My Layperson’s Opinion on Fame

Posted: February 16, 2014 in Opinions
Tags: , , ,

I might hit on some tender points with this post, so readers beware.

I see it all the time on the internet. (It’s probably on television too, but I very rarely turn mine on.) Some celebrity is complaining about flash mobs of fans out in public or seeing his/her picture printed in some tabloid. Some celebrity is grumbling that “yet again” he/she was disturbed in public and asked for an autograph. They complain about the life of “the rich and famous.” I want to ask them, “Do you not understand that your fans are who make you famous?” If people weren’t interested in them, celebrities would not be celebrities!

Before I get too far into this post, let me make a few things clear. Just because one is a celebrity does not mean he/she has given up all rights to privacy. I believe our favorite celebrities should be able to go enjoy a nice meal without being asked to sign autographs. They have a right to be less than perfect, making that late night run to the grocery store without a stitch of makeup on for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s like the rest of us. Their children deserve the right to go to the beach or park or theme park and have a great day with their parents without people barraging them with requests for attention all day. They have the right to keep their personal problems out of the media’s light. Summing up, I get that celebrities are people too.

But didn’t they ask for fame? If you sign on to do a major movie, do you not realize that people are going to be attracted to you? If you start a band with the hopes of getting signed by a label, do you not understand that you need fans to buy those records you want to make money off of? Where do celebrities think that money they used to buy their multi-million dollar homes came from?

As I sit here typing this blog post today, perhaps I’m just ignorant of what fame really is. I haven’t personally experienced fame in any way. I wasn’t even popular in school. I’ve never been popular. But I try to remember as I think about wanting to be a working author, as I dream about getting published and picked up by an agent and being able to make my living writing books, that fans are going to be the ones making that happen for me. I can have all the talent in the world and write the most brilliant literary works of our day, but without the fans, it’s all for naught. (Okay, maybe not for naught exactly, but you get the idea.)

I believe having fame places certain responsibilities on my shoulders. I should take the time to thank those that gave me such a status by being willing to sign a few autographs in the grocery store line as I buy doughnuts for that late night craving. I should be willing to take a moment and appreciate when a fan wants to tell me how he/she loves my story and wants to write like I do someday. I should be a respectable role model for those who look up to me so that pictures of my naked crotch don’t end up on the front page of a supermarket magazine. I need to remember what fame is!

I’m sure any celebrities that read this (which I’m guessing numbers about zero) would argue me that fame has its ugly side, and I’m sure that’s true. My point is that I (kind of) know before I get published what it is I’m asking for. I need to remember, if I am ever famous, what it was like to an invisible fan vying for a moment’s worth of attention from my favorite celebrity. I don’t want to ever become that celebrity that forgets my place in this relationship.

Perhaps I don’t have a clue about any of this. Then hopefully someday, I’ll have the opportunity to learn. It still makes no difference in how I want to treat my fans. But all of this is contingent on the small chance that people will someday know my name.

I’m working on a new short story. It’s just something I was kind of day dreaming about a week or so ago. But the more I thought about it, the more I wrote for it in my head. What I’m writing now, though, is horrible compared to my original thoughts.

Here’s my problem. When the idea was fresh in my mind, I was preparing to move. I couldn’t work on it because I had no time to write. I managed to get the premise of the story down — I wouldn’t even call it an outline — but somehow things are never quite as good when you’re backtracking to a story idea.

Being unable to write for almost a month gives me creativity constipation. I know that’s weird, but it’s true. I am writing all the time, whether it be for my novels, a fanfic, or just some drabble that’s never going to see the coding of an internet webpage, one of those little things I write just for my own enjoyment. (Do you think some of our favorite authors have little snippets of things no one else has ever read on their computers?) And when I’m unable to write for an undetermined amount of time, I get all back up. Stories begin overlapping in my consciousness, making a huge mess of things.

By the time I’m able to sit down at my laptop and put keys to electronic paper, the works are all gummed up.  Nothing comes out. I feel irritable and lazy. I just don’t even want to try to write because I know it’s going to be painful. Every sentence I type is going to be horrible, and very little of it will be salvageable.

I can’t just not do anything though. I have to force something out. Even if it’s just this blog post for today, I need to write. Slowly but surely it’ll become easier to do. And within a week, it’ll be all I can do to put down my laptop to eat, walk the dog, or go to work. (Ah, I dream of the day where going to work IS picking up my laptop!)

