Friday, February 10, 2006

Post-It Notes

I really, really wish sometimes there were not all those vague "Don't run with sissors" rumbles,restrictions and dire warnings about posting pieces on the internet.
'Cause I find it a great editing exercise. Whether the comments are complimentary or critical, they force one to look carefully at whichever word choice, phrase or passage excites a reaction.
Earlier that that - especially if one re-types instead of doing a simple cut-and-paste from a Word document - the mere mechanical act of typing the passage fresh allows for a re-vision of vision.
In fact, I remember on writing guru suggesting this physical re-write as a useful method of self-edit.
I love advice like that - advice that validates a method that one is forced to use by reason of one's own cyber inadequacies and computer incompetence. Approval of a means one naturally uses out of necessity rather than design is always satisfying. Makes you feel not such an idiot after all.
But then I usually write my ms. in longhand before I put it in Word, so I'm additionally inclined towards archaic theories and primitive practises.

Another thing that tends to prejudice me towards this publishing prohibition is its similarity to a disability/life insurance salesman's pitch.
Fear of consequences. Vague and unspecified consequences. The Unknown of the day nor the hour. Very scriptural. Deliberately so, I suspect.
I.e. When the Great Publisher in the Sky calls you home, there will be no payout because your work is already out there , it's stale.
Thirty-nine people may have read a draft and it's stale?
Or, it may ring bells in an agent's or editor's memory and they will toss the partial because they feel they have seen it before.
Makes sense superficially, don't it?
But on reflection we might consider that agents and editors are too damned busy - or so they vociferously claim, and I believe them - to swan around the internet reading writer's expositions.
And yes, they probably have seen it before, considering the size of their slush piles and the number of submissions they see, but that's not the point in question here.
This assumption is, I'm afraid, on about the same level as the growing urban legend about writers being "discovered" on the internet equivalent of Hollywood and Vine.
Oh yes, it has happened.
But to fear/hope it may happen to you has the statistical odds of walking out your front door this morning and promptly being hit by a truck. Actually, I think the truck is more likely.
There may be good and sufficient reasons for holding one's priceless words secret and confidential. I just haven't found them yet.

Today's Slang:
Accommodation house: A brothel; a disorderly house; from ca 1820, now obsolete. Colloquial.


Carla said...

I scribble longhand and then type it up, too, so that's two of us. I do it because it means I can write whilst eating my lunchtime sandwiches without getting crumbs in the keyboard. Sometimes that's the only writing time I get in a week and I don't want to lose it. The additional edit is useful too, as you say.

I happen to know someone who put her entire book up on a website and was contacted some years later, out of the blue, by a publisher asking about translation rights. The publisher didn't buy in the end, as they decided it would be too expensive to pay a translator, but the point is they weren't at all put off by the fact that the whole book had been up on the web. So I don't see how posting snippets can possibly do any harm.

People aren't very good with statistics in general. The human brain isn't wired up for them, somehow. We'll happily agree 'it could be you' when the chance of winning the lottery jackpot is 1 in 17 million, but we never think it could be us getting struck by lightning or hit by a meteorite (which is probably about the same odds as the lottery jackpot) or hit by a truck (which is a lot more likely). Perhaps writers have an even less certain grasp on reality than usual? (Arguably one has to have, or the idea of submitting anything to people who get 50 submissions a day and take on 6 a year would just be too absurd to contemplate).

Bernita said...

Yes, food is a very good reason; and in spite of laptops, pen, paper and a clipboard are more portable.
I find people tend to make assumptions based either on too little data or a failure to calculate negative data - what I usually call "context."
One notices it frequently in the study of myth and superstition.
This tendency is the mother lode of the snake oil salesman such as the "cloud buster" who claims he can disperse certain clouds - which in fact naturally disappear on their own.
People tend to believe what they WANT to believe, logic and fact notwithstanding.

Carla said...

The technical term for it is selective memory, I think, and it can explain a lot of 'paranormal' experiences. People remember the time they dreamed of Auntie Maud on the very night she died, but they don't remember all the times they dreamed of Auntie Maud and she didn't die that night. You need the denominator as well as the numerator to assess anything.

Bernita said...

Exactly, Carla.

Sandra Ruttan said...


Simply put, you may end up with a contract on your desk that requires the work has never been posted electronically or in print anywhere, in whole or in part.

