Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We've all got Insecurities

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. If you don't know what I'm talking about, IWSG is a group started by The Ninja Captain where we hop around to blogs about the universal truths of writers: Insecurity! This month, Ninja Captain Alex has wrangled Kristin Smith, Elsie, Suzanne Furness, and Fundy Blue into being cohosts. Everyone be sure to go thank our cohosts for lending a hand.

Now on to the insecurities! (wait, maybe I shouldn't sound so excited). 

I think there comes a point in our writing where you just have to accept insecurity: I mean really, I’m scared to write. I’m worried you all are judging my words. I’m worried people will read my book and think I’m the biggest idiot on the planet. I worry that my words somehow cast a magical spell on the people who decided to publish them, and ANY MINUTE NOW I’m going to get an email that reads something like “Dear Author, I’m sorry to inform you that we have finally woken from the spell you weaved with your words. We will not be publishing your book because, as it turns out, you write crap.”

Yeah, that’s what I worry about.

And you know what, it’s just like all the other worrying.

Turns out that having a book deal just changes your insecurities. I sort of thought it would banish them, but now I get it. Now I understand what everyone was talking about. Once there is some success, the insecurity morphs from “I’m never going to get anywhere because I’m no good,” to “It’s a fluke that I got this piece of success, and everyone knows it but me.” Right. So there’s that.

And, honestly, this insecurity exists for everyone, maybe yours is different, or it wears a cute hat with a bow on it when it tries to convince you that you aren’t that great. Maybe your insecurities sound something more like “who am I to dedicate so much of my life to writing when I could be doing things to help those in need around me.” The point is, it’s always there. There’s always something pulling us from writing, and the key to overcoming the omnipresent insecurity? Ignore it and keep writing.

I’m sorry this is a tough love sort of post, but the reality is, we all feel it. We all have insecurities. We all have feelings of inadequacy from time to time. Some people can manage to keep going*, some people can’t. You know what we call the people who keep going?


We get it, Rena, but HOW? 

Oh yeah, writer peeps, I hear you. It ain't easy to keep writing when you feel like it's all for naught, or that every word you write is going to get trashed into the great abyss of your harddrive. I get that. But at some point, even knowing that the first MILLION** words went into the great wordprocessor in the sky, at some point you just have to write. It's the only thing that get's the job done. But if you need to know how I do it, here you go: 

I was gaming with some friends in college (rolemaster, for those of you interested in my RPG of choice), and we were facing down something really nasty. Our party was low on everything except cracked up ideas (those we had in spades). At one point our GM turns to us and asks, "Aren't you scared?" My buddy responded, "We're too stupid to be scared." 

Write like that. Maybe not too stupid to be insecure, but too tired or too caught up in the story, or too stubborn (yup, that's me, the mule writer, I get everything done by stubborn refusal to accept other options). I hope that helps. If you feel like shaking your fists at me for not understanding, well, I get that. In about a week or two, I'm sure I'll have a completely different song to sing about the whole insecurity thing, but this one works today.

*to be clear, I’m not saying that every scrap of every day has to be filled with writing. I’m saying that everyone has a hard time writing. Some people can push through it. We all feel the crazies, but that’s not enough to stop some people. It’s not enough to stop a lot of people, so get back out there and write. 

**Yes, I know that plenty of people have all kinds of success well before the million word mark, I just wasn't one of them. I didn't get so much as partial request until I was at 3/4s of a million words. Apparently, I like the scenic route. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Where do novels come from? (the sad truth of me)

I have a bunch of new coworkers, and inevitably, people ask about where the ideas for a novel come from.

Ideas are fickle beasts, and I’m lucky (or cursed depending on your view) to get many ideas and in a whole range of development: everything from a scrap of an idea to whole novels downloaded into my brain with everything down to chapter titles. Where does that come from? I know people often point to something mythical and religious, but I feel like that’s the easy way out.

Also, science. There have been a few studies linking depression and pain with the part of the brain that creates (I’m too lazy to look up the studies and direct you, but master Google could help you out if you just take a minute).

I’m not going to lie, it makes only too much sense to me. Whenever I’m in painphysical, emotional, you name ita book comes out of it. If the event is big enough, more than one book.

