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.
I needed two of my characters to not have sex. Fear of pregnancy is certainly a very good reason. I thought about having my heroine count the days, but just for giggles, and by giggles I mean “because I am a hopeless research nerd,” I looked it up to make sure the Victorians knew about that tidbit.
Women didn’t know about counting the days from one’s last period to determine the fertile window until the 1920s.
This was made worse by the fact that condoms were not widely available, and in some places only sold to married men.
You don’t think about just how liberating birth control was, just how great a degree of freedom is conferred by managing one’s own fertility, until you get smacked in the face with it. I have never known a time when I couldn’t just bop into 7/11 for condoms, or wander into a clinic and emerge with birth control pills, or at bare freaking minimum count days and say, eh, the curse starts tomorrowish so we’re probably clear. Also, while the consequences to getting pregnant unintentionally and outside of marriage would have had a massive impact on my life, I would not have had to cope with any societal disapproval, nor would my single mother status have any impact on my ability to be employed or rent an apartment.
What an impact this would have on a sexual relationship!
This is why good historical fiction isn’t “girls like us but in costume.” Some aspects of being a woman are universal across time and space, but other things are so anchored in context as to be meaningless without it. I hope I’m up to the challenge…
I got no writing done last night, because my husband was drawing something for me.
Specifically, he was drawing a logo for my future author site. He was trained as a graphic artist, although he now in a related field and doesn’t do much logo design anymore. But I have seen him do them as freelance jobs, and when he offered to help me, I said “Hell yeah!”
Now, I’m a scrapbooker, so as the veteran of many, many title bars, I know there is much more to a header than picking a nice font and typing out my name and tag line.
But good lord, I never knew how many steps were involved, or how much communication has to happen before what is in my head comes out of his Wacom tablet.And my original idea turned out to not be doable, so we had multiple iterations on the concept before we reached something that looks good. The final complication is that my contracted book is contemporary, as are the two out on submission. However, the WIPs are steampunk, and there’s a bit of a sci-fi flavor in about half of my work to date. We needed to design something that would work for multiple types of stories, even though all of them are technically erotic romance.
I don’t know how I could have afforded this process with a professional billing by the hour. Man, can I pick a mate or what?
One of my WIPs (works in progress) is a steampunk. I’m mentioned before that this came about by accident. The house publishing my first novella had a blog entry from an editor saying she was looking for more steampunk. I mentioned this to my husband, who tossed out an entire plot off the top of his head. (My husband sparks off brilliant ideas like a unicorn’s ass shoots out glitter. He’s actually much better at plotting and world building than I am. The reason I’m the writer in the family is because I’m the one putting my butt in the seat and typing. Inspiration isn’t everything.)
It’s a terrific story and I’m madly in love with the characters. I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, and I even have my very own Godey’s Lady’s Book here in my office (a bound copy of ten issues).I started to type out the plot for you before I remembered that I wasn’t finished working yet and I don’t want to jinx it. I’ve done a ton of research on top of my existing knowledge of the period and my existing love of alternate history/worlds.
What I haven’t done is read a lot of steampunk. The giants in the genre don’t appeal to me, with the exception that I enjoyed Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Notice that’s not his steampunk work. A title that never comes up in steampunk top ten lists that I loved was Pavane by Keith Roberts, even though it’s an alternate world where the tech is steam powered. (Although set in the present day, the world is built on the assumption that Elizabeth I was assassinated, England went Catholic, and the Catholic Church repressed technology such that industrial progress evolved very, very slowly.)
But I felt like I should read more of what I’m trying to write. I went to the library and got Steampunk, since that one is recommended on every top ten list on the topic.
The reason I haven’t declared it a wallbanger is because I would never huck a library book at a wall.
Also, I have not read all the stories yet. I got pissed off by the scholarly essay at the front of the book, where it basically says that steampunk, without the “punk” aspects of thinking negatively towards the society so described, is pitiful. Under this theory, focusing on the imaginative aspects, the technology, the social norms, and the clothing, without writing the rebellion, make the story inherently less valuable.
Pish and tosh. You can’t write about Victorian era clothes without considering what those clothes suggest about the society’s expectations and desires. Ditto relationships between men and women. And I’m sorry, but some of the stories I have read so far are just gadget porn. Science fiction is infested with this kind of “story” – endless nattering about how this doohickey works and blah blah blah. So to suggest that anyone writing fiction for the pleasure of invention (as opposed to Making Statements) has taken a step down is to be one of those people who doesn’t read or write popular fiction.
I’ve read enough to figure that out. So thanks, but I’ll take it from here.
There is a middle ground, when it comes to letters from a publisher regarding your latest manuscript. (If you are an old writing hand, skip on down to the *** bit.)
One end of the spectrum is “hello, we would like to buy your story.” That doesn’t mean you’re done. That means you’ve got a couple rounds of edits, cover consultations, and six months minimum before you have a book in your hands or in your digital reader.
The other end of the spectrum is “thank you for sending us your manuscript but it doesn’t meet our needs at this time.” It might not be that exact phrase, but it’s polite, short, and unambiguous. That’s a rejection.
