IWSG: Did You Ever Just Quit?


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.
The awesome co-hosts for the June 7 posting of the IWSG will be JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

So, this month’s question is Did you ever just say “I quit” to writing? If so, what made you come back?

I’m not sure I ever quit quit. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in one form or another, and writing regularly. There are highs and lows, of course, and there are moments when I think I should just make writing my secret hobby, and go sell insurance for a living, but quitting?

No. For me, the problem isn’t quitting, so much as starting.

I’ve always written. I don’t remember not writing. I have stacks of old journals in the basement, and files and files of hand-written, spiral bound stories. I entertain myself that way. Sometimes, I understand myself that way.

The problem for me, is getting to the point where I believe in my abilities enough to make this more than a hobby. Enough to do the heavy lifting that gets you from writing for your own amusement in the back of the classroom to writing professionally, with the intention of supporting yourself.

The trick isn’t–as far as I can tell–to keep writing. It’s to keep writing for others. Others who may not be cheering you on, yet, and who are definitely going to see that plot hole, and who are definitely not going to take “Well, it exists in my head” for an answer.

I’m getting there in baby steps.

There’s the first novel you write. And that revision nearly killed me. I kept going around in circles, and you know… since I’d only written ONE novel, and since I was having massive trouble getting it revised, and I was… probably having more fun writing for myself than working on this insurmountable, clean and polish until other people can read and enjoy it thing.

I’m not really to the place where I believe that I can revise quickly and efficiently, and not want to sell insurance. The write for others for a living thing just seems soooo far away.

But my version of quit would probably be start writing whatever suits my whim, without any professional intent, rather than actually giving up writing entirely.

Turbulence and Abrupt Stops

The middle section of my book came to an abrupt end, yesterday, as I realized that the scene I was writing and the scene where my main character turns herself in–we’ll say to the “police”–could be smushed into one convenient bundle, and end a whole lot of tramping around the countryside.

It also ends the potential for any of those love-scenes I write when I can’t think of anything to write, and leaves my characters divided and arguing.


I’ve run into a few instances where things I thought were separate episodes turned out to be elements of the same scene, and they may be the only reason I have any hope of coming in under word count.

They also have a way of getting that story cracking, and I’m positive that’s a good thing.

So, now… MMC doesn’t know it, but FMC has come to “the police station” for two reasons–she intends to leave him in a safe place, and she intends to turn herself in.

For various reasons, he’s not crazy about being left in a safe place, and the accelerated surrender means that I have a plot card that’s just… floating. I need to either ground the plot card, or go back through the draft and remove it, entirely. I haven’t decided which one, yet.

Or, maybe I just haven’t decided how, yet.

So, my sagging middle is starting to tighten up, and I’m reaching the point that I’m happy with the results.

Writer’s Business Cards

A while back, I had business cards made up. They’re not too bad. The Vista Print special for the day. Nothing that took a designer to build, but not exactly shabby, either.

They focused more on my website than on me as a writer, which is okay, I guess. I haven’t settled on a pen name (for real) yet, and at the time, I was still up in the air, even as far as genre goes. There are a lot of experiments rotting on my hard drive. I’m happy with some of them, and less happy with others. And maybe that’s just a part of sussing out what your themes–what your real, core stories are, and what the best way of telling those stories might be.

So, I have business cards.

Delightfully pretentious, n’est pas?

They don’t have my name on them, and they aren’t all that specific about genre, but they exist. They do highlight the website nicely, albeit as something I hope it will one day become. They do not, for instance, have my Twitter account on them.

I thought about taking business cards to the writers’ conference just a little too late to order new ones, and realized how… well, strangely not right the ones I have are. (Don’t worry, I ordered the smallest package of them.)

So, at some point , I actually saw a few writers’ business cards, and it turns out, they’re not nearly as difficult as I thought. Name, pen name, email, website, and some social media information. Maybe a genre, and maybe not. Maybe a tagline.

