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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Facebook Alpha/Beta Reader Introductions Guideline Post

The Rules Guidelines to Participating

  1. I'm going to put up a post inviting everyone to pair up or group up with each other. That's my only part in this process. I'll post it every few weeks or month depending on how popular it is, but it's up to all of you to decide how to group up, transfer files, convey feedback, when feedback is due, what to do if someone's not carrying their own weight, and such. Exchange feedback on each other's work once a week, once a month, once a year–it's all up to you. I'm putting the post here so the interested have a "meeting place."
  2. Please understand that there are websites that specialize in this service. One of my patrons is a big fan of Scribophile. (Good for alpha reading.) They will have systems where you have to give feedback, which means once you do you will GET feedback. There are lots of structured feedback systems. Betabooks.co is a good place if you're done and need complete beta reading. If you're doing this here, it's because you want to do it with the people here. 
  3. Matching up by prefered genre is a really good idea. At least enjoy each other's prefered genre. So if you reach out to exchange work with someone, you both should tell each other what kind of writers you are. Though some of your best feedback may come from someone you don't expect, so don't be afraid to mix it up with someone who is willing. 
  4. You're really going to want to find someone (or multiple someones) who is (are) writing at your level. One of the tricks of peer review is that it won't be as useful to either of you if you're not reviewing your peers. A situation where one of you is writing at a higher level will be more of a mentorship for one, unrewarding for the other, and likely frustrating for both. I know some people will immediately discount the quality of their prose and others will think they are way too good for everyone, but it's important to try to write with a partner or group that can keep up with your feedback and will give you useful feedback.  
  5. This might be news to those of you new to the feedback game, but it is actually GIVING feedback that will help develop your writing the most. We absorb the more holistic lessons we teach much more organically and tend to be thinking about how to fix that_one_thing when we are getting feedback. Over time, good writers learn that a peer asking them for a beta read is an extraordinary opportunity. But, if that doesn't sell you on giving feedback, it's a real first rate asshole move to take feedback and not give it. So don't do that.
  6. Getting feedback is a humbling process. Learning to pour our soul into work and then, when it's time, completely extricate our ego from the process of being told something we loved didn't work at all and there are major things to be worked on. We all want to be geniuses. And we all want our artistic vision to be executed flawlessly. And the first few times you hear that didn't happen it is devastating. But it gets easier. And the whole process is very important. Certainly no critic or reviewer will be any less pointed once you're published so it's time to forage your criticism armor.
  7. In the near future, I'm going to start work on a series of articles about feedback (and this will turn into a link at that time) but for now just remember that all feedback comes through the filter of who is giving it, and it can be just as important to your writing to learn how to ignore certain feedback as it absolutely is to learn to take some. By the time I left my writing program, I knew six or seven people I would have appreciated if they burned my manuscript and peed on it to put out the flames, and a couple dozen that I knew to smile and nod...if they had done the reading at all. Of course, this discretion absolutely canNOT be based on who praises you. Chances are the feedback that stings the most is the stuff you sort of knew needed work already and your brain is finally hearing it. Those who don't seem to have engaged or understood the intention of your work may have valuable insight (especially all their input as an aggregate) but it isn't likely to cut you quite so deeply.
  8. You're really not going to be able to give full bodied feedback if you don't know the basic elements of craft. So learn what is meant by character, setting, theme, tone, plot, structure, and point of view, and it will be invaluable to learn devices like imagery, foreshadowing, metaphor, personification and such. I am trickling in articles about these things (as is Arielle K Harris, except she's doing it much faster) but they will be a while before they're up and ready to read.
  9. You can, in addition to everything else that is totally up to you, use any method or style of feedback you wish, but I have some suggestions below.

Suggestions for Feedback Template

  1. Write a paragraph about what happens. No value judgements. No interpretation. No filter or lens. Just WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS in a brief synopsis. Writers will be shocked how often your readers aren't following something that they think is clear. When everyone thinks they haven't left the bar yet, you know you have to make it more clear that they're upstairs in the hotel room. And this simple trick helps immeasurably with giving good feedback and reading as a writer.
  2. Eliminate "like" from your vocabulary until the end of your review. Whether you liked it or didn't like it should be immaterial. You want to focus on what you think the author was trying to accomplish, and how well you think it worked. Not everyone wants to be easily read. Not everyone wants to be literary. Not everyone wants to have their setting act as a kinesthetic landscape for their themes. So try to figure out what they were going for and if it was the literary equivalent of a car chase with lots of explosions, tell them how well they pulled that off.
  3. Write some* things you think worked.  Be as specific as you possibly can, maybe even getting into the choice of words. Finding what DOES work is as important for you as a reader and your future as a writer as it is 
  4. Write some* things you think didn't work. DO NOT OFFER A FIX.  Be as specific as you possibly can, maybe even getting into their choice of words. Limit your valuation and interpretation language. Just focus on how and why it didn't work.
  5. Having identified what you think the author's intention is, offer them ONE suggestion for how they might better achieve it. Not only will keeping your "helpful suggestions" to one keep them from feeling like it's a laundry list of how much they suck, but it forces you to triage what you think the most important problem to fix is, and that is a very good skill to have. (This can, but doesn't have to be, the same as #4.)
  6. End your feedback with praise. One thing you liked. One thing they nailed. Something awesome. (You may now use the word "liked.") Feedback is critical to writers, but praise is so wonderful and important too. 
  7. At no time is feedback ever to display how cleverly you can trash someone or their work. It was really en-vogue for a while there in the early eighties for workshops to just involve savaging each other in displays of how witty one could be. But they found out it was really quite terrible for the writers and the work and that dashing people's pretentiousness is better done as a slow burn.
  8. You'll notice that spelling, punctuation, and grammar aren't even on this feedback template. That is because active reading and valuable feedback is so much more than copy editing, and your work is likely to change (possibly completely) before its final form. Please let your beta readers know if you are interested in Spelling Punctuation or Grammar (SpAG) corrections.

    *The number of things will depend on the length you're critiquing for each other. I recommend no more than 10 page (double spaced) to start and you can go up from there if you want. If you're reviewing that much material, a good number is three.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Facebook Page Work Sharing Guidelines

Image description: woman pointing two thumbs at herself and looking
very self confident.
NOTE: As a couple of folks have been confused, this post has been linked in a social media post (probably Facebook) and the comment responses to THAT post is where you want to leave your link. Not as a reply to this post.

The rules They're more what you might call "guidelines"

The golden....uh.....rule here is to remember that lots of people are going to be posting and that this is for all of you. I may add to or amend this list as we iron out what works and what is sub-optimal.

  1. Limit yourself to sharing one piece. I'll do this "event" every other week or so if it stays popular. You'll have other chances to promote other stuff. I'm not going to dig through dozens or hundreds of comments to check that everyone only posted once, but if I notice, I'll remove all of them.
  2. I will remove links that go to crap. (Consequently, PM me if you find one because I won't have time to check them all.) I don't mean a blog you wrote where a pop up asks you to be a subscriber–though that is annoying on the very first visit, justsoyaknow. But anything that goes to a subscription site, a pop-up fest, an obvious marketing scheme of some kind, a completely non-writing site, or any kind of bad-faith crap will be removed. If it really looks like someone decided to just be Spammy McSpamkins, I'll ban them as well. 
  3. This is a post to share writing. I love other art forms, and I periodically have a link/post like this one for other art. But let's keep it to writing for now. Mixed media is okay if there's writing involved. 
  4. You can post any writing you want to share--even a link to a an Amazon page selling your book or your own Facebook page. But this post will likely get dozens, maybe hundreds of replies. People are far far far less likely to just drop money if they don't know you and your writing first. It might be better to link to something you've written WHERE you mention your book.
  5. Please don't put the text directly into the comment. No matter how short your poem or microfiction is, that will make the comments very hard to navigate. If you absolutely can't link your work for some reason, describe it in the first comment you make, and then reply to yourself with the text of your work (so that the reply "threads"). But best just to link something.
  6. Tell people what your writing is about! There will be a lot of folks posting, and unless they recognize your name, a mere title (or worse, just a URL) will not grab their attention long enough to even give a click. However...a description might entice them: ("The first three chapters of my science fiction novel about how dragons are actually a race from space and humans and dragons used to live together on Earth, but then dragons left because humans became too brutal. Now they're back. If you like the three chapters, you can buy the book on Kindle for 99 cents.") 
  7. This isn't a peer review post. (I tried that and out of a million of you, no one was really interested.) If you give feedback, remember that the person is a human being with feelings who has put themselves "out there," and that is a hard thing to do. These are completed works. The author may not necessarily be asking for feedback–certainly not of the "here's what I would change" or "this is why it sucks" variety. It might be nice to ask if they want criticism before giving it unsolicited. You don't have to limit yourself to only praise, but for fuck's sake play nice. Other writers, of all people, should know how hard this can be.
  8. Though I can't enforce this in any way, and no one will even know, it is considered rude in any writing environment to take without giving back. You won't get invited back if you read at literary events but leave without listening to others (or if you only come on nights when you're reading). You won't be given good feedback in review groups if you take feedback and give none (or don't give as good as you get). And so if you post a link, for the sake of your writer's celestial balance in the universe, please try to find something you might be interested in reading as well. 
  9. Since this is happening on Facebook, if you read something (and like it) consider giving it a like. I may feature post the ones that do the best if they're appropriate for the page.
  10. Be excellent to each other.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Best Y.A. for Young Women (First Quarterfinal)

What is the best book (or series) marketed to young women?  

