The Worlds We Teach (a rant)

First up before I get into the rant part of this post – Hi! DFWCon ended just a few hours ago and was awesome as always. This was my fourth year attending the conference, and the first time I actually pitched.

I won’t lie, it was a little nerve-wracking – especially since I didn’t start working on my pitch until last Wednesday or so? Didn’t finalize my pitch until Saturday morning… like an hour before my actual time slot. But I did it and it went so much better than I expected, the rest of the conference felt so much less stressful than the prior years (even though I had no intention of pitching previously!). I’m so thankful to my writing tribe for helping critique my pitch drafts, and oozing confidence for me.

Special shout-out to my husband for listening to the pitch over breakfast and guessing questions the agent might ask me, and to Leah for skipping the first class session with me to practice. Funnily enough, the agent did ask the same or similar questions to what I practiced with them, so I didn’t stumble over answering nearly as much! ❤ you all!

Mmmm post-conference margarita.

NOW. Rant time.

*Dear white men teaching “How to Write” SF/F courses at writing conferences: if the only books you’re going to hold up as examples are “classics,” especially if every single one was written by a white man: you’re wasting the audience’s time.

Is it good to know some of the pillars on which the genres were founded? Sure. But if all you’re going to talk about is their accolades within the genre, and not break down their elements at a craft level before moving on to MORE RECENT EXAMPLES, you’re doing a disservice to those being taught.

(Unpopular opinion: Dune is not a great book. Nor was it edited well.)

If all you do is point to works in the past, how exactly will that foster growth in the genre? How does that challenge writers OR the reader? How is that inclusive?

Maybe this is just a *me* thing. I want to know who the movers and shakers are in genres now, or within the last five years. I want to know what they are doing differently, how they’re turning the genre on its head or the ways they’re challenging it.

But you know what, I don’t think this is just a *me* thing. If you’re going to use comp titles in your query, it’s suggested that the comps be pretty recent titles (anywhere from 2 to 5 years old). Obviously there’s an exception to everything, but “classic” SFF has historically been het-white-male-centric (and racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. in a number of cases). So age of the book aside, why would you want to point to such titles as objects for study? It’s just…backwards.

You mean to tell me you can’t find ONE SFF by a WOMAN to hold up? Ann Leckie, Kameron Hurley, Yoon Ha Lee, Rachel Aaron, Martha Wells, S.A. Chakraborty, Amal El-Mohtar, Seanen McGuire, etc.?

You mean to tell me you can’t find ONE SFF by a POC to hold up? N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Justina Ireland, Aliette de Bodard, Daniel José Older, Jeanette NG, Fonda Lee, Tomi Adeyemi, Roshani Chokshi, Liu Cixin, etc.?

Those are just a small sample of authors currently publishing in SFF, but seriously…if you won’t even use a recent SFF by a dude, like James S.A. Corey, John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, Andy Weir, etc… that gives me the impression you’re either incredibly lazy (at best) or you’re on the side of the fence clamoring to stay within the narrow-minded, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. style boundaries of 20+ years ago.

It’s not a good look, and not only am I going to (internally) side-eye the hell out of you, but your credibility to me – be it as an instructor or an author – is going to crash pretttttty quick. I get wanting to look to and acknowledge the “roots” of a genre, but if those are the only examples you give to writers new to the genre(s) or those looking to improve, guess what? You’re not being inclusive. You’re not helping the genre to grow, or giving said writers resources that illustrate how SFF is growing, changing, becoming more inventive. You’re stifling it.

You have a platform, so use it wisely. /endrant

*I’ve witnessed this two times, and both speakers/instructors were white males…hence the rant.

 

That’s it for me on the subject. If you’ve had similar experiences and want to commiserate, feel free to leave a comment!

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Twitter hiatus, NaNoEdMo, and other reflections from March

March has finally come to an end, which means one thing: my Twitter hiatus is OVER.

Thank. Goodness.

 

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Elroy dropped by for moral nap support.

 

I’ll be honest, sticking to the hiatus was harder than I expected. I knew I was erm, addicted somewhat, but not to the extent I thought. Day one was fine. Days two through twenty-something were frustratingly boring, especially at my dayjob. Probably 90% of the news I intake – be it publishing/writing, politics, pop culture, etc. – comes from Twitter…which means I was pretty much in the dark for a whole month. Totally not fun, so if I ever make such a pact again: TALK ME OUT OF IT. Moderation, yes; complete blackout, no.

 

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So much revising.

That said, NaNoEdMo went really well. I logged over 66 hours of revising time, completing four chapters in the process. I *gasp* actually enjoyed revising for like…a whole week. Coincidentally that was the week where I revised 49 pages in total (one of them a 15 page day!). So as much as I hated being away from Twitter, clearly it had some benefits.

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Progress-by-stickers!

