I love being a writer. I love writing. Most of all, I love having written. Past tense. As in, I finally put my butt in the chair and produced pages. Sometimes it is hard to get there. Now, with the demands of social media to “build a platform”, book-writing hours are threatened more than ever. My platform seems to be evolving into one of helping other writers keep up with the latest news about the industry, which includes highlighting new authors, new books, new social media trends. Despite many years in publishing, I’d rather leave teaching to the those who love to teach–those writers who methodically break down plots, characterization and theme. Like Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), I’m an instinctive writer. I can’t explain how I do what I do, let alone teach my writing skills to others. But I can relate to the challenges of putting that butt in the chair.
I have been in this writing game for a long time. Over the years, I have taken extensive notes from workshops given by authors who have spoken at the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America.
Today’s quote is from best-selling author, Jayne Ann Krentz –
“Success is an indefinable term, a fleeting, ephemeral thing, a ghost. The more you chase it, the more remote it becomes. But the writing originates somewhere inside yourself. You can nurture it, control it, experiment with it. It’s yours and yours alone. Take your true satisfaction from inside yourself, not from the outside world.”
Somewhere I read the feeling right before a big leap should not be misinterpreted as fear but an adrenaline rush of excitement and anticipation of something new about to happen yet not quite knowing what that something will be. Oh, you might have an idea of it, of course, like starting a new job. You know the general responsibilities but you don’t know the reality until you are actually in the job.
I feel this way about my writing career. Mistakenly, I have labeled some of the anticipation as fear. Then I allowed the fear of failure—or fear of success?—to take over, to undermine all my hopes and dreams with doubt and lies and negative beliefs left over from my childhood. But no more! I remind myself that these palpitations of my heart are excitement and joy. I was born to do this—to write! I believe I spent many lifetimes as a writer. Even this lifetime is filled with journals, letters to friends and now long-winded e-mails.
I am a writer.
I am also a channel for these incredibly fascinating books to come through me. All this fear and trepidation and lack of confidence in my abilities have blocked the flow of energy to create these books. I have known all along it is my own human failings that have kept these books from being completed. Yet the negative belittling voice in my head was so much louder than the divine whisper, “I am a writer.”
I want to cry with shame that I have denied my true self all these years. But Robert Frost’s words and some other meditations about starting over remind me the past is over. Learn from it. Know that it is all a part of my divine lesson in this lifetime. It is my lesson to wake up to the truth of who I am. Others writers come into their lives with a fervor to write and nothing can keep them from it. But that was not my experience. I chose to come here with this challenge that I was somehow unworthy to be a writer, that I was not qualified to call myself a writer–or at least not one who is successful. This was my challenge. But this is not the truth. I had to lift the veil. Many times. Each time, I thought, was the last time. Each time I thought I had finally grasped the truth of who I am, and it would not slip away. But it did. I let the outside world convince me that I could not play the game. Someone said, “If only you would write marketable stories, you would sell!” And I faltered. Someone else said, “You cannot write about (fill in the blank) because those books don’t sell.” And I stumbled. Another said, “You can’t write that in a romance.” And I let the voice of my muse fade away, unable to hear the words of those unique stories because I could only hear friends, agents and editors who said I couldn’t sell that way.
Over and over, I told myself I should find the muse again and write those stories for the sheer joy and personal satisfaction, letting go of the ego that wanted a sale more than anything else. As I tried to to write those “unsaleable” ideas, self-doubt taunted me, pulling me away to do more important responsibilities that would make a difference, if only in a minor ways, if only for my family. Paying bills could not be put off. Nor laundry. Nor cooking, grocery shopping, taking the car for service, bathing the dogs, whatever else the voice could think up. Writing a book that would end up in a box under the bed—that could wait another day.
Enough of this! I am a writer and I came here to write. And I am no longer willing to believe that my writing will not fit into a full day of whatever else needs to be done. I make it fit. And when I am finished with a book, I write another. It does not matter if it ever sells. I write the stories that are given to me and I am grateful. I stop denying them based on salability. It’s perfectly okay that other writers were “built that way.” I wasn’t and I must accept this truth about me in order to survive. Rather melodramatic to put it that way, I know. I don’t mean it in the business sense of surviving in this publishing business. If I do not grasp the idea that I am different, that my writing is not about the ability to sell a book as it is about the ability to write with an original voice, then this muse of mine, this source of these stories will not survive. To a logical writer of constructed plots and carefully detailed characterization, this belief in an independent muse is nothing but nonsense, an excuse not to write to the market, an excuse to be so damn different that I will never sell again, an excuse to be a failure.
