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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Best Obscure Book (Semifinal Round 1)

What is the best book that no one seems to have heard of?   

"But Chris. If no one has ever heard of it, how will they vote for it?"

"Yes well, I think that–"

"I second the complaint."

"You can't second complaints!  This is a nominations page."

"I also second the complaint!"

"What? What the hell is happening here."

"Bring your guns. Bring your knives. This poll complicates our lives. Kill the Chris. Kill the Chris. Through the mist. Through a wood...."

This is exactly how it went.

I get this. I do. I knew it from the moment I thought to myself "Self, that would be a really neat monthly poll," I know a few of you have offered up your beloved but obscure favorites to the nomination gods only to have their very obscurity be the reason no one threw them a second.

And on that level, I encourage everyone to simply view the nominations themselves as a really awesome list of book recommendations. The titles I know are great, and I'm looking forward to putting the ones I've never heard of on my TBR list. I've tried just opening up post comments to recommendations, but the response is usually lukewarm. The inherent competition of a poll seems to bring out a more enthusiastic response.

And yet.....

And yet....there were more nominations with seconds than in half a dozen prior polls. Readers are clearly fired up about this poll topic. So at some level, these titles are not TOO obscure to have been read by a few different voracious bibliophiles.

I know this means you might not recognize half the titles on the poll, and that the poll numbers may be conspicuously low compared to other polls (please only vote for books you've read), but it will still be an interesting exercise.

Everyone will get four (4) votes. The top five titles will go on to our final poll. I will tabulate the results of this semifinal poll in one week. 

The poll itself is at the bottom of the left side, right beneath the "About the Author" section.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Guest Post Here

Don't forget that because of the way my weekly schedule shakes out this semester, I pretty much either get a guest post, or there isn't a post on Tuesdays. There's not really much I can do about it until Fall semester is over and I can put some extra articles in the hopper. But I used up ALL my extras not going on hiatus during bronchitis.

Got something to say about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading...or possibly cheese? 

Got something that writers or book lovers REALLY need to see?

Want to respond to something I've written, even if it's to completely disagree with me and tell me I smell like soup? And not that I smell like the good kind of soup that reminds you of childhood winters, but something with weird goat cheese, too much salt, and seasonings that make you wonder if it hasn't gone a little off.

Want to take advantage of my (currently) 50,000+ page views per month and advertise your own online endeavors in a thinly veiled self-pimp-a-thon wrapped in the "sheep's clothing" of an article? (For which I will only demand a shout out in return.)
Want to make twos and threes of dollars? Maybe fours?

Want to put an article or three out in the world, be read by lots of readers, but without having to start your own blog and lose all your friends by pimping yourself on Facebook all day long? ("Ugh. All they do is talk about themselves! They don't take pictures of their lunch like me!")  Or just want to try blogging on for size a few times before you start one of your own?

Then I want you!

Bring it!  Drop me an e-mail.  (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) As long as what you want to write is mostly coherent, at least obliquely about writing, no more than 82% horribly offensive to white males, non-abusive to other readers, doesn't make me cry (except in the good way), contains at least one vulgarity, innuendo, or salvo of F-Bombs to maintain the lack of decorum, I will totally publish your article.  I can't promise that if you write an article on why I'm wrong about everything ever in my face that I won't write some kind of rebuttal, but all opinions on writing are welcome--even ones antithetical to mine. (I do reserve the right to refuse a post for any reason, but I promise that reason won't be because I disagree with you.)

And...if you're one of my regular guest bloggers, I'll even give you your own link on The Reliquary (unless you'd rather I didn't).

Here are some guidelines so we don't waste each other's time:

  • If you send me offers to do web content, I mark your mail as spam. I know when I'm looking at a legitimate offer for a guest blog.
  • If you are a robot I will mark you as spam. Unless you can do dishes. Robots that do dishes are welcome.
  • If you can't figure out what this blog is about, and offer to do articles about steam roofing or something, I'll mark your mail as spam. I'm not just web content here; this blog has a theme and everything. Make it about the inspiration and creative process of steam roofing AT LEAST!
  • Please read the paragraph below the bullet points very carefully.
  • Your writing is yours. I'm going to ask that you let the post run on my page for a while before you cross post it, but ultimately I respect that as the generator of the creative effort, your writing is yours. If you ask me to remove it, I will. If you repost it somewhere else, that's okay.
  • There are no author passwords to Writing About Writing--you'll submit your articles to me. I will post them if they are good enough to post.
  • If you skipped all that dull text up above, this blog is about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading, and maybe cheese. Don't skip the paragraph below though.
  • I will be as liberal as I can about gate keeping, but you do have to be able to write a little. An incoherent rant about the tyranny of grammar probably won't be approved.
  • You don't have to agree with me, particularly about writing stuff, but I'm not going to post wildly divergent social positions, humor that punches down, or deeply problematic phrasing. Anything I post here isn't an "I agree with this 100%!" endorsement, but if I hit publish on it, I'm going to be the one to answer for it. If you want to write about how the PC police are agents of "Obummer the Mooozlim," and they won't let you even use the word "tard" anymore, go start your own blog.
  • I won't make any content changes to your writing, but I may make some copy edits. If a proofreading change might change your meaning, I will run it by you.
  • Please fucking read the paragraph below.
  • When I say "I will make some edits" I want you to understand that I'm not a copy editor even though I can do okay (on writing that isn't my own). I'm not here to fix up a post from scratch that you didn't have time to proofread. Clean it up.
  • You may link out as much as you want (even self-promotional links), but I'm going to check them all--if they go to spammy shit, I won't publish your article. 
  • Please, for the love of all that is holy, and in the name of Hera's left nipple, read the goddamned fucking paragraph below.
  • If your post is a giant fucking commercial for some product, then you need to be paying me for advertising space. And if your product isn't awesome, that's not going to happen anyway. Thinly veiled self promotion under the auspices of something that at least resembles an article is totally okay though–just know that it might not get a lot of hits. I only get about 150 views on articles that aren't liked or reshared through some social media. If my readers don't like something, it does NOT do very well. If they do, well they know where the share button is.
  • Seriously, read the paragraph below.

