I, a Writer

It was a slow day at work yesterday, and I was able to roll back to the hotel where I dealt with the slow internet connection.  Really, it was driving me crazy, and at some point, right around nine PM, I finished editing Chapter Ten of Couples Dance–about sixty-three hundred words in one shot, because lack of distractions allow that to happen–then watched a little of Godfather II before calling it a night.

Exciting times, huh?

There was a link floating about on Facebook yesterday, a Buzzfeed list with the title, “20 Signs That You’re a Writer”.  It had some humorous points–after all, Buzzfeed is The Onion for the Tumblr crowd–and there was even one point that made me nod my head and say, “Yeah, done that.”

There was, however, one important sign they left out that should be addressed.  Since I was thinking about this a bit last night–yes, I do this, even when watching TV, because that’s what writers do–I figured I’d say a few thing and likely suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune–which would be nice, ’cause then I could pay my bills.

Most of the stuff on the list is pretty nonsensical.  It’s meant to be, because it’s hitting all the points of every stereotype writers have.  They drive people crazy talking about their stories, they love their characters way too much, they drink gallons of coffee, they are some kind of strange to keep looking up baby names and figuring out how to kill people.  Some do–the majority of professional writers likely know this not to be true.  While I have looked up names on baby name sites–I’ve even linked to a few of them in the past–the idea that someone is looking at my computer history and figures I’m pregnant because of that?  Don’t think so.  And finding interesting ways to kill someone?  I don’t write mystery, so a bullet through the eye does fine with me.  Besides, I’m more about doing something really terrible to someone and letting them live–just ask the character in Chapter Nine who had something horrible happen to them.  If they were real, they’d have wanted to die.

Writers really aren’t that strange.  Yes, there are your drunks and substance abusers within the community, but that seems to go hand-in-hand with people who manage any kind of creativity.  I’ve had a few issues in the past, though they were brought out more by having a history of alcoholics on both sides of my family, and having my own problems being bi-polar, and less from I was writing–because I wasn’t writing, I was trying to survive.  But so many writers are like the nice uncle next door who smiles and waves at you while they’re watering their lawn.  Robert Bloch wrote Psycho, and was by all accounts a soft spoken, gentle man.  Ray Bradbury wrote incredible fantasy, hated to fly, but was a kind person.  Agatha Christie was suppose to be nice, except for when she was being chased by giant wasps . . .

The idea of a writer as “strange” is, in of itself, bad.  To many they may seem that way, because non-creative types really don’t understand the creative mind.  I don’t label myself as such, and would hope that other writers don’t as well.  There’s nothing good that comes from being seen as “strange” to others.  Trust me on that.

There is only one point to consider when you’re looking for signs that you’re a writer:

You write.

That’s it, that’s all there is when it comes to the secret.  Do you write?  Or do you spend all your time procrastinating and talking about your writer’s block and joneing for coffee?  Do you work hard at your craft learning to grow, or are you a vampire?

And for the record, I didn’t think I’d become famous until after the first hundred thousand words of my Great Never Ending Novel was written.  After that I was like, “Yeah, I’ll sell this and it’s Top of the World!”

That was twenty years ago.  No fame and glory, nope.  I wasn’t a writer then–

I finished that story last year, though.

Because I am a writer today.

Along the Scenic Route

As I’ve already mentioned to a few people, Ohio is a bit like the TARDIS:  it’s bigger on the inside than on the outside.  There the similarities end, because so far it’s been a boring drive.

As I write this I’m sitting in a rest stop somewhere between Toledo and Cleveland, which doesn’t really rock even though Mott the Hoople says they do.  After that it’s a run for the border and straight on into the Keystone State–

Which means what, Cassie?  Well, let me tell you:  I’m on my way to work.

As I may have mentioned, my last contract ended in May, and I began looking for something to do around the Chicago area.  Lots of nibbles, but no bites, as they say.  I even had a good shot at a company up der on the nort side a Chicaga, which is how the natives would make the claim.

Two weeks ago, however, I received a call:  would I be interested in a six month contract with the State of Pennsylvania?  Part of the reason they wanted me was because I could do the programming they needed; part of it is I’ve worked for a state government before and understand the ins and outs.  It was for as much as I was making at my last position, and since I’d be working on a 1099 contract (meaning I’m independent), I’ll take care of all my expenses and write a lot of stuff off at the end of the year.

