Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Rolling Back the Hours

On the first Wednesday of every month, a sizable group of us writers take part in the Insecure Writer's Support group. We share our insecurities, because in the end, it helps us to realize that we're not the only ones feeling the way we do. If you want to check out the bloghop or sign up, you can find information here.

Also, if for whatever reason you prefer Wordpress, you can find this same post here.


As I mentioned on my Update Day post, I actually had an amazing month in May, and although there are still quite a few things up in the air, I think June might end up being a big one too.

One of the major highlights of May was that I signed a contract with a major company to help create their content. It actually suits me perfectly because I'm using my degree and my writing skills together.

For now, the contract is basically a test run until December, but given how happy the lady in charge of my work is, I'm starting to feel secure in the fact that an extension past that is probable, even likely. It's really strange to think that I'm this excited about the job, because it was so not what I had in mind when I started freelancing, but my brain is really enjoying the chance to use both hemispheres at the same time, since I have to be both analytical and creative, reading reams of reports and pulling all that information together into articles that people that haven't read those reports can understand.

Best of all, assuming this is a long-term kind of gig, it actually gives me the level of financial security I need to allow me more writing hours.

So where's the insecurity?

Well. In the fact that for the past two weeks, I've been sleeping through those writing hours, which means I'm still struggling to fit everything into my schedule.

See, when I was working fixed price gigs instead of hourly like I do now, my hours drifted. It didn't matter what time of the day I did something as long as it got done before deadline. And I was "filling" my writing hours with freelance work because for the past few months, I was in no shape to be creative. The stress and anxiety from my life exhausted me emotionally, and since freelance was paying my way, I put the emotional reserves I had into that so I can keep racking up the good ratings. (A strategy that paid off in a big way because it directly led to this contract.)

The overall result was that my sleeping patterns shifted to hours inoptimal to my writing. I went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up at 8, maybe 9. Then I'd work from about 10 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m., and veg out until 2 a.m.

Bad bad Misha.

Because a lot of the stress points in my life have lifted, which leaves me wanting to work on my own stuff. Thing is, if I want uninterrupted writing hours, and I do, I need to wake up at 6 a.m. It's a simple thing, really. In theory, I should get to bed at around midnight and set my alarm.

Phht. Uh huh.

I did that.

Now I have the lovely sounds of my alarm as backdrop to my dreams.

As I sleep right through it to 8, maybe 9.

So now I'm going to move my hours some more and get to bed by 10 p.m. but it remains to be seen how that works out.

How do you guys on Daylight Savings Time manage to shift your sleeping patterns? It shouldn't be that different from what I'm trying to do. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Update Day: Boy Do I Have Good News!

It's hard to imagine, but this is the last Friday of May, which means, for those of you who don't know, it's time for me to share my update for the GotGoals? Bloghop.

Cohosted by me and JEN Garrett, this bloghop has its participants set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and then update on the last Friday of every month. If you want to join in the fun, please click here.


So how did May go? You'd think from my prolonged silence this month that it went horribly, but actually, something happened this month that was nothing short of a miracle. One day, I will be able to publicly talk about it, but because of the nature of my original problem that this miracle solved, I can't really give too much detail.

But yeah. On 3 May, someone basically walked in out of the blue and offered to solve one of the biggest problems that was threatening us. Just like that.

And then, something else amazing happened. So late last month, someone wanted to hire me as one of five people who would write articles for a project she was working on. Since the project deals with female entrepreneurship (a subject dear to my heart), I accepted the offer and started work.

It's only a short-term job, of the kind I usually do, so I thought nothing more of it, but then when I started submitting my articles, the lady let me know that I was the only one of the five people who wrote the articles the way she wanted. (She wanted stories, which worked for me. ^_^) So awesome. I'm basically going to write all those articles now.

But then last week or the end of the week about that, she said she'd referred me to the company she works for as a communications consultant, and they wanted to hire me as a contract worker, because they needed someone who could do the work I'd proved to her I could do.

So I said yes, because yay extra work.

And then I got the contract.

Guys... It's flexible and dependent on how much work they send me. But... We're talking about jumping to almost halfway to my monthly earning goal, assuming I fill the allowed hours.

And having started this week, I have to say I love the work.

So yeah. I had a super exciting month.

It's really great to be able to share some good news, I have to say.

Does that mean I'm going to set myself short term goals for June?

Not quite. See, because this is a major and new job for me, I want to keep everything as open as possible and settle into a routine. And once I do that, I'll be able to turn up the throttle on my personal goals again.

How are you guys doing? Anyone else have good news? 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Probably the Most Damaging Insecurity I've Ever Had

Gosh, I can't believe it's time for another IWSG post again. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Insecure Writer's Support Group is a bloghop where we share our fears, doubts and insecurities once a month. The idea is for everyone to see they're not alone in what they're feeling, and also for everyone to encourage each other, or to give advice if you've been there and made it through. If you would like more information or to sign up, just click here.

Also, I have this exact blog post up on Wordpress in case you prefer to read there. 


I actually considered skipping today, because man, I've been having some serious troubles writing. 

But here's the thing. I realized earlier that the major insecurity I've been suffering from for the past two or three months is a lie. 

So I thought I'd share a bit of what's going on with me. Finally figured out a way in which to put my feelings in a publishable format. 

There's a bit of a challenge, because I can't really explain why I felt this way. I did explain on my Patreon page, since I wanted my patrons to know where I am in my life, but I couldn't make it a public posting, because I have quite a good reason not to want to put everything up in public unfiltered where a Google Search can pick it up. So. If you want to see a full picture, I'm afraid it's going to cost a dollar. If not, no pressure. I think you'll be able to get by without the full picture. 

Why? Because I'm a writer, damn it. I'll make it work. 

Right. 

So. 

*Deep breath.*

Basically from the beginning of March, I stopped feeling like I had a future worth living for. 

Man. That sentence was harder than I thought. Already in tears. 

Okay. I can do this. 

From the beginning of March, I stopped feeling like I had a future worth living for. Basically for the past ten years, I've been keeping myself functioning by relentlessly chasing down my dream of becoming a writer, and then later of making a living off my writing skills. 

And that was great, because there was always something to work towards. A book to write/edit. Marketing to do... And so on and so forth. 

But then partly thanks to a very close relative and some supposed "friends," my life started to unravel in 2014. 

And it kept on unraveling. 

And kept on unraveling. 

To the point where in March, I stopped being able to even hope that one day it would be okay. It didn't help that I was already earning my living from writing and it just wasn't enough to stabilize the shit storm that my life has become. 

That was the worst. Because if I wasn't happy now, what was the point of building toward the future anyway? 

It started as a single thought that multiplied and multiplied until it became a belief that simply wouldn't go away. 

But here's the thing. 

It's a lie. Or worse, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Because if I believe that my future is dead in the water, I'm going to stop trying to fight for it. And if I stop trying to fight for it, all hope is lost, and my future as I want it really will die. 

And today I had the blessing of being given a chance to step back and evaluate. And to remember that although I have a grand future planned, I also have a closer, smaller, more short-term future. One where I have a new book (or two) published. One where that book acts as a stepping stone to what I consider to be my empire. Also, one where after two years of putting it off, I have an actual proper author website and stuff. 

