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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spread a Little Thin

That butter isn't spread "a little thin."
What is that? Like half a stick?
Personal Update...ish....thing.

It's Monday, so I'm trying to scrape together enough personal information to do some kind of personal update.

Because yet another reimagined list about how it might actually be a good idea to write if you want to be a writer is no problem, but telling you about my fucking day is some next level shit.

I mean I could tell you about yesterday when I couldn't find the remote control to the DVD player and spent the better part of an hour practicing the ranting and raging (yet brilliant) speech I was going to use when people got home; however, in order for you to understand why absolutely losing my shit over the fact that I had to watch West Wing reruns while I cleaned the house (instead of House M.D. reruns) isn't actually a definite sign that I needed to be hit with a Percocet tranquilizer dart and taken into a padded room, you would need all of the sordid contextual history of my feelings that sometimes I'm a roommate instead of family, the series of escalating remote control conversations, and probably knowledge of the Great Curtain Incident of Aught Nine.

Way too much back story for this entry.

Plus there would be the inevitable fallout as Unsupportive Girlfriend kicks open my door, takes about four sweeps of the room with a high powered flame thrower, and then tells me not to air our dirty laundry to "the whole fucking internet" as I run past her for the burn kit....while still on fire....screaming.

Unless I want to end up having a "conscious uncoupling," maybe it would be best to just blog about something else. Perhaps how I feel a little over extended.

It seems to be a common experience among writers to be spread just a bit too thin. Given that most of us have day jobs, families, and lives that aren't writing, our insistence on regular (and massive) chunks of time to write often comes at the expense of other aspects of our lives, and many writers struggle with the fact that if they want to take writing seriously, something else in their life is going to feel unattended to. We finish our novels and discover that not only have our cats gone feral and the water has been shut off, but there is a "Dear John" post it note stuck to our foreheads from our significant others--or rather our ex significant others. But even though "spread thin" is less a feeling I get from time to time and more a state of being for me, this time it has a different flavor.

In a way, it's a good thing.

I really mean that. I'm not just trying to do some "one door closes," "silver lining," "God's plan" stuff (that trust me you do NOT want to say when someone finds out they have been given crabs by their monogamous life partner).

All my life I have worked to write more. I never felt like I was actually sitting and writing enough so I always tried to stretch that capacity. Turn off World of Warcraft and do some writing. Quit queuing up one more Star Trek episode and do some writing. Put away the Playstation controller and do some writing.

Now, I'm sitting. I'm writing. I'm doing it every day. I'm doing it for hours and hours.

Too long actually.

It's interfering with some of my other obligations. I constantly feel spread too thin, and every day I feel like I'm doing triage on my deadlines and commitments--trying to figure out which ones are expendable. In the last couple of months, I've had this terrible sinking feeling, like I'm always falling further and further behind. I feel like I'm having a great and productive day if I don't go to bed feeling even further behind than when I woke up. I never catch up though; that just doesn't happen. I'm actually not even reading enough because I'm spending too much time writing.

Which is, of course, a gigantic no no for anyone serious about the quality of their writing.

For the first time in my life, I've reached a point where the answer isn't just "write more." I'm up to six, eight, sometimes ten hours a day, and there aren't more hours of writing to be had. I need to have sessions that are more productive and concentrated and not just longer. In fact, need to take some hours back for some of the other stuff like housework and reading (and fucking playing Skyrim so I can finish that damned write up).

For someone who's spent most of my life addicted to MMOs or in school or trying to work full time, this is a new kind of challenge for me. What do you do when you've stopped giving up frivolous things and you can't write anymore without cannibalizing something non-frivolous. I mean it's not hard to see how I could be writing with more efficiency during my sessions, but this is literally the first time in my life there hasn't been some obvious time sink that I could or should be giving more of to writing. Now that writing has it all, I have to focus on quality instead of quantity. Work smarter, not harder. Insert cliche here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Mailbox: Grab Bag

Have your students ever found this blog? What's a good starting goal for writing? How soon do we have to give you a question to get it answered by that Friday?  

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. And don't worry if they're totally hard to set with a given theme.]    

Tina asks:

Have your students ever found your blog? Is it a problem? I am a teacher who writes erotica, and I absolutely can't imagine not using a pen name.

My reply:

I think most teachers who maintain any kind of online presence without a pseudonym sort of dread the day their students think to Google them. A couple of my ESL students have found me, and we talk about the blog a little. I think one guy mistook "having a blog" for "being famous" because he really got weird after his roommate saw his syllabus and told him I was online. (Like, he stopped looking me in the eye and started stammering when I asked him questions. I was glad the semester ended before he started calling me "My liege.") However, I teach at the level that my writing would not be easy for them to parse, so it's more like "hey I saw your blog!" and less like "where the f-ing hell do you get off teaching us about commas you insolent hypocritical hack!"

I'm not that worried about the college students. They are capable of knowing that their instructors can compartmentalize their lives, and I'm pretty sure if one of them called up and told my boss I had written the phrase "anal schism loving fucknozzle" on my personal blog on my personal time in my personal space, the response would most likely be, "Yeah, we like to hire them when they're still edgy," and then a lot of laughter.

I do worry about the summer school kids. Upper middle class parents are no fucking joke about their helicoptering, and the idea that I am perfectly capable of writing R rated things in one place and being PG somewhere else doesn't even occur to them. As far as they're concerned, I'm in my classroom teaching all their kids the exact pronunciation of "cuntbagle." ("No it's not BAG-el. It's a long A dipthong, you little punks.  Let's try again...") I know there's going to be a phone call eventually. I don't know if THAT boss will go to the plate for me. They pretty much expect teachers to live at school and have no persona other than the one they teach with--because obviously no teacher ever said "fuck" one evening and then was still a good teacher the next day. I certainly don't know any teachers who would ever get wasted on Everclear, have five mind-numbing hours of group sex, and then still be a good elementary school teacher the next day.


I guess that will be an interesting day. Hopefully if I do get fired, by the time it happens, I'll be making enough money here to be able to flip a table and say "You can't fire me, you sanctimonious A-holes! I quit!" Then, I will walk off with both middle fingers raised high. I'm a writer who teaches, not a teacher who writes!


See the whole comic here.
The Oatmeal.
Then I will go home and fill a tumbler glass with whisky or some other thing I never drink, drink it, immediately pour another, drink that, and spend the night bawling my eyes out. I will do this not because I need the income, but because I'm one of those fucking pathetic teachers who actually loves my kids--even the little burgeoning reprobates--and who wants them to succeed so bad that it kind of hurts my chest to think about. And I know it's summer school, and I know I'm teaching them "study skills" and I know I am a glorified babysitter, but....still....

Not that I've thought about this or anything.

Lou asks:

I'm trying out HabitRPG as a way to incentivize better personal care and growth, as well as better managing my ADHD. And since following WAW it's been drilled into my tiny little brain that I should write every day I was wondering if you have any advice on a good starting goal for a daily writing practice. Word count? Time at the keyboard? Pages?

My reply:

"Incentivizing better personal care and growth?" I'm almost certain that was the employee/employer internal mission statement of someplace I worked once.

Eh, maybe not.

