Do You Write Candy?

Do you write candy?

Or something—you hope—more filling?

Do you hope the next book you write is everyone’s guilty pleasure?

Or do you want readers to stop and admire your prose stylings like a rare orchid?

Do you want your readers to enjoy the experience as if they were going to an amusement park?

Or a museum?

Do you want to give Lee Child a run for his money?

Or Karl Ove Knausgaard?

Or ….

Or can you do both?

I’m fascinated by the line between “genre” and “literary.”

It’s an old fight. The Maginot Line has shifted over time, but not the arguments. There have always been literary snobs who look down their snouts at drivel from the “genre” hacks (who make millions).

And there have always been “genre” hacks who spurn dense tomes of navel-gazing as ponderous pieces of self-indulgence.

Can’t we all get along?

Is it possible to “upgrade” your techniques so you can reach audiences who yearn for some literary flair? Is it worth it? Necessary? A good idea?

Who says you need to upgrade and by the way, who decided it was an “upgrade”?

Should you just write your damn story and not care or worry about symbols, metaphors, alliteration or other literary devices?

Jack Kerouac said: “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.

Elmore Leonard said: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”

Vladimir Nabokov said: “It seems to me that a good formula to test the quality of a novel is, in the long run, a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science. In order to bask in that magic a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading. Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.”

Tom Clancy said: “I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”

Donald Barthelme said: “The combinatory agility of words, the exponential generation of meaning once they’re allowed to go to bed together, allows the writer to surprise himself, makes art possible, reveals how much of Being we haven’t yet encountered.”

P.D. James said: “The modern detective story has moved away from the earlier crudities and simplicities. Crime writers are as concerned as are other novelists with psychological truth and the moral ambiguities of human action.” 

My pal Barry Wightman (Pepperland, a 1970’s rock n’ roll novel written with a savvy artfulness) will join me in wading into the chasm of this dispute during a workshop at Colorado Gold.

The workshop is called “From Pulp to Meta” (3:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11).

Where do you fit on the spectrum?

Where do you want to fit?

Leonard Nabokov

 

Rocky Mountain Podcast – Episode # 13

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #13

Mario Acevedo

Longtime RMFW member Mario Acevedo talks about the Sept. 5 workshop held in Grand Junction: "Everything You Need to Know About the Next RMFW Anthology."

Mario, who has agreed to step in as editor for the anthology, talks about the submission schedule and selection process and reveals the selected theme. In addition, Mario chats about writing short stories and about his ongoing series featuring vampire Felix Gomez.

Show Notes:

Mario Acevedo: www.marioacevedo.com

Hex Publishers: www.hexpublishers.com

Arte Publico Press: artepublicopress.com

Dwight Swain: www.amazon.com/Techniques-Selling-Writer-Dwight-Swain/dp/0806111917

 

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Bumpers and Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Podcast – Episode #12

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #12

Desiree Holt

Erotic romance writer Desiree Holt, one of two keynote speakers at the 2015 Colorado Gold conference in Denver, drops by for a chat about her six series of books, her daily writing schedule and a preview of the three classes she will be teaching at the annual writer's conference sponsored by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The conversation is mild, given the spicy subject matter, but some of the links in the show notes may lead to places that should involve parental supervision.

Show Notes:

Desiree Holt: www.desireeholt.com

Marie Force: marieforce.com

Robyn Carr: www.robyncarr.com

Ellora's Cave: www.ellorascave.com

 

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Bumpers and Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Attitude

Another note-to-self in the form of a blog …

I’ll cut to the chase: what we do is a choice.

We put ourselves in this situation—“forced” to think about stories and characters and plots and craft.

The burden of it all; the agony!

The tortured artist at work--just look. Over there in the corner, writhing in pain. He's squirming in the corner in sheer horror, drowning in his own drool, recoiling at the thought of having to pound out one more precious sentence.

Sheesh, really?

Did you listen to the recent RMFW podcast with Aaron Michael Ritchey? If you need a lift, check it out. You’ll hear a guy who a) produces at an impressive rate (he’s currently working on a six-book series, under contract) and b) embraces the work.

On the podcast, Ritchey recalls a key moment when he was complaining to fellow writer (and RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest chair) Chris Devlin about writing. And Devlin apparently told Ritchey how much she enjoyed it all, getting lost in her worlds and her characters.

