This is something I’ve noticed lately in my time spent in various author places online. There is an almost pathological fear of long books.
I see post after post from people worrying about their word count, that their book is “too long.” I see post after post of people saying “Keep your book short because all long books are unedited pieces of crap and you don’t want to bore your reader!” (Paraphrased.) Many of these posts I see are referring to books in my genre — SFF.
The word counts I’m seeing this about? 150K. 130K. 100K.
*looks at 250K first novel that was extensively edited and also pretty well-received*
It’s really weird to claim that all long books are “unedited”. It’s like there’s this assumption that you can’t POSSIBLY need that many words to tell a story; that if it’s that long, it means you couldn’t cut what was unnecessary.
Sure, there ARE longer works that haven’t been cut down as much as they should have (though to be honest, this usually happens a bit into a trad-pubbed series, when no one dares tell a popular author “No” anymore — see: George Lucas & the prequels). I’m not saying that it never happens; I just think it’s weird to assume it’s ALL that ever happens.
You can’t fail Nanowrimo, so long as you get some writing done!
If that’s the criterion, I have failed this year, because I have written 0 words. Zero. Look:
Nothing. No words on Anala, no words on From the Ashes; just a smattering of words on blogs and some rants on Facebook.
And yet I’m counting this month as a success. Why?
Simple. Even though I planned to write this month and failed, I managed to not beat myself up about it once. I managed to not feel shame. I managed to be okay with not writing for a month.
I didn’t write anything this month, but the fact that I didn’t rip myself apart for it means I can go into December with a clean slate, free of shame, and not let the failure of November weigh me down. If anything, the failure is lifting me up, because for the first time I’m okay with failing at writing.
(What helped was reading this blog post by Mary Robinette Kowal, which helped me realize my inability to write at the moment is depression, not lack of will. It made it okay for me to be gentle on myself, and to take steps towards digging myself out of the depression hole.)
So I am going to spend the rest of today getting ready for the new month and maybe cleaning my kitchen a bit, and letting the end of Nanowrimo pass me by without a word written. (Assuming the fumes from the renovations upstairs don’t suffocate me first.)
Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.
The whole article is great, though, and I urge you to take the time to read it.
But this thing, this shame…it hangs over my head every day I don’t write. Every day I don’t put in the time on my writing, or my author career — every day I don’t blog, I don’t edit, I don’t proof, I don’t put new words on paper — every day I focus on something else, I feel shame.
And I need to let go of that.
Right now I’m not writing as much as I’d like to. I’ve been putting in some work on a small project, but it’s slow going and like pulling teeth to be honest. I would like to have been finished with it in August but at this rate, I’ll be lucky to write “the end” in October. And as for the big project, Anala, book 3 in The Third Age, I’ve had to promise myself that on day 1 of my honeymoon I’ll sit down and do more work on it, but that I can’t try to get to before then.
I still have a bunch of stuff to do before then anyway — I just finished proofing The Jade Star of Athering, finally, and now I’ll be sending off the edited files so I can get the final paperback proof, and maybe there will be a paperback available by November. (Let’s not get hasty here; there have been so many issues with getting that book out.) I have that small project to get out, which I’ll talk more about when it’s launched, but suffice it to say it consists of 5 short pieces — a story, a myth, and 3 character backstories — that are proving difficult to get done.
These things I have to find room for in between the day job, the other publishing work I do, keeping house, wedding planning, and keeping my health up. To be honest I’m kinda crap at all of these things, except the day job, where the requirement is I show up, smile, and do the same thing for 8 hours. The fact is I just don’t have time to focus on writing all that much right now, and I have to let myself be okay with that.
It’s a struggle. I already shame myself for not being productive enough on whatever I’m doing; writing is no exception there. It’s supposed to be my greatest joy, but I also want it to be my career — to provide for me on some level. Is it any surprise I am too hard on myself for not doing enough of it?
I’ve been writing for most of my life and I’ve yet to really find my process. It’s changed and fluctuated so much over the years, I’m honestly not sure what really works for me. I’m sure I’ll figure it out someday — if I can let go, and trust myself, and actually have the time to do so.
So I’m letting go of the shame. I’m not letting myself feel crappy for not writing (aside from, you know, the crap feeling I get when I’m not writing just because I’m not writing — I’m not giving myself extra crap feeling, is what I’m saying). Shame does nothing productive; it drags us down; it makes us despair; it constricts whatever creativity we might have had. Shame is the mind-killer, for it is rooted in fear.
