IWSG: Details, Details, Details

IWSG badge

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a collective that offers angsty writers (like me) a home. You can check them out here.

The optional question of the month is about times when we’ve felt like calling it quits–but I have yet to experience one of those. During my darkest days, I often feel like maybe I can’t do it, but I’ve never wanted to not do it. I can’t fathom the idea of giving up because I honestly don’t think I’m capable of doing anything else. This is what I’m meant to spend my life doing.

Instead, here’s my current, most pressing insecurity: that I’m not capable of handling all of the non-writing aspects of being a writer.

According to those who’ve succeeded at it, being an author now is like owning a small business. It’s not just about drafting, or even revision; making it to the point where the book feels ready is only the beginning. If you’re going the traditional publishing route, there’s putting together query letters and research, trying to find an agent or a publisher.

Then, if you’re looking to indie publish, the list seems endless! Book covers using only legally permissible images, formatting your books for different e-readers, navigating the different sales sites and their pricing options, building a network of other authors to increase your chances of exposure.

And none of this even takes into consideration keeping up a social media presence, which has become essential these days. It all makes a nap sound like the best possible choice. 🙂

My executive dysfunction is pretty bad (my ADHD is untreated, because medication could worsen another disorder I have), so I look at the above list of everything I would need to do to have even a shot at success, and am definitely full of insecurity.

So I’m trying to keep in mind two things:

1) Not everyone has my challenges, but all writers have their own. I can’t afford to pay others for help yet, so any e-books I release will have to feature covers and formatting I do myself. But I’m lucky that that’s even an option, that I feel comfortable trying to take that on. Before this digital age, I couldn’t have self-published without material resources.

2) While my challenges are unique to me, every writer that’s succeeded has figured out how to push past their own. It’s going to be an uphill battle to figure out the “executive management” of my writing–and take more effort and time than maybe it does for authors–but it’s entirely up to me whether I want to put in that work or just keep stalling on my possible future.

No excerpt today, in honor of IWSG–but tomorrow kicks off WriteMania! See you then.

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IWSG: Details, Details, Details

Art Fuels Writing, Writing Fuels Art

I have always been a multifaceted artist. Being considered a “polymath” or “Renaissance person,” a creator whose interests and skills are broad rather than deep, is the highest of compliments for me.

When I was a child, this expressed itself through a new hobby every week, sometimes even every day. I would meander through the library stacks, teaching myself origami or palm reading or cryptography. Now I can see this as a classic ADHD trait: my interests flitted about along with my attention span, ready to move on to the next new thing.

So while I’ve been a writer for longer than I have memory of it–my mother recorded my first stories before I was old enough to handwrite very well–I’ve also always been an artist in other ways. I grew up making beaded animals, yarn coasters, and friendship bracelets, and I once hand-wove a paper birthday pinata with only the structural plans I crafted and tested myself until they worked.

While I enjoy adult coloring books these days and have some experience with knitting and crochet, I’ve primarily become a digital artist. I write on a computer instead of by hand (most of the time anyway), and my other art pursuits are Photoshop-created graphics I share over on tumblr.

As WriteMania fast approaches, I’ve found myself wanting to return to making graphics, which would seem totally counterproductive to my goals for the next month. But this is actually quite normal: I have an artistic pattern of swinging from lots of writing to lots of graphics, then back again.

They can feed into each other, letting me have a breather from one side of my creative brain while I keep working on the other. So for now I’m letting the art pull me where it may, until it’s time to knuckle down and get typing. 🙂

Today’s excerpt: “So it’s true, then?”

Julia flinched, reluctantly replied to Nora’s brusque question. “Yes, it’s true. I’m really sorry. I couldn’t stay there any longer. I couldn’t keep living every day like my life was never going to be any different.”

“Who are you apologizing to?”

“You. Myself. Everybody,” Julia sighed. “I don’t know.”

“Did I say I needed an apology?” In her usual way, Nora didn’t try to soften her words, but was still more comforting than a million distant words from Julia’s parents had ever been. “I’m glad you left.”

Julia choked on her drink. “You are?”

“Heavens, yes.” Nora wrinkled her powdered nose at her favorite adopted child. “That was a terrible job you had. It made you miserable. Of course I’m glad.”

Clarie raised a finger, interrupting the conversation pingponging around her. “It’s not a terrible job, Mama. I love it. You’ve never said one bad thing about my job.”

“It’s a fine job for you, Clarie. You enjoy it. It has great benefits, all of that. But Julia was never happy there, just busy.”

“You never said any of this to me, either,” Julia pointed out. “If you thought it was so bad for me, why didn’t you say something?”

