Freedom of Writing, inspiration, Stories, writing prompt

What an idea!

Photo by Tracy Lee, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Some years ago, after rejecting an author’s short story for the Book a Break Anthology, I received a reply in which she acknowledged that a weakness in her story was the idea itself. In actual fact, her idea wasn’t bad; there followed a discussion in which we agreed that while a poor idea brilliantly executed will always be better than a brilliant idea poorly executed, it’s better yet to have a brilliant idea brilliantly executed.  

I’m not sure how or when an idea strikes me as brilliant enough to be developed. The more that development proceeds, it will at some point, inevitably, stop seeming brilliant and turn into a struggle to find the words that will do the original vision justice. For that to happen, though, it had to come through all the previous stages of development unscathed – which means it must have been brilliant enough in the first place, right?

I currently have 72 files in the Ideas folder on my laptop, but the number of actual ideas is much higher because most of them are in a single document. They might run to a couple of lines or a paragraph; often they’re just a few words. Those that emerge from this survival of the fittest are rewarded with a document file to themselves; eventually, they may even get a folder.

The folder stage is reserved for the elite. By that time the text may run from 3000 to 20000 words. I currently have 16 folders, but half of them are gathering the substantial amount of dust that lands on my keyboard. That still makes eight active ideas to keep an eye on, by which I mean that any article I spot related to that idea will be read, sorted into the folder, and may lead to an addition or amendment to the text. But that’s a matter of minutes; at any given time there’s really only one idea bubbling away at the front – the others gently simmer further back.

Whether any of these ideas is brilliant is obviously debatable. And the point remains that it isn’t having ideas that’s hard, it’s doing something decent with them. But brilliant or not, all ideas start with a little spark in the brain that either gathers strength or fizzles out. Putting them in my Ideas folder means that some at least have a chance of surviving, sometimes emerging many years later, like Brood X (though rather less numerous).

As to where they come from, the sources are multiple, but I’m currently drawn to the zaniness one regularly comes across browsing the news. A few examples:

French police say they are building a case against an international gang of toy thieves specialising in stealing Lego – and they have warned specialist shops and even parents to be aware of a global trade in the bricks.

A mafia fugitive has been caught in the Caribbean after appearing on YouTube cooking videos in which he hid his face but inadvertently showed his distinctive tattoos.

In the flesh, Jeanne Pouchain appears very much alive and well. Convincing the French authorities of this has proven another matter. After being declared dead by a court, Pouchain has spent three years trying to have herself officially resuscitated.

A Welsh man has issued a public call to help find two Irish men who helped him return home from Australia in 1965 by packing him up and mailing him in a crate.

Whether any of these will be developed remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jeanne Pouchain eventually makes it past the next couple of stages, reaching the point where the hard slog begins.

And you? How do you handle your ideas?

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Yes, I’m at it again –

I haven’t gotten around to taking photographs. This isn’t my bookshelf. My shelves are worse. And I have plastic tubs on the floor holding additional books. It’s rather depressing, I do admit.

_________________________________________

At what? Being annoying? Sure, that’s a given, right?
But, actually, attempting to organize my bookshelves:

>Literary fiction v. genre fiction v. time-tested classics

>Favorites of any stripe, to lay hands on easily and read again

>Hodge Podge 1: Vetted, yet to be given a permanent home.

>Hodge Podge 2: Yet to investigate. (Keep or chuck?) I have a double-wide shelf of those.

____________________________

My house is a mess. I wish I could call it a glorious mess. No, it’s just a mess. I like to think workmen who enter think, charming disorder. They probably think, Who can live like this? Everywhere you look, books and more books. Shelves, piles, boxes of books.

I have a floor-to-ceiling shelf devoted to theater, film, graphics, history of costume, style, and performer bios. I’d better not acquire anything more in that way because it’s packed tight. I’ve made a rule: anything new, something has to go. That shelf is my arts real estate, period. I’m not hitting the library sales these days, because of my bad back and knees, so that rule hasn’t been tested yet.

My history is broken up. I have general history downstairs, and sixteenth-century history upstairs. I have a used-to-be linen closet of nautical-related fiction, history, biography. (Research for my pirate adventure in book two of Sly.)

Fiction sits here and there. I’m exasperated with myself. I’m trying to see if I have Sometimes a Great Notion. I have Cuckoo’s Nest; I know that for sure. Getting the fiction in one spot–I finally feel up to it. My back finally shows signs of recovering from an operation of a year ago. The pain of standing–I’m OK for five-ten minutes, then I have to sit–is suddenly diminished. So I’m in a clean-this-dump state of mind.

And, as you can see, I’m talking about it because that’s what’s on my mind right now, and it doesn’t take a lot of thinking. The burden of keeping this site going shouldn’t be entirely on GD’s shoulders.

