Writers Write…and other adages that used to driving me crazy

Writers write.

Okay, that one’s true. If you were looking for the post that showed you the secret passageway through that hard, painful truth, I’m sorry. It’s not here. But what I can tell you is that I hated it when people used to spout that lovely little adage at me. Like really, truly, lump in my throat hated it. Of course, my response would be all, duh, of course, yeah, writers write i’m a writer. i write. i freaking love to write, why, don’t you? Meanwhile there was a giant pit of tar-bubbly anger the size of France boiling in my gut because, well, I sort of hated writing at the time. Like the physical butt-in-chair write 2,000 words a day act of writing. Yeah, I hated it.

(Author’s note: Please don’t take my Writer’s Club membership yet…please?)

Here’s another one I hated when I was a wee writer: “If you can do anything else but write and be happy, then go do it.”

Umm, let my 5 years past self tell you some things I could have been happy doing other than writing: Watching Friends re-runs, re-reading Harry Potter for the tenth time, watching videos of baby pigs on youtube, eating Cheetos, shopping online, talking to my friends about Teen Mom, actually studying, taking up pilates, joining Junior League, sleeping, getting my haircut more than once every six months, stepping foot in a grocery store…

And these are all totally worthwhile past times (yeah, even that part about Teen Mom, Judgey McJudgerson).

Here’s the thing: I am one of the most hyper-analytical people I know. Maybe you aren’t. Maybe you have the superpower to have a more nuanced view of reality. I don’t know. I do know we writers are a neurotic bunch. So I say this here simply because it’s something I felt once and therefore there’s a chance that maybe it’s something you felt too. Right, so, example: if a doctor asks me how much pain I’m in on a scale from 1-10 and my hand has just been taken off in a meat grinder, I will probably sit there and think, okay, I’m not dying, I’m not going to die in the next minute at least I don’t think, so it’s proooooooobably not a 10, which means it’s probably like an 8–wait no–maybe a 7…you get the picture.

So when someone says to me, “if you can do anything else but write and be happy, then go do it,” what I do is start listing in my head all things above that I could, in fact, do and be happy. This still happens. I could spend time being a better friend, a better wife, cleaning up around the house, working more, making videos, reading, working out. All of these things actually make me quite happy and I could do them. I consider this a good thing actually because it means I’m a happy person, right? But I want to be a writer and an author so badly that I was and am willing to forego a good chunk of each of those things to make it happen. And maybe by virtue of that very action, I proved the freaking adage. Yes, I understand that. But my point is:

It didn’t feel that way.

And so here’s the second thing I want to say. (Or maybe it’s the third–I’m not sure, but I do know I do NOT want to be a mathematician). If getting 150 words out is, like, really freaking hard right now. If you’d rather stare at the wall then write and I’m not talking occasionally but on a regular basis. If you wonder what the hell you are doing. That’s okay. If there is a part of you that just can’t let the dream go, I’ll tell you something. It gets easier. At least for me. I came from that place and I actually look forward to writing now. I like writing. In fact, I feel weird and sort of jittery and sick when I haven’t written something for a few days or a week. Worse if I don’t know what I should be working on. Okay, fine, I’ll just say it: I love writing. Love it.

This isn’t gospel. This may not be true for you or for anyone else. How the hell should I know?

And I’d be remiss to point out that there was a lot of growing and learning what worked for me and why. What I liked and what I didn’t. And there was a lot of sitting in front of a keyboard battling the empty space on the page. But I am SO glad I did. And that’s it. That’s all I’ve got for you. Go forth and write. Or don’t. Whatever you feel, my friends. Hope that helps.

Lucky Charms

Lots of writers have things they “need” in order to write–a particularly comfy chair, certain playlists, complete silence, booze…you get the picture. I’ve always tried not to be one of those writers. As a full-time lawyer, I have to make writing happen whenever writing can happen. I write before work. At the kitchen table. While my husband watches Mad Men in the background. Whenever, wherever if I have to.

But! But! I’ve become very attached to this one thing without which I worry not that I can’t write but that nothing good will happen from writing. Like ever.

