Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feather Queens & Kings and Flip Flops


I can’t include a writing sample today. I’ve fallen so completely out of love with my current writing that I despise it like an ex-boyfriend. I’m sure we’ll kiss and make-up sooner or later. It just isn’t happening today. We’re still furious with each other. It’s a rejection issue.

So, let’s talk about...fads. They do tangentially tie-in to the writing remorse, but I’ll save that for last since the fads themselves are infinitely more diverting. And, to give a nod to the theme of the week, I’m thankful that I’ve never deeply engaged in any of the following fads (except I do wear flip-flops to the pool).

10 Random Fads – please post more of your own

10. Beanie Babies: Middle-aged women go berserk over bean bags. BEAN BAGS! In one way, it’s a sweet return to youth. In every other way, it’s disturbing.

9. Decoupage: You take a plaque, glue on a picture of Holly Hobby, and smother it in more glue. For a super-artsy effect, sprinkle it with glittery crystals. Warning -- Even Goodwill won’t take these anymore.

8. Atkins Diet: Let’s eat even more of what makes us fat.

7. Feather King/Queen Hair: Think Charlie’s Angels vintage Farrah Faucett. Since I have curly/fuzzy hair, this style was my holy grail in middle school.

6. Mork and Mindy Suspenders: Now only worn by clowns and elementary school assistant principals who are going for friendly but creepy look that scares kids to death.

5. Rubik’s Cube: In a moment of Alexander the Great greatness, I sliced the Gordian knot by peeling off all the stickers and sticking them back on. They are super hard to peel off and look like crapola when you put them back on. I guess there’s a lesson about cheating in that, but I’m sticking with the Gordian knot brilliance because it’s all I have. I never solved the cube the legitimate way.

4. Tongue piercing: How does that work with Popsicles?

3. Flip Flops: These are especially odious when worn by men with fungus-infested hobbit feet. Invariably, I get behind Fungi Frodo in the airport security line.

2. Twitter: Go ahead and defend it in 150 characters or less.

1. High Concept: Transformers = machines turn into different machines = crapola.

The reason I was thinking about fads is that when you fall out of love, your head turns at every dude passing by. Especially at those two feather kings in the photo. Admit it, you were checking them out. You hope one of the feather kings is your next big-haired love. You’re down in the dumps and you just want someone to reaffirm that you’re worthwhile. There’s even a technical name for it – rebound dating. He’s a fad. A diversion. His hair is a diversion in its own right.

When you hit a rough patch with your writing, it’s tempting to look at whatever is hot in the market and chase it. You think you’ll have a better chance at getting a contract. Surely everyone will love you if you write what everyone wants to read. But you have to be careful. The hot trend of today is tomorrow’s decoupage. By the time you finish the manuscript, everyone’s on to the next big thing. Yesterday’s big thing looks as dated as a leisure suit with white piping trim.

I know the standard advice is to write what you love, but with an eye to the marketplace.

But what if you don’t know what you love anymore?

32 comments:

Debbie Kaufman said...

OOH, tough one. I've been flirting with another story lately and it's making waves in my relationship with my current WIP. What can I say? Infidelity is always a problem in a committed relationship. :)

Dianna Love said...

You are all so funny I have to come here just to get my fix.

Here's my two cents - If you're starting a new story every time you fall out of love with your current one and have a stack of unfinished books that's a bad sign because you'll have to eventually get through the rough patches in any long term relationship (IE - publishing) to be successful.

BUT - if that isn't the case and you don't have ten half started stories on your desk top, taking a break from your current story and writing anything really different is good for your muse.

If you don't know what you love then challenge yourself to write a short story (think of it as a short affair so you can walk away) in a genre you've never considered.

I love to read historicals, but I would stink at writing one because I don't have the patience and drive to do the research. However, if I hit a point I could not bring myself to write on any current manuscripts, I'd sit down and have fun with a historical even knowing I had no intention of publishing it. I'd write with abandon, not caring if I had the setting, clothes or weapons right. But only for a couple days then I'd go back to my true love and make it work.

Even your muse needs a day to play sometimes so why not let it flirt with another genre?

Cyrano said...

