Hard Work and Failure

I’ve been thinking a bit about hard work and failure being opposite sides of the same coin.

Birthday wishes

When you do something that requires zero effort, like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake and wishing for something and then you don’t get that thing? It’s not a big deal (or it shouldn’t be). It can suck that you didn’t get it, it can be something you desperately needed, but then it won’t be, damn it wishing just doesn’t work. Because you’re not putting in any effort.

Hard work

Failure (and I’ve heard more than once, and said myself that the only failure is the one you don’t learn from, but setting that aside though I’ll come back to it I think) is a result of trying. Trying to write a book is something you can fail at. Wishing you wrote a book isn’t something you fail at. Sitting down and writing a few hundred, or a few thousand, or a hundred thousand and not quite having a book, that might be a failure. But it is hard work. It only is something that we’d call failure because you worked hard at it.

What have you learned?

What was your last failure? Did you stop and think about what happened? What was your last success? Did you stop to think about what went wrong? These are great questions to ask. (HBR not just for business!)

I’ve failed a lot of stuff and I really do try to stop and learn. Sometimes it is little things (my to-do lists are better if broken down by time of day and with bonus tasks listed that I can knock off quickly/when I’m frustrated), sometimes it is bigger things (Halloween month for the podcast was just a bust, good episodes but not much traction, it is really a month when people are looking for horror so it just wasn’t a good fit). I think I can do better at trying to learn from both success and failure. Why are some things I’m surprised by succeeding? Why are there some things that are failing? Or even not succeeding as much?

But it’s all about hard work. Some things I just don’t feel bad about failing because I put so little effort into them. (I way overbought for christmas dinner, I put very little effort into figuring out what the correct amount of food was for the number of people we were having, I knew that the food wouldn’t go to waste. I failed to get it right, I didn’t care.)

Mostly? Failure means you tried. The solution is to stop, ask what happened, assess the situation, and try again. Keep trying.

How can I help?

I wrote earlier this week about writing for my niece. The second piece of this is something I’ve been struggling with for a while.

Why me?

I created a podcast. (You might have heard of it, 600 Second Saga.) This makes me a gatekeeper of sorts. Not a super fancy gate wearing gatekeepers (that’s what real gatekeepers do right? wear gates?) but one nonetheless.

I read a lot of other submission guidelines along the way to creating mine. Some of them said something about accepting or soliciting work for underrepresented groups. A few called out specific populations. Some didn’t. I thought, only a monster wouldn’t want that. Only a person who is a garbage person would need to even say that. Of course, I want a range of experiences and stories.

Not a monster

And then Trump got elected. On a wave of people who think that it is more important to have false change and loud shouting than to disavow actual Nazis. So…here we are today. I would like everyone who reads my blog, listens to the podcast, or reads my books to just know, of course, I’m not a monster. Just like the day after the election at work, even though I didn’t talk about it at all before directly, everyone knew how I felt. Because when someone needed to say, hey it’s not cool that we only have white dudes as avatars, that was me. When someone had to say it’s not ok to say that word/thing/etc it was usually me. And eventually, they just stopped saying them (around me at least). Because they just knew that about me.

I wish everyone here knew that I wasn’t a monster. And I wish that everyone felt free to say, hey! Not ok! Every time I said something out of line (if I do, please do, I try hard, but I screw up often).

So here I am. Saying I am not a monster. I do, of course, want work from underrepresented groups. Especially groups that are going to be feeling the pain the worst in the next few years. I want to help lift your voices. I want to do what I can. And that is the absolute bare minimum that any decent person should be doing.

I want work that is about being who you are. I want work that edges on political. (Not that I haven’t already got that, just wait for the inauguration day episode, which was written and recorded before election day.) I want work that doesn’t file off your edges.

I don’t get demographics on authors, but I know for a while I had more authors outside the US (this is the easiest demographic for me to keep track of, though I’m not 100%, but if your email is clearly outside the US I have a hint) than from inside, which is a good component. But I want to keep doing better.

My offer

What I think I can do is make this tiny little offer. If you think your voice isn’t welcomed, isn’t heard, and isn’t represented and you are struggling and aren’t sure if your story is a fit, or is ready, or you want feedback? Let me know. As long as it meets the other guidelines (link at the top but basically, ~1K, no swearing, sff) reference this post in your email, and I’ll do what I can to help, make suggestions, etc.

