Thursday, November 29, 2012

Agency Moves Du Jour Part Deux

It wasn't so long ago that the talk of Andrew Wylie fusing his agency to the likes of ICM was floating through the publishing air.

Now it seems as if ICM couldn't wait on Mr. Wylie.

Rafe Sagalyn, based in Washington D.C., agent to the high-powered who reside there, is forming an alliance with ICM.

It's to the benefit of ICM to be allied with an agency that represents the big names in politics. Once Mr. Sagalyn handles their book deal (and there's always a book coming out of those Washington insiders, isn't there), ICM can move the property along through speaking engagements and movie treatments. There's a vast foreign market to be tapped as well.

For agents employed by Mr. Sagalyn, it opens up those same markets to their clients, which in turn makes the agency more appealing. It also means that the agents can focus on agenting, without worrying about the side jobs that line up TV appearances and get manuscripts in the hands of book scouts.

The two agencies have little choice but to align, considering the pressures these days.

There are only so many publishing dollars to go around, and landing some hot commodity (the likes of a David Maraniss, say, right before an election) is key to making a profit. ICM wants in on that niche, and Sagalyn wants to snag even more of that particular talent pool.

If you are an author with a manuscript, however, don't bother querying unless you've got a platform built of solid credentials, sturdy and popular with the public.

The powerhouse agencies that are forming up to skim the cream of the writing crop have no need to consider debut authors with their little fiction manuscripts.

Get someone else to publish you, become a success in the vein of Stephen King, and Sagalyn/ICM might come calling on you.

Or go have an affair with some four-star general and write a tell-all book. There's nothing that sells like a good scandal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

For The Small Thrill Of It

What are you doing, reading this?

Why aren't you out there buying your Powerball ticket?

Of course you aren't going to win, but you can get a small thrill to make this Wednesday more tolerable by purchasing one ticket.

You can't get much for your dollar these days. Why not waste it on a little excitement, a little dreaming?

There's no harm in it.

And you might match five of the six numbers, which isn't a big jackpot, but you'd earn back your buck and a little more besides.

Have a little fun imagining what you'd do with all that cash.

Tomorrow, reality will intrude and it will be back to the old slog, the worry and the budgeting and the scrimping.

For a dollar, you can have a little vacation from all that. Up until the time the numbers are drawn.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Agency Moves Du Jour

There's nothing like a new agency, eager for clients, when you're looking for someone to query.

That being the case, it's time to polish your queries and rev up your writing engines. Be ready to rumble on the first of December because that's the day when the Booker Albert Literary Agency is open for business.

The principles, Jordy Albert and Brittany Booker, come from the Maria Corvisiero Agency so they have some experience. They have clients, according to the list on their website, and you would of course want to check them out to see if that's the sort of thing you write.

Will the pair succeed?

Who can predict the future of publishing these days?

But if you write romance, it might be worth a try.

The agents have a track record you can verify, they have experience in agenting and they should have contacts in the publishing industry to get your manuscript into the hands of the people who buy those manuscripts. That makes a difference when you compare it to others who have started up agencies and can list only a love of reading as their qualifications.

The market is tight, you've probably heard, and with the merger of Random House with Penguin, and the likely combining of HarperCollins with whatever Rupert Murdoch can buy, it's only going to get tighter.

Maybe you'll stand a better chance if your agent is under pressure to make some sales to pay the bills on a new business. That's a good incentive to push manuscripts, and isn't that the attitude you'd want to see in your literary agent?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber-Monday And The Choices Are Endless

You might be considering the gift of electronic gadgets, and this being Cyber-Monday, you're shopping online and you've noticed that there's no end to the things you might purchase.

Apple products are always popular, and the iPad mini has come out just in time for holiday giving.

Amazon is promoting its Kindle. Sony is plugging its collection.

But you can't give someone an empty reading device, now, can you?

So fill it with novels from Newcastlewest Books.

