Video: Starting Over

Let’s say you’re working on a book and it’s just not coming together, and now you have to start over. Or let’s say you got feedback from someone you trust and you’re realizing your book has a fatal flaw or could be much better if you made a fundamental change to it. Is this scary? YES! Are there some pointers I can give you to reassure you while getting through it? You bet!

Here’s a video talking through why you might be starting an existing story over again with a new draft and some thoughts on how to approach it.

Video: Writing Fanfiction

I used to have a kind of negative opinion of people writing fanfiction and thought it was a waste of time. Nowadays, though I’m still not a fanfiction reader or writer, I see how beneficial it can be, regardless of whether it trains a writer for an original writing career. Watch my video for thoughts on fanfiction.

Video: Writing to Gender

Today I’m sharing a video about gender’s role in determining what we write and how we sell what we write.

The thrust of this video is that I encourage people to be aware how gendered media frequently is in terms of how it portrays certain genders in fiction and how it’s marketed, and what I think we can do to write our fiction to avoid perpetuating stereotypes and making media more inclusive.

600 Issues

My webcomic Negative One hit its 600th issue last week.

In honor of the milestone, I tried a slightly different art style, using neutral gray markers instead of my usual sketchy pencil. It was an interesting change.

My mom was watching me draw this issue while she was hanging out at my house. She asked me to tell her what everyone thought of the different illustrations, and I told her I probably wouldn’t get many comments. She disagreed and I said, “No, really, almost nobody comments on the comic.” And she said, “Well then why do you do it?”

No offense to my mom of course, but this is kind of a bad question to ask an artist. I think she was asking because she wanted to know why I do it if not for feedback and evidence of audience enjoyment, but as a creator you can’t help but wonder if such a question implies that you shouldn’t make a work that gets little attention.

She understood and validated my response, though, and made it clear she accepted the inherent worth of the art form based on my relationship with it. I’ll share that with you here.

Negative One is the result of my decision to “retire” a fantasy series I wrote in college. I wrote it during an enduring stream of enthusiasm for a good number of years, and for a while I thought I would be able to sell it, but I didn’t even really work up to a solid try for publication before I’d realized (along with my research on how one approaches selling a story) that these particular books were never going to be publishable. At least, they’d never be publishable how they were, not even with significant editing, unless I fundamentally changed the nature of the books. And I didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to change what the books were about to make them more mainstream, and I ultimately decided this was a personal story that I wanted to tell without restrictions. There’s a time and a place for that, and as a form of self-publishing, webcomics felt like that time and place for me.

I don’t intend to sell this. I don’t intend to make any money at it (don’t even, in fact, have a system in place to collect money for it even if I wanted to). I just want to make it on my own terms, once a week like I have for over eleven years, and keep telling the story I like about the characters I like to enjoy it the way I like it. It’s out there for other people who like stories like this to read if they please. It’s out there to ignore if people want to do that, too, and they do. There have been a few random fans of the comic who have interacted with me intensely for a while and then disappeared, and I have some friends who follow the comic either weekly or off-and-on. I see a little spike in the stats on its update day, so I know it has some loyal readers. But it’s not popular, and I’m not interested in doing anything differently to change that.

I’m satisfied with it and I love it. My more “mature” and “advanced” work has been molded by feedback and publishing expectations and restrictions and reading environments. That’s also fine. But as a person who has accepted feedback and incorporated foreign perspectives for plenty of other works, it’s comforting to have one thing where I don’t do that. That I’ve created a little niche for myself where I make something that’s just mine. I’m free to do it however I like since I ask for nothing from my audience and depend on no one for the means to share it (beyond, you know, paying for my website and the utilities that allow me to access my computer/Internet). If someone doesn’t like something I do or how I do it, they can deal with it by not reading, and absolutely nothing changes for me. And I think having an oasis like that is a good grounding opportunity for a writer who usually does field a large amount of feedback and compromises with plenty of restrictions.

Negative One is a quiet story that I do for nobody but me, but I invite people to participate by putting it on the Internet. If it’s your thing, I hope you enjoy it. And though I adore feedback from people who connected with what it’s saying, I don’t need my readers to speak up. I think a lot of people who like Negative One are the quiet types who don’t need to communicate with creators for the creators to communicate with them.

