Yes, That's A Crusie

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.

75 thoughts on “Yes, That's A Crusie

  1. I get it. You need to permalink this. πŸ˜‰

    On Ironman III, I have a hard time remembering the ending. I must watch it again. However, I did think the last fight seen went WAAAAY too long.

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      1. I just wish Pepper could have kept her power. That could have made for a crazy-amazing sequel.

        Iron Man II admittedly did something different from Iron Man I, but “Iron Man 2: Daddy Issues” was utterly predictable even if the template was “Men working out their relationships with their fathers by bashing each other’s heads in” instead of Iron Man I.

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        1. Yes, but Black Widow was great in that. Particularly Black Widow and Pepper together. I just fast forward through the Mickey Rourke parts. Everything else is great. Don Cheadle, for example. Jon Favreau. These are good moments.

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  2. I find it interesting that you rebutted the statement with marketing as your focus, and I think I understand why you did so, because it’s so prevalent in modern society. (Robert Keosaki made a very valid point when he pointed out that “best selling author” is not synonymous with “writer of literature”) But if something is or isn’t a Crusie isn’t about plot alone, but about authorial voice. There are certain Crussieisms that inhabit your work, and this is normal and liked. And you can jump at the nut bearing rodents all you like and those folks who like your voice will continue to read your stuff. It’d jar the reader if Hemmingway wrote something that read like R.E. Howard, for example. When I download one of your books (got to read digitally since I lost my sight a while back) I know I’m going to find a story with some romantic elements in it, plot focused writing where the characters serve the plot as it works its way through, snappy dialogue, a few unexpected twists in the tale, and certain word choices that signify your writing. To date none of your writings have been character driven situational stories where the plot serves the characters or the exploration of a situation, and you’re not going to write like a Californian or a Texan or someone from the deep south, though your characters may speak like folks from those areas. Tehre’s a skeleton behind your tales that is Crusieist, but the muscles and skin and clothes may be differnt in unexpected ways. And there are two more things that function as authorial hallmarks of your writing that readers can expect — nothing you publish is going to be put together like someone’s junk drawer, and you tent not to telegraph your plots. (the latter isn’t as common a trait as some might think in plot driven fiction, and I hate knowing how a book is going to end and just how it’s going to get there half or two thirds through the book) None of the authorial voice elements define boundaries to what gets written, it’s just the underlying structure of how you, as an individual, craft your tales. And it’s a common element across the stuff of yours I’ve read, including the collaborations. It also seems that romance as a genre has more concerns about the repetition and brand issues thanks to the high number of cookie-cutter plots that some of the book houses turn out. But that’s still different from an author’s voice, and that voice is where the feeling of Crusieish or non-Crusieish can come from for readers even when you’re writing something in a different genre or with a different structure.

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    1. See, I’d argue my fiction is character driven because the action happens because of things the characters have done, often in the first scene sometimes in back story. My characters don’t get hit by the plot trucks, they step out in the street and wave them down.

      But I think the terms “character-driven” and “plot-driven” aren’t really well defined. For me, a plot driven story is one in which things happen, and the characters react, are driven by the events in the plot, rather than plots that develop because two characters are struggling. And I would argue that all of my plots happen because two characters are struggling, not because they get hit by a plot truck.

      But I still appreciate all the compliments. Thank you!

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      1. That’s the way I start. Often it starts with a first sentence. I like the sentence and end up with a book, the characters – wave the plot down as they pass by – like a taxi. And if you look at Jane (yes I am a huge fan) Austen’s first P and P sentence about a rich man in need of a wife – you can well imagine that this may have been the seed of the idea of her entire novel.

