On Being Opinionated

I had no idea when I set up my ranty post about writer entitlement on Wednesday that it was going to go kind of viral.  I mean, dude, I GOT RTed by JIM BUTCHER!  (Thanks to Suzan Butler for letting me know that because…AWESOME).

The post has had almost 6k views as of this morning, and the only post I’ve ever written that’s had more comments was the one with screenshots on where the hell to change the editor font in Scrivener for Windows (almost all of which were kowtows of thanks because it’s SO NOT OBVIOUS).

Clearly I struck a nerve with a LOT of people.  And you know what?  It felt really good.

It’s been a long time since I posted an opinionated rant about anything.  I used to say what I thought all the time–usually something related to the wild west world of self publishing vs. traditional.  I had a really nice blog following.  Then I got agented, went on submission, and it seemed prudent to…curb my enthusiasm (and criticism).  It does not do to be calling out traditional publishers for asshatish, antiquated, or otherwise flat out STUPID behavior when they have your book in their hands.  In conjunction with a move toward greater positivity, life around the blog here has gotten downright tame–Not that being positive automatically equals tame–and my following shifted and dropped.  Which really wasn’t something I worried about, since I blog for myself because I enjoy it and any response from others is just gravy.  But still.

Since I made the decision to part ways from the traditional path for good a few months ago (mutual goodwill on both sides with my former agent–I’m just much happier with the pace and full control of self publishing), I guess I hadn’t thought about the fact that I’m free of that restriction now.  I’m not sure exactly what that will mean for the blog.  One interesting discussion on Facebook earlier this week has me mulling the possibility of a weekly post series about things writers should never do–which would be titled For The Love Of All That’s Holy… (LINCOLN CRISLER!)  If that’s something others would be interested in, I’m sure I have enough fodder to last…a while.

I don’t want to go posting about anything and everything I have an opinion about because I feel like I should be putting something of value out there into the universe–and there are often others who say things so much better than I could (Chuck Wendig, Justine Musk, and Delilah S. Dawson, to name a few).   But when something moves me to speak, I’ll be less likely to silence myself.   And I will continue to find more correct contexts for the use of the word DOUCHENOZZLE, which I have made a personal goal this year to increase the popularity of.

#ROW80 Round 2 Wrap Up

I only had two goals for this round:

  1. Write 20 days out of every 30.
  2. Finish To Get Me To You.  

I easily met my first goal.  I’m nothing if not consistent there.  But I definitely didn’t finish the book.   I had an OMG THE MIDDLE spaz at the tail end of April that led to a total overhaul of my outline and necessitated significant cuts and rewrites.  And this weekend I had another, less spastic realization that I needed a second outline revision before I could continue.   In total, I probably cut near to 50k of the 73k I wrote this Round (and probably a good 12-15k of what remained were plotty notes).

And you know what?  I’m okay with that.

Unlike almost every OTHER time I’ve ended up cutting stuff from a manuscript, a lot of this actually COULD be reused in a future WIP in this series.  And all the time exploring different avenues with these characters has helped me really learn their voice and personalities in a way I probably wouldn’t have before.  And I’m pretty sure that by stopping and doing this now, I’m saving myself the need for a total rewrite second draft later.  I take it as a great sign that I’m as in love with these characters as ever, and they still talk to me all the time.  This book is the anchor for the entirety of the Wishful series, and there is a very specific series arc for the town that I’m setting up, so I have a lot of details to juggle and get “right”.   That’s worth taking the time for.

We’ve got 11 days left until the start of Round 2, so I’m hoping to continue to make strides between now and then such that I’m up to PP1 by the time we get started.  Then it’ll be fast and furious (I hope) until the end.

In other news, I’ve pretty much got a handle on the dairy allergy.  There’s still some suck involved, but thanks to finding a source for Daiya (dairy free cheese), life goes on more or less as normal.  See y’all next round!

