It’s time to fundraise for my daughter’s trip, again. I HATE asking for money!
My daughter wants to sell art for a living. We’ve explained to her that artists often have to work day jobs to pay the bills. Her Occupational Credential Program at school has worked hard to make sure she has marketable skills, but they can’t really teach her to be an independent artist.
I want to write novels and make comic books. I’ve been reading comic books all my life. I think in pictures. (My stories have to be translated into words.) Some of my favorite authors also have graphic novels. I did Inktober last year, and I want more art in my life, but giving myself permission to draw has been a constant battle.
What if I hadn’t given up on writing and art once I left high school? What if I encourage my budding artist to get busy creating? What if I made sure she got her feet wet before she has to work the daily grind? What if? What if? WHAT IF?
I have decided to pool our abilities and resources, and put together a comic book as a fundraiser. Independent publishing is bigger than it’s ever been, and lots of other artists have paved the way and have ALSO passed along the information you need to get started.
I have no idea what I’m doing, and it may completely blow up in my face, but I’m excited, and it also terrifies me, but I’m a-gonna DO IT!
This mother/daughter collaboration will either work, and be the first step on both of our art careers, OR…
I’m NOT giving up on my novel revisions (and there are some personal things that are sucking a lot of my energy away) and I’ll find a way to keep going there, too. The next few months are going to be a rough ride. But LIFE has presented a time-sensitive teaching moment, and I have to grab it by the bridle.
But I’m going to nudge that horse in the dang ribs, cinch up the belly strap, jump on, and hold on for dear life.
Warning: Just ahead is another writer-whining-about-writing blog post. Hang a hard right to avoid this road hazard if you aren’t interested!
Ok, I’m having trouble producing ACTUAL helpful content for this blog, and I’m sorry for that, but I feel I am really getting a grasp on what is needed for revisions and self-editing. I am, ALSO, really grasping that there are SOOOOO many writers in the world, producing a shit-ton of work, and almost none of them are making any money. Some are even losing money.
And it’s not that I’m writing for the money and fame and money and groupies and money. I’m writing because I have to write. But writing is not the same as publishing, or trying to get published. You publish to make money, get your voice out in the world, and put good stories in front of people. And if you don’t have enough money for your needs, writing for a little extra money becomes a very important reason to publish.
It’s the artist’s eternal dilemma. Do you try to make money from your art, the thing you actually feel good producing, until it sucks you dry, OR try to work some soul-sucking job that pays (and creates) the bills.
I feel I’m getting close to producing the absolute best manuscript I CAN produce, and it will be up to an editor/agent/publisher to take it any further, unless I do decide to join the ranks of the self-published. But, keeping a watchful eye on publishing and marketing and readers has really opened my eyes to how very superfluous my work is. Completely unnecessary. Won’t likely be noticed or acknowledged.
Part of that reason for my self-doubt is that the tone is erotica, and it has been made VERY CLEAR to me what other writers think of erotica. I can’t ignore that I have written romance in a visceral style, and I like writing that way, so I have to label it erotica or risk misleading potential readers. BUT, now, I get to cringe when other writers go on a rant about erotica, and how it’s the downfall of the written word, and erotica writers are stealing more than their fair share of the market, and surely they are tricking all those readers into reading such filth, and, and, and… I mean, I quickly learned to not bring up erotica in face-to-face discussions, because the usual expression of disgust, even if it’s a micro-emotion, is such a kick in the head.
I want to tell you, and myself, that the writing is important. The story is important. Getting your voice, your work, out in the world is important. People need your story, and my story, but, lately, I’m just not so sure…
I think the problem is that I may not have enough of an ego to publish. You don’t have to be a raving egomaniac to publish–plenty of authors can pass for normal folk–but you do have to have that absolute certainty that you wrote a Very Important Storythe RIGHT WAY. Better than any one else could have! And it’s rather fitting that after so many years of hard work, THAT will be the thing that stops me.
I’ve sat on this post for week, and written and re-written some version of it many, many, MANY times over the past seven months. That’s why I haven’t been posting very often. I guess coming to realize the sheer depth of my own mediocrity is a little too eye-opening for this poor, fragile, sensitive artist.
