Tag Archives: writing

and now my tale is told

So Sword and Star – the final book in the Root Code trilogy (by the way, it honestly continues to be somewhat frustrating to have a trilogy split between two different publishers) – has been out for a month now, and it’s kind of interesting to look back at its trajectory and its placswordandstar_1200x1800hre in my head now.

Some of you might recall that this book wasn’t even supposed to happen. Neither it nor book two – Fall and Rising – was supposed to happen. Or at least for a long time the odds did not look good. F&R was already written when I had to start shopping it around to other publishers, but that’s a far cry from a book “happening” as far as I’m concerned, because an MS sitting on your hard drive is not on the same level as something that people can actually exchange for-real money for. I had one book in limbo, one book only existent in rough form in my head, and for a while I was pretty certain nothing would ever come of both unless I caved and self-published. Which, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t want to do.

Then they both happened, and that was frankly a little difficult to deal with, even with the relief and the excitement. Because I had become so sure I was never going back to that part of that universe. Then very FallAndRising_500x750suddenly I was tossed back in and immersed in it for months.

Now it’s all done. It’s over. I might return to that universe in another book, but it won’t be the same, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever deal with these protagonists again (and my villain(s) won’t be dealt with either, because… Well, if you read the dang thing you’ll see).

Something that did happen after the immersion and the editing was over – which has happened to me more than once but which remains profoundly strange and will probably always remain so – is that my brain completely decoupled. Abruptly it was like the book wasn’t mine anymore. It felt like it had been written by someone else. I look back over it – which I frankly have not done for a bit (IT’S NOT THAT IT ISN’T GOOD, I THINK IT’S VERY GOOD) – and I can barely remember writing any of it. Talking about it feels like talking about something largely unconnected from me.

8870200266_3104ed4d7f_o-220x330This also happened with my Casting the Bones trilogy. To be honest, I don’t even recall a lot of the second two books right now, like a language you haven’t spoken in years.

(THOSE BOOKS ARE ALSO VERY GOOD I THINK JUST SAYING)

Interestingly, I’ve noticed that this happens way less with my fanfiction. I still experience that odd disconnection, where it feels like someone else wrote it and I don’t remember a fair amount of the production process – though some parts of it I remember very vividly – but the story itself remains much fresher and more immediate in my mind (this remains especially true with my ginormous ridiculous Walking Dead AU magnum opus, I’ll Be Yours For a Song, which I am still not over). The decoupling process is not as complete. Since returning to writing fanfiction, it’s been fascinating to contrast my very different writerly relationship with it versus my “original” stuff (I dislike the fanfiction/original dichotomy just about as much as I dislike the virtual/real one, and for similar reasons). Again, I think it has nothing to do with quality. It’s about how the work is produced and what parts of Writer Brain are engaged.

I guess what I’m saying here – among other half-coherent things – is that there is a particular feeling of Overness that I seem to experience with the final endings of books that I don’t experience with anything else. In a way it’s uncomfortable, because I feel like I should feel more of a deep connection to something I wrote. But on the other hand I think it makes sense. Working on a book is draining; working on a series is even more so. I think that on a very deep level, my Writer Brain needed to be well and truly done with that story. It couldn’t leave the universe in half-measures. It had to let go completely.

Which I guess is healthy? I hope so, anyway.

Regardless, now I need to figure out what’s next.

tell me, what else should I have done?

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(Please note: there’s some mildly NSFW stuff in here. Not images, just words.)

I think should is a bad word.

My previous therapist and I talked a lot about should. It’s a word I overused and still do. It’s a word I used and use to beat myself up, to make myself feel guilty for not performing to my own standards and frankly to give the perceived standards of others way too much importance in terms of how I live my life. One of the worst things about that last is that often I’m not giving other people enough credit – they aren’t holding me to standards, at least not those. They’re not nearly as hard on me as I am on myself.

Very often the only person making me unhappy is me.

