Know-It-All: The Art or Plague of Research

POLL:  How many of you know what the 47th tallest structure is? (No googling, you cheaters).

I do.

Does that make me brilliant or lame?

I have no idea.

But I do know it makes me a writer. You see, I, like you, look for the smallest, seemingly inconsequential detail to breathe reality into my stories.

Or, I'm deluding myself, and my last month of ‘research’ into the tallest structures around the world and the effects on the body of falling off said structure have all been a waste of my precious, limited time on this planet?

Honestly I suspect the latter.

I’m all for research, as long as it’s for the book’s sake and not a means to procrastinate actual writing.

 

Example:

In my latest book, I found myself in the saggy middle, no idea how to write my heroine out of the corner I inevitably wrote her in since I never outline though I think outlining is a brilliant idea. So here I sit, my fingers on the keys, unmoving.

Crap.

Hmmm…Is my writer’s block a sign of early dementia? I mean, I haven’t written a word in over an hour. That has to be something, right? I jump on Google, searching for the signs.

I’m not a hypochondriac.

I’m doing research!

Maybe, since I’m here, I should research the shoes my heroine is wearing? I could name them in the book, show my readers I know my shoes.

Except I don’t.

So I’m not writing. So what? I’m researching!

Of course, what I really am doing is wasting my time on stuff that isn’t vital to my book. Unless shoes play a role, why bother with that level of detail? It is a way for me, at least, to procrastinate instead of doing what I should do and outline the rest of the damn book or at least the scene I’m struggling with.

Research gives life, makes worlds come alive (See this article from Writer’s Digest on how to use research).

But it is and always will be about the story.

No amount of research makes up for what’s on the page.

Or getting those words on the page.

 

BTW, read my next book for the answer to the 47th tallest structure. Hint, it’s close by. And if you’re interested, I’m still ‘researching’ the effects of falling off said structure.

Anyone up for a field trip?

 

What are you currently researching? Do you find yourself ‘researching’ instead of writing when stuck like me?

 

Writerly Goals for 2015: Did You Meet Yours?

Christmas Labrador puppy dog wearing Santa hat

Let’s see where I ended up on my goals for 2015:

Write a book.

Check. I wrote at least 2. Take that hernia of my left thumb.

Write a great book, of the all American novel kind.

I’m still working on this one, as in working up the desire to write a book no one will actual ever read, but boy will they say they have.

Write a bestseller.

Yeah, you can see how far that goal has gotten me. 2016 list for sure. I blame my pen. The damn thing never writes a bestseller.

Revise the book hidden in my underwear drawer.

Did I say revise? I meant look at once, cringe, and tuck it even farther back. That book needs serious work. Maybe when I die they’ll use it as one of those long lost manuscripts that goes for millions at auction. Or more likely, toss it in the rubbish bin.

Network with my writerly peers by going to more events.

I would’ve done this one had it not required me to a) leave the house and b) put on pants. Admit it, you hate wearing pants as much as I do.

Attend at least one conference.

Surprisingly I made it to two, RMFW and Pikes Peak. Both were very informative and it was great catching up with my tribe. I no longer felt like a seahorse at the bottom of the tank. Thank you, all of you, those I met, and will meet next conference.

Be healthy.

You wouldn’t think this one is writerly, but maybe even more so than the others. If I don’t take care of myself, then I won’t be able to write. Have you ever seen a chick in traction write a novel? Okay, I probably could dictate. My gosh, everyone’s a critic.

 

Which brings me to the next goal…

 

Ignore my critics.

Five years ago, heck, even three years ago, I would’ve scoffed at this advice, claiming you learn from every criticism. Then I realized something. Since I started writing I haven’t learned anything expect how to a) feel badly about myself and my work and b) that even the best criticism comes with a critic. Meaning, someone else’s ego, subjectivity, and baggage join whatever advice that is doled out. Now I am not saying ignore any and every bit of advice, but instead, use your head. I know what I’m doing (for the most part). I can ‘see’ when the advice is right or when it is driven by more than a desire to fix the page.

