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.

                                    ***

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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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!

The Future May Be In Your Hands

Today, I’m not talking about myself and my struggles to become a writer, or trying to organize what I have learned to benefit other writers.  I’m going to talk about some kids. (Or, more specifically, my own kid, who wants to be a writer.)

ocp flyer 002My daughter is in the Occupational Credential Program at her high school.  Kids end up in this program for different reasons.  My daughter loves old movies, comics and manga, video game lore, cryptozoology, world mythology, cosplay, bad puns, and scaring people.  She also has autism, with a combination of issues that make it too hard to get a standard diploma, and it’s unlikely she will go to college.  This is why she is in the OCP.

OCP flyer 001She wants to be an artist, and a writer, and a video game researcher/developer.  We’ve had “the talk” with her, about how artists and creative people usually have a day job until the creative work starts to make money.  She understands and accepts this unfortunate fact of life.  But she’s a teenager , and she has dreams…

The wonderful teachers for the OCP have organized a job shadowing opportunity for the kids on a cruise ship…   I know it sounds weird at first–I was very skeptical–but Mrs. R explained that she hoped such a huge break from the everyday life of a regular town would really open the kids eyes of the possibilities for jobs out in the wider world.

And she’s right, of course, but it’s also a chance to expand their horizons, quite literally.  My artistic, sensitive child will get to see a sunset at sea, watch the movement of waves and wake, experience a diverse population of many cultures and languages, have a little fun, and who knows what else.  These new experiences could re-shape her perspectives, and be the meat and potatoes of her future artistic life.

But it also costs money.  While I imagine the parents will find the money to send the OCP kids on this trip, along with a family or school volunteer, we are also asking for sponsorship from businesses and corporations.

ocp letter 001letterbackbk-001-e1511230497608.jpgI’m not asking for money from individuals, because so many of my friends are in the same tight circumstances as I am.  I just don’t have any personal connections with businesses practicing this kind of inclusive sponsorship, and I thought one or more of my friends or followers might.  (Maybe a comic publisher, or a game developer.) And I don’t normally ask for post sharing or likes, but that’s how social media works, so I would really appreciate it this time.  More eyes on this post could make all the difference for someone having difficulties raising the money.

Questions about sponsoring the OPC Job Shadowing Cruise should be sent to:

  • Benjamin Dangerfield at bdangerfield@lexington1.net
  • Karen S. Rozmus at krozmus@lexington1.net

And tell them it’s for AJ and all the other kids in the OCP with big dreams!

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Jak and Daxter! (My favorite cosplay picture of AJ!)

Until next week, Happy Writing!