READ. You'll crack formula to success

by Ksenia Anske

Photo by Joel Robison

So I'm sitting here in this amazing afterglow from reading Stephen King's SONG OF SUSANNAH, Book 6 of The Dark Tower series, thinking how can I communicate this feeling to the world, to explain how reading makes me a better writer. Not in the way of reading and learning from it, but in a way of connecting with the mind of another writer, seeing how he does it, and realizing that I can do the same. We all can do. Except at the very beginning we don't know it, don't believe in it, and so sometimes never dare to finish it, because we think there must be some success formula and because we don't know it yet, so we think our stuff is pure shit. We give up, and that's that. But the ecstasy from having understood, from having come close to understanding another writer's process, is indescribable. It's a feeling. There is no formula. If there was one, everyone would study it in school and then crank out best-sellers, like, 10 a pop, and scoop up millions of dollars. Yet we all know it doesn't work that way. Then how does it work? I'm not sure I know the answer, but the more I read, the more I get this feeling that perhaps I have caught it by the tail. Here is what I think.

We read about what's missing from our lives. There are books that we only read when we are missing something specifically, like hot BDSM sex (in case of 50 Shades of Grey), or a hot ideal boyfriend (in case of Twilight), or a magical quest against Death and all things school (Harry Potter). You get the idea. Notice, though, how different these books are. For example, if you happen to have hot BDSM sex, or you happen to have a hot ideal boyfriend in real life, you probably won't pick up Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey, simply because you have enough of it for real and don't need to fantasize about it. Hence, it explains the demographic of people who rave about the series. Also, at certain times in our lives, we go through different phases, and we might be needing a book badly when 5 years from now it wouldn't fit out life at all. Case in point, reading Twilight made me start thinking about divorce and prompted me start thinking about writing Siren Suicides. I'm not kidding, I was totally into it, swooning over every page. That was 8 years ago. Yeah, now laugh all you want. Notice, also, how Harry Potter is completely different. We're all afraid of death at any age, and we all remember school pains, at any age, so the demographic is much larger. See the pattern?

We read books that speak our language. Like everyone else, and curious because it's so hot right now, I picked up a copy of Warm Bodies and read it, partly because I really liked Isaac's blog and his writing style, partly because I liked the story premise and wanted to be done with the book before the movie came out. And, I loved the book in places, but in other places, I was mad at it and wanted to put it down. Not because there is anything wrong with it, no, it's an awesome story, beautiful, with great sense of humor and zombie poetry-like prose. But it didn't speak to me, it was not my language of life. Mine is much darker, much twistier, simply because of my background and my personal history, which is not pretty (oh, well, it made me who I am). The book felt lightweight to me, yet it also puzzled me why I didn't like it as much as others did. It outright bothered me, especially because I really wanted to meet and connect with Isaac (he's here in Seattle too), and I think with my 3 star review I outright puzzled him as to why I wanted to meet. But I wanted to talk about exactly this, about the language and how it differs. The reason why you as a writer need to read as much as you can is because you will see where you fit. You need to trust yourself and be yourself, then you will find readers whose language you speak. But if you don't, if you try to fit a genre or a style, you're doomed.

We read books because we know the author. This is my pet peeve, of course, because I'm such a social media freak. And I'm a social media freak because the publishing game has changed. The writer no longer has to rely on the publishing houses to market the book, the writer can connect directly with readers, and I LOVE doing it. I mean, if not for folks with whom I connected, my Draft 5 wouldn't have gotten better (I had 50 Beta Readers dish in on Draft 4!). Anyway, I'm straying from the topic here... My point is, we read books by authors whom we feel we know, like old friends. Why? Because we're social animals and it's how we're wired. We can't be alone, we love to connect, but in order for us to connect, we have to know the other party. And how, pray tell, would we do that? Well, by reading a book. But why would we pick up a book? Because a friend told us. But how would a friend tell us? Because a friend somehow stumbled upon this book and something made her or him pick it up. Here is the deal, that SOMETHING will only be there if you as a writer know who you are and are not afraid to write from your heart. Because then you're apt to finding that one reader who loves it. From the hands of that one reader, 10 more friend will find out, and so on, and so on. This is how I read Warm Bodies, because I knew enough about the author that I felt like I wanted to finish it. And how do you know who you are as a writer? Well, we've come full circle.

