Worship of the Shepherds, by Bronzio. Public Domain.
AND it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
Have you seen this article on A Wrinkle in Time? I hadn’t realized how much loathing the manuscript generated when Madeline L’Engle’s agent sent it to publishers.
Publishers hated it. Every firm her agent turned to rejected the manuscript. One advised to “do a cutting job on it—by half.” Another complained “it’s something between an adult and juvenile novel.” Finally, a friend advised L’Engle to send it to one of the most prestigious houses of all, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. John Farrar liked the manuscript. A test reader he gave it to, though, was unimpressed: “I think this is the worst book I have ever read, it reminds me of TheWizard of Oz.” Yet FSG acquired it, and Hal Vursell, the book’s editor, talked it up in letters he sent to reviewers: “It’s distinctly odd, extremely well written,” he wrote to one, “and is going to make greater intellectual and emotional demands on 12 to 16 year olds than most formula fiction for this age group.”
It’s been a long while since I read it, but the book left a strong impression on me. I was so young that I didn’t grasp that the opening line was a cliché, but I appreciated Meg not fitting in at school and I liked the way Meg’s mother was able to be a practicing scientist who still had a strong faith.
I’m not quite confident about the movie that’s coming out. The “witches” don’t look anything like the characters in the book. Even as a child, I knew that they weren’t really witches, and while they might be intimidating they weren’t scary. So I’m not sure why Oprah’s had that makeover.
On the other hand, maybe the movie is like the book in that you have to take a chance and trust it to lead you in the direction it wants to go. I think so many publishers turned the book down because it didn’t conform with their expectations of what a children’s book should be. So I’m thinking I’ll watch this move even if it doesn’t conform with my expectations of what it should be.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[b] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[c
Turns out you don’t need to think up new ideas for books.
There’s a website that you can use to craft a plot for a romance novel: Romance Plot Generator. They even write a blurb for you. Yes, you still have to sit down and write the pesky book, they don’t do that part for you, but at least you’ve got a plot!
For that matter, you don’t have to actually write the book. There are ads on KBoards and such for romance novel ghost writers. You give them a basic plot, and they write the book for you in a few weeks. Between the plot generator and ghost writers, you could outsource the whole process of writing altogether.
It was fun to enter in some random adjectives and see a whole blurb come out the other side, complete with review comments and a book cover.
I can see someone using a plot generator like this one as a writing prompt that can help get them started. Not sure you’d get a book that would be very interesting. A good book starts with an idea that excites a writer, or intrigues them, or just plain reaches out, grabs the writer by the throat and says “Write Me. Now.”
That’s my opinion, anyway. Douglas Adams had a different take on it.
The story goes that I first had the idea for The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck (or ‘Spain’ as the BBC TV publicity department authoritatively has it, probably because it’s easier to spell).
Apparently I was hitch-hiking around Europe at the time, and had a copy of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Europe … with me at the time. I didn’t have Europe On (as it was then) Five Dollars A Day because I simply wasn’t in that kind of financial league.
My condition was brought on not so much by having had too much to drink, as much as having had a bit to drink and nothing to eat for two days. So as I lay there in this field, the stars spun lazily around my head, and just before I nodded off, it occurred to me that someone ought to write a Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well.
… However, I wouldn’t like to create the impression that all a writer has to do is sit in a field cramming himself with a couple of Stella Artoises whereupon a passing idea will instantly pounce on him, and then it’s all over the bar typing. An idea is only an idea.
An actual script, on the other hand, is hundreds of ideas bashed around, screwed up, thrown into the bin, fished out of the bin an hour later and folded up into thick wads and put under the leg of the table to stop it wobbling. And then the same again for the next line, and the next, and so on, until you have a whole page or the table finally keels over.
The problem is you can’t go and rave it up in a field every time you need an idea, so you just have to sit there and think of the little bastards. And if you can’t think of them you just have to sit there. Or think of an excuse for doing something else. That’s quite easy. I’m very good at thinking of reasons for suddenly having a quick bath or a Bovril sandwich. Which is why truthful explanations of how writers get ideas tend to be rather dull:
I sat and stared out of the window for a while, trying to think of a good name for a character. I told myself that, as a reward, I would let myself go and make a Bovril sandwich once I’d thought of it.
I stared out of the window some more and thought that probably what I really needed to help get the creative juices going was to have a Bovril sandwich now, which presented me with a problem that I could only successfully resolve by thinking it over in the bath.
An hour, a bath, three Bovril sandwiches, another bath and a cup of coffee later, I realized that I still hadn’t thought of a good name for a character, and decided that I would try calling him Zaphod Beeblebrox and see if that worked.
I sat and stared out of the window for a while, trying to think of something for him to say …
… Reading through what I’ve written so far, I feel I must correct the impression that it’s all done with sandwiches, because there’s also a lot of playing the guitar very loudly involved as well.
If you really want the scene to come alive for the reader, you have to be wholly involved while you’re writing it. But that comes with its own dangers.
In His Forgotten Fiancée, my heroine Liza keeps getting abandoned. Her father leaves her behind while he goes out to the Oregon Territory to claim land. Her fiancée leaves her behind while he goes to California to earn a fortune in the goldfields. At one point Liza starts wondering if there is something wrong with her, some reason why people keep leaving her.
I was in her head writing this scene, and I started feeling sorry for myself, thinking I was always being abandoned… and I thought, “Wait a minute. This isn’t my story; it’s hers. I’m projecting it onto myself.”
But for a moment there, it felt so real, even though it had nothing to do with the reality of my life. That was when I decided that I was never going to write about a serial killer, no matter how tempting the plot.
That’s one reason that I think myself lucky to write romance novels. I get to fall in love with a wonderful man, over and over again.
University of Toronto researchers Maja Djikic and Keith Oatley (2014) studied whether reading fiction can change personality. “…there are specific ways in which fiction can engage readers that enhance important personality qualities.”
It’s a great myth that creative geniuses consistently produce great works.
They don’t. In fact, systematic analyses of the career trajectories of people labeled geniuses show that their output tends to be highly uneven, with a few good ideas mixed in with many more false starts. While consistency may be the key to expertise, the secret to creative greatness appears to be doing things differently—even when that means failing.
An article in Scientific American discusses the research that Dean Simonton has done on creative people. People who are highly creative are not inevitably more successful than anyone else. Unless they create a lot.
Simonton’s extensive analysis of geniuses found two major factors to be critical in explaining the creative process of geniuses. First, creative geniuses simultaneously immerse themselves in many diverse ideas and projects. Second, and perhaps even more important, they also have extraordinary productivity. Creators create. Again and again and again. In fact, Simonton has found that the quality of creative ideas is a positive function of quantity: The more ideas creators generate (regardless of the quality of each idea), the greater the chances they would produce an eventual masterpiece.