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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Ch-ch-ch-changes: The Dragon Sisters

Book 6 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series is just about ready to go out to my wonderful coterie of Beta Readers.  Based on their feedback, I’ll do a revision and then it’ll go to its editor. I have interesting things planned for the covers and illustrations and this book will come out on schedule, around the time of the summer solstice. Hurray for my incredible production team!

I’ve been thinking about and referring to this book by the working title Renko’s Challenge since its inception.  I thought the book was mainly going to be about the teenaged Dragon-Girl confronting her draconic and human natures, her European human appearance and her cultural identity in Japan. This is truly hard for Renko. But her older sister, Otohime, also dual-natured, is wrestling with her anger at their father and finally facing the way she’s become stuck in a particular tragic period of her life. Trapped together in a cave-in that robs dragons of their powers, they come to grips with their difficulties and find ways to move on in their lives and grow as dragons, humans and always themselves.

Of course much more happens in this book. There’s a growing ensemble cast  who all face opportunities for personal growth as their world changes around them. “May you live in interesting times” is a Chinese curse. These characters definitely do.

Starting out with a title and a fixed dramatic arc is like wielding a two-edged sword.  It cuts no matter which way you swing it, and sometimes it cuts what you hadn’t planned it to. I tend to be what’s called a “pantser,” a writer who doesn’t outline extensively, who writes, at least to some extent, by the seat of her pants.  I usually know my first line and my last, and have a rough idea of major conflicts and the history that will bring them forth. I set fictional and folkloric characters in a very real historic period. I use these literary devices to explore and expose authentic Japanese history and character in a way that’s more accurate than most fiction and more fun than any history book.

As I write, things change. Characters insist on telling different stories, on growing in surprising ways, on exploring different kinds of folklore and different aspects of history. Characters I thought had moved out of the series come back with new adventures to explore.

Don’t get stuck in your preconceived notions. No matter how much you like your outline, your character arcs and your plot points, don’t become wedded to them. Let your story and your characters talk to you. Listen when your victim sits up and tells you she’s your murderer, when your romantic hero isn’t the least bit enthralled by his designated love interest, when your dutiful maid decides to set fire to the hay barn, steal the horses and lead a serf rebellion. You can only transcend genre if you let your work dictate to you rather than constraining it with your expectations.

That’s why Renko’s Challenge is now The Dragon Sisters, and is now a much better book.  I hope you’ll think so, too.

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here (book one in the series is always free!!!):



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 write a thinly veiled promo for your own work 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.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Best Contemporary Science Fiction (Seconds and More Nominations Needed)

What is the best science fiction book (or series) written in the last ten years? 

Definitely need more books if we're going to run a poll, so if you have some feelings about the last ten years of science fiction, the time is now to pop over to the original page (very important), read the rules (because there are some totally new variants for the new year), and drop your nomination. 

Our hardcore admin/behind-the-scenes work continues, but we have a guest blog for next week to help do some of the heavy lifting, some quality jazz hands, and a mailbox I'm working on. Plus new parts of serial articles I've been working on and our next big revamp project coming up.

Remember, go to the original page or it might not count. Not a comment here. Not FB. Not Tumblr. HERE.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Choking on the Throttle

Facebook's profits have soared, even amidst multiple severe scandals, and as a page admin, I can tell you why. Here is an image I took for my last blog post of my analytics by month.

Last October, right around mid-month, FB did their largest content throttling to date. You can see my number start to tank in October and go WAY down after that. The algorithm, which already ensured that less than 1% of the people following a page would ever see a given post that page published, got even more conservative. My personal numbers dropped by over 90%.

Take a moment to think about that. I went from 10k hits per day to maybe 1000. 90% *more* people who are on my page never see a link that it is still entirely their decision to click on or not.

Facebook billed this change to rank and file users as a wonderful "See more of your friends and family" change that they were GIFTING people. (As if people didn't want to see the content they signed up to see.) However, three things betray their true motives:

1- Content within the FB ecosystem is more popular than ever. Without my page growing by more than a few thousand, I have seen posts get two, three, even more times the number of likes and comments that they used to. That means the macros and posts are more common on your timeline than before. What is being throttled is links to outside URLs. Basically any page (like mine) that is not working for FB's benefit, but trying to put on a little show to get a few more eyeballs for their blog/website/Etsy/whatever, has been reduced by 9/10ths. This is part of the reason you see infographics now instead of links to articles.

2- Behind the scenes, page admins have been subjected to a DELUGE of ads trying to get us to advertise, including new "Messenger Ads" (that look like someone in our PMs) and even more intense email and timeline saturation.

3- People are seeing more sponsored content than ever before. Not less. More. They aren't actually GETTING more of their friends and family.