I am thrilled with these feelings of excitement and anticipation of the return of this powerful voice dictating words into books that are so mesmerizing to me. As I re-read a day’s work I am in awe of an author that is not me. I have no recollection of writing these words. Scenes, yes. Exact words, no. There is no explanation of it to someone who has not experienced it. No logical writer can understand it because, well, it is not logical.
To me, it’s magical. (Marketable? God only knows.) Given this mystical experience, how can I possibly return to logical writing? Why would I want to?
At the end of May, my 5-year-old great-niece, Alyssa, fell from a second-floor window onto concrete, fracturing her skull. Her mommy posted on Facebook, asking for prayers. Hundreds, if not thousands, of friends, family and strangers offered support and shared with their friends and family. [Here is my initial blog post.]
The first few days were rough. But little Alyssa is a tough cookie. Amazingly, there were no other injuries. The fever subsided. The brain swelling went down. By day five, she was able to go home from the hospital, though she was still having difficulty finding the right words to talk. Since then, she has been receiving physical therapy & speech therapy.
Today, her mommy posted this picture with the following update:
“Yeaaaaaahhhhhhhh GRATEFUL GRATEFUL heart. …….Alyssa just had a three hour neurological exam and she passed and will not have to return for a 9-12 months. We will continue her weekly speech therapy but so far nothing is going to slow her down.”
Thank you so much to everyone who kept Alyssa in your thoughts and prayers!
With the rise of Indie publishing, authors are able to re-issue their back list of books that have the rights reverted to them from the original publisher. I’m one of them. Some of those older books of mine had great editors. Others didn’t. I refuse to disclose which ones required more editing. But I will say a book published by a major New York publishing house does not mean it can be formatted and uploaded to Amazon without a second look. Or third.
So the rewrites begin. Historical novels don’t have the same issues as contemporary novels that will be outdated. Not may be. Will be. I have heard arguments for and against updating a book for re-issue. There are readers who couldn’t care less when the story takes place as long as it is a great read. Others refuse to read an older book. Believe it or not, most literary agents reject manuscripts set in the 1980s and 1990s, claiming “publishers aren’t interested because readers won’t buy them.” (No need to raise a hand to dispute this claim. This was my experience querying over 100 agents for LOSING LISA:Intuitive Investigator Series, Book One.)
The questions to ask are: Do you have a legion of fans who would object to changing a favorite book on their Keeper shelf? If so, you might leave well enough alone. However, I recall a much-loved, award-winning author whose early works were reissued by her NY publisher. Her fans were thrilled. Newer members of my writers’ organization had not read the author when they bought the re-issues. One book, in particular, was met with criticism because the hot good-old-boy hero was a chain-smoking, beer-drinking reckless driver with a volatile temper. Of course, this character evolved by the end of the book but he didn’t turn into a saint. The Bad Boy image was not only politically incorrect (driving while drinking!) but the “It” factor had become an “Ick” factor. If the author would have been willing to update the story—I do not know whether or not she had the option—would editing have wrecked the book? I think so, but that’s just my opinion. I wasn’t offended by the chain-smoking, beer-drinker when I read the first edition. Re-reading it years later, I am aware the story takes place during the time when that behavior was acceptable.
Another question an author needs to ask: Is this older book representative of my current style and quality of writing? If not, do I rewrite it? When I read my earlier books, sometimes I cringe at the head-hopping points of view or awkward transitions of scenes. Other times I am pleasantly surprised that I could still hold my head up with pride of authorship. If you aren’t sure, if you feel you are still too close to your book to know if it needs work, hire a freelance editor to check it. Then, if it requires extensive rewrites, have it professionally edited afterward. This should go without saying but, hey, I’m saying it.
Last but not least, a big pet peeve with readers is buying a book, assuming it is new, only realize they had already bought and read the earlier edition! Don’t make my mistake. I did not intentionally try to fool the public by omitting the word “re-issue” in the book description. I assumed I had covered that point with the two publication dates and two copyright dates in the book details. Wrong.
Whether you are a reader or a writer, do you want an older book rewritten to be politically correct or let it reflect the era in which it was originally written?
I am happy to announce THAT WILDER MAN (reissue) is in the new HEARTS AND HEROES box set with the award-winning contemporary romance authors, Patricia Thayer, Mindy Neff, Sandra Paul and Lyn O’Farrell.