Sunday, May 31, 2009

Martha's Some Kind Of Writer

I’m the kind of writer who would quit.

Writers are inevitably asked: if a crystal ball predicted your book would never be read, would you still write it?

This is the point where authors rally under the cry: Of course! Writing isn't just something we do, it's what we are.

Yeah. Screw that. Not me.

Writing bites. It infects the healthiest of egos with self loathing and doubt. It requires untold hours of dedication after working a full time job, caring for your family and home, and dealing with life's other surprises. I need a payoff and that payoff is readership.

Like other writers, I'm compelled to tell stories. I'm driven by a strange and almost narcissistic idea that I have something different and interesting to offer.

A certainty that my books would never see the light of day would propel me to other venues. Perhaps I'd ruthlessly pursue youtube fame. But thankfully that's not necessary.

Because even though I'm the kind of writer who wants to be read, I'm the kind of person who doesn't believe in crystal balls.


dragonlady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dragonlady said...

I have to confess that I'm a lot like you... I mean... I HAVE to write... but I have goals too, and not to be working toward those goals would just kill me. So I'm going off to another writer's conference this year even if I have to put my family in the poorhouse (okay... maybe not that, but I CAN volunteer again), meet some editors/agents/authors and learn lots from sitting in...


Anonymous said...

I'm the kind of author who loves to play, but hates to work. Play, for me, is brainstorming ideas, researching details, outlining plot, sketching characters, compiling playlists, and all of the "Big Picture" stuff. But, when it comes to sitting down, butt in chair, and cranking out the story in a daily grind of writing... it's TORTURE. Every new idea that flits through my mind seems so much more compelling than what I'm writing. Every menial errand or housekeeping task suddenly MUST BE DONE. It's like pulling an oak tree out by its roots. BUT, I know that a wonderful sense of accomplishment is lurking ahead, yet growing closer. I focus on that to get through the tough times.

Oh, and I'd love to be entered in your contest!

Rebecca L Sutton said...

I love this post! Your answer to what kind of writer you are is so refreshing and honest. I think a lot of people feel this way, they just don't admit it!

I confess, I too have become the kind of writer that writes with the goal of sharing my work with others. I am an avid reader who loves books that keep me up at night and make me want to talk about them to everyone I know. That's what I hope to accomplish with my work. Of course that's easier said then done, but it keeps me motivated. Beneath all that though is the understanding that I MUST write because it's what I'm meant to do. It's the thing I never knew I wanted until I started.

And just to throw one more layer on this - like finding_further said, I love to play! For me writing is so NOT a solitary art. I have met incredible people that I speak to daily, we share and critique our work, talk about agents and motivate each other to keep going when the rejections trickle in. I get very distracted from the actual act of writing by all the research and blogs and forums. It's addicting to work on all the things around writing without writing!

Count me in on the contest please!!!

Stephanie Theban said...

I love the ideas. I even love the writing. I am terrified of the marketing. That part is just plain hard work, and when you haven't yet had any success, it's hard to measure whether you're improving. Yes, I'm one of THOSE! I always wanted straight A's because I like to measure success. And how do you measure writing success? By whether others want to read it also.

I have had some writing success because my critique partners and I can identify that my writing has improved. I have had some writing success because I've received some nice personal rejections.

I want the next level of writing success -- I want to sell. I'm willing to do the work that it takes. I'll enjoy the writing work -- tinkering to find just the right word, reading it again to see if the text is emotionally true, checking the story arc to see if it is internally consistent and satisfying. I may not enjoy the marketing work as much, but I'll do it.

I also know that the better you get at something, the more enjoyable it becomes. Right now, I feel very unsure about my marketing efforts, but I'll get better at that too. I promise myself that I'll get better.

The only way to get better at the craft or the business end of writing is to keep working and keep learning. I'm there.

I love Ellen Hopkins. Count me in, please!

Anonymous said...

Everyone says we should just write for ourselves, that it's wrong to do it out of a need to have our writing seen by others. I disagree. I wouldn't keep writing original stories if I didn't expect them to get published one day.

I used to write fanfic. A) It has a built in audience, and B) people give you feedback. If I never got published, I wouldn't want to write just for myself without that reader input. I've tried posting on Fictionpress, but there you're one of thousands and generally receive only a few reads. And being read is my favorite part. It's the payoff for me.

I wrote fanfic until about two years ago. The pen name was actually pretty well-known in the fandom, and I had about four thousand reviews. But however original I was, however clever the story, it was diminished because it ultimately wasn't mine. I wanted to create my own work just so I could finally get credit for it.

