Alice’s Restaurant

March 28, 2007

“I Could Be a Writer”

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 8:31 am

This one is for Nancy.

Did you really think this was going to be easy?  Just because Nora whips out half a dozen books a year and you can type 60 words per minute doesn’t mean you can write a book in six weeks.

Yes, I did it, but it wasn’t as long of a book and I already had one complete and years of experience under my belt.  It wasn’t a whole new experience for me.  Nor will that book ever see the light of day.  There wasn’t enough good about it to make it worth revising.

No!  I’m not saying you should quit!  Unless you’re going to be lazy about this.  If you aren’t willing to put in the work, then yeah, save yourself the heart ache.  Because if you aren’t willing to do what ever it takes — and you’ve already proven you aren’t any more talented than I am so it’ll take a lot — then you aren’t going to get anywhere.

Sometimes it feels like everything is either on or off with you.  First it’s gun-ho charge-ahead and get it done, which is all very well except you won’t listen to me then.  Then it’s “I’m not worthy” and “This reeks!” which not only isn’t true, it’s also a time when you won’t listen to me!  Why on earth do you want my critique if you won’t use it!  To be honest, I’d rather be working on my own stuff.

So you’ve gotten lost in the choices.  Frankly, I don’t think the hero’s hair color is all that important.  Whether or not he’s going to murder his uncle, yes I’d say that’s important.  If you didn’t want to deal with the problem of keeping him sympathetic while forcing him to do a heinous act on someone who really does deserve it, then you shouldn’t have set the story up that way in the first place.  Nor do you HAVE to write it that way.  Yes, it’s the most exciting part of the book, but hardly what the book is all about.  Hello.  Remember the heroine?  And no, I’m not saying she should be the one to kill the uncle.

What I’m saying is that you’ve got some structural problems.  Big whoop.  Deal with it.  How many times have I scarped off the last third of the book – we are talking tens of thousands of words each time here – just because they didn’t get the job done?  Trust me, it’s only a big problem if you make it one.  If you really want to make this thing a best seller, you’ll do it.

I’m sorry I didn’t say it more nicely, but I still think the part in the middle is boring.  You still don’t think fiction is about emotion, do you.  Well, I didn’t either for years and years and you can really see it in my work.  And no, that melodramatic drivel in the fifth chapter is NOT what I mean about emotion.  I mean the emotion you create in the reader, not what you slap on to the characters.

Yes, I said drivel and I stand by it.  Come on, you said yourself you don’t like it.  Why do you expect me to?  It’s just one little passage you spliced in.  Take it out.

I can just see your expression now.  Would you calm down!  Just because that little bit of the chapter isn’t good doesn’t mean you have to throw out the whole thing.  Next you’ll be back to the “I’m not worthy” thing and throwing out the whole book.  You’ll never write that best seller your after if you keep chucking the whole book.  You aren’t going to get this thing done at all if you don’t sit down and do it. 

Nora really hit the nail on the head when she said she can fix anything except a blank page.  Yes, I know that Howard something or other guy always wrote once and never revised.  But remember his editor said he always rolled the story around in his mind for years before he wrote anything, and they were only short stories.  Quit trying to encase your words in amber.  We aren’t talking stone tablets here.  They can easily be changed later.

No, I don’t know that this is going to be the one.  It’s your first book!  Sheesh.  It’s like insisting you have to get married to the first person you date.  Maybe you should, and maybe you shouldn’t.  All I know is that you CAN’T write a best seller if you never finish anything.  Even if this frog never does turn into a prince, you have to kiss him to find out.  Finish the book, put as much into revision as you can stand, and keep moving.  I mean you should start on the next book soon.

And that thing I said about smiling and saying “go for it” to those annoying wannabes who belittle the effort I’ve put into this, I meant it.  But I didn’t mean you!  Yes, encouraging people to write is unkind.  But I don’t do it out of spite.  I honestly want everyone to succeed at this.  Misery loves company?  Maybe.  But if you’re still willing to go for it, I’m still there for you.

.

Alice

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March 27, 2007

Quick Quote

Filed under: Quick Quotes, Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 3:19 pm

Mr. Al regarding the need to delete scenes from our books:

 “It’s so hard to strangle our babie.”

March 25, 2007

Cudos to Bev!

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 8:33 am

I’ve only read the first few pages, and recognize them from one of your blogs  😀 but I can see this is going to be a good read.

 Congrats on writing the book and getting it out!

Alice

March 21, 2007

“I Know What I Like”

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 11:32 pm

Editors and Agents are constantly answering the question “What are you looking for?” with some variation on “A really good book.”

