My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Side Gigs and Update Schedules

I had two days lined up of side gigs that cut into my writing time. Today was going to be eight hours and tomorrow is going to be about eleven. I got a reprieve on today (thought it probably means I'm going to have to actually do it in the next couple of weeks). I ended up taking the day off from blogging anyway since it's been a right hard week and I haven't had a proper day off in over a fortnight.

We should be back on our regular update schedule by next week, but I'm not going to try to catch up on the weekend or even get some kind of filler up tomorrow.

This isn't my appeals post, but if you want to stay in the loop when I go off my update schedule please remember that it requires at least being a $1/month patron.  Only $12 a year. Otherwise just know that until I'm making enough from writing to start phasing out side gigs, this is going to be part of the cost of doing business.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Writing Prompt: Short Term Goals

Today's prompt isn't about writing; it's one of our many "meta" prompts about being a writer.

When you ask writers about their goals, the first major problem you run into is that they don't actually have any. The second is that if they do, they're really more like objectives.

Ask most writers what they want and you'll get some pretty mushy answers. To "make it." To "succeed." Among the most concrete would be some idea of paying the bills with writing or some belief that publication will be the holy grail. Of course, get a little closer and you might find these a little mushy as well. Self-publication or small presses don't count (nor would a career writing smut). Neither would paying the bills if one was living in a tiny old studio next to the boiler room on the outskirts of Tupelo, Mississippi. They turn out to have some important specifics regarding their goals that are hard.

Of course, we can get lost in our fantasies, but it's important to have solid, concrete, and plausible goals. When we're faced with the option of a low paying day job writing web content for 60+ hours a week, it's very important that we know if our goals are "I want to clear $25k doing anything so long as it's technically writing," or "I want to be a upper middle class novelist with a fanbase and published by a big five." (I wouldn't recommend grueling hours of content writing to the person who wants the latter.) Check back in on this person in twenty years and if they made the wrong choice, they're going to be no closer to their goals.

And it's certainly important, in a world with so much advice about how to "make it," if you would rather just write as a hobbyist who enjoys the craft when the muse attacks. And if writing is the way to fame, fortune, and groupie threesomes, it quickly becomes apparent given the level of introspection. (And by the way, there are way easier ways to get any of those things than by writing.)

The problem is that these goals are often too big. They're just too mamathian for us to handle. We're like a kid who wants to get an A in Math class but hasn't the first idea how to make that happen. As important as specific and reasonable big goals are, and as much as they may perhaps shape and define our major life choices, they are often too large to metabolize into some form of daily action.

This is where short term goals come in. How do you break this big life goal down into pieces? Instead of looking at some gigantic thing that will take place over the next 10+ years, how do you proceed in the next year or two. (I wanted to be a working creative writer, and I wrote aimlessly for decades until I started setting smaller goals like "Get a Creative Writing degree." "Start a blog and post every day." "Figure out how to monetize, and do that right away even if it's a few cents a month." "Write at least one page per night on my fiction.")

How do you break down your big goal into bite-sized chunks? Of course it depends on the goal. If you want to publish a novel (and let's assume that you want to get it right, but self publishing would be okay) instead of just saying "Yep, totally gonna do that someday," identify the smaller goals in getting there. 1- Write it. 2- Rewrite it. 3- Revise it. 4- Content editing. 5- Line editing. 6- Proofreading.

Then take step one and decide what the smaller goals are for that.  "1- Write it"= " 1-I will write at least one page per day. 2- I will write at least three pages every day I don't have work or family obligations. 3- I will spend 4 hours writing on Sunday even if I finish three pages early." (I'm a huge fan of daily goals–and daily writing–if you can't tell, but you can personalize your own goals.)

The end result will be analogous to your ability to make big life decisions based on your big goals, except with smaller decisions and smaller goals. (Rocket surgery science, this ain't.) For example, you might be making great choices regarding not letting yourself get roped into a grinding job that will use up your creativity because it's "technically writing for a living," but now you also have the smaller goal to help you make the choice that you have to get a page written before you start playing Farcry 5.

Or if you want to look at me, I outline my goals and realize almost instantly that I'm spending too much time on Facebook under the auspices of "promoting my work" and not enough time actually writing it, so I immediately know that even though my Facebook page is huge and successful and gives me positive feedback when I provide it with time and attention (and has even been the source of some income), it is not a direction I want to channel so much energy. So I need to put limits on that or bump up goals regarding the actual writing.

