfair critic glaring from your mirror. Tell him to piss off and let you write!

Yet another aspiring writer

I appreciate the support, Y.A.A.W. Thank you. But I have to say, I would rather set myself on fire. First, I think you’re being very optimistic about how many people would like the pieces of crap I produce as early drafts. You may think otherwise, but remember, I’ve seen them and you haven’t.

Second, and I offer this by way of explanation, not as excuse, I like messing around with stories by myself. That’s super fun. Showing them to people is the worst part, because they stop existing as beautiful imaginative creatures full of wonder and possibility, and turn into chunks of paper with plot holes and unclear character motivations that need a lot of work. I like publishing books, and I agree I should do it more often, but it’s just so tempting to sit and write drafts instead.

Do you like peanuts?

Jordan P. Johnson

They’re okay. I don’t dislike them. Me and peanuts have nothing to say to one another.

Hey Max, have you noticed that the Swiss company “Allevia” has been liquidated and no longer exists? re: “Allevia: So Sue Me (Dec 2006)”.

Anon

I did not know that! Huh. I guess I showed them. I mean, I’m not trying to take credit for bringing down the company. But, you know, they tangled with me, and now I’m here and they’re not. So I basically brought down the company.

Hello, Will you be answering my question. Of course not this question. As that may become rhetorical. But the question I posted prior to the question I just end posted in this post.

Darius Trappernicus

No.

Could you write a Multi Ending Book? One that allows the reader to make choices as they read. With a range of unique outcomes.

Darius Trappernicus

Oh, wait, it’s you again. Then yes, I will answer it. No.

I mean, that’s almost NationStates, isn’t it? That’s pretty close.

Which stance did you take? Trump or Hillary? Or moderate?

Thomas Laszlo

I am perfectly moderate and the rest of the world is extreme, like everyone thinks. I think Hillary would have been a good President. You would have gotten sensible, incremental improvement with Hillary. She would have finished with historical low approval ratings because a lot of people were super aggravated by her very existence and would have beaten the drum until it drowned her out of office, but still.

Trump, on the other hand, was the kind of person I thought the US would elect in about twenty years, right before Fahrenheit 451-style parlor walls and the Apocalypse. Years ago I regularly watched The Apprentice, and each episode a team would go into the boardroom to face Donald, who would quiz them on their performance and then invent a completely unrelated reason why one person was to be fired. The logic never held from one episode to the next, so one week being cautious might get you fired and the next it would win praise. So in that sense, it was a useful allegory for the randomness and cult of personality of the business world. But also it made clear that Trump is basically a collection of amoral pathological psychoses tuned for self-aggrandizement. Which is not ideal in a President.

I do wonder if there’s a more evil version of Trump, though. Because Trump isn’t very calculating. A lot of the time, his main objective seems to be to feel important. Also often he seems to believe what he says and then just doesn’t want to admit he was wrong later. So I wonder if you can take that bluster and shameless populism and set it in someone with more self-awareness, who does it on purpose. That would be pretty evil. Maybe Trump opens the door for that kind of person.

On the plus side, though, it’s been a fantastic six months for journalism. Not long ago, everyone hated the media and journalists were hopelessly compromised click-bait merchants in a dying industry. Now they’re saving democracy. I mean, they’re also hopelessly compromised click-bait merchants, but as an institution, the media has been a real credit to the nation. I think there’s a lot to be proud of there.

See, a more evil Trump would have wedged the media with patriotism, rather than attacking them directly. You attack the media head-on, you’re injecting adrenaline directly into the veins of everyone who ever thought they might like to be a journalist. You go to war, you get attacked, then the media has to shut up and support the troops. That’s what Evil Trump would do.

Australians in total need to reevaluate their leaders.

Michael

That’s not a question. HEY, IT’S CALLED “ASK MAX,” NOT “MICHAEL MAKES STATEMENTS.”

Do you ever write funny short stories and then sit in the corner of your bedroom giggling to yourself?

