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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Best Y.A. for Young Women (First Quarterfinal)

What is the best book (or series) marketed to young women?  

Often our society holds the interests of young women (music, film, literature) in particular contempt. Even the criticism that is often leveled against "bad writing" or "clichè tropes" is disproportionately brought down on media young women more typically like. Take the heroine with the choice of two hot guys–how often does a dude with two hot love interests go unremarked upon? Or heroines with some kind of "chosen one" power? Because that never happens to men in fiction.

Our latest poll, assembled from your nominations, has thirty-two entries marketed to young women, so we'll be breaking it it down all the way to quarterfinals.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top five titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." 

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Story Fundamentals, Part the Third: Characters by Arielle K Harris

Story Fundamentals, Part the Third: Characters
Arielle K Harris  

In my previous articles I’ve discussed the Style and Setting aspects of storytelling, two essential aspects of the writing craft.  However, I believe there’s an argument to be made that modern readers care more about characters than previous audiences through the history of literature and are generally more willing to forgive a lack in other areas of a story if the characters are compelling enough.  So this stuff is important.

Like in world-building, building a character is an exercise in details.  It’s as easy and as hard as making up a person, a human being complete with flaws, motives, secrets, quirks, aspirations, doubts, love, hate, and all the rest.  (Unless you’re not writing about human beings, but even then most of those things likely still apply.)  Every character has a story, even the most minor character, and it’s your job as their writer, their creator, to know what that story is even if it’s never fully told.  You never know when a minor character might suddenly become a main player.  Your earlier casually-dropped details about that minor character are now effortless foreshadowing for what’s to come.

A lot of writers talk about this element of unexpectedness when dealing with characters, having a protagonist go off-outline whether the writer likes it or not, or self-determining sudden actions previously unaccounted for.  Inexperienced writers, or those disturbingly normal folk who aren’t writers at all, might be like, “Eh??  But they’re your characters, you made them up so you can have them do whatever you want to, right??”

Sort of.  Yes, you’ve made a character up, it exists only inside your brain and on paper, and you can control what it does.  To a point.  There comes a time, however, when you find that you’ve given your character too much autonomy, like a rogue AI program that suddenly becomes self-aware.  The part of your brain that houses that character is now an autonomous part of your consciousness with its own motives and self-interests which sometimes gives you sass and argues back when you try to impose your original plans upon it.

And this slightly disturbing development is precisely what you’re aiming for as a writer.

You want a character that’s been so well created that it becomes its own voice inside your mind, because if you haven’t reached that point then you’re not chronicling the story of unique and compelling beings.  Instead you’re moving puppets around a backdrop, and the voice that comes out of their mouths is your voice, not theirs.

What’s the key difference between your voice and your character’s voice?  Well, in some writing there is no difference.  There are some stories which, whether deliberately or not, transpose the author into the main character, for better or for worse.  I would like to make the argument, however, that this is not ideal.  In order to write effective fiction with compelling characters I honestly believe those characters need to gain autonomy from their authors.  This is part of the craft of fiction writing.

Given their own flaws, motives, secrets, quirks, aspirations, doubts, love, hate, etc., etc., as previously mentioned should be enough to help you find a character’s unique voice, or better still, to let that character find their own voice.  By all means use your own experiences to “write what you know” and give authenticity to their journey through the story, but your character may respond to events differently than you.  Give them the freedom to do so.

In speculative fiction when you’re worldbuilding don’t forget how that world affects your characters.  They have their own language, though you’re helpfully translating into one your readers can understand.  And for the love of all things literary please don’t just call it the Common Tongue.  Language is so rich and interesting, don’t let your created language down.  Obviously there are very few of us capable of creating actual languages themselves to the high standards of the likes of Tolkien but even if you don’t actually create the language you should know what it is, what it’s called, and what other languages exist on your world.  To be a realistic world there should be other languages, unless your world is very small indeed, or recently colonized.

Let me get linguistic on you for a minute.  There’s are lot of links between worldbuilding and language and character, as geography affects both the physical interactions of societies and their language development.  Languages lend each other words when they interact regularly, so physically distant groups of people who don’t interact develop languages which are more obviously distinct from each other.  Consider this phenomena fully.  How do your world’s languages interact?  Who can understand who, and how do they reach that level of understanding?  Generally only the wealthy, who have free time and funds to spend on learning, will know more than one language unless necessity or constant multilingual interaction of the lower classes results in otherwise.  However, misunderstandings are a great way to further plot and create tension, so you don’t necessarily want to gloss over the difficulties of language interaction.

Religion is another important world-building facet which links to character development, and just like language this can provide another conflict between either groups or individual characters.  This affects how characters speak to other characters who are within their religious group or outside it, how they utter obscenities, and how they make promises to each other or swear fealties.  This may affect what foods they eat, and when, what holy days they observe, or deliberately don’t observe.  This may affect a character’s relationships with other characters, determine expected gender roles, or have serious repercussions if they defy those precepts.

