Category Archives: writing

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again.


I forgot to write my customary October 31st “I’m doing NaNoWriMo, so don’t bother me” post for 2016. And of course, I should now be banging away at my 1,667 words for the day, but I’m procrastinating by writing this post instead. Isn’t that how it always goes?

Maybe the delay is for the best though, because it has given me time to realize a mistake on my part. I’ve generally always been a pantster, but I’ve been trying to learn to plot and outline. Of course, I know who to write a flipping outline. I went to school, after all.  But I’ve not really mastered imagining a whole novel in outline form and I think my writing process would be vastly improved and streamlined if this was a skill I could pick up. *sigh* It’s hard, yall.

So, leading up to November 1st, I wrote an outline of events and character descriptions and a breakdown of the world’s magics. I pondered the characters’ motivations and decided what they really want and fear. I picked out my themes and committed myself to ensuring a diverse cast. I felt like I’d done a ton of work. Certainly more than I did when I basically accidentally wrote TWE and undoubtedly anything I write now will be better for it.

As a result, in the past three days I wrote over 17,000 words! Now, I always front load during NaNo, because there are all those initial ideas in my head that I’ve just been waiting for the starting pistol to get down on paper. But 17,000 words rocked. I shocked myself.

Unfortunately, this is where the mistake comes in. 17,000 words brought me to the end of what I’d plotted. Now, of course there is a lot of fleshing out to be done between those scenes, but I thought I had plotted enough scenes to carry me through the writing process, but I’m way, way, WAY short. I mean, it’s a learning experience. I now know I need to be more meticulous in how deeply I plot. But it’s disappointing too.

On the up side, I have 26 days to fix it. And I like my plot this year. I’m writing fantasy—shifters, magic, DRAGONS. Oh my. I think I’ll make it. Hitting the word count has never really been the challenge for me. I could rattle off 50,000 words to the barista in an attempt to order coffee. I’m long winded on my most concise days. But I want more than a Nano ‘win.’ I want a finished piece of work and that is where I struggle.

By means of encouragement and accountability (which is a large part of why I always write a blog post when I do Nano) I am allowing myself to buy a Kindle Fire when I submit my word count at the end of the month. I have a Kindle e-reader that I love, but having a tablet would give me access to some things my Voyage doesn’t, like Hoopla through my local library. A reward is something I always give myself after NaNo and I see no reason to change that now. (You know, other than being broke, but I’m ignoring that. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. See how that works?)

So, here’s to all you crazy, crazy kids out there trying to write a novel in a month. I’m right there with you.

You should be writing

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo 2015


All right, I’m not a complete NaNo newbie anymore! Ok, I’m still pretty new to National Writing Month, but I did it last year and survived, so I don’t feel like a total boot. And this fact makes itself known when I think of how much writing prep I did last year compared to this year.

I don’t mean research or plotting or outlining. I did way more of that Nano Prep Researchthis year than last year. But last year I was so stressed about my word count that I had tunnel vision. I bought myself a new mole skin and dandy pen. I picked out word count rewards. I scouted my out-of-the-house writing spot. I scoured the NaNoWriMo website, the Facebook page, the Pinterest page, the Twitter page, the Goodreads forums. I spent most of the latter half of October setting myself up to hit my word count.

This year? Not so much. I mean, ok, some of the reason is that the NaNoWriMo website hasn’t changed much and the forums are in the same place, so I don’t need to do all that again. But another part of it is that I’m confident I can hit a 50k mark in a way I wasn’t last year, so I can concentrate on WHAT I’ll be writing instead of HOW MUCH I’ll be writing. And I’m excited about this in a way I didn’t allow myself to be last year.

o-YOGA-JOES-570So, what am I writing this year? I’m branching way outside my comfort zone. I’m writing a contemporary romance of sorts, between a wounded Afghanistan war veteran and a FTM transgendered Trauma Sensitive yoga instructor.

This is outside my comfort zone for a couple reasons, One, I tend to gravitate toward writing fantasy, so a contemporary setting is new for me. Plus, I’ve never written a romance. And lastly, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, I’m deathly afraid of getting my transgendered representation wrong. But I have what I think is a pretty strong outline, so I am soldiering on. (If anyone is able and willing to beta this aspect of the book, on completion, I would love you forever.)

