Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where Do You Get Your Writing Kicks?

I just had an epiphany this morning. I love when the blogosphere has a conversation, and when different conversations intersect and cause me to think of things in a whole new way. And there's the magic: sometimes when I'm struggling with something, the blogosphere gives me the answer.

I've been feeling a little lost, motivation-wise, lately. I mean, I don't know which writing path to take two months from now, and I'm not feeling real fired up. (I think ahead, plus I'm booked for the next... oh wait, we're down to one month. Crap. My brain is usually six months to two years ahead!)

Anyway, Zoe is popping out great discussion after great discussion, a lot to think about as far as indie publishing goes. Mark added to it quite well with a bit about small publishers, and I sort of lamented that I felt a little lost. I kinda like where I am, kinda don't, kinda feel like I should be more fired up about NY, which doesn't seem to motivate me. Kinda feel like I should be thinking about the money of it more. I'd like to give NY a go, sure.

Then I popped by Jennifer Estep's post on Magical Musings, and she talked about motivation. She mentioned money, and I've said in the past that money and deadlines motivate me. They haven't been working too well, lately.

Really, I think they just pushed me to finish things. Finishing things is the hardest bit.

And then I went to Erica's blog on Aunt Mildred and crew, and like most of her posts, it got me thinking. She mentioned again about how she believes the traditional publishing route produces a better book.

And all that sort of coalesced into an epiphany when I wrote that I commented that I wanted to be a better writer. That seems simplistic, so I started to elaborate, but then five paragraphs in, I realized I should post it over here.

See, I love going to Borders and digging into the books, trying to figure out how they work, reading them backwards, upside down, trying to see patterns and make theories on why some books are bestsellers and others aren't. I study plot, paragraph size, pacing, character motivation, periods, punctuation, every single element I can find.

I spend hours in Borders. We're talking at least 20 - 40 hours a week doing that. I love every single second.

I love each time I discover new layers. Like... when I first started writing, I could only "see" very few (for lack of a better word) mistakes. One day, I realized that stories made me saddest when they didn't use the word sad, when they didn't name the emotion but said it all without saying it. COOL! Over the years, new layers unveil themselves, and each time, it's like a whole new world.

I love that discovery. When I realized all the bestsellers had impeccable rhythm like the best pianists? I'm still riding high. When I felt my mental image of a novel sort of flatten into ONE thing, rather than a sum of parts, I was beyond thrilled. I can never explain that, like the beginning was the end and the middle wasn't really the middle, but... more like the beginning and the end, too?

I'm still delighting in that.

I could go on forever. I LOVE deconstructing and constructing, I LOVE figuring out how to make myself a better writer. I LOVE reading a ton of books, analyzing them and digging into them, getting my hands messy. I love constantly trying push my mind to turn upside down and see stories and writing in a whole new way.

When you walk around and wonder what people are thinking and what their motivations are for you fiction, you start to do it with real people, too. And that always gets me into trouble.

I've said before that I don't want critique partners. I've had various excuses for this, but honestly, I didn't know why myself, not completely. I do love editors, but I don't want to send my stuff to them until I've pushed myself to discover every last thing myself. The thing is, I never really could put my finger on why I wasn't into all that.

To make matters worse, I actually love critiquing other people's stuff, because it's that whole deconstructing/analyzing thing, that discovery. I love that!

But I imagine that looks silly and hypocritical, like I think I'm better or whatever. Like I'm not willing to tit for tat. I worry they might feel insulted, because I would value their opinion, I really would. More than they could ever begin to imagine. I often imagine people think it's because I'm afraid to put my stuff out there. I imagine people think I'm making excuses for some fear or whatever.

Today, though, I realized, that's totally not it.

I totally get my writing kicks from the discovery, the analysis, the dissecting for myself what is missing in my work. Not to sound like a petulant child, but I want to do it myself. If someone else tells me my ending is weak or whatever (and while I definitely appreciate that from an editor before I make a fool of myself in the world, LOL), then I don't get to make that discovery myself.

It's true: I sell my stuff because I need the money. But I write it because I love words and I love story. I'm crazy about it. Head over heels.

I love improving myself and my writing. Love it. Every second. You've heard me agonize over endings, agonize over this or that as I'm writing, right? I even love the agonizing, swear to God, LOVE it. Revel in it. How crazy is that?

