Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The voices in my head say...

In his book, “On Writing,” Stephen King refers to the creative part of the brain that works on the story as “the boys in the basement.” He also compared writing to mental telepathy.

He’s right on both counts, of course. Duh, he’s Stephen-fricking-King, and like him or hate him, he’s done something right all these years.

(Curiously, I’m so tired as I write this, when I go to type “right” my fingers want to type “write.” LOL)

Mental telepathy? Really? Why, sure. Think about it. When you read a book, you imagine what’s on the page. It might not be verbatim the way the writer envisioned it in their head, but it’ll be close enough for government work, as they say.

The problem is, no matter how hard “the boys” work trying to churn stuff out for an author, if they decide to sit down and take an extended smoke break of months (or years), you’re fucked.

Not to say a writer can’t spit something out. More like changing that “p” to an “h,” of course. Because for a writer to force a piece of fiction that they aren’t happy with is tantamount to using the paper you print it on as toilet paper.

No two writers perform their little feats of mental telepathy the same way. Some people are plotters, methodically (or pathologically) outlining their books, or even series, if they’re lucky.

Then, there’s the pantsters. Of which I’m one. As the term implies, we fly by the seat of our pants, usually. I rarely make outlines of my fiction. I just can’t write that way. I might have “mile markers” that are story points I know I want to hit, but it’s not uncommon for those to change if the characters or the boys in the basement say sorry, no.

I guess, in a way the mental telepathy starts with our characters telling us, the authors, what to say, before we pass it on along to you, the reader. Or perhaps it’s the boys in the basement telling them what to tell us. I’m not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg, there.

This means that, despite a rather pointed negative comment I received recently from an anonymous reader, no, I don’t have control of deciding to go back and write prequels before I finish a series. (My Triple Trouble series, in this case.) I had no idea the series was even going to go the way it did in the first place. Had I not taken the time out to write the prequels once it did go in that direction, I would have been skewered by even more readers for not passing along the backstory information first.

It wasn’t deliberate. It wasn’t a way to try to cash in. In fact, I was scratching my head on where the whole series was going to go, quite honestly, because at the end of book three I was, literally, as stumped as my readers about what was going to happen next.

Those damn boys in the basement went on sabbatical.

Well, that’s not quite fair. They didn’t go on sabbatical, but what happened was they refocused their energies elsewhere. Ask any writer, and if they have at least a couple of books under their belt, they’ll likely agree that if one book suddenly “shuts up,” sometimes they have to write whatever is screaming loudest in their brain at that time. In this case, it was some other books I’d kept pushing back despite how loudly they were starting to scream in my head, and the prequels.

Book 4 in the series (“Triple Dog Dare”) released yesterday. Where are books 5 and 6 (and beyond) going?


I don’t have a freaking clue. I know some of where they’re going, because the boys in the basement were nice enough to drop a few clues for me. But then they said nope, now you need to clear a couple other projects off the decks, because we’re ready for you now. (Likewise, they had shut up on the other series/single books when they switched back to Triple Trouble.)

Now, could I have sat back and forced book 4 of the Triple Trouble series out sooner? Sure, but it would have, frankly, sucked. I’m my own worst critic, but I’m also brutally honest with myself. I write first, as Lawrence Block and others have eloquently stated, for myself. I am my first reader. I write to make me happy. (Well, and to keep Tampa Electric and Verizon and the mortgage company off my ass and not sending me nasty letters, but you get the point.) If I’m not happy with a book, I can’t slap it on an email submission and hit send. I just can’t.

Because I know that none of you will be happy with it, either.

Now, I’m not so foolhardy as to think I can please all readers all of the time. I know the opposite is true, that there will always be someone who doesn’t like a book I write. That’s part of the gig. We’re all human.

But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt if I’m not happy with a book, it cannot leave my computer. I’m not saying nit-picky things here and there won’t escape my eye, but I’m saying overall. I know from experience that if I’m satisfied with a book, at least some other readers will be satisfied with it, too.

There’s also the point to consider that I am human. I have family and friends, and despite this being my evil day job and our family’s main source of income now, I put family and friends first. Over the past couple of years I’ve dealt with the deaths of my grandparents, whom I was extremely close to, as well as the decline and death of a very dear friend of mine this past winter. I’ve also had health issues to deal with that have sidelined me.

There’s also the fact that I’m now dealing with massive repairs and renovations on my grandparents’ sixty-year-old house, which I inherited, in addition to trying to keep up with our own house. And I had business considerations to think about in terms of some contracts coming up for renewal and deciding what to do with them.

Plus, I do enjoy having five minutes to myself here and there. *LOL* And I need a few minutes of sleep every day or I get cranky and am unable to do the putting-words-together gig. (Which keeps Tampa Electric and Verizon… yadda yadda.)

