Saturday, January 17, 2009

Four Little Writing Things + Poll

  • My lovely author Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich is writing a monthly "Five Faves" column for, and her excellent agent Erin Murphy and I are both quoted this week on "The Book That Changed Everything."
  • Another lovely author, Francisco X. Stork, has a wonderful post connecting the disciplines of writing with those of Buddhism: "The Six Perfections of Writing."
  • If you've written a fantasy novel, or really any novel with a Big Bad, you should read through the list of The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became an Evil Overlord and make sure your villain tries to abide by them. (In other words: So much as possible, avoid the cliches contained here.) I particularly like #12: "One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation."Also #29: "I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion."
  • I tweaked my submissions guidelines this week, removing the "Closed to submissions" bit from the top (so there's no more confusion about that) and adding these lines:
-- Any submission without an SASE will not receive a reply.
-- I like books about characters who do things, who take action in their own lives, who love and lie and take risks and fight to get what they want, who are faced with and make difficult choices.
-- Some people think that literary fiction doesn't have action to it -- that literary fiction is people sitting around and feeling and talking at each other. This is not true. It's just that in literary fiction, the writer is as interested in the characters' emotional development as he or she is in the action the novel portrays, and particularly in the relationship between the two [the action and the emotional development], even if that relationship isn't spelled out in so many words.
-- If you've written a book, particularly a picture book, for the sole purpose of teaching a lesson to children, like "Be kind to everyone" or "Don't play doctor with the pit bull": Your manuscript will probably not be right for me.
And the poll: Cruising cable last weekend, I came across the last twenty minutes of The Empire Strikes Back, which I hadn't seen in ages. After I finished watching it, I saw that it was labeled "Episode V" in the cable guide, and I thought how strange it would be to actually watch it as the fifth film in the "Star Wars" saga -- to know already the big "NOOOO! NOOOO!" fact revealed at the end of the movie -- and how Episodes IV, V, and VI would all feel very different with that knowledge. And then it occurred to me that I will someday have to decide in which order my (putative, theoretical) children will see the series. What would you all do/are you doing?


  1. We do not have kids, but we have discussed at length what we will do if/when we have them, but our plan isn't exactly one of your options. Our plan is 4, 5, 6 and then the last 30 minutes of 3 (the birth of Darth Vader). Those last 30 minutes were not so bad (nerd alert: except for the grievous error that Padme died when the kids were born and Leia claims in Return of the Jedi that she remembers her mother) and were the sorts of things that I wanted the set of prequels to be about. Instead we got a little twerp and a bunch of crap about clones.

  2. Wow, that's a heavy question. I think we'll probably watch IV, V, and VI, frequently, and then for as long as possible I will hide the existence of I, II, and III.

    (By the way, I will also hide the existence of the Godfather III, the recent Indiana Jones movie, and every Superman and Rocky movie past number 2, but I digress.)

  3. That "NOOOOO!" moment at the end of Empire is so fabulous--in fact, being able to look back over the battle between Luke and Darth Vader and then go into episode six with this new information is so rewarding, I think you definitely should start with episode four.

    And then, years down the road, the kids can watch the first three on their own so you don't have to sit through them again. Heh.

  4. Love the new poll. Not something I'd ever thought about, but I'll have to once I have kids, huh? :)

    Also like the new guidelines. They are coming at a very good time for me--I plan on querying you by the end of the month!

    (PS: I'm with Steve: the new Indy movie is BANNED from my house!)

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  6. I'm with Melissa on this. Share the magical experience of episodes 4-6 with your kids, but let them discover the other three on their own when they're older, like away at college.

  7. They never made I, II, and III.


    (I have to protect my children, after all).

  8. Yes! I would avoid 1,2 & 3, not only to protect your future children from nightmares of Extra Crispy Anakin, but to spare them the horror of his less than stellar acting ability.

  9. I was just pondering this today. My oldest has seen them all (except for modern-day 3), and he thinks the story is about Anakin. Which of course I don't think at all. I think it's about Luke, and then there are these prequel thingies that have something to do with the Real Story. But seeing as my other children have not seen them (being present in the room when you are only a blob does not count), I think we will definitely do 4-5-6 and then let them see the others when they are able to drive to Blockbuster and rent them themselves.

  10. Ditto to the other comments on ordering of the Star Wars movies. And be sure to also begin Narnia with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Very important in terms of the lampost.

