Welcome

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year, Readers!



Well, that's another year in the can.

The Writing About Writing staff hopes your 2015 is filled with love and grace and that hard times don't sink their claws in too deep or last too long. And for those of you who have looked forward with glee to showing 2014 the door, only a few hours remain.

Me? I've loved every hellacious maddening second of 2014, and even though I am desperately looking forward to having the free time with which to blow my nose from time to time and getting back to a writing routine in which I can do fiction and keep up with Writing About Writing my little entropic tornado of distraction has been the best, most wonderful force of wanton devastation I have ever experienced. 

Still a few hours a day to really sit down and write (rather than slamming in a few minutes during naps or when The Contrarian is watching "First Signs") might be really nice.

I'm still looking at a pile of thank you notes I need to write for the last couple of months worth of donations, the house is a disaster and I leave for the land of omelets and salsa tomorrow afternoon, and the staff insisted on having the afternoon off (and don't even talk to me about trying to get them to come in hung over tomorrow), so I will see you all on January 2nd, where if things go according to plan, I will be writing entries from the bedside of a very drugged up friend.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Myth of the Rag Tag Group (Blood Sucking Fiend)

Saturday night I played my vampire game.

While I'm not sure I'm going to stick with the game (for a few reasons which have little or nothing to do with writing) but I was able to pick up on a little lesson about character development to lay on my fellow writers.

Today I want to talk about the rag tag group where everyone has a niche.

This is a real common trope in TV and film and even books. A group gets together, each for their own reasons, or are thrown into a situation. Maybe they crash land on an island because of a giant magnet that turns on if you don't punch lotto numbers into it. Maybe they all got stuck in an elevator. Maybe they all gathered together because they each have their own reason for joining the mandroid to stop Reeves from time traveling to ancient Rome. Whatever it is, they work well together. They all have a widely divergent set of skills and each ends up being critical to the overall goals of the group. Every character ends up with their own moment to shine.

Not too fine a point on it, but this is bullshit. Grade AAA USDA bullshit.

It might make for a feel good plot, or the didactic lesson that everyone has value, but it isn't even close to accurate. So when you portray such groups, if you want to be honest about your characterization you need to have more people who insinuate themselves into everything that happens. People who stamp out those with skills better suited to a problem just because they want to be in charge or want to be involved with everything. People who have to control everything, even if it's outside their strengths, skill sets, even basic knowledge.

Great teams are assembled, but this often takes careful work and consideration and the roles of each person are usually spelled out pretty clearly by good leadership. Good leadership is a skill as much as carpentry or plumbing. Not a lot of people understand that the mark of a great leader is to delegate, step back, and let people do what they're good at. Most of the corporate world spends years trying to get managers to learn this simple concept because most people drawn to power want their hands elbow deep in micromanaging everything.

On Saturday night, there were a couple of characters who were....everywhere I looked. Combat? They were muscling their way to the front line. Major conversation? They dominated it. Political maneuvering? They were explaining to the prince what to do. Social moment? They demanded the spotlight. No matter what was going on, they had to be front and center of the action.

It didn't matter that there were perhaps sixty players there, each with their own skill set–some designed specifically to be great at certain obstacles or problems. It didn't matter that players and characters alike were specifically (sometimes uniquely) qualified to assist with certain problems. The attention-hegemony seekers closed the doors so that they could personally sink their teeth into everything.

Sorry...couldn't resist.

Rather than saying "Neonate (neonate=very young vampire), I'm going to live FOREVER if I don't get killed by dangerous things. Why don't you curry my favor, go deal with the Very Dangerous Thing™ that just showed up, and report back. I'm in dire need of a useful pawn," these elders tend to be more like: "OUTTA THE WAY, PECK!" (And while I could probably write a book on the underlying psychological correlation between the draw of, "My character is an uber baddass who you must respect and fear" and the tendency to micromanage and hog the spotlight, I will simply say this is a very common problem in Vampire games, and that it's important for writers to keep in mind that such people are everywhere.) Whether they don't trust anyone but themselves to do things right, they simply can't stand the thought of not knowing everything going on, or they really do have an inflated sense of their abilities to deal with all situations, they will be over-controlling and shoehorn themselves into most situations.

It's not just this vampire game. It's not just every vampire game. It's not just LARPs or role playing games. It happens everywhere. It happens all the time. There are just people who are like this. They just need to be in on everything and they value their input even more sometimes than experts. They shoehorn in and tell people with more expertise what to do...or worse simply do it themselves.

So in your next story, while it might seem convenient to have everyone be good at something and the cohesiveness of teamwork just work itself out with everyone slipping easily into their niche, don't forget that the natural inclination is for some to muscle their way into every situation, and at best your rag tag band should have some power struggles for dominance and at least a dynamic between socially overpowering micromanager vs. actual good delegating leadership. At worst, things should go wrong because someone who knew what to do was vetoed by someone who just couldn't let go.

Further, for reasons that should be obvious, and have to do with certain types of people being used to having their opinions held in high regard and challenged only very carefully by others, such characters will tend to be white, tend to be male, tend to be the dominant social hierarchy. Tall, good-looking, thin, white, heterosexual, cisgendered men of affluence have a terrible tendency to be just like this.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Coming Week (Or So)

So here is the short version:

OG has cancer.

Fuck cancer.

I can share my bent view of the world through the lens of a sidekick, and write the best parts of my peeps into superhero realism and make a trip to the cleaners and lunch an adventure, but I can't in genuine honesty write cancer out of the world--not without a villain far too successful in murdering heroes who never stops once it has a grip on someone and JUST KEEPS COMING BACK even if defeated.

By the way, fuck cancer.

In a couple of days I'm going to be going to the land of salsa and omelets to sit by the waterfall with her while she lets western medicine do its thing. I'll be the first in a series of friends tagging each other out to make sure OG's convalescence is filled with peeps and entertainment. I'll be the guy making sure I've got on my effervescent optimism face on, so that she won't despair, even as inside I feel like everything in my world is imploding in upon a renegade mutated cell and then crumbling into pallid dust.

Did I mention, fuck cancer.

I have no way to know for sure what is going to happen with Writing About Writing in the next few days. I will try as hard as I can to honor my commitment to at least a daily post and a couple of "meaty" posts each week, but the schedule of Monday and Friday might break down a little bit. I'm trying to leave the Hall of Rectitude in a decent shape before I go, there's still wreckage everywhere from the attack of the Santa-Bots, and the first of the year is already filled with lots of villains hoping that the new leaf they turn over will be actually dominating the world this year.

I also just can't know how this is going to play out. It's a slow cancer and the prognosis is overwhelmingly positive. If all goes according to plan, I will be sitting by her bedside for hours at a time while she is zonked out on pain killers and able to write as much as I could want. If things are less idyllic, I may be helping much more directly and less able to sit down for more than a few minutes at a stretch. Then you might see a lot more edited old posts, cleaning up of menus, and general jazz hands.

And rather than think about the far other end of the scale, I will simply say again, "Fuck Cancer*!"

So please bear with me. I know this holiday season with its one year old and in laws and sidekick exchange programs and stupid Santa Bots and cancer has been anything but high quality, and maybe some of you wonder why I would rather jazz hands than just put things on a small hiatus, but writing is often HOW I deal with my life being fucked up and overwhelming, so I'm not going anywhere, and I'll be churning out the good stuff just as soon as I can.

