Can you believe it’s Thursday already?
In this week’s Vlog, I’m talking headaches, epiphanies about writing process and I might be a little delirious.
The Life and Times of Whitney Drake
Can you believe it’s Thursday already?
In this week’s Vlog, I’m talking headaches, epiphanies about writing process and I might be a little delirious.
I do a lot of writing. So much that you don’t see here, and honestly I have no idea when I’ll have things to share (though if you’re willing to put up with all my goofy reblogs on Tumblr, I do share things there from time to time).
I also do a lot of reading. Fanfiction, ebooks, physical copies of fiction. I read constantly. And occasionally I help people with editing.
Over the weekend I was beta-ing a fanfic for a friend of a friend. It was good- the dialogue was sharp, no grammatical or spelling errors. But it was an alternate universe set in a coffee house, and it was clear that she didn’t know the ins and outs of a coffee house.
And world building is really important. Look at your favorite stories. Odds are the reason they’re your favorite is because you can immerse yourself in the world of the book. Harry Potter? Wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if you couldn’t feel the wonder that Harry felt visiting Diagon Alley.
A big part of it is research. If you’re creating a fantasy story or sci-fi, you get to make up the rules. But if it’s set in the real world (or the history), then you should do some research. Think about the cop shows where you watch them blatantly ignore the basics of law. How many episodes before you start wondering if anyone they arrest gets convicted when they go in front of a jury? (I’m looking at you Hawaii Five-O)
In the case of this fic, I suggested she spent the afternoon at a coffee house and try to chat with the baristas, or Google up demonstrations for how to make drinks. Because as good as her story was, the elements that she got wrong about the coffee house pulled me straight out of it.
(Yes, she did give me permission to write about this provided I didn’t mention her name)
I love research, frankly. It’s why I’ve gone to maritime museums, natural history museums to sketch bird wings (and zoos to do the same). I’ve spend countless hours in libraries, and have folders filled with notes. Don’t get me started on my bookmarks. And it’s all been worth it.
So if you’re writing fiction, do your due diligence. Your readers will thank you for it!
I’d been so good about posting daily, and then this week I dropped the ball. Only, it wasn’t quite my fault. Well, it sort of was. My body hates me.
For those new here: In January I was diagnosed with either Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis – it was too early to tell which one. So every so often I have flare-ups that send me to bed with ridiculously bad cramps. This was one of those days.
Wednesday started off well. I went for a run (more on that another time), go the kids to school and then in the afternoon- BAM! Enough pain that I was crying. Granted, I cry at a lot of things, but it takes some serious pain to produce tears.
On the plus side, I finally had the time to watch Midnight in Paris- the Woody Allen movie. It was a solid movie, and one that hit home a little- especially with my being someone who felt she was born too late. My family joked that had I been of age in the 30s, I would have had quite the singing career.
The movie itself has Owen Wilson as a writer who is trying to finish his first novel, already having a successful career in screenwriting. He’s in Paris with his fiancee and her family, who all look down on the notion of him being a novelist- since he’s already successful. His fiancee is played by Rachel McAdams, who isn’t so much the villainess. She simply doesn’t understand him, and wants a secure life with nice things. She just doesn’t want to support anything that weakens that.
But to me, it’s the most unlikeable character she’s played- because she’s the sort of person I’d hate to be in a relationship with. In fact, when the movie was finished I called TheBoy at work to thank him for not being Rachel McAdams.
Because he isn’t Inez at all. We’d been dating for years before we were married, and at the time I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. In college, I’d tried out majors in theater, anthropology with an emphasis in archaeology and computer science. None fit. While I was working full time, I started writing in my spare time (which at the time, I did have). And that felt right. When I finally told TheBoy that’s what I wanted to do, we were married with one child and another on the way. And he supported me fully. He’s always supported me in it, even when I feel like I’m going nowhere.
So thanks, TheBoy. Thanks for not being Rachel McAdams. (And for those who read this blog- thank YOU for not being Inez either. Your support means so much!)
Recently I mentioned that some people were upset with how the women of Doctor Who were being written, and placing the blame on Steven Moffat. Some went so far as to compare them against Sherlock’s Irene Adler.
I don’t agree with them, and for very specific reasons. I apologize for anyone who isn’t up to date on either Sherlock or Doctor Who- but in order to make my point, I’m going to reference it all.
