Another day of synchronicity on the blogosphere. I know, I know: technically I shouldn’t be surprised. There are so many blogs out there that it’s a certainty that some are going to touch on the same topic on the same day, but when you only read a dozen or so (“only”!) and four hit the same thing on the same day, that catches your attention, doesn’t it? It does mine, anyway. So here we go, with multiple posts on feedback and two on transformation.
Feedback first. I don’t usually read or mention Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s (@KristineRusch) posts because while Kris is a terrific and prolific author, her posts tend to be really long and, well, my time is a limited resource. Isn’t yours? So with that caveat about today’s almost 3,800 word post Perfection, I’ll say give it a look anyway. She’s right about the simple fact that no story will ever be perfect and there comes a point when a writer has to stop listening to critique and send the story out.
Agent Kristin Nelson is famous–some might say infamous, but not me–for her Agent Reads the Slush Pile workshops. Feedback in a very public setting! (If you’re not familiar with the workshop, someone–Kristin, her assistant, or brave authors–read (out loud!) the first page or two of their work. If Kristin says “stop” before they finish, she explains why she would have rejected the manuscript. If they make it to the end, she explains why the piece “worked.” Except sometimes, even then, it doesn’t.) And that’s the subject of today’s post, Mechanics Vs Spark on the Pub Rants blog: when a piece is mechanically fine but lacks the spark of a distinctive narrative voice.
The third feedback piece comes from freelance editor Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, a.k.a. The Edit Ninja, (@EditNinja and @popculturenerd) on the Authors’ “Habits” & Predictable Writing she’s encountered. Examples: reusing an atypical word; using the same descriptions and mannerisms for different characters; reusing a letter, name, number, or color; and many more. This post really (one of my “writer’s tic” words) brings home the value of not just a second set of eyes on a manuscript, but a set of trained eyes. Thanks to Jordan Dane (@JordanDane) for bringing Elyse to The Kill Zone.
The last one is from John Vorhaus (@TrueFactBarFact; love that Twitter handle!) on Writer Unboxed. A Tale of Two Readers describes what he learned from his encounter with two readers and what they told him about one of his books, once he assured them honest feedback was OK. In particular, “What I take away from this tale of two readers is to keep playing to my strengths yet still shore up my weaknesses.” Deep? Maybe not. Fundamental? Definitely.
Now on to transformations.
In Three “Flaming Young Stars” Share the Big Screen, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) discusses on 101 Books how the movie A Place In The Sun changed–and didn’t–its source novel, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, and what that might mean for viewers and readers.
In a piece on visual rather than literary art, Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly) examines how The Rule of Transformation applies, or doesn’t, to artistic images and how the rule of (copyright) law has been applied, or hasn’t, to some of those images, from Andy Warhol’s famous re-imagining of the Campbell’s tomato soup can to colorization of origami folding patterns. Interesting stuff.
Ah, the joy of having to miss a day at this during the week! So much to explore. So much to discover. So much to get behind on. 😦 Off to the great stuff (and a close with something more than a little weird). Like one of my last posts, this one has a certain flow to it, starting with…
Joe Moore (@JoeMoore_writer) identifying on The Kill Zone the two Magic Words that can start just about any writing adventure. Know what they are? Sure you do. “What if?”
So where and when are you going to set the story than answers “What if?” Well, maybe in a fantasy setting, in which case Chuck Wendig’s (@ChuckWendig) 25 Things You Should Know About Writing Fantasy might help. Or it might not. Chuck himself warns us that he is “woefully underqualified” (his emphasis) to provide this list. And you should be aware of, and perhaps beware of, two other things: (1) this is a long post, almost 3,000 words, and (2), Chuck being Chuck, the f-bomb is going to find its way into the post more than once.
Before you can get to getting the story down, however, you might want to do some interviews. Why? Barbara O’Neal (@barbaraoneal) explains and provides some examples in The Art and Power of Interviews on Writer Unboxed.
Finally, it’s time to start writing. But how? With action, right? In medias res, right? SLAM! BANG! BOOM! CRASH! Right? Um, maybe. Or maybe not. Kristin Nelson explains how Action Vs Active Openings…Grab Attention on her Pub Rants blog. (Actual title slightly edited to fit into the text here.)
[Some months later…] Whew! The writing’s done. Time for critiques. Amazingly, four different posts addressed critiquing just in the past two days.
We’ll start with a bit of self-critique, or self-editing. Kim Weiland (@KMWeiland) warns us that there’s a word that too often is dropped in by authors who aren’t even aware that they’re doing that. What word would that be? Find out in A Quick Ode Against “That” on WORDplay. (A note: Kim’s video didn’t run when I visited the site on two separate occasions, but the transcript’s just below the intro screen, so that’s all right.)
Then, once you’ve gotten that feedback from your critique group, Carleen Brice suggests How to Tackle Critique Notes on Writer Unboxed. Now, her post deals most with things like an editorial letter from an agent, editor, or beta reader, but they apply just as well to the comments from you friendly (let’s hope! See Gabriela’s first post above) neighborhood critters (critiquers).
So now it’s time to publish. Indie or legacy? Kathryn Lilley (@kathrynelilley) enters the fray with a new (to me, anyway) and eminently sensible discussion of Becoming Your Own Gatekeeper on The Kill Zone.
