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

Friday, January 15, 2021

Best Y.A. Book (Or Series) Nominations Still Needed

What is the best Young Adult Book (or series) in the Science Fiction genre? Come join our conversation.

Remember there are no more polls. These days instead of a grudge match, we just have a conversation about some good books. ANY book can end up on our list with just a single nomination. The only thing I do even remotely like "ranking" is to put the books in order by number of "seconds." 

Please don't forget to pop over to the original page to drop that nomination, see what has been nominated and second those you agree with, and brush up on the rules (there are a FEW) if you haven't already. With everything going on in our political landscape, and me trying to plow through the "admin business" of the new year, it might be easy to forget that there's a NOTpoll going on., but please come join in and tell us the books you love and think are either the "best" or just just don't get enough love.

Just a reminder that I'm drawing a distinction here, although I am not making it a hard and fast line, and I will certainly not "police" it. There will be another NOTpoll along shortly for dystopian Y.A. since it is such a pronounced genre of its own with SO many rich and wonderful choices. It absolutely needs its own category. I'm not going to nitpick, and I know there's a lot of overlap between the two, but consider if you think your nominee might be a better fit for dystopia rather than sci-fi. (Hunger Games, for example, did not make enough out of the futuristic tech and/or emphasize sci-fi tropes. It felt much more dystopian to me.) 

Again, please remember to go to the original page to drop your nomination (and familiarize yourself with the rules if you haven't yet). If you put it anywhere else (including a Facebook comment on this post) it will not be counted.

Thank you all for joining in our NOTpoll. I've really loved reading all your comments about the books you treasure and why.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Do You Have to Write Every Day To Be a Writer (F.A.Q.)

The original facepalm.
[Recently I undertook a 20+ hour project to revamp the ENTIRE F.A.Q. for 2021 while at the same time a 25 hour workweek at my other job poised to strike (my usual week of Nannying is closer to 10 or maybe 15). Updating an F.A.Q. may sound boring, but some of the articles within are total barn burners, so given how unexpectedly busy I've been this week, I'm going to post one now to give myself an extra day off blogging this week.]

Short answer:

No, you have to write to be a writer. 

Long answer:

More than any other process claim I make here at Writing About Writing, this one causes spontaneous bowel voiding, and makes people grab their pitchforks and torches and wander around the Bay Area killing people who look like they might be pretentious writers in the hopes that one of them will be me.

The thing is, I have never actually said this. I don't spend my time bequeathing that title on the worthy or denying it of the unworthy. I have more interesting things to do with my precious number of finite breaths — like rearrange my sock drawer.

You are a writer if you "Earn Your ER."

Folks, I know this is a little TL;DR, but please listen. Just this once. Just for shits and giggles. Just so you can put on your hipster glasses and tell people you knew I wasn't really telling people they had to write every day "before it was cool." Just pay attention this one time.
I don't have time to read the history of the Teal Deer!
TL:DR

Write. Don't write. I don't give a fuck. 

I mean I DO give a fuck, but only if you want to write. (It's like the old joke: How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but the lightbulb has to want to change.) If you want to not write, I don't want to put some undue pressure on you. I don't want to make demands of your mind and body that are unrealistic. I don't want you to do writing so much that you hate it.

I want you to be fulfilled in life. I want you to get what you want out of the rat race. I want you to succeed.

If you want to be a writer. I give a fuck only in so much as I give a fuck about all of you, and I want to help you make that dream come true. If you fantasize so hard you wet yourself about BEING a writer, I have some pretty good advice for you about how to get there. Because that used to be me, dreaming hard and sitting around not writing — in love with the idea of being a writer.   

But if you don't actually want to write, don't write. There's no glamour in this job. Very little fame. A pittance of fortune. Writers are not rockstars. If we achieve ANY of those things, ever, it will only be after years and years of toiling away without them (and there are easier ways to achieve any of them). There is absolutely no reason to write other than for the sheer love of writing. 

You don't need permission not to write. You don't need absolution. You don't need approval. You might need to get over this idea that you're a writer, or more likely, you ARE a writer, but you might need to get over this idea that you're going to ever do it as a day job. But that's between you and you. You don't need to make excuses that no one believes anyway. All you need is to put down the pen and not write.

Writing is not the kind of activity you should be doing if you don't actually want to be doing it. If you want write "more than anything else in the whole wide world," and you have these fantasies of getting rich and famous because you're the next Stephen King or Danielle Steele, I promise (pinky swear) that it won't happen by sitting around NOT writing.

Seriously, I promise.

Really.

