Being a Writer without being a Total Bitch

Sometimes being a writer involves seeming a little self-centered. We write in genres WE like, not in ones other writers prefer. We choose a story idea based on what WE think is good. Even if we are in a writing group, we still use our own best judgement.

But the side effect of being an independent writer type is that we can take the ego thing way too far. There is a long cultural history of egomaniac writers that no one wanted to be around in person. And with the advent of the Internet, we can offend and drive away mass quantities of potential readers. But we don’t want to do that.

One example of a too-bitchy writer is Stephen King. In the early years he won over a lot of Christian and conservative readers with his novel ‘The Stand. ‘ Most of us were willing to give King a chance.

But then the internet came along. King was free to express his political opinions online. And when those opinions were not just different from my own but included hatred and contempt for people like me…. Well, I no longer buy Stephen King novels. I like authors Declan Finn and Jon Del Arroz better anyhow.

Writers do well to try to be decent human beings, or at least do a good job of faking it. Be civil to strangers, even ones who are unkind to you. Don’t beat your wife, kids or dog. Don’t poison your rival writers, or even use the ‘poo’ emoji when mentioning them.

We live in a society where a lot of people think being nasty is the way to get ahead. But it’s also a way to utterly sink yourself. If you gain a rep as being always civil, even kind, to others, you may not win the respect that deserves, but you will at least avoid alienating those you need to win over.

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Writing Better Male Characters for Young Male Readers

ChuckNorrisReading is becoming less of a thing, and for 1/2 of the potential reading population, there is an obvious reason. Writers are taught to write ‘strong female characters’ for the sake of young female readers. Since that might be hard, it’s considered good enough to have compliant feminist female characters who spout current feminist slogans periodically.

But how does that affect the young male reader? By the time a boy has learned to read, most boys have internalized the idea that boys and men are evil, sexist pigs who are always wrong unless they strictly obey the nearest feminist. And even then they will never be as right as a feminist woman, unless of course they become one….

Reading has become a hostile space for boys. The genre of science fiction, once fun for boys, is now full of spunky women and token gay male couples— things that the average young boy won’t like reading about. Boys’ adventure fiction has been replaced by girly fiction— after all, girls tend to be more enthusiastic about reading, why give mere boys any thought?

But boys are humans, too. Shouldn’t we want boys also to have enjoyable fiction? After all, as a teen I enjoyed books meant for boys as well as ones with ‘strong female characters’ and was the better for it.

How are some ways we can make our fiction more boy-friendly? First, drop the feminist jargon. Boys don’t need to hear that men are pigs or that one should always believe a woman who accuses a man…. Let the boys grow up into strong men before we tear them down.

Second, tone down the emotional content. Men and boys are less comfortable talking  about their emotions than women are. Boy readers won’t enjoy emotion-centered stories. It’s something most boys aren’t really able to deal with yet.

Another factor is to have a strong male mentor character for your boy hero. Many boys suffer from carelessness these days, and others may be estranged from their dads. A good male character can help a young man with such needs. Think a character that could be played by John Wayne, rather than a metrosexual.

The thing about mentor characters is that they tend to disappear when the boy hero is ready to stand on his own. And boy heroes are very early ready to stand on their own. They never feel quite ready, when the mentor dies or disappears, but they always are, if only just.

Male readers demand more action. Don’t have your characters sitting around talking about doing stuff. Have them do the stuff! That’s actually a good rule in fiction for either sex— less talking, more doing.

Finally, learn to trust your male characters. Don’t think of them as potential sexist or male pigs. Let them just be guys. You don’t judge your female characters by how well they conform to male social patterns. Treat your male characters the same way— with respect for their differences.

For my regular readers— I am still not home yet, am in a rehab center near my home recovering from a small stroke. Am carrying on, blogging using my Kindle and trying to stay active on Facebook. 

 

“How Do You FEEL About Your WIP?”

writeitUnuseful writing advice: in several how-to-write books I have, the authors suggest you worry about how you feel about your current writing project. With some people, feelings are everything these days. But here is a truth: feelings don’t last. The writing project you are in love with today will feel like dreck in a week or two. Feelings aren’t enough to carry a writing project to the finish line.

What does help is finding logical, rational reasons to pursue this WIP. If you have been a big science fiction reader for years, and your current WIP is science fiction, that’s a logical reason you might be the right writer for the project. If your book is set in a place you actually lived, or your book touches on an issue that you or a family member has lived through, those are also logical reasons to continue the project.

Your logical reasons can help you keep going when your emotions about the project wane. It actually can help you generate new positive emotions for the project, or it can help you keep writing when every word you write seems awful and in need of immediate deletion. (We all have writing days like that.)

If you do have strong emotions about a prospective WIP, does that mean you have to give it up for something more practical? No, no, no! Too many would-be writers are trapped writing the wrong WIP because they think it’s practical. Instead, think about your feelings. Are there logical reasons to favor the loved project? If you feel very strongly, you can probably think of some. And those reasons will help keep you writing, each day and every day, until the project is finished— including the rewrites.

