Past vs Present

Manuscript News

This last weekend I had the most perfect opportunity for writing. My three littles were spending a few days at my mom’s, leaving my partner and I with a freakishly quiet house. There was also a terrible cold front Friday night, encouraging us all to stay in where it was warm, and, more particularly, in my favorite writing spot, also known as my bed.

I decided I was gonna get a hell of a lot done with this precious time. I challenged myself to write 5000 new words by the end of the weekend. I was feeling inspired, having finally reached the point of the manuscript where events start rolling downhill toward the climax, so 5000 seemed lofty but not unattainable. Not at first anyway.

So I settled into bed with my ambient noise app, a soda, and a bag of candy and was ready to work. I booted up my laptop and, well, thirty minutes later after troubleshooting why the darn thing was running so slow I realized it had probably caught a virus and needed a reformat.

In the end, I saved all my documents, but lost a lot of time. I wound up with about 2000 new words instead of 5, but I’m okay with that, really.


The Weekly Struggle

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Here’s another fun little tidbit about me: one of my writing hobbies of my younger years was roleplaying. I used many different mediums over the years, but where I really found my stride was in online gaming. I won’t bore with the details, but one thing that I took away from it was a love of writing in the present tense.

Present tense made sense in the context of roleplaying in these games, because the things we were writing were supposed to be playing out in real time. However, even as I phased out of that hobby, present tense permeated my other creative writing projects. I really loved how it injected a sense of urgency into my writing. If these things are happening right now, then they require one’s immediate attention. It didn’t even occur to me, at first, how jarring it might be to someone who is has never experienced it before.

When I first began work on Border Towns, I didn’t even think about it. Present tense just flowed out of me. However, somewhere toward the end of November, I stumbled on a Twitter thread discussing the pros and cons of past and present. In that order. And then, suddenly, this was me:

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I’m used to self-doubt, I think all writers are to some degree, but this was a new facet my anxiety-riddled mind hadn’t explored on it’s own. Yet.

I’m comfortable writing in past, I’m just more comfortable in present. I don’t feel particularly strongly that this story must be told in present, that’s just what I happened to use by force of habit. Now I’m clocking in close to 60,000 words and wondering if revision is going to require a change of tense, along with everything else.

Okay, maybe “require” is a strong word. But I do find myself wondering more and more if this will be a manuscript that will be passed on out of hand simply because of its tense. Or, perhaps, the arguments I was reading are out of date and not keeping with modern publishing trends. I don’t know. But I didn’t wonder before, and I now I do.

The net result of all this has been constantly telling myself “carts and horses,” because the reality is the tense of the manuscript is just a fart in the wind until the whole damn thing is finished and ready to go.

Carts and horses, Kerry Ann. Carts and horses.


What I’m Reading This Week

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I put out a call this week on Twitter for some help finding some potential comp titles for whenever I finally get this monsterpiece finished. And lordy, did yall deliver.

I’m starting with Six of Crows, a fantasy heist novel set in the Grishaverse. With multiple POVs and worldbuilding to make a fellow fantasy writer (hello, me) jealous, Six of Crows is a book I’m annoyed to have missed the bandwagon on. Definitely grateful to have been rec’d it and pleased to be able to rec it to anyone else in return.


That’s it for me for this week. May your struggles be few and your words aplenty!

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Picking Your Professional Name

Manuscript news: I’m gonna be honest. I have been a pretty lazy writer this week. I joked after NaNo that I was gonna take a week off. At least, at the time I thought it was a joke, but it has turned out to be more prophetic than I would like.

Truthfully, I was really worried this would happen. My hobbies tend to be cyclical, and after a period of hitting one hard I usually circle around to something else for a while. Writing was a hobby for such a long time, and I’m only just now trying to transition it into more of a second job. And if it were a job, I’d have called out a lot this week and on the cusp of getting fired.

Since NaNo has ended I’ve only added about 3000 words. It’s not writer’s block. I’m in the middle of a really good scene that I’m (for once) really excited to write. It’s just… burn out, maybe? I gave myself a goal of being done with the manuscript by the end of January, with a daily word count target of 1000-1200. I’m not hitting that, not even close. I don’t know what I need to do to get myself back in the groove, but I’ve got to figure it out soon, while the story still has the capability of engaging me.


The Weekly Struggle: My latest struggle (apart from the above) has revolved around my professional name. Or lack of one, really. When I decided to go on this journey, choosing a name to write under was something pretty far down on my priorities list, somewhere between writing my query letter and writing my actual novel. I knew I would use my real first name (Kerry, in case you forgot, pleased to meet you), but I had concerns about going all in with my legal last name as well. However, I didn’t want to wait until I made a potentially long-term decision like that to get started on my blogging, my twittering, and my connecting with fellow writers.

So I opted to simply use Just Another Struggling Writer as my public façade, or Kerry for short, and went about my business.

But, lately I’ve felt a little naked as just a first name.

I know it’s still pretty early to think about. Especially considering my current difficulties getting words on the page and the non-zero possibility that I could flame out now and never finish this (or any) manuscript, picking a professional name seems like pretty small peanuts.

A lovely follower on Twitter (Miss K) pointed out that it would be prudent to pick a name, so a website domain could be registered before it’s snapped up by someone else, and I think there’s wisdom to that (although I had always intended on using the JASW — what’s the word? Brand? That feels unearned at this point but I can’t think of any other way to describe it — as my public persona, but that’s a bridge for Future Kerry to cross).

My focus needs to be writing. Finishing a book. But, I still can’t help but wonder if I should be getting my name out there in the community.

Originally, when I first planned this post, I was going to ask for advice on how to pick what professional name to use. Legal name? Maiden name? Pen name, and if a pen name how do you choose? But the more I thought about it, the more I started wondering if my name is a cart rumbling down the road miles ahead of the horse.

For the record, I feel pretty settled on a pen name. It rhymes with my real, legal, difficult to spell and therefore frequently mispronounced last name. It also shares a common first letter, and since my actual signature is a scribble in which only the initials are somewhat legible, I wouldn’t have to change anything (now that really is putting the cart in front of the horse, but sue me, I have a lot of time to mull about these things at the day job).

Which means, if I have chosen what I want to go by, then why wait? Why not just go ahead and change all my screen names, and register the domain, and make a small announcement that Just Another Struggling Writer will henceforth be known as Kerry….

Honestly, I don’t know.

I had sort of envisioned always being Just Another Struggling Writer. A person other writers in the early stages of their careers could see and relate to. Someone who is going through what they are going through right now. I sort of feel by stepping away from that I’ll be abandoning a community I dreamed of building, before it even has a chance to lay a foundation.

Is it self-centered of me to still want that?


What I’m Reading This Week: Shadow of the Raven by Millie Thom. After Outlander, I thought I might like a Viking story, but with more fantasy elements (since Outlander was lacking in that area, for my taste). My search led me to this series. I’m literally only just getting started on it, but I’m looking forward to it.