I have no idea what I’m doing!

I’ve had a couple people insinuate lately that I might have a clue about things. I had someone important do it to me at work even. I have no idea what I’m doing!

None

I don’t know what I’m doing with writing, or blogging, or podcasting, or all the stuff I do at work. I mostly just try to figure it out as I go. I google, I research, I listen to podcasts and watch webinars and read articles and whatever else.

I try things that make me uncomfortable. I try to learn what things work and don’t. I try to constantly remind myself that it is ok to fail. Learn from that failure and move forward.

I feel out of my depth constantly. I feel like making this post is likely a HORRIBLE idea and I’m sure I’ll go back and forth on should I push the publish button or not a dozen times. If you are reading this I went for publish. (Unless you for some obscene reason hacked my blog and are reading my trashed posts, in which case…I can’t help you.)

I can’t be the only one who feels like this. Someone else out there must too. And sometimes it is good to know you aren’t alone, so maybe someone will read this and go OH! Me too! And maybe Future Me will read this and go, oh you were so adorably young then. (Future Me I promise to floss tonight, you can thank me now.)

But…

This was partly pointed out at work and partly in the writing sphere. I do all that stuff, and I learn. I ask questions and listen and try very hard to learn.

That’s good. That’s apparently not something everyone does. I know this because I watch other people, but I don’t entirely believe it. I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone else has a secret handbook on how to exist and how to write and how to be a leader and how to whatever else. If anyone has a spare I’ll take it.

I fail.

Often. And then I go ok, so that didn’t work, what can I try now. I reflect and try to learn and really take in what didn’t make sense, what wasn’t right for me. Whatever.

Sometimes I don’t have a good plan on how to fix it. (I’m looking at you future ancient anthropology flash series that I just can’t make work.) But sometimes it helps.

And it doesn’t always have to be failure. Every time I record I get a little better, a little faster, a little clearer.

Last weekend I listened to my podcast in the wild. Normally I’m listening to it at home with good headphones and no other sound. Music is really loud so I keep turning it down. In the wild? On the train with people around me making noise and my ear buds? I need to turn the music up. (If you disagree please let me know!) I can learn from things like that too.

I learn every time I write something, even if it doesn’t work. I learn every time I read something and take it apart. I learn things listening to podcasts that aren’t fiction at all. I learn things from reading “informational” letters from my health insurance company or the government.

And maybe…

I do kind of know some things.

I’m not entirely sure what. That seems to be the next step, figuring out what it is that I’m learning, what it is I know. What am I really good at? I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I’m learning.

Audio. I think I might be kind of ok at audio. I get annoyed when people who know me listen to the podcast and act surprised that it is good. Of course it is, I have experience, I know what I’m doing. I’m not saying I’m perfect or I know everything, but I know some. Certainly enough to put out a decent podcast. Enough to professionally narrate audiobooks.

Blogging. I might not be horrible at that. I’ve done that before. I have experience. History and and understanding of it. Maybe I’m not great at social media, but this long form thinking stuff? I’m not horrible at this.

Seems the theme is the stuff I’ve done before I feel best about. I don’t want to pack up and throw this all away so I feel like I’ve done it before to succeed next time. But I do want to learn every day. Learn as I go forward and maybe succeed this time.

So…that’s my perhaps way too personal, perhaps way too vulnerable, perhaps totally stupid post about how I have no idea what I’m doing, but I might be learning.

Side Quests

I’ve read a few things slamming side quests lately and I get the desire to cut it. Far too well. I’m not a heavy author who needs to cut endlessly. I’m not a 100K word novel writer. I write extremely lean. And I’m feeling a little defensive about this whole cut cut cut!

In the past I’ve cut and  cut and I’ve cut down and down and down and you know what if you say “just cut everything that doesn’t matter!” to someone like me, you get me to throw up my hands and go, “Girl meets boy, they fall in love, bad shit, everyone dies.” Guess I’m done. Oh wait. I can cut bad shit because why do we care? I can cut they fall in love. And really does it really matter if girl meets boy?

Suggested edits:

Everyone dies.