That smaller future is something I want. Badly. And it doesn't matter whether my life wants to fall to pieces. I have the skills and tools at my disposal to make that smaller future happen. 

But to do that, I have to stop lying to myself. I have to stop thinking that I'm going to be trapped in limbo forever. 

Maybe you're in the same boat as me. In which case, I want to remind you to stop lying to yourself as well. There is a future you want, and there is a way for you to get there. Once you remember that, it becomes easier to to figure out what you need to do and how to do it, regardless of what's going on in the present. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 30, 2018

I've been self-censoring a lot lately. And really, I hate it. I always told myself that the day I could no longer be honest with myself and others on my blog would be the day I stopped blogging.

And really, whether it was a willing decision or not, that's what's been happening.

I'm sitting with multiple ideas for blog post topics, but the truth I'm having to stare in the face is taking up so much real estate in my mind that the instinct I try to write about something other than the truth, I get blocked.

But the instant I face the truth, I realize it's hardly publishable online.





I just deleted half my blog post again.

And... again.

Yeah. Stuff it. I'm packing it in for today.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Update Day

It's the last Friday of the month, which means that's it's time for another Update Day post. For those of you who don't know, a group of us set some crazy or important goals, and then, once a month, we post updates.

If you would like to join in, you can click this link for more information.



So how April went for me...

Sigh.

I'm just really glad I didn't set any specific goals for this month.

At the same time, though, I'm annoyed by how everything seems to conspire to prevent me from achieving anything I set out to do.

Still alive though, so that counts, right?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Update Day

This post is for Update Day, which is our once-a-month update for the Got Goals Bloghop.



I'm a few days late in updating, and I have two reasons for it. Firstly, Update Day fell on Good Friday, which I had decided not to post on, and then I got majorly side-tracked on Thursday, which was when I was planning to write and schedule my update post.

Secondly... I got easily side-tracked because I had been procrastinating on writing this post. And... you know... blogging in general.

Why? Well... the thing with a monthly update (and blogging as a whole, really) is that it requires a certain amount of introspection.

Usually, it's the case that I would feel like I achieved little, and would end up being surprised at how much I actually did get done.

March was another beast. One that I did not, and still don't, want to face.

...

...

....

................................................

Okay. I just faced it and it's just making me feel nihilistic (and like I'm going to jump from somewhere high in the near future), so let's not post that on the blog, even though I doubt anyone will see this thanks to A to Z. (She says after deleting about half the post she's written.)

Suffice it to say... I didn't achieve anything of not last month. And odds are there's not going to be much in the way of improvement in April. On the contrary.

So I'm not going to set any goals, because I'm just going to hopefully let myself be pleasantly surprised in a few weeks.

I'm probably not going to blog much until the next Update Day either. So if I'm quiet this month... don't worry... I'm probably around somewhere... But April happens to be a good blog break time if you're not taking part in A to Z. (I'm not.)




Wednesday, March 7, 2018

IWSG: Thoughts and Prayers Appreciated

Since it's the first Wednesday of the month, it's time to do another Insecure Writer's Support Group Post. If you'd like to join in or just see more information on what this bloghop is about, please feel free to click here.


Today's title deals with neither writing nor an insecurity per se, but I thought I'd take a moment to ask those of you who pray to shoot a quick prayer up for me and my family. 

As some of you might know, I live quite close to Cape Town, which is currently facing something of a dystopian-level event in July, namely where the water levels in our dams will be so low that the city will be turning off the water supply to homes, and people will be required to queue for water at a few hundred water points. 

Well... what you guys don't know is that my family business (and me) have basically been quietly but slavishly working on offering the City a possible band-aid to help stave off Day Zero. I can't give you guys precise details just yet, but to tell you guys it's been a Hurculean effort on the part of our small business is a bit of an understatement. 

But people said we wouldn't be able to approach the City... But we did. They said that we wouldn't be able to get the resources together to make the business work, not even on paper. But through God's grace, that's done too. 

Today, we submitted our pitch to the City government at their request, and now we have to wait to hear whether or not they give us the Okay Go. 

At the moment, my fingers are shaking as I type this, as we have literally done every single thing we could do to make this happen. It all depends on a yes or no from the City of Cape Town. But I can definitely say that if we get a yes, this will by far be the biggest thing I've ever been part of in my life. 

So if you pray, please ask God that His will is done, and that if it is His will, that He would continue to supernaturally intervene in this business in order to help us pull it through. 

Okay... Bringing it back to the point of IWSG...

Given that this business thing has basically consumed my thoughts lately, I'm a bit low on writing right now to even think about being insecure over it. So... Today I'm going to answer this month's question:

How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Usually, I just dance around a bit and brag about it on social media. Overall, though, I don't see this as a major achievement yet. The big celebration is for when I actually publish something. 

What about you? How do you celebrate finishing a story?

Monday, March 5, 2018

I just don't feel like writing.

I really can't believe that more than a week has passed since I last posted. I kept thinking that I'd at least post once more, but somehow, that never materialized.

There are a few reasons for this, like the major freelance job I got and the major development in the family business that kept me busy.

But then there are other reasons too, like how I've just been having this urge to play on Photoshop. (The results of which I'll probably be revealing over the next few weeks on Wednesdays.)

Thing is, I didn't have to do those things. I just wanted to. It never even occurred to me that I was procrastinating from my writing until I actually had to sit down and write this post.

See, I have about a month's worth of posts planned, so I have about 12 interesting topics to choose from today. Buuuuuuuut.... I just don't feel like writing.

So here I am, writing about not feeling like writing.

On the plus side, at least the words are flowing naturally here, so I'm not in severe burn-out territory.

I'm just feeling like my creative urges have shifted gear into visual forms instead. I'm still going to edit, though, since that mostly uses a different part of my brain.

But for today, I decided to give myself a pass, and just wanted to let you guys know why I was so quiet last week.

How are you doing? Do you also sometimes find your attention unexpectedly pulled to another art form? 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Update Day: February

Well that was somewhat annoying. I missed my own bloghop, thanks to internet gremlins getting into my internet connection just as I wanted to write this post.

Anyhow. The Got Goals? Bloghop is a group of us who have set some crazy or some seriously important goals. Once a month, on the last Friday, we post updates on our progress. For more information or to join in, click here for more information.


Last month, I set some goals for February that are aimed at bringing me closer to my goals for the year. So let me take a look at each goal and how I did.

1) I want to finish this revision round of Book 3 by month end, if I can. 
I don't think I'm going to get there before the end of the month, but I am through 70% of my chapters.

2) I want to make a final decision with regards to whether I'm going to use my old system of CPs for each round of edits after this point, or hire an editor. 
Because of me not finishing, I think I'm moving this decision out to next month.

3) I want to post regular updates to my blog and vlog, and also update the content that goes to my other networks. (The two are related.) 
I'm not quite happy with my progress here. Although I did much better than I did last year, I still missed days thanks to my unexpectedly hectic schedule. We'll have to see how I do next month.

4) Maintain and further improve the healthy habits I've started to establish in January.
I actually took this a step further. So now I'm drinking large amounts of water every day. I'm also exercising more and finally, I've cut all refined carbs from my diet. This decision has been a while in coming. See, I love love love bread and other baked goods, but I just don't like how they make me feel. But it's really hard, basically impossible for me to just lower my carb intake, so in the end, I decided to cut out basically everything but healthy carbs like those in fruit and veg.

