Archived Writer's Notebook Messages

December 13, 1997 to January 2, 1998

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Jan 2 22:26:48 PST 1998

Just to let people know. I cleaned up some duplictae postings both on the Notebook and the Workbook. Feel free to email me when a problem arises and I'll correct it as swiftly as possible.

T.M.Spell: Glad to see your post on the Workbook. I noted that you indicated that you were attempting to type as swiftly as possible. Just a suggestion, but you might want to cut and paste from your document. This works well and is how I tend to do things given me propensity for being something of Heinlein's Lazy Man ala Time Enough For Love.

Also, I would like to propose an addendum to the existing topic. What would people like to see added to the For Writers Only site to make it even better in 1998. This includes the Notebook and the Workbook. If you have any brilliant ideas that would make this site more useful for everyone feel free to chime in with suggestions.

Tom Thu Jan 1 23:56:52 PST 1998

At last...a site that really rocks. Writing is a self imposed curse that brings tears, frustration, and unique chance to bring to life the voices of our dreams.
We writers are in a way very influential to civilians as we bring smiles, laughter, and stir emotions with thoughts to create a brew of words and ideas.
Anyone know the best way to create time transitions that dont leave the reader with a puzzled look on his or her face?

Joan Thu Jan 1 20:42:41 PST 1998

Hey Jack--

EEEEEEK! I think I entered all those blank postings below. My computer had some kind of glitch and just kept flashing back to "thank you for posting, return to writer's notebook," or whatever it says. SORRY! Can they be erased.

Also---did you know that "For Writers Only" is posted as the Writers Hotspot of the Week on the Graham Literary Agency web page? Too cool!


joan Thu Jan 1 19:56:31 PST 1998


Hey--just got back from the Workbook site. Someone dropped off a bit of story about a jungle, but forgot to leave their E-mail or "handle." I'd like to give you my thoughts. If you're interested in hearing, please leave your E-address.



Hayden Grayell Thu Jan 1 16:09:53 PST 1998

Jack: To you a special "HAPPY NEW YEAR". Like Old Father Time standing before the kid who is going to take over the reign for a while, you have the tempered and angelic face of those WHO KNOW. The kid is in for a few surprises.

This site has enriched us. We live here. We too share with you the joy of your wonderful wife's success, and we, like the Shoemaker's elves, will assist you to percolate your novel into greatness. You deserve it.

Best wishes.

To the rest of you, remember: Quill not Quit!

A New Year=a new chance to grab the big bucks!!

Lastly : Michelle: The second chapter (and the next 20 or so) are completed. I won't post them here 'cause others should have the opportunity to get a few words in edgeways. E-me and I'll send along a tit-bit or two.

Jason Amsler Thu Jan 1 16:03:01 PST 1998


Kitty Dwyer Thu Jan 1 10:36:15 PST 1998

Happy New Year, y'all. I hope 1998 brings y'all happiness, health, prosperity and prolific writing. It has been a while since I've posted. I've been pretty embroiled in the day-to-day drama of my life and, though I have tried to post when I did get here to catch up, I haven't been successful til now. I am happy to see so many new (to me) names, so much good news, and the continued exchange of thoughts and ideas.

Joan Wed Dec 31 16:52:34 PST 1997

Happy new year to all--

TM Spell and Britomart---CONGRATULATIONS! Hope more of the same follows for 1998---and hope some of the same catches everyone else.

Jack--thanks again for the site.


T. M. Spell Wed Dec 31 14:21:48 PST 1997

Jack, I wish you great success with your writing endeavors in the coming year. Very inspiring to hear about your wife's triumph over breast cancer. That, truly, is a victory to rejoice in.

I do encourage you to apply for Clarion, even before you get up to steam on your fiction projects. I have been knocking on that particular door for six years, telling myself each time that *this* is the year I'm going to get in. I try not to worry that I'm being more or less prolific during a specific year, as past experience has taught me that deadlines, which Clarion definitely provides, are one of my best motivators. I suspect, and am waiting for the opportunity to discover, whether or not I will get more *finished* stories written during the six week workshop than I usually manage in any six-month period.

Another factor to consider is the possibility that Clarion will hone your writing skills to an even keener edge and make it that much easier for you to write and sell the novel project you mentioned in your previous post.

Just a few thoughts. I wish you much success with whatever project you set your mind to in the coming year.

Take care, all.

Michele Wed Dec 31 03:01:08 PST 1997

J.Dishner - I read your poem - it was good. My poetry tends to be rather poor, although I love reading it - do please post some more.

To Everyone.

I'll post this now because although I'm working late tonight I probably won't have time to visit tonight -

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all, and may 1998 see the achievement of some if not all your writing goals !


Jack Beslanwitch Wed Dec 31 00:09:47 PST 1997

Donna: Send me the URL for your group and I will add it to the Writers Groups on For Writers Only. And, please, feel welcome to join in here. That goes for everyone else :-).

J.Dishner: Problem solved and triplicate posts put on a diet back to one.

    On my own reflections for 1997 and hopes for 1998?

    Reflections on 1997 are that life can take some strange turns in the technical writing world. My contract for a computer book went into limbo with a corporate restructure and a swap to a different editing office and the topic for the book being in beta limbo as well. Limbo is uncomfortable, but after some resignation I am moving on. If nothing materializes in 1998 in this regard, I still got some of the advance. Also, this experience showed me that with a deadline and being under the gun I can actually produce and write.

    My goals for 1998 are to take enough time from my web design responsibilities both for my own projects and others and for a living, to make inroads into fiction. I have a particular novel project that has been percolating for ten years that I would like to get going on again and explore. Beyond that, if I can prove to myself I can produce in the next three months I may attempt to apply for Clarion. I am not sure if I am up to that crucible as yet, but it would be a fond dream if it came to pass and I was. In any case, the novel project is one that I now feel competent to attack. Ten years ago I did not. This is true as much because I have had life experiences that have been a tempering process of their own.

At least in 1997 I could watch my wife being healthy and know that we came through her treatment for breast cancer in 1996. Sharing her experience with breast cancer and its survival has been an enriching, terrifying and wonderful experience all in one. And that is my other dream for 1998 that we are healthy and our lives can grow in new, unexpected and wonderful directions. Come to think of it, I give that New Years wish for everyone here. Take care all. May whatever or whoever you find spiritually enriching bless you in the coming year.

J. Dishner Tue Dec 30 18:41:01 PST 1997

I just left a little something on the workbook for the first time, and I apologize but I accidentally entered it THREE times. Ugh! Sorry 'bout that. Jack, could you erase two of the entries? Thanks.--J.D.

