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  • Happy Third T-Day!

    It’s hard to believe that it’s been a whole three years already since I started on T. At the same time it’s hard to believe it’s only been three years. I’m starting to feel like I’ve always been this person, that I’ve always been Eric and that my previous life was some kind of bizarre dream.

    More than that, it’s hard to imagine that I was ever not a writer. I began to take my writing seriously back in November 2010, and I’ve been pulled deeper and deeper ever since. I’m still slogging through Fallen Things with my critique group and am sending chapters out to beta readers at the same time, and this process has improved my writing incredibly.

    One thing that made a huge difference was writing the first draft of the second book in the series, Hidden Things. I got to know my characters so much better; when I went back to editing Fallen Things, I had a much clearer idea of what I was doing with them. My view of the story is so clear, in fact, that I have to completely rewrite just about everything from this point on because I can now see how far off my first (and second) draft was. This is amazing. This is incredible. This is what gets me up in the morning (and often keeps me up at night). This, even more than a name and an affirmation of gender, is Who I Am.

    That said, it’s great to take the chance to look back over the past year and all the things I’ve accomplished. For the first time since I went to college, I have a job that’s lasted more than three months. Even more, it’s a full time job that still gives me plenty of time to write, which is an amazing thing. I started as a desk clerk at a small motel almost a year ago, and I have no plans of leaving any time soon. After a few years without stable employment, having a steady income and a schedule I can count on is a luxury I don’t want to lose. The fact that I genuinely enjoy the work itself helps a great deal, of course.

    And now–because if I don’t stop I’ll blather on forever about my writing–it’s time for progress photos:

    Feb26-2010

     

    I’m not even sure what to say about this one anymore. It’s like looking at a stranger; it’s hard to imagine being this person now.

    Feb26-2011_2

     

    A wee bit of scruff on the chin, desperately in need of a haircut, and still way too much in love with the filters in Vignette when taking pictures with my phone. It’s still incredible how much of a difference a year makes.

    Feb26-2012

     

    Still in desperate need of a haircut, but at least I’ve ditched the earrings now… I almost wonder why I held on to them as long as I did. The beard’s gone from ‘scruffy’ to ‘respectable’ and is still one of the things I’m most pleased with.

    Feb26-2013

     

    And here I am today. I finally got a haircut! And new glasses! (One of two pairs I bought recently; the others are simple, squarish, black frames.) And I finally stopped taking my picture in the bathroom! (Yes, that is a Dalek on my living room wall.) Bow ties are still cool, and my beard has gained a photographically-visible presence!

    And that, as they say, is that. Until next year.



  • Writers, Writing, and Fetishizing the Process

    I am still–and continually–reading Page Fright, which means I have become more obsessed with the process of writing than usual. It also makes me think of how both writers and non-writers fetishize the process, giving birth to the idea that ‘real writers’ write longhand, or only use typewriters; that ‘real writers’ must have certain conditions met–perfect silence, a particular type of paper, a certain brand of pen or colour of ink. It can lead many budding or potential writers to believe that unless they also adhere to these ideas, they cannot possibly write and will never be ‘real’ writers.

    Yet this fetishizing of the process comes with a grain of truth.

    I’m leery of the idea that a ‘real’ writer must do anything but write, but I also recognize that I have my own process that I find difficult to deviate from. When I write by hand, I could use a ballpoint pen if that’s all that’s available, but I vastly prefer my Sharpie pens because I like felt tip pens and Sharpie has everything I want in a felt tip. I can write in a typical word processor–OpenOffice, say–but I’m only truly comfortable with a Scrivener project where everything is set just so.

    I have my preferred formatting (Times New Roman, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing when drafting; Andalus, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing, printed with a 2″ right margin for editing and rewriting) and my preferred setting (on the bus or train; in a coffee or tea shop, or in a diner; at the front desk at the motel where I work; and always within speaking, texting, or tweeting distance of fellow writers). My Moleskine notebook–where all manner of notes both writerly and practical are written–must be black, and so must the Sharpie pen I write in it with. I edit in green Sharpie pen, and my critique partners get their critiques written in purple and orange Sharpie pen, respectively.

