self-publishing, writing

Long-Overdue Update On My Writing!

Daley Downing (@invisiblemoth1) | Twitter

Does anybody happen to remember, hundreds of years ago, when I actually published books? After plunging into NaNoWriMo (and winning!) in 2016, I took an even deeper dive into self-publishing, and released my debut novel in 2017, followed by two sequels in the series, and a few unrelated short stories. The plan after that was to proceed with an idea I had for a standalone, companion novel to my fantasy series, and go forth with a contemporary (gasp!) story I really wanted to tackle.

Then, due to several factors that quickly spiraled out of my control, much of 2019 was a personal nightmare, and my publishing plans got set waaaaay back. Between all of that and all the crap hitting the rest of the world recently, I not only lost my original path, but by the time I found it again, the route looked completely different than it had. So, in spite of managing to release a second batch of short stories — including an abbreviated version of the contemporary I’d envisioned being a much bigger project — last year was rather uneventful for me as an author.

Here’s the good news: While falling and getting back up again is HARD and SUCKS, it can be done. So, I now, finally, have some actual UPDATES to share!

First: The manuscript for Fire and Wind is just about finished, apart from final edits. Then I’ll be starting on formatting — sooner rather than later — and here’s a preview of the amazing cover!

fire and wind cover

The only unfortunate thing for readers when it comes to Fire and Wind is that this isn’t a good “jumping on point” regarding my fantasy series. It’s set between Volumes 3 and 4 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes, so if you haven’t read through Volume 3, many parts of it would be confusing. But it is my homage to a character White Fang helped me develop, which was originally supposed to serve a single, distinct moving-the-plot-along purpose, and it quickly turned into needing her own backstory and tying in with the rest of the series. So, for fans of my little “suburban fantasy” world, who have been awaiting more, yes, at last it will be occurring!

Here’s what else I’ve been up to:

Over the last couple of months, I’ve started the process of re-releasing, with updated covers and formatting, my already-published short stories and Volumes 1, 2 and 3. So far, my team and I have put together all the short fiction into one collection, with a new cover and new title. I is for Invisible, M is for Moth contains all the entries from Dreamings and Muses and How To Be A Savage, available in paperback and ebook (on Amazon and Barnes and Noble). The full collection was my first successful digital upload, a result which may or may not have left me a mess of flailing puddle on the floor for a day or so.

The Invisible Moth – The Order of the Twelve Tribes Headquarters

Ahem.

Anyway, the separate collections are still available on Barnes and Noble as well, and the goal is to have ebook editions of the originals uploaded (finally), too. For anyone who already has the originals, the stories in I is… have not had any changes made to content. The stories remain the same.

Dreamings and Muses: The Invisible Moth Short Story Collection by ...    How To Be A Savage And Other Tales by Daley Downing, White Fang ...

Other announcements:

The new covers and formatting for Volumes 1, 2, and 3! Again, none of the manuscripts have been changed, in terms of story, so the plot and characters you read back in 2017-18 are the same as the first editions. The major difference is in the aesthetics — it cleans up some niggling little things about the text that bothered me (basically, I wanted it to look “fancier” and “more professional”), and the cover designer felt that way about the art. Here is the new look for Volume 1:

Blog Tour Sign Up: Masters and Beginners by Daley Downing (July 27 ...

For everyone who already owns the original editions of Masters and Beginners, Rulers and Mages, and Healers and Warriors, as I already mentioned, no sneaky alterations to the tales themselves have happened, and these books remain canon. There will be digital versions on sale of all of these in the very near future (in the case of Volume 1, there already is!). For those of you who repeatedly asked about ebooks, thank you so much for your patience! It turns out technology and I have a love-hate relationship, and some aspects of indie authoring proved more difficult than I anticipated, hence the delay.

Masters and Beginners: The Order of the Twelve Tribes: Volume 1 by ...    Rulers and Mages: Volume 2 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes by ...    Healers and Warriors: (Volume 3 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes ...

These are the major things going on right now, and I’m happy to be able to share them! To all of you who have had my back all this time, no matter the constant shakeups in what should have been a straightforward publishing schedule, to all of you who remain excited to see what I put out next, whenever it arrives, THANK YOU. Having such a network has meant soooo much in the past 16 months — well, since the very beginning — and definitely helps make this life worth it, when the struggle feels too big.

Toby concurs.

My Writing Influences – The Invisible Moth

 

self-publishing, writing

5 Years on WordPress?! Notes on What You’ve Seen and What to Expect for 2020

So, the little notification bell alerted me to the fact it is my 5th anniversary of blogging! The fact I had no idea it had been this long probably tells you a lot more, a lot quicker, about my current state of mental capability, than all the whining I could throw down at the moment.

But anyway, when I took a second to consider this, I realized the bell was right. It was a cold, blustery January day in 2015 when I decided I needed to do something different with my life, and took the plunge into unfamiliar territory — social media. I’d determined I really wanted to finish writing a novel and explore self-publishing, and building a base of knowledge and support seemed like a good idea.

