Saturday, June 29, 2013

On Experimenting with The Shelf, the Realities Thereof, And Still Being Worried About What People Think

So, in this post I talked about "blowing dandelions seeds into the wind" and trying  creative and interesting and different things - including using my Facebook Page for Things Slip Through  - to spread my name around, in an effort to develop some sort of grass roots readership. I was kicking around an idea along the lines of Richard Wright's The 52, only I was going to call it The Shelf, based on the cool shelf of trinkets I have in my basement office. 

My original idea? Write one short story a week based on any random object on the shelf that catches my eye. I'm still planning on doing that once we get back from vacation, because it's a new exercise for me: using a visual prompt for inspiration. The big  question remains, however...

What will I do with those stories?

Initially, I thought I'd feature them as an exclusive benefit of the Facebook Page. You 'Liked' the page, you got access to free stories others didn't. Richard Wright, however, helpfully - and very rightly so - pointed out that really, I was just cutting a huge swathe of people out from those stories. Also, I was tying myself up in knots trying to figure out a way to "share" the stories but retain some sort of protection, (password protected forum, etc), so I could still try and market those stories. Richard also, once again, pointed out this was an all-or-nothing sort of deal: either write one story a week and try to market them, or write one story a week and share them with all, for free.

And as the end of the school year drew near, ANOTHER factor reared it's head: can I really AFFORD to give these efforts away? I don't talk about it much because it's private and also, I generally keep a positive outlook (it's in my nature, but sometimes I do it by force of will), but our finances are shaky at the moment. We're consolidating school loans, putting ourselves on a budget and right now, even an extra $25 here or there is helpful.

Now, I'm not a "marque name" in the field of speculative fiction, but in the past year or so, I've actually made a little bit of money that was turned toward our budget, and that was nice. Even though I don't exactly command a certain $$$ for my fiction, can my FAMILY afford for me to GIVE stories away without even trying to sell them?

And, let's not forget: in the project, I'd be giving stories away for free. Not trying to sell them to professional magazines with name power, but just giving them away for free. Isn't that a big no-no for a relative nobody like me?

Young writers, take some advice on listening to writers' advice (see what I did there?). Along your career path, you're going to get lots of different types of advice from lots of different types of people, and honestly, most of that advice is all going to contradict, and guess what?

It's all going to be good advice.

Because what works for one writer won't necessarily work for another. And while I DO think it's important to set some standards about where to send your work (for example: no more 4theluv, royalty-paying only anthologies/fanzines for me), important to have some lines drawn in the sand, (another example: right now and for the immediate future, I won't send a novel to a small, small press. Way too much effort for little to no return), and I think it's important to aim higher than where you were before, (I've taken the plunge and sent two novellas to the best in the horror business, so we'll see), who's to say giving away free stories ISN'T professional and ISN'T the right thing to do?

But that "fear" of what other writers (rising stars who counseled me early on, veterans of the genre) will think of me (if they think of me at all) for giving away free stories still lingers. I mean, I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do regardless, but like we never QUITE shake free of our parents' opinion of us, it's the same with our writing mentors and role models.

What to do, what to do?

I can be honest and say I'm not sure yet. And that last factor, worry about what others will think is the least of the three. My biggest conflict is whether or not my family can afford me giving away my stories, especially right now. If I could venture a guess, I'd say my approach most likely is going to be half and half. Some of those stories I have to try and find a home for, have to try and sell. Our budget's tight, even $25 here and there could help, and I owe it to my family to try and use my skills to bring in whatever I can.

However, I still want to experiment, still want to sow some dandelion seeds and see what happens. And it also begs the question: should I write these stories and then post them over the summer, right away? Or write them, revise them, draft them, then share them at their best, near the release of the collection?

We'll see. Of course, there IS one thing I know I'll be doing.

Writing every day, as always...