blogging, writing

The Writer’s Tag

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Hello, everyone! Yes, I am still here! Still working on two projects at the same time (yes, I’ll accept those care packages now!). And apparently this also makes tonight the perfect moment to undertake a new blog post!

Luckily I have been tagged by The Orangutan Librarian with a very appropriate topic, so I don’t have to wrack my brains for what to focus said post on! And so, here we go…

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Mostly fantasy, though my current WIP is a contemporary. I like to focus on themes of good versus evil, how do you define evil, family, friendship, world mythologies, and plenty of geek references.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was approximately very small (well, smaller than I am now). I remember taking my first stab at an actual novel in high school, and before that I tried my hand at poetry and short stories. So, at least 20 years. (That’s the closest I’ll get to admitting my actual age on this site.)

Why do you write?

Because I can’t not write. I’ve always felt the compulsion to craft the words and have them make sense and tell a story. And the idea of others getting satisfaction out of what I’ve written is pretty darn cool.

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When is the best time to write?

Usually morning (when the children are in school and less likely to bug me; and when the plans — and brains — are still fresh).

What parts of writing do you love and hate?

Loves:

  • When it all clicks. The “a-ha” moments.
  • You get a great new idea that you’re really excited to work on.
  • You craft a sentence or paragraph and realize it’s super good, and feel pride at creating it.
  • As we are presently in NaNo, NaNo.

Hates:

  • Writer’s block.
  • Children bugging while I’m trying to work.
  • Not being able to word.
  • As we are presently in NaNo, NaNo.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Usually I just step away from the project causing the issue. Taking a break often brings new perspective. (If it’s a NaNo project — heaven forbid! — stuck in the throes of block, I try to enter at least a few hundred words that day, and then do something else, like blog or read or watch TV.)

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Are you working on something at the moment?

Oh, my, yes. Completing my final edits for Volume 2, and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo 2017.

What are your writing goals this year?

To release Volume 2 prior to the onset of the holidays. To finish NaNo (hopefully to win, but mostly just to reach 50,000 words on my new WIP without my head exploding). To feel ready to tackle my next endeavors (Volume 3 and the field guide) with zest and vigor!

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community, writing

How to Survive NaNoWriMo

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Hello! Yes, I am alive! Since NaNoWriMo started 5 days ago, I have been utterly immersed in getting my word count up — while throwing in some edits for Volume 2, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about that — and therefore I am flailing (in a bad way) over here.

Well, not all bad. I’ve made it to 8,000 words so far, which is pretty good for this early in the month. My goal is to finish NaNo early, so that I can then attend more than wholeheartedly to the release of Volume 2. (Title and cover reveal coming soon!)

In the meantime, I thought I’d swing by here and give you a few more recent pictures by White Fang, and the following Guide to Surviving NaNoWriMo.

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1. Eat. Sleep. Don’t over-coffee yourself. Remember that veggies are still important this month. And protein. And water. And don’t knock 2 hours off your sleep schedule on a work/school night simply in the interest of another 500 words. You can make it up another time. Trust me.

2. If you aren’t happy with the way your current project is going, change the rules. There are lots of suggestions for how to win NaNo in less than 2 weeks and be the next rock star of the writing world. GET OVER IT. If you do manage to do this, you ARE awesome and we will recognize your achievement. If you don’t, you are STILL awesome and will be appreciated for what you did complete.

If you’re “behind” on your word count goal, don’t sweat it. Seriously. Just do what you can, when you can.

If you’re really not feeling excited about the idea you originally chose, opt out. Either start a new novel/project as soon as you can (for example, within the first few days), or alter your outline. Maybe breaking your would-be novel up into a series of short stories works better to obtain 50,000 words by the end of November?

Don’t be afraid to get creative, think outside the box, push the limits.

3. The rest of the world still exists. Remember to cut your family a little slack. Yes, make it clear to them this is a very important thing for you to do, and they need to give you time and space to at least tackle the anticipated word count for the day. But don’t totally lock yourself away from now until Thanksgiving and never engage in human contact in between.

