Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Vacation Repeat Repeat: Starting Before the Beginning

Still not here! In the meantime, here's another post from the wayback (aka 2007) and like yesterday's re-post, it features monkeys. This should give you a good hint about where I actually am. It's somewhere that... Okay, it's a zoo.

See you soon!

So, regular readers know I am a bit obsessed with basketball. We had some wonderful friends in town last night and so I DVR'd the game and then set about trying to block out the outside world throughout dinner. I turned off my cell phone. I put my computer in an out of reach place. I had my girlfriend scout out the downstairs of the restaurant for TVs before I ventured down to the restroom (yes, she's wonderful. Also understanding.) And it worked..... until we were walking around outside and I looked into a bar and happened to see a bigscreen TV showing Billy Donovan with a net around his neck. A;LKDJF;LAKJF I about fainted on the sidewalk. Nooooooooo!! Anyway, congrats to the Gators, even if I didn't get to be surprised by the win. I still watched the game when I got home.

Anyway, the advice given in this blog has been mostly devoted to the art of the query letter, but really, that is putting the cart before the donkey. Aspiring writers agonize over query letters, they strive to make publishing contacts, they pour their time and energy into getting their book published. But actually, the absolute most crucial decision you can make as a writer happens before you take out your pen and write down, "Once upon a time in Borneo." The most important decision happens when you decide what you're going to write about.

Too many people assume that good writing is all you need, and believe what you write about isn't so important as how you write. Such thinking results not only in meandering 200,000 treatises on the peculiarity of our contemporary mores, but also in more mundane and unoriginal plots that aren't well thought through and thus, no matter how good the writing is, they are a tough prospect to sell. To put it short: You need a good idea.

When you're considering what to write about, you have to start with the assumption that everyone you're up against in the slush pile can write -- it's your idea that will set you apart. This may seem like really obvious advice, but an unoriginal or not-good-enough book idea is the basis for approximately 90% of my rejections. In a story-saturated world where it seems like every original idea is already taken, really great story ideas are very rare and precious. I find it much more agonizing to reject someone with a really great idea where the writing isn't there than I do passing on a project with great writing where there isn't a solid enough idea. I think this is because it's so hard to find a great idea. They're as rare as an intelligent conversation on The Hills.

So what can you do? One way to test your idea before you start writing is to tell it to someone out loud. If, after a short description, someone genuinely, involuntarily responds, "Wow, that's a great idea," you're onto something. If you have to include the caveat, "Well, anyway, it sounds boring but really, it's all about the writing," you might want to add some monkeys to the plot.


Christine H said...

The one comfort I have is that I think my story idea is pretty good. It grew out of a conversation a friend and I had about the deplorable lack of female perspective in The Lord of the Rings. It started out as just a fun writing exercise, with her and myself as the main characters, and grew into a complete fantasy world entirely distinct from Tolkein's, with its own language, culture and history.

I tell people it's "an adventure story from the girls' point of view, but I wanted them to retain their femininity, so I threw in some guys to do the fighting and found myself getting into their heads, too." So now it's told in alternating chapters from the hero's and heroine's points of view.

Gotta get back to writing that thing.

Kristi said...

As it's difficult to come up with an entirely new idea, I also think that a novel approach to a familiar idea can work as well.

On a completely different note - I love the zoo! I take my kids to the zoo almost every week - you can learn a lot from monkeys. Sadly, they are not featured in my book but we'll what happens after the first draft.

RW said...

It's true you need a good idea, but don't you think that often times people equate that (incorrectly) with originality in the action? Which leads to quirkiness and outlandish plot turns for their own sake. Plenty of good fiction would seem to cover familiar territory in terms of the action. Take the book that won the Pulitzer for fiction this year--Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Very plain in terms of the action. It's just a bunch of townsfolk in a small Maine town dealing with disappointment about how their lives have turned out. What makes it a "good idea"--or unfamiliar--is something that's nearly impossible to describe up front. It's the complete lifelikeness of the characters. They are familiar yet singular. Their emotions and emotional responses seem human. So their story ends up coming alive for the reader while there is nothing about the story that you would describe as original. (Well, the structure of it is a little original in this case, but that's a different story.) It just feels original because of how authentic its character development feels.