But should won’t go away. And it serves to drive me away from things that I enjoy, that I and other people find fulfilling, that I’m good at. Should tells me that doing those things is worthless and I should be ashamed of doing them, and I should keep it to myself regardless of how much they matter to me.

2015 was an especially bad year for me and should. All kinds of things happened that year that gave me wonderful new opportunities to be an asshole to myself. Probably the most perverse of these is that in 2015, I had the most remarkable writing experience of my life, and while I’ve stumblingly gone into it with individual people, I’ve been too frightened to talk in any seriously public way about it.

Because it’s not what I should write.

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Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

image by Rob Wanenchak

image by Rob Wanenchak

People love you. You need them. You can’t live without them. They help you. But in the end the only person who can make you well is you. – I’ll Be Yours For a Song

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but what kicked me into it now was two things. The death of David Bowie turned out to be a big one, and it was primarily sparked by what people were saying regarding what he personally meant to them: That he stood for the idea that it was okay to be weird and awkward and vulnerable, that outcasts have worth and value. That if you love what you do, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. And so many of my friends – and acquaintances/colleagues/whatever – are creative people and also people who have felt weird and ill-fitting for most of their lives.

Though I think a huge majority of people feel that way. I think some people are just better at faking that they don’t.

And the other thing was this post by Chuck Wendig on self-care for writers, specifically the part regarding shame.

I want to write about shame more some other time, because it’s something that I’ve been struggling with on a number of levels, and it’s been enormously difficult. But what I’ve especially been wanting to talk about is vulnerability, and being open, and not pretending to be okay.

Which I think too many of us feel like we have to do.

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Life and seconds – slowly working up the courage.

Here’s a mini-confession (and it annoys me that it feels like a confession at all, because I don’t think it should): I’ve been writing a lot of fanfiction this past year.

Like. A lot. A frankly embarrassing amount. Or anyway, I am embarrassed by it.

It’s been a rough year. This stuff has become incredibly important to me, so I want to write about it here on my writing site, but I’m very nervous, so I’m still trying to get myself together enough to do it without being convinced that everyone will conclude that I’m unprofessional for putting so much time and effort into this when I could have been writing things for which I could be paid, and they will never speak to me again and never publish my things anymore and shun me at cons.

This is silly – I hope – but I still feel that way.

However, how I tend to manage things like this is to close my eyes and jump. So soon I’ll probably go ahead and do it, and damn the consequences. The shunning and whatnot.

In the meantime, here’s a piece of the most important one, because I was just rereading it. Because.

He measured his life in weeks.

That was wrong. We divide our lives up in all kinds of ways – decades, years, months and weeks and days, and there are those few of us fortunate enough to look back and count one full century – and each incremental measurement is a form of perception, a way of knowing, but the truth is that lives are lived and should therefore be measured in seconds.

Seconds are all it takes for everything to change.

Seconds to meet someone, to speak to them. Seconds to start down a road you don’t even realize is there, seconds to get into something and have no idea what you’re getting into. Seconds to hear a voice, touch someone’s hair, skin; seconds to inhale and breathe them in. Seconds to break something open, something you’ll never be able to close. Seconds to see something and never see anything the same way again.

Seconds to look at someone and see only them, and never want to see anyone else for the rest of your life.

There’s a story – not this one, but you may know it. Death is in that story, and one day, accompanied by her brother, she does her work. Makes her rounds. She visits people, she takes their hands and leads them away, and one man gets philosophical about everything. He looks around and says that he had quite a run, didn’t he? Fifteen thousand years, in fact. That’s pretty good.

Death tells him that he got what everyone gets. He got a lifetime.

We only get one of those, and it’s wild. And it’s so precious.

Because it’s seconds long.

the earth gives forth wonders

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art by Michael Whelan

Just finished going back through The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower book 3) and trying very hard not to cry. Not because the ending itself is emotional – it ends on a rather infuriating cliffhanger, actually – but simply because this brings back everything about these books which meant so much to me at a very, very difficult time in my life.

