Category Archives: Kettle chat

Status Update, Coming Attractions, Secret Identities

Let’s just get this out of the way. I don’t think Stacey Wallace Benefiel (authoress of Glimpse, Glimmer, Day of Sacrifice) ever initiates a conversation two times in a row using the same messenger. One day it’s email, then Goodreads PM, then Facebook message, then a DM on Twitter… Is Stacey a secret agent, trying to cover her tracks? Are there coded messages I’m too blonde to see? While posing as a home-renovating mother-of-two, is she really about to drop from a helicopter onto a moving train and wondering why I haven’t rushed her plea for extraction to the agent they have planted at the local Waffle House?

These are things I ponder.

Hush Money hit a new milestone yesterday: 2000 sales. The end of October/beginning of November was freaking awesome on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This will probably not be the last time that I mention that there’s nothing like a shiny new paperback under the tree, should you wish to consider Joss and her friends to fulfill your gift-giving needs this holiday season.

Can you believe she’s starting up with that crap already, and it’s not even freakin’ Thanksgiving yet? Damn. I know!

Ok, what else. Oooh! Right. So Quantum! Who’s a fan of the Portal Chronicles, raise your hand? (If your hand is not raised, it’s because you haven’t read yet, so go, buy Portal, start getting caught up now, ’cause…) The third book, Quantum, releases on Tuesday, November 16th. The main character, Arizona, is due to drop by here and drop off some kind of message for you on Tuesday. So make sure you’ve done the homework.

Also of possible interest, she said innocently, the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the follow-up to Hush Money, will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 17th. It was not at all what I expected, and really took my breath away when I saw the initial concept. Robin is awesomesauce, and I hope you’ll all like it as much as I do.

Yes, the new book is coming along better, thank you for asking. Yesterday I finally pushed through a scene that was giving me all kinds of problems. When I was finished, I just wanted to sit and write more. Dammit. Self-washing dishes, where are you?? As I was driving to Girl Scouts, I was totally seeing the inside of the record store instead of the road, Joss was yelling, stuff was flying–it was all pretty distracting. Now imagine me, having this realization: Wow, I could totally have a really bad wreck right now! and grinning from ear to ear because I’m finally getting somewhere.

Watch out you Nano peeps. Don’t count me out yet!

Did you guys know I have another identity? No, I don’t use a pen name. In the dark and dangerous manuscript critiquing underworld, I am known, by those who can find me, as Pink Hammer. My supercharged weapon of choice? The Pink Hammer of Doom, of course. Now this is all totally wrecked by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because now even I am asking myself if the hammer is really my penis, and it pretty much makes me the laughingstock of the underworld. Thank you very much. Nevertheless, I persevere, and will be taking out these frustrations on Devil’s Eye by Kait Nolan. So if Kait seems a little jumpy this week, if you see her stocking up on adult diapers because she’s pissing herself in fear, be kind.

Haha, no, really. It’s not like that.

Is it?

Ok, I think I’ve babbled at you guys long enough for one morning. Anyone have news? I haven’t been getting out much; feel free to tell me what’s up.


Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Kettle chat, me me me, NaNoWriMo, progress update, PubIt, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Art: Now with 50% less perspiration

Kettle’s recent post, Do Overs, made me think of something I’ve been musing about for some time.  She started the post with the following quote which I’ll just snag in it’s entirely.

From Madeleine L’Engle {Herself} : Reflections on a Writing Life, p. 19

With free will, we are able to try something new. Maybe it doesn’t work, or we make mistakes and learn from them. We try something else. That doesn’t work, either. So we try yet something elsea gain. When I study the working processes of the great artists I am awed at the hundreds and hundreds of sketches made before the painter begins to be ready to put anything on the canvas. It gives me fresh courage to know of the massive revision Dostoyevsky made of all his books–the hundreds of pages that got written and thrown out before one was kept. A performer must rehearse and rehearse and rehearse, making mistakes, discarding, trying again and again.

There’s a thing, when it comes to art, that “real” art just happens, that really talented people just whip stuff up out of their heads.  I first started to become aware of this with regard to sewing.  It seems like everyone who doesn’t sew has an great-aunt or knew some woman or some such who could just lay out a piece of fabric, take a pair of shears to it, run it through a sewing machine, and come out with something that fit perfectly.  The “she could just look at someone and make a dress that fit” story.  And when you’re at your drafting table, transferring changes from your second muslin mock-up to your paper pattern with your back hurting and ruler getting blurry, this can really make you feel like crap.  (Not what the speaker, who probably doesn’t know jack about what good fit looks like anyway, intended at all.)

