Sunday, September 5, 2021

Social Media, Politics, and the New Etiquette

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Social Media and politics: Should you speak your mind or keep your tongue?"

So, once upon a time, friends and neighbors, this used to be a subject for actual debate. Social media was new, the internet itself was new, and we had a lot of conversations that involved determining the etiquette of this new, virtual world. Especially where social media was concerned, there was a lot of advice-giving around establishing a persona/brand. Many of us first adopted social media as a way to gain viewers/readers. I joined Facebook and Twitter originally to funnel people into reading my newly created blog. So we treated social media as a kind of moving billboard for ourselves. 

Accordingly, we focused on creating a non-controversial, attractive persona/brand. We also took the longstanding holiday dinner etiquette of staying away from money, religion, and politics. It was the approach of someone who wanted to maintain family connection enough to hold their tongue for a few hours - and then depart to go live an unedited life after.

Well, a funny thing happened as the internet grew and more people adopted social media: it became a globally connected form of communication. News could be transmitted immediately, from people directly involved. Grassroots efforts became more effective than ever. It became more difficult to hide or suppress injustices. 

In ecology, we talk about the predator-prey cycle. If there are too many coyotes, they eat all the rabbits. Because there are no more rabbits, the coyotes die off and the population diminishes. With fewer coyotes around, the rabbit population bounces back - and so follows the coyote population. 

Well, those interested in perpetuating injustice, feeling thwarted by the power of the internet to drag their nasty business into the scorching light of social disapproval, countered by developing an elaborate misinformation effort. The internet and social media shared damaging information? Well, they would kill it by flooding social media with so much false and misleading information that people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

And so the cycle continues.

I don't know if I'm a rabbit or a coyote - it could depend on the day - but I do know that the way I combat the flood of misinformation is by being authentic. I don't feel we have the luxury of presenting a bland persona to the online world. If we don't speak up, then we create a silence that allows other voices to dominate. We're not talking about a family dinner that lasts a few hours. This IS our lives, day in and day out. If we choose to hold our tongues in the name of seducing readers with a blandly non-offensive position, then we're choosing to live edited lives - and to allow the blowhards to dominate the conversation. We can't afford to hold our tongues, even for a few hours. 

Turns out, family dinners have gotten a lot more contentious, too. Frankly, I think that's a good thing. Harmony that comes from voices being silenced is no harmony at all. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Go Forth and Write

This week's topic has the SFF Seven questioning a writing adage: 'If you're bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it.'

Is this true, though?

No. I can tell you that I was bored out of my mind at times while writing the love scene for The Witch Collector. For me, sex scenes and fight scenes are HARD. So hard that they make me nap and I don't nap. There's so much choreography, and I have to not only make both types of scenes easy to read but there's certain pacing for each, along with certain genre expectations. When I'm writing love and fight scenes, my brain is ALL IN. It's tedious, time-consuming work that I will revise several times before it feels right. In both types of scenes, there's an emotional layer as well, so there are times when I have to sit and dig deep into the heart of the story and unearth the deeper meaning. In my stories, love scenes change the dynamic between the main characters and fight/battle scenes tend to end up with them losing something they treasured, needed, or hoped for. Nothing is gratuitous. Everything I write has a purpose for what's ahead. 

So, the question is, are these scenes boring just because I wasn't bouncing in my seat while writing them? Absolutely not. If I've done my job, they're kick-ass. The battle scenes are intense, fast paced, gritty, a little gruesome, and they deal my main characters a load of change to face. As for my love scene/s, they're sensual and provide the reader with the climax (pun intended) to the romance arc they've been hoping for, as well as...change. 

Change can be key to preventing a story from falling into a boring flow. One technique is to try turning a scene on a dime. This is something I've been working on, and I try to make the ends of many of my chapters change the whole game the characters are playing. It's fun for me, and as a reader, I know I respond to books that do this. This is just one way to avoid the novel doldrums.

But, no. Just because YOU might write a scene or chapter with little zeal in your fingertips, doesn't necessarily mean that the writing is dull. Writing is work, and it isn't always a thrill to sit down and craft a scene. The thrill often comes later, when you've had a little distance and you read it and think...Wow. I did that? Or for me, when my kid calls me and says, " did my mother who doesn't even watch violence on TV manage to write THIS?" OR, even better, when a reader writes a review and is so affected by your work that they want to tell the world. 

Sometimes writing is work. Sometimes you have to force yourself to sit at the computer and try to get words down, and while that might not be boring, it might also not be exciting. Sometimes it's a tedious writing session that makes a scene tick. Sometimes the words flow like water and we writers grin the entire time. The goal is to write something you love and something you're proud of. How that happens will differ many times over the course of a novel's creation. Writing is a craft, and though there are some rules, few are universal, and most hold different meaning for different writers.