Social media is vital to the business models of a lot of independent artists and entertainers, and FB has basically sauntered through and said "That's a nice outreach you have there. It'd be a shame if something....HAPPENED to it." And yes, FB sales are up because some of us are desperate to get back the reach we once had. But the money doesn't pay for nearly enough outreach and most small pages I know are looking for other ways to promote themselves.

Does FB have a “right" to do this? Of course. I'm not saying they don't. (I have used their ad services myself when I was working too much on side gigs and had more money than time to write.) When it comes to social media, WE are the product being sold, and there's a reason sites like FB are "free." It doesn't make it less shitty for those of us whose incomes rely on a landscape that changed SO dramatically overnight (and with the intention of fleecing us for money).

This is why one of the best things you can do is support pages you like by following them on other social media, engaging with their posts (likes, upvotes, etc) to help them with the FB algorithm, and make a note to go to any webpage or something they're promoting. Anything you can to help them against FB.

I am telling you all this because I'm going to keep trying to find workarounds to social media, as it is the way I find donors and patrons and am able to be a working writer. I won't just be trying other sites but ways to make FB (which, unfortunately, is still numerically the only game in town) work. Some of this may affect my ability to post as frequently here, as it has in the past.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Happy 7th Birthday Writing About Writing!

Even though Blog is a little down this year, it's time for party poppers, cake, and Peter Gabriel's Big Time on a loop.

Writing About Writing is seven years old!

For seven years we've been shoehorning regular articles into listicles and telling you in every flavor we can whip up that it's probably good advice to write daily if you want to be a professional.

Through death, cancer, birth, unbelievable loss, and labor pains of a (very) modest writing career we have been blogging through it all and trying to bring you some nuggets of wisdom about writing––some we accumulated over a lifetime, some we picked up from a formal education, and some we're learning on the fly.

Blog is trying to keep a stiff upper lip. Bellwethers like patrons and income have had to take the place of raw numbers ever since Facebook decided to try to squeeze page admins by throttling pages from its algorithm yet again.

If you look REALLY, REEEEAAAAAALY close,
you can probably just make out where the subtle shift in FB's
algorithm started.

It's a bittersweet birthday, with none of Blog's goals even close to achieved. But I'm sure once the cake has settled and Big Time is on its fiftieth or so repeat, Blog will have some new goals that are not so dependent on one of the Evil Empires.

Blog: "Okay Chris, I've got it!  This year, we straight up double our income!"

Me: "Here we go....."

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Admin is Adminning (Personal Update)

Hi all,

Cedrick here.

"The hour is nigh! The portents have been fulfilled. THE TIME OF PROPHECY IS UPON US!"

Okay, not really prophecy so much as what Real Chris told us was going to happen. I just really always wanted to say that where I could hear it echoing and the P.A. system here is AWESOME.

But seriously the actual time that is upon us is an admin break (and a regular break too) here at Writing About Writing.

As you know (or maybe don't), our Patrons here at WAW are completely awesome sauce. They are the reason Chris can write more than once or twice a week. But as you also know (or maybe don't), writing pays for rent, food staples, and NOT MUCH ELSE, so if Chris want a cell phone, health insurance, and a the occasional vegetable medley, he has to work some side gigs. Because of aforementioned Patron awesominity, he doesn't have to drive 50 miles to petsit or teach ESL classes at the local community college anymore, but he does do freelance writing, editing, local petsitting...

...and of course nannying.

The big news that can now be shared is that the nannying gig just doubled its number of kids. Now it's a five year old Contrarian and a new infant. The last couple of weeks have been pretty non-stop, and it's time for Chris to spend a day sleeping in and playing first person shooter games.

Plus once Cathamel comes back online, the first thing Chris has to do is a lot of writing to do for those awesome Patrons. The monthly post that gets cannibalized for a newsletter and the quarterly Friday post that gets cannibalized for an "Inside Scoop" letter both are happening in the next few days. It's the closest thing we'll ever do to exclusive content and a small way I have of saying thanks to all those patrons for making writing viable.

And on top of THAT, there is actual admin work to do. Menus are falling apart from neglect behind the scenes, and the FB throttling at the end of the year is going to make figuring out which articles (actually) did the best kind of an epic pain in the ass.

Don't worry. We're not closing our dors. There will still be reminders to nominate titles for our current poll and at least one more part of our ongoing Bioshock series. Plus even with duct tape and silk ropes it's impossible to keep Chris down for very long (unless he has a safe word and uh...you know what, maybe another time on the rest of this), so he's likely going to be back at the computer by mid-Thursday no matter how many tranq darts I shoot him with.