It is has a good idea. Books must, I agree. But like I said, it seems like that gets conflated with plot fireworks.

Mira said...

I like this post. I like both this post and yesterday's post - good choices for repeats.

Thanks, Nathan.

Errr. Which zoo is that? Just an innocent question. I was thinking it has been a long time since I saw any monkeys.

Well, aside from the ones that are hanging from the rafters here.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks for re-posting this, I missed it the first time around, but it's great to know.

Enjoy your vacation. I do not envy you the Inbox that you will find on your return.

Dawn Maria said...

Since I'm newer to the blog, I'm thrilled with repeats.

As a reader, I am always drawn to characters and a strong voice. I look at the first page and if the voice of the character doesn't grab me, I don't care how interesting the story idea may sound.

The trick is applying what you like as a reader into great writing. If it were as simple as it sounds, we'd all be published right now right? I still think the best advice I've heard is to write something you'd like to read.

I'd better stop monkeying around and go work on my novel.

Bane of Anubis said...

My ideas are usually received fairly well, but my delivery has been a bit wanting in places (not enough character attachment)... hopefully that'll change w/ the next one (fingers crossed :).

Lunatic said...

And what if they say, "No, really, what's it about?"...

Anonymous said...

A zoo? So, Dick is there with you?

Thermocline said...

This post has nothing to do with Trends. I like that. So much attention gets paid to works that Start Trends or Surprise Books That Buck The Current Trends. It’s great reassurance (and voodoo scary) that a great idea is more important.

Scott said...

RW makes an intriguing point. What of those intimate stories that seem well-worn on the outside, but get by on the writing or the fact that they're torn from the pages of Vanity Fair? I see them everywhere. And when isn't there a novel about a forensics expert or a telepath (or one in the same!) who have to race against the clock to solve a centuries-old mystery that, minor at first glance, now has devastating global implications? The bookstores are filthy with these!

Nathan, I think a great idea is, as you say, rare. And surely it will get attention if the writing is up to par. But I can't say I see many revolutionary concepts on offer in my travels. However, there are plenty of spunky and flawed MC's working in the shadow of the law being pulled into larger conspiracies that may or may not bring the world to its knees depending on their cunning and willingness to face their demons.


Laura Martone said...

As a newer member of your blog, NB, I'm grateful for the repeats... although I have been trying to catch up with your archives. It's the billions of interesting comments that are slowing me down... grrr.

Anyhoo, I'm with Christine H. - my idea is not my issue. I've told many folks the basic idea of my novel - and the usual response is something like, "Wow, that sounds really cool. I've never read anything quite like that." And, therein, lies part of my problem - I've found it hard to compare my book to others. Some of the issues are universal like midlife crises, mother-daughter troubles, unfulfilled marriages... but at the heart of the story is an underground village in southern Kentucky that neither resembles a fantasy underworld like that of Gaiman's NEVERWHERE or the real-life subway communities depicted in shows like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

The other problem, of course, is that the novel is presently TOO DARN LONG! But I'm tackling that today!


P.S. Alas, there are no monkeys in the story, but there are dogs, cats, rabbits, and fish galore - none of which can talk (yet).

JohnO said...

Crap. There goes the 188,000 words I have on my work in progress, INCONSISTENCIES IN THE LITHUANIAN TAX CODE: A ROMANTIC THRILLER.

csmith said...


I have this amazing picture in my head of you behind bars with a sign that says "Don't feed the agent".

I should probably stop giggling now.


PS. Good to know re ideas - people look at me somewhat strangely but end up being intrigued and asking for more and more information!

T. Anne said...

Surely the Hills are alive with intelligence. Lauren left, so right there you have a sign...

Speaking of the Hills, Spidey was oh so entertaining last night on 'I'm a celebrity'. Spencer declaring himself ' king of America' was too rich.

He did do that right? Or was it all a bad dream?

