IWSG: An Aspie Writer’s Take on Social Distancing

Since I have Asperger Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder,) I have been doing social distancing all my life. I just didn’t know that was what it was called. I just thought of it as being lonely and not having friends and going days and weeks without meaningful social interactions.

This is a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

While other people are getting frantic when they have to stay home because of that certain virus, my life is mostly situation normal. I haven’t had a job for years and get along on SSI disability (NOT fun,) I live in a rural area and don’t waste my small amount of money by hanging about in barrooms, and after a lifetime of having social interactions with mean and hostile people, I tend not to even try to socially interact any more.

In fact, the main change in my life is in the direction of MORE social interaction. My friends, with a very few exceptions, are not real-world friends but online friends. And my social media accounts are livelier than normal with many people staying home and sharing memes and rumors about the virus all day.

Being socially isolated can help you concentrate on doing your writing work— if you actually do your writing instead of letting your social media become a time sink. I have recently completed a short non-fiction ebook. Unlike my usual open-ended projects that get bogged down and fail, I planned this project to be a small, time limited one. I gave myself 12 writing days to produce a work that would be 12000 to 24000 words long, which I have read is a good length for a non-fiction ebook.

In reality it took me 17 days, the book turned out to be on the long side of the projected length (which is good), and I had to do 3 more days to transform my Scrivener text into something Kindle Create could work with and to design a cover on Canva.

And now the hard part comes. I don’t really know how to do the social interaction part of doing a book launch, and with my SSI income I can’t hire services to promote my book for me. I don’t know how well the book will do.

But I have already started my next two writing projects. One is another non-fiction, this time about a low-carbohydrate/ketogenic way of eating. The other is science fiction, about a starship which is somewhat lost and encounters a planet where the population is keen on dealing in stolen starship parts. I am not sure, right now, if it’s better to try to work on both at once or to do them one at a time to keep focus. What will happen? Well, you can come back to this blog to find out.

Lenten and Insecure-Writer Greetings,

From Nissa Annakindt & her cats and other critters.

A Click-To-Tweet Experiment

This one’s about my new book, ‘Getting More Blog Traffic: Steps Towards a Happier Blogging Life. Click on the blue bird to tweet about it. (If you want to participate in this experiment.)

Tweet: Learn simple and free secrets to get more traffic to your blog https://ctt.ac/O71HU+ #blogging

 

IWSG: Family traditions or family trauma?

Family traditions or family trauma? Which create more fodder for the writer? Happy, traditional-celebrating families are all the same, but every family suffers its traumas in a unique way. Your family’s happy family vacation in Yosemite won’t lead to any writing other than a grade school essay, but if your dad went to prison, your mom was an alcoholic, your childhood cat had kittens on the toilet seat cover, and a famous serial killer stole your beloved pink bicycle, rejoice! Your past is full of things to write about!

[This is a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/ .The question for the event is: ‘Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?’ And I’m not ignoring the question this time.]

Good writing aims at creating emotion in the reader, and traumatic events tend to produce more intense and lasting emotions than happy little memories. That time you were stalked by the campus rapist? Pure gold for the writing-you that you are today. Your happy fifth-birthday party? Not so much.

Writing is one way to help yourself through a trauma, major or minor. When family member X shamed me at a family gathering, I went home and wrote furiously on something. Not a something directly inspired by the being-shamed event, not even close. But I wrote and it was intense and it helped. Very shortly after that event there was a death in the family and I had to interact with family member X as if nothing had happened though I’m sure it was expected that I would assume that I had been in the wrong and be very ashamed of myself. (Still not ashamed.)

I was blessed by having an intact family that stayed intact until my father’s death from natural causes, and we were generally happy. But in every family some minor trauma flows, and some trauma that no one could prevent. Grandparents and great-aunts died, there were tornadoes in the campground we planned to stay in on our trip through the country, and there were a lot of little things that went wrong that seemed much bigger and more intense when I was a child.

Even when I’m not writing something that strikes similar emotional chords to my family trauma-events, it is a part of my past and therefore of who I am, and thus is a part of my writing life.

