I Unpublished My FB Page

I unpublished my Facebook page- not my personal page, just the author one. I have a blog and Twitter, and that’s been helpful in connecting me with writing pals without the extra medium. In fact, it was just redundant… people who became personal FB friends were linking the page, but not too much traffic otherwise.

Plus, I just shared my author page with my friends anyway, so I was starting to feel silly.I see so many established authors using their personal pages as a way to connect to their friends/ readers, and I’m more comfortable with that approach.

So I’ll just keep writing and editing and being a fandom nerd-gal and see where that goes!

 

Critiquing Terrible Writing

One of the drawbacks of signing up as a designated critic for a writing service is that sometimes, and only sometimes, I see writing so terrible that I just don’t know what to say. The honest thing to advise would be, “wow, go back to high school,” but I obviously can’t do that.PAPER

The trick is to be diplomatic, sure, but I also want to be genuinely helpful to the writer if I can be. It’s easier to help good writers that might have a few missing elements, like an unclear setting, bad tone, a confusing POV. For the bad writer, the one that doesn’t know the difference between its and it’s, there, their, and they’re, it’s so much harder to navigate. Do I redline every grammar mistake and ruin their dreams?

There’s only so many times I can soften the blow by bracketing my corrections with phrases like, “this is just my opinion” or “this struck me as odd but maybe that’s just me.” Sometimes I’ve really seen no other option but to say things like, “you need to look at the rules for commas; here are several places where you make the same mistake.”

Some people just can’t wrap their head around expository writing, which is essential for speculative fiction. I can’t count how many times I’ve suggested, “show, don’t tell” after reading a story where I’m told exactly what to think and feel by the author, which inevitably means I end their tale experiencing absolutely nothing.

I think editing projects are essential to becoming a better writer, so I’m happy to continue doing this as long as I can. I also think I could never be a professional editor, because I have a feeling I’m not good at being entirely diplomatic when I see egregious mistakes.

HuffPo Is Proud to Use Slave Labor

PAPERWell golly gee guys, isn’t this great? HuffPo wants you all to know that they are profitable as a company… and they’re PROUD they don’t pay their writers!

HuffPo UK editor Stephen Hull

“I love this question, because I’m proud to say that what we do is that we have 13,000 contributors in the UK, bloggers… we don’t pay them, but you know if I was paying someone to write something because I wanted it to get advertising pay, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. So when somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real. We know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.”

Oh you know, just a company that makes a profit on words people read that just doesn’t pay the people who write the actual words. AWESOME. MAKES SENSE.

I could rant and rave about how we should all boycott HuffPo, but I know it won’t happen. For me, this is just another part of a disturbing trend in the arts. We don’t value intellectual work; we value the profit we can make off of the intellectual work by presenting it to the public at a carefully packaged price set by an industry that reassures its artists that it’s their privilege to be published at all.

We all expect to have novels and newspapers and magazines and concerts and gallery shows, but we turn our noses down at the artist who makes those things possible. As if giving them some sort of payment for their work cheapens them. Newsflash: it’s you who are cheapening us.

This happens in academia too: if you go for a PHD in the science field, your worth is tied to how much money your research brings into the institution where you work.  So it doesn’t matter if you’re an awesome teacher, kindling the fire of inspiration for a noble subject in the hearts of your students and encouraging the next generation, if you screw up a grant then SEE YA. If you are in the humanities? Forget it.

People who do very tiring, difficult, intellectual work are vital to our development as moral and intelligent creatures, and yet we perpetually and increasingly devalue them since we can’t correlate what they do into a nice, tidy Excel sheet.

When we measure a person’s worth by their ability to produce capital for someone else, we create a terrible system where poor people feel as if they cannot say “no” to bad work. (Or a raw deal.)This of course engenders the scurrilous notion that certain classes of people (like you artists and intellectuals) are not really valuable anyway. It doesn’t take much of an intellectual leap to equate monetary “value” to “human dignity” overall, and I’m afraid HuffPo’s policy is just one part of this destructive and inhumane trend.

Need Beta Readers? Join Critters. Do It.

hemingway_writing_pubDomain

Hemingway, being a boss

I sometimes have panic-attacks about my writing: What if I really just suck and will never make it since I can’t go to fancy workshops like Clarion? I don’t have the time or the money, so am I sunk?  What if I’m just some delusional Millennial that thinks pure gumption will get me published?

Well, maybe those things are true, but what can happen is that previously unknown authors can score agents, or self-publish (with a great marketing plan) and make it. I think that the way to do this is to become a critical reader so that I, in turn, can become a good writer. I’ve written about getting beta readers before, but that can be a haphazard process if you’re just trolling forums and trying to get people to read your stuff via email. I do that for sure, but it’s probably better to submit your work to a secure, private group dedicated to critiquing writers.