Romeo and Juliet
Everyone dies

Eh…maybe not

Well that’s not very fulfilling.  (I’ve had several novels cut out of existence because of this whole cut cut cut mentality that is so common to read about.)

Cut things may be great advice for someone who wrote a contemporary romance that is 250K words. That doesn’t mean it is universally good.

Unless I’m writing flash fiction, editing means adding content. Usually a lot of content. Side quests can do a lot including develop the character, show you who they are, what they can achieve. We can watch characters fail. Failure makes us fall in love with characters when they get back up and dust themselves off and try again.

When I am reading I want to love the characters. I want to care about them and what happens to them. Otherwise the novel might as well be “Everyone dies.” Heck even nonfiction has characters I love, sometimes characters are dead bodies, or shrimp, or anything.

The magic of being an author is tugging those heart strings and making me fall in love, cheer, shout, whoop, feel. I guess I could just take some drugs, but books are…for the most part cheaper and much much better for my brain.

I like bare bones things, I think I brought that up when talking about flash fiction as adult coloring books. But bare bones doesn’t mean cut all side quests. It means create an interesting and engaging frame work. A blank page isn’t actually an epic adult coloring book. (I refuse to google this and find out that someone out there has a bound empty book and is calling it an adult coloring book. I refuse!)

Interesting and engaging content includes things that are more than everyone dies. Weave them together, make them valuable, interesting, grow the characters, tie it in, but don’t assume you are doing it wrong if you aren’t slashing things with a machete. Listen to your beta readers, do they feel like they need more? Do they say some things are a little bloated? Focus on your work and your needs. Not everyone needs to cut down to everyone dies. If we all did the world would be a very sad literary space.

Bonus content

I relistened to the Writing Excuses episode about side quests and I highly recommend it. It made me feel like oh, yeah, these aren’t bad things. Just because some people say cut ruthlessly, unless they are actually talking about my novel that they have in my hands, they might be wrong, or talking in generalities. I’ve never had a beta reader tell me I just needed to cut wholesale. I nearly always get the opposite. I want to know more about this or that or whatever. Which is good. And tells me that I’m not generally too heavy on side quests (or descriptions, or whatever else).

Writing excuses also talked about writing side quests as bonus content. Which I’m super for! A part of the 600 Second Saga podcast was developed based on that idea. Those  side pieces, I love to read them. They are stories that take place in the same world but outside the primary story line.

(And here’s the plug! If you have some bonus content that you’d like to share with the world, bring in more readers, or flex your skill with something different way? I highly recommend submitting it to the 600 Second Saga podcast. I’m always looking for new authors, and side quests can be a great way to have a complete story, and develop interest in your world.)

Writing oops

I’ve had a little bit of a writing oops recently. I’m not really sure how to feel about it. I feel like this whole write something fresh is advice I need to say and hear constantly. I know this is a thing. I know I get frustrated and my work suffers when I’m not working on anything new and I’m just struggling through a thousand edits.

So what have I been doing lately? Struggling through a thousand edits and not doing anything new. Even the “new” piece I was working on wasn’t really new at all.

So a writing oops

And then…Wednesday or so I think I started to get this idea. And I wrote a bunch on the iPad in bed. And then I kept waking up with more ideas, and kept sitting up to write more and more. NO! BAD! Sleep is important. So I made as good notes as I could.

And then the next day it haunted me all day. And I had to make more notes and more. And it was fun and delicious.

I realized that what I had written, which was just going to be like a throw away doesn’t matter was a later scene for something. And then I started to outline a story.

I really like writing. It is fun. I enjoy seeing the thing I have eating inside my brain on the page.  I’m not sure I really like editing. I like the final outcome, I like when I have the thing that was on my brain in a form that is better than I could have imagined it. I like when I sit down to read the thing later and it makes me excited and nervous and happy and scared and whatever else. I like when people listen to (or read) my work and say it feels like I’m just telling them a story. That’s what I want. I want to share all of that. I’m willing to do the work of the editing to get it there. But I just like the writing all by itself too.

