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Author Topic: Go big!
History
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The eminent best-seling author, WOTF judge, and writing teacher maven shared the following on his "Daily Kick" [see: http://www.davidfarland.com/writing_tips/?a=312 ];

But here’s my point: you don’t ever want to try to launch your career with a novel that will get you pigeonholed as being something less than a “big” author. Your novel is a vehicle, and you need to create the right vehicle to get to your destination.

You don’t want to be thought of as that writer who only writes ...tales set in any very small market. You don’t want to be thought of as worthy of only publishing paperbacks...stay away from writing little novels that have a restricted audience.

Fortunately, if you have already taken a step in the wrong direction, you can still correct things. There are plenty of novelists who start out small and grow an audience. All that it takes is one movie deal, or for you to win a major award, or one novel to break out on the charts, and your career can take off. But in most cases, your first step in building a better career means that you must take a step in the right direction. You have to write a “big” book!


Is that "all"?
Well, no pressure then. [Wink]

I really respect Mr. Wolverton, but do we all need to be hardcover published NYT bestsellers to be considered a success, even by our fellow writers?

I'd be happy with a small audience who really enjoys what I write; although I understand Mr. Wolverton's meaning that I will not earn a living doing so. And I very well understand that traditional publication of something I write does not guarantee subsequent writings will be purchased by publishers. Therefore, "going big" and becoming "a recognized name" is important for would-be career writers. But there are so few writers who I believe have achieved such Name = Publication and $$.

What should the rest reasonably aspire to?

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Owasm
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I agree with you, Dr. Bob. I was a bit disappointed by that article. With hundreds of thousands of writers, how many do you think can make it as a lead author?

Following his advice will lead a lot of writers to drop out from frustration of not making it big.

It's all right to aspire, but reality bites us all at some time and tells us we won't be the best in the world at what we're doing. We can achieve personal success by doing our best and constantly improving.

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MattLeo
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Well, in novels I always try to write something that might change the reader's life. Does that count?
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
Well, in novels I always try to write something that might change the reader's life. Does that count?

Personally, I think so.
Although I don't shoot so high.
I'm thrilled if anything I write raises a reader's emotions and perhaps becomes memorable--even if it is a mere moment of pleasure.
Anyway, I don't believe this what Mr. Wolverton is speaking to. I'm thinking more Brandon Sanderson, GRRM (who not only write "big" but "long") but also Suzanne Collins and Mr. Wolverton's student Stephanie Meyers who identified and knew their audience (YA women) and struck it "big."

Good Shabbos.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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extrinsic
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The essay overlooks several practical realities. One, that quality matters. Though what audiences crave quality-wise is a moving target, except for a very few constants. Two, that the marketplace will only bear a limited quanity of products, somewhere around ten thousand fiction titles per year in current publishing culture, a couple thousand of them fantastical fiction. Three, that all the marketing in the world cannot assure book sales anymore. Only word of mouth buzz succeeds, and that's created by the first; that is, qualities that matter to audiences.

The essay does raise the word of mouth phenomena, in an ironical, cynical, sarcastic mention of the "Dan Brown" phenomena, or Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, John Grisham, Jonathan Franzen, etc., writers whose products generate buzz, though the marketplace at the known writer revenue performance end entering a product overlooks that top tier revenue performers keep their communication channels open years in advance of actual product delivery, that a product is on its way a year or more in advance of delivery for publication. Even then, that a product will take another year or two after delivery for publication to be released.

On the other hand, if by "Big" is meant aspiring for exceptional quality appeals, that subtext may unstably underlie the whole. It's not as accessible as might be desired, hence, contrary to the very point of the essay. But no, I see a directionally scattered essay, dashed off with less than desirable forethought, focused on narrowed, impractical financial success aspirations.

But those are native constants of improvisational blog writing.

[ December 06, 2013, 03:59 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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RyanB
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I thought he meant "big" as in "mass appeal." Don't be known as a religious writer or a dark elf urban fantasy author or whatever.

I think Farland is wrong. I think it's much easier to write for a specific niche and then take your book to that niche and then grow from that niche outward.

But it also seems Farland was speaking specifically about traditional publishing. maybe that's how it works for trad. pub. these days. What do I know?

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legolasgalactica
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I like the advice to go for a home run first, it's the second part about limited areas of writing I don't get. I know of many writers who only write in certain limited genres and made it big, built a career and are still in the same niche, and still working away at the same stuff after all know these years.
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MattLeo
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Well, to address the article semi-seriously this time, giving advice on how to become an "A-list" author with a traditional publishing house is a little bit like advice on how to break into the world of professional jai-alai. The advice may be good as far as it goes, but the number of people who can use it is vanishingly small, and growing smaller each year since its peak a few decades ago.

The picture of the traditional publishing industry that Farland paints is similar to one I've heard from authors and agents; and it looks a lot like the pop-music industry. The recording industry is no longer dependent on convincing thousands of disk jockeys around the country to play their record. There are very few disk jockeys left; indeed very few independent radio stations. Radio stations are no longer staffed with lovable oddballs; they're more like unmanned web server co-location facilities. They're run remotely from corporate headquarters.