“What good would it have done?” Nora leaned over, laying a hand on Julia’s cheek. “You didn’t know that it was killing you. Now you do. So be happy you got out and have the chance to start over.”

Julia frowned, watching her sister laugh across the lawn with the other mothers, perfectly secure in her place. “Starting over sucks.”

“Not as much as staying put.”

Art Fuels Writing, Writing Fuels Art

WriteMania

In three days, I’ll officially dive into the writing spree I’ve dubbed WriteMania. The month-long session of writing begins June 8th, and I will be writing as much as I can, with prompts and requests open.

To start the month off right, I’ll be over at In Want of a Reader from June 8th to the 11th for a Wildcard Weekend, posting short stories based on community prompts that I’ve never used before.

Then, throughout the month, I will be working on fanfic, sorting out my MirrorWorld and responding to requests, if I get any. Basically, this challenge will produce an unpredictable hodgepodge of stories, and I hope the results will be as fun to read as they will be to write.

My family is facing possible homelessness in July and we’ve exhausted our resources, giving me the idea for this writing/fundraising marathon. Every WriteMania story will include a donation link at the end for anyone who might want to help out.

There is no requirement that you donate to read or even to request stories–that’s totally optional. Comments, of course, are free and always appreciated. 🙂

Today’s Excerpt: “You can’t just ignore him,” Gus said practically. “It would be rude. You have to see him next week, don’t you? The last thing you need is for it to be awkward.”

Corrie made a skeptical sound, eyes trained on Beck and his friends. “And you think this will be less awkward? Me just stepping up to him and saying, ‘Hi, remember me, the girl who was rude and suspicious before? By the way, here are my desperate single friends.’”

WriteMania

In My Own Little Sandbox

I am not good at worldbuilding.

This isn’t something I feel especially ashamed of; it’s better that I know my weaknesses. My Autistic brain is so internally focused that I don’t see the world around me–which makes it a struggle to imagine the world around my characters, the same way it’s a struggle to mentally picture them in detail.

Even after sixteen years of playing with the same characters, I can’t say I could write out long passages about the town where they live or their quirks of appearance or what their bedrooms look like: that’s not how I think, and will have to be something I figure out deliberately during revision.

But I have had the pleasure of playing with the same world for sixteen years, so inside my head I hold a rich plan for three books, possibly a “next generation” series to follow that, with a villain novella or two thrown in for balance. I know all the characters deeply, in the ways I need to know them.

And I love them, murderers and heroes alike. 🙂

So one of the perks of knowing these fictional people so well is that I can always dip into the well of MirrorWorld and tell a story. With newer ideas, and less developed characters, I can write short stories to help figure things out–but with my favorite, it’s pure fun.

It all adds to the bigger picture, of course. I can discover new facets of my faves that surprise me, or flesh out a timeline or fix a plothole…but that’s not required. Writing MirrorWorld, outside of my actual novels, just gives me a chance to revisit a place that makes me happy.

Which is why, a bit later this month, I’m going to be returning to the short story community In Want of A Reader, with the blessing of the co-owner. Two years ago, it sat dormant for long stretches before it was abandoned but never officially closed, and that means it holds a lot of prompts I never tried my hand at.

Today’s excerpt comes from a prompt fic I wrote in 2014. When I return to posting short stories over there, many based in MirrorWorld, I’ll link to them here as well to keep you updated. And if there’s anything you’d like to see me write, or you want to volunteer prompts, leave them in the comments on either blog.

Today’s Excerpt: When he knocks on her door, she has already poured the wine. He didn’t call; he didn’t have to. She won’t ask what happened. She will let him be. Between the failed relationships and daily work disasters, they will exist in these quiet moments as though they never let go.

Later, when she turns toward him in the candlelight, he will wonder if they ever really did.

In My Own Little Sandbox

Ghosts of Novels Past

One of the hazards of posting excerpts when I’m not actively drafting, it turns out, is that I go diving through my old drafts…which reminds me how much potential is buried in there. Then I get the itch to go back to them.

That might sound reasonable, but I’m aware that turning back to an old story is really just another form of procrastination on whatever project I’m trying to stick to. Bouncing between novels never serves me well.

So I have to resist that urge with all my might, and remember my current goal: stick with my MirrorWorld. To that end, today’s excerpt will be from unfinished book number three in that trilogy. (I drafted numbers one and two but have yet to revise them, and then got stuck in book three because I had not worked out enough of the plot for it.)

My challenge with novels I’ve written is that I do always have affection for them, whatever the problems that led to their abandonment. It’s too easy for me to remember the good times and get pulled off course.

