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04/29/10 | On Writing | 2 Comments
There are a lot of endings in the world: end of the line, end of the road, death, birth (which is the end of your carefree life as you knew it). What I’m talking about is the end of a book (obviously, this is a writer’s blog after all!).
Many amazing books exist. I think I probably own about 450 books (and counting), have read a good handful of them, and enjoyed most. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that most writers don’t know where to end their book, and so it just sort of flatlines before fizzling out…
This is my biggest pet peeve, to read through an entire novel, be engrossed by it, and be left wanting when I finally close the covers. There’s no comparable disappointment.
You don’t need to end every book with a bang, because not all of them necessitate that. However, the ending should still be satisfying. Whether you’re going for suspenseful, uplifting, sad, horrifying, or that cliffhanger that lines up the next story, it needs to leave the reader (me) with a feeling that it was all worth it, the time and money I invested in your work. I WANT that happy sigh, the thrumming heart, the tear trickling down my cheek, the “oooohhhh” moment. I want to be ready for your next book with $20 in my hand, but many authors don’t get a second read from me.
I’m a book snob, I’ll admit it. My friend Dawn and I pick up books wherever we go (conferences, bookstores, wherever) and read the first lines aloud to each other. If it’s good (which it often isn’t), we’ll read the first paragraph. We rarely find books worthy of turning the page. But when we do, we’re already invested. We have to find out what happens.
It’s hard to maintain a reader’s attention throughout an entire novel, and some authors are better at it than others (by wide margins). Some authors have crawling starts, others suffer from the wicked saggy-taffy middle, and yet the lapse I find hardest to forgive is the weak ending.
One of the most lyrically written books I’ve ever read is The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. I heard the stories of an unknown author who managed to get a $2 million advance for his book that was heralded as the next Paradise Lost. Of course this was something I needed to read.
I was in absolute awe from the first page. His prose wasn’t just lyrical, it was magical. I found myself laughing as I read—not because it was funny, but because I couldn’t believe the way he manipulated our language. And yet, when I recommended it to a friend, I had to follow all that by… but the ending isn’t amazing. I felt obligated to tell her this so she wasn’t in for the letdown I experienced, and she agreed.
It didn’t have an “oooohhhh” ending. More like an… oh.
I’m not going to tell anyone how they should write their book. God knows I struggle with my own every day. The book might be shit for all I know, but what you won’t find in mine is a weak ending, which is something that I’m very conscious about.
Have you read any books that disappointed you in the end?
Kyle W. Kerr
03/27/10 | On Writing | 1 Comments
Spurred on by my last entry, a guest post on Motivation by Gary Braver, I am pleased with my current progress. I’m working on chapter 13 of my new novel, and have over 14,000 words down! The change of genre—from literary to thriller—has also helped, because it is a new and welcome challenge.
But I still find my motivation languishing a bit, and I could use some more advice on how to keep going. Good thing there are still generous authors out there who will help when such crises arise!
Tess Gerritsen is the NYT bestselling author of more than twenty books. Her latest novel, Ice Cold, is set for release on June 29, and her Jane Rizzoli series of medical thrillers has just been picked up for a show on TNT! “Rizzoli & Isles” debuts this summer.
I’ve met Tess on several occasions (the first of which was in Gary Braver’s class, funnily enough!), and she has never been anything short of fascinating. Her wealth of knowledge on all things creepy is astonishing, which was apparent in her breathless explanation of how to make a shrunken head (true story).
More important than her success is her humility and dedication to the next generation of writers. Her generous and honest advice is overflowing the banks of her blog, and she is always available to answer a question. So, when I asked what keeps her motivated, she didn’t hesitate in answering.
For an already published author, the best motivator is a signed contract with a specified delivery date. A real professional works hard to meet those contracted deadlines. We want to be known as reliable, and there’s nothing that can shoot down your career faster than to not deliver on time.
