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Writer, Messenger, and Professional Weirdo
NOTE: I’ve come to the conclusion that it feels sort of fake for me, one to whom verbal cursing comes naturally, to try and cover every f-bomb with something clever (that is very rarely actually clever) – and we’re all adults here, right? Right. I apologize if swearing offends you, but it’s starting to grate on me and this is my blog so bugger it. Onwards!
I am convinced that the entire internet exists for no other reason than to make me uncomfortable while in the very same moment making me insanely jealous at everyone elses’ apparent expertise with social media. Lookit me blog this! And Facebook that! And Instagram this! And Twittertwittertwitter!
I still do not get Twitter. Or Tumblr. It’s frustrating but for me it’s like barging into a party like a clumsy ox where everybody knows everybody so now you stand around awkwardly going, “Um, hi? Hello? Will you be my friend please? I make cookies!”
I do make cookies, by the way. They are awesome.
This time of year is also a very uncomfortable year for me. I grew up surrounded by pomp and circumstance (Catholic) and thus all the Season-y Greetings started to grate and nowadays I can’t stomach them for very long. I’ve also developed some fairly strong opinions on things that tend to clash with the cheery feel-goods of the holiday season.
*Gets out soapbox.*
I’m an atheist and while I give zero fucks how many “Merry Christmas!”es I hear in a given season, it’s also very difficult for me to not launch into a tirade every time I hear things like “Remember the reason for the season!” while people are breaking down the doors at the nearest Target to get the new Barbie doll or whatever.
I do all my Christmas shopping online (yes, we do celebrate – with a TARDIS on top of the tree and everything!).
It’s also the season of bell ringers and it’s always very, very uncomfortable to walk by the box and not drop anything in. I haven’t donated to the Salvation Army in years because while things may not be as bad as they seem, they are bad enough that there are better places to spend my donation money.
*Slides soapbox back under the bed*
So it’s a stressful time of the year for me for a bunch of different reasons. November is usually a lot of fun, because NaNo, but this year I found myself stuck with hours and hours and hours of overtime. I left work every morning and the last thing I wanted after 60 hours (6 days of 10 hour shifts) was to be responsible about something. About halfway through the month I realized that writing was so far down the list of priorities for the month that winning NaNo was not going to happen.
And once I realized that, the pressure was off and winning NaNo did, in fact, happen. Barely.
This year NaNo taught me several things:
But I still managed to make words on pages happen in large chunks during the very small amount of free-time I had. That’s got to count for something, right?
So now it’s back to working on the book and some short stories and maybe if I grow a spine I’ll send some off and we’ll see what happens.
…And while I’m dreaming I’d like a pony…
Whoops. I’ve been waaaaaaaaay lax with the posting. Mostly I’ve been lazy and the longer I go without posting something, the guiltier I (inexplicably) feel and then I continue to avoid it and it all just sorta spirals until oh right this thing exists in the world.
So hi there!
But I have been working and the first half of the story is very near ready for line-editing! Also: In just a few short days it’ll be NaNo time! I enjoy NaNo in that I love making myself write so much in so little time. It’s not good writing, and a lot of it is rambling and babbling and incoherent, but it’s fun nonetheless. This year is the first year I’ve made myself sit down and plot it all out. I’m taking a break from writing about Nephilim and decided to write about cliched Circus Vampires ™ in the 1930s American dust-bowl era and their groupies instead.
Told from the first person (ew ew ew I hate writing in first person why did I decide that would be a good idea) point of view of one of those groupies …After she’s been committed to an asylum in the 1940s.
So it’s a family-friendly story.
On a whim I decided to try the snowflake method of outlining because I stumbled across it via Google and it seemed like a good idea. What I’ve ended up with is the entire book in non-prose form, so that should make this November slightly easier. Considering how many hours of overtime I’ll be working, that’ll come in handy. We’ll see. I’m usually a pantser but considering how much re-writing and trashing and restarting and and and — that I’ve done on The World Outside I’m going to try something different this time around.
So anyway, that’s what I’ve got. It’s not much but it’ll do for now. I’ll hopefully remember that I have this thing when I need to whine about how November is (or isn’t) going! Maybe I’ll stick a lil word counter up in the sidebar.
Nope, I didn’t see Hamlet. It’s not playing this year.
I did have a ball in Canada though! I love Stratford and every time I go I always forget how much that particular area of Canada loves it’s brick houses. Aluminum siding was really rare. I’m actually very curious as to why that is because the difference was striking enough that it stood out to me.