So, go forth and write. Don't let an old writing adage make you feel like you're doing something wrong. 


Friday, September 3, 2021

You're not bored, I'm bored

Y'all. Authors are like seagulls. We like to bite off more than we can chew. Most of the time, we're scrappy enough that getting what we wants excites us and we scream after it with abandon. When we're like this, we're writing great guns and while we might not be at our most coherent, we're probably not boring ourselves or anyone else.

Sometimes, though, we're wounded seagulls limping, pathetic, and begging for scrapes. Getting words may or may not be akin to squeezing blood from a stone, but I guarantee we're bored and burned out and neurotic and second guessing every last thing we say, think, or do. We're bored. Bored. Bored. BORED.

But. Because neither seagulls nor authors are entirely rational animals, our boredom has no bearing on whether readers will be bored. It's because while maybe we aren't feeling a story, we're still authors. We still know how to do the job. We know how to structure a story. Also, it's because it's super likely that it isn't the story we're bored with.

We're bored with ourselves. We're bored with our neuroses, and we know on a deep, subconscious level that something may be wrong with the story. That's what kicks us in the self-confidence. We'll sit and struggle with the problems in our stories, trying to choke them down and keep making progress. Remember. We're pathetic, emotionally stunted, injured seabirds here. We're already a neurotic mess - especially about our writing. Problems arise when someone comes along with the well-meaning advice that when we're bored our readers will be bored. 

It's a fast-track to a complete freeze. Frozen seagulls poop (a lot) in terror. Frozen authors -- yeah, who knows? I'm afraid to look. I only know that when I'm bored with a story, it's because my neuroses are lying to me. Yes, there might also be something wrong with the story. But I cannot let that stop me. I need to keep writing. That's how I finally figure out where and how the book is broken. During it, though, I'm already second guessing myself into oblivion. Being told I'm probably boring my readers just buggers up the works even more.

So. "If you're bored, your readers will be too." It's pithy. It might be cute on a tee shirt. But the quote needs to be yeeted into deep space cause that cute little one liner t'ain't necessarily so. 

My job as a writer is to let a story be what it needs to be. Initially. If your draft is boring, who cares?? No one sees that. It's yours. Besides, there's an excellent chance that your assessment is dead wrong and you're just sick of the story. Either way, the proof and power is in the rewrite.And that's where your power lies. Mine, too. 

I'm a hopeless, pathetic seagull when I draft. I'm a seagull with a switchblade when I edit, though, so boring better watch out. I'm coming to carve up a manuscript.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Don't let Rules of Thumb give you Writer's Block

Audiobook The Mars Strain on iPhone resting on glass panel above NASA control board on space shuttle.
The Mars Strain - getting technical

 If you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading - 

true or false?

Hmm, false? 

Truth time: this often mentioned rule-of-thumb paralyzed me while I was writing The Mars Strain. I was deep in the cinematic climax with Jules racing the clock to find the right phage, but I kept fizzling out because I needed to keep the science grounded and I felt like I was doing a lot of technical writing—which translated to me being bored!!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love science, it’s part of me and always will be. But trying to bring enough technical aspects to keep it real for the reader without overwhelming them is soooo difficult. It’s a balancing act and my mind kept fast forwarding to the emotional arc which was the only thing I wanted to write at that time! That, and the phrase “if you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading” kept looping through my mind…putting up writers block after writers block.


If I knew then what I know now… Well, then I’d have written that section a lot faster! Yes, I was bored and wanting to move onto more exciting parts, but I’ve had readers tell me they loved the amount of technical aspects that brought Juliet’s lab work to life. So for this instance, FALSE!

To my future writing self, I now know not to let myself be derailed by nailing down details. I also know that if I pick a story that doesn’t excite me and is just blah, I can expect that anyone I have to pitch the book to will pick up my vibe and be less inclined to get excited about it. So I’ll stick to my rule of thumb to only write the stories that I can’t get out of my head for months on end, which rings TRUE to our question of the week! Don't pick a premise that bores you.

How about you, dear readers? When you get bored reading and either skip ahead or DNF the book, do you ever wonder if the author was born writing it? 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Here, Let Me Bore You

That writing advice about if you bore yourself writing something, you're probably also going to bore the reader? Could have a point. I mean, as a reader, I get bored a lot. I'm a really picky reader, and if a story hasn't captured me from the get-go, it's probably not getting a lot more from these eyeballs (unless I am being forced to read it, like for a contest or a class or something). This is a horrible habit on my part, I know. Yes, yes, I know that particular book gets better at the midpoint or has this really great 3/4 twist or the third book is when the series really starts to shine or .... you know what? Don't care. I've already noped right past that book.

