Friday, March 07, 2008

WTF Friday

By the Window,
Lilla Cabot Perry,
oil on canvas, 1923.

1. Cheat Sheet:
Not one. TWO critically acclaimed memoirs ( Misha: A Memorial of the Holocaust Years and Love and Consequences) have recently been found to be, not just embellished, but fabricated. Totally.

The authors thereof used the James Frey defence: the works were first presented as fiction, attracted no interest, and they were told to claim/market the works as memoirs.

2. Snatch and Sniff:
Writers, usually of the romance variety, often bewail the fact that readers sometimes identify the writer with the sexual escapades of his/her hero/ine; and point out in weary self-defence that the similar assumptions are seldom made about the research methods of writers of murder mysteries and serial killer stories.

Then we have the ultimate Mary Sues who not only write erotica but post pictures of their lady bits on their blogs.

3. Most Idiot Advice Ever:
That writers should restrict themselves to two similes per book.

This interdiction tops the no adverbs, no adjectives misologists by an entire stratosphere of miles.

As someone named Amy said succinctly about the subject on Evil Editor: It is the mark of the amateur to over-use -- and the mark of the amateur to remove them completely.

4. Born Again Luddites:
A rumour that some agents are reverting to the practice of accepting snail-mail queries only.

5. How Long, O Lord?
Weathermen predict another heavy storm to hit here tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

"who not only write erotica but post pictures of their lady bits on their blogs"

Surely you jest? I'm hoping,anyhow!


Bernita said...

No jest, Written.

Josephine Damian said...

*Note to self: ditch idea of posting lady bit photos on blog*

Bernita, yesterday I received a short story submission for a national contest I'm judging. There were four adverbs in the first sentence, and I think 7-8 in the first paragraph overall which is, of course, where I stopped reading.

I can tolerate a handful of adverbs in a book, but they, like all forms of "to be" are to be totally, majorly avoided whenever possible. Both represent lazy writing.

BernardL said...

LOL! A very entertaining WTF Friday post, Bernita. :)

SzélsőFa said...

Yes, entertaining indeed.
Lady bits, hmmm? What's next, one wonders...
Special nights with authors of erotic stories?
Killing sprees and visiting abandoned lofts and cemeteries at Full Moon, midnight with writers of horror?

Bernita said...

Josephine: The Adverb Death Star.
Checking my short-story-in-progress, noticed I used the adverb "outside" in the second sentence.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Bernard!

Szelsofa, the last has probably been done.
I believe tourist spots sometimes promote a "murder weekend" with a mystery writer in residence and a game of follow-the-clues for a faux murder.

ChristineEldin said...

Outside is an adverb? I thought it would be outsidely.


The memoirs again....sigh. I haven't bought one since James Frey. Probably won't now for a long long time.

December/Stacia said...

Oh no, Written, absolutely not a jest.

Bernita, just yesterday I saw some writing advice where the writer went the completely opposite direction, and insisted that the "No adverbs" rule didn't apply to fiction and you should use them all the time. Which is just as bad as the adverb banishers. I use adverbs, but sparingly, and only when there either is no active verb that will work, or I've just used the active verb I would normally use, or for emphasis or humor. (Like when a character is physically ill, and another turns to a third and the line is, "[Character] isn't feeling well," he said unecessarily.) But I don't think any form of anything should be littered all over bthe place or ignored completely. The key is, as you said with similes, knowing how and when to use them. (Not that I'm the expert or anything, of course. That's just my feeling on it.)

Ric said...

Ah, winter has finally gotten to our lady friend in the north.
Yesterday, we were under the gun, but, joy, the storm has moved towards you.
Erotica writers titilating their readers?

bookfraud said...

1. everybody's doing their own fake memoir, even me.

2. i like the snatch, but i'm not sure i want to sniff.

3. thank you for outing this idiotic advice. though somebody wrote an entire novel that didn't have the letter "e" ("a void" by georges perec). it was translated from french, also without the letter "e."

4. luddites, schmudites.

5. good luck with the weather. nobody's making you live in canada.

Bernita said...

Hee, Chris!
They've made it all that more difficult for the honest raconteurs.

December, yours is the professional attitude.

Letting it ALL hang out, Ric!

Egads, Book!
Too much of a good thing this winter. Like the Soprano's trailer. "It's ovah!"
Sleep tight...

Anonymous said...

Surely you jest? I'm hoping,anyhow!

