Tag Archives: writing

Writing Wednesday: To The Pain

For me as a reader, a story means more, resonates better, when it makes me feel big emotions. Personally, a story that makes me weep will stick to my bones better than a story that doesn’t inspire any big, identifiable emotion – glee, sorrow, fear, etc. For me as a writer, a story that makes me feel big emotion while I’m writing it will resonate better with readers (and the editors you have to move to get in front of those readers).

Right now, I’m changing lanes and working on a piece of creative nonfiction and it’s definitely been like bleeding onto the page. This particular piece hurts to write, but it’s also incredibly satisfying and probably a bit restorative but the wounds are still too fresh to see it. I can only hope it translates from me to the work to the reader well enough to leave its mark on them too.

The downside to writing so much of oneself into the pages and paragraphs is that it’s that much worse getting the rejections that are par for the course. Imposter syndrome is a very real and very interesting thing and I never feel it as much as I do when I’m writing nonfiction and sending it to markets. Just because this moment in time made a difference in my life, doesn’t mean anyone else will care about that moment. And then I remind myself that there is always a chance that someone will, that maybe someone else needs to be reminded that they aren’t alone in what they’re going through. The idea that maybe my words could make a difference for someone else someday is one of the things that keeps me on this path despite the struggles and the disappointments that come along between successes.

Don’t be afraid to bleed a little into your stories, metaphorically anyway. If you feel it, your readers will too.

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Writing Wednesday: Representation

Representation matters. I remember seeing people like Princess Leia, Wonder Woman, Uhura, and Mrs. King (yep, I’m old) on TV when I was little and being so happy to see girls doing all the amazing things that boys could do. As a white girl, there was never much shortage of people who looked like me on a screen or a page, I never was made to feel I was invisible like a lot of people. It’s a hell of a lot better now but it’s not perfect. I hope there will come a time when it’s no longer a topic of discussion, a time when privilege is really only about the money, but I don’t believe I’ll live long enough to see that day. Maybe my kids will though.

I have found that representation matters to me so much more now that I’m a parent. I long for my kids to see people like them – and I don’t mean gender/color – on screen. My youngest is autistic and when he sees characters with autism, his response is always positive. I wish the characters were more positive representation but one step at a time. At least now they aren’t all Rainman. The kid on Parenthood was the most amazing character and actor. He was a bit more typical to my house, our experience, than the Good Doctor or the boy on Atypical (though that could change as he gets older).  I use autism and neurodiversity as my example because that’s the one closest to my heart but all colors, races, genders, preferences deserve to see themselves in great stories doing great things.

I try to stay respectful while being inclusive but I don’t presume to know what it’s like to face the kind of discrimination that exists in this world. I can pass for all the things that fall into the privileged categories except male so no, I don’t know it on a deeply personal level but I that doesn’t mean I don’t understand enough to be able to write characters who are nothing like me and do my part. I will continue to do my best to be an inclusive storyteller because I’ve seen first hand what it means to people who never see themselves on screen or on paper to suddenly have a non-stereotyped, fleshed out, non-villian, non-victim character that is like them. The first time my youngest son saw a commercial for the Good Doctor, he asked me if someone with autism could really be a doctor, like he’d already eliminated that possibility for his future. I don’t want my kid growing up feeling like he can’t be a thing or do a thing just because his brain processes things differently. Right now, his dream is to be on SNL and I have no doubt he can get there. Hell, he probably knows more about the show than Lorne Michaels does.

We all have to be part of the solution that helps all kids have role models to look up to, no matter their color, culture, races, gender, sexuality, neurodiversity, or disability.

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Writer Wednesday: Redefining Expectations

Writing is both a craft and an art, meaning I think it’s both a learned skill and an innate talent. I also think that the talent shines best when paired with the learning portion.  There are a lot of people out there under the illusion that writing a story is easy. Writing a story is easy. Writing an interesting, saleable, memorable story is not. A number of new writers get discouraged quickly when the story doesn’t come together on paper the way it did in their head, they get bogged down in their own expectations of ability. I know this firsthand. I did the same thing early on. It’s often the first real test of a writer. When you fail to meet your own expectations, do you give up or do you buckle down and try to get better?

