On Writing Groups

Writers have this…I guess you might want to call it a ‘reputation’ for not always being the most sociable type of people. At least, that was the old school stereotype. If you go by your standard stereotype of the modern writer, traditional or indie, you run into people that are constantly posting, constantly interacting, etc. etc.

And this post has nothing to do with any of that.

Well, not entirely.

I wanted to write a little bit about writing groups and the good that can come out of them as well as some of the pitfalls you might run into.

So a writing group, using the vaguest possible definition, is a group of writers who get together to…well, write. The most common way they operate is a group of 5-7 people will submit work to a centralized hub/person, and then the group will critique the pieces as a whole.

The positives

I think the best thing about writing groups is that they help develop a tough skin and also help you come out of your shell and share your work. If you want to make a career out of writing, this is the biggest plus.

Writing with other writers can also make your writing stronger, both for the ‘writing for an audience’ sense and also in the craft sense. Even if you are writing in entirely different genres, there’s always something to learn about writing, even if it’s how someone else writes. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of podcast and Youtube hours that you can check out, but there’s something different about doing in realtime with a human being (virtually or otherwise). And if you’re trying to get out of investing time and money into an MFA program, writing groups are a good way to reduce those cravings.

When the chemistry is there, it can be a fantastic experience. One of my favorite writing group moments happened a couple of years ago. A longtime friend invited me to take part in a little tiny writing group that he had formed with two others. Although the experience was short-lived (due to time and family commitments we only met for a few months) it felt really cool to sit down and write and have an experience that mirrored that of my MFA.

The cons

Chemistry. Writers…we all have to deal with that ego monster, and if there’s no chemistry then it’ll just make that monster rear its ugly head much sooner than expected or wanted, and it can sour someone on the general writing experience. A couple of years ago, my ex-wife and I attended a writers’ group in town. Same process I described earlier: submit pieces, make comments, and then discuss these when meeting with the group. Luck of the draw, she was the one picked to submit with a few others, and when we got to the group, NO ONE had read the piece, offering only the most base level of critiques.

And I think that’s why chemistry matters, because if you have chemistry with someone, that comes with respect.

Years before that, I joined a writers’ group on reddit. The prompt: slice of life involving numbers, I think 300 words max. I wrote a little thing about people crossing the border.

“It’s too political!” I remember the guy said, dismissively, before moving on to a different story. That was the feedback.

There was nothing political about the story other than the fact that a Mexican writer wrote it, and that’s something I’ll talk about later — how BIPOC authors cannot be separate from their identity because their very existence can be seen as political.

Anyway — that’s the chemistry aspect.

There’s also a downside to writing with people outside your genre…there are certain things you take for granted/accept. Tropes, styles, etc. I’ve done some consulting work for [redacted] and when I read the first manuscript, it was a struggle. I was coming at it from a literary style of writing and didn’t even consider that the way this particular genre worked meant a big ol’ middle finger to the conventions I thought worked.

And a final ‘con’ — time. I love Dungeons and Dragons. These last two years, I’ve loved the idea of playing Dungeons and Dragons more than actually playing it because of the time commitments. Even if you were to keep a 3-5 person group, that’s still 5 moving pieces with moving schedules to keep track of.

So how to find your group

Honestly? Talk to friends who also want to write with you. They (hopefully) already have some chemistry with you. Pick a time and pick a place. Google Drive tends to be very friendly for things like these. Submit something reasonable. I’m talking about at MOST, a chapter of your story, or three different poems. Then make the comments throughout the week. Get together at an appointed date to discuss.

And of course, set expectations for reviewing things. I deeply dislike the compliment sandwich.

“hey, you’re good!”
“thanks!”
“your piece makes the baby Jesus cry”
“oh.”
“but I don’t find you totally objectionable as a human being!”

I’d rather comment things like: “Consider putting this descriptor earlier in the paragraph,” instead of a forced compliment. I still try to find something to comment on, but it’s got to be free and not tied to two critiques.

In person, there’s Meetup, I’ve had mixed results for that. And now since the Pandemic there are several options available on Discord* I’m in a few of them.

Besides that — Meetup has options!

*You just have to avoid the Obsidian Palms bad habit of joining a Discord group and then being entirely inactive on it.

