Showing posts from August, 2010

La agonía del cuento

El cuento está muerto. El cuento ha pedido la extremaunción. El cuento agoniza. Un espectro persigue a la industria editorial: el espectro del cuento. El cuento no vende. Con los libros de cuentos, se pierden el tiempo del autor y los recursos de la editorial. Publicar cuentos es una mala idea.

Argumentos como estos resuenan todos los días. Una de las colecciones más ambiciosas de cuentos en español publicadas recientemente, los cuatro volúmenes de Pequeñas resistencias, recoge muchos testimonios de esta situación crítica. Por ejemplo, en el primer volumen, el escritor Felipe Navarro dice que “sólo somos los cuentistas quienes nos leemos unos a otros” (p. 412). Casi todos los editores de los distintos volúmenes repitieron ideas semejantes: a los cuentistas les dan la espalda en las editoriales, es difícil que un cuentista profesional se mantenga.De hecho, Pequeñas resistencias empezó como un proyecto en defensa del cuento, con todo y manifiesto.
Puede que las visiones pesimista…

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind

In this allegedly secular age of ours, where the fantasy genre begets bestselling novels on vampires, zombies, wizards, and their ilk, how likely would it be to produce a massive bestseller on a strictly Christian subject? Say you’re a literary agent and someone sends a query letter about a book on the end of days: Christians around the world vanish, and nonbelievers are left to rummage through the chaos. Well, if you turned it down back in the early nineties, your gums would be numb now from biting your elbows. Because that’s the novel Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins wrote as Left Behind (Wheaton, Illinois, 1995; 468 pp.), and the series that novel spawned had sold 40,000,000 copies by 2001. No, that’s not a typo (it’s up to 63 million now). I’ve said that this year I’ll write about bestselling novels, so here’s another one.
The story follows Rayford Steele, an airplane pilot, and Cameron (“Buck”) Williams, a prestigious journalist, as each of them deals with the consequences of the R…

Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb, Your First Novel

Your First Novel (Cincinnati, 2006; 298 pp.) is actually two books in one. The first is written by Laura Whitcomb, a novelist, and it covers the whole range from inspiration to craft and revisions. It does go through everything that’s important, even if briefly. But, in contrast to other books on craft (most notably, Gardner’s), the first half of Your First Novel is written with even the most inexperienced of authors in mind. This means that Whitcomb reaches down, with a Sistine strain, to people who are completely new to writing.
This is great if that describes you. You’ll get the kind of buffet you need to survey the field. (Even then, something like Writing Fiction will serve as a day-to-day guide you’ll want to keep handy.) Plus, in Whitcomb’s section, you’ll find some positive advice on inspiration, and several reading suggestions. However, if you’re more familiar with writing, and particularly with literature on craft, you may find little more than scattered bits to knead into wh…

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Say you’re reading John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and you find that he says that our taste in literature is conditioned by “the nature of our mortality” (55). Weird. You check the cover, and there it is indeed: the art of fiction. The comment seems out of place. Now say you’re reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (New York, 1995; 238 pp.), also a book on writing, and you come across this sentence: “My deepest belief is that to live as if we’re dying can set us free” (125). Reaction: oh, okay, nice insight. The difference is context. And the subtitle of Lamott’s book: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Those last two words you must bear in mind when you read the book. Bird by Bird is one of most unusual volumes on writing, and also one of the most enjoyable. On the first half, Lamott goes through some of the most salient features of craft: character, dialogue (“One line of dialogue that rings true reveals character in a way that pages of description can’t” [47]), plot (“Any plot yo…

2010 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market

If you recognize the cover of this book, don’t read on. I’ve posted comments on other books on craft, so you might turn to those instead (here). Why? Because I don’t mean to preach to the choir. If you’re familiar with the book, these short comments will be unnecessary, even ingénue.
I’m posting them for another kind of person, one who has been inebriated with writing for a while, but has not realized how important it is to master the business aspect of writing. You may think it’s all about the words, about crafting that perfect story and later that perfect novel. These will automatically unfurl a red carpet on which you can promenade or which you can studiously avoid in order to become a Pynchonesque figure somewhere, racking up royalties. That may be true for a handful of people. But while you craft the perfect piece of writing, keep in mind that you also have to reach publishers through a perfect cover or query letter, put together a perfect pitch for an agent, lure readers that hav…