So I apologize for not being the fastest writer in the world. I wish I could just magically crap books out my ass like the Easter bunny does eggs and have them look just as pretty and be as well-received, but that’s not reality.

I love my readers, and believe me, I am grateful to you beyond measure for your faithful support. And I do apologize that I can’t write as voraciously as you can read. A book that can be consumed in a few hours by some might have taken me months (or years, in some cases) to write. No writer can keep up with that. At least, not without their quality suffering.

I do promise to do my best. But I, and I’m sure my fellow fiction writers are with me here, aren’t deliberately trying to keep you all hanging in mid-air when it takes us a while to get another book out. It frustrates us just as much as it does you all when the boys in the basement pull a switcheroo on us. Heck, Lawrence Block took something like six years between two of his series books once, if I remember correctly. Not something he planned either, I’m sure, but as he reported in “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit,” it’s just how it worked out when the boys in the basement finally kicked him an idea.

(Tymber Dalton's latest release is "Triple Dog Dare - Triple Trouble 4" and is available on her Siren-BookStrand author page. Her website is http://www.tymberdalton.com )


Heather Rainier said...

I agree, Tymber. 100%. Family, friends and mental health have to come first or quality suffers. As always, well put.

Morgan Ashbury said...

I agree completely. Just because we love what we do doesn't mean it isn't damned, hard, frustrating work. Fortunately, I think most of our readers get that. Thanks, Tymber, for finding just the right words.

redjuliet said...

I'm glad to know that one of my favorite authors refuses to put out crap! I also want you to have a life! And compared to some other authors, I think you put out quite a few GOOD books each year. I will try to patiently wait for the next Tamora Bight book & happily read whatever the boys in the basement send your way next!

The Heimster said...

Lesli I actually think you write pretty quick. JR Ward, one of my top 5 fave authors, writes 2 books a year; now that wait is a killer but they are totally worth the wait. I'd rather wait for a well written book, then get a half assed one with a plot all over the place. Financially how would we able to keep up if you wrote any quicker?

So ummm Lesli.... When's the next LSFT? I kid, I kid.

JDH said...

Thank you, Tymber, for sharing your gift with us, your readers. While I wait, at times impatiently, for your next whatever (because frankly, I will happily read anything you write, even if I don't think it's my "thing"), I am just thankful I get to read what you have written at all. I have laughed and cried along with all of your characters and your books have given me hours of enjoyment. I have recently revisited all of your books and enjoyed them as much the second, third or even fourth time as much as the first. So take the time you need, as long as it's not too long. ;)

Kallypso Masters said...

Good God, woman,did you use mental telepathy to blog about my writing life? I am so like you!

I did get ballsy, though, and wrote a prequel to my Rescue Me series. Okay, it also was the first book I ever published, so I was more naive than ballsy. (Hmmm. Maybe this is why traditional publishers make authors write the series THEN the prequel, because they've been burned before.)

I also did the cover to Nobody's Angel (book 2) in June and then in September (3 weeks before the release date), one of my Doms decided he didn't want to share anymore. Thank God my muse must have been working overtime in June, because the cover still worked.

Also in September, I woke up with an impossible statement of four words from the Doms in my head (similar to the boys in your basement) to which I replied, "NO WAY!" Then I went back to Masters at Arms (the prequel), read the pertinent section, and thought, "YES, WAY--and effing brilliant." Only I didn't say effing, because of the Marines in my head--as one Marine told me, "Marines cuss, they don't say effing."

And damned if that mental telepathy, my muse, or those Marine Doms in my head hadn't left the necessary breadcrumbs there in the prequel for me to do what they want in book 5. (Yes, Sirs. How high?)

So far, I haven't regretted publishing my prequel as a PREquel, but I go back often when they throw me curves in their books to see if I can get away with what they want me to do. So far, so good. But one of these days, I know they're going to really create some angst for me that I won't be able to write my way out of.

But I wouldn't trade this job for anything else on earth.


Tymber Dalton said...

Thanks everyone. :) I was just feeling... I dunno, miffed the other day when I wrote it after receiving that anonymous comment.

Stephen King has another good quote along the lines of when someone asked him why he wrote what he wrote, he responded, "What makes you think I have any choice?"

And that's true, too. Kally - don't sweat writing the prequel when you did. If you hadn't, you would have upset readers with info out of thin air. You did it right. LOL

I honestly didn't plan to write the bridge book/prequel to the TT series, because I hadn't planned for the dragons to merge with the wolves. When it happened, ALL the backstory sort of dropped into place, as well as book 4, and I was like, well, crap. LOL

I wrote it as much for me as for everyone else, because I had to get the book out of me before I could focus on the rest of the series. That's just the way my boys in the basement work.

((HUGS)) All!! :)