Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Yep, I'm in a very stuck place right now.

It doesn't help that I've been pretty sick for a week (COVID-19? I don't know? I kinda hope so at this point because if not and I get that next I'm already worn out from this bout). I'm also hormonal so everything feels worse than it is. Disclaimer, I guess.

But none of that changes the fact that I've abandoned another story over 20K words into it (probably more, I don't really know) and I'm lost, creatively speaking.

I'm still at the writing job. So I'm still writing. In case you're not up to date, it's a job where I'm paid to write fiction, so...pretty amazing on a basic level. I'm a professional writer supporting my family with my writing. I'm incredibly proud of that and I feel very fortunate.

On another level, though, I'm really uneasy. I worry that the requirements imposed by this job are interfering with my own creativity. It's not all the job's fault, though. What it comes down to is that I can't decide what to write.

There's this idea I've had for a long time that I made two runs at. A Tower of Doors. A magical tower with thousands of doors leading to different worlds. I love that idea. I love the endless possibilities.

But I tried writing a hero/heroine's journey using it, and ended up stopping (I think at least 50K in?) last year when I was on the verge of getting hired by my current job because I wanted to write something quick for attention from that company. Inkitt. They have a Wattpad-like website. I wanted to get something up on it asap. So I wrote this short little romance/fantasy. It was fun, but not from my heart.

So then I got the job and was happy writing just for that for a while, and then things got frustrating and complicated as they do, and I realized it really was not enough. I had to write for myself.

So I started another Tower of Doors novel (also on the Inkitt website) and I had also really been wanting to try a "five man band." Except for reasons that aren't clear to me my five man band insisted on becoming a seven man band and it's unmanageable. And also unsatisfying because the characters are all 20-30 years old and something I keep coming back to is the need to write an older protagonist.

I can't seem to find a way to do that.

I like reading YA fiction. I tend to gravitate to it, in fact, I'm not sure why. What is it about YA that hooks me? Why can't I read books with 40 year old protagonists? Do they not exist* or am I just not looking in the right places for them? When I find one do I turn a blind eye without realizing it?

I'm also struggling with the question of whether the next thing I write should be another novel or a screenplay. I'm obviously much more comfortable with a novel. But maybe that's a reason to do a new format.

*I mean of course books with 40 year old protagonists exist. Just not necessarily with the kinds of stories I like. Fantasy/adventure stories. This is me, begging for recommendations.

I want to write a story with at least one Deaf character. Other characters with disabilities, too. But I worry I won't do it right. I had a Deaf character in the most recent Tower book, and I liked her. But would Deaf readers like her?

Representation is really important to me. I want to have PoC in my books. Someone on a forum recently said to me (she doesn't know me or anything I write) that if I cared about racism I wouldn't write PoC characters at all. That kind of gutted me.

I don't approach writing characters that are different from me arbitrarily. I research. But I get why someone would feel like that's not enough. It's just, if I don't include people with disabilities I don't have, people from cultures that are not mine, people who are of different races, or have other differences to me, then what kind of story do I end up with? The same white bread homogeneous crap I see way too much of already.

But I think this is contributing to my block. Because it's a tangle and I want to do right by people. It's fundamentally important to me. I can't just shrug and say "I'm not going to please everyone." I'm fine with not pleasing Nazis, and people like them. I do care about pleasing people from marginalized groups. I just do, it's part of who I am. And not because I want a cookie (though if I'm honest? I probably do, I just realize that's not helpful and try to squash it). Because I want to help change the world.

I think writing changes the world.

I think if you write white bread crap full of old tired tropes that have been shown to be harmful you're making the world a worse place. If instead you're creating fiction with new ideas, with suggestions of how the world could be, or with representations of how the world really is...that's positive.

But all these big ambitions aren't helping me come up with a story from my heart.

Paul Krueger, on Twitter, recently tweeted that you should really go ahead and write that super weird thing that's uniquely you because you'll find success that way. But like, I don't know what my super weird thing is.

What's your super weird thing? Have you written it?
Got any book suggestions for me?