No matter what device you might purchase, you can download three excellent pieces of historical fiction via the Smashwords portal. All formats are available, to suit whichever device you might choose. And the recipient of your generosity will thank you.

After all, it's grand to be given a new gadget that is so portable yet so functional. It's even better if that device contains reading material so the giftee can fully enjoy it, right out of the box.

You can buy it all online. You never have to leave the comfort of your cubicle. Just don't let the boss catch you. They're sensitive about this online shopping during work hours sort of thing.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Before The Book Is Published

Everyone at Newcastlewest Books is excited about our next project.

We've been excited about the others, of course, but THE KING OF THE IRISH has been particularly intriguing, if only because of the confluence of the modern and the historical that leaps off the pages.

The novel, due for release in Spring, 2013, is a thoroughly researched telling of an unsolved murder that fueled an ongoing fire of anti-Irish sentiment in Chicago back in 1889.

What we found most appealing about the story was the point of view taken, that of the man who stood accused of the crime.

You read about such crimes all the time in the newspapers, of course, but what Jack O'Malley has done is to view all those historical reports with an eye for prejudice. The news reporters, parroting the editorial slant of the owners, were blatantly biased against the newest wave of immigrants who threatened to overwhelm the status quo of Protestantism and Anglo-Saxon dominence.

Unlike the reporters, the author brings in facts pertaining to the time period, all of which he uses to build a substantial case for innocence and a rush to judgment.

Underlying the story, however, is a cauldron of political dealing that is unchanged to this day.

The political class in Chicago is still dominated by the Irish who were rising to prominence back in 1889. Some of them are descendants of the same hacks who cut deals and parceled out patronage jobs and cemented their power through graft and corruption. The novel could be set in the present day and still be an accurate portrayal.

I recently had the opportunity to walk the streets where THE KING OF THE IRISH is set, to see some of the buildings which are still standing, although now put to other uses.

That's the power of historical fiction. It can take us back and show us one event from many angles. It can make the past as current as the present, to show us where we've been repeating the same mistakes.

And it can remind you that some of those names you'll see on bronze plaques affixed to walls of expensive public buildings are the names of men as corrupt and dishonest as any common criminal. The difference is that they just never got caught.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Plenty Of Publishing Fish In The Sea

When word of a possible merger of Random House and Penguin first appeared, Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp was lingering there on the sidelines.

NewsCorp already owns HarperCollins, so it wasn't as if they had no experience in book publishing. What the Murdoch clan wanted, and what Bertelsmann wanted, was to create an enormous publishing firm that might out-compete the competition.

Bigger is always better, unless you're creating your behemoth with debt financing. In which case you end up like Barry O'Callaghan, with his educational publishing conglomerate severely reduced and the good people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt left reeling.

But not to worry.

As Mr. O'Callaghan knew so well, there's plenty of fish in the sea.

NewsCorp has its acquisition eye on Simon & Schuster

The publishing house is part of the CBS family, which is just like any other big corporation. If the price is right, they're selling off components.

For NewsCorp, the price must also be right. They'd be investing in an industry that isn't demonstrating big growth. It's an industry that's facing the new medium of digital publishing, where the future direction isn't clearly marked.

By combining HarperCollins and S&S, NewsCorp could cut costs by....yes, you guessed it!...realizing synergies. Cut the employees, cut expenses, and profits are boosted.

It's no sure thing that the Random House - Penguin merger will be approved by government regulators who may not be so keen to help firms realize synergies when unemployment is already high.

So it won't be an easy matter for NewsCorp to buy up Simon & Schuster without the anti-trust crew probing the deal. Approval is no sure thing.

Beyond the loss of jobs, however, is the loss of variety. Fewer and fewer options would remain as the big houses join forces and shrink overhead. Fewer imprints, fewer chances taken on unknown authors showing talent that is not guaranteed to sell in blockbuster units.

