Tuesday, May 4, 2010

To Post or not To Post...Excerpts?

Good Morning gentle readers, this topic has been on my mind since last Sunday when I was cruising the blogosphere. I was bouncing around reading a bunch of posts when I spotted this one by a newbie blogger. (Funny, after I commented on her blog, she took the post down. Go figure.) Anyway, I also ran across this same topic, whether or not to post excerpts of your work online, on several other blogs last week. I believe, the whole conversation was started by Chuck.

Chuck Sambuchino, from the Guide to Literary Agents blog. If you don't know who he is, go NOW to check him out. He's one of the smartest dudes I know, has fab blog posts about everything, and is a guitar player for a band in Jersey! I so wish he was an agent. I would be sooo stalking him. (Just kidding Chuck.)

Anyway, Chuck stated on his blog post from Sunday that he didn't think it was a good idea to post excerpts from your current novel on your web-site/blog and he gave a list of reasons why.
I agreed with all of them. I don't think it's a wise idea to post excerpts. He's right. Someone can steal them, or the idea for a story. He said he's seen it done. I believe him. Some secrets you have to guard. Please go read his article. It's totally spot on!

However, he posed the question -- What Are You Trying To Get Out of It?

So I will answer. The reason I post excerpts, (never the whole chapter), is not so much to get feedback/critiques, but to share what I've written with my friends. I believe that in showing some of my work, I'm dangling a little nugget for my friends, and with the way I'm doing it, a short excerpt from my WIP a little at a time, I'm creating a time line of sorts. Something like a soap opera in progress.

You know you can turn on any soap this afternoon, and even if the last time you watched it, you were in high school, you can follow along with the new events, people, old plot lines. (I mean Gawd, look at Sammy Brady. Now she's in love with EJ. Cripes I just wish they'd let that poor girl find someone who will love her back so she'll stop being such a weirdo. I digress but you know what I mean.)

This is what I'm trying to do with posting my work online. I began with Genna arriving home from being gone for 10 years. Little by little over the last few months, I've shown what has happened to Genna, her thoughts, feelings, issues with her family. I think no matter where you came into the story, it makes you say, "Gee, I wonder what will happen next." (Well, at least that's what I'd like you to say.)

I'm trying to build a sort of following for this book, so that whenever it gets published (not IF it gets published but WHEN -- I have high hopes for Genna) People will remember reading portions of it on my blog and say, "Hey, I remember that, I wonder whatever happened to Genna? I'll have to buy the book and find out." (Because as much as I love you all, I'm not posting the end. Sorry.) And when they read the book, they'll say, "Oh, this was so great, I'm going to buy a copy and send it to my sister-in-law in Dayton, and my best friend in Wisconsin."

I'm trying to create something word of mouth, that may or may not last. I'm hoping it does and doesn't backfire in my face. Sure, I'm afraid, (scared to death, totally freaking paranoid) that someone will take my baby from me and I'll find it two years from now in B&N with another author's name on it, but I think I've taken some fairly good precautions.

1) I don't post whole scenes, or chapters, just little blurby bits of dialogue with some setting thrown in so we know where we are.

2) I don't leave my post up longer than two days. I know it only takes about 10 seconds to cut and paste but, it's what I do.

3) I try and make sure there is enough time lapsed between scenes so that you can still follow along, but there's way too much stuff I haven't posted so if the plagirist wanted to write it, it couldn't be the same story.

I know Chuck is probably shaking his head and muttering, "Newbie, when are you going to learn?" But I like posting my work. I like sharing with my friends. I like knowing that I can get 17 people to my blog on Thursdays to read what I've written and comment. Besides, how would you know if I was a real writer if I didn't?

Sure I could write my blog and spew all kinds of information at you about rules of grammar and paragraph structure but that would just make me boring. And I am anything but boring. Don't cha' think?


Kelly@ JustWrite said...

Definitely NOT boring! I do enjoy reading excerpts...but I've never posted one. Not because I'm afraid to have my stuff out there (I can't get it published so if anyone else thinks they can...go for it!) but it's more just a shy thing. I don't know, maybe it sounds stupid, but yeah, I'm kinda shy about my writing. I am doomed if my book ever DOES sell!

Matthew Rush said...

