Tag Archives: writing

Balancing Act: Wire Walking for Writers

I am, by far, not the most coordinated gal. I have a tendency to take on too much, get overwhelmed, and find it impossible to accomplish anything. Back in May, I tried the “sticker thing,” where you assign a task/goal to a sticker and then you get a sticker for doing it. Easy, right?

I promised myself a red star for every thousand words written, a orange star for 500, and a yellow start for going to the gym.

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11.5k in two weeks isn’t half bad. Over all, I wrote over 20k, which isn’t NaNoWriMo level word counts, but I was impressed with myself. There’s even a 2k day on there! I advanced the WIP from 15k to 40K. I wish I still had a photo of the completed month, but alas, it is gone.

Sadly, June went up in smoke. I didn’t follow the star pattern, even though I really enjoyed doing it and I liked how glittery my day planner was. The WIP hit a wall and I couldn’t see my way around, through, or over it. If you read my Whatcha Reading post, you know my creative well ran dry and I was effectively beached. In fact, in a moment of self-doubt, I quit. Forever lasted about six days this times, but I was spent.

I bought a new planner, and I swore up and down that I’d try again. And would you look a that:

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So sparkly.

If you can’t read the guide, the red stars are 500 words, the yellow are gym days, and the orange is two chapters edited. Part of my learning to balance is making time to write AND revise. If I hit 500 words, I’d switch and edit. Two chapters down, and (if time) I’d go back to writing.

As you can see, I work a varied schedule at The Day Job, running anywhere from 6am to 11pm. Some days, it’s difficult to find time, and clearly, I didn’t write every day. I feel like “not finding time” is a poor excuse, but remember what I said about being overwhelmed? It doesn’t help when your Day Job involves dealing with the public. I find people draining, especially when my work week is 4+ days long. I can’t always find time in between to recharge, and that effects everything else.

In the interim, I’ve been dealing with my autoimmune disorder and an unfortunate allergic reaction to one of the medications. Being itchy for three weeks was not really what I wanted. Being sick is also very tiring, and I often feel limited when my symptoms flare. I want to use that “sick time” to write, catch up on blog posts, but 9 times out of 10, it’s me watching YouTube tutorials and contemplating peeling my skin off with a potato slicer.

In assigning “tasks” to stars, I felt more in control of what I could manage and when, and damn is it nice to see what I’ve accomplished. Writing is kinda of like exercise in that you don’t necessarily see your progress because you’re staring at yourself the whole time. The stars let me step back and gain a different view.

They also told me I need to hit the gym more.

I wrote 13.5k this month, with a 2.5k day in which I finished the draft. It’s now tucked away, resting. In a little less than two weeks, I did the first revision pass on my YA. While that, too, gains some space, I’m picking at a new idea, code name: Black Magic Book, and going back for another round of revision on my adult novel.

I feel balanced, which is something I haven’t felt since I started multiple projects. Learning to write and edit is step one. I’m not particularly fast regarding either task, and that’s perfectly fine. At the moment, I have to space and time to work at my own pace. No deadlines (unless it’s a review or something for one of the two sites I freelance for), no pressure except that I place on myself.

The big lesson is that I really do need to be nicer to me. Take myself out for a chai and relax and pick away at a new book or an old chapter. Don’t berate myself for being run down, but replenish my energy.

Finally watch Deadpool five months later.

Hopefully, I stay on the high-wire. My goal is to get ahead with a couple of blog posts, some LONG over due, prepare to take the YA out for querying (which I’d intended to start in May and the LIFE happened), and maybe even rack up a couple of scripts for my poorly treated podcast. Research is another thing I need to make time for.

My tendency to jump into things isn’t always rewarded.

And with this, that’s one blue star for me, and we sally forth into August.

…How the hell is it August?

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what happens when your fierceness fades

World Horror Con was great. I got to spend time with my friends, get out of my own head for a bit, and I even got to sit a panel with Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures. The Women in Horror panel was particularly amazing. I wish we could have had two hours, or a whole day devoted to talking about what it’s like taking on horror in heels. The words from my fellow panelists were inspiring:

Surround yourself with positive people. Be bold. Go after what you want. Be courageous.