Often our society holds the interests of young women (music, film, literature) in particular contempt. Even the criticism that is often leveled against "bad writing" or "clichè tropes" is disproportionately brought down on media young women more typically like. Take the heroine with the choice of two hot guys–how often does a dude with two hot love interests go unremarked upon? Or heroines with some kind of "chosen one" power? Because that never happens to men in fiction.

Our latest poll, assembled from your nominations, has thirty-two entries marketed to young women, so we'll be breaking it it down all the way to quarterfinals.

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

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

These quarterfinals will only be up for few days each (less than a week) so vote quickly that we can move on without losing momentum.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Story Fundamentals, Part the Third: Characters by Arielle K Harris

Story Fundamentals, Part the Third: Characters
Arielle K Harris  

In my previous articles I’ve discussed the Style and Setting aspects of storytelling, two essential aspects of the writing craft.  However, I believe there’s an argument to be made that modern readers care more about characters than previous audiences through the history of literature and are generally more willing to forgive a lack in other areas of a story if the characters are compelling enough.  So this stuff is important.

Like in world-building, building a character is an exercise in details.  It’s as easy and as hard as making up a person, a human being complete with flaws, motives, secrets, quirks, aspirations, doubts, love, hate, and all the rest.  (Unless you’re not writing about human beings, but even then most of those things likely still apply.)  Every character has a story, even the most minor character, and it’s your job as their writer, their creator, to know what that story is even if it’s never fully told.  You never know when a minor character might suddenly become a main player.  Your earlier casually-dropped details about that minor character are now effortless foreshadowing for what’s to come.

A lot of writers talk about this element of unexpectedness when dealing with characters, having a protagonist go off-outline whether the writer likes it or not, or self-determining sudden actions previously unaccounted for.  Inexperienced writers, or those disturbingly normal folk who aren’t writers at all, might be like, “Eh??  But they’re your characters, you made them up so you can have them do whatever you want to, right??”

Sort of.  Yes, you’ve made a character up, it exists only inside your brain and on paper, and you can control what it does.  To a point.  There comes a time, however, when you find that you’ve given your character too much autonomy, like a rogue AI program that suddenly becomes self-aware.  The part of your brain that houses that character is now an autonomous part of your consciousness with its own motives and self-interests which sometimes gives you sass and argues back when you try to impose your original plans upon it.

And this slightly disturbing development is precisely what you’re aiming for as a writer.

You want a character that’s been so well created that it becomes its own voice inside your mind, because if you haven’t reached that point then you’re not chronicling the story of unique and compelling beings.  Instead you’re moving puppets around a backdrop, and the voice that comes out of their mouths is your voice, not theirs.

What’s the key difference between your voice and your character’s voice?  Well, in some writing there is no difference.  There are some stories which, whether deliberately or not, transpose the author into the main character, for better or for worse.  I would like to make the argument, however, that this is not ideal.  In order to write effective fiction with compelling characters I honestly believe those characters need to gain autonomy from their authors.  This is part of the craft of fiction writing.

Given their own flaws, motives, secrets, quirks, aspirations, doubts, love, hate, etc., etc., as previously mentioned should be enough to help you find a character’s unique voice, or better still, to let that character find their own voice.  By all means use your own experiences to “write what you know” and give authenticity to their journey through the story, but your character may respond to events differently than you.  Give them the freedom to do so.

In speculative fiction when you’re worldbuilding don’t forget how that world affects your characters.  They have their own language, though you’re helpfully translating into one your readers can understand.  And for the love of all things literary please don’t just call it the Common Tongue.  Language is so rich and interesting, don’t let your created language down.  Obviously there are very few of us capable of creating actual languages themselves to the high standards of the likes of Tolkien but even if you don’t actually create the language you should know what it is, what it’s called, and what other languages exist on your world.  To be a realistic world there should be other languages, unless your world is very small indeed, or recently colonized.

Let me get linguistic on you for a minute.  There’s are lot of links between worldbuilding and language and character, as geography affects both the physical interactions of societies and their language development.  Languages lend each other words when they interact regularly, so physically distant groups of people who don’t interact develop languages which are more obviously distinct from each other.  Consider this phenomena fully.  How do your world’s languages interact?  Who can understand who, and how do they reach that level of understanding?  Generally only the wealthy, who have free time and funds to spend on learning, will know more than one language unless necessity or constant multilingual interaction of the lower classes results in otherwise.  However, misunderstandings are a great way to further plot and create tension, so you don’t necessarily want to gloss over the difficulties of language interaction.

Religion is another important world-building facet which links to character development, and just like language this can provide another conflict between either groups or individual characters.  This affects how characters speak to other characters who are within their religious group or outside it, how they utter obscenities, and how they make promises to each other or swear fealties.  This may affect what foods they eat, and when, what holy days they observe, or deliberately don’t observe.  This may affect a character’s relationships with other characters, determine expected gender roles, or have serious repercussions if they defy those precepts.

I think it’s important for a writer of speculative fiction to answer all the important questions of language and religion, philosophy and society, and every other facet of worldbuilding before deciding even the most basic of details about a character.  Even something as simple as a name is firmly rooted in language and/or religion and has societal implications and significance.  Names have so much potential to impart subtle messages to the reader, and sometimes messages that are… not so subtle, e.g.: Cruella de Vil, Voldemort, Hannibal Lecter, and Kilgrave (Jessica Jones said it herself, “Kilgrave?  Talk about obvious.  Was ‘Murdercorpse’ already taken?”) so don’t throw away the opportunity to underscore something of importance to your readers.

Above all, avoid writing character stereotypes.  The farm boy who would be king.  The questing hero with his band of followers, never forgetting to include the one feisty female included to add sexual tension and to prove that the (inevitably white cis-male) author is giving a nod to feminism.  (He’s not.)  The plain little Mary Jane who has one endearing character flaw like being unable to cross a parking lot without getting nearly killed, who is oh so very unattractive, which she bemoans at length, but somehow is caught in a love triangle with two hot guys with rock-hard abs and optional sparkles.  Yeah, just stop that.

Given enough thoughtful detail a writer should be able to avoid all the pitfalls in character creation, and then be blessed with several argumentative new brain-friends.  After that, all you need to do is tell the story.  I say that like it’s easy, but of course it’s not and my next article will focus on this next vital and devastating step in the process of storytelling – telling the damned story.

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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

WAW's Social Media FAQ

FAQ for Writing About Writing's Facebook Page but also Tumblr and any other social media sites. 

I really do love and appreciate the people who follow me. The ones who take time out of their day to send me a couple of nice words always get a few in return.  I don't always have the time to chat, but I try to engage with people who reach out in good faith. I know the tone of this can feel like I just want to be left alone and no one should ever message me for any reason, but trust me that a little good faith goes a long way. However....there are a handful of questions that make up about 95% of what people slide into my inbox to talk about, and I am indeed a little tired of answering THEM.

Apologies for the formatting. I need to just rewrite the whole thing from scratch, but right now I'm adding to it regularly.

1-What's with this blog you post to every day.

