Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting it Right

It's pretty likely to hear me say (often) "Get it written, THEN get it right."
I say this for the obvious reason. Many people get hung up around the thought that they can't get it "right" so they obsess in the outlining phase, or they write and rewrite the first chapter ad infinitum. For these folks, my advice is right on the money. Write it first...then get it right.
There is a second part though...when I say get it right, I mean really get it right.
If you want to attract a publisher, sending them a crap manuscript is not "getting it right". After you get it written, you need to spend a while getting it right. This, to me, is the hardest part because you want to be doing something else, but you have to force yourself to focus on getting your work right. This means editting, polishing, rewriting, etc.
You need to get all of this done before sending it to an editor. If you want to stand out, then a great story is part of it. Good characters is part of it. Sending them a work that is already substantially "right" will definitely help get some attention.
If you plan on foregoing a traditional publisher and do it yourself...then getting it right is even MORE crucial! You'll have a huge stigma to overcome. That stigma is out there for a reason. Lots of do-it-yourself books don't have the quality of a traditionally published one. They can. They should. People just haven't taken the time to do the second part. I have bought several self published works with a great storyline, awesome characters and even a really nice looking book with an eye-catching cover, only to have my heart broken by poor editting, common errors and stilted dialogue.
So, now that you've got it written, now you really have to get to work.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving! I love the food. I love the Macy's Parade. I love hanging with family. My family makes a whole weekend of it. We eat like pigs. We start our Christmas shopping, we drag out the Christmas tree and the lights and all that jazz.
I'm watching Michael Grimm sing "Try a Little Tenderness" on the Macy's Parade as I type this and I, like so many bloggers today, will take this opportunity to say something I'm thankful for.
I'm thankful for (among other things) a country where we can express our art in whatever form we choose without fear of censure or conviction. It may not mean people will love it, but we can produce it.
I'm thankful for talented artists who I try and follow in my own life.
I'm thankful for my friends!
And I'm thankful for you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Writing a good novel

I was reading an interview with Jonathan Franzen this morning. In the article, he comments that commercially successful does not mean you are a good writer.
I have struggled with this very notion many times. The idea that you can write a book that is essentially unreadable by the general public, but it still be considered a "great novel" and then authors who are read by millions can be considered "bad" (poor Robert Jordan).
Isn't art individual? Meaning is it only good or bad based on the eye of the beholder?
I can't say, but I have read some of Franzen's work. I think it's good, but I don't think it's great. Then again, I can't tell a fine wine from a cheap one unless I look at the price tag.
Mark Twain said (and I paraphrase) that many novels were like a fine wine while his were like water. He then went on to say that everyone drinks water. Of course, I think we all consider Twain to have been a great novelist ho was also commercially successful.
An example - Louis Lamour. He wrote westerns. They weren't great writing. They sold millions and millions of copies and to a certain audience, they are great. He reached people. He had a rabid a loyal following. People were sad when he was gone. I think this constitutes a great novelist. Was he the next J.D. Salinger? Obviously not, but he probably didn't want to be.
I hear elitist artists often lampoon commercially successful writing as "bad". Then again, at one point those same elitists tried to gain acceptance for publication.
I don't know what the answer is. I personally think judging a work as good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. Some people maintain, however, that they can tell good writing from bad (and we exclude the truly bad stuff...those that are made of poor grammar, cliches or stereotypes - there are basic rules).
I suppose I would like to be considered a "good" writer. Since I don't think anyone can give me that label other than readers and (hopefully) fans, then I suppose I will be relegated to the same "bad" column as writers like Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan.
I should be so lucky.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Random Musings

I am really excited about Thanksgiving! I love the time off, the food and the family stuff that goes with the Holiday!

So, I saw a clip of a slightly racy scene from the new Harry Potter film. Now those of you that know me, you know I have NO problem with racy. This one left me feeling like a scuz weasel though, because Emma Watson is officially hot!

I need to get some writing done! I am officially jonesing for writing something new! What's stopping me? Right now my best excuse is Grad School. That crap is hard! Who knew? Still,  I know any excuse is just excuse. I have just as much time as anyone else, so I need to get my butt in gear.

Finally, if you haven't seen the trailer for "Your Highness", go check it out. Anyone who has ever played a roleplaying game should enjoy this movie.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How do you respond to failure?