Listen, really listen, to advice.

Did I mention that I’m a bit complicated? So here it is, ignore goal 7. Take advice. There are people who can see my work better than I can. Editors for one. Consider their advice. Roll it around my head. And then make the decisions. Don’t discount it out of hand because I ‘know’ best. Though I do. Because this is my goals list, damn it.

Learn new tools and skills

I failed this goal. I had high hopes of starting to dictate my books. Then I tried it, felt stupid talking out loud to my computer, and then on top of that realized it was taking twice as long. My words come from my brain to my typing fingers. Not to my lips.

I also wanted to learn ways to excite my description, so I went to a workshop, and what I found out was, it’s not that description is lacking in excitement. I am. I can twist and turn a phrase with the best of them (not really but it sounded good) but I can’t do it when it’s not something I am interested in, like what a room looks like or how grandma smells. So I’m moving this over to goals for 2016. I plan to sniff plenty of grandmas in the name of research.

Write daily.

I have to admit a terrible truth. I am not a daily writer. I do write daily, just not fiction. I write emails for work, grocery lists, sometimes on the back of my arm for fun… This year was going to be different. Yet it wasn’t. I wrote for three whole weeks, every single day, until I didn’t anymore. So back on the goals for 2016 list it goes.

 

Goals for 2016

  • See list above

What about you? Did you make any goals for last year? How’d you fare on them? Were you crazy enough to make goals for 2016? If so, care to share?

Happy New Year to all my prose-prone friends! May this be your year!

Looking for the Perfect Gift for the Writer/Serial Killer (in Mind Only) in Your Life?

silver Christmas ball with red bow on white background

Gift giving is hard. I know. I just bought a whiskey of the month club for a ten year old. (Yes, I know this is an awesome gift for anyone except a ten year old or a recovering alcoholic so no hate email). So to help you, dear partner/friend/relative who is likely regularly ignored by the writer in favor of word counts and half-dressed heroes/heroines, here is a list of gifts for the writer in your life:

Aqua Notes – BUY

I love this gift. It’s notes you write in the shower, which avoids those nasty nail scraped into the soap scum plot points.

Novel Teas - BUY

Novel teas. Get it? So these are tea bags with literary quotes on them. A perfect gift for those too weak to hit the hard stuff (coffee, not whiskey).

Edgar Allan Poe Air Freshener - BUY

This one has to be my favorite. Perfect to hang on the writer during the month of November (or when on deadline) when you can't stand the smell anymore.

World’s Largest Coffee Cup - BUY

Do I really need to say more? This monster holds 20 regular cups of coffee.

USB Heated Winter Warm Hand Gloves - BUY

I have to admit to owning a pair already so I might be biased. My hands are constantly frozen, and these babies work like no other to warm those cold parts. They are fingerless so typing isn’t a problem.

Now if you’re shopping for something a little…different, I found a replica of a human skull made of chocolate on Etsy. Not very writerly, but it sure would freak the writer, who ignored you all last month, out when they see a human skull in a plain brown box on their doorstep.

Revenge (and chocolate skulls) are sweet.

Do you have any holiday gifts you’d give a writer? Or perhaps an odd gift for anyone in general? What is the weirdest gift you’ve ever received?

Oh, one last thing, as my gift to yHoliday readou, dear reader who I've annoyed all year, feel free to download my free kindle novella, A Very F***ed-Up Christmas Tale. It's free until tomorrow, Dec 23rd, so get yours today. Let me know in the comments if you need a PDF version. I'm happy to send you one.

Yes Virginia, There is a Query Clause

Santa hatMany of us have freshly NaNoWriMo novels burning a hole in our computer. THIS will be THE NOVEL. The ONE that makes all your publishing dreams come true.

So why not share our precious with the publishing world?