Be bold, be bold, be bold.

We only had time for one question: “What do you do when your fierceness fades?”

I answered. The Friday before World Horror Con, I received some disappointing news. I was upset, I was disheartened. I reached out to my friends and asked them to help me up. They did. I shook off my bruises and went to WHC ready to be re-enlivened. I love conventions because as introverted as I am, I thrive off crowd energy. I love being around people who share my passions. I wanted to go and come back ready to fight.

I said that your fierceness will fade. Our moderator, Linda Addison, added that we’re only human. Of course our fight will fade. I said the best gift you can give yourself is a group of friends who understand, who support you, who will help you back on your feet when you fall to your knees.

And when I came home from convention, I felt worse. I realized that yes, I’d dusted myself off, but the fight had gone out of me. I reached out again and came up with comforting words I couldn’t feel. The bad news couldn’t hurt me. It couldn’t kill me, or threaten my family. I thought I would be fine. Take the sting, move forward.

I didn’t expect to be laid so low. I questioned my strength, if I had what it took to push forward.

maybe i’m not as strong as i thought i was

If you’ve kept up with me over the years, you know I struggle with depression and anxiety. Like everyone, I have my good days and my bad days. The last two years have been mostly bad days rolled into each other. During that time, when my world fell apart in the worst ways possible, I threw myself into writing. Every subsequent explosion I subverted with art. In order to keep myself together, I took up my sword and slashed my way through a new draft, a rewrite, short stories; I blogged for myself, for my freelance job. I didn’t stop writing, and I waded deeper as things grew worse.

I make a habit of avoidance. I don’t let myself feel because I don’t like appearing weak. I don’t like feeling weak. I won’t cry. I won’t scream. I keep everything like a hurricane brewing in my chest. I used that pain to put strength into my strike. I fought. I was bold.

I stood on top of the rubble and grinned because I’d made it. Things were looking up at last.

I thought I’d finally crawled out, but that’s the tricky thing about depression: it just slithers up next to you and holds you down. And no, one disappointing email doesn’t undo my hard work; I still have things in the wind. I’m not finished. But I broke my sword against that invisible wall. I hammered at it until my fists were bruised and I broke my nails against the bricks. This last time, when I fell, I couldn’t pick myself up. I asked for help, but my friends couldn’t get me off the ground.

I poured so much of myself into my work that I have nothing left to give. And with the nothing came all the harsh words and self-doubt and fear.

This is a difficult industry, and it’s easy to feel low when all you see are people putting their best selves out there. It’s hard to be happy for those with happy news when you don’t remember a time when breathing was easy. It’s isolating. You want to be happy, but you can’t remember how.

I don’t have the will to fight right now. It was suggested to me that I stop writing. I said I didn’t want to stop because I knew I wouldn’t go back. A friend told me she was afraid that if I didn’t stop, I’d burn out.

At this point, I think I need to finally honor how I feel. If I want to repair my sword, if I want to get to my feet, if I want to push myself up again, I need to acknowledge what’s happened. My fight is gone. I’m exhausted. In two years, I have taken little time for myself. I know this; my subconscious knows it.

I made myself scarce on Twitter. I barely responded to texts.

I stopped writing.

It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. The uncertainty of it is more frightening than thought of putting my pen down. Occasionally, Henry sits beside me in companionable silence. He knows why I can’t fight for him right now. He understands. He knows anything he says won’t heal me, but he wishes me well. He hopes that sooner (rather than later), I can fashion a dagger (a scalpel?) to cut my way out.

For now I’m going to stay down. To wait and heal. To get my strength back.

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COURTING CASUALTIES

I am pleased to announce that I’ve just launched my first podcast, COUNTING CASUALTIES.

LogoA twice-monthly podcast, I’ll be talking about gothic fiction and horror, fangirling over favorites like Lord Byron and Edgar Allan Poe, and hopefully entertaining you with humor. I’ll also be making “reads” casts, where I choose a Gothic work and, well, read it to you. Because I like those.