Fountain Pen Friday #5 -TWSBI Swipe

I recently got to a milestone I had been trying to get to for months and I decided to treat MAHSELF to a new pen — the TWSBI Swipe.

I do like TWSBIs. I have one of their Gos and three of their Ecos. I had one more but there was a big oopsie and I don’t have it anymore (read: I accidentally jacked it up)

The Swipe is the most recent addition to the family, and it has the advantage of not looking like a vape pen.

I ordered it from Goulet Pens, my favorite online retailer and one of my favorite YouTube channels.

Swipe, Eco, and Go (from bottom to top)

Comes in a much nicer box than the Go and even the Eco, tell you hwhat.

This is the coolest, by the way. It comes with a proprietary cartridge, a twist converter, and a piston converter with a backup spring. I really like it when my pens come with their converter includeed. (*glares at LAMY*) Here, TWSBI said, you know, we really like the spring-converter the Go has but we also like the piston converter the Eco (and other brands) have. You get to pick which one to use here! More on that in a second.

Here’s how the Swipe looks next to a Pilot G-2.

Back to the converter types.

The spring mechanism (left) is a tad easier to clean, but you have to be careful when you load it up. The piston converter on the right gives you a little more maneuverability but I find these harder to clean without a syringe.

I opted to fill the pen with Private Reserve Orange Crush because blue will always go with orange for me.

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It’s also a really bold and well-behaved orange. My other one, Noddler’s Habanero, can at times bleed like crazy, particularly in my bolder pens.

I was kind of surprised by how…well, I’m not used to ink bottles looking like an exogorth’s open maw.

Filled it up as best as I could, and started to write a little bit.

Inkflow felt great with only the tiiiiiiniest bit of feedback. Will definitely consider buying another one!

Return of wInksday: Episode 8 – School Ink

I’ve been thinking about moving this blog away from just pens and ink and stationery to also talking about writing and other creative stuff I enjoy. I will keep my Fountain Pen Friday series going beginning next week BUT it will be much more limited as I am officially running out of fountain pens I actually own and I’m just not ready for a gold-nib commitment.

Today I’m going to NOT talk about fountain pens. I’m going to talk about pens that I think are the best for educators in general. I know we can write with whatever we have on hand. $0.10-a-pen Bic disposable pens, novelty pens we got from students, or the Walgreens-brand pen someone accidentally stole.

But.

There IS a certain magic to having a pen that feels good. Those pens I mentioned tend to just feel flat and frail. Easily lost, so in a way my suggestions are environmentally-friendly! (I’ve made this same argument for fountain pens. No, I’m not sorry.)

So here are my picks for the best pens for educators.

Pentel Energel Needle Tip, Bic Gelocity, Papermate Flair, Papermate Inkjoy, and a Mildliner highlighter.

A quick summary of the pens, all prices averaged out to the closest retail value.

Pentel Energel Needle point (4 pk/$6). This was the last pen I really got invested in before making the jump to fountain pens, and remains part of my EDC. I love the way it writes and it takes the best parts of the other pens mentioned on this list and puts them together.
Bic Gelocity – (3pk/$5) an underappreciated pen. The body has a texture similar to both the inkjoys and the grip of the Energel, and even as a 0.7 pen it writes like a 1.0, and it is BOLD.
Papermate Flair (5pk/$5) A felt-tip marker rather than a pen but these past several months I’ve found this one to be very useful for quick grammatical corrections and notes.
Papermate Inkjoy – (6pk/$10) – Prior to discovering the Energel, I gravitated towards the inkjoy. It’s comfortable no matter how you hold it as the entire pen is basically a grip. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I can have a wide range of experiences with the pen. Sometimes it’ll write beautifully, sometimes it’ll be a Bic disposable pen with better grip.
Zebra Mildliner Highlighter (6pk/$5) – The biggest downside to this highlighter is that the colors are…well, a little mild, especially compared to the road flars that your average Sharpie highlighters are. But that’s the extent of the downsides, honestly. BUT the problems stop there. It’s the ideal pen for both regular pens and foutnain pens due to the fact that it doesn’t smear the ink all over the place.

I used to be a big fan of Pilot G-2s for work buuuuuuuuuuuuut not if I’m going to be highlighting anything.

