Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome. We all have it, don’t we? That feeling of “who the hell am I, to be calling myself a writer? Who the hell am I, to think I can write [whatever genre you write]?”

I have this in a bad way.

First, it was “who the hell am I to write gay romance? I’m not a gay man.”

Then I discovered that 90% of readers and writers of gay romance are women.

So it turned into “who the hell am I, a straight white chick writing about queer characters?”

Then I realized I’m queer AF.

So it turned into “who the hell am I to think I’m a writer? I don’t have anything published.”

Then I got something published.

So my brain says, “Yeah but that’s not good enough. Look at that guy. He’s got all kinds of books published. Look at her, she’s self-publishing like crazy. You’re over here with one little story, claiming you’ve been writing for years.”

You all know exactly how this feels. I guarantee it. There’s only one writer I know of who claims he never feels this way, and that’s Stephen King (and I still don’t really buy it). We all feel like we’re just stumbling along, clueless, faking it, hiding our inadequacies and hoping no one will ever find out that we have no idea what we’re doing.

How do we cope with imposter syndrome?

Just keep doing the thing you feel you can’t do. Keep writing. If you’re a straight white woman and you want to write about two guys fucking, do it. If you’re a 30-something man and you want to write a YA book with a 15-year-old girl MC, do it. If you’re a cis person and you want to write a trans character, do it. Be respectful and realistic, do your due diligence as an author, do research, and go for it.

Because here’s the thing, in my opinion: The fact that you are questioning your abilities and questioning your self-worth means that you are able and worthy. There’s this cool thing in psychology called the Dunning-Kruger effect and I think it comes into play here. Basically, people who are of “lower cognitive ability” suffer from an “illusory superiority”–in other words, people who can’t do things/aren’t good at things, think they can/are. They have no idea of their inadequacy.

If you are conscious of the fact that you need to improve, the fact that you may not “fit the bill,” then you are already on the right track. I want to write a transgender character. Though I am non-binary and therefore transgender, I am terrified of writing harmful rep or just writing something dumb because I don’t understand 100% what it’s like to feel wrong in your own body. Who am I to try to write that?

The trick is to kick imposter syndrome in the face and put in the work so that the imposter syndrome is invalid. Who am I to try to write a trans character? Well, I’m a writer, and I want to write a trans character. Boom. That’s all you need to get started. That, and the knowledge that you must do it well. I have trans friends, thanks to Twitter. I have the internet. I have other books. Imposter syndrome can nay-say me all it wants, but I can bury myself in research. I can make myself the type of person who is able to write what I want to write.

Try to look at imposter syndrome as a challenge to overcome. When you hear yourself asking “who am I, to do this thing?” remind yourself exactly who you are. You are a writer. You want to do this thing. The fact that you think you can’t or shouldn’t, is actually a sign that you’re already a step ahead of the pack. You can. You should. It will take work, but nothing worth doing is easy.

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My Asexual WIPs

It is Asexual (Ace) Awareness Week!

To celebrate, I’m going to talk a bit about my ace guys and why I’m writing them.

I currently have two novels in progress with asexual characters. The first one, tentatively named Trustfall, is a contemporary romance and features an asexual submissive gay man entering his first serious Dom/sub relationship. He is willing to have sex with his Dom to please him and to gain relief from sexual arousal (which, even without sexual attraction, CAN happen). This novel will portray a kinky relationship without sex. It is important to acknowledge that kink isn’t inherently sexual, and aceness doesn’t preclude kink.

The second, No Wrong Man (again, title may change), features an asexual man who does not have sex. Ever. This one is urban fantasy. Magic is real and commonplace, and the relationship between the ace guy and his boyfriend entails toys, masturbation, and (consensual) magical mind games, but never physical sex. This one ends up with polyamory, which will be fun and difficult to write.

To me, it is vital to have asexual characters appear in fiction. Since realizing my own asexuality, I’ve been incredibly motivated to write ace characters. It turns out I’ve been writing ace characters all along but never knew it. Those guys who just “don’t care about sex” or “haven’t had sex in years”… Turns out they’re ace. There are characters in other fiction who “don’t have sex” or whatever, but they’re rarely/never labeled asexual–whether because the writers don’t know the term exists/don’t understand it, or because the writers just don’t want to assign that term to a character, I don’t know. Maybe the author knows the character is ace but can’t figure out how to work that into the plot/dialogue. Maybe the author doesn’t know asexuality exists. Whatever the reason for the scarcity of ace characters, I don’t like it and I want it to change.

