Writing–Boys and Girls

sex symbols

I’ve heard people say that they can’t write women. Or they can’t write men. And I can’t understand that.

Okay, I can understand it but I can’t because I’ve never had any trouble with it, and I guess I’ve never had any trouble with it because I really don’t put much thought into it. I have this annoying tendency to write people and not think much about their genitals, I suppose.

Typically, when I start working on a story, I know pretty quickly whether or not the POV character or main character is a man or a woman (though, “Spillway” was in first person and I never identified the gender of the character). I’m not sure how I come to that decision or what the science is behind it. If Stephen King is right and stories are found things, then it’s really a choice made for me.

However it’s decided, once it’s decided, I don’t think much about it. Gender is part of the character, sure, but I tend not make a huge thing about it. I don’t feel compelled to swathe my characters in pink or blue; I just write about certain people in certain situations and call it good.

This isn’t to say that sex and gender isn’t a serious  contributing factor to people’s lives and experiences. Hello, I’m a woman. I’m quite familiar how that impacts my behaviors and personality and life in the overall. I also know that sex and gender is much more complex than what I’m talking about here, which is only the very simplest and most basic concepts.

I suppose what I mean to say is that I don’t stress over writing POV from a particular gender. While there are differences, I don’t consider them to be great hang-ups to throw my hands up over and say I can’t write them.

The more I try to explain myself, the worse I make it sound.

Basically, what it boils down to is that I can write people and very little prevents me from doing it with some competence.

There.

Writing–Adjusting Expectations

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When I start the first draft of a project, I establish a certain daily minimum goal for it. Short stories I’m writing longhand, I go for at least one page in my notebook. For novels during NaNoWriMo, my unshakable goal is always 2,000 words.  Sometimes, depending on the story and the deadline, it’s just a matter of getting down on particular scene, no matter how long or short.

With the current novella I’m working, I set the word count low due to working three jobs and this being a non-priority story. I didn’t want to stress myself out with a too-high count and depress myself on the days I couldn’t make it. I decided on at least 500 word as the minimum I had to make on the days I worked two or more jobs. It was low enough to be stress-free on those sometimes stressful days, but enough words that it would still count as progress. On the other days, I set 1,000 words as my minimum, which I find reasonable enough for a novella I’m writing while working on other projects.

However, I’ve noticed that on the 500 word days I feel like I’m slacking. I hit my goal, usually going at least a few words over goal, either in the morning before I teach after I’m done with revisions on the Ivy novella, or after I make and eat dinner in the evening. Either way, it gets done, but it doesn’t feel like I’m doing enough. I should be doing MORE.

I know better, in  way. If I give into this feeling that I’m slacking and try to do more, then it’s all I do. The word count will never be enough because I’ll still have time to do more. It’ll take over the time I have to do other things, like read or relax or sleep. In other words, I’ll give this novella top priority when it doesn’t need it. There’s no timetable for this novella, no deadline. Writing at least 500 words a day, no matter how many jobs I’m working or what other projects I’m doing is fine.

I’m just going to have to make myself accept that.

Writing–From Doubt to New Idea

Line art representation of a Quill

After the Short Story Disappointment of August, I found myself re-evaluating my worth, dedication, and ability as a writer. Periods of writer’s doubt are common for me. I think a lot of writers go through it once in a while. But this one had me really questioning myself as a writer.

In the end, I realized a few things about myself.

One, I’m always going to be a writer. Even if I can never make a living off of it, I’m always going to do it. It’s just what I do. Because when I sat down and asked myself, “Okay, self, what is it that you really want to do with your life?” the answer that came immediately was “Write”. Yes, I like to do other things. Yes, I make money other ways and I’m always exploring new ways to make money that I think would be fun and engaging. I’m really selfish in the fact that I want to do what I want to do as often as possible and I do what I can to make that happen. But the number one thing I want to do is write, so that’s what I’m going to do.