Christine H said...
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Christine H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nathan - you are at the zoo? Wait, when did you come to my house? I don't remember letting you in... ;)

Jen P said...


Well "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" did wonderfully. Don't give up yet ;-)

Great & helpful re-post.

Lupina said...

As Simon and Garfunkel said, something tells me it's all happening at the zoo.

Why, then, do so many agents say what they look for first is voice? I think it is a magical combination of voice and story that everyone really wants. Imagine Harry Potter told by Dick Cheney. Or Cormac McCarthy's rich voice wasted on, well, actually I can't think of a book so bad that his voice would not improve it, possibly to a salable point. So maybe it IS voice, if the voice is good enough.

Meg Spencer said...

I don't think the point is that the story idea has to be new and revolutionary, more that there has to be something about the story that distinguishes itself, and that (unfortunately) just being well written isn't necessarily enough.

In fact, I think one reason genre fiction is so popular is because people like having an idea of what they are getting in advance. I know that I like lots of military space fiction, for example, therefore I look for new military space fiction. This does not, however, excuse the author from coming up with something to distinguish their story from the all the other offerings available.

Anonymous said...

When does Nathan return?

Scott said...

Argeed, Meg, but the "differences" have been negligible in my opinion. I understand high concept and how a little goes a long way to refresh a genre, but the little is getting...littler.

Genre writers like Crichton, Rollins, Brown and Follet know how to freshen things up (although I don't read some of them). Cussler and Patterson, too, for their crowd. But guys like that are pretty hard to come by. Lately, it seems going from one kind of court case to another is the same as going from dinosaurs to white gorillas to killer nanobots.

It could be just me, but it just seems things are graying out so much it's no surprise that a lot of new color is seen as a risk.

Patrick Rodgers said...

I was wondering about that is seems the synopsis of the story is the most important part of the query letter. How interesting does the book sound and is it worth the effort of reading any more by the author.

I was about to copy and paste the synopsis I wrote for my query letter in here to get feedback (yes I already have a personalized query ready to go out to Nathan the moment I am done editing my manuscript which is now it its last stages of editing my wives red pen) but then the paranoia monkeys bashed me over the head and threatened to kill my unborn child. Like by having my synopsis someone could steal my book and then I weep with paranoia and fear.

Paranoia, paranoia they're come to take me away.

So what do you guys think I am being overly paranoid or should I post it for some feedback

Bane of Anubis said...

To sum it up - think outside the little box, but not the big box.

Laura Martone said...

Patrick -

Novels are far different from screenplays - especially when it comes to stolen ideas. My hubby and I did, in fact, have a screenplay idea stolen from us - but since the screenplay is less about the writing and more about the idea, there was nothing we could do about it. :-(

But while the idea for a novel is important (consider our discussion today), the writing and voice are equally important - so it's far more difficult for someone to "steal" your idea (and, as many agents say, it's far more unlikely in the literary world). Since you've already finished the book, I don't think you have much to worry about (says the girl who was equally paranoid before her own novel was completed). Besides, everyone here seems to be serious about the craft... and willing to help one another. I, for one, would love to help you - I've already posted my own query on Rick Daley's website (The Public Query Slushpile) and received terrific feedback.

Anyhoo, just my two cents!

Mira said...

Patrick - I don't think I'd post it here. We've been alittle loose and informal with Nathan on vacation, but I'm not sure you'd get much response to it here. That can be discouraging - to post something and not get responses.

You might try Rick Daley's Query Slushpile. It's a really good place to get that kind of feedback. Just my suggestion, of course.

Bane, I think that thinking outside the big box can be wildly successful if it's good. You just might have to send out endless queries until you get a bite, or even go the self-publishing route. But in the long run, something original and good can make a huge splash.

Bane of Anubis said...

Mira, I definitely agree that's the way to become the next Stephen King/JK Rowling, but it seems to me that agents are risk averse (particularly in today's climate).

Patrick, agree w/ Mira - also, Nathan's not a huge fan of synopses, so, at least for him, you won't have to worry about it in the short term.

Dawn Maria said...