How do you respond to failure? That is the subject of Seth's excellent blog entry today.
He asks the question "When you fail, what happens?"
This is so translatable to artists. So many writers and artists produce prolifically and try to get their work in front of someone. That someone (who the artists gives a huge measure of power by valuing their input, which may not even be the right thing to do, may be the wrong person, etc - subject for another day) then gives some honest feedback. it might be positive, it might be neutral, but let's be honest, it's usually negative, especially for young artists.
What happens next? Artist gets mad, sad, depressed and either ignores the input they so desperately craved or they just give up all together.
What is a better way to deal with failure? Use it to get better! If a student gets a bad grade and uses that to become demotivated, then they've missed the point. It should lead to harder work, more studying, etc.
Use failure as an excuse to work harder and to get better. Not an excuse to give up or be marginalized.

Of course the only person who can tell you what "failure" is, is you anyway, so choose what your "failure" looks like very carefully.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harry Potter

Well, unless you've lived under a rock, then you know that the final Harry Potter movie comes out this week and even though millions know how the story ends, millions will still go see the movie.
I find the whole Harry Potter phenomenon to be just about as an inspiring story as I can find anywhere. Author writes a book, collects rejection slips until it takes off and then, boy, does it take off. Now it is a major brand all by itself with books, movies, comics, action figures and even an amusement park (okay...part of a bigger amusement park, but even still). HP has delivered a level of success that is just amazing and one that I would love to emulate with my own story that would resonate so strongly with fans of all ages.
I'm not saying I can do it, but I'm not ready to admit I can't either. Then again, so could you!
Anything can happen...even nothing.

I heard that quote somewhere and it is a point well taken...if you do nothing, then you get nothing. If you do something, then you are no worse off. You might still get nothing, but you are much closer to getting something.
You may not get Harry Potter, but who wouldn't love to be 1/10th as successful? Guess we better do something.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Self Publishing

I read a great article on self publishing in the Raleigh News and Observer this weekend. It's a good article because it reminds me of many things:
  • Self publishing is so much more than just "vanity publishing" now - though publishers probably disagree (I think they have to at this point since their whole business model is based on being the gate keepers rather than the enablers)
  • There are more ways to publish than ever with the NY Times now having an e-book best seller list and the Kindle being such a viable option for so many people
  • That self publishing winners are currently non-fiction writers who find a niche in the market (Maybe this won't always be the case?)
  • That excellence is required in self publishing due to the stigma.
A couple of things I would add
  • Doing it yourself doesn't stop at books. Comics, movies, even tv shows are being done independently. More so than ever. The internet has made it possible to get your art in front of eyes in more ways than ever
  • Being successful still takes hard work whether you try for the traditional route or blaze your own trail
  • If your long term success depends on being "discovered" you might as well be playing the lottery
  • You cna start something with very little risk in terms of cash. The only risk, I suppose, is in being laughed at. That's not much of a risk. If they laugh or ridicule, then chances are you aren't creating for them anyway.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Resource for Writers

I can't suggest this blog highly enough.It's all about creative writing. It is focused on authors, but any of us "creatives" have to write sometime, whether it's a story treatment, an outline, a storyboard...whatever.
This site has a great set of resources, so check it out! It's on my favorites to be read daily.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is it silly?

I was sharing with a colleague today that many of my ideas often seem silly. We the concluded that Mark Twain might have thought "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" might be silly. He might have been told it was silly. Seems to have worked out okay. Southpark is silly. The Family Guy. The Simpsons was very silly in its initial incarnation as a strip in college newspapers (Matt Groenig's overnight success was anything but).
How are their ideas different than my silly ideas? They put theirs onto paper, or in production. If one fizzled out, then they went on to the next, and then the next until something hit.
We should take a lesson from their example. I am pledging to. Let's reconvene in one year. November 2011 and share what we've done.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ranger's Apprentice

So I am late to this book series, meaning it's been out for a few years now, but my son and I just started reading "The Ranger's Apprentice" series. The first book is entitled "The Ruins of Gorlan".
This is not a cross genre series or anything, but having just finished the first book, I have to say that this is a really cool series.
I like the world that John Flanagan has created and the book was a great read. It's technically for teens so it was a short read as well.
I think it works well for adults or teens. I am a big fan of Rangers, Knights, monsters and the like and this book has plenty of all of that. I can't wait to pick up book 2!

