AROW80 Check-In: May 7, 2014 and IWSG

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2 Hello! Short (sort of) Long rambling post tonight; since I’m focusing more on replying to other folks’ posts since I’ve been bad about that lately.

Writing Goals: Started reading my manuscript for Defcon: Fade Out and making notes on it. I’ve been waffling back and forth between feeling like I’m making some progress and feeling like I’ve bitten off waaay more than I can chew. So far, I’ve been good about shaking off those feelings but it is hard — as I’m sure y’all know.  Still, only way through it is to do it! And I’m going to do it, because I know I can.

Personal Stuff: My girlfriend and I were driving home yesterday evening and our car was running funny (namely the air conditioning wasn’t blowing as strong as it should have been) so when I was stopped at a red light, waiting to turn left, I turned the car off with the expectation that it would turn back on.  It didn’t. Instead, it clicked at me and I swore at it. I swore at it a lot!

After several unsuccessful attempts to get the car to start (because, y’know, maybe if we turned the key just once more, it would start!), I got out and headed to a nearby drugstore to see if I could borrow their phone to call Triple A.  Because, y’know, my cell phone was at home — but that’s ok because my Triple A membership was expired (which I knew going in). I reupped my membership with Triple A and they sent a tow truck out so I headed back out to the car where my girlfriend had been waiting and getting to listen to people honk and swear at her because the car wasn’t moving.  (This despite us having the hazard lights on — which pretty much means “Dead in Road.”)

One very helpful individual yelled at her to move the (expletive deleted) car — because y’know, apparently we hadn’t thought to do that.  And, again, the hazard lights were on, dude!

I got back out to the car and we waited for the tow truck and played a rousing game of “How many people will ignore the hazard lights?”  It turned out to be a  number significantly higher than zero, though I was more annoyed with the people who were the first to pull up behind us — anybody behind them couldn’t tell we weren’t able to move. The tow truck driver showed up and I told him what had happened and he brought out a jump pack to see if he could start the car. It worked and he offered to follow us home just in case we stalled again on the way.

Which was a good thing, since as we were pulling into the intersection to turn, I turned on my headlights and the damn thing died again. And I swore again. So, another jump and I was able to get out of the intersection and pulled onto a side street.

We got another jump and I turned on the headlights again and the car died for a third time. This time, I swore and cried and told the Triple A guy just to tow it back to our house since I wasn’t sure what garage to take it to. Particularly since we didn’t have any way to get back home from the garage or back to the garage (because I had temporarily forgot about the concept of rental cars).

The driver was nice enough to ask Triple A to put in a note so that I could get the car towed to a garage today without it being counted against me. So, the girlfriend and I were waiting in the tow truck and I was feeling miserable and wondering if we’d be able to get the car fixed before I had to go back to work on Thursday and this very, very, very nice lady came out to the car carrying a cold glass of lemonade for me because apparently I looked just that miserable.  She hadn’t seen the girlfriend, so she went back and got her a glass as well.

The lady, whose name was Irene, offered us this advice: “A car is like a romance, when it is good, it’s wonderful and when it is bad, you are miserable but the troubles are temporary.” (I’m heavily paraphrasing; I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to remember things, plus the tow truck’s engine was loud.)  And it did help; so did the lemonade which was cold and not too sweet or too sour.

IWSG Aside: now that I think about it, that’s pretty good advice about writing; when it’s going well, you’re over the moon and things taste better and the birdies sing and when it’s not working, well, it’s grey skies and things taste like dust and the birdies…they aren’t singing, suffice to say. But, give it time and things will get better, the car will get fixed, the writing will get done, so keep on truckin’!

Back to the car story: To make an increasingly long story short, we got the car fixed today. Triple A kept their promise and towed the car to the garage I chose without charging me for it; the garage was able to fix the car today with no trouble — turned out the alternator had gone out (second lesson of the week: if the car tells you there’s a problem with the charging system, get it to a garage ASAP. Even if the car’s diagnostic thingy tells you that everything is fine.) And we were able to rent a car with a minimum of hassle — which I picked up about the time we got the call that our car was fixed so for tonight, we have two cars so, go us!

Nerd alert: The rental’s a Chevy Impala which made me go HEE! Because, y’know, that’s the car the Winchesters drive in Supernatural and why yes, I am that nerdy!

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Insecure Writers’ Support Group Post for April 2, 2014

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This month, I am tackling the problem of world building for an entire series. Namely, the Defcon series that I’ve been working on for the past bit (ok, ok, on and off since 2007).

