I’ve been managing to post about once a week on Fridays, but the top traffic day appears to be Thursday. That’s … interesting. Hm. Not quite sure how to interpret that. Any ideas, folks? 😀
Some years ago, I came across a fledgling organization called Broad Universe, aimed at helping women spec-fic writers around the world. I thought it sounded neat, so I signed up; since then, other than dutifully renewing my membership every year, I’ve almost entirely ignored it. I’ve helped out with this n that, and participated in stuff like the Full Moon Blog Hop, but taking advantage of my BU membership isn’t on my mind most days.
(By the way, if you’re already a member of Broad Universe, you probably already know all the stuff I’m about to talk about. Feel free to skip to the end and post a comment about your experience with BU!)
I just took a look through the BU web site to see what’s going on lately, and I’m . . . mad at myself, honestly, for not taking advantage of all this cool stuff. For example, I knew about the Rapid Fire Readings at conventions–where a group of BU authors get together for a panel in which we read 5 minute excerpts of our work out loud–and I knew about the convention sales table, where BU members can hang out and take shifts selling their work over the course of the convention. I’ve always liked participating in the former (SO much fun!) and never bothered with the latter (I usually already have a sales table through The Scribbling Lion).
But there’s more. Oh, my, my, so much more. I’m very behind on what this little organization has blossomed into.
There’s a catalog. Granted, it’s still a bit basic in appearance, but it gets the job done.
There’s an Active Members Directory that lists author web sites, bio blurbs, and whether the author in question is available for speaking gigs (very important!). Again, more functional than fancy, which is perfectly fine by me. (I’m listed on this page, if you’re interested.) 😀
The Events Page is the most biggest coolest (err…. I mean…. I’m a bit tongue tied, sorry) — I really like how the Events Page is developing. It’s a fabulous list of upcoming events, from big to small, conventions, conferences, individual parties, online, offline, Twitter, FB, you name it. Never mind the organization involved behind the scenes, the members that are coordinating advertising efforts, attendance, schedules, talking points, outreach … well, okay, mind that. It’s a huge amount of work. But while the calendar itself may be the tip of the iceberg, it’s a BIG FREAKING DEAL for folks like me who are always scrambling to remember what happens when in the spec-fic convention world. That alone is worth the $30 a year, to me!
One of the newer additions to the organization’s perks is a discount on NetGalley access. That doesn’t particularly interest me at the moment, but apparently other folks find it handy. Maybe I’ll check that out eventually.
There’s a lot more to this iceberg, as I mentioned above. User forums, Facebook groups, blog hops, advice on every imaginable aspect of writing, self or trad-publishing, promoting your work, and overall cheerleading throughout–which is no small thing, let me tell you.
If name-checking is what gets your attention, I’ll point out that Gail Z. Martin, Danielle Ackley Mc-Phail, Elizabeth Black, Valerie Estelle Frankel, John Hartness (yes, guys can join!), Laurel Anne Hill, Paula S. Jordan, Jody Lyn Nye, and Jean Marie Ward are all members.
Writers of speculative fiction really need to check out this group. It’s worth the price tag, and I say that as someone anxiously counting pennies and side-eyeing travel costs.
Please feel free to comment with questions, but do take a moment to see if the BU site already answers them first!
I don’t have much to talk about this week–or rather, I do, but it’s not a topic for a Friday post. Fridays are about Fiction, these days. Other stuff–politics, rants, photos of my garden–go somewhere else.
So about Fiction. First up, I’ll say that I’m absolutely delighted with the progress I’ve made on book 5 this week. I am literally within days of wrapping up the final scenes. This is good and bad, of course–because once the first draft is done, I get to send it out to my beta readers (assuming they’re still around and haven’t wandered off after three years of waiting!), and wait, chewing my nails for their comments, and mightily resisting the urge to sneak in just one last edit while I’m waiting…
In the past I have literally put copies of the novel on a USB drive, moved all my copies of the file to a computer under his sole control, and asked my husband to refuse me access until the beta readers were finished. It worked reasonably well. 🙂
Once I’m allowed to touch the manuscript, I get out my surgical gloves and start slicing and dicing and taking out the bits that don’t work. I already suspect I’ll lose at least one of the character POV lines; I just don’t know yet which one. I know for a fact I over-wrote the hell out of this book; even after stripping out thousands of words worth of one POV line that wasn’t adding anything useful, I’m still up over 230K. I’m aiming to cut about 30K from that before I send it off to the publisher (ReAnimus Press).
