Clean Reader – An Author’s POV (Okay…Rant)

I’ve been pretty quiet about the whole Clean Reader thing while trying to tactfully present my thoughts. Know what? Fuck that.

Changing an author’s work because it offends your delicate sensibilities is a really shitty thing to do. Every word is carefully chosen by the author to convey EXACTLY what they want to convey. If it makes you squirm, the book is doing its JOB. Write your own story. Read something else. Don’t change an author’s work to suit YOUR views. What makes this thing worse is that the author is not consulted, nor permission to change the text given.  The creators of this app just decided to do it because, as they said, their daughter came home one day and was sad because a book had swearing in it, and she had to put it down.

Maybe she shouldn’t have been reading the book.

In high school, for AP English, I read a book called Germinal. In it, there was a shopkeeper who liked to have his way with the town’s daughters. One day, the women rose up, killed him, and paraded his penis on a stick through town. It was shocking. And I read it in high school. Guess what? I’m still alive. Disturbed? Yes. But that I remember this scene OVER TWENTY YEARS LATER means something. It means the book did its job. It formed a lasting picture. A picture with words.

Not only does this app remove/change swear words, it does so for body parts. “Vagina” and “penis” are not dirty words. They’re normal. Nothing to be ashamed of. We need to stop thinking of our bodies as something disgusting. If your child doesn’t know what these parts are, you’ve got problems. A child who is comfortable with his/her body is more likely to protect and respect that body. If you make it seem like there’s something wrong with it…yeah…enjoy the therapy bills.

Back to the author point of view. In general, how we craft a novel isn’t very well known, so let me school you. First, we have a first draft. It’s crap, but we get it down. Sometimes, we stay awake all night, hacking away until our fingers and hands are exhausted. If we don’t, the book inside us claws at us in a desperate bid to be free. It’s maddening. Eventually (as this step could take YEARS…can you imagine? YEARS, people), we have to do something called “editing.” That means, we rip apart our babies – those manuscripts we worked so hard on. Every word has to be accounted for. EVERY WORD. We agonize. We research. We have our critique partners and editors rip it apart for us. It’s a brutal, brutal thing. But eventually, we finish so we can send it off to be criticized again by agents and publishers. Every word, accounted for. Everything put exactly where it is for a reason.

Editors and such SUGGEST edits. “Maybe this word would work better than this one,” they suggest. Not demand. Back to the agonizing.

Catching on now? I call writing my blessing and my curse. It’s a maddening yet wonderful process. Every word is mine. So, you can see how much it would upset me to have someone change or omit these words that I poured my heart and soul into – and without permission, to boot.

Hey! Where Did March Go?

It seems like the month just started, and now it’s almost over. To be fair, I’ve been pretty busy. I’m about 70% done with the current WIP (*YA, F), and I’ve started a major overhaul of the manuscript I’ve been trying to find an agent for (*A, UF). I also had to work my “mundane” job, and I had a baby shower cake to make for a co-worker’s shower.

For those who don’t know, I’m a former cake decorating teacher who used to own her own business before I moved from Michigan. I was asked by the shower hostess to make the cake. I’ve made a bunch of cakes in the past. Taught it for a year. Nothing to be nervous about, right? HA! I made myself crazy. Nothing went right. Everything went wrong. I felt like such a failure, even though it looked cute, the mom-to-be loved it, and everyone else enjoyed it.

It’s funny how we perceive what we create compared to what others see. Looking at it now, I guess it’s not so bad. Deep in the throes of confectionary anguish? It was horrible. Maybe, if we take a breath and step back, we can see through clearer eyes. This can go not just for the things we create, but how we are in general. Maybe we’re not *that* bad. Maybe life isn’t that bad.

I have another cake to do this weekend, but I’ve been able to pace myself with this one. Less stress. More time to work. No one in the house to distract me. I’ll tell you how it goes.

In the meantime, the shower cake in question.

Wow. I look terrible in that shot. 😉


Exercising the Muse

It’s March 1st. Many New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned by now. Exercise equipment, clothing racks. Gym memberships, forgotten. Fitness goals left by the wayside.

Hopefully, the writers out there have been good to keep up their word goals. So far, I have…but it hasn’t been easy. My minimum word goal per day is 500. That’s not a lot, but that’s the minimum. Thankfully, I’ve passed it at every turn. How? By exercising my muse.

I imagine my personal muse as a handsome man who looks quite a bit like a certain character (hint: Moose!) on a popular television show. The link came about a while back, after I’d had a couple of dreams with him in them. I wrote better on those days. Hence, my muse.  —insert cough here— Of course, a muse doesn’t get buff overnight. Gotta exercise him/her in a creative way. It sets up your word goal success.

One of the biggest things I do, is stop my writing day at a place where I know what I want to happen next. If I don’t know, I can use the time between writing to figure it out. Problems and blocks usually work themselves out when I do it this way, and I can go in fresh. For example, I want my character to go into a mausoleum for “x” reason. I write up until she goes in. Then what? I wait until the next writing day to figure that out. She has to find “x” and get out. That’s fodder for story continuation…and the words can flow. It’s kind of like a hybrid of pantsing and plotting. At the beginning, I may have a general idea of where to go, but no real plan to get there. Day by day, scene by scene, I make my plan.

Does this make any sense? I hope so!

Another thing I do when I get stuck, is work on the story “bible.” Each of my stories has a definitive book that contains character information (biographies, fears, likes, motives, what they look like, etc.), settings,notes, quotes from the characters…you name it. Even the most random observations. For “Cake or Death,” I  noticed that Home Depot sells yard stakes and commented to my husband, “Wouldn’t that be a good idea for a busy, vampire slaying single mom?” Into the Cake or Death bible that went. By getting to know your characters and their world in a deeper way, you can come up with new and better ways to move the story along.

There are a ton of different writing exercises you can do, and it’s pretty easy to find them on the internet. If you have suggestions of your own, put them in the comments! You never know who you might help in the process. Keep exercising those muses!