I'm spending too much time here- bought a Paul Frank monkey-covered case this morning for my iPhone. Bright circles with cute monkey heads in the middle! It's darling and NOW I HAVE MONKEYS!

Bane of Anubis said...

Okay, am I the only one that finds monkeys extremely creepy? I prefer ring-tailed lemurs and suricates and polar bears (from afar).

Mira said...

Bane - I agree with you. Although, sometimes I wonder if it's the agents who are risk-adversive, or that they know the publishers will be.

But the market changes so fast. My stance, right or wrong, is to write your story. Just write it. Inside the box, outside the box. Don't worry about whether it will sell it until you're done.

Trying to guess the market, trying to write for the market - that can lead to mediocre ideas.

I think the best way to write is to try to find that hot, molten core of creativity and write from there. It may take several works before you really contact it. And then once you contact it, to find it's true voice. But that's where originality and creative power really lie.

And I myself am going to get right on that. One of these days.

Yawn. Is it time for my nap yet?

allegory19 said...

I would just like to add that I hated writing my first synopsis - so much so that for my latest novel I started with the synopsis first and then went from there. So far that plan has worked well.

But that statement begs the question - can you really have a synopsis if you haven't written the novel yet?

Bane of Anubis said...

I agree - write what you like - to an extent. If you like monkey vampires who enjoy picking flowers while reciting bad poetry, you probably need to rein it in some...

allegory - synopses blow - particularly the 1 page ones (particularly if double-spaced - arghh!)

Laura Martone said...

allegory - Well, that depends on the story - and how you write. I, for one, usually start with a flexible story outline - knowing that, once I get into my "world" and into the heads of my characters, the story could change in unexpected ways. Mine always does. So, writing a 40-page synopsis ahead of time feels premature. It just depends on how YOU write.

Mira & Bane - I might have misunderstood Patrick, but I thought he simply wanted to post the synopsis paragraph from his query letter - not an entire synopsis. But I agree - posting here might not be helpful - Rick Daley's Slushpile is a better spot.

Bane - I LOVE monkeys, are you kidding? They're mischievous (not creepy) - and, okay, some can bite your head off! When I was 13, I participated in a vision quest experience that yielded me the spirit name Monkey, Seeker of Knowledge. Right before college, my second vision quest resulted in Otter, Watching the Leaf - so I'm a bigger fan of otters now - they're like mischievous monkey swimmers (except without the throwing of excrement - yes, it even happens in zoos! - or the risk of being attacked, like that poor woman in CT).

Bane of Anubis said...

Okay, here's my monkey story:

When they were teenagers, my mother and uncle (her brother for all those who don't do family relations) owned a monkey for a short time (the reason remains unclear) - Hector, I believe, was his name - who had quite the irritable disposition and would cling to the ceiling when perturbed.

Now, my mother and uncle were living with their parents at the time and their parents' house had some exposed water pipes on the ceiling, which Hector would run along. Now, when hot water ran through those pipes, poor little Hector's feet got a bit too toasty and Hector became irate... and irate monkeys tend to be feces throwing monkeys and Hector proved quite proficient with his poo...

Eventually, they pawned Hector off on some poor unsuspecting sap. Some twenty odd years later, for my grandparents' fortieth anniversary, six year old Bane is dressed up in a monkey outfit and forced to jump out of box - grandparents are quite relieved that boy is not monkey (though, at the time, there wasn't much difference).

And Laura, BTW, my friends in HS called me Horse-Monkey - I no longer speak to them :)

Let me tell you, every time I see King Kong, I cheer when they shoot that damn ape down :)

Dawn Maria said...

Bane- Aren't lemurs the ones who make all that noise?

On the synopsis- yes they are awful to write! Especially the one pagers. I like an outline too, my little road map. I bullet point the key plot elements in each chapter and then decide how I'll get to them when I start writing. So I'm half structured and half letting the characters take me where they wish.

Love being on summer break- I can play here!

Laura Martone said...

Dawn Maria - I wish I could be "playing" here, but I should be working. Darn this interesting blog!

