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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Plans. And Other Destroyable Things (Personal Update)

Some man or mouse must have laid these silly plans!
Image description. Me in an "Introverting.... (quiet please)" shirt
I had plans you see. Plans!

I was going to launch a Kickstarter this week. But I was not going to launch before an outrageous spate of productivity. That was supposed to give you all an idea of what I can do when I'm on fire. So you would have an idea of what you were "buying." (A writer...ON FIRE!!)

Instead, I'm afraid, I'm only able to offer you up a sad and tragic example of why I'm hoping this Kickstarter is successful–because my life can get pretty fucking busy if I am working fifty or sixty hours a week, and that's going to be "scrape by" hours if I have to pick up a fourth gig to make ends meet.

Excuses. Yeah I guess have a few of those. I let one of those spinning plates of mine fall to the floor, spilling Mongolian goulash all over the upholstery. Now I'm using metaphorical baking soda to help deodorize....if you know what I mean. I started the week with some light days, and quickly got writing posts like one of those furiously typing GIFs . Then shit went pear shaped. (And I mean one of those Bartlett bad boys, not that Comice crap–those things are just confused apples.)  Uberdude had to go to a Superhero Combat Simulation convention to practice deescalation and proportional response techniques for dealing with henchmen, which left me doing double shifts with The Contrarian in order to pick up the slack. I wrote of course, but by the weekend when the convention started, I was falling behind on my blogpostapoloza.

My move out date is coming up in only a month. (Well, my "soft" move out date. I may take a couple of weeks to fully move since I am going to be in the middle of summer school too.) Summer school is coming up. And the deets are not mine to share, but I spent today biting my nails to the quick waiting for the first major post-chemo CT results.

At least I'm still writing every day.

On the bright side–and here is your dollop of folksy writing wisdom for the day folks, so listen up–I learned that sitting down every day and cultivating the discipline has served me. As soon as I had the free time, my writing easily filled up the space. Take a thousand writers who are complaining that they don't have enough time to write, give them that time, and 998 of them will just find more ways to waste time. By writing every day, and maintaining that discipline, the minute I had more time, I was able to fill that space with more writing without the slightest effort.

I'll still get some stuff up (because I am nothing if not the type to get something up at 10:45 at night), but the real excitement for this week, the month, the year, and my next major project should be landing on Friday.

Stay tuned!

Friday, May 27, 2016

How To Be A Writer By Kaitlyn S. C. Hatch

Image Description: Writer's at work on a computer
with a mountain, wolf, and moon coming out of his head. 
How To Be A Writer 

(By Kaitlyn S. C. Hatch)

I’m sitting next to my dad on one of those standard conference chairs — metal framed with cushioned seat and back, but not at all comfortable, especially for my boney twelve-year-old self. I wiggle around, pulling my legs up, folding them underneath my butt, rising above the heads of everyone in front of me so I can get a glimpse of the Authors.

There they are, a row of five sitting behind a table on a raised platform at the front. I’ve forgotten now, or possibly never knew, who the Authors were, except for Spider Robinson. I’d met him earlier, in the lobby. My dad introduced himself, introduced me, told him he loves Callahan’s and all the quirky characters that go along with it.

I didn’t say anything during this exchange, just smiled and held my dad’s hand. I’ve not read Spider Robinson’s books but I know about him. My dad has told me his story, how he started out. “He was a security guard and he used all the downtime on his shifts to write his books.”
This is a story I am familiar with. Writers write, regardless of what they do to earn an income. There’s the job that puts food on your plate and a roof over your head, but also provides time for the job that defines you, the one that feeds your soul.

There is a critical distinction in my twelve-year-old mind, between a writer and an Author. When a writer becomes an Author their writing is no longer their own but something shared with the world, bound in paper and sold in bookstores, checked out of libraries, held in the hands of The Public. I know I am a writer, have always known it, but to be an Author is entirely different. If you asked me, as a child, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d give you the answer without hesitation…

So I strain to see these Authors, these celebrities that hold far more clout with me than anyone on television or the big screen. I’ve been raised without a television, you see. In fact, at twelve, a TV is a sudden new addition to the household. My entire childhood has been decorated with books — a long shelf in the living room, dominating the wall most people would fill with a screen. Not to mention weekly trips to the library where I eagerly consume everything on offer. I read voraciously, have since I was five or six. I find an author I like and commit to reading every single thing they’ve written.

This is what I tell the panel of Authors before me, when my hand stretched to the ceiling is noticed and I’m invited to speak. “I read all the time,” I say. “And I’ve been writing since I can remember. But how,” I implore, I query, I ask with longing and desire, “do I get myself published?”

There is chuckling. Like I’ve said something sweet, amusing, naive.

“Keep writing,” they say, or one of them says, and the rest nod in agreement.

“Keep reading.”

“Yes, that. You’re doing everything right.”

I am satiated and I sit down, this time letting my legs dangle over the too high seat, my question supposedly answered.

A few years later I’m in a bookstore with my parents. It’s late, the store is closed to the public but lit and full of people. We are there for a book launch of a neighbour and friend. There is mingling, glasses of Champagne, the book on display for all to see — non-fiction, historical, about the Canadian Pacific Railway.

I do not read non-fiction and historical things bore me because I am a teenager and victim of an education system that presents ‘history’ as dates and names with little narrative and therefore not much to hold my interest. But still, I am jealous. I have a pang of envy to see this person I know, this fellow writer, step away from that title and assume the shinier, more interesting role of Author.