One step up from there is the rejection letter, along with a line of personal feedback. This is a great sign. You can write well enough that someone working a fifteen hour day took some time to say something you can use.
Two steps up from there is the rejection letter with a ton of specific feedback. The editor does not want to see this story again, but you could use that feedback to rewrite and possibly sell that story somewhere else. And this editor really liked you/your voice/your story. Send her your next manuscript with a nice note thanking her for all that great feedback last time.
Three steps up (or more cheerfully phrased, one step down from acceptance) is the revise and resubmit letter. Tons of specific feedback, along with a disclaimer that reads “making these changes doesn’t means we’re going to buy it, but we’d like to see this story again if you decide to try.”
I got one of those last week. It’s funny, but at first I was more bummed by it than I’d been by a flat rejection. It was like missing a potential home run by an inch, or missing the qualifying time by a millisecond. So close, and yet so far. I’m rational enough to know it’s a good sign (and that I have friends who would kill for this, and kill me for whining), so I just put the email down, thanked the editor, and noodled for a couple days.
Three of the suggested changes were cosmetic, trifling things. The other items were all deeper, and it is my private belief that I’ve spotted the difference between “acceptance, now here are your developmental edits” and “revise and resubmit.” My first novella is almost through her editing process, and all the suggested changes were things that tightened the story. The suggested changes on my R&R are things that will change the story. There are ripple effects from these suggestions that run through the entire manuscript. It’s a lot more of a challenge than throwing in a few lines of description or giving the lead a bit of interior monologue. I don’t have a track record as a fiction writer yet, and no one knows if I can pull off this kind of challenge.
*I* wasn’t sure I could pull off this kind of challenge.
Something broke loose like a boulder in a flooded river. Yesterday I sat down and poured 4K new words into the manuscript. Seriously, I could have written all night. I DID write all night, I kept waking up and writing notes for more stuff on the pad I keep by the bed. I couldn’t turn on the light without waking my mate, so let me tell you how thrilled I am that I can read my own notes this morning. See, yesterday, while I was cleaning up dog poop, I thought of a single solution that will solve all of the plot and motivation problems at once. It means changing about a third of the manuscript and adding at least two more chapters, but it works, I really think it works.
It’s a little scary because one of the things I get most often about my work is that my stories are well-paced. Adding so much material can be risky, but I think this is going to be so worth it. Someday, I hope to write a blog entry on what I did wrong, and how I saved it. But first I’ve got to save it!
I was lurking in a discussion about what makes a reader throw a book at the wall. The conversation was specifically about what BDSM novels get wrong.
Before I continue, I want to say that I fell down the stairs a few days ago. More accurately, I fell on the stairs. It was warm enough that I’d kicked off my slippers, but cold enough that I still had my socks on. Unlike my toddler, I do not have nice little rubber bits on my socks to keep me from sliding on bare wood. I did that classic fall thing where your feet fly straight out and you land hard on your hind end. I was on the third step from the bottom at the time, so after the first impact I went bumpety bump down to the floor. It hurt so much that I went into Lamaze breathing, something I’d forgotten to do during actual childbirth. Unlike childbirth, I couldn’t scream because I didn’t want to alarm the kid to whom I gave birth, because these days he knows that screaming = something bad happening.
I am fine, except for a spectacular bruise on my left ass cheek. It is six inches long, and three inches high. It is currently purple and blue with a red and white welt in the center. I am a little sore, not from the fall but from leaning to starboard whenever I’m sitting down and typing.
It has occurred to me, more than once in the last few days, that the people who write spanking scenes involving a dominant person putting all his/her weight into dozens of blows from a cane or a wooden paddle have never once in their life been spanked with either. I might be wrong. But I don’t think so. Roald Dahl describe being caned at his boarding school in the late 20s/early 30s, and he was pretty clear that the number of strokes would be in the single digits and mess you up for days.
At any rate, I was uniquely qualified to nod in agreement with the readers protesting the sheer amount of violence and disregard for the subs in BDSM fiction. One of the other common themes running through the thread was how the female submissives invariably go on and on about how their desires were dirty, or that they longed to be normal, or whatever. The readers were saying that most actual subs, and in fact most of the people who enjoy BDSM, aren’t nearly so tortured over the whole thing.
One reader snapped out, as if she were speaking to one of the heroines, “Oh, FFS, get over yourself. It’s what you like. Own it.”
It was like a cold bucket of water to the face. I sent her a note to thank her.
It’s like this: I’m working on a story where I really need to speak to an expert in order to get some details that will make the story work, but I’ve been unusually embarrassed about writing erotic novellas this week. The hero is an enlisted man in the Army. One of my oldest friends has been in the Army for the last twelve years. Easy, no? But I’d been making it hard.
FFS, get over yourself. It’s what you write. Own it.
I’ve been happily pounding away on the WIP. And I realized… this one might be novel length. And not erotic. There’s sex, but it’s not erotica in the sense that I use the word.
No! Stop it, WIP! Be another erotic novella I can sell to further establish myself in the niche!