Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do I Have to Write?

Our guest blogger today is Ellie Ferguson. Ellie's novel, Wedding Bell Blues, is published by Naked Reader Press and is available from the N.R. site and Amazon. Let's give her a big welcome and make her feel at home. -- Amanda

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Earlier this week, I did a blog over at The Naked Truth, Naked Reader's blog where I asked -- okay, I'll admit it. I whined a bit -- "Do I have to?". I whined because Amanda and Cliff, NR's acquisitions editor, wanted me to post a little about myself and Wedding Bell Blues. I'd never done a blog before and really wasn't sure what I ought to say. Next thing I knew, not only was I blogging there but here as well. I'm no longer whining, except when my coffee cup is empty and the chocolate is gone. But, from what I can tell, that's the general response of most writers face with such a predicament.

Okay, who am I and why am I here? As it says on the book cover -- gee, I never really thought I could say that. And isn't it a great cover? Laura Givens did a wonderful job and I can't thank her enough -- my name's Ellie Ferguson. As I said at The Naked Truth, I'm older than 20 and younger than death and that's all you'll get from me about my age. After all, it's not polite to ask a woman how old she is. I'm a mother, a daughter and was a wife. I've spent most of my life in the South and love to travel. The only problem with that is my dog always thinks I've abandoned him when I do and it takes weeks to reassure the poor thing and my cat resents the fact I came back before he could figure out a way to kill the dog and hide the body. My house is haunted -- it is, really. I swear it. What else explains the table that plays music and the light that comes on by itself? -- but it's mine and I love it. Okay, I'm a little strange. But that makes life interesting.

Wedding Bell Blues is my first published novel. Like most writers, I have a number of others that I probably should burn for fear that, after I'm gone, someone might find them and see that I spent a lot of time writing bad fanfic as I learned how to be a writer. And that brings me to the topic today.

Do I have to write? I can't tell you how many times I've heard that question -- and often from myself. Sometimes the question comes from family or friends who just don't understand what it is to be a writer. They shake their heads and you can see them thinking, "Poor Ellie. Her head's always in the clouds. Such a shame she can't be like the rest of the family." Then there is my favorite variation on it, "Poor Ellie, such a shame she'll never be as good as [insert author's name here]."

What they don't understand is that, yes, I do have to write. Writing is as much a part of me as my graying hair and need for coffee every morning. I can't not do it. The hard part is screwing up the confidence to actually send out something I've spent so much time writing. Then the wait. Will the editor like it? Will they buy it? What if they buy it but want me to make all sorts of changes? What if my father sees what I've written -- oh, wait, it's not THAT kind of book. Whew.

Then the call comes saying the editor liked the book and wants to publish it. My shout of joy can still be heard -- echoing somewhere around the Himalayas by now. That was one of the best moments of my life. Someone not only liked what I had written but wanted to pay me money for it and put it out where others could read it. Others...gulp...people would actually read it. Was there anything in it I didn't want them to read? What was in it? Why couldn't I remember what I'd written?

Fortunately, Cliff managed to talk me down from the sudden burst of fear that no one would like my book. Now I only break into the shakes once every couple of hours. After all, I'm an writer. I can say that now. I have a great cover with my name on it. I can point people to sites where they can buy my book. No need to hyperventilate. No time to...after all, I have to write. Not for Cliff. Not even for Naked Reader. No, I have to write for me. Writing is a part of me and I have more stories to tell. As I work on my next novel, there is only one question I can't answer and it is the question all writers -- if they're honest -- fear: will the readers like my book?

All I can say is I hope so. Wedding Bell Blues is one of those books that had to be written. It came to me while on vacation and wouldn't let me go. I had fun writing it and I love the characters. Hopefully, Cliff will let me play with them some more later. In the meantime, I'll continue to write because I can't not do it.

Hello, my name's Ellie and I'm a writer. It's almost 7 in the morning and I've written a blog and 1,000 words on my current wip. Who drank all my coffee?

So, how about you guys? Do you have to write? Or am I the only one who has the strange, often demanding, compulsion?

17 comments:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Ellie,

I'm sitting here, eating chocolate after having been writing all day, in snatches of 20 minutes in between washing, shopping, moving a 22 year old daughter back home (she came back with a cat, another one!) and entertaining visiting relatives.

All of which means I'm a dedicated writer. Rather be in the book in my head than in the real world.

warpcordova said...

Ellie,

I've been denying being a writer for years now. But the stupid little ideas grow and grown and then ext thing I know my weed whacker isn't big enough to kill them all so I have to do what they tell me to.

*sigh*

Ellie said...

Rowena, it sounds to me like you are a very dedicated writer. I'm not sure if, in your place, there'd be enough chocolate for me to write, especially if the coffee was running short. But what you've just described is the life of a writer all too often, at least in my experience.

