Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Staying Fresh as a Writer...

...means writing until you are terrified. It means writing when you have something to say. It means writing with tears streaming, or your teeth clenched, or your door closed, or with no worried glances at the phone from your Great Aunt Muriel to complain.

It means finding the truth, and rewriting until it's right, and most importantly it means knowing your hero or the people your hero loves can die at any point.

I just read this post from Maggie Stiefvater called Why We Love Writers Who Treat Us Bad.

I was musing today that the old saying that women love guys who treat them badly holds true for authors too. 
Before you start to snort and through your lattes at the screen, bear with me here. I started thinking about it this weekend because of the response that BREAKING DAWN is inspiring amongst readers. For those of you who live under rocks, BREAKING DAWN is the fourth installment in Stephenie Meyer's YA vampire saga. Even if you don't read them, you oughtta know what they are. Anyway. I have not read the 600 page beast which just came out this weekend, but I have read the hundreds of reviews which have appeared on Amazon and on blogs. The upshot is this: in the final book of the saga, Stephenie Meyer gives readers everything they could've possibly wanted for the protagonists. A happy marriage, a healthy baby, everyone's in love, no one dies, and they get to stay in town because the main character's dad is cool with his daughter being a vampire (I warned you there were spoilers).
And the readers hate her for it. I mean, the reviews could peel paint. These people are not just unhappy, they are out for blood. But why? They got everything they wanted, right? Everything is perfect! Every thread is tied up! Everything that every reader has ever lusted after for those characters was granted.
But we don't want that, do we? Nay, as readers, we want the author who won't call us in a timely manner after that first date, who makes us pay for lunch, and who makes eyes at our best friend. Let's compare the Breaking Dawn reaction with J. K. Rowling's series. She kills Dumbledore. She kills one of the Weasley twins. She kills Sirius. There are bodies flying left and right. Nobody gets what they want. But at the end of the day, there are no legions of fans shouting that J. K. has ruined the series. They moan "why did Sirius have to die!?" but not "what was she thinking when she killed him?"
Or how about my favorite movie trilogy ever, the Bourne movies? (sorry, Robert Ludlum, I haven't read them, only watched 'em). In the first twenty minutes of the second movie, they off Jason Bourne's beloved love slave in a ruthless and expedient matter. Do we scream and throw the remote? Nah, we rend our clothes a little and say "poor Jason, come to my house, I'll comfort you" and then we watch the rest of the movie and the next one back to back and we love them.

We don't want authors to treat us well. We hate 'em when they do. Complain as we might about a beloved character dying, hell hath no fury like a reader who actually gets what they think they want. 
Note to self: kill someone off in the next chapter of my WIP. counter

K, now I want you to watch this video.

When you are done, watch a few seconds of this. It's the same group. The same song, and it's beautiful, but it's not the same.

This one is safe. The sound is clearer, but they are in a completely different location, and it's sung with far less passion and heartbreak. The story isn't as powerful, which means the music isn't as powerful. It's still fantastic, don't get me wrong, I love these guys, but to me, it illustrates the difference between writing with acoustics, and writing in a safe place.

The echoes from that church, man. Just brilliant.

Things only echo, if the walls are raised.

Write something that scares you. That's how you'll stay fresh.

~Sheena (and Maggie Stiefvater, and The Lone Bellow)


  1. Love this post. Brilliant as always, Sheena. :)

  2. Darn you, Maggie Steifvater. Why would you go and say something that is probably going to echo through my next 3 books without my permission. WHY?

    Awesome post, Sheena.


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