Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Now I'm Just A Writer That I Used to Know

When I first realized I wanted to be a writer I knew exactly what genre I wanted to write.  Big, historical romances.  I've always been a history geek and I was drawn to the big romances with super alpha heroes and women with big dresses to match their big personalities.  And so my path was chosen and I worked on my craft.  I have notebooks with historical notes, websites I know backwards and forwards, etc., etc.  I honed in on 18th century Britain and America for my stories and felt perfectly comfortable writing in the genre.
Historical Romance: its all about the covers

But people are dynamic.  We rarely stay with the same interests forever.  Those that do are lucky, particularly writers.  I discovered paranormal romance as a reader and loved writing it.  So I identified myself as a writer of contemporary paranormal romances.

...until I moved onto something else.

I found dark, urban fantasy and really grasped onto it.  I very much like writing in first person and feel I'm a much stronger writer when I follow that point of view.  It plays to my strengths as a writer and I have to say I had more success in writing the genre than any other previously.  So, I'm a writer of dark urban fantasy.
Dark Urban Fantasy heroines are not allowed to cover their midriffs

But wait....

All I would need is a pair of goggles and an airship to write in
Have you tried Steampunk?  Who couldn't love the combination of Victorian fashion and sensibility with clockwork technology and airships?  For me, I like the dark tensions that simmer below the controlled Victorian environment.  I'm attracted to the class struggles that a runaway industrial revolution can create.  So, I started working on a Steampunk novel.  And I really like it, lot of work because of the world building but it is fun to write.

Thus is my quandary as a writer.  I don't fit any definition and I've come a long way from what I started at as a writer.  Trying to find where I'm comfortable writing is not easy.  When I say I've not been writing it isn't exactly true, I've been writing quite a bit just not finishing.  Struggling to find the writer I want to be has been difficult.  That I can at least recognize this as a big issue for me I think is a major step to getting back into the rhythm of writing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Excuse #213...It's HOT Outside....

You can feel the weight of your hair on your head.  Sweat stings your skin no matter what you do.  The smallest thing irritates you.  Its what heat does.

I don't know too many writers (maybe none) that wax poetic about writing in the heat.  Most of the time they  talk about how they snuggle up with a warm cup of tea and flannel pajamas to write.  The crackling fire in the background inspires them.  The gray clouds of a winter sky put them into a writing mood.

I'm not any different.  I remember when I started writing wholeheartedly I went to Mervyn's and bought thermal underwear, preparing for chilly days in front of the computer screen.

Writers are a persnickety lot.  They want things perfect.  And yet they write about imperfection.  They torture, punish, and all around work at making their heroes and heroines, make-believe people they profess to love, miserable. 

Perhaps perfect comfort is the wrong approach to writing.  Honestly, I write better when I'm upset or emotional.  Writing is cathartic and it puts my focus onto something else besides my own misery.  Not always do I feel like writing when I'm upset, but if I can, I am most certain to produce some great prose.

Maybe instead of looking to our physical discomfort as an excuse to not write, we should embrace it, take our own misery, magnify it, and pour it onto the page.  Wouldn't it also help us forget our own suffering?

I'm pretty certain Shakespeare did not have central air.  Rumor has it he didn't have a laptop or a PC.  Writers from the past certainly had it a lot more miserable than us.  So before you walk away from the computer screen, think twice, sigh, grab a big glass of ice water and write.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Why Couldn't You Write "50 Shades of Grey?"

How many times have you heard that from your non-writing spouse, significant other, mother, sister, uncle, brother, father, child, dog, cat, goldfish, etc.?

It makes you grit your teeth, doesn't it?  The fiction world is peppered with phenomenal bestsellers that leave the bulk of us scratching our heads.  I'm sure there are a lot of agents who watched the meteoric rise of Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series who still don't understand it (I know I don't).  But these books really are the exception.  Its fate, luck, karma, what have you.

But it is hard for the rest of us.  We ask ourselves how come our book didn't do the same.  And it gets harder the closer you get.  Its a difficult, brutal business where too often you can see the brass ring but it is snatched out of your way before you can grab it.

