C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

How we’re all a little like Sarah Palin: The Dumb Dumb Double Down

The quick jab is that Sarah Palin doesn’t know anything about Paul Revere. Not even what they got wrong on Schoolhouse Rock.

Of course what she was reaching for, and fumbled so badly, was a crack at gun control. No matter that the Democrats haven’t given gun control a thought, not even after the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt when they could have pushed a ban on ridiculously large ammo clips. Palin was trying too hard to make everything that comes out of her mouth an anti-Obama soundbite and ended up spouting nonsense.

Now she claims it was a gotcha question from the lamestream media. But all questions for Palin are gotcha questions. “What’s for breakfast?” There’s a landmine. (The actual gotcha question fired at Palin was, “What have you seen today and what do you take away from it?” Yeah. I know.)

Things got worse when she tried to revise history. Instead of saying she got it wrong (which she is incapable of doing) she doubled down on the dumb. She went on FOX and asserted that she got it right. Revere wasn’t just warning John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were marching to arrest them. He was also apparently  a treasonous swine, taking time to “ring bells” and warn British soldiers that they weren’t going to take away anybody’s arms.

Sigh. Oh, for the love of God, pleeeease! Politicians need a thick hide, just like we, as writers, need to resist the urge to leap to our own defense when we encounter criticism. It’s hard though, isn’t it?

We often deny wrongdoing. Yes, even when we know we’re wrong. It’s sub-optimum, but people do that. Nobody likes to be wrong. Everybody wants to be the smartest boy or girl in the room. But the smart thing to do is admit we are human. Otherwise we  come off terribly unlikeable and simian. Go for forgiveness, not infallibility. Infallibility is unreachable, especially for the incompetent.

My favorite was the guy who called me up and asked for Josh.

“You dialed the wrong number,” I said.

“No, I didn’t!” he said, petulantly.

“Uh…okay… What did you want to talk to me about then?” I said.

Click!

Next question: How is it that Sarah Palin still has any base left for all that silly pandering? That’s a deeper, more disturbing question. I admit, I have no idea why anyone still likes her, let alone why anyone thinks she should aspire to office (above visiting the post office.) I’m not smart enough to even speculate on that one.

Filed under: Rant, ,

Writers: About the success of Sarah Palin’s books

A crowd gathers around a temporary stage at Pi...

Image via Wikipedia

This morning I touched on Sarah Palin‘s books. (See that post below)

Three more things about Sarah Palin’s books:

1. The latest one sold less than expected so even that franchise is on the way down. Not only does nobody know anything in publishing or Hollywood, you can’t depend on anything either.

2. It will still sell better than most anything else so it’s not dead yet.

3. Some people begrudge Sarah Palin (read: her ghostwriters) her success in selling her books, but those books make enough money to finance the rest of the list. She supports the arts. Despite herself.

I can’t stand her, but lots of people do and that translates to book sales.

Filed under: Books, Media, publishing, , ,

Writers: The mire of conflicting advice & unfair criticism

The hierarchical structure of the autobiograph...

Image via Wikipedia

When I got into the business, there was a criticism meant to shut writers down.

“Too autobiographical” was the kiss of death.

That’s ironic for several reasons:

Biographies and autobiographies are moneymaking books. Sarah Palin‘s ghosts have already published more books than you and possibly more books than she’s read. Okay, that was a cheap shot, but somewhat funny and it has the added bonus of being an Irish fact—that is, something that is a lie, but should be true.

I digress.

Back to the issue of unfair criticisms and misguided advice:

 The mind boggles at Augusten Burroughs work. How much childhood trauma can one man recycle into his fiction and non-fiction? He has enough monsters, addictions and insanity in his past that he’s set for several more books at least.

“Too autobiographical” is now a stale criticism when you consider the movement of the market toward tell-alls, whistleblowing and confessionals. There’s a lot of popular fiction that’s thinly veiled life story, too. In fact, if you’ve been a lion tamer-stripper-celebrity-prostitute, you’re a much easier sale than if you’re just another writer working away at your desk making stuff up.

Diablo Cody is a talented writer, but she had a lot more heat going into the fray because of her tattooed image and history as a stripper. I’m not saying she wouldn’t have sold the brilliant Juno script anyway, but really, how many celebrity screenwriters can you name besides her, McKee and William Goldman? If you came up with a few names, it’s probably because they are famous writer-directors, not just writers.

(And notice that irksome phrase “just writers.” I use it advisedly, as a synonym for “merely,” since that’s the stature writers generally have in film, television and publishing.)

“Too autobiographical” was once a stinging barb. It marked a talent that was undeveloped. It suggested teenage angst worthy of a diary, not of publishable quality.

