The Biggest Lie of Them All

“I grew up in a place where everybody was a storyteller, but nobody wrote. It was that kind of Celtic, storytelling tradition: everybody would have a story at the pub or at parties, even at the clubs and raves.”  Irvine Welsh

It’s visceral, isn’t it? This calling that we’ve entered into?

It’s no wonder we take things like criticisms, rules, guidelines, reviews, and the like, so seriously. I posted a link on my FB page several days ago that led to a post written by a good friend of mine over at The Lit Lab. The heart of the post was centered around the lies we’ve allowed ourselves to believe about writing and about being a professional author (you can find that post here). Reading that inspired list led me to start thinking…what lies have we told ourselves, or allowed ourselves to believe, about what it means to BE an author—a storyteller?

*You can’t develop your voice as an author until you’ve written for years and nothing that you write prior to your first published work will be worth holding onto.

Um…shall I list all of the famous works of literature that were the author’s firsts? I’d rather not, since it would take me more room than a single post on WordPress allows. This is utter bullshit, I don’t care if an agent (or any other authoritative figure) has told you otherwise. Think of it like this: Not everyone needs to date around before finding the one they’re destined to spend their life with. Some do. Others know the moment they meet them. Some authors spend years in silence, never penning a thing, then suddenly they find their voice and set off writing like their keyboards are on fire.

*All advice from reputable sources (agents, publishers, editors, critique group members, alpha & beta readers), is good advice.

Need I mention again, Tolkien’s advice to Lewis to nix Father Christmas from the Chronicles of Narnia? Even as I type that it sounds like good advice doesn’t it? Except for all of those children who listed it as their favorite part of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. And the fact that Lewis, in his heart, knew that Father Christmas couldn’t be cut from the story.

*You MUST know everything about the craft of writing, in order to be a good storyteller.

Have you never been to a bar before? Have you never sat around a campfire and heard Uncle Whoever retell his childhood escapades in such a way that has the whole crowd dying with laughter? Have you never been to summer camp and been huddled beneath your sleeping bag in dread terror while some counselor (me), or fellow camper (also me) told you the scariest story you’ve ever heard? Do you live under a rock? Storytelling, to some folks, is second nature. I think I can safely say that I’m one of them. You likely are as well, but haven’t gathered the guts to state that you believe that for the record. And before you go there, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn the basics. All I’m saying, is that the first guy or gal who told a story, likely didn’t know the parts of the story by what would become their “proper” names. Those are merely formalities. Imagine it like two people who speak different languages, meeting and falling in love. Sure, there might be a little fumbling around in the beginning, but eventually you develop your own method of communication and everything else falls into place. If it’s meant to be, you don’t have WORK at it that hard. It. Just. Is.

*In order to be a great author, you have to be able to write outstanding queries.

I’m sorry, I can hardly type from the tears I’m shedding in laughter over this one. I’ve read this on more than one agent’s blog, and a couple of publishers, but ironically, I’ve never seen it on an author’s blog. Wonder why? Gee…hmmm….give me a second. ‘Cause it’s…you guessed it….total shit. Some of us, just aren’t short-winded. Period. Yes, it’s a fault. Yes, it sucks. YES, it means it’ll take longer to get someone’s attention if you’re in that category and you’re unpublished. Does it mean you won’t ever be successful or famous? No. Not at all. And frankly, I have no idea where this idea came from. Queries and novels are not the same thing for a reason, and the pervasive idea that if you can’t sum up your novel in 300 words or less, then you don’t know what it’s about, is LUDICROUS. And I don’t mean the band.

Seriously, this one is one of the worst bits of writing “truth” I’ve read. It’s terribly discouraging and does nothing but make writing a query harder for those of us who struggle with writing them in the first place. So, do yourself (and me) a favor and don’t spread that horse manure. If you only knew the number of NYT bestselling authors who hired a ghost writer to write their queries for them…(how do I know this? Because I know a handful of ghost writers who have written them for NYT bestselling authors).

*The difference between authors and writers, is that authors have been traditionally published.

