Very often new writers will try to gain the approval of literary critics, writing books that become more and more obscure and difficult to read, so that the average reader ends up not liking them. They try to load their books with (often simplistic and foolish) metaphors. I call these folks the FRM crowd because they are “fraught with meaning.” Remember: critics don’t buy books. They get them for free, and their tastes are not necessarily the same as the average person.
Amplifying the signal. Go, and do likewise. Dave Wolverton (a.k.a. David Farland), a fine writer and superb writing teacher, is in trouble, and his family needs your help:
As many of you know, Dave’s son, Ben, was in a serious long-boarding accident last week. He is 16 and suffers from severe brain trauma, a cracked skull, broken pelvis and tail bone, burnt knees, bruised lungs, broken ear drum, road rash, and is currently in a coma. His family has no insurance.
We are having a book bomb this Wednesday on behalf of Ben Wolverton to help his family out. You can view the event’s facebook page here.
For those that don’t know, a book bomb is an event where participants purchase a book on a specific day to support the author, or, in this case, a young person in serious need: Ben Wolverton.
Many of you have expressed sympathy for Dave and Ben and have asked if you could help. Now you can. We need you to help Ben get the most out of this book bomb. Right now we are focused on spreading the word and telling others about it. If you could share this event on facebook, twitter, pinterest, your blog, or through email, please do. This is a way everyone reading this can help, whatever their financial situation.
On Wednesday, we will have the book bomb. If you haven’t yet purchased Nightingale or Million Dollar Outlines, please consider doing so on Wednesday. If you have already purchased them, you can donate money to Ben and his family here.
If you have a blog and would like to do a post about this book bomb, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you some information you can use.
Please consider “attending” our event on facebook.
Much of the material in Million Dollar Outlines was covered in the workshop I took with Mr. Wolverton in 2011. I can vouch for its value. However, I haven’t bought the actual book. It looks like I’ll be doing that on Wednesday.
The chief business of an essayist — I speak here of the kind of essayist that I occasionally manage to be, and that better men than I are sometimes reduced to when not at their best — is to tilt at windmills. The second greatest delight such an essayist can know is to tilt at a windmill, in the full knowledge and expectation that it is really a windmill, and that he shall end by making a quixotic fool of himself, and discover in the heat of combat that it is only a giant after all. [Read more…]
Geoff Burling says, in a comment on The Passive Voice (same article as the last):
One problem I have with Friedman’s post was that she insisted on an artificial distinction between “literary fiction” — I’m guessing she means fiction that is written well but is not bestseller material — & “genre” fiction (e.g., romance, mystery, action, science fiction): until a few decades ago, any fiction writer published with the hope her/his book would get on the bestseller lists, that everyone would want to read the book. (I bet even Herman Melville wanted Moby Dick to be a best seller, & was disappointed when it sold poorly.) A work is classed as literature long after the author is dead in most cases, anyway.
Actually, the ‘literary fiction’ racket has been going for over a century, and it is, indeed, a racket. It is based not on quality of writing (though, to keep its rights to the moniker ‘literary’, it does tend to insist obsessively on fine details of prose technique at the sentence level), but on exclusion. [Read more…]
J. A. Konrath wrote an ebook called The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, chock-full of good advice when written; but alas, it is two years old now, and a geological era out of date. I don’t want to make a bad example of Mr. Konrath, who has done a beautiful job of keeping up with the times; his blog remains a valuable source of information and insight. But I want to quote this from the Newbie’s Guide, because it contains an important truth about the traditional publishing business, and a cardinal fallacy about salable fiction:
Consider the agent, going through 300 manuscripts in the slush pile that have accumulated over the last month.
She’s not looking to help writers. She’s panning for gold. And to do that, you have to sift through dirt. It might be some very good dirt she’s dismissing. But it is still dirt.
Be the gold.
The best way to get published, or to win a contest, is to shine. Don’t be mistaken for dirt. Don’t do anything that lets them reject you — because they’re looking to reject you unless you can show them you’re brilliant.
In one of his series of essays on ‘Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing’, Dean Wesley Smith takes aim at what he calls the ‘myth’ that writers compete with one another. He pours scorn on this ‘myth’, and on all who believe it. A short but representative sample:
The myth is simply that writers compete.
Of course, this is so far wrong, it shouldn’t be even talked about, but alas it’s still out there and going strong. In fact, I recently made the mistake of wondering over onto the Kindle boards and wasted a bunch of hours before I came to my senses. By the time I was finished with those hours, I knew I had to talk about this, since new writer after new writer talked about how they had to compete with all the other writers to get their books read.
He then goes on to paint a wonderful Technicolor picture of a world where there is an unlimited demand for fiction, pie for you and me and pasture for all the sheep, and the sky’s the limit, baby. Now, I do not know what religion Mr. Smith adheres to, but I am a lifelong devotee of what Kipling calls the Gods of the Copybook Headings. And one of the Copybook Headings, which people like Mr. Smith seem never to have heard of, is this:
Trees do not grow up to the sky. [Read more…]
Sherwood Smith inquires into the matter of ‘writing deep’, and there is evident puzzlement on all hands about what ‘deep’ means. As you might guess from the title of this essai, I am not much taken with the idea of ‘deep’ writing in fiction. I therefore propose to examine the Emperor’s garments one by one, until I find a windcheater that actually, you know, cheats the wind. This turns out to be a longish task, so I shall take it one heading at a time. To begin with:
1. Armchair philosophizing as a substitute for character development.
This, I suspect, is what most adolescents (and nearly all college students) are likely to mean when they call a book ‘deep’. As in: ‘Who-o-o-a . . . that’s, like, so deep.’ Ayn Rand is so deep, and so are Camus and Vonnegut, and various other hardy campus perennials. Adolescence and early adulthood are naturally given to a kind of ill-focused antinomianism, which, having been trained to do so by its elders in the media and academe, readily expresses itself in scorn poured out upon ‘the metaphysics of savages’, as one of those elders notoriously called what other people call ‘common sense’. We are taught early in life that the earth is really round, though ‘obviously’ flat, and that it is really in motion, though ‘obviously’ stationary, and that ‘obviously’ solid matter is really mostly empty space between atoms. All of these teachings are half-truths, and the short half of the truth at that. [Read more…]