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

Friday, December 29, 2017

Fall's Best (Sept, Oct, Nov)

I actually woke up sick, so I'm just going to keep trucking with the offerings for The Greatest Hits from this last year. That way we're fully ready to do the ten best and the adjusted titles by month. 

It takes a few posts to rock the end-of-the-year stuff, and I usually don't finish completely until late January (we won't mention the year where it was April) so knocking out as much as we can in these last few days of 2017 will keep this from dragging out forever.


Social Justice Bard and the Tale of the Nazi Sympathizers Does that title bother you? Good.

Self Care Check In ([Very] Personal Update) Turns out taking (much) better care of myself isn't just a a thing I "ought to" do. It's more like I'm in big trouble if I don't.

25 Things to Let Go if you Want to Write Creatively for Money (Part 1) Part two and three are easy to find.


Don't Let Them Change the Story: The Narrative of the Mentally Ill "Lone Wolf" There's a story that comes out every time a shooter is a white male.

The Truth About this Last Month (Personal Update) Things actually ARE better than when I wrote this, thanks to all of you.

The Renown Margin Though this is the stub page for a growing list of articles on the topic, it was in the top


The Return of a "Dark" History (A Literary Review of Thor: Ragnarok) Not just a fun romp: the themes of Thor are anti-white supremacy.

Serious for a moment (Personal Update) The end of Net Neutrality threatens an entire generation of artists, writers, bloggers, and more who depend on social media to find their audience.

Who Ordered The Extra Salty Mailbox (Mailbox) Not exactly hate mail, but I'm not exactly putting up with this shit either.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Summer's Best (June, July, August)

We're going to have to do all of the rest of these in the next couple of days so we can get to the year end and new year posts. I was thinking I would do two or three a day, but then as I was sitting on my client's very comfortable couch and deciding whether or not I should investigate the sound of things hitting the ground coming from the last place I'd seen one of the cats, it occurred to me that I could just do one post with multiple months. It's not like anyone goes back to these posts once the compilation page is up.

Here are three months worth of our best performing (non-poll) posts that will go on to be in our Greatest Hits Menu.


Writing With Depression (Mailbox) Laura wants to know if I have any advice for writing with chronic depression?

Feeling Stuck? Join the Club, and Try These Tips to Get Writing Again (R.S. Williams) Guest blogger RS Williams helps us overcome that stuck feeling with a few great tips.

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Blog Post That day we reached half a million followers on Facebook. And I promised to do the Hugh Grant Love Actually dance if we reached 5,000,000 page views. (I'm pretty sure we won't.)

July (A light month since I was lips deep in teaching summer school, but a few gems came through.)

Social Justice Bard and the Tale of The Not Machiavellian Distraction It is possible for there to be more than one issue going on and both to be important. Calling the one you care about less a distraction isn't very nice.

In Which I Have an Unwelcome Visitor by Rahnia Collins Dealing with procrastination.

We Regret to Inform You For six weeks I take a job teaching summer school that is too well paid to give up (at least not yet). During those six weeks, I make weekly appeals posts to try to drum up patrons. For some reason, this one was popular.


Joss Whedon and the Art/Artist Divide People come to different conclusions on where the divide is, but it's important we don't protect art or their creators or artists or their creations we love as above reproach.

Social Justice Bard and The Status Quo Defenders ("SQiDs")  They acknowledge there are problems, but don't want you to go fixing them or anything....

That Madmartigan Sigh (Personal Update) When there's so much going on that you just look at life and think....*SIGH*

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Reconstruction and Chad

[Construction tarp and scaffolding in background] 

*sound of hammer pounding*
*sound of power drill*

[Enter Chris]

"Hello everyone.

Welcome to Writing About Writing. I'm the writer, Chris, and I've got some great news."

*sound of power sander*

*cheesy grin* "As you can hear behind me, we're going though some big reconstruction, and we're going to roll out some really exciting changes to our update schedule in 2018.

*more hammering*

You might be wondering if we're going to get a new look too. (*belly laughs*) Would that we could. I wish we had the budget to match everything we're doing (*finger quotes*) 'under the hood' with a full new webpage layout revamp, but that might have to wait a couple more years to be affordable. In the meantime though, you'll notice the quality change right away."

*sound of power saw*

"What is changing? I'm so glad you asked. We've worked hard in conjunction with our over one hundred and twenty-five patrons to find out what aspects of this blog are favored and should be repeating during the week.

*shouting* "Pay attention to what you're doing, Chad."

*SCREAM* "Oh my god! OH. MY. GOD!!"


*glances sidelong; smile slips slightly* There are going to be a lot more mailboxes and good old fashioned advice. (*does an 'atta boy' fist pump across torso*) Plus we're going to bring out the ol' Social Justice Bard a bits more often. And a lot of people said they really liked our shenanigans. Though I have no idea when we're going to have time for that." 

"Is that your–?"

"Don't just leave it there. Pick it up."

"What am I supposed to do with it? Just carry it around."

"You put it on ice or something so they can reattach it!"

*looks back for half a second* Um. Also, we're going to start a monthly update rotation, so we can get in all the 'segments' here we....uh....don't want to neglect. And in a timely manner."