I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. Really? I’ve read that one on writers’ sites. Shame on you! You ought to know better. Do you think that because you are published that you have the right to make others feel less worthy than you? No, writers are folks who write. Period. This encompasses everything from obituaries and classified ads, to text books and personal weblogs. Authors, tell stories. That’s all. That’s the distinction. Check out Webster if you don’t believe me. Now, I will give you the caveat that in order to be an author, you do have to have actually *finished* a novel, short story, or novella. Publication has nothing to do with it. That’s merely recognition for having done something, it doesn’t have any bearing on whether you’ve actually done the thing or not. If you’re still “researching” that first novel, and have been for the last ten years, then you’re still a writer. Only when you’re done do you get to call yourself an author. Even if your cat is the only sentient being to set eyes on it after that.

I think even Donald Maass may have stated that in one of his many manifestos on how to be a bestselling author.

How ’bout I’ll just settle for being an author, and let the cards fall where they may. Hm? K. Thanks.

*But, the biggest lie of them all is this: As an author, I am worth the value that others place on my work.

Nothing, nothing, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve told myself this one. I’m willing to bet that at some point in your writing life, you will too. There are two kinds of authors: Those who’ve bought the bullshit, and those who will. Not a single one of us is exempt from taking a reviewer too seriously, or a crit partner, or an agent, or an editor. Not a single one of us is exempt from wondering, at some dark moment, has this all been worth it? Not a single one of us is exempt from feeling, in a moment of weakness, like our hold on the English language is a tad more tenuous than we’d suspected.

Truth is, we’re all learning, and no work is perfect. No work is without its quirks. No author is free of them either, but isn’t that what makes our calling so great? No other profession in the world is quite like it. Some might come close, but they’ll never reach the heights that being an author will show you. You’ll never take another path and reach a higher summit.

Whatever lies you believe…don’t believe the biggest of them all. At the very least, do yourself, and the rest of us who will (or already do) love your writing, and your characters, and your worlds, do us the favor of having faith in your natural instincts.

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Mad World

Organic

Being a writer is an interesting thing. Some people are awed by it, others are mystified at our persistence. Either way, there is a reason for the stereotypical, ‘misunderstood’ author who wears all black and mopes about. It isn’t a matter of depression or apathy…it’s something deeper than that—more fundamental. There is a well of emotion that accompanies the feeling of ‘creation’ in the way an author feels it. It isn’t the same as painting a picture or writing a song: We mold worlds and out of that mire, we sculpt sentient beings to populate those worlds. Yet, at the end of the day, the paragraph, the page, the story, our characters are still there. It seems perhaps a flighty emotional thing to say, but truly listen for a moment. We fall in love, we fight for truth or justice, or just another day’s breath—we hate, struggle against poverty, injustice, cruelty or we struggle with the inability to come to grips with the guilt of a character’s actions. As an author, we experience in a way—even if it be slight, everything our characters experience. We joke about it, we make light of the journey—mostly to make the path a little less jagged and the rocks a tad smoother.

Often, in the early hours of day—when the mind isn’t aware of things like ‘time’ or ‘place’, these things take on a power of their own. I will never touch Tabor’s face, or trace the lines of his scarred, dragon, skin. I will never hear Ariana or Aubrey sing. I will never taste Bronach’s tears or hold Jullian’s hand. I will never yell at Trinity to stop being so damned self-righteous. I will never walk through the ruins of the Garden of Dedication in Adoria, or brave the Goblin Keep of Koldavere in Avalar. I will never see the suns set in Sedel. I will never tuck Lucan into bed, or read him a bedtime story, or wash his worn, pilled, snoopy pajamas. I will never know the name of Bronach’s lost love because he cannot bear to bring her to mind—so neither can I. There is at least one moment, in every author’s life, where the depth of their grief is profound, and it won’t have anything to do with tangible circumstances. Those events certainly affect writers, as they would most people, but this isn’t what I mean. How do you mourn imaginary things? Places you’ll never tread, landscapes you’ll never truly feel and characters you’ll never touch. It may not have come for you yet—rest easy, friend, for it will. If not now, later. It will come and I want you to be prepared for it. I wasn’t.

It was sometime between dusk and dawn, the night air was cold—I could feel it coming from the open flue of the fireplace. I was working on ‘A Thief of Nightshade’. It was one of those sessions where all the effort is in your head and your hands move fluidly over the keyboard and you fight to keep up with your story. And suddenly, as the song I was listening to stopped, I felt it—utter stillness. The scene played on; Jullian woke from his nightmarish captivity to feel the weight of the Fae crown on his head and the overwhelming guilt of realizing that his precious love—the shy girl he’d fallen in love with and married, from our world—had somehow crossed over into Avalar and found him despite all odds. But it had cost her dearly and at that moment, that cost appeared to be her life. And as I watched him pull her into his arms, touch her face, breathe her name, I suddenly understood, in a bizarrely authentic way, what it meant to experience that particular loss. He didn’t believe that she would ever see his world. When she does, he bitterly regrets the price. As authors, we create worlds that are hard for some to even imagine, but it comes at a cost.