The very important paragraph:

W.A.W. isn't making very much money article per article. I can't offer more than a couple of dollars. (Most guest bloggers ask to include it as a donation, but that's never expected.) If your article brings in heavy traffic, we will figure something extra out so I'm not taking the hard work of a writer with nothing but the promise of "exposure." Plus of course if someone sends me a donation earmarked for a guest blogger, I will pass the money onto them and even cover the Paypal fee–that's for them, not me. It may not add up to much (unless you get millions of hits or write for me a lot) but if it came from your work, I'll make sure I'm not taking advantage of you.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Embrace the Messy (Personal Update)

Image description: Author looking just a little too enthusiastic.
Really Rough Draft  

Raw unfettered shit- 60, 203 (Last update 58,227) [Just this update- 1976]     

Slightly polished turd- 34, 809 (Last week 34,809)  [Just this week- 0] 

*Reminder slightly polished turd is usually soft revision I've done to help jump start me into the next day's writing. It's no where close to a second draft, but it's a bit more polished than my raw copy. But a blank page is a hard start.

Looks pretty awful, doesn't it? Like maybe I should have stopped having groupie threesomes for at least a minute and gotten some work done.

It's strange because it's probably one of the best weeks I've had since I started writing this particular story and up there in terms of creative euphoria in general. But let me get into that below.

Personal Update

I got back from L.A. early in the week. There was talk of staying an extra day to go to Disneyland but the crowds had been hellish on Monday–seriously the worst I've ever seen them in 32 years of going an average of two or three times a year. Somehow they figured out how to get so many people inside that the only magic was evil eldritch horror from beyond the plain of suffering.

I also really wanted to get back and write. My plan to go down there, lock myself in a room and write for hours ended up up looking a lot more like grabbing a couple of hours of catch as catch can. I'm not sure how to make that work in the future. Maybe just skip the trip until/unless it is crystal clear that some writing time is non-negotiable.

Pushing outward from my writing time has been difficult lately.  Well actually, that's generally always been true for my entire life. But being on my own has afforded a few unique challenges surrounding it as I worry that if I tell people I can't do things they will never bother inviting me again and I'll die alone. Because obviously that's exactly how things work and what would happen .

After that the week was really busy. Sonic Gal is having her crime fighting time audited (to make sure she's not wasting time) and since she comparably lives about a normal day every fifteen minutes that pass for normals, it's an involved process. I tagged in a lot more with The Contrarian after we got back.

Book Update

Still, I got a lot of good work done, which...I know is not as easy to see based on my word counts. The long and short of it was that I wrote myself into a corner in a scene that wasn't really working at all, and I recognized that I needed to back up and figure out what, if anything, that scene was doing so that I could do it in another way. I started hitting backspace, and didn't stop until I was back to a point before things had gone screwball. If I were strictly doing NaNo, I would still count the 15,000 or so words I cut (because you don't edit during Nano and you count your mistakes, even if they're 20 pages or so), but in terms of novel progress, it clearly doesn't "count."

And yet, I learned something about my main character and his parents in that tangent that is going to game change the arc of his development, I figured out at least three breakthroughs and two other things that were not 100% gelled and have seen a bridge from "here" to "there" in one of my plot points that is going to work really well. I'm humming from the weekend, flying on an artists high, and my heart is pounding. My worst-ever word count week has probably been my best weekend since I decided to write this book and I am FLYING. In terms of work that will make this better, it's probably my best week.

Don't be afraid to scrap the words just because they're yours. (That first draft isn't as brilliant as you think it is anyway.) Don't be afraid to kill your darlings. Don't be afraid to scrap that scene that isn't working. And for The Muse's sake, don't get so attached to your word counts or your page progress that you won't just crumple up a few pages and go back.

This is how it is supposed to be. Divest yourself of the idea that you're going to sit down and write a book from beginning to end; it never works that way. You're going to cut scenes, maybe even characters, and it's going to be a horrible bloody mess. Roll your sleeves up and dig in for some field medic surgery.

Art is messy.

Bring a smock.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Break

I'll put our current poll up on Friday, but mostly I'll see you all next Monday.

Lots of big things coming, and a few of them need some prep.

Plus I'm writing as fast as I can to draft my manuscript.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Best Obscure Book (Last Chance for Write In/Seconds)

What is the best book that no one has ever heard of?    

Today was a wall to wall double shift "other jobs" from 7:30 am until just now, and tomorrow I'm off to have a ritual sacrifice with pie, so let me just encourage everyone to take one last look at the books that have been offered, get any last minute nominations in, and second anything there they'd like to see go on to the poll.