Middleman-ish businesses in creative industries have found ways to use analytics and corporate scale to make reliable profits in a larger, more centralized, more numbers-centric enterprise. The irony is that as businesses get a better handle on risk in some areas like distribution, they become *more* risk averse in others, like content. Just listen to all the middle-of-the-road pop with robotic dance beats and hip-hop "influences" on the radio, with identical-sounding autotuned vocalists singing the same third-hand blues riffs. You can translate that picture easily into what you see on the shelves at your local chain bookstore. There's the old standby authors doing their thing, and a lot of very similarly packaged, slickly produced new stuff. The new stuff doesn't look bad at all; it just looks slick and homogeneous, all hitting the identical marketing notes.

Now I'm not saying people didn't write "me-too" novels or "me-too" songs thirty or forty years ago. But the selection of mass market creative product has become a lot less quirky as their are fewer people involved in the decision loop and more spreadsheets.

I think Stephanie Meyers and EL James might represent a change in the "breakthrough novel" model (2003 vs 2012). Meyers did it the old-fashioned way, by mailing manuscripts to editors' slushpiles. James wrote fan fic novel, doctored it to avoid copyright concerns, self-published, and the publishers came to her once she'd distinguished herself in the self-published market. This is not so big payday for Knopf as might have been if they'd taken the FIFTY SHADES manuscript out of their slushpile and sent James an advance. But it was a sure bet they were well-positioned to take advantage of.

I think the future of writing may lay somewhere between the extremes of the patriarchal model of old-time publishing and the wild-west of self-publishing. It's not that the traditional publishers are going away, but I think they'll take on a narrower role.

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Robert Nowall
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A while back, I decided that (1) I wouldn't try to force my work into some sort of publishing strait-jacket in order to get published...I didn't have any success before and I haven't had any after, but I'm happier about what I've written. (At least in that way.)

Which also lead to Decision (2): if I wasn't going to make money at writing, I might as well have some fun in the writing. That led to a foray into Internet Fan Fiction writing that certainly wasn't written to make money, but which I found a lot of fun.

Since then I've come back to trying to put together something for publication...and have felt less-than-happy with notions of traditional publishing. If I ever finish the novel I'm working on right now, I think I will self-publish it.

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extrinsic
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Please note, the writer of the Twilight saga's name is spelled unconventionally--Stephenie Meyer.

On another note, Fifty Shades of Grey's marketplace performance is largely due to word of mouth buzz, during its self-published phase and since. Though the caliber of writing drew the same "poor prose" criticisms as Twilight, like Twilight, a large part of its appeal came from the scandal and controversy it raised, not the content per se. Dark erotic romance, common among a niche market, rarely performs at blockbuster levels.

A previous title of similar subject matter enjoyed similar sales performance due to word of mouth buzz, in part created by Jacqueline Susann and husband at the time and publicist and promoter Irving Mansfield's tireless promotion; that is, Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls, 1966. Again, though, scandal, controversy, and criticisms of poor caliber writing followed publication. Not mechanical style shortcomings, but craft and voice shortcomings. When critics attack writing caliber, I wonder if that signals to potential readers that a novel might be more accessible than novels critics praise. And titillating scandal and controversy excite curiosity.

On another note, narratives with thinly relevant and gratuitous fantastical premises are labeled "Abbess Phone Home" by the Turkey City Lexicon. The name comes from a narrative about a cloister that ends with the Abbess calling home to report a UFO landing that satisfies the central dramatic complication and, hence, placed as science fiction. The UFO scene was tacked on after the narrative had had numerous rejections, since it wouldn't place otherwise.

[ December 07, 2013, 05:00 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Following his advice will lead a lot of writers to drop out from frustration of not making it big.
Yup, there is that. In addition to that, there is also a subset of writers, especially starting ones, who if the advice doesn't cause them to quit in frustration, will encourage them to not write there own actual stories, but to try and warp their art into something "big" with "mass appeal" in the hopes of making it big. There's already a good deal of pressure in that direction in many circles as it is, that idea that you have to try and make your work appeal to the largest audience possible.

Funny thing is, you obviously can do well with a pretty niche audience. I think China Mieville is a pretty good example; his stuff is definitely not for everyone but its sold pretty big and won or be nominated for plenty of awards.

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LDWriter2
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I finally read Dave's Kick where this was taken from.

One thing I noticed he never said how to become a top author with your first book. Write a better than usual book? And/or publish only with the top five publishers?

Not to become a niche Star Trek writer is easy --don't write Star Trek, even though I know a couple of writers who started that way, not that long ago. But does Dave mean that we aren't to write SF, fantasy, Horror, Western? Or make sure what we do write is listed as mainstream?

To keep writing novels--of course. Using more than one pen name isn't bad advice either--many of the top writers do already.

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Denevius
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It's a cliche', and worse still, it's totally scientifically inaccurate, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who heard, growing up, "Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the stars".

