Saturday, August 21, 2010
Does Your Writing Career Have an Expiration Date?
We all live in a state of potential. Yes, every moment we make choices that transmute the potential into fact and action--a thing realized. Even with these choices, the potential to be different and do things differently remains constant.
This summer the New Yorker published a list of "20 Under 40," writers showing the promise or potential to give the world literature that endures. Articles, commenting on the writers selected and the usefulness of the age 40 as the metaphorical finish line to this potential or promise, soon followed the revelation of this list.
I recommend reading this essay, "How Old Can a 'Young Writer' Be?" by Sam Tanenhaus. He takes a fairly balanced look at what it means to be a "young writer" or a master writer at the height of their craftsmanship.
I believe that a person's potential is endless not inversely related to one's age. If you haven't written your great work, published it and had it widely recognized by the age of 39, don't fret. There's always tomorrow--until you take your last breath. Art is an endeavor of endurance, so persevere.
A great plot does not ensure the success of a story. The plot captures a reader's imagination as they review the blurb on the back of the paperback; the characters living the plot keep them reading. As readers, we want to know what happened to the people in the story, how they felt and what they did. Some of us even want to be someone else for a few hours. That only happens when well developed characters populate a story.
Take some time to make a list of your favorite characters. Then analyze what made them work. How did the author introduce them? What bits of information and habits were shared and how were they revealed? Next, take a look at the characters in your writing. Is there enough there to draw the reader in--to pique their interest or emotions--and keep them reading even if your plot should hit a slow spot?
Check out this interview with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni at Women on Writing. She talks a great deal about how her characters influenced the shape of her novel. Here's a take away tip from the interview: She kept a notebook of the details she wanted to use to develop each of nine characters in her book, One Amazing Thing.
Obviously, I am a bibliophile. I love books and when I received an email from the Very Short List about Five Books, I was hooked. This site is great to get reading recommendations about an eclectic collection of topics. Think of it as a fun syllabus for the writing life. As writers, we're perpetual learners. You never know which information may prove useful as you pursue different projects.
I also discovered Book Glutton this week. Read, share, publish, make annotations to books you're reading or have read and discuss books all online. There are popular as well as public domain books available on this site.
On My Bookshelf