My completed manuscripts (two or three at this point) are all Young Adult fiction, inspired by the gaps I find in the YA section at the library. I want to tell the stories of teenagers honestly, without the ‘after-school special’ message I so often encounter. I’m a volunteer at the library now, reviewing publisher’s proofs and feeding back to the head librarian of the Children & YA section as to which books should be bought and which are so dreadful I’m appalled they were published at all.

These books give me hope, of course. I am not terribly confident in my writing but I know that it’s better than a lot of what I read for this volunteer role. And I know I’m writing to fill gaps. I write about the outcasts, the freaks and weirdos and non-conformists.

There are speeches at the book launch. People who worked with the Author on the book — an editor, someone from the publishing house, the Author himself.

Later I approach one of these people of import, perhaps it was the publisher, my memory fails me now. I tell them about my work and that I’m interested in getting published. “How would one go about that?”

“Do you write every day?”

“I do,” I say.

“Keep writing.”

I am now an adult. I have been a youth worker, an administrator, project manager, fundraiser and most recently begun to do design and social media consulting.

I’m doing a consulting job for a small company, a start-up but not a techie one. The hours are minimal and I’m being paid in trade. One day the owner asks me if, before I go, we can have a chat. I tell them that’s fine but that I have to leave by 4:00pm, at the latest, no matter what. We agree to chat at 3:00pm.

3:00pm comes and goes, though, and they are still on the phone, popping in and out of the office, exuding busy-ness.

I catch their eye as they pass my desk, phone to their ear. They hold up a finger to indicate one minute, as if they won’t continue their usual pattern. I’ve been doing this consulting with them for long enough to know that the person on the phone always takes precedence and I’m going to be forgotten.

It’s four o’clock and I start packing up to go. They’re chatting on the phone and give me a look, surprised. “Hold on one moment,” they say to their caller, and then to me, “You’re leaving? I thought we were going to talk.”

“Me too, but I did say I have to go at 4:00pm today, it’s already three minutes past. I really can’t stay any longer.”

“Really? Not even for the greatest job offer of your life?”

I smile, a small smile, a tight, bemused smile, “Sorry. I just can’t.”

They shrug, eye brow raise, smug, as if to say, ‘your loss’, but I find it unaffecting. I grab my bag and walk out, thinking to myself, “Best job offer of my life? What would that be?”

The answer is obvious. It’s always been obvious. If someone were to tell me I could have a salary and any job I wanted for it, could be comfortably earning an income to feed and clothe and house me and what I did was entirely up to me, there is only one thing I would choose…

I am thirty, a grown woman, confident and more assured than I’ve ever been. I look back on my younger self with fondness. I was naive, silly sometimes, often arrogant or full of false confidence.

Now I am forever cultivating awareness of what I don’t know. Embracing and admitting to my arrogance as a way to practice humility. I no longer consider sixty to be ‘old’. I think dreams are great but goals are better. I am fiercely independent but learning, always learning every single day, that it’s okay to accept help and okay to ask for it. I can differentiate between a contract full of expectations and a genuine offering of support. I have come to realise success is not how other people see you but how you see yourself.

I was always asking how to become an Author. How to get paid for my art, my creativity, my words written down, composed to inspire and lift and delight and intrigue and entertain. But something has shifted.

It’s not that I don’t want to earn a living this way, not at all. If anything my focus on this is stronger than it’s ever been because right now, for the first time in my life, I’m actually doing something about it.

But it hadn’t occurred to me that I was so focused on what it meant to be an Author that I hadn’t considered what it meant to be a Writer. I figured I’d always known how to do that. And I did, in a way.

But it’s only been recently that I’ve truly recognised it. Because I’ve suddenly seen that while I was working all those other jobs, filling my 9:00 to 5:00(or 8:00 to 4:00) doing stuff for other people, I filled my 5:00 to 8:00 or my Saturday or Sunday with writing.

This distinction is key because I have spoken to so many people who mention their idea for a book or character or plot but never get beyond that. They have an outline, maybe, or some notes in a journal, but they have not written their book(s) down.

Here is where all that advice, which didn’t tell me one thing about getting published, came in handy. They were saying, regardless of what you do to pay the bills, regardless of how long it takes, regardless of anything else: You must write.

Agents can’t sell ideas. Publishers don’t want character sketches. The public won’t pay for a plot outline.

So if you ask me today, what my ideal dream job is, if you ask what I want to be when I grow up or simply what I ‘do’, I’ll answer you proudly, confidently, with ease:

I’m a Writer.

Since you’ve read this far I DO want to offer a little something on how to go about getting published, for those of you with finished manuscripts:

  • Get an agent. Send your manuscripts to agents regularly, with tailored letters and genuine interest in working with the agents you approach.
  • Publish online in blog form to gain a following. If it’s well-written people will want to read it and it could get picked up for publication and may even eventually become a film.
  • Approach a publisher directly, but only if they accept work without an agent and if they’re a good fit for what you’ve written.
  • Self publish. If you’ve got the money to do so and are willing to put in the work to edit, market and promote the thing so it might actually generate an income for you, this is easily done through sites like Lulu.com and blurb.com.
  • Crowdfund your book to build a following, possibly get a publisher interested and to fund the cost of editing, marketing and promotions.

And in all these things, whatever approach you decide to take, be willing to do the work. There’s a big difference between doing what you love and getting paid for it.

For those of you who still have a book inside you? I can only say one thing:

Write. Write now. Write often. Write terribly. Write beautifully. Write regularly.
But write.

