Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writing for money or for free?

Another summer is slipping by much too quickly and as usual, I'm getting much less done than I wanted.

What I managed to do, however, was surprise myself by writing a fairly reasonable novella entitled CHRISTMAS MISHAPS for Cerridwen Press' proposed Regency anthology, Cotillion Country Christmas.  My lovely and talented editor approved it and now all that is left is real work: contracts, endless editing, and proofing.

I cannot write quickly, hence my surprise at this accomplishment.  I found out about the project sometime around March and initially had a deadline around June, which normally would be pretty impossible.  Especially considering I had no clue at the time what I would even write.

Not even one idea.

However, as fate would have it, I was reading some Regency-era (early 19th century) magazines I had found on the Internet.  One article talked about a common superstition which stated that if a woman was the first to step over the threshold on Christmas day, she was a harbinger of ill-luck or even death.  As a result, only boys or men were allowed to set foot outside or go visiting in the morning (or as long as it took for some man to set foot over one's threshold).

This odd notion struck my fancy.  So I started a novella about a woman who is estranged from her sister (her sister having run off with the heroine's fiance two years earlier) and wants to make amends.  But she's due to leave London with her parents on Christmas day, so she decides...well, you can pretty much guess, can't you?

Her Christmas day goes downhill from there, including being tormented by a younger man who she suspects is only playing at flirtation.  And she really wishes he wasn't just playing.  And that she wasn't years older than him.

So, anyway, I got about half-way done when I got sidetracked.  And at that point, it looked like the anthology might get sidetracked, too, so I put it aside.  Then, in June, they said:  come on and submit!  Deadline July 14th!

What?  Are you kidding?  After a bit of scrambling, I managed to finish early and submit it.  My editor found a few problems she wanted corrected before (possibly) accepting it, so I made those modifications.  And managed to submit it again in time for the final July deadline.

Apparently it was satisfactory enough for the novella to go to contracting.  This stage always makes me nervous because I fear that something may still happen that will cause the thing to crash-and-burn, but that's where we are.

Only time will tell.

Assuming I'm being paranoid for no reason at all, I'll keep you posted as to the progress and eventual release date of the final product.  I must say, I rather like my little novella and am seriously considering doing a few more shorter works.  Not to mention a longer traditional Regency romance called:  LOVE, THE CRITIC, which I really want to submit to my Cerridwen Press editor--just as soon as my balls grow back and get big enough to submit it after this last round of submissions.

I never have a lot of confidence and what little I can muster is always gone by this stage of the game (i.e. accepted but waiting for contracting, etc).  But maybe by August my editor will be reading through LOVE, THE CRITIC and not imagining all the cruelly torturous punishments I deserve for inflicting such a manuscript on her.

Anyway, back to shorter works of fiction...and writing in general, my other publisher, The Wild Rose Press, has a "free story" program where they publish short works by their authors and give the stories away for free as teasers and promotional material.  (If you haven't checked it out, do so.  After all, it's free.)

I've been thinking hard about this "free story" idea and am still kind of wafflely.

About a month ago, I wrote a short story but put so much into it, I finally submitted it as a regular submission that I will hopefully get paid for.  Because in the back of my mind was another well-known author's advice that if you are a professional and expect to live on your earnings--you must make earnings.  You don't expect a doctor to do your open-heart surgery for free, why would you expect a writer to hand you their story for free?

And if you don't think writing takes just as much time and effort as other careers, you are probably not a professional writer.  That made sense to me.  And I do look on writing as a profession--not a hobby.  A quality product should receive a suitable recompense.

One must live, after all.

On the other hand, I blog for free.  And I do think there might be some value in a short promotional piece that readers can get for free to see if they like your writing.  The problem with that, though, is that you then have to do a good job--which means put a lot of sweat equity into the piece--if you want to impress your readers enough to get them to actually purchase anything else by you.

Which in my mind means spending upwards of a month on a short story, and then giving away all that effort and time, for free.  You can be very sure that Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe never would have considered doing such a thing.  And I'm a little reluctant to de-value my writing by giving it away for free, too.

The other ugly aspect of it is that if you do give your work away for free, you generally can't go back and try to sell it or earn money off of your story.  Most publishers have clauses in their contracts--even short story contracts--that specifically state they won't publish material that has ever been made available to the public for free.

Once free, always free.

In the end, I'm not sure I'll submit the second short story I recently wrote for free, even though that's what I originally intended to do.  I want it to be entertaining, which means spending more time on it.  With enough effort, it should be good enough to draw in more readers for my longer works, like I BID ONE AMERICAN, my Regency romantic mystery. 

But we'll see.  I'm easily persuaded, one might almost say--wafflely--so the fate of my little Regency romance short story, ROSE WARS, is still up in the air.

We'll see which way it falls later this summer (preferably, that waffle will not fall buttered side down).

Good night and pleasant dreams.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey amy,this is daniel adams. im trying to get in touch with an old friend named amy padgett and ran across your blog here. how old are you? and where are you from? you can email me back at thanks!