Romance–the genre I assign myself to–is often very sex-focused, as if a healthy sex life is the absolute most important part of every single relationship. That is not true. Everyone’s needs and desires vary, and I want to portray functional relationships that don’t hinge on sexual attraction. I want other people to portray them, too. I think realizing I’m asexual saved me from a potential huge mistake in my life, and I hope by writing ace characters I can help others reach the realization that being sexually attracted to a person isn’t the ultimate goal to aspire to in life.

Jigs and Reels pre-order available!

Hi everyone!

I know I’ve been kind of quiet on the blog front lately. I’m working on getting back in the swing of things. I just wanted to pop in and give another publication update!!! Jigs and Reels is up for pre-order! The release date is September 16. I am absolutely in love with this cover. Check out the blurb below and click the link under the image to pre-order!!

 

Jigs and Reels final

BLURB:

Elijah works in a cubicle, lives with his parents, and never goes on dates. It isn’t an exciting life, but it’s safe and easy and that’s good enough.

Then he meets Peter, a whirlwind of a man who leads a traveling renaissance band. Peter represents everything Eli usually avoids, but his boisterous enthusiasm is infectious… and his band needs a fiddle player.

When Eli agrees to fill in for a weekend, he awakens a part of himself he thought long gone. With Peter’s help, he shakes off the dust that has settled on his soul and remembers how to have fun.

But when the band asks him to join them permanently, is Eli’s newborn sense of adventure — and insane crush on a man he barely knows — enough to make him leave the safety of a life he’s clung to for years?

Click here to pre-order!!

I’m going to be arranging some sort of release party on September 16, so stay tuned!

Publication Update – Jigs and Reels

Holy crap, guys, this is insanity!

A couple weeks ago, I submitted a short story to JMS Books, and within three days (THREE DAYS), they got back to me and offered me a contract for it. I’ve heard good things about JMS Books, so I accepted! My short story, Jigs and Reels, will be released in September! It features an anxious fiddle player, a rambunctious singer/flutist, and is set at/around a Renaissance fair.

awesome

You may remember a few months ago, I found out my flash fiction entry for the Queer Sci-fi contest, “Renewal,” was selected for inclusion in the anthology. Since then, I’ve been notified that it has received an Honorable Mention, meaning it scored in the top 25 of all entries! This is also awesome!

Jigs and Reels will be my first standalone piece, and I believe it’s going to be published before the QSF anthology, so it’s technically my first publication. My debut!

This is SO EXCITING, GUYS.

I’ve also been paying attention to submission calls for various publishers and I think I might submit something for one of NineStar press’s calls. Short stories seem to be doing well for me.

I may eventually self-publish a short story collection. I’ve written several recently which are less than 10k, which means virtually no publisher wants them except for anthologies, which generally have a theme, which my stories probably don’t fit into. We’ll see about that.

For now, I am QUITE content with what I’ve accomplished this year. I will announce a publication date for Jigs and Reels as soon as I know it. For now, it’s “September.” Stay tuned for more updates in the future!

Basic Tips for Beta Readers

A while back, I wrote a thread on Twitter with some quick tips on beta reading. I’m going to expand on this a little bit here.

First off, let’s get some terminology straightened out.

Beta reader – Your job as a beta reader is to tell the writer overall thoughts, point out areas where you didn’t follow the story or understand the characters’ motivations, and express opinions on style (for example, alternating POVs making it difficult to keep track of characters, certain chunks of the story being written as text messages made plot hard to follow, dialects and slang being confusing). As a beta reader, you don’t have to be a writer yourself, you just have to enjoy reading (and be familiar with the genre the writer is asking you to beta).

CP/Critique partner – Usually another writer of similar or higher skill. As a critique partner, you may want to trade your writing for theirs and ask for a critique in return. A CP should be able to give more in-depth feedback than just general impressions, and should be able to give advice on how to fix issues. Being a CP implies a more lengthy relationship than just a simple “read this when I’m done with it.” As a CP, you may engage in back-and-forth discussion and brainstorming about each others’ works.

Editor – Editors are the ones who polish up your manuscript after you’re pretty much done with it. They’ll check grammar, punctuation, and style. Where a beta reader and a CP will do what they do for free (or in exchange for critiques on their own work), an editor should be a professional who gets paid.

How does one become a beta reader? You can either advertise yourself, or keep an eye on authors’ social media to see when they ask for betas. Before you agree to beta, you should be aware of the manuscript’s genre, length, and the writer’s hoped-for turnaround time. If you’re going to advertise yourself, list what genres you’re willing to beta read (they should be genres you’ve read a lot of already, so you’re familiar with styles and tropes) and an estimate on how long it would take you to complete a book of average length for that genre (i.e., “I’m willing to beta romance novels. My turnaround for an average length romance is 2-3 weeks”). Keep in mind, beta readers are volunteers. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

So now that we have that cleared up, a general tip: use the comments feature in MS Word or Google Docs to insert thoughts and opinions as you go, if anything jumps out at you. Then, also write a summarizing few sentences or paragraph at the end with your overall impressions after finishing the manuscript.

