Hazards of Being A Character-Driven Writer
(with a dash of perfectionism)
First, I want to thank Delilah Devlin for letting me hang out here today. I have a day job, so I’ll try to check in as much as possible throughout the day.
There are so many things I love about writing. The characters, the setting, research, talking to readers, talking to writers, the 24-36 hour writing binges that leave me wrung out and exhausted, but oh so satisfied. There are also the things I don’t necessarily hate, yet wish I didn’t have to deal with, although I have no intentions of ever giving them up. (I know, I’m a sick, twisted puppy, but hey…I was a great masochist in past lives!)
Below is a list of six “things” that my perfectionist, over achieving, OCD writer needs to fall back on when writing feels more like the ninth ring of Hell rather than the Elysian fields:
- Don’t put out crap
One glance at the number of revisions I’ve put out for each book, screams that I’m a bit manic about writing the best damn story possible. I mean, I can write rather quickly – once I know what’s going on in a story. But I don’t want to put out a story that I wouldn’t pay good money to read. So, go ahead, shoot me now for my perfectionist tendencies. But, go ahead and love me because I respect my readers, my characters, and myself way too much to put out crap.
- Who’s driving this crazy train?
The determination not to put out crap is driven by my characters demanding I get the story right.
Don’t believe me? Well, check this out. I’ve got a book I’ve been working on for four years, yeah, I said four years. I have about 5 versions for a grand total of about 800,000 words and you know what my characters do? They keep nagging me. “You got that wrong.” “You Dommed when you should’ve subbed, and subbed when you should’ve Dommed.” “You completely got the motivation wrong, but hey, you got the kink right. Thank you, RopePlay(dot)com.” And I’m telling you, that the taunting, teasing sing-song voice they like to use when they point out my mistakes grates on the nerves. If I weren’t so emotionally invested in this project (and if I didn’t know at least half a dozen people would string me up by my thumbs) I would give up. Tear up all that I’ve written. It wouldn’t help though…the characters are persistent, over-achieving nags.
- Quality vs. Quantity
This particular rule goes right back to #1. I recognize there are some writers out there who complete full-length novels in the same amount of time it takes me to mow my lawn and weed my garden. (Sure, this looks like an exaggeration, but I live in the South and it’s been summer. So, go with me on this one, okay?) I am not one of those writers. I work at my own pace, which is usually at my characters’ pace and they let me know when they think a scene needs tweaking. Rushing them does no good and only tends to irritate them…kinda like poking a bear with a stick. Enough said, and I have the scars to prove it.
- Follow the rules…
Rules Schmules, but spellcheck you better believe it – abou tit, inot, organisms not orgasms (or is that the other way around?)
You think I’m joking about the examples? I’m not. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through a manuscript to find my “into”s have become “inot”s and that “about it” has morphed into “abou tit.” And the last little gem was courtesy of a friend of mine who discovered, only after she’d sent the report out to her main supervisors for comment and feedback that all the “organisms” in her report had morphed into “orgasms”. And while there’s only a difference of an “n” and an “i” in the words, it makes a huge difference when you consider your audience. So, while I’m not a big fan of all the writing rules, like, introducing the hero within the first three pages so the heroine is introduced to him as well, I do recognize that spellcheck can go a long way to making a writer appear professional.
- Serial Commas? Oh, yeah I totally love serial commas!
I don’t know if it’s because of the editor I had at my publisher, or the fact that those are the rules I was given when I was in grammar school, but I will always put a comma before the conjunction (Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?…sorry, just had to say it). I’ll try to follow as many grammar and language arts rules as possible, once I understand them… like dangling participles and misplaced modifiers. Conundrums like sneaked and snuck – I’m still trying to figure that one out. But I’ve totally got em and en dashes. (Yay me!)
- The real hazard, the one that really, really gets to me…
Readers who care
While I absolutely love to hear readers are looking for my next book, it’s like, “oh, yeah, no pressure” when they ask, “When is your next book coming out?” So, here’s me copping to it. I suck when it comes to deadlines. And I’m not talking mediocrity level sucking. Oh, no, we’re talking OCD, perfectionist level. I’m a professional at it. And for good reason. Because not being able to answer my dear readers’ question with the absolute truth inspires me to lay prostrate across the rails while the proverbial guilt train comes a chuggin’ on down the line. And that sends me to the ninth ring of writing Hell. So, here’s my pat answer to all those dedicated readers, “It’s coming out…SOON.” Which makes the heroine in my current manuscript pipe up and scream, “Yeah. Soon. Right after me. So, would you go ahead and finish this scene already?”
So, I’m putting it out there to you…
Authors, what hazards do you experience as a writer?
Readers, what hazards do you wish authors had respected before they published their books?