*Like in the ear with no lube and no Sarah McLaughlin and no sweet talk. All grudge. All hate.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thank You Notes, Year End Prep, and Catch Up

This is his pissed off face.
Got a stack of thank-you notes to generous patrons I need to write for Nov/Dec and the upcoming hilarity of the new year madness as well as a house full of undone chores.

Besides which, I have been getting increasingly snotty e-mails from Cedric for months now that I need to find out which of our staff is the mole--surreptitiously posting the Evil Mystery Blogger posts, since The Sci Guy insists it must have come from someone inside the Writing About Writing Compound.

So I guess I'm ready to have an uncomfortable conversation with Leela Bruce.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Best Y.A. Author? (Poll Reminder!)

There are only a few days left in our Best Young Adult Poll. We have several ties (including first place) and a luke warm turn out that could make it anybody's game. If you haven't yet, please take a moment to vote (the poll is on the bottom left–it's the thing with the clicky boxes).

Everyone gets five votes.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Troupe (Twizzlefizzlepop's Book Pimp)

Apologiesthatithasbeensolongsince(breath).... I'vedoneasegmentforthefinereadersofWAW(breath)... Ihavehadatrulyhardtimetryingtofindwork....

Sorry....

I forget to slow down when I'm talking to humans. As I was saying, the pay scales here at Writing About Writing cap out at "cripplingly destitute" and that's after you get about a dozen raises, so I've had to do some moonlighting. And being a feminist book pimp is a very niche market, especially among my fellow gnomes, let me tell you. However, now that Chris is getting his shit back together time-wise and scheduling guest bloggers again, I have a great book I want to tell you about today. It's called The Troupe and it's by Robert Jackson Bennett.

George Carole is an incredible piano player who has joined a vaudeville show to try and find his father, Heironomo Silenus. However, George quickly comes to realize that this troupe is unusual even for a vaudeville act, and that nothing is what it seems. In fact, it goes well beyond such a tired cliche, and most things look like what they are not. The other members of the troupe hide secrets that go far beyond trouble pasts. From the exotic acrobat to the ventriloquist who defies plausibility to Selenus himself, each conceals a piece of a horrible puzzle.

George begins to realize three things about the troupe almost immediately upon joining: one, is that they are looking for something, two is that everywhere the troupe goes, a little bit of magic seems to go with them. But perhaps the most troubling thing George realizes is that something else is looking for them.

Bennet style may strike many as far to filled with adverbs to be enjoyable, and his predilection for "light vs. dark" imagery and some nice guy tropes might cause a few cringes, but he weaves an unconventional tale that twists both of these starting positions into places one might not expect them to go. Just like everything else in this novel, they are not what they seem.

In the tradition of vaudeville, American gothic, and magical realism, but with a dash of just-plain-ol-fantasy thrown in to keep you on your toes, The Troupe takes you on George Carole's journey to discover what is really going on with this motely crew, through encounters with powerful beings, ancient supernatural powers, and stakes that turn out to be the highest imaginable.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays from Writing About Writing

From all of us at Writing About Writing (even though most days 99% of us are all in one writer's head), to all of you who read–whether you're lighting your last candle tonight, it's two days to a celebration that didn't happen all that long ago, you're headed off to mass, your kids are going bananas over Santa, it's just a couple of days off work and you resent the Christian privilege in this country, or even if you just like all the pretty lights and the one time of the year that people don't suck quite so horribly:


W.A.W. will be back on Friday on Friday the 26th. Our staff demands bank holidays off and I might like to have some cheer with a few peeps for a change.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Christmas Story? (Mailbox)

Christmas themed stories?  

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Monday.  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, but likely only if you ask a question. And yes I will play along with your goofy games even if your e-mail clearly indicates that you are not actually Santa.]    

Lukas Asks:

In the spirit of the season, here's a question for you*:
How many Christmas-themed stories have you written?

*Yes, that counts as your present. I'm broke. What did you expect?**

**No, don't say threesomes. You always say threesomes.

My reply:

Lukas, I'm sorry, but if wanting Christmas threesomes is wrong, I don't wanna be right. If that means I have to have a persona that is a little like Groot or Hodor (except with the word "threesomes"), I regret nothing. Besides, it's not like I don't throw in a grammar joke or something here and there.

Once upon a time, I had a Christmas story. It was more of an anecdote really–one I had written for my Personal Narrative cla12@!ss–from the year I opened all the presents on the 23rd. (And I mean ALL the presents.) I was five or six, and there was a present that had torn, so I convinced myself that it would be okay if I opened it early.

The next thing I remember, mom was coming down the stairs, and the room....oh god, what had I done?

Anyway, that story got eaten along with many others by "The Great Dropbox Memory Purge of Twelve™", and I've had to console myself with a few surviving hard copies, things I had written on Google Drives and the fact that I was going to have to completely rewrite all of it anyway. Still, that was about twenty years worth of writing, so I'm a little cheesed off.  (There are very old versions on a zip drive but the current incarnations of word processor programs won't actually open them.)

So, unless we start adding in the primary school writing prompts that the English teacher threw out on the Fridays before the two week break just to give us something to do, the answer is a very qualified "one."

Monday, December 22, 2014

One....MILLION Pageviews!

Whoever that one person is, they are very, very fast.
That was just in the half second it took me to click
open my blog from the analytics page.
Hi there beloved readers, 

Today, at a little after eleven o'clock, Writing About Writing reached a million page views. 

That's more people than live in Austin, Texas or about as many as live in San Jose, California. It's almost as many as live in Dallas.

It has taken me nearly three years of writing to reach this point and very nearly 1000 posts (about 35 to go). Some posts went viral and got a quarter of a million page views. Others from the first days of the blog have languished and never even hit double digits. 

When I started blogging, I had a lot of false humility. "Oh, I'm sure it won't be that big," I said with a plastic smile. Secretly though, down in my heart, I believed that as soon as I hit the blogoverse, and people had a chance to discover I was there, my genius would attract people in droves. I honestly thought my first million was probably going to happen within the first year. 

As reality set in, it became pretty clear that a million page views would be on the "crackpipe dream pile" with groupie threesomes, "paying the bills with writing," and the hope that people would stop rolling their eyes when I said I was a blogger. After that, my far, far, FAR more realistic estimate was that I was probably looking at at least six or seven years before I reached a million hits–maybe even a little longer. In those first few months, pulling down 8, 10, 12, and even 4 thousand page views it never crossed my mind that I could get there in any fewer than five years. I would have thought that was being too optimistic.

Yet here we are at a little less than three. 

I love you all for appreciating my shtick.
As always, my thoughts turn to gratitude The reason I'm not an old man merely yelling at the clouds here is because of each of you. Many of you have not just stopped in to read an article or two, but have followed my page and visited regularly, and a few of you have even shared article, helping me to go far and wide.

Though the future of my writing is still a little hazy, it seems that the possibility of a career of non-traditional publishing is at least feasible, and this blog may be the centerpiece of an actual really, real career in writing for a living. However that shapes out exactly though, it was entirely because of all of you.

Thank you so much. You all leave me breathless.

One....MILLION page views.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Gamergate's Failure (Cooking Up Something for the Geeks)

I'm working on an Ace of Geeks article (that will probably go live sometime next week) so as per usual when I'm writing for another blog, I'm going to do a promo for the LAST article I wrote.

