There are a lot of books that I don’t like. Some are widely popular, others not so much. No matter whether I like the book or not, I always admire anyone who is willing to put their work out in the world. It’s brave, especially nowadays because there are are so many different places that your work might get reviewed (good reads, amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and all those blogs out there) plus if you’re getting published the traditional route there are going to be critiques/reviews by magazine and newspaper contributors. I bring this up because I was reading Goodreads recently and there were a couple not-so-good reviews that were just plan rude, too. Yes, I feel gypped if I bought a book and invested the time to read it but am I going to go on a rant about it on a review? No. I’ll just say why I didn’t like it and move on.

Sometimes that bravery is premature, there are a fair number of e-books that could have used one or two more edits and revisions, but even then it’s brave. Even when I come across those, I’ll mention that it could have done better with another revision, but there’s no point in being rude.

I think about what it’s going to be like when my book finally sees the light of day (well, hopefully) and I get nervous. What if it flops? I’ll be doomed and never write again! What if it’s a success? Thank goodness, I can keep writing! What if it’s somewhere in between? What if everyone hates it? What if this and what if that? But at the same time, it’s a good nervousness. It energizes me to do more.

The same can’t be said for TV shows or movies. I mean, sure, it could but I wouldn’t. When it comes to writing a book it’s almost exclusively up to the writer — if it fails, it’s all on her. A literary agent and editor might have some say but in the end it’s up to the writer. With TV shows and movies, there’s usually a couple screen writers, a director, producers, actors, and at least a dozen other people that have a say in it. So if it flops, it flops for all of them, and they can usually pick themselves up and move along. It’s brave for an actor to take the stage, but unless they also wrote the play/movie then they are redeemable. Maybe their acting is decent or even stellar but the movie/play is just horribly plotted. The actor will get a pass, it happens all the time.

For a writer…? It’s a great deal harder to recover from a flop. Hence, it’s braver for a writer. Perhaps I’m a bit bias (well, probably a bit more than just a bit). But I can’t be the only one that thinks like this, right? Do you respect the bravery of publishing a book and even if you don’t like it, when you review you stay civil? I mean, really, what good comes from a rude review? A one star is a one star, regardless if tear apart the author or not.

Compelling Characters

Compelling characters are a must, everyone knows that from readers to writers. If your main character isn’t compelling, then who is going to want to read your book? Pretty much no one. A while back, on tumblr, I watched a debate unfold between those who were pro-Bella Swan and those who were anti-Bella Swan.

Those against her thought Mrs. Meyers shouldn’t have written a girl that centers her whole world around her boyfriend and who would date a stalker. They thought she was teaching teens about bad habits, after all, one would hope that girls wouldn’t find it attractive if a guy watched her as she slept before they even really got to know each other. In the real world, that’s some scary shit.

Those for her said that Mrs. Meyers has the right to write a girl that bases everything upon her relationship and is kind of spineless (or they liked her character). One person in particular said, “everyone has the right to write a pathetic character if they want to. Mrs. Meyer’s doesn’t have to write a story that will teach teens about proper morals.”

I’m not going to get into the Twilight debate, it’s pointless and just goes around and around. The fact is, Twilight sold like crazy which means Mrs. Meyers must have wrote a compelling character. A character that people could invest themselves in.

I believe you don’t need to write a moral righteous book — after all, if you are blatantly trying to teach teens a lesson they’ll hate it. I hate it, too. It’s also true you can write an utterly pathetic, scum-of-the-earth, character if you so desire. But if you want the book to sell, your character still needs to be compelling for some reason. I think the greatest example I can use is the British novel High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

I read it in high school, mostly because a guy I had a crush on lent his book to me. I had no idea what it was about and I don’t think I would have ever picked up otherwise. The main character is Rob Fleming and he is probably one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever spent an entire book with. He cheats on his girlfriend, pretty much acts like a pathetic asshole the entire book, and yet I enjoyed it. And no, it’s not just because my crush recommended it.

Hornby managed to make an otherwise unlikable character likeable. Fleming was someone almost everyone can find a connection to. Most of us have that relationship that ended when we wound rather it not have, and if that certain someone came crawling back we might even fantasize about making them suffer a bit more. We all love something that we know will fade with time (for Fleming, it was records). Those are just the first ones that come time mind. It’s been years since I’ve read it, but I still remember how I felt reading it. That’s a sign of a good book.

