Ch-ch-changes

Hello and welcome to another rambling, existential, content-packed edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.

Today I’m going to unveil the NEW CONTENT that you can expect to see on the blog going forward, but before I get into that I first want to talk a little bit about what I hope to achieve with these additions and why I’m making the change in the first place.

When I started this blog – yikes, almost two years ago – I had two goals: the first was to establish a place where I could scream into the void about all the parts about writing a novel that weren’t sunshine and rainbows (okay, so like 90% of it). I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on that, even if the screaming has been sporadic. The second goal was to, maybe, possibly, hopefully, form friendships or a community of fellow writers who were like me: near to the very beginning of their author journeys, and having to fight tooth and nail for every tiny success.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at making connections. I’m shy, riddled with anxiety, and possessed of fluctuating mental health that often times means I’m a bit of a flake. So, that’s on me. With that said, I’m ready to make a change, not just to my own internal mindset and habits, but my exterior activities as well. So, while these additions to the blog were first conceived of with the goal of getting myself engaged in the writing community even when I’m between projects, the more I thought about it the more I realized that it can use this newfound desire for growth to forward along that original ambition, the one where I’m no longer just another struggling writer, but Just Another Struggling Writer.

Ultimately, I hope that one day this blog will stop being “the lamentations of yet another person struggling to write a novel” and start being a rallying point, a safe haven, a creative sounding board for those of us who just can’t do this thing alone. More than anything, I hope you join me on that journey.

So, without further ado, behold the new content schedule for Just Another Struggling Writer.


tuesday
Tuesday

Tuesdays:
Your Mileage May Vary 
or Reasons I DNF This Book.

Guilty confession #1: I am not a great reader. I am slow, easily distracted, and tend to put off reading for other leisure activities, a bad habit I am desperately trying to correct.

Guilty confession #2: I am also really discerning when I read. Actually, that’s too charitable a word. I am fucking picky. I don’t even know why. All I know is most books tend to turn me off by the second act, and even the ones I end up binge-reading to the end don’t really stay with me. Doesn’t mean they’re not good, of course. Just that… well, I’m evidently really hard to please. Sorry.

So, in an effort to broaden my library (and maybe figure out whatever the hell my taste in books is), on alternating Tuesdays I will post book reviews of different persuasions.

The first, Your Mileage May Vary, will cover books that I read to the end, loved or hated. Take these reviews with a grain of salt; because I’m thinly read I honestly haven’t the faintest clue how to write a “proper” book review. Most of the time, I imagine, I’ll probably just be word vomiting my thoughts and feelings without direction or structure. Please look forward to it.

In Reasons I DNF This Book I will dive into specific moments that turned me off of a novel. Whether it’s due to my inner editor not shutting up and letting me enjoy something, or a protagonist I just don’t get along with, or a cringey awkward moment that forces me to put it aside until the second hand embarrassment subsides, these posts will explore what makes a picky reader (me) so damn picky.


thursday
Thursday

Thursdays:
Your Regular Weekly Blog Post

Thursdays you can expect to remain pretty much the same, with random topics and thoughts on the struggle that is being a writer. In the past I talked about the progress of my manuscript, and revelations I was having along the way, but now that I am (at least for the moment) project-free, the discussion might trend more toward current issues in the book world. This is the least “content” like of my three planned weekly posts, and mostly will just be a continuing chronicle of my experience in the writing community. One thing I do plan to do every week is include a one-sentence writing prompt for….


sunday
Sunday, Sunday Sunday

Sundays:
Short But Sweet Sunday, flash fiction or vignettes

Well, I couldn’t go this whole time without doing a little bit of fiction writing. Can’t let these razor sharp skills get rusty, can I? Now where did I put that sarcasm font? Anyway, at the end of my weekly Thursday posts I will include a one-sentence prompt, and on Sunday I will post my answer to that prompt. All pieces will be less than 1000 words and I intend to limit them all to the same setting and group of characters, which I am tentatively calling the Pillar-verse. The Pillar-verse was once an old fantasy novel idea of mine that was undoubtedly destined for the trunk, and though I still think it is too unfocused a concept to be drafted and revised, I would still like to share it in some way. (Hell, maybe if I dabble in it often enough I’ll get that spark I need to actually write the damn thing.) But going beyond that, I hope that others might eventually partake in Short But Sweet with their own takes on the prompt.