That's the whole reason this social media outreach is here at all: to get a few extra eyeballs (and maybe the occasional fan) on that blog....er....this blog. If it weren't for this blog, and the traffic that FB brings this blog, I would hang up all these puns and memes and go enjoy an extra ten or fifteen hours a week doing almost anything else. Fortunately if I can build an audience of a million, a few will click the links I post and maybe I can scrape out a few bucks a month.

2-"I'd like to become a patron/give you a donation? How can I do that?"


If you want to be a monthly contributor and get in on a number of reward tiers, please consider becoming a patron of Writing About Writing. Even a dollar a month is enormously helpful and will get you in on the "backchannels" of questions about my work, polls only patrons can respond to about upcoming projects, and solicitations for feedback.

One time donations are of course welcome as well. The conspicuously placed tip jar is over to the top left, or you can use Venmo. My e-mail is chris.brecheen@gmail.com

Technically I can also provide you a P.O. Box if you need one.

And honestly, thank you. I've got rent to pay just like anyone. Financial support helps me keep writing (and running this page) instead of patchworking together pet sitting side gigs to keep the lights on.

3-"Wait, you want money just for shitposting on some Facebook page?"

Nope, that's not all I do by a long shot. The memes and the puns are just the tip of the iceberg. This blog (the one you're on right now) takes me about thirty to forty hours a week to maintain. I also write fiction–both short and long term projects–and it all goes here for free. Just because you never click on the blog links doesn't mean FB is the only thing I'm doing.

And just so you know, I spend about six or seven hours a week most weeks running this page, so it's kind of a dillhole move to deliberately take time out of your busy schedule to sneer at the idea of someone who is entertaining you asking for maybe a dollar a month from a few generous folks.

4- Please don't post about politics./Why are you posting about politics?

Writing About Writing has never been apolitical. It never will be apolitical. If you can't cope with that, you might want to find another page to service your "You should be writing" meme and terribad pun needs.

Roughly 3% of the posts here are "political" (which seems to mean "social issues that don't affect me personally and which I'd like everyone else to shut up about" to most people who use the word disparagingly). I know this because I post 10-15 things a day and only post such a thing every few days when I'm up for monitoring a comment thread.

What you're calling "politics" might split down left and right, but it is really about social issues. I'm not plugging a tax plan or endorsing a candidate or even a party. (I do that a BIT more on my own FB wall [see below], but I usually still consider that sort of binary thinking a rabbit hole.) But even when I get my polemics on, I'm usually pointing out that a writer has the power to tell stories, that narrative works to create villains out of nuance and desensitize entire cultures to genocide, that media affects culture, that representation matters, that language is used to obfuscate bigotry and oppression, that people get to tell their own stories, and that leaving out whole parts of the story is a pretty good way to control who is seen as angels and who is seen as demons without ever misstating a "fact." I find telling my own story more meaningful than making explicitly didactic demands.

Writing About Writing
 has always considered the link between social issues, narrative, and language to be valuable to explore for writers and storytellers alike, and won't be stopping this intellectual rigor any time soon–certainly not because some people want their stream of quotes and inspiration porn to never be tainted by an uncomfortable thought of the social consequence that comes with literally aspiring to master both narratives and language.

Further, it isn't really possible for a writer to be completely apolitical. The personal is political and those who find politics sequestered from anything that affects them personally usually have a lot of social advantages. Aggressively avoiding social issues in one's writing belies a strong endorsement of the status quo, which is in and of itself QUITE political. There are many writing pages that will stick to making fun of people's grammar in racist and classist ways and post the same hundred quotes over and over. I'm more interested in considering how we can all be vicegerents of the awesome power that comes with being a writer.

And also if you demand that I stop posting about politics obnoxiously enough, I may show you the door. (Since clearly you don't want what I'm cooking.)

5a- Why are you doing transcriptions of the posts?/Why do you often ask for transcriptions?

We're creeping up on a million followers and I've been asked if it might be possible to level up our disability access so more people can enjoy. Many macros and memes are pictures of text or text ON pictures. (Things like screen grabs of Tumblr or Twitter, but even just macros.) This means they can't be read and transcribed with text reading software for folks who are visually impaired. A FEW of the better ones can read very plain fonts, but without the picture for context, even this could be meaningless.

Personally I am not going to have time to transcribe some of the longer ones into text and/or I am often posting from my phone or posting from work where transcribing would be very impractical. So if I put "Transcribe?" (or some variation) with an image, it means that if anyone would be willing to do that, I'll cut and paste that text along with my sincere thanks and a shout out and add it to the text.

PLEASE CHECK THE COMMENTS OF SUCH POSTS FOR THE TRANSCRIPTIONS-- Eventually I get back to most of them and copy paste the transcription into the OP, but they may sit for hours before I have a chance to.

You can also send it to me through PM if you'd prefer no attribution and the transcription to be anonymous. I'll probably just use the first transcription I see that does a halfway decent description of the picture and text, so no need to keep going if you see someone else has. I'm not trying to slight anyone if I don't use theirs.

Feel free to use Google transcriber for the pure text macros (I sometimes do), but if I'm asking for a transcription, I probably am not at a proper computer where I would be able to do that myself.

5b- You could have just written the transcription in the time it took you to ask for one.

Chances are I'm on my phone or busy at work This may mean one or more of a few things:

1- I cannot access or don't have time to access things like Google doc's transcribing software.
2- I'm unable to see the image and what I'm typing on a single screen and going back and forth to make sure that it's perfect would take more time/energy than I have.
3- The transcription involves describing an image (not just rewriting the text) and that is what I don't have time to do.

Also don't be such a Judgy McJudgikins. I know damn well how annoyed people get if I ask for help more than a couple of times a day. I use that shit sparingly.

5c- Why do you tell us what you're doing. Just ask for a transcription.

At first I did ask for a transcription. Then people got mad about that because (I guess because they thought I was being lazy?) and just asking was too brusque. Then I wrote an extensive explanation, and people either said I could have transcribed it in the time I took to write the explanation (see above) or they just thought I was being too descriptive. So then I offered these weird fake explanations about fighting terrorists or parasailing to Mars or something, and people complained about THAT even though it amused me. Most of the time these complaints were mostly polite, but their frequency and the rare aggression and threats to flounce (which is a one-strike-you're out no-no here and led to tons of drama) made me just want to abandon transcriptions altogether. So today I ask and offer a quick line or two for why I can't, and even though definitely not everyone is happy, I think I've found this tiny fjord of frequency and caliber of request that makes the fewest people complain. Basically someone always complained, this seems to be the thing that makes them do so the least, so I'm sticking to it.

5d- Why didn't you transcribe that post or ask for a transcription?/Why don't you transcribe all posts?

There are two reasons.

1- If I'm sharing something from another page, I won't transcribe their meme. Folks can take it up with THAT page's admin if they want to. I'm usually just quickly sharing something I got a tickle out of. It also has to do with which text proliferates in the event of a "share." If that meme gets shared by lots of people, it will be the original post, not my transcription, that gets shared with it. It's not a pride thing, there's just a lot of work that is involved and it would have limited returns. Often with such posts I will ask if anyone wants to do it in the comments.

2- Macros that are pure, readable text, I don't transcribe. When I started this years ago, getting text reading software could be a pain in the ass. I've since been informed that a simple text reader is accessible and easy to anyone on a computer. So there's no need for me to transcribe posts that anyone can just put through a text reader. (It's a considerable amount of work.) I will still write transcriptions if there is a visual element to be described or if the text is in hand written or in a very weird font.

6- Is the free labor of people doing your transcriptions exploitative?

1) Facebook pages don't actually make money. And the FB throttling algorithm was designed by greedy shitgibbons who literally fiddled with the knobs until they found the sweet spot between "That's a lovely outreach you have there. Be shame if someone.......THROTTLED IT." and "Fuck it. I'll use Tumblr!" While I technically might make some Patron money via people from this page, most of them are donating money because they like my blog and my writing, not because I maintain a page that posts memes. (In fact, I often literally say when I post my Patreon something like: "If you're just here for the memes, don't worry about this, but if you like the blog I link to.....") While there is a symbiotic relationship and this page helps me promote my work, there isn't really a mechanic by which this page ITSELF makes me any money.

2) The particulars of transcribed posts are done for the accessibility benefits of folks who use assistive technology. For years there were no such transcriptions. I have been asked to do this, and I WANT to do so, but doing it all myself would be a tremendous addition of labor to what is already several hours a week on top of four jobs I already have. I tried to come up with a compromise to saying "No. I'm sorry. I just can't do that."