Wanna check out the first episode?

Episode One: Gothic Fiction

 

 

Like what you hear? Want to suggest a topic or ask a question? Follow the show on Twitter @CasualtyPodcast.

Again, I’d like to thank Amy Lukavics, Andrea Judy, Kira Butler, and Katie Locke for being my test audience. I adore you gals. I also need to add Brian LeTendre to the list of people I am indebted to. Thank you so much for your help. Brian ALSO makes podcasts and writes Lovecraftian things. Check out his work over here: http://www.seebrianwrite.com/

 

Intro/Outro music: “Ghost Story” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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The Problem of Lacking Diversity

The topic of diversity has been on my mind lately. It was triggered by a “joke” someone printed out and brought to me at work. This customer is known for bringing us the “Sunday funnies,” but what she gave me was mock bridal magazine cover rife with racist remarks about Muslim women. I shredded it, wondering what my Muslim coworker and friend would have said if she’d seen it. It was disgusting.

As I said last week, I was honored to sit on two panels discussing gender diversity and racial diversity in Steampunk literature and culture. I was incredibly nervous: What would I say? Who would I be speaking with? What do I have to contribute to the conversation?

At one point, I told the audience I was waiting to be denounced by the Fraud Police. I’m a cis-gendered straight white gal. What do I know?

Well, I know what it’s like to be a cis-gendered straight white gal in a world that cries out for diversity, but shuts it out at nearly every turn. On the gender panel, I sat with Milton J. Davis, co-editor of the Steamfunk anthology and owner of MVmedia, LLC, as well as Arthur Hinds, musician and author of Voyage of the Dragon. For ethnicity and race, it was only me and Milton.

So we had me, the aforementioned white girl, a white man, and a black man. It was small convention, but at least we had three different voices for three different experiences.

A friend of mine told me she’d moderated a panel on diversity once and was bothered by the fact that the panelists were not racially diverse. More than that, when she brought it to the attention of the director, nothing was said. He didn’t see an issue.

In gender diversity, we spoke about a lack of non-binary representation. Genderqueer, nongendered or genderfluid characters are starting to appear in mainstream literature, little by little. That’s excellent. People want to see themselves represented in media they love.

I was asked how I’d go about writing a genderfluid character. Honestly, I have no idea, but it’s not a task I’d take lightly. I’d read, research, talk to genderfluid people about their experiences. I don’t know what that voice sounds like or how the experience shapes it. Teach me.

Several things were paralleled in the ethnicity panel and one thing rang out in both discussions: people are afraid to write the other.

Writers are afraid of fucking it up. Of misrepresentation. Of falling into stereotypes. Of being illegitimate. Of offending the people their trying to portray.

The dirty secret is, YES, you WILL fuck up. Someone WILL call you out. Someone WILL accuse you of the thing you fear most. The solution is to not to write the best black/asian/blind/genderfluid character you can, but the best PERSON you can.

Writing the other isn’t about what makes them “other,” it’s about what makes them a person. And if you open your mouth and start a conversation, you will learn. You will gain experience. People want to see themselves in the media they love; someone will be willing to help you if you ask.

It’s not enough for white writers to give racially diverse characters the change to be the protagonists; we need people of color writing people of color. We need more people like Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson, the editor and writer behind Ms. Marvel, which features Kamala Khan as the main character. She happens to be Muslim, as are her creators. We need more shows like How to Get Away with Murder, which stars Viola Davis as a strong and fearless lawyer, and also features a gay main character who isn’t ashamed or afraid to use sex to get information, and kinda accidentally falls for the first guy he used.

If you haven’t seen the finale yet, I won’t spoil anything, but next season looks like it will get into dealing with HIV. Please, please, please.

Milton made an excellent point regarding the need for more people of color raising their own voices. When people don’t see themselves included in the literature, or see themselves cast as slaves, prisoners, etc, they assume they’re not wanted. Who wouldn’t?

