blog hop

A to Z Reflections Post

Today is the official Blogging from A to Z April Challenge reflections post day. Those of us who took part in the challenge get to talk a little about what we did and didn’t like about this year’s challenge, give feedback, and reflect on our posts. So, here we go!

This was my third year doing the challenge. Like previous years, I wrote all my posts way ahead of time in February, got them queued up in March, and didn’t have to do much in April. I know if I tried to write the posts daily or weekly in April I would fail, so I always make sure to get them up way ahead of time. That being said, just like the past two years, I experienced a pattern. The days leading up to the challenge and the first week was full of excitement and enthusiasm and fun, but after that it became kind of tedious and grueling, and fitting it into my daily life was a concerted task. Somehow, I always forget that fact!

This year my theme was 26 Things To Hate About Writing. The theme was tongue-in-cheek, and meant to be a humorous, satirical way to deal with my own writing frustrations. In a similar vein of trying to be funny, last year my theme was Pandora’s Tacklebox: The Worst Romance Novel Ever Written In 26 Days (which you can now get as a free e-book!), a humorous romp that explored the various mechanics of writing and the worst possible ways to execute them.

I think people enjoyed my theme this year. I got a lot of comments and laughs, and quite a few new followers. I try hard to be, if not as funny as I think I am, at least entertaining!

Now, onto the things I liked and didn’t like about this year’s challenge:

LIKES:

  • As always, the challenge is a great way to make new friends and find new blogs to follow. I meet new people every year and it’s always a blast!
  • I learned some new things from the blogs I checked out.
  • I got some new followers.

DISLIKES:

  • I was not a huge fan of the new way of sharing our posts each day. I understand the co-hosts have a huge job with the Linky List, but I’m not sure adding our links to individual blog posts was the right answer. The main problems I found with it were time zone issues, so many comments it was hard to sort through them, and that there was no standard format for presenting links. If we’re going with the blog posts next year, I would suggest offering a comment template that would give more information about the poster’s link. For example, about half the comments each day, I had no idea what the blog or post was about, since the commenter didn’t offer much information. Not everyone is necessarily good at selling themselves, so maybe a standard format for information about the linked post would help.
  • We could also get more co-hosts and go back to the Linky List. I for one would have no problem being a co-host next year!
  • Things seemed a bit disorganized and delayed this year. Usually our graphics and all the information is/are available way ahead of time.

All in all, it was a pretty positive experience, even with the changes this year. It’s always a relief to get to May, though!

Why Won’t This Writing Thing Go Faster?

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the May 3 posting of the IWSG will be Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone!

This month, I’m more anxious than insecure. What is causing my anxiety, you might ask? The fact that I’m not writing fast enough! I want stuff to send off to publishers! I want stuff to self-publish! I want something for Kindle Scout so I can try it out! I want a whole bunch of books all nice and neat and fully written, edited, and ready to go. So what’s the problem?

Well, I haven’t written them yet.

I have a bunch of ideas, and I’ve started writing, but aggravatingly, it seems you can’t just wave a magic wand and boom, your book is written. It turns out it takes days, even weeks, of putting your nose to the grindstone and churning out those words. Why does writing have to be so slow? Why does it have to take ages? Why can’t it be faster!

Sigh, I guess I’ll just keep hammering away on the keyboard and get those books written the hard way, then.

May 3 Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

In one of my books, I had one of my poor hapless characters shot, and unfortunately it was the viewpoint character, so I needed to know what that experience would be like. Never having been shot myself (if you don’t count shooting myself in the foot every time I screw up a plot point), I went on the hunt for first-hand stories of what it feels like to have a bullet go in you. I found some surprisingly detailed descriptions, so I really learned a lot and was able to write the scene realistically. I also talked to a person in real life who had been shot and learned even more. It turns out not every experience is the same and it varies depending on what part of your body is shot and by what sort of gun. Interesting stuff! Now I’m ready to shoot ALL my characters! Heh heh…

Z Is For Zero Days

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

ZERO DAYS

Have you heard about the concept of No More Zero Days? It’s a motivational speech that some aggravatingly happy person who obviously loves their life came up with on Reddit. The speech has since turned into a feel-good movement helping people reach their goals. The idea is that to reach the most important goals in our lives, we must focus on having No More Zero Days. In other words, every single day we do something that invests in our goals, no matter how small or big. As writers, that means if we want to write, and be published, we work on it every day, whether it’s fifty words or five thousand. We don’t leave any days at zero. This works on a lot of other goals, as well.

