Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

There's been an article going around the writerly circles of the Intarwebz lately about an author who stalked and confronted the person she felt was her "#1 critic."

Now, fuck knows why the Guardian chose to publish this particular piece (I personally suspect it has to do with attention-whoring on the part of both the outlet and the author in order to increase the sales numbers of both parties, but that's my opinion), but publish it they did, and - as we've discussed multiple times on this blog - THE INTERNET IS FOREVER. There are no take-backs on the Internet. You can't un-ring the bell once you pull that cord, so...yeah. Even if they wanted to take the article down (and there has been outcry for them to do that very thing), it wouldn't be gone. There's Internet archives, screenshots, reblogs...this is now on-record and what did I just say?


Which brings me to the point of this little rant. Our mission here at the ELEW is to whip inkslingers - both burgeoning and seasoned veterans - into shape. It's right there in black and white: "The Evil League of Evil Writers does not support whining, crying, sniveling, whimpering or bawling about writing, publishing or any aspect thereof. If you're looking for a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear about the rejection letter you've gotten from a literary agent, or a bad review of your work, you will not find it here." So, you can guess how well this latest debacle went over with me.

The mental health of the author in question is not the issue here. (It's been shown through various posts written by the author herself that she has a history since adolescence of behavior/mental/emotional instability. These are facts, not a critique of the author's personality. Thank you to co-founder Bitchstress Dreamkiller for the research links provided.) What is in question here is professionalism and the lack thereof in this particular instance.

It's been discussed here before that you do not respond to reviews of your work, not even to thank the reviewer for reading your work.








Do you fucking get it now?

"But Dina," you say, wringing your hands. "You thanked people when you were a baby writer! You fucking hypocrite!"

Yeah? Well, guess what? I didn't have a website like this one to tell me NOT TO DO THAT. It wasn't until much later in my career that I learned how professionals respond to reviews, and that was from reading the blogs of professionals I admired. And you know what they ALL said? "DON'T FUCKING RESPOND TO REVIEWS NOT EVEN TO SAY THANK YOU!" Once I learned that, I didn't thank anyone else. I knew enough to not respond to criticism, so I was safe there, but once I learned the "DO NOT ENGAGE" tenet, I adhered stringently.

"But Dina," you say, your brow furrowing in annoyance. "Big Author X thanks people/reposts reviews/does stuff you're saying not to here! They're a Big Name Author and they do it, so it must be okay!"

Yeeeeeaaaah, no. Just because they do something doesn't mean it's okay for you do to. Think of it like a professional sportsperson - just because they can perform a certain feat doesn't mean you can do it with the same finesse or skill. You are not them, so don't try to be.

Also, part of the reason you don't reply to any review/criticism, positive or negative, is because you'll be tempted to respond no matter what, and that's a dangerous precedent to set. Best to avoid all contact instead of limiting yourself to only a certain type. Further, it makes you look like a douchebag when you constantly point out positive or negative reviews to your fans/followers. One says, "Whee! Look at me! This person thinks I'm awesome! Go see!" and the other says, "Whee! Look at this douchebag! They think I suck! Go tell them they're wrong!" See what I mean, here? Either way you look like an asshat. So don't do it.

Now, the above stated, let's get into some specifics regarding the above article. The author in question, for all intents and purposes, STALKED the person online she felt was causing her the most "harm." I'm not going to get into mental health issues/thin skin/personality problems or any other "reason" anyone might come up with to defend this author's CRIMINAL behavior. Just because there's a potential reason does not excuse the behavior. Like that fucknugget douchebag who murdered those women in California not too long ago. Just because he had reasons for his issues doesn't excuse the fact that he committed murder. Yeah, I went there. I made the comparison. I don't want to hear any whining about how the two crimes aren't at all similar, because guess what?

