Sunday, June 16, 2019

Rules Schmules

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: That one "rule" that you gloriously, ecstatically love to break.

Now, I’m an iconoclast by nature. While I’m stubborn on issues of integrity and my own system of right and wrong, I’m not much for Rules. My usual response to most Rules is “Why is that a Rule?” Which really annoys those who love Rules.

Newbie writers look for rules. It’s understandable. Writing is a nebulous art with few restrictions and no discernible career ladder. Though there are some opportunities to learn – writing workshops, MFA programs, various courses – for the most part it’s self-taught. You learn to write by doing a LOT of writing.

It’s natural to look for the Rules of Writing. After a while, though, we learn that those early Rules we clung to? Those are there to be broken!

So, what Rule do I gloriously, ecstatically love to break?

I’m going to make up my own fucking words, and you can’t stop me.

I figure, this is the privilege of being a writer. Language is my medium and I will twist, tweak, massage, contort, redefine, and invent words. I am the bane and despair of copy editors. Most of the people who’ve edited me long-term have given up on several hills where I have proudly planted my flag.

Yes, I’m going to use “suicide” as a verb. I stand by my use of slurk. I don’t care if it’s archaic or British, I like “dreamt” and “leapt” way better than “dreamed” or “leaped.” Don’t tell me to use “sneaked” instead of the compact and powerful “snuck.”

Yes, I’m going to use metaphorical language. A person’s face can be sere. Someone can feel a susurrus of emotion. Inanimate objects absolutely can appear sad or lonely.

And yes, worldbuilding is one word. So is wordcount. I defy you to stop me.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Writing Zen Zone Flow is My Favorite Part of Being an Author


This week’s topic: favorite part and least favorite part of being an author.

My favorite part of being an author is that when I write I’m in the creative flow. It’s the best feeling as the words pour onto the page – it’s like a runner’s high. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: “In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

Yup, that’d be me when the words are flowing really well. I’m not conscious of time passing or the effort involved. I’m just telling the story.

I don't run (bad knees), I can't play music, I'm not a good swimmer, I don't sew or craft any more...and none of those creative activites or 'gifts' ever gave me entry into the zone of the flow. Writing is my gift and I cherish it.

Sometimes an entire book comes to me “in the flow” and almost writes itself. JADRIAN and STAR CRUISE MAROONED were both like that. I woke up in the morning and there the story was in my brain and my only limit was how fast could I type. More often, I’ll get a single scene that’s demanding to be written and so I do, even if it’s out of order for where I am on the overall novel.
Sure there are times when I sit here at the keyboard and the action doesn’t flow, or the characters won’t do what I expected, or there’s some other problem but even then, while I might not be in the zen zone flow, I’m still in a good frame of mind and not conscious of time passing.

I don’t think I have a least favorite part of being an author? Maybe the fact that I always have so many ideas always popping up, and fascinating avenues of research that I could chase down a neverending rabbit hole…but I don’t have time in one lifetime to do all of it. So I have to pick and choose which story to tell and therefore accept that I may never get around to writing the Renegade his novel or the sequel to LADY OF THE STAR WIND or another book in my fantasy romance series…even though I have the bones of perfectly good plots for each. 

Not being independently wealthy, and being a full time writer with bills to pay, I have to prioritize the books and series that are currently finding the most resonance with my readers. And wow am I grateful for the readers! I love my Badari Warriors and have a ton of stories to tell in the series…lots more STAR CRUISE adventures to spin…and at least once a year I try to squeeze in an ancient Egyptian paranormal romance. Which just this week someone said the PNR  novels were “Like eating potato chips. I couldn’t stop at one.” WOOT! Music to my ears.

I'm not crazy about the marketing aspects of being an author - I'm not good with statistics and have no patience for running 1000 Facebook ad variations and analyzing A/B or clicks per second or WHATEVER the statistics may be. But to me, that's a whole other discussion quite apart from the part of being an author writing books. Ads and other marketing issues are the business and not what we're discussing here!

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Writing

The Good

Getting to make stuff up. Getting to play God in my own private sandbox. When people in Real Life (TM) piss me off, I can smile and off them in horrifying ways in fiction. It's legal AND I get paid to do it. Some times, the reviews are even good. The moment a story comes to life - whether it's when the characters grab the reins from me or when, at that moment between waking and falling asleep, lightning strikes and I scramble up to madly scribble down the scene/dialogue/idea. It feels a little like the touch of the Divine. Or madness. Pick your poison.

