Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Day Job?

So, in theory, I’m living the author’s dream. I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom (though I do freelance and contract editing and writing part-time), so I should have plenty of writing time. Right? Isn’t that what we all want, to be able to stay home and write? To ditch the day job?

I mean, there are the mobile ones, who are a distraction and also very demanding. And there are chores (like the never-ending dishes, argh).

Still, plenty of stay-at-home parents find time for their writing. And, I mean, it’s not like I don’t get anything done.

But I recently came to the realization that this situation isn’t ideal, at least not for me. I was so much more productive when I was working full-time. I even managed 50K a month while working full-time AND doing graduate-level engineering courses. I’ve always chalked up the decrease in productivity to having kids, but now I’m wondering…

And I’m wondering if the editing/writing as a job isn’t hurting my productivity with my fiction. If I’ve spent three hours doing a content edit for a client, it can be hard to turn around and spend another two hours on my own work. If I’ve spent an hour and a half fighting with someone’s grammar, my brain can feel fried.

And maybe getting out of the house and doing something non-writing related would actually be beneficial. Maybe if I got a job doing something else, writing would be more of a reward again. I mean, I still love writing, I enjoy doing it, but sometimes the motivation just isn’t there.

There’s options here. I could:

a) Pick a different job to do on a freelance contract basis. I made a list. Some are things I already do that I’d love to do more of, if I could pick up more clients, such as book layout. I love formatting a book for print. ebook layouts are a little less fun but still enjoyable. And book layout keeps me with the books I love without eating my writing/editing brain. Others are new. Like being an audiobook narrator. I’ve got vocal training through singing and theater, so that could be really fun, and it keeps me with books. I’d also love to draw on a freelance basis, but am more lacking in skills/experience in that area.

b) Pick up a part-time job doing whatever outside of the house. Mostly I’ve been eyeing libraries and book stores. I have experience doing that (I was a library page for three years back in high school), and, same as above, keeps me near books. And gets me out of the house, which is probably a good thing.

c) Go back into the full-time work world. My college degree(s) are in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, and my preferred part of the production life cycle is testing, which is apparently rare, so I’d probably be able to pick up a job pretty easy, even though I’ve been out of the industry for almost seven years.

d) Go back to school for another degree. To be honest, I didn’t really like my last “real” job–the company was a bad fit for me in practically every way, and is a major reason why I went freelance instead of trying for another engineering job at the time. So I might be happier in another field (or it might have been the company). I’d like to write stories for video games, but would probably need to get a degree in video game design. Graphic design could also be fun, though, as above, I am probably lacking in skills/experience. Of course, college + mobile ones probably equals less writing time, but maybe not!

Any insight, squiders? Has anyone had success with career crises?


10 Writing Prompts to Get Your Day Going

If you troll about the Internet, you’ll see that a lot of writing advice out there, if you want to make a career out of writing, says to be as productive as possible. More stuff written = more practice and hopefully better stories = more material to send out to readers = loyal fans = success, or something along those general lines.

Since I have small mobile ones, I’m not terribly productive, so I can’t speak to the truth of this sentiment, but I do spend a lot of time gathering writing prompts for more stories than I’ll ever be able to write, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Also, you might look into some short story challenges if you’re interested in getting some practice in. The 12 short story writing challenge has a goal of writing one short story every month for a year. That’s doable even for someone like me. If you have more time or inclination, you might try the Ray Bradbury challenge, where you try to write one short story a week (and also do lots of reading).

Anyway, on to the prompts!

Sweet Home Chicago by TheEnderling

Nokken by Kim Myatt

Creepy gif from Pinterest

Fantasy Bg 77 by Moonglowlilly

Tumblr post by mspaintadverturing

Ball Thingy by Charly Chive

Man, it is surprisingly hard to find the original artists for Pinterest pins. Just a reminder to always credit the artist!

Happy writing, squiders!

A Surplus of Lesbians

Not that there’s anything wrong with lesbians.

As you guys know, Siri and I have begun work on the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin. If you’re familiar with CoHaR, you know that we have two viewpoint characters, Theo and Bree.

If you’re not familiar with CoHaR, we have two viewpoint characters, Theo and Bree.

