Saturday, July 10, 2010

An Open Letter To My Peeps:

This blog has been pathetically dead lately. It gets this way every summer. The days fly by and I can do little more than hang on and enjoy them.

Plus, I’ve been absent from the internet for the most part. I do occasionally post on Facebook. But really, other than that, I’ve been absent from blogs, twitter and other social sites. It’s part of my new writer pact I have with myself. The one where I get in touch with what makes me unique and my muse rewards me by making this edit fantastic.

Yup, still working away (or working again) on this book. I was serious when I said I was starting over. I have and it was the best decision ever. I’m not even half done though, so I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed as my self-imposed deadline looms.

Perhaps it’s the time of the year, it seems like everyone around me is struggling with writing. Not publishing or anything, but the actual task of sitting down and putting the words to the page. Including me. And it’s hard when I need other people to help me stay afloat and, well, they’re struggling as much as I am.

On top of that I’ve been reading. I seem to float between being blown-away, thinking I’ll never write something that incredible and being severely disappointed, thinking is that what they want? Because the book was crap and if that’s what they (whoever the illusive "they" may be) want, perhaps I’m not writing in the right genre.

There is no middle ground. At least not for me. And that leaves me confused. When, I'm confused, it's hard to write because I'm thinking of the millions of things I think I need to do, instead of just letting go and enjoying myself.

All those things combined: the pep talks to other writers, trying to finish my own edit, reading way too much and not having anything to blog about leaves me feeling philosophical. The following is nothing that my crit partners haven't heard me say a million times (as much to remind myself as it is for them).

So these are the rules I live by (good for writing and world domination. Take your pick):

WRITING SOMETHING I CAN BE PROUD OF.

This to me is my number one rule. It comes from reading. Too often I find myself pausing (especially when something makes no sense at all) and thinking, was the author rushed when he/she was editing? Did he/she not realize that they said X 10 pages ago, Y 5 pages ago... and now they're saying Z? All of which make no sense! Is this really the best they could do?

But as an author I understand why this happened. Hell, it's happened to me more often than I'd like to admit. And it's EMBARRASSING when it's pointed out.

Take this last edit, when Casey pointed out that I was missing the mark. It suddenly became clear what I was doing, and I felt so dumb! How many times is it going to take before I actually get it, you know? Arg.

It's everything that I should know -- I DO know -- but then it seems to slip out of my mind.

I wrote some time ago about wanting to fall in love with my MS, and really, that's the most important thing. I realized that I was falling into the pattern of trying to make other people happy. And when you do that, you really don't make anyone happy.

FOLLOWING MY GUT.

I’m easily swayed. Or, I used to be. I’m not so much anymore. It used to be that someone told me I had to fix something and I obsessed over it. Instead of spending time thinking about how to change something, I would go in to whack-mode cutting anything and everything. That makes a muckety-muck of a book.

Then I went way the other way and refused to show anyone. Not because I couldn't trust the advice, but because I couldn't trust myself to filter it.

Eventually I learned the trick to listen, but not to react, not until you know what you want to do. Willy-nilly cutting/fixing does not help.

If your book is making someone pause, there is something you need to fix, but it rarely ever is what they say it is. You have to be your own interpreter. It's up to you to determine what it is that needs fixing. How are you going to do that? Go with your gut. You already know what needs to be done. You only have to take the time to listen for it.

Scene from my life:

ME: *wah, wah, waaaaaah*

CRIT PARTNER: What do you think you should do?

ME: Well I could XYZ…

CRIT PARTNER: Well, then?


Really, I should be writing all the things that make me happy. I know what this MS is supposed to be better than anyone else.

DON’T BE AFRAID.

We know the rules. And you know what? We’re letting the rules kill us. Trying too hard to fit into the box squashes the potential of a book.

I constantly fight this. For some reason, internally, I automatically change things because there’s this little voice that tells me “if you do that, it’s unsellable.” And then… it doesn’t work out because it’s not what’s best for the story. And I want to kick myself.

Screw fitting in to the box. The box changes. Focus on what’s best for the book.

And you know what? So what if it doesn’t sell. Would you rather have a book that doesn’t fit and it’s something you wanted to write, or a book that sells and you’re less than proud of it?

KICK SELF-DOUBT IN THE ASS.

What is telling yourself that you suck going to do for you? Only people who think like winners, win.

Get up. Dust yourself off. Start over. Put in the work.

JUST GET THE DAMN THING DONE.

Seriously, quit the fracking whining. Sit down at your computer and type. Everything can be edited. You don't have to show anyone your efforts. And it's not going to finish itself.

I say the above paragraph nearly every day. :)

The person I say it to changes. Sometimes it's me, more often it's to my crit partners. I am quite a bit nicer and more encouraging when I say it. Ha. Except when I lose it and play bad cop. Then they write things like: "I hope Heather doesn't read this...," "I know what Heather's going to say...," or "Heather may kill me, but..."

They make me laugh.

We all need to hear it, though. For some reason it's much easier to whine about the unfairness of publishing than to do actual work.

I get especially frustrated when I read whining about not being able to snag an agent. Write another book! If the one you're pimping isn't getting attention, write another one that will.

Trust me, it doesn't change. Once you get an agent, you may have to do the same thing in order to sell. It's a fact of life and the sooner you come to grips with that, the less stressed you'll be.

GET ZEN.

Nothing, beyond the act of writing itself, is in your control. How I wish I could make things work out for myself! But my journey has been torturous for a reason. What that reason is, I can’t really tell you at the moment. Someday, though, I might be able to write an award-winning blog extolling the virtues of patience.

Until then, understand that it’s not about you. That there is nothing you can do to make it faster/easier/ less agonizing. Call it character building and accept it as it is.

Focus on what you can do. Explore your craft. Write another book. KEEP TRYING.

BE HAPPY WITH BEING ME.

I'm me. I write the way I write and I phrase things the way I phrase things. I can't change. I’ve tried in the past and I realize that I don't want to change. It is better to embrace my quirks and try to get them to work for me than to demand they go away.



So muse, you going to work a little magic today? Because I really need it. XOXOXOXO

Love,

Heather

7 comments:

  1. Woot! Great list. Hang in there, Heather. It is a long road, but you'll make it as long as you keep going:)

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  2. LOVE this post, Heather! We've talked about a lot of this stuff but I enjoyed reading it all again. I need to get focused like you have been. It's awesome.

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  3. Thank you, Heather, for the swift kick in the butt! I think I'm just going to bookmark this blog post so that, when I start distracting myself with things other than just freakin' writing the book already, I can come back to get a stern talking-to. Great stuff.

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  4. This is such a great post. Especially the part about doing what is right for the book. The fact is, with as competitive as the market is, the best you can do is to write the best book you can. I can almost guarantee you that if you focus on writing something for the sole purpose of "this will sell", it probably won't.

    Love your list, Heather!

    shelley

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  5. Here via Natalie, and what a great list. I think this is probably much more important than rules like "write from 9:07 am to 12:32 pm daily" "no music or internet" "eat 6.5 Skittles and then go for a jog". Not that those things aren't great too, but I like your focus on staying in tune with yourself and your story. :)

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  6. Just popped over from Natalie's blog. Great rules! I particularly like "Kick self doubt in the ass." :D

    Thanks for sharing, and good luck on your writing!

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  7. "Just get the damn thing done" is such great advice, and it's the same thing I've been encouraging all of my friends who are also in the process of writing.

    I know it seems like painfully obvious advice, but it needs to be said; one can pussyfoot around the issues until the morning light, but in the end that novel won't get written until you've sat down and typed the thing out!

    Time to take my own advice...

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