Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “The Animal”

Julesenstein’s Monsters: Breathing Life Back Into My Monstrosities

TODAY’S BREW: All of It.

By Julie

I did a thing I haven’t done in a long, long time. I read a chapter of THE HARPY. Forget what that book was? I nearly did, too. It’s been on submission with publishers through my agent, Eric Ruben, Esq. for a long time. I’m fine with the length of the submission process for a few reasons: I know that the world of traditional publishing is going through a lot of transition and isn’t the most stable we’ve ever seen. I know that Eric is doing as much as he can to get the book into reader hands. And my writing career isn’t stagnant because I continuously write books, all the time, while I wait.

But in my persistence to move forward and my constant reminder to myself that writers write, and to go to work every day like a good writer should, I’ve forgotten how much I loved that book. THE HARPY makes me happy. (If you want to read an excerpt of THE HARPY, you can go HERE https://deadlyeverafter.com/2013/06/14/letting-the-harpy-out-of-the-bag-first-excerpt-from-my-new-book/ ) I even searched #TheHarpy on Twitter to read some of my tweets from writing that book and I was grinning ear to ear.

Related, I’ve been totally overwhelmed with book stuff. RUNNING AWAY was released, a year in the waiting, and I barely stopped to breathe….. or promote it before jumping into writing a new book. I have another book just sitting around, too.

I need to slow down. Shit.

One of the reasons I don’t do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is because I cannot conceive of writing an entire book in one month and making it worth anything or enjoying a second of it. Yet, I’ve kept up a different kind of breakneck pace to try and cover every base possible in the writing world over the short time I’ve been a published author. (This of course doesn’t include working as an editor in the meantime, being a full time mom and trying to hold my head up straight.)

Writing is my job, but it needs to be savored once in a while. I feel disconnected from a couple of my books because I have put too much distance between us. We are estranged. And in effort to not put all my eggs in one basket, I’ve filled about FORTY BILLION BASKETS, and cannot keep up. Constantly writing and not stopping long enough to give justice to the books I have out is giving me a feeling of self-defeat that I just plain should not have.

So what am I doing about it? Scheduling time for promotion of RUNNING AWAY. Revisiting my intentions for THE HARPY and THE ANIMAL. Making sure I didn’t write them off too quickly in my effort to keep moving forward. And writing my new book at a pace that is fair to me.

I work my ass off to make sure every one of my books is something to be proud of. I deserve to see their titles up in lights, to celebrate them and give them their day in the sun. Because as rewarding as it is to finish a novel, it should be more rewarding to see it come to life.

Time to give my Frankenstein’s monsters a little mouth to mouth.

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Becoming One With The Animal

TODAY’S BREW: Deviled Eggs. Around the clock.

By Julie

Naturally, on the day of the Resurrection, I worked on the dirtiest book ever written about possession, THE ANIMAL. And guess what?

I FINISHED EDITING THAT BOOK AND NOW IT IS READY FOR YE OLDE AGENTE TO ENJOY.

A) Ye Olde Agente is not actually old. For the record.

B) We pray to defiled Egyptian sex gods that he actually does enjoy it.

C) I miss Trent already.

D) Now I get to write NEW THINGS.

So, today is extremely exciting for MEEEEEEEEEEEE. After a lovely Easter, I get to spend the day today with my family at the zoo, because CELEBRATION TIME and there is no better way to treat me than to bring me to the zoo then let me get a new book.

(Speaking of which, I just finished UNEARTHLY by Cynthia Hand, and you need to read this book. Looks like it would be cliche, I know but it is so good. Go do it.)

When I finished the first draft of THE ANIMAL, what feels like ten years ago, it was hard for me. (See also Breaking Up With Trent: Finishing The Animal http://wp.me/p2x7oj-kK via ). I couldn’t even listen to the song I fell in love with while writing that book because it reminded me too much of Trent.

THIS TIME I FEEL NOTHING BUT JOY.

The book is ready for the world, and I’m ready to start something new. The NEW THING is itching at my brain, and I’m dying to dive into it.

But for now,  CELEBRATION. Here! Listen to the song that makes me think of Trent and now I can listen to it without crying.

 

Also, this is Trent. Right down to the white tee shirt because he won’t wear any other color. Not clean enough.

Keanu Reeves

keanu... There's The Animal himself

Trent on the inside.

 

Anna Christina Speckhart is Ivy, no ifs ands or buts about it.

Little sister, Ivy. Fearsome thing that she is.

 

 

This is a Candy face right here.

And Candy, who I possibly love as much as Trent.

 

Editing For The Big Thing

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut Red Velvet. I made it myself.

By Julie

I’m an editing machine. You may know this. Generally, I’m always editing two books; one of my own and one for a client.

