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

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Admin Posts are Coming [Cedrick Update]

Hi everyone,

Cedrick here.

Chris is currently running up and down the grass hills just outside my window, jumping the hilly brush, and filling the air with joyous screaming about the bliss he will have ensconced in his new schedule.

Want to know what he's NOT doing?

He's not writing a goddamned post. Just jumping that hilly brush. He's not looking for the evil mystery blogger. He's not cleaning up the random slices of cheese on the third floor that have begun to smell like a cross between old people's jockstraps and what wafts up when someone on a Southwest flight takes off their socks and shoes.

So while Chris is out there frolicking and acting like he's a teen-ager in love and not a 45 year old who is going to pull a tendon or break something tumbling enthusiastically down a hill, I will start taking care of a series of admin and admin-type posts that we do every year here around the new year.

We review our update schedule, our business stuff, anything that needs adding to the F.A.Q., how to follow us, what monthly posts will go into the "Greatest Hits" (now that the year's best have been "promoted") and give a huge shout out to the Patron Muses. [I'm not linking the ones that are going to change significantly when those posts go up shortly.]

Listen, I also just got a lovely holiday picture of Dor, and I have to admit a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. I even let Leela Bruce call it a "door" last week.


I'm going to roll up ALL my sleeves and get some work done here on things that have spent years being unfinished, like making sure the menus are all cleaned up and keeping you abreast of who all you might run into working behind the scenes here at the WAW compound. No more treading water (which you know I'm particularly good at).

We'll hope that Chris gets this shit out of his system and gets back to some respectable word counts soon. In the meantime, you may see admin posts going up on our usual days off and even a couple of two posts days until we're all finished.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Best Modern Science Fiction (Poll Results)

So last night I got home and went right to work. (Literally, I grabbed a Lyft from the train station and went straight to my nanny job with all my luggage.) Today I've got a long shift as I tag out the person who's been covering MY shifts while I was out of town. Which means, for now, we just have a quick posting of our poll results.

This weekend there is more end-of-year admin to do. Next week both the fruits of my train "writing retreat" and the new writing schedule will start to kick in. There was a really good spread (until 4th place) so either the Douglas Adams fans swamped the poll, or this is pretty reliable.

Thank you for voting. I'll start taking nominations for the next poll very soon.

Text results below.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -D. Adams 127 42.47%
Parable Duology (Earthseed Series) - O. Butler 63 21.07%
Hyperion - D. Simmons 36 12.04%
Consider Phlebas - I. M. Banks 19 6.35%
Doomsday Book - C. Willis 18 6.02%
A Fire Upon the Deep - V. Vinge 16 5.35%
The Dosadi Experiment - F. Herbert 12 4.01%
Don't Bite the Sun - T. Lee 8 2.68%

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Train Reminder

Sorry for two posts in one day, but I want to remind everyone of how things will work while I head home on the train. It basically goes backward from when I come east. Tomorrow I will be almost completely unable to post because of lack of signal. On Thursday I will hit a lot of cities and get a lot of signal, so I will be able to post some stuff to Facebook through my phone, but I will not have WiFi to update the blog. Late Thursday I will be home and our posting schedule will resume. The first thing you can expect is the results of our current poll. So go vote

I already have a new post ready (and the conclusion of the article for Early Access) but it's going to take more editing than I need to get it up early tomorrow morning before I leave for the train, so it's going to have to be Friday. And then I'll drop some admin stuff over the weekend and give you all a full week of posts without my usual days off to make up for all this travel time.

If you're seeing this on social media, no need to click the post. You've read the whole thing. (Although there is a LINK to the blog.)

2019's Top Ten

The very best articles from 2019. 

It was a tough year with a surprising number of personal posts making the list, lost friends and beloved pets, ghosts (the real kind), and a nanny schedule that only looked good on paper, but we got through it and fiddled (hard) with the knobs to make sure that 2020 affords much more writing time.

This list will end up in The Greatest Hits along with the best articles by month.