And having posted an excerpt for feedback could become a legal issue or an impediment to taking the contract.

I've just had this come up. And with how it was written into the offer, it has made me very glad that I haven't been posting snippits of anything on my blog, because if I take the deal, they want to see everything I've got.

Do with it what you will....Everyone forges their own path, and you may never have a problem. Or you might - who's to say?

Erik Ivan James said...

I do most of my initial writing in longhand on children's scribble pads. They are cheap, I buy them about 10 at a time and keep them handy in my vehicle, around the house, etc. I do a lot of my writing early in the morning and during breakfast----sometimes in my scribble pad and sometimes on the back of the paper placemat. Then, I keyboard it into my computer, rewriting as I go.

Bernita said...

But would a passage that has since undergone revision and editing from the time of its original posting constitute publication "in part" under this inclusive provision?
Seems to me there's weasel room.

Bernita said...

Sound familiar, Erik, - and any paper will do.
What ever's handy when an idea strikes.

Savannah Jordan said...

I have actually scribbled scenes on napkins! I have a notbook in every room in the house, one in my purse... But, the majority of my compostion is done on the pc. I write, and then I edit before moving on to another scene.

In point of fact, I wrte/revise so much that at times I tire of my own writing. *gasp*

And, as to Sandra's comment, I have seen concerns to that exact matter even in submissions guidlines. I'm not sure what the wiggle factor is there... But, it does concern me as one who does occasionally post snippets.

Dennie McDonald said...

my first three book I wrote, I did longhand and revised as I imputted it in Word - eventually I combined the first two into one book - I edited the heck out of it twice - but hey - that is one of the books I sold recently (it comes out this summer) so... I guess I did good =)

Carla said...

I've scribbled lines of dialogue on bus tickets and on the back of a shopping list in a supermarket. I'm never organised enough to carry a notepad.

Dennie McDonald said...

what's sad - I have been driving before and had heir (that'd be my oldest) find a scrap of paper from my purse and I dictated to him -

Ric said...

I, too, write everywhere. I keep a journal - and sometimes the beginnings of a story on white writing pads (like legal pads, only shorter). This is mostly done in restaurants, with coffee and cigarettes. Lately, I've been having to find new restaurants because too many people stop by and say hi, or want to talk about their dogs, or whatever.

I think snippets are fine - like those Bernita does occassionally. Would posting your first page on the Crapometer count? You can get into all sorts of craziness here.

On the other hand, what if lightening does strike? What if your three page posting is stumbled upon by the Archangel of Agents? Anything that gets your name out there.

Advertising. As long as they remember your name....

Savannah Jordan said...

I'll go you one worse, Dennie! I had my husband take dication while I sat in the bathtub, shaving my legs! I've even had my son take dictation outisde of the bathroom door as I bellowed lines from the shower. :)

Dennie McDonald said...

LOL - Savannah

Bonnie Calhoun said... that's dedication!

I have always written longhand at my shop and then rewrote it into the computer at home. Now I have a laptop, so that goes everywhere with me...

Not too worried about crumbs...not after as many times as I've snorted coffee on the monitor...plastic great for food too!

I post excerpts on my blog and I've prepared one from eac Ms. for my upcoming website...If it ever became an issue, I could rewrite that snippit.

It's just a sample to show my ability with words, so I don't worry about it. If it gets someone interested in my work...I'll be happy to rewrite it!

Savannah Jordan said...

I am nothing if not dedicated! :)

And as a side note... I may have to try the plastic cover thing. Coffee does spray on occasion.

Bernita said...

Hi People, sorry I had to be away for awhile.
Sandra quotes the first specific example against it I've seen, and one to consider.
My objection is to the vague generalized rumour.

One assumes that publishers' contracts and scope may vary according to the publisher.

I've tried to train myself to keep a clipboard with me. Of course when I do, the mind is mute.
That certainly is dedication, Savannah.

Sandra Ruttan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi Bernita (+ everyone)

You know, I'd be tempted to ask Miss Snark.

Besides, every contract is different, so I don't know if all the players have rushed to address issues such as this, or not.

There are so many ways to spin it, and I can see the arguments from all sides. And I'll stop right there.

Wow - how people work! Great topic though... dictating while shaving legs, ROFLMAO.


Bernita said...

Just read - on Electra's Crapometer??( not sure) - that as long as it's less than than 10 %. Encouraging but alas, still an unspecified rumour.

