This is a transcript for episode 7 of About This Writing Thing available at: https://aboutthiswritingthing.podbean.com/mf/play/28qrzi/Episode_7-_Making_Time_to_Write_Is_Harder_Than_You_Think.mp3
Hello, and welcome to About This Writing Thing, a weekly podcast about living the writing life. I am your host, Sayword B. Eller, writer, podcaster, and hopeful editor. I wasn't really sure what to talk about this week. I'd love to talk more about eliminating thought verbs and feel words in my narrative but I'm so scattered at the moment with writing projects, school, and trying to relaunch my small jewelry business that I hardly know what I'm doing. Writing time? HA! I've written almost 2000 words this week but it was an assignment for class, so it doesn't count in the grand scheme of things that is my writing life. Maybe, then, I'll talk about making time for writing. Or, rather, not making time.
I've always had a ton of excuses for not writing consistently. For eight years my excuse was the very emotionally and psychologically taxing job I had, though I did finish two novels and begin a third while employed there. Then, in August of 2018, I suddenly found myself without full time employment. After walking through a daze for a couple of weeks (those of you who've been suddenly terminated probably know what I'm talking about), my husband said, "why don't you do what you've always wanted to do, get your writing career off the ground?" This, I thought, was a great idea. Scary as hell, but great none-the-less.
But there are problems with working from home that I didn't expect. The most prominent being, the excuses and time sucks don't stop.
I remember thinking almost daily on the drive to work that I would love nothing more than to be at home all day. All that writing time would be a dream. I forgot that not everyone else believes that writing is a "real job". This presents a whole new set of problems that we'll get into in a minute.
First, though, I want to talk about how my lack of confidence as a writer led to me making a decision that took away from my writing. All I wanted for so long was to be able to write full time. But the problem with going from making a fair amount of money a year to making none is the guilt that comes along with being a burden. Writing, my friends, is a long game. You don't decide you're going to be a full time writer and all of the sudden find yourself in the money. I have yet to make a dime off my writing and I've been doing this full time for a year.
I should add here that, much like my novels, I don't plan my life. There are writers who make extra money by submitting freelance articles and editing (a realm I'm entering), but that takes away from the actual writing we're all dreaming of doing, right? We all want to be Stephen King or Nora Roberts, James Patterson, or "insert 1% writer name here", but what we don't realize is that those are Cinderella stories.
Change my mind. I'd love for you to.
Back to my point. My lack of confidence in my ability to make writing work led me to entertain a second dream I'd been working on for several years, that of being a small shop owner. The opportunity presented itself (as MLM's often do) in the form of budget-friendly jewelry. I thought to myself, I can do this, build up enough business to launch the part of the business I'm really passionate about and write while I'm doing it. Let me tell you, for seven months this jewelry business took a lot of time away from my writing. I didn't identify it as a means to sabotage my writing until it was far too late. Besides, I do really enjoy selling pretty costume jewelry, so if I can find a way to balance both businesses it's a win-win for me.
But, alas, there are other things that we stay-at-homers allow to interfere with our business time. People think we're just sitting at home so our time is their time. This is something I struggled with for almost the whole first year of staying at home. Need someone to run an errand? Call Sayword. Need a babysitter? Call mommy. Driving home and want to chat because you're bored? Call Sayword.
I seriously had to put my foot down. Getting people to take what I do as a serious job was a struggle I hadn't quite anticipated. I'm not going to sit here and tell you everyone stopped calling or stopping by. That still happens. But the frequency in which it happens has really declined. Now, instead of just dropping by my daughter calls to see if I'm finished working for the day (most of the time) before coming over with the grands. That, my friends, is progress.
I am in an MFA program and that does take some time away from my writing but the creative writing program is nowhere near as time consuming as the grad program in history. Oh yeah, for those who don't know, I am an almost fully trained historian. Lol. It really helps with the research aspect of writing, though I haven't written any fiction dealing with my specialization yet. Weird.
Now we're entering fall again. Thank goodness. And I've got a lot of fires burning, so I need to be deliberate with scheduling my time. I bought a planner. Making it a habit is a process but I'm growing to appreciate the process.
I'm going to stop talking now. This is a short episode because I need to get back to work. To all you dreamers out there, keep dreaming. Staying at home is my favorite thing. In fact, I like it too much. Family and friends are now calling me a shut-in. Not good. Keep dreaming, keep pushing to make the dream come true, but be aware there are obstacles and you may be the biggest one.
Until next week, then. Happy writing!
About This Writing Thing
Episode 5: The Push to be a Planner
Hello, and welcome to About This Writing Thing, a weekly podcast about living the writing life. I am your host, Sayword B. Eller, writer, podcaster, and editor.