4. Don’t stay off social media. Some NaNo participants swear by refusing to log on to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. so that they don’t get distracted from their ultimate goal. Well, I’m not one of them. While I certainly won’t spend a random 3 hours scrolling aimlessly through my feeds at the moment, I will be touching base with my community. They’re my biggest supporters! We can cheer each other on, or commiserate, share advice, let out the vague whimpers or intense screams that each day of NaNo-ing produces. We are one another’s lifeline!

5. Love yourself as a writer, no matter the outcome. If you win NaNo, you rock. If November 30th comes and you’re at 16,000 words, you rock. If your finished draft is a hot mess of epic proportions, no problem. You still have what it takes to become a polished writer who creates stories and worlds that thrill readers and make them laugh and cry and think.

When December 1st arrives, write on.

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blogging, writing

How Not To Calendar: Or, Release Date Announcement (And, No One Throw Things)

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One day…I shall learn how to create less wordy titles for blog posts… But it is not this day.

So, here’s what has happened to my schedule: I forgot to let myself be aware of its existence.

Hence, I was genuinely surprised to realize I cannot be writing/editing next Monday, as Muffin has a specialist appointment out of town. Which I knew about a month ago.

And then NaNo is starting…

And here is me, with my editing: Currently only 75% done. With the formatting yet to go.

And here is Time, to me: HAHAHAHA, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Leading to the following announcement — the projected release date of November 1st for Volume 2 will very most likely not occur. My new (more realistic) goal is to have it ready for sale around November 15th.

For those of you eagerly awaiting the next installment of The Order of the Twelve Tribes, first know that I am immensely grateful for your dedication to my little series. Believe me that I really had hoped to be moving a bit quicker on this process, but there’s just no way around it. And I want to make Volume 2 the best it can be, rather than release a manuscript I’m not completely sure about. And that takes time.

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So — and trust me, this is going to work — I will finish Volume 2 as soon as I can, complete what I can each day for NaNo, and not care if I finish NaNo or not. Depending on how well everything goes, I may decide to toss off the shackles of NaNo’s strict deadline and just conclude my draft for “How To Be A Savage” via my own reckoning of writing time.

The outcome has yet to be determined…

There will still be the Masters and Beginners book club meeting on Monday (though I may actually be a little late getting to the comments!). Please do visit this space when you’re notified of the post going up to share your thoughts with me and other readers.

And I will be at least somewhat keeping up on Twitter and Goodreads in November.

Somewhat. I’m putting my foot down about not overcommitting.

NaNoWriMo is a challenge and a joy when we conquer it. It’s a special and important thing for writers to participate in. I am proud of winning my first year (last year), but am not holding myself to that expectation again.

And I’ll admit, this is a little hard for me — because I like to push myself (yes, really, me, the autist) — the thrill of seeing the finish line come onto the horizon (not that I run, but it’s a good metaphor) is fulfilling.

But keeping my sanity is really fulfilling, too.

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Therefore, in the interest of looking more like the cat below rather than the poor cat above, this is the new plan.

And you can take it from me — knowing what’s on your calendar and sticking to it is also an ace move.

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Autism, writing

NaNo Update: Changes, Plotting, and Some Pantser-ing

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Okay, so I have decided to become a magical unicorn — with 11 days to go before NaNoWriMo begins, I changed my project.

Prior to this move, I had been suggesting to myself that I really should start on Volume 3, since my intention is to have the revisions of Volume 2 complete before November 1st.

However, we are rapidly approaching the wire, and I was not feeling it.

In the last couple of months, I have worked so hard on Volume 2 that I just didn’t want to turn into a melted puddle of disgruntled, worn out, second-guessing sequel-writing author.

This would be a very bad thing to have happen during NaNo.

My brain needs a break from focusing on a “pretty serious” novel. So I’m going to give it said break.

Instead of Volume 3, my NaNo project will be a more fun (in theory), more easygoing (hopefully), less-this-could-make-or-break-my-career novel.

