Re-Considering SkillShare

Howdy, squiders. Happy Groundhog Day. Someday I should probably watch the movie, but today is apparently not that day.

(Here in Colorado we have Flatiron Freddy. He’s a taxidermied yellow-bellied marmot. The park rangers put a top hat on him.)

(He saw his shadow too, so six more weeks of winter. Which is fine! We need all the moisture we can get.)

(I guess he didn’t see his shadow. He’s dead.)

Anyway, let’s talk about SkillShare. As you guys probably know if you’ve been about for a while, I’ve been teaching on SkillShare since 2019. I put a couple writing classes up a year, and it’s been giving me a small amount of income every month, normally between $20 and $70.

Not amazing, for sure, especially since it does take quite a bit of work to get a class ready, between planning it out, creating it, editing the videos, and posting it, but enough that it’s generally been worth it. Plus I’ve been getting a fair amount of followers, who have come over onto other platforms from there.

Well, a few months ago, SkillShare decided they were going to start paying based on engagement (how many reviews, etc.) rather than number of minutes of class watched (which is how payment has traditionally been paid out). Between August and December, my income dropped by 75% despite the number of minutes being watched remaining the same.

And I got an email last week that they were closing three of my classes because they didn’t meet the new engagement requirements. Nothing I could do about it.

(And, annoyingly, two of those classes were actually doing really well for the month! And I feel bad, cuz what if people were in the middle of the classes when SkillShare closed them? I tried to warn people beforehand but I don’t know how many people actually saw my warning.)

You guys know how I feel about setting goals that rely on other people. No matter how many times I ask, I can’t make people leave reviews, or watch other classes, or recommend my classes to other people. To make payment and, indeed, if a class can even stay on the site, so dependent on what other people are doing is frustrating, to say the least.

(Yes, I realize that the payment based on minutes watched also relies on other people, but it was a they did, or they didn’t, sort of thing. Nobody was getting their classes closed off of that.)

What it really feels like is that they’re trying to drive the smaller and/or newer teachers off the website.

It was already pretty hard to be found by the algorithms if you weren’t one of the celebrity classes SkillShare pays for and advertises, or if you hadn’t been on the site forever and built up a major following. But I was/have been getting consistently good reviews, and it seems like people have found the classes helpful.

So, what now?

From what I understand, there’s nothing to stop me from just making a new version of the class and putting everything right back up. (I even emailed and asked, and all the dude said was that the new classes would be held to the same engagement standards.) Of course, the new class will lose any projects and reviews, and no doubt it will be removed from people’s courses, which means I can’t contact those people anymore.

Also, it will make the class EVEN HARDER to find through the algorithms.

Is it worth it?

I haven’t decided. Maybe. You get some leeway on engagement stuff for a bit before they would pull the class again. But in the four years that I’ve been on SkillShare, they’ve consistently revamped how pay works, and it’s always worse for the teachers. Is it worth it to stay on a site that so obviously does not want me?

I could move the classes to another platform, or even offer them here on the website. But they are geared toward SkillShare, so I would need to edit or even re-record some of them. And I would need to do research to figure where/how to do all that.

It’s all a major pain in the ass. Part of me just wants to give the whole thing up, but then I’d have to go in and edit the back matter in the Writers’ Motivation books and workbooks to remove the SkillShare link too.

There’s not really any good answers here.

What do you think, Squiders? Have any experience with teaching on the web?

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WriYe and Restarts

Hey ho, squiders, I was reminded that WriYe has monthly blog prompts and that I should probably get on the January one, since we’re fast running out of time here.

Here’s the prompt:

(Re)Starting fresh, for a new year, new story or after a writing break.

Got to admit this one threw me a bit for a loop. Not, like, from a concept standpoint but I did find it a little hard to puzzle out what it was asking.

I think it’s asking how I feel about starting fresh (…). That’s what I’m going with, anyway.

I don’t tend to start fresh for anything, really. I write or at least think about writing pretty much nonstop–don’t think I’ve taken a real writing break in over a decade. I wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing. Maybe I should, once I’ve finished the revision on Book 1. Just take a few weeks where I’m not even thinking about writing.

I stopped taking breaks because I found it hard to get back into the swing of things after I did so. Like any habit, if you break it, it can be hard to start back up.

Of course, I was taking pretty substantial breaks. I would do Nano, try to continue through December (continuously and always a problem from me), and then write through the beginning of the year until I finished my draft. And then I would stop til it was time to get ready for Nano again, so it could be six months or so in there.

Anyway, I stopped doing that when I started writing more seriously.