T. M. Spell Tue Dec 30 18:33:31 PST 1997

Michele, oh how I wish I could give up the day job and write full-time, too!

In 1992, I was working as a full-time journalist in Washington, D.C. and taking a Writer's Digest School novel writing class in my spare time. I got precious little fiction writing done and eventually dropped the class altogether.. I wish I could blame the job, which I loved, but I can't really. Although I *was* too exhausted during the work week to write nights, I had solid blocks of time on the weekends I could have made more practical use of.

I'm back in my native Florida, now, and have eschewed the journalism (which pays) for the fiction (which doesn't, yet). I work through a temp service as a secretary to pay my personal expenses and my parents help me with the rest. I take short assignments that allow me breaks of one or more weeks during which I have the energy to write every day. Sometimes, if the words aren't coming, I get on the phone to the temp agency and line up another assignment. It's odd, but the closer I get to jumping back into the maw of the corporate beast (I work for banks and insurance companies, predominantly), the more prolific I become. Stress is the great motivator for me. Maybe that's why I've always done so well as a journalist -- where there is *always* a deadline -- and have had to struggle so much harder for the crumbs at the fiction writer's table.

Who knows? Perhaps if I had all the time in the world to write fiction, I'd perish of ennui. I'd be willing to find out.

Happy New Year to all.

Pat Tue Dec 30 18:24:52 PST 1997

O.k., here's my leap into the pool (I've been lurking for several weeks, now).

My "goal" (boy, does that word scare me!) for 1998 is to finish and submit three or more freelance articles, get some serious work done on one of the two novels I started last year and (if I can get the technical mess straightened out) get my web page up and running.

After all this, I plan to have a nice, well-planned-out nervous breakdown. Preferably while staying someplace warmer than Wisconsin.

Actually, my main goal for 1998 is to be able to quit my two dead-end "real" jobs. Even if I have to replace at least one of them with something else non-writing-involved, there's got to be something better, paying better and leaving me enough time to really sit down and write once in a blue moon! (This seven-day-a-week bit just isn't making it!)

And this is coming from a journalist! (O.k., so I'm working on a weekly happy-talk paper, but it's sort of like journalism - at least when my editor isn't looking!)

Donna Tue Dec 30 15:34:52 PST 1997

From mid-America--Happy New Year to all others who love to write. This is my first visit, but I hope to drop in again soon. I belong to a very active writers' group in St. Peters, MO. Our group meets weekly; we read, critique, and encourage each other to improve our craft. Several of us attended the Ozark Creative Writers' Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas last October. Lots of good info, to include advice from agents and publishers, as well as numerous writing contests. Plan to attend another conference in Dallas, Tx, the end of March. Other writers from the St. Louis metro area are welcome to join our group or check out our website for more info. Later,
Donna V.

J. Dishner Tue Dec 30 11:44:41 PST 1997

Hi everyone!

It's good to be back on the net after a few days of R & R. Hope you had a healthy, happy and safe holiday season.

Congratulations to Britomart and T.M. Spell. Your successes are an inspiration to us all!

Rhoda--Keep trying to sell your 1997 book. Maybe you can take another look at it this year and try again. I would be happy to read it for you and put in my two cents worth--no cost to you other than postage. I like your attitude about selling your work being the icing on the cake. You can't fail if you at least make the attempt.

One of my goals this year is to attend a conference or two also. Do you have any suggestions?

Here's to successful writing in 1998...J.D.

Rhoda Tue Dec 30 09:12:45 PST 1997

1997 has been a great year as far as my writing. I completed my first book and tried to sell it. Though I didn't sell it, I learned a great deal about the marketplace and about the craft of writing. Who could complain about that? I consider writing novels, editing them, and trying to publish them to be a great deal of fun. Getting paid for the privledge is just icing on the cake.

My primary goal for 1998 is to take the current story that has been running around in my head for nearly a year and to do justice to it in my writing. I believe I have much to learn about creating a good book, and I expect to use every opportunity to learn how to improve my craft. My goal is to attend two regional writer's conferences this year. I also hope to have my current project finished before April.

Britomart--Congratulations on your success. I'm happy to hear about your good review.

I wish everyone at the Writer's Notebook the best in 1998. May all your goals be accomplished, and may we all be better writers when 1999 comes around.


Michele Tue Dec 30 03:11:43 PST 1997

Hayden - I've just read the first chapter of Supplejack that you posted in the Workbook. You got me hooked ! When's Chapter 2 coming ? I will wait with interest for more.


Tue Dec 30 01:52:29 PST 1997

Rhoda: I didn't see where you needed to apologize for referring to those top selling writers as pretty boys. I think it was a valid expression how you and most of us feel about the fact that publisher investment is so top heavy. I agree that I wouldn't blame the writers. I don't see many of us here who would turn down these deals that their agents are getting for them. Also, Victoria, it isn't sufficient to imply that the bottom--or let's just say new writers--are not an area of economic consideration because the writer at this level gets paid crap. Most work is rejected by the agent/editor/publisher complex on the basis of the belief that it wouldn't earn back the cost of printing even if the writer got nothing at all. This reality exists whoever is to blame for having created it. In a perfect world we could all earn a living with our work but if that is all that drives us and we allow our frustrations to weaken our resolve, we won't find a way to correct the the sorry state of the publishing business. I don't even argue that it's our place to correct it but that is another condition of a perfect world.
I don't have an answer other than we keep on doing what we do and hope to get some attention from the right quarters.

Michele Tue Dec 30 01:45:59 PST 1997

Hayden - thank you for those few kind words - I have NEVER, in 15 years of programming, been called a propeller head before !! I'm not offended though - astounded maybe !!

Britomart - Congratualtions.

I'm currently trying to decide how best to proceed with producing this book. I can't make up my mind whether to struggle on trying to do the research whilst working as a full time (and some) programmer meanwhile trying to save up enough money to be able to take a 6 month Sabbatical in order to do the actual writing; or whether to go back to Uni. to do an English degree - which will mean studying a bunch of writers and books I'm not interested in so that I can write the book as my final thesis; or whether to work part time and write part time (if I could afford to only work part time); or alternatively to continue working full time, snatching the time to do research where I can and then snatch the time to write when I can once the research is done. I'd appreciate some views from some of you folk (I gather from reading the biographies that most of you write in your "spare" time - it isn't easy though, is it ? - Not that writing is an easy game anyway !!)


Britomart Mon Dec 29 17:53:36 PST 1997

Hey everybody! And happy new year.

