Hello, dear readers, and welcome! I hope your weekend was good, and that your week has been good thus far.
Today I have a somewhat personal post for you, with some (hopefully) good advice for authors, and perhaps for readers alike, but before we get started I wanted to share a link to my other blog at Crimson Sterling, where today I have an interview with new YA author Valerie Day-Sanchez. Please check it out!
And now, onto the post...
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What do you expect from your favorite author, and what do you, as an author, expect from yourself?
This is a timeless question, and I'm sure if the answer was simple then every author who has readers would be majorly successful, because we would then be able to fulfill our reader's desires easily -- but the problem is, even if the answer were simple, there are so many different types of reader, and even your "ideal readers" are going to have different tastes. So, while I can say that readers thoughts are important, when it comes down to it, perhaps the more important question is: what do you, as an author, expect of yourself?
This is not an easy question to answer, so don't answer it easily. Really think about it, get down deep, examine yourself. What do you, as an author, want out of your writing? What does it really mean to you? And, perhaps...what has it stopped meaning to you?
I have said this many times, and I will say it again: writing is difficult. It is so, so difficult. I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad for writers, because every job is difficult, no matter how easy it looks, I'm merely putting things into perspective. I will say this again, and again, and again; I will shout it from the rooftops if I have to. No matter how much I love writing, and boy do I, it is not easy, and I don't think it will ever be (though there is that theory that says, if you can get through 15 years of writing, and are still writing, then it will come easily, and I am hoping).
I have issues with the publishing industry, and I've said this before, too. It's always put writers in a box to some degree, but I think that it does so now perhaps more than ever. I've touched on this before, from my blog post Are Books Underpriced?, to my blog post Have Books Lost Their Value In The Eyes Of Readers?, and also recently in Writing Inspired: Stopping The World. It's as frustrating to publish as it is fun and exciting. But at the same time, I can't say I don't go into every story thinking of how it will be viewed, how I can market it, etc.; I try not to think business while I'm writing, because though business isn't bad at all, it's not the same creatively as writing is, but it's difficult not to think about it, with the way writers are programmed now -- to expect everything of ourselves. Writing is more like 10 jobs now, rather than just one, due to all of the expectation placed upon us.
I have issues with the publishing world, and with all of those expectations put upon writers -- write more! Publish more! Publish now! Be on social media! Market that book! Why isn't this finished? When is it coming out? Why isn't it out yet? You're too slow! You'll never make anything of yourself if you don't publish quickly! Where do you plan on putting that weird, sci-fi/dinosaur/vampire/magical romance of yours in the marketplace? You got one 3-star rating, you suck! That reader is in your face because they didn't like your protagonist's name, or their ethnicity, or their religion, or the way they speak, or the last two sentences in your book, you deserve to be yelled at! Your book is priced too high at 5.99! Why are you even writing?
I ask myself that question sometimes: why are you even writing? Why are you putting up with all of this?
Now, you may be sitting back and thinking I'm having a pity party, or you might be thinking that I'm right -- or that I'm being dramatic, maybe. Whatever the case, that is okay. But I can say this honestly: I hear and see these things on a regular basis, and worse. And, again, you may think: well, why do you do it, if it's so bad?
The reason is simple: I am a writer.
I think of the Olympics, when I think of why I still write despite the adversity -- from myself, and from everyone else. As of this writing, athletes are still competing in Sochi, Russia for medals and honor, and when I look at them sometimes, I can't help but wonder: why do you do it? I love the Olympics, and I have great respect for everyone who competes, but I could never do it myself; I don't have the heart or determination, not to mention physical capability. Whenever I see an injury, and all of the training, and the high possibility of "failure" (which isn't really failure at all; you can also read my The Power of Failure post), I can't help but wonder why these people keep coming back to their sports, but always, the answer is simple: because they love it, and couldn't imagine a life without it.
I love writing, and I don't think that will ever change. I have seen authors quit over the pressure of the industry, over nasty readers who for some reason think they have the right to be nasty to another person because they aren't 100% satisfied (I have no problem with constructive criticism, but being mean to be mean is like saying someone is fat to make them feel bad; it's a form of bullying, and it's disrespectful and petty at best), and I have seen authors soar to the bestsellers list with readers under their wings, supporting them; I have also seen authors keep writing, though they make less than the price of a Starbucks coffee each month, because they can't help themselves, and love dearly the readers that they have.