Greg

Not short stories. But with novel scenes, and in my study, when I’m rereading. When I’m actually writing, I’m staring at the screen with an expression like your psychotic ex-boyfriend peering through your bedroom window. There is no giggling at that point. But reading it back, I try to put myself in the headspace of someone who’s reading it for the first time, and if I do that successfully, then yes, I do admit, I sometimes giggle and guffaw at the wit of the fellow who wrote these words, whoever he is.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Adam Willard (#4231)

Location: Madagascar
Quote: "What unseen pen etched eternal things in the hearts of humankind... but never let them in our minds?"
Posted: 543 days ago

You know, you say we haven't seen your rough drafts (but you have)... but wasn't the first version of Machine Man literally a rough draft you cranked out one day after the next? That was really good. Sure, there were a few plot holes and the ending felt a bit rushed... but man, it was a really enjoyable read! I've shared my feed with several people and they've all really enjoyed it too. I honestly enjoyed a few aspects of the serialized e-mail (rough draft) version more than some aspects of the final polished version. I did still really enjoy the final polished version as well, but after reading the rough draft, I *was* disappointed in a few of the changes (and also very pleased with some of them).

Anyway, just saying: Y.A.A.W. might be right - there might be a lot of people who might really appreciate your rough drafts.

I like telling people you're one of my favorite modern authors, but then I'm like: well, it was years ago the last time I read one of his books. Oh, and he really only has a few books. But they're all good! Not cranking out the rough drafts and submitting them for publication definitely mean you've got that going for you. Maybe you could have an alternative pen name where you self-publish the "junk" that you decide not to turn into final novels (and you only tell your fans here about what your alternative set of work is - or you leave us to guess). At least that would keep the name of Max Barry unsullied - you'd still have a perfect (but short) streak of really good novels!

Jake Thiele (#3766)

Location: Missouri, USA
Quote: ""I'm blowing up the whales on the gravy train." --Ozzy Osbourne"
Posted: 542 days ago

You could just release the unedited copies under an alias, such as Maxxx Barrrry or something. wink wink.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 542 days ago

@Adam: Good point. I had forgotten that. Yes, the MM serial was basically a first draft in motion. It's maybe a little different because I had to write the whole thing out without stopping, so by the time I had a first draft, I was locked into a lot of the fundamental elements of the story. Normally I'd rewrite the opening a bunch of times as I figured out what the interesting parts were, then go from there.

What changes were + and - for you in the novel version?

@Jake: Maybe I already do release my bad book under a pseudonym!!! And you just don't know about it!!! I don't. That was just a joke.

Machine Man subscriber Adam Willard (#4231)

Location: Madagascar
Quote: "What unseen pen etched eternal things in the hearts of humankind... but never let them in our minds?"
Posted: 192 days ago

@Max: So this is a really late response. Sorry about that. I'm one of those guys who has like 50+ chrome tabs pulled open that I always "mean to look at" and then they get buried by another 50+ tabs that get opened, and then I have several Chrome windows each with 50+ tabs. But today I'm actually looking at some of those old tabs and I saw this.

So anyway, to answer your question, sorry but at this stage I don't remember *too well* the difference between the two versions. I just remember that that was my impression when I read each of them years ago. Let me take a guess at some of the more memorable parts though:

Some of the things I like in the novel version were the much cooler robotic aspects - I feel like his prostheses were just more powerful or had various extra gadgets that the serial didn't have. (Maybe I'm remembering that wrong though.)

Also, I remember well the ending of the novel where his brain was transferred to the box... but that wasn't in the serial was it? Or maybe it was rushed in the serial. I remember the novel ending with that was just great... the way it played out a little slowly and seemed terrible and then it was awesome for him, or at least as awesome as the rest of his desire to become a machine man (if that can be considered a good thing?).

Also, the serial had the whole section where he was stuck in his girlfriend's house and there were the crazy little dogs that functioned as a single unit... I remember that was odd but a really funny interlude in the serial, but I don't remember that in the book. Man, honestly, it's hard to remember which was which, it's been so long. I guess I wish I'd wrote them down sooner (like many years sooner) if I thought you'd actually be interested. But that's kind of what it comes down to, I remember there were some aspects I liked the tone/nature of more in one than the other and I forget sort of which was which. But I remember it had to do with how tech-y his gear was in the book, the brain-in-a-box ending, and the Dog scene. I just wish I remembered which ones I appreciated more here or there. Oh well, sorry I can't be more help! Maybe I'll write you an "Ask Max" question about browser tabs.

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