A newly acquired colleague was asking me about writing. This was someone who likes to read, but hasn’t ever peeked behind the curtain of how a book ended up on her kindle or in her hand.
It’s always odd being reminded of how unseen the writing world is to those not involved in publishing. Always leaves me trying to work out what the most important points are to explain to the curious.
I wonder how these figures will shift over time…
I’ve often wondered why it is that there’s so little variation in sci-fi movies. With some notable exceptions, if it’s got a big budget it will be low on ideas.
Well, I took a look at this interesting info-graphic (found via Sofie Bird’s blog) about 300 screenplays, showing some general stats and also their weaknesses.
What struck me most was that out of 300 screenplays, only 13 were sci-fi/post apocalyptic and only 2 were set in space (though one assumes some of the ‘anonymous’ locations might be not-earth). Given how many sci-fi movies are made, they’re really coming from (%-wise) a small pool!
I’m no longer surprised at the lack of variation.
It’s not uncommon to hear people in the writing business say that the US markets don’t much care for books not set in the US. Which is a strange thought to anyone from a country as outward looking as ours.
At the convention one of the things Marc Gascoigne said was that the UK markets are the same and this is such a sad thing to hear.
Not only because those of us who love Australia’s unique environment want to write about it and not feel that is a limitation, but also for the thought of all those places British and American readers will never get to read about if this belief prevails. But I suppose it is the right of dominant cultures to acquire such habits!
Then again, I think about Alexander McCall Smith’s success and wonder…
The other night I was having a chat with a writerly dude about novellas and their resurgence in the digital publishing age. We were both of the opinion that this is a wonderful thing.
What I’m not-so-secretly hoping, is that it’s not just the novella that returns with online and electronic books, but that we get over the long-standing thing of books having to be a certain thickness. I’ve read so many books that would have been really, truly great if they’d just been shorter / tighter / more focussed. Not just fiction either, but my favourite area of non-fic; history.
If we can get down to the length a story ‘needs to be’ rather than how much shelf space it needs to take up, I think we’ll see a much bigger range of authors and story experiences on offer. This excites me as a reader probably even more than as a writer.
Of course it potentially goes both directions… maybe instead of trilogies we’ll see 250K novels instead? That could be an amazing change for fantasy authors.
Last weekend I was having a chat with a friend who knows a bunch of well-respected, published authors and a part of that conversation was about the troubles of ‘midlist’ authors can face.
For a long time I’ve known roughly what ‘the midlist’ was, simply from my reading about publishing, but I realised that I’d never seen a technical definition of it. That made me wonder if I actually did know what it was.
So then I found this really wonderful description by author Kris Rusch that was interesting not only for the definition of the midlist author, but all the other things said in the post about the economics of publishing.
Again, if you know about how publishers work it’s not exactly news, but I really liked how she describes it. Which is why I’m sharing it here.
I’m also kind of in love with the theme on her site… but that’s another story.
Listening to the end of year addition of The Writer and the Critic podcast, my interest was tweaked by a discussion about whether authors should review other authors work.
What occurred to me as I listened was that in most other arts critics are not fellow artists. Music, film, sculpture, paintings, photography, theater… these arts have traditionally been reviewed by professional critics who – while they might have a background in the art form – are not practising artists.
This is famously what critics get picked on for, particularly the harsher ones.
What I started to wonder was, what as a writer would I prefer? To be reviewed by a person who’s an expert in criticism, or to be reviewed by a fellow writer? Not that those things are mutually exclusive.
Or, should writing only be given the democratic review process that is now possible through online rating sites that allow non-writing readers to comment and allocate stars? In the end we’re writing for them after-all.
I’m still thinking about this one.
In my recent readings was a book that I think safely fits into Steam Punk. It was a romp that I found entertaining, and I didn’t have any problem with its technologically alt-history content. There was something that bugged me though.
On the cover, the artist had slapped goggles on the head and hat of the two central characters. Except, I’m pretty sure that at no time during the novel did the characters wear goggles. Or have a need to wear goggles. Mind you the artist also had the heroine dressed like a can-can dancer which is equally inappropriate.
Goggles are the new hooded robe; a cheap cliché to provide readers a visual cue, regardless of how irrelevant it is to the story. Blessed be the marketers?
In conversations with a couple of different writerly folk about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the issue of translation has come up. Mostly from people who didn’t like the book, wondering whether it’s a better read in the original language.
My personal dislikes about that book go beyond anything a bad translation could achieve, but it’s still an interesting question.
And a part of questioning how we relate to a story that clearly comes from a culture that, while very similar to our own, is not our own. This is different to, say, reading something translated from Japanese, as Japan is different to a much greater degree than northern European countries are to the country I live in.
I was still pondering this when I picked up two novels – one originally in Swedish and the other Danish – at the library.
The novel translated from Danish was unfortunately not a great translation. Particularly the rendering of dialogue felt ‘foreign’, as though maybe the translator had gone a bit too literal to the Danish.
That’s always the tough thing with translations. An obviously bad translation can really ruin your enjoyment of the book, but with a good translation, you are always left wondering how much of what you love or hate about the text is the author’s work or the translator’s.
Writers are bombarded with reasons to change their writing. Reader preferences, editor requirements, commercial considerations, fashion and quite a few more get onto the list. So do we really need another pressure?
Well maybe it won’t turn out that way, but when I heard that e-readers track and report statistics on your reading habits, a tiny bit of me died. Now the world of traditional publishers will know not only what books people buy, but whether those books get finished and how long readers spend on reading them.
I predict this will lead to the pressure to make certain points in novels more exciting to hold reader interest, or re-working a chapter for a second edition of a book to eliminate the point readers are giving up.
Worse, it could lead to an only-pay-for-what-you-read model. Ye gads.