Then there will be the publisher’s edits. And cover design discussions. I very much want to keep Aaron B. Miller as the cover artist, but it may not be possible; in fact, the entire series may wind up with a cover facelift over the next year.
But once the book hits the layout stage, I can start planning a launch party-palooza! And oh, my, I will PARTY. It’s been a long and strange road for this series, and I’m very happy with what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown. I’m also very much looking forward to getting traction on the other stuff piling up in my notes, from the science fiction stories to the spin off side stories like Fallen City and A Small Price To Pay that are so damn fun for me to write.
I don’t have any free fiction to hand out this time around, and I’m running crazy frazzled behind, but I haven’t forgotten you, ya wonderful patient reader, you! I’ve been hunting down items to talk about this week. I’ll start out with the Useful Stuff:
Adams makes a very useful distinction between what’s expected of a novel title and that of a short story, and why it’s so important. Stacked full of examples to illustrate his point, and very well written.
He also references Palahniuk’s work as one of those examples, which makes me recall a point that I don’t think I’ve emphasized lately: it is entirely possible to be a very goddamn good writer and still have people dislike your work. I won’t read Palahniuk’s work ever again. He’s a brilliant writer. He’s so good, in fact, that I was physically nauseous after reading Guts. I admire the hell out of the man’s raw talent, but I absolutely refuse to read anything else he writes. I feel the same way about most of Joe Lansdale’s work. He’s a very good writer. I don’t like the bulk of his stories. He deserves any awards he wins. I’m not his target audience. 🙁
I think that point is often missed in the online review/fan wars: there’s a difference between being a bad writer and writing something well that the reviewer happens not to like, for reasons entirely unrelated to quality.
Alright. Digression over. On to the next:
Samantha Bryant came up with a great post about the angst and persistence involved in getting through a writing slump during her most recent project, the third book in her fantastic Change series. (Two word summary: menopausal superheroes. So. Fun.) Take a look at the post here, and take a look at her books here. I really like her writing, and her concept is pure gold. She’s one to keep an eye on. I see her climbing into the trad-pub big publisher arena soon, much as Tom Doyle did after Wizard of Macatawa.
Another excellent writer I may have mentioned once or twice in the past, Teresa Frohock, is about to release her Los Nefilim series as an omnibus, in print–the three individual books aren’t available in print, so this is what’s known as a BIG DEAL. Pre-order the book here; take a look at free bits of her writing here. Seriously, pre-order–don’t wait until it’s already out (in just a few days!), because pre-orders impress the hell out of publishers and make the writer more likely to nab future contracts. And I want this lady to keep writing! She’s that damn good. Bastard Books reviewed one of her earlier books, calling Miserere “beautifully written” and a “highly recommended read”. He’s not an easy guy to impress (and I’m not an easy gal to impress, for that matter!). So: PRE-ORDER PRE-ORDER PRE-ORDER! 😀
There are a handful of YA authors in my notes, whose work I haven’t read yet but who, for various reasons, caught my interest. I’m handing out the names so that you can go see what you think for yourself (and not wait on my lazy ass to get around to reading their books):
Rosalind Jana, Notes on Being Teenage (Amazon buy link)
If you already know those writers, drop me a line as to what you liked or disliked about their writing! If you don’t know them–go look them up and see if their writing style meshes with your reading taste.:)
OK, enough reading material. Meet a bit of pure (and dignified) whimsy: the dragon of the Tower of London. Yes, I geeked out examining that photo for some time. It’s magnificent. I really wish I could go see it in person!
And now I’m running behind on five other things and have to catch up to three people and make phone calls and–
*Leona dashes away frantically, waving at you as she goes. You hear a fading wail of “PRE-ORRRRRRDDDDDEEEERRRRRRRRRR!” as she vanishes from sight.*
Begin where you are. I’ve given that advice so many times it seems etched into my bones. When you’re at a loss for what to write, start with something real nearby: the temperature, the humidity, a flower outside, a smell. It can all be edited later for continuity; the important thing is to BEGIN. And begin again, and again, and again.
This isn’t a new and brilliant insight. I don’t have those to offer. That’s not denigrating myself, it’s a frank recognition that I walk in the wake of writers and artists who have already said it all, in every possible iteration and language.
Fresh or stale, all the same, it’s solid advice: start where you are.