Now, having read all that, answer me honestly, does my snootpicky opinion really make you want to change your book? Are you worried about my opinion of your opus-in-process?

Of course not. You're a writer.

You want to write a book that opens with a seventeen-page description of some fancy vegetable garden at sunset? Do it.

Or open a book with someone waking from a dream or observing themselves in a mirror or picking herbs by the river or talking to a handsome stranger who is offering to change their flat. If that's the book that's speaking to you, don't you dare sit there and wonder if reader-me is gonna be bored. 

Because who are you even writing for? A rando reader you'll never meet?

Or are you writing for you?

If you're writing for you, do the thing that entertains your own brain. You'll know if you're boring yourself. So stop that. Entertain yourself. Make yourself cry, make yourself crack up, give yourself all the feels.

Readers will agree, or not, and there's nothing that you can do about them. Readers are wildly unpredictable. The only thing you have control over, writer-you, is the story and everything in it. Make it something you are proud of, something you want to re-read over and over and tell everybody about. Then and only then should you share your creation with the world. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

When the Adage Doesn't Apply

"If you're bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it."

~blink, blink~
~rolls on the floor laughing and groaning~

Here's the thing about writing advice (okay, okay there are many "things" but this ONE thing is...), it spans the humungous pool of all types of writing. From journalism, to academia, to tech writing, to memoir, to screenplays, to speculative fiction, to romance, and all the niches and crevices therein.

Methinks the boredom adage, along with its cousin "Write What You Know," is bleed over from the non-fic world. There's a lot of advice from that sector that simply doesn't apply to fiction. Think about it. Unless we're being paid heaps to ghostwrite something tedious, why, oh why would we waste our time writing something boring? Why, when most of us have hundreds of story ideas clamoring for the sustained attention required to write a novel, would we punish ourselves with the dull and uninteresting?

That's not to say that every word, scene, chapter, and revision is on-the-edge-of-our-seats exciting. It is work. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to get through a scene, but it's not because of boredom. We've got a long list of better excuses for those moments. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

While the Iron is Hot.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week takes a look at the oft-quoted advice for writers: “If you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading.” And we're asking is this true or false?

Well, that's not exactly the easiest question to give an answer, now is it?

So we will answer yes. And thenwe will answer no.

If you are bored writing the first draft of your story,or novel, then the answer is yes. For me at least, the first draft is almost pure exploration and fun. I write as a pantser. I don't often outline anything except in yhead, and that outline is discarded usualluy within the first ten minutes. it simply does not do the job any longer, as the story often takes chrge and pushes said outline to the side while it moves in a very different direction. The frist draft is often written at a furious pace, though as I get oldef that pace slows a bit. I am deicdedly NOT boreed when writing the firt draft.

^=The second and third drafts re very different stories.

The best example I can give is BOOMTOWN, my weird western novel starring recurring character Jonathan Crowley. Listen I knew the book was going to go all over the place. Most of my stories have multiple POVs and characters that range from mostly decent to absolutely reprehensible. I'm okay with that. As far as I'm concerned, that reflects the real world pretty darned well. There are few people who are all good, and few who are all bad, because what I've seen n the real world runs a wide spectrum and I try to reflect as much of the real world as I safely can in my tales.

But BOOMTOWN was different for another reason. It was the first time I ever started a novel and then put that novel on hold for years before finishing it. when I was originally working on BOOMTOWN my wife was in the final stages of kidney faiure. Most of my writing took place on a laptop cpmputer while I sat in the waiting room of the clinic where she had dialysis. Beeive me, it was a very different experience. I was worried about my wife constanty. I was tworking a full time job, writing full time, tking care of my beloved and sleeping rougly half as much as I needed to. I was living on coffee a lot of the time.

When my wife passed away, I dropped BOOMTOWN like a hot potato. i couldnt even look at the manuscript, becuse all I coud think of when I did was my wife, and her pain, and her hopes for the future before those hopes were dashed and crushed by reality. I moved on and srote different things. I had enjoyed what I'd written of the novel, loved iit, in fact, but there was no place in my life for those thoughts and memories, not right then. I moved on and pushed BOOMTOWN into the corner of my mind where I was least likely to look.

And a few year later, I stumbled across that partial manuscroipt and I gave it a read, considered whan I had planned to write and decided enough time had passed for me to safely continue the book. I went back to the simple joy of writing a weird western.. The manuscript was bleak and b=dark, exacty as I had remembered, onoy m0re so, because it brought to mind mmories that I did no0t want to consider.