The Buy-Me-Lunch Answer About My Sexuality

I don't much like labels. I'd much rather you buy me lunch and we'll sit down and talk.

The MLK That White People Like (SJB)

Let's get something straight, my fellow history-whitewashing, tender, gentle, fragile white people who like to quote Dr. Martin Luther King.

Fuck This. See You Next Week

The fires in California this year threatened my home and I tried to keep writing. It did not go so well.

5 Reasons Your Submission Probably Ended Up In the Trash (And 5 It Was Rejected That Aren't Your Fault)  [Also Part 2]

Your story MIGHT suck. But it also might be nothing at all to do with the content.


Some people love this word, and others find it a red-flag of a few different kinds of bigotry. What happens when the two groups talk?

24 Jackwads Who Show Up On Every Post About How to Write Something Oft Problematically Portrayed

They're always right there with the same handful of arguments.

Types of Editing (Basics)

There's a lot more to editing than just fixing your spelling and commas, and in fact that's kind of the least important and last step to a proper multi-phase editing pass.

I've Seen The Preview: I Don't Need to Hear Your Shitty Argument

Notice how so many of those internet arguments go so exactly the same way as the others that you already know how they're going to end? Kind of like the previews to certain movies where you totally feel like you just watched the whole movie.

I've Lost That Loving Feeling! 15 Ways to Spice Up Your Writing (Mailbox)

I took some marriage advice and applied it to writing in a listicle that was pretty weird, even for me.

Writing In Grief

At the end of this summer, a pair of my friends died while I was pet sitting for them. Dealing with that was more difficult than I imagined it was going to be.

Honorable Mentions:

Should I/Must I Read the Classics? (Mailbox)

This mailbox where Judith wants to know if she should read the classics missed the top ten by fewer than fifteen page views (which could account for almost anything including putting it up the first time too late in the afternoon––after east coast folks had gone home for the day).

I Need Advice (But Not "Write Every Day") [Mailbox]

I actually picked this one even though it was down a bit from the top ten. It got a very warm personal reception...if not all the page views.

11 Reasons Fame Probably Doesn't Look Like You Think It Does (The Renown Margin) [Part one of 3]

I break up many of my longer articles these days to keep my writing pace a little more reasonable for me and keep from vomiting 20k words for folks to read in one shot. Each part of this article missed the top ten (barely) but all together it would have been around the middle of the list.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Best Modern Sci-Fi Book (or Series) [Last Chance to Vote!]

What is the very best sci-fi book (or series) written between 1976 and 2000?  

It is absolutely your last chance to vote! Results go up Monday.

Did you forget we were in the middle of a poll? Well, we are, and it's almost over. Your nominations have formed our poll, and now it's time to make your voices heard. So take a moment to vote for your favorite book that isn't classic, but isn't super contemporary either.

And don't forget that the poll will let you vote again after one week. Since I can't monitor or stop the shenanigans, I encourage it. Vote early. Vote often.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. Use them....wisely.

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

Friday, January 3, 2020

Focus in the Time of Cholera....I Mean Fascism

"Did you change the title but not the picture?"
*shakes head* "It's a better title, brah, but while this is
a decent picture for 'chaos,' it's not so great for fascism.
Like many days in the past (though fewer before 2016 to be certain), the landscape of developing current events has me in a bit of a spin. However, unlike many days in the past, I am going to accept the ways that will affect my writing instead of standing in the path of the oncoming Deep-Impact-caliber tidal wave and screaming "I shall not be moved!"

It's taken some time to reach the wisdom to know that this simply isn't how I operate and trying to sheer-force-of-will certain things (this being one of them), while technically possible, is like trying to outrun a giant rolling donut with sheer speed when all you really have to do is get out of the way. I have spent too many days thinking I could out-willpower the effect disastrous news has on creativity.