I wish I could say that my books come from a place of beauty and grace and that all the good in the world contrived to make me and my books what they are. Let’s be real: when chased by a predator, it’s not the hope of surviving that motivates your feet, it’s the fear of the pain. And so to with my writing. Spear me in the heart, and a book will appear. I’m not saying I don’t have books written without pain, but I know myself, I’ve never been motivated by the carrot. I’m all stick, and so are my writings.

And how about you, are your books more stick or carrot? And for a real can of worms, which do you think makes a better book and why?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And I present, my current shelfie

I mean, I asked people to share their shelfies, so I guess this is a classic case of show me yours I'll show you mine. As you can see, if you were worried that you have the messiest shelf out there, you got nothing to be worried about. That's mine--after I cleaned it up. 
That's my traveling super hero group.

Some of the titles are upside down. Some are... you know what, no judging. Yes, that's SAVE the Cat and The Cat Strikes Back, and the Art of War For Writers (Thanks Liz!!!)

The really sad thing about running shelfies while my whole library is in storage is that my whole library is in storage (cries into my borrowed copy of Harry Potter). Usually my shelves are filled with an equal mix: modern but not super new, Hot of the Press, and impossibly out of print.  But with all the books in their boxes, my poor books are pretty lonely--and mostly the same mix (the hot off the press books are in a stack right next to the shelf waiting to be read!).

The tootsie roll piggy bank was not staged. That's where it lives, full of pennies. I'm basically a really mature 12 year old. Incapable of giving up the things I love, but ready to crack open the mysteries of the universe... just after I finish this next GL book.

And if you have no idea what I'm talking about with all this shelfie business, it's a Blog hop.

Go around and check out everyone entries!

Tami Aschenbrenner

Monday, September 8, 2014

Black Market Anime better than mainstream? Nope, just harder to get

I just got back from a super big conglomeration of nerds. I admit, that the vast majority of fan interactions I had were really great. I got to chat with other people who liked the same things I do, and it was great deal of fun.

However, I’ve heard some talk around the interwebs that there were some fan-fan interactions that were less than stellar. I think the sort of hazing that goes along with old fans interacting with young fans comes with how hard it used to be to be a fan. Some of the properties that are mainstream (THANKFULLY!) were really hard to get a copy of. In college, I was part of the anime club strictly for the anime showings because they often ran stuff I couldn’t find (and I went to some shady places in Los Angeles to score copies of anime, it was like heroine dealer, coke dealer, anime dealer--no really). I know more about torrents and streaming from my love of properties not sold in the US 20 years ago than seems healthy for someone on the anti piracy side of the equation.

So yeah, I’ll admit, it was hard to access some anime compared to the kind of access that people have now.

And I’m going to say: I’m glad it’s easier to get the kind of movies that we love. I’m glad I can walk down to the book store, buy manga and browse the anime section at the local video store. And really, old fansyes, I include myself in some of these properties, but obviously not allshould be really happy that a bazillion teenage girls (and boys) are super stoked about a previously obscure fandom.

You know why, right?

The more fans, the more stuff. More movies, more merchandise, more creators at cons. More.

So, how do you make a new fan feel welcome? Try this:

Fan A: “Yo, I see you have a Groot on your bag. That’s pretty awesome. Have you been a fan for long?”

Fan B: “Nah, but I LOVED the movie. Groot is my favorite.”

Fan A: “It’s great to have new fans. You know <awesome comic book writer> had a great feature of Groot. You might enjoy it. Welcome to the club. You know, the more of us there are, the more Guardians stuff we’ll getlike movie two!!!!”

In short: all fandoms need new fans otherwise they die. The way to make new fans feel welcome in a fandom is to acknowledge their enthusiasm, and if they ask, or there's an aspect near and dear to your heart, you can direct them towards some of the facets of the property that you think are fantastic. (hopefully, the new fans won't just blow you off, but it's a possibility, because, you know, human)

The thing not to do to new fans is to be judgmental about the properties and the way the new fans find them.

Example: I love Green Lantern. I never knew the property existed until I saw the movie. I loved it so much I made a costume for it for my first dragon con. At that Con, I bought every GL comic book I could get my hands on.

