First of all, is everybody ready to start singing the 31 Days of Halloween pretty soon? I love doing that.
In other news, I actually made some REALLY good headway into my characters today, just outside on the back porch, working on the exercises from Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. It’s even better \than I imagined! I bought a used copy a while ago, and just never got around to using it. Now I am SO glad I did, because it’s helping me get insight into my characters that I might never have done otherwise.
I’m only on chapter three of the workbook but I’m already working on adding heroic qualities (I had to write paragraphs about Jamie Fraser, my favorite hero, for the practice exercises), opening extra character dimensions, and creating internal conflict. I haven’t filled out my usual reams of character dossiers yet, and just from doing these exercises for both my heroine and hero, I have a very good idea of who they are that will inform the rest of the details.
One of the tricks I’m hoping to learn is how to take a played premise (the epic urban fantasy vampire romance, which — wow, I adore, but how do you ever find a good one without recommendation by someone whose taste you trust, or which is written by an author you like) and make it fresher. Those of you who know me know I’m not out to write THE NEXT BIG THING — I don’t expect to become one of my heroes in the genre — I just like to tell a good story. I’ve sold small, steady numbers of my stories… I’d like to sell more of the next ones.
I’ve heard people say the genre is TOO played, that there simply ISN’T a way to make the story fresh that anybody will care about, nobody wants to read about vampires or bad ass heroines anymore.
Honestly, while I care about that on a practical level, I don’t care about it on a creative level. I’m sort of stupid that way. I really want to tell the story I want to tell, once it gets rolling. I only hope that I can create something that entertains more people than I have in the past. I love my stories. I know they’re not awesomeperfectwonderfulOMG! But my readers have told me they like them.
It all reminds me of one very important piece of advice of which every writer needs to take heed: grow a hard shell. Love your sweethearts, but be ready to watch them die. Stand by them, but be willing to hear what critics (especially editors and those you trust) have to say when they are offering you notes on your work. Now, I would add a caveat to that. I have a standing rule to NEVER read comments on Amazon, Goodreads, or the like. I have found almost universally over the years that there is nothing positive to be learned from reading what is written about your work there. In fact, there seems to be a rather large and vicious contingent of trolls (some for every writer, of course, not just me. BY FAR. You’ll notice the more readers a writer has, the more trolls they attract) that will have truly nasty things to say about books that don’t seem to have anything to do with writing, that are flat out wrong in factual criticism, or are just excuses to say something mean. I have yet to read one that might have an effect on my writing. Of course, I love positive feedback, or even constructive criticism, but trolls can BITE ME.
Unfortunately, I did get a face full of troll once on one piece that I really loved. I loved the characters, the world, the sex… and I violated my own rule of reading comments and got a few that really hit hard in ways that didn’t even make sense to me. One was flat out wrong — maybe I didn’t write that part well, I don’t know. But people, when you do your comments? Putting, “That was just dumb and offensive, because x stupid reason” (not the actual quote) does nothing but kick the writer.
Of course, trolls don’t care about that, do they? But the thing I allowed to happen was to let those comments kill my love for that universe, those characters. Did I write something offensive? Were the characters and their lives stupid? Did I rip them off for taking money for it?
This is why we need such thick skins — there is that, and worse out there. And I’m not even involved with the big publishing houses. If you want to get into bed with them, expect FAR worse!
Cling to your babies. Love them with all your might — but go after them with a sharp paring knife. Give the knife and the story to someone you trust to wield it, but without mercy. You’ll be better for it.
And there are some writer guts on the table for you this lovely Monday at the end of September!