20 September 2010

Parallel Technologies

I'm going to make a bold prediction: e-readers will never replace books, bookstores, or libraries.

There, I said it.

E-readers will continue to rise in popularity for some time to come, but that doesn't mean that the good old codex (bound book as we know it) is doomed to extinction. Not everyone will have the means to buy an e-reader. Of those who can, not all will want to. Many people will use both formats. E-readers can be very handy and helpful to many people, and that promotes reading, which is all to the good. But consider this: it's much more likely that an e-reader will be lost, stolen, or crash irreparably, losing your entire library in the process, than to loose a home library of bound volumes lining the walls to flood or fire.

Now, it is imperative to know some history in order to have a prayer of predicting what is likely to happen in the future. Radio did not replace live music performance. Movies did not eliminate theater. The VCR and later the DVD player did not replace the movie theater, in spite of dire predictions of the death of movies and/or movie theaters. So why should we think that e-readers will replace the bound book? There is a place and use for both.

Recent studies show that children who grow up in a house full of bookcases lining the walls and holding hundreds of books (or more) are 30% better at academics, college, and the advantages all that does for careers. It was the single most powerful predictor of success. The e-reader is very limited in that regard and cannot fully supply the same function.

So never fear. On with e-readers and on with bound books!

www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html (to see my book).

15 September 2010

My Interview on Cinette's Musings Blog

CS: Tell us about Angela 1: Starting Over. How was your story birthed? What was your motivation?

David A. Bedford: In April 2005 I attended an all-day workshop on getting published, sponsored by my university’s extended education program. I was wanting to get ideas for finding an agent and publisher for a bilingual version of my book of Spanish short stories (Liliana y el espejo, 2002), but I came out of it with something much better, something I never expected. The instructor spent the morning of the workshop talking about how to develop a project that agents will at least look at before throwing it onto the rejection pile. When we went to lunch, the whole Angela project just came to me (oh yeah, in English!): main character, locale, overarching theme for three books, and a plot idea for each one. I opened my composition book and sketched out a draft outline for each book, making a bunch of notes on characters. As soon as I had time just to stop and think, I made a fuller outline for Angela 1, and started writing. The rest, as they say, is history and since “they” say it, it must be true. Right?

My motivation for writing is having a story in me that’s bursting to be told. In the case of Angela, I wanted to do something very different from anything else out there. That’s why I put at the center of the story an unusually mature, coherent and loving teenager who sets off all kinds of potentially dangerous reactions, never meaning to.

CS: What messages/life lessons did you wish to teach your readers in Angela?

David A. Bedford: I always write to engage the readers with a story. Too much message bores them, me included. For me, writing is mostly intuitive and then later I see what I have been up to. The major theme of each of the three books in the Angela series is responsible citizenship and what it may cost us. At the time I sketched out the books, I only knew I was excited because I had a story I wanted to tell.

For many years, the US movie, TV, and radio industry was governed by a self-imposed code that prohibited “bad” words and references to sex, among other matters. Screenwriters retaliated by making any good, rule-respecting character hypocritical or hopelessly clueless, in the case of adults, and scared, social climbing, or a snitch, in the case of children. We were all conditioned to love the antisocial characters and view good people with scorn or disbelief. As a result, to this day readers and viewers react to good characters as basically unreal, uninteresting, or both and to expect the dysfunctional, greedy and self-indulging characters as the norm in literature and in life. I decided to take the challenge and write a good character who people can’t ignore and show that it takes a great deal of courage not to conform to what most people consider normal or to how they act. Another important point is that, when the story opens, Angela’s parents have just divorced. Of course it’s a major blow to Angela, her brother and her little sister, but doesn’t make them crazy or uncontrollable.

If you want to be a responsible citizen, you have to have courage. It means going against what everyone else does pretty much all through life. It can also involve confronting powers that could really hurt you. That’s what Angela is forced to learn.

CS: Looking back on the writing of Angela, is there anything you would have done differently?