Aside from legally contracted deadlines, there’s also the internal deadline, the little voice that starts off as a whisper and then builds to a shout, telling us: “get to work. Get to work! GET. TO. WORK!!!” I’m something of an obsessive compulsive person, and that’s a big help in this profession. It means I like to see the pages start to pile up, and I like to be able to estimate just when my book will be done. Even if I weren’t under contract, I’d always have that drive to finish the story. It’s how I managed to complete my first three (ultimately unpublished) manuscripts. I wrote those despite the fact no one was paying me for them. Despite the fact I felt I might be wasting my time. That’s what a real writer does: writes even when there’s no assurance you’ll sell. You just want to tell that story, and you want to find out how the characters survive the crisis.
I’m also big with deadlines. I was famous in college for starting a paper at midnight the night before it was due, write for a few delirious hours, and still manage an A. It’s what I like to call professional procrastination.
Maybe I just need to set myself some more deadlines. I want to finish this book and find an agent, get published, and start one of the many other projects I have piling up on my TBW (to be written!) list…
Thank you for your compelling words, Tess! Your advice is sound, and I just need to stop ignoring that voice in my head, urging me to GET TO WORK.
For the rest of you, please utilize Tess’s website as a reference on all things writing/publishing. She has been there, done that, and doesn’t mind telling how it is and how it works. And if you’re in the market for some thrilling reads, check out some of her numerous books! Just be prepared to lose hours of your life to reading, and hours of your sleeping time staying awake from that chill in your bones.
Please check back for my next guest post on MOTIVATION, coming soon!
Kyle W. Kerr
03/14/10 | On Writing | 0 Comments
We all need a little motivation sometimes. Until recently, it was something that I was severely lacking. I’d finished my first book but couldn’t find the urge to start the second. Trying to get noticed in an industry that’s oversaturated with aspiring talent and having financial difficulties due to declining sales is a daunting task, and I think I was letting it get the better of me.
Well, I reached out to a number of writer friends of mine and asked what keeps them motivated, and I’ll be posting their responses as I get them.
First off is one of my good friends, Gary Braver. I actually met him in Boston as Professor Goshgarian (he has three novels published under his real last name, and four under his pseudonym), and took his class on the modern bestseller. We would eventually meet again in Maui, where he was an instructor at the Maui Writer’s Conference in 2007, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Known for his gripping thrillers and thought provoking plots, Gary Braver is the bestselling author of seven novels, including Gray Matter, Flashback (winner of the 2006 Massachusetts Honor Book Award, the only thriller ever to do so), and his most recent Skin Deep. You can find out more about Gary and his works at his website.
KEEPING MOTIVATED TO WRITE
Gary Braver (Gary Goshgarian)
The other night I had dinner with a fellow novelist about what keeps us writing. And we concluded that, cliché as it may be, we write out of passion, not the pay. (In fact, we each have day jobs by necessity.) And the passion is like a low-grade fever—always there and a little distracting. For most of us who write, the passion existed before the idea to publish. We wrote in secondary schools, probably in college—for English classes, maybe even a creative writing course, possibly for the school newspapers. And we were probably good at it and were encouraged.
So, the fundamental motivation to write is grounded in the realization that we can, that we have talent, that we are capable of doing what others cannot do. I can’t fix my car nor play piano nor do my own taxes. I pay others to do those for me. But I’m lucky enough to have enough talent in something I love to do. I have a CPA friend who’s passionate about numbers and tax laws. I’d rather have serial root canal than do what he does.
I also teach fiction writing and popular literature, which makes my day job ideal for inspiring my passion. I’m sure my publisher would prefer me not to have a day job so I could turn out books once a year instead of once every two years. Of course, if my publisher paid me enough to quit teaching, I could probably do that.
I know successful novelists who don’t have day jobs, who support themselves on their novels. For them, motivation is making their deadlines so the machine doesn’t break, so they can continue pursuing their passion and talent. Not exactly a news flash.
