Friday, October 14, 2011

Update of WRITERLY MUSINGS by Rob 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 fee to write it and go away.

                Let us 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 RULE. Besides, I LOVE a challenge.

                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 I am quite busy working on bringing about my WIP, and recently was challenged by the editor of an upcoming anthology that will have a Titanic Anniversary Theme to write a ‘titanic’ story for it. I was recommended to the editor by someone who had read my last Kindle title which no editor would touch at 150,000 words, two-books entwined and defying categorization or pigeon-holing. Thus far, I have 44 titles on Kindle. A little something for every taste.  My next will be entitled BISMACK 2013 but it will be more in keeping with 80,000 words.

Rob Walker
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