I'll probably compile the list and get the first semifinal round up on Friday as a brunch post.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Scott 'Jinx' Jenkins

[Now that we have a handful of articles from Scott Jinx Jenkins, it's time to get him his own menu in The Reliquary. The text in brackets will disappear in a few days.]

Scott Jenkins was born September 1986 into a military family. He developed a deep desire for writing at nine years old, comprising several one page stories for his parents and classmates. 'Goosebumps' and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' solidified his desire for the darker topics. After a failed attempt at college, Scott followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Air Force. His military career is highlighted with a tour as a Military Training Instructor, two specialty codes, and several awards and decorations. The Air Force offered Scott a second chance at college, which he took full force; he holds four degrees: the highest is a Master's degree in Creative Writing—and keen desire to use it. Now, Scott spends his days fixing aircraft in the United States Air Force and spending time with his wife and children. However, he spends his nights in front of a computer carving his thoughts to page; occasionally with a glass of single malt scotch. Scott has developed several courses for the Air Force, written blogs for MaintainerNation.com, and acted as editor for MilitaryNations.com. His first book--The Devil's Assassins--was released for digital sale in July, 2016 and print in September, 2016. This was the first in his, 'A Bloody Hell on Earth' Saga which encompasses three independent series': 'The Devil's Assassins', 'The Widow Forest', and 'The Wicked'.

External links
Facebook page
Amazon Author page
The Devil’s Assassins

A Creative Mosh Pit
Pen-to-Paper; Ink-to-pad; Key-to-Screen: Having a Plan
Individual Writing Process

Arielle K Harris

Arielle K Harris is the author of the novel Bestial as well as the ridiculous steampunk time travel drama short story The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When.  She is responsible for one very opinionated toddler as well as a writer, poet, falconer, knitter of many half-finished scarves, drinker of tea, enthusiast for wine and sometimes has been known to have wild birds in her spare room.

She can be found online at her own website: www.ariellekharris.com as well as on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ariellekharris/ and her published work can be found on Amazon here:https://www.amazon.com/author/ariellekharris

Writer’s Block? How to Kick Those Finger-stalling Demons in the Nads and Start Writing in 5 Easy Steps!
Inspiration, That Sly Minx
This is Not Real
Story Fundamentals–Part the First: Style

Monday, November 21, 2016

Connectivity Woes and Novel Update (58, 227)

Pay no attention to how early it is
or the kid screaming to go to Disneyland,
or the fact that I'm writing in a bean bag chair.
Image description: writer looking harried
Really Rough Draft  

Raw unfettered shit- 58, 227 (Last update 50,852) [Just this update- 7425]     

Slightly polished turd- 34, 809 (Last week 34,809)  [Just this week- 0] 

*Reminder slightly polished turd is usually soft revision I've done to help jump start me into the next day's writing. It's no where close to a second draft, but it's a bit more polished than my raw copy. But a blank page is a hard start.

As you can see, I've still been writing this week (though not revising at all), but trying to get blogs up has been a comedy of cliches. In addition to being busier than I thought I would and with less time to sequester myself away with my laptop, there has also been a somewhat ridiculous cascade of failures trying to find three pronged plugs that could charge my laptop, wifi, and time. I keep finding two out of three, but I need the trifecta to really be able to do some solid blogging.

The good news is, that means I have some decent articles ready to go in a word document. And as soon as I'm back to terra firma, I'll get them up.

I fell behind again on the hope of hitting Nano word counts during November, so I'm going to have my work cut out for me in the last week if I'm going to make it.

I'll get you a better "life" update when I am back home. There are some sad aspects I can't really blog about, and some enjoyable trips to Disneyland with a wee one that have been awesome, but I've also spent a lot of time frustrated that my plans for locking a door and writing when I wasn't actively vacationing have been stymied. I'm going to have to go on lockdown when I get back.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Getting Started (Sunday Shorts)

How do I start writing?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Thursday (and a quickie on Sundays because quickies are fun.) 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. Craft. Process. Form. Content. I do it all.] 

Anon asks:   
Okay, so I feel like I really should get on with completing my writing... My main issue with this is the starting process, i.e. actually starting. So... Any suggestions from any of the users and admins on this page, about how to overcome that initial hurdle? 

Something that doesn't involve a meme, or the Nike tagline. :)

Much Appreciated Thanks :D

My reply:

The blank page can be such a hard start, can’t it? It gazes back at you with just too much untold promise and too much need. Once you are just fucking up as fast as you can, it's so much easier.

I’ve got a couple of detailed articles about how to start here, but let me give you the cheap and dirty version because I myself am cheap and dirty.

1- To long term develop the habit of sitting down to write, I can’t recommend Dorothea Brande's Becoming A Writer enough. It's been over a hundred years and while lovely books exist on craft, it has almost no equal on process. It’ll take a month or two of morning writing and then another month or two of writing during a floating half hour, but the ability to simply sit down and write on command is incredibly worth it.

2- To kick start a session that isn’t going well, try doing some timed free-writing exercises. This is sort of the mental equivalent of that string you have to pull to start old lawnmowers and edgers. Ten minutes of anything you think of–that you KNOW you're going to throw away–can help generate some ideas that you can take a little more time with.

