Ramblings Of a Steampunk Writer

A blog about writing... occasionally mine. But, mostly just writing.

Becoming a Writer: Is a College Degree Worth It?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

source: sxc.hu
When I entered college for the first time I was twenty-one years old. I had expectations, ideas, and preconceived notions. Mostly, I had no idea I wanted to be a writer for a living. At the time, I was more interested in Zoology with a focus on Herpetology (the study of reptiles, ect). I wanted a doctorate, and I knew it was going to take me some ten years or more. That reason mostly had to do with my less-than-amazing math skills. They weren't great then, but they're better now.

The initial problem I faced after realizing I could be a writer, wanted to be one, and was willing to bleed and starve for my dream, wasn't that shouldn't I finish my AA; my real problem was should I seek further education? My father always placed importance on the 'back-up plan'. He said it was important for everyone to follow their dreams to the fullest, but to have something to fall back on, or that fell in line with what you loved so--at the very least--you could put food on the table in the meantime. I tend to agree with this ideology.

I considered my conundrum. My husband makes enough to support us (to a degree). It helps that my mother-in-law brings some funds to the table, as well as my other two roommates (and good friends). And while all three of them might not be around forever or living with us, Gary has a decent plan in place for us to be financially stable even if I'm not bringing in a great amount. Still, I would like to help. And there's a distinct possibility, a question, that every writer has to face: 

"Will I make enough money with writing alone?"

source: sxc.hu
For many writers, those who are not in my position, this is a big question. A lot of us have other jobs that have nothing to do with our chosen--beloved, though underpaid (for the most part)--career path. This is because many of us can't afford to survive and just write. Not all of us are so lucky, anyway; though, sometimes there are just many other variables involved that keep us from going as far as others might (to reach this potential).

But, this doesn't mean we have to flip burgers for a living either, or do something we don't enjoy. For some of us it's a matter of two careers. What I mean by that is, some of us who write are so lucky as to be good at both writing and say... being a career soldier. In the end, you're writing may be about what you do--in part--for a primary living. That's great, right? But, it's still not all of us. And if the writers I've interacted with are to be believed, many of us just want to write, read, and chill out in front of our computer typing away (mostly just talking to ourselves) in our pjs.

That'd be me, just so you know.

"Are there other options? Is the college option for writing worth it?"

source: sxc.hu
That really depends on you. But, before I elaborate on you too much, let me elaborate on my answer to the question and why it works for me.

Yes. For me, getting my Masters in Creative Writing Fiction is worth it. Overlooking the problem of being a starving artist here's why:

  • College writing, lit, and comp classes make you a better writer.
I look at some of the things I've written prior to these classes and I cringe. The expectations, suggestions, and critiques set out by my professor (who has a doctorate in poetry) and my peers greatly improved my skill level. I've never really been prouder of myself.

And it's not just your grammar base or vocabulary that you find has increased or improved. You find yourself becoming a more rounded writer when you read, analyze, write about, and examine older works from other writers.

  • It opens you up to new genres or things you might not have ever read before.
Were it not for my dear Dr. Byrd I would have never formed my love-hate relationship with Hemingway  I'm a fiction reader; a modern fiction reader--as in, sometime around the last ten to twenty years or so (with the exception of Bradbury). It's not that I hate old books; I just have a hard time jump-starting myself into reading them without some kind of incentive. (I still haven't finished The Three Musketeers.)

For me, that incentive was talking with other people about what we got from the piece we read; digging deep and talking about it. Then, hearing how on or off the mark we may or may not have been from our professor.

  • You make connections and network.
I can't tell you how many people I've met through school, people who aren't even in my career path, that offer me a fountain of information or sources for my writing. You need a website guy? While it's not a guarantee, you might find yourself a decently priced undergrad who needs a little income or a-way-get-their-name-out-there who's willing to do your site for little to no cost. Need an artist? College artists love to draw; they also need funds for their work like the rest of us. And in many cases, that photographer is just as good, if not better, than a 'professional'.

Even if you can't offer money as service for their work, you can always do an exchange of work by writing for them or their sites, ect.

Ultimately, going to college is my best option not just because of the above reasons, but for the same reason my dad mentioned: the back up plan. With a masters degree I can teach as professor; as a high school, middle school, or elementary school teacher; I can offer tutoring; and I can work as an editor. I could even be a freelance editor. And guess what? I'm still basically doing what I love while I write my novels.