I’ll be attempting a contemporary that’s part autobiography, part fiction, all about living with autism.

My working title is “How To Be A Savage.”

This comes from the fact that White Fang says hilarious things at least 17 times a week, and one of his favorite remarks lately (when he does something like eat fork food with his fingers, or kills another player in a PvP video game) is, “I’m being a savage.”

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The other major reasons I’m trying this out are as follows:

There is not enough accurate and realistic — and simultaneously compassionate — representation of autism in current fiction. It took the medical community itself long enough to understand ASD better, and now the public is taking too damn long (in my view) to catch up. We’re still too often seen as a textbook of socially dangerous symptoms, rather than as real people with a neurological condition that simply makes us different from the norm.

None of this is good. I’ve been marginalized my whole life, and I want so much better for my son. In writing a novel from a first person ASD POV, my hope is to raise not only understanding but also tolerance.

So, what does this mean for my usual style of writing? Well, setting the story in the real world — super scary, by the way — will certainly be a departure from what I’ve been concentrating on for years. No magic, no fantasy-is-actually-fact. (Though there will still be plenty of geek references; that’s never changing.)

Despite having a general premise and the bare bones of a basic outline, most of it will be coming to fruition on the page, at the moment that I sit down to type it out.

This is rather different, as I like to plot ahead of time. Does this give me nightmares? No…but I am a little nervous. Winging it is not something I usually do.

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It will also feel very memoir-ish, and may be pretty damn hard for me to write at times. In relating what it’s like to live with autism to people who may have absolutely no idea what this entails, I’ll have to be brutally honest and forthcoming. Trying to explain neurodiverse pathways, physical issues, emotional difficulties, social challenges, and the choice whether to take meds or not — all in a first person narrative — will be extremely personal.

While I don’t believe writers should always write what they know, there are instances where firsthand experience is the best for showing the perspective an outsider probably would (not even intentionally) get wrong.

So, while I am nervous, I am also excited.

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For those of you who may be unused to the idea of me writing something other than fantasy — relax, I’m sure it’s a passing phase.

For those of you who like to see authors try an idea outside of their norm — I hope this hits all the right notes.

There has been a lot of support for this announcement on Twitter, and I greatly appreciate that.

We’ll see what the next few weeks bring!

If you’d like to follow my updates on Twitter, check out my account referenced in the sidebar.

You can also follow my book reviews or the blog on Goodreads! If you look up “Daley Downing” as an author, or search for “Masters and Beginners,” you should come across me!

And if you’re also participating in NaNo and would like to add me to your buddy list, I am found there as The Invisible Moth (imagine that).

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entertainment, reading, writing

Old School Sources of Inspiration

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In the current publishing market, there seems to be a big push towards the newest, the latest, the trending. As a writer who honestly can barely keep track of the most recent software available to those in my occupation, trying to develop story ideas that are born of a magazine article from last week or a new hobby invented 72 hours ago feels overwhelming.

Sometimes I go to a restaurant and can’t even figure out what half the menu is, since I don’t get out very often, and apparently they invent new foods every few months now. Trying to make sure my characters — set in a contemporary novel, after all — keep up with all this can be intimidating, too.

Do I live in a reasonably modern environment? Yeah, obviously — here I am, blogging on a computer with interact access, and I fully comprehend all the terminology I just used. But when you’re someone who likes to immerse herself only in what she knows she likes, this means drawing on a diverse, updated wealth of source material to build my characters (and make sure they don’t all seem just like me) is pretty necessary.

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Of course, one of the major ways I get around this is to set part of my story in the world of faeries — where technology is, naturally, centered on magic and not electricity or satelites. Also, I confine my employment of slang and post-2010 pop culture references to stuff White Fang brings home, so I have a reliable expert to double check with.

This may make me sound old, but I simply don’t like a lot of the stuff “the kids” are into nowadays.