In terms of progress, I’m down to the last three chapters. I’m expecting to have to rewrite at least a couple scenes in one of them, because the language is practically gibberish compared to the images I’m trying to convey. The final chapter needs just a little bit of smoothing. If everything goes better than expected *crosses fingers* draft 3 will be done in the next two weeks, and I’ll have enough time to go back for another pass before sending it off to betas at the end of the month.

 

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Also during the hiatus…

I came across Tim Clare’s “Couch to 80k” podcast and am loving it so far. Like the site suggests it’s not just for people who want to take an idea they have and turn it into a book, but for those already writing who are burnt out or struggling with a block/anxiety.

Seriously, it’s awesome. Let me get personal for a second: I have a difficult time with writing prompts. I don’t fare well going to writing meetups unless they’re with my main set of writing friends, or the critique group I’ve belonged to for four years. I always feel this giant pressure to perform or produce and it locks me up. I’m a wording perfectionist in front of others, so trying to produce something on the spot that feels “good enough” is a struggle. Taking steps to better my mental health has helped, but those feelings aren’t gone.

However. In two weeks of exercises I’ve written:

  • A fun Loki/Thor brotherly fanfic snippet
  • Possibly the start of a short story, taking an early prompt (picking an “interesting object in a character’s bag”) and adding a strong emotional tone

These may not seem impressive or anything to be happy about, but to put it in perspective – the last time I wrote fanfic was pre-college, during my online forum-based rpg days. And the last time I had a short story idea, let alone tried to write one, was probably close to three years ago.

The freewrite exercises during gave me freedom to play around with, well… anything and everything. I dabbled in poetry. I ranted a little about politics. I wrote meaningless vignettes. Exchanges that may or may not happen further down in the urban fantasy series.

 

It seems like such a small, no-brainer thing to give ourselves permission to write freely for no one but ourselves, without judging the words or where our head/heart lead us in the idea – but it’s not. Not when you have deadlines, imposter syndrome, a nasty inner critic, or some combination of those three. They don’t even have to be contracted deadlines! The way we compare ourselves to others to measure and define our success is so, so harmful. We [writers] need to remember that we are our, essentially, our own first readers. Forget everyone else; we should be happy with the story, ideas, characters, etc. ourselves, even if it’s not perfect on the page yet.

If you need permission to do that, to find self-satisfaction in your writing, to let your imagination free to roam and get dirty and fuck up – you have it. You have permission – more importantly, encouragement – to do just that.

So yeah, give the podcast a listen. It hasn’t banished my writing blocks or anything like that, but I’ve seen so much potential in just taking 10 – 20 minutes a day to let my mind wander and see what it comes up with.

 

I also want to talk about falling in love with BTS, but I think that deserves its own post (or Twitter thread, at the very least). You’ll just have to wait for all that fangirling.  Until then, HAPPY APRIL!

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Really enjoyed reading Warcross, too! Where is the sequellllll???

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Top songs of 2017

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Aside from the raging trash fire that is the (US) government, 2017 was – for me – a year of renewal. A year of getting back to happy, remembering (and reminding, esp. on hard days) why I write, and finding excitement in it again.

That’s not to say it was easy, because haha rewrites and revisions are freakin’ hard, BUT my dreamer/creative side came storming back full force. Actually it’s probably more apt to say my imagination went into overdrive, since I paused revisions to do NaNoWriMo on three *new* ideas. (It was either that or let my brain explode, and I’m pretty sure that’s not in anyone’s best interest. Lots of stories to tell, no time to waste on expending brainmatter, etc. etc.)

Anywho, I wanted to share my favorite tracks from 2017 – the ones that went above and beyond in terms of inspiration and propelling my writing endeavors/aspirations. It’s a little difficult to tell from the list, but 2017 was, uh, interesting…musically speaking. I actually have country songs (yes, that’s plural) on at least one of my playlists now. Never thought I’d see that happen.

Without further ado, I give you my top songs of 2017!

10. Dance Again – Neffex

9. Ashes – dEMOTIONAL

8. (A)tension – Versus Me/Craig Mabbitt

7. Electric Eye (Zardonic Remix) – Celldweller / Zardonic

6. Black Wedding ft. Rob Halford – In This Moment

 

5.  Hypnotize – Awaken the Giant

I love the melancholy, spacey vibe of this track.

 

4. Omen – Redeem/Revive

Upbeat and angry – a perfect song for kicking ass. I love the combination of the clean vocals and guitar riffs in the chorus as well, because it brings to mind a character triumphing over an obstacle, or a situation where others expected them to fail.

 

3. Hopelessly Hopeful – Asking Alexandria

Another upbeat tune, but less aggressive or harsh than Omen. I really enjoy the tempo of this one, and the way it all comes together to sound “softer,” in a way, without weakening the intensity

 

2. Invisible – Don Vedda

Don Vedda is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. This song is just…gah, so perfect. It has something of an 80’s vibe, but the synths don’t overwhelm or drown out the rest of the song. The bass line is heavy and groovy (omg the fret slides!). The guitar solo fits so well with the atmosphere and style. Don’s voice practically a work of art. And the video is gorgeous. (Honestly, the rap bridge is the only downside to the track. It’s not a bad idea, and fits pretty well with the track as a whole, but those lyrics are meh.)