In 2016 after the election in the US the art world experienced a huge phenomenon. At the time I thought it was just me having trouble writing, focusing, and certainly keeping upbeat. But it turned out to have been something that rocked artists with shocking ubiquity. Some of them have found their footing with more speed and success than others. (I'd say I was pretty middling in that regard.) However, understanding that no art exists outside of the world in which it was created is a powerful reminder that these things can be planned for and worked with, but not avoided or "gutted through." I think I tried to do the latter for too many years.

Days like today, after my government just openly admitted extrajudicially murdering the leader of a geopolitical enemy without approval from congress, the gang of eight, or allies, I relive a lot of that lost focus and slippery attention.  I still work, but it's really hard to get into the mindset to write in a fictional world or just blog about writing like there's nothing far more urgent going on. (Yes, I know it's a big world where there's always something more urgent going on than blogging about writing, but some days that fact is a little more in my face than others.) I tend to read and digest a LOT of news, write a lot more political quips on my Facebook page. (It's not even fair to call it punditry––it's really just quips––but sometimes I get on a tear and write several and it takes a while.) By the end of the weekend, there may well be a NOT Writing About Writing post of some kind. I often write more personal posts, like this one.

I want to point out two things––sort of writing-life lessons so you all feel like you're getting your money's worth:

1- I still got up and went to work. Now I really like my job and "work" is two feet from the edge of my bed, but I'm still here writing. I may be "redirecting force" to things I have the attention span and spirit to handle today, but I'm still writing. If there's a reason I'm a working writer, it's not talent, and it's certainly not skill. It is resilience.

2- For decades, I would simply lose focus on a day like today. I would do all the things I mentioned (read think pieces for hours, write on FB, maybe write something more directly reactive to the news than I usually do), and then at the end of the day, I would feel like shit because I "hadn't written." (I had; just not the stuff I had planned to work on.) We all still have to get the work done at the end of the day (or really BY the end of the day) if we want to be writers. So I want to make sure I make this point with some precision and delicacy. This isn't something I give myself "permission" to do because it was a cruddy day on the news. This is something I've recognized is GOING TO HAPPEN, and I'm better off realizing that it's still a day of writing, it still has value, most people who follow me are still informed and/or entertained, and I'll get back to what I was doing shortly.

With a normal writer, you wouldn't see these days. Their book would come out one day later than it would have, and you'd never know they had a bad day on Jan 3rd. With me, I'm deliberately showing you under the hood.

It's kind of like I realized––after years of using up the entire amount of time I gave myself to get a blog post in at the last possible second––that I couldn't just will myself to not do that. No matter how good my intentions were to finish with enough time for other writing, I always took ALL the time I had given myself. I was always going to do that, and that's how my brain brains. So I realized that I was never going to get any fiction written unless I started doing fiction writing first.

There's a lot of discipline in turning creativity into a career, and there's just no way to underscore that enough. (If you're lucky, you only have to keep working full time on your art for three or four years before you start getting paid a pittance and/or somewhere around a decade before you can drop from "day job" to "side gig.") However, we also work with a mental process that is pretty impossible of flying on autopilot, and we may have to acknowledge that not everything that happens can be effortlessly ignored.

What this means for the meta:

The roll over of the calendar is already a time of a lot of admin and last-year-in-review type posts. And in a few days I'm going to do some travelling by train. So our schedule is likely to be "WEIRD" until mid-month.

Not that weird.