I’ve lost it before, under couches and beneath mattresses, and it wasn’t until after I found it again that it donned on me: Of course, I hadn’t received any good news! I didn’t have my bracelet!

(I mean, duh, right, it’s all so logical)


This, my friends, is my evil eye bracelet. My girlfriend, Emily, gave it to me a few weeks before law school graduation and a few weeks after a boy had broken my heart. I’d had a particularly acute stream of bad luck. Broken heart, compounding deadlines, pending finals, the bar–basically all those life events we really look forward to. She said I needed the eyeball to ward off the bad energy. A week later, I met my husband. Over the past two years since receiving the bracelet, so much has changed, virtually all for the good. And while I’m religious and truly believe I’ve been blessed–evil eye or not–I can’t help but associate my bracelet with good luck.

So what about y’all? Is there anything that you irrationally need to write?

And this is how it all began…

I remember this so well. I was on Penn’s campus walking across an intersection in front of the WaWa and talking to my best friend from high school, Emma Kate. We were saying that there were big things we wanted to do, big goals we’d like to at least try once in life. I told her I wanted to write a book, that I’d always wanted to but had probably never made it past writing the first page. I told her there was this thing called NaNoWriMo where a whole bunch of people got together and tried to write 50,000 words in one month. She wanted to run a marathon.

That November, I did dive in and I completed NaNoWriMo, all 50,000 words or it and just in the nick of time, on the last day of November. I really don’t even know what got me to want to finish the book. I didn’t like the idea. I didn’t like writing it. I remember very little about the book. I know there were times I was just writing to fill up space. But I finished and I guess that’s the thing that mattered because that was when I realized that I could write that much.  A whole book’s worth.

The sheer volume had been daunting–but look, I’d done it in a month! For awhile after that, writing still tended be an arduous process of slogging through, writing just to fill up space. But somewhere over the years, it became a more thoughtful process and ten times more enjoyable (most of the time…)

My best friend from high school (who was just a couple months ago my Maid of Honor!) ran a marathon that year. And she has run many more since. She’s fought through adversity, too–overcoming a severe blood clot in her lung just days before she was supposed to run the Chicago marathon.

It’s amazing to me that this little insignificant conversation between the two of us on a phone call during my junior year of college has spurned us both on to follow what has now become our greatest passions in life. I’m glad we took each other so seriously.

A visit to Sarasota, touring Ringling with EK

A visit to Sarasota, touring Ringling with EK


With Emma Kate before my wedding

With Emma Kate before my wedding

Good Cop/Bad Cop

The hubs and I just finished the first season of The Wire yesterday. So naturally we’ve been walking around using our best gangster slang whenever we’re home and sounding pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.

Aside from the revelation that I don’t hear “Most def” nearly enough in my day-to-day life, The Wire got me thinking about the traditional Good Cop/Bad Cop trope and how it relates to the writing process. There’s a scene in Season 1 in which idiot detectives Ellis Carver and Thomas ‘Herc’ Hauk try to employ the good cop/bad cop tactic to get a juvenile delinquent/drug dealer to talk. Only in true Carver and Herc fashion, they totally gum up the interrogation and the good cop/bad cop stunt doesn’t prime the suspect to talk but instead results in a messy brawl causing the whole line of questioning to shut down.

I’m pretty sure every writer has a Good Cop and a Bad Cop, each of which rears their little ugly head somewhere during the course of writing and revising a novel. And the thing is, there’s a place for both of them, IF (and only if) they come at the right time and are used correctly.

In The Wire, Herc and Carver mistakenly start out with the good cop and then go to the bad cop, but hello! any good Homeland fan knows that you start with the bad cop and then move to the good one. That way the suspect–after being used and abused–is ready to listen to what the good cop has to say.

For me, conversations from my Good Cop go something like this:

Good Cop Writing Voice: OMG, this is the best thing you’ve ever written–like ever! You are a genius. Congratulations on your big, swollen genius brain. It’s a wonder your skull can contain it!

Good Cop Writing Voice: You should send this off straight away! It’s perfect! Editors will call overnight. First one then FIVE editors. And then an auction! Or perhaps a pre-empt! It’s written in the stars!

Good Cop Writing Voice: At the very least, you should have a bottle of champagne lurking in the fridge! Silly writer. So cautious.

