Hello Readers, I’m Uncomfortable…

Sephiroth Avatar

Hello readers, I’m uncomfortable.

I’ve had a massive story in my head, languishing in the background, that I couldn’t bring myself to finish for ten years. Reading history inspired me and learning about genocide horrified me in more ways I could imagine. My fear became tangible, as I realized the story needed to be the one I wanted and could tell, that not every tale is mine. I am the vehicle for the stories that filter through this mind and heart, and my identity and experiences shape them in unique ways.

The closer I get to telling my story, though, the more uncomfortable I get. Not because I worry who will read it, who will like it, who will think it’s “good.” Not because I worry about the money that may or may not come from trying to sell it, either. Not because I spent almost a decade worldbuilding, researching, and working on various drafts and outlines.

I have made my peace with all the things I can’t control, and built several insurance policies in place should I fail. If this story doesn’t work out, then I’ll have another one. Dozens of them. Releasing properties and games and commentary and programs, until something does resonate.

I am uncomfortable because I don’t want to write this story. Not because I don’t care, but because I worry about it that much. I’m terrified I’ll get the details wrong or that I’m sending the wrong message in the story that leads up to the main, epic plotline. Vanity project? Waste of time? No, I’m not worried about that. Everything I do, even the publications that have come out are associated with my name, my brand. It’s the getting it wrong bit that makes me very uncomfortable, it’s telling the hardest parts that are more painful than I expected, and I’m doing it — I’m writing these stories — anyway.

You’ll find out more in October.

Mood: Monday mania
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Oh crap, I lost count.
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Writing!
In My Ears: Air conditioner
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: Epic Fantasy anthology
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: The Originals Season 4. You ended it too sooooooooon!
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Unknown Armies Books 1-3, and Kobold Guide to Gamemastering.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




Camp NaNoWriMo Prep and 5 Writing eBook Recs

CampNaNoWriMo

T-minus two weeks until Camp NaNoWriMo begins! You can find me at camp under the username: mlvalentine if you want to connect individually. I am significantly decreasing connectivity in April, because I’ve got a lot of words to write for both work and camp.

To help you prep, I’ve picked out ten reference ebooks on writing that are available on DriveThruFiction.com. I’ve either read these books or have them sitting on a shelf in my reference library, and I’ve made notes where applicable.

  • Dynamic Characters – Written by Nancy Kress, I really liked this character reference book because it reminded me of being in workshop. Dynamic Characters utilizes a mixture of advice and examples from popular fiction, so you can see the logic in Kress’s advice.
  • A Writer’s Guide to Persistence – Persistence and discipline are two keys to being a writer, and sometimes it’s hard to find the energy or motivation to have both. This book focuses on persistence by offering tips, advice, and journaling exercises to help you push through a hump. I’ve found this book to have long-term value; it’s not unusual to have more than one slow or frustrating period as a writer. Getting back on the proverbial horse is super important, and this book offers a different perspective.
  • 90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book – Outlining my original fiction is something that’s been helping me remain focused and get more done. There’s many different methods of outlining (e.g. The Snowflake Method), but I’ve rarely seen a book that combines outline with planning. I haven’t sat down and tried the plan yet; current goal is to start in June and wrap writing into July’s Camp NaNoWriMo.
  • 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists – Sometimes, writing advice can be challenging to give and receive because what works for one writer may not work for another. Secondarily, the path to success varies so wildly from one writer to another, that sometimes it can be challenging to figure out if you’re on the right track. This collection of habits helps to reinforce what you’re already doing, but also give you ideas on how to model your actions after super successful writers.
  • 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them – On the pragmatic side, this book is filled with big picture lots and has a lot of checklists to ensure you’re on track. I’ve referenced this during outlining and revisions, and found it helps serve as a reminder for the big picture stuff.

If you’re taking my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge, this does count towards the challenge. You’ll want to plan approximately two hours a day to make your daily word count goal of 1,667, and commit to some brief outline sketches ahead of time. Additionally, if there’s other administrative or Life, The Universe, and EverythingTM tasks you need to do, it’s a smart idea to get that done ahead of time and make room for words. That way, if something throws you off-kilter then you won’t veer as far off track.

Happy prepping!

