Monday, January 30, 2012

A Providential Kindle Swap

What - no witty, sagacious update for Monday, posted promptly at midnight?

My, am I off my game.

Monday snuck up on me. Evil, evil Monday. Boo.

Usually I have several blog posts lined up, and have them set to auto-update at midnight EST on any given day - on Monday through Thursday at least. But this week the autoposting completely slipped by me.

A large part of this is that I've been distracted in a good way - with a thorough rereading of my earlier works-in-progress, that I honestly haven't looked at since I put them in mothballs in autumn of 2010. It was about that time that I was encouraged by some writer friends to branch out into a different genre, and not limit myself to one kind of writing, or one category of tale-weaving. That challenge led to an interesting cascade of decisions and thinking, resulting in my current project of which I've been dropping such hints and summaries: Castle 8.

But then a funny thing happened. My father and I both have Kindles, you see, and every once in a while we do what we call a "Kindle swap." This is not a sneaky way to snap up purchased tomes, by the way - purchased books on Kindle, as a general rule, do not transfer from one Kindle to the next. When we plug our Kindles into the computer one after the other, and transfer the files, the only things we are going for are those books which are free anyway. Common domain books. We are both such nerds, we are interested in swapping out titles like Sun Tzu's The Art of War or Boswell's Life of Johnson.

We did another such "Kindle swap" late last fall, and were rewarded with lots of lovely nerdy titles to lose ourselves in, equally trading out Dr Faustus for The Complete Sherlock Holmes, The Man From Snowy River for The Story of the Volsungs, Maximilian in Mexico for The Dispatch Riders, and G K Chesterton's What I Saw in America.

Lots of great nerdy stuff. Ya'll should come over for story-time at OUR house.


What I had forgotten was that, lumped in with all these forgotten tomes, were several PDF files of my working manuscripts. Partly as a back-up measure, partly because I've been meaning to reread them anyway, I had taken each of my WIPs and converted them to 22 pt font (Times New Roman) and then to PDF format, so I could read my own works as a "real" book on the Kindle. I like doing this because honestly, there are a TON of errors I never see in my own work until it is a totally different format. The more formal the presentation, the more quickly I spot my own shortcomings.

Only I hadn't looked at most of these WIPs in over a year. I forgot they were even there; and then I made the Kindle swap with my dad over this past Thanksgiving.

The upshot is that, as he sifted through all the oddball titles I had given him (no stranger than the ones he'd given me, I assure you), he realized he had several raw manuscripts on hand as well. I had already asked him to read through Castle 8, so he did that. He surprised me by saying he really enjoyed it, that he thought I had something that was more than just publishable, it was good.

Coming from my dad, that is high praise. He always reserves his judgements till he has sifted all the information, and then his praise is always in exact proportion to the merit of the situation. So for him to say that he truly enjoyed what I had done - I was thrilled.

Then he found my other manuscripts - the ones that had been "in storage" for well over a year.

Suddenly my days were punctuated by lots of text messages with exclamations and questions, and comments about how he - my dad, mind you - could not put the books down. The other books are all part of one big sprawling series, and it's a fantasy series to boot. My dad is generally not a fantasy reader, but by the messages he was sending me you would never guess that.

His response was so unexpected (for me) that I spent the weekend reading through the books again as well, trying to see them from his eyes. It's odd how just knowing someone else is reading your work will make it seem new all over again (and show you yet OTHER errors that you've never seen before).

Now ~ I know he's my dad, and I know what people say about taking the praise (or criticism) of family members too close to heart when setting out on the road to publication. But my dad has always been my most meticulous copy-editor, the one who would always tell me when I was wasting my time with shallow plotlines or bad writing. He once famously ripped a piece of my writing for including too many "limpid clear pools and azure blue sky" --- and with good reason. It was a horrible bit of work, and he honored me by saying so. That's why I've always valued his opinion on my writing: because I know he will always tell me the truth.

So now I've received an emphatic double thumbs-up from him on this other series, which has had a chance to marinate in the back of my head for over a year, and whose lines I can read through more objectively than my purported "current project" Castle 8.  Certain things that I thought were horrible and ought to be eliminated (entire chapters, in some places) now don't seem quite so grotesque. Other things I was proud of I could now cut out without thinking, and I see how it would elevate the overall composition of the book.

Which makes me wonder: which project do I put forward first for publication? The one that I've been sinking myself into for a solid year now, which works well but still needs several layers of spit-polish and beta readers; or the one that's been in my head since I was twelve, and has been collecting dust for sixteen months?

That is what caused me to spend large chunks of my weekend reading my own PDF files. It's also why my blogging posts fell by the wayside.

[But o look....I think out loud with a keyboard in front of me, and voila! ~ a blog post. That hopefully didn't turn your brain to applesauce.]

This is going to take some considering. Knowing which WIP to float by the agents first is a big first step - especially for me, since Castle 8 and the "mothballs project" are in two totally different genres, and would need to be queried, marketed, etc very differently, and probably to very different kinds of agent.

Again - this requires some thought.

No quick answers on this one, I'm sure. I don't expect any.

But I do know this: I am very grateful for PDF conversions and Kindle swaps - whatever the consequences.

Anyone else been in this sort of quandary before? Who else writes in multiple genres at once?


  1. I've only just got my Kindle...I didn't know we could actually put PDF files on it to read? It would be a great way to read WIP in a more natural environment than on the laptop!
    I'm trying to decide what to work on right now...a brand new idea...first chapter written...or return to a much-loved, but filed-away manuscript. Actually excited to return to an old project and rewrite, now I know so much more!
    So we'll have to see what inspires me most!

  2. I do. In fact I can't even really say I have a genre at this point...other than it's fiction.

    Great post and good luck!

  3. "The Man from Snowy River"?! Yay! Great poem, and the movie remains one of my all-time-favorite coming-of-age stories. :-D