Blog Your Junk
[Image courtesy of flickr by Lara604]
We are often told that we need to toss a lot of what we think is our best work before we can begin working as a real writer, and there is a lot of wisdom in this. I see now that several works I thought were amazing when I got them ready for publication were merely stepping stones to help me become a better writer, and I’m sure I will look back to my current work and cringe some time in the future. We also do a lot of other writing that will never make it into our finished works even after we pass these milestones.
Recognize Your Junk
“You should be prepared to write and throw away a million words of finished material.” Jeremy Pournelle 1996
As you write and edit you will invariably toss a lot of ideas around that never end up working. Scenes that are just there to help you know the character’s mind and setting don’t go in the book. You will write crappy drafts of plot lines that dissolve, and you need to let them. But I’m here to tell you not to throw them away. There is no place for these in your finished work, it’s true, but that does not mean they are without value.
Use Your Junk
“Your first million words don’t count.” Ray Bradbury 1973
Character journals, side notes, unfinished plots, poorly written stories, and your earlier works are goldmines of ideas you can use in ways you never thought possible, and they can make a wonderful record for your biographer some day, but that’s not the value I’m talking about. These items will be of great value and interest to your followers and fans.
People who deeply enjoy your works want to know more about you, your creative process, and how you finally got to the point of publication. They want to see how that process unfolds for you. The appropriate medium for such material in these electronic times is an online blog.
Several authors have had great success in promoting their works through blogs. Brandon Sanderson uses his blog to keep readers apprised of appearances and publications, and to have fun providing extra tidbits of original content. It is generally best to post regularly. Pick a day of the week and always have something scheduled to go live at a specific time that day. You can still post at other times, but establishing that regularity will help hold the attention of your readers.
Prepare Your Junk
“Write a thousand words a day and in three years you will be a writer.” Ray Bradbury 1984
When you provide your notes and unfinished works to readers in this way it is important to inform readers what it is you are giving them. Don’t just dump it on them and expect everyone to understand. Present it to them as a gift: a look into your mind or past, a look at things that might have been. Character journals and short stories separate from the primary narrative of your works can generally be presented directly as extras that won’t be in the book.
You can even use these as sneak previews before you put out your official work. Allow readers to see some of what was removed or things from behind the scenes to pique their interest for what was left in.
This will take a little extra work, but you will be able to provide a lot more material that your readers want with far less work in the end. To create that much extra content for readers would be almost as intensive as writing your core work, but since you are making this extra stuff already, just spend a little time preparing and presenting it to your readers. Many readers won’t care, but many more will thank you for the behind the scenes tour of the stories and mind they so love.
In the end, this is about getting extra mileage for the work you’ve already done while providing your readers with the content they love. If you have any suggestions for how to help people use their junk, or stories of doing so yourself, we would love to hear about it in the comments below.