On Saturday, I admitted that I used to write fanfiction, and there were other things I’d wanted to include in the post but didn’t have the space. This is one of them.
Writing is writing, no matter where you start.
Things posted by a teenager just embarking on their writing career will usually be riddled with spelling errors, unrealistic characters, and have no understanding about what an adult life actually is. If the teenage author happens to write RPF (real-person fiction, a subset of fan fiction involving the actors themselves), somehow there will be many pregnancies that occur. You get a baby! You get a baby! Everyone gets a baby!
I left an online forum when it seemed as though one actor was single handledly fathering the next generation of children with under-aged mothers. While I get the appeal of the particular actor, but it was a more than a little disturbing. And no matter what the older forum members said, these young teens all insisted that sex + love = baby. (I really hope these girls changed their minds by the time they actually started having sex)
The teenage writer’s stories usually feature Mary Sues. My definition:
A Mary Sue is a female character (though male versions do exist) added to a fanfic that is of the author’s creation. Not all original characters are Mary Sues. A Mary Sue is unique in that she usually has a name worthy of a Harlequin novel, eyes of an unusual hue (violet, white, or any color described as “unlike anything ever seen before”). She manages to become central to the plot, and possesses skills that would rival everyone from the original movie/book.
In a Harry Potter story, she is smarter than Hermoine, and also possibly be the Chosen One. Or if this is a Slytherin centric story, some family with closer ties to Voldemort than Draco’s family. Also, she’s likely an American girl. Just to make her stand out more at Hogwarts.
In Pirates, she would be more of a budding feminist than Elizabeth (who let’s admit, is a bit of a canon* Sue), better at swordfighting than Will and better in bed than Jack Sparrow, even though she’s just young and was probably a virgin when the story began.
No matter what the fandom, everyone can’t help but fall in love with her.
Lest anyone think I’m being unfair, I wrote a horrible novel with an “original plot” when I was 12 or 13. I lifted ideas from just about everything I’d read up until that point, so it’s hard for me to actually use the term original. It was set in some vague point in history that wasn’t Medieval, but wasn’t Renaissance either. Oh, I don’t know… the Disney Days of Yore, where it’s sort of Dark Ages, but nobody is dying of the plague. It was set in France, but I knew nothing about France, so it was more like what I knew from German Fairy Tales. I believe there were twins girls separated at birth- one who was rich and one who was poor. The poor girl was even the rich girl’s handmaiden and nobody noticed that they were identical. Worse yet, I gave everyone ridiculous names that I thought were clever. There was a Frenchman named Monsieur Anly. So when you wrote it out, it was M. Anly. No, no copies of this exist.
At 16, I wrote a spy short story that was not as bad, but certainly was cringe-worthy now. Being a spy story, the plot was fairly cookie cutter, but most in the genre are. Mostly it suffered from a lot of “telling” and not much “showing.” However, a teacher of mind raid the spy story and told me that I would never be a writer. Which actually led to me not wanting to pick up a pen and write for years. I told myself that I didn’t have it in me and focused on other things. (That would be when I started playing role-playing games, yes the kind with dice, and ran a game with a colossal world. I was writing, but I didn’t realize it at the time)
I’m sharing all of this, including my own horrible stories because part of writing is being able to draw from your own observations about human nature. The more you experience and the older you get, the more you have to draw from. And no, you don’t have to experience it all personally.
I knew a girl from the fanfic community who had a novel published by a real publisher by the age of 18. I was 24 and as jealous as I could possibly be about this girl’s talent. Looking back on it now, I realize that she’d spent the two years I’d known her devouring other people’s fiction- the writing of older women who understood real heartbreak. She had to have spent at least an hour a day reading other people’s work and personal journals and learning from those who were older than her. I know she spent at least five or six hours a day writing her own work. She always asked for critiques (most people posting didn’t want criticism at all) and found “beta” readers (aka editors) whose work she admired, and who she thought had points of view that could help her learn more. She wound up where she was because she worked to get there, and worked hard. She had to have spent at least 4,000 years in the time that I knew her writing- and she’d already been writing regularly for years before. I remember all of us being surprised that she was only 16 when she joined the group.
So, write and read. As much as you possibly can. The more you write, the better you’ll get. I only wish that I hadn’t listened to that horrible teacher of mine and lost years to my own insecurity.