Personally I love your excerpts. I wouldn't worry too much about having your writing stolen either. I mean I could see if you shared the whole premise of your book or something but it's just tiny bits and pieces.

I haven't read chuck's article but I have visited his blog from time to time and you're right it's great. I suppose I should go see what he had to say about this...

Thanks Anne.

Bish Denham said...

I mentioned this article on my blog a few days back. I'd been hesitant to post excerpts for some time and his article just kind of made me even more cautious.

Christine Danek said...

I have thought about this a lot. I post little snippits for the same reasons. I don't post major information that may give my story away. I only post what is general and not a whole lot of it. I'm still dabbling in taking it down after a couple of days.
Great post!

Piedmont Writer said...

Kelly -- I used to be shy just like you. I posted my first excerpt as a double dog dare to myself just to see what happened.

Matthew -- It was a great article, definately go check it out.

Bish -- I saw that, that's what got me thinking.

Jen said...

I enjoy reading excerpts and by the time I've finished my novel and really started revising and working on the project the original no longer exists. My ideas are rough at first and 100 pages in the story really starts to change, I love my blog friends and I just hope that by posting a little I don't end up hurting myself in the end!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm not one for reading excerpts. Reason? Because what if I want to read more? I've posted a few excerpts from my wip, but they were for educational purposes, nothing more.

I see nothing wrong with doing it. Your approach is actually good. Don't post too much, and don't give your story away.

Piedmont Writer said...

Christine -- A little caution never hurt.

Jen -- I hear you, my current WIP keeps changing as I write and I'm not sure how it's going to end even though I have an outline now.

Stina -- I post the excerpts in order so you can follow if you wanted.

Crystal Cook said...

I'm with you Anne, I think you have the right idea. And you're playing it safe too.

I look forward to every excerpt you post and I'll probably be one of the first to buy your book :)

Poor, poor weirdo Sammy. ;)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I agree with you. I, too, post little snippets of my work on my blog. I feel like there's only a handful of story lines out there anyways, and how each author approaches the task of making one of them original is as unique to said writer as her fingerprint. That said, one thing I don't post online is the one-line synopsis of my WiP. That's the thing I feel is original, mine, and something someone could grab and run with.

It is definitely an interesting topic, and one we could all debate forever. Thanks for the food for thought!!

Lady Glamis said...

I hope we're not boring over at the Literary Lab. :)

I never post excerpts on my public blog, which I just closed, but that's beside the point. I don't for a lot of reasons, and some of those include what Chuck has mentioned. At the same time, I like your thoughts on wanting to get a following, and wanting to share your work. It is definitely exciting. Mostly, I used to post excerpts in my secured writing group online where I had plenty of people reading it, but it was a secured place where I didn't feel anything could be stolen, and it was easy for people to comment and leave notes on what I'd written.

These days, I post my excerpts on a private blog, as you know, and that blog has given me enough satisfaction so far that I didn't feel I needed the stress of Innocent Flower anymore. I have control over who sees my work,and that's comforting. I don't have to take it down, either, and that's comforting, too.

I'm not saying that's what YOU should do...it's just what works for me. I think you have a good thing going, and even though I lurk mostly, I do try and read most of your excerpts before you take them down.

The only thing that worries me about "taking them down" is I've heard from lots of sources that nothing is every really "deleted" from the blogosphere, that servers keep everything even after it's deleted, and if searched hard enough, people can find everything you've written in comments and posts and stuff? It's just what I've heard, and I really hope that's not true. I may have to search around to see if it is.

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, I was going to say, as well, that if you're worried about people stealing things, I don't think that should be a huge concern. Only you can tell your story the way you tell it. Unless your idea is some huge novelty, like the next new wave of YA popularity (zombies or angels, maybe?), I'm not sure you have too much to worry about.

Terry Towery said...

Good topic. There's two trains of thought out there on this subject, as you know. I've read agents and bloggers (including Chuck) who caution against posting excerpts due to the possibility of either actual theft or intellectual theft.

And I've read other agents and bloggers who claim that posting such excerpts is the ONLY real reason for an aspiring writer to maintain a blog. We are supposed to be pushing our work, they say, by building interest. Self promotion is crucial in the current marketplace, they say, and to do otherwise is merely using our blogs to boost our egos.

