Tag Archives: writing

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Hello 2018!

img_20170917_091348_6841544375496.jpgThis is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a great group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.

There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG.

Hello 2018!

Wow. 2018.

Even though I’m a little shocked that we’ve somehow reached 2018 already, I’m excited for it. This year my goals are similar to previous years: more writing, more reading, working on my health. Unlike previous years, though, I am approaching my goals with set-out plans and strategies to help make them achievable.

Since this is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day – I’ll start with looking at my writing goals (reading and health goals I’ll write about later this month).  That, right there, is one of my strategies to help attain my goals.  I am going to commit to writing about them. Each month I’ll make myself do a goals check in (aiming for the the third Wednesday of the month) on how I’m doing on these goals. For me that low level of accountability can be the extra little nudge I need to keep moving, without feeling like it’s an overwhelming obligation.

For writing my goal is very specific: I want to revise at least one chapter of my WIP each month. Ideally I’d do more, but I know that some of these chapters are going to require complete rewrites, and I need to create an attainable goal. Since I have a tendency to overbook myself and set impossible goals I’m trying to be more realistic.

I also have a few friends who are willing to read what I’m writing, one chapter at a time, and give me some feedback. I’m hopeful that this will give me that little extra push when I just am not feeling like writing, and it will give me an as-I-go sounding board to keep me in check on things.  If there’s a glaring issue that shows up in Chapter 2, I’d rather know about it before I get to the place it matters in Chapter 10 than after I’ve completed this entire revision!

Additionally, I got a calendar specifically for keeping track of where I should be in edits – with a lot of space to notes that I need to remember later on or things I need to figure out. Each week I’ll sit down and assign myself minimum times for writing, as well as creating benchmarks to aim for.

The final piece of my plan is to keep reminding myself how awesome it felt when I did NaNo this year. After over a year of not writing I suddenly was writing again. Every day I got a few words – but the days I really set aside dedicated writing time I got a lot done. It wasn’t easy, certainly not, but I stayed well ahead of my goals and really felt overall better because I was dedicating that time to writing.  So when I find myself being dragged down in revisions, feeling tired of sitting down at my computer at night instead of just curling up in bed with a book or movie, I will remind myself of November.

This story has been in the works for over a decade. It spent the last year completely ignored, sitting – literally – on a shelf gathering dust. This is the year to finally get it into a form where other people can start looking at it. I don’t want to sit around with no one else reading it for much longer — it’s time for me to start getting ready to really put the story out in the world.

And it’s time to make the space to start working on other stories as well! I did some free-writing the other day during my lunch-break, and the idea held onto me so strongly that I found myself dealing with the challenge of typing on my phone to continue working on it during my evening commute.  So I’m going to make an effort to spend some time during a few of my lunch-breaks each week doing free-writes just to keep those creative juices flowing and to keep working those writing muscles.

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The Importance of Sensitivity Readers

Representation Matters is a series that explores topics of representation in writing and art. Our first guest-poster, who will explore the topic over the next few months, is Rebecca Croteau. Rebecca is an avid writer, reader and knitter, who is also quite active on twitter.

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If you spend much time in the #ownvoices and #diversityinYA tags on Book Twitter, you will very quickly bump into the concept of a sensitivity reader. A quick Google search is not telling me where the term originated, but I’ve seen it used by both women of color and disabled women throughout the last year. Here’s a quick breakdown on why you need a sensitivity reader – even if you’re writing about your own marginalization! – and how they’re different from a regular beta reader. Towards the end, we’ll talk about how to find a sensitivity reader for your manuscript.

What Is A Sensitivity Reader?

So let’s start from the basics. What is a sensitivity reader?

Ideally, a sensitivity reader is a specific sort of beta reader who is brought in early in the process. Your beta reader generally reads for flow, storylines, themes, and big plot hole issues. A sensitivity reader is also working to address high level concepts in your story, although they may also be willing to look at microaggressions, line-level issues, and other specific problems.

