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View Full Version : Writers don't get enough credit - an observation



Alpha Echo
09-28-2008, 05:19 AM
It's funny. I've always been a reader and writer. My mother and father both instilled in me a love for reading, and I've always had a love of stringing words together, manipulating the English language in order to create mood and tell a story.

My first two full-length novels came from things that happened in my own life.

Now, I'm exploring other things - human emotion and reaction that maybe I understand, but events that I don't.

What I mean is that writers are intelligent. We have to be.

If you're writing about adoption, you have to know the laws.

If you're writing about cancer, you have to know not only the emotional tolls it plays on the patient and the patient's family but also the medical terms and conditions, problems and side affects of chemo and radiation.

If you're writing about a crime, you have to undestand the legal definitions of that crime, police procedure, and very possibly the ups and downs of the judicial system. How does a lawyer choose who he wants on his jury? Why might a lawyer object to a statement? What is the purpose of that judge?

Politics. Sports. Hollywood. Anerexia. Teenage angst. Murder. Marriage. Divorce. Rape. Artificial insemination. Foreclosure. History. Travel. Technology. Alcholism. Gambling. Addiction.

As writers, we have to know more than just our characters.

And yet, I don't believe that those in the world that are NOT writers understand the wealth of knowledge that each author they enjoy must have.

I started this post by saying "It's funny." I guess what's funny is that I'm only now appreciating the intelligence that writers have. It's hard enough to put together a compelling story or informing article or gripping short. But writers must have at the very least a hunger for research and knowledge in order to make their writing REAL.

I don't really know what kind of responses I'm looking for - I just wanted to share my newly found appreciation.

It's a shame that the majority of the population has no idea what it takes to write.

Bubastes
09-28-2008, 05:22 AM
I agree, but I think it goes for a lot of creative endeavors. Many people look at rock stars and think playing music is easy as well. In both stories and concerts, the observers are only seeing the end product. They don't realize that it takes a LOT of hard work to make it look that easy!

If readers read your work and think it's effortless, consider it a compliment on your abilities to create a lovely illusion.

gypsyscarlett
09-28-2008, 02:50 PM
Oh, how true!
And Gawd forbid we get anything wrong. Agatha Christie used to complain how she'd get letters critiquing her intricate crime novels because she'd have a character eating an apple in a scene or something. And the fan had to point out that kind of apple wouldn't be in season then. (that's a made up example, but she got critiques of that nature)

FWIW- my WIP takes place in the 19th c. I am being very careful with dates. Making sure I don't show a character reading a novel which didn't come out yet. But I wonder if I'll describe a hairstyle and have a reader complain, "they didn't wear their hair like that in 1852! That came into vogue 1853!"

Hmm.. it's probably best for me not to put the exact year.

Thump
09-28-2008, 03:56 PM
In my first Editorial Management class, the first thing they told us what that if we were good editors, no one would know about our work. We're invisible. :(

Phaeal
09-28-2008, 05:11 PM
Research, gotta do it! For example, here I was zooming along on the planning of an urban fantasy short when I realized I needed to know something about:

-- Exactly where the original courses of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers were, as well as where their confluence with the Providence River was.

-- Timeline of the filling in of the Great Salt Cove in Providence.

-- Methods of water quality testing for shallow urban rivers.

Are there going to be more than a tiny handful of readers who might be able to call me on any of these things? No. But I need to know I'm getting it right, or I won't believe in the story, and then I'm likely to communicate my uncertainty. It may actually be that spec fic requires the most stringent attention to fact. You have to make the reader trust your veracity so she'll grant you the precious suspension of disbelief at your intended departures from reality.

And the above (several days of Web research and one technical book on urban planning from the library) was just for a short! I've already accumulated or located over fifty books to begin research on my 1688-1692 novel.

Thank God for Google and online book vendors.

I guess if you write nothing but stories based very closely on your own experiences, you can avoid research. Otherwise, things you need to know will always crop up.

GLAZE_by_KyrstinMc
09-28-2008, 05:17 PM
What annoys me is when people don't give anything about who wrote their favorite book.

For instance, a friend of mine is obsessed with the Twilight saga, I asked her about the author, her response, "Why should I care about her?"

Whenever I read a good book that I really enjoy, I always look up the author and respect them.

It seems to me that sometimes people don't even realize the author had anything to do with the book.

Maryn
09-28-2008, 05:22 PM
My pet peeve along this line is that a terrific screenplay or stage play is pretty much ignored. All the attention goes to the performers uttering the lines carefully crafted by the invisible writer, who gets neither the acclaim nor the big money.