Gabriele C. said...

I can't write longhand. I learned to use a typewriter when I was 12, and since then I've written longhand only when I could not avoid it. Which does make it difficult to jot down notes away from the laptop (which I don't carry everywhere because they get stolen a lot here - organised gangs from Russia, mostly). Longhand stiffles my creativity.

As for publishing snippets online - I've heard more advise that you can do it than against it, and I suppose if a publisher was so nitpicky as not to allow snippets and participation in online crit forums, it won't be a good publisher to work with for me anyway. I can't stand that sort of small mindedness. Heck, my online chapters have gained me enough of "I want to read that book" to count as marketing. *grin*

Gabriele C. said...

Bernita, I've heard that 10% argument several times, and it's what I take as guideline for my own snippets on non-password sites.

Bernita said...

I like the 10% concept, Gabriele, primarily because it suggests an fair and resonable exception; furthermore it reflects publishing minds that are aware of and understand the realities of writing in a new electronic era where definitions of "rights" and "publication" are uncertain, evolving, and definitely not as cut-and-dried as they were in the garret-and-typewriter age.

Rick said...

Gabriele - I'm like you; I basically can't write longhand. I used a typewriter till computers came along.

My gut feeling about snippeting would be much on the conservative side of 10 percent. I wouldn't want to pin it down, beyond that "snippets" is probably what it should be, more like one percent - a few pages' worth of a novel - in order to avoid too many potential complications if an offer comes along.

Lisa Hunter said...

I'm surprised internet posts are a problem with publishers. Books like Susan Minot's Monkeys were published almost entirely in magazines before they were published. With first fiction, anything that shows you have a following should be a plus.

Perhaps the worry is that if the company publishes the book and spends money to promote it while an electronic version is floating around the Net, people will read the electronic version for free instead of buying the book.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Lisa Hunter,
That is such good news. My first novel, The Black Icon was serialized in a magazine, but,unfortunately, so long ago.
I was eventually rescued by the Aurora Public library here, who paid for a softcover printing.
Still no real cigar though.
...There is some sort of news dribble about the Black Madonna of
Chestochowa over in Poland. I haven't tracked it down yet, but as soon as the anti-icon riots start, I am reissuing.

Op Oturnist

Rick said...

Lisa - The e-verse is such a rapidly moving target, and publishing companies are paranoid. In a few years a new relationship will evolve between online and print, but till then the whole subject of internet publication will make them nervous.

R.J. Baker said...

It's funny by the time this is all figured out publishers, as we know them, may not exist.

Digitalization is on its way, if it hasn't already arrived. They haven't figured it out. Google is scanning everything and we're worried about 10%?

Is there a market for your work is the better question. Anything that appears on blogs will be editted and modified a hundred times before publication and will likely not resemble what was posted.

P.S. Meet me under the Canadian Bridge in Detroit for further legal and publishing advice. ;)~~~

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

C'mon dude,
I been through rehab, seven "wives",madness, the whole Ecclesiastes rag.
As you've indicated elsewhere, at forty you get the WHAM.
It just happens. You are in good company, Dante, Pirandello (great worker in the pain industry), Virginia Woolf, to some extent, Hemingway and so many others. The snow falls on the living and the dead.
Did I tell you the James Joyce story, where some Loreli frigged him in a movie theatre and then stopped? Poor guy followed her around for years and years like a half-jerked fox in a forest fire. I'm not saying it's great, but you just gotta live through it.
"How the hell did you manage to write a novel during all that sturm und drang?" asks the editor.
Dunno. Right warehose. Right time,I suppose, right amount of palimony.
And we're still not at the front gate.
Nice thing though, you meet an old lady who says she's seen something of yours in print fory years back. You reached somebody.

The keyboard is too easy.
Get some yellow paper and a bic.

Truman Capote to Jack Kerouac on learning Kerouac typed everything:
"That ain't writin', that's typin'."

See Norman Mailer on his Deer Park book in Advertisments for Myself.
Damn near went nuts, but he prevailed, oh how he prevailed.

Bernita said...

Lisa, some publishers already post snippits /chapters as enticement.

Bernita said...

One thing no one takes into consideration, R.J., when the question of e-pubs, traditional publishing's demise, etc., is that this e-future depends on the delivery of an increasing and constant source of electric power.

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