3- If you're absolutely unable to even get started here, open up a book by an author you like and start copying it, word for word. You literally can't type as fast as you think, so pretty soon your brain will be out ahead and thinking of new ideas. When you're ready to write your own words, let loose. Just don't forget to go back and change the earlier stuff if you don't want to have to relive that scene in Finding Forrester.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Interwebz Blues

Looks like I'm going to be writing up a bunch of posts and then posting them when we get to the NEXT place I'm staying. Currently the place I'm staying is sans internet. I am sitting in a McDonalds, writing this on my iPad and even the connection here is too shitty to rely on.

So look for a bit of a glut this weekend as I put up what I spent today cooking.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Creative Mosh Pit (Scott 'Jinx' Jenkins)

A Creative Mosh Pit     
Scott ‘Jinx’ Jenkins

At what point do we, as writers, achieve validation?  Honestly, take a look at your life, your writing, and your dream: at what point is it all validated?  Perhaps it is pretensions, but I feel we have the hardest ‘creative’ medium.  People love to watch television, look at art, and listen to music; but only a select few truly read with a glutinous drive.  If I made music I could put an earbud up to anyone’s ear without any effort on their part.  But ask someone to read a five page short story and excuses will get real.  And I am not complaining, I am just being a realist; we as writers have to be prepared for the depressing silence.  So there comes a point in every journey where you have to ask; “What makes it all worth while?”

Unfortunately the only answer is cliché: find what works for you.  If you dive into the creative journey of writing, have a reasonable and tangible goal.  For instance, don't be me; my manageable goal was for someone to say my work changed their life.  Young and dumb me justified this notion because it carried no monetary gain—because I wasn't prioritizing money, my goal would be easy.  I was rigidly-fucking wrong.

Then an opportunity dropped in my lap: a blog spot.

None of my fiction work was catching on, and a website/fb page put feelers out for a blogger.  And in Maintainer Nation I found my first bout with the creative most pit.  I wrote about my experiences and comedic situations related to Air Force aircraft maintenance.  Hell, it was something, and I knew maintainers were vulgar like my bitch ass.  But, I didn’t expect my first few to do SO well.  The kind comments and dialogue proved that I had a voice.  A voice that called me away from fiction storytelling.

Validation became a drug that distanced me from my true passion.  Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging, but I wen’t Ham-fucking-sandwich.  With the quickness I reassessed my entire focus as a writer, and it didn’t take long to fall apart.  

Months passed and I dove deeper into the blogging process, but with every project I was stepping further away from giving my characters life.  I gave way to attention and money.  Well, when my dreams caught up, they knocked the wind out of me; cause I sold out like a baby-back-bitch.

So, I excused myself from being an editor, and from the site.  Because I knew my dreams…no, my characters deserved better.  But Validation is the name of the game, and our creative path is held in the mosh pit during validation’s song.  Maybe it isn't so bad to adjust and ‘go with the flow’.  But the mosh pit will beat you down, every-single-time, if you don’t keep your hands up and fight back.  You see, it is a weird process.  Being part of the mosh pit requires a level of fluidity, but also fight.  And we all need to know, at what point we can exit the pit; satisfied with our role in the process.  Satisfied with how we executed the hammer throws and shoulder checks as validation rang out.  Sweet, sweet validation.

Okay, enough philosophical bullshit—I love philosophical bullshit, but not everyone does lol.  Just make sure you have a ‘pot of gold’ at the end of your process.  One that CAN be achieved, so you don’t rip yourself to shreds in the process.  Mine, is seeing my work on my bookshelf.  Even if no one else reads my books, I gave my characters life, I bound them to pages and filed them for eternity; to be passed down to my children.  More would be great, but I met my minimum validation; when the pressure builds, I simply look at the books and remember; those characters exist because of me---and it wasn't as easy as making babies!

[Ed. Note- I've written a little about this myself: http://www.chrisbrecheen.com/2012/08/consider-your-writer-talent-build.html]

External links

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.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Holy Crap! (And Two Other Piece of Business)

Me looking at my inbox.
Image description: Writer with a horrified look.
I'm headed to LA where I have a couple of things to do and a lot of time blocked off to sequester myself away for writing, but as I scramble to get out the door today, let me just say that my inbox has exploded because of yesterday's calls for Those Books No One Else Seems to Have Heard of.

And I mean EXPLODED.

I don't think I've seen this many nominations, seconds and comments on any poll before this for at least a year or two.

Yes, I understand the implicit irony in running books no one has heard of as an actual POLL ("How will anyone vote for it if no one has heard of it?). However, I have noticed that I've barely heard of any of those books before, but a lot of them are still getting seconds, so as counterintuitive as it is, it seems to be working.

It seems pretty clear that this poll is going to need to have some semifinal rounds and not be rushed, so it's going to run into December. I love it when I hit a topic that so many people are excited and passionate about, and if weird book recommendations is such a topic, let's pause for a moment to savor it. So please take a couple of extra days to get those nominations in and round up some friends who will toss down a second on the books you want to see go onto the poll. Put in a monocle. Sip your cognac. Let's do this thing.

We're still off schedule. This trip might help us get back on for good once I'm down there, locked into a hotel room, and ignoring the screams of housekeeping that checkout was five days ago, but right now it means I'm trying to pack and discovering that I need to wash socks and stuff.  (How did I get to the day of a trip without knowing that I was out of socks? Why do I fail at life?) I'm going to post a guest post tomorrow, the Mailbox on Friday, and something "meaty" on Saturday. So you'll get all the same posts, just kind of out of order.

