Month: November 2017 Page 1 of 2

November Wrap-Up

November was a kind of tipping point for me, although what it is exactly that I tipped between, I’m not sure.  It feels like I tipped between “not confident” and “confident” on a personal level, as in, “She is a confident person.”  But where that came from or what it means, I don’t know.  It’s probably a bunch of little things getting resolved or addressed over time.  I had to say “no” to several people on a personal level; I brooded on the matter for some time, but eventually came to the conclusion in various cases that I didn’t have time for drama, but I did have time to shop for clothes.  Plus I took a personality quiz that said I was confident now, and you know how those are always accurate.

I’m looking ahead to next year already (as you do), and I’ve decided that I need to spend more time working on my own writing, and less time getting my own writing out–that is, I need to get my writing out, but I need to be more efficient about it.

Methods I’m currently testing out:

  • Write 3K a day of my own stuff, first thing in the morning.  Results so far: GREAT.  This has been taking me 70-80 minutes in 10-minute bursts.  The fingers are FLYING.  A drawback is going, “Uh…you finished this story with 600 words to spare.  Now what?”  Answer:  Flash fiction.
  • Start stripping down existing processes to a simpler routine/template in order to save time.  Results so far:  I’m dropping Smashwords and Kobo in my direct uploads process.  I’m still uploading to Amazon and Draft2Digital.  The Kobo promo pages haven’t been doing much for me, so I feel that I can move Kobo direct sales over to D2D without much of a loss.  Smashwords has never done me a whole lot, and I’m finally just saying, “That’s another 10 minutes every time I have a book to upload that I don’t want to deal with.”  I’d already ditched Smashwords .doc files and was using .epubs only.  Still in testing:  should I switch over to InDesignCC or stick with my outdated CS2 version?  How much time can I save?  Can I convert straight to HTML or epub?  If so, how clean is that code?
  • Start shifting more work from my desk to a virtual assistant/contractors.  Not started yet.  I feel that I need to get the routine solid and efficient before I start asking other people to feel my pain.

I feel overwhelmed right now, because only one minimal efficiency has occurred at this point, and I have to spend extra time trying to work all this stuff out.  BAH.  But at least I’m writing waaaay more of my own stuff.  Something that occurs to me is that I’ll probably stop putting out short stories by themselves as separate ebooks, and concentrate more on story collections.  If I keep writing at this speed, it won’t take much longer to get them done and out.

Best Books Read, November

A selection of the best books I read in November, which, admittedly, still isn’t done yet but close enough:

  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nahisi Coates.  A series of essays, framed as a letter written to his son, on the poisonous Dream of a white America.  Just amazing.
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.  This is not a screed on what types of food are healthiest for the body.  This is a book on how industrial agriculture is affecting the planet (hint: it depends on oil, so we better start thinking about changing it).
  • The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum.  I can’t really recommend this.  It was a great book about everyday evil spiraling out of control, though.  A genuinely horrifying book.  I started out on audio with the author reading, but had to switch to text because I knew I wasn’t going to make it through every detail being slowly read out like that.
  • The Hour of the Star, by Clarice Lispector.  A really short, weird, meta book, very Kafka-esque.  I laughed all the way through it, but then that’s usually how Kafka takes me, too.

Runners up…I also read the complete Death Note saga (finally) but was massively disappointed about the ending, which should have occurred about 2/3 of the way through the series.  Meh.  In Cold Blood was good, but didn’t particularly hold me, and I had to skim a bit toward the end.  The Hot Zone was very dramatic, but I wished it had given more details.  Affinity was fun, but not up to the level of Fingersmith.  The Ruins was a one-trick pony but did that trick well.  I just didn’t care for the trick.

Disgust

I was eating a bunch of clementines the other day, and one of them smelled off.

Last year, I got a bag of clementines with a number of fruits that were just bad.  Eventually I ditched the whole bag–well, first I shoved it in the fridge and pretended it wasn’t there for a month.  It got worse before it got better.  In retrospect my reaction wasn’t the most rational.

This year, I had to force myself to try to eat clementines all over again.  My initial reaction was to want to shove them in the fridge and forget about them.  Or rather, first to forget about them, and then to shove them somewhere that I wouldn’t encounter them.

Disgust is a powerful reaction.  So powerful that it erases itself, because not only do we not want to be disgusted, we don’t want to remember that we might be disgusted.

People who do disgusting and even appalling things use that reaction to stay hidden and safe.  We don’t want to know.  And our desire to want to not know spreads from the perpetrator to the victim.

The only real solution is to rip into some clementines and discover whether they are or are not bad, and to throw away the ones that are bad, instead of hanging on to them and slowly starting to fear opening the fridge at all.

And…probably I’ve posted something similar to this one before, but erased the memory of having done so.

Because it’s too close to the memory of disgust.