The mildliner only smudged the other ones a tiny bit but it made the Pilot G-2 go all over the place. And I mention this because of a little tiny thing that’s important to me: I’m a lefty. I’m a person who grew up with ink stains or graphite on his palm so outside the realm of fountain pens, having smear-resistant inks on my grab and go pens is always good. Plus, if I’m working with things I need to sign quickly or notebooks I spot-check, having these on hand is always good.

Imposter Syndrome

Close to three years ago, I found myself dragged to Star Wars Celebration: Chicago with some of my friends.

It was a really fun experience because the extent of my Star Wars knowledge was at that point:

  • Seen the movies (the prequels in the theater)
  • Played the Playstation 2 Battlefront Games

So I wasn’t getting as much, Star Wars-wise, from the experience. I did get a book signed by Timothy Zahn; learned that George Lucas has worse handwriting than I do; and stumbled on to a lightsaber battle at Millennium Park that we had initially thought we missed.

Mostly, I was there for the people-watching element of it. The very little that I ended up writing in 2019 was centered around my trip there. I love the city of Chicago (probably my second-favorite major city in the US) so I took advantage of me not having tickets for the first day to walk around the city.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of the second day and just focus on what my comeback post is about. There weren’t many panels that immediately called out to me but there was one I felt called to — the one featuring Delilah S. Dawson, author of Phasma . I went because as a writer, it’s important to learn from other writers even if they’re writing in completely different genres. My takeaways from that chat were two:

The first, the idea that you didn’t have to be a Star Wars fanboy to write Star Wars. She came at it from a background writing steampunk romance. I thought that was pretty cool and made me want to one day be a good enough writer to be considered to write parts of the canon. (a reach goal I’m adding to my dreams of winning an Hugo and writing for the Black Library)

The second: Impostor Syndrome

I think everyone at some point save for either narcissists or pathological liars have experienced this before. It took me awhile to navigate through it as an educator — especially when I was, in my mind, a social studies teacher masquerading as an English teacher. That feeling still rears its ugly head from time to time. Rationally, I know I’m an English teacher. I’m employed as an English teacher. I have a classroom near the other English teachers. My active certifications indicate i’m an English teacher. I work for the English department!

And yet…

It’s a feeling I come across often as a writer. I’m from the same borderlands that gave birth to Oscar Casares, James Carlos Blake, and so many others. I live in a city with incredible literary talent. I went to grad school with current poet laureates. I’ve worked with published writers and artists. And I’m always like DUDE YOU’RE SO COOL and they’re like DUDE SO ARE YOU which makes me go ‘ew no what’s wrong with you’

Which is the IS speaking. There’s nothing that ranks me any higher or lower than any of those people. When I’ve reached people through my poetry or my fiction, they’re not thinking “this short story is nice but it’s no Eyes of Zapata” or “Two stepping guide for cowards” is cool but it’s no Aguacero .”

They’re thinking, “this is a good poem/story/essay!”

Which is something I try to remind myself of whenever I write.

Which takes me back to Dawson’s way of dealing with imposter syndrome. I got to be one of those people that stands up and asks a question to a panelist and this might be normal for regular con goers but keep in mind THIS WAS MY FIRST CONVENTION so I was a little nervous. I asked her how she dealt with impostor syndrome. She thought about it for a second, and then shrugged. I didn’t record what she said…but paraphrasing:

“Keep yourself so busy you don’t have the time to doubt yourself.”

And it blew my mind because it was something so simple and so….true.

Not talking about overworking, not talking about some toxic “WORK YOURSELF TO THE BONE TO CREATE” thing…just, keep yourself busy doing the thing you love instead of wasting time with side things. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on “books for research” and wasted countless hours “worldbuilding” instead of actually writing. And I say that not because I regret anything I bought, but because I realize that when I focused on just doing The ThingTM I didn’t think about my being an impostor. When I won NaNoWriMo last year, I didn’t stop to think about all the things I could add or would have to edit…I just focused on writing The Thing.

Let the impostor syndrome creep up when you’re not doing anything.

When you write, just write.

The process

Every writer has a process, and one of the fascinating things about the process is that every one does it differently. Octavia Butler, prior to making it big, would get up at 2 a.m. and write for 2 hours before she went off to work. Patrick Rothfuss of In the name of the wind fame has a writer’s nook and prefers to write with a 30-year old keyboard. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. Everyone has their process. So I thought I’d talk to you all a little bit about mine.

It starts with this.

