Sunday, January 27, 2013

Light and Creativity

Sometimes the writer’s mind amazes me. I wish there were psychology books out there that pick it apart. Or at the very least tells me that I am not as abnormal as I feel at times. But I guess that would appeal to a small market. Anyway, I was thinking about the process of writing this afternoon. I have been accepted into an online writing class for the Odyssey Charitable Trust. I had my first homework assignment this weekend. Time is tight, but I love that I had to sit down and write today. It’s situations like this that make me think I would thrive on a deadline. Excuses can’t get in the way then.

Anyway, I was sluggish all day. Nothing was coming to me. I worked on the part of my assignment that didn’t involve creativity, only looking at other writer’s work. My English background thrived and I felt the joy of being a student analyzing a story. I miss that a lot. Soon, the time came for me to enter into the writing portion of the assignment. Just about that time, dusk was approaching. Immediately, ideas started clicking and words started flowing. As the sun set and the light faded to dark, I was able to type with ease. Things that had troubled me before were annihilated without effort. By the time night fell and the creative feeling was gone, I had an introductory scene for one of my characters.

I have always been this way. Early in the morning or late at night have always been the easiest times for my creativity. I would break through many blocks during these hours. Words I had to fight to receive during the afternoon suddenly flowed out like a raging river.

I wish I understood the power behind this. I’m sure there is some psychological explanation as to why it happens. I also wonder if other writers are the same way. I think this stems from my constant marveling at the fact that others are just as quirky as I am. I am most definitely not unique when it comes to the writing world. But, I find myself looking for the day when even the writing community thinks I’m a little weird. But that’s another psychological exploration.

What drives creativity? What inspires ideas to come from the most mundane? Why does light affect my mood? I wonder if this impact on my writing has more to do with the emotion rather than the light. For instance, when I get down in the dumps, my emotions often swing into creative juices. But what causes this? Maybe I’m just an academic, but if someone could capture the workings of a writer’s mind…I would spend money on that book. Then again, maybe without the mystery, writing would no longer be unique and I would be out of a business. I guess I will settle with not knowing and just enjoy the ride.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Different Writers

I think it was a combination of the golden globes airing this week along with a lot of junk mail about copywriters. Between the two, I began wondering about the different types of writers out there. I once held a presentation on career day at a local high school. They labeled it “writer.” I know what the admin was thinking. Those interested in writing equals novels. I found myself in a room full of poets, novelists, screenwriters, and journalists. And that’s only a few of the categories. Many outside the field think if someone is good in one area, they are good in them all. While pursuing choices for a degree, many told me I should become a journalist. I still remember the looks I’d receive when I proclaimed it was not the same thing. I had some experience. As a teen, I used to write articles for middle school sports. I remember my supervisor telling me the key was to leave out all the “fluff.” People just want to know what happened and who did what. Give them the facts, and make sure to put the important pieces in the front. This is so different than writing novels. I mean, could you imagine a murder mystery if the author gives the killer up in the main page? Not to mention, leaving out the “fluff” is frowned upon. I think there are awesome journalists with the gift of capturing a true story without the fluff. But I don’t know if they could write a good novel…and vice-versa.  

I began thinking about the writers of television shows. We honor the actors and think of how wonderful they are because they are in front of us weekly. Yet, they would have nothing to act out if it weren’t for the people who write the shows. The writers have to produce a script every week; an hour show is half a movie…every week. And the stories have to be captivating and different every week. They have to move a plot that never ends while giving the illusion that the story is evolving. This would be hard, I think. Plus, how do they not lose interest? I finish a novel in about four months and I am bored of it by the end. I crave a new plot and new characters. Even in my Atlantis series, I am looking for something different. How can I avoid writing the same plot again? What is something new I can bring? I imagine the life of a TV writer is demanding. No wonder they have teams of writers for every show. 

I’m glad writers get a short moment of glory at the award shows…even if their acceptance speech is often skipped over (by myself included). I am glad we acknowledge the craft. Because, a “writer” is not one generic person. It is a rainbow of talented people set with the same love…to entertain their followers. I just wish they got interviewed more. Maybe that’s just me….

