Can I Pick Your Brain?

I’ve had a pair of ideas elbowing other ideas for quite a few months now, and I figure I’ll toss these ideas out there to you crazy cats, see what you think. Just to float the notions. See where they go.

Let me toss these ideas to you, see what you think. If you think these idea are cool, compelling, interesting, and you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter and sacrifice jungle cats to my honor, great. Alternately, don’t hesitate to point out pitfalls, and further don’t hesitate in saying, “Ehhh, I don’t think this is such a good idea, Beardigo, and here’s why.” Don’t worry, I won’t put your name on a list or anything.

So, the two ideas:

Writing Advice (With Profanity): The Book?

If you’ve been here a while, you know that so far I’ve doled out one metric fuckton of writing advice over here. Some good, some not so good, but all of it coming from an honest place (it being the place where I too have struggled with such writerly conundrums as how to conjure good characters, how to write good dialogue, and how to decide which Hollywood celebutard to sleep with when I get rich and famous).

It hit me, though, when I was going back through the posts to try to find one on a particular topic — man, it’s hard to track that stuff down. I write a post or three a week on the subject of writing. Hunting down specific posts is getting to be like an exercise session in the Sisyphean Poopatorum.

And so, I thought: hey, maybe I’ll put ‘em all together. At least, the really good ones.

I could edit. I could revise. I could add some text to each.

Then I could offer it up as a book…

One of those dreaded e-books I keep hearing about.

I don’t know how precisely involved that would be, but I do have some InDesign experience and obviously I’m down with the Photoshop (less so with Illustrator). The posts are largely written, and just need tightening. And the new content additions would be fun to write.

I guess the question is: is it worth it? I’d probably not charge much for such a book. A buck-fifty or two, maybe. Get it going for the Kindle or something.

Would it be interesting to you? To anybody? Heck, it would at least be entertaining. Nobody else is penning writing advice that uses phrases like “monkey taint.” I’ve got a niche! A foul, septic little niche!

Editing Services: I Will Dot Your I’s, Cross Your T’s

I’m a little more hesitant on this one, but still the idea nibbles at my throat.

I like to think I’m a pretty solid editor. Both in content and copy, I feel thatI’m well-versed with the red pen. And I know that the world is home to a number of writers that could use a good pre-submission editor, someone to get their work up to speed in terms of trying to find it a home.

I figure, maybe that’s me.

I could offer services across a range: copy editing (grammar, spelling, formatting) and content editing (characters, story, plot, etc.). Anything from a short story to a novel in length, and could even branch out to edit game material and what-not.

This might be a horrible idea. It has pitfalls of which I’m already aware: it’ll take up time, it takes my focus off writing, it possibly saturates my brain with Other People’s Stories.

I suspect I’d do it well, but as noted: pitfalls.

I’m certainly more hesitant here than with the e-Book. The book of writing advice, Wendig-style, would be fun, I think. It’d at least put some of the so-called “essentials guide” (as Filamena referred to it the other day) in one place for easy reading.

Still — editing services. Would you avail yourself of just such a resource?

My Reasoning, Shaky And Flawed As It May Be

Part of the reason I’m looking at these ideas is that freelance work is desperately hit-or-miss. A little cash infusion from some side projects would not go remiss, and if those projects are things about which I actually gave a shit, hey, bonus! Maybe these aren’t the right paths to take, though. Noodle it with me. Good ideas? Bad ideas? Are there better ideas? I’ve further wondered about writing what are effectively unsellable novels — by which I mean, novels that are unsellable in the common market. Point of fact: a Codpiece Johnson (or its ilk) is probably not a book that will pass muster with the agent or a publisher (though I could be wrong, there), and would be fast, fun, and funny to write while still offering quality writing (er, presuming you consider my writing of some quality). So, there. A third option to molest.

No stress, no pressure, but if you have thoughts, I’m tilting my ears to hear ‘em.

Thanks in advance, of course.

Don’t forget to sacrifice a jungle cat on your way out.

43 comments

  • On the writing advice book, I’d certainly find it valuable. Your advice has been very helpful to me in the past, even inspiring me to dispense some of my own. Though I’m sure I’m the Diet Coke Zero (now with even more shitty aspartame aftertaste!) to your balls-tingling Coke Classic deliciousness when it comes to that.