I used to be in ballet, and was slated to venture to the NYCB and perform; I was very good at it. But, once I joined a professional studio, I learned how cut-throat that world can be, and it took most of my love for it away, and I decided that I couldn't continue on without my love of dance being destroyed entirely -- and maybe more importantly, I didn't want to try. I chose a different path, and I believe that in a lot of ways this prepared me for publishing. I can relate to an author who has their spirit broken by the industry, by the pressure to write more, and gain more reviews, and have those five stars, and have that next book underway, and have all of those likes on Facebook, and just -- MORE! I can relate to the writer who has another author stab them in the back, or who has a reader tear them apart because they can, because I've been there with dance, and later on, with theatre, where they don't mind ripping you to shreds, and are often much more cruel than any reader; I've been there with writing, too, because I've been ripped to shreds, and I've been stabbed in the back. It's painful, and it hurts, and at the end of the day, you have nothing else to do but to make the decision of whether or not you're going to stand up again, and keep moving forward, or turn your back, and make something else out of your life.
What do you, as writer, expect of yourself? Not what your readers expect. Not what the media expects. Not what the "experts" expect. Not what other writers expect. Not what your family expects. What do you expect?
Writing begins and ends with you. You have the idea, you sit down, you pour your heart out over it. You get to know your characters better than you know yourself. You spend more time with them than you do with your family. You meticulously piece together their words, their world, their feelings, their story. You spend hours upon hours working on it -- months, years, time you can never get back. You love it, and it loves you. But, what do you expect?
I know I, as a writer and person in general, expect far too much of myself. My grandiose visions are often far more magnificent than what I can achieve in the time I wish to achieve them, and often, it literally breaks my heart, and I have to try and paste the pieces back together. There are many thinks working against me, from physical illness to mental illness, to an industry that constantly changes, and expects me to do things I am simply not capable of because I "should" do them. Over the past year, really trying to find myself in the publishing world, and trying to be the author I "should" be, I have often become angry at myself for not reaching not only my personal, somewhat unrealistic expectations, but also the expectations of my peers, readers, and that entity I like to call "them", who knows everything, and judges how an author should operate.
But I have come to the point where I can honestly say: I'm tired. I think I hinted at it in my Stopping the World post, but here is it: I am tired.
I am tired.
No more. I am tired.
I am tired of killing myself over some publishing ideal, some ideal of what the "successful" author should look like. I am tired of worrying so much over what readers will think that I can't even see my story straight anymore. I am tired of expecting so much of myself that, in the end, I become lost in my vision -- because, even though it's large in scope, it's beautiful, I want it, and I'm capable of it, if I can't focus, chasing after a dream is all for naught. In short: I am tired of being distracted.
What do I expect of myself, as a writer? To focus. I have a goal, things I want to write, things that are important to me, things that are so beautiful I can't even find words to describe them yet, but I can't accomplish them without focus.
Do I care about making money? Sure. This is a career for me, and money is an annoying necessity that I wish I didn't have to have, but I unfortunately do. As Walt Disney said: "You reach a point where you do not work for money". It's not the reason I work, or the reason I will ever work, it's only a vexing means to an end.
Do I care about readers? Of course I do. My readers are the people who love my work, who support it, and I am grateful for that. Writing is best when it is shared. But, even if no one read, I would still write, because I want to find that thing inside of me, and I want to make sense of the world. Readers are people I can share my thoughts with, and that makes them special, because then I am not alone. But I can't constantly be looking at reviews, because I can't have a bunch of other people's voices in my head, because then I have no focus; it's simply my personality, not that I don't care.
Do I care about criticism? I am starting not to. I don't really want to look at reviews anymore, be on social media all of the time, or do any of those things. I am a writer, and there are far too many stories in my head for that; they take time. I like to interact, but I want to interact with the world of my imagination more than anything, and in the end, give the readers I share my thoughts with more to discover.
I read a book recently entitled "One Word Will Change Your Life". I found it in the business section at the local bookstore, and it sort of inspired me. The idea is to receive a single word, which will be your word for the year to inspire and guide you, and then to work on implementing that word into your life. My word word this year?
I am paving my own personal path to being the best author that I can be. I am learning from others, and examining their advice for my own use. I am, in many ways, trying to find myself as an author, like a teenager tries to find themselves as a person. I am still a young author -- and person, for that matter; hint: I'm not yet 25 -- and I'm learning to walk so that I can run. I'm moving on from being a toddler in the writing world. I'm growing, and that's okay. And, chances are, you are growing, too -- and guess what? That is okay, as well.
I think as a creative person, you can't be afraid to take risks, to do things differently, to be who you know you should be, to see your true vision through to the end. Not everyone has a gigantic vision, and that is alright, but everyone has something they want to accomplish, and we all have things we can give the world. Do you want to be that small-time author who writes fun romances for adults? There is nothing wrong with that. Do you have a passion for children's lit, and want to teach kids better vocabulary, to challenge them with your books? That is great, and something I definitely believe is needed (and my best friend, a new teacher, will no doubt agree). Are you drawn to the Tolkien and Lewis-esque Fantasy realm, or the Dune-ish realm of Science-Fiction? I'm all for that, because I love Speculative fiction, so please write on. Do you like simple and tried, or complex and encompassing? Both are fantastic, and both speak to people. Are you okay with having a few readers, or do you want to reach thousands and become the next Stephen King, the next J.K. Rowling? Reach for the stars -- your stars, not someone else's.