Okay, on the weekend, much to my eternal delight, my book was reviewed by the big, scary, elitist national newspaper ("The Australian") and was hailed as "one of the most auspicious Australian genre debuts of the past decade". I cannot wipe the smile off my face. I had to wait six months for a brilliant, widely read review, but at last I got it.

So, 1998, I wish for more of the same good stuff as 1997. I wish for boundless energy and enthusiasm, for assiduous care and diligent focus, nice weather, good company and a few new frocks. I'm sure that all of these things are well within my reach.

Love to you all

Hayden Grayell Mon Dec 29 15:54:32 PST 1997

Wow...what a start to the new year for many of you.

TM...My best wishes go out to you with the WOTF work... Envy is not a big enough word for what I feel...*smiling* gosh...I swoon at the thought of something like that...Aurealis awards are hard come by, and the thought that you have recieved two nominations make me go weak at the knees. CONGRATS!!! Now slow down and let me catch up, OK?

Tony Buckell...Hi...If you get stuck with HTML etc...give me a nod 'cause that's all I do when I'm not writing. (It's all Government hush hush though so I can't give you a web sight to look at.)

Gary...Keep them flowing buddy!!! I've worked on one novel for the past five years as a nurture piece. It leads me on to other ideas, and it's kidda like a sacrifice on the altar to the Gods of Writing. It may never get published, but it has had many children who are battling their way into mags and publications all over the place. Also I have spawned a new breed from the entrails of the story and the new piece is so much stronger and more alive than the first. Maybe it's a good idea to use your first piece as something like that: a breeding ground for other work.

Jack...thanks for your thanks...and this page makes the writing community so much nicer than a lot of the others that I have visited. Wish I had found it sooner. Bet the wife is brilliant on the music box.

Michele...don't you worry about being a computer programmer. Some of my best friends are propeller heads (just joking :-) ) and they are really nice people. Some of them are also pretty good writers. I won't admit I'm in the IT industry okay?

Clyde...I know the difficulty you have. Vacations are fun, but where the dollar barks, there you find the collar (you can quote me on that.) I try to write 1,000 words a day even if it means I have to hide in the studio in the middle of the night. It works 'cause I make it a point of telling everyone "I haven't written my 1000 words today which means I'm grumpy!!!"

1998, for me at least, is going to be full of typos and cross words and bashing the computer to say what I want it to say. (That's normal for me hehhee). I've had a good run over the break on "Supplejack" which is due for completion end of January, and then I can start in on "Hellwalker", book two of my trilogy, and then I can finish my humorous "How to Plan a Mid-life Crisis" which I hope will come together in August.

Best wishes for all of you

Michele Mon Dec 29 07:05:15 PST 1997

Hi. I'm new to the Internet and this writing lark but thought that I'd drop a message here. (I'm really a computer programmer but don't tell anyone !)

I haven't had anything published as yet - I'm still researching my work - a biography actually - I love reading fiction but run out of ideas after about 5000 words when trying to write fiction. And my short stories tend to get out of hand !

I stumbled on this page whilst browsing around the geocities home pages - I will bookmark it for future reference. Belated holiday greetings to all.

Happy New Year and good writing to all.


Jack Beslanwitch Sun Dec 28 14:20:54 PST 1997

T.M.: Congratulations!!!

Cherish your proceeds from Writers of the Future. I have two friends who have won in the past. WOF is one of the more lucrative markets around for short fiction and perhaps the best for the unpublished writer. Cautionary words and doubts aside about the association with Scientology, this is still highly recommended as a good source of writing discipline in that both of my friends sent out a story every quarter until they won.

I'll have more to say later about my own reflections on 1997 and goals for 1998. Just running out the door.

T. M. Spell Sun Dec 28 09:35:01 PST 1997

For me, 1997 will be The Year It Finally Happened -- the year I finally sold a story to a professional market. In my case, the news came not through the mail first, in the form of a check or acceptance letter, but via a phone call on December 23rd from Dave Wolverton, Coordinating Judge for the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Contest. My story, "Red Tide, White Tide," has placed Second in a contest that receives 1,000 or more submissions, *every quarter*, from writers all over the globe, and is judged by 14 of the most famous science fiction writers now living.

Frankly, I think if I'd placed First I would've died right there on the spot. As it was, I broke down and cried througout most of the conversation that followed. Conversation? Mostly, I listened to the wonderful news. The prize for my story will be $750; in addition, I will be paid generous professional rates from Bridge Publications for the rights to publish my story in the yearly Writers of the Future anthology, which is one of the best-selling anthologies of all time and appears in every major bookstore in the country (only Omni and Playboy, I believe, pay sf writers more than Bridge); I will receive free admission into a week-long writer's workshop taught by best-selling, professional science fiction writers; and I get to attend an awards ceremony, courtesy of Bridge Publications, that will be attended by the winning writers as well as by the 14 living legends who chose our stories.

I couldn't have imagined a lovelier Christmas present. This is the time of my life that I have been working toward for twenty years. And this is the year that it happened.

Goals for 1998? A novel, perhaps. An agent to market it. A publisher to buy it. And most importantly an audience to read it.

But whether or not tomorrow's dreams come true, yesterday's certainly have.

Joan Sun Dec 28 08:39:42 PST 1997

Hi all--

Hope your holidays were great!

Toby---good to see you're back. Sorry about the disk, and hope 6-fingers gets back on the road again! Am anxious to see where "he" goes.

Hayden--thanks for the comments on the Christmas Carol. I'm glad it gave you thought.

Goodweed--YES the E-mails helped, and I'm happy to have been encouraging---heaven only knows we all need to pick up encouragement where we can find it! Anything to keep the pen in motion.

Gary--Welcome to the group. It's a super place to be. I can sympathize with your stack of various rejections from agents--been there, done that.

ALL---I've been waiting since JUNE for some word from Susan Graham Literary Agency, which is supposed to specialize in my genre and also supposed to report within 2 months. I submitted precisely to her specifications and haven't called (also specified). I did E-mail her after about 5 months just to assure the ms. had arrived, and finally wrote her about two weeks ago (of course, since it's during the holidays I don't expect to hear too soon). Has anyone else dealt with her agency?

Reflections on writing over the last year: It's been a mixture of not enough time spent writing (chronic) due to work/family obligations, and yet a development of different sorts of writing, which is a good thing. I think it's been a transitional year, and has led to motivation for writing more this coming year.

Goals, dreams, hopes? More discipline about writing. I've had to get up at 3:30 most morning the last few months to do actual paid work, and having done that, I now realize I can do the same thing for my fiction writing. This is great news for me.