5) Read for an average of 15 minutes per day. 
This month was a bit hard for me. I was really busy, and because of my prioritizing my editing, I'm currently closer to 10 minutes per day. I might still get to 15 minutes if I get a few hours' reading in over the weekend.

So because I still have to do all these things, I'm just going to set the same goals for March.

How did February treat you? Have you been making progress in February? What would you like to achieve next month? 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ellen G. Goldman on Health Tips for Writers

Hi guys, today, I would like to welcome Ellen G. Goldman to my blog. I met Ellen when I did the editing, cover design and formatting for her book Mastering the Inner Game of Weight Loss: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, and since I think she's got some awesome advice, I thought I'd ask her to share some health pointers for us writerly types. Take it away, Ellen!



Have you ever muttered to yourself, “This job is killing me!”? I know I have.

It is usually at times when I am feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and time-pressured. They are fleeting moments and pass quickly.

But a few years ago, they took on new meaning.

I was in the fitness industry for years, running my small, private personal training business. Most hours I was on my feet, working side by side with my clients. Coupled with my own workouts, very little time was spent sitting at my computer, or seated at all.

Once I shifted from training to coaching, my daily habits changed as well. Coaching by phone, writing blogs, newsletters, social media content, plus managing the marketing and other tasks related to running my business had me sitting at a desk for more hours than ever before.

It was a problem. Not used to sitting still for so long, I had to adjust. I was also reading the new research that said extended periods of sitting are bad for our bodies and our minds.

According to the studies on this, sitting on our duffs for most of the day takes a serious toll on our health and well-being, despite daily exercise.

Most working individuals average at least eight hours of sitting each day. For writers, it may be even more. It’s hard to walk away, especially when on a creative roll. However, inherent problems that come with hours of sitting without breaks aren’t easy to ignore.

Individuals with sedentary lifestyles, coupled with frequent prolonged sitting, have shown an increased risk for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

Although the reasons are unclear, studies have linked excessive sitting with colon, breast, and endometrial cancer.

Being slumped over your computer in your chair all day leads to tight hamstring and hip muscles, weak abdominal muscles, and flaccid glutes. Together, that’s a recipe for postural problems, neck and back pain, and increased risk of lumbar disc degeneration.

If the distraction of being in pain and taking time off to attend to disease and illness isn’t enough to make you rethink the way you work all day, don’t discount that extended sitting also impacts your brain.

If you can relate to staring at a blank page while trying to come up with creative prose, feeling as if you can’t think straight, it is probably because foggy brain is setting in. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.

It’s hard to write inspiring words when your brain isn’t getting the proper fuel it needs. After 60 or so minutes of sustained focus, the mind begins to fatigue. Just like our bodies tire when working our muscles for extended periods, we feel sluggish and have difficulty thinking when we are fuel deprived. The brain needs a constant source of oxygen to perform optimally. Once it is used up, it needs a break.

Moving muscles pumps fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and triggers the release of all sorts of brain and mood enhancing chemicals. Pretty essential if you want to do creative, meaningful work.

Here are some easy to implement ideas you can incorporate starting today to improve your health, decrease your risk of injury and illness, and increase your creativity and productivity.


  • Set a timer to go off every 55 minutes, reminding you to take a five-minute break. Stand, stretch, walk around, and grab some sips of water. 



  • Consider investing in a fitness tracker. Not only will it record your total daily steps—to optimize health the recommendation is 10K—but many have a built-in reminder to go off when you’ve been stationary for too long. 



  • Set a rule—no eating in front of the computer. Mindless eating leads to over-consumption and weight gain. If you desire a sugar treat to “wake you up,” it is a sure sign that it's time for a break.



  • Commit to a daily lunch break, and enjoy the time off. You’ll come back to work rejuvenated. If hunger strikes mid-morning or afternoon, stop working and take a few minutes to enjoy a healthy snack.



  • Eat a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. This mix keeps you satiated and gives the body and the brain the energy it needs to stay focused and be productive. 



  • If you feel sluggish, take a movement break rather than depending on caffeine or sugar.



  • Keep a water bottle on your desk. Sip often.



  • Schedule exercise breaks. Remember the most creative ideas come when the brain and body are being flooded with oxygen. Keep a pad by your side or record thoughts on your phone to capture those that come to you while working out.



  • Although adherence to exercise seems to be better for those who work out first thing in the morning, that might not be the best time for us writers. If your most creative time is in the morning, leave exercise for the afternoon when you need the pick me up. However, if you are a slow starter, and later in the day is when words flow for you, a.m. exercise would be a better time. 



  • Create a 10-minute stretch-and-strengthen routine for the end of the day. Stretch your back, hamstrings, and hip flexor muscles. Strengthen your spinal and abdominal muscles.



  • Consider purchasing a standing desk or, if your budget allows, a walking treadmill desk.



  • Use wireless headphones when on the phone, and walk while you talk.


Try out a few, or all, of the above tips and see how quickly you positively impact your energy levels, mood, health, and happiness as well as turning on your creative brain. Who knows, you just might write your next masterpiece.


Ellen Goldman created EllenG Coaching to help overextended business professionals and entrepreneurs who are worried about their health and happiness, and are either exhausted, burnt out, out of shape, overweight, or all of the above! Through her coaching programs, motivational talks and online courses, she shows clients how to integrate health into their busy lifestyles with simple, small steps that lead to massive change, resulting in greater energy, focus, productivity, and happiness every day. With 30 plus years' experience in the health and fitness industries, working as a personal trainer and certified wellness coach while raising her family, Ellen knows firsthand that you do not need to sacrifice your health and happiness to have a successful career. Her mission is to help others thrive both personally and professionally. Ellen is the author of Mastering the Inner Game of Weight Loss: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet. To learn more about Ellen and her wellness programs, visit www.EllenGcoaching.com.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Social Contracts, The Prestige, and the Subtle Art of Mind-F*ckery


As I mentioned on Wednesday, I recently read a book that had some... let's call them issues. I'm not going to name names, but you guys will probably be able to track it down if you follow my social networks, or if you're patient enough. But if you do track the title down, keep in mind my comments can be seen as spoilers once you have the context, so choose wisely if you want to find out what book I'm talking about.

At any rate, I mostly did enjoy this book. It had an interesting voice and rapid pacing that did serve to keep me immersed in the reading.

But will I be reading this book's sequel, which is coming out soon?

No.

I could blame some of the plot issues this book had, but if those were the only ones, the book had entertained me enough to encourage me to (eventually, maybe) pick up the sequel. But no. The issue was a bit more serious.

The issue is that the writer broke her social contract with me.


Some writers seem to be completely unaware of the fact, but all works of fiction come with a reciprocal, unwritten social contract.

The reader agrees to suspend disbelief until the end of the book, trusting the writer's ability to tell a good story until the very end.

On the writer's side, there's the promise of a good story being told, and that any leap of faith taken by the reader will be either explained or rewarded in some way by the end.