I have a vision that cannot be ignored, that extends far beyond myself. It is entrapped in my mind, and constantly shifts and changes to become greater than it last was. It is beautiful and terrifying, and I want to dissect and document it as best I can. It's mine, but I like sharing it with others. At the end of the day, if no one reads I can be satisfied so long as I am focused on it, but I want to share it with others, because I want them to think, to imagine, to understand. My unique view -- and yours -- deserves the time it needs to be created, and deserves the respect to be read.
I am tired of being tired and broken by the market and its expectations, so -- I'm going to stop the world, and break its hold on me. It's not impossible, it's not impractical, and it's not ridiculous. So what if I don't do everything the way "they" say I should? So what if you don't, either. We can break the mold, destroy the cutout, remove the box. We have the power, as Brave's Merida might say, to "change our fate".
The people I admire most were revolutionaries because they didn't fit into societal conventions -- or, they didn't allow themselves to. They had a dream, and they pursued it relentlessly, past the point of no return.
George Lucas was thought weird for his strange drawings, and when Star Wars came out, he had to fight to get it into a cinema -- but look at it now! It's one of the most beloved films of all time, a franchise that has millions of fans, and it's all because he broke the mold. Jim Henson learned about puppetry from books when he saw that a TV studio was hiring a puppeteer, and his odd humor was thought by many to be, well, odd, but his characters are beloved today by many people, and not only entertain, but teach children valuable lessons through programs like Sesame Street. Walt Disney was turned down for a newspaper job because he "had no ideas", lost his first character, Oswald, in a copyright battle, and took a giant financial risk creating Snow White and Seven Dwarves, against pretty much everyone's better judgement, but he created one of the biggest franchises to date, and has not only inspired many people, but changed the world of film forever. Madeleine L'Engle, one of my favorite authors, was criticized for her interest in science and psychology with religion, but she not only wrote some of the best and most interesting books, in my opinion, ever to be published, but is the person of faith I look up and relate to most. J.B. Barrie was in a tight spot when he penned Peter Pan, which was criticized as childish nonsense and insanity, and was thought sure to fail, but Peter Pan is one of the most beloved plays of all time, a classic book, and has certainly inspired me and others a great, great deal.
We don't all want to go down in history as the brightest, the most inventive, the prettiest, or the most charismatic, and that is okay. But I am sure we all want to make the most out of our lives and our talents, and for writers, that talent is writing. Stay true to your passions, and don't allow yourself to become distracted. Creativity is beautiful, but it needs room -- not a box, not constrictions, not others' ideas -- to grow into what it should be.
What do you expect of yourself, as a writer? In order to fulfill your personal vision, whatever it is, you might have to cut some things, remove some distractions, go against whatever "they" are telling you that you "should" do, but don't be afraid to do it. Don't be afraid to take risks, and make mistakes. That isn't to say you shouldn't think through your decisions, because of course logic is important, but in order to be properly creative, you have to make your decisions work for you creatively.
Let go of those fears, and worries, and expectations, and do what you have ascertained will be best for you to continue forward in the direction you wish to go. It won't be easy, and it won't be free of criticism, or debate, or adversity, but you can choose to rise above all of that. Only you can be the author you wish to be, so you should allow yourself to be that person.
In short: let it go.
Book Updates: The Foxfire Chronicles Says Goodbye...
Not to pile information on, but while we're talking about cutting things, I have an official announcement:
I will be un-publishing the Foxfire Chronicles, and therefore taking down the page here on the website, making the first book and consecutive short story out of print; I've begun to do this already. This was a very hard decision I had to make, that I've been debating over for a few years now, and I have finally decided to put this series on the shelf. I hope to one day continue it, but I cannot say for certain if that will happen or not.
I apologize. I have many reasons for pulling this series, but a few main ones are that I want to focus more on the Snowflake Triplet, which is growing bigger and more exciting by the day, and the Phantasmagoria Duet, but also because this story is too closely connected to a very difficult time in my life. I first wrote Shadows of Past Memories (the first book), when I was 16, as a coping mechanism shortly after my brother was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident. Though everything turned out well after much trial, all that story does is remind me of that difficult time, and it's hard to think about, let alone write it right now. My writing career is taking me in a different direction than I thought it would, and though I've been trying to garner the will to write more tales for the series, I haven't been able to. It isn't fair to readers to make them wait, and the pressure of another release is frustrating for me, too. I wrote the short story Bat Wings and Broomsticks in October to see if I could get back into the story, and for a while I was comfortable, but I have found through careful deliberation that if I continue to try and work on this story, I will not do it justice, and again, that is unfair to both myself, and to readers. So, apologizes again, but for the foreseen future, I will not be continuing this series.
Thank you, readers, for understanding.