The worm has turned. Now your tortured history as a brawler helps; Chuck Palahniuk brawled a bit and escorted sick people to support groups long before Fight Club. Your time in seedy bars lends authenticity to your writing and manuscript evaluators may well take you more seriously because of the stuff you don’t want your mom to know. A work can still be too autobiographical, but that criticism doesn’t carry the weight it once did.

Evaluators can be off the mark in what they think qualifies as authentic, anyway. One writer, for instance, was told that her dialogue didn’t ring true for how contemporary teenagers speak. She was advised to hang out with some kids to catch the flavor of the real thing. What the manuscript reader didn’t know was the writer was 17 at the time.

We’re a culture that worships celebrity, so “too autobiographical” isn’t a criticism that comes up as much (unless your life story is deadly dull.)

The true irony is that the same editors who would say “too autobiographical” would also routinely tell aspiring writers to “Write what you know.”

That’s bad, even egregious advice. Don’t write what you know. If you only write what you knew, there wouldn’t be much fantasy, science fiction…or much literature at all, come to think of it.

Instead, write what you care about.

 Your research and the knowledge

flows from caring, anyway.

Filed under: authors, book reviews, Books, Editors, links, manuscript evaluation, Rant, scriptwriting, Useful writing links, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The High Concept Book Becomes the High Concept Movie

The zombie rage rages on and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies caught the vampire-backlash-zombie-wave at just the right time.

It’s interesting to me how, when first introduced, a terrible idea and a brilliant one are often indistinguishable. Finding just the right editor or agent to recognize an opportunity wrapped in an unsolicited manuscript at just the right time? It can be an amazingly long and difficult process.

As I think back on many of the publishers I’ve worked for, I can guarantee that many of them would have looked at the manuscript for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and cringed. I can hear them say, “You’re not going to believe this! Look at the kind of tripe we get in the slush pile!”

Of course, it’s a subjective business, but it is a business. Someone spotted opportunity in this book and now they’re making a boatload of money off of it. If you’ve a bit snooty, you may still look askance at books like this, but reading is a wide spectrum. There’s lots to read and fortunately, you get to choose.

Slush Pile Short Story

I once knew a publisher who, on our first meeting, wanted to impress upon me that his publishing house only printed “important” books. And he did. There were some literary gems on the list.

But the publisher had a narrow spectrum of books he was interested in. I asked several times if it would kill him to publish a popular cookbook and make some real money. I learned instead that he wanted to publish one kind of book. It had to be Canadian literature (and all that reputation entails) so he would have a list that wouldn’t make him blush at his next cocktail party in Rosedale. 

High standards are laudable, but decreeing what the market should read while remaining deaf to what people do read is a formula for failure.

The moral of the story is this:

Gov. Sarah Palin has breakfast and visits with...

That hockey book that bores you, the vapid Sarah Palin book you loathe and that gardening book that’s a staple for three generations? Those sell. Slush pile submissions that publisher sneered at would have financed all those “important” books he’s not publishing anymore. He’s long since out of the business and many important books have gone unpublished for that sad loss.

I love important books. But, like most people, I like varied tastes to entertain my palate. 

Filed under: Books, publishing, Useful writing links, , , , , , ,

Cool Word of the Day (and the McCain/Palin Conspiracy Theory)

Palillogy

In rhetoric, the repetition of a word or part of a sentence for greater emphasis.

Palin, Sarah

A goofy Alaskan ex-governor who has somehow captured the imagination of a bunch of conservative wackos. Said governor, didn’t just “pal around” with a secessionist. She married one. (Was the wink a sign she was really trying to lose? If you break down the near seizure-like winking, the Morse code spells out “I’m just kiddin’ ya!”)

The McCain/Palin Conspiracy Theory

In the run up to the election, liberal conservative John McCain admitted that he did not know how to use a computer, neither Mac nor PC. The theory is that, after a disastrous eight-year run with Bush, McCain wanted to ensure a change in leadership. Enabling Barack Obama would become the next president of the United States, he chose the supremely unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate. Given the undignified sacrifices McCain made to ensure the ascension of the Democrats, the vote was way too close (revealing more crazy racists than had been previously suspected.) Sour at the lengths he had to go, McCain has turned into a real Conservative douche again who will say batshit thing he can to get reelected (from eschewing and then hugging George Bush to choosing Sarah Palin, distancing himself from Sarah Palin and embracing her and her hardcore wacko fans again.) His legacy of honor and bipartisanship is in tatters at the sad end of his career. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin still has a shot at running in the next election. She says such crazy shit, sometimes you have to think she’s actually a Democrat in dingbat’s clothing–very very expensive clothing. (That “very very” was a palillogy.)

If true, when will Sarah Palin reveal it was all just the ultimate, most expensive prank ever to mock the democratic process? After the next election so she can make sure Obama gets a second term? She quit the governorship to spout her beliefs from Facebook! I mean, c’mon! WTF?!

Filed under: Cool Word of the Day, Media, Unintentionally hilarious, , ,

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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