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It’s been a little over two weeks since I posted the first part of my Latin Bechdels series. Since then, I’ve continued casually subjecting everything I watch, read, or play to the CAR Test. Nothing new has passed; there are only ever new failures for the CAR.

Zoo? Despite its culturally diverse cast, that’s a fail.

Rick and Morty? I want to believe, but I’m pretty sure Rick Sanchez’ last name is only “Sanchez” because it’s funny. Besides, Rick is technically a criminal so he wouldn’t pass anyway. But holy shit if Rick Sanchez is actually Hispanic! Because, seriously, a Hispanic protagonist? In a widely popular American anything? That is actually rarer than finding a unicorn. A Hispanic protagonist who’s a scientist? That’s like finding you were a unicorn this entire time.

Fair warning: I’m writing this at 4 AM.

Anyway, let’s not let the unending barrage of CAR Test failures keep us down. Let’s talk about a test that most media passes! But a test for which the failing grade is I. I as in, “I can’t believe people still make this joke.”

Let’s talk about the Latin Lover Test!

The Latin Lover Test

Criteria for Failure: Your story features a Latino or Hispanic male character whose personality traits are dominated by or include an immediate, cartoon-ish determination to have sex with a female character.

Bonus: This character actually says, “Oh, hello, pretty lady,” in Telemundo voice the moment he sees whatever woman he creeps on for the rest of the story.

*If your story doesn’t feature a named Latino or Hispanic character–if, instead, the Latin Lover is used as a disembodied gag (i.e. a replacement personality for a non-Latino character who has hit their head/gotten comedic amnesia/etc.), that story extra fails the Latin Lover Test.

I’m going to keep it short and sweet with this one, because I feel it should be really obvious why using the latin lover–in anything–is bad.

My full explanation: It’s racist humor from the 40’s.

That’s it. Seriously, it’s an obviously demeaning racist gag that’s decades old, grandfathered into American culture so firmly that it’s still being used.

It’s also pathetically easy comic relief. Need a quick laugh? Don’t want to actually work for it? Then dump the Latin Lover into your story! No tact required!

A simpler perspective on it:

Blackface? Obviously not cool.

Gross, joke Asian characters? No!

The latin lover stereotype? Oh, that one’s still okay.

. . .

Let’s take a look at what properties could possibly be ignorant enough to fail the Latin Lover test. You won’t be surprised.

Properties that Fail

Toy Story 3 – I lied.

I absolutely love the Toy Story movies. I think they’re great.

But that doesn’t mean Toy Story 3 isn’t incredibly racist.

Partway through the movie, Buzz Lightyear has his language setting changed from English to Spanish. That single change instantly 180’s his personality, making him go from level-headed, adventure-loving astronaut . . .

. . . to Latino horndog, trying relentlessly to bone Jessie. There’s not even a hint of who he was; he is immediately a stereotype, present for comic relief and nothing else. If I remember correctly, the movie walks us through a few matador stereotypes too. Because, ya know, that’s what men do in Spain–walk around with roses in their mouths and gross-flirt.

I know–I know it’s an animated film–but the Latin Lover is still so… casually offensive. And easy; really, so fucking easy.

If you’re on the defensive about this, just take a moment to imagine a non-offensive alternative; Buzz Lightyear has his language switch turned to Spanish and is the same person but now struggles with being understood. To pour on the humor, let Buzz see a glaring plothole/solution that would neatly wrap up the the movie’s entire conflict in the first or second act–but no one understands him. He can desperately try to point it out while everyone stares, taking progressively less realistic guesses at what he’s trying to say.

The sad thing? Coming up with the non-offensive alternative to the Latin Lover wasn’t actually hard at all.

Moving on.

Final Fantasy XII – It was ages ago, but I still remember meeting Al-Cid in that game. We get our first glimpse of him when he interrupts a meeting the protagonists are having.

I remember that, when he opened his mouth and had a strong, Spanish accent, I thought, “Whoa! A Hispanic character in Final Fantasy? Awesome!”

Then he almost instantly gets on one knee in front of Ashe, the female lead. Kisses her hand. Continues holding it as he starts in with, “Stunning is Dalmasca’s desert bloom,” because Ashe is the princess of Dalmasca. Immediately, another character groans in disgust.

So did I.

Did Al-Cid have a character outside of being a gross caricature? I have no idea and I never will. I instantly popped FFXII out of my PS2 without saving and haven’t touched a FF game since.

Properties that Pass

Red VS Blue – It’s weird to bring up this ancient web series, but I do it to provide a direct reply to Toy Story 3. Yes, when it comes to what’s more racist, a crass, turn-of-the-century machinima based on Halo–the franchise with space marines killing aliens–is actually less racist than the family friendly movie about kids’ toys.

Bear with me on this one.

In RVB, the mechanic for Red Team is a robot named Lopez. For fifteen episodes, he doesn’t have a speech unit, but when Red Team eventually gets their hands on one, it’s damaged on instillation. The result? Although he can understand everyone else, Lopez can only speak Spanish.

And, from there, the robot does not become a horndog. He doesn’t become a matador, doesn’t start humping Tex’s leg, and he doesn’t suddenly weld a rose to the mouth of his combat visor.

The robot remains a mechanic. Literally the only difference: he speaks Spanish now.

Is it weird that the only Hispanic character on the show is a robot? Yes. Is it weird that the only Hispanic character on the show is a Mexican worker? Even though there are obviously hard working Mexicans in the USA, yeah, it’s still weird that Lopez is a stereotype. Is RVB tasteless in a lot of other ways? Absolutely.

But is Lopez his own character? Yes, he is. He’s melodramatic. He thinks of the Red’s Sarge as his dad because Sarge built him. He talks way too much and is super loyal to Red Team.

In short, he’s still a joke character, sure, but at least he’s not a quaintly racist gag.

Aside from The Flash, I honestly can’t think of another property that passes both the CAR and the Latin Lover Test – The Flash, is officially a bright, shining beacon of representation for Latino characters in fantasy, but I already talked about Cisco in the last post.

The more important point for me to make here… I genuinely can’t think of another popular, American series that passes both the CAR and the Latin Lover.

Because, usually, these tests are mutually exclusive–a Hispanic character is either a criminal/an ex-criminal/a person who’s related to a criminal, or they’re a gross stereotype.

It’s a weird thing to just openly write about all of this–like I’m breaking some unspoken code of conduct. Like someone’s going to bear down on me about how wrong I am to criticize an old joke character. I’m not sure why; maybe because it’s always been the Latin American modus operandi to just shrug these things off.

Regardless, we’re going to keep talking about all of this in two weeks, when I get to the test I’ve really wanted to write about this entire time–the DAGGER Test. It’ll be about racism, as a whole, in fantasy, so if you love fantasy, you won’t want to miss it.