In my experience, it’s easy to get distracted and sucked into the idea that you have to get each word exactly right from the beginning. You want everything to be the way you see it in your head but sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t feel quite the same so you rewrite it and rewrite it and suddenly, you’ve written it fifty times and you never want to see it again but you don’t feel like you can move forward without this one piece. For me, I didn’t quite lose that urge until I first heard of the zero or splat draft. I have never been able to outline – something about that process just saps my will to write it once the outline is done. My zero draft is the closest I come and it’s what I recommend most when people say that they are stuck in this loop, trying to get the scene right and getting frustrated that they can’t seem to move past it.

I write my zero draft with one rule. No going back. That doesn’t mean I don’t make notes when I realize something needs changed in rewrites but I don’t act on those notes until the move from zero draft to first draft. As long as I follow that rule, I don’t get stuck on any one scene. Yes, sometimes I write myself into complicated corners but some of my favorite scenes have come from getting out of those corners (even if I don’t actually keep the convoluted corners, the interesting things can nearly always be used in one place or another).

The more you write, the more comfortable you’ll get with your own process. The hardest thing you’ll ever do is reach the end of your first book. After that, you already know you can do it. After that, it’s just time and practice between you and your idea of good enough. I won’t say perfection because that is both unfixed and unattainable – your idea of perfection will change as you get more experience and more practice. It is an art, after all. You don’t expect your first attempt at drawing a flower to look like a photo, you shouldn’t expect your first attempt at a story to resemble something you’d find in a bookstore. Don’t give up, just get better. Read more, write more, edit more, and fail better.

Fail better is a weird phrase, I know, but an accurate one. I knew I was getting better at my craft when my rejection letters got more personal. Still a failure but a better one than the last. If I fail better the next time, maybe the time after that will be a success instead. Failure isn’t actually a bad thing, it’s a stepping stone or a ladder rung. Don’t get sad or mad or upset, get determined. Fail better until you succeed.

Happy writing!

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Writing Wednesday: Review Sites

Reviews are one of the most important things to a writer, especially early in their career. They can also be one of the hardest things to get. Most readers have no clue how important reviews actually are, especially in this time when certain large companies factor those reviews into their search algorithms. Reviews can help a writer get noticed. Reviews from certain sites can get a writer’s book in front of the people who comprise their target market. I’ve struggled a lot with finding places where I can send my books for review without fees, where I don’t need 3 months lead time, and who work in my genres.

When I first started looking for places to review my books, I was a bit surprised to find so many roadblocks. I can understand some of them. It may be an unpopular opinion but I do understand why some of the big sites don’t do self-published books as there has been no vetting process at all. You aren’t guaranteed to like a book published by any publisher but at least there’s been a process to pick the book up out of slush, polish it up, and present it in a readable fashion. I get it. This is not my complaint. There are other companies that require the publisher to send the book themselves, which is also understandable but a bit annoying. And then there are the big review companies who charge ridiculous fees for reviews. What’s a new or indie or climbing writer to do?

 

 

Places that review books from authors:

SFReader – Hard copy only. Ecopy, query first.
The Romance Reviews – Must be a site member.
Smexy Books –  Fairly straightforward review request form.
Coffee Time Romance – Fairly straightforward review request form.
Book Page – Hard copy only. 3 month lead time. Will not review post publication date.
Foreward/Clarion – Foreward requires 4 month lead time. Clairon charges $499 per review.
Library Journal – 3 month lead time.
Midwest Book Review – Hard copy only, 2 copies. $50 Fee for arc/ecopy.
Kirkus Reviews – Charges $425 for a review.

 

Other useful sites for authors:

Goodreads
Library Thing
Bookbub

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m still looking for additional places myself so, please, if you have more, let me know!

 

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Irons and Fires

This year has been off to an amazing start. There are some potential opportunities that cropped up and, since I’ve decided to be braver this year, I’ve opened the door to see where the paths go. I’m sure I’ll talk about it more as things become more clear and set in stone.

I’ve always done better when I’ve got too many things going on. I write more, I create more, and, bonus, I eat less. Busy is a good place for me to be, even if sometimes it’s SO easy to sit back and binge something on Netflix. I am slightly between major projects and sort of at odd ends figuring out what I’d like to work on now. This week is going to be ridiculously busy so I’ll likely stick to fiddling with a short story I’m writing for a contest coming up that I haven’t entered in well over 10 years. I think I’ve grown enough as a writer to give literary fiction another go about now. I’m interested to see what will happen as it isn’t a genre I have dabbled in much.