I'm going to answer this question twice. Once for if you're really just getting started with writing and once if you're a bit of an old hand at it. If you're new to the whole writing/disciplined writing thing or you only seem to be able to write when you're right up against a deadline, I would highly recommend you give Dorothea Brande's "morning writing" a whirl. If you do that and the "floating half hour" you will probably find your words a lot easier. That is a timed exercise, but it involves writing on anything basically as fast as you can and then "stretching" that capacity. Uber helpful for me in basically never having writer's block.

If you feel like you've got that shit down and you're ready to move from the writing version of killing kobolds who are worried about you stealing their fucking candles in the starting zone to the Dead Mines where VanCleef needs beheading in the worst way, then my advice changes a little.

A.D.D./A.D.H.D. is kind of a game changer to a writer, but instead of being a game changer like the difference between men's and women's tennis, it's more like the difference between Reversi and Calvinball.

(For those of you without ADD/ADHD, bring three lemurs, four ferrets, and a raptor of some kind to your next writing session. Also coat your entire body with a thin layer of spreadable cheese. Put Nyan cat auto loop on a window in the background while you work...really loud. Now you have an idea.) 

The worst part of ADD/ADHD is that it's kind of like saying you have "a cold." It doesn't really cover how bad or what symptoms. (I mean do you have a sniffle and a sore throat or are you in bed because sneezing and coughing every five seconds has started to actually hurt your joints?) ADD/ADHD is the same way; we all have different expressions and intensity. Uberdude will walk out of the room when you're in the middle of a sentence and forget what he was supposed to do because he got distracted by a computer--not a computer game, just an actual computer. I am easily distracted by social media and chew my own shirt. (Man, I almost forgot the R there--what a strange time I would have had explaining that one to my mom.)

So my best advice on that front is not to try to find the "One True Way."™ You can't because there isn't one.  Try instead to find "The way that truly works for me...right now." Also, be kind to yourself, especially at first. Writing is very much a long-term effort. You are working the ball down the field. Don't worry if you fuck up a day or have some low output weeks. If you establish the habit, you'll have good overall results. Kind of like you don't need to worry about all your teeth exploding at once if you passed out in a spiced rum and coke stupor one time last week and forgot to brush your teeth the one time.

Actually that turns out to be a pretty good metaphor for anyone approaching such goals. Any advice I give you that isn't tailor made to fit Lou is going to be wrong. So here are the guidelines for helping you set the Loufriendliest goals possible:

1- Pick the goal that you know will be most helpful to you–which might mean the most painful. If you can sit and stare at your screen for two hours just imagining cheerleader threesomes and not writing a damned word, it won't help you to set time goals. If you can fire off a thousand words of absolute shit in a half an hour so that you can get back to the Keeping Up With the Kardashians marathon, it won't help you to set word count goals. If you know having a page goal just means the sudden introduction of lots of dialogue from the emo teen who loves one-word answers, then you need to smile weakly at page goals, but tell them that you'd rather be "just friends."

Stephen King does pages. JK Rowling does hours. Jack London did word counts. Some writers slam drafts. Some edit as they go. There's no right answer. This is kind of like going to the gym. The debate between when to lift and when to do cardio and how much to do is really not as important as the fact that you keep showing up and getting shit done--unless you bring a bag of Fritos and sit and watch TV, you will see results.

Work in bursts? Set time.  Slow and steady? Word count. Love seeing "Pages DONE"? Pages. Try different goals and see what works. Pretty soon, you'll find that the goals are mostly window dressing to the habit itself.

2- Start small. Start very small. Smaller than you think you should. One half hour/one page/300 words. Start so small you almost feel insulted by the goal. Think sneeringly that you could do it in your sleep. Still, resist the urge to go higher because you "way too uber for this preschool crap!" You know how many people end the first day of NaNoWriMo by saying "Pfffft, this is a cake walk." About four times more than ever actually finish. (ZING!) That's because easy for one day isn't easy for a month. When you feel like you have the habit established, then you can fiddle with the knobs.

3- Be ready to mix it up. Life is change. You aren't the same person you were yesterday, and the same writing regimen won't work for you for all of time any more than it will work for all the different people. Sometimes you just have to be ready to say "this shit's jacked, yo." Move the goal posts. Get some fresh air.

Every once in a while I notice I am having a lot of trouble with writing 1article + 2 pages (my current daily goal). That's when I start doing my writing in 8 hour blocks. I sit down for eight fucking hours no matter how much I write or don't. It's frustrating. I hate it. And usually within two or three days, my brain realizes that it's not going anywhere so it might as well do some work. When the time thing stops working and I'm just staring off into space or refreshing Facebook for the entire eight hours, I shift to a word count goal. I don't get to leave until I've done 1500 words--whether that takes two hours or twelve. When the quality of my words degenerates because I'm trying to finish up, I switch back to articles+pages.

Mark asks: 

What time would we have to get a question to you in order to have it answered on "The Mailbox" on Fridays.

My answer: 

By no later than Tuesday, three weeks earlier. NARF!

Okay, real answer: if you send me a REALLY good question (and I mean really, really fucking good!) early in the week, I might move things around to answer it that Friday, but you would have to get it in by Monday or Tuesday by the latest. Any later than that and I'm already starting to do some of the initial writing on the Friday post. [ETA: Mailbox posts are currently written at all kinds of times because my life is chaos but will likely eventually settle on a different day of the week than reflected in this post.]

Right now I have too many questions to get to them all. I've had to pick the ones I'm going to answer and (unfortunately) just give a few people a personal answer and not post them on the blog. I've got questions here I answered years ago but people don't know that, one about what country I think has the best Thai hookers (which a moment's thought will reveal as literally the stupidest question OF ALL TIME), and one asking me to keep a food journal and post it. I used to have to run around and beg people for questions, but these days I'm putting a lot of them straight into the round file.

I tuck some of the questions away for later when I know they're going to fit with one of my themed Mailbox posts like grammar questions (which for some fucking ridiculous reason, people keep sending me) or process questions. In fact, there's another round of outrageously inappropriate non-writing questions coming soon

Though technically I am always on the lookout for really good questions--the kind that would make really entertaining Mailboxes--in order for your question not to just be answered in the order it showed up, it would have to be better than sex. If I don't read your question and immediately show it my "Oh face," I'll probably just put it in the queue. In fact, what you really want to go for is me saying: "I bet reading that question would be even better if I tied it up and took an hour to read it."

                      "Chick from logistics" is a euphemism for "really good question" in blogging circles.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Evil Mystery Guest Blogger Menu

Whenever I'm unpublished,
I stop being unpublished and be awesome instead.
Hi everyone,

As part of my ongoing service to tell you the secrets of success (and there are secrets, my friends so don't let anyone sell you on that "hard work and lots of reading" crap) I have bundled all my articles together in the same place, and placed them with the other guest bloggers.

Because fuck Chris, that's why.

Oh and don't worry. There will be more posts coming; I promise. I'm not afraid to divulge the actual secrets of being a successful writer even though established authors hate me for spilling their trade secrets. And don't worry about me getting caught either. The SciGuy will never be able to keep me out of the computer system because that idiot Chris doesn't realize I'm operating right under his nose.

The Worst Best Advice About Getting Started
The Worst Best Advice About How to be a Famous Writer
How to Publish your NaNoWriMo Novel Right Away
The Mailbox: Best Answers Ever
The Worst Best Trope Advice
The Worst Best Writing Advice About Reading
The Worst Best Tips for Writing People of Color
AWESOME Cookie Wisdom

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's Really Okay Not to Write. Really. (Part 7)

The pencil rules you! You obey the pencil.
If you like writing that much, you're probably broken.

