Resonance is a term from movies meaning ‘To evoke a feeling that lingers in the mind’. (Or that is the way I interpret it).
Think of the movie ‘American Beauty’. There was that opening shot above the suburbs. It seemed to say, here in Middle America we will peel back the covers and reveal what goes on. The red rose, the American Beauty, has been bred to look beautiful but it has no thorns or scent, which is another comment on the film’s theme.
When I’m writing a book I collect photographs and research fascinating details which convey evocative feelings for me.
The book I recently handed over to my agent ‘The Shallow Sea’ was a fantasy set in a tropical paradise. I collected images of azure seas, exquisite lilies and details about deadly creatures. For me it was the combination of the idyllic tropical setting with dangers hidden below the surface, that was a metaphor for the book. It had a resonance, a flavour in my head as I wrote.
I know many writers play music while they write. It helps them get into the mood to create the resonance for their current work-in-progress. Music bypasses the higher brain and goes straight to our emotional hind-brain.
I used to work as an illustrator, so I think I’m more visually oriented. I can get ‘high’ on beauty. If I go to the art gallery to see an exhibition, I come away feeling as if I’m floating on air, with images flooding my mind.
Some books evoke a stronger resonance than others. It’s not necessarily the characters that linger, it might be a sense of mystery, elegance, or tragedy. It’s like taking a mental holiday to another place and time. For instance, ‘Perdido Street Station’ lingers in my mind. I’d just finished reading a book about London from its earliest times to now. The thought of those pits where they buried the plague victims, then built housing estates over the top, still makes me shudder. Almost anything by Michael Moorcock stays with me years later. I can still remember Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast and I read that thirty years ago. I think it was the layering of backstory, the obsession with detail and the eccentricity of the characters.
Resonance is not something we talk about much as writers, it’s hard to pin down.
What books have stayed with you, resonating in your mind and why?
And do you set out to create a resonance for the books you are currently working on?
Thanks to Dave for filling in for me yesterday. Considering I am currently nothing more than a zombified writer, if I’d tried to blog yesterday, it wouldn’t have been pretty — or coherent. Now, I’m not guaranteeing coherence today, but ….
This past weekend was fun, informative and oh-so-very-tiring. For those of you who don’t know, our own Sarah A. Hoyt graciously agreed to come to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to conduct a 3-day writers workshop. If you have never taken a workshop by Sarah before, run to register the next time she conducts one. Not only will you learn so much about this industry of ours and how to have a chance to succeed at it but you will never, ever be bored.
One of the participants asked Sarah the other day what they should do to have a chance at getting published. Her comment, one that she’s posted here before, was “read, write, submit, repeat”. And it is so very true. You have to read to know what is being published in your particular field or genre. You have to write — and finish it — in order to have a chance. Then you have to let go of your baby and send it off into the world. If you keep it at home, you will never have a chance to be published and then, when it comes back — and we all get rejections, whether we admit to them or not — we have to send our baby back out to see if there’s another editor out there who likes it better than the one who just rejected it. Add into the mix that while you’re doing all this, you have to be writing the next story and the next and the next and kicking them out of the nest as well.
There was a second piece of advice to come out of that weekend and it came from Rebecca Balcarcel, a local poet who took part in a 6-author panel on Saturday night. Rebecca told the audience that she finally had to give herself permission to make mistakes and not be perfect when she is drafting her poem or story. Trying to be perfect her first draft was keeping her from finishing anything. Listening to her, I realized this is something I have to allow myself to do as well.
So, you read, write, submit, and repeat by allowing yourself to make mistakes and not be perfect the first time you put pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard. The important thing is to finish your story, your novel or whatever it is you are reading. Hopefully, once I’ve caught up on my sleep, I’ll remember this and be able to put it to use.
My question for you is what is the best piece of advice you’ve recieved that’s helped you advance your craft as a writer?
>Recent reports of a massive dust storm in Australia — with an 800km storm front and sweeping across thousands of kilometers — fail to advise that the irradiated dust has drawn an attack on Sydney by the feared Godzilla! The image on the left was sent to our office only moments before the brave soul was incinerated by radioactive flame.
Mothra has been spotted on satellite images, and is moving swiftly toward Brisbane. Scientists fear it is being drawn to the Sunshine State by the scent of radioactive mangoes. The east coast of Australia remains on high alert. . .
