Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Taming the Muse

This subject comes up today because I am an acquisitions editor on Sybaritic Press. On the occasions that I have advised aspiring authors when wearing my editor hat, I often tell them that they need to ditch their muse. I usually say this because the muse is often blamed for a lack of productivity on the writer's part. 'My muse isn't speaking to me' or 'I can only write when my muse is working.' Nonsense, I tell them. If you want to be a writer, write and write every day. Write something and keep writing. It's the only way to hone skills. And if you want to get published, editors expect work to be turned in when it's due.

I had the notion of writing in response to inspiration only beaten out of me in undergrad and then grad school. I was a Journalism/PR major as an undergrad. We had to do exercises with basic facts given by the instructors that we had to put into stories -- news stories, features, interviews, press kits. It taught us how to structure a coherent story quickly. In grad school, I had to write a chapter a week each semester of my thesis novel and I had to write a short story per week for my workshops. There was no time to wait for inspiration. You had to present a detailed outline of the novel and then follow the structure. The artistic touches (adding depth to the characters, refining descriptions and dialogue) came with the re-writes.

Of course, there must be inspiration. That is what makes the writer choose which story to tell or what characters to follow. But if a writer wants to be a professional, the writer must treat the craft professionally. If you want to be professionally published (even with a small press), you have to be able to meet deadlines. Learning how to work from structure will enable a writer to get through any kind of writer's block. It may not be a perfect draft, but what an editor is there for -- to help hone the draft.

Right now, I have an out of control muse. I'm crashing through my soldiers novel because it simply must be written -- NOW (that happens sometimes), I have my hot cops novel that has a publishing date I must meet -- so I'm working on that as well. And now I want to write a short piece about my mother and I at happy hour in a French Quarter bar in New Orleans called Dancing with the German at Happy Hour. I blame that on youtube.com. But that is for another blog. All of these stories demand my attention. Since I have a publishing deadline on one of them, I have to give that the higher priority.

So, to those fanfic writers who want to break into the professional world, it's fine to keep writing fanfic. I consider it practice and it can hone skills. However, once involved with a press or when you're trying to get the attention of a press, deadlines must be met. It's hard for me to accept that the story I'm waiting to see isn't finished when I'm seeing new fanfic from the same writer being posted all over the place.

I now get off my soap box and return to my usual insanity.

Next week, excerpts from the new book and Jury duty in LA. Also, see the news section of http://sybpress.com for exciting announcements and calls for stories.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Out, Out Damed Plot

I was watching an episode of CSI- Miami or as our roomate calls it Horatio's Happy Flippy Sunglasses Hour, and was even more devoid of logical plot than usual. Mind you, I don't tune in for Brechtian depth, but it was ridiculous though the murder was solved in a humorous fashion when -- literally-- everyone involved in the case was dead at the end. Well, the cast wasn't. That would have been something, but I digress.

Even the pulpiest of pulp fiction needs sensible plots that have at least some internal logic. I drifted from mysteries written by lawyers because the plots made no sense outside of a courtroom. One book, written by a best seller author, actually had the police acquiescing to the demands of a serial child rapist and murderer who wanted to visit the daughter he'd traumatized on the hopes he might have some information on an active case. I haven't read a mystery since that one three years ago.

I even want plots with my smut. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but even a ten page short story needs some plot to get potential lovers from hello to afterglow. And the plot should be plausible within the genre written and compelling. In the Surrender novels (The Gift of Surrender and The Price of Surrender), I spent a great deal of time on the intrigue that surrounded my couples. I enjoyed spinning that web almost as much as I did writing the love scenes. My Cops, Freak Experts, isn't so much a who done it but 'how solved it.' The novel unfolds around how these men work together and how it fosters an intense relationship.

My new novel (I still haven't titled it -- being very indecisive there), Soldiers for now, has what I hope is an intriguing plot about military paranoia, self discovery and meshing of an extremely offbeat and dangerous family. And there is much hot, delicious smut as well. I may put up some excerpts at some point soon. In all of my ficiton, I have it proofread for errors in both the prose and the plot from people who know whatever genre I'm writing in. It's not hard these days to get information on virtually every subject and make the plot plausible. In Fantasy, it just has to make sense internally.

So, don't settle for fluff that's completely plot free or has a plot that gives a headache. Though I admit, I'll probably look at CSI Miami next week. Again, pretty people.

Speaking of pretty, I have to say hello to a new calendar boy in my Dieux de Stade 2006. Alas, there are so few months left. Anyway, he turned up on my 8th wedding anniversary, so I must mention him. Todd Feather is not French, he's from New Zealand. Very nice -- though frowny. Before him was Julien Laharrague, tres magnifique!

Later this week, I'll be doing a new contest. Stay tuned and read carefully.