The publishing industry is bleak? So what! Yes, it's discouraging. But I am a writer first, last, always, and to plagiarize another movie, a writer writes---always. You'll never convince me that people don't crave good stories, something to either take them away from where they are, or to help them understand where they are, or both. It may be , with the publishers' current trend of thinking or the economy or whatever else, that we won't be well paid. But what were writers like Louisa May Alcott or Charles Dickens or any of those early classic writers, paid? I really don't know, but I suspect it wasn't a fortune---especially in the beginning. The goal I have---and maybe what we should all consider, given the current problems with publishing---is to get our stories (poems, articles, etc.) out there, to touch the people they're aimed at. Self-publishing? Web-publishing? Standing on a street corner selling photocopies of your stories for a nickel? Or as someone else here suggested selling words for a penny? I kind of cringe at the thoughts---HOWEVER, why not? The Word is getting out. It's reaching the people it must. Maybe like farming, we'll all have to have another job to support our passion. It's kind of like doctors nowadays. Back in the 1800's, many of them trained and schooled and then went out to a practice where they earned a chicken or a yam for all their training and their long hours. They did it for the love of it. Sure, now many of them make big bucks, but with the cost of malpractice insurance and with law suits and the trend toward government-controlled medicine, that may change too----just like the publishing industry seems to be now.

I don't know, maybe that's not a fair analogy, and I wish it wasn't so. I'd like to write, be published, and make enough money to support myself and my family so that I could spend all my working time writing. But it just may not come to pass. If it doesn't, will I quit? Not on your life. I want the Word---my words---to touch people's lives. And if I end up having to stand on a corner selling photocopies of stories or send out copies of stories with a Christmas letter, then I'll just have to suck up and do it.

Sorry about the length! Best to all, thanks again.



Gary Souza Sun Dec 28 01:23:13 PST 1997

I was just about six lines into this text when I apparently hit a key that brought up a screen telling me that my posting has been made, or some such language. I suppose this goes toward identifying myself as a clumsy newcomer. So if there appears to be a partial message along with this you might understand.

I see a good many students on the board and I feel that I should declare at once that I am not a student of writing nor was I ever, in any conventional way.

I did write a novel in the adventure/mystery genre and finished it about a year and a half ago. I submitted it to about fifty agents selected by a professional submitting service. I suppose it will come as no special surprise to many of you that the novel drew little more than a stack of rejections, mostly form letter types. A few were "live' replies and some politely encouraged me to continue seeking representation (elsewhere).

Rather than take that advice I shelved the novel and handed it out, in turn, to a number of friends and acquaintances who I know are fiction fans. I was surprised that so many of them returned the book with enthusiastic approval, some even asking not if, but when it would be published. I routinely told them that they should become literary agents as soon as they could manage career changes.

I continued to work on a few short stories and a number of dead end projects, the kind that sit in the word processor waiting for a bright idea as to how to proceed.

Just today I stumbled onto this site--isn,t that a nice writerly phrase: stumbled onto. I felt that there were people here with whom I had certain issues in common. I believe I will check into the site at times, In the meantime I wish you all the best in your efforts. Hope to talk to some of you some time soon.

Gary Souza Sun Dec 28 00:40:37 PST 1997

I am a newcomer to this community and I have read a good many of foregoing messages. It appears that there are a good many dedicated and enthusiastic writers in the group and I hope you accept my lurking as well intentioned curiosity.

Toby Buckell Sat Dec 27 21:04:44 PST 1997

Hi. Belated christmas greetings and happy new year!

Sorry I haven't been around much but life turned upside down, I missed about two weeks of school with some sort of flu and playing catch-up took away free time. I am. Looking forward to mail (it gets held at school while I'm away for the holidays), I am expecting replys for twelve stories.

For those who followed, I finished 'six fingers' once last month, but lost the disk while I was sick, and I'm re-writing that half bit by bit from paper scraps. Results will be posted as soon as I finish that little project.

What I'm looking forward to for '98; the extremely strong possibility of my acquiring a laptop. Desktop hunched into the corner of my small dorm room and *^&*&^ uncomfertable chair is not productive. Most of my best writing is still done in snatches in my notebook (where class notes should go, but don't).

I'm also looking forward to learning more about web pages and HTML code, and hopefully before winter quarter is done, will be able to display something I consider halfway acceptable.

Of course, I hope to be able to finish a lot more writing this year than the last!

Since I'm vacationing at my parents, if someone wants to reach me, it can be done at '' which is my stepfather's adress.

Jack Beslanwitch Fri Dec 26 01:52:16 PST 1997

Happy New Years everyone. This is hoping for a wonderful, productive and lucrative writing career for old and new friends in this coming year. This is also wishing continued fellowship and interesting conversations among us in 1998 and beyond. Take care everyone.

Joan Wed Dec 24 05:04:57 PST 1997


Hi to all you great people. Leaving for the holiday (getting ready to run out the door right NOW!), but just wanted to send you all holiday greetings. Great topic, Jack--will address it when I get back.

Best to you, my friends.


Goodweed fothe North Tue Dec 23 21:46:49 PST 1997

Merry Christmas to a tremendous group all over the world.

Joan; you have such a positive outlook and are so encourageing. I hope the e-mails help. Your support has certainly helped me.

Britomart and Hayden; Congrats guys. I realy don't envy you. Rather, I hope to one day be one of your published peers. I wish you the best and great success.

Bill; Haven't said hi in a while. Power to your pen.

Phillip; Good to see your brief posting. Wish you a great new year.

To everyone else; have a great Christmas and I hope you find the spark which will set your writing on fire.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Clyde Dixon Tue Dec 23 20:23:13 PST 1997

Goals and Dreams:
Well, 97 has been a ramping up year for me. A year of slowly turning up the heat on the tepid pot that is my writing. I made a good deal of progress, but of course, could have made much more - except of course that I couldn't yet!

While on vacation, in May of 97, I wrote and finished one story. The trick for 98 is to actually write while the rest of life is going on around me (I can't afford to vacation the whole year away).

So going into 98, I have my writing space, my writing tools, my ever growing writing ideas, and a few works in process. Enough of the simmer, time for some boil. Time to move more of my pent up ideas and scrbbled notes into completed stories.

I would be quite happy producing a half dozen stories in 98, and of course estatic if anything were published. But most of all, I want to continue moving forward. To move forward, I just need to sit down . . . and write.

May the new year bring us all what we need, and some of what Britomart got!


Jack Beslanwitch Tue Dec 23 14:32:06 PST 1997

Happy holidays to everyone:

Congratulation to both Britomart and Hayden !!!

