It looks like entitled whiny “fans” have stopped saying (for the most part) that authors “owe” them books on a certain timeframe.
Alas, this does not mean that they’ve stopped being entitled whiny “fans”. Far from it. Instead their new tactic seems to be to whine that the author is “disrespecting their fans” . . . even when the author has said the book is delayed because he had to cut a large piece out and put it back together. In other words, even when the book in its present form is a piece of shit!
So as far as I can tell, this alleged fans think it’s perfectly respectful for an author to release a book that sucks on the date it was first supposed to come out, but horribly disrespectful to wait and release when it doesn’t suck.
That’s some damn special logic they’re using there. Like it has less acquaintance with Earth logic than some of the things my five-month-old kitten* does. I mean, I’m pretty fucking sure I’m not unique in preferring to spend money on books that don’t suck regardless of how many years I have to wait for them! How the hell is it disrespectful to only want to give your fans a good book?!
You know, I don’t think I’ve seen this in any other field. I can’t think of a single time I’ve seen a music album delayed and the fans went “They should just release it as it is now; it’s disrespectful to us to make us wait any longer!” Or a movie.
What makes books different? Why do people see authors as just content creation machines, churning out books like a factory churning out socks?
I have a theory on that, one I’ve brought up before. My theory is that since anyone who’s bitching about a book being late can write — i.e. make marks on a page that represent words, they assume that writing fiction is simply a matter of sitting down and writing word after word after word for eight hours a day, five days a week, until the story is done. Which is, to be fair, how some authors write first drafts. (I do two hours a day, five days a week, of which only about ninety minutes is spent writing. I get more done this way then writing for longer periods, as I don’t burn out nearly as badly or as quickly.)
I was just watching a video where an author is explaining, in response to a fan question about why the book is taking so long, his revision process, and still there are lots and lots of comments about how he needs to just write for eight hours a day, five days a week “because it’s his job”!
I’m not sure how much clearer anyone can make it that there is so much more to making a good story than just getting the words out. Hell, I write pretty fast. In that ninety minutes of actually writing a day I mentioned earlier, I average around 3000 words. (Many professional authors — some rather famous ones even — consider 2000 words enough for the day.) Three thousand words a day times five days a week means I can write fifteen thousand words a week. When revising, unless I happen to be working on one of those places where the first draft was golden, I average about eight hundred words of progress in the same amount of time.
And I usually need to do three or more revision passes.
So, let’s look at something the length of one of the books by the author that’s “fans” inspired this post: 399,000 words. I could write something that long in about 133 days, but each revision pass would take about 499 days! So, let’s assume four revision passes. That’s 1996 days. Plus the 133 it took me to write it in the first place. So that’s 2129 days to finish the book. That’s — remember, this is working five days a week — about eight years!
And that’s assuming I never take an extra day off. Or hit a really crappy section revising. Or lose a chapter to a hard drive crash. In other words, that’s assuming an absolutely ideal set of circumstances which would never happen.
So, obviously, the solution is to do as these people say the author should be doing and write (and presumably edit) eight hours a day, five days a week. Then I’d only need two years, right?
Well, no, actually. In all likelihood what would happen if I tried to work on any one thing for that long every fucking week, I’d never get through with it. Because, in my experience — and it seems this is true for at least some other authors as well — the longer I spend on it at once, the more likely I am to run out of mental energy and end up doing things that are just plain stupid. Which means I then need to fix those. Which means more hours.
I think a big part of the problem right now is that the mystique of being an author is no longer existent with so many so very publicly sharing with their fans their process.** Specifically the number of authors who stress that if you want to be a professional author you have to treat writing like a job, when job in too many people’s minds means “thing you do eight hours a day, five days a week for money” instead of “thing you take seriously and don’t treat like a hobby if you ever hope to make money at it,” which I assume is how most authors mean it. So these “fans” assume that any author who isn’t turning out books at a steady pace is clearly not taking things seriously at all.
I’m not really sure what can be done about this. I regularly see authors who work slower explaining why their books come out at a less steady pace, but yet this attitude, and the misconceptions that feed it, persist.
And, now for an update on my own slow book:
No More Lies hasn’t been touched in months. One of the problems is that I realized that I cut too much of the bits that were just characterization and setting flavor out in the last revision, so it’s a lot drier than I want it to be. So I’ve got to put those back in. And fix the last of the timeline problems. So . . . it’s probably going to need another revision pass after this one, as much as I hate the idea.
If I work on absolutely nothing else (which won’t happen), I could have it ready to publish in about a year. My current best estimate is that it will be out in 2020. That’s six years after I finished the first draft, and five years after the first release date I proposed.
But it will be a much, much better book for the wait.
But I guess this means I’m disrespecting the one or two of you who were eagerly anticipating it. I’m sorry I’m not charging you money for a shitty book, I guess.
Oh, right! I was going to work into this rant an example of why revision can take so long! Pretend there’s an intelligent sounding segue here:
I started writing No More Lies as a short story in 2011. I switched it from third to first person and started over. Then I started it over as a novel. (Well, it was supposed to be a novella, but it didn’t get the memo.) Throughout all of those attempts, and the first revision pass, the first paragraph barely changed. I’d switched the pronouns when I switched it from third to first person, and I’d rephrased things slightly because I was getting a headache trying to figure out how to punctuate a sentence, but other than that, I hadn’t touched it.
Then I reread it after ignoring the story completely for months.
It wasn’t right. There was no other way to put it. That first paragraph that I’d loved so much, that I’d read over and over for six years, wasn’t right. It didn’t sound like the narrator. It sounded like I would say it, not like Bobby would. So I had to rewrite it.
This is how an author can expect to have a book ready to publish in one year and then end up revising it for nearly ten. Something can seem perfect the first several times you read it, and then one day you realize it’s all fucking wrong. Oh, maybe it’s technically perfect, but there’s a lot more to writing than technical skill. Hell, many of the changes I’ve been making this year in No More Lies have been to make the narration less perfect because it fits the character better. Even in third person, the narrator has a voice of their own and needs to be consistent, and that can be hard to manage. (I remember a fantasy novel I once read that was mostly written in a very prosaic and down-to-earth style, then, wham, a beautifully poetic passage in the narration. It pushed me out of the story because it was so jarringly different. Someone should’ve caught that before it was published. It was technically perfect — I’ve reread that passage a few times just because it’s so beautiful and well-written — but it didn’t fit at all with what was around it.)
