Just Regular People

A dear friend from high school (and my roomie in college) was in town recently and wanted to go to lunch with me. When her children heard that she was sneaking off to meet me, they were apparently upset that she got to spend time with a “famous author” and they didn’t.

So we arranged for a short get together between me and the kids. My friend explained which books of mine they had read. The kids said a handful of words about my books. We chatted about their vacation, about Harry Potter, and then it was time for them to go.

When my friend came to get me for our lunch, I asked her if I had been worth visiting for her kids. She told me bluntly that afterward her youngest said, “authors are just regular people, aren’t they?” I laughed. Yup, authors are just regular people.

How to Write A First Draft Fast

I am not a clean first drafter. I write fast and dirty. I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of the book when I begin. I only have a general idea of the story and the world and the main characters. So how do I do it?

1. I trust my subconscious. Even if there’s no reason to trust it. Just write and see if it works. I’m not saying it will every time, but a lot of the time, your subconscious is smarter than your conscious mind.

2. I don’t stop to look up facts unless I absolutely have to. You don’t usually need to spend ten hours researching something in a first draft. You have no idea if that part is going to stay in the book or not.

3. I remember a first draft is for broad strokes. That means I don’t worry about the small stuff. I don’t craft beautiful sentences. I don’t worry about great cliff hangers.

4. I don’t care about starting with the right first chapter. The book is going to change a lot, so don’t worry about what is the right, gripping first sentence. Don’t worry about attracting readers or editors or agents right now.

5. I spend some time trying to get to know my narrator. To me, the narrator matters the most in the book. This means that I will sometimes write a few chapters of back story (not meant to be included in the book) that are mostly for me so that I know what is at stake for the narrator. Yes, something big has to be at stake for your narrator.

6. I remind myself no one will ever see this draft. It’s just for me, not for other people.So if I don’t want to write description or dialog tags or stage movements, I don’t have to. Everything can happen with talking heads (it usually does for me) and that’s great.

7. I give myself permission to do it wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Seriously, very wrong. I can’t be embarrassed because I already know how stupid I am. The one person I never try to fool is me.

8. I try things that I know I don’t have the skills to do. I push myself because I’m just playing around.

9. I don’t go back and reread or edit as I go. OK, yes, I will go back and swiftly reread the last few pages I wrote before, and I might spend 10 minutes fiddling, but no more than that. Just keep pushing through.

10. I don’t let anyone read my first drafts. If someone walks into the room, I close my computer or angle it away. This helps protect my fragile writer self who needs to be private.

This method may not work for you at all. I don’t mean to suggest that every writer should draft this way. But if you are someone who has been told to write outlines and that just doesn’t work for you or if it feels stifling (as it does to me), you might try some of these tips and adapt them to your own style of drafting to good effect.

Your Chances for Publication

I read a post recently by an author who insisted that it was just unreasonable to tell people to wait for a traditional publication deal because that was basically impossible.

It’s not impossible.

Yes, it takes a lot of work.

Yes, it can take a lot of time.

For me, it took 20 fully finished manuscripts that were rejected before #21 was accepted. So forgive me if I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who give up after their first finished novel isn’t accepted.

And if you’re wondering if I got those 20 books published after #21, the answer is a resounding no. Why? Because they weren’t good. I’m not saying they were worthless. I learned things. I was trying things out. I’m proud of myself for writing those books. But they aren’t remotely publishable.

It’s not impossible to be published traditionally. It’s really hard, and it may take a long time. But that’s not at all the same thing.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t self-publish. I know it’s a new world. I have read some excellent self-published books and am trying not to have a chip on my shoulder about self-publishing. I suspect it’s the right choice in certain situations, like if you are a crack marketer or you know a particular niche market.

But don’t do it because you think it’s your only choice and that traditional publishing isn’t open to new voices. It is. It absolutely is. Agents and editors are hungry for new voices. They are still reading slush piles and still finding people to publish there.

And before you say that I had a bunch of connections and that’s why I was published, remember that my first book was found in a slush pile. I wrote that letter to “Acquisitions Editor” without a name because that’s what the Writer’s Market book I was using told me to do.

It happens still. It happens a lot more to people who are working hard and are willing to give up on the old book and work on a new one. Again and again and again.

Success comes to those who have the biggest capacity for failure.

