Tuesday, July 20, 2010

8 Things No One Told Me About Being a Writer

blog4 I feel like there were some things I was fairly well-prepared for when my first book came out four years ago.

I was prepared to spend a lot of time revising. I was prepared for the tough slog of finding an agent and editor. I was prepared that getting a book contract didn’t mean I was going to retire as a lady of leisure. :)

But there were a few things I was less-prepared for. And so, I offer you…

8 Things No One Told Me About Being a Writer

1. That I’d lose control in office supply stores. Yes, just the aroma of an office supply store is enough to turn me into a Post-It note and Sharpie pen-grabbing zombie. I could drop $100 at Office Max without even trying.

2. That I’d talk about my characters as if they were real people—and how crazy that sounds to non-writers. Yes, I’ve actually caught myself saying, “Oh boy. She’s not going to like that…” when I’ve gotten an editorial revision request for my protagonist. When people ask me about my book, I’ll start talking about the protagonist, “Well, Lulu is a strong-minded lady with a great sense of humor…” Sometimes these people will ask me if I’m writing biographies. :)

3. How much I’d talk to myself. Yes, it happens a lot. I used to pretend I was talking to my children or my pets (who usually just keep sleeping in their sunbeam.) But this talking happens even when the kids are at school and no animals are in the room. Sigh.

4. How much more attractive yard work and cleaning bathrooms can be compared to writing a tough scene in my book.

5. How reading books would never be the same again. It’s really, really hard for me not to pick apart a novel that I’m reading for pleasure. Am I the only one who has this problem?

6. How far removed I’d be from that perfect little writing cabin we all dream about. I write at swimming pools, indoor amusement parks, skate rinks, parks, carpool lines, and doctors’ waiting rooms…basically wherever I can grab a few minutes.

7. How I’d take snippets of facial features from one person I know, marry it with the personality traits of a second and third person, and piece together a Frankenstein of a character who is their own person.

8. How much I’d still love writing—despite the deadlines, headaches, and daily grind.

How about y’all? What have you learned about being a writer that you didn’t know going into it?

Elizabeth Craig/Riley Adams
Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen
Twitter: @ElizabethSCraig


Carol Grace said...

You have a great attitude! I hope the Office Max people hear about you and hire you to do their PR, then you can get paid for touting the aroma, the Sharpie pens and the Post-It notes.

Anonymous said...

I kinda wish a more experienced writer (hint... Elizabeth... hint) would've told me that blogging and tweeting are time sucks that take away from the fictionifying. Why would you leave a n00b out in the cold like that, experienced authors (I mean Elizabeth)?


Anonymous said...

I don't think you're alone in most of these. Particularly talking about your characters as if they are real and talking to yourself.
Thanks for sharing these.

Unknown said...

I have the same stationery addiction. It takes a lot to walk by without going in and touching the notebooks, pens and post-its. It's worse when you get all these things at a bookstore!

My characters talk to me. They walk with me almost as if they're reminding me that I still have their book to finish. They watch me when I wake up.

Anonymous said...

I have that perfect little writing cabin, and I can't write there. I want to see what's going on out in the forest. Ironic.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Carol--That would be SO incredible! Then, of course, I'd never leave the place and would have to write my books in the furniture section of their store!

Simon--Ha! I had an insidious plot to drag everyone into the social media morass WITH me. :)

Cassandra--I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Jessie Mac--Oh, if I had to combine my office store addiction with my bookstore addiction, we would be talking about some serious bucks!

Paul Lamb--I think I'd be in the same boat. I get so restless and need to walk around or change my routine a little. Maybe I'm just hyper from all the coffee I'm drinking... :)

Lisa Bork said...

Elizabeth - I have always talked to myself. I can't blame it on writing. My mother said after they tucked me into bed at night, they used to wonder who was in my room with me :)

However, I was never quite so picky about reading as I am now. Last night I finished one of our more famous peer's books and realized all the extra "that"s in the story really distracted me. And I'm very quick to spot typos and errors in who is speaking now--but I think that means I've honed my critiquing skills.

Lawn work never looks attractive, just more necessary.

Andrew Culture said...

You’re not along in dissecting books when reading them. Because I’m also a musician I also suffer from doing the same to music I love!

I’ve actually found myself sticking up for my characters when readers are mean about them!

Ann Marie Gamble said...

Man, no joke about the non-secluded-cabin writing space. At our house, my office is even in the garret, but do I write there? (Heck, when am I ever there?)

And yes, monkamonkamoo, mmmmm, touching the paper . . . . ;)

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth - Thanks for sharing those lessons! I do the same thing, by the way, with books that I read. It's very hard, now, for me to read without analyzing. Hmm..... I've also started to think of my characters as real, even though I know they're not. I'm glad to know that's not just me.