Obviously, my tagline would be Writing… Ask me what, when I make up my mind.

I’ll probably order replacements before I go out again.

So, do you have writer’s business cards? If so, what’s on them?


And Under a Hail of Gunfire

There are guns in my very, very soft almost-fantasy, but really, it’s sci-fi novel. I already knew that. The soldiers have them. And apparently, some of the civilians, too. One of guardsmen keeps offering to shoot my main character with one. They’re not ray guns, or ballistic nuclear weapons, or any other kind of excitement. And they’re certainly not flint-lock, light the wick type guns. (Because it’s not fantasy, after all.) Just pull the trigger, launch a bullet type guns.

There’s no in depth exploration of them. They’re just there.

Cards on the table, I know more about guns than the average city-person, and a whole lot less than the average country person. They go BOOM, so as a child, I really, really disliked them. (also fireworks, loud stereos, backfiring cars, and motorcycle engines. I do not like the BOOM, even now.)

One of my uncles (imagine Ben Stein, but a gynecologist) collected World War II era Mausers. (They’re a small handgun made in Germany, and various formerly-German territories. You know the gun from the Rocketeer? That.)

Do you know how many Mausers there are?

Trick question.

The answer is ONE. Just ONE. It comes with or without the folding stock, and will be repeated several million billion times in the course of the grand Mauser tour. The size of the gun safe is just a ploy to convince you there’s more than one, but there’s not.

This is a Mauser from (Germany, Czechoslovakia, Turkey…) it was made in (Year, probably from 1937-1945) It is really snazzy because it is absolutely identical to the other 400 Mausers you’ve seen today. Identical, can you imagine? I bought it for thirty-seven cents back in 1974, and all I had to do was replace a spring.

There are no Mausers in my book.

But my characters did find themselves under a convenient hail of non-Mauser gunfire.

It suddenly struck me as interesting that of all the methods of killing people in my book, the guns are the least… fatal. The aim isn’t good. Or even intentional, and my guardsman never gets permission to shoot my MC (obviously.)

That Writing Sprints Journal Thingy…

I got a copy of the Writing Sprints Journal by Jennie Marts. Let’s be honest. This is one of the books I could have bought at the writers’ conference, and maybe I should have. It took me a couple weeks to decide I wanted it, though. Even after hearing the author talk, and seeing her amazing productivity.

This is a how to organize the three and a half minutes you have in a day book. It’s not how to write a novel, or how to revise, or how to write perfect characters.

It’s just how to get the most out of your time.

Jennie’s goals are a lot loftier than mine. She does four or five books a year, and still looks like a beauty queen while not cussing out the books, the schedule, or random strangers on the street.

Personally, I’d be happy with one book a year, while looking nearly human. (And I promise not to cuss out lamp posts or fire hydrants.)

Okay, so after the initial shock of Word sprints? Really? That’s it???! I thought about it, and the truth is that word sprints–in general–do work for me.

I’ve never really done them in an organized, routine way, though. More of a panicked, I’m how many words behind? during Nano.

This is more of a plan, and then sprint, and by the way, do it every single day kind of approach. It’s Organized with a capital O.

And as you may have guessed by now, organized is not my natural state. It’s something I buy or steal off others. It’s something an army of high school teachers has tried and failed to teach me. (Some of them came through remarkably well. Others… well, they do twitch a bit, now.)

As of right now, I’m in the revision phase of current book.

As of… well, a  really long time, actually.

I’m debating whether to start right off by adapting the book for revision-y sprinting, or to start with actual word-sprints for new material, or what.

Fine. So, I’m writing in my recurring events, and working my way up to the big stuff. Right now, the goals are: Finish revising book. Write Query letter and Query the book. Begin next book. Short Stories for Blog Hop and (**sigh**) 52 week challenge. Oh, yes… and try to sell at least one of those.