One of the worst things about writing is…writing. But on the other hand, the ABSOLUTE worst thing about writing is…not writing. Consider:

– Every day that we don’t put a few words down at least, we turn into cantankerous old coots yelling at kids to get off our lawn. If we don’t have a lawn, we yell at kids to get off the neighbor’s lawn, which ends awkwardly because it turns out those are the neighbor’s kids.
– It feels good to see the end results of our hard labor, but we don’t ever get to enjoy those fruits if we don’t make them grow. Turns out there’s no magic wand we can wave, and according to Harry Potter we’d have to learn magic first anyway, and that’s hard too.
– We were called to be writers for some reason, so I suppose we ought to listen. Our brains aren’t going to shut up about it anyway, no matter how much ice cream and toys we buy to distract them.

No More Zero Days. We’re going to do this writing thing, when it’s working out and going smoothly, and when it’s bad and like trying to climb a mountain with our bare hands and an angry 500 lb. gorilla on our backs. We’re trying to reach the summit, and we’re not going to get there until we turn our gaze upward and climb.

Sigh. Maybe I’ll give this writing thing one more try.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.


Well, IT’S OVER, folks! I hope everyone made it through the challenge unscathed, with your mind at least partly intact, and you feel like you learned and/or accomplished something. The wild ride of April has finally pulled into the station, and honestly, it’s kind of a relief.

On the subject of No More Zero Days, Eli Pacheco introduced me to 750 Words during the challenge and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a great way to not only get a little writing done every day, but there’s lots of motivation in the form of collecting badges and exploring a community of writers. It’s free for 30 days and then $5 a month after. There’s also monthly challenges. Come on over and join me and reach your goals!

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came by my blog this month, left comments, followed me, and just made the challenge in general the great, interactive good time that it is. I’m an avid blogger so this blog won’t go quiet after this, not by far. In fact, I’ve already got posts queued up for this week. Hope to see you back!

A to Z Challenge, over and out!

Y Is For You

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

YOU

One of the worst things about writing is you. Yes, YOU, the one reading this. You’re the worst thing that’s ever happened to your writing. And you, and you, and…me? Yes, me too. I screwed it up for all of us! I regret nothing! Well, I do regret a few things. I guess if I had ignored the muse in the first place this never would have happened. I could have led a nice quiet life as a firefighter or lion tamer, which are far less stressful and chaotic jobs, I’m sure. I mean, you never see either of those people crying over their keyboards or punching computer screens.

It turns out YOU are the worst enemy of your writing, and I am the worst enemy of my writing. How did this happen? I just wanted to write about werewolves and sex! Here’s how YOU get in the way of your writing:

YOU judge your work too harshly and criticize it constantly.
YOU spend time doing other things instead of writing, all this procrastinating and wasting time.
YOU feel like a talentless hack even when you finish something, see it published, or get a glowing compliment on it.
YOU feel like everything you do is unoriginal and awful.
YOU have a tumultuous love/hate relationship with your work.

It seems I do these things too. It seems we all become our biggest haters and harshest critics, we trash our work far more than any reader or reviewer ever could or would. We doubt ourselves and our work, we feel like we’re not writing enough, or good enough, and compare ourselves to others needlessly. We’re always getting in the way of ourselves and the joy that writing can bring. We would never tear down other writers the way we tear ourselves down, yet here we are.

Gosh, WE are just awful people, aren’t we?


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

X Is For Xeriscaping

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

XERISCAPING

I always hate when we get to X on this challenge, because I have to get creative and as we’ve all learned from this theme, I need to preserve all the creativity I have for my writing. But here we are, on the worst letter day.

Xeriscape means to landscape with plants that need little moisture and irrigation, when you live in a xeric, or arid, area. I’m going to oh-so-cleverly use this as a metaphor for trying to make our stories grow when they’ve gotten dry and shriveled. This can include shoving a cactus up that difficult character’s rear end, or throwing a shrub on the fire to liven things up. When you need to xeriscape, you may find it difficult because:

– The story may need to be reworked if it’s stumbled into the desert and can’t find water. If you let it bake in the sun too long, it’s going to get crusty.
– Not everything grows in arid soil, so you might have to go back to the place where it was fertile and try again. If you’re terrible at gardening like I am, try watering the soil with your tears of frustration.
– You may be already delirious from heat stroke and think that mirage of a good story on the horizon is real. You may be dead wrong.

If a story has galloped off into the vast wasteland and gotten all turned around, giving it water might be hard. It’s important to step back and look at the parts that are still growing, and try to bring that growth back, if you can. This can be frustrating and difficult, but might be worth it in the end. Or, as it’s a mystery why humans insist on living in inhospitable areas of our planet, like it’s some kind of challenge from the earth and we simply must answer it, you might realize you’re just insane, not plucky.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

W Is For Word Count

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

WORD COUNT

How long is a book? One million words? Two million? At least five pages, right? As if writing wasn’t hard enough, there’s no set amount of words that make up a book. Some books are short, some books are long, most fall somewhere in between and here we are, us writers, with no guidance. Would you tell a surgeon to just cut however much he wants? Would you tell a cook to just put however much butter in a recipe he feels like? I mean, butter is great, but you can’t just make a whole cake out of butter. Or can you? Should you? I mean…mmm, butter.

