Wednesday, June 05, 2024

IWSG: Ask What the IWSG Can Do For You

 Here we are at June already. The days are long (not long enough to get all my writing done, alas!), but the years are long. At least we have the Insecure Writers Support Group to help us. Learn more about them on their website and Facebook group.

Our hosts this month are Liza at Middle Passages, Shannon Lawrence, Melissa Maygrove, and Olga Godim.

We have an interesting question this month: In this constantly evolving industry, what kind of offering/service do you think the IWSG should consider offering its members?

As an indie author, I need to outsource tasks such as graphics and cover design. Therefore, the first thing I thought of was a list of highly recommended freelancers for editing, covering design, layout, or other writing/publishing related tasks. I'm not sure if writers who are planning to publish traditionally need these services, but at the least they might be interested in editors.

What more would you like to see from the IWSG? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

 



Wednesday, May 01, 2024

IWSG: Writing While Distracted

Welcome to May! I hope you're enjoying the spring flowers if they're still around. (Spring seems to be coming earlier and earlier.) With the start of another month, we have another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website and Facebook. 

Here's our question for this month: How do you deal with distractions when you are writing? Do they derail you?

As a working parent, I don't have much time to write. That means I have to make the most of sub-optimal writing time, when there are other things going on around me. I've had to write while waiting for my son to be done with an activity or write in places where people think it's OK to talk to me while I'm obviously got my tablet open. So yes, I do face a lot of distractions, but how problematic they are depends on the situation. If I'm already having trouble getting into the POV or I'm not sure what to say next, distractions become even more distracting. If I do manage to get into a state of writing flow, then it's easier to tune out distractions. 

As far as actively trying to manage distractions while writing, I do this by controlling my environment when possible. Sometimes working at a familiar location or picking music that works as background noise helps. Other times, deliberately going somewhere to write, such as to a library or a coffee shop, makes me feel like I have to be more productive to justify the trip. Putting in extra effort helps me focus more.

What are your tips for dealing with distractions? Free free to share your tips in the comments. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

IWSG: Blogging History

T.S. Eliot may have thought April the cruelest month, but I've always been fond of it. (I'm biased, since my birthday is at the end of the month.) In addition to bringing better weather, April brings us another blog post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Here's their website and Facebook page

Our hosts this month are Janet Alcorn, T. Powell Coltrin, Natalie Aguirre, and Pat Garcia.

This month, we've been asked to discuss blogging. Specifically, "How long have you been blogging? What do you like about it and how has it changed?"

I started this blog back in 2005, soon after getting married. At first, it was a way to keep in touch with some of my college friends who were also bloggers. Gradually, it morphed into a writing blog, though I do still post personal news on here occasionally. I enjoyed blogging the most when I was using it to connect with other writers. I'm still Facebook friends with some of the writers that I met through blog chains or the Blog Ring of Power. I've participated in the Blogging from A-Z Challenge several times. At my peak, I was blogging Monday-Friday regularly; now, I'm down to monthly posts. Life's gotten busier since 2005, since I'm now a parent. What writing time I do have I prefer to devote to my stories, especially the ones that have taken over my brain. Perhaps there will come a day when I drop this blog completely and focus on other social media sites. If that happens, I'll be sure to make sure people can still find me online.

What's your blogging history? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

IWSG: AI and Writing

Welcome to the March 2024 post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website and Facebook page.

Our hosts this month are Kristina Kelly, Miffie Seideman, Jean Davis, and Liz@Middle Passages.

Here's our question for the month: Have you "played" with AI to write those nasty synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing? 

The last time we discussed AI for the IWSG, I posted a photo showing how Google had mined this copyrighted blog for its AI. I was neither credited nor compensated. Granted, my blog was a minuscule contribution, but it's the principle of the thing. AI has been developed using stolen intellectual property, and I personally don't believe anyone should support it or the capitalists foisting it on us heedless of the human consequences. 

As for AI's impact on creative writing, I don't like it. (No surprise there.) AI still lags human creativity when it comes to novelty. Using AI for creative writing demeans the process. Yes, it can be frustrating staring at a blank page or having to discard words you worked hard to write, but but without the frustrations, there are no rewards to writing. I'm always thrilled when my subconscious comes up with scenes that connect in ways I didn't intentionally plan. Writing "the end" is a fantastic high, as is hearing from readers who connect with your work. On some of my social media sites, I see memes circulating that readers don't want to read something no one cared enough about to write. AI can be trained to imitate an author's voice, but it can't develop a voice of its own. All creative people should stand together and support each other in our creative endeavors. We don't just do it for money; we do it to become the best versions of ourselves.