But something made me write out this whole mess of insecurities and doubts, AGAIN, and show it to you. Because anything less would be inauthentic to the writing process, which I have promised to show in this blog, unfiltered, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel. Even when it feels self-indulgent and whiney. (And, this post feels really, REALLY self-indulgent.)
Strangely enough, a firm conviction to be as authentic as possible may be the most important habit I’ve developed in the weird grab-bag of writer’s skills that I’ve picked up.
But, can resolute authenticity pass for ego? I guess we’ll find out…
One of the ways for writers to get their name out there, in the BIG WORLD OF FICTION, is to write short stories and then get them published in anthologies and magazines. This has been the way of writers for a long time, even with diminished printing opportunities and the rise of e-books. But, writers still have to find venues. You can search them out yourself, join a mailing list for writers, or you can follow around other writers.
I’ve been on one of those writer’s mailing lists for a while, but I always seem to be working on something other that the promoted style/genre. The only time I had used one of the suggested publishers, I didn’t even get a response to my submission. But, still, I always browse it, to see if anything jumps out at me. Toward the end of June, something did…
A call for noble-bright fairy tales for a short story anthology came up, and best of all IT PAID FOR THE STORY! I had the time and a story in mind, so I decided to finish up an old, neglected project. But, since I only had a month, I had to figure out a way to get a critical eye on it, and not my own. Ten revisions, a couple of months apart, was not going to work. So, I contacted five people I have beta read for, and asked for a huge favor.
It was a crunched together Franken-story, made of former blog posts with pictures removed and a long part that had only ever been written in longhand, and not even in the correct order, yet. It was messy, and not even proofread with in the meager skills I do have. Sending it was uncomfortable. Like wearing-your-underwear-on-the-outside-while-in-public uncomfortable, and not in a cool or sexy superhero way.
So my beta-friends read for me, and sent back notes with a superhero-like quickness, giving me extra time to mull over their thoughts. I was able to spackle up some plot holes, give a few explanations and descriptions that were missing, and rewrite some awkward passages that I knew were awkward (but, still, needed to be told).
BUT, there came a point that I realized the rest of the suggestions really were opinions. Their questions and observations, while good, were from the point of view of themselves as writers. Things they would have addressed if they were the one writing the story. And it was MY story. So, I sent a mental hug for their time and effort, promised myself to send more “thank you” emails, and got to work with final edits and proofreading. I was able to submit two days before the deadline.
And I realize that once again, here on my blog, I’m not just preaching to the choir (by talking about writing to writers), I’m preaching to the preachers, rabbis, ministers, and priestesses. If you are an experienced writer, and have already gone through all this, I hope I gave you a moment of nostalgia. If you are going through this now, know that you are not alone, and I hope you will find and keep some good readers. If you have yet to go through finding and synching with other writers, for better or worse, then you are forewarned. It’s a stressful experience, even when it’s a good one.
For now, I keep writing and working on other projects, and try to ignore the waiting period for acceptance/rejection clicking along…
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.)
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.
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.
Well, 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.
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:
Study Graphic Novels
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.
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.
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
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.
So, 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.
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.)
Un-named blog host has lost–and I have re-written–this post FIVE TIMES. I’m rough draft posting as a workaround. Sorry for the inconvenience.
UPDATE 1: Ok, FYI there is no Low-Budget Writing post this week because haven’t finished the books for the next few topics. It’s that time of year when things are stacked up and glitchy (<cough><Blog-host-that-shall-not-be-named><cough>), and there’s not nearly enough hours in the day. Carving any creative writing out of the day is nearly impossible, and most days I’m too tired to edit in the evenings.
Still, I did submit a short story last week, which brings me to a grand total of TWO submissions. Yikes. It’s better than zero, but I have a looooong way to go.
I also re-started an exercise program, so the chances of living until I get published are marginally better. That’s good, I guess.
I’ll keep this short and pointless (much like my writing) so we can all find something more productive to do.
Happy Holidays, and Happy Writing!
UPDATE 2: I may have angered the internet gods when I named-and-shamed my blog host. Edited, so please let people see my post, now. Please. PLEASE!