Monday, February 28, 2011

Caution: May Contain Nuts

I used to feel envious of those who followed their passion. That is, until I finally accepted mine and realized loving something—wanting it—carried another set of burdens.
I never knew what I was getting myself into when I jumped into my writing aspirations full steam. There were no warning labels listing toxic ingredients or harmful side effects. I had to find it out all on my own through trial and error, a few Jack and Cokes, and a tear or two. But I’m not going to leave you dangling like a participle, I’ll share the wealth.  
 Here’s my list of warnings.
1)   Once you release the voices in your head, you will never have a private conversation again. The voices will always there, lurking and eavesdropping on everything you do or say. They want to be heard and will stop at nothing to make that happen. They will summon the heir of Slytherin, call on the Gods, whatever they must to do find their way to paper. I wouldn’t tell my husband this, but half the time he is talking to me, my characters are shouting over him.

2)   Your little feelers are going to be hurt. Don’t bother developing a thick skin, but don armor or a wet suit—something that is impenetrable or so slick the negative slides right off. Don’t get caught up in what’s great about your writing, figure out what stinks and try to fix it. Search out ways to improve yourself, not fluff the ego. If you like fluff, you’ll wind up with lackluster beta readers who respond with a simple “I like it” instead of critical hard-nosed readers. Rewriting and editing is where the real writing begins. If you want to be good, you have to pay the price with some crappy writing. If you’re reading this thinking, My stuff is good. Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout? Let it simmer for a few months while you write another novel and read books on writing.
3)  You won’t read a book the same again.
One of the things I miss, pre-writing days, is reading indiscriminately. It's harder to just read for the pleasure of it. Your write-brain will see a typo or a weird sentence and file it away. You’ll continue in the book finding more mistakes, loopholes in the plot, unlikable characters, or whatever else and wonder how in the heck the author became published while you’re filling up a binder with rejections. I know some writers who don’t see the faults as they read, but I don’t understand how. I’m editing my own stuff and a handful of others all the time. My mind is in constant edit mode.

4)  Your spouse/family will resent the computer.
My husband knows I work hard, but sometimes the hard work I’m doing takes away from the family. I am a stay at home mom, so I can’t lock myself in an office and write for a certain amount of hours a day. I find the time when I can. Twenty minutes here or there. Whatever I can while still managing the household. Your thick armor will help as you battle through this section. Now, my husband’s snarky comments slide right past me. He can’t even throw me off with an eye roll anymore. I’m like a ninja—a couch ninja with a laptop of fury.
*My husband is one of my biggest supporters, but sometimes my writing gets in the way. It’s my fault, not his.

5)  You need to start a blog.
This one killed me. I’m a reluctant blogger. I’m doing it because I want to hobnob with other writers, learn, grow. But writing a blog is a bit like a raid on my panty drawer and I don’t like y’all peeking at my unmentionables.
Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned to get passed my privacy issues (a bit) and learned to actually like blogging (a bit). I still don’t get the twitter stuff #ff, @,or the followers who say they are following and then immediately delete you. Whatevs to them. Seriously? 
6)   Can’t go it alone. It takes a village.
I wouldn’t be where I am without my critique group. They keep me in check while respecting my voice and creativity. If you can find a good group do it. My group is probably different than most. Half is comprised of beta readers who write and don’t like to share their work until they are finished. The other half emails chapters as they go. Find a group that works for you, establish goals, and get rollin'. It helps.

I could probably go on, but I don’t want to make this blog too long; so what are on your writer’s warning label? Gas? Irritable bowel syndrome? A twitchy e-y-e? What advice would you offer to a wannabe writer hungry for a publishing contract? 


Tracy said...

Diana, I couldn't agree more...#4 is probably the biggest one I need to deal with as I've mentioned to you before. But I'm getting better~ I chuckled at #1; hah! isn't that the truth.
Another one I might add is I (sometimes) feel a little resentful when I have a good stream of writing going and my family wants me to do something; really? can't they tell I'm in a groove?

Diana said...

