Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Rants and whines

Over at Bookangst 101, Mad Max is, as usual, publishing a number of complaints and comments from writers -- usually to the effect that their publisher done them wrong.

Fair enough, and you may care to send one in; I heard from a writer the other day who had done so, and is awaiting publication on the blog. But be warned. Max may not say, 'There, there, diddums, Mummy kiss it better.' He may, as he did on 17 May, say 'Sorry, but this is self-pitying crap.'


Dee Jour said...

Hi Michael,
In regard to writer's rants? I suspect most of them are just rants that have no merit. I know this comes across abrupt but it is annoying. I say this because I make errors, every 'new' writer (any age) does when they are taking first steps. There are days I go through grammar using a variety of texts because I hate relying on computer software (particularly when some spellcheck programs give politically correct alternatives that I don't want).

I used to work with a lady who used to work as a literary agent in the UK before deciding to try her hand in export sales here and there were occasions she would help edit children's fiction and come across many errors that would never suprise her (after reading thousands of manuscripts). Her opinion on the entire matter, because her tertiary education focused on literature and the English language, was that many 'new' writers didn't take time to re-read their submitted work or they didn't really take stock of basic techniques.

The other thing that I find with 'new' writers lately is that they are quick to pass judgement. I get angry with agents who aren't communicative, that is when I get testy, but if an agent tells me that they can't accept something (for whatever reason) I do have look at the work again. If I don't find anything 'technically' wrong with it, then I'll try another agent especially in cases where the agent has stated that they find difficulty with the work (in terms of subject matter or whatever else).

My main gripe at the moment are writer's workshops where writers, many of which don't hold any degrees in English literature critique something in a vague manner. One site I find useful - only to see responses - is zoetrope.com which was formed by Francis Ford Coppola. In the virtual studio section there is a writer's workshop where stories can be submitted only on the condition that the writer reviews other works. What I have found however (as annoying as it can be) is that there are people on there who, after reading 'one short' story, decide they 'know' a writer's voice.
"This is not your normal voice"
Is one such thing any one of them will say, and I feel like clamping down and reminding them that it's 'one' thing and not an entire collection of work.

So my main gripe stems from other 'new' writers, more so than publishers and literary agents - who read tons of submissions.

At one point I posed a question in their discussion forum about rejections and how many rejections demand a rework. In their mind literary agents 'have no idea because they don't like fresh work and prefer rehashed work', even when my question pertained to a high number of agents (like two hundred or more). To them it was the 'they are out to get us' mentality which is similar to every conspiracy theory out there. In situations such as these, where new writers think they're a sitting on a golden egg (even when their novel is a 'basic' chunk of everyday life), I think of Tolkien and how old he was when The Fellowship of the Ring was published. He didn't bitch about it and there was no need for him to complain about it because he had a life but there are so many 'young' writers out there who think that they are 'something' else and they'll embrace their one work rather than looking outside the square. I think of the writers I grew up reading and these writers had rounded lives prior to being published. These days a young adult, who has hardly experienced 'life'(they've spent five years in a learning institution between 18-25) thinks they have a profound work and they get all pissed off as well when an agent says 'thanks but no thanks'. But in saying that, there are works out there that are published based on current fads. I, for one, don't read exposes by supposed prostitutes (I'm not going to even mention the title) who have no guts to reveal themselves. And this is ironic because in many cases literary agents do require a resume of some kind but if something reeks of sex then it does get the go ahead, but this isn't frequent (thank God).

I think every new writer should be their own worst critic, first, before they jump the gun.

Anonymous said...

Writers are such a curious lot, if for no other reason than for the delight they take in savaging one another. For hours. Days.

No matter where I go, I hear two groups beating the same drums:

1. Mantra #1: "Publishers are arrogant pigs who don't give us new writers a decent chance."

2. Mantra #2: "Those who engage in Mantra #1 are arrogant pigs who engage in self pity (and can't write as well as I can)."

This exchange just goes on and on and on. I'm guessing neither side writes anything other than their verbal cannonballs.

Your Grumpiness doesn't engage in either, which is why I enjoy his blog.

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