A sensitivity reader should be a person from the marginalized group that is being represented. For example: when I wrote a story that included a non-binary person in a space romance, I asked a trans friend to look it over. They identified a few points where I’d screwed up a pronoun, or where I’d said something insensitive without realizing it. I was able to fix them. Another example; I’m writing an erotic romance novel where the love interest is a fat guy; during one scene where the guy actually discusses his weight, I ran the scene by a friend who is heavier than me, and we revised it together until it said what I wanted to say, and it wasn’t hurting her with its words.

These are the sorts of things sensitivity readers can help you address.

Sensitivity Readers: New Twist, Old Idea

As long as I’ve been a writer, there have been people fact checking manuscripts. There are entire TV shows based around the idea of (some kind of celebrity) gets involved with (some profession) in order to learn more about it for (their art). Castle and Lucifer are two recent examples. Virtually any fiction novel where a character has to deal with a profession or expertise with which the author themselves are not familiar, they consult with an expert. You see them mentioned in acknowledgements frequently: “Thank you to Jane Doe for sharing her expertise with me regarding taxidermy and animal husbandry. Everything I got right was because of her; any mistakes I made were my own.”

So the basic concept of checking your manuscript with someone else is not new. Where people seem to get squirmy around the idea of sensitivity readers is that they seem to feel that this impinges on their “art” in some way. If you stop to check whether or not you’re – to use a recent and admittedly controversial example – hurting Indigenous teens with your portrayal of scarification and coding of darker skinned peoples as more violent, you are somehow not being true to your art.

If your art is more important than hurting actual living human beings…well. I don’t have much of anything nice to say to you.

This is probably because my writing styles and beliefs were pretty well formulated before people could post virtually anything online without any kind of professional feedback, but to me, the idea that anything I published would be presented in its unedited and unrevised form is utterly horrifying. I don’t know about you, but my first drafts suck.

When Should You Bring In A Sensitivity Reader?

This is a complicated question.

What we’re starting to see in YA publishing is that editors and publishers have realized that sensitivity readers are important to the YA community, and they want to get on board with that. I appreciate their commitment to doing better. Unfortunately, the primary practice that we’re seeing is sending out books to sensitivity readers at what seems to be the same time as early review copies.

That is way too damn late. If your book is about to be published, and you’re just now thinking about representation, this isn’t going to work out well.

I argue for bringing in sensitivity readers at several specific points.

  1. When you are creating scifi or fantasy, spend an hour going through your world building with someone experienced in your genre and the marginalizations you’re specifically working on. For example, I’m working on a near-future superhero novel with a friend, and we are committed to building a society where racial divisions are minimized and where people with disabilities are visible in the communities. When we’ve got the rough sketch of our world building together, I’m going to talk this through with two separate sensitivity readers to make sure that we’re not accidentally perpetuating microaggressions or outright racism/ableism.
  2. At the same time you solicit feedback from traditional beta readers. My writing process is that I draft something, I revise it, and then send it to people who are trusted to give good feedback. Including a sensitivity reader at this stage gives you the chance to look at any worldbuilding issues or plot level issues before you dive in to your final revisions.
  3. Before publication. Yes, this is way too late, but it’s still better than never. Here’s the truth of writing, especially when you’re writing for young adults and kids: when you perpetuate racist microaggressions, fat phobia, homophobia, and so forth, you are actively harming those kids who identify with these groups. If you write YA and you aren’t worried about that…again, I dunno what to say to you.

How To Find A Sensitivity Reader

Write in the Margins (FANTASTIC SITE you should check them out) maintains a list of Sensitivity Readers. You can also put out calls on your social media channels, the same way you would for regular beta readers. Sensitivity readers are often paid positions, so be prepared for that. They may cause you to have some hard conversations, with yourself, and with them.

Next time, I’ll talk more about why those conversations need to happen, and how to confront your privilege with grace.

 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: January 2017 Writing Goals, with uncertainty

Dang.. how is it already January?

What better way to start this year out than laying out some of my January Writing Goals – particularly, because it is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, in terms of how I’m a bit unsure of myself as I approach them.