The deals are good for the stockholders. Is there any benefit to anyone else? Anyone?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don't Drink The Water

In a remarkable new study, scientists have found that people who come to the States will become obese.

The best advice you can give an emigrant, then, would be to not drink the water. What other common denominator can there be?

Thus far, the study has been limited to people of Mexican descent, which means an expansion of the study pool must be undertaken. Knowing that Hispanics migrated to all parts of the United States, it's clearly not a regional issue.

Can it be the air? Should immigrants not breath the air?

Not only do recent immigrants tend to get fat, but their descendants are far more likely to become obese than those distant cousins who stayed behind in Mexico.

Naturally, scientists want to uncover the cause. If they can figure it out, they'd have a strong clue as to the source of American obesity, now at epidemic proportions.

When the armed services can't get enough recruits to meet fitness standards due to obesity, it's a matter of national security more than health.

It's being suggested that American food plays a large role, but in ways not yet clear. Sure there's McDonald's on every corner, and the sugary drinks, but has no one considered what is in the water and the air in the U.S. as compared to Mexico?

Or is it not quite so simple a solution?

Maybe it's more to do with all the cars that allow people to not walk, and the steady income that allows people to not go hungry. It's the affordable video games that allow kids to not engage in physical play, and it's the fear of lawsuits against primary level schools that allow the kids to not have outdoor recreation during the school day.

It's a lot of things, not one simple thing like super-sized fizzy drinks. It's about having the money to buy all that you couldn't afford when you were scratching out an existence on a small plot of land in Mexico, where you knew you'd go hungry if it didn't rain on your maize crop.

But if you're planning on an extended stay in the U.S., you'd best exercise a bit of caution and not drink the water or breath the air and, perhaps, stay away from the food.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I'm Taking Over This Town, See?

There are a few powerful agencies out there.

Those are the ones you'd never query because you just aren't rotating in the same galaxy as the likes of Martin Amis or Elmore Leonard. No indeed, you're not the profit generator, with your little manuscript and no platform.

When those mighty forces of agenting move, the business world takes notice.

Hence, the buzz that's vibrating through publishing circles with rumours spreading of uber-agent Andrew Wylie's interest in selling his agency, and it's Creative Artists Agency that's come a-courting.

Such a merger would create a more worthy opponent to William Morris-Endeavor, which was itself created with a happy union of two agencies.

As for the truth of the tale, Mr. Wylie says he's not selling, nor is he interested in selling.

He has looked at partnerships in the past, he admits, but that's not a sale, is it?

CAA would swallow up Wylie and then they'd have a nice little literary agency to attract more heavy hitting clients. On the other hand, WME or even ICM might be amenable to one of those partnership deals that Mr. Wylie has entertained before. Such a move would pretty much sew up representation for the biggest authors around, and publishing houses would certainly take notice. And feel the effects when the time came to negotiate a contract.

They'd take over this town, see, and mugs like you would be finished.

But there's always the danger that those big firms would simply poach talent, rather than buy it up by purchasing the Wylie Agency. And would that, then, be the end of Rico, err, I mean, Andrew?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

If You Think Authors Are Writers

Fashion models are not clothing designers. What they put on their backs, to parade down the catwalk, are items that were handed to them.

So why can the same not be said for "authors"?

Fashionista Kate Moss has launched her book amid much book launch partying. The volume is a retrospective of her career, and it features never before seen photos to entice those who have seen it all. Those who want to know where she came from and how she got where she is today will want to find the volume under their Christmas tree next month.

Just as she did not make the clothes she modeled, so too did she not write the book she is said to have authored.

Her name is there on the cover. If you believe everything you read, you'd believe she's the author.

But she didn't write anything.

It's no different than the way her real job functions. Someone hands her a dress, someone else does her hair, another paints her face, and that dress becomes more than a piece of fabric when she brings it to life.

So someone else took words, another selected photographs, and draped it on Ms. Moss' slight frame, and it was a book.

