Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I like about young writers.

I like their optimism, their 'knowing' that they can do this.
I like their openness to experience and to expressing their experience in words.
I like their sense of wonder, because adult-life situations are new to them.
I like their naivety, their freshness, their sense of investigation.
I like their soul-searching.
I like their bravery.
I like their openness to fantasy and all the different genre's of literature.
I like it that they know where they're going and that they don't know where they're going: it's all discovery for them.
I like it that most of their lives are still in front of them; they can experiment, fail, and start over.
I like it that they can get better at writing.
I like it that they don't know what they are going to do with their futures: writing is only one option.
I like it that they have a lot of living to do.
I like it that they are not a finished product.
I like it that they are open to friendship and form close bonds with their friends.
I like it that they want to share.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Young Writers

I'm very interested in the young writers I see on Webook. I hope I can help them in some way.

By young writers I mean teenagers. They are inspired and full of ideas, but their ideas are pretty basic--boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl fight, other people get involved, there are jealousies. It's all about relationships. At least, that's what I gather from the young writers I've been reading. And it's refreshing. It's really what life is about for most of us. Their characters just don't have the burden of working and raising a family and going to war and things like that. Their characters are involved in pure animal relationships. Maybe we older writers could learn something from these younger writers. Maybe D.H. Lawrence was a teenager at heart.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The History of My Writing (2).

I wrote my first novel when I was nineteen. I had been reading a lot of Ernest Hemingway during my first two years of college and my style of writing was similar to his--a lot of short sentences, a lot of dialogue--and was based on those college years. I still have the novel, but I've not looked at it in over thirty years. I'm almost afraid to. I did no more novel writing until after I graduated from college and, if memory serves me correctly, not until after I served two-years active duty in the navy. I spent the next two years working and completing my naval service as an active reservist. During those two years I wrote at least two or three novels. I still have them, but I've done nothing with them. I moved to Rhode Island for a year and wrote another novel, about WWII, and tried to get it published after completing the third draft. A literary agent looked at it and said the writing wasn't professional enough. That was my first rejection letter. Instead of polishing it, I wrote another novel as a knee-jerk reaction to being rejected. I had married and worked part-time and wrote part-time, but the need for money became overwhelming and I began working full-time. My writing from that point on, for the next thirty years, was sparse and varied. I did polish one of the novels, The Temple of Eden, which became the basis for much of the fiction I've written during the past ten years.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Literary agents, synopsis, queries, and sample chapters.

Why do agents ask for a synopsis (a short paragraph, or no more than one page), a query letter (no more than one page), and sample chapters? I know they want to get a good feel for your novel before looking at it. But still, why don't they look at all three, instead of just looking at the synopsis and saying 'no.' Or just looking at the query letter and saying 'no.' In other words, why don't they look at the sample chapters to see if the writing works for them. I'm submitting one of my novels through Webook to literary agents. I'm paying a small fee to have my queries tracked. Of the six agents who've looked at my submission, three looked at the short synopsis and said no, two looked at the short synopsis and query letter and said no, one looked at short synopsis, bio, and query letter and said no, and one looked at short synopsis, query, and sample chapters and said no. There are another seven agents who've yet to look at my submission.

What I deduce from this is that the short synopsis is critical. If the agent doesn't like it, she'll go no further. Then, if she does look at the query, it has to be even better than the synopsis. So, I need to make my short synopsis sizzle, and the query letter heat the sizzle to a higher temperature, or agents won't even bother with the sample chapters. And, finally, the first page or two of the sample chapters needs to sizzle. (I won't try to define 'sizzle' at this point. But it needs to be addressed.)

Granted, this is a small sample. But small samples are usually representative of the whole. (I submitted only to agents who wanted all three: short synopsis, query letter, and sample chapters. Many agents only want to see a query letter, and some request a query letter and short synopsis only. I felt that my chances were better if I could submit to agents who wanted sample chapters. Apparently, not so.)

Oh, and one other observation: the agents are so busy, they'll look at your submission when they get around to it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The History of My Writing (1).

As an older adult, my reasons for writing have changed from what they were when I was a teenager and young adult. They've changed even from one or two years ago, before I retired. Right now I write because it's what I do. I love writing. I cannot not write. But it's harder to write now than it was a few years ago. The drive isn't there.

I wrote my first stories when I was a fourteen-year-old. I was fascinated with telling a story, the art and the craft as well as the story. I was awed by sci/fi. I read several doomsday books and wrote a doomsday story. I was also fascinated with the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, and I wrote a horror story that my English teacher read in front of all his English classes. I had found my direction, my passion in life--writing. But I was still a teenager and was interested in many things: girls, playing football, and being on the chess team, in high school. I wasn't much of a student, though. I did admire poetry, although I didn't understand it hardly at all. I got through high school with mediocre grades. I didn't know how to study, and was more interested in going out and doing things. But, deep inside, I had the desire to be a writer--a desire that has never died.

Do depressed writers take their writing more seriously than the non-depressed?

In my opinion, writers suffering from depression do take their writing more seriously than the non-depressed. The depressed person probably takes many aspects of life more seriously than do the non-depressed. They tend to see the world in black and white terms. Or, maybe they are more deeply affected by various aspects of life. A person suffering from depression does not see the world objectively. He sees it in a very personal way--a negative way.

Some forms of depression can be combated with talk therapy, because the person's views of the world are warped by some kind of misconception. Clear up the misconception, and the depression clears up. Some forms of depression are caused by traumatic experiences that the sufferer has to work through to clear up the depression. The key is that, eventually, they both find relief. But the chronic sufferer of depression, the one who's disease is caused by brain chemistry, has a different problem. Talk therapy isn't going to clear up her depression. It may help her to deal with the depression better, but the depression will continue. Somehow, brain chemistry has to be improved, and only drugs can do that. But drugs which relieve depression have side affects that can be depressing in themselves (if not depressing, then aggravating.)

The writer may suffer any of these types of depression, which will affect the way she views her writing. The story can be an attempt to understand her depression without talking about it directly (she may not even realize she's suffering from depression). The writing becomes a kind of therapy, which may be successful in relieving her depression. Her entire writing career can be a method of dealing with her depression, which might save her from suicide. I think depressed people tend to be obsessive; for writers, the obsessiveness probably flows into their writing. If their writing is a form of therapy and the therapy doesn't work, they may see suicide as the only way out.