a bit of babbling

Work’s slowed down for the afternoon, so I’m going to sit here and babble about writing and stuff for a while.

Talked to my artist about artwork for Chance; she’s going to try to finish up the last 2 pages (of the first 5). I’m going to submit to Image — well. That’ll depend on whether she’s up for doing a piece of cover art, probably, and I’m going to pitch it to Terry Moore because it can’t /hurt/. :) If I had time/money/resources/a brain? I might try to go a self-publishing route. Actually, I’m virtually certain what I’d want to do would be to try to collect maybe five titles (heh, and artists for the same) and make a move into trying to actually produce a small line of comics myself. I’m not sure it’d be financially worth it to do less, if that makes any sense. But I don’t have the resources or the time, which is kind of too bad. And I don’t know where you start with self-publishing /anyway/….

Which kinda ties into this discussion we were having today about writing fan fic vs. writing original stuff and the venues of publication. I have a disconnect somewhere in my brain about the idea of writing in somebody else’s universe. Writing a hundred thousand word novel (say, Harry Potter fan fiction) that you know can’t get published. I don’t get it.

(This is the point at which everybody looks askance at me and says, “Uh, hello, IMMORTAL BELOVED?” Yes, it’s a book I wrote in somebody else’s universe, but when I wrote it, they were still publishing Highlander novels. I submitted it. They discontinued the Highlander novel line, but I did, in fact, write that novel for publication, not for the sheer joy of writing the Methos character, no matter how much I love him. I have two more Methos novels I’d really like to write, and, you know, someday when I’ve got a backlog of about fifteen books waiting for the publishers to catch up, MAYBE I’ll go ahead and sit down and write those just for the sheer fun of it, but I can’t imagine doing so otherwise.)

I mean, I understand the appeal of playing in somebody else’s universe. I understand that it’s fun to take characters and bring them down new paths. I’ve done it myself lots of times, primarily through on-line role-playing on MUSHes set, in fact, in somebody else’s universe. It’s fun, and I’m not trying to harsh on the idea. I just … it boggles my mind that people are willing to write, sometimes write entire novels, without any publication intent. I can’t imagine why they’d do that! Writing that much is a lot of *work*! Why on earth would you do it without wanting to be able to publish it?

And, okay, yes, they do publish, on the web. It’s not traditional publication, but it’s publication and there’s the delightful instant-feedback aspect of web publication that you don’t get with traditional publication because for one thing it takes months and months to hear from publishers, much less get a book actually published once it’s bought. With traditional publication, by the time a book hits the shelves, you’ve moved on.

So I listen to myself say that, and I think, well, it’s not that I think e-publication is an invalid method of publication. I’m not, however, convinced that I think fanfiction.net is a particularly valid method of publication. Valid publication requires quality control of /some/ degree; this is why vanity presses aren’t valid publications. You’re paying for your material to be published. Well, great, you’re published, but you’re *paying* for it. You can *pay* for anybody to say anything nice, or do what you want, with the right amount of money.

And /that/ sounds like I think it’s all about the money. Well, no. It’s partly about the money. I want to grow up to be an author who lives on what she makes writing. If, however, my options were to have absolutely no chance of paid publication or to stop writing, well, hell, I’d write for non-paid forums, because I like to write. But this brings us back to the Highlander novels: I like to write, yes, but apparently my intent is to write for money, and while I don’t quite agree with Heinlein’s “anybody who writes for any other reason than money is a fool”, I once more can’t imagine putting the effort into a 100K word novel that you knew you could never publish. I mean, even *bad* original 100K novels get published all the time, so why write one set at Hogwart’s that you’re never going to be able to publish?

Some of these writers are very young. Under twenty. Okay, everybody needs to get a million bad words written (and I’m not actually suggesting they’re bad, because they’re not all bad, but bear with me). Practice words, as it were. There are almost certainly worse ways to write practice words than by writing novel-length fan fiction. But…

I wrote my first novel when I was under 20. It never would’ve occured to me to write it in somebody else’s universe. Not, at least, in a universe in which I couldn’t be *published*. Star Trek? Okay, sure, I can see that. Buffy? Okay, yes (although there was no Buffy when I was 19. Work with me.). TV or movie spin-off, basically: yes. I can see that. Because you have a slender chance of publication, if you go that route. But… Harry Potter? I just think it’s so very, very *strange*.

And obviously it comes down to a matter of… personal expectations. Personal ambitions. Self-identity, perhaps. Lots of things. It’s fairly clear to me that I’ve *never* had anything but publication as my end goal — I started writing my first novel when I was about 8, and it was a mystery novel that was going to be an ongoing series, like the Bobbsey Twins or Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden. I had 5 main characters and they may or may not have been a family, I don’t remember, but the whole idea of writing that kind of book was I had an idea and I knew people *published* that kind of book. (I think I wrote about 20 pages. I wish I had it now!)

Somebody said during the discussion, well, isn’t NaNoWriMo basically just an exercise in people writing 50 thousand words for fun?


I mean, yes, I suppose in fact that’s possible. But… why would you do that?! Writing is work! *Fun* work, perhaps, but 50K is a whole lot of writing, and… wouldn’t you want to *do* something with it, when it’s done?

Evidently in my world ‘do’ equates with ‘publish’ which ultimately equates to ‘I want to hold this book in my hands, and have a cover blurb, and a cover artist, and my name in print, and a publisher stamp on the spine’, and it appears many people do not share this ambition.

Which I think is just really, really weird. :) And, see, if people want to write these stories (I keep using HPFF because Ted reads a lot of it, and I specifically refer to novel-length work because I think short stories are another topic) and want to share them with the world, well, then they *do* have *some* kind of publication ambition, right? So why on earth wouldn’t they want to write something original, and try to share it with a larger audience via traditional publication?

