The other night I dreamed that fellow Stiletto Gang author Linda Rodriguez rewrote the back-story on the main character of my Carrie Mae Mystery series – Nikk Lanier. Nikki is a twenty-something red-headed linguistics major turned superspy with an overbearing mother and a steady boyfriend who works for the CIA. Notice how none of that background involves a whirlwind marriage and divorce from a blonde lawyer and the adoption of an African orphan? But by the time my dream Linda was done that’s what Nikki had. And in my dream, I kept thinking, “Maybe I could make the divorce work, but what am I supposed to do with a baby? I can’t just send it back!” And then I woke up in a cold editorial sweat trying to figure out I was going to jam all these changes into Nikki’s next adventure that I’m 30,000 words into with no place to add in a spare baby.
What I love is that in my dream, never once did I question why Linda was rewriting Nikki’s backstory, and it certainly never occurred to me that I could just reject the edits. Nope, once Linda wrote it down, it was set in stone. Never mind that Linda and I have never actually met in person or done any writing together what-so-ever. In my dream, the changes were done and that was that. The other odd thing about my dream was the very real dual reality of Nikki’s reality. Linda may have written it, but I couldn’t send the baby back to the orphanage because Nikki would be upset, and what would her friends think?
But once I woke up, calmed down and then stopped laughing, it occurred to me to wonder. Do other authors dream about other authors? Do they dream about their characters? Is my brain off the deep end or just averagely crazy? I may never know the answer to that one…
When I was in college there was a hierarchy of artsy-ness. The fine artists looked down on the graphic designers, who looked down on the production people, who had to make do with looking down on people outside the art department. Web designers and Illustrators had to float around the edges and hope that no one eliminated their department before they graduated. I could never figure out why the fine arts students were so high and mighty – they were at a state school studying painting. It seemed wildly clear to me that their degree was a complete waste of daddy’s money. It was my opinion that the graphic designers were just as creative as fine artists; we just happened to be practical enough to want jobs after graduation. Such sentiments were far to mercenary for the art department where creativity only had to serve it’s own purpose and things like deadline’s, client needs, and money were all too, too pedestrian to be considered. Which seemed silly to me since even if you became a wildly successful painter you were going to come up against deadlines (we need 12 paintings for your gallery show in September!), client needs (the White House says the portrait can’t be a nude), and money (don’t worry your pretty little head about money!), why not learn how to manage these every day things? Wouldn’t that make you more successful? The resounding answer from the art department seemed to be that such thoughts would stifle the creativity.
And when it came to art, I had no problem shaking my head at their silliness. The only place I allowed myself that kind of indulgent largesse was in writing. I would be out tip-toeing through the tulips of my imaginary worlds for months at a time. But as I have gotten older and more experienced in the craft of writing I have discovered two problems with this. One – the product frequently is not what is needed. Too much wandering down unprofitable by-ways and I come back to the main plot of the story with about 100 pages of random stuff that don’t serve the story at all, but because I’ve just spent months on them, I love them too much to cut. Two – I don’t have the time. I now have a husband, a daughter, and a business to attend to and they all have a legitimate claim to my time. And how is the dog supposed to get any attention if I’m off typing… again? (Hint: He has to look gosh darn adorable.) So, my solution? Schedules and outlines. Those two foes of creativity have become my friends. With a strong outline my writing is faster and more productive than the days when I sat down at the computer wondering what to write today. I’m not sure how anyone else manages (and I’d love to hear other people’s experiences), but I’m hanging my hat on a schedule and an outline.
Recently, I was ranting on Facebook about my hatred for the periods in a.m. and p.m as well as the comma between city and state in addresses (see what you miss by not being my Facebook friend?) and one of my friends posted a link to Weird Al Yankovic’s new song “Word Crimes.” As a long time Weird Al enthusiast and a Facebook friend to several editors and writers I had already seen the video (click here if you haven’t). The video parodies “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke’s insanely catchy hit from 2013. If you haven’t heard that one, then you probably weren’t living in America all of last year, but here you go – Blurred Lines. (Warning: may not be suitable for work and my cause you to get in arguments with your feminist friends over whether or not the song is “rape-y”. Double Warning: If you use the word rape-y at me, I will smite you.) But back to the story, as I watched the Weird Al version again (because why wouldn’t you?) I was caught by the line “You do not use “it’s” in this case!”
But why don’t we? Yes, yes, the current rules state that “it’s” is a contraction. “It” is not possessive; “it” cannot own anything. But I say, “Listen up English – if you’re not going to provide me with a gender neutral pronoun, why can’t I use the defacto pronoun already in use in conversation – it?” Clearly, the language is lacking such a word. English should stop being stuffy and allow this clearly needed possessive to enter the dictionary. I’d willingly delete “tweep” from the Oxford-English Dictionary if I could have “it’s.” Who’s with me?