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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Guest Post: Van Zetreus


This is the first installment of a series of posts I will be posting from readers about what makes a “good read” for them. The insight that we can glean from the people who will potentially be reading our work can be invaluable, so I hope you guys enjoy these as much as I have! Van is a friend of mine who, if you can’t tell, is a highly educated individual who has been trained to add a degree of technicality to his writing through all of the reading he has done for school. He is also a supporter of the Humane Society and loves his pets almost as much as I love mine! While his article may be a bit technical, I urge you to read it in its entirety! It’s AMAZINGLY written and highly informative! Happy writing!

D

 

Why/What I Read?

Every now and then, friends and strangers ask me how I can read as much as I do, and sometimes they ask how I can stand reading the dry articles, essays and books by philosophers, theorists and other thinkers that I revel in. The answer is: I have a love for texts. It’s that simple. I love reading, whether it is a children’s book or it is a dense Russian fuckface of a brick-novel. There is something in the way other people describe a world that may or may not surround me, to see what they notice, what they don’t. I look at reading from a very foucaultian perspective. Michel Foucault wrote in the seventies that the only way we can even approximate an understanding of the world and other individuals is through literature. Literature is the overlap between two people’s experience and thus creates a shared reality we accept as the way things are.

But, although I do love reading in general there are certain forms to the expression of writing that suit me better than others. One form that really doesn’t suit me (that I even can be said to despise) is the unannounced time jump. An author acknowledged for her literary brilliance and that everyone is supposed to love and revere is Toni Morrison. Although I am constantly struck by her lush and gorgeous diction, she seems to desire the instilment of confusion in her readers by constantly deciding to jump back and forth in time and not make it clear how the different moments in time a placed in relation to each other. Are we talking 2 months or 30 years? She drives me crazy when she does it and I end up not giving a shit about the characters she so beautifully describes to me.

What I really do love about Morrison’s and others’ form is the use of shorter sections. I hate having to put down a book in the middle of a chapter. So chapters that run at 10-20 pages are awesome because then you don’t have to take that break in the middle. An author who is horrible at this (and many other things) is Ayn Rand. How the hell do you expect me to sit concentrated and read a speech by a character that spans over 80 pages, and then some other context-text around it? It is not often I can take that kind of a reading stretch. As a tip for aspiring novelists and short storyists I would recommend building in even breaks in the work as to give a reading experience more suited for the ADD inherent in our culture today. Think about Roald Dahl. Why do we love Roald Dahl? He manages to construct an entire world, a hero, a villain, and a plot we care about in just a few pages, sometimes just one. His language is so powerful he doesn’t need a lot of it. Then he manages to build this tiny little chapters, for those moments when you may just have 10-20 minutes to escape the moment for another.

 

Why the bleep you should write?

This is the formulation I am really passionate about, and I can respond less dryly to. The easiest answer to the question I can give you is: Because words change people’s lives. Sociologist Anthony Giddens, although a crackpot of astronomical proportions, has argued several times how our identities, our senses of self, are constructed from narratives, narratives in constant motion and reformulation. Your life is not just one narrative; it is many narratives braided together, constructing the illusion of a whole. But there are always gaps. When we find a new gap we add a narrative, rewrite one, remove one, or whatever we feel necessary in order to build that illusion of a whole. But, the change constructs a new gap to be found, and we restart the process when we discover where it is.

Reading other stories and narratives, whether fictional or non-fiction helps us rewrite our own narratives, change them for the sake of accuracy, mystique, whims, or whatever reason you may have to change it. But, as you write novels and short stories, you are also negotiating your own narratives, trying to make sense of them, or maybe trying to build a friend. Writing is a vital part of life. It helps us deal with life by often being as unpredictable as life tends to be. If you have been writing for a while it has probably happened to you that unplanned characters and events just show up on the page because they simply need to be there. Later on, that character might receive a spin-off, generating another character who gets a spin-off of their own, which also tells stories about characters existing in the first story. This stuff happens because writing is living; it is breathing.

Everyone writes. Every account a person makes is a recollection, a reconstruction. In some ways it doesn’t matter if it is “true” or not, because the moment it is written, its existence is “true.” Whenever you doubt your writing, remember that you might help someone write themselves out of a destructive narrative. Think of a youtube video that went viral about a year ago, many months after first posted. It featured a boy telling a first-person-narrative about abuse, bullying, and self-destructive behavior through written notes. It generated a lot of responses in the form of other videos where people adopted his form to tell him he was not alone in his experience. It also generated responses saying that he was lying because he had posted another video months later where he was happy and in some parts retracted the first video. But the issue is that it doesn’t matter if he “lied.” Even if he “lied” he was telling a “truth,” but through himself rather than through another person.

I have rambled on for long enough. I’m just gonna add one more point to this ludicrous essay: The only writers I thoroughly enjoy reading are the ones who I believe are telling “A TRUTH,” writers like the youtube boy. If they capture a sense of a shared or private reality, I have to see that capture through. Maybe it is my reality, my narrative, or the student I will meet in class in the morning.

Van Zetreus

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in Guest Posts

 

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My Muse Needs a Megaphone!