Good Cop Writing Voice: You’re going to be a millionaire!

On the other hand, the role of Bad Cop goes like this:

Bad Cop Writing Voice: You actually spent time on this? Really?  It’s so embarrassing. The writing is flat. The characters are flat. If you wrote the world, I bet it would be flat, too.

Bad Cop Writing Voice: Oh. My. Goodness. Are you trying to bore me to death? An editor won’t read past the first page. Wait, what? Someone paid you to write this? Oh geez, you should just give their money back now. Stealing is wrong.

Bad Cop Writing Voice: You will never be good enough. Not ever. And definitely not with this book.

Bad Cop Writing Voice: Everyone is going to be disappointed in you.

Okay, so as you can see, the good cop is way too good and the bad cop is way too bad, but each have little nuggets of truth in them, that if I interpret correctly, can be used to my benefit.

In fact, Good Cop may be right. This may be the best thing I’ve ever written. If I’m trying hard and improving with each book, it *should* be the best thing I’ve ever written. That’s something I should take pride in and be motivated by and I should be willing to look at the work as objectively as possible to determine if it is, truly, the best work I’ve done. If it is, then good for me. I shouldn’t deny myself the pleasure of recognizing that. A job well done shouldn’t go unnoticed, least of all by the writer. Now, is my book going to sell overnight in a 5 house auction? Ummmm…probably not. I mean, it could, but odds are very, very low. Still, this is the type of hare-brained dream that can get us through the hard times. When your manuscript is a bear and you’re contemplating quitting or at least crying into the dried up bowl of oatmeal that’s been sitting next to your computer for the past three days (not that this has ever happened to me, of course). This type of positive self-talk can inspire the love you need, the love that will in turn bleed into your writing on the page. If you’re not feeling it, neither will the reader. And more importantly, if this is your pie-in-the-sky goal, it should make you work crazy hard to do your best. Aim for the 5 house auction and if you don’t reach it, you’ll still end up with something great on your hands. The only problem lies in taking Good Cop’s commentary as a foregone conclusion, as destiny rather than a reward that has to be earned.

But that’s okay because Bad Cop is there to bring you back down to earth. And fast. My Bad Cop is super mean. Too mean, if we’re honest. My Bad Cop can cripple me into not writing at all if I’m not careful. Sometimes, I have to consciously bring Good Cop back in. But Bad Cop has a role too and that role is not to let me off the hook. Maybe my writing is flat. Maybe the characters don’t have enough layers. Maybe Bad Cop’s telling the truth and I just don’t want to listen. I at least have to consider the consequences that Bad Cop is presenting me. This is the voice inside that pushes you as far as you can go. But it only works if you don’t let it shut you down. Let the Bad Cop tell you the hard truths. The ones that scare you. Bad Cop is the driving force to betterment, the one that forces you to consider your weaknesses.

As far as I can tell, for most writers, the order of “interrogation” needs to be: Good Cop, Bad Cop, Good Cop. I need Good Cop to get me through the first draft. During that time, I need to feel the love. I need to write confidently and without (too much) fear. After the first draft is down, I can let Bad Cop take its turn. I put my head down and listen to everything that I’ve ever done wrong and force myself to consider what might happen if I don’t listen. Once I’ve done all I can do and the book is out of my hands, it’s time for Good Cop to come back. If you’ve truly done your best, then there’s no reaason to beat yourself up about anything more. Take pride in the work and the effort and the enthusiasm and pray for the best.

Do you have good and bad cops while writing? What do they say?

The New Year’s Resolution Post

It’s New Year’s Eve, everybody! I’ve got my fancy pants outfit and plans all ready to go (already a huge improvement over most NYEs) and it’s time to reflect on the year that’s passed and the year to come. In short, 2012 has been made of awesome so, yanno, 2013 has a whole freaking lot to live up to. But if there’s something I love, it’s a good underdog, so here’s hoping that ’13 is all that and more! Have a happy and safe New Year’s, y’all!