For the record, I am all about brick houses, but I accept that I may be in the minority there.
If you’re wondering about a deluge of pictures, unfortunately I don’t have that. My paranoia made sure I left my cell phone in the hotel room pretty much full time. Not because I thought it would get stolen, but because I didn’t want to be that person. If you’re a theater goer, you know what I mean. It’s the person whose phone goes off during the performance. I spent the first show with my purse between my legs, my cell phone not only set to vibrate but turned off completely and my mind just would not shut up. I was convinced that it would turn itself on and start bawling. After that, I left it in the room and just let myself enjoy the shows.
(I never said it was rational.)
As for what we saw and what I thought: Waiting for Godot was my least favorite. It was plagued with pauses and silences that, I think, were aiming to be Pinter Pauses but actually came across as though the actors forgot their lines. Combine that with the fact that it was the first show we saw and therefore the one I spent agonizing over the magic cell phone turning itself on. That definitely didn’t help. It wasn’t all bad though. The actor playing Lucky was brilliant and I don’t use that term lightly.
The rest of the round up made up for it. Blythe Spirit was good, Othello was spectacular, Measure for Measure was awesome, and Merchant of Venice was effing amazing. Setting MoV in 1930s Italy was about as subtle as a brick to the face, and the only likeable characters in the entire play (for me) were Portia and her groupies, but I loved it.
I’m sort of torn between Othello and MoV as my favorite. Both casts were amazing but I think Othello’s set design (including the lighting design) wins out. What they were able to do with a plain (but mobile) square stage and moving flats was breathtaking. Also the performances. I was actually able to forget my paralyzing fear of heights (we had nosebleeds) while the actors were on stage.
If you ever have the chance to head up north to Canada and see some Shakespeare, I would highly recommend it. Have I mentioned that they’ve already announced next year’s season? Between King Lear, Midsummer Night’s Dream (two different versions!), Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Man of La Mancha, I pretty much put my foot down. We are going.
Things I would recommend for any long car ride:
The latter has the benefit of being voiced by someone with a Phone Book Voice. Anyone possessing a Phone Book Voice is immediately my favorite.
It’s been awhile since I got back. In my defense …I have no defense. After throwing an epic tantrum way back when over Final Fantasy going online when FFXI came out, I’ve been sucked in by Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. To clarify: I am an old school Final Fantasy nerd. I played the first one on the Nintendo when I was nine. I’m a bit strange in that I don’t like FF7 (I mean to say that I really don’t like it and I wish they would stop trying to get blood from that stone) and FF8 (one that is pretty much panned as terrible) was my favorite, followed closely by FF6. They’re up to 13 (and it’s sequel) now.
In essence: I always played Final Fantasy because the games were RPGs with a story. Probably not the best stories, but at the time they were addicting. It was a rag-tag group of heroes thrown together by fate to defeat whatever evil baddy happened to be threatening the world this week. You had your sword guy, your brawler, your gun guy, your lancer, your white mage, your black mage, your cranky/emotionally stunted or gloriously sarcastic and cheerful hero (pick one), your designated love interest, or any combination thereof. Pretty standard. Throwing that into an MMO made me do this:
This is not to say that MMOs can’t have stories – I go back and forth on whether or not I like WoW’s story but it’s there and it drives the game. It’s just that the first “M” in MMO stands for Massively and that is like the exact opposite of “small rag-tag group of underdog heroes saving world.”
So I said NO! to Final Fantasy at that point (and haven’t finished an FF game since then, though I’ve tried both 12 and 13 – and will probably finish 13 eventually). I got the schadenfreude bug when Final Fantasy XIV first came out. It was called a $50 beta for a reason. It was awful.
And then they fired everybody and brought in a new team and there was a free beta weekend so I said Oh why not and then suddenly:
So if you need me I’ll be leveling my Conjurer.
I’m trying very hard to stop flaking on this writing thing, but it’s sorta difficult. Apart from making snarky posts about my work-life, what have I been up to?
Not a whole heck of a lot, really. I mean, I’ve been working. Yours truly is now a supervisor and if THAT doesn’t fill you will fear and dread, then you may need to get your doom meter checked. It’s just one of the many reasons I haven’t been able to really DO anything. I’m winding down my only day off this week while writing this and when I wake up tonight I have a whole six days back on, two of which are thirteen hour shifts. It’s also been somehow busier than normal so every day I leave work wanting to punch kittens.
