Saturday, September 27, 2008

Addendum to "Chasing Trends"

Lately I've been stumbling on a fair number of blogs that are telling me (yes me specifically, the titles of the entries tend to read, "Yo Adrienne, Adrienne! Over here! Read Me!" - and yes I did just use a Rocky reference on myself. I am allowed to do that. Others are not . . .) that what I am writing right now is very hot at the moment.

Now I'm talking about this new project I have been working on, you know the one . . . the one that has been keeping me awake at night, causing my back to go out, and preventing me from posting here as often as I would like? Yeah, that one. I'm not talking about my middle grades, but this new YA that I've been trying to get through.

Anyway, I've read on a couple agent blogs lately that the kind of stuff I am writing is really quite hot these days.

And I wanted to let you know how that makes me feel.

Not a whole heck of a lot better.

See here's the thing about chasing trends (to read the blog post to which this is an addendum please go here). If someone says something is hot right now, that really doesn't help an author who is writing a book at the moment. What is hot right now is what publishers were buying two years ago. Now how exactly does that help me not having even finished my current work, let alone sold it?

It doesn't.

So what do I do?

I keep writing.

If I was the kind of person who truly chased trends, then I would in this moment give up on my current project and desperately seek out what might be cool in two years. But how can we even know that? That's a problem with this industry. We can speculate based on some pretty sound evidence, but in the end, speculation is all it is. Inevitably we find ourselves scratching our heads wondering why a certain book that broke all the rules is the number one bestseller when, dude, it's like about cats and I was so told cats were passe.

Further to this idea of speculation I want to add one thought about the current economic slow down and the affect on the publishing industry.

Much like with chasing a certain trend, authors are very focused on whether people are buying books at all in the first place. They want to know what this new economy means to them. And much like with trend chasing, people can speculate with the given evidence, but there are no conclusions that can be definitively drawn.

Most agree the industry will slow down.

Most agree fewer new titles by new authors will be bought.


What are you as a writer supposed to do about it?

Are you going to think to yourself, "Ah well, I'm just going to stop writing" then? "I'm just going to give up on this project I've been working on for two years"?


You are more likely to think, "Well I have to finish this book. If it sells it sells, if it doesn't, it will be sad. Either way, I'm not giving up on it."

That is why I would recommend strongly that you don't think too much about the current situation. With trends, with the economy, with all aspects of writing I will say what I always say. Yes it is important to understand what is going on in the industry, of course it is. But I liken the knowledge to understanding the "rules" of writing (you know the ones I'm talking about, 'no head hopping', 'no passive writing' etc).

We have to understand all of these elements, true, but then we also have to forget them and just write.

Because after all the speculation is over, after you've attempted to predict the future and found far too many exceptions to the rules, the only real thing we as authors truly have absolute control over is our writing.

And that's actually a pretty comforting thought.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I've been tagged!

I've been tagged by the lovely Catherine! And I in turn tag . . . PKWood, Lesley and JM Mcdermott. Take it away gang!

What are your nicknames? I'm not really one for nicknames, but for a year in highschool I was called Colgate because my last name sounded like another brand of toothpaste. Other than that, usually I'm just called Adrienne. I like it that way.

What game show and/or reality show would you like to be on? I'd love to do "The Amazing Race" only I'm not sure I could actually do it, that is to say if I have the constitution for it. But that one definitely looks like the coolest. And you'd get to travel the world and do strange and wonderful (and disgusting) things . . .

What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD? Oddly I remember this. Up until this point I had always got my movies as presents and then in grade nine I bought the original three Star Wars on VHS. I was a bit late to the game, but I had just discovered how awesome those movies were!

What is your favorite scent? So I am not a fan of perfumes/colognes at all. Nor flowers in the home. In fact I remember watching a news article about a woman angry that she had been thrown off the bus for wearing too much perfume and even though I was supposed to be on her side, all I could think was, "Well done Mr. Bus Driver, well done." But I do love the smell of things baking (not that I bake myself). Bread, cake, something with apple in it. If they made a perfume that smelled like that, I'd be all over it!

If you had a million dollars that you could only spend on yourself, what would you do with it? Eh, it would probably go into savings. Being an actress/author means I save every little penny I get. But . . . to be interesting . . . it would either be for an amazing trip (or several amazing trips) or a beautiful home with a library that was two stories and had a ladder in it and comfy leather chairs.

What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to? I have been to Italy twice and I just want to keep going back. I know there are all these other places I should check out, but it was just so beautiful and . . . sigh now I want to go back like right now . . .

Do you trust easily? I do but that has made me not, if that makes sense. I used to trust very easily until I realised people would play on my trusting-ness and play jokes on me and stuff. Now I still trust but I worry.

Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think? Way too much thinking before acting in my life. In fact this can be taken incredibly literally because even as an actress I've been told to stop thinking as much when I'm acting. But in general, yup, I am not very spontaneous.

Is there anything that has made you unhappy lately? Feeling like a lot of my life depends on luck. It is a very frustrating feeling.

