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

Friday, August 16, 2019

Another Cranky Rant: No I Won't Give You a Free Book (Claire Youmans)

Some people, I have to give free books.  There aren’t many of them.  Either they’ve done me huge services in exchange for a book or books or I’m closely related to them. I also have to have a set in my office to show off. 

This year I have SIX books. All shiny new, with consistent styles and new covers and better jacket copy. All of which cost me a pretty penny, let me tell you.

I just ordered the sets that I HAVE TO give away and have on hand to be sent to Japan from wherever they’ll be printed.  I still have more to order for shipment to the US. In the process, I found out some highly disturbing information.

All those “fees” and “costs” that I’m now being charged meant I had to raise prices, as I’ve said.  But somewhere along the line, my profit margin went way, way down, too.  On a hard-copy book, at full retail price, MY share is less than $0.75.  Yes, that is not a typo. I get less than seventy-five cents. I have to sell like Anne Rice or Stephen King before I even cover my costs. 

If I use my special author price, I simply don’t get the seventy three or fewer cents. I also have to pay for shipping.  I should do this for you? I bet you won’t even write a review. If you bother to read it. 

So that “free book” is costing me just about what it would cost you, if you’d just order it yourself. You can get it for less — YOU can read it for FREE — if you go into your public library and ask them to order it. Yes, the books are available from the Secret Library Distributor Catalogs, of course. 

Loan you my copies? Besides the fact that I’d never get them back, do I look like a library to you? Just go to the library and ask them to order them for you.  I need MY copies right here.

I’m a writer and I’m not going to stop doing that. I am very fortunate that I am in a position of being able to do so. But given the way the industry is moving, I may give some serious though as to whether I want to publish over the next few years. I may want to wait until the industry shakes out and stops trying to shake me down. 

My books are damned good.  They are well worth reading.  But, to quote the song about a chair, “If I can’t sell it, I’m gonna sit right here on it. I ain’t gonna give it away."

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Lesser Writer (Mailbox)

I feel like I'm the "lesser writer" oft spoken of.

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer questions about once a 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. Let me assuage you that there is no magic to writing.]   

Serena asks:

Hello Chris. I know you likely get thousands of messages a day, but I hope that you see this. Your page means a lot to me.

I'm struggling at the moment with feeling like I'm the "lesser writer" that reviewers refer to in their patented "In the hands of a lesser writer" line.

Advice? Thoughts? I'm willing to have this post made public if you're willing to publish it!

My reply:

Thousands?  Maybe more like ten to twenty on a busy day. But when they're all asking me for free editing or why I do transcriptions, it can feel like thousands, so let's go with that. (I'm hoping to use "Do you know who I am?" on the host staff at The Olive Garden later if the wait is over fifteen minutes, and this is exactly the inflating pep talk I need.) Anyway, my outrageous fame and thousands of messages about free feedback are exactly why I'm so excited to get interesting questions that I'm not only willing to publish, but that actually keep the lights on around here.

"In the hands of a lesser writer...."

Let me start by saying that the way the world (and even writers themselves) talks about writing and writers does an incredible disservice to writing and writers.

If you're a musician, everybody knows you have to practice for years before you can go join the symphony or make enough money on tour to have dental insurance. And we're not talking years of one hour a week either.

If you're on a theater stage professionally, there is probably a 90% chance that you have an MFA in theater arts, which represents at least seven years of hardcore training....and that's if you didn't start in junior high. Outside of sheer inter-industry nepotism, the amount of time actors spend before getting in front of a CAMERA is comparable (if they do not straight up have a theater background).

If you're a visual artist (painting or sculpture), it will probably be years of doodling, sketching, playing and creating projects before you get a piece of work in a gallery or an installation in a festival, and years more before you have your own show.

Architecture...?  A five-year degree and ongoing education with probably a decade of experience before getting to design a building that's bigger than a Mellow Mushroom or more interesting than someone's conversion of a garage to an inlaw unit.

But for some reason with writing, we don't talk much about the work. The long, shitty, unpaid hours that every artist goes through get sort of glossed over with the writer, and we talk about writing like it is an innate ability that one either has or doesn't.  Are you a "lesser" writer? Or a "greater" writer?

And never the twain shall meet.