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      2. But since you ahve a defined arc that has to happen for acharacter, where they have an overt active goal instead of just acting as a passenger to the events, you are putting plot first instead of situation. For me, and based on my reading, plot based writing builds based on a series of events, while situational writing tends to focus more on character as the starting point and the driving force behind the writing is how the character or characters respond to a situation. (Stephen King is very much in the situation camp, and he freely admits this in his book on writing) I’ve written both, and though situational goes on with far less net under the action both styles have their rewards. Since I’m heavily focused on character as the core of my writing I tend to do more situational writing instead of plotted writing, but those lines get blurred a lot when working in shorter forms. But there’s the fundamental question at the root — what is the most important part of the story, the action or the person? You do a great job of giving us strong people who bring their own sparkle to the plot, but the requirement that they have positive goals and active motion means the plot is more important in your writing than in other approaches. Which is all good, but it’s a part of the Crusieist approach. (And if you want to see some of my situational writing I have two short stories in the fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders at http://www.magnetsandladders.org)

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        1. “But since you ahve a defined arc that has to happen for acharacter, where they have an overt active goal instead of just acting as a passenger to the events, you are putting plot first instead of situation.”

          I’d have to disagree with this statement on a couple of levels. I can respect that this is how you work and what works for you and applaud you for finding a way that works for you, but I don’t think your definition applies to Jenny’s works. I’m speaking now strictly as a reader of her works, and not for Jenny in any way.

          You state that a character who has active goals instead of being just a passenger to the events of the book = plot coming first, and I think that’s completely in reverse. A character who isn’t making choices, who has nothing at stake, who is pushed around by the plot is in a plot-based story.

          A character who has depth, who has goals, who has desires, who strives to achieve those goals, who gets thwarted, who has to make choices, suffer consequences… grow, change… that is a character-driven story.

          The litmus test is, can you remove that character and slot in any other character into that plot, and that plot still work? If it can, if the majority of the story still work, then it’s plot driven. If not, it’s character driven.

          Something like Transformers… that’s plot-driven. The girl is the girl (forgettable except that she’s pretty). Terminator is character-driven (because the girl is the story, and her choices end up saving all of mankind, and you couldn’t put a different character in that story and it work.

          The definition you’re putting forth is one I suffered through in my MFA program, and one that a lot of MFA programs latch onto, and that is that anything that has a plot in it must be “plot driven” and therefore, not about the character.

          But a great story is about a character making choices, and that character can’t be picked up and plopped down into any other story. She’s got her life, her loves, her hates, her goals, her dreams, and then something comes along and forces her to start making choices or else she’s going to lose everything.

          It doesn’t have to be overt; it can be subtle. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth makes a statement early on that she doesn’t want to marry for money, but for love. It’s a radical statement for her to make, given the situation her family faces, with the property entailed to her father’s cousin, and as the story progresses, she fights for that right by turning down the cousin and then even turning down Mr. Darcy.

          Again, I don’t meant to sound argumentative on this one, just offering a different perspective.

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          1. I think that’s it.
            There’s plot for plot’s sake, with characters there simply to go through the motions to make the plot happen. As Toni said, that’s where all the interchangeable action movies do, which is why they fade away while the action movies that have action because of the characters driving them become classics. I give you Star Lord as an example. You cannot exchange him for any other hero and get Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s a character-driven action movie.

            Then there’s character for character’s sake, with events there simply to illuminate the character (which I have to admit to me is character sketch and not story). I read of lot of that in my MFA classes because character was god and plot was low, and the result was deadly dull.

            And then there’s character pursuing goals because of who she or he is, and that pursuit is active and escalates (plot), and the events of that escalation change the character who then pursues her goals harder . . .

            The best story is a marriage of character and plot, but character drives the action.

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    2. One more sign of a Crusie: Re-reading uncovers layers–a phrase here has new meaning, a couple words there can now be recognized as foreshadowing, a character’s actions shine in a new light. I find new things even on the third or fourth read (and there’s almost no other author who gets four reads).

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  3. I totally get your point. When an artist stops changing, creativity suffers. I interviewed an artist recently for my newspaper article, and she said basically the same thing: β€œI want to keep changing. I don’t want to have one style associated with me. Every artist needs to grow. After a while, you get bored with the old stuff. Look at Picasso. He had five distinctive stages, each one unrecognizable from the others. Same with me. I have to keep reinventing myself.”
    You’re reinventing Crusie. Again. I can’t wait to read the new one in a new book. Whatever Crusie you’re, it’s bound to be interesting.