—Project Updates—

LS-ProgressBar(3.0)-8.30.15-(InPost)Had a weirdly intense breakthrough while brainstorming my novel for this year’s NaNoWriMo. The result? It totally invalidated a few of the short stories I was working on. Dream Runner? Possibly out because its message is done better by the NaNoWriMo novel. Another short I was planning? Same thing.

The other two shorts have endured similar creative weirdness. One of them has snowballed into a potential novel. The other I realized I need to take apart from the ground up (at least I caught it before finishing it).

My goals for next time:

  1. Finish editing Memory.
  2. Submit “Aixa” again.
  3. Finish one of the remaining shorts, now whittled down to the two that are worth finishing.

 

 

—Acknowledgements—

Thanks for the Likes . . .

. . . moteridgerider! I appreciate the support!

. . . Damyanti! Check out her Q&A with playright/author Michele Lee! It’s a really interesting read–especially if you’re an aspiring playwright!

. . . Megan Manzano! The Manzano clan is currently knee deep in the 777 Challenge, and Megan’s contribution was pretty solid!

. . . Justine Manzano! Her post from the Dark Side of submissions is definitely comforting for any writer who struggles with them (i.e. all writers).

And that about wraps it up! If you like what you’ve read, consider giving this post a Like or giving me a Follow.

But even if you don’t, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.

It’s been almost two years since I first talked about Earth-Modern race in fantasy on this site. Two whole years and the world has changed a lot. At least, lately, America is coming along. Same sex marriage has been legalized. The confederate flag has finally been thrown into question. And I’ve lost at least two pounds (seriously, I got weighed at the doctor’s office the other day and I’ve lost two whole pounds).

Being a latino though, the bit of news I’m most grateful for is Donald Trump’s racist rant against Mexicans. Not because I’m an impossible idiot who agrees with him–I don’t–but because it’s finally opened the door for casual talk about Latin American and Hispanic culture. People are finally aware that–specifically–Mexicans have a voice and aren’t just a silent work force, and–more broadly–that Latin American culture is a thing that can’t be trivialized or ignored. People are out there, right now, watching videos about the difference between “Latino” and “Hispanic.” Or they’ve at least seen that video of the Mexican construction worker talking smack on Trump. That means there’s an opportunity for people like me to speak up–say things like, “Yes. Yes, latinos are also here in America–hello–and no, we aren’t just drug dealers or gangbangers, like you see on TV.”

And, for me (closet bureaucrat that I am) it’s also an opportunity to create three tests–in the spirit of the Bechdel test–that dictate whether fictional stories are archaically racist against Latinos!

And write a whooole mess of posts about them!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first of a three parter, The Latin Bechdels. I was fully intending to make this one post, but talking about the very first test ran on way, way longer than I intended. So, instead, I’m devoting the next month to discussing my three tests for racism. Two of these tests are applicable to all fiction, but the last one is only for fantasy. They are the Cops and Robbers (CAR) Test; The Latin Lover Test; and the Degrees of Archaic, Guiltlessly Generalizing, Exclusionary Racism (DAGGER) Test specifically for fantasy. That’s right–DAGGER. Because I could and it sounded awesome.

Today, we’re starting with the CAR Test.

The CAR Test

Criteria for Failure: the named Latino or Hispanic characters in your story are either criminals, cops who are reformed criminals, cops who are related to criminals, or civilians . . . who are related to criminals.

Not having a Latino or Hispanic character to begin with is an automatic failure.

I was considering naming this one “the Trump Test,” but I don’t want his stupidity to live on, so instead, we’re going with a disarmingly playful name for a facet of fictional racism that has bothered me since I was young.

You’d be surprised by how completely everything fails the CAR Test. Seriously, when it comes to general fiction, you are almost guaranteed two things: 1) you will not get a named Latino character, but 2) if you do get a named Latino character, their arcs will always depend on being, having been, or knowing a criminal. I think the implications are clear here; if you’re Latino, you either are a criminal or know someone who’s a criminal. The inherent racism and slack-jawed assumption in that kind of thinking is obvious, so I won’t delve into it.

Instead, I’ll tell you to just take the CAR Test for a spin (don’t think about that pun–I hate myself for it). Test it out and discover that, in most movies, any Latinos who appear have a depressingly high chance of being gun-toting drug dealers, or cops who are only cops because they grew up with gun-toting drug dealers.

Of course, you can apply CAR to any race, but it’s at its best (worst) when applied to Latino or Hispanic characters. There are stories that pass (I mention two below), but if the stars align and a movie or show even features a named Latino, chances are it’s going to fail the CAR anyway. Like these fantastic examples:

Properties that Fail

The Walking Dead – In season one, Felipe is the leader of the Vatos gang. Yes, they were taking care of elderly people. But, no, the plot twist, “The Hispanic criminals are actually nice! Whoa!” isn’t a plot twist that excites me in any way. Felipe and his thugs are around for a single episode.

Two seasons later, another Latino finally appears, but, of course, he’s Tomas, the most unlikable of the criminals holed up at West Georgia Correctional Facility (or “the prison,” as it’s usually called). By the end of his second episode, Tomas is dead at the hands of our protagonist.

Another season later, the show finally introduces Rosita Espinosa. But, of course, by this point, The Walking Dead has already super–ultra–failed the CAR Test.

Ant-Man – This was pretty depressing for me, but Marvel’s Ant-Man actually goes above and beyond with the CAR Test, failing so spectacularly that it’s actually offensive for all races.

In a predominately white cast, the protagonist is Scott Lang, an altruistic, tech-saavy ex-con. His partners–who are all completely unapologetic and active criminals–are a Hispanic man, an African American man, and a Russian American immigrant, all three of whom act as bizarre race caricatures for comic relief, their intelligence routinely jabbed throughout the film for laughs.

The Hispanic man, Luis, spends most of his screen time talking very quickly and acting masculine in front of the female lead, Hope Pym, in an obvious attempt to get into her pants.

The African American man, Dave, only makes a significant contribution to the story by quickly stealing a car to divert police attention–a contribution he squanders by over-excitedly throwing his hands around in celebration and accidentally honking the gag horn of the team’s disguised truck.

The Russian American immigrant, Kurt, is the tamest of the bunch–a hacker who seems intelligent–but is still portrayed as an idiot whose most notable character trait is arguably his heavy accent.

All three of these characters are, at one point, literally science-talked to sleep. Not as a side note but as one of the movie’s direct jokes; the protagonist displays his powers and all three of his minority side kicks freak out. The following scene has Hope Pym explain that she fed them some drugs and explained the science of the Ant-Man suit to them, which made them fall asleep almost instantly.

Let me just rephrase and restate that joke: after the movie’s only three minorities freak out over a character’s super powers–in a universe where super powers are now common and accepted–a white scientist says to a white super hero, “I gave the minorities some Xanax and talked science at them for a few minutes. The combination of a name brand anxiety drug with smart person talk shut off their stupid, minority brains like a bird cage cover puts a bird to sleep. Even the Russian hacker couldn’t stay awake . . . Comedy!”

