Collaboration...and Zombies

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

April 15, 2009 -- 8:45 p.m.

"There is no such thing as an evil genius, as evil in itself is stupidity."
—David Farland (Ravenspell, the Wizard of Ooze)
As an April Fool's Day joke, George R.R. Martin said he was planning to collaborate with a on Dance of the Dragons, and partner Howard Waldrop was as "excited as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest."

Now tom-foolery aside, I wonder why some authors work so well together in collaborations. Especially spouses, like the Eddings and the Hickmans. For me, writing is so personal, it's difficult to let someone else see the work, much less allow someone else to use my precious as a punching bag. I've been a journalist, so I've had an editor slice and dice all my articles, and that's part of the process, but a pre-existing friend or worse, someone who I lived with? I think that it'd be impossible for us to stay friends after.

That's why critique groups can be so wonderful. You can find out your own blindnesses before exposing them to the harsh world of editors and agents, soiling the water with your best work. And you don't have to go home to the person afterwards. But oh! How hard it is to find the right group—a mixture of seriousness, experience and similiar tastes in subject matter. I've been writing and reading longer and with more devotion than most people my age, and so it's always been hard finding people who can offer good, constructive criticsm, and who are actually willing to give it. It's the worst thing to here "I have absolutely no suggestions! This is perfect! This is the best thing I've read in months!" etc., and then send it out and have it come back with a stack of rejections.

If you love the writing, you'll go to the effort. You'll put yourself out there and you'll take what's given. If you love your pride more, if you're not willing to learn, you'll hide in a corner slaving over your work and nobody will see it. Ever. Humility is one of the components, I think, that must go into a writer's personality.

Yet, you have to have pride, too. If your book had something something controversial, like devil worshiping or a flamboyantly gay character, and your editor says "take it out?" should you take it out? Does it damage your story beyond the point of no return. I've seen writer's blogs who complain their book flopped only because they were forced by their editors to remove the autistic brother, or whatever. When I hear something like that, I suspect something would have flopped anyway, but what if it makes the novel worthless in your own eyes? When do you fight and when do you bend?

I suppose these are things I'll learn about more when I've got an agent or editor. The important thing is to write the book the way it feels it should be first, then worry about the rest of it.

Sometimes I'll read a book by someone famous, especially in the B.A.F.S. catagory, and I'll say: where's the editor? Why didn't someone step out and say that NOTHING happened in this entire book up until part three. I won't name any names, because people living on 114 Glass Dr. should not be throwing stones, but its true.

It's something I'm mulling over as I have a critique workshop coming up. Time to let the first thirty pages of my novel sink or swim in front of a jury of my peers. This is the one that counts. I'm less nervous about myself because I know I can write well, but I am nervous about how well I'll critique. Since becoming a newspaper editor, I've been less patient with writer's egos (even my own) and less able to handle them delicately. I'd shout across the newsroom: "your story drags! Cut 15 words out of the lede!" and expect the writer to do it without any whining.

I am afraid I am the Simon Cowell of critique groups. Sure, I've got something to say, but is my head stuck too far up my assets to say it well?

And sometimes, it's worse—I know something's wrong but I don't know what, or why. "I like it, but I don't love it," I say. Any suggestions on how to make it better? Nopesidaisy.

Anyway, in other news, Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel is being optioned off. I've love Kay since I read Tigana in high school, but didn't particularly like the book much (I felt like the author was trying too hard to be modern, and he made the photographer sound like a rock star—YOU'RE THAT GREENDAY??? Maybe in Canada, being a famous landscape photographer gives you name recgonition, but in the Good Ol' U.S.A., you'd have to be Anne Garden of Annie Leibowitz). I could see Ysabel being an awesome movie, though.

In news: Brandon Sanderson is on the Legends Award shortlist.
Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies has signed for a two book series, the first one being Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter!

Wonder how brave the PPZ editor must have been to take that on. I mean, that idea is messed up, but in a cool way. Copycats have gotten onto the zombie bandwagon. Help collaborate on the Zombie Bible here!

"Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth and the Zombies sprang forth from the roiling foam of creation, barking in uncontrollable rage, hungry for human flesh to eat and pestork, giving pause to our Lord who shat himself and uttered 'Oh, fuck' amidst the primordial celestial gloom."


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