I Give Up


I give up.  I’ve twice started a post, and run into snags along the way.  One was all about romance in my fiction (kinda like peppermint in my chocolate!) but I realized it was becoming a rant and I needed to cool down and look at it with calmer eyes.  The other one wanted to be funny but it’s just…not.  Funny is hard, and not-funny that wishes it was funny is pathetic.  I thought about writing a post sharing goofy things library patrons have said to me in the last two weeks (and believe me, some of the comments will make you weep for the future of the human race) but then I worried that one of my library coworkers might drop in and decide it was time for my job to be handled by someone who didn’t post things on the internet (There are people who don’t live on the ‘net.  Heck, there are people out there who don’t check their email more than every other week.  It’s true.  I’ve heard tales.)  I even considered writing a post about what I’ve been reading lately, but I haven’t been thrilled with the last two or three books I brought home, and I don’t want to be a downer during the holidays.

Anyway, I’m tossing it out to you guys.  Ask me anything.  You can ask me about writing.  Or reading.  You can ask me about the first book that ever made me blush, or the first scene of my own that ever made me cry.  We can argue about what makes a romantic hero romantic.  Serious questions, silly questions, they’re all good.  You can ask me about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow if you like.  I’ll either look it up for you or start quoting Python.  Give me something to talk about. 


30 comments to I Give Up

  • Vyton

    Misty, do the library patrons talk about why they chose a book? Was it for the cover, the blurb, or did they read the first few pages? And — can you tell me the typical payloads for swallows and how that affects their airspeed? (Apologies for feeble attempt at library humor.)

  • Oh golly, there are lots of reasons. The cover picture is a big one (even though it really shouldn’t be so important, but we like shiny, pretty things, we humans) and the cover blurb attracts readers, too. Many people come in because someone else told them to read the book. In fact, just last week a woman came in looking for ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, but she had no idea what it was about, and when we told her, she was horrified. Her neighbor had recommended it, but didn’t elaborate on why. -laughs-

    As for the swallow, I’m pretty sure it has to beat its wings forty-three times per second to maintain average velocity, so a payload of one worm or three seeds probably doesn’t affect it too much. If you’re talking about a one pound coconut, though…

  • sagablessed

    Other than here, how do you decide to personaly mentor a writer-a-writer, or do you ever? If not, why not?

    Also, would like to see how you (ie you = all contributors here) found your own editors, and why those.

    Last (to mix it up): If a train is going east at fifteen miles a second, and the apple splats on a hot tin roof, what color hats will the aliens wear to the cotillion?
    Seriously though, how did you decide your first book was good enough to send to an agent/publisher? (Even if not published)

  • sagablessed

    Someone *recomended* ‘Fifty shade of -‘?
    Dear literary gods, I think…I might….

  • sagablessed

    (Runs for the privy)

  • I think that neighbor mighta been telling her something. She may want to move… 😉

  • Saga, you should have seen the patron’s face when we told her what the book was about. Funniest thing I saw that whole day.

    I only ever offered to mentor someone once, and I did it because I thought he was committed to the work and because I thought the book he was writing had great potential. Alas, he wasn’t as committed as I thought, and the book remains, to this day, unwritten. I know Faith has worked as a mentor before – she mentored me, after all. So I hope she’ll come in and join the topic, since she has more experience with mentoring successfully.

    I didn’t choose my editor – she came with the publishing package. If you’re asking about editing prior to submission, I was part of an amazing writing group that did a lot of that sort of work with me before I ever submitted to the publisher.

    I don’t know that a book is ever perfect when it gets sent out, but I wrote mine until there wasn’t anything I could think to change. My editor, of course, disabused me of that notion, but that’s the beauty of the relationship. The editor looks at my perfect product and sees the flaws that my loving eyes miss. I guess the answer is to get it as good as you think you can, then send it out and see what happens.

    Let’s see…alien hats minus a train, carry the splatted apple, and the answer is Portland.

  • Yedra

    Hi Misty, I would love to hear about the first scene you wrote that made you cry. Did you know going in it would be that emotional, or did it just happen as you wrote?

  • Megan B.

    Is it an African or European swallow?

    I’d love to read your post about writing romance, if you ever feel like doing it. I think romance is frequently so poorly done in books and movies… it should make for an interesting topic.

    As for an actual question… Have you ever completely given up on a story or book you were writing? If so, why? I have a lot of stories languishing on my hard drive that I know I’ll never go back to, but I’ve never made a conscious decision to just trash something. I’d be interested to hear about your own experiences, or anyone else’s.

  • What is the first scene that you wrote that made you blush?

    Do the kids you work with ever bring you story ideas? What is one of the best ones they have mentioned?

  • No, ya’ll. You got the math all wrong. Saga asked: If a train is going east at fifteen miles a second, and the apple splats on a hot tin roof, what color hats will the aliens wear to the cotillion?