My specialty is developmental editing, and by that I mean ensuring the book has real substance. That the characters are multidimensional, the plot is multidimensional, that there’s themes and language that is singularly the author’s. Whether it’s my book or someone else’s, it’s a needle in a haystack search often to see what exactly is the Big Thing that needs All the Attention, and identifying this is what I find makes for a successful edit or not. Figuring out this thing may help you, too, in all your editing adventures. Because like anything in writing, have a loose plan is critical.

Here’s how I break down what the editing needs to consist of:

IS THERE A CRAP TON OF WORDS TO CUT, OR ARE WE LOOKING TO ADD WORD COUNT?

Some writers typically underwrite, get their barest thoughts on paper without much embellishment, and that requires beefing up of the text. This does not mean adding a bunch of fluff words, describing things that don’t goddamn matter, or giving us a bunch of conversations that just don’t need to exist. When adding to text, look to add dimension, not filler. Look for the Big Thing you want to expand on and devote the additional text to it.

Other writers have a crap ton of words and need to lose 20,000 of them. That usually means there is already the description of things that don’t goddamn matter, a bunch of conversations that don’t need to exist, and a bunch of fluff words. What I seek to do now is lose unsophisticated wording to cut words while digging for what  the Big Thing is we need to surface and expand on. It’s not about cutting words to make it shorter, it’s about using the right words and spending them wisely on things that matter.

 

DETERMINE WHAT THE HELL THE BIG THING IS.

There’s never just one thing that needs to be focused on while editing, but there is a Big Thing which you then surround with Little Things that make it that much Bigger of a Thing. When you don’t know what the hell it is your book needs, think of this stuff:

  • What is the thing I’ve done that is balls-out awesome and needs to be exploited? You may have a character that is so intensely original in its philosophy that the whole book rightfully revolves around him or her. But right now you have too many fucking words to really allow that. It may be that your humor is a real page turner, and you need to make it really mean something to the characters, the story. You might be awesome at action scenes, and need to make the characters as exciting as your action scenes. Figure out the thing that you LOVE about your book and make it bigger.
  • What is the book missing? It just doesn’t have that book-hangover-potential, even though you poured your heart into it. It doesn’t quite make the reader feel like they just don’t have the emotional energy to get out of the book’s world, and you want that. You want your reader to not be able to pick up another book for a day or two minimally. You may be missing one of these things:  A) Characters that feels intensely real.  B) themes that make your reader think and feel like there’s more happening than just what’s happening.  C) Intensity. Scenes that reek of tension.  Now, refer back to the thing you do well. How can you use THAT to make the thing you didn’t do well rock the fucking socks off the reader? Leverage your strength to improve your weakness.

START FROM THE BEGINNING.

Hopefully you’ve determined the things you want to change, expand on, and cut. Which one is the Big Thing? (Hint: It’s pretty much always revolving around your main character.) The Big Thing is your non-negotiable, this has to come across clearly and hit-you-in-the-fucking-facely item of business. For instantce, in THE ANIMALthe Big Thing I need to edit for is making certain that the reader knows Trent’s singular predicament is very definitely ripping his already messy life to tinier shreds. All of the edits I do henceforth have to work toward that big goal. And I mean EVERY EDIT. Every line has to evoke the feeling of it. My Smaller Things are that I want the theme of ancient Egypt to be strong, and I want Trent to be complex and contradictory. So, my Egyptian imagery should be calm and serene when Trent is at his most frantic. All birds, one stone. The theme is there, and it’s stark contrast should show that Trent is an emotional mess. It will turn out to be a series of very small changes that will make a huge impact on the overall feeling of the book.

I personally find that when I use this excuse for an editing formula, I don’t ever have to make enormous, drasitc changes to books, whether they be my own or a client’s. A series of well-planned tweaks will make your manuscript feel less like a pieced together bit of pretty roadkill and more like a work of systematic art.

What do you guys do while editing? What works for you? Give me your answers, people!

Painfully And Unapologetically Yourself: How To Do It Without Being A Jerk

TODAY’S BREW: Tastes like coffee. I think it’s coffee. It’s hot and I need it. That’s what she said.

By Julie

I wear a shit ton of hats. They don’t all always work together. Sometime preschool teacher’s aid at my son’s preschool, former Panty Peddler In Chief and corporate propaganda monkey, PTA member and writer of vampire books, lover of offensive horror and smut and punk rock and fishnets and leather and I also read to first graders. I’m watching Bubble Guppies while writing scenes about threesomes with strangers. I looked like a pretty, pretty princess in my wedding dress and my bridesmaids were covered in tattoos, my guests consisting of former bosses and pro BMX riders and elderly aunts and a dude wh0 makes his own leather body armor that he never removes. I drink like a fish sometimes, but I’m the most responsible person you know.