Honestly, if I thought there was no chance my own work would ever get published, I'd go back to that world and stick with it. But I feel my work stands a chance.

We'll see.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

I have to write, whether it's in my secret journal, my mommy journal, or in a novel I'm trying to churn out. What kind of write am I? I guess I'm a get 'er done kind of writer.

I write in bursts...sometimes a plot line will roll around in my head for weeks or months, but only until I know the perfect first sentence will I be able to start the story on paper, then I write to the end.

I'm an edit-as-I-go writer. I'll say the words out loud as I type to see if they flow. I'll go over each sentence, tweaking, until it's perfect before moving on.

I have a hard time outlining because once I work out the ending, it's like the story is done for me. I also have a hard time revising because once the story is out of me, it's gone.

Thanks for offering the critique by Ellen. I'm a huge fan of hers and I'm working on a verse novel.

Anonymous said...

Btw-- I am interested in entering the contest.

Anonymous said...

First, I <3 that you're paying-it-forward. What a great idea for a contest!

Let's see, I'm the kind of writer that if people weren't reading my stuff, I'd still have to write. I've been keeping a journal (paper & pen) since I was 11 (those are good times to reread. Oh, the angst!). Most of my early work was ferreted away so that no one else could read it. When I got a little older, I started foisting my work on my family and friends. (Thank goodness they still love me!!)

I think if the crystal ball said I'd never be paid for any of my writing, then I'd have to continue writing fanfiction. It's great because you have instant reader response. If they don't like your plot, they'll tell you. Depending on the amount of negative feedback, you can change it in the NEXT chapter. Unlike published novels where you'll never have a chance to change that first book. Sometimes you won't have a chance to change it in the next either.

For me, it boils down to: "We don't write because we can. We write because we HAVE to". Plus, I'm absolute crap at drawing. ;)

Anonymous said...

I am an infant in the writing world...scratch that: I haven't even been born yet! But I can totally relate to the need for recognition, especially when you are adding that hard work to all of the other responsibilities in your life. It's not so much the 'Pay Attention To Me' syndrome, but more the fact that you need reassurance that all of that time and effort will be appreciated. I gotcha!

PS. Cute pic and I am loving this blog! :-)

Anonymous said...

If the crystal ball told me my work would never be read, I'd know it was a lie. Heck, even if no one else in the world read it, I read it as I wrote and revised it. I forced my family to read it (okay, they "volunteered"), and so it has been read.

Now if the crystal ball said it would never be published, I might stop writing . . . but probably only for a little while until the depression wore off.

But I'll always be writing something, even if it's just stories for my kids. =)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I'd like to be entered in the contest too.

heartsandflowers said...

I'm a writer who has time, time that is unlimited by my imagination. Time that ticks with the clock and matches the beat of my keys I touch. Time that's forever and day, for my idea to be set free. Time that will rattle my brain to find the right words to make my characters talk to me. Time is what I have, until my story is finished and sent away to find a home of its own. Then again, time is all I have.

I would so like to be entered in the contest and wait for the winner to be announced.

Alie said...

I'm the "almost crossing the line" writer. LOL. I have found random sheets of paper, started reading them, got wrapped up in the story, laughing and crying AND THEN realized it was mine.

I almost see my plots as if they are real friends and family. These stories come close to REALLY existing in my mind - the characters are so real to me. And picking up something I wrote a long time ago? It's like meeting up with an old friend.

I'll continue to write, even if I'm never published, because my faux-friends lives only exist as long as I write them down. It's a little like believing in fairies - and I've always been the girl who claps, even when she's 30.

PS. Enter me into the contest, please!

Alie said...

I'm the "almost crossing a line" kind of writer. My stories, characters are so real to me that I talk about them like they are real and quite honestly, I can't change who they are or what they'll do.

Picking up something I wrote years ago? It's like meeting up with old friends.

I have to write because my faux-friend's lives depend on it. They don't exist if I don't write them down. And I'm the kind of girl who even at 30 years old is clapping to keep all the fairies alive... :-)

PS. Please enter me in the contest!

Anonymous said...

I'm the kind of writer who forgot that she was a writer and until she remembered it one day while reading a certain vampire novel. The day that she remembered it, she remembered that she had an idea for a story of her own and then became totally obsessed with writing it down. Then she finished it! and threw herself a party because she naively thought writing the story was the step one, and getting it published step two. Oh Ho HO! Wait one second there--turns out step two is revising!! And step three, step four, and step eighty-four as well. Now she's the kind of writer who revises a lot. And talks about herself in the third person, apparently.