Always, always write.

Kaitlyn Hatch is a Canadian-Brit Creative Polymath and Buddhist. She’s currently running a campaign to get her first fiction book (Friends We Haven’t Met) published. 

For a full bio and her crowdfunding page, visit: https://publishizer.com/friends-we-havent-met/

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Philosophy of Writing Posts

[Yesterday ended up being about ten hours of kid wrangling and housekeeping (which doesn't include my session of writing in the morning), so I'm still working on that Star Wars: The Force Awakens post I promised you. But since there's no teaching this week, and the weekend looks to be somewhat relaxing, I'll just mix up the schedule a bit and dribble into the weekend.

Here's the first of those menus I promised to start posting.]  

These are manifestos, rants, edicts, warnings, fundamental precepts and more. I claim no authority of fiat (in fact, sometimes that's what I'm most objecting to), but they are as close to the core nuggets of my personal philosophy of writing as anything is likely to get.  Some are several articles surrounding a core idea like Dorothea Brande or politics.  Some are very (very) long, some are obviously papers I wrote for college, and many are more than a little self indulgent.  But all are fundamental to what I understand of writing.

Earning Your "Er."
No Apologies: A Defense of Why Speculative Fiction Should Need No Defense.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Writing- It's much more than just the writing part.
A Fish, a Rat, and a Prescriptivist Walk Into a Bar Why most linguistic prescriptivism bothers me.
Ten thousand hours It takes a lot of work.  A LOT of work.
NaNoWriMo: The Good, The Bad, and the Really Really Ugly
The A to Zen of a Writer's Life
The Modern Artist's Survival Guide
An Open Letter to Lynn Shepherd
The 17 Rules of Writing
A Passive Aggressive Memo to Other Artists
On Sister Act 2 and How to Know If You Should Be a Writer
Ten Reasons to Write Daily (Accentuate the Positive)
Don't Make It So Damned Hard

Series Articles

The Lessons of Brande Dorothea Brande's book Becoming A Writer has shaped how I fundamentally approach writing. 1 The book and what it's about.  2 Cultivating internal dualism.  3 Morning writing.  4 The Floating Half Hour of Writing

Writers and Politics Be careful when dealing with politicsThe truth is a casualty of political writing.  Avoiding politics entirely isn't the answer.  But there are reasons to be cautious.

It's Really Okay NOT to Write. Really  Intro & Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Best Surreptitious Non-Male Writer (Don't Forget to Vote)

Image description: Charlotte Brontë
Who is the best woman (or NB) writer who wrote under a name that disguised that fact?  

Less than a week remains in May, so get your vote on if you haven't yet! Or get your vote on again.

The poll itself is down on the left hand side at the bottom.

Please don't forget that our poll program will only track your IP address for one week, so since I can't stop shenanigans, I'm asking for as much of it as possible. Vote early. Vote often.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Writing About Writing About Writing by Kit Powers

Image description: God Bomb (with the O as a grenade)
By Kit Power
Writing About Writing About Writing
by Kit Powers  

So I was going to write about procrastination, but I got distracted, and when I came back, I wasn’t sure if that was the right line to take or not.

Then I figured maybe I’d pivot instead to writing advice, and specifically about how writing advice is bad because you should totally find your own way of working and don’t let ‘experts’ or TEH MAN tell you how to write, man. And then I remembered this is a guest post for a blog that contains a lot of actually very good writing advice, and that as someone with exactly one novel out, whose primary source of income in not, in point of fact, writing, and further as someone who is only a writer at all because of a book of writing advice (King’s ‘On Writing’, which our host has written about rather brilliantly), that was clearly a terrible idea on just about every level. I mean sure, you could make it an elaborate joke about why writing advice is actually good, but that’d just be cheap mirror of an article that, again, our host has already done better. Full disclosure - ‘this is a terrible idea on every level’ hasn’t always stopped me attempting to write something. But a burning desire not to fall flat on my face and bust my nose open and bleed pathetically all over what is effectively my Writing On Writing audition guest post meant that taking such an approach felt, well, a little self-sabotaging.

Even for me.

So that led to an interrogation - why had I thought that was a good idea, even fleetingly? What about the notion of saying ‘writing advice is bad’ on a blog full of good writing advice seemed funny/clever/appropriate?

Hang on. Back Up. ‘Self sabotaging’?



I don’t know what the hell I’m doing (chorus of ‘no kidding!’). I mean, of course nobody does - it’s turtles all the way down. But I really don’t. As of this moment, I have six non-fiction pieces, either book reviews or blog articles, that I should be writing, two author interviews in progress, two left wing/progressive Doctor Who podcasts guest appearances I need to prep for (!), along with the small matter of producing a third draft of the framing device text for my short story/essay collection before my editor dies of boredom, and, oh yeah, getting back to the 17K start I’ve made on my second novel. So of course, the logical thing to do would be to talk my way into writing a guest post for a writer whose blogging and political writing I have a massive amount of respect for, and then put myself under an insane deadline to get something produced.

So, okay, self sabotage.

Then again…

This is where the juice is, for me. I write a monthly column for UK horror review site The Gingernuts Of Horror. It’s called ‘My Life In Horror’, and every month I write about some seminal childhood novel, film, album or event that had a permanent effect on me, and that I consider horror.

And I write it fast. As fast as I can. I slam on the headphones, crank up some guitars loud enough to drown out the world, and I pound the letters. Most months, it’s the best time I have at a keyboard. Most months, it’s also the best writing I do.