*Deep breath* In three days I’ll start my second NaNo round. I feel as ready as I can be. I’m going to try and hit more of the real-life, in person write-ins than I did last year. But most are at 6pm, which is a hard time for me to arrange. (That’s an excuse, but it’s also true.) But if anyone is in the Saint Louis area and interested in connecting. I’m Saussy on the buddy list. Feel free to drop me a line. We can commiserate together, or encourage on another, or whatever.

It probably goes without saying, but for those seeking review…not in November.

In which I planned to pimp Queer Romance Month but performed a self-examination instead

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Having just finished this post, I feel the need to come back here, to the beginning, and include an explanatory note. I had intended this post to simply be about promoting Queer Romance Month, an event I enjoy and think is important. I went in with no real plan beyond, “Hey, everyone should go check this out!” But as I wrote, as I allowed myself to dump onto the page whatever my fingers felt like typing (it could always be deleted, after all) I found that I had a lot to say. Most of it would probably qualify as some twisted, rambling version of journaling, getting my own fears, feelings and thoughts on paper.
It was unplanned, but that often makes something rawer and more meaningful. I hope however, that it doesn’t also make any part of this unconsidered or insensitive. I’ve read it over, of course, corrected my grammar, removed 50 or so commas and cut my perpetual run-on sentences into halves and sometimes thirds. But I want to include an apology too, in case anything I say comes across as less than respectful of anyone. I have the utmost respect for those who live outside of society’s rigidly constrained boxes (even the new ones whose walls are firming even as we speak), as well as those who fight for the inclusion and normalization of further boxes. If at any point I come across as otherwise, please blame it on my words, on my inability to always get the right ones in the right order to say exactly what I mean.
Queer Romance Month
October is LGBT History Month, at least it is here in the US. On a smaller but more international scale, October is also Queer Romance Month and I absolutely recommend checking this site out. This is a second year for the event. I avidly followed it last year and am planning to do the same this year.
Skip & PipLast year there were a number of really moving posts from some  well know LGBTQIA+ authors, as well as some up-and-comers, and I expect more of the same. In fact, I’ve read a few of them already. So, I know there is touching and thought provoking content to come. Plus, you’ll get to see Catherine Dair‘s Skip and Pip, two cute bunnies worth obsessing over.
Now, I don’t consider myself particularly queer. I’m not exactly a 0 on the Kinsey scale. I don’t even know if I’d be just a 1 and I don’t comply with many feminine expectations. But being happily, monogamously married to man it’s all kind of moot at this point*. (At least in this context, identities and numerical representation is important.) But I still love everything about this event.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog over the last couple years will note a significant increase in the number of LGBT books I’ve read and reviewed, the majority of them M/M (though in this too I’m trying to find parity). There are a number of reasons for this, some admirable (I think) and some I’m not all together comfortable with.
On the positive front, I made a commitment to myself that, in both my reading and my own writing, I would be more aware of and actively accountable for representation in my fiction. I’m making a concerted effort to read and write about a wider variety of peoples. And for the most part, I have found this exercise incredibly rewarding. I find that I relate easily to a larger demographic of the human race than I would have expected and I’m pleased by this. (This is in no small part also the result of some stellar writing on the part of authors.)
On the other hand, I occasionally face my own discomfort over enjoying queer romance so very much.  Being a staunch Feminist, I refused to touch the romance genre for most of my reading life. I hate the tropes used. I hate the easy preponderance of rape. I hate the way weak women are presented as strong. I hate the very male version of what is considered erotic in a sex scene and the way keep-calm-and-read-gay-romancewomen are always so damn passive. With very few exceptions, I just basically hate heterosexual romance books. (Though to be fair, I think the dependence of these tropes may be changing.) Queer romance allows me to explore romance and sex without all that baggage. And I’ve accepted that this is important to me, but I’m also very aware and try to be conscious and careful of how close to appropriation this actually is.
I am also learning to negotiate a heavy burden of fear about getting it wrong in my own writing. I want so badly to be part of increasing visibility, but can readily imagine that seeing yourself being misrepresented is worse than not seeing yourself at all. (At least, that’s how I think I would feel.)
I’ve been party to (or perhaps better stated as present for) a number of discussions between male gay readers of M/M romance who state that often they don’t feel included in the intended audience of books ostensibly written about them, or people like them. Penning one of these books is one of my biggest writerly fears.
