Thursday, April 2, 2015

Art Versus Work

I made a fuss a few months back about treating my freelance as work for hire, not art. It improves my productivity and reduces my attachment to the direction the piece is headed. For example, I'm writing Arab Prince 9 right now and my original outline had a strong humanitarian bent for the heroine and my client found it too depressing and instructed me to eliminate it. I did. I'm fine because it isn't my character. It's a character ordered by my client to sell to a market he has decided upon.

The thing that's tripped me up is the Me factor. As in, when I look at an editorial suggestion and think 'that's not realistic to me' or 'I would be so mad as a reader'. I have to realize, I'm not writing this for ME, not as a writer or a reader. I'm not writing something I'd enjoy reading in most cases. I'm writing for a different audience and it challenges my general self-centeredness to do so.

There was one instance in which I argued over an editorial suggestion very vehemently only to capitulate, do the ending in a way I disliked intensely, only to have the story get marked down by reviewers for the ending. People have written "I really didn't like XYZ about the ending." Instead of vindicating me, which yeah I did feel like I knew everything and the client is obviously less brilliant than made me realize that I had skewed that book too much toward a Me audience to begin with. So you have a subgenre that's not my cup of tea as a reader, written by someone aiming it at her own demographic, and no wonder the ending didn't work. Does that make sense?

Let's say I was afraid of clowns. (I'm not). I'm hired to write a whimsical book about clowns on an adventure in a hot air balloon although I would never read such a book. I then fill it with sarcastic dialogue to make it more palatable to myself only to find that readers who liked the dialogue thought the plot was stupid and hated the ending. I did this to myself because I didn't produce the specific product I was hired to make. I tried to tailor it to my own interests and made a muddle instead.

So, the more I write the better I'll get at it, inevitably. However, I have to be less diva about it and not make it about me. Arab Prince 9 is not for a Me audience nor would i probably read it if I didn't have to proof it at the end. But it'll be a pure version of what it is, escapist romance with a prince in it, which isn't really my scene, but I'm not sending up the genre or being narcissistic about it or trying to appeal subversively to readers like me. I'm being earnest about it, which is the hardest thing for me at this point, not trying to 'art' all over it.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Book Review: Confess by Colleen Hoover

I'll say a couple things straight out.
1.  I only had time to read this because I'm hella sick and home with a combo of strep throat and flu A so I may be both cranky and slightly incoherent.
2.  I like Colleen Hoover's books very much. So much that I preordered this one, making it only the fourth book I have ever preordered. The others were Suzanne Collins, Anne Stuart and Sarah Addison Allen titles so she's in good company. Also, no I do not have a definite type.

Set Up

Auburn Reed is 20 years old and recently relocated to Texas from Portland. She hates it there and also hates her job as a cosmetologist. She's intrigued by a help wanted sign in the window of a gallery called Confess and agrees to help the (hot) artist out for one night at his monthly showing. Owen is a painter with a past he isn't talking about and a series of girlfriends that only ever last a month or so. His pictures are based on confessions, anonymous secrets dropped through a slot in the gallery door for that purpose. He and Auburn are drawn to each other but Complications...

What I Loved:

First off, it pulls the Colleen Hoover trademark move of I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. I usually spot a plot twist a mile off but as usual, I was reading along and then WTF? That totally makes sense now but UNEXPECTEDNESS. Now, ordinarily, any time I mention a book to someone and say I didn't expect the plot twist, they totally saw it coming so maybe I'm a strange person but every time I've read a Hoover, she stuns me with something that both works completely in the plot and also surprises me. I prize her ability to astonish.

Characters. I like hers. They're believable and have strong motivations I understand even if I wouldn't necessarily make the same choices. Also, I liked Auburn's name and that she was smarter than I initially thought she'd be.

Here's a Pride and Prejudice remark for ya...I wondered even as a fifteen year old why Elizabeth Bennet wouldn't just marry stupid Mr. Collins to help her family. Well, Auburn makes a decision to get involved with someone because it will help her family and while it's not a true romantic's choice from the heart, I would've done the same thing. Even if I knew, as she does, that it's the wrong choice, it's a wrong choice made for the right reasons.

This is an enhanced ebook so you actually get images of Owen's art and it's awesome. It really adds to the experience to have that aesthetic interwoven so COOLNESS.