. . . Yeah. I think that just about captures all of the weird racism of that joke.

Moving on . . .

Properties that Pass

The Flash At first, I thought Cisco Ramon was really annoying. It’s the villain naming thing; the villains’ rebooted, TV aesthetics really, really clash class with their old-timey, Silver Age names, making each naming really cringey. Cisco decides, “He’s the Pied Piper,” and I think, “Why? Because he has gauntlets that make sound? That’s a pretty big stretch for Pied Piper; he doesn’t even have an instrument. Why not Shockwave or Soundwave or–oh right. It’s because this character was created in 1959.”

But then I realized, “OMFG he actually isn’t an ex-criminal! He’s just a smart Latino! Who does science!” Of course, I’m still waiting for the day when we get more of his backstory and find out about . . . fuck–I don’t know–Ignacio the Dragon, Cisco’s other brother who leads a drug cartel somewhere and gets super powers from . . . I don’t even know who. <sigh> It’s going to happen.

Daredevil – (I’m sorry. I watch a lot of super hero shows, alright? It’s technically fantasy–what do you expect?) Claire Temple is at least portrayed by a Latina (Rosario Dawson). Granted, I grew up with the disappointment of seeing Latino actors and actresses playing non-stereotypical characters in movies only to learn that they’re portraying other ethnicities, so Claire Temple is a hard call; she might not be Latina at all. Still, she seems to be an intelligent, well-spoken Latin American character who isn’t a criminal or related to criminals.

And, regardless, Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgado) is an adorably accurate depiction of an abuela. Yes, she’s a side character, but she’s still a named Hispanic character with no connection to criminals. It happens so rarely that I’ll take it as a win!

And, with that, I think I’ve said enough about the CAR Test. Did I say too much? Maybe. But has the CAR been brewing in my mind for decades? Really frustrating decades? Absolutely.

Hopefully, you were as horrified by the test. If you were–if you stopped to test some of your favorite movies and found that they failed miserably (even The Avengers! Hooray!)–drop a comment below. I’d love to hear about it–although I’d really, really love to hear it if you found a movie that passes the CAR.

Drop by again in two weeks, when I’ll dish on the Latin Lover Test, which forces us to consider a really overused and incredibly frustrating racial stereotype that people still laugh at to this very day.

— Project Updates —

LS-ProgressBar(3.0)-8.12.15-(InPost)Disclaimer: Apologies about the how tiny this Progress Tab is. The next biggest size was obnoxious. If you’re reading this after my next post, click the Tab here for a better look.

I made a new Progress Tab to reflect my weird, unexpected, on-going writing trends. That surge of short stories? That never really calmed down. The result: I’m working on a ton of ideas that I quit on a long time ago (including a few that I didn’t list there because I’m still figuring out how to make actual stories out of them). “Rainwater,” “Reset,” and “Dream Runner” are stories that I’ve already started, however–all halfway done.

Thus the change; I kept making new tabs with progress bars that never moved (the last few months I’ve started “Writing” projects that have always jumped to “Editing” two weeks later), so I’ve streamlined. The only progress indicators that remain are the terrible, ever-present ticks for submissions.

 

— Acknowledgements —

Thanks for the Follows . . .

. . . Siuquxebooks! It’s a blog that posts recommendations for Mystery/Thrillers, so it’s not really my thing, but I appreciate the Follow regardless, of course!

. . . and Jack J. Binding! His post on social media is absolutely fantastic. As a man who tries and fails to find patience for Twitter on a daily basis, absolutely hates Facebook, and also says an unabashed “fuck you” to Pinterest, how could I not love that post?

And thanks for the Likes . . .

. . . Megan Manzano! Her latest post, on YA’s over-dependence on romance, posed some pretty interesting questions about the genre. Full disclosure: I haven’t read a lot of YA, but I always love challenging tropes. And I’m pretty anti-romance (not the genre, but the plot element), so, naturally, bitter fuck that I am, I had to like that post . . . Give it a read!

. . . Siuquxebooks! Thanks again!

. . . Damyanti! Seriously, I could not help linking this post about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I was once a super secure writer, but now, I can safely say that the submissions process has completely changed my mind about that! So I absolutely have to support any group that supports struggling writers. It is a rough business. If you’re a writer struggling with the craft, check out IWSG. I definitely will.

. . . and James Radcliffe! His latest post takes a look at why he’s getting happier as he gets older, which turns into a listing of the five elements of his life that contribute to his on-going happiness. As someone who absolutely needs an outlet for some bad and inlet for some good, I have to give you a firm thanks, sir; your post gave me a few interesting ideas.

That’s it for this week. If you’ve liked what you read, consider giving me a Like or Follow; it’s fine if you don’t, but I’d appreciate it if you do! As always, you can find me fitfully posting on Twitter as @LSantiagoAuthor.

Either way, thank you for reading. And, as always, write well.

Sometimes, I wonder about perfect ideas.

It seems like there’s just a time and a place for them; a story comes along, or a character, and they’re so straight forward and simple . . . but so awesome that it’s ridiculous.

Take Rick and Morty, for example. Is it a bad example? I don’t know–I love it; gave it a shot last week and just burned straight through all of it that night. Point is, for me, Rick and Morty is a perfect idea. It’s so simple; crude, animated Doctor Who, only the Doctor is replaced by an alcoholic, granddad scientist who shoves his stupid grandson into ridiculous, hilarious adventures. But, no–that’s not actually what it is. That hint of Doctor Who is just a byproduct of the show actually being a spoof on Doc Brown and Marty McFly from Back to the Future.

. . .

In what way . . . is that not perfect? A cartoon spoof on Doc Brown and Marty McFly is such an awesome idea that it is also another great idea–a spoof on the Doctor–by accident. You think, “But the Doctor’s already a great old bastard these days anyway,” but somehow, it winds up not being the same; you watch Rick and Morty and, despite the clear influences, you don’t feel like you’re watching someone take the piss out of Doctor Who or pay homage to Doc and Marty.

It’s beautiful. It’s stupid and beautiful and it’s perfectly timed.

Because, could a show like this have existed ten years ago? Back then, Doctor Who wasn’t the phenomenon it is now. I know I’m in danger of analyzing this backwards (Doctor Who and Back to the Future are undeniably responsible, to some degree, for Rick and Morty, so obviously Rick and Morty couldn’t have existed ten years ago without being a very different show).

But my point is that perfect ideas terrify me.

Other examples: Star Wars. The Hunger Games. Harry Potter.