Pretend there’s another clever segue here:
So, I’m doing Nanowrimo again, this time aiming for ten thousand more words than it takes to “win”. Why? Because fifty thousand has gotten too easy and I like a challenge. Or because I’ve taken leave of my senses. Jury’s out.
Halfway into the month, and I’m at 280 words over halfway to my goal. Because I’m me and as allergic to working on one thing at a time as I am to having marketable story ideas, this word count is spread out over four stories. One of these stories was inspired by a dream I had the morning before I started writing it, another is a reworking of something I wrote eleven years ago, one is something I started last Nanowrimo, and one is something I started last winter some time.
The one inspired by a dream I’ve written around five thousand words of and suspect it will be the first book of a series. Which is just fucking wonderful when you revise as slowly as me. I’m going to have to deal with some of the sort of “fans” I’ve been ranting about if it gets popular at all. Yippee!
The reworking of the old thing is about ten times it’s previous length at almost nine thousand words. I used to have a tendency for my stories to sound more like summaries than stories, you see. I’m stuck because I got to a point I’d been picturing for years and suddenly realized it wouldn’t work with the way Sweytzian society has developed as I’ve worked out more about the setting. Fuck.
The one I started last Nanowrimo is over thirty thousand words long, and I’ve just gotten to the second month of a story that takes place over two years! I’m a little worried I’m going to end up with something Game of Thrones’ length here. But I’m having a lot of fun with it because the narrator is possibly more sarcastic than me. (Okay, more like she says in the narration the sort of stuff I think but don’t say because I’m a coward, and she’s a Kavaliro so is possibly genetically missing the whole “fear response” thing.)
And the last one I’m twenty-nine thousand words into and need to read back over and make notes so I can make sure I get all the subplots I’ve introduced tied up — or at least left open in a dramatically interesting and potentially sequel hook-y way. I think it’s almost done, though.
And then there’s the three stories I’ve been meaning to work on this month but haven’t gotten to yet . . .
Oh, and the secret project I alluded to a few times last year — not the one I couldn’t discuss, that one was cancelled by the publisher because of internal problems they were having, the one I was just saying I wasn’t ready to talk about — has been delayed because I’ve spent so much time this year writing instead of revising. I, at this moment, expect it to happen next spring or summer.
* His name is Smokey, and he and technical problems are the main reasons this is my first post in a long time. It’s hard to blog when you’re trying to get a kitten to stop biting your laptop. And when said laptop decides the OS is corrupt after the power goes out in the middle of an update.
** I’m pretty sure that sentence could be phrased better, but I’ve already been working on this for over an hour due to kitten distractions — his toy went under a door twice — and my computer locking up, so it’s the best I can manage. This kind of supports my point about mental energy, come to think of it.
The Crown of Eldrete is, so far as I can tell, now removed from all ebook markets. The print edition still exists because it’s more tricky than just clicking a button or two to remove a print edition from Amazon/Createspace, but since as far as I can tell Mom is the only person who ever bought any print copies, I don’t give a damn. If you really want to order a copy of a book that is no longer canon . . . thanks for the money, I guess?
It’s weird. I remember how excited I was to finish writing this book and how excited I was to publish it, but I don’t regret unpublishing it at all. This isn’t — though I had to convince a little, obnoxious voice in my head of this — because it only ever got one positive review and that was from someone who seemed to have not read it closely . . . the review implied it was straight up fantasy instead of me repurposing fantasy tropes in a space opera setting. It’s mostly because the last two times I’ve tried to reread the book, I’ve not been able to finish it.
I admit, it’s not uncommon for me to read things I wrote in the past — even things I loved and thought were near-perfect at the time — and dislike them. But this went far beyond dislike. I couldn’t finish reading something I fucking wrote!
Hell, I couldn’t finish something that was around 20,000 words! That, regardless of who wrote it, is astounding. I read roughly 700 words a minute on average. I’ll put up with a lot of annoying shit for half an hour’s worth of reading. And I couldn’t finish this book.
Now, part of that is that my perception of how some things in the bigger picture of Universal Nexus should work has changed since I wrote it. But if that were the only problem, eh, I’d just let it be and if called on it by fans someday make reference to “alternate legs of the Trousers of Time” or something equally geeky. So clearly there was more than that.
I’ve written a whole rambly post or two (Do I ever write any other kind?) about why I released it in such a relatively unedited state and what I would do if I were to rewrite it, so I won’t go over that again. Besides, ultimately, the problem with it . . . the reason it’s no longer for sale . . . the reason I couldn’t finish reading it the last two times I tried . . . is very simply this: It wasn’t a book I wrote for me.
Now, I know there is a school of thought among authors and wannabe authors that goes, roughly, that you shouldn’t write for yourself if you ever want to make money at all, that you should write what the market wants. And I’m not going to argue with that. If your goal is to make money.
My goal isn’t.
Now, a lot of people seem to see the alternative to writing for money as writing to illuminate deep shit about the human condition. In case my phrasing didn’t clue you in, I don’t go for that much either. If you get something deep out of my work, cool. I mean, I’ve gotten deep truths about life out of fucking books about a certain scimitar wielding, lavender eyed, drow. I think a person finds universal messages where their ready to see them for the most part. But, if you get anything deep out of my work, it’s not because I deliberately put it there, that’s for damned sure.
All I want, is to write something like the stuff I like to read. Maybe that’s selfish and short-sighted. Fucked if I care. Ray Bradbury said “You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing.” Last I checked, he wasn’t some obscure author nobody ever read. Pretty sure I can find a Louis L’Amour quote saying pretty much the same thing, and he sure as hell isn’t obscure.
The Crown of Eldrete though . . . I started writing it because I had a cool idea. This is not a bad thing; it’s the only reason I ever start writing anything. Somewhere along the way, though, I started adding stuff because I felt like they were elements a story was supposed to have. It’s more plot-driven than anything else I’ve ever written (yet it got reviews that said it had no plot, go figure), and it has bits that . . . I wanted to have character depth and growth and all of that stuff that you’re supposed to have, and I shoved it in where it didn’t really fit.