I’m facing a fear — or at least an insecurity — by making myself work on creating characters and a world that will be comprehensible and hopefully enjoyable to other people.  This is a big and ambitious project, in part because I’m creating characters who are nothing like myself and who live in a world that I literally can only imagine.  But, I’m going for it because I’ve worked this hard and I’m not stopping now!

CHARGE!

(Well, ok, technically I have yet to get started since I got sick on Sunday night and have spent the last couple days recuperating and trying to sleep off the sick but I’m still mulling things over so that counts, right?)

Insecure Writers’ Support Group Post for March 5, 2014

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I faced a fear of mine yesterday and I’m proud of myself for doing it.  I’m a diabetic, Type II, adult-onset that I control through oral medication and diet. Since my diagnosis, I’ve been terrified that one day I would have to start taking insulin.  There’s a couple reasons for that fear but the one that is relevant to this post is the fact that I hate needles.  Haaaaate them. As in when I was seventeen and in the hospital for appendicitis I debated whether the pain in my side was really so bad that I needed to ask the nurse for a pain shot. (It was; massive gastrointestinal area infection trumps phobia much like rock beats scissors but without the cool hand gestures.)

So, the idea that my life would depend on me having to willingly stick a needle into myself was just too much to take. Luckily, oral medication was and has remained an option for me.  Unfortunately, I haven’t always been the best about remembering to take that medication or stick to my diet so my diabetes hasn’t always been under control. Which has meant living in a cycle of ‘work hard on doing what I’m supposed to do’ turning into ‘slacking off’ and that, in turn, sliding into ‘not  doing what I’m supposed to at all’ and segueing into ‘oh crap, this is the doctor’s visit where they’re going to tell me that I have to go on insulin.’

I’ve been exceedingly lucky that I haven’t reached that final stage for real but after my last visit with my primary care doctor in January, I was referred to a diabetes specialist. I met with her yesterday and she put me on a new medication that is supposed to help me get my sugars under control and to lose weight.  Going on this new medication may mean that I’ll be able to drop a couple of the other medications I’m on and reduce some of the other ones I take, so I was pretty excited to hear about this.

And then, the doctor mentioned that a nurse would be coming in to show me how to take my new medication.  “’Show me how to take it?’” I asked, since I’ve been pretty good at swallowing things for several years now.  “Yes, it’s an injectable medication,” says the doctor and I say, cunningly, “Oh…”

I was a good girl and did not attempt to run out of the doctor’s office in a blind panic.  Instead, I waited and the nurse came in and showed me how to use the injection pen and provided moral support for the five or six minutes it took for me to build up the courage to inject myself.  I hemmed and hawed and stared down at my stomach and told myself that this was something I had to do, that there was no way of getting around it and that if I could prick my fingers to test my blood sugar, I could give myself a tiny little poke in the belly.

And, I did it! And it did not hurt. I mean, I literally did not feel it at all. I’ve caused myself more pain biting my nails (which says more about how badly I bite my nails than about how much this needle hurt).  I gave myself an injection!   And I did it again later that night before I went to bed – that time, it did hurt but it was a very insignificant pain and the run-up to doing the actual injection was a lot shorter.  I suspect that it’s going to get easier and easier to jab myself as the weeks go on.

Writing has been kind of like my approach to my diabetes – I know what I’m supposed to be doing (taking my pills; putting words on a page) and that while some of it is difficult (sticking to a diet; figuring out an ending), doing the work is going to be to my benefit (improved overall health; a finished novel).  I’ve made stabs at trying to be serious about my writing, attempts that have fallen through because for whatever reason I just couldn’t make myself stick to it.  But lately, I’ve been sticking with it. Since November 1, 2013 I’ve managed to put some serious work into my current novel draft – heck, I’m still working on it and I’m closer than I’ve ever been to an actual ending.  Thanks to the support I’ve found here and with the good folks at Around of Words in 80 Days, writing a book feels like it is doable.  I can change my habits and do what I need to do to get what I want.

This makes facing the needle and the blank page a lot easier.

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Side note: as someone who is and who will likely always remain squeamish about needles, being told ‘oh, it won’t hurt!’ just annoys the crap out of me. Yes it will so hurt! It’s a needle! You are sticking me with it! It’s going to hurt! I still have mad respect for the nurse who gave me a tetanus shot and said “Oh, yeah, it’s going to hurt.”

 

Insecure Writers’ Support Group Post for February 5, 2014

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From this month’s main post:

 Every writer is at a different stage of the journey and no two paths are identical. We do have a few things in common though – we all fight insecurity and we all need support. We’re looking for guidance, encouragement, and answers to our questions. We can find all of that here online, through the IWSG postings, the Facebook group, and the resources on this website. […]What do you need help with today? 