Talking with The Undead Intern Sara and Kristen about how much of yourself do you let leak into public, I’m a little extreme. Twitter, for example. I talk regularly with everyone from my friend’s little sister who’s obsessed with Nikki Minaj or whoever the hell she is to one of the most successful literary agents in the UK to gamer geeks to kids to old dudes and renowned authors to dominants and submissives and everything in between. I like who I like. Everyone has something to offer, and I connect with a lot of different people. Because I have a lot of different conflicting qualities in myself.

One thing that never ceases to make me say “hmmmmm” is that THE ANIMAL is pretty dirty. THE HARPY is edgy, racy, offensive at times. I’m sure I’ll write something else that makes the world shudder. That’s sort of my thing. I don’t plan to ever use a pen name because my brand is that I keep you guessing, that I give you what you wouldn’t expect, that I make you think and be uncomfortable, and find comfort in places you wouldn’t dream of.

What do you think my kids will think of that when their friends are old enough to know what I think about and write about for a living? I never want to HURT anyone, least of all my children. I never want to cause them embarassment or make them uncomfortable. I still haven’t worked out what exactly that will mean when my kids are in middle school. But I try to keep in mind that I shouldn’t underestimate the ability of people to handle what you give them. If I raise my kids to know anything, I want them to know that they should like what they like and make no apologies for it. They should pursue what makes them happy, no matter who disapproves. That appropriate is a state of mind, and handled intelligently and conscientiously, is both honest and accepting. That being who you want to be doesn’t always mean you’ll have to defend yourself.

I’ve gained more acceptance from people I would never expect by being unapologetically honest in what I say and do. I don’t hold back, but I don’t offend. I think before I act, but I don’t restrict myself. I make sure that what I say and do matters, and that I don’t just release the inner idiocy for the sake of FUCK YOU, I DO WHAT I WANT. There’s a difference between being offensive, inappropriate, and a leader. A leader has reasons. A leader has a greater vision and a duty to themselves. and wants you to come along for the ride. A leader accepts the faults in themselves, the chinks in the chain, and revels in yours, sees your oddities as assets, as beautiful. Your weirdness intoxicates the right people, inspires them. Be the person that sees the inner freak and says, “I like it. Keep it coming.” You, yourself are a work of art before you create one. Own your eccentricities and remember that the person you’re looking at, talking to? The middle grade kid, the IRS agent, the dog walker, the cashier, the CEO, your own kid…..they all have a thing that makes them wince to reveal. Be the person they want to reveal it to. Be that leader by doing it first and smiling when they show you theirs.

I’ve learned that putting every aspect of myself in the open for all to see shows me a lot about others. I don’t ever want to be the saleslady that says “I’m not showing you this, it’s out of your price range” to the grungy kid in jeans. That grungy kid in jeans might have a pocketful of cash from their super rich mom. You don’t know anything about the person you’re looking at until you open yourself up to it. By underestimating the people you interact with, you limit yourself. Don’t be an asshole. Know that the world is full of complexitites, and every single person in it has warring identities inside them, looking to come to a peace agreement. Get to know every one of them. There was a time when if some well-to-do sophisticate asked me what my book was about, I’d find any way I could not to say “vampires.” How the hell do I know that the suit doesn’t have a secret love of classic horror? I DO NOT. So, I don’t cringe anymore based on what I think will be the reaction. Because if I do that, the other guy will do the same thing about the thing he’s self-conscious about, and it’s one more nail in the coffin of being honest and confident in who you are.

I may have answered some of my own concerns in writing this. When I inevitably go to the parent-teacher meeting where my stuffy neighbor says “What filth have you written this time, Juie?” I’ll probably say, “the kind of filth you and a lot of people want to read.” It doesn’t mean that I even have interest in doing the things I write about. I don’t want to have a threesome with strangers in a restaurant bathroom. But I do want to write about the darkest corners of my characters’ minds, push them and make them utterly real in that they do things they’re ashamed of, do things that they regret.  I’ll apologize for hurting someone, but I will not apologize for who I am and what my interests are, and where my imagination takes me. I hope that translates well when some kid shows up with a copy of THE ANIMAL in Bennett’s high school classroom.

Sin Is The Writer’s Element

TODAY’S BREW: The blood of Juan Valdez

By Julie

SIN IS THE WRITER’S ELEMENT

–Francois Mauriac

I love sin. That undeniable darkness of the heart that makes a good person turn to their worst selves and indulge them. These are the best characters, and often the best people. The kind who understand that there’s no straight line in the world, only lines that get you to your endgame faster.

Probably too often, I’ve said how “nice” people don’t generally do anything for me. Anyone can be nice. I want real. I want every imperfection of the people/characters I care about laid out to me. It’s that kind of exposure of the inner demon that makes me trust people, makes me a better person for seeing their honesty with their flaws and the struggle to accept them.