The important thing is to not internalize these comments and make them our own expectations.  We fight enough internal demons as it is without absorbing external ones that have no basis in reality.

We need to remind ourselves of what we are good at in our writing.  We have to be proud of what we write and feel comfortable in our genre.  We also have to be realistic about the niche our books have in the world. I would love to be able to write the kind of books Nora Roberts writes.  Problem is, I don't like reading them so how could I write them?  I look at the books I do like and very few of those authors have the kind of success a J.K. Rowling or Meyer.

We also need to stamp down the jealousy bug.  Envy of another's success is a poison to our own writing.  We have enough negative energy surrounding us from the toils of writing without bringing more onto ourselves.  Its easier said than done.  We all want to be appreciated for our hard work and it seems so unfair when it happens to someone else.  But we haven't walked in their writing shoes and we do not know the trials they've faced in their road to publication.  I'm sure they would have similar tales from the trenches as you.

Its important to find your own measures of success.  Be warned, the non-writers in your life are not going to understand.  The support you find from other authors will help keep it in perspective.  Writing is an individual endeavor and the successes are personal for the most part.  But it doesn't mean you can't hope for the wild success of other authors, just don't make it your expectation but rather a daydream.  If it happens CHEERS!  if it doesn't BRAVO!  If you've accomplished the writing goals you've set for yourself, you have reached the pinnacle.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

.....Not Writing is a Habit Too

I know a lot of writers make writing a habit, or at least treat it as such as a way of completing a project.  Its a good way to work in most instances, especially if you have no expectations of getting paid.  If we can attune our minds into the pattern of making writing a daily thing like brushing our teeth or making the bed.

But not writing is a habit too.  When we neglect a habit, another behavior takes its place.  If you quit making your bed, you might not bother to pick up your clothes.  You leave your clothes on the floor, it probably won't be long before the newspapers start piling up.  Eventually you have to walk sideways through your halls trying to get to the front door only to find people from Hoarders waiting to burst in and help.  I'm not going into what happens if you quit brushing your teeth.

The point is the more habitually we don't do something, the further we get away from the benefits the habit creates.  When I make my bed I'm more inclined to pick up my room or throw a load of laundry in the wash.  Good habits create more good habits.   With writing maybe a 3 page a day habit will lead to a 5 page a day habit or a commitment to a bigger project.

I've taken a couple of years off of writing.  I've played around with it from time to time but I've given it no commitment.  Part of the reason is that it seems so daunting.  Right now, 5 pages seems such a huge commitment.  Even 500 words looks like Mt. Everest.  At my peak I was putting out 85K words in 8 weeks.  But I built up to those numbers and I'm going to have to again.  For today, I'm going to count myself lucky to get this  blog post published.  Its writing and its the beginning of a habit.

Monday, May 09, 2011

This House Holds Secrets

Everyday when I take my kids to school I pass a house. To me it epitomizes the classic American house. Its the kind of house I fantasize coming home to as a child. There is probably always a fresh pot of coffee on and a pie cooling in the window. Crocheted doilies created by a long-dead grandmother cover end tables. Wedding and baby pictures decorate the walls. Its a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
I think it hides the gates to Hell.
Its not that I'm subversive or have the strong desire to rip off the patina of suburban living to show the rot beneath. I'm not making a social statement; I'm not that deep. But I do love to imagine something dark and dangerous living in the middle of perfection. I like the edge of terror such images evoke. I think it also helps the reader get pulled into the story. If the scene is one they can imagine on their own, have a familiarity with, it brings them into the action quicker than if they have to structure the scene from scratch in their minds.
Sticking with a familiar world helps me with writing. I'm more of an action writer, the hallmark of my writing is usually a scene of violence to open the novel. I like to write action and dialogue. If I have to build a world from scratch I get discouraged. I worked on a steampunk novel and while building a world of airships and fantastical steam gadgets dressed up in Victoriana was interesting and fun, it was work. It felt ponderous for me. It held me back from the strengths of what I like to write.
But world building is necessary. I have abandoned a couple of authors I used to read because they didn't flesh out their world enough and stuck to pure action. Constant action with no tangible scenery becomes confusing and boring. Finding the right balance is tough. So I look to the familiar as a shortcut. Any modern tale I write is going to take place in California. It minimizes the research required. I also have enough familiarity with my home state to create a fictional town which still retains a sense of authenticity. Dean Koontz is good at this. He will create a fictional town but I can immediately get a sense of what and where the town is. I also like suburban settings because most of us have a sense of what suburbia is. It really doesn't matter the state and in some instances, the country.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when they write. There is nothing wrong with finding shortcuts to make your writing easier. Looking to the familiar to find inspiration and even cornerstones to a scene is writing smart. If it helps a writer pull their readers in and give them a connection to the story its all good. So when trying to find where the body is hidden, where the spy hid the flash drive loaded with state secrets or where the gates to Hell are standing, try looking next door.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