I always talk about the plot and characterization in a book being its foundation. Well, taking this analogy further, this social contract of trust and reward basically stands as the reason why the foundation had been laid in the first place. The writer wants to entertain, and the reader wants to be entertained. The social contract makes it possible for both sides to both get and deliver what is needed for this transaction to occur.

My problem with this book is that I spent 90% of the book trusting the writer despite some logic issues in the story, only to be rewarded at the end with "Oh well, the conflicts, the stakes, the choices, and even the supposedly devastating sacrifices as the result of those choices never actually mattered and were all undone by the end."

While it had been foreshadowed from the start that this was the case, but nothing had prepared me for how little it all mattered in the end.

And so, at the end of it, I, being a reader, felt betrayed. So much so that I'm simply not willing to get back onto that roller-coaster again for the sequel.

So How Do Writers Deliver Their End of the Contract?

The main step, of course, is to tell a good story, which revolves around all the techniques you guys already know. 

But if you were to want to write a book that is designed to completely screw with your reader's minds, it basically comes down to one thing: 

Don't put the mind-f*ck ahead of the story. 

In other words, if you're putting so much effort into blowing the mind of the reader at every turn, you're actually harming the story, either by making it predictable, or by unraveling all the meaning you'd put into it.

Or in still other words, put the mind-blowing events into your plot, but don't make your plot about the mind-blowing events.  

This is such a difficult thing to explain without naming examples, so I will name two examples in movies. And to make the point I'm making clearer, I'll even make the main characters have the same vocation. 

I present to you: 

Image result for the prestige

and

Image result for now you see me


Before we continue: SPOILER WARNING!!!

Of the two, I think the book I'd read was trying to be The Prestige. And why wouldn't it?

In The Prestige, the pacing was tight. The conflict was no-holds-barred and take-no-prisoners. The stakes kept climbing. But here's the thing. The conflict centered around what two stage magicians were capable of doing to each other in the name of revenge. The mind-f*cks started coming when the understanding the viewer had of the events in the story took on a new meaning, once they realized what the magicians were willing to do to themselves in order to win in this revenge game. (Let me just say that those things are more horrific the more you think about them.) 

Everything in The Prestige is established, shown, and explained, peeling back layer after layer until the viewer is given clear sight of what they had been seeing all along. In other words, nothing was hidden, save for the meaning of what they had seen, and even that is revealed by the end as the huge twist. If viewers rewatch the movie, they will have a different experience, just because they understand all that's going on in context. But even knowing the context and twist, The Prestige is still a movie worth watching, simply because the characterization was excellent and the plot in itself is amazing. (Brilliant conflict. Huge and ever-increasing stakes driven by character motivation.) 

What the book ended up being was Now You See Me. This movie sets up a conflict, only to reveal it's a diversion, then sets up another thing, only to show it's fake. And another, and another, none of which is real. By the third time there's a plot twist (and I use the term loosely), the viewer's mind isn't blown, because the viewer knows that literally nothing that's happening is actually happening. So stakes? Nada. Conflict? Meh what conflict? We don't even know what the goal is yet. (If we don't know what the goal is, we don't know what is standing against the goal.) 

Plot twists are thrown in with little to no real ground work, all to "generate interest." And in the end, it is revealed that the one thing the viewer thought was real—in other words, the heist and the conflict with the detective—was all fake and that the whole time, there had been an entire other plot that the viewer had not been allowed to see on purpose, and that gets jumped on the viewer from left field with little more than a "ta-da!" in the third act. 

This in a nutshell was exactly what had happened in the book. Literally in the third act, we're not only introduced to this whole other unseen plot, but said plot literally undoes everything in the book, including the relationship between the two leads that had been developed as the story progressed.

So what happens is that once this other plot becomes known, the plot we readers had read—the one we had known and spent time on—doesn't gain a new meaning. It gains non-meaning. As in, if I reread this book again, I'll never be able to commit to the story again, because this story literally means nothing now. Nothing I had been shown in the story actually meant anything. The story is defined by what I hadn't been shown, and in short, by how much the writer had taken my trust without giving me anything of substance in return.

And instead of being mind-blown, I'm just really upset and let down. 

So if you are working on a book that hinges on some major plot twists, please do ask yourself: 

If my readers reread this book knowing the plot twists in it, will they still be presented with a compelling plot?

Or will everything I set up fall apart because of the way I resolved the story? 

If you answer yes to the latter, you failed to hold up your part of the social contract. It really is that simple. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go rewatch The Prestige. 

Anyone else love The Prestige as much as I do? Anyone else feel as betrayed as I do when plot twists basically undo entire stories? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Reviewer's Dilemma

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post.


This month isn't about a writing insecurity per se, but more... an insecurity surrounding being a writer online.

Recently, I changed my posting strategy both for my blog and for my YouTube Channel. I realized that my blog content was more suitable for seasoned writers, while I could use my YouTube Channel to draw in new readers by posting tips for new writers (most are readers, no?) and by talking about books I've enjoyed reading.

The latter does have the extra benefit of encouraging me to read more, but it's coming with a huge potential landmine:

What if I don't like the book? 

In all the years I've been blogging (eight this year, btw), I've consistently refused to post reviews, simply because I never know what to do in the event of having a meh reaction to a book, or worse. I can't lie and call it okay, because meh is not okay to me. Especially if I paid for said book.

Also, if people requested me to review the book, especially if we've built a relationship over the years, I could foresee that me just not being subjectively into their book would do damage to said relationship.

All in all, the issue of a writer reviewing other writers' books felt like swimming in shark infested waters, and I had always refused to wade in.

Until now.

So why did I change my mind? 


Short answer is I want to attract readers and grow my following, and my lurking for two years on YouTube and Tumblr has revealed that talking about books to readers is the way into their hearts. Also... really... I just really want to talk about the books I've read. Especially when I liked them. And since this year I have a goal of reading every day, knowing I need to whip up some content around my reading is doing a lot to act as an incentive so I don't move my reading down my priority list the way I've done lately.

And I guess I thought that it'll be okay. I read so many books that I love that I didn't really think I would bump into one I didn't enjoy.

And of course, I did just that in this first week after deciding to post my opinion on books I read.

Which means I'm firmly in chum-filled waters now. Do pretend I didn't read it? Do I acknowledge reading it with a meh, moving on attitude?

I'm kinda thinking of going with the latter. Especially for this book. It wasn't bad. It just had flaws. Explaining those flaws would make readers cry with boredom, though, so that's not an option. Writing a post about those flaws for this blog without naming names, however, is.

Thing is, I still don't know if acknowledging a book as being mediocre is a good idea. So maybe if I did a quick "what I liked, what I didn't like" segment on it...

Sigh. 

I need to stew on it. Three more weeks before I have to make a call.

Any suggestions? Do you review the books you read? What do you do with the ones you don't enjoy?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Eef Lenaerts on Writing a Book About Traveling through Africa

One of my first freelance jobs was to do the editing, formatting, and cover design for a book about traveling through Africa from Egypt to South Africa. It was a great book for me to read, because the idea of traveling over Africa has always intrigued me. (Although I'd do it in reverse from how the writers Eef and Dries did it, seeing as I am in South Africa already.)

But because I enjoyed working on the book so much, I thought I'd invite Eef to do a guest post about what it was like for her to write it.



