Random Notes & Thoughts
Some for readers, some for writers, some for me.
You can find more random ramblings at my blog.
Writing for Myself
Most of the questions that come my way are related to my books. Readers emailing me to ask when the next one in a series will be out, or what's going to happen with a certain character. Once in a rare while I'm asked what motivates me to write.
I don't write for the hope of fame or for the money. I don't write with the expectation that I'll be the next Hemingway or any one of my favorite authors.
The answer is a simple one—I write for myself.
What about writing for the readers? Well, that's certainly factored in, but when it comes down to it, I write for myself.
Let me explain.
You see, there will always be people who don't like what I write, who don't enjoy the stories, who think I should write in another genre (seriously, someone did tell me that I should change to Christian fiction because they would like it better), and others who won't like my characters or their actions. Yes, I've heard it all, but none of it bothers me. Why? Because I write for myself.
Don't get me wrong, there are so many amazing readers out there who tell me how much they love my books, and they definitely make all the hard work worth it. However, the way I see it, if I don't enjoy what I'm doing, and if I don't love what I write, then there's no point to it. If I write for myself, then at the end of the day I'll know that at least one person loves the story. That's enough for me, and the rest is just a bonus.
My characters are part of my family. I conceive them, their lives, their circumstances. Readers don't offer input, I don't give a secondary character a story just because someone said they need more attention (it's happened), and I don't change the way I write or my stories based on suggestions (okay, maybe when my editor tells me I'm way off base), so why wouldn't I be writing for myself? I know these characters, their lives, their loves, their heartaches, as if they're my own, which means I know them better than the reader. Sound too harsh? Yeah, I'm told I come across that way when I get going on a tangent, but really, you'd find it charming if you met me in person.
I'm overjoyed when a reader contacts me to let me know about a great review or that they loved a book and can't wait for the next. Seriously, it's an awesome feeling, and it wipes out any negativity from those who feel the opposite. I'm overjoyed because I know that somehow they experienced at least some of what I felt when writing the story.
Each writer has their reasons for why they write. Some do seek fame and recognition, but that's just not the type of writer, or person, I am. Put me in a quiet cabin in the woods with no one for miles around and only the wild animals as my captive audience, and I'm a happy person. Once I stop wanting to write for myself, I'll stop writing. I only hope that day never comes.
"I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine." —Elizabeth Bennet
Think back to a favorite story or novel you've read. What was it that made it a favorite? If one dissects, one will most likely discover that the characters are what truly made that book one you remember. Characters such as Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice, Brian Boru from Princes of Ireland and Dillon Savich from Catherine Coulter's FBI series are among some of my favorites, and there are many. Those characters are the story, they give life to the reading and draw one into their world, for however brief a time.
As a writer, one must ask oneself, "Why do we love these characters? What is it about them that has us believing in their dreams or cheering for them to catch the bad guy or win the battle?" Whether fictional or real, these characters breathe as we do and discovering the characteristics, choices, and passions that make them who they are is, what I believe, the fundamental step in creating a truly remarkable story.
The Self-Editing Question for Writers: Do it or Don't?
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print. Yes, that is the title of a book by Renni Browne and Dave King. A book I might add, that I ordered in part out of curiosity and in part to see if I could truly put out a polished book without the aid of a professional editor. Final answer? A big whopping ‘Don’t Do It’! I’ll return to the book, but first let me go back…
I originally didn’t use an editor. I wondered at the expense and whether or not I would be getting enough of a return on sales to warrant shelling out a couple grand (give or take a lot) on an editor. I looked into a few, but I wasn’t just after skill - I needed a personality that worked well with mine. I was looking for a long-term and loyal editor-author relationship. Finally I found an editor, or better she found me through an interview I did. I had a desperate desire for an editor with whom I could work, and not want to strangle because they demolished my voice and everything real about my book. After she completed a sample edit for me and we conversed a few times via email, I knew this one was a keeper.
It turned out that I spent far more time attempting to self-edit, and my time is extremely valuable. I was a top-notch English student in high school and university. I aced the exams and wrote stellar papers. So no one was more surprised than me, when ten years later, that stellar English student was now only mediocre. It was then and there that I knew no author, no matter how adept at the written word, should be without an editor. It was a long hard lesson on a winding and confusing literary road to take, but I learned enough from the process to become a better writer.
Back to the book! Would I recommend reading it? Yes! Why you ask? It can help an author to improve their writing because grammar and spellcheck on your computer just won’t cut it. I especially like the chapter titled Sophistication where it mentions phrases used by hack writers (I’ve learned the error of my ways). I also enjoyed the section titled Once is Usually Enough. As a whole, the book is an easy read and one that any author could easily understand (or should understand).
So what’s my final take on self-editing? Do it! Wait, didn’t I just explain that an author shouldn’t do it? No! Authors should complete a self-edit to the best of their ability before it goes off to the professional editor.
1. DO find an editor who is not only skilled (make sure they prove their ability), but they should also be someone with whom you can work easily. Keep it as stress-free as possible.
2. DON’T rely on your own skills, no matter how many books you’ve read, for the final product. If you can’t afford an editor and you have no choice but to self-edit your first book or two, work with critique partners, read the editing books, work with reviewers and read and reread your manuscript until it’s the best you can possibly make it. But word to the wise—wait until you can hire a professional.
3. DO give yourself enough time to finish the manuscript and have it off to the editor in order to meet your deadlines (learned this one the hard way). Remember that you need time for rewrites when it comes back with all the pretty red markups.
4. DON’T shrug off the editor’s suggestions if those edits can make your book better. On the flip side, don’t just make the edited changes without reading everything through.
5. DO have fun. What we authors do should be fun or it’s not worth it.