I’m not an accountant, but I like to get an idea of what things cost before I get into them. Writing, for example, is a fairly cheap enterprise: $400 or so for a bone-stock laptop (or, these days, a pretty damn good one) can set you up. Hell, $2.99 for a notebook and a stolen hotel pen can do you, if that’s how you roll. Your main investment after that is time, and that varies from writer to writer.
Submitting to agents and publishing houses can cost you time, money, and stress. Starting your own publishing company can set you back a few thousand bucks before you even get the word out.
Want something writing-related that costs absolutely nothing? How about encouraging another writer. Positive feedback and helpful suggestions cost nothing. If a friend asks you to read something, sure, there’s a time investment. But positive vibes to others who want to work in your craft? Totally free.
Here’s an example — and none of us know Dan Brown, but I’ll use him to illustrate a larger point, so let’s just all pretend we know him. When his most recent book hit last week, I saw plenty of writers I know immediately trashing it. Even if they didn’t shit on the actual story, they weren’t kind to him as a writer. A large part of it probably stems from the fact that several writers think Dan Brown’s prose and storytelling is substandard when compared to their own, which I’m prepared to admit might actually be true in some cases. But why does that matter?
The truth is that someone else’s success or failure in no way impacts your own success or lack thereof. If Dan Brown sells 15 billion copies of his latest work, that means exactly nothing for your chances of success. If he puts out a novel and only 18 people but it, that also means nothing for your chances. Your success — or failure — is not tied to anyone else’s. There’s not a limited number of “best selling author” slots in the world, and someone else failing to get there isn’t what’s going to push you onto the list.
I used Dan Brown in that example because he’s a multi-best-selling author who seems to get a lot of shit, but I’ve seen this happen on a much smaller scale, too. I’ve seen unpublished authors get upset when something they think isn’t as good as their own work sells 2,000 copies. I’ve seen published authors jealous of friends who outsell them.
Put simply, I believe you have three choices when it comes to this type of situation. One, to be happy for the success of your peers, whether they sell one book or 10 million. To encourage them to keep going, even if they’ve had tough rejections and still have a lot of work to do.
Two, apathy. Screw everybody else and worry about your own shit. In most areas of my life, I choose this option… except for in the case of other writers, where I choose option 1, above.
Three: Jealousy, anger, and publicly (or privately) shitting on the work of those who “aren’t as good as you.” This one’s definitely an option, but it ends up making you sound like a bitter cockbag. Also, getting back to the “cost” part of writing — why stress yourself out over what other people do or don’t do? Even apathy costs very little, but bitterness has a higher cost than I’m personally comfortable with.
Besides, angry, bitter cockbags just become old angry, bitter cockbags. People who encourage others grow up to be Kevin Smith and John Green.
Seems an easy choice to me.
End preachy rant. Anyone do something fun this weekend? I spent 12 hours slinging beer at inebriated Texans. It was kind of a blast.
One of my pals texted me today on how he didn’t like Star Trek: Into Darkness. I took exception — not to the fact that he didn’t dig it, as people can like or dislike whatever the hell they want. I did have to point out the flaw in his reasoning, though.
His main gripe was that J.J. Abrams has turned it into “Action Trek,” and how it’s no longer about exploration and strange, new worlds. This same friend liked all the Next Generation movies… which, as I pointed out, were guilty of exactly the same thing. They turned Picard from a peace-loving diplomat into a machine-gun-wielding dune-buggy stunt driver.
It’s not a flaw with the Star Trek movies. It’s a flaw with movies in general.
In a movie, you have two or so hours where you have to keep your audience engaged. In sci-fi especially, you have to keep things moving, as anyone who remembers the 28-minute scene of Scotty driving Kirk around the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Motion Picture will attest. If you don’t, your audience gets bored. Just like they did in 1978.
The Trek movies are a different animal than the shows, and that’s not a bad thing. There are more reasons than pacing, too — budget can play a big part, as it’s way less expensive on a weekly basis to have the crew sit around a conference table than it is for them to get in space battles.
I’m not sure if I made my case with my pal, but as I’m a fan of my own logic, I found my reasoning to be sound.
What about you, folks? See Star Trek: Into Darkness yet? What did you think?
(For the record, I dug it.)
Note: The above image was on the first page of the GIS for “awful movie.” I liked it.
It’s probably no secret that, when it comes to TV and movies, I’ll watch pretty much anything. Moreover, I’ll usually find something to like about everything I watch, because I’m easily entertained.
It would seem, with me watching and liking some part of pretty much everything, that I have no filter that differentiates between quality and taste. It’s not that — I recognize the difference. I can see when a movie is of good quality, but I just didn’t care for it — any of the film versions of Jane Austen movies (or really, the books) fit into that category for me.
Then there’s stuff that’s of a universally shitty quality — a lot of SyFy movies, for example — that I’ll enjoy in spite of (or in some cases because of) the horrible production value, the ridiculously bad acting, and the subpar writing. Sadly, I’ll take Sharktopus over Little Women 99.9% of the time.
It’s not the same for me with books, though. Oh, sure, I can acknowledge when a book is well-written but not to my taste, but I can’t seem to pull any enjoyment out of shitty, badly written novels. The most fun I get out of a poorly written book is making fun of the cover design (bad novels and bad covers are usually a package deal). It’s not that I’m snobbish about genres or types of stories I’ll read (or, let’s face it, write). I think it has more to do with investing more than 90 minutes into something that’s not well-executed.