Also, I finally got around to changing the topic. For those not able to see the popup window:

As 1997 winds down and 1998 is about to explode onto the scene, what are our reflections about our goals as writers in the past year and our dreams for the coming year. Lay aside the doom and gloom and greed of the publishing industry and let your fondest fantasies flow.
(I'll have a bit to say about this in a later post in the next day or so)

Phillip: delighted to see you drop a note off here. Got your email and will respond at length sometime later today.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas. I got my wife a musical keyboard and am bracing myself for some practicing and looking forward to some wonderful sounds ;-). Some of the results may even get dropped off here. So you know, Fran is the musically adept in this family. Take care everyone and just wanted to say that this wonderful collection of caring and sharing writers has been a saving grace for me. Look forward to a coming year with many wonderful new and old faces sharing their thoughts and reflections. Cheers.

Britomart Tue Dec 23 14:11:58 PST 1997

Hayden - congrats! I've just found out I've been shortlisted for two Aurealis awards - this has been a great year for girls with fond notions of writing stories.

Lots of love and best wishes for the holiday season for all.

Milton Trachtenburg Mon Dec 22 05:59:37 PST 1997

I don't believe there is one road to successful writing because writing takes so many forms. I believe that whatever you write, you need to understand the field, including its history and the writings of your predecessors. University education provides a structured environment within which to accomplish a disciplined approach to learning.

There are drawbacks in the university system. There is a predisposition for certain types of writing within academia. In fiction, literary writing is favored. In non-fiction, academic, research-oriented writing is the focus. Many writers find that their proclivities in writing lie elsewhere.

Many writers of genre fiction and issue-centered non-fiction learned their craft in nontraditional settings. Much specialized writing comes out of knowledge accumulated in the workplace. Many genre fuction writers study in writing groups and learn their craft in practicums.

Sometimes, I regret that I did not study writing in college. As an adult, I found that I was able to learn what I needed but had to develop my own matrix for learning it. Perhpas in the long run, that served as an advantage because my views were unencumbered by values that were generations old. In reviewing the literature I have chose to read, and the knowledge of writing I have garnered from other sources, I would match my skills against a university trained writer in all but techniques of literary writing. Because it is not the area of writing I chose to pursue, the cost to me is not great.

As to the deterioration of opportunities in the filed for mid-list writers such as myself, certainly there has been a focus by major publishers upon the blockbuster. The economics of a field now run by corporate entities whose concerns are bottom line exascerbate an already difficult situation in which the economics of the industry dictate a reliance upon large profit books. When you consider production, advertising and other overhead costs, it is becoming prohibitive for a major publisher to bring a book to market. Add to that factor, the discounts offered to the major sellers and you have a market that is not writer-friendly.

There continues to be a market with the small and mid-size presses who will consider short press runs leaving the writer with two major possibilities: accidental success, and a calling card for the next project. If writers would plan their careers as business persons, they wouldn't expect a first novel to strike it rich for them. As writers imagine a story, many of them imagine a life-line for themselves as well. That kind of thinking can prove desultory in its outcomes.

I have made much more from the indirect benefits of writing than from direct sales. I have gotten great speaking engagements, consulting positions, teaching positions, entry to places I would not have been accepted in. The financial benefits from the indirect results were as much as many writers earn in a career of writing.

Overall, I would do it the same way again: write as much as I can but don't give up the day job.


Hayden Grayell Sun Dec 21 18:13:56 PST 1997

Joan: I've just read the Christmas Carol you posted. ANd enjoyed it because it led me out from the fire to see the night sky and then back into the fire already warmed with thought. Ahhh. Feet up and tuck into a toddy.

Britomart: Eidolon have just accepted one of my stories called New Growth due out next issue. Race you to an even million. (You've got a head start!)

Phillip: May Santa bring you lots of Joy...and the blue tie-dyed sweatsuit you were secretly wishing for ;-) (I'll keep it a secret!)

Hayden Grayell Sun Dec 21 17:49:38 PST 1997

Bob Hanford...I'll have to take a royalty if you sell a few words a day. Contract in the mail! please sign in duplicate and in blood. hehehe I'm gonna be rich. (gosh...I hope the pony express doesn't mind a bit of water.)

Also re Capawitz: "Each morning of the long summer he sat on the floor of the lift that took him from the plaza to the lofty experience of the second floor. Those who journeyed with him stood near the doorway, nervously clutching at bags and briefcases. He sang to them. They were Gods to him in their wide lapels and shiny shoes. The Gods were less certain, and wide-eyed their way out of the lift if they could, or exchanged glances with other passengers, casting blame for the fool scratching himself at their feet."

That's about 92 words. Multiply by 6 cents a word...and I'll be able to buy a calculator. :-D

Kasim: thanks for the quote. :-) I would have preferred to have borrowed a ladder, 'cause if there is that much wisdom up the tree then I'm in the wrong place. Maybe that is why we ground children. *lightbulb* Also, well done with the article. First of many, no doubt.

Britomart...Royalty checks...better than donuts...not that I have had many donuts (oh, all right, I meant I haven't had ANY roylaty payments.) Envy >:-P

Joan, thanks for the "funny" comment. Appreciated.

Philip Sun Dec 21 17:42:36 PST 1997

Seasons Greetings!
Best wishes to all my old and new friends found right here at Jack's international writers' site.

Kasin Hunter Sat Dec 20 18:40:58 PST 1997

Hayden Grayell, I think you're barking up the right tree with your let's-start-selling-single-sentences comment. I collected this from somewhere, and it still makes sense to me now--

"Write so well that if all the words worth celebrating were quoted, half of what you had written would be on everyone's lips. Make the passages striking!"

Not easy, but worth the effort, imho.

Kasin Hunter Sat Dec 20 18:26:38 PST 1997

Hi, everyone.

First, news. I recently had an article printed in 2001: A Taste Odyssey on my gourd artwork. It was so exciting to see my pictures and article there on the pages. Still have a hard time believing that's me there!

Second, have any one you heard of the online publisher called, "White Knight Publishing"? An acquaintance of mine has a book published by them. I noticed the hits were quite low on the readers page. They say they will give 65% of the total income to the author after 100 days of lead time. Anyone know is these guys are straight up?

Thanks, and Merry Christmas everyone.

kay Sat Dec 20 15:20:42 PST 1997

Ye Zhang, you need to finish that post. Yes you are special. You've given five words of poetry, and I want more.

J. Dishner Fri Dec 19 16:56:56 PST 1997

Way to go, Jennifer! It would probably be best not to think about the contest and your entry now--just enjoy the holidays. It's a win-win situation here just knowing you had the guts to risk entering. Hope you get some encouraging remarks about your bed time story. Let us know.