But for those people who write and have unfulfilling day jobs, motivation comes harder. I suppose the only advice I can offer is to keep their eyes on the prize—getting a book published. But you should also be certain that you have the stuff. Most people who want to be published writers don’t have the talent to do so. Or they aren’t good at living in their heads for long periods of time. You have to like solitary confinement with your own imagination. If you can do that and if you have the talent and the passion, then motivation is believing in yourself and realizing that the people publishing today will eventually be replaced by younger writers.
Readers want new authors, and publishers need new authors. So, if that day job is turning your blood into sludge, then make time to write to keep the creative fires burning and casting light on that prize.
The key element, then, is time--time to write around your day job. If you’re a night person, set aside a couple of hours in the evening to write. If you’re a morning person, get up a couple of hours earlier, especially on weekends. Spend holidays at the keyboard. Call in sick and write your brains out.
And remember this: There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That’s plain laziness. That’s a cop-out—kind of like saying you have dysentery and can’t write. If you’re in the middle of a story and feel stuck, jump to a chapter that you know has to be in the book and write that. Or go back and polish an earlier chapter or two. Do anything to keep verbal. And if you’re still stuck, read an author you love or would like to write like—looking at his or her material the way a carpenter looks at a house. Read slowly; study how they get in and out of scenes, how characters are created so succinctly; how phrasing is fresh and clever. But do whatever is necessary to stay verbal, to remain in that fictive mode. And with luck that knot will untie itself, and you’ll be back on track.
Thank you for those inspirational words, Gary! And thank you for agreeing to be a guest poster on my blog. Everyone else: if you haven’t done so already, please check out Gary’s work, especially his latest thriller, Skin Deep!
I hope you’ve all enjoyed my first guest post on motivation and have taken from it as much as I have. More to come in the following weeks!
Kyle W. Kerr
03/9/09 | My Writings, On Writing, The Industry | 7 Comments
I think I’ve lost most of my “readers” by not updating as often as I used to, so I’m here after only two weeks instead of my usual month, which has been the norm for a while now…
I’ve finished writing new chapters for the second part of my book, and I’ve now started on Part 3. It’s going to be a relatively short PART, about 10,000 words, not including the Epilogue, which is already written. Hopefully, I can get it done in the next week. Then I need to go back to Part 2 and rearrange/edit/splice what’s there and write some new scenes. All-in-all, not much more work until it’s finished. I’ve even given myself a deadline of March 31st (which I hope to stick to… this time), and have scheduled a week of vacation at the end of the month so that it can be done. Anyone have any goats we can sacrifice… or better yet, any virgins?
The baby is being kicked out of the nest after this last edit. When I’m done with it (by the end of the month!), I plan on sending it to three of my friends (you already know who you are), so that I can get an even analysis of the book. From that, I’ll make spot edits/changes, and then it’s off to literary agent purgatory to await judgment. Hopefully my book will be able to ascend, rather than going the h-e-double-hockey-sticks route, if you catch my drift.
I know I keep saying it’s time, but ya’ll, it’s time! Other characters for other projects are whispering sweet nothings in my ears, tempting me away. And I am SO temptable at this point. At least if they were real people I might be getting laid right now. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? If I move on to these other stories, I’ll feel like I’m cheating on the current one. This one will be scorned, bitter and abandoned, and the one I cheated on it with will be the dirty, resentful mistress, because of course I wouldn’t have TOLD either of them what I was doing, but they always find out about one another at some point! See my dilemma?
For my next set of novels, I’ve already decided to go into them as open relationships (sorry to continue with the sex analogy here, it just seemed to work so I’m running with it). I know my writing pace, so know I can work on multiple projects at once and finish two to three per year (if my life goes according to plan and I’m able to write full-time). I can do one a year for each of my YA novels, possibly another random commercial novel, and a literary novel every two years. This is something I KNOW I can do, if only I have the time.