Nano Prep ResearchFor example, I’m currently hip deep in #Nanoprep research for NaNoWriMo next month and I’m planning on including a FTM transgender as a main character. And while I have no problem with learning the details of surgeries and hormones (why would I normally know that, of course it takes research) and I’ve just plain enjoyed the memoirs and personal accounts of Transgendered and Non-Binary individuals I’ve read so far (I’ve always loved learning about people), but I also feel a certain human failure in needing to research another human being human.
I have a lingering fear that I’m turning someone’s true and meaningful life experiences into a quantifiable, researchable project and I’m disturbed. It feels both clinical and separatist, this idea that you (the vague imagined other) are so different from myself that I have to do research to understand your experiences. It feels like a distinct lack of empathy.
allthesame_mockI seek everyday to reduce this same idea of otherness, to not look at white people and people of color; het people and homo people; sexual people and asexual people; cis people and trans or non-binary people; or able bodied people and disabled people, but to just see people. So the need to get books and do research on a type of person, as if that person were a topic not a feeling, thinking, living individual rankles me.
Logically, I know that respect and acceptance (which I can give freely to someone, even if I don’t understand their everyday existence) and grasping the minutiae required to craft a believable il_fullxfull.209720626character are different, but emotions aren’t always logical and one of my heaviest emotion in this endeavor is fear**. That’s before I even face the mortification of inadvertently including something harmful or insulting or just plain old wrong. None of that is easy to admit. I so wish it wasn’t true and hope there will come a point at which it’s not.
Writing only cis-gendered, straight, white women is safe. I can’t really get it wrong, because even if someone doesn’t like or agree with my representation of such a woman, I’m writing from a place of experience. I’m writing from my social position and I have an unquestionable claim to it. I have an un-denouncable right to say ‘that is a true account of a cis-gendered, straight, white women.’ It may not be the only one, but I can comfortably assert it really is one of them.
An author gives up that couch when they branch out beyond themselves. I think they always have to stand back a little and accept that their claim to be writing a true account of, say, a Native American, Transgendered male-to-female, may not be unassailable. They may get the details just right, but they still need to maintain the humility to acknowledge that they can only use one social position as their own, everywhere else they are a guest and need to behave as such. (Even in this, I acknowledge that I’m intern1-1024x645speaking as a prospective interloper and this is a touchy subject for some. Perhaps someone far more experienced will tell me this is inaccurate and I’ll listen because it’s not yet an experience I’ve had. In the past, I’ve been embarrassingly guilty of being the new kid who thought they had it all worked out, only to later, with more experience, cringe at my own arrogant self-assuredness. I will not make that mistake here.)
So, to cut off my free-flow, almost stream-of-consciousness rambling and try to bring this back around to the Queer Romance event, for me, who is experiencing a bit of a social awakening (not just around romance, but social justice in general, my own place in the world, my own identity, etc) QRM is incredibly important. It’s giving voice to authors who have not always had much of a platform. It’s presenting wonderfully engage-able stories and ideas for readers to ponder. It’s a grass-roots level action on the part of impassioned authors, readers, artists and allies to bring Queer Romance to the masses. And it’s providing role-models and accessible terrane for people like me who are just finding their feet, so to speak. Oh, and there are giveaways! I love it and hope lots and lots and lots of people give it a chance and check it out too.
Lastly, as it wasn’t my initial intention to work out some of my own fears around writing in a post presumably centered on Queer Romance, I hope no one minds me tying the two together here. Even I acknowledge that it’s not a perfect fit. I considered separating the two, but in the end left it as is because it’s a true and  factual accounting of my thought process. It was in considering that I came to the understandings above (some of them new even to me). Just as I’ve left so many of my parenthetical clarifications and addendums that so clearly (if passive aggressively) highlight my own points of discomfort, places I thought others might take issue or find fault. It’s a snapshot of what it means to be me right now, someone in that in-between place where they’ve yet to learn the lay of their new home field. But isn’t this just one more reason events like QRM are important? They prompt thought and introspection.

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*Edit: Since I wrote this, Dahlia Adler has written an absolutely amazing post on this (or a very similar) subject. Go read it.

**As it happens, since posting here, I’ve also read this post, but Liv Rancourt on this very subject.