But the twain do meet. The twain get together for lunch once a week, and sometimes the twain get a hotel room at the Radisson afterwards and spend the afternoon. Because we were all lesser writers once. And the liminal space between is vast and messy.

Maybe it's because you don't SEE writers doing their shit for years in the form of all those tossed manuscript drafts and rejection letters. Maybe it's because the writing MFA is not as vital to critical or commercial success as theater MFA or as non-negotiable as a degree in architecture. Maybe it's a certain sprezzatura that writers employ, obfuscating the tremendous effort behind what they make look easy.

If you're feeling like "the lesser writer," the best advice I can possibly give you is to keep writing until you're not a lesser writer anymore. Keep reading, keep writing, and remember that all writers who got an "in-the-hands-of-a-lesser-writer" review were themselves once LESSER WRITERS.

They just didn't give up.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Blogust! (Some meta news)

No official post today (I'm taking Wednesdays off) but I have a few tiny bits of update news.

  • Did I mention I'm taking Wednesdays off? Yeah. New thing. The staff kicked me out of the office. 
  • Five days was too much with the kid wrangling. (Had it wired there for a bit when I could write when the baby was down, but with a five year old joining the mix, it's a no go.) This is a temporary "feast" schedule that is helping me save up a nest egg to get through the recession that is coming (oh yes, my friends) when I will surely lose ALL THE PATRONS, as well as to keep me writing as long as possible in five more months when the niblet goes to pre-school and my hours get cut. Thursdays will still be mailbox. Fridays still something crunchy. Monday and Tuesday might be fluffy. 
  • I'll update the schedule this weekend.
  • Blog wants me to hit 50,000 page views by the end of the month. ("Blogust") I think Blog is being a little....ambitious, but they insist I try. 
  • Because of this, I am running a lot of "Best of" articles that have an appeal at the end of them. Because of THAT, I will not be running an official appeals post this month. But I'm always still looking for Patrons. (I'm down $6 this month right now.) Even the $1 and $3 patrons help me by establishing a monthly budget I can count on and a foundation where no one person can knock out 10% of my income by cancelling their pledge. 
  • Don't forget to nominate modern fantasy novels that you want to see in the upcoming poll. No nominations (or seconds) and it doesn't get on the poll.
  • Okay, I'm really leaving now. Day off. I mentioned the day off, right?

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Best Modern Fantasy (Last Chance to Nominate)

What is the best fantasy book (or series) written between 1976 and 2000? 

For any of you who have ever said "How can this poll not have SOANDSO?!?", now is your chance. Get it on the poll and get it some seconds.

We've got to get this poll going so we have time to do horror for Halloween.

We have a decent poll unfolding with some really good books, but it could use more titles.

So please pop over to the original page (very important), read the rules if you haven't yet, and drop a nomination or an undersung hero. 

I'll be putting this poll together next week.

Remember, go to the original page or it won't count. Not a comment here. Not a comment on the Facebook post. Not Tumblr. THE ORIGINAL PAGE.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Waaa and Whew!

Where’ve I been for the last few months? Reissuing The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, along with bringing out The Dragon Sisters, book 6 in the series. That’s where.

Why did I do that?

It’s not just that I ran out of cover options with the old art. It’s not just that, at six books, I needed a universal style sheet, glossary and character list all located in one place. Those would be normal in the production of a book series. Nope. It’s that the publishing industry has changed a lot since 2014, when the first book in this series appeared.

Every writer now has to rethink the entire mechanism of publishing.

What happened, you say?

First, the Big 5 Traditional Publishers started raising prices to usurious profiteering levels. $25 for an e-book? COME ON. But the “experts” say I’m supposed to give mine away? (Not happening.  Either one.)

Second, the “fleece the author” industry grows geometrically every month, with all sorts of products and services you simply MUST have. (No, you don’t.)

Third, Amazon has become a strong player in the “fleece the author” industry by making their ads a crap-shoot. Bid for what you pay for clicks? For ad placement?  Huh? They are also ramping up to charging — this will happen very soon — authors to list their books on the Amazon platform. They already have instituted a “delivery charge” so authors get lower royalties. What’s next?