I’ve read that most authors experience grief at the end of a story, that a depression ensues that isn’t too unlike mourning a death. But, even that is different. This is the stark realization that our hearts believe in these worlds more than we think. Rationally speaking, we know that what we pen is false—we spend countless hours weaving things in such a way as to convince the reader to buy the lies. And yet, in doing so, somewhere along the way, we bought them too. I suppose that in all good stories, the author has bought them first. How else would we weep at fictional scenes? You could explain the empathy by using the idea of universal humanity, and this may be the case for some readers, but not for us. We are different beings in our own worlds. Changed. And once we emerge, we are never the same.

I’ve said before that writing a novel is like a relationship. If this is true, then the relationship we have with the worlds we create may be likened to a lifetime. And authors have often mused that they have perhaps lived a multitude of lives, and ultimately—those lives are lost to us all the same. Because when that moment comes, the one I am now formally warning you of, it feels like a life has been untimely taken. Most of us have experienced death, the physical feeling that sweeps over you when you remember that you’ll never see that person again—you pick up the phone to dial their number, only to realize with jarring pain, that they aren’t there on the other end. I closed my laptop that night, and whispered into the dark—cold breathed and numb, ‘were it only so.’

For readers, some worlds never die…for authors, those worlds die a thousand deaths. This is just one of many, and I pay the price gladly…but every now and then, I grieve.

Foundations of a Writing Life

This will likely translate to another article for Examiner, but I’m going with the casual side of things for now (for this blog anyway). After being stuck on the last few chapters of ‘Nightshade’, I broke ground. Once I voluntarily walked away from gainful employment back in September, I struggled to overcome depression and heartache and to really write like I once had—with total abandon and dogged perseverance.  I realized today, just like I realized after my first really bad block, that all it takes is the promise of a deadline. An immediate deadline. You see, I sat down in my kitchen this morning and proclaimed to the dogs (I mean this literally), that I wasn’t going to get up until I had the rest of Nightshade plotted.

They laughed.

And yet, I emerged triumphant, despite my own fears and doubts (and those of my hairy companions). 1500 words of plot, fully fleshed out and ready to be written. Tomorrow (or likely the very wee hours of tomorrow), will bring with it an excitement that I haven’t genuinely experienced in over a year. I wrote Icarus (the vampire novel that I’ve been working on and no, that isn’t the title…consider it a nickname) while I was working in the dredges of hell. Ok, that was a tad dramatic, but you’d understand if you worked there. And while I love the characters and their story, it wasn’t the same as Nightshade and the Fable trilogy. It’s a matter of urban vs. epic fantasy. Even though Nightshade is a stand alone piece, the stakes involved are epic indeed. So, the bottom line is that the emotions involved in those works differ from one to the next: Icarus is gritty and harsh—bloody, gruesome, gratuitous sex and violence (and inappropriate humor). Nightshade and Fable, are light and while there are most certainly darker scenes in both (this is me we’re talking about here), they don’t translate the same to me emotionally, as an author.

All of this got me thinking about what it means to be a writer. We’ve discussed writing rituals and how isolating an experience it can be, but those are different things. I am talking about the decision to become more than merely a writer by title, but by practice. You are essentially laying down a foundation for your life as a writer—unknowingly, you are setting a cornerstone into place that will determine how you deal with frustration, sorrow, relationships and ultimately, how you will see your writing in light of publication or lack there of. You’ve got to ask yourself the question, “Am I writing for recognition, or for the craft of it.” This is not the same thing as asking if you wish to be published or not. Don’t confuse the two. The former question is simply clarifying your motives. The answer is the cement of your foundation. It is the thing that glues it all together and not unlike a story, it is what gives you strength while you are still learning and developing. Consider this: If you knew, right now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your work would never be published, would you write it anyway?

