Six Sentence Sunday: Underneath

Tab Bennett and the Underneath won’t be out until December. Here are six sentences to help tide you over until then.

“You have been raised by the Light but there is Darkness in you too, Tabitha. All I ask is a chance to show you that side of yourself, to introduce you to the other half of your birthright so that your choice will be an informed one. How can you be certain you prefer the Light when you’ve never been free of its glare?”

“Most people don’t have to entertain evil to decide they like goodness,” I said.

“You are not most people. You’re not even people at all.”

Six Sentence Sunday started two years ago with a few friends who would post teensy little excerpts on their blogs. Now more than 100 writers take part each week.
Click here to check out more SSS authors: http://www.sixsunday.com/
Click here to learn more: http://bit.ly/gbEK8k

 

 

The Golden Rule for Writers

If you read or write books and spend time on the internet, you probably already know what happened on GoodReads last month. I’m fairly new over there so this is the first time I’ve ever seen it, but apparently this kind of escalating argument and attack between authors and reviewers happens from time to time. You can google “writers behaving badly” or “GRBullies” and get the whole sordid story. The situation has been on my mind because I’m an indie writer and like it or not, the behavior of others like me effects me.

Look, I get it – reading a negative review of your book feels like being punched in the face. With a hammer. A big, heavy one – with hooks on the end. The point is; it hurts. When I get one, sometimes my knee-jerk reaction is to hit back, which in this case means rushing to the comments section to demand that the reviewer remove or reconsider her hurtful words IMMEDIATELY!! But here’s the thing – and this is the important part, so please listen up – even if my feelings are hurt or the bad review is totally off-base or was posted by my arch nemesis for reasons both petty and mean-spirited, I don’t write a defensive, crazy-eyed response wherein I make threats against the reviewer and her beloved dachshund, Mr. Snippy.

Why not? Because as a member of society, out in the world and here online, I’ve agreed to abide by certain rules, the most important of which is don’t be a confrontational, self-important jerkface. You can apply this rule almost anywhere, but I’ve begun thinking of it as the golden rule for writers – updated in light of recent events.

As writers, our job is to write books and put them out in the world. That’s it. Once it’s out there, our control over the situation, tenuous as it was, is over. Readers and reviewers are free to think and say whatever they want about our work. Some will like it, some will hate it, but either way it’s out of our hands. We’ve already done everything we can do. There’s no sense in rallying our angry mobs. Our job is to write. Just that. And we can’t do it if we’re busy shaking pitchforks and brandishing flaming torches.

When we ignore the golden rule, the whole system breaks down and readers and writers – the original two great tastes that taste great together – end up shouting at each in ALL CAPS on the internet. And when people google us, they don’t discover that we write great books, they find out that we spent our summer making threats against house pets and calling our readers douche nozzles. Maybe your mother told you to use your words to express your feelings, but I don’t think that was exactly what she had in mind.

As hard as it is to do, ignoring bad reviews is really the only option we have. Breaking the golden rule, confronting readers and getting involved in arguments with them, does more harm to our reputations as a writers than a bad review or two ever could.

I’d like to thank Steve Weddle for reminding me of the word “jerkface” and, more specifically, how much I don’t want to be one. If you’re interested in reading Mr. Weddle’s article about the dark side of google alerts (I think you should), click this:
http://bit.ly/LLlEhS.

If you want to say something about readers, writers, or flaming torches, please do so in the comments. But play nice. Don’t make me turn this car around….

The Witchwood Manor Sign

I thought some of you might be curious about the Witchwood Manor sign I went on and on about the other day, so I drove over there to take a picture.

As I was standing there with my Iphone taking this picture, terrified that Victor Garber would come home and yell at me for hanging about in his driveway, it occurred to me that inspiration is a funny thing. This plain, sort of crookedly hand-painted sign captured my imagination and inspired me to make up a whole world full of people and adventures for them to go on. If you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that a piece of plywood and some paint can do that. (And, I might add, it’s also a really good reason for Mr. Garber to give me this sign.) All of this is to say that inspiration is everywhere. There are thousands of stories just hanging around in unlikely places waiting to be told.

This mini-epiphany made me think of William Carlos Williams, who found inspiration in the most random things.

including a red wheelbarrow:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

and a bowl of plums:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

I wonder what is going to inspire you?

Slay your Babies & Other Advice for Fiction Writers

        Editing is my least favorite part of writing. Sadly, it’s also the most important part of writing anything that’s actually worth reading. Anyone can fill up a page with words, but to write well you have to know which words to leave there and which ones to take away.  So I do it. Oh, how I suffer for my art….
        Anyway, I recently had a conversation with a writer friend of mine (who we’ll call WF) about the need for editing. It went something like this:
WF: Have you ever written something and you suspected while you were writing it that it was great and then you finished and it WAS great and then it was so great that it required no work or thought or editing because it was already so great? (probably not a direct quote)
JY: Sure, all the time. Then I remind myself of some advice I got from a college professor of mine and I force myself to look at it anyway.
WF: What was the advice?
JY: Slay your babies.*
WF: Excuse me?
JY: I said Slay. Your. Babies.
WF: Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.
    I know it sounds harsh, but it’s probably the most important writing lesson I ever learned. Sam, the workshop professor who taught it to me, wouldn’t tolerate mollycoddling of any kind in his class. He’d sit at the front of the room and if he felt that one of us was cradling our precious work a little too gently, he’d shout out, “What’s the only rule, Miss Young?” The answer, the only rule, was “Slay your babies.”
    By that he meant that anything and everything you write needs editing. It needs finessing. It needs work. Hence first drafts and second drafts and rounds of revisions. Even if you love something, even if you are 100% sure it’s the best thing you have ever written, even if it pains you physically to do it, you still need to rip it apart. In fact, if Sam were here right now, he’d probably say you owe it to the work to rip it apart.
    Anyway, I thought I’d pass that along. What’s the best advice about writing you ever got? Tell me all about it in the comments. Maybe we can help each other out.

* Just for the record, I am vehemently anti-infanticide. I am also against shoving the elderly, kicking a man when he’s down, and horse violence of any kind.