“Storytelling is everything.”

I just got back from a work conference on television technology and production (that’s my day job). I had a great time, as I always do, connecting and reconnecting with colleagues from across the country, and learning new lessons from faculty, staff, and students working in video. I also attended a great session on reality TV production, presented by April Lundy. I’m not a big watcher of reality television – the closest I get to it are cooking shows or travel docs – but I was riveted by Ms Lundy’s session. Because so many of the points she made were about the importance of storytelling.

“Storytelling is everything,” she told her attentive crowd, and I grinned as she said it, because it’s true. Whether in television, film, poetry, or prose, the story determines the success of the medium. Ms Lundy spoke a lot about the ups and downs of conflict and arcs within a successful reality television show season or series. I could only think how much that applies to my own writing and editing; throughout the entire editing process of From Hell (A Love Story), I kept reminding myself to “keep to the arc” and “push toward the conflict,” and how each chapter – just like a television episode – needed to fulfill a thematic point in the ongoing story. When I spoke to her after the session, she said, “I kept looking at you, because I could tell you understood [how important story is].” Do I ever.

I wasn’t able to write much more than a fluff piece for my wicked gunslingers while I was away, but I thought about my writing craft a lot. And I’m already itching to get back into it, conflict, plot building, character nuances, and all.

I love it when my work and my passions converge. Have you ever had two parts of your life cross paths in an unexpected way?

Fathers of a different sort [AKA, yet another “Finding Mister Wright” free write]

For Father’s Day weekend, we enjoyed good food, good company, and good memories. Of course, I thought a lot about the fathers in my family, but the occasion made me think about my own paternal creations, too.

I’m off to a work conference for this week, so I won’t be around on social media much, but for anyone interested, here’s another short-ish follow-up free write to the last “Finding Mister Wright” vignette, this time with the older dads in that world:

“Push” – another “Finding Mister Wright” free-write [PDF; opens in a new tab]

I don’t know if there are any dads out there who read my blog. If there are, happy day to you!

Down Days (plus a “Finding Mister Wright” short!)

I’d felt pretty down on myself the last few days. It happens: every so often, I look at my various hit statistics and comment numbers, and I start to doubt my skill, especially in comparison to other writers. It always seems like everybody else is getting hundreds of comments and thousands of hits per day, while three likes or just one comment on a story will send me into a dopamine-fueled fit of happiness.

Dopamine_3D_ball

Dopamine, dear dopamine. How do I love thee?

But those low-to-non-existent numbers were dragging me down, so much that I couldn’t even pull it together to put a few words together on the page, no matter how hard I tried. The only thought going through my head was, “I suck.”

Social media is particularly damaging during these downswings, because like-minded individuals tend to cluster together on these outlets, and I’ve never really been a like-minded individual with anybody. I have interest groups and fandoms I follow, but I’ve always been on the fringe of them: the oddball, the rebel, the outcast, the geek. The closest I’ve gotten is with my writer friends, though even they know how weird I am. Of course, all writers are odd, to an extent. I think we have to be, to want to sequester ourselves away to focus on getting just the right phrase down onto a piece of paper. And, to keep doing that over and over until we’re happy with what we have (which is almost never, by the way; there simply comes a time when enough is enough, and we have to let go).

Anyway, while slogging through that quagmire of depressive doubt, a familiar link popped up on my Twitter feed:

whybloghitsdontmatterI’d read Guy’s article on Why Blog Hits Don’t Really Matter before, but it felt serendipitous that I happened to log in to my Twitter and saw it that day. I read it again, and it resonated with me, as it usually does. I talked with a few of my writer friends about it, too, and I remembered (again, because I’m a slow learner) that my writing isn’t about being popular, or publishing books, or trying to make a living from my writing. I already have a job I enjoy, that luckily pays my bills. I self-published my From Hell (A Love Story), and I’ll probably pull together a book of some more stories, but I’m never going to be a “successful” author. And, I’m okay with that. I write because I want to share the unique, silly, sappy, sexy stories inside me. Even if somebody doesn’t look today, they might find a story of mine next week, or next month, or next year. If that story makes them smile, laugh, or think, then it’s done its job. And, I’ve done mine. Once I remembered that, and put that realization back in my heart, I could write again. I sat down and wrote another vignette for my “Finding Mister Wright” universe basically in one go! And, it felt great.

