September IWSG

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Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in??

****This is quite rambly and doesn’t really have a conclusive point, so if you skip it, I’ll understand.****

I’m a bit of a slacker when it comes to writing. I’ve written about it ad nauseum on this blog – I don’t have a plan, outline the plan, write to the outline and then edit as needed. I’ve tried. I’ve failed miserably every time.

I think I’ve mentioned this, once or twice.

In fiction writing, up until 6 years ago, I always thought of myself as a one-trick pony – I write fantasy. Ta-da. Ever since middle school, that was what I was good at. Third person, multiple POV’s, big ol’ honkin’ swords and sorcery, dragons and elves, multi-generational saga fantasy.

Science fiction and I don’t get along so well. I like character driven SF, but I tend to slack on the sciencey part, so while the concepts have potential, they just don’t have enough “oomph” to really snag the reader. Or me, for that matter. Historical Fiction? I can tell you that I totally respect Turtledove because the man does some serious research, but I don’t really enjoy it (despite enjoying non-fictional history). Romance? No. Just no. Westerns? Nope. Murder-mystery? Meh (unless it’s about a REAL case, because those go in directions that just blow your mind). Horror? Perhaps it’s just me, but it’s either too much or it’s formulaic and boring.

There are probably several genres I’ve left out, just because I can’t think of them a the moment, but the point is: They say you should write what you know or at least what you like to read. Why would I look around for anything other than what I enjoy doing and feel that I do well?

Then I had a dream. Where I had, the conditions, the people around me, the dew point, temperature, blahblahblah, is unimportant.

 

I know the dream was partly spawned by some wicked conversation or other during the camping event I’d recently attended. With 20-30 tents and about 45-60 people in attendance, most of them adults, well… everyone has a naughty story that is by turns funny and impressive and usually begins with “No shit, there I was…”

The dream snippet stuck with me in that way that DEMANDS I at least sketch it out and save off the file, if for no other reason than to get it out of my head. THOU SHALT DOCUMENT THIS.

6 weeks later I’m told by friends that I have a passable rough draft of a contemporary romance novel written in first person, evenly divided between 2 POV’s. Some say it’s just fine as-is. Others say it needs more smut. But generally, everyone agrees that it does have potential. A little editing, some polishing, a halfway decent cover and it could certainly pass muster as a romance novel.

Understand, I don’t read romance novels. I’ve tried. They irritate me.

Now, I’ve got ideas for 3, possibly 4 ideas for others in the same neighborhood as the first one.

What the hell? I don’t write Romance. I don’t read Romance. I’ve tried since I’ve written the first rough draft and they all irritate me. I do NOT enjoy reading romance. And yet, I seem to have written one that I think is pretty good (which may be indicative that it is doomed to fail in sales, but that is a different post regarding targeting demographics and so forth).

A similar thing happened that got me into writing a steampunk-type novel. It was supposed to be a short “let’s write this idea down, save off the file and then we’ll see what happens” sort of thing.

6 weeks later, The idea has turned into a trilogy, plus one, plus a novella type thing AND at least 2 stories that happen 25 years later.

I don’t know ANYTHING about steampunk beyond the rough historical time period it’s supposed to be set in. And yet, a friend of mine and his wife (both of whom play in the live-action Steampunk events) think the stories have great potential (and both of these people have told me that they don’t really enjoy my fantasy stories, so there you go for honesty).

Again: What the hell? Is this a normal thing?

But the Romance and the Stemapunk won’t go away. They want to exist right alongside their Fantasy brother (or sister? Older sibling?).

AND I CAN’T LET THEM GO.

Now I have to take dance classes, because that’s a centerpiece in one of the Romance novels. Now I have to research the Victorian/Edwardian era, so at least I know where and what and how I want to deviate from the historical record. Now I have to get in shape so I can take classes at a trapeze school for the 25 years later SP plot. And coffee – Holy Shit I can’t taste the difference between one kind and the next but now I’ve got to at least learn the basics so I can pretend like I know what I’m talking about for a custom blend called “Bitch Slap.”

AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just genera anemophobia.

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IWSG August – Pet Peeves

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What are my pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

I may have mentioned my obsession with details in the past. Obsession almost to the point of freezing up. Obsession to the point of diving down rabbit holes filled with minutia. Posts written about this obsession to the point where you, my lovely readers, shriek with madness “WE GET IT, KATTY!!! YOU’VE GOT A THING ABOUT DETAILS. MOVE ON!”