This week I have a doctor’s appointment, a writer’s group meeting (yay!), a sit down with a newer writer to talk shop (double yay!), and a meeting about some of my artsy craftsy stuff. I just need the weather to cooperate with me. We’ve gone this long without snow – it can wait until Friday to show up dang it.  I am really hoping for some medicine tweaking at the doctor’s appointment – I’m in a place that’s certainly livable and manageable but in the long term, where there is still pain and inflammation, there is the potential for joint damage that can make my future a lesson in agony and I don’t remember ever playing with any lament configuration.

This is shaping up to be a very exciting year for me and I can only hope it continues.

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Looking Forward to 2019

I’m planning on keeping 2019 all about one thing – Forward Motion. It might take all I can muster somedays but so long as I manage a few words, a few steps, whatever forward motion I can find on a day, I’m going to call it a success. I know me well enough to know that I’m going to fail a few days and that’s ok so long as I don’t have too many of them in a row. There are so many things I would like to do this year, like every year.

Writing Goals: 2 new books, 12 short stories, 24 poems. One passion project that should run here on this blog every other Friday I think and I’m really hoping you all enjoy it too! If things go well, maybe this year will see a bit more of Leilani’s story. That’s my hope in any case. I’m not going to do the word counting this year though last year I did a really great job of it for 10 and a half months, it didn’t turn out to be quite the spur I needed. Certainly, I’m hoping for a good acceptance rate for my submissions but I don’t really control that part so much so that doesn’t really make for a good goal.

Health Goals: Find a medicine that works so I’m not hurting as often. Lose some weight. It would be better if I could force myself to stop worrying so much about the shape of me but some things are just ingrained at this point but, finding a way to not eat my feelings would be a good start.

Life Goals: The hard part about goals is the accountability thing – I’m not really accountable to anyone. I don’t have a 9-5 where I’m held accountable by an employer. I’m horrible at keeping myself accountable and that’s something I need to get better at. I think keeping myself accountable will be a big goal of mine this year. I’d like to really be more productive in general – with the etsy shop, the writing, and most definitely the promoting (I’m not always great at that part!).

I’m hoping that 2019 will bring good things in greater volume than 2018 did and certainly everything has been a step up from 2017 so there is that!

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2018 Is Just About Over

And I am so glad but it’s not quite done yet. Before it does finish out, there’s still a few days and during those few days, Hunter’s Crossing, Christmas In Bear Ridge, and Eldercynne Rising are all currently on sale on Smashwords starting at $1.25. It’s the perfect time to give my books a try if you haven’t yet!

By the end of every year, I’m glad to see it go. Part of it is that I look at the new year like a great big shiny new notebook that still smells like clean paper. It’s clean and new and shiny and has all the potential to be the best one ever. Sometimes the previous year was just really that awful. It happens but not nearly as often as it seems in my end of year posts. This year maybe wasn’t as productive or successful a year as I’d like to see but a lot of that is my health – I’ve spent a chunk of the year struggling to type, I had a pretty big bump in my depression this year that I don’t think I’m really out of just yet actually, and I’m finding that the medication is working a bit less effectively lately so I’m hoping January brings some changes and some relief. It’s nowhere near as bad as it what but sometimes, at the end of the day, it’s all I can do to crawl into bed and even my very light down comforter is so heavy on my feet that I can’t find a comfortable place.

I did write two books this year – one of them being Christmas In Bear Ridge and the other I’m working on polishing up but I hope next year sees the sequel to Hunter’s Crossing coming out. I did start sending out poems and short stories again, which is nice. I had one big acceptance for a DnD expansion book that was a LOT of fun. I wrote some poems this year that I think are better than anything I’ve done in a long time and I should be hearing back on soon.

I lost my Cas this year and I miss him a lot but I’m comforted some that he came home to me to say goodbye instead of doing what cats tend to do. As sick as he was, he came home so I would know and so I could help him. That means more than I have words to explain.

My favorite thing this year was the look on my oldest child’s face when the tour guide opened up the very real secret passage in the House of Seven Gables. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone as excited as he was in that moment. He was a child again for that quick climb up and it was absolutely marvelous. It wasn’t a thing that could be bought or repeated but it was the most amazing moment.

 

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Writing Wednesday: Naming All The Things

Names are hard. Character names are hard enough but naming all the other things – the little things you just know that no one will remember unless you royally screw it up – those are even worse. I like to stick to fictional towns in my writing – there’s less chance of offending someone or getting important details wrong. For consistency’s sake, I’ve been known to make a sketch map of said town with important places marked – and all of those places need names. During the initial drafting, I tend to use placeholders instead of the actual names until the right name occurs to me – little things like names should never keep you from the work of writing.

