Monday, April 14, 2008

Patterns in Chaos

I love Mark Terry's post today, We're All Liars.  My religious beliefs are ... eclectic. But really, it all comes down to the power of belief. I believe in belief and the power it holds.

After Mark Terry's post, I realized how much my religion influences my views of reading, writing, and the industry.

I am constantly seeking patterns. Constantly. You have no idea, LOL. I analyze everything. I come to conclusions about everything. Some of them you've heard before:

  1. All the bestsellers have impeccable rhythm. They never miss even a microbeat.
  2. Writers who are published have a confidence with their writing. When you read them, you can feel that they know exactly what they're doing, exactly what the effect of their words is on a reader. They wield their words. They are aware of and use their power.
  3. A cliche can be used, as long as it's a starting point and it's deepened, explored, emotionalized, and given a "but."
  4. "Fresh" stories are written with a "but."  For example, they give the reader what the reader expects with the knowledge of what the reader expects, but then they throw in a "but" to keep things interesting.

Some of my conclusions are so crazy that I don't share, with the certain knowledge people would roll their eyes. ;-) I also have what I call hypotheses, ideas that I'm still testing:

  1. A very good story is just as interesting read backwards as it is if read normally.
  2. A novel is more like a fugue than a sonata.
  3. Self-promotion is useless, but believing that your self-promotion works actually tends to ... work. It seems. Well. Look at JA Konrath.
  4. Or maybe self-promotion is useless unless you go all the way and then some.
  5. Readers are not that picky. Really. I'd say they are about 10% as picky as editors and agents.

Like I said on Mark's blog, I believe in the power of belief. I believe in analyzing and drawing conclusions, even when you're always open to the belief that it's possible there is no rhyme or reason.  So, in my religion of the book industry, this is what I believe about pursuing excellence, about pursuing a career in an art:

  1. The more patterns you can see, the more control you have over taking yourself to the next level.
  2. There are always patterns.
  3. Everything they say about an art that's just talent, just creative, just ... whatever, can be analyzed, dissected, and applied.
  4. The key to improvement is finding the patterns you can't currently see. There's always more. The greatest, in any field, see, understand, and use more patterns than the others in their field.

But, again, just what I believe. Who really knows?

So what patterns do you see? What do you believe? What do you believe without proof? What do you believe, even with more proof to the contrary?

10 bonus scribbles:

StarvingWriteNow 4/14/2008 09:12:00 PM  

It never ceases to amaze me how many ways you look at creativity. I love your blog.

PS: This is weird, but I just noticed something: that lady's silhouette on your header? Her gun arm is way smaller than the other one--or is it just me?

spyscribbler 4/14/2008 09:28:00 PM  

Hah! Come to think of it, WriteNow, she looks a bit like the weird-angled posture of a prostitute, you know?


Edie 4/15/2008 12:42:00 AM  

I agree with what Mark Terry says about coop. Allison Brennan says something similar.

I love the way you think. Here's what I believe in: Sometimes we get lucky, and sometimes we have to keep on going until we collide with that luck. In the meantime, just keep learning and keep doing the best you can.

I hope I'm right, because that's my strategy. :)

Mark Terry 4/15/2008 06:42:00 AM  

A novel is more like a fugue than a sonata?

What, you don't like 3-part structure?

Or maybe you're talking the intertwining themes. Hmmm...

spyscribbler 4/15/2008 09:54:00 AM  

Me too, Edie. And people don't mention it much, but I think having a backlist on the shelf counts for a whole lot, too.

I like your idea of luck! Colliding with luck, especially. Hah! Or ramming into it, LOL.

spyscribbler 4/15/2008 10:05:00 AM  

Yeah, I know, Mark. Well, it's still in the hypotheses section for a reason.

I do like three part structure, of course, and I think you're right about the intertwining themes.

It's just that all the books, all the workshops, when they talk about the structure of a novel, I think they oversimplify. It's not that easy!

I mean, I just can't have the hero give my heroine a flower in Chapter 10. I have to plant in Chapter 3 that heroine used to get flowers when she was a child from her dad, who is now dead. In Chapter 6, the hero has to suddenly break out in hives and sneeze up a storm as he passes a flower bed.

And in Chapter 10, he has to show up on her doorstep with snot running down his face, eyes bulged red, with a daffodil.

Okay, bad example.

But more and more, if everything has a root, a development, and a finisher, even the little details, then the novel is more ... flat than I first imagined.

The end is like the same as the beginning, and beginning the same as the end. The middle is both the beginning and the end.

And the threads are freaking everywhere.

I take what I said back. A novel is not a fugue. It's a big freaking mess of threads with knots all over the place.

Mark Terry 4/15/2008 01:28:00 PM  

Ooookkaaaayyyyy. Yeah, you really cleared that up for me. :)

lainey bancroft 4/15/2008 02:02:00 PM  

LOL, Spy. I've often said when I read your blog that I could have written the words, my focus must be tanking today because all I can do is tie your threads into bigger knots.

I'll just say Ditto to Mark's last comment. But remember, we are all liars, so... :)

spyscribbler 4/15/2008 03:35:00 PM  

ROFL, Mark and Lainey. That's pretty much how I feel when reading my words!

Actually, that's how I feel while writing. Or while doing my taxes. Or, you know what? Pretty much in general.


God, I can't wait until these stupid taxes are done. DH tried a different manner of bookkeeping last year.

I still love him. I think.

Christina 4/15/2008 04:27:00 PM  

Considering that I'm just starting out, I am really new with my conclusions. This was a great post. You pointed out things that I never thought of before.