It will sell because she is a celebrity. It may not sell through, especially given the high price, but Rizzoli can expect to benefit from a ghost-written tome. That benefit comes from book buyers taking a look at other offerings from the publisher famous for the lush photography in their books.

Have you ever cracked open one of their cookbooks? Kate Moss could gain ten pounds just from looking at the pictures of the food, they are so spectacular.

So not all authors are writers. Especially at this high end of the publishing stratosphere. It's more about beautiful pictures with Rizzoli. And with Kate Moss, it's always been someone else behind the camera.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

When The Government Stands Between Patient And Doctor

The tragic tale of Savita Halappanavar has already spread far beyond Ireland's shores.

She needed an abortion to preserve her life when her pregnancy took a bad turn. As anyone who's been through such a situation knows, there is a real risk of infection if the fetal tissue is not removed from the uterus when the fetus dies. The woman's body does not always expel the tissue.

In Ms. Halappanavar's case, the doctors at the university hospital in Galway detected a fetal heartbeat, even though they knew that the pregnancy required termination to safeguard her health.

So there they were.

The baby wasn't dead yet. To terminate the pregnancy could be seen, in some legal circles and perhaps even in the local Garda station, as an illegal abortion.

There was a heartbeat, you see.

Doctors are not lawyers, but they'd have to be to parse the language that regulates maternal health issues in Ireland.

Given a choice between prosecution for performing an illegal act, or hoping against hope that the fetus would just die and make matters simple, they wagered and lost. Badly.

Ms. Halappanavar died because the government of Ireland is trying to straddle the fence and have things both ways. They want to be against abortion, but if it's a case of a woman's life, well, maybe, if the bishops say it's acceptable.

It's a Catholic country, after all.

The government stands between the patient and the doctor, and the doctor cannot make medical decisions with a statute book hanging overhead. What is a simple choice, one that should have been made by the Halappanavars in consultation with the obstetrician, became a tangled muddle because the government was in the way.

Start writing legislation for the treatment of heart attack victims and there'd be changes made after the first man died in hospital, waiting for a decision on the legality of an angioplasty.

But when it comes to health issues that are unique to women, all the protests go unheard.

Maybe now, with an international outcry, someone in the Dail will hear.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Burning Away The Memory

Convents once dotted the landscape of Ireland, stone buildings that held much mystery.

Some knew, of course.

Some knew what went on behind those thick walls, where young women went in and many never came out.

Where children were taken if they had been convicted of the crime of being poor, of having a parent deemed unsuitable by the morality police.

Bit by bit, those convents that contained Ireland's darkest secrets have fallen into ruin. The nuns are gone and not replaced by a younger crop of women who have more options in life. Buildings lie empty, no longer filled with the evidence of a culture of containment.

The former convent of the Good Shepherd sisters in Cork has gone up in flames, and with it goes another piece of evidence.

The building has been empty for a long time, sold to a developer who was going to create hundreds of apartments for Ireland's growing population. Like so many other developments, this one too fell victim to the property bust.

Despite the concerns of the Cork City Council, the site was never secured. They may have been somewhat interested in preserving a listed building, but were they keen to preserve the memories of what went on in them? Does anyone in Cork truly regret the loss?

If all the Magdalene laundries and all the industrial schools would burn away, then the memories might disappear as well.

The women who were incarcerated against their will are asking for help in their old age, with no pensions given for the work they did as slave labor for the nuns. The State is stalling, in the hope that the last of the Maggies will die and take a memory with them, at no further cost to the government.

The convent at High Park is gone. Now the Good Shepherd convent in Cork is gone.

But when will the last memory of the industrial schools and the Magdalene laundries be gone?

The memory will remain, as long as there are books and films to remind us of what damage can be done by a government that sets itself up as the absolute authority over the citizens and the way in which they conduct their lives.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Film Scouts Take Notice

The post-apocalyptic young adult thriller is all the rage these days, and you'll be needing someplace to film that story set somewhere in the future after the world as we know it has fallen into chaos.

