Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Proper care and feeding techniques

Yesterday, the amazing Amazon Goddess, Saranna DeWylde (author of books like Desperate Housewives of Olympus and Lust and Other Drugs) made a facebook post about the proper care and feeding of your author.

This inspired a list.

How to Take Care of your Author

5. Don't interrupt the process.

If I could, I would put this in neon, bleeping, flashing and otherwise screaming the words. The process is sometimes not the neatest thing in the world. Ray Bradbury sat in his swivel chair and twirled back and forth...gaze wandering over the flotsam he collected until--kapow!--inspiration hit and he would start with the clickety clacking. Some authors clear their heads by playing Words With Friends. Some wonder aimlessly through facebook pictures until...POW! hits. Shirley Jackson was walking her baby (something one did back in her day) when the stroller wheel caught a rock, throwing it up and pegging the baby in the head. She finished her walk, just watching that trickle of blood on her kids head...went home and wrote the Lottery in one sitting.

The process is strange and it has been described more as finding a story than creating one. It only takes the connection of seemingly not connected things in a writers brain (for me, it was once bacon soap, werewolves and sex) to make that little shift in reality to where stories are born.

So, if you see your author staring into space, staring at YouTube videos, poking their pasta with a fork...this doesn't mean start talking. They probably aren't there, even though the lights are on. No one is home. They are ass deep in a swamp, machete in hand, looking for a relic. So shut up.

4. Respect the work.

The key word in that sentence is work. This one kind of ties into number 5, but stay with me. If the laptop is open and your author's fingers are flying across the keyboard, don't walk up and start asking them what they want for dinner.

Chances are good, they don't care about dinner. They are still looking for that damn relic and you just made them lose the thread of thought that it took them all morning to catch and now that it is gone...they hate you a little. Unlike reading a book or watching a movie, writing a book doesn't have a handy pause button or ability to just wait for you to pick back up again. Thread gone, author staring at the page with no fucking clue what they were going to type next. They now have to reread the past five chapters, try to find the characters and the thread again and...yeah, I mentioned they hate you a little?

You are better off bringing whatever you think they might eat and leaving it silently next to the desk and creeping away. My kiddos are kind creatures and when I am in THE ZONE, they will quietly supply coffee and if I go a day without eating...they stick food near me.

I once wrote a 90k book in about a week. There really wasn't anything else I did but write that book that week. I didn't really shower...or brush my teeth...or sleep...

I ate when I remembered to and if there was food nearby. The kids kept me in coffee. They like my writing because it means that although there might be a week like that when I am Out Of It and in THE ZONE, I am home with them the rest of the time and more than happy to spend hours shooting things on their video games or looking through magazines or traveling around to where ever they want to go.

The price is that when a story grabs Mommy by the ass, she is GONE till it lets her go. Most of the time this doesn't happen and I write like everyone else (3-7k a day in the morning) and it is just a day job. But the good stories just come out like vomit...

So as an author, respect the process and let it happen. As a person who loves an author, understand that sometimes they are there...other times, they aren't.

3. Offer inspiration.

My best friend ROCKS at this. She takes me on adventures that I wouldn't dream of having. She finds new foods, new places, new people to feed her author pal and I soak them in...later regurgitating them into stories. College is excellent fodder for the writerly brain. Soaking in life is excellent inspiration, too. Don't be afraid to try new things, to go new never know what your rock of inspiration might be.

2. Don't be surprised when your author knows all about tobacco enemas but can't remember someone you introduced them to last week.

I am TERRIBLE about this. I know some really trivial information and can spew it, at length, at the slightest trigger. I don't remember people FOR SHIT. I have to really get to know them before their name stays with me. Even then, I can lose it. It isn't that I don't like people...I just can't tell them apart. I do the same thing with my characters. I can tell you the whole story line in a book I WROTE but I have no clue what I named the people in it. And I LOVE my characters. It's just the names aren't the important bits for me.

I can tell you all about books I have read, too. I can't remember who is IN them...but I remember who wrote them. I don't know why.

I've noticed a lot of authors do similar stuff. We remember lots and lots of info...

But forget bread three times in a row at the grocery store.

Why? I dunno. But for proper care and feeding of your author, expect this and be ready to whisper names in their ears.

1. Know that your author will love you in a way that no one else ever will.

Most authors end up, in some way or another, putting little nods to the people who took care of them into their work. Either by flat out dedicating the book to them or by writing out a funny story that they remember about them into a longer tale. Having your very own author means that you will be given immortality through the work. An author also is willing to look at you, really look at you, and see all the bits, even the gritty dirty ones and love you for them. They add to your character, after all, and that is what we love...characters.

So for the times when the author stares at you blankly and the times they snarl when you come too close to the laptop...

Remember, it isn't that they aren't devoted to you. They hold whole worlds in their hands and you have the ability to shape those worlds with your love of them.

Take care of your author...and they will take care of you. Forever.

Happy Writing!


  1. Virg,

    This was pretty beautiful. #2 and #1 especially.

    Your kids are awesome. I think they'd get along with mine. They can commiserate/celebrate what it's like having a writer mama.

  2. I'm really insanely flattered that you think that. :) Thanks!!