Test yourself. Can you name ten screenwriters? Most people can't, including writers who love movies.

Maryn, sighing

vixey
09-28-2008, 05:37 PM
And the above (several days of Web research and one technical book on urban planning from the library) was just for a short! I've already accumulated or located over fifty books to begin research on my 1688-1692 novel.

Thank God for Google and online book vendors.

Can you imagine writing what we do without the internet? In Agatha Christie's day you'd think people would have cut her a break. It was 'fiction' after all.

I have to admit to getting annoyed when a modern writer makes a glaring mistake that could have easily been googled. Yes, we are smart. We have to be smart. I like the challenge of figuring out little details for accuracy's sake even though my reader may not give a rat's patootie.

To Maryn's point - the first screenwriter that came to mind was William Goldman. A prolific screenwriter, who consulted on many films, too. My son is in film school in CA studying screenwriting. Ask someone in that industry and they'll give you pages of names. Ask who they think are great screenwriters and the list shrinks to a handful. And no, I can't list ten and that's a shame.

GLAZE_by_KyrstinMc
09-28-2008, 05:54 PM
My pet peeve along this line is that a terrific screenplay or stage play is pretty much ignored. All the attention goes to the performers uttering the lines carefully crafted by the invisible writer, who gets neither the acclaim nor the big money.

Test yourself. Can you name ten screenwriters? Most people can't, including writers who love movies.

Maryn, sighing

I hear you, I myself always look to the director or writer for praise rather than the actors. The rest of the world already over-does their complements.

Phaeal
09-28-2008, 06:42 PM
For myself, I only hope the reader will love my work and remember my name long enough to buy my next book. He doesn't have to have the least interest in me as a person. The story's the thing.

I rarely seek any personal information on my favorite writers. If I happen to come across something, that's cool. What I DO like to know about any writer is how she works and how she went about getting published. The professional and artistic gossip. I thoroughly understand Stephen Mallory's astonishment (and salvation) when Howard Roark asks him to talk about himself, but not about his childhood, his family, the accidents of his life, but about what he THINKS, how he WORKS.

Mmmm, the good stuff.

As for movies, I often select them by director or screenwriter rather than by actors -- which means I have to get out my magnifying glass to read the fine print in the ads. My preference is always for a single screenwriter, rather than the hordes that Hollywood often brings in to "doctor" a script. The exception, true screenwriting teams like Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson. I also like to see a director who was involved with or actually wrote the screenplay. That's a strong indicator of overall integrity for the movie, and that the director is in love with his project. I rarely come away from this kind of movie without having gotten something out of it, whether I much cared for the subject matter or style or not.

Toothpaste
09-28-2008, 06:50 PM
To be honest I'm with Phaeal. Yes it is a nice thing if someone who likes a book then looks up the author, but really the book isn't about the author. If someone enjoys it they are under no obligation to do a google search and fawn over the author. It's about the story. I have read books that I know the titles to but cannot for the life of me remember the author. I don't consider it disrespect, I still loved the story.

That's the thing as an artist you can't expect anything from your audience, they owe you nothing. And liking your work? Well that's pretty much the top compliment isn't it?

(also totally agree about the single screenwriter thing, I so do that too! I don't trust many movies written by committee - and of course the LOTR crew are an exception, but that was hardly committee writing!)

Bubastes
09-28-2008, 06:57 PM
I agree with Phaeal and Toothpaste. I want to know how an author thinks and works, but that's about it. The story isn't about the author. It's also a good attitude to have when it comes to your own work -- when you remember that your story is NOT about you, it makes it easier to handle criticism and praise with the distance you need to keep improving your work. The moment it becomes personal, objectivity tends to go out the window.

tehuti88
09-28-2008, 07:04 PM
I sometimes wonder if some readers think writing comes about "magically" or easily or something, based on their responses. I put all my writing out there for free reading with the small request that I at least occasionally get feedback in return. I don't see it as an unfair request, considering all the work I put into this stuff and then offer for free. Almost everyone who's commented on it says they love it, but it seems like readers are incredibly hard pressed to bother responding at all. Every so often when I throw a (admittedly juvenile) fit about the lack of response and readers do finally reply, they always seem surprised that I was seeking any feedback at all. Well, cripes--I'm not doing all this work just for my health! Some reader reciprocation would be nice. Some writers are content with just putting out their work and if people like it, that's fine, but I'm not one of those; I appreciate SOME sort of feedback now and then, and I don't think it's too much to ask. (Re: As the artist being "owed nothing," it might be different if I were published and getting money, but I'm offering it all for free. I think if people are actually reading it then I'm owed something. That's just my opinion.)