These smaller goals should all be SMART(S) goals too. Write "a little" every day is technically achieved after two words, and will never get your novel written. Write "a page" every day is going to see your first draft in about a year. Write 1700 words a day might not be reasonable if you have a day job or a family and will quickly be abandoned by the wayside. The more these goals adhere to the SMART(S) paradigm, the easier they are to achieve. (That last "S" is particularly important. It's fine and well to submit to The New Yorker and/or The Atlantic ten times in the next five years, but you have little control over whether or not they actually accept your submission.) It's just really hard to hit a goal if you haven't really defined it.

PROMPT: In order to do this prompt, you must first define what success means to you. Now break that down into short term, yet still SMART(S) goals. Come up with at least three sub-goals that are themselves steps to getting to your main goal. (For example, if you want to be a novelist, you should probably write a book.) They can be steps done sequentially or concurrently (like I am writing a book, promoting myself through social media, doing smaller works of fiction, and working on a career as a blogger simultaneously) but they should break down your main goal into smaller pieces (my main goal these days is to phase out my side gig jobs because I make career money from writing). Now choose the first goal (if your three goals are sequential) or whichever goal you think is more important (if they are concurrent) and break that into at least two smaller pieces. Each of THESE should also be SMART(S) goals.

This process is recursive. You can break smaller goals down even further. (Perhaps focusing on where and when you want to write each day.) Find whatever level of specificity works for you–but be sure that's for definitions of "works for you" that involve actually making progress towards your goals and not "vague enough that it's easy to ignore."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Wifi-less flight

Folks apparently it was ambitious of me to think that I was going to post anything (more than something like this) on a transit day. Technically I was ready to rock, but I tried to pay for internet on my flight with PayPal, and PayPal wanted me to answer a security question which WOULDN'T LOAD because I didn't have internet....

So this was me:

Except with less bed frame and pillow behind my head and more plane seat, peanuts, and discomfort. (Though on the bright side, the deity in charge of flying–who certainly can be both capricious and cruel–must have taken pity on me for the missed flight and middle seat discomfort from Thursday because I had the only row on the whole flight that had no one in the middle seat.

Regardless now I'm up to (and I'm not even kidding) like seven half done posts, so at least starting tomorrow, I'll have no shortage of things to say for a while. On my WAW Facebook page, I'm going to repost the link to our latest call for poll nominations (best modern science fiction) since that went up late on a Saturday, but for everyone else I'll just let you know that it's there.

I'll hit the ground running tomorrow! Keep writing!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Best Modern SciFi Not Written by a Cishet White Man (Nominations needed!)

What is the very best science fiction written by a woman or POC or member of the LGBTQ+ community written in the last 20 years? 

This poll is from our Year of Diverse Polls, and as such it can't includes authors who are cishet white men. Please adjust your nominations accordingly.

Also for my FACEBOOK followers:

If you didn't read that explanation and/or don't read this and insist on adding some sanctimonious comment to WAW's Facebook Page about how you're so enlightened that you only judge art by its quality or how this is the real bigotry or "what would you think if I said no [marginalized group]; how would you like it then?" (or basically any of those boilerplate, paint-by-numbers Chadclone points), do so at your own peril. (Also true if you
did read that stuff and dropped the same old arguments anyway.) I'll be erasing comments and showing the more obnoxious commenters the door. There are ten months to go and the answers are literally a click away.

Since we did a similar fantasy poll just a while ago with a lot of dovetail, we're going to skip on to our next popular topic (but with the diverse polls rules)–modern science fiction. Please note that I'm tightening up the "modern" for this as Sci-fi tends to be impacted. (Twenty years instead of 25.)

The Rules:

  1. Please note the diversity requirements above.
  2. Nominations must be copyrighted no later than 1998 (twenty years). Any series with books before that cannot be nominated as a full series (but individual books still can be). 
  3. As always, I leave the niggling over "Science Fiction" to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you feel like Pern is science fiction, I'm not going to argue. (Though you might need to "show your work" to get anyone to second your nomination.) I'll only throw them out if they get super ridiculous. 
  4. You may nominate two (2) books or series. If you nominate three or more my eyes glaze over and I seethe with primordial rage. But more importantly for you, I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. (I will consider a long list to be "seconds" if someone else nominates them as well.)
  5. You may (and absolutely should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. So stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll.
  6. Please put your nominations here. I will take nominations only as comments on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+.)
  7. You are nominating WRITTEN SCIENCE FICTION, not their movie portrayals. CGI may make Sleeping Giants pretty fun to look at, but if you find the books to be a little contrived, you shouldn't nominate it.
  8. No more endless elimination rounds. I will take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at MOST run a single semifinal round. So second the titles you want even if they already have one. (Yes, I guess that would make them thirds, fourths, etc...)