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  4. I LOVE this. One of the things I’ve struggled with is always wanting to explore something new. My manuscript drawer contains a historical, a suspense thriller, women’s fiction and now a paranormal and it’s dispiriting to think that if I achieve the Holy Grail of trad pub, I’m going to be pressured to select whichever subgenre got lucky and only write that. Although I have premises for two more Hell-based paranormals that would make up a Touched by a Demon trilogy….

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  5. I have similar problems with my creative outlet. It completely balks at mass producing sewn items. If my kids need lots of pajama pants, I have to do them in stages. If I finish one completely before the rest, I will (and do, in fact) have pajama bottoms that are cut out, but never finished.. This makes it difficult to do something like an etsy shop, because if something gets popular, I’m in trouble (and if nothing gets popular, I’m still in trouble, but from a different angle).

    I’m betting, though, that once you’re done with revisions, the characters and banter that draw me to your work will still be there, even if it’s completely unlike every other book you’ve written.

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  6. Everything you write will be a Crusie. And I will read it πŸ™‚

    I wrote nonfiction, then paranormal romance and urban fantasy. The book I have out on submission right now is a romcom and I have ideas for a Woman’s Fiction and maybe a cozy mystery floating around in my head. In the meanwhile, I’m working on a tarot deck πŸ™‚

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  7. I work for an independent singer/songwriter (www.jenniedevoe.com, if you want to check her out, and, yes, I’m highly biased), and I do it for peanuts and the joy of being helpful in my own, small, way–and one thing she (and I, in her stead) hear a lot at the release of a new cd, is, “but, that’s not Jennie DeVoe.” What they mean is, it’s not exactly like what they’ve now listened to and loved so many times, and they don’t quite know what to do with that. But, most of them, after they’ve settled down and listened to the new album a few times, figure out that, yes, this is in fact ABSOLUTELY a Jennie DeVoe record, just not in the way it was before. No matter how different in tone or style, it still has her “voice” (literally, as well as figuratively, in this case). While each album is unique and unexpected, it is, at the same time, reliable and true–in that it will be interesting, challenging, and damned good, in a completely new way. Before becoming a fan, and, much later, working for Jennie, I don’t think I realized just how rare it was to find an artist truly willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone and into new, sometimes itchy territory.

    My point, is that you are such an artist, and one I am thrilled to get a new book from–or a new blog post, for that matter. No matter the setting, or the subject, I know that it will be, again, interesting, challenging, and damned good. And snarky. Let’s not forget the snark. In short, a Crusie. There will, I suppose, always be some left behind*, unable to dive into that new territory with you. But those of us who do? Will always be richly rewarded.

    *I do not mean to malign those unwilling to leave their comfort zones to follow an artist out of theirs. We all have worn, comfortable ruts we cherish, and not all of them are meant to be abandoned. To each her own.

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  8. Hear hear!
    As a reader I grow, and LOVE it when a favourite writer grows too!
    Yes, I totally loved Faking It, and all the other previous Crusies. Every – single – one (ok, maybe not Sizzle, I got curious, so sue me). And the main reason: I have no idea what I am going to find, before I open the book. All I know is it is going to be good.

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          1. I’ll bet that, if you did a survey, you’d find that a majority of us HAD to read Sizzle after you warned us.

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          2. Well, that’s the problem. If I don’t warn you, you’ll think it’s good. If I do warn you, you’ll all go look at the train wreck.
            At least then it’s on you (g).

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  9. I have loved all the incarnations of Crusie so far and I am certain I will continue to do so. And, not only do I respect your right to change and grow as a writer, I am so happy that you do.

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  10. I wholly agree with you. I think your style never changes, but it develops. Like your artwork, underneath this is still you, but you are getting better at it and approaching it differently because you are getting better, more confident. Look at Jane Austen. Her stories each were each so different, character driven, yet her style was the same. Pride and P and Emma are each so different – yet the same – yet different.

    When I write the only thing that never changes is I don’t write evil stories. I am a romantic and mystery and comedy (because I can’t help myself) each of my stories is different because I start mainly without a plot but a strong character who in turn runs into an equally strong character which is where my conflict begins.