What I Didn't Love

The antagonist's real motivation is never super clear. Is it jealousy? Is it misguided and rather warped family loyalty? Is it just evil? It left me with questions and I thought it muddied the resolution that I had to put it down to an entitlement complex.

The fact that the protags are so YOUNG. I realize it's new adult and they do realistically act like twenty year olds, even when it's cringeworthy. I feel old now. It's like when I read Just One Day and I thought, dear lord someone get this girl into counseling!

The repeated jokes about Owen's initials being OMG. Not actually that amusing.

My Verdict:

Read it> But read Slammed and Hopeless as well because Awesome! And let me know if you saw the plot twist coming!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Love My Wal-Mart Babies

Back before Christmas, my SweetPea's grandmother asked her if she wanted to look at the American Girl catalog. She had designs on purchasing a Bitty Baby doll for my baby doll devotee. SP surveyed the offerings and shook her head. "I yuv my walmart babies," She said and hustled off to play with her dolls.

I thought about that a lot recently.

See, the Fish Sticks are total Walmart Babies. Not fancy, not rarefied or even highly prized by others. They're common, in their way. Poor and troubled and defiant and sometimes brilliant and heartbreakingly sweet.

I have a colleague who, because of parents' ability to make teacher-choice each year, regularly gets children dressed in head to toe Under Armour or Matilda Jane outfits, who bring their iPad minis and iPods to school to play with at recess, who have huge remote control helicopters and an abundance of American Girl dolls for show and tell. For the Christmas party, she had a fruit tray brought in that would have done an upscale bridal shower proud. Her gifts under the classroom tree ranged from Yankee Candles to Olive Garden gift cards. Her students get better grades than my students. Their handwriting is neater and they turn in their homework and their parents volunteer for parties.

My students come oftentimes in the sweatpants they slept in or a pair of too-tight last year's jeans or a weather-inappropriate easter dress that's too small. They have fights over hooks in the closet, they have meltdowns and drop the f-bomb if someone marks on their paper, they have a million excuses why it's someone else's fault. For Christmas, we had the cookies I baked and the juice boxes I bought. My gift under the tree was a picture a student drew for me. Their handwriting is messy, they announce "I can't do this" before they've even looked at a math page, their parents show up only to yell at me and homework is no longer something I bother to assign--I just give class time and help with it.

I wouldn't trade. I love my WalMart babies the best.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

By The Seat of My Pants

Ever since July when I started ghosting romance, I've been an outliner. I was never a plotter. Oh, sure I had a vague idea that Y and Z needed to happen before the end of a story but that was in some esoteric way off in the distance. I would then skip through meadows of quippy dialogue without much direction or purpose.

Once writing became equated with income, I straightened up and started thinking about pacing and plot points. So when I had a window of time in December to write for just myself, I dutifully tapped out an outline. For a stand-alone YA contemporary romance of about 30K words.

I am now 35K words in to a paranormal YA romance that has morphed into something unrecognizable because i made an outline and then went with my gut. My gut doesn't know crap about pacing or events, by the way. My gut likes cutesy banter and some emotional angst and a truckload of directionless meandering that an editor once told me is acronymed as NOGAS as in "no one gives a shit".  Yeah, that should be my new nickname.

I'm floundering under the weight of this hot mess of a story. I can already see the temptation to double back and fix some stuff in the beginning from before I realized it was going to be paranormal...the fact that I 'realized' it would be paranormal instead of planning it shows a certain ignorance, does it not? I'm plowing on to the end but I'm discouraged. It's formless, yet bowing under its own weight.

I thought that writing a few hundred thousand words for money had improved my technique but I've fallen back into old bad habits.

So, what are your bad writing habits? Favorite pitfalls?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Year's Eve Memo

Dear 2014,

You were, in many ways, a real bitch.

The Dh lost his job and took a pay cut and a three hour round trip commute that has played hell with the Casa Diva finances and Casa Diva schedule.

The SP has yet to do anything resembling a consistent potty use therefore will be using pull ups well into middle school at this rate.

Family drama has had my Diva ass for eleven months so far.

The Fish Sticks are a class from a wee bit south of heaven, to say the least.

There was good stuff, of course, but let this be a lesson to 2015. Just as the evil that men do lives after them whilst the good is oft interred with their let it be with years.

I expect far better from the one to come.