Busy little bee

In the past week, I have:

  • Read over fifty short stories online; I quit counting at forty-seven, because I was going through them so fast that I forgot to mark them down, but I know I read at least six or seven stories after I stopped marking my tally. I don’t even know how I managed to read so much, but it has left me somewhat burnt out by the time it gets to my nightly reading. Skipping that has started to stress me out some, so I think I’ve found my limits in terms of how many stories I can read for work before I have just read too much.
  • Emailed six authors; I received a thanks-but-no-thanks from one, and to be honest it just made my day. Usually people don’t bother writing back when they’re not interested, so I just have a giant gaping “NO REPLY” on my spreadsheet, and I wonder if they got my e-mail… but I am pretty sure they have, more often than not. Anyway, this author responded and even though it was a no, it just felt nice to be able to close that mental file. I learned that this week!
  • Written a little over 8k words; this isn’t an “OMG SO MUCH” amount for me, but considering everything else I have been doing, it does take its toll. I am at just under 55k on What You Wish For, aka Hilo-story, and I am now doubting that I will finish it in under 80k words. My 60k estimate was entirely too hopeful.
  • Stayed up past midnight nearly every night; this may not sound like a big deal for most people, but for me… my bedtime is ten pm by the latest; normally I am in bed reading already by the time 10pm rolls around. So it’s just been really tiring, staying up late every night–and I was up until two last night! Argh. I am going to bed as soon as I post this entry.
  • Attended two writing groups; I started attending these groups in November, for NaNo, but I am glad they have gone beyond that. It’s an excuse to get out of the house and it’s socialization with people who are enjoyable to be around.

Other small things I have done which are significant to me, but not significant enough for a bullet point: scheduled the giving of platelets, scheduled an appointment with my pdoc, asked for something from a friend that I was afraid of asking for… I am sure there is more stuff, but I can’t think of it at the moment.

In other news, I am officially registered for Authors After Dark in August. It will be my first writers’ convention so I am super excited, and looking forward to the road trip and rooming with the SMP crew! This will be a good thing.

Yeah, I can really tell I am lacking sleep; my mind is going off into random places. I bid you goodnight, blogland; sweet dreams.

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A letter

Dear 2011,

You were a hard year for me, in a lot of ways. But I wouldn’t take any of it back; I am older and wiser and it is because things were not easy.

There was a month where I wrote less than 4k words, and another where I wrote 93k; neither wordcount was an easy thing for me to deal with mentally. I did them both, however, and I learned that I can write 23k words in 21 hours… at the cost of several days of productivity. I learned that productivity–or lack thereof–builds on itself. The more you do something, the more you are used to doing it, and I swear I spend the whole year forgetting that lesson and all of November and December having it hammered home.

Maybe this year it will stick. And maybe, just maybe, I will learn how to get through November and not feel completely disgusted and uninterested by what I spent November producing.

For the first time in years, I had an amazing time at family vacation this past summer. I felt very much a part of my family, and that belonging has stretched outside of the bounds of family vacation a bit; I feel closer to my brother now than I have ever felt before. It is a good place to be.

I edited my first anthology! And I learned that I can’t put off editing to the last minute; I have a pretty low threshold for how much editing I can do before I need to take a break. I felt really bad about that, but I learned the lesson that came with it, and it is one I plan on putting to good use this year. As soon as the stories for my next anthologies are finalized, I will start editing them.

Bipolar stuff was especially hard this year. I had a real depressive episode for the first time in years, and it seriously threatened my sanity. I came out the other side, though, and that is all that really counts in the end.

I fell in and out of infatuation. More than once. I am still in love, and I think I will always be in love with her just a little, but I have learned not to believe that caring about each other and being very sexually compatible will hold a relationship together when we butt heads over everything else. If I’m fighting constantly with my significant other, there is probably a good reason and I should probably pay attention to it. Everyone else might be fine with just love, but I learned this year that I need more than just that.

Sweat lodge stuff was very instructive this year, too. I started going to the lodges at R’s and I learned how to fire-tend the way he does it. All of it makes so much more sense than the stuff at K&B’s; I am so grateful for the chance to learn from him, and to continue growing spiritually. (Even if my spiritual growth ends up knocking everyone else in the lodge flat on their backs.)

I feel like this year I gained so many friends–not just people I talk to or hang out with, but people who genuinely Give A Fuck about me–and I am humbled by that. Every single one of them is an awesome friend and an inspiration to me in their own way.

Because that is another thing I learned this year, and I think this may be the most important idea of all: everyone has their own struggles. We’re all just living, and trying our best, and that is all we can do. My stepdad always said something on the lines of He’s doing what he can do, and that’s all he can do, and I don’t think it was until this year that I really began to understand what he was trying to teach me. It is an amazing lesson.

All in all, I regret nothing except for the instances where it took me a long damn time to pick up on the lessons I was being taught. I can’t help it, though; I am a slow learner when I am being stubborn.