Now, without further ado, here’s a list of do’s and do not’s for beginning beta readers.:

  1. DO pay attention to what the writer specifically asks you to pay attention to. If the writer says “Let me know if you think John’s breakdown in chapter 4 is over the top,” pay particular attention to John and his breakdown in chapter 4. Write your thoughts on it as soon as you get to it, so you don’t forget to tell the writer what you thought.
  2. DO NOT make changes to anything, especially to stylistic things, especially if the novel is in first person. I had a beta reader who put my document in track changes and deleted every ellipses in the story with no explanation. That was neither helpful nor what I asked them to do, and all it did was annoy me. Those ellipses were a decision, not a mistake. If you notice that the writer uses a distracting amount of ellipses or frequently uses the wrong “too” or some other grammatical/stylistic thing bugs you or pulls you out of the story, definitely comment on that, but actually changing things like that is an editor’s job.
  3. DO give feedback on what you like and what does work just as much as you give feedback on anything you don’t like or doesn’t work. “No news is good news” is not how a writer’s brain works. They aren’t going to zero in on the 5 pages with negative comments and assume that the other 195 pages are good. If all they see are negatives, they’re going to assume it’s all bad. A general rule of thumb for feedback is to try to offer a positive for every negative. If you found my ellipses abuse distracting, balance that out by saying that my main character’s pop culture references were spot-on and made you laugh. As you read, use that comments function—even if it’s something as simple as “aww!” or “oh no!” it lets the writer know that their writing is evoking emotion, which is ultimately the goal of writing.
  4. DO NOT say “I don’t like this” or “I don’t think this works” and leave it at that. Why don’t you like it? Is the sentence confusing? Does the action seem to go against the character’s moral code? Similarly, if you read the whole manuscript and all you can say at the end is “I like it, good job,” you just wasted everyone’s time. I’m glad you liked it, but… what was the best part about it? What did you like most, so I can do more of that? And I know it’s not perfect. It can’t be. You mean there wasn’t a single point you didn’t like that I could improve upon?
  5. DO look for consistency issues and disappearing characters. If Aunt Sue seemed like she was going to be an important character back in chapter 2, but then we never see her again, that’s worth mentioning. If it’s the middle of winter and then two days pass and it’s suddenly summer, that’s worth mentioning. Writers tend to have brilliant ideas when they start writing, and then change time frames, delete characters, and forget about pets halfway through their writing process, but threads of those ideas might remain by accident. If you notice it, it’s worth mentioning.
  6. DO NOT be sarcastic or make jokes in your comments. This manuscript is a piece of the writer’s soul. Handle with care. There is no sarcasm font, and even the most well-meaning, lighthearted joke can damage the writer’s self-esteem and motivation. Reading feedback on a manuscript is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. The writer is likely hyped up, nervous, cringing at every critique you provided. Don’t make a joke at the story’s expense. It’s not helpful.
  7. DO be nice, but don’t be too nice. No manuscript is perfect, and a writer can’t improve themselves if they’re only provided with positive feedback. You’re not doing anyone any favors by trying to spare the writer’s feelings. However, in the same vein…
  8. DO NOT be a dick. Don’t nit-pick, don’t decide you hate the manuscript and tear it down at every opportunity. If you start reading and realize that you don’t even want to finish the book, you may be better off reaching out to the writer, providing feedback on what you’ve read so far, and politely telling them why it’s not your cup of tea. Even that kind of feedback can be valuable.

Ultimately, your overall thoughts and feedback should include whether the characters felt real, whether the plot made sense, if there were any gaps or places you felt rushed, and anything else major you noticed. It’s also important to note that different writers may expect different things from their beta readers, and you should always ask if the writer has anything in particular they want you to do.

Another thing worth note is that you are working for free, just for the love of reading books. It is possible for the writer to expect more from you than you’re willing to provide. A beta reader is not a CP or an editor. A CP is usually a tit-for-tat kind of relationship, and an editor is usually paid. If the writer wants to call you a beta reader but expects you to edit their manuscript and you’re not okay with doing that for free, you’re allowed to step back. Beta readers are wonderful and amazing people and writers should appreciate them. As a writer, I’d like to say all writers are wonderful people who will treat you like gold, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Beta reading for a person once doesn’t obligate you to read for them ever again.

I think that about covers it! I hope this helps some new beta readers, and maybe even some writers, to know what should go down during the beta reading process! Comment below if you have anything to add!

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing!

i have no idea what im doing

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me use this gif to explain my writing process. It’s so accurate. I am totally winging this whole “writing” thing.

