Binge & Purge

Oh man you guys, I finished my draft. Holy shit. Hot damn. It’s done. It’s absolute trash, but it’s done. (I’m kidding, I really love some parts. Just the last 1/3 or so kinda went to shit because I was so tired of writing it I just wanted the suffering to end)

The process of writing this draft has made me realize that I operate in a series of binges and purges. Intakes and outputs.

Since the end of April, I’ve been writing this draft. So for two months, I’ve been purging. I’ve been on “output” mode. I’ve read one book in that time. I haven’t watched any TV or played any video games, I’ve watched maybe three movies, and I’ve been listening to the same handful of bands on loop until I hate them. I’ve purchased SO MANY BOOKS in the past two months, but I haven’t read a word of them. I’ve been getting anxious because I want to do other things, but I just couldn’t stop writing. Some people might advise “take a break and do some of the other things!” but if I did other things, I would be anxious because I wasn’t writing.

It’s a vicious cycle.

When I wrote the last word of this draft, I sat staring at it for a minute, thinking, “Well… I’m not happy with this ending, but this is the ending. I have no further ideas for this draft. I have written all of the ideas. I guess… that’s it. It’s done.”

It’s like stumbling out of a desert into a lush field of wildflowers. I’M DONE. I’M FREE! SO MANY OPTIONS FOR HOW TO SPEND MY TIME! SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES! SO MANY THINGS TO TRY. I CAN FINALLY RELAX!

So I will now roll around in the wildflowers for a while. It’s binge time. I will read some books. I will watch some movies. Maybe I’ll finally finish Yuri on Ice. I will load my brain up with SO MUCH STUFF after draining it clean of ideas with the single-minded focus I’ve had on my current WIP. I need to refresh my brain. I need to intake. I will devour all the media. All the ideas I can access. I will do new research. I will spend time outside.

I have declared on Twitter that I will take two weeks off from writing. That’s hilarious and untrue, but I will take at least two weeks off from this particular draft. I have a short story that needs to be revised and sent out to publishers. I had people beta read it for me a month ago and haven’t read their feedback yet because I didn’t want to split my focus off my novel draft. I have another short story that needs to be revised and sent to betas. I still have my NaNoWriMo novel from last year waiting to be revised.

But I am taking time off. I need to regroup. Maybe I won’t take two weeks off, but I’ve accumulated a seriously large number of books I need to read, so I’ll be starting on those. Plus there are a few authors I’ve befriended online and I’d like to read every book they’ve ever written. Plus I have things to beta.

How do you guys split up your “intake” vs. your “output” when it comes to writing? Do you intake and output a bit every day? Every week? Or are you a crazy person like me and you split intake/output periods over months? Leave me a comment!

Rainbow Snippets – 5/6/17 – Trustfall

Hello friends! I’m still plugging away at this draft. It is so difficult. I love the characters but I feel like I have no idea where I’m going. I think I’m trying to fit too much into one book. And you know what that means? I MIGHT HAVE TO WRITE A SEQUEL. But I’m not even done with the first draft of the first book! Gah!!! (I certainly love these boys enough to write a sequel with them, though. They’re a lot of fun)

Anyway, picking up where we left off last week (well I skipped like one line for the sake of keeping this at 6… or 7).  Saul and Alex have just met, they’ve realized Saul’s sister Hannah has been talking both of them up to each other, and… here we are.




“Can you grab me a pen and paper?” I asked. If nothing else, he was cute, and it had been a long, long time since I’d been alone with a cute guy. Hannah was certain he was single, and I was reasonably certain he was gay. He stepped away, back to the desk, and grabbed a pen and a sheet of blank paper from the printer. “Write this down,” I said, when he offered them to me. I dictated my phone number and home address. “Tomorrow night at 6, if you’re free.”




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Writing Process, Step Three – Writing

Ah, finally, the vital step. Writing. The first two steps are the fun and exciting steps. Then we get to writing. Writing is hard. Writing is the painful, strenuous, miserable, hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing, fist-shaking, curse-shouting step. Writing is the step where everything can fall apart.