Based on the scarcity of reader feedback though (despite insistence that the writing is good), I wonder if readers often fail to consider just how much work goes into the actual reading, research, planning/plotting, writing, revising/proofing, formatting, tying it all together, finishing, etc. etc. "Oh. I didn't know you wanted feedback!" (Never mind that I say clearly on just about everything I write that I do.) It always makes me want to pull my hair out. Do they think all these words are just appearing out of thin air? And that there isn't some frustrated, hardworking writer behind it all, wondering when somebody's going to offer feedback? It's quite disheartening, if so.

It's like the feeling I get when, at the end of a TV show, they squish the credits so much (so they can show more advertisements) that the viewer can't even read who's responsible for the writing and the bit acting parts and the technical aspects and music and all the important stuff. Those are the CREDITS--let people see them! It seems to indicate that all the people behind the creation of something don't matter; as long as you see the TV show (or get to read the story), who cares about the rest--the people who actually did all the hard work--right?

Yagh, major rantage! :o Sorry, it's just a sore spot of mine.

Toothpaste
09-28-2008, 08:09 PM
tehuti - I disagree. Just because you put something out there for free still does not mean anyone owes you anything. You chose to put your work out there, they didn't ask you to. They then read your work because you put it out there. Was there some kind of warning: "You are only allowed to read this if you give me comments"? Truly we are owed absolutely nothing. We are doing no one a "favour" by writing. Yes in our minds we want to write to entertain even educate, but it's a bit like the guy on the soap box pontificating in the park, or the busker on the street, just because they are putting something out there for free where I happen to be passing, does not mean I owe them anything. Yes it is very nice of me to stop and listen, to throw a few bucks into the musician's case. But I am under no obligation to, and I resent thinking I should be. In fact if I came across a site where there was work I could read for free, and then after reading it the author ranted at me for not leaving a comment, I for sure would not be coming back. That's why so many people are suspicious these days of getting something for nothing - they assume there must be some kind of catch.

As to your specific problem, I don't think it necessarily comes down to a lack of respect of writers that your feedback is so generic. I think many readers just don't go out to read things with a critical eye. They also might simply not have the vocabulary to express what they like and don't like about your work. Maybe if you asked specific questions, helped your readers to form the kind of analysis you are looking for, that might help. Something like, "What did you think of the pacing? Too fast, too slow, just right?" etc.

Lastly, the credits thing. As artists we have a right to have our work credited to us. So we have credits at the end of movies, and our names on the cover of our books. We have been given the proper accreditation. We do not have the right to make sure others acknowledge our existence, or even pay attention to these credits. It is the polite thing to do, it is the nice and respectful thing to do. But it is a favour given us, it is the wonderful extra. People are under no obligation to do that, and to be honest I have found that some people who do are actually quite hypocritical. Yes they will sit through the credits, but they won't read every single name that goes by, they may even chat throughout them. But they have sat there where others walked out of the theatre so that makes them a better person for it. Yeah, whatever.

Of course we want people to respect us for our work. But that is secondary, in my opinion, to them respecting the work itself. Truly as far as I am concerned, as an author I am content that people have read my stuff. Getting fan mail is a wonderful extra, and totally makes my day. But it does because it's special, it's unexpected.

SPMiller
09-28-2008, 08:27 PM
There was never a time when many people got Renaissance educations, despite the popular concept of the "Renaissance man". The vast majority of people didn't get educations at all, at least not until the Industrial Revolution. At that time, as now, specialization was the path to money for the average person.

Today, even cross-discipline folks can't focus on more than a handful of subjects. Why? Because humanity has accumulated so much knowledge. Each discipline may have fairly narrow scope, but the depth is immense. There's simply not enough time in a human life anymore to delve deeply into more than a few things.

Therefore, writers end up with a vast breadth of knowledge, but it's superficial. Some writers choose to be jacks-of-all-trades, masters-of-none.

I, however, chose to be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-one. Within my academic discipline, I can do things no average writer can pick up from casual research. And if they can, they're probably smart enough to research a cure for cancer and should get right on that.

Other writers have also chosen this path. But I don't think either one necessarily deserves more credit than the other. I'm just pointing out that writing, all by itself, is a rather limiting path.