3) I'm more than capable of transcribing posts, and often do so (usually asking for help on only one or two a day). However when I am flinging up a post quickly on my way to work or posting from my phone with its little stylus, I can't describe some involved four panel comic or essentially type out 250 words. I could just leave it without a transcription–possibly for hours–until I can get to it, but that seems to defeat the purpose, and the alternative is blowing some off.....and not in the good way.

4) I'm not promising people exposure or ground floor opportunities or some slick ass bullshit to folks who help out. (I'm certainly not approaching professional transcribers and guilting them.) If folks help, I assume it is because they want our page to be accessible, not because they think it will benefit them in some way. Everyone is free to help or not help. Sometimes no one steps up and the post just goes un-transcribed until I can get to it. It's not like anyone is being leaned on.

5) If I were making more money, I probably WOULD think about employees rather than volunteers. (And in fact I do have one employee who basically does exactly sits around and transcribes posts, though I still end up needing a few more from time to time.) I pay my guest bloggers, editors, and others who help me unless they insist that their work is a donation, even if it's just a few dollars. However, perhaps the fact that I need three other jobs besides writing will be indicative that I'm maybe not making as much off this page as people seem to think.

The community seems pretty supportive, but please let me know if you'd like me to revisit the question.

7- Why didn't you respond to my comment?

I am only able to read a fraction (a small fraction) of the comments from a page with over half a million followers. Chances are that I didn't even see it. I occasionally look at the top replies or make sure people are playing nice on a post I know is going to be a tire fire.

I can respond to even fewer. If I tried to stay active in the comments of such a large page, I would quickly find my writing time completely gone.

PM me if it's important or if something is happening for which I may need to wield the banhammer. A good question or thoughtful comment may even go into the blog.

8- "Will you promote [my thing]?"

If your "thing" is exactly (and I mean EXACTLY) the sort of content I'm usually posting (memes, macros, "you should be writing," quotes, and the occasional really good article about writing, maybe some book love, or a really funny miswritten sign), I might post it if–big if–I like it. I tend to avoid the posts some typical writing pages share a lot of, like ableist inspiration porn or classist (and often racist) prescriptivism. [I'm all for giggling about a misplaced comma, but only so long as we're giggling about what the sign says instead of AT the person who did it. But if you send me something you made that is our usual fare, especially if it's "doin' me a laff,"  I'll consider putting it up along with a link to a page if you want.]

If it's not the normal stuff, but is at least tangentially related to writing, and if you send me a PM asking nicely first I will let you post on our "Guest Posts."  (For the record, Dave M, the following is not acceptable: "Hey bro, you're not going to get your panties in a twist that I posted this on your wall, are ya?") I'll probably say yes. Be advised: web content filler slapped up there usually gets about the three or four clicks it deserves, but I've noticed that the response to quality posts is decent.

Will I do a trade promotion with you? If our pages are comparable, sure. If our pages are wildly differing in terms of traffic, you're basically asking me for free advertising. While I'm down with sidestepping unbridled capitalism (you don't have to pay me money) let's find some other way to make it worth it on my end.

If it is wildly not about writing or it is your own creative writing, or (AND LISTEN CLOSE TO THIS ONE) if it is a publication opportunity that requires payment [whether in the form of a "contest" that requires an entry fee or whatever], the answer will be no.

I have a regular post where you can share your own writing. And if you think a page called Writing About Writing is a good spot for your car detailing business commercial, I don't know what to say.

BTW: If you don't ask and just slap up your self-promotional link into the guest posts, I just remove it, even if it's totally about writing. And if I recognize your name from having pulled the same thing before, I'll ban you.

I'll be really honest with you about one of my many failings as a flawed human being. I've spent years now building this page up. Don't even get me started on the first year when I was posting to 95% my own friends and like four other people. (Thanks Melissa!) Or the June in the middle of year two when I whooped inside a Kinkos because I'd passed 1000 followers. This page takes a lot of effort, and even though it's led a few more people to my blog and maybe been responsible for a few donations, it's mostly thankless, unpaid labor where the vast majority of folks only ever chime in to complain.

I have birthed a tiny little petty in these last few years. I've fed it cottage cheese and bile, taught it the dark side of The Force, and watched it grow up big and strong and it knows force lightning. I cheered it when it force choked the better angels of my nature. I kind of hate how people are crawling out of the woodwork–NOW–and trying to ride my coattails without a thought about reciprocity or so much as a peep asking if it's okay. I really quite enjoy being able to point at something one of my friends did (or someone whose work I've been following with interest) and send lots of eyeballs their way. But I feel really used when people act entitled to it.

If your stuff is self-promotional, I'm going to be harder on it–especially if you don't ask. Darth Petty demands no less.

9- "Will you read/critique my creative writing?"

I can't. I'm sorry.

There are nearly a million of you, and this page grows by a thousand followers on a slow day. I'm getting a couple of requests a day to read things--everything from a ten line poem to a short story to a full novel manuscript for content editing. I know you've poured your soul into it and it's dear to your heart. I also know that because you've poured your soul into it and it's dear to your heart, that even for that ten line poem which I could read in a few seconds, you probably want more feedback than just "Nice poem" or something. I know how serious that request is for you and how important it is to you and even how much you may have psyched yourself up before sending it to me.


But still...as much as I admire your moxie, there's only one of me. A good week for me clocks in around 70 hours between all my jobs. I barely even have time to read and give feedback to my good friends and the folks with whom I have a relationship and rapport.

Of course, if you want to hire me, that's another story (see below).

And then of course you could also do the long con where you get to know me, we develop a relationship. Maybe go out a few times. Have a deep and meaningful relationship. Move in. Experiment with all manner of wildly fulfilling group sex. Get married. Have kids. Join the Columbia Record Club. Start planning for our multi-continent retirement. Then you look at me and say.... "Chris, actually, I really just wanted you to read my stuff." I'd be crushed, but I'd do it.

10- Will I tutor/edit/do some writing for you?

Sure. My freelance rate is $50 USD/hour. ($75 if you want me to drop everything I'm doing and give you all my writing time right this second). I will need you to pay for your first hour up front, and we'll figure out over e-mail or chat what you need. I can give you a billable hours estimate and a rough timeline for completion, and then I will work whatever is left of our hour, and you can see if my time is worth your money. After that, I'll ask you to pay me for every couple of hours for the first 10 hours or so. As we work longer and longer and build up professional trust, I can give you bigger chunks of time between payments. I'm much better at developmental editing than copy editing

Oh...did you mean for free?

11- I am interested in buying your page/running ads on your page? Will you sell it/give me admin controls?

Sure! Deposit $75,000 into an account I designate (that's a little less than ten cents per follower--the price may go up if the page grows) and after the money has been verified I will relinquish admin controls. (That's after I walk into my bank, asked for a manager, and made sure that there is no possible way that I'm being scammed and the funds will not disappear.) That's about what it would be worth to me to go build an audience from scratch on another page and might just cover the costs for the time it takes to do so.

I know the bitter, cruel irony here is that no one who sends me these fucking messages will ever read this FAQ. But at least that felt good to write.

12- Will you sit my pet?

I'm afraid not. I've hung up my leash and catnip. I mean, I'll do anything but hurt someone if the price is right because I've got to survive capitalism like everyone else, but it would be prohibitively expensive.

13- Where can I get some advice about writing.

I need to be on The Office so I can look at the camera.

Here. Here would be a great place to start for advice about writing. Try here. This blog. The whole thing. HERE.


14- Just a FB thumb up.

I'm not sure how people could send a page admin a thumb up accidentally so I suspect what is going on here is people messing with the fact that if I don't reply to every message, FB takes away my "responds frequently" (or whatever the fuck) badge and I have to wander through the wasteland of my own social media feces screaming to the heavens "Why have you forsaken me?" because what even is the world coming to without page admins struggling to be judged by Facebook as "very responsive."

So people send me a thumb up (or "Hi" or "Hey" or "Sup") just because they think I'll reply instantly to keep my "responsive" cred. When FB sends me a $500 check each month that I earn "very responsive," I'll start replying to a message that is just a thumb.

Until then, I'll be "very responsive" for a select few. #ohyesItotallywentthere

15- Hello./Hey there./Hi there./Ho there./What's up?/Can I ask you a question?