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  11. When you move into horror, you’ll lose me, but keep growing as you will. I think most of us are happy you’re growing. While everyone must start somewhere, imagine if all the books that followed Sizzle were just like it. Not the prettiest picture. I would be so sad to have never met Min, the Dempseys, or Agnes or Fred or Elvis or …

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  12. You have an intriguing voice and I never believed you weren’t writing true to yourself. Perhaps your true struggle isn’t voice or plot or characters. Maybe it’s just the business involved in writing that can drain the life out of one’s work.

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    1. Thank you. I love that, everything he said. It’s exactly right.

      I think he’s especially right, that you pass through stages as a creative worker, especially what he said about when something hits and the expectation is that that’s what you’ll do again, that awful time when everybody thinks you’re at the top of your game, but it’s not your game, somebody else defined you, and you get so lost, and then you come through and you realize that it’s you and the work, and the rest of the world can try to define you all it wants, but you’re free. I think it’s why I’m so fierce about the “it’s not a Crusie” comments. It took me a lot of time and a lot of trauma to get to be the person I am today. I know who I am. My life and my work are not about fulfilling the expectations of others. That was a huge, huge revelation.

      It’s really just a different side to writing for the market. Everybody knows it’s insane to write for the market. And yet once the readership or whatever has defined you, put you into a box, that definition becomes the market. I can’t tell you how many people have explained to me that if I’d just pick a lane, I’d be really successful. They can’t understand that I don’t want a lane. I want the whole fucking landscape. And I’m willing to pay the price to have it, including being fiercely protective of the right to define myself.

      (I should make it clear here that those people are not my editor nor my agents. In fact, when I was in talks with my current agents, I pretty much said I wanted the landscape, and Amy said, “As long as you don’t expect us to get you a million dollars, we’ll follow you wherever you go,” and they have. And my editor has been equally wonderful, open-minded with the patience of a saint. It’s not my team, they’re terrific.)

      Of course, the readership gets to say, “Damn, I don’t like what she’s writing now” and go somewhere else. That happens every time I shift gears. They get to say, “I don’t like what Jenny Crusie is writing,” they just don’t get to say, “That’s not a Crusie.”

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      1. And for a perspective from the other side, there are authors I have given up on because after reading, say, a dozen of their books, I found the last half dozen were all pretty much the same. Why go on with that?

        Write whatever you want to write, and I’ll probably read it. In my experience*, there is no bad Crusie.

        *I haven’t read Sizzle. So far.

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        1. I just realized that sounded like nobody should ever write the same sort of thing over and over, which I shouldn’t have because you’re right, there’s nothing wrong with that. And there’s nothing wrong with liking it either. And sometimes it does work for me, so I’m sorry for bagging on it, even briefly.

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          1. It’s okay. I think the writers who do that beautifully–Heyer and Francis come to mind–ring changes on their story so that you never get the exact same plot, hitting the exact same notes. You read Francis and you know you’re going to get an understated hero who will experience incredible pain in dealing with a monster of an antagonist and who will triumph at the end, and it’ll all be something to do with horses. But sometimes he’s a racetrack photographer, and sometimes he’s a jockey, and sometimes he’s a trainer, and sometimes he’s an owner . . . Francis had his one story that he told, but he wasn’t a Xerox machine.

            And really, I think we all have one story. Hemingway’s was about what it meant to be a man in the twentieth century; Dorothy Parker’s was about what it meant to be a woman in the same time. I’m obsessed with people who fix things: restore houses, rescue dogs, save kids, whatever. I don’t want to look at it any closer than that, but I do believe we have a central question that we try to answer when we write story. I don’t want to know what mine is because then I’ll answer it and stop writing, but I think we each write our one story once you peel back a thousand layers. It’s just that some writers don’t have as many layers between that question and the finished story.

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          1. I love the idea of the writer’s work being in answer to The Question. (42???) When I teach American Lit it’s one of the things we examine when we talk about style, and I love getting to know an author well enough that I think I have an idea of The Question. Jenny, yours has always seemed to me to be about Fixers, like you said: people who restore, repair, create, in lots of different ways. I love stories like that, which is why I delight in Crusies (haven’t read SIZZLE…). Another author I love who writes about a similar question is Connie Willis, whose themes seem to revolve around how important it is to save things, even if you can’t save anything forever.