Some days, it really hits me how accurate that is.

This struck me recently while reading through the first draft of Trustfall, which I wrote during April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I can tell it needs work, but… fucked if I know what to do with it.

I thought I had an idea. I thought it was a great idea. It would require significant changes in the first half of the book, but it seemed brilliant!!! I wrote 400 words of notes about everything that would need to change in the first half in order to make this work. But then as I kept reading, I realized I did not like that idea. It wouldn’t work. It didn’t make sense. It wouldn’t fix things.

So now I’m back at square one. Having no idea what to do.

I’ve only written and revised one full novel in my life. It took me like three years to get it to a point where I thought maybe I was done revising and should start trying to publish it. Three years of “spend a couple months working on it, take six or eight months off, pick it up again later and revise again”… Ain’t no one got time for that now that I’m taking writing seriously and trying to publish. My goal for Camp Nanowrimo during July is to get this draft to a condition where I can send it to beta readers. Then I’ll probably wait 3-4 weeks for feedback from them (and write another short story or two in that time….) and revise again. Hoping to have it out to at least one publisher by the end of the year.

But I have no idea what I’m doing. No idea. At all. How do I fix this? I think I’ve figured out the problem (unclear character arc, entire first half of novel written during NaNoWriMo so it’s really, REALLY rough, and cute, but not overly exciting) but I am not sure of the solution. I guess I need to make Saul’s arc more clear? Make Alex’s struggle more difficult? So what do I do?? Add a scene? Change scenes? Remove scenes? Just flesh out scenes that are already there? rewrite the entire first half?!

This feels like someone dropped a calculus problem in front of me, told me the solution, but didn’t tell me how to get to it, and I have to write down the process of how to solve it. I HAVE NO IDEA. I GUESS I’LL JUST TRY A BUNCH OF SHIT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS! Except I have a time limit! One month! One month isn’t enough time to “try a bunch of things” with a novel.

I know, I know, self-imposing a deadline like that and pressuring myself is bad and leads to burnout. But I want to get it done.

I’m hoping for a flash of miraculous brilliance but not betting on it. How do you move forward when you have no idea how to move forward? Especially with revisions?

Self care!

Sometimes, you just have a shit week.

I mean, my week wasn’t bad really. I got back to writing after two weeks off, so that was good. I got a handful of beta readers for my short story (I love you all), I went and saw a movie–ooh, and I started a Patreon!!! Check me out!

But overall, this past week just felt weird. Upon reflection, that is MOST LIKELY due to the fact that I ingested way too much caffeine and energy drinks, did not sleep much, and got sick because of it.

…Yeah probably.

So I’m going to write a quick blog post on self care.

You’re not invincible. Don’t pretend you are. I know you’re not. I know your secrets, friend.

I like to think I’m super healthy, super resilient, and impervious to illness. Turns out I am not. I am getting less healthy, less resilient, and less impervious to illness with every passing day. Here are a few things I need to remind myself of, which you may need to be reminded of as well:

  1. Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. Don’t stay up until 2am thinking “I’ll just chug a gallon of espresso/five energy drinks/a 24-pack of Coke at work in the morning and I’ll be fine.” Spoiler alert: You will not. You will not be fine. You will be miserable. Staying up late is not worth it.
  2. Exercise and sunshine are actually really important to human life. Go outside, for Christ’s sake. I know you have to write, but did you know that taking breaks actually increases your productivity? It does! So go outside. Walk a lap around the block. Sniff a flower. You’ll feel better when you return to your dank writing cave.
  3. Human interaction is healthy too. I KNOW you have to write, and I KNOW you talk to people on Twitter, but it’s not quite the same. Call someone. Go out for a drink or lunch or whatever people do these days.
  4. Eat actual food. GOLDFISH CRACKERS AND COKE ARE NOT A MEAL. Cookies aren’t breakfast! (I use these examples because I frequently eat Goldfish crackers for lunch, because I am an adult person and I make good life choices, clearly.)
  5. Write. You say you’re writing, but are you really just sitting there trading Tom Hiddleston gifs with your friends on Twitter? Because that is not writing. If you’re going to write, buckle down, focus up, and put words on the page. Set a reasonable goal, meet it, and THEN trade Hiddlesgifs.

That’s it. It’s halfway through the year and I assume most peoples’ best laid plans have gone flying out the window. I know mine have. Take a moment for self-care. Relax. It’s okay. You don’t need to stay up until 3am to get that scene done unless your deadline is 4am. Then maybe you should. But if not…… don’t. Take care of yourself, friends. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to run yourself into the ground trying to be productive.

I needed to write this to remind myself of these facts. I hope they help you, too!