Fast forward to now, and not only do I have several publications under my belt, I have met some of the most wonderful, encouraging, compassionate people, who have helped to see me through some intense ups and downs the last few years. Together, we’ve celebrated the highs and pushed beyond the lows; and as someone who constantly battled feeling like she didn’t belong anywhere, knowing (at last) that this is not the case is more valuable than words can explain.

I used to be very driven by establishing my platform quickly and covering as many bases as were possible. I toyed around with the notion of being on every single social media site (ha!), and attempting to cast my net wide to scour the internet for supporters from various near and far areas. Rather soon, I learned that spreading myself too thin achieved none of this. Hence, I’ve limited my online presence to WordPress and Twitter, which tend to do just fine in terms of keeping people who follow me informed of the latest. I may not be getting as much publicity as other indie authors, but since I’m doing it all on my own, maintaining the pressure is much more appealing than seeing my face absolutely everywhere.

Though there will be some expansion coming up. I’m working on (finally) publishing ebooks, and I’m going to make some updates and additions to my current bibliography this spring, too. After agonizing for quite a while (no lie) about how to proceed with this end of my marketing and production, the goal became not how to do this the way everybody else was doing it, but how to do it to my satisfaction. So that’s why this undertaking shall proceed, after all.

And because I’m going to be working more on actual fiction writing and what gets it to the page/device, it means I may not be around here as much as I have been. But there is also something to be said for recognizing when you just can’t handle it all, and determining what’s more important at certain stages of your life.

The one thing that I know won’t change is the ongoing support from my tribe, and this is what matters more than anything else. I probably would’ve thrown in the towel on this whole fancy of actually releasing into the wild the stories I kept to myself for so long without my cheering section. So, to each and every one of you, THANK YOU, and here’s to a great new year!

Mental Health, writing

2019: The Year NaNoWriMo Kicked My Butt (And Why I Don’t Even Care)

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Okay, I know it may seem a little premature because we still have a whole week of November left… But I am officially throwing in the towel on NaNoWriMo.

But here’s the thing: I really don’t think I care.

As of today, I am hovering around 27,000 words, and I just know I won’t be able to get even close to 50,000 before November 30th. Though, again, I’m not sure I, in fact, give a damn.

Yes, I’m not only announcing my quitting, I’m not regretting it.

Here’s a fun bulleted list of reasons why:

  • The new website sucks. This isn’t mere subjective opinion; this is a cold, hard truth. Between numerous software glitches and the overall tone of the new site just not being encouraging anymore, I’m really discouraged. Every time I proudly entered an update on my word count, the stats page only reminded me of how far I had to go, how much I hadn’t done. What the hell happened to the lovely little messages we used to get above our charts: “Well done, Nanoling! Keep going, you can do it!” They’ve been replaced with a robotic, “364 words needed today.” Go shove it, algorithim.  I just slaved away for 2 and a half hours to produce nearly 1400 words! WHY DON’T YOU APPRECIATE THAT?!
  • Does anybody else remember the days when we could send notes to our buddies with the digital equivalent of cake and puppies, and it was all so inspiring and built the comraderie and made you want to push forward, despite aching all over and just wanting to sleep? Now either they’ve done away with that, too, or I have simply become a technological dinosaur and cannot figure out how to communicate with other people on the new site. This lack of encouragement hurts my heart. Yes, we’re all on social media, cheering for each other; but somehow it doesn’t feel the same, and I am breaking.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The fact we destroy ourselves for an entire month and then have to buy our own prizes is straight-up bollocks. I can’t even afford most of the items in the shop, even with a winner’s discount. After choosing to inflict this torture on myself for 30 days, I want a FREE mug and t-shirt and trial edition of Scribner. Delivered to my door by a unicorn with a rainbow mane, damn it!
  • Apart from December or May, November is the WORST month to participate in such a crazy endeavor as attempting to write most of a novel. There are parent-teacher conferences, birthday parties, early freak snowstorms, Thanksgiving, and just a dozen other things getting in my way of writing at least 1600 words every single day. Why can’t they hold this contest in January or March, when there’s so little going on people are getting bored out of their wits?
  • All of these factors combined are resulting in the joy for finishing this manuscript being sucked right out of me. Fire and Wind started as a passion project for White Fang, but I always intended to finish, and publish it, in a timely manner. That was now well over 10 months ago, and this is absolutely not the moment to lose enthusiasm. I am about halfway through this novella, and there is no (good) reason to abandon it. Other than intense, unnecessary pressure from a sociopathic website. And that is not good reason.