There’s the artist who slaps paint on canvas and comes out with a masterpiece.  Isn’t that the one we always see on the screen?  The chef who just knows.  The composer who hears music in his head and takes dictation.  And of course, the writer who just writes.

For me, there’s no question that we value the off-the-cuff artists above those who are more technically inclined.  While a few in this category are the absolute geniuses for whom superlative perfection just flows out in pretty much everything they do, a lot of them are just ok.  A lot of them just do good work.  Certainly not better work than another artist who plans, sketches, layers, revises, and produces a work of depth and complexity that’s on a whole different level. 

And yet still it seems to me that we sit in awe of the pantser (she who flies by the seat of her pants).  I suppose it’s just part of the awe we feel regarding the mystery of the creative process.  And we forget, or perhaps we never understood, that those bursts of pure inspiration are a necessary component for all artists.  Because some wish to or are capable of riding those waves farther, because they’re able to jump from one to the next and find their way to shore, to some point on some shore, without stopping to plan a route, we think of them as true and pure artists.

Do you ever feel like the word technical has no place in art?  The term “technical writing”, the writing of manuals, documents, etc., is often considered to the be the opposite of “creative writing”.   When you’re talking to someone who is just so proud to be a pantser, do you ever feel like you need to make excuses for the way you work?  After days and weeks of creative work, of crafting the framework for a story, do you ever read something and feel like your brand of creativity just isn’t recognized?

I’m not saying that either course is better or more justified.  There are masterworks and abysmal stinkers that come from both methods.  But I absolutely feel like we as a culture don’t so much value the “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” adage, even when the “pure art” isn’t overwhelmingly impressive, and I wonder if I’m the only one who gets ticked off by that.

 Ps. Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me and stopped by to leave me lovely and encouraging thoughts.  I’m mostly on hiatus right now, doing some reading, some sewing, knitting, and generally recharging.  I hope to get back to keeping up with you and to get back to writing very soon.


Filed under ideas, Kettle chat, writing

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: More Great Ways to Procrastinate

I’m still not getting anywhere new, really, with my notes.  Mostly what I’ve been doing is writing down blocks of questions that want answering, but the answers aren’t coming.  I’m not part of this world.  I don’t own this story, and I’m not intimate with these characters.

And because I am Pot, I was talking to Kettle this evening and I was telling her that in the stuff she’s been doing in this first week of Sweat 2, it seems like she’s trying to find her voice and not making it.  She clarified that it was the characters whose voice she couldn’t quite get, and I agreed.  We talked about how, with her heroine, she’s sort of, as I like to say, made from the hero’s rib.  She’s created to be his match, but in only looking at her from that perspective, there are parts of her that weren’t thought through.  Because, let’s face it, a woman’s life does not begin when she meets the man of her dreams, even if it should kind of feel that way for them in a book.

So this is the point at which I opened my big mouth and said [paraphrased of course]:

If we had all the time in the world, it would be great to start blogs for characters.  Because in blogging as them on any sort of regular basis, we’d get a feel for what they’re like and how they express themselves.

This all goes back to that thing about how I think blogging helped me find my voice and made me more comfortable using it.

So after messing around with the idea of where to put such crazy things, I ended up making a blog for my heroine on LiveJournal.  I’m very comfortable with LJ and I love my client that lets me post to a few different journals.  Sadly, I couldn’t get the thing to work for both LJ and WordPress at the same time.  But after wasting a lot of time on the client thing, I set up my heroine’s LJ, had her friend the few people giving me technical advice, and she wrote a 2-line post.

I thought about starting one up for the hero.  And the heroine’s roommate.  And the leader of their organization.  And then I thought about creating a private LJ community where they could all get together and talk to each other.

And this is about the point where I realized that I am insane and that it is 11 days, 21 hours, and 56 minutes to Nano, and how much meaningful conversation are these imaginary people really going to have in that time?

Oh.  The evil evil thought just passed through my head to fire up The Sims instead and making little virtual dolls to play with.

I am so going to bed now.

 ETA: When Kettle got up, because she did not stay up playing on the internet until 2am (not even 2am my time!) she posted about what she did with hers.  Click here for the post.