Goal 1) For the month of January only I’m going to aim to write at least 500 words every single day. Part of this is a challenge that I’m doing with a few friends (we all have projects we need to make progress on) and part is because I’ve decided to give the monthly writing challenge a try over on Twitter. I’m worried because, while I can pretty easily scribble out 500 words of something daily, I have a goal to make these 500 useful words. Blog posts, fiction writing or rewriting… I am looking to write 500 words of USABLE words a day. Some days this will be simple enough, but I am worried that I won’t be able to make it happen every single day of the month. And if I don’t, will I be able to allow myself to not just give up and throw the entire goal away?

Goal 2) Write more blog posts to contribute to other blog-sites (starting with Comparative Geeks, Part-Time Monster, and perhaps some for Hannah Reads Books, if she’ll have me. I’ve written for these guys before, am welcome to again, but I have to do two things to make it happen.  First, I need to figure out what I want to write for them. Then I need to follow through. I know I can do this, I put together blog posts here pretty regularly after all.  But as soon as I start writing for someone else’s blog, I start to overthink and over-analyze.  Will what I write be good enough for them?  Will they decide I’m a HORRIBLE WRITER and never let me submit anything ever again, and decide that they hate me for it? I mean, I know these aren’t all true (at least I hope not!) it doesn’t make it easier to shut that anxiety-ridden part of my brain off. Which means having to push through that to make the writing happen.  It’s impossible to be told your writing sucks if you don’t actually put it out there. Of course, then you also never get to say what you want to say and the ideas behind the posts never get shared.

Goal 3) Begin to work on the re-writes for The Novel I’ve had sitting on the shelf for far to long. I am feeling drawn to it again, and I desperately want to make the changes I know need to be made so that I can finally get some other eyes on it. I’m nervous about this, though, because it has been on the shelf for over a year.  What if I start in on it and realize that it’s a lost cause?  What if I put in all the work and let a few trusted friends read it, and they think it’s terrible?  Then what?  I know I have to push past these fears, put in the work and make the story what I know it can be… it’s just a hard thing to push myself back into after so long away!

As for the question of the month:

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

This one is easy.

I started writing as an escape during the late Middle School years. By the time I took my first creative writing class (late High School), I’d already learned a lot of the writing basics through my own trial-and-error, and thanks to being a rather avid reader.  The problem was, somewhere before I even thought to consider myself a writer, I heard the rule: Write what you know.

I absolutely hate this “rule.” When taken literally it severely limits the writer, keeps you from being able to really embrace where your creativity wants to take you. I thought it meant that the only writing I could ever hope to do would deal with a girl like me. And a girl like me didn’t have a whole lot exciting to write about.  I later came to interpret it as meaning that I should dig through my own experiences to help inform my characters reactions and feelings. I draw on conversations I can actually imagine happening to help me write dialog (I’m rather proud of my dialog, I’ve been told by a few people over the years that my dialog is very “real,” in a good way. It’s one of those things I hold onto, for when the writing gets tough). I let “what I know” inform my writing – but I certainly don’t limit myself to writing experiences I have actually lived.  It took far longer than I like, but I finally gave myself permission to take these rules that don’t serve me and throw them right out the window.

 

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This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a great group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.

There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG.

The Problem With Autism Representation

This marks the start of a series of posts on representation in writing and art. Our first guest-poster, who will explore the topic over the next few months, is Rebecca Croteau. Rebecca is an avid writer, reader and knitter, who is also quite active on twitter.

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The Problem With Autism Representation:

There’s not enough of it, and what exists is stereotypes

When my daughter was three years old, almost four, a psychiatrist told me something that I had already known for a year: my daughter is autistic. It wasn’t entirely surprising, either, when the next sentence he spoke was “And now, let’s talk about you.”

In 2014, I found myself in the awkward position of needing to learn a hell of a lot, very quickly, at the same time that I needed to educate nearly everyone around myself and my daughter about what autism meant in general, what autism meant for her, and what autism might mean for her future. I fielded questions about mainstreaming and vaccinations, stimming and meltdowns, labels and “special interests” (I hate that phrase). Because I am a liberal arts major, and also maybe because I, too, am autistic, my method of learning was to read, and read widely.