Nonfiction Books to Be a Better Citizen of the World/Universe

I asked on Facebook what nonfiction books they would recommend for becoming a better citizen of the world/universe.  It sounded like a fun thing to ask; I like to ask for recommendations.

Over a hundred and forty books later…

Please note that I am not a trained bibliographer and you’re lucky you’re not just getting a link to a rambling, cross-commented FB post!  Also, yes.  This list is completely biased–by me, by the people I know, by the people I know on Facebook.  Don’t like it?  Suggest some additions.  I’ll take ’em, unless they’re lame for one reason or another.

The list!

The I haven’t read these yet but I know I’m coming back to this post so I’ll put them here so I don’t forget sub-list:

Another Thing About First Drafts

Yesterday’s post, by the way.

Far be it from me to be like, “Oh, writing is easy, you can do it in these six easy steps” or “every first draft is a good first draft.”

You can’t and they aren’t.  Not even if you make the condition that every draft can be fixed–because that’s not true, either.  Some drafts cannot be fixed.  You just have to ditch ’em and start over.  Sometimes you have to start over from starting over, if you hanging on to some particularly stupid concept about writing or storytelling.*

But editing is not a superior skill to writing.  No amount of editing can fundamentally “fix” your writing.

None.

A good editor is an advocate for the reader.  A good writer has a unique point of view.  These two things can work well together–but neither one can replace the other.  They’re too fundamentally different.

No advocate for a reader, no matter how good, is going to make your point of view worth reading.  Sorry.  And likewise, no matter how bad, no editor will suck the life out of your work.  That’s always on the writer.

Well, okay.  The Reader’s Digest Condensed Books edition, with its missing sex scenes, violence, naughty language, and lots of description and internal perceptions, could suck the life out of a work.  But even then it was almost impossible to do so.

 

*I’ve had to do this, because sometimes I’m an idiot.

 

First Drafts

I’m just going to say it.

Not all first drafts suck.

But you’re never going to write a first draft that doesn’t suck if you believe otherwise.

 

Quick POV Edit to Consider

A quick POV edit:

  • In short, she thought he was lying.
  • In short, he was probably lying.

They mean the same thing.  But the first one comes from outside “her” head.  The second one is what “she” is more likely to think.  “He’s probably lying,” she thought.  Versus “I thought he was lying,” she thought.  The “thought” is already understood.

Talk to the Hand

Something I’m exhausted of lately:

The kind of drama that comes from people who want more from you than they’re willing to give.

Sometimes that drama comes in very polite packages, and it’s only when you step back can you assess what’s not being done or said and strip the message down to its core content,

“But me.”

Sorry for vaguebooking, but this has come to me from multiple fronts over the last few days, and I had to hit the pressure release valve a couple of times (or the button under the counter that the bank tellers press when someone starts doing something suspicious?).  But really what gets me is how much of this type of behavior I’ve had to purge from my daily life over the last year.  It started out with bullying, openly troll-like behavior, bullshit “logic” presented just to spin up my wheels, controlling behavior, behavior designed to hurt my self-confidence (especially from freelancing clients), sexist bullshit, racist bullshit, and so on.  And now I’m down to, “You don’t get to use me for your agenda, especially not to prove you’re a ‘good’ person.”

A long road?  One I should have set out upon years ago?

The cool thing is what it leaves behind.  I feel a lot more free to like people, because I know I can boot out the ones who aren’t here for friendship and company and good cheer all the more easily.  Even if I still like them.  Because they’re not good for me.

And it’s far, far easier to get over stupid things.  “You’re a good person but you put your foot in it.”  “Ayup.”  “Moving on.”  I’ve been on both sides of that lately.  It’s nice.

I still spend some quality time every morning flipping off the news.  That hasn’t changed.  And I’m still pretty vinegary.  But I don’t feel like I have continuously flinch away from the world, either.

Although honestly it’s probably more like signing up for online newsletters than anything else, where you have to go through an unsubscribe for all the crap you signed up for, yet again, about once every six months.

New stuff out!

  • Very Mysterious Christmas Bundle:  Available for preorder, on sale for 99c.  My story “Old Friends, Annoying Houseguests, and Christmas Ghosts” is featured: a mystery/ghost story told by a not-entirely-trustworthy old friend.
  • UbiquiCity: Tales of the Fractopian Future:  I keep calling it UbiCity, after UbiSoft, but noooooo…anyway, cyberpunk a hundred years in the shared-world future.  Featuring “To Summon Mountains,” in which a monster meets her only living kin.
  • Stars in the Darkness: Stories of Wisdom, Justice, and Love:  an anthology of SJW-appreciation stories, profits going to the SPLC and the Human Rights Campaign.  I’m in with “The Page-Turners,” an alternate-realities metafiction story that made me cry to write.

