Habits and Revisions (and Some Heartfelt Advice)

 

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My day job.  I love it and everything about it, but it’s the reason I am not so good at the computer thing.

Habits are a strange concept.  You want to break the “bad” habits, and start the “good” habits, and that’s a lot to expect from something our brains designed to help us get through each day so we can conserve energy for the big things.

 

I’ve been trying–and failing A LOT–to start the habit of daily drawing.  Inktober really opened my eyes to my need to create art, and I already knew that I think in pictures. Novel writing is the process of me learning to slow the pictures enough to describe them to a reader, so why not put in the pictures, too?  Life keeps putting great stories in front of me that are drawn very… Well, you don’t have to be Bilal, Serpieri, or “Moebius” to tell a story with pictures.  (I mean, have you seen “The Walking Dead” original comic? Clean and clear, but simple.)

But, FIRST you have to give yourself permission to do the creative thing, the fulfilling thing, even if it’s not one of the official “important things.”  I’ve bought a few high quality art supplies, but they sat, unused.  I found my old art supplies, packed up for probably a decade or more, but they continue to sit, unused.  So, I bought some really cheap art supplies, but they have also sat for three weeks, unused.  The few times I’ve drawn in the past month are just pencil sketches. I can’t seem to give myself permission to play.  Where is this block coming from?

So, for now, I’m researching habits, and how to start them.  Maybe more pencil sketches will relax me enough to reach for the charcoal pencils, or even–gasp!–the charcoal sticks!  (I’m already wiping my hands in reflex.)

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Revisions for my Sci-fi Romance are going very well.  I’ve had some real “Eureka!” moments.  For those who don’t know, I come from a family of serious DIY people.  “Good homeowners just do it themselves,” is the family motto, even when you’re renting.  Need to tile a bathroom?  Fix a leaky pipe?  Put up drywall?  Read a book, find a video, figure it out yourself.  The DIY lifestyle also applies to cars, jobs, health–mental and physical–and pretty much everything else that life can throw at you.  Just do it yourself.  Surprisingly, this attitude has mostly worked for us, both as a unit and individuals.

So, for various reasons, I’ve brought that attitude to my writing, and there is PLENTY of writing advice out there.  I’ve recently come across a couple of books that seem to have expanded and refined my sense of storytelling, and I’m excited to share them with you in my “Low-Budget Writing Program.” I’ll have the newest post up as soon as I can get it organized.  I hope it will help those of you who are DIY writers, whether you are shooting for self-publication or trying to improve enough for acceptances from agents or editors.

Of course, the increased perception has caused a reaction of “OMG, I’m a horrible writer,” but that is expected and will be worked through.  Focused practice and skill progression will calm the panic.  This ‘aint my first time in the saddle.

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On a last note, if you have not cultivated a few trusted beta readers then you NEED to work on that.   Not only will you understand storytelling better when you have to explain to someone what they have missed, but an outsider’s eye on your own work is priceless.  Well, not priceless, since editors will have a rate to charge you, but I think you understand what I mean.

I have a few people I have exchanged work with and they have saved my bacon this month.  I spied an anthology that would be a good fit for one of my developing short stories, so I rushed through a readable rough draft.  BUT, without a chance to let it get “cold” any objective revision would be difficult.  I begged for help.  Everyone came back with notes early, so I have time to revise before I submit.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Be well, my friends, and Happy Writing!

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Even Broken Things Are Useful

20180424_162852Well, that was another posting slump that put a stranglehold on my blog.  Truly, I’m sorry for being the missing-in-action, non-helpful, hermit writer.  It was caused by the same shit everyone else goes through, mostly things you would classify as “just life” when they happen to someone else, but are overwhelming when they are happening to you.  I’m not going to get into specifics, but lets say I have gone through too many endings in the past year.

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Cera, who will be missed.