Favorite Moments of 2012:

-Getting engaged
-Getting married
-Honeymoon to South Africa
-Going to Paris
-Driving Big Sur in California
-Engagement Party in my hometown of Sarasota, FL
-Seeing three books that I wrote come out and then looking through the cute GIFs created by little girls that are fans
-Meeting new editors and writing for new book packagers
-Taking Mediabistro class with editor Brendan Deenen
-Going to Tour de Nerdfighting to see John and Hank Green for the first time

We're a Mr. and Mrs.!

We’re a Mr. and Mrs.!

For anyone that knows me, this was clearly the worst part of the night--I hate cake!

For anyone that knows me, this was clearly the worst part of the night–I hate cake!



First book out

First book out

We ate, we celebrated and we were married!

Writing Goals:

Things I Can Control:

1. Write regularly, even when not on deadline. This one is probably the most important since it will encourage me not only to practice, practice, practice, but also to dedicate time to my own, original work, rather than just projects I’m being paid for.

2. Make new writing friends. There was a time when I was really involved in the writing community through message boards, twitter, blogosphere, etc. Through that time, I made very close writing friends who have shared this journey with me and for whom I am very grateful. But the publishing business is crazy and many have started to move on from writing for one reason or another. Writing friends have always been a huge source of inspiration, support  and sanity and I’m looking forward to making new friends to learn from, angst with, and share ups and downs.

3. Craft. One thing that I’m really proud of this year is that I slowed down and worked on craft. So, I’d like to take that even further and this year I have three broad craft-related goals that I’d like to keep at the forefront: (a) write more interesting characters–characters with lots of depth and competing motivations  who readers are excited to see come on the page (this goes for both main and supporting cast), (b) focus on foreward momentum for the reader, creating a page-turner (lately, I’ve been studying quiet first chapters and books that still manage to make the reader have to know what happened; it’s fascinating), and (c) write interesting and suprising prose.

[For the record, this year I worked on slowing down during scenes to flesh them out, not using snark as a crutch to create voice, and developing a book more fully through inner monologue and description.]

4. Finish a complete, revised draft of a novel that is not commissioned by anyone but yours truly.

5. Write what I love and what excites me.

Things I Can’t Control:

1.  Sell a book in my own name (which will *hopefully* be this book that is about to go on submission!)

2. Secure at least one new work for hire gig that is bigger and better and challenges me more than what I have done so far

3. Nail down and sign the contract for the project I can’t yet talk about, but which is ah-mazing

It’s almost as if I was never gone…

I’ve been keeping this blog since 2008

Yeah, that feels like a long freaking time. I vividly remember starting it. I was beginning my first year of law school and refreshing the Absolute Write “No news is no news” thread once every three minutes. Literally. I was obsessed with Miss Snark then and I mean, obsessed. And having a blog was, like, the most important part of writing ever because I needed to have an online presence. Everybody told me so.

And to some extent, it really was true. The blog helped tremendously. I met some of my best writing friends (to this day). I practiced writing daily. Shortly thereafter I signed with an awesome agent from Writers House. Editors contacted him based on my blog looking for my book. And I got to track this crazy writing journey. I mean, I still love going back and reading those old posts.

I kept it diligently and enjoyed receiving emails from readers of the blog and fellow writers. The blog was just something I did. Part of my almost daily routine. I imagined announcing that I’d signed with an agent (which I did and that was great fun) and announcing my first book deal here. I was sure I’d announce that I was engaged and that I’d gotten married. That’s how connected I’d become to the community and how much it meant to me.

Well, spoiler alert: I got engaged (although not to the guy I’d thought I would back in 2008!) and I’m  married now. In fact, my name isn’t even Chandler Craig anymore! Whoa. I’ve had 3 books that I wrote published. I’ve signed 5 writing contracts. All this happened and I didn’t even post it up here and, you know what, that made me kind of sad. And not because I needed some online presence for publishing (although I’ll get back to that in a second), but because it was always part of the story I’d imagined. One of the little mini celebrations that I’d enjoy once each of those things happened.

But I guess it’s not surprising that I didn’t celebrate exactly how I’d imagined, since basically nothing in my writing career has gone how I’d predicted. The book I signed with my agent for didn’t sell and then somehow (and very happily, I’ll add) I became a ghostwriter, an author like I wanted, but under different names. I didn’t really need any online presence for books that weren’t under my name in the first place and I had crazy deadlines and a more than full time job as a lawyer to contend with. So I’m happy to report that although I wasn’t blogging, I was writing, which is ultimately the point, right?