Intro and Part 1

Part 2- Chesslectric Boogaloo

Part 3- The Search for Sporadic

Part 4 Live Free or Write Hard

Part 5- The Expense Strikes Back

Part 6- The Half Blood Prints

Part VII: The New Blood


Congratulations! Your life of pain awaits!

So here we are...at the end of our journey.

And you have come through all the assurances that you don't have to write without breaking into tears and thanking your computer screen for permission. Because it really is okay not to write. Really.

But not you. You want to write. None of our stops along the Highway of Moderation suited you. You're going all in, baby! All motherfucking in!

You actually like writing. You don't dread every moment you do it like some terrible burden. You don't spend your days making up excuses for why you can't possibly write or sabotaging yourself.

You're not just writing because you're good at it. You're definitely not just doing it because someone said you were good at it and you just want to be exceptional at something (anything). You don't sort of vaguely resent the burden of being good at something you don't particularly enjoy, but fettered to the idea that you have to pursue it because that's what people do when they have talent. The act of writing itself makes you happy or at least is like scratching a persistent itch.

You aren't just being an unrealistic dreamer about how writing will be your ticket to fame. You're not just doing it because you have fantasies of being a writer. You don't think you're going to tool out your "novel" in a few months and then kick back in the French Riviera living the glamorous life of a writer, doing the talk show circuit and having enraptured fans buy you drinks. You know that to be a day job, writing will consume day job effort (shocking, I know) or even more, and that all the writers you admire pumping out books with enough frequency to be full-time novelists are probably putting in 60+ hour weeks that definitely involve writing when it "feels like a chore." You have a realistic sense that you won't be a "weekend warrior" writer who makes career-caliber accolades.

You want to work at writing and improve. You don't just want to write when a capricious flight of fancy moves you, but actually when it's tough. It is a matter of discipline and improvement. This is something you care about enough to get better at and put some effort into and not just do when you feel like it.

You don't want to do it like a million people around the world do their hobbies that make them happy. This isn't intramural sports or a passionate pastime.  You don't want some fucking loser with a "butterfly collection;" you want to "be an entomologist." (If you know what I mean--wink wink.) You want to make money from fiction--though that will undoubtedly require a much, much higher time and energy commitment. You may get pleasure from writing, but you are no longer writing for pleasure. It's a job now. But you don't simply want a job writing--for there are hundreds of ways to ply that skill into a trade--but you want a job doing creative writing. You don't care that this means you will have to learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry and spend a lot of time and effort doing things that aren't actually writing (like promotion and marketing).

You don't just want writing to provide you with sideline money--a few dollars here or there for the creative efforts of a weekend or the trickle of cents for a weekly blog. You want real money. Pay the bills money. Quit your day job money. Be "An Artist" money. Fuck that pansy ass shit. Sure, it's going to mean that writing goes beyond a hobby, beyond a part-time job, beyond most full-time jobs and into the realm of your job and your hobby rolled into one with a dash of your free time thrown in for good measure. But that's okay, because that's how much you like writing.

Stopping doesn't even feel like an option. Stopping is what would actually make you miserable.

Congratulations. The normal train just pulled out of the station without you.

Wrinkly old dude: "Young fool. Only now...at the end...do you understand."

Oh, you're in good company, don't get me wrong. Even the threesome-obsessed snark-o-tron you're reading right now joins you in your complete obsession, but there is no bellwether by which you are a normal person with normal interests anymore. You are looking at normal in the rear view mirror, and it is waving farewell like the folks seeing off the Titanic. The time and energy professional novelists and full-time creative writers put into writing is basically...well, not to put too fine a point on it...unhealthy. They are completely obsessed and you want to be one of them.

Writers like these don't have well balanced lives. They don't have a healthy measured approach to writing. It is a complete, undeniable obsession. They write for more hours a day than most people spend at full-time jobs and then read for the rest. Many writers have dreadful social lives, can't maintain relationships, work only enough to pay the most essential of bills and live lives of paupers so that they can write more. In fact, their lives greatly resemble drug users in many ways.

It can be problematic to talk about things this way and I'm sensitive to that, but in a lot of ways, you have an addiction, and your drug of choice is writing.

Fortunately it won't do the kind of immediate, obvious damage as drinking or gambling or even the horrible long-term damage of something like a shopping addiction. Rather it is more along the lines of being a workaholic: an addiction that drives some of your life forward while eroding other parts. Still, you have a problem. You may not want to think of it as a problem, and that's okay. However if I told you that someone spent hours a day doing (an activity), that (this activity) impacted other aspects of their lives significantly, that they thought about (this activity) obsessively when they weren't doing it, made financial decisions that enabled them to do (this activity) as much as possible, and that they would fall into depression if they didn't do (this activity) for more than a couple of days, you wouldn't have any trouble recognizing that the person was addicted to (this activity).

I don't mean to trivialize the chemical versions or the ones that do damage.

This isn't something to be proud of. You haven't won the lottery. You aren't a better person. You are unbalanced, probably a bit (or more) unhealthy, and your obsession may make functioning in other aspects of your life difficult or even impossible. This isn't a boon to your life as a well adjusted human being. You will spend your life on the knife's edge of a socially acceptable form of self-harm in overdoing it, and I really suggest you pay close attention. (2019 Edit-- No really. TRUST me.) No one who really knows you will envy you--only those who romanticize what they can't see will decide that your lifestyle is glamorous and you are to be emulated.

You are much closer to a pariah than a paragon.




This is the drive that has made good artists since the cave paintings of Lascaux. This is the obsession that has led to the greatest works of all time. Every artist you love was a little overboard and a lot obsessed. You have a choice to conquer your addiction (It's really okay. Really.) or to embrace it and follow it as far as it will take you. Down the rabbit hole for certain, but possibly also to the peaks of your imagination and to beauty you thought you could only dream about. Say goodbye to a normal world and your normal life. Find lovers who accept your addiction--even enable it. Find friends who don't mind your poverty. Find jobs that let you write.

Let go of all hope of being normal; you aren't.

But from the dogged obsession of your drive, you may yet create something extraordinary.

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Open Letter to Lynn Shepherd

I love acting so much, I'm never going to star in anything ever again.
Except I am.
Even when I'm fifty and you're still saying "It stars Harry Potter."
[Today's post is an open letter to Lynn Shepherd, who some of you may remember from last month as the woman who told J.K. Rowling that she should stop writing. This is my response to her.  I have dropped Writing About Writing's usual persona in writing this, because, frankly, Lynn Shepherd has probably had enough snark to last ten lifetimes.]

Ms. Shepherd,

It's been a month. You too have become a household name, though your notoriety isn't likely to last fractionally as long as Rowling's. I do not know if you have the temerity to laugh at the reams of hate mail, feisty comments, and blog posts calling you out with more vitriol than you probably ever thought humanity was capable of, or if you suddenly felt like you had stepped on a land mine and wanted to crawl in a hole and never write another public word again. Perhaps now you have a greater appreciation for how dehumanizing it can be to be famous--or infamous.