I just finished my 1,200-word feature story this morning. It was a bear to write, and I was so glad to get it out of my life. Funny thing is, now I'm hoping I can think of another way to use the material...

Happy writing!

Jennifer Fri Dec 19 09:35:38 PST 1997

Just sent off one of my stories (a bed-time story to be exact) to enter in a local contest. It's the first time anything I've written (other than a birthday card) has left my apartment with a stamp on it. I feel like I've already won by simply taking action despite the fear. Talk about mixed emotions! Ak! I can't keep thinking about it--I probably need to start working on something else. (Or I could just eat half a loaf of pumpkin bread instead :) Happy Holidays and productive writing to all.


J. Dishner Thu Dec 18 17:03:01 PST 1997

Hey anybody out there!

I'm working on a project--writing a feature story--that has been keeping me up nights, because I cannot seem to connect everything together. Ugh! I've got a ton of notes from interviews and background information spread out all over my desk, along with little post-it notes from other assignments and projects I'm working on simultaneously, and it's all making me crazy! So, I just thought I'd take a break. Is anyone out there? Will you talk to me, please?

Tell me a funny story, anything. I'll read anything at this point. I just need a little diversion...

Thanks a bunch!--JD

Joan Thu Dec 18 06:10:49 PST 1997

P.S. heh heh heh--it's a "hooky" day for me---wheeeee, no work (at least not away from home), so I can play on this site a little.


joan Thu Dec 18 06:09:34 PST 1997

Merry Christmas to all!

Just wanted to say hi quickly and pass along holiday greetings to a great bunch of people.

Hayden, funny stuff.
Rob and Jaye--I wrote you about your workbook stuff---pretty neat.
Goodweed--thanks for the E-mails and all the interesting stuff. Keep on going--I'm sure you'll get there! There was some conversation here about series novels. If you're interested in doing those (I've got a couple in the works, too), why don't you try DAW publishing? They're exclusively sci/fi fantasy (which you probably know) are very open to new authors, and seem to like big, heavy series books.
Jack--where's the music? Was it causing loading problems for too many people?

And a special note to Jack--thanks for this wonderful place, and to all of you for being here and being . . . I don't know, WRITERS I guess! You all make it more possible for me to keep at it.

Write on!


Bob Hanford Thu Dec 18 05:44:10 PST 1997

Hello everyone and happy holidays!
Hayden: Is Capawitz part of a story? Great line with red leather underwear and diapers..Good stuff. I think, with your permission, that I'll try selling words on the street here next spring. Gotta be a neat experience..Think I'll charge a nickel. At the least, I will get a column out of it.
Way to go Brit!!!!!

Britomart Thu Dec 18 01:09:12 PST 1997

First royalty statement - wheeeeeeee!!!! Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hayden Grayell Wed Dec 17 17:14:35 PST 1997

gosh...If single works don't sell, and series don't sell, then maybe I should try selling individual lines...maybe quotes like "Stars are not the only thing in heaven, dear" or "Capawitz wore red leather underwear, and diapers on cold days" or even "To be, or not to be..."

Or maybe if I tried selling individual words at six cents a pop. I could stand on the street corner and say "Precolumbian!" then grab the next person to come along and ask "Did you hear that?" When they say "Yes", I'll say "Okay, bud, that'll cost ya six cents!"

Nah... I think I'll forget all the orbit and just bash away on the keyboard 'cause I like to do that most of all. If I start worrying about all the cut backs in purchases from the big Bosses in Publishing, and where my next meal is coming from, I'll end up missing out on the pleasures of words and how they fit together :-)

Best wishes for the Christmas

Rhoda Wed Dec 17 11:27:37 PST 1997


I really have no advice on whether it is good to start one's writing career with a series or not. I like what Jackie suggested about letting each story have the ability to stand alone.

My first book is in general part of a series. When I first wrote it, I envisioned at least five novels coming out of the same setting using the same core characters. For some strange reason I began it at the end.

My first book, THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN, is the very last. This way, I made sure the story stood alone. The second book, VALERIE'S SONG is the prequel. I did VALERIE'S SONG next because it is the story of the reluctant barbaian's mother. This second story also stands alone. I have tried to market THE RELUCTANT BARBARIAN and so far I haven't sold it. When VALERIE'S SONG is finished, I will market it on its own. If anyone is interested, I can always say, "Well I've already written the sequel to this story."

I have determined that if I cannot sell either of these books, I will never attempt another book in this "series."
I would just have to conclude that whatever I set out to do with my Dark Age books did not succeed. It could be the setting and the time is wrong for the market, or that at the present moment I do not have the expertise to make it work.

As a reader, I like series. I do not read fantasy or sci-fi, but romance. One of my favorite authors, Patricia Veryan wrote a series of Regency Romances dealing with a very large theme. All the heros and the heroines for this series of about nine or ten books were all connected by friendship or blood. A major character in one book would be a minor character in another. There was one master villian and a couple of other minor villians. The neat thing is that every single book stood alone. You could pick up anywhere in the series and be drawn in.

Another author who did this well was Barbara Hazard. She had a trilogy revolving around an English duke. The first book involved the woman the duke did not get. The second book involved the duke and the woman he did get. The third bood involved his twin daughters. These books were all great.

Susan Spencer Paul who writes for Harlequin Historicals has a wonderful series called the Bride Books involving medieval brothers who get their brides in unconventional ways. Then there is Diana Gabledon's successful series.

Back in the old days before television and Nintendo, books were commonly very long and intricate. People such as Tolstoy and Margaret Mitchell could tell very big stories. Now it is harder to do so in one book. Few publishers will allow it. Maybe that is why series fiction is done so much now.

Well, this post is getting long, and as I added before I do not know if doing a series is harder or easier to get books published. I only know I like them. I have my father coming to visit for the holidays, so I doubt that I will visit the notebook much in the next couple of weeks.

So I had better run. May everyone have a relaxing and fun holiday season. May you all even be able to squeeze in some great writing.

Take care,


J Dishner Tue Dec 16 15:58:45 PST 1997

Hi everyone!

First of all, Britomart, I apologize for offending you when I referred to "the great American novel" in a previous comment. I included the statement "or whatever you want to call it" with the intention not to offend anyone, because I do not know everyone's nationality or place of origin out there and did not want to exclude anyone's writing aspirations.

