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Posts tagged ‘writing life’

Nibbled by Ducks

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, not really. Instead, I’m trying to refocus on writing and remake daily habits around writing. It’s a good thing I’m not doing NaNo, because yesterday I was nibbled to death by ducks.

I actually like ducks. Both in real life, and the end result of my fate yesterday, which did not actually involve feathered friends, or terminal anything. Ducks aren’t as savage as geese, nor as disconcertingly dinosaurian as chickens are. They are, however, very messy. And baby ducks poop, a lot. Like – how the heck did that squishy downy adorable body fit all that inside of it? Baby ducks poop, and eat, and poop more. Also, they play in their water, which is their nature, but you can imagine the mess it makes of their brooder. Anyway… I really am going somewhere with this, and it’s not just a nostalgic look back at the barn yard. Read more

Off the Rails

I’m crossing my fingers while writing this that the internet will hold on long enough for me to post it. Since the Great Outage, I’ve bought a new router, jumped through more network hoops than I care to think about, worked ten hours a day at the day job with the exception of the day I drove the Junior Mad Scientist into the city for an appointment, and even that day I didn’t arrive home until late, and had dental work done. Still, the ‘net is iffy at best. Today, it is hoped, a technician shall arrive and figure it out, because I’m stymied.

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Taking time to recharge

This is the first time in almost five days that I’ve opened my laptop to do anything other than a quick check of email. I haven’t blogged. I haven’t put down a single new word of fiction. I even quit carrying my iPad around with me wherever I went. Better yet, I haven’t felt a single pang of guilt about it. How could I do such a thing, especially with a deadline looming less than two weeks away? Easy. A friend was coming into town. For the first time in years, I was allowing myself time to relax and not worry about the next book or editing the current one or anything else like that.

And I loved it.

More importantly, I realize now that I needed it. Read more

Blast from the Past: What is “legitimate” in the 21st century publishing environment?

(Brad is away from his keyboard today so I pulled this post of his from January 2017. It is as timely now as it was then. — ASG)

Not very long ago, the intarwebz — or at least that part of the intarwebz which is fascinated with all things authorly — became infuriated over this toss-off commentary from the Huffington Post. Now, toss-off commentary is not surprising at HuffPo. In fact, one might say that toss-off commentary is HuffPo’s raison d’être. Articles like this are supposed to inflame. HuffPo wants clicks, and caterwauling. That’s how HuffPo functions. And while men far better than me have taken the commentary to task, I think it’s worth pointing out that the article does bring up a very valid question, which lurks in the shadows at every author workshop, convention, kaffeeklatsch, and bar conversation: when will each of us know we are legitimate? Read more

Writing on the Go

I write to you from the Itty Bitty writing set up, to assert that you can write anywhere, any time, in any way. I have friends who swear by dictation (I’m looking over my shoulder to see if saying that has summoned Martin Shoemaker, it usually does). I believe Amanda Green has spoken of her travails with the book (or was it books) that insisted on being written longhand on yellow legal pads. I’m not judging. David Pascoe has a sweet raspberry pi set up that looks amazing. Me? Well, I decided if I were going to write at lunch, with no place to sit down… the entire lab crew shares a cubicle, and our de facto IT guy actually sits in it. You don’t sit at someone else’s desk, that’s like sleeping in their bed or something. Anyway, at lunch I can sit in my car and veg, or I can sit in a quiet conference room and do this.

So what is this, you ask? I’m glad you asked. I’m currently writing on my phone, in an email, since my theoretically ‘offline’ documents in Google Drive refuse to open. I’m a trifle annoyed by that, but if I have time once this post is complete, I’ll see if the settings are switched so I can’t work outside WiFi (I don’t have that at work, either). But the email works, I don’t even have to send it, it’ll be here when I’m back on the home network. I’ll probably even have time for a bit of fiction, since I have an hour to do this.