At times, I look at these stories and think about how massive they were/are. Every time, a perfect idea is so incredibly simple that it seems to jump out of nowhere, right next to you, where it was the entire time (“He’s an orphan boy who discovers he’s a wizard and goes to wizard school” doesn’t just feel like something you could’ve made up; it feels like something you should’ve made up because, “Of course! Wizard school!”). Every time, perfect ideas have elements of something else (Buck Rogers intros and the traditional quest narrative) that make them feel warm and familiar.

And every time, these ideas are just . . . addictive.

Perfect idea characters are no less daunting to me. Example: nerddom is currently up in arms about Jared Leto’s Joker.

The Joker. Who is a criminal mastermind . . . who looks like a clown . . . because he’s named after the most powerful card in a deck of playing cards.

And people are losing their minds about who’s playing him because they love him that much.

And–in case it’s not obvious–so do I. Because (and I can’t even say this emphatically enough) how awesome of an idea is the fucking Joker? He’s perfect.

And . . . okay, my point with all of this is that you can’t write that kind of perfection on purpose. At least, I don’t think you can. I wonder how Finger, Kane, and Robinson figured out the Joker (“So does he like . . . throw the card?” “Shit, I don’t know, dude. Maybe he just looks like a clown?” “That’s stupid, Bill. That’s stupid and you’re stupid.”). But I know that answer with Star Wars, at least; I’ve heard many a time that George Lucas didn’t actually think that Star Wars would take off the way it did. It was a labor of love.

Which means the best we can do is stick to writing labors of love–stories we want to read, as the mantra goes. We can only do that and shrug. “I dunno. Maybe people will lose their minds over this thing I just made up. I have no idea.”

Maybe I’m wrong about this; maybe people who create things I love (or at least some of the things I love) kick back with an abacus and work out the exact formula for awesome–but, in all of the cases I’ve mentioned, it just seems to be the luck of the draw. None of the perfect ideas I’ve seen seem strictly calculated.

So, what we’re all left with, as writers, is a goal that we can’t really aspire to.  We can’t write with abaci. We can’t try to tweak our characters so audiences will love them more. We can’t go for “extremely marketable” because we know that it’ll all spiral into a nightmare of wooden business ventures, the likes of which we’ve seen countless times thanks to movie studios.

But how do I not wonder if x idea is going to blow up? How can I stop myself wondering if I’ll write something that turns out to be perfect?

It feels so unhealthy to even wonder about it. I try to stop; to ignore it like I ignore questions about human mortality (30+ years of practice! Bring it on, cold void of death!).

But sometimes, I find a stupid show about an alcoholic scientist and his dumb grandson and I think, “Maybe, someday, I’ll write something as totally stupid and casually perfect as this show.”

— Project Updates —

LS-ProgressSidebar(inPost)-7.16.15Actually, one of the major factors in this was having a new idea vomit itself at me. That’s my affectionate, totally-not-crass way of saying, “I thought of a new short story and it was so determined to get written that it vomited itself right out of my brain (I wrote this at 3AM–please forgive).” I started it on Saturday–finished it Tuesday. I don’t have a title (I’ll find one during revisions), but for now, I’m just calling it “Aixa” and throwing it up on the Progress Tab. Again, I’m reminded that this story, “The Drowned God of the Silent Realm,” and Memory are all things that I didn’t plan and just . . . wrote. Despite what I’ve argued before, here’s the current score: Writing with outlines 1 [completed but failed manuscript and two unfinished short stories], writing without outlines 3. If you feel you can only write one way, maybe try writing that other way you’re sure is wrong.

I finished my last edit of “The Drowned God” a few weeks ago and have submitted it and Memory repeatedly. I’m going to spend some time this month editing Memory again, but with two jobs in full swing, that’s about all I’ve had time for creatively.

— Acknowledgements —

Whoa ho! What’s this? Acknowledgements? Yes. I’m super tired of copying and pasting links at the top of my page and calling that gratitude for Likes and Follows; I really, really want to reach out to people who reach out to me, so, from now on, you’ll find Acknowledgements at the end of every post, in which I’ll give a quick thanks to those who Liked and Followed after my previous post. I’ll also throw in links to posts that I enjoyed on their sites (if there are posts, and if those posts are kosher [there was the one woman who followed me but had a bunch of naked pictures of herself on her page (I’m not complainin’, but–hey . . . not sure I can link that [I dunno])]). Anyway, let’s get to it!

Thanks for the Follow . . .

. . . WILDsound Review! WILDsound takes written entries and turns them into performances, which is pretty cool. Their blog is mostly poetry, but their latest post links to this dramatic reading of a screenplay for Hannibal–in case you’re in a mourning mood.

Thanks for the Likes . . .

. . . Megan Manzano! I’ve gone on here about how I feel it’s essential to pick out themes for my characters, so her latest post, about how music has impacted her writing and where it stands in her writing process, immediately spoke to me!

. . . Damyanti! She’s a long time supporter and I just want to say I’ve always appreciated that! Something else I appreciate: her reassuring post about the madness of submissions and Kelli Russell Agodon’s concept of submitting “like a man.”

. . . Ellis Nelson! I’m not much for astrology these days, but this post is still an interesting follow up for the rant you just read (also, it has a pretty sweet owl illustration).

. . . and Justine Manzano! Naturally, this post, about how artists have to build their careers, speaks volumes to me. Maybe because there’s a perfectly manic metaphor in there relating career building to pawing Lego pieces together. I enjoy Legos. And being manic!

And, really, also a huge thanks to anyone who passed by; I always appreciate it. Please Like or Follow if you enjoyed and remember that you can find me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor, where I suggest things like Normal Cop–a prequel to Robocop (truly next level tweets).

Regardless, thanks again! And, as always, write well.

Just Keep Trying

Eleven years later and this is still my “getting work done” theme. Is there something I’m really serious about completing? Am I completely straight-faced and probably tired as I just get up and do it without complaining? Then this is what I hear.

After the last post, this song came on… for life.

That sounds sappy, but I’m not kidding. I had a negative experience two weeks ago (a friend went completely and actually insane on me). Although it wasn’t the reason my last post was so grim (maybe that was definitely just the fun of fresh rejection letters), I’m sure it didn’t help.

But, there comes a time when there have been enough negatives–enough ridiculous problems–that you just stop caring. I would call it a breaking point if that also didn’t sound negative.

I find myself thinking of it as an “Oh, gi–really? Fuck this” point.

So, about two weeks ago, Lightning Strike Rescue came on.

And I reworked “The Drowned God.” Just one more, neurotic edit and it’s off to Writers of the Future.

And then I reached out to a bunch of people I’ve shied away from–including near-strangers, which is crazy if you know the first thing about me. Instead of backing away, worrying about saying something stupid, I just talked and shared my work (because I think I’ll always need more readers), and then marveled as these people–even the strangers–just talked back.

And then I figured out a lot more about the sequel to Memory, making me super eager to finally get back to that story. I did get my first rejection for it, but I just need an afternoon to find a batch of new targets for submission.

