Thursday, September 30, 2010

Serving Your Story/Poem/Novel/Non-Fiction Book

I would like to write this post in one sentence. Here it is:

When you write, you don't write primarily from the mind, you write out of the love you feel for the people in your story, which means everything you write is meant to serve these people and does not exist to fulfil some intellectual goal of your own, such as getting published.

Will you participate with me in a dialog about this?  That is, will you pretend we're just sitting around the proverbial story-teller's fire, having an ale or whatever else is on the menu, and will you chat with me about this sentence?  I don't care if what we say takes us far away from the sentence, though I'd like for someone to take us back to it in the end.  

Thank you in advance for being part of the storytelling circle.

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At 30 September, 2010 , Blogger Jessica Subject said...

Without my muse telling me her story, I would have nothing. Her goal is not to get her story published but to tell it to me.

At 30 September, 2010 , Blogger Unknown said...

LOL. This expression reminds me of the authors who DO write just to get published. Dan Drown comes to mind. He specifically looked at the marketing aspects and popular trends before he sat down to write. He wrote with the money in mind. With that said, I'm still a sucker for his puzzle books. What can I say...mindless entertainment is fun!

At 30 September, 2010 , Blogger Unknown said...

Oops. Correction, Dan Brown. My fingers got excited or something.

At 30 September, 2010 , Blogger M Pax said...

I like that Quenby typed 'Dan Drown'. :D

As yet unpublished, I write what I love. When I edit, I do edit with publishers / sales in mind. I do not dumb it down, as I don't feel I need to for my genre. But I do keep in mind word count and subgenre. With that said, I will not bend to folks telling me romance sells better, etc ... I don't want to write that.

I think reality is: until I make it I must fit into shaped holes for my genre. Once I get wildly popular, I will probably have more leeway to break out of those holes. Maybe?

Pass the pretzels, please.

At 01 October, 2010 , Blogger Welwyn-on-books said...

I don't need to say very much to your understanding of what I wrote, Jessica. You hear your story in her heart (your muse). Could there be anything more perfect? Of course your intelligent mind exists for all those coffee-breaks where you and your characters sit down and calmly negotiate: you need them to do one thing, they want to do something else, you ask why, they tell you. In other words, the heart of the main characters lead, but you have to keep an eye on them so they don't cause you to play catch-up. We should talk more about this.

Quenby sees right through the people who write for the market (fame and fortune). She does like to find "fun" stuff like Dan Drown (so cute, Quenby). I think all writers who take their work seriously need a break from their own serious work; we all need books that just take us away from "all that". What you might want to ask yourself, Quenby, is: are you attracted to Dan Brown's books as books, or to the conspiracy theories and other such puzzles that he writes about? If it's the latter, there may be just as fun books out there that will give you the diversions your mind needs, without turning off your own writerly instincts. Even just a sentence, or a phrase; even a strange syntax; even a whole weird-to-you-but-it-works!-structure can help to open you as a writer while giving you the easy pleasure you need.

I was "as yet unpublished" for five whole years of solitary writing, MPax, so I know how tempting it is to bend a book to suit the holes. It was rejected everywhere. After that I wrote an absolutely crazy off-the-top-of-my-head novella. It too, was rejected. So holes, no holes, neither works too well, any more. The problem with well-worn holes is that so many people have used them that editors see nothing but competition for you as a potential published writer. You can still win yourself a contract nowadays that fits into holes, but boy, is it ever hard. Why not write "between" the holes? That is, not this kind of book and not that one either. Alternatively you can shape your finished first draft into a hole that isn't too commonly used. Finally, you can just write so darn well and so surprisingly it won't matter to the editors whether you fit into a market pattern or not. The "surprising" part is really important. We need to talk more about this. You are surprising, MPax. You say something like, "Pass the pretzels, please," at the end of a post. I love the feeling it gives me. If you'd said "Pass the popcorn" I wouldn't have been surprised. Admiring of your self-awareness and courage,perhaps, but not surprised. Do you see what I mean? Again, we should talk more about this.

Is there anyone else out there just lurking? Don't be shy. We are very inclusive. Describe your reaction to what I said in the main post. Shoot it down, if you want to. But please join in.

At 01 October, 2010 , Blogger M Pax said...

I define holes as - the subgenres that sell in my genre and keeping within the word count deemed as 'desirable'. Other than those two parameters, I am entirely me on every page. I write what I love and what calls to me.

My first novel is very serious, very complex. I love this story and hope the whole series sees the light of day. The second novel/series is 100% space opera and was a blast to write. Not so serious or complex. A nice break for me. My third, if I don't get to write the second book in the first series next, will be steampunk. Still mulling over all the pieces. Another idea I have combines a bunch of different genres. 'Definitely original' my friends say. I have never been a follower or a conformist and I'm not about to start. But, I will hand in a manuscript that fits within a saleable subgenre and word count.

People's classifications of subgenres are often very narrow, so I've seen. I don't see them so 'narrow'. Plus, you don't have to stick strictly within the subgenre. You can mix and match to get something fresh.

I don't think we have to be boring and tired to give the publishers something they can sell. I want to sell. I love writing and I want to get a paycheck at some point. I don't think the two concepts are incompatible.