Hi all,

Like many of you here, we wrote a book! But we’re no writers, we’re travelers and we had absolutely had no idea how the hell to write a book, so we got some help from Misha.

The book is finally finished (thanks to Misha) and she asked us to write a guest post about the process of writing a book while traveling, so here we go!

Four years ago, we left Belgium with our car. Two years later, we reached South Africa. It was an adventure, with many ups and downs. We loved it, but at times we hated it. It was hot, it was cold, it was amazing, it was dreadful…but it was the adventure of a lifetime that no-one can take away from us.

We left as total dummies with our Toyota Landcruiser. We drove from Belgium to Turkey and took a ferry to Egypt to start our way down along the East Coast of Africa, with South Africa as our end goal.

We were total dummies. Young and eager to go, we couldn’t wait. We packed up our house, sold our belongings, and bought a 4x4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime!

We didn’t take enough preparations, so of course we ran in problems along the way, getting stuck in the dessert with a hi-lift jack, but no points to use the jack, having a spare battery for the fridge, but having a warm fridge, applying for a visa, but no USD to pay for it…

These were all small things that we could sort out, and they make some great stories now, but we could easily have avoided these issues. So after the umpteenth time of thinking “Oh really? Wish we knew this before!’ I decided to write a book for the other dummies in the world!

With a good mood, I started writing down things that were important to prepare before you leave home, ways to act in certain countries, hidden treasures along the road, etc. Gathering this information was easy, but making it into a book was way more difficult than I thought.

It took me two years to finish the book. One reason was because we were still traveling, so we had a lot going on. The other reason was simply that things change constantly in Africa! So the information about a border crossing from two years ago was absolutely out of date. This meant that apart from the actual writing, the book required A LOT of research. In the end, I had read the content so many times, I just couldn’t cope anymore.

So for me, it was a horrible experience. :P

I don’t think I’ll do it again in the near future, but the book is finished and I’m very proud of it!

So if you’re interested to have a look at what I made of it, or just need the final push to start an adventure (the big aim of this book is to give the people that push they need to get out the house and go and see the world), feel free to look it up! Part of this book’s profits will also go to the Rhino Fund Uganda, so the rhinos will thank you.

All the best,

Eef


Two years ago, Dries and Eef decided to throw caution to the wind. They packed up their house, sold their belongings and bought a 4x4 to go on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling over the African continent. It was a life-changing experience, filled with amazing sights and wonderful people, but it was also challenging because when they started, they had no idea about what they were letting themselves in for.

So to help others who want to share in this amazing adventure, Eef and Dries decided to share their experiences and advice learned the hard way, just to make things a little easier for new adventurers.

The tips range from what you should wear to what you should bring along, how to get through the borders to where you should camp and what you should do while you're there.

Which means that Into Africa is a fun read for armchair travelers, but especially useful as a guide for adventurers out to experience Africa for themselves.

A portion of proceeds from the sales of this book will go toward The Rhino Fund Uganda, an organization focused on saving rhinos from extinction.

Available on Amazon

Anyone else ever dream of traveling through Africa? 

Friday, February 2, 2018

I'm Honestly Tired of Literary Writers' Complaining

Lately, I've been reading a slew of articles featuring quite a significant amount of hand-wringing about and bemoaning of the fate of literary fiction everywhere.

The reason for this, it seems, is the fact that statistics have uncovered that fewer literary writers can make a living off their writing these days.

And sure, this is a cause for sympathy. I personally don't like that I don't make a living purely off my writing either.

But.

Every single one of the articles, featuring various literary writers, share a few commonalities between them, and these traits have been ticking me off beyond measure.

I figured, as this does fall under the industry/business side of writing, I'd write this post to give air to my feelings.

So here the biggest sources of irritation, plus my reasons why, in no particular order.

1) Every single literary artist bemoans how "inferior writers" like E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, and other genre writers can swim in money when the real artists, i.e. literary writers, don't. 


Ahem... Not that I'm an E.L. James fan (she's just not my jam, y'all), but how exactly can one compare apples and oranges and call the apple inferior, when the apple happens to be the one that's selling more?

How inferior, exactly, is a genre writer to a literary writer, if the former is the one so beloved by the masses that they can make a living off their writing?


2) They're bemoaning the loss of the art of storytelling as if genre writers aren't continuing in the tradition of some great literary classics like Oliver Twist, The Three Musketeers, Jane Eyre, etc. 


This point they're making makes me livid. Why? Simple statistics. This whole culture of "You must read this in order to be considered worthy/smart/intelligent/well-read/whatever" and then forcing readers to follow an arcane, often arbitrary approach to "appreciating stories" has turned away readers year after year. 

In school, when readers are supposed to be created, they're being told they're not good enough when they can't or just don't appreciate literary fiction.

When there is, in fact, absolutely nothing wrong with not liking any particular thing.

Especially when the most obscure amount of nonsense is touted as the truth, man, just so students can make sense of what's going on, instead of being told that it's okay to just enjoy a story for what it is... namely a good story... or... you know... not... simply because said student isn't into that sort of thing.

What exactly is the sign of a good story anyway? Some arbitrary gate-keepers calling a story a piece of art? Or readers wanting to read books that don't have the stench of elitism attached to them?

You can't hold your genre (and I hate to break it to you, but literary fiction is a genre) up as the standard of excellence, treat people as idiots for liking something else, and then expect those same people to turn around and buy your books as a reward.

I mean, what are we even supposed to do when you bemoan readers following trends and reading "inferior" genre stories, Mr. Literary Artiste? Clap our hands? Give you a cookie? Are we supposed to be sorry for you? Because right here, I personally can't even say I like you


3) They're bemoaning diminishing returns and the threatening implosion of the publishing industry. 


Both of which can in fact be blamed not on the reader, but on the decisions made by publishing houses themselves. Instead, literary writers blame the readers for (rightfully) following their tastes away from their books.

Here are two things I've learned when it comes to being in public as a writer.


1) You don't resent readers for not liking or not wanting to read your book.  
2) You don't resent readers for not liking or not wanting to read your book.

Why? Because it hurts your business Mr. Artiste. You're literally harming your book sales by coming off as a clueless, self-aggrandizing asshole. While you're bemoaning your decreasing book sales. I'm only a lowly genre writer, so I can't be expected to understand figures of speech, but is that ironic or just stupid?

4) The entitlement. 


This right here is what probably gets to me the worst. Everyone I've encountered as a writer, ever since I started writing fiction, told me that I shouldn't expect to be a bestseller, that I shouldn't even bargain on a lowly goal like making enough to buy food every month with the money I make from writing.

So uhm... why exactly do you expect it, Mr. Artiste? Did someone who was selling you something tell you lovely tales of fluffy bunnies and unicorns? Or is it because you think that it's just not right that you literary artistes don't make a living, while us genre writers do deserve to starve?

But let's talk about just desserts for a second. I admit that I know exactly two literary fiction writers (one of which is actually a poet and my Gran). I do however, know that the genre writers in my networks are busting their backsides, often doing at least one other job while writing, always learning, always thinking about what will make a good story, and in what ways they can deliver a story that will please their audience.