But it is the most important step in the writing process. You can get all the ideas in the world, develop them, plot them out, profile your characters, but if you can’t park your ass in a chair and put words on the page, then there’s no point.

For me, a typical night of writing looks like this:

Start up laptop. Open Word. Open Twitter. Open YouTube (FOR MUSIC!). Check all notifications on Twitter. Interact with some people on Twitter. Start trading gifs of Jensen Ackles and Tom Hiddleston back and forth with people on Twitter. Realize you haven’t started writing yet. Open appropriate document. Check Twitter again. Tell Twitter friends it is time for you to focus on writing. Open Facebook. Check Facebook notifications. Maybe interact with some people on Facebook. Realize you don’t have a blog post written for this week yet. Open WordPress. Brainstorm for blog post. Check Twitter again. By now it is 11pm. Realize you still haven’t written anything. Start writing. Fall asleep on laptop 20 minutes later. Wake up at 3am, delete the 3 pages of the letter s you wrote while asleep, put laptop away.

next bestseller
Actual post from my Facebook a couple years ago. This is an ongoing trend.

It is a true miracle I ever accomplish anything.

…okay in all seriousness though, I have a pretty good writing routine down. I write every day. It took me years to develop this habit, and I did not develop it because all the writer advice websites say “write every day.” I developed it largely because of anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. I used to have trouble getting to sleep at night, until I developed a habitual nightly writing routine. I’ve written previously about psychologically manipulating yourself to get results. This is another way. Attach writing to something in your routine. For me, I attached it to going to bed. I would go to bed, get out my laptop, and write. At first I did this because I had trouble getting to sleep, and writing gave me something to focus on besides every embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in the past 25 years, but before long, I did it because it’s just… what I do. It keeps my mind occupied so I don’t lie awake brooding, and it keeps me productive. Even if I go to bed at midnight and have to be up for work at 6:30, I get out my laptop (usually in these cases, I just fall asleep on my keyboard two minutes later, but if I *didn’t* get out my laptop, I wouldn’t fall asleep). I do write during the day on weekends sometimes, but for me, writing is a “once you start you will not stop” habit. If I start writing in the morning, all other activities for the day are gone from my mind. Writing at night also saves me from having to stop for any reason. I’m in bed. The day is done. Leave me alone. I can write until I can’t write anymore.

Anyway, each night without fail, I go to bed around 8, get out my laptop, and write. If I go a day or two without doing this, I get anxious. I can’t focus. I get irritable. All I can think about is going home and writing.

So let’s face it: I’m addicted to writing. And I think that’s how it should be. Writing should be something you enjoy. Even in all its teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling glory, you should enjoy it. If you enjoy it, you should make time for it in your life. If you do not enjoy it, then why are you doing it?

I try not to get preachy or spew out advice about “how to write” or “how to be a writer” or any of that. Everyone’s routine is different, everyone’s process is different, everyone’s life is different. But I do think that it is important to develop a routine if you want to see any results. Just like with any skill or art, you have to put a lot into it if you want to get anything out of it. You have to practice in order to get better. Whether it’s 1000 words a day, a page, a paragraph, a sentence–whatever it is, do it consistently. Writing is not a spectator sport. You can’t read a book about how to write, sit down, and immediately tap out beautiful sentences, vivid imagery, and realistic characters. I have been writing since I was a tiny little child (as you all know, if you saw my 500 Followers Celebration Post). I started writing “seriously” when I was 11 (thank you Dragonball Z).

In other words, I’ve been writing “seriously” for over 15 years–I have a degree in creative writing–and I still think I’m awful.