I didn't read the article, but from what was quoted in this thread, it kind of sounds like what this writer is getting at is to aim high.

I think anyone who says they don't dream big when they write is being disingenuous. I think as time goes by and the big dreams seem just that, you start to sell yourself on lower and lower aspirations. More than anything, it's probably a defensive mechanism just so you don't give up altogether.

But I think, honestly, we all dream big. I've always kind of thought that the arts, like writing, is mostly for ego maniacs. Writing is for people who think they have something so important to say that anyone else beyond their immediate loved ones is going to care. And that type of personality doesn't think small, nor do they originally long for small accomplishments.

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wetwilly
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"But I think, honestly, we all dream big. I've always kind of thought that the arts, like writing, is mostly for ego maniacs."

I agree. I don't know about you guys, but whenever I write anything, there is always a part of me that thinks, "Holy crap, I'm brilliant. This is true literary genius. I am destined to be the biggest thing to hit books since Gutenberg."

Then there is another part of me that thinks, "My writing is clunky and bulky and pointless. I'm a terrible writer, and that is never going to change. I'm an idiot and need to give up on the dream; I'm wasting valuable time."

Intellectually, I assume the truth lies somewhere in between. I've gotten pretty good, I think, at ignoring both voices. I try to stop focusing on myself (which is what both of those voices do) and focus on the story.

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extrinsic
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RyanB suggests Go Big means mass appeal. Niche narratives target niche audiences.

On another hand, Go Big could mean epic, as in larger than life events, characters, and settings, not per se long length or not long length.

Swinging for the financial success fence is a surface meaning of Go Big. Either of the above could accomplish an out of the park revenue hit. Specialized niche narratives can transcend their niche audiences. Robert Frost writing about his New England climate enjoyed mass and critical appeal, due in part to specialization that transcends the local region from weather features' symbolism appealing globally.

Epic writing, as in larger than life, is a matter of subjective limitations, yet also transcends specialization when epic features express a strong and broad reader effect--emotionally usually.

Another area with potential breakout and blockbuster status Going Big, unconventional though accessible appeals; in other words, orginality. John Gardner in The Art of Fiction claims two ways to do that are unconventional and original expression and subject matter or unique and original blending of prior expression and subject matter.

How about all the above? Niche narrative with mass and critical appeal, larger than life appeal, and originality appeal. Go Big indeed.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
It's a cliche', and worse still, it's totally scientifically inaccurate, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who heard, growing up, "Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you'll land among the stars".

I didn't read the article, but from what was quoted in this thread, it kind of sounds like what this writer is getting at is to aim high........

When I read the quotes in the first post here I thought this too. But when I read the whole "kick" I got another impression. My second impression could be wrong of course since I read it a little fast. The idea I got out of it was pretty much stated in my first post with the question.
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LDWriter2
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I think extrinsic has a point

quote:
How about all the above? Niche narrative with mass and critical appeal, larger than life appeal, and originality appeal. Go Big indeed.

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Denevius
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I finally read this essay. Not very long, actually, but also not very informative, or helpful. This guy talks too generally, and when I read the high figures he throws out, selling a novel for a 100,000 or 200,000, I feel like he's trying to sell something.

I've been meeting authors published through traditional means since I was a teenager, and somehow I doubt only but a handful of them made that much for any book they sold. Like, I'm sure it happens, but this guy is also going on about movie deals and such.

This guy is writing this essay for writers who will never read it, and everyone who will take the time to read it don't need the sort of advice he's offering.

I can dream of selling a book for 100,000 or 200,000 dollars, but I dream of all sorts of things. Realistically speaking, selling my first books for a tenth of that is more likely (and even that is *highly* unlikely).

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RyanB
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I said Farland got this one wrong and he did. But now I'm going to come to his defense.

Farland has a ton of experience. When he says that traditional publishing used to be like "this" and now it's like "this," he's probably right. In other words, publishers used to look for new authors they could develop into best sellers and now their looking for new authors they think have a best seller for their first novel. That's some information you can use as a writer.

Another approach, a better approach IMO, is to write a great niche book. It's much easier to find your target audience, and you can grow from a niche to the genre that contains it.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by RyanB:
I said Farland got this one wrong and he did. But now I'm going to come to his defense.

Farland has a ton of experience. When he says that traditional publishing used to be like "this" and now it's like "this," he's probably right. In other words, publishers used to look for new authors they could develop into best sellers and now their looking for new authors they think have a best seller for their first novel. That's some information you can use as a writer.

Another approach, a better approach IMO, is to write a great niche book. It's much easier to find your target audience, and you can grow from a niche to the genre that contains it.

I agree. He's almost certainly right about the change in big traditional publishing.

And, clearly, he knows and has coached a few people who've "made it" in the new paradigm.

But that's always going to be the 1%.

That's not a reason to stop striving to make everything we write as good (and as "big") as we can. But it might be a good reason to start scouting alternate routes up that mountain, whether that's a niche story with a smaller publisher or going indie or some idiosyncratic combination. There isn't just one way anymore.