I was gonna ask for links.

Robyn said...

Only two similies? As if!

The memoir people tick me off. They were told to market it that way? I suppose they had no other choice- those evil agents had them in a trance where things like ethics don't apply.

Bernita said...

It might be Dear Author who has the links, Anon.

Right, Robyn. Like write another book maybe? Like the rest of us?

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm rather saddened at what has happened to our nonfiction. It's being stolen and twisted because of marketing demands. I can't forgive the writers, though. They really have no excuse for just outright lying.

Sarai said...

I had heard abou the lady bits on Dear author but didn't believe it, no wouldn't believe it. Seriously... i don't want to know.

And I don't read memoirs for this reason I have to have it backed up numerous times before I put hard earned money down.
Great post.

StarvingWriteNow said...

I have my own lady parts, thanks. I don't need to look at anyone else's.

The whole "fictional memoirs" thing is just sad. I'm sure more and more of them will be called into question as time goes on, and there will be more "Cassie Edwards" cases cropping up as well. It makes the whole idea of publication discouraging, to say the least.

We're expecting 8-14 through today and Saturday. I long for spring.

pjd said...

I'm rather saddened at what has happened to our nonfiction. It's being stolen and twisted because of marketing demands. I can't forgive the writers, though. They really have no excuse for just outright lying.

Some might say that the publishing industry is simply following the lead of the government of the USA, particularly the executive branch.

Dave F. said...

It took me SIX, count them - 1,2,3,4,5,6, effing years to post my face to my profile. THAT'S IT! The rest of my body will remain a secret known only to me.
Sheesh! Talk about run screaming and yelling from the room...

I've watched the rise of celebrity books and I think that's what fed the "memoir" glut. Instead of, there's a modicum of truth in this story (like one of my wife's relatives got divorced and their kids hated it OR I knew the sister of the cousin of a kid who was molested), the book interviewers and marketing people started glorifying the real lives of the authors. So a half-memoir became a full-memoir and the author became a celebrity.

raine said...

WTF indeed.

1) Snake oil by any other name...
2) To each her own, lol. They have that right, but I'd probably switch the channel.
3) No wonder writers are crazy.
4) Ack! Don't understand that one at all, nope, nope, just don't get it.
5) We're getting one today and tomorrow, Bernita. Weary of it all. Stay warm! said...

Josephine demian,

In our media writing classes at Ryerson U, anyone who used the copula verb "to be" in advertising copy was immediately failed !!

Bernita said...

I don't forgive them either, Charles.

Thank you, Sarai.

With the internet, WriteNow,it's much easier to "out" the cheaters.

PJD, let's not pretend out of political bias that plagiarism and/or falsification by writers is a new and sudden thing.
That would be as silly as connecting the rising popularity of erotica to the example of a certain blue dress.

The pursuit of "platform," Dave.

Bernita said...

I give thanks to Miss Snark Dear for that expression, Raine.
Our supplier just filled our oil tank, so as long as the power stays...
I crave/lust/yearn for Spring.

pjd said...

Indeed, the point is well taken. But I do think the public should feel more outrage when the truth is stretched. But we don't.

Over the past ten years it seems there's been an increase in the blending of fact and fiction in many areas. "Reality" TV shows are as much about editing to create interesting twists and stories as they are about following the exploits of real people. Propaganda--political, corporate, and social--often presents itself as truth but hides behind disclaimers or he-said-she-said disputes. (Swift Boats? Global Warming?) It is not limited to one group. It is pervasive.

The lesson perhaps is that those who are guardians of truth must redouble their efforts to maintain their integrity as access to and volume of information grows. They can't be suckered into the promise quick returns at the expense of their hard-won reputations.

Ello said...

I'm not a memoir fan. I never got it. I'm not that interested in other people to want to read about their lives. But I guess I am an anomaly.

Ha on the posting lady bits stuff! Every once in awhile I happen upon an author's blog where I blush myself silly and pop out real fast. I guess I am prude.

Billy said...

Two similis per book? That would put a lot of famous authors out of business for good. Ridiculous.

Yes, I can confirm that some agents are going back to snail mail as their preference since they don't want attachments for book proposals (or sample chapters), which are too long too be cut and pasted into email.

M.E Ellis said...

#3. Per page maybe, but per BOOK?

Bloody hell!


Shauna Roberts said...

