a whole lot of babbling about writing

Work’s slowed down for the afternoon, so I’m going to sit here and babble about

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?

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. :)


  1. agrimony

    I have to say that when I did NaNoWriMo I had no consideration of actually writing something with ever intending to have it published.

    On the other hand, I think I started writing my first novel some time around the age of 12, so…. :) (Having seen it in the last few years, it is very cringe-worthy.)

    On a third hand, I have finally admitted to myself and a third party who doesn’t hang out on Too and isn’t a blood relation that I do have a goal of producing a manuscript fit to be submitted for the rigorous denial process of publication. :)

  2. marith

    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*!?!” :)

    Well, there might be other things I want to do more right now :) And also, web-publishing even the most rigorously edited piece is a lot easier than shooting for print publication. Not all of us have thick skins and a conviction of our own greatness :)

    Ooh, I just thought of this. You have a lot of drawings in your portfolio; did you make each one with an eye to selling it? If not, then why put in all the work on it? :)

  3. mizkit

    No, because they’re not good enough, and because I like to draw. :) Garrett commented elsewhere about the hobby aspect, too, and that sort of makes more sense to me. Sort of, anyway. :) I may be a little single-minded on the whole writing thing. :)

  4. shoka

    It looks like the url to Immortal Beloved isn’t right. I mention this because I like reading long bits of fanfic *grin*

    This ties in to some extent with my watercolor instructor rant from last weekend. I make art because I like to. I like it alot, even when I am bitching *laugh*. But I have no interest or intention to try to get into art shows or even to produce saleable art. I make it for me and as an added bonus sometimes I share my art with friends and they like it. By my instructors definition last weekend, I will never be a real artist. But… *shrug* I care less about the label and more about creating new and better art.

    On comics though, how does the comic book industry differ from book vs. vanity publishing? There are comic book publishers who publish outright crap, poor stories, poor art. But many of the independently published comic books are creator owned and paid for, not unlike vanity press and many of those comics are wonderful. Looking outside the Diamond distribution channel, there are things like mini-comics and doujinshi that are higher quality than the things coming out of Marvel/DC/Image/Dark Horse/Crossgen.

    Web comics are, imo, 99.9% dreck. Anyone who things they can hold a pencil or a graphic tablet pen thinks they can make one even when they have no idea for a plot. There are some good ones out there but they’re too often few and far between.

    *laugh* I’m not really sure where I am going with this either. I should mention that I still prefer tangible paper to reading online. So if you do Chance online, eventually put out a collected version ;)

    Gah, didn’t mean to write a books worth of a comment.

  5. merlinofchaos

    Wow, I actually started this conversation.

    I actually kind of share ‘s opinion, in most ways. Well, she’s significantly more advanced than I am in terms of writing (I probably have a total history of 100,000 words right now, if I’m lucky) but I actually kind of hold that idea. I want to publish my stuff. If I didn’t want to publish my stuff, I probably wouldn’t find the drive to finish it.

    Jim Butcher said something (to in fact) which I paraphrase here: Most people say they want to write a novel. What they really want is to have written a novel. That’s a different story.

    And I certainly can see writing a novel just so you can have written a novel. And then writing another so you can have written too.

    And I do know people who write and never let anybody read their stuff, just because they have to get the words out. I have no idea if they’re any good or not–they wouldn’t let me read their stuff, damn them.

    Anyway, I’m mostly with Kit. If you’re going to work that hard on a piece, doing something in an original world has a lot more net value. But then, I’m as much of a science geek as a writer, and the idea of intrinsic value is more important to me than it might be to someone else. So perhaps mileage may vary.

  6. mnemozine

    I’m definately on the same road you are on, just much much further behind ;) I have always pushed the “I will be published” button – and the fact is, I have been published since age 7, but that isn’t the same. I was once asked why I wanted to write by a friend of mine in college and I told her I wanted to rule the universe – actually, I wanted to rule *my* universe, but am only now beginning to understand that. But I haven’t really -written- in years, am I think its really great of people who do continue to write, even if it is only to please themselves and their friends.

    And… you should totally start your own comic line! Use government money – why shouldn’t they fund you? ;)

  7. tersa

    Maybe I misunderstood you…but you almost seemed to say, in your own essay, that you *do* understand where these people are coming from.

    They discontinued the Highlander novel line

    MAYBE I’ll go ahead and sit down and write those just for the sheer fun of it

    it boggles my mind that people are willing to write, sometimes write entire novels, without any publication intent.

