Writing, death, intellectual property, and me

WHY THE FOCUS ON DEATH AND WRITING?

We are losing our older artists. Which means none of us is immune to Death. Fancy that.

Not that long ago, we lost both Elmore Leonard and Leonard Nimoy.

Sir Terry Pratchett, 66, just died of ‘complications of a chest infection and Alzheimer’s,’ according to the news, and was an advocate of the ‘right to die’ movement. May he rest in peace.

I am fast approaching the same age.

And we all know of writers whose fans are desperately hoping they will finish X before kicking the bucket.

So what do we do about it?

Other than not plan to die (I understand we are subject to the event, but had assumed, in my case, an exception would be made)?

In the same day, I run into, again, Neil Gaiman’s recommendation to write your will so it protects your intellectual property.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch have nagged unceasingly (thank you both) for having a tidy intellectual property disposal set up before you die, partly as the result of having had to deal with a huge estate, and partly because they will each leave a huge literary estate.

We need to update our wills. Most people do, even if they wrote one once. And many writer’s wills were written before they had much IP to protect.

I have no published works yet, so I have no actual intellectual property of that sort. But I am approaching publication for the first book of Pride’s Children, and I have a heck of a lot of notes.

What happens to an unfinished story when the writer leaves this mortal coil?

This bothers me, because I have barely approached the end of Book 1, and though I have a very rough draft of sorts for Books 2 and 3 (and 4, if you consider it separate), I worry about leaving people who like the story (a tiny contingent) and the characters without knowing what the end is.

Unless I get to write the remainder of Pride’s Children, it has no real value as intellectual property; it is unfinished, and not important enough to leave to someone else to finish.

Once it IS finished, it will be important for any monetary value my work has, to designate a proper executor for my literary estate, and have it managed to maintain any value it has.

If my disease progresses faster than expected, I hope to have time to leave things tidy.

But in between, if I get hit by a truck, no one will know how Pride’s Children ends. Worse still, I have promised a certain kind of ending, and it is not the least bit obvious how to get from where the last scene is, to this ending. I believe in happy endings, earned.

Solutions?

I have been thinking I need to publish a TV-synopsis-like list of the future episodes, subject to change as it is reworked, or give it to someone as the final post on my blog.

Or better still, publish it on my blog by SCHEDULING it in advance, and moving that publication date forward frequently, so that IF I die unexpectedly, and stop moving it forward, it will get published automatically before someone has the chance to stop my blog from going forward.

I am committed to the story – I know how it ends – what do you think of this idea?

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9 thoughts on “Writing, death, intellectual property, and me

  1. donnainthesouth

    Alicia, I had a friend who used to do her blog posts that way, not for that reason, just fit her schedule better; I didn’t even know you could do that until she told that’s what she’d done, after some things did happen that had made what she was writing not really make sense any more but don’t see how that could happen with book posts that aren’t real life anyway – re the other have you seen the news about how Robin Williams wrote up his will regarding use of his image, etc. – maybe not quite the same but shows he put a lot of thought into what he wanted to happen after he died – think he died it quite a while ago, hopefully not as part of a plan of how he did end up going – so sad, to me, anyway – but I don’t think it’s fair to see nobody would be interested – there are people who republish other people’s works – not all of us either have our own stories to tell or have the skill to do so 🙂

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Who makes decisions about a writer’s stuff afterward can vary all over the map, with or without explicit instructions from the writer.

      John D. MacDonald’s son refused offers to continue the Travis McGee novels (I agree with his decision – I’m a purist) by letting someone else write them. Other writers have left instructions to have their unfinished/unpublished work burned – but someone sees money or fame in it, and publishes it anyway.

      And not everyone knows ahead of time where a given story is supposed to go (apparently George RR Martin doesn’t), so it would only work for those of us who think we know where we’re going!

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  2. Janna G. Noelle

    I’ve thought a lot about death and my writing, but as yet have made no provisions for what I want to happen. (I’m not really even sure what I want to happen other than to not die before my work is complete.) I also need to get on getting a will together. I’m not young and immortal anymore.

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  3. The DC

    I wouldn’t have thought about adding these things to a will,good idear. I would also think if you have children/loved ones or a good writing friend who has much interest/love in your work,maybe see if they would be interested in carrying on/finishing anything left behind? Not sure. One thing I AM sure of (especially with my…mostly self-inflicted,though not intentionally so 😛 …medical files) is I should have never became an adult (sized human),I doubt I will make it out of it alive either 😛 ^_^

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I doubt anyone would want to carry on – each person has his or her own stories to tell, and own style.

      No exception in your case, either? Ah, well – they can’t play favorites.

      I’m glad you made it to adult. It is more entertaining that way.

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