Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Following up Yesterday’s thoughts.

This morning, I received some feedback from someone who read yesterday’s blog post on SOL concerning my brief comments on Frank Downey’s “Rewind”. It was politely pointed out that Mr Downey has his own reasons for not finishing the story, and that I should be very careful about what I say on this blog regarding other people’s work.

I wish to make it clear that I have no idea why Mr Downey has not finished that particular story, or the other two ‘incomplete and inactive” stories he has on the site. I simply expressed my opinion as to why it may be. If that did not come across, if it seemed that I was stating fact rather than opinion, then I apologise for the misunderstanding. If it caused offence to anyone, then I apologise for causing such offence. But I will not apologise for expressing my opinion on my own blog. And this it what this is – MY blog.

This blog is published at blogspot, Myspace, SOL, Zoo, and Soulcast. Unfortunately, I get very little feedback from SOL. This may be because lots of people skip the SOL blogs which are, for the most part, used by authors to announce releases of new stories on the site. I have more to say than that. Or it may not. It may be that what I have to say most people find uninteresting and not worthy of comment. Who am I to say which it is?

I’m sure Mr Downey has a very good reason for not continuing with his story and whatever that reason is, I respect it and I respect his right to not continue with it. Mr Downey writes for “free”. I haven’t paid to read “Rewind” and so I will not complain that it’s not finished. And indeed, I didn’t – I merely stated that was the case and gave my opinion as to why.

That is my right. as it is my right to use MY blog to publish MY thoughts and opinions. I have always said, and will always say, that if anything I have written offends someone, then I will apologise to them for offending them. But I will not apologise for what I write in my blog. And I will not be told by anyone what I can and cannot write in my own blog. For that is censorship and I abhor censorship in all its forms, including the “you mustn’t offend anyone” argument. I believe in the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the right to publish and be damned.

Why should I be careful of what my opinions are? Because I risk offending someone? I believe they call that “political correctness” and I am not, and have never claimed to be, politically correct. As far as I am concerned, if someone is offended they can write and tell me. It’s called an exchange of views and it is allowed in the UK, US and other western societies. It’s what makes our societies great. Or they can choose not to read what I write. That is their right. My opinions carry no weight with anyone. I don’t expect them to. Why should they? I don’t believe I’m important enough for that.

Once before I was told by the owner of SOL what I couldn’t write in my blog. In that instance it was an advertisement for one of my published works (paid published work) elsewhere. He gave his reasons, I understood them and stopped posting my blog to SOL. The same blog is, however, posted elsewhere and I simply carried on posting to it there. StoriesOnline is not important enough to me to worry about changing what I write and the way I write it. I post there for historic reasons. I enjoy reading stories on the site. I enjoy getting what little feedback I get on my stories posted there. But, frankly, I could quite easily live without it.

I returned to posting on my SOL blog only recently, and would have no qualms about ceasing to post there again. And, I’m sure, some would say that is no great loss. Again, this does not worry me. I regularly review my stats and this blog is read more widely elsewhere than on SOL. And the readers elsewhere are more likely to purchase my published works than the readers at SOL - who are used to getting their fiction for free after all.

I am a paid, published author. By which I mean I have had work published at websites that have paid me for the right to publish the work and by royalty paying publishers (meaning the more copies I sell, the more I get paid). Does that make me better than someone on SOL who hasn’t been paid to be published (as opposed to paying to be published or self-publishing at sites like Lulu.com)? No, not necessarily. But what is does mean is that I’ve worked hard to produce work that is of a high technical standard, with solid plots and believable characters. And it also means I have taken many knock backs from publishers, harsh criticism and re-working from editors and suffered some less favourable reviews as well enjoyed some very good ones from critics and review sites. Publishing is a harsh world. It’s full of people who think they know best. And as someone in that world you very quickly develop a thick skin. You will not always get kind words about what you do – sometimes you will get nasty ones. If you can’t take the rough with the smooth, you really shouldn’t put your work out there – that’s my philosophy. That goes for fiction and blogs. I say again, I will not apologise for expressing my opinion in my blog.

I was not nasty about “Rewind”. And I would like to make it very clear that I very much enjoyed the story and I’m sad it is not complete. I have enjoyed many of Mr Downey’s other works too – “Heroes” springs to mind. Mr Downey is a very, very good storyteller. His technical writing skills are not up to the heights of his plotting and characterisation, but then he isn’t subjected to the exacting standards that a royalty paying publisher would demand. Knowing what my editors expect, I’d imagine any manuscript he submitted to them would be returned covered in MS Word corrections and comments. But he publishes his work for free and we should be grateful that he does so that we may enjoy the emotions he is able to stir within us as we read. And he stirs some very powerful emotions. He’s very good at that.

I may be wrong. It may well be that Mr Downey’s work would be snapped up and published as is – but it wouldn’t be my editor, that much I know.

That said, Mr Downey’s stories have had many, many more downloads on SOL than mine and achieve way better scores. So maybe he is a better writer than me if that is anything to judge by. I don’t begrudge him great scores and high downloads – I’m happy for him. The stories deserve to be read by many people.

The last few stories I put up on SOL had already been published on a pay-site and I’d already been paid for them. So I’m not really bothered that they have been read by less than 2000 people each. I’m not really bothered that they haven’t got very high scores. I do find it amusing that these professionally written and edited stories have scored worse than my earlier stories which were written when I was less concerned with my writing skill and were not professionally edited. And I do wonder what that says about the scoring system on SOL.

To some people, the download count and SOL score are important. It helps their ego. You only have to read some of the blog responses to negative feedback (particularly anonymous negative feedback) to understand why some people publish on SOL. That's not me. getting this score, or that score or hitting that download target or making the top ten, doesn’t keep me awake at night. At present, I’m more concerned with polishing the manuscript that is set for a June release by Phaze books and ensuring it is of the highest standard I can make it.

I enjoy Mr Downey’s work. I enjoy much of the work on SOL. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the flaws in it and it doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions on how to make it better. This is true of high profile mainstream bestsellers too. I would love the opportunity to sit down with JK Rowling, for example, and force her to stop writing those damn adjectives with her dialogue tags. No piece of fiction is perfect. Not mine. Not Mr Downey’s. Not Terry Pratchett’s. It’s one of the things we love about literature and the English language– it can be used in so very many ways to say so very many things. And no two people would ever write the same story the same way. Indeed, take a look, if you will, at the stories that Lubrican has written more than one version of. Even one person can write the same basic plot several different ways.

It’s possible to hold an opinion of a piece of work that is not 100% positive, and yet still have enjoyed the work. It’s equally possible to find no flaws with a piece and not actually like it very much. That, as they say, is human nature. And I for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.

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