Writing, professionalism, and qualifications.

Yesterday, I hovered somewhere between amused and annoyed as Twitter reacted to a post on the Horror Writers of America’s (HWA) LA site titled Ten Questions To Know If You’re A Pro.

Originally, I found the site from a link by John Scalzi along with the comment that he answered no to almost every one of the questions on this list. Intrigued, I took a look for myself. The article itself was a tad off-putting, but not extreme. Then I saw the questions. Honestly, when I read them I kind of thought it was a joke. For reference, I put my answers in brackets.

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing? [Uh, no? Once my house hits a degree of messiness above mildly disorganized, I clean. no matter what deadline I’m on]

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead? [No. Partially because most of my friends live in other parts of the country so they don’t offer nights out all too often for me to turn down, but the answer would remain the same anyway. You won’t have friends soon enough if you never see them]

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write? [TV, yes. But I have to have something in the background. If I’m at home it’s either a movie or music. If I’m out in the world the white noise of conversation around me is enough]

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise? [Yes. This is definitely part of treating your writing professionally]

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunities (either research or networking potential)? [No! That is NOT the point of a VACATION]

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend? [Nope. I often chat about writing with my friends because they ask how things are going, but I’m equally interested in what’s going on in their non-writing lives]

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write? [I haven’t been faced with this choice yet, but depending on the circumstances I might say yes. Especially right now when I have so many writing projects in the works]

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career? [Really? Way to assume that a) my writing won’t be successful or lucrative and b) that I have an alternative career option that would be better for me. I don’t. It’s not like I can just fall back on my law degree to make money. I don’t have one]

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years? [Uh, yeah? I’ve held all these views for the past five years]

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless? [What?! Look, it’s one thing to continuously give yourself new goals and dreams as you achieve your ambitions, but to live doubting on your own ability to meet ANY of your ambitions? What kind of life is that? Why would anyone want to live like that?!]

If you answer yes to every one of those questions, chances aren’t that your a professional writer. Chances are that you’re on the verge of being committed by concerned family and friends. Or the police are about to bust through your door and find a dark, dingy apartment full of newspaper clippings and scary ramblings pinned to the walls like wallpaper.

Author Brian Keene has already done an in depth discussion of the article on HWA and I suggest reading his post to make yourself feel better about what it means to be a professional. But I do have my own little bit of opinion to tag on to this conversation.

If you want to be a writer, you have to treat your writing professionally. There’s no doubt about that. You have to network and promote and write when you’d rather be doing almost anything else. To make a career out of telling stories, you have to do all of those things. However, never, ever get so sucked into writing that the rest of your life disappears. What are you writing about if not life? If you disappear into your writing cave from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, you’ll wring yourself dry within a year. Being professional mean meeting your deadlines, producing quality work, being considerate to other writers, and collecting money in some form for the books/stories/articles/scripts you create. That’s it. Everything you do in between doesn’t count when asked “Are you a professional writer?”

One of things I love about writing is that there AREN’T RULES. Sure there are grammar rules and storytelling rules and whatever. I’m not talking about that. What I mean is that there aren’t rules for how you have to work to make this writing thing happen. Want to only write one book a year and write it only on the weekends? Go for it. Want to produce three novels, four novellas, and a screen play in twelve months? More power to you if you can manage it without cracking. Enjoy writing while playing Disney movies on loop in the background? Great! Or do you prefer writing with pen and paper in the middle of a forest with not another human in sight? That works too.

One of the fabulous things about this industry is that the HOW doesn’t matter. What you do in between book releases DOESN’T MATTER. The fact that you have book releases? That’s what counts. The only qualification you need to meet to be considered professional is your work. Everything else is meaningless.

/end rant/

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Posted this on Tumblr. It’s only fair to repost here.

Earlier today, I posted this snippet from a YA contemporary I’m currently writing. It’s from a book I really like, but I’m less than 1/4 of the way through a first draft and I still have some pretty big things to figure out plot-wise. Mostly, though, what I love about this book is how my two MCs interact with each other in the beginning. There’s such a great play between their personalities!

The section below is from the first chapter of this book, a book that you’ll hopefully see out in the world one day. If I ever finish it. 😉

Let me know what you think!!

Fire Escapes of New York (c) Gregory Runyan

Fire Escapes of New York (c) Gregory Runyan

“You’re not a thief, are you?”

The smile on my lips is impossible to keep away. I glance over my shoulder to find him standing with his hands in his pockets, watching me carefully. “If I was, would I tell you?”

