I Was Really Struggling to Write Today

So, I thought I’d pull out my tablet and fiddle with drawing characters to see if that sparked some inspiration. It kinda worked, but it led to like eight solid hours of drawing, which wasn’t really the plan. I forgot to eat. I also forgot to put up a blog post, because I’m a bad person. Anyway, this is Orane, the main character in Somnolence. She likes hunting, so I gave her a nice woodsy background.

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A Photoshoot and a Selfie

So, I had a professional photoshoot today, which is a really weird thing for me to say. The last time I had a photographer take my picture, I was getting married, but I’m gonna need some better quality pictures for various book purposes than I can take myself, so that’s what I did today. It was actually pretty fun, and the photographer was very nice and helpful. As were the people in the friendly neighborhood Starbucks, because it turned out that the library in my building that I had planned to use as our location has been closed for remodeling. Fortunately, I buy an obscene amount of chai from them, so they let us take some pictures in a comfy corner.

I’ll post some of the results when I’ve got them back, but here’s a selfie for now. I actually went outside properly for the first time this week, yaaay… My dogs were very happy about this. According to them, I am super boring when I work, although I seem to make an acceptable pillow.

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(I got a haircut today, too, but you totally can’t tell unless you know how ragged the ends were before.)

 

Wonder Woman and Revisions

I saw Wonder Woman, because of course I did. I’m not gonna go into detail, so there are no spoilers to follow, but I’m not as excited about it as I kinda wish I could be. The thing is, it’s only revolutionary compared to the bulk of really fantastically sexist crap up to now. It’s still good to see, and it’s a step in the right direction, but they could have gone a lot farther. I enjoyed the fight scenes as much as the next person, but there were a lot of points where I wished for a little (or a lot) more boldness and awareness. I feel oddly uncomfortable with the amount of praise it’s getting, even though I understand why it is, because treating a female superhero like a male one shouldn’t be anything other than normal. They still played into the born sexy yesterday trope, so they didn’t even quite treat her like a male superhero, but even if they had. That’s what we should expect every single time, from every single movie. That’s not something we should have to celebrate, and we shouldn’t have to ignore any problematic elements to encourage them to make more. I’m glad I saw it, but I’m sad that basic non-shitty storytelling isn’t common enough that we can just shrug and call it a decent superhero movie with some issues.

I’ll say this again and again. Sexism, racism, ableism, etc are all elements of bad storytelling. We shouldn’t be saying “well, it was a great movie except their female characters were all basically cardboard cutouts with boobs, and the only people of color were evil, as fucking usual.” We should call that a bad movie, because it is both incredibly lazy and harmful to rely on the same offensive stereotypes and narratives. Normalizing equality is important, and while it’s totally understandable that we treat anything that gets even a little bit close as exceptional, it’s still a serious sign of how messed up things are that Wonder Woman is such a huge goddamn deal.

On that uplifting note, I’m still in the midst of revisions, and I’m hoping to be done with them by the end of June so I can stay on track and get Somnolence off to be line edited. We’ll see how realistic that is, but I’m pretty sure that if I give myself more time I’ll get complacent and slack off.

I’m also preparing to buy some ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers.) That’s a whole thing. You need a different ISBN for every version of the book to be published, and the pricing scheme is kind of bizarre. At the moment, one number costs $125 and a batch of 1000 numbers costs… $1500. Bowker is the only source for these numbers in the US, so I guess they can basically do whatever they want. There are also some midrange options, which I’ll be taking advantage of, but the scale is still a bit startling.

That Feeling When

Do you ever find yourself reading a Terry Pratchett book and just getting annoyed because he says things you never knew you wanted to say, and says them in such a casually clever way that it’s almost insulting? That’s been happening to me a lot. The more I write, the more I notice really excellent chunks of writing that beautifully and humorously communicate a complicated idea or feeling. Of course, coupled with that is the awareness of how freaking hard those are to produce and how much my own work falls short, but that’s just how it is.

I got my manuscript back from the editor this week! I’ve been reading through her comments, and we have a call scheduled for next week to discuss her recommendations. It’s pretty cool.

In other news, procrastination is a scary powerful force. I meant to spend a few minutes prettying up my blog page last night, but instead I spent half the night glaring at my screen because nothing is quite right, damnit. It’s still not right, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna spend another minute on it right now. It’s just going to have to sit for a while and think about what it’s done.