"So, do I really need a college degree to write?"

The simple answer is: no, but it helps.

The more complex answer is: it really depends on your situation. College costs a lot; quite a bit more than it should, in this humble author's opinion. Students are incurring major loan debt in the country. Not all of us are sure how or if we can pay it back. Really, we need a solid solution that works. But, this has many people wondering if it's worth it at all. Why put yourself in debt when you're essentially gambling on making enough in your field? And that's what it boils down to: is it worth it for you.
source: sxc.hu

My suggestion would be to look at where you are in life, consider sources (online and off) on how much what you want to do pays out annually, and then make the best choice you can.

You don't need a degree to write; hopefully we never will. But, I firmly believe that if you can afford to do it, if you can take the risk, it makes you a much better writer.

Author Interview & The Writing Process: A Mess To Some, Organized To Others

Saturday, March 23, 2013

First order of business: My author interview is up for those of you who are interested in reading it. I think its fascinating stuff, but I could be a little biased. Anyway, link is here.

Now, onto the meat of the article.

When I first started writing fanfiction years ago I was something of a lazy author. What child, teenager, isn't though? I would never make an outline, but I always had a general idea of what I was writing about at the beginning, the middle, and the end. Still, is this really laziness or are you just using a creative process? I know or have heard of a number of authors who can and do write this way; however, from those authors I've also heard frustrations bemoaned...

"I don't know what to write now..." 
"I have writer's block!" 
"Bloody hell! It's not working!" 
"Can you help me brainstorm? I just don't know where this story is going anymore..."

It's not and entirely uncommon theme. They're frustrated; who wouldn't be? Sometimes this freeform way of writing works in the start, or just works for those rare people; although, for the majority of us--insofar as I've noticed--if doesn't work.

So, what do you do? You're asking yourself, can I still be a freeform kind of writer and be a little more organized?

Let's first look at what works for others in the extreme case of organizing.

When I first explored publishing I came across a site about formatting a manuscript and synopsis; naturally, these were things I was still learning about beyond my grade school/high school definitions. The woman who wrote the web site (I'd share it if I still had the link) spoke about her form of organization and how it was very important to the writing process to establish one. Her method was very in depth; she had a room just for writing that had: a filing system, post-it notes and index cards, and a map on the wall of the city her novel (series) encompassed. Now, this was just the tip of the iceberg. She would use the index cards on a wall with tacks and then run strings wrapped around them to other index cards; all of the index cards had information about the book(s); each one connected to a different idea or how something was connected in the story. This was to help her keep track of all her ideas and story-lines over the course of her book series or book.

I found this fascinating, but couldn't see myself doing it. Still, it was an awesome idea for the more driven of writers in need of a visual aid. If you're that type of author it could work very well for you. Or, if you have a lot of books and series sometimes the notebook stack of information might need a more stretched out visual form. I can personally see myself getting to this level in the next few years when I actually have my own writing room/office/studio/study.

Is there an easier way?

There's plenty. For now, my own methods worked very well for me after reading Fiction: The Art and Craft and Getting Published by Michael Seidman. He covers a great number of topics, but outlining was one of the better sections. He urges there aren't really any rules about it, not in so many words. At the very least though, you need a rough bulleted list for the whole book; or numbered. It needs to encompass your beginning, your climax, your ending, and bits of things you consider important between all these that you want to have happen no matter what (at least when you begin to come up with your ideas). He tells the reader the list can change at anytime during the novel writing, but it's important to have because it helps keep a writer on track.

I wasn't so sure at first, but the guy has been in the publishing business since before computers became available to the public; I figured he had a point. I gave it a whirl and altered his idea to suit my own needs.

When I make an outline I do it on my computer first. Recently, I'll do it on a reference tab on Scrivenver. (A great--the best in my opinion--writing program. I'll cover it in another entry.) It's just for the whole of the book and rough at that. Then, as I start to write (in that more freeform manner) and find myself hitting blocks, I'll make outlines in a notebook for each chapter. This keep me from getting in a slump, gets me away from the computer where the slump may have a hold on me (or the computer might be giving me distractions: facebook as an example), and helps me keep continuity. It's also another freeform way of writing because it helps me brainstorm and run with ideas however I see fit through each chapter outline.