    Mood: Monday Monday
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: So much espresso!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walking my ass off
    In My Ears: Whiny cats
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2: The Last Mission
    Book Last Read: Black Unicorn
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Legend of the Seeker
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!



On Outlines and Distractions

You're An Idiot, Starscream

I fell off the proverbial horse yesterday, because I made the mistake of going down the rabbit hole of politics. (Two cliches in one sentence!) A lot has happened, and it feels weird. On the one hand, we have politicians who are blatantly lying; on the other, life marches on regardless. At a bare minimum: bills still come every month, meals still need cooked, house still needs to be cleaned, cats still need to be fed. In my case, I have to be vigilant about how I use my time; I’ve long since learned why it’s important to know how fast I write, how deadlines are crucial to my sanity, and how calendars aren’t just this pretty, little grid with pictures hanging on the wall.

Except, it’s an inevitable truth that shit happens. I get sick, company drops in, the internet goes down, I get distracted by politics (as I did yesterday), I lose a file, a deadline shifts, etc. All the planning and organizing in the world doesn’t get words down on the page, but what it does do it help mitigate disasters.

Take, for example, a novel. If I don’t work on the manuscript every day, which is not realistic for me to do, then a natural gap occurs from when I last worked on it. When I pick it back up again, I have to remind myself where I’m at in the work. That creates lost time that I’ll never get back. If I could, I would shut everything down and pound out a novel in a month or two. But, my reality doesn’t allow me to do that(1), at least right now.

Enter outlining as a solution. I’ve already been using them for bigger projects like non-fiction books and tabletop games, but I haven’t been drawn to them for fiction because they seem too mechanical. Once I’m immersed in writing a story, it’s impossible for me to get out of that mindset. I don’t have to think about what I’m writing, because I’m in that character’s head and thinking about the story from their POV.

The only problem with being resistant to outlines is that if I get interrupted–which is almost a certainty–then I lose that momentum. I cannot control that natural “flow”, but I can plan for distractions. Now, I’m starting to embrace outlining as a solution, because it allows me to jump back in faster than if I were to re-read everything I wrote.

I haven’t quite sorted out which outlining method I want to use and adapt to my own needs yet. LitReactor has a neat little article called 8 Ways to Outline a Novel that collates some of my thoughts on this. Right now, I’m neck deep in getting everything organized and setting aside time to, uh, track my worldbuilding efforts and read more.

I’m not sure if this would be a solution for you, but some form of tracking is definitely something to think about–especially if you are interrupted umpteen million times throughout the day like I am.

(1) That’s part of the reason why I cannot afford to go to long workshops like Clarion. Besides the cost of attendance, it’s time away from work that I desperately need right now.

    Mood: Winter is still here.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quadruple
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Half an hour
    In My Ears: DREDD soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Pacific Rim
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!



On Not Making Art

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

After talking to some artists who haven’t started producing anything yet, I wanted to write this post for those of you who are stuck. I’m going to tell you a secret. You already know why you’re not writing or drawing or painting or making music or whatever your flavor of art is. You really, really do. Discipline is required, but to sit down and actually make art? There’s a reason why you’re not doing it, and you know what that is. If you don’t, you’re having a hard time admitting that horrifying and terrible truth to yourself.

Often, the reason why you’re not making art is grounded in what you’re feeling. Most of the time, it’s because you’re afraid. I’m not talking fire-and-brimstone fear, I’m talking about the kind of skepticism, anxiety, and existential dread that evolves out of knowing what you want to do, picturing it clear in your mind, and not being able to draw/paint/write like you do in your head. Consider these types of artists:

    SCENARIO A: THIS SHOULD BE EASIER THAN IT ACTUALLY IS – Some artists feel inept, broken, disconnected. So, they run to the bookstore or visit websites where they’re promised “the secret of…” and a hundred tips to hone and perfect their art–all things they are grateful to learn, of course–and they sit back down apply tips here and there expecting their unformed work will match their imagined masterpiece. They bought the secret, after all. Only, their finished work doesn’t match their vision no matter how hard they try. They feel defeated, they set their art aside, and rinse/repeat at a later date.