They are. They're both crimes. They were both committed by people who felt wronged in some way. Jim C. Hines has a fantastic article on the difference between victim and perpetrator in regards to this butt-hurt author's wangst, and I agree with his assessment one hundred percent. This author not only broke the unwritten "do not engage" rule, she broke what amounts to the writer's equivalent of the fourth wall - that space kept between writers and critics.

Dear Author has an excellent piece on why some people (bloggers, critics, writers) choose anonymity, and the author in question is one of the reasons.

Writers like her are the reason we can't have nice things. She is part of the problem. DO NOT BE PART OF THE PROBLEM. If you don't want to be criticized, this game is not for you. Because you know what?

There will always be someone out there you're going to annoy, hurt, or piss off. Hell, they might just not like you, your writing, your cat...whatever.

Some people are just assholes, and they glory in it. You know what the secret is?

I'll tell you. Get a pen and write this down on a sticky note and put it above your computer monitor. Ready? Here it is:


I know. It's way easier said than done. Believe me, I know. It took me many, many years to accept, and many more to put into practice, but that's really the secret.

Do not fucking care what other people think.

You are never going to make everyone happy. Someone will always disagree with you, hate you, think you're an idiot, whatever. If you spend your whole life trying to make everyone happy, you're just going to end up a miserable mess. So you write what you want to write, and only give a rat's ass what someone has to say about your shit when it's someone who has an actual effect on the direction you wish to go. (Hint: This is not people on Goodreads.)

Example: a literary agent rejects you with a standard, impersonal, form rejection. Okay. Fine. YOU DO NOT WRITE TO THEM AND TELL THEM WHY THEY ARE WRONG TO DO SO. You accept it and move on. They're not offering a critique, nor do they have time to do so, so just move along. Cry in your beer for a night if you must (I know it hurts, but it's just for a minute, so down a shot of tequila and get back to work), but don't post a whiny screed on your blog about how that agent sucks for rejecting you. DO NOT ENGAGE.

Example: a literary agent rejects you with a personalized rejection listing a few things about your work that could be improved. This is an instance where you may POLITELY THANK them for their time and suggestions. This is NOT a time where you tell them their suggestions suck and so do they for not accepting your genius. See, this is one of those people who has an effect on the direction you wish to go. You can care about what they think. Go ahead. Just don't let how you feel affect how you react.

That's the trick to this whole "not caring" thing. When you do care what someone else thinks, you're still responsible for what your caring makes you do. You are STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR.

Don't be the reason we can't have nice things. Don't be a douchebag author.

Fuck, don't be a douchebag, period. The world has enough douchebags without you adding to them.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

When do you write?

With the baby, my life schedule has changed quite a bit. The first few weeks, it was weird, living on a 24 hour schedule - it didn't seem to matter if it was day or night, but we were up every couple hours to feed the baby. Then she started sleeping a bit more and it started to normalize back to day and night... But it's all gotten me thinking.

When do you write?

When are you most creative? When do your mental wheels kick into gear and get moving?

Now, I'm not talking about the sitting-down-and-writing-because-it's-a-job-damnit writing, because you have to do that, no matter if inspiration strikes or not, but when do you feel most inspired. It doesn't even have to be when you write, it could be when you come up with your best ideas, the greatest plot twists, the genius title.

For me, I've always been a night owl. I'm at my best late at night, when the world is quiet. But weirdly, I wrote my first book by getting up early and writing first thing in the morning. It seemed like the words just seemed to flow best then. So I think I brainstorm best at night, laying in bed in the dark, but I write best earlier in the day.

What about you? What part of the day causes you to leap into mental action?

I know a lot of you have jobs that you have to work around - you carve out precious time for writing. Do you pick the time of day that works best for your creativity or your schedule?

Once I go back to work, I'm going to have even more to juggle besides writing, baby, and family life. Guess I'll have to start getting into practice squeezing those words in somehow...