Place me in front of a fall 2017 TV guide, and I can guarantee I won’t even have heard of 75% of the shows listed. Bring up the new release page on Netflix, and I won’t even have seen trailers for 90% of those films and/or original programming. Whatever was the top of the mainstream music charts last month will have pretty much escaped my notice. Lately Jeopardy! questions about celebrities who are younger than 30 will make me stare blankly at Alex Trebek.

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The same goes for books. While some newer authors (Maggie Stiefvater, Marie Lu, Veronica Roth, William Ritter, Robert Beatty, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare) have definitely caught my attention for at least a few of their selections, I’d still much rather devote my money and most of my reading time to concrete favorites (Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling), or try indie authors that write in a style now associated with “years gone by.”

Sorry-not-sorry, I don’t see a real reason to change this about myself.

While I do think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you (ignorance is not bliss), and I’m not closed down to trying new things, I also feel there shouldn’t be any shame in admitting that I enjoy many things produced before the 21st century.

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There are some parts of my youth I have no desire to return to (long-winded, formulaic mystery novels, or ruffled sleeves, for example). But am I better for having a variety of experiences under my belt? Absolutely.

Am I glad I went — and still go — after what interests me, rather than just what’s hot right now? Oh, yes. Do I ever feel like I missed out because of deciding to skip a trend? Not really — but I also got there over time, and by doing some deep soul searching (which is not as immediately hopeful or positive as some may believe).

So I’ll be keeping to my “outdated” writing style, homages, and narrow library selections. I won’t have buyers’ remorse for running to the cinema for yet another mediocre movie, or for wasting time in front of TV shows that only set my nerves on edge.

And I’ll be just fine with that.

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family, health, writing

Hello from the Other Side…

So, this past week the Muffin and I were sick. Really sick. The sort of can’t-breathe-can’t-sleep-can’t-eat-for-coughing sick. BLEHHHHH.

It was a very, very hard week. There were times I literally could not get off the couch, or recliner, or floor. The snot was an uphill battle. The aches and chills made me fear for the safety of my joints. Sleep was a rare, precious gem.

I have not been that sick in quite some time.

Muffin did not make the process of getting better very easy. He was a massive pain in the rear. He wouldn’t nap, or blow his nose, or stop throwing a tantrum when we asked him to let us wipe up the snot. (At least he cooperated for the doctor.)

There was a lot of other crap going on, too. We were out of everything, at once. (Doesn’t that always happen, though?) The weather — thanks to recent hurricanes — was downright miserable until yesterday. Since Muffin and I weren’t sleeping well, tempers were short.

All of this combined meant that by Thursday, I was utterly exhausted.

I did manage to post a couple pre-scheduled blogs, and keep up on my social media, and even engage with others a little (in the form of comments), partly to keep my own sanity. But there was far too much else that I had to let slide.

I have packages to mail that won’t be going out until next week. Future blog posts are definitely up for debate.

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And my plan of completing the Volume 2 revisions this week went completely out the window.

And although I know there was a very good reason for it, I still feel bad.

After all, I have been trying to finish this particular story since April, and I really wanted to get all the plot holes filled up and the characters flushed out by October 1st. So that I can do NaNo if I want to. Also because there are people eagerly awaiting Volume 2. I know this for a fact, as they’ve told me. (And not to sound intensely selfish, but I am not made of a money-growing tree, and some sales would be nice.)

But after this week, I’ve begun to rethink a few things.

The concept of attempting NaNo this year feels equivalent to Frodo and Mount Doom and the One Ring. Or escaping Smaug without getting fried to a crisp. Or winning the Scorpio Races. You get the idea. I am quickly realizing that to spend my November on a brand new, timed-down-to-the-wire project would not be wise.

Last year, I was honestly really proud of myself for finishing NaNo (although my family was not supportive in the slightest after the end of week 2, and in fact became a major pain in the neck — #sorrynotsorry for saying that out loud). But this year — which I was originally expecting to be easier — is now seeming like an even greater monster.

However, I do have writing to accomplish. At least the bare bones of Volume 3 and the companion prequel to the series. And I know that having the deadline of NaNo helps inspire the discipline to create something and get it into some formation.