 

1. Bulletproof – Desasterkids

This song makes my dark little heart sooo happy. Heavy bass, dirty guitar, futuristic keyboard/synth parts – perfect for a near-future SF project, don’t you think? And don’t even get me started on the video… *swoons*.

 

 

BONUS: There’s Nothing Holding Me Back – Shawn Mendes

This was actually the song I listened to the most according to Spotify. It’s sweet, fun,  playful, and fits the main couple of the paranormal romance I started so perfectly. Every time I hear it I either get this stupid grin on my face, or my chest does somersaults – just from imagining the two of them and the shape of their story. It is completely, utterly joyful, and I can’t wait to get back to writing them!

And there you have it! Maybe one of these will spark your own fancy idea, or a give new insight for one you’ve been sitting on for a while.

Are there any particular songs you listened to in 2017 that have stuck with you, or provided inspiration for a particular character/scene/element? Let me know in the comments!

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NaNoWriMo 2017 Reflection

November’s come and gone, and with it, the excited frenzy of NaNoWriMo. I’ve posted at least once before about how much I love NaNo, and how it kicked me in the butt to start putting the stories in my head onto paper/screen, so of course I participated again this year. As long as I have a choice, I’ll participate every year!

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Hufflepuff, so helpful.

 

This time around, I decided to work on three *new* stories I’ve had simmering in the back of my braincave for a good while. It was more than just an itch to write them – I needed to free up some brain space and get some idea of which one to work on next.

Which would have been great…if I also hadn’t decided to try and up my word goal by a lot. Somehow I got it into my head that I could write 80,000 words. Previously my max had been 60.5k in 2015, so 60k became my min goal.

Now, projects! What have I been cooking up, and how much did I want to accomplish for them?

Project #1 = adult paranormal romance, commonly referred to as the Dryads project. I’m super in love with the main characters in this one. It’s much more lighthearted, fun, and funny than anything I’ve written thus far. Goal: 20k words min, 30k aim.

Project #2 = YA space opera involving dragons, thus called the space dragons story. I like the concept of this and had some ideas of scenes, but hadn’t really settled on a plot. Of the three projects, this one felt like the weakest or hardest going in. Goal: 10k words min, 20k aim.

Project #3 = adult cyperbunk or post-cyberpunk, code-named TC. This was the newest idea out of the three, but I was really excited to dive into it. Goal: 20k words min, 30k aim.

 

One other thing to mention before I get into the results – this year I decided to write pep talks to myself to read at word count milestones. I did this a week or week and a half before NaNo and sealed them up in envelopes, thus ensuring I would probably forget what exactly was on them by the time I reached the goal. These also had rewards on them for motivation, like buying a slice of cheesecake for myself or getting to buy a book off my Amazon wishlist.

I kind of wish I had thought of the personal pep talk thing sooner, because I really enjoyed getting to open up the note and see the encouragement from past-me. The me that was SUPER EXCITED to write three projects, putting down new characters and worlds on the page before realizing I should have prepped more.

 

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Pumpkin seeds, water, and a cocktail in the skull jar = writing essentials.

 

So, how’d I do?

Dryads = 38,282 words
Space Dragons = 5,321 words
TC = 5,270 words
Orobouros = 1,011 words

TOTAL (based on my validation file) = ~50,140 words. There is always a discrepancy between whatever word processor you use and NaNo’s actual validation program. I think I actually had around 50.4k combined between all my docs, but didn’t keep track of the last few days well.

But wait, what’s that? That extra project at the end? That, my friends, is another random project I’ve been sitting on for about a year. My brain spontaneously decided to give me the opening for it, and I couldn’t very well just let it languish.

As you can see, the results were 10k less than my min and almost 30k less than what I wanted. Still, if I’d been working on a single project, that 50k would be pretty close to half a book for me.

It’s hard to keep perspective of the words you have written if you’re comparing them with where you want to be. There was one particular Sunday during NaNo where I needed like 8500 words to break even on progress, and all I could manage over the whole day was something around 4100 words.

I was so frustrated! Sitting there, hour after hour, with words coming out but not fast enough to get where I wanted to be. And, I don’t know, after maybe ten minutes of stewing in that frustration and looking back over my word count/progress, it hit me.

I had written ~4100 words on the day. Four thousand one hundred words. Yet I was stuck on this incessant need, this fuckin’ wall I’d built up in my head to scale and haul myself over to consider it a successful day.

You want to know what my normal drafting average is? Probably somewhere between 1500 and 3000 words/day. Previously the most I’ve ever written in one sitting was ~4600 words. This November I had a 6k day (my new PR), a 5k day, a 4k day, and at least a couple 3k+ days. Word counts aren’t everything, but comparing my previous drafting counts to then/now? That’s pretty awesome progress, folks. I had no reason to be ashamed of falling short of that 8500/day goal, or to be hard on myself.