I also need to warn anyone on any kind of feed or getting notifications (or who think that I'm just too damned spammy) that I am criminally behind on certain "business" type posts. Everything from a couple of guest bloggers who need their own menus to "Best of" posts to cleaning up from The Year of Unspeakable Horror™. There is going to be a glut of "brunch posts" coming.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Best Book No One Has Heard Of (Last Call for Nominations and Seconds)

What is the best book that no one seems to have heard of?  

I know it feels like it's been ten years since the beginning of the month, but it's only the 15th today, and we need to get our November poll fired up.

In fact, we're almost running behind, so I'll have to bump this week's guest posts to later in the week. Which means there's only time for a quick call out for any last nominations, and of course seconds.

Pop over here if you don't remember the rules for what I mean by a book no one has heard of, want to see the other rules, who's been nominated, second an existing nomination, or make a last minute nomination. Please don't put a nomination here. I'll take it, but you want it where more people will see it.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Many Thanks (Progress Update)

Manuscript update

Really Rough Draft  

Raw unfettered shit- 50, 852 (Last update 34, 809) [Just this update- 16,043]     

Slightly polished turd- 34, 809 (Last week 29,688)  [Just this week- 5,141] 

*Reminder slightly polished turd is usually soft revision I've done to help jump start me into the next day's writing. It's no where close to a second draft, but it's a bit more polished than my raw copy. But a blank page is a hard start.

If you pay close attention to those numbers, and know when I was ordered to bed by my doctor, you might be able to piece together what I'm kind of trying to do: Nano–at least the word count parts of it. Certainly I'm not starting on the first and I won't be done on the 30th and I care fuck for the website issuing me a certificate of completion, but the ramp up got me a little pumped to try and turn up the juice on my output. I'm a little behind because of the bronchitis–I spent those days in bed and wrote very little. (Doc turned out to be right though. A week of bedrest kicked it's butt and saved me from walking pneumonia.) Catching up to where I should be after a week of days that were only a few hundred words will probably take all month. But I've got a tiny reward lined up if I end up with 50,000 more words by Nov 30th than I had on the first.

Many thanks

Rather than a life update (which would go something like this: "When I started feeling better, I realized that there was two weeks worth of shit to do, and I'm still catching up.") I want to thank folks for these last two weeks.

Thank you so much to my handful of guest bloggers who kept me from having to put up ridiculously "jazz hands" content or simply put the blog on a "sick hiatus" for a few days. Even my mom jumped in with an article to help me pull through there. Heck I blew through all those articles, and I still have one to run tomorrow.

And thank you so much to my readers who stuck with me even though I went way off the usual fare. I know that two more weeks of off-schedule updates may not matter much to most of you, but it was a real hands flung into the air moment for me–to JUST be getting back into the swing of things and to be promising content and literally, that day, to succumb to illness felt very flaky. So I appreciate the patience.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Writer’s Block? How to Kick Those Finger-stalling Demons in the Nads and Start Writing in 5 Easy Steps! (Arielle K Harris)

"How could you, Jurgen?!"
Image description: Knight on a horse holding a spear and looking at a
tombstone with some non-English writing on it.
In my last article I spoke about inspiration and the eternal struggle writers have with it.  I talked about those times when you just have to knuckle down and get those words on that page, even when it’s a hard and painful slog.  But then, it strikes:

Writer’s f*&%ing block.  

That bastard, sneaking up on you unaware, stealing your ability to think, write and sometimes even form coherent sentences to your friends and family.  They would be worried you’ve gone mad but they’re aware you’re a writer, so they know you already are.

You’re struggling, the words aren’t coming and you’re staring, again, at the blank space on the page in wordless despair.  So here you are, having come to the internet for “a little break” or “inspiration” or even “research” – any of the many justifications you’re making for why you’re not writing.  You’ve tried to stay focused, and maybe you even tried to keep your most recent draft up on your computer display, telling yourself you’ll refuse to use the internet on this hallowed instrument of your craft, no, you’ll be distraction-free and disciplined for once.

But I see how your phone creeps out of your pocket, I see how sly you think you’re being.  As if it doesn’t count if you just check your phone for five minutes.  (It does.)

“But it’s so hard,” you tell yourself while you read those memes.  You know which ones I mean.  The ones with the “inspirational” quote on a background of crumpled paper or designed to look like an inky typewriter just finished spilling out the passionate truth about writers and writing.  You read them with solemnity, and you nod your head.  “Yeah, that’s so true,” you tell yourself, and you feel so much more noble, so much more persecuted by your own inner word-stealing, finger-stalling demons.  “All writers struggle with writing,” you repeat sagely.  It’s part of the job description.

It doesn’t have to be.  I’m going to tell you how you can kick those finger-stalling demons in the nads and start writing again, in only 5 easy steps.  Those demons can’t hurt you now, my precious, you will have weapons with which to defeat them.

Step 1.  Get to that document.  Put it up on the screen and look at it.

It’s a simple step, at once both the easiest and the hardest.

Step 2.  Explain to yourself why you’ve stalled.  Seriously.  Start typing the following, “And now I’ve abandoned my work to the siren song of procrastination because…” and finish the sentence as applies to your situation.

For example:

And now I’ve abandoned my work to the siren song of procrastination because I honestly have no idea what my characters are supposed to do next and without having any idea what they’re going to do next they’re going to sit there in the Grog-house of Kazabulladon* frozen in time-space for the rest of eternity and I feel really bad about that because I like these guys, they’re a fun band of troll-robbers, but I just haven’t the slightest clue what to do next and I’m so sorry guys, I let you down.