Which I haven’t had time to do because, somewhere in all of this, I got a new job. As a line editor. At an indie publishing firm.

That insane, immediate turn around.

I… am a superstitious man. Superstitious and a writer. So, of course, even when I drop the hammer–even when my face goes all dispassionate and I’m all, “let’s do this”–I’m still inherently so used to failure that it’s… bizarre to have the world immediately vomit good things right back at my face. I narrow my eyes and cast them about, one eyebrow raised. “What… is this?” I ask.

I wonder, “Is this job going to implode somehow?” It’s immediately the best one I’ve ever had; I’m getting paid to do that thing I went to school for (a thing I love doing)–so lay it on me universe. What’s the catch?

And in reply, the universe throws a friendly Black man at me two days ago, on the 2 train.

“You reading Homer?”

I nod and this stranger strikes up a conversation–something I have the hardest time in the world doing. Only this time, after a full two weeks of not having everything I say questioned by anyone, I’m oddly fine. This is just a conversation. People have them all the time.

At first, we just chat about literature–The Count of Monte Cristo is his favorite.

Eventually, he explains that he did time. Immediately, the warning siren goes off; I have to wonder if he’s conning me, because, as a New Yorker, I’ve already been on the bad end of this very con (along with countless others). But there’s no too-firm hand shake or veiled demand for money. As this man continues talking, I feel horrible for even expecting it.

After he’s explained his love for Dumas, he gets pensive. “Man,” he says, staring off, “I’m responsible for so much of the evil you see out here. But God and I have an understanding. I woke up today, so I know he’s not angry.” He smirks. “I’m trying, my brother. Working. I gotta make up for the things I’ve done.”

“I can’t imagine how rough that is,” I say.

And he shakes his head.

“You’re doing good, dude,” I say. “You have to just keep trying.”

A few stops later and he shakes my hand. “Take care, my brother!” and he leaves the train.

I sit, stare at nothing.

And I think about how sad I’ve been and how stupidly grateful I should be.

~~~Writing Update~~~

LS-ProgressSidebar(inPost)-6.24.15I really have spent all of my free writing time working on “The Drowned God.” I have it out to a few new readers, including one of my favorite streamers–Hootey, from Vinesauce, an intelligence nerd and teacher who initiated charity drives on his streaming network (so, really, the best kind of person). I’m intending to give it one more look and then send it out to Writers of the Future–only because that’s an easy next target (arguably, the hunt for magazines that accept multiple submissions takes way longer than the incredibly simple submission form for WotF).

After that, it’s back to editing Memory. #SFFPit didn’t go well, but I was ready for that. I just need a quick read to make sure my additions don’t slow the pace or hamper the personality of my main character. Then it’s that hunt for submission targets.

In the future, my heart has finally come around on War of the Hex. After a while away, I’m ready to try again and hopefully have two novels and a short to submit everywhere.

And that’s it. You can get a more steady stream of me on Twitter @LSantiagoAuthor, although, be warned: that’s where all my gaming talk comes out. Video games aren’t all I tweet about, of course, but sometimes, Bungie just can’t stop proving how addicted they are to manipulating their fanbase or Nintendo can’t stop giving horrible showings at E3.

Regardless, thanks again for passing by. And, as always, write well.

I’m instituting a posting schedule. I have to admit that this blog is hanging on a thread for me; I appreciate everyone who reads it, Likes, and Follows, but this public journal is still hanging on for dear life because so am I.

I’m perpetually on the cusp of total failure–riding it like an arrow on the wind, always slowly tipping down. It feels silly to make it sound dramatic; dramatic isn’t how it feels. It feels like absolute shit.

But, I’m going to work against the doubt and the hate–it’s what I do.

So, first step–blog more often. Particularly because I went crazy editing Memory last month, and I feel that would’ve been a good thing to share.

I had the task in mind–the need to edit the whole book, reinforced with the mantra of “one chapter a day.”

Then I sat down and edited the entire book in three days, taking breaks only because I had full additions to make and didn’t want to rush them. I don’t keep records of these things, oddly adverse to my own achievements as I’ve been. I should maybe change that (strange how unimpressed I am these days that I’ve finished multiple books, but I’d like to think it’s part of the process–that it’s a step toward becoming a person who’s whole thing is finishing their novels).

Regrdless, not being impressed doesn’t mean I’m not pleased; I smirk as I think about my promises to myself that I’d at least have the first few chapters ready for #Pitmad and #SFFPit. The time for that careful prodding is over, I think.

Replaced by a desire to just start writing the sequel for Memory–annoyed that I’m not rich so I can’t just start writing Alemachus (name pending) or other new characters. I can’t give myself the luxury of anticipation and freedom because I know that the arrow is still falling.

It still has a long flight ahead of it, I admit if I’m honest with myself; there is still much falling to do. The thing is, being realistic about writing means understanding that when that arrow’s flight is done, it still might end with a silent punch into the dirt.

~~~Update~~~

LS-ProgressSidebar(inPost)-6.8.15I finished my 3rd draft of Memory, and although I’m sure I’ll go through it again in a week or two (for… fun?) I’ve already started submitting. Pitmad went well for me, but I know in the center of my greasy heart that this is only the start of Memory’s submission run.

I’ve only just started editing The Drowned God, a short story I love, through which I’m finally learning the art of the short. In the update box here, I say I’m “overhauling” it, which I feel is appropriate; I often opt for small tweaks that are a ton of work to implement, even if they just slightly benefit the tone of a story (a global change in tense, for example). In The Drowned God’s case, it’s a far more annoying change, but the result will definitely be that short’s final form.

For more updates or completely random ideas, thought up in the mind of an insomniac (like, “You’re an air vampire”), be sure to follow me on Twitter–@LSantiagoAuthor. While I always appreciate a Like, Follow, or Comment, thank you just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.

Looking Back

April was an interesting month. It started off with absolute conviction–I was going to write War of the Hex immediately. Its first draft would be done in time for Age of Ultron and that was going to be awesome. The idea was, “I finished the first draft of Memory in a month, so why couldn’t I just do the same with Hex?

Turns out I couldn’t because I kept hitting a really emotional writing wall every single time I sat down to work on Hex. The total rewrite of my one long-time project actually erases nearly everything I created for its world in its Prologue. A page or two into the rewrite, I find myself introducing a character… and stopping to think, “Hey, couldn’t this be Kysius [one of the many obscure characters from the previous versions of the book]?” And the answer was always overshadowed by the immediate rush of the realization that, “It doesn’t matter. Even if this is Kysius, Kysius dies anyway because this character dies.” And… okay–one character dying when they hadn’t before is no real problem.

But my brain always followed up with the reminder that, “Everyone dies. Everyone you created who isn’t a protagonist dies. The towns you made–your map of Ashaiden (the background for your blog)? That’s all gone.”

Oh… Yeah. Right.

