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What are you Writing?

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by MikeKardec, Nov 18, 2015.

  1. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    ... or what are you trying to avoid writing?

    I'm trying to not avoid writing the introduction to a book ... but instead I'm here writing this. Can you tell it's got me a bit punchy? I'm about 15 partial tries into a piece that, once it's done will free me up considerably. And it will be done soon, I may be punchy but there's a book waiting to go off to the publisher and very soon there will be a whole bunch of people breathing down my neck ... an experience I really try my best not to have.

    Anyway, even though I haven't broken through yet, I am writing an introduction that deals with the genesis of the paperback book and the culture of writers and writing from the 1950s to the 1980s. What are you writing? A journal, an article, science fiction novel, book reviews for Amazon or Goodreads, a mystery, a history? Is it going well, is it a mess that will sort itself out eventually (like my gig), or has it bogged down and made you want to quit (nothing to be shy about, we've all been there)?

    Give us a line or three of description and a sense of the challenges you face ...
     
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  2. I'm between assignments at the moment, but my latest was a 2700 word essay on the development of radio comedy, to be featured as the accompanying booklet in an upcoming CD collection. Boiling that particular topic down to 2700 words wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done, and I ended up having to basically kiss off everything that's happened in that field since 1962 with a one-paragraph summation. Fans of "Chickenman" will probably write me rude letters of criticism, but one must set priorities.
     
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  3. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Ahh! I love this idea for a thread! Great job, Mike!

    I'm currently revising my novel for my agent. Deadline is Monday and I took last night off to go see The Peanuts Movie, so nose back to the grindstone tonight.

    I also have to write a press release for work. Blech.
     
  4. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    Short is always hard. But there is something cathartic about it. Maybe that is because I'm always happier when I'm rewriting and I actually know where I'm going. On this recent project I've constantly been wanting to explain about how paperbacks created category fiction, you know selling by genre in bookstores, and BOOKSTORES ... there weren't very many of them until paperbacks reinvigorated the industry in the '50s. I fear a lot of those details will have to go by the wayside,

    I used to write jacket copy all the time, I still do when I have to. There are fewer and fewer who are really good at it. Publishers today do so much less than they used to and they don't even do many of the things they still do all that well. I don't mind them taking 85%, writers need to write, not publish, but for 85% they should amaze with their quality!

    I wrote myself into a corner on this project. It's a Volume One/Volume Two thing and I did a really good introduction to Volume One and now I have to at least match that quality with Volume Two. I don't know it I can do it. I'd like to be patting myself on the back but instead I'm agonizing that I may not be able to pull it off again ... at least not on the same subject!

    I just began version 17, we'll see how it goes.

    Oh yeah, I use to love (still do) Peanuts. My family had a beagle for 19 years that we got because of Snoopy. I doubt she ever chased the Red Baron but beagles do have very active imaginary lives!
     
  5. Rewriting is about my least favorite thing to do. When I was writing for radio, on tight deadlines, there were no second drafts -- whatever came out of the typewriter at 11:55 went on the air at noon. So I got into the habit of constructing my sentences very very carefully, and when I end up having to edit now for length I always end up having to reconstruct the entire paragraph if I've cut so much as a couple of words.

    For me, rewriting feels like spackling a wall -- no matter how careful you are, you can always see where the patch was made, and it's never quite as smooth as it was when you started. I never look at any of my stuff when it goes into print because seeing the patches irritates me that much.
     
  6. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    I hear you, and I've noticed the same sort of problems though I find that if I leave the work alone for a modest period of time (not on a broadcast sort of deadline) I can slip into those pesky paragraphs more easily and make adjustments that are invisible. The scripts I've written have always revised so much more easily than the prose because of their modular format.

    My dad was astounding at that write once and publish sort of thing but he had years and years of practice. He wrote at least four hours every single day and never got out of the mind-set that allowed him to do that. Keeping those doors to that unconscious den of muses wide open is a great accomplishment because they will swing shut if you let them.
     
  7. Oh my God, it is so painful to see the weaknesses in your published (or used professionally) writing. It feels so close (I could fix that right up), but it is so far away (it's out there and that is that). I literally cringe when I see some of the patches, errors, weaknesses or other things that could easily be made better. And no mater how hard I try to learn from each "event," I still make mistakes. For me, the thing that helps (only helps, it still happens but less so) is to get away from the piece for, at minimum, several hours or, even better, overnight - then, I can see and edit many of the issues (but I rarely get them all).
     
  8. Bushman

    Bushman Call Me a Cab

    Currently writing an essay on how Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and most other "heroes" are either lifted directly from, or inspired by, the Arthurian Legends. Limit is 5 pages, but I always like to get into detail, especially when I'm passionate about a subject, so it'll probably come out between 6 and 7 pages.
     