And Bane - What can I say to someone who cheers for the a**holes who forced King Kong to meet his sad fate? Especially in Peter Jackson's version, I'd rather see Jack Black fall off the Empire State Building - then, you'd see me cheer! I just can't abide by monkey-haters like you - even if you had to dress up like one as a child (hahahaha... oh, that's too cute!). That's it! I must refrain from agreeing with you from now on, even though you're usually right. (Darn it all, this is an issue of principle!)

Anonymous said...

Another good post, Mr. Bransford.

Laurel said...


I'm paranoid, too. To my way of thinking since the query process is so competitive it's entirely possible that two people write books from the same concept but the better query is the one that gets published. If the idea is fresh enough to be memorable, all of a sudden two very similar books are being shopped and the "first" one is the one that breaks through.

I am, really and truly, a very paranoid person though. You have a running start if your book is close enough to being ready for submission before you start posting query/synopsis for feedback.

Laurel said...


Monkeys fling poo and give researchers at the CDC bizarre diseases.

'nuff said.

wv: oviaciti-the audacity that women with overactive hormones gain that causes them to think PMS is justification for running over someone in a gas station parking lot

joesanchez said...

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same and still retain the ability to function...One should, for example, see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise." ---F. Scott Fitzgerald

Laura Martone said...

Laurel, LOL! I love your wv for "oviaciti"!

Lucinda said...

I like the re-runs, Nathan. Even though I have been lurking for a while now, I am still a newbie to your blog.

Say, would dragons, dwarfs, snakes, and magic add up to a monkey or two? How about spiders and strange critters?

It is true that without great ideas, the craft can fall flat. Great ideas come easy, but now I must learn the craft which means a lot of re-write.

Re-writing gets a lot of negative rep, but it is in the re-writes that I learn to write better and watch it begin to shine.

It is like a block of stone needing the right chips knocked off to see the polished sculpture.

Hope you have a great time monkeying around at the zoo.


Patrick Rodgers said...

I have thought about using the public query slushpile but I my paranoia won't let me use it tell I am like a week or two from actually querying.

I am not sure how long it will take my wife to red pen through my manuscript so I don't exactly know when I will be querying agents. I am thinking in 3-4 weeks maybe a little longer.

Jen C said...

Laura, you have a pic up! I almost didn't recognise you :)

I'm starting to freak out a bit over the lack of monkey characters in my book. I have 20K words to go - should I just do a cut away and make everything prior to this a dream that a monkey was having, and then follow him around for the ending of the book? Is there even any point querying Nathan if I don't do this?


Laura Martone said...

Hey, Jen C! Yeah, I thought it was time to come out of hiding - I even got a Blogger account and everything... I'm slowly getting with the program.

Anyhoo, guess what! I just discovered that the word "monkey" appears five times in my novel. Maybe I am on the right track...

Patrick - I understand about paranoia, really I do. But I did learn a lot from posting my query on The Public Query Slushpile... and I have some editing to do before plunging into the query process (again). Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. :-)

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Nathan, I'm so glad you are re-posting some of the oldies. I didn't follow your blog when you first launched it, and I don't just don't have the time to scan through all your archives (much as I would love to LOL).

Jen C said...

Laura, I did the same thing, my blog isn't with Blogger but I made an account anyway, just so I could have a picture! There were way too many Jens around and it was hard for me to work out who I was haha.

I like the pictures, because if there's too many comments I just scroll through and go to the pics of the people I know I will want to read. I even know how to pick out Mira now, even though she changes hers all the time...

Patrick Rodgers said...

I did get to print my first two copies of my manuscript today, and even blog about it with pictures so yea on that front.

My wife wanted a bound copy for the editing purposes and talked me into binding my sentimental copy as well so it ran me $50 but it was one of the pride things. Now I can stare at it and say look I have a manuscript.

D. G. Hudson said...

Ideas are the seed for the story - either they germinate or they don't.

The current novel that I'm working on has a unique twist, but I've still felt paranoid when I've discovered books with a similar name or in the same 'idea field' as mine. I quickly scan the back cover to see if it's the same, and feel relieved when it's not.

