Give Your Writing Away for Free
I give away my writing for free. I’ve been writing on this blog for years. I post several things, but not nearly everything I write. I’ve written three novels in the last six years, they’re not posted. Some of my longer short stories will never be posted, even though they’re in my sweet spot for storytelling.
But what I’ve been wondering about lately is, does it make sense to post your fiction for free when you’re trying to make a go of writing?
One of the best things about putting your writing out there is that you build a community and network of fellow writers, who encourage you and help you on your way as you do the same for them. Could that happen if you didn’t show your works? I don’t think so. And that community is foundational – it keeps you moving, makes you see your writing in a different way, and just feels supportive.
To all the people out here who are part of that journey, and who’ve been so supportive for so long – you know exactly who you are. And you know that I love you. I have no way to properly express my thanks. Without you, I wouldn’t have evolved as a writer. So putting my writing out there has given me a tremendous gift in terms of this community.
And yet you do hear that professionals in the agenting and publishing community are not high on you doing it your way. They don’t seem to like self-publishing (which I suppose blogging falls under, though I don’t sell anything on here), and possibly would react negatively to you putting out your stuff for free. It may work against you if you’re looking for representation.
But how else do you build an audience? How else do you show who you are? I’m not particularly keen on being polished, and as some of you have noted, I go on an occasional rant through one of my alternate personas on here. But that’s part of who I am, and here I get to showcase that. I think that’s a good thing.
But really, if you think you’re good at what you do and you want to make a living doing it, why not put a value on that? Even if it’s a small value? Writing is hard work. It takes a creative effort that is hard to describe, and at times, it’s hard to even cull together the words. We all go through that, and have to battle through the doldrums to find the wind. It’s effort, and work, just like anything else – maybe not exactly like anything else, but work nevertheless.
So why not take a mindset that you should put stuff out only if people are willing to pay for it? Why would you give your writing away for free? If you’re good and you have something people want to read, have them pay for it. That’s sort of the way the world works, right? I think there’s some merit in this argument, but it has to be balanced against the other reasons for putting your writing out for free.
A Little Boy
There was once a little boy who, at seven, started writing a book. He didn’t know it was a book. But the story, in his tortured printing, kept going and going and going. One day, his grandfather saw it and asked him what he was doing, and he told him he was writing a story. Grandfather did not understand, so he hid the thing after that. But he kept writing it until one day, his family moved across an ocean and he lost the thing.
That story is gone now. But when that little boy was seven, he didn’t care about having an agent or being published. He didn’t care about making money. He cared about telling a story, even if it was just a story only he would ever read. Over several periods in his life, he’s lost that thread. He’s stopped. Not because he didn’t think he would get back into it, but because there were other formative things happening in his life. But he always came back. Always. And the reasons for coming back were always the same – he was just a little boy in the end, one that wanted to tell stories. Even if only he ever read them.
I’m proud of that little boy.
I’m looking for representation for ‘Girl Island’. It’s young adult, mostly. It’s about a girl who has a privileged life and that finally has something happen that doesn’t go her way. Her reaction is to do something unusual: she starts her own country. And on this country, only girls can be citizens. Because I celebrate girls. I celebrate my daughters in this one.
I’m also going to try and market ‘Meanwhile, Mandy Shakes her Head’. It needs a lot of work, and I’ll get back to it, but the story is different. It’s dark urban fantasy with a lot of humour. It’s about a society that casts out the elderly, the poor, and minorities into a discarded part of a city, and tells the story of one old man near death who miraculously comes back from that precipice – in the form of the oldest superhero that’s ever lived.
I have another novel to market, but I don’t talk about that one. Few have read it, but it’s the best of the bunch. And yet it needs some extreme structural work, which I will get to. Right now, I’m planning a trilogy of new books, easily the most ambitious thing I’ve ever planned.
Fiction, and Other Made-Up Stories
That’s my tag-line. I think it works. Fiction is already made-up stories, so the other stories on this blog (the non-fiction) are also intended to be made-up. But not this one. Not this post. It’s not made-up at all. It just is. I’ll keep posting short stories here, and I hope you read them. Give your writing away for free… sure, I’ll continue. Maybe less than in the past, but still. I hope I get to read what you put out.
But there is an essential fiction here, and I need to tackle it at some point. My identity is assumed. It’s unreal, and not that little boy from above. It’s not any version of that little boy. And it ignores who I am, and what makes me who I am. At some point, I’m going to correct that. Because in the end, I’m still just that little boy. And this is a story I won’t lose.