The Write Life: April 2019

Ever wonder what it takes to be an every day writer? It’s this: planning, determination, and prioritizing writing.

My friends and I decided it was high time we visit the Magic Kingdom for an epic 12-hour theme park day. I write every day and while I want to prioritize having fun with my friends and enjoying the happiest place on Earth, I don’t want to do that at the expense of my 1,200-day writing streak.

I came to Disney prepared to make sure I got my words in while having a rollicking good time. That meant: fully charging my battery, fully charging my back up battery, shifting an in-progress story to GoogleDocs and making it available offline, and brainstorming what happens in the scene I was planning to write.

Finding the time to write while we were in the park was a balance between knowing we’d have long wait times for ride queues and not being rude to my friends. I waited until the conversation lulled, or when everyone else seemed equally distracted (or exhausted) before pulling out my phone to write. Because I had thought about the scene beforehand, it was easier to turn a handful of disjointed minutes into productive writing time. In the end I wrote 387 words while at Disney, which is not a staggering amount—I didn’t even finish writing the scene—but my writing streak is in tact and I like some of the ideas that presented themselves in that land of distraction. (Also I will always think it’s funny to write on theme park rides.)

Many thanks to Lara Eckener for being my in-line and on-ride photographer.

The Write Life: March 2019

In mid-March my friend ran a mini-workshop on branding for myself and two other author friends. In addition to getting away for the weekend and spending entirely too much time browsing through the rooms and rooms of used books at Chamblin Bookmine, we discussed who we each are as authors, helped refine brand statements, and created vision boards to help guide our individual progress. (Spider-Man and Into the Spider-Verse sneaked into my vision board when I realized my cog looked more like a spider-logo—still on brand.)

Talking about who I am as a writer and trying to find a statement to encapsulate both writing about alternate history and writing about the future, as well as writing about robots and gender disparity and all the other bits and bobs of odd sci-fi that surfaces in my thoughts was a bit of a challenge. I had to strip down who I write about and focus on that more than on what I write. It was also a great experience to analyze why the things I write about are important to me. (I mean, I knew already, but being forced to articulate it in a non-glib way was a helpful step in taking myself seriously.)

Even though “branding” can be a scary business word that seems like you’re selling yourself as a product, it’s actually more about figuring out how to articulate what you do as an artist in a bite-sized way. That bite-size isn’t just helpful for selling yourself or your art. It’s also helpful for guiding your creativity and making choices about which opportunities to pursue and how to develop projects. It’s a way to capture who you are as an artist at this point in your career, and I think that’s the thing that I found the most helpful about the weekend.

In the end, I realized I write about various forms of agency. Whether that’s women reclaiming agency in alternate history worlds or robots shucking their programming or proving they are more than their overlords believe them to be, my stories directly deal with characters reclaiming agency and learning to be more human than they ever believed. Since articulating that, it’s been easier for me to write and to capture the story I’m trying to tell. If you’re struggling with your fiction, I apparently recommend working on your brand!

 

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The Write Life: February 2019

This month was the highly anticipated release of the Netflix adaptation of The Umbrella Academy. This weird little comic by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá has been living in my heart since 2007, and I was terrified and excited to see it come to the small screen.

The Umbrella Academy comicsNetflix has done all right by the Marvel superheroes, but The Umbrella Academy is a different sort of beast, with way more emphasis on the emotional dysfunction of superheroes than on the superheroic fights. (Like, even more so than the current age, which thrives off superhero dysfunction.)

All my expectations were exceeded and my fears assuaged because this is a beautiful adaptation of the source material. And it is truly and wonderfully an adaptation, not a reproduction (which would have been kind of a nightmare). It’s different from the original, borrowing from both the “Apocalypse Suite” and “Dallas” storylines and combining them into something that is both familiar and different. It has the right vibe, is both tragic and comedic (as all good superhero things should be), and it has these recognizably broken and beautiful characters at its core. (Also, it gave me more Ben Hargreeves, which is something I have been wanting for OVER. TEN. YEARS.)

Watching this series over the course of a few days while also putting the final revisions into my highly linear and much less dysfunctional novel reminded me of how much I love nonlinear storytelling about broken characters. (Not enough to change my novel again—it’s been changed enough!) I’ve been noodling over a sci-fi short set in space, not sure how to attack it, and I think the problem I’ve had every time is I keep trying to treat it like a linear narrative and I don’t think it is. The characters are messier and the dramatic motivation is murkier and I think I need to channel a little of what I love about The Umbrella Academy into writing it.

Here’s to the things we love and how they inspire us.

 

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The Write Life: January 2019

While I was addressing comments on my steampunk novel, Lara Eckener was kind enough to share Victorian drop candy with me! Drop candy is made by rolling heated sugar between brass molds. As it is pressed between the molds, the sugar cools and hardens. To release the candy pieces, the rolled film is dropped, breaking the thinner film away from the candy, thus making it “drop” candy.

The candy itself is from a confectionary in Tallahassee called Lofty Pursuits. They have a magnificent YouTube channel showing their Victorian rollers in action and other videos of their hand-made candy.

The picture here is the drop candy composed around a section of the novel in which the main character watches automated robotic arms roll out and drop nectar candy. (Lofty Pursuits was absolutely the inspiration for adding this world-building moment.)

 

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The Write Life: December 2018

I started December by finishing off a final revision of my Clockman novel. (Yes, another final revision.) This pass included addressing some concerns I had about Chapter 12 and then reviewing the entire manuscript for filler words and adverbs to make sure the sentences were as tight as they could be. I used some of the website apps I’ve talked about previously in Writer Resources (available on Patreon) to assist with these passes, which made looking for filler words and adverbs a breeze.

The manuscript is currently off with a friend from the MFA and my MFA thesis director, and I’m doing a final (“final”) hard-copy review wherein I’m discovering horrifying typos and further tweaking sentences (because I. Am. Unstoppable!) Our formerly feral cat Pink is assisting in this work, but he keeps falling asleep on the job (sometimes literally on top of the book).

I’ve also been preparing a presentation on Non-Traditional Revenue Streams for Writers (like Patreon), which I’ll be presenting at the OCLS Writers Conference on January 26. If you’re local to Central Florida, make sure you register soon! (Seats are going fast.)

 

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