Filed under COD, ideas, Kettle chat, NaNoWriMo, progress update, Sweat 2, writing, writing journals

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Way Cool Writing Tool

In her post today, Kettle talks about all the writing programs we’ve been looking at.  She mentions how I didn’t like PageFour because it wouldn’t let me type in pink.  I’m sorry to tell you that this is essentially true.  (ETA: I have been just been informed that the latest version of PageFour does allow one to write in pink!  Woohoo!)  But also, I’m very comfortable in Word, and while PageFour bills itself as a word-processing program without the corporate frills that creative writers don’t need (and this is true), there were a few things missing that I…missed.  But I LOVED having all those tabs and the list on the side with all my files in their little hierarchy. 

But I figured I’d just stick with Word.  The way I usually work is this: I write one scene at a time.  When I sit down to write, after the procrastination stuff, I open up a blank Word file and save it under WritingStuff/[Name of series if applicable/]/Name of Book/Draft X scenes/Chapter#Scene letter Brief descriptive title.  So imagine when I get to that last folder, I have a list of scenes with descriptive names and they’re ordered by chapter and scene 1a, 1b, 1c, 2a, 2b, 3a….  Make sense?  Well, it works.  I can look in the folder and scan over the files and see at a glance where I am and what’s come before.  Also, within the folder named for the book’s title, I have folders for notes, for reviewed drafts (when I send something to Kettle and she marks it up), and things like that.  And I have files for the drafts.  So after I save my scene, I also copy and paste it into the current draft so that I always have the whole thing running along somewhere.  Anyway, I think if you’ve taken a look at PageFour, you can see its appeal for me.  I, however, probably would need to buy the full version because I’d need a lot of pages.

I tend to lose things.  In life in general, but mostly in my head.  It’s entirely possible that I am “getting to that age”.  The other day I told someone that I had meant to check up on them and see how they were doing.  But it’s like Post-its in my head, only mine are the off-brand ones with the substandard glue and they’re always falling off and slipping under the furniture or sticking to the bottom of someone’s shoe and they never get seen again.  I’m always having stray thoughts about something a character might do or a detail of the world or something, and I don’t have the peace in my life to let it develop into anything huge.  It’s just a scrap.  Even if I do manage to write it down, the scrap tends to get lost.  I’ll write it in an email or chat to Kettle and it will be lost in the incredible flood of communication that passes between us, or it will be just a few lines in one of my many files of copious notes to be forgotten, overlooked, and never developed.

 I’ve been sort of jealous of Kettle’s storyboarding.  Not that I really wanted to write out all those index cards (although I am fond of them).  Maybe I was more jealous of how she could lay them all out on her living room and no child took them and threw them in the air, ran away with them, ate bits off them, and then scribbled all over them with purple crayon.   I then started to imagine having all these cards pinned to some giant corkboard wall on my non-existant fantasy office.  I would always write those little bits down when I thought of them, and then I’d tack them to the wall and be able to see all sort of stuff at a glance and I could make connections and get new ideas by seeing how it all worked and…  In my fantasy office, no one came and took the cards down and left tacks on the floor or thought about putting them in their mouths.  Do I need to tell you, then, that I do pretty much zero work with pen and paper?

Anyway, long story short (too late!) I went looking for virtual index cards, found Text Block Writer.  I spent all yesterday playing with it and had a blast.  You might remember that I had been revising PBW’s Novel Notebook to suit myself.  I got a lot out of having prompts that made me think through things I was possibly too lazy to think through otherwise.  And even things I thought weren’t relevant, sometimes, just thinking about them anyway sparked new ideas.  Anyway, yesterday, I revised my revised Novel Notebook into blocks for TBW.  I have it set up so that I have pages to develop different elements of the story in the brainstorming phase.  I have a pages for Characters, Settings, Action/Suspense Elements, Romance Elements, Timeline, stuff like that.  On some of those pages, I have template blocks for generating and solidifying ideas.  Like in the character pages, I have your basic lists of things one often records for characters like physical attributes, personality traits, backstory and personal history questions, that kind of thing.  I have them broken down into bite size portions so my eyes don’t glaze over.  I have a place to list relationships between characters and talk about how events in the story might change those relationships.  And for anything on the character pages that is also a definite plot point, I just copy that information to another box and stick in on another page (for now I put them on the Action/Suspense page, but I think I might make a Plot Points page).  At some point, I’ll be outlining, moving these bits of idea information into some semblance of order.  I’ll combine them into sections and make up scenes.  I’ll group the scenes onto pages by chapter.  And then, when Nano starts, I should (hopefully) be able to look at the blocks for each scene, know what I’m supposed to cover and why, sit down with Word and write

That’s the plan, anyway.  In the meantime, like I said, great fun.  Yesterday, in addition to making the template, I did a bunch of work on my H/H, and got some plot points covered.  Not a whole lot of progress, but when I was out running errands this morning I had three new ideas, so it seems like I’m finally getting going on this thing.  !!