Fourth, Amazon refuses to discount or set up a return system so that physical outlets simply won’t buy from them. Amazon is now solely a direct to consumer marketplace. This has led Baker and Taylor, the other real catalog from which bookstores, schools and libraries buy, to stop listing anything published on the Amazon platform — this JUST happened. This leaves Ingram Book Company as the only game in town. Ingram already charges listing fees — although this year there are promo codes to get out of them.  I wanted to move SIX books over there before I got charged $49 plus a pop to do that. Ingram also sets your prices. Not terribly high, but higher than I wish, in some cases, I had to set them.

Fifth, Barnes and Noble just got bought out. This, too, JUST happened. Whether this means it’ll go under or somehow be salvaged remains to be seen, but this means outlets for physical books are going to change even more.

Sixth, rounding it off at an even half-dozen, Facebook, a major marketing platform, stopped showing posts to more than a few of your signed up followers unless you pay for ads. And they also do this lottery ad pricing thing.  So it’s not just pay to play, it’s pay more to get on the field, MORE to get a ball, STILL MORE to maybe get picked for a team, and MORE YET to maybe play.

I’ve gone back to school in marketing and advertising. 

This has led me to commission new covers and jacket copy designed for a new kind of consumer. Needing to list the books on IngramSpark, now the only game in town if you want world-wide paperback distribution for stores, schools, libraries and people — something my books require. Using an aggregator to make sure I get world-wide marketing on ALL the platforms, not just Amazon. Using Amazon in the US only, because they’re the biggest retailer in the US, so I have to.

I suspect Amazon is going to start penalizing its readers as it has done its suppliers. I don’t have much evidence of this, but I hear little bits of information from people who sell non-literary products.  I want the versatility to be OFF of Amazon entirely. I suspect this may be in the future. 

Want to see what I have done?  I hope so, because it’s cost me thousands and taken about 4 months of 12 hour days — not counting the actual writing and editing of The Dragon Sisters.  Check out www.tokigirlandsparrowboy.com.  Look at the listings on whatever retailers you frequent. We’re still in process of getting up on all e-book and on-line physical retailers as of this writing, but that should be done in a couple of weeks, with universal links up on the website.

And then give some thought as to whether you REALLY want to be a writer. 

Also check out Claire's blog and FB page and available books here (book one in the series is always free!!!):



Facebook:  The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy

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

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

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Proposal vs. Proposition (Mailbox)

What is the difference between proposition and proposal?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer questions about once a 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. Don't think for a second that I'm too good to pick an easy question when I'm tired.] 

Johnny asks:

[Note. I have consolidated a few of Johnny's paragraphs (each sentence was its own in his email to me) for space reasons.]  

I have a question about proposal vs. proposition. 

From Learner's Dictionary: Proposition: something, such as a plan or offer, that is presented to a person or group of people to consider. Proposal: something, such as a plan or suggestion, that is presented to a person or group of people to consider. Almost identical meanings but different connotations, I think? When you want to get married or start a business, you use proposal. When you want to have sex or change a law, you use proposition.


They sound like they have the same root word too. Why two different words? And in any situation where you can use one, the other fits just as well. It just sounds weird because of what we're used to hearing I guess? I appreciate your help with this clarification. 


My reply:

Before I dig into this.....confession time. I was dead-ass tired last night after yesterday's article was GUTTED out over 8 hours and a painful revision, I slept twelve hours last night, and I'm still recovering from those 70-hour-weeks earlier in the month, so I deliberately picked an easy question to field today. 

Ain't English grand? We have synonyms that are so close together yet still with such subtle shades of difference that even the people who intuitively use the right word at the right time MAY NOT BE ABLE TO ARTICULATE WHY. Particularly native speakers.

These words are amazingly similar but your question actually does have an answer Johnny, and every native speaker reading this is likely to have a "Holy shit...he's RIGHT!" moment in just a few seconds. They may want to sit down.

In most cases, a "proposition" is the word used when the answer is going to be yes or no. (For example propositioning someone for sex.) A proposal is more complicated and usually involves consideration and discussion––more back and forth. The only difference in these definitions is is that "suggestion" is replaced with "offer." An "offer" is something you either take or leave (or maybe counteroffer). A "suggestion" has more....plasticity. It's almost more of a starting point.

Think of these two phrases:

"I suggest $10,000 advance and fifty cents on the unit for your new Dark Lord vs. Farmer space opera."


"I offer $10,000 advance and fifty cents on the unit for your new Dark Lord vs. Farmer space opera."

See how the first kinda feels like you have some room to negotiate and the second just feels like you can sort of take it or leave it?