To reiterate: if I had written 80,000 words in 30 days, it’d probably be equivalent to a full first draft on the Dryads project. That. Is. Insane. But…I could probably do it. Possibly even in the next few years.

 

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And, you know, with a ton of coffee.

 

Unrelated to word count, working on these three projects revealed pretty clear strengths/flaws in my original plans:

  • trying to get 80k words from three different ideas is a baaaaad idea
  • I need to study Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen series for POV/character weight before attempting to write TC again
  • Dryads will definitely be the next project up for drafting/revising after my UF is out the door
  • If I say I’m going to take all of October off to prep for NaNo, I SHOULD ACTUALLY DO THAT
  • personal pep talks are awesome, and will return
  • not all stories/ideas can be, or should be, fast-drafted

 

This last point is something that will sit with me for a while, I think. Dryads has been pretty easy to draft, so far, because the plot and characters have been solidifying in my head for five or six months. I have the feeling TC will be pretty easy to draft too, assuming I get the plot and POV ironed out. Both of those projects are closer to the modern world as we know it, so maybe that’s why.

Space Dragons and Orobouros will take longer because even at this stage they have  richer and deeper voices. I don’t want to sacrifice that to get all their words on the page, if it means I’ll have spend months rewriting them. My goal is to write cleaner first drafts so rewrites and revisions don’t eat up gobs of my time. For some ideas that means plotting or outlining better from the outset; for others it will mean writing slower in what snatches of time I find between other projects.

Or it does for now, since I’m not under any deadlines but my own!

 

My take on NaNoWriMo is that it’s worthwhile to participate so long as you learn something from it, even if what you learn is that you don’t write well under pressure or need to have some extensive outline before starting. Though the default goal is 50k words, word count really does come secondary to the writing itself. And through the writing, putting yourself in that pressure cooker up against a deadline with a suggested word goal, I have a feeling you’ll learn a fair bit about what does and doesn’t work for your process.

If you did NaNo this year – congratulations! Whether you wrote one word or one hundred thousand, that’s still more words than you started with.  If you haven’t tried NaNo yet, do it! Give CampNaNoWriMo during March (or is it April?) or July a whirl. You can make your own goals for camp, but still have a deadline. It might help you ease into the frenzy that comes back around every November =).

 

 

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Fall Update + The Mighty Pens

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, but I actually have writing updates and stuff I can post about. Let’s get those out of the way before we talk about my favorite writing time of the year.

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Obligatory floof with some of this year’s new releases.

First and foremost – I FINISHED THE MOTHER F’IN REWRITE!

Eighteen months from start to a complete second draft, and I am THRILLED that is behind me. Draft 2 came out to 110k words, seventeen chapters total. I can’t remember the first draft count off the top of my head, but it doesn’t sound like much of a cut.

Much of the overall plot remained the same, but it was tightened a fair bit. I cut characters, added new ones that made sense. Added A TON of setting details and character stuff I neglected in the first draft. The resulting story is far and away a better version of what I originally wanted and envisioned. It’s finally *my* vision of Charleston, the main characters, and the plot.

Long story short on other things (because I really want this to be a shortish post):

  • Entered Pitch Wars, didn’t get picked*
  • Put up a blurb during #CPMatch and ended up with three new CPs
  • Pitched during Pitmad for the first time
  • Bought a new house!
  • Sold our old house!
  • Adopted a new kitten!

Before I move on, one other note and shout-out regarding my rewrite: I have been so, so lucky and am eternally grateful for my writing buddies/critique partners – Leah, Amy, and Lindy.

Leah, Amy, and I met at DFWCon 2015. We don’t write the same things, but we’re always there to support one another (oozing confidence is our thing). Lindy joined the fold after DFWCon 2016, and she’s been my alpha reader/confidante/sounding board pretty much ever since. She helped me hone my pitch, and read ALL of my chapters as I rewrote them for the WIP. Like, the last year of the rewrites were so much more bearable – AND PRODUCTIVE – because of her. All three of these wonderful ladies’ enthusiasm and support have helped keep me afloat; my tribe means the world to me, guys.

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Yuri On Ice ties with Pride and Prejudice (2005) for best-stress-reliever.

Okay, onto the other important thing.

I love NaNoWriMo. No, seriously, I do. NaNo taught me how to get shit done. (The drafting part, anyway.) I like charity and helping people in need when I can, too.

So it’s really cool that two awesome authors, Kat Brauer and Susan Dennard, put together a group (The Mighty Pens) which joins the writing frenzy of NaNoWriMo with fundraising for an awesome cause: the Malala Fund. You can read more about the group and fundraiser in the links posted, but in short, the Malala Fund is dedicated to providing twelve years of safe education for girls.