The point is that even though I am still putting together the pieces of myself, I can still push forward.  A lot of creative energy was being used for just getting through each day.  I’m taking that lost energy back.  Here’s my new Every Week list:

  • Write
  • Study Writing
  • Draw
  • Study Graphic Novels
  • Blog
  • Poetry
  • Edit
  • Beta Read
  • Study People/Cultures
  • Review Books

Granted, several things on that list are things I should be doing Every Day, but I’m also trying to be forgiving of myself, and attempting to prevent a stress burn-out.  I’ll get there.  For instance, I never really stopped writing in notebooks, but putting daily work into digital manuscripts requires discipline.  I want that disciple BACK!

I could also narrow the list, but every time I do, something happens to make it obvious to me that these are the creative outlets (and community service jobs) I must give myself to feel complete.

And I’m trying to get back into posting once a week on the blog, but, frankly, if it’s a choice between this and another creative outlet, I may skip a week.  Neither of us will miss having one less post to read/write, and it wastes both of our time if it’s just filler.  I have no plans to monetize this blog; I’d rather put that energy into my fiction writing.  We are just here, connecting as artists, and I’m letting you see my tricks and secrets.  I’d love to see yours, too.

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One bright spot, during the three-month slump, was getting notification that one of my favorite short stories was accepted into an anthology.  I’m still stunned.  Granted, it’s just a “for exposure” gig, but someone thought my short story was something they could make money off of.  It’s a quirky little story I thought would never-ever-ever find a home, but if I can find a home for that, then maybe there is some hope.  It’s a tiny step, but that’s how all journeys start.

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When I consider how many time I have almost deleted all my media platforms, quietly, and just slipped back into being a reader with no plans to ever publish anything I accidentally wrote down…

It could still happen, and maybe it should, but for now I have some momentum to keep pushing myself forward.  If you are interested in the amazing horror anthology “The Big Book of Bootleg Horror, Volume 4” here is the link.  http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/bootleg4.html

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Another bright spot was the odd experience of going on a cruise ship with my daughter.  It was school/job experience related, and I was 100% there to support her, but I couldn’t help but to think about how I was experiencing life on a closed system, cut off from what I consider “normal” life for five days.  Probably the closest I’ll ever come to being on a space ship, and frankly, I fell a bit in love with the multi-national crew, sense of adventure, the open ocean, and the chance to see someplace completely new.  I came home and re-wrote a few scenes in my WIP, and there may be more changes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, if I ever announce that I’m running away to join a ship’s crew, be sure that it’s for “research” for my Sci-Fi-Romance/Erotica, and it will only add to the (eventual) story.

And even cruise ships have Wi-Fi, now.

Writers gotta write.  But, they also gotta observe.

Happy writing!

Writers Shaming Writers

 

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Ya’ll made me get out my angry eyes!

Are we really still doing this?  Are we really still shaming other writers for writing Erotica?  Or for exploring erotic themes in another genre? Horror or romance?  Sci-fi or Fantasy?  Mainstream or Lit?  For putting sex in all the genres?  Really?

 

Yes, there is “trash” out there.  Yes, a lot of it is self-published, but not all of it.  Yes, bestsellers usually have an 8th grade reading level.  Yes, there are writers who publish monthly in their chosen genre, and some who slave over a manuscript for ten or more years before putting it out there.  Most of us fall somewhere in between.

But, considering modern culture, that we are all living through, are we really shaming other writers for including sex in their books?  In the era of #metoo, Times Up, and actual consequences for sexual predators in high places?  When I am following at least two writer friends who are undergoing transitions?  When I know tons of writers expanding and challenging what the changing sexuality, gender roles, and relationships mean to them, personally, and in our wider society?

Writers and artists are the natural mirror to the world they live in.  Unless you are deliberately turning a blind eye to it, our society is undergoing a deep transition.

You complain about the rise in sales of Romance and Erotica, but don’t wonder why it’s happening? You complain about so many writers, across every genre, now including sexual relationships in their books, and don’t make the connection?  You complain about the surge of fan fiction using established characters to tell the missing stories in our culture, and you don’t realize we tell ourselves the stories we need, in whatever way feels safe? Are you kidding me?

