Thurs. April 25, 2019: Evolution of the Writing Process & Internet Bullying

Thursday, April 25, 2019
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

That pressure you’re feeling? Jupiter AND Pluto are retrograde. Saturn joins them on Monday. Yuck.

Hop on over to Gratitude and Growth for the latest post on the garden.

Was with a client most of yesterday. Somehow, when I woke up I thought it was Thursday instead of Wednesday; even once I realized it, I had trouble getting into the Wednesday head space to work with the client.

Home and worked in the garden for about an hour. There’s still a lot to do, but I just have to do it one piece at a time. Eventually, it will all get done.

Worked on contest entries.

I’m playing with a new idea for a series of novellas. I want to mix genres. I want them to be short. The characters are clear; the world is taking shape. I have the beginnings of a plot, which I’ll have to explore further. I don’t want them to run longer than 25-30K, so the plot has to be precise, and a minimum of sub-plots, even though I want a couple of them to run the course of the series.

I’m not sure WHEN I can fit in the writing of them, so I have something worthwhile to show my editor. I have deadlines to meet, and re-adjusted deadlines to meet.

But it’s fun to play with the ideas.

It’s so important for process to evolve. My process is constantly evolving. I learn from each project. I work on both art and craft. Some of them wind up not working at all, and that’s okay. Disappointing, but even what doesn’t work gets me somewhere else, and gives me valuable experience.

I’ve written books as a blank-pager, not using an outline. (I don’t use the term “pantser” — to me, it sounds like an STD). While it was sometimes fun and often frustrating to figure it out as I wrote, ultimately, I had to evolve away from that. It also needed a lot more drafts to get it into the shape where I could even ask a Trusted Reader to look at it.

This is my profession, not my hobby. This is how I keep a roof over my head and food on the table. I don’t have the luxury of writer’s block or not knowing what comes next when I sit down at the page. I need to be able to drop immediately into the world of whatever I’m working on and move forward.

I’m juggling several series, along with other projects. Some are novels; some are radio plays; some are stage plays; some are articles or other writing I do for clients. I don’t have the option of telling a client I “didn’t have time” to do their project.

Outlining has helped me. I sit down and plot out the book. I free write the characters’ stories. Then I go back and work on plot points and scenes. Then I arrange and rearrange them as I best think it will serve that particular book.

I don’t like working on index cards. For scripts, especially television scripts, that’s the protocol, and if I’m working as part of a staff, or with a partner, yes, we use index cards. But I’m happier with paper and pen. My outlines are more like treatments.

This is NOT the outline I’d send with a query. Even the outlines I send my editors for series in progress are honed from these outlines, but are NOT these outlines. I call these outlines my “Writer’s Rough Outline.”

I type a copy and keep my original handwritten copy. I usually work from the handwritten (if I can read it — sometimes it’s too scrawled). The creative energy that went into the handwritten copy often serves me better than a cold, typed version.

As I complete each section of the outline, I check it off.

I adjust along the way, as the story and characters dictate and evolve.

My outline is a roadmap, not a prison. I often go in very different directions. That’s okay.

The first draft is often lean and skeletal. I don’t want to lose momentum. I want to get through it.

I like to put each draft away. The most important rest time is between the first draft and the second. Ideally, it’s two months. The reality is often far less, but I always try for at least two weeks.

I have to be able to look at it objectively, as though someone else wrote it.

Then I do as many drafts as it takes, including my multi-colored draft (where I go through with different colored markers highlighting adverbs, passive or past perfect, and qualifiers. Then I take them out and look for better ways to express what I want to say. If that word IS the best way, I negotiate with myself to put it back in).

The second draft is usually where I overwrite and follow tangents and develop ideas. The third draft if usually a combination of multi-colored draft and massive cuts.

Trusted readers usually get a third or fourth draft. I usually have at least one, sometimes two drafts after my readers see it before I consider it submission-ready. An un-contracted manuscript can take several years until it’s ready for submission.

The books on series contract have fewer drafts, since my contracted editor is in earlier in the process. Plus, the schedule is tighter.

There are always more ideas than hours in the day to write them. (I distrust those who say they “don’t have anything to write about” the same way I distrust people who get bored. Writers always have too much to write about). I recently started a notebook I call the “Whatever” notebook. I’ve had variations on this throughout the years, usually called “Fragments.”

