Open Letter: Talking to Writers (An IWSG Post)

June 7, 2017

This is an open letter to anyone who’s ever had a conversation with me. You may or may not have been aware of this at the time, but I’m a writer. That means there’s something you should know: while we were talking, I was taking mental notes about you.

Okay, there’s no need to panic. I’m not in the habit of taking people I know or people I’ve met and just dropping them into my stories. Yes, some writers do that, but that’s not how my process works.

So I promise I will not create a character just like you; however, the things you said—especially the way you said them—may inform my character development process at some point in the future. Well, maybe not in the future. To be honest, I’m probably already using you as a source of inspiration.

If you used some particularly interesting turn of phrase of displayed some unique or striking mannerism while we were interacting, I may have actually written that down to ensure I wouldn’t forget. I wouldn’t have done this in front of you. That would’ve been rude. But be aware that I probably did this behind your back, and I probably added you to a file folder when I got home.

I hope this doesn’t make you feel self-conscious or uncomfortable. It’s important to me that you behave naturally. Or rather, I want you and need you to behave authentically, because authentic speech and behavior are precisely what I’m trying to replicate in my storytelling.

Thank you for your time. I just thought you ought to know what you’re getting yourself into when you talk to a writer like me.

Sincerely,

J.S. Pailly.

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and others. Click here to learn more about this awesome group and to see a list of participating blogs.


IWSG: Reflections on the A to Z Challenge

May 3, 2017

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and to see a list of participating blogs.

Today’s post is also my reflections post following my first A to Z Challenge.

Back in March, I mentioned to a friend that I was having a hard time with writing. I believe I said something like, “I’ve fallen out of love with writing.” Under the circumstances, I didn’t feel up for something like the A to Z Challenge; and yet I did it anyway, and I’m glad I did.

My theme was scientific terminology (a.k.a. Sciency Words), because of course that would be my theme. My Sciency Words series is an obvious fit for A to Z. How could I not do that?

The real challenge for me in the A to Z Challenge wasn’t writing 26 blog posts, nor was it reading everybody else’s blogs over the course of 26 days. No, the real challenge, at least for me, was doing both at the same time.

Whenever I was in the heat of writing the next batch of posts, I fell behind on all the blogs I wanted to read. I couldn’t even keep up with the comments people were leaving on my own posts (if you commented on something, and I never responded or came to check out your site, I’m really sorry).

And then when I was keeping up with all the cool/inspiring/thought-provoking blogs I was reading, I started falling behind—way behind—on my own writing schedule. I have to admit that Sciency Words: A to Z almost ended in disaster toward the end of week three.

Oh well. Lessons learned, and I’ll try to do better next year. And honestly, despite the problems I had I met a lot of cool new people, and also I’m pretty happy with how my 26 posts turned out. The thing I’m most proud of was this cartoon from Sciency Words: Planet.

Going into May, I’m now feeling a lot better and a lot more confident about my writing. I guess the A to Z Challenge was just what I needed to fall in love with writing again.


IWSG: Risks

April 5, 2017

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.

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So I guess my 2017 is going to be all about trying new things and taking bigger and bigger risks. Already, some of these new things have fallen apart. Others are proceeding at a frustratingly slow pace. But some stuff is working, and working out quite well, if I do say so myself.

Welcome to a Universe of Possibilities!

I recently became a contributor for Universe of Possibilities, the new Sci-Fi hub started by blogger extraordinaire Simon Farnell. My first Universe of Possibilities post went live last week. It’s called “Why Sci-Fi?”

That post ended up being a huge emotional risk for me. It was originally intended to be a simple little article about why I became interested in science fiction and what science fiction means to me. But it ended up turning into something deeply personal. Something kind of painful to write.

I had doubts about sharing such a personal story on the Internet. But after talking it over with some friends plus doing a lot of late night soul searching, I realized that this is who I am. I’m the kind of writer who writes with his heart on his sleeve.

What’s My Next Big Risk?

Now I’m taking another risk. I almost chickened out for like the third or fourth year in a row, but I’m finally doing it. I’m doing the A to Z Challenge, and… wait a minute. There are how many letters in the alphabet?

Oh jeez… umm… sorry, I need to get back to writing my A to Z posts!!!

P.S.: Click here for my A to Z Challenge theme reveal, and click here for today’s A to Z post on dinosaurs.


IWSG: Patience

March 1, 2017

This past month, my muse and I have been having the same conversation over and over again.

mr01-patience-is-a-virtue

I don’t feel particularly insecure at the moment. Just impatient.