Note - there was a movie announced in 2008. Recent funding issues have slowed it down, but John Flanagan says it is still a go.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Getting your art out there

I had an interesting conversation with a friend a few days ago about getting out "out there". We discussed how difficult it is to pick a medium and how difficult it is to bring all the pieces together. My own thinking was, at the time, a bit defeatist. I had the following fallacies in my thinking:
  • My first fallacy was that to get a novel out there you have to attract a New york publisher (my friend corrected me by reminding me of small press and self publishing)
  • My second fallacy was that Self publishing has too much of a stigma to overcome because people are accustomed to low quality self published work (my friend responded that you have to overcome this stigma by first producing a high quality work and then by working to tell people that you have)
  • My third fallacy was that you cannot produce a graphic work (comic or even motion graphics) you have to have an artist onboard (My friend points out that there are programs to help people with this and an even more extreme example is Southpark where the artwork is secondary to the storytelling. We could debate the quality of Southpark storytelling, but it resonated with an audience, clearly, and by that measure is very successful depite low-quality artwork)
  • My fourth fallacy was that I needed to pick a single creative area and focus there so my attention was not divided (My friend reminded me that most all creative folk out there are working on a huge variety of art. Some hits and some misses, but they produce and that what counts. They only adopt a single minded focus after something hits and they have an audience, and most of the time, even then, they keep working in other areas (George Lucas could have made a career of Star Wars only, but he didn't).
  • My fifth fallacy was that I could not write a screenplay because I don't have the training (my friend reminded me that I could write a story in any form and then hire someone to make it into a screenplay, or even better use an automated program to help me turn a story into a screenplay)
It was interesting, frightening and liberating to have my excuses systematically dismantled. I can now see there are always ways to get the art out there. That's a new realization for me and one upon which I intend to capitalize. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The 4th Reich

It seems inadvertently I have done a little Zombie series of posts over the last few days. This is probably the last one, but this one fits really well with both my theme since Halloween, and one of my favorite subjects of cross genre stories.
The 4th Reich is a soon-to-be-released film about Zombie Nazis...or Nazi Zombies...which would it be? I guess Zombie Nazis. I suppose they were Nazis and then became Zombies rather than the other way around. I don't see Zombies as "joiners". Anyway...I digress
Looks like a good mix of WWII action and undead creepiness. Yesterday we talked about Cowboys fighting undead and now soldiers during WWII...looks like the time is ripe for a "Zombies in Outer Space" or a "Zombie in King Arthur's Court".

Monday, November 1, 2010

Undead Nightmare: Red Dead Redemption

Just wanted to post this piece of cross genre goodness. Red Dead Redemption is a classic Western video game by Rockstar games (great game by the way and a great story if you like Westerns).
Rockstar has just released a downloadable add-on for Red Dead Redemption entitled Undead Nightmare. It's a new standalone adventure that sees the erstwhile hero, John Marston, fighting an undead plague in the old west.
Sound like a GGE storyline? It sure does. As I may have mentioned a few hundred times, we love to write, read and watch cross genre stories. Looks like we're not the only ones.

The Walking Dead

After returning from Trick or Treating last night with my kids, I sat down and watched Survival of the Dead. I suspected a new classic from Romero. I was sorely disappointed. I won't go on about that though, because just after it ended, I remembered that The Walking Dead was about to premiere on AMC, so I switched over and watched it.
Score! Way to go AMC. If you like zombie movies, you have to catch this show. On a side note, did you know "Zombies" is now its own genre? I didn't. I would have thought it was part of Horror, but according to Netflix, Zombies is a genre all its own.
So what's great about "The Walking Dead"? Characters you are interested in. They focus on the human side of the Zombie Apocalypse and how it affects families. I won't elaborate. I am not into spoilers, but it's a good movie with some human interest stuff, but still lots of shambling corpses taking head shots. On thing that intrigued me was how they managed to still make the whole situation creepy in a genre that's been done to death. I went to bed with a slight case of heebie jeebies and that hasn't happened from a Zombie movie in about a quarter of a century!

November 2nd is tomorrow

GGE is a completely non-political entity. We don't have a Political Action Committee. We don't have a favorite party or a favorite candidate.
As an entertainment company, the only political issue we might get excited about it censorship.
That being said, we do get excited about Freedom and the choices we get to exercise in the political process.
What's my point today? Go vote.
Voting is a basic right in America. People (lots of them) have fought and died to ensure we get to vote. Don't like the politicians we have? Not much we can do to change the choices, but we can have a lesser favorite and a least favorite. Vote for the one you hate the least...just vote. It's probably more important than you think.
My grandmother and her sisters, all of whom have lived well into their 90's (One, my esteemed Aunt Elois is still kicking at 105) would never miss a chance to vote. They have cast absentee ballots from hospital beds. Struggled to the polls toting an oxygen tank. They saw it as a right AND a responsibility. So do I .
Tomorrow, I will be voting. So will my Aunt Elois (actually she takes advantage of early voting - for her it's like getting a Christmas present early). Hopefully we'll see you there.