....It's like Riding a Bike

Unfortunately, I've always been a bad bike rider. I dunno, when I was a kid I could ride a bike okay, I was never one for tricks or stunts. I enjoyed the basics, the feel of rushing through the air, my legs pumping to pick up speed, the freedom a bike gives a kid.

As an adult, well, bike riding takes too much focus. Its work. Insulated by youth, I never really worried about the cars around me when I was a child. Now, I'm constantly aware of the speeding vehicles and my own lack of skill on a two-wheeler. It takes all my concentration to remain balanced. The seat is uncomfortable and bike riding hurts my back (I fell down a flight of stairs in college and add childbirth to it, my back isn't the best).

So where am I going with this besides the observation that I should be kept away from anything with the word "Schwinn" on it? Writing works the same way for me. If you asked me to ride a bike from point "A" to point "B" I could do it. It would be ugly and I wouldn't enjoy it, but I could make it. If I did this everyday, I would get better. My balance would improve. I'd find a way to ride where my back wasn't achy. Eventually I'd go further and enjoy it.

Once you learn to ride a bike, the basics of it are pretty programmed in. You don't forget. For me writing is the same way. Tell me to write something and I can do it. I can get to point "A" to point "B." It might be ugly and I may not like it. But it would get done. If I write everyday, I will get better and would eventually start to enjoy it again.

For me, its getting the motivation to even try. How much do I really want to do this? Why do I want to start writing again? Is it worth the effort? I think I have to remember the rush of when I was writing everyday and working on a project. I have to remember the wild abandon I felt putting words together. I have to go back and recapture the feelings I felt much like when I was a kid riding a bike.

Like anything worth accomplishing, it takes practice. It takes work and it isn't always fun. As Susan and Toni its going to take some writing garbage first. And I think the blogging helps. I do believe the writing will come back and be as good or better than ever. Sadly, I don't think the same can be said for bike riding. Think I will stick to my car.

Monday, March 07, 2011

At a Loss for Words....

I'm literally at a loss for words. They have deserted me. Every thing I write is a struggle. From a simple email to a Facebook status, I'm faced with a blank screen and a blank mind to go with it. I open a document and the words scatter like cockroaches when you turn on a light. Last week I had a WIP open and I couldn't come up with a single word to push the story forward.

It's not writer's block. With writer's block I can see where I want to go, I can see my plot, my scenes, my characters, I just struggle with how to get it altogether. This is different. I have lost my vision. Story lines and characters have always come easy for me. Execution not always so. But now my mind is completely vacant when it comes to telling a story.

Disheartening? Yes, a writer who can't writer is an unhappy puppy. But mostly I'm angry. I'm furious that this has happened, that I've allowed this to happen. Yes, I do blame myself to some extent. I took a break. That's fine, but I should have made myself go back sooner. Like anything else, creativity must be nourished, it cannot be left to linger. Anything worth having, feeling, doing must be tended. If it is left to neglect, it withers.

I don't believe this vacuum is permanent. I've taken long hiatuses before. The writing comes back but it is much tougher than it should be.

So, my writer friends, what do you suggest I do to jump start my words and get me writing again?