You’ve probably noticed that I have a lot of confidence in my writing and my writing ability. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s there, so I go with it. Now, the thing is, I have ZERO confidence that what I’m writing will sell, or that it’ll make me any money. We have had it ingrained in us how hard it is to make it in this business. Talent plays a big part (I’m not saying I’m talented, I just have confidence… I could be confident in crap, I don’t know, but I think every writer has confidence in their writing, or else they wouldn’t be doing it! Hear that, D?), but it’s also luck and timing and an amalgamation of other factors that all need to align at the same time as the planets do (meaning, rarely). I also know they say most writers never sell their first books. Well, that’s not really an option for me. I’ve spent FAR too much time on this book to never get it published… Even if I sell the rest of the books I write and make millions doing so, I’ll always be pushing this book, too.
That was a whole bunch of rambling, wasn’t it? Well, have you ever paid attention to what I call my blog on here?
Hopefully I’m doing you proud, Simon, and you’ll be satisfied enough to leave in peace. I love you, but eight years is a long time. We’ll still be friends, okay? And I’ll probably see you again in a few years, if I actually go ahead and decide to write the book from the POV of another character like I’ve been thinking about. DAMN IT! Shouldn’t have said that!
(Oh, if you subscribe to my Journal through either an RSS feed or through Email, let me know if you’re having trouble getting it when I publish… The site I use to send out the updates was recently acquired by Google, and I haven’t gone into it since then. Please let me know!)
Kyle W. Kerr
02/24/09 | Genius Mode, My Writings, On Writing, Reviews | 3 Comments
This seems to be the time I’ve subsciously chosen to blog every month, so I couldn’t disappoint the three of you who actually read this!
Okay, I’ve been a little hush-hush about this in the last couple of blog posts, but I guess it’s okay to talk about now. I have a confession to make: I’ve been writing. Yes, I KNOW. I don’t know what brought it on, so didn’t want to say anything in case it decided to go away again. But I’ve actually written more in the last month than I have in the last YEAR. Literally. I’ve gotten a few more new chapters written, and rewrote a section of another chapter I’d been dreading working on (and it was actually REALLY easy to do, to my surprise!). All-in-all, about 18,000 or so words.
I love my book, I really do, but I need to move on. I’ve been working on it in one form or another since I was in 10th grade. That’s over EIGHT years, folks. Eight years is a long time to have the same voices in your head, to live with the same people day in and day out. That’s why I’m hoping I can finish this one within the coming month and move on to some other projects. I’ve already mentioned that I won’t allow myself to work on any other (novel length) projects until this one is done, because I’ll never finish it if I do, and that’s still very much the rule. Though, IF I’m able to keep up this pace, finishing it within the coming month shouldn’t be a problem. I HOPE. I PRAY. Please, God, just let me finish. I don’t ask you for much, and all the jokes you like to play on me should warrant me some favors. At least one. I’m calling it in.
I’ve already decided on my next two projects, which are actually two beginnings to two young adult series’. The first is a fantasy series, and the other is an absolute bitch-fest. Did I talk about this in my last post? I’m not going back to read it, so I hope not. Ah well, you’re not getting any more information than that, so I guess you can hear it as many times as I want and it doesn’t matter, does it?!
Oh, did anyone happen to see a certain show this past Sunday, one featuring a flawless, bald, gold man who just so happens to be missing his genitals? THE OSCARS. So… KATE WON! I’M SO EFFING HAPPY FOR HER!! SHE SO DESERVES IT!!! I made a vow a while ago that, by the time I’m established in the world of Hollywood, if Kate hadn’t won an Oscar, I’d write a movie that would get her said deserved Oscar. Well, someone has spared me the trouble. Not that I would have minded writing it for her, but I don’t know how long it’ll be until I’m there, and I couldn’t bear seeing her Oscarless any longer! I love you, Kate! Can I have your babies?!