Be sure and Follow W.A.W. on social media if you want to get Ace of Geeks and Grounded Parents articles as soon as they are posted.

This article I wrote about Gamergate was an instant hit. Find out why everything Gamergate tried to do failed so spectacularly.



In the history of fail, there have been few examples quite thorough as Gamergate. Whatever momentum they briefly held in their championing the ethical treatment of video game journalism has been fully eclipsed by an increasing awareness that they are behaving like toddlers with overfull diapers. Sexist toddlers. With potty mouths.
You may have noticed that they're kind of becoming a joke these days.

You almost (but not quite) have to feel bad for the sincere. (I mean the really sincere, not the ones twisting themselves into pretzels to justify their sexism.) Their struggle is like watching a two year old get more and more incensed at the adults laughing at their meltdown. The more red faced they get, the more they scream and stamp their feet and the more the adults giggle. "Awwwwwwwww. Who needs a nap and their baba?"

Read on at Ace of Geeks....

Friday, December 19, 2014

So You Want to Start Your Own Blog (Part 2: Prep)

Return to Part 1

Part two in our series of advice to would be bloggers. Because people keep asking me for advice about how they should blog. And they keep not believing that I know jack shit. So here is another installment of the sum and substance of my meager (and I do mean meager) wisdom.

Remember I'm not the right person to ask about SEO optimization, self promotion strategies, "getting the most from your blog" tweaks, how to scale your actionable synergy, or bleeding edge branding strategies. I'm just a writer, and if any of that shit looks like it's going to take too much time and energy away from writing, I don't bother with it. So what I can tell is what's easy to do, leaves you time to focus on your art, but still works.

OKAY....so...you've definitely thought about whether or not you even want to blog, and you're sure you want to take the plunge into the ocean of pain, suffering, and regular updates whether you "feel inspired" or not. I like your style, masochist. But let's not fire up that first post just yet. (Don't worry, you'll feel like you've been doing this like Sisyphus in no time.) Trust me though, that you're going to appreciate taking a moment to think a few things through before you start punching keys.

Part 2 PREPARATION 

Before you dig into the seedy, underpaid, unglamorous, unglorious, and woefully un-groupie-threesomed world of blogging, you might want to do a little bit of preparation to get yourself ready to rock. Yes, you could dive right in like that idiot Chris did, but if there's one fucking thing I learned looking back, it's that I wish someone had told me this shit instead of all that mind numbing fecal explosion about "search engine optimization" and domain names.


Try your hand at some serious guest blogging. Seriously, I can't stress this enough.

Traveling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops boy. Writing a blog isn't exactly the same as journaling or even whipping up six college essays a semester. You may have a few good ideas in your head and you want to write about them, but do you really have hundreds? Thousands? Enough to keep writing at a regular pace for years? The expectation that one will simply sit down, fire off those good ideas that have been marinating for years, and the accolades will start rolling in is seductive.

And bullshit.

Seductive bullshit. A huge pile of it. And if you've ever woken up next to a pile of bullshit that successfully seduced you, you know that it's not your proudest moment.

It also won't respect you in the morning.

Yes, you will come up with new ideas, but you'll be shocked at how fast the exciting "new-relationship-energy" of blogging will wear off and it will be an obligation that you don't always look forward to like a puppy to its human coming home with a ball. It's good to get a realistic sense of how much of a drag "Crap, I have to write an article for tomorrow" can be. Once the glitter and the excitement has worn off, are you still going to want to be doing this, or are you going to be sitting there with a blog that has eight entries, trying not to feel like a failure.

It's a really good idea to do some guest blogging before you jump in the water. I know you'll probably feel like you're giving all your best ideas away to some other website, but I promise you that 1) you'll come up with new ideas, 2) you'll be able to retool the ideas you use into new articles that have a fresh (and better) take on the subject, and 3) you will value the experience of the cold, hard reality more than the few ideas you give up.

Finding a blog to write for is easy. Just find one that is writing about a subject you want to tackle and send them an e-mail. Most blogs are always looking for guest bloggers (Writer's note: yes, even W.A.W.) They would love the chance to have a day off or to be noticed by a few of your friends. And you will be noticed by their readers. (Then you have the added benefit of being able to poach a few initial readers when you start your own blog.) Just keep in mind that unless you're writing for a major news media blog, you will almost certainly have to settle for the experience, the exposure, and maybe the promise of being bought a drink someday. (W.A.W. promises to share the proceeds if there are any, but it would take a very popular article to reach that point.)

If you are thinking to yourself "the promise of 'exposure' is total bullshit" you're right....if someone approaches YOU to write for THEM.  But it's a sad reality of guest blogging--especially if you're unknown. A single article would have to get tens of thousands of clicks to even cover the postage of sending you a check (or the Paypal service fee). So unless you go uberviral, there's not much chance of you making enough money from a single entry for the blog to matter.


What kind of blog do you want to write?

Blog about something. The worst answer you could give is "I dunno....whatever."

For starters, you have robots crawling your site looking for how to put it on search engines. The more topics you cover, the more those robots won't know what the hell to do with you. But more than that, it's about who comes to your site. Who stays. And who becomes a fan.

Basically, unless you're famous, blogs are not journals. You can get your friends interested in your journal....maybe. Although we may have jumped the shark on social media journalling altogether. I definitely remember about ten years ago when most people were introduced to me by their Livejournal handles. (Hi, I'm Dicedork! This is Flimontheflam.) However most of us seem to have culturally moved on. Not that there aren't still some journalers out there entertaining their friends (even on LJ), but you would probably have to be outrageously funny, endlessly fascinating, or already famous for people to tune in to your blog about....whatever.

The best blogs are about something. Politics. Skepticism. Religion. Science. Cooking. Writing. SOMETHING. You might think that you can broaden your audience by broadening your topic base, but it actually will work just the opposite. The more topics you try to cover, the fewer people are going to be interested in most of them.

It's not that you can't have an off-topic post once in a while or shoehorn some really interesting thing that happened to you into the container of writing (~cough~), but you mostly want to stay on topic--and on a narrow topic.

This might seem counter-intuitive, but the tighter the subject focus of your blog, the more people are probably going to subscribe. It might be a little harder to find them if your topic is really esoteric, but you will be their one-stop "Esotericsubject"shop. Once people know what to expect, they are more likely to be interested. I swear to god some of the most popular blogs out there are these bizarrely specific topics like "Doctor Who Memes and Cooking on a Five Dollar Budget" or "Social Justice in Metropolitan Parks." It's because people will always know what they're getting when they visit these blogs. One of the most successful bloggers I know writes ONLY about Warhammer 50k miniatures strategy games. That's it. If it's not a report of a convention game, an evaluation of a unit, a preview of an upcoming expansion, or whatever, he doesn't write about it. He has ten times the traffic I do right now.

Here's why this works even though it seems like it shouldn't: if you're the only vegan, gluten free, sugar free, ethnic cookies recipe blogger out there, you will get every single person interested in vegan, gluten free, sugar free, ethnic cookies subscribed to your blog. They know that EVERY SINGLE entry you write is going to be something they're interested in. If you write for a blog that writes about anything that fits vaguely under the umbrella of "Geek Culture" you're up against about fifty million other blogs that do the same thing in addition to ones that focus on video games or movies or whatever.

