Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Book…

I’ve been wrestling lately with the idea of posting some chapters from the book I’ve been working on. There’s a part of me that feels it’ll never get ‘published’ anyway, so what’s the big deal, and another that wonders if ‘ePublishing’ it in a blog would/could hurt its chances of being purchased by a real publisher.

Currently, it’s about a 50/50 split, and, as I have no actual (as in reality based) point of reference I continue to sit on the fence. I know if I started putting say a chapter a week out here, I’d pretty much force myself to get back to work on it as, hopefully, I’d have at least a few of you folks wanting to know what happens next.

So, I’m putting the question out there, to any of you who might actually know, is putting the ‘book’ out here a good, or bad, idea?

It’s only when I get a few days off, and my mind begins to clear from the day to day clutter that is part and parcel to application development, that I actually begin to see where the book might be headed. Everytime that happens, I start to get excited about it again.

Writing is a very strange experience for me. I rarely know, when I sit down at the keyboard (or with a legal pad), what exactly I’m going to write. I’ve had dozens of suggestions from friends that I draw up an outline for the book; describe each character, the various scenes and so on to act as a guide for my writing.

I’ve tried, honestly I have, and it just doesn’t work for me. Once I’ve done all of that, the story gets played out in my head and I can’t seem to ‘find the muse’ to take the time to actually write something to fill in all the details. Instead, what seems to work best for me is to start with a very broad concept and then to narrow and define that as I write. The writing is sort of a stream of consciousness process, where at times I simply can not type, or write, fast enough to keep up with what I'm thinking.

It’s been suggested that I ‘dictate’ those words into a tape recorder, strangely enough when I try that, the stream dries up. It’s as if the process of articulating the words activates some other, less creative, portion of my brain and the writing (creating) of the story grinds again to a halt. Again, I don’t know why, it just does.

Maybe it’s because when I first started writing for myself, and not for some ‘assignment’ by one teacher or another, that I did that long hand and as an escape from the realities of my life at the time. That by speaking, talking, I somehow burst that fantasy ‘bubble’ I create when I write. Maybe it’s that my ‘bb’ brain just can’t handle both processes, much like when I try to walk and chew gum.

The truth is, I’m not sure I want to know “why”… I’m just glad I’m able to build these creative thoughts, imagine things that may, or may not, really exist and articulate them well enough that others can follow my little excursion from reality.

So, with that said, my next task is to carve out at least an hour a day, and write. Once I start the process, often the words just flow and time slips away along with the pressures of the job and the ‘speed bumps’ we all face. I’m convinced my health would be better if I wrote everyday, I’d be happier and more focused ‘on the job’ and, I’d actually be moving towards, and not away from my goals.

I started reviewing what I’ve written so far on the book today, and actually I’m making some changes, not so much in content but in delivery.

I’m not very experienced in relating ‘conversations’ in writing, as I see my style as more ‘conversational’ or ‘story-telling’ in nature. So trying to develop characters, complete with interactions, dialogue and trying to maintain what I consider a readable pace, is a challenge for me.

For example, I like John Grisham and Dean Koontz, both of whom have writing styles that make me want to read faster than I’m able at times, such is the ‘pace’ of their writing. In a perfect world I’d learn to be able to do that when I want it, and to slow the pace down when I want as well. Trying to write this book is certainly teaching me more about what I “don’t” know, than about what I do know!!

To me, a novel (we’re talking fiction here) has to do three things well to be a ‘great book’ for me:

  • It has to grab me in the first 20 pages or so.
  • The story, and the telling of it, have to transport me to the fictional place/story.
  • It has to be believable, things have to make sense. Of course if it’s Sci-fi then the more incredible the better, but a ‘real life’ thriller has to make me believe it could happen.

Grisham, Koontz, King (especially in his early work) and some others all do that for me. I find myself reading long past when I’d intended to go to sleep, putting off other plans in order to finish ‘one more chapter’ and in general wanting to read non-stop through the book. If I’m ever able to achieve that sort of feeling in a fictional piece, I’d be pleased even if no one published it!

So, I’m giving this a shot and we’ll see how it turns out.

In the process though, I’m hoping to put together a few short ‘stories’ to work on dialogue, pace and so on. My question to you all is… Should I post that all here, or start a ‘writing blog’ and post it there? Should I post it online at all?

I’d intended this place to be for my musings on life, passing thoughts, funny things, infuriating things etc… Seeing how simple starting a blog is, I don’t see a problem having two, I’m just wondering where you folks, the ones who actually read what I write, would prefer I post them?

Anyway, thanks again for stopping by, reading and leaving your thoughts and ideas in the comments section… I look forward to reading them everyday.

14 comments:

Firehawk said...