It's not only the idea, it's what you do with it that counts. Writers bring some of their own experience, and their own values to what they write. It's a little piece of us, an investment of time and soul.

Interesting post, Nathan. Good points. You can have the monkeys however, messy little critters - too much like annoying relatives. They've become a nuisance in a lot of countries - they're too much like us.

PurpleClover said...

OMG! You gave me a really great idea about working monkeys into my story. NO LIE.

Okay so the weird thing is I did tell my story to my friend who shares about fifty percent of my interests in genre. We both have our own taste but share some of the same varieties.

Anyhow, had she not fell in love with the premise, I might have been less likely to get started.

Now, about those monkeys. I'm actually serious. I can work them in. Does that give me golden points??? OOH!

Vic K said...

A thought for Patrick...

Here's the thing about being paranoid...

I have a sneaking suspicion that if you've been writing for a long time, and you've finally come up with a concept you feel the need to protect, it is probably a good sign you might finally have come up with an original concept...

In which case, broadcasting it to every Tom, Dick and Harry that surfs the internet doesn't seem like such a good idea. So you are not in fact, being paranoid.

On the other hand, if you're new to writing and you think you have an original idea, you probably need a shot with Miss Snark's clue gun. It takes time, expertise and a lot of work to come up with some truly special and a lot longer to make the dleivery of that idea into a saleable product.

I call into evidence the HarperCollins site Authonomy, and suggest a quick visit, which will convince you of a number of things;

1) There are lots of unoriginal ideas being touted as the next big thing;

2) Some of them are well written, some of them are awful amd some are merely ordinary;

3) That is what a real slush pile looks like - full of a sameness, the bizarre, the uninteresting, the mundane and ever so rarely a glimmer of talent.

The whole problem is that it is difficult to judge how original your concept is until you've run the idea past a circle of people. The trick is finding a circle of writing buddies that you trust.


Vic K.

Kristi said...

Patrick - congrats on finishing your manuscript - that's a huge accomplishment!

I just finished another 1,000 words for PC's write-a-thon and need to get back to it. PC - you should do this kind of thing more often!

allegory19 said...

Kudos to all of you participating in PC's write-a-thon!!!! Keep up the good work.

Kristi said...

Oh, one more thing since I just saw Vic K's comment. I completely agree that it's so important to have other writers review your work. My critique group is fabulous and they've given amazing feedback that has pushed me to be better each time I submit to them. I highly recommend finding one - I found mine through SCBWI and most people in my group are published which is great for unpublished newbies like myself. They're encouraging me to submit now, which I'm taking as a good sign.:)

Ruth said...

Hmm, that did happen when I told my full story idea to a couple of people. Now to go ask them if it was an involuntary and genuine reaction....

*feels hopeful*

Zoe Winters said...

monkeys fix everything.

Patrick Rodgers said...

I think my idea is not entirely original but it does have a good unique quality to it as well as some new and interesting ideas mixed in.

I also think it is in a genre crime/thriller fiction that you don't see as many books published about it. I freaking spent hours searching crime fiction and most of it is 50 years old or of the detective type ala Agatha Christie. Crime/thrillers seem to be more of a Hollywood and film trend with a smaller amount of authors doing novels in the genre.

I know I am being overly paranoid but I can't help it plus I doubt anyone could steal my synopsis and write the book just with the synopsis.

Laura Martone said...

Well, good luck, Patrick! I can't wait to read it - I love crime thrillers. :-)


word veri - untan: to pale after months of staying indoors, slaving away on a much-needed edit!

Vacuum Queen said...

You know...I spent two years telling my teeny little picture book story to people, like you suggested at the end of this post. I don't remember any negative feedback, but I do remember a lot of "oh my gosh, that's so cute!" I even took it to the classroom (5th/6th graders) many times and we acted it out with hilarious results. I finally queried agents with it, and I just can't seem to tell about it on "paper" as well as I could tell it to people.

I think I'm better in person than on paper. Not a good sentence for a writer! But..I swear, at most social events I go to, someone inevitably tells me, "you should write this stuff down!" I think I'm very boring, so what's that about? I guess I've got the good stories, I just need to get them down on paper.

