Hiatus over?

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Hello all!

It’s good to be back!

I’m sorry for being gone for so long. I was mostly working on my education, so I hope you will forgive me. I am graduating from UNBC with an MA in English on May 31st!

Anyway, that’s exciting for me. But what’s exciting for you guys is that I am back to work on creative writing stuff! I am currently finishing up dev edits on Yaliana that I was supposed to finish up over a year ago. Now that it’s back on track, I will probably be able to give you an update on publication dates soon!

Not only that, check this out!

Read and Write with Pride Turns 5

I’m doing a reading event in Edmonton again! It’s the annual Read and Write with Pride happening with some great LGBTQ writers in attendence. I’m excited about that, but I still don’t know what I’m going to be reading! I’ll let everyone know closer to the date.

There are so many things I’m working on right now, but I will have time this summer to work on creative writing, and hopefully taking a gap year between MA and PhD will give me lots of time to write.

I’ll tell you more about projects as they develop!

For now, glad to see you all!

In the rut

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Hello all,

I’m here to talk about experiencing writer’s block! Woo hoo, fun times, am I right, all you writers out there?

I did write a post previously about writer’s block, and in that post, I encouraged everyone to continue writing in spite of the block. You can read it here.

Anyway, the point is, I told people to push through. I’ve been through a bit since then, and I’d like to update the post a bit.

First of all, I didn’t realize it then, but I was being a bit ableist at that point. Now, on the other side of a serious bout of depression, I know how hard it can be to write when you have no motivation to do anything at all. I also realize now that there are other mental disabilities that can also affect writing, as well as other things such as editing and getting a beta reader.

For those of you with both doctor diagnosed and self diagnosed illnesses, I hope you are feeling okay today.  If you’re self-diagnosed, I urge you to get yourself properly diagnosed and treated. I promise you, you’ll feel a lot better. Not perfect by any means, but better.

Secondly, I am experiencing writer’s block right now, and it’s so hard to keep motivated when you feel like everything you’re writing is absolute crap. I know in my head that it really isn’t crap, but I can’t help having the lingering doubt “What if it is?”

I’m still writing, very very slowly. Much more slowly than I would normally, and it’s making me feel less confident because it feels like I’m not making any progress. I’ve been keeping track obsessively of how many words I’ve been writing, and it’s not very much.

It’s very hard to keep telling yourself to keep going when all you want to do is throw in the towel. 

Some of the things I said in my past post were true. Writing is hard work, and sometimes it is boring to write some of the necessary scenes. But I do understand that it’s not easy, and at times even possible to write as much as you want, or at all.

Don’t despair, writing will return. It’s hard to be a writer and not write, but sometimes that is our reality. Keep trying to push forward, but if you can’t, don’t feel bad about it. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.

I wrote about 300 words today. It’s not much, but it’s still progress.

Epithets

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Sorry everyone, I’m going on a (hopefully) short rant about epithets and their uses.

I’m a professional writer who knows a few things about editing by this point in their career. I’m also involved in a few non-professional writing circles, and every so often, new writers have an argument about the use of epithets.

I can’t say I’m not guilty of using epithets. However, I have since learned the error of my ways and want to pass off some advice: DO NOT USE epithets in your writing.

First of all, it drives editors mad.

Remember those people that look over your work and make it infinitely better than all your previous drafts? Yeah, editors hate epithets with a burning passion and will set your manuscript on fire if you use them.

What is an epithet?

An epithet is when someone uses a descriptive phrase to refer to a character instead of either their pronoun or given name.

Example: the blond

This is the most common for some reason, because there are so many blond characters. See also: the brunet, the raven-haired (person), or the red-head. People seem to like describing people by their hair colour a lot.

But also: the (character’s profession), the taller/shorter person, the older/younger person, and the (facial expression) person.

These are just the common ones, but epithets can get somewhat ridiculous the more elaborate a writer tries to make them.

The main argument writers use for including epithets is that using the character’s given name over and over gets repetitive. The secondary argument is that when two or more people have the same pronouns, then writing a scene becomes confusing.

First of all, maybe for the writer using the same name over and over is repetitive, but trust me on this one, it’s not for the reader. The reader won’t even notice. They will, however, probably notice you using an epithet, especially if it is a particularly idiotic-sounding one.

Second, if you’re getting confused by pronouns in your writing, just use the person’s given name instead. Go through and edit the scene and change character’s pronouns to their name if there’s confusion about who the sentence is referring to. Sometimes this means you need to change some of your uses of the character’s given name back to their pronoun to make it flow better. You can do it, it just requires editing.

Why should you not use an epithet?

First of all, editing is part of a process that makes your writing more concise, and epithets are the opposite of concise. When trimming your writing down, it’s necessary to cut out anything unneeded.

