A few months back, I asked on my Facebook fan page (*cough, cough, join, join*) if anyone would read my work if I posted some of it here on my wonderful little blog. A few people responded affirmatively, and so I hammered away at the keyboard, banged out a couple projects, and readied them to be shared with the world at large.
But a funny thing happened on the way to uploading my work and pressing that “publish” button. I got … scared. Okay, maybe not scared, but somewhat spooked. Really, why was I doing this? Why was I posting my work online? Was it an effort to get feedback? Was it to show those who’ve never read my fiction that, yes, I am somewhat good at this whole storytelling thing?
Was I seeking some sort of validation?
Clearly I was. Then, purely by happenstance, I came across an article by writer/editor Chuck Sambuchino entitled Be (Slightly) Afraid of Posting Your Work Online. Well if this wasn’t an instance of God try’na tell me something.
Chuck’s article was a rebuttal to Jane Friedman’s article advocating posting your work online, and his argument made a hell of a lot of sense to me.
First, he talks about the difference between posting fiction and nonfiction online. I mean, shit, what I’m doing now could be classified as nonfiction—I’m just writing about my boring ass life. “You’re building an audience because you have something to sell, or want to sell something in the future,” Chuck says. So with regard to nonfiction, it’s “all […] well and good.”
But your fiction pieces? Ho ho! Chuck is not a fan: “I do not recommend putting stuff on your website/blog. Notice how I said ‘your website/blog.'” He goes on to state that sharing your work on, say, a small writing forum would be fine. After all, everyone is there to get some feedback on their WIPs.
If it’s okay to do that, though, why not just post a chapter at a time or something on your blog? Here’s Chuck’s answer …
WRITERS STEAL STUFF.
Well, yeah. It’s true. That three word sentence above was jacked straight from Chuck’s column, no changes, nothing. The truth of the matter is, writers do steal. Most times it’s unintentional. We hear or see something intriguing and the next thing you know, BAM!, it figures into our work somehow. There is a tiny, unscrupulous segment of writers, however, that do not give a fuck about integrity and will take yo’ shit with impunity.
For instance, take this guy David Boyer, who’s supposedly stolen numerous stories from writers all over the web and then was gangsta enough to publish them in his own anthologies.
Yeah, I’m not try’na get broke.
What’s that, Dear Readers? You say that even if I don’t post an entire story or chapter on my blog, my idea is still out there thanks to the “Current Projects” column on the right side? Okay, yeah, you have a point. I mean, I’ve given the logline to two stories I’ve been working on, The Drums and The Husband. That ties in directly with Chuck’s next point: protect your high concept ideas.
Now take a look at the summaries I posted under “Current Projects.” Do they read as “high concept” to you? They don’t to me; in fact, I purposely wrote the blandest loglines I could for this very reason. Anyone can come up with an idea for a story about temptation. A man being tempted to cheat while his wife’s away? How many times has that story been told? What makes it different is the execution of the story! And that’s what I refuse to divulge … for the time being, at least. And trust, I’ve been working on other ideas which I would neeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvveeeeeeerrrrrrrrr just post up all willy nilly on Teh Internets and think that no one would swipe ’em. That shit cray.
Finally, Chuck wants us to ask ourselves, “What are we really gtting out of posting our fiction online?” The same thing I wondered before I found his article. And like I said at the beginning of this post, there were two things I sought: feedback, which I’m sure I can get anytime, anywhere, from anyone so long as I ask; and validation that I am a quote-unquote real writer.
But you know something? I don’t need that validation. I know I’m a so-called “real” writer. It’s how I earn my living—my paycheck removes any and all doubt I may have ever had.
I will always need feedback, though. So should you ever be interested in what I’m working on, maybe want to take a peek and offer some constructive criticism, give me a shout. I’m not Emily Dickinson or John Kennedy Toole—I want my work to be read and appreciated while I’m still alive, and I’d be more than happy to share it with you.
Writers, what’s your take on this? Are you okay with sharing your work online, before it’s been published or protected? Or are you like me in that it’s better to just keep it to ourselves until the right time to present it to an audience? LMK in the comments below.