Wednesday, July 30, 2014

No One's Bitches.

This is something that's been bugging me for a while: why do people feel like it's okay to tell authors to not do anything but write?

I had dinner with family last night, and I explained to them a concept that we should all be familiar with: George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.  (If you haven't read that, please do so.  I won't mind; you're better off reading Neil Gaiman than me anyway.  :P )  To my aunt's and uncle's and distant-relation-by-their-marriage's credit, they also thought there was something pretty wrong with a person's "fan" demanding they get back to work on what that "fan" wants them to work on.

So now I'm wondering: why do people do that?  And why only to authors?

Granted, I don't read everything on the internet; I lack the time and brain capacity and spare sanity for that.  But I've never seen someone tell an actor to stop tweeting and get back on stage or set.  I've never seen someone tell an artist to put their phone down and pick up their pencil or brush or stylus.  I've never seen someone ask a director or a photographer why they're not behind the camera, or a model why they're not in front of it.

But I've seen people respond to writers' tweets with the oh-so-cute "Shouldn't you be writing?"  I've seen people rage at authors for doing interviews or other press instead of writing.  And clearly not everyone got Mr. Gaiman's message, as shown by the jackass who responded to Mr. Martin's SDCC tweet with "GET BACK TO WORK!!!!"

And that was only one of three different responses that amounted to "You're doing something that's not writing, you shouldn't be."  One was supposedly from an editor, who should know better.

Writing is a job like any other.  And expecting someone to do their job every waking hour of their day is not only selfish, it's damn stupid.  People who ask authors why they're not writing clearly don't understand that downtime is necessary - for a lot of us, the best parts of creating come when we're out and about, when we're not staring at the screen or notebook, when we're doing something other than writing.  Why so many people seem incapable of realizing this, I don't know.

For the record, I still get some of my best ideas in the shower.  And I don't care how successful I might someday become, I'm not giving up showering.

I've written before about how the only thing the writer owes the reader is the best damn story they can tell.  I linked to Mr. Gaiman's phrase in that entry too, and I'll keep bringing it up until people get the idea.  If you want your favorite writers to do the best they can do, you don't tell them what to do.  You encourage them, you appreciate them, you tell others about them.  But you damn sure don't act like they're doing something wrong because they're not doing what you want.

We are, collectively, no one's bitches.  Deal with it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Relationship Talk.

Before I begin, a bit of a plotting update from last week's entry: two days ago, I cracked through the problems I was having with plotting the sequel to THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK.  I realized that things needed to start going wrong right from the beginning, not on a slow burn like I'd planned.  I have the plot roughed out, and yesterday's work went very well.  If all goes well, I'll start writing the book in September.

I've blogged about love triangles before, back in this blog's early days, and I still feel much the same about them.  But a book I'm plotting deals with three main characters, and even in these early stages, I can see how things are going to go for them, and how close they're going to become.

Before anyone asks, no, I'm not talking about the sequel to TAW.  I feel very sorry for anyone who tries to talk either Shiloh or Alexi into sharing.  O_o

This leads me into something I've never tried to write before: a very close relationship between three people.  I don't know if it'll be a sexual one, as I haven't plotted much beyond the first book, but it could happen.  But for now, it's more about the bond they share and how they support and depend upon each other.  It's more than just growing close under fire or spending lots of time together - as one character's culture defines it, it's a kind of deep bond between people who put their lives in each others’ hands on a regular basis.  It’s a kind of love that comes from surviving together.

It's one of those situations that I realized had to happen and then sat back and thought, damn, how the hell am I going to make this work?

"Write what you know" won't cover this - despite the myth that all guys want threesomes, I don't think for a second that I'd be able to handle a relationship with two women.  And not just because I've been single since dinosaurs roamed the Earth.  Close relationships complicate things, and that gets exponentially more so when there are three people involved.

This is one of those Weird Writer Situations (another blog title that could have been) where I'm just going to have to write it and see what happens.  I can tell already how some of the characters are going to react; let's just say there will be varying degrees of them being okay or not with it as things go on.  It's just that, after my various successes and failures at writing relationships, I know this one's going to be more difficult than most.  And I really want it to work out right.  I'm just going to have to trust the characters to work things out between them, and to not freak out and run when one character puts their arms around both the others.

Though I do know that one character will dictate a sleeping arrangement order so everyone gets a chance to be in the middle, and for some reason, I think that's hilarious.

And on a final note, if you haven't heard Weird Al's "Word Crimes", please go do so.  Right now, if possible.  It could be a theme song for so many of us.  ^_^

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's A Small World

The original title for this entry was "#PlotterProblems".  Then I realized that could be the title for this entire blog.  It's probably best that I wasn't in the habit of using hashtags when I started this thing.

So as I've talked about before, I'm plotting the sequel to THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK.  I'm not saying what the title is, both because that seems a little presumptuous and because everything else about this damn book has changed so far, so there's no reason to think the title won't too.  -_-  I've been hacking away at this plot on and off for months, and I've never been able to get it to be what I want it to be.  And I only recently realized what the problem was.

I started creating Abraxas, the world of TAW, over a decade ago.  That world had its seeds in the second novel I wrote, and also became the world of the D&D game I ran in college.  So I've been living in Abraxas for a long, long time.  When I sat down to write TAW, I made up new stuff and changed other things as necessary, but I knew the place and the people.  I knew where I was going and what I was doing.  And I expected writing another book in Abraxas to be much the same.

