September 14th, 2009


Thoughts on Writing #36: Plotting Against You.

It's time for the thirty-sixth essay in my ongoing series of essays on the art, craft, and process of writing. There will eventually be fifty essays in all, all of them based around my original set of fifty thoughts on writing. No, I didn't set out to write an essay series, but I figure it's too late to object now. These fifty essays touch on a lot of different topics, and are all aimed at helping you stay sane as a writer, sometimes through process, sometimes through perspective. Here's today's thought:

Thoughts on Writing #36: Plotting Against You.

I don't actually mean that there's some sort of vast global conspiracy against you, although I can't promise that there isn't. To expand on today's thought:

You're going to get ideas from wherever it is you get ideas. There's no magic well. There's no "proper source." They'll come when they come, and you can't force them to show up if you're not ready to have them. The "what if..." moment is one of the most amazing things there is, and when it happens, you'll be the king of all creation, you'll be so fucking cool that nobody can stop you from conquering the planet...but you can't make it come. Just expose yourself to the world, and wait, and see what happens.

The question "where do you get your ideas?" is one that haunts writers, from the high school creative writing prodigy to the grizzled old lion who's published seventy novels, all of them still in print. People always want to know where the ideas come from, like there's some secret well or magical wardrobe that we're just not willing to share. I wish this were true, but it's not. So how to do we handle the fact that we're working with a resource that is at once limitless and severely limited, and how do we keep from bludgeoning our friends? Let's take a look at ideas, where they come from, how to attract them, and why we'll never be able to schedule their arrival. Ready? Good. Let's begin.

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Climbing uphill as fast as I can.

There was a link going around this morning to a blog post about things authors really want their readers to know. One of the items on the list was, essentially, "I'm so glad to be accessible, and I love talking to you, and I love that you're excited by my work, and I swear I'm not ignoring you, no, really."

My desire to have this made into a T-shirt and wear it every day is enormous. Because here's the thing: if I have not answered your email, responded to your Facebook comment, or answered your Twitter, it's not because I'm snubbing you, or because I don't think you're totally awesome and mad cool. It's because I am so out-numbered that I'm feeling like the last surviving player in the Teenage Zombie High School scenario, only I don't have any plastic explosives, and I'm not allowed to blow up the building. (Kate says so, and we trust Kate in these things.)

Right now, everything I do spawns something else that must be done. If I put "write thank you cards" on my to-do list, it's followed with "buy thank you cards," "buy stamps," and "mail thank you cards"—all small, silly things, but all things that absolutely have to happen in order for the thank you cards to go out. I am doing my best to tame things by breaking them down into smaller and smaller items, which results in more things that need to happen (bad), but also results in things being easier to achieve (good). My daily to-do lists are solidly booked out through mid-October, and my weekly overviews are complete through the end of the year. Everything that comes up from here until January 1st is getting shoved in around the lists that came before it.

Please understand that I am not complaining. I'm like a shark; I keep moving, or I sink to the bottom of my tank and die. For me, "writing an essay series" and "drawing two dozen art cards" qualify as "taking a break to recharge my batteries." I genuinely enjoy being this busy, and I love the things I'm doing that make me as busy as I am. I just don't get a limitless number of hours in the day, and sometimes, those hours have already been promised to something else when the daily bucket o' email comes rolling in.

Have patience with me? I'm climbing uphill just as fast as I can.

Rosemary and reviews, the post-weekend edition.

Tomorrow will mark two weeks of Rosemary and Rue being on bookshelves. Traditionally, this means newer new releases will begin nudging me off the "hot new wow cool" displays at the front of the store; bookstore employees will stop being mobbed by people who can't find the Science Fiction/Fantasy section; and I will begin getting neurotic about book two. But tonight, we're still in the second week of release, and that means review roundup is go!

To begin with, Mia Nutick has done a fantastic and well-detailed book review over at the Green Man Review, one of the longer-running Internet science fiction/fantasy review sites. I am honored. According to Mia, "Toby Daye is one of the best female fantasy characters to come along in a long time; she's tough, confident, and heroic but she's capable of introspection, and unlike the Mary Sues of the literary world, she's capable of failure," and "For a first novel, this is frighteningly good." I'm frightening! Grrr!

Virginia, of Bitten By Books, has posted her review of Rosemary and Rue. Yes, Virginia, there is a Toby Daye. Virginia says, "Rosemary and Rue is Seanan McGuire’s debut novel and what a novel it is! I found that I kept coming back to this book. I tried to pull away to complete another one, but the characters were always in my mind and I had to set aside the other novel to get this one out of my system. Rosemary and Rue is full of suspense, mystery and many unexpected twists and turns." I'm frightening and unexpected! Basically, I'm the wildlife of Australia.

Heather of Book Obsessed has rewarded my obsession with reviews by providing me with another review to obsess over. Thank you! She says that "As I have practically screamed from the rooftops to anyone that cared and even those who didn't—;I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!" I appreciate the human megaphone, I really, really do. She also says "The writing style is poetic and lyrical while at the same time being dark, gritty and direct, much like life itself often is. Being able to bring that to life is something exceptional and wholly worthy of applause and accolades."

Now I am happy.

Over at the Barnes and Noble Book Clubs, Paul has posted his review of Rosemary and Rue, and of its context in the urban fantasy genre. It's a great piece of work, and he says, "As the paranormal fantasy wilderness continues to flourish, one thing seems certain: the seedling novelist that is Seanan McGuire, barring any crazy lumberjack or dread blight or rotting disease, has the potential to become one of the forest’s stateliest trees..." So there will be no Dutch Elm this week, thanks.

That's our review roundup for tonight. Thanks for sticking out these two crazy-train weeks with me, and we'll see if things settle down a bit from here.