Like I mentioned before, you should have your own column. Your posts make me think, are written brilliantly and like this one, make me laugh my ass off.
I hate to hear that you've fallen out of love with your work. I'm sure he did nothing wrong, maybe he's simply veered off on a different path. One that you're a little worried to take.
But he's been with you through thick and thin, shared a special relationship with you. Trust him, Anna. I have a feeling if you give him another chance you'll see something in him that makes you fall in love all over again.
Now, to fads.
Smurfs: As a teen I had a collection of Smurf figures that made others jealous. Where are those figures now? I assume someone bought them at a yardsale years ago and now they're stashed in their basement with all the other crap they've accumulated over the years.
Parachute pants: All those zippers and shimmery fabric should never be sewn into pants for any reason.
The 80's bang pouf: Do you remember how every girl blew dry their bangs nearly straight up and then cemented them in place with 15gallons of Final Net?
I remember the rubics cube. I hated that thing because I couldn't solve it either. But I didn't peel off the stickers because I'm so damn anal. It would have made me nuts to look at it all mangled.
Oh, and for five or six years I had my tongue peirced...recently that is. I finally took it out a few months ago because I chipped my back tooth for the second time.
Yes, I'm an idiot...but to tell you the truth I miss it. I thought it was cool.
To each his own.
Excellent post Anna. Loved it.
Have a great, productive Thursday,
Tamara

Cyrano said...

Of course, now that I read Diana's comment I'm feeling pretty silly. I told you to give your manuscript another chance, when I'm on bad terms with 9 manuscripts myself. I give a few of them a chance every now and then. Two of them woo me mercilessly and I flirt back and forth with them, but I need to choose one and follow through.
So today, I got a laugh from you, and excellent advice from Diana.
This blog ROCKS!!!
Tamara

Maxine Davis said...

Oh Anna, there you go again. I'm still laughing.

Falling out of love with him? Oh for heavens' sakes, he's a man. What did you expect? Ok, I'm kidding. Sure. Maybe. But you, with the mightly pen/computer can shape him any way you want him. Good luck.

Fads? Not too much for me. I guess the long hair and French twist thing was mine. I even bought tiny bottles of spray lacquer like they used at the beauty shop to keep it in place. You could hardly drive a nail in it. I guess that's when I should have taken up motorcycle riding.

Cinthia Hamer said...

OMG, Anna! Between you and J Perry, I don't know which one of you makes me laugh harder.

Fads. Geez. I've never been one to follow them too closely. But back in high school, I did have feathery hair, sort of. And because I had a great body--no, really, I was freakin' CUTE back then in my size five Dittos jeans and "French cut" t-shirts. LOL! With platform shoes, of course. :)

In the late 80's I had a couple of "drop waist" dresses, ala Coco Chanel. But I never wore the poufy bangs because my hair has a mind of it's own and won't pouf no matter how much Aqua Net I spray on it.

I had to laugh at the flip-flops thing. You are SO right...and I see a LOT of Fungi Frodos, let me tell you. Some of them, I swear, could run up a tree with those feet.

I, on the other hand, practically live in them in the summer. They keep my feet nice and cool and I always make sure my feet are pedi'd properly so as not to offend.

As to the writing, I soooo feel you. And I agree with Dianna. I think she's spot on about walking away for a couple days and then go back and try and make it work. I find that when this happens to me, it's usually a plot problem. I'll mull it over, write down (in a notebook) different possibilities, and discuss it ad nauseum with my CP, and between the two of us, we usually get me back to feeling lovey-dovey towards my WIP.

Good luck, and if you feel you'd like to chat about it in private, I'd be happy to help.

Dianna Love said...

Tamara - Don't feel silly about encouraging another writer to get through the tough times on a book. Sometimes a kind word and gentle push is all we need. Believe me - EVERYONE who sits down to write goes through the same angst and has a few books stashed to the side that never quite worked.

I bet if you took your favorite one of those 9 stories and challenged yourself to do something fun with it (or asked your cp group to brainstorm with you) you would fall in love again enough to finish the story and probably end up with something fresh/different to shop. Treat one story like a pet project you're willing to play with and see what happens when there's no pressure to finish it.

Good suggestion from Cynthia about writing in a notebook, too. If I'm banging a problem in a story I go to pen and pad, which seems to help me think better.

Anna Steffl said...

Debbie, what a way to start my morning! Infidelity is always a problem in a committed relationship.LOL. Funny cause it's true.

