IWSG: Quitting

The Question

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

Quitting

Yes. Very yes. Absolutely I quit. I didn’t think it was something I could do. I thought it was something that was in my past. There was a tale that I wasn’t creative and I believed it. I completely bought it. I thought that writing was something I wouldn’t be able to do anymore. That part of my life was over. I needed to move on. Enjoy reading and do other things with my life.

And then…

I started to have tiny little glimpses that maybe I could. Maybe there was space somewhere for me in writing. Maybe I wasn’t too old, logical, cynical, boring, whatever else. And that little hope grew. I did some writing here and there. I tried to feed and nurture it despite all else. Let it continue to grow.

Then I read something by Lois McMaster Bujold in the course of my regular reading. And it was good and so I looped my way back into the start (I am completely unbothered by reading out of order so it was somewhere later in the series). I read Shards of Honor and Barrayar. Something about a character who was an adult. Not just old enough to drink. But overall quite reasonable and adult. That was amazing. Something about that made me double down on the writing.

Reading more, learning more, writing more. I really started back in on it. And not all my characters are like that, but it very much kicked me into feeling like there was space for me. I also really enjoyed that despite the books being old, like decades out of date, they didn’t feel like it. I didn’t read them and flinch at the language, the characters, the ideas.

So yes, I quit. And yes I came back. And I’m glad. I might do it again, and that too will be ok.

Save

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Scrivener and Marketing

Scrivener is THE tool. It’s great. If you’ve used it for writing, you likely enjoy it. It might be too complex or not quite right, but a lot of people really love it. I certainly am a fan. But mostly I use it for writing novels, short stories, things like that. But this year I’ve expanded how I use it. I’ve started using it as a promotional tool.

Scrivener and Marketing

I have a file that’s just my name (it started as just the name of the podcast but I use it for more than that). And it has in it several sets of things one is a task tracking kind of set. It’s not a great To-Do tool, but for the things that I’m using it for (add the podcast to these places, write up this author interview, etc) it works great, I move them through and then have the final information on things I’ve done all compiled together.

Task Tracking

First is a task tracking kind of set. It’s not a great To-Do tool, but for the things that I’m using it for (add the podcast to these places, write up this author interview, etc) it works great, I move them through and then have the final information on things I’ve done all compiled together.

  • To Do
  • In Progress
  • Waiting
  • Completed

About Me

I have a folder that is just “About Me” and it has in it a lot of links. So many links. All my social media links, all my books in all the places they are (and for a bonus…the html for some of those link sets), all the podcast links etc. This makes it much easier when some form wants me to enter all this information? Just open this up and drop in all the links. It also means if anything happens to the website, or anywhere else? I’ve got that code right at my finger tips.

I also have my bio. All the forms of it organized and as I imagine it evolves I’ll have older versions stashed away there too.

Media

I have a media folder. Some day I’d like that folder that is sort of a press kit. And that would be a generic version. I think the ideal place for the press kit for each book will be in that book’s Scrivener file. (Though…here would be nice too…hm.)

The media I have right now is all the links to my work, interviews, places you can find someone else talking about me, or me talking to someone else.

What’s the point?

I’ve been wondering a little lately what’s the point? Not in general. I mean a little in general. But specifically with intellect. What’s the point in being the smartest person in the room if you never bring anyone with?

At the times in my life I’ve recognized that I’m smart (which are not all the times, sometimes I haven’t been…sometimes I haven’t recognized it) I want to do what it takes to bring everyone else along. I don’t want people to fall behind. I don’t want people to get frustrated, flustered, or hurt because they aren’t able to keep up.

Not My Job

I’ve heard a few people who are smart revel in their intelligence and just let others fall behind.

I feel like this is sort of an idea of bootstraps but in another kind of way. You just have to get yourself there, you have to do it on your own.

But I think that part of being smart, especially part of being the smartest person in the room is helping others. If you can’t explain things to people who don’t already know it…how well do you really understand it. You might not be able to get them up to your level, but you should be able to get people a large part of the way.

