Freebies and Giveaways; Bad Business or Good Art?

Once upon a time I thought to myself, ‘I’m not giving my work away for free, that’s crazy.’ Then I remembered my early days at the writer’s workshop.

Each week I’d race up to Woodbine Georgia with something to read. In the beginning I read from my manuscript but those days waned as I realized the pitfalls of reading ten minutes of material from a seventy five thousand word story. Not everyone attended every week, and often I’d reread fixed chapters, so continuity suffered.

Then I began presenting short stories and made an effort to go outside my chosen genre of science fiction based on those present. I figured, maybe if I wrote what they might read I’ll get more detailed commentary.

Each read their story and then those around the table offered constructive critical commentary, all the while the author of said story kept quiet and listened. The workshop’s leader emphasized the importance of quietly listening rather than defending the piece.

So one Sunday I read a short story about a man who saw himself as evil or good based upon circumstances beyond his control until one night he sees an opportunity to make a choice. Afterwards he’s left wondering if he made the right choice after his actions left a murderer dead in the street.

As the comments came back from the circle, an argument ensued. They fought over the character’s motives, his twisted view of life, and the choice he made. I beamed as I maintained my silence. They got it; they focused on the message instead of my clumsy attempt to tell it. When I think of why I love to write I always remember that moment.

I see scenes in my head which move my heart, whether it’s the thrill of adventure or the depths of despair, my heart sings. I dare dream of imparting that message with enough clarity to make my method transparent.

Now I have a few short stories and a novel published and I begin to wonder, is it the poor business decision my business minded friends tell me, or is it rather, an effective way to transmit my message to a receptive audience?

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