What better place to set that dystopian drama than in the middle of a place that descended into chaos and is the epitome of dystopia?

Architect Merritt Bucholz won an award for the design of Elm Park, situated on prime real estate in Dublin 4.

Quite futuristic, the office buildings and apartment blocks. And all of this modern, forward thinking architecture covers over 14 acres. Plenty of room for a good chase scene, perhaps a little "Hunger Games" dash for the protagonist's life through deserted streets.

Imagine how much could be saved by using existing structures, rather than building an entire set to match the unique style of Elm Park. It's a small town, with streets and everything. No producer in the world could turn down that sort of cost effectiveness.

In spite of the awards, Elm Place could not out-dazzle the crash of the real estate market. The expensive apartments failed to sell, there was no demand for office space, and the project sits unfinished. The few who bought there are stuck, with no one interested in buying their flats.

The architect has proposed some alternative uses for the property, like turning some of the empty land into a farm or a concert venue. Attempts to have a hospital locate to the site have failed.

So the government, which owns the foreclosed project, has considered offering to rent the place to any filmmaker who would like to set his scenes against a backdrop that is unique in all the world.

All it will take is a little imagination.

And isn't that what the magic of Hollywood is all about?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Most Intimate Biography

Took things a little too far did biographer Paula Broadwell.

Knowing the subject of whom you write is critical to an in-depth analysis, missus, but did you really have to know all about your subject's sexual proclivities?

It makes the title All In a bit of a double entendre, does it not?

Things are devolving quickly in Washington, D.C., where the news of General David Patraeus' resignation hit like a bunker buster bomb.

He'd had an affair, cheated on his wife, and he couldn't be the head spook at the CIA when he himself was holding a big secret that could be used to blackmail him. In the interest of national security, the storied general quit his post.

Before the day was over, the details trickled out. The FBI, it seems, was investigating Ms. Broadwell because she was dipping into the general's e-mail without proper authorization. Once that first domino fell, it was only a matter of time until the whole row tumbled and there at the end was an embarrassed man.

A skilled biographer demands access to the subject, but did that access really need to include the bedroom?

Unpublished authors need to know these things. If there's something they're not doing that is preventing them from landing a publishing contract, don't you think they would like to correct such an omission?

More books may be coming at us. Consider how the conspiracy theorists are lining up, to describe a plot to rid the Obama administration of an unwanted bureaucrat.

It's the sort of thing that's right up David Axelrod's alley, after all. It would make for a gripping read, to have the political junkie probing another man's sexual escapades.

Over the course of the next weeks, the full story will be pieced together and someone else can then write another biography, about hubris perhaps or ego.

Or the lengths one author would go to uncover all there is to know about the subject of the biography.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Most Popular Video Game Of The Year

We're fans of the Medal of Honor games because they're so realistic.

It's like being a soldier, but at the safest of distances. The video games provide entertainment, of course, but the sense of being there in the heart of the action is what puts Medal of Honor above so many other similar offerings.

Now we know why those games are remarkably accurate. Seven U.S. Navy SEALS are in hot water (not that it would trouble such hard men who can tolerate exposure to all extreme elements) for helping EA Sports make the game as real as real can be.

So if you want to buy Medal of Honor: Warfighter, you'd best get to it. The game is going to be the most popular gift for this year's holiday season.

Every Al-Qaeda operative with a game console will have to study the action sequences as part of their basic training. How better to discover the hidden secrets that the SEALS use in combat?

That's what the U.S. authorities have implied. The former military members have been reprimanded for giving away secrets when they helped EA Sports develop the game. Put on half-pay for two full months, and slapped with a letter of reprimand---you just know there was a serious, serious breach of classified information with that kind of harsh punishment.

Imagine the advertising copy that could be developed. EA Sports can promote a game so authentic that seven men were punished by their government for helping to create that authenticity. A game can't get any better than that.