I tend to come down somewhere in the middle. I have posted generous excerpts on my blog, but I don't think it was enough to actually threaten my book or my idea.

Anyway, I went on too long. Sorry. Good, thought-provoking post.

Christi Goddard said...

I worry about this on occasion so have only posted bits for blogfests of my WIP and have posted none of the MS I'm querying. There's the fear my idea might be taken, but the bits I post don't contain the plot, so I think I'm safe. It might inspire someone to write something similar, but they'd have to write it, write it well, find an agent, etc. By the time they do that, my book's already done and queried, so it'd be a waste of their time, I think.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'd be worried about posting a high-concept pitch online, because someone could take that and run with it. But snippets aren't that big a deal. We all write, revise,etc. It would suck if someone stole some of our words but I don't think a few paragraphs would be any kind of deal breaker, really. I always read these discussions with interest, because it does worry me sometimes, and I'm just learning as I go.

Portia said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I saw the discussions going around last week, and frankly, I can't decide what I think. I've never felt nervous about posting anything, but I've never had anything bad happen to my stuff either.

Summer said...

I agree with you, Anne. And like a few others said, they're such short snippits that I doubt someone could take them and craft YOUR entire novel out of it.

I don't mind posting my own stuff. For one, my MC is so whack that I don't think anyone besides me, with the whack brain, could write in her voice. And without her voice, the story isn't going to be recognizable.

And I will definitely be one to buy your book!
PS: The Happy 101 award is right beside this comment box, and now I really want a cupcake.

Bossy Betty said...

I think it's helpful for all involved--you get some feedback and others understand that you can share your writing and that it's all part of the writing process. It might also give some the courage to continue to write!

Shelley Sly said...

Maybe it's because I've never had even the slightest desire to steal anyone's work, but before reading that Chuck has seen stealing happen, I think I was too naive to believe it. However, I almost never post excerpts on my blog, but mostly because I'm shy about my writing.

I do think that when I post excerpts for the future, in blog fests and such, I'll be careful and consider removing it after a few days. I'm also considering using excerpts from either works that I'm not planning on publishing, or particular scenes that won't tell too much about the main plot.

Please don't stop posting your work, Anne! You know I love it too much!

Falen said...

i guess the way i look at it is, i would buy your book regardless of whether or not you posted excerpts. I would buy it because i want to support you (i don't even read either of the genres you write) and i would read it and i would tell my friends and family to buy it and read it too.
Cuz we're pals

Ryan said...

I dunno if I worry about this or not. I guess I'm just confused. Eh, its normal.

Anyway, I don't really think that its possible to steal someones work, especially from snippets, and keep it the same as what you, the writer, originally intended. I mean someone could take an idea from the snippet, and run with that, but what they wrote wouldn't be the same as what you wrote.

Its like looking at a lake. If Stephen King (who I think said this to start with) and Louis L'Amour looking at a lake. Both might be inspired by the same lake, and the same idea, but the story that they tell is not going to be the same.

Tara said...

I'm pretty much with you on posting snips. Kinda in the middle. With my current MS I'm not as worried about theft simply because I'm so close to querying. Someone would have to be a darn fast writer, and know a lot more than the teeny bits I post, and get my MC's voice in order to steal.

I'm so bummed about being offline and missing Thursdays Genna snip!

Talli Roland said...

ANYTHING but boring! :)

I think this is a personal thing. Some people are comfortable with it, some aren't - just like explosing cleavage (sorry, I'm all about breasts today!).

It does depend on what you're trying to get out of it, like you've pointed out. For you, it sounds like the ends justify the means! Besides, I really like reading about Genna and Tony.

Amy Jo Lavin said...

This is definitely a tricky subject, one that I've been thinking about a lot since I read Chuck's post.

Blogfests are fun, so I've been trying to post only snippets that don't directly relate to the plot. I've never thought about deleting them from my blog after a few days, but that makes sense.

Piedmont Writer said...

Crystal -- aww you're so sweet. And poor poor weirdo Sammy.

Nicole -- I agree, the hooks and queries, and pitch lines, definately shouldn't be posted. Anything high concept, as Chuck points out.

Michelle -- I've been thinking about a private blog as well but just haven't really gotten around to it yet. And yes, everything on-line is saved somewhere in a giant universal mind.