Did I mention I quit smoking in April? I’ve been on the razor edge of a relapse for the past two weeks now. I still have some of the medication I took to help me stop, but it makes me very ill so it’s not really an option at this point since I haven’t called into work in over two years and I’m not about to start now. So far, so good though.
So LOTS of reading has been happening and up until yesterday I was on a sorta kinda forced sabbatical from The Project. The beginning has been throwing me left, right, and center and I think, given a little bit of poking (and prodding from the spousal unit), that I know how to fix it. So yippee! I get to do that this week – maybe. Writing at work isn’t really an option unless I’m writing by hand (ow ow ow ow), so we’ll see how much inspiration I have after coming home from a night of not being able to strangle nurses who think calling before the body is actually ready is a good thing.
But all that being said: Hooray for upswings! The fun part about being me is that I have a very, very mild type of mood roller-coaster. I was diagnosed manic depressive before it became known as bipolar, but I don’t really think of myself as bipolar because it’s been so long since that diagnosis was handed down and things have changed (like puberty – puberty happened). I’ve gotten very good at picking out when the downswing hits and when the upswing starts so when I’m feeling crappy and teary and whiny for no good reason and I can’t find plot for love nor money, I can recognize it. It doesn’t make it better, per se, but at least I know that it’ll pass.
I just started the climb back up the coaster so I’ve got at least a month or two (if I’m lucky) of productive good times before I dive back down into the miasma of self loathing. The medication I’m on isn’t strong, so it takes the edge off, but that’s about it. I don’t get as high, but I also don’t get as low, so it evens out and, frankly, I’m lucky. It could be much, much worse.
Anyway, babble babble babble, and apart from sorting the beginning of the story out somewhat, I’ve also got a new set of plot bunnies in the back of my head. Technically, I suppose, they’re old plot bunnies, but like all things, I finally have a plot to go with the characters. I started up that bible (lower case ‘b’) last week so maybe when I’m done with this book I can take a break from The World Outside and throw together something (not sure what – whether short-ish novella/story or novel) about lesbians in the circus. There might also be vampires involved because I don’t like vampires much these days, so if I get to make life hell for a pair of them (the vampires, not the lesbians), I’m going to take that opportunity.
So I’ve been scrambling for books about both the circus and technical theater and in doing so, completely and totally forgot that I’d promised the spousal unit that I’d beta his former student’s sci-fi novel. There’s also a book a co-worker lent me, as well as a newly acquired steampunk story with skypirates in it, Let The Right One In, and a couple other books recommended to me by way of this post that I wrote back when I didn’t have anything on my plate.
I need to learn how to read faster.
This is going to be a short post, mostly because the upswing hasn’t come ’round yet and I’ve spent more time dramatically sobbing into a pillow than actually being productive. That may or may be hyperbole, but when one of your beta readers is asked the question, “Would you read past the first chapter?” and their resoundingly honest answer is a very blunt, “No.” it sorta bruises the ego.
Thing is (and this is why I haven’t posted any teasers of the first chapter), I know that bit is broken. It’s (no seriously) attempt fourteen or fifteen (or more, I lost count) at starting this dumb thing and every time I try to fix it, the entire story ends up getting changed. Tweaked. Fixed. Rearranged.
That’s not bad, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, but it is exhausting. Eventually I’ll be head over heels thanking dog for honest editors, but right now all I have to go on is a no and a vague idea that the info dump is too much, but not where or how. What makes it worse is this particular reader works days while I work nights, he lives an hour away, and has a small toddler at home. What this means is that I am astonished and humbled that he’s actually taken the time to go through my mess, but it also means that sitting down and talking through where the weak spots are and what about them makes the weak is just shy of being a massive headache.
This upsets me because he is actually qualified to tear the ‘script apart and the novel would (will, I suppose because I will figure this out) benefit from every blow he can throw at it.
The silver lining: the Editor (capital-I-am-being-paid-for-my-time-E) is working on it and she is equally qualified to rip it shreds. Obviously. I mean, I wouldn’t be paying her otherwise. She’ll also be much easier to get in contact with.
The second silver lining: People, if you’re going to marry someone, marry someone whose job it is to teach other people how to write. My wonderful husband took a gander and gave his professional assessment:
I think I know how fix it and no, you probably won’t have to rewrite the whole thing but I need to, like, show you because trying to describe it is hard. But like I need to go to rehearsal (did I mention he’s also an actor?) and you need to go to work so we’ll go over it in the morning.