I’ll just sit here and stare at the journal until I wind up jumping in head-first, I think.


Writing by Index Card and Machete

So, I started the revision with three separate files on the ol’ novel-writing software. I had One for the  chapters at the beginning that I’d already revised almost to finished. One for the things that I think I can use out of the first draft. And One for scenes which did not exist, when I started the revision. (I have matching, color-coded index cards to go with this.)

I’m pulling the three apart to make one, coherent file, right now.

Watching my word count soar.

I’m aiming for a word count somewhere in the middle of my genre’s expectations.

Word count and I haven’t always been friends. My first novel wound up very low, and the first draft of this novel is… well, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of twice as long as it needs to be. I was playing with writing thick at the time.

Let’s just swing back and forth between extremes.

I have about 80,000 words in the “good” pile and about another 70,000 in the “possibly able to keep” pile.


I know I have a lot I can’t save, and some of it doesn’t even fit with the plot, anymore… but still!

It’s possible that writing thick isn’t working for me on the revision end.

So, how do you write? Less than you need and add more later, or more than you need, and cut it down to size in revision?


Reading, Writing, and Television Documentaries

I’m finally sitting down to finish reading the Doomsday Book, and it appears that I’ve saved all the most depressing bits for last. **sigh** Well, I guess I shoulda figured it out back at the beginning, when I found a quote from the author that suggested that all time-travel stories are inherently sad, because you’re dealing with characters who have long since died.

Let’s see if I can keep up here. I took a break from my Hugo/Nebula list to read Sandman, an now I’m taking a break from Sandman to read the Hugo/Nebula list. Oh. And some quick peeks at the book I was given at the writers’ conference. Because, hey, free books.

Ideally, I would like to have my own book finished before the people I met at the writers’ conference forget who I am.  So, I’ll just hop in a time machine, and go back to last week to mail the manuscript. I’m feeling incredibly forgettable, right now. And maybe, the truth of the matter is that the whole point is to be able to “jog” people’s memories later: “We met briefly at the Pike’s Peak Writers’ Conference. I did not throw up on you.”

Clearly, I need a more concrete timeline.

Right now, I’m working on organizing everything I have into one coherent document with a timetable attached. I think most of the scenes are written–or, at least, I can say they exist in real life–and just need to be polished.

And I watched a delightful–if somewhat mass-audience–documentary on syphilis today. It’s amazing the things that are just sitting there, waiting for you to find them on YouTube. I learned that there is a non-lethal, airborne version of the disease, and also that John Deere tractors are sold in England.

To the best of my knowledge, there are neither John Deere tractors nor venereal disease mentioned in my novel. Perhaps I should add a postscript.


Choosing Trust

A while back, I wound up trapped in a conversation with one of those I’m Telling You This For Your Own Good people. The topic was critique groups, and the woman was basically a stranger.

I know you’re bracing for a horror story.

So, here it is.

Someone she knew stole her title.

I won’t tell you what the title is, but I will say that it churns up nearly a thousand results on Amazon, and it has that vaguely familiar feel to it. It’s one of those deep and meaningful titles you find on literary fiction and questionable poetry. It ain’t Snakes on a Plane.

I’m sure you’ve heard something like this, before. The general idea is that when you take your writing to a critique group, it’s in horrible danger of being stolen, and people lie, and flatter you, and really, how do you know they aren’t just saying what you want to hear to make you happy. Or, you know… ripping into you for shits and giggles.

On the other end of the spectrum is the guy who says you shouldn’t be afraid to give away all of your work. (Eventually.)

I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t think the people who criticize my writing are doing it for their own amusement, and I believe that if someone says my work is good, they actually mean it. (Whether or not they’re objective is another thing.)

I post work on my blog from time to time, and even chunks of longer works. I blog my thoughts, and I’m choosing trust every time I push the publish button. I’m not sorry.