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extrinsic
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Publishing culture went Big during the twentieth century. Six transnational megacorporations currently own publishing imprint firms that account for about 90 percent of all English language publication house products--titles and copy quantity.

Lagarde, a French media company, owns the Hachette Book Group, formerly Warner Books division of the Time Warner company. Little Brown and Company is a well-known imprint of Hachette. Numerous other imprints operate under the Hachette group conglomerate.

British firm Rupert Murdoch News Corps owns HarperCollins, which oversees numerous imprints.

Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, Germany, owns MacMillan, which oversees a number of imprints, notably Canada-based science fiction and fantasy stalwart Tor.

Britain's Pearson owns the Penguin Group, again, overseeing numerous imprints. Penguin imprints also publish numerous convention-based genre titles, like science fiction and fantasy.

Bertelsmann GmbH owns Random House, which owns numerous imprints. Del Rey, a Random House imprint, notably publishes convention-based genre.

CBS Corporation owns Simon and Schuster and its many imprints. Baen Books is under Simon and Schuster's aegis.

One French, two British, two German, one U.S, all with New York City branch or home headquarters.

Not all these conglomerates' imprints require agented novel submissions. Baen, Del Rey, DAW a Penguin imprint, and Tor accept unagented, unsolicted manuscripts. Their acceptable submission packets, however, must contain--artfully composed and mechanically sound--a cover letter, a query letter, a comprehensive synopsis, and several sample chapters.

Many literary agents anymore require similar submission package contents. Imprints putting the screening onus onto agents emerged as conglomerization progressed. Agents are anymore overwhelmed by submissions; more than a few agents now no longer accept unsolicited submissions. A possible foreseable emerging next evolution in publishing culture is submission package preparation services, with prescreening considerations.

Smaller publishing conglomerates are more numerous than the Big Six Sisters. Independent publishing houses which represent more than a few titles are more numerous yet. Guerilla publishing houses representing a few titles and prospecting for more are more numerous yet.

Independent and guerrila publishing firms anymore generally engage in editorial development to greater degrees than Big Six imprints, though they generally have less editorial expertise. A few literary agent firms provide editorial development at a price. Many such firms charge a 30 percent commission.

One small publishing firm model publishes its associates' titles under a blanket imprint. That one is one large step removed from vanity publishing. A clever self-publishing model acquires an ISBN-based imprint identity distiguished from POD bookmaking services' ISBN assignments, like CreateSpace, Lulu, and x-Libris. A CreateSpace or any POD firm assigned ISBN speaks volumes about vanity publishing. A savvy self-publisher develops an imprint identity with a unique ISBN assignment block. Those publishing practices are more numerous yet. Lastly, self-published titles published under a POD service assigned ISBN is most numerous, not to mention the most numerous, uncounted millions of manuscripts that never see publication.

U.S. ISBN franchise firm R.R. Bowker reports more than one hundred thousand unique ISBN block assignments of two or more active ISBNs, meaning titles in print. R.R. Bowker also recently began offering individual ISBN assignments. Small publishers are no longer required to acquire blocks of ten at nine times the cost of one.

What's your prospective publishing path? The path will not matter if you Go Big appeal-wise and savvy publishing culture.

[ December 09, 2013, 06:05 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Robert Nowall
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I don't see any barrier---other than finances and interest in doing it---to anyone who wants to start up their own publishing company. Whether the book field is largely controlled by conglomerates or not doesn't prevent the creation of a new publishing house. (Not that it helps that creation much.)

By the way, extrinsic, you got some names wrong. It should be "Del Rey" with an "e" (the last name of their founding editors), "DAW" should be capitalized (the initials of their founding publisher), and "Tor" shouldn't be capitalized at all (far as I know it doesn't stand for anything---or if it does I've never been told.) Also, "Hachette" doesn't have an extra "t," I believe...

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Pyre Dynasty
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This makes me think of the two pieces of paper. (This has been horribly mangled throughout history so there are many versions, I'm not sure which one is the original.)

On one piece of paper you write, "You are everything." and on the other you write, "You are nothing." Put them each in a different pocket and wisdom is know which one to reach for for any given situation.

This is a, "everything" piece.

Farland does a lot of Hollywood work so I can see where he's getting the typecasting approach. I'm not sure I'd want to be typecast as someone who only writes BIG books. What if I come across a cute little idea that deserves a cute little book for a small audience. Do I alienate my BIG fanbase by writing it? Versatility sounds more fun to me.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyre Dynasty:

Farland does a lot of Hollywood work so I can see where he's getting the typecasting approach. I'm not sure I'd want to be typecast as someone who only writes BIG books. What if I come across a cute little idea that deserves a cute little book for a small audience. Do I alienate my BIG fanbase by writing it? Versatility sounds more fun to me.

And, of course, the irony is that David Farland has done exactly that, more than once.
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History
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyre Dynasty:
This makes me think of the two pieces of paper. (This has been horribly mangled throughout history so there are many versions, I'm not sure which one is the original.)

