Archive for the 'Rosemary’s Posts' Category
Friday, December 16th, 2011 by Rosemary
So, I watch this show Castle on Monday nights. Well, actually, I record this show Castle on Monday nights and then watch it sometime during the week while I’m having my morning coffee and waking up, which always takes a long time. (An hour long show about a mystery writer who works with the cops to solve murders is about right.)
Like a lot of movies and shows about writers, it often inspires a lot of eye rolling. (I mean, besides the premise.) Like how Richard Castle sits down to finish his new book at the end one season, and a few months later, at the beginning of the next, it’s coming out. I can’t speak to his fabulously wealthy lifestyle. I wouldn’t know about that. But sometimes there are glimpse of something I recognize, like the Big Whiteboard of Plotting, and, I have to admit, I work a lot like he seems to: I run around solving crimes while I THINK about the novel for a long time, then I sit down to write it.
But in Monday’s episode, Castle’s daughter Alexis, who is talented and smart and beautiful, was declined from the college she’d been counting on attending. She’d already bought tee-shirts and planned the next four years of her life and everything. Of course she was devastated and went and boxed up every award, trophy and certificate she’d ever received with the statement of “Obviously these were all some sort of LIE because I totally SUCK.”
Now, this is an often silly show. (I’ve mentioned the premise, right?) But I felt for this girl so much in that moment. When you’ve never failed before, it’s hard to swallow the first time, especially when it’s not really your fault. She studied, she had extracurricular activities and great test scores. For whatever reason, not of her doing, she got rejected. Maybe Stanford had filled its quota of squeaky clean and perfect-skinned red-heads this year.
Of course, at this point I said (to the dog): if this show had any pretense of verisimilitude (only I maybe I didn’t used that word because I hadn’t finished that first cup of coffee), Castle will now whip out his giant folder of rejection letters that he accumulated before he was published.
He didn’t right away. But by the end of the episode, we learn that his first rejection letter is framed on the wall of his office. (Mine was tacked to the bulletin board behind my desk until I needed that space for pictures of my dogs.) As Alexis tearfully demanded to know how he could look at it every day, this reminder that he SUCKED and had FAILED. To which he replied, “It reminds me to keep trying.” At which point he DID tell her about all the rejection letters before he sold his first book.
With writing and rejection, it’s not always about trying HARDER (there are really good books out there that are just unmarketable or unlucky), but about trying AGAIN. But sometimes it IS about striving to make each submission better than the last. I say this all the time: in a business full of random uncertainties, the only thing we writers can control is the writing. But that’s not entirely true. The other thing we can control is our response to rejection or failure…
Or, that matter, our response to success. Selling a book is in NO way the end of the journey. It’s only the beginning.
Friday, December 9th, 2011 by Rosemary
I didn’t want to get up this morning.
Not for the usual reasons I don’t want to get up, which usually involve working/reading/watching Toddlers & Tiaras reruns until 2 am. But because I was having a dream.
Sometimes I have cool dreams. But most of the time I have these really specific, really predictable dreams. When I was in college I would dream I got called in the the professor’s office and chewed out for stuff like not managing to get a date for this sorority party coming up (true story–I’d managed to secure, then lose, three dates).
Then when I started working in theatre, I’d routinely dream that I showed up at the theatre and everyone would be going: Hurry up, you’re on stage in five minutes, and not only had I not been to a single rehearsal, I didn’t even know what play we were doing.
But this morning’s dream, for some reason I cannot fathom, was the GOOD version of this. I dreamed I went back to Victoria, to the theatre where I used to work, and I was coming there specifically to fill in a role for someone who’d dropped out, BUT I’d (a) done before and (b) was one of my favorites. And most of all (c) I was sort of a celebrity guest, so everyone was making a big deal about my return to the Victoria, Texas stage! Whoo hoo! (The fact that I am (d) not a celebrity or maybe just one in a (e) one Starbucks town was completely immaterial.)
Wait? Are you ready for the best part? I’m like, okay, so who’s the romantic lead that I have to sing with and mack on and also spar with. And they’re all like, oh it’s our OTHER celebrity stunt casting, Mr. Russell Crowe. And he was all like, I have no idea who you are, but we’re going to have to rehearse quite a bit with the stage fighting and the smooching and I’m all like I’m totally okay with that, six shows a week and two on Sunday.
But of course I knew it was totally fantasy because I was also at my perfect weight and my hair looked amazing.
Of course I wanted to see what happened because this was a nice dream. But as I’m in that slowly waking up stage, my writer brain starts to take over, to think, where’s the story in this? Where do things go sideways to make an interesting tale? That’s what usually keeps me in bed when I have one of those dreams.
But not this morning. This morning I just wanted to find out if Mr. Crowe was a good stage kisser.*
The writing part of this post (and I guess there is one) is that when we get in touch with our creative brains, they work even when we don’t think they’re working. Sometimes we have to weed the wheat from the chaff, or the wish-fullfillment from the neuroses, but it’s always interesting to me when my unconscious mind starts a conversation that I can continue with a good “What if?” question from my analytical side.