When I was a child, I read that there were three motivations: power, fame, and money. The "lady bits" revealers proves the second, and the fake memoirs the third. How pathetic for the literary world.

Another sad publishing trend was discussed yesterday in Farrah Rochon's blog at This is the practice of marketing the works of black writers (especially romance writers) only to black people, against the wishes of the writers, who believe, like all of us, that their works are of interest to a wide audience.

Chumplet said...

I hear you, Sister. It's been quite the WTF week and I'm overwhelmed.

I just finished reading Running With Scissors and I must admit I was rather skeptical at some of the passages. But if our dear friend John says it's true, it's true. I'm just glad his little brother escaped alive, if not unscathed.

It's going to snow in (looks at watch) a couple of hours. Oh, my aching back.

Word verification: nushgxyh - sounds like a naughty bit to me.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I love all the adverb/adjective and simile advice. It all gets down to style and overuse. I mean, if Robin Hobb has someone else say something quietly, I'm going to scream.

But I admire a well-turned simile because I suck at writing them.

Travis Erwin said...

write erotica but post pictures of their lady bits on their blogs.

Bet those blogs get lots of hits.

Interesting tidbits, I mean info. Tidbits might not be the best word choice given my above comment.

Scott from Oregon said...

"Then we have the ultimate Mary Sues who not only write erotica but post pictures of their lady bits on their blogs."

Where? Naked AND literate? This I gotta see...

Two similes per book? No way.

Bernita said...

We've always been offered snake oil, PJD, but I agree it would be nice to see a little more outrage.

Neither am I, Ello.
Prude or not, I just think it's vulgar.

Which strikes me as a bit Luddite, Billie. There are such things as fire walls and virus scans.
I can see a request for a full by snail.
But my understanding was that some were reverting to snail for queries.

For sure, Michelle.

Shauna, I tend to think of the lady bits individuals as remarkably conceited
The struggle over bookstore ghettoization of black writers has been on going for some time.
I find it ridiculous.

My back still aches from the last storm, Sandra.
But I have great arm muscles now.

I really liked that quote from EE's blog, SS.
Sums it up for me.

People like to watch disasters in progress too, Travis.
Some people may buy the authors' books beause of the shared intimacies, just as many will not.

Suzanne Perazzini said...

A simile well done is a delight and doesn't stand out but blends into the story. The rule(?) is probably because so few people do it well. Now a beautiful metaphor is a different story...

I would cry if I had to start trooping down to the post office again and spend a small fortune per submission to get them half way across the world. Let's not start sliding backwards - the poor trees!

Bernita said...

Nothing anyone hasn't seen before, Scott.

Dumbest thing I've heard in a long while, Suzanne.

Their excuse is that they get too many e-mail queries.
Oh dear.

Jaye Wells said...

The title of your second point make me spew diet coke.

kmfrontain said...

I think this snail mail business is their poor solution to reducing the slush pile. It's easier (and more fair to trees) to reduce the pile by having strict guidelines as to what should be in the query email and how the document is formatted. Then some rejections can occur based on not following directions. That reduces the slush pile right there.

Bernita said...

Jaye, I love your mind.

"their poor solution" - exactly, Karen, and suggests they were never comfortable with the internet process in the first place.

writtenwyrdd said...

The 1/4" of ice passed us by last night. We got a smidgeon of sleet instead of snow, ice AND sleet. But later today... Hope your storm is as mild.

Bernita said...

Written,overnight gifted us with 3-4 inches, another 3-4 inches in progress.

Gabriele C. said...

I followed the lady bits on Dear Author. What next? Will Paris Hilton write erotice? Her bits are all over the place already, so her ghostwriter should give it a try. :)

I use adverbs. Probably more than some purists would like, but as long as the readers of my Friday Snippets and other betas don't complain, I don't think I overuse them.

I'm a bit unsure about the fake memoirs. Most authors who've wirtten autobiographies over the centuries have fictionalised their life, so why should not other people add spices as well.

But it should be mentioned.

Sam said...

I'm laughing about the snatch and sniffs - as an erotica writer I get lots of 'so how do you do your research?' questions, and I usually answer - 'The same way the murder mystery writers do.'

Bernita said...

Gabriele, apparently in these cases it was not a case of exaggeration for drama, or of massaging certain facts for effect - but of total fabrication.

Written, add yet another 3-4 inches to the tally.

Bernita said...

Which is a sensible answer, Sam.
Or simply, "I have a very happy husband."

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