Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plans for December 2011


I won't be intentionally releasing a short story for December. I have a reason for that.

…Because I've already had a story come out, in the first Saffina Desforges Presents anthology: "Primpriety", an urban fantasy novelette featuring a girl whose day's sleep gets interrupted by a murder outside her apartment that she can't stop, and things go downhill from there after she's bribed into tracking the murderer for the cops. And no, she isn't exactly what you're thinking. It's a completely different "world" from my Darkworld series.

The anthology is currently $0.99 US on Amazon.com. I'm not sure of its price elsewhere. I know there are plans to release it on other vendors, as well, but for now, all I have are the Amazon URLs:


I'm working my butt off trying to get A Fistful of Earth done, like I promised. I had "writer's block"* for too long, because I wasn't firmly enough in the narrator's head, but… Well, that writer's block lingered for longer than it needed to, because I had some personal problems get in the way of addressing it.

At any rate, it's flowing now. Even if I don't get done for NaNoWriMo, I should at least have a working draft done by the end of next week.

That means…


I'll be trying to get A Fistful of Earth out when promised ("late 2011"), but that promised release might not be the final polished version. I have some ideas for how to work that, but we'll see how necessary they are.


I've commissioned a new cover for Destiny's Kiss. It's gorgeous and fits the genre. I look forward to revealing it (and my cover artist) to you.

But I can't. Not yet. Because…


I'm working on some stuff to coincide with the new cover's release. That's as detailed as I'll get on that right now.


Write 30k words in the month of December, finishing the first draft of the sequel for Destiny's Kiss. (See my nice little progress bar in the sidebar? I can't promise that I'll keep it 100% up-to-date, but I'll do my best to keep it close.)


I owe some of you folks reviews of your stories. (And then there are the folks who I've promised to read and review… You know who you are.) I'm hoping to do that this December.

What are your plans for reading and writing in December?


*Just FYI, I consider "writer's block" to be the subconscious's last desperate attempt to nab my attention when I'm not hearing it scream "Something's wrong!" at me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Editing Ability, Muphry's Law, and the Overconfidence Effect

Okay, for two weeks now, I've been addressing self-editing. First, I asked "Is Self-Editing Unprofessional?"; then I asked "Must Writers Be Professional?".

I admit that I hadn't heard of Muphry's [sic] Law before I went searching on Wikipedia for the name of the concept I'm actually wanting to bring up, but this one also works.

Muphry's Law
"if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written"
Source: Wikipedia

Nobody's perfect. For everything, there's a point where you have to say "It's good enough" and let it go.

But is that thing actually good enough for general consumption?

I noticed something, even as a teenager when I was hanging out on fan fiction sites (…and learning how to balance critique with praise).

As a general rule, the more confident someone was about her writing, the more her writing sucked. (Saying "her" because so many fanfic writers are female.)

The less confident someone was about her writing, the better it tended to be—until it plateaued at a point where someone was fairly confident that they could put a sentence together without being convinced that "My writing is the bestest thing evah!" Those coolheaded ones were the fantastic ones, mind you, but they didn't realize that or even believe it of themselves.

The tendency to overstate your ability in a subject has actually been researched. I thought there was some "law" about it, but what I'm finding is the term "overconfidence effect."

Overconfidence Effect
The less you know about a subject, the less you assume there is to know, and the more you overestimate your knowledge of that subject
Source: Wikipedia

So let's try a quick quiz to test if you might be able to self-edit your own work. Answer honestly, now.

  1. You know everything there is to know, everything you need to know, and everything you should know about editing.
  2. You know a little, but you know that there are many things still need to learn.
  3. You know some, but you're not sure you know everything you should.
  4. You know a fair bit, though you're sure you don't know everything.
  5. You know a lot. You're sure it isn't everything, but you know where to look things up.

Now let's rate your score:

  • If you answered 1: forget it. You have a long way to go before being able to edit your own work—and event that can't start until you have an attitude change.
  • If you answered 2: keep heart. You have a way to go, but you're on the right track!
  • If you answered 3: keep at it. You're getting there…
  • If you answered 4: try it out. You might be ready; at any rate, practice will do you the most good, now.
  • If you answered 5: get to it. You're a good candidate for self-editing; at worst, you'll clean up your strong points to make it easier for someone else to identify your weak points.

