Thursday, June 27, 2013

Zombie Brain: or, When You Need a Break…

Along with being an author, I'm a freelancer as my day job. That means most weeks, I'm editing or proofreading someone else's story. Sometimes five stories. (Yes, in one week. First, lengths differ; and second, I work in different stages of editing.)

Some clients are more draining to edit than others. A client being "draining" doesn't mean they're particularly bad—it just means their edits are more thought-intensive. For example, if you tend to use wrong words (which is actually a common issue, I suspect connected to the auditory learning style), I'll have to either puzzle out or mark with a comment every instance of that wrong word usage. That requires a different sort of brainpower than just correcting some punctuation mark issues.

That does not mean the prone-to-the-wrong-punctuation-mark author is any better or worse than the prone-to-the-wrong-word author. It's just different. And the amount of time involved in fixing either of them primarily depends on how frequent the problem is in their manuscript.

But again—even a writer who has frequent issues in word choice or grammar (or any other writing problem) isn't necessarily a "bad" writer. Fiction writing is storytelling. A writer who can up with an enjoyable story is a good writer. (Using "good" in the colloquial sense, not in the Biblical sense, here.)

The writer might just need to work on the delivery for the story to be conveyed to others. But grammar and technique can be learned, if an author is willing. It might take a while—it might take several stories—but it's learnable.

How to come up with a story? Far harder to learn.

What does this have to do with zombie brain and needing a break?

When I'm working on a story with a particular problem, I have a much harder time reading things with that problem.

When I've been working on more draining things—and what drains an editor will depend on the editor—I hit a point wherein I don't want to do anything related to the day job. (I suspect this is what Kris Rusch is referring to when she says editing for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction was terrible for her writing career.) I can usually still write, at least a little, though when the zombie brain gets really bad, much of what I write comes out wrong and needs redrafting.

That isn't to say I need a week off from the day job. (Which happens, sometimes, but I try to schedule frequent enough breaks to avoid needing that.) I just need my off hours to be off.

Which wreaks havoc with everything from my own writing work to my reading plans to my beta'ing for other people. Add in that I've had accidental allergen exposure multiple times, lately… and I'm left aplogizing to those people to whom I offered to give feedback but I haven't yet done so. (When I'm not drained from the day job, I'm drained from the allergies. I hate strawberry season.)

So here's my public apology. Current plan is to get all those done next week, Lord willing.

What do I do when I have zombie brain to the point that I have trouble even reading?

I play computer games, which relax me, or I make some homemade…thing. (It's about as likely to be something like hair conditioner as it is to be something edible. There is a reason my mother and I keep labels in the kitchen…) I also sometimes play with Gimp and book covers, or I write a macro or code snippet.

What about you? What do you do when zombie brain hits? Care to share anything you find particularly draining?


Thursday, June 20, 2013

How the Wattpad Thing's Going

In case you don't know, Wattpad is a site for people to blog their stories…sort of. You can use it like that, or you can post things all at once for free samples and all.

Now, there are some downsides. You can't monetize or advertise your stories on Wattpad, though you can theoretically get permission to do so. They seem pretty reasonable about that kind of thing—for example, self-publishers post links to where you can find the story for sale, if you want it, as a matter of course, and they (as of this writing) don't mind.

How do I know they don't mind? A Fistful of Fire has been featured there since 5/30 (as I mentioned in my June news post). I don't know how Wattpad determines what to feature (other than I went to them with a complete work and blurb and asked "Hey, are you interested in featuring this?"). You can recommend titles to be featured.

Hmm… *wanders off to recommend a title…*

This is the weird thing about Wattpad: I can't find the blog post wherein I first heard about the possibility of getting featured. I also can't find the e-mails I received from Wattpad staff about it. (I've lost them before, and I remember being puzzled about why they didn't show up when I searched. This time around, I've searched [again] through my e-mail. No dice.) ((Watch them be right in front of my face, once I do find them again, eh?))

I know it was a mention on David Gaughran's blog post that brought it to my attention. This couldn't have been it, though, because I made my initial contact a few months before that. Judging from the dates, it could have been this post.

