No One Else Remembers

Too many stars in the Interlochen winter sky, too bright, the sky so heavy with them, many were bound to fall.

David Lloyd WhitedJust small-town Northwesterners in someone else’s town, we ate deep-fried mushrooms in a log-cabin bar, watched the multitude of animated beer signs, chatted with the outlaw snowmobilers in leather and denim, who laughed at a friend’s latest drunken escapade, racing a snowmobile off the bank into the lake. An off-duty sheriff harrumphed, complained about having to go out in the cold all the time for fools.

“It’s just what happens here,” one guy shrugs, and breaks a rack at the pool table.

The next day on the road home, the ’42 Plymouth goes into multiple 360-degree spins on the icy highway.

“Sit on the floor,” you say, calm as we silently spin down the roadside.

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10-point Scale for Judgment Calls

In a recent discussion launched by Leta Blake, several of us discussed writers who complain in a simplistic way about “too much sex,” especially in Romance. Others on the thread asked for sensitivity about a reader’s (or writer’s) desire not to be judged for their preferences and desires to avoid stories that prove to be triggering or personally distasteful.

I’ve longed for a broader set of measures for books than 5 unranked stars. I have to read a lot of both positive and negative reviews — and the online sample — to guess the quality and author direction for the story. I most want that level of information when choosing a Mystery, because the AlsoBot and ‘Other Titles Like This One’ don’t meet my needs on most retail or review sites.

But today we were talking about sexual situation in Romance. So here’s the evaluation scale I wish I could find when choosing  a story, and that I apply as a writer while deciding what belongs in a particular story. (And I bet this won’t display well on a mobile device). Continue reading

“What If They Fire My Boss?”

AbideThis article is for my peers and comrades who are technical-communications professionals that work in vendor contracting agencies, rather than working as full-time employees of a technology company.

Here in Seattle right now, you can’t innocently browse the Web, glance at your Facebook feed, or check scores in the local newspaper without a fearsome speculation jumping out to grab you:

“Layoffs of up to 5,642 Reportedly Expected”
“With Merger, Local Layoffs Are Expected”
“Will Wall Street Still Love this Company When It Lays Off 20% of  Workforce?”

Then your mother or sister or best friend from college calls and asks, innocently, “Will you lose your job with all these layoffs?”

… that haven’t actually happened …

Those of us who choose to work as contract employees are always steeped in uncertainty:

What happens if this contract is cancelled?

Will this contract be renewed when it ends?

Have all contracting jobs dried up?

Let me share some manager’s experience about the issues that can affect contract works when the “permanent” supervisor’s position seems to be in jeopardy. Continue reading

You Get What You Measure: Fiction Edition

In grade school, I was the youngest and smallest in the class and always chosen last for any team sports. The boys groaned when the even-odd count resulted in me on their team.
You Get What You Measure, Fiction Writers!On the other hand, for the 7,583 times we were forced to play prison ball in the guise of physical education, I was the last person standing on my team more than fifty percent of the time. I was nimble, so the bell rang before anyone managed to cream me with the ball.

How did I achieve this? The boys’ goal was to win the game by smashing the ball into people as hard as they could. Most often they picked off the girls first, but forgot about me till the end. My goal? Never touch the ball and never let it touch me. I had no other concept of “winning.”

When I worked as a technical writer on product software, we had specific measures for productivity and quality, plus an external schedule, milestones, and job-related incentives for innovation and creativity. It’s a world in which it’s relatively easy to track success as a writer.

Now that I work full-time as a fiction writer and publisher of non-fiction, I need different markers for success in my writing. For me, daily word count is not an adequate measure of productivity.  However, I was also formerly a manager known for creative definition of realistic measures for productivity and success. So I’ve been thinking about how to understand my own productivity as a fiction writer without focusing only on word count and number of publications per quarter. I’m sharing some of those ideas here for other fiction writers, especially those who don’t write fiction full time as their principal income.

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That Was the Week That Was #1

You Can Be an Artist!While I gather disparate info for my writing and personal life, the details don’t lead quickly to coherent sets of stories. So I’m going to try collecting and reporting bits in a Weekly Reader format, with Departments.

Reading with the Greatest Impact

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Preplanning? Si! Procrastinating? No!

My post for tech-communications professionals is up today at Steyer Associates web site: Procrastinating … or Preplanning?

I propose in that piece that for professional communicators, most “procrastination” is your brain begging for more preplanning time… though that begs the question:

How is “preplanning” different from regular old planning?

If You Want to WriteIt’s a question of being ready to commit.
I’ve long posited that for any tech-writing project, there’s probably 25 solutions, and you want to concentrate only on the best 3 — then pick one and commit to action.

However, that’s not always so straightforward, whether for tech-writing, fiction, or other projects. Brenda Ueland, in If You Want to Write, presents critical ideas in her chapter, “The Imagination Works Slowly and Quietly.”

Following the “slow imagination” concept, preplanning is: Continue reading

Up on Blocks

Here’s a quote from Philip Pullman (of His Dark Materials) that PVG posted on the Passive Voice blog today:

All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?

Up on Blocks  - CanyonChasersIn the community discussion, many writers disagreed with Pullman’s, but I buy it. I’ve been “blocked” in other, non-writing professional work—when I don’t know the answers and have to wait for the creative solution to come. And I’ve done enough complex remodels that I know plumbers and carpenters have to be creative…and it some times takes a while to find the answer.

Over 30 years of professional writing, I’ve asserted that what people call “writer’s block” is God’s way of keeping down the level of crap that gets out into the world. Writing might slow down, and require a few walks around the neighborhood, but if I’m facing anything that’s called a block, I ask myself these questions: Continue reading