By laying it all down in text you can start to fully understand the root cause behind your lack of progress.  If it’s just running around and around in your head, making you feel frustrated and angry with yourself, then it’s taking up precious mental space that it doesn’t deserve.  Trap your problems like the nuisance vermin that they are, make them real with words and then imprison them on the page.

Step 3.  Explain to yourself what you wish you were writing.  Start typing the following, “Instead of being stuck in this mental quagmire, I wish…” and once again, finish as applies.

For example:

Instead of being stuck in this mental quagmire, I wish I was in the middle of writing an epic quest with action and suspense and drama and maybe someone dies in such a terrible, beautiful way that it makes people sob over my book like tiny, helpless children.

Step 4.  Still stuck?  Think of the worst thing you can possibly do to your favorite character.  Do it.

For example:

The chair screeched backwards and Jurgen, Gurgul’s right hand man in the lucrative business of troll-robbing, pulled a knife from his hip to hold steadily beneath the chief troll-robber’s heavily bearded neck.

“What the hell, man?” Gurgul cried, wounded to his soul.  “I thought we were friends!”

“That was before I spoke to Dark Lord Deathface, and he offered me eternal life, a new horse and a lifetime supply of grog!  Nothing personal, you know, I just really like grog, horses and living forever.  It’s a thing.”

Step 5.  Don’t stop now!  How does this affect the rest of your characters?  Are they upset?  Are they secretly pleased?  Do your characters rally together, or become divided?  Explain everything, over-explain it if you can, because it’s all about getting the words out and you’ll be able to edit it down to the elegance you’re aiming for in your second draft.

There are infinite possibilities, sometimes that’s the whole problem.  All you need to do is to choose one and go for it.  It is, by nature, the right choice because you made it.  If you believe in that choice then the reader will too, so commit to it.  There’s no holding back.  You’ve got this.

Good luck, my precious.

*This is not a real story, but maybe it should be.

Arielle K Harris is the author of the novel Bestial as well as the ridiculous steampunk time travel drama short story The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When.  She is responsible for one very opinionated toddler as well as a writer, poet, falconer, knitter of many half-finished scarves, drinker of tea, enthusiast for wine and sometimes has been known to have wild birds in her spare room.

She can be found online at her own website: www.ariellekharris.com as well as on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ariellekharris/ and her published work can be found on Amazon here:https://www.amazon.com/author/ariellekharris

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, November 10, 2016

Pen-to-Paper; Ink-to-pad; Key-to-Screen: Having a Plan (Scott 'Jinx' Jenkins)

Pen-to-Paper; Ink-to-pad; Key-to-Screen: Having a Plan

By:  Scott ‘Jinx’ Jenkins    

I don't know of many writers—really, I don't know many, at all *sad face*—that simply sit down and write without a plan.  Sure, we like our impromptu, our blogs, our outbursts, of sorts.  But when it comes to our legacy, to the world we dreamt of scribing out for *insert personally applicable amount of time here*, we tend to plan.

Planning is good.  And honestly, as writers, we do it more often than not.  When I am driving, parenting, crewing jets, yelling at airmen, drinking, reading, or...to be honest; when I am doing anything I am thinking/planning for my book(s).  It’s just in our nature.  But, what is beneficial planning?  When is planning a hindrance?  Well, lucky you; I planned some time for another blog; so let’s dive in!

What is beneficial planning?

Great fucking question!  I am glad you asked!  Answer this simple question: how long is/did it take you to finish your first long piece of writing?  Its okay, I’ll wait…

Correct answer is: a long ass time! So, the most beneficial planning is the initial planning.  If you are taking your audience on a space adventure where Jesus Christ travels through a black hole, meets Romeo and Juliet, and teaches them about respecting thy father, then you gotta plan that shit! Brainstorm a bit, but put a solid plan on paper/screen.  Commit to a beginning, middle, and end—Yeah, I know it can still change but it is harder to change when the original is in front of you.  Next, commit to scenes/chapters.  Then save that document, add/delete as time progresses, but hold that document as gospel.

There are two main reasons this practice is crucial.  And for free-99, I am going to share them with you; what can I say, I’m just that kind of guy.  First, when you take that LONG sabbatical from writing because life happened, and you come back to page 41, without a single idea what the fictional fuck is happening…you will have your document.  Boom, that in itself should be good enough reason, and I didn’t even charge for it!  Second, not to sound cliché, but it gives you a road map to your own creativity.  The you that came up with the book idea is not the you a year later writing the last chapter.  And most of us aren't Stephen King (if one of you IS Stephen King, how dare you read my blog and not give me a plug…help out the little guys!), so our writing skill and voice are developing.  Make sure you FINISH your work but staying true, as best as possible, to the road map ‘original’ you made.  Otherwise, you may be writing that damn book forever, lost in the blackhole with Jesus; Romeo and Juliet just dying over-and-over, waiting for divine intervention.

When is planning a hindrance?

This one is a tad easier: if you take the above information as prescriptive, end all, biblical practice, then I hope you want ants—cause that’s how you get ants.  Seriously, everything is fluid.  Just cause you have a plan, doesn't mean you should stifle spontaneous creativity.  Simply bounce major changes against the total product and document things that make-the-cut.  Maybe, by the time Jesus reaches Romeo and Juliet, you realize that your audience doesn't give a fuck about a Shakespeare; so you want to strike the star-crossed lovers for a little Bella, Edward action.  But you spend months in turmoil—drinking too many bottles of single malt scotch without inviting me—all because some dick on the interwebs told you: STICK TO YOUR PLAN!  I am going to make it easy for you, make a plan, always air on the side of our plan, make the changes work for addition into your work of art, and remember this: change roads, not destinations.