BUUUUT…

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When something happens like getting hit with an unexpected flu, something that is easily fixed in the grand scale of things, and yet in the moment completely throws off your whole schedule and leaves you scrambling to pick up the pieces those first few days, it makes you remember what you’re really trying to accomplish.

This isn’t a huge philosophical statement (it was just a week of upper respiratory misery). But seeing how my whole household nearly came crashing down just because I was out of commission (which is not a good thing in itself — don’t take your mothers/wives for granted, guys) made me feel that the burden is simply too heavy.

So, this fall, I will make sure Volume 2 becomes the best it can be. And I won’t guilt myself into entering a writing contest.

Or stress out about my blog stats.

Or sign up for any more ARCs. Or panic if I haven’t reviewed every single book I’ve ever finished on Goodreads.

Really. I swear.

You get the idea.

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community, writing

Indie Authors Do’s and Don’t’s

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Is there any one surefire way to get people to read your self-published work? Nope, sorry. Are there certain things that do seem to work better than other approaches, though? That’d be a yup.

Not that I’m a huge expert (only 5 months after printing my debut novel), but I’ve found that are particular methods to writing and marketing that will help set your publication apart from the masses, and encourage readers to spend their hard-earned money on it.

DO network and interact with other indie authors. Finding connections on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress or Blogspot, and all the online communities is very important. Word of mouth does sell books for us independents. A handful of detailed reviews on Goodreads or Amazon can really push people towards choosing our title over a bunch of other available options.

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DON’T spam people to read your book. Only Tweeting about your latest release, only subscribing to others whose messages include the “am writing” hashtag, so you can DM them with a very brash, “Hey, you exist, so buy my books!”, will tick people off. Building personal associations with potential readers first, then politely asking if they’re interested in reviewing your work, generally goes down very well.

DO write your story in a unique, unfamiliar way. Many readers are honestly tired of the usual tropes of genre fiction, and hungry for something different. They are more likely to try an unknown author advertising a tale or style that doesn’t sound like all the new novels released last year, than another same-old-same-old by a traditional publishing company playing to a worn-out formula.

DON’T worry about being the next JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, or Maggie Stiefvater. Number one — none of these authors got to be who they are now overnight. Number two — their writing styles and stories are unique to who they are as authors and as people. So there’s no pressure to become an amazing literary master — or someone you simply aren’t. Your readers will appreciate your style and story if it’s coming from a real place.

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DO take the time to edit your manuscripts thoroughly. Are we all human, and going to make mistakes now and then? Of course. But when it comes to first impressions, let’s be realistic and understand that most people aren’t going to say, “Oh, well, they’re only human,” after they hit the 125th typo in your published book. A few (literally, under 10) scattered throughout a self-edited work (by someone who most likely is not a professional proofreader) won’t really irk most readers. But much more than that, and it can make following your story more (unnecessarily) difficult, and may cause people to wonder how important their satisfaction was to you — translating into lower sales (when it could be avoided).

DON’T ignore others’ feedback. No one wants to be told that somebody thought their work was about as interesting as watching paint dry. But when you’re going through the beta-reading process or ARC reviews, if several people regularly note the same thing as giving them trouble, you might want to pay attention. Not that you absolutely have to do what others suggest for your work. It can definitely help your sales, though, if you make some tweaks that reflect common critiques. (This is also why you ask for beta-readers prior to printing. It can be a massive help!)

DO have fun with the whole self-publishing thing. Since you’re not traditionally published, that means you’re not fulfilling a contract or getting paid a large sum of money to write, so that usually indicates you are undertaking this endeavor purely for the joy of completing your work and sharing it with others. And if it’s not fun, then, in this instance, what’s the point?

Yes, becoming a published author (even doing it by yourself) is a big deal, and a real rush (I won’t lie). But although we are after fame and fortune (at least a little!), we also are trying to tell a story, and if other people think it’s awesome sauce, that’s even better.

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