So go check it out.  If you download TBW and would like to play with my template, let me know in the comments, and be sure to include your email addy.


Filed under ideas, Kettle chat, nano, NaNoWriMo, progress update, tools, writing

Write What You Can Sorta Relate To

Cliches.  Sometimes as a cliche matures, it kinda takes on a life of its own.  Not too long ago I read:

They’re often tired similes and metaphors that no longer inspire comparative thought (“a drop in the bucket”). 

Thing about it is, when a phrase is carelessly tossed around enough, people stop talking about what it means.  And they carelessly assume that everyone knows or that it’s perfectly obvious.  And, can you imagine, people sometimes do this when providing instruction and advice?

This came up recently when Kettle and I went back and forth on the topic of Write Like You Talk, and in the end what I had to say was that it’s like that chestnut: Write What You Know.  It may not be the simple, straightforward advice it seems, and maybe one ought to think twice before dispensing it without explanation.  No drive-by, hit and run advice for impressionable writers. 

So after that, Kettle said: you should really write a post about your issues with the whole Write What You Know thing; she said she had some thoughts on that herself.  And I filed it away and tried to forget about it, and I can’t tell you how many times it’s popped up since.  Ok.  I give.  Here’s the post.

Not too long ago, I was participating in an online group for amateur writers and the subject came up: I want to write, but everyone says Write What You Know and I feel like I haven’t got enough experience to write anything yet.  And others chimed in with yes, they had that same issue, and since they only wrote from their own experience, it made them feel trapped, and like they were so limited on what kinds of stories they could tell. 

I totally related to what they were saying, because I used to feel that.  Everyone says that, and for some people, on some basic level, it sinks in in a very literal way.  I don’t know at what point I got my head straight on it, but I think it came during a period in which I read a lot of fantasy and it hit me: Anne McCaffrey has never been to Pern nor had dragon hormones influence her sex life.  Yet here’s this incredibly detailed world with a complex society and an entire history and development of the society and it’s people–and she’s never been there!  How can this be? 

[I don’t want to discuss how people “see” or “live in” different worlds in their heads.  I don’t discount that by any means, but it is not the topic I’m on here, ok?]

For some people, it’s always been obvious.  Write What You Know never gave them pause.  Others have found themselves shackled by a simple misunderstanding.  So I’m going to try to explain what it means to me now.

I think what makes Pern or any other story world real to us is the author’s ability to allow us to relate to it and the characters who inhabit it.  This is true, not just for fantasy worlds, but for stories set in our own world as well, not just for worlds, but for characters.  The more relatable–er, accessible is probably the right word–the elements of the story are to the reader, the more the reader is going to connect with the story, suspend disbelief, feel with and for the characters.

And here’s where Write What You Know comes in for me.  If you want to write a story about someone being stalked by a psychopath or chased by a killer or hunted by a demon, does that mean that if those things have never happened to you, you can’t write it?  No.  When you’re writing those scenes, what does your character feel?  Fear.  We’ve all felt fear.  Maybe we don’t know bone-deep, life-and-death, stone-cold, insert other hyphenated cliche terror here, but we know what fear feels like.  And, as writers, we remember that, we allow ourselves to experience that again, and we describe it as vividly as we can through the eyes of our character in his or her current situation.  Same thing goes for embarrassment, hate, love, longing, grief…  You write your character into the situation, and you feel it for them.  Remember how your heart pounded, how you felt dizzy, how you thought you’d never make it through the moment or didn’t want to or didn’t want it to end.  And make us feel it too.

Write What You Know is about emotions.  Because emotions are what is common in the human experience.  We all have our different histories, stories, backgrounds and experiences that we bring with us every time we pick up a book to read.  But the feelings we’ve felt when X happened to us are very similar to the feelings that Jane Doe had when a very different and yet sort of the same Y happened to her.  So we can pick up the same book and, if it’s done well, we’re probably going to be able to feel the same feelings for the character as well.  Cool, huh?