If you want your own community to join in, there are lots of writer’s communities springing up on the internet. You can find self published writers on Twitter and Google+, and I’ve seen a lot of the same love that I found back in my fandom days. It’s all there. But most importantly, write!
*Canon – Canon refers to the original material in a book, comic, television show or movie. It’s what is explicitly said. In Star Wars, it’s canon that Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star.
We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s no such thing as bad PR.” And in some fields, it’s true. In the entertainment industry, a negative news story is less likely to have a long term effect on someone’s career. (Unless you’re Lindsay Lohan, but that seems to be more of an addiction problem than a PR issue)
But for everyone else, it’s a lie.
Bad PR exists.
Not that long ago, Jenny Lawson (better known to you as The Bloggess) got an email pitching her pantyhose as a style fad (as seen on the Kardashians!) so she did as she always does, replied with a link to a page that explains that she’s not interested and includes a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper. A VP of the PR company hit reply all (which of course means that she got to see it) while calling her an f*cking bitch and The Bloggess shared it. He had to shut down his Twitter account and illustrated what we all thought was the worse part of the PR field.
And this week, Penny Arcade shared an email thread between a customer and Paul of Ocean Marketing about the status of an order. The jist was that the customer had bought some during a pre-order where the delivery window had been specified as late November to early December. When that was nearing a close, he emailed to ask when the controllers were coming, since he was counting on them for Christmas. From there on, it spiraled into a customer service nightmare, where Dave wasn’t getting any answers and Paul treated him like an idiot. When Dave replied back with a fair email detailing where Ocean Marketing had failed in their response (which he forwarded to notable people in tech outlets including Penny Arcade), Paul began to thank him for all the free PR.
After Paul gloated that he’d be going to PAX East, “Gabe” aka Mike Krahulik, responded, saying that PAX was his convention and Paul then proceeded to rant about how that couldn’t be true. So Gabe posted Paul’s information. And Reddit quickly revealed that the content on his website was plagiarized from other sites (even the About Us section), and forced him to change his Twitter handle.
Paul attempted to apologize to Gabe, by saying that he didn’t know who he was and asked him to call off the internet mob. Apparently I’ve been apologizing wrong- you’re supposed to admit that you never would have done X if you only knew that your target was someone, at least according to Paul.
Of course, asking Mike/Gabe was pretty silly. There’s no real way to stop an angry mob once the torches are lit. He was fired from the account, and after being publicly shamed by most of the people he said had his back it’s unlikely he’ll work in the tech field handling PR ever again.
So why am I bringing this up? Not long ago, I saw a friend retweet an author saying that you should remember that there’s no such thing as bad PR, that even a bad review is getting your name out there. Which is half-true.
Bad PR won’t hurt you if it’s about a product (well at least if it’s a product that can’t kill you). You can always write a new book, or make something new. But if the bad PR is about you specifically? It’s not so easy to start over.
Thankfully, bad PR about yourself is easy to avoid. Don’t be a jerk. And never send off a quick response, especially if you’re annoyed. Blog comments and emails aren’t private. It only takes a moment for someone to share them, and then… you never know what’ll happen next. Maybe it’ll be ignored, but if it’s bad enough, people will share it. That’s what the internet does. It’s what Facebook and Twitter have made second nature.
From past incidents, I’ve learned that you never respond to bad reviews. It will end badly, even if you’re a published author. Especially if you’re a published author. People will think what they think, and hopefully you can learn something for your next project (or fix an error in a file, if that’s the case). But realistically, once a project is out of your hands… you’re done. Succeed where George Lucas has failed, and once something is done, even if you think a scene is weak resist the temptation to change it. (Honestly George, it doesn’t matter that technology wasn’t where you wanted it for the original Star Wars trilogy- we already love it. Stuff fussing with our memories!)
Not too long ago I blogged about expectation and rating things, a post which stemmed from reading about a self-published author who posted a missive about how to review a book on her blog. A woman who felt like you should be generous with your 5-star reviews on Amazon, especially if you know the person. And that as an author it was your job to game the review system to get your book noticed.