  11. I let my kids see all 6 episodes, starting with 4-6. I regret this decision because they seem completely unaware that 1-3 are craptastic and love them with equal verve as 4-6.

  12. I had my kids watch 4-6 in that order. I've only watched bits and pieces of the first one and NONE of 2 and 3. As far as I'm concerned, 1-3 can be completely ignored IMO! :)

    BTW, this is my favorite poll yet!

  13. I love your poll! I've made my husband discuss this multiple times and he thinks I am crazy for thinking about.

  14. I love it when you give us tidbits about what you are and are not looking for in a submission. I might guess that your inspiration comes from slogging through the slush. Your comments here are invaluable to us slush-dwellers.

    Speaking of slush, can you give us a little update on your progress? Have you made it through October and November subs yet? I'm only asking because, well, I'm an extremely neurotic writer (is that redundant?).

    (great poll, by the way. I shall shield my children from I, II, and III as long as I possibly can)

  15. My children, if I'm blessed with them will see IV, V, and VI in that order and then maybe see I, II, and III but I agree they really aren't that great. What I care more about is what order my children will read the Chronicles of Narnia, for the same reason that the Nooo moment was exciting for people when the Star Wars movies first came out. They should be read in the order they were written, it makes the Magician's Nephew so much more interesting when it is filled with aha! moments!

  16. Looking back on it all, all of the Star Wars movies are kind of bad. The acting could be better, the writing could be better and the plot line could have been a bit original. We just thought that they were totally awesome because we didn't know any better. At the same time, I acknowledge, that the world George Lucas created and to which he introduced the audience was brilliant, and the John Williams score really carried the day.

    In any event, I would start with Episode IV. If the Odyssey and Illiad can start in the middle, so can Star Wars.

  17. Good to know about your submission interest. Too bad I wasn't aware of it when I mailed my package a couple of weeks ago. *sigh* Guess I shouldn't be too surprised when I get the form rejection in the mail.
    4,5,&6 are the only Star Wars worth watching. 1-3 should never have been made--it would have saved everyone a whole lot of money.

  18. The "NOOO" moment is the reason why "The Empire Strikes Back" is my favorite film in the series. I vividly remember watching that scene with my mom and younger brother at a movie theater, and remember how I couldn't stop thinking about it afterward. I have a 12-year-old, a 1-year-old, and another child due in March, and since my 12-year-old and I watched movies IV, V, and VI first (the newer ones weren't out yet at that time), I plan to introduce my younger children to the movies in the same order, so they can feel the power of that scene, too.

  19. I was so confused when I tried to rent the original Star Wars to watch with my kids and it called itself "Episode IV".

    Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi ARE episodes one, two and three. Those others are negative one, two and three, I guess--or simply prequels. And, I agree with all the comments that suggest that we could have done just as well without them.

  20. Agree, agree, agree! IV, V, and VI are great and watching them in that order preserves the AHA moment.

    BTW, does anyone know why George Lucas started filming with IV, V, and VI? It's because by starting in the middle of the story they had a better story and cinematic presence so (duh!) they made better movies!

    Honestly, I, II, and III aren't absolute abominations (but I really struggled with the poll) but they don't have any real value to me. IV, V, and VI have a positive vibe and possess a good-triumphing-over-evil theme. I, II, and III have, well, a NEGATIVE evil-triumphing-over-good theme. I certainly don't want to subject my children to that until they're older. Maybe. If they ask. And I'll demand they start with I which was decent if largely boring. II to me was absolutely disgusting. I actually felt HATE toward main-character Anakin and the Obi-Wan I know would have been smarter than that. I guess I dislike I, II, and III in part because the character personalities don't jibe with IV, V, and VI. And what about the old guy at the end of VI? The remixed version replaces him with a young Anakin!

    Can we have a new poll? "Will George Lucas ever make VII, VIII, and IX?"

  21. "Will George Lucas ever make VII, VIII, and IX?"

    For the love of all things good, I hope not.

    As much as I loved, loved, loved the original Star Wars movies I have a blistering cavern of hate for the new ones.

    That said, I think my goal for the day is to become an Evil Overlord.


  22. My kids watched 4, 5, and 6 first. Mostly because we already had them on DVD, plus number 3 is a little violent- only my oldest has watched 3 so far. My six year old daughter is in love with the Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and the cartoon Clone Wars version :0).