Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Listmaker's Dilemma

I make lists for everything - from the ordinary (list of books I want to read) to the peculiar (list of every Whole Foods I have ever visited) to the unpleasant (list of things-I-must-do-now-so-I-don't-have-to-think-about-them-one-minute-longer).

Yes, I even keep a list of all the lists I have made, just in case.

Not all my lists are on paper or securely lodged in my iPhone - some lists I keep only inside my head, although I see them in real list "format," lines and numbers and all.

That is the organized me, the analythical thinker, the lawyer, the mom.  The person inside the box.

Thus, when I first began to write fiction I thought I would need to cast aside my lists and my tendencies to organize, seeing these as traits of the "boxed-in" me, as cages that would only hold back my imagination.

I wrote my first draft and re-draft without a list of plot locations, a list of family members and names, a chronological order, and so on, and just let it flow.

But my approach did not work.

Holes in the plot, characters devoid of depth, and time zones out of order screamed at me as I worked my way through the pages.  During that process I realized that while some writers may not require lists or charts or concrete ideas, I do.  It is part of who I am and it is how I function well.  Thus, the fourth draft is like a whole new novel.

How about you?  Do you use lists when writing?  Do you become a different person when you are in "creative mode?"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Bookstore is Still Alive and Well (Although Quite Far)

I had the day off yesterday and managed to devote it to my family and my WiP - in that order.  No chores, no housework, no office calls - and it was fabulous!  As a matter of fact, could we have every Monday off?  Anyone?

I had promised my daughter I would buy her a few books (the Bear series by Becker/Denton is one of her favorites) so I took her to the nearest bookstore.  After the closure of both of our local Barnes and Noble and Borders, that trip involved a 25 block walk up on Broadway - but definitely worth it.

Many others had the same idea for their day off; the aisles were busy with crawling babies, babbling toddlers, and eager little readers.  Of course I could not leave without satisfying my need for a new good read and after my daughter made her selection I started browsing.  I ended up with three books myself - here is the one I started reading last night:

And I did have a hard time putting it down.

Have you read it?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Elitism: Quality Control or Suppression?

The insightful and divergent comments I received on my last post, along with some rather strong opinions from friends (all of whom are avid consumers of fiction), gave me a bit of a pause and I thought I'd continue to share my opinions (or, rather, quest for answers) about various issues in publishing and the world of writing in general.

More specifically, some comments I received emphasized that self-publishing is a great tool as it will finally allow people to decide what they want to read, as opposed to the elitist publishers and agents deciding what we should read (or what is worthy of being read).  Others commented that traditional publishing will retain its use as it provides a good filter for weeding out those works that really have no business being in print.

As with most things in life, I suppose both arguments have merit.

Agents and publishers do, to some extent, ensure that the work published is of good quality.  But what exactly is good quality?  Proper grammar?  Good sentence structure?  Excellent flow between chapters?  Fully-developed characters?  Aren't at least some of these factors in the eye of the beholder?  Agents and publishers often "see" that certain something in novels that baffles the minds of many of us readers, and push their favorites no matter what - here comes that potential for elitism.  Do they not have the "obligation" to put books on the market that people want to read or do they really know what is best for us to read?

I am sure that there is a significant overlap between what agents/publishers see as publishable and what people buy, read, and actually enjoy.  Simple example - works of Laurie Halse Anderson.  Or Kathryn Stockett.  Perhaps there is no elitism after all - some may argue the Twilight Saga provides  a unique twist or two that results in an enjoyable story, but one that is not well written.  Still, the series was published to exceptional success.  In that case, and in many others I am sure, the agents and publishers saw what they thought the public would like and went ahead despite certain holes in grammar or character development or whatnot.  Since I am "ripping" on Twilight, I fess up and admit that I did like the books...and the movies were quite entertaining as well (for me, I think it was the hair and the house, really).

What do you think?  Has your work been rejected because of what you see as elitism in the industry?  Or, in your view, is there no such thing?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Technology and Trends - Friend or Foe?

After I finished reading a section of my WiP this weekend (yes, I am almost there!) I turned my attention to news and trends in the industry as a whole.  I guess I am in that "hopeful" stage now, looking forward to what might be ahead of me if all goes well.

Clearly, a lot has changed since I worked in publishing in the late 90s (not in editorial).

iPad and Kindle; Twitter and Facebook; Blogger and WordPress; Agents and Self-Publishing.

They may affect the way we think about the packaging of our work; how we develop and execute our marketing strategy; how we network with other writers and expand our readership; and how we approach the challenges of seeing our work in print / on the tablet.

But are these trends and changes helping those of unpublished?

While I prefer the feel of and the aura created by a real book, I do think that tablets are probably our  friends.  And they make books more affordable (and often solve storage problems for those of us living in tight quarters).

Social networking channels and blogs are, of course, a great way to connect with other writers and allow us to learn from each other in various ways.  I don't know whether it would help one sell a book, though.

Similarly, self publishing is a good way to get the work out when one can't find an agent or a publisher.  I have heard or read that self published titles can dilute the quality of literature, as there are no "quality" checks.  Yes, at the risk of stepping on some toes, I can see how that might happen.  I have written some awful stuff in the past (and used to think they were good) and I could go ahead and self publish.  I guarantee that those works would negatively impact the quality of published materials.  But others, who are better judges of their work than I was of mine, have found remarkable (and deserved) success through self publishing when agents missed the mark.

What do you think?