Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Monday, September 15, 2014
What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
If you were to ask anyone who is not a writer what they think is our favorite part of the writing process they would probably say "getting published." Although getting published is nice, if is definitely not my favorite part. In fact, if that was my favorite part I would probably have given up a long time ago (like at age 15). Getting published usually happens when I have already shifted my attention to my next book, and so my book in published form seems a little unfamiliar--like something I've read before but don't really feel very close to anymore.
The best part of the writing process is usually the one that I am not doing at this very moment. When I'm in first draft mode, I think, "I can't wait to edit this book! That will be so much easier." When I'm in editing mode, I think, "if only I were in first draft mode! I could write whatever I wanted instead of dealing with this huge first draft mess..."
Really the best part of writing is the times when I'm in "the zone." I have a million ideas for how to make my book better or I know exactly what is going to happen next and I can't type it fast enough. At those moments, I feel talented, creative and productive. I know that being a writer is what I was meant to do.
If you're looking for inspiration for the writing journey, look no further than the new Sisters in Crime anthology WRITES OF PASSAGE! Edited by Hank Phillipi Ryan, contributors include Laurie King, Margaret Maron, Nancy Martin--and from our very own Criminal Minds Catriona McPherson, Clare O'Donohue and me!
Art Taylor to continue the SinC Blog hop!
Friday, September 12, 2014
By Paul D. Marks
I still think of giving up, but I don’t do it.
Part of the reason we’re writers is ‘cause we’re persistent. Lots of people want to be writers, give up to easily or just don’t’ find time to do it. It’s a passion – it’s not like a hobby that you give up when you don’t have the time. And it’s a passion that you have to do every day like eating.
You write because you have to. Yes, it’s nice to get published. And even paid. But if that’s why one writes you’re in the wrong biz.
It’s kind of like “Ol’ Man River,” tired of livin’, but scared of dyin’. But the river keeps rolling along. As do we. Because there’s nothing else we can possibly do. Sure we might have families, other jobs, other obligations, but we find the time to write because it’s in our blood and in our bones.
We write because we have something to say, some interpretation of life that we want to share. Or maybe we just want to entertain. In “Sullivan’s Travels,” the classic Preston Sturges film, Joel McCrea plays a movie director who makes silly trifles like “Ants in Your Plants of 1939”. But he wants to make a serious film about people struggling, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”. Not knowing anything about the downtrodden he has the studio
costume department outfit him like a hobo and he takes off, entourage not far behind. To cut to the chase, so to speak, and through a series of misadventures he finds himself on a real chain gang. And there, watching the prisoners laugh at a Mickey Mouse cartoon he realizes that people just want to laugh and be entertained. And I think that’s what we want to do, entertain. It can be serious entertainment or light entertainment. But ultimately that is the bottom line – we are entertainers.
And how do I get over those doubts about continuing, I wake up the next day, sit at the typewriter (in the “early” days) and type. And if it really is in your blood you just get over it. Just like you do after you break up with the “love of your life.” Sure, h/she’s the one that got away. And you still think about her on occasion. But it’s yesterday. Today is working on that new chapter or character or funny bit or whatever. You just do it.
All of this because ultimately, as Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”
Thursday, September 11, 2014
"Was there ever a time before you were published when you thought of calling it quits?"
Clare's answer yesterday was spot-on. Writing the first book, pre-agent, pre-deal, pre-anyone actually believing you've got a prayer isn't quitting time. It's the good old days. No deadline, no publicity, no helpful frenemies forwarding bad reviews. Before a writer is published everything in bathed in a golden glow.
Is it pessimistic to think of The Future as the end of hope and every achievement as another door slammed shut? Possibly. Accurate, though. On a yearly scale, each book is perfect before you write it and then you make it worse and worse until it's finished and the only reason you carry on is to be done with it and get to the next perfect book-to-be. On a career-sized scale, each milestone takes you further away from the fork where you might have chosen the path that swerved the headache du jour.
How I wish I was completely kidding. (How I hope that at least one person reading this is going to know what I mean. (How I fear that some friends might stage an intervention.))
But I sort of mean it. Not for nothing is my favourite bit from Radio Days that bit when Julie Kavner says to little Seth Green: "Our lives are ruined already. You have a chance to grow up and be someone."
By the way, if anyone wants to start an argument about whether the argument about whether the Atlantic or the Pacific is a better ocean is a better bit, go for it.