Take Steampunk. We were at a Steampunk convention, after all. In three days, I saw three black people. One was Milton. A fourth girl may have been Indian. I saw one Latina woman (who was a kickass Steampunk Sailor Mars.) When people don’t see themselves represented in something they might be interested in, they feel unwanted. Unwelcome. Here we have an alternately history where you are still a slave, or a mistress, or the tech-genius. Everything is centered in America or England. What about the rest of the world?

And it’s not just books. The Kingsmen film came out a few weeks ago. My first thought on seeing the trailer was “Mr. Darcy just beat up a room full of thugs using only a top hat and cane. SOLD.” And yes, RAVE reviews have flooded Facebook and Twitter, but with it came questions on diversity. All the lead “good guys” were white men. All the “bad guys” were black, or Asian, or handicapped. Even the girl who gets to join the Kingsmen isn’t given much if any agency. Sure, it’s a riff on the 60’s spy-film genre, but even James Bond had Bond girls who were independent, had a job or career, which, for the era, was downright unheard of. Oh, and they were racially diverse, good vs bad status pending.

That by no means makes it a poor film or detracts the enjoyment viewers got from it, but you can still love something while pointing out its flaws.

I will be the first to admit that I have not written very diversely, but I like to think I’ve done so (so far) with reason.

In THE KILLING TYPE, Charlotte is a white, middle-class woman. Why? Because her story centers around her schizophrenia and the treatment she needs to continue living her life. She needs her privilege, but it works against her. She’s a middle-class white woman who happens to be schizophrenic. Even when she’s being a reliable narrator, will you take her word for it?

Jonathan Gale, my detective, is bisexual. I wanted to include that aspect of his character without making it a big deal. I wanted to normalize it, but I hate having to use the word “normalize” because that implies it wasn’t normal to begin with. Who he loves has nothing to do with his job, but I couldn’t stand not mentioning it. He needs to be allowed to be himself, not because he’s bisexual, but because he’s Jon.

Though not a main character, Aaron, Jon’s best friend and medical examiner, is black.
It’s not diversity for the sake of having diversity. It’s about writing people. We need these voices. We need white writers to channel them. We need writers of color to speak out. We need men, women, genderfluid, and non-binary people.
We need to be inclusive, no matter what art we’re making or who’s making it.

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Falling in Love

As in all things, I take out my passions with a blow to the head (thank you, Aesthetic Perfection for those song lyrics.) I set aside the first version of The Killing Type for several reasons: I was waiting on query feedback, I was revising and sick of looking at it, I felt stuck, Real Life was messing me up, and I was bored.

I took up NaNoWriMo on a whim and slammed down 50k on a new book, with a concept I’d been dying to explore for seven months. I love it. I fell in love with it. I wept when I tormented my characters and I hated myself for making those choices. I invested my time, my energy, my soul into building this world so different from the one I built for The Killing Type. I altered history.

When the time came to revisit Charlotte, I didn’t want to. I felt heartsick. I’d loved this other world so much, I couldn’t promise to love what I’d left behind with equal measure. The rewriting process has been slow and painful, like trying to walk on broken glass without the confidence required to pull it off.

My CP hated my new opener. I rewrote it.
I spent days not looking at the draft.

I didn’t *feel* anything.
And that’s terrifying.

I longed to run back to the other book, but I told myself no. Now was the time to let that one rest and get back to Charlotte.

Piece by piece, I began stitching it back together. Now? Now I’m falling in love again. The first version was me telling Charlotte’s story. This new version is Charlotte telling her story. Writing 1k a day is still a challenge, but I don’t dread it anymore. I love the direction I’m moving, I love how things are finally coming together. There is hope after you set the draft down.

I’m excited about this story. Honestly, it’s unrecognizable from the draft it was. Before, it was just a story that I liked. Now it’s a story I want to read. I want to be as fired up to dive into this world as I am when I read my favorite books.