With that I will bid you farewell, 2011. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

A ramble on polarity in fiction

I read a lot of fantasy fiction, and it’s one of those genres (along with YA) where there’s a lot of polarity in the characters: they’re either all good or they’re all bad. At best, they’re mostly good or mostly bad, but overall I’ve discovered that I can read books like this, but I don’t enjoy them the way I do other books.

It’s really hard for me to relate to characters, for one, and for another… I just end up disliking someone when it seems like they have no flaws or no redeeming qualities.

People aren’t all good; people aren’t all bad. They’re somewhere in the middle. What do I mean?

There could be a character who lives under the bridge and would steal the coat off your back, but they won’t take candy from a baby. They won’t hurt kids.

Another example is someone who always tries to do good, but doesn’t always manage it, because it’s impossible for anyone to do everything right all the time.

People are people and they’re going to have these little quirks. I’d rather my characters be people than characters. People who make mistakes; people who try their best but might not always make it. People with good intentions or bad intentions, but with a morality all their own.

Flexible morals are something I like, too. Flexible morals, flexible gender, flexible sexuality–these things are attractive to me. I don’t want to read about the unrepentantly evil vampire who is evil for the sake of being evil or the cop who saves the day without breaking the law or (perhaps unintentionally) hurting anyone.

I do want to read about the vampire who is evil because being evil is a type of hedonism for him and it’s all that’s left for him after centuries of watching the world’s growing cycles happen around him. Or maybe the vampire who is evil because that is what he was taught finding the strength–maybe some catalyst event–to buck the teachings, to buck his master, because that’s not what he wants.

I also want to read about the cop who bends the law, who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants, whether what he wants is to protect someone/thing, solve a mystery, or whatever else. I want to feel his drive to do these things; I want to watch him bumble along the way and make mistakes big and small, but find a way to achieve his goal in the end.

Mishaps, misunderstandings, and mistakes not only create conflict, but also realism. And they’re fun to watch, besides! It gets boring to watch someone go through and do everything right. It’s just not as interesting as watching someone get really creative so that they can do the thing they’re trying to do in spite of all the shit they fucked up.

So, yeah, polarity in characters? Not fun to read. I don’t want a grand battle of good and evil; I want to have to think about which side is the lesser evil, and maybe even to discover later that my choice was wrong and that side isn’t the lesser evil after all.

Reading is just so much more fun when you don’t know what is going to happen. Extremes in characters make them predictable; having your characters somewhere in the middle keeps the reader wondering what happens next.

And that’s what we, the writers, all want, isn’t it? I know I do.

Musing on external conflict in my own writing

I’ve always known that writing conflict–real conflict, I mean, rather than the sort that can be classified as melodrama–is a weak point of mine. It’s mostly because I tend to be character-oriented rather than situation-oriented, but I think there’s also a part of me that just shies away from real conflict, from events that might in some way break my characters.

They’re my babies! I don’t want to kill, harm, or otherwise maim my children.

This was something that I realized after I read Hunger Games, and is one of the reasons that I ended up loving the series so much, despite being largely uninterested in the third book: Suzanne Collins helped me to realize that I am afraid of breaking my characters. She helped me realize that, because I am afraid of this, I will never write something that is as heart-wrenching as Hunger Games was for me.

It was a breakthrough! I decided then and there: the next story I write, I am going to kill my children. Metaphorically, definitely, maybe literally as well. I am going to make them psychologically different by the end of the story, by way of bad shit happening.

But I didn’t. I wrote Relativity and nothing like that happened. I was (and am) largely dissatisfied with the story because of that; it was supposed to be significant, but it ended up just flopping when I got to that part, because I had no idea how to write it and so the characters squirmed out at the last minute.

I guess this is where I get in trouble for not being the kind of writer who plans ahead. 99% of the time when I start a story, I have no idea where it is going. I have no idea of the ending. Rarely do I even know what the story is about. All I have, most of the time, are the characters.

They’re the most important part of the story, in the end, but I am just not good at creating external conflict. I feel like that fact weakens my own writing a lot.

I am hoping that with writing the Lin story with Penny K. Moss, I will be able to get a little better at creating external conflict, ’cause she’s superb at that shit. But I still need to be good at writing that on my own.

And the only way to get good at it is to write more! My official word count for November is 93,349 words, for Pete’s sake, I’d better be good at the making myself write part by now. Even though at the moment I am still slightly burnt out from writing ninety-three thousand words; I haven’t written in a week.

Except for that little bit with Koit an Atlas. Hmm. Why not?

I do always try to go with inspiration wherever it shows up. /Loooooks at Koit and Atlas. C’mere, you two. Bring Sera with you, and we’ll see about Riley on the way.

Change of address

I’ve changed my journaling/blogging/extended text social media from LJ to WordPress. Why?

I have several reasons, but only one that is really important: with WordPress I will be able to schedule posts and space them out. This, rather than having the posts come in big spurts as I’m struck with need-to-write-posts moods, is something of a relief to me. It’s not that I have anything against big spurts, it’s just that I’d rather not subject people to them if I don’t have to.

So… yes. I am here now. Keep an eye out for stray HTML and the like; never know where that type of thing will crop up when I’m screwing around with the layout.