Linsey Lanier said...

Anna, I agree with Tamara. Your posts are always wonderful, always make me laugh, as well as think.

I have to admit I've fallen out of love with *every* manuscript I've written. When I start, it's like a teenage crush. I'm filled with excitement and I know this it. This is The One. By the time I'm finished, I'm thinking, eh. I can see the flaws and it's work to have to fix them.

I felt this most on my last ms. My theory is that I didn't plan it enough and having to plot, characterize and write at the same time was just too draining. Maybe the feeling will come back. I hope so.

Maybe I just need to play in another genre as Dianna suggested. That's a terrific idea by the way. Maybe if I get a nod from an editor, the love will return.

As for fads? I'm not a fad person, so the only one that comes to mind is boy bands. Menudo? Not even sure of their name, LOL. But I did enjoy that picture. :)

Thanks for brightening my morning.

Linsey

Anna Steffl said...

Dianna, that's a great idea--writing something totally different. I need to keep writing while I get the love back. I have to! The manuscript is finished. I'm just getting through the rewrite and I'm stuck on making the first chapter the best it can be.

I think the issue is that I received some rejections on my partial, so I'm hating on my work for making me go through those crappy feelings. I need to get some seriously thick skin, or just start wearing a leather coat when I open emails. I know I don't love every book I pick up. Why should I expect everyone to love mine? That's a hard reality to remember.

BTW -- the last time I blogged you gave me a suggestion on what genre to label my manuscript. I've been using it and it works. Thanks!

Anna Steffl said...

Tamara, like I always say, you are too nice. Will you be my agent :-)??

You had your tongue pierced? Wow! Well, I wore parachute pants. Not nearly as daring, I know. But, I also went through a punk phase when I shaved all but the top of my head. Looked like a mushroom.

For all love, finish both of your beloved manuscripts!

Anna Steffl said...

Maxine, you always crack me up.

"Falling out of love with him? Oh for heavens' sakes, he's a man. What did you expect? Ok, I'm kidding. Sure. Maybe."

You know, writing is like a relationship with a man. I made that analogy as a joke, but it's true. It has its good days and bad days, but we're in it together.

Anna Steffl said...

Cinthia,

You need to post some photos of the Ditto jeans look.

Aqua Net. I used that all through high school and college (even when all the other girls had the $13 cans of Sabastian -- I'm so cheap, or maybe I was just poor).

Thanks for commenting! Now, bring some pictures to the next meeting.

Anna Steffl said...

Hi Linsey,

I so hope you get a nod from the editor of your dreams.

Oh yeah, that flaw thing. The manuscript is finished and flaws are all you see. I understand that one. Then, other times, I'll look back and be secretly thrilled at how good some parts are. Now, to get everything good.

Menudo! I forgot about them. How could I?

Barbara Monajem said...

I always have two things going at once, so when I get pissed off or just stuck on one (which happens often), I spend some time on the other. Lately I've had three or four, which may not be so good.

Fads: Not many, but I still miss leg warmers!

Anna Steffl said...

Howdy Barbara,

Didn't I just read somewhere that leg warmers were coming back? Leggings are back. I love leggings. They look so cool with a skirt in the winter and are way more comfy than tights. Then, I read that no one over 30 should wear leggings. What? Who makes up these rules? Why wasn't I consulted?

Holy smokes -- four things going at once. I'm impressed. I'm in awe of those writers with multiple books out in different genres to boot. They exhale words. And not crappy words, either.

Sandy Elzie said...

Hi Anna,

Great post. Your sense of humor was so obvious that I didn't even have to get to the bottom to see who had written it.

I have two unfinished manuscripts...besides my current WIP. I fell out of love with one story, but I love the 2nd. On that one, I hit a wall on where to take it. I'll have to plot it out a little better and finish it.

Fads? Big hair. (Still have a problem with it when it's down)

I don't seem to collect more than 3 or 4 of anything, so can't comment on lots of junk I don't need. Guess I'm a free thinker who hates clutter.

Sandy

Anna Steffl said...

Sandy, I was so disappointed not to see your hair down at M&M. It is amazing in your photo. I would kill for such beautiful hair.

I'm sure you'll come up with a plot fix for your book. I've seen how your mind just snaps around situations and comes up with the most fantastic ideas.