Because we were writing CoHaR for Turtleduck Press, which requires romance be a part of its scifi/fantasy, we knew that we’d need said viewpoint characters to be romantically involved to some extent. And since we both wanted to write women, well, we ended up a lesbian couple.

(Though, to be fair, both Theo and Bree are bisexual.)

We have a Pinterest board for CoHaR, which we’ve started work on again now as we tackle the series. The board has a lot of setting pins, along with some individual pins of Bree and Theo (as well as some other characters), but I noticed that we were missing pins of the two characters together, and since, hey, romance, maybe that would be a good thing to add in.

So I did what you do–I searched for lesbians, and I sent several to Siri to see what she thought, and she was no help in narrowing them down, so I stared at them for a while and then picked some to pin to the board.

And Pinterest promptly decided that I wanted all lesbians in my feed, all the time.

As I said above, not that there’s anything wrong with lesbians, but it was interesting that the four or five lesbian pins I pinned overruled the other 1.5K pins I have, most of which include castles, dragons, writing prompts, the occasional soup recipe, etc. For a few days, that was it: lesbians.

(On the plus side, I found a couple of other pins that fit well and stuck them on the board too.)

My feed’s cleared up a bit, but it’s still got more lesbians than normal and, interestingly, other couples as well. I guess the algorithm is branching out a bit.

Anyway, I’m supposed to have a chapter to Siri tomorrow, which, ahahaha, I haven’t started yet.

Insights on how Pinterest’s algorithms work? How are you doing?


Sick Day (and Story Structure)

Happy Thursday, squiders. I hope yours find you better than mine, where I am literally a fountain of snot.

(Tips for dealing with sinus congestion–and hopefully getting rid of it? I will love you forever.)

Anyway, Siri and I spent about four hours yesterday pounding out stuff for the sequel of City of Hope and Ruin. (We were both sick, so hopefully everything is coherent when I go back over it.) We made decent progress, mapping out character and relationship arcs, and poked at the plot (still being a jerk) a bit. And we’re going to start writing, so that’s exciting.

We also spent some time talking about structure and how to apply that to the series as a whole. (We’re thinking it will be a trilogy, and I think I’ve talked to you guys in the past about how writing a trilogy is like writing a very long 3-Act structure each with its own complete arcs.)

And I found this very lovely blog post on 3-Act structure, which I thought I would share with you. It’s here:

It’s by K.M. Weiland, whom I generally recommend when it comes to the nuts and bolts of fiction writing. But this is a very complete look at the structure and what needs to happen in each part, and I recommend it if you’re curious or would like a refresher.

As for me, I need more tea and kleenex, and I’ll see you guys next week.


The Trials of the Follow-up

As I mentioned to you guys at the beginning of the year, Siri and I are working on the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin. Or, more accurately, trying to work on the sequel to CoHaR. We’ve been trying to hammer out a plot now for about three months.

And we’re having the worst time. We can’t figure anything out. There’s so many options available that we can’t get anything to gel. What are the character arcs? What is the main plot? How many viewpoint characters do we want/need?

Who knows?

This is a new issue for me. I tend to either write standalones (ala Hidden Worlds or Shards) or planned series where I have an idea of the entire arc of the series. But because the Fractured World is supposed to be a shared universe, Siri and I purposefully left as much open as possible at the end of CoHaR, with the thought that maybe someone else would write a novel in between it and whenever we came back to it.

But no one did, and our own inventiveness has stymied us.

This kind of falls into the “Trap of Success” that you hear talked about sometimes, or the fear of success. Essentially, because you were successful the first time, you have to live up to said success.

(For example, CoHaR has been getting some praise, including being listed on lists of best diverse fiction, like this one, so, you know, things to live up to.)

I have a friend whose first novel did amazing–it was a bestseller, got great reviewers, was optioned for a TV show (which was happening last I spoke with him)–and he’s been having the worst time with the sequel.

The success. Sometimes it gets you in the end.

But anyway.

Hopefully we can get the basics laid down soon so we can get onto the writing (and, let’s be honest, rewriting) of the book. It’s due in its finished form to Turtleduck Press at the beginning of December. So wish us luck!


Where is the Best Place to Write?

