Tag Archives: Writing

Writers Stealing Writers

Good morning folks. Thanks for gathering here with me today. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve taken this time to talk to you about a problem I’ve seen in the independent writing community, one that I really hope eventually goes away but might need a nudge or two from those who know better. And really, anyone reading this page knows better, or should. I’m talking about the problem of writers stealing books.

Obviously, I’m not talking about shoplifting* or even armed robbery of a Barnes and Noble delivery truck. (That exact thought may or may not have crossed my mind in the past. We’ll discuss that later, after my lawyer says it’s okay.) I’m not talking about plagiarism either, or the shadowy concept of ripping off someone’s ideas. The former is easy to prove and document, especially in the Internet age, and is universally hated already, and the latter… well, there are really only so many ideas out there. Any experienced writer already knows that the ideas aren’t nearly as important as the way you tell the story and the talent and skill you’ve invested in developing a voice, a voice that other readers will want to experience.

No, I’m talking about online book piracy. It’s tempting to do this, especially if you want to refer back to a book you’ve read before. Or maybe you just want to see if you want to read something, and the book winds up staying on your hard drive long after you’ve ‘previewed it’ to the last page. And even though there are literally millions of free books online (I literally mean literally there… it’s a shame that we have to literally specify that, now, though this author is happy enough that he doesn’t have to write this in Old English, that he can tolerate a changing language) it’s sometimes a matter of finding something a fellow writer recommended, or having to deal with a random wild hair that tells you you need to read that exact something and you need to read it now.

I’m not going to say I’ve never done this myself. And while I can’t speak for all writers, and I sincerely hope I’m not speaking for all writers, I suspect that more of us than not have made copies of books that we weren’t precisely entitled to. This is dangerous.

In my particular case, I made the leap to delete anything I had from a working writer that wasn’t legally acquired, freely or otherwise, because I realised that I was debasing my own work. By deciding that my need to read a new book right now trumped the right of the person who had done the work the right to make a couple of dollars from it, I was conterfeiting my own artistic effort. Why should I get any kind of money for my writing if I myself didn’t want to pay other writers? It was a hard choice… a few of the ten or so that I deleted were in a series of which I own other books, and I have always been quite the completist… but the right thing is very rarely ever easy to do. (It’s also almost accompanied by violent rationalisation by my inner voice… not the nice one, the other guy… who screams louder and louder the more the rest of me realises that something has to be done.) I suppose I’ll always want to preview things, or find the complete source of a quote or passage, but I will also have to force myself to be honest and remove anything with a shady provenance

As I launch a new phase of my writing and programming career, I thought it was necessary to start on as blank a page as possible. I can find books at the library, or through interlibrary loan, or on Project Gutenberg, or on Amazon Daily Deals, or through countless other legally free sources. I myself don’t have the greatest income right now, between trying to build a freelance career, a programming career, and studying, but I have enough to survive and to not be small and petty in my public behavior. I also really can’t stress going to the library enough; if we as writers don’t support them, they may just close on us. I strongly advise anyone reading this to do the same. If we support each other, we can support ourselves.

 

* I mentioned shoplifting. I truly believe that an author would never shoplift a book, especially if he or she knows what it takes to produce one. Conversely, anyone who does steal a book ceases to be an author, or at least ceases to have any right to be paid for a piece of work. However, I feel (I hope) that this is something that even the worst authors would never stoop to, so I chose not to focus on it.

Story 9/52: Note To Self —

Today’s story is more a character exploration than a full story, somewhere between a vignette and flash fiction. The seed came from a prompt on the excellent Reddit writing forum, Writing Prompts, though I have yet to read any of the other submissions to that prompt. (I will once this hits the streets.)

Coming up in the next week or two is my next foray into Southern Gothic. About a year ago I read a tweet on an agent’s wish list that said she’d love to see a YA Southern Gothic novel. It’s taken a long time for that spark to truly ignite, but my next few stories will be my way of fanning the flames. I always have considered William Faulkner and Eudora Welty to be two of my influences, so it wasn’t too difficult to encourage my Muse to focus her efforts in that direction for a little while. And my sword and sorcery novella, featuring, in the role of brawny manly-man Nordic ultra warrior hero, an overweight teenage black American girl who was taught to scrap and survive by a friend of the family, is about ready for public consumption as well. I’m somewhat excited about that one; that novella forced its way out of my head in just over four days, and now that I’ve cleaned the blood and brains off of it and made it somewhat sensible, I’m eager to go back to her world and write some more.

