And E Moon said . . .
More about the writer’s view.*
Reviews…I have spent 20+ years not growing the thick skin it’s said you must grow.
Well that’s at least two of us then. I gave up: I’m not going to grow the thick skin, so I concentrate on the evasive manoeuvres. These writers who compulsively read their amazon and Goodreads reviews are another species.
I don’t read them, or hardly ever. Editor sent me one last week which she said was “mostly favorable” but which to me was one slice after another. (The favorable bits go right past me; the negative bits, however small, are shrapnel in the heart.)
Yep. Me too. Ms Fancies Her Keen Critical Faculties in THE ONLY BOOK REVIEW THAT COUNTS said that the relationship between Sylvi and Ebon was touching and poignant? She did? All I remember is that she said that Fthoom was boring, the pegasi implausible, and there should be an elephant stampede to add interest.
You need to train your editor better. Mine, poor woman, checks with Merrilee even if a review has three stars and the only adjectives are ‘brilliant’, ‘amazing’ and ‘irresistible’.
I am very much the same way about the story [as I’ve been describing it]…it exists already and I’m just writing it. Sometimes it hides under the couch, or wants to play silly games with me, but if I can hold the focus (in spite of everything else going on and my own undisciplined mind) it’s there, as it is, and no amount of “Why don’t you just…?” or “Shouldn’t you do this other…?” or “Change this!” works. That’s their story, not my story…the story that came to me and tickled the inside of my head, and then poked me in the ribs and finally grabbed something painful and twisted and said “Write me. Write me NOW.”
Yes. We could compare scars some day. Here’s the one where Gulp whapped me up longside the head. Here’s the one where the pre-faenorn Master of Willowlands tapped me on the shoulder. Here’s the one where one of the Beasts held me over a bottomless ravine by one ankle. Here’s the one where Woodwold’s floor jumped under my feet, knocked me down, and rained plaster on me.
God knows I would like to be a better writer.
Yes, but you have to want to be better. Wildly. Yearningly. You have to want to be a better writer like you have to write, I think. If you lose the hopeless despair I think you also lose your edge.
More like A in handling this, more like B in handling that, and OMG how does C do that thing C does, that rips my heart out even on a fifth reading?
Yes. And you think, it’s just words. How do they do it with just words? Words are the most powerful things on the planet . . . except when they’re coming to mortar dust and broken eggshells in your hands.
I read better writers than I am, I read them silently and aloud, hoping the magic will rub off, but my stories are stuck with me, the imperfect.
Which is the little light in the hopeless despair. The story came to you.
Like the kid in the corner of the studio with Michelangelo, struggling to outline just one acanthus leaf on a scrap of stone, and watching with wondering eyes the David emerge from marble…
Frivolous note from an evil cow: I don’t like Michelangelo’s David. You can add it to my list of sins. Which just got one shorter, since JS Bach has moved to my ‘angels’ list. I nonetheless take your point.
I will never be there…but at least I’m trying to serve my story, as it came to me and wanted to be told.
Yes. The thing to hang onto at 3 or 7 o’clock in the morning, with your hands full of dust and grit, or even 3 in the afternoon or 7 in the evening. The story came to you.
Which sounds all gooey
I dunno about gooey. Pretentious, maybe. But big scary important true things have a nasty habit of sounding pretentious. We also both write genre stories, which as we all know are entirely enshrouded in cooties, like a kind of armour, so we’re being doubly pretentious having pretentions at all. But I’ve long been a believer in the spectacular power of good trash.** So here’s to us. And pffft to the snobs. In fact, pfffft.
or something but it’s how it seems…the stories wait for me, a row of them, ever more shadowy and vague the longer it will be before I get to them, but they exist on their own…alone until I can write them and let them find their readers.
Yup. You got it. For me too. Although I could wish the queue was a little more orderly, and things didn’t keep jumping out of it, rushing up to me, whispering in my ear, and then running away again giggling madly. And playing leapfrog*** with their neighbours.
* * *
* Remember that I write these entries after I’ve pretty much tapped myself out on the articulate sentence front and have tapped myself out on the possibility of coherent thought for the rest of the day. But at least one thing I should have made clear last night: I do understand about wanting to wait till a concluding book is out before you read the first one or ones—I don’t mean what I would call a proper series like (say) Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone or Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files—but the ones like LOTR or, pardon me, PEGASUS, which are all the same story whacked up in pieces. I haven’t got a problem with the decision to wait.^ I’ve been known to wait myself.^^ What I’m objecting to is people who seem to think either the waiting or the publishing in separate volumes is legitimate grounds for complaint to the author.
I think it’s another form of Othering. Of which there are multitudes. I suppose it all still comes back to the tribe thing: we’re hardwired to believe in us and them, to believe our tribe is significantly different from your tribe—and we’re probably far superior and therefore have the right to tell you what to do. I think evolution could get a move on this one soon. It’s not doing us any good, now that sabertoothed-tigers in the neighbourhood are not a big issue.
And then there’s atavistic Othering. I had an email from a pregnant friend yesterday who is beginning to show, and is suffering a kind of boggled astonishment that is familiar to me as a recipient of reader responses. How can someone possibly think it’s okay to pat the pregnant belly of a stranger? she says. —Probably because the hippocampus still auto-fires at the sight of someone contributing to perpetuation of the species. But how can someone think it’s okay to rush up to a total stranger, give them a passionate hug and tell them that you are twin souls? I don’t think we can blame the hippocampus for that one.
And speaking of twins, my friend added: And how can someone possibly think it’s nice/friendly/acceptable/polite to say, are you expecting TWINS? You’re HUGE. I’ve NEVER SEEN anyone so HUGE. —Yes. It’s somewhat similar to the people who write me to say, why is SUNSHINE the only audiobook I can find? I don’t like that one. Or, why don’t you write another Damar novel? None of your other books are nearly as good. Or When is PEG II coming out?
^ So long as I can go on buying chicken for hellhounds. Which is a practical rather than a philosophical dilemma.
** I also had a long Twitter conversation with Richard Kadrey after I posted about SANDMAN SLIM, and he’s another one who believes in the power of trash. We’re out there and we’re dangerous.
^^ I was just discussing THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO with a friend. I think the second one was out before it really registered on my radar—I am not a dystopia person, so as soon as the d-word gets used I tend to be out of there—as something I probably do want to read.+ But then I started hearing about the major-eeep endings of both the first two and I thought, hmm, I can wait.++ The thing is that there are always lots of good books out there. You don’t have to read a cliffhanger if you don’t want to.
+ Yes. HUNGER GAMES is in the pile.
++ The third one is now out. And they’re all in the pile.
*** Leap gecko. Leap pegasus. Leap dragon. Leap . . . not unicorn.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.