"The idea of the humourless feminist is an incredibly potent and effective silencer. It is used to isolate and alienate young girls; to ridicule and dismiss older women, to force women in the workplace to ‘join in the joke’ and, in the media, to castigate protest to the point of obliteration."

Laura Bates, Everyday Sexism (via lovethyfemaleself)

Oh, have I heard this one for it seems like centuries.  “It’s a joke!  Can’t you feminists tell a joke when you heard one?”

"Well, SonnyJim, it’s not so funny if it reminds me of something bad that happened to me or someone I know.  It’s not funny if it makes me feel you’re looking at my ass all the time.  It’s not funny if it depicts …"  And then they wander off saying how we have no sense of humor.

Robin Williams makes me laugh myself silly.  Funny—he never does jokes that make me uncomfortable.

(via tamorapierce)

(via tamorapierce)

The Rules of Fantasy

Writers spend a lot of time writing rules of fantasy, and then even more time figuring out a way around those same rules.

Is this just perversity?

I don’t think so. I think that we all know instinctively that this is the way that mastery of any discipline works. First, you learn all the rules. Then you go about systematically figuring out how to break them.

It’s one of the reasons that it can be confusing to writers who are being taught “the rules” to see so many more advanced writers breaking all those rules.

The “rules” are invented to explain certain forms and processes on a simplistics level. Once you understand that level, you see how you can manipulate those forms and processes on another level entirely. That’s why they say that once you understand the rules, you don’t need to follow them anymore. Although that makes it sound like the rules aren’t really true.

And they aren’t. But they are. At the same time.

Rules are useful ways of describing things in thumbnail form.

But if you’re a pianist and you always follow the rules, you are likely to be boring. If you are a composer and you follow the rules, you may sound a little derivative. Not inventive. Not mind-blowing.

And yet, when you know the rules, you instinctively see the difference between people who break the rules because they have no idea they exist and people who break the rules because they’re messing with your head and your expectations. And how you appreciate the latter!

Wreck the rules! Destroy them! Build them up again!

vintageanchorbooks:

The Daily Routines of Famous Creatives

This is awesome! Also, I want to say—look at poor Kafka. No sleep and all that green day job stuff. No wonder his writing is so dark. Maybe I’ll have to start losing sleep to write like Kafka!

vintageanchorbooks:

The Daily Routines of Famous Creatives

This is awesome! Also, I want to say—look at poor Kafka. No sleep and all that green day job stuff. No wonder his writing is so dark. Maybe I’ll have to start losing sleep to write like Kafka!

(via lauriehalseanderson)

"The role of the publisher isn’t to take a book that’s pretty much finished and turn it out to the public. Editors help shape books in significant ways. A good editor doesn’t just tell you that you have made typos or that your sentences are grammatically incorrect; a good editor looks at every part of a book, from character development to plotting to theme, and tells you what doesn’t work, what works really well, what needs to be cut, what needs to be built up. A good editor reconstructs a story from the raw materials and makes it as good as it can possibly be."

from Why We Still Need Publishers by Susie Rodarme (via rinceya)

It feels pompous to reblog this, but it IS what we editors try to do, and very nicely said.

(via curiousmartha)

(Source: bookriot, via stacylwhitman)

goddessofsax:

Here’s a handy dandy color reference chart for you artists, writers, or any one else who needs it! Inspired by this post x

(via seananmcguire)

Future and Past

I think it’s really useful to look back on the past and use it as a template for the future.

All the stuff that you imagine will change your life and make it so much better, and that will give you the validation you imagine you need—it’s not what you think it is. You know this because you’ve already seen it in the past. You remember getting something you thought you wanted and realizing it either wasn’t quite what it was cracked up to be, or that you had changed and become someone who wanted something else, or something more.

This is normal.

But it shouldn’t make you depressed or feel that you should stop trying for important things.

On the other hand, it should make you look around at the life you currently have and realize that there are things already there that make it wonderful, just as it is.

A lot of life is in the everyday choices and pleasures.

For me:

Reading a perfect book.

Meeting someone who is really as awesome in real life as I’d imagined.

Struggling with my writing.

One reader who sends a little note saying how much she loves my book.

Going out with people who actually love me as I am now, and are not waiting until I ‘level up.”

Imagining a great future. There is a pleasure in imagination that I am not sure any reality lives up to. And I refuse to give up my pleasure in imagination just because of that.