Hopefully soon she'll be the kind of writer who stops revising a lot and instead queries a lot. So on that note, I'd love to enter your contest! Thanks for doing it, what a wonderful idea. And BTW, is lovely. - Whitney

Anonymous said...

I am the kind of writer who dreams and thinks on a story, alot. Especially after I get the horrid first draft down on paper. Following that, I think on the story, and think and think some more. The next thing I know (well, next thing as in a month or two, sometimes a whole lot longer) I am working on the next draft and the story is working. It has taken many years, and drafts to trust that this is how the process works for me. Now, is that to say that I couldn't write to a deadline if needed-I could I would have to speed up the think 'n' dream portion of the story's development.

Thanks for this, and yes please on entering the contest!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I am the kind of writing who writes because I have to. Otherwise I tend to bottle up my emotions too much and I get really moody and not to pleasant to be around. That said, I do want people to read my writing though. I write for me but also so others can enjoy it. So I'm a mixture of both writerly worlds.

Your post was a refreshing read and I loved it. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Please enter me in the contest! Thanks! :)

Llehn said...

I'm another one of those people who have to write. For me, getting published is a bonus (pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease make it happen!) I get very twitchy if I go too long without writing. Writing is my drug. My highest highs and my lowest lows. So yeah, if the crystal ball told me I wouldn't be a writer I would still write. Only I wouldn't give up my day job :P

Anonymous said...

I'm the kind of writer who writes to share her stories with readers. I'm the kind of writer who chases the dream hardcore. I'm the kind of writer who believes in happily ever after. (Because I'll work to make it happen!)


(Please enter me in the contest for the critique. Thanks for sharing!)

Anonymous said...

I do love to write, and I dream about a day when writing can be my "day job!" Of course, for that to happen, I'd have to get paid for it, and that means lots and lots of readers. I did get to the point in my last novel, though, where I knew I had to write the ending, even if it never got published. If I had just started the book and somehow knew that no one would ever buy it, I can see abandoning it then, but after I've put so much into the story I'd want to write the ending anyway; I'd feel like I was leaving the characters hanging otherwise.

Oh, I did get an interesting agent rejection today-- she turned down the book I queried, but told me to send my WIP when it was finished. And I just started that! So it was nice to be asked that, but I'm hoping to find an agent who wants my first book too!

My new WIP is a YA novel, so I'd love to enter for a chance to get the partial critique from Ellen Hopkins!


Martha Flynn said...

Oooh - I'm excited for all the entries - I may even do this out of a hat instead of an online randomizer!

I love hearing that I'm not the only egocentric writer out there who wants people to read her work. :)

dragonlady - will you be at SCBWI LA?? I'm excited to attend - poor house be damned!

rebecca - you're really lucky to have a social outlet within your writing community - I feel that way about the rest of these pensfatales ladies, too!

groosemoose - hmm....will you reveal the fanfic you wrote?? :):):) i've never tried fanfic...well...i guess i have in my head (edwards leaves bella...finds me...the end)

lynnekelly - good luck with your WIP!!!! fingers crossed! keep us updated with your next submission

and thanks everyone for sharing your particular writing habits - it's so therapeutic after hanging out with non-writers to know we're not crazy and alone!

(and whitney - you are my total writing-sister - srsly - same story - lol)

Christina Farley said...

I love your honesty! Wow, what kind of writer am I? Totally obnoxiously determined. I will write until I'm sick, passed out and over caffinated. Maybe its the stubborn streak in me.

And maybe because I have found I really like the outlet it gives me. It's a way to speak. So yeah, I'll keep writing until I get pubished whether that's next year or 20 years from now.

I know, that's really stupid. I just can't help it.

So.... enter me in your contest! I'd love that.

Margie said...

What kind of writer am I? I write because I have to write. If I don't write I start to get edgy and crabby--which are against my nature. But as much as I love to write, I hate the selling part, because I'm a huge procrastinator and by the time something is rejected a couple of times, I've already moved on to something else and I don't try and figure out what was wrong with the first one (or second or third one). I'm trying to actively change that though.

My favorite part of writing is the brainstorming and creating. I love that first spark when everything is new and possible.

I'd like to be entered in your contest.

Anonymous said...

I'm a very unorganized writer. My desk is an archeological dig of random papers, notes, lists, and things I can't even decipher. I can go through the strata and think, "Oh yeah, that was from last March."

I would still write even if I had a (heinous) crystal ball that told me my work would never be published. I belong to an excellent critique group, and I love it when something I've written makes someone laugh, or cry, or just get so choked up they can't continue reading.

I would love to have a partial critique by Ellen Hopkins on my WIP. It's so different than anything I've written, but I may have found my true voice.


Coilxcept said...