You’ll notice I’ve changed up a few things. First, the frequency of this podcast is changing. When I began recording I expected that I wouldn’t be able to provide meaningful content weekly so I thought I would chat at you every other week. However, as they are apt to do, things changed. Because I am working full time to build my writing career it turns out I have way more to talk about than I gave myself credit for. (laugh) As a result, you will get to hear me weekly. I’m still focusing on my own writing journey but sometimes our journeys are similar and what I’m going through may very well help someone else. That’s all I want, to help other writers.
You’ll also notice my tagline has changed slightly. I am still a writer for women but I’m also a podcaster for you and an editor. More on the last bit coming soon.
Now on with the show.
Recently my professor made a very simple statement that I can’t get out of my head. This week we have to turn in a plot outline for our thesis project. I don’t do outlines, as you know, so as soon as I read the announcement my pulse quickened and my brain began to race with thoughts of how I couldn’t do this. Not to worry, though, my professor assured us that even pantsers would appreciate this hell in time.
To him I say, “No, we won’t.”
There are two things about the writing life that I despise above all else:
It will come as no surprise that I suck as both of them.
My third despised part, and a topic more relevant to this podcast episode, is the plot outline. There’s a very good reason I don’t use them and have no desire to. Despite what some writers- C. S. Lakin comes to mind - believe, it is not an excuse to keep from outlining, this is not a “bubble to pop,” it is the way I (and many other) writers feel. When I outline I already know what happens in the story, so having everything mapped out makes it very difficult for me to finish. Not only that, but it feels redundant. Valuable hours are spent mapping out major plot points, character sketches, etc. This is time I could be writing. Yes, sometimes pantsing makes things a little more difficult, especially when trying to write an entire novel, but the experience of writing doesn’t feel so much like double work. It feels more organic and that’s how I write best.
I’m not picking on C. S. Lakin. She’s entitled to her opinion, even if it does come across as judgmental or intolerant. Plotters just can’t wrap their Type A minds around pantsers and I think that’s okay.
What isn’t okay, though, is this constant push to fit pantsers into the tiny little box plotters have created for themselves and their kind. You cannot fit a square peg into a round hole. Not unless you cut out parts of what makes the square and square. No thank you!
If you’ve listened to the second episode of this podcast (it’s over on SoundCloud. I’ll put the link below) you’ll know that I am mostly a pantser but I do have a plan for the story in my head. I have my characters, my setting, and the inciting incident in my head. I also, often, have the ending up there too. This, I suspect, is how many pantsers really work. If this is the case, is a pantser really a thing? Wouldn’t plantser be a more accurate term? Whether we’re outlining for hours or just have an idea in our heads, we’re planning to an extent. Some of us are just putting more energy and time into it.
When I began my most recently completed manuscript I knew two things: my character’s name would be Zedwynne and she would be a sexual abuse survivor. I started this book before the Weinstein scandal and the #metoo movement became prominent, not that it matters. I wrote a page and sent it to my former critique partner. She read it and gave me her thoughts: it was too abrasive, too explicit, and as written would likely turn readers off. So I took her notes and my first page and really started to think about what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, and just where my character was in her life.
When I began really writing Catching Fireflies soon after this is what I knew:
- My main character’s name is Zedwynne. She’s always hated her name. When she was a child they called her by her middle name, Grace. Many people called her Gracie. As an adult she calls herself Zed. As she says, “an ugly name for an ugly person.”
- She is a sexual abuse survivor.
- She hates her mother.
- She loves her sister.
- The story is set in rural NC.
- When the story opens she is recovering from a failed suicide attempt.
- There will be a confrontation scene with her abuser.
I’d say that’s a rough outline at best. And it was all in my head. And, guess what, I wrote a novel with this little bit of information. Of course, as the work progresses and the world is building things expand and the plan inside your head does the same, but the list above was enough to get me where I needed to be with this story.
This is why I consider myself a plantser. It isn’t often I go in with a blank slate. There’s probably a thin line between pantsing and plantsing but they are a far cry from the confines (to me) of plotting.
Coming back around to my professor and his assurance that the pantsers/plantsers in my class will thank the university for requiring this plot outline for a work we haven’t even really started yet. Here is my suggestion to teachers of fiction and universities who come up with the curriculum for writing programs: don’t teach to one part of the population and expect the rest of us to excel with those methods. Instead, why not open it up and expand your own blocked minds to, not figure out pantsers and plantsers but at least include other methods? You don’t have to figure us out to teach us about writing and craft elements, and you don’t have to have us pegged to teach us how to structure a story. You just have to understand that there’s more than one method to writing. Some of us are avid plotters and some of us are pantsers/plantsers, and it is quite possible for us all to live in harmony with one another.
