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Rhino Hide, Little Darlings and Time

Good Wednesday, my fellow MANhandlers! I’m here to provide you with another delish photo to get you through your day. Take a moment, enjoy and then let’s do this Male model in bedthang!

As a published author, two questions I regularly receive are, “What’s the best writing advice you can give me?” and “What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?” There are three pieces of advice that have stuck with me through thick and thin, and they’re the ones I’m going to share with you today.

1. Rhino Hide: This is like Thick Skin, Safari Style. If you ever want a sincere critique from a crit partner or agent, you’re going to need thick skin. No one wants to hear her manuscript, her beloved baby, isn’t as ridiculously beautiful as she thought. Reading comments about cliches, overused words, trite lines and more can truly rattle self-esteem, but these things are absolutely critical to truly hear if your goal is to improve. But if you sell? You’re going to need rhino hide. Period. See, editors are there to make your manuscript the best it can be. Feelings can be bruised very easily if a writer doesn’t learn to take in critique/editorial comments with objectivity and turn those comments into productive revisions. This was, honestly, a difficult thing to master. Now? Not even professional moisturizers can help. I’m like leather, baby!

2. Little Darlings: Stephen King wrote a book titled On Writing. If you haven’t read it? Do. Now. Abandon this blog post and go. It’s absolutely the most helpful book on writing I’ve ever read. Did it give me hardline craft notes and methods and fundamental outlines to follow? What it takes to be a guaranteed success? Recipes for lemon poundcake? Nope. None of that. What it taught me was much more valuable: sometimes you have to kill your darlings. This means that sometimes, when you find a line you’re head over heels in love with but your crit partner(s) advice is to ditch it, your agent says the humor is misplaced or your editor says to strike it, you do. Yes, you read that right. You kill it. Hold a memorial service if you must, but let that bastard go. It’s unwise to become so wedded to a word, sentence, phrase or section that you can’t accept feedback regarding changes, or deletions, that make your story better.

3. Time: This is a two-fold tidbit. First, make time to write. If you want it bad enough, the time will be available. I’ve known people who get up two hours early each day in order to get their words in before the day job. I also know people who have given up things that came second to their desire to write (sports, TV time, clubs, etc.). You can carve out time, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, if it’s what you really, truly want.

The second have of this is to advise you to make time to read. Yes, read. So torturous, my suggestions! Seriously, though, reading is critical. Read across any genre in which you want to write. Read outside your preferred genres. Read books your friends recommend. I guarantee you won’t like everything you read, but two things will happen. First, you’re going to find authors whose voices you admire. They will help shape your own sound. Second, your vocabulary is going to improve. Neither of these things are bad things. So make the investment in your local bookstore or favorite online retailer and stock up on reading material. 

4. Best Advice: This came from my agent very recently. She said, “Get out of your own way and write.” It’s hard to do because my internal editor is loud, obnoxious and rather bitchy. But Super Agent was right. Sometimes it’s a matter of setting all the advice and others’ best intentions aside and doing what you do.

So there you have it. My three little tidbits and the best advice I’ve ever received. What’s the best advice you’ve been given? And what questions would you like to ask that I might be able to answer? Feel free to drop me a comment here or shout out on my website or Twitter.

Oh, How I Loathe Thee, Black Jack Randall

You should probably be warned that I’ll do my best to post some eye candy at the beginning of every blog. No, it rarely has anything to do with the blog. But looking is fun, no? (And apparently I have a thing for asses lately.)

Now to the topic at hand: villains. They bring out the best in our heros and heroines. They are the antithesis of all that’s good and right with the world. They are the darkness and the devil, often in a pretty package, and we love, love, love to hate them. So who’s my ultimate villain? Allow me to introduce you to Black Jack Randall, the darkest villain I’ve ever encountered.

Black Jack Randall is an English soldier, a Captain I believe, in the 1700’s. He is solely the product of the brilliant and talented mind of Diana Gabaldon, my hero. Jack Randall is one of the first characters we meet in her book Outlander, the opening to the series she began with Jamie Frasier and Claire Randall. Is Claire married to Jack? No. He’s her 1940’s husband’s several times great-grandfather. But the connection is there–until he assaults her and she figures out he’s a sadist.

What makes Jack Randall such a wonderful villain? The list seems endless as I write to you. He’s a dark, tortured soul, one who seems incapable of any type of compassion or empathy, let alone love. He is a rapist and the worst sadist you can imagine. He is fiercely attracted to Jamie Frasier, not only physically but psychologically. He wants to break our hero and he comes damned close to doing it. It was in that moment in the book, when Jamie was at his lowest, that I knew true hate for a character. Why? Because I was, and am, madly, truly, hopelessly in love with Jamie. I want him. I covet him. I cherish him. And that’s what makes the villain so effective–Diana has created a hero we truly love. It is that passion for the hero that brings the villain to life.

Jack Randall’s darkness, his sadism, would be horrible in and of itself, no doubt. But the fact he has a laser-like focus on our hero is what makes him so easy to hate. You root for Jamie and Claire, you boo and hiss at Jack, and you hold your breath every time the two men are on the page together. I have rarely cried because of a villain’s actions, but Jack Randall turned my stomach and made me weep.

I once heard Diana speak. She talked about a tea she attended where the ladies were discussing how evil Jack Randall was, and Diana grinned at us, her current crowd of apt listeners. She took on a delightful grin and said she enjoyed the conversation, but was surprised at one thing. Didn’t the ladies know that she was Jack Randall? He had come from inside her?

It struck me then that every villain I write has some component of me, from a gram to a metric ton of my influence and personality. It’s made it harder for me to write my villains because who wants to acknowledge the dark inside us? But it’s there, waiting for us to make it manifest in the form of our characters. I suppose I should get back to my current villain, a goddess intent on taking over the world and killing both my hero and heroine. Hmmm. World domination? Who knew I had it in me?

Until we meet again, read and be happy.

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