Writing Advice Revisited

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

In 2016, I wrote a post about writing advice that boiled down to simply sitting in a chair and writing. Still true. But I can think of a few more things I’ve learned in the last five years so I thought I’d revisit the post.

First, Do Not Respond To Reviews. And especially don’t respond to bad reviews. Don’t call the readers out. Stay off Goodreads if it’s bad for your mental health. Nothing good ever comes from responding to a negative review.

So, just don’t. Don’t track the reviewers down either. It’s unhealthy, at the very least.

Second, take all advice on writing with a grain of salt because what works for one author might not work for you.

Third, toxic productivity is a thing. Don’t get sucked into the idea you have to write/publish at a particular pace. It will only lead to burn out.

Fourth, read your contracts carefully.

Fifth, find people who want to support you with no strings attached. It’s brilliant when you have a healthy connection to other authors or people in the writing community. Just be careful about expectations.

Sixth, there are many paths to publishing. Find one that works for you.

Seventh, a good editor is worth their weight in gold.

Eighth, not every story is yours to tell.

Ninth, don’t steal images from photographers. Seriously. Don’t. If plagiarism in books bothers you, stealing from photographers should as well.

Tenth, or maybe 9.5, learn what you can about copyrights. It can help you avoid a lot of scary legal trouble.

Fighting Your Muse.

Inspiration

I’m writing this blog post on Sunday. And my brain is all over the place. It’s hard to find peace and joy when the world seems chaotic and filled with pain.  And writing a holiday novella seems almost impossible.

Though, that is not the topic of this post.

I wanted to talk about fighting your muse. Something I don’t recommend, and something I frequently do as a pantser.

My muse likes to dump ideas on me constantly at inconvenient times and places.

In the middle of writing a story?

My bastard of a muse: “here’s a brilliant and completely unrelated idea.”

Falling asleep?

My muse: “Have you considered….”

In the shower?”

My Muse: “I am a genius.”

So when do you fight the muse?

It can be dangerous to ignore good ideas. I mean, they’re good. You want to write them.

Some ideas I have to let go because I don’t think they’re mine to write. Others I jot down in my idea notebook (I start a new one every year.) And some, I start immediately because my brain won’t quit.

The key is to know when to battle your muse into submission–like when you have a deadline and don’t have time for a new idea.

And when to go with the flow.

How about you?

Does your muse flood you with ideas at the worst moments?

 

 

 

An Open Letter To Myself

….well, a letter to twenty-year-old me.

giphy-downsized (2)

Dear Self,

First, you’re going to be okay. Divorce is scary, but it’s not the end of the world.

Second, you’re autistic. I know you think you have some terminal illness because you get so tired after being around people. It’s okay. You’re autistic. And you’re going to be so relieved when you find out.

Third, you will fall in love again.

Fourth, the divorce was about him…not you. He’s been divorced three more times since you.

Fifth, you’re brilliant. And you can write. You just have to believe enough in yourself to try.

Now, stop crying into the ice cream.

He’s not worth it.

You’re going to be fine.

Love,

Me

 

Own Your Shit. Dump The Rest.

giphy-downsized (3)

The gif has nothing to do with this post aside from the fact that I’m writing it on a Thursday morning when not even coffee is enough to get my brain in gear.

So, buckle up.

The other day I was playing a video game. It’s a multiplayer game. Now, I turn off the open chat because I’ve no interest in listening to the misogynistic nonsense that is prevalent in the gaming world.

While standing around waiting for an in-game event to start, another gamer began harassing my character.

This is how it started.

My character is literally just standing still playing a lute. (It’s a game emote you can do to kill time.) My character is female. Another gamer comes over and begins trying to engage me.

He swings his weapon at my character.

I keep playing my lute.

He gets tired of being annoyed, so he runs over toward a group of enemies nearby and uses one of his powers to drag the enemy over to my character which forces me to engage with the creature to avoid being killed.

I kill the enemy then go back to playing the lute.

This happened four times.

And I’m starting to get pissed off. Why does this always happen? I just want to play my lute and wait for the in-game event. Being pissed off causes me to also be stressed out, which is terrible for my blood pressure issues.

And that’s when it hits me.

You know, this jackass is just doing this to get a reaction.

So, I leave.

Own your shit. I can only control myself. No matter how annoyed another person makes me, I can’t force them to change. So? Controlling my shit means leaving an area to find somewhere else to play. It’s a massive game, I easily found another event without the annoying asshole.

And that’s the dump the rest part.

That dickhead? Not my responsibility. I shook off my annoyance and continued to enjoy the game.

Why should I let a perfect stranger ruin my enjoyment?

I owned my shit. And dumped the rest.

Can you relate?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Poisonous Influence of Perfection.

