Monday, December 17, 2012

Narcissus in Chains chapter 14 AKA the post about LKH's writing habits

Hey, my loyal blog readers! Ever tried writing a whole book? Wow, isn't that hard. Ever run out of steam for an idea? Or you know that you need X number of words before event Y happens? And you don't know what to do with the designated space? Are coming up with plots twists and events that generate actual character development too hard for you? Well, have I got a fix for you:

In the Anitaverse, this is synonymous with porn.
Ah, but CW, I hear you saying! How do I create this wonderful stuff? Isn't that just as much work as actually coming up with a plot? I mean, it's not like I can cockblock my readers on having sex for an entire chapter, is it?

Yes, boys and girls. It is exactly that easy. Want me to tell you what happens in this chapter? It's easy.

Jason, Nathanial and Anita all get in bed together and spoon. Nobody has sex. There. That's the whole chapter. I am not kidding. This is all that happens. Let's ignore for a second that the plot for this book is basically this:

We've got the same set of circumstances, complicated by knowing who the kidnappers are. And what are we doing? Diddly squat. I'd say "fucking nothing" but they're not even fucking. yet. And you just know that they're going to delay on this until the next full moon, and LKH obviously has NO IDEA what to do with this plot, so we're probably going to do this a lot. So this is going to be a different kind of post, Ladies and Gents. I'm going to rant about something near and dear to my heart:


More specifically, how not to do it! See, I like overanalyzing things, especially things I think are fuck-all stupid. And LKH might write competently, but when she talks about writing...oh, dear JESUS do I want to shoot something.

One thing I have learned from the Great Self-Publishing Experiment is that you don't get to write what you want to and still be successful. You write what people want to read. If I were talking to a new author who wanted to self publish, I would say to write a lot, about every little thing that comes into your head, do the best job you can, and then see what people liked and what people didn't like. And then do a whole bunch more of that. If you have the kind of readers that talk back to you, that's even better. You can get direct feedback and turn that into something new and great. The two reviews I got on Starbleached told me what I really needed to focus on to make the sequel work. (Look. I'll get back to LKH in a minute. Bear with me) The sales told me that I need to stop focusing on the heart project and start focusing on the sci-fi book that I didn't even want to write in the first place, because that's what you want to read. And I'm okay with that. It hurts, but...hell, I got a lifetime of writing in front of me, I can wait a while.

My point is that feedback from peers is good, feedback from bosses is better, and feedback from customers is what you listen to. Even when it fucking sucks to hear. Why? Because if you continue to produce a product your customers want to purchase, you will continue to get paid.

Now, if you have one customer saying that the chicken at your restaurant sucks, or that character X is unlikable, you can blow their feedback off, after you weigh its validity. If this is the first bit of feedback you've gotten, you might need to attend to it. If this is a lone voice in the throng of people RAVING about chicken or Character X, he's probably just a lone weirdo. And if all of your customers are a little wary about the chicken? Fix the fucking chicken.

LKH is notorious for a lot of things, and the biggest one is not even interacting with her customers. Note what I said: customers. Not fans. They're the same damn thing, but fans has a kind of...brush off attitude. "Oh, they'll always be there". Customers are something you court and work to keep happy. If I want you to buy the heart project and Project Dragon, which is my goal (I'm up front about it) then I need to make you happy with Planet Bob, and the Exiles sequils and the Gray Prince books, and any other side projects I decide to bring in. And I need to pay attention to what you like so I can adjust all other projects accordingly.

Not only has LKH removed all possible methods of easy interaction with fans, she also stopped listening to editors a LONG time ago. Right around the time this book was being written. So anybody who could tell her "Having an orgy at this particular time might slow the plot down" has been gagged and shoved in a closet.

Also, and this might surprise you...but LKH doesn't really like action or violence.

Oh, she likes the aftermath of violence, and she likes sudden things to happen to side characters, but if you're in the primary cast you're pretty much safe. To me, this defeats the entire purpose of writing. The writers job is to fuck with the reader, not give themselves a handjob. I love True Blood for a great many reasons, not the least of which is to take you to the edge of the cliff and then cut to the credits right when you start to fall. The writers on that show fucking hate you and it is fucking brilliant because of it. Thus character deaths are a good thing. They trigger a strong emotional reaction in the reader, and if I've done that? I've won the game.

Or let's put it this way: If you do not throw the third-fourth books in one of my series across the room while screaming "FUCK YOU" at the top of your lungs, and then immediately go to the "publishing schedule" page to find out when the next book comes out? I have failed as a writer. I do absolutely want to be your favorite writer, but I also want you to hate my fucking guts for that cliffhanger.

LKH? Does not feel this way. She just posted a big long skreed about how killing characters hurts and she just threw out all this writing because it "ruined her characters lives". It is a very special kind of crazy, and near the end I was screaming "Fuck you" in the bad way, because the hints she was dropping were pretty much exactly what I and a lot of long term fans wanted her to do with the series. There is another blog entry I can't be arsed to find where she says there isn't another Merry Gentry book (the series I actually like now that AB sucks beans) because any new plot would destroy the sweet fluffy cotton she's entombed Mary and her stable in. I read something like that, and I stare in incomprehension. Conflict is not an icky nasty thing in book writing. Conflict is the fucking jet engine that sends your book into orbit. A book without conflict is either a stack of blank paper or what you go for when you run out of TP. I love my characters as things I can use to make a good story. I don't love my characters as people, because I know they aren't. LKH seems to have lost this distinction somewhere between Guilty Pleasures and present day.

Kill your Darlings, dear. Or preferably, kill Anita's darlings.

1 comment:

  1. I have one objection to this post: That first gif? That would be an AWESOME plot.

    Respect the psycho cat.