How does this relate to NaNoWriMo and/or me? Like a race or something like Jump Rope for Life (if you’ve heard of that, not sure they’re still doing it), people get sponsorships of donations depending on how long they run, or how many minutes they can jump rope. The Mighty Pen has a similar goal – drive donations and/or sponsorships based on how many words we write for NaNoWriMo.

MY GOAL:

  • 80,000 words, all of it for new projects. This isn’t for one book, either. I have three stories (technically more but I have to at least strive for an intact sanity by the end of November) I want to get started so that when I am finished with revisions, I have headway into new words. My ideal breakdown is:
    • 30,000 words on a paranormal romance
    • 30,000 words on a cyberpunk sci-fi
    • 20,000 words on a YA space opera

If you’d like to sponsor me, whether it’s $1 per 10,000 words or $10 for every $10,000 words, I would be so, so grateful and you’d be helping girls all over the world!

 

How will I know how many words you’ve written, or current progress?

  • I will be updating my word counts on my NaNo profile with each writing session.
  • Though I am going to try to stay off of Twitter and other social media to maximize writing time and reduce distractions, I will do my best to post my word count at least once a day.
  • Ask me!

 

That’s all I have for now. For any other writers – I hope to see you burning up your keyboards or notebooks with how quickly your stories are coming out of you. May your words flow bright and strong!

 
*I hoped I wouldn’t be picked, actually, which sounds sort of… counter productive, but I can go into that more sometime later if anyone wants. I definitely wanted to apply just to give it a shot, but was less stressed about not getting picked than getting picked.

 

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Latest Reads

It’s been a while since I’ve done any reviews, and there have been a few already released this year that I loved, so let’s remedy that, shall we?

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First up – THE MUSE by Jessie Burton. It’s completely different from her first book, THE MINIATURIST (you can find my review here) and totally works on its own. There is a freedom and something like joyous abandon in the voice and prose that goes beyond Odelle and Olive – the primary characters and narrators. Yet Burton hooks it all together through the mystery of the painting, of the Schlosses, of Isaac and Teresa. You won’t find magical realism here like existed in The Miniaturist, because it doesn’t need it. It’s compelling, gorgeously written, and I think has more of Burton in it than her first book. I’d give it a 4 out of 5!

 

Kameron Hurley’s THE STARS ARE LEGION is up next. If that cover doesn’t make you want to buy it, I honestly don’t know what to do with you. It’s an inventive sci-fi of world ships (actual whole planets!), and brutal women who have their own hidden agendas. Like the levels of Katazyrna, I know I’ll have to re-read it two or three more times before I truly get all the details and intricacies built into it. If you like Hurley’s other series, especially the Bel Dame Apocrypha books, you’ll enjoy this. I’d give it a 4 out of 5, also!

 

The last one I want to talk about is Aliette de Bodard’s THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS. Because Asmodeus needs a bit more room to be doted on =).  You like fallen angels, magic, and dragons? Good. Read this. Actually, read book 1 first, then come back.

The House of Binding Thorns picks up shortly after the events of HoSW, when Madeleine is returned to House Hawthorne and, unfortunately, under Asmodeus’s thumb/dagger. There’s a lot to love in this book: a deeper, longer look at the Dragon Kingdom under the Seine, and their growing interactions with the houses; Asmodeus marrying into the Dragon Kingdom; the Annamite community that makes the best of the magic-ravaged city, away from the Fallen; a glimpse back to House Silverspires; the introduction of a Fallen who has stayed out of the war and conflict between the houses, making a life with the one she loves on her own terms.

Oh, and Asmodeus kiss scenes. *swoons*

Seriously, read it. Madeleine deserves a medal, or something. We get a much better understanding of Asmodeus and what he cares about. Overall: gorgeous writing, lovely characters, and an amazing world I’ll come back to again and again. HoBT gets a 4.8 out of 5 from me!

 

The next books up on my TBR are THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas, DREAMS OF THE EATEN by Tex Thompson, CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber, and INFIDEL by Kameron Hurley. Are there any particular books you all *gestures wildly* are excited about releasing this year? Books I can add to my ever-growing TBR shelves?

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Rewriting…still

I’ve been working for a full year now and still haven’t finished the second draft of my UF book. Let’s just say it’s been a steep learning curve, and various crap happened throughout the year that didn’t make it any easier.

But – and there is a silver lining here – I’ve learned a lot. Just like a first draft, you kinda have to figure out a process for second and later drafts by doing it. Otherwise you’re flailing and wasting time and letting the voice of doubt sink its claws deeper into you….

I know, I’ve been there. I still flail, waste time, and want to burn the scene I’m trying to fix at least once a week. I don’t, though. I cut the words, re-write them over and over if I have to, until they make more sense.

Surely drafts three and on will be much, much easier.

 

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Assuming this guy lets me have some peace at the desk!

