To Post or Not to Post

Tonight’s blog will be used to address a question that came from a reader and friend, and one that I’ve heard many other-a-writer grapple with as well. She writes:

“Aren’t you potentially losing first rights to your stories by posting them on your blog? The Internet’s still pretty wild and woolly, but most markets that I’ve heard an opinion from (and old pros I’ve discussed it with) say that any non-password-protected posting compromises first rights.”

My first response to this is yes, I am taking a risk. But my second response—and the one I default to more often than not—goes something like this:

I have in fact successfully published and been paid for things that have been posted on this blog first. These pieces have been published both online and in print journals and in both cases the fact that earlier or exact drafts appeared on my blog previously were not a hindrance to publication.

More importantly, I believe in the abundance theory. Where there is one story, there will be more. And more, and more, and more. If I start treating everything I write as sacred (or publishable, for that matter), I’m going to dry up my own creativity well before I know it. Experience has taught me that hording what I create only makes my creative self shut down, thinking that I have to protect what I write because there might not be any more where it came from. In fact, there is always more and life is lived in accordance with this theory. Whole life, whole writer. The better I live the better I write, and that includes maintaining the belief that I will never run of that great force that drives writing in any genre: imagination.

As a technicality: I have occasionally gone back and deleted posts that were early drafts or exact copies of stories I ended up submitting. The Google-monsters out there are very good and smart about blog caches, however, and sometimes after a post is deleted it can still be “found” on the Internet. That’s not always true, though. Take “Grimshaw on the Ice,” a draft of which I posted here not too long ago and then deleted so I could submit it. Google it now and you can’t find it. Go figure.

As an aside: Believing in the abundance theory has its limits. I only post first drafts—ever. By the time I finally submit something, it’s changed in at least some small way from that original posting and in my mind, that quite literally makes it different–as in, not the same–as what I have submitted to a magazine. Editors may gripe, and if they do, so be it. I’m not famous enough for anyone to be putzing around on my blog archives anyway, and if I ever get that way, won’t the earlier “unrevised” drafts be “worth” more?

It’s an important topic and one that I’m sure some folks have gotten burned with. I hope I never do. In the meantime, rest assured that I have multiple drafts of most stories I write, I delete the best of the best a few weeks after I post them, and that posting a new story often feels so exciting to me that it breeds, well…another story…

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