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Books vs. Movies

While doing signings, every now and then someone will proclaim they don’t know how to read. I always figure it is a snotty way of brushing me aside. I can kind of understand. Even when I walk through malls, I find myself averting the gazes of the people standing next to their designated carts. I don’t want something pushed on me, no matter how “wonderful” their deal is. I think some people view authors at book signings in the same way. They don’t want the work pushed on them.

But, I got to thinking. What if this were true? What if they really couldn’t read…or wouldn’t read? It saddens me. They are missing out on so much. Maybe it is not real experiences, but I know books enrich my life. I guess one could argue they don’t need to read a book because if it’s any good then someone will make a movie. In fact, just this week, someone asked where the movies would be without books. I would venture to say most movies are adaptations on books. I’m sure a book club could devote their entire reading to books that are being turned into movies. Just now, I can quickly come up with a nice list: Hunger Games, Water for Elephants, Time Traveler’s Wife, Harry Potter, practically all the Nicholas Sparks books, Twilight, Carrie, Les Miserables, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, The Bourne series, Percy Jackson, Tuck Everlasting, The Horse Whisperer, One Shot, many Grisham novels. I could go on and on. Yet, rarely encountered someone who has experienced both movie and book chooses the movie over the book. I like to think it’s because movies scratch the surface while books really dig into the meat of character and story.

Books can bring someone into the depths of another universe and walk them through a character’s personality. Intricacies of a story are explored in books in a way movies can’t grasp. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the movies. I guess I have to wonder where the movies would be without books to inspire them. What stories would Hollywood come up with? Something would blow up, a car chase would ensue, and someone would fall in love. But would there be any more depth than that? I must admit that most of my ideas come from other books. They capture me in a way no movie ever has. Maybe that’s why I write. But I think that’s also why many read.
So, this year take time to experience new authors. Maybe don’t duck away if you find them sitting at a table in your local bookstore. After all, they might be the next big movie hit.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Query Time

It seems like the beginning of every year begins the same. New Year’s resolutions are made and I am reminded that I haven’t submitted my work in a few months of holiday craziness. So, I spend the first part of the month submitting queries to various places. The query process has always baffled me. For those who are not sure, let me take a brief moment to explain. Basically, most agents/publishers want writers to sell themselves and their work in one single spaced page. Although, that’s never really accurate because a query letter is a business letter. Therefore, all the headings, margins and signatures take up space. I would say it really comes down to .7 of a page. Talk about being concise. Sell yourself in the amount of space that this blog takes. Oh, and don’t forget to sell your work and convince them why you are different and the best person to write the piece.

The whole process seems unfair. However, I do understand the requirement. Every day they get thousands of writers seeking to be the next big client. It also makes sense why writers hate these. After all, we write novels. Words are our friends. We don’t like to discriminate amongst them and shorten their gatherings. Some places, especially agents, only want the letter. After that, it varies. Some want samples others just a synopsis. Publishing houses are the nicest. They normally ask from anywhere between the first three chapters to the first fifty pages. Recently, I had one ask for fifty pages that gave the beginning, ending and various elements in between. Of course, big page counts also equal longer wait times for a response, typically six months. One agent who asked for the entire manuscript took close to eight months to get back to me. I hear that is fast. I did have one agent ask for the first page. That was it. Not even a “good” page from anywhere. Nope. The first page of the book. If you didn’t capture her by then, she wasn’t interested. She got back to me that day, though.

It’s a rough business. I think writers tend to be introverted people. Pushy selling techniques are not natural, especially when I grew up trained not to “brag.” But that’s what writers have to do. We have to brag and sell without lying (although I have met a few who blur the edges of a lie to sell). That’s the business writer’s choose. Because, after all, after the publisher comes selling to readers. If you think about it, reader’s standards are not much different. For instance, I read the back jacket of a book to judge it first. If not captured, I put the book away. If it interests me, I leaf through a small portion of the inside, maybe even read the first chapter. Isn’t this the whole publication query all over again?

It’s a tough business, but the first five-star review makes all the trouble worth it.