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Embarrassment. Ridicule. A sudden onset of turrets (Yes, you will suddenly have a strong desire to put steeples on your house like on the opening of Scooby Doo.).

And then the other possibility.

You ruin your budding career.

Blacklisted.

Hey, it happens. Ask any agent/editor. They likely have a list of authors who will never get a book deal from them. Maybe the author is an asshole (I tried to find a more appropriate word, but really, asshole, is the only one that truly fits). Maybe the author plagiarized. Or worst of all, maybe the author drunkenly groped the agent/editor at a conference. Whatever the reason, authors do get blacklisted. And sometimes that happens at the query stage.

Not that this is any author in RMFW, but sometimes authors get desperate to publish. DESPERATE. I’m talking stalking agents online to find out their favorite chocolate and sending a box full to their home address. Or authors who send bad-very bad-queries. I don’t mean grammar and structure. I mean, queries that border on crazy.

Let’s quickly review the query don’ts:

  • Don’t requery the same agent/editor with the same project again and again. It makes you look crazy.
  • Don’t EVER respond to a rejection, even if it’s a thank you (unless the agent/editor gave you significant feedback).
  • Don’t be a pain in the butt. It’s hard to wait for a response. It’s even harder to wait for a rejection. You want to rage against the unfairness of the gatekeeper and their form email rejection. You want answers as to why your query was rejected. You want a book deal, damn it.

Think about what the agent/editor wants. They want to publish good great books. They want great authors to work with. People who make their deadlines and don’t argue too much during the editorial process. They want nice people. Better yet, they want author who sell millions of copies. So if you are a pain in the ass, you better have a book so good the world falls in love with it.

I sort of got off topic of my original intent, which was to advise you not to send queries on your NaNoWriMo projects or really any project during the holidays. Sure, publishing houses and agencies are still open, but people are often out of the office.

Then comes January, when everyone who’s ever made a resolution to publish a book sends a query out…

Then there is February….and Valentine’s Day…what if the agent just got dumped….

April showers can’t be a great sign for April….

June is wedding season….

August is just too damn hot and no one in publishing is in during the summer….

I hope you get my point. The right time to query is when you feel your book is ready, and when the agent/editor you want is accepting queries.

Do you have query parameters you follow? And what are they?

 

 

How Writers are Like Turkeys: A Thanks for Nothing Post

Toon Thanksgiving Turkey. Isolated on a white background.

What? Are you seriously comparing me to a turkey?

Why, yes. Yes I am. But don’t take it personally. I’m comparing all writers to the Thanksgiving bird (or Thursday bird as people outside the US call it).

You suck.

Valid point. But I wasn’t commenting on your smell as in you stink like a turkey (which honestly isn’t that bad). I was referring to a turkey’s ability to see at least a 1000 feet in front of it. Now, I don’t literally (used correctly in this case so no emails) mean a writer has the power of supersight, but rather a writer has the ability to ‘see’ where their character will go and eventually end up. Some of us choose not to use this power, rather we pants it to the finish line, but the ability is still there.

What else you got?

Male turkeys are call gobblers as they announce themselves to the females using a similar sound.

I didn’t come to the RMFW blog for this crap. I’m leaving…

No wait! I have a point (not a great one, but still a point). Writers often announce themselves, not with a gobble, but with a million questions about everything or telling everyone around about their book, and/or my personal favorite, straining to eavesdropping on the couple out on their first Tinder date. Not that I’m admitting to anything, but I’ve fallen off my chair trying to listen to a conversations a few tables away.

You are such a weirdo.

Thank you, but I can’t take all the credit. The voices in my head help a lot. Now back to the turkey. According to the Smithsonian, “Studies have shown that snood (that hanging red thing on their throats) length is associated with male turkey health.” You are probably asking yourself, what this has to do with me as a writer?

Duh.

The length of your manuscript is directly related to your health. No, really. I’ve heard from a few writers about physical or mental health and its effects on their ability to write. Menopause is a bitch, apparently. For the men, I’m sure Manopause sucks too.