I appreciate your decorum if that's what you were going for, but whatever it is you want, please just get to it in your opening message rather than waiting for a reply. There are way too many many of these interactions, and about 99% of them are actually hacked accounts fishing to see who will reply, so I end up getting harassed if I reply.

Just say whatever it is you want to say (hopefully after having read this FAQ), and I will respond appropriately.

16- Sending a question to my personal FB mailbox instead of the page's FB mailbox.

It's all just me. You're not going to get your answer any faster or get any better of a response by doing that. Your message will end up in "Filtered Message Requests" which means I won't see it right away. And using that route to be combative sort of feels like showing up to a coworker's house to have an argument about last Tuesday at work. So maybe keep that in mind if you were hoping to get an answer.

I'm particularly fond of the "Thanks for banning me asshole" versions. They're always real measured and unbiased takes on how I've failed to moderate my page in an appropriate way. I might have to make them a blog post some day.


You can't make me read that.

I know we're all writers, but I typically describe my free time in terms of negative numbers. I get 50+ messages a day and unless I want my job to be Message Responder, I am not able to sit and read the ones that demand 5-10 minutes of my time just to read. Particularly by those who conflate loquacious with eloquent. Please get to the point and/or open with one GREAT FUCKING hook because trust that when I see unfathomable huge blocks of mammothian paragraphs, I just assume that it's self-important bloviation, with huge tangents about Bukowski or some shit, and delete it unread.

18- Where can I get that t-shirt/mug/thing I really liked?

Whenever I find something still attached to its original commercial source, I will put it in the OP. If someone knows the source and puts that in the comments, I will edit the OP. But if I don't know and no one out there knows, the only thing I would do is try a reverse image search on Google and start digging through the results, same as anyone else. I'd suggest giving that a try.

19- Messages sent to me in obvious altered states of consciousness.

Sober up first please.

Okay these aren't exactly questions but they are all too frequent.

Nudes (w/o prior consent), marriage proposals, raging screeds, strange claims of supernatural forces in my life that only converting to your religion can save me from. I'm not even going to dignify them with a response. 

But for FUCK'S sake, when you sober up, the message you should be sending me is "I'm sorry," not "Hey, why didn't you reply to this?"

20- WILL I marry you?

I'm pretty sure this was probably meant to be this flattering joke, but just so you know, I've actually hit that point of internet "fame" (or whatever the hell you want to call it) where I've had some online stalking and gotten unsolicited sex pics and some creepy obsessive behavior and some people who aren't well giving me some very uncomfortable focus, so this level of flirting makes me uncomfortable as an "opener." It's under FREQUENTLY asked questions because it happens....a lot. Surely there are other ways to be cute and appreciative and if you're trying to hit on me, you can take it slower.

And if you're at all serious....I PROMISE that I'm not the person you think I am anyway. There's a lot of projection and idealization that can happen between an artist/entertainer and their fans. You want to marry the person you think I am....but I'm not that person. I leave my socks on the floor and have trouble articulating my desires and work too hard and am introverted and workaholic to the point of flakiness. Plus I would be ten minutes late to my own funeral. 

21- I was too impersonal in my reply to your question.

So this is another one that isn't a question so much as a reaction that has happened a few times. And even though it's "a few times" out of hundreds (maybe thousands), and I should probably trust that the law of large numbers applies, and that it's more about them than me, I worry about this shit.

I'm sensitive and crap.

I know for some people starting a PM is like reaching out personally and it might feel brusque of me to simply reply politely but briefly to whatever the question was. Please remember that I'm getting 50+ messages a day I'm trying to be a writer not an email answerer, so I get through my admin stuff as quickly as I can. That means, while I try to be friendly and polite, my responses might be quick and to the point.

If you were hoping to become virtual pen pals, exchange warm replies back and forth for days, maybe buy me a drink the next time you're in the SF Bay area, and perhaps even end up riding Medusa at Discovery Kingdom with our pinkies locked, you should let me know that's on your agenda and not just ask me if I know who wrote "that one meme about the fish."

21- Oh great. I see that you've seen my message but you won't reply. Thanks a whole lot you jerkwad. What is wrong with you?

I hate that people can tell when I've "seen" their chats. I hate it with the white hot fury of a billion supernovas. Because not everything is urgent. And sometimes I triage that shit. And sometimes I triage it right into the ignore pile. And it is a universal constant that the people who send the most ignorable messages that are clearly answered in the FAQ are also the ones who think they are absolutely the most important people in the universe and get bent out of shape if I don't reply within two or three hours.

Sorry random person. There was a time when I could give thoughtful responses to everybody who sent me a private message. That time was about 400,000 followers ago. Now I'm writing an FAQ instead of a regular post so that I can reply with this to generic questions I get a zillion of.

But go ahead and ask again. I can cut and paste the URL of this snazzy new FAQ to you.

22- Hey you posted my thing/my friend's thing/a thing I know the source of/a webcomic I want to see succeed. Can you make an attribution/repost with credit/give me a shout out?

Yes. Thank you. Crediting artists is important to me since I am one. There are half a million of you and one of me and the internet is a big place where reverse image searches don't always work (or are directly deceived), people steal images and add their own watermark, and where it's impossible to know who is happy to go viral with mere watermark credit, who wants a shout out, who wants a URL link, and who will be upset if their page isn't shared from directly.

I appreciate the help.

I will add one caveat to this. The world is full of people who are so desperate to promote themselves that they might try to take credit for something they didn't actually create. Or more likely they will post something (gotten from elsenet) and then assume that I (having also got it from elsenet) MUST have gotten it from their site. ("I posted this and you posted it three days later." "Yeah, but it's going viral right now, so––" "CLEARLY YOU GOT IT FROM ME!!!") If you are the original creator of something, I absolutely want you to have credit, but send me a link to the original image. I tend to err on the side of trust, but if you send me a link to your tumblr (or whatever) and it's full of thousands of memes you've just reposted over the years, I'm probably going to be skeptical that you are actually the "creator."

23- You should just make sure you know where something is from!

Like all the other pages and Tumblrs and Pinterests, right?

Look, I do my best. I always hit "share" if the source page matches the author. There are pages and sites that people hate because they're problematic, and I'm trying to navigate a big, complicated world. However, some of the stuff I'm posting has been image grabbed and reposted thousands of times. Some of it has been taken credit for by five or six different sources. Some of it would take some serious detective work to track down. Doing more would change the time I take to find an image from a minute or two to as many as 15-20. And that's PER post.  That would add hours a day to my schedule, and that would add a level of difficulty I'm just not able to do. I would abandon the effort altogether.

Since there's one of me and nearly a million of you, maybe if you see something you want credited, you could just let me know where it's from, and I'll edit the OP right away.

And I know people's hearts are in the right place but even so, super shitty sanctimonious comments drift into the territory of my commenting policy.

24- I would like to volunteer.

That is so sweet!

Currently, I don't have a lot of volunteer opportunities. You can keep your eyes open for the posts where I'm hoping to get a transcription. And if you see a typo and want to give me a shout out, that wouldn't be unwelcome. And if you have the chops to write a guest post, but then don't take the money when I try to pay you, that could technically be volunteering.

But here's the thing. I don't want to take advantage of this. I  pay my editors, guest bloggers, and website designers, and come up with some kind of trade in trade with anyone else unless they insist they don't want that money. So please only do this if you really really really want to volunteer.

Ironically, one of the best ways you can help the most (beyond a donation) is super easy: just engage with the posts I send over from my blog. The FB algorithm is a cross between a greedy shitgibbon, a lawyer with a $50k retainer, a code monkey who will do anything to stop free advertising except actually come up with a way to separate advertisers from content creators, and Satan. So tossing a like or a comment on those posts is an almost zero-effort way to help me be seen by more people, and it makes a big difference.

25- I answered your question/told you where something was from/mentioned a problem in one of your posts, but you didn't react.

Did you do that in the comments? Because like I said up above, I can't really read the comments. If it's important, send me a PM. I check back when I can, but that's really only a glance at the top comments of the most recent posts.

26- Can I get an autograph?


This is all very new to me and weird and I've got huge imposter syndrome and I still think people who want my autograph are trying to trick me somehow, but this question keeps coming up, so I better answer it.

If you let me know you'd like to send me physical correspondence, I will give you a P.O. Box address that I check regularly.

