A blogging platform

I’m tired. I’ve got stuff going on in my daily life that provides a great excuse for being tired, so it’s okay, but all the same, I’m tired.

I’m managing to get my work done. I don’t do as many fun things with the handy small child as I used to when I had more free time, but he hasn’t complained. He may not have noticed. He works hard on his art.

And I’m feeling more threatened by the current political situation than I have since I grew up in the 80s on a military base. And the economy is hurting too many people I’m very close to, in too many ways. And I’m seeing dreams ground underfoot.

And I have to keep writing, because what else have I got? What else can I do?

And it’s time to blog again.

But I’m tired. And I don’t know what to say that’s positive, interesting, and instructional, and not a rehash of places I’ve already spent a lot of time.

So, let’s talk about how authors are supposed to blog as part of building their audience. I’m not good at it and I’ve been honest about that from the beginning. The only way I started this blog was by knowing, at the time, that nobody was reading it. I can write interesting characters, and I understand the idea of making myself into a character and turning my life into an entertaining story.  But all the interesting stuff in my day-to-day life happens around the handy small child, or inside my head. In the stories in my head, specifically.

This is what I think: that if I need to spend time manufacturing content for people to read on the internet, I might as well make that content fictional.

I mean, I like writing posts when I have something to say. Explaining how I do something, sharing something I’ve learned, commenting on an ongoing event. I also like writing posts when I want to rant, but I do less of that these days. But you can consider this a rant, if you like. A quiet, tired rant.

The internet is full of blogs. The writing blogosphere is full of blogs of a certain nature, blogs written by writers talking about writing, passing around advice on the best ways to succeed. It’s odd. Aspiring food bloggers don’t write about how you need to have a food blog in order to be a successful cook. You do, of course, need to cook– and writers need to write.  But I’m not sure how beneficial dutifully writing little nonfiction articles is to the business of crafting good fiction. And I’m not sure how helpful it is to selling fiction, because the people who read blogs on writing are writers, not readers.

I don’t like the popularity of the idea that you have to blog to sell fiction. I don’t like the focus put on crafting the perfect query, either. They seem equivalent to me. It might be helpful, but a lot depends on the audience and persistence and luck and patience and focusing on something that isn’t your fiction.

I saw advice somewhere that said it was easy– just cut out one of your TV shows, or get your spouse to put the handy small child to bed. And I laughed. I don’t watch TV. My spouse already bathes and tucks in the handy small child. It isn’t easy. Writing well isn’t easy, and writing great blog posts is a particular skill that doesn’t take a lot from fiction skills other than basic language arts.

I want to do my best. I don’t want to bore my audience. It’s convenient today that I had something on my mind that could carry me despite my lack of energy and general crankiness  And I certainly don’t want to lie to my audience, so it’s a grey post for a grey day. I could pepper it with exclamation marks, I suppose? And exciting questions! And list off tips you’ve probably already read before!

But instead I’ll just say:

Tomorrow’s storypost is called ‘Home is a Four Letter Word‘ and Friday’s story post is called ‘Monsters‘. And isn’t that the most interesting thing I’ve said so far?


Thank you for reading, and resharing if you have!


Mid-Book Blues

You can’t imagine how badly I don’t want to write today.

I don’t have a good reason. I don’t have other plans. I just want to spend all day in bed, intellectually if not physically. I’ve been procrastinating for hours now.

And what could it hurt, taking a day off? I’ve only had one day off in the last 34 days, after all, and that was when I went on a family outing AND had a dentist appointment. I’ve written on days I had a broken keyboard.  I’ve written on days when I had 2 hour doctor consultations eating up my normal writing slot. Surely I deserve a break?

I can think of two reasons the answer to that is ‘No way!’

One is: I have a deadline. Deadlines, even. They’re self-imposed but they matter a lot to me. I’m pretty sure I can meet the first deadline, which is only important so I can meet the second deadline. And I’m a lot less certain about the second deadline. I’ll be asking myself to do more in four months than I’ve ever done before, and if I can squeeze even an extra week of time out of the current project, that could help immensely.

