The sometimes bizarre world of a writer
1. There are times that I have sat and watched words I am typing appear on the screen and not recognized them. That’s how much my characters take over when I’m in ‘writer mode.’ Now and then it’s not the characters but my story telling itself. I sometimes think it’s a mild form of possession.
2. There are characters I have created that I actively dislike (no, I’m not telling which). There are times that it’s HARD to be fair to those characters. I like to think I generally come out on the side of the angels, but I don’t know…
3. In my stories, people die. Sometimes they do so for a really good reason, or a good cause. Sometimes they do it willingly, in the hopes of achieving something with that death. Other times their death may appear meaningless or wholly arbitrary. But see, this is the way things work in the real world, too, and I don’t think that my fictional realms should be any the less ‘real’ for being created by my mind.
4. I don’t work from outlines — which to me would be the literary equivalent of paint-by-numbers. My stories are as organic as they come. I stick a story seed into the ground, water it copiously, and it sometimes astonishes even me when something weirdly exotic comes up out of the good earth.
Having said that, I do have to admit to one amendment to this – for the kind of complicated stuff that I write, keeping a timeline is essential. All of these characters exist and live and work and play and plan independently, and it sometimes matters that one of them has to be a certain age before another meets them – it really will not DO to have a wonderful romantic relationship happen, and then discover that in your original timeline one of the two lovers has to be three years old.
5. There is a time, after the completion of every single one of my books, usually after it’s out of the house and in the hands of my agent or an editor, that I wander around the house chewing my nails and driving my poor husband nuts with the generic whine of ‘Nobody wants my book!’ I go through phases of absolutely believing that every sane reader out there simply HAS to hate this thing I have just completed.
6. I flinch at bad reviews, despite trying to train myself into the mode of understanding, on an intellectual level, that there are bound to be people out there whose cup of tea my work ISN’T. Silence, however, is far worse than even the worst of bad reviews. At least a bad review means that someone has READ the book, even though they hated it. Resounding silence makes an author wonder if the book actually does exist, or if the previous months of frenetic editorial activity and galleys and copyedits and proofreading have all been just a figment of one’s imagination.
7. There is something frankly terrifying the first time you see your book in the hands of a complete stranger.
8. You never stop learning in this game. Even when you start teaching, you learn from the people who call themselves your students. That’s because writing is as individual as people – it’s almost like a mental fingerprint. People have pet words, pet phrases, a way of painting an image or an emotion, and people will ask the damndest questions in a workshop or classroom scenario, questions which sometimes make the *teacher* stretch in order to answer them. That’s absolutely wonderful.
9. There are times that it’s a royal pain in the ass, being a writer, because you THINK like one. You sit down to watch a TV show, or go to a movie, and most of the rest of the people watching the same thing will sit rapt for an hour or two and then drop their jaws in utter astonishment at some twist ending… which you worked out halfway through the story. You learn fast not to open your mouth when other people are watching anything with you, because objects get thrown at you otherwise.
10. It never gets old. Okay? It just never gets old. Every time a new book arrives, it’s like the first time. A flutter of the heart, a burying of the authorial nose into the pages to inhale that fresh new book smell, a strange and silly smile that won’t leave your face for the next forty eight hours. Every book is a little piece of a dream come true.
It’s a little bit like sitting outside on the porch just as the clouds break on a gray day and the sun streams through, and everything that was monochrome is suddenly part of a bright and vivid world, and you understand perfectly just why you were born – simply to be the one to see those colors come to life before your eyes.