Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Wonder of Weeds with Guest Blogger: Devon Ellington

Welcome author Devon Ellington 
to the Book Boost!

Here to discuss weeds in the writing garden...

In 2010, I chucked my life working backstage on Broadway and writing, living a block from Times Square, to move to Cape Cod and just write.  I swapped two full-time careers and "the City That Never Sleeps" for one full-time career in a place with a bit of quiet (at least, off-season).

I have a garden for the first time, and I’m learning about a lot about things I never knew I needed to learn.  Like slugs.  And crabgrass.  And weeds.

I’ve always loved dandelions.  They’re good for you (when they’re not growing out of something toxic) and they’re pretty.  However, this summer, when I’m battling them all over my lawn (the grass isn’t growing fast, but the dandelions sure are), I’m ready to go after them with a flamethrower.  A little over-the-top, but you get the idea.

As weeds sprout up in my actual garden, I started thinking about weeds in the writing garden.  Part of that is a rocky Saturn Retrograde.  Saturn is the planet of life lessons, and goes retrograde once a year.  If you’ve ignored the life lessons Saturn presented in the previous retrograde, Saturn will come and kick your behind until you pay attention.  It took three Saturn Retrogrades, each increasingly frustrating, between when I knew it was time to leave Broadway and when I actually left.  Sometimes I get stubborn.

Once I moved here, I thought I had it down -- I paid attention, I thought I was dodging the butt-kicking.  However, I got complacent in a couple of areas of my writing life.  I accepted assignments that didn’t challenge me in the right way because they were easy, and because the offer appeared to give me the financial stability I craved, while giving me the freedom to keep my own schedule.  My gut instinct reminded me that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  But I made the decisions anyway -- and have paid for them during this Retrograde.  Before I said yes, I knew I was coming to the end of a particular cycle of work, and that I needed to move on.  I said yes in order to buy time, and it backfired.

Additionally, I’d been so focused on moving to the location of my dreams to write, and so exhausted once I got here, that I stopped asking myself, “What do you really want to write?” and, instead, just scrambled for whatever writing would pay the bills.  There’s nothing wrong with paying the bills -- we all have to do that.  And I hadn’t panicked so far as to work for content mills.  I retained some self-respect.  But I was making choices for the next month’s bills instead of doing that WHILE going beyond and looking at the bigger picture of my writing career.

I’m working with two publishers: one has my urban fantasy series; the other has paranormal romances with different primary protagonists in each, but set in the same location.  I have to stay on track for them. I enjoy working with them, they’re good to me, it’s not a problem.  But I have to stay focused. I taught a year-long novel-writing class and wrote with the class, so I have that trilogy to place; I have several manuscripts in the queue that need a polish and the go out on submission.

Yet, I feel restless.  One of the short stories I started in class, a historical mystery, has the potential to be a novel.  Another (also a mystery, set in a different historical time period), had the potential to be a series, melding ideas for several different stories and characters I’ve played with for years into one cohesive whole.  I’m teaching and ghostwriting  and reviewing books for pay and doing all kinds of short-turn-around business copy and articles that I enjoy AND that pay the bills.  I don’t believe in having a “niche” -- I believe in being a Renaissance Writer, able to write across a wide watch of topics, and that’s what I’ve achieved.

So why am I restless? Frustrated?

Because I feel unfocused.  I’m looking at the tip of my nose instead of at the horizon.  I’ve got the perfect place to write, and I’m earning my living by my pen.  I’m reliable, a steady worker, on time with clean copy, and I can attack an idea from an unusual angle and communicate it effectively.  But I’m only looking at today’s list, tomorrow’s deadlines, next week’s job listings.  I’m not reaching.

I’m taking some time, now -- while juggling deadlines, always juggling deadlines -- to really think about what I want the next few years of my writing career to encompass. What kind of writing will make me happiest?  How can I keep challenging myself?  What types of writing haven’t I yet explored that interest me?  What do I want to learn?

I don’t have all the answers yet; but now that I'm asking the right questions, I feel more up-beat.  Now that I’m asking myself the questions, I look forward to returning the the page every morning.  My energy and attitude and excitement about the day and the page are back.

I’m looking forward to not just the answers, but how I get there.

A Note from the Book Boost:  Thanks for joining us today, Devon.  This is a very thoughtful and interesting post and one I can deeply relate to.  What a unique perspective on weeding through the world of writing.  Please tell us more about your latest!


Hex Breaker Jain Lazarus joins the crew of a cursed film, hoping to put to rest what was stirred up before more people die and the film is lost.

Tough, practical Detective Wyatt East becomes her unlikely ally and lover on an adventure fighting zombies, ceremonial magicians, the town wife-beater, the messenger of the gods, and their own pasts.


“You cut off a man’s head, Ms. Lazarus,” Wyatt East said. “I have to ask you questions.”

Jain snuck a look at her watch. Two and a half hours in the interrogation room. Dennis was running out of time. Jain looked up at Wyatt, watching him pace back and forth across the room, and folded her arms on the table. “I understand that, and I’m willing to answer anything, but we need to get to the hospital or Dennis will wind up in the same shape as Mike.


“If we don’t get to him in time.”

“Since you’re the one who decapitated Mike, I’m not so sure I should let you near Dennis.”

“If you let me near him fast enough, I won’t need to decapitate him.”

“So you admit that you would?”

“If necessary.”

“And why would it be necessary?”

“By the time I separated Mike’s head from his body, there wasn’t anything of Mike left. I saw it snuff out. He was completely under his handler’s control. Whoever his handler is.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Wyatt slammed his palm on the metal desk.

“Detective East, your carefully planned gestures don’t intimidate me. I deal with much more dangerous factions every day than annoyed cops.”

“Maybe you should give me some information about who you really are and what you really do and I won’t be such an annoyed cop.”

Want More Devon?

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Devon Ellington said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today! What a great time!

Pat said...

Your topic today has me thinking about my writing. I have been in a funk for a while now...too many rejections from the market I'm trying to crack. I realize after reading your writing plan that I need to think about my own writing and where I want to go with it. So thanks for posint this, Devon.

Pat said...

That should read 'posting this,'

Devon Ellington said...


I'm so happy this was helpful. Sometimes we're running so hard just to stay in place, we forget to step back and look at the bigger picture.

The great thing about writing is that we can grow and change with each project; if we start feeling repetitive and creatively unfulfilled, time to take a breath and look at it from a larger angle or a different angle.

Suzanne said...

Loved this post. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day goals that I miss looking forward to the bigger picture and more long term goals. Thanks for the reminder.