Ms. Shepherd, at this point I am writing behind the curve of the news cycle and the blog trends, and the popular sentiment and wave of chic criticism that was poured upon you from every quarter. It's not because I'm always behind the trends--although that's certainly true. (I consider myself on FIRE this year for having seen Frozen and Catching Fire in the theaters.) Rather it is because you wrote about such a common, normal, RELATABLE feeling that is so ubiquitous among starting writers, and I truly believe your editor failed you by not simply killing your piece and taking you quietly aside to explain a couple of things to you. Not out behind the woodshed for the beating so many of your detractors seem fit to go into grisly detail about, nor the chemical shed to be subject to hyperbolic fatal violence for daring to voice an opinion that so many writers share. Simply into their office where they might pour you a cup of coffee or tea and tell you with a smile that you were overstepping.

I'm not here to add another log to that raging bonfire of frothy mouthed, all caps, internet rage you stepped in. You have done your time in the penalty box (and then some) for attacking one of this culture's sacred cows. I'm sure that in time, your inbox will stop exploding, and you may even be able to get some of the one star reviews of your work removed due to the circumstances of their addition. Social media, unfortunately, has never been known for its measured responses.

Oh, you absolutely deserve the accusation of sour grapes that even your articles opening disclaimer couldn't alter the taste of, and apparently need it pointed out to you how ridiculous it is to castigate adults for their personal tastes in entertainment especially when you haven't even read the books you're impugning. Further, the implication that your writing makes the "world of writing" a better place––better than a writer you haven't even read is pretty much a chunk of hubris drenched in hubris gravy with a side of arrogance and a tall, icy glass of vanity. However, somehow, I imagine that you probably got the point after the first five hundred or so replies, you don't deserve either the scope or the fury with which they were delivered, and no one who writes an op ed piece that isn't encouraging people to eschew vaccines or engage in human trafficking should have their career destroyed because of it.

I felt a swell of pity when I realized what your next couple of months were going to be like. When I wrote about helping a woman who was being harassed I was the subject of assumptions of my character, scathing rage from people with an axe to grind about a particular word, articles written just to be contrarian that called me no end of unkind things including a misogynist white-knighting creeper myself, and even death threats from guys who felt like I was disturbing the Alpha male order of aggressive flirting with my "pansy ass feminist shit!"  All that, and I generally was seen to have done something positive. I can only imagine what you must have gone through. What you must still be going through.

And it must be so much worse because this is such a common feeling among writers. All you did was voice what so many others think in places they don't talk about at parties totally talk about at parties, often before they've even had their first floofy drink.

Why am I writing this post (you aren't likely ever to see) a month later? It is because from what I saw in the deluge of "HOW COULD YOU!" comments, (very) few replies mentioned what I wish your editor had explained before your article went live. That is that this jealousy of huge, uberpopular authors stealing the limelight is a feeling that writers have, but in addition being unkind and very catty, it is not even actually accurate. What you were probably thinking was delightfully entertaining snark, was actually a somewhat uninformed thing to say both about the writing process and the publishing industry.

The kicker to this whole thing is, I think that if Rowling didn't know what I'm about to tell you--what your editor should have told you--she might actually done what you asked. She might hang up her pen or tuck away her future manuscripts to give you, and those like you, a chance to be in the sun. Whatever you want to say about Harry Potter's prose, Rowling is one of the most philanthropic people on Earth. (2018 Edit: Yes, I'm aware of the salient criticism that has come up since this piece was written. 2020 Edit: Yeah, she went full TERF, thoughts on that near the bottom.) Fortunately, I think she is likely to understand the writing world enough to know that the best thing she can do for you is to keep right on writing.

Shame about the TERF thing.
First of all, JK Rowling doesn't write for other people. She doesn't write for her editors. She doesn't write for her critics. She doesn't write for money. She certainly doesn't write for the careers of upstart writers such as yourself.

Rowling writes for the same reason writers have written since the dawn of language. Because our soul burns to write and without it we would die. She writes because in a very real way, she doesn't have a choice. She sits down for eight to twelve hours a day (according to her own interviews) and creates something with the same impetus that drives artists the world over.

She writes because she's a writer.

I find it almost incomprehensible that one artist could ever genuinely tell another to stop creating (2020 Addendum: Again, thoughts on her recent bullshit down below––I'm trying not to change TOO much of the original article). It would be like asking a person to cut off their own arm. Sure, everyone has themselves a good snark about Michael Bay not making any more movies or Nickleback retiring, but your sincerity in this regard was shocking. While everyone was busy ragehating that you stuck it to a series you hadn't read, I was wide eyed that anyone who understands the artistic impulse could have honestly suggested that another simply ignore it.

2020 Edit: These days we mostly just don't want Rowling to write because she's a TERF. We kind of want her to go away. We Roland Barthes-ed Harry Potter right out of her hands, many wished the authorial death was a little less metaphorical, and I for one hope she stops and listens long enough to the community she's hurting to walk back years of harm. But we don't want her to go away and stop writing for the sake of future aspiring writers. 

Before you suggest that Rowling tuck her creative efforts (those beyond her "Pottering about") into a drawer and not allow them to be published so that she isn't "sucking the oxygen out of the room" I would like to make one more point. You seem to be unaware of how the publishing industry actually works.  In fact, I read your post-apocalyptic apology and was dismayed to see that despite all you are regretful for, you've held on to your most erroneous perception. You still seem to think that publishing is an industry where another artist's success comes at your expense, and even as you lamented your article, you suggested that you "only ever meant to raise the issue of how hard it is for new writers to get noticed and how publishing is much more of a zero sum game than people often think."

This, simply put, is not true--at least not in the way that you seem to think it's true. I wish I could be gentler about that point, but I can't.

No, all the books submitted can't be published. Yes, you're in competition with other starting authors. Yes, you may get passed over and they may succeed. Unestablished authors are competing for a shrinking share of publishing opportunities in an industry that is trimming the fat and taking fewer chances. In this way your "zero-sum" assessment is tragically correct, and why more and more writers are pursuing non-traditional routes and making just as much or more money doing so.

But authors like Rowling aren't "taking up the oxygen" in this analogy. The opposite is true. They are like gigantic Amazon forests––producing "oxygen" for dozens, perhaps hundreds, of writers such as yourself. Even if you ignore the fact that Rowling basically got a generation back into reading and may inadvertently be responsible for that new reader who is ravenously consuming every book they can (and who then buys your book because of that kindled passion) there is still a "bottom line" reason that she is helping starting authors. Directly.

Publishers love books. They go into the industry because they absolutely adore books. And as much as there are problems in traditional publishing )it's whitewashed, sexist and anachronistic and they can't get their heads out of their asses about e-readers, and don't even get me started on what a circle-jerk the aesthetics of gate keepers can be)..... AND as much legitimate criticism there is about Rowling's difficulties writing marginalized groups (and then going back and claiming she meant to do so all along)...... AND even much as the bottom line is important in publishing (unlike other industries which don't care about such things?).... AND as much as the big six have become bloated ticks on the creative efforts of artists, publishers still absolutely love books.....

Despite all this, they still want so many more writers to be published than can be. They see so many things that are worth publishing, but can't sell. And with a shockingly huge number of books, they publish knowing they will lose money because they want to see the book in the world.