I think it’s important for a writer of speculative fiction to answer all the important questions of language and religion, philosophy and society, and every other facet of worldbuilding before deciding even the most basic of details about a character.  Even something as simple as a name is firmly rooted in language and/or religion and has societal implications and significance.  Names have so much potential to impart subtle messages to the reader, and sometimes messages that are… not so subtle, e.g.: Cruella de Vil, Voldemort, Hannibal Lecter, and Kilgrave (Jessica Jones said it herself, “Kilgrave?  Talk about obvious.  Was ‘Murdercorpse’ already taken?”) so don’t throw away the opportunity to underscore something of importance to your readers.

Above all, avoid writing character stereotypes.  The farm boy who would be king.  The questing hero with his band of followers, never forgetting to include the one feisty female included to add sexual tension and to prove that the (inevitably white cis-male) author is giving a nod to feminism.  (He’s not.)  The plain little Mary Jane who has one endearing character flaw like being unable to cross a parking lot without getting nearly killed, who is oh so very unattractive, which she bemoans at length, but somehow is caught in a love triangle with two hot guys with rock-hard abs and optional sparkles.  Yeah, just stop that.

Given enough thoughtful detail a writer should be able to avoid all the pitfalls in character creation, and then be blessed with several argumentative new brain-friends.  After that, all you need to do is tell the story.  I say that like it’s easy, but of course it’s not and my next article will focus on this next vital and devastating step in the process of storytelling – telling the damned story.


Arielle K Harris is the author of the novel Bestial as well as the ridiculous steampunk time travel drama short story The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When. She is responsible for one very opinionated toddler as well as a writer, poet, falconer, knitter of many half-finished scarves, drinker of tea, enthusiast for wine and sometimes has been known to have wild birds in her spare room.

She can be found online at her own website: www.ariellekharris.com as well as on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ariellekharris/ and her published work can be found on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/author/ariellekharris



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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

WAW's Facebook Page FAQ

[Everything in brackets will disappear in a couple of weeks.

As part of a major overhaul to those tabs that run across the top of the screen, soon the one on the far right (Adspace/Help Us Out) will be dedicated specifically to the various things I'm getting tired of repeating for the currently almost half a million followers of Writing About Writing's Facebook Page. This week I'll also be adding a couple of "Rules" pages for some regular bits I do that I want to be able to link instead of constantly rewriting. But for today we're going to write up the FAQ that is exclusively about FB questions.

I'm also running behind because of major Contrarian tag in time this weekend. I wouldn't trade it for the world cause I love that little guy like woah, but it'll have my posts rolling in off schedule for probably most of the week.]


FAQ for Writing About Writing's Facebook Page

"I'd like to give you a donation? How can I do that?"

If you want to be a monthly contributor and get in on a number of reward tiers, please consider becoming a Patreon patron. Even a dollar a month is enormously helpful and will get you in on the "backchannels" of questions about my work, polls only patrons can respond to about upcoming projects, and solicitations for feedback.

One time donations are of course welcome as well. The conspicuously placed tip jar is over to the top left, or you can use Venmo. My e-mail is chris.brecheen@gmail.com


"Will you promote [my thing]?"

If your "thing" is exactly the sort of content I'm usually posting (memes, macros, "you should be writing," quotes, and the occasional really good article about writing, maybe some book love, or a really funny miswritten sign), I might post it if–and this is a big if–I like it. I tend to avoid the posts some typical writing pages share a lot of, like ableist inspiration porn or classist (and often racist) prescriptivism. I'm all for giggling about a misplaced comma, but only so long as we're giggling about what the sign says instead of AT the person who did it. But if you send me something you made that is our usual fare, especially if it's "doin' me a laff (and not a concern),"  I'll consider putting it up along with a link to a page if you want.

If it's not the normal stuff, but is at least tangentially related to writing, and if you send me a PM asking nicely first I will let you post on our "Guest Posts."  (For the record, Dave M, the following is not acceptable: "Hey bro, you're not going to get your panties in a twist that I posted this on your wall, are ya?") If you are about fifteen teirs less misogynist and more polite than Dave M, I'll probably say yes. Be advised: web content filler slapped up there usually gets about the three or four clicks it deserves, but I've noticed that the response to quality posts is decent.

If it is wildly not about writing or it is your own creative writing, the answer will be no. I have a regular post where you can share your own writing. And if you think a page called Writing About Writing is a good spot for your car detailing business commercial, I don't know what to say.



BTW: If you don't ask and just slap up your self-promotional link into the guest posts, I just remove it, even if it's totally about writing. And if I recognize your name from having pulled the same thing before, I'll ban you.