There are topics we’ve talked to death. Fine, let’s move on. We all have our personal relationship with books. There’s an easy article. For instance: who are your major influences? What directions have they pushed you in? That would be very interesting. Also, if you were to read entirely outside your genre, what would you read? I’ve started (not gotten too far) with Don Quixote and Tristram Shandy. And Reading Jane Austen inspires me to read her novels in the order in which they were written.

But, know what? What I’d really like to hear is, why are most of you not contributing a piece now and then? You have nothing to say? I don’t believe it. Too busy? This shortie took less than an hour to write. (Neither was thinking-about-it time burdensome. I combined it with other activities.) You’re not interested in putting that much energy into this site? Maybe you’ve given up on your publishing dream. That I understand all too well.

Recommend a title I might be glad to know about. Ten years ago, Atthys Gage suggested I read E.T. A. Hoffmann’s The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, and I’ll thank him forever for it. Another intricate take on a wiseacre cat! It’s nothing like mine, but the flavor is embedded in my brain and will eventually color my approach in small ways. (I am not asking for books about cats. I am asking for things with exceptional style.)

How do we handle reviews? JoeTV, a screenwriter, the guy who gave Sly its first review, trashed it up and down, in and out, then, in subsequent reviews, walked that back. He used to have a page on Wikipedia. I can’t find it now. Do I have his name wrong?

That first horrible review sent me into a deep depression, for half a day. Then I reread a few of my chapters, and said to myself: This guy is full of shit. This is good. I don’t care if he’s a big, successful screenwriter. He’s wrong.

Good reviews I discount. It’s the bad ones I pay attention to. But you have to not let yourself be intimidated by them.

Courage, mon ami, le diable est mort!
(Courage, my friend, the devil is dead!)

I’ve had the phrase in my head for years. I’ve made it my mantra. I’d thought it’s out of Don Q. No! It’s from a work sitting on my ‘Favorites’ shelf for thirty, maybe forty years: The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade.

Does anyone think paying for a Kirkus review is a good idea? Is the name as respected as it used to be? I used to get that Kirkus catalogue–it doesn’t come anymore–and drool over many more wonderful books than I could afford to buy. They probably make more money selling their reviews. The question is, do the paid reviews carry the same weight?

I wish I had something meatier for you, like last week’s post on Surviving Trauma. At the moment, I don’t. Will you give me points for trying? I promise to do the same for you.

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blogging, book promotion, marketing, Podcast, Writers Co-op

PODCAST INVITATION

  • by Joseph Carrabis

This is a wonderful opportunity to help trauma survivors get their stories and work out to a wider audience.

For those who don’t know, Katie Koestner was on the cover of TIME Magazine at the age of 18 as the first person to speak out nationally and publicly as the victim of “date” rape. She is now the Producer and Host of the Dear Katie: Survivor Stories podcast.

My function is two fold. One, to find any creatives (not just authors) whose work deals with trauma and healing, and engage them in podcast conversations regarding their work and their lives post trauma. Two, to help find trauma survivors who’ll share their stories for the main Dear Katie podcast, review episodes before they go to air, edit, and make suggestions as necessary.

Please leave a comment if you or someone you know has written a fiction or non-fiction book, article, or story about surviving trauma. Include the title of the published work, the publisher, a synopsis of the story, and a link to where I can find it online.

Thanks.
– Joseph Carrabis

My own work in this area can be seen in the material listed below. Your work doesn’t need to mirror or echo my subject matter to be considered; it only needs to be well-written and deal with survivor issues.

Post Title – Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club; Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories I joined the Katie Koestner organization as Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club, and Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories.

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About Writers, Freedom of Writing, world-building

Writers, Escaping

Readers have long escaped into fictional worlds to avoid thinking about events in their real world. Writers do the same.
The difference is that as writers, escapism is our vocation. Instead of dealing with the here and now, we regularly choose to immerse ourselves in alternate worlds, fictional events and imaginary conflicts.
– Rachel O’Regan

But that’s OK.
It’s more than OK: it’s necessary. I mean… have you been following the news lately? We need books that ground us in the unvarnished reality of our present, and books that explore the more horrific moments of our past. We need dystopias to warn us and poetry to challenge us. And we need escapist fiction to give us a freaking break.
– Charlotte Ahlin

And writing is a therapeutic form of escape.
According to Gustave Flaubert: “It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself, to move in an entire universe of your own creating”.
– Zoë Miller

Personally, I acknowledge elements of escapism in my writing. No world of mine comes to mind where a character traps young children in a school room and shoots them with an assault rifle. In my world, police would immediately risk their own lives and save the children.
That’s escapism.

SOURCES
Rachel O’Regan https://www.lifeinfiction.co.uk/writing-as-escapism/

Charlotte Ahlin https://www.bustle.com/p/escapist-fiction-is-exactly-what-you-need-sometimes-you-shouldnt-feel-bad-for-reading-it-8092788

Zoë Miller https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/reading-is-a-therapeutic-form-of-escape-but-what-about-for-writers-1.3644528

The Uvalde Police Chose Dishonor
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/06/uvalde-police-robb-elementary-shooting-dishonor/661184/

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