That was a reach.

Give me a break. Do you know how hard it is to relate writing to turkey droppings?

Speaking of turkey droppings, apparently you can tell the gender of a turkey by what it drops. Males produce spiral-shaped poop and females’ poop is shaped like the letter J. Now I could say something about writers using the letter J, thereby relating the two. But that is a reach, so I’m going to talk about how you cannot tell a writer’s gender by their book. Often people make assumptions based on the narrator as to the gender of the writer. They shouldn’t. We are writers. Good at faking stuff.

Yawn. Are you done yet?

Yes. Except for one final fact, that you as a writer will obviously understand my point:

Benjamin Franklin praised the turkey as being “a much more respectable bird” than the bald eagle.

We ARE turkeys. Each and every one of us. Better than those bald eagles. Now go strut your stuff as turkeys can only fly about 25 feet in the air.

Do you have Turkey Day plans? Does it include eating this respectable bird? Kind of cannibalistic, don’t you think?

Facebook: To Page or Not to Page?

facebookOver the last year I’ve taught a few workshops on writing and being a writer. Inevitably I hear the same question in each class, and surprisingly it isn’t, can you even tie your own shoes, but I digress… The question is—should I create a Facebook page or use my profile?

The answer: I have no clue. I barely know you. Stop staring at me like that.

Okay, the real answer is similar: You tell me what works for you.

Yes, it is that simple.

And far more complicated.

Confused? Good. Marketing yourself as a writer is a confusing world. You can ask anyone for advice, but that doesn’t mean what works for them will work for you. That being said, I do have a few pros and cons for the fan page versus the profile.

 

Fan Page                     

PROS:

Ability to schedule posts: Yes, you can schedule posts if you use a third party software, but the ability to do so directly from Facebook is only available on a fan page.

Insights: Learn about those who view your page, when they view it, and what they interact with.

Ads: This is my favorite part. You can create an ad specific to your target audience. Don’t know who your target is, research! Let me give you an example, 84% of romance readers are women, age range of 30-54. Now if I was creating an ad, I would pick women who like books (you can get more specific) in that age range. I could even go as far as to target women who’ve LIKED a particular author or book. Can’t get better than that. And you pick the cost of the ad.

Tabs: You can make tabs for new pages like a website. I have a newsletter signup form (using mailchimp), a page for giveaways, and an events page among others.

Shop Now button: I have a button on the top of my page that says shop now. It takes people to my amazon author page, and all my available books. Quick and easy. You can create a button for most any call to action.

 

CONS:

LIKE ME: For people to see your page without you boosting the post (which costs cash) they have to have LIKED the page.

Impersonal: The fan page can feel a little impersonal, if you let it. You need to put effort into cultivating your fans. You need to be as open and genuine on that page as you are in real life. Or if you suck in real life (I’m totally sure you don’t. Really. Don’t you look pretty today…), you should keep that suckiness under wraps. Which is great life advice too. So you are welcome.

Easily Ignored: I tend to ignore requests to LIKE someone’s page, and yet, I am willing to be ‘friends’ with anyone. You might be different, but I am guessing based on the response of my own friends to LIKE my page that that is true. I am also less likely to read a post from a fan page.

 

PROFILE

PROS:

You already have one: No mess, no fuss.

Most engagement:  Again, it might just be me, but I tend to engage with a post by a profile more than I do a page. It might contain the same information, but I trust a profile more. Which makes me an idiot, but you knew that already (see my inability to tie my own shoes comment earlier).

Friends are better than fans: If you can turn a fan into a friend, then you have won the marketing game. Fans are wonderful. I love people who adore me. Not sure why, other than it is awesome. But a fan is 2D. I don’t know them. A friend, on the other hand, is someone I can engage with at any time.