"Well we don't have ice. You used the cooler to hold that new form of pollywog you found."

"Use the mini-fridge then."

"What am I supposed to do, carry the whole mini-fridge? The thing is like eighty pounds. And as soon as I unplug it, it's just a big, eighty-pound, shitty thermos."

*smile growing plastic* In the next few days we're going to catch up on a lot of the menus and administrative posts we've been falling behind on. Ha ha! We know we've been more derelict in our duty than Poe Dameron's toxic masculinity. *looking slightly off camera* I thought we weren't doing that joke. No it's not WRONG, it's just....forced."

"Just do it!"

"Okay, but I'm going to have to take out some of this apple juice first? Do you want any apple juice?"

"Oh my literal fucking god!"

Listen it sounds like I maybe need to go. So here's the quick version. There are going to be a lot of small updates in the next few days as we catch up and prep for our big course change in the new year. Apologies in advance to folks on feeds or getting email updates. I really should probably see what happened. It'd be a shame if Chad cut off something other than his engorged sense of entitlement.

[Exit Chris–Camera goes to static]

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Results....FINALLY!)

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

Sings: Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the end of this fucking poll is so delightful. And we've run early rounds like woah. End this throe. End this throe. End this throe.

Don't get me wrong; I love you all. And passion about books–particularly fantasy books–is awesome and not even slightly misplaced. But man, oh man am I ever ready for this poll to be over. This is the best Christmas present ever.

If you recall, we broke this poll up into TWO polls because Pratchett and Gaiman were all over what was to be the finals and looked like they were going to sweep the top results, and by god after a four month build up, I wanted a little tension. So if you want to think of this as the top poll, here you go.

Text results below.

Night Watch- T. Pratchett 435 32.13%
American Gods- N. Gaiman 384 28.36%
Small Gods- T. Pratchett 243 17.95%
Neverwhere- N. Gaiman 205 15.14%
The Graveyard Book- N. Gaiman 87 6.43%

But perhaps no less interesting was the way the "others" shaped out. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire only got to the finals on a technicality and ended up taking third, and the Inheritance Trilogy which kept just barely making the cut off to get to the next round throughout the multiple rounds of the poll ended up crushing two titles that beat it out in the semifinals. Perhaps oddest of all was that while Harry Potter's showing was perfectly respectable, Malazan took and held the lead even though Potter's fandom is legion.

Text results below

Malazan Book of the Fallen series- S. Eriksen 574 25.44%
Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling 501 22.21%
Song of Ice and Fire- G.R.R. Martin 324 14.36%
The Kingkiller Chronicles- P. Rothfuss 312 13.83%
Stormlight Archives- B. Sanderson 204 9.04%
The Inheritance Trilogy- N.K. Jemisin 120 5.32%
Percy Jackson and the Olympians - R. Riordan 113 5.01%
The Abhorson Trilogy- G. Nix 108 4.79%

P.S.- I celebrate a secular version of Christmas that is mostly about eating way too many cookies and passing the same fruitcakes around year after year, but I do enjoy a day or two off, so I'm going to sign off here and meet up with you on the 27th. At that time we'll be doing a handful of year-end posts (thanking donors, last inside scoop emails, tallying the Hall of Fame posts). You won't REALLY be missing any brave new content until Jan 2 if you want to reconnoiter there.

Enjoy some yule log stew or whatever it is you enjoy.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Addendum Rule

That's a lot of notifications for one post.
Image description: My Gmail showing 64 notifications
Okay there was never any chance a real post was going up today since I have about five minutes that isn't earmarked for something else from about 7:30 am until about midnight. Hopefully this weekend, I'll actually be able to get a post up that isn't jazz hands...or fluff....or fluff doing jazz hands....fluffily.

So I woke up to like a gagillion notifications on yesterday's poll about books that are so much better than the movie. Apparently I've either totally achieved some new plateau of third rate blog popularity, or y'all have some pretty strong feels about adaptations. I'm guessing the latter as I am simply not that awesome.

I can't (and won't) keep doing this thing where we have weeks and months of qualifying rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals all to reach the final round of our poll. So I'm hereby announcing that these polls will not go over two semifinal rounds of ten choices each.

That means I'm taking the "top" twenty nominations.....at most. But if I can narrow it down to a single poll of eight choices, that's what I'll do.  Or at least as close as I can get it to those perimeters.

And the way I know which one is the "top"choice will be which gets the most "seconds."  (Yes, I know that technically makes them thirds and fourths...and whateverths.)

So second your faves, and we'll still have a robust poll, but no more of this months of quarterfinals crap that drags on forever.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Nominations Needed ("The Book Was Better" Poll)


Anything times stamped after 1:15 on the US-west coast will no longer be part of the poll. 

Sorry for the inconvenience but it had been days.

Something a little different for our next poll, so listen close.

There are lots of good book made into good movies (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter). And there are tons of okay books made into pretty decent movies (Hunger Games, Life of Pi). And of course the bad books made into bad movies are innumerable.

