Monday, June 02, 2008

Who do you write for? Who reads it?

First, thanks everyone who sent me well wishes. I am feeling normal again, finally--yesterday I finally woke up and didn't feel fragile anymore, which was great.

Something interesting has happened to me, which has never really happened before. My current WIP has gone off in a very odd direction, and I've realized it needs some big fixes back in the middle so I can redirect it.

I'm not sure if I should be worried about that. I'm really not--at this point, although I still don't see myself as any great shakes, I'm at least confident in my ability to produce a coherent story. So this is more of an annoyance than anything else.

But it is confusing. Because I've never been a plotter, and I've never had a story derail like this. Usually it just comes out, and whatever fixes need to be made--there are always fixes--are small enough that I can go back later and insert the missing facts, or whatever, and it doesn't affect the ending. This one does, or maybe I'm just being too nervous. Either way, it's a little odd but I'm not worried.

Except when it comes to my beta readers, that is.

See, I know all the conventional advice, which is to write the first draft with the door closed and don't show the book to anyone. To not invite feedback, etc. etc. But I don't work as well that way. I like feedback from the start. I like having people to discuss the story with as I go along. It keeps the project alive for me. It alerts me to possible trouble spots I may need to fix later. It lets me know what I need to amp up now. But mostly, it lets me know if I'm on the right track or if I'm the only one who likes this story. (Case in point: my best friend Cori [yes, her again] always likes my work, but her tastes tend to run towards lighter, funnier books in general--she's not a big uf fan. But when she read the first few chapters of Unholy Ghosts and couldn't stop talking about how much she loved it and how desperately she wanted more, I knew I had to keep going, that I had done something special. Not like I think it's oh-so-special or anything--oh, you know what I mean.)

Keep in mind, the people reading this--two or three, tops--are people I trust implicitly. And I don't always take their advice. But if something big is missing, I prefer to know about it earlier, so I can add it in and make later editing much easier. Another case in point, Cori mentioned recently that if I didn't insert a particular type of scene soon, people were going to lose all interest in a particular character. Of course she was right. I amped up the previous scenes a bit and added a new one, and now the balance works much better.

All of that is stuff I could have done after the first draft was finished, of course. But I think it's easier for people to give feedback on an unfinished work, where what happens next is still a question. It's easier to make suggestions when nobody's going to have to delete a whole bunch of stuff to implement your suggestion.

Plus it's fun for me. It makes the work more fun. It eggs me on, frankly. I haven't been posting metrics here for the second UG book because I'm afraid they might be too spoilery at this point, but knowing people were expecting them really made me push myself. Knowing Cori or Anna or Caitlin is waiting for the next section pushes me too. I might be able to laze about and let myself down, but it's a stupid girl who lets down her best friends and her trusted crit partners.

So who do you write for? Do you let people look while you're working?


Oh, and I posted this rant last night on livejournal so I'm copying it here, because I am still irked:

I hate iTunes here. I know there are songs in the US we can't get here. I feel it in my bones. And it pisses me OFF.

Seriously. Is it that hard to make the original Runaways version of "Cherry Bomb" avilable here? They have both the Joan Jett version and the Cherrie Currie version, but I don't WANT either of those. I want the real one.

Same with the Lazy Cowgirls' "Goddamn Bottle". I can get the slowed-down version but not the amped-up "Tapping the Source" one. Or anything else from that album, which is one of the greatest albums of all time.

Why? Why can I not find any Cringer or Sewer Trout on UK iTunes? Nothing from Nine Pound Hammer's "Hayseed Timebomb"? Some cuts from a live Pagans album but nothing from "Shit Street"?

I know what it is. It's the US giving the big finger to our former rulers. And you know, I totally applaud that, but it's inconveniencing me now.

OH! AND, if I were in the US, the lack of these songs on iTunes wouldn't be a problem because I could download them from Amazon and they would automatically convert into iTunes. But nooooo...that's for US customers only.



laughingwolf said...

there is NO justice on itunes...

i have not tackled a novel, but in a screenplay, i like to 'complete' it before i ask for input

for poems and shorts, it's the same, and i do consider all suggestions

Seeley deBorn said...

I know nothing about iTunes. I feel like the only person on the planet who doesn't have an iPod. Or cell phone for that matter.

My CP sees my stuff very early on. Without her input in the formative stages, nothing would progress. She is a rubber wall sans par.

Now that I'm nearing the end (and since I edited the hell out of the early parts while I was stuck on the later stuff), I'm sending chapters to a non-writer friend to beta for me. They are likely the only ones who will see it before an editor. Well, maybe my, she'd actually be a great beta...I just sent her your book for her B-day, btw.

Anonymous said...

Eh, just do what you do, it's working, right?