My Facebook author page: (Please visit & ‘like!’) https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats

IWSG: Pictures & Conversations

How do your writing ideas— fiction or non-fiction ideas— come into your head? I know I often ignore that aspect of my writing life. But as I look back on my process, I find that my ideas come in the form of pictures and conversations.

This is a post in the monthly blog event of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group— visit their blog here:

PICTURES

Mental pictures are particularly important to my fiction life. I see a race of people who can change their skin color by changing their shirts, or a starship with a large forest in the center of it, or an animate showerhead and toilet. In my current fictional WIP, the guiding picture is a group of naked Jewish people in a Nazi gas chamber, and a portal to another world opens and a group of Catholic monks from that world hustle the people out of the chamber and into the other world. And then, there is a dragon….

I’m not really a visual thinker, so these mental pictures have vague spots— I couldn’t draw a picture of them, even if I was a skilled artist. There are only a few parts of the picture that are clear and visual at the moment I get the idea. Though concentration on the image and the related story make more things come clear. These pictures  are helpful when the writing chore of describing things comes along.

CONVERSATIONS

Conversations and speeches have a constant place in my head, and I use them both for my fiction writing and my non-fiction blog posts. Fictional conversations, or dialog, are a way to draw people into a story. They can’t replace other elements like description, which keeps the reader oriented in the story. A story with conversations but no description, set in a magic forest or a high-tech spaceship, may lead the reader to forget the setting and wander out of the story, bored.

Conversations can’t be written down just as they first occur in your head. My head-conversations often have vague, unnamed participants and a Byzantine backstory which intrudes into the conversation. Part of the reason for a writer’s reading life is to get a sense as to how to include conversations without neglecting the rest of the story, or distracting from it.

My non-fiction ideas come not so much as dialog but as set speeches, as if I were giving a lecture on the topic. When I have a blogging idea, I rehearse in my head the things I might say about it. As a child my version of this— before I was actively writing non-fiction— was to compose letters in my head to ‘Dear Abby.’ (I didn’t know at the time that ‘Dear Abby’ was a euthanasia advocate who promoted ‘living wills’ for that reason, or that her twin sister was ‘Ann Landers.’)

The main point to remember is that however your ideas come into your head, they have to be worked out a bit before you set them down on paper. You may neglect to mention important things about a character in your head-images because YOU already know those things. But sometimes the reader really needs to know your character is a cockroach.

HELP! My blog is not doing so well lately, and I’d like to ask a favor— either share a post from this blog to your Twitter, MeWe or Facebook, or share one from some OTHER blog. I don’t really care which blogger you help out in this way, just help one of us. Thanks.

If you REALLY like me, you could always follow me on Twitter. I follow back unless you are Nancy Pelosi, or naked in your profile picture. https://twitter.com/nissalovescats

IWSG: Following Heinlein’s Rules

Writers and would-be writers, since we work alone, crave rules that will promise success. Lots of people make up rules for writers— English teachers who have never published anything, or even written anything, wannabe writers who like to boss other wannabes around, people trying to sell writing classes or writer services or recruit writers to be victimized by a vanity press….

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

The best rules for writers come from known writers who have actually written stuff, and made a living from writing. Robert Heinlein was such a writer— his science fiction is still read today— and he invented 5 simple rules for writers.

I have a book by Dean Wesley Smith about Heinlein’s rules. Smith is also a professional writer. He got that way by following Heinlein’s rules, he says. Smith has written over 100 novels and an unknown number of short stories, in his early career he was entirely traditionally published and has now gone indie, and I have actually heard of him and have some books he wrote on my shelf.

Heinlein’s rules worked, therefore, for Dean Wesley Smith, at least. Will they work for you? Probably better than writing advice from people who have never made a living at writing, who perhaps have never finished a novel or even a short story.

Here are the rules— Heinlein called them business habits:

1. You must write.

2. You must finish what you start.

3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.

4. You must put it on the market.

5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

Things are a little different today, as Dean Wesley Smith points out in his book. Putting a written work on the market can now mean indie publishing it. Keeping it on the market until sold can mean keeping an indie published work up, even if it doesn’t sell very well, instead of pulling all your work down because it’s ‘not good enough.’