OK, well maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but the recent dust storm that blanketed the east coast of Australia (and is heading toward New Zealand) was certainly epic in its proportions (it really was that big). It was the biggest dust storm in 70 years, and dumped more than 75,000 tonnes of dust on Brisbane in one hour. More than one observer reported ‘It was like the end of the world’ or ‘It was like being in a science fiction movie’. The sunset was awesome, the sky as red as Martian dust (Australian desert sands have a high content of iron oxide).
When you see something like that — really experience it — it truly is amazing. It got me thinking about settings in books. If only we could channel that experience directly, make the reader feel that same creepy wonder, that otherworldlyness combined with the wake-up-and-look bite of something that is absolutely real.
It also made me realise that we owe it to ourselves as writers, and our readers, to get out there and really experience everything this world has to offer. There are some truly strange and wonderful things out there. It took that massive dust storm to remind myself of that.
So what things have you experienced that have made your head spin? That lifted you out of your own reality? And what writers have inspired similar feelings in you with their sense of setting?
By the way, if you want to see some great images of that dust storm, check out this link: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/gallery/0,23816,5060705-17382,00.html
Currently I have a proposal with a relatively good chance of selling sitting on my desk. I need to do a final read over, adjust the outline to coincide with what changed in the sample chapters (yeah, yeah, but that’s life) and send it out.
It’s been sitting on my desk for two days, in this state.
I can hear you go “What’s wrong, Sarah? Allergy to money?”
Uh. I went to a con over the weekend. It’s not just the proposal that’s sat. There’s dust bunnies (well, technically havey-cat bunnies or perhaps dust havey cats) on the stairs and the guys are running out of clean clothes. I’ve caught up on some of the more urgent emailing. I haven’t even gone to the diner, because I don’t have the energy. I’m just starting to recover but I’m leaving tomorrow to teach a workshop in TX. (Looking forward to it, but also glad it’s the last trip of the season.)
The entire summer has been like that, and I’ve got remarkably little accomplished. I know I can’t be “normal” on that, because I know people who are off to a con every weekend or every other weekend and still write encyclopedic amounts. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like flying.
All this prompted me to think about the life of a writer. See, I thought it was going to be sit down and write, and go to coffee shops and look romantic. Sometimes talk to other writers about our precious gift or something.
Okay, I didn’t exactly think that – I’m not a total prat – but at the back of my mind, I think I imagined something like that. Instead, it’s writing proposals, tracking advances, staying on deadline, all the while trying to promote the books, read enough to stay on top of the field and – heaven help me – at least try to stay in touch with the real world and your family.
We live in a walking area because I’ve found I need to go out preferably once a day and see people. Not necessarily talk to them, but just people watch. Strangers. Passerbys. It keeps me grounded on the fact that there are people outside my head. I haven’t gone out in weeks.
So, what is the purpose of this, other than bitching? To ask you guys a bunch of questions. I know we’ve been running a mini workshop of sorts for the last several months. And I know lots of you are writers. But I also know not all are. And the workshop format does have limits – for one, how many years can we keep this up and still have something interesting to say?
No, I don’t propose leaving the blog. I like you guys and I like my fellow bloggers. My question is more – what else would you like us to talk about? Our current projects, that might never see the light of day? What we’re researching at the moment? The reading cravings that have afflicted us and we have no idea where it will lead? Whom we met at the last con and how they seem to be doing? (Not in mean spirit, but we all have many friends in this field.) Our current impression of what’s going on in the publishing district right now? (I don’t mean just bitching. We have to keep that to a minimum, anyway. But “Did you know such and such merged? What do you think?”)
I’m asking because I found at cons that fans like to hear us talk about this sort of thing. Stuff like “I thought DST was going to be this story about a thief named Imogene and then this Athena chick took over.” (And no, that’s not true. Spare me. It’s five thirty in the morning for me.) They like to know what books we’re currently reading – non-research – how we’re enjoying them, and how they relate to the writing, sometimes in a tortuous way.
Would there be any interest in that type of thing? Not so much “writing” as “my writing life.” (Mind you there’s use in that for aspiring writers too. One of my mentors told me, when I was a wee writing lass – it’s five in the morning! – that in this field you trade up for bigger problems ever step up the ladder. I think it’s true. You also trade up for bigger rewards, and I don’t mean just monetary. Sometimes only knowing a writer over years allows you to see both sides of it.) So, talk to the blitzed between-trips writer. What would you like to see more of?