READ. Read a lot. That's all there is to it.

I feel like perhaps I failed to communicate what it is I wanted to communicate. Mainly because I have this deep feeling that threatens to burst me from inside out yet I can't quite grasp it. I'm trying. I swear I'll blog more as I understand this better. For now, I can tell you this, every time I read a book, I have a little epiphany. And every time I apply that little epiphany to my writing, it makes me feel like my writing isn't actually complete and utter shit. It feels like it has a chance.

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How I got the idea for SIREN SUICIDES, and more...

by Ksenia Anske

Photo by Sara Haas

Folks keep asking me how I started writing and how I came up with the idea for Siren Suicides, my 1st novel. Since I have answered this already in several guest blog posts and in a couple of interviews, a brilliant idea struck me. How about I do a quick compilation of all those posts here with summaries for each, so I can refer everyone to this post in the future. Smart, eh? I know. But, hey, I'll also give kudos to all those folks who were gracious enough to let me ramble about my story on their blogs, and that's a big thing. Right? Right. Here we go:

Wren Doloro asked me to talk about MAGIC. And that spilled into me reminiscing how I escaped into magic when I was little, and how it eventually got me to writing diaries, poems, screenplays, and, finally, after my daughter gave me to read Twilight (yes, THAT TWILIGHT), I decided, if she can do it, I can do it, and the idea for Siren Suicides was born, back in 2008. 

"In 2008, on one pre-Christmas weekend I asked my 14 year old daughter if she could suggest anything to read. Something light. She handed me Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

"All my friends have read it, it’s light and romantic, and it’s got vampires." “No, not a teenage flick. Anything else?” I turned the book in my hands.“You asked, so I gave you what you wanted.” She stomped down the stairs.“Ok, I’ll try it. Thanks for advice!” But she slammed the door two floors below." MORE HERE.

Digital Journal asked what inspired me to write my book. They sent me a long long list of questions, and it took me forever to answer, but it made me really dig deeper into WHY I'm writing, and WHY this book in particular. In short, I wrote for therapy, for trying to understand why when I was a teenager I was preoccupied with the idea of killing myself.

"I ran away from home at the age of 16 and have been battling suicidal thoughts, until I got pregnant with my daughter at 17 and gave birth to her at 18. She gave my life a new meaning, yet at age of 33 I started having suicidal thoughts again and decided to examine what it was that drove me to wanting to kill myself when I was a teenager. You can read more about it on my blogWriting my book was, in fact, part self-therapy, part an attempt to reach out to teenagers and hold their hand, hopefully stopping them from taking their life. And, even though my book is not published yet, I have managed to help one teenager talk about wanting to end his life - and I felt like my life was accomplished at that moment." MORE HERE.

Jeff Shear asked me how I started writing. So this is not so much about my novel, but more general info on how I started and what kind of base did I have to begin with. It made me think, indeed, how DID I start?

"My first stories have been written in my head, literally. When I was 5, I’d imagine entire movies, except I didn’t know how to write them down yet. At 15 I started my 1st diary and it snowballed from there. Flash fiction, essays, poems, a couple screenplays, short stories. And, finally, this year, a novel." MORE HERE.

Tony Riches asked me how I stared writing this particular novel. I thought about it long and hard, and realized that my friends pushed me into it, my boyfriend supported me, and that's how I stared. Without them, I wouldn't even dare, especially because English it not my first language.

"I've wanted to write a book for years and most of my friends knew it. They also knew that I started on a novel, got stuck, abandoned the effort. Started again, abandoned again. Then did it again the third time. Why? Oh, the reasons were very simple. It couldn't be any good, no way. I'm not a writer, never studied it in school. How dare I write in English, it's not even my first language! Who do I think I am trying to finish a whole novel without practicing first on short stories like normal people do? And so I thought, all right, to hell with all these doubts. I'll give it another try." MORE HERE.

I will be writing another post for Corey Seeley this week. Corey asked me to pinpoint that exact moment when the idea struck me. I'll try to do that and will post an update here with a link to his blog when done (this week). In the meantime, check out his blog because he is a very talented writer who doesn't know it yet.

THAT'S IT! Hope this answered your questions, and then some. And now, without talking more ABOUT my writing, I'll go do the actual writing, if you don't mind. Cheers!

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