Treat your MS just like you’d treat your favorite books. Because it should be on that list. I wish I could tell you all the things I’ve cooked up. But I won’t. 🙂

Rekindle your writing romance:

  • Stop looking at your MS as a “project” and look at it as something worthy of your love. Treat it as you would your new favorite book.
  • Talk to your writer friends/CPs. I know at least one of my friends is in a similar place revision-wise. Talk it out. You’ll feel better knowing you’re not alone, and you can encourage each other.
  • Work some gray magick. I already had an outline for TKT thanks to my former draft. I used it as a map to better than where to step. Because I’m not a linear-thinker, I’ve spiderwebbed out from the beginning and set markers to write to. I can still flow around the script, but I have a structure when I need it.
  • Set a word goal. Mine is 1k a day. That might sound low, but I work varying hours around a full-time job and freelance work. If I go over goal, AWESOME. If not, I’m happier as long as I hit 1k.
  • Some days you just can’t, and that’s okay. I wrote 1k every day for the last 6 days. Sunday, I had my dance show. I wrote nothing. And that’s okay. Take a mental break.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Everyone’s writing journey is different. Don’t be afraid to try something new, but if you know something works and another thing doesn’t, don’t waste time on things you know won’t help you.

I’m off for my 1k before I head into work.

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The Purge, or How an Interesting Concept Fails to be Interesting

It’s fairly well-known that I’m not super into horror movies. I dig the old school black-and-whites, anything with Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, or Lon Chaney; there are a few modern films I’ve really enjoyed, but they’ve been few and far between. Largely, I’ve found that modern horror is so consumed with blood spatter and gore that all plot is neglected in favor of making the film as violent and disgusting as possible.

I do love this poster, though.

On a whim, I decided to watch The Purge. Kristen was telling me what an interesting concept it had. I told Cas I planned to watched it. “Oh.” “Is it bloody?” “No remotely. Nor is it good.”

I watched it anyway. I love making snarky commentary. For those of you who have not seen it, The Purge is set in a “dystopian” America in 2022 where one night a year, for twelve hours, ALL CRIME, from j-walking to murder, is legal. Medical help and emergency services are suspended. Those who do not wish to participate basically lock themselves in their homes and pray. It sounds like it has so much potential to be interesting.

Sadly, Cas was exactly right. It wasn’t good. In fact, it wasn’t bad enough to just be bad; it was mediocre. The storytelling was poor, disorganized, or all together not there.

Here’s the part where if you still want to see the movie, there may be spoilers. Read at your own risk.

The premise of the film had so much potential, I was extremely disappointed when it failed to deliver anything based on the description.

  • All we know is the year is 2022 and for some reason, the US Government has decided that once a year, all crime is legal. Supposedly, this yearly tradition has eliminated illegal crimes as well as poverty in the States, given that the main targets are the weak and the poor. Other than that, we are given zero background information. How did it start? Why? Who’s idea was this? Okay, you know what? I can probably let this one slide. Suspend my belief. I still want to know, though.
  • The main family has built their fortune selling home security. I’m talking zombie apocalypse strength lockdown. That’s exactly all you get to know about them. They tell their son they “don’t feel the need to purge.” I would have loved some background on whether they’ve participated in the past, why they quit, why they never participated (if that were the case.) We get nothing. As a result, I don’t care about them. Bad news.
  • The characters are stupid. The girl, Zoey, has a boyfriend who’s been banned from seeing her because he’s too old (they look about the same age to me, honestly.) He breaks into the house before lockdown and tells Zoey he’s just going to talk to her dad. Instead, he pulls a gun on Jack. Jack, of course, shoots him. Hello, just because he has a security system doesn’t mean he’s not armed, just in case. Why is it always guns? Why can’t we just have a polite conversation? Do you really think she’s going to want to date you after you murder her father?
  • All crime is legalized, but the only one depicted is murder. As much as I enjoy writing murder scenes and criminal psychology fascinate me, I feel they really missed a great opportunity here. Honestly, I find it hard to believe that, even given zero restrictions, that many people would be like, “Yeah, I’ve a list of people to kill for this year’s Purge.” Personally, I don’t think I’d want to commit any crime. Maybe some light robbery. All the shoes.
  • This is really all Charlie’s fault, but it’s not. No one bothers to explain the Purge to him (or us) so when a bloody man comes down the street screaming for help, what does he do but let him in the house? Charlie is supposed to be “the innocent,” I guess, the reminder that human life is valuable, and the purge, essentially, is horrific. He does bring his parents around to not killing the stranger he let in. Points awarded.
  • It was slow in all the wrong places. Once the stranger is in the house, the party hunting him is told where to find him. The bulk of the movie is the family either trying to find the guy and toss him out so they don’t get murdered, or running around the house to find each other. Flaw one: Your house is too damn big. Flaw two: You build security systems, but you don’t have a back up generator for the lights? Really?
  • Here’s the big one: you sell security, you admit there are ways to get around the defenses (because of course the freaks are pissed that you didn’t give them the mark, so now you all die), but the one thing you apparently didn’t test for was whether or not it could be ripped off the wall?! It’s too easy! I was hoping for some system hacking and battering rams or tunneling under the house. Nope. They hook the grate up to a truck and yank.
  • Even the plot twist wasn’t a twist. It wasn’t even a slight bend. The levels of how unimpressed I was with the “twist” are so high, a graph couldn’t depict it. Bonus: It didn’t make sense. Her neighbors burst in and kill the freaks, but then declare that Mary and the kids are their targets. Why? Because they sold them security systems and then rubbed it in their faces. Um, you baked her cookies twelve hours ago and now you’re out for blood? I have NO IDEA what she was talking about. Because they’re rich? You’re not exactly poor, killing in your Prada suit.
  • The ending is even worse than the “twist.” They just stand there once the sirens call the end of the Purge. Everyone goes home. There’s no real resolution. The credits roll to news reports claiming this was the most successful purge yet. If I lived in this America, I’d be moving.