I date every entry. I find the date provides a context for the inspiration, and sometimes it helps to go back to other elements of the day.

In it, I write whatever I want. A snippet of dialogue, an observation, ideas as characters and situations come to me. If I’m somewhere between meetings or in a waiting room or just want to get away and clear my head, I take the Whatever notebook and free write. Write about whatever’s on my mind, a combination of inspiration, what if, development, and brain dump.

It’s along the lines of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Practice and Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, although they happen at any time in the day, and at any place.

Morning pages work for lots of people, but not fore me. Morning is my most creative time. If I do morning pages, then I’ve used up that creative energy that should have gone into whatever is my Primary Project (the manuscript in which I write my first 1K of the day every morning). I think they’re great if they work. The concept is terrific, and it gets the person writing every day. But I need my first writing of the day to be about the work, not about me.

I’ve also started reading a few pages in one of my favorite writing books in the morning, before I start writing. Morning routine is: make coffee, feed the cats, check email/social media (sometimes I respond, while the coffee is brewing; sometimes I make a note to respond later), first cup of coffee, yoga, meditation, shower/dress, first 1K of the day.

When the weather is nice, I have my first cup of coffee out on the deck. When it’s not, I have it in my writing room. Now, I’m reading a few pages in one of my favorite books about writing (I have shelves of them, and some of them I re-read regularly as fuel).

Any other kind of book siphons energy away from my own work; in other words, I don’t read fiction first thing, or it derails my first 1K. But reading about writing and process helps. Usually it’s only 2-3 pages. But it starts building the desire.

Once I’ve written my first 1K of the day, I have breakfast. Check email, plan the day. If I can, I get a little more writing done. If it’s a day where I’m headed off to work with a client, I do it. Otherwise, I might write at home for a bit, and then head to the library for a few hours. There, I can research and put together pitches, or just sit in a corner and write. I answer emails, I send out LOIs or pitches. It’s easier for me to do that away from the writing room.

I prefer to write in the morning and edit in the afternoon. That’s flexible, depending on deadlines.

Again, weather dictates when I can work in the yard, so sometimes I have to push an editing session or add an extra writing session into the evening, when necessary.

I still go out with friends. I still spend time with family. But they can’t sabotage the writing. Anyone who sabotages the writing is removed from my life. This is my profession as well as my passion. I am the breadwinner. Writing is a priority, and those who don’t understand that, who don’t respect that, reveal a far deeper problem than time or writing. They reveal that they don’t understand or respect ME. Why would I have people in my life who don’t respect me?

That carries over to the endless bullying on the Internet. The last few days, I have received demands to stop talking about politics because the follower “only” wants writing information; to stop talking about writing because the follower “only” wants politics; to block people that person didn’t like or they would block me; if I’m even willing to listen to a different point of view, they’ll block me; if I don’t like the same thing they do, they’ll block me; they pick the “hill they want to die on” for something meaningless to most of the rest of us and demand fealty; that they’ll block anything that is retweeted without comment — really? If it’s well said, adding anything is only ego on my part; that I have to “prove” I’m a “real person” and they get to define “real” and that I “must” use pronouns in my bio– um, no. I get to decide what I share publicly and how to share it; to stop forwarding information on animals in kill shelters whose lives can be saved through adoption, fostering, and sponsorship.

All these people can go to hell, as far as I’m concerned. They don’t get to tell me what to post about, what to write about, how to live, what parts of myself I choose to share with the world.

I’m tired of people who claim they support inclusion and tolerance and are fighting for what’s right then tell me what I can and can’t say or do or think — as much as those we’re fighting dictate to us. Especially if it’s someone I’ve never met and only know for a few days on a social media platform.

Are you paying me to write something specific? No? Then you don’t have a say in what I write. YOUR right is not to buy it. Or read it. But not to tell me I can’t or shouldn’t write it.

None of these people matter in my life. I quietly unfollow or block plenty of people every week. We’re just not compatible. I don’t have to threaten them or fight with them. I either scroll past (because we are all more than one thing, and that’s beautiful) or, if it truly is something I don’t want in my life in the long term, I unfollow or block, as appropriate. I don’t have to make a big deal out of it. I’m a random person on plenty of people’s feeds, as they are on mine. We can peacefully co-exist, in most instances, without bullying each other. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to write posts that incite violence or demean people — yes, those should be called out. But if someone is happy about a show or a flavor of ice cream or whatever? Why be mean? If something matters to someone and they want to share a post to try and help? Why do YOU have the right to say THEY don’t have the right to care or to share it?

