So. Today has been a recovery day, back from several days and weeks of trips here and there, shooting interviews for a project at work. Today is the first day back now that (for me) the interviews are all done, and the first full weekend I’ve had all to myself.
Most of the day so far has been like a wheel, with the hub being Google Reader and the spokes the various articles. TED, Seth Godin, Jason Kottke, with a few LOLcats thrown in for comic relief. I also subscribe to a few blogs on writing, one of which had an entryabout “backlists”, and pointed to a blog entry by Godin about backlists (just do a Google for it). I won’t bother to describe the concept as Godin applies it to marketing, but a blog entry by an author (http://www.tracycooperposey.com/) had some thoughts about how it applies to authors.
Which got me a-thinkin’. Many great films, novels, etc. are derived from sources that have very low current popularity and/or high obscurity. That’s part of their allure, it seems: that they take ideas, cultural memes, etc. from that vast ocean of information, do a remix on them, and bring them to the fore. In other words, they take things from the cultural backlist and use them to make things for the frontlist. All of this means that if I’m serious about making interesting fiction, or *any *fiction, I need to be spending a LOT more time mining the backlist. For example, I have a number of novels my father gave me that were written in the 1930s that I thought I would never get around to reading. It was mainly because I didn’t know if they would hold any interest for me. But now I may approach those same novels with the intent of finding things I can remix, things I can bring to the frontlist.
I’m hatching a plan to begin “backlist mining”. I’m going to go through my library first, finding all the books I haven’t read, and reading their first chapters. If I find that after that first chapter there’s nothing that comes to mind for a “frontlist remix”, then out it goes to the Sally Ann. Anything that passes the first chapter test goes into a pile to read in entirety. What I think I’ll do is create a schedule that will get me through those books, reading, say, one chapter from each book in a certain period, always ensuring that I’m reading something from the backlist every day.
I think this has potential, but we’ll see how it develops over the next few weeks. It will also mean a reordering of priorities; less surfing, very little in the way of movies or TV. These are all “frontlist” venues, and for an author to spend too much time on them is analogous to a farmer watching the assembly line at a meatpacking plant instead of tending the herd. I may not go to the extreme of Bruce Sterling, NaNoWriMo is also coming up soon, and I may try and do it in November, as opposed to January (which was when I wrote my first 30-day novel draft). Which means I need an idea germ for it. Or an outline, which I didn’t have for my last “first draft”.