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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Why do people care so much about publishing?

   
Author Topic: Why do people care so much about publishing?
Beth
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Serious question.

There have been a lot of posts lately about publishing, and those posters seem to think that the only point of writing is publishing. Is that the case?

I seem to be in a different position than the rest of y'all for some reason - I just like writing, although it's hard work. My main goal is to write something to my satisfaction - once I've done that, any other external validation is just gravy. I like gravy, but it's not the object of the exercise for me.

If the entire publishing world disappeared overnight, and I could never do anything more with my stories than have a few people here read them, I think I'd just keep on going as I am.

What is it about publishing that is so magical for some people?


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wbriggs
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I want to be heard! I write to communicate. It's kind of fun to read the story myself, but I got somethin' to say and I want the world to hear.
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cklabyrinth
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My view: if a tree falls in the forest and no one's around to hear it.. does anyone hear it?
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keldon02
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If you publish there is a better chance that in 2000 years an archaeologist will dig up a fragment of one of your books. Then for the next 200 years all the little school kids will have to read translations of your stories.
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HSO
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I sometimes think I'd like to save up all my stories for publication after my death. I'll get better reviews that way, certainly. An "artist" always gets more famous after they die.

Of course, I'll have to die young, too. That ensures that people will recognize my genius fully.


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MaryRobinette
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If I get published then I get to write off my hobby on my taxes.
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KatFeete
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I was telling stories before I could write. I was writing stories before I fully understood there was such a thing as a 'writer' who produced all those books I consumed. I think I can safely say that I'd still be writing whether I could eventually be published or not.

However, it was the realization that other people were interested in those stories I thought up that first motivated me to write them down. It was the realization that complete strangers might read my stories that first motivated me to *finish* the damned things. My stories wouldn't be half as good as they are without the thought, there in the back of my head, that if I make 'em good enough other people will want to read them.

I'm an attention junkie - always have been. The Holy Grail of publication is what makes my writing an art, not a publication. Perhaps others are purer of heart than I, I don't know.

Besides that... getting published feels like, well, like a justification. It was only when I finished my first novel that I dared tell my family that, yes, I was still writing stuff, or tell my friends that I wrote; I didn't feel like a "real" writer until then. I still feel guilty about writing, feel like it's time for myself that I steal when I should be working or socializing or otherwise being a normal human. Publication is, I think, the justification I need to stop feeling guilty about it. Odd but true.

[This message has been edited by KatFeete (edited March 27, 2005).]


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Rahl22
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I know that if someone told me, guaranteed me that I'd never publish, I'd stop writing.

I do get enjoyment from it. I love writing stories, I love dreaming them and rescuing their bits from the ether. But there are other ways to entertain myself and other ways I can find this form of intellectual satisfaction.


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Beth
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thanks for the interesting replies. looks like we're all coming at this from slightly different positions.
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Isaiah13
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I admit, outside validation would be nice, but I'm going to keep writing one way or the other. I honestly don't think I could stop at this point. It started as a hobby, sort of a challenge I posed to myself. Since then it has developed into equal parts passion/compulsion/addiction. I have a hard time even remembering who I was before I started. What was I doing with all my time? Watching TV, I suppose. Yeah, I'm definitely not going back to that!
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Survivor
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I think that sometimes writers can get a bit too hung up on publication. It is a very powerful form of validation, not just (or even primarily) for oneself, but for other people to look at and see that you are a "real" writer.

I have a problem with this attitude because I think that one of the main differences between a writer or even a real reader and the average nekulterny shaved ape is that the literate person judges texts on their own merits rather than what anyone else, even a publisher, thinks of that text, while others don't have that native judgement. So I would never put myself in the catagory of people that would stop writing if I knew I'd never be published. I would be much more likely to put myself in the catagory of writers that love to write but fear publication. I know that I've sometimes been inhibited in my writing by the notion that the public would get hold of my work.

On the other hand, there are two very powerful reasons to seek publication. The first has been mentioned already, if you care about something enough to write it, then don't you want to share that with an audience? And there is also the fact that, despite its failings (which are many), the publishing industry does have a lot of people that are really good writers. Why would you deny yourself association with them? Okay, that was a retorical question, let's not pursue the topic of what's wrong with the industry.

Let me put it this way. If I became famous for some reason (other than my writing), and publishers were fawning over me to write a book that would be a best seller because of my immense personal fame, I would rather cut my own arm off rather than be published in that way (my left arm, though, not my right). But I wouldn't want to stop writing, any more than I'd want to stop reading.

