Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Love' em of hate 'em, a good agent can do a lot for your writing career. Many publishers say they only accept agented submissions. But how do attract an agent's attention and what can they do for you?
Over at the Mad Genius Club -- Writers Division, there's been a couple of posts about agents. Click here for Amanda Green's post, full of useful links to agents and sites about agents. And click here for Dave Freer's post on agents on why we need them.
Over at here Writer Beware Blogs Victoria Strauss is talking about dodgy agents.
Agent inBox is something a bit different.
'How does it work for agents? According to AgentInbox's FAQ for agents, agents create a profile listing their interests and submission preferences. They can then check their submissions online, sort them by various categories including genre, and "[r]eject unsuitable submissions with a single click, and contact the gems directly." ' Victoria Strauss comments on this idea here.
With evolving technology the publishing industry is going to change. Just how is anyone's guess. Here Victoria Strauss does a post about the perils of searching for a publisher using the internet.
And here is her post on 'Learning the Ropes'.
With the internet, you can do your research while sitting at home.
Here's my agent story. I applied for a grant to go to the World SF Con in Glasgow in 2005. My Australian agent had just retired and left me orphaned. Thanks to Arts Qld, I got the grant, flew to the UK.
Before I left I approached John Jarrold, offering to meet him at the World Con. (I thought I made me sound committed, coming all the way from Australia). I sent him the first 3 chapters of the trilogy he has since sold to Solaris. (King Rolen's Kin, due out in July 2010).
The day before I was due to meet him, I slipped into a panel where he was speaking. (Later he told me he recognised me, because he'd been to my web page to research me). At that panel he said he had been approached by over 500 hopeful writers and had taken on 13. My heart sank when I heard that. The next day when we had our meeting I was convinced he wouldn't offer to represent me. When he said he would, I felt like I'd been mentally derailed, in a very nice way. For the rest of the convention I was bobbing on air!
My story makes it sound easy, but I did approach a dozen or more agents before I went to the World Con and John Jarrold was the only one who offered to read my work. So there is an element of timing involved. Your work has to be good, it has to be marketable and the agent has to be looking to acquire authors.
So put yourself out there. The worst people can say is No. Does anyone else have an inspiring story to share?
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Ok, I've seen James Cameron's Avatar in 3D. I wasn't particularly fussed about seeing it in 3D but my husband said it would be worth it and I'm glad I did. There were no gratuitous objects looming out of the screen.
A boy of about 6 was seated a couple of rows in front of us. When the floating powder puffs floated out of the screen he tried to catch them. It was delightful.
I thought the film was visually rich. And it should be for the price. Over at TheWrap they said:
'Speculation over the film’s costs and profitability started with a Nov. 8 story by the New York Times that claimed “when global marketing expenses are added, ‘Avatar’ may cost its various backers $500 million." The piece added up all production costs, New Zealand tax credits, Cameron’s efforts and marketing to put the “Titanic” director’s decade-long effort at close to a Hollywood heart stopping sum.'
'The budget for “Avatar,” a Fox spokesperson bluntly told TheWrap this week, “is $237 million, with $150 million for promotion, end of story.”'
What ever the cost of the movie, the most interesting thing to me was that this much money was spent on a film in which the main characters were not white American protestants. The backers felt the viewing public was sophisticated enough to identify with aliens, who follow their own Gaian religion. True, the aliens were a variation on the ideal noble savage, but considering how insular and safe the hollywood studios are backing Avatar was a brave move.
Here is George Dvorksy's take on the film. I felt the plot which was pretty basic and I did not feel that the blue aliens had 'won' at the end. Humans are just too bloody minded.
What did you think of Avatar?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
'Too often, we are given mixed messages from society about what behaviors are expected and valued. Creativity is supposed to be a good thing, something we aspire to achieve. However, those who are the most creative are often faced with the worst treatment and the most rejection for their ideas. To put it simply, people in positions of authority and management generally like and value those who follow rules. It is much easier to maintain order when everyone is following the rules. Breaking rules = bad. Right? But in order to be truly creative, you must break rules. That is what creativity entails. So do we want order, or do we want creativity? Can we have both?'
This cartoon was used in her blog and I just had to include it.
When asked, teachers say they value creativity, but they prefer children who conform, because creative types disrupt the classroom. Well, of course they do, they are always questioning and looking at new ways to do do things.
And we all know how little society values creativity. Who are the lowest paid people? Writers, musicians and artists. But where would Hollywood be without the writers of the scripts for the TV shows and movies?
