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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Prompt: Subvert Expectations (Bango)

https://tinyurl.com/y7arbzyt
I'm still here in Vegas (driving home tomorrow after catching a morning showing of The Last Jedi) so I wanted to do one of the shorter posts I've been thinking of lately. It's actually a prompt, but it also incorporates the art of one of my fantastically talented friends who made a really cool film.

Of course we all want to write in fresh and innovative ways, and one of the most exciting ways a writer can do that for their readers is to create plot twists that take their readers for a genuine ride. We all know the stories that go exactly like we expect, and they are familiar, and in some ways even comfortable, but many of the stories that delight us involve a twist or turn that we never saw coming.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch Bango (my friend's film) to get a spectacular example of how to set up and then subvert expectations. The whole film is less than fifteen minutes, and it is a spectacular example of how it doesn't take long at all to set an expectation which can then be subverted. (Note: A full list of CN's would ruin the story, but this does get a little intense. Maybe avoid it if you're having a rough day.)

If you are very much into watching the whole thing as an uninterrupted experience just keep the following thought in your head: What do I think is going to happen next.

If you'd like to do this with a little more metacognition and a couple of breaks, pause the movie and just ask yourself what you think is going to happen at 1:00, 2:30, 6:00, 9:00. You don't have to write it down or anything. Just think about it for a second and give it a moment of conscious thought.


If you don't have Amazon Prime, you can still do this prompt, but you'll have to use your own story. Think of something that had a twist or three that delighted you, and go back through the story and think about what you thought was going to happen before you found out what was really going to happen.

While there's a lot of analysis that could be done here of gender roles, the reasons for our expectations, and the characters, I'll save all that in favor of the prompt.

Prompt: Write a short story that begins with a very predictable trajectory. Subvert that expectation in a dramatic way. Then subvert even further what it seems like is going to be the outcome of the first twist. For bonus "points" do this again and have the final outcome be a further twist on the first two twists.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Moana Soundtrack (Inspiration)

In keeping things light while I'm on vacation in Vegas* (but almost always serving up something) let me share with everyone one of the most inspirational soundtracks I've come across in years. Something about these songs just drops me into writing mode almost immediately.'
I think the themes of Moana really resonate with my inner writer. Finding one's true self. Exploring that sense of what calls to you. The idea of a pedestrian life that is vaguely unsatisfying.

I'm not going to just do the whole soundtrack here (though I like it), but here are a couple of my favorites.
There's a line where the ink meets the page. It CALLS me.....



*Oh I am so not going to finish this Star Wars The Force Awakens article before The Last Jedi showing. I guess maybe next Friday I'll have to get it up with a big sheepish grin and hope there's some hype wave to ride.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Metacular-The Great Meta Conclusion (Patrons Have Spoken)

Big changes are coming to Writing About Writing in 2018! The future of our update schedule (mailboxes, guest blogs, advice, and more) is getting hashed out.

Here's what you need to know (in easily digestible bullet points), especially if you follow my blog pretty closely and find yourself anxious when my updates go pear shaped without notice.


  • I'm currently in Vegas for a few days and pouring everything I've got into trying to get an article about The Force Awakens finished before The Last Jedi hits theater. That's the one I started when I got home from the midnight showing of T.F.A. (Yes, from two years ago, yes I have a problem, yes I feel deep shame, no it probably almost certainly won't get done on time and I'll feel even more absurd.) It may mean I miss a regularly scheduled post or even outdo MYSELF with regards to jazz hands. I'll start making up for lost time when I'm back this coming weekend.
  • Patrons have spoken (and answered a poll). The overwhelming majority want me to do "actual writing advice" as a more than weekly offering. It can be in in any structural form (many of them like Mailbox posts) but that's what they want to see the most. 
  • I also asked them to name three of the "segments" they would definitely want to see once a week. The Mailbox did the best there. High rankers were silly stuff like my plot arc posts (sort of a shocking, though pleasant surprise there) , reviews, and social justice stuff.
  • Based on these two things, I'll be massively redoing the update schedule, trying to get these things on the schedule once a week, mailboxes twice, and move most other things into a bi monthly or monthly rotation. I'll get that posted (more for me and accountability than anyone) before the new year.
  • We're going to hit seven updates a week very soon. Though I'm annoyed at Patreon (or perhaps rather mostly at myself for every believing they gave a shit about artists), they are no worse than other payment processing sites. They were just annoying for making  It' looks like they're going to go public or get bought and that will likely further fracture my various patrons onto other platforms (my taxes are such a fucking hot mess), but keeping a rough tab on where things are when everything is included means it's pretty clear that we're going to the next level and it's time to start doing 7 updates a week. So that's a major roll out for 2018. 

Patreon goal to 7 posts per week
  • I will be taking an "admin weekend" each week for the rest of the year. That's one less post on the weekend days to account for the "behind the scenes construction."  


Friday, December 8, 2017

In Memoriam (John DeCoster)

Like many students, I left high school feeling vaguely violated over what I’d just endured, and a mild sort of antagonism towards the teachers who’d put me through it. I know some students stay and have a moment with their teachers–I've had a few from the other end myself–but for me there was a little Chris-shaped hole in the wall.

I came into my realization of the teachers who had changed the course of my life when I came to those moments where the course of my life bent and realized who I was remembering and what lessons had stayed with me.

It was those teachers who endured, even after decades, who I came to realize were the good ones. While there are dozens I can picture, I can't really remember their names. They did their thing. I resisted on principle. Somehow I walked out with knowledge despite myself. Certainly becoming a teacher myself opened my eyes to how difficult it could be–how instantly the Stand and Deliver fantasy shatters when triaging a state mandated curriculum to a class size of thirty students who would rather be getting a root canal. However, it wasn’t the lessons themselves that resonated. 

These days I can’t tell you how to do a geometry proof. I'm not sure I could map the covalent bonds on a sugar molecule.  I don’t remember Bastille day.

And even though these days I pay my bills with writing, I still need to look up lay and lie.

The teachers I remember decades later didn’t teach me what to learn; they taught me how to learn. They gave me confidence, showed me how to find the path, challenged me. I can find Bastille day in five seconds on my phone, but knowing why the French Revolution was the first domino of modern history is much more complicated. I can reteach myself the covalent bonds of a sugar molecule in five minutes because I know what a covalent bond is and how they work.

I remember those teachers who taught the how even though it was harder. The ones who answered my ceaseless questions for hours, who scaffolded with games that ate their seat time, but to this day help me understand the alliances that led to WWI. I remember the directors who gave me a sense within all future artistic endeavors of how much work lay between “I can’t even read this music” and so many trophies they wouldn't fit on the bus. 



And I remember Mr. DeCoster.