And so, they increase their chances of actually finding an audience that will enjoy what they did. Some don't, though, and I find that unfair, because publishing can be harsh on us all. Even those who did everything to deserve kindness from it.

But in none of these articles I read did I once see talk about the need to innovate, to learn, to inspire readers to want to read literary stories. Nope. All I saw was some form of, "Oh woe is me. I was born in a generation where people are too stupid to read my books, so they read inferior books instead."

Of course, you don't say that outright, Mr. Artiste, but here's the thing. You might not believe me, but genre readers are incredibly good at reading subtext. And they do not like being called stupid.

That's another basic of writing genre fiction, come to think of it.

Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience.
You might want to try it.

Instead of... you know... beating us all over our head with how little respect you really have for your potential readers, who might not have heard of you before, but who will now forever associate your name with "Ugh. No. Let me go find a writer who actually likes their readers."

In Conclusion

Look. I don't like to generalize, so I know all literary writers don't have their heads this far up their backsides. And if you are a literary writer of a different ilk, I really would love to hear your thoughts on the subject of earnings, the industry etc. same as everyone else.

But what I just can't stand is that in the past weeks and months, all the articles about literary fiction seem to focus on these arrogant prigs with zero self-awareness or even less respect for the people they were trying to address.

I don't want literary fiction to fail any more than I do the big publishers. But is treating everyone around you like they're stupid because you couldn't make them read your book the way to fix your problem?

No.

And really, the lack of logic to this approach is what irritates me the most.

Thoughts? Do you guys think that literary fiction will go extinct? If so, do you think there's any way to save it? 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Discussing Trello on the Womagwriter's Blog

I might have mentioned recently (or about a million times recently) that I switched over to Trello to keep track of my projects and tasks.

So when Patsy from the Womagwriter's Blog asked me to do a guest post on tracking projects and submissions, I decided to share some more info on how Trello works and why that works better than something like Excel. You can check it out here, if you're curious. 

Hope to see you there!

Misha

Monday, January 29, 2018

My New Content Plan and What That Means for My Blog

On Friday, I mentioned that I finally, after almost a year, figured out my content strategy for this blog. Honestly, it wasn't a minute too soon.

I'd been feeling like I just lost steam after my disastrous year in 2014, and my blog got lost with it. Sure, there are some of you die-hards (thank you!) who kept showing up and saying hi, but I definitely noticed a dip in my traffic. And to be honest, I really don't blame those of you who fell away.

Why? Because while I occasionally happened to post something that I felt was worth reading, it was mostly a reactionary, almost spontaneous process. Some things hit, some things missed. And because I was constantly behind on literally everything, I never knew what I wanted to write about most of the time.

My YouTube channel, incidentally, suffered from the same thing. I enjoyed writing for both this blog and for my channel, but often, I'd be at a loss and spending way too much time on figuring out what I wanted to write about. As a result, I more often than not ended up skipping altogether. Because let's face it. While blogging is awesome, it can't (and won't) be my priority. It will always come second to my books and job.

But.

I'm not one to give up, and when I saw this book by Meera Kothand, it seemed like my blogging muse was telling me something.

The One Hour Content Plan: The Solopreneur's Guide to a Year's Worth of Blog Post Ideas in 60 Minutes and Creating Content That Hooks and Sells by [Kothand, Meera]

The One Hour Content Plan is mostly aimed at bloggers who actually want to directly earn money from their blogging, as opposed to only partially augmenting my other earning activities. That said, I found this book invaluable simply because it put what I was trying to achieve into perspective.

And that perspective helped me realize why I had felt that my blogging last year was unfulfilling both to me and to the readers.

It basically came down to this:

I was aiming at the wrong people.

For example, I would share my YouTube posts here, and you guys would be completely unenthusiastic about it. And I didn't really get it, because the content on my channels was the exact same thing I had been writing about basically since I came to blogging in 2010.

But that's what I realized. Many of you guys have been with me since 2010 (THANK YOU!), but you, like me, are not the same people you were back then. We grew. We gained experience. We've learned lessons. We've become better at what we do.

And if I write something that's about "how to write a book," 90% of my audience here won't care, because 90% of you guys already wrote at least one book already.

So I could revamp my blog and change everything to recycle my audience and attract more new writers, but I happen to like you guys and I want you to stick around.

And so, I'm going to play to my strengths here in a way that you guys will hopefully find interesting. The best responses I get are to my goal-driven posts, posts about the industry, posts about making it as a person making a living at this writing/editing/publishing thing. The other good responses I get (and that I don't want to lose) are to my more personal posts, because I feel that blogging still is the best way for people to know me, and giving that up would basically be missing the point. And lastly, some of my most popular posts do have writing craft and technique advice, but not the basics. Instead, you guys enjoy posts that make you say, "Hmm. I haven't really thought about it this way." or, "Oh wow. I always forget this, thanks for the reminder."

Here's the thing, though, those kinds of posts are not the ones that are popular on my YouTube channel. So I'm going to split the two. My blog will be bringing you the content I think will be the most relevant to you guys, and my YouTube Channel will be aimed at readers and new writers looking for advice from an old veteran.

To sum up, this is what I have planned for this blog for at least the next year:

  • Survival Tips and Craft Advice
  • Advice on Goal Setting, Time Management, etc.
  • Lessons and thoughts I have regarding writing, editing, the industry, etc.
  • Advice and opinions on the business end of being a writer.
  • And then, because I enjoy doing it and would like to do more of it, I would like to regularly share some more graphic-design-y things I've been doing. 
I really hope that you guys will be as excited by these changes as I am about making them. If you have any thoughts, comments, or blog topic suggestions, please do leave them in the comments section below! I will definitely take a look. 

So what would you like for me to write about? Yes, I do have a plan, but the plan is flexible, so I'm always game to address something if you want me to. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Update Day: So Far So Good

It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time to update everyone on my goals as part of the Got Goals? Bloghop. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, JEN Garrett and I host a monthly bloghop where we set crazy or just crazy important goals, and then post regular updates on our progress on the last Friday of every month. You're welcome to join. Just click here and follow the instructions.


I have to say, for someone who didn't set any official goals for the month, I actually did great. Despite the fact that there were some bad stuff that happened to rock the boat, I still managed to float enough to get some of my goals done, including some of the big year-goals I set for 2018.

To list my progress:

Five-Year Goal: Making a Living Off My Writing

The major headline is that I had a record month in January, making more than $200 more than I did in December. 

I didn't quite make it to the number I'd hoped for, as things just fell quiet towards the middle of the month. But that was also good in its own way, as I could then devote more time to Book 3, which I really do need to publish if I'm to achieve my goal of making more money from my own writing. 

Writing and Publishing Goals

Although it was impossible for me to spend time on my work on some days, I did manage to catch up on the days where I could work on my own stuff to the point where I spent an average of 38 minutes every day on it. 

This means that I got through 20 chapters (out of 85) of my revision to Book 3 and I managed to write a poem as well. 

Marketing Goals

The major bit of news here is that I figured out my content strategy, both for my blog and for my YouTube Channel. I'll write more about this on Monday, since I don't want to make this post too long, but suffice it to say, I basically have an entire year's content (and back-up content) planned out for both. 

I'm hoping that not having to sit down and figure out what I need to write about will help me make more efficient use of my time, and to be more active overall. 

