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 Ernest Hemingway Message Boards : The Writing Room
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hijo
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Posted: 14 April 2006 at 10:22pm | IP Logged Quote hijo

Mark: Don't worry about someone else having written a similar theme/book, as long as you write it the way you imagine it.

I haven't read "Ordinary Men," so I can't (and wouldn't presume to anyway) answer for docnme.

But I'd also suggest you do read "Ironweed," if you haven't yet. I'm not talking about seeing the movie, which was also quite well done (starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson). To me, the ending of the book is what makes it so powerful - the answer to the questions you find yourself asking throughout the whole thing.

I didn't mean to make you feel a bit defensive - and hope I didn't - when I asked your age. Age doesn't necessarily have much to do with maturity, but the subject you're dealing with - criminals versus "average" folks, hope versus loss, endings versus beginnings, gray-areas of ethics/morals - are all subjects that require a kind of maturity to be written well.

That doesn't mean you don't have that maturity, or wealth of experience, to be able to do it. It just means you're going to need to draw on all that is you and write honestly as opposed to how you might think you should do it.

I've never ridden the train in a Philadelphia suburb, but I've ridden subways in a lot of cities, and I can tell you they are not necessarily the same as other trains. For one thing, they're mostly underground (which is why they're called sub-ways), meaning there's limited access/egress once the train is in motion, and if it stops for any reason in a tunnel. For another thing, they're mostly all electric, requiring an electrified rail to maintain motion. At times, the rails hit "dead spots" where power is lost briefly, for whatever reason (weather, wear, etc). All the lights in the train go off. It doesn't matter if it's day or night outside. It's dark in the car, and the air conditioning also goes off. On a summer day or night, when people who don't have airconditioning at home ride the subways to keep cool, and maybe sleep, they get really stuffy really fast and it's enough to make tempers flare as well as fears.

The people who ride them, especially late at night, often are people with no other means of transportation, and jobs that require them to travel at those times (as opposed to just kids or groups just riding around for something to do). They do, of course, also contain such gangs or groups, or individuals, and someone looking to do someone - anyone - else harm could pick a far worse spot for a crime than a subway car. Except perhaps at times in New York where undercover cops ride frequently.

I'm not suggesting you have to "wait around your whole life for things to happen," but you might consider talking to, say, cops on the trains or 30-ish men who've lost everything to get the "feel" of what you want to put your story about right and wrong around.

Anyway, I've given enough unnecessary advice. Keep me posted on how it goes. It sounds like a great idea for a book.

I wrote my first novel at 17, by the way. It didn't go anywhere, but it was a start. Biggest problem you might face is that, assuming you get the thing written the way you want it, regardless of what happens with it you'll already be working on another one...:)

Lastly: if you lack experience because of your age, don't "wait around for things to happen." Talk to people. Meet people. Get a job where you meet people. Go places. Do things. Live. Learn.

If you write a book based on what you know, and what you feel, and how or why you feel the way you do about what you know and how you came to know it, nobody else can ever write that book.

Best,
hijo

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TLSanders
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Posted: 14 April 2006 at 10:50pm | IP Logged Quote TLSanders



Personally, mine doesn't fit any category I've read descriptions of, though it has elements of several. What category to place it in ultimately (as in who might publish it and why) strikes me as the agent's responsibility. Your responsibility is to write something the agent thinks they can sell, and let them go on from there.

Hijo, I have to disagree with this to some extent.  Well, not with the words, precisely, but with the idea that the division is that simple.  Different agents have relationships with publishers and divisions and editors based on the genres that they usually work with.  That means that finding the right agent to represent your book necessarily involves some analysis of where that book might ultimately be sold. 
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MarkCianfrani2
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Posted: 14 April 2006 at 10:53pm | IP Logged Quote MarkCianfrani2

Your advice has been far from unnecessary. You've been incredible helpful. Also, I hope I didn't come off as offended about the age question, I wasn't at all. Thank you, again for all your help.
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TLSanders
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Posted: 14 April 2006 at 10:55pm | IP Logged Quote TLSanders

Mark:

I haven't been on the boards for a few weeks and just read several of your posts. 

WRITE SOMETHING ELSE

Seriously.  You're pushing so hard on this one idea, and working so much at construction and research and "how should I...?" kinds of questions, that it sounds like you've created some huge blocks for yourself.  Put it away. Write something else--a short story, the first three chapters of an entirely different novel that you might never finish, a book of poetry, anything. 

Then, when you're back in the rhythm of writing instead of sorting out the mechanics, when your head is in words and expression, come back to this and you might be surprised.

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hijo
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Posted: 14 April 2006 at 11:18pm | IP Logged Quote hijo

Tiffany: on agents - yes, and no.

If you're writing something for a particular market where you hope to sell it, yes. Agents list the types of books they represent, and the types of books they're interested in representing.

But if you're writing something you want to write, the way you want to write it, query agents who say they represent "literary" fiction, which tends to broadly include good writing that presents something fresh.

Unfortunately, I'm prejudiced. I think people who want to write all want to write "literature," which lasts at least 100 years - not just books to be published to make money.

That's what Hemingway did, and what he set out to do. Of course, the marketing categories were probably much broader and the amount of them was probably fewer. And if Robert McAlmon never published him, and if F. Scott never saw his writing, and if Bonni & Liveright never saw his writing...in a way, F.Scott helped Hemingway like a good agent. He recommended him to a publisher's editor he knew...

The agent's job ultimately is go-between, or marketer - someone who contacts publishers (hopefully who already knows what publishers are looking for what) with their clients' latest thing. They make money off of what they can sell, not what they produce, so selling is definitely an incentive to them. Kind of like a real estate broker, who finds homes for people and makes a commission on the sale of the house.

I'm talking about finding an agent - which I've done a few times now - not selling a book. I've had agents recommend I write a certain kind of book to get published. I've had one ex-wife do the same thing.

Best,
hijo
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docnme
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Posted: 15 April 2006 at 5:20pm | IP Logged Quote docnme

Hi Mark,

Glad that you took a look at the book, just to see what I mean by( ordinary men) the same thing that you mean I think. NOT that someone had written the same thing, but when people read about the Brownshirts-Blackshirts etc. and what they carried out-"The Final Solution," they think those men must have been monsters or some deranged lunatics also, but they were ordinary men, who did unspeakable things. That was the point that I was tryiing to make.

Best of everything,

docnme



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