How can they do this? How can they run a business at a loss? It is because of authors like Rowling and Brown and Meyers and King. Every New York Times bestseller brings in enough money to let publishers do print runs at a loss or give a talented (but obscure) author an advance they know they'll never recoup. In the premier night of Deathly Hallow's release Bloomsbury made enough money to take a chance on dozens, perhaps hundreds of starting authors––risky investments who they thought were worth being published even if they didn't sell.

Ironically, Ms. Shepherd, if Rowling were to take your advice, your chances of publication would actually shrink.

A part of me--a cynical part--wonders if your editors at HuffPo didn't know exactly what was going to happen to you, but let you fall on the sword (or would it be threw you under the bus?) while visions of page views danced in their heads. Regardless, I don't think you made a mistake bigger than any other young writer (or any artist really) has made a million times while kvetching to friends about the unreasonably successful, and I'm sorry about everything you've gone through because you happened to voice your own opinion on a national podium and about a series with a notoriously rabid fandom.

I hope that you stick with writing despite how big this setback must feel, and I hope that in the future you recognize that publishing might be a tough industry, but it's a good industry to really learn about before blaming any other artist for your own lack of success.

Please don't give up on writing--you just made a mistake.


Chris Brecheen

If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year (only one single less-than-a-cup-of-coffee dollar a month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Don't Forget to Vote Best SciFi Series 70/80/90s

Please take a moment to vote on the best Science Fiction series of the 70's/80's/90's.

I thinking getting sick during my "spring break" is kind of like the universe's way of telling me to take it easy.    

[Plus Supportive Girlfriend mentioned that my "spring break" looked like just as much work (maybe more). I was just doing it on tabs and menus instead of my regular stuff. Maybe I need to try again at this whole "taking it easy" thing.]  

So by way of trying to go a little easier on myself, all I'll be writing today (for this blog, anyway) is a little reminder to vote on the best Science Fiction series of the 70's/80's/90's. I haven't been pushing as hard on this poll because of everything else going on, and the numbers have been poor. 

So please, take a moment, go down to the black poll on the left at the bottom of the left side sub-menus, and vote for two of the series you think were the best.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Do You Want a Guest Blogger?

You know, they say the best way for a blogger to get new readers is to have and do guest blogging.
You expose yourselves to a whole new audience who may come check you out.

By the same token any blogger writing on YOUR blog will likely bring several of their readers over to check you out. It's a little bit like those old chicken pox parties--except with fewer awkward moments of parents trying to force the kids to play Twister.

"They" also say that guest blogging is so last year, and that today it's just about spammy spammers. I suspect it's useful to actual writers and less so to people trying to scam the internet.

So we should totally try to poach each other's readers come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. I would love to have the chance to shamelessly steal provide another blog your readers might enjoy reading instead of as well as yours.)

Though I currently maintain Writing About Writing, an have a second job wrangling smol children that kicks my ASS, with enough advanced notice I would love to do a guest post. If I'm unfamiliar with your blog, I'll probably want to check it out to make sure it's a blog I wouldn't mind associating my name with.

Here are some guidelines so we don't waste each other's time:
  • If you're big enough to pay your writers, but offering me only "exposure," you can kindly fuck off. Look around: I do enough free work as it is. I'd rather put in some unpaid hours improving my numbers than yours.
  • I do not do web content. Don't ask.
  • If you're too small to pay any writers, that's might be okay depending on your exact situation. But I'm going to ask to be able to put one or two of self-promoting links in my article so that I can abscond with expose your readers to my work.
  • I hate to sound like a readership snob, but I'm clearing 50k page views a month, so if I'm mostly scratching your back, I'm basically doing work to promote you, and we'll have to noodle out some details that at least get me a scritch or two in that spot I can't reach. For example, if you have a much smaller readership, perhaps we can work out some sort of featured article where I post on both your blog and mine, but give you a few day's head start.
  • If I can't really get behind your blog's philosophy, I'll probably take a pass. I don't have a hard rubric for this. I've guiltlessly written for publications with full nudity where enthusiastic consent was a vociferous philosophy, and I've cheerfully turned down opportunities to write for major national mainstream magazines before because I don't like the beauty/fashion industry's promotion of unattainable beauty standards. If you think I'd probably appreciate your subversive take on the world, I probably will. If you think I'd probably consider writing for you to be selling out, I probably will. If you think I will be impressed by how much of an edgelord you are, you're probably wrong.
  • I do not fucking do web content.
  • My writing is MINE (unless you pay a lovely fee which we can negotiate but I freelance at $50/hr so it's not going to be couch cushion change). I understand SEO and content writing and that this is not an average request. I'm not going to undermine your blog by turning around and reposting a guest post somewhere else (including here), but I'm also not going to sign away the rights to my creative efforts unless you are paying me….just a SHIT-TON of money. 
  • I lied. I will do web content. You pay me a dollar a word, and I will write any web content you want. But unless you're ready to pay me a small fortune, seriously, I don't fucking do fucking web content!
  • You probably want to copy edit my work. I won't send you a rough draft or anything, but if I've taught you nothing in this blog, let it be that every writer needs an editor, and I personally am extra imperfect when it comes to my ability to proof my own copy. I'm getting better, but your blog's reputation will probably want you to at least make a pass for missing commas and homophones.
  • Whether you're paying me or you're "paying me" (cash, Funko Pops, favor exchange, lewds, whatever), I've been burned one too many times by "store credit." I don't necessarily need it all up front, but I won't do more than an hour of work before we set up some kind of first payment. 
  • I wasn't kidding about the web content thing.
If you've cruised around Writing About Writing, you probably already have a sense of the topics I would be excited about and which ones I'd scrunch my face up like you just told me the chips I was eating were made of beetle dung. I'm probably not going to be someone you want writing about SEO or typewriter maintenance but if you want my take on literary analysis of a video game, how to set up social media for a modern writing career without feeling like you're spending too much time NOT WRITING, or how to find time to write with an infant in the house, I'm totes your guy.

And of course, I'd be happy to tweak something I've already written to fit into your blog if you want a slightly different take on an existing article.

Just don't tell me I can't drop the fucking F-bomb.

Of course, if you have a print medium and you are interested in soliciting an article, all of this applies equally to print media. I just mostly exist in the e-pub world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pros and Cons of W.A.W.'s Social Media

If you're trying to follow Writing About Writing it might actually be confusing to navigate all the different ways to do so. Not every social medium is updated in the same way. Some get just my latest posts, for example, and some are privy to a cycle of "reruns" where once a day, I cycle through the popular posts of the past so that new folks can see some of the things they missed (and old fans can be reminded of treasured classics). I also write for other venues, and those who are following me as a writer, rather than JUST Writing About Writing, may prefer the media where I can share those other articles.

97 of the Earth's coolest people can't be wrong!
The real "Join this site" button is at the
bottom of this (and every) page.
Follow Writing About Writing through Google (Blogger, Google Friend Connect). Google's Blogger allows you to assemble a collection of blogs you follow. Most people following the blog this way have their own blog through Blogger, but it's not necessary. (You only actually need a Google account, which many people have through gmail.)

Pros- Shows all new updates. Updates in a timely manner. Helps me with my "membership numbers," which are a bellwether of how cool the blog is.
Cons- No reruns. No posts from other venues. Blogger usually takes a few hours to get the latest post up. Wordpress is the chic, happening blog place; Blogger is like the high school kids who eat lunch in the quad.

