Friday, May 22, 2015

Really Bad Writing Advice: Dances With Editorial Letters

Almost six months to the day after I vowed to integrate my writing life into a more varied (read: get off couch and stop writing periodically) life, I'm here to tell you, it didn't quite work out.  On the other hand, I did finish my thriller, How To Disappear -- which I think I'm supposed to be calling #HowToDisappear, so there you go -- and sent it off to my new editor.

Then I received the editorial letter. 

For you trauma virgins out there, the editorial letter is where your editor makes helpful suggestions for rehabilitating your manuscript.  I had been hoping for a stupid but minimal one which I could placate by moving a few commas around, but no such luck.  It was on the brilliant, damn-why-didn't-I-think-of-that side.  Requiring actual revision.  Big revision.

Having finished said revision, I have developed a few simple rules guaranteed to screw up your revision process royally, moving me closer to my goal of being the only writer left standing.

1.) Defend against how overwhelmed you are by embracing the quasi-psychotic side of yourself that thinks it can leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Tell your editor, not only can I finish this by the truly impossible deadline, I can finish it sooner!  I can fly!  I am the queen of California!  I...

2.) After you crash and return to being overwhelmed, realize that the task is completely impossible.  You cannot fly.  You are barely the sentient being of California.  All good parts of the book would appear to have been written by someone else.  All parts of the book that require major surgery are the result of the fact that you can't write.  Embrace the idea that you can't write, let alone revise.  Panic.

3.) Binge-watch Gilmore Girls.  Pretend this is helpful in the revision process due to the fact that you're writing YA and Rory is a teenager. Think how many other shows would be useful for this reason.  Start with Awkward.  Proceed alphabetically.

4.) Consider the salutary effects of substance abuse.  (Unless you're a minor, in which case, don't.)  Think about [fill in the blank with your wrecked writer of choice, you have an alarmingly long roster of candidates].  Think about how much better than you the plastered/stoned/substance-impaired person of choice wrote.  Pathetic, huh?

5.) Cry.

6.) Re-read all 380 pages of your book each day before you start revising.  This should leave 20 or 30 minutes to revise before you fall into a sad, exhausted stupor.

7.) Reclaim your addiction to Coca Cola as the elixir of uncontrollable shaking for people in sad, exhausted stupors.

8.) Decide that you need a break to clear your head.  Consider the complete works of Jane Austen.  Note that Lydia Bennet is a teenager and therefore watching every min-series in which she appears after re-re-re-reading the book on your break is actually productive.

9.) Note that you haven't actually started to revise. 

10.) Suck it up.  Find your own uniquely neurotic path out of the quagmire & revise the freaking book.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Goodreads Giveaway of Afterparty!!!

I'm so excited about this!  Afterparty was just released in paperback, and to celebrate, the folks at Simon Teen are doing a Goodreads giveaway.  Soooo, if you haven't read the book yet and you'd like to, go win the darned thing!

(Note that this post is very short.  This is because I invoked Dear Clueless.  "Dear Clueless," I said, "so, should I post something brilliant and incisive about the roller coaster that is Goodreads?"  To which she replied, "No."  To which I replied, "But I love my Goodreads giveaway!"  To which she replied, "Still no.")

Here's the link:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Really Bad Writing Advice: It's Everywhere!

Today I step back from my mission to provide so much bad writing advice that I'm the last writer standing.  This is because today, surfing the Net to avoid writing a chapter I'm having a hard time with, it hit me: There is already so much really bad writing advice out there, I can put my mission on hold for as long as I like and would-be writers will still be more than sufficiently mislead.

To clarify, I have nothing against writing advice.  If you're Anne Lamott or Steven King, your advice is brilliant and I hope and pray you'll keep dispensing it.  I think Martha Alderson is a great plot whisperer even though I'm constitutionally unable to use her workbook, and I know people who swear by, write by, and produce terrific books with Save The Cat.  Keep saving that cat!  If these folks advice works for you, but all means, follow!

