Welcome

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Hard(ish) Sell

One of my mission statements for Writing About Writing has always been that as I discover things, I will tell you about them in real time. Here is what I've discovered about crowdfunding or trying to support yourself through donations and patrons through sites like Patreon or Paypal recurring.

Don't soften anything. Go for the hard sell. I don't mean like the mean aggressive hard sell that you get from telemarketers or car salesmen where they make people uncomfortable and kind of imply that if you liked children, kittens, or being a good person, you wouldn't even wait until later to spend the money. Rather, consider it more like public radio doing their pledge drive every season. They don't slip that shit into a show that they're doing so that you barely notice if you're not paying attention. They end the show early, take a special moment, tell you that they REALLY need your help, and that they can't do it without you. It's not a guilt trip, but they don't mince words. Plus you get the earthquake survival pack.

I've done a lot of appeals posts. Some have been folded into existing articles with little more than a note at the end. Some have been very gentle and "If it wouldn't be too much trouble...." about the way they've asked. Some have been more like I'm doing a pledge drive.

And every single time, the ones that get the best reaction are those that are direct, forthright, and candid. You can make it fun. You can make it creative. But don't hide it inside of other content and don't soften the ask.

Here's an example

ALSO KNOWN AS ME DOING MY ACTUAL HARD SELL APPEALS POST FOR MAY.
Hi everybody,

I just want to remind you all that except for a couple of newsletters that I put out as rewards for certain tiers of monthly support, everything I ever write will always be free online. I might offer some longer works all in one place (instead of a hundred separate posts) on an ereader for a dollar or two, and some print on demand books are coming, but the text will at least be available for free.

However I AM a working writer. I have rent to pay and groceries to buy just like everyone else, and the only way I'm able to do that is by generous contributions from all of you.

So please if you have enjoyed our mailboxes, craft essays, pop culture breakdowns, and want to see more great content, consider giving a donation that will help me keep the lights on around here and keep writing as much as I can.

Better yet, you could become an ongoing patron through PATREON. Not only does this level of support help me plan budgets with an income I can expect to stay steady from month to month and help me with those bills each month, but you also get access to reward tiers offering everything from newsletters to occasional selfies to early access articles and more.

We lost many patrons in the months around tax season. For the first time ever, my writing income went down two months in a row and hasn't recovered. I want to keep offering you this great content and not have to cannibalize posts to work side gigs, but I need your help to do that.

Even as little as a single dollar a month (just $12 a year) will help me more than you think and get you in on backchannel conversations and news updates. For $3 a month, you'll get our newsletter that talks about what's going on and future developments. And there are more tiers and more rewards you can check out at my Patreon site.

If you like Writing About Writing––as well as all the other places I generate content (from memes to proto-posts) like NOT Writing About Writing, my Facebook page and my own FB wall,––and you want to see us keep doing what we're doing, please consider at least a small donation.

And as always, these posts are not typically "barn burners" on their own, so if you will help me defeat social media algorithms by giving them a heart react or a comment (Gif party in the comment thread!) or even a share if you have a lot of friends who follow WAW (or maybe just like giving away money to cute writers), that would be wonderful.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Periodic Reminders

I'm writing this so I have a page I can share periodically with ALL the reminders that people either haven't been around long enough to know or have maybe forgotten.  

Did you know I have another blog called NOT Writing About Writing? It's where I write about social issues, personal thoughts, and review media when it's really not about writing (even by a stretch).

Did you know that this blog has a Facebook page (where I post all kinds of hilarious memes, puns, quotes about writing, and "you should be writing" macros)?

Did you know that this blog ALSO has a Facebook GROUP (where I post just the blog links and whatever meme, macro, quote, or share did the best from the previous day on the page)? Be sure and answer the "security" question. It's really just there so you don't end up subscribed to something you don't want. A simple "yes" will suffice.

Did you know that my public Facebook page is welcome to all? Well, mostly. It's a place I talk about some of the mundane aspects of being a writer, share things I just can't on my page, discuss social issues and politics a little more directly, and even do proto versions of some things that later become posts. Plus general nerdery and me being human. Fair warning: I can be a lot, and you might want to follow me for a while first to see if I'm your cup of tea. (99.9% of posts are public so the only thing you get from "friending" that you wouldn't from "following" is the ability to comment.) You should also read the commenting note so you know what to expect. And always send along a PM with a friend request.

