Monday, May 30, 2011

When the monster comes...

Last week, depression reared its ugly head and grabbed me firmly by the throat.  Having no will to fight, I let it whisper in my ear those seductive words that the hidden parts of me believes.

"Your writing is for shit."
"You don't have any friends because you're unlikeable."
"Why do you even try, no one cares about what you're doing."
"Give up. No one is ever going to read your crap."

You get the idea.  It goes on and on like this.  And it's very easy to let it sink into your heart when you spend hours at the keyboard alone.  It's easy to to let it become a part of you when you really don't have any friends because you've isolated yourself so thoroughly in pursuit of your writing dream.

It's understandable.  I don't leave the house much.  I spend a lot of time doing the actual work involved with the act of writing (and editing) instead of trying to make friends or join peer groups.  It's a painful activity for me anyway -- being social.  So I've placed myself in that isolated prison of my own volition.

As for my writing being crap.  I figure every writer goes through this.  If they don't, they must have egos the size of Jupiter.  I think it's one of those pendulum swing things.  One time we all think our writing is awesome and we get feedback in support of those thoughts.  Most of the time we think we're pretty okay writers.  Then occasionally we think our writing is the worst thing ever put to paper.  Even though we have proof to the contrary.  We push through when the bad thoughts come.  We can't stop.  No matter what.

About no one ever reading our stuff.  I think that's the most difficult to fight off.  Especially for me.  I hate promoting.  I detest spamming.  A continuous stream of "buy my book!" "read my book!" gets on my nerves and I sure as hell am not going to submit others to it.  I don't mind 'talking' about my process and what I'm doing and every now and again mentioning that I have a book, (in case anyone forgot. heh).  I think I just haven't found that balance.  Promoting has always been, and probably will continue to be, my downfall.  Even back when I was an artist, pimping my work was sheer torture.  Yes, no one is ever going to read my book/s, because I don't promote to the nines.

However, I still refuse to give up.  So what if only 50 people ever read my work.  I should feel so lucky that perhaps, just maybe, I've enriched those 50 lives in some way.  And those 50 people got the rarest of opportunities to glimpse inside my soul.  For I do put my heart and soul into what I write.  Some stories more than others, but all have at least a kernel of me hidden in the words so brazenly printed across the pages.

It's funny that for someone so painfully shy, I'm willing to do that.  And I know in my heart, in spite of the depression monster that ever lurks in the shadows, that all the best writers do.  And we all press onward.  We cry ourselves out, believing, for a moment, all those insidious words, then we pick ourselves up and move forward.  Because we're writers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Excellence takes effort

Today, it's easy to publish a book.  All you have to do is pound out a few ten thousand words and slap it up on publishing sites like CreateSpace, Lulu or Smashwords and you're a published author.  Piece of cake!


The mechanics may be easy, (if you can call writing a 50 to 100k manuscript easy), but what many aspiring writers don't realize (or don't want to realize) is that writing is only the first step.  And what follows tests even the most dedicated writer's patience.

Cuts, edits and rewrites.

There are no shortcuts.  If you want to put out quality work, these are necessary.  No one's first draft is perfect; no matter what they think.  Ego must go.  Even the cleanest draft can be improved.  We're shooting for excellence here.  When I was in my early twenties, I heard a phrase that has really stuck with me through the years:

"Good isn't good enough if better is available."

My first novel, The Summer of the Frogs, was written during NaNoWriMo 2008.  I didn't publish it until 2010.  I let it rest for almost a year before I even looked at it again, then spent nearly a year polishing it up.  My husband can testify how I moaned and groaned about reading through it yet again.  I damn near could've spoken it verbatim.  By the time it was said and done, I was so sick of it, I wanted to tear it up and throw it in the trash.  And that was just my part.  I also had beta readers.  People who took their time to go through it, caught the errors I continually missed.  (It's funny how the eye slides right over what should be glaring mistakes.)  They questioned turns of phrase, plot points and character elements until my poor manuscript was mostly red ink.

And even after all that, I went over it three more times.  Start to finish.  Analyzing each sentence as if it might carry the plague.

Sure, writing and publishing a novel is easy... if you don't care enough to put in the hard work it takes to make it worth reading.  And if it's not worth reading, why even bother at all.  Excellence takes effort.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother, may I?

Yesterday was Mother's Day.  I didn't get a chance to visit my mom, who lives about 1/2 hour away, because I was 2 hours north retrieving most of my daughter's things from college.  She will follow with the rest of her stuff next Sunday.

I did call my mom when we got back home and we talked mostly of writing stuff.  She had went through and formatted The Summer of the Frogs for me to (hopefully) go through the Smashwords meat grinder for ebook distribution.  Since publishing has been her work for more years than I can remember, she is much more familiar with the lingo used in the Smashwords tutorial than I am.  Especially more difficult since I don't have Word.  Yet.  I really want to learn how to do these things for myself at some point.  I'm a big girl now, I can't keep leaning on Mom.

After I hung up with her, though, I was thinking about the week ahead and about what sorts of things I wanted to talk about for this blog and things got mushed up in my brain.

I got to thinking about the role of Mom in fiction.

In The Summer of the Frogs, the main character's mom plays an integral role in her life.  Since she lives at home with her mother, it's obvious Mom would be there.  Mom in TSotF does the best she can with her daughter who she perceives as being extremely mentally ill.  (whether she actually is or not is up to the reader.)  Oftentimes, she pulls back away from her daughter, because she is so overwhelmed.  The main character, wrapped up in her world, can't really understand where her mom is coming from and believes that she would be happier without her.  Toward the end and into the upcoming sequel (The Winter of the Birds) they have a little better relationship, even if they still can't really understand where the other is coming from.

In my other WIP, Fragile Bones, the main character doesn't have a family.  Both his parents died when he was very young, so he is lacking the support, love and nurturing of a mom.  And with his particular set of challenges, the loss of Mom is especially tragic.  Mom's influence on him is in her glaring absence.

Even though the Mom doesn't show herself personally in all my writing, she must always be there.  For all characters -- main, secondary and tertiary -- had mothers, even if just for their birth.  How must this influence their personality and character?  Whether a key player or not, Moms hold such a powerful influence over the lives of the characters we create.

What role does Mom play in your story?

Note:  my mom is a wonderful, beautiful person.  I am very fortunate to have such a mother.  She's supportive in everything I've every set my mind to, even if it's peculiar.  Any Mom I could ever write in a story would always pale in comparison to my mom, so I don't even try.  The Mom in my fiction is always a complete fabrication.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Five Senses

I had the good fortune to work with a fabulous editor during the prep period for my short homoerotic story, Half of Me (written under my pen name).  I'd never had that experience before and I gained so much insight from her years in the field.  You just can't buy that kind of learning; so I made sure she knew how deeply appreciative I was for her time investment in me.

One of the things she talked about was enriching a scene with the five senses.  We all know them:  sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.  I had only really thought about sight... what is my MC seeing?  Not really giving the other senses much page time.

Sound and smell are particularly easy to liven up drab blocks of text.  Are there birds chirping?  A garbage truck rumbling by?  The irritating creak of a shoddy ceiling fan?  Is the neighbor baking apple pies?  What about the nasty stench of the garbage truck that just went by?  The signature scent of an embraced lover?

Taste and touch aren't used as much unless the MC is constantly stuffing his/her face and/or has a tactile fetish, but they can definitely add that extra layer to the story.

How do you use the five senses to make your story come alive?