If someone told me I could fix it by doing X, I'd feel disappointed. I'd feel like I'd really wished I could have discovered that on my own, saw it for the first time myself, felt my mind flip perspectives all by itself.

Well, like I said, I could go on forever.

But I want to know: what does it for you? Where do you get your writing kicks? Casting aside ambition, casting aside career, casting aside all that sort of stuff. Day to day, what thrills you about being a writer?

23 bonus scribbles:

Avery DeBow 8/28/2008 01:17:00 PM  

The thrill of writing for me is losing myself inside a story, immersing myself so completely that it takes the equivalent of a grenade going off in the room to pull me back out into the real world. Lately, that hasn't been happening, though. I'm a very focused individual, but very single-minded. Whatever I'm currently focusing on, that's it. Too bad for my writing it's the house right now that's pulling my attention.

Amy Nathan 8/28/2008 01:31:00 PM  

The thrill for me is getting it right. Of writing what I want to say and having someone "get it." I want to evoke emotion and have a reader vested in my story and my characters. I'm writing a difficult part now because I'm drawing on a horrible time to do it. I actually feel a little nauseous, but it means I'm probably pretty close to getting it.

And that thrills me.

I'll also be thrilled when I finish my manuscript. I'll be having a big ol' bloggy party that day, you can count on it.

Eric Mayer,  8/28/2008 02:00:00 PM  

As near as I can figure, what motivates me to keep writing is that I've always loved telling stories to people. When I was a kid we'd sit around and tell ghost stories, or we'd be out running around the yard playing out cowboys and Indians stories, or sometimes we'd draw cartoon stories and show them to each other as we worked on them. I do enjoy the technical aspect of manipulating words and figuring out how to make them do their tricks. But that's part of the story telling. I do not write for myself. I need to know that someone -- not necessarily many people but someone other than me -- will read what I write. You can't tell a story to no one. If I could have made more money telling stories I would have been able to spend more time on stories, but that's the only attraction being paid to write holds for me. Mostly I've told stories in amateur venues, like fanzines and mini-comics, where there was no compensation but there was an audience. Right now I have no interest in writing anything aimed at a big publisher because I don't think it would sell, hence I wouldn't feel I was writing for a readership and it wouldn't be any fun.

Edie 8/28/2008 03:36:00 PM  

Spy, I have a passion inside me to write and get published. I don't know where it came from, but that's my motivation. Like you, I want to write better all the time.

So funny that you analyze bestsellers. I'm reading Margie Lawson's EDITS lecture packets, and that's what she's done!

Robin 8/28/2008 04:36:00 PM  

My motivation is definitely the laughs. If I think of a funny joke, or image, I get the biggest charge from it. And if I can get it right on paper, so that it makes people laugh, I just love that. I could do it all day.
When I realized that you could blow up the picture of Adam with Venus Williams in the background, so that it looked like he was trying to snort her, I chortled with glee!

Zoe Winters 8/28/2008 06:42:00 PM  

I don't think traditional publishers necessarily produce better books. I've seen too many poorly edited mainstream and bestseller books to believe that.

I DO however think that there is a LOT of indie drek. That drek gets compounded by the fact that most actually GOOD indies, most people don't KNOW they're indies, because they aren't loud and proud about it. They have their small imprint/label and they do not let everybody and their brother know that they own that label.

I believe this gives the false impression that trad publishers produce only gold and indies are poor self deluded souls that produce only drek.

I also think there is an assumption that indies want to "bypass the system" so they don't have to work for it...and that they want to take a short cut. This may be true for many people, but it is not true for me.

My wanting to be indie has nothing to do with a shortcut. It's a long hard road either way, and probably harder as an indie, but the freedom is worth it to me.

Stewart Sternberg 8/28/2008 10:56:00 PM  

My kick? I like reading something that is cool. So I write what I would like to read. When I satisfy myself as a reader, then I get a kick as a writer.