Do you have a good body image? Um . . . if I wasn't an actress, yes.

What is your favorite fruit? Grapes. And cherries.

What websites do you visit daily? AW, Backspace, Verla Kay, several agent/editor blogs

What have you been seriously addicted to lately? The West Wing. I've been borrowing the seasons on DVD from a friend and I think I've started to think of the characters as real people.

What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is? Talented, Sweet, has a cool aesthetic taste . . .

What's the last song that got stuck in your head? Ballroom Blitz. And I don't really even know it.

What's your favorite item of clothing? I like my stripey sweater dress.

Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy? Yes. But Rice Krispy Squares are gross.

What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground? "Should I pick this up? Should I take it to the convenience store and instruct them that someone lost it and may come looking for it? Will someone come looking for it? Should I just keep it for me? Should I leave it where it is so it's easier for the person to find when they come looking for it? What if I leave it and someone else takes it? Is this the kind of thing you turn into the police? Should I just take it? Man I wish I'd never come across the stupid thing!!"

What items could you not go without during the day? Computer, comfy ugly grey sweater, tea, cheese . . .

What should you be doing right now? Writing. Obviously. Sheesh.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stephen King On Writing

In case you are unaware there is a very popular book about the craft of writing by the man himself, Stephen King, called "On Writing". Do check it out if you get the chance.

However this is not what this post is about. This is a brief post sharing a short YouTube video of Mr. King answering the question about what advice he could give to aspiring writers.

His advice is great, but it's what he says at the end that really struck a chord with me. For a long time I read books in awe, I just could not fathom how authors could put that many words on the page, and so well, and such cool ideas . . . and then, one day, I read a book, closed it and thought, "Hmm . . . am I going crazy or was that published book I just read not very good?" It was a very strange moment for me, and I think it is so awesome that Mr. King points out what a big deal that is when that moment happens. I have never heard anyone else mention it before, so I just had to share this clip. Enjoy:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On humility

Okay okay okay, get mad, please, I am so sorry I haven't posted in so long. I have been quite busy with my current writing project, and I have had a lot of strange events in the past few days. The film festival was in town as some of you may know and I have a few friends in the television industry who dragged me out to some parties . . . sounds glamorous but when you don't know anyone there it is more like otherworldly.

Anyway, excuses excuses.

Now to the act of posting!

What I wanted to write about today was something different about the publishing industry, but definitely something I have learned over the last year or so and I wanted to share. As I am wont to do.

When you are an author you start getting opportunities that you never had before. Suddenly you are inundated with invites to book launches (which for the most part I suggest you accept because they are usually a lot of fun), you are interviewed and reviewed (seriously amazing and terrifying at the same time), and also . . . you may be asked to do panels at conferences, give readings, or something of that nature.

It is the latter request I wanted to discuss today.

I have already written a four part series on tips for reading aloud (you can find it in my sidebar), so that isn't really what I want my focus to be on. What I wanted to talk about with you lovely folks is humility.

Or rather that "why on earth are they asking me to do this and I really shouldn't be here and I feel really stupid and any second now they are all going to realise that I am a fraud and I should really just go home" feeling.

Humility is always a good thing. But paralysing insecurity . . . not so much.

So here's the important lesson for today. When you are asked to give a presentation, or sit on a panel, or do a reading, you have been asked because the person doing the asking wanted you there. You may not understand why, you may think you were a last minute replacement, but the fact is someone wanted you up in front of people sharing your words of wisdom.

We may think we have no words of wisdom. Or we may think we have a few, but that that might come across as arrogant. We may think nothing but just feel absolute terror. So here is my recommendation: Instead of thinking of how woefully inadequate you are, or how nervous you are or whatever, think of that person that asked you to present. Think of your audience that put in the effort to come and see you. And think how insulting it would be to them if you told them, "Actually your judgment is way off. I am not worth your time, and the fact that you came here to see me is a huge mistake."

Yup, we audiences really love being told we are stupid, have no taste, and make a huge errors in judgment.

So what do you do? You suck it up. You realise that despite your own insecurities there is a reason you were invited to this event and you will make sure the people who were so gracious as to come are given the best darn speaker in the history of time. You thank them for attending, for being such a great crowd and then . . .

You speak with authority. You tell stories of your road to publication. You offer the few tidbits of knowledge you have gleaned along the way (*like this post*). You read from your novel.

And afterwards when people come up to you and tell you what a great time they had and how well you spoke, you say, "Thank you." You don't say, "Really, because I don't think I was clear about how that cow totally destroyed my car . . ." Again, don't insult your audience by letting them know that they were wrong in enjoying your talk.

Of course it is nice if you get the chance to ask them some questions, to have a real dialogue, at this point. We don't want this non-humility thing to turn into hubris (something about which I will blog next time).

But still.

Say, "Thank you."

Then you can go home, leap onto your bed, and sob into your pillow remembering all the mistakes you made in your presentation, and how you tripped up onto the platform and your hand was so obviously shaking holding the mic.

But at least you honoured your audience and host with respect at the event. And that's the most important thing.