As the ultimate Insecure Writer, I’m shy about submitting my work for publication, perhaps because of my Asperger Syndrome. Perhaps it’s just I am afraid of being judged by people who just don’t get me. But in keeping with Heinlein’s rules, I put up some of my work on Wattpad, and plan to do more there— a non-fiction work, and a new book of my poetry, both of which may become, in a longer version, at least Smashword ebooks and perhaps proper books (if I can figure out how to format for Lulu and how to afford a decent book cover.)

My Wattpad profile: https://www.wattpad.com/user/NissaAnnakindt

Feel free to share your own Wattpad profile in a comment.

#IWSG — Too Late, Too Late

Becoming a successful-enough writer is a process that usually takes many years, and as the years go by many of us take a moment to wonder— is it too late for me? Am I too old to become a ‘real writer,’ or have I been trying for too many years? Wouldn’t it be better to give up on my writing dreams right now?

This is a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s monthly blog hop. Learn more at: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

The answer to that is that the one thing that guarantees your failure at writing is giving up on it. If you quit writing, your writing can’t get better or take off or anything. In fact, if you give up on writing the moment becoming a writer crosses your mind, you will have saved yourself a lot of time and effort. But then you will never know what would have resulted if you had started trying.

The amount of time you get in this life to do anything is limited. The day you leave the first grade and start the second grade in school, it is forever too late to distinguish yourself as a first grader. That part of your life is over, and whatever things you have not yet achieved as a first grader can’t be done as a first grader. You have to do them at second grade (or even later.)

Writing dreams can begin for us in grade school. When we first read Little Women, being a writer like Jo seems to have much more of a future to it than being a good piano player like doomed Beth. We think about writing, we make our juvenile first writing attempts, perhaps at the orders of a school teacher, and it seems like we have an infinite future in which to make our dreams come true.

But then we get old enough to become a ‘real writer,’ and other people of our age are self-publishing and selling, getting agents, selling books to traditional publishers or getting conned by a vanity press, and we may feel left behind. What’s wrong with my brilliant writing career? Why hasn’t it happened for me yet?

Of course, no one’s writing career is perfect, and I bet there are days in which successful writers like George R. R. Martin, James Patterson, Stephen King, Declan Finn, Karina Fabian, and Mercedes Lackey feel like their writing career is ‘not good enough’ and that they are failures. (Boy, would I love to be a failure like that!)

There are some writers who begin writing at a later age and yet succeed. Others have written and ‘failed’ for years and then their writing ‘takes off—‘ they get published or self-published and their books sell well.

What we need to do is have an idea of what success looks like for us. Is it finishing a novel? Or finishing one that doesn’t suck (much?) Or making a best-seller list? We can’t all be Stephen King and have multiple movies made of our books and short stories. But the vast majority of us can manage to write stories that someone or other out there will enjoy reading. We just have to keep trying, keep improving our skills, and keep writing. Because there is no prize for giving up writing early because you ‘know’ you are doomed to failure. Maybe you will write until age 101 and only then write a single short story that gets published. Maybe only a few people will read it. But you will have kept on trying, and your success at age 101 will inspire many. Though, admittedly, you likely will have passed on before you discover how inspirational your persistence has been.

 

Do you ever worry it is ‘too late’ for your writing? My advice is, stop worrying and write something! It’s only too late when you are dead. If you are still alive, keep on writing.

IWSG: Novels You Have To Read

Being a writer— or an aspiring writer— is different. If you are a child or a plumber or a factory worker, the books you read are books you want to read. But for writers, there are books we have to read to make us better writers. There are good how-to-write books, sure. But one kind of must-read book for writers is examples of the kind of writing we do, or want to do.

For myself, right now I’m reading George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. No, I never watched the television series, and no, watching the TV series does not substitute for reading the book. I read it because it’s a wildly popular book in a genre (fantasy) which I like/write in.

THREE KINDS OF MUST-READ NOVELS

If you are a writer, I hope you are doing a lot of reading of all sorts of books. But there are three types which are kinds of books that you, personally, must-read.

