Sex and the City and the Internet

I’ve watched Sex and the City a lot. More than I should probably admit to if I want anyone to take me seriously… but in doing so, I’ve thought a lot about the characters’ situations and other aspects of the show that I’d expect most people would just dismiss or accept without really thinking too much about it. The other day I was watching an episode and had a certain thought about Carrie’s career.

I have seen comments in various places regarding how ridiculous it is that she can make enough money writing a once-weekly newspaper column to afford a nice apartment and support the lifestyle of constantly eating out and 100 pairs of shoes that cost $500. This is true, and I can respond to this by saying that maybe they should have worked a little harder to explain how this is possible, but the whole show is about people who live a glamorous, fantasy life, so it all fits.

My point is actually quite unrelated to this. I’ve determined that due to the blogging platforms of the internet, Carrie’s job would actually be much less secure these days.

I’m not just talking about the demise of print journalism, but the actual content of her columns. Supposedly, her success with the column and the reason it did well in book form was because she was writing openly and (pretty much) honestly about topics that were otherwise still hard to find elsewhere. She was unique, and maybe opened doors for more honest conversation on the often taboo details of sex and relationships.

These days you can find this everywhere. Granted, you might have to encounter some dumb, poorly written material in order to actually find the good stuff, and you’re more than likely to encounter pornographic sites if you choose to google certain terms, but the internet has made it possible to have access to essentially all information. There are sites like xoJane and Jezebel that frequently feature articles about sexual or personal topics that Carrie Bradshaw might have covered, and Cracked.com that presents its information with a lot of satire, sarcasm, and other approaches to humor. I would have to say, though, that blogging sites like WordPress are one of the main reasons for this explosion of honest personal writing. It allows anyone to publish anything, without having to be accepted by a publisher or a magazine or online journal or any of the more traditional (or perhaps neo-traditional?) channels, and many of them allow writers to remain anonymous. This, I’m sure, prompts more people to upload posts about subjects that embarrass them, or that they don’t want associated with their name for other reasons, and that may be very important to someone who ends up reading them.

This is bad for Carrie Bradshaw (who is fictional, so that’s ok), but good for us in general. It is my personal wish that people would learn the basics of grammar and sentence structure and not flood the internet with such atrocities of illiteracy. Leaving that aside, I think that honest communication is extremely important. In personal writing–autobiographical or opinion-based–it makes pieces better. I’m not sure if it’s harder or easier these days to make a living off this type of writing, but I’m guessing not the type of living that would allow you to spend thousands on shoes and clothes every month. The main reason I have not tried to test this by experience yet is that, anonymous or not, it is so difficult to put your private self out there for strangers or close friends and family to read. I hope I can find the guts for this one day.

Too excited to think of a title!

I have the best news EVER… maybe.

A long time ago I posted about having lost all the editing I did on a collection of stories. I had worked hard on the original versions, which I still had, but it was probably the most effort I had ever put into editing any of my creative work, and then I lost the files! …or did I?

By the definition of “lost,” yes, I did lose the work, because I could not find those files. But perhaps misplaced is a better term–because I think I’ve found the missing files.

I was looking through my external hard drive files and I saw there, finally, another file of these same stories. It was a larger file, indicating a fairly substantial number of pages, and it was saved in April of 2010, which is right around the last time I remember having that lost thumb drive. To satisfy my curiosity, I opened the file and had a quick look through it.

1. It has all five stories. I had been looking for them separately whenever I searched before, for whatever reason not considering that I had probably saved them all into one file.

2. The original files had preliminary titles for each story, but this one has the final titles. (Final, but with room for adjustment if I come up with something better.)

I have not yet looked carefully enough to confirm that this IS the file I’ve been looking for, but all signs point to yes! What a mood booster. I had the intention of sending this collection out to publishers, but got so discouraged at the thought of doing the first round of revisions again that I just put it off… and off… and off… and haven’t looked at it since. Time to dust it off. That’s a great conclusion to a Friday!

~

By now you might be wondering, unless you were here back then, what the story’s about. It was an independent study project from my college years, a joining of mythologies from various traditions all pulled together through the life of the Hindu god Krishna. I’ve always been fascinated by mythology and I loved writing these stories. One of the main comments I have gotten on this work is that the stories could be worked into each other a little better, so I will make an attempt to do that. I’ve also been told my female characters aren’t strong enough, which is odd, because I’m female–but not so odd, because it reflects the way female characters have been represented in much of the literature I’ve read. And I’m a feminist, too. MUST WRITE STRONGER WOMEN….

