Writing Grinches

The self-publishing, epublishing, blogging, and all manner of PEOPLE DARING TO WRITE AND PUBLISH in various ways enabled by the internet have certainly produced a lot of Writing Grinches. "We don't need all these books. Bloggers aren't real journalists. Ebooks aren't real books. Self-published books aren't real books. All these books just mean more garbage for readers to wade through."

Wow. So much hate for the written word. What's up with these Writing Grinches? To them I say: writing teaches people to think clearly. In what way is the world worse off if more people want to spend their time training themselves to think clearly? Now imagine a world full of people freely and cheerfully reading all the trash produced by these writing upstarts. Did you know that readers make better citizens, that there is no single thing you can encourage to produce better students, better employees, better neighbors than reading? Yes, even those who read trash like comic books and online comics, romance novels and erotic romance ebooks, self-published tales of all types. Readers are better human beings, no matter what they read. Writers are better human beings, no matter what they write.

So, Writing Grinches, expand your hearts and sit down with the Writing Whos, or stick to your grinchy ways, but I say more power to all who want to read and write, and may we continue to freely do both. Yes, even if somebody calls what we read and/or write trash. Maybe especially then.

Fear and love

The kids have started dance. And almost immediately we suspected the oldest was in the wrong class, that she was ready to move up to beginning ballet instead of pre. So we discussed this with her teacher who agreed and suggested she try out the beginning class right away instead of after the holiday break. Immediately, she expressed all manner of fear. "But I don't want to perform!" "But I don't want to be in a different class from my sister!" All the way home it was fear, fear, fear.

So we hauled her off to the trial class after a day of angst. We watched her glow while she put on real ballet slippers. We watched her leap and balance and twirl and work at the barre. We saw a confidence that was new. And when class was over, she gushed. It was fantastic, amazing, she loved it. She didn't want to leave. She wanted to stay and watch the next class of more advanced students. Finally we dragged her away to eat something, but we knew: she'd found IT.

Sometimes the thing you love most is the thing you fear most. Sometimes fear points you in the very direction you should go. The thing you love, the thing you can't tear yourself away from, the thing you'll do all the time because it is its own reward. 

If there's something you're afraid of, you don't have to wait until the New Year to make a resolution to give it a try. Just try. You might love it. You might not want to stop.

Holiday fun and making beauty

Only 12 days until Christmas? I thought I was on top of things until I looked at the calendar. But if you need a little holiday light in the middle of the madness, here are two things only a click away: Norad Santa offers all sorts of fun for all ages (the light-the-Christmas-tree puzzle is surprisingly challenging) and if you missed the limited edition from Subterranean Press like I did, the ever-fabulous Connie Willis' All Seated on the Ground is now an ebook. Aliens vs Christmas carols! Will our protagonists bridge an interstellar communication gap in time to save Christmas and the world? I laughed until I hurt and then I read it all over again from the beginning.

Yesterday my kid asked me to slice up a pear for her. Then she added, "Make it beautiful." Ooookay, I thought, and then arranged the slices in a lotus blossom. She loved it, and I would never have thought of it without that request. In any endeavor, there's always room for beauty. Add some to whatever you're doing today. I'm going to work on beautiful prose.

Other People's Books, holiday shopping edition

It's that time of year again, and for the compulsive reader on your shopping list, you can never, never, never go wrong with a book store gift card. No, really. It doesn't matter that we have a stack of books on the bedside table, kitchen table, office and living room. We always need more.

Want to get more specific? If you or somebody you love loves romantic suspense, Shiloh Walker is putting out fantastic books right and left. The Ash trilogy offers a thrill a month, starting with If You Hear Her, and then in January she gives us spooky thrills with
The Departed
, which Santa brought me an early copy of. Perfect way to spend your holiday gift card!

The ever-luminous Marjorie Liu just released yet another astounding novel in the
Dirk & Steele series
. Perfect for the paranormal adventure lover who wants a happy ending along with dragons and pryokinetics.

Ilona Andrews, who just keeps getting better, has a new book out this month, too, in time for holiday gifting; Fate's Edge is so fantastic the recipient will want the whole set and then everything else they can get their hands on.

Advance planning? I hear tell
has a new Darkyn novel coming soon to delight her readers. Nightborn doesn't release until March, but since she's also recently sold a steampunk novel and is enormously prolific, you'll want to save room in 2012's book budget. Also in March, watch for the latest from
Patricia Briggs
' Alpha & Omega series.

Tired of holiday frenzy already and want some quick e-reading? Check out Fire & Ice by Portia Dacosta, now from Walk on the Wild Side Books, or the can't-miss holiday anthology Holiday Kisses from Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon and Alison Kent.