I was expecting to have a few thousand words done within the first few days of Camp NaNoWriMo. I tapped out (officially) at 733 words.

People throw the term around comically all the time, but April really was just too soon. Especially now that I’m back in the vortex of, “Am I doing the right thing with this story?” I think I am–I really do; every time I think of how War of the Hex unfolds, it makes me happy and excited to write it. But that excitement immediately comes with so much… mourning.

But, taking a step back, there are none of those problems with Memory, so, despite just dropping out of Camp NaNoWriMo, I still spent the rest of the month working on worldbuilding for Memory, which is just about done. For a while there, I didn’t think there would be an end; my casual worldbuilding file is 74 pages long at this point, fueled by me neurotically deciding that yes, I need to describe every single facet of everything in Panthius. I make it sound like horrible work, but of course it wasn’t–I’m a nerd. Why wouldn’t I enjoy establishing the Empire’s strange currency and totally over-analyzing the social weirdness that comes with it?

Regardless, May is The Last Draft of Memory Month. It absolutely has to be because brainstorming has dropped enough ideas that I’m starting to write when I’m not even at my computer; I started an additional scene earlier while washing dishes and was on the verge of just dropping plates back in the sink–maybe angrily shouting, “Rinse yourselves!” at them before rushing to my computer.

But, my well-established weirdness aside, I have a handful of prominent settings to flesh out today, and then tomorrow I get back to working on something that makes me feel amazing again.

What I took from April–failures and all? Three things:

First, no matter what happens with it, War is always going to be a tough topic for me. Even when I finish War of the Hex, I’m sure I’ll still look back at War of Exiles and lament how I couldn’t just save all of the great parts of it because they’re attached to so many bad parts. But, at the same time, that’s just who I am. I have to move on, which means getting a new background image for this blog.

Second, this month, I’m going to write outside, because even just going out for coffee made me really, really want to write. 30 Days of NaNoWriMo broke me; the leather armchair demands my enthusiasm for all things as the price for its comfort.

Third, I’m not trying to work on a bunch of projects at once anymore. It’s just not how I work. I said it once before that I’m out of time when it comes to getting published, and that still feels true; I feel like I’ve passed the point where I should’ve been picked up–like I’m living in a failed, backwards life, the pitch of everything strangely warped as it all shoots past me. But I’m still here–still writing. Still trying. And, in no way does that mean that it’s a time for experiments; I work with what works and that’s it. I will come back to War (of course), but for now, that Progress Bar is shrinking to two active items–at most–and submissions. From now on, it’s just the novel I believe in, the short story I believe in, and all of the rejections I’ve accrued.

Full Disclosure

I sometimes imagine the different me’s that exist across the multi-verse.

Disclaimer: I swear this is going somewhere. Somewhere extremely important actually.

On the grand scale of weird things that I think about, this is one of the most affirming.

Maybe that’s not what you were expecting. Maybe you thought that this would be a whole depressing thing about how down I am about my place in life. It’s not. This is, instead, about the choices we make and feeling confident about them. Because there’s choosing medium or mild salsa.

And then there’s choosing whether you want to give up on a project or not.

Instead of asking, “Where do I even start??” I’ll clarify that I’m not scrapping one of my stories… Well, not exactly scrapping. March was all about making a brutal decision concerning one of them, however.

To put the right context on it, I’m going to take a moment to talk about the Louis Santiago’s in alternate universes.

There’s Something About My Face

I don’t know what it is, but something about my face screams both “lovable” and… “immature”? “Directionless”? Maybe it’s just because people always think aspiring Fantasy authors are insane and destined for failure. Either way, people always try to save me and it’s possibly a matter of my cheeks; I look way younger than I am. In the same way that kids just naturally love me (as if I’m some kind of cartoon character) friends naturally want to hug me and help me succeed. Which is awesome…

Until you get to the part where “helping” is “making you like me” or “deciding for myself that I’m your mentor and I teach you now.” Because this always leads directly to friends trying to slap the pen out of my hand.

“No! No! Bad!” they might say, as if chastising a pet. “No! You edit music videos instead, like I do!” followed immediately by, “WHY U NO CARE ABOUT MUSIC VIDEOS!?”

I definitely run the risk of going off topic, so what I’m trying to say is, I’ve been given a lot of weird choices. Choices that have created many weird parallel universe Louis Santiago’s. I am the Louis who chose writing–at every turn–to my detriment. I’ve stalwartly chosen writing and my life sucks. Not in a, “Boy are my feet tired; today was rough!” kind of way, but in a, “I’m single, still living at home, and I genuinely have no money because I pushed away a few opportunities to write instead,” kind of way. It’s own horrible decision, I know, but I’m definitely not claiming to be the smartest Louis in the multi-verse.

That said, I’m still not the Louis Santiago who toils away at rap music videos and wears the clothes that my music video editing friend wore (it actually got to the point that he told me to go shop where he shopped so I could look fresh). That’s an extreme case, but that idea–of me actually working a job I absolutely hate because someone told me to (because I let the pen be slapped out of my hand)–is actually worse than this. And that makes me feel bad for the Louis Santiago out there in the multi-verse somewhere, extremely tired as he records groups of men throwing up their hands endlessly at his camera.

I feel really bad for Rap Video Editor Louis and absolutely, horribly grateful that I’m not him.

Even though I’m not as depressed by him, I’m also glad I’m not Ruin Hunter Louis (who’s actually pretty awesome) or Food Scientist Louis, because none of those decisions felt right to me. In my thoughts about all of the alternate me’s, I always imagine them thinking wistfully about writing–that one dream they had to give up. Ruin Hunter Louis doesn’t have the time to write. Food Scientist Louis possibly delved into Sci-Fi, but, unaware that no Louis in any alternate reality could possibly write good Sci-Fi, he got burned and quit early.

Anyway…

My Point

There is now, in that ever-expanding multi-verse, a super unfulfilled Louis… who’s still pushing War of Exiles.

The end of March was really, really rough for me. Not specifically because I got my first rejection letter for War of Exiles; that rejection is something I expected. Because, of course. It’s rejection, the very middle name of the writing game.

No, what bothered me are the thoughts that came with the rejection. Because there was the usual torrent of thoughts you’d expect, “Does is suck?” “Am I a bad writer?”

But somewhere in all of that, there was a low, frustrated whisper of, “How are you ever going to make this novel sound good?”

And I blinked. With a deep breath, I turned an ear to that question and heard others like, “How can you convince the next agent that this isn’t a mess?” “How can you focus your synopsis to make it sound like there’s an awesome, composed story in here?”

And it led to one of the most brutal writing questions I’ve had to face in a long time: “Is there an awesome, composed story in War of Exiles? And if there’s not… why am I trying to sell it as one? Is that not going right in the face of everything I’ve ever aspired to do with my work?”

