Big Chicken

I was talking to my mother today about possibly handing her some of my novel to read, and she made a comment about another book (this one) that made me stop and think. She said she did not enjoy the dialogue between the characters in some places – that she found too much of it contrived and unrealistic.

And I realized the scene I had been thinking of sending her bore something of a resemblance to the scenes she was complaining about in the book.

Now, I don’t think what I wrote has the same tone that she was objecting to. I don’t intend it to (those same scenes bothered me in that book). I have a very clear idea of the tone I am trying to strike – but I don’t know if I’m doing it.

My mother, of course, would tell me if I asked her. She’d read what I wrote and tell me truthfully what she thought of it – if I told her that was what I wanted. But I realized it’s not. I don’t want criticism at this point – I want encouragement. I want praise.

Not unrealistic praise, of course. I only want praise if it’s deserved. In short: I want what I’ve written to be good. And I am absolutely terrified to show it to anyone to find out if it is.

I will almost certainly let my mom off the hook, at least at this point. I won’t make her my first target. That’s just unfair. She may hate it, and have to tell me so, and then I will spend the rest of my natural life under the coffee table.

If some stranger hates it? I’ll spend a few days under the coffee table. A week, tops.

NaNoWriMo has a forum just for prologue/first chapter critiques. Some of those critics are BRUTAL…and of course I skipped over the actual pieces being critiqued to the critiques themselves, so I’ve no idea which critics I agree with. That’s a first step, and I’ll probably start with that, since it’s risk-free for me. I remember the writing classes I took in college, and how I learned quickly whose feedback I agreed with, and whose I did not. Beyond basic grammar – and sometimes not even then – critiques are subjective, and will often have more to do with whether someone will like your work, revised or not, than whether the flaws they mention are things you ought to repair.

Although I do remember…I started a novel for one class (a mistake, actually; this class did not require “finished” work, and I think it was far less useful than the class that required finished short stories), and one woman was so deeply upset by one part of the plot that she spent a fair amount of time yelling at me about it. In retrospect, she was right: I had trivialized something that should have been given far more weight, and that did not, as it stood, feed the plot in any useful way. At the time, I think I was mostly shell-shocked that I’d bothered her so much.

On the other hand…knowing I could provoke such a strong emotional reaction was pretty powerful feedback as well. Boring the reader is the worst thing any writer can do.

So the plan is this: Read through the Chapter 1 critique forum, and decide from there. I have to have someone read it, and if I can find a fairly reliable group of strangers, that’s probably the best bet.

But really? I’m shocked at how terrified I am. All along I’ve been planning on finishing and publishing this work. Isn’t it better to subject it to criticism now, when I can still revise? Am I really afraid that it’s so awful my only choice will be to abandon it?

Writing has always been what I do. It’s not my day job – I’ve never been paid for it – but I’ve done it since I was a child. Since before I could read. And if something I think is good (unpolished, sure, but still pretty good) turns out to be horrible – what does that mean? What do I do with that?

When did I become such a big chicken?

Am I Reading This Wrong?

(Please preface this with “I am not a lawyer.”)

From the EULA for iBooks Author:

B. Distribution of your Work. As a condition of this License and provided you are in compliance with its terms, your Work may be distributed as follows:
(i) if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;

(ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

Apple will not be responsible for any costs, expenses, damages, losses (including without limitation lost business opportunities or lost profits) or other liabilities you may incur as a result of your use of this Apple Software, including without limitation the fact that your Work may not be selected for distribution by Apple. 

The bolding is theirs.

I freely admit I don’t read every EULA that comes my way. After this though…boy, that might change.

What they’re saying here (see disclaimer at the top of this entry) seems to be “If you sell it, we get a cut, period. And if we don’t want it…you STILL can’t sell it.”

I am struggling to see how this is different than, say, Adobe telling me sure, you can Photoshop the daylights out of your pictures – but if you sell them, you better sell them through us.

I don’t know. This is one of those Apple-isms that I’m hoping was rushed out, and that somebody’s lawyers call them up and explain to them how this is unenforceable. (Of course, I’m not sure it’s unenforceable, but it sure feels like it SHOULD be unenforceable.)

Until then…I will continue to enjoy the fine e-book publishing experience I discovered within Scrivener, which is well worth the $45 for those of you looking for a fine writing and organizational tool. And speaking of Adobe, InDesign does a damn nice job too, although with a higher learning curve.

I really do think there is room for an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop, click-and-publish ePub tool. And I’ve no doubt Apple is capable of providing a superior user experience. But I’ll tell you…with stuff like this, I’ll be thankful for my techie background and stick with the harder stuff.

Addendum: In thinking about this, I suppose it’s not such a big deal. After all, I can copy my content into some other tool if I want to publish like a normal person. No harm, no foul, right? There are two things, though, that tweak me about it.

First, and probably least defensible, is the idea that anybody should tell me what I can do with what I’ve created, even using their tools. (And as far as I know, we’re not even talking about proprietary formats here.) After all – I write software every day, and it’s not mine. Of course, I know that when I’m writing the software. One of the reasons I write fiction is because it’s mine. And it bugs me that I can’t use a new toy without my creation ceasing to be mine.

Second – there really is a need for an easy-to-use publishing tool. Yes, there are services like Smashwords – but boy, I’ve seen some sub-par output from some of these places. It should be possible for authors to self-publish without needing to spend $700 on InDesign. It should be easy. It should be write once, read anywhere you like – just as if it were, you know, an actual book. Digital books are the future, but all this copy-protection and format nonsense is making everything far more difficult than it should be. As a publishing tool, iBooks Author may be a fabulous thing. As a tool of the future? In my opinion, it’s fatally flawed.