    As for copy-editing, I was actually hoping to get your input on Citizen once I finish the draft. Or maybe before. It’d be more of a collaborative thing, though, instead of an inttmate writer-editor relationship. More Google Docs and less candlelit dinners.

  • First let me hit you with some philosiphy. There are no good or bad ideas. There are only right or wrong ideas.

    I like the first idea…hell I’d be one of the first to get it. It would great next to my Little Brown Book. I may not post here all the time but I definitely read everday. I’ve never read anything that I didn’t enjoy or find useful. Well…with the exception of your Wire and Lost stuff. You crazy bastard.

    I cringed the moment I read the title of your second idea, though. I can see where that would be a collasal time sink and it could pull you away from your other projects and ideas. I know it would generate some cash but I guess you have to weigh the pro’s and con’s of each and then see how your nuts feel after you’ve punched them once for each con you write down. It’s an old military thing…don’t ask.

    Obviously my advice is terrible. Don’t take it. My wife would warn you if I actually allowed her to come out of the kitchen. Don’t tell her I said that.

  • Well, I’d buy your writing advice e-book. A lot of them on the shelves and around the ‘nets like to talk at the reader. Like a really bad high school teacher, drier than a slice of bacon left for days in the Mojave sun. It’s nice to have an option that entertains. Hell, we couldn’t write in more different genres, and I pop buy everyday because you’re so refreshingly honest in a way the YA crowd seems terrified to be (’cause monkey taints are bad for the image, I suppose).

    Editing, not so much. I admit, it’s where I’m probably weakest (mainly the line by line copy edit). But I’m a DIY sort of girl and I’ll master it sooner or later. Plus, the pitfalls seem a little too big to be worth it. If there were a way you could be super selective in the clients you take on so it doesn’t interfere with your work, it would be one thing. But your work should take priority. Just my two cents in the bucket.

    I don’t want to suggest self publishing for the unsellables. It’s still a beast in a poorly constructed cage that’s more than a little daunting. I only gamble when the odds are highly in my favor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan and would by your work either which way, but it’s not a risk I’d personally take.

    • So far, the Advice book = win.

      The editing = ehhh? Maybe, maybe not?

      As for the Other Thing — @Kate, I don’t mean I’d dredge up books I’ve previously written and try to self-publish. I mean, I’d write new books that would clearly fall outside traditional market definitions but could still fill a niche — similar to how the Writing Advice (With Profanity) book would probably be unpublishable outside me designing it as an e-book. That’s what I mean — if I were to write a brand spanking new Codpiece Johnson novel (not saying I will, just talking hypothetical), I could design that as an e-book instead.

      More noodling required.

      — c.

  • Compiling a writing book would be great. I’d buy it too, even though I don’t write much. Plus it’s something you would enjoy and have fun doing. Which takes us to editing. It doesn’t sound like you would really enjoy it, and it seems the pitfalls you mention are pretty significant. Again, I recommend taking it to the world of science!

  • Ah, I see. Carve yourself out a neat little piece of the internet pie, peddling your wares on the darkest corner of the underground to those of us looking for what the man tries to keep out of our grubby little hands. Or something.

    Hmmm …

    Yeah, I got nothing else. Sorry.

  • I like books on writing advice. I treat them like little poetry books, using the good bits and tossing the bad. I think it’s compulsory for those who write for a living to want to write about writing. I can see how such an exercise could almost be a better learning experience for the author than for his readers.

    I hear tell that freelance copy editing is an up and comer with rates per word that are greater than writing. For deep copy-editing, fact checking, and continuity editing, rates are sometimes better than $1 per word! Obviously this is a huge time investment and those who can afford to pay you are probably making enough with their fiction to find a house with on staff editors.

  • Personally, I’d love to be able to throw you some freelance work, or some editing work. I dig your writing style, and I think I could definitely benefit from your eyes or pen in my projects.

    However, as it stands right now, BRIMSTONE is in the baby states, so nascent I’m still waiting on half my research material to be shipped to my nearest public library from others in the network. So nascent my mindmap looks like the crazed drawings of a crack-addict artist working for his next fix. Plus, I don’t know how much you like post-apoc westerns. And I don’t really have a grasp on what’s a good sum to pay someone for work like that.