And before you ask, there are a metric shitton of writing blogs out there, and even several that are deliciously snarky and drop the f-bomb several times per entry. Even though almost none that have a cheese guy living on the second floor of their compound, this is why I live on diet of Raman and shame.

Can you blog about nothing? Or broad topics? Of course. Do what you love. There's no reason to be writing anyway. But if you want to find your niche audience, the trick is to go narrow.


Decide how often you want to post. Or more accurately, how often you can afford to post.

One of the biggest factors in how quickly your blog will grow is the consistency with which you write. If you just fire off an entry when you are motivated and the spirit moves you and there's no more Orange is the New Black on Netflix and you're not doing a Dominion tournament with your friends that night, and, and, and......not too many people will likely subscribe to your blog's updates. They'll just click through when you pique their interest. And that means they won't even know you've posted if they're not in a place you can market to.

What will get people to subscribe is the anxiety that they might miss something awesome if they don't. If they know you're writing every day, and they really like your work, they will subscribe (or follow you on various social media). If they know you only write infrequently, you won't give them that "gotta catch em' all" anxiety.

You want your posting schedule to remain relatively consistent. You can fiddle with the knobs once you're up and running and it won't bother too many people, but if you make broad, sweeping changes to the entire fundamental structure of your blog in mid-stream, you're going to lose some readers. People like the comfort of their routines. A blog that suddenly goes from a monthly post to daily posting will be seen as suddenly becoming overwhelming (even by people who gladly read daily blogs). A blog that does the reverse will be seen as having been abandoned (even by people who gladly read monthly blogs).

I logged back in after a month and found thirty back entries.
Forget it. No one needs ethnic cookies THAT badly.

One last thing to keep in mind here is that this will relate directly to how quickly your blog will grow. I know bloggers who have been at it for two (and in one case almost three) times longer than me, many of whom are terribly jealous of my numbers–which are still quite modest. Every time they wonder what my secret is, I find out that they're writing one post a week or a couple of times a month. I write a post every day, including weekends, and even do some funky jazz hands posts when I'm on vacation. I'm like a sweatshop worker in a southeast Asian country--that's the only reason I have the (modest) numbers I do. The more you write, the faster you will grow.


Check the regular advice. 

There's some stuff I can't tell you because I don't care.

Seriously, I understand it's a thing, but I couldn't give a shit. I'm interested in philosophical questions about blogging vs. writing and the "real cost" of self-promotion vs. art. I don't particularly care about whether or not I have my own domain name. I figure most people who want to find me will find me no matter what my blog's domain name is. I already spend too much time on social media (and not writing), so I'm not going to work any harder to develop the ultimate self promotion plan. I couldn't care less that I'm using one of Blogger's pre-generated templates.

So there's all this bullshit out there that isn't writing. It's more like webpage design, search engine optimization, and social media integration. It gives me a headache, and I would rather write.

But you have to decide for yourself how important that stuff is to you. I could give fuck all, but you might want to really focus on that stuff. And if you Google "How to start a blog" or something similar, you will discover that 99% of the advice you're going to find is about this stuff. They won't tell you to guest blog or how important it is to establish a posting schedule or a topic. They're going to talk about how to get your own domain name and where to post your articles to get the most hits.

Yawn.

I don't care for that stuff, but you might. So I would at least give yourself a few hours of reading the "typical" advice, so you can come to your own conclusions about how much you want to be a writer vs. how much you want to mess with being a webmaster.


Blogger or Wordpress? Or.....are you going rogue? 

There is one decision you have to make right away, and it will matter. You have to decide your blogging platform. Now unless you want to journal (in which case you might use Livejournal, G+, or Facebook Notes) or you want to post a LOT of GIFs and images in with your writing (in which case Tumblr or Quora), you basically have two choices. Blogger or Wordpress. There are a lot of platforms that are better for vloggers or photographers or podcasters, but I'm going to assume you're mostly going to be writing. If you want to pay money to host your blog, it opens up a few other options–like Typepad or Ghost–but these options aren't necessarily better than their free counterparts.

Your basic choice is Blogger vs. Wordpress. And this is the difference: Blogger is going to be a lot easier to use. Wordpress can do more.

Let me explain to you how I deal with computers. When my computer breaks, I stand there looking pathetic and say, "We look for things. Things that make us go." When someone who understands computers comes along, I kidnap them and hope their buddies don't have a crimson force field.

Computer people are smart. They will make our blog strong.

For me, picking Blogger was a no brainer. On a good day, I can figure out how to turn my computer ON without help. I needed the template with the plug-and-play widgets and the "Click here to host ads!" button. I needed to pick a template and have everything preset to the right geometry. I needed a program that would auto-format for mobile visitors. Even though I know that I could do more with Wordpress, for me it's a lot easier to just have the option to click a button to get what I want. (Some day, if W.A.W. is ever making pay-the-bills money, I will establish a Wordpress mirror site.) I prefer macs for the same reason, much to the chagrin of my computer science engineer roommate.

If you like configurability, have skill with HTML, or just don't mind taking a lot longer to figure out what the fuck you just did that made every letter as big as an entire screen, you might prefer Wordpress. It can do more. It can be snazzier and you have far greater options with it's tools. For example, I would love to have drop down menus on those tabs at the top of the screen. Instead each opens a page with sub directories. Drop down menus are pretty easy to whip up on Wordpress if you know what you're doing because Wordpress can do more. In Blogger they require basically recoding your entire site. I took one look at how to do it and my bowels evacuated as fight or flight set in.

You may want to consider one other thing if your writing is "fringe" subject matter (hate speech, legally questionable erotica, wildly controversial, or something). Blogger doesn't hold a copyright on your writing, but it does host your blog. So, in theory, they could just shut it down one day with no warning. Wordpress can host your website (with the same risks) or you can just use their program as your blogging tool, and host your blog yourself. Then no one can just shut you down.

Now I don't know what any of that means, but it sounds like something some writers might be paranoid about. I will say this: the last time blogger shut down a bunch of blogs in the news, it was pedophilia erotica with stock pictures of little kids as the preview image, so...I'm having a hard time whipping up even a little bit of outrage at the censorship of it all.


Give yourself a couple of days to figure out the learning curve.

When you log in, you're going to see a zillion things you don't understand. You may not even be able to figure out how to post. You won't know what the hell buttons do, or have any sense of how to go about getting what you want. You will just see this wall of strange buttons: "Labels; Schedule; Posts; Permalink; Layout; Stats; Options...." You might feel a bit overwhelmed.

It's fucking worse than Sims 3...which at least has a tutorial.

Don't run. Don't panic. Don't go tarn. Just relax and trust me that in a day you're going to understand the basics, and in a month you'll be an old pro. Give yourself an afternoon to fiddle around with the buttons and figure out how things work.


Decide if you want to make money.

Yes, do this now. Do it before you start. Decide if you are going to make money.

Pretentious? Maybe. Presumptuous? Almost certainly.

Do it anyway.

If you navigate the world of "How to start a blog" posts like I did, you're going to find very quickly that there are certain bits of advice that everybody repeats.  (Write high quality stuff, not keyword rich filler; post consistently; etc...) While four different posts might have 80% completely different advice, that 20% is something they all agree on. That's when you know it's probably good advice.

So I want you to understand the gravitas when I tell you that just about every website had this one piece of advice: "If you're going to host ads on your blog, do it RIGHT AWAY." Do it from day one, even if you only have ten readers and make a penny every two weeks.