You don’t.

Also, I am not required to follow everyone who follows me, nor is everyone I follow required to follow me. There are certain red flag words in posts or bios that mean I won’t follow back. It doesn’t mean that person is expected to change; it’s just not something I want in my life. Eventually, they will probably unfollow me anyway.

And we don’t miss each other, because we never really knew each other.

Yes, social media is a marketing tool for my work. But that’s only part of the reason I’m on it. I’m on it to learn from people who know and are interested in different things than I am. I am on it for conversation and information and laughter. I don’t have to like, or even agree, with every post from every person that shows up on my feed.

Have I made poor choices, either in comments or in sharing? Of course. But I’m getting more aware of it, and am thinking twice before doing either. I am well aware how flawed I am, and I work on it. But I don’t bow to bullies, even in elementary school.

I’m happy with the way GRAVE REACH is going, and hope to get in at least one more writing session on it today. I have to make a grocery run, go to the library, take my mother to a doctor’s appointment, get some yard work in.

I also have to go over Saturday’s presentation one more time, and re-check the packing and all the stuff I’m bringing for the presentation. I have a rolling rack full of fun stuff. I leave for the conference tomorrow. I present late on Saturday. I know I’m prepared, but I always like to make sure.

I could teach a semester-long course on this. I have 50 minutes. I hope I picked the right 50 minutes of material!

Back to the page. And the yard.

 

Mon. Aug. 27, 2018: Respect for Craft #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 27, 2018
Day After Full Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mars Retrograde – as of today

The final post about respect is about respect for craft, which is vital to us as authors.

If you’re a professional, published writer, your craft matters. Making each book better than the one before it, on levels of story, character, structure, language, grammar, and style MATTERS.

It shows respect for yourself, your work, your readers, and writing in general.

It matters.

When I teach, students who don’t give a damn about grammar, spelling, the difference between a possessive, a plural, and a contraction don’t last long. Because it shows a lack of respect for the work.

This ties back into the post from a few weeks ago – if you don’t respect your own work, no one else has any reason to respect it, either.

More than one student has shrugged and claimed “they didn’t have” basic, third-grade grammar in school. Having been through the school system, there’s a difference between what the teacher presented and what the student CHOSE to learn.

If you CHOSE not to learn something vital in school, and you expect to be a professional, published writer, take the time now to do it.

Also, when you, as a writer, work with a professional editor, be it in a publishing situation, or a workshop situation, and you get a correction, APPLY IT MOVING FORWARD. There is little more frustrating, as a teacher, than explaining to a student why a contraction is not appropriate when context requires a possessive and the student CONTINUING to make the SAME mistake, because that individual can’t be bothered to pay attention and apply what is learned. It is a waste of all of our time.

When I worked for a publishing company, I supported their strict submission policy on errors in submission packages. If there were more than three errors in the submission (which was usually query letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters), it was an automatic rejection.

The company, which did high-end art books printed on gorgeous paper in Italy and Japan, expected the authors to give enough of a damn to take the time to proofread and understand the craft. Anyone who submitted a package filled with errors obviously didn’t, and wasn’t worth the time or the money it took to produce the beautiful books. Because there were ten thousand other talented writers lined up right behind that one who cared enough to learn the craft and submit error-free proposals.

Fortunately for all of us writers who appreciate our editors and copyeditors, we have more leeway in the actual book. It never fails to mortify me when my editor and copyeditor catch things I should have seen before I submitted. But when it’s a craft issue, and not just me not catching an error, I ask questions, and pay attention to the “why” of the answer. Is it house style? Have I mis-learned something along the way? And then I apply what I’ve learned moving forward.

I still remember what a former editor at Amber Quill Press taught me about the difference between “toward” and “towards.”

There are also certain stylistic choices that are non-negotiable for me. I get those into contract clauses, so there is no confusion down the line.

Editors are overworked and underpaid. They don’t have the time to teach you what was taught in third grade that you did not bother to learn. Nor should they have to. The days of Jack Kerouac walking into a publisher’s office with a mess of a roll of typing that was brilliant enough and that an editor had time enough to fix are over.