I have noticed that the feelings-based writing advice mentioned above was written by women authors. It would of course be a violation of feminism for me to mention it. Which is why I mention it. Because the feelings-based approach lets so many of us down. We often need something stronger to carry us through.

I am writing this on my Kindle today, as I am in a rehab center after a stroke. I can’t do as much on this blog as I like to do, so if some kind readers would consider sharing this to their social media, I would be most grateful.

Never Do Gender-Switch Writing Exercise

DexterA lot of older how-to-write books suggest various gender transforming things as writing exercises or practices. One of them is switching a character or real person’s sex.

For example, if you want to base a character on your Aunt Mabel, including her quirks and her life experiences, you are told to switch Aunt Mabel into Uncle Milton. That way the real Aunt Mabel won’t take offense.

These days, that is bad and unusable writing advice. How can you change the sex of a character when society forbids us to notice any difference between the sexes? Except of course that males are prone to evil and sexism and must be replaced by obediently feminist women.

The sad thing about this increasing feminist ideation in our society is that actresses can’t be happy about the parts they can get unless those parts were written for men. So we have to suffer through female remakes of good movies, which are dull, but good for us since they will remove some of our brain cells and turn us in to better feminists.

So the sex-change writing exercise is out for today’s writer. What can we do instead? Make a character significantly younger or older. What will your YA sixteen-year-old heroine be like at 75? Write a page or two about it.

Changing a character’s race is as problematic as sex. If you actually change the character because of a race change, you are guilty of racism. You can change character ethnicities, though. From Italian-American to German-American, for example. Or you could change a character’s region– from Texan to California girl. Or social class— make the son of a farm worker into the son of a university professor.

One thing all of these switching exercises require is knowledge. Otherwise you are just switching character stereotypes, or showing off ignorance. We don’t want to do that.

If you are going to make a character older, know what real people of that age are like. Don’t be like that very young writer who made his 30 year old character old and feeble! Older writers have the advantage here, having lived through a number of life stages already.

The same with ethnicities and regions. You are probably going to have to stick to the ethnicities/regions you know best– your own, and those of your lifelong friends.

Do you have any tricks to help transform your characters— to make them more unique, or less like a real person you know?

Writers afraid to admit they are writers

Are you a writer who doesn’t like to admit it? Or maybe one who doesn’t like to talk about your book?

Sometimes we just feel so self centered talking about our own books. Shouldn’t we put others first?

There is a time to be unselfish and help your writing friends get ahead. But if you have a book out there and you never do anything to market it, if you never try to become more of an influencer, how well can you help others?

Sometimes we don’t like to admit we are writers because it sounds like an immature pipe dream. Like the scrawny uncoordinated kid who plans to be an NFL superstar.

But if you love books and ideas, and are willing to do the hard work to improve your skills, the odds are in your favor. You can learn to write things other people want to read. You can learn simple ways to let other people know about your book, so you will gain readers.

But it takes work. Work on your book. Work on your blog. Work on your Facebook and twitter. It’s not just your hobby. it’s a second job. Do your job!

Personal note: I am currently in the hospital so writing this on a cell phone. Excuse my errors!

Doing #NaNoWriMo on Wattpad this year

Writers, have you ever done NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month? A lot of us have. The rule is to try to write a 50000 word novel in November. Some of the problems are that you are discouraged from planning your NaNo novel for more than a week before the start of November, so some writers get stuck. Others of us come to regard the NaNo rules as suggestions, and I’m one of them.
I’ve been planning my NaNo story for several years now, and the roots of the story go even deeper into my past. I’m not planning to write 50000 words in November. I do want to write about a chapter a day, but my chapters are shorter than the word count that would lead to 50000 words in a month. And I’m posting my chapters on Wattpad.
Which is kind of risky. Wattpad is full of young fanfic writers who lack a lot of the knowledge I had at age 15. If they read your work it may be to get you to read theirs, which might well be unreadable. And if I were over-sensitive to any criticism, I would not dare use Wattpad because I have seen people put very ignorant criticisms on Wattpad works other than my own. And finally, many Wattpad readers expect to read free stuff. They are not going to be buying your book or ebook at any point.
I’m using Wattpad mainly to keep me motivated. If I can pretend I have other human beings waiting for my next chapter, then I may be more likely to write that next chapter. I have a lot of problems finishing work, in part due to the social isolation that so many writers have. Most of us work alone, and no one encourages us that has actually seen our work-in-progress. One can kind of envy writers like Tabitha King, whose husband is also a writer of some sort.
My NaNo novel is starship based science fiction, with a plot inspired from one or more Star Trek movies— a starship full of cadets has to go into real-world action as a result of an emergency. In my story, there are fewer full-adult officers and crew, and in addition to the cadets, there are a lot of refugees who entered the starship while it was parked on a planet to take shelter from an attack. If you are curious, view chapter one here: https://www.wattpad.com/643568763-flight-of-the-starship-destine-chapter-1 
So: are you doing NaNo this year? What is your story about? Do you have any good strategies for NaNo?
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Join me on MeWe (Facebook alternative)

