Monday, January 30, 2012

Following the Crowd

It has been said many times that a writer should not write based on current trends. The recent zombie/vampire craze for example. Yes, novels, movies and even TV shows dealing with these types of characters are very much in fashion and the general public gobbles them up like they are the last books on the subject that will ever be written. Of course, any writer will tell you that if you write on a subject merely for it's saleability factor, then by the time your book actually gets published the fad will be long over and all of your hard work will have been for naught.

But, should we really tell new writers that popular genres or subjects should be off limits just because it has already been done to death? It seems to me that every time I think there couldn't possibly be another zombie book that is any better than the rest, a new one comes along that puts just enough of a twist on the old clich├ęs to make it worth while to read.

Another thing to consider is this: If these new writers take our advice to heart, what happens then? Shitty books, that's what. Trust me, I know. When I set out to write my first novel, I had a billion and one story ideas floating around in my head and yes, most of them were filled with zombies and vampires. Unfortunately for me, I read or heard somewhere that writing another zombie novel would most likely end in failure, so I threw out all of the ideas I previously had and began to write a book that had nothing to do with any of that. I struggled for months to try to come up with a plot that had not been done before. Man, was that a mistake and a HUGE waste of time. I wasn't writing what truly inspired me specifically because I didn't want my novel to be "just another zombie book."

I do agree that one should not write purely for the sake of a trend, but we must also be careful not to  discourage people from writing what they like purely to move away from the trend, either. Luckily, I have a very short attention span and am notoriously bad at following good advice. So I ended up writing the story that I wanted to write and not what I thought people would or wouldn't want to read, and not only was the book better because of this realization, but I had more fun creating it, too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Those Damn Family Car Decals

No, I don't have a problem with them, really. As a matter of fact, we recently added our own family decals to our little car, but I bet mine are cooler than yours. Don't believe me? Take a look:

Ha, ha! Yup, zombie family. When I saw these, I thought that they were hilarious and had to have them, and as far as I have seen, we are the only family in our area to sport these nifty little decals of our un-dead family members. Anyway, The purpose of this post is not really about the decals, but a conversation that they sparked with a friend of mine when she saw them. It went something like this:

Friend: Oh, my god. How did you convince your wife to let you put those on your car?

Me: Convince her? She's the one that put them on!

Friend: Really? Is she a writer too?

That's what got me. Why would she naturally assume that I had to beg my wife to display these slightly unusual, but extremely funny, stickers on the family car? And then, upon finding out that my wife had no problem with it, assumed that my wife must be just as "weird" as I am.  Then it hit me. Even though this person and I have been friends for years, she still held various beliefs about me, and writers in general, that are not necessarily true. While I have come to expect this from most non-writing people, I didn't expect it from someone who has known me for so long.

We all know the stereotypes associated with writers. They are all reclusive. They're all alcoholics or drug addicts. They all have some sort of mental or emotional problems that prevent them from obtaining "real" employment. They drink coffee by the gallon and chain smoke in dimly lit rooms, bent over keyboards banging out prose that could only emanate from a highly warped, but brilliant mind. (This seems especially true of horror/thriller writers.) What I didn't realize is that, along with the pre-conceived notions that people have about writers, there is an equal amount applied to a writer's spouse. How strong they must be to deal with all of our peculiarities. 

Author Wendy Paine Miller posted a very humorous post on her blog to suggest a "Spouses of Writers" support group (Probably a good idea by the way, and you can read it here), which got me to thinking about all of the trials and tribulations that my wife endures for my work. While I do not fit all of the stereotypes about writers (only most of them), I will admit that my wife sacrifices a lot for my art. I suppose I should express my gratitude a little more often, and THAT is the real point of this post. To thank, not only my wife, but all of the spouses of writers that stand firm and endure everything from our obsession and excitement of that first story idea, to the extreme low when we think that everything we've worked on for months is complete crap, to the elation we feel at finishing the first draft. They faithfully stand beside us, mostly silently, pulling us back from our ego-maniacal certainty that we are the most talented writer since Twain, to the maddening depression that we go through when we realise that we are not so special after all.

So, here is my public "Thank you" to my spouse, as well as yours, or whoever it is that supports you in your work. Without them, the road we walk from idea to finished product would be much harder to navigate.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Here There Won't Be Dragons

Over a year ago, my wife bought me the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. I will admit that it was after several weeks of hint dropping and finally flat out begging, but that is beside the point. I was convinced that it would help me tremendously with my writing, which it did. Sort of. Let me explain.

For the first few weeks, I happily played with my new toy, training it (you have to teach it to recognize your voice), dictating emails, composing posts on my old blog, and playing with the voice commands to navigate the web. The program worked just as advertised, so I was full of anticipation as I sat down and began with a short story. That's when the problem occurred. Not with the software, mind you, but with me.

It didn't take me long to realize that using Dragon NaturallySpeaking actually dropped my daily word count. All because of  "the groove." You know "the groove," after those first few sentences are out of the way and the words begin to flow in a beautiful torrent until a child or spouse needs something (or you get an incoming message that must be answered because you forgot to disconnect from the internet).  That groove.

The software does exactly what it is supposed to do and types what I speak. The problem is that while the words I use when I speak and when I write are pretty much the same, I just can't get in the groove while I'm talking and the words don't flow like they should. I can use it for non-fiction work fairly well, but if I am writing fiction? Forget about it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

And then there was light..

For days I have struggled with how I should start this new blog. Should I introduce myself to those who don't know me? Should I start with an informative article about some aspect of the writing process? Or should I start randomly? Just sit down and write?  If you haven't already guessed, I opted for the latter, which leaves a lot of room for error, but hey, every blog has to have it's first post and this one is what it is.

I hope for your sake that the quality only goes up from here. Maybe this blog will be like an ugly child who grows up to be drop dead gorgeous and the envy of all the other girls at the prom. It might not be pretty at the start, but give her some time and see what she grows into.

So, there we are, short but sweet. I did kill two birds with one stone, though. First post is done, and now I get to figure out something else to distract my thoughts away from the novel. (Coming along quite nicely. Thanks for asking.) I'm sure it won't take me too long.