Friday, March 15, 2013

Waiting for Your Muse

If you postpone your writing in a wait for the notoriously recalcitrant Euterpe, the Muse of music and lyric poetry (or choose your own personal Muse), you'll still be waiting when the Grim Reaper comes to collect you. She isn't coming. That's her way, and you'd better understand that from the start.

As for inspiration, there's no such thing. There are ideas that seem to spontaneously spring forth, like the title that you've worried about for two weeks, or the nugget that propels you into three months of sweaty work on the next novel. But ask any professional journalist, reporter or writer. A “real“ writer should be able to sit down anywhere at any time and crank out however many words are needed. Are you a writer? Prove it.

How do you prove it? By sitting yourself down at the computer, typewriter, with a yellow pad and pencil, chisel and stone tablet, or whatever you prefer, and putting down words, thousands of words. You might have a problem getting started. The refrigerator might be calling you. The lawn may want mowing and the gutters may need cleaning. Ignore them. Ignore your friends, your spouse (spice?), your children, your job, that pending law suit. Once you start writing, you'll find a groove and the words will start to flow, faster and faster, until you reach your 90,000 word goal. Then you'll turn around and find that your Muse has been watching your progress over your shoulder. You see, it's you that has to inspire her, not the other way around. Tricky, huh? You’d better believe it. It took me years of artistic suffering to figure this out.

As I read the above blog post over, I thought that it took a rather hard line. Okay, so I'm a pedantic didact. So what, if I'm right. My "rules" might not fit you. I've come to them from my own experience. That's part of the problem of being a writer: everyone has plenty of advice for you, but in the end, it's an individual journey and you have to figure it all out for yourself anyway. A writer's life is fraught with danger.

(The first few paragraphs of this post are a rough excerpt from the how-to-write-a-mystery book I'm working on, Mystery Mastery. It will be available through Amazon by summer, if all goes according to plan.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thoughts on Rejection

The Cat Eater was rejected. Let’s face it: rejection is the writer's bane, and it's been so since the first caveman (caveperson?) made the first mark on a cavern wall.

"My work, the product of my rich and fertile imagination, was rejected by those ignorant fools, those illiterate slobs who have trouble reading hot dog stand menus, those Philistines. I'll never subject my work to their insults again. I can hardly wait until I'm dead so I can finally become famous."

And so it goes, time after time, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, lifetime after lifetime. What insight can I bring to this ongoing and thoroughly depressing phenomenon? I doubt I'll be able to shed any light in the gloom. All I know is that every time they do it to me, I sink to the same depths as I ever did.

But these days, knowing that I'm a whole lot more experienced, and being far more confident in my writing than when I was just starting out, I at least don't feel like quitting the writing altogether. These days, I know my writing is strong and that I've got plenty to say about the state of things, people's psychology, situations I've seen or extrapolated from reality. They can hurt me, yes, but they can't stop me.

It’s true that I'd only submitted it to one magazine, but it was rejected. And that knocked the wind from my sails, which are merely tattered rags after all these years of buffeting anyway. My writing cohorts tell me to submit again. That’s what we’re all told, right? “Keep the blasted things in the mail. Your work will never see daylight if left in a desk drawer” (or a computer file these days). That’s true enough, but it drives me nuts.

Here’s what I did in the past. After years of courting magazine editors to get my photos and articles published, I got fed up enough to start my own magazine (Shooter's Rag - Nature Photo Magazine). I moved to the other side of the desk. I no longer had to convince an editor that I was his/her ally and sell, sell, sell. I could, and did, write whatever I wanted, and I had a slush pile of other writers who were suddenly trying to sell their work to me. The foo was on the other shoet. (BTW, I treated other writers as colleagues, not as adversaries.)

The world had changed by the time no one was interested in publishing my Ben Bones novels, and I was able to go to Smashwords, Amazon KDP and CreateSpace to do it myself. Sales aren’t great, but I’m not beholden to anyone, and I’m not begging editors for the opportunity to help them fill their publications.

So now I'm again thinking of self-publishing. Not only The Cat Eater, but a book of my short works. I have a title for the collection and need to develop a cover. Now I have to weigh the possibility of no sales on my own, or postponing self-publishing in the traditional hope of a cash sale to magazines that are cavalier about my precious output. What a dilemma! As I'm wont to say: a writer's life is fraught with danger.

Yeah, I know, I have a bad attitude. What can I say? I’m a child of the 60s.