Bonus Post: Tuesday Therapy and Some Additional Thoughts on Rights

You may have noticed that there’s a routine building around these parts. Or not, ’cause really, it’s mostly a routine that exists in my head and it’s only been going for, like, a week. In any case, this is a bonus post. As in, something I didn’t intend to write, but I’m going to anyway.

I’ve offered some advice about Writing and Tracking Your Rights over on LL Hannetts blog as part of her Tuesday Therapy series.

I am, for someone who once made a career of dispensing writing advice in the tertiary sector, remarkably squeamish about the process. I either want to impart everything or nothing, since the wrong piece of advice delivered at the wrong time can be fatal to a developing creative process. I still suffer crippling moments of doubt induced by something I read in Samuel Delany’s About Writing four years ago. It’s not bad advice – it’s remarkably good – but I heard it at the wrong time and I can’t let it go and its incompatible enough to my practice to be a problem.

I’m also aware that the vast majority of my writing advice isn’t mine, since teaching writing means you accumulate advice like a bowerbird, lining your nest with the wisdom of better writers until they become part of your habitat. Any advice that I give is probably ripping off someone smarter than me, and it’d inevitably result in me spending hours revisiting folders full of print-outs until I figured out who.

Copyright, though. Rights are something I get passionate about.

I don’t mean this in a piracy kind of way – I have my issues with electronic piracy but they’re somewhat marginal compared to the bone-headed things writers will do when signing contracts. Hell, it’s nothing compared to some of the boneheaded things in contracts I’ve signed over the course of my writing career, and I tend to pay attention more than most.

I talk about it in more detail over on Lisa’s blog, but the basic gist of most writing advice should be this: be smart, do your homework, think long-term, and treat your writing like a business. It’s possible to do a lot in writing with very little technical training or awareness of how writing works, but the business part is one of those things that should be universal.

I’ve sold a few short stories over the course of my (relatively) short writing career; in that times I’ve asked for contracts to be changed a couple of times because there was something, usually e-rights related, that bothered me. Publishers have occasionally been surprised by that, but they’ve always been remarkably open to discussing the agreement I was about to sign and changing it to address my concerns.

It surprises me that more people don’t do that. Worse, it makes me a little sad.

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