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sábado, 23 de febrero de 2013

The craft of writing by Rosemary Van Deuren (Part II)

What difficulties do you encounter during the literary process? 

Balance. I am guilty of staying up too late working for days, until I can’t focus or concentrate anymore, and then crashing for just as long because I’m exhausted. While this makes for a dramatic writerly image, it’s not a lifestyle I’d recommend. It’s difficult for me not to feel like a slave to the process, and the downside is I burn myself out that way. Writing a novel is pretty allencompassing to my thought processes, so I require a break after one is finished, and some level of preparatory psyching up and compartmentalizing before I start another, because I know what an enormous mental commitment it’s going to be for a very long time. It’s a joyous process, don’t get me wrong, but it occupies a lot of space in my life, which is just something that needs to be accounted for before I begin.

Do you have someone you trust to correct your drafts? 

Do you do it yourself, or do you trust in a professional who does it? No-one sees my early drafts but me -- I self-revise those until they’re as tight as possible. It’s not until I’m into the later, more polished drafts that I open up the project for editorial input.

When I worked with my Basajaun editor Shawna Gore, she did both the editing and the copyediting. However, we went over all the corrections together. We have an excellent working relationship, so this worked out well for both of us. As of yet, I’ve never given someone freereign to edit my fiction without my overseeing it. I have occasionally had my non-fiction work edited without my input, and the results vary depending on the editor. When someone else edits your work, it can be jarring if they don’t blend the revisions with your natural writing style.

Your book is self-published. Does it require of an important investment? 

What advantages and disadvantages are there between signing a contract with a publisher and self-publishing? I could probably write something the length of this entire interview about self-publishing alone, but I will try to be brief... or brief-ish [laughs]

The major differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing are distribution, level of editing, and of course, financing. Beyond that, there are other rights and property differences, but most of the immediate differences people distinguish between the two come down to money and readership -- which is also ultimately about money. And the answer to that is simple: Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose. Financing a self-published project is a sliding scale, because there are options in every price bracket, depending on how much you can invest. It’s ok to start small and build your budget as your readership increases. The current method of distributing books in America is symbiotic with how major publishing houses function, so distribution of a self-published book is tricky. But recent shifts in how readers are accessing books today have actually made that easier -- significantly more so even since I did the earlier Basajaun edition.

Those who prefer self-publishing probably enjoy the level of control it allows. In my case, I wanted to work with input from others on the book, but I wanted it to be people who shared my aesthetic and understood the goals of the project and the target demographic. A drawback to self-publishing is that, if it’s done right, it is extremely time-consuming. There are reasons the traditional publishing model exists, and one of those reasons is so writers’ time is used for writing, not layout, design, and order fulfillment. But just because it’s a challenge doesn’t mean it isn’t rewarding. The mounting advancement in the accessibility of layout software and smallpress options means that we will see more self-published work in the future, and that the quality of these books will continue to increase. That’s something that’s exciting to me.

How do you react to a bad review or rejection from a publisher? 

The short answer is, I don’t. Responding to a rejection from a publisher is unnecessary, and reacting to a bad review is unprofessional. You have to recognize what actually constitutes a bad review, though -- a good review with a couple points of constructive criticism is still a good review.

 If it truly is a “bad” review, however, you should read it twice -- once to get over any nasty remarks, and again to look for and glean whatever advice you can. While it’s not your job to change your work based on negative reviews, there is often something useful in there that will help you to create better work. Once you’ve found that though, never read the bad review again. Beating yourself up over someone else’s opinion of what you do is also unnecessary.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve seen committed by another writer so you tried to avoid this same mistake? (If you do not want to mention his/her name, we can fully understand, but this is a really juicy question!). 

I don’t know how juicy my answer will be! [laughs] But there are two major pitfalls I’ve seen creative people struggle with: The first is just a general lack of productivity. Some people assume that all you need to be a writer or artist is talent. While some amount of artistic skill is necessary, something that’s almost equally as important is drive, and the ability to actually produce work on a consistent, ongoing basis. This is harder than many people realize. The stick-with-it-ness is the most difficult part of working in the arts, I think. Anxiety, perfectionism, distraction, lack of motivation -- all these can get in the way of producing or completing work. I’ve seen really talented people not live up to their potential because of one or more of these things, and it’s always tough to see that talent squandered.

 The second, and maybe less-common pitfall, is ego. A person should take pride in their work, of course, but no-one wants to work with or deal with egotistical, temperamental writers.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to engage in storytelling but is not sure where to start? 

Write a story about something that is meaningful to you. Write the story that you need to write, because that need will propel you forward to keep writing, to finish it, and to ultimately move on to write more. Lawyer James F. Stephan once said, “Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.” Readers respond to genuineness. When you write to please yourself, there’s a conviction there that draws others to your work -- it’s more deeply relatable than when you write for, say, a specific market. It’s also important that you enjoy the process, or else you won’t finish the project.

As for starting the project, there’s another great quote from prolific pulp writer William Campbell Gault: “If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you’ll only have to throw away the first three pages.” I think that’s excellent advice.

What would be your ultimate happiness as a novelist?

 Is it ok for me to say I feel like I have that now? [laughs] With Basajaun, I was able to tell the story I wanted to tell, work with my very own, hand-picked “dream team” -- my wonderful editor Shawna Gore and my fantastic cover artist Berndaette Carstensen -- and make the book available to an audience. As a bonus, I was able to print Basajaun though an ecologicallyresponsible offset book printer called McNaughton & Gunn, using Forest Stewardship Council- Certified cover stock and 100% recycled interior paper. It’s great to feel good about the book as a physical product, too.

What are your next projects in the short, medium, and long term?

 I’m currently working on a sci-fi book for teens that I’m very excited about. It’s a different sort of book from Basajaun, and the writing and plotting is going great. There are tentative plans for a Basajaun sequel, or possibly a trilogy. I have ideas for a short story collection brewing on the back-burner. One of the pieces I’m working on for that -- “The Story of the Biting Tiger” -- already has an amazing accompaniment illustration by my talented artist friend, Alexis Barattin.

I also have fifty or so pages of poetry that I’ve been sitting on for a while, so you will probably see a poetry collection from me at some point. In the long-future, I’m working up an idea for a regular novel outside the young adult realm. And in the immediate future, the Basajaun eBook will be coming out soon!

I may have missed something you would like to comment on. Do you want to give a last message to all those readers who follow your career? 

I would like to offer a few words of encouragement to younger writers: keep writing! The writing world is intimidating -- the first few times I did in person pitches “live” to professionals, I thought I was going to be ill. The publishing industry is currently in a state of influx, but this also provides writers with the opportunity to look for new and different ways to bring their work to an audience. If you are creative, forward-thinking, and diligent, you will find a way. 

Thank you for your time, Rosemary. We hope you will continue publishing novels for many many years.

Thank you for your lovely questions! 

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