We escape into these worlds, don’t we? But they don’t always treat us kindly. The best ones, however, become places we regret leaving and to which we long to return. The characters become friends and companions, and they can mean almost as much to us as the “real” people in our lives. We suffer with them, we mourn with them, we rejoice with them. We learn with them and hopefully we become wiser, better people. Sometimes we’re their company when they die, unseen and unfelt – perhaps their only company.

I’m reluctant to embrace any narrative which places some ideal of “humanity” above any other way of being, but I do believe that stories and storytelling are one of the most fundamental – possibly the most fundamental – things that make us who we are. Creatures who feel and love and learn and grow, who imagine. Whose existence is bound by time but which also transcends time and exists simultaneously forward and backward along a linear trajectory.

We imagine the past, we experience the present, we remember the future. We’ve always done this. It was the first form of play that ever existed, the first form of history, the first futurism.

Tell your tales in whatever form they come. Build them, maintain them, return to them. Be glad.

The world is not cyclical, not eternal or immutable, but endlessly transforms itself, and never goes back, and we can assist in that transformation.

Live on, survive, for the earth gives forth wonders. It may swallow your heart, but the wonders keep on coming. You stand before them bareheaded, shriven. What is expected of you is attention.

Your songs are your planets. Live on them but make no home there.

What you write about, you lose. What you sing, leaves you on the wings of song.

Sing against death. Command the wildness of the city.

Freedom to reject is the only freedom. Freedom to uphold is dangerous.

Life is elsewhere. Cross frontiers. Fly away.

Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Writing: practice resurrection

image courtesy of erichhh

image courtesy of erichhh

I wrote this the other day for my Tumblr but I feel like it fits here as well. So here it is.

  • Write.
  • Read.
  • Accept that your first draft will probably be shit. Accept that it can be shit. It doesn’t make you a bad writer. It makes you a writer. You’re writing.
  • Fear editing. Do not let your fear of editing stop you from editing.
  • Recognize that creativity is a muscle and becomes stronger with exercise. Don’t wait for inspiration; you screw yourself that way, because inspiration is fickle and also does not like you or support you emotionally as a person. Your brain is plastic. You can literally train it to produce words on command. It’s not necessarily easy and they aren’t necessarily going to be good words, and everyone is different. But it (probably) can be done.
  • You’re going to have periods where nothing you produce feels good. Where it all feels bad. Where you’re sure you would do the entire world a great favor by no longer producing words at all. It’s okay. It almost certainly won’t last. Try to look at it like the flu; let it run its course. If you can, keep writing anyway.
  • You’re going to have periods where you can’t write at all. Try to write anyway. Stop when it really starts to be painful and/or upsetting. See above re: flu.
  • Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to take breaks. Give yourself permission to take vacations. Eat healthy. Drink enough water. Get plenty of sleep. You’re working with your brain but your brain rides around in your body and you need to take care of one to take care of the other.
  • Don’t let things sit. They will become terrifying.
  • You will never be the writer you want to be. Ever. Probably. Regardless, get comfortable with the idea.
  • Under no circumstances should you compare yourself to other people. It kills you. *points to chest* Here.
  • Recognize that you’re going to compare yourself to other people anyway so don’t beat yourself up about it too much. You are probably going to resent other writers, great writers, who are also your friends, and you’re going to feel like a jerk. You’re not a jerk. At least, you’re not any more of a jerk than they are, because I guarantee they are doing the same thing. Very possibly at this very moment they are resenting you.
  • Focus as little as possible on what you “should” be writing. Write whatever the fuck you want to write and worry about the details later, if indeed the worrying needs to be done at all (probably it doesn’t).
  • Seek the advice of other writers. Take whatever advice they have to give with entire mounds of salt.
  • Embrace criticism. Remember that it will always hurt.
  • Embrace rejection. Remember that it will always hurt.
  • It is a sad fact that quality doesn’t always equal attention. You’ll probably write great stuff – stuff which you know for an objective fact is great, and people won’t read it. While at the same time they’re all reading and raving about something else which is frankly not very good. No, I don’t know why. People are baffling. Make your peace with that.
  • To the extent that you can, don’t write for the sake of attention. This is something else which you’ll probably do anyway; just recognize that it usually doesn’t go anywhere productive.
  • If it comes to attention? Pay attention. To everything. Writing is about the process of paying attention.
  • One of my favorite quotes is from Wendell Berry’s fantastic poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”: Listen to carrion – put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Life is temporal. Life exists and moves through time. Words and the process of producing them is the process of creating static points of meaning in that time. Things will arrive unexpectedly, from places you never regarded as productive. This is where paying attention becomes important.
  • That said, don’t take writing seriously. It’s ridiculous. It’s just a completely fucking ridiculous thing, as ridiculous as anything human beings have ever done.
  • Do it anyway.
  • Write.