            I once got into a very bitter argument about whether or not Wuthering Heights was about things coming out all right in the end thanks to love/despite the damage caused by selfishness and greed (my interpretation) or proof that all humans are inherently awful (my best friend’s interpretation). I think my question has something to do with people working hard to repair a damaged world, which is probably why that was how I interpreted Bronte’s novel…

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          2. The problem with Wuthering Heights is also one of the most wonderful things about it: It’s two novels, Cathy 1 and 2. The first Cathy is spoiled and passionate and destroys herself; the second Cathy goes through hell and learns and makes herself into the woman she needs to be. I love that book.

            WUTHERING HEIGHTS. @#$%&^& autocorrect.

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          3. I’m not going to kick Sizzle in its wibbly-bits because 1. I haven’t read it, and 2. It got published. Without it, I may not have had the chance to read the good and funny books that followed it. So, while I get that it may be bad… Okay, clearly from this blog, very bad, I still am glad it was published.

            I know that when I publish my first book, I’m sure to get the “yikes, Raq, what is this?” or the generously condescending, “You’re so pretty, Raquel” to compensate my first work’s possible yuck factor. But I’ll know it’s my first effort, it’s published, and watch out because I’m going to do better. Then I will do even better. And better.

            Everyone has a Sizzle.

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          4. You know, I keep thinking that I read Sizzle (possibly Kindle free version?), because, well, when I read the description, it sort of rings some bells.

            Except: I can’t really remember anything about it. So it must just be completely forgettable.

            Or I just blocked it out. If I read it, you can consider it “un-read” from my side…

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          5. Heh. Too late, and I liked it. Actually what I liked best about it (besides the obvious) were the seeds of your ‘later’ voice, but still undeveloped. Or maybe I should say developed in a slightly different way.

            I was a big Robert Parker fan for a long time, and his first Spenser novel (The Godwulf Manuscript) is vastly different from the style he eventually settled into. I did not find Goldwulf all that satisfying from a stylistic standpoint, but I really enjoy it from a developmental one, given what I came to expect from him later.

            Besides, novellas can be fun. Especially when their momma hates them.

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          6. Stop saying that! I’ve read it half a dozen times, already!

            Besides, the one I’m rereading now (page 242 of 342 in my Kindle App) is “Maybe This Time”. It’s a Crusie. Gotta love it.

            I came to love Crusies (the books) by way of Lois McMaster Bujold and her remarks in the Miles To Go Conference at Baen’s Bar. I believe she was still living in Ohio then and recommended other great Ohio authors as well as Georgette Heyer and so on. So I like Patricia Wrede and Lillian S. Carl, too.

            The thing is, Lois has addressed the same problem, fans wanting *more of the same* while she wants to write something new and different. She complained that fans would say to write something about Miles Vorkosigan’s family (and she did, when it suited her) rather than “Surprise me, Lois!” She branched out into fantasy and fantasy/romance, and I loved them – they were Bujolds.

            Now, I must say I love all the Crusies, including Sizzle. “What do you call the worst story Jenny ever wrote?” “A Crusie.” That one isn’t even at the bottom of *my* list.

            So, here is my point and my prescription: SURPRISE ME, JENNY>

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      2. I’ve always fiercely enjoyed your writing, and part of the reason is that it surprises me. I’d dog ear your books every time you did something different: the heroine has sex with the non-hero first. Heroine kisses another woman. The heroine doesn’t immediately have an orgasm with the hero. Ghosts! Fantasy elements! Hooray!

        Of course, I love to write different genres myself. I’m always confused if I make it to a conference and people ask me what I write, and I tell them, “Everything.” One woman smiled and said she writes everything too, but mostly people just stare at me, willing me to say something categorizable so they can say, “Hey, I write that, too.”

        I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but I’ve had to work very hard on information flow (not confusing readers) and don’t care for writing setting. Not saying I’m you or anything, but maybe people with very busy, SQUIRREL brains need to take over the whole fucking landscape, in order to feel creatively satisfied. And if it’s a money trade off, so be it.