Sometimes that means stopping and explaining it in a new way. Use an analogy, a metaphor, a story, anything. Do something to help people. Don’t just keep repeating the same phrase over and over.

It’s So Obvious

I’ve done this. I’m trying to do less of this. Some things are, or seem to be, super obvious to one person and completely obscure to another. I see this when I step into another world. I think other people should regularly step into another world. Do something that is someone else’s expertise where you have to. Learn something and feel a little out of your depth. Or don’t even learn it, but have to deal with something in your world that isn’t your thing. That uncomfortable, lost, frustrated feeling. Remember that.

When was the last time you had to deal with something that was outside your realm of expertise that made you feel lost and concerned?

(By the way. I’m not feeling great, I’ve been sick for the last week plus, really rough shape. Ugh. If I’ve missed contact with you please reach out to me again. Thank you for your patience.)

Revitalization IWSG

Another round of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This time I’ve been thinking about revitalization.

The Official March Question

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Um…yes and no? “Really old” is pretty subjective. I feel like it’s hard to say yes because I’ve not pulled out anything that existed only on paper. (Though my mom did find a story I wrote when I was 5. It was adorable. But I didn’t feel the need to rework it.)

Dangerous Metal was initially a radically different story. I wrote it, tried to go back and edit it, actually went through and changed the tense and POV for about 75% of the book before I realized that the whole story didn’t work. I finally reevaluated what the story really needed to be about, what was the core of it, what was the conflict, what was interesting. So I sat down and wrote Dangerous Metal with the same(ish) cast of characters and what had been barely a side plot turned to be the focus. What had been the primary plot trashed entirely. What had been the genre trashed entirely. And really pivoted hard. Hard.

I think it turned out really well for the most part. Far better than the initial, which had some good moments, but was still really rough. I’m not a great writer now, I hope to always be able to be a better writer and be able to see that I can be a better writer. But wow was I worse then. I’ve learned a lot of stuff since. And that’s continuing to be true.

Hurdles

Pictured…not me.

I feel like I’ve had several hurdles I’ve manage to climb over (because that’s what you do with hurdles, I mean, you’re supposed to effortlessly leap them while staying low to the ground and maintaining an incredible speed… but when I as not a magician try to deal with hurdles I climb over them). Each time I manage to get to the other side I do better, so I look back and go WOW.

First, characters. This was a long time ago, creating characters-for the most part-seems like the natural thing to do.

Then I spent a lot of time, strangely writing …descriptive things? I once write a wikipedia style thing about an alien solar system, including all the math. That was fun. (I’m not kidding, I quite enjoyed the math and structure that came with it.) Then oddly once it came to creating characters or plot I just went…nah! (And more of these hurdles…dot.dot.dot boring!)

I think I’ve come a long way, and I can see that what I go back to redo doesn’t have the benefits that present me brings to the table so it is hard to rework some much older things, or things that are significant hurdles ago. Sometimes it is easier to set things aside. I know the times I struggle the most are when I try to rework something that has real deeply fundamental flaws because I’m simply a writer with more knowledge now than I was before. That’s ok. I’d say that’s great. But it does make it harder to rework things.

How about you? Check out what other insecure writers have to say too!

IWSG

Read what other authors have to say about revitalizing old work or just what other awesome things they have to say!

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.

Strong women

So this is a post I’ve been thinking about for…months? At least. Strong women. Strong female characters. I’m writing this Sunday after the marches around the world yesterday, which, great, now what? And what does that mean? And whole lot of other stuff. This is going to be a messy post. I’ll come back and edit later, and it will still be messy so be warned. And crabby…I get crabby…

A story about strong women

We Can Do It woman flexing poster (Rosie the riveter)
We Can Do It poster

I’m sitting having dinner with a friend of mine. She would tell you that she is more feminist than I am. (I’m not 100% sure that’s true, but splitting hairs either way.) We are talking about books and I’m trying to get her input. She’s a reader, not a writer. She reads in the genre I write and in others. We are talking about romances. I bring up some questions about books I’ve read and their audiences. Let’s say we are talking about 50 Shades of Grey (we weren’t, but it will work for this) and who the audience is for it and what they like about it.