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This is a $5 Exceed pocket notebook. But really, it’s any notebook I can comfortably fit into my pocket. This is the one common thread among all the things I write: the blog, my fiction, my short stories, or my poetry. I carry it with me places because I never know just quite inspiration’s going to strike. I also have pens in literally every room in the apartment. About like, 50 on my writer’s desk, 25 on my school desk (if you’re keeping track that’s 75 in my living room area alone), 1 in the bathroom, 4 in the bedroom, and three in my car. I have two backpacks (1 school, 1 travel) with pens in them, and I tend to carry a pen case with 4. The only time I don’t actually have a pen on me is when I’m taking a shower or working out. And of those I’ve been very tempted to get one of those shower crayons because YOU NEVER KNOW. Oh, and I may have mentioned this already, but every notebook I have is titled ‘Flash Floods and Revelations #’ because I really liked that phrasing and it beats just writing NOTEBOOK 1.

Anyway, so like I said, my process begins with jotting down random ideas. For my fiction, my process is very straightforward. I jot down an idea and then run with it once I have a fixed idea about where it’s going to go. I was with some friends and we got to talking about mattresses and how they basically retain a whole bunch of skin cells. Then I thought — well, I know that every seven years your body replaces all of your cells. Then I did some unscientific math and figured that old mattresses probably have entire people in them. Next thing I know I’m coming up with a story about a mad scientist cloning people, which became the first official horror piece and the first story of mine that was turned into audio. (The added weight of skin cells)

For my poetry, the process is a little more convoluted. With my fiction, and keep in mind I focus on writing flash fiction, I can hammer out 1-2k words once I have a solid idea in mind. Poetry, which is by definition and nature shorter, I take a lot more time. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with quality or distance, it just feels better.

It starts with the idea on the carry-on notebook that I then transfer into one of my designated poetry journals. Once I fill the notebook, I seal it because I’m extra like that, and then I stuff it in my poetry bookshelf. I let it sit there for at least a month, and then I take it out. I unseal it and start reading the poems again. Those that I like are typed up with some minor edits and saved on my poetry folder in my computer and from there I start submitting them to journals.

I’ve documented the process for my most recent “batch”

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The poetry nook, missing a few books I’ve loaned out.
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Sealed June 16, 2021.
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one of the first poems I wrote, I realized I liked it, so I sharpie’d a checkmark after I typed it up.
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Then saved into my poetry folder on my computer,

I’m actually really fond of ‘The Throne is Empty’ and ‘That Small Nations’ both of them are three-part poems and I can’t wait to get them published.

And that’s pretty much it.

Now, I tend to write wherever I get a chance. Pre-pandemic I was partial to coffeeshops of all kinds because y’know, I have to keep up appearances. Also, realistically: Coffee houses have coffee, outlets, and don’t have the distractions I would have at home. Since the pandemic I’ve obviously been limited to writing at home and I’m great with that because where else can I be comfortable (aka in pajamas) when I’m writing?

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There’s a lot boing on but I’ll give you guys a TOUR!

1 – work pile: notebook, poetry journal, and a French-ruled notebook I use to try out inks and practice my handwriting. Oh, and two ‘currently reading’ books: Andrea Gibson’s Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns; Amy S. Kaufman/Paul B. Sturtevant’s The Devil’s Historians: How modern extremists abuse the medieval past; and Efrain Huerta’s Transa Poetica.

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2. Copper bowl with floating candle
3. Ceramic bowl where I keep the die for my pen color selections as well as my rings
4. Candle with wooden wick that makes that really neat crackling sound LOVE YOU TARGET
5. UTB/TSC paperweight
6. Gel pen pen holder
7. ‘Pens of the week’ pen holder
8. Oracle and affirmator card for the week
9. My ‘writing buddy’ coyote
10. Letter-writing material: Monteverde Ruby and Diamine Sherwood Green inks along a shot glass where I put the water for the wInksday ink tests. My seashell brass seal is behind them.
11. Fountain pen pen holder and right next to it my Mystic Mondays tarot deck I use for my journaling prompts. At the front are two gift bookmarks, one from my dad and another from my friend Stevie. I haven’t wanted to hurt either of them by misplacing them in a book.
12. Incense burner my dad gave me
13. highlighter pen holder (I lean heavily on midliners since they’re amazing but I also have one regular bold highlighter)
14. Iron-nib pen for letters
15. secondary incense burner

I tend to have Spotify or YouTube playing when I’m writing because I cannot stand silence. I’ll have another blog about my writing listens later but lately it’s been either Amon Amarth’s Berserker or a playlist my friend Lindsay and I created called the Nopal/Maple War: Cataclysm that’s got a lot of kickin’ tunes.

