Mon. Nov. 26, 2018: Can Writers Have Friends? #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, November 26, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune DIRECT (as of Saturday)
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

On the surface, that looks like a ridiculous question. Of course writers have friends! There are famous (and infamous) literary friendships throughout the known canon of literature. Writers need friends — people they can trust, people who will tell them when they’ve gone off the rails.

But it’s difficult to be friends with a writer.

It’s difficult for writers to be friends with each other.

I’m not talking about competition. As far as I’m concerned, when one of us succeeds, it’s good for everyone. Agents, publishers, and those who make money off our work want us to feel competitive, because it helps THEIR bottom line. But really, the toughest competition is ourselves, meeting our own expectations.

So why is it difficult to be friends with a writer?

Because everything is material.

If you know a writer, something you inspired will turn up in their work.

Unless it’s a roman-à-clef, it won’t be you in a literal sense. When an individual inspires a character, when I do my job properly, that character evolves away from the inspiration into a distinct individuality of its own, even if they still share characteristics.

Strangely enough, some people who swear that this character or that character is “based” on them in my work were never part of the equation, as far as I was concerned, and certainly not for the characters in which they saw themselves reflected.

I do my best to “do no harm.” I don’t always succeed, but that is my objective. Unless you hurt someone I care about, and then I’ll hunt you to hell and back if that’s what’s needed. I am fully in touch with my Shadow Self, and know how to use it.

But if you know me, whether it’s virtually or in person, something or someone you inspired will eventually show up in the work. It might be twenty years after we’ve lost touch, but it will happen.

Because I’ve spent my working life in the arts, and, except for the years since I left New York, my circle was entirely artists in different disciplines, athletes (when I was a sports reporter), and either veterans (met through the arts) or soldiers (who found my letters nattering about life in the arts an interesting distraction), it wasn’t a big deal. Now that I live away from an art-centric, urban environment, where fewer people understand the process, it’s a trickier. People are quicker to hunt for offense.

Artists use each other creatively all the time. It’s usually healthy. Sometimes it’s not. I was part of a cabal of writers in the UK for awhile, when I was early in the writing part of my career, where we used each other in our books, often without much disguise. Sometimes it was flattering, sometimes it was painful. Now, I re-read it, shake my head and laugh at how we tried to impress each other and communicate what we really thought and felt by Mary-Sue-ing instead of just talking to each other. In many cases, the work suffered. So did our relationships.

Non-writers often make assumptions, especially when it comes to my characters’ romantic lives or sex lives, especially if the book is dedicated to a man. They assume I’ve either had sex with the man mentioned in the dedication, or I want to have sex with him. In either case, it’s assumed the male protagonist stands in for him. The former may be true (I’ve certainly dedicated books to current or ex lovers), the latter unlikely. I’m not Anaïs Nin and he’s not Henry Miller; we’re not dashing to the page, still naked and sweaty after our encounters, to write them down.

Okay, I admit it: I went through that phase, but I was in my early twenties. I outgrew it. My writing is better now than it was then for many reasons, and, most important of all, I write FICTION.

I used to write erotica, back when it paid well. People who knew I did (and knew the names under which it appeared) often assumed and commented on how I must go about my “research.” It served us both not to dissuade them, although I made some flippant comments that I realize were unfair to actual lovers in my life, and that I now regret. I have apologized to several people, all of whom were puzzled because they didn’t remember and/or hadn’t been hurt.

When I’m writing and revising, I can pinpoint where the real-world inspiration diverges from the fictional character; but often, after several years, drafts, and a good editor, I can’t any more. I know who it was, but the character stands firmly on its own.

Writers used to worry, before the age of over-sharing on social media, about hurting others in their writing. It’s less of an issue now that it was fifteen or twenty years ago, and it’s always been more of an issue in memoir than in fiction.

There’s the position of “write whatever you need to write, your own truth, and to hell with anyone who gets hurt” and “change enough so they can’t recognize themselves.”

As I mentioned above, I evolve the characters away from the inspiration, when I do my job properly, so I embody neither AND both of the above.

On the opposite side of protecting people in your life you care about, there’s dealing with hurt. Hurt is inevitable. We cause it, even when we don’t want to; we feel it.

I make a lot of jokes about killing off people who annoy me in my novels. But they’re not really jokes, and it’s a great way to blow off steam. And by the time I write it, and the piece is ready to go out into the world, again — the character has evolved away from the original inspiration into its unique identity.