The moment you realize your Muse has been missing for a few days is never a pleasant one. I tend to spend several days surfing the web and looking at cool pictures, reading random blogs, and mashing the refresh button on Facebook hoping that something interesting will happen. Generally, this behavior just leads to my friends on Facebook complaining about me spamming their news feed and my Klout score falling. Not a single word ends up being written when I get into these odd little funks.

Today, I had the realization that my Muse was on vacation again. So I went searching for her. I searched on Facebook, I Googled her, I searched for her among the dust bunnies under my cupboards, and I poured through my text message (SMS) inbox. Low and behold, she was nowhere to be found.

Defeated, I went back to my ever-so-handy web browsing. Link hopping on Google landed me on an entire page full of quotes about writing. There she was, sitting between a heap of writing quotes that made me laugh out loud and a slew of writing quotes meant to inspire.

I’m not sure if it was the influx of oxygen to my brain from the laughing or if the motivational quotes actually did their job, but suddenly my Muse was back and upset that I had been ignoring her. The rush of creativity that hit me was almost too much to keep up with. I got home from work two hours ago and I’ve written 1,500 words in my current revision of my novel and this blog post.

All in all, not such a bad day, right?

After thinking about it, I have decided to undertake an experiment. From now on, when I find myself aimlessly wandering through cyber-land, I’m going to give my wandering a little bit of focus. Instead of just link hopping, I’ll limit myself to pictures, websites, Facebook posts and blogs about writing. I spend more time looking at pictures of cats than I do at work every day. It’s become a terrible habit and it has become evident in my writing (or lack thereof).

I’m hoping that this new shift in behavior will prove to be beneficial for me AND the people who depend on me to give them life on the page. If any of you have any advice on how to give your Muse a megaphone when your ears stop working, comments are more than welcome!

As always, happy writing!

D

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Mountains and Mole Hills

 

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Do: Network


Seriously. Network. I cannot stress this enough. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, book signings, conventions, the coffee shop, wherever you happen to work, school, your kids’ school, ANYWHERE. Each connection you make is one more possible reader. In the world of writing, our readers are our number one priority. Whether you write a blog, school papers, novels, poetry or anything else, if you don’t have readers, you can’t be successful.

Social Networking sites are an amazing tool for writers. I am a member of a group on Facebook called Novel Publicity which is a conglomerate (4,291 members as of this moment) of people from all walks of the writing world; Authors, readers, bloggers, editors, critics, publishers, you name it.They have several lists where you can post links to your professional materials (your Facebook Fan Page, your blog, your Twitter account, your website, etc) and members go through those lists and connect to your materials. Sure, some of them go through, like your page, and then hide all posts by you. Some may even post their info and not go through and like anyone else’s stuff. Personally, my experience with them has been fantastic! I’ve broadened my target area considerably and gained 100+ “Likes” on my author page from that site alone. Even taking out 75% (WAY overshooting here) of them for people who blocked posts as soon as they “liked” my page, that’s still 25 people who will see the post when my book hits the shelves. Sure, only 10 of them might actually go out and grab a copy, and only 5 of them might tell a friend or 2 who might do the same, but as an author trying to get started, everything counts. Especially that free publicity.

In a world where you can get your hands on more free e-books than you could imagine reading in a lifetime, being a successful author is becoming exceedingly difficult. Good networking becomes more vital with each passing day. Connect with your potential readers and do everything you can to find those readers in places that are likely to do you and your business good. We are, after all, chasing that “J.K. Rowling Dream”! She didn’t get where she is by handing out free copies of her books to anyone holding out a hand. You’re going to run into people who are only out to get their hands on a free copy of your stuff. It’s inevitable. Before you go giving away your money, be absolutely sure that you will get something out of it. A mention in a Facebook status at the very least. If you’re going to give away free copies, book bloggers are the way to go. Just be careful. Again, make sure that you’ll get something out of it. Don’t give your romance novel to a critic who covers sci-fi. They will most likely just delete it or toss it in the nearest garbage can. They have plenty of people sending them books from their preferred genre in hopes of getting a good review on a popular site. If you can, contact them and get some info from them. Ask if they have time in the near future to do a review, ask about their preferred genre, try to get them to promise a review, good or bad, when they finish reading your work. Bad reviews are not only publicity (I know people who will only read a book if it was given a bad review just to see if it was really as bad as they say) but if you’re smart, you’ll read what the critic has to say and take notes. Not only are they readers, but they are pipelines to immense numbers of people every day. If they say that your flow was wrong in places or that “the voice” we all hear so much about was lacking, note it down and pay close attention to those things as you write and edit your next manuscript. Don’t give them the chance to say it twice!

Having 1,000 “likes” (views, friends, what have you) of your book before you even land a publishing deal can (I imagine) be a MAJOR bargaining chip when it comes time to publish. That’s 1,000 people who, if you do your job properly, will be more likely to read your book and tell their friends to do the same. That means a faster recoup time for the publisher that picks you up which means your royalties will start rolling in faster and they’ll be begging you to release your next book as soon as possible. Which they will pay you even more for.

First, you need to get your book written! You should probably get on that right about now! Happy writing!

D

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Literary Dos and Don'ts

 

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