Here's why....

I make about five dollars a day at Writing About Writing.
Selling out never felt so good.
People get really upset, on principle, if you start to make money at something you used to do for free. They'll think you're selling out. It doesn't even matter if you're charging them or not, but just the fact that you're making money will get them incensed. Study after study shows that people will totally support something that had ads from the beginning, but will abandon that same exact thing if it adds advertising later on where there wasn't any prior. Livejournal is a great example of this. Many people dealt happily with dozens of websites each day that hosted ads, but when Livejournal included ads (after years of being ad-free), people LOST. THEIR. SHIT and left in droves.

A lot of bloggers make the mistake of saying they will "go commercial" when they reach a certain point. (10,000 followers or a million page views.) The problem is that a bunch of people will leave when the blogger starts hosting ads, and so the blogger has to recoup that loss.

Let me make this clear again, these are not people who would have left anyway. These are not people who "don't read commercial blogs." They wouldn't have NOT joined if they'd showed up and seen ads to begin with. These are people who will resent the perception they have that something has changed for the worse–worse being materialism. (Because god forbid a writer make money for something they do hours a day for the entertainment of others.)

Better to just decide ahead of time and host ads if you're going to.

Part 3 Coming Soon

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Who Is the Best Y.A. Author? (Poll)

John Bellairs
Who is the best young adult author?  

It's time for our December poll and we have JUST few enough authors to do a single poll rather than a runoff. So we will start immediately and run the poll for two weeks.  

This is an author poll, not a book poll. Consider the author's whole career and all the books they've written. To that point, however, since this is a young adult poll, please limit yourselves to their works of YOUNG ADULT FICTION. If they also wrote adult fiction or children's books, you should leave that out of your decision.

Everyone will get five votes (5).  That's a lot of votes, but before you simply vote for your favorite five, consider that you somewhat dilute the effect of each--as there is no ranking of those five votes. So if you have a genuine favorite--or pair of favorites--it's better to use as few votes as possible.

The poll itself is on the left side at the bottom of the side menus. It is black and will be rather long.

Please don't forget that Polldaddy (the program that runs the polls and tabulates the results) will log your IP address for only a week. After that, you can vote again. Since I can't really stop people, I might as well work it into the system. Vote early! Vote often!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Triumphant Return

I'm home in Oakland, and I can now reveal something that you likely had NO idea about. That I was not in Texas to see my mother, and we did not take a "charming little day trip to New Orleans." I was actually part of a top secret operation to thwart a multi-team consortium of super villains engaged in an uberheist to steal the French Quarter from New Orleans.

That's right. They were going to steal the entire French Quarter, and one of the really good cajun places in the Garden District too.

But good will always triumph as long as we're not too busy with our own shit, and it's at least a living wage. A conglomerate of multiple cities' crime fighting units went in in a hail Mary operation to stop them. It was a million to one. So we added a lot more heroes until the odds were better, and then we went in.

However, these superhero teams were short a number of side kicks because of finals. (Side kicking is a popular job for students and villains plan their heists accordingly.) So I flew out to shore up some of their defenses...and do a lot of dishes.

It was not an easy battle. One of the worst I've ever side kicked for. I ended up nearly suffocated on Bourbon Street by some smelly cheese after being attacked by the French villainy team "Sacre Bleu." But we won. They formed a line they thought was impenetrable, and...you know honestly, I would think they were pretty tired of this joke by now.

Anyway, I'm glad I can tell you all about it now instead of living that horrible lie and making Cedric write about vacations and family and lackadaisical, carefree time off. I'm sorry he had to deceive you like that. I'm home now, nursing my wounds, and spending the day cleaning up some old blog menus and entries and getting ready for tomorrow's poll.

Because here at Writing About Writing, it might look like we're taking a week off for vacation, but we're actually too slavishly devoted to page views to stop writing.

And we're probably fighting French super villains anyway.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Do I Describe Things? (Mailbox)

How do I explain visual detail that I feel I need to explain?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Monday.  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, but likely only if you ask a question. And don't be afraid to ask about the inner circle secrets of writing.]     

Tom asks:  

When I sit down and try to write something, I get to a point in the story where I need to visually describe an object or a character that a reader is seeing for the first time.

I get through the basics well enough...but then it comes to the part where I need to talk about visual detail.


Nonsensical descriptions fly through my head like "curvy-pointy-thingy" to try and explain a particular part of a building or object when I can't think of other words to use, or using 'corner' to describe a position on a round building equidistant from 3 other locations around the circumference, even though I know that round objects obviously have no corners.


I know it's not critical to a story to always have visual detail outlined in that fashion, but when I feel that it is and I need to explain it in order to get my point across to someone who would be reading it, it becomes a battle that just ends in me feeling stupid.


So my question here...are there resources that you may be familiar with that are good aides in describing visual details?


My reply:

You mean besides me, your one-stop-writing-help shop?

I love this question Tom, because it lets me show of one of the real bits of magic that writers do. It’s not about grammar or yet another "Yes, I’m really serious you should write every day" question. It's not about process or about craft elements that every writer uses. It’s about magic unique to fiction. You may not realize it, but a good writer is an illusionist, and you’ve just asked about one of our best tricks. (Hope the cabal doesn’t come after me for making the secret available to anyone.) Of course each writer does their illusion in a slightly different way, but the basic spell is identical.

One of the biggest problems that young writers have is trust. Like the young magician who believes that everyone will see past their slight of hand, young writers don’t have faith in their illusions. But the seasoned magician and writer both know that if they grab your attention with the right distractions, you will see exactly what they want you to see.

Young writers believe that their tender ideas are delicate and fragile and can’t withstand the perverted imaginations of their readers. They believe their readers have thick calloused, hands and that their imaginative visions are wispy diaphanous images that can be blown apart by a strong breeze. They believe that they must tediously describe every detail in order for the reader to see what they see.

None of these things is actually true.

First of all your story is tough. It’s more like thick leather and working it takes some muscle and sinew. There may be some detail work that is important to get right but the rugged strips that get worked over and over are hard to mess up. Your readers will also take more care than you might ever think possible with examining your tiniest details—sometimes even more care than you will.

But a lot of young writers don’t trust their readers very much. They tell them what to think, what to feel, exacting detail of a scene to the point that it slows down their narrative and becomes cumbersome, thick, uninteresting reading.

Consider if I describe the front of a restaurant with a host/hostess station situated like a giant podium with a marble top the color of  storm cloud grey and polished to a reflective shine. Behind the podium is a huge brass framed antique mirror. A basket stuffed with bright red and green Christmas kids menus and a bucket full of brand new primary color crayons resting near a big map of the restaurant with an electronic display lighting what tables are ready to be seated?

Abracadabra! 

Can you picture that?

I don't know if this is accurate, but it's neat.
Notice I didn’t actually give you a lot of detail? I described a mirror, a station, some crayons and kids menus and the electronic display. But I didn’t tell you how many feet the station it was from the front door. I didn’t tell you if it was situated in front of or off to the side of the bar or lounge area. I didn’t tell you what the base of the station was made out of or whether it had a cash register on it. I didn’t describe the floors, the walls, the ceiling. I didn’t tell you what color the lights were on the electronic display or whether it was a snazzy digital display like a touch computer screen or just a tiny lightbulbs pushed through a construction paper map. 