    I have these rituals which surround my writing, but they have all developed as the result of squeezing the most writing time possible out of a very busy schedule. I write longhand at work because it is more practical and edit longhand because it gives me a fresh look at my work; I write and rewrite in Scrivener because the labels and folders help me keep track of where I am in my writing or revisions. I save and compile redundant copies all over the place because I don’t ever want to lose the work I’ve done. Everything I’ve incorporated into my writing process is there for a purpose.

    And that is the most important consideration for any part of the writing process. Writers write; how we accomplish that must be there to help us continue writing, not tie us to conditions we won’t always have the luxury of meeting. So whether you write longhand or exclusively with a computer, and whether you use fountain, felt tip, or ballpoint pens, find a process that works for you and keep on writing.

     

    Do you want to read an erotic short story by yours truly and stories by 43 others while supporting a worthy charity? Of course you do! Get the Felt Tips: Office-Supply Erotica anthology by Tiffany Reisz today! EBooks available at AmazonSmashwords, and Barnes & Nobel



  • A Good Writing Group Is A Great Thing To Have

    As writers, we tend to be solitary creatures. It’s the nature of our work. Sitting in the dark pounding away at a keyboard for hours upon hours doesn’t really lend itself to rich and varied social life. Add the fact that most ‘normal’ people don’t want to hear how our characters hijacked our story yet again, and it looks like we’re doomed to be hermits, doesn’t it? So we can’t be allowed around the general public. But what about… other writers?

    Other writers? They get us. We can vent about our character troubles or share an exciting yet disturbing epiphany about our plot and rather than backing away slowly, a fellow writer will say, “I know, right?” Suddenly, we are not alone. Gather one or two more, and we become a writing group. And a writing group is something we want to be a part of for many reasons:

    A Writing Group Provides Support

    Having a writing group means having people we can go to when we’re stuck or frustrated or feel like giving up. These are the people who can offer workable suggestions for our stories, and even if we don’t use those suggestions, they get us thinking about why giving the MC a pet alligator isn’t going to work which can lead us to an idea that will. They remind us why we wanted to write in the first place even as they commiserate with us. They encourage us as we battle through word count and edits, and they celebrate with us when our hard work pays off. And we do the same thing for them.

    A Writing Group Pushes Us To Improve

    A good writing group is never satisfied with simply writing; a good writing group wants us to write better. This includes critiques and writing challenges, sharing resources we’ve found, and coming up with new ways to work on our craft together. A writing group gives us structure, which as much as we hate to admit it, is something we all need. One day we look up and realize that we’re sitting with a group of friends, analysing something we half-killed ourselves to write, and that we’re doing this voluntarily. That is when we know we’re in a good group.

    A Writing Group Forces Us To Finish What We Started

    In order to discuss each others work, we have to have something written to discuss. A good writing group won’t let us off the hook with a half-finished story; they will make us finish it even if it means shunning us over dinner while we pound out the penultimate battle and final confrontation. And when we finally submit our masterpiece, they will still give us brutally honest feedback, because that’s what friends are for.

    A Writing Group Is An Idea Factory

    Put writers in a room together, and we will feed off each other’s insanity. Our conversations are wild, and often wildly inappropriate (just ask any server who’s waited a table of writers.) The littlest thing will spark an idea. A joke becomes canon, a ‘what if’ becomes a story, a ‘we should’ becomes a reality. A critique group spawns short story challenges, and a short story spawns a forum where our multitudes of characters can interact, just to see how someone from one person’s universe interacts with someone from another’s.

    We make each other work hard, but we also play hard, having so much fun that it’s hard to tell where the ‘work’ left off and the ‘play’ began. We leave each other energized and ready to dive back into the editing we’ve been struggling with or start that story we’ve been meaning to get around to. A good writing group helps us do what we love, and helps us feel less alone while we do it.

    And now for an announcement!

    FELT TIPS – The World’s Greatest Charity Anthology of Office-Supply-Related Erotica is coming out December 12, 2012. It includes What Is It, Suzie? by yours truly, as well as many other exciting stories by authors I am proud to be featured along side of. Check out the ‘Coming Soon!‘ tab above for more information and updates.