    SCENARIO B: I SUCK, BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT I CAN’T DO – Other artists are so painfully aware of what they don’t know, and they constantly berate themselves for it. They might even know a bunch of artists, and hang with them hoping some of their talent will rub off. They try as time allows, but have so little confidence in the process of learning how to make the art they want they never finish what they’re working on. Unfocused and lost, they flip to many different mediums or constantly change what it is they want to do.

    SCENARIO C: EVERYTHING I DO IS FINISHED AND READY TO SELL – Some artists either don’t care about what they don’t know or doesn’t care about what they can’t/shouldn’t do. As soon as their work is finished, they offer it for sale or for public review. Friends, family, reviewers, and folks within a community of artists like this could be encouraging them to publish or share the art before its ready, because they think they’re helping and it feels good. But, because nothing is held back these artists are not protecting the work they do, and their ability to improve is hampered. It’s exactly the opposite: they’re sharing it at every stage and use other people’s opinions as a guide instead of trusting that learning is a process we all go through.

There are many, many different scenarios of artists like these who are trying to connect what they want to do, with what they think they’re doing, and what they actually know how to do. Most of us make up our careers as we go along, because there are many things outside of our control. A career happens, however, after artists have the ability to continually produce art to sell. When you’re just starting out, you’re not there quite yet–and that’s okay. That’s normal. The vehicle of commercialism, social media, and other means of sharing, selling, and getting feedback on your art exacerbates feelings and adds an extra layer of fuckery and/or angst as well. Only, selling and promoting your art is a process, and it’s not the same process required to make it.

Again, I want to reinforce that you know why you’re not making art, and that reason is usually connected to your emotions. Do your circumstances affect your ability to make art? Absolutely, and I’m not writing this post to diminish your situation because only you know what that is. Discipline is what has helped me to work past my own issues, and it’s part of making art. That discipline came from the years I practiced and performed as a musician, and it’s something I applied to writing and jewelry making. It’s not the same process as selling your art, revising it, reviewing it, promoting it, etc. but it’s the most crucial–because there is no secret to becoming an artist. First, you have to get in the habit of making art before you can do anything else.

If you don’t know how to make art you want to make, be kind to yourself. Give yourself the time and the ability to learn. Make mistakes. Study. Ask questions. By all means, take risks and screw up–but do it on your terms. Without that piece, without the crucial processes and methods you internalize by making art and finishing what you’ve started, then all you’re left with is hopes and dreams which, if you’re not careful, can leave you bitter. You’re also not alone, however, and I hope that this post encourages you to face up to your feelings, push past them, and start making art because it’s what you really want to do.



[Announcement] Writing the Other 2017 Classes

I am pleased to share that I am teaching a Writing the Other class about RPGs in February 2017. The full text of the announcement, including instructions on how to get updates, is on the newly revamped www.writingtheother.com website.

In addition to the classes that I am teaching, I thought you might be interested in the works of these talented instructors. Please consider checking them out!

New Writing the Other Classes

2017 is almost here and we’re already planning a full year of Writing the Other classes! In addition to Weekend Intensives every other month there will be at least three Multi-week Classes. And we have an exciting roster of new classes and Master Classes coming up:

  • Writing Inclusive Games – Creating RPGs Sans Fail with Monica Valentinelli | February 2017
  • Master Class: Writing Bisexual Characters with Faith Cheltenham | February 2017
  • Master Class: Writing Your Future Self – Creating Older Characters with Ellen Klages | early March 2017
  • Master Class: How To Fail Gracefully with Mary Robinette Kowal and K. Tempest Bradford | April 2017
  • Master Class: Avoiding Offensive Tropes in Horror with Chesya Burke | Summer 2017
  • Worldbuilding Intensive (instructors TBA) | Summer 2017
  • Master Class: Writing From the Diaspora with Ken Liu | Autumn 2017
  • Master Class: Beyond Belief – Writing Plausible Atheist and Religious Characters with Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward | Autumn 2017

We also plan to have Master Classes on Writing Lesbian and Gay Characters, Writing Characters With Mobility Disabilities, and Depicting Class in Fiction later in the year.

For more about these classes, visit www.writingtheother.com.

Next Posts




Monica Valentinelli >

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Subscribe to Monica’s Newsletter






Subscribe
* indicates required



Archives

Back to Top