Where my ideas come from

It’s a question that most writers seem to loathe, and for good reason. Ideas can come from anywhere, and everywhere, and the exact source can be hard to pin down by the point at which you’ve developed an actual story. But that’s not really a satisfactory or interesting answer, is it.

So here are a few sources my stories have come from:-

  • Stealing, or homaging, ideas from a better writer (which most writers have probably done at one point or another);
  • I get them via mail order from a cottage industry in a remote northern Russia community. Being by post rather than email, a few of my orders have gone missing, and at least one recently successful book bore more than a passing resemblance to the specifications of one of my orders;
  • I was bitten by a radioactive bard, and since then ideas just occur to me in painful spasms. Of course, my hair is also falling out, and I’ve been developing oddly coloured patches on my skin, but we have to suffer for our art;
  • An ancient oriental meditative technique allows me to enter the dreams of others. I use it to get into the dreams of other writers, steal their ideas, and make them forget;
  • I’ve got to make some use of all these monkeys. The hardest part is getting the buggers to not constantly plagiarise Shakespeare;
  • I’m a fictional character. I have a fictional wife. We make fictional children that I nurture into becoming my stories. (The wife isn’t too happy about me selling them on, but, being fictional, has no legal recourse);
  • I’ve written a character that constantly comes up with story ideas. The stories in which she comes up with them a securely locked away, and I’ve already got enough to last the decade. But I think she’s starting to become aware of his nature as an artificial muse, so I’m waiting to see what she’ll do next.

All of these are entirely genuine sources of ideas for me. Honest.

UK authors applying for an ITIN

For non-US self-published authors who use Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace, and other US-based companies to distribute their work, you’ll probably need to get an International Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. Without one, the companies are obliged to withhold 30% of your royalties.

While the forms can be intimidating, they’re not that hard with help. Here’s what you need to do (this is primarily for UK applicants, some fields will be different for other countries):

As well as filling in the W7 form, you’ll need a supporting letter, and ID. Smashwords have an automated system letting you request one once you’ve made more than $10 with them, and Amazon now provide a letter which can be printed out from the link at https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1VDYJ32T5D3U4. (This page also contains the details on where to send the W8-BEN, which you’ll need to do after you’ve got an ITIN.)  You only need one letter, not one for each place.

If you don’t have a valid passport (I don’t), the IRS require 2 other forms of ID, one of which has to have your photo (I sent my birth certificate and photo ID driving license).

The instructions for the W7 say to send either the original documentation or notarized copies. I got lost working out how to get things notarized, which was going to be expensive, but fortunately you don’t need to send the originals to the US. I sent them to the US Embassy (Internal Revenue Service, American Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London, WIA 1AE) by Special Delivery Next Day (which costs £5.90), and they sent them back a few days later by Special Delivery.

W7: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf
Instructions: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf

Filling in the W7 (you can type directly into the form and save it) –
I’ll ignore the obvious bits, but remember to put the dates in US format.

Reasons for submitting:
Tick box a, and box h, filling in the field next to box h ‘Exception 1(d) royalties’, the treaty country as ‘UK’, and the treaty article number as 12 (this is UK specific).

4 DoB:
Make sure the date is in US format.

6b Foreign Tax ID:
NI Number

6d Identification document(s) submitted:
List which documents (the possibilities are listed in the instructions document). If you’re not sending your passport, you’ll need to put the details of the second on a separate piece of paper, with your name and Form W-7 on the top (I also put the 6d title and reiterated what type of ID it was, even though I’d put it on the main sheet, just to be on the safe side).

This is probably going to be No.

Sign Here:
Cross out the irrelevant options in the bracketed section (and make sure the date is in US format).

And that’s it.

The IDs were sent back in a few days, and the ITIN arrived after around 7 weeks (although they say it can be up to 12).

Then you just need to fill in and send off the W8-BENs for all places that’ll be paying you (Amazon KDP, Createspace, Smashwords, etc.). Amazon show samples of how to fill them in, and they also have a slightly different version of the form than Smashwords direct you to, so check with their sites on their particular requirements.

NaNoWriMo 2012

I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year so blog entries this month may be sparse. There are a couple already written.

I’ll be using it to get me to finish the Shadows of the Heavens project which stalled last year. It’s a series of 15 novelettes featuring relatively self-contained episodes of a larger story. The first six are already done (in first draft form), so I’m hoping to get the remaining nine done as part of NaNoWriMo.

My progress (number of words written, at least) can be followed here.