  • When Bad Writing Sparks Good Ideas

    Growing as a writer, learning the finer points of character and storytelling, can really change the way we watch TV. Because we can now see what works–and what really, really doesn’t–it can be hard to just sit back and enjoy something. There’s always that part of us critiquing the show and thinking about how we could have done it better.

    Case in point: ABC’s Once Upon A Time. Don’t get me wrong, I love that show. It’s my guilty pleasure, and I really do hope they go on for a second season. I liked the concept and some of the characters, Regina and Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin specifically, were interesting and engaging. I enjoyed some of the ways they took old fairy tales and turned them around… but sometimes it didn’t quite work out. Sad to say, but Once Upon A Time suffered from clumsy writing.

    It irritated me to no end that (ignoring for today the incredibly dense Emma Swan) the fate of Storybrook depended on the relationship between the two most oblivious, flaky, and emotionally cowardly characters in town. At one point I didn’t care if the curse never got broken so long as I didn’t have to hear one more word about their ‘tragic love story’.

    Then, during one of the fairy tale flashbacks, it dawned on me: Snow White was the real villain. It was the only thing that made sense. After all, her every move was precisely calculated to cause the most damage while still appearing innocent or in the moral right. And this would have been great–if the writers had meant for it to come off that way, which I don’t think they did.

    If they were trying to make Snow the villain and Regina the heroine, then they failed at establishing the protagonist. (Yes, I know the heroine was supposed to be Emma, but we’re ignoring her, remember?) More likely they were trying to make Regina more sympathetic and make Snow more active and self-reliant, but it backfired. I ended up with far more sympathy for Regina than any of the ‘good’ characters, and quite frankly, Snow came off as a sociopath.

    Which brings us back to ‘how I could do this better’.

    Maybe I’m not tackling the whole concept of the show, but Snow as the villain? That I can sink my teeth into. In fact, it sparked a Shiny New Idea so strong that despite the mountain of editing needed for Fallen Things, I started scribbling out the beginning of a new story in my Moleskine. It’s an idea that sits somewhere between fan-fiction and ‘derivative work from a common source’. The MC’s name is still Regina and her back story has some similar elements with the show, but there are some things that I already know will be done differently. The mirror, for instance, and I probably won’t be trying to wedge every possible fairy tale character into this story.

    Will I ever try to get this story published? Who knows. For now, it’s just a fresh, easy thing to give my mind a break while I tackle larger projects. It should be interesting to see where it takes me.

    How about you? Have you ever watched or read something that sparked an idea that could not be ignored? Have you ever thought, “I can do that better,” and made good on it? Please, feel free to share in the comments.



  • Self-Directed Writing Course

    In a bit of a continuation of my previous post on planning after the fact, I thought I’d share with you one of the things I’m doing to help myself figure out what I’m doing with Fallen Things.

    It started as a spur-of-the-moment suggestion from my critique group to help me with identifying and writing description: going through a favourite book and highlighting instances of description. I’ve decided to take it a bit further by also marking whose POV a scene is from so I can identify POV balance, another place I’ve had a few… issues. In that spirit, I bought a fresh copy of Lynn Flewelling’s Stalking Darkness. I chose this book for three reasons: 1) There’s description. There must be, because I can picture characters and settings clearly and consistently whenever I think of them. 2) The story is told through multiple POV, and yet it’s clear who the main characters are. 3) Even if it is the second book in the series, I’ve read them all so many times that I nearly have them memorized, and can therefore focus on the mechanics of the writing.

    Now before you worry too much, this is not an exercise in plagiarism. Fallen Things is its own world, full and complex, and I certainly don’t need to steal someone else’s. This is me brushing up on my technique. Are there inherent similarities? Of course. Whether we admit it or not, there are no new ideas, we are all influenced by what we’ve read before, and the only thing that makes our work different from the rest is how we put it all together.

    Anyway, back to the lesson. What I’m doing right now is going through the book highlighting every instance of description and marking the POV of each scene. What I plan to do with this is to look at all the description to see what she did and why it works. I’ve already come to the realization that, sometimes, description occurs in dialogue. I’ve also noticed that this makes what could otherwise be a fairly dry passage more active.