Newsfeed: It’s just not the same on a fan page. I love my newsfeed. I love knowing about other’s perspective. Yes, I am FREAKING NOSEY. Always have been.

 

CONS:

Opening yourself up: Using your profile opens you up to anyone you accept as a friend (and sometimes, depending on your settings, to anyone in general). Now I don’t have a problem with that. I am the same on either my profile or page, though I am more active on my profile.

No Ads: You have to have a page to create an ad.

 

I suggest you create a fan page, just to see how you like it. If you don’t, just delete it. It can’t hurt, and it might make you famous. Remember to remember the little people when you are. (Yeah, I’m pretty short).

Do you have a Facebook fan page? If so, link it in the comments and I’ll LIKE you. Or give us your profile link and I’ll friend you.

I also wanted to give a shout out to all the veterans. Happy Veterans' Day! Thank you for your service!

Nothing More Terrifying: Writing the Holiday Novella

Many moons ago, as the cold winds swept across the lands, I used to scoff, yes I said it, scoff at those writers writing holiday novellas. Hacks the lot of them.

And then I realized something—I’m the hack.

I’m the writer not using all the tools in my utility belt.

It’s me who sucks, not them. And that is the horror or all horrors, besides seeing your grandfather naked.

So let’s talk holiday shorts/novellas. My original dislike of them came from a true consumer perspective, in that, they felt like marketing ads. Why else, I figured, would a writer do it other than to sell me a holiday novella for near the same price as a full length novel? Only a moron would buy half of something for the same cost. It was a total crock. A amazon christmas photoway to make writerly millions (okay, writerly tens at best).

But publishing isn’t the same world it was then, or even yesterday. Writers build readership by giving the readers what they want. If readers like holiday novellas, then damn it, I’d be truly stupid to ignore the trend, especially given the vast f***ed up fairytale world I have to work with.

If you plan to write novella/shorts for the holidays, I do have some suggestions about how to go about it:

  • Don’t cheat your reader.

Sort of a given I know, but here it is, in plain black and white, if your novella shorts the reader in any way, chances are you won’t get that return reader for your next work. So don’t think of shorter as any less content. In fact, you have less time to impact them more. Do you best work.

  • Give your secondary characters a chance to come out and play.

One way to keep the shorter story fresh is to open up to other voices. Say you have a series that features one character and his/her/it’s constant plight. Awesome. But think about using the holiday short to give the reader a more in-depth look at a secondary character. Who knows, they might have a breakout series of their own. Try new things. Be bold.

  • How you publish matters.

For those who are traditionally published only, I suggest taking a hard look at self-publishing your holiday novellas. It’s a great way to dip your toes in the water and to build your traditionally published books readership. I suggest the self-publishing route for one very good reason, traditionally publishing a novella is hard enough, but adding in the length of lead time and it’s more than my tiny brain can handle. Plus, who doesn’t need a little extra money for Valentine’s Day? Penicillin is expensive. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • Don’t limit yourself to one holiday.

This is perhaps my favorite part. By holiday I don’t mean Christmas alone, which is the main ‘holiday’ novella. You can create a holiday novella for the most obscure ones, for example, I’d love to see a novella about the Bolivian
Holiday of Tinku
, in which neighbors gather to punch each other in the face.

And on that note, I’ll leave you to pound the keyboard or that annoying guy down the street. Either way I look forward to reading your take on a holiday. Oh, and in case you’re interested, I have A Very F***ed-Up Christmas Tale coming out in a few short days, on November 3rd. Pre-order is available now! (See the cheesy marketer in me?)

BTW, hope you have a great Halloween!

Tell me, do you have a holiday novella out? If so, why that holiday? If not, what holiday would you pick?

Best Conference Advice: Leave Your Clothes On (Almost) All the Time

With less than three days until the Colorado Gold Conference presented by RMFW, I wanted to drag out and dust off the conference rules. Mind you, these are not ‘rules’ as in those that will land you in the conference clink, but ‘rules’ like those of writing itself--Good guidelines to follow, but every once in a while shattering them can lead to a fun adventure and/or ruining your budding career.