Story 9/ 52:  Note To Self —

It’s Oh So Quiet

First, I need to apologise for the light blogging. Unless, of course, you hate the blogging, in which case, you’re welcome. Between travelling to Long Island, and the start of hiking season, and the 52 Story Project placing a well-aimed foot in my tuchus, I’ve let the daily blog chores fall by the wayside. That will stop as of today, though.

In various bits of news, the great HR Giger passed away a few days ago, after injuries sustained in a fall. Or perhaps one of his sculptures ate him. No disrespect intended, of course. Then again, any time an artist passes, I picture something like the final scene in Eternal Gaze. At least, that’s what I hope happens to me.

Tomorrow’s story is also finished, though this is more of a flash vignette and character exploration than an actual story. “Aces” (one of my recent favourites, and I don’t feel arrogant at all about saying that) and last week’s story took a lot out of me, though hopefully you can expect more in the vein of the former than the latter.

 

Back From My Travails

So the light blogging period is over and I’m back to keeping up with you guys every day, and then some. All in all, it was a pleasant drive to New York, with a stop on the way up with my awesome and artistic friends Joy and Daniel. The way down… well, my first day’s plans to meet someone for lunch fell through, and my plans to spend Monday and Tuesday hiking in Shenandoah and perhaps Mount Rogers in Virginia were greeted with rain and storms and lightning. (I was still thinking about hiking Old Rag Mountain, but something about spending time on an exposed granite summit during a thunderstorm seemed a little silly.) I finally spun off I77 in a huff (I can still do a pretty good huff) and went to the south bank of the New River, which has 20 or 30 miles of good trail alongside. It was sprinkling, but damnit, I’d planned on hiking, and I was going to hike.

The rest of the drive back wasn’t too bad. I crossed the perimeter into Atlanta around 1630, and a few wide turns later, I got my first view of the Atlanta skyline after almost a week away. And apparently, every single car in Georgia (and a few from Alabama) knew that I had missed seeing my city, so they all got together and blocked traffic on the freeway so I had more than enough time to look at it. sigh And the strange thing is, I’m still glad to be home.

Working on an inspirational post right now, along with this week’s story. I’m having issues with one since I’m afraid it’s a little too dark, but eventually I’ll probably put it out. It’s always a little bothersome when you peek into the dark corners of your mind, looking for something scary, and actually find something scary. Or disturbing. Or both.

Story 6/52: Welcome to Realityish

Today’s short-short story is more of a flash vignette about my (and perhaps everyone’s) writing process. Feel free to leave feedback. The topic is one every writer (and perhaps every creative artist) has had to deal with since time immemorial. I really would not be surprised to learn that the artists in the caves in France had to explain to their other cavepeople just where they got the idea to draw what they did, and what it meant.

Story 6/52:  Welcome to Realityish

Story On Its Way (Go ahead and duck…)

I’m on the road right now, and on top of that, in a relatively good mood. Waking up in the mountains will do that do you every time, unless of course, you went to sleep in the prairie. Today’s story is slowly making its own roadtrip from my notebook to a blog page. It’s more of a flash piece than a formal story, but I think it says something I’ve needed to say for a while.

 

Friday Leftovers

It’s been a long, rough, itchy week, but things are looking up. I finished a couple of good books this week, did some car maintenance, played with the cat without requiring a blood transfusion (she was the problem cat at the shelter… really… we’re perfect for each other) and wrote a story that I really like. That doesn’t mean that I usually (well, frequently) go through long emo jags where I think everything I write is shite. I mean, I have so many people telling me that that it frees me up to actually enjoy my writing from time to time. But for some reason, I really liked this particular story. It’s a nice feeling, reading something and thinking “Holy crap, that was ME.” I recommend that feeling to everyone reading this blog.

However, next week’s is going to be a little different. This week I finished one of Flannery O’Connor’s two story collections (Everything That Rises Must Converge). On top of that, I started reading Best American Noir of the Century, starting with the horrifying awesome story “The Paperhanger” by one of my heroes, William Gay. Not only did he write smooth and deadly southern gothic, taking only the best parts of Hemingway, O’Connor, and Faulkner, along with a liberal dash of black humour here and there, he served in the Navy, taught himself the craft by ceaselessly writing, and didn’t publish until he was in his late 50’s. I’m not there yet, but I can still think of him as a role model.

On top of this ultra cheerful reading list, I also had a comment or two that my stories have been a little too cheerful, lately. Luckily, I have hopefully addressed these critics by going back to the notebooks I kept when I was an undergrad at STFU and I think I’ve found a couple of good ideas for next week. We’ll see.

