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On Quality

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Oh my goodness, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an amazing article this week about traditional publishing vs. indie and e-publishing.  There are so many great observations, I wish I could include them all! 

The fallacy is this: Readers believe that all traditionally published books are good.

Writers who spout that nonsense have lost touch with their inner reader. Because we’ve all read a truly crappy traditionally published novel, one that we find offensively bad.

The gist of the argument is this: Only traditional publishing companies can publish a quality product.

It also shows that at least on the editing side of things, traditional publishing does little to increase the quality of a book’s content.

From where I sit, it’s a lot easier to find quality books now than it ever was before.

And from where I sit, it’s a lot easier to publish a quality book than it ever was before.

And as for quality, who decides that? Not me, not you, and certainly not traditional publishers.

Readers decide if a book is quality or not. Readers, who plunk down their hard-earned dollars, that large percentage of their tiny entertainment budget.

An eye opening real assessment of publishing.  Go read the whole thing!

And then go finish that novel!

The Business Rusch: Quality | Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Top 10 songs for writers

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This kind of made me chuckle.  Naturally, I had to share it here.  😉

The Top 10 Songs For Writers

“Writers are a funny breed. They are often depicted as eccentric recluses who go for days without eating, sleeping or bathing because they are completely obsessed with getting their ideas on paper. This playlist is for them.”

Why He Will Not Read Your F*cking Script – Deadline.com

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Why He Will Not Read Your F*cking Script – By Nikki Finke Deadline.com

This is an article I found via House of Eratosthenes.   The article was SO great that I decided to put it here in its entirety rather than just sending you to the link – which you can still do if you’d like, or to see the comments.  Credit where it’s due afterall, kudos to Josh Olson for the original.  Well done!

 

Academy Award-, WGA-, and BAFTA-nominated A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson has an interesting screed in this week’s Village Voice:

JoshOlson​I will not read your fucking script.

That’s simple enough, isn’t it? "I will not read your fucking script." What’s not clear about that? There’s nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever.

If that seems unfair, I’ll make you a deal. In return for you not asking me to read your fucking script, I will not ask you to wash my fucking car, or take my fucking picture, or represent me in fucking court, or take out my fucking gall bladder, or whatever the fuck it is that you do for a living.

You’re a lovely person. Whatever time we’ve spent together has, I’m sure, been pleasurable for both of us. I quite enjoyed that conversation we once had about structure and theme, and why Sergio Leone is the greatest director who ever lived. Yes, we bonded, and yes, I wish you luck in all your endeavors, and it would thrill me no end to hear that you had sold your screenplay, and that it had been made into the best movie since Godfather Part II.

But I will not read your fucking script.

At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that I’m a dick. But if you’re interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who is the dick in this situation, please read on.

Yes. That’s right. I called you a dick. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move.

I was recently cornered by a young man of my barest acquaintance.

I doubt we’ve exchanged a hundred words. But he’s dating someone I know, and he cornered me in the right place at the right time, and asked me to read a two-page synopsis for a script he’d been working on for the last year. He was submitting the synopsis to some contest or program, and wanted to get a professional opinion.

Now, I normally have a standard response to people who ask me to read their scripts, and it’s the simple truth: I have two piles next to my bed. One is scripts from good friends, and the other is manuscripts and books and scripts my agents have sent to me that I have to read for work. Every time I pick up a friend’s script, I feel guilty that I’m ignoring work. Every time I pick something up from the other pile, I feel guilty that I’m ignoring my friends. If I read yours before any of that, I’d be an awful person.

Most people get that. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the guilt factor is really high, or someone plays on a relationship or a perceived obligation, and it’s hard to escape without seeming rude. Then, I tell them I’ll read it, but if I can put it down after ten pages, I will. They always go for that, because nobody ever believes you can put their script down once you start.

But hell, this was a two page synopsis, and there was no time to go into either song or dance, and it was just easier to take it. How long can two pages take?

Weeks, is the answer.

And this is why I will not read your fucking script.

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.

(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)

You may want to allow for the fact that this fellow had never written a synopsis before, but that doesn’t excuse the inability to form a decent sentence, or an utter lack of facility with language and structure. The story described was clearly of great importance to him, but he had done nothing to convey its specifics to an impartial reader. What I was handed was, essentially, a barely coherent list of events, some connected, some not so much. Characters wander around aimlessly, do things for no reason, vanish, reappear, get arrested for unnamed crimes, and make wild, life-altering decisions for no reason. Half a paragraph is devoted to describing the smell and texture of a piece of food, but the climactic central event of the film is glossed over in a sentence. The death of the hero is not even mentioned. One sentence describes a scene he’s in, the next describes people showing up at his funeral. I could go on, but I won’t. This is the sort of thing that would earn you a D minus in any Freshman Comp class.

Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn’t actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn’t require any kind of training, skill or equipment. Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don’t regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.

So. I read the thing. And it hurt, man. It really hurt. I was dying to find something positive to say, and there was nothing. And the truth is, saying something positive about this thing would be the nastiest, meanest and most dishonest thing I could do. Because here’s the thing: not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I’ve done you a favor, because now you’ll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is. The unlucky ones keep on writing shitty screenplays and asking me to read them.