Any type of character, even the unlikable, can become compelling. You just have to figure out how to do it.

Donna of Suits & No Original Ideas?

Donna is awesome

Have you ever watched the show Suits on USA? I fell in love with it during the first season. I thought it was the dumbest concept. How could it be possible for someone not to go to law school but become a lawyer at some big league law firm in NYC? It became believable after the first episode. Mike & Harvey, the main characters, are pretty awesome. Mike is funny and cute. Harvey is bold, clever, and handsome. They’re the perfect mix.

Then there’s Donna, Harvey’s assistant. She’s technically a “minor” character but she’s my favorite. A bold, clever, redhead that can get anything she wants done. Even though she’s a fictional character, she’s a great role model. Plus, she’s pretty funny. I’m glad it’s finally back for a second season.

The first episode to this season was just… wow. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was dying to find out, commercial breaks were cruel. The writing for this show is pretty damn clever.

In this episode, there was this girl who was mad because her boss (a literary agent) stole an idea that she pitched to her. Because she was opposing Mike Ross, I didn’t like her but I understood her difficult position. But if someone gave me 30,000 dollars for an idea I would have been like “hell yeah” and just got on with my life. It wasn’t like she actually wrote the book. If she had done that, then I would have been completely on her side.

Besides, her excuse for not taking the money (she wanted more) was because it might be her only idea ever. That’s utter horse shit. If you are a real writer, you don’t just have one idea. As Octavia Butler said:

“Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit in persistence in practice.”

If she was really a writer, she wouldn’t be worried that she’d never come up with another idea. She would come up with another idea.

A while back, I wanted to come up with new YA story ideas in case my current YA manuscript doesn’t work out. I sat around thinking about it and by the end of the weekend I had two new, unrelated, books outlined. It just took persistence and determination. I didn’t wait for inspiration to fall from the sky to strike me like lightening. I made it happen.

There is no such thing as an original idea anymore. Most stories can be boiled down to a common story (boy meets girl, girl doesn’t like boy, boy loves girl then moves on… and girl falls for boy). It’s the way you approach your idea that makes it original. The writing, your special flare you give it. Without that, it’s just an idea. An idea that can be boiled down to a common story line.

ETA:  After I posted this I had a friend point out a story that is similar to my own and what Donna says below pretty much hits home. Luckily, it’s only a couple superficial factors that are similar (both MC could be considered “without” emotions — though in different ways — and have violet eyes). They aren’t the same story, even if you boil down to the common story line. But, still, it’s sort of weird to come across such things.

Snow White and the Huntsman

I’ve been wanting to see Snow White & the Huntsman since I saw the first preview for it. I like dark twists on fairy tales (because usually they were dark before Disney got a hold of them). Charlize Theron is always good and I’ve liked Chris Hemsworth since I saw him in Thor. The only thing that I didn’t like was Kristen Stewart as Snow White. I’ve seen her in Adventureland, Panic Room, and Twilight (only the first one, I never bothered with the rest). I wasn’t really impressed by any of her roles even though I liked Panic Room and Adventureland.

Plus, the idea that KStew could be fairer than Charlize Theron…? I couldn’t help but think ‘in what reality?’ because, come on, Charlize Theron is an amazingly beautiful woman. In the commercials she was clearly a knock out. And then there was KStew. Plain looking KStew in a role of the ‘fairest of them all’.

I couldn’t get with that, but I still wanted to see the movie. Tonight I finally got the chance and I was pleasantly surprised. Charlize Theron was amazing, no shocker there, and Chris Hemsworth was amusing and somehow sexy even though he looked highly unwashed. The little girl that played young Snow White was cute and had really beautiful eyes. I could totally believe she would grow up to be the fairest of them all. And KStew?

She was actually pretty good. At times, she even looked as lovely as Charlize Theron. She only has a couple facial expressions, but otherwise she did well. I remember her biting her bottom lip like a hundred times in Twilight, thankfully she didn’t do it once in this movie. I read a couple reviews slamming her acting but I don’t think that’s fair. She actually did a good job. I was very impressed by her in this movie.

Before you say it, I know the whole point was inner beauty, that she was kind and fair on the inside in ways the evil Queen could never be. But even if it wasn’t, if it was just about outer beauty, this movie made me believe that KStew could rival Charlize Theron’s beauty on a really good day.

