Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grapes of Wrath

I wrote something fun about grapes.

Those of you who are in the writing game, or who teach about writing, would probably agree that this grape essay needs a couple of rounds of editing but is otherwise publishable. So why am I putting something like that online for free instead of trying to sell it? A few reasons.

First, I've found that it's never a problem, later on, to do those couple of rounds of editing and include the online material in a book. A significant percentage of the content in my two dining books developed out of material I'd posted online.

Second, for me it's a great motivator. I like it when people comment on things I've written, especially when their comments are positive. It encourages me to write more when I'm experiencing insomnia, instead of watching reruns of Chuck.

Third, although that material could use editing, I like writing online exactly because I'm free of editors. If I only published what editors approved of, I'd publish a book every three years, a few magazine articles and the occasional New York Times op-ed. I publish all those things anyway, but I also have to my credit more than 20,000 message-board and blog posts from the past decade. There's just a lot more of me out there as a result of this strategy. Not all of it is great material, but some of it is.

Finally, I like the laboratory nature of online publishing. I can put something out there and gauge reactions. This helps me understand what kind of material resonates with my universe of readers. It's a small universe, but I like to know what's going on there.

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