Have a terrific day. The sun is visible!

EC Spurlock said...

Oh Anna, I feel your pain! The first novel in my series was a delight, a breeze, a joy to write. Then I hit the sequel. It too was a joy at first, but then it started getting heavier and heavier until I found myself slogging through character angst daily. On top of my real-life issues, it was just too much to take.

So -- I admit it -- I had a fling. A passionate escape with a daring, rakish, snarky adventure story. It may never go anywhere (although I'm speeding along through it and have done more good writing in three months than I had done in almost a year with the other) but it's what I need right now. And by the time I'm done with that, I'm hoping my emo ex-WIP will have gotten over itself and we'll be able to reconcile.

I've never much been one for fads, but I did get into all things Star Wars when the very first one came out. And I used the hippie long-straight-hair fad to finally force my mother to stop giving me Orphan Annie permanents in junior high. And I did love my hip-hugger bell bottoms. Funny thing, I just bought a pair of slacks that look almost exactly like them, too. It's true what they say, everything comes around again! Even when you hope we have more sense than that now...

Pam said...

Great post and great conversation this morning!

I don't have a lot of experience as a writer, so I can't exactly relate to "falling out of love" with my work. I think I get tired of looking at it after a while, though, and then I am completely unable to be objective about it. When that happens, I found found that if I just set it aside for a few days, it looks a lot better to me when I go back to it. Maybe that's what you all mean! I started a novel in August which is dear to my heart, but I had to put it aside in order to participate in NaNoWriMo. I blogged about that journey this morning. So I am hoping to return to Novel #1 with renewed perspective, as well as increased experience!

I WILL admit, however, that since breaking up with my fiance several weeks ago, I have, indeed, been checking out every man that passes by. But I will settle for the 'feather king" on the left!

Pam
http://pamasberry.com

Anna Steffl said...

Thanks for commenting EC. I'm so glad to hear other stories about what to do when the angst gets unbearable.

I can see where going the snarky adventure route is escapism from an emotionally complex story. So, since you have an easier time writing the snarky adventure, is that what you feel like you should be "really" writing? My problem is that I love, love, love to read emotionally complex stories. I want to write them, too. But it takes a toll.

Whoa. I had those home perms, too. I would have loved to come out looking like Little Orphan Annie. Instead, my hair always got fried and I looked more like Richard Simmons.

Anna Steffl said...

Pam -- Breaking up with a fiance...that's tough but always seems to be the right thing in the end. I met my husband when I was on the rebound from a long but doomed relationship -- and it worked out. Yes, I was out trolling!

Keep going on your novels! I'm so impressed by the folks doing NaNoWriMo. I'm too chicken and slow.

I think the guy on the left is hot, too! I wonder what he looks like now? Does he still have hair? I have a hair "thing."

EC Spurlock said...

You know, good point about the snark, Anna, and something I hadn't thought of. The hero in the first book was a smartmouth too, and he and the heroine had great chemistry and played off each other very well. It made that book very fast and easy to write. Ditto for the one I'm working on now. But the H/H in that middle story are both so SERIOUS! Granted they are both emotionally wounded, but still -- somebody's got to lighten up before that whole plot just sinks into the earth! That may be the whole key to salvaging that book, just giving one or the other a sense of humor! Thanks so much for the suggestion!

I don't know that it's so much that the humorous adventure is what I should be "really" writing. I think any story that really pulls at me so that I HAVE to write it, I can't NOT write it, is what I should "really" be writing. But I think the key to a good story is the same as the key to a good relationship: your partner has to be well rounded. Sure, he may have issues, but he also has to have a sense of humor. He has to be willing to compromise when things aren't working out as planned. He has to have a little spontaneity. He has to be able to surprise you now and then, have a little mystery, so that it keeps your interest trying to figure him out. And you have to know when to give each other breathing room. Sometimes just giving it a little space is all any relationship needs. We've all been through the stress of trying to force a relationship to work, haven't we? Sometimes if you just step back, the problems resolve themselves.

Hey, anybody remember The Phoenix? That guy was the ultimate Feather King.

Anna Steffl said...

EC,thanks for writing again. I'm going to keep your comment about humor in mind when I start the next book. I definitely work best when I have one humorous character in the scene. Those are so easy to write. And really, humor often is the armor of a wounded soul.