“No,” he says, his lips curving up into a smile. “You’d probably say something just like that.”

I nod and shrug at the same time before turning and continuing to walk away.

“Where you going, Cat?”

This time I turn around completely. “Cat?” And then it clicks and I grin. “As in burglar? Cute.” I laugh and walk a few more steps—backward this time. “I’m going to finish a project.”

“Thought you were escaping.”

I shrug again, an idea taking hold. I slide one hand into my messenger bag and start digging for my camera. “Turns out I didn’t need to.”

He blinks and looks back up at the building as I find my camera and turn it on. “Really? What did you think you were you escaping from?”

“You.” Wiggling my fingers in a girlish approximation of a wave, I pull the camera out of my bag, let the auto-focus take over, click a quick shot, and turn around. Mostly to make sure I’m not about to trip over a curb and fall into traffic. Getting my head crushed by a cab would not be the way to end my day.

“Hey! Wait, wait, wait.” I hear the quick thuds of Converses hitting concrete as he runs to catch up with me. “What do you mean, me? Do I know you?”

He comes up beside me as I turn east toward the subway stop so I shake my head—I still can’t shake my grin. “Nope. Never seen you before in my life.”

“Yet you felt the need to escape from me?” he asks, one black brow disappearing under the brim of his hat. “And why did you take a picture of me?”

“Well, I wasn’t running from you specifically,” I say, quickening my pace and completely ignoring his second question. “Just the person who lived in the bedroom attached to that particular fire escape.”

He’s silent, but only for about two footsteps. “Thanks. That explanation cleared everything right up.”

“People get touchy when you borrow things without asking.”

“So you are a thief?”

“The fire escape is still attached to your building, isn’t it?” He gives me a funny look, but nods. “Then I’m not a thief.”

“You were borrowing the fire escape?” Two more footsteps of silence. “Why?”

“I told you,” I say as I swing into the subway terminal and slide my metro card. “I have a project to finish.”

“What kind of project involves borrowing a fire escape?” he calls through the gate as I walk down the grimy, graffiti covered staircase.

I laugh. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

 

That’s all for now! Happy Tuesday everyone!

Keep Calm and Write On.

Stepping Down (c) Craig Lucas

Stepping Down (c) Craig Lucas

I’m finished with this round of edits on Sing Sweet Nightingale.

I’ve turned in the first draft of The Dream War Saga Book 2.

I’m waiting on revision notes on a project from my agent.

I’m on hold with my co-authored series while things happen. Good things.

Basically, I’m suddenly like an airplane that wants to come in to land but keeps being told by air traffic control to circle. It’s awesome because it means I have a lot going on and people who are willing to help me, but it also means I’m kind of at loose ends right now. Between projects. So… what do you do?

Start a new one. 🙂

The best thing to do in these situations is let a new idea take center stage for a little while or go back to an idea you maybe didn’t have the time to develop earlier. I have more than enough of the latter to keep me occupied, so right now I’m tinkering with a story involving a death, a conspiracy, and a lot of mystery. I’ve never written anything like it before, so it’s both difficult and fun to force my brain down meandering paths I’ve never traveled. I don’t know if this project will ever see THE END or if anyone except me will ever read it, but that doesn’t make the journey any less enjoyable.

One thing I think can be forgotten in the press to get published and to make a career of it and all that is that writers need to play. We need to write drafts that don’t work to figure out what does work. We need to meet characters we hate so we know how to write ones we’ll love. And we need to create stories for ourselves sometimes. Just because it seems like fun.

Maybe this book will one day sit on a shelf next to all my other ones. Maybe not. Right now, I’m not worried about that. Right now, I just want to see what happens next.

 

The importance of characters who have character.

People (c) Jayanta Behera

The world is a messy, complicated, and occasionally ugly place. Bad things happen all the time. Sometimes to “bad” people, sometimes to “good.” The world is also incredibly strange and random. For all the things that are unlikely or even impossible, there’s at least one person on the planet who can prove those odds wrong.

As authors, our job is to look at this mess of crazy, mundane, impossible, scary, cheerful things and try to translate it into a story people can take in and hopefully learn something from. But there’s a problem. Fiction is bound by something reality isn’t: rules and expectations. Readers see the world and measure possible and impossible against the experiences of their own lives. They’ll call you on your BS and point out your inconsistencies and make sure you hold up to the promises you make them. However, they’ll also have a lot of faith and suspend a lot of disbelief if a story captures them, and nothing captures my attention like a truly interesting and powerful character.