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All of this makes me so literally TIRED as well, it isn’t even funny anymore. The other night after work, I sat down to take off my shoes, and just stared into space for about 10 minutes (not exaggerating, either!), wondering how to fix my potential plot holes. Muffin was whining because he wanted dinner, none of the chores were finished yet, and I had almost no energy to keep going. I was properly drained. And that was when it hit me: NaNo isn’t worth it anymore.

As is the risk with all sorts of competitions, my goal had shifted from completing a task I really wanted to wrap up, to just wanting to see the numbers go up.

My approach had significantly altered, to something that was no longer healthy and productive.

I wanted that back, as well as my time, and the control over my life.

Yes, it was feeling that bad.

So, where does this leave me going forward? Well, as far as anything NaNo goes, probably…zip, nada, zilch. I truly think I’m done with the whole exercise, in any month. But for Fire and Wind, it means I did at least get a good amount of this beat into submission, and it’s the first time in several months I’ve actually been close to finishing a draft.

But, also, now I really want to tackle my TBR, and get back to working on Volume 4, and maybe even start thinking beyond my current series. No, this is not to make fans of The Order of the Twelve Tribes panic. Though what I’ve realized in delving deeper into Fire and Wind is that there is so much more to explore in this world, and continuing to limit myself to the perspective of one small Annex won’t satisfy this moth indefinitely.

And there shouldn’t be a strict time frame on creating. I firmly believe that now. I’m not done with Fire and Wind on November 30th because the stats page claims I am. It’s done when reach the story’s natural conclusion, and feel confident that this tale is complete.

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reading, writing

Some Thoughts on Call Down the Hawk

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So, after spending a few weeks debating when I would read Maggie Stiefvater’s newest publication, I decided to place a hold request at the library and see how long it took.

Not long, it turned out. For some reason, I got a copy within days of publication. And I started reading almost immediately.

And within a few days, I was finished, and my overall reaction was: “Meh.”

But not even in a bad way. Yes, I will explain.

All bookdragons have experienced that moment of fear that their favorite authors have — gulp — already produced everything we want to read from them. Regarding the Stiefvater bibliography, this was the case for me. Then, as I discussed recently, I’d decided to go back to my originally-disappointing read of The Raven Cycle, with fresh eyes.

And this endeavor has been going well. Hence, why I felt ready to dive into Call Down the Hawk, which was billed as sort of a spinoff focusing on one of the main characters from The Raven Cycle. But it’s not The Raven Cycle 2.0, and therefore some people are disappointed.

I’m  actually not. Why can’t Ms. Stiefvater write something different? Isn’t it up to her? Not us? Sorry, not sorry.

The prose shows Stiefvater is, in this regard, at the height of her game. It’s just what you’d expect from a seasoned author, and it’s clear she knows her characters, her plot intentions, and her method in weaving all the loose strands into one. The text makes you feel the words. The genre is definitely not YA anymore (more NA, if anything), but I don’t see that as an issue. (Others don’t agree; more on that later.)

Yet here’s why I probably won’t continue with the sequel: It just isn’t a plotline I’m invested in. And I don’t even mean I didn’t enjoy the book. Because I did, generally. Generally. 

I like the idea of exploring the concept of “dreamers,” individuals who can literally dream things into actual existence. It’s intriguing, seeing what people might do with that power, how they would use or abuse it, how they might be misunderstood or even persecuted by “the rest of us”. But a lot of the story in CDtH concentrates on a complicated art heist with a world-class forger…and secret assassins hunting down and killing dreamers because they’re convinced a dreamer will bring about — dun, dun, dun — the apocalypse.

It’s all plausible, in my view. It wasn’t that I felt the premise was too much of a stretch. It’s that: A) I know very little about fine art; B) am not enthusiastic about it; C)really felt satisfied with the background we got on the Lynch brothers in The Raven Cycle, and not up for a rehashing of the canon, and D) have had more than enough exposure to “it’s the end of the world!” as a plot device.

Therefore, my official review is: “Meh.” But with a smile. If you adored this book, I won’t argue.

Inwardly, I keep going back to the most repeated complaint I saw in reviews: “It’s not like The Raven Cycle.”

Well, of course it isn’t, and it doesn’t have to be. How many times have book bloggers whined that an author only seems to write the same sort of story and characters over and over — and then, when a writer tries a fresh, new direction, these reviewers immediately grumble that the sameness is gone?

Why do a lot of fans these days seem to think they can dictate what creators produce?

As an author myself, I have to admit, that it does bother me when readers leave glowing reviews for my fantasy series, but have hardly touched my collections of short stories. Is it a marketing angle? Because I’ve pushed my full-length novels so much? Is it personal preference on the part of readers?

Is it hypocritical, because I will die on the hill of: “Maggie Stiefvater’s best books EVER are The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Scorpio Races“?

There are no easy answers, because art is subjective, forever, and for everyone. For creators, and for consumers.

For me, the biggest takeaway, though, is that, although I’m only “meh” about her latest release, I support Ms. Stiefvater to the very ends of the Earth.