And no, my thumbs are not flying over the screen a million miles a minute, as amusing as that mental image may be. I could take lessons from the daughters, but what I’ve got instead is a little bitty Bluetooth keyboard, slightly too large to stuff into my lunchbox (more’s the pity) but just big enough for my medium sized hands (I know their size, that’s the size nitrile gloves I wear) to type on in my hybrid touch/look style. I never did master touch typing, although after hundreds of thousands of words (nearing a million? I haven’t added them up) I do tend to know where the keys are. Of course, autocorrect thinks it knows best, and while that’s handy when I’m all thumbs, it’s annoying as heck when I’m actually typing. The keyboard doesn’t work for my First Reader, his hands are a bit too big for him not to be constantly bashing two keys at a time. So your mileage may vary. There are squishy roll-up keyboards that are full-sized, but I don’t like how they feel.

However you do it, writing on the go is a necessary Evil. If I waited until the moment was perfect, my back fully supported, the monitors at just the right angle, the optimal selection of music playing… I’d never write again. A kid would knock on the door. “I have a question… how do you clean up toxic waste candy? Will it stain the floors blue? Can you please look at this? Did you know if you drop the bottle of Katsu Sauce, it exploded and glass slides all across the tiles and under the fridge…?”

So yeah, writing when I can cram in a moment of relative peace is the only way to go, anymore. Eating doesn’t take long, after all, and an hour is generous. I know for the longest time David Burkhead was posting his daily lunch-word count, and it was inspiring. I probably won’t manage this daily, but I had to do *something* with my changed schedule. I’m working Fridays and Saturdays, and my usual time for writing the MCG vaporized. I also don’t have time to keep up with publishing industry news, so you’re more likely to get thoughts on writing from me. And at some point, the now long-delayed post on covers, which requires the Real Computer (TM) and more time than I have been able to carve out of my schedule as of yet. It’s ok. It’s all good.

Life changes, and if you can’t roll with the waves, you’re going to get worn down to a nubbin. Sometimes you have to give things up entirely, but I’m stubborn. I’m not giving up on writing. I just have to work at finding the time, the place, and the equipment that fits the first two requirements. I happened to have the keyboard (I got it originally to pair with my tablet, and I could be writing with the tablet, but I don’t have much space at all to stow anything here. Took me a week to find out there’s a hook in the cubicle we share for my coat) so I didn’t have to lay out cash, but I think it was less than $20 on Amazon. The phone is, well, the phone. I practically have my entire life on this phone by now. If I had to carry a notebook, I would, but I can write faster this way, and I’m trying to cram as many words in as possible. Which reminds me I do want to create some fiction words today, as well.

Feel free to comment and talk about your writing-on-the-go improvisations, or any other topic that tickles your fancy. I won’t be on to comment much (maybe lunchtime) until evening after work, so be kind to one another!

Give and take

I can’t speak for everyone, but this writer is socially awkward and uncertain. Last week I talked about networking as an Indie author, and creating a barter system that would help those with no budget, but time, get off and running. What if I don’t have a network? Was asked.

Well, here’s the thing about networking. It’s a mixture of being willing to ask, and being willing to give. The system is one built on trust, like any other relationship, and that makes it a delicate balance for those of us who aren’t terribly socially ept. I can’t help much, other than to talk about my experiences and how I tend to feel like a clumsy ox when it comes to human interactions.

Writer’s groups are the best place to start building this network, of course. I first joined one when I was submitting bits of stories for critique to an online forum, and was invited to take part in a small group. That didn’t go very well. I hear horror stories about the impact groups can have on delicate young writers egos, but for me it wasn’t an impact on my writing, it was a terrible feeling of having to pretend to be something I wasn’t, in order to keep from being attacked and flamed. Because I didn’t trust them on one level, I couldn’t take seriously their criticism of my work –  and most importantly, looking back, I couldn’t fully critique their work. That meant I wasn’t giving my best to them. I was afraid that if I pointed out flaws, they would come back at me saying that I was only bashing them for other reasons (I was not the same religion they were, and much of the OT chatter was bashing my religion). Later still, after I’d moved on from that group, I did hire one of them for editing, only to have to hire another person to revert those edits… It was a nightmare.