I'm the kind of writer who has to eat while writing.

Sadly, this has led to some excess poundage.

But some damn good prose.

I'd like to be considered for the contest.

Martha Flynn said...

you and me both, coilxcept...i've got a half eaten cupcake on the table next to me...sadly it only leads to a really gunky keyboard

christina - you will *not* have to wait 20 years!!

John Zeleznik said...

I'm what they call in hockey and baseball a grinder. Grinders have adjectives like tough, gritty and gutsy attached to their name. I mean I've got some talent, I'm pretty sure of that, but I have to work hard to be good and there's the rub. I'm getting closer and closer every day, but that closeness comes from grinding it out, butt in chair, squeezing the words out when they're fighting me, every day and every moment I have.

Sometimes it's easy and I get into a flow, other times it's a wrestling match between me and the letters of the alphabet. I'd like to say it's easy more often than hard, but I'd be lying. But when inspiration hits, it's often a flood with me forechecking or diving for foul balls into the crowd like David Wright or Derek Jeter so I can keep going and grinding away to the end.

As for the physical aspect of writing, give me a laptop (or, if in a bind, paper and pen) and somewhere comfortable to sit and I'm good. I don't need a cup of tea (though chai helps) or encoutremonts of a home office (though a recliner helps) to bang out whatever idea is pushing through the subconsciousness. And I'll write anywhere: my honeymoon, the airport, my cousin's graduation party, in the room the night before my daughter was doesn't matter to me.

My present "project" is my moment of madness: the Summer of a Quarter Million Words. That's right. Started June 1...92 days...250,000 words...utter madness! Wish me luck! said...

Sounds like we're the same kind of writer. If I knew my stuff would never be read, I'd pursue another avenue of expression.

I'm also the kind of writer who likes to eat while I compose.

Please count me in for your contest!

Watch CS Frye's BAD DRAGONFLIE s Booktrailer at said...

Although I completely understand the frustration connected with writing, I love to write and I do believe in crystal balls. I do, I do, I do!

Please enter me in the contest.

Angela Ackerman said...

That's a really good point, Martha, and I think I'd have to agree I'd be the same as you in that situation--almost. There are lots of other ways to get the stories out other than books and if I KNEW it wouldn't happen, I would put most of my energy into another format where I could maybe reach people--writing screenplays maybe. BUT, I'd still probably write from time to time, but it would be different--it would be for myself.

Yvonne Crawford said...

I'm the kind of writer who didn't know I was a writer. I had always been one of those people who were just okay at doing a lot of different things and never had a much passion for anything in particular. I always wondered how it must've felt to have passion for something.

3 years ago, I entered NANOWRIMO, never having written any novels or even any fiction in my life. I entered it because well, why not? I had ran a 1/2 marathon before for the experience, so I could write a novel for the experience too. The first day I just pretty much wrote and wrote and I did enjoy it. But, what was so awesome was when I emailed my husband what I had written and he wrote me back how great it was. He enjoyed reading what I wrote and couldn't wait for the next installment. My husband isn’t one to sugar coat things at all; so I knew he was being honest. Feeding off of the high of making someone else smile, I continued to write my novel.

I completed NANOWRIMO that year and last year as well. I love to write, but I love it even more when someone laughs (in a good way of course) at what I've written. Now I don’t have to wonder what it feels like to have passion about something because I’m living it.

Please enter me in this contest. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I'm the kind of writer who hears voices.

I didn't know it for the longest time. I would write and write, following an elusive plot with characters who seemed real to me. And then finally as I was sitting on my porch in Nashville in a rocking chair daydreaming, I realized that in that weird far-away state of consciousness, my characters were talking to each other, the way I would argue with my parents, my friends, my boyfriends in my head when I was mad at them.

And that has made a lot of difference. I now know that when I sit on the porch and gaze out at nothing and hear voices, I am writing, not going crazy (I hope).

The trick is getting up, going to the computer, and putting those conversations, or snatches thereof, down in black words on blank white space.

Now I am working on structuring all that, making sturdy frames for the puffy clouds to cling to, ultimately building a great, logical, inevitable, compelling--dare I hope heartrending--story.

I am making progress on that front.

Thank you so much Martha, for the offer of a critique from Ellen Hopkins. Put me in the hat!

And I love the voice of your blog.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love your honesty! I too would probably give up on writing if the crystal ball revealed that no one would ever get to read my crazy stories. I am a born story teller so instead of on the page I would continue to tell my tales to anyone who was kind enough to listen. Which of course got me into to writing in the first place.