I'm not going to gracefully bow out of this one. I'm an editor for my "day job", so of course I consider myself a 5. But in my own writing, my weakest points are transitions and plotting. I brain functions in odd, transition-less ways that loses folks who know me well, so I have to focus to make sure I connect the dots. I can also produce individual characters, situations, and scenes that make a pre-reader plea for more, but stringing them together into a plot? That's harder for me. (That's part of why I have so many WiPs—some are only characters and situations, right now; no plots.)

Even in day-to-day life, I have a tendency to think too hard. That's part of why I've been making myself write so many short stories; they're making me focus on Ockham's Razor, to produce plots that fit in about 3k words.

Might you be an exception to the above rules of thumb? Possibly. But I can't think of one exception that I've ever encountered in more than 5 years of working professionally—if you count my time as a hobbyist, we're entering two-digit territory—so forgive me for being dubious.

Now that you have some idea of if you're a good candidate for self-editing or not, this series will continue, addressing issues like the different types of editing and tricks to help yourself see what's actually on the page instead of what you thought you wrote.

How'd you score on the quiz? What are your thoughts on Muphry's Law and the Overconfidence Effect?


Happy Thanksgiving, fellow USians!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Must Writers Be Professional?

As a recap from my post last week, let's look back at Merriam-Webster for a some pertinent definitions (according to the unabridged online dictionary):

participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs (definition 2a)
the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person" (definition 1a)

Ergo, if you're seeking financial return from your writing, you're a professional. If you're not seeking financial return, you're not.

Notice that there's no time limiter in there. Someone who has a plan for financial return in the long run despite a plan for no financial return in the short term would still count as a professional.

But must writers be professionals?

In self-publishing, in freelance writing, there's a common attitude that you must be professional, else you shouldn't be writing.

Funny. It was my dabbling (for fun) as a teenager that gave me the skills to be what I am now: author, proofreader, tutor, etc. I didn't even know freelancing existed at the time, but I unprofessionally wrote articles to help friends, critiqued their papers (and they mine), and proofread everything I saw or heard. (There's a reason my mother adds "Do NOT proofread this!" to notes she leaves around the house for me.)

I would spend hours teaching basic grammar to fellow fan fiction writers. Some of you readers even know me from way back when. I remember reading comments on someone's story, to see someone respond to my comment: "Oh, don't mind her; she's rude and a little mean." I remember the time I spent a good hour per (short) chapter, critiquing someone's story per that author's request, and the author having to defend me publicly when her other readers came after me.

Any hobby has its dabblers. The artist who takes a year to make a painting for a friend. The sculptor who produces clay objects now and again when she wants them. The knitter who makes toys to give away. The poet who only bothers to write poetry if she forgets to buy a card for a friend's wedding. (Only those last two are me.)

Okay, so others might tell such creative folks that they should sell their work, but if they don't want to, nobody will flip out and ask them why they even bother with their hobby.

Whereas a writer who insists on being "unprofessional" and giving their work away for free gets insulted and pressured to stop writing.


Okay, so I suspect I know why. Writers are generally under-appreciated and underpaid. Look at how often writers are pressured to accept "exposure" as appropriate payment for something. (Dude, if I want exposure instead of payment, I'll make that call, thanks.) Newbie freelance writers, seeking work online, are often pressured to take paltry amounts of a few cents per word—

And I bet that paltry amount, offered to freelance writers, stems from fiction markets. See, magazines and e-zines are deemed as "pro" 'zines if they pay a minimum of 5¢ per word for fiction. A would-be freelancer (or someone looking to hire freelancers) might see that, not realize the distinctions between fiction and nonfiction—or between FNASR and "all rights"—and therefore offer something that seems reasonable to them… with it actually being a fraction of standard freelance rates.