And I always leave my checkbook and debit card at home when I'm in any office supply store ; ).

Katie Ganshert said...

Oh goodness - this list is SO true! Especially the talking to myself one and the talking about my characters as if they are real. I do that ALL the time!

Anonymous said...

I relate to the characters being real. I cry when good things and bad things happen to them, even in revision when I already know what is going to happen. Sigh!

I did think I would have a lovely writer's retreat on a lake but that's okay, I like writing wherever and whenever I can. It adds to the charm.

No one ever told me how real the stories would become and how they could envelope me completely. That has been a surprise.

Unknown said...

I thought I was the only one that did all those things lol. Though the only other thing is: When I'm stuck, and have been for a while, my characters decide to creep into my dreams, and tell me what I'm doing wrong and what I have to write. Then I wake up, jump out of bed, and am always grateful that I don't turn off my laptop. lol :).

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Lisa--Come to think of it, I talked to myself when I was a kid, too! But I had an imaginary friend, so maybe that's why.

Ha! Did you want to get your red pen out and slash the "that's"? That's how I feel, too!

I think my back yard could use some weeding...

Andrew--Oh, that would be hard. At least with music I have no idea WHY I'm enjoying it, so I'm free to relax!

Ann Marie--And if I *were* there, my kids would immediately have some kind of skinned knee that needed to be attended to..and I'd have to climb down the stairs from the garret and find the first aid kit, and... :)

Margot--Good idea about the debit card! I think I'll go with JUST enough cash to buy the thing I'm shopping for. :)

Katie--You don't know how glad I am to hear I'm not alone! :)

ardeeeichelmann--I do have some mixed feelings when I kill off characters! Unfortunately, killing characters is one of the hazards of mystery writing. I brought one character back to life again last month! (Decided they wouldn't die in the attack, they'd just be seriously wounded.)

Blogger birdgirl35--That is so interesting! I read an article recently about that very thing. The title was something like "Nap Your Novel into Being." The idea is that you think about your novel before you go to sleep, then wake up prepared to write. I'll have to try it!

erica_henry said...

I'm not published yet unfortunately but I do every 1 of those.

Oh yeah, and I've always had a strange relationship with office supplies. My husband learned a long time ago that any supplies on my desk is off limits and I will know if he sneaks a pen. I'm a little OCD about my office supplies.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Elizabeth, except for #1, I am totally onboard with every single point. You folks can have the supply store all to yourselves. I am especially oblivious to how I speak to others about my characters as if they were real. Recently I was talking to a friend over lunch about my vampire characters. She stopped mid-bite, looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said, "You DO realize they're not real, don't you?" Me, in a snappish voice, "Of course, I do." Her, unconvinced, "Uh huh. Just checking."

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I think you nailed the list! I laughed and identified with each entry – especially talking about my characters as though they were real, talking to myself, and reading books differently than I used to.

Alan Orloff said...

Those are all so true. Here's another one, at least for me: No one told me how much non-writing stuff was involved with being a writer!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Erica Henry--That's because the supplies are OURS! ALL ours! No one else's. :) Yes, I'm snappish over my supplies, too, and have been known to hide them from my children.

Sue Ann--I need your secret for resisting the office store!

Oh Sue Ann, you're cracking me up! It's like you were talking about the tooth fairy or something and then somebody was trying to set you straight. LOL!

Jane--Y'all are making me feel so much better about my little eccentricities. :)

Alan--Yes! Why didn't they tell us that! :)

Darrell James said...

Elizabeth- No one told me what party-pooping-friend I'd become. I used to love to golf, go to ball games, hang out with buds in a sports bar... now I'd rather play with my little fictional friends.

Elspeth Futcher said...

I identify with almost all of these especially the lure of housecleaning when the alternative is writing a scene I don't know how to do. Also, I wish someone had warned me that reading will never be the same - if I love a book I tear it apart figuring out why, if I don't, I tear it apart figuring out why not. *sigh*

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Reading is different now. However, no scene is so tough I am tempted to do yard work!

The Daring Novelist said...

It is funny how attractive doing the dishes becomes sometimes.

As for the reading.... yeah, writing does change the experience of reading. However, after a while you get some of the pleasure back (or you learn not to read when you're in your most nit-picky moods).

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Darrell--Yes, my imaginary friends are infinitely more interesting! :)

Elspeth--*Yes*--it works both ways! I've noticed that, too. I thought that if the book was really *good*, then I wouldn't be picking it apart, but I still do. Sigh.