I’ve seen the movie TAKEN, starring Liam Neeson, twice now. It’s the one about an ex-CIA agent whose daughter gets kidnapped in Paris and sold into sex trafficking. The trailers for the movie looked amazing, so I was really excited about it. Honestly, the first time I saw it I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really good movie, but I was hoping for/expecting something a little DEEPER, considering who the star was. But it was exactly the kind of movie you’d expect it to be. The second time I saw it I left those hopes at the door and just enjoyed the movie for what it was, and that time walked out much more satisfied! I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something with a few well-placed shocks and Liam Neeson kicking ass along the way!
Now, I need to pose a question to all of my writer friends out there, and I would really appreciate an answer from all who have the time! A little backstory first, though…
I hate editing. Editing in the general sense of the word, anyway. When I write, I edit as I go, fleshing out sentences and paragraphs and pages, reworking dialogue until it has a natural sounding flow, making sure words aren’t repeated too often or too close together. In starting a new day of work, I always reread what I’ve already written in that chapter, checking my flow and rhythm, wording, and so on. By the time I’m done with my “first draft,” I’d say it’s akin to most other writer’s third or fourth drafts. Depending on the length, it may have been “edited” twenty-thirty times already. That being said, I hate having to go back over work I’ve already written and deemed finished, because I’m a picker. I could pick and pick at words and sentences until the earth dies, and I could pick some more after, too. I feel like I’ve already done the work and shouldn’t trouble going over it again. It’s finished. Most of my short stories—oh, who am I kidding? ALL of my short stories are technically “first drafts.”
My question is, do you actually ENJOY editing/revising? I’ve heard both arguments, but am curious to what you think. Some say revising brings out the TRUE story, while others say you’re just moving around words and beating the dead horse more dead. You know what I mean. What’s your opinion on editing/revising?
Kyle W. Kerr
12/24/08 | General, On Writing | 6 Comments
Okay. So, I know I suck. I have been a very, very naughty blogger this year. That sounds dirty, but I was talking about naughty in the Santa Clause sense, not in the Mistress Paulie sense. Right.
It’s December 24th, almost 2009, and I’ve been thinking about the past year a lot lately. What have I accomplished? Personally, I feel like nothing… but that’s not really true, is it? I mean, I did manage to graduate college with respectable marks. Not summa cum laude or anything, but with a B average (slightly over a 3.0), which is nothing to shake a stick at. It was always hard for me to commit fully to classes in which the subject or the professor were less than desirable, so all of the really good grades I got were equaled out by some, erm, really bad ones. Ah well, hakuna matata.
I also went to two writers conferences: ThrillerFest in NYC in July, and the Maui Writers Conference and Retreat in Honolulu in August/September. In Maui, I even managed to get some really great compliments from a huge bestselling author about my work. Again, not too shabby.
Other than that? The year’s basically been a dud. Yeah, I graduated, but then I was unemployed for a few months, got a job that I was forced to quit after 5 weeks, unemployed for a few MORE months (racking up some nice credit card bills in the process… eating is EXPENSIVE, ya’ll!), and then finally landed my current, low paying job in October. I owe almost everybody under the sun some money, and it doesn’t look like it is going to get better anytime soon.
On top of all of that, I’ve hardly written anything this year. I wrote one short story back in March, two chapters of my novel since I’ve been back from Hawaii, and I’ve recently started a new short story. That’s pretty much it. I haven’t had the urge to write and, despite my proclamation of a few months ago to say fuck-all to inspiration, you still need a little. It feels like I’ve got some form of writer’s mono. Like, I know that there’s this thing I want to do, need to do, but I just can’t seem to get myself to do it. Oh yes, it does come in spurts, which is why I’ve managed to write what I have, but they usually don’t last for very long.
I’m being oddly frank here, internet. But I figure, why lie? Why paint a rosy picture on what I have been feeling? Surely some of you have felt the same at some point or another. I feel pressured to write for some reason, like I SHOULD be doing it, and that thought is very paralyzing. I’ve tended to do relaxing things as of late, to keep my mind off of bills and writing… which means avoiding the blog, other writers’ blogs, email, and often the internet/computer altogether. Honestly, if I didn’t use iTunes on a nightly basis, I probably wouldn’t have used my computer these past couple of months.