Bill,

I've had the same argument with myself. I don't believe that posting something on a blog is considered an "according to Hoyle" publishing of the work, but I'm not sure enough to give you some sort of unequivocal answer.

In general, the more you feel comfortable with sharing your work and getting other people's honest opinions of it, the better. I don't think there are any pure, instinctive writers out there--people that can immediatly grasp the finer points of crafting fiction without people to help them. I think that's a nice myth we tell ourselves when we first start. In reality, the first book you write, maybe the first five--they're all practice runs to allow you to hone your skill. I say write freely and with no fear when it's your first go. Enjoy the process. Don't make it about writing a bestseller or the great American novel. Just learn as much as you can, make it as good a story as you're able to do, and have a good time with it. I know it sounds defeatist to concede that your first book won't be marketable, but it's pretty much the straight truth. I don't mean that it'll be bad when all is said and done, but you have to get certain mistakes out of your system and move on. Believe me, spending too much time on a manuscript that's fatally flawed by beginner's mistakes is like putting a great paint job on a car that's rusted through on the frame rails.

As far as putting the stuff up, I'd say do it, but a different site would probably be best. That way, the chapters/comments/revisions won't be mixed in with personal anecdotes and stories about work.

People have to find their comfort zones when it comes to writing. Some have to write longhand, others don't care. Me, I can't read my writing well enough to puzzle out what I may have said, even if it may have been brilliant. I'm a computer writer all the way.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck. I think, like the old recruiting commercial said, writing's the toughest job you'll ever love.

Braleigh said...

Start a "secret" writing blog and only give the address to us, your adoring readers.

I agree with Firehawk as far as getting more comfortable sharing your writing, but really, when has Firehawk ever given faulty advice?

Master of None said...

My whole reasoning behind starting my blog was to test the waters to see if I had a book in me. It's funny that I have not written about the things I thought I would. I'm trying to decide if I should "taint" my site with stories about everyday life--mainly complaints, etc.--or keep it purely humorous. I'm not doing a good keeping them separated so far.

My goal was to blog for a few months, and then try to start a few book chapters on the side. I have not decided for sure whether or not I'll add them to the blog, but I probably will end up doing it. I'm curious to see what your final verdict is for your own work.

Bill said...

Firehawk: Obviously we're in the same boat re the Hoyle definition. It's not specifically listed, it's also not excluded.. decisions, decisions!

I'm with you on the first not being the "Great American Novel", hope is one thing, delusion another :)

I like the paint job analogy... Reminds me of a story...

I had to laugh when I read your comment about not being able to read your own handwriting... I've had that same problem! I rarely write long-hand any more, but, on occasion when the harware's not available.. I will.

Thanks for your input, I really do appreciate it!

Bill said...

Braleigh: That's what I was thinking, I may even start a sub-domain on one of my sites and post links here. That way I could post the chapters as PDF's etc...

I definitely want feedback from you folks as I work on my writing 'chops'.

Thanks again.

Bill said...

MON: I intended mine to be more like a journal, I discovered, that for the most part I didn't have enough to say, each day, about that day.

So, like you, I find myself writing about things I never really anticipated. But, then again, that seems to be the norm for me writing wise.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Comfort Addict said...

Bill,

My dad was a fiction writer before becoming a corporate one. He, and I, would advise you not to post / blog your writing. If you're like me, you'll self-censor more. You also may find yourself playing to an audience (more performance than writing). In addition, a good book can't be written by committee. My dad always says that you know you're in for a bad movie if you see more than two names on the screenplay.

You and I are similar. I also like to write fiction. I, too, get writer's block sometimes. I'm also an IT guy. Unfortunately, I've had to put writing aside because my work and musical lives are too full.

Many writers write differently and produce good results. Some make elaborate outlines, others would shut down by doing this. Many work from characters to plot but some reverse this. There are those who work from the whole to the parts and vice versa. Try several different methods and find the one that works.

Personally, I need to trick my IT mind into abandoning its organizational propensity to fly free. I often work from some kind of kernel and expand out. I try to let it fly like ink from a fountain pen. The important thing is to get it down. Then, I revise.

You seem to have a good idea of what you like in fiction. Go there. As an experiment, be Koontz, Grisham or King as you perceive them to be. I'm not talking about parroting style or technique but attitude or frame of mind.

Good luck.

Spirit Of Owl said...

Everyone's covered a lot of ground already, so I'm not sure how much more I can add. Still, that's never stopped me before ;)

Regarding whether a thing is considered published once placed on the Internet, it is. However, there are numerous contract forms, and the one you'd be interested in most of all are the print rights. Still, these can, and will be affected by having given away the digital rights.