I’m sure I’ll have more down days to come. But when they happen, I’m going to try to remember to look back at this time, when I felt depressed about the ridiculous merry-go-round popularity contests conjured by my defeatist brain, and remind myself why I write what I write, and why I love what I write. You’re welcome to join me, whenever you’re ready.

If you’d like to read the latest “Finding Mister Wright” vignette, you can click the link below; the PDF will open in a new window. Don’t worry – it’s not nearly as raunchy as the last one.

“Synchronicity” – Another “Finding Mister Wright” short story

What techniques or motivations do you use when you doubt yourself?

When Characters Speak

Anyone who’s read my longer works is likely well aware of my penchant for, shall we say, raunchier material. Admittedly, writing sex is a relaxing outlet for me. It puts me in touch with my characters in ways unmatched by any other technique I’ve yet found. But, like in real life, sex isn’t all about the sex, but about what we learn from it.

A few months ago, while I was in the middle of editing, I really wanted to write a sex scene. There’s just something very visceral about the experience of writing two people engaged in the physical act. So, I wrote one, using the characters from my “Finding Mister Wright” universe. At the time, I enjoyed the process: it helped me loose some of my writing energies, and that got me back on-track with the very different chore of editing a long work. But, recently, I went back and read that scene and had a new reaction to it.

I didn’t like it.

I found the progression and action passable, and I liked the ending, but the middle section – the actual sex scene – didn’t sit right with me. I realized it was because it wasn’t true to those characters. I’d forced them into a situation that served my own purposes but didn’t speak from their hearts. And I felt like it showed.

So, I rewrote it. I had to. For them. It’s not like anybody’s going to read the story, but I was compelled to re-imagine and re-do that interaction regardless, because I felt like I wasn’t being true to those characters otherwise. And – and this is going to sound weird and crazy – it felt like they approved. They flowed so much more naturally on the page, with their words and actions, it was like they were speaking not just to me but through me. I often feel my characters’ influence while I’m in the middle of writing a story, but rarely after the fact. That’s how I knew I’d messed up with them. Luckily, they’re generally an easy and forgiving bunch.

I guess the moral of this lesson is that writing is just as much about listening to a story – your characters’ story – as it is about telling it.

EDIT: For anyone interested in reading the story in question, I’m sharing it here as PDF media, which will open in a new window by clicking the link below. Please note that this scene involves two people engaging in sexual situations described in fair detail. Their story tends to run sappy and silly, but if you are at all uncomfortable with or offended by sex, please do not click the link for “Mirror, Mirror,” A “Finding Mister Wright” pre-fic.

My May writing recap

My “No Sex with Ax and Hal” 30-day writing challenge is officially finished! Only 1 or 2 people read most of it, but that’s okay. I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to write – and post – a complete vignette/chapter/scene every day for 30 days straight. (It actually ended up being 31 days’ worth of writing, and 32 chapters written, including one epilogue for each of the two mains, because I don’t like to leave too many plot threads hanging.) If, in that process, I also got to add a bit of characterization to my main Borderlands romance bros, all the better.

Not sure what I’m going to write next. I’m rather tired of feeling lonely in fandoms, so I’m thinking maybe I should return to my original fiction, like Fearless or Finding Mister Wright. Or, maybe I’ll finally get cracking on that detective story. At least with my originals, it’s alone without being lonely. Regardless, I’ve really enjoyed writing my BL adventurers over the last two years. (Has it really only been two years?!) They taught me a lot. They even found me a few new friends. I’ll always love ‘em, for that.

Heck, I’ll always love ‘em, anyway.