Second, it makes your writing sound juvenile. Another writer can immediately tell how new a writer you are if you use epithets. Especially if you try to beef up your descriptions by using epithets to describe your character.

Lastly, it’s lazy writing and lazy editing. Just don’t do it.

There is one exception to this, and that is when you are introducing a character that doesn’t have a name yet. The description is necessary for the reader to know who you’re talking about. But you only use the epithet once, maybe twice, for that character. After that initial use, you introduce that character and give them a name.

If it’s a minor character that only appears once, they don’t require a name. If that character shows up often enough that you find yourself using an epithet repeatedly, they need a name.

And I see that this turned into a longer rant than anticipated, but if my post in any way contributes to writers cutting down on epithet use, then I don’t mind.

Don’t use epithets!

– The Dark-Haired Author

(See how silly that looks? Don’t be that writer!)

Plot Bunny Hell

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You know that feeling you get when you realize that your head is overflowing with ideas, and you already have three or four projects you need to get finished?

Of course you do. Plot bunny hell is an affliction that all writers have.

Because the pull is there, to starts a whole new adventure from scratch, because there’s a really awesome idea bubbling just below the surface. And you just know that you won’t be able to start it, because not only have you got enough on your plate, but if you DO start it, then it will collapse in on itself eventually because you haven’t done any research or outlining or even any plotting.

But it’s maddeningly there, sitting in the back of your head, eager to get out.

Curse you, plot bunnies.

Sometimes, it’s easy enough to jot down a note somewhere for later, so that you don’t forget what it was. But then, when you go back and look at the words you wrote on the page, it just doesn’t sound as amazing now that you’re reading it. Or, you don’t remember the exact context, and you’re wondering what you meant when you wrote “hawk coat.” Seriously. Where did this thought come from, and how did it coalesce into these two words that no longer make sense out of context?

I’m sorry for all of you that I’ve now made imagine all the weird things that those two words together could possibly mean. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t miniature coats for hawks OR coats made of hawks. Pretty sure.

Usually, I have some sort of advice for a solution to problems I discuss on my blog. But in this case, there are no solutions I can think of.

Really, it’s only a nuisance because you can’t bend the plot bunnies to your will and make them do as you like, which is help you write a story. But really, what a plot bunny is, in effect, is the side-effect of having a creative mind that just won’t bloody shut the hell up. Ever.

And really, you don’t have to worry, because these stray thoughts escaping are just a fraction of the creativity inside your head. Sort of like an iceberg, I suppose. Or the Lock Ness Monster.

So what I’m trying to say is, that plot bunnies are like pests that are hard to catch or kill. Maybe “plot cockroaches” is a more apt saying.

And so comes to an end this rambling post in which I pose a problem, offer absolutely no solution, and then cause you to muse on the properties of plot bunnies.

You’re welcome.

Finding time for writing

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I’ve recently been having a hard time finding time to write, as the rest of my life intervenes. I’ve been going crazy over this issue for weeks, but have started calming down, because it’s not just my problem. Lots of people in this day and age want to just write for a living, but for most, that’s not a reality.

school1I mean, for me, there’s school and trying to find a job in my field, which is a struggle for a lot of people these days. University is very demanding, especially for people who are trying to keep their GPA high enough to go on to grad school. Some people work full time jobs, or have kids to look after. It’s tough to find time to write in between all these other things we have to do. Not to mention, if you’re too stressed out or anxious, you can throw that good writing vibe out the window.

There’s nothing I’d like more than to have no other job but writing, but for an indie author, that’s not feasible. Even authors with publications with big companies can’t really make a living on their writing.

sheepmeme

This is me on the floor with a stuffed sheep on top of me.

 

So if you’re stressed out because you haven’t been writing as much as you want to be, try not to get too worked up about it. It’s a problem that a lot of writers go through.

As to how to fix the problem, everyone’s different, and some ways just won’t work for certain people. I can suggest a few, though.

thewritera) Fit writing in around all those other things when you’re in one of those in-between spaces, like when you’re waiting in a boring line-up or riding on the bus. I carry around a notebook in my bag in case some idea hits me so that I can write it down. Other options are writing it down on a tablet, or even a smartphone. Once, I was sitting in a pub waiting for my lunch to arrive and I banged out a few lines on my phone and emailed them to myself. I know, it’s nice to have all your story in one place, but writing is a messy business. Sometimes you’ve got to adapt.

b) Start a writing group with some friends. I don’t know about you, but sometimes you need someone else to talk to and bounce ideas off of. You don’t have to meet often, even once every one to two weeks. Also, if you need a little motivation or support, your friends are there for you.

c) If meeting your friends in person isn’t feasible, use the digital world to help you connect. Find a time when you’re all free and agree to write at that time. You can text by phone, Skype, IM or anything you like. What use is all this tech we’ve got if we don’t use it?

writeclubd) Going off of the last one, you can join an online group on social media. I myself follow Friday Night Writes (#WriteClub), which is a group on Twitter that helps motivate people to write, because everyone writes at the same time. The mod tweets start and stop times, alternating writing times with break times. You can even tweet them how many words you’ve written.