Not belabour the point here, but by far the most popular one I’ve so far written - a love letter to watching the movie Gremlins at aged 11 or so - was written in 90 minutes. The site was interviewing Joe Dante, and I’d offered to do the piece, then completely forgotten about it. The interview was going up that day. I was at the work that actually pays the rent. So on my lunch break, I cracked knuckles and went to work. One hour to write, 30 minutes to polish, subbed, posted, and  a couple of weeks later, thanks to the official Gremlins FB page, boom, viral.


This is where it gets dangerous. Leaving aside my staggering lack of any kind of qualification to be talking advice in the first place, what can we usefully learn from all this? I mean, set near-impossible deadlines? Write so fast you don’t have time to think? Write from a place of passion and love or burning rage? Write like your fingers and mind are on fire?

Hmm. Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad.

On the other hand…

On the other hand, there’s that Difficult Second Novel, mouldering on my hard drive while I write guest posts laying bare my own insecurities and inadequacies and banging on about being all ‘on fire’ and that. Glaring at me accusingly. And it is difficult. It’s hard. Normal nights, with a passing wind, I can hit 1k an hour. This story, I’m dragging out 500 in the same length of time, and it’s painful.

Maybe that’s a sign that it’s bad. It’s a theory. So, okay, send the manuscript so far out to a kind but critical friend. Explain the quandary. Ask for a no BS assessment - is this worth my time? This is someone who has turned down stories from me in his professional editor capacity, by the way. So I know my ass will remain blown-smoke free, and I know he’s capable of saying ‘ditch it’.

And he loves it. He tells me I HAVE to finish it. He offers to help.

Well, shit.

So now we’re back to King, right? King on Carrie, to be precise. Giving up because it’s hard is bad. Sometimes you’ve got to plough on, even if you just feel like you’re shoveling shit from a sitting position.

Ah, but the fire calls out, doesn’t it? Instant gratification. Bang out a review, a blog post, that retrospective on the classic album you love so much. Share it. Instant hit, instant feedback, instant love. The words just flow. It’s easy. The book is hard.

 But the reviews won’t pay the rent (so far, nor do the books, but they could, maybe, someday). They’re not worthless - far from it. They really do matter, that’s the hell of it. They force you to think critically about WHY a book works, or why it doesn’t. I’ve learned so much from mediocre and bad writing about how not to do it.

As for the blog posts… well, it’s all word count, right? All part of that first million words. And, you know, that’s not total BS either. Writing is writing. My Life In Horror will collect nicely into a volume or two at some point, a fun little non-fiction collection. Just like that old joke about each pack of cigarettes being an alternate pension contribution, each column is a 2,000 word down payment on what will essentially be a free book.

On the other hand…

On the other hand, well, you probably guessed it, but blog posts aren't novels. More broadly, non-fiction writing isn’t fiction writing. It’s as different as journalism is to, say, textbook authoring. By which I mean, to be explicit, they utilise completely different skills. This blog post, fun as it is, isn’t teaching me a damn thing about characterisation, plotting, POV, third person close… you know. Novel stuff. It’s a different skill. A different style. Does playing bluegrass teach you how to play metal? Not really.

It’s a different million words, in other words.

Also, there’s no such thing as a free book. Remember that short story/essay collection? That’s a free book too, right? Nope. Not when you decide to write a 20k metafictional framing device to tie all the stories (and essays) into a shared fictional universe, it isn’t. And, no, I won’t do that with MLiH, but if you think I’d be able to turn down the opportunity to edit every single blog post before publication, for a spit and polish and now-I’ve-thought-about-it-one-more-thing…  Ah hell, I don’t need to finish that sentence, do I? You’re my people. You know.

So, we circle back to the opening question - self sabotage or professional development? Procrastination or procreative effort?

I genuinely don’t know. All I know for sure is that writing is the most fun I can have with my clothes on, and I never ever want to not be doing it. And while the odds of ever doing it full time are slim, I think - I think - novels are probably a better long term bet in terms of potential for payoff.

I think I need to get smarter at how I manage my time, and what I say yes to. I think I need to get more hard nosed at setting deadlines for what I think of as my work, as opposed to the work I’m doing for others.

Or maybe I just need to find a way to add more hours to the day. Did they find a cure for sleep yet?


PS -  Anyone else feeling this? Struggled or struggling still with these kind of competing demands? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s strategise. :)

PPS - I just realised that I wrote a guest blog post saying ‘write less guest blog posts’. This advice should never be applied to Chris or Writing About Writing, because both are made of awesome. Apologies for any confusion. :)

Kit Power lives and writes in Milton Keynes, England, and insists he’s fine with that. His published fiction (including his debut novel GodBomb!) is all available worldwide via his Amazon author page, in both print and e-book formats. For more of his non-fiction, see his monthly blog ‘My Life In Horror’. He is currently spectacularly failing to make progress on both his second novel and short story collection, though he is rapidly running out of displacement activity. So fingers crossed.

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Monday, May 23, 2016

When is X coming back? (Mailbox, Personal)

Image description: many mailboxes.
When is that one bit coming back? 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple each week. I have a LOT of backlogged questions right now, but I will try to eventually get to all of them.  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. I may answer a billion similar questions in a single post.] 

Lotsa people ask: 

When is X coming back?