I'll be really honest with you about my one of my many failings as a human. I've spent years now building this page up. Don't even get me started on the first year when I was posting to 95% my own friends and like four other people. Or the June in the middle of year two when I whooped inside a Kinkos because I'd passed 1000 followers. This page takes a lot of effort, and even though it's led a few more people to my blog and maybe been responsible for a few donations, it's mostly unpaid labor. I have fed my petty cottage cheese and bile, taught it the dark side of The Force, and watched it grow up big and strong. I cheered it when it force choked the better angels of my nature. I kind of hate how people are crawling out of the woodwork–NOW–and trying to ride my coattails without a thought about reciprocity or so much as a peep asking if it's okay. I really quite enjoy being able to point at something one of my friends did (or someone whose work I've been following with interest) and send lots of eyeballs their way. But I feel really used when people act entitled to it.

If your stuff is self-promotional, I'm going to be harder on it–especially if you don't ask. Darth Petty demands no less.


"Will you read my creative writing?"

I can't. I'm sorry.

There are nearly half a million of you, and this page grows by a thousand followers on a slow day. I'm getting a couple of requests a day to read things--everything from a ten line poem to a short story to a full novel manuscript. I know you've poured your soul into it and it's dear to your heart. I also know that because you've poured your soul into it and it's dear to your heart, that even for that ten line poem which I could read in a few seconds, you probably want more feedback than just "Nice poem" or something. I know how serious that request is for you and how important it is to you and even how much you may have psyched yourself up before sending it. ("Fortune favors the brave, Milton. FORTUNE FAVORS THE BRAVE. LET'S DO THIS THING!!! LEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOY JEEEEEEENKIIIIIIIIINS!!!!!") But still...as much as I admire your moxie, there's only one of me.

A good week for me clocks in around 70 hours between all my jobs. I barely even have time to read and give feedback to good friends.

Of course, if you want to hire me, that's another story (see below).


Will I tutor/edit/do some writing for you?


Sure. My freelance rate is $50 USD/hour. ($75 if you want me to drop everything I'm doing and give you all my writing time). I will need you to pay for your first hour up front, and we'll figure out over e-mail or chat what you need. I can give you a billable hours estimate and a rough timeline for completion, and then I will work whatever is left of our hour, and you can see if my time is worth your money. After that, I'll ask you to pay me for every couple of hours for the first 10 hours or so. As we work longer and longer and build up professional trust, I can give you bigger chunks of time between payments. I'm much better at developmental editing than copy editing

Oh...did you mean for free?



I am interested in buying your page? Will you sell it?

Sure! Deposit $50,000 into an account I designate (that's about ten cents per follower--the price may go up if the page grows) and after the money has been verified I will relinquish admin controls. (That's after I walk into my bank, asked for a manager, and made sure that there is no possible way that I'm being scammed and the funds will not disappear.) That's about what it would be worth to me to go build an audience from scratch on another page and might just cover the costs for the time it takes to do so.

I know the bitter, cruel irony here is that no one who sends me these fucking messages will ever read this FAQ. So mostly I'll just go on hating them.


Oh great. I see that you've seen my message but you won't reply. Thanks a whole lot you jerkwad. What is wrong with you?


I hate that people can tell when I've "seen" their chats. I hate it with the white hot fury of a billion supernovas. Because not everything is urgent. And sometimes I triage that shit. And sometimes I triage it right into the ignore pile. And it is a universal constant that the people who send the most ignorable messages are also the ones who think they are absolutely the most important people in the universe and get bent out of shape if I don't reply.

Sorry random person. There was a time when I could give thoughtful responses to everybody who sent me a private message. That time was about 400,000 followers ago. Now I'm writing an FAQ instead of a regular post so that I can reply with this to generic questions I get a zillion of.


Can I get an autograph?

Um...yes?

This is all very new to me and weird and I've got huge imposter syndrome and I still think people who want my autograph are trying to trick me somehow, but this question keeps coming up, so I better answer it.

If you let me know you'd like to send me physical correspondence, I will give you a P.O. Box address that I check regularly.

Send me something I can sign (I don't have a book I've authored or anything yet) with a self addressed stamped envelope, and I will sign it and send it back. Please cover all the postage both ways. I won't turn down a donation, but there is no "charge."


If you're so overwhelmed, why don't you get admins?


Well, aside from the occasional Social Justice Bard post or maybe a macro that suggests that bigotry isn't awesome just because people who don't suffer systematic forms of it have decided that a particular expression is no big deal, I don't really get the kind of comments off of grammar jokes and "You should be writing" memes that require roving bands of admins. I can swing through posts like the ones above, clean up the worst offenders, and trust that most of my followers are adults who will message me if they need me to step in. [Please include the link as well as telling me what's going on. Sometimes the comments rage for DAYS and I won't be able to just figure out which post you're talking about.]

