Kanye West’s Bound 2 Video is a Manifestation of One of My Greatest Fears

Kanye West’s Bound 2 video is a manifestation of one of my greatest fears.

Most of the times when I’m writing or editing my novel, I love it. I love my characters, I love my story and overall I have a great time working on it. But every once in a while I get this panicked feeling—what if this one big horrible idea? What if my ideas are not interesting or innovative, but rather cliché and corny? What if this in-depth narrative that I created—the characters’ back stories, motivations, etc. sound good in theory but in reality is executed terribly?  In other words, what if my novel is just the written version of the Bound 2 video??

I read an interview where Kanye breaks down the Bound 2 concept and it sounded like he put some thought into it. Basically, he was trying to get “as close to a dream state as possible” and to be as “surreal as possible” because “whatever you do, it’s like people want to get into that dream state.”

Ok. Sure. I’m with you. I guess.

But then it’s like he got so into this concept, like TOO into it.  Like he had all these ideas that got him so excited.  They were new!  They were fresh!  Something that had never occurred to him!  This was going to amazing! he thought.

But maybe there is a reason he hasn’t made a video of himself riding a bike in front a bunch of screen savers before.  Like, for example, it’s a bad f-ing idea! I believe the concept was SO bad and SO cheesy that deep in his twisted, creative mind  he reasoned that it must actually be good!

The moral of this story is that that video is why I need some people to read my stuff before I send it off anywhere. It may hurt, but I’ll take your criticism.  I’d rather have a little extra work to do then end up in that valley of unicorns with Kanye.

That’s all I gotta say about that. Short week = short post—have a great holiday!!

On Book Trailers: Publishing a Novel Today Requires Some Serious Movie-Making Skills

This industry never ceases to surprise me. Recently I discovered a little something called book trailers. A book trailer is exactly what it sounds like—a short video meant to entice audiences into purchasing your novel. So basically, to become a novelist today you not only have to be a writer and a marketer, you also have to be a movie producer!

Before I proceed, here’s the trailer for Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,”–the book I’m reading now:


After procrastinating for a while by watching various trailers on the Internet, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • Thrillers make the best trailers. Put on scary music, show a knife and blood and you’ve captured the readers attention. Easy peasy.
  • Trailers also make a lot sense for memoirs. When you publish a memoir, you’re trying to get a stranger to want to read all about your life—a trailer is a good way to introduce yourself to the world and get people to like you.
  • Women’s Fiction may be the hardest genre to produce a good trailer. Most that I’ve seen come across as really, really cheesy—like it’s going to be a terrible movie book.
  • Trailers are high risk/high reward—while the good ones can definitely draw in a new crop of readers and create excitement about the book, a bad one can undercut all an author’s hard work. For movies, it makes sense that great trailer probably = great movie, but not necessarily so for novels. A wonderful writer may turn out to be (and probably will be) a horrible producer.
  • There are millions of ways to produce a trailer all by yourself!  You can use Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, ScreenFlow and some other programs. This probably explains why there are so many bad ones are out there.

A couple of more examples:

Below is the first trailer I found under “women’s fiction trailers” in Goodreads.  I actually think it’s pretty decent compared to others I’ve seen.  She keeps it simple–that’s all you can do.

Famous authors usually just sit and talk about the book because they can do that.  Their faces and voices are enough to entice you!  Colson Whitehead’s trailer for Sag Harbor was one of the first I ever saw:

And here is the trailer for Terry McMillan’s new book “Who Asked You?”

Inspiration: Finding a Story in a Painting

pearl earringThe other day, I came across a link to 13 inspirational TED talks for writers. I enjoyed many of them. Chimamanda Adichie and Elif Shafak talk about fiction and identity politics—for example, how fiction can shape our view of an entire culture. Or the expectation of the “multicultural” (i.e., minority or raised in a different country) author to represent entire communities. Others, like  the writer of Finding Nemo and Toy Story asked the question, what makes a great story? His talk left me with some concrete tools to guide me through my novel.

As impressive as all the talks were, today I am dedicating my post to Tracy Chevalier’s TED talk “Finding the Story Inside the Painting.” Tracy wrote the novel turned movie “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” which is based on the famous painting by Johannes Vermeer. It sounds very high brow, I know. But her talk didn’t come across as inaccessible at all—in fact quite the opposite. She explains that she  saw a picture she liked and basically went with it. For years, she found herself drawn to the colors in the painting and the expression in the girl’s face until finally she decided to do some research. She discovered that almost nothing was known about the girl or the circumstances surrounding the image. So she made it up. During her presentation, she talks about the clues she found in the painting and elsewhere to ultimately create a fictional love story behind it.

Tracy’s approach to the writing process was unique to me and ultimately, incredibly inspirational. I’m not a big art person so as far as I’m concerned, she started with a painting that meant nothing to me. Yet during the discussion, Tracy somehow brought it to life right before my eyes. She saw something that I didn’t and conveyed it to me in a way that I could relate to and enjoy. It gave me a new appreciation for at least one piece of art.

The other thing I liked about Tracy’s talk was that it demonstrated that you can find inspiration for a story anywhere. She reaffirms my conclusion that you don’t, necessarily, need to write about “what you know.” Rather, you should write about the thing that draws you in—the thing you can’t stop looking at/thinking about/trying to figure out. In more ways than one Tracy simply followed her passion, which led her to great success. It was 14 minutes of my life well spent: