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Authoring Writing Advice Writing Life

Getting to that *next* novel

A friend’s social media post recently observed that the abundance of writing advice online (and at convention panels, and in writing workshops) focuses on New Writers. Writers who are working on their first book. Writers wholly unfamiliar with publishing. There isn’t much for writers who are working on their third book, or their eighth.

And the question was posed: what advice would you (where you means writers of multiple books) offer to writers who have gotten beyond their first. The thoughts I had were bigger than a comment, so they’re here!

First, why is this so? Welp. My cynical take: the money is in pushing products & resources to those who haven’t made any personal connections or located professional mentors or tracked down their own resources. Less-cynical me is willing to acknowledge that there are a lot more New Writers than ones who are typing away at book 4 or 5. And most writers who’ve stuck it out that long have collected colleagues and bookmarked resources and developed a lot of tricks they like.

And my answer to the questiion was this: my words of wisdom to writers seeking guidance wouldn’t change between book 1 and book 8.

  • There is no One True Way To Write Your Book
  • There is no One True Path to successfully publishing a book.
  • There is no One True Definition Of Success

I can break down that a bit more, though, and right now that feels like a good reflection post to share while I await the release of book 8 and work on book 1 in a new series.

We now interrupt this post for an advertisement! Do you love fantastic fiction? Do you enjoy stories full of emotional depth, high-stakes conflict, and mysterious superpowers? You need to pre-order your copy of The Sharp Edge of Yesterday today.
B&N link
AMAZON link
–> or order it by name from your friendly local independent bookstore!
–> or recommend a purchase to your local public library!

Ahem. Back to writing advice for writers who’ve already written that First Book all the Internet Advice Experts focus on.

One. The tricks you taught yourself to remain motived through writing FirstBookEver won’t necessarily help you get through Book 2. Or book 5. Motivation is a fickle thing, and the creation of art is an ever-changing pursuit of an ever-changing goal.

Two. There is no International Agency of Writer Certification. No one will ever send you an official Writer Diploma, not when you graduate from writing to having a book published, not after three books, not after seventeen thousand short story sales. Once your words have been read by an audience–even if that audience is you and you alone–you are a writer. All other levels of accreditation, legitimacy, and worldly success are just additional layers. And remember–we inhabit a late-stage capitalist hellscape. It’s a tough fight to define legitimacy and professionalism in non-financial terms, but it’s a battle worth fighting. Professional writing associations set their membership bars based on economics, period.

Two point five. Success isn’t a set of moving goal posts. That’s bullshit. Every damned goal achieved is success. Period. Setting new goals after achieving a goal is one form of growth. So is shifting focus and working on something else. Which brings us to the next point.

Three. You are allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to stop writing a first book or a fifth one. You’re allowed to stop writing a series. You’re allowed to stop writing at all–for a day, for a month, for years, forever. You’re allowed to turn your back on publishing after querying one book, or self-publishing three, or selling seventeen thousand short stories to magazines. You’re still a writer even you never pursue publication at all & only write in your private notebooks or on fanfic sites, or in letters to your besties. But that’s a different post.)
The point is, you decide what to write, how to write it, when to write it, and what to do with it when you’re done. YOU AND ONLY YOU.

(CAVEAT: the above paragraph is true unless you have signed a contract obligating you to write a given thing within a given time frame for financial remuneration. I mean, that’s a legal commitment.)

Four. The feeling that the next piece of writing isn’t “good enough” won’t ever go away. Wrestling with insecurity is a popular hobby for many creatives. Impostor syndrome is a popular term with gigantic amounts of advice written on overcoming it, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. The classic form is fear of being exposed as a fraud–feeling like you’ll be kicked out of the cool-kids club as soon as people realize you don’t belong. I rarely feel like that. Okay, never. I just don’t feel like a fraud, ever. But! I often feel un-respected in the company of experienced, talented, and business-focused professionals. That’s a VERY different kind of insecurity, but it’s rooted in the same fear of not-good-enough. (It’s an insecurity rooted in and fueled by the pro-club’s finance-focused membership requirements, but that’s another different post.) My defiant answer, even when my on insecurity whispers “not-goodenough” is this: “FFS, WHAT DOES GOOD ENOUGH EVEN MEAN? Good enough for whom?”