We’ve talked about how I feel about new years and resolutions and all that jazz many times here (I think the blog is 12 years old now) so I won’t repeat myself too much, but I’ve never really seen a reason to start a new project with the new year. I’m normally in the middle of something anyway, and the new year is an arbitrary division of time.

So I suppose the only time I start (or re-start) anew is when I’m starting a new project, or going back to one that I haven’t worked on for a while.

And it is exciting! There is definitely something exciting about starting a new project or picking something back up, and you can coast on that feeling for a good while, especially if things are going well. Maybe I should switch projects at the new year. Over at WriYe, there’s definitely a lot of excitement floating around that I don’t typically participate in. Maybe I would find it beneficial to ride that energy out like it feels everyone else is.

Ah, well. I really need to get this revision done. Next year, maybe.

Thoughts, squiders? How do you feel about a fresh start, or picking something back up?

An Exercise in Creative Thinking

Hey-o, squiders. How’s it going? My brain is still in full freak out mode about figuring out the plot order at the beginning of the book, fully convinced this is the hardest thing it has ever had to do, somehow completely forgetting that we somehow made it through Calculus 3 that one time in college.

I did make progress today though.

I made note cards.

I put each of the things that needs to happen in Act 1 on a card, and then I spent the afternoon shuffling them about upside down and putting them in random orders.

What, you may ask, is this accomplishing.

Well, a trick I learned from Holly Lisle is that, if things aren’t working, sometimes it’s best to re-arrange things, even in orders that seem like they make no sense, because it forces you to look at your story events in a new light. What would have to happen for the order to change to match the order on the cards? Is that better than what you currently have? Does it add new tension or fix some other problem? Does it change something boring into something with a better twist?

And so forth.

So far the orders are completely bonkers, but I can feel things start to loosen up. I’m going to do this exercise at least five times, no matter what crazy order the cards come up with.

Fingers crossed that it all falls into place soon.

A Lack of Focus

Maybe even an avoidance of focus, if I’m being honest.

I am SO CLOSE to being done with the prep work for the revision. I basically just need to finalize a new order and outline, and then I can write and fix and hooray!

But my brain does this thing, when I am close to the end of a project or when I am at the hardest part, where it’s like “This is obviously VERY HARD and requires MUCH CONCENTRATION, and so I can only work in the PERFECT CONDITIONS” which tend to be never.

(For example, the smaller, mobile one is sitting next to me singing camp songs with all the wrong tunes, which is both very distracting and also triggering.)

This tends to go on for a few days until I’m like SCREW IT, WE’RE DOING THIS which normally goes fine and then I feel silly for letting my brain be weird about it for however long I have let it go on.

As a side effect of my brain being stupid about whatever it’s being stupid about, it gets super productive in other ways.

For example, yesterday (when it was, of course, not good working conditions because the small, mobile ones were off school) I read two whole books, did multiple loads of laundry, wrote a blog post (for TDP), did research for my newsletter, cleaned my car’s floor mats, emailed my doctor, took down the Christmas decorations, texted two people I’d been forgetting to text back, worked out, and made Hungarian goulash for dinner.

Today I’m blogging and I’ve run some errands (though I don’t have a ton of time after work), and I also watched some ghost videos on YouTube, which is a sure sign I am procrastinating. (Also my coffee filter got messed up and dropped all sorts of coffee grounds into my coffee, which was just gross.)

We’re supposed to possibly get a foot of snow overnight, so it’s possible we’ll have a snow day tomorrow, so either it’ll be yesterday over again (with the addition of working from home) or I’m sure I’ll find a way to use the snow as an excuse.

I mean, if I’m being totally honest, it’ll probably be Friday before I get my brain under control. But maybe tomorrow! Fingers crossed and all that jazz.

One would think, as this has been an issue for literally ever, that I would have figured out a way around this, but every project only has one sticking point, and they’re often months apart, and quite frankly I forget things pretty easily. I leave notes but the thing about notes is that you have to go back and look at them or they’re useless.

Anyway, all this is just to say that, hey, I don’t have a project update today cuz I haven’t done anything but think about working on it since Saturday.

(I mean, the thinking is useful, but not useful enough.)

If YOU have ways to get around weird brain procrastination, I’d love to hear them.

I’m Not Trying to Ignore You

God, I am so sleepy. Where did I leave you guys?

Oh, yeah, my FAILURE OF READING. Alas.

Anyway, despite my inability to update my blog on its normal schedule, I have actually been making pretty good progress on the planning for the Book 1 revision.