While we sometimes think that imagination in books is all on the shoulders of the writer, it kinda isn’t.  The writer built the exhibit, and the writer’s your tour guide through it.  But as the reader, it’s up to your own imagination to experience it, isn’t it?  It’s a joint venture, from her head to yours via your shared experience.

There’s no question that experience can enrich your writing.  It’s only logical that the more you bring with you, the more you’ll have to work with.  But it’s not necessarily true that whoever comes with the most life experience will write the best book.  After all, people are walkin’ around all over the place, having all kinds of experiences they can’t possibly begin to put into words.  (Read a few random blogs today, see you if you don’t get what I’m saying.) 

Don’t let youth and/or inexperience stop you from writing, and telling the story you want to tell.  And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you haven’t done enough to be a writer.  You’ve survived this life this long, you’ve got stuff inside you.  Make believable characters others can relate to by writing your own experience into them.  Now go Write What You Know.

Kettle’s written on the same topic today.  Go check it out.

1 Comment

Filed under blogs, ideas, insecurities, Kettle chat, love, rant, writing

The Romance Debate

Yeah, I would say that today the conversation Kettle and I had about what means Romance was more of a debate, since we each had some pretty different opinions.  Her post today is called What Makes a Romance.  Even though I’m going to excerpt the [expletive deleted] out of it, do go over and read hers so that you can give her your opinion (in other words, tell her that I’m right [what’s needed here is a little winky smiley, but as I’m sort of anti-smiley just pretend, k?]).

We’re critique partners, if you’re new here, and I am Pot to her Kettle.  It’s my sworn duty to point out stuff I think is off or lacking.  Sometimes with Kettle I feel like The Romance Inspector.  I wear pink coveralls and say, “Please open up your files, ma’am, we have to make sure you’ve got enough sexual tension in there and you’re not forgetting that this is a romance.”

But is it?  I know that Kettle enjoys reading romances, I know she wants a love story to be part of this book.  But does she want it to be a Romance, or am I trying to get her to write this book to order for me?  So I start questioning her on that, and that’s how we got into this whole thing about what makes a book a Romance.

For me a Romance means that the main focus of the book is on the development of the relationship between two people.  Whatever plot vehicle the author sets up to drive that around is secondary.  I accept the fact that in romantic suspense, the suspense plot is considered just as important as the relationship plot, and as long as the relationship plot doesn’t take a back seat to that, and other rules either aren’t broken or are broken well, I’ll consider that a Romance.

Which brings us to some rules.  I’m not going to talk about all of them, but there are some that Kettle and I talked about that she talked about in her post.  Let’s go see what she said…

In our earlier discussion, Pot and I were listing some sort of “rules of Romance.” I started out with 1) a happily ever after, 2) heroines that are not too stupid to live, and she added (because it didn’t occur to me) 3) no infidelity, 4) no multiple partners, 5) no abusive significant others (in terms of heroes). The latter 3 didn’t occur to me because those are just morally wrong in real life and it wouldn’t cross my mind to use them in a book unless I was showing the negative side of some character.

Although I brought up some of those rules to Kettle because I know a lot of people are set on those, for some of them there’s some wiggle room for me.  1) and HEA is an absolute. 2) the thing about TSTL heroines for me is about all books, not just Romance, so it’s not included in my rule-set- it doesn’t help determine if a book is or isn’t. 3) no infidelity- almost always, with the exceptionally rare exception–but please, don’t try this at home, and provide a warning label on the cover if you’re going to shelve it in my section. 4) no multiple partners- well…after what happened to Anita Blake, after she crossed over to the Dark Side and seemed to lose all character, it more than ever seems that monogamy is the way to go.  But I have read stories that invite a third person into the bedroom.  As long as both characters are into it, as long as you make me believe in the emotional attachment between the two, I’m willing to see them entertain a third.  But for heaven’s sake, be careful!  5) no abuse to SO’s- well, first I think the parenthetical is funny, ’cause like if the heroine kicks his ass, that’s ok?  But anyway, I can’t make 5 a rule because a started reading romance in the bodice-ripper era.  And while those were sort of written so that the abuse had to seem forgivable, I think we accept now that it wasn’t.  But abuse happens in some relationships.  If you can show me two people working past it, it can be a Romance.  Obviously, my sense of morality is a bit more fluid.  So I would say that my two big rules are that the story has to have a happy ending, and that it has to be about two people falling in love– it doesn’t even have to be a man and woman, necessarily, though that is my preference, if you can make be feel something.

