Poor Micki walked into the buzzsaw when she said the draft I posted didn’t sound like a Crusie yet. So I thought I’d expand on the issue here because what she meant was a perfectly good criticism, she just phrased it in an unfortunate manner. (IT’S OKAY, MICKI.) What that kind of comment almost always means is, “This book isn’t like the book that you wrote before that I like,” and that’s a perfectly good criticism. I’m good with that criticism. “I liked Faking It better than this,” is absolutely valid. “I know you wrote this, but this isn’t your writing” isn’t valid.
Isn’t that kind of picky? What’s the big deal?
The reason I always rebut those comments is that they assume I’ll always be the same writer, and I don’t want that assumption to go unchallenged. “Write another Bet Me.” No. I wrote Bet Me the way I did (over ten years ago) because that was the writer I was then. I’m not that writer now. That’s good. The temptation to keep writing what’s been wildly popular is huge, the money would be fantastic, but that way lies disaster for a writer unless the writer is the kind of writer who really does like writing the same book over and over, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a big Dick Francis fan because of that. But for those of us with short attention spans who see something shiny, yell “SQUIRREL,” and go over that way, writing the same thing we wrote before is creative death. We’ll never be rich because we can’t establish a brand, but we’ll at least be interesting even as we fail.
This is a battle I fight constantly. When I switched from writing short romances to writing long ones, when I started to collaborate, when I wrote a ghost story with a romantic subplot instead of the other way around, there was ALWAYS somebody who said, “That wasn’t a Crusie.” And every time, I had to come in right away and say, “Yeah, it was. If I wrote it, it’s a Crusie. It might be bad Crusie, but it’s still a Crusie.”
We talk about this in the McD classes: Unless you like writing the same story over and over again–and there’s nothing wrong with that–stay fluid and unpredictable or you will get locked into a brand, into a box that says, “This is what Crusie writes and this is what Crusie sounds like.” One of the weirder drawbacks of that is that it’s easy for people to copy a brand, so I could actually end up not writing Crusies because I’ve changed while somebody else is doing a good imitation of the writer I got imprisoned as. You can see this at work in all the writers who have died but who keep producing work through ghost writers (yep, I see the irony there). They established a brand that will sell no matter who writes the books. They’ve removed the author’s name from the author and made it into something else. Again, if that works for readers, I’m fine with that, but I don’t want that for my work, I don’t want a Crusie to be something that everybody already knows before she opens the book, I want a Crusie to make a reader say, “I wonder what this one’s going to be” as she turns to that first page. So I step in every time somebody says, “That doesn’t sound like a Crusie” and claim my work before conventional wisdom defines me out of it.
If I wrote it, it sounds like a Crusie. I am Crusie, said in the voice of Tony Stark as he throws away his artificial heart thingy at the end of Iron Man III, which was a GREAT movie and not like the first two at all, which is good because although the first one was excellent, the second one had problems, but still, props to the people who made the second one and who said, “Let’s not do the same thing we did the last time” because . . .
If I wrote it, it’s a Crusie.