Which would explain the "It is?" responses I get when I say it's possible to recommend your own titles to be featured on Wattpad. Because nobody's posted a walkthrough, that I can find.

But in any event, A Fistful of Fire got featured there at the end of last month. I sought featuring with the goal of reaching readers, and that's working. I might hit 21k reads by the time I hit "Publish" on this post. (Admittedly, each "chapter" counts as a separate read, but there are only 10 sections on that title there. So once I account for those who stop partway through or who come back to re-read something, I've probably gotten over 2k reads in the past month.

Wattpad seems to reconsider their "featured" list every two weeks or so, at which point they might leave you there or bump you down or off. I actually moved up on the list. (Per one of my friends who's been watching the featured listing longer than I have, Amanda Hocking has been on there for months.)

I'm also using the site to host my "First Draft Fridays", wherein I post at least a scene in a specific WiP every Friday until the first draft is completed. That's succeeding, too.

So Wattpad's working great for me.

That said, I can't unequivically recommend it, because there are reasons to not blog your novel. It can also be difficult to build traction on the site, unless you can get featured or have a fan base elsewhere.

But as for me, I'm pleased with how things are going over there.

What do you think of Wattpad? Do you have a method you prefer for your own writing to reach readers, or for you (as a reader) to reach writers? Do you have any opinions to share on the way I'm using Wattpad?


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sexism and Stereotyping in Entertainment

Sexism exists.

It's understandable, really. People in general tend to stereotype groups we don't understand, and our culture's common segregation of ages and genders ("Go play with the children of your same gender!"), many people have no opportunity to come to understand the other gender.

That's assuming they even want to. Some people don't care to understand others' perspectives. (Personally, I think that's a side effect of our culture's worship of self—"All that matters is what I want"—but that's a rabbit trail I don't need to go down today.)

In that sense, sexism is a side effect of stereotyping. I once had a (male) employer give me a hard time because I don't multitask well, and women are supposed to be better at that than men.

I am a young(-looking) childless female. At one point or another, I have been belittled or treated dismissively for each of those things.

Now, I don't think that everyone who's dismissive of someone else is conscious of that stereotyping. My own father was genuinely bewildered when others pointed out that he has a hard time taking women seriously. He's working on it.

(Of course, in the meantime, my brother has learned that attitude. He's not intentionally malicious about it, but I'm praying it doesn't take poisoning me with something I am allergic to for him to realize I'm not a hypochondriac. My experience has been that once someone thinks you a hypochondriac, they have to learn otherwise the hard way. Which is far more unpleasant for me than it is for them.)

I've had clients assume that, when I questioned something in their text, it was because I was too young to get the reference, when in actuality I understood the reference but was indicating a missing transition or relevance to connect it to the surrounding text. Or that my comments on how children speak and behave are dismissed because I have none of my own, though I know (and regularly converse with) many. (Children are far, far smarter than they're usually given credit for, and most love when you give them credit for brains.)

You may have heard about Chuck Wendig's post, the recent SFWA brouhaha, the less-recent incident wherein an author grabbed a woman's breast during an awards ceremony and the audience laughed…

Yes, that's terrible. No, that shouldn't happen. But there's both misogyny and misandry in the entertainment world.

Consider the general objectification of people by stereotype. Women are often described by how attractive they are, and they're often specified by gender. Even Hollywood "plain" is pretty, more so for women than men. Father figures are usually soft, bumbling, and unobservant, while the mothers wear the pants and keep the family running. If the movie features children and parents, the parents will be idiots whom the children have to deal with, but if the movie features younger adults and older ones, whichever one who isn't the movie's intended audience will be an idiot. In romantic novels, the men are usually obscenely handsome and not infrequently are deemed "loving" when they cater to everything the woman wants.

Okay, I get that a good amount of fiction is wish fulfillment, but some of the critiques I've seen of Twilight call Edward abusive because he had actual desires of his own that Bella had to accept in order to have a relationship with him. So Bella should've had everything she wanted, while Edward should've had nothing he wanted. Am I the only one who finds that creepy?

