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Writing on a Bad Hair Day

Here’s my next installment on author myths.

Myth #5  Writers depend on inspiration to get through the writing day.

This one comes from the idea that writers are artists. And artists, as we all know–or think we know–are so very sensitive and subject to crippling moods.

It’s a persistent idea that writers are subject to unbearable sensitivities. The idea goes like this: writers are obviously creative people, and their fragile artistic selves have to wait for inspiration. The creative process, after all, must be fueled by the muse. When she’s snubbing you, you’re toast.

Is it true? Well. I’ve been inspired at times and bored with my work at times, and I’d much prefer to have aOvercoming Writers Block big dose of inspiration. Truth to tell, sometimes I’d settle for even a tiny spark. But if nothin’s there, a journeyman writer can’t wait for the muse to make an appearance. Nor is it a time–even with a big deadline looming–to break out the whiskey and work through the night.

The reality is, I’ve never blown a deadline so badly that I had to work all night. (Don’t ask about the whiskey.) This is because, even in times when I’ve been bored with my work in progress, I’ve been writing anyway. This is true even when I’m thinking the story may be terminally ill, my writing chops aren’t up to the challenge, and I’m so not in the mood to write.

Bad Hair Days

The reality of the writing life is, you may not get a great idea every day, but you write anyway. You refuse the excuse of writer’s block. It’s just a mood, not a cardinal principal.

You write through the blahs, because sometimes inspiration comes only after you’ve been typing for awhile. If you don’t have a great opening sentence, start with an adequate one. If your opening line is totally lame, just get it on the page and fix it later.

I know. It’s hard to watch yourself write lines, paragraphs, pages that lack elegance, interest, and originality. But you soldier on. If you’ve been writing long enough you know that eventually you’ll find your sea legs. And here’s the thing: Sometimes it’s because you wrote the lame material that the good stuff comes. You were just warming up. Your brain was not in the mood to write, but once it saw that writing was inevitable, it said, Oh for crying out loud, ALL RIGHT.

And then, because you’ve seen it work over and over again, you tolerate bad writing because you know that rewriting will be loads of fun. OK, strike that last idea. I know only a very few, highly annoying, people who love to rewrite, but at least most of us know that it can all be fixed on the next pass.

So, do you write when you’re feeling down, beat up, or just plain blah? Yes, you do. Because you know that while inspiration is the spice of the writing life, it isn’t the most important thing.

The most important thing is to practice your craft and have faith that the deep, beautiful story is within your grasp . . . but only if you keep writing.

Myth #1. It’s All in Who You Know

Myth #2. The Glamour and Prestige

Myth #3. It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

 

It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

Today I continue my musings on the top myths of the writing life. Wherein I share some of the odd notions I started out with; and how they just ain’t true.

My journey in writing started over two decades ago. I don’t blame myself for not having had a clue about things. In fact, I’ve been delighted to be proven wrong. Over and over again.

Wrong about what? Things like how one big introduction or connection will launch my career; how cool and glamorous being a published author is (Go ahead, fellow authors, snicker!)

And today’s myth: how in this cut-throat competitive arena, authors basically wish you ill.

Myth #3: Other Writers Will Stab You in the Back

When I first started out, I was concerned about the hyper-competitive publishing environment. It’s a dog eat dog world, I reasoned. All those raging egos and jealous fellow writers!

What I was conflating is the competition for visibility and sales, which is real, but not the result of other authors working against you–and relationships with other writers. (Perhaps spawned in the memory of those horrid high school cliques of oh-so-together people.)

To be fair, the publishing world is tough, and one is going to get bruised in ego and pocket book. It should give aspiring authors a few moment pause before plunging in. But we don’t need to worry about everything. Some things will be remarkably rewarding.

Like people. Yes, published authors are usually highly competitive. They have enormous energy to invest in creation and promotion. We can’t help but envy them and worry that we’ll never achieve what they have. That’s natural. And if you find yourself feeling these things and wonder whether you have a nasty, paranoid mind set, stop beating yourself up. We all experience those feelings. Um, perennially.