Terry -- I know, right, one says one thing, one says another. I'm in the middle with you. Enough to keep the momentum flowing, not enough to give away the prize.

Christi -- With G&T it's still a very rough first draft, so I'm not really worried. Sort of.

Piedmont Writer said...

Tricia -- I agree, posting snippets is not a deal-breaker, but whole chapters yeah, that could ruin it.

Portia -- Glad to see you, missed you. Yeah, there were quite a few who ran with this idea last week, so it must be on people's minds.

Summer -- Yeah, I think that's true, you need the 'voice' to finish the story.

Betty -- Thanks, I see it that way too.

Shelley -- You know I can't stop posting. Several people will come and find me, you included.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I've read Chuck's post, Anne. And if you go back to it, you will see the link to his co-worker's {Jane Friedman} post that takes the opposite view : stop being afraid of posting your excerpt.

Link : http://writerunboxed.com/2010/04/23/stop-being-afraid-of-posting-your-work-online/#comments

Jane makes some fine points.

I believe if someone steals my excerpts, they won't be able to steal my voice. And if they're good enough to do so, then they're talented enough not to need to.

People do steal. There is a series of urban fantasies coming out, based in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Ouch.

But that's why it's so important to build a blog-community that has read our work, knows it so that if sticky fingers grab our work, the truth will be seen. Also there is always the blog-to-book deals that still happen.

Just some thoughts. And boy, have I been wrong before! You always have something for us to think about, Anne. Thanks. Roland

Piedmont Writer said...

Sarah -- Feeling is mutual. Cuz we're pals.

Ryan -- Well, that's the discussion. What one person writes, another can't write the same way.

Tara -- I can't wait for your book to come out. That whole swearing in Polish thing has got me piqued.

Talli -- Thank you my love. And my breasts are never exposed (grew up Catholic).lol But you're right, it's the end that justifies the mean.

Amy Jo -- You're right. I used to post things out of random stories but then I hit on this idea and ran with it. Taking it down after two days doesn't really mean I'm safe, but it does bring some comfort. Like the bat beside the bed, I may never use it, but I know it's there.

Piedmont Writer said...

Roland -- I did read Jane's post. That's the discussion for tomorrow. I'm not afraid. Just cautious. Thanks for stopping by.

Chuck said...

Cool discussion going on here - thanks for pointing people to my blog. My only small little correction is that my band rocks socks in Cincinnati, not Jersey. Hope we're still cool to you, Anne :-)

Piedmont Writer said...

Chuck -- Hey thanks for stopping by. I'm sorry I got the state wrong, maybe you could do a tour? You're always cool to me Chuck.

Elana Johnson said...

It is an interesting topic. I used to post excerpts of my work Before. Yes, there comes a time when you have a Before and an After. And now, well, I'm not sure why I don't do it anymore. But I don't mind when other people do.

Piedmont Writer said...

Elana -- I think once you become published, life changes and things happen and you don't do the same things as you used to.

Julie Dao said...

Of course you are not boring! :) I love reading people's excerpts and I love posting my own, as well. There is a certain danger in putting everything up front - like posting your entire unpublished novel on your blog - but I don't think there's anything wrong with sharing nuggets of your work. And who knows who may be reading and loving it? :)

Anonymous said...

Absolutely not boring! I completely agree with your reasoning. I take excerpts down after a couple days, too. Need to nurse my paranoia.

My blog series has really helped me to show my followers that I am, in fact, a writer and am not just talking the talk. So even if you decide not to share your excerpts anymore, for whatever reason, I'm sure you can come up with something else to share your writerly self with us.

Though your writing ability has never been a question mark in my eyes. :o)

Susan Fields said...

What an interesting discussion! I honestly never thought about someone stealing someone else's writing. I'd have to say I agree with the majority of the other comments that small snippets won't give too much away, but now I am worrying about posting my logline in the blogfest I just signed up for. Hmmm...You've definintely give me some stuff to think about.

Piedmont Writer said...

Julie -- You know, I often wonder just who is reading my stuff. Chuck says it's a bazillion to one shot that an agent will see anything, but you know, you never know.