Send me something I can sign (I don't have a book I've authored or anything yet) with a self addressed stamped envelope, and I will sign it and send it back. Please cover all the postage both ways.

Or just give me your address and I'll send you a postcard.

I won't turn down a donation, but there is no "charge."

27- I can't believe you're okay with what's going on in the comments on that one post.


Writing About Writing maxes out its 100 notifications badge in less that four or five minutes. I don't know how many comments I get every day, but it's way too many for me to have read them. Some posts get threads that are thousands long. I've seen posts that are six months old still having people basically chatting in the comments on them. It's not that I didn't care. It's most likely that I didn't even know.

If something has gone past your ability to handle, and you need me to step in as an admin, link me to the post and tell me what the problem is.

28- Here's a poem I wrote, and have sent you, unsolicited.

That's amazing! It's identical to the poem I just deleted unread.

29- If you're so overwhelmed, why don't you get admins?

Because I'm a control junkie.

Oh you were hoping for a long, rambling answer that wasn't breathtakingly self-honest! Well in that case.....aside from the occasional Social Justice Bard post.... Or maybe a macro that suggests that bigotry isn't awesome just because people who don't suffer systematic forms of it have decided that a particular expression is no big deal..... Or perhaps something horrifying to Status Quo Defenders like the idea that representation matters.....   Other than those posts, I don't really get the kind of comments off of grammar jokes and "You should be writing" memes that require roving bands of admins. I can swing through posts like the ones above, clean up the worst offenders, and trust that most of my followers are adults who will message me if they need me to step in on something. [Please include the link as well as telling me what's going on. Sometimes the comments rage for DAYS and I won't be able to just figure out which post you're talking about.]

And even though admins can reply to messages, having them handle "Can you post my thing?" or "Will you read my story?" isn't really what I think anyone would want to do. The last one whose job it was to answer my inbox left me for a beluga whale named Percival.

Basically, it's the wrong kind of "overwhelmed" for farming out the work. Hopefully this FAQ helps–or at least helps me to feel better about ignoring some of the questions that are answered here.

30- Hello from my sock puppet account that I made specifically to message you. We meet again, Mr Brecheen! Why did you ban my main account? Is it because you hate the founding principles of democracy like free speech? And can I get reinstated because I've suddenly realized that shitting on that post means now I don't get all the rest of your awesome content?

(Okay, maybe this exact phrasing isn't, strictly speaking, FREQUENT)

Why did this happen? Probably because you violated the commenting policy. I didn't write that just to hear myself speak. Or um...read myself write. (That does not work nearly as well.) I don't have time for warnings and explanations and the inevitable back and forth arguments that come from them. Pretty much every place you ever go has rules and a code of conduct whether it's to keep your shoes and shirt on or to keep your voice down if you don't want the librarian to shush and glare. And if you blithely ignore them, they show you the door. It has nothing to do with fucking democracy.

And if you message my personal account and I don't see "I'm sorry" in the first couple of lines, I just delete the shit unread. Hope you spent HOURS on it boyo.

I might be willing to unban someone if they apologize, but I'm not going to do so on a timetable that would allow them to jump right back into whatever argument got them banned in the first place. So you will have to hang in the penalty box for a while either way.

31- For a page about writing....

I'm going to stop you right there, boss.

Is what you're about to say kind of elitist, snotty, shitty, jerkwaddy, fucknozzly? Are you about to complain about the proper use of subjunctive in a FB post. Are you about to wax intellectual about the decay of western civilization because a Tumblr post lacked punctuation (even though it was piss-easy to figure out what it meant)? Is this going to be a comment where you sneer down your nose because my text to speech picked a homophone and I was too Driving on the Freeway to fix it right away? Are you about to laugh at my non-academic use of some word. Do you have something to say about "climbing down" ladders, "making" money, splitting infinitives, ending sentences in prepositions, or beginning them with coordinating conjunctions.

A) Fuck off.

B) Go teach high school if you want to be that person. The adults are trying to have a conversation.

C) I get paid....professionally....with like actual money, to basically make fun of assholes. Are you sure you want this to be your play?

D) If you insist on saying it anyway, the ONLY thing keeping you from getting banned might be how long it's been since I've gotten well and truly laid. [And right now we're in a pandemic quarantine.] Be warned.

32- I am your customer; You certainly did not treat me with the proper deference!

Okay no one actually says this. I have to infer it from their entitled attitudes.

Believe it or not, sometimes, if I just reply to a question with a brief answer or a quick answer and a link that answers the question, people will lose their fucking shit like woah. Because apparently they think I'm like Nordstrom's customer service and they are my big-fish client here to drop some serious Benjamins if I treat them with the deference they deserve. Clearly I am not spending enough hours a day doing free work, and I need to craft them a personal response that is both gratified that they graced me with a question they could have found the answer to in five minutes and so fucking courteous that they feel bathed in the milk of human kindness.

Actually, I'm pretty sure the law of large numbers just means that some people are going to be having a bad day or read a quick response as undeserved of a human of their stature because of maximum bad faith, but at a million followers and less that .001% of them being actual "customers (Patrons)," I have negative values of time for that sort of bullshit.

33- Did you delete my comment?


More likely just set it so that only you and your friends could see it. So you go back and check it and then have an existential crisis about why no one is liking it. But I maybe just deleted. There's sort of an "asshole threshold" and trying to explain to you exactly where the hide-to-delete asshole threshold on a comment would be is not something I'm really interested in explaining.

34- Well why did you do THAT?? 

It's not like I have a flow chart.

Sometimes I just think "Shut the fuck up." And since I'm the one who knocks have all the admin tools, I can actually see to it that someone DOES.

I dunno, was it kind of a shitty comment? Was it elitist? Was it absolutist? Was it lecturing people about The One True Way™ to be a writer? Were you piggy backing off a funny eggcorn macro to just generally complain about grammar. Did you reply to the title or preview text without reading the article. Or were you being a prescriptive prig in a post about how being a prescriptive prig is priggish?

Was it the kind of comment where you thought you were "telling someone off" instead of communicating? Were you being a jerk or snotty or snide? Was it a social issue that I totally agree with but you were being a really obnoxious jackhole about it? Did you refuse to acknowledge nuance in a situation that has some? Were you basically using my hard-won platform to be preachy about something that I find vaguely annoying? Did it violate our commenting policy which I did not spend fifty hours writing because it was a great time? Was it overly encouraging of Welsh-American separatism?

I didn't read the comment. 
But let me show you what I think about people who don't 
read the article to which they're replying.
There are tons reasons I hide comments that range from it being just a little too acerbic... 

To something problematic that I don't want to have a thirty comment fight with people saying "Well *I* didn't see a problem with it"....

To my personal pet peeve of people who take it upon themselves to answer mailbox questions clearly without having read the article.
(Look, I'm thrilled if you found the question provocative, but read the post be ready to have your comment deleted)... 

To projectile word vomit of several hefty paragraphs in response to a title clearly without having actually read the article.

I put time and effort into my content. Having someone basically "listen to themselves talk" about it when it's piss obvious they didn't read what I wrote is super annoying. I'm a flawed human and that's one of those things I'm really bad about just shrugging off. I know it's the internet, but I find it insufferable.

And though I can't run a page about writing where I ever successfully get rid of every comment kvetching about grammar, that's not what we're here for. So you know...there's a lower "shitty-to-delete" threshold on that shit.

And....and..........AND....yeah, I probably hid it. Comments are moderated on this page and you should read the commenting policy if you don't know exactly how and why. I would love to have a policy that is simply "Don't be an asshole," but it saves me a lot of grief to spell out what that means.

35- No Bro. You full-on DELETED my comment!

I'm not your bro.

The number one reason I full-on delete comments is that people leave exactly the sort of comment I tell people openly that I'm going to delete. I know that seems like it would be pretty sodding rare, but it happens all the time. Either they don't make it to the end of the post itself to read or they don't click on the links where, like, the first paragraph says "I'm going to delete such-and-such comments from my FB page,"

Or maybe they don't care.

I don't spend a lot of time worrying about the fact that I haven't read the bloviations of someone who didn't take a moment to read mine.

The number two reason I full-on delete comments is that they were overt, naked bigotry of some type or encouraged self harm or were otherwise absurdly abusive.