    SOULBINDER is also not complete, so I can’t really ship that out to anyone until I’ve had at least a couple of drafts run through myself.

    Your advice is saleable. If I’ll spend $16.50 on a writing book by someone I don’t know, I’d certainly purchase an ebook written by a friend in the industry. Write it, publish it. I’ll buy it.

  • I vote yes to the book and maybe to the editing.

    What does your schedule look like each day? Would you end up having to put your own work aside for longer than you’d like in order to work with someone else’s? I’m just wondering.

  • I’d grab the book, and how. Kat has started writing her own stuff, and she’s gobbling up “how to” books like a “how to” gobbling thing. She loves reading your posts, so it’s a no-brainer.

    As for the editing, I selfishly say you should do it, at least on a limited basis. Because I’m going to need someone to help me out with that soon. :P

  • If you do the book (which I think would be a great idea) don’t fret the layout end of it at this point. Laying things out for ebooks is pretty minimalistic and in someways looks more like old-school HTML. But this is constantly changing, so if you have a book, the path to it getting electronic is the shortest step. Similarly, it lets you hold off decisions on other means of distribution until after you have an actual product – worrying about that beforehand is a needless distraction.

    So what I’m saying is, write the manuscript and pitch it, if only to yourself. Worry about the next steps after you’ve gotten there.

    -Rob D.

  • I vote definitely yes to the advice book.

    On editing: I’ve done some editing and copywriting — and even some SEO work, gack — when times have been particularly lean. Whether I advise it or not depends on exactly how lean times are, though. The pay is generally pretty crappy… a lot of this work, you’re essentially bidding against India.

    But more important, there’s a big opportunity cost in stuff that might make you more money and further your career over the long term. Those things aren’t just spec writing and portfolio work, either. The time you spend doing the literary equivalent of ditch-digging is time you aren’t hustling for a sexier gig, or raising your profile at conferences, or working to lift your craft to the next level.

    As for exploring alt-publishing methods for your probably-otherwise-unpublishable books: The conventional wisdom is that it’s a bad idea, but I think we’re finally hitting the tipping point wherein all of that conventional wisdom is going to have to be massively reworked. If you’re convinced the work is actually good and you won’t be embarrassed to have your apprenticeship work out in plain sight, I say go for it.

    • @Andrea:

      Wise words. The editing would not only take away from the wordmonkeying, but also from the hustling for said wordmonkeying — so, times ain’t that lean. Yet. Talk to me again in a few months. :)

      The alt-pub methods are definitely leaning toward, “Hell, why not?” Small, niche stuff could be an interesting work-through. While I’m off trying to sell the novel and do whatever comes with games, film, and so forth, it’d be interesting to put some of this Other Stuff on the sly, see how it goes. I know I’m capable of turning out quality work, but I also know that the Larger Market doesn’t necessary support all genres, all approaches, all types. But even carving out a small niche with an interested readership no longer seems impossible given the scope of the Internet and the increasing frequency of e-readers in people’s hands.

      — c.

  • I love the first idea. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. I’d buy that writing book in a heartbeat. I’d love it even better in meaty tree-pulp for, but I’m just old fashioned like that. I like to mark up my advice books.

    The second idea would be great for everybody, except possibly you. I can see you running around town with wild hair, crazed eyes and a loaded shotgun, screaming incoherently about what you’ve seen. Wait… You do that now? Okay then. You’d end up in a padded ward somewhere. Though I would very much love the help with the game I’m working on, I don’t see you enjoying it for long. Of course, you could make only a small number of slots available for that service and treat it like a musician treats giving lessons to bring in extra cash.

  • So, this is what I get for writing a post instead of immediately checking your blog first – everyone has basically said what I think on it. Writing book: good. Editing work: only if you hate yourself. Other stuff: if it means me reading some Codpiece, I am all for it.

    So with that in mine I am going to talk about noodles. Mmm, noodles.

    Right, I’m done.

  • Getting the advice book and/or other books/stories published sounds like a good idea. My understanding from folks I know in the paper-publishing industry is that they are not at all opposed to buying previously e-published works for future paper-publishing, so there’s always the chance that you can pitch your finished e-work into a book deal. Also a piece on how to format books for Kindle that I found useful. It’s aimed at web geeks, but has some good overall tips.