Stewart Sternberg 8/28/2008 11:06:00 PM  

avery, I have been reading about people losing themselves in their work as part of the flow of the creative process. It's tapping into some pool of creativity, taking the internal and applying it in a practical application.

spyscribbler 8/29/2008 11:07:00 AM  

Avery, I love when that happens, too! I'm usually like that, but not lately. And, funny, I've had a lot to focus on in the studio. I'm a one-focus sort of person, too. It's inconvenient, you know? :-)

But it does get a lot done on the one thing!

spyscribbler 8/29/2008 11:12:00 AM  

Amy, I get pulled into the emotions, too. You know, I just read an article that said our brain can't tell the difference between what is happening in real life and what is happening in fiction. It reacts the same. (And I said that wrong. Oh well.)

I sometimes get traumatized!

spyscribbler 8/29/2008 11:25:00 AM  

Eric, yes, that part, definitely! I'm a write-for-the-reader person, too. I don't write for myself, either. I do tinker for myself, though. :-)

spyscribbler 8/29/2008 11:27:00 AM  

Edie, her packets looked really interesting last time I checked. I do want to see if I can make it up there. It would be fun!

I don't know where it comes from, either. That's interesting. I never thought about that.

spyscribbler 8/29/2008 11:29:00 AM  

Robin, that's awesome! I love that you make us laugh, too, selfish me. :-) That nose picture was priceless!

spyscribbler 8/29/2008 11:34:00 AM  

Zoe, sometimes the stereotypes are frustrating. It's exhausting to me. I just want to do what I want to do on my own time, and thank you very much, but I don't want to be looked down upon because I'm not going after the same publishers they are.

And you're right. Some of my favorite midlist authors will sometimes randomly write a book that is just sloppy, and I can forgive that. I don't blame trad publishing, and you can tell the author was going through some life crisis. Sometimes I write sloppier than normal. I have to write fast and pay the bills. It happens. It just is what it is at the time.

spyscribbler 8/29/2008 11:36:00 AM  

Stewart, that is cool! I know a lot of writers like that. I generally hate what I've written by the time it's written, LOL.

Reading about flow, the zone, or whatever they're calling it these days? Stewart, you disappoint me. You sound like a theorist. Why waste time reading about it? Experience it!

conley730 8/29/2008 10:39:00 PM  

Hey, Spy! Just wanted to make sure you got my e-mail about "All the Good Knights"!

Barrie 8/30/2008 01:12:00 PM  

I love the revision process. Love it. I basically slog through the first draft only because it'll give me something to revise. Off to read some of the links in your post. Thanks.

Zoe Winters 8/30/2008 07:44:00 PM  

Hey Spy, it is exhausting. I think I'm at the point now, where I really just want to do my thing and to hell with what anybody else thinks. I truly truly do not care whether people think I can "succeed" or not. chances are really damn good that my view of "success" and theirs are very different things.

I'm just getting tired of arguing with people about it.

What I do find frustrating is...other people HAVE succeeded doing what I want to do. So it's not like I'm the first person ever to want to climb this mountain. It's almost insulting to me that it doesn't matter what I say, "those people were special." Yeah, and they probably heard the same naysaying too.

I don't need the pressure of having to "prove myself" to anyone.

I'm just going to do my thing. Succeed or fail...whatever. But I'm doing my thing. No one has to believe in me, that's fine. But I don't need people trying to talk me out of it either, because all it adds is more stress.

I can say definitely that it's this or nothing. Because I do NOT want to be traditionally published right now. So either I go it alone, or I don't go period.

spyscribbler 8/30/2008 11:17:00 PM  

Brilliant, Erin, Brilliant! I will never forget what Twin said, not ever!

spyscribbler 8/30/2008 11:19:00 PM  

Barrie, that's great! That's hilarious. I love revising, at least when I can. Near the end, my brain shuts down and it's very difficult to even READ my story another time. After 100+ times, I'm just sick of it!

spyscribbler 8/30/2008 11:21:00 PM  

Zoe, I understand that exhaustion. I want to be published by NY, but for my own reasons and in my own time, not because some people think it's the only way to write a decent book.

Dube 8/31/2008 02:01:00 PM  

Writing without ambition for money? What's that? LOL, just kidding. Great post. Hmm... I have to think about that. I know in the past, I've been drawn to writing as a way to work through struggles in my life, situations that were emotionally tough.

spyscribbler 9/01/2008 09:07:00 AM  

Dube, YES! I've been thinking my motivation was money forever, but it wasn't working. I had to find something else, and since then, I'm a writing fiend!