I left a lot of the details up to you, the reader. And that’s okay. You have to trust readers. Each reader comes fully equipped with their very own Mark IV Imagination Engine.

Now, I pictured a restaurant where I used to manage called The Old Spaghetti Factory—specifically the Concord store. I COULD have described all that stuff, but it just would have bogged you down with details that might be hard to imagine anyway.  (“It was fifteen feet from the double doors that were made of thick frosted glass. The walls were a dark cherry wood that absorbed the light and gave the place a twilight feel even during lunch. A 45-light chandler hung over the waiting area from vaulted ceilings and the bar was to the right. Mirrors lined the left wall as well and were adorned with angelic faces and blah blah blah….”) However, it’s actually going to be more effective if I let you do a lot of that imagination.

You may have imagined your favorite restaurant in your home town or even a Denny’s where you ate every week after choir practice. Does your place have a marble top host/hostess station? Was the bucket of crayons on it? How about the mirror? The electronic map?  But those details aren’t hard for you to add.

Regardless of what you imagine, you will incorporate the details I want more easily if I don’t try to completely hijack your imagination—just give it a little nudge in the direction I want it to go. It’s easy for you to incorporate the mirror or the electronic map of the restaurant even if the place you’re thinking of doesn’t have either of those things.

But how do you let go of all those other details? What happens if your reader gets it wrong? Well, that’s exactly the right question to ask. What happens if your reader is imagining Denny’s instead of The Old Spaghetti Factory? Does that change your story? Is it important? Is your main character only able to run fifteen feet from the door before collapsing from the gunshot wound? Will your theme of duty vs. desire be fundamentally altered if the bar is to the right or the left of the host/hostess station?

The answer is almost always that it does not matter. You just need to let go and trust your reader to imagine the parts you fill in. And so the first trick up a writer’s magic sleeve is called significant detail. This is where the details that the writer chooses to share are the details that MATTER.

Why do they matter? That’s up to you.

I won't rehash that whole significant detail article I linked above, but possible reasons for including the details would be because they will come into play later on in the story (the narrator will see themselves in the mirror), that they reflect some thematic aspect of the story (the character is also grey, melancholy and reflective), a subtle way to get in exposition (it's Christmas!), that a focalizer character is noticing these details and it's characterizing themselves (you'll learn that your narrator is a kid because they're most interested in the neat map display and crayons).

Think of it this way, Tom. The key to a good lie is not to describe the moment in exacting detail. “Yes, honey I was late because a Mazda Miata, driven by a six foot tall German with large muscles wearing green slacks and a purple shirt plowed into the red Toyota Supra driven by a nun at twenty-two miles an hour creating on the corner of fifth and main street six cars ahead of me.” Nor do you want to be vague. “I got into an accident.” A great lie has a detail or two (and that’s it) that make it pop and give it that sound of reality. “Oh my god you should have seen this tiny nun in full habit screaming up at this six foot, power lifter German who looked like he was back in Catholic school. Stopped traffic for blocks. That’s why I’m late.” That detail makes the whole thing seem real.

And after all what is fiction but a very involved lie (hopefully a lie that tells the truth).

Here’s where the real cool part comes in. When you describe the bits that are significant, use concrete imagery. (That's another link you should check out separately since it's too long to review fully here.) When those details you DO share "pop," your reader will be under the illusion that the entire scene has been described just as lushly even though it’s THEIR imagination filling in MOST of the details. If you were to describe the nubs of old crayons and that waxy smell, your reader would feel like they were there even though you have still left out almost 100% of the description. You’ve tricked them into doing all the work and falling for your illusion. Concrete images include colors, shapes, smells, and adjectives that pop (though never so many that they become distracting), but also surprising metaphors that help your reader to envision something, but also trust them to do it in their own way.

Yes, love the metaphor when you're describing something. I could fill a paragraph with a detailed description of the aliens from Champions of Earth, cataloguing their every detail, the joints in their legs, their arm extensions, their body parts, the number of eyes. But how much easier to describe one or two details about their ugly faces and call them "spider centaurs." Yeah you might not be picturing them "perfectly," but that's okay. If I describe the ships as triangular masses covered with hundreds of bubbles, bumps, and spiny protrusions, you might envision a Star Destroyer type ship or a cross between a Stargate pyramid ship and a blowfish, but it doesn't really matter unless that detail is absolutely vital to your story.

The other trick when you're doing this is to drizzle your description instead of hitting it like one big block of exposition. Think of it like cheese (the cheese guy on the second floor insisted on a shout out). Melt a little over the entree, and it'll be great as it livens up every single bite with cheesy goodness, but very few people will really enjoy sitting down with a knife and fork to eat a block of cheese. One detail here and one there and one a little further on and you don't have to bore up your story with paragraphs of the stuff. If you have a focalizer they can notice things piecemeal. If you are writing through an omniscient narrator you can just decide when the reader needs to know.

You can't do that in other art forms. In film or painting, all the detail you want has to be in the art. But in fiction, you can weave the illusion.

Obviously some writers use a lot more description than others, but they often bog down the reader. This is more of a stylistic difference, but it can matter. Only the most die hard fans of Tolkien have gutted through every lush description of the countryside in Lord of the Rings (most prefer the equivalent of the Willow travel montage--field, waterfall, cliffs, forest, now they're at the crossroads) and even people who like Anne Rice have skimmed through seventeen pages of plantation geography or a precision description of twins that reads like a blueprint schematic. On the other hand, Steinbeck writes rich descriptions of setting at the beginning of almost every chapter of most of his books, but they are rarely more than a page and they usually reflect the thematic conflict to come. A reader breezes through them and then feels an intense connection with the story even though Steinbeck does VERY LITTLE direct description of his characters other than a few significant details (like Lenny's size or Jim Casey's resemblance to a certain other J.C.).

See how the magic works there? You're so busy with the details he does give you, that you fill in the rest into an almost perfect mind's eye movie.  Most writers who are popular (commercially and literarily) limit themselves to the details that are significant, and let their readers do the rest of that work.

And the key is trust. Trust your ability to do magic, Tom. This is one of the greatest powers of fiction.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Update on Chris's Whereabouts

Apparently things aren't as calm in The South as the no-supers-media would have you believe. Chris has been emergency transported to New Orleans to help sidekick for the French Quarter super villain team known as "Mon Dieu!"

Apparently there was quite the dust up last night on Bourbon Street. Chris was hurt by Sacre Bleu but not badly. It's not possible to be badly wounded from an attack consisting mostly of stinky cheese and making fun of the way one says French phrases.

Fortunately the French team surrendered moments after their line broke.

Now if anyone asks, all you know is that Chris went on a day trip with his mom FROM Texas to NOLA to do some fun shopping and stuff, but the truth is much more.

Most of the guest bloggers are giving me crap of some stripe or another about not getting paid or submitting several articles that got hacked by Evil Mystery Blogger. They're a bunch of whiners, not winners.

It could be a few more days until we are completely back on line here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Best YA Author (Last Call For Nominations)

Who is the BEST Young Adult Author? 

We're just a couple of days from turning our list of nominations into a poll (and it's looking like we're almost certainly going to need run off).

However, if you're still looking to nominate an author on our poll, second an existing author, or see if offering me sexual favors will get your author on the poll without a second (it would probably work), you only have a couple of days left. So head over there and see how our poll is shaping up.