S1.41 String-Driven Thing

String-Driven Thing by Vaughan Stanger

String-Driven Thing was originally published in Nature Futures.

Formerly an astronomer and more recently a research project manager in the aerospace and defense industry, Vaughan Stanger now writes SF and fantasy fiction for a living. His stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex, Postscripts, Nature Futures and Interzone, amongst other noted magazines and anthologies. Like most writers, he’s working on a novel—and has been for many years. He also loves cats, thus further conforming to the cliché. Plus he’s still holding out for that holiday on the Moon he was promised in the dim and distant past. You can follow his writing adventures at http://www.vaughanstanger.com or @VaughanStanger.

Read more in Sons of Earth

Music is provided by MADS.

You can support 600 Second Saga by giving us a 5-star review on iTunes.

December Plan!

November is easy to plan for as an author. At least if you are planning for NaNo.

I read a recent post planning for the whole of 2017. I’m not sure I’m ready to plan out for all next year. Not that I haven’t done that. Just when I do that I tend to over plan, and then panic, and then stall. So…let’s not do that.

Winter landscape
Winter landscape

My December plan!

I have a couple goals for this month.

Finish up a project I’ve been working on for another author with a pen name. I’m like 85% of the way there. I’m looking forward to being done.

Podcast promotion.

I’m hoping to do a few things:

  • do a little push for ratings and reviews on iTunes (this makes a huge difference in helping the podcast be discovered by new listeners)
  • try to reach out to some other podcasts to possibly appear as a guest
  • make some playlists to promote the episodes on YouTube

Writing/Editing

I have a couple different things I want to work on here. I have been slacking on writing my own flash fiction, so I want to write at least two flash pieces.

Take a brain break. (This might be next weekend!)

Redouble my efforts on editing Jenna’s first book. I’m not going to try to push to get the whole book done, I just want to get through a couple more chapters. Which should be entirely doable.

Audio

  • Finish the current project
  • Finish a novella I have half way done
  • Check in with the anthology project (there may be another novella for me to do there)

So that’s my December plan. Brain recharge is important. I want to spend at least 1 day not working, not my full time day job, and not my podcast and not authoring. …It’s been a long long time since I’ve done that. But a 100% day off day.

Hopefully I’ll also be able to get out and enjoy the snow.

What’s your December plan?

My Approach to NaNoWriMo

I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…

Nano!
Nano!

It may be TMI? Maybe? I’m trying to share. I was talking with someone recently about how much I love Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast. She’s so open and honest. (Or appears she is at least.) I like the ones where she just tells you how she’s feeling and what’s happening even more than the interviews. Like oh, she can do it, not every day is awesome, I can have a bad day and still come back and do ok. I can freak out and panic inside and that doesn’t make me a bad writer or bad whatever. I can keep going.

I’m nervous. I’m stressed. I’m panicked.

A problem

So my first problem is that I’ve been slacking on creative/fiction writing lately. I’ve been writing blog posts, I’ve been editing things, I’ve been critiquing, supporting, I’ve worked on some monstrous writing focused projects at work that have taken a lot of my creative and writing brain and by the time I get home I’m pretty burned out.

So I’ve been slacking on the fiction. I finished up a project nearish the start of October and haven’t bitten off a full new project since then. I’ve made notes on a couple of new projects that I want to work on post NaNo (yay more Smoke Jumpers stuff) but I didn’t start because I wanted to keep my focus on the NaNo project.

Strategy

Um…Just do it?

I can’t wake up any earlier because I’ve been getting up super early to go into work and get extra stuff done. But I’m hoping that lightens up a bit by the middle of this week, then I’ll just keep getting up early and spend that extra first hour working on the novel.

I already have (good) plans for the 1st, but I’m going to carve out at least one hour a night the rest of the week. It might not be enough, it might not be enough to even make it. But I think it should be a good start.

One hour means one hour. Not 15 minutes while doing this or that. It means 4 solid, focused blocks of 15 minutes of writing, which should be entirely doable. I’ll do 4 sprints a night.

Podcast?

I’m set and scheduled for all of November, so I just need to keep up the promotion and other things I do, but hopefully I can let the hunting new work/opportunities slack a little. (I do have some amazing authors with some wonderful stories coming up through the month!)

