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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Look It Up or Make It Up?

Lian Hearn is an example of an author who gives historical fiction a freeing twist.  For her Otori novels, which are technically fantasy in genre, she invented a place that's almost samurai-era Japan, but not quite. 

Hearn got a big ol' grant to go live in Japan to do research (kudos, Lian!), but then made up her own reality.  So if certain things in her books weren't really so in history, it didn't matter.  There was no way to call her on it, because it was not intended to be the real Japan.  Yet, because her invented world has so much detail based on research of Japan, it feels very believable to the reader.  This approach also allowed her to add just a tinge of the magical to the stories. Clever, clever!

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Friday, March 26, 2010

No Substitutions

Note to self:  changing my status on Facebook does not count as writing.  What's happening to me?  Yesterday I burrowed into my work like a badger and finished a chapter of the new Harley book.  Today all I can do is stare at the screen and get up frequently to take a nap.

It's not writer's block.  I'm swimming in ideas.  It's old-fashioned laziness, like I somehow earned a day off.  After just one chapter?  Puh-LEEEZE.

Shake it off, Johnson!  Write a measly paragraph! (I really need an agent to give me these pep talks; embarrassing to do it myself...)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big or little?

Yesterday I got a children's story idea and started to scribble.  Soon, however, I realized that I didn't know whether I was working on a short story or a book.  Should I flesh it out into a 15,000-word chapter book or shear it down into a 1500-word tale?  This particular confusion has not happened to me before.  Then again, I've never written a chapter book, so maybe I just don't know how to recognize a potential one.  Maybe it's time to try.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

And We Wait. And We Wait.

A couple of decades ago, when I worked as an editor at a university book publisher, it was all about galleys.  First galleys, second galleys.  Send 'em to the author.  Hound the author to send 'em back.  Call the author if her corrections were illegible or illogical.

But in my book-writing experience, there have been no galleys.  I turn in my manuscript.  I hear nothing.  I forget about the whole thing and move on to other projects.  Then one day my free copies of the finished book show up at my door (or they don't, as happened once, when I found out two years later that my book had been released).

I miss galleys.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just When You Think You Know

Rejection after rejection filled my mailbox, both physical and virtual.  It seemed it would be easier to place a phone call to Mars than a short story in a magazine.  Yet, when I submitted my first novel to its first prospective publisher, it was snapped up in five weeks.  Well, says I, I'll write only long works. Clearly that's what I'm better at.

But there's a problem with that course of action that even a novice like me can see. Annie Proulx is on record as saying that she's not sure novels are worth the effort.  They obsess and exhaust you for a year, whereas you can do a good short story in six weeks.

Besides the energy issue, there's the motivational factor.  Sure, you say to yourself, I'll finish a chapter a week.  Even if you do that, you won't have a completed thing for ages.  No chapter can be truly completed until the rest of the novel is drafted.  A short story, on the other hand, is there, it's done, it's over, and you have an item to submit.  And to be rejected multiple times, probably, but still... It's always nice to find a letter in the mailbox.