So what can I add to this topic outside the phrase “detail oriented?”

I can’t stand reading a book and not knowing what the hell I’m reading. “I’ve read this paragraph 3 times, already. What the hell? It’s not like I’m reading Advanced Physics for Dummies” (although I would acquire that book if it was out, just because of the title).

Sometimes it’s because my mind wanders while I’m reading. I’m thinking about something my kids said, or the monumental to-do list for the house or a nifty story idea is just on the edge of my consciousness, tantalizing me with some shadowy suggestive movements but not quite revealing anything andIcanfeelitoutthereitjustneedstogetalittleclosersoIcancatchit…

Lately, my reading brain has been a little scattered. It’s hard to focus when you have so much else going on in your head at any one time. And that’s definitely a pet-peeve. I’m interested in the subject, I know I am, the book excited me when I acquired it, I put it on the “To-Do” reading list, but lately, picking up a book is far more work than it should be. Perhaps I’m tired – physically and mentally pooped. The gods know how much stand-up comedy I’ve been binge watching lately when given half a chance.

My writing muse is a different pet-peeve altogether. She either shows up and whisks me off for a whirlwind 6 weeks in which my feet never touch the ground but I’m giddy with all the work and ideas and I’m just drowning in them all…

Or the bitch never shows up at all. No calls. No flowers. Maybe a cryptic text written entirely in emoji, if I’m lucky, but don’t count on it. It’s a bit like being stranded in the middle of nowhere circa 1981 and finding a car that can take you back to “somewhere” but it’s a standard transmission and you only know how to drive an automatic.

I know I should try to write a little bit everyday anyway – that whole strength training for writing philosophy, but damn it if it isn’t a painful slog in which very little gets done. Writing a single new paragraph in a six hour period is actually a triumph when I try to write like that.

When my editing muse shows up for work, it’s the nit-noid details at which she raises an eyebrow that makes me cringe. “Well, it is a nice scene, Katty, but do you honestly believe a family would react that way? Let’s think this through a little more, shall we?” A slight grimace quickly hidden under the professional facade: “Oh, dear. I think you may have missed this on a spell check.” A delicate frown with pursed lips broken by one of the deadliest of all words: “Why?” A tiny whimper as her face drops into a tired hand. “You have heard of plagiarism, haven’t you, Sugarsticks?”

But I think my biggest pet-peeve for all three subjects is my family.

It never fails. I’ll sit down to read, to write, to edit, to research.

“Mom? I need help with the TV. Mom? Will you play with me?” Can we snuggle? Dear, have you seen the-Mom, can I have a- Can we go to- Can I? Did we? Can you? I’m hungry. We need. I want.

It. Never. Fails.

It’s a huge pet-peeve, one that I’m often accused of over-reacting when it occurs.

Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just genera pogonophobia.

 

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IWSG July

I’d almost forgotten this month’s post. I’m hoping September will bring some order to the chaos. *Snicker, snort.*

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What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

Uhhh…. The difference between “affect” and “effect”?

On a more serious note, it’s hard for me to pick just one.

I’ve learned a few lessons about being a writer. It’s hard to list them in order of importance, though. But, among the highlights:

 

  1. Research Everything. Seriously. Unless you lived it, make it/Do it professionally, research the hell out of it. People will forgive others of making honest yet stupid mistakes, but readers will gleefully roast you alive and feast on your remains for the tiniest inaccuracy.
  2. Get out of your head every now and again. Do something other than write. For that matter do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Archery. Painting. Trapeze class. A mud run obstacle course. Knitting. Whatever. It will help your perspective when you write. A character or a scene will will need what you learned.
  1. Guard your writing time like it’s a sacred object given to you directly from the gods. Post a rabid platypus at your door to prevent interruptions.
  1. If you have a family with children under middle school age and extended family elders in the area, accept that number 3 may not be possible. Writing is not just a lonely profession, it’s a greedy one. You must guard your time and your space with religious fervor against the heathens who will do all in their power to vandalize yourself, your rituals and the objects of your faith. Until you earn a regular living wage as a writer, no one gives a damn and secretly believes what you do is a cute little hobby you can just put down and pick up whenever you like.
  1. Get a private working area with a locking door. It cuts down on the number of bodies you have to hide.
  1. “No” is an acceptable response and doesn’t need explaining.
  1. People will not accept number 6. They just won’t. Learn from my mistakes – Embrace your inner bitch and stay firm.