Project?

I’m doing Jenna’s first book. It is a full rewrite. I normally go into NaNo with a pretty solid idea and usually some planning, that often goes out the window. This time I have basically a really bad outline and an end. Which is what I consider this book to be. The book isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work well…maybe a little bad. Not good…I’m rewriting because I think it has a lot of potential, I just think I left a lot of that potential behind the first pass. I have the second book in the trilogy written and so I know where I want to point my character, and I want to follow a lot of the same path as the first book, but basically not at all…if that makes sense. So I feel both more prepared and less than I ever have.

When/If I Fail

It’s ok.

It’s ok.

It really is ok.

I still have my day job. I still have my home. I still have the wonderful podcast. I still can keep writing it AFTER December 1st.

I know for some people it helps to have hard deadlines and impending doom to finish projects. But I’m already freaking out about failing something I haven’t started yet and have a good track record of finishing despite obstacles and stresses larger than what I anticipate this year.

I know that accepting the consequences of failure make me more likely to succeed.

Why NaNoWriMo?

I’ve been thinking more about NaNo lately and if it is still right for me? I like having a month dedicated/set aside for/focused on novels. Partly because while I usually do a lot of writing I am more often writing shorter pieces, flash, short and novella length stuff for different projects. I like those a lot. But I also like the novels. Having some space carved out for writing those novels is really helpful.

Having the NaNoWriMo community can be helpful. (It is part of why I wanted to try out Scribophile, so see if that could work, I’m still testing that.) A good place to go for support or questions. A good place to go and help someone and feel better because I’ve helped and supported someone else and so yes I can do this. (Yes, knowing I can/am helpful to others makes me feel better about my own chances of success, brain weird.)

So I think that for this year at least NaNoWriMo is still for me because it gives me a chance/a reason to stop and focus on just one novel project.

Next year though I think I’ll shift and maybe give myself a cheat of the weekend before to help prep even if some prep means some writing. I’m too much of a stickler for the rules for my own good sometimes.

If you stuck through all of that, what does NaNo do for you? Problems? Writing? Anything? Can I help you somehow to feel better about my chances of success? Did I mention my brain is weird?

Good luck!

Giveaway!

I’ve got a giveaway for audiobooks to announce! (This is my first giveaway so if there are any problems, please let me know.)

You can win a free audiobook at Audible.  If you don’t know about Audible they are a great place to get audiobooks. You can either subscribe and get a credit every month (or a year’s worth up front) or you can buy a book here or there. (I was a member long before they were bought by Amazon. I’ve clearly loved audiobooks for a long time.) Or…right now you can take a chance to win a credit for an audiobook!

Audiobook Giveaway
600 Second Saga Giveaway

Facebook Giveaway!

Check out the 600 Second Saga group or my author page. 600 Second Saga episodes get posted every week so if you prefer to listen via Facebook you absolutely can.

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Email Giveaway!

This mailing list will only give notifications of future novel, novella, and anthology releases and giveaways. I promise less than 6 emails a year! (This year I expect to send out two emails.)
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Weekly Email Giveaway!

This mailing list will let you know when each episode of 600 Second Saga comes out, along with novels, novellas, anthologies, and giveaways!
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Author Giveaway!

If you don’t want to sign up for anything but you write? You can be an author. 600 Second Saga authors will be entered into a quarterly drawing for an audiobook. (There is currently a slot for June left!) It is a great way to share your work, bring it to life, and promote your work to new readers (and listeners).

Learn more about submitting your flash fiction.

Why Audio?

So why audio? Why do I make it? Why produce things as audiobooks? I like to write, so why do audio?

I recognize not a lot of authors create audio, and even fewer authors create their own audio. (Which is 100% ok!) I was asked why I did it, especially when I talked a little about how much work it is.

My experience

I’ve actually got a good bit of experience in doing audio. Not entirely like audiobooks or podcasts but similar.

I worked in radio for a while. I produced news segments. (I actually have the skill of splicing tape, and I’m not that old, but I’ve chopped audio up into tiny bits and put it together.) I also hosted several shows and spent a good chunk of time on air.

I also have experience with doing shorter, more highly produced audio for elearnings. I do quite a bit of professional audio work that way now.