    For POV, I plan on looking at what is happening in each scene and why it’s important for that scene to be told from this character’s perspective rather than another’s. One thing I’ve already noticed is that, surprise surprise, the bulk of the scenes go to one or the other of the two main characters and that there are only a handful of other regular POV characters. I on the other hand am juggling more, and I may need to decide whose POV to cut and whose I should focus on.

    All in all, I’m looking forward to this, and not just because it gives me an excuse to read a favourite book all over again. It gives me a chance to delve into why it’s my favourite, and the chance to improve my own work.

    What strategies do you use to improve you’re writing? How often do you look at your favourite authors to see what you can learn from them?



  • Planning After The Fact

    Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, if you’re going to write a book–and want it to make sense–you’re going to have to do some planning at some point. It’s a given that plotters will do the bulk of their planning before ever putting fingertips to keyboard to write their first draft, but what about those of us who just start writing?

    All right, I’ll admit that I’m more likely than I once was to do some planning beforehand, but that wasn’t really the case with Fallen Things. Ironically, it actually started out as an exercise in description(my critique group will get a laugh out of that thought) and a ‘what if?’ and went from there. So now, somewhere around my third draft–give or take ten drafts depending on the scene–I’m finding that I need to do some planning.

    As the book grew, it became more complex and more layered, which is great. Mostly. The problem is, I’m now juggling several POV characters, three distinct worlds, and about as many plot lines. My focus has gotten a little fuzzy, and it turns out I’ve actually forgotten to introduce important elements until half way through the book. This is, as you might imagine, a problem.

    Now I have to go back to the drawing board a bit. Who are my main characters? What are their motivations? (You’d think I’d have that one nailed down by now, but that’s not always the case.) Does this scene have to be told from this tertiary character’s POV, or would it be better to change it to the POV of a more major character? Where do I need to slow down the pacing to show character growth? Are all the relevant elements properly explained, or am I assuming that my readers are also mind readers?

    My critique partners are excellent for helping me figure out where I’m having issues in these areas (especially the mind-reading part.) Now it’s time for me to figure out what I’m going to do about it. A lot of it comes down to brainstorming and writing out ‘character bibles’ based on what I have so far so I have something to work from as I revise my book. Once I know my characters’ motivations, I can figure out the plot. Once I know my plot, I can figure out what each scene needs to be doing and whether or not it’s doing that.

    It’s a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it. I already have a much stronger book than I had in my first draft. And from here, I have a better idea of where I’m going with book two and beyond, which means I’ll be able to write a tighter first draft when I get there.

    Whether we like it or not, planning will happen at some point in the writing process. If we don’t get it in before we start, that just means we have to do it after the fact.

    How do you plan your books? Do you plan everything out in advance, or do you end up playing catch-up afterwards? Alternately, have you had any interesting slips as a result of not planning ahead?



  • One Of Those Full Moons

    Every once in a while, I just feel this need to stay up all the night whatever the consequence for the next day. It’s like a reset or an emotional cleanse where I can work out all the less lucid energy that seems to build up in the mean time. Mostly, this ‘reset’ happens on a full moon, or at least within a day of it.

    This is one of those full moons.

    It starts with a restlessness, and a sense of being dog-tired while at the same time feeling no desire whatsoever to actually go to bed and sleep. There’s a feeling that there are things to do, and they must be done now.

    Things like critiques for my critique group, A Bitch Of Writers, or writing that short story or sermon. Things like reading this book, or that one, or doing a bit of laundry if only there weren’t someone trying to sleep upstairs. Things like setting up the bookshelf, though I’d want to rearrange the whole living room first and there’s so much that needs tidying… I’m sure you get the picture.

    And so I’m here with a pot of oatmeal before me, Earl Grey tea at my elbow, and The Cars playing on YouTube because that’s apparently ‘Just What I Needed’. With any luck, I’ll be able to make this productive insomnia.

    Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever fight it and try to sleep, or just go with it?