Many types of freelancers give up all rights to what they produce. Add a "0" to the end of what's generally offered for fiction, and you'll be closer to hitting a standard freelance rate.

That difficulty many writers have finding respect and appropriate payment probably makes them a wee sensitive when someone waltzes in and says, "I don't care about the money! I just want to be read!"

You know, there are music artists who offer their music free, too, as downloads or just for streaming online. Maybe it's just where I hang out online, but I haven't heard anyone accusing such artists of devaluing music.

Not everyone's trying to write for their "day job", just like not everyone's trying to paint or sculpt or knit or sing as a job. They might do it for fun and share it for fun.

So no, I don't think writers must be professional, whether they write fiction or non-fiction.

What's your take?


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Is Self-Editing Unprofessional?

There are two main schools of thought in self-editing:

  1. Nobody can adequately edit themselves.
  2. Everybody can (learn to) adequately edit themselves.

My "day job" is as a freelancer. I proofread, write, edit, and write—for small businesses, with small businesses, for individual entrepreneurs and self-publishers, etc.… My first freelance job ever as an 18-year-old college chick was writing online articles, and I was expected—required—to adequately edit my own work. But as an editor for self-publishers, I'm expected to insist that everyone needs an editor.

I can't be the only one who sees the inconsistency there.

Business writers, students writing term papers and test essays, professionals writing their own e-mails—all of them must edit and proofread their own work. Okay, in some cases, editing can be outsourced, but on a test essay? My best essay grade in college was one where I was given the topic and had an hour time limit to produce that essay. My teacher gave me a 99% and later apologized for not giving me 100%, because she hadn't found any errors and the essay still resounded with her.

(Anyone thinking "But wait! Freelancers go through editors, too!" Yeah, for some types of writing, but in my experience, those are acquisitions editors; their job is to make sure you nail the tone and angle that the publication wants, not to play English teacher for you. And I know of one university that doesn't allow undergraduate students to get help beyond "You have comma splices in your paper.")

Self-publishers, though, are often told that they're being "unprofessional" if they don't hire editors and proofreaders for their manuscript. While I agree that most writers need or can benefit from a good editor, and a proofreader's often a good idea, I disagree that hiring an editor makes someone professional.

Hiring an editor doesn't do you diddly squat if you don't understand what that editor's supposed to be doing—and if your editor doesn't actually do her job. (Saying "her" because so many of us are female.)

A (near-)"flawless" manuscript isn't what makes you a "professional," either.

Look at Amanda Hocking. She's a nice girl, polite and treating her writing like the business it is. But all the editors she hired—and there were more than one—evidently didn't catch something in her My Blood Approves series that struck me as a large plot hole, which probably could've been fixed with little tweaks. (I still read all four and don't mind recommending them to people who enjoy that kind of paranormal romance.) Am I to consider her "unprofessional" because her works aren't "flawless"?

Look at Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, pro writers who probably have more stories under each penname than I have ideas. They know what they want to do with their writing, and they're more concerned about getting quality stories out there in enjoyable form than flawless form. Rusch has been an award-winning short story editor. Am I to consider these two "unprofessional" because they don't even aim for technically "flawless" stories?

Merriam-Webster is the dictionary of choice in US publishing, in my experience. The pertinent definition of professional (2a) is "participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs" (according to the unabridged online dictionary).

Professionalism is "the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person" (same source, definition 1a). So it's how you behave and what you want out of your chosen profession.

That makes "professional" a matter of attitude, an attitude of seeking financial return from your chosen profession. (You don't have to be "professional" and seek financial return from your writing if you don't want to—but I'll get more into that in a later post.)

A professional freelance writer, one who wants to make money at writing, must self-edit and self-proofread to get assignments, unless they seek clueless clients. (I'm sure this happens, and I feel sorry for the deluded clients.)

A professional author, on the other hand, can hire a pro editor or self-edit, depending on what they need. I find many more typos in, for example, work by another author I like who's a NYT bestseller and gets edited and proofread by one of the so-called "Big 6", then particular self-publishing authors I enjoy, some of whom I know don't hire out.

