Monday, 31 March 2014


Some writers are robots. (Bzzzt, whirrr, click, pay no attention to that machine behind the curtain, whirrrrrrr.) Other writers are human.
   Kacey Vanderkarr is from Michigan.
   There's a long-running debate in Michigan about the level of humanity displayed in those from the Lower Peninsula (serial killers) and the Upper Peninsula (replicants), but that's a matter for some other century.
   Kacey is publishing a book. Reflection Pond. Amazon. Check it out. She's human. And she's here to talk about what it's like to be human, and a writer, and all that drama.
   Books. In writing those, we gather ingredients. We throw stuff into our fiction and bake a cake. When it's ready, we serve it. In slices. To loads of people.
   Some decline cake. Others snap it up. A few don't like the taste. Someone drops a slice and it's gone. A few want the recipe so they can bake a cake themselves.
   There's always some kid who spews it back in your face.
   People like the cake. A few think it is wicked and disgusting and they really shouldn't and could they have another slice...
   To some it's heavy. Others find it too sweet. One maniac says it's not sweet enough.
   There are smiles and frowns and puffed cheeks. They all have opinions and reactions. How many of them would have the courage to bake a cake themselves, and share it around?
   All that planning, toil, and effort, and it's gone in a few bites. Ah well. On to the next one.
   Here's Kacey...
Does anyone else turn into a mess right around book release time? I swear, Goodreads and Amazon have made us neurotic. I’m always on Goodreads, hands trembling, waiting to see what awful thing has been said about my work now. Then my stomach is in knots because *GASP* not EVERYONE LOVES ME? WHAT IS THIS??
   But I’m here to tell you—you don’t need to stress over those bad reviews.
   Let me tell you why.
   First of all, you wrote a book. And not only did you write it, you edited it (hopefully), and published it. How many people do you know who’ve said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” but they never have? Dozens, probably, maybe more. You wrote a book. You are a hero. You look at your book and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

   Secondly, writing is learning experience, not an exact science. Let’s compare it to school. We start out in kindergarten, not knowing all that much. But we’ve got people to help us. We’ve got teachers and parents and our community.
   By the time we’re seniors in high school, we think we have this whole school thing figured out, only to find ourselves in college with no idea what the hell we’re doing.
   Being a writer isn’t all that different. We all start out at the beginning, but we learn and we grow. Maybe your first book wasn’t a bestseller, that’s okay.
   You’re learning. You’re making mistakes, but more importantly, you’re learning how to correct them. (And remember college? We may have a degree, but sometimes we still don’t know what the hell is happening!)

   Truth is, you can’t undo that book you published. Maybe if you self-published, you can edit again, change the cover, try to garner some better reviews, and you SHOULD, especially if the book was unedited.
   (Please don’t publish unedited work. There’s nothing worse.)
   But if you’ve grown as a writer, if you’ve learned from the books you’ve published, then you have nothing to stress over. I know. It’s art.
   It’s so hard to put something out there only to have people tear it apart. But the past is in the past, and that book, it’s now a part of your past. You’re not the same writer you were when you faced that first blank page. You’re not even the same person.

   Did you learn something about grammar?
   Did you learn how to foreshadow?
   Did you learn how to subtly nuance a character’s personality?
   Did you learn not to split infinitives?
   If you learned, then you are doing it right.

   There will always be people who don’t like your work, and that’s okay. It’s hard to accept, but it’s okay. When you sit down at your computer to write, are you thinking about those people who don’t like your work?
   No. You’re thinking about how great it is to write. How it feels to accomplish something.
   You’re remembering that fluttering in your stomach when you reach that really important scene.
   You’re finding your release. And maybe, just maybe, you’re a little scared, because you’re really putting yourself out there this time.
   You’re really taking chances.
   You’re writing about something that matters to YOU.
   So let those bad reviews roll off your back and keep going, soldier. There’s still books inside of you and many more lessons to learn.
That's Kacey. I'll add a few points. First, I had to format her original blog post to fit into Blogger. WordPress and Blogger live on the same street. In different counties.
   This prompted a thought. The one thing that's worse than releasing unedited work is releasing unformatted work. Recently I stared at a book on Amazon that was formatted as a single paragraph.
   I felt for the reader, not the writer. This is the age of LOOK INSIDE! We can all see that one-paragraph book. And we can all choose not to read it.
   What else? Kacey's right. Writing is like the first day of school, every day. There's always one more thing to do. Part of the fun. Kacey is American, and Americans have loads of problems with the split infinitive...
   That's true of non-Americans, but there's an unprinted non-existent addition to the Constitution that sends Americans into fits over episodes of STAR TREK.
   Split infinitives are like cream doughnuts. You can have one now and again, but a constant diet of those in your writing will kill you.
   Starving your work entirely of the split infinitive may lead to unfortunate consequences. On occasion, the split infinitive preserves the intended meaning of your work.
   I should add that nothing infinitive is split in the split infinitive. It is a misleading term. We call the damn thing that so we can recognise it when Captain Kirk says to boldly go rather than to go boldly. Better, perhaps, just to go, if it worries you overmuch.
   Splitting infinitively carries the potential to wildly entangle your sentence. For that reason alone, you may wish to aim for something simpler.
   The frothing rage some people get into over the (badly-named) split infinitive stems from the withering news that Latin is dead. A bogus argument encased in the fraying shroud of a once-living language will avail ye little.
   Write as clearly as you can.
   As for grammar...
   Grammar Communists defeated Grammar Nazis in Great Patriotic Grammar War.
   Not in the Great Patriotic Grammar War, for Russian has no word for the - and a Russian saying the phrase in English wouldn't automatically add a non-word for the benefit of an English-speaking audience.
   Perfectly acceptable grammar - to English-speaking Russian. If you must use the term Grammar Nazis, try to avoid adding a needless apostrophe.
   Grammar is local. I think nothing of adding but to the end of certain sentences, given where I'm from. And that's right and proper, for this part of the world.
   A few think it is wicked and disgusting and they really shouldn't and could they have another slice...
   That sentence could do with the odd comma, but even a single comma robs the image of the atmosphere I intended. Rules are there. Sometimes they are here and there.
   In looking over Kacey's book, Reflection Pond, I queried an American usage and she queried my Scottish version. When a phrase crosses the Cold Atlantic, it may look odd on landing. That stands true whether the airfield is to the East or the West.
   Both of us looked at something that was decidedly off. And both of us were right, based on where we were coming from. That amused us, greatly.
   You know what? We learned something. Writers do that, every day.
   Reflection Pond is sailing along the Mighty Amazon. That's a plug. ;)

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