Not only that, when you know and understand your craft: grammar, structure, spelling, story, character – then YOU get to control when you break what are considered the rules.

There’s a HUGE difference between a writer who knows the rules and chooses to break them and the writer who can’t be bothered to learn the rules in the first place.

The writer who learns and makes a choice pushes the work into exciting new realms. Because the foundation is solid, and each rule-breaking is a CHOICE, it usually works. Those who don’t know/can’t be bothered – well, the work reads as careless.

I’m always up for something exciting and new in the work. But careless writing is a slap in the face to me as a reader.

My goal in each book, story, article, is for it to be better than the one before. I try to learn with each piece, and build on what I learned before. I’m the first to admit that I don’t always succeed. Not everything I write is going to work. Even when it goes through the entire publication process, with the support of other professionals, some pieces are going to miss the mark.

I learn from those, too. And what I learn is applied moving forward.

Because I love and respect the craft of writing, and I respect my readers. I try to do the best for all of us that I can. Which means always learning.

Published in: on August 27, 2018 at 6:23 am  Comments Off on Mon. Aug. 27, 2018: Respect for Craft #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. Aug. 20, 2018: Using Respect to Write a Better World #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 20, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury DIRECT (as of yesterday)

Thank goodness Mercury is finally direct! With all these other retrogrades, especially Mars and Uranus (and Saturn, life lessons), it’s been tough.

Last week, on Upbeat Authors, we talked about the need to respect our work (and ourselves) if we want anyone else to respect it.

This week, we talk about respecting others.

Not the faux “civility” that’s being batted about so often lately. Have you noticed that the ones screaming the loudest about the need for civility are those least likely to practice it toward others?

We live amongst other people (unless we are recluses). There are certain social constructs that allow that to happen, and some of those constructs have to be turned into laws, because too many human beings refuse to treat others well.

We now respect ourselves and our work (or, at least, we’re working on it).

The next step is to respect others. How far to take that has to be an earned quality, but when we meet people, it’s important to meet them on a level ground of basic human respect and dignity.

We are all flawed human beings, and most of us are doing the best we can to get through the day. We will all have bad days. We will all go through patches when it’s more than a day.

We have to monitor our own behavior so that we don’t inflict our bad days on others. We have to LISTEN (a lost art) to those around us – if something is important or hurtful to those around us, it IS our responsibility to remember and speak or act within consideration.

That’s different from “political correctness” – again a term that is too often used to oppress under the guise of being progressive.

What I am talking about is being a decent human being.

If someone tweets or posts or talks about something that makes that individual happy, don’t deride or condescend or criticize (unless it is something that causes harm – if beating someone makes the person happy – yeah, that’s something to criticize).

You might not like what that person likes. You might shudder at what makes that person happy. That does not give you the right to make fun of them or demean them or try to make them feel bad for enjoying it.

That’s not “being honest.” It’s being an asshole.

And when called out, a sincere apology is needed. Not an “if I said something hurtful, I’m sorry.” Just plain, “I’m sorry.”

We all are thoughtless or flippant when it’s not appropriate or say or do something inappropriate at times. But owning it and, when and where appropriate, apologizing, is also important.

That doesn’t mean you need to apologize for holding your boundaries when someone tries to demean you and then make you feel guilty for standing up for yourself. Those are two different issues.

You need common sense and sensitivity.

But then, as writers, that’s what we do. We are able to dissect complex issues and emotions and communicate them in our work to show a broader view of the world, both good and bad.

In our writing, we can explore characters who are nasty, who are mean, who deliberately cause harm. We can take our bad experiences, raise the fictional stakes, and make things right in our work. Without preaching, without screaming, we can create a picture of the world we want, a world in which people learn how to respect each other and work together, even when they come at it from different viewpoints, or don’t always agree.

As writers, we have the ability to take that respect for ourselves and our work, meld it with respect for others, and write a better world.

 

Published in: on August 20, 2018 at 5:02 am  Comments Off on Mon. Aug. 20, 2018: Using Respect to Write a Better World #UpbeatAuthors  
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Monday, Aug. 13, 2018: Respect, as in Self-Respect #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 13, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

Let’s talk about respect when it comes to ourselves and our work.

If you don’t respect your writing, no one else has any reason to, either.