I finished my visual arcs, and I broke down what needs to stay in the story in the currently messy beginning bit.

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, but the first, oh, 8 or 9 chapters take place over about five or six months, and they feel a little disjointed. Moving the war to the very beginning of the book and fixing Lana’s internal arc will help that, but if I can consolidate the timeline down to, oh, three months or less, that will also help, especially if I can link the chapters together better.

So now I have a list of just the basic things that need to happen, which looks something like this:

  • Prophecy needs to be around
  • Midwinter component has to show up
  • Bandicore attack
  • Coming of age
  • Midwinter (in some form) so Dan/Lana romance can get going
  • Letters from Queen
  • Meeting with Queen
  • Dan and Lana need to make connection of themselves with prophecy
  • Kira and Cerin need to meet

The bandicore attack has to happen before the letters from the Queen, and those have to happen before the meeting with the Queen, but everything else is up in the air. My plan is to play around with the order to see what makes the most sense from a pacing and arc standpoint, so that’s where I am at the moment.

I also got a bit sidelined by some research. Chapter 8 has existed in some form since the first draft (I think) though it has undergone a variety of changes over various drafts. (Especially since the original version was basically there to show off how badass my MCs are, and that’s not terribly useful.) In short, chapter 8 focuses on sparring to get ready for the war, and it’s awkward and boring and continuously bad, though it does have useful things happen in it (Kira and Cerin meet, from the bulletpoints above, and it provides major motivation for a side character that the MCs will cross paths with for all three books).

Anyway, while I was poking things this past week, I was kinda of like, well, how would they have trained for war? Is there a better exercise they could be doing which is more interesting, or can tie in to other things that have to happen or into character arcs?

And I realize this is something I really should have already researched, and maybe if I were starting the book from scratch today I would have, but this is what comes from having worked on a book for twenty years.

So I spent quite a lot of time looking at medieval armies and how they would have trained (including watching some random documentaries I found), and now I have notes about that, but I haven’t had a chance to go back in and figure out a better way to do the activity (or if I really even need it), but at least now I am informed.

And knowing is half the battle. Pun intended.

Anyway, once again, sorry for the bizarre posting schedule. Things are getting done!

Also, I submitted Hallowed Hill to a contest which was very scary and I almost backed out of doing so like three times, but I did it, and now, while I wait, I don’t think about it.

See you hopefully Tuesday, squiders!

2022 Yearly Reading Round-Up

I’m so mad, squiders. I thought I’d squeaked in my 50th book on Dec 31, and once again I had read my 50 books for the year, but I missed #43 in my counting, so I only read 49 books. This is the first time in over 10 years that I’ve missed getting 50 books, and goddamnit I would have tried harder if I’d known.

Anyway, here are the stats.

Books Read in 2022: 49
Change from 2021: -1

Of those*:
12 were Mystery
12 were Fantasy
6 were Science Fiction
3 were Nonfiction
3 were short story collections
2 were General Literature
2 were Memoir
2 were Heist
2 were Horror
1 was Middle Grade
1 was Children’s
1 was Self-Help
1 was Metaphysical
1 was Gothic

(This is where I figured out I’d miscounted, because I went through the list like five times, even color-coding the genres, and I could not make it come out to 50 books. Well.)

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA or MG titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

New genre(s)**: heist, horror, middle grade, children’s, self-help, metaphysical, Gothic
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: dystopia, romance, alternative history, historical fiction, story sampler, tie-in
**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Genres that went up: mystery, fantasy, science fiction
Genres that went down: nonfiction, short story collections, general literature

16 were my books
33 were library books

The trend of reading mostly library books continues, though I did read more of my own this year, by a bit.

38 were physical books
11 were ebooks

Average rating: 3.54/5

Top rated:
This is How You Lose the Time War (science fiction – 4.3)
Ghosts of Christmas Past (short story anthology – 4.2)
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches (fantasy – 4)
The Calculating Stars (science fiction – 4)

About what you’d expect, really.

Honorable mentions of 3.9: Fangirl (general literature), A Memory Called Empire (science fiction), Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man (mystery)

Most recent publication year: 2022
Oldest publication year: 1894
Average publication year: 2005
Books older than 1900: 1
Books newer than (and including) 2017: 22

Down on the newer books. Oops.

The first book I read this year was This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (science fiction) and the last was Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man by Emily J Edwards (mystery).

I’ve already finished a book this year (A Merry Murder, mystery, of course) and am in the middle of three more, so hopefully this mistake shall not be repeated.

See you next week, squiders!

Hot Damn, it’s 2023

Is it just me, or does every year sound more and more science fiction-y?