There are probably lots of other ways to try and fit writing in around your busy life, these are just a few. The main thing is, don’t get discouraged if you’re behind on your writing projects. It isn’t a race!

Nothing Like Author Copies

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I just received my author copies for the Damsels in Distress collection!

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This is always one of the most exciting parts of getting published, at least for me. I just like having the physical manifestation of my work. There are lots of things one can do with author copies, especially since the writer usually receives at least two copies.

I don’t know what I will do with the extra copy I received. I have a shelf dedicated to my author copies, although there are only six so far. Those ones are mine, and I sort of collect them in a dragon-esque way, like a hoard.

The fun thing about writing for a collection is that you get a physical copy of your work, and OTHER people’s work as well. I’m already anticipating reading everyone else’s stories.

I have received five different anthologies of work so far. I find a different thing to do with all of them.

Three of them are in a library of queer books in Vancouver, because I donated them. If you live in Vancouver, QMUNITY has them.

One of them is at a friend’s house, because they wanted to read all the trans and genderqueer stories in the Geek Out collection.

To be honest, that’s probably what will happen to the second one too. That’s the fun thing about being a queer author of queer books with queer friends: everyone wants to read your stuff.

Anyway, that was just me gloating over my author copies. Sorry about that, but it’s the one thing I don’t mind showing off.

Submission to a Publisher

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Okay, this is it. My post on submitting to a publisher.

Since I’ve actually only submitted to one publisher, Less Than Three Press, that’s what my post will mostly draw on for experience. Make note: my publisher is chiefly an online publisher and receives everything by email. Some big publishers require an actual, physical copy of your manuscript, a cover letter, an agent, and any number of annoying things.

Okay, so you’ve finished actually writing your story. You’ve gotten it checked over by beta readers, you’ve done revisions and several rounds of editing.

If you haven’t done all these steps, then don’t bloody submit it yet. It’s not actually done if you haven’t done these things yet. And don’t come to me and say that you’re good enough that you don’t have to do one of these steps. This is your work of art that you want other people to read and enjoy. You want to do everything that you can to make this work as best as it can possibly be. Especially do not skip editing it, because editors can tell, and they will hate you.

Okay, so now you are definitely sure that you are ready to submit it.

Right, now the first thing you do is go to the publisher’s website and make sure that you’re following all of their guidelines. If you are submitting to a collection, anthology, or a specific submission call of any sort, you should have already been here to make sure you were following thematic guidelines. If you are submitting to a romance publisher, some of them have guidelines on content. Less Than Three Press in particular does not allow any rape/non con, bestiality, tragic endings, and underage sex, etc. Make doubly sure that you have not included any of these things in your story.

Next, make sure you have the correct formatting guidelines down. These are usually very basic and easy to follow. Some of these formatting rules might require you to do yet another round of quick editing. Most changes will require nothing more than a quick “find and replace,” adding or taking out an indent, paragraphing, font change, or something equally simple.

Now you actually have to submit the thing.

Some publishers absolutely require you to have an agent. I haven’t had to use an agent for my work so far, but if the publisher says in their submission guidelines that you need one, then they’re pretty serious about it.

Okay, this is the part where you have to actually talk to the editor that is going to look over your manuscript and decide if they like your work. I know. This is the hard part. Please bring back the boring formatting, because this is terrifying.

Usually, you have to include your name, pen name (if you have one), your contact info, a summary of your work, word count, and a completed manuscript. Make sure you know the name of the person you’re sending it to, and their email. For Less Than Three Press, depending on if you’re submitting to a general call, a collection call or an anthology call, you might be sending it to a different editor.

Things you should not send to an editor because they are busy people and it will enrage them:

  1. an uncompleted manuscript
  2. an unedited manuscript
  3. ideas for a manuscript
  4. a manuscript that is already on submission to another publisher (unless the submission guidelines say that it’s okay)

 Double and triple check that you have included all the information that the submission guidelines require and that you’re sending it to the right place.

Press send.

Wait. Be patient, because the wait length for finding out if you’ve been accepted can be anywhere from weeks to months. Some publishers will send you an automated message to assure you that they received your submission.

Don’t give up! Whatever the outcome is, you made it to this step, which means you’ve come pretty far, in terms of writing.