We all know the scapegoats in this little campaign of suppression, and the memes are shared ad nauseam.  Some patently false, if you had bothered to read the books in question.  Don’t pretend it’s about the quality of writing, when so many other books are just as bad and they escape the vitriol heaped upon stories aimed at women.

You aren’t interested in sex?  Gender roles?  Relationships? That is a valid opinion!  Plenty of books don’t contain any, so enjoy your reading time.  Do you also hate dragons, make a point to shame other writers for using them, and then work to malign any book containing them? Of course not!  Because that is your opinion, and you are adult enough to understand the world isn’t based around your opinions. (Also, because dragons are cool, and sex is, too!)

If you pay attention to the culture of writers, you know being an asshole to another writer can hurt your reputation and sales.  Maybe nobody called you out, when you shamed another writer, or book, or entire genre, but we take notice.  Writers notice everything.

I’m sure it was just a joke, right?  I’m sure we deserved it, right?  Maybe we shouldn’t be so sensitive?  Right?

(Where have I heard that before?)

Don’t shame other writers.

 

 

Please, Excuse the Mess…

Whatever it takes.

That’s the writer’s motto.  The artist’s motto.  WHATEVER IT TAKES!

Whatever it takes to put the words on the paper.  What ever it takes to finish the rough draft.  Whatever it takes to pick it back up and wrestle with the characters, plot, descriptions, style, genera expectations, voice, and readability until you have a finished product.  Whatever it takes to get it published and into the hands of readers.

My stories are movies playing inside my head.  They morph and change as I delve deeper, but it’s still just a movie playing in my head.  I have to find the words to explain the story to you.  Have you ever had someone tell you ABOUT a movie IN DETAIL?  It’s usually terrible.  Have you ever listened to a good/professional storyteller?  There is a huge difference between those two experiences.

I think I’m getting a better grasp of the words, and how to make them go.  How to hold back what the reader wants, make them work for it, give just enough to keep them hooked.  And I can see the big picture hidden in the words.  Themes and morals, sometimes hidden even from me until the full rough draft is done.  But meshing the two, good-enough words and a big story, escapes me.

I’ve got a lot of rough drafts lying around.  I’ve chosen one to learn how to tell a story on.  It’s a robust story, with everything I love about the universe in it.   The Main Character is a side of me I can easily access, so she frequently tells me to pull my shit together and finish the fuckin’ book!  She’s a strong motivator.

I’ve tried to take it farther than just a rough draft, but I can’t seem to get my head around the seventeen pages…  Wait.  THIRTY-ONE PAGES of notes on changes, OR to apply the advice of the books I’ve read about storytelling.  Like everybody else, I have commitments, work, family, and anxieties to deal with.  And I deal with them, but then not a lot of energy for writing is left over.  So, another year has slipped away from me, unpublished.  Part of me wants to give up, and just write something new, something exciting, always rough drafts, and never bother to publish.

But, I’m a stubborn person.  I WILL create a finished product.  I just need the right tools.

I think I’ve found a couple more tools in the last few months.  With ways to tinker, and lay out, and get more story off the page and into my hands.  I’m good with my hands.  I think with my hands, and I’m a visual person.  I didn’t realize there were tools for that kind of brain.  It’s kinda like outlining, kinda like story board, kinda like art.  Lets see if it will help my get a handle on my revisions.  Then I can begin the rewrite, choosing the right words to tell a story, instead of telling you about a story.

I’ll share the tools with you, once I have a firmer grip on them.  I can’t be the only writer with these kinds of problems.  For now, my writing is “Construction Zone! Please, Excuse the Mess!”  (Hint: The tools are more books, but that really shouldn’t surprise you at this point.)

Happy Writing, y’all!

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There is Still a Chance to Influence the Future!

Ok, I’m going to put myself into another uncomfortable spot.

