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.)
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.
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!
I’ve been thinking a bit about hard work and failure being opposite sides of the same coin.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Now that we are over halfway through I wanted to do a December check in based on my December plan.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
These are some (slightly messy! sorry) thoughts on Scrivener and writing for NaNo.
I’ve shifted a lot of where and how I do the Nano writing. A few years ago I did it all in Pages on my iPad. I think 2 years ago I did it all in Google Docs and that was the year I fought A LOT with the slow down of google docs. When it gets big it gets really slow and clunky to maneuver. I tried doing it in google docs broken out by chapter but that was surprisingly hard to maneuver and make work as well. I think it was after that year that I bought Scrivener and then I dumped those chapters into Scrivener and worked with them inside it which was much much easier.
Something I love about Scrivener that I feel like I haven’t fully had the chance to take advantage of in a novel yet is what I’ve been doing with the Smoke Jumpers series. For Smoke Jumpers I put all the characters and locations into the project, all of the novellas (and flash pieces) are in the same project so when I’m like who is Ren’s oldest sister and which other stories is she in and where would she be at for this story? I can find that out. Having all the names, the locations, etc all laid out there has been incredibly helpful as I’m planning things.
I have been trying to set this up as best I can for Jenna’s books which I got a good start at last year when I did Jenna’s second book in Scrivener, but I haven’t pulled out all the stuff from the first book and I know I can still do a better job keeping up those other files as I do things like change description, etc. I’ve also been putting in notes like what someone is wearing if that is important and what scene so I can quickly check, I like the broken bottom screen so I can have the character description open while I’m editing a scene. I may end up doing this and having the old scene open on the bottom while I rewrite it above so I can take with the things I think do work.
For me when I’m moving from machine to machine my basic plan last year (pre iOS Scrivener which is GODDAMN MAGIC) would be I’d throw the last paragraph of whatever I’d written into a working google doc and then I could throw a few words at it from my phone or whatever, then I’d get home and copy and paste back out into Scrivener. I really was worried I’d forget this but it almost never happened. When I was on a roll or I had an idea even if I didn’t have the last paragraph from Scrivener in there I’d just throw it into that working google doc and I’d always remember to pull it out when I got home because I’d look at it and go, wait, I have more, oh google. And then pull it in. So there wasn’t any overlap issue there surprisingly.
While Scrivener is awesome, it isn’t the only game in town.
I ran across another tool on the NaNo forums was notebook.ai It seems to have a lot of the sort of things that I like about Scrivener. Though I don’t know that they have any of the formatting export to epub tools.
There are other options I’m sure, but these are the ones I’ve run across and used.
What tools do others use to write/manage/organize?
I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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 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.
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?