Link salad tomorrow. The cat’s snoring and my books are calling.

Almost 1/10th of the way: A Crafter’s Observation

Well, Story #5 is done save for the final polish. I took this one down to the wire but I was able to finish it in time. Maybe Friday or Saturday I’ll sneak in and edit it a little but the point remains that I was still able to hit my goal of writing a story a week. And next week’s is virtually finished; in fact, one of the problems I had was pulling myself away from the hot new idea I had and finishing the one I’d started.

I also learned that I don’t want to put up one of my old stories in place of writing one a week, if at all possible. I might write two this week so I have something in reserve, but that’s different. Around about Monday evening, when I’d not yet started on this story because of OH MY GOD IT ITCHES IT ITCHES and other concerns I had, I started going through my files, thinking that I had good cause to do such a thing. But for some reason, it just didn’t seem right. Probably an adverse mental reaction to the medicinal cream I’m using.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that, more than before, I feel like a craftsman as I write these stories. Since I first set out to write (and finish) novels some time ago, my method was always:  Write a set amount every day; Let it rest; Edit and rewrite. Yet there were problems with this method, problems I’ve seen for a while but am just now paying attention to. For starters, I always sucked at editing. Oh sure, I could find tonnes of problems with the manuscript. I just had trouble sitting down and fixing them. I’ve since come up with a few ways of addressing that, and I think my current novella is all the better because of those changes.

But the other thing I realized is that charging ahead, blindly committed to word count and finishing the book led to sloppy work. Whenever one of my Muse’s editor friends would stop by my head and start flipping through the pages I’d written, I’d slap him or her away, and scream my commitment to write ten pages/ two thousand words/ whatever my commitment was. No. Matter. What. And yes, sometimes I’d be stuck but I’d keep writing and keep writing, hoping to get out of the rut. Sometimes this would work. Sometimes it led to sloppy piles of camel dung.

Writing a story a week makes me use my craft in an entirely different fashion. I have two to four days, tops, to write a rough draft. That’s more than enough time from a typing perspective… my raw writing novel days taught me to be able to write four to ten thousand words in that amount of time. Ten thousand words is about the top end for a short story, so physically, I knew I could do it when I began this project. But now, all of a sudden, I have other considerations. I have to consider plot, and character, and intertwining the two, making one push the other and carry both to a resolution. I have to make every line of dialogue mean something. I have to have a damn good idea of where the story was going, something I didn’t always have when I was writing a novel. More and more, I’ve begun to feel like I’m taking an item and turning it over and over in my hands, adding something here, removing something there, and slowly letting it become a work of art beneath my fingers. By the time I finished “A Shaggy Dog,” I realized that I feel like I’m making things, not just spitting a long story out of my noggin until it looks like it’s finished.

I also realized that it’s a pretty cool feeling.

Alright, back to my final polish job and then perhaps more time alone with the cat and my book.

Inspiration Tuesday

Well, I have a few things to talk about for Inspiration Tuesday, today. First, I’m at work trying to keep the rash at bay but otherwise doing alright. I’m next to positive that it’s not contagious; I think my guinea pigs… err, roommates would have noticed by now. Still not sure what’s causing it, and the itching is only getting worse. In fact, the picture below, blatantly stolen from Weird Tales’ Facebook feed…

…is an example of how I’m afraid I’ll look after I’ve scratched my face off completely.

Inspiration has been showing up in the strangest places, lately, not just below the rock in my back yard where the writing Elves usually hide my week’s worth of ideas. This week’s story is about a street magician, and it’s a fantasy story in the sense that I always wanted to be at least a sleight-of-hand artist, if not a magician, when I was younger. (By younger, I’m including last Friday, when I found three balls of about juggling size and decided to show off to the cat. She still won’t speak to me.) And even though my efforts to learn to palm cards and double-deal and produce coins led to nothing more than my own image in the mirror doubling up and laughing at my practice, I kept trying, and kept thinking about it. A few days ago, a regular character strolled on to my stage, one with a rather tragic story that he was trying to escape from, and in her attempts to give him a backstory, my Muse found my old copy of Huggard and Braue’s Expert Card Technique and, well, poof, my character was made flesh.

In a way, I suppose it is like stage magic. I clasp my hands, smile, proclaim to the audience that I have nothing up my sleeves or between my ears, and then out of nothing, a group of people are walking and talking and sharing their stories with the rest of the world. Maybe I did learn sleight-of-hand after all.

Though I still would love to do a good Four Aces trick.