Monday, September 12, 2011

On Procrastination and Mommy Issues

I had the extreme good fortune to attend the SCBWI LA conference back in August, and it was awesome. I listened to a ton of amazing and inspirational panels from authors who, to my shock, didn't point at me and kick me out for not being a 'real author'. Now, I know I shouldn't feel this way, but I can't help it. Because even though I've written a book (and a half), it doesn't feel like I'm committed to it in the way I should be. I've been *gulp* hiding from my book.

Libba Bray gave one of the funniest talks I've ever heard. She described that point in your revision process where you contemplate faking your own death and running off to hide somewhere, because THAT would be easier than fixing your book. The moral of her talk was that, one, you'll make it through, and two, often your book isn't 'right' because you don't want to face something hard and personal. It's those hard and personal things that make the book amazing.

I, of course, nodded and laughed and went on my way because, honestly, there is nothing 'hard' and 'personal' about my book. Come on, aliens bent on (hilarious, hopefully) world destruction? Not exactly a deep insight into my soul. It's more a deep insight into my love of science fiction and campy goodness. So I continued to procrastinate and avoid my book and blissfully ignored all of Libba's and everyone else's good advice to look harder.

And then, of course, it hit me. I realized WHY I was avoiding my book. It's because I need to fix a character, and not just any character, but a very important one. The driving force behind the entire plot line, Sef's mother, is so one-dimensional it's laughable. And I didn't want to deal with her because *insert ironic laugh here* I DON'T WANT TO DEAL WITH A WOMAN WHO WOULD ABANDON HER CHILD. I don't LIKE Eve.

Now, thankfully, I don't have Mommy Issues. My mother is an incredibly loving, supportive woman who was always there for me (and still is today.) But I am a mother. And I realized that no matter what excuses I gave Eve for leaving (and she has very good ones), I couldn't forgive her. I can't separate my mama-bear instinct for my daughter from my character. And there you go. Damn her, Libba was right.

I was hiding from the HARD job of understanding Eve, even empathizing with her. I know I wrote the story, and I could always CHANGE the way things are. I could make her more sympathetic or her actions seem less Machiavellian. But that won't serve the story. My job is to make you, the reader, understand why she made the choices she did. So, starting tomorrow (yes, I set a deadline for myself), I'm going to go back into my story. It's going to be hard, and I may cry and curse and probably direct a lot of that at Ms. Bray. But it'll be worth it. The fear is tinged with excitement. And THAT feeling is why I write.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Writers Write, But What?

I read a book several years ago that I hated. It was really long, the characters were mostly unlikable, and it didn't have an ending. Not "didn't have the ending I wanted" but actually didn't have an ending. Instead it just stopped. It was as if the author said "So, I've gotten you invested in these people, but I'm kinda bored now so that's it." Of course, the author did it on purpose, not because he was bored (I hope), but because he wanted to write a book that made a statement, even if it was a risk. It worked. I have read hundreds of books, most of which were very entertaining and had completely satisfying endings. I don't remember most of them. But I remember this book.

As a writer, I keep coming back to that. What type of book do I want to write? Do I want to make a statement and be remembered? Do I want to be fun but forgettable? The answer is "no" to both. I am not a statement writer, and if I ever have a statement to make it's usually sarcastic. I have stories to tell, and they are fun and quirky and not epic in the least. Heck, my motto is "Don't be like Dickens" because I can't stand his style. It's like I'm begging to be forgotten.

But those aren't the only stories. There are stories out there that compel, that make you think, that make you laugh, and make their statements quietly. Those are the stories I want to tell. The novel I'm revising may be one of those, or it may be a lesson in writing to prepare me for the next one. I don't know yet, and I can't know at this stage. I am afraid that I'll be one of the forgettable ones, but not too afraid to try anyway.

I've been pondering if I'm really a writer at all, fueled by that fear. I wrote a book. I could rest on that accomplishment, shove it in a drawer, and move on to a new 'hobby'. Every time I consider that, though, I feel an immense sadness. When I'm 90 I won't look back and say "oh, my house was super clean and I was a great digiscrapper!" I'll look back and say "why didn't I ever send out a query letter for that novel? Why did I ignore all those other characters and stories that came into my mind?"  There's another answer. I am a writer. I'll write.

And I promise that even when I take risks and make statements, you'll always get an actual ending. So, what stories stick with you? What stories do you have to tell? Will you always give me an ending? I certainly hope so, but if you don't, that's okay. It's your book. *grins*

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Husband Gives the Best Pep Talks

A few weekends ago I had a really productive weekend, writing-wise. (I shouldn't even have to clarify that. Nothing else productive ever gets done by me anymore. It's like I only think in terms of feeding my family and writing.) Anyway, I was riding my little writing-high and then an amazing writer friend (you know who you are) sent me a scene to read. And it was a great scene. She nailed it. When I was done gushing to her about how awesome it was, reality struck me. My scenes suck. They didn't have the finesse, the elegance, or even the cool words that hers did. I was filled with WOE. (You may have noticed that writers tend to be over-dramatic.)

A while later, I was moping rummaging around in the kitchen when my husband walks up. He sees me standing there, sour look on my face and bottle of coconut rum in my hand (what? I'm over 21) and asks what's wrong.

Me: My book sucks.
Him: But you were so excited earlier! You had such a good weekend! *pauses* You were reading someone else's work, weren't you?
Me: No! Okay, maybe. Yes. And mine sucks.
Him: No it doesn't! You can't judge your book so harshly. It's your first one, and it's your first DRAFT of your first one. Besides, I've read your work. It's good!
Me: No, it isn't. It's amateurish and choppy and just... ugh.
Him: *takes rum from me* No, your work is very good. I've read the first part of your book, remember? It flows really well! I'd tell you if it wasn't any good.
Me: *disbelieving stare* Uh-huh. You sleep in the same bed as me.
Him: *gets his "I'm very serious" look on his face* Of course I'd tell you the truth! If it was shit, I wouldn't let you submit it anywhere! That'd just be embarrasing!
Me: *pauses before bursting into tears and laughter* I love you.
Him: Now stop pouting and have a drink. *pours the rum*

THAT, my friends, is why you get married to someone like my husband. Because they'll tell you truth. And make you a drink. At the same time.