I will say there were some highlights. Once the freaks are inside, the fighting is pretty creepy and intense, even though it lasts all of two minutes. Toward the end, Mary has called a peace treaty with her backstabbing neighbors. The blonde moves to shoot her and Mary slams her face into the glass table, breaking her nose. I found that very satisfying.

The best part was this guy:

Rhys Wakefield was the best sort a villain: sly, smooth, and possibly insane. He gives the family a deadline to bring out his target. He’s well-educated, he can and will dismantle their system, and he will punish them for denying his right to purge. It’s too bad he didn’t get more screen time, or more development beyond being an entitled psychopath.

Overall, the film was weak. I wanted something more akin to Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game.” There’s no real plot other than the killing, and what there could have been was sadly overlooked in favor of some bizarre, pseudo-socio-political commentary on the state of America and how we treat each other and the jealousy we experience for another’s wealth or possessions. I just don’t know what they were going for here.

Character and plot development is important. Without it, you get an hour of lacklustre people doing… stuff. I’m going to purge my thoughts and get back to writing. What would you do if any crime were legal for twelve hours? Would you kill? Why?

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Radio Silence: A Character Dissection

I’ve used the word “dissection” so many times in my other manuscript, I can no longer spell it without thinking about it.

One of the main issues I had with my first draft of The Killing Type was letting my MC’s voice fade out. Charlotte took a backseat to a much louder character, and now that I’m in the process of rewriting the book, I realized I’m having trouble hearing her. At first I thought it was just me failing to reconnect to the story.

Here’s where I let the crazy eek out. Are you ready?

When I met Henry, from the other book, I met him. He sat down at my table with his fox skeleton and began speaking to me about the moral implications of medicine. He was, simply put, a pretentious git. The Mortality Vice is his story, and it’s written in first person. I had unlimited access to his mind, past, present, and future. I could see all the doors, and all the possible realities for him. We still chat, even though I’ve finished the draft. We’re making plans for revising. Anna, too, is very much an open book to me, though she’s a secondary character in the story.

I thought my problem was switching back into third person after so long. I’d tried writing The Killing Type from Charlotte’s point-of-view, but each time I felt it was too muddled and messy. I brought myself back, but there was too much distance. Now I’m writing a very close third person, with more of Charlotte’s feelings and inner thoughts broadcast to the reader.