 

In any case, I’m sure there are tons of you out there looking at your NaNo or some other WIP first draft, positively cringing (or crying) from all the problems you see. Good news! NaNoEdMo is coming up in less than two weeks! Like NaNoWriMo, there’s a community undertaking the journey with you of trying to fix those words. Instead of 50,000 words, the goal is 50 hours of editing. That’s a little over 1.5 hours per day. Sounds totally do-able, right? Head on over to the website and sign up!

Having said that, I really, really don’t suggest diving in without some kind of plan.By that I mean jumping in feet first without looking over the first draft, thinking about what needs to change, characters that need to be moved, making notes, etc. It’s overwhelming. But if you’re looking for a place to start, this is what I tried:

  • Let the book sit (hopefully you’ve let it rest for a few weeks, if not a month, since finishing the draft)
  • Highlighted sections in different colors based on what changes were needed (green for setting, orange for plot, etc.)
  • Wrote each scene on a notecard
  • Made an outline for what actually happens in the first draft (even if you went by an outline while writing, it may be good to make this just to catch any differences that cropped up by accident)
  • Made an outline for draft two based on what needed to be moved/changed
  • Came up with an arbitrary date to finish the draft

 

What actually worked:

  • Outlines — these have made the biggest improvement, I think. Every time I changed something or got feedback from an alpha reader/critique partner, I readjusted the outline and was able to stay on track much better.
  • Scene cards — these helped to an extent. They’re nice if you want to lay them all out and see what happens when you move pieces around, but for me, there was too much information on them. My scenes were too big, so about a quarter through I stopped using them as my guideline.
  • Alpha/Beta reader — to be fair I didn’t have a reader/crit partner until about halfway through the year, but I highly recommend having someone read the revised/rewritten chapters as you get through one.

 

What didn’t work:

  • Highlighting the first draft — there was simply too much that needed to be reworked. Since it’s first person POV and the main character didn’t cooperate very well in the first draft, a lot of it couldn’t be salvaged word-for-word.
  • Word/scene goals/timeline — hahahaha. I have broken pretty much every one of these I made. I underestimated how long it would take to rewrite everything, because my brain isn’t in first-draft-vomit-mode. It’s in make-everything-pretty mode. Luckily I’m not on a contracted deadline so I can take as much time as you want.
    • If it takes you a day to fix 50 – 100 – 1000 words, THAT’S OKAY. You don’t have to try to do a scene a day.

 

I also read quite a number of articles on rewriting, editing, the second draft, etc. Many, many of them will be much more helpful than me, both in terms of process and motivation/inspiration. The edit caves are deep, dark, and full of hidden bears that will gobble you up if they get the chance… take a torch and a shotgun with you:

 

Chuck Wendig has three good write ups about editing/rewriting/second drafts. Hopefully you get a kick out of the profanity as much as I do.

Susan Dennard has a treasure trove of writing posts, from planning a draft to fixing one.

Delilah Dawson, whom you should follow on Twitter, often takes questions and runs through scenarios like starting a short story or what her process is for revisions. Might be a little difficult to find the edit/revision posts but worth a look.

NaNoEdMo has a ton of posts from previous years to go back through. One of my favorites is this one by Julie Hutchings.

 

You can also look up Rachel Aaron (Bach), Kristin Lamb, and Holly Lisle to fill your brain with more revision gooey-ness. There are so, so many others too.

Catch you all at NaNoEdMo!

 

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Top 5 Songs via Spotify – 2016

 

Late last year I switched from Pandora to Spotify for writing music, and for the most part I couldn’t be happier. Spotify is leaps and bounds better at finding new music based on tracks you already like. They’ve added customized suggestions too, like the Release Radar that updates late Thursday/early Friday every week and recommended songs at the bottom of your individual playlists. My ears have never been so happy, except when they keep putting rap metal into my weekly Discover Playlist.

Nowhere did I sign up for rap metal, end of story.

Anyway, I thought it’d be neat to go over the songs I found through Spotify this year and make my own Top 5 list. They have a playlist of top 2016 tracks for me but I don’t agree on the order, so nyeh. Anyway, these are the songs that have most influenced and helped with my writing this year:

 

#5 Tie between Lifelines by I Prevail and Happy Song by Bring Me the Horizon

Lifelines is upbeat and a little on the lighter side, but has a killer chorus. Brings to mind fight or action scenes wherein the MC is finally victorious or has some kind of epiphany after screwing up so many times.

 

Happy Song doesn’t exactly sound happy… unless you have a bit of a dark heart (like me!). But it’s inspirational, in its own way. From just a normal, non-writing perspective, the lyrics really hit home; no matter how shitty a day has been, or how bad my mental state is, all it takes is one song – an anthem for that moment – to escape the maelstrom and survive.

Gnarly bass, heavy guitars – be still my beating heart. Great background music for an anti-hero getting ready to kick some ass, or anyone for that matter.