Below the desk (a gift from my friends the Gardners) is a drawer where I keep the other writing and poetry journals, an extra French-ruled notebook for handwriting practice, my fancy letter-writing paper, a different fantasy-themed tarot deck, and two craft books: Jessica Brody’s Save the cat! Writes a novel and John Dufresne’s Flash: Writing the short short story.

The side journal used to be my junk drawer but I cleaned it out and it became my bullet journal material area. I have my finest-point pens, assorted bookmarks, index tabs, ink cartridges, and blank wInksday paper samples.

I also have two medallions and two rings I like to have on me when I write.

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A wood/amber ring, a stainless steel feather ring, my stainless steel Camino de Santiago necklace from my pilgrimage with my dad, and a coquinajasper/bloodstone pendant I got with my friend Anna.

But, again, it all comes down to where you’re most comfortable with. When I wrote my book, I did a whole bunch of the writing at a coffeeshop in Houston because I worked Sunday-Thursdays and I could take Friday to work. Being in a coffeeshop or writing with friends is a technique used to help ADHD people because it creates something called body doubling. Basically, if you’re alone, your mind will wander and so having people around you in a physical or even virtual space serves as a check for your mind to come back down to earth.

What is your process like? Discuss it in the comments!

Fountain Pen Friday #4: Lamy

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For this Friday’s Fountain Pen Friday we’re going to talk about one of the most accessible fountain pens: The Lamy Safari (retails for $29.60 without the converter) is one of my go-to pens. I have a lot of those, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for my Lamy Safaris.

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They’re some of my longer pens…second-longest next to my Moonman pen at 6.5 inches when posted (remember, that’s when the cap is placed on the back of the pen)

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but because they’re made up of the same plastic lego blocks are made of, they’re pretty light. This is how they stand up when it comes to my other pens.

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Sharpie, Pilot G-2, Pilot Metropolitan, and Lamy Safari.

I think I have average-sized hands so the pen feels pretty comfortable in my hands. It also, unlike the other two entry-level FPs, has a triangular grip that “trains” your hand as to how best to grip a fountain pen.

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Most of the Lamys have that plastic/lego type finish on their pens, but some versions, such as the matte black or the terracotta orange (above) have a matte style finish that feels like it would stand up to longer writing sessions just a little better because of how the pen would feel in your hands.

It also tends to be a little bit more generous with the ink flow so remember to scale down one if you’re trying to write very finely.

Here we compare two Lamy Safari mediums and three fine with five different inks. You can tell the difference between the F and the M. I don’t have a single Lamy with a bold nib so I used my TWSBI Eco – B to compare them.

Final thoughts

Cons

  • Tends to be a wetter pen and so care must be maintained to keep it in working order
  • You have to buy the converter.
  • The included cartridge doesn’t have the best type of ink
  • the most expensive of the entry-level pens by at least $10 (vs the Pilot Metropolitan at $18 and the TWSBI Eco at $30)

Pros

  • They write beautifully and for M and B nibs you could really see the shading of the colors
  • Lamy is a solid brand and can be used to travel places with provided you take the adequate precautions when it comes to traveling with it
  • Lamy proprietary cartridges are very easy to find at stores as well as online

Overall, they’re a really nice pen to start out with. It’s got a little bit more boldness than the Metropolitan and a decent amount of ink in its cartridges. The clip is secure and unique in its design, and it’s a delight to write with (although for my preference for longer sessions I prefer my Lamy AL Star or my TWSBI).

wInksday 8: Robert Oster River of Fire

I’ve decided to stop using the Tomoe River paper for ink comparisons. It’s been discontinued, as previously mentioned, Instead I’m going to start using the Exceed notebook. It’s Wal-Mart’s answer to the Leuchturm and it’s actually surprisingly decent. I’ve used a few of them for meeting notebooks at school. The only downside is there’s a lack of color options (blue, purple, red, and black as of this publication) and I’ll be doing a full deep-dive into it on a FP Friday.

