Please excuse any mess around here while blog is undergoing damage repair.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Where does the fire come from?

As I mentioned yesterday, last weekend, I read two books on the craft of writing by literary agent Donald Maass: Writing The Breakout Novel and The Fire In Fiction. Both were excellent reads, but I'm going to focus these discussion on The Fire In Fiction. In this book, Mr. Maass points out that there are no truly original ideas. "Every novel has antecedents. Every author has influences. It is impossible to be wholly original; even so, some novels feel fresh and shake us with their insight." So, if this is true, what makes the difference? Look carefully at that quote. Mr. Maass states that 'Every author has influences.' That, my friends, is where the fire comes from. It doesn't come from the plot, the characters, the setting, or the voice. It comes from the author's passions, which have developed over time because of life experiences. How do we find that passion within ourselves and transfer it to our writing? This is exactly what Mr. Maass answers in The Fire In Fiction. He talks about two types of writers: the status seekers and the storytellers. The status seekers start out with all kinds of passion, the main goal being publication. They settle for good enough. This kind of passion fizzles out over time. The storyteller, on the other hand, has one goal at heart: making his novel the best it can be, and each successive one even better than the last. This passion never goes away. I think, it's possible to be a little of both. Don't most of us writers dream of the day we will be published? Of course we do. But this can't be our only motivation. We have to strive to become better, stronger writers, and we have to be passionate about the art of writing, not just about the dream of publication. I'm guilty of being a status seeker at times, but I want nothing more than to be a storyteller. What about you? What kind of writer do you want to be?

46 comments:

Tamika: said...

Susan, you are making me want to go grab my copy and storm through it!

My dream would be to be a great storyteller. I love reading so much, always have. I want to evoke the same emotions in readers.

Publication is a definite goal. I have to constantly pray and ask God to keep me content even if my writing never reaches the successes I hope for, but I fully believe that they will.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I want to be a storyteller. That's what I hope I am too. I do really want to be published. Sometimes I get really down on myself for not making it that far yet. Then I have to remember that I'm never doing it for status/glory... and that God's timing is perfect!

The authors I'm passionate about definitely influence me to. Have you noticed that about your writing as well?

Sherry Dale Rogers said...

My ultimate goal is to be a good storyteller, my children agree. But I can't say that I dont dream about my novels being on bookshelves waiting for all those wonderful children to explore.

A little of both is a perfect mix.

Also I want a pair of those shoes, they are on fire. He He.

Patti said...

A friend told me once that someone could steal your idea, but they would have a completely different book because they write differently.

I want to be the kind of writer that becomes a better writer with book and I love it when people stay up late to read what I've written.

Natalie said...

I think I am both. We probably all are (at least a little). I do love telling stories though and I love the rush that writing a new story gives me. I don't love revising though, so I'm not sure I'm as focused on making my story the best it can be as I should be. I definitely believe in making it "good enough."

Matthew Delman said...

I'm definitely more on the storyteller end of things rather than the status seeker. I don't think any of us don't want to see our names on the shelf, but it's OK with me if I never hit that goal (I'm confident I'm going to, which isn't the point though).

Telling a story for the sake of telling a story is, I feel, the best reason to be a writer.

Karilynnlove said...

I'm definitely a storyteller! And I love it!
My boyfriend actually has those shoes, by the way!

Angie Muresan said...

I would say that I'm a little of both, but mostly a storyteller. Need to get myself a copy of these books you keep mentioning.

Kristi Faith said...

I definitely want to be the one that writes books that no one can put down and that they see different and improved stories with each book. I do love writing, I love the rush of the words flowing into a legitimate story. :)

Great Post!!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I want to grow as a writer and get better every day--for myself but also for someone reading my work. I don't need to be a "best seller" but I do need to be a good "storyteller".
Good post!

Robyn Campbell said...

OKAY! I'm curling up with my copy and rereading it tonight. :) Great post and very revealing to me. I know that I want to tell marvelous stories and I want to sell lots of books. Though, I don't have to be a JK. But I do want people to enjoy reading my books. Thanks Susan. I'll let you know what I get out of rereading it tomorrow. :)

L. T. Host said...

I hope I'm both. The story and the status both matter to me, the story more so, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered telling it in the first place.

strugglingwriter said...

I want to be published, so as many people as possible can read my stories.

"In this book, Mr. Maass points out that there are no truly original ideas." Very true. I hope nobody gets discouraged if somebody else has used "their idea". You can still make the idea original.

Wendy Sparrow said...

A storyteller and an entertainer. I don't want to write great lit, but interesting stories about people that get in your head and stay there. I'd rather not be famous actually because that opens too many chances for criticism. I'd rather just have readers that care about the characters in my head and books.

Karen said...

A storyteller, of course. I mean, it would be nice to be rich and famous and go on Oprah and attend premieres of films based on my novels. But that's not the goal. That's the dream. The goal is just to write something that someone thinks is worth reading. That's why I write my blog. That's why I'm still working on writing this novel.

Lily Robinson said...

Those words hit home. My passion comes from life experiences... my own and my BF's.

staceyjwarner said...

My passion is to tell a great story. I was a status seeker when I wrote screenplays but now that I'm writing prose, I care more about the story.

Now the work is finding my voice...I know that without passion, telling a great story, getting the reader involved deeply by my writing, my story will never get publish.

With that being said I'm writing whaat I've coined as "bubble gum on the beach" and I'm still reconciling that...LOL!