But the process eases the hurt and gets it into perspective. I’m often less hurt after the process because I understand the other individual more. I could wallow in the hurt if I kept that person as a two-dimensional cipher of my pain and rage. But, again, if I do my job as a writer, and make it a fully developed character, there will be more to the person and the situation than my pain.

Yes, writers can and must have friends. But non-writers need to realize that everything, and every ONE — is material.

Published in: on November 26, 2018 at 6:39 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 26, 2018: Can Writers Have Friends? #UpbeatAuthors  
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Tues. July 25, 2017: Working In Multiple Directions

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Drizzily and cool

First and foremost, happy release day to Alyssa Maxwell for her newest book, MURDER AT CHATEAU SUR MER. I love this series, and that particular house is my favorite of the Newport mansions.

Sorry to post so late. I got a late start and have been running behind ever since. Today is proof that if I don’t get up around 5:30 or 6 AM and get to it, I lose the most creative part of my day and I’m disoriented.

Yesterday, I managed to get a play out to an interested producer. There are quite a few of us in contention — it’s a big deal. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, and the play stood up to re-reading better than I remembered it, so off it went.

Another producer was interested in the work I’ve done for 365 Women; unfortunately, she’s looking for non-naturalistic work, and all the plays I’ve done for them are naturalistic, inspired by real historical figures and events. I was recommended to her on the strength of the writing, which is always good; but my structure isn’t what she’s looking for, unfortunately. Still, if I ever decide to write something non-naturalistic, I know where to pitch it first!

Did one editing pass on the short story written yesterday morning; now I have to let it sit for a bit before doing another round. One can’t edit well right after finishing a piece; there needs to be time, so one can go back with fresh eyes, and look at it as though someone else wrote it. Whenever someone boasts about finishing a book or a story or whatever and immediately starting edits, I roll my eyes and know it’s a book I won’t be reading (unless one of the publications that pays me to review sends it to me).

I’m also getting tired of the bullying posts aimed at authors, some of them posing as “articles”. They spend the bulk of the article diminishing authors’ self-esteem, telling the authors they suck, and then, at the end, pretending to “rescue” the author — should the author buy whatever product they’re selling.

First of all, the content of most of these pieces is crap. They’re not well-written, many of them are “listicles” — a format I loathe as both a reader and a writer. They’re advertorials posing as articles.

Every author’s path is different. That’s a good thing; the level of conformity that’s being demanded, both by corporate-owned mega-publishers and by society in general is geared to kill creativity. It IS important to build a strong foundation in craft and to know how to tell a cracking good story. Craft is something that should grow with every book or story or article. Authors need the flexibility to try new things — even if not all of them work.

When it comes to marketing, it’s time for unique and creative campaigns, not following what “everyone” does. You need to target your audience; at the same time, you want to reach as wide an audience as possible. You want to be assertive and inclusive, not aggressive. It’s hard to find that balance. Also, people will respond differently on different days. All you can do is the best you can do.

If a certain type of marketing makes you miserable, don’t do it. Do what you enjoy. When the author has fun in the process of sharing the work, the reader picks up on it.

Listening to someone who makes a living taking money off of aspiring authors by berating them doesn’t help me, that’s for sure. I like to see what other people are doing, and then either use that to jump start my own marketing ideas, see if I can adapt what they’re doing to suit my particular project, or if it’s something that I don’t respond to positively, and then I move on.

Just because it doesn’t work for ME doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t do it. All I can do is make the best, most informed decisions I can for my own work.

But bullying posts turn me off. I’ve decided to stop sharing them. I’m not going to troll them. I just scroll by and go on with my life.

Did some work on the various media kits. I need to finish the Q &A for “The Ramsey Chase” media kit. I find the non-fiction section of the Devon Ellington media kit much harder than the fiction. I have to write the press release for the PLAYING THE ANGLES media kit. That needs to be ready to go out at the beginning of August, even though the book doesn’t drop until October.

Working on the article that’s almost ready to go out, and then two more are stacked up behind in.

We worked on a new cover for “Plot Bunnies”, to tie it in more with the upcoming “Labor Intensive”, but it wound up looking more like a children’s book than a light-hearted mystery, so we’ll stick to the current cover for now.

I’ve had to scrap parts of the plot for “Labor Intensive”, because it went too dark for the tone of the series. I will probably use those plot elements in one of my darker books.

I’m meeting a friend for coffee this morning, which should be enormous fun. She lives in Amsterdam now, and I only get to see her once a year, although we’re in regular contact.

Never a dull moment, which is a good thing!

Published in: on July 26, 2017 at 9:22 am  Comments Off on Tues. July 25, 2017: Working In Multiple Directions  
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