From my perspective, "the great American novel" could be whatever you are working on for publication at any given moment, whether it be a novel, a book of poems, a series of essays, or even a first short story written in any language to be published in any country. It could be anything, and I did not know what type of work Jennifer plans to write, so that's why I used that phraseology. Honestly, I did not mean to offend you. I hope you'll forgive me. I was just trying to help Jennifer.

Secondly, I agree with just about everything everyone else had to say on the subject of education and writing. There is no one answer--there are far too many variables involved. So, Jennifer, if you are still out there--good luck with whatever you choose to do and enjoy your education. Also, congratulations on getting through your 12-step program. Best wishes for a brighter future.

Happy Holidays to all!


CHARLES SAMUEL Tue Dec 16 12:35:39 PST 1997

Hi Everybody,
Just wanted to say hello. I've been travelling back and forth between Jerusalem and Toronto and haven't had much time to check in let alone write. Some interesting developments tho.

Victoria Tue Dec 16 12:08:22 PST 1997

In reply to the questions about series writing: it's my impression that in the f/sf genre, editors do like to buy multiple books, generally dualogies or trilogies. As another post mentioned, for the first-time author it's a good idea to make the first book in your planned series a fairly complete work in and of itself, and to limit the number of sequels--a 12-volume epic, for which the first volume is mostly setup, might be acceptable from David Eddings, but not from a newbie. The stand-alone first book is important because even if an editor buys a series from you, the first book is a test case and will very likely be marketed as a stand-alone, with no mention of sequels. If it does poorly they might well decide not to publish the subsequent books, which they can do by labelling them "unacceptable" (they always write an "unacceptable" clause into the contract).

Keeping this in mind, however, I think it couldn't hurt to let an editor know that a book is part of a planned series of two or three or whatever it is. A multi-book contract might very well result. Or, if that doesn't happen and just the first book gets bought, at least the editor will be expecting the next book and you'll be guaranteed a reading.

Bill Tue Dec 16 10:04:56 PST 1997

Hi all.
I have been lurking lately cause I've had so much to do. I spent two weeks going through ten years of junk and took it to the flea market so I could buy my kids xmas presents. Now I'm getting ready to go to Albuq. New Mexico for the holidays. We had to scrape pennys for that too. We wouldn't be going, but my step-daughter is getting married there so we don't have much choice. Anyway, I wish everyone a great holiday season. Keep writing. I'll jump back in here in January. HAVE FUN. Bill....

Michael Parish Tue Dec 16 08:40:54 PST 1997

Godweed, you could be barking up the wrong tree. I've also been interested in writing trilogies, but from what I've read, publishers are more wary about trilogies these days than they are about publishing single books, especially if we're talking about a new author. Now this can be a complex subject. Publishers ARE more apt to take you on if they feel you are in it for the long haul, in other words, you have more books you are writing for future publication. But this refers to SINGLE books, not books that are part of a series. The problem is that publishers these days will drop a book from their lists like a hot potato if it isn't selling very well, and if that book is part of a series, the entire series could get dragged down along with it. This means publishers lose more money, and we're fooling ourselves if we say that money isn't the driving force for publishers these days.

All is not doom and gloom however. I read an article in Writer's Digest where a woman wanted to write a series of books (fantasy novels, I think they were). She made sure that the first book in the series was a complete story in and of itself. When she submitted the manuscript, she simply "forgot" to tell the publisher it was part of a series she wanted to write, and when the book was accepted and was set to be published, she submitted other manuscripts in the series. They were also accepted.

Maybe this is a dumb example, and maybe those other manuscripts would have been accepted anyway. But like I said, I've wanted to write series books and I'm not quite sure if that's the best way to start out. Ideas, anyone?

Goodweed of the North Mon Dec 15 22:11:40 PST 1997

I wonder, in this world of looking for the garanteed return, are stories designed from the outset as trilogies, or even multiple trilogies better able to provide the bread and butter for the readers? Are publishing companies more apt to go for a popular series than a sigle great book. I think of Dune, Lord of the Rings, Xanth, Foundation Series, Darkover, etc.

These all sold very well, and many are now considered clasics. I know I tend to enjoy a good series or trilogy because it provides me with continued works by authors I know I like. Granted, I had to pick up that first book, but once that was accomplished, I hungered for more. I even want to get my hands on some probably dated works such as anything with Fafhard and the Grey Mouser, By Fritz Lieber, or the Elric of Melnibone series by Michael Moorcock. I read some of the stories many years ago and know that I enjoyed them. I never found subsequent works which I know exist out there somewhere.

I like the idea of writing a trilogy or series. It's how I set up my own work. It gives me greater opportunity to develop characters, settings, worlds, and hopefully, develop a following. Anyone else with ideas about this feel free to respond.

Jack, you come up with some great topics. Thanks.

Seeeeya; Goodweed of the North

Davidson Corry Mon Dec 15 16:22:38 PST 1997

Hello, friends --

I'm new to the discussion, but I've been a lurker for some time. Thanks for your ideas and encouragement -- this is a site to behold.

>>...two separate topics [What Is A Writer's Education? and Is The Mid-list Dead?] are proposed for our discussion and reflection:

Ah, but are they separate?

To be good, a writer must have something interesting to say. The best do so from wide-ranging interests and experience. That is, a good writer is always a voracious *reader* -- I know of no exceptions.

[To brew a writer from this basic stock, add a whiff of vanity, a nip of narcissism, a hogshead of pigheadedness. Simmer for years. Serve repeatedly, until someone asks for seconds.]

Set the flame of curiosity in the very young. If you haven't kindled the kid by kindergarten, later is much harder, I think. But if you do, not even graduate school is likely to extinquish it.

And we need those hungry readers, friends, because they buy the mid-list.

SF used to be a marginal genre. The top *was* the mid-list, at least as compared with mainstream fiction. So, if you were nutty enough to publish that stuff anyway, you might as well make room for lots of authors. No one was going anywhere else anyway.

Now, SF is a victim of its own success. Since Star Trek and the Apollo project, it's gone mainstream. SF projects can be blockbusters. (So can dystopic fantasy and mindless mayhem masquerading as SF.) So publishers try for the Big Score. Pretty human, don't you think?

I believe that the core SF audience, the readership who seek what was once the sub-title of a major genre magazine, 'Worlds of Wonder', is still there. And is still marginal. Always will be, can't help but be -- thinking that much is too hard for most folks. But life itself to those of us who do.