The best holiday present you can give me is to keep my favorite authors writing and publishing, so buy a book for yourself or somebody you love.

Coming Soon and NaNo End

Coming Soon: I sent in the contract so now it's official. ROPED aka Christmas Cowboy, will be out in 2012! Watch for Cowboy Lust from Cleis Press. So hello December, nice to meet you with something on the schedule for the new year, officially. Unofficially, I do have a lot in the hopper but with no dates yet. That will change quickly now that the baby is obligingly taking naps, something she just didn't do for the first few months of life. (I read her the baby sleep guide and explained she was supposed to sleep around 15 hours instead of 8 per 24, but she ignored that.)

Nano officially ended, so now's a good time to look at what worked and what didn't going forward. For me, what didn't work was the baby's schedule (see above, not sleeping) and I also realized very quickly that the story needed more development; research, outlining, all that boring stuff. NaNo was kind of experimental for me this year in that I wanted to see if I could just wing it, and what I learned was that even though I have to figure out a certain amount of the story as I go, I do need at least a rudimentary grasp on it. I will never be a detailed outliner, but I need at least a flexible framework in place. Sometimes it's worth experimenting just to learn these things. So that story has gone into the "needs development" stage and I'm back to working on the books that are not only well developed but a good chunk done.

I also started dayjobbing last month, and have had a chance to see how that will work with writing and a baby. Fairly well, as it turns out. The dayjob work is part time and flexible (Drupal) but allows me to handle things like financial planning without the giant guesswork involved in writing income. Also, if I put in 20 hours a week for the company, we qualify for better insurance. Practical considerations like this actually free you up to be more creative, so as the year ends, now is a really good time to think through how writing and life are working and how they can work better. Because the real value of NaNo is figuring out how to put what you've learned into practice for the other 11 months of the year.

Ready, set, write!

It's here, it's here! National Novel Writing Month, where people all over decide to stop thinking about writing a book someday and just Do It. There are a million ways to write a novel. You can use outlines, a synopsis, a storyboard, or just strike out and follow your idea to see where it leads. All of these methods start with one thing: a clear grasp of what your story is about.

This morning while I was making lunches, I asked my oldest kid what she was working on in writing. "A story about a shark who wants to be friends with a mermaid." I told her that was a premise, and that she'd just described her premise in a one-sentence summary, which meant she was well on her way to success.

What is your one-sentence summary? If you can't describe your idea easily in one sentence, stop and spend some time thinking about and refining your idea. Writing your story begins with knowing what it's about, as clearly as my eight year old described hers. You don't need to know all the details in advance, but you do need a clear idea of what you're trying to do. That one sentence can remain your guide and your target through the whole thing.

Night before NaNo

Tomorrow the madness begins! Are you ready?

I've written a lot of books, novellas, and novelettes (I've actually kind of lost count of my total publishing credits), and they all begin with one thing: that thing that fascinates you. All you need is a serious level of passion for one thing to fuel the story. Passion for the Viking Age led to The Gripping Beast. Werewolves produced a whole series of novels and novelettes. Fascination with Nephilim, plus Jehovah's Witness and Barry Manilow jokes? Wicked Hot. 

Whatever grabs your imagination, that's the thing to let your imagination loose on, and there is no better opportunity than NaNoWriMo to just let it rip. It doesn't have to be good. It doesn't have to be publishable or even readable. If you're a new writer or one who has been around the block so many times the street has a foot-deep groove, NaNo is a great way to give in to passion and dive in to process without worrying about whether it's a good use of time. It's a month out of your life. If the results are lousy, so what? It's a month you didn't spend watching reality TV, and you will have learned something from the process.

I'm using NaNo to break from "real work" and take a risk. My project may well be totally unpublishable. I couldn't care less. I know that to reach my career goals I have to devote time and energy to taking risks, which is why NaNo is perfect for me. Yes, I have "real work" to do, but for NaNo I'm setting it aside. It will still be there Dec. 1, and I will probably be in a better frame of mind to tackle it. If nothing else, I will have spent a month writing with wild abandon about a topic that's obsessed me all my life and that I've never written about. In the genre I've always loved above all others. 

I have planned to take time off for the holiday weekend, having learned from experience that working when kids are off and expecting attention is bound to create unhappiness all around. Besides, I need to enjoy holidays myself. So my daily NaNo goal is 2,000 words to compensate.

Pick your passion. Plan your month. Set your daily target. And prepare to write like a motherfucker as an early holiday gift to yourself.

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