Tag Archives: public

Career tips for writers, redux

The old feed reader is full of useful advice for writers once again, so time to share them with the people.

Jeff Vandermeer’s Evil Monkey delivers the second short sharp installment of his Guide to Creative Writing:

“Alas, market predictions aren’t like assholes, because everyone has two or three, and they usually serve little purpose.”

Luc Reid tries to nail down what it is that makes certain stories rise from “good, but not quite what we’re looking for” to “sold”:

“So what makes a story rise above its fellows, inspire love, stand out? The intuitive response would be that it does the things we talked about better. The characters are stronger, the plot is more compelling, the description is more vivid. But usually standing out is going to mean something else, and it’s going to differ from writer to writer and sometimes from story to story. The stories that rise above are not just more competent than the stories that don’t, although more competent is always better.”

Moving beyond the writing itself and into the territory of promotional work, Charlie Stross explains the dos and don’ts of public readings with his usual dry humour:

“The water jug isn’t an optional extra. I usually take the precaution of bringing along a drink of some sort, simply because my throat dries out after ten or fifteen minutes of speaking and if I’m scheduled late in a day of readings, the folks providing supporting facilities such as jugs of water tend to be getting a bit erratic themselves.”

And finally, David Louis Edelman has some advice on how to self-promote with ethical integrity:

“3. Avoid glaring sins of omission. This is a difficult guideline to follow, because it’s very subjective. Don’t use ellipses to claim that your book is “an absolutely terrific… thriller” when the actual review states that your book is “an absolutely terrific example of what not to do when writing a thriller.” Don’t try to sell to a group of Vietnam vets by claiming that your book has a Vietnam vet in it, while conveniently forgetting to mention that said character gets run over by a truck on page 4.”

Ah! The intarwebs: helping aspiring writers (to avoid writing by supplying them enough advice from genuine writers that they can convince themselves reading it is a more valuable way to spend their time than actually writing) since 1997!

[Cross-posted to Futurismic]

Fan-fic and profit; Google and the public domain

Those who were interested by the conversation between myself and A. R. Yngve on fan-fic may want to take a look at a post on Scalzi’s Whatever that shares some data from an exhaustive trawl through the licence terms of FanLib, a new start-up that has some very bizarre (and potentially exploitative) attitudes to ‘fan-created content’:

“…the company pitches the FanLib fanfic experience to content creators, and in doing so reveals that they don’t actually understand how fan fiction works in the slightest, they’re under the mistaken impression that they’re going to be able to control how stories get written, and that most fanfic writers will be pleased to have their work subsequently hijacked by others.

For example, on page 3 of the .pdf file, in the “Managed and Moderated to the Max” heading, FanLib touts to media folks “a customized environment YOU control,” in which “players must ‘stay within the lines'” with “restrictive terms-of-service,” a “profanity filter” and “full monitoring & management of submissions.” And here’s the kicker: “Completed work is just 1st draft to be polished by the pros.” “

With that sort of situation, I can totally understand (and indeed support) authors being against fan-fic – and I expect the fan-ficcers themselves won’t be too keen either. With the amount of negative attention FanLib has accrued in the last week or so, I can’t see it being a project that gets very far without collapsing into nothingness … or being sued into a radioactive puddle of legalese.

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Related to that is the news that Google have responded to accusations that they have set up exclusivity deals with the institutions whose book collections they have scanned by allowing the public to see the contracts they use – now that is transparency.

Cory Doctorow isn’t entirely satisfied, however, and points out that Google are still betting on a different kind of exclusivity – i. e. themselves as the exclusive gateway to material that is meant to be public domain:

“I’m still disappointed that Google puts restrictive notices on their public domain works (these aren’t licenses, just “polite notices”) that tell what you’re not allowed to do with these books. I know they’re worried about their competitors getting ahold of those documents, but that’s the deal with the public domain: it doesn’t belong to you, period, it belongs to all of us. Just because you scan a public domain book, it doesn’t confer the right to control it to you.”

I can’t see Google holding a virtual monopoly on that material forever – if only because some hacktivist type is bound to find a way to scrape the content and set it free. But this does highlight one of the thornier issues around public domain materials, in that the delivery system may not be as free as the material it contains. This particular debate is going to be around for a good few years yet, methinks.

UK libraries update

Remember my despairing posts about the decline of UK libraries? Thanks to Tim Coates, a man who has campaigned against the decay of the service to the point of losing his livelihood and home due to being blackballed by the industry, here are some figures that illustrate the number of books that UK libraries have loaned out, compared with the amount of money spent on the services, and the percentage of that amount spent on books over the last decade: Continue reading UK libraries update