Only so many plots available, right?

Great writers make them shine like new.

This is amazing. Now, I’ve heard there’s actually ten basic stories. I imagine one could make a case for quite a few different numbers, but the point remains. We thrive on a few wel tested, tried nd true stories.  Here’s one author’s take:

And now for Philosophy and Cats.

(and every one else, too) (unless they never, ever procrastinate) (In which case, why are they reading this?)

This is a great video on / understanding procrastination /. And a great way to procrastinate, since I then clicked on other videos he’s made…

And then came here to write this post.

My story is calling me. I must resist my limbic system! I will be strong and pre-frontal.

Yes, I will!

/ To surrender or to cull /:  how do we decide what we will or will not allow ourselves time to experience, explore, and savor?

Some sad but maybe true humor:  what your editor might mean when he tells you / you’ve gotten it wrong /.

As per culling and surrendering above: /  how to focus your writing /, keeping only what is necessary, but still creating as vividly as possible a real world or a real character:

I love this quote:  “Each person who sits down to write faces not a blank page but his own vastly overfilled mind. The problem is to clear out most of what is in it, to fill huge plastic garbage bags with a confused jumble of things that have accreted there over the days, months, years of being alive and taking things in through the eyes and ears and heart.”

Thanks to /  Ian Sample  / of The Guardian for theses links.

One topic: a new idea by Ikea to help people assemble the furniture kits they buy.

/ First article /: a serious, straightforward report. Clear, informative, tells you everything you need to know.

/ Second article /: same information, but told in humor.

Both very useful, but targeting completely different audiences.  These are journalism, but think how this inspires telling stories. What are you trying to say, and to whom are you saying it?

Wonderful examples.


April 12, 2011

Apparently I can either write or blog.  Just now I’m writing.

Major overhaul. I need to figure out how to write in the first person without dragging my whole life into the story. I was horrified at how quickly that happened.

Comic relief instead of serious stuff.  Besides – I haven’t yet gotten to all the science blogs I read for ideas and inspiration, and I have to go face the ‘real world’ for a while.

So, more on women and cats from / ‘Pickles’ /.

And, in reference to above, / ‘Speed Bump’ / reminds us we should be careful how much of ourselves, our moods and thoughts, we put into our artistic endeavors.

Seven links to comics that, while informative, are also not at all textbook formal:

1) Ten words you need to stop misspelling

2)  What ‘literally’ actually means

3) Three most common uses of irony

4) How to use an apostrophe

5)  How to use a semicolon

These two are tangential. We all use printers, and we’re told we all need web sites:

6) Why I believe printers were sent from hell

7) How a web design goes straight to hell

Writers seem to have a love/hate relationship with agents. It’s understandable. We need them to open the doors to the traditional publishing world. They are the ones that accept or reject our marvelous creations. Given the sheer numbers of people writing, it’s safe to say we, as individuals need them far more than they need us.

Agents all say, quite truthfully, that they need us. They need our words. But they actually only need the words they can work with. For myriad reasons, your masterpiece might not work for them. It might be, frankly, a lousy piece of writing. Their form rejections spare us this knowledge, though it might be better if we heard it. They might have another book in the works that is too similar, and they feel they can’t do well by two at once. They might like the idea, but not the development. They might not be interested in that style, or genre, or topic. We never know. So we feel vulnerable.

This is simple enough to understand, but then we go to a conference. “Send us anything,” some of them say. Others say, “I know I list specific genres, but if it’s good, I’ll take it even if it’s not on my list.” “Never send me anything that’s not on my list. Well, I have taken other works, but I’ll automatically reject anything I didn’t specifically mention.”  “Only send me truly excellent writing.” I love that one. Whether it’s humility or ignorance I don’t know, but I wouldn’t dare send that agent anything. Maybe that’s her screening filter?

Then there’s the query itself. Every day of the conference one heard the plaintive cries of the writers: “What do you want?” “What format do you require?” “How do we know what to do to avoid automatic deletion?”

And every day the answers were: Agent A wants this format and no other. Agent B doesn’t care as long as it’s correctly addressed. Agent C wants either this or that font and query only. If you send pages, they’ll be trashed unread. Agent D says the same, but then adds, “Well, if you send me pages I’ll probably read them.”

Agents are people. That’s the total picture. They have quirks, likes, dislikes, moods, and foibles. That we, the writers, seek to pigeonhole them is as absurd as we feel it is for them to pigeonhole our books. But the nature of the business requires labels, if for no other reason than to cope with the sheer volume of material passing back and forth.

I cannot resist adding this personally experienced demonstration of their human fallibility. I asked agent A how to query a novel where ideas are important, given that one always reads that to mention ideas is the kiss of death. An expression of incredulous horror filled the agent’s face. I was given to understand novels were for entertainment, not ideas. Funny how my favorite novels are both. Anyways, later, I was querying another agent. Agent B wasn’t interested, but suggested I go to Agent A, who liked novels with ideas. I bit my tongue and moved on. What else could I do?

Agents don’t know everything. I was at first shocked at some of the questions or comments agents made, comments that showed real ignorance of a subject. And then I thought, why? Why should a literary agent be expected to know all about cell biology, or religious controversy in the Classical Greek era? That’s not their job. Their job is to recognize a book that is readable and marketable. No more, no less. That so many of them do so much more – work with their authors in editing, holding metaphoric hands as the author crashes, celebrating when things go well – these agents are an inspiration.

Don’t expect more of them than you would of any other expert in their field. You don’t go to a doctor for literary advice; don’t expect an agent to understand arthroscopic surgery.

So what do you do? Alas, you do the best you can. As all the agents said, do your research. Know who you’re querying and why. And don’t take rejection personally.

By the way, I don’t know about others, but for all the talk about chatting with agents in the halls during the conference, I saw one agent walking free. I think the others holed up somewhere. I did see a few sitting at tables during meals, but of the 5 meals provided by the conference, I never had an agent sit at a table where I was. Maybe I’m not aggressive enough, or my timing was always off, but do bear that in mind if you go to a conference. If you have questions, look around diligently, and take advantage of any fleeting opportunity to talk with an agent.

Two articles in today’s news.

The / first article /  is on how to increase your intelligence and maximize creativity. No, not some get-smart-quick scam. It’s an enjoyable read from Scientific American, and the last half of the article details five ways you can open yourself to new ideas, new skills, and increase your working intelligence. Certainly something we should all strive for. I have to comment, though: I never thought I would read phrases such as “absolutely oodles of terrible things written” in Scientific American. Delightful!

The / second article / is from The Guardian. I am an atheist. I am what I preach: a person who respects everyone’s right to choose to believe or not; or to chose what to believe, as makes them most comfortable. I only oppose anyone who wishes to impose their beliefs onto others, most especially into education or government policy. Written by a Christian minister, this article  has brilliant insights into our increasingly diverse world. I love this quote:  “how do we, as Christians, survive and flourish in a marketplace of faiths?”.

A note for writers: we live in our heads. We pull out ideas, images, memories and turn them into words and stories. Where do we get these inspirations? (Writers are always asked where they get their ideas) Following the five points of the researcher on intelligence and creativity can only be a boon. Stimulation not just of other ideas, but of people and place. That was one of the most unexpected benefits of the writers conference I recently attended. I left there with my brain burgeoning with ideas, new ways of seeing thing, new thoughts to consider. Not mind-blowing: most definitely mind expanding. And enhancing.

I was sent this link. I had it long ago and subsequently forgot about it, which allowed me to finish my second novel.

Woe is me! Now it has returned. Who needs to write (and intensely edit), anyways?

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