Chip MacGregor

August 13, 2010

Metaphors, Collaborations…and a Story


Daniel asked, “Is the ability to craft great similes and metaphors a gift, or can it be learned?”

My guess is that it's a gift. I've watched some people in the industry and been amazed at their ability to "see" the link between one action and another. I wish I could do that.

And his follow up question: “What are some good learning tips for creating great metaphors?”

Beats me. I've never been good at metaphors. (Or, in metaphor, "When it comes to creating metaphors, I'm a lawn chair." See? Awful. I hate coming up with good metaphors.) Maybe you could just learn to steal the good ones.

Lynn asked, “I've been asked to collaborate on a book with someone — what are some of the legal necessities I need to keep in mind?"

It’s a random list, depending on the topic of the book, the audience, the authors… but here are a handful of suggestions:

1. What's the subject of the book?

2. How long will it be?

3. How many words/chapters are each person's responsibility?

4. What are the due dates for each?

5. Who gets to pitch the idea? (me? the partner?)

6. What's the split of the money? (50/50? 60/40? 70/30? In whose favor?)

7. Are both names on the cover, the title page, the copyright?

8. Who owns the finished product?

9. Who has to get permissions?

10. Who pays for permissions?

11. Will each writer warranty their work?

12. Will we promise each other not to create competing works?

13. Who takes the lead with the publisher on things like title, subtitle, cover, art, etc?

14. Is there a kill fee if the book is cancelled?

15. If killed, who owns the work that's been done?

16. Can either party withdraw? If so, how?

17. Worst case #1: does moral turpitude effect this?

18. Worst case #2: upon death, what happens to the writing?

19. Do we take disagreements through an arbitrator?

20. Is this is to be confidential?

Does that help?

Tom asked, “What’s the one writing story you like to tell at writing conferences?”

That's easy… In 1919, a young man who had been injured in the war in Europe moved to Chicago, picking one particular neighborhood in order to be close to the noted author Sherwood Anderson. The young writer, impressed with the critical praise heaped on Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, had heard the novelist was willing to assist beginning writers. The two men became close. They met every day to read together, exploring the writing of newspapers and magazines, and eventually tearing apart the inner workings of novels. The young man brought his own work to Anderson, who helped him see how he could improve his craft. Anderson even introduced the young writer to his network of publishing associates, and helped him publish his first novel, which was met with critical acclaim. Its title was The Sun Also Rises. The young man’s name was Ernest Hemingway. Sherwood Anderson then moved to New Or
leans, where he took another
young author through those same paces, even putting up $300 of his own money to help that beginning writer’s first novel get published. The novel was entitled 
Soldier Pay. The author’s name was William Faulkner. Anderson would then move to California, where he worked with a young writer by the name of John Steinbeck. Sherwood Anderson shaped modern American writing more profoundly than any author except Mark Twain. Most of the writing instructors of the late 20th Century were, in one way or another, disciples of Anderson. 

And the reason Sherwood Anderson was so committed to mentoring beginning writers? Because when he was young, a more experienced author by the name of Theodore Dreiser had invested in his own life and craft. It's why I'm a fan of beginning writers finding a Sherwood Anderson to help them develop.

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