What about you, folks? Can you be entertained by a poorly written novel? And just how bad does a film has to be before it becomes a waste of time?
I’ve been reading some unpublished stuff lately, and like most unpublished stuff, it varies in quality. But there’s one specific plague I’m seeing a lot of — overwriting.
Most writers have a certain fondness for words (and if they don’t, it’s possible they’re in the wrong business). Sometimes — and I’m no different here — we let our love of the language interfere with storytelling. We use long, wordy passages to describe a shoe. We use huge, five-dollar words to talk about a character lacing up that shoe. And most times, we need to take the advice of my freshman-year journalism instructor: Just say it and shut up.
This is a tough lesson to learn. We like writing, and honestly, we like trying to show everyone just how smart we are. Unfortunately, a lot of times, we end up with clunky, borderline-unreadable sentences that pull readers right out of the story — or worse, language that makes them give up and put down the book entirely.
It’d be rare if any of you out there had the same journalism teacher I did, but judging by the box office and DVD sales, most of us saw Ocean’s 11. There’s a scene where Brad Pitt is prepping Matt Damon to go undercover as a gaming commission official, and he gives a piece of advice I find invaluable as a writer: Don’t use seven words when four will do.
It’s entirely possible that Brad Pitt is the prophet of the written word, and that’s frightening.
Joking aside, though, it’s advice I dig, and try to incorporate wherever possible. I’m sure there are situations and genres where the advice doesn’t hold true, though — so let’s talk about them in the comments! Where do you think it’s fine, or even preferable, to be wordy and florid in fiction?
I’ll make an informed wager that adults in the 1940s thought kids were getting dumber.
A conversation at work the other day included “when I was that age, I could spell properly, not like the text-speak crap my kids use.” The implication there was that young people today are somehow not as smart, or that you can judge a person’s intelligence from the way they compose a text message.
I disagreed in the conversation, and I disagree now. Kids today are probably smarter than we were at that age. They have more access to information, for starters. And I’ve read studies suggesting that child literacy in America is at it’s highest point since ever. Personally, I’ve had conversations with friends’ kids that make me think Damn, I wasn’t anywhere near this bright when I was nine. My thoughts mostly revolved around food and recess.
I’m not sure what it is that makes adults (of which I am one, ostensibly) think their generation was superior to all others. Mine was pretty average, really. We put out our fair share of geniuses and idiots. I’d imagine most generations are like that.
And as far as text-speak goes… it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t see shortened sentences, hyper-abbreviated words, and acronyms as a sign of lesser intelligence. I have a good friend who’s my age (a few months older, in fact), and I joke with him that he texts like a 14-year-old girl. He is, easily, one of the smartest people I know.
As much as my writer-friends on Facebook and Twitter rail against the “dumbing down” of the English language, I see what’s actually going on. Any language is shaped by useage — it adapts to fit how people speak and write, not the other way around. If that wasn’t the case, this blog posting would still be in Old English. Language evolves, it changes to fit the times. What we learned in English class in the fourth grade isn’t really relevant — just think how many words that we use every day didn’t even exist back then.
So take it easy on the kids, all right? We’ll all be working for them in five years anyway, if we’re not already.
What do you think, folks? If I’m way off base, go ahead and give me shit about it! That’s what discussions are all about.
And have a great weekend!
Last night, I saw the preview for the upcoming film version of Ender’s Game. While the preview looked cool and all, it’ll be one of those movies I’ll see eventually, like when it comes to Redbox or Netflix.
It’s not that I’m not a fan of the original story — I am, of course. To me, though, it’s just one of those books that really doesn’t need to be made into a movie. Not for me, anyway.
Let me be clear — I’m not against anyone making this movie. I’m really not against anyone making any movie. I’m not the fanboy who pickets the local AMC multiplex when my beloved favorite novel or comic or whatever is having its premiere. Hey, if you want to make a movie out of a board game, have at it — just don’t expect me to be in line opening night.
Thing is, film is just another way to interpret a story. I tend to like movies that started out as movies, that are written with the camera in mind. Films based on books or comics or anything else can be good — even great — but with some stories, I just don’t get excited when they make the jump to another medium. I’m fine with them living in my head as books.
That said, I did see Iron Man 3 recently, and it was awesome.
What about you, folks? What stories are you perfectly happy to keep in their original context (that is, you feel they don’t need to be made into films or TV shows)? What stories would you love to see make the jump into other media?
I have few enough hard-and-fast rules for myself that I’m loath to tell anyone else how they should live their lives or conduct themselves. Still, there are a few tenets I live by that I think the world at large might want to adopt:
Wear good shoes: This one’s mainly for the gentlemen — because I’ve never seen a woman wear running shoes with slacks. Stop doing that, fellow males. You make us all look bad.
Exception: ER doctors and other professionals who are on their feet all day.
Don’t be a jackass: Treat people with respect, or at least civility, until they give you a damn good reason not to. Just because someone has different beliefs, or a different outlook, or a different background than you does not make them wrong in any way. Everyone is human — treat them that way.
Chill out: Relax, man. The world isn’t ending, and even if it was, you couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Your blood pressure will thank you.
Exception: If someone’s shooting at you or your life is otherwise in danger, it’s completely acceptable to freak right the fuck out.
Yeah, I made the mistake of browsing Facebook again. Does it show?
What about you, folks? What tenets would you add to the list?