I did an interview and I’m sharing it because they asked me what advice I would give to my writer self a year ago. I’m an advocate for chasing your dreams so I thought I’d share part of it.
If you could go back and talk to your writer self this time last year, what advice would you give?
Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. I think every writer has a moment, a soul crushing moment when they think they’re rubbish and they should throw in the towel. That moment is inevitable. But dreams are always worth chasing. Screwing things up is like my superpower, and if I can do it – then so can you. I think writing takes a lot of hard work but there’s luck involved, too. I got lucky. I found Entranced and they decided to take a chance on me. People talk about luck as if it’s a lightning strike. Fine. Then your hard work is like holding up a golf club in a rain storm. Help luck along. Keep going. [Disclaimer: This is a metaphor and I do not advocate playing golf in a lightning storm. Don’t mess with lightning. It usually wins.]
For the full interview: http://entrancedpublishing.tumblr.com/post/66874667807/author-interview-virginia-brasch
So I was at the gym (It happens! You know… annually. Whatever) with a friend of mine and we’re chatting away while on our treadmills. We start talking about my newest WIP and how the plot is going, etc. I figured everyone around us had their headphones in and most people seemed oblivious to our conversation. But from the corner of my eye I thought I saw the woman closest to us laughing along with us.
Until my friend and I discussed the ending of my book. I’m still working on it I explained. I discussed a few possible outcomes I was thinking over, “but I mean, at this point, he has to die.”
Then I noticed the woman closest to us, wasn’t laughing anymore.
So it occurred to me that 1) she was listening and 2) she thinks there’s a real chance I’m killing someone. Whoops.
As writers, we face unique circumstances that people in other fields simply won’t come across. This is true for any job. I have a friend who works in a recovery unit and had her office on lock down while an armed drug dealer tried to break in. Is that not a routine part of your Monday? Probably not. These are specific circumstances that only really apply to certain jobs. Writing is no different.
1) Eavesdroppers are real and personally I’ve been known to laugh too loud and speak too loud on occasion. (No one’s perfect.) When discussing torturing your characters, the hero’s low moment, the villain’s comeuppance or death, you will get strange looks. Bond with that fact.
2) You spend a lot of time alone at a desk. A lot. Like, a lot. Sure, we have our little notebooks to scribble in at the coffee shop and that’s fun. But at the end of the day, when your plot is plotted, your outline is outlined, you need to put on your big writer undies and sit down and get to work.
3) You’ll write even when you’re not writing. While driving, you’ll run over possible lines from a scene you have coming up. You’ll act out the parts while shampooing your hair. People will think you’re crazy. Again, you really need to stop fighting the stigma and embrace it. You can’t escape.
4) If you’re a writer, you should be a reader so we’re going to move on from that point as if it’s a given. You’re going to pick up books over your life that are so good you think you should reevaluate your dreams in an alcohol induced stupor because you will never be that good. This will happen. So my thoughts are as follows: You won’t ever write like that. You’ll write like you. You have your own style and voice and that’s good. It doesn’t mean your stories aren’t worth telling. Don’t quit. You will also read books that are so awful you will immediately try to find out who represents and publishes that author. Then you’ll query them. (Really, do it.) I actually have one of those on my shelves and look at it sometimes. If they can do it… Is that terrible? Probably. Am I an awful person? It’s looking likely. But! Whatever keeps you writing. And if you quit now, then you really will never be as good as that awesome author that blows your mind. It’s important, too, to remember that writing isn’t a competition. There’s plenty of room on a bookshelf or e-reader for Literary masterpieces, genre fiction, YA, Sci Fi, mysteries and thrillers. If people like the genre, they will go back for more. So don’t look at other writers as if they’re your competition. They’re not. They’re your colleagues, your cheerleaders, friends, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on.
5) Which brings me to rejection. You’re going to have to send your work out. Yes. That manuscript you poured your heart into, worked on forever, and edited to a maddening point of having the whole door stopper memorized. That one. Someone else has to read it. Whether you are sending it to trusted beta readers or an agent or publishing house – you have to send it.
There’s going to be rejection pretty much no matter what. Those authors that blow your mind and make you think awful thoughts of quitting and living under a bridge – even they have been rejected. It happens to everyone. So, buck up. Big Writer Undies on. Brace yourself. Try to look at criticism as something you can take in, advice to polish and hone. That’s what beta readers are for! It’s not a personal attack. When someone takes a few days – a week – a few months even, to get back to you, it’s not because they hate you. People are busy. Agents and publishers are inundated with queries. The best way to stand out, is to strictly follow submission guidelines (This really can’t be stressed enough!) and make your query shine. Not with glitter, with your gripping words that clearly give the agent or publisher an idea of what your book is about. Don’t make them guess. They have a lot to do as it is. Like no movie is a hit with every audience, no cake pleases every palette, no book will appeal to everyone. Rejection will happen. It’s really not a personal attack on you or your work. Keep polishing, keep querying, keep writing.
6) Writers need to be reminded to go outside. Let me remind you. I know we covered the “Chained to your desk/Get the manuscript done” bit in the beginning, but let me make it confusing for you. First, your ass actually can start to take the shape of that chair. I know. I was shocked as well. Secondly, outside might be where you break through your plot problem or find the perfect inspiration for that character. You could find the perfect setting and go see it. Do something wild and call it “research” but don’t hurt yourself or commit a crime. Because eventually you’ll have to get back to that “sit down and write it” bit. And bail can get kinda pricey. Got it?
Many moons ago, there was a time when I took care of my grandmother. I made her meals, and her bed, did her laundry and got to spend some really great time with her. Every day she would watch her “stories” and it didn’t take very long until I was watching them, too. You know, those soap operas that could drag a story line to it’s slow and agonizing end years later.
Grandmom and I had our favorite couple of the show. The underdogs that we rooted for. Those crazy kids just have to make it. Despite all the odds, every obstacle in their way (and there were many), they just had to make it.
After a lifetime of waiting, I turned to my grandmother and asked, “Why can’t they just live happily ever after?”
Straight faced and to the point she said, “Because that would be boring.”
You know what? Grandmom was right.
Now as I writer, I have created characters. I’ve given them a life, a past, loved ones and enemies, habits, quirks, mannerisms and favorite phrases. And as silly as it may sound, I root for them, too!
I don’t advocate drawing a story line out for as long as a soap opera does but I do advocate throwing obstacles in their way. If their goal, the happily ever after isn’t hard won – then it isn’t satisfying.
This means you need to kill your darlings – or cripple, maim, torture and emotionally devastate them. The hurdles they must dig deep to overcome, their journey to the HEA, is what makes the ending worth it.
So just when it looks like things are going smoothly in your book…
Take Grandmom’s advice and make the characters earn the HEA.