"But what about a marriage proposal?" I hear you ask. That's got a straight yes or no answer in most cases. You're absolutely right. But that's "proposal's" second meaning. (Proposition also has another meaning–a statement that expresses an opinion or judgement–that is technically outside the boundaries of your question.) Literally one entire definition of "proposal" is JUST about marriages.

And of course "proposition" also has other meanings. The legal meaning ("Stop Proposition H! It's bad for the kids!") has to do with ballot measures that are voted on directly by voters instead of by the legislative branch. Also it has a mathematical meaning of a statement that is either true or false. (Although again in these two cases, you see that you can either vote yes or no legally or prove it or not mathematically, so there is a YES or NO dichotomy built into the emotive force of that word.)

If you think about it, the marriage one makes a certain sort of sense as well. Language evolves but sometimes words and phrases get fixed (or even become idioms). A marriage used to be a LOT more of the start of a business arrangement between two families that might involve some back and forth negotiations. The recent development where it's just the proposee who decides yes or no is kind of sign of modernity.

Just don't let the fact that the movie isn't called Indecent Proposition mess you up too bad.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Elders Did It (I am the Night)

Right before I stopped watching South Park, I remember there was this very meta episode where they were trying to come up with plots but the Simpsons had done everything. Ostensibly I think it was Butters trying to think up evil schemes to take over the world, but really they were talking about how often South Park itself had similar plots to The Simpsons. This was almost 20 years ago now, so I'm a little hazy on the details, and it doesn't matter much to my story.

But I think about that LINE a lot. The little sidekick(?) shouted, "Simpsons did it!" every time Butters tried to come up with a new plan.

"How about if I––"

"Simpsons did it!"

"Maybe we could––"

"Simpsons did it!"

Anyway, you get the idea. The––


Yes. Okay. Thank you! Jesus FUCK!

So...I think about this scene a lot when I'm trying to do something that someone has done before (and probably better), which is a feeling all writers (who aren't egomaniacs) have to deal with. The vast, vast, vast majority of us will never be as good as the greats, or even as the damn goods. We just have to do our own thing with our own voice in our own way and be glad that most people are happy to get "two cakes."

Reference for the uninitiated.
*Description below

What does this have to do with vampires?

Well, at my last game there were elders.....doing things.

I have a pretty niche character. He's a sweet guy almost anti-vamp in his sincerity and genuine kindness, but he's got all his points into a public speaking/leadership build. It's actually a 5-point performance in public speaking. For those who don't know the system, I'll just say two things about this. 1- It is considered the pinnacle of speaking ability among the mortal world. 2- It is absolutely as high as my character can ever go.

So in theory, that should be my thing, right? You want to fire up the crowd, call Mark.


There's NO concept I could have come up with that an elder couldn't do better (not computer hacker, not sneaky sneak, not investigator, not straight badass brawler, not mortal world manipulator, not sniper, not explosives expert....nothing), and in fact last game there was a SIX-point performance of oration (followed then by a TEN-point performance singing, which isn't a skill Mark has but it illustrates a further point about these elder characters). Mark literally can't EVER be this good at performance. Unless he went and sucked up several older, more-powerful vampire's souls (a behavior that is generally frowned upon).

Now....when it comes to vampires in this particular mythos of our role playing game, that's part of the setting. One of the central anxieties of the game's theme is that while you may have supernatural power, there is always someone above you who is better, stronger, could casually destroy you, and is probably using you. Neonates have to suck it up and just accept that elders are better than them and though they might be able to gang up on those a couple of rungs up from them, they would never be able to take out the progenitors and most powerful.

I'm pretty sure it's a metaphor for capitalism.

As a player, sometimes I'm not thrilled that these always-better-than-you-no-matter-what-you-ever-do characters are a distressingly high percentage of the playership and functionally inhabit all of the game's more "interactive" roles. I might wish elder PLAYERS would take it upon themselves to ALSO embrace (heh heh) the themes of manipulation by delegating instead of stamping around and fixing all the problems themselves, cloistering themselves in smoke-filled rooms to discuss issues only with the most capable, and never scheming with those beneath their station. (It's been four months and no one really even knows what Mark is good at––he should have been approached and tapped to be someone's pawn MONTHS ago! His ability to deal with mortals should be a boon to almost anyone.)