Unlike Henry and Anna, Charlotte is very much an internal person, in her book and in my head. She doesn’t chat with me. She doesn’t tell me what’s happening. Instead, she drops hints and let’s me follow to my own conclusions. She has an isolation that none of my other characters have expressed.

I’m not her confidant: Lizzie is.

Charlotte, like me, is an introvert. She keeps her cards close. The problem with her voice in the first draft stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t honoring her feelings by continuously trying to reach her. She didn’t want to be reached. Lizzie wouldn’t say a word in deference to her friend. When I read over what I’d written in that first draft, I see just how much I got wrong.

There are things Charlotte wants to stay hidden. Things she can’t face, things she doesn’t even tell Lizzie. She’s guarded, and she has every right to be.

I don’t feel like I’m fighting her voice anymore. I don’t feel like I’m dragging out her secrets.  Yes, I’m crazy, and I treat my characters as though they were real people. I finally feel like I understand her, and in turn, she’s been more forthcoming. She’s more present, more involved. We’re not resisting each other, and I have confidence that this time, I’ll get it right.

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The Escape Artist

I’d like to fancy myself a would-be magician with a couple of bar scam sleight-of-hand tricks and the inability to actually saw people in half.

The thing about writing for a living is needing new hobbies. Once you’re out of that first-draft honeymoon phase and it’s time to crack down on revisions, rewrites, and shaping up query letters, you need something other than writing to fill that creative void. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working on a new book while you and your precious first draft are taking some time apart, but there sadly comes a point where a new first draft can’t be your only escape.

If you’re like me, you will burn yourself out.

I started learning sleight of hand and bar scams from Scam School because I’ve always had an interest in magic and who doesn’t want sick wizard powers? I got the opportunity see Brian Brushwood perform at DragonCon last year, and he is very good at what he does. There’s nothing better than amazing and fooling friends and strangers. Ask me about the three coin trick and I might show you.

Three years ago, I took up fire spinning and contact juggling. Like magic, these were two things I’ve always wanted to learn. I don’t play poi much anymore, but I can manipulate crystals like the Goblin King, which is seriously awesome to break out during parties.

Most recently, as in last Friday, I’ve taken up swing dancing. I love it. The Electroswing Speakeasy is held every month at the Red Light Cafe in Atlanta, and I’ve got a standing appointment. It’s a simple to grasp the basics of 1940s East Coast Swing, and the spins and turns look more impressive than I can say. However, I don’t recommend you spin around the floor immediately after consuming an alcoholic beverage, lesson learned.

You don’t necessary need to leave your house though. I’ve also, accidentally, spent seven hours in one day playing Bioshock Infinite and I regret nothing. Paint, dance, sing along with the radio, take up fencing, take up yoga. Pick something you want and go after it!

The important thing about finding other passions is never forgetting your first one: writing. It’s not going to do you any good if you forget to work. And it IS work. There will be days when you don’t want to do it, when editing is hard or you think you suck.

Go learn something. Come back. Work a little more.

Know what you can do with all these new hobbies? Use them as character fodder. Real people have interests outside their careers. Take the history of 1940s Swing and create an underground dance mafia bent on eradicating Lindyhoppers.

In The Killing Type, Jonathan Gale’s hobby is sleight of hand.

Use your new skills, whether it be for good or evil.

Speaking of evil, I’ve got my Splicer mask to finish.

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Linear Writing for Non-Linear People

Right now, as you’re reading this, I’m sitting in a waiting room working on The Killing Type. Right now, I’m typing this to the future, but you’ll be reading the past. Okay, this is starting to sound like an episode of Vsauce.

I’ve mentioned before that when I write a first draft, I build everything from the inside out, piecing together scenes without any regard for a timeline. Most of my friends and critique partners are structured outliners, so I don’t know how they deal with my throwing caution to the wind. I’m sure they’d fall over if they saw my drafts-in-progress. Or my notebooks.

