Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Monthly Archives: February 2009

Getting an Agent

Because I’m too lazy to type something on my own, a very interesting link about getting an agent for your book.

Short version: if you have a good book, it’s much much less trouble.

Changing Horses

I almost never do this, but there will be no review of William Vollman’s “Europe Central” forthcoming anytime soon. I have reached the 100-page mark and this is what I know:

* He refers to Hitler as “the sleepwalker” and Stalin as “the realist.” This was mildly interesting at first but grows increasingly more irritating as he uses real names for EVERYONE ELSE.

* A German woman who likes to paint peasant women holding dead children went on a trip to Russia where she was honored for her art. Sort of. And listened to a symphony by a composer.

* That composer was married but left his wife for another woman, for whom he wrote an impassioned symphony(? it’s just called Opus 40) through which you can hear his love.

That’s it. There’s like seven hundred more pages of this. I have a great deal of respect for the “beautiful sentence” crowd, but I don’t consider plot an acceptable casualty of the doctrine, and I don’t have a lot of time to read. If I want long, rambling description, I’ll at least read Proust, who may take forever to get somewhere but provides a much more interesting ride. On to the next book on the stack.

Wisdom from the late DFW

Looking through Consider the Lobster to get a quotation for a friend this evening, I happened upon this little bit of wisdom for writers, from DFW, distilled down for brevity:

The two most important rules for writers are:

(1) The reader cannot know or perceive anything other than what you put down on the page;
(2) You cannot expect the reader to feel the same way you do about any given thing.

These rules, he says, are so plain and obvious that it is astounding how difficult it is to get college-level students to put them into practice. They are truisms that we wave our pens at and say, “of course, of course,” and then they totally fly out of our heads while writing. To simplify, of course, one could boil those down to one thing:

* The reader is a separate human being living in a separate world from you, whose only intersection with your world is the words you put down on the page.

Just something to remember.