The Bad
While I don't particularly want to wax idealistic about the whole tortured writer trope, because it's really, really tired, I admit that my process includes pieces of it. I recognize those pieces as an integral part of how books come together for me. While they aren't bad per se, they aren't pleasant places to linger, so we'll file them under 'Bad'. There's The Wall at about the 1/4-1/3 mark, where, despite a nice outline, I have no fucking clue what comes next. Once that's scaled, there's the Self-Doubt Swamp that coincides with what feels like a sagging middle. It consists of me wailing that nothing's happening! But it's a draft, right? So our emo heroine slogs onward through Wow, I Really Hate This Book (2/3 mark) and finally, finally, clears into How the Hell Do I Land This Thing?? at the climax. Then it all turns to good because somehow the story does get brought home and there it is. Shining and new and ready for edits. What? You thought I'd talk about rejection being bad? Nope. Rejection means I finished something and have a product to show for my efforts. That can only be a good thing. Even if everyone wants to tell me it's ugly. It may be ugly, but it exists. So there.

The Ugly
Maybe you saw my post Wednesday on Facebook. Maybe you didn't. It went something like this:
Hypothesis: The closer you are to a book deadline, the higher the likelihood your computer will go TU.
This, my friends, is the ugly part of writing. We're dependent on technology. It isn't that we can't work with pencil and paper - it's just so slow. Apparently, I am a product of my time. I adore my devices. But, Wednesday, my preferred device, my Surface Pro, decided to give up the ghost. It is in the care of professionals at the moment, who called me last night to say they couldn't save the current build and are going to have to reset the machine. <sob>
The Ugly: Potential for massive, morale and mental-health destroying data loss. BACK UP YER SHIT.
Or use cloud storage. I am in luck. Everything I write is saved to a cloud storage solution so I can access the most current file wherever I am on whatever device I happen to be using. You can't avoid the ugly, but you can mitigate the impact. Do that.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Best and Worst Thing About Being A Writer...

Frankly, the best and worst thing about being a writer is how I forget what day of the week it is.  It's lovely that I don't have to KNOW, because it largely doesn't matter.  What day is it?  It's a day I'm writing, that's what day it is.  But also, "Oh, it's Friday night?  It's a weekend?  What does that mean?" Every day I'm working.  I don't know how NOT to.

And, it also means that I forget it's Thursday and that's why I've been missing posts here on occasion.  Sorry, friends.  I've got a lot kittens and chainsaws in the air, and I'm juggling them best I can.  I'll strive to do better.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bad Times / Good Times of Writing

When folks ask me whether I want the good news or bad news first, I choose bad. What can I say, I like a happy ending.

So I'll begin by telling you all the ways writing for a living is so-very meh:

  • It's not really a living. I said I'd spend my first profits off this writing gig by buying a Mac with this fancypants software called Vellum. More than two years on, and I'm still saving up. True you can read loads of financial success stories from writers who've hit it big, but I find their tales a little disingenuous. You can work your hiney off and have skills and talent, but if the timing isn't right or you don't get the right marketing incursion or the market isn't quite ready for your story, you're not going to make money. And worst of all, most of those market variables are not in your control. About all you can do is keep working, keep writing books, keep learning craft, keep sharing your work, and hope a timing fairy deigns to sit on your head and make the magic happen.
  • It's lonely most of the time. I mean, yeah you can hang out with other writers online or join a local writing group and meet up at the coffee shop every Wednesday or whatever, but the day-in, day-out work is going to be just you and a computer. Possibly with coffee or vodka, but neither of those beverages are very good conversationalists. The silver lining on this meh is that if you love solitude, this is the perfect career choice for you. I happen to love solitude, so I'm in my happy place.
  • It's unstable. Even if you have an agent, this market is a wild beast at full gallop. Good luck attempting to do that market research everybody talks about. It's not predictive of anything. People who analyse markets for a living are scratching their heads right now, which is pretty obvious in some of the choices big publishers are making, or not making. I guess you can turn this into a positive if you really squint hard: if nobody really knows what's going on, your chance at success is roughly equal to anyone else's. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Ugh, enough negativity, though. I'm ready for some good news, how about you? If you've decided that the writing life is for you, here are some upsides to this crazy career:

  • You can work in your pajamas. 
  • You can make stuff up. Like, for a living. It's like being professionally seven years old.
  • Every once in a while, someone might tell you that your work helped them through a rough time. This is literally the best thing that can happen in your whole life, so hoard that treasure every time you get a peek at it. 
  • You can make people laugh. You can make people cry. And you don't even have to be in the same room as them. Which of course is an introvert's dream.

There, now I at least feel better. I guess it all boils down to you, what you're comfortable with. You don't have to quit your day job and stop buying Starbucks daily and suffer to be a writer. You just have to know what you're getting into, make whatever adjustments you can handle making, and ease in. In other words, you don't have to go all in, all the time, fifty books a year and hardcore advertising. You can approach this career however you need to for your personal comfort and build it around your life, rather than the other way around.