E. -- I LOVE your new blog series. If I had been smart, I would have done mine the same way you're doing yours. I'm still going to share, if I didn't I think Shelley would come to my house and kidnap my computer.

Susan -- Not for nothing Susan, but I wouldn't post my logline. Go read Chuck's article. sometimes that's all anyone needs to write a book, an innocent logline.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

It's a good question. I'm paranoid by nature, but having taught college writing, I've seen plagiarism up close. I can't tell you the number of times I've discovered work pulled from the Internet. I had one student do it even after I gave her a chance to rewrite--she only pulled work from a different site for the rewrite. And while it's not the end of the world when it's used for a class (though still abominable), I can imagine how painful it would be to see someone steal your work or your idea and make money off of it. Actually, I know how that is too as it's happened to my mom. That really worries me.

That said, I think if you're going to post excerpts of your book, I think you're taking all the precautions possible. And I totally get your reasons for wanting to do it. You're a kind, giving person, hon. And I adore you for it.

Piedmont Writer said...

Carolina -- You are the sweetest! I would hate to think that anyone would steal my story but I know it could happen. And I am armed and dangerous. I know a boat load of lawyers.

Shelley Sly said...

"I'm still going to share, if I didn't I think Shelley would come to my house and kidnap my computer."

HAHA! I suppose I'm That Rabid Fan of yours. ;)

Donna Hole said...

This is the second time tonight I've seen a reference to this post, so I guess I need to go read it.

I used to worry about posting bits of my novel online for this reason. Then I started beta reading, and discovered its difficult to come up with the same story without actual plagerism. Since I've been participating in and reading blog fest enteries, I've noted that A LOT of people come up with the same concepts and story ideas, then proceed to write them differently.

Look how often Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Romeo and Juliet, to name a few, have been rewritten and re-published through the years.

I agree, it's good to take precautions - one reason I don't participate in the many online groups with strangers - I don't let myself get paranoid either.

Loved the post and your take on it Anne.


Piedmont Writer said...

Shelley -- You are not RABID, but I think you are my biggest fan and I totally love you for it.

Donna -- Yeah, you know, it IS hard to come up with the same story. No body writes the same. I'm just concerned about the premise. We all can't have books about chef's coming home after a decade's absence.

Dominique said...

You are definitely not boring. You could make grammar sound interesting, probably, but this is your blog, so it should reflect your interests and your thoughts. You can post what you desire, within reasonable limits.

I, personally, don't post excerpts of my work on my blog, but that's a personal decision, not a judgment of how others should think of their work.

Ted Cross said...

I don't worry too much about people stealing my work. First, I have established through my posting that the work is mine. Second, I have enough of my writing posted that anyone can begin to see my writing style. No one else can copy my style exactly. I have proof of owning my writing scattered all over the place, so should someone try to steal it, I can always prove that they did so.

VR Barkowski said...

While the possibility is there - I too read Chuck's piece - I think he is perhaps a bit paranoid, and I'd be interested to hear one or two examples. I did some research and could locate no evidence. The incidents I found were non-specific and could be attributed to coincidence. While I know people steal, the threat of someone stealing work posted on a blog seems to be minor.

Like you, I never post entire scenes, and never anything that gives away any of my plot line. I enjoy reading others work, it's why I participate in so many blogfests. I love to study different approaches to a single topic. It often helps to see a scene or subject from a new perspective. For a writer, that's invaluable insight.

Piedmont Writer said...

Ted -- I have work scattered all over the place with dates, so if anyone wanted to get really down and dirty, well, I'd certainly win.

VR -- Yeah, I guess it's acceptable to be a little paranoid, but not posting online, I mean, how else are we supposed to get to know each other?

Palindrome said...

Yeah, if you only post bits and pieces without giving away the plot, I don't see the harm. I say just do what you're comfortable with.

Erin Kuhns said...

Wow...what an awesome discussion! Although I don't post excerpts of my work, I don't worry about people stealing it. If I had a very guarded story going, I know I wouldn't share it...but I don't think excerpts are harmful. One of the commenters said something very important: that when you have enough of a following (like you do, Anne), you'd have too many people that know the truth. That's not something to sneeze at.

Because I've been out of the blog loop for a little while, I'm afraid I haven't been following your story--but I have been catching up on the other parts of your blog! I love it! xo