Wednesday, August 6, 2008


So yesterday evening, I decided to save a few ounces of gasoline and walk to the grocery store instead of driving.  It was a longish walk, but not impossible, and it gave me loads of time to think.

And as I walked, I came up with two ways to rewrite two crucial scenes that made so much more sense.  I got so excited, I went ahead and plowed into one of those scenes and wound up staying well past my bedtime hashing it out.

I'm still figuring it out exactly.  But one of the downsides is that all the subsequent scenes that refer back to that moment now have to be rewritten.  The little wrinkle it leaves has to be pushed all the way to the edge of the table.

I think before I tackle the other rewritten scene, I should read through to keep track of what other parts refer back to it, so I'll know where I need to smooth things once I know what it's been changed to.

But it's starting to get addictive again, which is a good thing at this point, I think.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Wrong End

Once in a while, when I mention that I've finished a manuscript and I'm in the middle of revising it with the intent to submit it for publication, someone will suggest something along the lines of "Well, if that doesn't work out, you can always self-publish, right?"

I sort of smile and shake my head when people say that.

I think the digital printing revolution is a marvelous thing, I truly do.  My parents actually created their own small press, using Lulu as a printer, so my mother could create a simple and inexpensive textbook for clinical nursing instruction. And, of course, my years in the poetry scene have introduced me to many a traveling poet selling self-published chapbooks in order to have enough gas money to make it to the next gig.

But for novel-length fiction, self-publishing is doing the hard work from the wrong end.

My intent is to do the hard work at the front end--at grinding and polishing this chunk of prose into something that makes it to #14 on the Slushkiller list.  (At this point, I think I'm at least at #7 but probably no higher than #9.)  Because once I reach that point, I can relax.  The contract is signed, the book is printed, the books go to bookstores and (I sincerely hope) people buy them.

But if I take what I have, take it to Lulu, slap a cover on it and say "Yay!  I'm published!" then the hard work has just begun.  Then I have to find a million ways to wave this book in people's faces and say "Hey!  Ya wanna buy a book?"  And believe me, that's a hell of a lot harder to do when people can't go to your local Borders or B&N and pick the thing up, thumb through it, think "hm, this looks interesting" and put down the cash for it.

Yes, there are self-publishing success stories of people who have managed bookstore placement by acting like a small press.  Here's the thing--they weren't fiction.  When you're dealing with information, it's easier to determine if the book will be successful because it can be measured in how useful the information is.  When you're dealing with art, it's much harder to quantify.  And, the fact of the matter is, there is already a metric ton of self-published novels by people who were too impatient to polish their work to the level it needed, so the moment a bookstore buyer sees self-published fiction, the assumption is that it will be crap.  And it's a pretty safe bet.

I have no interest in having to struggle to reassure people that, really, it's not as bad as the pixelated cover might imply.  Frankly, I don't want to have to reassure people of anything--I want them to buy my books in such a way that I never see them do it.

And, yes, that's ambitious.  Which is why I understand I have a lot of work left to do.