Mostly, be kind to you. You deserve the happy ending.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

5 Awesome & Less Awesome Things About Being an Author

Dog at Work: The Reproachful Look
What do I love about being an author? So many things. A lot of them similar to what Jeffe and James have said.

Awesome Things About Being an Author

1. I make stuff up...and strangers actually read it! By choice! That never stops being amazing.

2. Flexibility: Where, when, how, and with whom the work gets done.

3. Every day is "bring your dog to work" day.

4. Talking to myself aloud doesn't result in the cops being called out on a 5150.

5.  Sometimes my work resonates with a reader and influences the way they perceive/interact with their very real world. Sometimes they even tell me about it. Most awesome part ever, always.

Less Awesome Things About Being an Author?

1. Unpredictability...the hours. Anyone self-employed knows there's no such thing as "regular hours," "vacation days," or "calling in sick. It takes as long as it takes, and some days productivity just.isn't.happening.

2. Unpredictability...successes and failures. There's no formula, no process that if followed will guarantee commercial and critical success. One success doesn't lead to another. One failure can follow you for years.

3. long it takes to write a book. It's never the same from book to book. 45 days. 18 months. 4 years. Yes to all. Some stories insist on fighting me. Some can't wait to be told.

4. finances. No such thing as a "regular paycheck." No certainty about how much a book will earn in what amount of time. No certainty that April is going to be better than June. No warning when the "famine" season will start or how long it'll last.

5. self-discipline. Being self-employed and one's own boss demands a lot of personal discipline. There's a time for nose-to-the-grindstone and a time for cutting loose. Yet, despite how virtuous I plan on being for a set time, my willpower isn't all it ought to be. Work avoidance is a thing and not one of which I am proud. Alas. There's no one to blame but me, me, me. Piffle.

All that said, there's no other job I'd rather have than being a professional story weaver, imagination feeder, and full-time author.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The best of times, the worst of times

I love writing for a living I do. I mean that. It's an endless source of entertainment for me.

I get to play make believe every day!

I get paid to daydream (So long as I guide said daydreams the right way and write them down.

I have made amazing friends who also get paid to daydream.

I often get free books for my efforts and I will NEVER not love free books.

Of course, there's a downside to everything.

I have deadlines. I love telling stories but sometimes the deadlines are like a pressure cooker, doubly so because I'm just not as fast as I used to be, no matter how many times I tell myself that I am.

I find I have to say "No" a lot. There are writers who ask me for favors and as much as I want to read their manuscripts and offer advice, I often do not have the time, no matter how useful I want to be.

The pay isn't always great. I mean, I cover the bills (mostly) but my savings account is non-existent and I still need a job at Starbucks to cover insurance and the like.

Would I trade for another job? heck no!  I love this stuff. Now if Hollywood would just come along and buy the rights to the SEVEN FORGES series....

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Why Being an Author Is the Best Job I've Ever Had

This little cactus is growing - and blooming away! - beneath the shelter of this much larger paddle cactus. I think of this, not as hiding its light under a bushel, but welcoming the sheltering strength of a friend. Go, little cactus, go!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our favorite part and least favorite part of being an author.

I'm having a hard time picking my favorite part. Really, being an author is an amazing job. Easily the most fun, most rewarding job I've ever had. (And I've had a few, including two previous substantial career paths.) How do I love it? Let me count the ways!

  1. I get to create for a living. Spending my days weaving stories the way I want them to be is unlike anything else. The only conference calls I have are with people talking about my favorite subject: me and my work. I don't have to attend meetings or work with other people unless I choose to.  
  2. I am a source that creates money for other people. By writing my books and stories, I generate income that then generates money for others. From my assistant, to editors, to cover designers, to my website designer, even to retailers like Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo - they all have income because of what I create. That's powerful stuff.
  3. I get to make my favorite authors be my friends. This is really the best perk, that I can stalk reach out to people who write books I love and they become my friends. My twelve-year-old self still has little fan girl meltdowns over it.
  4. I'm creating a source of long term income. The super cool thing about writing books is the money they generate continues to come in, for the most part quite regularly, forever. Especially now that "out of print" is no longer an issue. My books will continue to generate income for my heirs. My first published novella, which has been out for over ten years, still bring in about $100/month. Not a fortune, sure, but it all adds up.
  5. I'm creating something that will outlive me. Long after I'm gone, my books will still exist. Will I care? Well, no, but while I live I feel good about giving something lasting to the world.
What is my least favorite part then? An easy answer there: the fluctuating income. I self-insure, have no employer-bestowed benefits, no guaranteed check every month. It makes budgeting impossible, not knowing how much money will come in at any given time. Ideally, I'd make enough - hit the literary jackpot as some do - and have a big financial cushion. If I could budget a year in advance, that would be amazing. Otherwise I'm at the mercy of a fluctuating marketplace. 

Small price to pay, however, for the awesomeness of the job!