It's going to burn your FEED!!!
R.S.S. Feed (Feedly, Feedburner) If you have an RSS reader, you may like to simply be updated by having your RSS feed updated with the text of my latest post. If you click on the Feedburner button at the bottom of the page, you can subscribe to Writing About Writing through a number of RSS readers including FeedDemon, Netvibes, My Yahoo, Shrook, Newsfire, RSSOwl and more.

Pros- Shows all new updates. Updates instantly.
Cons-Updates instantly! (Usually before I've managed to find and fix the biggest typos and dumbshit errors I missed before I hit "Publish".) No reruns. No posts from other venues. Many RSS readers are JUST text, so you won't see images. If you get a little behind on your feed, it feels like the sword of Damocles.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't punch in
the addys of all those Nigerian Princes.
E-Mail Notification- At the bottom of the page there is an option to put your e-mail into a text field and subscribe to W.A.W. through e-mail notifications.  Every time I post an update, you will be sent an e-mail notification containing a link to the post. I've been told that there's even some preview text (the first 200 words or something).

Pros- Shows all new updates. Updates right away.
Cons- No reruns. No posts from other venues. You already get ten billion e-mails a day.

G+ for the W.A.W. Page (The text there is also the link) This G+ page for Writing About Writing. Though I put an occasional image up (usually when I need to add text to an image to create a "You should be writing" macro), it is mostly there JUST for blog updates and reruns. If you want to get updates through G+, you should probably pick this page OR the one below, but not both. If you do both, it will appear in your feed as if every single link is being posted twice.

Pros- Show all new updates. Includes reruns.
Cons- No posts from other venues. It's G+, so people will accuse you of working for Google and give you shit about it.

G+ for Chris Brecheen (The text is also the link.) If I get added by a name I don't recognize in life, I put the name in a circle called "Author Updates." I post all my reruns and posts to other venues in this circle. I don't often use G+ otherwise, though occasionally I will have a public update that would also be seen by anyone in that circle.

Pros- All posts. Reruns. Posts from other venues. Posts right away. Not much other "noise."
Cons- Occasionally you'll see a public G+ post I write. Since I post all articles, reruns, and posts from other venues here, this can seem very "spammy." People will accuse you of being a Google shill because you're on G+.

Twitter (Chrisibrecheen) I don't use Twitter--not really. I don't really like it very much. I held in there for a while until all the retweets and replies became too much. So my tweets are ONLY cross posts of things I've written. Some people appreciate that it's a good place to get just the updates; others find the "signal to noise" to be something that wouldn't make them want to follow me.

Pros- All posts. Reruns. Posts from other venues. Posts right away. Not much other "noise."
Cons- I don't otherwise use twitter, so my only contribution is cross-posts, which can seem "spammy." Misunderstandings in 140 character posts are a fact of life. Twitter blows chunks and is the pubic lice of the internet.

Facebook Page for Writing About Writing (Text is also the link) W.A.W.'s Facebook page is a whole different kettle of fish. It is, in fact, a thermo-kettle full of piranha. On my Facebook page, I actually post memes, macros, quotes, inspirational messages, videos, and try NOT TO POST TOO MUCH FROM MY BLOG. Most of the FB audience is there for the shenanigans, not the blog cross posting. Sometimes I skip posting "less popular" updates in favor of a "best of" rerun that will attract more of my FB audience.

Pros- Lots of other fun stuff going on. Sticks to "best posts." Most reruns. Most posts from other venues.
Cons- Lots of other stuff going on. (Not a good place if you just want the updates.) FB algorithm prevents page followers from seeing every post so some W.A.W. posts will get lost.  Skips less popular posts in favor of popular reruns. Not a good place to get all the updates.

At this point I don't use any other forms of social media. Though my work will turn up on places like Reddit that has to do with other people, not me.

A Quick Warning

Don't eat yellow snow!
Hot coffee is hot.
Don't operate hair dryers in the shower.
Wait, what?
Lots of posts are coming.

In fact, it might have been better to use a Sean Bean Game of Thrones meme and replace "Winter" with "Posts."  Brace yourselves!

For those of you following Writing About Writing through RSS feeds or e-mail notifications, the next couple of days may involve a number of shorter posts as I work to fill out menus (and the tabs across the top) and flesh out some incomplete lists.

I won't be posting most of these updates on social media, so most people following me through Twitter, G+, or Facebook won't even notice what I'm doing unless they stop by to check, but for those of you you get some sort of feed update or notification, I don't really have a way to prevent those notifications for trivial posts.

I don't expect it's going to be like ten posts a day or anything so extreme, but if you're used to getting zero or one, it might feel spammy to get three or four as I tighten things up; however, as I said, it will only be for a day or two.

Thank you all so much for your patience, and thank you even more for reading!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Break! (sort of)

CLOAD: "Zaxxon"
No, that's not "cloud" misspelled.
Push "Play" on the tape player.
What tape player??? What do you mean "what tape player?"
What the fuck is wrong with you kids today?
Hi Everyone,

Every once in a while, I like to pretend I am actually a human being who doesn't work eighty hour weeks at three jobs like a madman--one of which nets about a dollar an hour. I pretend this so that I don't fall asleep crying every night in the fetal position begging for mercy from myself while I stand over me and repeat: "it writes with computer, pencil, or pen, or else it gets the hose again."

Yeah, I could probably use a break every once in a while.

Since my teaching job is on Spring Break, and the Sci Guy assures me that there has to be a Jurassic Park caliber restart of the entire system if we're to genuinely purge the mainframe (because corporate espionage is not immune from the rule of turning it off and on again). It has to be everything. All the computers that are networked--from the Galaga and Pole Position games in the lounge to the cloning lab mainframe to the biosensor artificial intelligence system that I installed in the entire compound so that "Stayin Alive" could play whenever I walked down a hallway and The Imperial March would thunder whenever I entered a room.

We even have to power down little computers Grendel uses in the cafeteria to communicate with his mom in the kitchen when someone wants extra mayo.

SciGuy then claims to be able to bring back up the system free of the influence of The Evil Mystery Blogger, although he assures me that if I don't figure out who the leak is, it's probably going to happen again...and again....and again. (Thus far I've only eliminated one possibility.)

So given the auspicious timing of massive mainframe reboot and Spring Break where I teach, I figured I'd take some time off. I've read that's something normal people do from time to time.

You know me; I can't REALLY take time off of writing. I will be working on fiction during the week and catching up on some reading.  I can't even really take time off from blogging. There totes will be updates, yo! I'll be updating menus and tabs and maybe getting up an article or two in a crazy, haphazard update schedule more akin to the feral kid from the second Mad Max movie than an entertainment website. You can expect something to show up most days. I'll just be tossing the regular schedule for the next eight days in favors of mint juleps on the veranda with a trashy genre novel.

Except that I don't really drink. And I don't have a veranda. But other than that....fucking mint juleps!

So while Writing About Writing undergoes its massive systematic reboot I will undergo a massive systematic quazi vacation. It'll be business as usual by next Wednesday.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Mailbox: How Could You Pick Non Traditional Publishing! How COULD You?

Why would anyone do epub/self pub? 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. Hate mail is likely to amuse me more than anything, but it will make me extra snarky when I reply.]  

