"How are you going to make money writing fiction on a blog?"
That's the question my guitar teacher asked me last night, when I told her how thrilled and excited I am to be writing not one, but TWO books on-line.
After publishing the old-fashioned way (my second novel, Seeing Red,
is coming out any day now) I have discovered how much I love writing, right here, on blogs.
It's crazy, but I honestly think that my new writing projects were waiting for blog technology to appear.
I kid you not.
For most of the past 16 years, I've had a mammoth writer's block for this project. I spent two different months at two wonderful writer's colonies (both in California, Montalvo and Djerassi and both located precisely where the nun story takes place!)
I could see every single detail of the world of my characters (a nun, named Sister Renata, and her lecherous cousin, Antonie.) I could tell you exactly what the plot line was. (The nun is falsely accused of killing her cousin. He frames her with a series of stories that make it appear as though she seduced him, AND then, killed him.)
And yet, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the book to come together. I must have tried a dozen, no two dozen times to write Castenata, and the companion book, I call Sister Mysteries. I'm not kidding when I say I wrote four or five complete versions of the books. Thousands of pages. Mountains and mountains of paper that swelled up over the horizons of my study.
So much paper that I started burning it, in rituals in my back and frontyard. I hoped maybe that the sacrificial bonfires would get the book going.
Nope. Nothing worked.
But somehow blogging has opened the door. (Naturally it's a bit more complicated than that, but you'll have to read the books to understand.)
Perhaps because the books are linked in time, and because you have to keep bouncing around in time, to understand the story, the blogs just made it more easy.
It isn't as though I haven't seen my name in print. I spent years as a daily newspaper reporter, first for the Chicago Sun-Times, and later, as a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal. I had all kinds of front-page stories with my by-line. And then, when I started writing fiction, I had my share of short stories published in those precious literary magazines, with circulations of say, 1,500. I spent countless hours packaging up my stories and poems and sending them off with return envelopes and postage, hoping for publication. I did get published. But then? The magazines sat on some dusty shelves somewhere.
In the last year or so, I have virtually stopped sending my work off to the "little magazines." It's not that they aren't great little magazines, I just don't really care if I see my work there, in a magazine that sits on some shelf.
Like so many writers today, I am just finding it more rewarding publishing myself. My guitar teacher is really to blame, or to credit: a virtuoso flamenco guitarist, Maria Zemantauski has always published her own CDs. (Buy one, you will be delighted, her music is just fabulous and you can hear a smidgen on my website for Seeing Red!) For the past 11 years that she has been my guitar teacher, Maria has been telling me that I should publish my own work. What's the big deal, she would always say.
Oddly enough, now that I am publishing a novel which shares a TITLE with her second CD, "Seeing Red," I have finally seen her point. I really do understand now that I am in control of my artistic work.
There is of course, as she pointed out last night, the issue of money. Of course I wish I could make money doing the thing I love best, writing fiction. For most of the last two decades (I started writing fiction in 1990) I have been waiting for what most writers wait for, the big break. I thought I had a real shot at the big break back in 1996, when my first novel, Dreaming Maples, was represented by a literary agent working for a premier literary agent, John Hawkins & Associates. That lovely lady, who also represented some of Joyce Carol Oates' writing, loved loved my first book and was quite hopeful that the book was headed for a hefty contract.
After dozens of promising rejections, I did get a Pushcart Nomination from Ballantine Books. But no contract. A second agent tried to sell it as well, in 1997. That agent too didn't get too far either.
So in 2001 I started a tiny publishing company called Star Root Press and I published it myself, (after quite unexpectedly publishing a rather successful book by someone else. Called "On That Day," the book was about the 911 tragedy and it was eventually bought up by a large publisher. That book helped to put Star Root Press on a little map.)
When it was time to publish my second novel, Seeing Red last year, I tried to find another agent, but couldn't. Once again, I am publishing the second book on my own. This time, however, I am not feeling the least bit apologetic. I have lots of readers waiting for the book, and I am delighted to have it coming out.
What I know now, more clearly than ever before is that if I am going to be happy I must write. Constantly. Preferably, each and every day.
Yeah, the chances of my ever making money on my fiction, are, well, slim. But who cares?
Given the opportunity to publish, and not write again, OR WRITE, and not make any money, it's not even a question what I would choose.
I like to remind myself that after John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize, he never wrote another word (because he apparently was wounded so badly by the critics saying he didn't deserve it.)
So I'm not waiting for anything. I am writing and I am trusting my small group of readers to tell me what is working and what should be trashed.
The only thing I am waiting for now?
An app that will let me capture the books in a form that I can package and distribute on-line and to mobile phones.
If you happen to know any software designers who can help, please send them my way!