Loving sinners is why I’m a writer, in part. I want to see the dark and dirty of everyone, and when I can’t get it, or need to put my own out there in not so many words, I create that persona. I do my best to make a sinner that’s just like you, in one way or another.

I’m doing a deeper round of research on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for Trent, the main character in THE ANIMAL. My initial research gave me all the facts I needed to make sure that his disorder was realistic, and respectful of those who suffer from it. This round, though…..I’ve been reading OCD forums online, hearing the horrors that some of those who are afflicted with OCD suffer. Their bravery in the face of their own irrational thoughts of violence is more painful than I can wrap my head around. My heart was ripped in half plenty of times as I observed these conversations, making me tear up even now. People who get stuck on a terrible image of some awful act they would never probably do, and the guilt that literally keeps them awake at night. Living with thoughts of murder, pedophilia, bestiality….more unimaginable things than you could conceive of….it makes me think harder about the nature of OCD. In every one of these forum chats, the people who suffer these thoughts despise them. They have often just as many obsessive thoughts that cause them to check in constantly with loved ones to be sure they haven’t been hurt. It’s the difference between the people that commit these crimes and those who suffer the thoughts of them. There is no temptation to actually commit them. The sufferers are revolted by the images that overtake their minds, like they’ve been forced to watch the most disturbing part of a movie about themselves over and over and over. Naturally, this leads to extreme guilt and the questions of am I a pedophile if this vision pops in my head over and over? Am I a murderer if it’s all I can think of doing? 

The other symptoms of OCD, the ones we all know of like compulsive hand-washing, for instance, provide only the most momentary relief from the obsessive thought. Committing the crime wouldn only make the afflicted feel worse. Most sufferers of OCD work hard at keeping their obsessions and compulsions a secret, lending to it worsening over time. The folks that I’ve read in the forum chats were desperate to tell someone about their thoughts in hopes it would help expel them, some even asking if they could turn themselves in to the police for crimes they haven’t, and would more often never, commit.

Their heart-wrenching stories have helped me see deeper into Trent’s obsessions and compulsions, and exposed his heart to me even further. I already loved him for his duality, his reserved depth, his fears and memories, and learning more about the disorder has made me wildly protective and closer to him. (Not to mention making me cry uncontrollably for the sufferers of OCD more times than I can say.) Knowing the sins in Trent’s heart, and more so how he wants to triumph over them, makes him a hero to me in his fictional life that’s not quite fictional in my mind.

Sin has a different meaning to everyone, but for all of us it holds a trepidation of what one could do, what we may be capable of. The writer’s job is to explore the worst case scenario of sin. Sure, we need to commit plenty of sins, too. (SIDENOTE: I HAVE NOT AND WILL NOT COMMIT ANY OF THE SINS/CRIMES IN THE ANIMAL.) Being all good all the time is A) zero fun  B) the worst kind of dishonesty with yourself  C) inhibiting and painful. So, yeah, a little debauchery is perfectly fine with me. Doing the wrong thing sometimes, yep, totally cool. But what if it went further? What if it became a monster in your own heart? This is the fear that the writer examines, and what makes for a character that we feel for.

Giving into the sinful side and being oppressed by thoughts of committing sins that disgust you are two different things. One is choice, and one is illness. It’s where these two things intersect that have helped me create THE ANIMAL. But there are plenty of sins out there to see, and writers, don’t turn your back on them.

If you need to talk about obsessive thoughts and compulsions, contact  1-800-950-NAMI (6264), the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Or search OCD forums to talk to others who can help you.

Immersion vs. Obsession

TODAY’S BREW: More coffee than you can even believe exists considering I have to deal with this dinosaur laptop.

By Julie

Since finishing the edits on RUNNING AWAY, a book that took me 6 months to write, all in all, I’ve been able to look up from the laptop and really enjoy the world around me without those characters fighting for my attention in my mind. It’s been great to read a book without all but timing myself to make sure I don’t waste too much editing time, to go to the park with the kids and Tim and not feel like I was taking an unauthorized work break, to watch movies and play games and enjoy the simplicity of my life outside of my head.

Hacking away at the jungle that was RUNNING AWAY was incredibly involved and time consuming. I’m not accustomed to having to dig through so much information without just starting from scratch, which is so much easier. I was a missing person on Twitter, have not checked Facebook for weeks, missed working out at the gym a few times, haven’t returned phone calls, and haven’t been what you’d call Susie Homemaker around the house. I pored over every sentence in that book, careful to make sure nothing seemed transitory, a means to an end, or superflous. I committed myself until I felt like I might need to be committed, if you know what I mean.

I entirely own that my editing and writing process borders on obsession. Such is the way of life when you live inside your own imagination.