Would I? You ask. Without any hesitation, my answer is yes. Yes, a thousand times. When I started, I feared what all new authors fear—not being talented enough. But, I’ve come to learn that while I will always fear not being ‘good enough’, you only lose this battle when you quit. So what if you suck right now? Most authors who write for a living will admit to sucking worse five years ago (assuming they were writing then), than now. Some claim to still suck, though we as readers know better. What was their answer to that question? Agents tell us all the time, that the chances of getting published are akin to winning the lottery. Friends and family ask why we don’t take up something more, profitable? But if you love writing enough and believe in your characters and stories enough, there is no other option but to spend time with them and work on putting down a reasonable resemblance to what we see in our heads.  It may take much, much longer than you expect. It may flow better than you dreamed possible. But you will never know until you begin.

So, lay those foundations. Set a goal, find someone to hold you accountable. I’m always here. Have a great Monday tomorrow!

J.S.

Upward Mobility in a Downward World

So, I’ve done the deed. I turned in a two week notice to my perfectly fine, but absolutely miserable job.  Ask me if I had something lined up. Haha, nope. Not a thing. Not even a shadow of something. But, there are times in your life when you’ve just gotta do what you know is the right thing for you…whether it makes sense to everyone else in your life or not. So, I did.

I knew my husband would be able to pick up some part time gigs, paying three times what I could get paid, as a cop. And I had this vague notion that I might be able to do some freelance writing on the side. When I say vague, I mean microscopic. So, when I read of another blogger’s experience writing full time for Demand Studios, I checked it out. I sent in my resume, a writing sample and prayed. A lot. I’ve read they’re quite picky and it can take awhile to get on board or even hear back with a rejection. But, low and behold, I was accepted. I thought it was too good to be true, but there is something about filling out a W-9 that’s encouraging.

So, I suppose I’ve left security behind for freedom–as my friend put it. Am I freaked out? You bet. But honestly, there is a part of me that has come alive and feels completely renewed with the power of my own future. I control directly how much money I make and where I want to make it. I can write at Starbucks, or on the couch in my pj’s. This blows me away. I realize that there are freelance writers out there who make quadruple what I’ll be making, but by working 25 hours a week, I’ll make more than I make at my current job–so I’ll take the steady work.

And what’s most important to me–my novel writing–will finally be able to take center stage. I’ll still have a schedule. I think this is absolutely pivotal to making it on your own as a freelancer. I’ve always been organized and able to effectively manage my time. All that to say that I’ve never been so excited about something that could very well turn out to kick me in the ass three weeks from now. Hope abounds and my soul feels like its been revived. I know, dramatic much? Sorry, I don’t normally blog about my personal life, but as a writer we are still deeply connected to our every day lives. I’m learning this more and more everyday.

Now, telling my in-laws is a whole other story. I’ll get to that eventually, but hopefully it will be with a few checks in hand to show that I wasn’t completely out of my mind (I say that because my father-in-law does our taxes and will inevitably know if I fail at this). For now i have my own father’s grumbled acknowledgment of what I truly believe was a good decision. And that’s enough to contend with. One day at a time, folks. One day at a time.

As far as that novel writing goes, I am on the last few chapters of my fifth novel and wrapping up the last quarter of my fourth. I’ve been writing both of those on an alternating basis. Interesting endeavor since they are in different tenses. I don’t recommend it. And I owe some of you an apology–I’ve teased some of you for writing/reading about vampires and you have the right to call me a hypocrite because my fifth book is an urban fantasy…about vampires. Oops. I swore I wouldn’t, but what was supposed to be an exercise in first person morphed out of control and 86,000 words later–I have another novel. Who knew?

Some stories are just like that; they come crashing through your front door (or frontal lobe whichever the case) and demand quarter. Other stories have to cultivate for years and age before they can be written and they take every ounce of your soul as payment. I know, Fable is one of those series: Nine books total, only the first three are finished, Fable spans multiple worlds and has a truly epic cast of characters that range from a disgruntled warrior to a voracious pet dragon named Cryx. I will die with this story still on my heart.

Fable was born out of a dream I had when I was eleven. Let me share the beginnings of that dream with you:

The Ereubinians, gifted with the power to steal the human soul, rule Middengard: the realm of Man. In the beginning, Middengard was successful in defending its people, but as the first age of war came to an end, and the Ereubinians conquered the once legendary city of Eidolon, Man began to weaken in their resolve and a fable began to take shape; first in whispers heard at battle’s end, then in legends passed down from one generation to the next. Soon, myth became prayer and an unwavering faith in an unseen realm was born.

