Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Dilemma of the Proofreading Mom

When I was still working on Spectacularly Broken (that would be the novel I’m publishing), I did a very, very brave and scary thing.

I let my mom read it.

The reasons for it were many. I needed a proofreader and she’s amazing at that. I needed someone who could point out the really huge, obvious flaws so I could make sure my beta reader wouldn’t be receiving a train wreck. I needed someone who would resolutely demand more character description and more chapters, and my mom is great at that as well. Most of all, I was excited about the story and wanted to share that with her.

She has only over the past few years come to the realization that writing isn’t just this flimsy, quirky thing I do for funsies, but that I’m actually good at it, and that it might even amount to something. Few things have ever been as gratifying as her telling me “While I was reading, I actually forgot that you wrote it – it reads just as well as any of the English novels I buy.”

The reasons against letting her read this novel? Just one.

There’s sex in it!

Sex! Gay sex! Explicit gay sex!

If you have or had the kind of relationship with a parent where you can write erotic stuff and be comfortable with them looking at it, more power to you. I don’t. I consider myself sex-positive and generally have no issues at all talking about it… but parents are special circumstances, and the regular rules don’t apply.

So I panicked and took out the sex.

No seriously. I went through the entire thing, rewrote some sentences, replaced certain words, faded to black close to the beginning of the action. I called it the “romantic version”, and while it wasn’t bad, exactly, it was lacking a certain punch and some character and plot development (yes, plot happens during sex), and I realized after deciding to submit the story that any publisher in the erotic romance genre would probably laugh at me. It was simply too tame. But not tame enough to fit into another marketable genre.

So I put the sex back in.

Actually, I didn’t just revert to the original version. I compared both versions side by side, and seeing them like that helped me realize what was essential, what was over the top, what worked, what didn’t. And I do believe the final version I ended up submitting is better than the original, so my kneejerk reaction actually worked out. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that I freaked out a tiny bit at the thought of my mom reading the uncensored stuff.

Except –

*drumroll*

– the uncensored stuff is what’s going to be published, of course. And many acquaintances, fellow moms, Facebook friends, distant relatives etc have already announced their intention to read it.

Um. Yeah. *gulp*

This is gonna take a tiny bit of getting used to. I knew it was coming, ever since I made the decision not to keep my pen name secret. Because damn it, I’m proud of this story. I should be proud of it, and the best way to do Spectacularly Broken justice is for me to own it one hundred percent, not just under my pen name, but in my personal life as well. It doesn’t deserve anything less. The time I’ve spent turning ideas into the start of a career doesn’t deserve anything less. It’s a bit tricky to get used to the idea (because explicit gay sex!) but I’m getting there.

So yeah. Sex. In my book. And there you have it, folks.

You’re welcome.

Quote: One Man Guy

Alek stared at the menu suspiciously. He smelled marinara sauce and a trap.

from One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

 

My $0.02: This is probably one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read. How can you not keep going? How can you not already like Alek? He’s suspicious! He smells traps and marinara sauce! Team Alek for the win – and the story hasn’t even gotten going yet.

 

On Writing

…or rather, on finishing. Because I feel like sharing the sage advice I’ve acquired and been putting to use.

Get it? GET IT?

I’ll wait.

…anyway.

I’ve made up stories since¬† I can remember. By myself, with friends, plain or illustrated, spoken, written, or often nothing but a play in my head. And I always knew I could write. Despite the occasional self-doubts, which are entirely normal, it’s probably the one constant thing that I could always fall back on, that confidence. Like some people feel destined to be musicians, or painters, I always knew I was a writer.

While I was never perfect – and I have a Mount-Everest-sized pile of weird-ass, half-finished stories that argue for the prosecution – I kept at it. And I’m still at it.

I’ve learned over the years, both through my own experiences and from drinking in the advice of accomplished authors I admire, that there are two basic truths that apply to the vast majority of fiction writers:

1. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

2. Finishing is the hard part.

This is pretty much why, even though you hear lots of people saying they have a great idea for a book, those books hardly ever get written. Putting stuff on the page is the hard part. Trudging through tens of thousands (or sometimes hundreds of thousands) of words is the hard part. And it took me a long time to figure out how to do it. I still have trouble with it. But I know now that I can do it, because I have done it, and that helps a ton. But the most important thing?

Just finish it.

No matter how ugly. No matter how stupid you think it is. No matter that this new idea you just had sounds twenty times better than the crap you’re trying to get done.

I put post-its in my writing space that say stuff like “Just. Write!” and “Don’t even think about stopping”. I instruct my husband to remind me not to overthink or waffle around.

Just finish it.

It’s hard. It’s incredibly difficult for a large percentage of writers, but they all figured out a way to get past it, which is how they got published. It’s a mental tour de force for me, and when I write endings I feel sick, desperate, overwhelmed, ready to scream and tear my hair out in frustration. But when it’s finally done, it’s like I just finished a marathon. I feel drunk on the accomplishment for days, if not weeks. And then, when I come back down to earth and have my head on straight, I edit. That’s usually when I realize things like Hey, that wasn’t so crap after all and This part works much better than I thought.

While editing isn’t a walk in the park either, I do it with the knowledge that the hardest part is over with. I finished. Doesn’t matter what. Doesn’t matter how. Just that I did.