Thursday, July 23, 2009

Social Media for Authors

Wow! Two posts in one day ... amazing right?

Anyway, I found an article over at PW about social media and its uses for authors (both religious and otherwise). Very interesting it is.

Bad writing

My Editing professor in college (a wonderful spitfire of a woman) had the funniest name for bad writing in business -- "Bizcrap" she called it -- because that's what it was. Crappy writing that people in the business world produced and, to her surprise, used.

(This is the same woman who told my Editing class that she refused to give us a grade on one assignment because reading it made her eyes bleed. Can you tell I learned a lot from her?)

But anyway, the point of this post is that bad writing is far too prevalent in modern society. Some people say email is creating a nation of bad writers. The ease of communication email presents means that we spend less time on crafting an effective letter to co-workers and friends. Why bother, when you can dash it off in two minutes and click send, knowing that it will get there immediately?

Some companies are thankfully striking back at this epidemic of poor grammar, as this 2005 NBC Nightly News story shows. Reading that story, though old, gave me a warm feeling inside (then again that could be the coffee ... but I digress).

The point is that we shouldn't succumb to the temptation of dashing off any sort of correspondence without taking the time to read over it. You wouldn't send a poorly written novel off to a publisher (hope springs eternal) would you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

40% of books

So yeah ... to anyone who's potentially reading this blog (all two of you if I'm lucky), read this sobering fact over at Editorial Ass about how many books actually get pulped.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Books vs. Movies

I saw the newest Harry Potter movie yesterday, and I got to thinking afterward about the differences between books and movies. J.K. Rowling's books are a perfect guinea pig here because both the books and movies are wildly popular, so a wide swath of the population will see the movies after reading the books and go "wait a second here, they cut x, y, and z out."

That's enough of a lead-in I think, so onto the discussion (read: my thoughts). Books are, by their nature, more detailed than movies. Think about it ... a movie can be at most 2 to 2 1/2 hours long. Any lengthier and people tend to stop paying attention (Lord of the Rings notwithstanding) and begin wondering when they're going to be able to go home. These same people may happily spend 12 hours reading a book however, and there's usually enough detail in the really good stories to keep the average reader entertained for at least that long, between the multiple subplots and supporting character motivations that thread most novels.

Movies can focus on one, maybe two storylines at any given point. Books can have as many subplots and tangents as you the writer can shove into 300 pages, and have those subplots be woven into the fabric of the main story. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the novel does this several times: Remus and Tonks' romance, Fleur and Bill getting engaged, Harry and Ginny getting together, Kreacher is gone, so is anything about 12 Grimmauld Place, and an entire bit with Dobby gets lost. The scriptwriter of the movie decided, rightly, that we want to mostly see the story directly involving the Golden Trio. But to do that, the scriptwriter was forced to cut out huge swathes of the book, losing a lot of the rich characterization those subplots afforded.

Side note: Joe Queenan over at The Guardian wrote an article recently about movie novelizations and how they work (link taken from Pimp My Novel -- thank you Laura and Eric!).

I'm not saying books are better than movies, and if this post came across that way I apologize. Both forms of storytelling have their pros and cons, and there's something magical about watching your favorite books come to life on the big screen (anyone else think Dumbledore looked cool in the scene with the Inferi?) that can't be described. So in the end, movies made from books will almost inevitably leave things out in order to translate the story from one medium to another.

Doesn't mean it's bad. Just means it's different.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why writers write (or rather, why this one does)

"Writing is the easiest thing in the world," Sportswriter Red Smith is supposed to have said, "All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

I feel like posts similar to this are a dime a dozen out there in the grand blogosphere -- more so in the publishing ones I frequent -- but that's not really the point. The point is that writers are a particular breed of people; the kind that looks at the world through a more imaginative prism than a large portion of the populace. Musicians and artists are similar, all creative people are really, in this respect. While a singer or painter may work in notes and brush strokes, writers craft their art with words and language and turns of a phrase that can, on occasion, sing.

Like most creative endeavors, writing is not a surefire way to make it rich. The likelihood of a novelist being able to support his or her family only from writing happens to something like 1% of authors, equally out to about 100 people at any given time. I forget where I saw that number, but it was most likely on one of the aforementioned publishing blogs listed over on the right.

I've purposely avoided answering the blog title's question thus far. You may (or may not, I don't judge) ask why. To build dramatic tension of course! OK that didn't work. Crud. So here's the short version: Why does this writer write?

Because it's fun.

I get to create new worlds, new people, new cultures, and set them to spinning in such a way that sometimes I don't even know what's going to happen. It's a blast and a half to write a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, or an entire story that transports someone to another place and time, no matter if that place is Paris in the 1800s or Proxima Centauri in the late 23rd Century.

The money would be nice, but that's not important. The challenge of writing a compelling story is enough for me. If I manage to do that, then I call it a win.

And that's why I write.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"We're sorry Mario, but the Princess is in another castle"

I figured I'd explain where I took the blog name from because, you know, I'm nice like that. This post title is the phrase you the player were confronted with at the end of each level of Super Mario Bros, arguably the greatest and most addictive game ever created. As a child of the 1980s (born 1983) I felt it was my duty to pay homage to the series by naming this here blog after it.

So watch this space, because we're going to talk about video games, writing, and everything in between.