David A. Bedford: The funny thing is that I discovered what I just told you about the book only by looking back on what I had done. I suppose many writers share that experience: we know in part what we’re doing but there’s a lot more going into the book than we are aware of as we write.

Now, as to what I would do differently, I probably would have developed the back story more. Given my experience writing the next installment in the series, I would have had the confidence to write a somewhat longer book. But I figure I’ll take all this experience into my next project. Always learning and growing: that’s what keeps me happy.

CS: What part of writing is easiest for you? And the hardest?

David A. Bedford: The hard part is coming up with a plan after the initial idea has come to me. I need characters, the plot in broad strokes, a locale, and an underlying philosophical or aesthetic concept as a subtext before I start writing. Finding the time to write can also be a challenge. I’m a college professor with a full load of work. But once I have all my elements and some free time, I’m off and running. The writing, that’s the easy part.

Of course, getting up the nerve to show the first draft to someone for feedback can be tough.

CS: What advice would you give aspiring authors about getting into the game? What do you know now that you wish you knew back when you started in the business?

David A. Bedford: First, have another job and don’t plan to live off royalties. Very few people have been able to do that. Even some of the very best classical authors had another source of income.

Plan what you want to do with each writing project.

Plot: how will the story end and how do we get there?

Characters: what makes them tick, what are their motivations and inborn personality traits? Know their back story.

Subtext: what are the values and/or symbolism and/or philosophy and/or any other matters that are important to you?–don’t address it directly, just let it bubble up.

Locale: have it vivid in your mind but just allude to it as if your readers already knew the place.

Allow for the serendipities: you never know just what may happen.

Allow yourself to be intuitive.

Let the characters be who they are. They may hijack your plans. So, see where it leads to. The idea of plot that you start with should be something that occurs because your characters act and think the way they do. Sometimes you start a scene with characters interacting and when you’re done you say: “I didn’t know it was going to turn out like that.” I call it being in the zone. When you’re in the zone, good things happen.

Have several people read your drafts. Think about what they tell you.

Finally, finish your book and start submitting it to agents. Know what the agents accept and don’t accept before you send it and make sure it is in the format they ask for. Expect many rejections and never give up.

I wish I’d known to keep submitting the book more purposefully and frequently.

CS: What was the wisest thing about writing ever said to you?

David A. Bedford: Literature should have room for everything.

CS: Tell us about your next book. Is it young adult fiction as well?

David A. Bedford: My next book will be Angela 2: The Guardian of the Bay. It’s already written. I want Angela 1 to get some good traction before I submit the next one for publication. Before that I need to go over Guardian and edit it very carefully. The third and last installment (Angela 3: Silver Path of the Moon) is planned out. I suspect it may need a more detailed outline. I plan to start on it when the second book is published.

Thank you so much for interviewing me!

“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.” – Terry Pratchett

No David, Thank you for sharing this interview with us.


10 September 2010

On Genres

Yesterday I read on a blog a very excited comment to the effect that there was now a new genre, YYA (young-young adult, meaning middle school). Rather than get into a rant on the proliferation of "genres" and writers chasing after the latest fad, I just want to say a couple of words on genres and marketing categories.

Originally, the term genre meant novel, short story, poetry, theater, etc. All these genres were influenced by literary movements (classical, romantic, modernist, etc.) which in turn responded to the world at large and its problems and issues. Of course, words change in meaning with use. That's a feature of language. But at some point, overuse of a word for many different things robs it of any meaning.

In current fiction, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, adult, young adult, and so on, are marketing categories, that is, demographic groups the book selling business targets. The best literature appeals across these categories (Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, JK Rowling, etc.) Even marketers seem to understand that the over-proliferation of brands in a company begins to cannibalize their own products. If we let marketing drive what we write, we will mostly write trite books aimed at ever shrinking readerships. It is to everyone's benefit to cast a wider net. Write a novel, story, poem, or play (no labels on it) for your ideal reader or readers. At least, that's what I aim for.

Please visit my book's website at www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/Angela1.html