Sunday Summary and #ROW80 Check-In

  1. RT was FABULOUS.  My brain is buzzing with approximately a thousand different things, from craft to marketing to plot things.  I got to meet and fangirl over Allison Brennan, Meljean, Brook, Delilah Dawson, Larissa Ione, and Veronica Rossi.  And I was able to met a whole bunch of other writers I know from twitter and Facebook.  That’s one of my favorite things about these cons.  The Marriott in New Orleans was all but EXPLODING with the awesome.  And now, so is my TBR pile.  Again.  We aren’t going to talk about the damage this is going to do to my book budget.
  2. As you can see, I’ve done some switching around of the website here.  I swapped themes to something a bit cleaner (the same one I use for the ROW80 site now, just with a different color scheme) and made a lot of changes to the navigation.  So now readers can find lists of my books both by and by genre.  I pared down descriptions, made stuff more visual with all the book covers instead.  And tried to make things as clear as possible for any new readers coming to the site.  There are still a few things I’d like to do, but this is what I managed between other stuff, as I am essentially on vacation.
  3. I go home in a few hours, which I both love and hate.  I miss my hubby and my puppies, but it’s been so awesome to hang out with Lisa.  I really miss her since she moved down here.  She’s been instigating plot bunnies, prompting me to revisit something I never thought I’d revisit.  I don’t know if I’ll ever write said plot bunnies, but the bug is in my ear now, so…we’ll see.
  4. I’ve earned some cave time.  I’ve talked more in the last 4 days than I have in the last month.
  5. Lots and lots to do when I get home today…laundry, grocery shopping, and hopefully a NAP.  

Baton Blog Hop

Last week Rhenna Morgan tagged me for this blog hop.  I haven’t done one in a while, so here we go!

What am I working on?
Presently I’m busy drafting the first full length novel in my Wishful series.  Chronologically, it actually falls before the novella I released last November (Be Careful, It’s My Heart), which was just sort of how it worked out.  This book is the set up for what I hope to be a long running contemporary romance series.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Wishful series plays to my strengths.  It is a hard-core love song to the Deep South, showcasing all the best parts of my home state of Mississippi.  Anybody who loves small town romance should enjoy this series.

Why do I write what I do?

I actually write a lot of things.  Contemporary romance is where my present focus is because I needed a change–and because those characters are the ones keeping me up at night.  But I haven’t forgotten my paranormal roots and hope to start on a new Mirus novel once I get this one off my plate.  And I’ve got the nice palette cleansers of my Meet Cute Romances.  (PSST!  You can get my most recent Meet Cute, Once Upon An Heirloom for FREE this week!)

How does my writing process work?

I’m constantly plotting multiple projects.  My brain doesn’t do well focused on a single thing for long.  I have a full toolkit of plot details that I gradually fill out as things come to me.  And when I’m ready, I dive in, typically sticking to only drafting one thing at a time.  And while I do outline the entire book before I start, invariably things change once I get into the story itself, so I don’t sweat it.  I just make the changes and trace the ripples out to adjust the outline from there.  I try to write at least something every day.  It keeps my head in the story and means I make steady progress.

Tag, you’re it.

I’m tagging Lauren Garafalo, Suzan Butler, and Julie Glover for this blog hop.   Next Monday, you’ll answer these questions on your own blog and tag 3 more writers!  Go!

Sunday Summary and #ROW80 Update

  1. I’ve been out of town since Friday for a family wedding.  We got home a couple hours ago and then immediately went out for dinner (because there was NO way I was gonna cook).  So now I’m finally sitting in my favorite chair with my puppies at my feet and all is right with the world again.
  2. I read 2 novels and a novella while trapped in the car for hours on end.  I haven’t had time for a marathon reading session in a while, so that was actually kind of nice.
  3. I also kicked revision ASS.  To combat the glare, I bought one of those pull down shade things for the car window like you use for babies (why have I never thought of this before? It was awesome).  And I plowed through revisions on FIVE SCENES.  I only have one new scene and two partial scenes to finish.  As I took tomorrow off to recover from the trip, I hope to knock most of that out then.  I may actually get through with this within a week of my original estimate.
  4. I must go watch some brainless entertainment and chill.