Basically, danger lurks on all sides for us as writers, whether as the “shiny new idea” or the “comfortable old idea.” I try to use the older drafts to boost my confidence without diving back in, and use the new ideas as rewards for the future when my current work is done.

Is it just me? Or do you experience this temptation with your WIPs if you have any set aside?

Today’s Excerpt: “I remember you talking about someone named Liam,” he added quietly. “Someone who looks like me. Someone you miss.”

She couldn’t look at him then, hearing the way his voice got soft and sympathetic. It wasn’t appropriate. He didn’t even know Liam. He didn’t know her.

The silence stretched out for what felt like hours, but she kept her gaze fixed on the floor, resolve firm. Then she watched, her mouth dropping open, as he sank down into her view, crouching on his heels to look her in the eye.

“I remember you saying that you were lonely.” He searched her face, so close she couldn’t look away. “Did I imagine that?”

Maybe he has power of his own, Elle thought dizzily. He might as well have bewitched her. She couldn’t do anything but tell him the truth.

“No, you didn’t imagine it,” she whispered.

When he stood, she felt like she’d just stumbled off a carnival ride, one of those big spinning ones. She could breathe deeply again, but she was shaking on the inside.

Ghosts of Novels Past

Focus, Planning and the New Shiny Idea

Anyone who knows me, online or off, knows that I’m easily distracted. Writers as a species seem prone to the “new shiny idea” siren, even neurotypical ones–so my ADHD brain bears only part of the blame for that. But whether it comes down to “Oh, look, a puppy!” or “Wouldn’t it be really interesting to write an interracial lesbian teen Sherlock Holmes series?” I’ve got more ideas than I can write all at once, and I’ve begun way more of them than I’ve finished.

I suspect most of us are at least a little guilty of letting our gaze wander from time to time. I also know that it became a greater problem for me as soon as I started trying to truly “pants” my novels. When I drafted my first two, that’s what I believed I was doing: writing “by the seat of my pants,” thus the expression…but I wasn’t. Not really.

My first two novels were set in a world I’d started mentally building in high school. By the time I finally committed to writing the first one, I had over a decade’s worth of character planning, short story prompts, and huge plot arcs to back me up. So while I didn’t know it, I went into that first NaNo session as a planner, not a pantser.

Since those first two drafts, I’ve only finished one additional book, despite beginning at least five more–and in most cases, getting in quite a few words on each of those! When I’m working, I can’t see the forest for the trees, but having taken a step back over the last year, I can recognize the pattern.

No matter how much I love an idea, then how much lip service I pay to planning it out, I only gain a shallow level of understanding about it. There’s a limit to how well I can truly know my characters or my plot without putting in the time–and there’s a limit to how much time there is when I’m constantly starting new stories!

So here’s to a better understanding of my weaknesses, and a renewed focus on…well, focus. 🙂 Today’s excerpt comes from one of the aforementioned unfinished first drafts.

Today’s Excerpt: “It was four more years in the same small town,” she replied. “Same high school, same classes. I kept on being a television geek, and she took a boy her parents liked to prom.” She paused for a moment, just looking at him. He had such striking features, but his eyes were kind.

“This wasn’t just the first time I’ve spoken to her on campus,” she confessed. “This is the first time she’s spoken to me in three years, period. We lived in a town of three-thousand people and she just avoided me until graduation. I thought I was over it. And then she sat herself down next to me at a party like nothing ever happened.”

Focus, Planning and the New Shiny Idea

Appreciating What You Have

As a perfectionist, it can be hard for me to get the messy words in, or face a round of revision. Forget critique–that’s pure torture, however necessary it is for growth and improvement.

What keeps me going when the writing process itself feels like a horrible slog without end is something I’ve learned through years of experience: I love what I’ve written.

I may not enjoy writing it, and I may be too close to see it right away, but weeks or months or years later, I love having written all the fiction I’ve tried my hand at. I can see its potential and marvel at small moments I don’t even remember creating; it’s more than worth the temporary discomfort that writing brings me when it isn’t going well–which, let’s face it, is most of the time.

When I decided to bring this space back to life, I reread all my posts from beginning to end, mainly out of curiosity. I was surprised to find an old link to a short story blog I used to co-run and write at, mainly because I had completely forgotten about the writing I did there. How could I forget putting all that work in?

So here’s today’s treat for you: go check out In Want of a Reader, where you’ll find a wide range of content, including some fanfic and a lot of prompt-based short stories. Today’s snippet comes from one of those, “Iceberg.”

Today’s excerpt: His eyes were an impossible shade of gray, she noted. Like an iceberg in a storm. Was it a bad sign that she was comparing him to the villain from Titanic? 

Appreciating What You Have