We’ve talked about writing locations before, Squiders, about libraries and coffee shops and home offices and whatnot. We’ve talked about setting up our own and what mine looks like (though the images seem to have been eaten in the website hacking snafu of October 2016) and talked about the pros and cons of different locations.

But recently, when I was on my way out to the coffee shop for writing again, my husband asked if I was really more efficient when I went out. And, to be honest, I didn’t know. I do like coffee shops because they allow me to escape from the house and because I like coffee (and tea, and hot cocoa, and iced tea, and…) but I don’t actually know that I am more productive than I am sitting at home in the office, for example.

So I’ve made a spreadsheet.

Have I concluded anything? Not yet. I suspect I need a lot more data (and I’ve been lazy this week as you can see), and I’m wondering if I need a few more columns. (I also need to be consistent on times–I’m trying to do 24hr time so it’s clear when I’m writing in the evening vs the morning to see if time of day is a factor–but I can see off the top of my head that at least the second entry on the 4th needs to be changed to evening.)

I’m also not sure if converting to words/hour is helpful. Like, that fifteen minutes at the library on the third. Would my output have been the same had I written for the full hour? Hard to say. Maybe things were really flowing. Or maybe I would have hit a block 100 words later.

Another thing that may be unduly influencing things is where I am. Some scenes are almost word for word reused from the last draft, so I’m just modifying wording or adding in a little more nuance this time through, and that certainly goes much faster. Some scenes are brand new and difficult (ala the entry on the second) and that really eats my word count.

Is word count even a good marker for telling how much I’m getting done? Not sure what else to use.

Well, I’m at 94K for the rewrite now, and I’m making decent progress, so perhaps in a month we’ll be done (finally!) and I can work on a different project which might be more consistent on scene difficulty. (That probably doesn’t exist.)

Thoughts, squiders? Better way to track? Maybe a column for “how was the flow today” with a scale to 1-10.


Common Writing Mistakes: Lack of Conflict

So I lied, Squiders, and found one more common writing mistake.

Today we’re going to talk about conflict. Conflict in the writing sense is when something stands in your protagonist’s way of getting what he/she/it wants.

(NOTE: The protagonist of a scene may be different than the protagonist in the book.)

Conflict breaks down into external (forces outside the protagonist standing in the way) and internal (forces inside the protagonist standing in the way).

In elementary school, you probably learned a conflict breakdown that included Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, etc. That’s just a further breakdown of external conflict, for the most part.

Stories need conflict to be interesting. The tendency for some beginning authors is to think that means they need exciting things, like battles and car chases and gunfights, etc. While these things can all be good in the right circumstance, without an emotional tie to the plot, they fall flat.

A conflict does not need to be big, but it does need to be present. This is why scenes where the character brushes their teeth or takes a shower so often fail. Now, if they’re taking a shower to wash off the blood, or if they notice their canine teeth don’t look quite right…

Kit! I hear you shout. But what about slice of life stories? Or literary stories? Those don’t have conflict.

Sure they do. They might not have “Evil shall descend on the land and destroy all life” levels of conflict, but they have it.

The best book I read last year was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. It was originally published in Swedish and was translated into English in 2013. The main conflict is that Ove wants to die, and things (mostly people and cats) keep getting in his way. It’s a lovely book and I highly recommend it if you have not read it.

Is this an earth-shattering conflict? No. Does it matter to anyone except Ove? No. But it is there.

A story needs an overarching conflict that drives the plot, but each scene also needs some form of conflict. These can be directly related to plot, or they can be related to characterization or a subplot. And, as I noted above, the protagonist of a scene (the one who has a conflict thrown in his way) does not have to be the protagonist of the book. In some cases, the book’s protagonist can be the antagonist in a scene.

There can be the urge to include scenes just because they’re fun, or they’re exciting, or they’ve got the coolest bit of worldbuilding in them. But ask yourself two questions:

  • Is this scene telling me anything about my character?
  • Is this scene driving the story forward?

If the answer to both is no, the scene’s doing nothing, and it either needs to be removed, or it needs to be reworked.

Thoughts on conflict, squiders? Tips on making sure you’ve got the right amount/the right type of conflict?