Number three is that a fight breaks out in a thread. I'm not here to host bullshit. If one person is clearly in need of a banning, I'll do that, but if everybody's dillholinating the countryside, I nuke the whole thread from orbit (it's the only way to be sure).

Number four? Banning people. That deletes all their comments everywhere on the whole page. While rare, it can happen instantly to bigots or two or three posts if I recognize that someone is going to backlash every time I post about social issues, or it might be that long, slow burn that takes six months of a person slowly getting on my radar and then becoming recognizable and then watching their patterns before I say to myself, "Self, they are always just a tosser every time they comment. I don't think they're really doing much but making this a worse little corner of the internet. This is no longer worth it."

I don't erase comments that disagree with me. You can see that easily from a casual glance at any post that is even moderately controversial. I erase comments that are buckets of anal sphincters.

Don't be a bucket of sphincters, and your comment won't get erased.

36- You're biased in favor of liberals and progressive values! You let liberals get away with more. That's unfair moderating. What about conservatives? What about libertarians? You are where FREEZE PEACH goes to die!!! What about folks on 'the other side.'

What about them? I'm not running the goddamned debate club here, and no one is entitled to feed my posts through their ideological filters and then comment without consequence or treat my comments section like it's a podium.

I do a thing.

If you don't like that thing AND can't scroll past that thing AND have to comment AND can't comport yourself in any way other than an edgelord shithead, my page is not for you anyway. If you want to take umbrage or a shot, fucking play nice and you may even get some discussion. That's really the only goddamned rule. I'm not going to excuse bigotry because some people believe it exists on a political spectrum they're entitled to discuss anywhere and everywhere they want to and that white nationalists and nazis and racists and misogynists deserve to be able to drop whatever dehumanizing festering shit turd of a comment they can pinch out in the name of free speech whether they agree with it or just haven't grown out of their basic immaturity long enough to realize people's lives are at stake. I'm not here to host the bullshit idea that reacting to oppression with angry internet words is "just as bad" as the oppression itself.

There are a million ways to disagree without getting banned. (I've got that artists' weakness for nuance and humanization, so seriously all you have to actually do is not be a total fucknoodle.) And while there is a complicated point to be made about power differentials and privilege, if it helps you feel better to just imagine that I am unfairly mean to anyone who isn't a liberal, you just go ahead and tell yourself that when you're lying awake in bed at night.

37- Why don't you do more wordplay riddles like you used to. They're fun.

Basically because this page is too big now. Too many people too eager to show off that they know the answer end up making it so that you can't look at the post without seeing the answer right there in the comments before you've even had a chance to think about it. I would have to monitor comments too closely to keep the riddle from being spoiled for everyone else. Even when I ask in the post to let people have a chance, it doesn't even slow folks down. Sorry.  Just one of those things that doesn't work well on social media where you can just SEE the comments (rather than having to click to open them or something).

38- Can I ask you a quick question?

You can ditch the soft positioning and actually respect my time. 

I love questions! I have an entire part of my blog that is dedicated to them called THE MAILBOX. You may even end up getting answered as part of our "show." But there's a way to ask those sorts of questions and even though I do a lot of "variations on a theme," I'm not going to reanswer the same question for the blog over and over again. I'll really WILL usually answer questions if they really are quick (pinkie swear), but please don't be a dillhole if I point you toward an article I've already written.

And please respect my boundaries if I have to say no. Not every question is actually quick, feedback is an incredibly involved process, I may have already done the hard work of a nuanced answer and I'm just linking you the article to save myself time (not to be rude), and "One more quick question" is a way to piecemail attain the kind of labor from me that I normally charge $60+ USD for,

39- Why didn't you approve my post.

I didn't NOT approve your post. If you tried to post on the page, it shows up as a GUEST POST and those are in different places from the posts that I put up. They do not immediately go out to people the way the regular posts do, and from what I can tell, FB has gone to great lengths to keep people from availing themselves easily of a platform that isn't their own. 

There is no approval process. Your post just shows up. I don't even see most of them. But the FB algorithm doesn't show them to as many people as the main posts (the ones I put up), so it better be VERY interesting/funny/whatever if you want engagement.

I cruise through there every few days to make sure no one is spamming us. If people are dropping links to self-promotion or ads, I delete it and ban them and if they're just trying to promote themselves I delete it the first time and ban them if they keep it up. But a lot of those guest posts get past me. 

If you are very interested in a main post, PM me and let's talk. I won't post your fiction or poetry or YOUR blog about writing (unless I find it AWESOME) or promotional stuff, so you shouldn't bother asking (the few artists I've promoted here have been longtime friends––membership has its privileges), but I am often willing to post the kinds of things I USUALLY post here that you're just sharing with me (like a great meme you found), links to contests (provided they're not super local), and relevant stuff. 

40- Can we be Facebook friends?

[Okay, most people don't really ask me this, per se; they just send me friends requests.]

Yes, you may, but let me make a few disclaimers:
  • This is my public account: Chris Brecheen (Public) If you've stumbled upon my private account, the answer will be no. That account is for friends, family, and people I've known online either for a very long time or have developed a rapport with. It's not the VIP room or anything, but it's an essential aspect of a private life as my online persona becomes very public. I need to trust those people aren't just with me for the show.
  • You might want to follow for a while and decide IF you want to send me a friend request. I'm definitely not everyone's cup of tea with the geekery and the social justice stuff. 99.9% of my posts are public, so you really wouldn't be missing anything except the ability to comment.
  • If you don't care for my (very) occasional social issues post on the Writing About Writing Facebook Page, you will like my profile even less. I write about that stuff almost daily.
  • I can be a bit much for people. I post a lot. 
  • I have 1 "Note" that is a Commenting Policy for this profile. You should read it before charging in. ESPECIALLY before charging into a contentious post.
  • Send me a PM with your request. (Don't worry, I check my "Message Requests" at least once a day.) That account gets around 200-500 friend requests a week. I reject most of them because I don't know if they're there to try and rent my page or just pick a fight in the comments. So send me a message along with the request.
More to come....

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Vlog returns

[I gave up with a flawed take after...I dunno twelve tries?]

Hi everyone,

Today seems as good a time as any to reintroduce Vlogs here at Writing About Writing. We got a little side tracked there for a while because of the move and stuff, but life is getting back to normal and some of our old regular bits here are returning.

Now this one here is just a filler vlog, to kind of remind folks that this is something I will be doing, and that I always intended to get back to it as my life came back together and stopped looking so much like a post apocalypse movie.

We’ll probably only do about one a month.

I know some of you don’t like vlogs, preferring to just read. I’m the same way, so I’m going to put my write up in text at the bottom. It may not have every tangent I go on, every change I make extemporaneously, and my speaking rhythm is much different than my writing one, but for those of you who hate vlogs, it will at least have the basic information.

I also have a video editing program that came with my MacBook, so over the next few months, depending on the learning curve for that, I may be able to make videos that I don’t have to do all in one take.

The reason I’m posting this TODAY is because of Writing About Writing’s meta mission to bring you the “behind the scenes” of writing–to demystify the impression some people have that writers do very little work they don’t like, simply get hit by inspiration, and then birth a work of genius.

So let me tell you about yesterday….

Yesterday I sat down to work, because that’s what working writers do, and I stared at the same paragraph for 14 hours. The words just did not come. And I sat there and sat there, and I pecked at that paragraph and I finally got it done. But it took all day.

And some days are like that. You just have to sit down and have shitty productivity because that discipline and habit is the price you pay for the twelve and sixteen hour productivity days the next day or the next week.  Now today, I’ve managed to do a couple of hours of solid writing already but if I’d just given up yesterday, it would be that much harder today.

So I just want people to know… if you think that just because I have an audience and make money writing doesn’t mean I don’t have shitty days…it doesn’t.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Best Book Marketed to Young Women (Last call for nominations/seconds)

What is the best book marketed to young women?  

I've got a dozen things to do today that aren't blogging, so I'm going to just remind everyone that I'm going to start semifinals (quarterfinals?) for this poll THIS weekend. So get in your nominations in and second the titles you want to see on the poll. But do so on the ORIGINAL POST! I can't guarantee any nominations on this post will make it onto the poll.

Also the rules are there; probably worth a glance.

If I fall into the free time that is theoretically out there after all this basic crap is in the "Done" pile, I'll keep going on the Tab Cleanup Project™ which is about to enter the Facebook Page Stage–a handful of posts for the now half a million people following Writing about Writing on Facebook. You might see something going up later on today if that goes well.