Microphone
Mic from Lucasbosch

So why audio?

Audio is something that I like to consume. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. (I was a member of audible a forever ago, back before it was an amazon company.) I’ve been listening to podcasts for a really long time. I’m sure I listen to more books than I read. I don’t know that the majority of my information consumption comes from podcasts and audiobooks, but it is a significant portion.

I also know that audio is valuable to a lot of people for a range of reasons.

Commutes

Some people have commutes that are hours and hours long, being able to escape into a novel is a great way to pass a commute. I’ve known people who have jobs that are primarily driving, same thing. So just having a lot of time commuting and being able to spend that with consumable information is wonderful.

Accessibility

For people who have trouble reading, audio is incredibly valuable. Being able to listen to a story and enjoy reading and other worlds, as well as consume information in a quick way is a great boon of living in the future now. (And yes, there are tools like text to speech, but they don’t have the same kinds of human qualities that a person would **yet**.)

Deeper world

I like bringing worlds to life. I know that some people really enjoy and focus on cover art and other art for books, but for me the moment it is brought to life is when I hear it. It creates a richer world. Both for me creating it, and when I consume it.

Better books!

Audiobooks are better. I said it. Ok maybe not all audiobooks are better than all written only books. But in general I think that doing a read aloud of a book makes it better. Even if you aren’t going to publish the audio version reading it will help you catch things you wouldn’t otherwise. I know when I’ve read something of mine or someone else’s when I read it out loud I always catch something new. I think that it really does help to improve the book to have a pass of reading it.

So why audio?

Because I like it. Because I want to share my work with people who need the accessibility or the flexibility of being able to listen to audio. Because it helps me improve the quality of my work.

(As a bonus, I will often do multiple audio reads because one of the people I turn to for beta reading sometimes prefers audio. These pieces I feel like really improve greatly.)

600 Second Saga now on Google Play

Listen on Google Play!

600 Second Saga is now available on Google Play.

Google says:

Starting today, podcasts on Google Play Music in the US and Canada will begin rolling out on Android and be available on the web. The rollout on Android devices will be gradual, so users may not see podcast content on the Google Play Music app immediately.

Please listen on Google Play or any of the other places you find podcasts.

I wrote about how to listen to podcasts. If you have a podcast tool that you prefer and you can’t find 600 Second Saga please let me know and I’ll work on it!

How to Listen to Podcasts

Don’t know how to listen to podcasts? I’m here to help!

Just make it easy!

iPhone
Android

What are podcasts?

Basically a radio program on the computer. Or like going to the library and picking a series, and then the rest of them are already checked out when are ready for the next one.

If you can think of it, if it is your hobby, something you like, there is a podcast about it. It is the internet, it exists.

Podcasts can be regular, weekly, monthly, daily, or irregular sort of whenever the podcaster puts them out. You can have video podcasts. Most podcasts are audio. They can also range from just a few minutes up to hours and hours.

So how do I listen?

Do you have a smart phone? If you do get an app. For iPhones or iPads I cannot recommend Overcast highly enough. Once you’ve downloaded it, tap the plus in the upper right corner, then find a podcast.

Go ahead and try with my podcast (you knew this was going to come up!) Just type 600 Second Saga into the search directory.

You can add a single episode, or subscribe so every time a new episode comes out it will download right to your phone.

I don’t have an iPhone!

Stitcher is a fine cross platform tool. (Meaning you can use it on your Android phone, or desktop, probably not Blackberry, Windows phone apparently not. Windows phone users might be on your own. I spent over an hour trying to help a friend with this, it was a challenge.)

If you are on Android and use one of the other tools this link (Android) should make it work for you. You can also find me in the Google Play app.

No smartphone

You can listen on the page of the podcast. On the side of the page you’ll see a player, click and listen. You can also subscribe on YouTube if you are a YouTube fan.

600 Second Saga each episode has a link to play right in the browser at the bottom of each post. You can also listen right from my Facebook page.

For other podcasts, most of them will have the ability to listen directly from their webpage as well.

And Overcast has a website too. (I swear this isn’t an ad for Overcast, it is just the best tool I’ve found.)

I did user test these steps with a couple smart but not tech savvy people in my life, but if this still confuses you please comment and I’ll be happy to update it or help you.

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