Wish I had me a personal Nathan to coach me.

Alps said...

Thanks for reposting. This is helpful and well put. Again, the bottom line is sales. We all need to remember that!

Christine H said...

I am coming to the conclusion that it is much easier and more natural to spend all day talking about writing than actually writing.

I think I need a little less talk and a lot more action.

I'm with Mira - just write it! From an agent's point of view, sure he's going to say "Make sure it's marketable." For a writer, however, the process of actually writing the book is invaluable practice, even if it doesn't sell.

How's that for a piece of advice I should give myself?

"I give myself very good advice, but I seldom follow it." - Alice in Wonderland

Mira said...

Christine - yes!

The benefit of this approach is that I believe we would improve over time as a writer. We'd tap into a clearer voice, a more powerful message, a deeper truth.

I think it's important to look at this desire to be published.

This is just my value system, but if I ever write something that is going to be distributed to other people, in a form that will last for years, I'd like it to be a darn sight better than 'marketable.' I want it to be damn good. I want to look at it and feel proud - not that I managed to get my name in print - but that I created something valuable. And if it helps people. Well, that would be a legacy. I do NOT want my legacy to be: I managed to work the system so I could figure out how to get my name in print.

That is just my value system. It's totally cool if other people see things differently. Maybe for them, the real accomplishment is managing to 'beat' the system. People are different.

But for me, this is what feels true.

Mira said...


Nathan's back today!

Yea! Welcome back, Nathan!

Happy, happy. Nathan's back.

Now, I can go back to bugging him. I so missed that.

Laura Martone said...

I'm totally with you, Mira. I mean, yes, I would like to make a modest living from my fiction writing - if only so that money woes don't derail my creative process... but - and I stress, but! - I would much rather create something that inspires or educates other people (even a small group of people) than just get my name in print. I have no interest in fame (actually, that's the part of writing that freaks me out) - I just want to tell good stories well.

Mira said...

Laura, yes. I have to say I'm speaking from the perspective of someone who assumes writing will not be an income source.

For those who really want to make writing their trade and source of income, perhaps it's different.

Again, people are really different.

Mira said...

Oh. Also, I should say. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting fame, importance, attention or a legacy.

I might like some of those things, myself. I just want to acheive them by doing something I can be really proud of.

Christine H said...

Well, at this point, I do think that if I could make some $$$ writing bodice-rippers... I might try that. LOL!!!

Even idealists need to eat. ;o)

simon said...

I couldn't agree more with this.

I think a big problem can be prospective writers placing too much worth on the old adage of 'write about what you know'.

there's a kernel of truth in that, but it's not the be all and end all. I think the best interpretation of it, is not to stray too far into an area where your lack of experience is going to trip you up.

Word Verification: elatio
that moment at the end of...well you know.

Patrick Rodgers said...

Simon I also think it comes down to research. If you have a story but it is not something you know you can always do your homework and make it something you are a lot more familiar with.

I hate the write what you know adage that stunts creativity and eliminates several genres with a fowl swoop. No more sci-fi or fantasy books to start.

I have based my first two novels in New York and Chicago. I have never been to either city but I spent hours researching them for details and I feel fine in the fact that I wrote something I didn't know but learned about with research.

It's something I wish Stephen King would do as he needs to abandon the idea of a small Maine town there is only so many of them after all.

Simon said...

I think the worst manifestation of this problem is when people write directly about their own lives - when they don't have interesting lives.

I've seen so many people labouring under the misconception that 'authenticity' is the single most important thing. But it doesn't make for good writing when this dictum is slavishly adhered to at the expense of entertainment.

Whenever I critique work that revolves around domestic and/or workplace 'drama', I always suggest to the author that they must be very confident in their own abilities. This usually puzzles them until I elaborate that the quality of writing has to be absolutely brilliant to hold people's attention when there's no story.

I know I'm not good enough to do it.

Mike said...

How many monkeys and what kind of monkeys will get me the deal? I'm desperate to know.

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