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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



  • Fear Of Writing

    Writer: n. Someone living in a constant state of wtf by choice. ~Eric Andrew Satchwill

    Lately, I’ve been reading Page Fright: Foibles and Fetishes of Famous Writers by Harry Bruce. At one point, he quotes a number of authors talking about the abject terror they feel when they sit down to write, and it got me thinking about my own attitude towards writing.

    I don’t approach writing with fear so much as complete and utter bewilderment. I’m far too stubborn to not be writing, and compared with the fear involved in shifting one’s identity as I have, the fear of a blank page is laughable. Even so, when I stop and think about what it is I’m doing as I writer, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer audacity of it.

    You see, I’m not just putting down words, I’m creating worlds. I’m picking up human failings and fleshing them out into living, breathing people, and I’m putting them in some of the most absurd situations I can imagine. I take these situations and play them out to their logical conclusions until I suddenly find myself to be the custodian of several worlds, numerous diverse people, and the engineer of no less than three wars between them.

    And I had thought that all I would be doing was following one character through an ordinary day in his life.

    It’s not only the large scale, ‘I wasn’t planning on starting another war but apparently I am’ realizations that so thoroughly bemuse me while writing, it’s the details. It’s realizing that while the situation makes perfect sense based on the chain of events and the worldbuilding, the fact that I have a gay daemon and his lesbian slave trying to find a misplaced closet is completely and utterly ridiculous. It’s these sorts of things that make me stop, blink for several seconds, then burst out laughing. I can’t quite explain how it happened, but it did, and it works.

    And you know what? I love every absurd, bewildering, and downright ridiculous moment of it. I love knowing that I am tackling something that no sane person would try and that without me, none of these situations could play out quite the way they have. This is who I am. This is my calling.

    Whether I chose this vocation or it chose me, I am a writer and I am not afraid.

     

    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 Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Nobel



  • A Kobo, a Dropbox, and a Sharpie Pen

    Since today is Back Up Your Novel Day, I thought I’d share with you how I work backing up my novel into the daily process of writing so that I never forget to do it.

    First and foremost, I use Dropbox as my primary save folder. Anything saved on my computer is automatically backed up, without my even having to think about it. First draft, second, third; it’s all there, and I can access my files remotely if my computer crashes or if I don’t have access to it for whatever reason.

    I also tend to work at least partially in hard-copy, whether it’s writing at work during November or editing and rewriting during the rest of the year. Granted, this is only a partial back-up, but thanks to my printer and any one of my numerous Sharpie Pens I have a hard copy of whatever I’m working on somewhere… even if that particular filing system leaves much to be desired.

    Finally, and as an aid to the writing and editing process, I save an up-to-date version of my novel on my Kobo. I just compile from Scrivener (love you guys so much!) into epub format, save it directly to my device, et voilà! An easy-access quick-reference to everything I’ve written in my novel thus far, and–you guessed it–another back up.

    And that’s just what I do on a daily basis. At semi-regular intervals, I also back up everything I’ve added or changed on my computer, my phone, and my Kobo onto a usb key. I even have copies on there of things I’ve deleted from my other devices for reasons of space or convenience (it’s no fun scrolling through several hundred photos on your phone just to get to the latest one).

    If you’re like me and have backing up your work built into your creative process, good for you! You’re ahead of the game. If not, think of this as a reminder to back up your work, and to think of ways that you can do it more and more often.

    I’ve shared only a few of the ways you can back up your work. What do you use? How do you make sure you won’t lose all your hard work to a computer crash? Share your answers in the comments :)



  • Writing for Fun and Frustration

    or

    Why Am I Wrestling An Octopus Into A Mayonnaise Jar Again?

    “Writing a novel… is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar.” –Attributed to Patti Hill.

    I think this quote describes the writing process perfectly (thank you @BA_Matthews for bringing it to my attention). It’s not impossible to wrestle an octopus into a mayonnaise jar. They’re squishy and can squeeze into small places easily. But they’re also slippery and will wriggle out of your grasp, especially if they’ve decided they don’t want to be in mayonnaise jars, thank you very  much. And we invariably come to a point where we wonder why we decided to try wrestling octopuses into mayonnaise jars in the first place (but are too stubborn to give up because now that we’ve started we’re going to damn well finish the job).

    I’m not sure what possesses us to write. I can’t quite say why, after two years, I’m still beating my manuscript into submission, but I am. What I do know is that I couldn’t stop if I tried. I can’t imagine not having half-edited chapters strewn across the house, not tapping furiously away on my computer, and not yelling at my characters for refusing to reveal some all-important element until part way through the third draft. I can’t imagine not living in this constant state of joyful exasperation.

    And perhaps that’s the point. The joyful exasperation. All the frustrations, hair-pulling, and setbacks come with visible progress, excitement, and growth as we learn our craft and our art. For us, the process of writing is at least as important as the finished product. We complain, we moan, we gnash our teeth… and we love every minute of it. In the end, when our octopus is firmly in its jar and sitting on the shelf, we’ll look at it and remember what an insane, wonderful time we had putting it there.

    That, is why we write.



  • And Now For Something Completely Different

    We all have our writing routines. Some are more strict than others, some involve a particular setting or music, and some include what we’re reading when we’re not working. Sometimes we need these routines–and sometimes we need to abandon them for something completely different.

    My routine typically involves listening to no music whatsoever while working, and reading a similar genre to my own during leisure times to keep in the proper mindset. Recently, however, I hit a bit of a snag. The novel I’m up to the eyeballs editing and rewriting, Fallen Things, is urban fantasy (though I wonder sometimes if it isn’t more contemporary fantasy), so I’ve been reading a lot of urban fantasy. A good idea usually, but it wasn’t working this time.