That changed everything.

Ritchey decided then and there he didn’t want Devlin’s pity. “I forced myself to love writing,” he recalled.

Ritchey’s enthusiasm is infectious. I’m not saying you can wrap yourself in a cloak of enthusiasm and the books will come flying out, but starting with an upbeat thought or two about the writing day certainly couldn’t hurt.

A few days ago, I listened to Meg Wolitzer deliver a stand-up, no-notes story on “The Moth." (Yes, another podcast.) Wolitzer's storytelling style was so natural, unforced, easy-going (and funny) that I’ve got to dive into her novels. (Like my pile of books isn't tall enough.)

And this particular story, “Summer Camp,” concluded with a message similar to Ritchey’s: “The world is always trying to tell you what you’re not,” concludes Wolitzer. “And it’s up to you to say what you are,”

Funny, isn't it? How some times you run into the same message twice within the same couple of days.

Must be true.

 

Rocky Mountain Podcast–Episode #11

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #11

Aaron Michael Ritchie

Aaron Michael Ritchey, a highly productive writer and frequent workshop presenter, talks about the three writing workshops he's part of at RMFW's Colorado Gold Conference in September 2015. He talks about his daily dedication to writing and the series he's producing for WordFire Press called The Juniper Wars. As he puts it, the series is "cowgirls with machine guns on a post-apocalyptic cattle drive." Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of three books--The Never Prayer, Long Live the Suicide King and Elizabeth's Midnight. He is also the author of numerous collaborations and short stories, including a story in the upcoming Nightmares Unhinged, an anthology from Hex Publishers.

Show Notes:

Aaron Michael Ritchey: aaronmritchey.com

WordFire Press: wordfirepress.com

DeAnna Knippling: wonderlandpress.com

Maggie Stiefvater: maggiestiefvater.com/the-shiver-trilogy

Anthony Trollope: www.anthonytrollope.com

The War of Art - Stephen Pressfield: www.stevenpressfield.com/the-war-of-art

Gary Reilly - The Asphalt Warrior: www.theasphaltwarrior.com

Quinn Kayser Cochran: quinnkaysercochran.com

Andrew Smith - Grasshopper Jungle: www.authorandrewsmith.com/Author_Andrew_Smith/Home.html

Hex Publishers: www.hexpublishers.com

 

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Bumpers and Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Podcast–Episode #10

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #10

Susan Spann - Writer of the Year

In this episode, we talk with Susan Spann, recently announced as the 2015 Writer of the Year for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Susan talks about her switch from writing unpublished historical fiction to published mysteries, about the moment of  inspiration for the Shinobi Mystery series, her writing process and the Twitter hit #publaw.

Show Notes:

Susan Spann: www.susanspann.com

Donna Andrews: www.donnaandrews.com

Kerry Schafer: www.kerryschafer.com

Janet Lane: www.janetlane.net

James Rollins: www.jamesrollins.com

Lisa McCann: www.theunwantedsseries.com

 

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Podcast–Episode #9

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #9

Kirk DouPonce--Designing Book Covers

In this episode, we talk with book cover designer Kirk DouPonce, who has produced over 1,000 covers for publishers and writers in his career. He's also one of the workshop presenters at the 2015 Colorado Gold Conference, to be held in September in Denver, Colorado. Kirk's workshop is titled, "Book Cover Design--Your Most Important Marketing Tool." We also chat with Suzie Brooks, chair of Colorado Gold, and get an update on registrations for the conference.

Show Notes:

Kirk DouPonce: www.dogeareddesign.com

Ronie Kendig: roniekendig.com

Bonnie Calhoun: bonniescalhoun.com

Stephen Lawhead: www.stephenlawhead.com

Mike Duran: mikeduran.com

Julie Dillon: juliedillonart.com

Enclave Publishing: enclavepublishing.com

Kathryn Lloyd--The Desk: www.thedeskonline.com/who.html

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast–Episode #8

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #8

Chris Mandeville - Author of Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure

In this episode, we talk with speculative fiction writer Chris Mandeville. In addition to recently publishing her first novel, Seeds: a post-apocalyptic adventure, Chris will teach a four-hour master class at the Colorado Gold conference in September. The class is "Everything You Need to Know to Write a Novel." Chris talks about her writing process, her inspirations and what she'll cover in the class.