“Bordering” on obsession for me means that I do and can stop myself, eventually from letting the process consume me. I read for an extensive time to my boys every night, I make sure to eat meals and not snack like a fiend, to work out pretty regularly. I take time all day long to hug my kids, talk to them about what they’re doing, to cuddle with Tim, and be part of this family. I make sure that while my family knows I’m entrenched in my work, that it’s making me better, not deteriorating me. That’s the difference between being immersed in your work and obsessing with it; does it improve you and and itself, or does it tear you apart?

Now that I’m working on THE ANIMAL again, it feels like spring is all around me. The timing has been perfect. RUNNING AWAY begged for me to be trapped inside with snow piling up against the windows, delving deep inside my head. This book is streamlined, and only asks me to tell the reader more, show the inner workings more, not weed through a tangle to pull out what’s necessary. Writing Trent Dixon feels like a release, for both him and I. He’s a character with more inside him that needs expulsion than just the god that’s possessed him. He suffers from OCD, deeply rooted in his painful past, and being along for the ride that he brings us on is intense. Trying to free Trent’s obsessions is the best way to immerse myself in my work without letting my work pull me apart.

I’m happy that my work isn’t something I just HAVE to do, it’s something I WANT to do. The need to write these books and perfect them is only seconded by my desire to do it. It doesn’t run away with me, I’m the one in control. I can be obsessed with immersing myself in them, and never have to tell the two apart, and I ache to do it for the rest of my life. Healthy or not, it’s a passion I can’t live without, and one I don’t intend to.

 

Hard and Fast Ahead

TODAY’S BREW: Coconute Creme Cheap Stuff that tastes like caffeinated rainbows.

By Julie

I AM SO EXCITED IT’S LIKE THAT TIME WHEN YOU FIRST DISCOVERED ATARI GAMES AND YOU DIDN’T LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR LIKE 6 MONTHS OH IS THAT JUST ME?

PEOPLE. The editing on RUNNING AWAY is oooovvveeeeer.

This book took way longer than I expected. I came to terms with the fact that it was going to take as long as it needed to. I made sure not to slack on it, I worked on it every day with the occasional necessary break. It was a long-hauler, but I think the product of it was worth it. I worked hard at expanding the Japanese mythology without letting it run away needlessly on me. I introduced new characters with real precision and purpose, some of which you’ll love, some you’ll hate, and some you’ll wish you didn’t love quite so much. And I think I’ve set up some trails to follow into the final book of the trilogy.

Of course, the debilitating fear that I’ve written ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY 120,000 times is on high frequency.

SO, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING NOW, JULIE?

Don’t look at me like that, I don’t ever stop.

RUNNING AWAY is being read by a few folks who I desperately seek the opinion of. You know who you are. While I throw up hourly awaiting their reactions, I’m busting out ye olde manuscript, THE ANIMAL, and fine tuning that dirty thing to send to my illustrious agent, Eric Ruben, Esquire. Then, I shall throw up again, awaiting to see what he thinks of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with THE ANIMAL, it’s a little different from RUNNING HOME. A little bit. *clears throat* *checks for mother’s whereabouts on internet*

THE ANIMAL is about Trent Dixon, a womanizing Boston banker with OCD, who becomes possessed by a defiled Egyptian fertility god. Filth ensues.

Filth is part of the story, but it is not THE story. And I think you’ll fall in love with Trent the way I did, and suffer from PTSD….Post Trent Stress Disorder…when you finish with him.

If you want to meet The Animal, you can be offended here: http://wp.me/p2x7oj-hc.

Getting down and dirty with Trent requires a little bit of a gear switch, so I’m giving myself a day to recuperate from Eliza and Nicholas and all our new buddies in RUNNING AWAY, and then I’m diving into the dirt. Prepare yourselves, Trent brings you for many bumpy…rides.

My fear of what The People will think of both of these books is trumped by my excitement over having written them. A firm believer in WRITE THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO WRITE OR EVERYTHING BREAKS, I have to think that anything I feel so passionately about will find an audience. That my intensity over these projects will show through. I get only more intense about my work the longer I do it, so to give you THE ANIMAL, and then to start by the end of the month work on my first attempt at Young Adult is really exciting for me, and I hope it will exite you all, too. Not in a sexual way. Not all the time. Sometimes in a sexual way.

Branding Vs. Bite Me, I Write What I Want

TODAY’S BREW: A lot.

By Julie

Edits on RUNNING AWAY will be finished by March first, and while my beta readers dig in, I move on to the next project.

And with that, comes the initial worry of, “Well, shit. My readers aren’t ready for this.”

RUNNING AWAY feels very cohesive in character to RUNNING HOME to me, as well it should. The few people who have read THE HARPY, which is currently on submission to publishers, got an eyeful of Charity Blake, who, shall we say, has quite a bit more edge than Ellie Morgan. Charity would as soon give you the finger as make out with you in public.