Ham radios. Specifically, how to use a ham or shortwave or even a Citizen’s Band (CB) radio to contact someone else in another city.  In my current WIP, I have a character using a radio to contact someone else and I’m not sure how to go about it.   I know it probably doesn’t work like a telephone and I have done a bit of Googling so that I can at least write the scene I have in mind and move on to other things (with the caveat that I’ll clean the scene itself up during editing), but I still have a little voice nagging at the back of my head that I’m writing about something that I know nothing about and I shouldn’t be doing that and I need to go research and figure this out exactly so that the scene will be right, dangit!

Of course, if I listen to that little voice I would have to go out and get a shortwave radio operator’s license before I could come back and write a scene that is one small part of one chapter of a potentially twenty chapter book. The characters involved are minor characters and while the scene is important, it’s not because of the radio message. It’s because of something that gets said while the characters are talking before/during/after the sending of the message. So, yeah, while a shortwave radio operator’s license would be pretty freakin’ awesome to have, it’s a bit overkill-y for me to go get one. Particularly when I have access to Google, not to mention my local library and their interlibrary loan program (which is seriously so on beyond awesome, I am not kidding! I basically have access to libraries across my state!).

And this doesn’t take into consideration all the other research questions I have both big and small. For which I would, per the nagging little voice, have to go back to school and get multiple degrees, take dozens of courses to learn various skills and travel extensively and quite possibly be reincarnated half a dozen times in order to be really sure I got the details right.

I hate that little voice…

The upshot of all this is that research is important to me. I like having the facts straight when I’m writing because I feel that having the facts straight helps improve the fiction.  Yes, I say this as someone whose WIPs include worlds featuring third shift vampire hunters, a reverse-Batman private eye, atompunk space pirates vs. Cthulhu and a post-WWIII world with human/chimpanzee hybrids running around.  But, to me, bringing realism to ideas like this actually does help make them stronger because the realism provides sturdy hooks from which to stretch the string of disbelief, which is where the implausible/improbable/unlikely ideas are hung. If the hooks aren’t strong enough, the weight of the ideas will yank them off the walls of…uh…okay so the metaphor starts to break down a bit when you get to the walls but you get the idea.  If the hooks don’t hold, the weight of the ideas will pull them out of the wall and your reader out of the story.

So, I worry a lot about getting details right in my books/stories. I wrote a fanfic once and I literally spent more time trying to figure out the details of the setting than I did writing the story itself (hour and a half on research; about an hour on the story) – because if the setting wasn’t right, the story wouldn’t have been right, or at least not right to me. I read anecdotes like Heinlein taking three days to do the calculations for an orbit in one of his juveniles – something that ended up being two sentences of text or something like that – and think that is something to aspire to because even if the reader never sees the work that goes into the story, the story itself will show the care that was taken in crafting it.

On the other side, I worry about researching too much. Or, rather, to the point where I’m really just avoiding working on the story and indulging myself in gathering interesting facts and research materials like some sort of hybrid between a librarian and a dragon. Because oh my gosh is research fun or what? Especially now that I’ve discovered interlibrary loan. But there does come a point where the research has to stop and the story telling has to begin, otherwise what’s the point of doing the research? The problem is finding that point.

And on the third side, I worry about not doing the right sort of research. More correctly, about missing the unknown-unknown, the thing that not only don’t I know but the thing that I don’t know that I don’t know.  Like…well, I don’t know, do I? But the examples that come to mind are the kinds of stupid and/or offensive mistakes like details about guns or crime scenes  or anachronisms — not to mention logical errors and plot holes and other goofs that can derail a story.

Of course, Worry #3 can turn into Worry #2 and grows out of Worry #1 so really, these aren’t so much separate worries as they are all a part of the same big Worry Mobius Strip that never ends and cycles around and around and around while the annoying little voice yammers at me until I force myself to shut it out and pick up my pen and do my best to write down the ideas that are in my head while also keeping track of the things that I need to know in order to polish the ideas in my head into the story that’s hiding in the back of my head.