Show Notes:

Chris Mandeville: www.chrismandeville.com

Neil Gaiman: www.neilgaiman.com

John Hart: www.johnhartfiction.com/?page id=18

Lucia St. Clair Robson: www.luciastclairrobson.com

Jeffery Deaver: www.jefferydeaver.com

Debra Dixon--Goal, Motivation, Conflict: www.debradixon.com

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

Nobody Writes Like You

By Mark Stevens

Can you write like your favorite writer?

I know I can’t.

You might have Ursula Le Guin or Patricia Highsmith or Ernest Hemingway in mind when you write something, but somehow it comes out on the page as, well, you.

Somewhere in all those choices of words, sentences, characters, images, plots, moods, dialogue, action sequences, big finishes, prologues and epilogues—no matter how much you might try to emulate another writer—you show up.

I was thinking about this recently when The New Yorker featured a podcast reading of “The Trouble With Mrs. Blynn, The Trouble With the World.” That’s a story by Patricia Highsmith (who happens to be one of my all-time favorite writers) and it was read by Yiyun Li.

The story is so simple—in a way. It’s about “Mrs. Palmer,” who is dying of leukemia in a seaside cottage in England. She is being tended to by a few people including a “Mrs. Blynn,” a nurse, who has a grating presence and inflicts various petty cruelties on her patient.

Not much happens. It’s true.

But yet—so much happens. Listen to the discussion between Yiyun Li and The New Yorker's fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, and you realize how much subtext was going on around this cottage, where all the so-called “action” takes place. Instructive? To say the least.

It’s typical Highsmith. This was stuff she cared about, the needling insults and jagged edges between somewhat ordinary people. Her protagonists (Thomas Ripley, hello) are extremely flawed human beings. She crafted 20-plus novels and many dozens of short stories out of her fascination with warped humanity.

Plotting and Writing - HighsmithEarlier last week, I read a terrific story in The Guardian by Sam Jordison—“Creative Writing Lessons from Patricia Highsmith”—in which he looked at her guide, Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. One of Jordison’s many keen insights is this: that the guide itself proves it’s “impossible to walk in Highsmith’s shoes.”

Yes, I dig Patricia Highsmith—but I couldn’t write like her even if the Valyrian greatsword Ice was making its way toward my tender little neck.

I ask: what’s up with that?

Put a hundred writers in a room, give them 40 specific plot points for a novel, the setting, eight major characters and ask them all to write in the style of a noir thriller.

What will you get?

You will get precisely 100 different novels in return.

The best writers, in my mind, have their own fingerprints on the page, a dab of their own soul—sometimes a whole lot more. But unless you are outright stealing a style or lifting ideas wholesale, you will leave your mark on the page. It's part of the process. It's why we write.

What’s my point?

As a writer, I like to remind myself—nobody can tell the story the way I’m going to tell the story.

Nobody can.

Nobody will.

It’s not even possible.

And to do a decent job telling it, I better have a good idea of what’s driving me to tell it.

Patricia Highsmith (from Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction): “There is no secret of success in writing except individuality, or call it personality. And since every person is different, it is only for the individual to express his difference from the next fellow. This is what I call the opening of the spirit. But it isn’t mystic. It is merely a kind of freedom—freedom organized. Plotting and Writing will not make anybody work harder. But it will, I hope, make people who want to write realize what is already within them.”

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast–Episode #7

Rocky Mountain Writer Podcast – Episode #7

Jack Marshall Maness - 2015 Colorado Book Award Winner

In this episode, we talk with Jack Marshall Maness, whose first novel, Song of the Jayhawk, the first in a trilogy, just won the 2015 Colorado Book Award in historical fiction. Jack talks about his writing and research process and about the writer's collective that supports his writing and publication efforts. He also reads the opening passage from his novel.

2015 Colorado Book Award Winners:  www.coloradohumanities.org/content/colorado-book-awards-winners-announced

More about Jack Marshall Maness:  jackmarshallmaness.com

Intro music courtesy of Moby Gratis
Outro music courtesy of Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com