March’s project is final edits on a book that I’ve let sit for a while, waiting for me. And it’s as different from THE HARPY as that book is from RUNNING HOME. There has been an excerpt or two on Deadly Ever After of THE ANIMAL, and it’s certainly not going to be for everyone. Erotic, aggressive, and in some parts probably offensive, it very well may not appeal to the same readers as RUNNING HOME. I have to wonder if I’m broadening my horizons or upsetting my readers by giving them Trent and Min, and all the debauchery the two are capable of.

The best part? Today’s plan is plotting my newest book, and man alive have I struggled with whether or not I should write this. Because naturally, the progression from Japanese vampires to a bitter, vengeful, punk Harpy, to an obsessive compulsive man possessed by a defiled sex god is straight to young adult. Naturally.

Yeah, that’s right. The adventures of an Egyptian sex god and the beginning of a young adult novel, all in the same month. Right after that, I might be making INSCRIPTION, my short horror story series that never seems to go away into a full length novel. And THAT features a teenage boy. So YA horror.

My mantra is to write the book you have to write. Don’t listen to what the trends are, don’t worry about what the Joneses are writing. Write the book that itches at your soul like a wound that won’t quite heal, and there will be an audience for it. Anything that ignites that much passion in you is going bleed onto the page, and that kind of power gets heard. I firmly believe it.

But then you’ve got the other side of life, which is branding. Am I making myself unpredictable? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Am I right in relying on my voice and unique style to carry me through these wild ideas I have and make them have mass appeal based on that alone? Am I right in thinking that if the author connects with readers now more than ever, then my readers will expect me to write something unexpected, wild, often brash and always strong? Is it me selling the story, or the story running off without me?

What are your thoughts on sticking to the straight and narrow as opposed to giving all your work the attention you think it deserves? HELP ME, PEOPLE, I’M DYING.

 

 

Creativity In The Face Of Depression

TODAY’S BREW: Autumn Roast. Don’t tell me it’s not Autumn, you think I don’t know that?

By Julie

A couple of days ago a friend sent out a public tweet asking what writers do to stay creative in the face of depression, full time jobs and being full time parents. A lot of people answered her, and fast, because it seems as though there has to be an element of downtrodden to every writer, and yet we don’t know quite how to battle it.

Except you do. Every day, and with great vigor.

I tweeted this: I KNOW A LOT OF WRITERS ARE DEPRESSED, ISOLATED, EXHAUSTED AND SOMETIMES JUST AFRAID. WE NEED EACH OTHER.

The fact that writers reach out to each other, and still pick up the pen when they can barely get off the couch for a cup of coffee is a monumental achievement of creativity, especially when they’ve already endured a seemingly endless work day, or unemployment, and trying to maintain a normal family life with the worries of day to day life on the side. Trying to stick to a writing schedule when you’re at the mercy of everyone else’s schedule first is depressing in itself. The sheer desire to write after all that is an amazing achievement.

When I worked a full time job, and let me tell you, it was extra super full time, and had children that I felt guilty not spending every waking second with, writing was the thing that I waited for in the deep heart of the night. It wasn’t hard for me to write then because I was already going on so many cylinders that adding another one wasn’t a problem. I did it. And I loved doing it. I didn’t recognize the depression I was in because I didn’t give myself time to. (This isn’t a “how to overcome” method, just what happened to me.)

*PREPARE FOR GROSS PERSONAL STORY*

In the meantime, I was sleeping for a few hours a night, crying on my way to work and throwing up when I got there from the exhaustion and missing my children. even grosser, I suffereddebilitating chronic ulcerative colitis that had me bleeding all day long. Medication wasn’t helping, and in fact at one point actually nearly killed me, hospitalizing me with a side effect of pancreatitis. (I realize I talk about drinking pretty often and that this is a primary cause of pancreatitis. The fact is that I drink not that much. Socially, maybe twice a month back then.) The point is, you don’t always see depression for what it is, and when you look back on it, you don’t really understand it anyway.

When I couldn’t take it anymore, when I was so sick that I couldn’t focus, and my boss and management staff had an intervention with me because they knew I couldn’t do it any longer, I left my job to my financial horror. It was a matter of survival at that point, and I really felt I couldn’t survive much longer away from my kids all day. That was when I decided to make a go of it doing a bit of an odd job on the side and really throwing myself into my writing, the thing I wanted to do since I was a child. The thing I went to school for. The thing that kept my mind alive when no other part of me really was.

