Archive | July 2009

Buying and Selling Words

The Green Apple Core (bookish tidbits as noted in the blog subhead from the folks at Green Apple Bookstore) has a somewhat amusing vid on the buying and selling of used books as compared with digital books. As in, with a physical book, you have something with inherent resale value–I’ve got a few at home that are worth a bit. They’ve a point I hadn’t thought about–mostly, I suspect because while I’ll go hunting for some out of print books, I don’t do a lot of used book selling or buying. But it got me thinking about is it better or worse for an author to have that second, after market sale?

Used bookstores can help an author reach readers who might come across those said out of print books–and hopefully the readers then go looking for newer, in print books. But there’s also the school of thought that says used books eat into an author’s income, as in, that’s a sale stolen away. Either argument also applies to libraries who loan books.

Now, I’m not really sure that used book stores (or libraries) really hurt an author all that much. I’m a library user (not as much as I used to be, but still trained that way as a reader). And I’m a book store junkie. I do pass around authors I like–and I’ll try out new authors from the library, and if I like, I go shopping for my own copy. I like having books around. It would be harder to keep these habits if/when books go digital (much harder to pass around a copy, and digital can make things very hard to find, and very easy to lose). Would the loss of a second/used market work to an author’s advantage?

As in you have to buy a copy? And what about sharing your copy then? When I think of how often I do share, pass along a book (usually with a stern warning that it must be returned), then digital seems to have a big disadvantage — unless you’re talking open source and not DRM. And maybe that’s the key.

Books need to be free to move around as they will. Words often need the same thing.

Online Workshops — too much ?

I’m due to give an online workshop with Colorado Romance Writers — in past years this has been very well attended (it’s the Show & Tell Workshop), but this year isn’t looking too full. And might well be canceled. They show other workshops they’ve held in the past couple of months as also canceled. Which makes me think folks are really tightening belts and budgets, and this falls under extras.

I’ve cut back on a few things–less trips, fewer lattes out, and really thinking twice before I buy a book (but I’m still buying and have hit a new streak of great reading).

But I’ve also seen writer contests struggling, pushing back close dates, entries dropping. So now I’m wondering if it’s a time crunch as well as cash–as in the second job take, or the extra work undertaken, or the stress of job shopping (can be hard on the muse, I know).

Maybe it’s due to just too many contests, too many workshops online, too much info floating about. There’s certainly nothing wrong with putting your head down and writing–much more can be learned from the doing instead of the learning. But I do wonder how this will shape the market, and future writers.

Storytelling for Writers?

So I’ve been thinking about story and writing, and how one of those is being taught these days, but maybe not the other. Which got me thinking about ‘story telling’, that most ancient of arts if you go by the cave drawings of Lascaux, which has to be the first picture book around.

This led me to Story Arts a most useful site. Now they break it down to the telling bits, but the info seems just as good for the writing of a story if you look at the parts that apply to the concept of conveying a story:

They start with Voice Mechanics — and that’s a great place for a writer to start. It’s the mechanics of actually putting the story on the page.

…clear…non-monotonous…expression to clarify the meaning of the text.

All good stuff for a writer to do–clear, not boring, and making sure its very clear to the reader. Without meaning there is no story.

And then Face/Body/Gesture which a teller of story needs, but a writer needs to remember to use this for the characters: …uses non-verbal communication…

Ah, yes, the sub-text, SHOWING more than TELLING. More stories could use that.

And then, Focus as in: …engaging….charismatic…

This is noted as “stage presence” for a teller, but characters need all of this, too. Do writers check back and ask, “Is this a likeable character? Someone who is engaging, charismatic?”

And speaking of characters, they note: Characterization….characters are believable…

That’s one where I’ve read manuscripts where the ‘anything goes’ rule has been applied, except that doesn’t work if the reader isn’t playing along with you and also believing. Are you sure everyone’s drinking the Kool-aid you’re peddling?

And another essential: Pacing:….The story is presented efficiently and keeps listeners’ interest…

That’s a big flop area for a lot of stories–the pacing is too fast, and the reader has no time to settle into any scene, or it’s too slow and I’m flipping ahead looking for where this story actually starts.

They add in Effective Storytelling Composition but I’m only quoting the parts that a story teller needs for the written word:

Basic Story Structure
…clear and engaging opening.
…sequence of events is easy…to follow.
…ending has a sense of closure.

Okay, if I read one more synopsis in a contest that talks about how this it the start of a series, I’m going to quote the above to that person. Engaging opening, easy events to follow, and closure. It’s simple stuff, but simple takes more work than complicated. And I think most folks want to over-complicate.

….choice of language is descriptive and articulate.
….character text is clearly differentiated…so the listener understands who is talking.

How many folks read their own dialog aloud? Without tags? Can you tell which of your own characters is talking? This one caught me the other day, so that I knew I had to rewrite that passage so that character’s voice stood out better.

…a unique or creative use of language….
…creatively presents the sequence of events.
…the meaning of the story is artfully expressed or suggested….

And, yes, this is another place where the language has not been used in fresh ways, where the sequence of events is just too much like other already published books, or the writer may really not have anything to say. There’s no theme–meaning no there there.

This is about as good as it gets for a clear map to better story telling. I’m going to have to think about this myself, but I think there’s a workshop here, too.