I went out and got some fresh air instead. Soon I will go out and get some fresh caffeine, which is even better.

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Questionable life choices selfie.

Don’t Blame the Muse

 

It seems extremely odd to me that handy little lists off of Tumblr, such as this one below, inspire as much ire as they do from members of the writing community. 18557056_1394586123913674_8439391497564996321_n.jpg

Few things seem to piss off some writers more than telling them, even indirectly, that, while they’ve diligently studied the art of creating a solid story arc and researched medieval warfare extensively, their lesbian character might need some serious work to be anything other than a walking cliche. For some reason, every other aspect of writing is craft, and we generally accept that we should work hard on it to improve, but when it comes to characters and world-building, suddenly it’s all down to the ineffable and unquestionable work of the muse.

It’s interesting to note that the aspects of writing which are most rigid and subject to strict judgement are the parts that make it more difficult to succeed if you’ve not had access to an extensive education, you don’t have the funds to hire an editor, or your habitual speech patterns aren’t considered “proper english.” It’s also interesting to note that the areas where creativity and the muse are allowed to reign supreme are the parts that make it easy for those with social privilege to ignore the real experiences of people unlike themselves, while still using their identities as spice for their fiction. This indulgence allows writers to freely rely on lazy stereotypes and racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist narratives because art.

The thing is, the characters who pop into your head are not coming from some magical artistic inspiration. It’s your brain that cooks ’em up, and when they pop into your conscious mind already formed, it was your unconscious expectations and cultural programming that made them what they are. That means that, in spite of all the little details you may change to make them interesting, they’re just different pieces of you and your experience. If your only experience of asexuals is seeing them portrayed as damaged or confused, you’re going to be inclined to default to that tired, harmful trope. This does a disservice to everyone. Stereotypes are boring, they hurt vulnerable people, and they drag down the quality of their creator’s otherwise hard work.

In response to these helpful but oddly controversial lists of suggestions and warnings, the advice I often see is to ignore all that SJW crap and to just write the person first and then basically slap the label you want on top of the personality you’ve created. I think the basic intention here might be good. You don’t want to fall into the trap of making your character’s entire personality revolve around one aspect of their identity. The opposite pitfall, though, lies in the myth of the “real” person hiding underneath all the things that make people unique. Every aspect of every person affects their view of the world, including whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, being able bodied, and all the other default character settings that too often go unchallenged. Yes, we all share a great deal in common and we can draw from that, but there’s an important difference between trying to imagine someone else’s experience so you can empathize with them, and imagining that they’re really just like you underneath all the things that make them who they are. Doing the latter results in characters that have maybe stretched a little, but can’t be much more than reflections of the way you already see the world. Doing the former involves listening to the lived experiences of others and respecting what they say, and it opens up a whole realm of possibilities you literally couldn’t have come up with on your own. That’s where the magic can really happen.

 

“Hatchling”

It’s just a working title, but this is one of the projects that’ve been on the back burner while I focused on Somnolence. It’s going to be a YA trilogy about a girl and her dragon. I put these down when I realized that the rough draft I was almost done writing was actually going to need to be split into two separate books. The pacing just didn’t work, and the first storyline deserved more attention than it had gotten. I’ve been straightening out the outlines and getting some other prep work done on the first story. I like these characters a lot, so it’s fun to get back into it.

Click here to read the blurb I’ve written for the first book.

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My dragons are halfway between crocodiles and dinosaurs because I’m a confused nerd.

Sharing an Unfinished Manuscript With People is an Exercise in Effective Terror Management

It’s probably equally scary to share a finished manuscript with people, but I haven’t had that pleasure yet. Two of my beta readers finished reading last week within a few days of each other, and that’s the first time anyone other than me has read the whole thing through. My readers are super awesome people, and all the feedback I’ve gotten so far as been really constructive and helpful, but I still get this little jolt of panic every time I see an update from one of them.

I feel like this whole process is a crash course in developing stronger confidence, though. Not because anyone has been anything less than helpful so far, but because showing it to anyone when I know it’s nowhere near finished was a pretty difficult step for me. Handing it over to the editor was similarly intimidating, even though it’s literally her job to take unfinished things and help develop them into better things. Every step is gonna be scarier than the last, but that seems like a good thing in the long run. It’s hard to make good art while also being too scared to take risks.

Plus, without the risk it’s not possible to get the super sweet responses that make it feel totally worthwhile.  ❤Screenshot_20170512-174705 2 copy