So, the last few days I’ve packed things up, thrown them in the back of my CR-V, and hit the road.  Which is why I’m writing this post from somewhere in Ohio, dealing with screaming kids and piss-off drivers who didn’t get their Whopper in three minutes flat.

This isn’t something new to me, going off to a strange land and living out of a hotel for months at a time.  I used to go to China once or twice a year back in the late 90’s and early part of this century, but this is the first time I’ve done the same within the borders of this country.  I’m ten hours from home if I want to drive, and about four if I want to fly.  But for the most part I’m living in the hotel, which is fortunately close to a Target and a Costco, so look out tomorrow, Hell Comes to Harrisburg!

In a way this is going to be good experience learning how to do the “independent writer bit,” since I’ve got to track expenses and pay my taxes quarterly.  We writers do the same–or are suppose to, you never know–and if I get this part down pat in the next few months, I’ll be ready for it when I become a best selling novelist.  If I don’t, it’s the pen for me!  I don’t expect that, because I’ve got all my work printed out for doing that stuff, and I’ve got this week and next to get my spread sheet together.

And that’s the tale.  Cassie off on a new adventure.

I’m already feeling so excited, I’m going to want to edit tonight.

Return to In Progress

It’s the end of July, and you know what that means?  It’s Juliet’s birthday.  Hey, star-crossed lovers killing themselves since 1597, the printing date of the first quarto, what could be better?  Yes, I’m aware there’s another literary character who was born today, but lets give original props where it’s deserved.

Besides, we all know the kid born yesterday is the real Chosen One . . .

Blender is proving to be great fun, and a lot of work.  You wanna build a road or paths, it’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of things that one needs to do to get these things laid out and looking right.  Already this morning I’ve canned a path twice because it ended up looking like a hot mess.  I’ll return to it later, for now I am blogging, and the twenty minutes or so it’s taking me to build this thing is twenty minutes I’m not writing.

Not that what I’m working on isn’t somewhat writing related, but it’s for a story that’s already gone, and one that’s waiting in the wings.  Thinking about that waiting novel, there’s so much coming to mind, and the realization that there are a couple of things in need of research.  Nothing major, but I know they are things that are needed if I’m going to give this story any kind of “realism”.

But I need to slide that story to the side–at least for a few hours a day–because Productivity Returned to Hell Town tomorrow.  It’s time to publish, and that means I’ll begin editing Couples Dance tomorrow.  I’ve decided on this story for a couple of reasons.  One, it’s a short novel–about fifty-three thousand words, so one can get through it in a day or two if one so desires.  And, two, it’s horror erotica, and I’m sure there’s a few people out there–okay, more than a few–who might just enjoy sexy horror.  Or is it horrific sex?  I’ll leave that up to the readers.

Couples Dance was the story that taught me not to be afraid to write things that will come across as over-the-top unusual for your readers.  There were many times when I was writing this story that I felt like stopping because I’d think about what I was about to write, and my mind went, “Are you actually going to write that?  Seriously, that’s some jacked-up shit.”  Then I’d blog about how I felt about needing to write some jacked-up shit, then get to writing.

There is a Stephen King quote somewhere–damned if I can find it now–about pushing yourself to write things that you feel you aren’t ready to write, about how that’s the moment when you make yourself a better writer by going outside your comfort zone of creativity.  A lot of Couples Dance is like that.  It’s strange, it sort of becomes erotica one moment, then horror, then . . . something else.

In the end, however, it’s a story.  One that I want to publish and have available for people to pick up and read.  I may even try publishing this the traditional way–

Wouldn’t that be something different . . .

Bitter Fingers

One of the advantages of being finished with my Camp NaNo prep work is I can sit back and watch everyone else getting their acts together.  I should be used to this by now, since I’ve worked through two NaNoWriMos, and the modus is usually the same:  ask what people are going to do, throw out a few ideas you have, wonder about how you’re going to do your story, tell people you’re having issues with plot/characters/motivation, OH, DAMNDAMNDAMN!  I’m behind my wordcount, whatamigonnado?????

I know what works for me.  As I told someone the other night, I was fortunate enough to read about the writing process of others starting way back in the early 1970’s, and I adopted some of their process as nuggets to hold close to my heart.  Harlan Ellison said he never started a story until he had a title.  King and Gibson said they write every day, though Gibson has added that if he doesn’t feel there is anything to write, then he finds something else to do and doesn’t try to force the story.  Arthur Hailey would usually never write more than five hundred words in a day, but he’d spend the day editing and re-editing those words until what he had was the final draft.  Ben Bova once said that he wrote naked–okay, that one isn’t for me.