On one piece of paper you write, "You are everything." and on the other you write, "You are nothing." Put them each in a different pocket and wisdom is know which one to reach for for any given situation.

Just fyi (if anyone has interest), the quote is:

“Everyone should have two pockets, each containing a piece of paper. On one should be written: I am but dust and ashes, and on the other: The world was created for me.

From time to time we must reach into one pocket, or the other. The secret of living comes from knowing when to reach into each.”


--Rabbi Simcha Bunim of P'shiskha, Poland (1765–1827)

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob (your Hatrack Yiddishe kopf)

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, Dr. Bob. What a great Yiddish head you are for us.
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How kind, Kathleen.
I was afraid the term "Yiddishe kopf" would be too obtuse for this forum. You made my day proving it is not.

I will share (as an aside) an interesting conundrum I'm experiencing when I include "Judaic/Yiddishkeit" elements in my writing: readers seem to find these elements as fabulous (as in "fable") as the ones that are truly made up from my imagination. [Wink]

When I recently visted Copenhagen, I visited their "Jewish Museum" and (as simialrly occured while visiting the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, Germany in 2005), I had the strange feeling of being akin to the things of myth myself, a leprechaun perhaps, or a fae...or Timmie, the neanderthal boy from Isaac Asimov's The Ugly Little Boy. It is strange to not only write myths but, at times, to be considered one. [Wink]

Good Shabbos.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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MattLeo
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I was going to suggest "Yiddishe meyven."
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Ah, Matt, you're such a mensch. [Smile]
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Okay, continuing this with the good Mr. Farland's/Wolverton's newest Daily Kick: Deciding What to Write http://www.davidfarland.net/writing_tips/?a=316 ,
I find a bit of a paradox, reminiscent of George Orwell's infamous line from Animal Farm: "All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others"; or as I believe Mr. Farland implies:

1) Find something to write that excites you;
2) But only if it is something that the publishers are already publishing.

I can see where this is superb advice for would be career writers or for anyone seeking to be published in today's market. Oxymoronically, write original clones of what sells. E.g.

Harry Potter --> Percy Jackson, Nicholas Flammel, Artemis Fowl, Bartimeus ...

Twilight --> Immortal Instruments, Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy, House of NIght, Sookie Stackhouse, ...

For those of us whose inspiration is from favorite stories and novels written "over ten years ago"...forggetaboutit. [Wink]

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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extrinsic
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Oxymoron as a compressed paradox places otherwise opposing terms adjacent to one another. As paradox, an oxymoron evokes a truth nonetheless, perhaps in subtext. More anon.

While this Wolverton-Farland blog post is more focused than the previous one discussed, the same diction affliction I see commonly in his blog posts confuses the point of this one, too.

Emotional draw, for example. He names genres, not their emotional draws. Though, say, thriller has a specific overall emotional appeal of psychological horror, perhaps puzzle solving as well, any given thriller has a variety of emotional appeals, including amatory romance, mystery intrigues, wants and problems wanting satisfaction, universal or individual social norms, values, and mores, etc., appeals

What are the "emotional draw" or, more appreciably, draws of Patricia Cornwell's Kate Scarpetta saga? Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum saga? Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer saga? Louis Lamore Westerns? Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men and The Road. Ernest Hemmingway's works? William Faulkner or the Gatsbys or James Joyce? What are the emotional appeals of Isaac Asimov's fiction? Arthur Clarke's? Marrion Zimmer Bradley? C.J. Cherryh? Piers Anthony? I could go on. Besides J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, James Patterson, and John Grisham, who else is currently foremost in popular if not crictical acclaim? Jonathan Franzen to name one. What are those writers' works' emotional appeals? More than one, more than genre.

Event, character, and setting appeals are kernels, yet sympathy or empathy and antipathy also. Curiosity too. Antagonism's wants and problems are also in the appeal foreground.

Attached to each seemingly straightfoward, say, structural writing quality is a trove of aesthetical qualities. They do not often connect logically one to another and seem irreconcilably too different to be one and the same paradox-like.

"Original clones" is certainly an oxymoron. What truth, though, underlies the paradox? Reconciling those opposing terms demands an individual answer to what is the truth of it. In terms of marketplace appeals of similarity to other works in timely currency, originality requires only enough reworking of essential events, characters, and settings and antaogonism, causation, and tension.

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga succeeded by doing just that; no more, no less, at a time in publishing culture when revenant genre was played out. Meyer took a worn out motif, addded other traditional motifs and set them on a new, fresh, inspired stage. Ugly duckling, beauty and the beast, social and physical elitism, high brow and low brow snobbery, these and more motifs populate the saga's appeals. Mixed messages too. Meyer resolved or reconciled a social paradox of striving for popularity at the expense of social norm, value, and more compromises. These are the saga's emotional appeals. The revenant motif is just a container around which the drama unfolds.