One of the worst things about writing is figuring out how many words make up a book. We wander about, all anxious and squirrelly, being told to shut up and write stuff and then see if it’s long enough. When considering your word count, you should remember:

– The general accepted length of books varies by genre. Fantasy and sci-fi novels tend to be longer than mysteries and romances because you gotta describe spaceships and wizard spells and stuff. However, books still fall outside these guidelines in all genres. How many words should you write? I don’t know. Write at least six words, that sounds about right (that includes the title and your byline).
– Check the guidelines of the agent or publisher you’re thinking of sending the book to. They usually let you know how many words they want. Sometimes they’re not helpful at all though, so just assume between one word and ten million, that narrows it down.
– The word count of your book will change, and maybe dramatically, between the first draft and edits/rewrites. This sucks when you wrote 60,000 words only to discover one paragraph is useable.

Word count is an amorphous thing and you’ll get better at hitting targets the longer you write. Paying attention to guidelines and studying other books in your genre will help. You’ll learn to tailor your stories for the length that’s needed. Or you won’t, and you’ll keep writing encyclopedia-thick books that people only buy to use as doorstops and to reach the butter on the top shelf. It’s too bad there isn’t a publisher out there whose focus is publishing bricks and stepstools. Maybe I should start one, and then I wouldn’t have to edit my books down from their initial ridiculous word counts.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

V Is For Viewpoint

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

VIEWPOINT

Who’s telling your story? You? Oh, the characters like to let you think that, at least at first. You give them life, create their story for them, and assign all their attributes, so you’d think they belong to you, right? No, because you’ve just created a Frankenstein monster that wants to trample the town, fall in love with the wrong person, eat paste, and veer wildly off the plot. If you think using first person POV helps, like you’ll feel more connected through the use of ‘I’ and ‘me,’ boy are you in for a surprise. You’re about to find out just how much you don’t listen to yourself.

You can also use third person—she, he, it. She, he, and it will still not listen to you. But, it’s still important to pick the right viewpoint for the story, because:

– Viewpoint is about more than just point of view. You need to tell the story through the eyes of the right character. Which one is it? The police officer? The criminal? The stray dog? The angry old widow with the pick axe? Choose carefully, or this story won’t work. No pressure.
– Choosing a point of view is important too. First person is more immediate, but limited, so if you’re the police officer you don’t know the widow is sneaking up on you with the axe. Third person is broader, and can shift from person to person, so we can know that the widow thinks the police officer is full of bees and they must be released.
– Experimenting with weird points of view like second person can be tricky, but sometimes you can pull it off if you’re clever enough. Just be careful not to sound like some bitter, bitchy blogger talking down to their readers about writing.

One of the worst things about writing is the pressure to pick the right point of view. This choice is important, because it sets the tone for the story. The viewpoint character also dictates what kind of story you’re telling. For this reason, the possibilities are varied when you use viewpoint as a tool. It may even help to switch viewpoints if a story is struggling, or try experimenting through the eyes of another character. And then, release the bees! Maybe tell the story through the many eyes of the bees? I would read that. Bee Cop: The Unleashing.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

U Is For Unfinished Manuscripts

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

UNFINISHED MANUSCRIPTS

Perhaps when you started this whole writing thing, you thought you were going to come up with tons of great ideas, write every day, and create millions of glowing, finished, utterly perfect stories ready for the world to consume. Now, there you sit, with mountains of unfinished work around you, a monument to your poor choices. Some fizzled out, some never really got off the ground, some ran straight into a brick wall like a hyperactive, unsupervised child. And like some kind of fool, you keep writing more stuff, because if writers are anything, it’s persistent and crazy.

One of the worst things about writing is all the stuff you don’t finish. It haunts and taunts you, like the ghost of that bad burrito you ate, filling you with pain and shame. It builds up in your metaphorical mind closet like last season’s tacky shoes. The pain of unfinished work includes:

– Stuff you were really excited about at the time, but then it kinda fell flat. Like that toy you wanted so bad when you were a kid, until you got it, and then you realized it was dumb. (I have really bad Cabbage Patch Doll regret. Ugh, it was so ugly.)
– The story you wrote right into a corner and it couldn’t escape, like a defective Roomba.
– The story you didn’t think through enough so it crashed and burned, like that kite you got and the first time you flew it you destroyed it in a tree ten minutes later. And then your brother was like “I told you to stay away from the tree!” And then you cried because he’s stupid and kites are stupid and EVERYTHING IS STUPID.