Now, notice that I'm not saying "You must self-edit your story" or "You must hire a pro editor."

I'm saying your choice on whether to self-edit or hire out editing does not have any bearing on being a professional author.

(Yes, I intend to return to the topic of self-editing next week.)

What are your thoughts on (self-)editing and professionalism?


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where Are the Religions in Fiction?

I suspect I'm going to get in trouble for this one, but here goes.

a set of beliefs about reality
note: by this definition, atheism is a religion.

Where is the religion in fiction? I don't mean in the big "This culture against that culture" sense. I mean in the personal, "This is what I believe" sense.

It's my experience in reading that most characters are practically agnostic. Whatever they believe doesn't affect their day-to-day lives or interactions with people, unless it's a specific religious genre.

I'm a devout Christian. To consider devout Christians either conservative hatemongers or nice PC folks—which is what I usually see in fiction—is a false dichotomy. One I weary of seeing.

But then, I'm also weary of seeing "devout" folks of a particular religion do things that are actually counter to that religion's doctrine. A Jew who doesn't think about breaking kosher laws when he eats a cheeseburger or rare steak. Someone whose religion says "Do not kill" but readily kills the bad guys without a twinge of conscience. A Christian who readily jumps into bed without being married to them, without acknowledging how that jives with "You shall not commit adultery."

I'm not saying there aren't people who consider themselves devout and act like that.

But where are the people who actually are orthodox, who follow the core doctrines of their faith?

It's possible to hold views that aren't PC, to be willing to bring them up, and to not feel obligated to jam them down others' throats. For example, someone could think homosexuality "unnatural" for procreative reasons while 1. not hating homosexuals, and 2. not jabbering on about their view. (Note: I did call that an example.)

I realize that it's difficult to write accurately on a religion you don't share, never mind to write from the perspective of someone with a religion you don't share.

But authors often write from the perspective of characters with different genders and cultures than themselves. Why not include religion in that?

Religion adds realism—and conflict potential. (How'd you know I was going to say that?)

Maybe your character faces a situation that tests what they believe and makes them evaluate which values take precedence over others. Someone who believes killing and lying to be both bad will have trouble figuring out what to do when in a situation that offers an apparent either/or choice.

Maybe the hero and heroine of your romance novel have different faiths—or different interpretations of the same faith.

Maybe your MC's being targeted by a killer because something they do for their faith makes the killer think they're actually of a different religion.

Possibilities, people. Just think of the possibilities on that personal level!

I know I had fun playing with them in Destiny's Kiss. It's also one of the reasons I enjoy Richelle Mead's Bloodlines—the poor narrator's stuck in a situation that makes her reevaluate what she believes.

What's your favorite example of personal religious conflict in a story? Have you written anything that involves attacks of conscience?


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Release: November 2011

I like all my stories, but this one marks a special time for me. I wrote it in-between wondering why I couldn't get A Fistful of Earth to work. Something was wrong, but I couldn't figure out what, because the main plot points were holding up no longer how I looked at them.

I decided to poke at how Lallie Nonsire, a probably baseborn girl raised in an orphanage, met her rulers and became friends with Silva Feyim, a girl who was daughter to the Prophet of the King and cousin of the ruling family. I figured there was a short story in there.

There was: a short story of 2,600 or 11 pages, entitled "Of Her Own". Writing the short story was the first time I felt myself completely in Lallie's head. Extrapolating from there helped me enter the head of the adult Lallie.

"Of Her Own" is available for $0.99 US from the "big 3" vendors (Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, & Amazon), and it'll reach other ones like Apple and Kobo over the next few weeks.

"Of Her Own"

All young Lallie Nonsire wanted was a quiet life, minding her own business and ignoring what she was by birth.

After her magic betrays her by saving a friend's life, she'll settle for escaping Saf before she's turned into a live torch.

But where can the child of a despised race go?

***A short story of 2,600 words or 11 pages.***

CONTAINS: Some violence.

You can find it at the following vendors:

I hope you enjoy!


ETA: I have no idea where my post title or labels went. I had them in here when I started the post. *scratches head*

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