Monday, June 25, 2012

Am i biased...or just bitter?

This morning I had a conversation with the hubs. Well, I talked, he grunted and threw in an occasional 'uh-huh' or 'that sucks'. I was talking about...ok, I was complaining about the fact that certain books, which most of our industry as writers thinks are sub-par, are getting huge advances followed by bigger movie deals.

I just don't understand it! I said to him as I threw up my hands and took the time to curse at the bad driver in front of me. This warranted a raised eyebrow and the 'don't drive angry' face.

Silence filled the car but it still hung on my mind. Why was this happening?

The book that spiked this conversation offends me for many reasons (not a single one of them relating to the rampant sex scenes which as a long time reader of erotica I find barely naughty) is a world wide best seller many times over and monopolizes lots of blog posts, internet sites and tweets.

The reason this concerns me is because most of them aren't about how great it is, but instead how awful the writing is, the gratuitous use of the same ten words and the apparent lack of research that was done. Several are just plain making fun of it. But people buy it. They read it. The general public seems to like it.

And here's where my biggest concern comes in. Is writing sub-par fiction the new black?

I'm saying this out loud to hubby followed up by, "In the last three weeks I've read four books that were way better than 80% of the stuff on the shelves right now and so much better than this book it's laughable."
(*note - 68% of statistics are made up on the spot.)

He asked what they were. I proudly said they belonged to my CP's.

He said, "But aren't you biased?"

I thought about that for a minute. "No, I don't think I am. They're smart, original and so good. Like good enough for agent's to fight over it good. Sarah's book - Love it. It was like one of the good episodes of x-files, but better cause it's a book and it has Dimitrius, Megan's book - such good YA, great concept and she writes a kissing scene like no one else. And then Chessie's book. Well, let me tell you I cried for hours after finishing it because I was so wrecked in a deliciously astonishing  way. She is a brilliant writer and so damn young it almost pisses me off."

Thoughtfully, Hubs scratched his chin (ok, not really..he sat there looking at his Starbucks cup) but he did say, "So when their books are out, lots of people will buy them too."

But that's the problem. Only one of us has an agent and they are just about to put it on submission. But of all them have been rejected - too this, too that, too unmarketable, too whatever and yet the other paperback books are flying off the shelves.

What gives?

Then Hubs had a moment. They come usually when I least expect it and this was no exception.

"Maybe that's the problem?" He said it like a question.

"What is?"

"You're all writing too...smart. Your group is smart, you're all witty and quick and just well, smart. The general public - not so much."

I opened my mouth for a pithy comeback. I thought about the hilarity of yesterday's #badwritingtips and one of the sarcastic tips was "Dumb down your writing. Assume your readers are idiots."

But maybe that's just it. Maybe most of them are idiots. I certainly hope not. I want to read smart books. I want intelligent words in front of me. I want a good story, a hook, an arc, and a satisfying finish all while using proper grammar and more than the words 'just', 'had', and 'all of the sudden'.

And I want to write something smart and quick witted and mostly something brilliant that people will remember for more than my overuse of the word sheepishly.

It scares me that there might be truth to what he says. People want escapism. People want happy endings. People want easy.

And smart books aren't always easy. That's the greatest thing about them. Books can change lives. Literary characters can save and inspire you or break your heart. They can make you hate and love and ache and laugh but they have power. And with power comes great responsibility.
(*note - That's not my own quote. I borrowed it to great effect.) 

Maybe I am biased or a little bitter. Some days I can't tell anymore.As I sit at my computer writing ALL the words, building a following, cheerleading my friends, critting my partners, writing queries, fretting each and every time I hit send because I'm afraid I might not have followed all the rules for submission, I get very worked up about books like what brought about this entire conversation to begin with. it seems the rules don't apply to them and they do every single thing we struggling writers are told not to do.

But I guess it doesn't matter.

I have to believe in the work, in the agents, in the publishers, in my friends, in the readers and mostly in myself. I can't give up the notion that those sucess stories are flukes and there are many more success stories out there for bright, clever, original fiction.