She adds, 'Personally, I would rather don the riot gear, face the firestorm of resistance from society, and stay true to my creative and purposeful selective rule-breaking behaviors. While we need more people who are willing to face the firestorm and stand up for their creative ideas, the real change needs to come from society itself. Society needs to have flexibility and tolerance in situations where breaking rules is necessary and provides a clear social benefit, instead of treating the passionate innovators of the world as common criminals.'
But how to you change society's attitude towards creativity? Over here at MGC I did a post saying there are two types of people in the world -- those who fear change and those who look for new experiences. The post was done tongue in cheek, but the underlying question was real. If the majority of people fear change and difference, and only look for things which reinforce their world view, then how can society evolve? As writers of Speculative Fiction we actively seek out new experiences and welcome new ideas. I find trying out a new idea gives my mind a mental work out.
Andrea also wrote an article at Scientific Blogging 'We perform best when no one tells us what to do'. Which is something writers can relate to.We often say it is the times when we are staring off into space, that we do our best work. In this article she looks at how companies can encourage creativity in their employees. Google and Atlassian have 'free work times'. This is an interesting concept. Employees are basically free to work on what ever interests them.
A while ago, I read an article in New Scientist about how Necessity isn't really the Mother of Invention. People invent things when they 'play' with ideas. Often it takes time for those inventions to be applied in a practical sense. Time spent 'playing' is something modern children don't get now days. With structured play, after school care, music lessons and tutoring they don't wander down to the creek and build a cubby in the bush, then lie there and day dream, like my generation used to.
Like most writers, I have family and work which I wouldn't trade for anything, but they take up mental space in my head. I often feel as if my brain is crowded with things that require my attention. Yet, it is the 'free work time', when my mind makes the leaps that help connect the dots of my story plots. And these leaps often come when I'm doing other things, driving the kids around, cleaning the house, mowing the yard. It is as if the physical actions leave the brain time to chug along on the background, seeking associations.
How do you harness your creativity?
Input must exceed output. Not a problem when so much information demands out attention. I can find out anything I need to know on the internet and a whole pile of things I didn't want to know.
Time alone, or at least mental space to let ideas brew. This is much harder to find.
Do you have any tips for harnessing creativity?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
(Photo by Rochelle)
The truth is out. Over here, at Mad Genius Club -- Writers Division, Kate reveals what we've all long suspected. Writers are odd.
I think it is time we all embraced our inner eccentric.
My confession is that I can only take so much of being social, then I have to go away from people and be by myself. In fact, when my children were small, to be alone was the greatest luxury I could imagine. Now days I have time alone but I have so many responsibilities that, time without things pulling me in a dozen directions is the greatest of luxuries. I find conventions enjoyable, but exhausting. (Glutton for punishment, I've put myself down for Aussie Con 4).
Some days, the thought of running away to become a monk and living in a cell where someone shoves a plate of thin gruel under the door, looks very enticing.
Did you grow up watching other people trying to learn 'the rules' that everyone else seemed to know instinctively?
Do you watch the mass hysteria associated with football and car races with bemusement?
Do you watch the adulation of celebrities and wonder why no one else can see the Emperor's new clothes are worthless?
OK, confess, what are your secret eccentricities?
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Over at the Mad Genius Club-Writers' Division, I did a post the other week about favourite movies and everyone started quoting The Princess Bride.
Not only is is fun and cool, with terrifically quirky characters, but the dialogue is so good, people can quote it from memory. That is an achievement, any writer would envy. It has even crept into the everyday. If I ask my husband to take out the rubbish, he says 'As you wish.'
What made The Princess Bride so memorable, apart from all of the above?
Well, as Fezzik the Giant and Inigo Montoya tell the Miracle Man, he must help them because Westley is motivated by 'True Love'. A primal emotion.
What drove Inigo to train with the sword every day from the age of 11? Revenge. He had to avenge his father's murder. A primal emotion.
What makes a book or movie memorable its ability to reach into us and make an emotional connection. What do we all share? Primal emotions.
There's a little caveman (or woman) in all of us.
As a writer, if you can tap into that primal emotion, you will connect with your readers. That is why Romance is the biggest selling genre, outselling all other popular fiction fiction paperback genres combined. (Quoting from Romance Writers of Australia).
For The Princess Bride fans here is one of my favourite scenes and possibly the best revenge scene ever written.
Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]
Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]
Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!
Count Rugen: Stop saying that!
[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders, the same spots where he wounded Inigo. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]
Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!
[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo's]
Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.
Count Rugen: Yes!
Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.
[He slashes his other cheek]
Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please...
Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.
Count Rugen: Anything you want...
[Rugen knocks Inigo's sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen's stomach]
Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!
[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]
Whew. I feel better just having read that. And I'm a pacificist!
Okay, what scene from books or movies have been so memorable, that you can still recall them today and maybe quote a line or two?
Friday, December 4, 2009
Jessica Faust, over at the BookEnds Literary Agency is talking about the writing process. Here.
She starts with ...
Not too long ago a client was going through some revisions with her editor and called me for a pep talk. She was confident that she could get the revisions done and even felt good about how she planned to do them. What upset her was that the editor had to point out these things in the first place. She really felt it was all so obvious, something she should have seen before even sending in the material, and she was feeling a little down on herself about the entire thing.
Jessica goes on to say everyone has a different writing process and there is no wrong or right way to write. This is very true.
I think the interesting point is that, as adults, we don't like to 'get it wrong'. As children we attempt things and sometimes we fail. But since we are children, the grownups encourage us. As a child, it is acceptable to make mistakes.
As adults it gets harder to accept that we can still make mistakes. Writing is such in intimate, individual process, of course we will get too close to see the mistakes. Being receptive to constructive criticism is invaluable .
That's where having a writing group whose judgment we trust is the an important step in the polishing process. Then comes the editor, who will bring a fresh set of eyes to the manuscript. Then the copy editor, looking for those errors that creep in. I once read a book where the main character's eyes changed colour halfway through, and not because of a magical event or some other plot device.
Even with all the people on a movie set, continuity mistakes creep in. Here's a site devoted to mistakes in movies. You could spend hours going through it.
We would all like to hand in the perfect manuscript. It's a matter of professional pride. But, if you did hand in your book and the editors made no changes, you'd have to wonder if they didn't really care enough to give it that final polish. And besides, none of us are perfect.
My daughter is a perfectionist. She was six, when I was driving her to her first ballet lesson and she was nervous. She confessed she didn't really want to go. I finally wormed the reason out of her. She didn't know anything about ballet so she didn't want to go and look silly in front of girls who did know. I told her, you are going to ballet lessons so you can learn. You can't expect to know everything before you start. That made her laugh and she was OK afterwards.
Writing is in intimate process. I keep saying this. For all the flash cards, research and plotting you might do, there is still that leap of faith, when the words pour out of you. What is actually seen on the page is only the tip of the ice-berg, where your book is concerned. Have you revealed too little of the ice-berg, or too much? It is next to impossible to tell.
So don't tie yourself in knots, trying to get it perfect.
Find a group of writing friends you can trust and be open to constructive criticism.
And yes, I was a fan of the 1970s Kung Fu show. But I couldn't find a good photo of little Grasshopper.
Do you have a 'Swedish Writing Fairy' like Tansy, who reads your manuscript and gives feedback? Do you have a group, like ROR, who are as passionate about the craft as writing as you are?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Baaad Sex, even when it's bad it's good. Or is it?
Over at the Guardian UK, the shortlist for bad sex scenes has been announced. To quote:-
'The story of the seduction of a lesbian by an ageing stage actor, which includes an eye-watering scene with a green dildo, has won Philip Roth the dubious honour of a place on the shortlist for the Literary Review's bad sex in fiction award.'
And here, is where you can read some of the excerpts. We all need to smile and shake our heads at least once a day.
There's no denying sex sells, but do we have too much sex? Has it become trivialized? When pre-teen girls are wearing make up and high heels, when the media saturates us with sexual images and reality encourages promiscuity, where is the magic and wonder of intimacy?
With the success of the Dark Urban Fantasy, there is a lot of sensual writing appearing in the book stores. Obviously, it is answering a need. Yet the Twilight books are incredibly popular and are strangely un-erotic. They are all about yearning. Are young women tired of being treated as sexual objects? Do they crave passion ... from a safe distance. Edward can't get hot and heavy with Bella, without killing her.
In a book, you need to apply the same rule to a sex scene as to any scene. It should advance the plot or reveal something about the characters or, hopefully, do both.
When was the last time you read a book that depicted sex/passion/love in a powerful and moving way?
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I've just been feeling very pleased with myself for completing the first 30,000 words of LIBERATOR (sequel to WORLDSHAKER) in TWO months. For me, that's really really good - testimony to the fact that it's flowing along without a hiccup. But compared to you, I'm on permanent hiccups!
I'm still waiting for that invention of an electronic device that scans pictures and story in my brain and converts them instantly into perfect words on the page. Will the intending inventor please hurry up and invent it?