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  13. Just like Taylor Swift (who recently moved away from country music after a hugely successful career) you write the way you write, just as Taylor sings as Taylor sings, both of you have a style and a sound that is easy to pick out of the crowd. You both have a big fan base and the majority will follow, and then you’ll pick up even more fans, cross-over fans. Being willing to mix things up, take a calculated risk, shows a willingness to grow and explore and be part of an active life. I say go for it, do it your way, it’s your vision. I can’t wait until the book hits the shelves.

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  14. Thank you, Robena (and everyone). I know we’re having a really great time. And that’s not sugar-coating or BSing for the crowd. I wake up excited to get to work. This is, to be frank. the best time I’ve had writing in a long long long long time. πŸ™‚

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  15. This comment might fit better as reply to the post where you asked us what we thought, but I didn’t have time to get to the computer to answer that one so you get it now. Since you mentioned the buzzsaw, I figured maybe I could duck under it.

    When I first read the section you gave us, I also thought, “That’s Crusie?! Really?” but not because I want to keep you in a box. It’s because I was confused. It was like one of those movie collages where there’s no time to focus on one scene before the next one flashes.

    There are only a few things I expect when I open a Crusie: great writing & characters, great plot and character development, and most likely a dog or three. The rest of it varies, but those are pretty much constants (I haven’t read Sizzle, so maybe not a constant).

    Now I realize, this is still very much draft, so maybe this is just what happens before it’s done. If so, you are free to ignore what I say.

    This is what I had a problem with; the one thing I don’t expect from a Crusie is to have trouble getting through the door. It felt like there was a lot of explaining going on, too, which was weird and didn’t feel right. Even in Wild Ride, where there’s a fair amount that needs explaining, it happens organically (for the reader, anyway) and makes sense. With this one, it wasn’t like that. It was jarring. more like Cat’s World 101, listen up folks. You need to know this. Again, draft form, so probably not permanent.

    So that’s what I was thinking when I thought it didn’t sound like a Crusie. Maybe what I really meant is that it doesn’t sound like a finished Crusie.

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    1. No worries. As it happens, Toni and I just did a huge revamp and most of that scene is now in her character’s POV because I never could figure out who the hell the antagonist was in that scene. The new first scene is completely different.
      Writing. It’ll make you crazy.

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      1. “I never could figure out who the hell the antagonist was in that scene.” Other than being confused about the scene, that’s what was bothering me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read this just now.

        Since we are discussing ‘what a Crusie means to me’ ;-), I must admit that I read one Crusie (can’t remember which one, but pretty sure it wasn’t Sizzle), and then I found the He Said/She Said blog. That blog changed nearly everything about fiction writing for me. So every time I read ‘a Crusie’, I’m actually looking forward to how you’ve applied craft and discovering what’s different from your other works. First read is for suspension of disbelief/fun, second read is for dissection.

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        1. Oh, that’s lovely. He Said/She Said was a lot of fun, even when Bob and I wanted to kill each other. We really agreed on most craft stuff, aside from me screaming every time he threw in exposition (“and here’s the history of the gatling gun”) and him whining every time my characters chatted (“Are they ever gonna do anything besides talk?”). Good collaboration.

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  16. Tangentially to this, Ilona Andrews posted recently on author branding.

    [Branding] is a function of the emotional experience your narrative delivers to the reader… Are you still delivering the emotional experience your readers are accustomed to? If you are, there is no need for a pseudonym. The readers will follow you… But if your emotional narrative changes, if you used to be scary, but now you want to be hilarious, if you wrote action-filled heroic stories and now you want to let people have tea and long conversations about the meaning of the universe, you may want to look into a pseudonym.

    I’m not suggesting a pseudonym, I just thought her point about the emotional experience was on target. I think certain elements carry through most of your books, like community, snappy dialogue, and a push-pull between characters. There’s often a beloved dog, a relationship plot or subplot, and a troublesome mother parent. If you dropped all of those elements, then it would be a strange Crusie, indeed–but still a Crusie.

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          1. I’m here. You just seemed to be entertaining yourself so well . . .
            No pseudonyms. I’m not prolific enough to support one name, let alone two.