I was trying to explain the plot and some of the key pieces. She kept trying to simplify it down to just a thing.

Her: Oh it’s about money.

Me: Well not really, or only only, because a big part of it is rejecting the money, she doesn’t want the money, she doesn’t want him for the money, it is important, but not as in he buys her a whole bunch of stuff, that’s not the focus of that.

Her: It’s about sex.

Me: Yes, a little, but not entirely. If it was just sex it would be just sex but in this tome there are only like 3 scenes. And the sex isn’t the story driver, and isn’t the character driver.

Her…: I’m not sure, but I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. I like strong female characters.

Ahhh there’s the rub isn’t it.

But that character, and …quite frankly? Most of the female leads in most of the books I read will tell you they are strong. My friend is not the only one who says she wants strong women.

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a character a strong female lead. The problem seems to be, to me at least, that we start stacking these. You can’t just be one thing. You have to be ALL OF THEM.

Strong Women

Some of the examples from books I was reading at the time that I brought up to her, each one she sort of shrugged and eh but’ed.

  • Woman who takes care of a child on her own, single mom, handles shit from others who think that’s bad, makes the kid turn out fantastic
  • Woman who likes sex, knows what she wants, goes after it, isn’t afraid to say yes or no loudly and frequently
  • Woman who works really hard and has an amazing career and is well respected in her field
  • Woman who overcomes extreme anxiety to become a singer

I could go on and on and on. So you stack them up and you have a single mom who spends a ton of time with her kid, a ton of time at her career, has a very active and healthy sex life, and is going to be a breakout star.

Fuck you.

No seriously, why does a character have to have all those things? And you know what happens when you stack them up?

Mary Sue. Which are 2 words I could 100% live with never seeing again.

So you can’t be strong because then you are too strong and you can’t be only one thing because then you aren’t strong enough. (And yes, heaven-for-fucking-fend if you have any intersectionality.)

I have seen a few things about complex female characters, which sounds a lot better than “strong” and even might include some intersectionality in there. But I don’t know how to really get across that…I don’t want strong women only. I want a range of women. I want a range of people. I want people who aren’t only one thing and who aren’t all things. And I’m going to keep calling this friend(s…this is actually a compliation of a few people, I love my friends, we are all always learning) out on this shit and seeing if I can keep shifting opinions. One beer or coffee at a time.

And in the mean time I’m going to do my damnest to write them and read them and share them.

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.

2016 by the Numbers

Every year at my day job I have to pull together information for everything I’ve done for the year. Usually, this comes this week, someone several levels above me running through and saying they need it. I try to be prepared.

So this is my 2016 Roundup of all the shit I’ve done.

ALL the numbers from my 2016!

Quick review of my goals?

Back at the start of 2016 I made a post about my goals.

Narrating

I really dove into narration this year. While I’ve done some of it elsewhere and at other times in my life, I’ve never done as much or as all in as this year.

I narrated 3 novels. One of my own, one for another author, and one for another author under a penname. (You can see narration at Audible.) Three novels this year! I narrated three goddamn novels this year.

Oh but we are just getting started.

I also narrated 7 novellas.

Plus I narrated 2 parts for the anthology I’m an author in. (That isn’t out yet, still waiting for the other parts next year.)

Something like 50 hours of professional narration that I did in 2016.

Podcasting

While we are on the topic of talking into a microphone. I created a podcast. Yup 600 Second Saga was an endeavor of this year. I’ve had 46 episodes so far. (A Halloween bonus episode and 5 preseason episodes.)

I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of amazing authors. I’ve gotten the chance to share their stories in a new way and share something I love. Bite-sized stories and audio. It has been a lot of learning, but I also feel like, at least as of now, I made some good decisions at the start.

I still love the name. I still love the format. I still love the time limit.

Some of the stuff I tried I didn’t like as much. I wasn’t thrilled with Halloween month. I liked the episodes, but I just didn’t feel like I did what I could have with it.