My (unsolicited) advice to any new writers listening: don’t give into the pressure. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try it out to see if plotting works for you. I’ve tried multiple times to be a plotter. I have two unfinished books to show for it. What I’m saying is, be open to new methods but be aware which ones work best for you. There’s a lot of noise in the writing world. It’s up to you to figure out what works best for you and your writing.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. If you’re interested in seeing my work you can check me out over at https://saywordbeller.com or you can visit my Amazon author page www.amazon.com/author/saywordbeller. If you want to see what I’m up to on social media you can find me on Instagram and Twitter using the handle @saybeller.
Thank you so much for listening. If you’re listening on Podbean or iTunes please consider rating and subscribing so more people can find me.
Have a great week and happy writing!
Lakin, C.S., 2018, How Pantsing May Be Harmful to your Health, https://www.livewritethrive.com/2018/07/26/how-pantsing-may-be-harmful-to-your-health/
**Originally featured on my Wordpress site 5/27/2019**
For several days I've been following the apparent debacle that is AuthorTube. Little background: Yes, it exists and yes, there is drama. I know a young writer who has been an avid follower of AT for quite some time and has mentioned it to me several times over the few years I've known her. Despite always saying I would check it out, I never did. That's me. Sometimes I lack follow through. Well, often I lack follow through.
Anyway, last week this writer posted about an indie author who has added ARCs to her Patreon page. Instantly my interest is piqued because...you guessed it, ARCs are free. To add it to a "perk" on your Patreon page means that you are, indeed, charging for something that 99% of other readers who receive ARCs do not have to pay for. So I checked it out; watched a bunch of AuthorTube videos, read a bunch of threads on Twitter, and even went to this author's Patreon page.
For those of you unaware, allow me to explain what these things are:
1) ARC - otherwise known as Advanced Reader Copy, these are books made available to a certain number of people in return (usually) for an honest review ahead of publication. Right now I am reading through an ARC that I was given a couple of months ago by a fellow WF writer. I didn't pay for this ARC. I have never paid for an ARC. I've heard some people refer to ARCs as copies of an unfinished book. This is incorrect. Unfinished manuscripts go to beta readers. ARCs are the finished product that will be published. When an author gives you an ARC they are giving you the version that will be released to the public. **edit 6/8/2019: The ARC is a very close version of what will be released to the public. Usually the interior content is completed but the cover or back copy may be incomplete. Learn more here **
2) Patreon - This is a place where you can support an artist you love by purchasing a monthly subscription. I first learned of this platform when I started listening to podcasts. The Black Tapes, Tanis, The Last Movie, Alice Isn't Dead, etc. all ask for listeners to support them on Patreon. I have a Patreon account, though I haven't made it active yet. There are often several different tiers of membership. In exchange you receive perks only available to people subscribing to that particular tier. You can learn more about Patreon here.
3) AuthorTube - I can't provide much information on this, as I am only vaguely familiar with it at this point. However, if you go to YouTube and type AuthorTube in the search you will find numerous videos posted by (mostly) young writers. These videos include how-to, opinion pieces, and other facets of the writing process. In theory this is a fantastic resource.
What I found when I began researching this issue is that the writer in question, the one charging (essentially) $150 for an ARC, seems to have a history of charging for things she doesn't really have the credentials to be charging for. She claims to be an international bestselling author, but this is based on Amazon's rating of her. I'm not knocking Amazon's rating system, but it does change hourly. Sometimes minutely (yes, my word). So to claim that you are an international bestseller based off of one hour on Amazon's charts is shaky, at best. But this woman is charging more than $300 for writing workshops presented by her. She's even reported to have been charging $3000 for a specialized writing course. This is a woman who is not traditionally published and has not been recognized by the top bestselling lists in the world. I'm not paying her $5.00 for writing advice, let alone $300 or $3000!
But here's the rub; she's targeting new writers, young writers, the baby writers who haven't yet cut their teeth. These are the writers that, so help me, still ask what plot is. I'm probably being dramatic, but you get what I'm saying. She's charismatic, she's pretty, and she censors undesirable questions and responses. This, to me, is someone very dangerous to the pocketbooks and wallets of young writers. Both young in age and experience.
I'm not trying to bash her; I don't know her, I haven't read her work, and I certainly haven't paid for her programs, but I do know that charging for an ARC is wrong and blocking individuals for asking questions shows that you (likely) know it's wrong.
Now, as you can imagine this drama has spilled over. Some of these writers are out for blood. I'm not saying they shouldn't be, but I am saying that it really is counterproductive to give someone a one-star review three months before the book is available for purchase. What this author did is wrong, it shows that she doesn't value her readers and that she feels (for whatever reason) elevated above the rest of us, but when we take cheap shots against work that hasn't even released yet, that we haven't even read, we show a level of pettiness no one should really be comfortable with.
I leave you with two things:
1. ARCs are FREE. Period.
2. Be better.
Also, If you have a couple of hours this forum on guru gossiper makes a very interesting read.
Take care and keep writing!