I remember him particularly. I took him more than any other English teacher, always going back to him if he was an option, even for that Film as Lit coast-a-thon that my parents insisted I could only take if I did American Lit simultaneously. (“I get to watch movies for English credit and the only downside is he’s going to interrupt every minute to tell me what’s happening? That’s AWESOME!”) I couldn’t have told you at the time why I liked him so much. I vaguely hated school and most teachers were sort of “the enemy.” But decades later I still remember with how much poise he could navigate a classroom lesson. I don't remember the gerund vs. infinitive or how to analyze A Separate Peace. I remember how he never let us forget the tremendous power and gravitas of language to hold sway our hearts, but somehow also never let us take ourselves too seriously either.  A "Fenork" if I forgot my homework. A "Good man Stan!" if I remembered it. But he never let the levity float out of his reach either–we were learning the language of Shakespeare and Faulkner and Twain, and we weren't going to forget it.

He threaded that needle of laughter and profundity with such a casual grace that the only word that springs to mind is from Victorian court: sprezzatura– the skill so practiced that it can be performed in a way that makes it look easy. He drove the too serious and the not serious enough to apoplectic irritation, but even that never got to him. It was as if he new how to teach despite us.

Lastly a story: It was late fall and two football players came in to discuss their failing grades. I won’t mention their names, but I knew them both. They were ineligible because of their grade point average and the CIF playoffs hung in the balance. We were doing well that year. The players were going around to get their grades improved so they could play. It would be some time before I realized what an indictment of so many things at Canyon High their sheer audacity signaled.

DeCoster was having none of it.  “Hell no! I’m not going to change your grades!” he practically laughed. “Oh fenork! You earned those grades. Why would you even ask? Do other teachers do this crap for you? Get out of my class.” 

Not a day goes by in the world around me–a world that in the last year and change has tried so very hard to chip away at who I am and what I believe is right.....  A world that asks me to compromise my integrity and take the path of least resistance…. A world where it is becoming easier to keep quiet if you're not the ones they're coming for....

Not a day goes by that I don’t remember that lesson of integrity and probity. Not a waiver. Not a pause. Not a hedge. Not a blink. “Hell no!” he said. How could they even ask? 



Sorry if I can’t keep those misplaced and dangling modifiers straight, Mr DeCoster, but you taught me some pretty good stuff all the same.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

No Glamor in the Business of Writing

No, this is not my monthly appeal. I did that a couple of days ago. I'm obviously still hoping to get patrons and I have bills to pay too, but see how you feel at the end of the post.

This is not the post I wanted to write today. I woke to terrible news, and have spent most of the day watching my income fluctuate at the mercy of others. And I can't even blame them.

Also...unfortunately....some days are like this when you're a working artist.

Brent Knepper wrote a blog post somewhere between a personal story and an expose on how No One Makes a Living on Patreon. Some of the low end grousing suffers from a pretty unexamined example of how statistics can lie as much as tell the truth. "Most" people are not making much money on Patreon for the same reason that most people in any art are not making much money–they don't produce enough of enough quality to a broad enough audience to make more than a pittance. And that is an indictment of how fucked up a number of things can be, not the least of which is our current online culture and capitalism in general. However, it's not really Patreon's fault. (I make AAAAALLLMOST minimum wage, but I post six times a week and have a huge audience through Facebook.) There are some structural difficulties that Patreon could streamline to be better at all the unicorn orgasms it says it wants to give artists, but it's not really billing as a promotional service.

However Knepper goes on to point out how much Patreon is making off the artists it supposedly supports, and that's where things get really interesting. Patreon is making enough to attract investors to an IPO move as well as spark several major competitors. (That's a corporation making money for shareholders off the efforts of artists, in case the full implication wasn't clear.) It seems that there's money in exploiting artists–big money. And that part of Knepper's post is much more pertinent since it demonstrates a system very clearly set up to profit off of artists, not necessarily to profit artists.

Jack Conte is quoted within the Knepper piece: “'This devaluing of art and creators is happening at a global scale,' Conte wrote in a blog post on Patreon. 'It actually makes my heart sink when I think of the magnitude of the web’s systemic abuse of creative people.'”

Personally, I might use the word "exploitation" rather than abuse, but you get the idea. Getting artists paid turns out to be big money. The art itself...largely not so much.

The bold new horizon of online work for a lot of artists is a world of huge double edged swords. Finding audiences for niche work has never been easier, but neither has piracy, exploitation, the demand for content so free, people get apoplectic if you ask them to give an artist credit. Content creators are doing a lot of work so that host sites can benefit.

Theoretically this isn't a new frontier. As long as there have been artists making money through their art, there have been those willing to take a slice to help them (sometimes legitimately so and often exploitatively). The internet didn't stop that; it just changed the game. The face of record labels and publishing houses with exploitative contracts and retail markups by middlemen has been replaced with payment processors and hosting sites.

Today, suddenly and unexpectedly, became a day of dealing with Patreon's latest bullshit move. Let me make this clear: as much as I want to hate Patreon, a transaction fee on online money transfer is pretty standard business. You couldn't mail me a check without paying the same amount for a stamp (which is why mailing me a dollar instead of say, TEN dollars, would be an odd choice). I want everyone to make a living wage–including the folks working at the payment processor computer banks.

Where Patreon fucked up is getting greedy. They took a good thing and said, "How can we make more?" They put the transaction fees on the patrons instead of the creators. Which maybe wouldn't be such a big deal for someone paying $20 to one artist who is suddenly paying $20.35, but ensured that a one dollar donor would be paying about 40% more than their pledge amount. (And think about how fast that can add up if you support a bunch of artists at a dollar each.) Adding insult to injury, content creators got an email crafted by The Lord of Lies Satan Himself their PR department to make it sound like they were doing us a big, huge, unbelievable awesome favor to jack the patrons because we would always get 95% of our pledge amounts, but it smelled so funny that I wasn't surprised to see that a blog breaking down the truth was going viral less than a day later. By dinging patrons, they destroyed the viability of the small donors.

And if you want to yell at them, you have my blessing, but that's not actually the take home of this post. Today instead of writing what I wanted to write, I sent my patrons a note (reproduced below) letting them know what was happening, watched my monthly income start to bounce all over the place (mostly down but a generous donor sent it way up and at least one patron signed ON today so who knows where this is eventually going to land--especially if Patreon listens to us), I put a star reminding me to get back to the client of a pet sitting gig email that I was going to flatly turn down for being too high maintenance because who knows what the fuck this is going to do to my income, and I joined the chorus of furious content creators calling on Patreon to do literally anything but charge our patrons more than what they sign on for–even charge us the damned transaction fees.

Seriously like every creator I know would rather make a little less than to betray and abuse the generosity of our patrons by charging them more than they signed on for.

This is beyond infuriating, but mostly because people will (of course) just take their money and walk away when businesses start treating them that way, and so my income may take a hit, and whether it is a small setback or a huge one is largely nothing I can control. But I certainly had my hands full today dealing with it, and trying to make sure folks knew how unhappy I am. As I said in my note to my patrons, right now I don't have a lot of options.

However....here's the takeaway and why I'm blogging about it today. It's not just a "personal update" or "why there's no real post here" post.

This is how it goes some days. This is what I did. I woke up and dealt with this shit until it was time to leave to pick up my charge from school. I did no writing that I wanted to do or had planned to do when I tucked myself in last night.