I love reading. I love writing. I especially love reading my own writing. I'd be willing to publish if I thought that other people would also love to read my writing. I don't think of that as frosting, though, since I'd also like to help someone else publish if I felt that people would love that person's writing. Good writing is worth sharing, even if I'm not the one that wrote it, right?

And conversely, even if I am the one that wrote it.


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Josh Leone
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I write for the love of it, but I publish for the money.

I've had conversations with people who've told me that some of my work is "too commercial" and that they'd "never compromise their art." I usually find that those people have full-time jobs and write mainly as a hobby. Now I'm not saying that a hobbyist isn't a writer. If you write then you are a writer. But to those people who tell me that I think too much about getting published and too little about the quality of my work? I usually advise trying making a living with your high art, and see how soon you're using your manuscripts to line your clothes for warmth.

Sorry if I sound tense. It always bugs me when "artists" talk about the publishing minded writer as if he were the bastard child of the writing world.

Also, this post is NOT directed at anyone in particular. It's just my two cents.

Josh Leone

[This message has been edited by Josh Leone (edited March 27, 2005).]


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Beth
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You're making a living publishing fiction, Josh? cool.
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Beth
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and: I'm all for people, even me, getting paid for writing. I would never suggest that art and commerce are irreconcilable opposites, and I fully expect that I will publish a lot of stuff, and profitably, over the course of my writing career.

That just isn't the part of writing that I'm obsessed with, and I'm curious about how other people's minds work.

Sorry if anything I said made you defensive, josh.


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Josh Leone
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No, not in fiction. Not yet anyway. I make my living writing for publication in general. I've always wondered where the line between fiction and non-fiction writing is, but that's a different thread.

As I said, my comments weren’t pointed at anyone in particular. In fact I’ve found this board to be very supportive of the career writer. Mine were just general comments meant to express an over all opinion. I took no offense from your posting and in fact you do make a good point. I also believe that one should first have the love of writing for its own sake and only then pursue an actual career in it. Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. Believe me, I know.

Sorry if it came off as though I was swinging at you. I wasn’t.

Thanks and be well,
Josh Leone


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Shendülféa
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I write because, as many others have said and will say, I have something to say and I want people to "hear" it. All of my stories carry a certain theme--usually a criticism of present day society--and I want people to listen to what I have to say. I feel that if I just come out and say what I want to say, people won't listen, but if I can put it into a story where the reader is absorbing all I have to tell them without really realizing it, then I have accomplished my goal. I don't really write to entertain, per se, either. This is probably why many people can't get into my writing. My writing is something that I would liken to all those novels and stories we all had to read in high school, only it's done in the fantasy genre in the hopes that it would be more interesting to read. My writing is not really intended for the general public, but for the intellectual crowd who's going to pick up on all my allusions, symbols, and whatnot. I suppose this is why I find it hard to get people to publish my stuff: writing is in the realm of the entertainment industry, which means that publishers are looking to make money when they publish a book and the way to do that is to make sure the books they publish are entertaining enough that the general public will read them. My books are not like that. And while many authors dread that their books will become a part of the English cirriculum in schools across the nation, I don't--that's exactly what I want. I want people to read my stories and examine the meanings behind them and then write extensive essays on all the possible themes within them. And that's where I clash with the publishers and most readers. Those types of books don't tend to make the money that publishers are looking for unless schools are buying them. Nevertheless, I still wish to get published in order to get my ideas out in a more subtle manner rather than writing a nonfiction book about what I believe that people are less likely to read. (Plus they're harder to write, what with all the keeping track of notes and such.) Anyway, there ya go: my reason for writing, which might help some of you understand why I write the way I do.
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JBSkaggs
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One of the goals for me is to be able to make a living doing something I feel is worthwhile.

One life one chance, if you spend that chance slaving away at something you hate and never never try to pursue a lifestyle that you would like then you are fully responsible for the wasted life.

Writers are dreamers and for most of us being placed in a dreamless work enviroment of drudgery and meaninglessness for 60% of our lives is hell. Writing lets us create beautiful worlds- but publishing lets us move from the robotic hells so many of us live. I don't know about you but I HAVE to work a ful time job in engineering. I hate engineering. I hate the corporate environment. I hate not being able to express myself for the majority of the day. But when I write, draw or edit and people want my stories then I realize I have a voice. I am able to gain something of my humanity that has been stripped by a cold work environment. I work for a company that if I tracked the chain of command then I have nearly fifty levels of bueracracy to climb. They have offices in every state and every civilized country in the world. And what one thing does every employee I have ever spoken at this company have in common?