Seven years of wedded bliss people. This is why. Of course now the big jerk won’t wake up…
Since I started this blog last month I had a good buffer of posts ready to go, but it appears time has finally decided to get down and truly be a terrible, fleeting thing so that buffer has run out. You may have noticed that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are post days generally. Oh noes! It’s Thursday already and I have nothing for Friday!
So here, because the proverbial black eyes I asked for are starting to roll in: a rant on feedback, inspired by one too many writers going off the way wrong way after getting constructive criticism. Also notes to self because I’m going to need it in the coming weeks here. I cannot swear enough, people.
Getting feedback – real, very critical feedback – is a lot like working out (I imagine – I’m sort of allergic to working out). It can leave you feeling like you’ve just taken a good crowbar to the gut. You get the wind knocked out of you because you find out you’re not half as clever as you thought you were and all those funny little moments that you thought were genius actually weren’t. You want to curl up into a ball and cry and never, ever let anyone read anything you write ever again. In fact, you don’t even want to write anymore because OBVIOUSLY WE’RE JUST NOT ANY GOOD AT IT.
The reality is more complicated. Stick with me here. The beta readers are on your side. Unless they’re total asshats in which case they’re not going to be helpful and need to be ditched ASAP. I wish I had an easy to spot solution for finding out who is trying to help and who is just worthless, but I don’t.
And after the workout you’re sore. Your ego hurts. It hurts because this is your baby. You have spent days, months, years, a lifetime of anguish to get these words onto the page(screen). We suffer for our art. Even comedians are drawing the funny from a very dark well. These words are a part of who you are. The story is, in some primal way, your life and to have someone point out that maybe it’s not quite as solid as you thought hurts in an almost physical way.
But hey, we’re all adults here. We’ve been hurt before – it’s what led us to do what we do. I hate being told that, as a writer, I need to have a thick skin. I know this get off my case and let me sob into my beer gawd!
Ahem. Let’s assume that people are generally good. This is difficult for me so you’ll have to bear with me. I’m sort of a misanthrope. So somehow I have to convince myself that getting critical feedback is a lot less like getting beaten to a bloody pulp by a gang of forty and more like this:
After the sore, if you keep at it, you start seeing results. You’re story starts toning up. It starts building muscle. And it starts lookin’ good. Your beta readers are the gym baby and after awhile you start to feel like dancing because you have all the energy and there’s a healthy glow about you and you’re ready to face the WORLD!
HERE IS MY BOOK WORLD! READ IT! READ! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
And it all comes crashing down after one stupid review on Amazon, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet, so my delusions, let me keep them.
Anyway! Coming up on Sunday I actually do have a post, in honor of Father’s Day. I’m not a fan of this day, generally speaking, but I do have a minor character who is a dad and the idea for the drabble was a cute one (shut up it is) so two plus two equals special post!
Note to self: go through said post and remove spoilers from said drabble, dummy.
Also incoming is a review (!!!). While I’ve definitely done some heavy-handed critique (my snark can get pretty epic, but I only break that out for people I know very well because generally speaking, they ask for it and give as good as they get *see above creys*), I’ve never done, like, a review before. I finished The Pull by Rob White last night at work, enjoyed it, and I’ve got some digesting to do before I get some thoughts together about it but really quickly: if you’re looking for something fun to read in your down time, definitely check it out.
I think that’s your lot.
Wait no. Have a Sassy Dancing Ood:
noun, plural ca·thar·ses [kuh-thahr-seez]1. the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.2. Medicine/Medical , purgation.
3. Psychiatry.a. psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up, socially unacceptable affects.b. discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.
From here. In relation to where I’m going with this, what I’m talking about is FEELING ALL THE FEELINGS EVER FELT IN THE ENTIRE WORLD AT ONCE.
Which is pretty much how my whole week has been going. How’s your week been?
Essentially it’s started out like this: Hi! It’s June, which puts me in the interesting and uncomfortable position of going to my beta readers and poking them on the shoulder asking them to maybe give me a little bit of feedback. In other words, to reword my post into something more polite and send it off in an email to the list of like eleven who asked to read the currently raw manuscript.
And I have to do this because while I’d love to be able to, I really can’t afford to have a professional structural edit done. Especially since a copy edit is not really optional (it is but it isn’t) and I’m looking to get some cash to my cover designer by the end of this month.
So that’s fun.
But every time I open up my email program this happens:
It is literally exactly that. I stare at it for about thirty seconds and close the window with a “NOPE!” face to rival NOPE faces. I don’t want to bother people, even though the rational part of me knows better. I have been told as much by the very people I’m terrified of bothering. That doesn’t change the visceral reaction.