Today's offerings are the bile squeezings of an anonymous writer out there who apparently thinks that I will sniffle and cry when they try to hurt my feelings instead of using their hate mail to make more page views, money, and hook up crazy hot groupie threesomes.

Anonymous writes:

This blog/e-pub thing is a disgrace to real writers like me. You think you can just write anything and it will be just as good as published material, but it isn't. Any writer with skill would not pick e-pub over traditional, so you must suck. Grow a pair. Submit. Why would you pick e-pub unless you can't write?

I could obviously just write a blog and type anything and call myself a writer. I could even publish my first draft and make all my friends buy a copy. Writing takes more than that. You posers [sic] are putting a lot of bad crap out there and sullying the art. We used to have standards.

My reply:

Apparently you have a definition of writing that I lack, so if you'd like to edify me, you are most welcome. I write every day, I've been read by three quarters of a million people at a rate of about eleven to twelve hundred people every day on average, roughly 500 people follow my blog updates (not including the 11,000 on my Facebook page), I've been read all over the world including The U.K., Egypt, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, Japan, most of Europe, and of course the U.S. I get paid somewhere around $100-$150 a month on average--an amount that is slowly but surely climbing upward.

I guess I'm one of those fake writers. (You might want to look up the True Scotsman fallacy, just for shits and giggles.) I really ought to be read by a few hundred, perhaps a few thousand, make no compensation other than invitations to events with free wine and copies of the anthology in which I'm printed, and troll people's blogs to tell them they're doing it wrong. Because clearly in order to be a real writer the gatekeeper has to love me the most of all--that's what the skin horse says, anyway.

According to recent Disney movies, love also helps if you've recently been ice-javelined in the heart.

Honor requires that since you asked to be anonymous, I don't publish your name, but it was actually pretty easy to figure out who you were from your e-mail since you used your regular account. (Rookie move for proper hate mail.) I then Googled your name, and found your Facebook and Linkedin profile, but absolutely no mention of published works, so unless you've scribbled out all your masterpieces under a pen name while managing BevMo during the day, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that your loyalty to traditional publishing has not yielded the accolades you're hoping for.

The reason I picked e-pub/self-pub over traditional wasn't actually just to offend you. It is sort of a nuanced decision that has been evolving over the last couple of years, and it's not going to fit in a snarky reply, but I'll try to hit the highlight reel, and I'll use small words so you can follow along.
  • Traditional publishing is shrinking. So more writers than ever before are competing for fewer traditional publishing opportunities. This leads to more competition for less pay. It also means that what gets published is increasingly what gatekeepers think will sell or what gatekeepers think is worthy of being published.
  • Gatekeepers in the publishing industry are (still) overwhelmingly white and middle class and predominantly men. While the LGBT community (though really just the LG part) has made wonderful inroads into traditional publishing and the literary world, other voices are still marginalized. That means that what they think will sell (or deserves to be published even though it may not sell) is what resonates with them.
  • Traditional writers have to be able to work for years (often for hours a day) without pay. That's not really an option for people who need to work three jobs or are the only care provider for two kids or something. That means that only people with a fair bit of privilege can get through the "hazing process." Other publishing methods can generate at least some income while a writer is improving their craft, and that creates an opportunity for new voices, and often some of the most interesting.
  • Traditional gatekeepers are often a bunch of stuck up elitist snotrags--especially about what's good, what's "art," and which dialect of English is "proper."
  • Other writing forms are expanding. Computers have changed everything. Right now it is (significantly) easier for an unheard of writer to get started, make inroads and build an audience in non-traditional publishing, and then possibly go hybrid. As is evidenced by the fact that Googling your name turns up no publishing credits whatsoever. Let me know how that "real writer" shit works out for you.
  • If you've ever read a Harlequin romance novel or just a really shitty science fiction book, you know full well that just because something is published, does not mean it is good. A gatekeeper's approval doesn't mean you are good. It means they think it will make money. Those are the only standards "we" ever "used to have." All computers have done is make taking a chance on something less risky because the printing costs are a few cents worth of bandwidth and electricity.
  • If I can make as much money or more from writing as all you "real" writers without taking advantage of a system that marginalizes others, I'm okay never having a big five contract.

I would also like to offer you a tiny bit of unsolicited advice: when you're writing hate mail to a writer talking about how much better (or "more real") a writer you are than they, it might be a good idea to proofread for things like verb tenses and homophones. While these errors makes for interesting visuals, (like a bunch of bloggers posing for selfies) it's probably not going to cement your superiority. We all make mistakes, and every writer needs an editor, but that's just a particularly ironic time to be writing like a fifth grader.

If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year (only one single less-than-a-cup-of-coffee dollar a month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Weasel Day

This is basically my entire March.
It's Unsupportive Girlfriend's birthday (actually it's Supportive Girlfriend's birthday too, but I don't see her much this time of year). So today's entry--which would have been Thursday fluff anyway--is going to be cancelled.

Unless you consider this an entry. In which case, I'm fucking golden!

See, I have to do jazz hands for her, so I can hardly do it for you too. There's only so much jazz handing to go around. You don't want sloppy seconds jazz hands.

At least...I'm hoping you don't want sloppy seconds jazz hands.

You see, Unsupportive Girlfriend can be a bit of a weasel during her birthday month. (That's right, she gets a whole month.) She even calls it weasel month.

So I'm off to placate a weasel. I'll be back tomorrow to answer some pretty sizzling hate mail. (Gotta love this job.)


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Searches that have led to Writing About Writing

Jazz Fingers
Hi there. I'm the head writer, Chris Brecheen. I know you were expecting a "meaty" article here since today is Monday, but...something happened yesterday, and I need an extra day to write it and it's totally not my fault even though I'm not blaming anyone else either and especially not Leela

Nope. Not her. I like it when she tells me she's going to get me an article and then doesn't.

So...um....today I'm going to share with you some of the searches on Google and Bing that have led readers to Writing About Writing.

As a blogger, you want to see searches that you hope make sense and get you to your site like these:

"MFA worth it"

"Prometheus terrible writing"

"Chris Brecheen awesome writer"

"why nanowrimo is bad"

"writing prompts"

"are creative writing programs worth it"

"Creepy Guy bart"

"prometheus dumb scientists"

"Shakespeare Forbidden Love"

"Scared Face"

Sometimes there are searches that are so broad, you're a little surprised that they could have caused someone to turn up on your doorstep:


"Feminist Writer Quotes"

"good writing"

"sfsu diploma"

"women are frustrating"

Of course there are searches that are just a little bit weird or a little bit funny, but still make sense:

"some writing"

"two books talking image"

"a picture of getting sick"

"writing every day not needed"

"hate the word normal quotes"

"groupie gif"

"fuck you grammar police"

"stuped shark"

And then theres the "What The ACTUAL Fuck" Category:

"sleazy blowj"

"tooth gif fuck pain"

"creepy man taking skirts off in stre"

"rassan hard cor porn sex vidieos"

"chick on moon gets gangbanged by robots"

"where writing goes to die"

"kung fu fight version rap"

"nanowrimo assclown fetish"

"chris brecheen felch fat dude"

"asshole shames poor guy on subway"

"white sores on lips"

"Prometheus snake dildo special order"

"blogs sexy muslim ass.com"

"i want to suck your dick louis qoutes"

"can I get herpes from a handshake"

"cut penis head off while reading"

"literally having sex with books"

"chicks love artists"

"how to write excuse chit"

"wipe my ass with my Masters degree"

"dildo dog"

"cockblocking fag on BART"

"giving a snow job to someone with herpes"

"literary sluts*"

"literary poon*"

"literary hos*"

*All in the same hour

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Chat with Leela Bruce

Chris Brecheen: Listen, I know it was probably actually the cheese guy but--

Leela Bruce: If you accuse me of writing those Mystery Blogger posts, the next thing I kung fu fight is going to be your face.

