posted by Doranna
If you don't know what I'm talking about, you've been missing out--both as a reader and a writer! Over at my online hang-out (SFF Net, which hosts my newsgroup and a ton of others), writers--both published and unpublished--occasionally post short--really short--excerpts of their work--ie, "snippets." (This in turn has led to the development of snippet hounds, who go sniffing for snippets, and who howl in glee upon finding them, but that's a whole 'nother subject matter...)
Snippets are great fun. You get a peek at other peoples' writing styles, never mind a look at works in progress from some favorite writers. There are certain guidelines--some spoken, some un-. For instance, if it's a really short work and it's not under contract, by golly be careful how much you put out there. Some publishers can be fussy about such things! And know whether the work is appropriate for the newsgroup in which you're posting; the personal newsgroups all have their own flavors, and it's only polite not to slap an R-rated snippet (or beyond) in a PG-rated group. Otherwise, you find your own balance...how often to snippet, from which works you take those little excerpts, where you're comfortable posting them.
The interesting thing about snippet posting is what it reveals about the writer--and it's a whole lot more than what you might think. Snippets, you see, are posted in a conversational venue, to be read by a variety of newsgroup programs from the heavily customized to the stripped-down webnews reader provided by SFF itself. So it's pretty obvious, for instance, who's cutting and pasting from Word--and whether they use typeset characters such as curly quotes and m-dashes--by the way those translate into gobblety-gook on the screen. And most importantly, whether they're aware of such technical issues and bother to address them. For me, a snippet is an appetizer, not only for the reader but the writer...for as a writer, you learn to maintain that headspace where you do everything possible to avoid driving the reader away.
Along the way, I also ponder how the snippeting translates into the bigger picture, the author's ability to handle a book. For instance, there's the choice of snippet--the zing factor of the moment. And, most tellingly, there's the length. Because when one is reading fiction in a newsgroup format, the presentation isn't pretty...it's more of a chore than a pleasure. For that reason, it's best to keep snippets short and snappy. Added to the unpublished material factor, and there's another vote for short and snappy. Yet here's what I've noticed: it's hard to go short and snappy. It takes confidence in the work; it takes an eye for choosing that moment. It's even harder to avoid the temptation of length in an attempt to provide context for this, to justify that.
In a sense--for myself--I view snippeting as practice...honing the eye, so to speak. Forcing the confidence to step up to the plate. And in the grand scheme of snippeting, it's interesting to observe who snippets what, and to see which types of snippets I stop to read...and which I don't.
I've come to my own conclusions over time...I'll let you come to yours. And of course, I'll leave you with my own snippet--although not without some trepidation, now that I've carried on so! This is, of course, from Dun Lady's Jess, the special reprint edition of which comes out this next month...
Both Dayna and Eric laughed, and then, when they were seated around a round platform and Lady tried to suck up the liquid offered in a stupidly long cylinder and it went up her nose, they laughed again; after clearing her nose, she felt a strange bubbling in her chest and it turned irrepressible and came out in a funny little laugh of her own.
And then she stopped short, and dropped the liquid, and froze in fear, hardly noticing as the drink dribbled over the edge of the platform and onto the soft material that now covered her strong dusky legs. It was that laugh, coming from her own changed body, that suddenly allowed her to understand.
She had turned into one of Carey's kind.