Thursday, May 04, 2006

Now, if I could just turn off the TV, I think I could finally get started.

Once upon a time, which indeed is now a long time ago, I wrote a novelette entitled Once in A Lullaby, which - very unusual in the biz - was published by the first market I submitted it to, the first Bantam Full Spectrum anthology; the first in what would become a continuing series. I think they hit "Full Spectrum 5" before shutting down shop.

The first FS was pretty successful, including that year's Nebula short story winner, James Morrow's "Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge", as well as two stories which were nominated for both a Nebula and a Hugo, Norman Spinrad's novella "Journals of the Plague Years" and Jack McDevitt's short story "The Fort Moxie Branch".

even placed fairly high in Nebula Awards voting, again unusual for an unknown writer's first published story. As an aside, if you locate a first edition of FS, - which you can usually find on-line for a couple of bucks - you'll find the title of McDevitt's story missprinted as "The Fourth Moxie Branch." Both Jack and I - and probably others - pointed the typo out when we read the galleys; and it still made it into publication, which is an instructive lesson about how much the average writer influences the publication process. As another aside, Spinrad's novella was actually a reworking of a novel proposal he had submitted to Bantam and had turned down. With Norman's usual "fuck you" 'tude, he reworked it as a novella, submitted it to FS, and had it accepted where it became the showcase piece of the anthology. Almost a decade later he'd finally publish the full version.

But I digress.

Anyway, in the course of things, Lou Aronica, who was the frontspiece editor of FS and Bantam's then sf publisher, asked me if I had a novel manuscript he could read. That was one of those quantum moments that punctuates everyone's life... you open the box and maybe the cat is still alive - or maybe not. In my case, the cat didn't make it. I had no novel, and while I had a lot of ideas for novels, I didn't have anything on paper.

This all brings me, in a roundabout way, to Sarah Hepola's Slate article, Why I shut down my blog, which is instructive reading for anyone who thinks that blogging will somehow, magically, mystically lead them into a new career as an, ahem, Author. That's not to say its not possible, but as Ms. Hepola notes,

"Actually, agents and editors had contacted me before, based on my blog as well as the writing I did for an online magazine called At the time, I was living in Dallas, and to be e-mailed by an actual New York agent felt like the 21st-century equivalent of being discovered at the mall. The e-mails were flattering, but, ultimately, they all asked the same annoying question: Have you written a book? Apparently, this was a requirement. When I told them I hadn't, they moved on to the next blogger with potential, and I was left back in the mall where they'd found me, riffling through the sale at Hot Topic."
As with me. You want to get published? First thing to do is to write something - a short story, a poem, a novel. Not a blog entry. Publishers are packagers. If they can package your product and think they can make a profit, they will. But no product, no packaging. And the only writers who collect advances for ideas are the ones who have proved that their product already sells... the Steve Kings, the Dan Browns, the whoever is on the bestseller charts.

The recent debacle over Kaavya Viswanathan's "internalizing" is probably another example. I'm personally convinced that when Viswanathan submitted her original draft - which apparently was far different from the book that got published - someone at Alloy Entertainment, the "book packager" she shared copyright with, realized that they had a pretty, bright, ethnic young woman who was Harvard-bound and who could sell a certain number of copies of a certain type of book with the right promotion machine behind her. What happened after that is anyone's guess... but I have my suspicions.

End of free advice. And in case you're feeling sorry for me and lost chances or whatever... I made my choice. Most days I'm pretty happy about it. The life of your average writer ain't beer and skittles; most keep a day job because most earn far below the poverty level from their writing alone. I'm not motivated enough to work at more than one job... and I make my living writing now, albeit nothing you'll ever find on a B&N shelf, but a pretty good living it is, thank you.

And I'm not down yet, either. Listen, I have this idea for a book, see...

via the Iggster

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