I did not approach the book the same way the second time around. Despir=te my desire to drive the tale forward in my usual fashion, the novel decided to make me pay a different kind of attention. I found myself reading and rereading every ppassage I'd written, contemplting why I had written what zi had written and debating whether or not I shuo lightnen the tone of the book. Ultimately I decided to trust my initial instincts, and eft the darkness that permeated the whole manuscript alone.

Let me be clear here: BOOMTOWN is one of the darkest things I've ever written. There is a lack of redeeming chracters here, but i can till say that I was never bored when writing the first draft.

Te second nd third drafts? Those got a bit boringl you can onoy look at the same words so many times before the desire to walkaway from the computer gets strong enough to distract.Unlike what I type here, I cleaned up the typos and misspellings to a level I seldom achieve. It was likely the cleanest manuscript I ever turned in, because I needed the extra time to move through my grief, ad to work through the darkness in that tale. Was it exciting work?no, but it was necessry to get that story told and that's what I did.

was it boring No0w and then. But not often. I am blessedly lucky in that I a seldom bored by my chosen career, even the stuff that shoud be boring is interesting to me. RThat doesn't mean it's always exciting. Just that the process is something akin to playing with cly. Not really sculpting anything, just makeing new shapes and seeing what comes of them. Words can be like that, Sometimes you write a perfect sentence the firt time around but mostly I thonk you rehape those sentences a fe times ntil they are at leat moderatey comfortable.

So, no. I do not get n=bored with wr=hat I am writing.

And yes, sometimes the words can bore me to tears, but happily not often.

Was that enough of a ramble? I certainoy hope so.

One last bit for you to consider: if you re never bored with your job, you are truly blessed. I am mostoy =lessed, though now and again I get so busy I don't have time to consider the ramifications of that thought. That's when I worry less baout boredom and more about getting words on papaer as quickly as i can. I love my chosen career. It doesn't always pay the bills as well as I'd like, but i always manage to ahve a good time with the process, even in the darket times.

keep miling,

Jom Moore

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Does Boring Writing Mean Boring Reading?

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week takes a look at the oft-quoted advice for writers: “If you’re bored writing, the reader will be bored reading.” And we're asking is this true or false?

Okay, I'll confess: it's me asking. This was totally my topic suggestion because this advice really irritates me - I think it's wrong, even dangerous - and I want to know what everyone else thinks about it.

So, I feel a little bad kicking off this topic, as I know I'll be setting the tone here.

But... whatever!

The reason I think this advice is flat wrong is threefold. 

First of all, the process of writing a book takes HUGELY longer than reading a book. Let's say it takes 5 hours to read a novel. (It seems like my Kindle often reports something in that neighborhood when I open a new book.) I'm a fairly fast writer, and I keep track of my numbers, so let's use my writing time for an example. It takes me, on average, 55 working days to draft and revise a novel. In general, I spend 3 hours/day actively writing to get that book finished. That's 165 hours of writing, at a conservative estimate. That means it takes a reader approximately 3% of the time to read what it takes me to write. And I'm a fast writer! The percentage will only go down from there. 

Put another way, a reader will read at least 33 times as fast as we write. Comparing the two experiences is ridiculous, particularly when it comes to a subjective quality of feeling bored, which is time-sensitive.

Secondly, the experience of boredom is entirely subjective. What I find boring is not what you may find boring. I get bored with fight scenes, in books and movies. I know that's a me thing, but they don't hold my attention. Lots of people love fight scenes, which is cool. But there is no objective qualifier of what is "boring."

Finally, writing is a job. It might be an awesome job - it is! - but it's also work, which means it can be a slog. Especially writing novels. Working incrementally for ~75 days (my total time to produce a novel, including days off) on one story can get dull. Some days I'm tired. Sometimes I'm writing stuff I already know, like backstory from previous books, or stuff that isn't particularly exciting, like transitions, but that I know the reader will need to understand the story. I don't know ANY writer who is 100% excited and invested in what they're writing every moment and every word. Sometimes, people, it's going to be boring - and that has nothing to do with how the reader perceives it.

I promise you this. Test it for yourself. Make note of some part of your work in progress that you found boring to write and find out later if any of your readers find it boring to read. I'm sure they won't.

That's why I find this advice dangerous. It implies that only the writing we find exciting in the moment is valid - perhaps even suggests that anything we find boring to write should be thrown out. This is bad for getting words written, which is our primary job. If a section of the story is boring to read when you revisit it? Sure, edit that puppy! That's what revision is for. But don't let feeling unenthused in the moment stop you from moving forward in the story. 

Neil Gaiman says that writing a novel is a process of laying bricks in a long road. Some days the sun will be hot, the work mind-numbing, the process slow and grueling. But the bricks have to be laid. Do the work and don't worry about how you feel.