Cranky
09-28-2008, 08:38 PM
There was never a time when many people got Renaissance educations, despite the popular concept of the "Renaissance man". The vast majority of people didn't get educations at all, at least not until the Industrial Revolution. At that time, as now, specialization was the path to money for the average person.

Today, even cross-discipline folks can't focus on more than a handful of subjects. Why? Because humanity has accumulated so much knowledge. Each discipline may have fairly narrow scope, but the depth is immense. There's simply not enough time in a human life anymore to delve deeply into more than a few things.

Therefore, writers end up with a vast breadth of knowledge, but it's superficial. Some writers choose to be jacks-of-all-trades, masters-of-none.

I, however, chose to be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-one. Within my academic discipline, I can do things no average writer can pick up from casual research. And if they can, they're probably smart enough to research a cure for cancer and should get right on that.

Other writers have also chosen this path. But I don't think either one necessarily deserves more credit than the other. I'm just pointing out that writing, all by itself, is a rather limiting path.

Yup. I always refer to myself as a fount of useless knowledge. I know a lot of weird things about a lot of different topics, but there are only one or two areas that I would consider myself "expert" in. *shrug* That's okay with me. I always win at Trivial Pursuit. Just don't ask me to write a dissertation on any of the stuff that comes up during the game!

Darzian
09-28-2008, 08:41 PM
If someone likes my story, is thrilled when reading it and anxiously awaits the ending, then that is all I need from them. Satisfaction.

SPMiller
09-28-2008, 08:44 PM
Yup. I always refer to myself as a fount of useless knowledge. I know a lot of weird things about a lot of different topics, but there are only one or two areas that I would consider myself "expert" in. *shrug* That's okay with me. I always win at Trivial Pursuit. Just don't ask me to write a dissertation on any of the stuff that comes up during the game!Hi Cranky :)

I'll totally play you, as long as it isn't one of those pop-culture-oriented versions. I'm helpless at those.

Phaeal
09-28-2008, 09:32 PM
I think that a lot of people who write fan fiction and original web-posted fiction consider feedback their payment. Unreasonable? I don't think so, but hey, my favorite adage from the Bhagavad-Gita still applies:

You have a right to work. You don't have a right to the fruits of work.

My personal procedure. If I read any Web fic all the way through, I always comment. Since I do crits all the time, I usually am able to find something positive to mention (I don't give "constructively negative" comments unless I'm doing a requested beta or critique). It's true that most casual readers aren't used to critting. But anyone can write, "I liked it," and in doing so, he will garner a karma point.

Hey, why throw karma away? ;)

Note: Begging for feedback (attention) is a karma-drainer. Ask once, nicely, then let it go. This applies to all aspects of life.

Cranky
09-28-2008, 10:46 PM
Hi Cranky :)

I'll totally play you, as long as it isn't one of those pop-culture-oriented versions. I'm helpless at those.

Darn. There goes my plans for a new drinking game! :D

Mikey B
09-28-2008, 10:52 PM
As for movies, I often select them by director or screenwriter rather than by actors -- which means I have to get out my magnifying glass to read the fine print in the ads. My preference is always for a single screenwriter, rather than the hordes that Hollywood often brings in to "doctor" a script. The exception, true screenwriting teams like Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson. I also like to see a director who was involved with or actually wrote the screenplay. That's a strong indicator of overall integrity for the movie, and that the director is in love with his project. I rarely come away from this kind of movie without having gotten something out of it, whether I much cared for the subject matter or style or not.

You may look for a single name, but rest assured, for the most part, there's been several people, sometimes into the double-digits that have put their own stamps on that script. Rarely does a script come from one person, without being touched up by a (several) other writers that get no credit whatsoever.

I'd like to add one of my personal films is Chinatown and that was 'almost' completely done by Robert Towne. Of course Polanski had a hand in guiding the script and making sure the ending that's in the film stuck. But, that's a rare case, especially nowadays when studios think they know what sells. Is that why the box-office has been so dire lately? :(

SPMiller
09-29-2008, 12:29 AM
Darn. There goes my plans for a new drinking game! :DIf you set up the rule as wrong answer = take a drink, I'd be smashed in under thirty minutes.

vixey
09-29-2008, 12:34 AM
If you set up the rule as wrong answer = take a drink, I'd be smashed in under thirty minutes.

How many wrong answers would that be?

SPMiller
09-29-2008, 12:36 AM
How many wrong answers would that be?Since I'd probably be taking double-shots of booze... more than enough.