Will new publishing arenas -- the Internet, and 500-channel TV (think of cable as a vast market for novella-length stuff) -- pay mid-list writers? Maybe. Not soon. But it might be in our best interests to write for them anway... and keep our day jobs.

p.s. Franchises (Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Files...) are sometimes cited as the Enemy. They skew the market, yes, but they're not enough for the truly interested reader. And there's nothing inherently wrong with a continued character -- ask Honor Harrington, or Kimball Kinnison, or Sherlock Holmes, or Father Brown. Or Wild Bill Hickock, for that matter.

p.p.s. I over-simplify. The mid-list is shrinking, not just in genres, but in mundane fiction too. (Say, ever wonder why they don't have MF conventions??) But the cure is the same -- build readers. Get arrested handing out free books to elementary school kids at recess. It's our only hope.

Rhoda Mon Dec 15 10:35:58 PST 1997

I hate to post more thoughts here since I posted so much a few minutes ago, but I feel that I must apologize for calling successful authors "pretty boys." I really didn't mean to be derogatory, but after some thought I realized that this is a derogatory term. I would edit this out if I could and substitute a word more descriptive of my thoughts.

I in no way believe that these writers are undeserving of their success. I would never call to question publically the talent of anyone who can sell several million books. All I question is the business and marketing practices of the companies who publish books.

Rhoda Mon Dec 15 09:49:45 PST 1997


It is so crazy in my household right now, that I haven't had time to post any messages; however whenever I check my mail, I do come by the notebook and read the posts.

First of all, can anyone tell me exactly what midlist is and give me some examples of writers who are midlist? I have heard different definitions, and I think that since this is part of the discussion that it should be clarified. One source tells me that midlist are all the writers that are not the top twenty or so authors who get their books sold by the truckload at Sam's Club and other outlets. Midlist authors are supposedly profitable, but not as profitable as Ann Rice, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, etc. But I read in Jeff Herman's WRITER'S GUIDE TO BOOK EDITORS, PUBLISHERS and LITERARY AGENTS that midlist authors produce only money-loosing books and are only tolerated by publishers because they show promise of becoming something more. He advises that a new author should do his or her best to stay off the midlist.

If there is a midlist, is there also a lowlist? Are genre authors, some who are wildly successful, catagorized as midlist, toplist, or whatever?

I would like to give my observations on this topic even though I am not greatly familiar with the publishing world. I believe that what is going on in the publishing industry is the same sort of crap that is going on in almost every sector of American business. It frightens me when I see so many similarities between publishing and the oil and gas industry my husband works in.

Consolidation and Downsizing is the mantra for every ledgerhead in American big business. Now that you have these large entertainment conclomerates, these folks are going eliminate portions of their business that do not give them at least a twenty percent return. To them midlist folks are not worth their efforts. Also business demands greater productivity--fewer people doing all the work. All these publishing houses would be thrilled if they could get away with Ann Rice, Tom Clancy, and the fifteen or so other pretty boys writing all the books that America reads.

Furthermore big business is wrapped up in profits. They really don't care what you think about a book as long as you buy it and in your laziness and stupidly come back to buy more of their tripe, and sad to say there are so many people in the buying public just like that. They will only buy and sometimes read what they think they should be reading.

I believe that these policies are short-sighted and that eventually this is all going to catch up with them. The public is not as stupid as all the publishers and other members of the entertainment media think. I believe that times such as this are a great opportunity for the wise entrepreneur to pick up and develope the talent available and deliver the deversity and quality of books that the public desires. This will take some, however.

More and more this is becoming a "One Size Fits All" world. Do the women here notice that when you go out and buy clothes now, you are increasinly offered S,M, or Large instead of sizes 2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16, and 18? There are over fifty channels on the average cable system, and most of what is available is the same idiotic stuff you've tried to avoid on Network television. There will be little diversity in entertainment and literature as long as only a select few inviduals determine what we see, hear and read. I've always been taught that in business the customer is always right and you give them what they want. Not in entertainment! Dictate what they shall have, and tell the public that they are getting what they want. Perhaps in the process you will be able to dull their minds and dumb people down to such an extent that they won't care anymore.

As far as publishing, writing is a joy to me. I want to be published and be paid for what I enjoy doing. Trends come and trends go. I just have to believe that with God's help that someday I will be present in the right place in the right time with the right editor and will some day make it in this business.

Jack Beslanwitch Mon Dec 15 03:25:49 PST 1997

    Hello everyone: I decided since things had quieted down so much perhaps coincidentally since I added the musical background, I would go back to the old fashioned Writer's Notebook without bells and whistles. It may also just be the holidays and everyone is busy with family, friends or, shock of shocks ;-), writing or what have you.

    I also archived things with the exception of the Victoria Strauss's rather cogent comments on the nature of modern publishing in at least the American market. I would like to expand things slightly and ask the perspective of those not in the US of A writing the "Great American Novel" if the same paradigm applies. Are midlist writers being dropped in somewhat the same way that they apparently are here in the US. I would like to think that the rest of the world still regards authors and artists with some more consideration than this.

    Of course, if someone has an exciting alternative topic for discussion feel free to drop that off. Take care everyone and hope the holidays are treating you well.

Oh, P.S., I wanted to make sure that it was OK with everyone if I zipped the Writers Notebook archive messages for 1997. This saves a considerable amount of space, but if others are unable to unzip a zipped file this could be a problem. Let me know either via email or on the Notebook.

Victoria Strauss Sat Dec 13 11:58:33 PST 1997

About the second of this week's topics--sadly, I think Spider Robinson is right. From what I read and hear, it seems to me that the main challenge in publishing is not so much publishing your first book (of course this is difficult, but I don't think any more so than it's ever been, especially in genre fiction) but publishing your fourth. Twenty years ago it would have been unthinkable for a writer with three or four books to his or her credit to be unable to find a publisher, but now it's happening more and more. It isn't the bookbuying public that's driving this, or the superstores (the biggest portion of B&N's profits come from their backlist) but the publishers, who are gripped by the same insanity that drives sports team owners and movie studios. They pay obscene advances (for instance, $5 m to Paul Reiser for his turkey of a book) in hopes of a blockbuster, then lose money. Where do they economize? Not at the top of the list--they keep dishing out those advances--and not on the bottom--where they pay crap anyway--but in the middle.

Right now, the Internet hasn't had any impact on the problem, I don't think. It's still too new as a marketplace for fiction, and there are still too many issues of royalties and payments (not to mention very low standards of writing--sorry, but it's true). In the future, this may change. For instance, there's a company that will store out-of-print books on the Net and download them on request. Authors are paid an advance and royalties, just like in regular publishing. Some authors have taken advantage of this to get more mileage out of their older books. Since things seem to go out of print so fast these days, this kind of thing may become more and more of a viable alternative for authors.


Return to For Writers Only