Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Whose Space?

MySpace has become the hot marketing tool among climbing writers lately. But is it worth it?

Like most decisions, it’s a completely individual decision. Writers like JA Konrath think it’s a great thing. Read his ideas on it over on his Dec. 17, 2006 blog entry, here. They’re excellent points, and something to take into consideration as you create your self-marketing plan.

While he has a lot of good arguments, for me, right now, I don’t think My Space is going to help me, and this is why:

I don’t have a book out.
I have manuscripts circulating, I’m in a bunch of anthologies, but until I have something for people to buy when they light on the space, I don’t think it’ll do me any good right now. I don’t expect them to come back if they’re simply surfing.

I don’t think my readership is the “My Space” kind of crowd
Plenty of writers are going to counter this with “everyone’s doing it.” Ah, but remember, in my personal case, the only thing that was ever forbidden in my house growing up was “everyone does that” or “everyone says that”. The type of reader I attract and the kind of friends I have – and I mean friends in the true sense, not the My Space Friends list – aren’t the kind of people who are hanging out at My Space. Where are they? Reading a book; scouring bookstores; in museums; traveling around the world to write a book; painting; having a LIFE.

Yes, I understand that a successful writer’s life is built beyond people one can count as friends – one needs the general public. I just don’t think many of the type of readers who would be interested in what I have to say hang out on My Space – they’re busy living their lives. They’re looking for unique, not the kind of different that’s actually conformity under another cloak.

I have a different definition of “Friend”
I know a lot of people; I have a few friends. The people I call “friends” are actually there for me, through thick and thin. They don’t always agree with me, and they set me straight when I’m wrong – but they’ve got my back, I’ve got theirs, and they are there through good and bad.

I don’t like to use the word “friend” loosely, and certainly not as a marketing tool.

I don’t want to be a “brand”.
I’m an individual, and that’s the way I intend to stay. That’s why I write under a variety of names – so the uncreative marketing people can’t ghetto-ize me. Creative marketing people can sell ANYTHING.

Rupert Murdoch owns My Space
I won’t go into a tirade about him here; let’s just say that, in my opinion, the only thing the NEW YORK POST is good for is to line the cat box when I run out of litter. And that, while My Space seems loose and free now, it’s only because the profit’s made in that form, and if more profit can be made by making changes, by censoring content, etc., I have no doubt it will happen.

I deal with enough spam. I’m not interested in Triple XXX offers or adult-content chat. I can get PAID to write that stuff – no busman’s holiday for me. I’m not interested in talking or having sex with underage anyone. I have a personal life and I quite like it, thank you very much. I don’t want or need cyber sex. I’ll have the real thing with another consenting adult, and we’ll actually give a damn about each other. And, with the new virus that’s being spread via the My Space bulk mail thing . . .let’s just say I’ll wait awhile to see if they actually try to solve these problems before I sign up. I have enough computer problems as it is.

Read through arguments, pro and con. Spend time on the site. See if you think it helps your unique type of work. If it does, go for it, and more power to you. If not – there are plenty of other ways to build an audience. There are ways to reach an audience that reads more than what’s on a computer screen, and is literate enough to communicate in complete sentences with fully written out words.

Will I ever join MySpace? Probably someday. Definitely if I sell a YA novel. But it’s going to be with a cynical marketing eye and a keenly focused purpose. It’s not going to be to hang out and make “friends”.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another Way to Revise

When it comes time to revise, people approach it differently. They set a goal of 50 pages a day, or work chapter-by-chapter.

I’d like to suggest a different way – working scene-by-scene.

Chapters often have more than one scene in them; or, sometimes, a scene can run for several chapters. But, if you thoroughly deal with each scene before moving to the next one, you’ll find you need to go back over it and re-revise it less often.

Read the scene through, without allowing yourself to make any changes or notes. See if you can live in the scene completely.

Read it through again, this time taking notes and making corrections.

Go over it for the basics – grammar, spelling, sentence structure. Have you left participles dangling out of carelessness, or because it’s part of the character’s speech rhythm? Is there a way to tighten the dialogue? Are there extra phrases/sentences that seemed to work in the natural rhythm of the piece when you first wrote it, but now slow it down? Are there points where you’ve speeded up and skipped over bits to “put it in later” in order to get to another part of the scene that pulled at you more strongly?

Well, this is “later”. Time to make those fixes.

Does every incident in the scene reveal something about the characters and/or move the story forward? Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be a plot incentive, but will reveal something important about the character that allows the plot incentive to work later.

When you’re sure that the scene is the best it can be, then you move on.

It’s a slower method of revision than some of the others, because it means going back over the scene again and again and again.

But, because in the final product, each scene is a building block in the whole structure, polishing scene by scene will help you get the piece Trusted Reader-ready and submission-ready in fewer drafts.

To live within each scene with your characters during the revision while simultaneously keeping the objective eye to the craft is easier to do within the context of a scene than in the context of, say, fifty pages.

Some days you’ll only be able to rework a single scene; sometimes you will manage two or three. But the point of it is to do it as completely as you can before moving on.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What Do You Want?

What do you want?

This is the single most important question you need to answer as you embark on your writing life.

Until you know why you’re writing and what you want to achieve with your writing, you’re not going to be able to craft a plan to support your art.

Where does writing fall into your life? Is it a priority? There’s nothing wrong with it NOT being the central focus of your life, but then you have to face the fact you will have an entirely different career than someone who is willing to put it first. It will take you longer to get published; you might never hit the best seller list if you aren’t willing to do the promotion that is now necessary by authors. You might be a better artist or craftsman than another, more well-known writer, but you won’t have the same type of career. That doesn’t mean you can’t be happy with the career you build.

Is fame your ultimate goal? Again, then you need to make different decisions based on that. Your craft must be impeccable, so you can drop the hot style du jour into it. You must be available for promotion at all hours, at any time, and, at least at the beginning, you can’t say no to anything.

Is it the process that drives you? The love of storytelling, of words on the page? Then you must carve out regular time and respect your writing – and demand others respect it. Craft the best stories you can and revel in every minute of it. It may be more difficult for you to deal with the business side of things, because you don’t enjoy it. And that’s where you have to both push yourself and be gentle with yourself in order to achieve your dreams.

There are many different ways to achieve a professional writing career. You have to find your own path. Even your favorite author’s journey is entirely different from yours.

Craft can be taught. Imagination must be allowed to run free. Business protocols must be learned. You need to combine them and balance them all in order to reach your goals.

But until you know what those goals are, you’ll be flailing, running in circles, feeling like you’re slogging through molasses.

As you work on your GDRs (Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions) for 2007, answer this question first. That will help you craft your plan. For some questions to help you on your way, visit Wordish Wanderings.