  • It’s Not Bragging If It’s A Short Story

    I brought it on myself really. There’s no denying it. After all, I’m the one who chose the number for the latest writing challenge sent out by Danni… how was I to know that it would turn out to be so, well, challenging?

    Here’s what I apparently chose:

    “A Twist of Truth”

    Tell us a story from your past.

    THE RULES:

    1) It must be a true story, but it can be any story that you want to tell.
    2) It does not have to be completely accurate.  Think of this more as a dramatization rather than a biography.
    3) The story cannot be from your POV.  In other words, it’s your memory, and your story, but it should be from the POV of someone else who was there.  (This could even be the family pet, if you’d like)

    Ignoring–or perhaps allowing for–the fact that rule 2 offers some leniency, I’m faced with a dilemma. In any story of mine with actual conflict told from the other persons point of view I either a) come off as looking like a terrible person, b) look like I’m trying to be sensationalist, or c) both. A corollary to b is that I’m afraid that anything interesting about me will come off as trying to make a political point somehow.

    If I’m completely honest with myself, I’m a little afraid of the soul-bearing involved in this. That sounds weird coming from me, I know. After all, I tweet and blog pretty freely about my trans experience, my ADHD, and to some extent even my faith(though I still hold back there sometimes for fear of being too ‘evangelical’.) On top of that, my short story for the previous exercise was nothing if not a morality story that pretty much came down to ‘good Christians don’t throw their kids out of the house for being trans*’ and Fallen Things is nothing if not my soul refracted into a multitude of characters. I have no issues sharing these with the group, so why am I so hesitant now?

    Partly, revealing myself through my characters is safe because it’s not ‘really me’. I can hide myself in the bit that are pure invention. And on the other side, revealing myself through my own perspective is authentic. I know how I feel or think I feel about the things I’ve experienced and the things I’ve done, but I can’t be certain how others perceived me in the same event. I’m terrified enough of getting my sister ‘wrong’ that I won’t even give a character her name. Actually, most close friends and family are off limits for names, for just about the same reason. I don’t want to get into their minds and get it ‘wrong’.

    All of this of course just underlines why I have to write this. If it makes me uncomfortable, that’s just one more emotion to tap into for my writing. It’s one more thing I need to face so I can grow in my craft, and thus become a stronger writer. I may have to drag myself through this story kicking and screaming, but I will do it.

    Is this something you’d have trouble with too, or would you have no problem with it? What other sorts of topic or situations are challenging for you to write? Don’t be shy, tells us all about it in the comments.



  • Happy Second T-Day!

    It has been two years today since I started stabbing myself in the leg, and a year since I started this website. It has also been a year of incredible change and growth; in fact, I’m beginning to wonder if there is any other kind.

    I’ll start at the end for the moment, and note that I seem to be collecting milestones for February 26th. Two years ago I started on testosterone, a year ago I started this blog, and today I became a full, adult member of Campbell-Stone United Church. I was baptised into this church when I was 16 I believe, and I’ve been something of a member-by-association through my mom since I returned to the church during Advent in 2010, but I felt that it was time to stand up and become a member in my own right.

    Becoming a member is an incredible experience. Standing up in front of the congregation to proclaim my faith and commitment to the church, and having them give me their acceptance and support… I felt a very really connection in that moment. It’s one of the many steps in my life bringing me closer to God, and confirming for me that I am on my right path. This is where I belong.

    Not only have I grown a lot in my faith journey, but I’ve also grown a lot as a writer and as a person. I’m invested in my writing more strongly than ever as I put my first novel, Fallen Things, through the ‘critique machine’ with my writing group, A Bitch Of Writers. I have learned so much about my writing process and how to give a good critique, it’s incredible! I can already see the difference it’s made as I edit based on these critiques; I have description now! Mostly. It’s also been brought to my attention that some of my writing technique it well-geared towards script writing, so in my over-scheduled insanity, I’ve decided to do Script Frenzy this April. That should be interesting to say the least.