Anyway, if it's so terrible to combine writing book X with dodging reviews of book Y, promoting book Z, and not counting how little time there is left in the year to write book What Comes After Z, perhaps the question should be: "Was there ever a time after you were published that you thought of calling it quits?"
And in this case the answer is . . . still no. It took me such a long time to work out that writing was for me and the other jobs I did were so unspeakable (except the one where I worked in a local history library, which was really just research for writing) I've never doubted for a minute that I'm doing the work I was meant to do.
Do I wish I'd worked it out a bit quicker? Nah. I think the only way to get to wherever you are is the way you came, on this wrong path, starting at the fork of regret. That's a sort of sunny side, right?
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I QUIT.... or maybe not
by Clare O'Donohue
Q: Was there a point before you were published when you thought of giving up? If so, how did you get over it and keep going?
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Friday, September 5, 2014
Choice? Calling? This week's question has given me lots to reflect on in terms of my own writing life—taking me initially back to those elementary school writing contests and how excited I felt about them at the time, staying up late with one of my dad's yellow legal pads to write what I thought of as an epic poem. "If I Were an Ace" jumped through several imaginative adventures, each stanza more daring and dangerous than the last, and the whole thing pumped me up so much that I could barely write it fast enough: scribbling furiously, marking out words and replacing them with others in the margin, finally going to bed satisfied with what I'd written only to find my mind racing and retracing, and then there I was jumping back up with a new phrase or two and an extra twist and—
I promise to hold up on the BSPs for a while as well, but did want to take the news here as an opportunity to reflect back on the question at hand—especially with a deadline now to to finish the last of the stories for Del and Louise. On its best days, writing seems a calling: The imagination conjures up stories, images, characters, situations, details, words, phrases, and it's a rush twice over—first to catch up with all of whatever's spinning out in your head and second to write it down on the page before it gets away. That's the way I felt as a kid, writing just because it felt good and fun. But some days, obviously, stuff doesn't go like that—and it's those days, when the page is blank and the imagination seems to be running dry, when writing becomes a choice: the choice to sit down and push ahead despite everything seemingly working in just the opposite direction against you.
I may have shared this anecdote before, but it's a good one. At a writing conference down in NC many years ago, a woman in the audience stood up and asked Angela Davis-Gardner something along the lines of "What do you do when the muse just doesn't strike?" I was certain that Angela was going to smack her down somehow—writing is hard! it's not about the muse! etc. etc.—but she didn't, and the answer she gave has always stuck with me.
"Sometimes the muse just doesn't come," she said, shrugging. "We all have days like that. But every day I sit down at my desk to work, so the muse will know just where to find me."
And with that in mind, I'm logging out here, and getting back to work. :-)
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Do you feel like being a writer is a career choice or a calling?
I’ve been and done many things before becoming a writer. Engineer, product planner, marketing manager, entrepreneur. In fact, writing fiction never even crossed my mind until relatively recently (ten years ago).
I disliked writing in high school (Although I loved to read, I didn’t love reading all those boring, assigned books written by dead guys for class. I stuck to my science fiction, much to the consternation of my father, the former English teacher.)
I disliked writing in college. I studied engineering, so I didn’t really have to write much. And certainly nothing creative, unless you consider the analysis of a system’s vibration profile creative (truth: writing a grocery list is more creative).
I disliked writing in grad school. Although I more writing was required there, I managed to fill my papers with technical jargon and buzzwords. We even had a roommate competition where we came up with a list of buzzwords we had to use in each assignment. Which kept us amused, if not the professors.
So if being a writer is a calling for me, the phone rang pretty late.
Actually, in my case, writing was an absolute choice. More evidence: Some writers say they HAVE to write. That if they miss a day of writing, they feel bad. Not me. I can go whole weeks, nay months, without writing, and I wouldn’t feel any different. (Now, if I were to go a whole week without eating, then I would feel bad. Maybe my true calling is eating.)
This question brings up something I struggle with from time to time: my identity. When people ask me what I “do,” I (still) have a hard time saying writer. Yes, I’ve published six books (three traditionally, three self-pubbed. Note the library “shelfie” with fellow Criminal Mind Clare’s books). Yes, I’m involved with writing organizations and attend writing conferences. Yes, I teach writing workshops (some start this month, sign up HERE). But I still hesitate before I claim to be a writer.