I've decided I'm going to finish doing my revisions and let the first, problematic chapter sit for a bit. Maybe nothing is wrong with it. Maybe it needs just a little tweaking. Maybe it does need a complete rewrite. I'm too distressed about it right now to see clearly.

I hope you rekindle the love for that second book. What kind of series is it?

EC Spurlock said...

It's paranormal romance, or maybe more accurately fantasy with romantic elements. They're fairy tales about the people who always get overlooked in fairy tales. For example, you know how it's always the oldest or youngest who marries the prince/saves the kingdom? Well, the first book is about the middle child who gets tired of being overlooked and walks out of her family's story to start her own -- and all the repercussions thereof. The one I got stalled on was about a princess who finds out her prince is rather less than charming, and then encounters a Beast who claims she's supposed to be HIS soul mate. The question becomes which is the prince and which is the beast? The next in the series, which is outlined and ready to go, is about the second-most-famous shrew in Padua. That will be a fun one too, if I can get to it!

Anna Steffl said...

EC--very cool. High five.

I write paranormal with romantic elements, too (as Dianna told me to call it: post-apocalyptic paranormal with romantic elements).

Is the first one published?

Tami Brothers said...

I LOVE reading these blog posts and get an even bigger kick out of the comments!!!

I can totally relate to the dam colored cube. I was fabulous at taking it apart and putting it back together. I had my dad convinced I was brilliant. Until the pieces starting getting loose. Then, I was a sitting duck when he asked about that…grrr…

And yes, I just saw a whole rack of leg warmers at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I am still laughing about that.

I have multiple stories flirting in my head that I would love to start but I keep promising myself to wait. Damn it!!! It seems like we are always waiting, doesn’t it.

Tami

Ps – I totally had the Farah feather going on. And not that I look back, I so could have worn that bikini. Just wish I had the nerve to do it back then….

Anna Steffl said...

Hi Tami,

Maybe we need to do a retro night for the next M&M banquet. You so have to rock a Farrah Feather for it! I'm reduced to a wig again because there's no way I'm going Richard Simmons (but I might get those legwarmers at BB&B).

You took apart the cube???? That's devious.

EC Spurlock said...

Anna,

The first one got thisclose to being published -- two out of three editors at St Martin's loved it, but the third one was the one that counted, so no go. Then I lost my job and was unemployed for two years so I couldn't afford to keep marketing it. Now that I have a job again, once I get the more pressing bills paid off, it's going back out again. Now that my mood is improved, too, I'll probably be able to finish that second one, and hopefully fix all the problems.

We should do a retro meeting for Halloween next year. I bet I could do the feathers now that my hair is short enough! I wish I had thought about rearranging the cube. I used to treat it like a Simon, moving things around and trying to remember how to undo it. Then one of my sister's friends got hold of it at a party and scrambled it but good, and I could never get it back the right way again. :-(

Anna Steffl said...

EC- that would just suck so much -- getting that far only to have one person not "get" your work. On the great side, 2 out 3 loved it. 2 out of 3 people hardly ever love the same thing.

Its always so easy just to hear the voice of the one person who says nay -- and forget all the voices that say yeah. We need to give the good just as much credence as the bad.

Darcy Crowder said...

Anna

Thanks for the laugh today. Considering how much humor you use in your posts, I'm a little surprised that you would be writing more angsty stuff. I'd give anything if my natural voice had more humor - I love to laugh and crack jokes at home...but when it comes to writing anything down on paper I can't help but get serious. Sigh. I flirt a lot with the idea of writing historicals. Once I get my current wip finished I might just give one a try. The issue I struggle with is if you are shopping a particular story around and start to write another, it should be along the same lines, right? Just in case you have success on that one out there. But then, maybe that "other" genre is the one you'll have success with. It's a conundrum. :)

As for fads...I don't usually get caught up in them. But I did have a pair of leg warmers. :) And I don't know if it's a fad now or not, but I absolutely LOVE those shaws that you see everywhere nowadays. I bought a couple last year and have already bought another this year. :) With this mild Georgia weather, they're much more comfy than coats.

Nicki Salcedo said...

Sorry I missed this yesterday. And I wish you would leave me alone about my tongue piercing. Not a fad, but a phase...