It’s hard, we all want to succeed- but it took that one post for a lot of the writing community to roll their eyes and say that she was giving them a bad name. Especially those who put a lot of thought into their reviews. Every explanation she had for why she had meant her post to be taken differently (as explaining the system, not saying that you’re entitled to review everything highly) just seemed like backpedaling to try to keep an annoyed mob away.My rule of thumb is that I never publish a blog post without stepping away and coming back. I usually read it out loud to help catch errors that I missed while reading it. If it’s blogging about anything that upset me, or replying to an email or comment that drives me up the wall… I do the same thing. I wait until I’ve calmed down before sharing it. Just to make sure that what I post is what I mean to say- and that I’m not asking to become the next flameworthy target. While I haven’t put a project out there yet… I know I’m going to check my reviews. But I vow to never respond to them unless I really think my response is a good reflection on me and my work. It’s just not worth it to lose my cool and my reputation.
In short, just follow Wheaton’s Law- Don’t Be a Dick. It’s amazing how far that’ll get you in life.
Oddly, I had this post schedule to go up later today. And I saw this post tweeted by a woman who reviews books. Yes, it’s an author who saw a negative review of her book and decided to go off on anyone who gives negative reviews.
Remember, reviews are not for the person who created it. They are for the people who might want to buy. They’re based on an opinion, and if you can glean something useful… fine. If something didn’t ring true to the reader, then it didn’t- it doesn’t matter if it was based off your own life. Going off on a rant and calling someone beyotch for not enjoying your book in a rant that doesn’t contain any paragraph breaks isn’t going to help you sell your next book. (Update: She felt bad about calling the reviewer beyotch, but not so much about insisting that negative reviews don’t serve a purpose other than to hurt authors’ feelings. Then she started deleting comments, and now she’s deleted the original post, which is why I’m linking to a screenccap rather than the blog post. Update to Update: Apparently she deleted the first version, but I believe it’s cached in Google already)
So really, if you can find a way to reply with dignity, do it. If not, just move on!
Here I am, trying to write a blog post that has nothing to do with my kids or being sick.
I’ve started a few posts, but as I start typing, I hear her purr in the background. One of the characters from the thing I shouldn’t be writing at all, my literary equivalent of a little bit of candy after dinner.
While I’ve always written (including a truly atrocious spy novella in high school), I spent almost a decade running an online Star Wars RPG- which was a huge writing jam between friends. While I guided some of the adventures, I also got to play a chunk of characters. It was fun.
The game ended (mid-adventure, unfortunately) and now I’m left a character that simply will not go away. I’ll write one thing, and there she is- whispering in my ear and stroking my arm (at least that’s what she’d be doing if she was a real person). “You know you’d be having more fun if you write me.”
Usually she’s right.
But sometimes I want to write about serious things and struggle to make sure I’m getting those posts right. And there she is, lurking in the back of my mind. Trying to distract me.
I suppose the point of this post is to wonder if I’m alone in this. I’m off to feed the muse tonight instead of the novel. If I can finish her story, maybe she’ll leave me alone.
Oh who am I kidding- another character from another project will probably just take her place.
Day 15 of NaBloPoMo
My name is Whitney, and I’m a procrastinator. (Hi, Whitney)
Time and time again, I start an ambitious project with a deadline and then keep convincing myself I still have time to finish it. This time, it’s two Halloween costumes that I have to have finished by Saturday afternoon. So far I’ve copied the pattern for the shirt (I spent $12 on that pattern, and it looks like one I’ll be able to use as they get older. So I’m not going to chop it up when they’re tiny). Tonight I’ll make the pattern for their vests and pants. (Want to make your own patterns? For $5 you can buy a roll of art paper at Michael’s in their kids’ section. It’s meant for easels, and only 18″ wide, but it’s a snap to tape parts together and it’s sturdy enough that it won’t accidentally tear like the regular pattern.
Thankfully, I’m not new to sewing. Once I get everything cut, assembling it will be a snap.
The downside of putting off buying everything for sewing costumes is that in the end, you’re stuck with buying what will work- at a price that’s usually higher. Had I started to assemble these during the summer like I’d originally planned, I could have looked for fabric in Downtown LA where it’s unbelievably cheap. Heck, I would have had time to distress them so they didn’t look brand new.
Oh well, lesson learned. (While I put off my original costume concept- which was going to be Sheik from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I do have enough bits and pieces to actually pull together an awesome Halloween costume. I think you’ll like it.)
