Friday, August 28, 2009

Rain Goes Public

For a long time I shied away from writing long form fiction. When I say a long time, I mean a dozen years or more, off and on. I wrote short stories and submitted them to publishers, and once in a while I received acceptance and occasionally monetary compensation. To this day I still have manuscripts floating about, and when one comes back with a no it goes right back out again to someone else. It’s a revolving door of email attachments, hardcopy mailings, small press magazines and genre websites. It’s fun, and it makes me very happy to be able to participate, even when I’m being rejected.

Sometimes I think I take rejection a bit too much in stride, or that I may be harboring some sick, private enjoyment of it, but that’s not really a subject I want to discuss in this post. What I want to talk about is Rain.

I think I still have a bit of faith in traditional publishing. I have plans to query agents and attack the publishing houses. I still picture a hardback with my name on the spine just under an impressive publisher’s logo. Perhaps someday I may even have my name on an orange-gilded spine with a flightless bird beneath it. I don’t think so, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Nothing really is.

This isn't something I think would even catch the eye of an agent or editor for even a moment, but that doesn't mean it's something that doesn't deserve exposure.

What I’ve noticed in recent months and years is that it’s not entirely necessary to rely on agents and publishers, not if you’re writing for the craft and hell of it. If you’re writing to make yourself happy, to cut out the middleman, to reach out and be able not only to touch your readers but to clasp hands with them, you don’t need any of this. You just need to put your work out there and let the public decide on what merit it has and in what quantity.

I don’t think I ever would have decided to do this if I hadn’t seen so many others attempting it before, putting their own personal spin on it.

Cliff Burns got sick of traditional publishing, burned his bridges and forged his own way. He’s one hell of a spitfire and an excellent writer to boot. He’s released whole novels along with short story reprints on his site. If you don’t mind someone with extremely strong opinions on pretty much everything, or if that’s the kind of writing you long for, I urge you to check him out. Seriously, he’s great.

Dan Holloway, author of self-published novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall and founding member of the Year Zero Writers Collective, is currently releasing his The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes as an Internet novel. Chapters are released incrementally on Facebook. It’s an amazing story, layers and layers of narrative on top of each other, unfolding in front of readers with an ease and spot-on eye for pop culture that makes it seem as if it were actually happening, as if these characters actually had breath and life and were appearing on legitimate news sources. It feels real, and it’s fascinating, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to watch it unfold.

Everyone already knows about my love for Machine Man. I’m not wasting any more space or time explaining it or pimping it out. People are going to start thinking I’ve got a crush on Max Barry (Okay, so I do.) Read it. Read it now, and you can thank me later.

What about all those other people writing novels with their cellphones? Japan’s got tons of them, written by young people and retirees alike. They’re huge. They’ve gained their authors print deals and news coverage all the way across the world. Amazing.

These examples and many others have convinced me to put Rain out, to give it in its raw, experimental form and see what becomes of it. I almost feel like I’m putting it in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean in the middle of a tropical storm, unsure of what to expect in return, worried it might not even reach anybody. It’s a strange feeling.

Rain is, among a few other unpublished novel length pieces, a training wheels exercise. I don’t learn something and become comfortable with it until I’ve gone through the motions several times, breaking things down into components and memorizing their functions before connecting all the pieces. I don’t really know how to write a novel, even though I’ve read at least a dozen books on the subject. And I won’t, not until I’ve flailed about in the muck of my own first attempts and witnessed for myself their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures.

I decided to make Facebook Rain’s primary home because it will gain more exposure there, as I have a built-in network of like-minded people already in place. I’ll be blogging about the process offsite as well, here on Blogger.


Jessica Brown said...

Came home from a day out and about and found a response from Cliff Burns in my inbox:

"Thanks for the plug, Jess.

I'm a whole lot less angry than I used to be, methinks. Publishing on the internet, posting on my blog for the past two years, has freed me up creatively and pulled me out of that whole submission/rejection rut that I endured for over 2 decades. Possessing complete control over my work is an empowering and intoxicating experience for me...unlike the humiliations I had to endure at the hands of agents and editors, begging for a moment of their time. To hell with that: now my readers come to ME and (apparently) they're liking what they see, God bless 'em.

Keep following your Muse and remember: perseverance is essential to surviving life in the arts. Find your own, unique voice and present it to the world. There are over 6 billion potential readers out there and technology has overcome all physical barriers, political borders and ideologies. Publishers, editors and agents, the apparatchiks and lackeys of the old regime, are no longer necessary; obsolete, in fact. I've said it before, I'll say it again: these are exciting times to be an artist..."


Rhys-Lain-Austurias said...

Writing a novel, but don't know how? 1-trash the self help books. Yeah, sure, they tell you how that writer writes, but they don't tell you how YOU write. And there is the answer floating just out of your grasp until you come to realize this for yourself(this something I have learned in my decade of writing-people can tell you how to help yourself all they want, but you won't be helped until you can learn it on your own.). The human mind has a very odd way of operating.

Only you will know what your novels will sound like when you write them. No one will be able to mimic you, nor you them. Actually, the fact that anybody can successfully copy anyone at anything is quite disturbing and unnatural when you consider than we are human and imperfect.

As I said before, you can bounce and chapters off me if you want to see how your work will be received. I know you will completely disregard this offer when you read this post, but the offer will ALWAYS be on the table.