    I’ve also had to take a long, hard look at my direction in life. Having a better idea of who I am and where I want to go means I’m a lot less satisfied with ‘survival jobs’ in retail or labour while I work on my writing and look at paying off previous student loans before going to school again. Right now I’m working through Alberta Job Corps to try to find something interesting that I’m even marginally qualified for. It’s been a good, if frustrating, experience for me. While I’m glad to have the support while I work out my career path, it’s also a little disheartening to still be there over a month later while most of my hire-mates have moved on and a new batch of hires is coming into the system. Still, I’ve gained valuable job search skills, and am going full-ahead with a new strategy starting tomorrow.

    Last but not least, after two years on T my transition have become more of a background concern… for the most part. Twice in the past year drug shortages have affected my ability to fill my prescription. The first time I was lucky and only had a delay of one week before my pharmacy started getting Delatestyl in again. This time however, I’ve had to switch to AndroGel for the time being, or do without entirely. Word on the street is that Depo-Testosterone, which would be a preferable alternative for me, will be available February 29th… or possibly March 7th (see comments.) All in all, it’s hard to find reliable information on this.

    But enough of that doom and gloom. It’s time for progress photos!

    Woah, who's that kid?

    Me two years ago… I think the only thing that’s really the same any more is my glasses. And I can’t help thinking how round my head was…

    Bow ties are cool.

    Yep, bow ties are still cool. At this point, I was just starting to get enough scruff on my chin to contemplate growing a beard. In fact, I think I did start growing one shortly after this picture was taken. I was still holding onto the earrings, though…

    Suave as ever

    I… always seem to need a haircut when I do these, don’t I? In fact, not much has changed between this picture and the last. The only real difference is that I’ve taken out the earrings and grown a beard. It would feel incredibly weird now not to have a beard. I know; I shaved it off briefly around Hallowe’en for my Tesla costume, and quite frankly, my chin felt naked.

    So that’s my Year In Review, and there’s still a lot I didn’t really get around to mentioning. I’ve been busy, very busy, and if things keep going the way they are, this next year will be even busier. I’m looking forward to it.



  • The Long And Short Of It

    Some of you on Twitter may have noticed me blaming my friend Danni for the current predicament of some new characters of mine. I stand by the statement that it is all her fault, both their existence and the fact that I’ve thrown another character out of their home at a young age, and in the rain no less. You see, our critique group has sprouted a writing aspect, and last Monday she sent out the first short story assignment(s).

    Now I find myself bemoaning the fates of my characters, pulling my hair out over the most appropriate use of gendered pronouns in this context, and trying to find the right shape for the Morality Hammer I’m beating my readers over the head with. (It has been decided that Morena Baccarin would be the perfect shape for a Morality Hammer.) I also find myself contemplating the difference between the first draft of a novel and the first draft of a short story.

    I think–though I’ll let my group inform me whether I’m right about this or not–that I write a much cleaner first draft with a short story than I do with a novel. This is hardly surprising of course; after all, a thousand words into a short story puts me half or two thirds of the way through, while a thousand words into a novel is at best a chapter. I have a much shorter arc to deal with, and in the same amount of space I’ve had to establish and develop setting, character, and plot. I’ve gotten to know the players very quickly, and if I need to go back and change something I only have a few pages to tweak. It keeps things simple. With a novel, changing something can mean dismantling whole chapters in order to maintain structural integrity. (And it just occurred to me that if folks built houses the way I write novels, there would be no chance of structural integrity what with putting up drywall and painting before the framing is even half finished. Never mind that doorway I cut out, boarded up, and moved two feet to the left only to put up a beaded curtain and a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign.)

    Anyway. Let’s get back to the subject at hand, which if I remember correctly, is short stories. In some ways, it’s easier to produce a clean first draft since I’m working with a much shorter narrative, but in other ways it’s harder to produce a first draft at all. Like I said above, within a thousand words I’ve already had to have some major plot and character development. I have to find out where our story is going that much sooner. Each detail is that much more important, and must be orchestrated with that much more finesse. It’s enough to drive a writer mad.

    That said, I’m now just over twelve hundred words into this story, Morality Hammer and all. The end is written in my head; I just need to type it up. Now if only I could figure out what to do about these pronouns.

    How does writing short stories compare to writing novels for you? Do you have a preference? How about other forms of writing? Poetry, scripts… tell me your tales!