My writing used to be just whimsical. World building and questionable characters seemed to be the order of the day. Trying to get some kind of affirmation of my talent on the world wide web was an insatiable need. When I started out, I would blog about myself, I would write a little in this action/adventure romp, and then I would wait desperately for the attention I felt I deserved.
Lately, I’ve been debating whether I want to put my current writing project online. Posted for free. Possibly in a semi-rough draft state (remember: WIP). An organic work that I would build upon. A living child. A bird to be set free once the wings are fully grown. The motivation wouldn’t be for just getting empty praise. I love feedback like any writer. In fact, I’d say I’m in need of that and some way to push myself.
The idea of “free” came because I read a lot of webcomics. The current one I’m obsessing over is Octopus Pie. I read Wasted Talent and No Need For Bushido every update. By no means will I pretend knowing what’s “hip” in comics or have some authority in the medium at all. I like art. I like unusual and unique characters. The comics I am speaking of are all available online for free. These creators dance like nobody is watching. And it works for them.
Free is a scary idea. Especially for a book. My words have value to me. I have a family to feed and I want to be a storyteller that can feed his family through telling stories. The problem is, that’s not the solution right now. Not to meeting our needs.
So in the mean time, I’ve been debating whether or not to put up some kind of other blog with a schedule and post a weekly or bi-weekly story. It most likely will be a little rough around the edges. There is an off-chance that I’ll have to go back and rewrite if I get stuck. I make no promises that a post will stay canon.
My only hesitation is, can this work? For an artist, I can see the appeal. It’s visual, it’s quick to see and it’s free. Most of these artists don’t really advertise their work. Their talent does the old fashioned word-of-mouth and they just generate buzz. They do sell their collections in volumes, which I would want to make the book an actual book for sale. I’m pretty sure it’s not their main source of income; all of them seem to have other jobs or projects.
They’re also really available to talk to if you email or tweet to them. I like the appeal of all these things. But does it work for fiction? I’ve heard of people putting out their books free for a period of time, but what of a work that isn’t finished?
Pros: Has accountability of a publishing schedule. Built-in feedback (assuming I can convince people to read it). Can generate an interest around my work for other, more profitable, projects.
Cons: Working for nothing. It may not work. People may not pay for what they can get for free when I finish. Why would they keep come back if you haven’t finished it?
God willing, if all goes well this week, I will have a new job. That job will be writing for a company. The rest of that I will remain mum or until I can seal the deal. Part of me will always need to be creative in a way only fiction solves. I have characters in my head with stories, and they need to be told.
I love being part of a critique group. Every writer has that vampiric need for feedback. Unfortunately, the best one around has room for 30 writers and has more than 70 members. There are months when I can’t make it to the group. Blog tours or Twitter-bombing my followers doesn’t seem all that appealing. After reading a blog post by author Maureen Johnson, I just realized that those styles of marketing aren’t for me. Guest-posting and critiquing other writers is fine. That’s me if it’s on a one-to-one ratio.
I can finish a feature article. I can write an opinion column. But when it comes to my larger ideas, my fiction, those I never seem to finish. This seems to be an interesting remedy to the problem. I don’t see many other writers doing it, but if I didn’t need the money, why not? Right?