Alex--There's a patch of weeds in the back yard that's calling my name. :)

Daring Novelist--Maybe I just shouldn't read when I'm in the middle of doing revisions? That makes sense.

Lois Winston said...

Elizabeth, you mean our characters aren't real people? Nobody better tell mine that. They'll mutiny!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Lois--Oh, I'm definitely not going to tell MY characters that, either. :) Otherwise they'll be writing "Murder of a Mystery Writer!"

Keith Raffel said...

Elizabeth/Riley. Great post. As for me? I didn't expect to enjoy spending time in my fictional world so much. But then again with war in Afghanistan, deadlock in DC, bankruptcy in Sacramento, why am I surprised?

Mike Dennis said...

I'd like to comment on this post, but I'm too busy talking to myself about rearranging my Sharpie pens.

Deborah Sharp said...

Fabulous post, Elizabeth ... and that's from a woman who held her book launch over the weekend dressed in ''Mama's'' wedding veil. (Yes, a fictional character's veil for a wedding that never really happened. Sad, sad, sad ....)

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I've been trying all day to post a comment. At least I'm persistent.

1. Me too, especially with notebooks. I own more notebooks than I'll ever use.

2. I did this lately in the middle of a family conversaion, just blurted out something about a new character. I got thoughtful nods and raised eyebrows.

3. Nothing new for me, I've always talked to myself.

4. Yes, I find myself washing dishes when I have a dishwasher.

5. OH MY, many of the books I read are marked up so I can find "the secret" of writing a good novel.

6. Amen. Write where you can.

7. Haven't done that one.

8. I love writing. I love writing. I love it...writing.

Great list.

Angela Drake said...

For me, it's the school supply isles. Man, when school supply season hits the stores I'm like a kid in a candy store looking to see what the new flavors are. :-)
Though I am liking this 12x12 mouse pad I found at Staples last weekend.

What no one told me about writing... that I'd get so involved with my characters I wouldn't want to let them go.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I'm right there with you on most of your points! But I'd rather write anything than clean house.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Keith--It's MUCH more fun to pretend. I'm considering upping my pretending time by 75% or more. Only writers can get away with it, and I'm taking full advantage of that fact. :)

Mike--Oh Lord. Now you've made me spit coffee all over my new sofa set. Darn it!

Deborah--Mama is NOT fictional! (Elizabeth is now plugging her fingers in her ears and humming.)

Journaling Woman--Love it! You need to post on this, too! You made me LOL...yes, I've washed dishes by hand, too while the dishwasher sat totally dormant. :) Major stalling tactic!

Angela--Ohhhh....new Staples mousepad? You're pulling me over the line, here! I saw the ad in the paper on Sunday--they're doing that great back to school sale with the really cheap dry erase markers! It's going to take some willpower, here...

Kathleen--For me, it depends. There's definitely a range of unpleasantness when it comes to housework. But then there's a range of unpleasantness when it comes to writing. :) So on the one hand you've got the cat litter boxes. Then you've got the need to work in some important backstory in a new POV. I'm thinking the cat litter box needs scoopin'! :)

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Above all I've learned that writing is like eating M&M's. Once you start you can't stop until the end. They you get another bag and start again. There's no stopping!
Giggles and Guns

Sam said...

Oh. My. Goodness. All of the above! I may be a relative newcomer to the writing path, but I hear you loud and clear. Only £100 at Target? I could spend way more than that - do you ever feel you need just the right (ie: new) pen for a particular project? As a lover of fountain pens, that can make writing an expensive business for me, but I love every single second of it. And talking to/about characters - yes! I'm slowly getting used to the strange looks I get from friends and family when this happens. Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful post.

Marisa Birns said...

There's always something truly wonderful and amazing to be found at an office supply store.

I listened to an author this morning who talked about his new mystery book. He said that he fell "in love" with his main character!

I do talk to myself and what's worse, when someone is talking to me, I'm rewriting in my mind what they're saying, so it flows better 0.0

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Mary--You're so right! I feel like I *have* to write. There's no stopping it...and no choice in the matter!

Sam--Friends and family really don't understand, do they? I guess they *can't*. But I've gotten to the point where I think everyone thinks like a writer...and then I'm surprised when they don't!

I usually feel like I need a new *notebook*. I get really into having notebooks in every size. I LOVE those tiny flip notebooks and then the large notebooks for making global revision notes. I think I'd BUY an office store, if I had the money. :)

Marisa--I can see someone falling in love with their protagonist! Wonder if that's going to color how he writes her.

Oh, too funny! I don't rewrite what people are *saying* but I completely rip up their emails when I get them. :)

Laura S. said...

These are all so true! I related especially with #1, 3, and 4!