Yes, my concept for Lyndsey has for a long time been that she has a constant conflict between being an adrenaline junky and wanting to live long enough to see her kids grow up . . . but that’s not something I should’ve resolved in a couple of scenes. Because, well, constant. This was supposed to be the first book of a series. She should’ve been struggling with this throughout. And — since Universal Nexus is a setting, not just one series of books — maybe it shouldn’t have been resolved at all yet. (In the rpg version of the setting, which is the same as the written one in broad strokes but varies in details, this problem was eventually resolved by her quitting the Daggers, after some deep soul searching and painful conversations with people she trusts to give her good advice, and becoming a martial arts instructor and competitor. I think that’s a much more interesting character arc than what happened in Crown, personally. I’ve got a rough draft of part of that story written. Maybe I’ll finish it someday.)
Likewise, with regards to the plot . . . I don’t really understand how you do plots. I’ve tried finding things to help with this. This, actually, is how my “collecting bad writing advice” hobby started, in fact . . . there are so fucking many things that assume the only two types of plots are the motherfucking Heroes’ Journey and formulaic romance novel. I can’t find anything that would help someone write the kind of story I enjoy, I’ve discovered.
Earlier today, while trying to write a description of the story formerly known as Jake Becomes Mithoska for a secret project, I finally realized just, exactly, what kind of story it is I’m writing.
I’m writing, when I just write the way that comes to me naturally and don’t give a damn about what anyone else is going to think of my style or any of that crap, a fictionalized memoir. The first few lines, as they’re presently written, of the chronologically first Jake story establish that it’s a story he’s telling his grandkids and great-grandkids. The earliest versions of Universal Nexus stories, the ones I wrote years and years ago back when bits of it were still using names from the properties it all started as crossover fanfic of, frequently used the idea that these were stories being told to other people. I abandoned that at some point for reasons that I’m sure made perfectly good sense at the time.
But I’m going to un-abandon that. I write in first person for a variety of reasons, some of which are, admittedly, to cover flaws in the technical side of my writing, but mostly it’s because when I’m writing I’m not thinking “what should happen next to advance the action/increase tension/whatever else it is I’m supposed to be worrying about”, I’m thinking “and then what happened?” And, to me, that kind of approach lends itself to a meandering first person story. (Not as meandering as my blogposts, I feel the need to stress . . . at least not after editing.)
I guess the simplest way to put it is, I’m not interested in telling you how Lyndsey and her distant cousin Taliza and a handful or rebels and Daggers got the titular crown back, honestly. If I were to ever rewrite the story — this is still just as big an “if” as the first time I mentioned it, ages ago — it would be Lyndsey telling the tale of what happened to her during the Dagger mission where she met her distant cousin and they got this crown back and found her great-great-grandfather’s sword. Because Lyndsey is Lyndsey, there would be fight scenes, there would be the bits with Vik bitching at her . . . though those would be completely rewritten so she called him out on his hypocrisy, but there would also be completely new bits that are recounting a fun game of kista with her friends during a bit of downtime, bits that show who she is — not in a “This scene increases the readers’ understanding of the character” kind of way, but in a “This feels like an amusing/fascinating/whatevering is appropriate story told by someone” way.
Lyndsey’s not a writer. She’s just someone who loves talking about her adventures. So that’s what a story about her should feel like. It should have all the bits she’d tell people about, not just the bits that are relevant to the plot arc and character arc and all that other stuff. Because that’s how I prefer to write: I’m just kicking back and letting the people in my head tell a story to me.
And then I’m cleaning it up a bit so it makes sense to other people too.
(And that sounds a little bit crazy, but, eh, I don’t give a fuck. I’m probably not completely sane — I mean aside from the anxiety and OCD, even. I’m not sure anyone who is a good writer . . . by which I mean good storyteller, not necessarily someone who’s good at the whole technical side of writing thing . . . is. Like I’ve said before, no sane person would go “I’m going to dedicate my life to a career that is pretty much guaranteed to mean perpetual poverty!”.)
(And, yeah, I wandered all over the place in this post. I had coffee with lunch. It wasn’t decaf. Blame it if there’s any bit that really seems to come out of nowhere.)
For a few years I was making grand plans to get stuff I’d wanted to read for ages and not gotten around to read. The end result of these plans was that I pretty much wasn’t reading anything, because I’d be trying to read those books when I didn’t really feel like it, and I wouldn’t let myself start reading something else until I’d finished those or given up on them because I’d decided they were too horrible to finish.
I abandoned this in favor of a system of reading whatever the fuck I felt like a year or so ago. Then I started making nearly weekly trips to the local library last summer. So, I’ve found lots of books in the past year that aren’t things I’d ever known existed. And been reminded of things I’ve wanted to read for ages but forgotten even existed.
And then we moved last month and there were built-in shelves in the bedroom and I ended up unpacking some books I hadn’t seen in over a decade.
This list is just the books I’ve read since last June (links are to Goodreads):
- The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower
- I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas (illustrator)
- All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown by Sydney Taylor
- All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzi and Christina Lamb
- Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne, and J. K. Rowling
- More All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
- All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown by Sydney Taylor
- A Gathering of Widowmakers by Mike Resnick
- The Outpost by Mike Resnick
- True Grit by Charles Portis
- The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer
- Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
- Reilly’s Luck by Louis L’Amour
- Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
- Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
- Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire
- Second Star by Dana Stabenow
- Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick
- Cartoon History of the Universe II, Vol. 8-13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome by Larry Gonick
- Heller with a Gun by Louis L’Amour
And the books I’m currently reading:
- The Widowmaker by Mike Resnick
- Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Colliss Harvey
- A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
- Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
- Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
(Yes, I’m only reading five books at once right now! I’m amazed too!)
Now, like I said, that’s just the books. That’s not counting having read an entire webcomic (Digger, by the amazingly talented Ursula Vernon) in one day recently. Or my on-going project to read every single Marvel issue of GI Joe . . . which was going very fast until I hit the point where they started coming out with dumb shit like the Eco-Warriors, and even Larry Hama can’t do much with ideas like that. Or the day I spent reading blogposts about medieval book bindings. Or the day I spent learning about inaccuracies in the historical costumes in movies. Or the days I’ve spent reading articles about politics. Or all the book samples I’ve read. Or . . . do you get the idea now why I consider it fucking stupid that some people only look at lists of books read for a year to calculate how much people are reading?
Now, why did I make this post? Because I saw someone the other day — and this is something I’ve seen frequently before from authors and, perhaps especially, from wannabe authors — talking about how they don’t have time to read for fun any more because they’ve got all this reading to do for research for their next planned work and to keep up with their genre.