Marketing! I need to get better at marketing (Like! Share! Subscribe! Submit!) but I think I have a good, high-quality product. When I started the podcast I subscribed to a few other shows that started at the same time…I’m the only one left.

Studio

Going along with these two I’ve seriously improved my studio. Overall I’m really pleased with it, with the quality of sound I get, with how long it takes to produce things. I’m still improving and changing. But I really did all of this in 2016. So…created a studio.

Publishing

This was the first I did any self-publishing. In 2016 I self-published 1 novel and 3 novellas (1 under a penname).  HOLY SHIT I PUBLISHED. Plural. A fucking novel. I published a fucking novel.

I’ve learned a lot from what I’ve done. A lot of time was dedicated previously, and in this year, learning about publishing and what I needed to do to be successful. I feel good about what I’ve done. I have so much distance to go. But I’m more determined than ever to keep going.

I’ve got plans for publishing a few things in 2017 as well. I have 1 novella in a penname that is 85% of the way there. I have a Smoke Jumpers novella planned for, I believe, March. I’m hoping for a second Smoke Jumpers piece in the fall but I’m less sure on that one. I am very much hoping the anthology I’m a part of (Monsters in the City!) will come out this year. My piece for that is done and has been for…a while…a long while.

Writing

Holy shit I wrote this year on top of all that up there?

I wrote 4 novellas? Wow. I wrote 4 novellas. Wrote, edited, edited, edited, and got to various stages of ready.

I finished editing 1 novel, I am still working on editing another novel.

I wrote…mumblemumble 40 plus flash fiction pieces. Not all of them were good. Many got tossed upon finishing.

Huh. I’d been feeling like I was doing bad at writing this year. Maybe not that bad?

Goals

Most of my goals were writing goals – 30 in 3? Done. So very done. In less than a year at that. I did not write a novel. (Fail.) I did more than the 1 novella. I did not get a full anthology worth of Smoke Jumpers. But I did get a few pieces, and one published.

Other

Also this year? I started an email list. I’ve been trying to be really consistent with blogging. I’ve started trying to use FB and Twitter and Pintrest as an author and better.

Goals

Reading. I did quite a bit more, and in other genres. Not quite as much as I planned, but very much on the right track.

Critiquing. I did a couple of novels. I tried to sign up for Scribophile.

(I had a giant thing at work where I’m part of a training program that has taken a lot of this fall and will take a lot of spring. I also got a promotion to a fancier title this year.)

And I’m sure other things I’m not even remembering.

Holy shit it has been a hell of a year. No wonder I’m exhausted.

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December check in

Now that we are over halfway through I wanted to do a December check in based on my December plan

Project?

I think I’m done. I sent the email this morning saying final final final should be done. So…fingers crossed nothing goes wrong in the process and I’m done with this.

Podcast promotion:

Pt 1: I did to a little bit of a push, I did a giveaway, I got some more reviews. Can always do more. Submissions are open and I’m looking for pieces for February and March. (I also took part in Raimey Gallant’s Blog Hop which falls under this a little maybe. Hi, new readers! Submissions are open for the podcast for February and March!)

Pt 2: I haven’t reached out to other podcasters. This is one of those things that makes me nervous beyond reason and sense. Checking to make sure the door is locked for 10 minutes kind of anxiety. I am totally interested in being a guest on a podcast. I can talk about lots of stuff. (For an actual list, ask!)

Pt 3: Make playlists. This I have done! Fantasy playlist on YouTube and SciFi playlist on YouTube. I’m open to other playlist suggestions. I’m thinking humorous episodes might be on my list of things to make as well.

Writing/Editing

Write 2 flash fiction pieces….I started and abandoned one. It was…not good. That’s ok.

Brain break: For reasons I haven’t really done this. I really need to. I’m concerned it won’t happen.

Jenna’s first book: I took a swing and a miss at this. I need to swing again.

Audio

Finish the current project: Nearly done

Finish the novella: Got another chapter and a half done

Check in with anthology: did, there is nothing yet, check again in January

(And as always podcast just sort of lurks here in the audio section, unspoken.)

How’s your December plan coming along?