Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Between

My friends who are business people consider me an intellectual.

My intellectual friends consider me a businessman.

My conservative friends think I’m a liberal.

My liberal friends think I’m a conservative.

My Brooklyn friends find my writing commercial.

My Hollywood friends may find my writing literary.

My shy friends think that I’m outgoing.

My outgoing friends think that I’m shy.

I’m none of these things. I’m all of these things.

I read the description of the artistic personality type, abbreviated as ISFP (Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving), and I find myself in half of it. Not so much the other half.

On a Caribbean vacation a few years ago, I was playing in a pickup tennis game when the guy across the net asked, “What do you do? You some kind of writer?”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Shouting Muse

My recent move to a new office prompted a non-writing friend of mine to ask whether the place had a good creative vibe, the implication being that an office with a bad vibe would render me unproductive.

This kind of question gets my gander up, because by implication it trivializes the creative process, feeding into the myth that creativity is something that finds you rather than the other way around.

If you feel compelled to tell stories — as I do — the place where you sit down to do so should be mostly beside the point. I say “mostly” because, of course, some basic requirements do apply. The place needs to be heated in winter, for example, or you may freeze to death. It needs electricity, either for lighting or for your computer, depending upon how you write. It needs to be accessible — not up a tree somewhere three counties away. And it needs to be quiet.

Actually, I withdraw that last one — quiet is a luxury, not a necessity. Writing requires being solitary — not having people bugging you all the time — but it shouldn’t require absolute quiet all around you. The honking horn or the voices rumbling through the wall are obstacles that can be overcome with determination.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Genres Explained

The king died in a mutiny, and then the queen walked the plank is Sea Adventure.

The king died, and then the queen overcame great odds to live is a Thriller.

The king pretended to die, and then the queen went mad is a Psychological Thriller.

The king died, and then the queen was a witness for the defense is a Legal Thriller.

The king died at the cutting edge, and then the queen outsmarted the mad scientist is a Technothriller.

The king almost died at the hands of an evil nurse, and then the queen found the cure is a Medical Thriller.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Genres Explained

"'The king died, and then the queen died' is a story. 'The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.'” —E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel

The king died in the brothel, and then the queen went to the sheriff is a Western.

The king died while fleeing through the jungle, and then the queen triumphed with her saber is Action/Adventure.

The king died in battle, and then the queen got the castle is an Historical.

The king died, and then the king’s son died, and then the king’s grandson died, and then the king’s great great granddaughter became queen is Family Saga.

Friday, September 7, 2012

That Sock Puppet Won't Hunt

Times are hard, especially for a man who aspires to make his living by words.

You begin at the bottom of the editorial heap — fair enough, most people do in this trade. But it rarely gets better. To make ends meet, sometimes you teach school, sometimes you write and edit. Your professional successes are rare — and those you have rarely last long.

Yet you are determined to leave your mark on the world, as a writer of any kind, but primarily as a poet. You have things to say — things that the world must hear.

At the age of thirty-one you begin writing your masterwork, and five long years later you have it finished. Publishing is in disarray  part free-for-all, part insider’s game. You decide to self-publish your book of poems.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why We Read Fiction

This past weekend, we adopted a dog from the SPCA of Delaware. The dog has a beautiful lab head but a narrow body, possibly greyhound. When we viewed her in the pen at the shelter, we saw that she had a problem with her right rear leg. She was also suffering hair loss from a flea allergy. She’d been picked up in the city of Wilmington as a stray.

We were told not to call a dog by its shelter name (Sallie, in this case), which may have bad associations for the animal, so we renamed her Cue — short for Rescue. What exactly we rescued her from we’ll never know, but it wasn’t good.

At some point this dog seems to have had a normal life. While exuberant, she obeys basic commands, is properly house trained, and aims to please. But at some later point, it all went to hell for her.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Aspects of the Novelist's Dilemma (7)

7. Agents still matter, sort of.
What we’re talking about when we talk about digital publishing vs mainstream publishing is that loaded word of the internet age: disintermediation.
In the old system, of which many remnants remain, everyone has a hand in the novelist’s pocket. Let us count the ways: agent, subrights agents, publisher, printer, wholesaler, bookseller. Six intermediaries at least. Directly or indirectly, each of these takes a piece of the cover price before that check finally reaches the author.
In the digital system, the fixed costs of editing, proofreading, formatting, and cover design remain. They must be paid upfront, but their providers do not get between the buyer and the author on every sale, as they do in a mainstream publishing deal. If one digitally self-publishes, the only one who's still interposed between novelist and reader/customer is the bookseller. If one uses an indie publisher as distributor, as I'm inclined to do, that distributor also takes a cut, of course, so there may be two entities between author and reader/customer. But that's a far cry from six or so under the old model.
What of the agent?