But I’m not good at trust, either. I password protect things. I keep my website–and sometimes my writing–a secret from my real-world acquaintances. I think about things like my rough draft being sold in Lebanon without so much as being told. I’m not the jump and trust the Universe to catch you type.

There’s that voice in the back of my mind that says things that are a lot like… I’m telling you this for your own good. And… This probably sucks, you know.

And there’s the real world stuff-the at what point is it published, and how much can I share before it turns the publishing industry off? A lot of that is fuzzy math, but I think I’ve stayed in the clear.

The other thing that occurs to me is that not every writers’ group has to be a deep and deadly serious critique group. I’ve gotten a lot out of groups that were mostly just social, and I’ve found critique partners there.

How far do you trust people with your work? Any hard limits? Any suggestions to avoid those critique group horror stories?

Killing My Imaginary Friends and other Pastimes

So, today I invented an entire person just so I can kill them off. Start to finish, her short life is about six pages before she dies an untimely, yet horribly convenient death. Poor thing doesn’t even have a name.

I’m not one of those people who cries a lot writing scenes like that for my own books, but I’ll cry buckets over other people’s characters.

Maybe it’s because my own characters continue to exist for me–and I know that no matter how dead they are in that time line, they’re still alive and well in my notebooks. Maybe suspension of disbelief is harder for me as a writer than it is as a reader. I don’t know.

In my first book–my very first ever finished, book-length book type book–I killed my main character’s husband. Then, I un-killed him in revision. Then, I erased his existence and brought him back a second time. The truth is, I have no idea why she had a husband, in the first place, and that one character made so much work that I’m pretty quick to kill off future characters.

Characters were the big problem in that book. I had too many. And I didn’t like the ones I needed to like. Not, of course, in the sense that I wouldn’t go out and grab a cheeseburger with them. But in the sense that I didn’t like working with them.

The pure novelty of writing a novel got me through writing that one, and the terror that I might never do it again got me through the revising.

What I should have done… what I hope I now have the sense to do… is write another novel.

And another one.

It’s so easy to get trapped in revising “THE” novel. It’s harder to get trapped in “a” novel.

IWSG: Comparing Myself to Others

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The awesome co-hosts for the May 3 posting of the IWSG are Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone!
Back at the insecurities question… Well, I just got back from my first writers’ conference, so I’m still processing a lot of information. So, I think–right this second–the thought that’s fluttering through my head is the amount of time involved in getting to the point that I can actually sell a book.
On the one hand–and objectively, I think–I believe that I’m getting close. I know I’m getting better.
On the other hand, it’s been a long, long time.  I’m insanely impatient, right now. Well, anyhoo… you know that one over-achieving classmate we’re all damned to endure? The one who straddles six or seven of your pet insecurities? Or, maybe that’s just me. Mine happens to live at the busy intersection of More Successful and Give Up and Write Sasquatch Porn. With regular stops from the Gonna Die Alone and Obscure Trolley Line. (And I’d really be breaking out the Valium if they were a writer.)
Yup. I ran into one of Over Achieving Classmate’s fans… or at least someone who brought them up often enough to grate on my nerves. I should have a sign to hold up.
The weird part is that I’m actually not all that much older than fan girl. (I Googled.) She just made me feel–uhm, decrepit.
At a distance, Classmate is my ticking success-clock. Tick-tock, tick-tock. How long until I run out of steam, and break down without ever reaching my goal?

May 3 Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Right now, I’m writing (very, very soft) science fiction, which means that I don’t need to know that the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066 (in our timeline, anyway), or exactly what George Washington’s false teeth were made of. (eww.) Now and then, I wind up looking for more details on this or that, (or having the mind-bogglingly obvious pointed out to me) but more often than not, I pull information in mostly so that I can twist it, and then throw it into outer space.
Oh, wait… you’re talking about how to keep someone alive in a near-vacuum long enough that they can be eaten by giant space bugs, aren’t you? Well… yeah. There’s that.