Do You Ever Save Earlier Drafts?

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I’ve been toying with the idea of saving earlier drafts of stories I write. It’s an opportunity to take a look at how I draft a story, and a look at how ideas change over time. Of course, there’s an unhealthy side of this: part of me always likes looking at my mistakes.

With other media, people get a chance to look behind the scenes and see what goes into making that thing work. Movies have extra features, TV shows do the same, and there are plenty of documentaries detailing other work. Writing doesn’t get that treatment, because the magic happens with fingers hacking away at a keyboard or with a ink-splattered hand scribbling across paper. Well, not the latter for me, because nobody can read my handwriting – including me.

Good writing involves cultivating those serendipitous moments into a coherent whole. Nobody gets to see it happening before their eyes, which is a shame. Even when I’m writing, sometimes it takes me going back over a passage to really appreciate what I’ve got. The closest I’ll ever get is to compare an earlier draft with a later one, but that still quite doesn’t capture the magic of telling a story.

Still, I wish I had the presence of mind to save some earlier drafts that I liked but ended up not going with. I think if people truly realized some of the stuff writers go through in delivering a story, they might get appreciated more. Or maybe it’s just a chance to share more than what’s on the page.

What do you think?

Putting the Social Back in Social Media

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Talking is something I generally like to do. I will find any excuse to chat with people at any time. Writing – to me at least – is just a more permanent form of chatting with people. However, all of this changes when I’m focused on a project, because I do not multitask very well.

In today’s day and age, we’re able to be more connected to each other via technology. Selling books relies heavily on this, and writers are supposed to be heavily invested in social media. Personally, I don’t mind spending entire days reading blog posts and conversing with people. Since it gets in the way of my writing, I can’t afford to do it as much as I’d like.

At times this can be incredibly frustrating, because I feel antisocial. Naturally it’s in my head (along with a lot of other things competing for my attention). Rather than let it get me down, I try to turn it into something to look forward to. Right now I can’t spend as much time here and on other media as I want.

Soon, I hope to spend more time visiting all the wonderful places I’ve found over the past few months. For the moment, I have to settle for just quietly hitting the like button.

Self-Published Books Are Real Books Too

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If you don’t follow the amazing Linda G. Hill, check out this post about a Facebook discussion she was privy to. I was going to comment, but I ended up writing a rant of my own. Some people in person have expressed similar opinions that trash self-publishing as prone to errors. It’s not really fair to self-published authors. Below is the comment I wanted to add (but ended up getting away from me).

I can’t think of any work I’ve read that didn’t have some typo, error, or mistake. Writers juggle hundreds of thousands of words (that’s including the ones that make it and the ones written down and then deleted). One, two, or even ten mistakes out of thousands of opportunities isn’t a good reason to trash a book. This happens no matter how the book gets published, because the writing process is different from the publishing process.

Even the quality of self-published books gets a bad rap. Other publishers used to publish crap all the time. For example, meet Tanaka Tom, the Six-Gun Samurai from Georgia. Here is its Goodreads review. I’ve read some of it, and suffice it to say I didn’t like it. Despite my personal tastes, there are some people who actually like the story. Different people have different tastes in entertainment, and books are no exception.

For people who are skeptical of self-published books, remember that there are thousands of new writers putting stuff out there. This volume of work means that even companies which sell these books cannot always read a reader’s mind. It takes readers to actually find and recommend good writers and books to others. If one typo is enough to make you put down a book, that’s fine. Just please do not assume that everyone else has the same attitude towards good books.

Self-published books are just as good as their traditionally published counterparts. If anything, they highlight the difficulty in writers putting together a story good enough for many different people to enjoy. I’ve been told that on average, a self-published book will sell 10 copies. Beat that average, and you’re a success. Unfortunately, 10 books means a writer gets paid a pittance for many hours of labor. In traditional publishing the sales are higher, but that’s only because writers need it to earn back their advance. Thus, writing only gets done because writers love telling stories.

Litter Mysteries

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I live out in rural Alabama, where there is plenty of green space to see as you drive along the country roads. Most people might enjoy seeing what there is to see of nature out in rural America, but there are still a few people who think the ditches are perfect for waste disposal. While people drive along they can’t see what gets thrown out. However, I take strolls along these roads, and I get to see all kinds of things people throw out.

Normally the trash is fairly standard. People who drive practice applied laziness here in my neck of the woods, so although they’ll get crumbs or spilled beer in their cars, they can’t bear the thought of the wrapper or can remaining after they’ve finished. It’s a convoluted calculus.

But then there are times when I see something get thrown out that I end up wondering how it got there. These are things that beg for explanation, even if it’s purely conjecture. And on my walk Thursday, I noticed something truly inexplicable: an air freshener inside a used condom.

Now that I’ve shared this with the Internet, I feel better.

If anyone can provide an explanation for this particular combination of country litter, I’d be more than happy to entertain theories.