And like Julie says - set an alarm for the kid - it's awkward to get caught up in a scene and forget about them :)

p.s. I'm thinking about writing a recurring series about lawyering stuff - would anyone have any questions or interest in that? It's a little awkward because of the whole not-wanting-to-offer-real-legal-advice thing, but I could chat about interesting topics...

Friday, October 3, 2014

And I'm back in the game...

I'm back!  I had my baby (although she insisted on arriving 2 weeks late), and she's fabulous. We've managed to keep her alive this long and are pretty proud of that fact. And we're even settling into the routine of being parents (would you believe we actually do pretty well on the sleep front?)

And so, having made it to almost 2 months old, I guess it's time I start returning to my regular duties. So, I'm back. Not just to blogging, although, yes, I am resuming my posts here. I'm back to writing. Or editing, rather.

It's odd to me to take a bunch of time off of a project and then go back to it. I can't just jump in where I left off and remember exactly what I was thinking/doing/etc. I have to re-read the whole project, usually, to remember what it was even about.

For me, that first re-read after some time off is weird. It's almost like reading something from another writer. I'll read a phrase or a paragraph and think, "Wow! That's great!" and then realize I wrote it. It feels so foreign, at first. I guess it's a good thing that I impress myself (sometimes) on re-reads, but it's strange - I would think that even after some time away, these words, these characters, this plot, should be familiar.

One hopes I don't forget all about my baby every time I hand her over to a babysitter  :)

And there's more of this disconnect now that I have to work in smaller chunks of time, i.e. during naps. I don't need a refresher every time I come back to it, after that initial read through, but it takes me a while to orient myself again. I feel a bit like I'm taking two steps forward, one step back each time I sit down with these edits.

But, it'll get done. Editors wait for no man... or baby.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Naked and Afraid


According to Dune, fear is the little death. I maintain that Dune got it wrong.

When we think of fear, most of us conjure up that whole body response to actual danger: heart pounding, rapid breathing, adrenaline pumping.

But fear comes in another form, as an insidious thing that nibbles us away from the inside out. It winds into our dreams at night and our thoughts by day, leaching away enthusiasm and joy and the energy needed to grow and thrive.

Often we don't recognize it at all. The cues are subtle. A slight flutter in the belly, a tightening in the muscles, the sudden desire to go back to bed and take a nap. When we notice, we call it many things: Worry, anxiety, restlessness, wondering, waiting.

Whatever name we choose to give the thing, it's always there in one form or another. We fear for our children or our pets. For the security of our jobs. The loss of health. The coming of some large scale global disaster. Death. Mayhem. Disaster.

As writers the fear can become immobilizing. It begins with trying to get the words on the page in the first place. Sometimes we call this writer's block. Or we procrastinate. Or busy ourselves with all of the other life things that present themselves and say we don't have time.

If we do manage to finish a writing project then the fear cycle starts all over again with queries and submissions and reviews and sales numbers and contracts.

My personal list runs along these lines:

Fear that I'm not good enough, that I will never get the words on the page, that my writing sucks, that I've lost my touch, that nobody will ever want to read what I've written, that I'm like one of those people on American Idol who think they can sing but can't even carry a tune. What if people are laughing at me behind my back? What if the readers who buy my books really only do so to laugh at the train wreck? What if - and this is a big one - what if parts of my inner soul that I try to keep private are revealed in my work? What if I put myself out there, naked and afraid, and it's ME that the readers reject?

Which all boils down, in the end, to fear that I'm just one big steaming pile of fail.

Well, so what? So what if the novel sucks or doesn't sell or gets rejected or has bad reviews?

I mean, if these things happen we will be sad. We've invested a lot of time and energy and a good chunk of ourselves into everything we write. But maybe what really matters is that we have been brave. We put ourselves out there. Wrote the story that came to us and sent it out into the world, instead of hiding it in a drawer.

Courage doesn't mean you were never scared, it means you stood your ground and did the thing you were scared to do. Which, I think, makes writers some of the bravest people on the planet.

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