It’s been fun. But this is like my first apartment, which was great and all but I really wanted my dog to have a yard and I wanted to write someplace besides the dining room. These archives have been moved to my official author site, and the blog will continue there. I hope you’ll continue to keep me company on this long, strange trip in the new space!
My author website is almost done, and I’ll be updating the blog there starting… soonish. Pardon the dust.
Guess it was time I had an author website. The best editor in the universe just pinged me to say CP is acquiring my second novella. Scuze while I faint, cheer, feel proud of myself, and then get back to folding laundry. Even TWO TIME PUBLISHED WRITERS have to do chores until I can teach the dogs how to handle the delicates load.
In the writing community, people loosely identify as either a plotter or a pantser (sometimes spelled pantzer). Some people plot out an entire book before they write it, and others fly by the seat of their pants.
Here is what I said recently on a writer’s board:
I was going to stand up and be counted with the pantsers, but I realized it’s probably not entirely true. At the bottom of my working document is a couple paragraphs of “and then this happens.” Not really paragraphs, almost bullet points.(For example, the WIP – paranormal erotic romance, and I’m 6K words in – the plan currently says “Reunion sex. Next day road trip (his car). Estate sale. Dirty, ask discount. Saleslady strange – young/old. Looks through M., then agrees.”)
I don’t always stick to it – sometimes things happen to the characters while I write, and entire subplots bloom or die. I change the “and then this happens section” whenever the story changes. After I write a scene, I delete the item from the plan. So when I finish writing the reunion sex, I’ll erase that line and start writing the road trip… unless the heroine pulls a muscle during the reunion sex and decides to surf eBay instead of being active. ;) Then I’ll change the plan to read “eBay. Looks dirty. Asks discount. Seller has same name as M’s great great grandmother.”
Doing it that way means I almost never get writer’s block. I always have a plan for what’s going to happen next, and even if the writing is pure torture and I end up trashing it later, *something* gets on the page.
One of these days I’m going to copy the original two or three paragraph blurb just to see how drastically it changes from concept to completion :P
As usual, the cherry on top came from another writer, a person I only know as “Tiff.” She suggested people like us be known as… plotzers.
My Jewish grandmother would have laughed. I sure did. Other writers rock!
This morning, I have:
- Written two freelance articles for publication
- Done an in depth analysis of user trends on a product
- Completely forgotten about the report I write every Monday before my kid wakes up, and I can hear him waking up now
What I have not done this morning:
- Put any words into at least one WIP. I try to do 250 words every morning. My real writing time is in the evening, but getting one manuscript page complete each morning sets such a good tone for the rest of the day.
What I wish I was doing:
- Reading the copy of Gwenhwyfar I got for Mother’s Day.
I’m only a chapter in, and already I’m so excited. I cut my fantasy teeth on Valdemar, and loved it more than anything, and I know I’m not the only reader who started feeling a bit… disappointed. Like the well had run dry and someone was still making Mercedes Lackey throw down the bucket. Her “romance” series for Luna made me feel a lot better, because they were great reads. Still, there was sometimes a sense of automatic pilot. But this Arthurian book is the good stuff, the vintage Lackey but now with all of the craft and power an author with years of practice can command.
I used the word romance in quotes there because it’s a freaking fantasy series, but it was branded as a romance, which irritated… huh. There’s a whole pile of assumptions to be examined right there. I’ll get to that one of these days when I’m not so crazed.
Someone on a writer board where I hang out recently heard back from the publisher he really wanted… after a year. And after that long wait, the answer was “revise and resubmit.”
Okay, R&R is a good thing, not a bad thing. But a year? I know publishing moves slowly. I know things take time. I know an editor’s focus must be on contracted books, not slush.
But a year?
That’s… disrespectful. If your own guidelines say four months (which is already completely insane), and you realize you’re going to miss that mark, maybe… close submissions? Hire interns? Do something that acknowledges the value of the writer’s time?
The usual choice is even more rude to the author in the long run, and that’s to not accept any but agented submissions. The writer must find someone who will take 15% (and I am old enough to remember when it was 10%) in return for… well, still waiting for months to hear if a book is going to be bought or not. 15% of potential future earnings in return for what amounts to a foot in the door. The talented will still get through, but circus poodles have to jump through fewer hoops.