And let’s just hope a dreamer doesn’t make that happen sooner rather than later.

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self-publishing, writing

A Million Dreams

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About 18 months ago, I had an extremely unpleasant experience with a local group that was supposedly for would-be writers. I had been looking for just such a thing, so I bravely brought along a sample chapter of the WIP I hoped would become Volume 4 of my fantasy series, and managed to stifle my nerves long enough to read from a few pages of it.

I began to worry when I realized that what others in the group had written was distinctly not even close to my offering. And as the meeting progressed, I also realized that what the others had done was all very similar, all based around a memory or family anecdote from a specific time of year. It also started to concern me that, in between readings, people would discuss politics or social platform topics brought up by the biographical snippets. I found a reason to leave the meeting early, and felt very confused by the time I got home.

The next day, I got an email from the person who ran the group, “politely” (but really in a very patronizing way) informing me that the meetings only covered non-fiction writings, based on an assigned monthly theme, and whatever we might be working on outside of the group wouldn’t be introduced nor feedback given.

I felt absolutely terrible. I figured that I had done the “typical dumb autistic thing,” of not understanding what the group was about before I just barged in to a meeting, and who was I to bring my silly fanciful young adult fantasy novel into the mix of what was clearly meant to be a serious adult discussion?

I never went back.

I also stuck what might have become Volume 4 in a desk drawer, and haven’t touched it since.

In the meantime, I have been seriously plagued with nagging self-doubt about my ability as a writer, as an author. I turned my entire headspace upside down over How To Be A Savage, and the lingering fear of rejection grew so intense that I haven’t even done much publicity for this short story collection that I published this summer. I’m continuing to drag my feet on finishing Fire and Wind. It all goes back to this experience, that stole my joy from having finally begun my publishing journey.

What really did me in? The most damaging thing was the all-too-common worry of neurodivergents everywhere — that I had once again misinterpreted the “rules,” the societal constructs that everybody but me seems to already know, without having to ask, and that had it wrong, not the group.

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Here’s the interesting twist to this tale of woe, however: Some of the people in the “writing” group are also regular library patrons, so — even before I worked there — we crossed paths pretty often. And they told me that the group had been very divided for a while, that the way it was run wasn’t appealing to a lot of people, that several people had attended a meeting and tried writing something different from what the tyrant wanted, received a similar response to what I did, and followed my lead, of simply never returning. In time, the group dissolved, as enough people got fed up with the situation, and stopped going entirely.

Now, you would think that this vindicates me, and I like this resolution. But I don’t like it. I don’t like it, because other people’s unwillingness to stand up to a narcissistic control freak created an inner conflict that nearly ripped apart my hard-fought self-esteem. I don’t like it, because I still had to suffer public criticism of my passion and interests. Not hearing anyone stand up for my effort, my dedication to my own work set me waaay back in terms of personal goals.

I’ve felt like I was living a lie for most of 2019, having to apologize, again, to my readers, for there not being a new book from me this quarter, either, and yet not feeling able to put all the why into words. It’s been debilitating, excruciating.

Finding out recently from people who have had really negative encounters with the individual in question that apparently, this is just how the tyrant is, should be liberating. But I’m not sure. Knowing this doesn’t undo the damage, the hurt. It comes down to: What right does one person have to stomp all over my hard work?

For all the years I patiently honed my craft, all the hours I devoted to increasing my skills in creating believable characters, sensible dialogue, and world-building readers could relate to, I never once wanted to give up because I prefer to write fantasy. Fantasy fiction being a niche genre and market never deterred me; it made me want to succeed more.

Now, though, every new traditional, and indie, release I see brings about a fresh wave of comparison. There’s no way mine is that good. 

I haven’t even read most of these new books, by the way. I’m merely automatically doubting my own abilities.

It’s impacting my completing NaNo this year, too. I hit a minor writer’s block the other day, and have been struggling to take to heart my own motivational speeches posted (in earnest!) on Twitter.

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I’ve tried to push past this. I hate it. I need to get through it. But month after month, watching my sales slump, not feeling the ambition to create ebooks that existed last fall, not knowing what to put in my newsletters, beginning to feel like a fraud, has really taken its toll.

When you first decide to self-publish, your head is full of a million dreams. The dream of seeing your book on a shelf, on a website, for the first time; of holding it in your hands; of getting the link to a glowing review; coming across pictures of your book on social media; being able to discuss your characters and plot in detail with other people, because now they understand it all. Despite experiencing all of this in the last 2-plus years, I can feel my dreams slipping away.

I’ve been so reluctant to spill any details about Fire and Wind, even with wanting to build up anticipation for it, because the fear is so firmly in place. Rejection is something those of us on the spectrum have to deal with so frequently, we begin to avoid whatever, whenever, we think will make it happen again.

That means I am inadvertently pushing away my own dreams as well.