I guess the moral of this story is sleep more. Right?
*Stage kissing is about as real as stage fighting, but that’s a subject for another day. And also… well, some people are still better at it than others.
Friday, December 2nd, 2011 by Rosemary
I’m writing from scenic Arizona this week, having recovered from my annual Thanksgiving cold just in time for a writer’s retreat that I’ve had on the books for ages.
But here we are hard at work:
(That’s the fabulous Jeri Smith-Ready, Beth Revis and Kim Derting.)
A writer’s retreat has great benefits. A change in routine and an absence of normal responsibilities. Literally nothing to do but write. And of course there’s the peer pressure. Nothing is more motivating than the frenzied tapping of laptop keys from the other side of the table.
Then, of course, there’s the networking, which is a big thing when you think about conferences and retreats and a conglomeration of writers in one place. We were talking about this last night, and I think it’s important to realize that the way to form a good network is to remember, it’s not about what someone can do for you. It’s about sharing information and support, including emotional support from people who understand the particulars and peculiarities of being a writer. (Because there are a lot of things that ONLY other writers will understand. It’s a weird business and, of course, we’re all weird artistic types anyway.)
A writing life in unique in that there are two aspects of your career. The business side, and the internal, emotional artistic side. You’ll have groups that fall, sometimes, to one side or the other, but in the end, it’s writers who understand writers.
I can honestly say that, in my writing journey, the friends and support system that I’ve been lucky enough to find has made a huge difference in my life. Building a support system is something that takes work–but you can’t force it. I’d say its more about staying open to connections and cultivating the ones that are positive and productive.
And of course, as with any friendship, half of it is being there for the other person, not just what they can do for you. Of course I’m lucky enough to be in gorgeous Arizona hanging out with these amazingly smart women in person, but the Internet is your friend. Also, this is one of the reasons I encourage people to find a local chapter of your RWA or SCBWI. It’ll take work and some trial and error, but a network of people who support and understand the process, both of writing and building (and maintaining) a career is invaluable.
Friday, November 18th, 2011 by Rosemary
Okay, so I LOVE the show Big Bang Theory. I relate to the characters in way too many ways (my friends MAY call me Sheldon sometimes, but only when I kick them out of my spot on the couch).
But here’s the scene that I relate to most in my writing life:
Eye of the Tiger
It’s like they have a Big Brother camera in my office! I even have a white board.
One thing that people who aren’t writers don’t get is that sometimes when I’m staring out the window, or into distant space, or at the wall, I’m actually working. Sometimes I’ll knit, because it occupies the left part of my brain while the right side works on an artistic problem. But a lot of times, I’ll just sit there, staring at my white board.
Sometimes I’ll push through, and keep my butt in the chair until inspiration strikes, or I sweat the answer out, like blood from my forehead. But sometimes I’ll go for a walk, or bake some muffins, or get out of the office… mostly so I don’t turn into Sheldon.
I guess the point is, the thinking part of the process, even though it seems silly, is important! And since I’m not one of those people who just writes to see where the story takes me, it’s a part of my process that I have to give proper respect.
Now if I could just get the people in my house to do the same!
Friday, November 11th, 2011 by Rosemary
Last week I talked about peer pressure—how a writing buddy, whether you meet in person or on Twitter, is someone who can hold you accountable and motivate you to progress on your page count.
Today I’m going to talk about the reverse of that—doing your own thing.
I’m lucky enough to be friends with a number of fabulously talented authors, and even more are Twitter or Internet acquaintances. And some of them—a lot of them—write faster than I do. They generate pages faster, without (it seems) nearly as much angst. Heck, during NaNoWriMo, it seems my entire Twitter circle writes faster than me. There’s nothing like seeing a Tweet that says “I just finished my 20 pages for the day” while you’ve been rewriting the same page for the last three hours.
It would be easy on a day like this to feel like a failure. (I’m not.) It would be just as easy to stick my nose in the air and say that I was doing something better. (I’m not doing that, either.)
Everyone works differently, and that’s okay. It isn’t important who writes more pages in a day, it’s only important that you write. Even if I rewrite the same page three times, at least I’m working. (Inefficiently, but still.) And maybe the next day will be better.
People’s writing careers will take different courses as well—and this is something you really can’t control. As far as book sales, I’ve been outpaced more than once by someone who started after me. You may become frustrated when someone newer to the game makes a sale, when you’ve been submitting for years.
But you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. You can only compare yourself to you. Are you keeping query letters out there? Are you polishing your work? Getting critique. Working hard on the next book, knowing that each book you write gets better?
The only person who can make you feel “bad” about your writing is you. Get rid of negativity and set goals that are reasonable for YOU, and stick to those goals, not to anyone else’s.
What are YOUR writing goals for next week?