Hopelessness, depression, low morale, and no dreams. Personal expression is frowned upon.

I am not looking to become the next best seller, I am looking to develope my career so that I can work from home late at night after the kids are asleep, so I can see my kids grow, actually know my wife, and live WITH my family.

Am I crazy for believing this? Yes. Is it impossible? no. Is it difficult? Very difficult.

Would I write and tell stories even if I wouldn't be published? Yes.

JB Skaggs


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Pyre Dynasty
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Personally I write because I can't see myself doing anything else. If I am never published I will still write. But of course I would like to make a living off of it so I don't have to press pants all my life. (Although a well pressed pair of pants is quite satisfying.)
The thing about the Art side of writing is, just that, one side of it. It is also a craft, and a craft is made to sell. I think those 'Artists' are just jealous. Real art is a community where people share their creativity. I doubt that the greatest writers in the world hide themselves

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Beth
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a professional pants presser? perfect!


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HSO
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I'm an engineer, JB Skaggs... I know precisely what you mean about corporate drudgery.

But I love conceiving and designing things; creating 3D models on a computer that eventually get turned into real life parts is quite satisfying. It's definitely an "I made this!" thing -- a lot like writing is for me. The two are similar.

Moreover, I'm a musician, and I love writing songs. So, thinking about it now, I suppose I like the idea "creating" new things. Maybe that's why I do what I do...


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Christine
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Two things have been true about me since childhood:

1. I love to tell stories/write (depending upon my age and whether or not I knew how to write yet).

2. I have to be the best.

There are a lot of reasons for me to want my work published, but that pretty much sums it up. How can I be the best if I'm the only one who gets to read my work? I need validation from others; I admit it. I always have. I write because I love it and I want publication because I want to be the best at something -- hey, how about what I love?


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djvdakota
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I suppose for me publication is a graduation ceremony of sorts. I'm constantly writing, studying the craft, learning new things. When I sell a story it's like a little certificate, a report card.

Then I pick up my pen again (mouse, actually) and go on to Middle School, then High School, then College, then Master's study, then that PhD.

Right now I figure I'm in High School. I'll enter college when I sell a story to a big market. I'll enter my Master's studies when I sell my first novel.

And how will I know I've earned that PhD? When I can write a novel without the help of all my favorite Hatrackers.

After that? I don't know. Maybe start a new degree in non-fiction? Something, because I never want to stop growing and learning and improving.


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HSO
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quote:
And how will I know I've earned that PhD? When I can write a novel without the help of all my favorite Hatrackers.

Every author needs readers before they send off their manuscript. OSC has his wife, for one, and probably a few more. Stephen King has a couple of friends and his wife read his. We'll always need someone to point out the obvious things we've missed. So, don't forget your fellow hatrackers... Maybe you won't be posting here, but I hope that you'll keep in touch with some of us, Dakota.


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Beth
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and I like reading your stuff! I hope you'll keep letting me, even after you're all famous 'n stuff.
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djvdakota
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Aw Shucks!

That's why I'll never earn that PhD. Because I just couldn't get along without you guys!


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RavenStarr
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Well... this question's pretty much answered... but since I don't get on during the weekend... I’m gonna answer it anyway...

"What is it about publishing that is so magical for some people?"

Well... there's always the money part... I'm not gonna lye and say that I don't enjoy the idea of getting piles of green stuff for doing what I always got in trouble for in school (day dreaming).

Then there's just recognition... if feels good to get a few pats on the back from a hand full of friends and family, but it just feels a little extra special to get an international-sized pat on the back from people you don't know from places you never even heard of.

But then... I don't write for only publication, some I write as just "practice" runs, others I write for just personal pleasure that I know from the start no one, but maybe my girl friend or whoever will ever get the chance to read. Like for instance, the single issued comic book I did (I would have been 2, but my computer crashed with really bad timing... so, it's only 1)... or any of my poems.

If I ever write anything that's a full novel, then it's full intention is to be published, simply because… it's a full freakin' novel…


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Tanglier
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Your instincts are spot on, Beth. It's a perversion.
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goatboy
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I've always enjoyed messing with people. Just flat out screwing with people's minds so bad they scream. Writing allows me to do that. I can crawl right inside someone's skull and tap, tap, tap-- I can talk to them up close and real personal.