If you want to write for a living, you're in the business of writing, and it IS a business. Capitalism means we all have to play the game. Same goes for any art. Some days, no matter how much you'd rather just have you're going to be firing an agent or renegotiating a contract or deciding how you want to handle some major fuck up on the part of those who monetize your creative labors. Or chasing down a piracy site and having an email exchange with someone who couldn't care less that you're the real author. Or you'll spend the whole day hitting local bookstores to put stuff on consignment. Or applying for a grant. Or doing the paperwork and interviews to try to get into an art collective. Or. Or. Or.... And that's if you're not doing a double shift on your day job or hitting your side gigs extra hard because the writing didn't pay out like you thought it would.

That dream you have of just writing the days away and getting checks mailed to you....that's not real. Not for anyone working, and not really even for those household names you know. But it's particularly not real when you're starting out.

So if you want to write, write. And if you want to write for money, get ready to do some stuff that is not writing and pretty much sucks.


Hi folks. If you are pledging at a low amount (less than $5), particularly if you have several Patreons you give to at this level, you may want to be aware of a pretty skeevy change Patreon has put into place. They billed it as a great change for us content creators, but it looked pretty suspicious at the time, and now I know why.
Patreon has decided to pass transaction fees on to you. They're generally pretty small and if you only support a couple of artists (particularly for more than a buck or two, it is likely you wouldn't even notice), but if you're only donating a dollar, the base transaction fee (35 cents) means you'll get charged way more (percentage wise) than you signed up for. You can see how this could get unwieldy if you're donating a buck or two to a few dozen creators.

The whole thing is detailed at this link including the running of some basic number numbers: http://www.pretty-terrible.com/funny-money-patreon-style/
 
Right now Patreon is sort of the only game in town for what it does, and every business that does anything even remotely similar seems to have it's problems, so I'm sticking with it through necessity, but I'll understand if this leaves a bad taste in anyone's mouth. Paypal recurring payment takes a smaller share, but you would have to get in touch with me directly about any rewards you wanted. 
Content creators are contacting Patreon to try and come up with a solution where WE pay the transaction fees. It is possible those efforts would be amplified if you complained as well. 
Thank you for your support, no matter what happens, 
Chris

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Don't Forget To Vote!)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?  

Don't forget you have two polls to vote in this time around because by fuck we're going to keep this four-month-long poll's final round interesting somehow.

I'm going to start gathering nominations for our next poll soon, but don't forget to vote in this one.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

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

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

Big Ol' Personal and Meta Update

I didn't hate this picture, so....
It's been an incredible month, and that means some incredible things are on the horizon. And that I'm going to use the word incredible too often for one paragraph. Incredible!

For the past few years–since The Contrarian was getting ready to do his thing really–one of the main and most powerful themes of my life has been Not Enough Time™.

Though I'm managed (tenuously at times) to keep Writing About Writing churning out articles no matter how outrageous the past couple of years have been, there have been periods between loved ones with cancers, major break ups, moves, toddlers, financial crises, double bookings, and days with all four jobs where I just didn't have the time to do all the writing that I wanted to do. My ambition was writing checks my time management couldn't cash. (Boy that phrasing is just the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it?) And even though I am exactly the type of personal overachiever who tries to meet impossible goals by pedalling my aerodynamically unsound flying machine ever faster, I simply could never get certain things accomplished.

In the last two or three months, the winds have changed.

Though losing patrons, and thus income, is always a looming threat, in the past few months the income from all of your donations has given me...options. I'm only barely barely barely paying the, but the difference between even December and September is that I don't need to take a double booking to stay afloat. And I don't need to think about a third side gig. And I can even relax if I don't book a client for a couple of weeks.

And all of that has one major outcome: more time to write.

Probably at some point soon, I'm going to need to talk more about this. In late November, I did the Nov/Dec budget and discovered that (while I would have to consider my car a "luxury" for the calculus) I was paying the bills–ALL THE BILLS–with writing. No frills. No spending money. No brand name peanut butter. No car. (All that stuff is coming from a couple of side gigs.) But technically, I'm doing it.

Watching a dream that was The Dream™ as far back as fourth grade come into focus is a breathtaking experience. I've been writing for thirty years wanting only to do pay the bills with it and maybe have conversations about my work. I've recently had to trade in my five-years-ago goals for another set, and today I see that I've hit some of the bellwethers I would have called a pipe dream a decade ago. Life is busy, but good, and even though I miss my king sized memory foam top mattress and this dog I'm sitting likes to steal the bed by plopping down in the dead center, life is pretty good right now.

I just wish it wasn't QUITE so many Trader Joe's frozen meals. I really need to learn to cook.

However, today's update is not strictly personal. There's meta in there too.

One of the things I've wanted to do kind of for years now has been sit down with a date book and plan out the next couple of weeks worth of blog articles. Plan the posts that take a little longer. Do some bits that have gone wayward. Set aside some REAL time for my fiction. Knock some stuff out before the last second. Go back and fix the old posts while keeping track of where of I am in that process. Get the mess that is guest bloggers straightened up. Write a couple of filler pieces for the hopper that I can use when life happens.

And of course get some things done soon enough for my patrons that "early access" means something.

I even have date books bought in absolutely good faith thrown away with only a couple of weeks filled in for the whole year.  Instead threw away almost totally empty planners, posted almost everything at the last minute, and said "Why are you like this?" to the mirror a lot.

Basically me AF. 
I spent a lot of time thinking I'm vaguely a fuck up with a good "fake it" groove and between stress and impostor syndrome, I'm mostly convinced I'm just soft shoeing and jazz handsing enough to fool folks. It's been something of a relief and joy to discover that if I give my schedule a little fresh air, I find my way.

One of the things I discovered is that my the update schedule I dream of is basically impossible. At least right now.

I update this blog six times a week. (And it's going to take a better schedule with even fewer side gigs before I can bump that to seven.) I can't actually fit everything in that I want. Product reviews. Listicles. Plot shenanigans. Craft essays. Social justice bard stuff. Revisions. Movie deconstructions. Polls. Personal updates. Guest blogs. Fiction. All of it.

Not sitting down to schedule, I've just been in a constant state of "Just Get Something Up For Today" and then being increasingly annoyed at my inability to cycle through all the posts and the different kinds of posts I wanted to do with a better signal to fluff ratio. Months would go by since my last listicle or I would not get a Mailbox up for the week even though I wanted to. Hell, I've even fallen behind on some of my "jazz hands" because I feel guilty that I put up too much jazz hands.

When you're stressing out because you're behind on jazz hands, you really need to question your life choices.

Hitch: I'd never really looked at my update schedule and seen that at six updates a week, and a certain number of posts that are time sensitive (like polls and monthly reviews and a weekly segment of Mailbox and a weekly personal update). The problem wasn't just how busy I was or that I was failing my way into endless cascades of whatever I was ready to write THAT DAY. The problem was those six slots a week fill up fast.