But I keep writing, because I have to, because that’s all you can do, because that’s the only way to get better, and that’s the only way the words are gonna end up on the page. You gotta sit your ass in a chair (or on the floor, on your bed, on a bench, I don’t care where you put your ass, you could even write standing up, but it’s gotta stay there), you have to suffer through that self-doubt and anxiety, you have to accept that it is NOT going to be perfect (definitely not on the first draft… probably not after 5+ revisions, either. Just accept it), and then you have to start writing. I use a laptop. Some people write on a desktop. Some people write by hand. Some people use special pens or special notebooks. Some people write at home, some people write at coffee shops. Do whatever you need to do to make it happen.

One important thing to note about my writing process is that I am a pantser. That means I don’t outline in advance. I usually know what’s going to happen like 1-2 scenes in the future, and beyond that, there’s some vague notions of what might happen. Sometimes, I hit a wall. I get through those 1-2 scenes and then…. where do I go? What do I do? HALP. HALP. HALP!
When this happens, DON’T QUIT. You may need to take a day off. You may need to do more research. Sometimes you just down have the knowledge base to generate the ideas. This happened to me recently. I had some vague notion that Something Bad Happens, but couldn’t figure out exactly what. I was up against a wall. So I talked to a friend, figured out a direction, and then did some research to figure out a plausible way for that direction to be taken. I let the ideas stew and simmer for a couple days in order to coalesce in my mind, and now I have another 2-3 scenes in mind to write. After that, I once again don’t know what will happen, but fingers are crossed the boys will tell me when I get there.

If you’re having trouble with the writing step, I have a couple things for you to read. These two pieces stuck with me the most of any “writing help” I’ve ever read:

Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” (and really, the entirety of her book Bird by Bird) changed my life when I read it in college. I never finished a novel draft before reading this piece. I kept getting stuck on the idea of perfection. I’d edit as I wrote, I’d get caught up on things, and eventually fizzle out. After I read this, I finally managed to finish a novel-length draft!)

Neil Gaiman’s NaNoWriMo pep talk If Neil Gaiman can feel horribly insecure about his own writing, even after being published and awarded and praised extensively… maybe my writing isn’t as bad as I think it is, either.

Also for fun, a conversation between George R. R. Martin and Stephen King (I haven’t watched the video, just read the article) wherein Martin expresses his own insecurities about his writing.

I also highly advise participating in NaNoWriMo. It definitely helps with developing a routine.

So to summarize… Step Three – Writing = develop a routine and be consistent. Get words on the page. They are gonna suck, and you are gonna hate them, but you can’t make them better if you never bring them into existence. Once they exist, we get to move onto Step Four – Revision!!! MY FAVORITE STEP. (Jk I hate it)

Rainbow Snippets – 4/29/17 – Trustfall

Hi everyone!

I thought up a working title for this piece! I hate it, but it’s better than just calling it “new story” all the time, so we’re going with “trustfall” since a huge part of this novel revolves around trust. I think “trust fall” is actually two words but I’m exercising creative license here and making it one.

Last week, in the first six lines of the novel, POV character Saul was “ogling” a handsome man his sister had told him about. These lines (slightly more than 6, sorry) pick up right after that.




Speaking of my sister… I glanced around, but didn’t see her. Ah well. The man I presumed to be Alex walked around the desk then to head elsewhere, and I caught him with a light touch on his forearm.

“Excuse me.”

He stopped and turned, polite smile in place. “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for my sister Hannah. Supposed to be picking her up.”

His eyebrows went up and he gave me a quick once-over, taking in my black slacks and tie. “You’re Saul?”

I wasn’t sure what to think of the surprise on his face after that once-over, but I smiled. “Someone’s been talking about me. And I’m willing to bet you’re Alex.”

An adorable reddish flush crept up his cheeks. “Guess someone’s been talking about me, too.”

“She talks a lot.”




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Writing #OwnVoices – You Are Enough

I’m asexual. I wrote about this just a couple months ago when I realized it for the first time in my 10+ years of adulthood. Since then, I have joined the #ownvoices movement by starting to write a novel with an asexual gay man as a main character.

Let me tell you: It is hard. It is really, really difficult for me, despite being asexual myself. The temptation to put these guys into a regular old sexual relationship is strong. It’d be a lot easier to write. Despite not being sexually motivated or driven myself, writing sex is natural because it is everywhere, and I know it is expected, and a lot of readers live for the sex scenes.