What I (actually) tell people is that, like any art, and really any highly technical skill, writing every day is the best way to improve. Musicians practice. Artists sketch. Actors rehearse. And the better the musician/artist/actor, the more they do these things. Only in writing do you find this sense that the artist should sit around and wait until the heavens open up and grant them inspiration, as if it is genius and mere talent rather than work that makes good writers.

The most insidious part of this harmful little narrative about genius is that even if a writer who isn't working regularly should become inspired, they may not have the skill to do anything about it. They were sitting around when they should have been learning the skill and craft of writing. Now they've got a great idea and they really suck at expressing it.

None of us practiced because that would ruin the magic and make it feel like work.
Hope you enjoy the show.

Inspiration is cheap.

Go find someone who doesn't have a book or a movie script in their head.

Go find someone who doesn't have few chapters saved to a zip drive or tucked into a drawer, or even a rough draft — that's actually the more difficult task. Human beings are creative. It's part of what makes us human. The ability to convert an idea into little black marks and have it still be good when someone (who doesn't want to sleep with you) reads it — that is the real trick.

Practice is essential for any skill. Professional athletes don't sit around on the couch waiting to be inspired. And they don't make the major leagues without a zillion hard-ass practice sessions before their big day in front of the talent scout.

The artists we admire, the ones we love, the ones we want to emulate, and who we fantasize that our own careers will follow the trajectory of — they invariably worked very, very hard. I can think of maybe two authors who didn't write like they're running out of time and who had a very small body of works achieve such great success that they basically built an identity as a writer upon them. [F. Scott Fitzgerald and Douglas Adams] Everyone else writes (or wrote) constantly and reads when they're not writing. They didn't play video games and tell people on the chat forums that writing every day makes it feel like work...and then one day they just had a great idea, slapped it down during NaNoWriMo and became rich and famous. 

That's not how any of this works.

So the advice to write every day is for people who really want to improve, those who want to make writing a career, those who want to be published novelists, who possibly even want a following and fans, and certainly those who want to be among the notable fiction writers of a generation.

If that's not you, then do it as much as you want to be doing it and quit when it no longer brings you fulfillment.

Would you like to know more....?




Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Though sidetracked for a couple of days, we are back on track with our "admin fortnight," and have updated our ENTIRE F.A.Q. (for the blog, not the Facebook one) for 2021. This took nearly a week of behind-the-scenes revision and editing, so please enjoy.

Of course, this is a copy/paste of the tab at the top where our FAQ lives, so that I could make an article of it for everyone who gets posting notifications or emails. 


Q- Question: Do You Really Have to Write Every Day to Be A Writer?

Q- Did [X-event] really happen to you?

Q-Why do you/How can you hate NaNoWriMo?


Q-Why won't you answer my question for the Mailbox?


Q- Will you do freelance writing/editing for me?


Q-How can I get your kind of numbers on MY blog?

Q-Is talent important to a writer?

Q-How do you ACTUALLY start writing?

Q-I want to write a book and not be told that I needed to have been writing every day for the last ten years. Is there advice that ISN'T "Write every day."

Q- How can I support Writing About Writing and its struggling, yet devilishly cute and cuddly author? If I add up all the time spent being marvelously entertained, all the laughter, all the tears, and all the inspiration–as well as having my life and understanding of writing enriched–it would be longer than a directors cut of the Lord of The Rings trilogy....for which I paid $39.99 (even during a sale) at Costco.  How can I give back for all this joy?

Q-Will you post more of your fiction?

Also check out our F.A.Q. specifically for Facebook questions like "Will I promote YOUR work on FB?" "Will I read your story (sent to me through FB)?" or "Can I follow you on social media?" or "Why am I always so political?"

Monday, January 11, 2021

A Quick Note From Chris

Hi everyone, 

We had some "interesting times" in our country, and as is always the case when that happens I put aside the pre-planned schedule and did some impromptu political writing about that. You can go see it here if you are interested in that sort of writing.

That took most of Thursday and Friday to write, and put us behind on our admin-fortnight. I know it's weird, but I just don't feel right about posting a revised update to my answer about why I am ambivalent towards NaNoWriMo while my country is having a coup. I'm just funny that way. After a fraught weekend of following the news and writing in bite sized chunks on my Facebook page (as I am prone to do when "interesting times" crop up), I'm taking today as a sort of refocus and recenter day.

Tomorrow you will get a full revision of the entire F.A.Q., which I have been working on for days (with obvious interruption), so the wait should be worth it as those questions tend to be popular and....um....you know.....frequent. 