That said, if a piece is presented online in a restricted "members only" area, then this is generally not considered to be published in a public sense. So, Braleigh has hit on a good idea!

Although "writing by committee" can certainly be a problem, it isn't always. Look at the Simpsons! "Writing for an audience," is perhaps more risky, because it could leave you artistically restricted and ultimately disappointed at your work. It is also unlikely that your audience, however highly you regard them, is going to be able to advise you well. Even us lot. ;0)

But that's never stopped me giving advice out before, either! LOL

So, if you're after getting some feedback so that you can work on your style, the short story market is a good place to start. There are critique groups online where members critique each others work. These are generally free. This is great if you don't want to jeopardise your publishing rights.

But, we'd all love to see some work, so how about a short story blog? You'd be sacrificing digital rights, but then a lot of writers do, and it doesn't lose you the print rights. That way, you'd protect your novel, and we'd all get to read your work, others too. You'd get feedback on your writing, at least, which could help you indirectly in the development of the novel.

I put a piece of fiction up on my blog ages ago (seems it, though it was actually only a few weeks...!). I'm probably going to do it again. Expression, at the end of the day, is great, but public expression is clearly what a lot of us seek.

Now I've gone through all this I'm not sure that I've actually made any sense. I suppose what I'm saying is that:

I agree with firehawk, sharing work is good for artistic courage.
I agree with Braleigh in that a hived fiction blog is a good idea.
I agree with master of none because at least through regular blogging the habit of writing is developed.
I agree with comfort addict that you should protect your work, and keep it to yourself, even away from loved ones in the "real world", until you feel it's ready.
I think that blogging some of your short stories is a possible compromise.

While I remember - Stephen King. Only in his early work!

;p

Greg said...

About time....

Bill said...

Wow...

Comfort Addict: That's the fear I had/have, that it would be considered 'published' and somehow lose interest of 'print' publishers in the end.

I'm not so much looking to write to an audience, but to get some feedback as I can be less than objective when looking at my own work.

I've got to trick my "IT" mind as well, your style sounds very similar to mine.

I thank you for your input and suggestions.

Spirit: Yep, all good advice. It's this honest dialogue from everyone that I find so helpful.

I'm still tossing it around, the idea of a 'private' location is very appealing and I'm thinking seriously about an area on one of my websites to do just that.

Like a 'Members Only' area where I can direct those who're interested. I've got a friend stopping by tonight and I might just try and sketch one out while he's here.

Greg: I know... I know... I know!

Karyn Lyndon said...

I think you need to decide what your goal is. If the reason for putting your chapters up on your blog is that it will give you incentive to write and a deadline, then do it! I wouldn't worry about the publishing aspect. If you develop a HUGE readership online, that can only help you convince a publisher that your writing is marketable. According to my agent there are several instances where the popularity of someone's blog or online book has gotten them a book deal.

However, if you're just learning to write novel-length fiction and looking for critique...I would join a critique group. You can find those online or through local writing organizations and conferences, depending on what genre you're writing and where you live.

You will find authors to be the most helpful people when it comes to beginning writers. I think this is because it's a very difficult profession full of rejection and near-impossible odds of writing something marketable and being at the right place at the right time, regardless of talent. The other reason is because writing is a very lonely profession and we tend to reach out to others who understand the difficult path we've chosen.

As far as writing styles, there are as many styles as there are writers. But it mainly breaks down into 2 categories. The outliner (charts, graphs, extensive research, character arcs, plotting modules, etc.) and the Pantster (start with a kernel of an idea and just sit down to write by the seat of your pants.) I think it has to do with being right or left-brained.

I think you know where you fit in. I'm a pantster, too. And I understand EXACTLY what you're talking about. I've tried outlining and I never stick to it, so what's the point? My characters seem to come alive and tell the story, taking me places I'd never thought of.

I do strongly encourage you to learn to write through your keyboard. It may take a while to get used to, but pen and pad, although much more portable, is slower. And the sad truth about a book is it isn't really a book until it's finished. And the sooner you finish the book...the sooner you can sell it!

Bill said...

Karyn: I'm thinking along deadlines and incentives to write, I find I'm having trouble 'carving out' time for it.

The critique groups thing sounds better every time someone mentions it as well, for different reasons though.

I appreciate you taking time to pass along your thoughts!

No_Newz said...

You need more happy vibes my friend. You can have it published. I haven't even read it yet and know if you wrote it, it's good enough.
Lois Lane

Bill said...

Lois: Thanks :)

I truly hope you're right! In any case, published, or not, I'll write it. I probably don't really have any choice, but to write it... it's already in my head and writing seems the only way to get it out of there!

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts on this. It's been very interesting to me to read the diversity and encouragement in them. I promise whatever I decide to do, you folks will be the first to know!