Monday, October 26, 2009

eBooks vs. Physical Books

So there is a lot of hype out there about the value or detriment of ebooks. And there are as many conflicting views as there are people. 

There are some who say that ebooks will destroy the publishing industry because it will prevent customers from entering bookstores and not every book is available as an ebook. (Stephen King has even taken this approach in his decision to delay the ebook edition of his new novel to help generate traffic into bookstores - because of course, he holds all power. Okay, okay, so he does.) You also have to consider that although the ebook price is generally lower, there are still many of the same costs - editing, the author's cut, the agent's cut, formatting, etc., etc. The only real difference in costs are the physical published pages. But consumers generally only see the published pages - which an ebook lacks - so they believe that an ebook price should be significantly cheaper. And when the publishing industry is only make 3% - 5% profit (ridiculously low when compared to every other industry), they just can't afford to drop their prices.

There are others who say ebooks will save the industry because the convenience of the Kindle (and its other oddly-named competitors) will replace multiple books. And with the rest of the world going digital, it was only a matter of time before mainstream books did so as well. Many people think that ebooks increase readership because it actually pulls in new customers; a physical book purchaser is not going to buy the e-version, and vice versa. Meaning that ebooks are only going to boost the sales, not reduce the sales. At the very least, others think that ebooks will be the "in" thing for a few years, then it will lose its popularity and decrease in use. 

I don't really know what I think. I don't personally like ebooks, but I think that is mostly because I'm a physical-book type of person. I'm contemplating the aspect of two different consumers because it kind of seems to make sense (but I haven't totally decided yet). I would never buy an ebook because I can't really curl up with a hunk of plastic. But my husband, who reads voraciously on the internet but can't stand to finish a novel, is thrilled with the idea. 

Perhaps the answer is to offer both formats with maybe an extra perk in one or the other format to increase sales that direction.

What do you think?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tossing What I Love

So I'm in the part of writing in my novel that is one of the most difficult parts. Yes, I'm revising (as I'm sure many of you figured out by the first sentence), but it's the type of revision right now that is so hard for me.

I am using my current novel as a master's project as well, and I met with my committee about the first chunk of writing. Right now the main character, Anna, has a best friend named William. They have been friends for years, and my first draft had him basically as her mentor-friend.

My committee suggested I capitalize on this friendship and add a love triangle to my story. They suggested that Anna did not have to feel any differently toward William, but that William could actually be in love with Anna and complicate her other relationship. I had never even recognized that as a possibility in my novel, and I recognized their advice would make a stronger novel, so I decided to do it.

Now, here's the hard part: revising the big stuff. The actual work is not necessarily difficult, but the emotional detachment is hard. I really liked how I had it before with William giving her advice about her other beau (nope, you don't get the name because it's a big surprise in the book), but if William's in love with her, he's not going to tell Anna to give the other guy a chance.

And he's not going to be totally supportive of her decision. And now there has to be a specific reason why she chooses the other guy over her best friend. And then that decision changes the ending of the book. And...and...and...

See what I mean? That one decision to alter their relationship changes everything about the story. Not only do I have to go back through every single piece and change the lines of dialog to match the new direction, but I also have to write new scenes and edit old ones to fit this new complication. I even have to write new characters because the advice William gives Anna in the first draft has to be there, it just cannot come from William in the second draft. And no one knows Anna as well as William, so it cannot be just one character giving her the advice - it has to be several characters giving her pieces of advice to make a complete whole.

Whew! Now do you see why I hate this part of writing? It's hard for me to give up, chop up, or split up the scenes I fell in love with and are so crucial to the story and my character. I just hope that when all is said and done, I like the final draft as well as I did the first draft.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Language of Writing

So my two-year-old is at the point in his development where he is connecting different concepts together as he learns to speak. I am constantly amazed at what connections he makes. 

Like last night, we were driving in the car, and he was repeating phrases from the song that was playing. So he sang things like, "new day" after the line ended. Of course he only picks out the words he really knows and understands. One line ended with the word "change." So my sweet little two-year-old sang "Change." Then he tried it again connecting it with the only way he understands the word "change": "Change diaper!" in his little sing-songy voice. Talk about hysterical!

So what does my son singing a song have to do with writing? Surprisingly, a lot. When we write, we are learning a new language, much like my two-year-old. We start out kind of slowly, doing a lot of observing and occasionally trying to mimic what we see. Then we start mimicking a lot more, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. More importantly, we try to figure out why something works. As we get a little more confident in our writing, we start trying things out on our own, start making connections. Sometimes those connections are clear and logical, sometimes they are simply hysterical. But either way we are still trying to learn the intricacies of this new language we have adopted. (And I use "new language" purposely; you ever noticed how you cannot write the way you speak?) Eventually, if we keep working at it, we reach the point where we have mastered the basics and can start learning the details. If we continue to apply ourselves, we'll reach the point where we have mastered the entire language (like, about the time we die).

So good luck to all of you struggling to make the connections. I feel like I am finally starting to get to the point where some of those connections are working, but only in certain areas (for example, my review committee pointed out something totally lacking that I did not even realize wasn't there, but that's for another blog). But I still have a long way to go. I'm maybe a five- or six-year-old right now, but I rely on a lot of 20- or 30-year-olds to help me learn this language. Eventually, I will be one of those seasoned writers...I hope...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thinking Like a Writer

I met a gentleman a few weeks ago who gave me a great definition of a writer vs. an author. He said an author is a writer who has been published. Under that definition we are all writers. We all write, whether it is emails, grocery lists, blogs, poetry, novels, memos, etc.

But we don't all consider ourselves writers. I have dabbled in poetry and a few other things for many of my growing-up years. But I have only recently begun to consider myself a writer (see my short essay "i am a writer"). So what made the difference? I did!

When talking to my husband the other day, I realized the difference between most of us and those who consider themselves writers: it is all about how we think...literally. The difference for me occurred when I started thinking about my writing.

I used to write for assignments mostly, but not for myself very often. I started really writing for myself with my first novel, Market Murder. I started trying to figure out how to make things work. But this novel I'm working on right now is definitely for myself (and hopefully others in the future). And that is when the difference really happened.

I can't stop thinking about my novel! When I'm cleaning the house, when I'm driving down the road, when I'm trying to have a conversation with my husband, I'm still thinking about my novel. What should I do here? How do I make this scene work?  This part of my story is coming up...how do I set it up? Everything I see or do seems to somehow relate back to my novel.

For example, I was driving down the road with my husband the other day and saw a billboard for a Renaissance festival. My mind automatically shifted to my story. I had been describing a dress, and the best research I could find were costume websites who claimed to be authentic enough that fair/festival goers purchased their products. I literally had a flashback to my own writing, and it was several minutes before I came back to the conversation with my husband.

So that's what thinking like a writer means. When you can't stop thinking about you're writing, then you realize you really are a writer.