I know I'm probably more interested in my exact update schedule than all of my readers combined, but several people have said they want to see more mailboxes or more of my silly plot-arc posts. And almost everyone (including me) wants to see me get more fiction published–both of the shorter and the novel-lengthed variety. The key to that is the same, I have to stop winging it so damned much. Flying by the seat of my pants means I write whatever's in my head the day I need to put the post up.

So I'm going to have to redo my current update schedule from the ground up, really soul-search for what bits I want to do weekly vs biweekly vs monthly, and come up with viability and higher fidelity than my current smear of vaguely weekly laid out ambitions.

Look for that later this week.

And if you're looking for the chewy lesson center of today's post, there are a few. If you're writing every day, you're doing great, even if you can't keep up with all your wildest ambitions. Sometimes if "pedalling faster" just isn't working, you might need to stop and take a bigger picture look at the whole machine. And of course, if you're an artist making money at your art, chances are just fucking spectacular that you probably are being harder on yourself than anyone would even dream of being.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

On The Business of Writing for the Non Famous Writer

Deduct THIS!
Oh, wait. You can't. Never mind.
I could write easily write a rant about last night's tax scam bill in the Senate. (In fact I wrote several on my personal Facebook wall.)

However, I don't want the dudebros or squiddies to cry that I just talked about Net Neutrality and this blog was just peachy until I "got all political" or something. Because getting political is totally a recent development and is in no way a regular thing.

So here is what I will say: Writers, and all artists really, regardless of what side of the aisle they are on–whether they thought last night was a stick-it-in-those-whiny-snowflake's-FACE caliber victory or if they're out today comparison shopping guillotine oil–should be paying close attention to the tax bill and whatever form it ultimately takes.

Because for an American writer who isn't just a household name and swimming in movie deals, the tax plan as it is is going to cost us. And even if the ten years of cloudless sky predictions end up boosting the economy exactly as Republican lawmakers assure us it will (because what does the CBO know, really?), we will all have to be much more careful how we budget.

See, the individual write offs are going away, so for a writer who typically declares their office, their computer, their research books, classes, whatever, those will no longer be deductions. You'll have to pay taxes on the money you spend on that just like if you used it to buy MDMA and a swirly light disco ball.

Personally, even though my "office" is about a third of my bedroom and my book budget for writing books is less than most people spend on cereal in a year, I stand to lose somewhere around $500. (Just to give you some perspective my last refund was about $500. Even my English major ass could do the math.) Not a trivial amount when I end most bill paying sessions each month with double digits of discretionary income. And for artists who need lots of art supplies or have more significant business expenses trying to sell their work, that number will only go up.

So stay in touch with your representatives, and don't let them forget they work for you. And keep your eye on that ball if you are in the U.S. and want to be a writer–even if you think this is the greatest tax plan since the robber barons.

It is almost certain to affect you.

ON THE OTHER HAND–if you are more on the "Support Artists" side, it's likely that pretty soon we're going to need your help more than ever before. Find an artist you love and spend some money on their art, or kickstarter, or whatever.
One way you can help THIS artist is with a small recurring donation to MY PATREON.

It doesn't have to be a big donation. As much as I absolutely love to bits my high ticket donors and patron muses, (and kind of couldn't be doing this without them) if life happens to one of them, I could be out 10% of my income just like that. [*Instructions: snap fingers now*] I'm also hoping for a solid support of one, five, and maybe even ten dollar donors that isn't so vulnerable.

Plus there are totally rewards! Everything from back channel polls and conversations with other patrons to extra selfies to signed shit and tutoring sessions.

Of course if a recurring donation is not in the cards, a one time donation can be given through the conspicuously placed tip jar or Venmo (my email is chris.brecheen@gmail.com).  And those who want to support but are not in the financial spot to do so, we can always use social media proliferation (likes, comments, shares) and maybe even just dropping a kind word or three. We usually only hear the bad stuff.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Chris vs. Evil Chris


The day after...

Chris: Welp. Sorry about that post you wanted to write. It's been real. Guess I'll see you next year.

Evil Chris: I'm staying.

Chris: And I'm really sorry about that Parisian rat infestation. I'll see about getting an exterminator down there right away. I know a guy. He's this really sweet guy from Iran–

Wait, what?

Evil Chris: I'm not going back down into the basement.

Chris: But that's....like....our thing. You show up once a year and praise Nano, and I hate it the other eleven months because it seems to destroy a lot of genuinely creative people's belief in themselves.

Evil Chris: Not this year. I'm not going down into the basement. Erika and I will be staying.

Chris: Um.....okay look. People already get me confused with real non-persona Chris. That would be THREE Chrises running around. That's just too much Chris.

Evil Chris: You can never have too much–

Chris: Not now, dude.

Evil Chris: Look that evil mystery blogger fucked up my Nano advice. I vaguely cared about this jerkwad when he was ruining YOUR day, but this time it's personal. You've been NOT dealing with  this for four years. I'm staying to help you get this guy.

Chris: No, that's certainly not necessary.

Evil Chris: You know what? You need me.

Chris: I'm pretty sure that's not even a little bit true.

Evil Chris: I'm not just the "ha-ha-isn't-he-evil shtict" guy who lives in the basement and likes Nano because once a year you feel guilty in your fee-fees about advising people against it. I'm a real human. I'm the the guy who will write a novel in thirty days.

Chris: Um....yeeeeaaaah

Evil Chris: I mean I'm the guy who WILL write a novel in thirty days, just . I'm assertive. I'm the guy who risks it all in one turn of pitch and toss.  I'm the guy who doesn't play it safe. I don't put off making doctors appointments for six weeks. I don't avoid difficult conversations. I get this shit done. I'm the guy who takes the risks you wish you could take. I'm bold. I'm decisive. And I'm not afraid to go Lord Peter Fucking Wimsey on this shit and maybe ask your employees a slightly harder question than "was it you?" We need to fucking move this plot arc along. 2013 was a long time ago.

Chris: Nice Kipling reference.

Evil Chris: *snapping his fingers* Fucking stay with me here, Chris. We're doing this. You and me. You will temper me, but I'm going to galvanize you. Now your evil mystery blogger has to deal with something even worse than you.

Chris:
 Two of me!

Evil Chris: Dude, no. I just told you why I'm not just another you. Come on man.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The 9 Best (Worst) Bits of Advice for The Day After Nano

The absolute worst most epic, amazeballs advice to jet-propel your post NaNoWriMo week straight to submission and publication faster than the GOP trying to avoid debate and get to a floor vote.

So you're writing during NaNo because NaNo is awesome and you're awesome. However, unlike all the other "It was a great experience" losers, your novel is not only going to get picked up by a major publisher, it's going to rocket to the top of the charts. Your book's theme song will be Rocket Man, even if it doesn't have any spaceships in it.

This won't be because you worked hard, but because you know the secrets to unlocking your the full potential of your creative genius.

They say genius and talent can't be taught. But they only say that because they don't want you learning what I'm about to tell you. Your NaNo book has officially reached the inside track to absolute unadulterated awesome pure gold awesome. Follow my advice, and this will happen so fast, you will be able to spend your massive advance on Christmas shopping.

