Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Money and Writing: Can you make a living just writing books? INKBLOTS

Okay, Inkblots could not help talking about the debate. The what? Has it really come to this? These two individuals are our two options for president of this country? Finally liberals and conservatives can agree: If I were a liberal, I would be sick, disgusted, embarrassed; I am a conservative and I'm sick, disgusted, embarrassed. The debate showcased the violation of basic things about good communication, written or spoken; let's start with honesty, clarity, accuracy. Who won? Lester Holt, slam dunk. Who lost? America, slam dunk. M. W. Jacobs' perceptive observation seems apropos: "There are men (think man and woman) whose independence of principle consists in having no principle on which to depend, whose freethinking consists not in thinking freely but in being free from thinking, and whose common sense is nothing more than the sense that is most common."
Itchy face or was Hillary playing catcher-pitcher with Lester?

The Scriptorium is warm and cozy this mild autumn evening. Debate teeth-gnashing behind us, we launched in talking about writing, about monetary return therefrom, and related topics about marketing and actually selling books. No author makes a living writing books. Authors make money when books sell. Funny thing is, I just had to field this question on the phone today; a man inquiring about the Luther tour asked me about making a living writing books. I assured him no author has ever made a living writing them; it is in the selling of books that an author makes a living. Facts of writing and publishing life. We have a small group tonight, five of us, serious about writing, loving writing (okay, not always), wanting to write better (always). True for all of us.

John leads off with reading a rewrite of a chapter we critiqued last time. A good strategy. It is helpful to hear it rewritten. This was the chapter that needed more fight, emotion, passion. Grace is the daughter of a cop who tends toward being racist, and she is pregnant with the child of a football star, African American. It is a confrontation ready to explode. I think she would not be able to tell him it was the black football player. Have the dad figure it out, incrementally making the connections. The mom seems pretty acquiescent, maybe too much so. The reconciliation seems to come too early in the chapter. Dean, the dad, tells about the black cop partner who saved his life (his wife does; he could come back into the room and finish the story). The dad is having to confront his racism. But wouldn't the fact that he was saved by the sacrifice of his partner have begun the change? There's an opportunity for him to acknowledge that he had not fully dealt with his racism. The reader should not be preached to at this point, but should feel the sense of this being true for the reader too. It is the nature of sin, racism included. And racism is not just one color. It's human. Regardless of race. There is an important opportunity to peel back the dragon scales of this constant in human sin, and to make this book even more white-hot relevant to current events.

We talked about racism. Racism only matters if it comes from a vantage point of power, so says the popular narrative, hence, white people are prejudice (true, let's be honest here), and so are all the other races, on some level. Since the fall. White people (Inkblots is, sadly, mostly, more or less, white people; we eagerly welcome authors of other races, for the record) tend to feel off the hook on our own prejudice when we see the prejudice of other racial groups. The best fiction confronts this, exposes the far-reaching tentacles of racism. John brought up the reality of entitlement and how that mentality destroys segments of our society. "Write what you need" (Lewis). I think this is the key. We will write far more engaging fiction, fiction that matters, that changes hearts (starting with ours), when we are honest about what we need.

Suicide mission. Patrick reads his speculative fiction space station narrative. Space station, Hector One, the telescope through which he had seen the ... The protagonist suffers from claustrophobia. Not a good condition for someone confined in a space station, in a space suit, magnetic boots, mask over his face. Yuck, if you suffer from claustrophobia. Dogwood deactivates his magnetic boots. I wondered how Patrick created all the intricacies of the space station and space travel. Can you show mannerisms, emotions, as he communicates with his loved ones. There is emotion here but it feels flat. Does he have an emotional mannerism. Yes, his breathing and heart rate increase, but it is only from anticipation of meeting the Jade Zealot (comic book character who helps him deal with his claustrophobia), and the launch. John wants to see the protagonist have a more central problem. My thoughts? Good stories are good stories. Regardless of genre. What is his real problem? How does the story confront that problem? And change him, and bring about some degree of resolution? Put in other terms, how is the reader going to be confronted and forced to reevaluate and change? Patrick had good answers to these questions. One of the limitations of Inkblots is hearing only a snippet.

Bob's words of wisdom. His theory of fiction: plot, description, dialogue, character development. Patrick is going to post more of the story so we can see where it is going. This is a short story. I think that is a good idea, and I would like to see more of us in Inkblots do this.

Bob reminds us of his guru from Soap Lake Healing Water Spa in Eastern Washington. Bob is clearly having a fun time with this yarn. Good details about a spa for sale near Spokane. Needs some TLC which may mean he could get if for a steal. So his protagonist Bill negotiates. Good details, smell of a truckload of hay on the highway. Lava lamp, year around iconic image, mostly enjoy all that Soap Lake has to offer... We get the deadpan irony of this. What were they smoking when they wrote that. Most of the buildings dated from the McKinley administration. Town smelled of rotten eggs. Bob is writing humor (Dah), in the spirit of O'Henry, to my ear. Personifying the building that couldn't remember when it had been painted last. Rocking chairs personified, couldn't remember when they had been rocked by someone last. Bob does a great job of putting us there, and he does it with specific details, blue cabinets the color of.  Slam on sophisticated Seattle-lites. We get that. Could Bill run his hand across the surface of the counter top or the mantle, or something, to appeal and awaken the reader's sense of touch? "Well, you're looking at her." Bill did look at her. This was a good segue, glue that kept your narrative and dialogue flowing together. I love the bargaining between prospective buyer (operator) and the seller. We talked about smells, and touch (running his hand across a door frame and getting a sliver, rat droppings behind a chair. And sound as Patrick suggested could come from turning a radio dial and not getting any stations only static and fragments of game shows or the farm report. John thought the seller should interject more in the bargaining.

I read from LUTHER IN LOVE. Bob though maybe that wheezing would make the face red not pale. Using his pet name for Katie, my rib, for the first time is confusing when Luther is having a fit of coughing; Patrick thought it sounded like he was having pain in his rib. Bob comments about the variety of details brought into the story, the sense of urgency, the elements that will come together as the story unfolds. I will post a draft of the first chapter to forthcoming LUTHER IN LOVE in another blog post shortly.  

We meet again Tuesday October 11. 

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