It happens I was having this conversation with a writer this week so it’s a bit fresh on the brain. For me, naming things is pretty much the only proper use for the phone book that keeps getting delivered to my house. Take the phone book, close your eyes, flip pages with one hand and point your finger with the other, and bam – Diner A is now Henry’s Holler (depending on where you’re town is set – it could be Hollow) and the park with the playground is Karington Point (not actual examples from anything of mine – yet).

There are also name generators for almost everything. Baby name finders are probably used by as many writers as gestating parents. I don’t really have any I prefer, I just Google baby name finder and click a link. The DnD community has a lot of naming generators also which I’m sure helps a great many DMs make their campaigns all that much more interesting.

A few fun generators:

Fantasy Name Generators have several including town name, planet names, and description generators. If you’re really stuck – this site has something that will put the spark back in. Mithril & Mages has a fair number of generators also that I think use actual names in their dataset. Donjon has some that are ethnicity and culturally based (as well as world generators which are very neat).

Happy writing!

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It’s that time of year

I love this season. I don’t get as much writing done until after the last of Christmas is done but I am one busy lady right about now. I’m doing my annual Make Things rush for holiday gifts. For some people, it’s the gift itself that is their love language.  For me, it matters that I make something. Last year, I didn’t do so hot – only for the kids and those weren’t up to my personal standards. This year I have some really great ideas that so far aren’t working out exactly (or remotely) as I expected but what are plans for but to change?

I didn’t manage to win NaNoWriMo this year but that’s ok. I have the start of a story that might be something interesting someday and I had some commitments to meet that I met. There’s always next year and, honestly, I don’t really need NaNo to write a draft anymore and I’m not really active in that community either. If I were, that might be draw enough but, we’ll cross that bridge next October.

On the health and RA front: I’m starting to struggle a little. I’m sure some of it is the weather, some of it is the crafty stuff or the typing but my fingers and feet are not doing so well. I expect some changes at my next appointment in very early January so long as I can get through to January without wicked swelling or ridiculousness. It’s not pain as much as it is a deep, moaning ache that haunts my hands and tries hard to make me miserable. But, I have too many things to make to let a little thing like pain or stiffness get in the way.

RedDog and Fred

Speaking of health crap – we discovered something interesting about RedDog – did you know that dogs can have underactive thyroids? They can and ours does. He’s acting more like his old obnoxious, velcro, cat-dog self than he has in YEARS because of the new daily medication. It’s actually really wonderful (even if it also hurts as he wants to sit ON me and produces his own gravity).

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Writing Wednesday: Genre

I make no apologies for writing genre fiction. The books that changed my outlook, gave me new truths, every one of them was a work of genre fiction. I have read some ‘literary’ fiction and it just doesn’t do much for me in the long form. In short form, short stories, essays, poetry, ‘literary’ work can be amazing and interesting but I’m just not a fan of it in lengths above novelette. This is on my mind today because of a Twitter thread. Nick Mamatas had a lot to say but the comments after say more.  https://twitter.com/NMamatas/status/1067469966180409344

I might turn my nose up a little at things termed “Literary Fiction” but I won’t hold it against you if that’s what you prefer. I know what it is to be looked down on because I prefer my stories to have explosions or magic or machines behaving badly and I would hope that I can be a more welcoming reader friend than that. I will, however, get downright mean when other people start explaining why I’m wasting my time in genre or romance instead of putting my skill to use doing something “worthwhile.” There is a reason I will likely never write certain types of stories and it isn’t because they aren’t in my head or in my wheelhouse, hell, I probably have a dozen or so written and sitting in my drive but I refuse to give certain people that satisfaction.

I was lucky in my various writing classes during my years of schooling that I never had a teacher press too hard against my love of genre. I had teachers who informed me I would never ever make it as a writer at all but I never had one pick on my preferred genres. I had one teacher who definitely preferred things of a more “literary” bent but she never held against me my desire to throw magic or futuristic technology into a story. She did hate my lack of outline though. (Planners and Plotters just don’t understand Pantsers). But, I never went in for the MFA level or even graduate level creative writing, only electives so perhaps that had a part to play also.

For me, books like Dune, Ender’s Game, Neuromancer, the Books of Blood, had far more impact on me than Grapes of Wrath ever did.

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