For centuries that fable fueled the vitality of the human heart, but eventually the free lands waned and Eidolon’s rule overshadowed the few that subsisted on their own. Finally only one stronghold, Palingard, remained.

As Palingard falls, three individuals will discover that their lives are intertwined, and everything they once thought to be truth will be irrevocably changed…

Ariana, spared in Palingard by her would-be captor, journeys in her father’s last known footsteps only to discover that not only are the legends of Adoria real—she is more a part of them than she could ever imagine.

Garren, High Lord Commander of Eidolon, and sworn enemy of Adoria, must grapple with his suddenly waning faith after he saves the life of a girl in Palingard, and weigh what remains of it against the light he never knew existed.

Michael, sovereign ruler of Adoria, bears the same burden of guardianship as that of his forefathers, but when the divide that has always protected Adoria fails, and an elaborate conspiracy to keep his sister’s existence from him is revealed, he must decide if man’s soul can still be saved – and at what cost.

All I want for Christmas is an agent

n50503723_30999745_267 Writers endure more judgment and criticism than perhaps any other art aside from music. Agents write blogs on the amount of drivel they read in the slush piles, ranting on how many of us they would like to bar from ever buying another laptop, or picking up another pen. Even when one of us has the good fortune to get published, reviews can cut right to the bone. Some of them are purposely written to make the reviewer seem more important than they really are.  So here is my question, does it matter, really? When you read rants from agents about ill-prepared authors or seemingly thin plot-lines and less than stellar characters, does it discourage you from writing?
There are times when it discourages me from submitting. Mostly, I chastise myself for wasting time on the Internet in the first place. But, there are times when the weight grows too heavy and it halts my ambition. That’s when any author needs to take a few days away from the phone and Internet, and recharge.
Receiving tons of rejection doesn’t mean your work is genuis waiting to be discovered, just as being placed on the shelves of Barnes and Noble doesn’t mean it has been. Trends in publishing wax and wane and the personal tastes of burnt out agents, editors and publishers only narrow down the slight venue that makes it to print. This, at the end of the day, means little in relation to your story.
I read a review from a website I am quite fond of, that felt harsh. I won’t go into which author or what book, but what I will say is that it felt like the reviewer wanted the author to follow certain formulas, map out characters in a very specific way and even went so far as to critisize the plot itself. Clearly, he didn’t care for the book…so why make the assumption that it needed to be changed? If you want it to be another book, perhaps you should just…read. another. book.
I don’t know, maybe I am too sensitive, but I hurt for her. She responded far more professionally than I might have been tempted to. She was applauded for accepting criticism so gracefully. I don’t do much of anything gracefully, let alone taking shots like that. I’ve never been accused of playing well with others. (Unless of course those ‘others’ happen to be my characters, that’s a little different)
So what say you? All this makes me want to be a recluse, not that I’m not already…am I alone here?

Long time no speak…

n55716324_35424739_3118I wish I could tell you I’ve come back here to suffer through a writing hang-over with like-minded company. Alas, I have accomplished no such thing. I could give myself a little credit for having forced myself into some edits for book two. That’s worth half a cookie at least. Okay, a crumb. I’ll take what I can get.
This is my favorite time of year. I can’t say for sure if it is the chill in the air, the quiet frosted nights or just my love of the holidays, but for whatever reason, I love this season. I am, for better or worse, a winter girl. Yes, I know it isn’t officially winter yet. Hush, my mind isn’t aware of that. Anything in Georgia that feels below 70 degrees, is winter. Right now it is a frigid 40 something. Wonderful.
With all the banal pleasantries out of the way, let me get down to business. I have found lately that every time I spend more than a few minutes on the blogs and websites of agents, and industry “experts” that my muse all but vanishes. Its an amazing little act, no doubt…but not one I’m very fond of. Like the life that fuels my writing, so these mechanical formulas are like the ever present ‘Old Age’ that slows down youth and carelessness. The joints and bone and sinew have slowed till each stroke of the pen is like an inevitable broken bone or slip or fall. Leaning on the ‘Right Way’ to do things in some cases may be likened to living in a Retirement Community–Assisted Living.
I want to be careless again, near wreck-less in my ventures. Who cares what the market is right now? Who cares about the odds? I certainly wasted no time considering these things when I first started writing…what has changed to make this…creature…so important now?
Nothing. Plain and simple. Yes, query letters are important. Yes, form is important. But, I am letting the directions get in the way of the path.
So, while this little blog is still in fledgling posts, let me ask you. Why do you write? What warms your bones and fuels your muse?