I'm talking about my bad-advice competitors.  People who list 67 words you can use instead of "said."   "Ignore them!" she ejaculated/exclaimed/declared/bubbled over/whinnied/whined/cried/inveighed.  The same goes for the 99 words to use instead of "went."  Seriously?  

I'm talking about all those random and completely nonsensical rules.  Don't give a physical description of your characters.  Don't use adverbs.  Don't use adjectives.  If you must use adjectives, never use the word "nice."  Never use the passive voice.  Run on sentences are the kiss of death.  No, sentence fragments are the kiss of Death.  No, rhyming picture books are the kiss of Death.  No, alliteration is the kiss of Death.

Today,  I actually read something that, in an effort to mislead writers about how to create interesting characters, told me that my heroes should listen to women while my villains should interrupt them. 

All right, I admit my competitors in the Really Bad Writing Advice arena are highly skilled. 

But (never start a paragraph with "But" BTW) I just wanted you to be aware that in order to avoid direct competition with my really bad advice, my competitors have taken to disguising themselves as purveyors of good advice.  Helpful advice.  Warnings to save you from the dire consequences of adverb usage.  So if you're out there beating the bushes for terrible advice, feel free to embrace them despite the mislabeling.

I say, purveyors of terrible advice disguised as good advice, stand your ground!  Urging writers to produce truly bad prose by replacing the word "said" with as many awkward substitutes as possible on a single page is an honorable calling!  Stand your ground, hold your head high, and acknowledge the glorious badness of your truly rank suggestions.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Years in Authorland

For me, the New Year always starts the day after my birthday.  Today, in fact.  January 6th.  Which this year happens to coincide with the release of Afterparty in paperback. (Today!!!!!)

This gives me plenty of time to get birthday'ed out -- which I did in spades, in Montecito with my husband, tooling up and down the coast and revisiting old haunts -- before I start wallowing in resolutions.

Given that last time I was on this blog, my plan was to get a life in a mere 100 days as an antidote to the binge writing I'd fallen into for, say, the previous five years, (and 150 days later, I didn't) I've kind of reached the conclusions that binge writing is my life and that coming up with resolutions might not be a plan.

So here I am, resolution-free, unimproved and not flogging myself to improve.  Feels great.

There was something about the birthday trip to Santa Barbara, though.  I dragged my husband to the restaurant on the pier where I used to eat with my folks (great view, vile chowder) and it hit me that if, during my Santa Barbara adolescence as an irredeemably weird person, I'd had any idea that one day I'd be back with a really nice husband of decades, two lovely grown children I'd managed to shepherd through teen years during which they were notably un-weird, a (literal) room of my own that also qualifies as a room with a view, a dog, and a career as a goddamn writer (!!!),  it would have saved me no end of angst.

Of course, without all that angst, it might be more of a challenge to write YA.  But I would be more than willing to make it up.  To have avoided it in real life. 

Because this trip to Santa Barbara, maybe because I'm so much further away from it in terms of years and in terms of how firmly entrenched I am in a wholly unexpected life, I started to think about all the really bad stuff from when I lived in Santa Barbara.  The stuff that just makes it into my writing in tiny little flashes, but that I don't address directly.  The stuff I don't remember fully or vividly beyond tiny little flashes. 

And I'm thinking, maybe this new year, as an author, I'll go there.  Maybe I'll get closer.  (Given that the literary structure I came up with for addressing it while fooling around on Butterfly Beach yesterday was a lot like Murder on the Orient Express, I might have a long way to go.) 

Anyway, I'm here to say I have no idea whatsoever what 2015 in Authorland will look like for me (except for the binge writing), or what book I'll  have written by the end of it.  I've got most of a very old middle grade or a very young YA almost good to go, and a piece of non-fiction I love that I've been working on and will happen if the principals are good with it, and a thriller that's coming out, but there's something else brewing and I'm not even sure yet what it's going to be.

I am so happy and incredibly (all right, credibly) grateful that this ended up being my career.  And that as screwed up as things might have been during a period of intense and angsty weirdness,  that's not my life anymore.  But even if it were,  that's not baggage, it's material. 

Happy New Year!