I can’t wrap my head around that mentality. First of all, if you don’t enjoy what you’re researching, then why the fuck are you writing a story that involves whatever it is you’re researching?! If you aren’t interested in something, then don’t write a story where it’s a major thing. This is simple logic, people!
Second, why do you have to keep up with your genre? Yes, I’ve been reading more sci-fi than I usually do the past year, but, well, look at the publication dates of those books. I’m not reading anything new. I’m reading stuff that interests me.
Why did I read what I’ve read? Let’s see:
- Caught my eye in the library: 2
- Recommended by my wife: 2
- Liked other stuff by the author: 14
- Re-reading a book I knew I liked: 2
- Fucked if I can remember: 1
- Saw the movie and wanted to read the book: 2
- Saw some quotes from it and wanted to read the whole thing: 2
- Wanted to finish the series because I liked the plot even if the style left a bit to be desired: 2
- Trying to figure out why other people love it so much: 2
Unpacking “Liked other stuff by the author” to see how I discovered those authors in the first place:
- Sydney Taylor – I don’t remember if Mom suggested I read All-of-a-Kind Family or just left it laying around after one time when she read it and I read it. At any rate, it’s Mom’s fault I discovered her.
- J. K. Rowling – Saw the first Harry Potter movie, decided to check out the books.
- Mike Resnick – This one is actually a kind of amusing story. I’d gotten him mixed up with someone else and started reading one of his short stories as a “prove to myself that I’m not the worst writer in the industry” thing. (Look, it’s a weird way to deal with anxiety inflicted inferiority issues, but it works, okay?) Instead, I ended up loving the story and wanting more like it.
- Louis L’Amour – My mother and grandfather read him a lot, so I grew up with his books around. I never finished one until a few years ago, though, for whatever reason.
- P. G. Wodehouse – Several of my favorite authors cited him as one of their favorites, so I had to try him out.
- Seanan McGuire – Someone linked to a blogpost where she described a character as the child of Batman and Dazzler.
- Dana Stabenow – Again, I don’t know if Mom recommended her or just left one of her Kate Shugak books laying around and I picked it up.
Oh, and I’ve got Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes reserved at the library right now. Why? Because this is possibly the longest I’ve gone in years without reading fantasy and I’m missing it, and this book’s negative reviews say that it’s “too D&D like” and “not dark enough”, which makes it sound perfect for my tastes.
So, in short, I’m not reading anything because I think I should be or because it’s directly helpful for something I’m writing.
That is not, however, to say that these books won’t have an influence on what I’m writing. I’m mimicking, somewhat, the structure of All-of-a-Kind Family for the first Jake book (now tentatively titled Jareth’s Son) because I think it’s a good way to introduce a young reader to a different culture. Some of the books listed about have shown me what not to do in various ways . . . one never let the characters catch a break, another was great until the last chapter which left me so depressed that I’m not sure I’m going to read the sequel, one had a romantic twist at the end that I saw coming about a quarter of the way into the book, etc. And some have had a direct influence . . . I got character ideas that have blossomed into at least the starts of stories from two of the Mike Resnick books, for instance.
And I’m going to end this post here because I just realized I’ve been up six hours and only had a handful of chips to eat, which explains why I’m having trouble thinking clearly. Sorry if this got too hard to follow.
In late March, Time Machine quit working properly. It was an easy thing to fix, something I’ve fixed at least twice before . . . basically my computer couldn’t write to the Time Machine drive and it would’ve taken about five to fifteen minutes to fix.
But, you see, it would’ve involved rebooting, and I discovered it while I was in the middle of something. Then I kept forgetting about it until I was in the middle of something, until it’d been so long since it’d made a backup that I didn’t feel like fixing it and letting it because it slows the computer down some while it runs. And the cat likes to unplug the external drive Time Machine is on so I needed to do it sometime when I could sit here and keep her away from the motherfucking cord.
And then we moved and I had more important things to do than get this sorted out. And then in the course of a week my iPod Touch got stuck in a rebooting loop and I broke the screen on my phone, so I decided it was probably best if I didn’t try to fix anything more technologically advanced than a pencil for a while. (This was, possibly, a good decision. I apparently had so angered the gods of technology that a fucking ball point pen, with plenty of ink and a good tip, suddenly wouldn’t write when I tried to use it!)
And then my hard drive corrupted. This, honestly, shouldn’t have surprised me. I’d been losing hard drive space mysteriously for some time, my Spotlight index was needing rebuilt every other time I rebooted, and a few days before I’d gotten a notification that an app was corrupted, and then had that app work perfectly without doing anything. So something was clearly very wrong.
So, one day my computer is acting . . . well, like a six-year-old computer with a nearly full hard drive that’s been on for over a week. Nothing unusual, really, just very slow. So slow it’s basically locking up about once an hour, but not quite. Then, right as I’m thinking “I should probably reboot and do that kind of reboot that clears the caches,” it does lock up.
Upon rebooting, it starts installing an update. Okay, it’d been pestering me about there being one to install for awhile, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. No big deal.
It gets partway through and turns off.
I try again and again and again. Same thing. I try the cache and other stuffs fixing reboot thingy. No luck. I google for likely problems and solutions. It’s suggested that I boot to Recovery Mode and try to verify the disk.
I do so. It can’t be fully verified. I try Repair Disk. It can’t be fully repaired. A message appears on my screen informing me that the hard drive needs reformatted.
Fuck me. This was on May 10th. It turned out that the last Time Machine backup was on March 23rd!
I have — because I always expected something like this to happen, and because she likes to read stuff I’ve written — been in the habit of sending my wife what I’ve written every day for a long while. So while I’ve lost everything else for the past month and a half, I at least have everything I’ve written.
I just have to go through emails and copy it back into documents I can work with.
And please don’t suggest I use any sort of cloud storage instead. My last experiment with that did result in some stuff getting irretrievably lost. No clue why. The file looks like it’s there, but trying to open it just gets an error message. I can’t afford that happening to stuff I’m writing. And there’s no way in hell I could backup my whole computer to the cloud . . . I’d like to, just to have an offsite backup, but we’ve got satellite internet, so that’s definitely not happening any time soon.
If something is going seriously wrong in a rough draft, my process is to type a comment to myself in all caps and then try that bit again. Usually the comment is just “NO” or “NOT QUITE RIGHT” or something equally boring. Or “FUCKING HELL” with varying numbers of exclamation marks. Sometimes though, they get amusing. Here are some of my favorites:
GONNA TRY THIS FROM REN’S POV INSTEAD OF VIK’S, IN THE INTERESTS OF NOT DROWNING IN ANGST.