No, I’m not proposing leaving the blog. I enjoy both the blog and my co-bloggers. I’m just trying to figure out how to make the blog more useful to more people. And also more fun to the rest of us.
Feeling bereft of inspiration this week I went agoogling. The wonderful thing about the internet is that you can find almost anything. Here is a Great Quotes site.
The first quote came from Art, but it also applies to books. The rest were under the topic of Writing.
Art is not a study of positive reality, it is the seeking for ideal truth. George Sand, 1804-1876, French Novelist
Something tongue in cheek.
Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. E.L. Doctorow, 1931 , American novelist
Something from a fellow genre writer.
There is something about the literary life that repels me, all this desperate building of castles on cobwebs, the long-drawn acrimonious struggle to make something important which we all know will be gone forever in a few years, the miasma of failure which is to me almost as offensive as the cheap gaudiness of popular success. Raymond Chandler, 1888-1959, American Author
On why we write.
The need to express oneself in writing springs from a mal-adjustment to life, or from an inner conflict which the adolescent (or the grown man) cannot resolve in action. Those to whom action comes as easily as breathing rarely feel the need to break loose from the real, to rise above, and describe it… I do not mean that it is enough to be maladjusted to become a great writer, but writing is, for some, a method of resolving a conflict, provided they have the necessary talent.
Andre Maurois, 1885-1967, French Writer
Something on style.
It is excellent discipline for an author to feel that he must say all that he has to say in the fewest possible words, or his readers is sure to skip them. John Ruskin, 1819-1900, British Critic, Social Theorist
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it. Ernest Hemingway, 1898-1961, American Writer
Something from a frustrated fellow writer.
Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent. James Baldwin, 1924-1987, American Author
On how hard writing is.
Only amateurs say that they write for their own amusement. Writing is not an amusing occupation. It is a combination of ditch-digging, mountain-climbing, treadmill and childbirth. Writing may be interesting, absorbing, exhilarating, racking, relieving. But amusing? Never! Edna Ferber, 1887-1968, American Author
On how hard success is.
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. Ernest Hemingway, 1898-1961, American Writer
And my favourite.
If you describe things as better than they are, you are considered to be a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you will be called a realist; and if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought of as a satirist. Quentin Crisp. 1908-, British Author
Do you have any inspirational quotes printed up and pinned to your work area?
>I belong to a novelist’s group and the other day the Google thing rumbled into the usual piracy war. And people holding out about copyright and theft… I’m not going to go into the whole piracy war again. You all know where I stand on it: that it is largely a self-inflicted injury, best solved not by DRM but by reasonable prices and reasonable convenience and availability. Your milage may vary.
What I am going to talk about is copyright and its purpose. Because that’s a debate I believe we have start again.
The purpose of copyright, plain and simple, is to allow the creators of duplicable intellectual property to make a living. To nuture and foster the arts in a better fashion than a patron or storyteller’s bowl did.
The purpose of copyright is NOT (and expressly NOT) to look after look after retail. Or to shelter distributors, publishers, movie production houses or music producers.
Amazon, Google, EMI, Microsoft and every publishing house out there SHOULD HAVE NO INTEREST AT ALL IN COPYRIGHT if it is serving its purpose. If they’re all trotting off with multi-million dollar suits about copyright and who owns it… something is very wrong. If that is all (or even principally) that it is doing: It’s a pointless, worthless law and needs to scrapped, struck from the statute books and buried like ‘patrons’ as having failed in its purpose. They need something that protects creators. The rest are effectively replacable and add little value to society.
And it has failed.
It’s purpose, remember, was to allow the creators of intellectual property — the most valuable people in any society – without whom George Bezos has no business, and the directors of EMI are out selling vegetables — TO MAKE A LIVING. To nuture and to foster the creators.
It’s failed and failed dismally. Copyright isn’t just there for JRR Tolkein’s heirs, or Disney or even JK Rowlings. It’s there to nurture the BOTTOM of the system too. None of the above are struggling to make a living. 95% of published authors, who are earning from copyright, are. Therefore, either they should not be in the ‘creation’ business, or there is a problem with how the law has fulfilled its purpose. In my opinion, it has failed almost completely. That’s why Rowena was talking about other ways of writers making a living. Talking about state support. Talking about taking second jobs.
