Everything Old Is New Again

I've been reading about manuscripts that were dismissed because the story's "been done" or the agents/publishers were clamoring for what's "new" or "fresh". I understand they're getting tired of reading queries on stories that feature vampires, angels, and other paranormal entities, but that doesn't mean those stories are automatically boring or unreadable just because they've "been done before". Writers can offer a unique voice, a new setting, or other elements to give their story the newness that it needs. Even if a writer does come up with an unusual plot, it's likely the elements have been done somewhere, sometime before.

"There's nothing new under the sun. All roads lead to Rome."~John Lennon

Most new stories are the same archetypes of literature told with a fresh voice and a new set of circumstances. Some take a well-told story and give it a twist or two. The most obvious example of this is the re-imagining of fairy tales. Little girl with a red-hooded coat goes to visit her grandma, only to be stalked by the big, bad wolf. Yeah, you could say it's been done, and you'd be right a thousand times over...but that doesn't stop writers from writing about it, publishers from publishing it, and millions of readers from enjoying a new spin on an old tail...um, tale...sorry! ;o)

Nothing is new...and new doesn't equal interesting. If I pitched you a story about a guy that wakes up to find himself turned into a ham sandwich and he spends the entire book trying to avoid being eaten by his family and the friendly neighborhood mailman, that would be new...but would you be interested? (if you said yes, I worry about you.)

And now it's not just that stories have been done...they've been "overdone". o_O
The thing about vampires and other paranormal subjects considered overdone is that, yes, maybe they are plentiful...but that's because there's something people like about them. Readers have connected with the story and will probably connect with similar stories. Archetypes appear all throughout literature and are a very important part of it. They lay the foundation upon which some of the greatest stories have been told.

Archetype: "A universally recognizable element...that recurs across all literature and life." ~Latrobe, Brodie, and White, The Children's Literature Dictionary
(from the Greek: arche, original, and typos, form or model)

This post, along with my posts on prologues, conflict, and any future posts where I rant about writing all come back to one simple point about writing: despite the "rules" and guidelines, writing is an art...and art is subjective. No one has been able to capture in words the special ingredient that makes a story liked by everyone...because it doesn't exist. If it did, Oprah would own it and we'd all know the secret to her book club success. =)

Art is influenced by the works that came before, and it will live on to influence others works of art forever.



Lyrical Hell

I've been writing my whole life. My earliest work that I remember is a poem I wrote at age 4 about a stinkbug:

Stinkbug, stinkbug
why do you stink?
How do you stink
& think at all times?

We know you're not
worth a dime

Stinkbug, stinkbug
Why do you stink?
Who knows...do you?

It's not prize-winning, or deep thinking...but it got rave reviews from my grandma. ;o)

As I got older I became a big fan of music. I'd flip through my mom & stepdad's record collection--which included Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Rolling Stones' Some Girls (both covers fascinated me)--as well as my own that had The Go-Go's, Olivia Newton-John, & Shaun Cassidy (I was SO in love!).
I convinced myself that I was going to be a famous singer. I set a goal to become the youngest female singer ever. I practiced daily and wrote song lyrics in my little notebook---some of which I even remember...and since I don't mind embarrassing myself for your entertainment, I'll post them:

Dreams are only visions
of thoughts running through your head
Heartbeat only rhythm
of the heart so bloody red.

Cheesy, and kinda sad--but hey, it was the 80's...and I was 11...cut me a break! ;o)

As I got older and hit the teenage years without achieving my dream of singing stardom, I was so pissed at Debbie Gibson for stealing my life...Tiffany, too.
But I still bought both their records and considered myself an official member of the Electric Youth.

Sophomore year my English teacher recommended me for my high school newspaper. I was so excited. I happily wrote my first several articles, so proud to see my name in the byline...but it wasn't long before I got caught up in the typical high school roadblocks to productivity: parties...drama...boys. I stopped writing articles. I stopped writing everything except an occasional journal entry.

Besides a few papers in college, I didn't write again until I met my husband. I wrote 3 children's books:

Bo-Bo Bunny's Busy Day
Sammy the Snake
Alliterative ABC's (working title)

But I got rejected on all 3...twice. I gave up and spent the next several years focusing on taking care of my illness and my son. I didn't give writing much of a thought during that time. When my son hit the teen years, I revisited the idea. I realized that all the things I love to read about so much--love & interpersonal relationships--I could write about.
So I took on the task of writing my first novel. Much to my own shock and the shock of anyone who knows me...I completed the novel. I am at a point now where I'm getting feedback from other writers and beta readers. I'm about to formulate a stellar query letter to snag my dream agent. I'm doing the final, finishing, very last edits.
I anticipate all of this will go smoothly (except maybe writing the query...they don't call it "query hell" for nothing.)...there's just one thing I can see holding me up.

I have to write a song.

I know I'm the writer of the book and I have control of what goes into or out of the storyline...but it's not that simple. My storyline demands the song...and I'm too scared to tell it no. ;o)
If I were 11 years old this would be a lot easier. The song would be cheesy and very early MTV...but it would be much easier for me. I am having such a hard time writing just a few simple lines of words strung together in lyrical form...when I just got through writing a 76,000 word novel...even more if you consider the editing. So this makes no sense. What is my problem?

Why is my brain so blocked when it comes to songwriting?

I'm running out of time. I need to get all disciplined with myself and make myself churn out a decent song. Maybe I can do it if I access that inner 11-year-old and temper her with my 40-year-old outer self.

If not, I don't think Debbie & Tiffany are too busy these days.



Prologue: Pro or Con?

I've been reading articles on whether or not writers should use a prologue. I gotta say, there's not a lotta love out there for the prologue. =P
As a reader I never thought much of them, I just considered them part of the book. As a writer I agonized over adding one and eventually decided I wouldn't...only to finish writing the book and have a flash of inspiration for what I thought would be a great prologue.

Now I'm reading all these comments from prologue haters who say they don't even bother reading them and that most prologues should just be re-labeled "Chapter 1".

Whoa...wait a minute. If a writer takes the time to write a prologue and feels that it is integral enough to the plot to include one...shouldn't it be read? Would readers skip over any other chapters of the book they're reading? I just don't get that. I don't understand what's so bad about a prologue...sure, not all of them are masterpieces, but neither are all novels. ;o)

No matter what the majority of the writing community says about them, I like my prologue. I think it shows a taste of the action to come and gives the reader a hint of the connection my MC will be making with another character. Does it have to be included? I guess I could chop it off and the story would remain unharmed---a lot of the anti-prologue sentiment has me thinking maybe that's what I should do---but I like it and I want it to stay.

What do you think about prologues? Are they frowned upon? And if so, why do so many best-selling titles have them?



Super Cool Contest...Hurry!

I'm getting in on this kinda late, but Shelley Watters is having a mega epic contest to celebrate all of her blog & Twitter followers:

The grand prize for this contest is a FULL MANUSCRIPT REQUEST from literary agent Suzie Townsend of Fine print Managenment...how amazing is that?! =D

All you have to do is craft a logline for your manuscript in 140 characters or less and submit it to Shelley's website:

More info & specific rules are listed there...and you have just a few hours to submit...like me! ;o)
I've been crafting my logline for about a week now...but just got up the nerve to actually post it:

"Lilah leaves home and meets the literal guy of her dreams, but his family secret soon threatens their newfound relationship...and her life."

Wish me luck! =)
I wish good luck to all those who enter...and give huge thanks to Shelley for the awesome contest & to Suzie for judging & offering such a valuable prize! =)