 How do you feel about AI? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Keeping the Fun in Writing

(This post was supposed to go live at the end of January, but I saved it as a draft instead of publishing it. Apologies for the inconvenience. I did manage to finish the story I mention below.)

It occurred to me recently that this year marks the 30th anniversary of my first attempt to write a novel (at least, I'm pretty sure it was in 1994 during an internship.) I actually still have a paper copy of that draft, though it's destined for the shredder. While my writing career is nowhere near what I thought it would like at this point in my life, at least I'm still writing. I think the advent of indie publishing has a great deal to do with that. It's encouraging to know I can always make my work available to readers. I also have the freedom to experiment. Right now, I'm finishing up a Good Omens fan fiction story that's told in present tense, which is something I don't normally use in my other stories. It's an alternative universe story, which means that I've changed a major premise while still writing with the same characters. This allows me to take the characters in vastly different directions and do crazy things with them. It's fun to write, and I'm getting comments that readers enjoy it. Hopefully at some point, I'll return to my Season Avatars, solarpunk, and cozy mystery stories as well. That's why I always wanted to be a full-time writer: so I can work on all the projects I want to write!

Have you gone through periods where you didn't want to write? What keeps writing fun for you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

IWSG: Writer Websites

Here we are at February and another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them at their website or Facebook page
Here's our question for the month: What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of author's books? Constant mention of books?
My least favorite thing about visiting website isn't listed above or unique to author websites. It's a popup that appears as soon as I enter the website. I'm not going to sign up for a newsletter until I've had a chance to view the website and decide if I'm interested, so I'll always remove the popup. To be honest, I don't pay much attention to the newsletters I'm subscribed to. (I'm not good about sending out newsletters anyway; even when I do, they generate more unsubscribes than sales.) As a reader, I mainly want to know when the author's next book is coming out so I can preorder it if I'm interested.
Let's turn the question around: what motivates you to look at author websites in the first place? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

 
 

 


Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Juggling Multiple POVs

I'm close to finishing a story with three different points of view. When I started it, I didn't intend for it to have three different POVs, just one, but the other two became necessary as I wrote. What's interesting is how the POVs ended up interacting with each other. Character A narrates the first seven chapters of the story before Character B relates what happened to him while the two were separated. B's longest stretch is four chapters. Then there's a stretch where A takes over most of the story until Chapter 21, where halfway through the story, Character C enters. C is a secondary character, but they are involved in several significant events that the other two aren't present for. Once all three characters are split up, I make a deliberate effort to rotate narration among all three of them, with each one getting a separate chapter. At the climax, I give each character a short scene in each chapter. Character C's arc will end before A's and B's. I'm just trying to figure out the right emotional pitch for their final scene. 

When juggling multiple viewpoints in a single story, do you try to give all of them equal weight, or do some characters get more scenes than others? What factors into your narration decisions? Feel free to discuss in the comments. In the meantime, I've got to work on my current chapter.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Solarpunk Creatures and Equity Assurance

Today is the book birthday of the Solarpunk Creatures anthology by World Weaver Press. You can learn more about it here. The eBook is currently $4.99 and will be at that price until the end of January. Special credit should go out to the editors:

Christoph Rupprecht Mastodon: @focx@scholar.social Twitter: @focx
Deborah Cleland Bluesky: @patchworkdeb@bsky.social Mastodon: @debisda@aus.social
Melissa Ingaruca Moreno Instagram: mel_ingaruca
Norie Tamura Twitter: @tamura_norie
Rajat Chaudhuri Bluesky: @rajatchaudhuri@bsky.social Instagram: @rajatchaudhuri Twitter: @rajatchaudhuri

I have a short story in this anthology called "The Colorful Crow of Web-of-Life Park." The story is about the relationship between an escaped parrot and the crow that freed him, as the parrot is accepted as part of the crow's family. The parrot's former owner is a biologist who helps create and administer a bird flu vaccine. One of the people she speaks to during the story is an equity assurer, which is a new job I created for the solarpunk genre. Hopefully this is a concept that can be applied in real life.

My day job is in quality assurance. Specifically, I work for an enzyme company that produces food-grade enzymes, and I help implement our food safety system. Although enzymes are used in small amounts during food production, it's important that they not contain any pathogens, undeclared allergens, or foreign material that may harm the consumer. We follow a food safety code that is the basis of our policies and procedures. We keep many records to prove that that we are following our procedures, and we also have corrective and preventative actions we take when there is a problem. Every year, an outside auditor comes to our facility to review our system and make sure we meet the requirements of the code we follow. (This year, it will be an unannounced audit, meaning it can happen any time in a two-month period.) By passing this audit, my company obtains a certificate demonstrating to our customers that our product is safe. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it to prevent food-related illnesses.