I’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for myself in 2017, and I’m making real progress toward those goals. That’s a plus. And I’m moving at a steady pace, which is a big plus. It’s just that my pace—steady as it is—is a bit slower than I’d hoped for.

So it’ll take me a little longer than I’d imagined to reach my goals. Which is okay. I’m not complaining. If it sounds like I’m complaining, that’s honestly not my intention.

I’m working at a slow and steady pace, and that’s probably the best thing for a writer. I’d much rather write at a slow and steady pace than deal with those boom/bust cycles that I and, I suspect, most new and aspiring writers suffer through.

So again, I’m not complaining. I don’t feel particularly insecure at the moment. On the contrary, I’m quite secure in the knowledge that I will achieve my goals—sooner or later. I just wish it could be sooner rather than later.

I guess I’ll just have to be patient.

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Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure (or impatient) writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.


IWSG: Born to Write

February 1, 2017

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I’m still sort of busy with all my top secret stuff, so I’m going to let my muse write today’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post for me. She has something she’d like to say, and maybe it’s something your muse would like to hear.

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I was at the top of my class in muse training school. I knew everything about the secret magic of inspiration. I thought I was so ready. Then I was assigned to my writer, and he was a bit younger than I’d been expecting.

fb01-born-to-write

Turned out I’d have to wait… and wait… and wait, until my writer finally grew up. I also had to wait while my writer went through some bad experiences, and made some poor life choices, before he finally realized what writer’s are supposed to do with their lives (hint: it involves writing!).

At the moment, my writer is going through something of a transition. He’s taking some risks and trying some new stuff, and not everything is going according to plan. He’s starting to worry. He’s getting cold feet. He’s starting to worry that maybe he wasn’t meant to be a writer at all.

Of course he doesn’t remember how he became a writer. He doesn’t remember when it really began. He was too young at the time. Which brings me to the little piece of advice that I want to share with all the other muses who might be reading this: writers sometimes need to be reminded that they were born to write.

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Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.


IWSG: I Jinxed Myself

January 4, 2017

I’m not a superstitious person, so I don’t believe in jinxes. My muse, on the other hand, feels differently.

ja04-jinxed

In last month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I shared some statistics about my weekly word counts. I didn’t mean to brag, but the numbers were rather high for the past few years, and I was excited because they’d jumped even higher in 2016.

And then my writing productivity plummeted for the rest of December. Yes, part of that can be blamed on the holiday season. And part of it was because I caught a nasty cold. But there’s no denying that I got overconfident after reviewing my own writing records, and that led me astray. Does that mean I jinxed myself? I guess, in a way, it does.

Now I have a lot of catching up to do. January is going to be a busy month. My whole top-secret master plan for 2017 is in jeopardy. I’d tell you more about what I need to do, but… it’s a top-secret plan.

So long as I can get my weekly word counts back up to their pre-December levels, I think I’ll be okay. In fact, I’m confident that I can beat those pre-December numbers and really get my master plan back on track!

Hopefully I didn’t just jinx myself again. Wish me luck!

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Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.


IWSG: Return of the Christmas Muse

December 7, 2016

Last year, I asked my muse what she wanted for Christmas. This is what she told me:

Dc01 Christmas Muse

Muses can be rude sometimes, but they do know how to spur their writers into action.

One of the nice things about writing quotas, and the record keeping that goes with them, is that they can help you track your long-term progress. Right now, my average weekly word count is almost double what it was in years past.

Average Weekly Word Counts

2013: 9,293 words per week
2014: 9,003 words per week
2015: 9,416 words per week
2016: 15,837 words per week

So at least in terms of raw productivity, I’m a better writer today than I was a year ago. And there are other, less easily quantifiable ways I believe my writing has improved.

I think I do a better job integrating science into my science fiction. I feel like I’m better with dialogue and characterization. I think I’m better at picking and choosing meaningful details in my descriptions, or at least I’m better at leaving unimportant details out.

I’ve also finally gotten over my addiction to so-called writing rules—which should really be called writing suggestions or, at best, writing guidelines. The only rule I still believe in is do whatever you have to do to get the story right.

I’m not sure if I can call myself a “good” writer yet. I still have a lot to learn about the writing process and a whole lot more to learn about the business side of writing. But with 2016 coming to an end, I think this is a good time to take stock of how far I’ve come in the past year.

So what sort of progress did you make in 2016? And if your answer is “none” or “not enough,” what do you think you’ll do differently in 2017?

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Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop where insecure writers like myself can share our worries and offer advice and encouragement. Click here to find out more about IWSG and see a list of participating blogs.