Getting Read

November is NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. While I won’t be participating, I do know someone who has, and some day I would like to. Many folks participate just for the sake of writing, but many folks would like to be a published author some day. How do you go from writing to getting read?

In the Internet Age in which we live, there are many more options than ever before. Some folks have published entire books online, and some have even been published by a traditional publisher as a result. Many folks now choose to self-publish, using one of the many services now available that will print, sell, and even distribute your works, such as lulu.com.

But what if you want to go the traditional route, and be published by a traditional book publisher? I have never been down this road myself (first-hand accounts welcome in the comments!), but my understanding is that you submit your work to a publisher – or to many. Often, you don’t submit the entire work… only the first 10,000 words, along with a synopsis of the entire story. Even with only 10,000 words to read, publishers receive far more submissions than the senior editors could ever possibly review. Instead, manuscripts go into a slush pile, where an editor’s assistant will (hopefully) eventually read it; if they like it they can try to persuade an editor to have a look. Given the volume of unsolicited manuscripts that publishers receive, the chances of your manuscript being selected for publication are slim.

Harper Collins has decided to use the distributed power of the internet to try and tackle this problem. They have launched a new website, authonomy, currently in beta. The site allows authors to submit works – including incomplete works – and allows site visitors to read, comment on, and recommend works posted to the site. From the FAQ:

authonomy invites unpublished and self published authors to post their manuscripts for visitors to read online. Authors create their own personal page on the site to host their project – and must make at least 10,000 words available for the public to read.

Visitors to authonomy can comment on these submissions – and can personally recommend their favourites to the community. authonomy counts the number of recommendations each book receives, and uses it to rank the books on the site. It also spots which visitors consistently recommend the best books – and uses that info to rank the most influential trend spotters.

We hope the authonomy community will guide publishers straight to the freshest writing talent – and will give passionate and thoughtful readers a real chance to influence what’s on our shelves.

How will this help authors? At a minimum, reading the comments of potentially many reviewers could be valuable. But there’s also the potential of being read by the editors at Harper Collins. Again from the FAQ:

Once a month we’ll be pulling out the top five books from the Editor’s Desk Chart, and passing them on to our Editorial Board. HC editors will read from the first 10,000 words of each manuscript, and will feed back their comments to the appropriate authors, who will be able to decide whether or not to make these comments available to the community at large.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, and decide to post your work at authonomy, please leave a comment below- I’d love to read it.

Just Writing

So I’ve got this thing. Maybe it’s a habit (got several of those), maybe it’s a quirk (many of those), but it’s certainly a thing (too many to count). If I was trying to frame it in nice terms, I’d call it restless creativity, or perhaps serial enthusiasm. I tend to get focused on something, and then I get really focused on it, for a while. Buy some books, search the web, generally soak in it for a while. And then… poof …I’m not so interested, and then something else comes along. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One thing I’ve noticed is that all my restless pursuits tend to be creative in nature; I want to make things. When my focus is on music, I’m trying to compose. When the computer grabs my attention, it’s either a programming project or a web site, that’s where this site, and a couple of redesigns have come from. I’ve got a stack of books on the shelf about hobby robotics. I’ve tried to learn Spanish several times; I guess that’s not creative, so we’ll call it the exception that proves the rule.

And from time to time I decide to write. I’ve got a file full of story ideas somewhere, which haven’t gone anywhere. Part of the pattern is that I like to spend a lot of time on upfront tasks, and never get around to the task at hand. Another problem is that I have a thing (ok, another thing) about doing things well; I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist, but I like to do things well, which makes it hard sometimes to practice something I’m not good at. On more than one occasion, I’ve decided to use this blog as a place to write for the sake of writing. You know, what the kids call blogging. That usually leads to a round of yak shaving, and my attention span runs out before I get back to the task at hand. Like the time I spent several days setting up a separate writing blog, which I never used.

And this isn’t new, two years ago I wrote a post about just writing someting:

In my last post, I talked about the forces that prevent me from writing blog posts- factors I collectively call friction. One of the things that I cited was a desire to get things done first- for example, to make some headway on a new project before discussing it. Another version of the same problem is the desire to work out an idea completely before trying to explain it. In this entry I’m going to try and throw caution to the wind, and write about some ideas which aren’t fully formed, but which have been rattling around in my skull for a while.

All of which is both backstory and progress. I have a current project which I’m focused on, a web application which I’d like to write. Since this one has a purpose- I’d like to turn it into a salable product- I have a reason to remain focued. At the same time, I’ve gotten the urge to write again (catching up on my Wil Weaton backlog on Bloglines seems to do that). So I thought I’d take a stab at it, and you’re soaking in it. Maybe I should try this again, tomorrow.