I'm looking at about fifteen different questions here, and that doesn't include the ones I've misplaced, forgotten, or have been relayed to me in other contexts like Facebook or in person. All of them are basically the same structure. I will relay them now with absolute accuracy and not the slightest iota of embellishment: "I love your shit more than I love my own children. It is only my instinct for self-preservation that prevents me from sending you every penny I make in thick stacks of hundred dollar bills. Reading your blog is a little like seeing the face of God. I will be coming to Oakland soon to be your groupie–and I will totally be bringing a friend (who kicked heroin when she found your blog was even better). She thinks she is your biggest fan. We have decided on a series of contests that you get to judge. But there is ONE thing I wondered about. When are you going to bring _________ back?"
There are multiple values of that blank space ranging from "Did you give up on vlogging once a week?" (No.) "When are the quirky guest bloggers coming back?" (Soon?) all the way to "When are you going to finish the Skyrim post?" (Holy fuck, whenever I have 200+ hours free to play the rest of the game.) A few of you have even asked if I'm going to post more of my fiction (yes) anytime soon (hopefully). 

My reply:

Every morning I wake up and I have a conversation with Blog.

Well okay, it's more like an argument.

Blog wants to get back to the classics and chase down page views like the old days. Blog wants to fire up the the guest bloggers. Blog wants to scoff at Octorian invasions. Blog wants to root out the Evil Mystery Guest Blogger. Blog wants to help Guy Goodman St.White with his drinking problem. Blog wants the glory days where once a month or so we were looking at something we wrote with a "Holy shit!" face. Blog wants to go back to posting on weekends. Blog is ready to blow this popsicle stand and reach for the stars.

"When would we do all this?" I ask Blog. "Would that be during the 40-50 hours of childcare. Or before the teaching? Or after the packing for having to move out?"

Blog makes a distasteful look like I just told him we had homemade pizza crust but the only cheese in the house was Velveeta. "Oh, well, why don't you just do jazz hands then while you build another Meth Star on Clicking Bad. I'm sure that'll be fine."

And so it goes....

There's a lot of murky bullshit in the waters of Cancer Lake, and I can't see more than a few inches ahead of my face swimming around down there, but let me see if I can give you the timeline the way I'm hoping to see it go and when you can expect certain things to return.

End of May: Rocking Your Grandma's Socks! 

Before I start to make the first of a few different appeals posts in June rolling out a Kickstarter and a Patreon and hoping to find new (but ad free) ways to monetize Writing About Writing as something that might possibly keep me from starving to death and/or needing to spend another 20 hours a week driving Lyft or something to pay the bills, I'm going to try to give you all a preview of what I can do when I'm not clocking in 60+ hours on my other jobs. The kid has a steady stream of sitters lined up and Mom isn't as unable to help now that chemo is over. So the next week and change I'm going to be trying really hard to pull this shit out with so much fucking style that everyone's predominant, overriding thought will be: Damn I have GOT to get that boy some money! Posts I've been threatening for months. Posts that are only six months overdue for their pop culture relevance. Fiction. I am writing like Alex Owens in Flashdance danced....except without the vaguely ablest soundtrack....and not so much moving....and words. Also I'm not going to look anywhere close to as good in a leotard.

Some of these posts will probably be the old posts that people are hoping I get back to. At least one will be fiction. I'm working on a snarky list. This period of grace won't last, so I can't return to some of my regularly scheduled posting, but I hope to get in some heavy hitters in the next nine days.

June 1st- June 12th: Radiation (Not the superpower-granting kind.)

None of us know exactly what to expect from radiation. (But probably not additional superpowers.) Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that it is not quite as hard on the body as chemo but is basically a fucking painful burn and that the real pain in the ass is going every day. Conventional wisdom also seems to believe that eight minute abs is a legit thing, so I'm not so sure I want to count on that. If radiation is easier than chemo, I'll probably get more and higher quality posts up in June as well.

My hope is that this period will be reduced impact enough to begin to return to the loose schedule that WAW had back before the (at the time undiagnosed) health problems of last November. Back in the before time. The long ago. When the Earth was primordial and we still thought it was pretty funny that Donald Trump was trying to run for the GOP nomination. We were young....innocent. That means, if all this optimism isn't going to be gleefully shat on by life, that this is where you will see the return of the weekly Vlog post, the weekly revised old post, and of course the Mailbox, which was our most popular weekly post.

If things go smashingly, I will return to regular Friday posts during this time.

June 13- July 21st: Small Human Study Skills Boot Camp 

Unfortunately I lost the luxury of not working as a teacher for summer school since I'm moving out. I need that money for more than my hippie flip touch orgies and Strawberry Pocky. Now I need it for the box of instant Raman I'm going to be living off of and to keep the power going so I can charge my laptop and keep writing. So another year of yelling "SHNELL!!!" at the top of my lungs to children terrified that they don't know how to take notes is in my future.

The Contrarian has day-camp plans (something he was too young for last year), and we have lots of help with the house right now. This year I should be able to keep writing at whatever pace radiation allows and not slip too far into jazz hands. (Though I can't promise you won't see a "Why the actual FUCK am I doing this again?" post on some particularly ass-kicking Thursday.) I don't anticipate it will be easy or that I will be able to increase my productivity at this time, but I will probably have the time to begin to revisit some of my serial posts that have gone long un-updated. The four day weekends are good times to write if I'm not being expected to tag in 30+ hours like last year.

If radiation is more difficult than I think and I haven't been able to add all the stuff from above, it will end around the end of June and I should be able to incorporate that stuff starting in July.