Please please please if you nominate a new author do it on the original post. That'll increase the chances that someone will see it and second it as well as keeping my life sane by having everything I need to create the poll in one place.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Post to the Subscribed

So Cedric may have told you how I'm at my mom's place for a few days. (And I'm sure that's all he told you too. Possibly more details when I get back.) We're doing our visit before Christmas, so I can see The Contrarian's first Christmas. And shopping. It's really so very nice to get a break from sidekicking for a few days. Yes, it really is.

I may not have as much time to write as normal, so he's going to try to whip up some Guest Bloggers and I will work on a couple of things I've gotten half written already. The thing is that they are tough to light a fire under, so I might be a little behind for a few days.

Cedric has decided to run a "Best of the past..." on the social media where we share things. However, if you are following W.A.W. through an RSS feed or directly on Blogger, I just wanted to let you know that posts might be sporadic or weirdly timed until I get back.

Man, I hate things that mess with my routine.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Called Away

Dear Readers of Writing About Writing,

Cedric here.

Chris has been called away at the last minute to Houston, Texas to do some side kicking there for their local crime fighting team whose own resident sidekick is in the middle of some pretty ferocious finals.

Apparently she decided she wanted to get an MBA and open a little barrista and doughnut shop near Baycliff. So Chris bounced out to take over the sidekick duties of getting beat up and needless expository dialogue while she bones up on

Chris is currently under "deep cover," so if you see him, don't mention the crime fighting thing. Ostensibly his cover story is that he's over there visiting his mom, but he's really going to kick some ass and clean some kitchens.

And it occurs to me that I probably shouldn't have told you that, so please don't mention it when next you see him.

I'm hoping I can can whip at least a few of the guest bloggers into shape for the next few days to get some articles up. Plus Chris said he might be able to e-mail me an article or two if he gets enough downtime. We'll be working hard here at writing about writing to make sure that Chris's moonlighting vacation doesn't interrupt your blog reading experience.

But just in case, you might get ready for some reruns.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Those Breathtaking Moments

I had a moment recently. The "Holy crap, I'm DOING it," moments where I suddenly realize that my dream of writing for a living is coming true.

I know we like the stories of Stephen King getting the phone call with the six figure book deal or the story of the unknown author whose first book gets optioned as a movie, but it is the quiet determination and the baby steps and usually the years of hard work that get anyone to those points. There's not one spectacular moment of success. Most of the stories are quiet and slow. "And then I was making a tiny bit of money--enough to go to a movie or buy a book. Then I was making a hundred a month or so and thinking of it as a small raise. Then a couple hundred a month. And then I didn't have to take a promotion that would involve staying late every night. And then I could afford to take some time off work. And then I was barely able to eke out my bills. And then...."

One of the reasons that I really like this blog is that it not only dispenses advice and wisdom but it dispenses a meta advice and wisdom as well by existing in real time. A reader showing up without context might think I was lucky or enviable to be making money through writing, but with the context provided, they can see:

1- It has taken three years of almost daily posts to get here. That's a lot of work.
2- It has only taken three years to get here. That's not an insurmountable barrier.

Some days though....it scares the hell out of me too. I feel like...well, I sort of felt like if you were pumping your legs on a bicycle flying machine, and you were losing altitude and losing altitude and you squeezed your eyes shut and pumped just as hard as you possibly could so that you wouldn't hit the ground as hard. Then, as you're there in the eye-shut zone pumping your legs and ignoring the hot burn of your muscles, you realized that you should have landed...minutes ago. And you don't stop pedaling but you risk opening your eyes for a moment.

And that's when you realize you're flying.

I work, as most of you know, one night a week at a community college teaching ESL and developmental English. Playing househusband to my family means I don't really have any bills, but I do some teaching so that I have spending money.

Every semester they ask us to fill out these little forms to tell our availability for the coming semester. I've had enough seniority for a while to just tell them what I want and I always get it.

I was filling out the form for Spring '15 when I realized I didn't need it. I make more money writing than I do from teaching. I don't make as much per hour, mind, it takes a whole week of writing to make about as much as I do in ten hours of teaching, (and I have to keep writing during all the school vacations to hit that average) but if I wanted to, I could drop the class.

A year ago, I dropped from teaching two classes a week to one because writing was covering that extra class's income. Now I could drop from one class to none and make about as much as did before.
I kept the class for Spring just because teaching gives me something to do each week that forces me to remember what day it is and put on pants (and if I use that money to write more, it will be better spent getting a professional cleaner in once a week or something), but just realizing that I didn't need to was breathtaking.

This is really happening. It's really, really happening*.

Talent: I haz it!
*Of course 90% of what I make from blogging is donations, not ad revenue, so this is really thanks to all of you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Be Inspired

I'm working on some "behind the scenes" housekeeping today, cleaning up menus and lists for things like The Reliquary (where most of my "main" articles are) and The Best of WAW (where all the most viewed articles by month and year are). Plus Wednesday is my watch baby for five hours, clean for two hours, teach for four hours (and commute for three hours), cat box cleaning, trash to the curb putting day. I usually have very little time to do much more than a cursory bit of free writing.

So I'm going to leave you with a couple of the videos I have watched multiple times and still find inspiring.







Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dear Chris: It's Been One Year

Dear Chris:

This is a letter you asked me to send you.You asked me to send you this correspondence after a year if you didn't have your shit together. Your exact words were, "I know I'm your boss Cedric, but if I'm still don't have my shit together in a year's time, please send me a memo or something reminding me to get my house in order.

Cast your mind back. It was one year ago today and you were headed off to the Neonatal ICU to see The Contrarian. I mentioned that there was a list of things needing your attention as long as my tentacle. You looked at me and said: "Yeah, about that list. Things might get kind of weird around here with the baby. Lots of jazz hands. Catch as catch can with time. Don't think less of me Cedric."

Those were your exact words.

I can't exactly complain. Octorian females raise clutches of two or three thousand young who have four times as many arms as humans, so I think your failure is a little on the "cry me a river" side of life, but I've got no real tentacle to stand on since Octorian males die shortly after mating and leave all the uncomfortable talks to the women (and weird monastic uncles).  Anyway, the point is, it's been a year, so it is time to get back off your ass. Let me remind you of the list of issues.


