Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Musings on a Kind of Creativity, Staff Picks, Standard Manuscript Format, and Author Hero Worship

Normally we use the word "creative" to mean original, innovative, that sort of thing. By that definition I am not creative when it comes to cooking. I'm good at baking because I am good at following instructions. Occasionally I'll make very specific adjustments to a recipe for very specific reasons. Unless they are easy to remember in the extreme, I will write down these adjustments for future reference. Besides things like hot dogs or spaghetti, I do not make cooking decisions based on what I have on hand. I plan to cook something, figure out what I need, and go buy it as soon as I can based on the new grocery budget I'm trying and our priorities (milk will always win out over some random thing for a new recipe). So no, I don't consider myself very creative in the kitchen.

But recently as I've perfected (according to my husband, woo!) my pizza recipe and cooked it repeatedly (mmm, cheesy goodness...), I've been thinking. In a different sense of the word "creative," cooking, well, almost always is. Provided it involves "real" food, anyway. Because cooking is about creating something, about taking diverse, often rather inedible ingredients, and bringing them together. Food-wise, it is creating order, harmony, goodness. Despite itself, it sometimes feels like it fulfills my creative urge. Especially when forming pizza crust dough from my breadmaker into a round flat disc. It'd be even better (in that respect) if I didn't use the breadmaker, I suppose, but I'll take what I can get. It's not creating anything permanent, but it's still a kind of creation. And I've always enjoyed the eating more than the cooking, so I don't mind the impermanence all that much. If it were a novel I would, but no. It is food. I will eat it. Mmmm.

In other news, remember how I wanted the books on my table of picks at work to move? And how I never updated you guys on the changes in that situation? Well, there is much good news that has stored up, what with the lack of updating and all. First off, my table was promoted! Quite a while ago now. That is, it was moved up to the ground floor from the basement. Everything on the ground floor does better than anything in the basement. This promotion was a Good Thing. And so second off, as far as I've been able to track sales (going by the sales in the computer; thus counting anything I've bought myself but not counting anything which mysteriously disappeared; whether stolen, or misplaced, or simply not scanned out when sold), a grand whopping total of 285 items has now sold off my table. This seems decent, even over the given time period, which is kind of fuzzy through a lack of adequate records on my part. Not sure when the "promotion" occured, but I last blogged about it in Feb. '08... yeah, it seems decent. And about as good as the average display table in our store. Once again being a nerd, I have the totals by author in my Palm. Not the totals by title, I'd have to be at work for that. The winner is C.S. Lewis, with 26 titles sold. He has an unfair advantage, since I put more of his books on my table to begin with, but hey, the complete Chronicles of Narnia only sold once. As far as I remember. Hmm. Second place goes to Jane Austen, with 22. I believe those are almost entirely Pride and Prejudice. Third goes to Emily Bronte with 14, I think all Wuthering Heights (What else would it be? I think I'd have noticed), fourth Orson Scott Card with 12 (Ender's Game) and fifth is a three-way tie between Lynne Truss (Eats, Shoots and Leaves), Tolkien (assorted wonderfulness), and George MacDonald (also assorted, but I think mostly The Light Princess and The Wise Woman and Other Stories?) with 11 each. Some authors also have an unfair advantage with larger amounts (or any at all) of used books in our inventory, or a higher priority in our reorder list, for reasons of being wanted by people besides those who browse my table. I still find sales statistics interesting, no matter how they are skewed... Plus I love my table, and love the concept of people taking the lovely books home with them. Yes, "love" is the word of the sentence.

And in yet other news, I think I may be done changing my first draft of The Miller's Granddaughter into the second draft. There are still new scenes to add, I haven't finished going through it as far as that's concerned, but there's one particular scene that is going to change things drastically enough that I might as well just make it a new draft. I'd have to change things I've already changed once, and it seems simpler, organizationally speaking (if I'm going to have a copy saved of each draft so I have a record of all the changes). So yay. Kind of. Haven't finished adding all the handwritten edits into the electronic copy, but close.

I'm also working on standard manuscript format (SMF for the rest of this post). I need to do more research, since my first cursory bit of research yielded instructions for the romance genre (don't think it's very different, but still) and my second cursory bit yielded instructions for short stories (and thus doesn't talk about helpful things like chapter breaks or epigraphs), but it shouldn't be hard. I'm pretty sure it's one of those things that can be found all over the internet. From what I've gathered so far, SMF is Ugly. This is because it exists for entirely different purposes than the format of the published book. Editors want to catch errors. They also want to have a standard way to estimate length (other than taking your word for it, although you would be well-advised to be accurate, within the rounding formula and guidelines) and have room to write notes. But still, does it really have to be in Courier? Ah, well. My poor ugly professional-looking (er, when I'm finished making the format changes...) manuscript.

Speaking of writing and editors and research online, it seems that blogging stories and poems really does count as "previously published" to many magazines. This seems silly to me, but whatever. I may start asking some of you for your opinions and criticisms in person... or not. I think I'm probably better at novels than short stories, so how much time do I really want to take from polishing a novel in order to write and edit and attempt to publish short stories, just to make my query letters to agents about my novel that much more impressive? Hmm. Ask me again after I've collected some rejection letters... meh.

And in... um, still more news... (hey, it's been a while since I've posted [and my last post that didn't review a book or movie was back on April 15th, and that was just a little poem -- my last long non-book-review post was March 15th! Sheesh! That merits many parenthetical phrases in a great gush of words], give me a break here -- pent-up words, pent-up words!) I've decided the closest I come to hero worship or celebrity obsession is with authors. It's... not very close, I suppose, but it's the closest. I love their blogs. a) They've very entertaining, what with being well written, since they are WRITERS, after all. b) Since I only look up the blogs of authors whose books I love anyway, they often seem to have certain personality traits I like, and they feel like people I could be friends with. If I weren't a Random-Fan-whose-path-will-never-cross-theirs-unless-maybe-I'm-published-someday, that is. (And no, that's not why I want to be published. Honest. Almost 95% not why.) My latest author blog find is Tad Williams'. I quite like it. I'm on a Tad Williams blog kick. Hmm, I should go catch up on my poor neglected unread old favorite awesome author blogs, like Shannon Hale and Kristin Cashore and (at this point I closed this window by accident and nearly had a heart attack before remembering that blogspot does, in fact, automatically save your work periodically...) Writer Unboxed (because of Juliet Marillier) and Neil Gaiman (although my Neil Gaiman kick is actually pretty new and feels a little silly since I haven't read all that much of his work yet). Or maybe I should sleep. Nah, that can't be right...


Tim said...

Good thoughts on the 2 senses of Creativity. Actually, I think the second sense that you mentioned is my primary view of Creativity. It doesn't really matter THAT much if you're working from a pattern. It's still a Creative act. Perhaps the first sense would be better called Innovation. The two work very well together.

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