In addition to the extra content, I also will be doing a bit of site maintenance, including adding a page for writerly resources. Most of these will trend toward fantasy writing, since… that’s what I do and all, but hopefully writers of any persuasion will find them useful. Be on the lookout for those updates in the next day or two.


One last thing before I go. That’s right, OUR VERY FIRST SHORT BUT SWEET PROMPT. A reminder: the goal is to write some flash fiction or a vignette, less than 1000 words, and post it Sunday for all to enjoy. It can take place in a world you already created, or it can be something entirely new. If you decide to participate, please feel free to tag #shortbutsweetsunday on Twitter, or even just drop the link to your own post in a comment here. However you get it out there, the goal is just to boost your creativity with some extracurricular words. Hope to see lots of great pieces on Sunday!

This week’s prompt: It was fall, the season of knowledge, but nobody knew that.


Well, I honestly think I’ve yakked enough for one post. I’ll be back on Sunday with my answer to this week’s Short But Sweet prompt, and again on Tuesday for the first Your Mileage May Vary review, where I plan to discuss City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. Until then, as always, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few. 

Kerry Share

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The Poppy War

Welcome to Just Another Struggling Writer’s very first book review! I have no idea what I’m doing, so lets just get right into it.

First of all…

Spoiler alert
You’ve been warned.

So, I’m just gonna get it out of the way first: a book this dark isn’t to my taste.

I probably should have done my research before cracking this puppy open. If I had, then I would have learned that The Poppy War is a fantasy retelling of real world events, particularly those of the Second Sino-Japanese War. If I had more than a passing knowledge of that horrific period of Chinese history, I might never have read this novel. But I didn’t, on both accounts, and so I turned each page, particularly after the start of Part II, with increasing horror. By the end, I was glad it was over.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The Poppy War is really, really good. Despite my discomfort with the naked depictions of war time atrocities, it is to R. F. Kuang’s credit that she did not soften history for her readers. The fact that I was ignorant to what I was getting into is proof enough that a novel like this is critical for Western audiences.

There were moments when the grit was fascinating rather than stomach-churning. A moment that particularly stuck with me was when our young heroine, Rin, gets her period for the first time and immediately decides to have her uterus chemically destroyed because it is getting in the way of her military training. Her choice wasn’t shocking to me, it felt absolutely appropriate. That Kuang didn’t shy away from answering this question was both impressive and memorable.

Also, though I don’t have particular interest in these types of stories myself, I thought Rin’s journey from abused shop girl, escaping a forced marriage, to a hardened anti-hero who willfully commits genocide not only believable, but inevitable.

Putting my writer’s hat on, I was left a little disappointed in a few areas. Some of the relationships between the characters didn’t feel earned. I never found myself particularly compelled by Altan and that left so much of the second half feeling like a slog, especially when the war took a turn for the worse. The role of the Gatekeeper, both as part of the pantheon, and his place in the physical realm, I don’t feel was clearly defined and left a gap in my understanding of the narrative. Nezha’s apparent death was also a blow, not just because I was becoming attached to him as a character, but because I thought we were about to get an interesting arc about him having shamanistic abilities with fast healing. I also wish more attention had been paid to the political side of it: why the flying fuck would the Empress betray her people?

Perhaps these threads are picked up in the sequel, The Dragon Republic, rendering my complaints moot, but it might be some time before I feel emotionally equipped to embark on that journey. I finished The Poppy War shortly after midnight last night, and despite the late hour, I immediately had to get up and go hug my kids in their beds. It’s not something I’ll forget soon, and though that is to the book’s credit, I just don’t have the stomach for it.

The Poppy War is good, absolutely, but it was not for me.