But I’ve still missed it. I’ve been sad that I haven’t documented this part of my journey. I haven’t posted since February and this year has been crazy! So much has happened–what was I thinking? what was I doing? Who knows.

But I think one reason this year has been the one that resulted in so much neglect to the ye olde blog is because I’ve been really focused on craft. I’ve stretched myself by doing samples from YA historical to Contemporary Tween to YA horror and Adult non-fiction. I even took a Mediabistro class to dig in in earnest. It’s also been a year filled with reading. Lots and lots of reading. All in the name of learning (and maybe an unhealthy love of, yanno, reading, too, but whatever) and I hope it’s started to pay off. My batting average for landing jobs is certainly improving. While rejection is still and always will be part of the publishing biz, I’m no longer terrified of the audition. I feel like I have about as good a shot as anyone, which is a huge improvement in my writing self-confidence. I can’t yet talk about everything that’s now in the works–though soon, soon, I hope. I’ve connected with some of THE most amazing people in show business and I can’t tell you how excited I am by certain projects on the horizon.

So there lies one third of my motivation in reviving the blog. See, one such amazing show business person who shall not be named googled me and stumbled upon this site and–eek!–it hadn’t been updated in forever! Of course, she was kind enough not to mention that.  Remember this call is with someone who I never in a million years would think would bother to look me up. Now, imagine my surprise in my first call with her when she says that she loves that I research serial killers and never leave the house without waterproof mascara. Well, after I ruled out the theory that she was stalking me and/or living in my spare bedroom, first my brain exploded and then I realized I had that info in my “About Me” section, which, yes, meant she’d clicked over to the sad abandoned carnival ride that is FWF.

The second third of my motivation comes from the fact that I have a book that is going on submission under my name sometime in the hopefully not-so-distant future. Yes, I’m freaking out. Yes, I’m excited. Yes, I’m tempted to hide under my bed. It’s been years since I’ve had a book under my own name ready to go out to editors. *flail* This book is YA and it’s a collaboration of sorts with a former ICM film agent-extraordinaire who has started a company that has paid me an advance and will be immediately marketing the film rights for said projects.

The last third is more touchy feely. I remember the angst and the worrying and the sheer anticipation that came form submitting to agents and then to editors and I would hate not to document that as I re-start down this path come January. So for now, I’m in the middle of edits with the team that’s bent on making this book as awesome as possible and then polishing up the synopsis and then reviewing pitch letters with my agent and nailing down a title and THEN it’ll be time to sacrifice a goat to the universe or something for good luck, because, as you know, you can never have too much of that.

Quick Update to Prove I’m Alive and Whatnot

Just popping in to update. I (somehow, by some unexplained miracle-slash-wormhole in the time-space continuum ) turned in Ghostwriting Book 10 on July 4. I finished it on Sunday, July 3 and then formatted and sent that thing off. The book deadline wasn’t until July 22, so I had set a fake deadline for myself of July 4 so I could study for the bar this month. But, you know how fake deadlines are…it’s pretty hard to take them seriously. But somehow, I defied the odds and convinced myself that the book was legitimately due then. Book 10, I owned you.

Which leads to even better news! I was asked to write the next book in the series, Book 11, making this my third one in this middle grade series. I was flattered they wanted me to stay on, but had to take a few days to think it over. Now that I’m familiar with the world and the voice and all that, though, I thought, Hey, why not? So, I have one more draft of Book 10 under contract then I’ll be jumping into Book 11 – due September 26.

But…all that is completely on hold until I am done with the bar. This is the first time in a long time that I am doing absolutely zero writing. None. Nadda. Zip. Not sure I like it, but it’s a necessity. Don’t worry, I’ll be doing plenty between the bar and the time I start work in September now.

Hope all is well with y’all. I’ll be posting Monday Musings with Shana and Jen on, well, Mondays, and hopefully some Tuesday stuff and maybe a few book reviews I’m behind on. But don’t expect much from me, people!