Thursday, May 27, 2010

Two for the Show

During my many hours on the subway each week, I often stare at print ads for novels. Mind you, these are almost always GC  (publisher of Nicholas Sparks and other zillionnaire best-sellers). The lurid ad text makes you yearn to read the thing on your Kindle before you get to work. I mention the publisher to make clear that these are not literary masterpieces. They are hugely viable commercial monsters. They are closer to TV shows than books.

Many of these ads are for two-authored novels. Think of it. Two people writing the same novel. The concept fascinates me. It really is more like the procedure for a screenplay.

I try to imagine the roles of these two authors. One guy writes while the other guy sleeps, so it's a 24-hour factory? That would explain the proliferation of such books. One guy plans the story and the other guy writes it? One guy writes the dialog and the other guy sews it together with "he said,"  "she remarked," "the girl blubbered"? One guy writes a draft in longhand and the other guy types and revises? One guy writes while the other guy does a Starbucks run?

For someone who (like most novelists, I feel safe in guessing) thinks of writing as blissfully solitary work, the collaborative novel seems as ineffectual as two people driving the same car at the same time.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Bloom of Impatience

I wait. I hear nothing. Then a rejection. Then nothing. I send out another work. I check my submissions log. A legitimate zine that says it will respond in three weeks hasn't responded in six. For another, it's been three months. For yet another, four. An editor loves my story but has no room; she's filing it. I have a book contract and no release date. I wait.

There is no way to control that end of this process. The only control I have is over my own output. I can do a lot of writing and make it the best quality I can. Everything else is up to the fates, working in their own sweet time. Didn't Confucious say something like that, or was it some bodhisattva? He was right, whoever it was, even if he wasn't talking about writing fiction.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Addled or an Agile Mind

I have a file full of story ideas. I have five or six novels in at least partial outline, some with chapter drafts. I can't choose which to work on, although I know which is the most logical to work on given my career goals.

How does one turn off one's fountain of ideas? Should one? At some point, I must get something done, not just get more things started. As in most cases, discipline needs to rein in creativity, focus it, keep it on a path. Otherwise, it's fruitless.

This post turned out rather like a prayer, but that just might be appropriate.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


The German composer Paul Hindemith promoted a concept called Gebrauchsmusik (Useful music) in the 1930s. This was the tenet that music should be an activity for everyone to enjoy listening to; it was a reaction against the tendency of music to be highly learned, mathematical, and elitist.

I'm beginning to feel this way about fiction. Over and over I find publishing markets that take only "literary fiction," and will refuse even to read "genre fiction." If it's fun, it's apparently not art.

I made the choice to stop working on my PhD dissertation partly because I wanted to write things that lots of people would enjoy reading. To stay true to that philosophy, I feel I must fight the elitist condescension I often find aimed at genre fiction.

All hail fun reading!