  • The tentative armistice with my people (after you tricked them into fighting ninjas sent to kill you for hating on NaNo, and then sent an army of pLinks to their dimension, and then gave them a high yield nuclear warhead disguised as a cloning device, and then got an A-Team to spell out their name in bullets on their war commander's torso) is tenuous at best and based on you not trying to explore any more interdimensional technology.
  • The SciGuy is currently exploring interdimensional technology. He is doing this (at a cost of trillions in equipment and labor hours) because Lt. Lambaste said he was cute before she died, and he wants to find a dimension in which she has neither died nor friendzoned him. You understand I'm telling you that your spending trillions and risking a second interdimentensional war because the SciGuy is socially awkward around women.
  • You have had the Writing About Writing broadcast signal hacked multiple times. Usually it is simply to send an Evil Mystery Blogger post out on our behalf, but a few months ago, we also discovered that he was intercepting all the submitted guest blog posts, and that except for the occasional list that Ima gave you physically, you were simply not getting what they wrote. 
  • You have been told multiple times that the Evil Mystery Blogger posts have breached the extensive firewall security by being uploaded from within the compound. This means we have a mole.
  • You have managed to conduct only one interview with the staff to determine the identity of the mole. That interview ended abruptly when she threatened to do a spinning crescent kick on your left pupil. So technically you know nothing.
  • You continue to ignore the entire staff pointing out that if you do have a mole, it is probably the EVIL CLONE OF YOU living in the basement.
  • Oh by the way, there's an evil clone of you living in the basement.
  • Leela Bruce has refused to do any more of her Kicking the Shit Out of Bad Writing Advice segment until you get more women in here because she's tired of the sausagefest. 
  • You technically got three more women and then forgot to give them a time slot. So they've been staying in the compound for months now, just living off of the cafeteria's sloppy joes and enjoying free rent.
  • Guy Goodman St. White has developed a severe drinking problem since watching a colleague get killed by cephalopods. The last thing he turned in was just the words "Knock knock? Speculative fiction blows," written in crayon.
  • I know you don't think this is a problem but you have a guy LIVING on the second floor who nobody knows except that he tries to give them cheese slices if they go up there. WHERE IS HE GETTING ALL THESE CHEESE SLICES FROM???
  • You are still pretentious as hell, and everyone on staff is getting tired of being paid in Brech's Bucks. I'm pretty sure there's going to be a strike if you don't raise our salaries to double digits.

So what do we say? Break's over?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Santa Wants to Know What to Get Me (Mailbox)

What can I gift you that isn't money?  

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Monday.  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, but likely only if you ask a question. And yes I will play along with your goofy games even if your e-mail clearly indicates that you are not actually Santa.]    

Santa Writes:

Ho Ho Ho!  Hello there Chris. You haven't come to sit in my lap yet, so I thought I would write to you. It looks like you've spent most of your time being a bad boy with all your threesome talks and hope for groupies, but your good boy moments are really, really so good that they seem to balance the ledger, so Santa is going to get you a gift. Now, Santa can't officially get you hookers and blow or hook up threesomes for you since that would shock the poor elves, you know, but Santa was going pay for a month of twice-weekly housekeeping so you could focus on writing. But then Santa got laid off in August and took two months to find a new job. Santa's own kids need toys and money's a little tight up here at the North Pole this year. Santa would do the cleaning himself, but it's been a while since Santa looked really good in a French maid's outfit, and the reindeer union says they only take me to Oakland once a year. Are there non-money ways I can support you or outrageously cheap gifts you might want for Christmas? 

My reply:

You know this is really weird, right?

This time of year, Santa, I always get two or three e-mails from people who are strapped for cash after buying presents and donating to causes that are much worthier than an 18th rate blog, but who still want to help. I'm a little surprised to be getting one from a thousand year old white male who runs an empire of slave labor, but whatever. The fact is that there are lots of ways to help a blog like this one even if you're not in a position to send us a few dollars. I'll tell you a few.

Of course there are the usual things I put here every couple of months that one can do to support the blog from donating a few dollars to leaving me a supportive comment, but these are some specifically awesome things you can do this holiday season.

You see, Blog's latest goal is to reach a million page views before 2015. Of course at 1250+ page views a day, we're going to make that almost certainly. However, if you're looking to get Blog a gift that will be completely unexpected, what we haven't done yet is hit 50,000 page views in a single month. Blog tried to hit it this last August (Blogust) but we didn't make it by almost 10k.

Go to The Best of W.A.W. or The Reliquary, find one of your favorite old articles, and share that on social media along with a few words about why you like it.
I can't share any more than I already do without my friends forming a mob chanting "Kill the Chris Kill the Chris. He's posted till we're pissed, and we're going to shove this pitchfork through his brain. Kill the Chris. Kill the Chris. Social networks aren't for this. And his blog cross posts have driven us insane...."

Well, you get the idea.

I may not get a single new click from your efforts, but my heart will grow three sizes, and Blog will feel like the happiest Who in Whoville.

Shill the blog, but (ironically) not the writing part.
The truth is most writers pretty much strike an, "Back off mofo! I got this!" attitude. They don't like advice. They don't want to be told they're not going to get rich and famous doing nothing differently. Getting them to read a blog about writing usually means they recognize the writer and want to emulate them or there's something else there they like about it. So if you want to shill effectively, don't say "Look, I've noticed you've been a writer for 20 years and you're still on Chapter 2. Maybe this guy can help you with some stuff."

That will get you a face full of side eye.

Try something more like: "Sweet synchronized tap dancing Jesus clones! This is a funny blog! And it's kind of about writing. Shit, you like writing right?  Maybe you'll appreciate the funny bits even more than I will."

Commit to engagement.
In the new social media world order, our Social Media overlords of G+, Tumblr, Reddit and of course the great overseer Facebook will judge our worth not by money or loved ones, but by likes, shares, +1's, upvotes, and comments. Engaging posts in these ways helps them show up more places, so if you want to do Blog a cost-free solid, take a minute out of your day when you see a post you like to click a button and write a quick comment about how you would give up your first born child just for the chance to read my words again for the first time.

Or...you know, maybe something that's a little more your own words. And a little less bullshit.


As for a gift, I have to make a disclaimer. Among of my formative experiences was my mother running around toy stores looking for something to gift one of my friends that was equal to or more than the cost of what they got me. "We can't give Josh Ants in the Pants, Chris. He got you those walkie talkies. Reciprocity is the foundation of all morality. [She may not have actually said that part verbatim.] Now find a gift that is $29.99 or more. Or go back and get two Constructacons to add to this."

The foundation of all morality.... echoed in my head.  AAAAAAALLLLL  MOOOORRRRRAAAALLLITTYYYYY!

So now I live my life anxiously worried about how my gifts measure up to the gifts I am given, and I am really quite serious that the best gift anyone could ever get me is nothing, so that I don't have to go through that. My uberpeeps get me gifts and I ask everyone else to allow me only the pleasure of their company and perhaps some cookies.

So please, if you don't want me sitting around worrying about what to get YOU, call it a Christmas themed donation or something. (Donations are hard enough to ask for without a sense that I should be giving back something more than just writing my heart out.) I can't possibly return gifts to everyone who tries to gift me if I start opening that door to my readers. Even with as modest a readership as I have. There are several hundred of you. Even if I bought you all cheap ass keychains, I would spend several months worth of my spending money.

That said....here is an idea I saw that I fell in love with. Send me a book you love. Don't send me a copy of a book you love. Send me the actual book you love. You've been meaning to replace it anyway, right? Well worn. Lovingly battered. Lines running down the spine. Torn in places where it just fell to tatters under fingers that couldn't be careful enough for the Nth time. Then you can replace your book whenever you're ready to read it again or can afford it. I want to feel the Velveteen Rabbit love you had for this book when I hold it in my hand. That way you spend nothing, I get a book you love, and it has a very personal touch.

Obviously please don't send me some book that has extreme sentimental value. If I find out that I'm holding the last thing your father ever bought you before he died or something, I'm going to be mortified. But a beloved copy of a dog-eared paperback you've been meaning to replace (especially if it's one of those books you love that no one else has ever seemed to have heard of) would be a great gift Christmas donation.

If you are interested, drop me an e-mail at chris.brecheen@gmail.com and I will send you the address of a friend where packages can be sent.

Lastly, Santa, I really have to give you marks for all the gifts you would have gotten me given an infinite budget, and socially permissive elves.

~sniff~ You know me so well.