Because, with Memory, yes, there is absolutely a composed, entertaining story. Memory is this quick, fun piece with definite themes and clear characterization. But War of Exiles… I don’t want to make it sound like I wasn’t intent on making quality or characters or settings that I love, but I’ve been working on WOE for 10 years. And, along those 10 years, it’s picked up influences from every writer I wanted to write like. There were bits of George R. R. Martin intrigue and brutally human drama mixed with Sanderon-styled fight scenes. There was a need to make a logical, believable, Rothfuss-like magic system even though it was a story featuring giant, magically-animated monsters and necromancers. And, there was all of this, mind you, painted over the original, extremely campy base I wrote in 2005; because when I rewrote War of Exiles, I used the same general plot structure of the original (a story that took heavy influences from the most generic Fantasy you could find; one of the many problems I had with the book but just ignored).

It’s weird to be on the other side of another quality wall–another transition where I realize that all of February was me struggling to work out a single plot twist without realizing that a plot twist that I had to struggle to work out–for a month–was a horrible idea. It’s weird to realize the massive, unfix-able holes in something you’ve worked on for so long. To realize that what I should’ve done was scrap all of it and try to find the story I wanted to tell in the world of War of Exiles.

But, regardless of hindsight, I’ll finally just say that totally scrapping the original plot is what I’ve done.

It was… obviously not an easy decision. Just about every day after PAX was spent contemplating. Could I seriously just drop this thing I’ve been working on for ages? Was I going to just drop the project altogether and focus on Memory instead?

In the end, I began looking for that story I wanted to tell in the world of WOE. I had no idea if there was one, but–full disclosure–I really wanted there to be. So, even though I felt super defeated, I made an adorable relationship chart for my story elements. Just a simple, stupid file in Photoshop to separate my style from all of the styles of different writers. To find my book.

And it was after staring at that stupid, color-coded chart that I got it. I got up, walked to another room, and that magical writing thing happens where the pieces come together on their own–only the pieces here were massive chunks of a trilogy, falling together into a very different, neat, composed plot that is immediately, indicatively me. Not Martin-esque or Sanderson-esque. Not pulling influences from everywhere.

Not dressing like anyone else.

Not doing what anyone else says is cool.

Not letting anyone else so much as nudge the pen in my hand.

~~~

It’s called War of the Hex now, and, instead of being a trilogy, it’s going to be my second standalone. It is, to kind of bring this full circle, more of an alternate reality version of War of Exiles (not even a reboot).

I am also, as of this posting, already writing it for Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve thrown it up on the Progress Bar, where I’ve also added my editing progress on Memory, which (I promise) only appears to be going nowhere because I’m still going into world-building overdrift with it.

Thanks for reading. This one was definitely more personal (I’m sure plenty of other writers have had no problem writing what they want to write [I’ve had a strangely affected life]) but if this resonated with anyone, let me know with a Comment, Like, or Follow. Or just pass by again when you have a chance.

Until then, take care and write well.

People are talking a lot these days about the horror of letting go of their manuscripts. It’s established that it’s something you have to learn to do and that it’s difficult, like sending your child off to college.

But I don’t have kids and, even if I did, that metaphor wouldn’t be perfect. It’s close, but it’s not quite there. So Imma tweak it, just to make it absolutely clear how I felt about submitting War of Exiles for the first time.

It was like sending a child off to college completely by your will–and only your will–with the horrible certainty they’ll just be back in 2-3 weeks with a note scotch-taped to their face.

Cringing, you pull it off, open it, and read, “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to stare critically at your child, but it’s not what we’re looking for right now.”

You take a deep breath, hold it as you look up at your child, standing there, saying nothing because it’s a metaphor for a manuscript and manuscripts don’t actually talk.

And then you let out that breath in a sigh. And even if you don’t smoke, it still sounds like you’re a smoker when you rasp, “I knew you’d be back.”

Submitting War of Exiles was more like that.

I hit this strange wall near the end of my third edit when I realized that the entire series needed to be more thoroughly planned out; Exiles is only book one of three, and although some people can probably just jump into a new book with no real plan, I’m neurotic and needed a very definite plot for the rest of the books. This turned into daily brainstorming sessions with only War of Exiles’ epilogue left to edit.

The result of those brainstorming sessions? Finding a new plot twist that drastically changed the second and third books. And also the world itself; it’s easily the biggest endeavor I’ve ever taken as a writer, and although I’m excited by how much I like it, I’m also already exhausted; I wound up spending the last two weeks of February knocking around the one, crucial detail, making sure it worked.

And then it did–I reached the point when the next two books had a direction clear enough for me to finish Exile’s epilogue and do some last minute tweaks. Not hard, in comparison to the weeks of brainstorming.

But almost impossible when I realized it was another step toward that point when no more tweaking could be done. For me, that is the true difficulty. You hear constantly that an artist is never satisfied with their work. It’s true; every time I reread War of Exiles or Memory, I can always find something to improve. And, despite the fact that I’ve caught myself occasionally undoing changes I’ve made on previous edits, I’m still brutal enough on myself to want–to almost need–the luxury to change what I write. To try to make it perfect.

If I was a different man, I would never let go of that luxury.

Instead, I spent my Tuesday packing a suitcase for my metaphor child. One summary of the kid’s entire being? Check. One letter where I quickly talk about how awesome my kid is? Check. Again, to make this metaphor closer to the experience it represents, imagine that synopsis and query letter as a single shirt and a pair of pants that you continually fold, place in the suitcase, yank out again, reexamine, refold, place back in the suitcase. Just over and over–for actual hours–until you’re exhausted. Until a voice inside of you is all, “Just do it! Come on! PAX is like… tomorrow or something! Get packing or I am going without you!” And for a moment you’re tired enough to feel truly threatened by the voice in your head.

So you center yourself on that Send button. Your finger hovers over it and the same voice comes back, pricking your index finger with, “Don’t do it!”

But then the desperate rush–the incoming flood of a single promise: if you don’t send your novel now, you never will.

So before you can argue, you’re all, “I’m doin’ it.” And even if you don’t put shades on after you say it, you still click Send and it’s still the most simultaneously terrifying and gratifying thing you’ve ever done. At once, you shove your metaphor child out the door and you’re all hoping he doesn’t come back while also totally hoping he does.

But either way, you throw your hands up because it’s done. You’ve written the Synopsis and Query Letter. You’ve followed your agent’s guidelines. You attached a fragment of that whole book you wrote. And you sent it all. There’s no taking it back and no more fussing. Unless the response to your query is negative–then you get to go nuts fussing for a very short window before sending it off again, the second time already easier.

Because in the wild multiverse of possible you’s, you’re the one who already hit Send once.

~~~

Thanks for reading. I’ll be at PAX East this weekend, but the moment I get back, it’s time to once again do all of the above with Memory. If there’s better timing for this con, I can’t think of it. Thank you for reading and please give me a Like or Follow if you enjoyed.