Rule 1 - Have fun.

Sounds easy enough, right? Except for some of us of the shy/introverted variety. We would prefer to hide in our hotel room, and if we don’t have a hotel room, the bathroom will do. Fun can be hard, especially if you’re adding pressure to yourself to perform, which brings me to rule 2.

Rule 2 – Manage your expectations.

When I first started going to conferences I would spend hours memorizing my pitch for that 10 minutes I might spend with an agent/editor. Don’t get me wrong, that 10 minutes can change a small bit of your life, but it isn’t going to change everything. Go in understanding that a conference doesn’t make or break (unless you throw up on the agent/editor) a career. Spend your time more wisely.

Rule 3 – Make friends, after all sharing is caring.

No, I don’t teach grade school on the side. But I know this better than anyone does. It is all about who you know.

But not in that gross way. Who you know means making those connections with people in similar boats. These are the people who will read your manuscript for the 10th time, or come to your third signing when no one else will. These are the people who understand when you talk about how to get blood out of shag carpet.

Meet your peers is the best advice I can give.

Amazingly, even though this is my 8th RMFW conference, I meet new people each time. And even more, I am NOT sick of those I see every year. Which again brings me to my next point.

Rule 3 – Shower. Please. (You know who you are).

Rule 4 – Don’t annoy others.

Please don’t pitch during workshops. I’ve seen it a million times at the agent and editor panels, people summarizing their book during the Q&A. If you have a question about your book specifically, ask in a private moment or better yet make it a general question. For example, if you want to know about where your book ‘fits’, which I know as a newbie I spent way too much time and energy trying to figure it out (and the publisher changed it twice since), ask a general question about the category and keep it under 140 words. We want to know the status of the industry, not about your book. Save it for dinner conversation.

Rule 5 – Learn as much as your brain can take.

Three days is a crazy amount of learning. Remember to pace yourself. If you need a break, you need a break.

Go hide in that bathroom.

I’ll be in the next stall.

 

Do you have any rule you'd like to share? Also, roll call. Who will be at the RMFW Conference?

 

And my last bit of advice is, say hi to me. I love to hear about books. I want to hear about yours. Let's be friends, so I can ask you the best way to dispose of a body.

Check out my new website and get a free eBook. And make sure to friend me on Facebook, so the cops know just who helped me bury that body.

WTF Was I Thinking? One Month until CO Gold

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

The Lady in PinkIn a few short days, August 18th to be precise, my tenth book, THE LADY IN PINK, will be released. Yes. 10 whole, big books. I can’t hardly believe it.

Don’t stop read!

I am not bragging nor am I trying to subliminally mind control you into buying it

*buy my book, buy my book, buy my book* Okay, maybe that time I was. Can’t blame an author for trying…

Anyway, my post has a much more important and relevant to you, I hope, point.

Though I’ve had 10 books published since 2010 when I sold my first series to Kensington at the CO Gold Conference, which, in case you missed it, is ONE MONTH AWAY as of today, I still feel that twisty, sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of pitching to an editor.

Which I will be doing at this conference.

For the first time in over 3 years.

If anyone says it’s like riding a bike, they are LIARS.

Or maybe they aren’t. I was never any good at not falling off a bike either.

The very thought of having to tell someone about my book in 30 words of less or at all gives me the willies. Why can’t they just read it, love it, and pay me millions?

I plan (if she’s not full already) to pitch to Chelsey Emmelhainz, Associate Editor at HarperCollins. Now the question is, what to pitch? And how to do it? I need to stand out, to make her love me in the first 3 seconds (no pressure). Bribery is nice. Maybe she’d like a cookie? Or $5?

Maybe I shouldn’t pitch.

Maybe I shouldn’t even be a writer.

Yep, you are witnessing my nervous breakdown in blog post form.

Lucky you.