Friday, November 1, 2019


I'm still working for Inkitt, though they are making some changes that may lead to my not being able to do that anymore. Hopefully at worst that's six months away, though. At best they'll alter course just enough that it doesn't come to pass. I really like this job and the way it is now, it fits really well for me and for my family.

It's been interesting, doing my own writing these days. I wonder if people in MFA programs and who write for TV have a similar experience...when you're in an environment where a lot of what and how you write is assigned. Because now when I approach my own writing, I'm not really sure how to go about it. The lessons I'm learning writing for Galatea are interfering (possibly in a good way in the end) with my own natural inclinations, and that means that I find myself staring at my screen, unsure of how to move forward, a lot of the time.

One reason I started making time for my own writing again, after the first few months of writing for Galatea, was that I wanted to be able to have more freedom with it. Galatea has a specific format. Each episode has to be between 1600-1900 words, for instance. This often creates a situation where I just don't get to include the details I want to include. So I went into my own story promising myself to wax on as long as I wanted and...I can't. I mean, I do probably add more detail than I would in a Galatea story, but not much. Because now it feels like it's slowing the story down.

Even before I took the Galatea job I entered a phase of my writing in which I started reading books on plotting and other writing topics, and watching talks, and my husband even got me a subscription to Masterclass, which I loved and no longer have any time for (keep meaning to pick it back up though). So I've really been loading my brain with a lot of rules about how to approach a story. I've gone from being a pantser (for decades!) to a dedicated plotter. And I feel like the current result (I don't think it's in any way permanent) is that my writing is in this awkward growth spurt where I no longer have a strong sense of character or of what I really want to see happen. I'm trying to think of all the rules and structures and such that I've read about and that have resonated with me.

Finding a balance is hard. My short novel, Wild Wild Witch, is a really good example of me privileging structure over character. I think it's a fun story but I'm also pretty sure that the characters, while likeable, aren't especially well-developed. In my new WiP, The Tower of Doors, I've tasked myself with continuing to use everything I've learned, but to also really digging into the characters. And... I'm finding it hard. Characters (mine anyway) that are well-developed tend to want to go off script. And I'm not comfortable with that right now. And yet, I think characters are what's most important to me, especially if you include setting as a character.

Anyway, if you want to support my writing in a really substantial way, you can FOR FREE, by going to Inkitt and reading The River and the Roses. I have a tentative plan with my supervisor at Galatea that if I get enough reads (measured by people clicking on "next chapter"), they'll develop River on the app. Which would mean royalties, y'all. It would be really, really exciting.

I also always appreciate honest reviews.

What's new for you?
Have you ever felt like you were in an awkward growing phase of your writing?
What do you think is most important (if you had to choose), character or structure?

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Professional writer.

I'm a little surprised I never came here to update you about the new turn my writing life has taken; then again, I am pretty busy these days.

I got hired by Inkitt to be a "script writer" for their app, Galatea. Yes, I am now a full-time, self (and family) supporting writer, guys.

Galatea takes stories people post on Inkitt (it's similar to Wattpad) and has people like me adapt them to an episodic format. Then they have designers add on immersive elements like sound effects and music.

Yes, I write werewolf romance (usually--I did work on one thriller) professionally now.

I've been working for Inkitt since late April and, for the most part, it's been amazing.

There are moments when it is not amazing, but even on those days, I can still ask myself if I'd rather be doing anything else, and the answer is HELL NO.

I've even started carving out time here and there for my own writing projects... I'll be posting the first few chapters of a new novel on Inkitt soon. You can also read the short novel I wrote while waiting to hear back if I was hired here.

I'm learning a ton. We work in teams and collaborating is not always easy, though I've really come to appreciate it as a way to bump up creativity and get feedback. Just recently I was on a solo project and I actually felt kind of ambivalent about it. On the one hand, it made maintaining consistency across all of the episodes in the "season" (they use TV terminology for their stories) easier, but it also felt like I was missing that feedback and support.

Oh, and by the way, they are hiring, and you can work from home.