Ellie said...

warpcordova, oh how I know that feeling. My ideas no longer respond to the weed whacker, strongest weed killer or even fire to burn them out. They just cling onto my poor brain cells all the harder. Still, annoying as some of them are, I wouldn't trade them. At least not too often ;-p

C Kelsey said...

I have tried to give up writing but the habit won't let me go. It's like breathing, you may want to stop sometimes but some strange automatic reflex kicks in and makes you do it anyway.

Ellie said...

C. Kelsey, YES! I can go without writing for awhile. But I suffer for it and, in the end, I always go back to it. I don't know about you, but I am so much happier and less likely to snap at folks if I'm writing instead of fighting it.

Jim McCoy said...

Yes, I have to write. My problem is that it can be hard to focus on one project because I've got this other idea and I just HAVE to get something going, but then I get this other idea and it won't leave me alone...

I'm sure I'm not the only one, right?

Ellie said...

Jim, you have to learn to blackmail them. Tell them if they won't shut up, you won't write them. After all, you are the one with the fingers to type with. ;-p

In all seriousness, when that happens to me, I take a few minutes to jot a few notes or pages down and then I file it away, promising the characters that I'll write it as soon as I finish whatever I'm working on at the minute. It usually works.

My problem is that I can't write multiple stories at once. At least I can't write multiple short stories or multiple novels. I can do a novel and a short at the same time, usually because they are so different.

Good luck!

Brendan said...

The last time I saw someone say "Hello, my name's Ellie and I'm a..." was at an AA meeting. I hope you're not expecting this crowd to 12 step you.

Yes we know it can be addictive but we'd prefer you didn't mention it as we are quite happy pretending we are well balanced individuals who don't have a problem AT ALL(I wonder if this blog comment can figure in my word count for today?). Sigh.

MataPam said...

We are well balanced!

Equal amouts of Fantasy and SF. Add the Urban Fantasies to the Steam Punk for the third leg of the tripod, and we're as stable as you can get.

Okay, maybe the UF&SP leg is a bit short, but there's a couple of mysteries and romances and westerns and short stories along to shim it up.

And there's certainly nothing wrong with caffienne and chocolate as dietary staples.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I'm very well ballanced. I can hold a book in either hand. I'm trying to learn to write a book with either hand. Hasn't worked yet.

Hi Ellie -- I'm so glad Amanda dragged you over, since we are publisher-colleagues. :)

As for me, of course I don't have to write. I've given it up dozens of times. Sometimes it even lasts more than a week! (Okay. once. Two weeks. It almost killed me. Next thing I know I'd finished a novel in a month, just in reaction. :) )

Ellie said...

Brendan, I thought the 12 step for writers was to help those like me admit we're writers and quit hiding in the shadows. You mean there isn't a 12 step program for that?

Ellie said...

Matapam, I am so glad there's someone else who agrees that coffee and chocolate are dietary staples. I've been trying for years to get the powers that be to admit what I've always known -- coffee and chocolate are basic food groups.

Ellie said...

Sarah, thanks for the welcome. Amanda said you are the well-balanced one. Although there was something about a cat with a tail that attacks him? Please don't let him talk to my dog...the poor thing already has enough issues as is.

Stephen Simmons said...

My name is Steve, and I'm a writer. I spent several nights a week from age 10-13 in my Dad's AA meetings (God, I still miss him), so I know exactly what that statement implies. The implication is intentional. I am one of the most patient people any of my friends know, so much so that they remark on it (due entirely to the beneficent influence of those aforementioned meetings during my formative years, I assure you) -- so long as I WRITE. If I don't write, then my temper becomes Desi-Arnaz-short. I am one of the more understanding and tolerant people I've ever met (how many other Christians do you know who are married to Witches, after all?) -- so long as I WRITE. Keep me away from my Characters for too long, and I become Archie Bunker ...

I don't much care about chocolate. But on top of being a writer, I'm also a retire Navy Chief ... keep that coffee coming or I'll beat the living headlights out of you ...

Stephen Simmons said...

Ellie - what you told Jim ... I am an odd sort, apparently. I absolutely MUST have at least two work in progress at any given time. You see, I am also an inveterate punster. (I scrupulously avoid R&B so as not to become an invertebrate one ...) So, I have to have a funny work available at all times, to serve as a "sink" for any excess silliness that builds up, to make sure that none of it will leak into the serious work.

Brendan said...

Ellie,

If there isn't we should put one together. My first thought was mercenary(how much could we get the poor suckers for before they come to their senses) but perhaps we should release it on the net since doing so would increase writer numbers and thus reading material.

What is your opinion on interventions?