I feel so attacked right now...
finally all settled in at the writing residency!! this is the view from my studio. not pictured: the creek slightly off to the left and the cozy armchair in front of a fireplace right behind me. the little sticky note on the right window says, “hello friends! please come in if you like!” which was probably left by the previous resident for other residents to pop in to visit, but i like to imagine it’s referring to the bugs and perhaps lizards.
anyway here’s your semi-frequent reminder that if you’re a writer or artist, residencies are an amazing opportunity! they’re a pain in the ass to apply for and plan for, but imo it’s worth it for being able to stay in a comfy place built specifically for you to work on your projects without stress or distraction. and the good ones pay you a small stipend to be there! this one offers a hundred dollars a week for groceries.
The Dry Ingredients of Writer’s Block
Using these small words
To construct the universe
Is like building cities
Out of toothpicks
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
It’s like that! 😆😂
Write for yourself first, lovely people second, wankers never.
how do I reconcile what I want to write with my religious beliefs? I’ve been reading some new adult romances and I want to write some (but I could never write a s*x scene, it’d be a fade to black) but I’m torn because pre-marital s*x goes against my beliefs
In complete and utter sincerity, what a delightful question! And what a fantastic opportunity to talk about the intersection of art and conviction and the role of art to uphold and reflect truth!
Let's start there, actually: the role of art to uphold truth. What is truth? In this situation, truth would be the acknowledgement that people do not always act according to our beliefs. They don't even always act according to their own beliefs. (Side-eyes myself doing things I fully acknowledged were wrong.)
Truth, and truthful art, grapples with the messiness and the ugliness of reality. I've delved into some very heavy subject matter with @ofsaltandsmoke, @starwarmth, and @atlantic-riona. We've also enjoyed some scintillating discussions about Christian art and how much of it nowadays is insipid precisely because it doesn't want to grapple with the messiness.
It wants to wrap things up with a neat little conversion story, where the Good Guys win and the Bad Guys lose, where the Christians triumph beautifully. It wants to take the teeth out of life, and in so doing it reduces the story to bland and unchallenging mush.
So then. Why do you believe premarital s*x is wrong? What do you believe the consequences of it might be? And for your story, would your characters share your beliefs? experience some of those consequences? manage to evade consequences? What do other people believe on this subject? Why do they believe that? How do these beliefs inform their romantic pursuits?
You and your characters are not the same people. You can write something you do not believe, something that actively goes against your beliefs. One thing we writers can do is inhabit many souls and many beliefs, and yet remain our own persons.
For instance, fantasy racism and slavery is a subject within my world. One thing I've been exploring is a society that has no issue with slavery and otherwise heroic characters who justify and uphold an institution and a mindset that I find utterly vile.
My beliefs can shine through in other characters, if it's relevant to that story.
Same thing with premarital s*x. How will it affect your story? Do you want to explore the negative aspects? Do you want to see how your beliefs might be brought into the story?
Conversely, do you simply want to write this as something that these characters choose and move the plot on from there?
I believe that you have freedom to use this as a plot point. Art is a mirror to the world, and the world contains sins. I do not believe we must jump up and down, waving our art wildly and screaming "YOU KNOW THIS IS WRONG, RIGHT??"
To do so is to draw the teeth of the tale. Don't be afraid to challenge your readers! Don't be afraid to challenge yourself! I share this particular belief with you--I believe firmly that premarital s*x is harmful--but I think writing characters who don't share that belief is intellectually honest. Not everyone believes it's wrong.
Whether you write negative consequences or not, I think, needs to depend on the story. If you go out of your way to make it moral, your reader doesn't need to think.
We serve the God of truth. Go write something truthful, love, and you will be doing what you need to do.
hi! i hope you don’t mind me asking, but i saw you reblogged a post about not being a native english speaker, so i’m assuming english is not your first language? (if it is - feel free to ignore this lol) but as a non-native english speaker myself i was wondering how you got into writing? because i am absolutely in love with your writing style, you make the characters and the setting come alive so incredibly - and i’d highly appreciate some tips, if you have time :) sending love x
Hi, anon! Please let me start with an apology - I've let this ask (and many others) sit in my inbox for so long, I'm honestly embarrassed to even acknowledge it. I did, however, remember it very well because it's a very interesting question and a topic I might have something say about. This will be long so brace yourself :D
You are correct in assuming English isn't my first language, I'm actually Polish and I just learned English at school like most people here did.