    Whenever I sat down to work, I was annoyed with what I was writing. Whenever I went to relax with a book, I was annoyed with what I was reading. Whatever I was doing, I was annoyed, and I realized that I just wasn’t getting a break from anything, which wasn’t helpful. Something needed to change.

    A couple of things happened at once here: the first was that I was looking for some music that related to the character I was working on. While I usually find listening to music while writing distracting, I relate certain songs to certain characters and listen to those when I’m doing other things. This one, however, was being tricky. Nothing seemed to fit–until I abandoned the lyric-filled pop and rock music for Beethoven. It fit him so perfectly, and since I wasn’t trying to sing along with it, I could listen to it while I worked.

    The second thing was finding a selection of classic literature on sale three for ten dollars. Having two versions of the song Wuthering Heights, (Kate Bush and Pat Benatar), I thought I ought to actually read the book sometime. This was a complete departure from what I had been reading, and I loved it. For the first time in a while, it actually felt like I was giving my brain a break from the work I’d given it. I didn’t have to compare things like style and point of view because they weren’t  meant to follow the same guidelines.

    I still spend a good deal of editing time glaring at the screen. That’s a natural part of the process. But the task doesn’t seem so impossible any more, and my leisure time, filled with Emily Brontë and Beethoven, actually feels like leisure time again. I can actually relax.

    Sometimes our writing routines help us to be more productive, but sometimes we need to know when to put aside old practices and shake things up a bit. Sometimes we need something completely different.



  • There’s No Such Thing as a Minor Change

    As you can probably guess, I’m deep in the middle of the editing process on my novel. I’ve been through the whole story at least once–some parts many, many more times than that–and now I’m making all those minor adjustments needed for the story to flow and make sense.

    Except that there are no minor adjustments. Not really.

    One of my characters originally had a cat. After some deliberation, I realized that the cat was a ‘darling’, something lovely and oh-so-precious but ultimately a detriment to the story, and had to be ‘killed’. Of course, since I had performed incredible contortionist feats to accommodate the stupid cat in the first place, I now find myself having to delete any mention of it in the first quarter of the book, at least. This means rearranging dialogue, description, action… the beast had gotten his paws into all sorts of things.

    In another instance, I realized that I should maybe introduce a particular minor character who plays a major role sometime before his appearance in the final act. It should be easy enough to just have him passing through a particular scene early on, right? Wrong. The fact that he’s even there in that early scene reverberates through the rest of the novel, affecting how many other scenes play out. Some of it will be in the background where the reader won’t necessarily see it, but some of it happens right out there on the page. Let’s face it, I can’t really introduce a character as occupying a particular setting and then ignore his presence whenever it becomes inconvenient.

    Every time I make a tiny change, it seems to snowball, affecting something two, three, twenty scenes down the line. Sometimes it means having to make notes later (or sometimes earlier) in the draft to make sure I account for that change where it matters. It can become a lot of work, especially since it’s never just one minor change. But you know what? All that work? It’s worth it. One of the amazing things about making these changes is seeing how much better my story is becoming.

    Because just as one minor change leads to a string of other changes, it can also snap a string of events into focus. Suddenly, one character’s behaviour makes a lot more sense, and another’s motivation becomes clearer. Everything becomes tighter, everything becomes richer, and everything hangs in a better balance. And the best part? Through all these changes, I’m still discovering new things about my characters as they do things I hadn’t anticipated, things that say so much more about about their personalities than what was there before.

    If you happen to be in the same boat as I am with your writing process, don’t worry. All that hard work and all those ‘minor’ adjustments are worth it in the end, bringing your story to a stronger, more cohesive place.



  • 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.



  • Building Bridges Part 3: Employment

    In some ways it feels like just yesterday that I started at Alberta Job Corps, and in others it feels like I’ve been there forever. Job Corps was always meant to be a short-term program and there I was, coming up on my third month and wondering if maybe there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t find work and wasn’t even getting any call-backs.

    Today, that changed. Today I was offered a job as a hotel desk clerk, and I took it.

    It’s a good opportunity for me. Full-time, decent wage, benefits after three months, and above all, work that I’ll find rewarding while still giving me time for my writing and studies. I’ll get to interact with new and different people every day and let’s face it, service feeds me. Why else would I be looking at ministry?

    The one downside: the shift I’ll be working includes Sundays. This means I won’t be able to continue as an assistant youth church leader and I won’t be able to attend my regular church as often. I had to think hard about it, do some soul searching–and talk my minister’s ear off a little–but I finally decided that this was an opportunity I needed to take. I had to realize that this does not represent a step back in my faith journey, only a detour.

    The way I see it, if I take a chance on something and it falls through, then it wasn’t meant for me. By that token working at the registry wasn’t where I was meant to be right now, and that’s fine. But if I have an opportunity and I don’t take it? That’s on me. It’s up to me to take what I’m given, and I’m done with letting things pass me by because I’m afraid or because it’s inconvenient.

    I have to work Sundays? All right. I can’t help lead the youth church, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be involved in my church in other ways. For example, there’s still bible study on Monday nights where I can keep in touch with my minister. I can still worship, even if that means going to the Wednesday service at another church. I can still study; after all, no one’s taking my books away from me just because I got a new job(and I’d like to see them try.) In fact, this way I’ll be better able to afford going back to school in the evenings which is a step forward in the long run.

    Today, I cleaned out my locker at Job Corps. Tomorrow, I start my new life as a hotel desk clerk. And for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have solid ground under my feet.