I’m going to start with self-forgiveness instead. Then, when I have the time to sit down and write, I can truly let what’s in my heart sing on the page.
So a few days ago I saw this image floating around Facebook:
(VeryBestQuotes.com is an interesting site, though I wish they would provide sources for the quotes.)
I find that I somewhat agree with this. Imagination is super important, yes, and possibly more important than knowledge.
Imagination is like compost. You get out of it what you put into it. If you never put any info into your head, your imagination is going to have a very tough job. It’s by absorbing knowledge that we feed our imaginations.
So many times I’ve come up with a story idea because of something I read or saw or absorbed some other way, ages ago, that I can’t even remember the source for and it doesn’t matter anyway because the thing that grew out of it is waaay different. When I read things, when I learn about things, I put that info into my brain’s compost heap. And I churn that compost heap around and eventually it becomes fertile soil.
That fertile soil is my imagination. Amazing things grow out of it.
But the unlimitedness of my imagination would not exist were it not for the knowledge I am constantly pumping into my brain.
So while imagination may be more important than knowledge in the long run, it also wouldn’t exist without it — and I think that’s important to remember.
Today, I am grateful for my fertile imagination and the many gifts it has brought me.
Working hard or hardly working? HA HA HA HA HA no seriously, I have a problem.
Procrastination doesn’t just come naturally, you know. We have to work hard at it. Really make sure we’re getting everything we can out of the time we waste.
After feeling awful for over two weeks because I haven’t been writing or editing, I finally got down to working on The Jade Star of Athering again today. I thought that working on it would make me feel better — and you know, it has. I’ve worked on it for maybe 20 minutes and written about 150 new words in it. Now I’m feeling “Okay, I worked on this, can I quit and do something else now?” That sort of ‘feeling better’.
Here’s the thing with The Jade Star of Athering. I set myself up for editing failure with it.
My natural writing state is to write a bunch and go back and edit it before moving on. I am an edit-as-I-goer. That was how I did Bellica, and while Bellica took way too much time, its finished first draft was about 10x cleaner than its sequel’s first draft.
I started doing Jade Star that way, too. It is, as I said, my natural state.
But then I published Bellica and became active in online indie author circles and started reading all this advice and…somewhere along the way I internalized the idea that the point was to get it written and edit it later. I’LL FIX IT IN POST, my brain drunkenly screamed as I tried like hell to finish my first drafts. THIS IS A GOOD IDEA, it further said, swigging some vodka (I don’t know where my brain got the vodka) before knocking over a lamp.
This worked out okay for Stranger Skies, which was fully plotted before I wrote it (and therein lies the difference, likely). I say okay, because editing Stranger Skies was still like dragging my carcass through a swamp made of death and tears in a way that editing Bellica wasn’t.
And now editing The Jade Star of Athering is turning out to be even worse.
Part of my issues are related to Fear of the Sequel, yes — I won’t deny that. There lurks a fear in me that I can only do great first books and whatever book is next in the series will fall short. Which is fair, as it’s basically a trope now that Sequels Always Suck, so it makes sense I’d feel that way about my own work (whether or not it’s true). But mostly, the big wall that keeps springing up is the fact that this finished first draft is the messiest pile of crap I have ever produced. And that’s because I absorbed “Don’t get it right, get it written” when I was finishing it.
Look, “Don’t get it right, get it written” is actually great advice for people who are not natural edit-as-we-goers. If you are the type of writer who works better editing after the first draft is done, then yes, absolutely, vomit those words onto the page and make it pretty, make it make sense, later. Do it, because it works for you.
It doesn’t work for me. And that’s a lesson I’ve learned, now, and I won’t repeat this mistake in the future. When I’m finished The Jade Star of Athering — which was supposed to be at the beginning of this month, by the way, and now it’s looking like I’ll have to push the release date — I’ll be working on From the Ashes, the next book in The Borderlands Saga. And I’m going to let my natural inclination to edit as I go take the lead, this time.
How to procrastinate: let writing advice override your natural inclination for editing as you go. Finish a first draft. Try to edit that first draft. Suddenly, everything will look better than editing that thing (including my publishing work, which I usually also try to procrastinate on).
“All voices sing in unison: get out get out get out escape escape escape…” but violence and death stalk Jane along every bend of every way out….
Can you escape a past you never knew?
Four hardworking professionals live the good life–until one falls into a hole in a Vancouver street. As the world’s colors change, each man grapples with shadows of war as Jane tumbles into the abyss of the Disappeared.