I once tried writing while semi-baked, because I was told that I could “unlock my imagination”.  What it unlocked was a bunch of crap, and I tossed the pages I’d produced right in the trash.  Guys like Hemingway and Fitzgerald might have had great success writing half in the bag, but I’ve not had much luck writing while in an altered state of mind.

I always kinda, sorta have an ending in mind when I start.  Maybe the ending I do write isn’t the one I had in mind when I started, but I had an idea about the ending before I write my first word.  In fact, I’ll usually think about a story for a week or two before I enter the title into the computer.  But if I don’t know where I’m going–per the wisdom of Dr. Issac Asimov–then I won’t know how to get there.

As for plotting . . . yes, I do a bit of plotting.  If I have something intensive to do, then I get a little more intensive with my plotting, but for the most part I do a little overview, create a quick heading, and I’m off from there.  For my upcoming novel, one of the cards I set up in Scrivener says, “Silver Threads”.  What does that mean?  I know what it means, and from that I’ll write five hundred words, maybe a thousand.  What ever it takes to get it done, will.

But that’s it as far at the plotting goes.  I know the scene in my mind, so all I need is a reminder of what is suppose to go there, and I don’t need much else.  What will I say?  I have a good idea what I’ll say, but the final form could be far different from what I’ve thought about.

What else is there to say?  Let me think about it.

I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

 

Sense of Doubt

Some days it is difficult, if not impossible, to stay positive about the work one does.  Try as one might, there are a multitude of things throughout one’s life that keep the daily struggle fresh.

Writers suffer from doubts–well, most do.  There are probably a few who sit at the computer and crank out a few hundred words, then sit back and go, “Yeah, fantastic work, I’ve got a best sell a-brewin’.”  For the rest of us who craft words into sentences, and then into stories, there have been more than a few moments where we look at a computer screen, or a piece of paper, and think, “Damn, this is total shit.  Why am I doing this again?”

I get this a lot, and I’ve talked about it more than a few times.  I’ve spoken with other writers I know, and they get into the same funks as well.  I even had one person tell me the other night they were looking at a story and the thoughts they had were, “This is shit.  I should give up.”

For the last month or so, during the lead up of the self-publication of Her Demonic Majesty, I was hit with all sorts of doubts.  Am I doing this right?  Am I doing that right?  Should I even put this sucker out?  There was a point where I was going to give up and just keep the story in the bin and submit it to a few more houses just to see if I’d get a nibble or two.

This morning, as I was laying in bed thinking about the bad dreams I’d had, I also wondered about my sense of doubt as a writer.  I thought about my current story, Fantasies in Harmonie, and Her Demonic Majesty, and wondered why I bother to write.  Then I got out of bed, my head fuzzy from the medication I took last night.  It was while I was walking from the bedroom to the computer room that I understood something:

It’s okay to think you suck.  Because that is the natural order of things for those who care.

There are all sorts of reasons why I get down on myself about my work.  It’s a struggle to get noticed, and I want so much so fast these days.  The struggle is getting old, as am I, and I want to move on.  Hell, that’s my life these days:  keep moving forward and build a new life for yourself, girl.  Story of my life, let me tell you.

But without the struggle, there isn’t a need to grow.  I’ve been there as well.  I spent thirteen years with one company and fell into the trap of not wanting to move on and do other things because the place was comfortable, it was, as I thought then, secure.  So I didn’t need to feel differently, I didn’t need to learn anything, I didn’t need to write.

In the end it was, as we say in the software biz, vaporware.  A lot of things were promised, and nothing was delivered.

It’s okay to doubt, because if you know you’re good, you’re going to doubt your skills.  You’re going to agonize over what you created.  You’re going to find yourself thinking, “This isn’t worth my time, I could be making blue glass like Mr. Heisenberg”–only you won’t because Mr. Heisenberg is a fictional character, your chemistry skills suck, and in the end you’ll blow up that fancy Jasper Country double-wide you use as a crash pad and meth lab.

Then again, at least you know your customers, which is more than I can say . . .