Lest you think I’m trying to discourage you! I am not. I am saying that if you don’t fully trust the people in the group, it’s a sign to bow out and move on. I got lucky, for values of luck, when I did at last wind up invited to a group mentored by Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer. The group was run by another writer, Darwin Garrison (whose stories are worth looking up) and it was a far better structure than the small group (remember the song in the Music Man, with the women singing “pick a little…” That was the first group) in that it was targeted at becoming better writers. Not that there wasn’t off topic chatter, it’s the first place I saw in-depth discussion of what the publishing world was really like. And ultimately it led me here.

That group went the way of most communities – the attrition of time washed some of us away. I stopped writing for some years, dealing with illness and depression as my marriage spiralled into darkness. I reconnected with some of them on Facebook, and in time I started writing again. At that point I also started to consider the writing as a business, once I’d finished a novel. I had a bunch of stories, not all finished, in a drawer. I had very little money, so I knew I’d be on my own for things like covers and formatting. I decided early on that I would hire an editor… The first time I used money I’d saved and set aside from my other business. After that, all monies from sales were put back into the writing biz until it turned a profit.

I’ve always worried about asking too much of my friends, who were accomplished writers when I was struggling to begin. I’ve been blessed with good friends, but I try very hard to give as much as I get. I took a workshop on cover design (Dean Wesley Smith, it was $300 four years ago) so I could do my covers and help others. Later there was a class on design at college. I spent countless hours on art, learning how to take incoherent elements and make something that would sell a book. At this point, I have a skill I’m confident has value, which I can trade with others, towards editing my writing. I can edit, but I enjoy the art and design. You get the idea – if you are confident that what you are offering in trade is worth it, you’re more likely to ask for a barter.

Bartering is a trust relationship. If you’re trading loaves of bread for a chicken, it’s very physical and immediate. Trading skills takes time, and you may not see the results immediately. It’s important to know the other person well. And building that kind of relationship is not a quick and easy process. I suspect there’s a reason money has remained so popular over the ages. Friendships come and go, the work remains. I suspect that a more formal barter network for Indie Authors would be of use, some way to offer a skill you have, and say “I need x done” and there would be recommendations that paired you up. Pitfalls exist (don’t they always?) In that cliques would form, monetary values would have to be set (if someone is convinced their editing ought to be $500 per novel, they might not be happy to receive a $250 cover in return), and people who fail to deliver would have to be removed from the list (see the first pitfall).

So how to start forming your network? Start talking to people who are like-minded. Don’t limit the conversation to writing, only. Be an encouraging voice. And when you need help, ask. When help is asked for, offer to help. If you worry that you are asking too much, say that.

I’m bad about some of this. When I am deeply stressed, I tend to retreat from human contact. Some of this is a relic of my past, so when I feel I’ve upset someone, I go into full retreat mode with profuse apologies, which used to be the only way I could defuse an explosive rage. I know that this is not that, but if I’m not thinking clearly it is breathtakingly difficult to stop, open up, and reach out again. I’ve been trying to do this recently, and if you are like me, I encourage you to crack the shell a little, and take a risk. Writing may be a solitary occupation, but writers are healthier with friends.

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Now, granted for me that’s a little difficult, since my workday routine is to roll out of bed when the alarm goes off at oh god AM, drag clothes on, drop a couple of eggs, some shredded cheese, and some bacon into a tupperware, swallow the morning pharmacopeia, and head in to work. Once I get there I fix breakfast while my computer is booting up (whisk eggs and cheese together with fork, lay bacon on top, nuke 2 to 2.5 minutes), then settle in for the day’s insanity.

