From Kickass Un-PreRequisite to Rippling Tweakage

Dame Lili

Instead of the Snowpocalypse we feared (and that Seattle is currently suffering under the spike heel of) we’ve got rain. Lots of rain. Well, this is the Pacific Northwest, and I happen to like rain, but I wish the weather would make up its mind. Heavy wet snow yesterday, melt and easily an inch of rain today, branches down everywhere and my morning run more like a swim–oh, I know I could have used the treadmill, but Miss B was inside all day yesterday, which meant it was either get her out for a run or go to the dog park and stand in mud up to my knees. An appetizing choice, indeed.

Plus, the Little Prince became, once more, Sir Pewksalot last night. All of which is a roundabout way of saying my temper and nerves are equally frayed, and I decided on a Three Things post because if I start on a rant or two now there will be nothing but a smoking crater left where my computer used to be. (Expensive.) Not to mention with all the biting and snarling going on all over the Internet about Authors Daring To Speak, so to speak, and a rant doesn’t seem like a good idea. For lo, if I strap on my armor now and go all Don Quixote after Idiot Entitled Jerks On The Internet, I may never stop. And I’ve writing to do, so…yeah. Three things. Let’s see.

* Kickass is not a prerequisite. It’s not even a requisite. I swear to God, someday I am going to write about Milquetoast von Constipated, a potbellied, balding vampire with bowel issues who lives in Minnesota and, whenever there is an incident of violence, he *gasp* alerts the authorities! Together with his werecow buddy, Milton Morton (who is not only vegan but gets tipped every full moon), they do not fight crime willingly. Rather, they sort of bumble through and the police take care of things on their own. (As to why he has bowel issues when he’s on a liquid diet, I’ll just say, have you ever tried to live on protein shakes? HAVE YOU?)

Sounds amusing, doesn’t it? But it’s sparked by a frustration of mine: where is it written that I can’t write anything other than kickass leather-clad wiseacres? I mean, I’m very glad people connect with my kickass heroes and heroines, but that isn’t all I write, it isn’t all I am. It isn’t all the world consists of. I dislike it intensely when I write a character whose strength is internal and am immediately subjected to a “but your fans won’t recognize…” Screw that. They will recognize, and those who send me venomous screeds about how I should just stick to writing kickass chicks even though I don’t do so very well (seriously, it’s like the writers of these things all got together in a room somewhere) can just go…fly kites. Yes. Fly kites.

The point of this is: If you’re used to writing one thing, and you want to write another thing, go ahead and do it. You may have to attempt a couple times before you get a salable piece, but it will teach you things about writing that staying in your comfort zone will not. I’m fairly okay at writing angst and violence, but you know what I would really love? I would love to be talented at writing comedy. Comedy is hard effing work, it doesn’t come naturally to me. (Unless it’s bleak black macabre humor. Heh.) It doesn’t stop me from wanting and trying, and from seeking other types of characters and stories to play with. What you’re good at writing and what you want to write may be two different things, but you should try them both.

* The Levenger catalog is pure crack. I mean, their 3X5 cards are incredibly useful while revising or making grocery lists, both things I do at my computer. My bag lust is inflamed every time I see their briefcases. And, oh my God, the desk sets. The desk sets. It’s nice to reward myself with some lovely tools after slogging through a zero draft. I nerd all over their paper, and one day, one day, I will have a Levenger desk. I’ll save my pennies, by God, and I will have it.

Other things I keep within easy reaching distance while I’m writing: a statue of Ganesh writing, some Climb On creme, cell phone, tarot cards (Rider-Waites, for those curious), Moleskine notebook, a couple pads of paper both legal and Levenger, scissors, pens and sharpened pencils, rubber bands, a Keep Calm and Carry On paperweight, two pink plastic flamingos, six dictionaries, two thesauri, two visual dictionaries, assorted other reference works from encyclopedias of military arms to herbals and Jack the Ripper books. Also, two copies of Jane Eyre, plus six or seven DVDs of different treatments of Jane Eyre, and a few Wuthering Heights. (Don’t ask.) Also, tissues, ibuprofen, and Carmex. Because you never can tell.

The flamingos are for practicing dialogue with. (But that’s another blog post.)

* Beware of great ideas. “A million cat clocks! That’s a GREAT idea!” Then some of them started looking a little odd because their tails weren’t moving. And I had to find more batteries. This just goes to show you, great ideas are only great until one gets to the care, feeding, and administrivia involved. (Note: I have six cat clocks, all on my living-room wall. And I want more.)

What does this have to do with writing? Simple. Beware of great ideas. Sometimes they happen halfway through a zero draft, and you either have to go back and alter what you’ve already written to account for the Great Idea, or you just go ahead and write as if the Great Idea has been there all the time, which means the first half of revising the zero draft is likely to send you to the booze cabinet sooner rather than later. Sometimes the Great Ideas happen during revision, and one should be careful because they are like pebbles thrown into a quiet pond. (BOOT TO THE HEAD!) The ripples spread throughout the entire book, which may mean you have to go back and deal with tweaking everything before and after in subtle and overt ways. Rippling tweakage is another thing that will send you to the booze cabinet during revisions. Or to banging your head against a brick wall, whichever is handier. (Also, Rippling Tweakage is my new indie band name.)

Great ideas are great, but there is no Great Idea that fixes everything without a lot of work. If the Idea is Great Enough, the work, while frustrating, is also a process of simplification. If it’s a Mediocre Idea masquerading as Great, or even just a Garden-Variety Idea Of Some Magnitude But Hardly Greatness, well, booze cabinets and brick walls, or whatever coping mechanism works for you, STAT. It doesn’t make the Rippling Tweakage any easier, but it can dull the gnawing pain between your temples somewhat.

…I just looked at that last sentence and cannot believe I typed that. Some days, I really love my job.

Over and out!

About Lilith

Lilith Saintcrow fell in love with writing when she was ten years old. She’s been doing it ever since, through many jobs, two kids, at least eight cats, a divorce, and thousands of rejection slips. She volunteers in a bookstore for fun and is generally a boring person, despite the subject matter of her novels. You can find out more about her here.

Comments

  1. Levenger is absolutely writer porn. I put the catalog in my bathroom and thumb through it until it’s in tatters, just in time for the next one to come. (By the way, Target has come up with a system that is interchangeable with Circa, for a fraction of the price. But with not nearly as many cool accessories.)

    My favorite Levenget doo-hicky is the little ceramic disk which can be used to trim articles for magazines (or coupons from the Sunday paper). Right now I want the “briefbag” that has a special exterior pocket for my ipad…

  2. I, too, adore Levenger, especially their Circa system. Didn’t know Target had stuff that fit – I may need to check that out.

    I have a couple of Levenger bookcases. I splurged when we moved to our new house. Yes, you may envy me. :-) They are every bit as beautiful as they look in the catalogs.

  3. I have to thank you for a Great Idea (I think)… I was curious about your ganesh statue and I started browsing the Celtic statues and reading about them when I found one that would work wonderfully in a story I’d just started, which is why it is a Great Idea. No tweaking required!

    Six cat clocks?

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