What do Meyer's revenants represent? The Cullens represent, as vampires always have, the idle aristocracy preying on subjects, albeit more sympathetically than any vampires priorly. They are the socially elite oppressors of young and early adult school society. The werewolves represent the physically elite of the same society. Socishes and Jocks and the ugly duckling turned elegant Swan and beauty Isabella and the beasts. The saga is a reinnovation at least as old as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, more recently Arthur Laurnets' West Side Story, and S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.

Charles Frazier's Stone Mountain is a reinnovation of Homer's Odyssey as is O Brother Where Art Thou by Joel and Ethan Cohen.

These evidence that reinnovation and reinvention are a stock in trade only requiring new and fresh events, characters, and settings and antagonism, causation, and tension.

On the other hand, rarer yet then popularly and critcially acclaimed reinnovated works are those that feature fresh innovations and changes in sensibilities of craft and voice. Herman Melville's Moby Dick is one example of voice innovations. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is one of craft innovation, though I feel Breakfast of Champions is more so a craft innovation.

What globe shaking fiction has come out since the late middle twentieth century? Nothing to speak of in terms of craft or voice innovations. A few young adult narratives, though largely universal in their appeals, are about of as enduring a quality as L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz saga, largely forgotten, except for Dorothy's Oz adventure, and once the film narrative lost relevance for contemporary society and culture. None of my younger nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews have seen the new or old Oz films. They don't want to. But Potter and Hunger Games and Star Wars, yes.

Frankly, I don't want to write for young audiences. I'm more at least in the middle adult to late adulthood arena. Fantastical fiction doesn't target that age group. Why? I expect because a central feature of the genre apeals to young people, and sentimentally and nostalgically to older audiences.

What way might the genre be reinnovated or innovated to appeal to broader, older audiences? Why has the genre not kept up with the audience as they aged? Lacking different events, characters, and settings and antagonism, causation, and tension that appeal to older audiences. In order to appeal to a target audience, the emotional conerns of the audience must be appreciated. For middle adults, this could be at a core the complications of adult responsibilties, contrasted by the early adult at times irresponsible explorations of adult life's privileges.

Forging those middle to late adult conerns into fantastical motifs is challenging, though. Yet coming of age initiation is a kernel. Buying a house, for one. Maybe buying a mobile home could be metaphorically translated as buying an interplanetary spacecraft and winding up living out of a trailer court parking dock stuck in the asteroid belt.

Building a life-long career. Fiscal woes. Relationship woes. Subsistence, security, and society woes. Translating them into appealing fantastical motifs that do not challenge willing suspension of disbelief, that's the challenge for appealing to older audiences who've lost their child-like sense of the mystery and mysticism and mythicalism of the cosmos.

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MAP
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History,

Vampire Diaries (books) published 1991 (first book in series)

Sookie Stackhouse published 2001 (first book in series)

Twilight published 2005

Stephenie Meyer didn't start paranormal romances or the romantic version of vampires. She just made them more mainstream.

These types of books have been around for a long long time, and they will always be around in some form or another.

I feel the same way about Harry Potter too. It is a classic hero's journey that is told over and over again in different settings, but they speak to many readers in a profound way.

I think the trick is to find a fresh take on them.

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Hi MAP,
There is the Campbellian notion that there is only one story that is forever retold in different ways.
However, if this were true then Mr. Farland's post would be meaningless.

Similarly, regardless of order of publishing, I believe he is suggesting whatever publishers are currently eager to publish and the public is buying is where an aspiring author (or career professional) should dedicate his writing and time. Publishers will also study their backlists for reprinting works whose genre/type suddenly become popular again. And these old books will sport new covers that simulate/resonate with whatever is the newest hot book.

I see this as merely another example of career versus art, writing for profit or writing for pleasure. What I believe Mr. Farland is appropriately recommending (if you desire a writing career, or even to be read by more than a handful) is to get excited about writing for the market that sells.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Meredith
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And yet . . . most agents and publishing professionals advise not trying to write to a trend.

By the time you write the novel, polish it, and set out to find an agent, the trend will have changed. That's not even counting the roughly two years from the time that agent sells the ms. to an editor and the time the book appears on those bookstore shelves.

In other words, if you'd read Twilight and tried to write your own "sparkly" vampire story, by the time you tried to find an agent, they'd all (and the editors they work with) have gotten heartily sick of vampire stories. (Before the final Twilight book came out, many of those agents were saying "no vampires" in their submission guidelines.)

The larger, longer-term trends--like the pilot adventure stories mentioned in the kick--are one thing. But you can't look at the shorter term trends (as he also suggests) and hope to sell a first novel.

Now, the advice about writing the stories you're passionate about--that I'll go along with.

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
I see this as merely another example of career versus art, writing for profit or writing for pleasure. What I believe Mr. Farland is appropriately recommending (if you desire a writing career, or even to be read by more than a handful) is to get excited about writing for the market that sells.
While I totally understand what you are getting at, and it certainly has merit, I don't think the dichotomy has to be all that deep. I remember reading some comments from Clive Barker about how he never concerned himself with what was popular or what others were doing, he simply wrote what he wanted to write, and still became very successful.

Also, there is plenty of stuff that sells well without falling into any of whatever the current super international megasellers are. There are a variety of degrees.