Life Goals

I can't really say I achieved anything here, but I can officially say that I'm actively working on my health now. 

The major change I made is to get more serious about my water consumption. It's seriously hot here at the moment, and even the slightest dehydration can have bad effects not only on my health, but on my writing as well. 

For example, if I get a headache because I'm thirsty, it doesn't take much for that to turn into a migraine that puts me out of commission for at least a day or two. 

The nice side-effect is that drinking more water has made me less hungry, which means I've been able to improve my food choices and portions. It's also given me a bit more energy, which means it became an almost natural progression for me to start exercising. 

Which is important when you'd otherwise spend your whole life in a chair, y'all. 

Finally, I did manage to read for an average of 15 minutes every day. (I would have liked to spend that time every day in a literal sense, but on some days that was simply impossible.)

What Do I Want to Achieve in February? 

To keep things simple, I'm going to pick five goals that are important to me, so I can prioritize them over the other things I want to do. 

1) I want to finish this revision round of Book 3 by month end, if I can. 
2) I want to make a final decision with regards to whether I'm going to use my old system of CPs for each round of edits after this point, or hire an editor. 
3) I want to post regular updates to my blog and vlog, and also update the content that goes to my other networks. (The two are related.) 
4) Maintain and further improve the healthy habits I've started to establish in January. 
5) Read for an average of 15 minutes per day. 

How did January go for you guys? Any progress on your goals? 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Bangs and Drilling Sounds

Hey all!

I've finally managed to sit down and evaluate what I'm doing with my social networking, but steering everything in the right direction is taking a bit longer than I would have liked, so I will be quiet until Friday, when it'll be time for another Update Day.

Have a great week!

Misha

Friday, January 19, 2018

How to Use Framing to Strengthen Your Story


This week, I've been thinking a lot about framing. A lot of us take framing for granted, but it's actually such a vital part of our writing. So I thought I'd talk about it today.

We often think of framing in terms of the plot frame. As in how a plot forms the backbone or frame over which the whole story goes. This is true, and as important, but what I'm thinking of is framing, almost in a photographic sense. 

Framing has a lot of different meanings in photography too, but what I'm talking about here is aiming your camera so that the contents of your frame (i.e. what will be in the picture) results in a pleasant image. Like so: 


When we write, we should be framing the chapters in the same way. See, a chapter isn't just a number with text after it. It's actually a snapshot out of your story, and like a photo, the best chapters are framed properly, so the contents do the best work possible toward progressing the plot. 

Since I've started freelance editing, I've been noticing quite often that writers seem to think that chapters should just begin and end, maybe at a set number of pages.

Many writers seem to think that, as long as the story gets told, it doesn't matter where the chapters start and finish. 

In a way, they're not wrong. Beautifully framed chapters won't do anything if the story is weak, but then, I don't really think you can beautifully frame chapters if you didn't sort your story out first. 

The thing is, the framing of one's chapters can be the difference between a good book and an excellent one. Or even an okay book and a good one. 

It all comes back to reader immersion.

See, readers have been trained to "read" certain things in a certain way. For example, a comma makes them pause. Periods make them pause longer. Line breaks mean there has been a change of some sort from one paragraph to the next, whether it's in location, time, or point of view character. The readers might not yet know what changed, but that line break signals them to be prepared for it, so when the change does become apparent, they're not pulled out of the story. 

Just so, readers are trained to read something into a chapter as well. A chapter is a unit, which follows after the previous one and goes in before the next. The end of the chapter means that the main content of said chapter has been dealt with. Even chapters with cliffhangers. There is obviously still something unresolved in that chapter, but something still happened, and progress of some sort has been made. 

When chapters don't work in this expected way, readers get this vague feeling that something about what they're reading feels "off." 

They probably won't even be able to lay their finger on the reason, but more often than not, that sense of writing being off comes either from pacing or framing problems. (And pacing could be a framing problem in itself.)  If chapters aren't framed nicely, your job of lulling the reader into staying immersed in a story becomes that much harder. 

So what are the signs of bad chapter framing? 


There are quite a few diverse things I can think of:

The chapter doesn't lead in. 
By this, I mean that writers open chapters in the middle of nowhere, giving readers no sense of where the characters are, what's going on, who's involved, or even who's there (which especially becomes an issue when we're dealing with larger casts).

Unless the chapter follows directly on the previous one (but not too directly, more on this later), make sure your reader can paint a picture in their mind's eye of what's going on before anything important happens. You don't want your scenes to look like they're happening in white mist. You don't want talking heads. And you don't want the reader to exclaim "where the heck did he/she/it come from just now?!" Because all these will pull your readers out of the story.

Nothing happens in the chapter. 
This is a common one with writers using flashbacks. Usually, your main plot is the one taking place in the present. That's the plot you want to progress. If you only have a paragraph of two of a character starting to reminisce, followed by the flashback scene and nothing else, nothing has happened in your chapter. Because even if the memory is fully action packed, your character did nothing in the now while they were remembering the past.

This isn't to say that there has to be action in the present all the time, but something does need to happen before the chapter plays out. So does the flashback cause a reaction? Does it cause an emotional response? Does it trigger a major decision? Put those responses in the same chapter as the flashback, because in that way, the flashback adds to the main plot in a direct, immediate, meaningful way.

A chapter ends abruptly.
Often, this goes hand in hand with the previous point, but whereas nothing happens in that example, this one is more a case of a chapter ending just as something interesting starts to happen. I'm not talking about cliffhangers here. This is something entirely different.

Chapters, like most plots, have a beginning, middle, and end. Something is introduced, something happens, and there's a resolution. I find, sometimes, that something will be introduced.

Yeah. Did you just get the feeling that I just left you hanging out to dry with that sentence? That's exactly what an abruptly ended chapter feels like. The reader knows there should be something coming after, but it's just not there. The blank space where the chapter ended becomes a gaping vacuum in your story.

A good example of this is a big revelation or admission by a character, and having that revelation be the chapter's end. This could work as a cliffhanger, but nothing else has happened in the chapter yet. This is bad enough, but when I turn the page, I find that the new chapter doesn't continue where the last one left off. So... what? Did the writer forget to finish it? Did he/she just not feel like writing that day....?

Takeaway here... write out your scenes, people. Its not the readers' job to fill in the blanks for you. 

Which brings me to my next point.

Glossing over major events.
Ooh... this is a subtle one. I make this mistake most often. It's too easy. See, we're taught as writers that we need to skip the boring parts and stick to the important bits. If we don't, the story becomes boring. So what we do is spend maybe a paragraph to tell the readers something along the lines of "nothing major has happened. X did this the whole time... it's about a week since you saw him last..."

And then we ease them into the chapter proper, where things are happening. The problem is that we sometimes overdo it. We gloss over too much, and important parts of the story as a whole get lost.

It's not cool to tell me a character became friends with another one without showing us as it happens. Sure, it's cool to save the reader from the boring parts, but some things, like growing relationships, discoveries that have bearing on the scene now... those sorts of things... we want to see. If you have to say "so this cool/interesting/important thing happened off-screen," it really means you're excluding the readers from your story, which means they'll no longer want to stay as immersed as they have been. 