Yes, this was a freeing feeling, but it sent me into a depression that was really hard to come out of. I still fall into it frequently. I still have consecutive days where I go through the motions, and the guilt wracks me that I just don’t want to go to the park with the kids, and I just don’t feel like getting off the couch, and I can’t seem to do much of anything but nap. The worst of it, I think, is the sudden feeling over and over in a day that you can’t not cry. Standing in Target with the kids running circles and the music and the normal people, I sometimes struggle not to cry. Doing the dishes, thinking of all the small things that seem like mountains, I cry. I cry spontaneously, and wonder how anyone sees me as a role model for anything at all. I’ll be having a great day, laughing, enjoying every minute, and I will cry. I can’t explain it, but can only think it’s because I missed having that feeling for so long when I wouldn’t let myself live these feelings, when I pushed and pushed and refused to think that I could possibly be depressed. Why, I was an optimist! Still am! I’m eternally thankful, and say so all the time! I love and am loved, and hug strangers for chrissakes!

But I’ve realized that suffering depression is a depth of emotion. That whole you can’t have light without darkness thing.  It doesn’t make depression easier, but it does help me understand that I can be a happy person in the midst of depression, without being a manic depressive.

And I take great pleasure these days in feeling all of my emotions. They fuel me. Depression and anxiety, (and on my best of days I have crippling anxiety) are some of the most primal emotions I think you can have. So I own them. I don’t push them away the way I once did. Sure, I don’t love or even like them, but I don’t ignore them. The best way for me to do this, is to write.

One of my most painful depressions was last year in December. It consumed me. After weeks of not writing anything, and not wanting to get out of bed, I finally said, “Fuck this, I’m just going to sit down and write something. Just type whatever comes to mind, just do it.” And I did. I blanked my mind out, which wasn’t hard to do because nothing I was thinking was of any value anyway, and I wrote this line:

Everything reeked of sex to me. 

Then I wrote another line, and another, and I had no idea where it was going, but I kept writing until I’d written a book. THE ANIMAL, which has yet to see the light of day, is one of the closest things to my heart.

So, if this is an advice blog on how to stay creative in the face of depression? I guess this is where I’m going with it.

  1. DON’T PLAN, JUST WRITE. You’re at your most feeling-est right now. If you plan, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot and think your plan is a failure anyway. Depression is a time for spitting out words, a word association sort of thing, even if they don’t make sense together. You might stumble upon one image or phrase that sparks an idea that snaps you out of your depression because you’re so amped about it.
  2. ADMIT YOU’RE DEPRESSED. Say it out loud, to whoever you want to, but especially to those you love and if you’re me, to the people on Twitter. So, one in the same often. Denying it, like you’ve done something wrong, is cancerous. And you’ll be shocked when dozens of people say “oh my God, I thought I was alone.” Suddenly, you feel a lot better.
  3. BE PART OF A WRITING COMMUNITY. I hear they have these things on Facebook, but Twitter is the only place for me. To be able to drop a line any time I want and just say, “hey, anybody upset for no reason and want to write?” and get several responses? This is invaluable to me. (Try @FriNightWrites, or search these hashtags: #amwriting, #writeclub, #amediting). WE NEED EACH OTHER, WRITERS. You are not a lonely little tadpole in a big pond. You are one of many. Get out of your own head, it’s toxic in there right now.
  4. TAKE A WRITING BREAK. Yes, this is contradictory to what I said before, but this isn’t a play by play list! It’s ideas for fuck’s sake! You can’t get up the gumption to write? Fine. Don’t. Maybe you’re burnt out. Or maybe you’re just waiting for someone to say it’s okay not to be awesome right now. Or maybe you’re waiting for the chance to say, “What the hell do you mean, take a break? I have to write!” AND OH, LOOK. NOW YOU WANT TO WRITE. Or maybe you need a couple of days or weeks off to remind yourself that not writing sucks for you. BECAUSE YOU’RE A WRITER.
  5. OWN THIS FEELING AND APPLY IT WHERE NEEDED. This is what I mean. I was having a baaaad couple of days, and I felt abandoned. Totally abandoned. I pulled out the sequel to RUNNING HOME and wrote “This is the feeling of abandonment Eliza has.” She was with Nicholas, but felt alone. She felt reckless, isolated, alone. So if I felt that way, then score! It counts as research.
  6. STOP LOOKING WHERE THERE IS NOTHING. Stop looking for this fucking muse. I hate the muse. Your inspiration has left the building. Go to another building. You usually gain inspiration from a long walk but right now all you want to do is drive pointlessly? Drive somewhere you’ve never been. Look for inspiration in new places, because you cannot be endlessly inspired by the same goddamn thing over and over.
  7. TOO DEPRESSED TO DO ANY OF THESE THINGS? Then right where you’re sitting, I want you to pick up a pen and one of the candy bar wrappers you’re sitting in and describe the scene around you. “The orange blanket was so gnatty it looked like a beaten muppet. The dog curled up in it and made it smell worse. The notebook lied open, asking for attention it wasn’t going to get. The crumpled up tissues were everywhere and it humiliated me.” It doesn’t have to be gold, but it gets the ball rolling. I promise you, if all else fails you, this works EVERY SINGLE TIME. Writing is excercise for your brain, no matter what kind of writing it is.
  8. STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE. GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GET SOME EXCERCISE. Walking the mall may sound like climbing Mount Everest right now, so instead, do 2 jumping jacks. Do a couple of lunges as you walk to the kitchen. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as you do this stuff. Trust me. Make a triangle with your hands, place them around your belly button and breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, as you stand up on your tiptoes. This calms you and moves your body at once. Little things like this help, I swear to Christ.
  9. READ. You know reading is inspirational. So do it. Read the book that gives you comfort when you need it. Then remember how it made you feel and write one of your own.
  10. REMEMBER THAT WHEN WE’RE EXHAUSTED, WE ARE MOST OURSELVES. Don’t let “I’m too tired” be your excuse. This is the time when you’ll say anything, kick and claw at anyone who looks at you sideways. So write, even if it’s only a line or two that don’t make sense. Embrace the exhaustion.