I think that, like a lot of fanfiction authors out there, I got into writing through reading. I read tons of fanfics and got very deep into fandom (no regrets here!), and my first one was Destiel. And I just started having my own ideas for stories, oh what if they were this and that? or like what if xyz happened? And I feel like it was a very natural progression for me, to fall in love with certain stories enough to want to tell my own? Anyway, I was never into the Polish "side" of fandom, I kinda fell straight into Tumblr which, I think, is predominantly English-speaking. So, initially, it didn't even occur to me to write in my first language (not that I didn't know there's fanfiction in PL, I just... never got into that. For many reasons, some mundane, some a bit less-glorious, but that's not what I came here to talk about).
Now, I must say that I was very lucky, from the very beginning. In both readership (I've gathered a relatively large following before I ever attempted writing fanfiction) and my language skills. I was very privileged—my parents cared a great deal about me speaking a foreign language, specifically English (it's a whole thing over here, it's so much easier to find a better job and integrate with the rest of the world if you speak a "western" language). I attended a private language school twice a week for about six years, I had a computer from a fairly young age, I had cable TV, I was able to interact with all kinds of anglophone media and people and it really, really helped. On top of that, I just liked learning languages and had some sort of knack for it. So, to be painfully honest, I was really lucky.
My first fic was far from perfect, I didn't know what a beta reader was, and I didn't know any basic rules of writing prose in English (those vary between countries) so I just mimicked—I tried to make my stories look and sound like all the ones I loved so much and, looking back, it was a fair first try. I had some stories started, I had some ideas, it was fun, engaging, and I really enjoyed being able to create something of my own.
So yeah, this is the (not so) brief story of how I got into writing. You also asked for tips. I don't want to pretend like I've figured out the mysteries of life and writing but I'm willing to share what worked for me personally. ;)
First of all, reading. I think it's something that can't be avoided (and also, what would we be doing here if we didn't love consuming fanfic?). Not only do I have fun, read what I truly love, and get tons of inspiration from other authors, but—and this is important, and not only for non-natives—I learn. I learn like crazy, I see new ways to form sentences, I learn new vocabulary, I watch how certain words can be used in structures I'd never even think to associate with them. I think my way of reading fanfic might be a little bit different because I almost subconsciously pay attention to these small things, even grammar, because of how vastly different it is to learn a language from scratch and speak it from birth. I'm obviously NOT saying either of these ways is better, but it's so, so different. You can even sometimes see the differences in ways a story can be told and it's a fascinating process to sort of "break down" and analyse a story at that angle.
Hot tip: I have a magic, secret google doc where I paste all the English words I see for the first time, I put their meanings in brackets and read the doc from time to time, just when I feel like it. It's a way to expand my vocabulary that just works for me.
Secondly, and I don't know how else to phrase it, thinking in English? I feel like most people who have ever learned another language will know what I mean! Do you know the thing you do, where you translate things in your head into your first language? Yeah, ditch that. I know it's very hard to do at first, but I promise, you will find yourself doing it less and less, and that "middle ground" will start to blur. And it's so much easier after that, because not all translations are easy, and some just don't work because life is all tricky like that. And I promise everything will flow much smoother when you just start in that target language.
Next tip, my betas. Get one, get yourself a lovely, angel beta and hold on to them and shower them with affection (this applies to all writers and their betas in the world, sorry, I don't make the rules). I was incredibly lucky to meet some amazing people in fandom that have naturally become dear friends (they know it's about them lol). Some of them are native speakers and just being around them, talking to them every day, using the language just as the most basic means of communication, every day, for months and years is really helpful in becoming fluent. And if these people are also genius, brilliant writers whom you share a hobby with, it's a match made in heaven. I ask them bizzare, funny questions and they teach me so much, and, not going to lie, hearing your English is good from someone who's spoken the language their whole life is one of the best compliments I can receive.
