Stalking for Fun and Profit

When you’re trying to become a writer, irregardless of the specific field in question, it’s good idea to be a bit of a stalker as well. The internet, I’m sure you’ve heard, offers a great many ways to get information. It also has given a great many ways to give information. Writers like to share, so this means that there is a ton of information out there for you to absorb.

So get out there, and start stalking. When you’re dealing with some of the real luminaries—the Stephen King’s or Dan Brown’s or John Grisham’s—you’re not going to get much but a PR storm. That’s really only useful if you’re looking for information on upcoming release dates. Look for authors who are a bit more in the middle on the fame scale, the geekier the better. Script-writers are perfect for this. They have experience and resources, but are rarely so famous that a public relations team needs to manage everything that comes out of their mouths or onto their computer screen.

Find blogs, subscribe to RSS feeds, follow on Twitter. In those ramblings, you won’t just find out information about the next gig they have coming up, though there will be a lot of that. You’ll start to be able to piece together a pretty good look at how this author functions. You’ll pick up habits, inspirations, techniques and musings. You’ll even begin to get a sense of what their life is like, and maybe even be able to decide if you still think it’s the life for you. It’s easy to forget that after a major sort of literary success your life ceases to be your own to manage for large swaths of time as you take part in a media blitz.

It’s critical to remember that someone who is writing for a living didn’t just get discovered one day and then a book fell out of their ass. This is a job. It’s a grind. Writers who are famous stay that way because they work. They take on a lot of projects, they stay diverse in their interests, they pitch their work around. It’s hard for them. Being able to follow them and read about the process is important as a reality check and an inspiration. If it’s hard work for you, too, it’s not because you’re just plain not good at it. It’s just plain hard work.

A few people I’ve taken to stalking:

Neil Gaiman – Gaiman is a fantasy legend at this point. Chances are you know is work whether or not you know his name (Coraline and Stardust are a couple of recent films based on his work), and he is absolutely prolific. He dabbles in all sorts of mediums, from comics to film, and he writes about it all constantly.

Jane Espensen – Espensen is a television writer who is about as well-known as TV writers get in the sci-fi world. She’s worked on Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, Dollhouse and… Gilmore Girls. She’s stopped actively updating her blog, but it’s ab absolute gold mine of entirely practical tips about how to writer for television. This isn’t a lofty discussion about ideals of the artform. It’s down and dirty tactics from the writing room.

James Gunn – With Gunn, you’re apt to get a lot of randomness. But you also get a pretty good sense of someone actively working in Hollywood. Gunn wrote and directed Slither, and has written a few other titles like Dawn of the Dead and… Scooby Doo 1 and 2. What’s working on now, though, is a spoof project called PG Porn, which is an episodic project that he spends quite a bit of energy promoting.

John August – Just so I can prove it’s not all sci-fi/fantasy, August wrote Big Fish (and a bunch of other more geeky things). His blog is devoted to answering reader questions on writing. And he also covers some really fascinating business talk as well. He recently experimented with selling a 23-page short story as digital download or Kindle story for $0.99 and is sharing sales and profits with his readers just to illustrate how it’s going (hint: not well).

And now that you’re done reading, I’ll apologize if this reads a bit slap-dash. It’s been a long day. But soon… bedtime, and that will be nice.

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