Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing Meta, No. Whatever

I was emailing someone the other day about a wee crisis of confidence about my writing, and they scoffed. Because, yes, I'm a decent writer, but not a great writer. My long-term goal is to continuously take it up a notch at a time, so by the time I'm ninety I *will* be a great writer. I honestly believe that. Book by book, chapter by chapter, I will get there. Perhaps a bit of a hopeless dream, but it's my hopeless dream and I'm reaching for it. Anyway, that's not germane to what I want to say today.

This mini-hissy fit was brought on by section in my new book that wasn't working. The words fit together okay, and there was the tee-hees in the the right places, but it didn't work. By that I mean where in the hell was the passion? I don't mean sex on the kitchen floor passion, but an underlying sense that the author feels this down to their bone marrow and you (the reader) should too, by dint of their writing. Now, I'm not writing the sort of book that elicits, in general, that sort of reaction. However, there should be this underlying sense that *I* care about what I'm saying, that my words are making my passion your passion. Even in a beach read there should be a thread of passion running through a book. Otherwise you'll stop reading my book at Chapter 4 and throw it back into your beach bag, slop on some more sunscreen, and rummage around for another book to fill the time. I've failed you. You've walked through that door that says "Exit," and you're about to walk through another writer's door. Crap

Yes, I've said here that you can't please all readers all the time. It's just not possible. I'm always floored when I rave about a book and someone else says, "Meh." It's even worse when I respect that person's opinion and they hate a book I thought was brilliant. For instance (small rec inserted here), I loved Steve Martin's "Shopgirl," and a friend hated it, and I thought, "WHAT? ARE YOU CRAZY?"

I'm digressing, as usual. Anyway, I should love what I'm writing because that passion will, guaranteed, translate to the page. That is part of the problem with the current push to make authors churn out a book a year. They are scrambling to find that plot, that idea that can sustain 80,000 words, which is a hell of a lot different than writing 80,000 words because, oh my god, you must hear this. A series is hard enough to pull off, but I can't be the only person for whom the series has become a reader's landmine. The writers are so bored with these characters you can practically hear the yawning as you turn the pages.

So, say I haven't fulfilled my end of the bargain. I've churned out something that I don't particularly care about but fulfills my contractual obligations. That ennui easily translates to the page, and chances are that the next time you (the reader you) want a beach read for that plane ride, you'll buy that author that sated your reading jones the last time: *not* me. Clearly, it behooves me to keep you interested. But beyond even the monetary considerations, read my book because I have a story worth telling--or I should--and I want you to hear it. I feel passionately about these characters and I want to share that passion. That girl A is writing a book and girl B is a better writer and boy A is a jerk but has a nice jaw and boy B is friendly and tall and a little bit clumsy. Park your butt in the chair, the plane seat, down on the beach blanket and listen to me.

There was a girl...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Kind of Fool Am I?

Every author that I know Goggles their name to see what the word is about their book. In this technological embarrassment of riches, you can even put the name of your book on alert. You get both the wheat and the chaff. I've gotten alerts where people rave about my book, and I've gotten alerts where people say that it's lousy. In fact, I got one today that said my second book was exactly that. Which, hey, part of the writing gig is that you have to accept (or it will drive you crazy) that you cannot please all readers. There is a certain percentage that you cannot win over. Your style, your voice, your pacing doesn't work for these people. You have to give it up with grace. Plus, let's be honest here; I'm not writing literature. Some people who write in this genre ARE but not me. I'm writing beach reads because that's what I have the time to write. I might be deluding myself that I could write a bigger book if I had time--I do honestly believe that--but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride shit.

Another technological bonus with this reading and writing thing are all these sites devoted to developing connections with other readers. I have a GoodReads page, and a Red Room page, and a couple of others, but mostly I stick to the GoodReads page because I have friends there. It started out as a promo for my books, but since I couldn't figure out how to showcase my books, it's become more of a place for me to gas about books I've read. It's my opinion, nothing more than that. Like above, some books work for me, some don't. I'd like to think that the years I've spent learning how to write have given me some insight into why some books work and other don't, but maybe not. It's my space. Just like this is my space. To write about books I liked and didn't like.

I try to be fair here. I KNOW how it feels to read that your book didn't work for the reader. In fact, I experienced that sense of gloom just today! So when I post a book review here or on GoodReads, I try to be careful and give an honest assessment of why a book worked and why it didn't. For me.

And this is where the foolish part comes in. Because I am both a reader and a writer, I'm vulnerable. Someone could retaliate and go to and use their little rating system and kill my ratings. Or be affronted that I didn't write a glowing review about their friend's book so they slammed my book in their blog. Or the author themselves sets up a sock puppet to trash my book. The possibilities for sabotage are endless.

Do I intend to stop posting my opinions on my GoodReads or my blog? Nope. Because I stand behind my words. They are important to me. If I can't write what I want to write here, what's the point? But I'm also aware that I might pay a price for my honesty. Welcome to the new age of writing. The brickbats are to the left.