And at the same time that I’m completely disgusted with the sheer rudeness of it all, I am reminded of a quote from Terry Pratchett. When I first read this, I was still working in theater, and I laughed out loud in recognition. I find I laugh even harder now, and it’s very difficult to be disgusted and laugh at the same time. I prefer laughing.
“The money in the chorus isn’t very good, is it?!” [Christine] said.
“No.” It was less than you’d get for scrubbing floors. The reason was that, when you advertised a dirty floor, hundreds of hopefuls didn’t turn up.
Rock stars are cool. They are mysterious, tortured beings, and if they aren’t, they sure pretend to be. Country music stars, on the other hand, specialize in being “just folks.” They go to a lot of trouble to create approachable images, even if they are bajillionaires.
Rock stars go to a lot of trouble to talk about their art and how they suffer (oh, how they suffer) to bring it to a cold, unfeeling world that doesn’t appreciate genius. Country stars bust their butts to give us the impression they knock out their songs over the weekend over a six pack of beer.
Rock stars are better than you. Country stars are you.
After a show, a rock star gets his butt on his bus, or minimum into his hotel room, and drinks (or uses some other substance) in order to relax from three hours of running, climbing, dancing, singing, changing costumes, avoiding the pyrotechnics, and pouring his own personal energy like a balm across a roiling ocean of fans. The country star puts on the exact same show, and afterwards, acts like their fondest wish is granted if they can take pictures and sign autographs and kiss babies.
Except for the running and jumping, these two sound remarkably like another set of artists I know.
Ever notice how literary stars go out of their way to look depressed and take up smoking or drinking in order to have props? They bitch about the burdens of success even while they dress in cool clothes. Also, the minute they get popular, they take it as a sign of having sold out, and run off to write something incomprehensible that may or may not be an extended metaphor for sex.
Not romance writers. They interact on message boards and carry around bookmarks and pens in case you’d like an autograph. The billionaires go to quite a bit of trouble to wear jeans and talk about their crazy times being a mom. Also, they don’t bother with metaphors, at least when it comes to boy-meets-girl-in-the-sack. They like sex. They also like their fans, and are appreciative of anyone who buys a book.
I was never cool. I do think appreciating fans is cool. Does this mean I can wear a cowboy hat here in suburban Maryland without irony?
Right now I’m cobbling together a living from a handful of small jobs. I am trying to find a single large job that will replace the income. It’s not six of one, half a dozen of the other – switching between jobs, manager styles, project needs, writing voice, tracking systems, reporting systems, and all that other stuff takes time. If I have one job and not six jobs, I will have twice as much time in my day. I know this from experience – I finished two manuscripts when I only had one job, and for the last month, I’ve made painfully slow progress on several stories, one of which is begging me to finish already.
An opportunity to do some tech writing came up, and honestly, it would pay so much better than my professional blogging, so I’d love to land the gig. The contact person asked me to dig up all of my product reviews from the last few years. Five minutes with Google, right? Twenty minutes later, I was still digging for the best one, the crown jewel of my reviewing career. The magazine that published it was out of business, but they’d had it on their website, and it had been so widely quoted and linked that surely there was a cache. Right? Wrong.
There are pictures of me weighing twenty pounds more than I do now. Things I have said off the cuff are in forum signature files all over the internet and they come up when you Google my (other) name. There are video clips of me doing unfortunate things with thumb drives at trade shows. And yet this ONE THING I really want, the thing that makes me look witty and incisive and well-informed? Gone like a fart in the wind.
Warning: The link contains language that is NSFW (not safe for work, if you’re new to acronyms). I don’t know why you’d be visiting an erotic romance author’s website if the f-bomb troubled you, but better safe than sorry.
At any rate. Kate Harding is a wonderful writer. She writes essays and blogs on feminism, fat acceptance, and more. I came to her site originally when I was asking Google for help with a friend’s situation – his wife had been a big woman before they got engaged, lost a lot of weight right before he proposed, and was back up to her normal weight before the wedding, and I was trying to tell him “Dude, this is the shape she is and all the weight loss tricks and products aren’t going to change that in the long run.” Kate says that with biting wit and incisive observation.
But what got me going most recently was this link, which was actually in response to someone else.