This is, of course, the ultimate truth.  No editor or agent wants to put the effort into a project they don’t like.  It is such an obvious truth that it is of no use whatsoever to the average writer.

The problem is that we are all human.  Editors, agents, writers, publishers, readers, everyone involved with the publishing industry has a unique opinion on what is or is not good.  Personal taste plays an enormous roll, and can be very hard to pin down.

I love my work.  I love every book I’ve ever written, even the ones that were DOA.  There is a chance I may be the only one in the world who does.  Still, if you ask me if my books are good, I will tell you yes.  Of course they are.  I consider most of them to be “a really good book.”  That doesn’t mean I should send any of them off to just anyone or to everyone.

Thus I am stuck with that hideous question, “What do you like?”

I understand why agents and editors respond with to the question with a generalized answer.  They don’t want to pin themselves down when a particularly well written and engaging story can make them change their minds about particular genres or styles or what have you.  Nor do they wish to be flooded with books about peacocks or granola bars after having mentioned an interest in them.

Consider the question from a reader’s perspective.  As a reader I am quite willing to read any book so good that my friends place a copy in my hands and say “You have got to read this!”  I will read such a book even when it is a variety I would not otherwise give a second glance.  But when I reach for a book that I have no reason to believe will be any better than what I normally read, I generally reach for the same sort of things repeatedly. 

Most writers I know, including myself, firmly believe we write something people will enjoy while also recognizing that our books are not necessarily the best things ever written.  We want to put them in the hands of editors and agents who would naturally reach for this kind of book simply because it’s the kind they like.  That is why we keep asking the same questions.

What do you like?  What are you looking for now?  How about a light hearted Romantic Suspense with a lot of sensuality, a quirky sense of humor, and a truly horrific bad guy?  How about sensual Historical Romances set in Regency England?  How about High Fantasy?  Sensual Science Fiction?  Private Investigators?

The question isn’t going away.  Writers prefer to reduce the amount of rejection they have to suffer as much as possible.  Finding someone with the right tastes is part of that effort.  Short of flinging our work on an unsuspecting desk and hoping for the best, the fastest way to know if it’s the right place for a given book is to listen to the answer to that question.

Alice

March 10, 2007

Out To Lunch

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 5:39 pm

I’m in my writing cave today.  With any luck I will force myself past a really stupid blockage and be sociable gain later today.

Alice

March 1, 2007

Why Is “Because I Like It” a Valid Point in Judging Fiction?

Filed under: FanLit, Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 8:30 am

Per usual I am busy judging for an RWA contest and voting in FanLit Forever at the same time.  In Challenge 2 it was the Golden Heart.  This round it’s The Lauries hosted by From The Heart Romance Writers.   It really brings to mind some basic differences.

For one thing, the RWA contest try to counteract personal biases.  You are supposed to score based on the quality of the writing rather than whether or not you personally like it.

Tastes are so varied and unreliable.  It makes sense that some would say they have no place in judging the worthiness of a piece of fiction.  If we all rate fiction based on nothing more than how much we like it – or at least how compelled we are to read it – then some excellent writing will not receive the recognition it deserves.  To be fair, we must set aside our personal likes and dislikes.  True?

I don’t think so.

It’s hard to argue that some excellent writing will indeed suffer at the hands of judges if those judges can’t get beyond their prejudices.  But consider the purpose of fiction.

Fiction exists to engage our attention.  We aren’t talking quantum mechanics here, or even an Idiot’s Guide To whatever.  We are talking about something that SHOULD be designed to take us out of our everyday life and transport us through words to an experience we could not achieve in any other way.

Readers who don’t like what they are reading aren’t likely to read very far.  If they don’t read the whole book, why would the want to buy another by the same author?  Isn’t that what character and plot, and voice is all about?  There’s no point in focusing on any aspect of a book if it isn’t done with an eye to making the book as readable as possible.

Should how much a judge likes a story be the sol criteria for judging? No.  But it should probably be the biggest one.  And I notice that more and more contest are including “Would you recommend this book to a friend”,  “Would you like to read more of this book”, or “Is the book compelling” in their list of attributes to be scored.  I know it’s the first thing I look at when my contest results come in.

Alice

February 28, 2007

Wanna Be and Gunna Be

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 1:06 pm

Force of habit, I guess, but I find myself talking about writing a lot, even if there’s no round up.  *grin*

You all know what a wanna be is, right?  The first time I heard the phrase was in reference to white people attending a pow wow.  Some of them wanted to be Indian.  My half-breed friend didn’t think much of them.  So I always thought a wanna be was not something I ever wanted to be.