I hope I don’t throw up on her.

I should bring a vomit bag just in case.

If you didn’t get my point in all my neurotic rambling, it is this, no matter how many times or how many books someone has, they are writers at heart. Meaning they are half desperate, crazy and unsure with equal parts terrified of failure. Can’t forget sweaty. We are a sweaty people.

Oh, that’s just me, huh? Sure it is….

The key to surviving the next month as terror sets in at having to pitch, is to remember, Chelsey Emmelhainz probably won’t stab me in the eye with her pen. I think HarperColllins frowns on that. But maybe not.

So if you see me at the conference wearing an eye patch, well, you know what occurred at my pitch session. Same if you see her walking around with cookie crumbs on her shirt and me with a huge smile on my face. If I see you, please tell me all about how yours went. I love to hear practice pitches too. Sharing is caring after all.

Or share your pitch in the comments.

See you all in a month.

And remember--buy my book, buy my book, buy my book—to smile, shake the editor/agents hand, and give them all you’ve got.

 

Come stalk me on my shiny new website or on facebook, where I spend most of my writing time.

Would’ve Been Kinder to Stab Me in the I: How Harper Lee Ruined My Life

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

They say, Never Meet Your Writerly Heroes. I can see why. Writers are very much human, as in INCREDBILIBY flawed individuals. I mean, have you met me?

Then again, I’ve had the privilege of meeting three of my all time writerly crushes. In all three cases (Christopher Moore, Tim Dorsey & Robert Crais) they were perfectly lovely people. Not a one got drunk and tried to slip me the tongue (as opposed to a great storpicy a friend of mine has about a certain, now dead, author named Hunter and a wild night in Boulder, CO). Much to my chagrin I might add, but that’s a post for another time, and probably another blog – Fifty Shades of Crap You Don’t Want to Know about Me.

What I wanted to discuss today, is Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman. Yes, I am going to whine and there maybe a few spoilers (which I learned after reading the 1st chapter online so they aren’t exactly spoilers for the whole book so I don’t feel too bad about spilling some secrets).

To Kill a Mockingbird was and is my favorite book. It has been since I first read it at the not so tender age of 18. I won’t go into the whys, but to me, it’s nearly the perfect novel. What added to the mystic was the lore of Harper Lee--having written only one perfect novel, and then never having published another word. It was/is my idea of the best writing career.

For so many years she was incredibly protective of her privacy and her rights. And then Go Set a Watchmen was announced. I, like so many others, was thrilled with a squeal to Scout’s story. I imagined all the ways in which the tale would enfold, about how Scout and Jem grew up, about who they became in the wake of the events of that summer.

That excitement faded under the elderly abuse accusations and later the investigation into those charges. But I hung in, pre-ordering my copy. And days before the release, the publisher put chapter 1 online…

Are you freaking kidding me? Jem’s dead? His death gets a throw away one paragraph?

My innocence is lost.

To Kill a Mockingbird will never be the same for me again. Which is why I’m sharing that factoid with you, so your illusions are shattered too. Misery loving company and all.

Which brings me to the point of this post, as a writer, I need to make sure I never do that to my readers. I can kill off characters all I want, but I need to do it in a way that acknowledges the sacrifice of time and attention my readers have put into my books.

I am not blaming Harper Lee for killing Jem off, nor with how she did it, as I fully believe she didn’t intend this book to meet the reader’s gaze. Not really at least.

Which is my second point of this post, as a writer, you don’t fully have control over what happens after you sell as book or aren’t in control of your rights anymore. So be careful in whatever decisions you make, now and going forward, i.e., who you leave your writerly estate too.

Did you read Go Set a Watchman? If so, what did you think? If not, why not? And do you have any other examples of when a writer you love destroyed your faith in writerly humanity?

 

Now come talk smack to me on facebook, twitter or on my website.  Or better yet, leave me all of your writerly estate. I vow not to Go Set a Watchman your stuff.