Habits and Revisions (and Some Heartfelt Advice)

 

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

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the YEAAAAAAARGH!

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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!

 

 

 

Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 6 Grammar and Punctuation and Bears! Oh, My!

I am the last person who should be giving anybody grammar and punctuation advice, but I will tell you about the books that have made my self re-education slightly easier.  You could, of course, go right to one of the style books, but there are over a dozen, and many more blogs, columns, and other sources.  I was looking for something that would entertain me into better usage.

Of course, when it comes to usage, there is the question of whether you side with the followers of linguistic prescription (the rules are always correct) or linguistic description (actual usage is more correct).  There is no right answer, by the way.  Just MANY different opinions, and most people fall somewhere in the middle.

‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will disappear”

-Lao Tzu

This is a motto of mine.  All of these books were found in used book stores, gifting me with their timely appearance when I was on a strict budget.  Since I have been avoiding writing this post successfully–for a year–you are getting the added bonus of which book actually stuck around in my unreliable memory the longest.  Lucky, lucky you.

Scan_20171127 (36)Angels sang and the sky lit up with glorious rainbows when the prophesies came to pass, and I finally came across “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White (Forth edition by Allen & Bacon, Massachusetts 2000).  It was a shockingly thin book. (Six different publication dates, 1935 the earliest.  That is some serious staying power.)  I’m not sure why it took me so long to find a copy, since every time I’ve gone to the book store since that day there have been at least five copies to choose from.  I guess I was not ready before that day.

The word ‘style’ in the book’s title is not an accident, and that style is concise. If a writer wishes to be clear and bold with the English language, then this is a benchmark to guide you. Even if your style is wordy and obscure, it will still make an excellent base for writing in general.  (I, personally, got a huge kick out of the older ‘misused’ words, but I’m a total word-nerd.)  White’s added chapter five, with its twenty-one approaches to style, is worth serious study.  I may not keep a copy of the book in my pocket, as is suggested, but it sits on a shelf, close to hand.

Scan_20171127 (30)“Mortal Syntax” by June Casagrande (Penguin Group, New York 2008) is next on the pile. Clever and funny, this book is actually a defensive rant about all the things the author was accused of being wrong about–repeatedly–while she ran a grammar column.  (This is actually her second book, and I’m keeping an eye out for the first.)  In these pages I learned there were several style guides, and they didn’t always agree with each other.  No wonder the arguments get so heated, for there is no One True Way.  I enjoyed her biting humor, but the funny stories stayed with me longer than the actual grammar advice, and that wasn’t for very long, either.  My search continued…

Scan_20171127 (34)“Words Fail Me” by Patricia T. O’Conner (Harcourt Brace & Company, New York 1999) is another good and clever book full of anecdotes, but the rules she tried to convey were quickly forgotten.  It’s a good writing style book to try on, like a rambling conversation with a knowledgeable writer while wearing comfy yoga pants and sipping tea, and worth it if your brain remembers rules better in this way, but of limited use to me in the long run.

Who is the clear winner, and the book I will read again to brush up on rules before self-editing?

Scan_20171127 (32)“My Grammar and I… Or Should That Be Me?” Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines (The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, NY 2009) is the closest to a school textbook, and it shocked me that that was what I actually needed.  I guess logic-brain wins this round, when I was putting my money on creative-brain all along.  Now, don’t be fooled thinking this is just dry rules.  The authors sprinkle in just enough Sahara wit to keep you from nodding off at your desk, then drooling until the bell rings and startles you awake.  Most importantly, I came away with a working knowledge of grammar and punctuation, which was the whole point of this project.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a year since I read this, and while I may have retained enough to get by, I definitely need to read this, again.  Soon.  An added bonus will be when I self-edit, I will know what to call the things that went wrong.  (Other than “Bastard,” that is.)  “Compound conjunction” and “irregular verb” will mean something, and not be just static in a confused brain.  I’m getting giddy just thinking about it!

Well, that’s the best advice I can give to date on this topic.  There’s nothing to fear about grammar and punctuation, and I’ve run out of time for the bears (maybe next time).  Don’t go off thinking you can go straight to self-publishing after this.  This should be just enough to not get you laughed out of the publisher’s office, or make a complete fool out of yourself online.  Self-publishing is going to require more eyes than just yours!  Either find some highly skilled (but free labor) beta readers, or your going to have to come up with the money for a good editor. Don’t trust yourself to catch every thing!  Even professional editors go to another editor.

While hanging out with other writers online, I found a grammar/editor blogger named Thomas Weaver who is fun, interesting, and does a daily Writing Glitch series that is great for testing your knowledge.  Follow him if you like a challenge, or if you might need something professionally edited in the future.  https://northofandover.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/writing-glitch-547/#like-10679

You may have missed the other posts of the Low-Budget Writing Program:

  1. Butt in Chair
  2. 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!

Low-Budget Writing Program: Part 5 Fear is the Mind-Killer

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Anywriter who spends any time thinking about showing their work to another person has likely felt fear.  Unfortunately, that never goes away, according to the professionals who share tips.

