22 Oct How my children make sure my books don’t suck.
I have lots of children. Some are Big – like 24 years old Big. And some are Little – like 11 years old Little. If it weren’t for them, then my books would really suck. (But don’t tell them that because then they’ll be fiapoto pestering me to list all their names on the cover as co-authors. Or something else equally ridiculous.)
How do my children help make my books better?
1. My kids are excellent at brainstorming book ideas with me. They are all eager readers (and Marvel movie watchers) and they always have excellent story suggestions. We sit at the dinner table and throw ideas at each other and they will tell me when an idea is dreadful. We have plotted out entire book series and multiple versions of multiple books this way, as each child adds in their own spin and alternate directions and plots. This is the most fun and exciting part of the book process and I love having so many smart and funny young people brainstorm with me. I don’t always use everything we come up with, which has been a matter of conflict later when the book comes out and they find out that I’ve gone in a completely different direction. “What happened!! This isn’t what we agreed on!” And then I have to remind them that UMMM HELLO IM THE AUTHOR NOT YOU, REMEMBER?! Their contributions are especially useful when I’m writing Young Adult stories because of course I’m not a Young Adult anymore and they can tell me if an idea is boring, or “Are you kidding mum? No teenagers talk like that ugh!”
2. They contribute to making books happen because
Im the Boss of them and I can make them do all the chores and bake me brownies for writing refreshments they’re super helpful. For example, instead of getting up from my desk and leaving my aircon room to get a drink of water, I can just message them my requests instead. (Thank the Lord for the invention of Messenger! Gone are the days when all the neighbors got sore ears from hearing me yell at my kids.) Also now that my kids are Big, they have taken over key responsibilities in the house. There’s far fewer writing interruptions now because these children can cook, clean, drive (and bring me room service.) They plan the meals, do all the grocery shopping and figure out our weekly budget. Yes my Big Kids do complain sometimes, and ask, why do we have to help Bella with her homework? Aren’t you her mother? She’s not our child. And then I have to remind them that the only reason why they’re university graduates and clever enough to help Bella with homework, is because I TAUGHT YOU EVERYTHING YOU KNOW AND I SUFFERED EVERYDAY HELPING YOU WITH YOUR HOMEWORK EH!!
3. They’re rather good at offering encouragement. They are the bestest cheer crew any writer could ask for. Bella tells me often that I’m awesome and clever and creative. (She’s young enough to still believe that her mother is the smartest person on the planet. Long may that fantasy continue.) My big kids have the blase calmness that I often lack. When I am riddled with doubts about my writerness, they dismiss them with the faith and confidence of young adulthood. “So what if XYZ doesnt like your books? Nobody listens to them anyway.” And, “Mum, why are you wasting time reading reviews? Shouldn’t you be using that time to write more books?” And “Remember when you told us to not care about the opinions of other kids at school? When you would say to us SO WHAT IF YOUR FRIEND SAID SO. IS YOUR FRIEND THE BOSS OF YOU? IF YOUR FRIEND JUMPS OFF A CLIFF ARE YOU GOING TO JUMP OFF TOO? YOU HAVE YOUR OWN BRAIN. USE IT. TELL YOUR FRIEND TO SHUT UP. You have to follow your own advice when it comes to what other people say about your books and about you as a writer. Tell them all to shut up. Nobody writes like you. Nobody knows better than you how t tell your story.”
4. They are honest and straightup critics. The reason why Daniel is so badass and three-dimensional in OCEAN’S KISS is because Big Son didnt like the initial plot draft. He pointed out that, “You’ve made Daniel be a total loser in this book and he barely has anything in his life worth connecting with for the reader.” He was right so I changed it and the story is a 100x better than it was.
They tell me for example, when I’ve been lazy with my character creation. In the car on the way to school I am buzzing to tell them about the extra details I’m adding for Scarlet’s #love – ‘Of course he’s a billionaire. Super rich and powerful.’ My daughters are unimpressed.
“A billionaire? Eww ugh. Where did he get his money from? Oppressing people?” says the teenager.
“No,” I splutter and rush to defend Jackson. “He got it from oil. Texas oil.”
The daughters are horrified. “Mum, FOSSIL FUELS!? HOW COULD YOU?! What about the environment? Scarlet would never date someone like that!”
I have to rush and backtrack, because they’re right.
5. They are bossy and mean. When a deadline is approaching they harangue and harass me, asking me pointed questions like, “SHOULD YOU BE WATCHING NETFLIX RIGHT NOW? DONT YOU HAVE A BOOK TO FINISH?” They have held a family council meeting to discuss the merits of locking me in my office every day until a book is finished, and making a roster for bringing me meals on a tray and allowing me out for bathroom breaks. Like seriously family?! When they see me dragging my feet and whining about a book being difficult, they have no sympathy at all. They are cold, cruel and heartless. “Nobody cares Mum. All we care about is your book being finished. Is it finished? No. So get in your office and write some more words then. It’s not supposed to be fun. It’s your job, remember? Aren’t you the one who always tells us that work is hard and there’s no shortcuts to success?” Blah blah blah… I have no idea where they learned how to be so mean?!
Writing is often a very solitary thing, which I like because it suits my hermit personality perfectly! But it can also get lonely and isolating if you let it. I’m grateful for all these #boss fiabotz people that live in the same house as me, who are so generous with their creative energy and who love me enough to be patient with my weird writer ways. They have kept me company through 11 books so far, (and if theyre successful in their plot to lock me up in a #writerPrison, then it will very soon be 12 books.)
Thank you Forever Young Big-and-Little Children!