I’d like to say I’ve started off the new year with a bang, but the small, mobile are still out of school for another week and I exploded my phone last night, which has been a bit traumatic.

(Not like, actual exploding, but it did hit the ground at high velocity and now the front is no longer connected to the rest of it.)

I did, however, remember that I used to have a spreadsheet where I kept track of all my writing projects and what state they were in, and plan out what months I was working on what, which I literally had not touched since Jan 1, 2021, so that’s been interesting. So many things I’d forgotten I wanted to work on, or forgotten about entirely, and just completely out of date in general.

I’ve got it updated now, so in theory it’s full speed ahead!

Like last year, the main goal for 2023 is to finish the &%@$ revision on Book 1 of my fantasy trilogy. It hasn’t really been touched since the last time I posted (see: holidays, school break–however, my basement is now spotless) but I hope to have things mostly planned by the end of the week. Forward momentum! Positive thoughts!

I may make some sort of tracker, because that has historically been useful, but it’s kind of hard to track revision planning (time maybe?) and I do get sad if I’m missing a lot of days.

I’m not going to make a lot of goals past that, because what I’ve found is that what I tend to do is work on other, easier goals if they exist to be worked on. Best to just avoid the temptation. Plus it divides my attention, and I really need to focus on this. I’ve been avoiding it for years, and I suspect I will continue to avoid it if I give myself the chance.

That being said, the hierarchy of the year goes something like this:

-Revise Book 1
-Make submissions materials
-Submit Book 1
-Revise scifi horror novella
-Make submission materials
-Submit scifi horror novella
-Revise first book of cozy mystery
-Make submission materials
-Submit cozy mystery
-Write something new for Nano

Now, I know this is overly ambitious, but a girl can hope, right?

(I have a further revision hierarchy, which goes into Space Dinosaur, World’s Edge, and then even older stories.)

Anyway, that’s 2023. Let’s talk about 2022.

The biggest thing that got done was, of course, Hallowed Hill. I finished the draft in February, did the initial edit in May, revised to editor comments in July, did final edits in September, released the book on Oct 1 and did marketing and all the things related to that starting in June. I’m very pleased with the final product, and the speed with which everything got done isn’t too shabby either.

I also finished my Deep and Blue serial story in April, and I sold a short story that appeared in the April issue of diet milk.

I also wrote a post-apocalyptic anthology story that’s currently in limbo (the anthology is having issues coming together) and spent quite a lot of time on the Book 1 revision, for all that I don’t have anything finished to show for it.

In addition, I published a new SkillShare class in October on point of view and tenses.

Oh! And I beat a Hugo-award-winning author in a flash fiction contest at MileHiCon. Which I realize is very subjective and has to do with circumstances and whatnot, but hot damn.

That feels like not very much, but I have to remember that, one, it’s a ton of work to publish a book, and two, every little bit helps reach the goal eventually.

How was your 2022, squiders? Big plans for 2023?

I’ll be back later in the week with my yearly reading round-up for 2022.

Chipping Away at It

The hell? WordPress is giving me prompts now. I guess that could be useful? Anyway, moving on.

I’m making decent progress on my chart. I do think that’s going to be helpful. Right now I’m putting in the plot points that already exist in the story, and then I’ll go back in and add in additional things that are missing. From there, I should be able to map what changes need to go into what chapters, and revision can finally get going.

Well, the actual moving parts bit. I do think the planning portion is the most important part of any revision. It’s best to make sure you know what you’re changing and why before you start messing around.

I’m not going as quickly as I would like, but again, as I keep reminding myself, it is Christmas, it is December, and I am regularly working on it and making progress, and that’s really the best that can be done.

As for the holidays, I mailed out the last of my Christmas cards this morning and bought the last of the presents today (except I’ve remembered I still need to get something for the dog), and I have about half of everything wrapped. All in all, Christmas is in excellent shape, so I’m feeling pretty good about that too.

I do need to read three more books to hit my yearly goal of 50 books, but I’m about halfway through two, and a third of the way through another, though I’ll probably drop that one until I get through my stash of Christmas mysteries. Mmm, Christmas mysteries. Single-handedly helping me reach my yearly reading goal for like five years running now.

One of the books I’m a little over halfway through is The Ghosts of Christmas Past, which is a short story collection of ghost-related Christmas stories from the last 200 years or so. It is excellent, and most of the stories have been quite good. Maybe I’ll write a Christmas related ghost story here sometime. But I recommend it if you like that sort of thing.