Women, generally speaking, waste so much time with self-deprecation. We don’t wait for the world to dismiss us. We come up with all the reasons why we’re not good enough to be successful. That’s some seriously internalized bull doots, right there. But wait, there’s more.
Erotic e-publishing is something nearly everyone does under a pen name. Some of us are doing it to protect professional reputations in other fields. But here’s the thing – out of all the various types of publishing, erotic e-publishing is the only genre where other writers sniff and say “Oh, you’re not really published.” Oh? I’m not? I’ve got a contract with Harlequin that says I am. “The standards are lower with erotic e-pubbing, anyone can break in.” There are a lot more e-pubs out there, because the demand for these stories is so high. New publishers that can’t pay well due to the lack of volume do exist – but at least they exist. New publishers don’t try to open in other genres nearly as often.
It’s for women, written by women, published by women, and acknowledges the sexuality of women, and therefore no one takes it seriously as art or commerce, despite racking up some of the most respectable and fastest growing sales numbers in the industry. And the people who write it do half the dismissing.
No. Today, I am Kathleen Freaking Dienne.
I used to sit around and complain that gosh darn it, I’m a good writer, I could write books if only I had ideas. Then I would read books and interviews with authors, and see them say stuff like “the idea is the easy part.” One of them even said that her pet peeve was people writing in to say “I had this idea. Write the book and we’ll share the profit!” Now, while sharing the profit seemed silly, the concept of the idea being worthless seemed somehow unfair. And the idea wasn’t the easy part. My ideas all made for interesting first paragraphs and painted themselves into corners (or turned out to be complete ripoffs of whatever fantasy series I was reading at the time).
Now that I have actually finished manuscripts, I’d like to travel back in time and just whack myself over my silly, clueless little head. I wasn’t a writer. I was an idiot with a fairly decent grasp on the mechanics of writing. A brain used to writing breeds ideas. The first idea I had for a story that actually came with a middle and an ending wasn’t bad, but while I was in the middle of the writing, I had another idea. I opened a text file and pinned down that wild idea like a rat in a trap on the spot because I thought I’d never have another idea again. As soon as I finished the first story, I started writing the second. While I was writing the second, I came up with a handful of new ideas. While I was writing the third, I came up with a dozen ideas, two of which were so exciting that I abandoned the work in progress and started writing them instead.
The problem now is discipline. Put the ideas into the text file, and finish something. (Robert Heinlein again – you must finish what you write!) I’ve got enough ideas in the idea file to keep writing for the next ten years at my current pace, but the new ideas won’t stop coming. I haven’t yet had any ideas like wizard boarding school or angsty emo high school vampires, but who knows what’ll pop out of the fountain spout next.
There is an argument, oft-made by pirates, that by offering an artist’s work for free, that artist is gaining wider exposure and possibly more paying fans than might have otherwise encountered this artist.
I have made the argument before that the only thing an artist gets from exposure is death by pneumonia, but I will say that in the realm of music, this argument has proven to be at least somewhat true.
Here’s why I don’t think it applies to books. If you get a bit of a song in your head, you’re going to go looking for the rest of the song. And then the rest of the album. Songs are discrete elements, complete in and of themselves unless we are talking about Pink Floyd concept albums. A single pirated song could well serve as bait on a hook that, if taken, will result in the listener going out to get the album.
The parallel case in books is not pirated books – it would be single chapters or other kinds of excerpts. And those do work quite well as bait. My book contract specifically says I can use nearly a quarter of the whole book as an excerpt, just to make sure you as a reader reeeeeeeeeeeally want to pay the three bucks to find out how it ends. But no pirate site *I’ve* ever seen does chapters. No one is getting a sample of writing that inspires them to go buy the writer’s book. They’ve got the whole book, right there.
Does that possibly lead to future sales for that writer? It might. But here’s the problem with that for first time writers – if you pirate a first timer’s book, there won’t be a second time.
Sales figures are watched very closely. If someone’s book doesn’t sell, it’s an easy call for the publisher to not extend another contract. But most writers fall into a gray area. Not a runaway success, but not a failure. There’s a line, not a hard and fast one, but definitely a line between someone whose sales aren’t quite good enough and someone whose sales are nearly there.
The hundred pirated copies might have made the difference between a second contract and oblivion.
In conclusion, please don’t pirate my debut novella, or the kitten gets it.