To stand out, we have to be ourselves and not a cookie cutter. Yet we still have to produce a saleable product to get published. I don't think that means we have to go 'Dan Drown'. lol He's gotten renamed here.

Personally, I love to be surprised. I love not having any idea where a book is going at the end of the first chapter. I love to be taken on a ride. I strive to write that sort of story as otherwise I would bore myself silly. I'd find it hard to sit down to the keyboard every day.

I've been told I think differently. I am hoping that trait will serve me well in this profession.

At 04 October, 2010 , Blogger Unknown said...

In the past, when I was writing creatively and not academically, I would always base my characters on my family members. I would take small problems or troubling characteristics/situations they had and turn them into a character-defining dimension.

Because I used real people to base my fiction on, I felt so very close to my creations because, while they are severely flawed or fragmented(both my characters and the members of my immediate and extended family)I love them all dearly. I may sometimes be conflicted in my feelings, but there is always love. Investing so much emotion into characters can be exhausting because it forces you to face the aspects of the real people your characters are based on, and it's not always pretty. Through this type of writing, I've found myself able to forgive my characters, who may emphasize a certain flaw more than the real person, and in this way, it can be so very cathartic when you look at the real life inspiration and see their smaller flaw in comparison.

I don't know if this makes much sense, but what I'm trying to articulate is that creative writing can be so very personal, so essential, and so entirely necessary that when you choose to put your work out there for publication only to have it shot down, it can be devastating. I haven't attempted publishing any of my creative writing, but I can surmise that if anyone were to reject my characters or their stories, it would seem like a slight against those dear to me. I want people to be able to forgive my characters the way I have.

At 15 October, 2010 , Blogger Stephen Dunscombe said...

I'm a bit late to the game on this post.

It's been a long, long time since I've felt any love for any of the people in my story, and I only really realised this recently. I still get ideas for *stories* - ideas that grab hold and won't let go, scenes and images that move me, that I want to make happen *somewhere* - but nobody in them has any life to them, and so the writing almost immediately becomes a slog.

I've recently gotten back into fanfic after many years of avoiding it, and I'm finding that helps - it's full of people I already know and love, and so I can go back to who they are again and again.

At 16 October, 2010 , Blogger Welwyn-on-books said...

Sorry I entered de-geekdom and wasn't able to figure out how to post an answer to each of you as you posted. I have to post one at a time because there is a max of 4037 characters.
MPax: You are right. There are certain publishing requirements, especially in sci-fi/fantasy. But, imagine this for a moment, just imagine if your story came in at 300 pages and they want 425. What would you do? Most of us don't have to worry about things like that, we over-write like crazy. Cutting is so easy. You have no idea how fun it can be. Sit with a friend and just laugh your head off and cut one word, a whole sentence, combine two, that sort of thing. But no friend can help you when a story wants to be a certain length, and you can feel it's done, it screams at you, "I'm done!" and it's too short for genre requirements. What do you do then?

This may be where the between the hole stuff I was talking about can come in. Suppose you've got a weird world you're writing in. Suppose you haven't been able to clarify this world in all its richness, through character work alone. Could you use a kind of unusual combination of styles: e.g. at the beginning of a chapter, write a short stream of consciousness or "out of a freshman textbook that no one has written yet" essay that starts even in mid-sentence and talks about the War that you didn't know had happened on your world, until you wrote about it. Do this every few chapters, each new thing just off the top of your head, grab a thought out of the air as it passes and wow, here's something about Cannibalism in the Caves of Skuktt Valley for a couple of single spaced pages, not finishing it, just letting it swim into view and move out with the tide, leaving the reader (and you!) wanting to know more. Every time you do this, you will have a whole bunch of why's and how's and so on in your head. My theory is that these things you wrote could somewhere within your book have a role to play. You might have to write twenty of the darned things and then drop twelve of them, but eight, I bet eight, would have something relevant to character history, growth, or plot development. We all know, don't we, that plot doesn't start where it does because you started it there. Think on that, for a bit. I only bring this up because I know from your website that you couldn't be pigeon-holed unless the pigeon was shaped like a palm tree, or something like that. So I only worry about your area's nasty requirements for a certain length that preferably will lead to a trilogy.

Another thing you could do, possibly, depending, is to keep it just the way it is, not padded, and submit it to a YA publisher.

Likely this won't happen, but I wanted to bring it up, since padding is absolutely out of the question.

At 16 October, 2010 , Blogger Welwyn-on-books said...

Quenby and Stephen, I know me and I can't keep it down to 4037 characters for either of you, so do you mind awfully, if I respond on the main blog? Next week say Monday or Tuesday, I'll put your posts up on my blog followed by what I have to say. If you don't want me to do that, please write me to say so:

At 16 October, 2010 , Blogger Welwyn-on-books said...

MPax, I thought your comment was so clearly on track as a fiction writer, that I didn't need to spend time on anything you said except the word length requirements thing. I just thought I'd mention that. I do think you are unusual, and interesting, and that both those characteristics will really help you in your writing. Sorry I didn't make that clear earlier.

At 17 October, 2010 , Blogger Stephen Dunscombe said...

Welwyn, please go right ahead.

At 19 October, 2010 , Blogger Welwyn-on-books said...


Hope it helps.

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