Tracy, my husband loves to talk to me about basketball when I start groovin'. Do I watch basketball? nope. Thankfully, at that time the voices in my head are much louder than he is.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

"But writing a blog is a bit like a raid on my panty drawer and I don’t like y’all peeking at my unmentionables."
I am laughing so hard right now. Seriously, that is the best line ever! And so true. I was seriously lacking on blogging for a while, but I finally stepped up and started doing it again. I have to. To get myself out there, meet new friends, and to support other aspiring authors like myself. It's been a challenge, but one I'm up for now.
Oh, and my husband is always complaining about how I don't listen. It's not that I'm not listening, I just can't hear him over the characters shouting at me in my head!:D Great post!

Talli Roland said...

Haha! Love this! How about:

You won't brush your teeth or your hair until well past midday.

Yes, it's true! :)

Susan Kane said...

You hit me with all the numbers. My husband is only six feet away from my computer, yet he is compelled to whine about being alone. I wear headphones, even though there may not be music playing.

Austin James said...

I agree with all of your points... especially number 4, I don't know how many times I get "what are you typing, can't you give the computer a rest."

And sleeping is definitely different to me too. I can no longer turn off the lights and think about nothing.

Oh, well. It's worth it.

Jordan McCollum said...

Oh yes, oh yes! #3 kills me, and also . . . okay, all of them ;) !

Liz Fichera said...

I struggle with fighting the urge to consume massive quantities of chocolate. And it's tough to enjoy books anymore just for the sake of enjoying them.

Hi, Diana! Nice to meet you!

Julie Musil said...

These are so true! Especially the family resenting the computer and the fact that now I read completely different. I still enjoy a book for the book's sake, but I now I analyze each one.

Nas Dean said...

All true. Excerpt I don't yet have a critique group.

Trisha said...

Great entry, and great points! I totally agree about the "never read a book the same way again" point. I've been reading an epic fantasy series that is RIDDLED with typos. Seriously, this guy was a very successful author and yet apparently nobody thought he needed proofreading anymore. Gah.

Subsequently, I've been reading other books and at the end going, "Hey, there was not ONE SINGLE TYPO in that book! Cool."

Also, I recently read a book that had not one single awkward sentence I could find. It was, basically, perfectly written.

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

#3 is the saddest thing for me. I miss being able to just read a book without catching all sorts of crazy things in the grammar or plot :(

Jessica A. Briones said...

Like you I am a stay at home mom, luckily for me my boys are at school all day and this gives me seven hours of uninturrupted writing time... You would think right? Well not always, it's notonly my characters shouting at me, the laundry tends to do a great deal of it too, so life and housework gets in the way.

Thanks for your comments BTW!

Lucy V Morgan said...

I can relate to this. Writing and motherhood can be a frustrating combination (though must be easier than writing, work *and* motherhood, I'm sure). Fortunately, my husband works at night so I'm free to write. In theory. In practise, I spend it doing housework/blogging/errands etc that I should have been doing in the daytime.

I also don't like blogging about my personal life, and I will try not to, unless it's relevant. This is partly because I write erotica though and in real life, people tend to think some funny things about that. I also blog under a pen name.

Carol Riggs said...

Ha, too true, these points. Nice to meet you, Diana, buddy Crusader! (nah, I never say much personal on my blog; you don't have to!)

Tombstone said...

Diana, I read this. I thought you should know.

Kari Marie said...

This is perfect. :) I laughed out loud at number 1 because it is so true.

I should send Beloved Husband over so he can learn something about what life is like now.

kmullican said...

OMG - all of your warnings are true! My husband now calls me a "computer junkie." Made me giggle a little...then I nearly cried. ;)

Great post!
New Follower & Fellow Crusader

Gen Revelation said...

I find I ignore my friends and family for insane amounts of time myself...
I don't even hear them sometimes when they start talking to me.

on another note: Where did you get those warning stickers? Must have....


Diana said...

Thanks for all the comments. Writing defininately has it's challenges.
Gen-I got the warning stickers on google

Deborah Walker said...

Diana, I toally agree with two, three and four. They made me smile. Number 6? Not so much for me, I just wing it alone. New Crusader, stopping by. Looks like this blog is going to fun.