Now, my outlines are not perfect. For my novel outlines it's really loose one a bulleted list with almost no chapter distinction. On my chapter outlines I just write the chapter name at the top of the page (Chapter 25 as an example: very basic) and then write a summary of what I want to have happen.

So what should I do...?

Whatever works best. If the total freeform method is working for you, then keep it up! But, I urge you to always try new ways to write. Sometimes, you might find your writing grows and matures to something better. More importantly, you might find a way to do this process and that's better than what you're currently doing.



Interview Inspired Writing

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recently, (actually last night) I did an author/book interview for The Steam Runner. One of the many questions I was asked about the book was what made it stand apart from other self-published books. Now, at first, this make me think of how different the book was in all it's forms, then it made me think about the message I was trying to send. However, I finally came to the conclusion--that in some part--it was about my long-standing dislike with the weak female in literature (especially romance novels). Now, Gary (my husband) came in to sat down and listen to me read back the interview with my responses. Oddly, when I came to this question he pointed that I should add more about the other reason why my book is different from other self-published books (which you can read in the interview later). With some nagging in my head, I went to bed and closed my computer

Today I got up and the question started plaguing my mind again; my answer did.

Recently, I'd watched a video on youtube about female tropes in video games. I found it thought-provoking as a gamer--a female gamer. I'd never seen it that way before. But, there you had it; women being used in a number of video games as devices or objects for the male hero's or champion's growth. Now, don't get me wrong. It doesn't bother me if someone uses it as a device. It only bothers me when there's so little on the opposite side of the fence.

That prompted me today to look at some of her other videos. One in particular about the Woman in Refrigerators trope. It just sounded odd so I had to watch it. (You can view the video here.)

But all this comes back to my response.

I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a kid. I liked women like Laura Croft in her movie (based on the game Tomb Raider) who weren't anymore afraid to take their clothes off and strut around naked as they day they were born as much as some men would (typically) in a movie (to fluster a female character). I liked woman who could get out a sticky situation on their own and did. I enjoyed stories where she wasn't always be saved, but also did the saving.

When I created Tes I created a character that could stand on her own, who could save herself, who didn't always need someone to back her up--male or female. Watching these videos has given me ideas for future novels in order to combat these tropes and stereotypes. It's not that they're bad; it's that there's too many of them.

We as authors, creators, artists, and visionaries need to stand up and and empower female characters we create. Not so there are stories without male characters growing from the tragedy of a female character, but so there are more stories where this is either reversed or doesn't happen at all. It's not about balance; it's about showing men, women, girls, and boys that women don't always need to saved, they don't always need to be captured, they don't always have to be the ones standing aside who can't solve the problem instead of their male counterparts. We need to give generations a viewpoint that different and shows them they can aspire to being more than a plot device for the growth another character--male or female.

We need female heroes who are the stars of their own stories and save their love interest, if they have one.

That's all I'm saying.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Finally finished with the majority of my work for class. I've got more to do this week, but I'm not being bombarded anymore. Tomorrow I will more than likely begin working on the first chapter of the next book in The Steam Runner: The Clockwork Archer. I'm very excited. I'm supposed to see the pencil work for the cover from my artist sometime this week. We already planned out the basic design when he was in the area. I can't wait to show you guys. But, I'm not really sure how soon that will be. I'll keep you posted.

I already have an outline done. I plan on it being ten or more chapters, just like the last book was. I've also got plans to explain a little bit about why Tes had the poketwatch, for those of you have been keeping up with the book on the website, or those of you who have read the whole first book through purchasing it. For a while there I wasn't sure. I had some ideas, but now it's all concrete. It'll likely take a few books before it's all revealed. But then, I have no idea how long this series might be. Perhaps 15 books, perhaps 30. Who knows. I do know one thing I'm big on continuity. I generally hate it when you can read or watch something and tell they came up with it on the fly and it just doesn't fit, or it contradicts what the writer has already written. I can promise I won't do that; too much of a stickler over the notion.

Fanfiction is almost done entirely. I finished one work and now I've just got two left. One is a collaboration and the other is just me working on it. I have to finish them both. I dislike being sombody who doesn't finish stuff, although it has happened from time to time. (I'm working on it.)