Me to my brain:
giphy-downsized (7)

Perfection is a toxic poison that strangles out my creativity.

And really, it’s less about perfection in the end product of my writing–and more about attempting to be expectations I’ve set up for myself of what I think others can do–or think I should do.

It’s a theme that has followed me throughout my adult life working first in restaurants, then as a teacher, and later in insurance.

A theme I didn’t truly understand before learning I’m autistic.

I’ve always needed to demonstrate my abilities at work. Striving to be the best. Not to overshadow others, but more to appear capable. I’ve had a fear of seeming unable to manage: work or life.

And as a result, I work myself to the point of exhaustion.

It’s a trend that followed me into writing.

Setting schedules and deadlines I can’t possibly manage.

Overachieving.

It’s not a bad thing, necessarily.

It is when you’re ignoring your health.

Autistics, at least from my personal experience as one, tend to battle inner ableism. This little voice that tells me I’ve not only got to be at the same level as non-autistic authors but better. It’s poison.

It really is.

The same inner voice that tells me I don’t need help or accommodation when I do.

It eats away at your accomplishments and makes missed goals or deadlines seem like monumentally massive failures.

This year, I managed to almost double my word count.

Brilliant, right? Except not, I didn’t take the breaks between projects that I usually do. I’ve ended up not enjoying writing as usual.

And the last two novels I’ve worked on have been a painful slog until the bitter end.

Next year, one of my biggest focuses will be to enjoy myself with writing.

Deadlines are important and so are word counts, but I can’t write myself into a serious health issue again.

 

 

How to write autistics and not rely on tired stereotypes.

Despite mainstream media and their mostly dismal attempts at creating autistics. It’s rare to see examples of autistic characters who feel ‘real.’ We’re not all rain man or white, young, male savants.

We’re real people who are just as diverse as every other subset of humanity.

Many autistics like myself will tell you if you’ve met one autistic–you’ve met one autistic.

When creating neuroAtypical characters, I try to be cognizant of creating individuals, and not carbon copies of either myself or some stereotype I think non-autistics will easily recognise. I will admit many of my own experiences find their way into my stories. How could they not?

In fact, one of my favourite parts of writing my most recent release, The Lion Tamer, was including Alex and Alice. Autistic twins. They’re on different parts of the autism spectrum with their own special interests and struggles.

Neither of them is some off the charts genius.

They’re just autistic.

No massively high IQ required to be legitimate human beings who deserve to be celebrated.

So, here are a few tips on creating autistic characters, or what are some of the pieces/parts to doing so. (And please keep in mind, this is from my personal perspective.)

  1. Talk to #actuallyautistic people, not just autism parents before you start.
  2. Avoid AutismSpeaks.
  3. Stimming. Your autistic character should have a stim. We stim.
  4. Special Interests. I could write an entire post about this.  We have them. Obsess over them. Use them to calm ourselves from super stressful moments.
  5. Emotions are something many autistics struggle with. We can feel quite intensely, but we don’t often understand what we’re feeling. I’ve spent days trying to decipher an emotion before.
  6. Sensation. Many autistics suffer from hypersensitivity. I, for example, struggle with touching certain fabrics. Light affects me. Certain sounds can trigger me into a meltdown.

Just a few thoughts.

Not sure if any of it is helpful.

I might turn this into a series of posts about being autistic/writing autistic characters.

Do you include neuroAtpyical characters in your stories? Do you have characters who have anxiety, or PTSD, or are autistic? Or some other mental disability or illness?

 

 

Saint Jane.

Or, How Jane Austen Inspired My Gay Romance

One thing Saint Jane did brilliantly in all her novels was absurd humour and painfully human characters. She exposed the frailty of human ego. She made you cringe at painfully awkward proposals while you rooted for her heroines to find their true love.

When I wrote After the Scrum, my first Gay Romance, I used her approach to characters and humour. The story is filled with irreverent humour. I used my observations of human nature as an autistic to form many of the slightly zany villagers of Looe. It certainly made for lively characters.

I hope my beloved Saint Jane would approve.

The other way Austen’s novels have shaped my writing is in showing the path of love is rarely smooth sailing. You only have to look at the tribulations of Anne Elliot in Persuasion (my favourite of her novels). The Wanderer and The Caretaker, in particular, show how matters of the heart can be equal parts pleasure and pain.

When I first considered this post, I’d wanted to write about why readers should dip their toes in the Gay Romance genre—and my novels of said genre.  As you can see, I got a bit distracted. A lot distracted.

The thing is if you love absurd humour, witty banter, and love stories, you’ll enjoy my novels.

If you love great romances, you’ll enjoy the Gay Romance genre.

The love is the same—it’s just two men snogging.

And it’s good snogging as well.