Five: You should never expect the publishing landscape for the next book to look the way it did for the last one. Publishing is still in a state of massive flux fifteen (or so) years after electronic self-publishing began disrupting it. Marketing strategies and social media change even faster. One year, email newsletters are The Route To Commercial Success. The next year, it’s Twitter followers. The year after that, it’s all about Bookstagram. The one thing that never changes: everything changes.

Six: Everything except writing the next book is a distraction from writing the next book. BUT ALSO. Some non-writing distractions are IMPORTANT, and some will remind you why you’re putting all the effort into writing that next book. Never underestimate the power of connecting with other people who get excited about the worlds and people you write.

I think that’s all the rambling thoughts I have for now. Remember, there’s a new book for you waiting for you to pre-order it right now! Moms with superpowers, potential apocalypse, and gardening tips!

Here are those links for Sharp Edge again:
B&N link
AMAZON link
–> or order it by name from your friendly local independent bookstore
–> or recommend a purchase to your local public library

Until later!

Categories
3. Other Things Detours Writing Life

Technology is a time sink.

Hello, world. I hope you’re here to read about my mundane daily author adventures, because that’s what I’ve got for you.

Today was not a total bust. I accomplished things. Mainly I spent far too many hours troubleshooting connectivity and monitor issues. Still haven’t solved the wifi network problem–upgrading to Catalina has fucked up the IP address in some weird intermittent way–but resetting the NVRAM (PRAM? whatEVER) has solved the on-again off-again monitor problem.

I have possible fixes for the other issue, but they involved all kinds of “carefully follow these steps in order” instructions and I have no spoons for that, so…for now the mobile hotspot works fine, and it isn’t like I’m using the data for anything else these days.

In other news, Landscaping Firm 1 has been contacted for consultation & a quote on Full Yard Redesign, from drainage to new brick patio, walkways & driveway buffers, to reworking the front planting beds & installing plantings in back AND front. These people get high marks from native planting organizations, eco peeps & rain garden folk, so I’m hoping it works out. (technically it’s the 2nd firm but the first designer I consulted last September has ghosted us, so…I’m not waiting any longer.)

Why am I back to thinking about Big Outdoor Projects so soon? Wasn’t I going to put it off a year or two, what with Pandemic, and other big projects, and y’know, wanting to focus on WRITING?

Yeah, well. We were going to hold off. But now we aren’t. Therein lies a tale.

It starts with yesterday’s entry in “blessings in disguise” or “bad news/good news.”  In the AM Spouseman discovered that the drain valve for our not-new water heater has developed a slow leak. Only a cup or two a day, but enough to erode  little hole in the nice new concrete flooring under the valve. And enough to tell us we needed a consult on whether to repair or replace. So I added it to the “ask the FBC folks for recommendations” list I already had going, with questions about sump pump maintenance and other minor things, and bumped the priority to “call Monday.”

But that meant Spouseman & I were both on high water alert, which served us well later in the day, when the latest of this week’s soggy-day downpours turned to torrential deluge & the runoff couldn’t run away from the foundation fast enough. The photo for this post shows the guilty area. Just too much water being directed into one small space.

Water came seeping up through the floor of the basement entryway and poured inside onto the cheap area rugs we’d put in that part of the basement. BUT! Since we noticed it nigh-immediately, we sucked it back up with shop vacs before it had been standing long.

25-30ish gallons of water suckage later, the floor & area rugs were dry & damp, respectively, and fans+dehumidifiers were running.  Unfun way to spend a couple of evening hours, but far less than a total disaster.