This post was born out of finding this link on George Takei’s Facebook page this morning. On Reddit over a year ago, a user (appropriately monikered european_douchebag) took a picture of a woman in an airport and posted it online. Why? Because this woman was wearing her hair wrapped in a turban-like cloth and had a noticeable beard.

Not too long after the post was made on Reddit, the woman in the picture came forward on the site. She didn’t yell, accuse, demand acceptance or apologies, this woman explained and apologized. Apologized! Her name is Balpreet Kaur and this is what she posted in a conversation where many of the commenters were mocking her appearance:

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled 🙂 However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. 🙂 So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. 🙂 I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

How incredible is not only her rational, reasoned response, but her faith? Her strength of character. Her beliefs are obviously bone deep and intense, but not once does she come across as preaching or accusing or belittling others for their own beliefs. She’s strong enough in her religion to accept the faiths of others and allow them their way of life. All she’s asking is that they understand hers.

I would love to meet this girl, but even if that never happens, I’m hoping more characters like her will begin appearing in fiction. If I picked up a book and found someone like Balpreet Kaur living within the pages, I would follow that character through even the most impossible situations and inconsistent seeming realities. Loving a character can convince a reader to forgive a lot and characters with character will convince readers (at least this particular reader) to forgive even more.

On another note, and as further proof for the randomness of this universe, the original poster of this picture read Balpreet’s response, researched the Sikh religion, and came back to her with an incredibly sincere apology. On the internet. Miracles apparently do happen. 

Things and stuff and silence.

It’s a secret (c) Paul Brunskill

I’ve come into my blog about six times this week to try to write something.

It hasn’t worked.

Part of this is because there are actually some fun things happening and I can’t talk about any of them until they’re finalized, but I want to, so I’d rather say nothing. Part of this is because between work and trying to write and May always being a busy month in my life, my brain is kind of cracked. I don’t have anything left to say here!

Hence the silence.

The problem is, I still have nothing to say! Instead, I decided I’m overdue for a Cracked.com roundup of awesome articles. Below are links to some of the articles I’ve enjoyed in past weeks.

And last, but not least, from Jezebel.com, because, yes: 

Sending your words into the world.

The first edit of SSN, printed out.

So you wrote a draft. An entire book! Good for you! You’re officially a more accomplished writer than 95% of the people who attempt to write a book. But… now what?

Now is the time to send it out into the world. Not to agents and editors and contests, but to other writers and trusted friends and family. You send it out with the hope that they’ll be able to show you some of the plot holes you never noticed, catch the character discrepancies you accidentally threw in there, and help make this book ready to face the gauntlet of the publication process.

That’s where I am right now.

Last night I finished my last-check read-through of TDWS Book 2 and sent the file off to a few people, most of whom haven’t read book 1. That may seem like a strange thing to do, but one thing I want to check is, can you understand what’s happening in book 2 without reading the first one? If you happened to pick this book up first, would everything make sense?

Now that the book is out in the world, I have to wait. And hope. Hope the people I sent it to love it, hope I didn’t miss anything that would cause the entire plot to collapse, and hope all my kind volunteers have the time to read it before I need notes back at the end of the month. But that’s a lot of what publishing is. Waiting. I’ve never been the most patient person, but I’m getting better at playing this game as time goes on. It helps that I’m also really good at keeping myself busier than I need to be. While my wonderful agent and my beautiful volunteers read book 2, I will be immersing myself in a different world and trying as hard as I can to finish this fantasy project of mine.

*takes a deep breath and disappears*

What do you do when you’re finished?

Mountain Lake Sunset (c) mwingine

I’ve had a day to decompress a little from finishing the draft of the book that shall not be named right now and I still feel a little too brain-dead to function. It was REALLY bad yesterday, though. I got absolutely nothing useful done. I couldn’t focus long enough to bother. So I didn’t.

One thing I’m learning the hard way is that you have to take breaks and let your brain regroup or your mind is going to burn out and you’ll end up useless for a long while. I’ve been writing on overdrive speed for a long while now and so taking a few days to read things I didn’t write, make some new jewelry, and watch some awesome TV sounds like a really good plan.

One great thing I did do yesterday was read a book by new friend and agent sister Tristina Wright. People, you better hope this book gets picked up. You want to read it. I promise you.

The hardest part of this “taking a break” is that part of my brain is yelling at me to get to work on my next project. I have more than one book I’ve been dying to finish writing. I just… can’t. So I’m telling that side of my head to shut up for now. This weekend, I’m doing nothing but making pretty things and watching Dr. Who. I’m really looking forward to it! 😀