I recommend that any writers who are struggling with feedback or are feeling overwhelmed by expectations carve out a sanctuary like this for yourself. A story that’s yours where you can retreat if you need to. It might not seem like much, but it’s made a big difference in my life. Maybe you’ll feel the same.

Video: “Misunderstood Genius”

Here’s one about an uncomfortable subject: how your rejections or failures in publishing are not best handled by assuming the world is simply unable to comprehend the staggering genius that is you.

It sounds kind of mean phrased like that, but now that I’ve come across two different people in a very short time who sent completely un-self-aware commentary into the blogosphere about how nobody seems to realize they’re rejecting a True Writer On Par With Thoreau, I decided a video was in order. This gives perspective on still being positive and motivated while chasing publication or representation, but not giving into bitterness that leads you to believe the real problem is Everyone In the World Except You.

 

 

Abstaining from Pitch Wars

For the first time in three years, I decided to abstain from Pitch Wars this year.

I’m not sure why. Part of it was probably that I felt like I’ve been ignoring my own writing in favor of paying attention to other media and wallowing in distractions, and part of it was that I feel like I’ve gotten a little jaded about publishing and whether I really belong giving anyone advice about it. I mean, sure, there are plenty of beginners I know more than enough to help, but the only difference between me and my potential mentees the past few years was that I had an agent and they didn’t. Even after securing representation with agents for two different books and selling one of them, I just kinda started doubting my competence. I haven’t been actively writing much at all, and my publishing career hasn’t gone anywhere since I sold a book in 2013. What I did worked for me, but I don’t know if it would work for anyone else, and it wasn’t fiction anyway.

But honestly I do think I have good advice on improving manuscripts and providing perspective on agent searches. I just think maybe I’ve been using the cause to avoid working on my own projects. It’s time to get back to it.

I have Bad Fairy 2 to finish up; it’s been complete for a long time, but my test readers have all either finished or petered out on reading and dropped off the radar without explanation, and I’m still undecided on how to present the first half of the book since it still feels too much like a sequel in my opinion.

I have Ace of Arts to write. I got really jazzed about this book the other day, wanting to get back into it, but I had just returned from vacation and convinced myself I had some digital housecleaning to finish first. (I did that.) Maybe I should dive back in.

I have a short story I started but stopped writing after a page because I was kinda hating how it was going. I’ll want to start that over again and get it busted out.

I don’t think I have any short stories out for consideration right now. I had a couple rejections in June and then July was just a mess for me, so I didn’t bother addressing it. Need to get some short stories out there to be considered by magazines.

But it’s weird to not be in Pitch Wars. Part of me is glad I’m not, because as usual there have been some hiccups and some nastiness, though there’s also tons of excitement. I am kinda sad that I won’t have a mentee this year. I loved working with my mentees. Year 1 I mentored Whitney Fletcher, who got an agent immediately through the contest. I had alternates Ryan and Jessica; Ryan’s gotten close but his project never hit the right agent, and as far as I know he hasn’t tried writing something new, while Jessica got picked up by a small publisher without an agent. Year 2 I mentored Megan Paasch, with whom I don’t really chat much anymore, and we never found our match, but my alternate Natalka found representation for a book she wrote after Pitch Wars and that book sold also to a small publisher. And Year 3 my mentee was Lynn Forrest, whose book didn’t hit with an agent during the contest but seems to be getting a ton of full manuscript requests these days. I love having a relationship with another writer the way I do during Pitch Wars, and I’m sad I won’t have a Year 4 mentee to put in this list.

I hope whoever I would have picked does well. :/

It sounds weird, but the part I really enjoyed besides mentoring an individual was sending feedback to the people I didn’t pick. I was a bit overwhelmed the first year, but the second and third years I had a ball picking apart and analyzing query letters and initial chapters. And people were so cool about it, taking my feedback so professionally and in some cases having great discussions with me about their work. I miss that part of it too. But you can’t have that without the whole package, and I just couldn’t handle the package this year.

I don’t know if I’m done with Pitch Wars forever or if it’s just this year. Time will tell.