To make matters worse, this guy (and his girlfriend) had begged me to be honest with him. He was frustrated by the responses he’d gotten from friends, because he felt they were going easy on him, and he wanted real criticism. They never do, of course. What they want is a few tough notes to give the illusion of honesty, and then some pats on the head. What they want–always–is encouragement, even when they shouldn’t get any.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell someone that they’ve spent a year wasting their time? Do you know how much blood and sweat goes into that criticism? Because you want to tell the truth, but you want to make absolutely certain that it comes across honestly and without cruelty. I did more rewrites on that fucking e-mail than I did on my last three studio projects.

My first draft was ridiculous. I started with specific notes, and after a while, found I’d written three pages on the first two paragraphs. That wasn’t the right approach. So I tossed it, and by the time I was done, I’d come up with something that was relatively brief, to the point, and considerate as hell. The main point I made was that he’d fallen prey to a fallacy that nails a lot of first timers. He was way more interested in telling his one story than in being a writer. It was like buying all the parts to a car and starting to build it before learning the basics of auto mechanics. You’ll learn a lot along the way, I said, but you’ll never have a car that runs.

(I should mention that while I was composing my response, he pulled the ultimate amateur move, and sent me an e-mail saying, "If you haven’t read it yet, don’t! I have a new draft. Read this!" In other words, "The draft I told you was ready for professional input, wasn’t actually.")

I advised him that if all he was interested in was this story, he should find a writer and work with him; or, if he really wanted to be a writer, start at the beginning and take some classes, and start studying seriously.

And you know what? I shouldn’t have bothered. Because for all the hair I pulled out, for all the weight and seriousness I gave his request for a real, professional critique, his response was a terse "Thanks for your opinion." And, the inevitable fallout–a week later a mutual friend asked me, "What’s this dick move I hear you pulled on Whatsisname?"

So now this guy and his girlfriend think I’m an asshole, and the truth of the matter is, the story really ended the moment he handed me the goddamn synopsis. Because if I’d just said "No" then and there, they’d still think I’m an asshole. Only difference is, I wouldn’t have had to spend all that time trying to communicate thoughtfully and honestly with someone who just wanted a pat on the head, and, more importantly, I wouldn’t have had to read that godawful piece of shit.

You are not owed a read from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think it’s not a huge imposition. It’s not your choice to make. This needs to be clear–when you ask a professional for their take on your material, you’re not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, you’re asking them to give you–gratis–the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours.

There’s a great story about Pablo Picasso. Some guy told Picasso he’d pay him to draw a picture on a napkin. Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, and said, "One million dollars, please."

"A million dollars?" the guy exclaimed. "That only took you thirty seconds!"

"Yes," said Picasso. "But it took me fifty years to learn how to draw that in thirty seconds."

Like the cad who asks the professional for a free read, the guy simply didn’t have enough respect for the artist to think about what he was asking for. If you think it’s only about the time, then ask one of your non-writer friends to read it. Hell, they might even enjoy your script. They might look upon you with a newfound respect. It could even come to pass that they call up a friend in the movie business and help you sell it, and soon, all your dreams will come true. But me?

I will not read your fucking script.

I AM a horror fan, after all

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I got a book today!  Woo!  It’s a re-release of a book that had a big impact on my life more than 25 years ago.  I wrote about it here, if you wanted to read about it.  What book, you ask?  The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule.  It’s an updated version with new pictures and all that, I haven’t read it yet but I’m looking forward to it.  And I remembered a conversation I had with my husband a few days ago. 

We were talking about the genre of horror fiction, because that’s what he’s aiming to do.  (You can check out some of his fiction stuff over on his fiction blog – hurry, before he takes it down!)  I have always maintained that I never read horror, refuse to watch horror movies, am not in the least interested in horror in general, period.  Yes, I’ve been pretty snooty about it.  I admit it.  However, I love the stuff my husband writes.  I think part of me hasn’t really considered it to be horror, since it’s not the slash ‘em up gory kind of horror – which I absolutely will not watch or read.  He writes more scary, psychological kind of stuff, the kind of stories that make you look under the bed before you go to sleep.  The horror genre is much broader than I realized.  Anyway, at some point during our conversation, I had sort of an epiphany.  I realized that I am a horror addict of a different stripe, and addicted big time.

I love true crime stories. 

I read true crime books a lot, I watch true crime shows on TV, until I’ve seen the same episodes so many times I can almost recite them.  I remember weird facts about true crime events that have taken place.  I’ve always been particularly fascinated with serial killers, which is what that post is about that I linked to above.  It was during that conversation with my husband, when I made the offhand remark that I didn’t think werewolf and vampire type stories were scary, because they aren’t real, like serial killers are.  I’ll never encounter a werewolf, no matter how many English moors I traipse across, but a serial killer could conceivably live across the street.  Now that’s scary.  That’s when I realized I’ve been a horror fan for years, because what’s more horrifying than the real killer who stalks and kills you?  The one you never suspect, like a deacon in your church, or the cable guy who comes to fix your cable, or the guy with the broken arm who asks if you can help him load the groceries into his car.  Real life is scary, and despite the fact that we tell our children that there aren’t any monsters under the bed, it doesn’t mean they don’t live down the street.  The real monsters out there aren’t hairy beasts or aliens; they are our neighbors and sometimes friends and family members, those we least suspect and most trust.  That, to me, is true horror.  And I’ve been fascinated with it for years.  Matter of fact, I know when it started.

cross-posted at The “Ness” in DarcNess

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