What new turns has your writing life taken in recent months?
Have you checked out Galatea?
What do you think of adding sound effects and music to something people read?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Finished my book!

Yep. I did. I finished the short novel, Wild Wild Witch, that I have been posting as I go on Inkitt. Happy dance!

I have a lot of fun with this book. It's a fantasy/western/romance with a little bit of horror thrown in for good measure. I set out to write a romance, and then I was like, "Hey, why not try a little genre blending... I'll make a western, too." Then I thought, "What's a story without fantasy elements? I like fantasy stories the most, so I'd better make it a romance-western-fantasy." And then as I was writing the last chapters the horror just made sense.

This book taught me a few things about my writing.

1) I am incapable of writing anything simple.

2) I seem to be compulsive about things my character does going wrong, as opposed to having a lot of external obstacles get in their way. In my next story, I'm going to try not to do that. Not that I regret anything about this story--I think it all works very well and is entertaining. But I feel like if this is my pattern I have to try to push myself outside of it. It comes from an anxiety that introducing external obstacles will somehow feel contrived. I'm not sure where this anxiety comes from.

3) I want to work on creating more layered villains. My two major villains in this book are hate sinks. I realized as I was writing Witch that I really am not instinctively interested in my villains in and of themselves, other than as hate sinks. I am very interested in my protagonists and supporting characters, but on some level the fact that my villains are villains makes me dislike them and I don't want to spend much time on them other than to make them hate-worthy. Which isn't to say I've never written layered villains--I have. I think Reister is interesting (more so than Finnarun, who falls more into hate sink territory again) and I don't even really consider Liut a villain despite what he does. But I think they developed into interesting villains not because I planned them that way but because the story called for it, if that makes sense. With my next villain(s) I will take time to really plan and try to give them redeeming qualities that make them more complex.

Who are some of your favorite villains in novels, films, and TV? Are they hate sinks, or more complex?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Inkitt: Publishing as You Go

I recently discovered Inkitt.com, which is, I gather, a lot like Wattpad. I've dabbled a little on Wattpad but never done very much. I decided to try out Inkitt a bit more thoroughly. Maybe it's the novel contest. I don't know. Does Wattpad have a novel contest? It's possible that everything I like about Inkitt is the same on Wattpad, I'm just not that familiar with that platform.

In the past when I've written novels I've hit walls where I've reached out to a friend and asked that they read what I have done so far, not for feedback, but because knowing someone is reading my stuff is a better motivator for me to finish the book than anything else I've come across. I know it's sort of ass-backwards. You're supposed to finish the novel, revise it, polish it, revise it again, and then polish again, and then send it out into the world to find readers. I may get to the point where that feels right to me. I certainly have some ambivalence about not doing it that way. But right now the reason I'm enjoying myself on Inkitt is because I'm posting each chapter as I finish it, and they have these cool analytics that show you how many people are reading. I've got something in the neighborhood of ten people reading my incomplete novel right now. It's so great for motivation! I imagine that these people have all read the latest chapter (the analytics say so, actually) and are eagerly awaiting the next installment. So I feel that push to deliver.

I'm on Chapter 16 and I think there are only a couple more chapters to go. The story is definitely winding down; I'm just not sure how long it's going to take to write everything. It's not going to be a very long book, in fact... barely a novel by word count standards. But I've been approaching it more in terms of episodes, with each chapter being an episode. I'm playing around.

It's one of the first things I've written with a thorough outline. With the WiP I set aside a couple of months ago (that I still hope to return to) I did a lot of outlining, but that is a huge monster of a book and I don't know how long it will take to write the whole thing. This one is much shorter. I wanted to try a few things. Romance, for one. It's a genre I have been wanting to have a go at for a while. Veronica in Paris is a romance, but it started out as a chapter of The River and the Roses so it wasn't like, "Hm, I think I will sit down and write a romance today." I've always been a fan of soap operas, and I wanted to see if I could capture some of the qualities of a soap that I love in a novel. And I wanted to mix genres: romance/supernatural/western/thriller.

I think when it's done it's going to be a fun little book. Nothing earth shattering, but I do think it's going to succeed at what I want it to do, which is show people a good time. I'm having a good time writing it.