Enjoying the process, and the art of writing

Enjoy the process.  If you are destined to be a published writer, the months and years spent working on early manuscripts may be the last time you ever have the luxury of writing for the love of it at your own speed.  As soon as you sell, things like deadlines, the sales department’s mindless prejudices, the editor’s input, and so on become a part of your work.  You will, trust me on this, look back with nostalgia on the days when the only person you had to please was yourself. ”  Vivian Beck

I read this earlier, and appreciate her candor. She is a literary agent who spends a great amount of time giving good solid advice to writers. Why? Because she is an author. There is possibly no better person to have as an agent than one who knows what we go through. I’ve listed her page to the right, please go check it out. You’ll be glad that you did.

The great and necessary solitude

What is it that beckons that inner voice? When the hours draw long and still, and the world quiets to merely a whisper, then it comes. Peace. A deeper solitude than can be found in any writing book, or literary commentary or within the tawdry lines of any blog. There is no price high enough to place on this state of mind to equal its worth.
I spent a long weekend at Oak Mountain, enjoying the crisp fall air and the smell of a campfire. I had originally intended on getting a fair amount of writing done, but found instead that the simple enjoyment of true rest was more beneficial. After a day of getting adjusted back to the monotony of city life, I am ready to write again. Its funny how much can be figured out by listening only to the silence.

For two years a question has hovered over my current project, reeking havoc on my concentration and muddying my plot lines. After listening. Really listening. I now have my answer, and it was there all along.
Tonight, I write!

The Devil’s in the details…

I wrote in an earlier blog,
“We musn’t tell them everything. Some things, certainly, but not everything. I mean this as no excuse for poor detail or fractured narrative. What I mean is this; know it, inside and out, every detail: The peoples, long since faded from memory that once thrived where your hero now treads; animals that will never wander in your protagonist’s path and ruins that are too covered with centuries of stories to be seen. Every rock, village, tide and turn. This is the foundation upon which worlds are built. These are the underpinnings of much greater things. Like steel beams in a modern building, it holds…it structures the fabric of your imagination.
Because after all, it is the utterance of a thing that makes it what it is. As an author, you will always (without fail) know more about your worlds than can be shared with your readers. Your acknowledgement of it is enough. If it is strong, it will carry through your prose and filter into the minds of those who dare dive deep enough. Those are the worlds that leave us dreaming long after the last page has been turned. Like the never ending story, some worlds will never die.”

I ran across a link today that caught my attention. http://www.bmarch.atfreeweb.com/Worldbuilding.htm This is a really detailed list of links.

Another link is http://www.sfwa.org/writing/worldbuilding1.htm Which happens to be my favorite.

I’ve heard it said that you can tell when someone is lying when they give too many details. The words sound false to them, so they try to make them believable with more of them. Like the classic rookie that calls out of the office, regaling his boss with all the glorious symptoms of a stomach flu…
As authors, we must resist this urge, just like any ordinary liar. We are, in a sense, professional fibbers. If we give too much away, the reader will know. What we must do is weave just enough to make it nearly tangible.

So very lost…

“So, here are two pervasive reasons that people write novels: (a) for the approval of others and (b) for the sake of writing itself. Nobody does it for either reason alone. There are easier ways to get approval, and the novelist who works in isolation, never publishing, is not a true novelist but a hobbyist.”  Donald Maass

I’ll admit, he had me through the first line. By the end of the quote, I was slightly put off. In case you don’t know, Donald Maass, is a literary agent with his own agency in New York. He wrote a book, which is where I obtained the little gem of wisdom above. So, my question is, are you telling me Emily Dickinson was not a true poet? In fact, here is a list of other works that were published posthumously:

So, tell me again how being published makes me a ‘serious’ novelist? Maass actually has a great deal of good advice in his book. However, it was clearly written by someone who has more of an eye on the market than on the craft of writing.

In the opening chapter, he remarks that there are a good many ‘novelists’ out there who write because they feel they must…who adopted the identity of ‘writer’ in adolescence and never learned to let it go. I have worked closely with teenagers for the past decade, and I’m afraid I disagree. There are a myriad of psychological reasons why someone who has the desire to write, cannot.