Finally, and I hate to get a bit darker by the end (I'll be done very soon, I promise!), accept you're not a native. It's been something incredibly hard for me, personally, because I tend to get quite ambitious and bite off more than I can chew. I got frustrated, a lot. "I would never be able to come up with this." "I could never replicate this style." "I never knew this word even existed because it's not in any of the seven dictionaries I use." "I never realised this word could be used in that context." All that. I know it seems impossible, sometimes. And I needed to accept that for myself, you can only be a native, and grasp the language like a native, if you're born one. It's something I have no power over and I am now (relatively :D) okay with the fact I can be 99% fluent and there will always be things that are new to me. That there will still be that 1% haunting me when I read a story so good I need to put it down and take a walk. But that's okay, it really is. And I'm sure native speakers don't have things handed to them on a silver platter either! Regardless, I can still be proud of what I create, I can still enjoy myself, and I can still write something the readers will love. I'll let you in on a secret: people don't care if you write like Shakespeare, people just want to read their porn in peace. And I don't have to be the best, fandom isn't yelp (and thank fuck for that), and if you find your tribe, people will love and support you in this process. Because yeah, it's a learning curve and I'm a bulky raccoon trying to climb it, I guess. But that's fine, and we'll be fine, anon.
I hope I didn't get too life-coach-slash-sanctimonious-exalted-auntie there, apparently, I had a lot of feelings (ew) on the topic. I hope this helps at least a little, too. Thank you so much for this ask, it's been lovely to actually sit and collect my thoughts on this.
Also, dear everyone, feel free to put in your two cents, I feel like I've missed a lot of important points but this post is really long now :D Non-natives, how is writing in English going for you? Natives, what are your views and experiences, language-wise? Please feel free to share, I don't consider this a closed answer/discussion.
Have a lovely day!
Description: a screenshot of a tweet from A.F. Linley (aka my alter ego in the hat). Text reads: “Struggling to be creative in the midst of *gestures at everything*, it’s very hard not to take every patron who cancels a subscription as a reflection on me as a writer.
“It’s not. I know it’s not. Sucks though, right along with everything else.”
(link to tweet)
When you’ve got five different documents open and are working on all of them simultaneously. I had four yesterday, but after the Normal People prompt, I’ve just opened a fifth one. Oh well!
At least I’ve given you proof that I’m working on my WIPs.
hi, i'd appreciate a little advice on this. as someone who is currently seeking a career in creative writing similar to yours, do you have any advice for those just starting out? i don't have much connections to my local industry and i don't really have a mentor that would help me with this.
if it helps, i am an undergrad (but soon to be fresh grad).
congrats on your soon to be graduation!
your best bet is going to be applying for cw MFA programs, which would offer both connections and mentorship. you're going to want to look for fully funded programs, which is to say, programs that cover your tuition and offer a monthly stipend in exchange for teaching composition or cw. don't apply anywhere you have to pay for. it's never worth it to go into debt, and moreover, paid programs are a nightmare mix of gross wealth and competition for what little funding there is.
but! if you're still in your early 20s, there's no harm at all in holding off on the MFA to work somewhere full-time for a while. i thought my 5-year gap between my undergrad degree and my grad degree made me a poor candidate for grad school but really that's what most people do. undergrad puts you through the ringer and there's no shame in recovering from academic burnout for a while. one good thing about a career in writing is that there's genuinely no hurry. the more life experience you can pick up, the more inspiration there is to draw from. so have fun, don't rush, live your life as close to the way you want to live it as possible.
the first and maybe hardest thing to accept about a career in writing is that you'll always have to split your attention. almost no one is a full-time creative writer. but the good news is that there are lots of jobs related to writing. you could go into publishing and be an editor or agent. once you get your MFA you can teach college courses or work in a writing center. or you can go into commercial copywriting or copyediting (that's where the big money is). it's hard to make enough money to live on just your creative work, but there's a ton of money in adjacent fields.
