Monday, September 26, 2005

Two questions...

Originally Posted by blacbird on AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler:
Exactly how do you define "good" work other than by its being accepted for publication? And exactly how does any rejection (barring the unlikely event of useful specific critical suggestions from the rejecter) get you closer to acceptance?

I like what Uncle Jim said (okay I'm embellishing it a bit): "How do you know it's a good book? By the sound of rapidly-turned pages..."

Obviously, not all books are rapid page-turners (literary fiction, for example). My idea is that if your book draws your readers into a fictional world, make them believe the characters are real, and keep them there, then you have a good book. It's not about the elegance of prose, or the perfect use of grammar -- those are just tools. Good fiction is something that enthralls, entertains, and enlightens. Obviously, it depends on the readers. A romance novel reader probably regard something "good" differently than a sci-fi reader, for example. So, yes, it's subjective.

So how do you know your book is good? Use beta readers. Join a critique group. Compare it with the best books (not the worst -- always aspire to do better) in your genre. As I said before, a writer must learn to step back and objectively evaluate if he has indeed written crap.

So to come back to the question -- no, I don't think merely getting "published" means the book is good. There are always common sense and standards. But as a friend of mine said, "Art is great, but if you can't sell it and let someone else appreciate it, it's pretty useless." A published work (such as mine) might not be a good one, but the odds that a never-to-be-published work is not good is higher. That's why they stay in slush.

Now how does one rejection gets you one step closer to acceptance? First, let's make the important assumption that the book is indeed good, worthy of publication and not crap. Now, it's just a process of elimination. A rejection simply means: your book is not a good match with that particular agent or publisher. So by eliminating that option, your odds of finding a "match" is increased. It's a simple math problem.

Given there are X agents/publishers in the world. You need only one acceptance. So your chances of getting published is 1/X. Now, if you get a rejection from 1 out of X agents/publishers, your chances of getting published is now 1/(X-1). It's a better odd. The idea is to minimize the number X by targeting the right agents or publishers -- people who are more likely to appreciate your story/topic/genre.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Stories of Strength

Just got words that my essay on the great flood of Pittsburgh (2004) will be included in the SOS Anthology. The SOS project is a great one. All proceeds will go directly to the Red Cross for the Katrina relief efforts. It's a great cause, and everyone involved is volunteering their time, money and effort in making this a success.

Please spread the word about this worthy project.

For more information, please click here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Show vs. Tell

This is probably one of the most perplexing concepts for new writers: what is "show" and what is "tell"? And how do you balance the two?

I think someone once said: "Action is story."

"Show vs. tell" basically means: don't tell me he's angry, show me. Don't tell me he's sad, show me. Don't tell me she's beautiful, show me. Don't tell me Hurrican Katrina is devastating, show me.

Of course, there are times when you just have to tell. To know when to show or to tell is the art of writing stories. To strike a good balance is mastery.

The key here is to pull the readers into your story, and keep them there. Show vs. tell is merely a tool to do just that.

It doesn't matter how wonderful your prose is, if you can't keep your readers in that dream state -- that dream world of yours -- then you're not do a good job.

Show is always more interesting and evocative than tell.

Tell is always more direct, straightforward and quicker.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Kathy Won!!

Kathryn Joosten just won her first (and many more to come) Emmy for her guest starring role in Desperate Housewives.

Congratulations, Kathy. All your hard work has paid off. You're an inspiration, especially for someone who started her "career" later in life, knowing what she wanted and getting to her goals one step at a time. You can read her interview --> here.

Once again, Congrats, Kathy!

Monday, September 5, 2005

Right on!

This article in Time says a lot of what's on my mind.

I am sick and tired of the spinning and covering up ("Good job" my ass) and damage control, and how people keep saying, "It's not the time to point fingers." Yes, yes, and yes, we should focus on helping people and getting them back on their feet and all that. I totally agree. I'm doing my part.

But yes, LET'S talk about how impotent and uncaring our government was/is during this crisis. Yes, let's talk about how their inaction and apathy killed people. It's not about politics. I would have said the same thing had Clinton or Gore or Kerry been in the White House (I'm not a Democrat, BTW). I feel frustrated that I couldn't even say anything publicly because people will start saying "You're being political -- you are using this to drive a political wedge." No, I am not.

As MLK said, we die the day when we stop telling the truth.

Sadly, "truth" in America is a dying species.

/vent off

Friday, September 2, 2005

A Hurricane Relief Project

AbsoluteWrite is currently running a Hurricane Katrina Relief project, calling all writers and editors to participate. ALL proceeds will go toward the relief funds to help the victims and survivors.

For more information, click here.