LET’S TRY THIS PARAGRAPH AGAIN, WITH LESS SUCKING
(After my next attempt at that paragraph) AND NOW LET’S TRY NOT BEING BORING
(I love the rhyming here. I swear it wasn’t deliberate.) FUCKING HELL, SHOW DON’T TELL? DO THESE WORDS RING A FUCKING BELL?
AND THAT SENTENCE NEEDS TAKEN OUT AND SHOT.
COULD THIS SENTENCE GET MORE CONVULUTED, MAYBE? CAN I LEARN TO SPELL CONVOLUTED ON MY FIRST TRY?
I THINK THE PUNCTUATION IN THAT SENTENCE IS PROBABLY CRIMINAL.
WHAT THE HELL AM I EVEN TRYING TO DO HERE?
(Half a line later) OH, I GOT IT NOW!
(Half a paragraph later) NO, I DON’T GOT IT.
(One line later. A line that was just me ranting at myself, for that matter.) OKAY, NOW I’M STARTING THE STORY FOR REAL.
(A sentence and a half later) OKAY, MAYBE I’M NOT. WHY CANNOT I NOT . . . OH, FUCKING HELL! WHY CAN I NOT BRAIN TODAY?
(Two and a half words later) NO, THAT IS A VERY BAD PLACE TO START.
AND THAT PARAGRAPH SAYS “I READ BABYSITTERS’ CLUB BOOKS AT AN IMPRESSIONABLE AGE.” UGH. FIRST DRAFT, LETTING IT STAND. (Jaye, you haven’t seen the one that prompted this or the ones that started with “WHAT THE HELL AM I EVEN TRYING TO DO HERE?” I ended up with, at most, a few useable paragraphs.)
(I just love that I typed this at myself in bolded, italicized capitals.) QUIT BEING DUMB.
FUCK THAT SENTENCE WITH A CHAINSAW.
(WARNING: AUTHOR IS FEELING EVEN MORE SNARKY THAN USUAL.)
So, after years and years of perusing writing blogs and forums, I have finally learned how to write.
First, I must keep an inspiration board filled with images that I think might, someday, inspire me to write something or to create a character or whatever. I also need to have a special notebook that I carry with me at all times to write sudden ideas in — with a special pen designated for this purpose.
Second, I must read nothing but “how to write” books . . . except when I’m reading whatever the best-sellers in my genre are to know what’s currently popular.
Then, when I finally get an actual idea . . . or decide to do Nanowrimo because someone I know is, whichever . . . I must make a special inspiration board just for pictures relevant to this story. Then I have to get another special notebook just to put my worldbuilding stuff in . . . or I can use Scrivener. To worldbuild, I need to answer questions found on worksheets about worldbuilding so I don’t forget anything. This is how all the real authors do it. The sites promoting these worksheets say so!
After I’m done worldbuilding, I’ve got to get another special notebook . . . or I can use notecards, or, again, Scrivener . . . and answer all sorts of questions about every single character that might appear in the story, no matter how minor. It is vitally important that I know things like what clique the character was in in high school. Even if they’re fifty. And on a world that didn’t have high schools.
Next, as far as I understand things, is when I should’ve started a writing blog, where I cover such pressing, little talked about topics like “how I create characters” and “my favorite writing books”. This is very important to establish early on so I can build my brand which will help me land a publishing deal.
Then it’s time for more worksheets, these about the plot. For some reason I’m supposed to use ones designed for writing movies. I think this is so I’m more likely to get a movie deal after my book is published because my book will be so easy to convert to a movie script. Or I’m supposed to use confusing ones that use the word scene in a way completely differently than any other English speaking person . . . though I’m really not sure how anyone uses those without taking the expensive classes telling you what all the specialized terminology means.
Once I’ve gotten my plot all worked out, it’s time to turn it into an outline! It is absolutely crucial that I have a detailed outline. No serious author ever writes anything without one.
Then I finally get to write!
Writing, despite what some people say, isn’t as simple as putting your butt in your chair and your fingers on the keyboard and writing one word after the other until you can’t do any more that day. No. Before I start each writing session — which needs to be at the same time every day so this becomes a habit — I must light my special writing candle, put on my special fingerless gloves so my hands will stay warm, get my special writing snack, and make sure I have my reward close to hand for reaching my goal for the day. It’s also utterly essential that I write the same number of words every single day . . . even if someone close to me died that day or I have pneumonia or appendicitis. If I miss one day, I’m likely to never, ever write again!
And I’ve run out of momentum, or I’d continue this through revising and submitting. I really don’t get people making writing this goddamned complicated! But, then again, I’m the person who realized she wasn’t a Wiccan because the whole doing rituals thing just seemed like way too much goddamn work.
My method, for those just tuning in:
Suddenly have random snippet of scene in head, sometimes — but by no means always — prompted by something I’ve heard or read.
Try to ignore it because I always have way too many works-in-progress already.
Keep getting revised versions of it in my head while I’m trying to do other things.
When I feel like there’s a page of stuff knocking about up there, type it. I’ve learned that if I can get a page, odds are I’ll get at least 2000 words before I need to stop and really think, but if I’ve got less than a page, then that’s likely all I’ll ever have.
Characters and worldbuilding are done on the fly, interrupting my writing to do research if necessary. It’s usually not . . . or at least not serious research, more like five minutes of googling sort of stuff. I’ve got years and years of reading everything I can get my hands on to draw from. I’m the only person (as far as I know) to ever beat my grandfather at Trivial Pursuit. This pretty much means I’m one of the best in the world in knowing random shit. (Okay, so I only won because my final question was about The Hobbit, and Grandpa couldn’t roll the right number to land in the middle, but still . . .)
Also I GMed for years for a pair of players who had such a knack for wrecking my carefully crafted plans that my house rules for two different systems include a standardized reward for outwitting me and/or the module. I had to learn to make shit up on the spur of the moment. This is case where practice makes perfect, for sure, because I used to have to retcon lots of stuff for the sake of keeping the feeling of a setting intact, but that’s not nearly as often the case any more.