And it also helps to know that there are people I can go to for information and advice, both on-line and off.  I have a coworker who used to be a pathologist and I was able to ask her if a decapitated head would be put in its own body bag or simply put in the same bag as the rest of the body (she said separate bag). I can come on-line and find communities like IWSG as well as little_details or the Nanowrimo forums that are dedicated to answering questions.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Insecure Writers’ Support Group Check-In

 

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The Insecure Writer’s Support Group – Check-In for 1/8/2014:

Standard Introduction Goes Here: My name is Kathy, I’m 43 years old, I work in a call center and I’ve been writing off and on since I was 17 but making up stories and worlds and assorted oddness since I was little. I can still remember being about five years old and talking to myself before I went to sleep and having to stop when my mom would come to bed — and then there was that magical day I realized that I could keep talking to myself when she came to sleep if I just started talking to myself inside my own head. Mind. Blown.

I wrote off and on during my teens and twenties, never really finishing anything or pursuing my goals as hard as I could/should have.   Well, not entirely true, there were a couple finished stories which were not good.  It wasn’t until about eight years ago when I got interested in writing Transformers fanfics that I started producing complete works and getting real feedback about my writing and gaining some real confidence.

In 2007, I tried Nanowrimo for the first time and didn’t win but did at least get a chunk of work done. Original work, which made me happy because finishing and eventually selling an original work is a goal of mine.  I didn’t try Nano again until 2011 and didn’t win that time either but in 2012, I did! And this time I managed to continue to work on the project after Nano was done so that made me happy since, as my history probably illustrates, finishing is not one of my strong suits.

I went back to that same project in 2013, with the stated goal of writing a complete draft from beginning to end all the way through with no hopping around and leaving bits to be done at some ‘later time’ that never comes.  I’m still working on it, so, go me! And I’m using my involvement in A Round of Words in 80 Days to help keep me focused. So far, so good!

Insecure Writers’ Support Group:

OK, so, this is my first time posting as part of the IWSG and according to the sign-up page, we’re supposed to: Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs.  So, here we go with a list of some of my more pressing doubts and how I deal with them:

Doubt #1 I suck.  I’m a terrible writer who can’t come up with good stories to save her life. Or, at least, I can come up with story ideas but actually turning those ideas into a cohesive story is beyond my puny abilities.

How I Conquered It:  I haven’t. I don’t think any writer ever really completely gets over the fear that they suck.  Well, except for the ones who do – and more power to them! But for me, while I haven’t conquered this insecurity, I have found ways to shut it up and force it back down into a box. I remember positive feedback I’ve gotten from readers about things I’ve written. I keep in mind that right now, since I’m still an unpublished amateur working on finishing a complete project, it’s kind of expected that what I create isn’t going to be publishable straight out of the gate.  The thing to focus on now is getting words out on the page so that they can be crafted into something that doesn’t suck.

Doubt #2 I’m an uncreative leech!  The reason I liked writing fanfic so much is because it was easier to use someone else’s ideas, slap on a few superficial and highly derivative bits of my own and then blather on for a few thousand words and call it done.  Hack, thy name is me.

How I Conquered It: First things first, I like my fanfics. Well, most of them. Some of them aren’t my best work, but other ones are pretty damn good if I do say so myself. I had fun writing them and, judging by the reviews I’ve gotten, there are people who’ve had fun reading them. Or at least gotten enough enjoyment out of my writing that they took the time to give me a comment. And considering the number of complaints about lack of feedback that show up on Fanficrants, that’s got to be saying something, right?

It also helps that, since I joined A Round of Words in 80 Days and have begun talking about my original fiction ideas, I’ve gotten some positive feedback about them as well. Knowing that others find my ideas and my writing worth their time and consideration helps ease my doubts.

Doubt #3: I’m too old to be a writer! I’m nearly 44 years old and I’ve got nothing to show for the years I’ve spent writing. I’ve written a handful of original fiction stories, none of which are anything to write home about. The last time I submitted anything for publication was in the mid-1990s and nothing came of them. At this rate, I’m still going to be playing around, pretending to be a writer when I’m in my 90s and I’ll never, ever, ever have anything to show for it. Why did I waste my 20s?!

How I Conquered It: Primarily by telling myself to stop talking stupid. Ok, so I might be a bit long in the tooth to take up ballet but for writers, age ain’t nothing but a number. I can write about ballerinas. Or cowboys. Or dinosaurs. Or cowboy ballerinas who ride dinosaurs – on MARS! Because why the heck not?!

And if I want to get something finished, well, then the thing I need to focus on is actually finishing something. Funny how that works, huh? If you don’t work on something, it doesn’t get done.  It’s true for laundry; it’s true for stories. Butt in seat, pen to paper, fingers on keyboard, write, write, write! RAAAAAAH! *goes charging off like Bluto in Animal House*

Doubt #4I am woefully behind the times and out of date; I always get interested in things a few steps behind everyone else. Therefore, my ideas are all going to be dreadfully out of style by the time I’m ready to start trying to get them published. Nobody else is going to care about the things I think are cool because they’re all going to be on to the newest cool thing, leaving me behind in the dust.