Because I read Romance to feel what it feels like to fall in love.  I’ve been married for almost 16 years.  I’m in love every day, but I’m not really falling in love, and I miss it.  Kettle says that as long as a love story is a big part of the book, it’s a romance for her.  If I pick up a thriller or a fantasy and there’s a love story, bonus.  It’s more likely I’m going to finish it.  But if I buy a Romance and that relationship I’m reading for, those feelings, that story, fades into the background, I’ve been cheated out of what I read for.  It’s just not fair to say that just because there’s some love story it’s a Romance.  Romance is more important than that.  It deserves more respect than that.  As a romance reader, I shouldn’t be expected to be satified by Mystery, now with 35% Romance.

I realize that the explosion of sub-genres make it confusing.  For me, a book stays in some other section unless the relationship plot becomes at least half of what the book is about.  I asked Kettle a question about her book about determining if it’s a romantic suspense, or a suspense with romance.  I asked, is it a story about a woman who faces this threat while having this romance, or is it about a man and a woman who are trying overcome their past and create a future while laboring under this threat?  Sometimes, when we’re trying to describe a story to someone else, it’s easier to talk in terms of the non-relationship plot because we think that’s the story that makes it different.  It tends to be how we think.  But in your head, what’s the story really about?  Is it about the threat or about the couple? 

My comment to Kettle’s post says that I think we have a difference of opinion on the word “primary”.  I think it’s preceeded by a “the”, whereas when she uses it it follows “a”.  I think the relationship should be “the primary” focus of the story for it to be a Romance (and despite the fact that Outlander broke some rules, I still think it focused on the relationship and would shelve it Romance).  Eve and Roarke’s relationship in JD Robb’s books is not always the center stage, even though it’s been a huge part of most of them.  That probably makes it “a primary” focus, but like I said, 35% isn’t good enough to get into my Romance section and I’d probably have to shelve those elsewhere (though with the greatest love and care).

About her own writing, Kettle says:

But the relationship is rarely the single focus. It’s usually couched in some sort of drama, suspense, paranormal event, etc. Houses of Cards is about the heroine outsmarting a serial killer. She has a bunch of relationship issues she has to deal with on her way to the HEA with the hero, but that’s secondary to the whole keeping him alive thing. Whether this is going to remain the case, I’m not sure.

No, I don’t think the relationship should be the single focus.  If it were, it would make sub-genres impossible and we’d lose a lot of good storytelling on which hang a lot of great love stories.  It’s a matter of importance.  Making the relationship, the falling in love icky love stuff important.  Always have that in your mind while you’re writing.  I’m not talking sex sex sex, but what Kettle quoted me as saying:

Don’t forget to remind us how they long for each other, how they don’t touch but want to, each for their own reason. Etc.

Sure, keeping your guy alive is important for the health of any good relationship (don’t confuse me with the technicalities of relationships with the undead right now).  I see where she (the character) is coming from.  But why?  Why is it so important to keep this man alive?  Just because it’s the right thing to do?  Or because she loves him, needs him, can’t live without him, wants to have his 2.5 babies?  If, while she’s thinking about keeping him alive, she’s thinking about that why, that’s what helps to make it romance.  And if, while that’s going on, he’s looking at her with desperation and longing, and she’s torn apart by the need to go to him and the need to maintain distance at the same time– !!!

As for this part:

When I get the germ of an idea for a book, it often begins with either a character or a scene.  And I’ll see these two interesting people and know that they’re going to be together and wonder how they get there.  But I don’t have a real system or method in place for making it a romance or some other kind of story.  It’s all kind of organic, I suppose.

I think that is similar for most writers.  And I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone should follow a formula or a checklist for developing their story.  But I think that when, in deepening your thinking at this stage, you start creating a story out of this twinkle in your mind, where you go with it has a lot to do with where your own interests and priorities lie.  You have the power, at this stage, to direct that twinkle into becoming a romance, or some other story in which the romantic aspects are merely a pleasant and fairly important aspect.  For some people this will be a conscious decision.  For others, it’s natural and unconscious.  Organic. 