It would be all well and good to make some kind of New Year’s resolution, to stand up, pump my fist in the air, and say I WILL WRITE THIS YEAR! I WILL FINISH MY NOVEL AND SUBMIT IT TO AGENTS! I WILL NOT LET MY DEPRESSION GET THE BETTER OF MY WRITING! (It’s not really depression… glumness? Is that a word? It is now.) But what good would it do? I can’t lie to myself, so why make the resolution if I can’t make myself do it?
At this point, all I can really hope is that my finances level out, that I can start paying back all of the money I owe to creditors and my friends/family, and that some of the stresses of my life lift so that I may once again concentrate on my love, my writing.
The passion is still there, the love I so fondly speak about… I can feel it in me. I keep getting ideas for novels and series’ and movies and stories. My mind is always working through plot holes and other points, creating dialogue and scenes and conflict. But how to get it out?
That, my friends, is the question of the year.
I hope everyone has a brilliant Christmas and that the New Year brings joy and success for us all.
Kyle W. Kerr
09/18/08 | On Writing | 8 Comments
My world got all kinds of busted up the other day. Well, the one in my head, that is. You all know which one I’m talking about, right? The little world all of us writers live in? Yeah, that one!
Here I’ve been, bitching and moaning that I haven’t written anything in months, that I just don’t have the urge. Apparently, all I needed to do was go FUCK THE URGE, I’m writing anyway. And you know what? I did just that. Two days ago, for the first time in over four months, I sat down and just wrote. For about an hour and a half. And spat out over 1,100 words. Not bad, I say!
I found that writing without inspiration is very much like writing WITH it… except I don’t have that doofy grin on my face. The voice of my main character was still there, ready to talk. I just had to let him. What came as the biggest shock was that it was up to my usual standard of writing. Its quality wasn’t diminished because I lacked the usual inspiration. Granted, it may have been a little harder to get the words out, but they still came. So, apparently, inspiration can suck it.
There, I said it!
At the height of my productivity, I can write a 10,000 word story in three days, so about 3,300 words a day is the best I’ve done (to memory… could have been more without me realizing it). In theory, I should be able to write a decently sized first draft (100-120k words) in about 30-36 days. BUT, considering that pace is RIDICULOUS for the long term, I’d say something like three months would be far more likely, if I wrote between 1-1.5k words per day. Which is an extremely doable pace for me! Then take the next three months for revisions and editing. At which rate I could potentially write two books a year, which I think is INSANE (though it is a slightly exciting revelation!).
What I’ve got to do is work on my discipline. I’m a very lazy writer, and I’m the first to admit to that. I’ve mostly been relying on “inspiration” for the past few years, writing in bursts when the urge hits me, but I know now that I can’t do that if I ever want to realize my dreams of becoming a fulltime writer. Writing is work, and if all anyone ever did was rely on inspiration, then there wouldn’t be so many books out there now.
I never wanted writing to become work, because I thought I wouldn’t want to do it then. Kind of like when I was younger and discovered the pleasures of cooking for the first time. I really enjoyed it at first, but then my parents turned it into a chore for me, and it lost its appeal. Surely the same would happen with writing, no? But then another realization struck: there are people all over the world who LOVE their jobs. They’re still doing work, technically, but they’re enjoying doing it. Who says that writing would be any less fun if I had to do it to make a living?
A friend pointed something out to me after reading my last blog post… in the same entry, I basically declare how brilliant I am and simultaneously knock myself down by saying I suck and haven’t written in four months. Now, I never meant for that bit about Steve saying I was a good writer to sound narcissistic, but to note my shock that he would say so (and there was a little pride in there as well, I admit). She then said something that really got me thinking: “If Steve knew you weren’t writing, he’d lose all respect for you.”
And she’s absolutely right.