2014 in Writing

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So it was a year.

It was a tough year, and that affected my writing a good bit. Last spring I found out that I was going to lose my doctoral funding – which for a variety of reasons was not handled particularly well, by them or by me. It was just… it was a sad time, guys, and it made my already-difficult relationship with my program considerably more fraught. It led to my decision to go on leave next semester and the one following. It also resulted in me being unemployed, which has been more depressing – in a clinical sense – than I expected. Especially since it’s been months and I still don’t have a job.

I find that in times like that, writing can either be a wonderful escape – in which case I’m tremendously, unusually productive – or it can suffer along with everything else, in which case being productive at all is a struggle. Except for some very up periods in terms of my cyclothymia, that’s what happened. There have been significant stretches this past year where it’s been very, very hard to write anything and where I’ve been terrified that I just can’t anymore, that I’ve done everything I can do and I’ve plateaued in terms of skill and now I’ll languish in mediocrity for the rest of what remains of my career.

Yet on paper, it was a pretty great year. And I guess I have to take paper into account in any kind of estimation I’m going to make. So here are some stats.

In 2014 I published:

  • Six short stories. A full list of these can be found here. The number kicks up to eight if you count the stories I had reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction 31 and Best Dark Fantasy and Horror of the Year – 2014.
  • One novel. Ravenfall, book 2 in the Casting the Bones trilogy. It was going to be two but Rookwar’s release has been delayed slightly. Along those lines:
  • I finished a trilogy – Casting the Bones. First trilogy I’ve ever completed. So that happened.
  • A book of essays. It’s self-published and I worked hard on it and it makes me happy when people buy it hint hint

I have no idea how many short stories I wrote – I can never keep track of that kind of thing. Nor am I sure how many I sold. Going by my “coming soon” page, it was a few. I do know that I completed three novels, one of them crashing across the finish line yesterday afternoon.

In terms of non-statistical things, in a lot of other respects it was a great year – this was my year for meeting people and making friends. In part because I did a lot of cons, at least by my standards up until now. I did MystiCon, I did WisCon, I did Readercon, I did Capclave, and then I did BarCon at World Fantasy. All of those were just so damn fun, and to everyone I met there and now consider a friend: ayyyy.

In terms of fiction I technically can’t get paid for: I crashed back into fandom in a huge way, specifically the fandom for the TV adaptation of The Walking Dead. This resulted in me writing a flurry of fanfiction in the last couple of months, all of which can be found here. I’m proud of all of it, and in fact it’s been a really interesting experience, getting back into something I mostly left behind some time ago. It’s just a very different kind of writing in a lot of ways, and in many of those ways it’s a more relaxing kind of writing, which I’ve needed very badly.

I also recorded readings of a couple of those fics, which was a lot of fun and which I’ll probably do more in the future. The two I did are here. I’m also very proud of those.

My Yuletide fic this year was “To Take Away What I Know is Mine”. It’s a piece of Uncharted fluff, post Drake’s Deception. My gift was “singularity”, a fic set in the ‘verse of the film Event Horizon and told from the perspective of the ship. I’m very pleased.

So yeah. Again, not a bad year all told. A rundown of what’s coming up – so far – in 2015 is here. In the meantime I leave you with what’s become my favorite song lately, which contains what I think is a good mood with which to look forward.