And I do believe it. 

And if I hold on to that belief, soon me and all my friends will have our own shelf at the bookstore. It's heading?

What you should be reading.




Find my these lovelies at:


Megan Whitmer - http://meganwhitmer.blogspot.com/

Chessie Zappia - http://zapslobstertank.blogspot.com/

Sarah Blair - http://www.sarahleeblair.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Writer's Trust

One of the scariest things about writing is putting your self out there. Not only because of the rejection, the judgement, the thoughtless barbs thrown at your work you have bled for and sweated over, no, not only for that. The scariest part is that after all that hard work and effort, someone might steal your idea.

Nonsense, you say! Well I say - the HELL you say! It happens. All. The. Time. It happened to someone I respect and admire very much just last night and let me tell you, it is devastating. (For the record, mess with my friends? I am the bull..you will get the horns.) It's the fear we all harbor and sometimes it's so strong it keeps a wonderful story in our desk drawer instead of in the hands of the masses.

Everytime I send a query, I think "What if my writing sucks but my story is good and then the person who read it mentions the story to someone and that someone tells some super talented writer about this trainwreck query with a good premise and boom, there's my book with someone else's name in the author box. Now obviously, that won't happen. Agents, or at least the ones I query, I have researched and I find them to be fair and ethical. They would send something back that said "Loved the story, take a writing class!" if they liked it that much. It's a foolish worry, but it's like sending your kids to the first day of school. You know they will be fine. But secretly you worry they will like the teacher better than you. Oh, you don't think that?....nevermind then.

But when you're out there networking, building your brand and meeting like-minded crazies (Writers! I'm talking to you!) such as yourself, you run the risk of, for lack of a better word, theft. We all have a blog. The CP group I'm so very fortunate to be a part of vlogs. And then there's Twitter, Facebook, chats, writing rooms, forums, the list goes on!

And what do we all talk about? Our ideas.All out there. All the time.

I am so lucky to have found the wonderful group of writers I call my circle (because they are ready to circle the wagons to protect and defend me at a moment's notice). They are ready to take out obstacles in my path, enable me when I need to vent, build me up when I'm low, be excited for my success, kick my ass back into gear when I whine and mostly, (this is important, people!) TELL ME THE TRUTH.

I can trust them. They can trust me. We willingly send our hard work to each other without a thought. We can take 'that sucks' or 'that's amazing' from them because we know they have brilliant minds to come up with their own ideas. They are not trying to take what's ours or tear us down. They want us to improve. We don't need to take each others' thoughts because we are all strong enough to have our own.

But this is of course not always the case. They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery and maybe that's true, but it still sucks out loud! And it just seems so ridiculous in this business.

Being in competition is nothing new to me. In theater and dance, it can be hideous, downright cutthroat(not marbles on the stage bad..but pretty damn close) but here, in this wonderful land of writers, its different.

Everyone wants you to succeed. All of us could get published, have agents and write fifty best selling books and there would still be room for more.Who wants you to succeed? Agents, editors, publishers, CP's, your friends, your families, other authors and most importantly...the readers! No one wants you to fail! How great is that?!?

So to those few bad apples who do not value original thought (especially the one stealing ideas from my much-more-talented-and-brilliant-than-you friend *gives evil eye*) I will not allow you to spoil the bunch.

Although this part of the journey can be stressful and filled with long nights fueled solely by bourbon, wine and ice cream, it is such an exciting place to be. Have you ever been working towards something where every person in your orbit wants you to reach that goal with such epic flourish that one time across the country for a book tour seems just not enough? I thought not.

So I plan to flaunt my ideas and if someone tries to copy them, I'll simply remember them when I'm on Chelsea Lately talking about who is cast in the movie version. I'll remember to thank not only the people who believed in me, but also the ones who pushed me harder and further to show them how it's really done...with trust, effort, and teamwork. Now that I think of it, who wouldn't want to be a writer?