  9. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Yes. Giving the words some distance is a must when rewriting. Unfortunately, we can't always do that, darn it!

    Ooh. This sounds fascinating! Is this for a publication?
     
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  10. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    I have written so much jacket copy that I could probably do it in my sleep. GAH. I used to work at iUniverse (before Author Solutions bought it) and that was my job, to write the jacket copy for self-published books. I have done well over 1500 if not more (I worked at iU for two years, then did six years of freelance).
     
  11. Bushman

    Bushman Call Me a Cab

    Thanks! And nah, just a short essay for a creative nonfiction class. Nothing ground breaking, and not nearly as impressive or as interesting as that 25 page report I wrote on hydraulic fracturing I did back in 2012.
    Tell me about it! I look at some of my old work, and I think to myself "Wow, I could have written that so much more eloquently."
     
  12. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    My writers' group has a challenge for the members: For our first meeting in January, we're to bring a blurb for one or more of our novels -- the kind of thing that would go on the back cover of a paperback or on the front dust jacket flap of a hardcover. Or that can form the basis for your book's description in a query letter. 'Tain't easy to boil 60-80K words down into 2 short paragraphs and hook the reader into buying the book.
     
  13. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    No it's not. At all. Even after all the back cover copy I wrote, I have a really hard time doing the same for my own novels. But it is a great practice to get into. My agent wanted me to write one for the pitch she uses when she meets with editors, so that's something to keep in mind. It's a handy skill to have. :)
     
  14. Benzadmiral

    Benzadmiral Call Me a Cab

    I'm fairly good at it -- emphasis on "fairly." After growing up with TV Guide (when it was an actual useful guide to television schedules) and its neat 1- or 2-line capsule descriptions, I just think myself back into that mindset. But it is more difficult when it's your own stuff, because you're aware of the complexities you wove into the thing as you plotted and wrote it. The casual blurb reader won't care about that -- just about "Is it exciting or interesting?"
     
  15. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Yes, exactly. :) I found it pretty easy after awhile to do it on other authors' books - there's a certain formula to it.
     
  16. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Figures that I would get sick when I have a deadline on Monday. I'm still determined to work on the novel, though, and get the revisions done. I have two more days and with enough painkillers for the headache and enough chocolate just because, I think I can do it. :)
     
  17. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec Practically Family

    Yuk! Feel better!

    On blurbs, it never hurts for me to remind myself that for back of the book type copy you do not have to tell a condensed version of the story, it's often better to just tell enough hook a possible reader. Sell it, don't tell it. When I was doing a lot of art direction and jacket copy I thought of it like this: The cover gets the potential customer to physically pick the book off the rack and turn it over. I was always looking for something unexpected I could do with a cover to cause a "What the --?" effect, getting them to touch it, hopefully to pick it up. Then the back gives you just enough to hook/intrigue you into starting to read ... and, if necessary teaches the potential reader a little bit that might help them appreciate the book in a new and different way. Reminding them it touches on a mysterious true story or was written by someone who was there or something.

    Good cover art has to work from 6 feet away. Back in the days when we did a lot of "full bleed" (out to the edges of the cover) art we could manage 3 to 5 elements (different things or different ideas) in the art. Now we do a lot of smaller "framed art" on the covers, like with a border around it, and the smaller size really keeps the cover content down to about 2 elements ... duller, but it's the world we live in. There is only so many things you can do with a piece of art roughly 3 x 3.5 inches.

    Read the contracts through with the lawyer today, lots of new terms: "Transformative Digital Version?" Never heard of that before and neither had he. I think it's games and apps and such because it's in with Film TV an stage rights. I'll have to call and find out!
     
  18. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Yep - hook the reader enough to want to read it. Never give the ending away or really earth-shattering revelations! :) Very good way to look at it, Mike.

    Have a "reactivated" mono virus - unbelievable (this is supposedly rare, but I defy "rare" odds for medical things on a regular basis). On the flip side, I may be exhausted and achy and headachy, but at least I can still write. And that's exactly what I'm going to do today. Can't wait!
     
  19. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Practically Family

    I'm 25,000 words into a murder mystery set in Hawai'i. After 30 years of visiting the place (I married a local girl) I'm not as nervous about taking on the topic as I thought I'd be. ... I am also thinking of really running with that "Agents of F.L.A.S.K" thread that I started. I could go for a long time on that topic without running out of material. We shall see.
     
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  20. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

    Oooh! That sounds awesome. When is the mystery set?
     
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