Seriously, I hope your peeps like riding around in Ferraris.

1- Don't worry about that word count.

Did you quit after like five days? Don't worry about it. What's important is that you got that killer idea onto paper. No one is going to care that your book isn't done yet once they see how fucking ridonkulous your concept is. They will hire a team of ghostwriters to finish it for you.

If you are not the kind of writer who can hammer out writing at a fevered pace, like 1667 words a day, stop not being that kind of writer and be AWESOME instead.

2- Not finishing is fine. In fact, it's great.

Book not done? 50,000 words kind of slim for a "novel," or maybe you stopped writing around Thanksgiving when life fell apart. Don't worry. You've got the main chunk of the beginning done, and any publisher is going to be able to see that it's absolutely genius. Don't fret about writing the entire thing out completely.  That's for later. Once you have the advance, you can get to work on the rest of it--or better yet, the publisher will probably assign you a phalanx of ghostwriters to whom you can just describe what's going to happen and they will do the writing part.

3- Be vocal about what you're doing, especially to professional writers.

You know how many people publish their NaNo books?

Like five.

Ever.

You know why? Because they don't spend time making connections like you're going to.

You of all people know the power of words. Don't water down what you're accomplishing here. Tell everyone (whether they ask or not) that you've written a novel. Put stress on the word novel and say it multiple times. Work the word novel into conversations.

If someone tells you that they're a writer, and particularly if you already know one, become even more enthusiastic about how you are writing a novel. Ask them to hook you up with their agent and publisher so you can let them see your novel. There is a very good chance that they will become so blown away by your sheer universe-altering will about your novel, that they will probably introduce you to their agent. If you say it, you give it life. So talk about your novel as much as you can. Novel.

4 Don't revise.

Revision is for people who didn't write a good story in the first place. Did you not write a good story or is your story the biznizzle? Yeah, that's what I thought: you already know your story is awesome. A lot of people talk about revising their NaNo manuscript, but you can tell that deep down they know they just haven't struck mental gold.

But you have struck mental gold. That's what the elite team of editors that your publisher will assign to you is going to do.

What you want to do is get out ahead of the pack in shopping for an agent. Or better yet go right to the publisher since the agent will probably try to steal your work.

5- Don't even worry about that polish.

"Polish" is just code for "I don't have confidence that this is going to make you forget what grammar even is." Polish is code for "I didn't write an awesome story." Polish is code for "Why don't you just give up and become a plumber." Are any of these things true? If they are, stop wasting your time reading this article, and go play with your coloring books.

If you want to be a writer, believe in yourself.

6- Submit your novel right away. 

The deluge of NaNoWriMo manuscripts is about to hit every publisher in the world. You don't want to get caught in this rush of losers. Even though your awesomeness is PARTICULARLY awesome and would absolutely stand out like a lighthouse on a foggy night, anyone can get a bad break if they're manuscript is in a stack of a hundred.

So how do you avoid getting lumped in with a bunch of plebs' sub-par manuscripts?

Easy, submit yours first. Beat the rush.

Not revising and not polishing isn't just about having confidence in how good your idea is. It's about beating all those losers to the punch. If they spend two or three days editing their draft, and don't submit until December 3rd or 4th, that's two or three days earlier that you will get in before them.

Is some publisher going to pass on your rockstar idea because you forgot a comma?

I don't think so.

7- Announce yourself.  

Be sure to tell the publisher you send your novel to that you just wrote it for NaNoWriMo, and that it is so good you sent it immediately without even a revision. They will respect and admire your candor.

As will I, my fervid pixel shifting champion.

As. Will. I.

8- Most importantly...take a break.

You've had a tough month. Time to put your feet up and let those creative batteries recharge. Take a month or two at least...probably longer. Relax. You want to be nice and well rested ready when the next lightning strike of inspiration hits. True genius comes in fits and starts not from daily persistence.

Follow these simple steps, and your dreams of having publishers pee themselves a little when they hear about you, and fall over each other to publish you will come true.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

It All Ends: Best Modern Fantasy (Final Round)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?    

Our poll that began nearly three months ago with the call for some nominations has, at last, reached the final round.

However, shenanigans ensues. You have TWO polls upon which to cast your vote(s).

You see Terry Pratchett got on this poll twice with stand alone novels, and Neil Gaiman got on three times. And based on how each of them did in the semifinals, they're easily going to be at least the top three spots in a poll that usually only has eight choices. So I had to get a little creative to keep this (very) long awaited final interesting.

Poll Number 1-

If they're going to be (whether it is from shenanigans or legitimate veneration) the top of every poll around them, then we will just assume they're going to kick ass and take names and pit them against EACH OTHER.

That's right. Poll number one is every Pratchett and Gaiman offering we had.

In poll #1, you get two (2) choices.

Poll Number 2-

This poll will include eight of the top titles that would have made it to the final round had Pratchett and Gaiman not been on it. If you want to look at this as choosing the runners up, that's up to you, but one way or another, we're going to make this interesting.

Goddamn it.

In poll #2, everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the finals.

Now is the time to make one small reminder. Many of the books in question have some kind of adaptation to the screen. It's time to stress that while CGI dragons are goddamned spectacular, this poll is about BOOKS, and writing, and not about how much Peter Dinklage fucking rules. So please vote for the best book, not the best thing you've seen on DVD or HBO.

The polls themselves are both on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author."

Also, seriously, I know there are a lot of people on WAW's Facebook Page and laws governing the internet determine that a certain number of people will leave nasty comments that their faves are missing without bothering to understand the context of our nomination process and quintillion earlier rounds, but consider this your hip check that you're turning the petulant up to eleven. "Oh sweet Jesus's Nip, how could my very, very favorite fave not be here?" Well, chances are that either 1) it was and now it's not because your very favorite fave was not enough other people's very favorite fave and more's the pity but I don't control that part, 2) there were rules that disqualified titles that came out before 1992 ("Why isn't Wheel of Time on here?" Because it's not modern according to the definition of this poll.) So, while I'm really sorry, showing up on the last round and declaring that if it doesn't have The Spinsters Orcsnogger Chronicles, it's just a completely invalid poll kind of makes you look foolish.

For mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

This final (these finals) will run for two weeks. By then I hope to have nominations for whatever I decide to start in December. That means that the IP logging will expire after a week. And since I can't really stop shenanigans, I encourage it.

Vote early. Vote often.

Best Modern Fantasy (Semifinal 2)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years? 

The second semifinals shake out, and it's looking like there may need to be some divine shenanigans from on high to shake up the finals. Stay tuned to see what I'm on about.

I'm glad Gaiman and Pratchett had such a strong showing. They are obviously two of my favorites, but this fucking poll has taken us like three months to get to, and is now in danger of being a bit boring because half the poll will only be two authors, so get ready for things to go a little pear shaped....later on today.

And thank you to so many of you for voting.

Text results below.