I have issues with the “you must write every single day!” advice that is the closest thing to holy writ modern writing culture has. That’s probably a whole post on its own, honestly. One I may have already made, come to think of it. Does anyone recall whether I ever did a post on how fucking ableist that advice is? (And, yes, I really did see someone say that even if someone close to you died, you still have to write that day! And on the day of the funeral.)
Anyway, because I’ve discovered it’s the best for both my writing and my mental health, I only write three or four days a week, usually. Or try to. Lately I’m only hitting one or two . . . always the same ones I totally ignore social media and the news. I think there might be a connection there . . .
I do seem to have started writing at about the same time on the days I do write, but that’s not a planned thing. It’s also the time I play Pokémon on days I do that, so I think it’s more that it’s just a few hours that are great for doing stuff that I’m going to lose track of time while doing.
I don’t do a set number of words per day, nor amount of hours, but, again, a norm has developed. Usually I write for two hours and get about 3500 words. I quit when my brain and/or fingers are starting to rebel too much.
As for what I read . . . here’s the last ten books I read (according to Goodreads. I think there’s a book or two missing.):
- Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire — a paranormal romance/urban fantasy
- The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse — an Edwardian comedy of manners
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin — the best “soft” science fiction novel I’ve ever read
- The three Miss Peregrine’s Children books by Ransom Riggs — YA fantasy
- Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin — a writing advice/exercise book
- The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer — a memoir
- Reilly’s Luck by Louis L’Amour — a Western
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott — one of the best books ever written, uhm, I mean, a Victorian girl’s novel/YA classic.
Oh, hey! There’s a writing book on there! It’s one of two I’ve read in the past year, both because they were interesting, not because I was trying to improve my craft or whatever . . . though I will be doing some of the exercises in that one at some point for that purpose because they look like they might actually be useful for fixing some of my weaknesses.
Out of that list, the books that have the most influence on stuff I’m currently working on are the Wodehouse and the L’Amour, despite both being pretty goddamned far from my genre.
I don’t know what I’m “supposed” to be doing in a space opera right now. All I know is that I can’t get into much space opera these days, so I’m not interested in doing whatever it is they’re doing. I’m doing my thing; they can keep doing theirs.
Anyway, this got rambly. I don’t know why I mention that since my posts almost always do. It’s 3am, so maybe I should go to bed.
On that list of blogposts — and recommended all over the damned place for all kinds of reasons — is character interviews. So, because I’m enough over this cold from hell to manage snarky quips, but not enough to manage actual fiction or blog writing, I’m going to interview Jake.
Please do tell me if this manages to make you interested in the book. I can sort of see how that might work, but I really, really don’t get how these thingies are supposed to be helpful before I write.
Questions stolen from here.
This is Jake circa Jake Becomes Mithoska, because it’s what was on my mind.
What is your age?
Forty-one, almost forty-two.
Do you have any siblings?
Are your parents alive? Are they married? Are they divorced?
Nope. Momma died when I was little more than a baby; Daddy died when I was about ten.
If you were sent to a deserted island, what three things would you take?
Why have I been sent to a deserted island? A deserted island on what planet? This is really weird question. Is this one of those psychological things that’s supposed to give you some sort of insight into how my mind works? Well, guess I’ll answer it anyway: my wife, my youngest kid cuz she ain’t old enough to be on her own yet, and my ship . . . which means I won’t be stuck on that island for long.
Do you have a hidden talent?
My wife will hit me if I answer that the way I want to.
Do you have a habit you wish you could break?
What features do you like the most about yourself?
My hair gets lot of attention from ladies, so I guess it.
What features do you dislike the most about yourself?
Does my temper count as a feature? It’s gotten me in a shitton of trouble in my life.
Do you have a hobby?
If you were to ask my wife, she’d say annoying her.
Come to think of it, if you asked my closest friend, she’d say annoying her too. Huh.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
If I felt guilty about it, I wouldn’t be doing it.
What kind of music do you like?
I’m not that picky. Not technophonic. ((Technophonic is what happens if you combine the worst of techno, disco, and electronica.))
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People wasting my fucking time.
What is your favorite food?
Pretty much anything my wife cooks.
Do you have a passion and, if so, what?
You really want me to get hit by my wife, don’t you?
Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?
Never really thought about it. Extrovert, I guess.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
I’m serious: my wife is gonna hit me if I answer some of these questions in public.
Who is your favorite author?
Don’t really have one.
What would be the first thing on your bucket list?
I don’t understand the concept. You never know when you’re gonna die, so it makes more sense to me to make the most of each moment instead of having some goddamned list you’re trying to complete.
If I asked you to write an entry in your journal, what would it be about?
Nothing, because I wouldn’t do it. I got too much going on to write a damned journal entry.
Tell me something no one else knows about you.
If no one else knows it, then what the fuck makes you think I’m gonna tell you?
Well, that was sort of fun. Anyone really, really looking forward to reading the book now? I certainly didn’t get any new insights into the character.
I’m sorry for doing more on this theme so soon, but I clicked a link I shouldn’t have clicked, and now I’ve got to vent here or I’m going to go off on an author for a blogpost they made years ago, and that’s majorly not cool. (I was expecting it to be snark-worthy, not infuriating, when I clicked it.)
So, I finally found out what’s behind that “what’s the lie your character believes about themselves?” question that’s suddenly started appearing on character questionnaires in the past few years.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Every character should want something, even if it’s a glass of water.” For ages lots of authors have quoted this and used it to remind themselves that a good way to write a story is to figure out what a character wants and follow them in their pursuit of it. Well, apparently there’s currently an idea out there that what the main character wants is always something to counteract his inner turmoil. This is what is meant by the “lie they believe about themselves”, that if they get this thing they want, their problem will be solved.
So . . . okay, can’t use Jake for this one because seriously that dude is ridiculously inner turmoil free . . . uhmmm . . . I’ll use Bobby. He’s certainly got issues. Anyway, if I’m understanding this right, the lie he believes would be that if he gets to screw a gorgeous woman without having to pay for it — all he really wants at the beginning of the story, which is where this is established according to this same advice — all his worry and homesickness will go away.
Except I’m not writing a character who’s that fucking stupid. Bobby thinks that screwing a beautiful woman will help him have a nice vacation, that’s it. Yeah, it’ll help him forget about the worry and homesickness, which he does want to do, but he knows better than to think it’ll solve them forever.
So maybe I’m supposed to say it applies to his subconscious desire for stability and peace in his life. Except that’s not a lie. Attaining those really does fix his issues!