I still seem to manage. This morning’s ration of impossibility included discovering bizarre bugs, trying to work around someone else’s bloody nuisance bug (it being a trifle difficult to use information embedded in a program when the compiler corrupts said information), working on a server that’s currently got negative disk space available… Yes, negative. It runs a bunch of virtual machines and doesn’t actually allocate the space for them unless they’re turned on. We can’t turn them all on at once or the physical drive will faint. So yes, we TARDIS our hard drives at work.

Oh, yes, there’s also the Three Amigos, aka the cats, who are busy defying just about everything since Teh New Kitteh arrived on the scene.

I’m not entirely sure that my entire life doesn’t count as impossible, actually.

That’s not one of the impossible things I’m talking about, though. Anyone who saw what I do during any normal day (for Kate values of normal) would wonder how in the name of all that’s holy, unholy, or otherwise I manage to actually write anything. Take yesterday (please). I got about 2k words in, albeit on Overlord fanfic (it’s still plot and character development practice, damn it, and I’ll eventually do the filing of serial numbers and attach it to a universe where it will fit), while sorting out half a dozen different odd problems, discovering several other equally odd ones, running automation on three different systems to test what I was doing, flipping between my main system and my old one according to which machine had the things I needed on it, and a certain amount of administrative stuff. I write in dribbles in between everything else, sometimes no more than a sentence at a time.

How do I manage that without getting totally disjointed?

Stuffed if I know. Seriously. Whenever I’ve gone back to edit something, I’ve never been able to tell which parts got written in dribbles between other things and which parts I managed to get a decent chunk of time for. I’ve also never run into any major continuity problems. Glitches, yes, frequently, but not big problems.

Here’s what I think is happening – and those who are also juggling too many things and not enough time for any of them can take heart because I suspect it’s reasonably common. Memory is associational: you don’t remember things in isolation, and you certainly don’t recall them in isolation. There’s context and a bunch of attached stuff. So you hook to one piece in the form of the last paragraph you wrote on Story X, and that associational dragnet hauls out all the rest of the story information that goes with it – your characters, some notion of where you planned to take that scene, how deep the current POV character is in the smelly stuff and so forth. If you don’t try to concentrate too much, your subconscious will fill in the blanks while you’re writing.

Not that this is something to rely on: Sarah’s mentioned a few times that when she was fighting the after-effects of concussion she lost a lot of the connections and couldn’t remember from one page to the next where she was in the books she was writing at the time. When I’m arguing with a virus the subconscious magic tends not to work, or I’ll wind up looking at the page and going nowhere because no matter what I do I don’t actually know what’s supposed to be next in the story. Usually once I figure out what’s next, I’m good for a good round of fits, starts, and spurts.

It’s not what’s supposed to happen. All those things about butt in chair and write and work at it and so forth? Yes, they work. But I’ve actually never been able to see the difference between doing that and sliding in bits and pieces around everything else.

Of course, the fact that whenever I have a bit of mental space my mind is narrating pieces of the current story doesn’t hurt. That’s how I figure out what should come next. It’s also how I handle the out-takes, as it were. What I find interesting about the way I work is that it’s not supposed to be possible. Hell, as a narcoleptic, I shouldn’t be able to hold a demanding (and bloody stressful) full-time job, much less do that and write. Okay, I do all of it while some variation on half-asleep, but then I do everything while some flavor of half-asleep. I’m not sure I’d recognize awake if it hit me. I’d probably think I’d gone manic or something (yes, I can sleep-type. The main difference between that and the more normal sort of typing is that the “safe for general consumption” filters go away. Being able to touch-type helps: whether my eyes are open or not makes no difference.).

All of which is a really roundabout way to say to everyone here who writes, if someone tells you you’re doing it wrong or the way you write isn’t possible, screw ’em. So long as it works for you and you can keep at it, it’s fine. Even if it is supposedly impossible.