Thank you for your patience. I wish I could say this is absolutely the last time before Biden takes office that things are going to be so "interesting" that I have to put the regular schedule on hold, but 1) I am already seeing calls for violence in the next ten days, 2) have you SEEN this world? It's ridiculous how often shit goes sideways here. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Mission Statement



[We continue our admin fortnight with day two.

As is usual for the start of January here at Writing About Writing, there are about to be a lot of admin-flavored posts. This is the time of year I go through all those tabs up at the top of the blog and revise all of them with updated information. If you like seeing under the hood of blogging, you might enjoy.

Today's "bundle" is our mission statement. (I've cleaned up each of the three parts––they each link out to their own quick description.]


This was my original mission statement:


The Mission of this Blog is to provide a place that will facilitate my ability to:

1-Be able to say, “I was just writing about that in my blog” in that really pretentious way that only bloggers can do. Preferably while holding a snifter of brandy and looking at someone through a monocle.

2-Satisfy my writerly exhibitionist need for feedback without the constant irritation of things like letters of rejection.

3-Be able to say, “I’m published” at cocktail parties as long as they don’t press too hard on how exactly I’m using the word “published.”

4-Be passive aggressive towards people who have slighted me in an internationally accessible medium. Also preferably while holding a brandy.

5- Have fans hanging off of me no matter where I go. Bloggers are the new rockstars.  That's what the dude at the Moleskine Journal Store assured me.

But I found this to be just a little bit too honest for most, so I’ll go with my second round of reasons. So here is the new and improved mission statement.

The mission of this Blog is to provide a place where I can (each is its own link):

1-Control What People See When They Search for Me on Google

Monday, January 4, 2021

Update Schedule 2021

ADMIN FORTNIGHT 

As is usual for the start of January here at Writing About Writing, there are about to be a lot of admin-flavored posts. We'll be wrapping up the "best of" for 2020 (and subsequently adjusting each of the "month's bests" to account for the loss of those ten posts). 

Plus this is the time of year I go through all those tabs up at the top of the blog and revise all of them with updated information. If you like seeing under the hood of blogging, the next couple of weeks might be of interest. 

Most of the information doesn't get changed much from year to year, so I'll do "bundles" of several revised links at a time, but my update schedule needs more than a touch up. 

While most of you just click the link I put on social media when you see that something I have written interests you, there actually IS an update schedule here, and in The Age of Covid, it's going to have some pretty significant changes.

Writing About Writing consists primarily of one guy who takes care of a 7-year-old and a toddler, is writing a novel, posts on another blog (and only then when his thoughts are a bit too prolific for his Facebook wall), and sometimes does really wacky shit like play D&D or even try to get laid.

Outrageous, right?

He is also a working writer though, so he better stop making a bunch of excuses and make with the clackity clack. This is the schedule we will generally make an effort to keep. I say "make an effort," but I have to be honest about three things. #1- I have written posts from my bed with 102° fever or from coffee shops out of state while on vacation or during hospital visits to people with cancer, so it is very likely that no matter what happens, you will still get something.  #2 I am absolutely balls at keeping on top of WHAT gets updated on WHICH days, and I am likely to mix things up if I SNEEZE too hard. #3 Global Pandemics Suck Amirite? I'm working too damn much at my other job, it's a good day when I am aware of the passage of time, and the chances that I stare at the wall wrapped in a towel after any given shower have jumped up by 67%. Which is all to say that I'm doing my best and it's going to be less.

Thanks to my patrons, I have been able to quit part-time teaching, pet sitting*, and cut back on the amount of nannying I do as a side gig** to focus more and more on writing. If you would like to help us write more and better updates, even a dollar a month helps me budget.

*I still have a couple of close, super-easy clients, so you might see me post about this stuff, but I don't run all over the Bay Area anymore.

**Except for during Covid when I'm the only nanny who can pod with my clients.

Monday

Monday is going to be Schrodinger's Post for now.

I'm not saying yes. But I'm not saying no either.

I have a new nannying schedule during Covid, and I probably could do four posts a week. But here's the thing....it's probably better if I leave it alone and see what shakes out.
  • Once a month I cannibalize a day of blogging to write my Patrons a newsletter. 
  • I am OFTEN in need of a second "jazz hands" day in a given week.
  • I absolutely need to spend a day or two every month just doing admin stuff for Writing About Writing (like catching up on emails, cleaning up menus, and the like), or it gets SO far behind, SO quickly. 
  • Also, I have a couple of other projects that require my time and attention including this little novel I'm only three years late in writing.
So before I dive into committing to a blog-posting schedule that has me singing, "Livin' on the EDGE*!" I'm going to just say that Mondays exist in an ambiguous quantum state. I'll do "real™" posts some weeks and fluff posts some weeks and admin posts some weeks and probably NO posts some weeks.