It has always come easily for me.  Though I have never felt forced to pen my thoughts, I have known others who struggle with it daily. It has nothing to do with their want to write, more with an inability to say what they mean or the reluctance to come to terms with their own emotions. It isn’t just because they’ve likened themselves to angsty, reclusive writers … but nice try, Maass. I’m sure many people thought that was a brilliant insight. Perhaps it is. I just fail to believe that those who consistently publish soulless drivel are any more true in their endeavors than those who don’t care for the scrutiny of the likes of agents, editors, etc.

I mean, even a blog can get you blacklisted these days…

Madness ensues…

Nathan Bransford asked a really good question yesterday…What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? A myriad of responses flooded in, and much of it sounded like some of the stuff I’ve been told.  In stead of talking about what shouldn’t be done, I thought I would chat a moment about what should. Consider this quote concerning fads:

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.” 
–Ray Bradbury 

How true. How startlingly, frustratingly true. I lightly considered, as I complained about the current trends, changing my next project…or I should say I considered shelving my next project and replacing it with something that would fit the market. To even contemplate setting aside something that warms my soul to make room for something that fills my wallet, is true defeat.

So, in light of such a humbling revelation, I suspect I will get quite a good ways into book four this weekend. Nothing like stark reality to get the ink flowing again…

Really…how much coffee does it take?

I am on my third cup this morning. I also wonder why I can’t sleep at night. hmmm.
I suppose during this part of the process I should refrain from caffeine, but where is the fun in that? This brings to mind questions as to what things other writers find necessary for their craft. Where do you write your best? Are there any rituals you go through before beginning for the day?
For reasons even I cannot fathom, I like the scent of mistletoe year round. No, I’m not kidding.  I have two or three Yankee candles that are either said scent, or pumpkin spice, that I burn when I write. Coffee is another needful thing. I have a favorite place (lake cabin), though I can only go there on the weekend. My writing room at the house takes its place during the week. It seems too that I am at my best when its late. Darkness leads to less distractions, I suppose. Everyone is asleep, and the world outside of my door is quiet. I listen to music most of the time, only refraining when I am in the outline stage of a project.
What do I listen to? Musical scores mostly, and trailer music. (Movie previews, ass…not trailor park music. You should get out more often)
So what do you do? I realize this blog is scarcely read right now, but I have to start it somewhere.

Writing isn’t a choice

Whoever told you that it was, must count the description of their ebay bid as writing. I write because I must. This isn’t new or unique to me as an author. I have heard this before and completely agree. Who would choose a career that takes years (usually) to see professional results? Writing often makes us reclusive individuals. I personally have a reputation for never having my cell phone charged, and forget calling the land line…I don’t answer it anyway (those of you who know me, hush).
How many times do you have to decline invitations before others stop inviting you places? How often do you find yourself in the awkwardness of trying to explain what your epic fantasy novel is about, to loved ones who don’t read the genre…if you’re me, the answer is quite often. Its somewhat like trying to explain global warming to a toddler. They don’t understand the world you are describing, let alone the cause and effect aspects of a plot involving creatures they can’t comprehend. It could be entertaining were it not for the uncomfortable silence that always ensues (Followed of course by…’Isn’t that nice, dear. Be sure to send me a signed copy when its published’).
Equally as vexing is the completely errant beliefs of those who have no idea how very little an author makes. No, having a book published doesn’t mean I can quite my day job and buy you a car…or anything else requiring money for that matter.
The odds are the most staggering thing for me. Consider how few books are on the shelves in Barnes and Noble. Now, narrow that down further by cutting everything out but your specific genre. Then, take into account how many authors submit their work on a weekly basis. Lastly, do get yourself a drink to hopefully counter how sobering this realization is. A kind of gut hollowing silence always follows my thoughts of this nature, that reminds me why I write at all…because I must.
I write because I can’t fathom doing anything else with my time. I love the worlds I create, and even more so, the characters that populate them. The good, the bad and the ugly. One of my favorite characters in my current project is the darkest personality I’ve ever written.
I write because it is what fuels my soul. No writer, regardless of how seasoned, can spit out a perfect manuscript upon first draft. There isn’t an agent or editor alive who can predict the future (though same may try), so though you may not be ready as an author now…you may mature in your own voice enough to share your creations with the world. Only you can make that determination.
It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to give up. It is much harder to continue to have faith in your words when others have made judgments that you know are accurate. Try to see what exists beyond the static of a manuscript in need of work…don’t trash it. It may be drivel…now. That has no bearing on what it will be later. Your will determines that.