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Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Daelhar, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think there are pros and cons to both approaches, it depends on the writer. However I don't recall any of the editors that I talk to complaining about running into a lot of dull, lifeless, prose but they sure do complain a great deal about over the top and cliche ridden material!
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Well, I mean, you can't judge a craft by the slush pile. Ask them about the authors they work with and areas of the prose that are a little too "try hard" versus those that are "glossed over."
     
  3. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I talk with them about their authors all the time, and what specifically they do for each author. It is fascinating stuff. I think a book about author editor relationships would be well worth buying. There are boatloads of amazing stories about those relationships just waiting to be told.

    But what I think DOA and SP were talking about was writing advice on the web and in books, not advice that had been specifically targeted to them based on their work.

    So when an editor or writer is going to offer generic writing advice, in the book or the web they actually do have to base that advice on what trends they are observing overall in the unpublished manuscripts they are seeing, because that is the bulk of who their audience is. So they do have to draw conclusions from the slush pile if they are to target any advice at all. The sense of it I have, is that they see a lot more purple prose than the opposite and thus they give general advice that way.

    I would expect their specific advice to authors might be very different, but I don't think that was what DOA or SP were referring to.
     
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't think a writers voice or style is necessarily an experimental or advanced technique. It is something that can be nurtured from the start while still imparting the fundamentals.
     
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    That can be achieved in a one or one editing or coaching context for sure.

    But when it comes to generic advice it is very different. And to be fair, I have read hundreds of books and articles containing writing advice, and I can't recall any that directly discouraged people from developing their own voice or style. I have read a lot of advice about how to avoid purple pose, the power of understatement or subtext, and the importance of having accessible vocabulary and sentence structure to make sure your reader is not separated from the story due to attempted literary flourishes, but really cannot recall any that discourage developing your own voice.

    If your concern is that there is a trend in genre and commercial fiction away from fancy prose styles, I would totally agree. Whether that is good or bad is a different question. But that does not stop editors from desiring or seeking out strong voices. An understated or lean voice or style is just as much a style as the opposite approach. I would think that one is much easier for the beginner to execute effectively. And I remain pretty sure that editors encounter a lot more over the top prose than lifeless prose. As one highly sought after writing teacher (and successful author) likes to tell his students if they want to sell, they need to "write tight." (to get the full impact you need to say those two words slowly and with the most charming Georgia accent).
     
    TheCatholicCrow likes this.
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Depending on what you mean by "write right," I may or may not agree. If it means you can't sell dense, descriptive prose, that's empirically false.

    Part of the problem with characterizing something as "purple prose" is that it is highly subjective. I also think it is much harder to critique, and very easy to call anything purple if it isn't lean and spare. Many critiquers I come across would have nothing but criticism for the style of Peake or Nabokov or Shirley Jackson or Angela Carter, which tells me they lack the skill to distinguish between purple prose and effective dense or descriptive prose. People who can't make that distinction are not people you want telling new writers with more flowery styles whether what they're doing is good or bad. When you come across a new writer who writes like Dickens, you don't try to turn them into Lee Child (whom I love), you try to help them become effective at telling stories in their chosen style (assuming they've chosen it and aren't just flailing blindly).
     
  7. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Ok...but I can think of a few best sellers in recent times with generic prose. All I'm saying is that story matters more than prose because it's ultimately the story we're trying to sell to readers. But not everyone agrees with this concept and I'm cool with that.

    As an aside, I've read a lot of boring books lately with polished prose. Beautiful prose without a story just won't do it for me.

    OP: If you feel that sharing responsibilities with another writer will help strengthen your craft then it's all good. Do that. I wish you well in finding a reasonable arrangement.
     
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Lest someone point out those are older works, look (for just one example) at Brian Catling's 2015 fantasy novel The Vorrh, which was quite good and one of the few fantasy works I've seen well-received in more of the literary community. As one reviewer (who liked the novel) put it:

    "Catling is as close to a Renaissance Man as we get these days, and the novel reads like a painting, filled with intense imagery, complex constructions, and unusual metaphors....The language is rich and even overwhelming, often teetering on the edge of bombast without ever quite going over. You can get lost in its passages; Catling has an eerie ability to bring all of your senses to bear."

    When I read works like that, I sometimes imagine what the reaction would have been had the writer, while writing, posted excerpts for critique on writing forums. The commentary would be vastly negative and critical on most of them, I suspect. Mythic Scribes seems to me to have a pretty good base of writers when it comes to critique, but not all writing forums do.
     
  9. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    It was "write tight" not "write right."

    Your argument is slipping down the trail of absolutes and is building a bit of its own straw man. No one has said that it you "can't" sell dense, descriptive prose. I would however say that it is harder to both sell and master, dense, descriptive prose than leaner styles.

    If your point is "one needs good critique partners", I agree. But I don't know who the critiquers are you are talking about. They may well indeed suck. There are plenty of people who are piss poor critiquers and have no business trying to help shape the career of young writers. Some of them are too judgmental, some are too biased, and some are completely out of touch with the realities of selling books these days.

    But if you are writing a book or a blog with generic writing advice, not an individual development plan or critique, I still believe that more new writers are guilty of over the top writing than the reverse. And I also believe that many new writers don't take the time to master the fundamentals as thoroughly as they should.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Not everyone wants to write a bestseller, nor should they. I think story and prose are both important. One can make up for a lack in the other, at least to some extent. Ideally, I'd like a good combination of both (and the good prose can be lean and mean or it can be lush and descriptive; I like both).
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You can master fundamentals with lean or lush prose. Either approach can work. New writers who are writing over the top purple prose aren't screwing up because they are writing dense prose, they're screwing up because they aren't doing it well.
     