What are your projects, these days? Trying anything new?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Masterclass: Figuring out what people need

I got an early birthday present: a subscription to Masterclass. So far I've watched the first three episodes of Shonda Rhimes's Writing for TV and the first two episodes of Steve Martin's Comedy classes. It's cool: you get four of Rhimes's scripts to download and you get a workbook with each class. I haven't explored what else you get with Martin's class yet. There are at least seven classes I want to take and Rhime's class has something like 30 episodes, I think, so I expect it to be the same for the others. So far, worth the subscription fee, which is $180 for the year, with access to everything.

The thing that struck me after watching the episodes tonight is that when Martin and Rhimes each talked about choosing ideas to pursue--in Martin's case for stand up routines, and in Rhimes's case when choosing what to write a show about--they both said the same thing. You have to get a sense for where people are at--in the world, in the nation, in your own community--and give them the opposite.

When choosing an idea, consider the current tone of tv, film, and reality. If the world is more optimistic, a pessimistic show will work. If the world is more pessimistic, an optimistic show will work.

Rhimes explained that under Bush, The West Wing, a very optimistic spin on the presidency, was popular because people wanted to escape the reality of how upsetting and frustrating the Bush Administration was. Under Obama, Scandal, a cynical show about “monsters” in DC, worked, because people were feeling a lot of hope.

Martin said something really similar. He said that when he was doing stand up in the late 60s and early 70s, he was dressing as a hippy and that everything was very political. You said the name "Richard Nixon" and it would immediately get a response in the audience. But he realized people were getting tired of it. The nation was. So he shaved his beard and cut his hair and put on a suit and became part of a new movement. Apolitical comedy. Because that was the void that needed to be filled.

It’s probably what separates people who are wildly successful from people who are just getting along. Are you addressing something that’s missing? Have you found a hole to fill? Are you giving people the opposite of what’s dominating the world right now?

On a political level, it seems to me that what’s dominating the world right now is this evil cruelty--anarcho-capitalism, profit at all costs, fuck everyone who isn’t going to make money for the 1%. But there’s also a strong presence of the opposite: people demanding recognition of wrongs: the #MeToo movement, outrage over displays of cruelty and racism, etc.

We have plenty of escapism, too. So many superhero movies.

So what isn’t being addressed?

What is: heroes, good and evil, the end of the world, fear, hatred, xenophobia, survival of the fittest, wealth as virtue. Sensitivity, triggers, introversion. Everyone loves dogs. Many people vocally love cats. Coffee is essential. I love all those things, too. I am happiest on Twitter retweeting a cute cat video, while making a joke about coffee and implying that my introversion has once again gotten in the way of the success of some social interaction I attempted. This is where a lot of us are at. Should creatives be trying to find the opposite of that? What is the opposite of that?

Are shows and films giving us dogs and coffee, though? Maybe dogs and coffee already is the opposite of what shows and films are all about these days.

I mean, people would probably enjoy being free of extreme politics.

I know I’d like to not have to worry about the end of the world (no offense to The Umbrella Academy, which I very much enjoyed--but yeah, the part with the moon was like the most terrifying thing I've ever seen and it's all related to the real terror of what is going to happen to our world if we don't get it together as a fucking species). I think if I'm really looking for escapism, I'm going to look for a show that's not terrifying me with an apocalyptic scenario.

A show that's trying to give us the opposite of our reality right now would have:
People behaving with logic. Facts being facts. Fake news having no power, because it is once again possible to have irrefutable proof.
A story where people really are who they say they are. Cheers would be appealing. Regular people, no one is fake, everyone is who they say they are. No one is cruel or has more power than anyone else. And also no one has any significant trauma or issues, for those on the other side of things who are fed up with that.

Which, I mean, is great if you want to write Cheers, but I don’t.