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the blog post. Keep up with me on my online accounts like facebook and twitter. Or, you know, my website.

No Writing For The Weary

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I am jam-packed busy this week. Bio work, Math work, and Social Problems work. Ugh. And this Saturday I have an 8 hour computer class (and next Saturday too) to meet a one-credit requirement to graduate. My brain is fried already! I also have a midterm for Bio on Sunday! I really wanted to get this new book started for The Steam Runner series and it's just not gonna happen (probably) until April. And then I'll only have a month to get it done.

>,< ARG!

New Chapter ect

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Got a chapter posted for up for The Steam Runner and the outline written for the next book. My trademark extension is up in June, so I need to get the second one done to get it all finalized and the trademark approved. Because it's for a book series they want to examples of the books--as in two different books. It's a pain, but has to be done.

The outline took me about an hour and half. It's over 2k words and completely covers each chapters in rough form on what needs to be written. I had planned to only do a rough outline like usual and chapter outlines separately, but I don't really have time for that.

As you may or may not have seen on the site, I updated my twitter as well; I'm still trying to get solid info on the con; and I released the first book on nook also. I was tempted to do it for smashwords also, but I haven't quite had the time to figure out their system with what's going on at my house.

For my fanfiction readers... I'm working on the chapter for Right Kind of Wrong, the Neji/Tenten fic. Nokito and I are nearly done, but it's still taking a while. I'm hoping to have that update out by the end of the week if all goes well. However, I do have a lot of sewing for my steampunk costume for Dragon*con. I'll do my best! As always. *grins*

Thank for reading.

Still Rutting

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's now Sunday night. Actually, Monday morning. And the gist of it is? I'm still not done with my latest chapter (and final chapter) of Nightingale. I'm over 1,000 words in, but its still not coming easily. At first I thought it was the juice fast keeping me from writing. But now, I'm starting to think it's just where I'm at. My mother's house is not the most productive of environments. I really think I need to do something about it, but I'm not really sure what.

I did get out of the house today. Went to see... well, I would wouldn't call him a friend because we're not close. More business acquaintances than anything else. Anyway, Eloy, a sorta friend of mine, is starting a con over in Tampa; a gaming con. I went to the small meeting today, talked, helped with info. Overall, I'm excited about it. It's not going to be big it's first year, but what con is? And it's good for me to get involved in growing project. It'll help me establish myself as a member of the con community. And there's no real wrong exposure in that. Well, I suppose in some ways there might be. But, it's not that sort of con.

I'm going to Dragon*con this year, I just submitted my trademark Statement of Use for the book, and I'm getting involved in a con just starting up this year; overall, it wasn't a terrible day. I just need to make good use of this energy and get my chapter done. Maybe I'll try some meditation tomorrow...

Writing Rut

Thursday, January 3, 2013

We've all been there. Times in our lives as writers when we're just like, "I'm not feeling it." Conquering it is the real pain. Getting back into that thing you call your passion... it should be easy, right? You just sit down and start typing. For me? Not so much; even if it is the advice I drum out to people on a regular basis who are having just that problem.

Watching TV barely helps, even if it's something that has to do with what you're writing. Movies are much the same. Going out really only stalls it most of the time; at least for me. Reading something can help, but it's not always beneficial. Honestly, I find that nothing really helps. On occasion, working out the chapters on paper, like outlines, that helps. At the end though, what if you're on your last chapter for a book or a story? You've got it all done, you know how it's supposed to go, but you just can't seem to get it done. And you're afraid that if you do... it's just gonna be crap.

The only thing that really helps is just writing it, to be truthful. Sometimes it's crap, but sometimes it's brilliant. Sometimes it's just your mood. I think for me, lately, it's just my mood. It's the location. Not being in my own house doesn't help at all. I'm one of those people that has a spot that works for me. It's my zen spot. And when I'm there, with all my things, it works out. It's easier. I have a hard time imagining people who go to Starbucks, or coffee shops, or bookstores--libraries even--and write with no problem at all. Sometimes I can do it, but very rarely. The spot is all wrong.

Today I got a little done. But mostly it's the scene. It's not transpiring in my paper like it does in my head. And I've been putting off writing the bloody thing for over a month. Which, really, isn't good for my readers. But, perhaps saying it here will help me get it all in gear. It has to get done by the end of the week, right?

Here's hoping.

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