Consider the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I enjoyed that movie, but it featured the over-the-top and not-that-smart guy (who kept screwing everything up), the precise and intelligent girl (who was way better than the guy at…everything). And as far as I remember, all the guys and girls were similarly delineated. All of them. Which was what bothered me. Why can't a story feature guys and girls who are equally competent, even if they go about it in different ways?

In the workforce, it's well documented that women tend to earn less for the same jobs. While some of that is likely from some men who refuse to accept women as competent—which I've seen and experienced—I suspect some of that's because we're less likely to ask for raises. Also, I've observed that we're more likely to have someone try to play our empathy, to get us to put up with things a guy would be more likely to ditch.

Note that I do say "more likely". Anybody can be maniplated. But women in general are more prone to getting caught up in emotions.

Interestingly, from my experience as an editor, women in general also tend to have a different writing style than men. Women are more likely to need the editorial pen cut redundant emotions and add the completion of actions. Men are more likely to need help making sure sufficient character emotions are on the page to supplement character motivation.

Of course, there are exceptions. But the answer to a man's action-heavy or a woman's emotion-heavy narrative isn't to make them sound like the other gender or even to make them sound genderless. It's to ensure that the reader can understand what's going on and why. Beyond that, there are different levels of detail about character intention, motivation, action, and speech. Different authors and different stories will focus on different things. That's part of what gives writers their styles.

What does this have to do with sexism and stereotyping in entertainment?

Writers need to write about a variety of people, at least some of whom should differ from the author. It's far easier to write to a stereotype than to try to comprehend someone who's completely different than you. But a person's comprehension of others is limited by their own experience, practice, and interest in dowing so. When writers try to avoid stereotypes but they think the other gender might as well be aliens to them, their characters all tend to sound like…the author's own gender.

Is there something wrong with having a empathic male or action-oriented female? Not at all. The problem comes when all your characters act one way or another.

I believe my own casts tend to be heavy on the females. That's not intentional, but it's a side effect of my own gender and my narrators being female, in situations wherein they'll probably associate most with their own gender. I do my best, though, to display a spread of characters, with their own strengths and weaknesses and competence. Evonalé is not Lallie. Aidan is not Aldrik or Liathen.

I like to think I did okay with conveying realistic characters, but that's readers' call. All I can do is stop and consider my writing, every so often, to make sure that I'm not reverting to stereotypes. That's all any writer can do. We're only human.

What do you think of sexism and stereotyping in entertainment? Do you have any examples to share or discuss?


Thursday, June 6, 2013

News for June 2013…

First, I apologize for my blog posts lately. I've been consistently forgetting to define my terms, and I know better. Thank you for calling me out on it. (And for the nice thoughtful comments.) ^_^

Second, A Fistful of Fire has been featured on Wattpad as of last Wednesday.

Third, I've decided to post A Fistful of Earth on Wattpad, at least temporarily. I don't promise to keep it up, but the prologue's up now. Another chunk will go up tomorrow.

Fourth, A Fistful of Water seems to finally be flowing. I'll have over 5k words to post tomorrow. It may help that I finally remembered the existence of Stickk and that I'm past the midpoint, so hopefully I'm over the mid-book doldrums altogether until I hit the climax—and when that happens, Stickk should keep me from wallowing.

Fifth, I really don't get why climaxes intimidate me so much.

Sixth, I've also been hit with an idea for a Tuelzi novel to take up where A Fistful of Water lets off, so the "quartet" might end up being Fire, Earth, Water, [Tuelzi], with Air being a separate prequel. Or maybe it'll be a quintet. Kind of depends on how the books turn out. I think Tuelzi's story might be a better note to "end" the series on than Geddis's, but we'll see.

Seventh, I might have already done a cover mock-up for that one (isn't quite what I want, but it's close enough to suffice if I can't find an image that matches what I want) and be tentatively calling it A Fistful of Life

Eighth, I'm also revising Know Thy Frienemy (sequel to Destiny's Kiss, looking to have the ARC done this month and the novel done next month, though the cover isn't finalized.

Ninth, my apologies for any typos or omissions in this. I feel as if I'm forgetting something. But I can always post again.

Do you have any news (writing-related or not) that you want to share?


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