I was wrong.  Really, really wrong.

Although it's long for a YA book, TAW only covers a few different places.  All of those places were ones I'd developed long ago, places I'd seen in my head for years and knew well.  The sequel, as far as I know, will take place in only one location.  It's a new place, one only created while I was working on TAW - it didn't even exist until I made the changes at the end of the second draft.  And I didn't realize the problems this would cause.

To make a long story short (too late), I thought that just because this new place was part of Abraxas, I'd be able to dive into it and just go.  Yeah, not so much.  Funny thing about sequels: they're books too.

So I sat down and started hashing out everything about this one place, this small piece of the world, and everyone plot-relevant who lives there.  And once I set the place and its people firmly into my mind, the plot started coming together.  It's not there yet - I know how things start and how they end, and various bits in between, but how Shiloh gets from point A to point Z is still something of a mystery.  But at least now I truly know where it happens.

And if it all falls apart again, at least that won't be anything new.

Bit of an aside for the end of this: one of the characters in that D&D game was Rashad RiLeon, a fighter my then-roommate played.  I liked the name so much I brought him into Abraxas, along with Aerillion, a port city that was part of his journey.  Rashad himself appears briefly in TAW, but his sister Alexi plays a significantly more important role, one that truly starts when she and Shiloh arrive in Aerillion.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


This week's entry: ...I got nothin'.  Seriously.  I'm neck-deep in plots, and the last thing this blog needs is another plotting discussion.  I could delete all the plot-related entries and cut the content of this thing by half.  So, since I'm also neck-deep in the query process and everyone can use the occasional reminder that we're hard at work at the most awesome job in existence, I thought I'd post a bunch of my favorite quotes about writing:

"Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life."  --Lawrence Kasdan

"I have lived life to the full but my interior life is where I live life and it’s far more central to me than the external life, and that’s because I’m a writer. … You have to be lonely to be a writer."  --Edna O’Brien

“You’re still going to get criticized, so you might as well do whatever the fuck you want.”  --Kathleen Hanna

"Ah yes, the head is full of books. The hard part is to force them down through the bloodstream and out through the fingers."  --Edward Abbey

"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer."  --Ernest Hemingway

"You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write."  --Saul Bellow

"Every novel should have a beginning, a muddle, and an end. The “muddle” is the heart of your tale."  --Peter De Vries

"I spent a long time writing in obscurity. You'll spend a long time writing in obscurity."  --Dan Kennedy

"A writer’s brain is full of little gifts, like a piñata at a birthday party. It’s also full of demons, like a piñata at a birthday party in a mental hospital. The truth is, it’s demons that keep a tortured writer’s spirit alive, not Tootsie Rolls. Sure they’ll give you a tiny burst of energy, but they won’t do squat for your writing. So treat your demons with the respect they deserve, and with enough prescriptions to keep you wearing pants."  --Colin Nissan

"When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way."  --Michael Lewis

"Writing is a miserable, awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world."  --Ann Patchett

Yes, I collect quotes.  I could do another ten entries just like this and never repeat myself.  :P  I'll close it with one I constantly remind myself as I knuckle down to hack away at yet another plot:

"Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake."  --John Cleese

Next week: a world in a tower.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG: It won't Always Suck this Much.

I started querying THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK on June 3rd.  As much as I try not to be superstitious, I couldn't help thinking how much of an amazing coincidence it would be to hear something good from an agent I really wanted to work with exactly twenty-one days after submitting, which is the same number of chapters in TAW.  When I saw an e-mail from that agent in my inbox on the 24th, I could hardly believe it.

The form rejection letter, though, was easy to believe.

I know that rejections shouldn't get to me.  The two rejections I got before that one, I shrugged them off, no problem and nothing new.  But dreaming of that coincidence and having it happen and then really NOT happen, that hurt me a lot more than I thought it would.  Let's just say the 25th was a really bad day for me, and that I'm glad my co-workers think I'm hilarious when I deadpan everything because I'm in a down mood.

But in another coincidence, a positive one this time, Adam Warren, an artist and writer whose work I really enjoy, tweeted this on the 24th: "Some days—or weeks, or months—you just have to tell yourself, “Hey, the work won’t ALWAYS suck as much as it does right now. No, really!”"

It's weird how helpful it can be to know that someone else is struggling too.

Doing any kind of creative work is difficult.  And I don't mean succeeding at it, making a living at it, any of that.  I mean just doing it - putting your ass in the chair and cranking away at the stuff you love.  Even when it becomes the stuff you keep telling yourself you love because you're growing tired of it but throwing it all away isn't an option, for whatever reason.  And while I never really doubted it, there's some real reassurance in knowing that someone who's been doing this professionally since the late 1980s has the same problems as those of us still struggling to move beyond "unknown" or, in my case, "obscure".

Yes, there are times when it sucks.  But those times won't last forever.  There will be times when it's glorious, when everything works the way you want it to, when the characters come to life in your head and demand to be birthed onto the page, when your plot elements fall into place so perfectly that your readers think you're a genius even though it took you seventeen days to come up with that one plot twist, when you edit and find the perfect word to turn that lackluster jumble of a sentence into a golden turn of phrase.

I think if you asked all of us why we do this, we'd all have different answers.  If you asked us what keeps us going, you'd probably get even more different answers.  But when things get bad, remember this, and keep going, because it's worth it:

It won't always suck this much.