Friday, November 4th, 2011 by Rosemary
OF of the cool things about NaNoWriMo is the sense of community. Everyone is writing, everyone is trying to write fast. When I originally read Chris Baty’s book about NaNoWriMo, he encouraged people to have in person write-ins. Now I see people doing word sprints or whatever on Twitter, and cheerleading each other that way.
Here are the advantages of the Coffee Shop Write In. A lot of these apply to Twitter, too, but not all, which is why the gold standard for me is getting together in person.
#1 (and most important) — Peer Pressure. When your friends are typing feverishly, and all you’re producing is the slow click click of your mouse as you play solitaire, that is a shameful thing. I admit sometimes I start off just fake writing so it looks good, but before I know it, it’s turned into actual prose.
And it keeps you going, too. More than once, “Let’s go 40 minutes without stopping,” will turn into an hour and a half.
2 — Camaraderie. Writing can be a lonely job. It doesn’t always feel that way, because you have a world of characters in your head to talk to. It is nice, when you DO take a break, to be able to chat with a non-imaginary person. Even better, a real person who won’t call the police when you say, “Jeez, I didn’t think I’d ever get through killing all those people. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the bodies.”
3 — The conference. In normal offices (or so I’m told) if you’re stuck or frustrated, one can prairie dog up from the cubicle and ask for a co-worker’s input, or just for a sounding board. There may be brainstorming involved. It’s great to be able to be able to turn to your colleague and ask, “Listen to this paragraph. Does this say what I want it to say?”
Or, “I need a name for this character.” Or, “”What kind of herbs do you think I would put in a love potion?”
I suppose it goes without saying, picking the right (heh, write) friends is important. If the only peer pressure you get is “Come tank for me on this one WoW raid, and then we’ll get back to work,” that’s counterproductive.
But what if you don’t live near a Major Metropolitan Area where the law of averages will place a few writers you like in your path. Or what if you’re just bad at making friends?
Thank God for the internet.
1. Write Or Die. (writeordie.com) This website is less peer pressure and more whip cracker. The premise is simple: Enter your goal (time or word count) and start typing. If you stop typing, consequences will be severe. (You can adjust both the strictness and severity.) The point is, you keep moving forward, without time to sit and second guess yourself.
2. Twitter. It’s easier to make “friends” on Twitter, because no one really expects much from you in 140 characters. Basically, follow other writers. Follow writers who are regularly producing work (Or say they are, anyway.) (Don’t follow me for this, because I don’t post my progress to the whole world. That’s not my thing. Although I have been shamed into working by other people posting theirs.)
3. Twitter write parties. Several writers of my twitter acquaintance do the “Okay, everyone write like crazy for 30 minutes” thing. Unlike writeordie.com, however, you’re sort of on the honor system. But I understand that some writers have honor, so this works for them.
Whatever works for you, that’s the thing to do. Some of you are probably appalled at the idea of writing in public. (And I admit, it took me a while to warm up to the idea, and I’m very selective over who gets to see me in that rather psychologically naked state.) Some of you may have been doing this for ages. The only thing that matters is that you keep producing pages, because writers write.
What about you guys? Are you a lone wolf or a pack animal?
Friday, October 28th, 2011 by Rosemary
Last weekend I was lucky enough to be part of the Texas Book Festival in Austin. What an incredible line up of authors, both adult and YA! It was amazing getting to meet and see again some of my favorite authors, both to read and to talk to.
But there was a recurring theme. I started on the panel I was on in the morning with realistic contemporary authors Jennifer Ziegler and Jill Alexander as we talked about what we all laughingly call our process, which is a pretentious way of saying “The way we get stuff on the page and hope it doesn’t suck.”
The first obvious thing is that your “process” as a write is whatever works for you. The other thing… And this was an enormous relief is that even amazing authors that I admire like crazy all go through a stretch (sometimes more than once) in a book when they are convinced they don’t know anything about writing, that they have no idea how to fix their Frankenstein monster of a book (that might be my wording), that they curl up on the floor of the office and/or consider faking their own death rather than finish the book.
That last bit was Libba Bray, and to hear her and Sara Dessen–amazing YA authors that I admire hugely–admit they feel this way every book, even after so many best selling, award winning books was very heartening.
And also a little disheartening, because that means this feeling never. Goes. Away.
But I think that if that feeling goes away, you’re doing something wrong. If the book feels easy, you aren’t challenging yourself. And if you don’t go to the hard places, your not reaching your full potential as a writer.
So it’s okay to despair, and cry, and doubt. It’s *supposed* to be hard. Let that reassure you and encourage to push through the hard parts. Keep writing, even if it’s just a page, a paragraph, a phrase… Even the smallest steps will carry you past the perilous places and soon you’ll be racing ahead… Until the next hard part.
Lather rinse repeat.
What are the hard parts for you? (Other than the whole thing.) My first one is chapter three. I then to write in circles when I get to forks in the road. Knowing this makes… No, it doesn’t make it any easier at all. What about you?