Friday, April 13, 2018

8 Steps To Improving Your Manuscript (Claire Youmans)

8 Steps To Improving Your Manuscript 
by Claire Youmans  

There’s power in distance.  There’s power in time.  Your writing will improve if you step away from it for a while and let it rest, let it cure, let it rise.

When I get going, finally, after months of research and in-my-head outlines, scene structure and character development, I rip right on through, nearly 24/7, for as long as it takes. I take minor breaks for the absolute necessities of life  but I leave my brain fully engaged in writer mode.  I am not happy when anyone tries to interrupt me.  I cannot do ANYTHING else because it will interrupt my train of thought, and that will set me back about a day, sometimes two or three, for every hour stolen from my writing at this time.  So, just NO.  Go away until I call you and I’m not going to be nice about it.  But at last…
Step One:  I’m done!  I finished the draft!  I think it’s great!  Woo-hoo!  A copy edit and it’s publish-city, right?  Wrong.

Step Two:  I put it away for a week, sometimes longer.  I do something else.  Sometimes it’s another project, sometimes it’s a trip.  Sometimes it’s the normal life stuff I have let slide.  I set a return date, and refuse to look at the manuscript before then.  When I come back to the manuscript, I want to have fresh eyes.  I want to see the things I’ve left out, the things I’ve put in twice.  Or thrice.  The words I’ve doubled.  The character names I’ve changed midstream.  The repetitive words and actions I’ve used to annoying extremes.  I want to read like a reader.  I don’t make notes and I don’t correct anything but minor typos.  Not now.  I just pay attention.  This read can take several days to a week, depending on how long the book is, but then I’m done, right?  A few corrections and it’s ready?  Nope.

Step Three:  I let it sit another week, maybe two.  This is really hard.  I’m on a roll!  I can’t stop now!  But I must if I want a better book.

Step Four:  I read again, but this time, I will address the things I noticed before, the little obvious things.  During the second break, my brain will cogitate over the big manuscript picture I finally saw, for the first time, on that first, fresh-eyes, read.  There will be lists, sometimes in written form, of the things I want to look for.  Of things I want to address.  I’ll get rid of those repetitive word choices, actions and expressions!  This narration needs to come out.  That concept needs explaining. This needs to happen before That, not after.  A character’s arc needs greater definition.  This area needs more emphasis.  I need to see where the longer series arc is going. What are the characters telling me?  What am I setting up?  Where are my loose ends?  Do I tie them up now, or is that for the next book?  How do I fix these over-arcing problems?

This takes longer, and I still can’t take breaks.  I need to keep the whole book in the front part of my brain.  This is a novel we’re talking about.  That’s a lot of material.  There are a lot of characters and each of them has his or her own story.  I must keep all of this clear.  So don’t bug me.  Aren't I done yet?  No!

Step Five:  I leave it the heck alone for another while.  As long as I can keep my hands off it.  I’m not good at that.

Step Six:  I reread.  I tweak.  I do another batch of corrections and edits, sometimes fairly major ones.  Finally, it’s as good as I can get it... 

Step Seven:  …for now.  Now, it's time for serious feedback from my wonderful coterie of beta readers.  While they are reading, I get some serious distance.  I have to use severe discipline to keep from bugging them.  It’s a good time to go out of town.

Step Eight:  When I get their comments in, I’ll do another read, and will most likely see they are absolutely right.  They’ve seen things I haven’t; often they all see the same things.  I see new things myself.  I see directions for the next book I didn’t even know were there.  This absolutely vital step gives me not only fresh eyes, but others’ eyes.  This is where good turns to really good.  By the time I finish this step, I have a much better book than I started with at the end of Step 1. Only now is it ready to go to my editor for her uncannily accurate feedback.  And there’s still more to come in the writing/waiting game before the book at last comes out.

Time and distance are your friends.  They give you the power and the vision to make your work much better than it might otherwise be.  Be strong, be disciplined and wait before rushing off to press.  Let that manuscript cure. Let it rest.  Let it rise.  Your book, and you as a writer, will be better for it.

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here:



Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.