Friday, July 17, 2009

Writerly Musings on Writers and Writing by Robert W. Walker

For some occupations, most in fact, not knowin’ where you’re goin’ from the outset of a project is the kiss of death. Organize, outline, plan, storyboard it…all necessary for many forms of writing as well but a novel? Not entirely true, no, and in fact even now, writing this blog, I dunno where I’m going until I get there. An old saying has it that “I don’t know what I think until I see what I say.” With writers in general, I suspect that is true.
Another thing about writers, as with any artistic types, there’s constant self-analysis and self-criticisms of our work; if reviewers only knew. They don’t have to tear us down; we do a fine job of doing that number on ourselves.
Another issue about writers is the notion that for money, even fast money without any hope of returns on that money, as in pay for hire, we will never say no. In general, I subscribe to the never say no to a writing job or an editing job or any job that pays you for putting words on paper or helping someone else to do so as in ghost writing. But there are limits after all. The term pay for hire is a circumstance wherein an editor or publisher wishes to pay you a flat say one or two thousand for a writing job and you are never to darken their door again. You have no rights to the work. You were hired to write it for another. Yet it is to be a book on shelves in bookstores. It may or may not have your name on it. Most of the Idiot Books, those reference works like The Fool’s Guide to whatever are done as pay per hire. I say if you really need the money, go for it, but as a general rule, try to avoid such deals.
When you are hired to do a ghost writing job, it’s about take the money and don’t expect or pursue any additional funds. When you edit someone else’s work it remains their work, not yours, and you should expect no more funds accruing to you unless you have worked out a contract that stipulates this down to the percentages. Else all you can expect if that is a mention in the acknowledgments.
Now getting down to when an editor gives you a green light on a spec manuscript. If you are given a go-ahead based on a spec script (speculation), the nature of the beast is no money changes hands until which time spec becomes contracted script. If you are lucky enough to have a correspondence or any sort of relationship with an editor and you are talking about ideas with said editor, you don’t own ideas, and anyone can take up that idea and run with it, so you want to do your best to convince an editor that this idea is not only great but that you are the perfect person to write it. When an editor in a publishing house asks you if you can write such and such a book, THEN I go by you never say no to an editor.
Once way back in early 80s, I was turned down by an editor I had worked with on a previous couple of books. I was amazed at the rejection of this work. I got on the phone and got Jane, and I pushed her on giving me some real reasons as to why it was rejected, something other than the vague generalities in the letter. She said, “It’s too short; we’ve moved from doing 60 thousand words to 80 thousand, and we’re up to our eyeballs in mysteries. We are in need of horror.”
I shot back without hesitation, “Give me a contract and I’ll add a monster and 20.000 words!”
Jane said, over the phone, “Yes, okay, I’ll put the contract in the mail. Go to work!”
That is the exception but I have also had editors contact me to ask if I could run with an idea the house was kicking over for a series. After two or three sentences on the idea, I stop listening and say, “I can do it, sure!” My four-book Decoy Series came of that. My Instinct Series came about the opposite way—I proposed it as a series idea to an editor who fell in love with the concept. Same with my Ransom series.
I’ll leave it at that this week as am quite busy working on bringing out more work on Kindle. Thus far, I have Children of Salem, Cuba Blue, Deja Blue, FleshWars, a how-to that could have been entitled 20,000 words and a Monster…but I instead call it Dead On Writing, and a short story collection entitled Thrice-Told Tales. Working on Abaddon (horror) and The Serpent Fire (horror-thriller).
Rob Walker
also at Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Plaxo, LinkedIn, DL, MMA, and more


Elizabeth McKenzie said...

You sound busy doing what you love.

Cara Lopez Lee said...

Glad to know that other writers are loaded to the gills with 20 different projects at once. A woman once told me it was amazing I could juggle so much at once, and that she had to focus. I replied that I wished I could focus on just one writing project at a time, but if I did we couldn't pay our mortgage.

Rob Walker said...

Thanks Cara and Elizabeth for dropping by and havin also left a message. I appreciate your time and consideration. And yes, I love writing, and yes have too many irons in the fire of a fevered mind! but it is all to the good.

Morgan Mandel said...

I might tackle kindle this weekend for Killer Career. First, I have to get some bookmarks ready and ordered.