I suppose it’s official. I suck at building a writer’s platform. At least is the prerequisite for building a platform is regular posting about interesting subjects. Because I am 1) not a Type-A personality, 2) have to have a full 8 hour complement of sleep each night and 3) have a life, I have to pick and choose which tasks to focus on. I can either write, which is what I love, what keeps me sane and you know, what will actually get me published. Or, I can concentrate of building a platform through social media, writing organizations, networking online, entering contests, etc., etc. My absence from the Swamp these past few weeks makes it obvious I’ve chosen writing.
Best decision ever.
I linked to the wrong twitter person there. Sorry bout that.
Getting a little cocky, I know. Then, it hit me. Writer’s insecurity and self-doubt.
So, I took a break and read about Jon Hamm’s penis.
Which as it turns out, was exactly what I needed to do for this to happen.
Shockingly, there wasn’t one bit of sex in that output.
Yesterday, after 3000+ words, I hit the first turning point. So, last night, I took a break and watched the last 4 episodes of “Veep” Season 1, and laughed my ass off. Then, I watched the 30 for 30 doc about Jim Valvano and the NC State Wolfpack 83 championship and cried. When Valvano was dying of cancer, he gave a speech at the ESPYs and said everyone should do three things every day. Laugh, think and cry. Done, done and done. Valvano was right, I felt totally awesome. Accomplished. Attuned to myself and the world around me.
Feeling full of myself, I got in bed, picked up the mystery I’ve been reading, In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming and, after two paragraphs, put it back down again. I was thinking again, when all I wanted to do was to escape. It was a good think, though. Because I realized something. Do you know what is my least favorite part of mysteries? Can you guess? No?
I am one-third of the way into In the Bleak Midwinter and don’t care one jot about the mystery. It isn’t because of Spencer-Fleming’s writing. She is an excellent writer. Love her style. I like her characters, though I’m not totally sold on the set-up (female priest helping male police chief solve crimes) long-term. I can buy the situation for one, maybe two books. But, for an amateur sleuth like a priest to constantly be involved in police procedures? I don’t buy it. Of course, this is all part of a larger problem I have with the amateur sleuth sub-genre and its plausibility.
But, that is not the point of this post.
The realization that the crime, investigation and solution – the defining plot of mysteries – is my least favorite part was a little disturbing, to say the least. After all, how can I expect to write a believable mystery when I don’t even like central part? It explains, however, why writing the investigation part of my mysteries has been such a challenge.
What hasn’t been a challenge, what has, in fact, been the easiest, most enjoyable thing to do is create Stillwater and explore the characters that live there. In my novels, the mysteries are there to inform the reader about the world and the characters, not the other way around. I want to create a world that readers can see, that they can relate to, that they wish was real so they could visit. I want readers to ache when my characters’ hearts break, smile when they are happy and get that little flutter in their stomach – you know which one I’m talking about – when the couple they’re rooting for inches closer together. I want to anger the reader when a character does something stupid, but also realize, “Yep. That makes sense, but damn it, I don’t like it.” I want the reader to think, “OMG, that throwaway line in the other novel meant something!”
How will agents and publishers respond to mysteries that are less about the crime and more about the characters? Am I shooting myself in the foot writing what I want instead of writing to the mystery market? I don’t know and I’m not going to worry about it. All I can do is keep writing what I want, hope it’s reads as good as it feels.
OTHER THOUGHTS ABOUT OTHER STUFF
- I must mention two books I recently finished. Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town (★★★★) by Nick Redding was an eye-opening look at how the economic realities of small town American contribute to the rise of meth and what one town did to combat its effects. Not a perfect book; Redding tries to personalize four citizens fighting the meth problem with mixed results and how these people’s personal lives were affected by meth is specious. Their problems weren’t directly related to meth, they were just people with problems that happened to be involved in combatting meth. Still, an interesting read and gave me great insight into small towns, which I need for research. The other book, Unbroken (★★★★) by Laura Hillibrand, you have probably heard of. I can sum it up easily: Olympic athlete goes to war, is captured by the Japanese, suffers horribly in a POW camp, struggles with alcoholism and anger when he returns, finds God through a Billy Graham revival and lives happily ever after, sharing his story and helping at risk youths. I don’t want to belittle the man’s story, or his experience, but by the end of the book, I didn’t like him much. He is the type of person that craves attention and it seems like he used his story to stay in one spotlight or another for the rest of his life. I could have totally read that wrong, since Hillibrand spends almost zero time on Zamparini’s life after 1947. From what she did say, I got the impression Zamparini was a horrible businessman, couldn’t work in a traditional job, so he used his story to rack up awards, speaking engagements and to create a camp for disadvantaged kids, the latter of which is highly admirable. The other part? Kinda makes me uncomfortable.
- I’m listening to my music while I write and spending too much time skipping songs I don’t like. Need to cull the playlist. I also really need to go through and uncheck my Christmas songs.
- Proof that Virginia Woolf was spot on in A Room of One’s Own: I’ve spent all week in our home office, my special writing place, being more productive than ever.
- Despite the middling to bad reviews, I’m going to see Tina Fey and Paul Rudd in Admission.
- The bad news with abandoning In the Bleak Midwinter is I am getting behind in my goal of reading 100 books this year. It doesn’t help that Wolf Hall (Jesus, it has 650 pages) is my book club book for April.
- In good news, the latest Maisie Dobbs (#10, can’t believe it) comes out on Tuesday. Reliably good historical mysteries.
- Also, Gillian Flynn has a new book coming out this year. YEA!