The second thing I realized is that I don’t think I’m good enough to make a living as a writer. Oh sure, plenty of crap writers get published and make bajillions of dollars (I don’t think I need to be naming names here). However, they also at least have an idea that is marketable, that the public drools for, that can be sold to the masses. I don’t have that. My brain doesn’t work that way. I don’t have the inherent ability to be popular and by extension, the stuff I write isn’t popular. Because of this I realize that I will probably never be able to sell a book to a traditional publisher. I just don’t have what they want because what they want is to make money (and I don’t blame them because that’s what we all want, baby). There is no need to waste an agent’s time because I don’t have the goods for the market. No fair asking them to sell bruised peaches to folks looking for shiny apples. They’ll never earn a living that way and neither will I.

The final thing I realized is that, you know, self-publishing might just be it for me. I AM good enough for that. And we’re rapidly moving away from the stigma of self-publishing being for losers. I do like self-publishing for the most part. I hate the formatting, but I like the control I have over what I publish, what the cover looks like, where I publish it, and so forth. I’m not a control-freak (some people might disagree), but I do like the autonomy of doing it myself. Yeah, it doesn’t translate into great sales, but it does provide that rush of accomplishment I get when something of mine does get published, but in this case, it’s just coming on my terms instead of someone else’s.

This latest batch of writer’s doubt has put a new perspective on who I am as a writer. It’s often too easy for me to put myself down because I’m not like other writers. Now I’m operating from the position that it’s okay if I’m not because I’m doing my own thing anyway. I shouldn’t be doing their thing. My own is just fine.

So pardon me while I groove.

Writing–Full Stop

Stop Sign

This hiccup with my planned anthology, along with one of my stories getting cancelled, has brought me to a full stop.

It’s a simple case of writer’s doubt I know, but I’ve taken a good hit to the ego and I need some recovery time.

It’s not like the time I didn’t write for two weeks, though. It’s not that I’m not writing at all. I’m still writing blog posts and writing in my journal and sketching out some story ideas and the like, but all work on my short stories has completely stopped, even the ones that had nothing to do with the anthology. I just don’t want to look at them. I don’t know what to do with them. I don’t want to start a new one. Bleh bleh bleh.

So I shot myself in the foot this month. What I want to get accomplished isn’t going to be accomplished because I ran smack dab into this brick wall and I’m doing a fair bit of whining and moping instead of problem-solving to get by it.

The thing is, though, I’m letting myself do it. I have a right to wallow a bit. The wallowing isn’t stopping me from working on OTHER things. In fact, I’m directing a bit of that wallowing towards other projects because it let’s me feel like I’m not a complete failure and I’m not being totally useless.

But I don’t see any reason why I should deny myself the opportunity to experience this disappointment. How else will I learn? How else will I get stronger? How else will I figure out how to cope and how to recover and how to overcome?

So maybe full stop isn’t the best way to describe this since only one thing has really stopped (temporarily).

Everything else is still plugging away.

Writing–So About That Anthology

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I’ve discussed that I planned to do another short story anthology this year and I brashly said that I could have it pretty much done by the end of this month.

Well, I did a great job of jinxing myself.

In doing revisions on my short stories for the anthology, a few things ended up occurring.

1. Two of the stories aren’t working out. “Devil Temper” and “The Backroom” just aren’t coming together the way I want them to and I’m not sure yet how to fix them. This means there’s a very good chance that they will not be done by the end of the month. It also means that they might not work out at all or, if they do work out, might no longer work for the anthology. See my next number.

2. “The Nights Get Shorter” has turned out to be a good little ditty, which I’m pleased with, but isn’t going to fit the tone of the anthology, which is a bummer.

3. “Mind the Deer” did work and will be used. Thank goodness I didn’t jinx EVERYTHING.

So this means I went from having my anthology idea worked out and all of the spaces filled to needing three stories if I can’t get “Devil Temper” and “The Backroom” to do my bidding and/or they no longer work for the anthology.

This is what I get for being too cocky and thinking that this month was going to be a breeze. Instead, I’m looking at a big ol’ setback and the goals I had for the month might not get accomplished.

Let this be a lesson, kids. Don’t be arrogant with your work. It’ll kick you in the ass.

Writing–Nothing for The Nothing Man

Night of the Nothing ManPlease let it be understood that I never figured on becoming some best-selling author through self-publishing (although I will not deny how nice that would be). However, I figured it might be a way to make a few sales and a little money and at least have something to refer to when people asked me what I write.