(*And honestly, I'll tell you, I'm just going to end up singing "Livin' in the Fridge" by Weird Al, and no one wants that.)

Tuesday

We need (at least) one dedicated day a week to kind of take care of what I call "jazz hands," although it might be better described as "admin-ish stuff that HAS to get done at some point." It's not necessarily Total Fluff™, but it usually isn't a new article either. We are constantly running some kind of "Best Book" discussion, and the calls for nominations and posting of results take up a day of post. The review of the best posts we did in the month prior takes time. Often we have some kind of announcement or meta news. You might also see a single entry for the long-forgotten character lists or an update to one of the menus (along the top of the page).

Wednesday

Off. About the only thing I can count on from week to week at my nanny gig is that the schedule that helps them out the most is for me to come early afternoon on Wednesday with an overnight bag, stay the night, and be there to tag in at baby o'clock on Thursday morning, so they can get some extra sleep. It's just too much to try to add a post, even a short one.

Thursday

Mailbox! Now that the chaos of the last few months is settling into the new normal, I'm going to give our most popular type of article the weekly post it deserves. Usually, it's only one question, but sometimes I can tie a few shorter ones together with a theme. If you'd like a question answered, write us at chris.brecheen@gmail.com 

Friday

Fridays, for the most part, will be The Big Post™ of the week. If you're here for the hard-hitting writing advice (with the occasional examination of how language and narrative play into broader social issues), Friday is the day to tune in.

The Three-Post Committment

Some weeks aren't going to go down like clockwork, and they might be front- or back-loaded with side gigs or other commitments. My writing career is also starting to open up occasional opportunities of interest like conventionsspeaking engagements, interviews, or podcasts. On the advice of my doctor, I'm trying to be better about the (literally) health-shattering 80-hour+ weeks I was working. That's a needle to thread when you are your own boss and you know that people will lower your income if they aren't getting enough of the content they want. So in the cases of major schedule upheaval, I will try really hard to get three posts up each week. They might just be posted off schedule––landing on a Saturday or Sunday, for example, but barring illness, injury, or fabulously unforeseen circumstances (usually involving toddlers and seven-year olds working their respective chaos engines in tandem) I will try hard to at least hit three.

This will go up to four once the global pandemic is over.

Priority to Fiction (The Monthly Increase)--NOTE: ON PAUSE DURING PANDEMIC

The hardest thing I've tried doing as a blogger is keeping my fiction at a high level of priority. It's SO easy to just write a blog and call it a day. And that's what I'm getting paid for, so it's even easier.

But...as much as I've surprised even myself by discovering how much I fucking love blogging, I do want to write fiction too. And that needle is going to be one I work hard to thread. While I am getting traction out of writing an hour or so of fiction first (so that then I still have to do the blogging in order to do "a day's work"), there may still be times where the needs of fiction completely take priority over blogging.

I'm firmly in the "Write Every Day" camp. But how much I write, what I write, and what I'm impassioned to write sometimes can still be a creative ebb and flow of being at my Muse's whim.

I'm also going to try something new and interesting. Each month I'm going to take an ADDITIONAL, cumulative day off to sequester myself and work on my book (as well as possibly other fiction). I'll start with one day in January. In February, I will take two days off completely from blogging. In March it will be three. Etc....

(Hopefully I'll have something to show for it by the time Patrons might be complaining that I'm not updating enough, but I hope that the transparency and gradualness help in that regard.)


Election Week

I'm adding something that I basically realized today (3/5/2020). I'm going to take a break in our "regularly scheduled program" during election weeks. Midterms, primaries, obviously the presidential ones. I just need to acknowledge that the writing that happens will be on other blogs (like NWAW) and in other places (like my Facebook page) and that unless I am backing someone polling at 90 points, it's very, very, VERY likely I'm going to have at LEAST one day where I need to go back to bed into a pillow fort with ice cream.

We're probably done with elections for a while, but I'm leaving this here for future updates.

Facebook Writing and Social Justice Bard

Most of my major writing ends up on this blog, but some of my more throw-away thoughts don't. If you particularly enjoyed our Social Justice Bard posts, don't worry. I do as much yelling at clouds as I ever have.

I invite you to follow my Public Facebook Page (you can friend it if you send me a message, but it might be better if you follow it for a while first––unfiltered me is not everyone's cup of tea). I post somewhat more "political and partisan thoughts" there (rather than just social ISSUES) and also often post "proto-versions" of what later become full blog posts (if you're interested in seeing how those things develop). [There's also personal updates and nerdery there.]