That’s just wrong, gentlemen, ladies, and other animals. We have an international law intented for the purpose of selecting the best talent and letting it grow and flourish. That means that the governments of the world perceived the value of CREATORS. The law has failed, been subverted and perverted. It’s not doing it’s job and now, and with the electronic medium as a potential breakout area, all of the parties who have battened onto the income that was intended for the creators of intellectual property… are trying to keep the status quo, or in Google’s case, muscle in. Leaping up and down… and as the only shred of legitimacy they have for that claim is (hollow laughter) the public interest (See the Australian parallel importation debate, where the principal price drivers are claiming they want to give the public cheaper books) and the supposed interest of the creators. Which they are ‘protecting’, see (and maybe some of the publishers are. Baen can at least claim to be doing a better job than others – but it is still not enough to live on in many cases. And the rest of the chain really can’t even say that much.) Telling us that even the crumb we have been left, will be taken away. And many of us are so frightened and desperate that we’re falling in with it.
We need to back off from this. Look at the ‘living’ we earn. Look at the way that copyright derived income is divided up (in most cases more than 90% goes to parties who are not the creators). Look, dispassionately, at the costs in the electronic arena. Look dispassionately at costs overall: Authors’ incomes are calculated as a ‘gross’ under the weird assumption that this is all ‘profit’ – that there are no staff who need to earn enough to pay their COL bills, no equipment, no office, no phones, no medical. Yet profit in every other step in publishing is considered as Nett — profit after those things are taken off. You will frequently hear the loud protestation from the rest of the chain that they make scant profits…say 3 or 5%. But, if you make the assumption that as they’re all living off the proceeds of the law to allow the creator to earn a living… then surely the creator’s ‘profit’ should only be calculated from point at which they are making a living wage for the most valuable part of the chain. Most authors – 90% – would smile if their profit from the book they took a year to write was calculated from a nett position and that was only 3% — even if they were being paid minimum hourly wage, and time and half for overtime (I’d be earning more than 50K a year – at minimum wage ;-). I wish I did – and I’d be very happy with 3% profit on that, let alone plus the costs of office, equipment, medical etc.)
There has to be a better way of doing this: either we divest ourselves of that chain, and hire the necessary part on a work for hire basis — which has a lot going for it in the electronic field, or we consider letting the corporates have copyright to play ducks and drakes with (which is what to all intents and purposes for all but a small percentage they do now) and cop out of it, and just work for hire, charging the sort of rates per hour that other skilled professionals who work for hire do.
Or has anyone else got any other suggestions or modifications? Because as it stands, copyright is not succeeding in its purpose. Most of us are not making a living. And it’s not nurturing and fostering the creative arts.
Or do you think writing should be an amatuer, part-time profession?
This past week has seen me on the other end of the writing game. Usually, I’m one of those sending out short stories, anxiously awaiting to hear from an editor or contest judge about how I’ve done. This week was my turn to play judge. More than that, I was the only “real writer” — not my words, but the words of some of my judges — to read the entries. In its own way, judging these stories was as difficult as waiting to hear how one of my stories has done.
To start, I have to say I’m thrilled with the response we had this year. Ours is a little library, one of a number located between Dallas and Fort Worth. So we never expect to have a lot of entries. This year, however, we quadrupled the number of entries over last year. That’s a big feather in the cap of everyone who helped organize the contest.
But, with the increased number of entries came the increased need to apply the rules of the contest across the board. Hence the title — and most particularly the subtitle — of this post. You can follow your muse down the yellow brick road, but you have to follow the rules as well. Don’t count on the beauty of your prose to blind the judges to the fact your entry is too long — or too short, your margins don’t meet the requirement or — and this is a very BIG one — you submitted it in font so tiny the judges need a magnifying glass to read it.
I guess my point is that I hadn’t realized just how badly I wanted some of the writers who submitted to follow our very simple rules. We had some good stories that simply could not be passed into the final round of judging because they had failed to read the guidelines. Even worse, there were several stories where it really seemed like the authors didn’t include all their pages. In the middle of a scene, the story just stopped. Never again am I going to assume I know the guidelines or that I’ve included everything I’m supposed to. It’s a checklist for me from now on.
So, for those of you who have submitted to contests before — or to editors or agents — what is the strangest thing you’ve seen in their guidelines? Conversely, what piece of advice would you have for those who are trying to successfully submit their short stories to either a contest or an editor?
**(Image is, of course, from The Wizard of Oz.)