I do hope this helped someone, anyone. Know this, too. And Kristen, sorry if I doth say too much. But Kristen and I talk probably 5 times a week about how depressed/tired/unmotivated/crappy we feel. Every time we get together we spend like an hour doing this. Then we get productive. Laugh about it. If you need us to do this with, reach out. You know where we are. Tweet to us, drop us a line on Facebook, or leave a comment on the blog which we check way too often. We’re here for you.

Now go write a book.

How Not To Write Meaningless Stuff

TODAY’S BREW: Spiked Eggnog. Basically, I’ve been drinking it for a month

By Julie

I’m lucky enough to be reading THE SHADOW OF LIGHT by Summer Wier, a YA novel that I cannot wait to be published. We’re working on doing something you don’t hear much about—ADDING text, as she’s a sparse writer, something that I can identify with after writing THE HARPY and THE ANIMAL, and something I have to loosen up on in writing the sequel to RUNNING HOME, as that series is written with a bit more flourish.

Summer does a great job of still giving little details that tell you so much about  the characters without hitting you in the face with backstory and a lot of “she was this” and “she likes that.” Here’s the example that made me need to write this post:

“We brought your favorites—black olive and jalapeno pizza and strawberry cake.”  Faye was the only other person I knew who liked jalapenos on pizza.

I winked.  “You know me so well.”

This could have so easily been:

“We brought pizza and cake.” Faye loved pizza, and I didn’t care what I ate as long as it was edible.

“God, I’m starving.”

This is a tidbit that is absolutely meaningless in the long run. They got pizza and cake, whatever. But in Summer’s version, we see that our main character likes strong flavors, implying that she has strong opinions and probably isn’t a quiet onlooker about much of anything. I love the cheeky little wink. You also see that Faye is very close to her, that they know each other well without her having to say so.

In the two liner I wrote, it says nothing specific. It implies nothing, except that maybe this character is passive.

Take the interactions and transitions and seemingly unimportant lines in your work and make them actually say something. Remember the books you’ve read where you breeze over the more humdrum action, the cooking of things, the driving to places, the going to class or work or whatever. How could the author have made that part that probably bored them to write into a bit that has significance to the character?

An English literature major with a creative writing minor, I take this shit a little too seriously. It also means that I look to add depth where there could easily be none.

I do shit like this to keep me thinking. There’s a brown bowl on the table in front of me right now. I could say “I looked at the brown monkey bowl and lacked the initiative to put it in the sink again.” Or I could say, “the only reason I’d bother to put the bowl in the already sky-high sink was because the monkey on it looked at me like I was doing something wrong. Like my entire life revolved around what it thought, and like I should be doing something to wash the brown out of my life in general.”

Sure, not fucking Shakespeare, but I haven’t even had a second cup of coffee. You see what I mean, though? Of course you do, Smarty Pantalones.

Your work as an author is to write something that nobody else would have written. Not just could have written, but would have written. It’s your job to come up with stuff that makes us see inside the character’s minds and their hearts. There’s a level of thinking that you naturally let us in on, but what does the character feel without saying “it felt like I sucked at life.” You get it.

Thank you, Summer, for giving me inspiration again to write with more depth and complexity, and for learning about characters in the most obscure ways.

Here’s an idea. Try this with like, regular people. When you’re cashiering at Stop and Shop, what does the crappy Boba Fett Velcro wallet say about the guy in the suit who’s carrying it? That lady who never smiles no matter how many times you smile at her, what would make her smile? Who took it away from her?

Long story short, be active in your work and interactions. It’s more fun that way.


You can find Summer at http://t.co/MgTqtKYFe6 and follow her on Twitter @SummerWier.

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