Did you know we also have a limited presence on Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media?

Did you know that most of our bigger articles are categorized by topic in The Reliquary? And the best articles of each month and year are listed in The Best of W.A.W.

Did you know that except for a couple of newsletters, everything I write will always be free? You might pay a dollar or two to get it all in one place in an e-book [stay tuned], but you never have to. However, I have rent to pay and groceries to buy like anyone else, so if you want to support my creative efforts, you can stuff a few bucks in my "tip jar." (I also have Venmo at chris.brecheen@gmail.com) Or better yet, if you want be an ongoing supporter, help my monthly budget, and gain access to some small-but-nifty rewards, consider becoming a monthly Patreon. As little as a single dollar gets you into the VIP room.

Did you know I'm always looking for guest bloggers and will guest blog for you as well? This isn't just "exposure" stuff either. I can and will pay.

Did you know you can send me questions, and I'll probably answer them in a post if I haven't already?

Did you know that MOST questions I get not specifically intended for a Mailbox post have already been answered? You should check the F.A.Q.

Did you know that if you don't know who I'm talking about when I introduce a character in this blog, they are probably listed here?

Did you know I have an official Update Schedule and a pretty well defined Mission Statement?

Did you know that I moderate comments in every space I run? You might want to check them out if you don't want to get banned or have your input erased.

Did you know that Facebook started throttling page creators' content about six months ago in an effort to squeeze more ad revenue from people desperate to get their numbers back. So if you like a page (say, for example, MY page); a great way to show it support, especially if you want to, but can't afford to donate, is to comment and react to those links you know the page is trying to share. 


If you look REALLY close you can just barely notice where the change took place.



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Best Classic Fantasy (Final Round)

What is the best fantasy book (or series) written before 1975?

OUR FINAL ROUND IS LIVE!  COME VOTE.  

I do want to stress one thing. This poll is about books. It is not about Peter Jackson, the Viggo Mortensen perfect-cast that somehow found actually Aragorn to play Aragorn and eye popping CGI. This is about written literature. And if you thought that the books were a little slow, vote for something else.

This poll will be up for the rest of May, but THAT'S IT. So grab your friends, whip up those fan clubs, vote early and vote often.

Everyone get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

I'm told if you're on mobile you have to click "webpage view" then scroll alllllllllll the way to the bottom, you can find the poll.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Best Classic Fantasy (Semifinal 2 Results)

Tuesday is a brutal day for me (especially during the month of May) so I'm just going to drop these results and move along. If the kid sleeps enough that I get some computer time, the final round will be up tomorrow.

The bottom two titles are dropping off, and the top four will go on to the finals.

Text results below.

The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis 83 39.52%
Once and Future King - T. H. White 38 18.1%
Dragonflight - A. McCaffrey 33 15.71%
Watership Down - R. Adams 29 13.81%

Nine Princes in Amber - R. Zelazny 20 9.52%
Elric Saga (Minus Black Bane) - M. Moorcock 7 3.33%

Saturday, May 11, 2019

When It's Just too Big (I Am the Night)

On Saturday night, I went back to my Vampire game (after a long time off) so I'll also resume my series of articles about some sort of writing insight I glean from these sessions.

Having run into the game's national politics with my last character––essentially sacrificing a "powerful" character who could be badass at the meetings in favor of giving myself too many of the types of tools that can be used to solve established mysteries and problems BETWEEN games (it's called "downtime"), and then turning the full force of those abilities onto a national plot, the answer I got back was "You had enough to crack this twice over, but we're not ready to reveal it yet. Sorry."

Lesson learned.

This time I picked a character who can do VERY little during downtime––mostly just look pretty and run around seducing everything and rousing rabbles. But I didn't just want to be a stompy bashy character either, and I'm always looking for ways to keep my role-playing interesting. Most vampire role-playing involves intense spoooooooky personas or deeply affected speech patterns (and I'm not even talking about the accents) or power brooding or long pauses as everyday Bay Area folks try to channel Lady Grantham levels of subtext to their interactions.

