I like to think of myself as a practical, down-to-earth person. But, to be honest, horror movies, books, or even just concepts strip all that away, exposing my superstitious and vulnerable underbelly. Feeling that way isn’t something I enjoy, so I no longer indulge in that genre. As I’ve gotten older I’ve discovered reality is bad enough without terrifying myself with (hopefully) imaginary monsters or the kinds of horrors that might exist but (again, hopefully) will never touch my life.
When I was younger though, I remember huddling under the covers, reading Stephen King’s Firestarter, The Shining, etc. I also saw the movie version of The Shining and was suitably horrified, although I still think the book was better.
And there is one incident with a horror movie I’ll never forget, because it was so funny, and also a favorite memory of my teen years and of my brother.
My parents often went off on vacation, leaving my brother and me at home to hold down the fort. This particular time, I think I was too young for my brother to go out and leave me at home alone, so we settled in to watch a movie my brother-in-law had copied to VHS for us. Turned out to be Dracula, the 1979 version, starring Frank Langella. Okay, so it isn’t the scariest version ever made, but there was something about the way Dracula’s eyes vibrated whenever he saw blood, and the sight of him climbing down a sheer stone wall, that terrified me. But I didn’t want my brother to know how scared I was, so I didn’t cover my eyes or anything…
Then the movie ended and, realizing I would have to turn off the lights and go upstairs by myself, in the dark, if I didn’t get out of the room first, I bolted.
So did my brother!
And the night ended with neither of us willing to go back and turn off the TV or the lights, all of which stayed on until morning. It was a mini case of mass hysteria, LOL!
Now, I’ll leave you all to your zombies, possessed souls and other assorted things that go bump in the night… while I watch my true crime shows about mass murderers, serial killers, etc.
Which one is more horrible? I don’t know…
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.
Sorry for the late post today. Frankly, the weather’s been so nice, after being crappy for so long, my head is full of gardening and birdsong LOL! Thank goodness for auto-reminders, although I only just saw that too, having already been out with the dog and having drank a cup of tea sitting on the patio. Here’s just a little of what I did yesterday, after a trip to the plant store. So lovely to be in an apartment with good light again, and have plants indoors!
So, to get to the question of which author I’d like to be, well, that’s an interesting one. There are so many authors whose work I love and admire, some of whom have already been mentioned by others here, but there really isn’t any one I’d truly want to be, because then I couldn’t be me, and I’ve grown quite fond of my strange, quirky self (and it’s about damn time too, after all these years!). What I’d really love, though, are some of the attributes of other authors, kind of smooshed to fit my personality and voice.
I want the imaginations of Stephen King and Charles de Lint (to name just two of many!), the prolific abilities and business acumen of Nora Roberts or Maya Banks, the opportunity to write books that become classics, like JRR Tolkien–you know, stuff like that. But really, what I secretly dream of–although it won’t be a secret anymore after this–is the ability to create and sustain a character people come to love, like John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport in the Prey series. I love how Sandford makes the setting and people come alive, how Lucas has remained recognizable throughout the series but has also grown and changed, just like people really do. If you read the first book in the series and then read the last, it would be like seeing someone you haven’t seen in years but instantly recognize because they were memorable and, although time has brought changes, they’re still the same person. Another character like that is Harry Bosch, created by Michael Connolly, and yet another is Jack Reacher, in Lee Child’s immensely popular series.
Of course, characters like that are generally more suited for genres other than romance, but Nora Roberts did the same thing with her In Death stories, embraced wholeheartedly by romance readers, so there’s still hope for me! I’ll just keep plugging along here, hoping for the day a character rises up and says, “You know, I could be a series…” *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*
What are your favorite characters that have stood the test of time, and what is it you love about them?