July 22-August 10th: Blowing This Popsicle Stand

I have to be out of here by August 10th. Between July 22 and August 10th, the writing time will go up another order of magnitude. I might have to lose a day here or there to physical world moving drama, especially if I haven't found a place yet, and really need to move on stuff, but I should be back to a firm and high output schedule. This is post cancer and post teaching, so at this point, I should be writing up a storm.

Most things that people are missing should have been added back in at this point including weekend posts, plot posts, "Guest bloggers," book recommendations (fiction and writing advice), and hopefully my return to other blogs I write for as well. This is the point where I will be no longer "hanging on," and will really getting back to trying to write for a living. This is also the point I hope to start devoting a non-trivial amount of time each day to a longer work of fiction I'd like to write (and make available here when it is done).

August 12- On: The Great Beyond

Once Fall semester kicks in, I'll be teaching Monday and Wednesday night, watch T.C. about twenty hours a week and be trying to do the kind of writing that will keep me from needing a fourth gig driving Lyft or something as fast as my fingers can go. How long I can do that, largely will depend on all of you (but we'll get to that towards the end of next week).

It's more time writing than I even had back in 2013 when the blog started up. I mean that's what happens when you take someone who doesn't have a life because of writing and family and take the family part out of that. Fuck, I might even be able to finish Skyrim and my literary review of Skyrim at that point.

After that things get a little hazy. Much of what I can keep doing with the blog is going to depend on whether various crowd funding efforts yield anything more than shattered dreams and the taste of disappointment. But writing will stay my priority no matter what travesties life throws at me, and I will burn all these bridges when I get to them.

So yes, whatever it is you're hoping I do more of–whether it's the Glossary, craft essays, or just more link dumps–it's probably coming back in the next two or three months.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Monterey Fishes and the Do Over Week (Personal Update)

Image description: Me
with the ocean behind me.
Not fighting crime.
You may have noticed there was no post yesterday.

I mean, that assumption is predicated on the fact that you notice at all when I don't post, and to all ten of you for whom that is true, I apologize.

Sci Guy came to me and explained that we were having a quantum fluctuation in our gravitron parameters for the tachyon emission spectrum, which he assured me meant that if the Evil Mystery Blogger were to hack our signal yesterday, we would likely be suddenly shifted with the parallel universe in which he was the writer of Writing About Writing, and we all end up being the Evil Mystery Bloggers of that universe. Needless to say, even though we haven't heard from our bad-advice friend in a while, we decided not to chance it.

So since it's been a little slow on the crime fighting front, we all went to Monterey.

The plan was to go in two groups and one group would head back early while the other group stayed and shopped. I sort of imagined I'd be back by about three or four, get my guest post up, work on today's post, and see the reharmonization of the tachyon emissions or whatEVER it takes to not become the Evil Mystery Blogger of a world in which the key to being a writer is to have an expensive pen.

What ended up happening took all day. And I mean all day. So there I was in The Monterey Bay Aquarium, at the time I thought I would be getting home, with no computer, no wifi, and no regrets no way to really get a post up. We actually didn't pull in until after 8pm (when no good, self-respecting blog post goes out for the first time) and then I had to put The Contrarian to bed.

At that point I was too far behind on everything–including today's post.

(By the way, for those of you keeping track at home like a hawk for me to hypocritically fuck up in my own mantra of advice, I did write yesterday for about an hour and change. But most of it was non-blog related and happened either before I knew I was not going to have the afternoon to work, or well after it is wise to put a blog post up.)

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to call this week a do-over. Because totally awesome impromptu family vacations shitty weeks with evil blogger parallel universes and shit happen, and sometimes they eat your writing time. I will try to convince myself that a bag of salt water taffy is a breakfast of champions and kick ass working on making next week spectacular. You may even be rocked by my only-five-months late Star Wars post and/or some fiction.

I'll still put up a menu tomorrow.

Image Description: Me looking....lustfully at a bag of salt water taffy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Best "Surreptitious" Non-Man Writer

Probably not what you had in mind for a
best-selling crime detective fiction author
Image description: PD James
Who is the best non-man writer who wrote under a pseudonym to disguise that fact?  

Our May poll is live!  

Many authors have disguised their names to get around the rampant sexism of the publishing industry, which (while better than before) still very much exists today. They either used an androgynous form of their own name or an outright male-sounding pen name.

From your nominations we have put together an extensive poll. As the topic didn't seem to be grabbing folks as much as some others, I decided to go with one massive poll instead of split into semifinals, so everyone will be getting SIX (6) votes! Before you simply vote for your favorite six, consider that, as there is no ranking of those votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. 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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Emergency toddler tag in today. I'll put up something (other than a menu) on Friday, and baring further emergency, the post that was due to go up today will be up tomorrow.

Or if you prefer, you can look at this as a 24 hour extension on your chance to nominate or second nominations on our current poll.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yes, I Make Money. But That's Not Why I Do It. (Personal Update)

My selfies are cute, but that's not why I get paid.
Image description: just a picture of me with one hell of a left side
swoop wing.
Two stories not entirely unrelated:

1- First I woke to another author's competitive chest beating in my inbox. "If you were a real author, blah blah blah...." I told him that I wasn't really writing for the money and got a stream of "typical sentiment when one isn't making money..." type stuff. ("It's fine and well to have a hobby, but if you're going to peddle your advice and call yourself a writer you should be a professional....") I'm not sure what it is about the writing world, but a lot of writers really have learned to engage in a fierce competition with each other over their legitimacy. ("She's not published." "He sold out." "They only do short stories." "I focus on writing of actual...quality." "He's fine if you like commercial writing." "She's literary, so it's very niche and doesn't make money." And on and on and on....) And most of these competitions make them look at best like elitist prigs, but usually they end up with about eight omelets worth of egg on their face.