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    1. Ha! Gotta put a slash in front of the brackets so that the Internet knows that you don’t want it to recognize the brackets as the “special characters” — like this /[ (and yes, you do not see the slash, but you do see the bracket!)

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  17. Nope — the parser here ignores the usual escape stuff.

    Don’t worry, I will continue to amuse myself. You all keep playing.

    Maybe Mary(Egads) and I should open a playroom for ourselves.

    It’s Monday morning, what can I say…? More fun than doing what I am supposed to be doing (haha).

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  18. Somewhere in a critique or a blurb I read something like “Jennifer Crusie is unable to write a boring page”. And as long as I have that, it’s a Crusie. You know (because I expressed it before) that I don’t care too much for paranormal, but that’s my problem. And the reason why I couldn’t warm up to that first scene. So I didn’t comment on it. But I could see the Crusie in it for sure.

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  19. I would guess the more specific the comment, the more likely it is to be a helpful critique – “It doesn’t sound like a Crusie” is hard to react to, for exactly the reasons you stated: You wrote it therefore it is a Crusie.

    A comment like “I’m not getting a lot of snark or humor from this scene – even though the dessert cart is on fire.” might offer you more insight on what the reader’s experiencing.

    That gives you the chance to say: “Perfect – it should have a bit more of a weighty tone to start, because this is a dark and dirty place and we’re not about to go on a lighthearted romp through it.”

    Or give you the chance to say, “Hmm – the dessert cart is on fire, and I was wanting the reader to see Cat finding that more exasperating and funny than threatening. ”

    The point being that you’re the author and you’re writing it and you get to choose the tone, but the reviewer can let you know how they’re perceiving the tone when you ask for a critique so that you can figure out if it’s working according to your intention.

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  20. I’m just popping in to thank Jenny for getting me interested in, er, addicted to Person of Interest. I’m in the middle of season 3, John’s just gone to Colorado and Fusco’s followed him. The only bad thing is because I knew Carter died, I’ve spent all those episodes on pins and needles waiting for it but the episode after was worth it. The ending was perfect. I thought it was an excellent example of a person having an influence on those around her without even knowing it.

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    1. She continues to. John, in particular, is haunted by her loss.
      What an amazing character she was. I still think “The Devil’s Share” is one of the best hours of TV I’ve ever seen, and it’s absolutely saturated with grief over her loss. That’s a science fiction show that’s obsessed with character.
      Another thing I love about it: they reinvent it every season. Every season I think, “They’ve gone as far as they can go,” and then they up the sakes. Honestly, I don’t see how they can put the Machine Gang in a worse place than they are right now, but they will.
      As long as they don’t kill Bear . . .

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  21. I’m really anxious for season 4, which I will binge watch in March when we go to Las Vegas for a NASCAR race Tall Boy wants to see. He will go play poker and do race related things and I will lounge somewhere comfy and quiet and read and watch tv on my iPad (which I am totally in love with). We will do a really strange thing on this vacation: relax. And be warm, which north central Alberta is usually not at that time of year.

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  22. So, life got turned upside down a year ago and I got dragged away by my hair and when I come back we’re talking about writing. I love you guys.

    And, it’s good to be back. Nothing but good times ahead. <3

    Chelle

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  23. Sorry so late to this — I was trying to get both feet out of my mouth in cyberspace, and then my poor kid got influenza in real life, and . . . .

    I was so busy working out something in my own head that I completely forgot that there are real people outside it. I need a buzzsaw every year or two to remind me of that. I am heartily ashamed, but will probably bounce back as obnoxious as ever in 2015.

    And you are absolutely right. It is a Crusie, and it’s going in a very fabulous direction. (-: In all senses of the word fabulous? I can’t wait to see more!

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  24. This has been a long and interesting discussion. I’ll add my 2 cents’ worth–no matter what form Jenny’s books take or which direction she heads, her VOICE stays the same. They can be wildly different–not much in common between Dogs/Goddesses and Maybe This Time–but the voice is always there. It’s intelligent, snappy, real, compelling, and the identifying brand. They’re ALL a Crusie!

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