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Monday, February 22, 2010

Where does the fire come from? (RE-POST)

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 discussions 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?

20 comments:

Cassandra Frear said...

This is a good question. It's tricky because we always write for someone else. Otherwise, we'd just scribble in private diaries. This means we need readers.

But at the same time, there needs to be a larger vision than the one of self-promotion. Without a meaningful life, we will wither or burn out.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

I'm completely with you, Susan. I'm a little of both. I'd love to craft stories the way my favorite authors do. Achieving storyteller status with each passing day, each new story.

But I'm in the midst of my first novel. And I'm sure I'll look back one day and think it was only "good enough." But I still hope it's "good enough for publication"! :o)

Tara said...

I'm also a little of both.

I want to be published--I want to be able to yell from the rooftops that I've finally done it. But, ultimately, it's because I want to share my stories with others and keep making new ones along the way. For a long time. Like the the rest of my life long.

Robyn Campbell said...

Hey Susan! I've missed my pal. How are you? Sorry about the computer issues. I hope they are all cleared up.

And you are right. I gained a little something else today that I hadn't before. I realized that I have influence over my story. I had never really thought about that the first time we discussed this book. Thanks Susan. =) Here's hoping you are able to write and write well this week. =)

Laura Pauling said...

A published storyteller. :)

Bethany Mattingly said...

Both for me. I'd love to say I'm a published author but for me the story is just as critical.

Angela said...

I have not read this book by Maass, but I'm a huge fan of his. Now I can't wait to read The Fire in Fiction!

Dara said...

I think I'm like you too--a little of both. I know the storytelling gene definitely comes from my father. He doesn't write, but boy, can he tell a story (even if he embellishes it quite a deal). I hope to become a "published storyteller" :)

Tamika: said...

I still need to read Writing the Breakout Novel! Like you, I love Fire in Fiction, it fans my writing flames everyday.

Carolyn V. said...

I would love to become published, but writing in itself is an adventure.

Angie Muresan said...

I have finally read the book as well. It was sitting there on my nightstand and beckoning me, but until you reminded me of it last week, I kept putting it off.
I want to be a storyteller, of course.

Danyelle said...

I want to be a storyteller. I do want to be published, but I would keep on writing regardless of whether that happens or not. It's the only way to get my characters to shut up. :p

Mrsblogalot said...

I think I'm more the storyteller with the a little secret status seeker on the side. There is nothing that moves me more than telling the story but I would, of course, love others to read the story I've written. So, i guess, I'm a mix or a mess, however you want to look at it (-:

Sarah Simas said...

I'm so gald you re-posted this series. I'm looking forward to catching up. I hope you're productivity meter is off the charts right now. :)

I would say I'm definitely a mix between the two. I think you're right saying it's ok to have a mix. "Getting into the mix" and "building a platform" are all things we're told to do, well, to do that you've got to be a little bit of a status seeker. Same thing with writing, if we weren't storytellers, we wouldn't be writing! :o)

Elana Johnson said...

I think you hit on it at the end. We want to be both. Would I keep writing if I never thought I could be published? Maybe. I want to tell stories, but I want to have other people enjoy them too. So I'm both.

Jungle Mom said...

I would love to be published because I truly feel that I have a story to tell! I need to add this book to my wish list!

paulgreci said...

The ideas that I've turned into full manuscripts are the ones that I've felt most passionate about. And yes, I hope to be published but I can't imagine putting my heart into a story that I didn't feel that passion for.

Erica said...

Definitely both! A nice middle ground is where I'd like to be ;o) Love this series - nice to see it being posted again!

jenheadjen said...

What an interesting distinction! I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. I think the successful ones who stick around over time are the true storytellers. Quite the gift!

Romance Queen said...

After writing for more than thirty years, I would agree wholeheartedly! Thanks, Jen, for guiding me to this great post! Keep up the good work,Susan!
Anita