Why Are Writers So Sensitive?

Being able to accept criticism as a writer is vital if you want to have a writing career. People love being critics. They love having opinions, often regarding things they know nothing about, and they especially love knocking other people down. A writer who wants to be published has to be resilient. But why are writers so sensitive?

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In my case, it’s because of what writing entails. Isn’t writing a book just like crocheting an afghan or baking a pie? You just make something—right? No, not at all. Writing is opening up a door in your soul and carving people out of whatever you find there. So, when someone criticizes your work, they aren’t saying they disliked some nouns and verbs strung together in Arial or New Times Roman—they are saying they looked into your soul and found it lacking.

Recovering from a blow like that is hard. I think if/when this happens, your book simply hasn’t found the right audience. It’s like falling in love. Sometimes the people you get involved with are complete idiots who don’t appreciate you. If you’re lucky, you find someone who does.

Another reason I’m sensitive about my works is that the characters are real people to me. It’s like if someone put your best friend in a beauty pageant and judged how she walks and looks in a bathing suit. Friends have positive attributes that go far beyond bathing suits. I take long walks with my characters, having meaningful conversations with them. Often, I lean on them when I need support.

Although I write faster these days, produce a different genre of books, and have learned to pay more attention to things like story arcs and plot outlines, I spent years writing my epic fantasy books. I don’t regret the time I spent with them. I was learning how to write. More importantly, I needed that world and those characters at that particular time in my life. Lycian helped me cope with the deaths of my cousins who were like my brother and sister, the death of my grandmother who was primarily responsible for raising me, a miscarriage, and the deaths of two familiars. He was a kind, quiet companion. Aside from my husband, he was my best friend during that period. I needed him, and I’m glad I had him.

Currently, I’m working on a new m/m romance (it’s a mystery romance!) and am absolutely in love with the main characters. Even as I lose myself in the bliss of writing, I’m preparing for how my characters will be judged, how my world will be reduced to so many stars, and how some people will simply not understand it. That’s okay. I love the characters; I like the work (so far), and I know there will be some people out there who will enjoy it. I’m writing it for myself and those people.

 

The Most Romantic Thing

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Some people roll their eyes when you mention romance. They don’t consider it serious literature. They probably don’t consider it very important in their relationships. It’s frivolous, right? It’s a box of chocolates and some rose petals.

I don’t think so. I write romances, mostly gay romances, so maybe I’m biased. There was a time when I didn’t believe much in romance, either. But I married a terrifically romantic guy who has convinced me that romance is real. Here’s possibly the most romantic thing he has ever done.

We bought a large glazed pot with a beautiful interior. The interior was so beautiful, in fact, that we chose not to plant anything in it. It sat out on our back porch and looked pretty. One day, I noticed the little dried up husk of a lizard in the pot. I was horrified. I love animals and hated the thought that this little creature had died in agony, trapped in my beautiful pot, unable to climb out the slick sides. I told my husband, in tears, about my grisly discovery.

The next day, I found a strange collection of junk in the pot. Someone (my husband) had made an escape ladder out of stones and sticks. I’ve never loved anyone more than I loved him at that moment. I felt heard, validated, and loved. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

Romance doesn’t have to be awkward poetry and candlelight. It’s about listening to someone you love, making his needs important, and taking action out of love. These things are powerful. They keep our hearts open to the people near us, making our relationships stronger.

So, no, I don’t think there’s anything frivolous about romance. I think it’s vital to a healthy relationship and important to life, itself. I think it’s significant as a genre, as well, and every bit as important as fantasies or mysteries or sci fi or whatever else.

Following a Story Where it Leads

magicalhorseSome writers are pantsers. They ‘fly by the seats of their pants’ and write what they feel at a given moment. I’m more of a plotter. Usually, I come up with a couple of characters and start imagining situations they could be in. I mull things over until a few scenes really gel, then I make a rough outline and start writing. I’m a control freak. I need to have some idea where all of the bits and pieces go before I can lose myself in the writing.

The new story I’m working on has decided to make me crazy. I’ve never written a mystery, but I thought it would be fun to write a gay mystery romance. I’ve never written a historical. So, why not a gay mystery historical romance? I actually did a significant amount of research for my epic fantasy series, and I enjoy research, so I thought researching this new book would be a lot of fun. Ha! The story had other ideas….

I thought I understood my story. I thought I knew what it was going to be about. I had a spiffy outline that told me what I wanted to hear. But my research turned up new things. Horrible things. Things I thought I knew, thought I understood, but….um…no. The world I’m writing about is so much darker and more frightening than I imagined–and I chose the area because it always frightened me as a child. I chose the era because it seemed like a spooky period, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My research turned my pathetic little outline on its ear. The story is morphing, growing into some hungry new beast. It’s thrilling, honestly. Is this why pantsers get so starry-eyed when talking about their process? I, because I’m still a stodgy control freak, am slavishly bleeding out another outline. Being thrown into the briars was fun, however.

I have an ambitious project to tame. I imagine it will throw me again when it feels bored. For the moment, I’m excited by where it has taken me.

 

The Fur Coats

Authors often talk about what music they listen to while writing, but what do their characters listen to? In my new gay romance, Zen Alpha, the two main characters get their blood pumping with the pop punk sound of Austin’s The Fur Coats. Ward listens to them every morning before work, where he teaches autistic children. On this particular day, he and Bradley listen to them after a long night looking for a lost cat.

Check out The Fur Coats here and wake up!

Zen Alpha

My new book Zen Alpha is now available on Amazon! Zen Alpha is a steamy M/M romance. It’s free with Kindle Unlimited.

When his domineering stock broker boyfriend goes too far, Bradley wonders if his flexible, mindful neighbor might be just what he needs.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Change

eye-color-change-2852261_640Since I published His Dungeon Discovery a couple of months ago, I’ve been trying to write an urban fantasy m/m romance. Initially, I was very excited. I had been thinking about it for a while and was happy to dive into it.

But then it stopped being fun.

I started worrying about what genre it actually was, because it was also sort of dystopian. I got caught up in one of the subplots–the main character’s mother has early onset dementia. My own mother is schizophrenic, so dealing with an impaired parent is a big deal for me. Perhaps for this reason, I wanted to spend more time with that aspect of the story. The romance atrophied as I wrote dialogues between my MC and his mom. The story spun out of control, and I grew increasingly depressed by it. I would hide from it for days at a time.

So I set it aside. I started writing a contemporary m/m romance with a couple of fun characters. It’s a simple, straightforward romance with a hint of humor. I’m ten chapters in and I’m glad I made the switch. Since I started working on the new story, I’ve gone back to writing every day. I have scenes going in my head at all times; the characters are talking to me. I’m happy again.

For whatever reason, the last project just wasn’t working for me. I want to go back to it someday, but I need to be in a better frame of mind to grapple with it. So, if you’re a writer who’s stuck on a certain piece, try taking a break from it and working on something else. You might find, not only solace, but a great story.