Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I Write

Ellen Hartman

This is a blog I wrote a long time ago. I posted it on my own blog way back then, but since very few people other than my dad read my blog, I don't think it will be too familiar to folks. I'm bringing it back because I was at a book store last night with my friend and critique partner, Leslie Daniels, talking about writing. Our talk was called "Writing and Publishing (or Love and Money)." The talk got me thinking about why I write. Leslie likes to make stuff up, that's part of why she writes. (I think. I didn't ask her.)

I write because it’s tidy.

No, not the process. The process sucks. My writing process is a horrendous disaster involving way too many stimulants (all unhealthy although not, in my case, illegal), way too little sleep, and way too much self-doubt and bad temper. (Plus a little euphoria but I’m on a woe-is-me kick here so I won’t be admitting to that.)

The tidiness comes in when I take life--big scrambles of human emotion and chaos--and sort it out on paper. I can count on my books to have happy endings. The villains get theirs, the hero and heroine get some, and my psyche is at peace knowing that these people, the fictional ones, will do what I tell them when I tell them to do it.

Non-fictional people do not respond to me in this way. They persist in leading their own messy lives, making bad decisions, living with ambiguity, and even, at times, settling for settling instead of striving for their Happily Ever After. Blech. Who wants to spend their time with people like that?

The characters I write follow the three-act structure. They’re not only familiar with the hero’s journey, they live it, in perfect structural order, every time. When I provide the fictional people with a brilliant insight into their motivations, for example, “You can’t commit because your mom screwed you up when she left home in 1979,” they not only get what I’m saying, they change accordingly. Their fictional black moments end after a reasonable amount of time, instead of stretching on for years or decades or entire lifetimes.

Maybe if I were able to get myself a job as the dictator of a small country I would give up writing. Dictators no doubt get a lot of opportunities to tidy the lives of real people—for example, they can dictate that today is National Confront Your Insecurities Day and next Wednesday is National Stop Dating The Wrong Guy/Girl Day.

But until that happy time when I manage to seize power, and as long as real life remains sticky, ambiguous, and full of people who don’t do as I tell them to do, I’ll write. And I’ll be happy while I’m doing it.

(Had to get that happily ever after in there.)

So that's it. Why I write...or at least one of the reasons I write.

What about you? If you're a writer, what is the thing that keeps you going? If you're not a writer, what is your passion and why does it captivate you?

If you don't feel like being serious, how about this...imagine you are the dictator of a small country. What's your new national holiday? Chocolate Day? National Teens Speak Politely to Their Mothers Day? National The Media May Not Mention Lindsay Lohan Day?

One lucky commenter will win an Amazon gift card and a copy of Married by June.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I've Learned Since Getting The Call

By Jeannie Watt

1. Ideas and proposals still get rejected.

I thought that after receiving The Call that anything an author cared to write was automatically turned into a book. Not so, and that’s a very good thing. Editors see so many stories in the course of their jobs that what seems fresh to an author may not be so fresh to the editor. Apparently sometimes certain professions/conflicts/ideas will suddenly start appearing at the same general time. When I submitted my Too Many Cooks? trilogy idea, I found that there were a lot of chef stories being submitted at that time. I’d thought I’d hit on an untapped profession.

And then there are clichés—cliché plot devices, resolutions, conflicts. Too much telling, not enough showing. Too much realizing and not enough action. All of these are reasons that I’ve gone back to the drawing board after submitting proposals, and every time, it's been worth the extra effort.

2. Writing doesn’t get easier. You’d think after all this practice that it would simply flow. Other than the two books mentioned in #4 below, that hasn’t been my experience. Most of my books beat the crud out of me—sometimes more than once. Fortunately I love to write, love the challenge of creating characters and developing a story, even if I sometimes go to bed wondering how on earth I'm going to come up with an ending/deeper conflict/bigger obstacle to love.

3. You don’t have nearly as much time to perfect your books after book number one. I spent two years working on my first book, sending it in, getting rejected, rewriting and sending it in again. I could rattle off certain scenes verbatim since I’d worked on them so often. And then I sold my second book and I had a deadline. Deadlines move toward you at the speed of light. I had no idea.

4. Just because one book is easy to write, it doesn’t mean the next one will be. I’ve written two books that flowed almost effortlessly. There were a few problems, but for all intents and purposes, the writing was easy. I thought I'd tapped into some new source of inspiration, crossed some magical boundary, and writing would now be easy every time. I hadn't and it wasn’t. The next three books were very challenging and I learned a lot writing them—like don’t expect writing to be easy.

5. While your current book is beating you up, the next idea you have seems so perfect and fresh that you can’t wait to get going. Then you finish the killer book, revise it and finalize it and start on the new fresh idea, which then proceeds to beat you up. Meanwhile, the previous killer book is about to be released. You get your author copies and now the story is exciting and you love it and you wonder why you thought you ever had a problem getting the words on paper. If only the current WIP would be as cooperative…in other words writing is like natural childbirth. You forget what the process is like until you go through it again, but once done, it’s well worth it. 

I'd love to hear any additions to my list of things people have learned since starting to write. Remember that if you post, your name will be included in our next Super Author drawing.
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