Monday, February 25, 2008

Vacation Reading...

Ah, vacation... I remember vacation. I get to sleep late (even though my body remains used to waking around 6), I get to do pretty much whatever I want, and I get to catch up on things that I put off.

And I spend most of my time reading and writing. At the moment, I'm taking a break from the revisions to my novel. I've met with my half dozen readers and paid them in alcohol, which helped to elicit honest assessments and criticisms that they were initially reluctant to express. Thank God for alcohol!

The comments that they made have been very helpful. I've got scenes to add, some to consider dropping or toning down (apparently a sex scene was a bit too much for most of my readers), and reason to be hopeful that this is a publishable novel that can be used to build an audience. Now I'm putting all that effort to good use.

So that's what I'm doing with my vacation. Plus I'm reading Bad Men by John Connolly. This is not one of his Charlie Parker novels, though it is set in Maine and Parker makes a brief cameo within the first hundred pages. As a result, Connolly takes many pages to develop new characters, and his usually quick pace is bogged down in details.

I'm 140 pages into Bad Men and I wouldn't give it a rousing recommendation yet. While I briefly considered putting it down and starting something else for the hours I'm not reading and revising my novel, I decided that since I'm on vacation I can take a leisurely pace in my reading too. Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed Every Dead Thing, The Killing Kind, and The White Road -- and especially The Book of Lost Things -- that I feel Connolly has earned the right to start off at a different pace.

Ok, break time is over. Back to my novel.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Secure the Semicolon

This story made me smile, and at the end there is reason to laugh. The New York Times ran an item about a placard in the city's subway system that -- Good God! -- properly uses a semicolon! Indeed, it's amazing enough that a semicolon was used at all.

But the story talks about more than this solitary, subway semicolon. It also alludes to the school where the city marketing guy and closet semicolon expert learned the finer points of grammar. The article also includes numerous quotes about semicolons for anyone who enjoys that type of thing. (My favorite is Kurt Vonnegut's comment.)

Yet, the "capper" comes at the bottom. Appended to the article is a correction. In referencing Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the journalist deleted the comma from the title.

I'm a geek.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why Does Publishing Take So Long?

I was fascinated by a story about the publishing industry that appeared in this past weekend's New York Times Book Review. The article starts from the premise that, given the advent of electronic communication, publishing should have speeded up like the news cycle. But that's not true.

Although technology makes it easier to turn a manuscript into a finished book, it still takes a long time to build a book that'll sell. Word of mouth is still paramount.

The book I'm reading right now would agree. It's called The Practical Writer, and it's published by the folks who put together Poets and Writers magazine. Published in 2004, it is compiled with an awareness of the importance of Web sites in the process of finding an agent and developing an audience. The essays seem to be written around 2002, so blogs were still in their nascent stages. [A late chapter on authors developing a presence on the Web makes no mention of blogs.] The book, which consists of essays by publishing professionals of all stripes, is a perfect example of what the Times article is talking about; the writing is roughly two years old by the time it appeared in print.

The article outlines the carousel of the publishing game. While all the pretty horses are going up and down, the music playing in the background is publicity. The Practical Writer's description of this aspect of publishing is contained in several essays -- the one by the bookseller is a good example as are the items by agents and publicists.

I've always expected that if I'm able to sell my first novel, this blog will be the basis for developing a community of readers -- or perhaps it'll remain a hidden little alcove not far from an as yet undeveloped "professional" Web site. [Of course, if I never see my book in published form, I'll still enjoy writing. It's what I do.] The key is to develop word of mouth, and that will require an online presence, an expansion of my freelance writing, and probably reaching out to book clubs and readers through other literary sites.

Ultimately, the goal is to develop an audience. I hope the forty people or so who visit per day like what you see and stick around.