The first I’d heard of a gunna be was a few years ago on eHarlequin.  A gunna be was someone who didn’t just want to be a writer.  A gunna be was someone who may not be published yet, but was clearly on the way.

From where I’m standing, the difference between a writing wanna be and a gunna be was in whether or not someone was serious about writing.  By serious, I mean the person in question is doing more than think about it and/or talk about it.  A gunna be is writing.

After all, you can’t get published if you have nothing publishable written.

There are all kinds of ways to tell if someone is serious.  I’ve been serious about it all along, but I have been known to spend more time talking about it than doing it.  I think at those times I’m more of a wanna be than a gunna be.

RWA makes the distinction through their Pro program.  In order to prove you are gunna be, you have to have not only written a “complete” manuscript, you have to have submitted it to a publisher or an agent and received a reply.

For the most part I don’t think the distinction is important.  So long I remember to keep writing, and not just talk about it.

Alice

February 24, 2007

Drumming

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 1:47 pm

I play hand drums.

Conga, ashiko, djembe, djum djum <yes I know it’s not technically a hand drum>, I’ve even tried my hand at bongos, talking drum, water drums, baudran, and Native American style flat drums.  I’m not particularly proficient at any of them, but I know 6 hand positions for conga, three or four songs, and am reasonably comfortable with 6/8 time.  I can handle most drummer’s circles without embarrassing myself.

Drumming in a circle has a certain magic.  When you are in synch with the other drummers, playing a rhythm that makes sense with what others are playing but isn’t exactly the same as anyone else, the energy level goes up.  When I’m in synch, I can literally drum all day.  When I’m in synch I can loose my sense of self, trade it in on a sense of the divine and eternal and community.  When I’m out of synch the energy drains away fast.  I can be completely worn out in 10 minutes when the rhythms won’t pull together.  Out of synch, I come away from a drummer’s circle feeling isolated and unwelcome.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Both drumming and writing have something to do with energy flow.  Both are easily isolating activities that can be used to connect one to a sense of community.  Both are activities that those who aren’t engaged in can’t really understand.

This blog brought the connection to mind.  I tell myself I should work head, particularly in the Suzie blog.  Supposedly I could get a week’s worth of blogs out of the way in a day then simply post them at the appropriate time.

It doesn’t work that way for me.  I struggle to come up with something to say when I try to work ahead.  I can get bits and fragments of ideas done, but not finished posts.  When I am responding to what someone has said on another blog, or in FanLit Forever, or in my crit group, or one of my boards the words simply flow.

Like echoing or reinforcing someone else’s beat, writing my blog as I go draws me in and sustains me.

On the other hand, Suzie is a perpetual rough draft.  I can’t get the kind of distance from my own words that makes it easier to edit because I’m frequently coming up with the last of those words minutes before I post.  Some weeks I’m not even sure what I will write about when Friday arrives.  It’s performance art in a field where one of the greatest benefits is the time to fix your mistakes before anyone knows about them.

So when I come up with a lame Suzie, please forgive me.  I never know how it’s going to come out until it’s out.

Alice

February 21, 2007

No More Wednesday Roundup For Writers.

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 9:16 am

The whole reason I started doing my little how to write mini lecture series was to accommodate May’s Wednesday Roundup in which she did links to about a dozen writers who all offered their suggestions on how to write.

May no longer does that.

Which means I can happily step down from my little soap box and stop doing these how-to write blogs.  Seriously, considering that I am not a published author, I feel a bit silly offering advice.

This means my menu is going to suffer a shake up.  I’m still planning on doing Suzie on Friday, but maybe I’ll move the recipes to Sunday  I’m thinking of a Talk To Me Tuesday, if I can figure out how to do polls and things on a blog, but maybe not.  I’ll let you know when I figure out what to do with the void.

Alice

February 20, 2007

How much SHOULD you let other writers influence you?

Filed under: Writing Life — aliceaudrey @ 8:58 am

Clearly you don’t want to give up your own idea of a story in order to accommodate another writer’s idea.  If you’re willing to do that then you might as well go around doing all the stories that non-writers perpetually offer to writers. “You know what you should write?  You should write about my grandfather <or other relative, friend, favorite pet, or self> who <insert long boring monolog>.” 
But it really helps to get some feedback, and sometimes that feedback can take a story in a different direction than I had originally thought, ways that I like.

So where do you draw the line?

Alice

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