I’ve carefully followed my Christmas budget, and I’ve laid out my plans to work extra hours the next two months, and I have wonderful family members who will help me out in a pinch, but…

I’m afraid some unforeseen bill or expense will ruin my chance to take my daughter on her class trip.

The OCP class has had some good donations, but final payment for the cabins is Jan. 10.  After that will be figuring out how to get us all down to embarkation (thirty-ish kids and adults).  Will we be pooling vehicles and drivers, or will we charter a bus for the group?  Will we drive all night, or be able to get a hotel?

The teachers have been encouraging smaller donations from friends and family, like Christmas or Happy New Year cards sent directly to the class with a donation enclosed.  (That was exciting to see.)  Allstate is offering $5 to the class for every name/address/phone/e-mail contact that agrees to go through an insurance quote, but the quote has to be completed before they donate.  (Personally, I’d rather just donate the $5 directly to the class.)  One of the other class parents,  Mr. Coggeshall, has set up a place to donate on his Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/donate/762484663944324/  (The link isn’t working, but you can find it on my FB page.  I’ll keep fiddling with it.)  The class is sponsoring a “Hat Day” in the school, where students get to wear a hat all day if they donate $1.  (I’ll post a picture if I can.)

Here is the local news report for the trip. http://www.wistv.com/story/37125565/midlands-students-to-get-job-experience-on-cruise-ship

So, rather than just corporate donations, we are pleased to accept any help at all, no matter how small.  The school address is River Bluff High School, 320 Corley Mill Road, Lexington, SC 29072, and make sure it’s marked Attn.: Occupational Credential Program Class Trip.  The teacher’s contact information are Benjamin Dangerfield at bdangerfield@lexington1.net and Karen Rozmus at krozmus@lexington1.net

Just so you know, I promised myself I’d never monetize my blog, or my exploratory writing in general.  Although I admire the people who have the self-confidence to follow that path, I won’t accept payment for my writing until I have proof-of-concept in the form of a finished product.  Anything I post here is purely to help other writers, even if it’s just to NOT make the same mistakes I have.  I had a “bootstrap” upbringing (for better or worse), and while I have been able to ignore it when it comes to the help other people NEED, I an unable to escape it in my own mind.  This plea is about as close as I can stand to asking for help, because it’s for her, and all the other kids with big dreams.

Happy New Year, y’all, and Happy Writing!

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A shy Kitsune girl displays a banner on two of her tails for the big cruise boat. (Kitsune is a Japanese fox spirit with multiple tails.  AJ brings me more mythology information each day.  I love it.)

On Rabbits and Religion

Religion is like a book.

(A writer is comparing something to a book!  Call the Simile Police! Dial 418! Hurry!)

Maybe we should have been talking about politics and religion all these years.  What if we could have avoided some of the problems we are currently having IF we had been a little more open to the exchange of ideas.  Or, maybe, I just like having a soapbox to stand on.  Please, just bear with me.

Religion is like a book.  You could read just one.  But, why?  You could follow just one.  But, why?

Consider rabbits.

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Two books with rabbits as central characters influenced me as a child.  What if one of them had been the holy writ of my heritage?  Would my Gods have blue coats with brass buttons, as told by of Beatrix Potter?  Or, would my Gods have existential dread, along with fierce loyalty, by way of Richard Adams?

Is the world working to destroy me, or just making it hard to get enough to eat?  Am I being controlled by parental favors, or nature and survival of the fittest?   Am I guided in how to live in simple parables, or complicated and counter-intuitive laws?  Are the rules for being clothed strictly enforced, or non-existent?  Would my punishment for transgressions be blood and violence in the dark, or chamomile tea before being sent to bed early?

Which rabbit gods are the Righteous Rabbit Gods?  Or should we completely stay away from stories of rabbits, altogether?

When it comes down to it, I believe these stories tell us far less about rabbits and much more about humans.  I feel the same about religion.  You can really understand a person when you see how they practice their religion, or lack of one.  Do your gods wield hammers and lightning, or shame and guilt?  Is the religion of your lineage the Right Way, or just the most comfortable and familiar?  Did you read a different book at some point in your life, and decide to follow other gods?  Or did you decide such things were only for children?

