And the experiment begins

I have two projects in the works right now, one a UF out on submission with my agent, and the other, a hardboiled romance, I’m debating what to do with. I bounce back and forth between wanting to try self-publishing with this title or pursing more traditional options. For the past year or so, I’ve been wanting to dig into the D.I.Y. elements of publishing that are now open to authors, and you can see by a post I made a couple weeks ago, that I’ve been pondering possibilities. Well, I’ve recently begun a piece of that possibility.

What I have written on Harbortown (about 50k) words to this point, I placed on Google Docs, invited about a half dozen reader/reviewer people I’ve connected with on twitter and feel could provide me with some honest feedback, and gave them the ability to comment directly in the document, much like you do with any Word document. The goal here is to work with a continuous feedback loop, using ideas/concerns/comments to develop the story into a stronger version than what I could normally on my own. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a very objective eye with regard to my writing, unless it sits for a couple of months before I look at it. The far more immediate feedback helps not only spur ideas and keep elements on track, what works well and what doesn’t, but it’s also inspiring to write more, when you have people involved in your work.

Given the scope of this story (I’m on pt 2 of 5, and currently at 50k), I will be doing this for a while, and may add some more commenters to the loop, depending on how well this turns out. It’s not exactly crowd-sourcing, but having interested people involved in you work, who you know will give honest feedback is a fabulous thing to have when writing. I know that some writers don’t like anyone to see their work until it’s done. They have worries that it will distort their process or stress them out or whatever the case may be. My brain doesn’t work that way, for better or worse. I thrive on the interaction, so I hope that this experiment will prove fruitful and I can build upon it. We’ll see how it goes.


Maps and Story

Below is a map of Harbortown, the fictional town of my side project currently going by the same name. I enjoy drawing maps, but wanted to see if I could find some place that approached what I was thinking of, and low and behold, I found it.

One of the coolest things about maps or any images you gather, is that they help to inspire the story. When I began this story, it started with crime that I thought would be cool, then developed more and changed focus when I created the main character, and finally morphed into a type of story when I figured out where I wanted to place things.

I wanted a foggy, seaside kind of place that would lend itself to a noir type setting. I scanned up and down the west coast with Google Maps until I discovered a town of about the right size and met the current, sparse needs of the story. I began to create places in this town, bad guys, good guys, neighborhoods, and so on. When you do this, you’re always wondering just how the main character fits into this place. If she grew up here, what would life have been like? What would have inspired her to become a Detective in a place ruled by crime? The more I began to flesh out the town, the more her life actually came to life. It inspired thoughts and story directions I hadn’t considered or thought of before. In short, maps are a great development device.

Sometimes setting is just that, a backdrop to contain the plot and characters, but when it feeds into the characters and helps drive the plot, it becomes a character all its own. Harbortown is becoming like that for me, filled with quirky, strange, and badass people. It’s going to be fun writing a story in this town and watch my characters interact with it. From Old Man Smoothie, the ice cream shop owner to Casper Winegarten, the coroner, who totes around a Scooby-Doo sippy cup full of $100 wine, the town is an inspiration and I hope to make the most of it.

So, if you are stuck on a project and unsure where to go or what to do, flesh out the setting where your characters live, bring it to life, and see what can happen. You’ll be surprised.



Subscription Ebooks? No Thanks

Came across an article today sharing some rumors from BEA (Book Expo America) about Google and their ebooks. One was that they were going to stop their ebook program, which I’d find unlikely, but the other was the possibility of a new ebook rental service. Basically, Netflix for your ereader. As a reader, I can see how this might have great appeal. Pay ten bucks or twenty or whatever the subscription might be, to download a specified number of books each month. A likely scenerio: you get your choice of books with a 30 day expiring DRM on it. If done right, I’d bet readers would flock to such a service. However, for the writer and publisher, all sorts of issues arise.

How do royalties work? Do pubs get a percentage of subscriptions? Do they get paid per download of a title? Honestly, I have no clue how this would work out, but it seems fraught with problems. It might be that this could work out well for pubs, but I don’t know. For authors? Not so much. When the idea of doing such a thing is to profit off of bulk sales, the individual is going to lose out. Royalty percentages of such a setup would definitely not be better than what they are now with pubs, and much more likely would be worse. As a writer I can’t see ever supporting such a system, at least not as I potentially envision it, and I would speak vocally against it if such time came and it threatened to provide even less compensation than we get now for books. I’m imagining a subscription royalty rate, less than normal sales, and if authors flock to such services, we lose. I’ll be curious to see what Google does with this, if they are indeed trying to move in that direction.