I guess that for me, since as has been discussed, there are much easier things to pursue if what one is primarily interested in is a financially successful "career", it's hard for me to imagine pursuing writing for reasons other than artistic or communicative passion. Now of course, money and prestige aside, even if you're in it purely for the art or, like me, a combination of the art and a desire to have a positive impact through storytelling, you still want to be read by as many as possible...but that also means writing what it is you want (or need) to write.

So for these reasons, I still feel advice of this sort is ultimately not all that helpful. I also feel that in the end, the aspect of trying to get published over which a writer has the most control is persistence, because nothing you do assures success, but not trying certainly guarantees failure.

Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with watching or even attempting to match trends...I just don't know that it's worth getting too fussed over. If for no other reason than because, trends can, do and eventually will change. And what if you're the one to come up with the next big thing?
Also, even if you write to the trends while they are current...since many are no doubt doing the same, it still by no means represents a guarantee.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Also, what Meredith said.
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legolasgalactica
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quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:
... it's hard for me to imagine pursuing writing for reasons other than artistic or communicative passion. Now of course, money and prestige aside, even if you're in it purely for the art or, like me, a combination of the art and a desire to have a positive impact through storytelling, you still want to be read by as many as possible...but that also means writing what it is you want (or need) to write.

... And what if you're the one to come up with the next big thing?
[/QB]

That about sums it up for me. Of course, that is what I got out of Farland's advice anyway: whatever and whyever, go big with passion or it will sputter and die. (Even if that wasn't exactly his advice)
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My thoughts are, I'm not really sure why I would WANT to be successful writing something other than what I'm passionate about. If I'm following the trends, I may be able to write a technically proficient story (or maybe not; I don't know) but I'm not going to love doing it, so why would I want to be successful at it so I'll have to keep doing more of what I'm not really into? But I have a pretty high level of job satisfaction in my "day job." Maybe if I hated my job, I would see writing stories I'm not really into as preferable.
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Oh, I am in agreement with the majority.
I'm either too stubborn (or too lazy or lack the skill) to "write to market". And I see this as "unprofessional" from the perspective of a career author.

I do see Mr. Farland's wisdom, however: If you want to be published, study your market, and write what sells. This is what he has done throughout his career (if you read his bio). It is how he has won the many writing contests he entered when young, and how he became a best seller. It is also good advice to be chosen by him to be a Finalist at WOTF.

Blessedly, I do not write for the money either (though I wouldn't eschew it [Wink] ). I write for my own pleasure, and for that of a few others. Still, I take his message to heart in regard to what he advises in order to reach a larger audience--which I do desire. He's a smart man.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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MattLeo
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I think there may be a happy medium here between writing entirely to please yourself and writing entirely to fit a market trend or niche -- not that there's anything inherently wrong with either extreme, they just don't exhaust the range of possibilities.

In between I see a third possibility: writing for readers. This may not get you "published", but being traditionally published isn't the only way to reach readers these days. And if we take Mr. Farland's advice as true, then traditional publishing today is only for people who are interested in copying what is currently hot. Again I don't see being interested in writing what's hot in the market as some kind of moral failing; it's just one out of many possible kinds of interest.

What I call "writing for readers" resembles writing for a market in that it entails seeing the story not as an end, but as means. But it also resembles writing for yourself, in that it's *personal*. And that is a quality that sets apart writing that I enjoy; it feels like a personal statement, not like copy of someone else.

I remember reading in one agent's blog that she likes authors to mention which writers they feel they most resemble. I had no idea who I might resemble, so I canvassed my writer friends, and they had no clue either. Then one day it hit me. The writer I most resemble in sensibility is P.G. Wodehouse. Somehow I don't think agents or editors are looking for that kind of material. So, should I give up? Or become, not just a *better* writer, but a totally *different* kind of writer?

Still, there's a huge difference between accepting you'll never be marketable, and writing exclusively to please yourself.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Depending upon what you consider writing to market, I don't think not doing so is in any way unprofessional.

Because...which market? There is market...and I don't mean a few people, I mean enough of a market to have what I'd consider a "career" for many different types of fiction.

I didn't read the whole article, but I think, as I always have, that worrying to much about this sort of thing regardless of your goals as a writer is largely pointless or at least shouldn't be taken to far because:

It may or may not up your chances and certainly doesn't ensure that your particular trend-focused novel will actually become a success.

As Meredith says, many agents and editors become tired of whatever the big trend is shortly after it becomes such anyway.

And, by the time you actually get done, your trendy novel may no longer be trendy.

Whatever you do naturally, without worrying overmuch (which is not even to say not thinking about at all) these issues may BECOME the next trend.

And perhaps most importantly...there is a pretty wide range that I would consider counting as being a "career writer" that doesn't require Twilight/Harry Potter/Hunger Games levels of success. While making your living off writing at all is, as we all know, extremely difficult, you can reach that level without becoming a household name like JK Rowling or Stephen King. And I think most types of speculative fiction have an audience wide enough to achieve one of those levels.


