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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IWSG Post

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What is the werdest or coolest thing you’ve ever had to research for your writing?

Hmmmm….

Well, I already know that I’m on a Watch List somewhere because of these:

posion

By the way, The How Dun It Book of Poisons is EXCELLENT. Definitely worth the investment to have this one in your writing library. Each page is filled with a poison, the symptoms and treatment as well as type of death. I strongly recommend against acquiring Assorted Nasties.

There are a few other odd books.anatomy

I will say that Death to Dust has got to be the hardest read of this particular set. It was written in the early/middle 1990’s and the sheer callousness of the American funeral industry towards the bereaved and the treatment of the dead body is, in a word, appalling. I can read dissections and autopsies all day long without a break but Death to Dust is challenging just to get through a single section a day. Not chapter,  section. Although the sections dealing with other cultures handling of dead bodies is a lot easier to take.

I could point to my history books. They fill multiple shelves on several bookcases, so it’s not easy to show them all, but it is quite eclectic. And educational! There’s Viking, the FBI, general world history, Asia, Russia, Italy, New York, Art and Archaeology, Religion…There’s a lot that a few pictures just can’t catch.

I’ve watched countless Youtube videos regarding house fires, snow avalanches, what it’s like to get trapped in a house fire or avalanche, how magicians get out of straightjackets upside down, how Animal Rescues raise wild predator chicks for preparation to release them in the wild…

But the weirdest/coolest thing?

Hands down,  it would have to be words and phrases. The etymology of them.

This initially came up while I was beginning research for my steampunks. I found myself looking up phrases and words I’d have the characters use, asking the same thing, over and over:

“When did this phrase/word come into popular usage? Would he really have said ‘sharp as a tack’ in 1897?’ When did ‘get a wiggle on’ make it’s first appearance?  What about ‘bitch the pot?’ I know it was used, but would a New Yorker have used it? What about ‘lollygagging’? I know there really wasn’t much of a sex education class in the 1800’s, and I know that female genitalia didn’t receive medical names until relatively recently in history, but when was that? (turns out that “vagina” was taken as it’s literal meaning, “a sheath” until about 1908. At that time, the word was then officially associated with female anatomy)

Oh, and when I got my hands on the book “How the Irish Invented Slang”

irish

– I swear to you, my inner nerd quivered with orgasmic fury.

*ahem*

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

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Inserting Real Details

A lot of authors do it.

Some are sneaky about it because they don’t want to be sued by a conglomerate like, say, those who might be thought of as wearing mouse ears, or perhaps others who are associated with the golden arches.  Many companies are very touchy about how their products are represented. And they always want to get paid for use of their trademarked and copyrighted properties.

Some authors are sneaky because they want to see if you get it – “How many Firefly fans are going to comment on this odd turn of phrase?” Some slide in a bit of their own properties – Stephen King does this quite a bit if you pay attention.

When it’s done right, it can bring a smile to someone’s face. But if you do it wrong?

Oy.  You may not enjoy the reaction from your readers.

Sure, you’re not specifically trying to alienate your readers. No one wants to do that – your readers make it possible for you to write. You need readers.

Readers want to know you’ve done your research. You need to do research before you make those references, because what doesn’t seem like a big deal to you can be a massive problem in the fan base.

A common one I see in fiction is the use of “Ooh-rah!” for American military forces. It’s a motivational cry used by U.S. Marines. Marines are popularly perceived as the toughest of the tough in the American military structure, also the ones with the tightest bonds. A great many American movies and books tend to be about Marines because of this perception. The camaraderie. The fight against impossible odds. The heroes who pull together and sacrifice everything to save the day. OOH-RAH!

It is NOT used by the Army or Air Force. They used “Hoo-ahh!” while the Navy trends towards “Hoo-yah!”  Even then, not all members of the branches do it – some branches reserve those for Security Forces and/or Special Forces only.

A tiny difference, true, but if your reader happens to be a an active duty or a veteran of one of those groups and he reads about your Special Forces Army hero yelling “Ooh-rah!” – he’s going to know you didn’t do your research.  And some military members get a little touchy about their traditions being improperly represented. Many will put down your book and never pick up another written by you again because you screwed up that one detail.

That’s a bad thing. You want to keep your readers, not irritate them.

I’ve read a scenes where our hero is hanging upside down, tied to the rafters by his ankles in preparation for interrogation. The only ill effects hero feels is the blood rushing to his head.

Did you know that being hung by your ankles hurts like a son-of-a-bitch?  Seriously. Dancers, actors, gymnasts, magicians and their props, set and costuming technicians know that. Joe Average? Not so much until he tries it himself.

Or until he researches how and why it’s done BEFORE he tries to escape from a straight-jacket, upside, in the comfort of his own basement (we won’t even get into the issues of load pressures per inch on 2×4 or 2×6 – on the other hand, it does make for painfully stupid YouTube entertainment).

I know I’ve harped about details before. I know I’ve made my own mistakes regarding details, despite the painful amount of research I load up on. But please DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING THAT YOU DON’T HAVE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH.

Yes, I know it’s a pain in the butt. Believe me, I know. But those resources are out there and readily available.

And will hopefully prevent your reader from swearing off all of your work.

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