The fact is, however, that other authors will end up being among your best friends. Remember, everyone is basically lonely and afraid. It’s human nature. Most writers relate to the uncertainty and frustration of the writing life, and are generous with each other. No one else “gets” the writing life as much as another writer. I even think that there may be more generosity among writers than in other fields.

And inevitably, you’ll click with a few writers, and you’ll share the journey with them–through the ups and downs, at conventions and signings, at writing retreats and worry sessions over the phone if your buddies are far away. When you make a big sale they’ll email you a picture of them toasting you! They’ll give you blurbs for your books. They’ll help you strategize, celebrate, and survive.

So much for stabbing in the back.

It’s a dog help dog world. And even when it isn’t, if you’re open to building friendships, there’ll be a group of writers who’ll be on your side. I guarantee it.

For the other posts on my Myths of the Writing Life series.

Myth #1. It’s All in Who You Know

Myth #2. The Glamour and Prestige

 

At the Table of Wolves gets a star

So pleased to report that Publishers Weekly gave my forthcoming novel a starred review! Very happy about this, and also, I must admit, relieved. As you might imagine, waiting for big reviews just prior to publication date can be a nail-biting exercise.

Will people get my book, the things I was trying to accomplish, trying to say? Will they enjoy my story concept and characters? Or . . . or . . . (My fellow authors can fill in the blanks on pre-pub-day anxiety and dark imaginings.) But so far, so good. Publication day: July 11. For a list of my appearances, please see here  (scroll to bottom.)

PW Starred Review: At the Table of Wolves

At the Table of WolvesVeteran SF/F author Kenyon turns to historical paranormal fantasy in this compelling recreation of an alternate 1936 Britain rife with espionage, intrigue, and moral ambiguities. Idealistic young journalist Kim Tavistock, raised in America but now settled into her father’s stately home in Yorkshire, grapples with the suspicion that her father may be, like many of his aristocratic class, a Nazi sympathizer. King Edward will soon abandon the throne for “that woman,” Wallis Simpson, who is herself dangerously close to Erich von Ritter, a character loosely based on the seductive real-life Nazi agent Joachim von Ribbentrop. Kenyon adds enormous fuel to this smoldering prewar scene with the bloom, a sudden appearance in 1918 of psychic talents affecting about one in 1,000 people. It’s suggested that this manifestation was produced by the mass trauma of the Great War. Kim’s psychic gift is spill, which causes others to reveal their deepest secrets to her. The Nazis are a decade ahead of the British in finding military uses for psychics, and Kim is drawn into a quixotic attempt to foil a Nazi plan for invading England, risking her heart and her life in the “tawdry, morally wretched” game of spying. Kenyon’s finely tuned historical atmospherics and her sure-handed development of even minor characters make this novel a superb adventure, worthy to launch a distinguished historical fantasy series. (July)

Available for preorder:

Signed copy. A Book for All Seasons, Leavenworth, WA

www.amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Indie Bound

The Best Little Writing Conference in the West

What do Steven Barnes, Agent DongWon Song, and indie publishing guru Anthea Lawson Sharp  all have in common? A: They’ll all be in Wenatchee WA for Write on the River in 4 weeks!

Anthea Lawson Sharp on Indie Publishing

Join us on the sunny side of Washington State for a day-and-a-half conference on the beautiful campus of Wenatchee Valley College. The Write on the River Conference annually attracts approximately 120  writers to learn from the experts, this year including nationally recognized writing teachers like Steven Barnes and Wendy Call.

Yes, we’re small, and proud of it! Our events and programming give you a chance for personal feedback and interaction with twelve expert presenters. Plus it’s fun! Join us for Saturday workshops, a Sunday morning fiction seminar, and then spend Sunday afternoon touring the wine country, renting bikes on the loop route along the Columbia, or hiking the beautiful sage-filled hills!

Read More…

My Norwescon Schedule

Tomorrow is April 13, so if you’re in the Seattle area, that means Norwescon is here again!

I hope to see new friends and old over the next few days. If you get a chance to drop by my reading, it will be on Saturday at noon (Cascade 2). I’ll read from my upcoming book, At the Table of Wolves.

Also, I’ll be at these panels: Read More…