It even inspired me. I’ve been having issues with my current WIP even though I’ve been able to write parts of it every day. I was stuck. I didn’t know where to take the story but the beauty of this movie helped me. I came home and wrote a scene.

The movie kept me entertained from start to finish, the acting was good, the plot entertaining, and that’s all I look for in a movie. I don’t need it to be picture of the year, just something that was worth my money. Snow White & the Huntsman is just that. I would recommend anyone seeing it, even you aren’t a KStew fan.

Update: Due to the news that KStew had an affair with the married director of this movie, I feel the need to retract the compliments I gave for her. Truth is, she should be given very few things to say (as she was in this movie) and just thrown in the midst of action, if the movie hopes to be good. Because, well, let’s face it. KStew doesn’t have a lot of facial expressions, and apparently no morals. Really? A married man? Really…? Ugh. Then she goes and apologizes to her boyfriend in a public weepy thing (probably more for her fans than him, because if it was for him she’d have done it in private). Yeah, great for you KStew, now what do you have to say the the wife?

Writers Shouldn’t Blog About Writing…?

I’ve come across the “writers shouldn’t blog about writing” thing in a couple different places this weekend. It’s not a new debate by any means. Author Roni Loren talked about it back in 2011, as did Anne R. Allen. Even though they are dated, the points they make are still valued. I’d recommend their posts for anyone to read.

This weekend, Writer’s Digest opened all their tutorials to customers for free for four days. I checked them out and some are intriguing, but I don’t think any of it was eye-opening for me. The tutorials made by Jane Friedman were some of my favorites. It was interesting learning about her point of view on internet networking. She’s one of those that advocates against writer’s blogging about the process of writing.

Hearing that just makes me think “wtf?”. On the one hand I get her point of view. She’s talking about published writers and it makes sense to have a reader friendly website and blog instead of just one oriented towards writers. After all, there are a lot of readers out there that don’t write. That being said, writers write — I know, I’m stating the obvious but it’s true.

Trust me, if someone is really dedicated to writing — so much so that they even get published — then writing is a major part of their life. How can you ask them not to talk about it? It’s always said you should blog about something you love and have a good amount of knowledge on. If you’re a writer… then that’s writing. I’m not saying that all writers should just blog about writing but they shouldn’t be told that it’s a “no-no”.

I think that Roni Loren has a good mix on her site. There’s a massive amount of helpful tips about writing on her site, for her fellow writers, and still posts that are non-writer friendly.

I’m not saying that they’re wrong and I’m right. Jane Friedman has extensive knowledge in this area, for all I know she could be very right. Still, I don’t think I could not post about the writing process, even if I were a successful published author. It’s an important part of my life, a major part that I enjoy talking about.

Paranormal Romance Genre’s Challenge

Paranormal romance (PNR) is a genre like mystery, thriller, historical romance, fantasy, horror, and I could go on and on. For whatever reason, I’ve heard and read a lot of complaints about this genre and it doesn’t make sense to me. Editors want a break from it. People are sick of things within PNR (like vampires, demons, or werewolves).

Why doesn’t PNR get treated like every other category? Yes, things repeat. Yes, vampires are used a lot but they’re not the only paranormal creature. PNR is bigger than just vampires.

Every genre has a set of things that happens all the time. Thrillers have international terrorists that are going to destroy the USA. Mysteries have cops that catch creepy killers. Romance has a lot of repeats about the same relationship complications (like, girl is irrationally in love with an asshole who turns out not to be as much of an asshole as she thought). Fantasy has magic. Horror has ghosts. Sci-fi has spaceships or genetically altered humans.

Do you see my point? Every category has things that repeat. Over and over again. Yes, I get it, people get sick of repetition but I hear a lot more people complaining about being sick of that happening in PNR than other genres. I don’t think people give it credit. It seems more like everyone assumes it’s just a phase that will eventually disappear.

I hope that’s not true. I love PNRs. I’ve always been interested in paranormal creatures. I like them so much because they’re a break from reality. There are still unique, original, stories being published both traditionally and through self-publishing (example, BR Kingsolver’s Succubus Gift).

My point is this: every genre has repeats. Those repeats are made original by authors every day. The same thing happens within PNR. Yeah, vampires might be overused but someday an author will come around and breath originality and life back into them.