I told no one of my ignorance for fear of being judged, and because the movie had just come out, there were GLs EVERYWHERE. Out of fear, I completely isolated myself from this vast group of people who love what I love.

The only person who I talked to about it? A bartender. He asked me if I thought the movie was as horrible as everyone said. It was the only part of that fandom I had experiencedAnd I’d LOVED IT. Yes, I thought the movie could have been handled better. Yes, the plot had MAJOR problems, but honestly, I sat through a full-priced showing of Batman and Robin, GL was at least firing on all cylinders, even if there was a knock in the engine.

So I made up something politic and slunk away determined to not be judged.

Try not to do this to new fans. It’s a horrible feeling. Ask them how they found out about it, and if they’re over the moon about one aspect of it (I’m looking at you MNight Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender), don’t rip on it. People can be a Star Wars fan if they love Clone Wars but haven’t seen the movies. They might really enjoy the movies, and you, as an older fan, might recommend those movies to them, but just because they haven’t seen them, doesn’t mean they aren’t a “real” fan.  

Okay, this could go on forever, so I’ll stop there. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments. Or, if you feel like having a flame war: state why your favorite comic book hero is the best and defend it with nothing more than your biased opinion. Extra points for dissing both the major comic houses in the same post.

Joking! But, if you want to take this opportunity, recommend a comic book property to me (please include the writer and the issue to start with, but be aware, I've read a crap ton of obscure comic books), and I’ll see if it’s my jam or not (extra points if you recommend something I like as much as GL).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: It's sound advice

HOW on this green earth (though, admittedly not as green as it should be given the dire drought) did it come to be September???

Still, there’s one good thing about the months blending into each other: it’s time for another installment of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Visit our Ninja Captain Alex, hop on the Linky, and give the cohosts some love: Laura at My Baffling Brain, Mark Koopmans, Shah Wharton, and Sheena-Kay Graham.

And what exactly am I insecure about this month?

It’s no secret I went to Dragon Con this last weekend. Fun was had, and I went to see some of my favorite makers of STUFF I LOVE. For the most part, people ask the creators about how awesome things are or if this obscure detail was actually something of importance. This time someone asked Jim Butcher what his advice was for getting published.

It was to move on.

Don’t get caught up writing and rewriting the same book. The problem is that the bad is already baked in. –Jim Butcher (okay, it’s paraphrased. I didn’t record it, but that’s the spirit of it).

This has been the year of going back through old stuff for me. I’ve been working on projects that came to life in 2009 and 2011. Could he mean me? One of them is a complete rewriteand by complete, I mean I threw out all the words, started again, then threw out all the words and started again, changing major plot points and attempting to rearrange the bad bits.

And this is where my insecurity comes in.

Am I just rehashing all the baked in good? Are my stories the ones Mr. Butcher is talking about? Are my stories being rewritten fatally flawed like a batch of cookies with a cup of cream of tartar instead of flour?

So yeah. There’s that.

How to combat this insecurity?

First, I’m going to write books. Some will be good, and some will be my attempts to justify why I sometimes wash the clothes but don’t put them into the dryeronly with magic and monsters and mayhem.

Second: people are going to dislike my work. Maybe many, maybe few, but there will be haters. The people who have made things I love, did so against all odds and against the better judgment of everyone they knew professionally.

This doesn’t mean we should just throw caution into theyou know what? I think it does. Throw caution into the wind and write stuff you love. This is the new motto: If you love it, write it. Even if you’re writing dystopians, you’ll eventually find that perfect combination that rocks it out of the park. I know, you’re all getting mad at me now, but the first reader, the one we need to please most, is ourselves. I’m currently cleaning up a novel that I thought I was done working on. Instead, I’m prepping to do an edit, then a full edit, then one more time for good measure, and THEN read through it not once, but twice more (possibly three times). And this is after all the work that I did on this novel, which was not insubstantial (draft, edit, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, EDIT ONE MORE TIME), so if I don’t love the story, what’s the point?

Thankfully, not all novels will go through the grinder this much, but many, many do.

But the real key to the “move on and write something new,” is that eventually, you will hit the perfect combination. You will write something you love and many many other people love too. It’s all just a gamble anyway, so why not have fun on the ride?