Well, that’s what Critters is. I can’t believe it took me this long to join, but it’s been a great experience. I know the common objection to joining groups like this is, “Well, what if I end up just reading bad stuff?” I’ll argue that reading bad work is actually good for a budding writer. Can you articulate why it’s bad? Do you know enough about plot, characterization, POV, theme, setting, and structure to give a good and incisive review of someone else’s work?

That’s something that goes beyond good grammar and usage.

I’ll share a testimony from Matt Dovey here. This was sent out to all Critters members in an email with updates:

Matt Dovey, who sold his (Critter’d) short story, “This is the  Sound of the End of the World” to Flash Fiction Online. {A space opera in 992 words! It should be up in March, which will make it my first publication, just ahead of WotF32. The revisions requested by the editor were both things critters had brought up and I’d decided against, so let this be a lesson: listen to your critters, people!}

Dovey dropped some advice in a forum I was reading about how great Critters was for him as a writer, so I’m grateful he did that. Community, support, and a chance to get so good you get published? Sign up. You know you want to!

Disappointed

PAPER
I know rejection is part of writing, and most days it doesn’t bother me much. Getting shortlisted is pretty flattering, albeit tantalizing, so when a story I had really high hopes for was rejected this weekend after being held for three months, I was disappointed.

I’m not depressed, or wallowing in self-loathing, or really anything serious. I just feel like I should be able to say out loud: Darn, thought I had it. I’m a little bummed.

So, back to it.

picture credit: Jonathan J Bohndus 

I Met Kate Beaton!

2015-09-28 18.28.08Fun times at the Brattle in Cambridge yesterday. I got a signed copy of Kate Beaton’s new book, Step Aside, Pops and got to see her talk about her work.  She sounds just like she should: quick, funny, smart, and very approachable. Everything she says could easily become her next strip.

If you don’t read her web comic, Hark, a Vagrant then do it NOW and get ready to spit on the keyboard with laughter. She puts all of her stuff up for free so buying the book is a way to support her, something I was very glad to do.

The event was sold out and was open to Q&A from the audience, and my favorite part  was a small girl who looked like she was in 2nd grade wanted to ask Kate about her pony drawings. Pretty adorable, and I could tell that the kid was talking to her hero, so it was a cool thing to witness.

When signing my book, Kate told me she had a sister named Becky, and said, “Do people always say “OH MY GOD BECKY, to you?”

To which I said: My whole childhood, Kate. Indeed.

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The Best Rejection Letters EVER

rejectedCome now, we all know the secret to good writing is ignoring your novel manuscripts and blogging about writing instead (data backs this up; don’t test me.)

When you get a form letter form an editor, you’re hosed. Walk away and have more drinks than you might have been inclined to have initially.

When they take the time to write something like, “this really didn’t hold my interest,” go bite a wood plank in half and vow to send them passive aggressive letters when you make it big.

Recently, I have been getting nicer rejections. One said, “This is great story and you build a wonderful mood. We can’t use it in this issue, but we want to see more from you!”

INDEED? Well, I will crack you open, then. Half of getting a short story published is figuring out what the editor really wants, like figuring out a puzzle.

My latest rejection read: “We very much enjoyed this story, especially the setting, but it lacks ‘x’ element and that is what we want in our anthology. We wish you all the best.”

HOT DAMN.

I like you, mister editor. I will send you kittens.

No More Nonfiction Writing For Me

 

This guy is my biggest fan

This guy is my biggest fan

Getting published and read by a large audience for the first time can be exhilarating. It can also show you what kind of author you don’t want to be.

Let’s say you write nonfiction and it’s about a serious topic that you have researched and can contribute to. And you put a lot of work into in and it gets out there and suddenly thousands of people share it and your inbox and social media explode in a cacophony of condemnation and praise alike.

It’s amazing what people will read into your work even though you thought you were being clear; it just goes to show you that people don’t want to read most things and take them at their own merit, they want to force all opinions into their own acceptable narrative.

I LOVE YOUR OPINION YOU ARE JUST LIKE ME SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER AND JOIN MY CLUB.

Um, see you later Captain Howdy.

YOU ARE TERRIBLE AND YOU MUST HATE ME SO SCREW YOU.

Hi, nice to meet you.

That’s not even the worst part. The worst part is seeing the reactions of writers and bloggers and people you respect highly misinterpret your motives.

That sucks.

 

I imagine that Thomas Moore loved writing Utopia:  it was a way for him to explore what he thought by showing people what certain political structures looked like. He didn’t keep his head in the end but I don’t think it was because of that particular work.

I like writing. I’d like to do it professionally, but I’ve decided to actively pursue fiction. That means freelancing for a while, and maybe never getting anything published, but I’m good at getting rejections.

Here I come, world.