Night Watch- T. Pratchett 186 31.16%
American Gods- N. Gaiman 130 21.78%
Neverwhere- N. Gaiman 84 14.07%
Stormlight Archives- B. Sanderson 61 10.22%
Percy Jackson and the Olympians - R. Riordan 51 8.54%
The Abhorson Trilogy- G. Nix 39 6.53%
The Inheritance Trilogy- N.K. Jemison 35 5.86%
Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles)- K. Hearne 11 1.84%

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Serious For A Moment (Important Update)

I'd like to take a moment to talk about something serious. No persona. No over-the-top jokes. No running "evil mystery blogger" plot. We'll put off the Best Fantasy poll until tomorrow even though it's well overdue. And no, it's not my monthly request for patrons. Though it is something that matters to the future of Writing About Writing. Indeed, it might be the future of non-traditional publishing and the internet artist.

TL;DR- I know the issue has come up enough times to cause outrage fatigue, but please learn why the current struggle for Net Neutrality is particularly huge, and what you can do to maybe stop what will be a devastating alteration to the entire landscape of our internet experience. And you can even have John Oliver make you laugh up your lung while you learn.

For the longer version, and a bit of context, let me tell you a story:
This is a picture of my "all time" analytics from Blogger. I'm probably going to break 300,000 again this month. You can't even see a single pixel of line on the graph from when I started in February 2012. In those days I would put up Hugh Grant dancing videos (from Love Actually) when a post got more than twenty of my friends to click on it. I felt like a writing GOD that day I broke a thousand page views. My first patron showed up after I had been writing six months and gave me ten dollars. TEN DOLLARS! In December of the year, after 11 months of writing, I cashed a check from Blogger (I ran ads back then–also Blogger sent out physical checks back then) for a little over a hundred dollars and I felt ten feet tall walking to the bank.

Six years later and I've been read by millions. Strange people I've never met recognize my name on planes and trains (no literally), and perhaps most amazing of all, through nothing but donations I have begun to be able to pay the bills through writing. Maybe not ALL the bills, but I wouldn't die (at least not right away) and I have pet sitting and child care trade to help.

As much as I am loathe to admit this, and as vociferous as I can be with deep umbrage of everything from content throttling to harassment policies that favor white supremacy, this is not a story of success that I can tell without also talking about Facebook. Simply put, none of this would have been possible without my Facebook Writing About Writing page.


That's nearly half of my all-time traffic from one referring URL–Facebook. The story of my blog's skyrocketing numbers IS the story of WAW's facebook page's skyrocketing numbers. I'm not saying I wouldn't have found another way, but I very much doubt I would be as far along.

This goes away if FB becomes something people have to pay for though their ISP. 

Throttled content is nothing new to me. I've been dealing with the Facebook algorithm for years. If every one of the 600,000 people who have said they want to see Writing About Writing's posts actually got to see them, I would A) need a fraction as much work to build three times the audience around that page, and B) would be making a lot more money at this point. But they do limit who sees those posts because they want me to pay to advertise them. They especially limit links to other URL's and ESPECIALLY the hosts that a page admin puts up regularly–in my case Blogger. I tell people who ogle at my current salary from writing that while it is breathtaking now to be paying the bills, if they added up all the hours I promoted myself and for all the years, I still wouldn't have broken $1/hr. It was like having a 5 year unpaid internship for a minimum wage job.

This throttling content is old news on Facebook but it's starting to make independent artists' lives difficult on platforms like Twitter and Tumblr as "good stuff first" posts crowd out the things followers have ASKED to see. In many cases these are places artists fled to to escape Facebook's algorithm.



Of course, that's the price of doing business on Social Media. WE are the product and we're just playing in their sandbox. But losing Net Neutrality would bring a whole new set of players (the ISPs) into the game, eager to line their own pockets. If it were just me getting the squeeze, and just throttled content, I could probably figure out a "worth it" price point. I still run a $10 promotion once in a while to see what that does to my numbers. (Not much, TBH.)

However, if everyone has to pay to stay on their social media, numbers will plummet. Then my blog numbers will plummet. Which almost certainly means my income will plummet as well. And while I have skill sets that will mean I don't starve, being able to write for the 40 hours a week this blog takes would NOT be in the cards.

The instinct is to think that "It Can't Happen Here." Just like everything else we were sure couldn't happen here until it did. The instinct is to think that greed will check greed and leave your average web surfer unscathed. (Can I use "web surfer" in 2017?) Surely FB will simply pay what the ISP's want so they are prioritized and keep getting their money from advertising, and if you aren't starting up your own new social media, your life will continue mostly unaltered (as if FB would simply sigh and lose their profit margin with a "Well, played, good chap!" and not somehow pass the cost on to SOMEONE). There may be "fast lanes" on the internet (which a moment's thought about why you spent all that money on your snazzy uber T-5 connection will reveal can't happen unless ISP's actually CAUSE slow lanes).

Except you can see in places like Portugal and New Zealand where there is no net neutrality, that is EXACTLY what has happened. The ISP's have squeezed companies that need bandwith like Facebook and Netflix, but have ALSO put the squeeze on the individual consumers. How many people do you know who would be willing to pay $100+ dollars a year to stay on Facebook? How many would be priced out? How many might pay this price, but at the cost of being able to do something else with that money?


A list of costs ISPs charge their customers to NOT block content in New Zealand.
(FB, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter= $10 for 28 days.)

And even if it doesn't go down exactly like this (and you would have to sort of believe in the generosity and restraint of a company like AT&T to think it wouldn't), it's not as if the companies squeezed are just going to give up their profit margins with a wistful sigh. They're going to pass the "savings" RIGHT on to all of us. And while we don't know exactly what that would mean, it is not unreasonable to imagine that content identified as promotional would be further throttled to try and squeeze out more advertising revenue.

Ending net neutrality will, for the sake of ISP's being able to make even MORE money, impact, and possibly destroy the careers of thousands of bloggers, vloggers, patreons, Etsy stores, Kickstarters, artists, non-traditional writers, and a wide diaspora of voices who have worked around mainstream gatekeepers to scrape out a living using social media to promote their work. (To say nothing of how the proposed tax plan eliminating business expense write offs would raise our tax burdens.) A whole generation of non-traditional creatives will be devastated.

There are huge and massive issues around how this will bring gatekeepers into the online world, exploit those with the most limited resources, and serve to further marginalize communities who have found a voice in a technology with a more even playing field. This will end so much of what makes the internet incredible and make it just one more place where the wealthy get all the good stuff.

And yes, this is a personal story too. I want this blog to stay where it is, grow, and not have to go back to being a hobby that I update twice a week while pursuing a "day job." I have opted out of traditional publishing because it was possible to do so, and I would hate to see that no longer be the case. So I hope everyone reading takes a moment to inform themselves of what's at stake, and then sends on a note (or five) to the appropriate folks.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Broken Transmission

[This is the last known transmission received by the 2nd 8th rate blog Writing About Writing before all communication ceased on Wednesday, November 22 at 8:34 PM. Writing About Writing has not responded to any further attempts at communication.]