I have to be regular. I have get things out of my head to make room for new ideas. I have to try new things to grow.

I like to tell people that writing is easy for me. I love writing fiction; it’s just part of who I am. But it’s not as easy as I like to think it is. There are areas that I struggle with, like self discipline. I want to write for days unending and then sit back and do nothing for a while. And I end up with creativity constipation, unable to write at all.

It could be worse, I suppose. I could have writers’ block. What would that be the equivalent of? Creativity starvation? I’m blessed with the gift of words, of articulation. I’m blessed with a wonderful, active imagination. So I have to have some challenge, right? (Brevity is my true challenge. And I talk the way I write, so imagine trying to have a conversation with me.)

The truth is all writers need to write a little something everyday, I think. Professional athletes don’t work out just once a week. Honor students don’t study just once a week. So if I want to be a working author someday, I can’t write just once a week.

My stories are all products of my own imagination. I labor for days and weeks over each chapter. I work with a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Google page at the ready to ensure that each carefully selected word evokes the exact feeling I want it to have. And when the chapter is finished, I go back and do some basic editing for grammatical errors and such. 

At this point, I could technically say I’m done with the chapter. It reads well to me. It’s 98% error free. I’m happy with what I have produced. This is the point with my fan fiction in the past that I have posted the chapter. I’d post the chapter even though I didn’t feel ready to post it. The next day I’d read the chapter and realize it wasn’t 98% error free. Not even close. And some of the wording was just awkward. What was I thinking posting this?!

My first solution to this problem was the most obvious to me: my husband. This is the person I trust above all others. This is a person who loves me unconditionally.  My husband is very matter-of-fact and down-to-Earth about everything. He is obviously going to be able to critique my writing with honesty and compassion, right?

Okay, well, he tried. I have to give the man props; he gave it his best attempts. He read the stories – honestly and truly read them – and then told me where the weak points were. But that was about the best he could give me.

(I’m going to go out on a tangent for a moment here. If you follow my blog, you are going to learn a lot about this man, so let me just give you a brief introduction. My husband is the love of my life. He has loved me when I was unlovable and has been by my side for 17 years now. Furthermore, my husband supports my writing aspirations. As far as he see things, if I want to be a writer, then I need to go for it. It’s just that simple to him. So now, I digress…)

Here’s the problems with having my husband be the buffer between my imagination and the rest of the world. I write M/M fiction. (For those of you not familiar with this term, it means gay male or male-on-male fiction.) And my particular cup of tea is very violent, graphic storylines. My husband has no problems with the fact that I write these sorts of stories, but he’d prefer not to read them for reasons that should be fairly obvious. On top of that, my husband isn’t a writer. To him walk, stroll, pace, and meander all mean the same thing. And the word saunter is just simple ridiculous. It’s just not in his set of skills to help me edit a piece of literature.

Like I said, the man deserves major credit for trying. He did it because he loves me and knows that my writing means a great deal to me. It was his way of showing support of my dreams. I love him every day for that. But I needed someone else. Badly.

Over the last several years as I have written fan fiction, I have had several different betas. In the fan fiction community, a beta is a person who helps the author with edits, much like an editor. Some people have only one, and others have one for syntax, one for grammar, one for spelling, etc. I’ve always found the use of a beta helpful. It’s nice to have a second set of eyes look over a piece before it’s made public. Unfortunately I never found a person that could take my work and help me bring it to the next level the way I wanted. I had one that was fantastic at spotting grammatical and spelling errors, but she failed to grasp how I wanted the story to feel. On another story, I had a beta that was great at picking up on odd syntax, but her suggestions to fix the problems were just not the same voice I use when writing, which just left me feeling even more frustrated than I started.

For a while I gave up on using a beta. I am a complete control freak, and I want my stories to scream “ME!” in every letter. I want people to just know they are reading one of my pieces of art.

I was working on a new piece that was heavy with Catholic references a while back. I am not Catholic, so I did tons of research. I spent months reading about Catholicism, parish layouts, rites, prayers, the Catechism, you name it. I made myself as well versed in the religion as I could without converting for the sake of research. Then I wrote the story. Once it was done, I let it sit for a few days. I just couldn’t bring myself to post it. I was terrified of making a fool of myself by making some enormous mistake and breaking the whole “suspension of disbelief.”