Pretend you're an elite warrior, a Navy SEAL, making the world safe from those who would kill us if they can't force us to convert to their religion....who can wait until Christmas to start playing? Maybe it would be wise to start queuing up immediately.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Welcome To The Dysfunctional Family

U.S. Cellular has sold its Chicago clients.

Welcome to the Sprint/Nextel family, former "Cell" users. You won't be with us long.

In fact, I won't be with you much longer, but I digress.

Competition is furious in the cell phone market, and U.S. Cellular has given up on increasing its base in the Chicago area. The likes of Verizon and AT&T cannot be beaten, so the loser is folding up its smartphone tent and moving away.

They won't go empty handed.

U.S. Cellular made $480 million in the transaction, which will help them expand in another area where they have a chance to make it.

They are shrinking down now, with a long-range plan to grow in the future. That's what they did before, but they tried to grow in a market where there wasn't any room, so they've backtracked and are looking for a new route.

Their stockholders are not pleased with the concept, and the stock took a beating.

What of the clients who were sold away?

They'll soon be receiving all sorts of information from Sprint that will paint a glowing picture of quality service and hey, look, we have iPhones too.

Every contractor in the Chicago area had phone service with Nextel. The direct connect feature that made every cell phone a two-way radio was the key feature. Then Nextel was bought up by Sprint. Now every contractor in the Chicago area is leaving Sprint as soon as their contract expires, and looking to Verizon.

Sprint was eager to buy up 10% of U.S. Cellular's client base because Sprint is losing clients at an incredible rate. They haven't had any luck in keeping users by improving a system that is proving to be a dismal failure, so they're trying a new tactic. If they can just convince you to sign that two-year deal, they've got you for two years and maybe, just maybe, they'll fix the bugs that are driving Sprint clients to seek other service providers.

Intense competition has driven down the cost of cell phone services, but at the same time, that competition drives the weakest out of business until only the strong survive.

The Chicago White Sox will still play in U.S. Cellular Field. You just won't be able to get U.S. Cellular service there.

You may not really want Sprint service as a substitute.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Tea Time Express Is Leaving The Station

Since 1938, when everyone in Ireland was poor and the Celtic Tiger an impossible dream, a bakery opened in Dublin.

Tea Time Express offered confections that were typically consumed with tea, hence the name. As for the Express part, that came in because the goods were sold door to door. If you wanted a cake, you only needed to answer the knock, have a few coins to cover the cost of the bun, and you'd be a little less hungry than you were a minute ago, without having to expend much energy.

When most people didn't have many spare coins for such a luxury, being able to buy a cake became an occasion, a rare treat that took on a certain status. Perhaps the cakes tasted that much better, flavored as they were with emotion.

The brand is so well known that it's become available in the U.S., the cakes and bracks sealed up in Dublin and flown across the ocean, to provide a taste of home for the diaspora.

If you want to see what it's all about, you'll have to act fast.

After struggling with a dying economy and rising costs, Tea Time Express is going to close its door shortly before Christmas.

The firm that survived the long slog of hard times in Dublin for over seventy years has become a victim of a new round of hard times. This version, however, is fatal.

Sugar and flour, dried fruit and nuts, everything has become more costly. Employee wages have gone up over the years, while the amount of money that people can spend on an indulgence like a marzipan cake has declined.

Tea Time Express can no longer sell enough baked goods at a profitable price to meet all their expenses. The owners have no other choice but to close their doors.

Someone else may buy up the equipment and give it a go, like the founders of Tea Time Express back in 1938.

But it will never be quite the same.

Monday, November 05, 2012

To Query Or Not To Query

Timing a query is not exactly a fine art, and it does involve a lot of luck.

Would it be unlucky to fire off a letter to a literary agent in New York City right now?

It's been a week since Hurricane Sandy took out the power in Manhattan, where most of the agents work. What you have to ask yourself is whether or not that agent you'd like to query has power at home, which could be in New Jersey or the Upper East Side or perhaps Brooklyn.