I have already given my thoughts and book suggestions for getting the story written, but, obviously, there is more to learn.  There is a deep connection between the fear of writing and good writing.  Honestly, there should be a copy of “The Courage to Write” by Ralph Keyes (Henry Holt and Company, New York 1995) in the starter pack of every writer.  You didn’t get the starter pack?  Neither did I, but I did find the book at my local library.  (And just in time.)

The book is at first a warm hand holding yours, telling you all is well, your fears are perfectly normal, and–more importantly–useful, then there are a ton of examples of writers finagling their way around their fears to produce words of worth.  (And writers are pretty creative when it comes to finding a comfortable way to write.  Prepare to be shocked and amazed!)  If you find you are lacking the courage to put your work out there, please seek out this book before giving up on yourself.

“Trying to deny, avoid, numb, or eradicate the fear of writing is neither possible nor desirable.  Anxiety is not only an inevitable part of the writing process but a necessary part.  If you’re not scared, you’re not writing.  No message in this book is more important.  A state of anxiety is the writer’s natural habitat.”

Ralph Keyes

While we are on the subject of fear, there is a book that is incredibly useful in detailing the physical manifestations of fear, and when and why you should listen to your body/brain warnings.  “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker (Originally published by Little, Brown and Company in 1997, now updated and published by the author through Amazon 2010.) is also useful in lots of other ways to writers and other persons just trying to navigate the world in unsafe times, and nearly as important as a reminder for trusting your intuition.  (Intuition is sister to Inspiration.  Ignore either of them at your peril, for sisters do gossip.)

“‘No’ is a word that must never be negotiated, because the person who choses to not hear it is trying to control you.”

Gavin de Becker

 

Here are the other posts in this series:

  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!

The List

21462707_1052682281534463_6283699470490206764_nThings I have accomplished today:

  1. Morning chores while overcoming shock.
  2. Editing.
  3. Decent try at working the day job.
  4. Afternoon errands.
  5. Evening meal and chores while watching the death toll rise.
  6. Inktober drawing while listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
  7. Shower beer.  (This is an actual first.)
  8. Typing this…

Things that are absent from the list?  Beta reading.  The Low-Budget Writing posts.  Crying, because I’m still numb with shock, and wondering how bad it’s going to get before it gets better, or if this is the new normal.

I have a new short story burbling.  (Some of you might know this, if you’re on Facebook.)  I know that every story is different, and I have already described them as soups or thunderstorms, but THIS one is different.  This one is sapient.  It’s a little troll or Gollum sitting on my shoulder, muttering to its self.

What is it doing?  Grabbing at passing information, tossing some, tucking others away in its ragged clothes.  What is it keeping?  Anything having to do with Saturn’s moons, Titan and Enceladus.  Some psychology, a little biology.  It’s eyeballing my copy of
The Lucifer Effect” by Phillip Zimbardo, which I haven’t read yet.  What are two things I’m positive it has?  My memories of the movie “2010,” and my copy of Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.”

I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be horror.  I thought it would be a short story, but with the amount of information being hoarded, it may be a novella.  To date, I have only received a short snippet of dialogue.

“Who the fuck harvests their dead teenaged daughter’s eggs, takes them along on an exploratory mission, then mixes one with random biologic samples from some frozen moon?  That’s just…  UGH!”

Cade shrugs.  “Brilliant isn’t the same as stable.”

So, I guess I wait for the rest of the story to see where this goes, and I’m completely sure I’m in over my head.

Happy Writing, y’all!

 

 

 

Can You Bribe Titans With Chocolate?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve got titan-sized thoughts shrugging their way through my brain matter.  And this is the kind of shrugging that shoulders can do that also hold the Heavens and the Earth apart, so that we humans have a nice, comfy place to live.  They’re important, humongous thoughts; FEAR, and COURAGE, PERSEVERANCE, and some LUST, too.  My head aches from their shuddering footfalls and oversized, grabby hands.  I’m alternating between attempts of fuzzy blanket naps and shoving more other-writer’s-blogs-about-writing into my head, hoping it will all coalesce into an overflowing, bounteous soup of Writerly Knowledge For Me To Share!

But, mostly it’s just a throbbing headache.  Erg.

In more human-sized news, the notes for the Low-Budget Writing Program series is coming along nicely, so at some point I will be sharing something actually useful for new-ish writers.  I get a piece of chocolate for useful posts, so I am super motivated!

I’ll have to admit that both general writing and revisions for my WIP haven’t been going well, and it’s not too surprising when you consider life, but I’ve seen these kinds of temporary blocks before (see attached pic), and just on the other side of them is writing-nirvana.  The state of flow that makes writing as comfortable as slipping on your second favorite pair of pants. (The first favorite pair of pants being reading, of course.)  I just have to find a decent sized crack to wedge some writing into, like opening a safe passage with the jaws-of-life, then more cracks naturally open up, and writing slips in.  Or on, since I was using a pants metaphor.  <sigh>

(I have been known to fall over while putting on pants, so, there is that.)

Happy Writing!