A Friday Roundup of Awesome

I have a Deep Post percolating in my brain that’s just not ready for y’all yet, so instead I’m passing you on to some of the other awesome I’ve come across this week.

Justine Musk had a post this week On The Art of Mastery and Soul Making, which is thought provoking as usual.   The part that really resonated for me was this:

 One reason why geeks are the way they are is because of how obsession defines them. They’d rather spend time deepening their knowledge and acquiring mad skills instead of, say, social savvy. (Which isn’t to say that social skills don’t eventually come, at least to some of us.)

The world outside that obsession? Often bores them. It isn’t as rich or vivid or visceral, it doesn’t get them where they live in quite the same way. The obsession is always in the background, waiting, and some part of them waits to return to it.

It SO captures how I feel about writing and WHY I get so frustrated with the “real world” and evil day jobs.

The Hammer is done with Riven and I’m still standing.  The Gobsmacker isn’t far behind, so I expect to take their comments this weekend and spend Sunday listing out all of the issues, then Monday making a plan for the best means of addressing them.  Revision Cave, I’m a comin’.  In light of that, this vlog by Kelsey Mackee was TOTALLY well timed.  She’s entertaining and adorable and makes great points.

Last night The Ghost from Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series was on Twitter to answer (avoid, really) questions about his identity, one of the biggest mysteries in paranormal romance that’s about to be answered when Heart of Obsidian gets released June 4th.  You can catch the transcript here.

I Want To Tell Stories

The world has been yellow the last couple of weeks.  Spring has most definitely sprung here in Mississippi.  Our yard went from patches of dead grass and lots of weeds to…well a lot more weeds actually.  I was surviving pretty well until yesterday and then it all caught up to me and knocked me on my butt.  But we had a storm yesterday–a lovely fierce one that lashed and whipped…like the inside of a drive through car wash.  And it’s left the world sparkly and gorgeous this morning.  It’ll be yellow again tomorrow probably, but for today, I’m enjoying it.

I’ve been doing a lot of mulling since the Universe mule-kicked me earlier this week.  About a LOT of stuff.  And frankly, I’m not caffeinated enough to counteract the double dose of Benedryl I took last night to adequately discuss most of it with you here this morning.  But the bit of it that’s circling around my brain is about why we write.

Susan and I got into a discussion at some point in the last few weeks talking about why we write.  It’s a subject that’s come up often enough over the years in various guises, but she brought it up way back to the beginning.  Commercial, we’d like to make a living doing what we love aspects aside, everyone has some REASON they want to write.  For her, it’s about making readers FEEL something.  For me, it’s because I want to tell stories.

I want to tell stories.

It’s worth repeating because I think I’ve gotten away from that.  I’m not worried about making readers feel something (although, of course, I’d like them to and if I did my job right telling said stories, they should).  I’m not worried about being remembered fifty or a hundred years after I’m dead.  I’m not trying to be the next J.K. Rowling or Nora Roberts (it’d be nice, but that’s not the driver).  I’m not doing it for the legitimacy of traditional publication (which, again, I wouldn’t turn DOWN, but that’s not my motivator).

I want to tell stories.

When I look back over the things I’ve written in the last few years, the last thing that was EASY to write was Red.  Part of that is due to the fact that it was a fairly simple, straight-forward story.  So simple, in fact, that I pretty well got it right on the first draft and have damned myself by expecting them all to go that well.  And while that was a component if it being easy, the bigger one (as Susan pointed out yesterday) was that it was a story I WANTED to write.  I wasn’t worried about marketability or what was selling or the fact that I was jumping to a different audience.  I wrote that book because Elodie literally woke me up at 3 in the morning and demanded it.  Hers was a story I WANTED to tell, one I probably would’ve written even if the market was wholly flooded with others just like it.  It’s easy to write a book that springs from one’s brain fully-formed like Athena from Zeus’s brow.  

For everything I’ve attempted since then, if you asked me why I wanted to write it, I could easily offer up some answer relating to sales, marketing, commercial appeal, or platform.

Not coincidentally, no one has woken me up in the middle of the night since I finished that story.