Last thing *like a piece of candy you didn’t know you were gonna get*

I had a professor tell me, while working on my thesis (fancy name for book), that he could tell when I was deviating from my plan.  He wasn't harping, because editing was yet to come, but wanted to enlighten me.  Since most of us write larger pieces of work in the past tense, this is something I have realized to be a norm: you sit down at your computer and type away the stuff listed in your head and plan.  He did this.  She did that.  Jesus smacked both in the back of the head…

Then something crazy happens.  You have a wild idea in the thralls of finger fucking the keyboard.  Jesus should be a fucking robot; you think, leading to this:  Romeo is crying on the ground as Jesus removes his robotic brain chip.  He forcibly rams it into Romeo’s skull; blood mist fills the air, kissing Juliet’s lips upon decent—wine.

Did you catch it?  I didn’t at first.  When we have nuggets of goodness strike our creative charge, we tend to key it up as present tense; because we just thought of it.  Now, when I edit for other’s I chuckle at tense changes like that.  Mostly it is just a fun tidbit; the only true benefit is to be self-aware, because if you self-edit, you need to be on the lookout for those spots.

Till next time my literary homies and homettes…


External links

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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Somber Note

Hi all,

Listen, I'm still here, and I'm still writing. Liberals here in the U.S. obviously had a rough night last night and we're all pretty shocked and upset this morning. I'm going to lose my health care and probably any chance to write full time. I might lose both my other jobs too.

And I'll be getting off light. I'm a cis het white guy.

My friends who are LGBTQIA+, people of color, disabled, folks who have survived sexual assault, folks otherwise on the margins....they're terrified. And rightly so. We now have a literal fascist and a bigot and a braggadocios sex offender in the White House.

Shit just got real for anyone who's not a cis het white guy.

Sure, Trump basically campaigned on destroying our alliances, treating global warming like it's a scam, being cool with letting our nation's credit rating drop a few letters, and millions of us (not just me) are about to lose heath care, so shit's real for everyone, but shit just got life-threateningly dangerous to folks on the margins of our social hierarchy. I already have friends who have decided not to transition or come out. Intersex folks are contemplating suicide now rather than live in a society that hates them and watching their friends die one by one. I already have loved ones who are not white looking for an escape hatch, and immigrant friends who are literally already NOAPing out. Though admittedly a complicated relationship, my family consists of a non-citizen, a woman of color, and a mixed race child. The campaign promise of walls and registries and electrocuting the gay out of children will be plenty of ground cover to embolden the worst parts of humanity. Hate crimes are going to skyrocket now that white nationalism has essentially just won a legitimate election, and the state might be officially involved in some of those hate crimes within a few months.

Maybe tomorrow or the next day, I will put myself back together. I will look at what's left and soldier on. I will write all the harder.

I will not be moving to Canada. I will not be giving up. I will not fold into my privilege. And I surely will not be silent.

There's a little dude who needs me to fight because I promised him I'd do everything I could to give him a world where he could be whoever he was and love whoever he loved.

Anyway, it didn't quite seem like the time to drop a listicle about making your characters pop or letting you all know my Patreon is going up soon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Now I know.

Memo to me.

Big election days here in the U.S. I'm going to be a useless puddle of anxiety. Add that to the list of days the blog takes off.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Writing for Your Life (Marcy Kirkton)

Writing for your Life  
Marcy Kirkton

My mother (yes that "My mother") who went to the Iowa writers workshop, made six figures as a professional writer, and still puts two spaces after a sentence joins our recent glut of guest bloggers to help me get through bronchitis without ignoring the doctors orders to stop working 12-16 hour days. 

In my late 30’s, I was living in So. Cal., going through a period where it seemed as though life  was boxing me in on all sides, and I decided to sign up for a kind of new age workshop in Malibu called, “Writing for your Life.”  I was mentally exhausted from a corporate communications job that demanded 60 hours a week plus for years, teens in the house who seemed mad all the time and mostly at me, a marriage worn thin by too little time for one another and too many challenges within the personal arena.  So I was looking forward to a renewing workshop, thinking it would tap into personal writing, which I loved, with a dash of new age psychology, which seemed to always be relaxing, supportive, and non-competitive.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be 99.9% therapists in the LA area who all hated their jobs and wanted to become writers!  I was the only person in the room who actually had forged a career in communications, and I remember feeling odd, since I was there because making a living based on my own writing had worn me down, while they were sure that it would rejuvenate their lives.  I knew that it would be a day where I kept my own experiences quiet.  Who wants to be the bubble buster?

Instead, I just did the writing exercises and tried to turn off the chatter in my head that kept yelling out rude remarks like, “Are you kidding me?  Have any idea how much effort it takes to polish off even one page of prose?  I do, you nitwit.  It takes 8 solid hours.”