What would a show look like that was trying to be fundamentally optimistic, in opposition to the absolute shitstorm that our collective reality has become? Look at the stats on the increase in depression and anxiety disorders since 2016. Speaking for myself, every time I hear about kids in cages I feel like real life has become every dystopia, every nightmare I've ever thought was terrible but could never be real. Oh sure, it happened in the past, but that's history. I studied history because I found it fascinating, and without realizing it, I thought the things I was studying were safely in the past. But they most certainly aren't and it's horrifying.

And people justifying these atrocities are the worst part.

Didn't we all grow up on the same stories? Didn't we all learn that the empire is evil? That no matter who is doing it and why they say they are doing it, putting babies in cages is fucking evil?

Nothing makes sense anymore.

So, yeah. A show or a novel or whatever medium, would have to present a world where things make sense. Evil is recognized by everyone as evil. Good triumphs. None of those we count on in power turn out to be compromised and/or spineless and incapable of stopping the evil and bringing it to justice.

No wonder superhero movies keep coming out.

But I think the intriguing thing is, because there are so many superhero movies, that implies that the void to be filled is something else. Just as Steve Martin recognized that even though people reacted to his mentioning Richard Nixon, they were tired of politics in comedy, I see people coming back, over and over, to superheroes--but people are tired of superheroes. It's like, yes, we want this, we need this, this story where things make sense and counter everything that sucks about our world, but we've been coming back to it for years and years now. What's the thing we don't even know we want?

What do you think it might be?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Not Nanoing

As Nanowrimo passes me by this year, and my prescription for my SSRI has run out without refills because I don't have a doctor locally yet, I am struggling with inertia, frustration, and feeling a little lost.

Kauai is not an easy place to live, despite being a wonderful place to have an amazing time. I have had more fun in the months since we moved here--more unadulterated joyous fun--than I had in the last ten years, easily. I love the ocean, I love waves, and I (newly) love boogie boarding. It's heaven, in that respect.

Yesterday there was a sea turtle sunbathing on the beach. It's the third one we've seen doing that since August. I mean, flipping AMAZING.

It's the most beautiful place I've ever lived. And I've lived in some beautiful places, and I even feel disloyal to those places saying it, but let's be real. There are flowers everywhere. In the bushes, in the grass, on the trees, in people's hair, everywhere. Rainbows are almost a daily occurrence. I'm not even exaggerating, I think it might actually be daily. I love the wild chickens, trailing chicks behind them peeping, and the flamboyant roosters everywhere. Geckos--some bright green--on the walls. People don't dress as tacky. I mean, I'm not the fashion police (like, at all). But give me Hawaiian prints over hot pink zebra stripes any day.

But everything you heard about it being expensive is true. It's oddly not the way I expected, somehow, though I didn't have a clear idea anyway. But Jeff and I are both working full time, and we borrowed several thousand dollars from family to move, and now I'm really stressing because we barely make ends meet and we have to pay these people back. I cannot live with not paying them back in a timely manner, I just can't deal with it. They were so generous to help us and we're eating ramen and quesadillas most nights and we are overdrawn in one bank account. It's overwhelming.

Getting a new driver's license is going to be a mountain to climb because I'd let my CA one expire so now I have to go through the whole process--road test, learner's permit, the works.

I have yet to get all my paperwork in to the Hawaii DOE for my job and I'm afraid that when I do they'll dock my salary because of sticky details that shouldn't make a difference but probably will.

My job has these wonderful aspects and these super annoying and stressful aspects that I won't go into detail about. All I'll say is that I'm very grateful to be working with the co-teacher I'm with. He's awesome.

And Jeff is seriously considering applying for PhD programs so it's likely we'll move at the end of this year. Which, considering all the things that make living here hard, is probably going to be the best thing in the long run. But it's more uncertainty and another hella expensive and challenging move... my three year old regressed on potty training with the Kauai move--will he be in diapers in Kindergarten if we move again?

I'm venting. I started out writing this post as a way to feel like I am writing even though my WiP is sitting in a digital drawer gathering binary dust instead of moving along in the Nanowrimo flow. I miss the Nanowrimo flow. I miss having more than a half an hour to write once a week when I should be lesson planning.

Anyway... are you doing Nano this year?
What uncertainties are you staring down these days?