    Some people just write to write; no differently than how you might write those other Methos novels. For fun. For the experience.

    (Hell. I’ve probably written more than several novels worth of words and scenes on MUSHes over the past ten years. Why’d I do that? It was fun. But actually sitting down to write a novel? It daunts me.)

  8. mizkit

    Fixed the IB URL, sorry. I cut and pasted the rant from my main blog and forgot to change that URL, although I fixed the other ones. Silly me.

    Right, right, I meant to get around to talking about the very bad self-published comics, but I got distracted doing so.

    On one hand: there’s not much difference between self-publishing comics and vanity publishing. On the other hand: there seems to be more general acceptance for self-publishing comics, and I’m not /entirely/ sure why, except /possibly/ the comics industry is so *much* smaller than the novel-publishing industry that it seems like (to borrow Trip’s phrase) the only way to get around The Man.

    I suspect there must be some percentage of vanity-published books, too, which are wonderful. But one doesn’t /hear/ about those; one does, though, come across self-published comics, fairly regularly, that /are/ wonderful. (Of course, you also come across really bad ones.) Now, that might also have something to do with distribution — you might have to be able to prove a certain level of readership or something to get distributed through Diamond — and that might weed out the horrible stuff before it has a chance to get anywhere near national levels, or they’re .. I donno. Something. Simply inherently good enough (and there are some) that can get past the whole Diamond distribution problem and make it into the hands of the general comics-reading public. Most of the crap isn’t going to go more than local.

    *Lots* — most — of web comics /are/ drek. But people are putting together comics sites for original web-based comics that /aren’t/, and anyway, I think my actual point in there regarding web-based comics was mostly just that self-publishing comics seems to have less stigma than self-publishing novels. :)

    In the incredibly unlikely chance I should do Chance online, I promise I’ll try very very hard to get it into traditional media. :)

  9. mizkit

    I… well, people bringing up the hobby aspect and comparing writing being for some people like art is to me is… sort of helping me wrap my brain around where people who write fanfic/not for publication are coming from. Sort of. :)

    See, as for the Methos novels… I really don’t know if I’ll ever write them. I’d /like/ to. I love writing the character. I have two solid ideas that I’d love to follow through. But the only way I’m ever going to publish them is online as fan fiction, and I really don’t know if I think it’s worth the trouble of writing 200K to do that. I would have to be so solidly established in my writing /career/, and so far ahead in my books-going-to-publishers, to even *consider* taking the time to write an unpublishable novel, that it’s hard for me to consider it as a possible way to spend my time.

    And I suspect that’s really the wall I’m running up against in the whole thing. This is what I want for my *career*; it’s what I’ve wanted to do pretty much my entire life. From that perspective, I can’t /afford/ to sit down and write something *sheerly* for fun (which is a loaded thing to say, because I always have fun when I’m writing a book, but I don’t do it exactly /because/ it’s fun). The idea that other people *can* sit down and write *sheerly* for fun is … mind-blowing. :)

  10. xpioti

    No novels under my belt, but lots and lots and lots of technical documentation. I write not because I want to, not because I have to, but because I’m the only person available who is qualified to do so — and because I hate talking to stupid people, so would rather email them the document with a politely-worded “RTFM”. How’s that for a reason. *wry smile* (Me, I want to make money riding and training horses!)

  11. mizkit

    *glrghgh* I just wrote a big long answer to this and deleted it accidentally. *glrlrgh* Let’s see if I can recreate…

    I can, on some level, understand not writing a NNWM novel with the intention of publication. For almost everybody, it’s a first-time effort; I came into it from a different place, ANGLES being my 5th or so novel. And the point of NNWM is, of course, to write crap, and to get to 50K and finish your book, not to create a work of stunning literary genius.

    OTOH, I guess, lots of first drafts are crap, and if you’ve gone to the trouble of writing a first draft, it’s hard for me to see that as enough. I mean, you have the hardest part done (from my pov, anyway): you have the rough draft; you have the material you can now *fix*. Why not then fix it and try to get it published?

    (One answer: because first novels are usually very very bad. I will note that I’m not actually brave enough to look at my first novel again. I’ve been working myself up to looking at it. For the last year or so. So, okay, I can see maybe not bothering with the first one. OTOH, you (and that’s a generic you, not a mony-specific you) wrote it, so… why not see if you /can/ improve it?)

