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Michael Allen, at Grumpy Old Bookman, is one of the most sensible writer/bloggers on the web. In case you don't read him, be advised that he's making his new novel How and why Lisa's Dad got to be famous available in pdf format for free. He explains:

How and why Lisa's Dad got to be famous is my twelfth (published) novel. And it's about a man called Harry.

Harry is a divorced man who has not been able to see his daughter Lisa since she was five years old. But Harry still loves Lisa more than anyone else in the world; and he worries about her future because she was born without a left foot. When Harry is offered the chance to win a million pounds for Lisa, by taking part in a reality TV show, he immediately accepts. All he has to do is find a woman who is willing to risk her life for him -- and he has just three months to do it.

And, if that hasn't put you off entirely, here's a brief account of what I'm going to do.

Beginning on Monday, I'm going to serialise the book on this blog. Yes, I realise that you may groan. But you don't have to read it. It's not compulsory. There will be lots of other stuff on the blog as well. But every day for the next, what, five or six weeks probably, there will be a daily excerpt. There may even be a handful of people who will read the book that way, one day at a time. But, more to the point perhaps, there will be visitors to this blog who pop in just the once over that five or six weeks, and they will at least realise that the book exists, and will have the opportunity to download a free pdf version of it if they want one.

I won't be reviewing the book because I can't bear writing reviews, but judging from the knowledge/philosophy of writing GOB displays on his blog, it ought to be well worth reading.

There seems to be quite a trend lately of putting books out on the web for free (see, for example Charlie Stross' Hugo nominated novel and the two Tor published Hugo nominees). As a writer who has never managed to make any appreciable income from the activity, I'm not sure what to think about it. On one hand, I've devoted most of my life to writing for free, in my spare time, distributing my work in places where the possibily of remuneration isn't even on the table. In theory, I like the idea.

On the other hand I've always wondered what I could have written and how much more and better, if I had been able to write full time without the necessity of earning a living in another manner. Perhaps I wouldn't have ended up writing much more anyway. Or perhaps I would have had to write things I wouldn't have been much more proud of than legal articles. As a full time writer I might have learned nothing more than techniques necessary to sell professionally, which may or may not have enabled me to write what I wanted to write.

One thing I do know is that the "problem" is a personal one, affecting no one but individual writers. The world really doesn't need more fiction than it already gets.

In the future writing might be seen, as it usually has been historically, as something extra a person might accomplish in his or her spare time -- part of one's life -- not a living. Some might argue that the publishing industry has become so arbitrary that to pursue a writing "career" is about as sensible as pursuing a "career" as a lottery winner.

Perhaps, a few years from now, even the most serious and skilled new writers will just stick their stuff up on the web and let publishers' lightning strike where it may.

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