The other reason is my motivation behind wanting to stay in bed all day: I’ve reached the first set of mid-book blues. It’s happened with every book I’ve written so far: somewhere near the middle of the book, I become convinced that it’s all a mess, and one of the worst atrocities ever committed to digital ink. My scenes aren’t cool enough, my dialog isn’t interesting enough, my characters are uninspired and my plot is too convoluted to be even remotely believable. Nobody sane could ever like it. It’d be better for everybody if I just gave up now.

It happens with every book. In a couple of books, the blues have won.  With my first major project, the blues actually convinced me to try to quit writing for a couple years. It didn’t last– how could it?– but it did prompt me to spend a lot of time studying storycraft in new ways. That was good, but I’d still like to return to that project someday. I found bits of it the other day and it wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it was at the time, at least on a scene-by-scene level.

What I really wonder is why this happens to me? It isn’t a function of how long I’ve spent on the project. It isn’t a desire to work on something else. It may be a little bit of jealousy– I think the current bout was partially triggered by reading praise of a few lines in another book and wondering if I had anything that awesome.  But usually reading other books while writing inspires and invigorates me as I observe new techniques and get stuffed full of good stuff. So… it can’t just be comparison.

And it might be a little of the echo chamber of constantly trying to improve my work– when I’m constantly looking for ways to make it better, that can easily become only seeing what’s wrong. But I have a supportive alpha reader who offers both constructive and positive feedback (‘needs more particle effects’). So it can’t just be the echo chamber.

And it might just be a bad mood, and it might be the part of the story I’m at, which is supposed to be scary and emotional and wrenching– and how can I write that without feeling some of it myself?

All I really know is that I have to keep writing. Because if I let myself stop, it will undo the habits I’m forming and make it so much harder to achieve my goals. Nobody can enjoy what isn’t finished, after all.

ETA: I finished my daily writing, and discovered neat little resonances between the beginning and the end of the scene. Awesome reward!


Voices in the flame

People in publishing talk a lot about voice.

Here’s my secret confession: if I have a voice in my formal writing, I can’t see it. Sometimes I get a glimpse of it, and I don’t like it. It’s too… me. Pedantic, labored, overachieving.

But I DO have a different voice– and I think quite a strong one– in my casual writing. I write for Play By Email games, and there, where I don’t worry about vulgarity, or proper sentence structure, or narrative flow from one paragraph to the next, my voice is strong. Sometimes I’ll write small snippets in response to a challenge on a blog– usually in a comment thread, nowhere that will be seen. Then my voice comes out, too.

I quite like my writing voice, when it shows up.  But I can’t seem to summon it on demand.  When I try, it hides.

Back when I used to draw regularly, the same thing happened with my art. All the work I’d do carefully would have a flavor to it I just didn’t like. The strokes of the pencil, the careful lines and the elegant shading would make me frustrated and miserable. But when I’d pick up a pen and sketch something quickly, to show somebody a thought or to make a tool for myself– those quick little ink sketches I’d love. They were imperfect, tangled, messy– but I always felt like the true spirit of what I was trying to draw shone through.

That could have just been me, I suppose. But it meant a lot that I was happy with those little pictures.

I keep thinking: oh, I should just write a paragraph right now, in my casual voice. Right now! Maybe nobody else will see a difference, but I will and I’ll like it! And then I think: but what will I write? And then I freeze up. After all, a lot of people don’t like swearing.  And it will come off sounding too contrived! And I use way too many exclamation points– even more than I do when I’m being all formal and focused. Yes, that’s the truth.

I think I have to be in a hurry to release my voice. And I’m far too nervous a writer to write blog posts and whole novels in a hurry. I have to do my best if I want to succeed!

All right, though. If anybody wants to give me a prompt, I’ll try to write at least 300 words in a comment, or a whole post, in five minutes, to see if I can unleash my voice.