Writing anything is hard. Writing gay men as a straight[ish] female[ish…person] is hard. Writing romance with a character who is not driven by sexual desire is a hard. Put all this together and add a heaping dose of crippling self-doubt on top, and it’s a miracle I’ve put a single word on the page.

“Self doubt?” you say. “Why are you drowning in self doubt? This should be easy. You’re asexual. You’re writing an asexual character. That’s like being a writer and writing about a writer. Right?”

Except I only realized I’m asexual like two months ago, and only decided to apply/embrace the label several weeks later. All in all, I’ve considered myself a part of the asexual community for like, maybe 5 weeks now. So who the fuck am I to write an asexual character? I have no idea what I’m talking about. Right? What if I accidentally write bad rep? Even though I am ace, and I have been ace forever, I could easily write something that offends someone else. I could write it wrong. The internet is a terrifying place. There are a lot of outspoken, aggressive people on every side of every issue (especially on Twitter, where I spend most of my time). What if I write this asexual character based on my own personal feelings and experiences, and someone comes along and says “He’s not asexual.”

But he’s based on me! And I am! Does that mean I’m not?!

What if I write this #ownvoices book and someone comes along and shits on me for it because I’m not repping enough? I’m not outspoken enough? I’m not… I don’t know what, but what if I’m doing it wrong?

TAKING RISKS IS TERRIFYING.

Somebody save me.

Do you see my issue?

And then, while I was musing over this hang-up I’m struggling with, here came Ana Mardoll with a miraculously well-time tweet thread:

If you could just pardon me for a moment, I’ll be in the corner, sobbing.

misha crying

Okay. Better now.

So this is what it boils down to, kids: You are enough, and the world needs your voice. No one is more enough-y than you. No one can write a marginalized character better than a marginalized person, and no one can tell you that your feelings and experiences disqualify you for the group you feel you belong to. There has been a lot of hate flying around lately–transphobia and biphobia, erasure of all sorts. There is no better time than now for writing #ownvoices, and there is no better person than you.

So I’m going to go on writing my asexual gay man, and if he wants to have sex, he will. And if he doesn’t, he won’t. He’ll find his boyfriend attractive, he will be infatuated and in love and make flirty comments and sexual jokes, and if anyone reads about him someday and says that his relationship is unrealistic, I’ll give them a great big middle finger, because I am an asexual person, and I have sex, get crushes, flirt, and make a hell of a lot of sexual jokes. Those things do not disqualify me from the a-spec. I am asexual enough to write an asexual character, even if I just realized it a few weeks ago. It’s my identity and no one will take it away from me.

(If you want snippets and lines from Alex and his asexual D/s adventures, you can follow me on Twitter. I post quite frequently.)

Rainbow Snippets 4/22/17 – New Story!

Hi everyone! I missed the last couple weeks of snippetting due to, well, frankly, a horrible period of self-doubt.

I started a new novel at the beginning of April, and it involves BDSM, which is something I don’t have much experience with. And one of the MCs is asexual, which is something I do have personal experience with, but that’s making it oddly more difficult to write because it’s personal.

Anyway, it took me a few weeks to decide that I don’t hate it and I’m fairly sure I’m going to finish it at this point (29,000 words later…), so I’ll start sharing. I don’t even have a working title yet. Goodness. These are the opening six lines.




I spotted Alex immediately based on Hannah’s description. Tall, with light brown hair styled in that “just woke up” intentional mess. Or maybe it was actually just a mess. A purple t-shirt and track pants did nothing to disguise his impressive musculature. As he chatted with a woman at the desk, his smile was quick and frequent. Yeah, I could see why my sister had wanted me to come ogle him.




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

“Write What You Know”

There’s loads of writing advice batted at writers, packaged down into short, easy absolutes: Show don’t tell. Don’t use adverbs. Write drunk, edit sober. Never use semicolons. Don’t use “very.” And, of course, “write what you know.”