I think we need a similar system to insure everyone has the resources they need to not just survive, but thrive. Income equality in the United States has grown dramatically in the past few decades while our social safety nets have been removed or made less helpful. This isn't good for the long-term survival of our society or our environment. We need to transition away from exploitative capitalism and toward doughnut economics. (Basically, we have to work within the boundaries of our resources to eliminate poverty while not exceeding the capacity of our environment.)

Equity assurance would have two major components: a collection of codes or guidelines communities (ranging from an apartment complex to towns or even nations) would follow for equitable resource distribution, and local equity assurers who are responsible for making sure that people get the resources they need. (I use "equity" instead of "equality" because everyone has different needs. Sometimes distributing resources equally doesn't help everyone equally. See here for a more complete discussion of this issue.) This could mean obtaining gluten-free food for someone with celiac disease; education, assistance, and baby supplies for a family with a newborn; or the right medicine or equipment to help sick, elderly, or disabled individuals. It can mean helping children get a good education and opportunities to develop their talents as well as people getting the right amount of social interaction.

These two branches of equity assurance aren't new. We have examples of people throughout history who have sought to help others meet their needs, and we have systems like Medicare and Social Security to give resources to those who need it. What I want to emphasize with a term like "equity assurance" is the need to make this care for others a core value of our society. When you adopt a food safety system at a company, it becomes the basis for everything you do. We need this for our society. We also need to maintain this system. Without people to monitor the day-to-day aspects of this system, things can go wrong. We need to make sure this system works and figure out ways to fix it when it doesn't.

Anyway, I plan to make equity assurance a theme in any more solarpunk stories I write. I did write another short story last year that featured equity assurance, but I haven't found a home for it yet. Establishing equity assurance for the world is certainly a long-term project, but one we need to pursue.


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Writing Goals 2024

As I try to finish my current work in progress, I thought I should consider what projects I want to work on in the coming year. I've mentioned before how obsessed I've become with the Good Omens show on Amazon. I'm currently writing an alternative universe story with the Good Omens characters for the Archive of Our Own website. There are at least two more stories that I want to write in that setting. This is the kind of story that won't leave me alone, so the only way to "cure" myself of it is to write it down. Unfortunately, once I write a story in one setting, I get more story ideas. Currently there are two more Good Omens stories I want to write (three, if I include writing an alternate version of an event I already wrote about.)

If I can ever get back to my own original projects, I still have my third cozy mystery to finish and two projects in the fantasy Season Avatars universe (a short story collection and a novel starting a sequel series). I haven't decided yet if I want to enter the annual solarpunk short story contest run by Grist.org. I have a couple of possible ideas, but nothing's fleshed out yet.

No matter what projects I choose to work on, there's plenty to keep me busy this year. Do you have any writing goals for the year? If so, what are they?

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

IWSG: 2023 Books in Review


Welcome to 2024! I hope it's a good year for you. Since this is the first Wednesday of the year, it's also the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post for the year.  Learn more about the IWSG on their website and Facebook page.

Our hosts this month are Joylene Nowell Butler, Olga Godim, Diedre Knight, and Natalie Aguirre.

I'm skipping the proposed question this month (it has to do with following people through Bookbub, which isn't something I do) to bring you my 2023 reading year in review, courtesy of Goodreads. You can see my books here. My original goal was 175 books, which I temporarily raised to 200 books before lowering it to 170 books. I ended up with 171 books. Goodreads does list book collections as a single item, so the total number of books I read is actually higher. My genre breakdown is slightly off (I think I missed a couple of rows when I went through the list), since it only adds up to 161 (the missing 10 are probably more mysteries):

Fantasy: 27

Science Fiction: 8

Mystery (including fantasy mysteries): 87

General Fiction: 5

Non-Fiction: 34

Here are some of my favorite books I read this year:

The Last Days of the Dinosaurs

Kindred

A Mirror Mended

Justice for Animals

Outlive

That Self-Same Metal

For 2024, I'm lowering my goal to 150 books. The reason I'm doing that is because I would like to stretch myself and read a wider genre. I enjoy cozy mysteries and can find many of them offered for free or for a reasonable price, but I would like more incentive to read more non-fiction books and more books on my to-read lists. I belong to a local book club and a Good Omens book club on a Discord server, so hopefully they'll help me find books I wouldn't normally read.

If you track your reading, how many books do you read each year? Did you have a favorite book? Feel free to share your answers in the comments.


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