However this has been a problem with Vampire LARPs as long as there have been Vampire LARPs. Actual people aren't immortal beings who think a century is not that long to just wait and see if a problem will fix itself. Players of elders are much the same as players of neonates but with cooler character sheets: they still jump at a chance to interact with something novel, want to solve problem/puzzles/issues, show off their special powers, use their particular tools on the plots their particular tools work the best on, and be COOL! It can be a bit counter intuitive to assign a task to someone who is actually NOT the best at doing it, either because you have the leadership to want that person to develop or because you're a Machiavellian manipulator and don't want your power players to be moved to the front of the board.

And just think how much power the first elder gets whose player realizes the advantage of "collecting" neonates and using them like vampires do mortals.

It's because stories are about change and vampire elders are about stasis. The idea that you could live forever if you could basically keep from ever being angry, scared, or hungry leads to a decision making process that is very unfamiliar to most people. Honestly, the LAST thing they should want to do is take an action themselves (or even micromanage). Few players really GET how to play them right because they want to be a part of the story too.

Which brings me to the writing part. As I thought to myself, "How does this insight about glass ceilings make for a post about writing?" I realized what an unsatisfying character arc this frustration would make in fiction....and not just because a LARP is a story for 40, 50, or 60 people instead of one. Mark's character arc (and my enjoyment of it) are far from hopeless because I can set goals that aren't "be the best public speaker" and get embroiled in smaller conflicts.

Still....imagine if The Bad News Bears just....always lost. Not only that, but imagine that they never actually had the ability to win. And the movie was not changed into a story about character or friendship or overcoming failure, but was still the same movie about how important it was to win that game.  But they didn't. And they couldn't. Ever. No matter HOW hard they tried.

Now Mark in a story would not be hopeless either. His grim reality could be a background thematic part of a setting in which the central conflict involves some OTHER conflict. ("Mark would never be the best speaker, but one day he learned about a scandal among the elders that could rock the whole of Vampire society.") Consider the way in which hereditary monarchies and their socio/political faults are NOT solved in Lord of the Rings. Some people are just more powerful than others. And Frodo never becomes the best asskicker in Middle Earth (or even more powerful than the influence of The Ring). And they sure as shit didn't go punch Morgoth in the face. Because it's a story about other things.

OR there could be some way that the character can (and does?) overcome their limitations. Or at least HAS THE POTENTIAL TO but fails. ("Mark was never the best speaker, but he knew how to find the people who were hungry for change and spark a revolution..." or "Mark could have been the best speaker, but he befriended Joe Pesci, and learned that the real 'Honor' were the friends we made along the way.")

And another interesting story might be to be struggling at one's "own" power level. ("Yeah, we could call in the Avengers and win in five minutes, but the Defenders have to do this ourselves.")

All fiction involves conflict and most of it involves some kind of power dynamic. Writers have to deal all the time with worlds where a character is simply not as good as some antagonistic force in their world. (Not as clever, not as strong, not as powerful.....) And sometimes they even have to deal with forces no amount of montage training scenes will make them better than. But the protagonist has to figure out a workaround––one that maybe works and maybe doesn't.

Just be careful how much you let your more-powerful beings stomp around in your world. Whether they help or hurt the main characters it'll feel very ham handed and deus ex machina if they handle too much. And if they DO get tangled into the main plot, make sure that workaround exists in some form.

Because stories, at least the good ones, are about change (or at least the potential for change).

And vampire role playing games are about––


*Two panel comic with simple black and white line art.

The top panel is captioned "The Artist." It shows a stick figure person, looking dismayed, at two cakes of different sizes. The speech bubble reads, "Aw man, that guy's cake is way better than mine."

The bottom panel is captioned "The Audience." It shows a visibly happy stick figure in front of the exact same two cakes. This stick figure is holding a fork and a knife, and the speech bubble reads "Holy shit! Two cakes!"

Best MODERN Fantasy (Nominations Needed)

What is the best fantasy book (or series) written between 1976 and 2000?  

Remember that we're rerunning some of our most popular polls of the past few years, but this time we're doing it with lots more voters (and we'll be keeping the results on display.) It's all part of our new Sticky Polls--the 2019 roll out for polls here at Writing About Writing.