    And, once more, I’m not so much trying to actually convince people to my way of thinking as I am trying to wrap my mind around another way of thinking. It’s just really hard for me to comprehend. :)

    But: YAY MONYGOALS! *cheers you on*!

  12. shoka

    Fixed the IB URL Woo, thanks, something to read tonight while I’m in wait-mode for a painting to dry.

    I was thinking self-publishing might be more accepted because the creator had to cough up the money to get it published and work to distribute it. But I see places like Xlibris (‘oh no, we aren’t a vanity publisher!’) charge money to PoD your book.

    I wonder if self-published comics are more accepted because it is a niche type market. My local comic store buys 1 of almost everything and the employees point out new comics they think are quality stories, if the book isn’t already on my pull list. That’s how I got into Artesia and Age of Bronze initially. Other than a private collectible book dealer I buy from, I cannot remember the last time a book seller recommended anything to me.

    Hmm, the fact that there are so few comics coming out (at least through the distribution channels) that they can get a copy of each in probably also helps. Bookstores carry a smaller subset of all the new books published from ‘real’ publishing houses each week. If they can’t carry all the new books, I’m not surprised they do not usually have self published ones. I am happy to say though, that the Barnes and Noble near work is carrying many of the books from Meisha Merlin now.

    On local vs. national, I agree it’s rare to see a crappy self-published comic outside of local (or convention) distribution. For that I am thankful. The sad thing with self-published books is that the PoD places can get the books on Amazon where they get five star reviews. The Xlibris published Redeeming Factors is the worst physical book I have ever read. It rivals some of the worst fanfic I have read online. But there it is with glowing reviews.

    Meh, I’m rambling again and I should be working *laugh. This discussion is too enjoyably thought-provoking!

  13. tersa

    *g* I think you just did a good job of defining it, for me at least. For example, my needlecrafts–I do it for fun, but I bet for seamstreses, tailors, and people in the textile industries in 2nd and 3rd world countries, that’s their *livelihood*.

    Maybe a good shoe for the other foot is your art? You do it for fun, right? But there are artists out there who do it as their career…maybe it’s the difference between a hobby, and a calling.

  14. mizkit

    Yeah, I think the art example is an excellent one to fall back on for me to compare. I certainly /know/ people who are making their careers in the art world, and while they do draw for fun, it’s — well. All practice towards their larger goal, I think. (Arguably the short bits of fiction I write or my journal or my weblogs are similar for me.) I’ve seen do a zillion little doodles that’ve turned into saleable art pieces for her; that may be the same thing, basically, as how I approach writing. Certainly she writes all sorts of wonderful things that she doesn’t appear to have any intention of pursuing in a publication sense, so it’s maybe a pretty darned good comparison. It gives me somewhere to work from. :)

    See! I’m starting to grasp it! I can be taught! :)

  15. mizkit

    Woo, thanks, something to read tonight while I’m in wait-mode for a painting to dry.

    I hope you enjoy it. :)

    Yeah, vanity publishers and most PoD end up charging you to print your book, so that’s not it. But in the comics world there seems to be some level of acceptance or expectation in going the self-publishing “I paid for all this, by gum!” route.

    You make a good point about comic venues hand-picking stuff for their readers. I also don’t remember the last time I had somebody at a bookstore say “here, try this” (although I do remember a time somebody at a bookstore said, “I tried this book because you’d special-ordered it and you have good taste in books,” which was pretty cool *laugh*), and comic shops /do/ that. It might help self-publishers carve a little niche for themselves. I donno. But I do think that in order to gain a foothold, most self-published comics have to have at least some kind of redeeming quality to them. They may have to be actively *good*. Those that don’t or aren’t, are by and large going to founder in their local market and not move beyond that. Amazon does change the stakes for self-published novels (although it certainly doesn’t /improve/ those novels in any way…) in a way that I don’t think comics have achieved. I’m not entirely sure comics /can/ achieve that. Graphic novels, maybe, but individual comics, that’s tough.

    Ok, I, too, have lost whatever point I might’ve been making, and should go back to work even if this /is/ a lot more fun, so I’ll close by saying Barnes & Noble up here is also carrying Meisha Merlin books, incidentally, which I also think is cool. :)

  16. mizkit

    It’s a perfectly fine reason! Although it’s a different sort of creature than the one I’m wrestling with; I understand writing things because you’re the only one qualified to. :)

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