Phew. That took a lot out of me. Three hours into drafting this blog post I realized I haven’t the faintest idea how to review things. Which meant that I just word vomited a bit.

In any case, I’ve got to get back to my own writing woes (I’ve decided to write the second half of draft two as if I’ve already made the revisions to the first half because I realllllly don’t want to start all over). I’ll tell you all about it next week. Until then, my your writing be plenty and your struggles be few!

Kerry Share

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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

tense

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:

panic.gif

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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Writing with a Day Job

Manuscript News

It took me a while to really get back on the wagon with writing. Even though I promised myself I would start up again on January 2nd, I didn’t actually get any words down until the 5th. Without the enthusiasm of a fresh start or the punishing schedule of NaNo to have to adhere to, I found it all too easy to make excuses not to write (some of which is the topic of today’s post, see below).

Honestly, I think I was a little bit nervous about burning myself out again. NaNo was pretty brutal for me, and had the unintended side effect of getting me to believe that I had to do five pages a day for it to count as progress. When I realized I could just do five hundred words and be done for the day, I felt the cloud kind of lift.

While I do think I need some of the more rigorous writing workouts to keep me on schedule (a self-imposed, completely arbitrary schedule), I wasn’t ready to jump into the deep end quite yet. So, for now, I’m content with a page a day. And when I’m ready, I’m gonna run for the hills again.


The Weekly Struggle

work work work

Unless you’re lucky enough to write professionally as a full-time career, you probably have a day job, so I hope many of you can relate.

Let’s all agree right now: writing when you have a full time day job can be really, really hard.

Winter is the busy season in my industry, to the point where my company actually has a vacation day blackout between November-January. This year, my office had it’s busiest November/December since I’ve been in this job (we’re on pace for a similar January, something I’m very excited about).

The sum effect of all this has been a great deal of take home stress. This was a large part of why I decided to take a short writing hiatus last month, and I think it’s the entire reason why I have so little energy for writing at the end of the day even now that the holidays (the other motivation for my hiatus) are over.

Stress isn’t the only thing throwing off my groove either. Before things picked up at the day job, I was able to sneak in one or two hundred words on my breaks, more on my lunch. Since I’ve been pretty much working through those, I’ve lost some of my most productive pockets of time, leaving me with pretty much just the time between my kids getting in bed and when I finally faceplant into my own bed. Yesterday, a particularly hard one at work, that time was approximately 37 seconds.

kiki-falls-unto-the-bed-tired-in-kikis-delivery-service-gif

 

Mine is not a unique situation. We all, at some point, have to find a work-writing balance that works for us, and one person’s method might not be helpful to someone, or maybe even anyone, else. I’m still trying to find that midpoint. I’m also trying to determine where Not Writing stops being laziness and becomes self care, and vise versa. Coming off my hiatus, which I needed, and still struggling to write isn’t something I had anticipated.

Best I can do, for now, is try to take these difficult times, these stressful work days, and turn them into motivation to complete my novel so that one day I can quit my effing job.


What I’m Reading This Week

I’m finishing up my semi-yearly reread of my favorite book of all time, Pride and Prejudice. I know one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read a bunch of new books, and I did sign up for a Book Bub account pursuant to that, but I really needed old faithful last week with all that was going on. I’ve got a couple of fantasy novels lined up, so I’ll have something more interesting next week, I promise.

What are you all reading, and, more importantly, which Bennett sister are you?


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NaNoWriMo Update – Week 3

Oh man, guys, the mid-month blues hit me hard this week.

I thought I was flying. I wasn’t pushing myself overmuch, I had realistic goals, I was riding the high of hitting 20k, and then….

SPLAT

The burnout got me.

I wasn’t stuck — that’s what my trusty outline was for. I wasn’t too busy. I wasn’t even sick, like I was last week. I was just tired. I still tried to write every day, and I guess technically I did, if you count that one day where I only did about 150 words. But I was at a point where opening my laptop and staring at my document just made me feel like…

FoolhardySpicyBellsnake-small

It wasn’t til late Monday night, as I lay in bed watching that helluva football game and guilting myself for not working, that I decided I was going to stop trying to force the words into Scrivener.