So I guess this post is more me working through how to get over myself and, y’know, bug the people who put themselves into a position to be bothered. And I’m sure that, by the end of June (which was my deadline for myself because if I haven’t gotten something by then…) I’ll have finished feeling feelings and have a few less cares to give. Hopefully that promised relief will come.
Five times now I’ve sat down to do this necessary thing and five times I’ve immediately turned into Nathan Lane in The Birdcage.
So it could go either way, really.
I fully accept that I am a complete and total pansy. You guys should see the posts that don’t get published. I have many many opinions, and many of them expressed with more four letter words than can be found on the Jolly Roger. Blessing in disguise for you guys, really.
Of course, that could change once I get comfortable with the idea of saying things that might be wrong holy crap.
I don’t think I could have picked a worse time to start blogging. This has been me all day:
Don’t worry. I’m medicated.
That probably isn’t reassuring to you, but is to me. There really is no good reason for the waterworks either. Confidence issues being what they are, I had a moment of “What am I doing?!” this morning and it just sorta snowballed. Getting up early and wasting an hour and a half smashing my face into the pixelated brick wall that is the WoW Raid Boss of the Month (I have nothing good to say about you Horridon, nothing) didn’t help things. Oh, and then there was work.
Which, oddly enough, made things better.
I actually like my job. I know that sounds weird, but the job itself is pretty straight forward: I talk to people. For ten hours a night I sit there with a headset on talking to people – but – I know what I’m doing. The people I talk to fall into one of several categories:
During the day there’s maybe one or two other categories (I forgot my sunglasses at the funeral home is there anyone there? – though I get this one at midnight too…) but for the most part they’re easy to deal with. Even when the caller is screaming and/or crying I know what to say. I know what tone of voice to use. Outside of work my social interactions contain a lot of uncomfortable silences because being able to form words at other people I barely know is a skill I never actually mastered.
I’m a writer because I’m not a speaker.
So imagine my dismay upon finding out that I need to actually force myself to talk to people I don’t know online. I don’t consider tweeting or facebooking or commenting on blog posts writing in the traditional sense, by the way. I’m interacting with people in mostly real time and I don’t know them and there is no way to make me explode into tears faster than trying to make words happen at strangers.
Obviously, success is a thing I would like. I have no delusions or even intentions of quitting my job (because again, paradoxically, I like my job) but money isn’t what’s important here. Producing a book worth reading is and in order to do that I have to talk to other people. I have to let people know that I am, in fact, doing things. I have to pretend that I can make people care. I have to find a copy editor and a cover designer (latter is taken care of and she is wonderful hooray!). The stage I’m at right now is the dreaded “Hurry up and wait” beta stage which is both awesome and terrible.
Awesome because I know every single one of the readers and therefore asking them wasn’t difficult. Also awesome because just mentioning that I had an unpolished finished project brought people out of the woodwork that I never expected and it was overwhelming in a good way. For the next two days I pretty much just loved everybody.
Terrible because now that they’re reading I want to know what they think without hovering over their shoulder going: “So so so so?!” And going back over the manuscript didn’t help because once I’d done that I had another nervous breakdown because oh my god this isn’t ready I actually let people read this drek!?
So you may be noticing a theme here.
Thing is – and this is what my paranoid side doesn’t quite understand – you can’t do things like this by yourself. You need the people who will read what you’ve written and tell you what’s right and what’s wrong with it so you know what needs to be fixed. And as the loving spousal unit tactfully (har) pointed out, sometimes they don’t know what to tell you because they don’t know what you’re worried about. General questions don’t work.
So okay. Asking them specific questions isn’t difficult, really. Of course, not knowing what works and doesn’t because you’re too close to the work gets in the way, but the question really is when do you ask them? How long do you give your friends who, remember, are doing you a huge favor, before you start gently nudging? And how do you do it without annoying them into never picking the book up ever again? I’m terrified of alienating people to be honest, but I’ve been working on this dumb thing for over four years now and I want to get this done and out the door sometime this year.
I decided on mid-late June, which should give me plenty of time to craft a request for specific feedback (I did give them things to watch out for, but now I gotta get even more specific). Also I’ll have enough time to scrap and rewrite until it doesn’t read like nails on a chalkboard.
We’ll see how it goes.
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creative non-fiction. pursuit of truth.
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The official site of author Rob White and The Pull series
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She turns coffee into books so she can afford to buy more coffee. And more books.