  12. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Catling, who I understand was born in 1948, and has a long body of academic and artistic work, is hardly what I call a new writer, and I suspect he was not chasing too many internet critiques.

    I would still contend that writing accessible dense or lush prose is a more advanced technique than lean or simple prose.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    He was pretty new at prose fiction. Lots of poetry. One obscure novel before The Vorrh I believe. In any event, whether it is harder to do well or not there's no reason to beat it out of new writers. If that's the style they've chosen, they should be helped to develop it, in my view. However, that places a greater burden on the critiquer.
     
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Just a word on co-authoring. I would put ghost writing as a sub-type of co-authoring. Often in that relationship, the instigator has ideas (e.g., her life story, anecdotes) but either cannot write well enough to sell, or lacks the confidence (or time) to try. I would not be surprised to find that in some cases, the instigator (is there a word for this?) might even have written a draft themselves, and so claim a co-author standing. I suspect ghost writing is a complex relationship.

    In any case, ghost-written books clearly can succeed, so a request for co-authors is not a foolish request. I will point out, rather unnecessarily, that ghost writers get paid. But amateurs abound in every endeavor. The one question I'd ask of the OP is this: if your own writing is so poor (you said you've heard this from multiple sources), then if you were to try to co-author, wouldn't the other person be forced to rewrite your work? You did say you were willing to share the workload more or less equally. And if you aren't, in effect, writing half the story, then all that remains is that you supply the ideas while the other person writes the story. Which is exactly what people were criticizing.

    That's on the negative side. On the positive, if you were to find a writing partner, there's every chance that your own writing might improve as you work together. So there's every reason to try, however dubious some of us sound.
     
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  15. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    I always prefer the term "client". It's as complicated as each person makes it. The better the outline and instructions are, the easier it is for the ghostwriter (I really do mean a COMPLETE outline, chapter by chapter with at least some understanding of who the characters are / should be). If the client is picky, they need to make sure their input is consistently given throughout the creation of the piece. I once worked for a client that gave me little than a two-page concept sheet. The client also didn't look over any of the work I gave her along the way. At the VERY END and after a month of work, she suddenly decided she didn't like it and informed me it was "different than she thought it would be". Ugh. I beg all of you to please don't be like that person. Easy-going clients are much less complex :)

    To the OP (and anyone interested in going this route):

    I think a discussion should be established whether the work is expected to be a first draft or the final thing. I've worked with clients that I loved, and clients that I struggled to communicate with. If anyone decides to go this route, it helps to first have a strong understanding of what you want from the story, but also a bit of flexibility for the ghostwriter to come in and extend a few scenes here and there or to take the basic plot point and twist it so every other scene isn't a coffee date with a six-page discussion on the merits of a dairy-free diet. If the GW is under the word count and there just aren't enough scenes, the alternative would be to pad the word count with purple prose, filters, & all other manners of fillers. This is where it takes some trust between the client and GW. Unlike a traditional equal partnership, the client controls closer to 70 - 90% of the story (later removing or rejecting elements or flat out asking for rewrites). You *could* offer a GW a % of the royalties, but anyone that's done the work can tell you they'd only ever do that for higher profile or best selling (already established) writers. Otherwise the going rate for a beginner is something close to $1 per 100 words (if you want to pay slave wages) or $2 -5 per 100 words if you're a more ethical person. Well, that's my two-cents anyway
     
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  16. Daelhar

    Daelhar Troubadour

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    So, as I have said, I am not looking for a "Ghost Writer". Despite my weaknesses, I can write some things very well. (I can make killer tension, and make extremely effective summaries necessary for plot movement). I am looking for somebody who compliments me and my writing. The person who accepts (if I find someone) will know about my writing. My writing is not atrocious, but neither myself nor 99.9999% of the world population would want to read a book I have written from start to finish.
     
  17. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think it would be an author by author question if I was working with that young writer. But there are plenty of other things I would want to beat out of developing writers before flowery prose.

    I think there is great value in learning to write poetry for the novelist. I regret never having done it.
     
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I got the impression from this
    >I cannot write. I am terrible at writing. My descriptions are horrible, the point does not come across,
    >and the characters, though strong as characters, have weak dialogue.
    that your writing was atrocious. I think that's where people got the idea that you wanted someone else to do the writing.

    By your revision, maybe what you want is a developmental editor.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
  19. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Agreed. I am a trained poet from way back and it still informs in my writing. Poetry is basically prose in distilled form, and having a grounding in poetry, even though I don't write it, anymore, has given extra punch to my narrative, in my opinion.
     
    Heliotrope, Malik and Russ like this.
  20. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Guess I'm the only one here that doesn't like poetry or who thinks that story is more important than prose. I mean, hard to read prose isn't going to keep me around. But if you have lovely words and no story, I'm just as gone. A strong combination of both is what makes good books imho. Then again, I don't believe in polishing and polishing and polishing to make my sentences all the shinier. That works for some authors but not for me. I choose to focus on story and emotion above all else. My prose may be simple (I think it is) but that's just how I write. Not everyone is going to like my work and I'm okay with that fact. Finally, this is more for the OP, I tend to write more pulp fiction vs literary fiction. So your focus is going to determine how well you want your prose. Either way, you're going to have to work hard to get anywhere whether or not you have a writing partner.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
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