Monthly Archives: July 2012

Savages

***Warning, some light swearing ahead***

I went to see Savages last weekend (the only break I took from writing). I hadn’t read the book, but I had read about it (which is by no means anywhere close to a substitute, I’m just sayin’ I wasn’t completely clueless.) I thought the movie was brilliant–just the right combination of story, character, acting, setting, and soundtrack.

So I came home, and I decided to download the preview to Don Winslow’s book (because if you don’t have to commit, why do it, right?). I’m not about to provide a review for the book, because that would be a little absurd (there are authors that are past being reviewed by people like me). And besides, there are far too many reviews on Amazon that are trying to be cool and hip and oh-so-intelligent that another “regular” honest review wouldn’t be worth it.

But I would like to make this one comment: How brilliant of a screen writer / director team can one have to turn that book into that movie? Pretty damn brilliant. No, seriously. Consider the first chapter of the book: “Fuck you.” That’s it. That’s the entire first chapter. Now, I may not know much about good writing, but I’ve been a professional reader since the age of four (no TV till the age of ten, long story) and I think that having that as the first chapter of your book is a little gratuitous, because my clearly un-hip, un-cool mind cannot comprehend how that adds to the story. And this is coming from someone who is not shy about swearing in real life. Not at all. In fact, fuck, my swearing is pretty bad.

So I just can’t stop wondering, could it be that the author is so brilliant, that he figured nobody would dare question it, because it’s so out there that everyone will be too afraid to say something for fear they might appear un-cool and un-hip and un-cultured? Like another case of “the emperor’s new clothes?” And his first chapter is a dedication to the suck-ups who grinned and told him how brilliant that was? I’d rather believe that, than accept that he actually believes that that first “chapter” is an essential part of his story, and that the initial shock/awe/confusion of that opening makes one understand and enjoy the story in ways that they couldn’t otherwise.

Regardless of what I think, he’s still selling that thing like hotcakes and the movie made him a millionaire. So he’ll be laughing his way to the bank while I sit here and wonder. Ohhh… Fuck. I finally get it now.


Honesty

I haven’t posted anything in a while because I’ve been spending every spare minute I had on my books. This writing journey is fascinating–that is, when I’m able to detach from myself and look at it with clinical eyes (the rest of the time is very emotional, as you might expect). Here are some things I’ve learned recently.

1. There’s definite value in traditional publishing. I’ve been going through some stuff lately at my “other job,” where everyone thinks they can do my job (instead of doing theirs). Because it must be so easy. Well, it’s not. What I do is a combination of art and science, and while you may think you can get the art down, it’s the science that will make the difference. I think it’s the same with publishing: anyone can write some words down, but do they have the science behind it to know if those are the best words they can be, and most importantly, if those words have a shot at standing out? Traditional publishing is not the purveyor of art in writing, but the gatekeeper of writing science, which is what will often make the difference between mediocrity and excellence.

2. Traditional publishing is an old, slow scientist enamored with her own legend. If they were able to fix the part that keeps a book stuck in their process for over a year, if not longer, and if they un-stiffed their frozen upper lip to expand their content pool to writers who are not whores to the process (query letter rules, manuscript rules, email rules, call rules, agent rules, networking rules, associations rules, etc. etc. etc.), but simply honest people dedicated to the act of writing, they’d probably come out on top at the end of this storm. Alas, they’re too stuck up to do that, so the spiraling will continue. And I tend to avoid torture, so I probably won’t try my chances at traditional publishing any time soon — life is short, and I can’t bear the thought of wasting another minute on bureaucracy. Maybe it’s a mistake, but I’m owning it. Or maybe I wouldn’t be good enough for them anyway.

3. I’m an impatient fool. My most important lesson from this past month: just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. I’m a down-to-earth, cerebral writer with lots of self-awareness. You won’t see me throw tantrums, and act like I’m God’s gift to the world (though sometimes I think that would serve me much better). But that doesn’t mean I don’t love writing from all my heart, or that I don’t believe in my ability to break through. But I got so caught-up in the “traditional publishing” “science” of it, that I forgot to listen to my heart. “I have a deadline,” I said to myself. “And I keep my deadlines, damn it!” So I published Healers a month earlier than I should have. And then I downloaded my own book, and started reading it for the fortieth time, and discovered that it wasn’t exactly what I had intended it to be. (Regardless of the fact that my beta readers had great feedback on the story.) So I made a hard decision: re-write it once more. What I didn’t expect was how fast that was going to be. Because this time I listened to my heart instead of the rules (You should never write a book in first person present tense!!! And especially if it’s a suspense science-fiction novel!!! Only great writers can pull that off!!! You know nothing!!! Be afraid, be very afraid!!!) and it took me ten days to do the re-write that ignored the rules and made me happy. Maybe I was wrong, and maybe it’s not as good as I think it is. But at least I LOVE IT. And that means I can promote it, and talk about it, and be proud of it without worrying that I didn’t give it my best shot.

4. Impatient fools learn the most. Should I have waited a little longer before hitting the publish button the first time around? Maybe. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t have learned any of this. And I’m that much better for it. I’d rather screw up and come out better, then play it safe and bury myself in worry and guilt.

5. And lastly, when it comes to writing, the only way is up. I’ve learned so much this time around, and I know that will happen again next time, and the time after, until I’m gone. And it’s a great feeling to know that every word you put down on paper will make you a better writer. That is a great reward.

So, hey, if you’re reading this, give Healers a chance. I stand behind it, and I’m ready to take on any criticism that comes my way, because I wrote it from the heart and I believe in it. You don’t have to buy it, you can download the free preview — you’re bound to know if it’s your cup of tea by the end of it.