But it’s certainly a harbinger of disaster, as storms are getting worse every year. So. “Better Drainage + Thirsty Native Plants Everywhere” Yard Redesign moves to the near-top of the to-do list. (Battery back up for the sump and new water heater are THE top.)

ANYway. This morning started out with leaving woeful “HALP PLS” messages with the basement people before I dug deep into research on green solutions/drainage specialist landscape contractors.

Which turned into a long, long detour through Technology Troubles…

But I did get all necessary communicating done, got answers to my questions, and somewhere in there I managed 200+ words of solid progress & some minor revisions on Sharp Edge.

And now I’ve written up the saga here. That’s a good place to wrap.

Until later!

Categories
Detours Writing Life

A post full of happy things

The world is a burning roller coaster from hell, but there are bitty bright spots, and today I’m choosing to share those bits instead of ranting about the deadly, ignorant, hateful bullshit splattered all over my social media walls.

Fair warning, full disclaimer and all, these are personal happies. If that makes me a self-absorbed, entitled, privileged, self-righteous asshole of a human being, welp, your exit is just a click away. Buh-BYE. Side note: one of my new Quarantine Social Media Self-Care routines is muting strangers & friends alike who post name-tagged complaint memes. And walking out of real-life conversations where such “jokes” are made. #FirstNameProblems

Okay, I accidentally digressed into a wee, prickly rant, but look. Those shit memes leave me wounded & defensive. Today I refuse to apologize for feeling joy. Wallowing in sadness, guilt, or anger won’t help anyone, and I will NOT post about what I do for others because it feels performative and uncomfortable. Just quietly doing kind or generous things is much easier.

ANYway. Here’s the joy part. AND PICTURES. If I did this right, the most current pic of an area will be on top, with a series of progress shots & then remarks below.

First, the first-impression zone. It is wholly transformed. I can’t wait to sit under those windows in sunshine, summer & winter.  Light. Air. Room to move. Level. Floor. There will be plants.

Next, the area we’re calling the Whatnot room. No for-sure plans for it yet. Might become a nook for Spouseman’s painting desk & minis, might be where the chest freezer goes, might be BOTH, because there’s room! Hiding in that back right corner will be a sweet little half-bath with its own window. Which will be privacy frosted, yes.  It isn’t there yet, but it will be soon. Happy, happy anticipation.

Lookit this gaming room. Is looking POSH, yes? Scroll down for the view from the other side. The TV stand is gonna look SWEET in that nook, and the built-ins have lights at the top.  

What’s gonna go on those shelves? Dunno. Booze, maybe?  Maybe Legos on the left side with the shallower shelves. No decision yet. Still in the pleasant pondering stages.

Lastly: I have a washing machine again!!! Words cannot express my relief at being able to do laundry without leaving the house again. Except those words did, I suppose.

Oh! wait. One more last pic. The first floor bathroom had to be ripped open to gut all the 88-year-old nasty, corroded iron drains & galvanized pipe. Which meant only one bathroom in the house, upstairs. And then Spouseman started working from home full time, too, and…yeah.

But now it’s all back together & repainted. Good-bye, dirty-gold walls (technically olive bronze, but…uh…) hello, Antique Blush (aka a whiter shade of pale or whatever.)

Today, the last bit of cabinet & mirror go back up, or so I’m told. What I know for sure is the “Stay Home Stay Safe” life has been much easier since the sink and toilet went in. Big yay.

So. Um. That’s that!

It’s been a wacky couple of weeks. I’ve gotten plenty of Things done, but not posts or sharable fiction because, well it’s hard to concentrate on those when much of the worst-case research material I’ve collected for literally decades is coming true all around me in real time. But!  I’ve changed up my media blocking so I stop surfing from site to site for fresh statistics to fret over, and I hope to tackle Actual Writing again soon.

Until later, all!