  • Though we're almost ready to add back the FOURTH POST™ each week, we're playing catch up with all the stuff that fell apart last semester and particularly last month. Monday I will be holing up to write the December Inside Scoop newsletter.
  • What was supposed to be today's post will go live on Thursday.
  • This weekend Early Access patrons should see part 3 of the Mailbox that I started last week (of which they already have part two).
  • Part 3 will go live the following Thursday.
  • I will be doing a review of the year's best posts on social media. 
  • We have a poll to wrap up. Yeah, I know most of you have probably forgotten about it, so I will do an absolutely last call reminder. 
  • Many of the next few posts will be year-in-review type stuff. Admin gets a little heavy in early January. Posts like "The Year's 10 Best" or "2019's best posts by month." It takes a lot longer to go through and compile all that data than you might think. Plus I have some people to thank and they get their own post because they are AWESOME.
  • The 8th and the 9th and then the 15th and the 16th, I will be on a train. Trains are great places to get some writing done and one of the main reasons it's my preferred method of travel if I have the time to spare, but I will NOT have wifi. So while I may show up on the 10th with some killer articles for the following week and/or some finished fiction, those days likely won't have any post. (There's likely to be some ability to post to FB by phone as we go through major cities, but I'll announce all that stuff directly to FB.)
  • I have set aside some time to write while I'm in Colorado though, and if all goes well between now and then, you should see a VERY cool article on the 10th.
You should get all the same content quantity and quality (though perhaps off schedule), and then after the 16th, things should basically get back to normal.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A Bump in the Road

As we transition from 2019 to 2020, there are a few "housekeeping" posts to take care of, including something that I'm a little sorry to have to bring up.

Writing About Writing could really use your help to rise to the challenge of the new year.  Can you spare $5, $3, or even just $1 a month?

We are an entirely donation and patron funded endeavor. We will never put any content (other than a couple of behind-the-scenes "newsletters" as rewards for patrons) behind a paywall or even run ads if we can possibly help it. Even upcoming major works of fiction that have Kindle and physical releases will always be available here in serial format. I firmly believe art should be for the world and not just the people who can pay for it.

However, that leaves us entirely dependent on the generosity of our readers. I have to keep the lights on and the rent paid like anyone else. As with most donation-based media, the tiniest handful of folks (less than .1%) are funding the experience the other 99.9% get to enjoy. I know it's a tough time right now for most folks. The holidays cleaned us out and taxes are right around the corner. However, if you like my work and want it to keep seeing it (and more OF it), please take a moment and see if you can't spare a couple of dollars. While I dream of everyone who gets hours worth of entertainment each month dropping the price of a soda, even a fraction of that would mean that our ability to keep bringing you content is secure.

There are two ways to help.

I prefer if you become a Patron through Patreon. Even a small donation goes a long way, and with Patreon, I can budget and plan for the future. Plus, it doesn't take much to get in on some of the most active and robust reward tiers––I have set one of my best rewards (a monthly newsletter) to the $3 tier because that small donor profile is super important.

Or if an ongoing donation is not in your cards, of course you can always make the one-time kind through Paypal. Or Venmo (at chris.brecheen@gmail.com)

My nannying side gig is about to take a pretty substantial hit in hours. I wanted it, so that I have more time to write, but it means I will be making a LOT less side income. I'd rather cover that shortfall with writing instead of side gigs that take me away from writing, so even a little donation helps. While I love by "big ticket" donors to the moon and back, and of course love to see patrons signing up at higher levels, if one of them has to cancel their contribution, for whatever reason, it amounts to a significant loss of income for me. A rich "ecosystem" of smaller donors helps absorb the impact when bigger donors can no longer give so generously, and is not so harmed by the fact that circumstances and fortunes change all the time and sometimes folks have to cancel their contributions.

Remember, too, that your donation doesn't just support Writing About Writing. It supports all the writing I do. There are some personal and political thoughts along with media reviews over at NOT Writing About Writing, and I often use my personal Facebook page for bite-sized thoughts and proto-versions of things I'm thinking about (which all are welcome to follow [or friend if you check out the rules first]). And there's "the show" on the Writing About Writing Facebook Page––where I share memes, humor, articles about everything writing, and puns all day. And anything else I write for other venues will end up here as well. Always free as well as (I hope) ad free but it takes 25 hours a week just to keep it all going (and 40+ if I really want to do it right), so I sure could use your help.

Lastly, these posts will never do particularly well organically, and it is the nature of social media that I cannot reach everyone who wants to see my content. If you don't have the financial means to support us financially, but still want to help (or would like to help doubly), please engage with this post on the social medium where you found it. (Shares and GIF comments are particularly good for the algorithm.)

Thank you all so much,