My Problem with Speed-Reading

A while ago I read (or, more accurately, skimmed) an article about an app that could train you to read a novel in 90 minutes. On the one hand I thought, “Wow, that’s impressive.” (I’m sure it’s not, to some people.) On the other hand, it made me feel … disappointed is the best word I can come up with. Disappointed that this is how people view reading, as something that should be done as quickly as possible, or else it’s a waste of time.

I understand the appeal of reading a book that quickly, as there are so many books out there I want to read, and I know there will be more, that it would be beneficial in that sense to be able to get through a book in 90 minutes. I could greatly increase my number of total books read, broaden my reading experience, etc.

But both as a reader and as a writer, this emphasis on speed-reading bothers me.

There have been times, particularly in college, when reading a little faster was necessary. I’m not arguing that you should never read quickly just to finish a book, if it’s required for your school or work to do so. But other than that, if you’re reading for pleasure, why would you be in such a hurry to be finished? If I choose to read a book, not for any assignment but because I think I will find it interesting or enjoyable, I like to spend time with it. A book is a great place to be, better, sometimes, than the real world. Particularly in very engaging books, I don’t want to rush through that world. But if I start speed-reading, then slower reading would be hard to go back to.

Then, of course, I consider speed-reading from the point of view of a writer–more specifically, a writer who intends to publish novels. Any serious writer will spend a lot of time and effort creating the content you’re reading, wanting to craft something readers will find worth their time. If I spend a year on a book (drafting, revising, etc.), I don’t want someone to pick it up only to toss it aside in an hour or two. Although real writers write for themselves, they also write for readers, and the thought that something created with care is worth only the smallest fraction of someone’s time is discouraging. There would likely be many writers who understandably reason that they should not put so much effort into their work if the people enjoying the final product are not going to appreciate it properly.

I am against this notion that a “solution” is needed to read novels faster. Internet articles? Yes, read them as fast as you can, particularly the ones that seem like they were written in ten minutes. Or even this one, which should certainly not take you longer than that to read… you’ll get the idea. But a story that someone has taken the care to craft so that they can be proud of it? Spend a little time with it. Don’t be so scared of books.

Why I Want a Traditional Publisher and Presentation on Bookstore Shelves

It’s no secret: these days a lot of writers are self-publishing, or going completely digital. We live in an age when anyone can publish anything, if they have the money or right online venue. I “publish” my writing on wordpress, although most of it is informal, stream-of-consciousness writing reminiscent of the incessant journaling I used to do. There are also sites like fictionpress.net, Fanfiction.net’s counterpart for original work. I considered once posting there, but I hesitated because of many literary magazines’ requirement that work cannot have been previously published, including online.

With the plethora of options available, and the reported increasing difficulty for new authors to be picked up by traditional publishers, it might make most sense for me to self-publish with one of these online companies. At some point in the future, it is highly likely that I will end up self-publishing some of my work. But for now, I continue to hold the dream of having physical printed copies of my work on a shelf in a real bookstore.

Why? There are a few points here.

These days, printing services for self-published works are actually getting much better, and although you can still generally tell the difference, the quality can be on par with traditionally published copies. You, the author, might have to work a little harder to make that happen, but it’s possible, and that’s great. That means that the packaging itself is not the problem.

One of the big considerations is marketing. From what I’ve heard and read, even if you’re working with a traditional publishing house, you will have to do at least some self-promotion if you want to get anywhere. However, they have a marketing department for a reason, and that reason is to promote the books they print. Self-marketing is not my strong point, mostly due to constantly fluctuating but ever-present levels of insecurity. It’s also partly because we’re constantly told that bragging is uncouth, and self-promotion feels very much like bragging. Being polite and “oh, if you feel like it…” about the whole thing gets you nowhere, but being loud and out there can make you seem either arrogant or deluded. It can be difficult to strike the balance and put out just the right level of confidence.

Author royalties are often much higher with self-publishing platforms, but of course the total made depends on the total sold, for which marketing can be a big help. That is most true in the beginning, I think. If you’ve written something really good, entertaining, useful, etc., then once a good number of people have read it, word of mouth can start to gain a wider audience. That means that getting the first 10, 100, 1,000 people to read it can be the hardest. I’d be crossing my fingers and hoping that I would sell enough copies to at least return to me the cost of hiring an editor. Putting out a non-edited work is just a bad idea, and it’s very difficult for a writer to be their own editor. You really do need external eyes sometimes to spot those things that might be bringing your writing down. A publisher would provide that, all bundled into the services they give their authors. Hiring a freelance editor for self-published work means that you get to choose your editor, which could be either a good or a bad thing.