 

Categories
3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Just the facts this time: scones my way

My last baking adventure post wandered into a rantlet about scientific method, so for this one I’m sticking to Talking About The Recipe.

Here be my current “scone” recipe. It’s a blend of several scone & buttermilk biscuit recipes because that’s how I roll. PUN INTENDED. HA.

Before you begin:

  • preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • If you’re adding dried fruit, set 1 cup’s worth of fruit to soak in hot water.
  • Find your Really Big Bowl. Getting the dough to behave & fold into yummy layers is MUCH easier in a big bowl than on a counter. Plus then you don’t have to clear as much countertop to work on.

1. mix together in your Really Big Bowl (I use a whisk)

3 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2-1 tsp salt
*plus ONLY IF you’re doing a sweet scone: 1/4-1/2 c sugar

2. add in 1 super-cold stick of butter.

recommendations I ignore: cut the butter into small chunks & work into the flour mixture with your fingertips or fork or pastry cutter until it’s all in flour-coated teeny pieces. Being me, I often use soft butter (GASP) and I think the results still come out tasty not “tough,” but YMMV.

* also toss in 6-8 oz shredded cheese at the same time as the butter if you’re craving cheezy/savory scones.

3. add in 1 cup milk or cream or buttermilk or milk mixed w/unflavored yogurt, all the variations give slight differences in final flavor. The important thing is, add about 1 cup total liquid.

*if you’re making sweet fruit scones, drain most/all of the soaking liquid & add the fruit at the same time as the milk.

4. mix it all up in your Really Big Bowl with spoon and then hands until it comes together as a dough. It might be sticky, especially the fruit version if you left a lot of water in the fruit like I do when I don’t feel like being patient/thorough about draining it.

4.1 If it turns out especially pain-in-the-ass wet, at this point you can plop spoonfuls on a cookie sheet and make drop scones out of it.

4.2 Otherwise for shaped treats, keep pressing it all together with floured hands until it just barely holds together in a ball. Fold the shaggy lump of dough in half in the bowl, then gently flatten it out again. Do that three or four times total — the dough gets easier to work each time.

5. Squish out/roll the flattened dough until it’s about 1/2″ thick and cut into your preferred shapes. I like triangles because it’s the most efficient use of the dough, and I can twist up the edge trimmings into freeform weirdling shapes. If the dough has worked up well, I shape & cut it in the bowl so I don’t have to bother flouring the counter.

6. Place treats on parchment papered cookie sheet & slide into the oven to bake.

7. IMMEDIATELY DROP THE OVEN TEMP to 400.

Yes,  I did say pre-heat to 425. You can even pre-heat to 450. Biscuits & scones need the high temp to rise well. But I drop the temp as soon as they’re in because if I leave the temp up, I always misjudge the shorter cook time and overcook the bottoms. Lowering the temp and cooking longer gives me a bigger “done” window.

8. Bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean/tops turn golden brown. (You can do fancy shit like paint the tops with milk or egg to make them brown up more. I can’t be bothered. Cheezy scones get browner faster than fruit ones, go figure.

FULL DISCLAIMER: the cook time can be vary by plus OR minus 10 minutes depending on the size & shape & variety & oven quirks. That’s nearly a 100% over/under, so keep a close eye on them the first few times.

That’s it. The recipe is super-customizable and you can get a sheet’s worth ready to bake before the oven finishes pre-heating once you get the hang of it. Plus it dirties only 1 bowl & 1 measuring cup and makes anywhere from 10 to 24 scones, depending on how BIG you like them.

Happy experimenting, that’s all until later!

Almost forgot! Here’s my obligatory promotional blurb:

My  fantasy & SF novels make GREAT gifts. Or, y’know, you could buy them for yourself. Order from your favorite local bookstore or choose from online retailers behind this link: My Books2Read.com Author Page

 

Here be more pictures of tasty treats, just for added entertainment value:

yes, I overbaked some of these, but look at those triangles!