A writing bonus

I also sat down and hammered out the friday flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig. Which I did in my most scarcast voice. So it took a while to shake off that feeling of being a teenager. But it was also fun. Give a tiny little glimpse into a strange world where your future in a habitat colony is decided by a test  and you have ear stalks.

I do love that about flash fiction. The writer gives just the barest brush strokes of the world and the reader can come along and fill it in. Let’s be real. Flash fiction is like adult coloring books. We are super trendy! Go us!

secret garden coloring
flash fiction is like adult coloring books sort of?

ahem…join us in the trending

If you want to be a super trendy adult coloring book like writer come write flash fiction for 600 Second Saga! I would really like to bring in some new and exciting authors. I have a slot open in June still.

If you aren’t sure I’m really happy to answer any questions. I am also very willing to work with new authors or those who aren’t sure about writing flash. If you’d like feedback or notes please let me know.

(I’m not very good at or comfortable with plugs, but I really to want to bring more authors in and help spread the word about some very cool authors that we’ve already had on the show. So I’m trying to learn.)

So what do I do with my oops?

I finish it. I don’t know that it will see the light, and I’m ok with that. It is fun, it is short, it makes me remember that OH! I like writing! And that makes me very productive in all the rest of the writing tasks.

Anyone else ever oops?

Post Camp Nano

So we are now post Camp Nano. How did I do?

Post Camp Nano logo
Post Camp Nano blues

Goals?

My goal was to rewrite a novel. I knew it was going to need a lot of changes. But I was hoping I could focus and get the editing of it done. So that I could move forward with that series. I thought this might be a big goal, but I thought it was doable.

But poorly considered…

I just started a podcast. It has only been going for a few months, and I’m determined to keep it going and it is a lot of work to make it happen. Promoting it, getting the word out, bringing in listeners and authors, supporting the authors with critique feedback, not to mention actually writing, editing, recording and producing.

Somehow I didn’t really managed to take that into account. I’m trying to balance a lot of things and I think that I’m trying to figure out what a good balance is. I’m learning.

Post Camp Nano debrief

I failed. Super duper failed. Super duper fantastical extraordinary failed. I at one point had a little done and I’ve actually gone backward. I have less done now than when I started the month. I had a couple of chapters edited. Now I have to throw the whole book out basically.

All is not lost

But on the upside (yes there is an upside here) I learned stuff. I learned a lot of stuff. Like I was creating a plan that might be overly ambitious, or aggressive, or three minutes of laughter…”you’re kidding right? oh ….shit.”

I learned that the structure I need to create for myself. I learned what I think for now a better plan would look like. I learned that I need to make sure I don’t go, I’m only going to edit. Editing is hard and in a lot of ways feels less creative and less like I’m doing a thing. So I need to weave in doing some writing and not only editing.

The novel?

So I went backward. Mostly. But I think I actually came up with a really good plan on how to make it actually work. I have good ideas on resolving the problems.

They are big changes, removing an entire character and spreading her actions between two other characters. Adding several more scenes. Changing one scene completely radically, it was actually one of my very big stumbling blocks, I couldn’t see a way past it. Now I have a great solution.

I made a lot of really good notes so I can come back and pick this up later. It might have to sit for a while longer before I come back around to editing it. And that’s ok. I should be able to pick it back up with the good notes.

Cabin mates

I had great cabin mates this year! Some have already written and published, some are just starting out. But they all had great things to share. Many thoughtful conversations. Most of the cabin was working on paranormal romanceish works. Some historical (which was great to hear perspective on), some modern, some editing, some writing fresh. It was very cool to have a great cabin. So thank you to all my cabin mates!

Bonus recording learning…

I may be better off scheduling recording longer things in the winter. Doing full books and doing narration for other books, might be better left as a winter project in general.

Motivation

I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.

Sisyphian motivation
Sisyphus is not the motivation I’m looking for. I would like to wake up and look at the mountain I’ve made in the morning.

This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.

I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.

I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.

What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.

Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.

So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!

Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!

I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.

I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.

And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.

Related article about the desire to get things done undermining effectiveness