    It’s a trick question, three trick questions, actually: The year is 2127, pi, and Aliens don’t dance. (ducks and runs)

    Mentoring is both the most wonderful and the most horrible thing I’ve ever done. Out of the mentoring experience, starting with the writing group, came Kim Harrison, Misty Massey, and (soon to have his novel published) Craig Faris.

    Since, I have worked with three people. One was young teen, who refused to listen to my suggestions for her work, and learn to be a better writer. All she wanted to, “Get published before I turn 18 and so I don’t have to go to college or work in the real world.” When she finally admitted that to me, I explained that wasn’t going to happen, that her writing needed work and she needed college. Well, you’ve heard of talking to a brick wall? Yeah. That. I finally told her that she wasn’t listening to my suggestions, wasn’t making the changes, and that I couldn’t help her any more. Disheartening in the extreme.

    An adult lady, who I met through MW, I have worked with through two novels, I finally helped place her with an agent, who has sent the book out to several editors. No positives. Disheartening, but not the end. She has an agent. She may need to write something else to be placed with a pub house.

    A third lady, I have worked with for 7 years, has sent me her first finished novel. It has taken 7 years to finish and polish. It is on my kindle ready for a read. I’ll start it this weekend.

    A fourth lady, I met through FB, I have worked with for a few years, and her novel is being polished. I have an agency ready to see it. It is promised for Wednesday to them. She is working like mad.

    Will I ever work with anyone one-on-one again? Probably not. It is very hard work for very few positives. When people I have come to love don’t hit, feeling their disappointment is very painful. I am trying to de-stress my life, and being part of someone’s dreams being crushed is very difficult. Selfish, I know, but there it is. That said, if one of these hits, I’ll be invigorated and might change my mind. But not any time soon. I’ve overdone in every part of my life. My health has suffered. I need to rest.

  • Me getting the math wrong is pretty much a given. I find math fascinating, but I can’t actually DO math on my own. 😀

    Megan, the romance post will happen – I just needed to get a fresh look at it. Probably next week.

    For the rest of the great questions you guys have asked, I’ll answer shortly. I’m having to use my phone right now, so as soon as I can get home to my beloved keyboard, I’ll answer all of them.

  • Cindy

    I agree Daniel. I have never read 50 Shades of Grey and I would wonder about the agenda of someone who recommended it.
    That said, I have a great relationship with my librarian and we recommend books to each other all the time. She has read some MW authors on my suggestion.
    Did anyone read the article on self publishing that was in this week’s TIME magazine? It didn’t inspire me to read any of he authors mentioned.

  • Nathan Elberg

    How do you know (without asking someone else), that something you’ve written is good?

  • I’m home, where typing is easy! So here we go…

    Yedra, it was a scene from Kestrel’s Dance, the book that hasn’t been published yet, so I’ll have to be a bit vague, and for that I apologize. I’d realized a particular character needed to die in order for the story to move forward. I knew how the character was going to be killed, although I wasn’t sure exactly how the method I’d chosen actually worked, so I did what I always do when I have a question about killing people…I called Faith. *laughs* After getting all the information I needed, I set about to writing the scene. And suddenly I realized that I was sobbing with every word. Somehow I’d managed to get so deeply into what was happening that I was reading as I wrote. The loss had ceased to be words on paper, and was now as razor-sharp and painful, as if it was me watching it happen instead of Kestrel. Which I hope means that it’s good. Someday y’all will have to tell me. 😀

  • Megan, I haven’t given up on anything, not completely. I still have two novels that are almost finished but may never see the light of day. One needs serious revision, because it was my learning novel, so I did lots of wrong things in the writing of it. It’s melodramatic, for one thing. For another, I made mistakes with the settings, and I need to do a little more research about the places in the novel. But I haven’t given up, because I still think it could be a good read. The other novel was the first in a trilogy, and after about 300 pages, I suddenly realized that a secondary character was far more interesting than my lead, and possibly needed to have his own book instead. I have to find the time to figure out where that book ought to go.

    You’ll hear people talk about keeping fragments and partial stories in separate files, and I think that’s an indication that we never do really give up on anything we start. We may never finish it before we die, but the hope remains.

  • Mark, it would have to be the scene in Mad Kestrel when she admits to McAvery that she’s a Promise. The actual naughty behavior takes up about one page, but it was something I hadn’t tried in anything else I’d written. Writing sex is tricky, because it’s so easy for it to sound like a cheap porn magazine. I worried over that scene for days, mostly because I worried that my mom might read it someday. *laughs*

    Back when I worked with middle schoolers, I did have a few bring their writing to me. They were excited and sincere, but I never met any writing prodigies. Most of what I was shown was derivative of whatever they happened to be reading at the time. Not really fan fiction, per se, but just copying without quite understanding what they were doing. That’s not to say some of them didn’t eventually write something incredible, but I was only there for the clunky beginnings. One young man spent forrrrrrevvvvvverrrrrr telling me about the series he’d imagined that involved superhero birds. I’m still not quite sure how he meant it all to go together, but I giggle thinking about characters like SuperOwl and Wonder Flamingo.

