I find I can either build stories, or successfully fizz around with social networking, but  balancing the two is a matter of going in fits and starts.

For me, writing fiction requires concentration, and focus.  I must line up all the imaginary ducks in their rows and then arrange them by color, height, width, feather style, or any other categorized tweak needed to Make Art.

With social networking, though, I wave and yoo-hoo my way across virtual cocktail parties as the ducks waddle off on their own.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t line up ducks at a cocktail party.

The growing shift in publishing, from writer writing and publisher doing most everything else, to writers following the corporate model of my husband’s workplace, ie, ‘doing more with less,’ requires writers who aren’t already household names (or at least big genre names) to be a one-man-band about their writing.

“Look at what I did!  Over here!  Hey, look! Over here!  Hey!  HEY! Look over here! It’s really great!  Look!”

Writers must tweet, blog, broadcast, podcast and strew landfills with empty ballpoints, roller balls and gel pens from book signings across the country.  Publicity becomes the job and the writing must be fitted in.  New ebook titles?  My Life in a Laptop, Writing on the Interstate, Auto Aerobics, Hotplate Recipes For One, Weekend Writing for Publicists.

This shift will carry along those who can squeeze themselves into the pigeonholes of the new writing Zeitgeist, and those who don’t find the results of the process, or the process itself, to be to their liking will change their desires until they come across something that suits them.

For those of us working our invisible way through the noise up to “Who?” or maybe even a short nod indicating that the other person has seen us, the job is to balance lining up ducks while enticing readers with sparkle-eyed party talk.

Today the talk is at Meg Waite Clayton’s “Blogger Ball Redux.”  (click on the bookshelves)

Now that I’ve checked off sparkle party talk from today’s to-do list, I need to pursue some poultry.

Here, ducky, ducky!

This short story is quickly approaching the word count for a novelette, and at least two developments still lurk:  discovery and resolution.  At sixteen pages, single spaced except between paragraphs, the story is anything but short.

I wish I could write short, direct fiction — a flash of intrigue with a twist — but even at the start of a story I have more characters than most short stories I’ve read.  All these characters make trouble, and love to bang into one another.  None of them wants to cooperate with the others, and they all think they’re the star, which is how they horned in at the start of the development.  It would be so much easier to write a novel length story and let them have at it, rushing about, being dramatic and just creating mayhem that I can experience vicariously from the safety of my chair.  Unfortunately, striking out with novel-length stories, and expecting any attention, is about as likely to be successful as a spectacularly shaped snowflake thinking it will be noticed in a blizzard.   “I’m so shapely!  I’m so sparkly!  I’m so … buried.”

Short stories are somewhat easier fictional baby-steps only because each one doesn’t take quite as long to write as does a novel, and they can be used to establish a fiction footprint — a tiny footprint, granted — a footprint that can be made with greater ease than by tossing an 80,000 word manuscript onto a publisher’s slush pile:  a needle in a stack of needles.  Unfortunately, a short story takes just as much planning, if not more, than does a novel.  There aren’t as many words in which to hide inconsistencies, loose ends and oh, so clever reader-distractions.  The writing must be surgical, yet satisfying.  It’s also supposed to be short.

I have hope that the editing removes the flab — and that hope could be a good title for another story:  The Pandora Delusion.  I can almost see it, the hopeful main character and antagonist at odds.  The main character’s friend giving advice, and the comical busybody providing an amusing distraction.   Oh, and the victim.  Mystery/thrillers (what I like) must have at least one victim.  Then there’s the annoying person who gets in the way.  See?  Already too many characters.

Must. Try. Harder.

Snip from 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference

  • “It all seems like a waste of time until something happens.” —unattributed [Social Media panel]

My own addition to that is, I can’t help myself.  Regardless of what happens, or how successful I am, or even whether anyone finds what I write of enough interest to take the time to read it, this is what I do.

More marketing information for published authors:

Amazon gives Nielsen BookScan to authors, 9 Dec 2010, Los Angeles Times

The data, provided by Nielsen BookScan, include nationwide sales information from Barnes & Noble, Target and other big-box brick-and-mortar retailers, from and from some independent booksellers. Nielsen estimates that BookScan captures 75% of print book sales in the U.S. retail market.

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