Marith said the answer to this is, “Maybe I do, but not right now,” and all *I* can say to that is, “But why *NOT*!?!” :) It’s not that I’m trying to diss the attitude; I just don’t *comprehend* it. I’m not even trying to say, “You must see this my way!” I’m just going on about being utterly boggled by the whole thing. :)

Now, to bring this all back around to self-publishing and comics and web comics, which I do gracelessly and with no closing arguments for the many paragraphs of rant that precede this: web publishing is becoming a more and more respected way for comic-book writers and artists to tell their stories (I think the same is true for novels as well, but I think comics being a graphics-driven storytelling format has made the transition a little easier for comics. Possibly the actual truth is I’m not connected enough to the comic book industry in any way to really know. Certainly there’s as much absolute crap being published as web comics as there is absolute crap being published as web fiction. It becomes a question of standards again; quality control.

Truth be told, my standards for quality control don’t get as far as the actual content on 95% of the sites out there — it’s the web design that makes it or breaks it for me. If it’s bad web design, I assume the material inside is going to be crap, too. Pretty much like a book cover, and I realize they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but really, who doesn’t?), and, interestingly, while I wouldn’t be willing to start out by publishing my novels online, I’d be willing to start Chance out as a web comic, if I had, y’know, the artistic talent (or the money to pay an artist with).

I’m sure there was a point to all this somewhere. I think the point may have been, “Gosh, not everybody is like me!” Which will probably come as a shock to everybody. :)

Um. Yes. Well. That’s all, then, I think. :)

10 thoughts on “a bit of babbling

  1. I took a shot at Nanowrimo to be a better writer, although I didn’t expect to get published. But if I’d written something really good I’d have submitted it.

    I dunno. I kind of agree with you, but I guess there are people who see writing as a hobby. You don’t expect everyone who picks up a baseball bat to make it into the major leagues, and nobody thinks that’s weird.

    On the other hand, nobody’s claiming that the guys in the company softball league are good enough to play for the Red Sox, either. When someone does claim to be that good, we laugh at ’em. And perhaps that cruelly drawn analogy holds true.

  2. Lawrence Block made an analogy sort of like Sarah’s — we don’t get so puzzled when someone paints paintings for their own enjoyment, without the intention of trying to get a gallery showing or whatever. Happens all the time, doesn’t it? It’s perhaps unique to what we do (or what I claim to do and don’t do, but never mind) that there is this disconnect with the idea of the amateur.


  3. Marith’s analogy, actually, I think, rather than Sarah’s, but–

    In fact, I thought that was a particularly good analogy, the fact that I have plenty of art in my gallery, none of which I did with the intent of selling. It does happen all the time, and moreover, I do it, and that makes it all the more curious that I get that disconnect where writing is concerned.

    I have no idea why writing as a hobby seems so peculiar to me. :)

  4. Writing as a hobby probably sounds peculiar to you because for you, it’s not a hobby. It’s an avocation, a desired vocation, an obsession, a passion, a lifestyle, a whole way of being and thinking. Other people- me, for example- we’re not writers first. I don’t write fanfiction, but I sort of understand the attraction (not at novel length though, ugh!). Someone else has already done some of the work of designing the (relatively) coherent universe. They already had the Really Cool Idea that somebody else wishes that they’d come up with. And, you know, I think fanfiction isn’t necessarily a bad route to go, in learning to write. Consider people who, in art classes, learn how to reproduce the works of the Masters- they do it from the ground up. How they sketched, how they shaded, how they did the monochromatic underpainting, what kind of canvasses they used, what kind of pigments, how they made (their own!) paints, the brush strokes, the treatment of light and dark and positive and negative space… it’s WORK. Why would anyone do all that WORK for a painting that no one will ever buy (unless your goal is to rip off a collector or something)? See, THAT’S what boggles my mind, which I guess goes to show that I’m an artist at heart, and not a writer. ;)

  5. Also…

    I dunno. Writing is different from art in other ways, and from baseball, because everybody uses language. A lot of people do believe being able to draw, or be athletic, is a gift.

    I’m not entirely sure how this connects but I think it must.

    Also: I think a lot of people play baseball to win. They may not expect to be professional, and they may want to have fun, but a whole lot want to win. People ‘win’ at writing fiction by showing it off to an appreciative audience.

    I don’t write fanfiction ’cause I want to be able to sell stuff eventually, when somebody out there demands to buy everything I’ve ever written. But I do, meanwhile, sometimes write stuff that I don’t believe I can sell /now/, for practice, and for the mild gratification web-publishing. And I started writing through fanfiction– way back when I was ten years old, and in love with Han Solo, and wrote Muppet scripts about shapeshifters.

    I also wrote a game for an audience much more niche than most fanfic audiences because I damn well want to win. Dammit.

    Though apparently most people who enter IFComp don’t set out to /win/. Maybe to do well, but often not even that. And that boggles me…

  6. Patch: hee hee hee. Interestingly, ripping off the masters of art seems like a good way to learn to write, to me. Which of course makes me thing, “Well, there are TREMENDOUS numbers of writers who rip off Hemingway and Steinbeck and Woolf and–” So that’s a way people learn to write, too. Although one could argue that something written in Hemingway’s style could sell as an original, whereas a slavish copy of a Rembrant is going to remain a slavish copy of a Rembrant.

    Soula: I think you’re right; I think it does connect. I think that people think that the hard part of writing is the idea, not the writing, because yes, we all use language. I think you’ve got something with that observation.

    I think we all might have a bit of a competitive streak. :)

Comments are closed.