The chapter ends for no reason.
As I mentioned before, a chapter has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and if you split the chapter in two for no reason, it just ends the one chapter abruptly, and starts the next in the middle of nowhere. Obviously, cliffhangers are the exception, but the reason why they exist is to create tension. That said, there are so many ways in which cliffhangers can be done wrong. 

Let me count the ways. 

Cliffhangers done wrong.
Honestly, I'm not a particular fan of the cliffhanger chapter ending. I don't hate it. I mean, it's still as good a writing tool as any. But more often than not, writers use them wrong, in some groan-inducing ways.

Prime examples:

Cliffhangers followed by cop-outs. (Gasp! He has a gun! Oh... It's a water pistol. *eye roll*)

Cliffhangers followed by glossing over to explain them away. (Oh, you were worried about the bad guy's bomb going off? Well, while I purposefully weren't allowing you to look, my genius investigator figured out not only how to magically find said bomb, but he also disarmed it with a toothpick and some bubblegum. Phew!)

Cliffhangers being the entire point of the chapter. If your whole point is to get from the beginning of a chapter to the cliffhanger, and nothing else happened on the way there, you're probably doing it wrong. And finally...

Cliffhangers. 
Happening. 
Every.
Bloody. 
Freaking. 
For heaven's sake. 
Please make it end. 
Chapter. 

One more thought. If you're writing a book with multiple points of view, it's probably not a good idea to use a cliffhanger chapter ending if it's going to tempt the reader even a little to skim over, or entirely skip, the other characters' points of view until the cliffhanger's resolved. 

Chapters are too long or too short.
This is where pacing comes in. As I mentioned before, readers read chapters as units of a story. But further than that, the speed at which a reader gets through those units influences their concept of the book's pacing. Shorter chapters=faster pacing, longer chapters=slower pacing.

So what happens if you have a whole bunch of long chapters with one thing happening after the other in quick succession? It feels wrong, because the chapter rate clashes with the story's actual pacing. Just so, too many short chapters will jar if your overall story unfolds at a slower rate. In such a case, it might be a good idea to look for this specifically, and combine or split chapters accordingly.

Framing your chapters is a subtle art. So subtle, in fact, that most people completely forget to do it, but most framing issues are simply solved. All it takes is adjusting the aim and focus of your chapter ever-so-slightly. 

Can you think of any other ways for chapters to be framed wrong? Any of my examples a pet peeve of yours? 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I Did an Interview About Freelancing

Hey all!

Sorry for the radio silence. I've basically got hired for a big job on the Thursday after IWSG and today is the first day where I wasn't either on the job, or recovering from the job.

But while I was away working, an interview I did on freelancing went live on Ronel the Mythmaker's Blog, so if you guys are interested in that aspect of my career, please do head over and say hi.

If everything goes smoothly, I should be back on Friday.

XoXo

Misha

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group: ........ Already?!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a monthly bloghop where writers can share their doubts, fears and insecurities with each other. It's a nice way to vent, but also to realize you're not alone. If you'd like to sign up, click here.

Also, if you'd rather read this post on a Wordpress blog, click here.


You know, you'd think that starting fresh for the New Year would leave me fresh and renewed and at least a little less insecure than usual, but alas... No. 

What's the problem? Oh, it's an old one. I have it frequently...

Namely, the sheer staggering amount of items I have on my to-do list. Except this year is worse. Why? 

Last year, I kept track of my list with a diary and pens, which meant that I had at most 20 tasks on a given day. But I switched to Trello last year, which is the same thing, except digital, which means I can set myself an unlimited amount of tasks. 

And it seems like my life has taken it upon itself to meet that challenge. 

On January 1st, I cleaned up all my lists, starting from scratch with only my goals as a starting point. 

Then I started adding the little tasks I have to do from day to day. And added... and added. 

And in two days, my list of things I need to do today shot up from 0 to 30. Count them. 30 items. 

*Cue maniacal laughter* 

To be fair, I can shift a lot of them out to other days, but for some reason, I'm just not getting to the ones I deem to be essential, like having to spend at least 20 minutes today on editing my book. I literally can't figure out where I'm going to squish that in yet. 

And this is supposed to be a day off. 

Whelp!

How are you doing? Do you also feel like 2018 is starting like an avalanche?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Got Goals? Bloghop Pt 2: My Goals for 2018

This blog post is part of my update for the Got Goals? Bloghop. For those of you who are wondering, a bunch of us have set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and once a month, we post updates on our progress toward those goals. For more information or to join in the fun, click here.

In Part 1, I shared how I did with my 2017 goals, but today, I want to take a look at what I want to achieve in 2018.

I've been struggling to wrap my head around goals this year for some reason. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm hopelessly behind on everything, or maybe it's because everything feels like it's up in the air, which makes planning ahead for a year a bit difficult.

But... I do feel like I get more done if I do have a goal frame-work in my life, so I'm going to try.


Okay. So. My goal is to make a living as a writer (which also includes using my writing and publishing knowledge), but for that to work, I need to sort my life out in general. (Again. *Eye roll.*)

So I'm going to go back to categories this year.

Five-Year Goal: Make a Living Off My Writing

Technically I achieved this last year, but I'm going to keep the goal as is, because I'm still far from the number I want to reach. Also, I do want to change the way in which I'm reaching this goal. 

So, my goals towards my Five-Year Goal are:

1) Earn $2,500 per month by the end of this year.
2) Change the profile of my earnings so a third of my income comes from publishing and/or selling my own work. 

This brings me to the next break down of my goals: 

Writing/Publishing Goals

First, I really need to write more, but I also really need to publish something. I can't keep skipping publishing years. 

1) Write or edit something of my own every day. 
2) Finish and publish Wo6C3.
3) Publish the sequel to Endless and/or
4) Publish my historical romance. 

This brings me to the next heading, since it's no use to publish without marketing: 

Marketing Goals

These are a bit more varied, but somewhat more involved than you'd think. 

1) Update my website. Yes, I have a website, for which I pay hosting, but it's so out of date, like before-I-split-with-my-publisher old, so I never link to it, which I find to be sad. 
2) Create a newsletter. Finally have a big enough readership to justify this. 
3) Update The Vanished Knight, The Heir's Choice and Endless to reflect everything I've learned in the past two years. (Like better formatting, since I'm way more experienced now than I was when I started self-publishing.)
4) Be more active on my social networks. (Which includes figuring a content strategy I can actually stick to.) 
5) Ramp up marketing for Wo6C3 as I prepare to publish it. 

And then I have some more goals regarding my life, since being of sound mind and in good health actually helps me get more done. 

Life Goals

1) Be more healthy. Yeah yeah I know this one always gets up there, but this one is always the first goal to go when the wheels fall off, so I need to sort my shit out here. I only have to lose like 66 pounds or something now. Sigh.
2) Read for at least 15 minutes every day.
3) Rest from computer screens from sunrise to sunset on at least one day a week. 
4) Finish the needlepoint tapestry I started like two years ago.
5) Finish the oil painting I definitely started two years ago.

Okay those are the big ones I can think of right now. I'll probably add and deduct goals as I go, depending on how my year goes, but I feel like I hit all the important things. 

What about you? What goals did you set for 2018? Don't forget to sign up if you want to join the Got Goals? Bloghop.