Unfinished work sucks. Sure, it’s part of the learning process, it gives you practice, and it helps you build skills for the stuff that works out and gets finished. Being a writer is full of starts and failures, and that’s part of the game. Like that Hungry, Hungry Hippos game that seems so fun and exciting on TV, but it’s really kind of stupid and the marbles all get lost and the hippos’ heads break off and everyone starts fighting and why did I want this for Christmas??? That’s exactly what writing is like—lost marbles, lost heads, and screaming.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

T Is For Transitions

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

TRANSITIONS

So you’re writing a book, and it starts off in the rural countryside in the mid-1700’s, then it jumps to the year 2065 in a colony on Mars. Sure, why not? Things change, characters grow. But how do you get from pre-industrial revolution to Mars? It’s very messy and sticky and complicated, so it’s best just to write A FEW YEARS LATER at the start of the next chapter and begin on Mars.

No? One of the worst things about writing is creating adequate transitions, that don’t jump too far ahead without providing the necessary information to make the transition smooth. It can jar the reader to do otherwise, even if the description of your book says, “From his humble beginnings as a farmhand in 1700’s rural America to his journey into space centuries later…” I mean that’s cool and all, but how did it happen? Here’s why transitions are hard and suck:

– Important details need to be addressed. You can’t always gloss over chunks of time. It’s important to know your space-cadet farmer also became a vampire at some point, that’s why he lived so long.
– There’s lots of ways to create transitions: chapter breaks, time jumps, outright statements like “a few hours later,” or by making the transition obvious by showing your character has aged or changed their underwear. It takes creativity and just a smidge of frustration.
– If your transitions are too difficult to create, maybe you started the story in the wrong place. Maybe it’s not important that your Mars vampire used to work on a farm in the 1700’s. Just tell us about that in a dream sequence, because everybody loves a dream sequence.

Smooth transitions move the story along at an interesting and satisfying pace. They help jump over unimportant details that would bog the story down. They make reading a delight, because we all wish we could skip the boring parts of life like showering and work and go right to the bar to play pinball.

A FEW MINUTES LATER…

I still hate writing.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.

S Is For Self-Publishing

For the Blogging From A to Z Challenge I’m doing you all a huge favor and filling you in on the 26 Things To Hate About Writing.** I’m hoping by the end of April, I will have convinced all of you not to indulge in the wild insanity of becoming a writer. If I can save even one person from offering themselves up in sacrifice to the mad and fickle word gods, I will have done some good in this world.

Check out each letter’s post here.

SELF-PUBLISHING

This post is for the people who have tried, or are thinking about trying, self-publishing. As if being a writer isn’t crazy enough, you are, or want to be, the publisher as well. For the rest of you big-time traditionally published authors rolling in your bestseller money, get the heck out of here so we can talk in private. Go on, get! We don’t want your kind around here.

All right, now that they’re gone…

Self-publishing has numerous benefits. You get to retain creative control, and the money, and if you’re already traditionally published you know not all publishers are created equal. Some of them, you might as well have self-published in the first place for all they help you. Dirty Dick’s House of Writers based in Vermont isn’t going to get you on the NYT bestseller list, probably, even if they’re technically a ‘publisher.’ But self-publishing is a lot of work, as well, and you should remember:

– You have to do everything, and pay for everything: editing, cover art, formatting, getting the book up on sales channels. But as most movies about writers tell us, all of us have a trust fund or a great aunt who died and left us a fortune, and we spend our days in front of an ancient typewriter smoking a pipe and gazing out the window at green meadows, so you shouldn’t have to worry about this.
– You also have to do your own promoting, and if you think most people don’t care what you have to say now, wait until you tell them you wrote a book. You have to do targeted promoting, which means finding the audience that loves stories about child serial killers with talking pet goldfish. The BookBub listing for this category is $3000.
– You will find you’re not nearly as artistic at creating covers or adept with publishing software as you dreamed yourself to be. Just have your five year-old nephew create some ‘abstract art’ in Paint that really speaks to the theme of the story.

Self-publishing can be very rewarding. In some aspects, it’s like buying yourself a trophy for a job well done, but hey, you got a trophy and most people won’t even have any idea you bought it yourself, they’ll just congratulate you. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see your accomplishments flourish out there in the world. Self-publishing can also be the worst thing ever, because it’s expensive, difficult, and it’s easy to drown in a sea of other books. Don’t worry about that. Smoke your pipe and get back to writing, you’ve got to finish the sequel to your child serial killer goldfish book: Killer Tots 2: Things Get Fishier.


**Disclaimer: If you haven’t figured it out, these posts are pure satire and simply a humorous way to vent my writing frustrations. No offense is intended to anyone. Please, become or continue being a writer. It’s awesome, I swear. It’s super…duper, awesome…heh heh.