However, something perplexing has happened with my latest self-published novella, Night of the Nothing Man. I thought it would go the same way Gone Missing did, with a few sales from friends and/or family after it was first published and then a surprise sale here and there. Maybe the sales would be a little bit better because it was the latest hit on the parade, but still nothing unrealistic.

It turns out reality couldn’t even measure up to my realistic expectations.

I haven’t sold one copy of it. Not. One. Not even a pity sale from friends/family. It’s both baffling and perplexing.

So now I’m stuck trying to figure out what went wrong and why no one wants to read it.

It could be that it’s because I priced it at $1.99 instead of $.99. That whole dollar might make a big difference. Folks might think it’s not worth that extra buck. I think it is, but I’m not the one looking for something to read on the cheap.

It could be that no one is interested in the story. I guess a stalking/chase yarn set in the 70’s may not be very appealing to today’s high-tech crowd.

It could be that I’m not flogging it as well as I shilled the first one.

It could be that I’m working a bit of reverse psychology on folks and people interested in Nothing Man end up getting Gone Missing instead because it’s a cheaper way to try me out because instead of selling the former, I have had a few more sales of the latter.

Whatever it is, I’d like to figure it out so I can avoid the same mistakes, whatever they are, when it comes time for me to self-publish my next venture. I’d like to see progress, getting more and more readers the more I publish, not fewer.

And, no, this isn’t a cry for folks to buy Night of the Nothing Man. I’m not trying to guilt anyone. If you feel so inclined to read the story, you can get it on Amazon and Smashwords. But, please get it because you WANT to read it.

Because in the end, that’s what I really want, too.

Writing–Format This

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In my quest to accomplish my goals for this month, I need to publish Gone Missing and Night of the Nothing Man on Amazon.

My biggest obstacle to this is formatting the stories to be published on Amazon.

It’s my least favorite chore when it comes to self-publishing. I can do it, but I don’t like to do it. The act of following the directions so I can properly format my manuscript awakens some sort of perfectionist Kraken in me that makes my life difficult. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t strive to do my best; but that bit of perfectionist in me denies that I’m capable of anything close to best. So when the Perfection-Kraken comes out, the task becomes about six times harder than it needs to be.

And then there’s that tendency I have from childhood that demands I get everything right the first time. I need to be able to know it and do it immediately. The fact that I’ve done this before (even if it was a few years ago) amps up that demand. I shouldn’t have any trouble with this because I’ve done it before and once was enough. For whatever reason, this line of thinking also leads me to believe that there are no do-overs. That it is essential that I get it right the first time because I won’t be allowed to fix anything, which isn’t true.

Finally, there’s my paranoia that if I do mess something up, I won’t be able to fix it and it will break the delicate balance of the Universe and the blood rain will be all my fault.

Okay, what I’m getting at is that just knowing that I have to format a manuscript for self-publishing sets my anxiety choo-choo in motion, pulling cars and cars full of procrastination.

It’s only until I make myself do it that the anxiety abates and by the time I’m finished, I’m kicking myself for not getting to work on it sooner.

It was worse this time around because all I had to do was some minor changes and do a little battle with Night of the Nothing Man‘s table of contents. All told it took me about an hour, maybe an hour and half to get both of them done and uploaded.

Yep. Two weeks of anxiety and procrastination for less than two hours work.

At least they’re done now.

Gone Missing

Night of the Nothing Man

Writing–And Then I Reconsider

Anthology

I sold my first story of 2013 last week. Yay! “Someone to Hold” found a home!

And while I’m very excited about this as placing a story always gives me a satisfying rush because it’s public acknowledgement that I’m a real writer, it has given me pause on another project.

I’m seriously considering self-publishing another short story anthology. The anthology would use the seven stories I’ve been flogging around for a while that are ready to go plus five new stories written with the anthology in mind. It’d be set up like a sort of calendar. I like this idea. I thought it’d work for a late year release.

And then “Someone to Hold” found a home.

Immediately, I started wondering about the seven stories that are sitting there waiting to be sent out. Since Duotrope went paid and I can’t afford to use it, I haven’t made much of an effort to send any of them out. Now I’m wondering if I’m not selling them short by self-publishing them.