Terri Tiffany said...

Thank you for this post--I've been struggling with my decision to change a book genre just for the sake of publication knowing it would change the story as well. I think God has been speaking to me through all of you. So I am a storyteller all the way!

Stephanie said...

I agree with Kristi:

"I definitely want to be the one that writes books that no one can put down and that they see different and improved stories with each book. I do love writing, I love the rush of the words flowing into a legitimate story."

The writing is first...it always will be, but publication is important to me because I need to share my stories with the world. I am not content writing them just for myself.

Julie Dao said...

I'm ashamed to say that I have a lot of the "status seeker" in me. I would give a great deal to see my work get published and be respected for what I write, but at the end of the day, I am in love with storytelling. Always have been and always will be. It's what keeps me coming back to it again and again. I hope I can focus more on being a storyteller and loving what I do!

Diane said...

Great contrasts! Gives me a lot to think about and fuel up my passions. :O)

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I hope that I am mostly storyteller, but I can't lie and say I don't desire publication. However, I don't want that so much for "fame and fortune" (although I wouldn't turn that down.) I get excited at the thought of other people reading my stories and getting enjoyment out of it.

Dominique said...

First of all, I'd like to say that those shoes in the pic are flipping awesome!

I hope that I'm a story teller. That mainly feels like what I'm doing, telling the story that appears in my head. They don't even feel like they're mine. They feel like they're my character's.

Heather Sunseri said...

I definitely want to be a storyteller, but I want to be published so someone other than myself can enjoy the stories. And if I could quit my day job in order to tell more brilliant stories, well... I'll take it.

Suzyhayze said...

Oh the story. It's all about the story. The yarn. The sit on your porch and waste the day away kind.

Texas Playwright Chick said...

I've got to pick up that book - I'm hitting Amazon as soon as I'm done with this comment...about what a great post! I'm definitely a storyteller - in fact, I make my actual living as a real live storyteller performer. I was an actor before a playwright. But, as an actor...and as a playwright, I WANT to tell stories! Status will come or not, who knows...but be passionate about the stories you're telling. My two cents! ;)

Amy Tate said...

DiCamillo said that all of us stand on the shoulders of giants. Touche.

Melanie's Randomness said...

Excellent point. I try my hardest to be the storyteller cuz I don't want to the passion to fade away.

Thank u for the comments the past few posts, it's meant alot. You've got status to me. =)

Jade said...

I'm storyteller, especially after a few drinks! Of course I'd love to be published, but nothing thrills me more then someone telling me that they liked something I wrote. Plus, I'd never want to publish something I wasn't proud of.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

First and foremost the storyteller.

MG Higgins said...

I've just finished writing my fifth novel and none are yet published, but the fire is still there--I'm excited every time I sit down to write and I want every novel to be better than the last. So I guess I'm a storyteller. And I agree with you that most of us are probably both, because I sure want to be published!

La Fleur said...

Being published is a fanciful dream to me. So I focus on what I set out to do before delusions of grandeur clouded my thoughts and skewed my focus... To tell Lela's and Josephine's story. So that is what I do. ;-)

storyqueen said...

storyteller all the way. See, I know what it is like to be published, and it's cool, don't get me wrong, but the best part of writing is the writing.

Shelley

#167 Dad said...

It takes time. We get a little better with every poem, song, story or book that we gut out.
Writing is the most imprtant thing.
I'm begining to think the publishing part will happen when the time is right.
Emily Dickenson didn't publish much if anything at all during her living years.

Leah Rubin said...

I want to be the kind of writer that makes readers think or feel something new, something deeper than they have before. I would like to write fiction that brings characters to life, and tell stories that touch a person's heart.

Tabitha Bird said...

I am a die hard story teller. And if publication ceased to exist I would still be story telling :)

Erica said...

I agree with you. I'm a little of both. I just love your honesty! Your posts are really genuine:)

I just love Maass's books too. I really can't say it enough. I so want to read that one. I've started, "The Career Novelist," and so far that is a good one too.

I don't think I will ever lose my passion for writing, It's the one thing I've been able to stick with in my life...

WhisperingWriter said...

I'm a storyteller for sure. I just love to write. I always have, for as long as I can remember.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I wrote my first novel because I had a story that had to be told. And I want to be published because I want everyone to know about this amazing woman that lived so long ago, one who's gotten a bad rap for 3,500 years. So I guess I'm a little bit of both.

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cassandra Frear said...

Interesting book. I will have to take a look at it.

Janna Qualman said...

That's brilliant! Thanks for sharing this point, because as I think about it, I realize I do want to be insightful with my writing. In fact, that may be one of the higher up driving factors for me.

I have Maass' first book, but not The Fire in Fiction. I'm putting it on my list! So many people have talked about it lately.

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

First time here. I just found you through Stacey's blog and i'm glad i did.
I am following your interesting blog now.
I had to delete my previous comment, because i thought i shouldn't ask for someone anything even if that could make me glad.
So,i am sorry for the inconvenience:(
Have a great time!

Solvang Sherrie said...

I was telling stories long before I knew what being published meant so I hope I'm still doing that: telling stories that other people want to hear.

Glynis said...

I have a fire that burns within, I want to see my book on my coffee table. Whether I get published or self-publish, that is my dream.
I gained the inspiration for my work from a murderer. I often think if he had not existed, what I would have written about.