 

Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just general bromidrosiphobia.

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IWSG June

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

I don’t think I ever said “I quit.”

I think I’ve said far more destructive things like “when I have more time.”

We all know how that goes. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps through gaining momentum until one day you look at the calendar and realize “Holy shit! I haven’t written in years months weeks.”

I’ve thought about quitting:

“I’m not good enough. Who would read this tripe?”

“OMG! I built a minority non-Caucasian culture in my fantasy world; I can’t publish that! I’ll get eaten alive for cultural appropriation!”

“I can’t market myself out of a paper bag, how the hell am I supposed to market my books? I should just give up while I’m ahead and my ledger still in the black.”

“Goddammit! It’s been almost 2 years! WHY ISN’T ANYTHING COMING FORTH SO I CAN FINISH THIS DAMN PROJECT! IT’S CRITICAL TO THE SERIES!”

“Switching to another project/style/method/genre isn’t helping!  Why am I drawing nothing but blanks?”

“Seriously? What was I thinking when I wrote this? OMG I don’t think I can even fix this!”

These thoughts often cause me to curl up in a corner and whimper for a bit, but I always come back.

Eventually.

But “I quit!” has never been as destructive for me as “When I have time.” As a case in point, let’s look at this week. Frik and Frak are out of school, but they have a day camp this week. Roughly five hours a day in which they are not in the house. I can use this week to test out my new scheduling idea – I have to fit in different kinds of low impact daily self-care PT, house maintenance, various paperwork things that always seem to come up, and writing. I’ve got things broken out for odd and even days. Odd numbered day are days in which things are supposed to align such that I can write. Even numbered days are days when the schedule simply won’t allow it. In theory, this is a schedule that should work.

Sunday night I have a migraine. There is no Excedrine PM in the house. I try to knuckle down with Tylenol and an herbal sleepy tea, but it doesn’t work. At 4am Monday , with something in the neighborhood of 2 hours of sleep under my belt I take 3 regular Excedrine, get the jitters and decide that I can’t do the even day schedule, because there is no way in hell I’m going to survive swimming laps in the pool, much less mowing the lawn. I stay inside and do small things that I can put aside easily.

Or at least I try.

Exhausted Jitters are not good for writing, but other things can be accomplished. Sort of. Things get done. Not my email though. I haven’t done more than the minimumin weeks because I’ve been running to keep up with everything going on (recitals, impetigo, cub scouts, braces, rehearsals, family drama, “wait – you’re thinking that we should start looking for a new house?”)

Evening occurs. I send the husband to fetch Excedrine PM at 7pm because the migraine is still hanging about. The husband can’t find it at the first store, calls me, asks what he should do. Seriously? You’re at Walgreens. There’s a grocery store across the street, a Walmart 2 miles away, another Walgreens three miles beyond that. You’re an engineer. Do the math.

Children want to know why Mommy is almost crying at their excited little chirps. Meds arrive. Mommy hides in a cave.

Tuesday doesn’t work out, because I’m trying to nuture up 2 archers and they need my help to work with their limited budget to make arrows. I had forgotten that I had promised this day to them until almost the last minute. It was on the calendar, I just didn’t pay attention. I go forth, spend about 5 hours looking for dowels in hobby stores (not the best place, but these kids can’t afford to drop $80 on 2 dozen quality dowels, so we do what we can).

My new archers got dowels, but they still need help, measuring, cutting and shaping. They’ve ordered their tips, fletch and nocks, but those won’t be in for at least a week, they’re leaving for 2 weeks for their wedding/honeymoon bit, and I *know* how much advice out on the internet is inaccurate or just lacking on this subject. We schedule for Thursday to measure, cut, shape and start the coloring process, so that they’ll be partway finished when they’re ready to pick things up again in the beginning of July.

Today I should be able to get back on tra- Shit. I have to mow the lawn. It’s up to my knees in some spots. And this weekend is Champions, and I really need to sew boundary flag lines in order to clearly mark the archery field for the spectators (you would think safe areas would be obvious when dealing with firearms – they are not to most people). Okay. If I do the flags today, I should be able to mow Friday since I’ll be helping my duckling archers on Thursday…

And not a jot of writing gets done. There’s always one more thing that has a more pressing suspense date.

But I’ll get back to it.

When I have time.

Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just general chronophobia.

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