As I talked about in an earlier post, I’m a huge fan of writing longhand. I haven’t exclusively done it for NaNo simply because of the time factor, but I do have a notebook that I write in while I’m at my day job or at my daughter’s gymnastics practice. At home, however, I was taking advantage of technology to keep up the pace.

And maybe it’s that pace that wore me out so much.

So, I retrieved my pretty flower notebook and sparkly pink gel pen from my work bag, got back in bed, and started writing that way.

I only worked for about 30 minutes but I got more done than I thought I would.

So I decided that, while the burnout lasts, I’m going to stick with writing longhand. In my pretty flower notebook, I can write about 500 words per page. Over the course of a normal work day I can usually write about two pages. If I can double that with some evening writing, I’m ahead of the game.

Yesterday was my first attempt at this and I set a five page goal for myself. I clocked in at 4.5 and 2221 words. My sparkly pink gel pen is dead, may she rest in peace, my hand is sore as hell, but I already feel revitalized. Today, I was so caught up in my pages that I almost forgot to even write this post for you all.

It’s just so funny to me how the smallest changes, be it the scene you’re working on, or the medium you’re working with, or the environment of your workspace, can inspire you even when you thought you had nothing left to give.

Writers are such strange beasts and I’m really jazzed to be one of them.


This week I’m reading: I’ve been really bad about reading new things lately. I felt so guilty about it that I even started actively resisting it. Which was stupid. This week I decided that I need to stop making excuses and follow advice that I love but have yet to heed: writers have to read. So from now on I’m going to carve out more time for myself to read new things, not just my old favorites (I read Pride and Prejudice once every nine months or so). To that end, at the end of every regular post, I’m going to talk a little bit about what I’m reading that week. I’m still a slow reader so it might not be different every week, and I’m woefully behind on books so my list might be quaint, but… well it’s my blog and I’ll read what I want to.

So, after a creatively frustrating day this week, I wanted something new and fresh to input into my brain, and after browsing the Kindle store I settled on Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve never even watched the Starz series (though I had at least heard of it from under my rock), much less read the novels, but I’d heard great things. I know I’m years behind on this series, but I’ve been burned lately with some (forgive me Indies!) pretty bad Kindle Library books and wanted something tested. I’m not terribly far into it yet, not even enough to give an opinion, but it was a relief to be able to get through a chapter without cringing.

No spoilers, but what does everyone else think of Outlander?

Until next week!

Making Time To Read

Today’s is a short one, kids, because, very simply I don’t have much to say. In fact, I’m hoping to learn.

With NaNoWriMo approaching and time management on everyone’s mind, allow me to ask a genuine question.

How do you make time to read?

It’s been said many times that being well read in the genre you intend to write is highly recommended, sometimes an absolute must.

It’s a sentiment I agree with, even if I don’t necessarily practice it.

I have an 8-5 day job with a 1.5 hour commute (total, not one way), three kids under the age of 8, a relationship to maintain with my significant other, and a household to keep. Despite all that, I do have some spare time in the evenings and weekends for leisure activities. With my new found dedication to getting a novel done, I’ve earmarked much of that time for writing.

So where, in all of that, do I make time to read?

Or, to put it another way, where does reading rank compared to writing, as well as every day obligations?

Everyone is going to have their own kind of answer here. Not just because individual circumstances vary widely, but also because not everyone is going to have the same relationship with reading as each other. Which leave me to wonder: if I even have to ask this question, what does that mean for me as a former voracious reader?

(A caveat here: I know audio books are popular option, especially for those like me who have lengthy commutes. But as someone with auditory processing issues, driving takes up too much of my brain space for the words to really sink in. I end up getting home with barely any idea of what happened in the story being read to me. Besides, it’s not quite the same as seeing the words in front of your eyes, being able to reread and savor those particular sentences that sink into your soul. But, I digress.)

So, again, how do you, yes you, make time to read?