10 Things To Get You Through Week 4 of NaNoWriMo  

Hello. Evil Chris here. And I didn't just crawl out of the basement to run this Best Modern Fantasy Poll. Today I'm going to tell you about how to get through the last, and easily the most grueling week of National Novel Writing Month.

You've come this far, and there's just a little more to go. Let's keep a few things in mi–

[Static.  Transmission ends.

Status of Writing About Writing: Unknown

Bob says he'll check things out after he has dinner with the fam. He hopes the historically inaccurate Jurassic Park bio-engineered velociraptor with the laser on its head didn't get out again because his Nana made pecan pie.]


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Reminder to Vote)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?  

I'm flipping the order of operations between tomorrow and today–today will be the poll and tomorrow will be Evil Chris's survival guide to week three of NaNoWriMo. The reason for this change is three and loves Death Star jelly bean dispensers. Also I'm going to weep bitter tears when N.K. Jemisin doesn't make it to the finals (as it seems they won't), so if you see me on the streets, have pity. I am going through the only slightly imaginable. However, such is not under my control. *sigh* 

There are only four days left to vote. On Saturday I will post the results of this poll and put up the final round.

I know some people won't read this before they look at the choices and make a comment on Facebook, but please consider that 1) this is only half the titles in the semifinal round ("Oh my god how could Harry Potter not make it????" It did. It was in the first semifinal and will be going on to the finals.), 2) there were rules that disqualified titles that came out before 1992 ("Why isn't Wheel of Time on here?" Because it's not modern according to the definition of this poll.), and 3) there have been twelve rounds getting to here and that was after the epic-est nominations process I've ever seen, and much like N.K. Jemisin's unlikelihood of making it to the finals, I controlled literally NONE OF IT. My readers made all the decisions, so if a title got voted off the island or never got nominated, acting like it is a crime to the genre might make you look a little foolish.

Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Metacular (Personal and Meta Update)

I'm sure at one point I had a reason for looking this ridiculous.
A post on Monday? Whaaaaaaaat?

Actually it's just a preview to let you know what's going on. This week is a major holiday and our update schedule might look a little screwy. You know I can't get the staff to even come in on a bank holiday. Even if I offer them double-time, they say something like: "So, you're going to give us TWO coupons for half off DippenDots with the purchase of a value meal."

And they say it in that way that means it's totally the end of the conversation, so I'm not really sure.

Sci Guy wants to install a buttload of tracking software so we can definitively figure out what's going on with Evil Mystery Blogger by logging keystrokes or something, but it's a huge endeavor and he needs the entire building offline. I'm sure he's not just wanting the power reserves to do experiments to bring his dead girlfriend over from timelines where she didn't die because nothing weird ever happens here at Writing About Writing when we go on break for a few days. We also have a bit of freelance hero work happening Tuesday (rather than the usual Monday schedule for that sort of thing).

Anyway the point is, I'm going to take the opportunity to do something of a MASSIVE admin overhaul in the next week. Everything from figuring out the future of guest blogging to an Inside Scoop e-mail to a catch up on all the menus that have fallen into decay. And I'd love to get some full force sessions in with my fiction now that life is not a screaming tire fire.

And hey...I might even take a moment to have some good food with friends and family in my ritual sacrifice with pie.

There should still be a really real post for tomorrow (Evil Chris assures me) and some of our Best Modern Fantasy Poll business will go up on Wed. [Edit: It looks like I'm going to have to flip the rollout schedule on these two days, but all the same posts will go up.] But then we need to take the blog offline until Tuesday. If things go very well, we might fire it back up by Sunday, but we'll be back to taking Mondays off next week.

Now there's a D&D article I've been threatening, and I think it's going to be ready this week, but I've changed my mind about posting it this week. I'm overdue to give my patrons an early access post, and I'm going to let them have it for a few days.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

On Holidays, Flossing, and Writing

I stumbled into a metaphor not too long ago that resonated with me and has been packed into the top tier of my writing platitudes toolbox ever since. I share it now because my article about what Dungeons and Dragons taught me about writing will have to wait until at least tomorrow. And that's because frankly I needed a damned day off. (Uh.....other than this, I guess.)

I was having my teeth cleaned after a particularly busy period of my life. (Funny how often I seem to have those.) The dentist was remarking how good my flossing was and how good my gums were looking. This is notable because it was literally my first "Looks good. See you in six months," check up since I was a child. Usually I have to sit there and listen to how my every oral hygiene routine is actually completely wrong.

"I haven't flossed in like two weeks," I admitted anyway, wanting to absolve my guilt. I couldn't live with all those sweet golden compliments built on a turpitudinous throne of lies.  "Like maybe once or twice."

Thinking back on it, that exchange kind of reveals a lot about who I am as a person.


"It doesn't matter if you do it every single day. It doesn't even matter if you skip a few days. What matters is that you usually have the habit of doing it daily."

"Oh like writing," I said.

OH!  LIKE WRITING!!!!! I thought.

Here at Writing About Writing we're pretty staunch advocates of writing every day if you're trying to make it to The Show™. (Contented hobbyists are a whole other story.) Every writer whose name we recognize probably wrote every day or close. And while legit excuses are out there, there are few so beleaguered that they can't set aside fifteen minutes or so from Facebook or Zelda: Breath of the Wild to write for fifteen to thirty minutes.

However, as the holidays loom here in the States, it's also important for writers–particularly the kind that haven't carved out a paycheck from writing and have day jobs on top of everything else the Holiday season packs on–to remember that it's the habit they're cultivating that matters rather than whether or not they missed a couple of days here and there (or had to write a couple of paragraphs and call it good) in the days around a major event.

If you find yourself saying "I don't have to do it every day," to the mirror five days a week for six months, you might need to do a brutally honest inventory about who's fooling whom. But if you've got six hours of shopping and cooking and that's before the first guest arrives, and a boss who wants you to clear out a five day week of work in three days if you want Friday off, and the verge still needs trimming....be kind to yourselves.

Remember your writing doesn't have to be grueling hours on your work in progress. Tear someone a new asshole on a political post, redirect all that rage you have about your childhood to someone who thinks Trump isn't risking an irony fissure to the time space continuum to mock Al Franken, (or, you know, maybe send an email to Nana thanking her for the cookies if that's more your speed), and call it a day. The writing will all still be there on Monday.

It's not one day that's going to hurt your chances as a writer. It's forming that habit.

Like flossing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Post Postponing

I mentioned this on Facebook, but I'm packing up one pet-sitting job and heading straight to another today (and the past two weeks of nannying haven't given me the time to have something mostly cobbled together already), so look for today's post this weekend.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Who Ordered The Extra Salty Mailbox (Mailbox)

It's not quite hate mail, but I'm not exactly putting up with this shit either. 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will (eventually?) answer on my weekly reply.  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 do not bother with the kid gloves if you don't sign your name.]    

Anonymous writes:

All you ever write about is writing. For five years you've been writing about writing. How much writing can be done about writing? How much longer can you keep this blog going and have it be just about writing?