Besides, I looked at some of the published stuff, decided I could do better than that, and well, here I am-- still trying.

As far as art goes, it's still art even if it's designed for sale. I do write things that I don't try to publish. It happens that I don't like some stories enough to try to publish them, and they get filed away for the furture. But if I've got one that I think could make it, it doesn't do me much good to hide it in a drawer.


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HSO
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I know I evaded the question before, but I'll answer it this time around.

First indulge me by reading this brief anecdotal thing:

Remember when you were a young child, perhaps 8 or 9, before you knew anything about life and work; before you grew up and became who you now are. Then, your schoolteacher used to read stories out loud to the class, and maybe the class participated in reading that story. Do you recall how excited you were to read or listen to that story? Was there a better time in your life? Probably not.

Now, imagine if those stories that enthralled you never got published. (I'd hate to think about what life would be like not growing up with "Charlotte's Web.") Life, then, would have been rather sad for many of us. Others would not have cared a whit, I suppose. Nevertheless, those stories captured our imaginations in a way that no other medium has ever done, or ever will do (arguably, I concede).

Right then. Got that in your heads? Good.

You know what publishing is all about? It's returning the favor to the next generation of kids and adults. It's trying to excite someone's imagination like perhaps yours was excited. Maybe it's altruistic, and maybe it's self-centered, but your goal probably remains the same -- to inspire, to entertain, and to provide some small measure of joy for someone that may not have a lot of joy in their life.

That's a bit tough to do without getting your story published. Yeah, you can do it with a small group: family, friends. But they're going to read it anyway because they're your friends and family. No, what you want is to get that person you've never met and make them laugh, cry, think... imagine.

That's publishing. And if it ain't that for you, fine. But that's what it is for me.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited March 28, 2005).]


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Jaina
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quote:

You know what publishing is all about? It's returning the favor to the next generation of kids and adults.


HSO said it far better than I ever could. *applause* Thank you!

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Josh Leone
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"You know what publishing is all about? It's returning the favor to the next generation of kids and adults."

I can get behind that statement. Thanks HSO.


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ScottMiller
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Interesting thread.

I want to get something published because I don't feel like a pile of paper (or a floppy, or a CD) is a tangible proof that I did anything, owing probably to the Protestant Work Ethic (or some variation thereof). The one ambition that I have always been firm on is that I want an object to hold in my hands that I can shove at all the people (teachers, guidance counselors, well-meaning but stupid friends) that have told me I am wasting my life even with writing as just a hobby. Which falls into the "insecurity" and "validation" columns both, in case anyone's keeping track. (I'd like "Emotional Hangups" for 100, Alex.)

On a more rational note, I've always looked at getting published as a "why not?" thing. I've done a lot of stuff that was meant for no one but me and my friends, and stuff I was hoping that someone, somewhere, would like to read.

Look at blogs. Look at the well-established tradition of fanfic. Heck, look around at work. Somebody you know is telling someone a story nearly all the time (I had a boss last year who liked cornering people in the break room and launch into irrelevant fifteen minute stories about fishing, cars, or camping, which never seemed to go anywhere or have any point). I'm not trying to sidetrack the argument, just point out that people have a need to communicate and find an audience, and most likely always have. Getting published (despite the likelihood of rejection, exploitation, or whatever) is just taking that need a step further. Even litfic writers have an audience (a small one, and inbred, but an audience) that they may come to depend on.

Frankly--and this is not meant as a slam on anyone here--I think anything else falls into the realm of "talking to yourself." (Which, in reality, frightens small children and is not entertaining, especially in small enclosed spaces such as an elevator and when combined with an unpleasantly rank body odor. I speak from personal experience.) Even if you don't want to throw yourself into the emotional mill of the Publishing Biz, show your stuff to *somebody* you can trust, even if it's just your old Aunt Meg.


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Elan
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I can relate to this topic. I have been writing since I was in middle school, but with an intensity to produce a story since I was in my twenties (I'm 40 *coughsomething* now.) That was the storyteller in me that wrote with the vague idea of maybe being published in the distant fanciful future. I wrote because I HAD to write. The characters wouldn't leave me alone.

I've moved to an entirely new level recently, with the realization that I actually really truly DO want to be published now.