Unless you have inside knowledge, you can't be sure that this is a good time to query.

Consider instead all the agents who don't live in New York, and whose lives were not uprooted.

Kristin Nelson is out there in Colorado, safe from the hurricane. Sandra Dijkstra and her crew are located in California, along with Laura Bradford And there are others.

They can't get much done as far as submitting to editors in New York, for hurricane-related reasons. The major publishers are only now getting e-mail back, and it was not until Friday that some reported their electricity restored.

Those agents need something to do, to keep themselves occupied while waiting for Manhattan to come back to life. Without the distractions of phone calls to editors who aren't there, or don't have phone service, they can devote their full attention to your plea.

When will it be a good time to query an agent based in New York?

Who could say?

But maybe you'll get lucky and hit one who would like nothing more than to see an inbox full of query letters when they finally get back online, just so they can begin to feel normal again.

Of course you could be unlucky and overload those who are already overwhelmed with storm clean up and the need to bunk with Mom and Dad for the past week.

It's always a matter of luck when it comes to querying.

Friday, November 02, 2012

In Tragedy Are Tragic Characters

The waters have receded from the shoreline communities of New Jersey and New York, revealing tales of great tragedy.

Among those who died are homeowners who either did not think the storm would be so bad, and those who were determined to save their homes from a force they could not comprehend.

From these people comes the tragedy that is the worst of the devastating storm.

How could someone, after watching the images from Louisiana, not make a run for it?

As an author, it is your job to make sense of the mindset of such a person. If you can get inside that head, and present it to a reader, you have done your job.

What is it about a home, about that shelter, that would compel a man to remain behind to protect it? To be sure the pumps were raining in the cellar, to keep the place dry and safe for the family, why is that more important than saving one's own life?

Then paint another character, that of the politician who makes a calculated decision to stage a planned marathon in a city brought to its knees by a powerful storm. What is the mindset of such a man, who would redirect electricity-producing generators to power facilities for runners, leaving the residents to the chaos that is the loss of power.

There is much for a writer to mine, to explore deep within and then paint their protagonists and antagonists with realism that the reader can relate to.

The stories are all around. It's a matter of sitting down and putting some of them on paper, using real human experiences to put flesh on the bones of an imaginary person. Giving such a person life will depend on the author's ability to take reality and put it into fiction.

That is what is meant by writing what you know. You've seen it. Now you know it. So go write it.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Write A Novel In Thirty Days

It's impossible, but only those who have actually written novels know that an author cannot write a book in one month.

That's the premise, however, of NaNoWriMo, or the national novel writing month.

Literary agents cringe as November closes, knowing that they'll soon be inundated with queries for these rough drafts.

For those who think they have a story in them, however, it may be a good thing. They can sign up and engage in a more interactive experience than the average writer is accustomed to. Rather than write, they can interact with others just like them, because writing is a solitary activity and it helps to have friends for commiserating.

You can follow @NaNoWriMo on Twitter, and really feel as if you're in the middle of this mad dash to pen 50,000 words. It's short for a novel, but then again, November is a short month filled with short days.

If you participate, you might not finish or your book might not be what you thought it would be. But you'll come away with a better appreciation for the craft of writing and how much work it is to complete a full manuscript.

Maybe the experience will make you a better reader, or at least a more voracious one.

Getting more people to read is always a positive benefit, even if the notion of writing an entire novel in thirty days seems trivial.

The problem is, it ends on November 30.

Why not make December National Beta Readers Month, in which NaNoWriMo participants read and critique manuscripts? Then January could be National Edit Month, followed by second beta reading in February, with March opening like an editing lion and exiting like a stronger lamb, with plot holes patched and narrative arcs sweeping in graceful curves.

The key to success in your NaNoWriMo adventure? Sit your arse down with a writing implement (I'm partial to fountain pens myself) and write. It doesn't get done any other way.