 

 

#4My Soul is Empty and Full of White Girls by Slaves

No, I have no idea why it has this kind of a name. What I do know is that I love the bass line. The chorus is uplifting bordering on ethereal, kind of a magic in itself (which doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to visualize spells and magic). It’s been hugely beneficial when I get into a rut about my MC, specifically on the urban fantasy project, and need to remember where she’s going in the bigger picture.

 

 

#3 – Talking Body by Don Vedda (Tove Lo cover)

Going to slowwww it down a bit with this one. Covers are often hit or miss when they come up on the playlists, but this one gives my current favorite (Chandelier by Normandie) a run for its money. Once again, the bass line drew me in and the guitar solo sealed the deal. Like #4, this song helps remind me the story’s a marathon effort, not a sprint. Also not to rush the romance arc… which is how I ended up writing the payoff scene intended for one of the sequels. TLDR – great for romance arcs!

 

 

#2 – Mad at Myself by Issues

I had such a hard time picking between Talking Body and Mad at Myself for this spot, but ultimately had to go with MaM. Dare I say it? Loved the bass and guitars, and the switching between clean and screamed vocals. The dual personality fit MC well, given the two worlds she’s trying to fit into. It’s a messy sort of character anthem, and hella fun.

 

#1 – *Moth by HELLYEAH

Where do I even begin with this? It’s one of those rare unicorn songs that just fits perfectly with damn near everything. Dark, heavy, lovely; seriously I listened to this on repeat for almost a month straight when it first came on, and STILL haven’t worn it out.

Moth is one of those songs I expect will be on almost all of my playlists for sci-fi/fantasy writing projects. Midpoint/mirror moment? This song’s for you. Negative character arc? This song’s for you. Good vs. evil or grey vs. black climax battle? This song’s for you. Betrayal, loss of hope, renewal of hope, a thousand other things – this song’s for you.

*Warning – video contains bugs (moth and pupae), suggestions of domestic abuse and cutting (aftermath, not actual acts), and guy holding a string of fake severed ears for some reason.

 

And that’s it! Enjoy the songs, and hopefully one of them will spur your own creativity and imagination. The actual “Top Tracks for 2016” playlist that Spotify made for me can be found here. If the link doesn’t work, give a shout in the comments. And if there are any songs that really inspired you this year, let me know!

 

Happy Holidays to you all, and see you in 2017!

 

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Mission Report: September 16, 2016

So it’s been over…

*looks at last blog post and calendar*

*promptly burns the calendar*

Ahem, never mind. All that matters is the update I’m about to lay on you guys.

 

I’ve been heavy in the deep, dark, re-write cave since it feels like forever. Just to give a progress report, so to speak, let’s go over the goals I set several months back.

 

  • March thru April (…June): finish draft 2 of UF #1, send to betas; write query, synopsis, and pitches for Twitter  Nope
    • April 23 – 24 = DFWCon (not planning to pitch or consult w/ any agent)  Done, didn’t pitch/consult but I DID get a new CP/writer buddy and met several others! SUCCESS
  • June thru July: outline & flesh out DF idea  Nope
    • June 9 = Pitmad for UF  #1  Nope
    • June ?? = SFFPit for UF #1 Nope
  • July: Draft DF book for CampNaNo Noooooope
    • start prepping PitchWars submission Double nope
  • August thru September: complete draft 3 of UF #1; work on query, synopsis, blurb, etc. Nope
    • August 3 = PitchWars subs open (!)  Super nope

 

Seeing a theme, here?  Spoiler alert – rewrites take a long fucking time. I am making progress, it’s just a slow and steady race. Currently I’m sitting at 8 chapters re-written out of an expected 21; the first 5 have taken the lion’s share of the time to fix, and there’s still a couple in those that will still have to be reworked again for voice and plausibility before style and other proofreaderly edits.

In addition to grunt work, with the help of my fabulous CP, I’ve worked up three solid pitches for Twitter pitch parties. AND THE FIRST BOOK HAS A TITLE! Can’t describe to you how much of a weight is lifted off with finally having something to call this baby other than UF #1.

And no, not going to relay it here. Not until closer to the finished, query-ready manuscript draft, anyway. Just know that title includes a bird.  =)

 

Other goings on: I went to California for a week for work, and THEN went to Englannnnnd! FOR TWO WEEKS!

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My wonderful colleague/friend made the trip so much less stressful. Once her husband found out I wanted to go visit all the London touristy things, he planned a full route for me to see as much as possible in one day. The British Museum was the one place I actually went into, but we hit almost all of the other major sights: Buckingham Palace (as he called it, the Queen’s House), British Museum,  Hyde Park, St. James Park, Horse Guards Parade, Parliament/Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, London Bridge, The Eye, the Shard. I rode the tube, and an above-ground rail/train to a station near their house.

They took me out to fish and chips. I tried gin and tonic (never again). Got to see the bad traffic on several of the M’s. Experienced the greatness that is Tesco, for lunch. And on and on… It was great, guys. Rural England reminds me very much of southwestern Virginia where I grew up, and although London/England was never on my top places to visit, it’s definitely on my list to return to.

