Saturday, March 27, 2010

Originality: Trends and Plots

Let's talk some about originality in our writing.  One of the writers on the SCBWI boards said recently that she didn't think there was any originality left in writing any more.  That everything that could be done had been done, and all that was left was to follow the newest trend.

Think about that for a minute.  Right now the "trend" seems to be about vampires...The Vampire Diaries, The Vampire Academy, and of course, the Twilight series, which seemed to start it all.  But before that, it was fantasy...look at what Harry Potter and the Eragon books by Christopher Paolini did for the world of writing.

Do you want to follow a trend, or start one?  The problem with following trends is that by the time you've written the book, had it accepted and published, whatever trend your book is like may no longer be popular, and indeed, may have been totally forgotten.  Restarting that particular trend is problematical, at best.

So how about starting a new trend?  How do you do that?  How do you know what kids are going to want to read in two or three years, depending upon how long it takes to get your book written and published?  The answer to that is, most definitely, we don't know what kids will want to read.  We're not even sure what they want to read now, are we?  So predicting future interests is merely a waste of time.

Fantasy will always be valued by kids.  Many kids today, especially teens, use fantasy as a way to escape what's happening to them in the real world:  bullying, drugs, self-abuse...the list goes on.  But there are so many different kinds of fantasy: the world of magic, per Harry Potter; dragons like Eragon; the child heroes like Percy Jackson; and the list goes on.

How do you decide on what kind of "trend" you want to start, and then how do you impart originality to that trend?  Paranormal books will probably always be popular, so if you're "in" to that sort of thing, this might be a good trend to look into.  All you need is a different idea. After all, if vampires can go to high school, couldn't ghosts do the same thing?  Or, how about taking an historical era and writing a paranormal story about that?  The Civil War should be a good stomping ground to write about ghosts...or how about the Victorian era?  I've lived in an old Victorian house that held a ghost...I was too young at the time to write about it, but it would make a good backdrop for a story now.

All you really need is a good plot...but that's a topic for tomorrow.  So for now, I guess the idea is...don't follow a trend, start one!

Think about it.  Let me know.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A New Look

I said I was going for a new look, so here it is.  Still not perfect, but I guess it will do for now.  Or...will it?

Is that what you say when you've revised and revised and revised until your face is the color of this page?  And then do you say...It's still not perfect but I guess it will do for now?  That usually will do for sending out to see if I get a bite from an editor, and then revise what she wants me to.  Is that the best way to go?

I'm also a professional artist, and I can't count the number of times I've told my private students...Leave It!  Quit fussing with it, it is fine the way it is, any more futzing around and you are going to muddy the picture.  Do those words apply for writers?  We edit, revise, rewrite and edit some more.  Rewrite some more.  When do we get to manuscript is as perfect and polished as it can be, any more messing around and I'm going to muddy the works.

My last ICL instructor told me when I finished the course that with a very few exceptions, my manuscript was ready to send out.  I "polished" those exceptions the way he suggested.  Then I 'polished' a few more places.  Then I rewrote a little bit of dialogue here and there.  Then I added a scene I'd been thinking about.  Then I changed the ending...not much, just a little.  It reads better now.  I think.

So if all this futzing around has been so good, and the polish is bright enough to blind, WHY haven't I sent the manuscript out?

When is "good enought" really, truly, good enough?  I guess that's a question I, for one, am not going to have an answer to until I actually start sending it out.  Then I figure there are about three options:  behind door # 1 is acceptance with a minimum of revisions;  behind door #2 is acceptance...maybe...with a LOT of revisions; and then there is door # 3...rejection.

But you know what?  I won't ever know which door I have opened until I start sending the manuscript out.

How about you?  Have you opened one of those doors yet?  Let me know.