That was helpful wasn’t it? Feels kind of like those ambiguous fortune cookies, doesn’t it? You know the kind you’re given in the little out-of-the-way, hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants where the food is to die for and you’d eat there every week if you could. You’re sitting there full and happy as a fat pig sleeping in the sunshine, then the sweet waitress comes up with the tiny plastic plate with the fortune cookies sitting atop your bill, and wishes you luck. You grab one—or hand one to someone else and wait for them to give you one like my niece swears it has to be done or the fortune is void—fingers delighting in the crunchy cellophane wrapper as you tear it open, and get—that.
“Frogs are happier when they’re wet.”
“Tomorrow you will find something you treasure in the couch.”
Or, my all time favorite fortune cookie-sounding line from Quiggley Down Under—“The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient.”
Cricket song, followed by terminal eye roll.
So what on earth is W. Somerset Maugham trying to tell us?
That no two novels are the same? That no two novelists are the same?
That despite the years and years of learning the “proper way to punctuate a sentence” (a moment of silence for the dying of the semicolon, if you please) give it a minute and the “proper way” will be entirely different.
Remember the first time you read Tolkien? The way your mind nearly exploded with the visions he created for you? When his worlds were something you read and imagined? Descriptions brought to life in his words? Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore all the LOR movies, and The Hobbit. I will go to the cinemas, smuggle in snacks and bottles of soda in my Mommy Bag—because regular humans can’t afford to pay the exorbitant amount for a ticket AND snacks at the theater– sit back and watch everyone one of them as they are released at least twice. And again when I buy the DVD. And yet, I still have the books on my bookshelves. I will when I’m old and gray…er. The question–posed so many times by my fantasy-writing friends–could Tolkien have gotten those books published today?
When we’re told in no uncertain terms, “NO!”, that readers don’t have the patience to read that kind of novel, that the days of the LONG novels, sweeping sagas, elegant characters and their stories are all things of the past, I’m confused. I have to ask myself, if readers aren’t interested in worlds of elves, dragons, fairies, new species, etc, why then were there dragons in Man of Steel? Why was Avatar so successful? Why do people clamor in droves to watch each installment of Tolkien?
It’s easier to watch something for three hours than it is to take a couple weeks to read a book. Of course it is, and sometimes what’s presented to us is worth it, but what about when it’s not? The Beautiful Creatures series—my recent and longstanding pet peeve—is a gorgeous read, but what the screen writers/film makers did to the series is an abomination. Makes me sad.
Is Mr. Maugham trying to tell us that no one wants to read Of Human Bondage anymore? Razor’s Edge? Can you imagine a world without Tolkein? Without Harry Potter? Without sweeping sagas like Centennial, Shogun or Dr. Zhivago? That’s just tragic.
I assure you, I am no Maugham or Tolkien, and hold no hope of ever coming close, but with every story I write, I learn something new. About the constantly changing writing rules. About my take on the universe of fiction and how it’s also constantly changing. About writers, writing and the written.
So, here is my take on the three rules of writing a novel:
- Write what you like to read.
- Know your characters and everything about them and have a map of their coming journey.
- Keep submitting. Eventually, someone is going to see the merit and accept it.
And I’ll add a fourth. Don’t set all the rules you know about writing and punctuation in concrete. Learn the basics, but don’t be surprised when they change on you.
Now Writers, what are your three rules?
Remember back in January I said I’d be blogging every week? Remember I said my daughter made all those wonderful little blogging topics? I’ll bet you’re wondering right now whether it surprises you most that I am blogging tonight, just after midnight on April 20, 2014, or that it’s not December 31, 2014. I’ll bet further, that this all looks like one of my typical blogging epic failures.
Just after I posted my blogging orders from Courtney, I received a lovely surprise—a three book deal from Blush. So, I spent the next five weeks rewriting the first book, the second five weeks finishing and editing the third book, and the next three weeks redoing portions and editing the second book. Since then, I’ve been sleeping. ;-D
The first book, SECRET INGREDIENT will be released on May 29, 2014. I’m thrilled and hope you will be pleased as well.
Easter. Spring. New beginnings. It’s taken me a long time to get back to work, but I’m ready now.
When will my next blog entry be? Hmm…well, Courtney’s semester ends around the first week in May. I should be able to squeeze one in between now and then. You know, after Easter and before painting the living room and my bedroom. (Mark chose the colors…we’ll call it wine for the bedroom and something called mushroom for our bath. Shall we take bets on how long it’ll be before he wakes up screaming that he’s sleeping in a hot pink room and discovers that mushroom is what the paint industry named the color to confuse poor men into thinking it’s not pink?)
Until then, have a wonderful Spring, dear readers!