Here’s the problem with that, however: the representation of autism in modern media basically sucks. In popular TV, there are rarely regular characters who are autistic; in books, the representation situation is downright awful. Autistic characters are usually male, and white, and present the same set of stereotyped traits, over and over. They’re math whizzes, and they’re socially awkward, and they have an extremely accurate memory. They’re extremely literal, and don’t understand analogies or wordplay, or any kind of subtle interaction in language.

This is where I insert a gif of someone rolling their eyes.

The reason, I believe, that the vast majority of autism representation shows the same set of behaviors, over and over, is that autism is nearly always written about and conceived by allistic people, and actors who play autistic characters are rarely (diagnosed as) autistic. More and more in the age of social media we are seeing marginalized communities push back against the idea that their experience can be accurately portrayed by someone who does not share their marginalization. From the trans community to the disabled community to concerns about whitewashing Asian characters, those with privilege are being asked to step aside and make room for those of us who have not historically been able to see ourselves accurately presented.

In books, this situation is slowly starting to change. The amazing Kayla Whaley is one of the editors at DisabilityInKidLit, a fantastic reference site where you can get an idea of what marginalized people think about the representation in middle grade and YA novels. Corinne Duyvis’s On The Edge of Gone is a post-apocalyptic young adult sci-fi book, set in the near future, with an autistic protagonist. More books, more #ownvoices books, are on their way. In many ways, the publishing industry tends to be ahead of TV and movies in this way, especially with the ease of modern self-publishing. More and more writers are realizing that they need to have heroes like them, available on the page.

Now, I’m not on some kind of Magical Diversity Council (thankful hat tip to Claribel Ortega) who is the boss of what people can and cannot write. I’m never going to say that no one should be writing about autistic characters; I am going to argue, over a series of blog posts here, that there are certain stories that are for autistic people, not allistic people, to tell. I strongly want a world, however, where the background radiation of all of our stories are diverse and multifaceted. So I’m also going to put out into the world some tips and tricks about what autism is like and what it is not (necessarily) like, about how it feels to be diagnosed as an adult autistic, and about how to learn more about autism so that you can accurately write love interests, secondary characters, or even main characters in your stories as autistic characters.

Thanks to Allison for giving me the space to do so, and I hope to see you soon.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: NaNo Time

Well, it’s that time of the month again – Insecure Writer’s Support Group Time!

And, it’s that time of year – National Novel Writing Month.

I haven’t been much of a writer lately.  I don’t mean that in a “woe is me, I haven’t been able to write” way, more…. I recognize that I haven’t been making time for my writing, and I haven’t been making the time to refuel.

I made the decision to not participate in NaNo this year.  I love NaNo, I love the community around it, and I love the sense of urgency and extra push to write.  The extra excuse to dedicate more time to writing.

But this year… this year I just can’t.  Because I haven’t been much of a writer lately, and if I do NaNo I think it won’t help me get back to being a writer.  Not at this point in time.

All I have to do is look back over my IWSG posts for the year and the trends of the year is clear.  It’s all about waiting, being determined to push through, and then being determined to wait until I was really ready to start going again.

But really, I need to do some solid organizing.  I need to get myself in order, get myself organized.  I need to set myself up so that systems are in place so that I can actually make progress on projects.  Honestly, I need to decide which projects I am going to focus on so that I can actually make progress, rather than using one project to procrastinate on the other and never making any progress on anything.

So instead of writing, and focusing on getting out a bunch of words, I’m dedicating November (and December) to getting organized.  To finally figuring out structures and systems that will help me to actually progress.  2015 was an amazing year for me, writing wise.  I completed a novel draft, and discovered some very important edits that needed to be made.  But 2016 has felt like a long year of procrastination, wandering lost, and searching for some sort of answers about how to move forward.

