Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day Twenty-seven- This hairshirt I wear....

So, in addition to watching Star Trek last night at the husband's insistence, I did the revise on Scorched--the first of many revisions, of course. This was my last revise before it went to both my sisters. Typically, after they get back to me, I fix typos and print three copies on Lulu to give to my beta readers. Then, they circulate for several weeks and make their way back to me with pencil marks, folded over pages, and sticky covers. Usually, they go through about eight readers--the exception being the Honor books which have each been read by probably two dozen readers. I need to put my "Company of Him" books through the process again, so I can start printing those out to hand around.

The strange thing is--you'd think it'd get easier, and maybe it has. Still, there is always that moment when I'm sending someone a manuscript or giving someone a book where it feels like I'm giving them something so personal that I feel like it's peeking into my brain. It feels like I'm giving away my secrets one at a time.

I don't think non-writers get it.

Even as fast as I write--I've still spent hour upon hour thinking about my characters--wondering what they'd do. I still research everything to death. While I'm driving, I'm thinking "you know, it would be amazing if...." While I'm trying to sleep, I'm thinking of conversation between characters. Then, there is that first moment--when it begins--and something wanders into your mind asking "what if?" At the end, when it's over, there is that elation of it's done--they're done with their trip in my head. You know how it ends--you can return to life. You can breathe again. Each little character walks out of your head with some bit of them that is personal to you. Maybe you see a little of yourself in their self-conscious thoughts. Maybe you spent a long time agonizing over what they'd do in a situation. Maybe you secretly hated them--or loved them.

There is a deep intimacy between a writer and what they write.

Each time I hand off something, I worry that it's too obvious how I feel about something. There is that self-conscious instant like stepping out of a dressing room in an outfit that you grabbed on a whim as you walked by. (Only--it wasn't a whim--and you'd been staring at it the whole time. Still, if you act like it doesn't matter--if you pretend that you won't be hurt no matter what--you can be brave enough to step out of the curtain and hope that if they hate it--they won't realize how much it meant to you.)

You'd think it would feel a little less intimate after so many books, but it still feels like I'm standing there in a shirt that looks like Van Gogh hurled on it and bright orange jeans and thinking "this is sort of the real me" while saying "I just grabbed this on my way into the dressing room. It's crazy, right? It makes my hips look huge. The shirt is a little out there."

For the most part, I don't expect brutal honesty. Seriously, does anyone want brutal honesty even if they act like they do? Even if someone says, I want to improve this--tell me what you really think. The translation is: I've worked on this. I've invested in this. It must be good in some way. Help me find a way to make it work. No one wants to hear: "Put that in a drawer somewhere. No, better yet, douse it in gasoline and burn it."

It's harder to send it out to agents and publishers, of course. It stings a little more when they look at your Van Gogh shirt and say, "Whoa! I can't believe that even made it onto the racks. Who'd ever wear that? No one is going to buy that. I'd never wear that."

It doesn't matter, though, right? It can't matter.

It's business--just business.

I hate that. I hate that we're told to think of something we've written like that. If it was just business, your writing would be crap. If you didn't put yourself in it, then there would be no point to showing it to anyone.

I don't care if it's tacky to say this, but it's never business with me. Never. Not in my blog posts. Not in my flash fiction. Not in my manuscripts. It just isn't. It's a bit of me, standing outside the curtain--fully intending to buy the shirt and the jeans--even if I just hide them away in my closet, proud that I had the guts to step outside the curtain.


  1. This reminds me of that scene in You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan, "It's not personal. It's business." And then, she get righteously angry about and tells him that everything ought to begin by being personal. An awesome moment and so very true.

    I feel the same way. I laugh at my own dialogue and hope that my crit partners get it. I put in something that I think is brilliantly written and hope that it receives a comment. Most times both happens, but I still feel so scared (and excited) when I see a critique come back.

    I don't think it will ever get easier, perhaps worse, since we should be getting better at writing as we continue on our journey.

  2. Exactly, Tina. I guess if it's painful to get rejections from agents--rejections from paying readers via bad reviews would be worse.

    Everything ought to begin by being personal... you and Meg are right.

  3. How cool seeing Tina say that she gets scared and excited to get a critique since I feel the exact same way. And I'm one of her crit partners:)

    No matter how hard I try to make my characters into unique individuals, there is always a little part of me in them. I fear having someone read my book and really hate a character. That will sting because I put so much into creating them. So I know exactly how you feel.

  4. That's exactly it, Melane. I'd rather have someone critique plot points I think than characters. I also think it's rare that truly brutal critiques can be motivating and helpful. I'm sure there are people out there that do like them, but this whole process just feels like so much exposure that it's hard to work up enthusiasm to be rejected at any level.

    I kept trying to convince myself to work on querying today. I couldn't do it. I just didn't want to start the process of rejection again. Blech. Maybe tomorrow.

  5. It's personal, but don't take it personal. Hard to wrap our heads around that one :)

    It's definitely a peek into a writer's mind. I have a lot of stories in my head that are all personal. The business side for me comes in when I decide which story I'm going to invest time in writing. I don't write as fast as Wendy, but even if I did there are just too many ideas to write in one lifetime.

  6. Wendy, I'm right there with you! Regardless of the fact that it is business, after all, I care about what I write...down to the soul of by being and the soles of my shoes. I wouldn't have written it if I didn't care.

    And when I share it with someone for the first time, I just what them to "get" it. That is the scariest part...the "what if they don't get it" part.

    Good luck.