But today's poll is about those movies that somehow hide treasures in their source literature. Where the book isn't just better, but it's "SO MUCH BETTER, OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO READ IT!"

This isn't a poll about the best book or about the best movie. It's about the movies no one seems to know are really books or no one seems to know just how goddamned good the book is.



1- As always, I leave the semantics to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. The last thing I want to do is police whether or or not a book is "good" enough or a movie NOT good enough to count.

2- You may nominate two (2) books. Remember that I am the worst sort of human imaginable who hates free will and all things that smell like liberty.  I will NOT take any books beyond the second that you suggest. (I will consider everything after your second rec in a long list to be "seconds" if the work is nominated before or after yours.)

3- You may (and should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. That is the only way they'll be making it to the final poll.

4- Put your nominations here. Not on my Facebook wall. Not on Writing About Writing's FB page. Not on Google. HERE.  I will take nominations on reminder posts; however, they may not get the seconds you need to go onto our poll because no one will see them. But I can't sift through all the social media cross posting. (Every poll there are great nominations on FB or Google that never make the poll because they just weren't here to be seconded.)

5- Try to keep in mind the perimeters of the poll. The Martian is a good book and a good movie, but the former is almost a script of the latter with a few changes. What this poll is about is the books that are vastly, wonderfully better.

6- "Best" means whatever you as a reader think it should. Most challenging. Most engaging. Most fun. Most literary. The most epic sub-plots that were never in the movie. It's up to you what "best" means.

OH AND BY THE WAY....the poll that is up (best modern fantasy) still needs your vote.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Last Call for Votes)

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

You know what my Christmas present to myself is going to be? The end of this goddamned poll! Months this shit has gone on, and on December 24th I'm posting the results even if it's a fifteen way tie.

Don't forget you have two polls to vote in this time around because by fuck we're going to keep this four-month-long poll's final round interesting even if it means putting the oh-gee-whiz-guess-who's-going-to-win titles of Gaiman and Pratchett in their own fucking death cage.

Next year we'll do something light and festive and not at all controversial, like whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

I'm also going to start gathering nominations for our next poll soon, so start thinking about movies....where the book was totally better.

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

If you're on mobile you can scroll ALLLLLL the way to the bottom and click on"webpage view" to see the side menus and get to the polls. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Drowning in the Yule Tide

I'm pretty much going underwater until the new year. If you see me, it's probably just my head as I gasp for air.

There are stacks of pet sitting jobs double and even triple booked over the holiday season by folks hoping to see family or who've had their first pet-sitting plans fall through and who are undaunted even by my double-book rates. ("Help me Chris," the hologram says. "You're my only hope.") The Contrarian has out-the-wazoo extra needs as folks scramble to balance superhero accounting books by year's end. A strange, but potentially wonderful fourth side-gig requires a few hours of effort. All of this, of course, on top of the holiday season, which is held secularly even by those who have little interest in its religious connotations. (Personally I kind of enjoy watching Christians insist that they totally didn't coopt pagan holy-days and that both the lambing season and Roman censuses were done to kick off winter.) I have to admit that while I used to be Theoden King ("Thus it begins...") about this season, having a four year old to dote on has basically turned me into Will Ferrell's character from Elf. Gifts to buy and wrap. Food to cook ruin trying to cook and end up buying. I might even bake fuck up and then buy cookies.


Point is, we're a touch on the busy bee side over here.

In the usual tradition of Writing About Writing, though, I will be struggling to bring you some kind of content and not just taking a couple of weeks to have some eggnog and quote Prep and Landing. You might be asking yourself how the yuletide hell I am do all this extra non-writing work and still bring you blog posts?

Laughing all the way, my friend. Laughing all the way.

So look for polls. Look for jazz hands. Look for silly posts. And maybe I'll even manage to get something you can sink your teeth into, but know that our updates are going to be on the wild and wacky side until the new year–when you should look for a major tectonic upheaval in the update schedule.

Is there a lesson today? Sure. It's worth noticing how writing is almost never a binary for working writers. No matter what's going on in their lives, no matter how chaotic their schedule gets, no matter how many extra obligations they have stacked on, or how busy they become, they do not "STOP" writing. They manage expectations, pare down, announce their productivity is going to take a hit, let their loved ones know that things are going to be like the end of book two in a trilogy for a while, and continue to write as much as their circumstances will allow.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Prompt: Subvert Expectations (Bango)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Moana Soundtrack (Inspiration)

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Metacular-The Great Meta Conclusion (Patrons Have Spoken)

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

In Memoriam (John DeCoster)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I remember Mr. DeCoster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 7, 2017

No Glamor in the Business of Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ol' Personal and Meta Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for that later this week.

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

On The Business of Writing for the Non Famous Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is almost certain to affect you.

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Chris vs. Evil Chris

The day after...

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

Evil Chris: I'm staying.

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

Wait, what?

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

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

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

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

Evil Chris: You can never have too much–

Chris: Not now, dude.

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

Chris: No, that's certainly not necessary.

Evil Chris: You know what? You need me.

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

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

Chris: Um....yeeeeaaaah

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

Chris: Nice Kipling reference.

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

 Two of me!

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