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Archive for November, 2012

THE WICKED CHILD

Just a note that, of the several books on writing that I’ve perused over the years, the one that’s stuck with me the most is Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees.  It’s a book I revisit every couple of years, the only writing book I’ve ever given to anyone else to read, and the only one I’ve ever bought two copies of because I needed to read it and couldn’t find my old copy.  Buy it here if you like.  Or don’t!  I bought mine at the Booksmith.

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THE TRUNK METHOD

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This is the only picture we have of my grandfather Malcolm King, who died the late 1950s. He had rheumatic fever as a boy and it weakened his heart, so one day he just dropped dead. My father was probably in his late 20s when that happened.  I wasn’t born until 1972, so I didn’t know Malcolm, though I did drive his car in high school.

Now that I’m blogging a bit more, I’m understanding the Penelope Trunk Method a bit better.  PT is ostensibly a career-advice blogger who makes a habit of partial oversharing her love-and-sex-and-children-and-possible-domestic-violence life. I’m not going to share anything like that, but I think there is a method to her posts that makes them so compelling.  (Seriously — I can’t get enough of them.) It goes like this: start with 1) some random detail about your life, 2) extrapolate that into some cockeyed general rule about the world that is just plausible enough, and then 3) free associate into a final idea that is completely unrelated to the first.  It helps if you have a picture and can reveal private details about your friends.

I read some self-published fiction by someone I found on Twitter. The genre was “urban fantasy,” a term I’ve heard before but never brushed up against. This particular thing (at 40 pages, what was it?  A novella?) wasn’t particularly good, or very good, or good at all, really, but it was interesting to see.  And it cost me nothing to download onto my phone!  Everyone should put a 40-page fantasy novel online!

It makes me think that there might be a future for my fiction online, whatever happens.  Penelope wants to charge $150 for a webinar about  blogging about yourself.  I’m not taking it, but she must be a good saleswoman, because here I am advertising it for her.

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WHAT TO DO, YEAH

As the rejections to my queries roll in (5 out of 15 so far, I think, though I haven’t tallied), I’m trying to figure out what to do next if they all come up snake-eyes. And they probably will — I’ve had some interest in past query rounds, and I think that this version of APW is the best it’s been (or likely to be), and the query letter is at least not an embarrassment.  Still, the manuscript is getting all slushy in the electronic slush pile.  It’s more productive to plan next steps after failure than to plan how to spend all my millions and how many assistants I’ll need to answer my fan mail.

[As an aside, I’m probably not supposed to be negative in my online writing — just in CASE someone search engines me and finds this page — ha! — I should be upbeat.  But we’re friends, you and I, and I’m just tellin’ you how it is.]

So what are my next steps?  Assuming APW is not plucked from the dirty melting electronic snow, I may do some additional queries. When I’m done querying, I may just self-publish the thing. Amazon has some decent tools and it looks like I can put it out as an e-book for minimal expense. (Then I have to annoy everyone I know about buying it and reading it and TELL YOUR FRIENDS.)  And perhaps I’ll do the same with TBH.  I’ve subscribed to some heavy self-promoting self-pubbers on Twitter to see how they do it, and I’ve gone so far as to download a couple of their books to see what the atmosphere is like on this planet. (HINT: there are vampires.)

The next thing would be to take on some other kinds of writing projects that might get my name in print somewhere.  Aside from this blog (and the old blog, RI.P), I have had a couple of articles up on a site called CC2K, where I knew someone.  And . . . not much else!  In the end section of my query letter, where I’m supposed to list all my awesome credits, I have to reach back to an award I won in high school. (Which is cheesy, but it was a very prestigious award, and the agent that contacted me last round said specifically that it was what caught her attention.)

A friend of mine, a gifted salesman, told me once that the key to making a sale was to overcome the purchaser’s fear.  Fear that he would later find out that he paid too much, that the house has termites. that  his brother-in-law will laugh at him for his silly choice. This fear is why we have home inspections, extended warranties, money-back guarantees (and the Uniform Commercial Code, but that’s off-topic).  One way to overcome this is with brand: People have been using Carlton toothpaste for years!  (Like the last few John Grisham novels?  Chances are you’ll like the next one!)  Another is with endorsement: I’m Beyonce, singing and dancing on behalf of Carlton!