Books shape us, both the religious and the secular.  Even the books we don’t read shape us, because they shape other people, and those people shape the world we live in.  This is why I read books about many kinds of rabbits, and many kinds of religions. To learn about rabbits and religions, of course, but mostly to learn about humans.

Humans see everything as a reflection of ourselves, and then we write stories about what we see.  A continuous loop, of learning and life. Like a reader becoming a writer, and a writer who reads even more.

I may have to amend my first statement.  Life is like a book.   Or, perhaps writers are like a book.  SOMETHING is like a book.

BOOKS ARE LIKE A BOOK!

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Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 7 BUY MY BOOK!!!!!

 

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This sweet puppy wants you to buy my book.  How can you say no?

Assuming you are going to publish a book of some type (and it doesn’t matter if it’s self or traditional) you are going to need buyers.  Readers, preferably, but anybody’s money works just as well.  So, where do you find those walking moneybags in a tight economy?  Everywhere and anywhere, you just need to not frighten them away with heavy-handed techniques.

 

Scan_20171129 (6)First of all, you could consider your local arts scene.  Everyplace has one, and the more it gets suppressed by the locals, the more fiercely it burns.  Ariel Gore is a teacher of this promotional method, most easily found in her ‘How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead’ (Three Rivers Press, New York 2007).  With lots of tips for self promotion and conquering your introverted fears, she divides the concept into bite-sized portions, then presents them as fine cuisine.  Don’t just wait around for a chance to read your work in public; create that event, find a musician, get some puppets!  Give people a memorable show.  Don’t wait for someone to publish you; write a story or poem, draw a picture, make it a ‘zine (small run, independent magazine), sell it to friends and strangers.  Now you’re published!  Add it to your bio!

(Ok, to be honest, all that in-person self promotion stuff terrifies me, but if I have learned anything about life and WRITING, is to go toward the things that frighten you.  It’s the only way to live authentically.  I’ll update y’all in the future on how this goes.)

If, like me, introversion is your north star, you might be better served by the Wide World of Interactive-at-a-Distance Social Media.  We will assume you currently have some kind of presence, since you are reading this blog, but is it the kind of presence that will get you readers?  Will they Buy Your Book when you publish?  Will they flee from your constant begging?

If you dig around on the internet, there are tons of articles and blogs discussing this problem.  I advise you to just absorb all that you can stand, let it stew, then follow your instincts on how and where to spend your energy.  If you are going to continue to write, you have to save enough of your limited energy for that.

There are also a few Amazon e-books that have helped me:

Kristen Lamb’s ‘Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World’ (WANA International 2013) is a clear-eyed look to the future of self-publishing and the age of on-line personas.  She also heads a writer’s co-op, and blogs about the challenges a writer faces.  She’s fun to follow on Facebook, too.

Brian Rathbone’s ‘How You Can Sell More Books: Proven Audience Building Strategies’ (White Wolf Press 2015) is from his experience in the fantasy genre, but could be applies easily to other genres as well.  He’s a tech-minded guy, so some of it went over my head, but could smack you right in yours.  He delivers lots of sane advice for writers in general, and plenty of bad dragon jokes if you follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

If you want examples of how to mix the two types of self promotion together, then follow successful authors on social media.  Some of my favorites are Sam Sykes, Chuck Wendig, and Kent Wayne on Twitter or Facebook.  They are funny and promotional without being annoying about it.

Sorry that this is all I have on this topic, for now.  I’ll pass along any thing else I find in the future.  If you have a good resource for self-marketing and would like to share with the rest of us, feel free to drop a suggestion or link in the comments.

If you found this blog of interest, there is more in my over-ambitious Low-Budget Writing Program:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. The Monster in My Manuscript
  3. Take over the Literary World!
  4. When the Manuscript Goes Into the Garbage
  5. Fear is the Mind-Killer
  6. Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!