Sunday, May 31, 2009

Books and writing in the future

I remember car shopping not too long ago and trying to find one that still had a cassette tape player. Okay, maybe that was a decade ago, but anyway... all the new cars had CD players in them and I had stacks of cassette tapes I wanted to listen to while driving. How many of you remember vinyl records? Or the first computers, with their behemoth monitors and dot matrix printers?

Nowadays, you can play music off your MP3 player in your car, and computers are condensed down to the size of a coffee table book, yet they can do much, much more than the original ones. You don't have to drive to the record store for you favorite music. You simply hop on the internet and download it instantly at home. And computers are our means of communication, and a source of education and entertainment. Technology is advancing at a mind-blowing exponential rate.

So what does that mean to readers and writers? Hard to imagine, but there's one invention that holds promising possibilities. On Michael N. Marcus's blog he writes about the Espresso Book Machine, which prints books at the push of a button. It was on display recently at Book Expo America in New York City and created quite the buzz. There are also e-book readers, like Amazon's Kindle, which allows you to download a book anywhere there's an internet connection. In one little device the size of a paperback book, you can have multiple books ready for reading. (Personally, I'm waiting to get one until the price comes down a little more, which like all things it will eventually.)

In recent years, mainstream publishers have been experiencing shrinking profit margins due to increasing production and shipping costs and decreasing book sales. This has led to some layoffs within the industry and fewer and fewer books being contracted for publication. Which means new writers are having a harder time than ever breaking in. It may seem like a terrible time to be a hopeful writer, but I believe this is just the lull before things begin to change. How? Only time will tell, but with the internet and all the options it lays before us, print-on-demand publishing and space-age inventions like the Espresso Book Machine, this may actually be a great time to be a writer. Time will tell.

Until later,

Monday, May 25, 2009

No, really - tell me what you think.

Recently, another writer I know pulled her book down from a writer’s site where it was posted. I was surprised because it was getting good reviews. On this site, writers give each other feedback. Sometimes it’s simply glowing praise, sometimes it consists of in-depth critiques with suggestions intended to improve the work. She said her decision was based partly on the fact that she was receiving a lot of conflicting advice, which confused her more than helped her. Some of the advice, I had noticed, would have meant making major changes to her story, like removing subplots.

On our way to publication (let’s all think positive), we writers often seek feedback from other writers. We want to know what their reactions are – did they laugh at th humorous parts and cry at the sad ones? We also want to know if we’re getting the technical aspects right, like pacing, punctuation and word choice. A fresh pair of eyes can pick up on embarassing typos, or enlighten us to a basic flaw in our plot or character arcs. In short, we want someone to help us put all the pieces in the right places so our work will be undeniably brilliant and therefore merit publication.

But when is feedback worth paying attention to and when is it not? Hmm, sorry, I can’t answer that. Why? Because ultimately, only the agents you are querying, the editors considering your work, and the consumers deciding whether or not to buy your book are the only ones that matter… and you. If the suggestion or feedback flips a switch in your brain and rings true, apply it. If not, don’t. Trust your creative intentions. You can’t write by committee. Even books by bestselling authors are not going to be loved and adored by everyone.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Queen Isabella

Hi All,

Somehow, I condensed three years of writing and research into one blog post about Queen Isabella. You'll find it here. Pretty amazing life for one woman to live - and yes, it all did happen to her. I can't help but wonder how differently her life might have played out if divorce had been an option back then.

Until later,