Let me tell you something about these hackneyed tidbits of “advice”: they are often misinterpreted. I believe the most common interpretation of “write what you know” is  “write about your own life”. That can be very discouraging, because the average person does not lead a novel-worthy life–if I went with this interpretation, I would write about cats, dogs, gardening, writing, and libraries.

A more accurate tidbit of advice would be “use what you know” or “start with what you know.” No where in that four-word writing quip does it say “write ONLY what you know.”

Here’s the thing: You know a lot more than you think you do. You know pain, you know loss, you know anger, joy, happiness, confusion, stress. You know friendship and family, you know hunger and thirst, you know what it’s like to want something you cannot acquire.

That’s your base. Emotion is vital for any story. Maybe you’ve never had to watch your entire village get slaughtered or decide to let one person die to save twenty, but you have experienced strong emotions. Use those.

And here’s another fantastic thing about “what you know”: you can actively decide to change what you know. If you don’t know about something, find out. Do Your Goddamn Research.

but its hard

Yes, there is such a thing as “creative liberty” and “author’s prerogative.” These are especially pertinent in scifi and fantasy. When you start engaging magic and setting things 500 years in the future on another planet, creative liberty and author’s prerogative become all the more powerful.

BUT

You have to have truth and fact and reality at the core before you can take liberties. There has to be a seed of relatable knowledge there to help you create the beautiful sprout of a novel you plan to write. Your characters should express true, believable emotions.

There’s a highly pertinent quote I’ve seen credited to Pablo Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” This applies to “write what you know” as well. Learn the facts like an expert so you can bend them for your novel.

But you have to start with what you know and be realistic. You have to start with that basis of truth, that honest emotion or basic fact. If you are writing something completely outside your realm of experience, sprinkle in pieces of what you know to lend a feeling of authenticity to your story–for example, I spent four years in college, so if I include a college campus as a setting, or a college professor as a character, I have plenty of knowledge I can use. Maybe the college campus is actually a huge summoning circle for the forces of evil, or the college professor is an alien. I don’t know anything about that from experience–but I do know the basics of dorm life, campus events, student attire, the kinds of conversation you might overhear on a campus, etc, and I can use that basis as a springboard for the rest of my idea to give it an authentic feel despite being about something utterly outside my realm of experience.

If you write an MC who has been raped or abused, who is instantly cured by falling in love with someone, you clearly have not put yourself in this MC’s position and bothered to lay down that foundation of truth, the kernel of realism from which your fiction can grow.

If you write a scifi novel and I read it and think, “Okay, this person has clearly never watched or read ANY scifi in their goddamn life,” then you’re doing something wrong.

No one expects you to become an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics overnight, but you should be doing research. You should have a list of resources you’ve consulted that you can go back to if you feel uncertain at any point. You should feel knowledgeable enough that if someone came to you and said, “Can you give me the basics on this topic?” you could spout off some knowledge and point them in the direction of some articles that you found helpful.

A writer’s job is to take threads of reality and weave them into something interesting, exciting, and entertaining. What you know–through research and experience–gives you the thread you need for your beautiful tapestry, but thread alone can’t make art. If you only “write what you know,” you’re basically just taking all those threads and hanging them up to flap in the breeze. Everyone will look at them and say “Huh, yeah, that’s thread all right.” If you don’t “write what you know” at all, you’re basically trying to weave a tapestry out of pure imagination. Everyone will look at your tapestry and go, “…oh. It’s uh… Very… uh, not really real.”

You have to use imagination AND thread to make a tapestry. What you know and what you don’t. “Write what you know” is good advice, as long as you know how to interpret it.

tapestries

For some other perspectives on this misunderstood piece of writing advice, check out The Most Misunderstood Piece of Good Advice Ever and Write What You Know – Helpful Advice or Idle Cliche?

What do you guys think? Is this much-repeated advice actually any good? What other frequently-uttered writing advice do you think we’re all interpreting wrong?