I’m unemployed at the moment, as I’ve noted. Yes, I have a few stresses, but no real excuse about why I can’t write. Did Stephen King stop writing after being hit by a car? Did Anne Rice stop writing after her daughter died at a young age? Did Jo Rowling stop writing when she was so close to being homeless? No. And look what’s happened for all of them! (I’m not comparing myself to them at all, but they are the most tragic writer scenarios I could think of to prove my point! And yes, I know SK got hit AFTER he was already über successful… but he’s bounced back almost tenfold!)
A new declaration: Writing is now my job. Regardless of what happens in the near future as a means to make money, any other “job” I get will be part-time in comparison to my writing. I’m not setting any goals right now as far as daily productivity, though I still have a personal deadline of finishing all revisions on my novel by October 31. I’m going to need everyone’s help to remind me of this deadline, and make me feel guilty if I’m not doing my job. Local friends and family: if you see me watching TV or a movie I’ve seen a bajillion times, ask me why I’m not writing. Distant friends and family: occasional reminders that I should be writing or inquiries into how it’s all going would be appreciated!
As soon as this entry is posted, I’m packing up my laptop and going back to the local diner where I managed my last successful writing day. No internet, no TV, no couch/bed to nap on… just my computer and my imagination!
Kyle W. Kerr
10/29/07 | Genius Mode, My Writings, On Writing | 0 Comments
This weekend was actually quite productive. I was able to work my way through TWO chapters, bringing me closer to the finish line. I’m really happy with them. It’s interesting, too… with this second draft, my antagonist is revealing much more about himself than ever before, and he’s becoming a much deeper and troubled person. I hope he continues to be as candid with me as the novel moves forward, and also that I get the same level of cooperation from the rest of the characters…!
Though, the more I write this book, the less I think it’s a YA novel… Everyone keeps telling me it’s YA because the characters are all in high school, yet the graphic nature of some of the scenes (which are too necessary to cut) suggests it will be hard to sell as YA. I’m constantly reminded on A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, because the majority of the novel is based in a time when the two main characters are young (beginning even younger than high school, in fact), yet that is not at all a YA novel. Come to think of it, you’d be hard pressed to find a high-schooler willing to read a John Irving book. (Not that I’m comparing myself to him, of course!) Would any of you read a book whose main characters are in high school if the plot intrigued you? Let me know your thoughts on this…
On a fun note, I’ve been quoted in a blog! The topic of Tess Gerritsen’s October 20th blog post was “Are Anxious Writers More Successful?” Meaning, if published authors harbor the fear of losing their market, they will work harder to improve with each and every book they write. However, it is not good to become complacent and not strive for betterment, because you just might become the old lion that way, toothless and forgotten, reminiscing of better days when you were the king of the jungle. This is my reply to her:
“During the Maui Writers Retreat, John Lescroart made a really great speech… He says that, during the writing process, there are two different modes an author goes into. When she’s writing the first draft, the author is in “Genius Mode,” where everything she writes is flecked with gold and diamonds. Then, when it comes time for editing and revision, she enters “Idiot Mode,” where the author realizes that what she had first taken for gold and diamonds is actually pyrite and kitty litter. It’s the worst thing she’s ever seen, let alone written herself.
I think there is a vast difference between cockiness and confidence. I think that people SHOULD have confidence in their own work and ability, but confidence does not beget anxiety. We all know how fickle this market is, and it’s not a good idea to become complacent. Plus, I would much rather read a book that an author has thrown themselves fully into, than one that they just threw out the door because they could.
I know I go into Genius Mode whenever I write something. But, as I look over it, revise it, and give it to someone to read for the first time, I’m always thinking it’s the worst thing I have ever written. There’s no plot, the characters are all one-dimensional, etc. I think you’re right, though… that thought does make me work just as hard (or harder) on the next piece.”
(If you look carefully, you’ll discover the origin of two of my Journal categories!)
Well, UK writer Ray-Anne Leutner liked what I had to say so much that she asked to quote me in her own blog, to which I happily obliged. So, if any of you are interested to hear what she’s got to say, a hop across the pond is only a click away!