A busy Friday 🙂

 

And Important Note on Success in Fiction…

…Treat every success in your fiction like it’s a clue.  In other words, hide the holy shit out of it.  Hide it in plain sight.  Break away the second before the character succeeds, and show them after a time jump, struggling on the next thing.  Show the bad guys flipping every success on its head.  Lie.  Bury the success in a list.  Have the other characters mock the success.

In the end, the character has to have done a lot of things right.  But don’t let the reader know that.  “That guy,” they should be saying, “he just can’t get a break.”

Why Aren’t You Selling?

Okay, harsh truth time.  Not the harshest of the harsh truths that I’ve ever laid down, but still pretty harsh.

There’s a “thing” that a lot of writers go through.  A LOT A LOT.  I do this and have been doing this for years, although I can see the light on the far side of the tunnel.

When we start out as writers, there’s this fairy tale that we’re told. “Write well and good things will happen for you.” It is false or at the very least misleading. Writing well is necessary, but it’s only the first thing.

Obviously covers, editing, blurbs and that kind of also thing affect sales, and knowing people who are in a position to help you with sales is good, and being known for writing a certain type of thing or for engaging on that same topic on social media is a good thing. Most writers know that these things have to be accomplished, either by themselves or by a publisher.

But…there comes this time when you’re doing all those things and you’re still not selling, and people are like, “But of course you’re selling! You’re doing everything right! Or at least right enough!”

And you’re still not selling, and you get angry about the damn fairy tale.

My perspective, fortunately, has always been to learn how to write better. (Some people can learn to write better simply by writing or by learning; I have to learn new things AND write until they work for me, because beating my head against the wall is how I let the light in.)  So at least I’m not still stuck in the place I was when I first started bitching and moaning about this.

And after a while, the small accomplishments build up. You’re published, you’re paid and published through independent sources (such as magazines for short stories), you’re getting independent validation, not just wishful thinking, that you’re running on all cylinders. And you’re still not selling. Getting to a place where you’re not bullshitting yourself about how well you write can be HARD. It’s easy to think you’re writing better than you really are, that you have more control over your craft than you do.  One or two under a penny a word publication credits does not make a professional writer.  Ditto one or two professional-level publication credits.  Sorry.

The stretch between “I’m good enough” and “Okay, I really am good enough” is a long and bitter one. BITTER. Because you constantly have to eat crow about your idea of how good you are, which is, yet again, not good enough.

The next thing after the bitterness is, the whateverth item on the list, is to stop giving a crap about how good you are and how readers aren’t reading you, etc. etc.  O woe is me?  Bullshit.  What you have to care about is…the reader having fun.

Readers are more important than writers.  They just are.

And yet, in practice, it’s almost impossible for writers to have faith in this.  It’s all about the writer and their talent and hard work, right?  No.  Most writers, even the selling ones, are replaceable.  The reader is more important than the writer.

I’ve see the O Woe/Bitter phase in myself, and in others a bajillion times too.

“Why isn’t this working?”  A lot of writers abandon the work here, because it attacks the most sensitive parts of the ego.  Everyone says they “love” what you do.  So where is the money???

The money is going to the writers that know how to sell their crap.

Learning how to sell your crap makes you a better writer.  Period.  You must learn how to sell your own crap.  Period.  Learning how to sell your crap means a better relationship and understanding with your readers.

If you’re bitter that you’re not being read more AND you’re a competitively professional writer, THEN your problem is that you don’t know how to sell your crap.

Learning how to sell your crap is part of the process of writing, as in writing books that readers cannot NOT buy.  It’s also how you handle yourself in the world, and how you approach the business side of what you do.

I think we writers all feel a little entitled to sell books because it’s hard to get to the point where there’s a book on the market, indie or otherwise. We did all this work; we deserve a reward, right?

But that doesn’t tell the reader why they should care, why they should want what you write.  If you can’t communicate why a reader should care about your book effectively, then you’re not going to sell a book, no matter how good it is–and it may not be all that good, because hello, communicating with readers.

I’ve heard successful writers, especially indie writers, tell me that they treat publishing like a game–to beat other writers in Amazon rankings, to be able to make readers hand over money and sign up for newsletters, etc. Just publishing the book is only the entry fee to the game–not the whole game itself.

Good players invest time and money in learning how to sell books.  Bad players get bitter, and eventually drop out.

I am not a good player; there’s a learning curve.  I’m working on it.

Again, my perspective is that the first thing to selling more books is writing a better book. It’s easier to win a cribbage tournament if every hand is a full house, even if you’re terrible at everything else (and, honestly, a lot of people mistake a pair of twos for a full house; I certainly have, and for an embarrassing length of time).

But writing well is not the only thing.  If your attitude toward selling things is, “I did the hard part, now the world needs to take care of me,” then  you are just another sucker waiting to be double-skunked–or someone who gets so bitter that they eventually talk themselves into tossing in the cards when they have three sevens and a six and dropping out just as that eight comes up on the draw.*

 

 

* I don’t play poker.  I have played a metric buttload of cribbage.

 

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