So, this post is a blend of confession, venting, and hoping for atonement. And as part of this quest, I’ll be really good and leave you a working synopsis of Fire and Wind:

The Demon Girl has no idea where she came from, just how old she is, or even her species.

She travels from country to country, between the mortal and fae realms, through the decades, never ageing, not dying. She helps old friends, comes to the aid of new ones, protects the defenseless, and stays out of the spotlight.

She can’t remember what she was doing or who she was before the reign of King James I, when she woke up with no memory beside a river in England. Since then, she’s worked at being a mercenary for hire, a deliverer of vigilante justice, an ally to the Faerie Courts, and not a foe of the Order of the Twelve Tribes.

Readers were first introduced to “DG” in Volume 3: Healers and Warriors. Now, in Fire and Wind, we explore more about the Order’s least likely heroine, an amnesiac, immortal loner (except for the mythological creatures she’s fond of), traditionally keeping her distance from humans. When a sudden overthrow of the Unseelie Court forces her to choose sides for the first time in centuries, DG will finally come face to face with her past, and the need to determine her future.

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reading, writing

Can Fandoms Go Too Far?

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Fandoms are great; many of us avid readers belong to ones that focus on our favorite books and movies. We love being able to connect with like-minded individuals, flail over our shared passions, and know where our people are. And fandoms show an author or a franchise that their work is absolutely appreciated, and valued.

But there are instances, I firmly believe, when fandoms cross a line. I personally don’t approve of fan fiction, but I know others won’t agree with me that fanfiction is doing anything wrong. Some authors are thrilled to discover fanfiction of their work appearing online. But many of us only see the theft of intellectual property, and some pretentious knucklehead claiming to know our own books better than we do. When they wouldn’t have anything to fan about if we hadn’t written it to begin with. To say this is a controversial matter is definitely an understatement.

There are also all the now-millions of conferences and festivals that celebrate various franchises and their fandoms. Some of them (like the official Comic Cons) encourage us to throw around copyrighted material — branded costumes and merchandise are everywhere, no legal consequences. However, many fan-run events have been ordered, by lawyers employed by big, powerful entertainment companies, to shut down, because they took way too much liberty with producing trademark-item-inspired inventory to make their own profit.

Then there’s the epidemics of harsh critiques authors and filmmakers personally receive on social media, when fans are disappointed or angered by the turn a series took. If you don’t like the way something ended, you are absolutely entitled to your opinion — but the creator is just as entitled to believe that ending worked well for what they made. So, while I one-hundred-and-ten-percent stand behind fans being allowed to post negative, even disparaging, reviews, I also stand behind not tagging the creator to the link.

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So, what marks the line fandoms shouldn’t cross? I think it’s when fans start acting like they somehow own the content created by someone else.

It does not matter how much you love a franchise; that does not give you the right to try to make yours something that already belongs to another individual or group. When you consider that the creator willingly shared their work with you, via publication or making the film or broadcasting the program on TV, then it seems doubly ungrateful to behave as if you suddenly are due this fictional world for your own purposes.

Attitudes like this also contribute to book piracy, which causes major problems for artists and fans who follow the rules. It happened to me. While looking into releasing e-book versions of my fantasy series on Amazon, I discovered unauthorized copies of the paperbacks listed on Amazon, and Walmart.com. Despite both websites saying those products were out of stock, I went ballistic. I immediately contacted customer service.

Within days, Walmart.com had apologized for the occurence and removed my titles from their inventory. Amazon, on the other hand, refused to believe that I owned the copyrights, even when I gave them all my ISBN-purchase information from Barnes and Noble. Hence, I am now boycotting Amazon, not using them as an author, and not ordering anything from them. But this means no e-books from me for the moment, and I’m not able to support more indies who only sell on that platform.

And have my own sales suffered as a result of this decision? Yes, they have.

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The other thing that concerns me about people becoming too immersed in fandoms is the lack of originality that’s already starting to affect especially the fantasy market. If everyone’s so fixated on coming up with the next Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson or Game of Thrones, rather than taking what inspired them in a new direction, the genre will very quickly stagnate.

One of the reasons I love fantasy is the possible width and depth and breadth of ideas to be explored, and the number of ways in which to do so. Whether the bent is futuristic or in the past, based on traditional legends or contemporary culture, we can have expansive character arcs and worldbuilding while discussing relevant social and moral issues. Not many genres manage to pull that off.

Why would we risk losing that by compromising for popularity…and then mediocrity?

Maybe fandoms need to start drawing more of their own lines, before it’s done for them.

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Encouragement, writing

The Obligatory NaNoWriMo Post

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It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean autumn — I mean…dun, dun, dun…the approach of NaNo!

I’ll give you a moment to scream into the void.

For those of you who don’t know what NaNo is, grab a pillow.