Kyle W. Kerr
09/20/07 | Books, General, Genius Mode, Maui, On Writing | 0 Comments
Throughout the years I have looked for help in many different places: books, magazines, websites, from authors, workshops, the list goes on and on. I’m going to list a few of the things that really help(ed) me.
Half autobiography, half book on style, Stephen mixes up one of the best books on writing available today. Why is there a section where he talks about himself? Because you need to know where he’s coming from in order to know why he does what he does best. The story of his life, his vices, and the success of his first book, Carrie, are inspirational (something all of us novice writers need!), and the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing. Read through the book, do the samples, and watch your talent soar.
Okay, who the hell would ever read a book on punctuation, let along write one? You guys, this is an amazing book. I don’t claim to be the end all of punctuation knowledge (in fact, I tell everyone who will listen that most of my knowledge is actually instinct based… which usually works, but not always). You couldn’t find a more boring topic, but Lynne handles it with grace and—dare I say it?—a little wit as well. (Also, if you’re in the mood to laugh, check out her book on rudeness, Talk to the Hand).
Both are monthly magazines, and both cover a wide array of writerly topics: from how to get an agent, to writing better emotion, to lessons on column writing, and so on. Also included in many of the issues are current markets out there searching for new material, information about contests and competitions (including some of their own), as well as first-time novelists’ success stories (which are always great to read).
I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to Tess on two occasions, but more importantly I am able to connect with her on a much more regular basis through the blog on her website. She actually reads every comment, and personally responds to them when necessary. Not only is she an immensely gracious author by taking the time to connect with her readers in such a way, but her blog is actually a very useful tool to novice writers like myself. Tess gives us the inside scoop on the publishing industry, both the ups AND the downs. Most importantly, she brings herself down to our level, reassuring us that we all have doubts and worries, and even she, after 20+ books and a level of über-success most of us only dream of, still gets nervous whenever she begins a new project or when her books go on sale. And, as shown by this entry, she really cares about us beginners.
This is a peer-to-peer critiquing site. Basically, in order to have someone critique your work, you need to do the same for someone else. Once you read and review one story (you write up an actual review for the author, as well as scoring the piece on several categories, including plot, theme, characters, language, etc.), then you are able to put your own piece up for review. This is a great tool for anyone who gets nervous presenting their work to groups, and it works out fairly well. The only problem I really have with this is that you can’t regulate who reads your story. It could be sent to someone who doesn’t like your genre/theme, and your rating and review will reflect that. Also, you lose a little when you’re not able to actually talk to the person about what they thought. All you get is a little snippet. Still very enlightening and useful.
Okay, I know I’ve talked about this a little in previous posts (considering I was just there!), but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate all of this. The conference is nice because you get to go to seminars and hear from some of the best authors in the world, including NYT and internationally bestselling and Pulitzer winning authors. They tell you their stories and insights about what has worked for them, including some tips and tricks they’ve picked up along the way.
BUT, the best thing about the whole experience is if you go to the week long retreat before the conference. This is where you are able to learn, this is where you are able to delve into the depths of your writing and uncover what lies beneath. I can honestly say that the retreat changed my life—and my novel—forever and for the better. You learn about your weaknesses and try to improve upon them. You learn about your strengths and try to broaden them. You learn by doing, by writing, and rewriting, and rewriting again, because there’s no better way to learn than by doing.
EVERY BOOK I’VE EVER READ
This is something I can’t stress enough. Every time you read a book you are learning how to write; plot, structure, interesting and realistic characters, dialogue, theme, everything you would ever need to know about writing has been laid out for you for centuries, all you have to do is pick one up and read it. I am flabbergasted when wannabe writers tell me that they do not have time to read—they’re too busy! Well, how are you supposed to know how to tell a story if you never read one? Don’t know what to read? Go to the library, go to Barnes & Noble and browse, or even email me if you need some suggestions; I’ve read hundreds of great books.
Hopefully some of this information will help you can write one (and me, too!).
Kyle W. Kerr