And even though admins can reply to messages, having them handle "Can you post my thing?" or "Will you read my story?" isn't really what I think anyone would want to do.

Basically, it's the wrong kind of "overwhelmed" for farming out the work. Hopefully this FAQ helps.


Hello from my sock puppet. Why did you ban my main account? Can I get reinstated?

Probably because you violated the commenting policy.

I might be willing to unban someone if they apologize, but I'm not going to do so on a timetable that would allow them to jump right back into whatever argument got them banned in the first place. So you will have to hang in the penalty box for a while either way.


Can we be Facebook friends?

Okay, people don't really ask me this, per se; they just send me friends requests. And I'm not sure, but I think I recognize some of them from the people who comment and like posts on my page.

Yes, you may, but let me make a few disclaimers:
  • This is my public account: Chris Brecheen (Public) My private account is for friends, family, and people I've known online for a long time. It's not the VIP room or anything, but it's an essential aspect of a private life as my online persona becomes somewhat more popular. Most posts there are locked to at least friends only.
  • You might want to follow for a while and decide IF you want to send me a friend request. I'm definitely not everyone's cup of tea with the geekery and the social justice stuff. 99.9% of my posts are public, so you really wouldn't be missing anything except the ability to comment.
  • If you don't care for my (very) occasional social issues post on the Writing About Writing Facebook Page, you will like my profile even less. I write about that stuff almost daily.
  • I can be a bit much for people. I post a lot. 
  • I have 1 "Note" that is a Commenting Policy for this profile. You should read it before charging in. ESPECIALLY before charging into a contentious post.
  • Send me a PM with your request. (Don't worry, I check my "Message Requests" at least once a day.) That account gets around 200-500 friend requests a week depending on how many posts I've got getting shared and stuff at any given time. I reject most of them because I don't know if they're there to sell me sunglasses, phish my info from a pr0n site, or just pick a fight in the comments.

More to come....



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Vlog returns





[I gave up with a flawed take after...I dunno twelve tries?]



Hi everyone,



Today seems as good a time as any to reintroduce Vlogs here at Writing About Writing. We got a little side tracked there for a while because of the move and stuff, but life is getting back to normal and some of our old regular bits here are returning.

Now this one here is just a filler vlog, to kind of remind folks that this is something I will be doing, and that I always intended to get back to it as my life came back together and stopped looking so much like a post apocalypse movie.



We’ll probably only do about one a month.



I know some of you don’t like vlogs, preferring to just read. I’m the same way, so I’m going to put my write up in text at the bottom. It may not have every tangent I go on, every change I make extemporaneously, and my speaking rhythm is much different than my writing one, but for those of you who hate vlogs, it will at least have the basic information.



I also have a video editing program that came with my MacBook, so over the next few months, depending on the learning curve for that, I may be able to make videos that I don’t have to do all in one take.



The reason I’m posting this TODAY is because of Writing About Writing’s meta mission to bring you the “behind the scenes” of writing–to demystify the impression some people have that writers do very little work they don’t like, simply get hit by inspiration, and then birth a work of genius.



So let me tell you about yesterday….



Yesterday I sat down to work, because that’s what working writers do, and I stared at the same paragraph for 14 hours. The words just did not come. And I sat there and sat there, and I pecked at that paragraph and I finally got it done. But it took all day.



And some days are like that. You just have to sit down and have shitty productivity because that discipline and habit is the price you pay for the twelve and sixteen hour productivity days the next day or the next week.  Now today, I’ve managed to do a couple of hours of solid writing already but if I’d just given up yesterday, it would be that much harder today.


So I just want people to know… if you think that just because I have an audience and make money writing doesn’t mean I don’t have shitty days…it doesn’t.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Best Book Marketed to Young Women (Last call for nominations/seconds)

What is the best book marketed to young women?  

I've got a dozen things to do today that aren't blogging, so I'm going to just remind everyone that I'm going to start semifinals (quarterfinals?) for this poll THIS weekend. So get in your nominations in and second the titles you want to see on the poll. But do so on the ORIGINAL POST! I can't guarantee any nominations on this post will make it onto the poll.

Also the rules are there; probably worth a glance.

If I fall into the free time that is theoretically out there after all this basic crap is in the "Done" pile, I'll keep going on the Tab Cleanup Project™ which is about to enter the Facebook Page Stage–a handful of posts for the now half a million people following Writing about Writing on Facebook. You might see something going up later on today if that goes well.

Note: I've noticed that a few of the nominated titles are definitely NOT Y.A. (remember it's not when a bunch of bibliophiles reading way above their level got into it that defines what that means). I don't really have a way to enforce what gets nominated or even a good definition for where the line is, but I'm going to veto some of the clearly adult titles.