  • CURRENT BOOKS IN YOUR GENRE(S) – You have to know what books are selling right at this moment, in any genre you write in or might soon write in. If you know what science fiction was like in 1950, but haven’t read anything recent, you are not ready to write any kind of science fiction— not even 1950s nostalgia science fiction.
  • CLASSIC AND OLDER BOOKS IN YOUR GENRE(S) – Who were the earlier writers who shaped your genre(s)? You need to read them. You also need to read older but non-classic genre books— many of your readers will have read such books. You need to know what your target readers will find ‘old hat’ or ‘done to death.’
  • OUT-OF-GENRE FICTION – Successful fiction writers are widely read. That writer of best-selling romance novels? She probably reads spy novels or mysteries or literary fiction on the side. You need to read new books and old books, popular and obscure books. Even some of the Great Books, but don’t despair. You don’t actually have to read Ernest Hemingway. Pick books that appeal to you in some way.

Now, if there is a book that is popular but you can’t force yourself to read past the first chapter, perhaps that’s not the book for you. You might read three useful-to-you novels in the time it would take to make yourself finish something you can’t stand. Also, if you have strong moral objections to the content of a popular book, go with your conscience. But you need to read something. Ideally, a lot of somethings.

IWSG visitors:

Please mention the URL of your blog in a comment and I will add your blog to the list of blogs I follow on Bloglovin’. I am looking to increase the number of blogs I interact with, and I’m willing to ‘reward’ comments on this blog by adding your blog to my list. 

#FixThatBlog – Blogging and your WIP

This is a post in the #FixThatBlog series about fixing neglected author blogs, and also the July post in the Insecure Writers’ Support Group blog hop. See, multitasking!

A writer must write. Write on his works-in-progress, and finish first draft and other drafts. But he must also write blog posts so he can build a platform, right? But how do you find the time to do both?

You make the time. Platform-building, in the form of writing your blog posts, and writing your writing-works are both being-a-writer tasks. As are finding agents and traditional publishers, or finding book cover artists and editors-for-hire, depending on whether you are seeking indie writer or traditionally-published writer status.

But it’s tricky. I have a lot of days when I either write blog posts or do work on my WIP. I’ve been trying to schedule a second writing session in my evenings when I usually watch boring crap on television. But due to my health problems and to cheats on my ketogenic ‘lifestyle’ I am too exhausted in the evenings lately to actually do it. I must think of some other solution.

We writers are multi-taskers. We write on our WIPs, but we also go to our day jobs or get our laundry done or cook our meals. And make our bulletproof coffees. There have been cases of writers who took a year’s sabbatical to finally have time for their writing work— and they get even less done than when they were busy with a day job.

I’m not a perfect person on being organized or on Getting-Things-Done. I have Asperger Syndrome (autism spectrum disorder), which can make a person seem like they have attention deficit disorder as far as being organized and getting things done is concerned. And I’m not a spring chicken any more, and so have a set of health problems that cause a lot of fatigue, especially when I don’t watch my diet. So I have to adapt whatever advice I get from books to what works for me.

Days of the week are one ‘organizational’ tool I have. My garbage pickup is on Wednesday, so an important task on Tuesday is getting the garbage gathered and the garbage cart taken to the curb. Since this blog, since my recent small stroke in February, is also replacing a ketogenic diet blog I don’t have time for, I use Thursday as ‘keto day’ on this blog and make keto posts then. The first Wednesday in the month is Insecure Writers Support Group day. Saturday I can write about my cats or critters, and Sunday I can write things related to Christianity.  This gives me a bit of a planning scheme that I can remember.

To learn more about writing and time management, read How to Manage the Time of Your Life by James Scott Bell. (JSB writes a lot of how-to-write books that are very useful, and also writes mystery novels in the Evangelical Christian fiction market.)

To learn more about Getting-Things-Done, pick up  Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book has been found so useful by so many people that it made the book into an actual bestseller— as in ‘New York Times bestseller.’

IWSG folks on Blogger: if you have that ‘prove you are not a robot’ thing enabled, I cannot comment on your blog post. Sorry. It just doesn’t work on my computer and I’m sick of writing comments that don’t get posted so I have stopped trying.

Have you had any conflicts between getting your WIP done and writing your author-blog posts? Or getting your other tasks done? What do you do about the conflict? Have you found a solution that works for you?