as far as pursuing publication, i would focus on short form. read short stories, write short stories, publish short stories. (or if you write nonfiction, focus on essays.) short form allows you to practice the complete drafting, revising, submitting, and publishing process in a safer and more contained space than novel publishing. once you go through the entire process over and over again, you gain the extremely valuable, extremely rare skill of knowing when something is finished. it's absolutely necessary to reach that feeling, that little click when you know something you've written is the best version of the thing it is and more edits will only turn it into something different, not better. getting to that point lends you confidence and security in your own work.
more specifically, i recommend writing one short story, max 4k words, the best work you're capable of. now you have a writing sample for applications and awards, and something to publish. getting a good sample ready will start opening doors for you.
while you're doing research on figuring out what lit mags to send to, keep an eye out for publications looking for slush readers. there is no experience more valuable than putting yourself on the other side of the submission window. you get a very rapid understanding of what editing really is, what kinds of stories are out there, and where your own work stands. you'll also gain some connections that way, and maybe some editorial mentorship. these positions aren't paid, but they also aren't a huge time commitment, and it's worth its weight in gold in helping you accept rejection. the rejections you receive hit different when you know how it feels to vote thumbs down on someone else's work.
if your goal is to eventually get an agent and then a book deal with a big publisher, know that the road there is a long one, and that's a good thing. i feel horrible for writers who debut at 25 to major acclaim. it may seem like a dream come true, but it's a curse. first of all, now that i'm in my 30s, i'm glad it's taken me this long to get where i am, because i'm confident enough in my work and i know what i'm doing well enough to push back on things like bad edits. i can, and have, turned down people interested in my work who didn't actually vibe with it. you want to hold out for the people who love your work for the same reasons you love it. it takes a long time to cultivate that kind of security, the belief that you and you alone know what's best for the story you're trying to tell. too many voices too early on can ruin something beautiful.
also, in literary fiction, the debut novel is a big deal. it might be in other genres too but specifically in literary fiction, a book deal isn't just a book deal. it's your introduction into the community. once you have a book out, you'll start getting ARCs for blurbs, requests for interviews, signings, juror requests, maybe even commission work from big magazines. so it's not just "oh i finished a novel time to publish it i guess." a debut is "this is the absolute best work i'm capable of, i know and have faith in what it's doing, i know my own unique style and aesthetics, i know where it belongs, and i'm ready to share it with others."
that might be hard to take in and i know i didn't listen at all when my mentors told me not to rush publishing. i put a lot of undue pressure on myself when i should have been focusing on craft, and i also queried agents when my first manuscript was only half-baked. i can't tell you how badly i regret that. i went out with my second manuscript instead, which was a bigger risk but i was far more confident in it, and which signed me an agent and got me on the desks of dozens of editors. one editor put a bid in but her publisher said no. so i ran a marathon only to get to the finish line and have to turn back. i started writing it in 2016; the last round of submissions was late 2021. five years, and it's still not published. and it may never be. but there will be other manuscripts, other editors, and other opportunities. and as time passes i only gain a sharper understanding of what i'm trying to get on the page.
meanwhile, there's plenty to do before big publication. put your work out there. apply for workshops, residencies, grants, awards. start building up your CV. keep writing and generating new work to build up your portfolio. keep an eye out for opportunities that come your way. just yesterday a residency reached out to me to ask me to be a juror on their application board and in exchange they're giving me a month-long stay at their place (i can't tell you how much i love residencies. pain in the ass to apply for but a godsend once you get in). you just never know what's going to open doors for you; a publication in a small magazine might net you award nominations, maybe even award wins. the more you put yourself out there, the more rejections you'll receive, yeah, but the acceptances can be huge. unfortunately that means it's hard to plan your future, but it also helps you develop faith in yourself knowing good things will come your way at some point, as long as you keep writing and sharing your work.
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time…Something more will arise later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
the funny thing about writing Impulsive Characters is like. they're impulsive. they think impulsively. they act impulsively. but you as a writer cannot be impulsive.
"emulate your character while writing them!"
impulsive writing 90% of the time leads to shitty writing.
everything has to be crafted so carefully to fit the story you want to tell. and your Impulsive Character is important, which means you have to be thoughtful with how you write them.
impulsive characters are fun as hell to read, but so fucking annoying to write.