These are good points, the things that I would imagine most writers consider when thinking about self-publishing. But now we’ve come to that one thing, the main reason I really want a traditional publisher, and it has to do with bookstores. (I think this merits a good “why we need brick-and-mortar bookstores” post, but I’m sure I’ve made at least one in the past, and there are many good posts on this out there…)

One of the biggest struggles for self-published authors can be trying to get their books into stores. Most larger stores (which, aside from Barnes and Noble, are all gone, right?) won’t consider anything that they can’t get right from their distributors, and even many independent stores won’t take the risk. From what I can tell, most self-published authors just sell online, and of the ones that do get books in stores as well (I couldn’t name one), internet and most likely ebook sales are where they make the most money.

I don’t want to imply that this is actually a bad thing. Maybe as time goes by I’ll be more accepting of the large-scale changes in how people read, and I won’t care that paper books are more or less a novelty as long as my content gets out into the world, to readers, in any form. …Maybe.

With a traditional publisher, it is much more likely that I’ll be able to see a copy of a book I wrote on a shelf in a real live bookstore. I want this to happen mainly, I think, because of how I experienced bookstores when I was younger. I loved reading as a child, and spending time in bookstores was something I did fairly often. Call me old fashioned if you will, but I find it’s so much harder to connect with a book when the pages are contained in a screen. Picking up a volume, actively turning pages, the texture of the cover, can be a very meaningful part of reading. As the technology develops, that privilege is taken away from both children and adults, and I think it’s unfair. Someday, when I have a book published, knowing that someone can find my book by taking it off the shelf and actually holding it in their hands will be reassuring. That is how I discovered many books. It’s how I hope to discover many more. And even though the convenience of e-readers is taking us farther from that, I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

 

…but really.

Do me a favor. Look through the last five or so posts before this one. That spans, what, two or three months? And how many times in those posts did I say that I was planning to post more often and try to get a writing schedule happening?

Not that it was a promise or anything like that, but I have not been true to my word.

I can’t honestly say I know why. It’s one of those spiraling lacks of productivity wherein you’ve climbed down into a hole of Netflix and have to force yourself to get any real work done. There are many reasons why I haven’t been writing very much, and yet there is no reason at all. The truth is, the last time I was regularly writing was probably ten or so years ago. To explain why I’ve neglected the one thing I would say I NEED to do with my life, I would have to take you on a long and winding journey and I can’t guarantee we would get to the end. Perhaps, later, I will try to give the full explanation. For now, I’ll simplify:

Life.

I suppose I was not actually prepared to handle how hard life actually is. And, maybe, how hard writing actually is. Continue reading

Me, of Late

Well… picture me heaving a huge sigh. I would say “throwing my hands up in resignation,” but that’s such a cliched phrase, and also I don’t actually do that. But I do sigh a lot.

Instead of being productive and getting all that stuff done that I would love to do if I felt motivated, I’ve mostly been:

drinking too much coffee;

sleeping in an extra hour or two;

watching too much Netflix, youtube, etc.;

spending too much on food;

crying;

making messes.

I’ve been reading, but not writing, and, more than anything else, wondering when I’ll have enough time and/or energy to start doing the things I really want to do in life. Like learning guitar and studying languages. Applying for writers’ residencies (they have them for unpublished writers, right?). Figuring out how all the features of my camera work. It’s not even a fancy camera, it’s just a basic digital one, but for some reason it’s not functioning as it claimed it would.

I know I should start with the “spring cleaning” purge of all the stuff that’s collected over the past year or so that I have been intending to throw away or give away or sell. I want to sell some things because I need money, but I think that might be more trouble than it’s worth, since I don’t really own anything valuable.

I wrote a poem last night, but it’s rather private and I don’t want to share it. But at least I did write something. Better than nothing at all. Or… that’s what they say, although really it’s almost as if I wrote nothing at all.

Do you ever wonder why you love the thing you love but then you never feel like doing it?

Short Update

Oh, dear. What to do? So many ideas, but also so many distractions!

 

I aim to be writing a lot of fiction and a lot of blog posts in the near future. Of course, I have a lot of necessary responsibilities and also a lot of stupid time-wasters (like hours of Netflix!) that limit my ability to focus on writing. I probably need to make lists and outlines and maybe even–heaven forbid–schedules in order to be productive at writing.

Right now I’m off to do one of those many errands, but keep your eye out for some very Personal Posts soon. And some less personal, very opinionated ones about books, publishing, and stuff like that.