Paul and Zack, thrown together by what may be Jane’s last testament, are hardly excited about cooperating with each other on any issue, least of all on the disappearance, weeks ago, of their mutual friend and her little daughter.
What did Jane expect of them–if anything? What does her story mean–if anything? And what, if anything, should they do about Matt, Jane’s beloved husband, the man each of them suspects?
Caught in an ancient web of caring and enduring, action and restraint, law and healing, Zack and Paul enact the next steps–in Jane’s existence as well as their own.
Available for preorder in ebook and paperback from these locations
Note, the paperback preorder is only available from our Storenvy store, and not anywhere else. If you buy a paperback copy from Amazon or B&N, you are getting an older copy of the book which is completely different from this version. (Broken Sleep was originally published 9 years ago. That version is out of print, and the book has gone through extensive revisions prior to this version being released. They are basically completely different books.) The paperback of this version will be available via Createspace after the release date of September 23rd.
If you were hoping for an ARC of the book, there’s still time for one. Fill out this form and I’ll send you a copy of the ebook ASAP.
And now, I think I’ve spent enough time procrastinating. I even took a big break from working on this post to update my Facebook page and create a new cover image for it. I work really had at avoiding work, y’all.
Go order Broken Sleep, or request the ARC or something. Make my procrastination worth it! <3
So while I’m recliner-bound for 2 months I’m planning on getting a lot of writing done.
It’s not easy. I feel that’s one way The Doctor is very much like regular doctors — give you a straight answer when you ask a question? MADNESS
But, finally, I did. Yesterday, at my follow-up appointment at the cast clinic. After he told me that I’d probably have to be in the brace and off my feet until October, basically (so, a bit longer than originally thought), I finally got an answer regarding the possibility of ligament or meniscus damage:
They don’t know.
They won’t know until my fracture is healed up, because they can’t do an examination to figure out if the ligaments or meniscus are damaged without risking further damage to the fracture. So in several weeks, I may get an answer to that question.
I’m guessing it’s going to be “Yes, your knee is damaged,” mostly because my knee still feels like it’s been smashed with a hammer and I can’t bend my leg without extreme pain.
But apparently the reason they kept avoiding my questions about the knee was because they didn’t know and couldn’t tell me for a while. Which is all I wanted to know! Just an answer, any answer.
So now I know it’s still on the table, the possibility of more severe damage, and I just have to wait and see what happens. And in the meantime, don’t put any pressure on the broken leg.
This weekend we’re picking up a wheelchair for me and maybe getting me a proper shower at the in-laws’ place. If I’m up to it, Mr. Katje might even take me out for dinner at our favourite restaurant.
I’m honestly pretty excited about the wheelchair. Apparently it has a leg rest on the left hand side, which already makes it a million times better than those stupid hospital wheelchairs. (Yes, I totally have the muscle strength to just hover my leg straight out the entire time I’m in that thing. Not.)
I don’t mean to sound bitter about our experience with BC medical this time around. I’m getting the help I need. I’m just frustrated and tired of being cooped up in a chair 24/7, and looking at another 2 months of being cooped up like this.
So, I’m trying to set my brain to productivity. Namely, edits, rewrites, and writing fresh words (and, on the other side of the business: publishing). I’m just finishing up the work for a book by Kaimana Wolff, called Broken Sleep. It’s a really good book, even if the subject matter is hard for me to take. I said in my review that it’s a harrowing exposé of abuse, and I stand by that. It needed a lot of proofing, though, as you can no doubt tell by the picture. Right now it’s on round 3 of proofs. I’m waiting to hear back from the author, and then I can finish up work on it.
If you want to get an ebook ARC — advance reading copy — you can sign up for one here. They will be sent out as soon as I’m done with the ebook formatting.
Regarding my own writing, currently I’m working hard on The Jade Star of Athering. When I started re-writes there were 9 entirely new parts I had to write. Now there are 4, along with the various continuity edits and smaller rewrites within the finished chapters. For the record, editing and re-writing Jade Star has been like trying to marathon through a swamp filled with eels and unspeakable horrors. I am never doing vomit-out-words-and-fix-it-in-post writing again — after this, I’m going back to the much-more-natural-for-me edit-as-I-go style of writing. Fixing it in post is torture.