And then there’s his temper, but he really doesn’t have the slightest interest in fixing it until Karen tells him she’s tired of his shit. And then, again, not a lie. He thinks if he learns to control himself, he won’t lose her, and what do you know? That’s exactly right!
Now, Bobby does have lies he believes about himself. His tough talk is often to cover up a lot of insecurity. But he has no interest in fixing this, because that would mean admitting to himself that he is insecure, and he is nowhere near that self-aware.
As far as I can tell, to the people who find this sort of advice useful, what would make an interesting story would be Bobby thinking that screwing a beautiful woman would fix his insecurity and pursuing one and then discovering that this didn’t actually make him feel like less of a fuck up. That sounds utterly depressing and terrible.
And this is why I know No More Lies is either destined to be a genre changing success or a total commercial failure! Lit fic fans won’t touch it because not only does it have spaceships and aliens, it’s not all about his inner demons and shit. Romance fans won’t touch it because I gleefully ran from almost every cliché . . . especially the ones for sf romance. Sci-fi adventure fans won’t touch it because I don’t focus enough on the whole “enemy government trying to kill him” bit. And hard sci-fi fans will run from the room screaming as soon as Bobby takes a ship from one star system to another as easily as people can go to another state now. Oh well. I love it, and I’m sure somebody else will too . . . even if it’s just Mom.
Also, lit fic centric advice should come with a goddamned warning. I’m suddenly remembering stories I read during that misguided semester I spent as an English major. ~shudders~ Look, if your writing advice makes people think of horrible literature classes, you’re doing it wrong!
Oh! I also forgot to edit my post from earlier today to add this, so I’ll do it here: I think I figured out how, according to the shitty advice those questions amounted to, Jake Becomes Mithoska should go: I can go ahead and have the bit where he ends up in charge of everything right as everything goes from terrible to “holy shit, how the fuck are we going to win this?!”, but he can’t handle the pressure and makes a terrible decision and the bad guys win and it’s all on his shoulders, and then most of the story is about him watching everything fall apart and angsting over how it’s all his fault. I think he’d get to struggle and fail a few times to prevent things from getting worse, and if I wanted a happy ending — which, as I mentioned, aren’t trendy right now for whatever reason — he’d get to succeed finally, but the ending would be bittersweet because he would’ve lost everyone he cared about. More likely, though, what would make the story best in their eyes would be if kept struggling and failing and ultimately died, because then it would be something deep about the futility of trying to solve problems through violence or some shit like that.
I still think my story is a lot more interesting.
(And my inner Jake would like to smack the shit out of people for thinking Dichidians conquering two or three galaxies and it totally breaking him would make a good story. Good stories are things like the one about his grandpa killing over one hundred heavily armed, armored bad guys with a sword before he finally died himself . . . because he’d sworn an oath to protect a temple to his dying breath, and goddammit, he was going to do it! It’s a sad story, but it’s a good one because it’s about bravery and dedication and honor and all those wonderful things. Jake, amazingly enough, isn’t one of my Proud Warrior Race Guys. He just thinks like one.)
I’m so tired of advice on how to plan stories that assumes you’re writing one of three types of stories: a paint-by-numbers Hero’s Journey, an equally formulaic romance, or the sort of deep, literary thing that’s more about the character’s inner journey than whatever the story looks like it’s about.
I’ve got nothing against any of these story types, by the way. I don’t read formulaic versions of the first two any more and tend to get frustrated with the third, but I know they have their audiences and that the first two sell far better than my weird not quite literary, yet not quite normal sci-fi stuff does.
What I have a problem with is how much of the stuff for writing the first and third assumes that the advice they’re giving is universal. The first is probably self-explanatory, but the third, the lit fic type stuff . . . rather than trying to explain what I find so fucking stupid about trying to apply it to every story, I’ll illustrate, using Jake Becomes Mithoska, which is about a dude suddenly getting promoted to the equivalent of Admiral of the Fleet right as a war goes from terrible to “This is our last chance; if this doesn’t work, the whole galaxy will fall.” These are paraphrased versions of some of the questions on a list of questions that are supposed to be very helpful in planning a story.
- What is your main character’s treasured secret desire?
You remember way back when I did the post ranting about character building questionnaires and I ranted about questions having built in assumptions? Yeah, we’ve got that here again. Jake doesn’t do secret desires. His desires are to minimize the good guy casualties, to have some time with his family and pets, and an endless supply of his favorite caffeinated beverage. That’s it. He’ll tell those to anyone who asks. Nothing secret there.
- (This one I’m not paraphrasing because I need to rant about it so much) What is the worst thing that could (and hopefully will) happen to your hero?
What the everloving fuck?! “And hopefully will”?! No. Just . . . no. The worst does not always need to happen. I repeat, the worst does not always need to happen. Sometimes . . . hell, frequently, in my opinion . . . just the threat of it is enough.
Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen to Jake? Well, he could survive the war but lose everyone and everything he cares about and, oh, yeah, two — eventually three, probably — galaxies would fall to a species that consider humans cattle. And Jake could survive and live with the guilt that he couldn’t prevent this. And that’s totally a story I’d want to read.
Oh, wait. No, it’s not. I’d much rather read about someone preventing things from getting that bad. There’s enough darkness in the world. How about some of us authors try to put a little light out there? (Also, in the current political climate, I’m really uncomfortable with reinforcing the idea that things have to hit rock bottom before they can get better . . .)
- Why can’t your character live with their conscience if they don’t get what they want?
Because what he wants is the fucking survival of lots and lots and lots of people? Really, if Jake doesn’t get what he wants, his conscience is going to be the least of his problems . . .
- How can you make the temptations irresistible?
Looky, it’s another question with a built in assumption! This isn’t that kind of story. Nothing and no one tempts Jake.
And if anyone tried to, he’d punch them. He’s a really straightforward kind of guy, with a moral and ethical code he does not violate.
- When do your characters realize they’re in danger?
I see this one so often on planning stuff for all three of the types of stories I mentioned at the beginning of this that I can only assume everyone else in the world has forgotten about the fact that stories can start in media res. In this one, Jake does realize during the story just how bad things have gotten, but “in danger”? Yeah, that happened when Sweytz first got involved in the war, about two years before the story starts.
- Do the supporting characters that try to stop your character’s plans know about his secret desire?
