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.


IWSG: The Best/Worst Thing About Writing

November 2, 2016

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

For today’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I’d like to share a quote:

The mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a leap—call it intuition or what you will—and comes out upon a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there.

This quote comes from Albert Einstein. It first appeared in an article from Life Magazine in 1955. As I understand it, Einstein was talking about more than just scientific discovery here.

I like this quote because it encapsulates what I believe is the best—and worst—thing about writing.

The Best Thing About Writing

Writing is a struggle.

I could elaborate on that, but I don’t think I need to. If you’re part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, you already know what I mean.

But there comes a moment when the struggle is suddenly over. Your story problems seem to solve themselves, and all your plot points just fall into place. You might not understand how this happened, but that’s okay because at that moment you are a writing god (or goddess)!

This experience really is like coming out upon some higher plane of knowledge. We writers get to have that experience over and over again, and that’s the best part about being a writer.

The Worst Thing About Writing

Except you never really understand how you reached this higher plane of knowledge. Some sort of subconscious voodoo happened that was beyond your control. It was intuition, as Einstein said. It was a leap of faith.

And that’s a bit frightening, and more than a bit frustrating, because when you can’t remember how you solved a problem, you have no idea what to do when that same problem happens again. So much for feeling like a writing god/goddess.

At that point, the only thing left to do is trust some fickle subconscious intuition nonsense will come through for you again. And who knows when or if that’ll happen?

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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 each other advice and encouragement. It’s a safe place, and it’s the best. Please click here to learn more about the group and to see a list of participating blogs.


IWSG: When’s It Ready?

October 5, 2016

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Each month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group gives us a question to answer. I usually forget about the question, or I choose to ignore it because there’s something else I want to/need to talk about. But this month, the IWSG question gets to the heart of my chronic insecurities.

When do you know your story is ready?

Short Answer: As soon as I have a story that’s ready, I’d be happy to tell you.

Long Answer: My Tomorrow News Network short story series has been “ready” several times now. The first time, my stories were ready because:

  • I’d set self-imposed deadlines for each story. When a deadline came, whatever I had had to be good enough because I needed to move on to the next story.
  • The problem was that most of my stories were rush jobs. They felt amateurish to me. Even though I’d created my own world populated with my own characters, at times my stories read like bad fan fiction.

So I worked with an editor and did a lot of studying on my own. I learned a bunch of writing rules and editing techniques (remove adverbs, avoid the verb to be, cut your manuscript’s length by 15%). After all that, my stories were ready because:

  • I’d fixed the specific issues my editor had identified, I’d cut my manuscript’s length by the recommended amount, and I’d conformed my writing style to the rules I’d learned. My stories definitely felt more polished, more professional, but….
  • I realized that my stories now suffered from something that I now call generic narrator syndrome. I can’t put my finger on what defines a generic narrator, but I know it when I see it. I think it happens because when everyone follows the exact same writing rules, we all end up having the exact same narrative voice.

So my challenge now is to establish a unique J.S. Pailly narrative voice for my stories. Not sure what that means. Don’t know yet what differentiates my voice from everyone else’s. But I think I’ll know it when I see it.

At that point, my stories will be ready. I hope.

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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: A Muse’s Apprentice

September 7, 2016

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We all know writers feel insecure sometimes. That’s what the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is all about. What we writers might not realize, or may sometimes forget, is that our muses get insecure too.

With that in mind, I’m going to turn the floor over to my muse. She has something to say, and maybe it’s something you or your muse would like to hear.

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We all know the rule: one muse per writer. There just aren’t enough of us fairy-folk around to start doubling up. But I wish I could have a helper or an assistant or something. I wish I had an apprentice muse working under me. Then I could really get stuff done.

Sp07 Two Muses

The truth is I can’t do everything myself. I can put as many ideas into my writer’s head as I want, but that doesn’t mean he’ll write them down. You know how humans are. They’re easily distracted. Their minds wander. They keep complaining about being “too tired.”

It would be nice if I could get some help. Unfortunately, King Oberon and Queen Titania have rejected my requests to start a muse internship program. That leaves me only one option: I’ll have to convince my writer to pull his own weight. Well, that plus the weight of a pen, I guess.

That way, when I give my writer ideas, he’ll be able to move his own hand over to the paper, without any magical help at all.


IWSG: You Are a Good Writer

August 3, 2016

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Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Click here to find out more about the group and to see a full list of participating blogs.

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In the past, I’ve written a lot of IWSG posts about my muse. Mostly, I’ve written about how much we fight. We quarrel over what to write, how to write, when to write (sorry, muse, but 2 a.m. is not the appropriate time).

But today, I just want to take a moment and say something to my muse. Something I don’t say often enough.

Ag03 Muse Chat 1

Of course these muse posts are hyper metaphorical. They represent the inner triumphs and turmoils of the creative life. I don’t actually believe a magic fairy whispers ideas in my ear.

Ag03 Muse Chat 2

Metaphorical or not, the relationship between a writer and muse can become strained. Writing is hard. Tensions run high. It’s upsetting when words just don’t fit together the way they’re supposed to.

You might start to think you suck as a writer. Your writing sucks. You life sucks. You blame your muse for withholding inspiration; your muse blames you for lacking persistence. And then things get nasty.

That’s why it’s so important to stop and affirm to yourself, as often as you can, in whatever metaphorical or non-metaphorical terms you prefer, that you are good at what you do, and that you’re getting better. Go ahead. Do it now.

It might seem silly at first, but the power of positive thinking is real. It won’t solve every problem, but it is the best defense against the chronic negativity that afflicts so many of us as writers.