It's a new ballgame, and I'm thrilled with the process because it's amped up my game a hundred fold. Suddenly I'm viewing my work with a far more critical eye. What makes sense? How can I tighten the story? How can I make my story more powerful using fewer words? Do other people relate to what I have to say?

I would say that my new desire to be published is adding polish to my work, and a new level of professionalism. And that is a good thing. It's almost as if writing for publication is the difference between playing ball in school and going into the majors... sure, it's the same game, but there are more expectations and potentially greater rewards.

For me, the new challenges as I approach my work with the goal of getting it published are exciting. Writing is great, but publishing would be as great in a whole new way.


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cklabyrinth
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I think I can answer this question a little more in depth now. I just finished reading Ender's Game by OSC for the first time. That book stung a nerve inside me due to a problematic childhood in many senses.
I could barely hold back my tears in chapter 2 when Peter apologized to Ender for being what he was. Then at the end of the book, in the third or fourth to last paragraph I couldn't hold them back. I read it about 30 minutes ago and just thinking about it again has me in tears yet again.
No book has ever done this to me before. I've read quite a few in my few years in this world, and I never really expected it to happen. Imagine if OSC never published the book but kept it to himself. Right now I think I would have missed out on something, even though it took me so long to start reading it.

So basically I've summed up what 10 other people have said. Oh well.


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HSO
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Imagine having the same reaction as CK while reading the end of Ender's Game, and then add several US Marines sitting around you as that happened. Of course, I don't need to imagine it, this happened to me.

I admit, I've bought about 4 dozen copies of Ender's Game over the years to replace the copies I had given away...


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ScottMiller
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I suppose I was lucky; when Ender's Game made me cry I was in bed, by myself.

That must have been a tough one to explain, HSO.


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cklabyrinth
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HSO, I'm lucky I wasn't in my classes. I read through about 200 pages last night; at first I wanted to stop and read the last chapter during government class today. That would have been something to explain, too. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, one of your students starts bawling like a dog. How would that make her feel, lol.

"I can't lecture, I should just retire now."


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autumnmuse
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I have read almost all of OSC's novels (except his Old Testament women ones) and found that I had incredibly visceral reactions to several of them. One that really sucker-punched me was in The Worthing Saga. There is a scene where a group of people is making a stubborn and futile attempt to cross a desert, taking their children with them. The way OSC describes the children dying, with almost no emotion, just ratcheted up my reactions to it. My husband will tell you that I was weepy for three days, and I'm not sure I'll be able to re-read it for a few years.
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franc li
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Hmm. I'll have to dig up that melodrama thread.

Okay, when I was late teens, I wanted to be published. Then a few years later I realized that I didn't really care. But I guess some events that have happened in the last 14 months have caused me to rethink this.

But this recent transition resulted from something I wrote just for the heck of it. So I am definitely with the "writing as therapy" idea.

I watched an episode of Frontline a couple of weeks ago called "the persuaders". http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/etc/shaping.html

It caused me to think a lot about the form/function balance in art.


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Pyre Dynasty
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Beth: Why is pant pressing so perfect?
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Beth
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err, mostly because of the alliteration. sorry.
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Stormlight Shadows
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The point of wanting to get my work published is that I want to see my work in a book format. I love writing, it gives a chance to relax my mind from the every day work of school and driving around in one enormous truck around campus delervering clean cloths. Haven't you felt that you just want to have a book in your own name, or pen name. That would the most exhilrating thing to happen to me.

Yes, money is there but if that was it for me I wouldn't just write for money, I can't do anything for money, except like Pyre said to press pants day in and day out to put scraps on the table. (if I had a table)


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Jaina
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You don't have a table? That's rather odd. Do you have a bar in the kitchen that you eat at, then? Or... were you being figurative and I'm just dense?
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Stormlight Shadows
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i do have a table it was if I wasn't earning money in the future would I spend the money iearned to buy a table, meaning (if I had a table). It was figurtive
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Jaina
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Okay, then, I'm just dense. Forgive me?
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crazydel
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There will always be debate about commercialism between purists that havent had their break yet and slightly commercial minded people that have been published already.

This is true in all art forms, music, etc.

This doesnt mean that commercial work is necessarily compromised for the success that they gain. In fact you may find that commercial successes are often more out-there, more edgy than a lot of underground stuff.

But still I'd like to be published... not for the money... just to share...


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Stormlight Shadows
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your forgiven Jaina!
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