Friday, January 04, 2008

Smart Things--The Proper Attitude

My friend Beth Hanggeli saying smart things about being a writer.

3 comments: said...

Hi all. Hey, Beth, you're definitely a writer. :-)

Re: the previous "rewriting" comments. Rewriting seems to follow some sort of editing, whether it be self editing or an outside "critique".

There are times when a book-length project requires of a writer to have so many balls in the air that we lose perspective. And we often lose an overview of the project as a whole.

I value a "cold eye" by both a normal person, who enjoys reading, and especially by a professional who knows how to look at a book as a whole.

But. I find there is a time when an idea is fresh, perahps precious, when it is our gem of motivation, that a project is vulernable to criticism.

I've had what I believed (and still do) are wonderful book ideas collapse when I did so much as mention the idea to someone and they didn't a.)faint with joy, b.) burst into spontaneous flames, or c.) jump up and down and shred their clothes in excitment.

It is vital, I think, to protect our creativity, which can be fragile, by making sure a writing project (at any stage) is ready to accept editing, a cold eye. It is then that we can best rewrite.

I don't know if this is a part of the proper attitude, or just my own craziness. But I do warn others to be very careful from whom (and when) they ask for critiques, advice, a cold read. said...

I like all writers. & I wanted to comment on one of the linked posts about rewriting.

Advice was given to look at books we don't like (that we think are bad books) and "edit" them to make them better.

I think for the unpublished writer, it is a far better idea to look at commerically published books we don't like, we think are bad books, and re-read them carefully for what is GOOD about the book.

To find what in that piece of crap worked well enough to get it published in the first place.

Obviously, the author did something right and did it well enough that a publisher overlooked any flaws that might exist and put up some good money to get that book into print and onto the shelves.

I think there may be more to learn from looking at what's right about contemporary successfully published books (and, yes, movies) if you are working to create something to be published in the current marketplace.

"Snakes on a Plane" was given, in the linked piece, as an example of a bad movie. Hmmm. Not bad for the writer, I suspect.

I thought the movie was fun (and stupid) and I do believe a book of the same topic (prior to the movie being made) would have garnered immediate interest among agents and publishers.

The movie was a "fun" concept. And it was easy to market as a poster (or a bok cover). Okay, it wasn't To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was good enough an idea to be made.

So let's wonder what was good about it?

Escalating "dangerous" action is about it, is my guess, with a visceral evil (snakes), in a confined space (plane). If that sort of story tension could be brought to one of my fiction projects, I think it would improve my chances of having it published.

Will I write something like "Snakes on Plane"? No.

Will I consider heightening whatever action takes place in my novel, increasing and escalating risk as it goes along? Yes.

Even if my novel is about three sweet old ladies who meet once a week for tea.

Mostly, though, I think it is a mistake of new writers, and of myself for sure, to toss off books we don't like as having no merit at all. Somebody did something right. And my congratulations goes out to them.

Anyone having a book, or books, published in today's market, I think, deserves applause. And their work also deserves to be read with an eye toward what's right about it -- if, in the end, we want something to be right enough about our own work that it gets published too.

Kelly McCullough said...

Some great stuff here, Ghost. Thanks!