After hearing, Wow that's a great story you should write book for the 1,000 time I actually sat down an wrote one. Call me a sucker for punishment. : )

Now two ms later I'm still trying for the brass ring. Maybe winning the critique from Ellen will be just what I need. Count me in!

Thanks for running the contest and for such a great post!!!!!


Raynbow said...

Are the rules so strict that no one could ever read your work? Or, you could just never be published?

I find a lot of satisfaction in just having friends, family, and critique partners read what I'm writing. If it were only for me... I'm not sure then. I'd probably still write, but would never bother to go back and edit--ever!

Martha, thanks for running this awesome contest!


Susan Bradley said...

I don't think I truly realized what kind of writer I was until I started querying agents this past few months. I've always loved storytelling and really like to try and write a good story. In the last year, I recognized that my true calling it to write mysteries. I love weaving clues and red herrings into the story. Dropping breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. I recently finished my first YA mystery and began querying and thought "Now I can really call myself a writer". I thought by sending my book out in the world that it would make me a writer, but now that I'm working on book 2, I've realized that I'm a writer no matter what. I'm the kinda of writer that had just realized she doesn't need to be published to call herself a writer. I'm also the kinda of writer that likes to see how many clues, misdirections, and chaos she can throw into the mix.
Thanks for having this contest. I met Ellen at SCBWI NYC and she's amazing.

Martha Flynn said...

Yvonne - I'm glad you found your passion - and isn't it nice to know you're not crazy or schizophrenic for hearing voices in your head 24x7 - just a writer? :)

Raynbow - lol - love that you're searching for loopholes.

Susan - good luck with that query!

Anne, it took 1000 times to hear it, but you finally settled in so wooohoo! :)

A mere 24 hours folks and we'll have a winner....stay tuned!

Marie Devers said...

So often I ask myself why the hell I write. After I don't come up with any answers, I pick up my laptop and get writing.

It would be a relief if a reliable crystal ball said I will never get published. I could start doing the things my friends talk about doing, like spending time with family, making dinner, and sleeping.

Who am I kidding? I would tell the crystal ball it didn't know anything and keep writing.

Anyway, I am the kind of writer who is satisfied with what she wrote, until I pick up Hunger Games or Just Listen or crank. Then I drown myself in a puddle of inferiority tears and wonder why I didn't think of writing my novel in verse.

Now, will you please let me have your Ellen Hopkins critique?

And if you're feeling generous, can I borrow your copy of Catching Fire too?

Shauna said...

I always think in extremes when I'm writing. When I start something, the first chapter is always really amazing because I'm SO in to it. And I tend to take a 10 month break between novels, so I'd been missing writing for a while. Usually that's because I spend about two solid months hidden away, working on something at the speed of light, and then when I'm finished it takes me the rest of the year to get my life back in order, haha.

But while I'm writing something, it's intense. I spend all day thinking the way the main character thinks, I'm spaced out when I'm not writing, and the only other thing I really pay attention to is whatever published novel I've come up with that is the best from its genre, whatever genre I happen to be writing.

And a while back I started looking around at agencies. It was going to be kind of a casual thing but I started doing a lot of bookmarking, writing queries, formatting... after about a month of working that way I took a break, and never got back to working on it. Mostly because I thought... This is a lot of work for the novel without actually working ON the novel. And I decided I really didn't care enough about getting published to put that much of my energy into finding an agent. I feel like having an agent and yearly deadlines would stress me out and, quite frankly, kind of scare me.

Whew. I've never thought analytically about what kind of writer I am so... I wrote this to enter the contest but even if I don't win it has definitely made me think real hard ;)

Mary Witzl said...

It's odd: I can read this and agree 100% with what you are saying, but I'm pretty sure I'd be one of those people who still kept writing. Know why? An idiotic inability to accept The Truth. I'd be utterly convinced that there was somebody somewhere who was reading what I wrote, against all odds. I live in denial.

onetiredmama said...

Fun contest! I'm the kind of writer who falls in love with my next big idea. I have so many books started, and only a few finished. Right now I'm grappling with which book to finish, or rework. Will I get clobbered over the head with the book I'm supposed to write? Will I know it when I start it? I'm waiting for my muse to speak up a little louder than she has been. --Lisa Scott

onetiredmama said...

Fun contest! I'm the kind of writer who falls in love with my next big idea. I have so many books started, and only a few finished. Right now I'm grappling with which book to finish, or rework. Will I get clobbered over the head with the book I'm supposed to write? Will I know it when I start it? I'm waiting for my muse to speak up a little louder than she has been. --Lisa Scott

Martha Flynn said...

We're closed to entries! Thanks to everyone for sharing and tune in tomorrow for the winner!