As always though, no matter what you do, take care and write well.

A Day in the Life

Disclaimer: I’m writing this at 4:29 AM. I’m exhausted but, with the wild, new stress of editing War of Exiles and dealing with assorted other problems lately, I’ve found I have a hard time sleeping. The edit is going well, but editing a manuscript without taking long breaks between chapters is a completely different beast; you see all the flaws that need tweaking and you change them immediately, efficiently, and exhaustively. It becomes a nonstop struggle that you fret about daily, but I’m sure it would be fine–I’m sure I could sleep–if not for other worries. My solution: Get up again for phase 3 of responsibilities. Sometimes, it means I’m working on a short story at 5 AM (Lokisday, a short I don’t think I’ve spoken about at all here). Sometimes, apparently, it can also mean I want to write a really weird post at 5 AM. So… enjoy?

Step 1 – Wake Up

It sounds so easy.

Step 2 – Fooood?

This relies entirely on whether there is food to be had. Really, this step should be titled, “Coffee,” because coffee is often all I have for breakfast.

Step 3 – Editing War of Exiles

For me, the editing process has been like… being given a sponge and being told to clean a brick wall. Only, the wall is covered with layer after layer of old paint and the person giving the orders wants you to get down to the brick. With the sponge.

That is how it started for me.

I’d take my sponge, rub it on the wall, pull it away, see that there was a small smear of paint on it… and then inspect the wall. There might be one slightly brighter spot where I’d rubbed. So I kept at it, taking long breathers, never feeling quite right about my wall-sponging abilities. Often, I’d jump from spot to spot.

But, as time wore on, I figured out new tools. Turpentine. A… wall… scraper?… Why did this have to be a wall cleaning analogy? I don’t know anything about wall cleaning.

Whatever. The point is, I’m using stronger tools now; I can see the brick and I’m working nonstop now to get it clear.

But I’m still working the paint off of a brick wall.

I love writing. Really, I do. I could maybe use a break though; a break I will turn down every time.

Step 4 – Working out?

Probably not.

Step 5 – Actual Work

The thing about working from home is that my actual work space… is my writing space. So, unless I work out, I haven’t actually moved. In fact, I am writing this–right now–in my writing / work space. One room. One leather armchair. One TV directly in front of me, flanked by windows to the outside.

Step 6 – Video Games?

There’s a chance I can game as I work–but only if it’s incredibly simple work.

But that doesn’t mean much as video games are not exciting anymore.

And, of course. Why would they be? Working on my stories, despite the analogy, is exciting. Being outside is exciting. Seeing friends–smiling and laughing about Peeta and his cakes–is exciting.

Video games are just another thing I do in my writing / work space. My living space, I should call it. My “I’m breathing” space.

Step 7 – Probably Not Sleep

Whenever it happens, there is always the first attempt at sleep. I lie down, stretch out, turn so that my back is to my room, a wall in front of me.

And I stay like that for a while. Always, I contemplate my life. There are so many things I’m not saying on here because this isn’t the place to share them. But, regardless, I think about them–about my mortality. The constant, writerly worries come up–the thought that maybe I just suck. Maybe I’m not doing it right. “I’ve only just,” I’ll ration, “learned how to edit and proofread optimally.” It continues until I imagine being turned down by every publishing firm ever.

And, of course, at that point, I’m awake and back in my writing / work / gaming space, hammering out a post or what have you, eyes glazed over, possibly not even watching what I’m writing.

Step 8 – Why am I still up?

“Why are you still up?” my mother might ask.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Oh. You alright?”

“Yes. Just tired.”

There’s a range of funny, comforting things my mother might say to this. Even if it turns into a conversation about how tired she is, I’ll still smile.

The rest of this step is me doing things I half-forget–in part because they’re busy work. This morning, for example, I changed the cat litter before hopping on here. Yesterday, I started a short story and then did… something I don’t remember. Played Terraria? Maybe I played Terraria.

Step 9 – Actual Sleep

The sun is always up when it happens. Often, I’m talking to myself by then; we’re going full disclosure on the weirdness here.

Either way, I actually fall asleep this time, the ritual complete, Escribyr sated.

~~~

I have a boring, work-driven life with a passion for a field notorious for slow or non-existent returns; I currently have nothing to show for it because I’m still trying to get one of my two completed manuscripts ready for submission. I am… so close. Closer than I’ve ever been.

All I have to do is keep working–keep editing. Keep riding the oddly confined, leatherarmchairpocalypse that my life has become.

Just an absolutely unclear unit of time longer.

I can do it.

A weird thing happened to me the other day.LS-MemoryProgress-1.22.15

I finished the 2nd draft of Memory. I changed a surprising amount from the original (from one entire setting to another character’s physical appearance). So, really, it was a huge job and a lot of work. Upon finishing it, I felt like the book was far stronger than it had been–definitely a lot more unique and more finely paced.

But what I didn’t feel was any sense of achievement from finishing the 2nd draft.

It’s strange. I’ve tweeted about it. Every time I finished War of Exiles, I felt like a king. When I finished the first draft of Memory, I was also pleased. But, for whatever reason, finishing an edit of it (even this quickly) did absolutely nothing for me. There was no hurrah–no feeling of triumph.

And maybe that’s because of what a friend suggested: “That’s probably because it will never feel complete to you.” Yeah. Maybe. As a writer, I definitely fall into the trap of always wanting to pick at my work. In fact, upon finishing the 2nd draft, I immediately went back and tweaked the ending. There is always the certainty that I can find something to improve in my work, and the possibility that, to me, it will never be done and I’ll just have to publish what feels like a rough draft of it. And that’s a kind of horrible, depressing idea.

But that’s probably not the problem. Because I can work on Memory enough that it at least feels ready for publication (I’m fully aware of elements of it that still need work).

So I have to ration that finishing a draft doesn’t feel like an accomplishment anymore because… it isn’t? That sounds grim and bitter, but maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe finishing a single draft just… shouldn’t feel like an incredible achievement. At least, maybe it shouldn’t feel like a beer-chugging, let’s party kind of achievement.

Because, after a while, you pass the point as a writer when finishing a draft is an incredible thing you never thought you’d do. It’s still awesome to get a new story off the ground or finish writing one you’ve been planning for a long time, but after doing all of that, finishing another draft becomes a kind of silent step–a bridge between the greater achievements of “Finished my 1st draft!” and “Started submitting my book!”

And so maybe the achievement here isn’t the finishing of the draft… but reaching the point where I don’t care about having finished the draft? Maybe the victory here is having written enough that I’m not impressed by small victories.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel anything, but it also doesn’t mean its time for shots. It means I should, instead, smirk tiredly at having gotten to this point. It means I should, of course, roll right into that second edit and on toward “Started submitting my book!” without stopping for beer-chugging and partying.

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