Also, to me it isn't about writing exclusively for yourself, its the difference between a true, honest creative endeavor that you care about in and of itself and interests you, versus producing a to-order product whose only purpose is to make money. Of course again there are levels in between. With almost everything I write, market considerations are in my mind to some level...but with the understanding that there is more than one meaningful market.


The novel I am slowly working on is high-magic high-fantasy, which from what I can tell is not at the top of the trend list right now...but, there is still plenty of it on the shelves and so I feel it has the same chance as any other type of story to be successful.

So I still maintain that the "go big" advice is, in my view, a negative thing likely to discourage writers in general and in particular from pursuing their own artistic desires and visions.

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extrinsic
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Observations

MattLeo's point about writing for one's self and readers, especially the point about readers, is a fundamental composition principle. If you write solely for yourself, you're writing a diary or journal, etc. Writing for readers is a conversation, albeit seemingly monodirectional. What goes around comes around, though.

A writer could write a weighty tome, a jumbled compilation, in an inaccessible or uninterpretable dialect, in a private language. Some consideration of readers as audience consciously or nonconsciously takes place regardless. Let's say you keep a diary for a lifetime, might earlier coded entries no longer be translatable? Maybe, if the codes' meanings were forgotten. You nonethless write for an audience, albeit an audience of one, the self.

If your write in a particular genre, you chose an audience. If you write in an age category, you chose an audience. Any gender marker: sex, age, spiritual and cultural beliefs, ethnicity, lifestyle, social and financial status, etc., you chose an audience. If you've chosen a message--disparaging a type of social maladjustment, promoting a spiritual or cultural value, norm, or more--you chose an audience. If you write for yourself, struggling to make meaning out of a life complication, you chose an audience who shares that life complication. You chose subject matter and topic, events, characters, and settings, you chose an audience. You follow marketplace trends, you chose an audience.

You follow marketplace trends, emulating another writer's grouping and a genre's trends, as well as other audience identity markers, you've got a high standard to exceed. Otherwise, you encounter replicant fading. Replicant fading is when a subsequent work falls short of setting the height of the bar. It is a faded copy, a facsimile of an original.

Of late, one marketplace trend stands above the fray: young adult literature and film. Blame it on Rowling. The Potter saga created a gold rush. Writers as well as publishers and readers' demand rushed to flood the newly ascendant market with young adult fantastical literature. Larger supply, numerically greater competition, stronger products making the cut. Writing for the young adult audience became more demanding than ever before. I won't say it was easy before, but craft, voice, and appeal expectations were lower than now. Readers of any age or identity marker are more sophisticated now. Gosh, did young adult fantastical literature actually take a turn toward greater artistic mastery, maybe even into mainstream literary culture? Blame it on Rowling.

Though the average reading skills for English speaking readers is at seventh grade level, writing for that level is challenging for older, more sophisticated writers. Maybe a writer has a tenth grade vocabulary and grammar or higher, say freshman college, perhaps post graduate; relearning the seventh grade level, writing in that shall we say voice or dialect is challenging. Yet part of the young adult literature appeal is accessibility. Simpler diction and syntax, not simpleminded but grammatically straightfoward, is a kernel of writing at a seventh grade level.

Older, more sophisticated readers don't have to work as hard to read young adult literature as they do for age parity works. So the audience is broader than young adults, fortunately, since young adults have many distractions and less attention span than older readers, might not take notice. Once a product goes blockbuster, though, everyone takes notice. Paradox alert: blockbuster status means everyone took notice.

Which came first, the buzz or the demand? What is the paradox's underlying truth evoked? Buzz creates demand. Who generates the buzz? Readers. How did they discover the product? Buzz. Persistent feedback loop. Where does the cycle begin? Packaging, advertising, promotion, and publicity and foremost appealing to an ideally specific audience that breaks out of the core audience. Exclusivity appeals is where the cycle begins. Oh, you have to read what I did and you haven't. You are excluded until you do. Gotta keep up with the Jones.

Exclusivity appeals demand innovation; in other words, originality, fresh and vibrant inspiration, craft, and voice, if not something altogether new and exciting. That creative writing trend, regardless of categorical audience, is toward increasingly deeper immersion into the illusion of reality spell, the participation mystique spell. Please take me away from my dreary and heartaching alpha reality to a thrilling secondary reality.

On the other hand, a large fraction of potential audiences favor a degree of distancing effect, some degree of aesthetic distance so that those readers may maintain a degree of conscious, critical, responsible thinking for the self.

Edited to add: Grade level vocabulary and grammar and reading and writing skills are based on principles taught at that age level. Generally, average skill level lags behind learning grade level skills five years or, contrarily, teaching leads grade level skills by five years average. What's taught assumes mental maturity is sufficient to be able to grasp the concepts. What's learned is a consequence of motivation and need for the skills. Also, many seeds that are sown at an early age germinate later, developing into mighty oaks years afterward, if they were persuasively planted in fertile ground.

[ December 21, 2013, 02:23 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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