Okay. For anybody who’s participating, I have laid out 7 types of cake and tea with milk, sugar, honey, and lemon. To everybody else — staring blankly at us and wondering why they aren’t invited to partake of the treats — NaNo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and every year crazy writers dive into it, temporarily abandoning sanity. Every year we wonder why we’re doing this yet again…but we strive to push through, and complete the task.

The goal of this endeavor is to write 50,000 words on one project within 30 days. In theory, you could have most of a whole novel drafted (or an existing draft really whipped into shape) before the month is over. If you write/type at least 1700 words a day, you’ll have it done in approximately 4 weeks.

However… There are theories, and then there’s reality. Hence, cue the screaming.

In reality, you will have the time and opportunity to get down about 856 words before your toddler turns off your computer (yes, that was me), or the sink gets clogged, the delivery guy arrives with new bookmail, a co-worker calls and needs you to cover their shift, or there’s a Marvel marathon on TV.

Do we start November with the best of intentions? Oh, my, yes. Do those intentions get derailed hella fast? OH, MY, YES.

So, why do we do it? Repeatedly?

It’s the writer’s equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest and conquering the behemoth. When we, on November 29th, upload our daily word count with bloodshot eyes and take a cold swig from our 4th cup of coffee, and see the chart shoot up from 48,770 to 50,011, and we realize I’VE DONE IT, this is the biggest rush since the first time we ever finished a project. The elation that rushed through us the very first time we typed “THE END” is replicated. We have clambered onto the summit and planted our flag.

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So, how do you survive NaNo, and maybe even finish on top? From my participation in previous NaNos, here are some strategies I’ve acquired from literal blood, sweat, and tears:

Don’t set ridiculous goals. Aim to write about 1500 words a day. If you can’t hit the goal you did set, don’t beat yourself up. If after 2 hours your numbers are somewhere around 1026, rejoice. Many people dream of writing a novel and don’t get any further than the first page of the first chapter. Embrace whatever progress you make.

Don’t be finnicky about quality. This is absolutely a matter of quantity. You can go back and edit later. As a habitual edit-as-I-go writer, this was an extremely difficult notion to wrap my head around. It’s how I’d get down to the last week and still need at least 5,500 words to make the ultimate goal. This year, I have already decided: As long as it at least kind of makes sense and I didn’t do something terribly stupid (like suddenly change a character’s name), I’m going to let it slide.

Take care of yourself. (Or I will hunt you down and force vitamins and vegetarian curry down your throat.) You will get nowhere fast if you’re sleep deprived and not drinking water and putting off eating a rejuvinating, healthy meal. A daily word count of 4438 is incredible…and also potentially deadly. Your family needs you to be around after November. So be good to the physical you, not just the creative you.

Know how you write best. What’s your preferred way to draft? Type? Handwrite? Outline? Pantser it? Whichever is your comfort zone, stay there and make no excuses for not leaving. Outlining is how I kill a previously great concept, so I no longer force myself to play at it. While I do have plenty of little notes on relevant stuff I really should remember for the sake of continuity, and I stick to that, I am not going to spend 2 weeks on a detailed outline I will scrap by November 3rd. And my method works for me. No apologies required. There is no perfect or mandatory way to attempt NaNo.

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There are lots of reasons to avoid participation as well. Last year I opted out because there was too much else going on in my life, and I figured I’d make it to the halfway point by Thanksgiving, and was not in the mood to “fail.” Here’s the secret about NaNo, though: If you decide to quit, that’s totally okay. It’s free to enter, and the only loss if you don’t finish is…well, yes, you “wasted” some time and weren’t “successful.” But even that doesn’t measure up against closer examination. The fact you got several thousand words down on a new project, or put in effort on revising something that was giving you grief, is a success, and was worth it. Don’t toss that aside just because you didn’t “win.”

Because here’s the unfortunate truth about NaNo: Our prizes are not actual gifts or currency. The reward is mostly the satisfaction, and the street cred, of scaling the summit. Which is part of why many opt out; and I get that, too. There’s also no shame in deciding to NaNO. 

And don’t for one second underestimate the importance of having a support network. When you sign up on the official NaNoWriMo website and create your profile, you can make buddy requests. Do that. Find out which of your friends are also torturing themselves — ahem, diving in, and build that buddy list with familiar faces. When it’s November 15th and you’re starting to wonder if you can make it, your friends will cheer you on. There were instances I almost threw in the towel somewhere around 35,000 words, but really would’ve kicked myself later for it, and getting the flood of support on social media did rev up the remaining creative juices.

But true friends will also congratulate you on what level you reached before you quit, if you announce you’re done. And there won’t be berating or yelling; only stuffed animals and copious cups of tea and biscotti.

And there is always next year. Or 2023.

Remember, there is no perfect way to NaNo.

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Autism, writing

An Autistic Author’s Struggles

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So, most of you are aware that I’m a self-published author, and an autistic everything. While having autism doesn’t automatically mean there are occupations I’m not cut out for, writing does present certain particular hurdles.