I have this friend that has been reading my fan fiction for a while. I knew she had done some beta work before and also that she had a Catholic background. I summoned my courage and swallowed my pride, and I finally asked her if she would help me with this one story. She enthusiastically agreed. The rest, as they say, is history.

Amy is like an extension of my own mind in some ways. Not only does she zero in on exactly the right parts, but she gives the best advice on how to fix things. We work together extremely well, sometimes batting an idea back and forth half a dozen times before getting it perfect. I am completely comfortable putting my hard work in her hands.

And that story I was talking about? Well, Amy helped me take it so much further than I ever could have done alone. It came out way better than I ever dreamed it could have.

I am now sending Amy parts of my debut novel to work on. I trust no one else to handle my work (besides my husband, but that’s been discussed already). It was my turn to be delighted when I asked her to help me with a story and she agreed. There’s something magical about being able to get excited about seeing what’s going to become of this rough draft, and I have that experience because I have a fantastic beta. Between you and me, I’m making sure Amy gets her due credit; she works very hard for me.

My point with this long ramble is that… well I have several points. One is that you need someone to help you. All those people that say we are too close to our writing to be objective are actually right. A second opinion can’t hurt. Another point is that you have to find the right person (or set of persons) to give you that second opinion. It just makes the whole revision process easier, and more enjoyable, when you do. And lastly, don’t be a control freak. I know that’s hard, believe me. In the end though, it’s still going to be your story with your characters told with your voice. Being able to let go just a little bit can have huge rewards in the grand scheme of things.

And So It Began…

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Introduction
Tags:

I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember. Actually, it’s more like before I can remember. A favorite family anecdote is about me telling a story while I was still a toddler; after a flashlight went missing — without my help, I should mention — I proceeded to explain how a frog managed to get into the house and take the missing flashlight under the refrigerator. After great lengths on my parents’ part, the flashlight was not found under the heavy appliance. I have been writing ever since.

I haven’t known until the last several years that I wanted to write as a career though. Over the years, I have written lots of things. I’ve even won a couple of awards, my favorite of which happens to be in a state magazine for a poem I wrote at the age 13. In that poem I questioned life itself and the laws of existence such as the colors of nature. However, under all the words laid my emotions of grief and anger over the death of my birth mother.

As I have grown, so have my writing abilities. But the essence of my writing hasn’t changed. I still use my feelings as the foundation of everything I write. I feel intensely, live passionately, and speak vibrantly. Somehow I manage to naturally convey emotions to my readers.

Ah, my readers. Let’s take a moment to see where I discovered my dream. I had stopped writing many years ago. Adulthood came upon me, along with all the responsibilities of getting married and raising children, and I just didn’t have time to waste of such flights of fancy. Writing amusing stories was something of my childhood, fated to leave me just as long summer breaks and imaginative play did. Or so I thought. I eventually needed some sort of creative outlet, but I can’t draw or play an instrument (although I tried to play the violin for five years in middle and high school) or sculpt intricate statues. My gift is that of articulation. So I wrote. I wrote fictional stories about my favorite band.

Yes, I am a writer of fan fiction, and I am rather proud of that fact. For you see, the more I wrote, the more I found my true calling. I couldn’t stop. With every story I pushed the boundaries just a little further than the previous one. I tested my skills and flexed my mental muscles. One day, I was struck with an epiphany: I am made to write. Every person has some quality that offers them a chance at greatness, and mine is the ability to tell a great story.

I am honored to have a group of people that call themselves fans of mine, and I am truly humbled at some of the wonderful compliments they pay me. These are the people that without whom I’d have never found my passion. These are the people that have watched me grow through my stories, the people that have encouraged me to keep going. These are the people that are following me through the transition into commercial fiction. But most importantly, these are the people I will always remember. I have the privilege of calling several of them personal friends now.

I have decided to start this blog for several reasons. It will be a way for my “fans” (for I still consider myself unworthy of fans yet) to keep up with how the progress of my debut novel is coming along. It will be a place for me to talk about the triumphs and failures, and all that goes along with them, of the writing and publishing process. And hopefully, this will be a way of finding new readers and stirring up some excitement and anticipation for the coming of my first book, “Sing for Me, Pretty.”

I hope you’ll tag along. This is definitely going to be quite the adventure!

T. R. Hudgins