You know, I’m pretty sure that the enemy generals really don’t give a fuck what Jake wants. They’re pretty sure he wants their troops dead — that’s kind of obvious from all the shooting at them his ships do — and that’s all they really care about.
But that doesn’t mean that I wrote a goddamned Hero’s Journey story. Not all war stories are the Hero’s Journey. But that’s a separate rant for some day when I don’t need to be getting ready to go to dinner.
- What does your hero expect that won’t happen?
He’s a military commander. He knows better than to expect anything but the unexpected. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and all that.
Then there were follow-up questions about what the hero does and what the antagonist does that makes it not happen and . . . this and the secret desire thing seemed to be really crucial to the sort of story this questionnaire is to help write.
- Try to imagine all of the places your characters can go in the search of their objective.
Oh, Jesus Fucking Christ! All of them?! My setting covers three major galaxies and a couple of satellite galaxies! How about I make shit up as I need it? That work for you?
(Okay, now I think I see the point of this question at least. Apparently this started as screenwriting advice, so you would be more limited than in a book. One of these days I’ll manage my rant about how screenwriting advice doesn’t apply to story writing without swearing and abusing caps lock and bold . . . maybe.)
- What are the social reasons for the antagonists’ actions?
Uhmm . . . they want to conquer the galaxy because their war leader has convinced them it’s a good idea/manifest destiny sort of thingy? Oh, and because they think they’re the only ones who are truly sapient beings. I don’t think this is the sort of thing this question was really aiming for.
- What characters can go through something similar and find a different solution?
What sort of different solution is possible to “let’s prevent the bad guys from conquering everything?” Going “No, let’s let them”?
Well, I guess that is possibly what some would do. No one I’m going to write about though.
- Is the main character naive and/or weak?
This is the first question under the section titled “Character Growth”. I presume I’m supposed to answer yes and then the next questions will show how he grows. I really, really, really wish people would get over the idea that character growth means, well, the Hero’s Journey, ultimately . . . farm boy who knows nothing to savior of everything. There are other sorts of character growth. Like in this, Jake goes from halfheartedly considering ways to get out of running the fleet to realizing that, while he may hate the job, he has no choice but to do it to the best of his ability.
In other words, no, Jake isn’t naive or weak. I mean, I guess since this is technically a later installment in what will someday be a series that takes him from an eight-year-old son of a ranch hand, at the very beginning of his story he is, but he’s also eight. And for an eight-year-old he was pretty strong, ridiculously strong-willed, and smart.
- Are the chances for the desired outcome and the despised one equal?
Nope. Well, maybe, in a “million to one odds happen nine times out of ten” story logic sort of way, but using actual logic . . . nope. I’m pretty sure that’s where excitement comes from. I hope I wasn’t supposed to say yes to this. Though if I was, it could explain why I can’t finish so many books and movies these days . . .
- What feared confrontations does the main character try to avoid or postpone?
Again with the assumptions! Jake . . . well, I’ll just put it this way: his wife makes him swear an oath to his gods that he won’t sacrifice himself unless there is totally and completely no other choice. This is not a guy who tries to avoid confrontation.
Wait, I take that back. He tries to avoid blowing up a pirate ship with a dolt for a captain. Because he doesn’t want to kill people just because they’re serving an idiot. But there’s no fear there. He would have done it in a heartbeat if he had no choice.
- Can the antagonist be made to see the error of their ways through the fear of shame or loss of face?
. . . Hell no. My antagonist is doing this because they want to eradicate and/or enslave other races. They clearly don’t give a flying fuck how others feel about them.
Seriously, have you ever read a book where the antagonist was made to stop being an ass because it would be embarrassing if they didn’t?!
- How should the audience feel when the story is over?
With any luck, they’re chuckling at Jake’s exasperation as once again something keeps him from getting to go home without one last problem. Because I like happy endings.
I know that happy endings are, for some reason, considered horrible by some right now. I don’t give a fuck. I just finished a book yesterday that was wonderful until the end. The end failed, in my opinion, on two counts: 1) it was a fucking obvious sequel hook, and 2) I walked away from the book depressed . . . this is not how a reader should feel after an exciting climactic battle that the good guys won. Especially if you want the reader to buy the next book in the series, which the obvious sequel hookness of the scene made clear was the whole goddamned point. (The previous book in the series ended much better, with a scene after the heavy dramatic, everything changes forever, one that lightened the mood considerably.)
And if you consider it a spoiler that the galaxies won’t fall . . . then you must be really new to my writing. I don’t do depressing endings.
That list of blog topics has as a suggested post “List of words to use in your writing.” Seriously. So, here’s the list of words I suggest using:
Yes, I linked to the Oxford Dictionary. Yes, I’m a smart ass . . . but I’m also completely motherfucking serious. There are no words that are off-limits when you write. Nope, not that one. Nope, not even that one. Nope, not that one either. There are no words that are off-limits. It’s all a matter of how and why you use them.
Yes, I know there are some words that aren’t considered polite any more that used to be used freely. If you’re writing a story that’s set in an era when calling American natives Indians was simply what was done, then fucking use the word Indian. If you call them Native Americans, then you’re going to pull any reader who knows anything about history the fuck out of your story. This applies to terms that are no longer acceptable for other races too.
Tangentially (C’mon, it’s me. Were you honestly expecting me to stay on topic?!), you also need to have correct historical attitudes. Your 1860s protagonist can be ridiculously ahead of their time when it comes to race and gender relations, that’s cool, I can understand why you’d do that, but if your whole cast is then my suspension of disbelief shatters into a thousand tiny pieces.
“But,” you whine, “I don’t want to write about people with horrible beliefs like that!”
Then maybe you shouldn’t be writing historical fiction!
Also, if I see one more person criticizing Louis L’Amour or Laura Ingalls Wilder for accurately portraying how white people saw the indigenous people of North America in the late 1800s, I’m going to . . . I don’t know what I’ll do, but it won’t be pretty and might involve bloodshed. (I’m exaggerating. Possibly.)
And if you think books should be banned for accurately portraying historical attitudes, go fuck yourself. History isn’t politically correct. There are aspects of today’s society that I sincerely hope future generations find as disturbing as we do the treatment of pretty much everybody but cis, white, neurotypical, able-bodied men for most of European and American history.
(And, yet again, the interesting part of this post is where I left the actual suggested blog topic behind. It’s almost like these topics aren’t interesting on their own . . .)
(Seriously, a fucking list of words to use?!!)