I am also working on the content edit for the next Turtleduck Press release. That is definitely going slower than I would like, but oh well. It shall get done. It shall all get done.

I make no guarantees about posts between now and Christmas, or, hell, now and the New Year. Fingers crossed, but I promise nothing.

Happy holidays to you, squiders, whichever ones you celebrate, and if I don’t see you before, I shall see you in 2023.

Good Job, Past!Kit

Good news, squiders. It turns out that earlier in the year, before I switched the revision/marketing for Hallowed Hill, I went through and outlined the current state of Book 1, including notes on what the chapter was versus what it needed to be, and where the three major plotlines were, and so forth.

So, yay! I don’t need to do that again. Though it does underscore how far I’d gotten into revision planning before I had to reverse course. Sigh.

(Though I did have someone this week tell me that Hallowed Hill was really good, and that they had to stop reading it at night, because it was too creepy. Bwhahahahahaha!)

So I went back through the notes past!me made, and I read through and expanded some freewriting and plot thoughts, and poked at the wonky subplots that I mentioned on Tuesday. So all I need to do now is to line up my three major plotlines (in the current draft they’re a bit bunchy) and make sure they’re progressing properly and without bunching, and then I can outline my revision and get going.

I tried to do this earlier today (actually that’s why this is so late, I was hoping to have it done before I blogged) but I tried to do it using the tracker I use for my subplots, and that wasn’t working because I couldn’t see the plotline versus the other plotline.

So I’ve made a visual tracker.

A mostly empty notebook sheet

As you can see, I haven’t populated it yet, but I’m hoping I can lay the major plot points out versus each other here, so I can see where they’re interplaying and make sure they’re not bunching, and also that all three are progressing throughout the entire book. I’ve got my chapters across the top for reference.

I’ve not tried a visual method like this before, so fingers crossed that it’s going to work and make sense.

Who knows, by the time I blog next week, I might actually be getting somewhere. Fingers crossed!

Also having medication for my back is helping so much. Like, it still hurts, and I’m still getting nerve pain, but it’s all dulled and I can mostly operate normally. SUCH a huge difference.

Right! See you guys next week!

Everything Hurts and Nothing is Getting Done

I mean, to be fair, every year I think I’m going to be productive in December, and every year I am surprised when I am not.

(Imagine the Surprised Pikachu meme here.)

(Actually…)

surprise pikachu meme

Right, moving on.

There’s holiday stuff, of course. Our cards showed up today, so I’ve addressed, oh, five of them and then have given up for the day because I have to double check addresses and I don’t actually have stamps yet. (Well, I have Day of the Dead stamps, but somehow that doesn’t seem seasonally appropriate.) Most-ish of my Christmas present shopping is done, including the selection and purchasing of our traditional Christmas Eve books, though one child still needs a gift, and I do need to do stocking stuffers (including for myself and the spouse). But in general, sitting fairly pretty. It just takes time and effort.

But the biggest issue is the slipped disc I told you guys about.

It turns out I have one slipped disc and another one bulging, and the slipped one is pressing on my L5 nerve root, which is what is causing the nerve pain down my leg. I’ve been trying to get on top of this, so I’ve been seeing my chiropractor twice a week, and last week I also started seeing a physical therapist (mostly because the orthopedic surgeon I went to see said insurance was unlikely to approve an MRI without doing physical therapy first, but then they went ahead and approved the MRI anyway). As you can imagine, four appointments a week is really eating into my time.

And well, last week I would have said I was getting better. But over the weekend I caught a cold (I actually slept most of Saturday) and as you can imagine, coughing and sneezing in combination with a messed up back was a bad combination. I literally only had that cold for Saturday and Sunday, but by Sunday night my back and leg pain was at the worst it has ever been. I haven’t been able to sleep because I haven’t been able to get comfortable, and exercises and positions that have made things better over the past few weeks have now proven to be useless.

Today I made an emergency visit to my doctor to hopefully get some relief, so now I have prescription painkillers and some steroids, and hopefully these will calm the inflammation in the area enough that my body can repair the discs on their own. Fingers crossed!

All this is a long way to say, uh, sorry for not blogging last week. Did I blog last week? I have no idea anymore.

The good news is that I have sorted out the character issues with Book 1, and am working on a slightly wonky subplot, and then I have another slightly wonky subplot to poke, and then I’m going to do a scene outline and identify what needs changing where. Not as fast as I hoped to be working, but definitely making progress.

Every little bit counts. Progress is progress, no matter how slow, and sometimes I have to remember that.

I hope your December is going better than mine! (And if you have disc tips, I’d love to hear them.)