As for itunes, I hate ipod. I have a Creative Zen Vision M that I love -I can down load anything from anywhere, I'm not locked into tune-anything. I even have episodes of Firefly on it. :~)>

I write as a hobby and release. Nobody reads it usually -lucky for them. -V95


I know my writing is flawed. I don't inflict it on anyone until I have fixed as many of those flaws as I'm able to. Otherwise, I'd spend all my time apologizing. "Okay, I know this plot thread totally disappeared in chapter seven, but I can totally fix that, so don't worry about it, or about that part toward the end when they're talking about XYZ and it's news to you. I gotta go back and add that chapter." My kindest, gentlest reader would hand it back to me with adomonitions to clean up my own sh!t before giving it to her again.

kirsten saell said...

I know nothing about iTunes. I feel like the only person on the planet who doesn't have an iPod. Or cell phone for that matter.

Seeley, you are not alone! I, too, am a willing throwback to the Mesozoic.

I'm kind of the odd person out, here, though, since the first person who usually sees anything I write is the agent/editor I'm sending it to. I'm terrified that beta readers and critique partners would only encourage hostilities between those two warring halves of my soul--the half that knows I can write a decent story, and the half that secretly fears I'm a hack.

And, as unorthodox as writing in a vacuum might seem, I've had luck with it (I'm 3 for 4 in placing my work so far).

I write for me. Me, me, ME!!!!

Robyn said...

Maybe you can tell them you're a citizen?

Charles Gramlich said...

I think I still write primarily for myself when I write. I don't have beta readers and don't think I'd feel comfortable with that. I want the thing out the way I want to see it, and then if I have to revise so be it. I've noticed that more women writers than men writers use beta readers. I wonder if it's a gender thing?

Bernita said...

So glad you're feeling better, December.
You're lucky to have such a great bunch of betas.

December/Stacia said...

You know what they say, Laughingwolf. No justice, no peace!

Seeley, I only finally got one because I bought one for the hubs and thought it was kind of cool, then started walking the Princess to school last year so really found it handy.

*nods* Yep. Cori isn't a writer, which I think makes her viewpoint even more valuable. She focuses exclusively on story and characters, which is great.

Oh, I ain't changing, V95! Lol. I'm just curious. And I think sometimes there is an idea put out there that if you get input on your first draft that's a bad thing, and I don't necessarily think it is. I don't write by committee, but I do find the feedback helpful.

Lol Kerry! Like I said I don't usually have major problems, which is why I've never worried before about it. This is the first time. So I'm thinking in future I may start closing the door...or I may not, heh.

December/Stacia said...

Ah, see, kis, that's why my buddies are so awesome; they're always reassuring. If they don't like something they'll tell me, but when they like something they really like it and are very vocal. Like I said, it was when Cori was so over-the-top enthusiastic, more so even than usual, that I knew I had something above what I normally did. But hey, whatever works for you! ;-)

Lol Robyn! You know I actually had that thought?

Hmm, Charles. That's an interesting thought, I wonder too.
I do write for myself, of course. It's not by committee or anything. But I do find their enthusiasm helps me keep my excitement high, and since they know the story it helps me brainstorm when I'm stuck, too.

Thanks, Bernita! And yes, I am. :-)

BernardL said...

Glad you're feeling better. I'm with you. Any kind of on-going help in editing through a WIP from start to finish energizes and refreshes.

Elizabeth said...

Yes I must have other read my work while writing. It helps me get my head out o'me arse faster if I'm not on the right track.

Seeley deBorn said...

[i]Cori isn't a writer, which I think makes her viewpoint even more valuable. She focuses exclusively on story and characters, which is great.[/i]

See, that's what I thought a beta reader was...a reader. I think the term comes from software development where other developers (writers) would be the alpha testers (critiquers) and experienced end users (readers) would be the beta testers.

Seeley deBorn said...

wtf, what's wrong with my coding?? why don't I get italics??

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I don't have itunes or a cell phone, either.

I do like to have an up to date computer and a decent digital camera, but the rest of the technology (TV, DVD player, radio etc.) I'm fine to have at Well It Still Works level. :)

December/Stacia said...

Thanks, Bernard, and yep, that's it exactly. I know where the story is going, but having someone to squee over it with me helps!

Right, Elizabeth (and thanks for the comment!) It helps me know what impact everything is having and what I may need to go back and work on later.

Oh, yes, Seeley, a beta reader is a reader, but Anna and Caitlin are both writers too. So they pay attention to the technical stuff as well as the story stuff, although they don't really crit for me per se anymore. Plus, with Cori I don't have to read stuff for her in exchange, lol.

I'm the same way, Gabriele, I don't feel any need to upgrade or anything. But on the days I have to walk to pick up/drop off Princess I am glad to have the ipod.

laughingwolf said...

true... there are a few sites online where one can download free tunes for ipods, like

Sam said...

Poor you!!!
I'm glad you're feeling better!!

December/Stacia said...

Thanks Laughingwolf!

And thanks Sam! And I'm glad your hubby's okay! I wanted to leave a comment on the post but it was an older post so...