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Archive for December, 2007

Year In Review

It’s only natural, as the year winds down, to look back at the past 12 months and take stock of what I’ve accomplished.

The first half of the year was a blur, as I moved out of my apartment in the city to a condo in the suburbs. I’ve spent the rest of the year adjusting to the longer commute. Nonetheless, I did manage to get some work done.

I wrote two new stories. One horror and one sci-fi. The horror story was rejected by the one magazine I’ve submitted it to so far. The other story needs some tweaking, and I think it’s going to be part of a series (but we’ll see how that goes.)

I revised the first draft my 2nd novel and started typing the changes, which is slowed down by doing further revision on the fly. I would lament the pace at which I’m progressing, but when a questionable passage in the original is improved considerably, or a detail is changed that enhances the story, I feel confident I’m moving at the right speed.

This year, I also started this blog. I’m not sure that I should count that as an accomplishment, since it took like a minute to set up, and somewhere around three billion people have blogs. But since it was created to enhance my chances of being published, I’ll put it on the list. If it turns out that the time I spend posting stuff here detracts from my writing and harms my chances of being published, I’ll make note of it in next year’s wrap-up.

I think the only goal for this year that I didn’t achieve was getting a story published. Oh, well. I guess I’ll have to put that on next year’s list.

Cheers.

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There’s an article in today’s New York Times about shopdropping, or reverse-shoplifting. It’s described as “surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out.” There’s a picture of a T-Shirt that features three revolutionaries ( Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin and Che Guevara) wearing Santa hats. The point being the commercialization of radical ideas, or something like that. Is this a point that needs to be made? T-shirts with the iconic image of Che Guevara have been around for a long time.

One sentence in the Times article caught my eye. “Self-published authors sneak their works into the ‘new releases’ section” of chain bookstores. As an aspiring writer, I can appreciate the desire to get one’s work out there, and have people read it. I am also aware of the value of having a book placed on the ‘new releases’ shelves or tables at Borders or Barnes & Noble. It’s my understanding that publishers pay handsome sums to have their products displayed in this prime real estate at the front of the stores. Having one’s book prominently displayed where it can get maximum eyeball time is certainly alluring.

I wonder, though, how effective it is to place it there yourself. The self-published book will not be in the computer system of the chain store. What happens when someone takes a copy up to the register and tries to purchase it? Even if it’s marked “Free,” will the employee simply let the person take it? It hardly seems likely. I would think that a manager would be involved at some point. Once it is determined that the book is not part of the store’s inventory, wouldn’t the manager refuse to let the customer take it? Wouldn’t they then make sure that any additional copies are removed from the shelf or table?

At that point, the customer, who was actually interested in your book is, at best, disappointed. At worst, they’re embarrassed or humiliated. What are the odds they will buy your book now? Plus, there’s a good chance they’ll be spreading the story to their friends and family, and perhaps even their blog. Is there really no such thing as bad publicity?

Plus, if the chain store keep a list of authors who try to drop their books in their store, will that harm an author’s chances of having a book placed there if they get published by a mainstream publishing house? Would a publisher / editor / agent have a bad opinion of someone who tried shopdropping their book?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’d really like to find out. If anyone has personal experience of shopdropping their book, or of trying to buy a book that was dropped, I’d love to hear about it.

Competition is fierce in the publishing world. I’m not surprised to read about authors trying unconventional methods to get noticed. Seems to me that shopdropping is the wrong way to go about it.

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Off Like A Shot

Or not.

As I started typing the changes that I made to my manuscript, I ran into a familiar problem in the very first paragraph. Namely, I don’t like it. While revising my first novel, I must have re-worked the opening sentence or paragraph a couple dozen times. I finally got it to the point where I liked it. (At the time, anyway. I bet that if I were to open the file right now, I could find at least one thing to change in it.)

The real question is whether I want to start off with a brief (five sentence) expository paragraph, or just dump the reader into the action. I’m leaning toward the latter, though I like having the short warm up. But I’ve read many times that dropping into the middle of the action is the best way to grab people right form the start. On the other hand, maybe the action would make more sense with the into (which is only five sentences.)

Thus faced with the prospect of spending untold hours vacillating over a rather minor piece of the puzzle, I did what any reasonable person would do: I made a note to fix it later and moved on.

Problem solved.

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I finished marking up my 2nd novel on Friday night. I can finally fire up the word processor and begin making the changes.

I’m wondering, though, about something only peripherally related to this project. Does it matter which word processor I use? At work I (like most of the world) am forced to used Microsoft Word, simply because “everybody else does.” At home, though, I’ve never used Word. For years, I used WordPro from Lotus, until IBM killed it. Now, I use StarOffice from Sun. Is there going to be a point where I have to simply bite the bullet and start using Word? Does it make things easier for agents/editors/publishers? Do they care one way or the other?

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