Wild is the Wind

For a moment I wondered if my computer was coming up this morning.  You start having these fears when your machine is looking at its seventh birthday, and all your friends have gone through three or four machines by this time.  If I’m lucky I’ll hang on this sucker for another year, then maybe get that super-tablet that I’ve had my eye on for years.

But I’m here, I’m up, and I have plans for the day.  Writing, of course:  I need to get back into my story, and there’s something special I want to work on as well.  What is it?  I’m not telling, at least not yet.  Give it a day or two, but you’ll see it.  Maybe you’ll even like it.

Speaking of the story . . . yeah, over the ten thousand mark.  That’s me, Ms. Wordy Smut.  It should just be sex and sex and sex, and kept it short and simple, but no:  I gotta tell a story.  Well, people liked my other long smut, so maybe I can get people to like this smutty smut, too.  They might even want to give me a couple a bucks in the process.

I have a guy watching me because writing and swaying back and forth as I listen to David Bowie Live From the BBC, from back in 2000.  Hope you enjoy the show, sucker, because maybe it gets better.  Enjoy your yogurt and quit staring a hole in me, ‘kay?  People, I swear.

I think I’ve finally reached some sort of point with Fantasies in Harmonie, where I feel like I have to write this now.  I go through the strangest feelings about my works at time, and this has been one of them.  Maybe it’s the writing late at night, maybe it’s finally using Scrivener in full screen mode–which I highly recommend–maybe it’s I’m finally kicking through this depression I’ve been in for the last month.  Whatever it has been, when I’m writing I love writing.  The distractions are becoming fewer, and I’m really getting into the scenes I’m creating.  It could be due to the story finally taking off, so I crank through another ten thousand words, get to the end, and get a cover while I’m editing this sucker.  Push it out, put it up, have it ready for the end of July so people can have a little excitement as they flow into fall.  I aims to please.

There remains what comes next.  It’s always about what comes next these days.  Get into the wind and go with it, and don’t stop flying just because you found a place where you can relax for a bit and enjoy the sights.  Somewhere down the jet stream you’re going to find something new and exciting, so finish up your thing and get wild with the wind, because if you’re good, if you’re right, you can keep flying the wind forever.  Or at least until you get too old to fly.

Then what do you do?

Screw it.  You keep flying.  And tell the stories of when you touch down.

 

Onward to the Lost Planet

Yesterday I wasn’t in the mood to write.  Yes, I know:  it always seems as if I’m in the mood to write, but that’s not always true.  Yesterday was one of those days when the words were stuck in the back of my mind, and the urge to get them out on a page was ranking somewhere below scrubbing the sleep from my eyes.

It happens.  You get off somewhere in the ether, you find your mind wandering to other things, other stories, and the urge to write sort of vanishes.  With the things that have been happening to me the last couple of weeks I don’t find it all that unusual that getting back into my stories has been a bit difficult.

I sort of found myself putting around, therefore, and when I came time to get into Fantasies in Harmonie, it was a tough slog.  Write a little, then a distraction.  Write a little, then I’d see something shiny.  Write a little, then think of another story to work on.

On and on, into the night it went.

Here’s the thing, thought:  I kept writing.  Though I didn’t feel like writing, I kept at the story.  I’d do a paragraph, then something else for a few minutes, then back in to do two or three paragraphs.  Though there wasn’t any grand “Write Like a Madwoman for Hours” feel, it kept going–

Until I finally reached a point where I said, “It’s late, and this seems like a good place to stop the story.”  Once I checked out what I’d written for the night, the final word count was almost twelve hundred words.  As I told some people later, it wasn’t bad for someone who wasn’t in the mood to write.

I want to get back into the swing of writing like I mean it.  Sure, it sounds like I’m working hard, but the last year has seen me struggling through my writing.  A year of steady writing, and it seems like I have to kick myself in the butt to get it going.  I could point to several things happening in my life that make it that way, but a big part is that I’m wanting a lot, and I’m not getting there the way I want to get there.  I want it all, and I want it now.

I’m being impatient.

I’m looking for that lost planet, the one called Success, the one that says, “Okay, you can write, and you can even enjoy it, and you can spend the rest of your life doing it, and you won’t have to worry about editors and ISBNs and publication platforms.  We gotcha covered, chickie.”  And I get up in the morning and pull up my Scrivener files, and I drink my coffee and look over what it is I want to do for the day–

And I write.

That planet is out there; I just have to find the place.  It would help if my ship were ready to go–

Maybe I should write on up.