  • Cindy, we’ve seen a ton of late-middle-aged ladies coming in and asking for Fifty Shades of Gray, even ladies that up until then had only read Debbie Macomber and Jan Karon. Some people just read whatever’s being talked about on the talk shows and in magazines, without caring what it’s about. In the case I mentioned, the woman’s neighbor had told her about it, but hadn’t mentioned the bondage part.

    I’m definitely going to have to hunt down the article from TIME. Several people on my FB have already mentioned reading it. 😀

  • Nathan, the honest answer is that you have to trust yourself. Which is hard to do, I know. I still don’t always believe in myself, and some nights I sit in front of the computer staring at the vast white space and wishing I could put the perfect combination of words, terrified that whatever I do end up writing will be lousy.

    It certainly helps if you have people who’ll read your work and give you suggestions, but in the end, it’s all about you. If the scene feels clunky or weird to you, rewrite it. But if it feels natural and smooth, you’ve probably done the right thing. Try not to stress too much about it, and keep going.

  • Vyton

    Misty, this has been a fun post — and educational. Very interesting points of view from the library patrons. So it’s swallows that drop those coconuts. I never knew. The surrealist element was great. So sad that aliens can’t dance. Faith, great insight into mentoring from the mentor’s point of view. I hope you get to work in a nap every once in a while.

  • Wait, aliens don’t dance?

    Fun post! It’s way too late for me to think of a question, unless it’s how to get rid of an ear infection and the subsequent stopping-up of my ears.

  • One young man spent forrrrrrevvvvvverrrrrr telling me about the series he’d imagined that involved superhero birds.

    Guess it could work. After all, there is that Guardians of Ga’Hoole. 😉

  • Sisi, you’ll need actual medicine for an infection, but to help with the discomfort, I recommend warm sweet oil. You can buy it in most drugstores. Warm it by holding the bottle in your hands for a couple of minutes, then drip a few drops into the affected ear. My mother used to use this when I was a kid and had ear infections all the time, and it feels wonderful.

  • Well, African or European? 😉

    I was wondering about riddles in stories. When you wrote that short story for the Dragon anthology, how did you come up with all of the riddles? And how easy was it to come up with them?

  • mudepoz

    *Snort* I beta. I LOVE to beta. Sometimes it bites me in the butt. Sometimes that’s a good thing 🙂
    Out of betaing FF, I ended up with a few women that filed off the serial numbers and published. Folks, this is PRIOR to Fifty, and these women can write. And make 6 figures self publishing. If you want to meet them, I’ll introduce you to a few on FB.
    My job nowadays is to count parts. IE, sometimes you end up one too many male or female parts. Sometimes that’s okay, there is paranormal erotica, but not if it’s inadvertent.

    They keep trying to get me to write hot scenes. I’ve tried. The bed ended up on fire from firecrackers. Romeo and Juliet boinked off the balcony and into a fountain…well anyhow. I’d love to learn how to write a good love scene. After a while though, they get to be boring. Nothing worse than writing ZZZZZZ across an author’s hot scene.

    Misty, how many plants are too many? How are the oleander? How do you not laugh when reading something serious? How many cows are in Wisconsin?

    And Faith, PLEASE take it easy. Don’t let anyone hurt you, mentally or physically. Not even if they are good friends. There is this word, it’s quite short, but incredibly powerful. We’ve discussed it before.

  • mudepoz

    BTW, I need to mention that the women making the big bucks write erotica.

  • quillet

    I notice you’re mum on whether it’s an African or a European swallow. Is that because you’re afraid you’ll answer wrong and be cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril?

    What…is your favourite colour?

  • I swear I wasn’t avoiding the question of the swallow’s ethnicity…I had to look them up. I think I’m choosing African swallows – they’re prettier. 😀

    Mud, the oleanders didn’t survive the intensely hot and dry summer we had, unfortunately. And all the Wisconsin cows are in Wisconsin. After all, if they were North Dakota cows, they wouldn’t be in Wisconsin, would they? I know as much about cows as I do about plants, so I could be wrong.

    And my favorite color is red. And black….Aaaaaaaggghhhhhhhh!

  • Laura, when I was a child, I loved riddles. I preferred the really awful, punny kind, but I respected the complicated ones. For Miss Winnie’s book, I knew the riddles had to get harder as they went, so I researched classic riddles from many different cultures, and tried to style mine like those.

  • I don’t find anything funny about SuperOwl (waggles eyebrows)

    Riddles: omg. I can never figure them out because my mind just doesn’t work that way. Tolkien’s riddles in The Hobbit made my head explode. Anybody who can write them well gets my admiration! I don’t do math either: for me, one plus one equals eleven.