May 27th, 2009


Bear caves and briar patches.

There have been a couple essays in my series of thoughts on writing dealing with the fact that people are going to be mean to you, really, people are going to be mean to you, and validation's place is at the beginning of the party, not after the book hits shelves. You may want to read them. You may not want to read them, and honestly, either way is fine by me. I wrote them, they're there, and I've said what I needed to say on the subject. What I needed to say in a constructive manner, to the writers of the world, anyway.

This is something slightly different.

All of us have people who support us. You can be the worst writer in the universe and still have a "biggest fan," because people are awesome that way. These people aren't delusional. These people aren't wrong. These people love us, and that is awesome. Much like every baby is the most adorable baby, and every bride is the most beautiful bride, every story is the most amazing story, every sentence is the most amazing sentence, and every author is absolutely the most incredible talent the world has ever seen. The things we love are better to us, because we love them. (This is why, with very few exceptions, mothers do not make good beta readers. When your mother does make a good beta reader, shower her in chocolates, flowers, and all the filial affection you can muster.)

Maybe your own personal cheerleader is your mother. Maybe it's your husband. Maybe it's your sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend, teenage offspring, or freakishly intelligent parrot. That's cool. These people are a vital component of our mental health, because these people talk us down from the clocktowers we threaten to throw ourselves off of. They're uncritical when we need them to be uncritical, and they're the ones who put us forward when we're tempted to hide.

But these people have a dark side. Sometimes, when we're crying, "No, no, don't throw me into the bear cave!", they hear "No, no, don't throw me in that briar patch!", and since they love us, they're more than happy to throw us in. So this is a message for the cheerleaders of the world:

Listen. There is a difference between "bear cave" and "briar patch." Do not ask people "so what did you think of the book?" when we're standing right there, unless you know the answer will be a positive one. The thickest-skinned author in the world isn't going to enjoy watching someone squirm with the effort of finding something nice to say, and the nicest person in the world isn't going to be at their nicest when they're cornered like a treed raccoon. Seriously, if you pinned me down and demanded that I find something nice to say about IT—which just so happens to be my favorite book in the entire universe—I'd probably look at you like a deer in the headlights, stammer, "The Turtle couldn't help us," and run. If you cannot guarantee a positive review, do not ask on our behalf. Can we ask? Sure! But much like a woman on Weight Watchers doesn't want to be force-fed cheesecake, an author doesn't want to be force-fed criticism.

On the same level, everyone has a right to their opinion. If you don't like my book, my boyfriend does not get a license to punch you in the nose. Hell, I've had stories rejected by personal friends. Rejection hurts! I don't care who you are, I don't care if you're Stephen King, rejection hurts! My friends don't go out of their way to hurt me, but when I send Jennifer a story, I'm not Seanan letting her good buddy Jenn look at her work, I'm an author asking an editor to consider her submission. I don't lurk for editors in dark alleys. I don't hate my friends every time they have to say "sorry, not right for me." And I definitely don't let people grill them on my behalf.

If I don't want to risk someone rejecting a story, I don't submit the story. If I don't want to risk hearing that somebody disliked a book, I don't ask them if they liked it. And if you drag someone over to me and ask them on my behalf, I will, in fact, punch you in the nose. Or possibly do something less pleasant. Plague is always an option.

Bear caves and briar patches are not the same thing.


Discount Armageddon -- word count.

Current stats:

Words: 4,506.
Total words: 31,016.
Reason for stopping: finished chapter nine.
Music: the DVR's kind presentation of the first part of the So You Think You Can Dance
Lilly and Alice: sprawled on the floor.

So it turns out that what I thought was the end of chapter nine wasn't actually the end of chapter nine. What I just wrote, that was the end of chapter nine. All that other stuff is in chapter nine, too; it's just a longer chapter than originally believed.

In other news, Verity is presently stark-ass naked.

I love this book.