How I Conquered It:  By reminding myself that I am damn near 44 years old and way too old to be worrying about whether or not I fit in with the cool kids. With a  ‘For Crying Out Loud’ tossed in for good measure.  Yes, granted, there are trends in publishing but trying to write to those trends isn’t going to make me happy – and considering the amount of work that goes into writing a book, if I’m not happy, I’m not going to do it. So, to paraphrase those stupid Apple Jacks commercials, I will write what I like.

Besides, the world of publishing has changed; there are markets and formats that didn’t exist when I first started writing. There’s a world of options out there that I can, hopefully, take advantage of.

Doubt #5: I’m too weak to do this.  Writing is hard! Why is it so hard? It’s not fair! It shouldn’t be so hard! Why can’t I just plug a cord into my brain and print out the damned stories directly? Screw jet packs and flying cars, I want a Print On Demand Brain! One that comes with some kind of graphic design function too, because I can’t draw for @#%* either. Well, except for really cartoony pictures of fish.

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How I Conquered It: Yeah, writing is hard – particularly when you’re writing for the consumption of others.  Stephen King has described writing as telepathy; which makes sense, you’re basically trying to take thoughts from your brain and put them into someone else’s.  So, yeah, of course that’s not going to be easy!

I’m sure artists throughout history have wanted to give up.  I’m sure the first storytellers, back in the days when all stories were new and they could literally create anything and have it be completely fresh and new, had days when they just did not want to drag themselves out to the campfire and tell stories. And the folks who worked on Stonehenge? I’m willing to bet that they had days when they didn’t want to get out of their hut and deal with those picky-picky druids who had to have everything just-so.  And it’s an established historical fact that Michelangelo didn’t want to work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel but saying ‘no’ to the Pope wasn’t exactly a healthy life-choice at that time.

But they did it. They told the stories and carved the stones and painted the ceiling not because they had to but because creating things made them happy. Ok, so Michelangelo did so he could work on other projects he liked better, but he still did it.  But regardless of why they did it, the enjoyment they got out of it was important. They wanted to get the ideas and the thoughts from their brains into other peoples’ brains.  And if they could do it, considering that they were also dealing with saber tooth tigers and cranky druids and insistent popes, then I can do it when my biggest obstacle is my own whinny self.  And Candy Crush.

Not to mention, that one thing that makes writing easier is actually sitting down and DOING IT instead of sitting around whining about it. I mostly write during downtime at work and on a good night, when things are particularly slow, I can manage at least a thousand words without much in the way of effort, so while I might not ever have a POD Brain, I can still at least get the words on the paper. Which is ultimately what counts.

Doubt #6: I’m wasting my time, my money and my efforts on a gamble that, likely, won’t ever pay off enough for me to recoup my investment.

How I Conquered It: Really, self? Really?! You do realize that in the last week you have spent almost an entire day watching Phineas and Ferb on Netflix and eating corn chips and cheese dip, right?  Exactly what investment are you getting back on that, other than a nice relaxing day watching an awesome show and enjoying some yummy cheese?  Some things you do for the money or because they’re the practical, day to day things that have to be done and some things you do for the love of them and for the joy they bring you.  If you’re lucky, sometimes you can get paid for doing the things that bring you joy but the joy should come from the doing of it, not from the getting paid part.

Doubt #7Nobody cares.  I’m all alone, sucking and faking it and being old and out of date with my weak, non-POD enabled brain of suck and fail, wasting my time howling into the abyss – in between binge-watching Phineas and Ferb on Netflix and playing way too much Candy Crush and Jelly Glutton on Facebook. I should give up and find a more productive way of spending my declining years.  And probably find a new show to binge-watch since I’m running low on Phineas and Ferb episodes. Dang it…

How I Conquered It: See Doubt #1; people do care and I know it. I’ve got friends at work who talk about characters from a book I started back in 2007.  My aunt asks after my writing. My girlfriend types up research notes and background materials for me.  My declining years are still a couple decades ahead of me, so I can shut that noise up too.  And, okay so I am going to have to find a new show to binge-watch but, y’know a broken clock can be right twice a day.

If you enjoyed my post and want to read more, please, visit the other Insecure Writer’s Support Group blogs for more posts about writing.  Like Spider Robertson said, shared pain is decreased, shared joy is increased, thus we refute entropy!