Thursday, October 26, 2006

Suicidal Bunnies

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you know I moved to a new neighborhood earlier this year. The neighborhood is very nice and quiet and circles around part of this enormous park - trust me on the enormous part. I walked my dog there one morning soon after moving, got lost, and finally found my way back to my house an hour and a half later. Now when you live so close to a heavily wooded area, there are all kinds of critters around. But here's the interesting thing - I don't ever see rabbits in the park, only in the neighborhood. My next door neighbors tell me one lives in their back yard.

I wondered about that for a while until my other neighbors told me coyotes live in the park. Well, that explains it. The rabbits moved to the subarbs to escape the coyotes.

So there is this one rabbit who likes to hang out at the house at the end of my alley. Every morning, I exit the alley, turn onto the street and start looking for this rabbit. Why? Because he's suicidal. I swear this rabbit sits in that yard until my car turns out of the alley, he carefully times my speed and distance, then dashed into the street just when I would splat him if I hadn't been watching for him in the first place. Hence, the name Suicidal Bunnies.

So why in the world is this relevant to anything? I'm going to tell you. I just finished judging a contest where several of the entries were obviously written by Suicidal Bunnies. It was the ST/Maintstream catagory yet not one entry was high concept. Most lacked the basics of grammer (but some of the misplaced modifiers made for VERY interesting sentences). One had a length of 70k and one had a synopsis written in past tense.

I'm not trying to be hard on people, but the things I've listed above are necessary knowledge if you're wanting to pursue a ST career. Which begs the question: Writing is hard. Why would anyone take the time to write at all without bothering to learn the "rules" of writing?

I've heard all the excuses - I don't have the time to learn the industry (fine, but the industry will never be bothered with you, I promise), I live in a small town and don't have access to a writer's group (there are tons of writer's groups on the internet not to mention everything you ever wanted to know about the industry), I don't want to have critique partners, someone might steal my idea (reality check - if someone steals an idea that low concept and poorly written, they are not going to sell it either).

So why do people insist on running out in the street in front of cars? I've got an idea about the bunny. I think faced with a life of battling either soccer moms, their kids and yappy dogs or the big, bad coyotes in the park, he's decided it would be much easier to pass on to a better place. I'm just honking up his plan with my defensive driving.

So what about the contest contenders? Are they too, trying to commit suicide rather than face the coyotes in New York? Is a low score on a contest entry that wasn't researched or well planned, their "out" for saying I gave it a try and it didn't work for me. Or does society have a rash of American Idol contestants - you know the ones. The people who are so horrible and actually think they can sing - without any training, without any practice, without bothering to learn.

Storytelling is in the bones, but everyone had to learn technique - Nora, Jenny, etc - none were immune to writing a grammatically correct manuscipt that was the right word length and had a concept with conflict strong enough to carry a 100k novel.

So aspiring writers - PLEASE take the time to learn the craft. And here's a little hint: you should never stop learning. Also, remember that learning the craft takes time - years of time. Do not insult the very people you love to read by thinking you can sit down and rip off a saleble novel in six weeks when it took them years to achieve their success.


Tori Lennox said...

if someone steals an idea that low concept and poorly written, they are not going to sell it either

I know I should play nice, but this sentence has me snickering. *g*

Now I just hope my writing group (which is online and three members of which I've never met in person) is right and I'm not one of those American Idol types....

Jana DeLeon said...

lol, Tori - I was being as nice as I could without avoiding the point. And I'm sure you're not one of those American Idol people. You're out here on the net learning and networking with other writers. And the fact that you have a critique group puts you ahead of a ton of people who think they don't need one. (sigh)

lainey bancroft said...

Hi Jana,
I don't think its the intention of these writer-wannabes to be insulting. Its been my experience through various online cp groups, forums etc. that a contest is the first 'step out of the closet' so to speak for many of these people.
Once they get their asses handed back to them in the form of an embarrassing (non existent?) score, they get a clue and start seeking out better feedback and learning some of the tools.
But I dunno for sure??? I've never entered an actual 'pay to' contest. Just free online ones, and that's worked very well for me :D

Jana DeLeon said...

Maybe you're right, lainey, but I guess since I can't conceive of sticking my own neck out without being informed, I can't imagine other people doing it either. Guess some are a glutton for punishment. :)

And you're right - that first score will probably send them to a writer's group.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Ahem, not to contradict any of your lovely points, but my contract is for a 70k mainstream novel, and I've been known to write synopses in past tense. None of that is the point. Good writing is...

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