I want to tell stories.

And it’s time I got back to that.

 

Genius, Responsibility, and Showing Up

Over the weekend, I got an email linking to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love, which I’ve never read, but which, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of).  There’s a quote at the start of it that I really liked:

When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life. You set a prisoner free, but you discover that the real prisoner was yourself. –Lewis B. Smedes, in ‘Forgive and Forget’

Susan and I have talked a lot about forgiveness, so I forwarded the interview to her before I even read it and starred the email in my inbox to read when I got back from the woods and back to internet and big screens.  So then yesterday morning, I see Susan made a post about it, talking about the myth of the tortured writer.  Which I read.  And then I went to read the interview.  And then I went to watch Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk about Your Elusive Creative Genius.

It’s always interesting to me to see what different people get out of the same thing.  I’ve never really bought into the myth of the tortured writer.  I mean, statistically, there is a much higher incidence of mood disorders among the creative set (I’ve written papers on it).  But I’ve never really bought into the idea that dysfunction and tortured psyches are necessary for creativity.  I mean, sure I’ve got some issues like anybody does, but I don’t consider myself tortured.

But anyway, one of the things Elizabeth talks about is how prior to the Renaissance, people believed that creativity came to them from some, divine, distant outside source.  Daemons according to the Greeks.  Geniuses according to the Romans.  These were kinda like Dobby the house elf, these invisible spirits that lived in the walls of the artist’s studio that would help out.   It was this distance, this psychological construct that kind of protected the artist or writer or whoever from the results of their work.  So if your work was brilliant, you couldn’t be too narcissistic about it because you couldn’t take all the credit.  If your work was an epic fail, again, not entirely your fault.  And then came the Renaissance and the onus of genius became embodied in the creative person themselves, and she basically postulates that this is where the whole tortured artist/writer thing began because DUDE, THE PRESSURE.

I’ve never been a fan of the notion of an outside entity having any bearing on the work.  We would most often probably think of it as muses (though if you wanna get technical, that was something else entirely from the daemons).  It feels too much like an abdication of responsibility–as if you were just supposed to sit around and wait for inspiration or help.  I’ve always been of the whole 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration school of thought.  I did all the work, I damn well better get all the credit.  I’m big on credit.

But the flip side of this is that when something doesn’t work, I also get all the blame.  Not like anybody is running around beating me with the blame stick but me, but still…I got a big stick, yo.  So I got to thinking about it…and it’s not that I consider myself a tortured writer by the classic definition.  I’m not depressed.  I don’t have a substance abuse problem.  But…I’ve kinda got a thing about self recrimination.  I hold myself to CRAZY high standards and then when I don’t meet them, I tend to engage in a considerable amount of self flagellation.

I begin to see some of the appeal of having that distance and a little bit of shared responsibility.

Around 15:03, Elizabeth talks about looking at an empty corner of the room and addressing this invisible thing saying “Listen you…thing…you and I both know if this book isn’t brilliant that that is not entirely my fault, right?  Because you can see that I am putting everything I have into this.  You know, I don’t have any more than this, so if you want it to be better, then you’ve gotta show up and do your part of the deal, okay?  But if you don’t do that, you know what, to hell with it, I’m gonna keep writing anyway, because that’s my job. And I would please like the record to reflect today that I showed up for my part of the job.”

That made me laugh.  But I think there’s really something there that kind of appeals to both sides of the equation.  Because yes, I’m a strong believer that the first part of winning the battle (and some days it really IS a battle) is showing up.  This is the classic BICHOK method.  Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.  Showing up, doing the work, even if that other disembodied Something didn’t show that day.  You showed.  You get credit.  You did the work, whatever it was, to the best of your ability THAT DAY.  And maybe it wasn’t ultimately what you needed it to be, but you will show up TOMORROW and you’ll do the best you can do then.  And eventually that amorphous other Something will feel guilty and stroll on into work and you’ll get that dose of genius.  You can’t know when it’ll decide to show, but you definitely won’t get an appearance if you don’t show up yourself.