And finally, for the main topics today, Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski) discusses his thoughts on Why Self-Publishing Is a Tragic Term on Jane Friedman’s (@JaneFriedman) blog. Hmm. “Tragic” might be a bit of a stretch, but Ed’s point is that almost any publishing effort takes a community of people, not just a single individual.
And finally-finally, a little bit of news of the weird, from Kevin Kelly’s (@kevin2kelly) The Technium blog: I See Cats. Seems some Google artificial intelligence researchers linked together a set of 16,000 computer cores (the central processing units) running a special program and turned the network loose to “view” ten million randomly downloaded pictures from the internet, specifically YouTube videos. What did they find? Cats. Without ever being told, “this is a cat” or “go look for cats.” Here’s the full New York Times article. As Mr. Spock would have said, “Fascinating.”
Lisa Cron’s (@lisacron) no-nonsense piece Unmasking the Muse on Writer Unboxed can be summarized this way: there is no muse, there’s a build-up of skills acquired over years and years of practice at your craft. “The muse in the basement is you.” That may be disturbing for some, liberating for others. My vote’s for liberating, but it does mean accepting responsibility for the quality of your work. Scary? Shouldn’t be.
On a much lighter note, Gabriela Pereira (@DIYMFA) asks What’s Your Creative Process? and invites everyone to share. This is the first of a week-long series of “process” posts on DIY MFA.
Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) offers 13 Things You May Not Know About Agents. This one, part of #3, shouldn’t be a surprise: “…the bottom line is that it’s the writer’s job to provide a marketable book.” The fact she needs to write that says a lot, and none of it good. Yikes.
And finally, Robert Bruce (@robertbruce76) writes on 101 Books about Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe’s (author of Things Fall Apart, a Time magazine Top 100 book)) suit against rapper 50Cent last year. Fiddy wanted to use the book title for a movie he was making. Achebe didn’t want to let him. Copyright wasn’t the issue, branding was.
DIY MFA (@DIYMFA) is having a Blog Party Bonanza this weekend (it’s already underway) and we’re all invited. Becca and Gabriela want to create, in their words, the “Best. Resource List. Ever.” and they’re asking for our help. Wait! I thought this was going to be a PARTY, not, like, work??? But seriously, it’s a terrific idea, and the “silent movie” video promo is good for lots of chuckles.
I haven’t mentioned this in a while, so for my new readers (welcome and thank you!), here’s a great set of resources: the character trait, emotion, setting, weather and earthly phenomena, symbolism, and colors/textures/shapes thesauri on The Bookshelf Muse.
Finally for today, Andrew Goldstein (@bookieson) writes on Writer Unboxed about micro-publishing: using a traditional, but very small, publishing house. Of course, small publishers have been around for a long time, often as specialty houses. Goldstein discusses such houses as an alternative to both the big houses and self-/indie publishing. No emotion, no ranting, just observation. I appreciate that.
Having been burned recently by the offer of a free webinar on building blog traffic that turned out to be mostly a marketing hard-sell, I’ll note that I’m tracking a set of free (again) videos on self-publishing. If I decide they’re worth your time, I’ll say so. (First impression hasn’t been entirely positive.) For now, it’s worth remembering that your time has as much value as your cash–don’t waste either one.
There are lots of articles and posts about finding ways to generate story ideas, most of them emphasizing fast-fast-fast. Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski) takes a “slow down” approach in 6 Ways to Never Run Out of Ideas on Rachelle Gardner’s (@RachelleGardner) blog.
Nathan Bransford (@nathanbransford) sort of follows that theme, in There’s Always More You Can Do, but when he asked his readers for their ideas, many wrote back, in essence, “work harder.” A few tried, “work smarter.” Fewer still suggested slowing down to get more done. Says something about our culture, doesn’t it?
Speaking of slowing down, take 20 minutes–right now–go ahead, I’ll wait–and pop on over to Write to Done for the video of Neil Gaiman’s commencement address (@neilhimself) at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, complete with Neil’s wry British humor.
Kill Zone contributor Jordan Dane (@jordandane) begins a series today on what she’s learned/is learning as she becomes a self-published author. While today’s first, introductory post, An Indie Author’s Checklist – A Look Behind the Curtain of OZ, is pretty long, the series has the potential to be practical and valuable, without the anger and angst too much of the traditional vs. self-publishing conversation has degenerated into. Here’s hoping.
Along those same lines, since I listed DIY MFA’s (@DIYMFA) other Top 10 lists (and got a thank-you from Becca for doing so), guess I’d better include today’s Top 10 Book Picks, hadn’t I? 🙂 OK–done!
And finally from the blogosphere, this doesn’t happen very often, but Kristin Nelson announces (tongue-in-cheek, I’m afraid) on her Pub Rants blog, Here’s a Genre I Didn’t Think Of! OK, so it’s really a fun way of reminding us of certain basics.
And finally-finally, not from the blogosphere but from the PBS NewsHour last week, and not about writing but the result of writing, an interview with Stephen Greenblatt, author of the book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, the story of the man who found what may have been the last surviving copy of a book of poetry by the Roman writer Lucretius called “De Rerum Natura,” “On the Nature of Things,” and how that discovery spread around and changed the Western world. There’s also a second short video in which Greenblatt reads from the book.