Well, the staff and I have been back from our summer hiatus for a week now, and we seem to be surviving re-entry. At least, no one has spontaneously burst into flames so far, so we’ll call that a success <g>.
During the hiatus, I spent some time getting out. You know, leisurely meals at restaurants, the movie theater to see something not animated, all the things that I don’t have a lot of time for during the hustle and bustle of the everyday running-a-business-while-raising-a-toddler life.
And while I was re-connecting with general humanity, I noticed something. While we writers and editors and publishers do work that is viewed by the public, we don’t really do our jobs under the scrutiny of that public. They have input, of course, once it’s done. But they don’t really get to see the product as it’s being created.
Our work isn’t like that of servers, for example, whom many feel empowered to criticize for their performance because they think they know what it’s like to be a server. After all, they eat in restaurants. How hard can it be, they think? (As a former server, I can tell you that I’m surprised there aren’t more incidents involving disgruntled restaurant workers.)
No, readers tend to see only the finished product. Once that has been tweaked and edited and maybe even rewritten at some point. They don’t usually see the work-in-progress, that daily flow of creativity, which sometimes comes easily and sometimes must be dragged from one’s brain like a cat to a bath.
But bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith loves a challenge. He has spent a lifetime pushing boundaries. And for the past year, he has cultivated a huge fan base for doing just that—by Writing in Public.
“I’ve done other writing challenges in the past, because I like to push myself, but this time, I decided to lay it all bare,” Dean said last fall. “I write about what I’m writing about, from the inspiration to the challenges to the downright ugly. It’s all there for the world to see. At first, I didn’t think anyone would pay much attention; it was more of a lark. But based on the comments and feedback I’m getting, people really seem to enjoy getting inside a writer’s head while he’s writing.”
With more than 5,000 unique views every day, Dean’s innovative project has taken on a life of its own. And Dean’s writing is keeping pace. In the past year, he has written 1,281,675 words. September’s issue of Smith’s Monthly will mark the one-year anniversary of the magazine. This month, WMG releases Dean’s tenth new novel, Morning Song, in standalone format. We’ve also published four new nonfiction books by Dean in that time. Plus, he’s found time to act as series editor for WMG’s original short fiction anthology magazine, Fiction River, as well as act as editor for two of the volumes. You can see the covers for all of these at the end of this blog. And he keeps on writing. You can follow him on his blog at deanwesleysmith.com.
Personally, I love that Dean is willing to interact with his fans at this level. Readers are the lifeblood of our industry. The more ways we can reach them, the better.
And through live blogging about his writing, Dean offers fans a whole different kind of story. Call it the story behind the story.
And that depth is part of what draws us to storytelling in the first place.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.