After I finish my edits and rewrites, I’ll be sending off the manuscript to my editor for the first round of edits. When she’s done, it’ll be time for beta readers to have at it. Once I’ve implemented beta feedback, it goes for its final round of edits, and then I start the publishing process. It’s at this point I release an ARC for advance readers. During the publishing process, we proof the manuscript several more times (and likely find more errors). Hopefully by the time release day rolls around there are no more errors left. (I say hopefully, because we are human.)
When Jade Star is off with the editor and beta readers, I’ll be focusing on finishing up the first draft of From the Ashes, sequel to Stranger Skies. I have a deadline of the end of the year to finish the first draft, but if I’m lucky I’ll get it done sooner.
I’ve got a lot of writing projects planned out for the next year or so. I really want to finish Jade Star and From the Ashes soon because I have another book I’m starting in November — Anala, the sequel to Jade Star and third book in The Third Age. It’s going to need to be outlined very carefully, however, as it happens during the same time period as Book 4 (which is so far untitled).
There’s a lot more on my plate, writing wise, but if I outlined my entire year’s plan here then I’d have no choice but to stick with it and I like to give myself some leeway for failure. (Insert winky face here.) Accountability is great, so long as I’m making myself publicly accountable for things I know I can accomplish.
So right now it’s just a matter of keeping busy with what matters to me, which thankfully is something I can still do while I have a broken leg. I have to be grateful for that — my passion doesn’t involve using my leg. I can still work on it even when injured and chair-ridden.
PS: If you want to be first to hear about release dates, tours, events, etc for both my mother and me, then you should sign up for our mailing list. It comes out about once a month, and it gives you the opportunity to sign up to receive ARCs before anyone else can, or to pre-order first. Also, you get 2 free ebooks for signing up. July’s is set to come out in the next couple days, so sign up soon!
Long and short of my trip to the cast clinic is yes, I have a broken femur, there is apparently no tendon or ligament damage, and no, I cannot have a plaster cast, because my leg is shaped weird.
Yes, you read that right: I have a weird leg. The plaster cast will not stay on it properly, just as the immobilizer of doom does not stay on it properly — but, the doctor says, the immobilizer will likely be more comfortable, and I can take it off from time to time. There’s also a chance my leg could swell again, which would be very uncomfortable in plaster, apparently.
I have to stay off my leg for 6 weeks. I cannot put any weight on it. I can rest my foot on the floor if I’m sitting, but beyond that? Nope. Nope nope nope.
But anyway, besides all that — let’s focus on what’s really important. I have weird legs, guys. WEIRD LEGS. I can’t even argue with the doctor on this one because he’s right. I’m a freak of nature.
See? This is right after it happened, too, so you can see the amount of swelling in the left leg. But that bend inwards at the knee? It’s super pronounced. When standing straight the edges of my feet almost line up with my hips, and the knees bend inwards to touch each other. And the kneecap is super high up. I know, because I saw it on my CT scan. IT WAS WEIRD.
Also there’s the fact that my legs are sort of shaped like cones, with the tiny end pointing down.
WEIRD LEGS, GUISE. ::does spooky arms::
After the cast clinic we headed home, and this is the conversation we had in the car (this was after my crying breakdown in the hospital).
Me: So this is the worst birthday gift I’ve ever gotten myself.
Mr. Katje: That’s what you get for getting it so early! And now you can’t even take it back.
Me: Nope, I’m stuck with it. Buyer’s remorse or what.
Anyway. I am immobilized for six weeks. In 2 weeks I have to see the doctor again so he can see how the leg is doing. But basically, no nothing for Katje until the end of August.
I have some projects to keep me busy while I’m stuck without a working leg. A big one is writing. I’m trying to get my word count up this month. (I’m participating in Get Your Words Out and I’ve pledged to write 150,000 words this year. So far I’m at just over 80,000.)
Another big one is editing and publishing — related to the first, of course, but I’m not always editing or publishing my own works, so it deserves a separate category. Right now I’m proofing Broken Sleep by Kaimana Wolff, and editing/revising The Jade Star of Athering, sequel to Bellica.
I’m also trying to get caught up on my reading. I read very slowly, but with not much else to do I might read more than one book this month. One can hope, anyway.
And finally, I’m powering through Stargate SG-1. I adore this show. I am on season 7, please no spoilers in the comments. (I realize it’s 17 years old but I’ve been able to keep myself relatively spoiler free.)
Anyway, this is my summer. All this, and no showering (at least until I get the shower chair from Oma’s old place). Don’t visit. Your nose will never forgive you.