    As for freelance editing, my experience is that editing pays less than writing. So either you have to a lot more of it to pay the bills or get used to eating beans. Lots of beans.

  • You’re looking at ways to produce alternative revenue streams. I can dig that. To which I’d ask, “Why not make that book?” If you wanted it laid out for PDF or POD, you know I’m game.

    Editing seems like a whole other skill set to shop around, which is good, but a whole other group of contacts and gigs to manage and build up and all that, which may be a lot of work or not a lot of return for awhile. Harder to judge.

  • So I’ve informally collected advice from various people on the internet, and I think a book would be really helpful. I’ve cited you more than a few times in my own stuff, just by going through and reading all your tagged posts (Don’t worry, I give you credit, and link back to your blog!). I think compiling it into a pdf would be a great idea.

    As for the editing, my own work is in much to young a stage to show to anyone who I don’t know personally and well. And even then, they’ve said it sucks, so maybe eventually but not now, at least for me.

  • Chuck, I’d read the hell out of a writing advice book that you put out. In the short time I’ve been reading your blog I’ve picked up a few gems of advice from just poking around. Having all of it in one place would be great. I don’t know about an e-book, though. I’d rather have a hard copy.

  • Zoinks. Sign me up for the book of wisdom. Three copies!

    E-book, Schmee-book, if you publish it on Lulu or what-have-you, punters can download or have plush tome delivered depending on personal inclination. Point is, do it now, for the sake of all mankind!

    Editing other people seems like a slightly odd step sideways. Unless it’s offering constructive crit and polishing advice. Not sure about that as a way of making beans.

    No time to say anyfink more. But a thumbs up here for the advice book plan anyhoo!

  • The book sounds like a fine idea, although it may end up being more work than you anticipate.

    Editing usually pays less than writing, but you can do it much faster. It’s also often harder to find such work than writing work.

  • I’m going to be straight up, balls to the wall honest with you here. I wouldn’t buy the e-book. I really enjoy reading your advice on your blog but right now I’m not in the market for general writing advice – my masters degree and years of reading those books (which I don’t regret a moment of) has sort of moved me out of the general advice seeking category.

    Which is not, in any way, to suggest that I think that I’m a perfect writer. Since I completed my first novel and wrote a game book that needs editing and am 6k into my second novel, what I really need is specific advice and comments from someone who is a professional about on my specific work. Right now, I’m more in the market for specific editing help than general advice.

    I know my writing is decent – good enough that I can, and have, sold my words for money. What I need now is someone who can take what is decent and help me polish it into something that shines. I would pay you to do that.

    • @JR:

      I am sorry to report, but your name has been added to a list. I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to do that. But, that’s what us evil people do. You understand. Just as Dr. Mercury.

      No, no, it’s all good — I don’t expect everyone to actually gain use or find interest in such a book. I just wanted to know if, in general, the interest was there.

      That said, I’ve been selling words for over ten years, now, and I’m — personally — always on the hunt to scare up new advice. I like some, discard a lot of it, but it helps me add new tools to the toolbox. I still crack King’s ON WRITING from time to time — and I still catch up with interesting advisory links off of Twitter or what-not. I don’t waste a lot of time, but periodically I dip into it just to keep my game fresh. :)

      — c.

  • Just off the top of my head? Here’s my take:

    The book thing: Publishing an ebook is kinda like buying a Makala Dolphin. Uke reference, sorry. “Do you need one? God, yes. It’s so cheap, they’re so cute! You’d be mad not to have one!” I see it this way: The internet – as many others have pointed out – is the new age of ‘way to get your voice out to lots of people, without ass-kissing’. I thought you meant some wee-publishing house, but if you’re talking about a book of writing advice, by you, Not subjected to the whims of the market/agents/whatever stuff I don’t even know because I’v never tried to make money (yet)? Sold cheaply to people you know would love one, and you could get it done with the work of mostly yourself and your various Filthies?
    I don’t know if it’s easy now to put out a book – to be able to say ‘hey, I just published a book’ but it’s easier than…well it’s crazy easy from where I’m standing. Yes. God, yes! You’d be mad not to do it!
    Then again what the hell do I know?