You can’t write because the faucet is dripping too loudly. Most people on the autism spectrum are extremely sensitive to external stimulation — such as noise, light, texture, taste, and smell. Just one of many examples I could come up with is a leaky faucet that results in torturing you right out of creating a sensible plot point or engaging dialogue. It may seem silly to some, but if you’re already having trouble figuring out a character’s witty next line, or what the code to the secret door should be, and that relentless drip-drip-drip feels like it’s leaking straight into your brain…

We tend to hear/see/feel life on a scale of 11. Everything is heightened to our senses. And it’s not something we can just learn to ignore or turn off. We can find coping mechanisms (sometimes we just have to, if we want to ever leave the house), but our bodies will simply never stop taking in physical information at these increased measures.

So we may need to wear noise-cancelling headphones, or carve out a time to write when no one else is around, or go somewhere like a library where people are encouraged to be quieter.

Unfortunately, exiting your familiar environment can throw off your regular method for keeping the creative juices flowing…

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You can’t write because you don’t know who may come through that door, or if this chair wobbles, or when a bat might land in the toilet.

In my case, being surrounded by a common atmosphere and objects — and all of the blessed predictability this entails — really helps me remember where the heck I was going with that scene or plot thread. Also, one’s stress is lessened by the freedom of being able to get up and go make a cup of tea whenever, and not worrying about someone taking your spot (which is a real concern in a cafe or library or bookstore). And the bat in the toilet may sound extreme and totally invented, but this actually happened in my local library a couple of weeks ago. If I’d been around during that incident, it would’ve meant not a single sentence got written for about a week.

And your productivity suddenly grinding to a halt is a valid concern…

You can get too easily distracted from what you were writing, or intending to write. Many authors admit they have ideas for about 14  new books all swirling around their heads at once. Whenever I’m in the middle of a project, I can guarantee a new and astoundingly brilliant idea will pop up from the ether…and proceed to take over my entire soul.

My mind and heart will immediately become consumed with the fervor for tackling this sudden notion. It may be utterly out of my usual genre, setting, or time period; it may require research that I really won’t do until much later (if ever!); it will definitely take me away from what I had been devoting myself to.

And then I will either abandon the new thing (after approximately 2 days to 2 weeks), or the new thing will turn into my usual thing, and the previous usual thing will…just sit there…until…the end of the world?

At the moment, I am on the third draft of Volume 4 of my fantasy series. Guess when I started it? June 2018. Guess when I last worked on it? May 2019. Yup…

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You may be kind of rubbish at time management. Being autistic often means we get caught up in dedicating large chunks of time to one certain task or endeavor. We’ll feel satisfied, after a 6-hour binge of reading up, that we now know everything there is to know about how 17th century castles were built. But our families or friends may be rather miffed that we didn’t do the errands/chores/socializing we had already promised to do in those 6 hours.

And we honestly were not being selfish or intentionally avoiding other responsibilities. Some of us are simply “time blind”: We just don’t realize how long it takes to accomplish an objective, or how quickly time is passing while we’re engrossed in whatever.

There are several ways to learn time management: set a timer, stick to a strict schedule, keep a daily planner or constant bullet lists and check items off as they’re completed. These strategies can work on your writing, too.

One of the benefits of self-publishing is that I set my own deadlines, and can always push it back if I need to. And “need” comes in a variety of shapes and sizes…

You just don’t feel like writing today. Or next month. Or anytime this year. I’ll confess: I am in awe of authors who sit down and just write the next chapter, get up in the morning and repeat…until the piece is simply finished. While my time management skills are pretty good, there will always be instances when the inner motivation to knuckle down on a project just doesn’t exist.

And this could be because:

  • I didn’t sleep well last night.
  • When I went to the grocery store this morning, someone gave me a weird look as I muttered my shopping list to myself.
  • The last time I tried sharing part of this WIP with others, I got laughed at — not in a good way.
  • I absolutely cannot imagine what would push my character forward when all I feel like doing is hiding under the covers with my cat.

Anyone who claims part of ASD is “not having feelings” is an idiot. We experience so much of life so strongly, and emotions are no exception. Tiny, unintended offenses committed by people who look down on us because of our stimming or the intellectual defects they imagine we have affect us deeply. Neurotypical individuals who show blatant shock at our “juvenile” preferences or “delayed” coping methods will make us second guess ourselves all day…or until the next decade.

The last time I tried sharing some of my writing with people who said they wanted to know more about my process, they were surprised I was writing fantasy, surprised even more that I was writing YA fantasy, and the combination seemed to lead directly to them no longer wanting my advice. That fact was not only heartbreaking and devastating, it meant that Volume 4 pretty much came to a dead stop. That was over a year ago, and…well, I admitted it’s just sitting in a drawer.