If you do want to brighten my summer up, however, you can nominate my book, Stranger Skies, for the awards for which it’s eligible! (Assuming you’ve read it. If you haven’t read it, most of the Advance Reading Copy is available to read here. All of the chapters will be released by October 5th.) Details in this post at my Livejournal. The deadline for one of the awards is July 15th, but the others have more time.
A conversation between Mr. Katje and myself yesterday.
Mr. Katje (holding up pens): My pens. Me: I have lots of pens. Mr. Katje: I know, and you are a pen magpie, so if I don’t say these are MY pens they might just disappear on me. Me (laughing): I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mr. Katje: CAW CAW CAW Me: ::bursts into giggles:: Mr. Katje: ADMIT IT Me: I admit nothing! Mr. Katje: and yet I hear no denial!
He’s right to be worried. I got my eyes on his Sharpie.
I’m not sure when exactly this happened; I was too preoccupied with moving since late January to continue with my obsessive refreshing of the Tiptree website.
Recently the honor list and winner of the 2013 James Tiptree Award were announced. I’m not sure when exactly this happened; I was too preoccupied with moving since late January and surgery + recovery this week to continue with my obsessive refreshing of the Tiptree website (some of you may remember my book was nominated).
I’d also like to extend congratulations to the members of the honor list: Eleanor Arnason, Aliette de Bodard, Nicola Griffith, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ann Leckie, Bennett Madison, Sarah McCarry, Janelle Monae, Helene Wecker, and S.M. Wheeler.
I didn’t expect Bellica to win the Tiptree, but I did entertain some hopes of being short-listed. I would be lying if I said my pride weren’t a little bit stung right now.
But I can see the logic. Bellica was my first novel and it was incredibly long. It’s not terribly revolutionary. It’s good, but perhaps it’s not award or short list material. (And who knows — Canada Post says the copies of the book arrived on time, but perhaps they didn’t. That would suck, but it would also be my fault for not getting the books out earlier.)
Bottom line: I’m okay with Bellica not winning or making the list. I think my other books will have a better chance at being listed for awards, even if I never win any (with which I am also okay). I have a lot of faith in my latest book, Stranger Skies, and the rest of the series that will follow.
Though my pride is stung — I am a Leo, after all — I do not harbour any bitterness or resentment towards the judges or the winners. The authors on that list worked hard for this achievement and they deserve it. I wish them well, and I will add their works to my To Be Read list.
I encourage you to do the same.
PS: for the record, Stranger Skies is eligible for the 2014 Tiptree. If you feel it should be nominated, you can do so here: 2014 Tiptree Nomination Form.
Please do not nominate it unless you truly feel it deserves to be considered. (This requires that you have read it.)
Some info about my book launch for Stranger Skies this weekend in Powell River.
Queer Pagan Fiction with a YA Bent
“The scent of death and fear hit her then — she’d found her first Minae wolf….”
A goddess’ fall from grace leaves her on an alien world, bereft of her followers, trapped in a mortal body. Should she strive to regain her godhood or accept her mortality and find love?
Silva, Queen of Wolves, Lady of the True Woods, seeks her only friend Etan, who, along with other deities of the Council of Divinity, has gone missing for reasons unknown. Her search traps her on a world where the wolves have lost faith in her; she becomes a mortal woman whose remaining powers could brand her as a witch.
Through the chaos of war and the turmoil in her own heart, Silva can’t escape a persistent feeling: her fall was not an accident.
Just a brief heads up before I go collapse into a codeine-induced coma:
I am having a book launch for my latest novel, Stranger Skies, this Saturday the 22nd at 4 p.m. It will be held at the café “A Step Above” on the second floor of Quality Foods on Joyce Avenue.
From the event page:
It’s finally happening! Stranger Skies is having a book launch this Saturday in Powell River!
(Let me know if it doesn’t work; FB continues to mystify me. The event is set to public but who knows.)
If you’re in Powell River this weekend I hope to see you at the launch!
If you don’t live in Powell River, I will be having other book launches for Stranger Skies in the coming months both on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland. It’s an informal book tour — informal, because we’re not planning the entire thing out beforehand and are just doing it as and when and where we can.
However, there will be more notice than a few days’ worth for other towns. We meant to get the word out earlier for this one, but moving + travel + surgery + recovery has kind of eaten our lives.
Speaking of recovery…I’m going to go do more of that, in bed, for several hours. Sleepy time! Codeine is kickin’ in with a vengeance.