 

The other, much less fun part of this update is about my absence from Twitter the last few days. You might be wondering why I chose to to title this post thusly. Two reasons:

#1 obviously, the Captain America: Civil War reference, which will make sense later
#2 Friday (Sept.16) was the last time I touched my WIP in terms of re-writing/revising

 

Warning: probably about to be some feels ensuing. Mine are a given.

 

If you’ve been following me on Twitter the last few months, you’ve probably seen posts about our cats. Cat pictures, volunteering, and the struggle with our “baby” Diamond.

 

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Diamond started having seizures in March. We went through medication, bloodwork, an MRI, consultation and testing with a neurologist, and more medication. They suspected her of having a metabolic disorder.

There’s no cure for metabolic disorders in cats. You basically just monitor their standard of living. If you’re lucky, you get to make the choice for them when they reach that point.

 

Diamond passed away Saturday morning. She had either one really big shitty seizure, or several small shitty seizures. Either way, her little 6lb body couldn’t handle it. As I held her on the way to the ER-Vet, I kept telling her to hang on even though I think I knew, deep down, she wasn’t going to come back from it. When the vet asked if we wanted them to try and stabilize her, I just nodded. I wanted to ask what the odds are of her having brain damage were, IF she stabilized, but I buried that down. And when she crashed, I nodded with H again to have them try CPR. It couldn’t hurt to hope, right?

I wish I would’ve just said my mind. I wish we could’ve just given her peace in those last few minutes.

 

I’ve experienced the death of close relatives, but I don’t think I grieved for them. Not like this, not like I’ve grieved for Commodore and Diamond. And that’s just two sides of what feels like a d20 in this whole situation: losing two pets, two members of our family in less than two years. We knew there would come a point of no return, we just thought we had another ~6 months with her. Even with Commodore it was about a 3 week downward turn. For Diamond, we had an hour, maybe.

 

I’m angry, because she didn’t deserve that kind of death. She didn’t deserve to have her brains scrambled to the point it wouldn’t function.

I’m lost, because how do I fill the time previously spent caring for her? What do I put on my schedule instead of “need to be back by x time to give her her medication” ?

I feel guilty. What if instead of feeling crabby that H missed her 3:30 AM dose Saturday morning, I’d just given it to her* when I saw he didn’t? Would that have made any difference?

I’m numb, because it’s the best way to get through the day without crying. Don’t think, don’t feel, just survive.

I hurt for her, for H, for us. The ER-Vet already sent a card, and I know it says “Sorry for your loss,” and I just can’t open it. I dread the next few days because I know there’s a call coming, at some point, to pick up her ashes. Then it will be real. Then she will truly be gone.

 

I hope you’ve found peace, little one. We miss you.

 

 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading.

*I know this probably wouldn’t have helped. Anti-convulsants build up in the system, so one missed dose shouldn’t have triggered this. I feel guilty, regardless.

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How writer brains work

So just a quick post – sort of gushing about another “Ah ha!” moment, while also to show how your brain comes up with shit that will work if you don’t hamstring it.

I’m trying to finish all remaining rewrites (a.k.a. draft 2) on the urban fantasy project by end of June, plan being to send CPs/Betas the first half by end of May.  Which meant starting from the beginning. I rewrote chapter 1 and the first scene of chapter 2 in February or March at some point, then dropped them. Because the second scene in chapter 2 just wouldn’t work.

Can’t exactly avoid it any more, though. It has to get done or other goals this year *coughPitchWarscough* won’t happen.

I was supposed to finish it yesterday. Didn’t happen. The new words sounded just as boring and overdrawn as the first set. To bypass some of the stress and anxiety of missing yet another deadline, I decided to plow ahead to chapter 3 and come back. As I started jotting out the first scene in chapter 3, this is what happened:

“Okay, where exactly are all these things in this container?”

*Tries to sketch out how it’s laid out. Looks up cargo container packing pictures.*

“How is there any room for her to move in there? And why would they pack the stuff that they need to unload and hide IN THE BACK?”

Brain – What about making it a pirate ship instead?

“Don’t be silly, there can’t be any pirate ships in this thing. That makes no sense-”

*Googles old merchant ship holds.*

“How can I make this fit the rest of the world? How can a pirate ship fit in an alternate, modern Charleston?”

Brain – Here’s all you need to know to tie it into this moment and recent past.  *Dumps out ideas and possible subplot threads.*

“…NOW CHAPTER TWO WILL BE SO MUCH MORE FUN!”

 

And now (well not right now) I can go back to chapter two and give it the oomph it deserves. It won’t be pirate ships… exactly.  Mwahahah.

Moral of the story: don’t quash the little voice that offers up what sounds, at first, like an outlandish idea. It might be the solution you’ve been banging your head on the keyboard for.

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