Monday, October 06, 2008
It's Me, Eh!
For those of you who swear that this book I've been talking about for over a year does not actually exist outside the boundaries of my delusional mind, (I know you're out there!!;)) I now have proof. Please join me in singing the Canadian National Anthem as you click on this link to WINGS on Amazon Canada!!! Yay!!!!! And even cooler (to me) is that if you follow this link, you will find my nine copy floor display on sale. (I've never seen such a thing before, I'm not really sure why it's there . . . but it's AWESOME!!) So yes, I am in much glee this evening as I see the first genuine proof that someday, this book is actually going to be on sale somewhere in a galaxy far, far away . . . I mean in Canada. Go Canada!! (And yes, for those of you who are wondering just how weird I am, this is the actual "No Image Available" Image from my listing.:D)
I am seriously sitting here with a huge, sappy grin on my face. *squee!!*
Okay, and for the actual post of the day, I want to talk about cooking.
Yes, that's right, cooking.
When I first got married, I thought I was a great cook. I was such a great cook, I didn't even need recipes. I just mixed stuff together and *I* always thought it tasted pretty good. Recipes schmecipes. The great chefs did not use recipes. Did you ever see a chef on a cooking show stop to check his recipe? It took a while for me to realize that I was the only person who liked my cooking. (My poor husband was such a trooper.) I finally realized that in order to make food that was edible to more than me (I have weird tastes . . . not that I'm picky, but that I seriously like almost everything . . . eeeevrything.) I needed recipes. So for a couple years I used recipes and discovered that company actually started saying yes when I asked them to stay for dinner. When I offerred to host events for my family people did not say, "Can I bring the meal?" they asked, "Ooh, what are you making?"
And then I moved in with my husband's mom who is not only an excellent cook, but dabbles in gourmet. (And she has gadgets. Oh my, the awesome kitchen gadgets my MIL has!) So she went beyond rudimentary cooking and taught me how to make artistic, delicate, and ethnic dishes.
And when I had those skills down, guess what happened?
I stopped using recipes as much.
There are a ton of dishes I don't use recipes for because I have them memorized. There are many, many dishes that I start with a recipe and then I change things to suit my and my family's tastes. But it's because I know how to use those recipes and which ingredients are necessary and which can be substituted out. And I have to say, my cooking has become rather famous among my family and friends. I'm very proud of that.
My husband told the recipe story the other night (he loves to tease me about those early months of marriage because I am so much better of a cook now.:)) and it struck me how much that relates to my writing. Right after my first baby was born I went from the main breadwinner to not being a breadwinner at all. And that was really hard for me. So I thought, "Well I went to school and got a degree in Creative Writing. I should write a book to help out financially; I think that is a sound plan." (I'll pause while you all laugh . . . done yet? No? Okay . . . .Okay, now we're done.) So I decided that I would write a romance. Man, I could write one at least as good as the ones I saw getting published. (Yes, more laughter, I know.)
So I came up with a story and sat down to type. And you know what I found out?? It was kind of hard. Okay, it was really hard. So I left it alone for a couple of years.
Then (I love how both stories diverge here) I moved in with my husband's parents. A surprisingly impactful turning point in my life. And I met the incredible Stephenie Meyer about three months before Twilight came out. Stephenie would talk about her writing process and she is the kind of author whose writing process is all-encompassing. I totally fell in love with the way she wrote and it made me want to take up writing again. (I love when this happens--when an author's love of writing is so contagious it makes other people want to write!)
Well, now I had a recipe! I knew how Stephenie wrote--how she got lost in her characters and breathelessly pounded out Twilight in three months because she was so obsessed she could hardly function. I could do that too! And once I got a snatch of inspiration, I did. I wrote a 100,ooo word fantasy in about three months. My characters pulled the story this way and that, I got caught up in the emotions, I spent hours a day at the computer, I had music I listened to and I found actors who looked like my main characters (sadly, Heath Ledger was always in my head when writing my main character *sniff*) because those were all elements Stephenie described and I wanted to write like she did.
Which was a good plan, basically. She had a fantastic writing recipe. We all know how well her main dishes are working out.;)
But it wasn't the right recipe for me.
So I looked at Stephenie's recipe, and tried to figure out which elements were necessary, and which would be switched out.
When I wrote WINGS, I did write it in a flurry . . . actually, I wrote the sequel in a bit of a flurry too. Three months of long days seems to work well for me. I found a story I was passionate about (that's the ingredient that NO book should be without). I have experimented with music, and sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't. I've learned that matching faces to the characters in my head isn't that helpful to me, and that I prefer to have a very firm hand on my character's reigns. I drive them through the story rather than the other way around.
And once I figured out MY writing recipe, things worked.
Your writing recipe is probably different than the both of ours.
But what are some things you can do to learn how to make a writing recipe your own??
Read. Read everything. Things in your genre, out of your genre. Be immersed in literature. Don't either be too cool for literary works, or too elite for commercial fiction. They both have value in whatever kind of lit you are writing.
Try things, see how they work out, and listen to honest feedback.
Learn from other authors. There is always someone out there more successful/better/more prolific than you. Look at what you want to be, find someone who is, and listen to them. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed attending Bill Berhardt's class. Why? Because he is more organized than me and I learned about organization from him.
Make a sunken cake. Don't be afraid of failure. If you books sucks, that's okay. You can make another one.
But don't forge ahead blindly making the same mistakes. It's okay to use a recipe. It's okay to learn from others. They will not take away from your originality, they will help you discover what your originality is.