Maybe I’ll just tell people I’m an eater and ask for directions to the nearest buffet.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
|Holy and Aerodynamic|
|Finbar under my feet|
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014
by Meredith Cole
Most writers I know tell a story about being that child who obsessively fills up notebooks with writing and sneaks away to read while other kids are playing sports. I am definitely no different. I have a row of journals going back to when I was seven, and many memories of spending hours alone with a book. I felt like I always wanted to be a writer and I always have been. So for me it was a calling. But it took years for it to become my career.
My career has been interesting and erratic. Time spent working in film and television stretched out to years and years. If someone asked me what I did in my twenties, I would say "director" or "writer/producer." I started novels but did not finish them. I finished screenplays but did not make them into movies. I felt strangely dissatisfied. I gave myself deadlines so I would finish projects. And then finally I joined a mystery writing critique group that helped me keep going and finish my book. But I didn't see it as a career. It was something I did between all my other obligations and it certainly didn't pay very well.
It really wasn't until I had a printed book that I gave myself permission to call myself a novelist. And say it was my career. I still do other things to pay the mortgage. I work in marketing. I teach. But because I continue to sneak my writing into the cracks of my day, because the pages pile up and I continue to reach readers, because I am occasionally paid for my labors -- and because on this Labor Day I am writing and revising a novel -- I am a writer.
So is writing a career choice or a calling? I say both.
Happy Labor Day everyone!
Friday, August 29, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
But this is by way of an introduction. Throughout the month of September, the 3000-strong gang of Sisters and Misters known as Sisters in Crime are having a blog-hop.
I know this is Criminal Minds!
But I'm hijacking it.
Here's how the great SinC Up September bloghop works. Anyone who blogs is invited to answer any or all of the following questions and then tag another blogger to chip in with their tuppenceworth. (We Sisters don't go crazy with the rules.)
All the details and lots of information about Sisters in Crime is available at the SinC website: click here.
The questions are:
- Which authors have inspired you?
- Which male authors write great women characters? Which female authors write great male characters?
- If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?
- What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
- Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?
- What books are on your nightstand right now?
- If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?
The only bit of this that raises my hackles is "nothing against women authors". Doesn't that sound a wee bit too much like "with all due respect", which, as we all know, means "You are a moron."?
Apart from that, my answer is: "Good for you. Isn't it lovely to live in a free country?" (NB, take out "my favourite" and replace it with "the best" and I will spit on my hands and pound you to a splat. Verbally, of course.)
However, I happened to read this question out loud in my husband's hearing and his response was different. His response was "Yeah, right!"
This from one who, when we met, owned a single book written by a woman - Maxine Hong Kingston's THE WOMAN WARRIOR - adrift in a sea of Tolkien, Vonnegut, Heller, Shute and Malamud. And it had been a present from an ex-girlfriend.
Hah! She was an amateur. Within months, I had him on Jane Austen, George Eliot, Joyce Carol Oates and the writers he called "the green stripy lesbians". (Others know them as the authors published by Virago and The Women's Press.)
So anyway, I also asked him this morning who his favourite authors were now. The answer came back - in this order - Jane Austen, Tim Binding, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and a tough choice between Nevil Shute and "Old Line and Length" aka Anne Tyler, so called because Nick Hornby gave her a blurb that said she was "the best line and length novelist writing today". Her publicist must have wept. Can you imagine less helpful praise for an American literary author than a cricketing metaphor?
(N.B. I was interested to note that no Scottish crime novelists were mentioned . . .)
And now I tag RJ Harlick to pick one or more of these questions for her next Criminal Minds blog.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Ready, Set, Write....by Clare O'Donohue
Q: Do you need something to get you in the mood to write?
Deadlines help. But if none is looming, then.... well, actually no. If I, or anyone, waited until we wanted to write, I'd have about 30 pages of m first novel and little else.
I think of writing like exercise. The hardest part is getting started. But once you do, it (hopefully) gets easier and maybe even fun.
However, if I'm looking to make a ritual out of it. I go for these three things:
1) A quiet place where I'm alone. It isn't necessary for me to be alone to write, but I prefer it. I make faces and talk the dialog out sometimes. I don't listen to music or have the TV on. I prefer just the sounds of the characters in my head.
2) Tea and a snack, preferably chocolate. Rewards are good.
3) A pad of paper and pen. I write on my laptop but sometimes I want to scribble a note to remind myself that I've just written something I'll need to explain later. I could open another document on my computer for that but I prefer writing it down. Opening more documents would interrupt my flow.