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I’ve been meaning to comment on this article from Snarkmarket for a few days. That I haven’t until now is just more proof that I’m a bit out of sorts.
The key bit:
Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
I feel like flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got nothing here.
But I’m not saying you should ignore flow! No: this is no time to hole up and work in isolation, emerging after long months or years with your perfectly-polished opus. Everybody will go: huh? Who are you? And even if they don’t—even if your exquisitely-carved marble statue of Boba Fett is the talk of the tumblrs for two whole days—if you don’t have flow to plug your new fans into, you’re suffering a huge (here it is!) opportunity cost. You’ll have to find them all again next time you emerge from your cave.
Man, oh, man, do I ever understand this. With a recently released novel that I’m actively promoting — my schedule here — and a full-time job and a marriage and needy dogs and football and a Wii that simply must be played, I’m finding it more difficult than it’s ever been to just write.
I’m not, by the way, suggesting that anyone feel sorry for me. I’m the luckiest bastard in the world to have a novel and a full-time job and a marriage and needy dogs and a Wii that simply must be played. Thousands, perhaps millions, of people would trade places with me in a heartbeat, even if it meant taking on my horrible fashion sense. I get that.
I’m simply saying that I’m struggling with the balance. I’m sure I’ll find it. I have to find it. Aspiring writers are told at every juncture that they need to have a platform, that writing well isn’t enough, that they have to drum up interest in their work. All true, but also all beside the point if the work suffers.
Johnathon Schaech’s character in “That Thing You Do!”, Jimmy, got almost everything wrong in the movie — he walked away from Liv-Freakin’-Tyler! — but was unassailably correct on one thing:
“The point of all of this,” he tells Mr. White (Tom Hanks) while the manager is regaling the band with all the fun they’ll have in California, “is to make more records.”
Amen, Jimmy Mattingly.
Thus concludes today’s flow. Stock awaits.
Please keep an eye on my calendar in the coming weeks. I’m hopeful of stringing together some appearances that will take 600 Hours of Edward into various corners of the state/region.
Here are a few things on tap that I’m particularly excited about:
- Thursday, Feb. 4: I’ll be at the Stillwater County Library — 27 N. 4th Street, Columbus, MT — to chat with library patrons, do a reading of 600 Hours and sign copies of the book. 4 to 6 p.m.
- Thursday, Feb. 25: I’m teaming with Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids for a discussion about autism and mental-health issues. It will be held at the Mary Alice Fortin Center at Billings Clinic, 2800 10th Ave. North in Billings, Rooms B and D. The event will include discussion, Q&A, a reading and a book signing. That runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (By the way, here’s an interview I did with PLUK last month.)
- Thursday, March 18: Road trip! I’m headed to Ronan to chat with the Friends of the Library about my book. That will be at the Ronan City Library, 203 Main St. SW. It starts at 7 p.m. (Some other Missoula-area events are in the works, so check back soon.)
UPDATE: And here’s one more …
- Saturday, March 27: Signing/reading at Red Lodge Books, 16 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT. 3 to 6 p.m.
Here’s an interesting story from the Washington Post. It seems that more and more simple errors are sneaking into print, and readers are noticing. It’s not hard to figure out why. The story notes that the newspaper’s stable of copy editors has been whittled from 75 to 43 in the past few years, even as the duties beyond pure copy-editing have increased.
In my day (er, night) job — you know, the one that pays the preponderance of my bills — I work as a newspaper copy editor. I’ve long considered it a sound policy not to discuss one’s employer on a personal blog, and I’m not about to abandon that wise course now. Instead, I’d like to discuss editing in the big picture, across all forms of publishing. I guarantee you, what’s happening at the Washington Post is not an isolated case.
When I originally self-published my first novel nearly a year ago, I was — outside of my wife — the only person who had laid eyes on the words, and I’m afraid that deficiency was easy to spot. When the first book landed in my hands, I immediately spotted dozens of errors — dropped words, backward quote marks, dangling modifiers, etc. Because the book was print-on-demand, I was able to upload a new interior file and fix those. Then came the new book and a new round of errors. I must have done this five or six times.
By the time I turned the manuscript over to Riverbend Publishing for the book’s re-emergence as 600 Hours of Edward, I had read it innumerable times and rooted out every possible error, or so I thought. But the publisher found a few, and then I found a few more in the proofing stage, and finally we had a completed book.
The first time I opened it, I found another error.
Do you see what I’m getting at? It’s damned hard to come up with a pristine manuscript. Harder still when editors are removed from the equation.
Unfortunately, that’s what is happening across a broad swath of the publishing world. Houses, even the biggest ones, have cut deeply into their editing ranks, for reasons of expedience and expense. Maxwell Perkins, were he alive today, would probably be an acquisition editor, focused chiefly on getting the books into the publishing house and not so much on honing them into word-perfect shape. Many of the traditional editing chores now fall to literary agents, and while they’re often fully capable of doing that work, they already have other vital and time-consuming chores, such as persuading the acquisition editors to bring the work aboard. So, then, the onus falls to the writer to get it right in the first place, and while there are many ways in which we can improve our craft and our self-editing, we can’t possibly give ourselves the same benefit we would get from an intensive edit by a professional.
So how do we bridge the gap? A few ideas:
1. Be damned good in the first place.
2. Failing No. 1, become a better self-editor. Read well-edited material and take note of what it does well (precise word choice, economy, structure, etc.). Take advantage of the myriad (and free) editing tips that can be mined on the Web. Our friends at The Blood-Red Pencil regularly offer excellent editing advice.
3. Join a writing group. Even if your colleagues can’t offer detailed copy editing, they can give you big-picture reactions to your stories and essays.
4. Trade sweat equity with a buddy. He reads and edits your stuff. You read and edit his.
5. If you can afford it and think you’ll benefit from it, engage the services of a professional editor. I’m happy to recommend one: My friend Leon Unruh at Birchbark Press does unfailingly excellent work at a competitive price.
We owe it to readers to give them the best experience we can with our books. That’s our bond: In exchange for their money and their time, we offer the best story we could write, with as few flaws as possible.
Just in the past few hours, 600 Hours of Edward has become available in a variety of e-book formats. Through Smashwords, the publisher is offering 50 percent of the book as a free sample, with a price of $5 for the whole thing. Check out the list of formats and see if one fits that snazzy new e-reader you got for Christmas.
Eventually, the e-book version will migrate to Amazon.com (for Kindle readers) and BN.com (for Nook readers), so if you’d rather buy there, be on the lookout. I’ll put up links when they go live.