Which brings me to…

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You may feel like you’ll never measure up to “other” authors. This can be the biggest single hurdle. The imposter syndrome can hit anybody; but autists are already prone to feeling inferior, and if we hit resistance from people who professed interest in our work, until some little switch was flipped, it hurts. A lot. It can derail our entire purpose in writing to begin with.

There are moments when I have to give myself a pep talk. Concrete stats: 5 books published in two and a half years. Several positive, even glowing, reviews. A devoted Twitter tribe. Consistent traffic on the blog. Hundreds of comments of appreciation and encouragement.

Remembering that the naysayers can go stick it to the land of no sunshine feels like the tallest wall.

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The Invisible Moth, writing

How To Be A Savage And Other Tales: It’s In The Wild!

How To Be A Savage And Other Tales

So, a million years ago, some of you might remember that I was attempting to pen an Own Voices novel with an autistic protagonist. I legit gave it my best shot for easily three-quarters of a year, and then absolutely could not do it anymore. Writing even fictionalized novel-length material about your actual life and mind and heart is a lot harder than I anticipated it to be. Hence, a few months back, I decided to wrap it up, and just publish what I had.

Well, the thing was, after editing out the parts I didn’t like or that wouldn’t make any sense with the piece no longer being a novella, it was…short. So, I did a little digging, and found some flash fiction on my blog and on White Fang’s (he hasn’t updated it at all lately, lol, sorry, folks), that we’d always meant to do something with, but never got around to it (his especially). Therefore, in the end, I produced a still meager but fitting compliation of How To Be A Savage and…other tales. Hence the title.

Anyway, after various hiccups, we are ready to go! This little book is available for purchase at the link below, and there are a couple of advance reviews pending for the near future.

You can find How To Be A Savage And Other Tales here:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-to-be-a-savage-and-other-tales-daley-downing/1132169666;jsessionid=43E9903D4A897529342EB30291C75ADD.prodny_store02-atgap18?ean=9781987086355

Barnes and Noble will ship to many different countries, but if you’re having trouble obtaining a copy, please let me know, and I can arrange to be the middle man on delivery.

I feel like a broken record, but thankyouthankyouthankyou to everyone for your support, your patience, and never making me feel guilty when writing or editing or publication seemed to take forever. Opening up my very soul for this project was daunting, to say the least, and getting that ongoing virtual cheer from my community every time I wanted to give up honestly did help push me over the finish line.

And could we have a round of applause for White Fang’s author debut!

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reading, writing

Review: Not Write Now by Kyle Robert Shultz

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Note: I received a copy from the author, and was under no pressure to craft a review after reading. None at all, not even the fact that this particular individual knows how to wield vampire aardvarks as a weapon.

Not Write Now is the first non-fiction release from fantasy author Kyle Robert Shultz, who is known among most of us for creating the wonderfully whimsical and poignant Beaumont and Beasley series. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, reverse-psychology method of, in fact, getting you to become a more productive writer. Containing plenty of Shultz’s trademark humor, as well as lots of solid advice, this is definitely a recommended read for anyone struggling with the “creative process.”

Considering that I myself have 4 released titles under my belt, and am actively working on 4 more, you’d think I wouldn’t necessarily be in need of such a book. I got a lot out of it, actually. And not just because it was fun, or because I know the author. I am absolutely the target audience for Not Write Now.

Yes, that’s right. I have been drowning in self-pity lately, wondering whether the whole indie author thing is even worth it. The Impostor Syndrome, which I have successfully avoided up till now, smacked me hard a couple of weeks ago, and got its claws in tight. I’ve been not wanting to write anything, wanting to prove my doubts wrong, fearing I can’t, and wavering back and forth. It hurts, deeply.

In this current state of mind, a super-serious writing advice book would not help; it would backfire, and all the jokes Shultz makes about our productivity just hitting the dirt would indeed come to pass instead. So I can tell you that his approach not only works, but it does make you feel better as well.

While I was reading, I remembered the rush of completing a project, the glow of achievement when I saw the word count nearing my goal, or the warm feels of a review that praised my style, my characters, my plot twists. I really needed to focus on all the positive stuff.

And it did stir the familiar (though lately buried) feeling of wanting to dive into a new draft, of putting on the playlist, and pulling out notes that I set aside to use “at some point.” That point can be now, and I don’t have to agonize over getting my drafts “perfect.” I’ve seen social media posts from other authors, both indie and traditional, reminding us all that you can’t edit what hasn’t yet been written, and that it’s called a draft for a reason.

So, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of not writing, for whatever excuse. Do read Kyle’s book, and take advantage of the resources outlined within. Don’t give up.

Not Write Now is available in paperback and ebook, and you can all Google Kyle Robert Shultz to find his website, his blog, and social media.

And I’m sorry to end on such a soppy note, but this has to be said: Kyle, I know you didn’t write this advice guide just for one person, but it came into my life just at the time I needed it, and I am so grateful to have a friend who randomly pops his work into the mail, with my address on the package.