My reply:

If you're not having a good time, I have a couple of suggestions for alternative activities. One might require a cloning machine, but I hear we have one of those in the basement.

Here's the deal. I have a couple of "notes" files of articles that I'm reminding myself I need to write and a lot of brainspace dedicated to future articles. A number of serial posts remain unfinished but I haven't forgotten about them or abandoned them (whether they are literary reviews of Skyrim or some of my own creative nonfiction). And there are far more entries for things like The Basics or Craft of Fiction that are yet to come. There are so many unwritten posts–so FUCKING MANY–that were I to experience some kind of trauma or injury or simply the all time mother of writer's blocks and stop generating new ideas....TODAY, it would be over three years before I finished up the backlog.

That means that if I only finish up loose ends, half written, and conceived but not yet put to pixel posts. If no one writes in a new question for the mailbox. If I don't manage to watch another movie and review it. If no news in Trump's America manages to invoke a Social Justice Bard response about narratives and sociolinguistics. If not one single new guest blogger ever steps forward. If no one tries to take a viral litsnob swipe at someone like Pratchett or JK Rowling. If I can't think of a single thing as the plot for Season 3. If I don't read a single new writing book or try out a single new thing of which I would want to do a product review. If I read no "lesser known" books that I really want to give a shout out to. If absolutely no ideas for a listicle  jumps into my head as a great idea for a post....

....at all....

....ever again.....

It'll be about 2022 before Writing About Writing closes up shop.

Frankly, I wouldn't count on that. I can get inspired watching those commercials they run at the gas stations while you're filling up.

Art and life are inseparable, and like life, you can declare that you've got it pretty much figured out or you can delight in the infinite complexities of endless variations on the themes.

A commenter writes:

How could you possibly claim to know everything there is to know about Loki's character if you missed one of the movies with him in it?

My reply:

(Dark World and Ragnorok spoilers ahead)

If only....

If only there were some sort of central repository of knowledge that we, as curious media consumers, could access with all these new fangled machines that have become so ubiquitous and we are so accustomed to.  Somewhere where someone who was watching an "Including Movies" run of Agents of Shield and couldn't get the Roku to work would be able to find some sort of synopsis of The Dark World and read about Loki's tricking everyone into thinking he's dead so he can abduct his father, usurp his power while pretending to be him, and abandon him in a situation that will eventually lead to his death noble sacrifice.

But honestly here's me looking for the place where I claimed I knew everything there is to know about Loki. Nope not there. Nope. Not there either. Are you sure I claimed that? Because I know winning arguments is a lot easier when you are arguing against claims someone never made, but there is a name for that sort of thing.

Nope. Not seeing it.
Look I know what the real crime here is. I had the temerity to evaluate Loki on a scale other than "Awesome," "Totally Awesome," or "Tragically misunderstood but nonetheless totally awesome." People really like Loki and want to put that whole murdering entire cities, slave trading, totally would have murdered that guy who didn't kneel, multiple betrayals, was-about-to-sell-bro-out-to-slavers thing behind them because he cracks wise, sometimes makes tenuous alliances, and rocks the curved horn look.

I like Loki too. I totes do. Too many villains don't have that depth and nuance and you know too well what they're going to do. I REALLY like that he brings nuances of biculturalism and "otherness" to his portrayal. His motivations are more complicated, and I think that's really cool. But while he might be on track for some very interesting MCU redemption arc action, is certainly a complicated character, absolutely OOZES charisma with Tom Hiddleston behind the wheel, and has some very interesting change-of-heart moments, he does most things most of the time mostly because they are going to help Loki to acquire power.

Anonymous writes:

As someone who's a literary major, maybe you should spell your literary references correctly. It's Chekhov, not "Chekov". 

As someone who's a literary major????  Do math majors not have to spell theater references correctly?

Oh wait. I get it. I see what's going on. I'm savvy.

This was an attempt to embarrass me because I should know better. How could I, a lit major, not have an eidetic memory with regards to the spelling of every major literary figure that I would have run across in the course of my studies. After all that's what I spent most of my four years of college doing right? It wasn't writing papers–it was spelling tests of notable figures.

It must really burn some people up when a guy like me shows up, someone whose dyslexia and ADD leads to grammar and spelling errors left and right, yet who still manages to get straight A's in his English major, gets invited to dinner with professors to discuss theses even as an undergrad, gets paid to write, and has a huge international audience.

"Why that guy doesn't even know his Jane's from his Texan cities!!! Balderdash!"

Since we're in the catty zone though, "Lit" stands for literaTURE major. Literary is an adjective. A "literary major" would be a high ranking officer in the army's book reading brigade. Also if you were paying attention instead of just giving your red pen a workout, you might have noticed that I was a Creative Writing Major so clearly I am simply lost without an editor. Though really, at the undergrad level, there's a lot of overlap, and they're all just English majors with various emphases. I still wrote rings around most of those lit majors though. Even if I misspelled some names along the way. Oh yes.

Because at the end of the day I can fix my Chekhovian flaws with two presses of a button (thanks Bee Tee Dubs), but confronting the sort of snide elitism that'll make someone try to shame a writer because their autocorrect recognizes Star Trek will take a bit more effort.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Semifinal 2)

What is the best fantasy book or series written in the last 25 years?   

Behemoths continue to duke it out for the honor of going forth to the final round. We're almost there, and the end of literally months of nominations and elimination rounds is in sight.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the finals.

Now is the time to make one small reminder. Many of the books in question have some kind of adaptation to the screen. It's time to stress that while CGI dragons are goddamned spectacular, this poll is about BOOKS, and writing, and not about how much Peter Dinklage fucking rules. So please vote for the best book, not the best thing you've seen on DVD or HBO.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author."

My apologies in advance. Gaiman got three titles into the semifinals, so one poll was destined to have some hot Gaiman vs. Gaiman action going on.

Also, seriously, I know there are a lot of people on WAW's Facebook Page and the laws of large numbers are starting to dictate that a certain number of people won't read anything but the preview text before commenting, but y'all are hurting my soul. "Oh how could my very, very favorite fave not be here?" Well....chances are it is, or was. Please know that 1) this is only half the titles in the semifinal round ("Oh my god how could Harry Potter not be on any credible poll????" It is. Check the results of the first semifinal. It'll be on the finals.), 2) there were rules that disqualified titles that came out before 1992 ("Why isn't Wheel of Time on here?" Because it's not modern according to the definition of this poll.), and  3) there have been twelve rounds getting to here and that was after the epic-est nominations process I've ever seen and I controlled literally NONE OF IT, so if a title got voted off the island or never got nominated, I'm really sorry, but showing up when we're on the second to last round and declaring that if it doesn't have your very favoritiest title, it's not a good poll kind of makes you look foolish.

For mobile users you click on "web page view" and then scroll ALLLLLLLLLL the way to the bottom.

These semifinals will only be up a little over a week (we're going to end up going into December despite all my hopes and dreams, so I might as well give people a little more time) That means that the IP logging will expire. Since I can't really stop shenanigans, I encourage it. Vote early. Vote often.