So I don’t know if this post makes sense to anyone else, or even if it makes sense to me, for that matter.  I have a lot of thoughts on what makes a Romance, but I guess my main one for today was that putting in some man/woman stuff does not a Romance make.  I think too much of the genre to think that’s good enough.  And if you don’t want to write me a story that’s about two people falling in love while XY&Z are going on, that’s ok.  That doesn’t make you a bad person.  We can still be friends.

What do you think?  Besides that I’m unfocused and long-winded?  What do you want to see in your Romance section?


Filed under ideas, Kettle chat, love, romance, sex, writing

My Voice Is Taking Over UR Commentz

 This post started out as a comment to Kettle’s post today: Write Like You Talk….  But as it got away from me and I started taking over her comments, I asked her, “Do you mind if I write my own post in response?”  She was gracious enough to say no, she didn’t mind at all, so please go read hers first and come back.


Ok, to review, the gist of it was that there is a piece of advice, often heard, “Write the way you talk.”  The other part of the post was that prose writing is different from poetry and plays, and so…restrictions apply, I guess.

I don’t disagree with what she said.  It’s just that, as usual, I have numerous thoughts on the subject.  And I guess they hang out on both sides of this fence. 

Write how you talk.  Great advice.  And, like all advice, only meant for sometimes. 

I love a fresh voice.  I love something that jumps off the page as being real, new, authentic.  And I often loathe reading something that sounds pretentious and…overtly intellectual. 

Still, you know, the way we talk might be far different from the way we think.  Possibly, that has a lot to do with our audience.  And if some wonderful voice is trapped up inside someone’s head because they don’t feel comfortable sharing that voice with the people immediately adjacent, maybe putting that secret voice on paper and letting the paper words find the right audience is the way to be.  “Write the way you talk” would not be the right advice for that person, nor for the people who go into different worlds in their writing, different regions and social classes.  There are writers who can hear the cadence of Ireland or the the drawl of deep South and can reproduce that on the page so that we can hear it too, yet they probably cannot make their mouths form those same sounds.

And so then “write the way you talk” becomes more– write what you hear in your head.

I think most people who write have noticed their tendency to mimic.  Some writers keep the Muse on a strict diet when they’re working a particular part of their process.  Has anyone ever read an historical and then found their characters saying, “I shall go and look,” or some such thing in the middle of their contemporary?  Or using other old-fashioned language that now sounds melodramatic like using “for” instead of “because”- all because you were just engrossed in reading that employed that kind of language?

I am the “shall” police.  I hate coming across what I consider to be antiquated, melodramatic, or pompous sounding language while I’m reading.  It’s a huge turn-off for me.  It doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the words themselves, but the overall tone and my perception of the intent.  If you just sound like one smart lady, if I believe that that’s just the way you talk, if you can use those 50¢ words and yet make me relate to you, I’ll go scurrying off to the dictionary a few times and thank you for teaching me something.  But if you come off as trying too hard to impress me, or worse!!, trying to make sure I am fully aware of your intellectual superiority (by making me feel dumb) with needlessly complex sentences and pretentious French phrases– uh-uh.  Don’t need that.  And I don’t believe that’s really you, I believe that’s who you need me to believe you are.  [ooh, issues much, Susan?  Why yes, thanks for noticing.]

I guess what struck me about the post was that the advice was being given to someone whose speech Kettle knows, she knows that’s not the way he talks, and she can call him on it.  And I think that’s sort of dangerous because part of writing is finding out who you are.  And how can you get to know that as yet unheard voice inside you’re head if you’re being told to live up to expectations based on the real-life person you’ve been presenting?

The other part of it was that, while most people don’t read aloud to themselves, there are those of us who hear as we read, who silently move our mental lips.  While prose perhaps isn’t intended to be performed, I think it’s possible that those who tend to read in this way are sometimes less forgiving of those times when the writer lets herself drift into a less authentic mode.  And my theory is that this happens most often because the writer’s output is being too heavily influenced by the reading input.  So that when you’re reading that historical or literary novel while you’re writing that contemporary romance or gritty crime novel, it’s important to be aware of how one affects the other.

What do you think?  What kinds of writing do you like to read?  Are there voices you love, and are there things that just make you toss the book across the room?

ETA: If you’re following this non-debate, Kettle has written a follow-up post at her blog.  Go over there and read it and my response.


Filed under Kettle chat, writing