Friday, October 29, 2010

What the hell am I doing?!

It's that time again...or, several times again.  Halloween is just days away; beyond the anticipation of dressing the Wee One up, another Halloween means another year of staring at a computer screen at the moment--Eastern Standard Time--that October becomes November.  November, of course, is National Novel Writing Month.

I do it every year, even when I shouldn't, like this year.  I've done almost no writing that wasn't academic since the semester began.  On the one hand, I've never "won" NaNo so what's one more time of not reaching the goal?   On the other, I need the pressure I put on myself during NaNo like I need...something more creative than a hole in my head.

And thinking about it has me back in this place of, "What the hell an I doing?  I'm not a novelist."

I am a writer.  We've established that, right?  I write great openings and decent endings, and shitty middles that never seem to get revised no matter how often I sit down to revise them.  When do I say enough?

...Apparently not now.  I had this great dream a few weeks ago; it was basically an introduction to a character--a woman who lets lost souls pass though her into...well, wherever they go.  I dig her, dig the relationship with her sister and the potential relationship with the man I dreamt her meeting in a dark alley before a rift in the fabric of reality.  All of my non-academic time has been spent between learning the Savage Mojo   material for a project I've been tapped for and failing to build a story around this woman.

I create enjoyable characters.  Sometimes, I string words together nicely.  Whatever made me thing that would translate into being a novelist?

In a week when I've carved time out from my studies and I'm writing, I'll feel better.  In a month when I've got a neat beginning, a character I enjoy with a pretty cool supporting cast, and nowhere to take them...I'll be right back here wondering what the hell I'm doing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rethinking self-publishing

We've covered this.  Self-publishing is a good thing...for Other People.  If you're like me, you've grown up wanting to see your books published by the same folks who publish your favorite authors. You may or may not get over that; for me, the dream is still being published by Tor or Ace, but the goal (sometimes my dreams and my goals don't match) is to write for a living.  This meant accepting, first, that my work (when finally ready) might find a home in at a small press.  Eventually, I accepted that I may become an e-book writer.  Self publishing was out of the question...until now.

Some great books have been self published, but their numbers are eclipsed by the many, many crappy books self published because no agent or editor would consider them.  The list of self pubbed books that made the big time--sometimes remaining self published, but often bought by a big house--is nice and long...until you realize how many hundreds of thousands are never seen outside of the author's circle of friends and family.

And then there's the industry pressure.  I've heard/read "Agents and publishers won't even bother with your work if they've learned you've self-published" enough that it's not worth looking for links.  Even if your self-pubbed novel gets a serious readership, you're not eligible to join many of the writing associations that you may want to.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America association doesn't come out and say NO SELF-PUBLISHING, but they give a list of what makes you eligible and Lulu isn't on it.  Horror Writer's Association are longer and more involved, and at the end of the active membership regulations (as opposed to associate or affiliate), they let you know that any non-comic book self-published author need not apply.  And so on.

None of that matters if you just want a story "out there."  But if your goal is to quit your day job, the emergency medical fund, insider track for future publication, and other benefits are pretty damn important...

Yeah.  I can go on and on about why self-pubbing is my second to last choice.  The above doesn't even touch on marketing and other such issues.  So why rethink self-publishing at all?  My friend Julie.

I have the urge to write about how fabulous she is as a writing buddy, how smart, how dedicated to her craft...What matters more, though, is praise for her work. When I read that post, I thought, "Wow, how fabulous!  Too bad it's utterly useless!"  

The chances of an agent stopping by, reading that review, and asking for the manuscript seem ridiculous to me, regardless of my sucking at math.  IF she were putting that book out herself while her other manuscript is in agent limbo, it would be another story.  Apparently, Julie thought so, too.  She revamped her long idle site (love that logo!), added the Doc stories that are getting a following of their own, and put serious research into the details of what it would take to publish Senior Year Bites herself.

Rather than thinking of all the reasons for why she shouldn't, I immediately thought of why she should.  Critiquing selected chapters of Senior Year Bites, I was impressed by Julie's talent and skill, but I didn't love it the way that Rabid Reader does (if you didn't click the "praise for her work" link, go take a look).  

Young Adult books start with a strike against them when it comes to me, and SYB is "light" while my tastes run toward "thick" if not "heavy".  It's a totally irrational bit of personal taste that I mentioned before with published authors Anton Strout and Mark Henry.  I was randomly thinking the other day how Strout's Dead To Me has my all time favorite opening scene, though I'm not crazy about the book.  Less randomly, I just reminisced about how fabulous parts of Henry's Happy Hour of the Damned were, though I gave up on reading the whole thing early on.

These books are well loved by other people, but were I an agent deciding whether or not to rep them, Henry would have gotten an encouraging "But it's not for me" letter and Strout would have gotten a request for the full manuscript, only to have to change major elements or to move on to someone else to represent him...

Industry pros will tell you, "That's the process" and "if the story's good, it will get published."  I've swallowed that whole.  But I've also watched Julie revise and fine tune Arabian Dreams, send it out, and learn that there aren't a lot of agents interested in young adult equestrian fantasy books.  The chapters I critiqued were great, agent response reflect that, but alas...

I thought, "Send it to publishers that don't require you to go through an agent!  It would fit right in with the equestrian adult fantasy published by Luna."  Except that they don't publish YA books.  "Carina!  They seem to be looking for everything that doesn't easily fall into other categories."  Except for YA books.  

Maybe the idea should be "if the story's good, readers will read it."  I'm not advocating doing away with agents (do you know how to navigate international rights?  me neither), but in the days of social networking, more book blogs than you can shake a magic wand at, and relatively simple (so I'm told) tech to make great-looking trailers, why can't you write a good story, edit the hell out of it, and get it out to the would-be fans without:
~~~~~Shopping it to agents and waiting months between each for a "cool, but no thanks"?
~~~~~Waiting for where you fit into the schedule IF you get an agent who finds you a publisher?
~~~~~And still having to do a lot of the marketing yourself because you've just made the bottom of the mid-list?

To Julie, I say, "Go for it!"  For anyone else (maybe myself included one day), I say put in the time for researching how to do this right.  If the pros outweigh the cons, rock on with your bad self!

(Link of encouragement: Konrath ebook sales top 100K)