Saturday, October 31, 2009

Writing to a Market

My opinion. Don't.

Upon the sage advice of a well-respected agent, I invested over a year in writing to the series market. He liked the protagonist I created. I liked her, too. And publishing houses like series.

Several well read authors follow the series blueprint successfully. Clive Cussler has Dirk Pitt. For James Patterson, it's his detective Alex Cross, and Janet Evanovich writes Stephanie Plum.

The second manuscript in my to-be series featuring the same protagonist has only one slight problem. It sits, unfinished.

I use the tool of character boards. I have a plot in mind, and maybe even a detailed story outline, but before I can proceed to write a single page I must first have intimate knowledge of the characters I'm writing about. I have to love them and hate them before I can share them with my readers, or they aren't going to love them and hate them. I need to know my characters so that my readers can see, hear and touch them as I do. It has taken you a long time to find the forever-friendships in your life. You have spent years growing these friendships into a deeper existence of 'Namasté' . I need to speed things up a bit.

The process goes like this. First, I paste a barrage of photograph clippings from old magazines that closely resemble the physical attributes of each character. Then I interview each character, even secondary ones. I need to know where they went to school, where they've lived, what they graduated in, what their hobbies are, and what they like for dinner. I drill down further. I learn their quirks, their regrets, their nightmares and dreams. I need to know despicable things about the sweetest girl in class. Only then have I dug deep enough to discover the authenticity of GMC [goal, motivation, and conflict].

It doesn't take long to discover your enemies, does it? But to truly understand their GMC, the writer must treat them with the same amount of authentic intimacy. Sometimes that means finding a thread of tenderness in evil.

The parting of ways with a beloved or despised character is always bittersweet. But, as when I moved from my home state of Colorado, I took my beloved friends with me in my heart and soul, and all of what is me. Namasté .

'No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.'

                                                                                                                       -Robert Frost-

For me, I lose an element of surprise and emotion when I continue with the same characters facing new sagas.

Then again, there's my second humble opinion. Never say never.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Critic and the Creative

I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to bite off the hand that feeds me. This blog is not about dissing critics and reviewers. Believe me, I have a boatload of my own not-so-humble opinions that I’m happy to divulge, and oddly, not everyone agrees with me.

Critics and reviewers have their place, rightfully. Judgment raises its voice every day, in the art world, the cinema, and in every written word. Even your inner critique engages you when you make your choice. Will it be Rice Crispies or Cocoa Puffs?

One of my manuscripts went before several ‘outside professional reviewers’. One person wrote, “I would read anything by this author”. Another wrote that he couldn’t get through my first chapter of crap. Hard to believe they were reading the same material!

It’s curious to me, this large percentage of C&R’s that have never pitched their own finished creations. Because they have none!
It’s curious to me, what power they yield. A critic sees a red vertical line painted on a black canvas and says it’s crap, but when he sees the red horizontal line on a black canvas, he knights it as genius. A star is born. Stephen King received the following critique/rejection for his bestselling novel, Carrie: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

I was lucky. My mother and father both fostered my creativity. I would run to them and say, ‘Look what I did’, and always, I did GREAT! Imagine my surprise when I found out that some of what I did was crap.
To take a blank canvas and turn it into emotion, that’s the hard work. Hard work is taking an empty stage and creating life, and turning a ream of paper into comedy and tragedy.

For you, today, I wish creativity. Perhaps it’s the rock you position in your garden, just right. Maybe its adding a few lines to the store-bought greeting card you send out. Perhaps creativity is only a glimpse of inspiration today, that stirs you when you take a hard look at a crooked tree in silhouette with the inky skyline. You may not go home and paint it. You may not journal about your sighting. But your heart , somewhere down in there, has taken notes, and if you listen to it, may it sing.

Oh yeah. I still wait in judgment.