 

Wattpad Readers don’t want a ‘Free Sample’

A lot of us authors are attracted by Wattpad as social media. It’s a social media full of actual readers, after all. In fact the site has little to offer people who neither read or write. But some of the things we make think of to do at first won’t really fly with the Wattpad reader community.
I know of a couple of Indie authors who have discovered Wattpad, and who have posted a couple of chapters of their self-published work as a ‘free sample,’ and sit back and wait for sales of the full book to roll in. And it doesn’t happen. Because the authors involved do not understand the Wattpad community correctly.
I don’t understand Wattpad natively myself. I have read The Writer’s Guide to Wattpad which was published by Writer’s Digest books, and have been trying to master and apply the principals to my Wattpad life.
One thing about Wattpad is that the readers are accustomed to reading stories there for free. They resent outside-of-Wattpad authors who give just a taste of their novels and then want them to buy. Very many Wattpadders are teens, and many don’t actually have much money for book-buying. They want to find Wattpad stories that are either completed or that are regularly being updated and are likely to become finished. They view ‘free-samples’ of stories as being just ads for books they probably won’t want.
If Wattpad won’t give you loads of sales for your Indie novel, what good is it? First, it’s a way to get feedback on your work. Much of the feedback will be of no use to you, because it will be coming either from trolls, from the terminally politically correct who want to admonish you for alleged violation of the politically correct rules, or from teens who don’t know much about writing yet. But you can judge which of your book’s chapters works best by the number of readers who actually read it or vote on it, and you may find out a persistent problem when multiple readers grouse about the same thing.
Second, if you participate in Wattpad, first by reading the works of others, and then by adding your own work there, you will in time develop some Wattpad ‘groupies’ who like your work and will read what you write. They may not buy your works outside of Wattpad yet, but they will likely do other things to help you out once they have read a few of your works and liked them. First they will start sharing your Wattpad work both among their Wattpad friends, and over their social media accounts. If you are really generous in sharing stories on Wattpad, you may develop Wattpad fans who will also share the launch of your real-world Indie work on their social media accounts as well.
Another gift of Wattpad is that it is a community with vast numbers of young people. Your work may not please the majority of young people, but the ones who are attracted to your work add some youth to your fan base. Personally I don’t care whether my readers are 9 years old or 99, but I must admit that the 9 year old reader is more likely to keep reading my work a decade from now.
Serialized stories, like old-time movie serials, have an appeal on Wattpad. I don’t mean stories you update once in a blue moon, but the ones you update on a regular schedule once or twice a week. If you have a good novella you are willing to publish on Wattpad, tap into this desire by adding sections to it weekly, rather than dumping the whole thing on Wattpad as quickly as possible. This can build excitement. Provided your story is exciting in some way.
Some Wattpadders don’t often start Wattpad stories that are not yet finished. That means after your story is all posted to the end, you will possibly gain new readers for it. That’s why you want to check in with Wattpad several times a week to check for new comments. Responding to a sincere and kindly meant comment may win over a new reader into your Wattpad fan base. (Ignoring the mean comments is also an important skill.)
My main reason for doing Wattpad is that I’m hoping it will help me with a persistent writing problem I have: I don’t finish projects often, not even projects I love and that I have been working on for years. I’m hoping that by writing shorter works (novella-length) specifically to be posted on Wattpad, I will be encouraged by reads, votes and comments and keep the story going until the end. I know, it is recommended to write your work to the finish before you start posting on Wattpad, but in my particular situation, I need something to keep me going in order to finish things.
What should you write on Wattpad, if you shouldn’t just dump a few chapters on Wattpad as a sales technique? Shorter works— short stories or novellas— related perhaps to other, longer works you are writing— might be well received. I’ve also started a non-fiction work on Wattpad called ‘What do Readers Want’ which is mean to help other Wattpad writers learn some techniques to make their Wattpad stories more readable.
I’m afraid that in the years I have written on Wattpad, I have started some Wattpad projects I never finished. Some of them I’ve returned to ‘draft’ status and may delete altogether. Others I may resume, or may even start over, someday. My current projects are a poetry volume, the ‘What do Readers Want’ book, and a work of reviews of Christian fiction on Wattpad. I am in the planning stages of a science fiction novella which is the first work of a series I’ve planned for years. I’m hopeful to start that soon.
Are you a Wattpad writer? Or do you have a Wattpad account? What have your Wattpad experiences been like? Is Wattpad something you want to do more with? 
My Wattpad works:
My MeWe Group for ‘Dissident’ (non-Leftist) Wattpad authors:(you are welcome to join.) https://mewe.com/group/5bb8a4c8a40f3041e0150490