Photo by Joel Robison
I think ever since I posted an excerpt to SIREN SUICIDES Draft 4 on my blog, I've been getting private messages from people wondering if it's a bad idea to post an excerpt, worrying about copyright issues, about someone stealing their idea, asking me for advice. I even wrote a blog post on forgetting everything you ever heard about copyright in favor of sharing your work. This post is an expansion on that idea, and it's going even further. Art is not about sweating over it in fear of it being stolen, it's about giving it away and collaborating with others to create more art. For example, right now two of my twitter followers, Adam Silke and Lori Lesko are collaborating on writing a screenplay based on SIREN SUICIDES. The book is not published yet, but they are both my Beta Readers who have already read it and wanted to try and adapt it, because many people are nudging me about how cool it would be to make it into a movie. So I said, go for it! Do it! In fact, I will post Word files of all SIREN SUICIDES drafts here, on my site, so you can futz around with them any way you want. Write fanfic, short stories, novels, screenplays, songs, anything that strikes your fancy. Do you think I'm crazy? I'm not. Here is why you should do the same.
Stories are meant to be shared. Ever since mankind started speaking, we have been processing the world around us through stories, trying to make sense of lightning, famines, diseases, and other things that were unexplainable. Stories became a vehicle to share our experiences and learn from each other, without having to witness the actual events. They took root in one mind, changed in another, transformed in the third, and sometimes didn't look like the original story when the forth person was telling it. But that didn't matter. What mattered was the fact that a certain message was passed around, and it changed and grew and adapted as it did so. We changed with it. Any art works this way. A painter looks at a painting and gets an idea. A musician listens to a piece of music and hears a new tune forming. A writer reads a book and gets inspired to write a new one. It's even more inspiring for an artist to witness another artist create something, participate, walk away and create something new in turn. It's like a chain of events. It's how we feel connected to each other, making sense of this crazy life together, like we used to when sitting around the fire after a hunt, processing the world around us. Give yourself away, give your art away, and you will inspire others to create, who in turn will inspire you again, and you will never feel stuck anymore. Forget about writer's block. Only imagine being able to watch another writer write. I know, because I did a live writing session and people who tuned in said that they felt like they wanted to write too. Together with me. So give, share, inspire.
Books are no longer the product. I know for this many of you will pelt me with rotten tomatoes. Go ahead. I will still say it. Look at the music industry. Look what happened to CD's. CD's used to be the product for sale. Not anymore. CD's are promotional material now. Musicians make their money from doing concerts and other various performances and appearances. What do you think is happening with the book market? Do you see the signs? Why are big publishers merging? Why are we flooded with books from self-published authors? Why are book prices falling? Yes, you get my drift. The book industry is moving in the same direction. Books are less and less the actual product that sells. Don't yell at me, don't roll your eyes, let me finish my thought here. What I mean is this. Digital books are given away for free or sold for very little money, for readers to taste them, to like a particular author, and then the actual physical copy of the book becomes a souvenir, a collectible item, something a reader would buy after she or he has already read the book and simply wants to own it, to reread it over and over again. Authors travel extensively on book tours, teach classes, give lectures, for all of which they get paid. With the advent of eBooks, book piracy will be on the rise. It's merely a digital file that can be downloaded and stolen. Then why not simply give it away? Why not give people a chance to support you as an author, rather than make them pay for your books, which they can download off of the internet for free anyway? I propose a new model for making money as a writer. Don't make your readers pay for your work, let them support you. Let them donate, or pay what they want, after they have read your book, not before.
Unlock a million new ideas in your head. Imagine never having to experience writer's block ever again. Imagine never being stuck pondering what to write about next. Imagine never having a problem to finish what you have started, never having to shelve your half-done novel because you don't know where it's going and are stuck. That would be nice, wouldn't it? Well, collaboration will do this for you. Here you can shout obscenities at me all you want, but I actually, for once, know exactly what I'm talking about. I have created a collaboration community with my readers, primarily on Twitter, but also on Facebook and Google+, and there people have unblocked others simply through sharing their experiences, in short bursts of ideas, tips, tricks, and hand-holding that has nothing to do with professional advice you get from experts, but is simply an outreach from one human being to another via shared emotions. And that support alone has moved people. Ever since I started doing it last year and since it really took off several months ago (I suppose it tipped, as Malcolm Gladwell would have said), people have been sending me numerous messages on how they got back to writing simply because they saw someone else struggle with the same issue. I went further than that. I have created flash fiction chain story events on my blog, where I called on 10 to 20 writers at a time, and they wrote a chapter each, weaving one story together. Together. You know what that did to people? People who never wrote in their life before, are writing their first novels now. You know how powerful this is? This is what collaboration does.
I could go on and on with examples, because this is a hot topic for me. Growing up, I tried writing but was always told my writing is awful. I wouldn't have even started, if not for my boyfriend who believed in me. It was he who urged me to post my except on my blog, because I was scared shitless. And it was the tremendous amount of comments from people that kept me going, and it was messages from my Beta Readers that made me a better writer. Some people call it crowdsourcing, I call it collaboration and the sharing of love. It wouldn't have happened if I didn't share my art with people. I would still have been hidden in my cave, slaving over my art, and maybe by now I would've given up. So, open up, let people support you, and you will be one happy writer.