I have neither of these, except for the award, which says that some old people in Mississippi thought that high-school me could write a sentence. Every time I appear in print NOW, though, is one additional endorsement of Carlton, one voice saying to a future agent or publisher, don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid!

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CRAWLING

It’s a music video of my son Fred crawling around on the floor! He’s been crawling for a while now — I took the footage because I’m sure he’ll be walking soon, and  this version of him will be gone. So, a short film. The music is “I’m a Mindless Idiot,” by the Meat Puppets.  (No reflection on Fred with the title; I just liked the song.)

Many of my social networketeers have already seen this, But the blog’s subtitle claims that it’s about”media consumption and creation” — and here’s something I created, for whatever it’s worth. Enjoy!

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So Disney just bought Lucasfilm, i.e., Star Wars, from George Lucas for $4 billion, which is either a lot or a little, depending on your point of view.  It doesn’t matter – the deal is done, and I’m not spending or getting anything.  And you aren’t either, unless you are George Lucas or a Disney shareholder.  What we WILL be getting, apparently, are some new Star Wars movies.

(I was going to put some links to articles in here, but the Internet is so alive with casting rumors, etc, that it’s all garbage.  Sorry, link fans.)

I should say that I saw the original three movies when I was young, out of order because I was too young for the first one on its initial run.  I liked them, but I was never the kind of fan who wanted to live Star Wars.  I turned a roll of Christmas paper into a lightsaber like every other kid, and I was good at making the zhwoozhing sound effect, but that’s as far as it went. When the prequels came out, I saw the first two and skipped the last.  (So what happened, guys????!!??!!?)

Before you read on, watch this clip from The Empire Strikes Back.  (It’s only 8 seconds.) How great was that?  Has Lucas done anything that good in the last 20 years?

After writing the title to this post, I was surprised at how apt it turned out to be.  George Lucas created Star Wars, but he only made 2 ½ decent Star Wars films and is responsible for the Ewoks.  In later days, he made three giant CGI turdfests and seemed disinterested in making any more.  (Too feeble? Too rich? An attack of what, conscience?)  He fucked around with the original (good) films in distracting, unhelpful ways.  He essentially kept the franchise as his frozen prisoner, occasionally displaying it in its degraded form in order to torture those who love it.  It was his, 100%, he could do with it whatever he wanted, which could include nothing.

Now Disney owns the movies, and the characters, and the future of Star Wars.  And that’s a good thing for Star Wars fans and science-fiction movie fans.  George Lucas is an old man who had some perverted ideas about what to do with his movies.  Disney is a soulless corporation that makes movies that are designed to appeal to a mass audience and make piles of money – like the original Star Wars!  Disney has paid a lot of money for this franchise, and needs to make it back asap.

We are going to see a lot of these movies.  Some will be terrible, some meh. Maybe one in five will be as good as The Empire Strikes Back. But our current stats are 2 ½ good movies vs. 3 shitfests + Ewoks.  More can only be better.

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I sent the 15th query out tonight. I doubt she’ll want my book, but the agent sure is cute!

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I recently did a Google search for “Overestimated,” i.e., the title of this blog, to see where it turned up in the search results. Answer: it didn’t.  But one thing that did come up was a link to the Wiki page for the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a phenomenon observed by psychologists. For those not in the know, the Effect is defined as follows:

a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.

In other words, the dumbest people think they are the smartest, and have the most self-confidence, however undeserved. Anyone with a degree of competence tends to realize the limits of her knowledge and skills.

I had something profound to say about this at great length, but a couple of glasses of red wine will make me concise: It helps to have a double shot of Dunning-Kruger before you sit down to undertake a big project like a novel.  Or a small, ongoing project like a blog.  If you knew how long it would take, or how shitty a writer you really are (before having written it), or how few would pay attention, you just wouldn’t.  It’s stupid to even try.

It’s like the man who walks a thousand miles through the Sahara by telling himself that the oasis is just over the next dune. How can you give up?  It’s right there!

Shouldn’t we feel this way about some things?  Isn’t stupid overconfidence  a necessary ingredient?

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