Aside from the fact that they’ll never know the joy of having someone other than myself finding them publishable, the honest fact is that even if I was paid a one-time token rate of ten bucks for one of the stories, that’s probably more than the whole anthology would make in a year (or more, if I’m going to be REALLY honest).

This anthology idea that I thought was so great is now being viewed in a different light, professionally, creatively, and monetarily. It’s amazing how one little success can throw a wrench in something else.

So now I have to make a decision. Do I want to try to sell these stories or do I want to go with the anthology idea? Which would be better for the stories? Which would be better for me? Do I want that victory rush? Or another project that collects change?

Right now I don’t know.

I’ve got a lot to consider.

Writing–Does My Productivity Look Lacking In This?

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I know I shouldn’t compare myself to other people, but I do it anyway. I’ve gotten better about not comparing my work to that of other writers (thought I still have my jealousies and wish I could do certain things as well as others), but when it comes to the process, I can’t help but compare.

I judge myself harshly when it comes to comparing my productivity to others. I feel like I’m never working hard enough/fast enough/producing enough. I feel like a right slacker compared to the other writers I know/follow/interact with. On Twitter, I see the word/page/project output and I look at mine and think it’s a good thing I talk more about reruns than I do about my writing.

I know I should just be pleased with what I can get done. Any progress counts. But I can’t help but hold myself to a much higher, sometimes unrealistic standard.

For example, working The World (Saving) Series revisions, I think I should be working much harder and much faster on it. Except I’m SUPPOSED to be going slow. I made a conscious decision to go slow so I won’t rush myself, so I’ll pay more attention, so I won’t feel pressured.

Yet here I am, pressuring myself because I see other people doing more.

Writing is a very individual process. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. What speed works for one person doesn’t work for another. I forget that. I want to be done like yesterday and I want to be done twice as fast as the person next to me.

It’s not even a question of making it an active competition or trying to be better than anyone else. That’s just where my standards lie. I don’t want to look like a slacker to the writers I associate with. I want them to respect my productivity.

It’s a silly ego thing and I fight with them all the time. I can only go as fast as I can go and I can only do as much as I can do. I shouldn’t be ashamed of that. I should own up to what I can do.

So while others are doing theirs, I need to remember to mind mine and ONLY mine.

I’ll work better that way.

Writing–I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

Question mark

I feel like that sometimes, like I have no clue what the hell I’m doing. Not just when I’m working on my writing, either, though that happens plenty of times. For every day I think I know what I’m doing, there are two that I feel like I don’t.

I’m still not sure I know how to write a novel because I’ve yet to successfully revise one into completion. Working on short stories, more than once I’ve stopped to ask myself, “Is this right?” Even when it comes to blogging, I feel lost at times, like I’m just faking my way through it, looking like an idiot all the way.

But this feeling of not knowing what I’m doing goes beyond the writing doubts. It encompasses my whole career (if you want to call it that). Should I be splitting my time between writing novels and working on short stories? Is the Outskirts a waste of time? Should I really be self-publishing my novellas? Should I even be writing novellas? Should I focus all of my time and energy on getting one novel manuscript finished so I can start shopping it to agents? How do I connect more with the writing community? I need to get into it, but where do I start? Should I wait until I do have a novel manuscript finished and few agent rejections so I don’t look like the impostor I feel like? I consider myself a writer, but will they?

It feels like flies on a dead body in June when my brain buzzes like this. It freezes me. I can’t make any decisions, can’t even look for a logical place to start trying to figure anything out. I can’t even figure out what I DO know because I’m not sure I actually know it.

It’s kind of a bitch.

When this sort of overwhelming “where am I?” happens, I find myself throwing up my hands and yelling “fuck it!” at the sky and going back to work on whatever it is I’m working on. Do I know what I’m doing? Fuck it! I’ll do it anyway! That’s the spirit!

Which really doesn’t do me any good because it doesn’t fix the underlying problem, but at least I do get something done. And the productivity makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I at least know how to cross something off my To Do List for that given day. It’s a sense of accomplishment.

It’s just the rest of it I still need to work out.