Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Authenticity

I’d argue that one of the hurdles to publication is shutting off the noise in the background. Everyone on the internet has an opinion on what to do, what not to do, to the point that people form lists. I’ll admit to you now that I’ve always done one of the mistakes on those lists. Don’t query before you’re ready. Done it. Don’t tell instead of show. Done it. In fact, don’t even bother with this whole thing because you’ll never get published, you’ll never make any money and everyone will point and stare at you because you’re continuing to write even though you’re a total lost cause. Done it… Dude. Will those people shut up?

No one knows half of much as they pretend. Everyone is full of advice, but would you like to know what I’ve figured out about advice? It constantly changes. Any time I’ve attempted to give my… words of wisdom *coughs*… (Yeah right)… I’ve found later on that I was wrong. I said one thing, but that’s not the truth anymore.

The world is full of don’ts, which doesn’t make sense to me. Sure there will be those select few who join writer’s circles from the very beginning and will NEVER make the mistake of querying before they are ready. But how do you know you’re not ready unless you query and get no requests? Some people will get lucky and stumble across writers who know what they are doing. The majority will read nine hundred blog posts about queries, spend months perfecting it, and still query before they are ready. Because without the feedback, they will never know the meaning of ready. And then once they get a query that works, they’ll figure out their book is nowhere near ready for publication.

I’ve been struggling lately with social media and figuring out how to keep a consistent blog. The idea is nice in theory, but everything I’ve attempted to write has fallen flat. There’s one piece of advice about writing fiction that I've heard from the beginning and has yet to change. Voice is everything. I think the same applies to blogs. I read posts with authentic voices. So what happens when I continue to write blogs, and they do nothing to show my voice? Not only are they not engaging, but they are probably projecting a negative image. I can’t even define why it would do so, just that I can see people reading them and thinking… huh? Who is this person and why should I like her? Or better yet, why should I read her book?

In January, I sold my fantasy romance, Ruined, to Crescent Moon Press. The experience has been fantastic. I’m so excited. But on the other hand, I’m anxious, paranoid, stressed out and relieved all at the same time. There are all these things you need to know to query, to the point where I figured once I had an offer, I’d figure the other stuff out. But it’s not quite so cut and dry. I should have been thinking about marketing from the beginning, but I think everyone goes through that phrase when they wonder if they will actually sell a book. Do you really want to spend 500 hours researching contracts when you never know if you’ll receive one? Because the 800 people over in the corner all tell you not to bother. So don’t bother.

Until a miracle happens. Someone wants to buy your book! Then what? Well, first off those 800 people in the corner were wrong, so just ignore them indefinitely. I’m sure they have great things to say, many friends and lots to add to the world. But you don’t have to listen, YOU don’t have to be their friend, and I’m pretty sure you’ll survive without their… “advice”. Then you need to take a good hard look at yourself. I had all these plans to launch a new blog with my website. I had a blog series planned about Fantasy vs. Reality. I had ideas, plans and goals. But I spent a full day working on that stupid blog series. And I read the first post and thought to myself… I can’t post this. This is horrible. There’s no point in blogging if you’re going to write something horrible. Something that will make people dislike you or not read your writing. And maybe I’m exaggerating because that’s what I tend to do. But you want to draw in readers. I wasn’t drawing in anyone.

I attended my writers group last night. Shout out to Eastside RWA. Marcella Burnard gave a great presentation. But one thing she said especially stuck with me. She was talking about being authentic. The whole way home in the car, I thought about how my blogs have been lacking authenticity. They’ve been lacking voice. And without that, what’s the point?

I think blogging is interesting because they assume it’s for all authors now. They assume that you can post weekly, even daily and remain authentic to your voice. In actuality, this is exhausting! Sure, sometimes I feel I might have something of value to add, but every day? Do they not know how long it takes me to be authentic in my work? It’s kind of like when people find out I’m an author and automatically assume I’m clever. You meet people and it’s almost like they announce “Say something clever for me!” And I wonder… do they have any idea how long it takes me to write a clever character? Forever…

So what is this post about? I think we’ve figured out it’s not about fantasy. Sorry. It’s not advice. Thank goodness. It’s just reaching the point where I realize that if blogging doesn’t make you happy, you shouldn’t be doing it. Because your blogs will read forced and no one will be interested in them, which means you just officially destroyed the whole point of blogging.

And while I say “you”… I mean me. It’s me that needs to figure out how to maneuver this new world. But I don’t think I can attempt to appease others anymore. Perhaps I’m not the brilliant blogger like some. My new goal is to look inside myself, gauge my emotions, and stay authentic to what I’m feeling. You’re not supposed to be able to go wrong with that, but I have the feeling you can. Still, it has to be better than spending a full day on a blog and not posting it. That was a full day I could have spent writing. There’s only so much time in the day, and we have to figure out where we want to apply that energy. I’m still learning, adjusting and trying to organize my life. One thing will always remain true. I love to write and read. This other stuff that savvy folks have deemed necessary is just icing on the cake. Without the book, an author has nothing.

What have you learned about staying authentic and blogging?

6 comments:

  1. Hi--I actually came here to read Maeve's post, and realized I'm a day late--but I found it.
    I also read yours, and not knowing who you are, reading it made it more interesting.
    About Voice--this is the part that caught my attention. Yes, editors and teachers of writing say "find your voice." Fine and good, yes, you should, but too often editors, then, try to rearrange all your words and thoughts and storyline, thereby squashing your "voice" like a bug. Too bad. I wonder how many novels have been changed so much from the original that we've missed the opportunity to read a truly interesting novel.
    Good job on your blog--Celia

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  2. Thank you for commenting, Celia :-) I think great books stem from original voices. There may be times when voices get lost. That's kind of what this post is about. I don't want to lose mine in my writing or blogging. I don't want anyone to lose their voice.

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  3. With social media, the best advice I ever got was simple. Some people are born to blog, some born to twitter, some to Facebook... And some aren't. Don't try to do what doesn't feel right. Keep looking for the social media outlet that will enable you to sound authentic and let the rest go.

    When I blog, I just let it freeflow and I was fortunate to end up on a blog that reveled in that sort of anarchistic babble. I've learned to reign it in, but have come to the conclusion that...my authentic voice celebrates babble.

    Congrats on the sale and hang in there, you'll find the place where you are able to speak authentically. Might be podcasting, might be Tweeting...might be guesting on blogs now and then...or teaching an online class, or speaking at conventions... It will come to you!

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  4. A friend of mine just told me today that Harlequin suggests to their authors that they only promote themselves directly once out of every twelve blogs. Interesting.

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  5. Congrats on your sale! I'm with Maureen--do whatever feels comfortable to you, and what still gives you time to write. I blog ferociously because I enjoy it. I Tweet a lot for the same reason. Facebook? Not so much.

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  6. I appreciate the comments, Suzanne, Darcy and Maureen! I think your ideas are excellent. I'll have to think on this some more.

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