Note: I've noticed that a few of the nominated titles are definitely NOT Y.A. (remember it's not when a bunch of bibliophiles reading way above their level got into it that defines what that means). I don't really have a way to enforce what gets nominated or even a good definition for where the line is, but I'm going to veto some of the clearly adult titles.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Five Steps to Motivational Rejuvenation (Mailbox)

How do you get back lost motivation for a project that's been on hiatus? 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will try to answer a couple each week (after this week). 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. Thursday might look suspiciously like Wednesday when I am actually so far behind that this should have gone up six fucking days ago.]  

Antonio asks:  

I have a story that I had to put on hold for at least six months because of other projects. Now I really want to get on it. But every time I see the point where I left it... I kinda feel disconnected and unmotivated.


My reply:

I answered a question not too long ago about how important it can be to at least "poke" at a work in progress if you don't want it to go stale. One of the reasons for that is exactly this. If you leave a project on the back burner for too long, there can then be a divestment of brain from interest. Maybe you think of a couple of good things here and there or a twist you would love to add, but mostly that motivation has dried out and your passion for the project goes stale. It can be really hard to try and just pick back up where you left off when your mind is scratching at the inside of your skull to try and get the gestalt of your idea on paper, but the trail has gone cold where you actually are in the writing.

Before I let Ima Lister slap down the Patented Guide to Rekindling Your Passion....(for an abandoned work in progress)™, let me just make one more quick USDA Writing Guild required disclaimer. This is the reason that it's generally a good idea to keep a limited number of irons in the fire and is why so many writers who have "made it" yodel from the mountaintops, at the slightest opportunity, the advice to finish one's shit. It is so so so so so fucking easy to take a break that turns into forever. Finishing projects, especially before bounding off to new projects, is one of the most powerful skills a writer (any artist really) can ever learn.

From here, I'm going to hand my reply over to Ima Lister, who has a few things–well five of them actually–to say about this.

Hi everyone. 

Time for me to drop my Patented Guide to Rekindling Your Passion....(for an abandoned work in progress)™. Remember to try these steps in order as each may depend on the aggregate effect of those that came before. Skipping right to step four might seem like taking Percocet instead of Advil for your headache because "fuck it, I need the good stuff," but it'll actually be less effective if you haven't run the gamut first.

1- Reread your work. 

Simple. Elegant. Refined. And ironically so overlooked.

Many writers simply look at their stale work in progress and never pick it up. And when I say they "look at it," I mean they physically glance at it from across the room. Or think about it in passing as they're eating a chocolate cream pie and rewatching season 1 of Sense8 to prepare for the coming of season 2 next month. Or perhaps once every few months, they open the text file to that blinking cursor, skim the last paragraph for the thousandth time, and then close the file again because they're just not feeling it. And if they're really avoiding it, they might carefully tiptoe around the WIP, avoiding it at all costs. They glance down the hall to make sure it's not in the bathroom before darting to their bedroom, and listen carefully for sounds in the kitchen before going to eat so that they don't run into it at the breakfast table–a bite of bran flakes frozen halfway to its mouth as their eyes meet.

"Why aren't you working on me?"

"Eat your fucking cereal."

*eyes narrow*

But what they don't do is sit down and reread it–from the very beginning. They don't give themselves that jump back into the world of their fiction. They don't engage what once captured their imagination and let all those ideas come flooding back. They don't remind themselves of all the little things they gave attention to when writing it.

Honestly, give the old dusted off words a good once over. Let the prose take you back to where your mind was when you were writing it. Fire up a few of the old synapses. You're going to remember more about what you wanted to do and where you wanted to go than you even realize you forgot.

For the first time through, don't mess with it if you see some revisions you want to make. Let the urge to make it better go un-indulged and let that create a tension within you to return to the work.

And if reading it doesn't work by itself....

2- Do a little revision. 

Holding back from revising during your first read might have you chomping at the bit to make some changes.

That's okay. That's what you want.  Anything to get you back to this piece.

However, if you're not so enthusiastic even after reading over some things you really think you could have worded a lot better, go ahead and try to make a few changes anyway–even if it's just to clean up the language and tighten up the grammar. Lord knows that shit could at least use some proofreading.

Going under the hood of your story kind of forces you into that mode you were in when you were working on the story before. Like most of writing, it's recursive, and you are likely to think of improvements faster than you can make them. Hopefully this knocks over enough dominos to start a chain reaction and topple you back into the headspace you were in when you were really hitting it on the regular.

But if that doesn't work....

3- Skip ahead from where you are, and write the next scene you are really into.

One of the problems with a project losing steam is that you just weren't as into the next thing that needed writing as the arc in general. Maybe the next scene you were really into was several pages from where you are now and the idea of the filler wasn't grabbing you. Maybe every time you thought about getting back into the writing, you were daunted because the next thing you had to write was a scene you weren't that into or some plodding exposition to get your characters from Cool Event 1 to Cool Event 2.

Setting aside for a moment that your reader is likely to be Just. As. Bored. and feel like something is mind-numbing filler if the writer does, the easiest way to deal with this as a writer who "doesn't wanna" right now is to skip ahead. Fuck it! There's no rule that you have to write the whole manuscript in order from first page to last. Do a scene you're really excited about to help get you back into the groove. Then use that momentum to swing back around on revision and fill in the stuff you weren't so hot on.

You may even think of a much a better way to get through that part you're not so hot on besides a slog of events you're less excited about writing.

And if this doesn't work, it might be time for some painful self honesty.....

4- Are you sure you want to write this? Like...really sure?

Okay, so you've tried everything else and nothing's working. You're just not feeling it. It's time to ask yourself a really tough question from that place of deep and profound honesty. Go to your happy place, align your chakras, and high-five your patronus. And then ask yourself this question:

Do you really want to write this piece?

Remember you're not asking yourself if you think there's any possible story there or any writing value, or even if you might want to return to this story someday. Rather, you're trying to figure out if you really want to put in the time and energy to write this piece right now.

And please understand...you don't have to. You're not obligated to love everything you start. (It's a good idea to try to finish, but there's a difference between abandoning one project that just wasn't doing it for you after a while and having sixteen half-finished novels lying around the house, all of which you're going to get back to "someday.") Maybe inspiration really did dry up. Maybe you've moved on as an artist. Maybe it'll come back around in a month or a year.

Sometimes writers get attached to projects because of the amount of time they've already invested in them. It's kind of part and parcel with this hubris that everything written must somehow be destined for future publication. They really need to remember that some things they write are only ever going to be practice.

Is it possible that what you really need to do is put that project on the shelf for either years or forever? Reach deep into your soul and be brutally honest.

You still want to do this? Okay, well in that case....

5-Physically rewrite what you have so far.

Take a copy, print it out, put it down next to you, and start to type the whole thing from scratch.

Hang on. Deep breaths.

I know you just felt your anal sphincter clench hard and that may sound very, very daunting, but this is actually something you should be doing anyway. Computers have made a generation of writers who are terrified of revision involving full rewriting, and they only want to tweak their completed computer drafts. Truth be told, the best thing most of them could do would be to completely rewrite their story at least once.

Can you imagine that this was once the only way to revise? Even ten, twelve, twenty times...always completely rewritten. We may not be fettered to archaic technology, but sometimes a good part of the writing process gets tossed with the luddite bathwater.

Two things happen here. Number one, you can't type as fast as you can think (by hundreds of words a minute) and if you're forced into the world of your story, you're probably going to be thinking about that. Now maybe this will simply yank your creativity cord like starting an old small engine. (Is it true lawn mowers don't have pull-start engines anymore? KIDS THESE DAYS!). You may recognize this technique from the movie Finding Forrester. (Or maybe you're way too old to have seen that and I am obviously a fossil.) But they did pick a trick that actually works pretty well. It's rather difficult to type something and not engage it in a creative way.

This may also lead to some of the really good artistic magic. Since you're rewriting instead of cutting and pasting, you will likely be willing to take bigger chances–like changing the tense or removing whole scenes or taking out a character. Redoing the whole thing means you're less married to all that draft and since you're doing the work regardless, you might find exactly the bit that was causing the wind drag in the first place. And with some surgery, your story is back where you were, looking better than ever, and with you excited about moving forward.