I also have another blog called NOT Writing About Writing that I update periodically (once or more a week pre-covid, but now it's a couple of times a month in wild fits and starts), personal updates, and political thoughts that don't really tie into writing but that also aren't really short enough for Facebook.

Everything I ever write for any medium (and reruns of my best stuff) gets cross-posted to that Public Facebook Page, so join me there if you want to see everything I write.


More posts?

There MIGHT occasionally be a fourth, fifth, or even sixth (?) post in a week. Usually this will happen when I need to cover some ground on "blog business." (Like when I revise an old article so much that it deserves a fresh post, update a menu, write a new answer for our F.A.Q., or otherwise do something that needs to get done, but doesn't fit into our usual posting schedule. In this case, you might see an extra post pop up from time to time on the weekend or two in one day. Fiction will also usually go up independently of our regular schedule. It's less likely during the pandemic, but it used to happen a lot.

Reminders:
  • I still nanny for a seven-year-old and a toddler––usually at the same time. Plus my host body occasionally succumbs to your Earth illnesses. And every once in a couple of blue moons I even just take a damn day off. So those three posts might not always happen like clockwork or may involve going off the rails of my usual updates. Until my Patreon pays all the bills, my reality is that I sometimes have to prioritize paid gigs.
  • This flexible update schedule should also cut down on the thing where I'm apologizing to absolutely fucking nobody that it's Thursday and I've yet to put so much as a taco video up. I know that some people are annoyed by how often I apologize, and the rest don't really care. But this also settles my own inner overachiever. As long as I get in all the entries that week, my readers (who have literally never said anything in six years about my update schedule) and myself can give me a break.
  • I invoke the Anything Can Happen™ real world excuse. In ordinary times, I usually have a couple of "emergency blogs" tucked away, but during the pandemic, I chew through them as fast as I tuck them away. So any bump in the road hits the blog update schedule in real time. Health complications might crop up suddenly and have me needing to do a sudden, unexpected several-hour shift or even an overnight...or maybe even more. Trust me, I'm going to feel ten times worse about missing a post than all of my readers combined. 
  • Admin Long-weekends at least once a month will still be a thing. Usually just the Monday (but occasionally the Friday if I'm really behind) will be cannibalized. I need the extra time to answer emails, clean up menus, catch up on editing and such.




Also......folks, if you like what I do, support your "local" artist. (In this case "local" means more independent, amateur, and two-bit than literally down the street.) As long as the pandemic is on, I'm stuck working 25-30+ hours as a nanny on payroll weeks (and about half that on the off week). Even if the pandemic ended tomorrow, I'd do 10 hours a week just to see my favorite smol humans and make enough to afford car insurance. 

But once this pandemic is over, if you want to help me focus on writing (and not have to take freelance gigs, pet sitting jobs, and say yes to extra nanny hours), yeet a few dollars into that "tip jar" at the top left, or even better yet sign up to be a monthly patron through Patreon and get in on the back channel discussions about posting schedules, big changes, and upcoming projects. I have bills to pay like any other starving artist, and though my schedule is a lot better than it was three years ago, I'm still working two side gigs to make ends meet. Even a dollar a month (just $12 a year) will go a long way.

Note: Hi there, Mr. Elephant. I guess we should address you.

So....yeah. I ABSOLUTELY KNOW that there is a pretty loud contingent of "Who Cares!" from the other side of the Internet, and I'll give you all a nod if this isn't your cup of tea. It's cool. You do you. Posts such as this one are not my least popular kinds of posts (that honor is reserved for meta posts about why there's no regular post), but on the other hand, they can't all be me replying to social justice hate mail.  

However, I'm not going to stop posting them. 

Let me say that again: I'm NOT going to stop posting them.

One of our mission statements is to keep "The Process" transparent and give you updates in real time, so there will always be an occasional post about the meta. I want people to understand that writers struggle with their own productivity, schedules, and discipline. We are constantly dissatisfied with how much we're writing (or not) and trying to redefine ourselves. I want folks to see that someone who is making a paycheck doesn't have all the answers. I want them to see how their work/life balance matters, and how easy it is to fall into working TOO much or not enough, and either one causes problems. I want them to see that a successful blog doesn't require nine updates a week (and, in fact, that's too many). And I want them to see how artists are constantly struggling to fiddle with the knobs and get it just right because we are at once human with our ambition and drive, but also human with our INCESSANT need to eat and have shelter. We don't just eat rainbows and shit brilliant prose. Even if a follower or fan never uses my own update schedule or productivity demands on myself as a formula for their own success, let it be a comfort realizing how flawed and human working writers can be. 

I want you to see how messy and non-magical it all is.