Right now, I’m afraid and anxious, sad and listless. I’m at the tail end (I hope!) of several very not-good days. My sleeping schedule is wrecked, my appetite erratic, my mood remarkably volatile. I’m in bed writing this post on my smartphone, in fact, because I can’t face the Business Level of Adulting required to write at my desk just now.
It took me three hours to write this post. I napped, and played Blackjack, and checked Twitter, and thought about my novel-in-progress, and took a shower, and just stared blankly at nothing.
Part of me sees this as an admission of failure. The more experienced part of my brain flips that idea out the window with a cynical laugh. There is no failing. There is only Not Doing.
I would rather admire myself for beginning, over and over and over again, than berate myself for not Succeeding (which is an abstract goal at best).
I’ve heard that writers shouldn’t talk about the sad stuff while we’re going through it. Don’t talk about being down, or depressed, don’t vent about your troubles, not until you’ve come out the other side. Nobody wants to hear the dragging odyssey of despair: they want to hear the Triumphant Conclusion.
Well, yeah. But also no. I see value in telling other creative folks you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed; it’s okay to be flaky and crazed and disintegrating. You don’t actually have to hide it all the time. I see value in assuring people that yes, we CAN still get work done while falling apart on the inside, and that we can use that work as a path to pulling ourselves back together.
People do need to know that when we’re in crisis, it’s really truly ok to hide in bed for 23 hours out of the day–as long as you’re using that one teeny little hour to do something creative. Five minutes each out of twelve of those twenty four hours. The rest of the time can be allllll about you and your misery if that’s what you need that day.
You’re going to wake up the next morning and see that tiny little hour’s worth of work, those twelve batches of five minutes of effort, and add another hour to it. And another. And another. Even if you end up with forty different projects, they’re still seeds, they’re still guideposts, they still matter.
You can tell people about the seeds, about the work, and you know what–it doesn’t matter if you talk about the pain or about the excitement of creation, because here’s a pro tip: they probably won’t be listening anyway.
I do agree, from experience, that folks want to hear about themselves. They want to talk about themselves. They want to know what advantage being nice to you will give to them.
If that sounds cynical, well–maybe it is. But it’s also true. And it’s not actually horrible-person behavior; it’s normal-people behavior, held in check by social conventions and cultural expectations across the world. Anyone in sales has to accept that as reality, and these days, writers, artists, musicians–we are in sales, like it or not. Most of us interact with so damn many people on a day to day basis, let alone over the course of a year, that we can’t care about everyone equally. We can’t connect with them all. It would destroy us emotionally and drain the energy we need to do the actual creative work that makes people want to meet us in the first place!
I had to shut down my Facebook pages recently. It’s too big, too emotionally connected: I began to feel as though I was at a major convention every time I logged on. So. Many. People … Talking about so many things! I couldn’t remember who was friends with who, which people I shouldn’t drag into one another’s mentions, what topics had already been discussed to death by one set of friends but not even considered by others–it was just Too Much, and I have a book to finish, a house to organize, and as I mentioned, quite the handful of Not Good Days clawing at me.
Twitter, oddly, is easier. It’s more transient, less solid; more fleeting, slipping past, not requiring one to hold on to the conversational thread for more than a day or two. So I’m still active on Twitter, although my personal feed is set to private for the moment. I’ll open it up again soon, but not quite yet.
Right now, I’m enjoying the quiet in my head. I’m remembering who I am: I’m a writer. I’m inclined toward Buddhism, and I want to get back to exploring that path. I’m goofy and funny and passionate and dedicated, and I really, REALLY love to write.
I write on my phone, in the security of my own bedroom; I write while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room; I write at 2 a.m., when I can’t sleep. I write while devouring tacos on a pit stop between one destination and another.
This sounds much more productive and admirable than it is in reality. Remember what I said above? Five minutes. One hour. One paragraph. A blog post. A thank you card. A newsletter. Fiction. Non-fiction. Journal entry. Silly tweets. Web site copy. It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter how sad I feel, or how angry. It doesn’t matter how completely crappy my day has been, it doesn’t matter if I’ve slept 14 hours and stuffed my face with chocolate ice cream instead of a healthy meal.
Five minutes. One hour. One paragraph.
They’re seeds. You need seeds. You need lots and lots and lots of seeds.
So start with what you have right now. Start with who you are right now. Start with where you are right now. Begin creating. Then begin again. And again. And again….