I love to write.  It used to be that I would pick writing over pretty much any other form of entertainment.  But lately I’ve found myself not wanting to write, at a loss for ideas, and not being able to reconnect to the feeling of calm and sense of deep connection to something other that comes when I am in the middle or working on a story. See, I started out writing for myself, and in the process of trying to find a way to make my work able to be read by others I’ve lost some of that sense of writing for me.  And I need to regain that before I can hope to move forward.

So I sit this NaNo out in terms of writing, but am full in when it comes to trying to make writing progress — I’m going to organize with reckless abandon.

I just hope I’m making the right decision and can manage to find the systems I need to make 2017 a really powerful year for me.

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Insecure Writer Support Group:

This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a great group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG.

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Starting this month we’ve been given a prompt question that we’re welcome to answer… and I’m glad for it, because the particular prompt this month really got me thinking.

The question: What is the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

I had to think for a long time on this, and then I realized what it was — one memory that stands out clearly in my mind even though it was nearly 20 years ago.  It’s a memory that helps reinvigorate me when I am hitting hard times in my writing. And, let’s be honest, my writing path has seen its fair share of “hard times.”

When I was just a few years into my fiction writing journey, finally getting around to taking Creative Writing 1 as an elective in high school, and the teacher commented that I really could have gone straight to Creative Writing 2 because I had already taught myself what she had to teach… how powerful a boost to my confidence in my natural ability.

Because it is there, and it is real, even when I let doubts and the overwhelming sense of fear take over there is still a kernel of truth buried beneath the gloom that I do have a talent. I just have to keep brushing away the accumulated of grime: the criticism and self-doubt, the over-analysis, those who tear work down for the sheer fun and entertainment of it.  I need to scrub that away and allow the light to shine through, the reminder that I do have talent… and a drive to put that writing into action.

What is the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?  And, more importantly, how has that influenced and impacted your work?

If We Were Having Coffee…. It’s HOT out there!

If we were having coffee I’d invite you to join me in front of a fan.. or perhaps somewhere with air-conditioning.  According to my phone it’s already 81 degrees, and it’s just barely noon.  Today is supposed to get up to the 100’s… tomorrow is supposed to be slightly milder — but only just slightly.

I am not a fan of the heat, so I am going to be spending much of the day trying to lay-low.  There’s definitely some Jamberry work I need to get done — and some serious writing as well. I’m WAY behind on some blog posts, and even further behind on some fiction projects (a few of which have actual deadlines to pay attention to).

This week has been pretty non-spectacular overall.  I worked, and did some work at home. I was happy to start getting back into writing at my lunch-break, something I need to push myself to do more often. I’ve actually let both my Hulu Plus and Netflix accounts lapse this month in hopes that it will keep me from coming home and zoning out as much. It is helping, a little, in increasing the reading and writing that happens – both things I want to do MUCH more of this summer.

I signed up for a summer reading program at my library, speaking of reading!  I’m excited that they have a program for adults, I used to LOVE the summer reading program when I was a kid. And I am so far behind in the reading I’d been planning to do this year — I feel like there is a whole stack of books (and reading programs) I set out to do this year that have gotten no attention since January.

We’re heading into a busy week at work this week, and I’m hoping that things go smoothly.  I like when we’re busy, though I know it’s going to take a lot of my energy to get through the week so am trying to make sure I’m set up for an easier time in the evenings and mornings so I’m not having to worry about things like meals and cleaning.  Come home from work, relax, go to sleep, repeat — that’s the goal.

But for now, I remind myself that I’m only not super-hot because I’ve been sitting still and I should not be tempted by the call or rearranging furniture… though there’s nothing quite like rearranging to help encourage getting rid of things (and I do want to start getting rid of some of the things I have, I just have so much stuff and a lot of it I simply don’t use.  For instance, I’d love to imagine some day I’ll get back to crocheting, beading, sewing, etc… but maybe I should limit how much of the materials I keep for that stuff to a few quality pieces until I start really getting back into it all.

Tempting….

What are you up to today?

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share is a weekly link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster — be sure to check out her post for some exciting news about the future of her blog, and the future of Weekend Coffee Share!!!weekendcoffeeshare (1)