Don’t demean your work. Don’t make excuses around it. If you talk about your writing, and call yourself a writer, CALL YOURSELF A WRITER.

If someone tries to demean you, give them “The Look” and move on.

You do not owe it to anyone to discuss how much you earn, how much your advance is, how much your royalties are, or any other terms of your contract. When someone who has no business asking these questions tries to pry the information out of you, simply smile and say, “I’m happy with the terms of my contract.” And don’t engage.

If they persist, go ahead and say, “That’s none of your business.”

If someone tries to get you to work for them for free, whether it’s the insulting “You should write . . .” or the even more insulting, “Oh, but it’ll be so EASY to write this and we’ll make a lot of money out of it” – no.

For “You should write” smile and say, “I’m already contracted out on at least three years’ worth of ideas. But thanks for thinking of me.”

For the trying to get you to team up – which ALWAYS means you do the work while they bask in the money they think they’re going to rake in, again, smile and say, “My agent (or lawyer) handles that. Here’s the number. By the way, negotiations for ghost writing or co-writing start at 30K. And there has to be a publisher in place.”

Don’t engage with people who try to sabotage you. There’s nothing wrong with being cordial and walking away. If they continue to behave badly, there’s nothing wrong with being RUDE and walking away.

But the walking away is important.

Also, don’t denigrate your own work. You don’t “just” write marketing material or romance or genre. There’s not “just” in it. You DO.

Marketing writing is every bit as legitimate as novel writing as play writing as short story as anything else.

Don’t make self-deprecating comments about your work. There’s a difference between keeping your ego in check by being low-key and actively encouraging people not to respect your work. The choice of words you use to describe your work, even jokingly, will set the tone for the way strangers will regard you and your work. There’s a difference between an arrogant hard-sell (which is a turn-off), and a pleasant one-sentence summary (your log-line, your hook that you used in your pitch) that gives potential readers and conversationalists a taste of it.

Women have a tendency to self-deprecate more than men do. In the 1980s, we were supposed to wear the oversized shoulder pads that made us look like line-backers so we could tackle “a man’s world” (in stilettos, no less). Then, in the 90s, we were expected to self-deprecate, especially when we had major achievements.

Don’t.

Use positive language that shows self-respect without arrogance. There’s a difference between arrogance and assertion, and yes, it is about more than gender. Plenty of people will call you “arrogant” or “aggressive” if you are an assertive woman, especially an assertive author who’s a woman. That’s their problem, not yours.

Changing your negative self-talk takes time, but it is well worth it. When you start watching what you say out loud, it will also adjust in the voice that’s your saboteur, that often comes out as the “internal editor” (the negative kind) that gets in the way when we create.

That’s like when someone feigns interest in what you write, asks you about it, you tell them, and they say, “Oh! I never would read THAT!”

They aren’t “being honest.” They’re intentionally trying to make you feel like “less than” and that what you do is “less than.” If they were actually being productive members of society, they would smile and say, “How interesting! How wonderful that you wrote/published that!”

There are plenty of books that I won’t read – but I won’t spit in an author’s face by saying so when they’ve taken the time to tell me about the book, ESPECIALLY when I’ve asked about it.

There’s no reason you can’t be supportive and gracious, even when you don’t plan to read the book.

Smile and move to a different conversational group. I no longer grope for another topic. I’ve learned that this individual does not have the most basic social etiquette, and I’m not going to waste time. I smile and move on.

In this divisive time, I get plenty of “I bet you write feminist libtard crap.” To which I smile and say, “No, you wouldn’t like it. My work deals with concepts of humanity, justice, equality, which don’t interest you. Plus, I use words of more than one syllable.”

And I walk away.

Never forget how much non-artists HATE the fact that artists create. They will pretend they “don’t mean anything” by their remarks. But they do. The purpose is to undermine your self-esteem, your self-confidence, to make you feel bad, to “cut you down a peg” or to “put you in your place.”

My place is wherever I CHOOSE it to be.

Smile, be gracious, disengage.

Hold on to the core of your self-respect.

Don’t let anyone treat you with less than respect.

When you respect yourself and disengage from those who treat you without it, you’ll be surprised how their behavior changes, how positively your self-respect affects your life (and your work), and it begins an upward spiral.

Published in: on August 13, 2018 at 4:14 am  Comments (4)  
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