The Rules

(This is now the fourth round we've done under the "new" rules, so you can see what I mean by some of this):

My hand to all that is holy in the universe, we are going to finish this poll by late September (in time to do horror for Halloween) or I will pull this entire poll over to the side of the road, so help me. So be prepared for quick turnarounds on the nominations and lightning fast semifinals if we need them.

There is a new category of nomination. It is NOT a nomination for the poll. It is an UNDERSUNG HERO nomination. Basically it is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, but maybe not necessarily the besty bestest best. I will be listing these books along with the poll results. However, if you nominate a book for our poll it will not be considered for the undersung hero list and if you shout out something for an undersung hero, it will not be counted as a nomination for the poll. (Someone else can nominate it.) Think about if you want to give a book few seem to know about a shout out or if you're tossing your fave into The Hunger Games.

  1. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Snow Crash as a fantasy book, I'm not going to argue that it's probably better classed as Science Fiction but YOU have to convince others if you're going to get seconded and on the poll--nevermind win.
  2. All books nominated must have publication dates from 1976-2000.
  3. A series with books that have landed inside and outside of the "Modern" zone may not be nominated as a series, but individual books in the series may. 
  4. You get to mention two (2) books (or series). That's it. Two. You can do ONE nomination for the poll and ONE UNDERSUNG HERO.  Or you can do TWO nominations. Or you can do TWO undersung heroes. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more I will NOT take any nominations beyond the second that you suggest. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but I compile these polls myself and it's a pain when people drop a megalodon list every decent book they can remember of in the genre. It is up to you how to divy your TWO choices. TWO.
  5. Did I mention two?
  6. You may (and absolutely should) second AS MANY nominations of others as you wish. THEY WILL NOT GET ONTO THE POLL WITHOUT SECONDS. You can agree with or cheer on the undersung heroes, but they won't "transform" into nominations unless someone else nominates that same book as "best" (and then they get a second). Also stop back in and see if anyone has put up something you want to see go onto the poll. 
  7. Put your nominations HERE. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that and what your nomination is, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  8. You are nominating WRITTEN genre fiction, not their movie portrayals. If you thought the The Good Omens miniseries on Amazon Prime was fucking sick, but never managed to get past the hospital scene in the book, nominate something else.
  9. This is probably well known by vets of this blog by now, but there will be no more endless elimination rounds. I will take somewhere between 8-20 best performing titles and at MOST run a single semifinal round. By "performing" I mean the seconds. So second the titles you want even if they already have one. (Yes, I guess that would make them "thirds," "fourths," etc...) The competition on this poll might be fierce. You may have to get your friends involved. Buy them a pizza. Make it real. 
  10. TWO!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Getting Visited by the Bad Review Fairy and Other Tales of Self-Doubt by Arielle K Harris

Getting Visited by the Bad Review Fairy and Other Tales of Self-Doubt 

Arielle K Harris

I recently received the worst review I have ever gotten in my, admittedly short, published writing career. And when I say it was a bad review, oh holy moly was it a bad review. In the first paragraph alone (of which there were several) this individual writes: “A sadly colossal mess of a novel […] Seriously, I can't find something to praise here as hard as I'm trying to!” They helpfully list every facet of my book which leads them to this judgement, from my novel’s very premise, to my writing skill, to even including what they felt I should have done to make it a half-decent story.

I didn’t want this to affect me as strongly as it did, because clearly people have their own opinions which shouldn’t matter. But they do matter. I know that there are worse things in the world than a bad review, and quite frankly in the last couple of days I have experienced a tragedy which struck close to home, so I get it. It’s just words on a screen. 

But words are important. You and I both know this, or else we wouldn’t be here.

It bears mentioning that I’m not seeking sympathy, or fishing for more positive reviews by writing about this. Quite frankly I almost decided against writing about this situation at all for fear of seeming petty, but I realized that every one of us who has writing and publishing as our goal will be inevitably visited by the bad review fairy. We need to talk about it, because it affects us all.

So having realized that, I then began to wonder about the authors who I idolize and could only dream of becoming. How many of them get ripped to shreds in anonymous reviews?

All of them, clearly.

I took to Amazon to find 1-star reviews of some of my favorite books by some of my favorite authors. It makes both amusing and dreadful reading, but ultimately I feel it helps to know that we are all among good company.

Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens

“Kindle Customer” writes:

The "book" made no sense. Just random snippets of unrelated subject matter. Suggests the possibility of the use of recreational drugs. Complete waste of time.

Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea

“JB” says:

Very slow, dull, predictable, and wholly uninteresting. At no point does anything that happens come as even the slightest surprise. The battle sequences are very slow moving and would not interest anyone. It is a small book but it still took me over 3 weeks to drudge my way through this garbage. Afterwords (sic) I used it to start my fireplace, a task I am not sure its (sic) even worthy of.

Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind

This user decided to title his review: “Gary Sue wrote an autobiography and called it porn.”

I would use this as a form of torture or punishment. Doing chores or taking a nap is more interesting than the struggle of getting through a single chapter. […] This is just the life story of the arrogant long sided douche bag that catches you at the coffee shop each morning, and because everyone else likes him, you have to pretend to enjoy it too. But this book for people who have no taste, identity, or you flat out hate. They will love it, and you will seem like a really chill dude.

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight

“Elmyr” informs us:

I wasn't able to get to the second chapter, because her writing-style was too stilted, and didn't have any flow to it. It was like she wrote down a basic idea, then went to a thesaurus to pepper the passages with adjectives.

David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks

Someone whose username includes the information that they are a writer themselves tells us:

This author had more imagination than ability. This book plodded along for more than 600 pages. You never quite grasp what is going on until the very end. The only reason I finished reading itbwas (sic) I kept waiting to read the good part Stephen King read. Easily the worst book I read in the last year. Waste of paper.
So there it is.

We all suck in someone’s eyes. I guess the trick is to either accept that this will always be the case, or to simply refrain from reading reviews of your own work at all. Honestly the latter tactic is my usual one, because I know my thin skin and easily obsessive 3am-litany-of-all-my-faults nature when it comes to these kinds of things. For this reason I didn’t actually see this review until months had passed, but the sting remained new and fresh.

So what do you do when someone tells you that you don’t know how to write? Well, you write. But it’s not them you’re trying to convince, it’s you.

There’s some aspect of our brains which is unnaturally quick at believing the worst in ourselves. We will wave aside every compliment we’re ever given as “oh, they’re just being polite” but even the slightest hint of criticism has us instantly convinced. Do we want to believe we’re terrible? Or is it just easier to accept that we might be awful rather than perform the mental gymnastics required to allow ourselves to believe we’re pretty damned awesome?

There are certainly those who have no problem accepting their fabulousness. They are fabulous, and they deserve to know it. I’m happy for them. But for whatever reason it seems that the majority of creative types are not this kind of person. Our path to creativity was perhaps driven by traumatic life experiences, a history of over-thinking and self-doubt, and various dark, angsty thoughts. Many of us were shunned by the social norm and pushed to the fringes, and often literally told throughout our formative years how wrong we were for simply existing.

Is it any wonder how easily we believe criticism as adults?

Our minds are wrong, but we can’t escape them. It’s even harder when mental illness preys on our thoughts, helping to drive these ideas into our minds like nails through flesh. The fight against these dark forces is one of the hardest things we can put ourselves through.

I lost a friend two days ago who lost that battle.

Please listen to me, anyone who needs to hear it: don’t listen to the bad reviews, don’t even read them if you struggle to separate another’s words with your own feeling of worth. Most importantly, don’t listen to yourself when you fall into the cycle of self-recrimination. It’s hardest of all to ignore those little voices, but they’re wrong.

You are fucking fabulous.

Arielle 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 write a thinly veiled promo for your own work guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Best Post Apocalyptic Book (Or Series)

The results are IN!

I usually don't like that thick tangle of close results around #3, but it's stayed there since almost the first day (albeit at lower numbers), so I'm going to have to make my peace.

I'll get these results (and the undersung heroes) up on our Current Poll Results some time this weekend.

Text Results Below

The Stand - S. King 39 24.38%
The Broken Earth Trilogy N.K. Jemisin 33 20.63%
A Canticle For Leibowitz - W. M. Miller Jr. 17 10.63%
The Road - C. Mccarthy 16 10%
Parable of the Sower - O. Butler 16 10%
Station Eleven - E. St. John Mandel 11 6.88%
Oryx and Crake - M. Atwood 10 6.25%
The Uglies Series - S. Westerfeld 10 6.25%
Wool/Shift/Dust series - H. Howey 8 5%