Fortunately, it's easy to get people to engage a little further when they think they have the upper hand. A few casual questions, and I realized he hadn't thought this salvo through very well. Seriously, if there's one thing I know about trying to give writers shit, it is to keep a very, very close eye on your own petard and its proximity to your hoist.

I don't think Chippy was prepared to discover that I make about twice as much as he does once the advance he was bragging about was divided by the time it took him to write his book. As often as traditional publication is still seen as "The Promise Land™" of writers, many who have achieved this feather in their cap forget that non traditional routes often pay better. I'm not going to tell you exactly what I make, but it's enough that I might not have to get a fourth job when I move out.

And while I could have done a Conan the Barbarian caliber, "Neener neener, brah!" (and boy would he have deserved it), instead I just went back to my first point. I'm making money–even though it's not much–because I've spent four years finding an audience and trying to grind out something even when my life does its "spookily accurate" Hindenburg impression. But I write because I can't NOT write.

2- On Friday's post, as often happens in first drafts, I went off the rails a bit. I realized I had spent more than a couple of paragraphs talking about something that had nothing to do with my topic: posting menus (with a little bit of emceeing) on Fridays for the next couple of months until I'm through the worst moments of cancer treatment and moving out.

Instead I was going on about how keeping the blog running–not putting it on a hiatus or some greatly reduced schedule–has actually been one of the best decisions I've ever made. This sort of off-topic rambling happens a lot with rough drafts, and the extra paragraphs ended up on the "cutting room floor" of my revision.

I know it might be hard to imagine that my particular tangent-filled bloviation has probably actually undergone a bit of fat trimming, but it's true. Even in the pursuit of Stephen King caliber digressive storytelling (or satirists and Italians if you prefer a literary example), I still keep an eye open for when I've not just gone a little divergent, but I'm actually being hunted by the Erudite and the Dauntless traitors.

However, before I cut them, I glanced through them. One never knows when the strange gem will be sitting in the refuse. And as I glanced through them, they seemed like ideas worthy in their own right, if a little disjointed and free flow. The tangent I had gone off on was all about why this decision to keep blogging four days a week instead of putting Writing About Writing on a hiatus or dropping down to only one or two posts a week was probably one of the best decisions I'd ever made.

I share it with you for two reasons. One, I always want W.A.W. to exist as a constant and real-time reminder that writing is hard, and doing it every day isn't always glitter and Pegasus rides through the Rainbow Gate to the land of Forgotten Dreams where inspiration flows like milk and honey. Writers have shitty days, weeks, even years. Two, I hope that when life hits you so hard that you fall to one knee and wonder if you'll ever get up, you know that writing isn't something you do despite your pain.

It's something you do to survive your pain.

So here it is:

"I know writing is a lifeline.

I've known that since my last major adult relationship of over a decade started to fall apart. I've known that when I tried to process my mother's alcoholism and eventual recovery. I've known that since I started to realize almost all my stories were in some way about redemption. I've known that when I faced the moments over and over in college–working two jobs to get by and studying every extra minute of the day–when it would have been easier to give up. I've known that since I was young that I needed writing like some people need to talk about their day or unwind in front of the TV.

[Insert cliche about writing, art, and life here.] Except it's not a cliche. Writing isn't just a beer and a sitcom after a long day. It has seen me through.

By the end of next summer, I will have lived through the worst year of my life. That isn't sarcasm. It's not Comic Book Guy saying "Worst. Year. Ever." because Agent Carter got cancelled. I mean some year there might be a salmon moose incident, but right now, this year kicked the others' asses so hard that a deep voice from the sky said "Fatality." I'm seeing someone I love through cancer treatment and then moving out of the house of my family. I basically lost my job. And I'm not even sure what cheeky comparison fits best when one loses being a daily part of a child's life.

There's suckage here I didn't even know existed. 

No matter how badly I want to crawl back into bed or just click over into some kind of "Urgent Only" mode where the diapers get changed, I do what I need to to not get fired, and the rest of life passes by like some time lapse nature film, writing helps to beat back that sense of futility. Writing gives me a purpose–even if it is a reluctant one–to crawl out of bed. It is something to think of that isn't a feedback loop of how it feels like life left a bag of flaming shit on my porch. It connects me with hope. It reminds me that parts of the world are falling apart. It is a reminder that in the rubble of my life, the flowers will still grow."

Money is not why I write.

Image description: Flower in rubble

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Tour of Menus

Image description: Meme of Back to the Future
Marty: Doc, we've gone back in time
Doc: No, Marty.... It's just a repost
If you've been following Writing About Writing with any degree of attention since about last November, you know that I'm going through what is probably (literally) the worst year of my life, and that I'm trying desperately not to put the blog on hiatus while I grind through being a primary support person for someone with cancer and get ready to move out of what I thought was my forever home.

In a lot of ways, this is the best decision I've ever made, and I'm going to write a lot more about that next week. (Well actually, I just did, but it was way off track, so I'll post it later.) 