See, I had my job as corporate communications down to a fine art of efficiency.  I had to look at a project based on some goofy corporate person who had an “idea,” figure out what they really had in the way of a project plan (usually not a lot), estimate what role communications would play (usually 90%), estimate how much I’d have to make up as I went along (usually over 70%), and then get to my real job of how much time it would take to shepherd the project to completion.  So I knew…...3 page brochure plus accompanying training materials plus project emails plus accompanying video script …..x amount of pages at 8 hours each plus printing time equals…….bam.  I’ll have it printed in color and video produced by X date.  I never missed a date.

Was it fun?  Sometimes.  Was it engaging as a career?  I enjoyed it.  Was it stressful?  Always.  Was it worth it?  Definitely.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely not!  By the end of my own career, I was dreaming of any job where I could simply talk and not have to commit a word to paper.  I thought about all of this as I sat in my new-age workshop with 20 women who were sure that writing would be such a fun way to make a living.  If nothing else, that workshop gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own life choices and how we all probably think the other guy has it easier.

I began my own journey with a crazy idea.  I decided to take my third rate university degree and apply at a prestigious writing program at the University of Iowa.  They only were accepting 20 people, and I was sure I’d never been accepted.  After all, I just had an English degree from Arkansas State University.  I took the exams, turned in my essay and, to my surprise, was accepted.  It was an experimental program:  Expository Writing.  Half of the degree focused on writing and half on teaching writing in college.  The program was made up of students from both the masters and the Phd programs, so the classes were always stimulating and competitive.

The University of Iowa writing programs are the granddaddy of all writing programs, based on workshops for the most part.  We were in workshops a lot, and I never found them to be very fulfilling.  When relying upon students to really study a piece of writing to offer feedback, the expectation should be quite low.  Truth is….nobody did much preparation and the feedback was off-the-cuff.  Where I learned the most was, oddly, in a class that was based on imitation.  We wrote essays in the style of various essayists.  By doing so, I discovered those techniques that  I could use to strike an expression or mood or emphasis.  It was invaluable.  I still think there’s no mystery why early novels are often imitative.  It’s a time-tested method of learning, regardless of the genre.

The classes on teaching writing were exceptionally interesting, focusing on creative processes and methodologies that were actually unsuccessful but still widely used in teaching composition, innovations that were taking place in teaching composition, and my favorite of all, linguistics.  All in all, the writing program was completely absorbing, and I loved every minute of it.  I was always surprised when others were grumpy or critical about the degree program.  I personally was so grateful for the opportunity and still think of it often.

When I left, I knew that  I really wasn’t interested in teaching.  I wanted to make a living writing.  Knowing what I wanted to do was worth every penny spent.  The other huge benefit was that all I had to say was that I was from University of Iowa graduate writing program, and I was guaranteed an interview.  Never underestimate the power of a big name school.  Notice I didn’t say I left a good writer.

My first job as a writer was for a textbook company that wrote the technical track textbooks for NYC high schools.  My job was to write the front and end matter and the workbooks that went along with the text.  I got paid by the computer block of finished copy, so editing didn’t count.  If you really want to learn to write with fewer grammatical errors, I suggest taking a job like that.  Time was money.  The job was great fun, since I mostly had to make it up.  I had no idea what teachers really needed to teach.  I just went by my own memory of workbooks.  When it was accepted, I was amazed.  That was my first lesson in professional writing.  You really don’t need to know what you’re doing.  I wrote some workbook about a chapter on electricity.  Trust me, I know how to turn on a light.  That’s it.  But I learned, just imitate someone who does know, get close, and you’ll figure it out as you go.  By the end of that job, I was copy editing books on computer programming with ease, although to this day, I haven’t any idea what it was about.  The technical guys knew, though.  They were happy, so I was happy.

I averaged minimum wage at that job and felt so very proud!  It makes me laugh now, but it was such a huge rush to be paid for writing.  I felt I had beaten the odds.  Besides talking about the professors, the second most popular topic among the students were all about how we’d never make a living writing.

My next job was more interesting.  I was writing policy manuals and handbooks for human resources.  In that job, I got to spend time researching, and I found I liked writing the best when I actually knew what I was talking about.  My first big piece, explaining to thousands of employees how the new Family Leave Act would affect them,  I confused every single reader but my boss, who had approved the release.  We both had egg on our faces and scrambled to repair the damage.  Lesson two:  Audience matters.

My work there led to a step up on the corporate ladder.  I was put in charge of writing all human resources materials.  That introduced me to “writing by committee,” where multiple mid-level managers reviewed and edited and  an endless parade of young corporate lawyers who took readable copy and turned it into legalese.  (I am convinced they believe that confusion discourages lawsuits.).  Writing by committee….. must be Dante’s 7th level of hell for sinful writers.  What I gleaned from that experience was lesson three:  Build credibility fast so you can cut out the committee.

But, that job did offer some great stuff, too.  My office looked out on the Hollywood sign, had three windows, and I got to have my own parking space in a garage that offered even car wash pick-up and delivery service.  Oh, and I got to eat lunch in the executive dining room.  Never underestimate the power of perks.  They go a long way to building patience with other challenges that might make you testy.

From being paid by the block to a private office on the 18th floor with big windows…...I had arrived.  Actually, I did a lot of manual collating, but it sounds so much better when I tell the story the other way.

All these stories and more floated through my mind that day in the workshop.  I wondered if any of the wanna-be writers in the room truly would even want to know what really a career in writing entails.  Whether you’re writing a novel, a play, a poem, an essay, a college textbook, a brochure on disability life insurance, or a blog…..the process itself shares common ground.

It’s a lot of work.