Chris: (~long pause~) I would...never. I was wondering....if....you had seen the cheese guy.

Leela: Oh good, because there's an internal memo from the SciGuy suggesting that you might be stopping by all the guest bloggers' quarters to find out if we're involved. Mostly because you're too big a wuss to go ask your evil twin who lives in the basement if he's involved.

Chris: You wound me, Leela.

Leela: Not yet.

Chris: Well...then....um...it's probably a good thing that I just stopped by to ask if you um....have an article for me.

Leela: I'm not writing jack shit for you until you run the old articles that you found after you decrypted the mainframe. There's some good stuff in there.

Chris: Yeah, actually about that....  I know The SciGuy says he found your articles, but they're not there now. And Cedric says you stopped by a couple of weeks ago and asked to get them back to make a few edits, and then never brought them back.

Leela: Oh right! It's all coming back to me. Do you remember when I told you that the guest blogger situation here at Writing About Writing was a sausage fest?

Chris: (swallows) Um...yeah.  I remember something like that, yes.

Leela: And you hired three wonderful guest bloggers--sisters--who were going to do link pimpage. Do you remember that?

Chris: I...uh...I do.

Leela: And do you then remember the whole lot of nothing that happened after that? No posts. No segments. No nothing. Mostly no additional ladyparts.

Chris: There were...extenuating circumstances.

Leela: You managed to run six articles a week while fighting an interdimensional war with a race bent on the eradication of humanity. You can bust out a can of Cope if you happen to have to teach summer school. I'm a little tired of your prima donna shit. Here's an idea: stop spending the first three hours of a writing session on Facebook. Then you can do crazy things like work three hours in a day and get some fucking writing d--

Chris: So...Pointer Sister articles then?

Leela: I don't care what you do as long as I'm not the token chick around here anymore. If one more motherfucker mansplains martial arts to me, I'm going to use Dim Mak on every penis in this place until you're all fucking eunuchs.

Chris: Well...um....what should I do for tomorrow?

Leela: I'm trying really hard to figure out how that's my problem.

Chris: You know I sign your paychecks rig--

Leela: (~punches through a cinderblock~)

Chris: Glad we could have this little chat.

Leela: Me too.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Parting Clouds

So sometimes "personal updates" on Monday might mean whiny beyond all reason because life tends to ebb and flow like that. They can't all be groupie threesome, broke-a-million hits, got a book deal kind of weeks. In fact, this last week was sort of the armpit of my year so far. I managed to avoid one of my usual dips down into depression, but only by sheer force of will.

  • Last week, I very nearly died. And because I don't get sick very often, I am an extra big baby when it happens, and it puts me in a particularly foul mood.
  • We were in the sixth week of parental visits to see The Contrarian. Now if you've never met a superhero's parents (and since most superheroes are orphans, it's entirely possible that you haven't), they are a wonderful lot--usually retired from fighting crime but happy to help their kids out. Needless to say the training room combat dummies are sparkling, the holographic threat projection system has been upgraded, and all the spandex has been dry-cleaned. But it also meant more dishes and more cleaning for the resident sidekick.
  • I did something kind of ill-advised last week. I asked someone out. The thing is, I'm ALWAYS wrong about whether or not someone is interested in me in a non-platonic way. If I think they are, they aren't. If I assume they aren't, it turns out they are. It's called The Brecheen Inversion principle, and the worst part is that it turns out that if I try to factor it into my equation ("I think she likes me, therefore she doesn't because I am always wrong"), I will still always be wrong. The current wording of The Brecheen Inversion Principle goes thusly: TBIP states that the platonic/non-platonic interest of any subject will always be wrong, EVEN when accounting for The Brecheen Inversion Principle. Almost thirty years of dating. It's just a thing--like taxes, The North Star, and Carrot top making a joke you wince at instead of laugh at at least once a minute. Don't misunderstand, I'm not a monk; I get laid plenty. My partners are awesome and hot and generally way too good for me. But it's always women who do the coming on in my life. Any time I ignore that little voice in my head that reminds me why I don't do the asking, and I sally forth with a "carpe diem" or "fortune favors the brave" on my lips, I end up remembering why it's not a good idea to ignore that little voice. 
  • I kind of got caught up in a swirling vortex of doom on a bunch of comments on one of the other blogs I write for. Just your usual "bottom half of the internet" stuff, but I was having some real trouble with it since it involved me. I mean, I know this is weird for the internet, and all, but it almost seemed like they were talking past me. On the internet. I mean can you believe that shit? So comment followed comment and I followed the spiral into the vortex of doom.
I'm actually pretty surprised I didn't go down the rabbit hole. Usually weeks that bad have a pretty clear trajectory into the abyss that can be my brain. By about Friday afternoon, I figured I was a goner and I was going to spend most of this week with my cranky pants on.

But then the clouds kind of parted. 

  • Much like the dude turned newt, I got better. Somehow. I know the complication rate of rhinovirus is almost 1%. Given my age, I was very lucky to survive. But I'm a fighter. And somehow I pulled through.
  • I survived the superhero grandparents! The last one left on Sunday after teaching Uberdude a secret evil foiling technique involving a hinge trap that always worked for him. (I didn't ask.) But once they were gone, I could take off my crime fighting mask and lounge around in my secret identity, which involves having no pants.
  • I walked. Like a gillion miles. Literall Figuratively. Ostensibly I stormed out of the house to get something that wasn't "another damned sandwich" for lunch, but after wandering around looking for a place to eat for an hour, I noticed I was feeling pretty good from the fresh air and the exercise, so I just kept walking for a couple more hours. I came back feeling pretty cloud-busted.
  • I have returned that little voice in the back of my head to its station of honor. I call it "The Great Voice," I feed it peeled grapes and fan it with peacock feathers, and if it tells me not to carpe any diems, I sure as shit won't be. Fortune favors the cute who wait to be asked out. Not the brave. Unfortunately if the pattern of my forgetting what I've learned repeats itself, somewhere around forty-five, I'll ignore that voice and ask someone out. Mores the pity. In the meantime, don't forget that I'm always accepting resumes. Awwwwww yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaah.
  • There were several conversations with my fellow writers on the other blog that helped me remember that I'm writing on a highly charged environment over there, and the bottom half of the internet is place of deepest madness. Sometimes people might even read past your points or be biased and stuff. You have to let go...even though someone is wrong on the internet. Frankly, after a good bitch session about the people involved, the whole thing has taken on the timber of a big joke. That's right, ya bastages, I am the bottom half of the internet. Respect!
  • The Contrarian is really cute. He started giggling this weekend. And he recognizes me and smiles when he sees me. And if baby smiles and giggles can't stop a bad mood in its tracks, that's one serious fucking bad mood.

So here's hoping for the continued trend back into the stratosphere of "Less Suckitude" than before.