Though I do have a bit of good news to report. I’m on day 6 of my first week of the 250 word challenge, in which I write 250 words, six days a week. If you look at the bar to the right, you’ll see that I’ve already exceeded it- and I still have one more day in the week. It resets on Friday. So at least there’s something I’m not behind on.
Another bit of good news? The Oldest Kidlet actually slept through the entire night. You’d think this is crazy for a 6 year old, but for the last year he’s woken up at least once a night for almost the entire year. Heck, I might use the humidifier every damn night if it helps him hit a deeper sleep.
Here’s to hoping that everyone out there has a productive and happy Wednesday.
Any procrastinators out there? Anyone recovered from this maddening curse? Feel free to commiserate or share your tips.
While browsing through my G+ circles, I found a link to this page- the Inkygirl Wordcount Challenge. With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, she created a slightly different challenge to help motivate people to keep up with their writing.
Instead of 50,000 words over the span of the month of November, she set up a challenge where you can pick a daily wordcount that you’ll accomplish six times a week. That way you can still have a rough day or a busy day during the week and it won’t tank your confidence.
There were three flavors of the challenge. 250 words, 500 words, or 1000 words. Since I’m still having problems getting myself writing something regularly (other than blog post I don’t publish), I thought I’d choose 250 words and start from there. After keeping that milestone for a few weeks I’ll try to bump myself up to 500, and then keep going until I hit 1,000. I have no time limits on how long it’ll take me to get there. But I intend to make this a reality.
So what counts?
I’m not going to count blog posts. This blog, I update out of love. As far as word counts go, this will be strictly fiction.
So there you have it, Universe. I’m doing my best to make this work.
I haven’t had a lot to say, Internet. Actually, that isn’t true. In some cases, I’ve had so much to say that I’ve been trying to edit it back into coherence. In others, I’ve simply been enjoying quiet moments in my life.
Well, as quiet as things can be with a 5 year old and a now 4 year old.
That’s right. The Little Kidlet turned four this week. In his preschool class, they gave him a little crown that he’s been proudly wearing or carrying around the house this week. If I can’t get it away from him, I predict it’ll disintegrate by next week.
His preschool also had their Pumpkin Patch day. They bring in pumpkins for all the kids, who get to go out and pick them out from the wood chip filled playground. The teachers then put tape with the the kids’ names on them so that they get the pumpkin they chose. Last year, the Oldest Kidlet’s teacher even snapped a picture of him holding his!
Little kids with pumpkins are hilarious. The Little Kidlet wanted so badly to carry his. I had to convince him that it was awfully heavy. I even had to buckle it into his brother’s empty car seat just so he’d be satisfied it was safe.
The Oldest Kidlet’s been busy with school. He is still as much in love with school as he was that first week, if not more. You see, he’s competitive. I have no idea where he gets it from.* He got his name up on the wall for recognizing all his upper and lower case letters. While he knew the standard alphabet, he was getting tripped up by the sort of g you see in some typefaces (not this one), since they throw in that version of g as well as the old fashioned a. For doing this, he also got a small storybook and two pencils.
He now has his mind set on being the first in the class to be able to write or recognize the numbers 1-30 (I’m honestly not sure which). His teacher tells me that he’ll be the first, and pointed out that he’s certainly focused on it. Which is true. He walks around looking at his chart of numbers 1-100, and just keeps reciting his numbers. He wants that star.
What he isn’t sure that he wants? Well, he isn’t sure about going to the birthday party of a girl in his class. I’m still not sure if it’s the fact that it’s a birthday party and there’ll be people he doesn’t know- or if his hesitation is solely because it’s a girl’s party and more importantly, a girl he likes.
Now, I should get back to my WIP. Not the novel I should be working on, but a nagging loose thread from something I’d written previously. Here’s to hoping that once that’s out of the way, things get a little settled around here.
*Okay, he gets it from me. I’m so competitive that even Mario Party games on the N64 would end with me shouting “Suck it” to anyone I beat. Or vowing to break up with TheBoy because he kept sniping me in multiplayer with that damn gun that could shoot through walls from Perfect Dark. I am so competitive that my mom’s backyard is filled with the little peg people from the Game of Life because I threw them out my sister’s window. (I’m getting better about it, I swear!)