So I decided to play the most authentic, agreeable, genuine, and personable character I ever have. So I'm in there with a bunch of ancient predators who will insinuate that they are going destroy you (politically, socially, maybe literally) every other sentence, and I'm just....super fucking agreeable with everyone. So far, I've already thrown a couple of the players WAY off as they try to figure out what my angle is.

And while I think we could probably stop there and have our "writing lesson" be about genuinely authentic characters inside of nests of vipers, and why that relief of contrast causes what is almost banal to POP, something happened that I want to talk about.

About half-way through the game, there was a massive earthquake. And it wasn't because one of my seductions had achieved a critical success.

At first we roleplayed the "Woah!" stuff and "What's going on?" but then most people went right back to talking. Most people in this game who knew they would be directly affected by whatever had caused the big earthquake went right back to talking about whatever they were discussing before. It was only some of the characters with the appropriate skill sets or information gathering tools that were suddenly buzzing around trying to dig their hooks into what was going on.

For the rest of us it was just too big. We didn't have the ability to affect it.

And that made me think about people and characters and why we like superhero stories right now and why a certain genre of farmer vs. dark lord type trope can be so comical when handled badly. Even in our modern political landscape.

A lot of characters in that moment immediately assessed what was going on and what they could do about it and just decided it was too big. It was way too much. There was nothing they could do so they went back to what they COULD deal with.

And this is a VERY human reaction. We see something too big and it's not a moral failing or that we don't care. We just....can't. I think it's why we are so apathetic when it comes to anthropogenic climate change even though it's so big and so, so urgent. How do we stop multibillion-dollar corporations with the most powerful PR firms of all time from dismissing it as even a problem that only crazy people worry about? How do we act collectively when every collective action that even tries to pump the breaks on environmental exploitation is whack-a-moled as being "the REAL destructive force"? How do we stop something so huge? And that's why so many of us see that we have a smidge over a decade to reverse the worst of our emissions or BILLIONS of us will die and society as we know it might collapse, but our reaction is to turn around and wonder if our social media strategy is going to work well enough that we will recover from the pre-taxes losses.

No one grabbed the family sword and decided to head to where the mansion is and take down the dark lord oil tycoon. Not one person in seven billion did that.

We know that there are second-in-commands who would just take over. That we would be framed as the evil one. That the security forces for your average billionaire will kill us before we cross the grounds to where the mansion is. We know...we can't do this. So we go back to what we CAN handle. We know that collective action will be more effective, so we join groups, and support leaders (with five bucks and a letter writing app) who are starting to prioritize climate change. Collective action isn't dramatic, but it works, and a leader who gives people a small thing they CAN do and a little bit of hope is far, FAR more powerful than a well-sponsored politician scrutinizing the polls for what they should care about.

What does this have to do with your writing? Well, if you want things to be big and dramatic (instead of just someone who learns they have a knack for cold calling and being a community organizer), you have to either give your characters the power to conceivably, plausibly, maybe-with-great-difficulty-but-still-feasibly DO something about what is happening (like magic or The Force or whatever) or you have to give them a more plausible goal. (Or you have to make them part of a massive group effort but they are the sole survivor or something.)

I think that's also why the superhero or "chosen one" genres are so satisfying right now. The "odds are stacked against them" is different than "this is literally, laughably impossible." We want to imagine characters with the power to make real change, and kind of avatar ourselves into a role where we're not just some person WAITING to be rescued.

And it's also why the farmer vs. dark lord stories can be really clunky if they're not handled right. The farmer isn't going to just set out one day to stop the dark lord. That's bananapants. The farmer doesn't have the power to stop the dark lord and the stories that have them take off as if they know ahead of time they'll be leveling up like they're in an RPG are bad writing. The farmer needs to go looking for his oracular pig or try to deliver a message from the princess to the old wizard beyond the Dune Sea or to just take the ring to Rivendell...and then things kind of domino out of control. Once they're stuck or have no choice, then their actions make sense.

Some of us have visionary ambition to see that we are capable of what the world thinks is impossible, but even those folks have a really good sense of when they are absolutely not equipped to PLAUSIBLY affect something. Your characters should be written this way too, and if they charge off willingly to face challenges that aren't just overwhelming but LITERALLY impossible, you probably want to explain what the hell is wrong with them.