    Codpiece Johnson: I believe I made you some promise once, long ago, something like ‘if you actually write that, I will ‘insert promise here’.’ I just want to reaffirm that, right now. Whatever it was. I want some fucking Codpiece action. I mean. Don’t take that the wrong way…or do. Anyhow.

    Editing: Ehhhh. Maybe? To me, out of all of those, the time sink and the ‘Other People’s Stories’ are the biggest pitfalls. You mentioned that getting work took time and effort. Seems to me falling back on that networking means losing momentum and might take twice as much time/energy to regain as it did to lose. Is it that way?
    The question would be, to me at least…whether or not you thrive on Other People’s Stories. Me, I do. I’m a much better muse than solo creator. Give me someone to bounce ideas off of and I can give them three novels in an hour, but ask ME to make one? HAH. CUTE. Never going to happen. I love Other People’s Stories and they usually give me the impetus and creative gigawatts I need to do my own stories. If you work that, way, content editing (I miss it) might be awesome for you. If not…I don’t know. It might slow you down.

    Again, and I mean this: what the hell do I know? I’m just some chick with crazy hair.

  • To contradict every other person up there, doing a speculative book project might not be the best way to produce reliable cashflow.

    To contradict them all again, I like editing gigs as an adjunct to writing endeavors because it uses a different part of your brain. You can edit even when you’re burned out on writing. Also, reading other people’s stuff is good for your own work.

    What you really want is a recurring editing gig. Find some website, magazine, or game line that can afford to pay for editing and secure a weekly or monthly gig. You have to do the work every period, but it gets easier, and you don’t have to spend all of the up-front time each week or month.

  • It’s clear there is general interest! I think that there are lots of people who could certainly benefit from your advice – myself among them. I always enjoy your posts.

    If you do offer editing services, now or in the future, I will hire you.

    After all, Dr. Mercury is writing her memoirs and she needs someone who understands her evil vision of the world.

  • “Would it be interesting to you? To anybody? Heck, it would at least be entertaining. Nobody else is penning writing advice that uses phrases like “monkey taint.” I’ve got a niche! A foul, septic little niche!”

    I get the milk straight from the cow. Why would I want to buy it from a farmer?

  • I think the writing book might be worthwhile, if only as an excuse to play with e-publishing. I think you’d have fun with it. If only you could combine it with the Codpiece Johnson novel somehow: like, go through the process of writing CJ and organize the book that way, showing your notes and the CJ Manifesto to illustrate the points you’re making. Then you’d have *two* e-books to sell!

    As for the editing… I’m of two minds. I would be interested in availing myself of such a resource, as I have this one piece that’s been driving me nuts. So, that’d be a win for me. But I also worry that it has life-sucking potential: not only the editing itself but also the business side. If you were to do it, my suggestion would be to set aside five hours a week for it, and sell those five hours on a first-come, first-served basis. If there’s demand for more than that, raise the price.

  • Can’t speak too much to the ebook thing, why not publish as a real book? So I could read it on my Kindle? Doubt the costs would be that much different. I edit books for self-publication, and there’s a growing industry out there, esp. for niche publications.

    On the editing, like I said, I edit books for self-publication. I find it relaxing, actually, and it provides a refreshing break from my own stuff. It doesn’t drain me creatively, I come back ready to go. I’ve needed to be a classically trained, anal copy editor, though, for it to be lucrative enough to make money at it. If nothing else, you gotta catch all the mistakes, even one’s the client doesn’t know exist. But the editing does support me while I work toward the Great American Novel or selling that screenplay. There’s plenty of work if you can proofread, again, in an anal retentive fashion that brooks no error.

  • Dang it! Had a big thing done on here and hit wrong buttons and POOF! Gone! Argh! So to be brief…

    1) How to Book – YES – look at Lulu.com for also offering in print and other e-book formats. Word has an add-on at Microsoft to turn docs into pdfs. For free. Will include the pics.

    2) Edit Services – NO Unless you just feel you gotta.