However, I've been taking Friday's off about since we heard the cancer diagnosis. Before that (when we knew something was very, very wrong but not WHAT) it was just the weekend lightweight posts that I couldn't keep up with, but even then I was still working 40-50 hours before I wrote a word. That number has gone up to 50-60 hours consistently, so I added Fridays onto the pile. (Every third week after chemo wasn't too bad but there was usually a lot of catching up in the housework to do.) Even getting up a post four days a week–even jazz hands–has been pretty harrowing some weeks.

Eventually, I'll go back to posting six or seven days a week, but it will likely be August (when I'm in my own place) before that's possible. Radiation is next, and that will run into my teaching summer school, which those of you who've been with us for the past few years know is a rough time for the blog. And either somewhere in there or after that, I'm going to be moving. At that point, in theory, I should be settling into my new schedule. 

[By the way, I've got a question here that is too short to make into a proper mailbox post. Tony asks: "Chris, I thought you didn't have to do summer school this year because of all the donations you had gotten through W.A.W. I don't actually care from a reader's POV. It's not like your blog is awful for those six weeks. But it sure seems to be a stressful time for you. What happened?" My reply: Let me explain.... No there is too much. Let me sum up. The situation where I do househusbandry for room and board and live an idyllic life of leisurely 50 hour weeks cleaning poop and dishes is going away. I'm moving out and the many hours I used to watch The Contrarian and clean house are being cut by a little over half. When my teaching was a gig that primarily paid into my retirement account and the occasional commission to make my bust out of asparagus pudding, I thought I could afford to quit because a year's writing income was roughly the same amount I made in those six weeks of teaching. (Yesterday...I made a DOLLAR!) But now I have rent and groceries to pay for, and I can't be picky about a gig that's paying over $35/hour just because I come home tired after being overwhelmed by tiny minions of satan and don't want to write. Hopefully the free time I have from the shift in my life situations will help those six weeks not quite be so stressful for me, but we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.]

At that point (August) my writing life should have a definite upswing. I've lived alone a little bit in my adult life and been effectively single during most of that time, and one thing I remember is having a lot of time to write. In fact, my last big bout of bachelorhood was an amazing time for my writing development and part of the reason that I am able to write for six to ten hours at a stretch without a break even today. This time around, a lot of that is going to end up in work I hope to publish.

HOWEVER...and now we finally reach the point of this post. I've decided that rather than simply hit you with radio silence on Friday's and weekends, I'm going to do a reposting tour of the menus here at Writing About Writing. I haven't archived and organized everything I've ever written (some posts are just destined to be better left forgotten), but most of the major articles are tucked into a menu with the rest of their kind. I'll start giving you a end-of-the-week/weekend tour of the places to dig around and find some of the best articles of the past. 

I get a lot of questions about where someone can find X or if I have all the Y sorts of articles in one place, and so I think fewer people know about The Reliquary and all of its menus than I'd like. So until I'm back on my feet, that's going to be a Friday/Saturday feature here is just a quick repost of some of my existing menus.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why Should I Give it Away? (Claire Youmans)

There’s an old blues song about a chair. It’s a double-entendre, as blues songs often are, and very funny. The refrain goes, “If I can’t sell it, I’m going to sit right here on it. I ain’t going to give it away.”

Lately, as I start working on the next marketing push around Book Three, which will come out mid-summer, I have noticed ever so many articles, classes, webinars, books and so on being pitched that will enable me to give away more and more of my books. I can even pay them to help me do this! People are seemingly thrilled that they GAVE AWAY tens, hundreds and even thousands of books — something they think they could not have managed without paying, and something they think is a worthy goal.

This morning, I wondered, “Why would I want to do that?”

We’re back to the “exposure” question here, aren’t we? These efforts to separate me from my money talk about building a mailing list, getting my books in front of their particular audience, and potentially, maybe, developing word of mouth. Exposure, in other words.

Do I really want to pay for the chance to give books away? I doubt it. I can do a giveaway on my own, and I will certainly do so at the launch, along with a sale thereafter. I have nothing against giveaways, but my goal isn’t to give away books except as a teaser. A giveaway is an ad, and the cost of giving away samples is part of the cost of the ad. I do have a mailing list, and it continues to grow. At least I know those people are actually interested. I have been reading these items to understand what’s out there that might work for me. I don’t see a connection to my audience, and I rarely see a connection to sales.

If I am going to pay for “exposure,” I want it connected with a review — something I can use to promote sales — and that will be published in a forum that’s probably more closely connected with my readers. I consider the “exposure” a bonus, but there will be a real quid-pro-quo. My goal is to sell books, not give them away.

I’m not in favor of “exposure” for its own sake. I suspect beyond a reasonable doubt that much of this “exposure” exposes itself to the recycle bin. The bigger the name, the more it promises to send out a color glossy catalog including MY books, the more it promises to send that out to (long list of busy people, like teachers, librarians, agents, publishers), the more certain I become that these color glossies and pretty emails are almost invariably tossed without being read. “Exposure” doesn’t matter unless your work is “exposed”.

Before paying out money for anything, be sure you know what, exactly, is being sold. Make sure that what’s being sold is connected with your goals and will help you reach them. A giveaway might be right for you as an author, but make sure it goes to the right people and is done at the right time. Make sure the goal isn’t to see how many books you can give away or how many people you can add to your mailing list, but how that connects with creating actual sales, a real audience for your work. When you look at testimonials, look at the books! Look at the audience! Make sure the fit of anything you buy is right for you and your book.

Giveaways aren’t all bad, but giving it away isn’t your goal. Is it?

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here:

Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy
Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Toki-Girl-Sparrow-Boy-Claire-Youmans/dp/0990323404/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.