That being said, I’m trying this rewrite from a different angle: writing it straight through and replacing what I no longer need. When I finished the draft the first time, I unwisely didn’t let it sit before starting on edits. So I’ve technically never reread it. Oops. Plus, when I did revise, I went backward.
I know! I know! I’m the extreme type of pantser. I’m mad!
I’m hoping a forced linear perspective does a couple of things:
  1. Let’s me see the narrative in order. Obvious.
  2. Let’s me see what isn’t working. I’m trying to make each chapter a reaction to the events in the last. Hopefully, I can speed up the action and make it cleaner.
  3. Help me hate linear writing less, especially when it’s time to edit and revise. At the very least, I’d like to be able to process it better.

Of course, this whole process is not without its pitfalls. I’ve gotten some great feedback from my CP, and I do feel positive about this new take, but rewriting is still difficult and painful. I’ve only gotten the first four chapters redone (out of, oh, the original twenty-five-ish), and there is a slight downside.

  1. I initially cut about 15k out of the original 80k. Boom. Gone. It was liberating, but a little sad.
  2. For every 5k I add (about a chapter and half), I delete the 2k of the original, which drops the word count again. Sure, I could (and probably should) open a fresh file, and this would take away the pain, but I like seeing the new replacing the old.
  3. I realize just how much the first draft sucked. Yes, I know all first-drafts suck and that’s why we keep revising until we die, but I realize how few things actually made sense and under-developed my characters were, especially Charlotte. This is bad because Charlotte is the main character.
  4. Like everything, it makes you question your choices. I still ask Kelly if she likes where the story is going, or if I’m even good at this writing thing. I have a folder of positive affirmations that I look at when I’m down. Also, a file of glittery skulls, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m hoping to have it finished (or with one or two chapters to go) by the time I leave for Disney (and the worst sunburn of my life) at the beginning of June. Doable? Yeah. Some scenes only need a point-of-view change. There are a few that won’t be changing at all. I try to remember that this manuscript hasn’t been slated as hopeless. I just need to dust it off a bit more.

Now where’s that rock tumbler I had as a kid?

I’m starting to think I should have some sort of clever sign-off. Maybe next week.

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A Brief Post and the United States of Tara

Ok, this week definitely got away from me. I have an ARC to finish and review for Criminal Element, a review on Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig and a How To for Pen&Muse to write, my revisions to get crackin’ on, and Wednesday… sorta happened without me.

That’s not even counting Day Job stuff.

So naturally, I did what I always do: I started a new television series and binge-watched the hell out of it.

In my last post, I talked about mental illness and my fear that I won’t or can’t portray it and villagers with pitchforks and torches and blah blah blah. I think I have a vague memory of hearing about United States of Tara, but it never pinged on my radar. I knew it was about a housewife with multiple personalities and that it was a comedy. Meh.

Curiosity got the better of me through, and I’m glad it did: United States of Tara is wonderful.

Yes, it’s a dramatic comedy. Yes, it is funny, but the writers made damned sure that the humor was never about Tara’s illness. The DID diagnosis wasn’t the comedy. Though the alters are a teenager (T), a 1950’s housewife (Alice), and a beer-chugging VET (Buck), who all do admittedly hilarious things on occasion, the characters take Tara’s state seriously. They acknowledge her inability to control it and they help her as best they can.

Stephen Spielberg and Diablo Cody worked on this show, and I think that’s part of the reason it’s so well-written. Not to mention Toni Collette’s portrayal of Tara being spot-on to the mannerisms exhibited by people with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly Multiple Personality Disorder.)

Even freaking Eddie Izzard is in this show! That’s always a nice discovery. Though there are only three season (and how I wish there were a fourth), United States of Tara was perhaps the best example of storytelling involving mental illness that I’ve seen, from the supportive husband who struggles with how much he has to handle, to the skeptical sister and therapist who help initiate major breakthroughs and help Tara understand, accept, and heal.

I’m not telling you to binge-watch this show and shirk your responsibilities like I did, but if you want to, I certainly won’t stop you.

I’m off now to finish a review and chapter three of The Killing Type before yet another day at The Day Job. I finally had a narrative revelation, and I think I’m really on to something this time. Here’s hoping I can hash things out before June (self-imposed deadline. Hold me to it!)

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