PRATIE PLACE

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Help for writers.

Anyone interested in the world of publishing should toddle over to Miss Snark, the literary agent. Miss Snark is a literary agent in real life, so her blog is a busman's holiday.

Currently, she is critiquing 109 synopses sent by her devoted cadre of would-be writers (snarklings) and posting them, one by one, with suggestions and verdicts. It's fascinating.

From the most recent synopsis run through Miss Snark's "crapometer":
Jo isn’t very likable which is an absolutely non-negotiable requirement.

Chick lit usually requires some sort of romantic element too, and that’s missing.

And those friends? Yikes! They sound more like evil sisters than friends.

Can you think of a single "teen center" that actually works? All the teens I know are either working, hanging out with their friends at the mall or the local pizza parlor, or home studying. No teen I know would be caught dead in something designated "teen". They want to be grown up. They like to hang out in Starbucks.

And "transitioning from a carefree 20something to a work and family oriented 30 something" doesn’t have quite the ring of fun in it that I look for in chick lit.

This synopsis makes the book sound like a morality tale, not chick lit. It may not BE that, but you’d never know from this.
Despite her nom de guerre, Miss Snark is generous and gentle. Faced with some of these, uh, pieces, I would not be so even-tempered. I couldn't do her work in a million years. The awful writing and inane plots, well, they'd give me the equivalent of road rage.

The question which comes up when I read these synopses, when I think about writing in general: how do people have the courage to keep writing? When everything has already been said, been written, over and over? Sure, there are a few new things in our age, iPods and cellphones and computer viruses now figure in narratives, but nothing has really changed.

As generations of good and awful writers succeed previous generations of good and awful writers, every cliché becomes more of a cliché and there are fewer titles nobody has used.

I read in the Wall Street Journal that, as years pass and more drugs are brought to market, it's increasingly difficult to find names for new drugs. Computers work on it day and night, chugging out random combinations of vowels and consonents, trying to find words which (a) can be pronounced; (b) have not been used before; (c) do not have morbid or scatalogical connotations.

Luckily for fiction writers there is no law against saying again the things which have been said already.

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3 Comments:

At 9:22 PM, Blogger MaryB said...

I love reading Miss Snark, and the crapometer stuff she has going on right now is amazing. Two things scare me about her site: 1) seems to be a lot of fantasy/alien stuff being submitted (not my cuppa), and 2) she always stresses "new" and "different."

As you pointed out - nothing new under the sun, eh? The new part, however, is that some old truth is being told in a new voice. So I guess the trick is to bring a dab of your one-off persona to a many-times-told tale. That's what keeps writers writing, I think. (e.g., "How can I filter Goldilocks through Mary (or Jane)?" etc.)

Or maybe that's cliche. ;-)

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger The Science Goddess said...

Someone once told me that there is really only one plot: something is hidden, something is revealed.

I guess we're all hacks!

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger fred said...

Ouch! Those are my toes you're stepping on. I'm going back and forth thinking Yes! I have something new to say because nobody has ever been me, here, now. And the other voice just laughs at my delusion that my story is so very different from those already put in words that it warrants two covers. Doh!

 

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