    3) Other Weird Niche Works – YES – The small press world is alive and growing! Some are getting as backed up as NY Pubs. And the want ORIGINAL! Screaming for it in fact. Zumaya Publications, HardShell Word Factory, and Yard Dog Press are the ones I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Not self pub, you get edited, covers, the same as the big guys. The Johnson story would be right up Yard Dog Press’s alley. Those guys are CRAZY! Check them out!

  • I’m just dropping by to second-second-SECOND Paul’s comment up there at the top.

    * The book: fantastic idea, I’d probably even buy it myself.

    * The editing: iiiiiiyeeaaaaaahhhh… no. I mean here and there on the side, sure, but if it’s anything like translation editing, then it’s going to not only take up your time, but your “brain ju-ju”. Like, translation editing soaks up juju faster than writing or plain translation (which takes up only 1.1 times the amount writing does, but it feels worse because nobody gives you realistic deadlines).

    I know people who make a living editing translations freelance. It is by no means a “steady income” arrangement at the onset, even when compared to freelance writing and translation. It stabilises once you have a nice catalogue of clients sending you work in, but building up such a catalogue may take a year or two.

    * Unsellable novels – you would be taking a BIG chance on this one. Level with me: we all have only 24 hours per day, right? And we all need from 6 to 8 hours of sleep, around 3 meals a day, a couple of bathroom breaks and a couple of hours of downtime. That only leaves us with 8 to 10 hours of work per day. I think those hours should be mostly spent on work you have an inkling of a feeling of a hunch it might sell. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try wacky things, but if you outright know a novel is not going to sell, then you probably should save it for some other time.

    Then again, there is the Adamantine Rule: do not break rules, unless you know what you are doing. I mean, look at MS Paint Adventures. It’s the most twisted, nigh-unreadable comic on the Internet. And it’s a huge success (it’s also one of those multimedia experiences, with animated pages, whole sequences animated in Flash with awesome music, 4 (!!!) albums containing that music)!

    It’s author may say that he never thought it would become so big, but I feel that when we write/compose/create, we always, always do it with a certain hope, deep down in our heart of hearts, that this one may be the BIG TICKET.

    Or TICKET TO THE BIG TIME.

    BIGTIME TICKET?

    • @Marek:

      Well, the thing about the “unsellable” novels are that they’re unsellable in a larger market. I didn’t say I don’t believe money could be had by making them. The chance with the novels would ostensibly be the precise same chance I’d take with the book of writing advice.

      — c.

  • 1. Book of writing advice. Solid idea, I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.

    2. Editing. Maybe, I’m not sure. I won’t pretend to have any idea what that market (or any market for that matter) looks like. It does sound like it’ll take up a lot of time with little reward, based on the reactions that others have posted before me.

  • An ebook of your writing advice would be fab, and I would recommend it to a lot of young new inexperienced or otherwise curious writers.

    Editing… Man.. I know I’d pay you to edit a novel of mine if a)I had any money and b) I felt like I could pay you enough to make it worth your time. That’s the crazy part of the plan, really. Pricing.

    Other stuff… We can’t pay you for but the occasional freelance job, and not a lot, but you know you’re on the list. That said, if you wanted to throw together a quick adventure for Maschine Zeit we’d sell it for you and make sure the juicy part of the profit went to you. (You know, in the tens of dollars!)

  • What Shawn said. For numerous reasons, the writing book is better. But here’s a primary one: unlike the editing process, the writing book is a one-shot deal. You do it, you put it out there, you see how it goes. But it’s not the unending time sink the editing job would be.

  • I vote a definite yes to the book. I would most certainly purchase such a book and, more than that, tell all my friends to purchase such a book! I might even steal their wallets and buy it for them!

    I’m kind on the “Ehhhh” side of the editing debate. I mean, it would be cool to have someone such as yourself who has accomplished things look over my dribble, it seems like that’s a quick route to a huge time suck. It’s like a writer’s group that meets EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

  • The book is good, because most of the original work is done. It’ll be a nice side project to polish it and put it together. Further, it’ll give you a chance to learn more about epublishing, which will be good going forward.

    The editing services, not so much. It’s just as hit or miss, and I find it’s a totally different part of the brain. Knowing your luck, you’ll have writing and editing assignments hit you at the same time, and then you’d be stuck. I suggest floating your services to some folks and peers that you know, see how you like it, and go from there.

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