So the votes are in and there was a three-way tie and so I’ll lead off with the Robert Oster River of Fire ink.

Robert Oster is an Australian ink-maker who basically makes inks to order so there’s not a whole bunch of chemical additives added to them. So non-toxic ink, carbon-free plastic from Australia’s Coonawarra district. Here’s a few of their other inks:

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Overall, one of the best behaved inks across papers!

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The shimmer is lost a little bit here, but it retains a lot of the permanence with the water test.

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With the exceed, I feel the sheen that gives its name is best seen here. There’s just the tiniest hint of red. Granted, it’s something that’s better seen in a medium, broad, or stub nib but you can still see some of it here.

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You can find these samples at Robert Oster’s official website or Goulet pens.

Meandering thoughts on the craft and salesmanship

If you type in traditional vs indie publishing, you’re going to get a whole lot of sites and given how prevalent indie publishing is online a whole lot of those sites will have a curious pro-indie publishing angle.

Once I got the rights to my traditionally-published book back I went ahead and began selling it online, effectively turning me into a hybrid publisher. I’m not going to waste time and go, well this method is better or that method is better, I’m just going to relate my own experience and my own motivations for going traditional. Meandering thoughts.

Defining these three terms in as basic and vague a manner: traditional publishing favors time-consuming but more reputable publishing. Independent publishing dispenses of the need to go through agents and editors and do everything on your own. Hybrid publishing is a little bit of both.

Vague definitions because there’s tons of exceptions in each and again, everyone has their opinion about which is best for them.

And I think those three words are the most ignored when people write thinkpieces about this subject (and so many others in the craft). Their way is the best way. You can’t be a successful writer unless you’re traditional. You can’t be a successful writer unless you’re indie. You can’t be a successful writer unless you write every single waking moment. You can’t be a successful writer unless you write 10,000 words a day. You can’t be a successful writer unless you write with your feet digging into an alpaca-hair rug and there is a mug of green tea at your side.

Naw.

We all have our methods. And I think that’s the bone I tend to pick with some people who approach writing with a salesman’s mentality and I’ll clarify that in a bit. But first, why I originally went traditional.

When I first signed up for my MFA program, the push was that we would create things that would be able to be traditionally-published and so I kind of fell into that mentality as well because those were the books I grew up with. I’d go to book stores and see all these publishing houses’ product just lining the bookshelves. When ebooks came around I thought, oh neat! Then I tried them and I didn’t think they were Oh neat! anymore and since a lot of indie publishers default to going online-only it’s not something that’s accessible.

Clarifying: Accessible to me. I don’t enjoy reading on Kindle.

So I wanted to write a book that would be accessible in bookstores and a book that could be lugged around, forgotten, dog-eared to hell and back, written on, highlighted, etc.

Then of course, there was the vanity element. Even though I tend to dunk on my writing the majority of the time, there are moments where I’m like, you know what? This is pretty good. And part of my fear was that, say I pulled an Andy Weir and made it big. There would be part of me that would always go: “You went indie. You couldn’t have landed a deal on your own.”

Because that’s the thing about the poems and short stories that I’ve gotten published, each of them managed to get through at least one person that wasn’t me going “this shit’s pretty good!”

And finally…the effort.

Whether you’re traditional/indie/hybrid, you have to make an effort. That goes without saying. But I wanted my effort to be solely concentrated on writing. As it is, I’m employed full-time and active in school extracurricular activities. A lot of the writers I personally know are in the same position. I mention the effort bit because I don’t want to take say, 10 hours of creative time I get a week and spend 2 hours on being a writer, 2 hours on being a marketer, 2 hours on designing my own cover, 2 hours on running street teams, 2 hours on being mad at math.

Going traditional means I’m spending all my time being creative and handing off the responsibilities of the outside details to someone else. When I signed my contract with the small house that published my book, part of the deal was that they would find me an editor and a cover designer and would work with me to do the sales pitches/getting me interviews and all that.

Which leads me to the other myths people like to talk about when it comes to traditional publishing. It seems almost monstruous: “IF YOU GO TRADITIONAL, THEY WILL MAKE YOU CHANGE ALL YOUR CHARACTERS AND ALSO TAKE ONE OF YOUR KIDNEYS!”

Here’s the thing about contracts: you are allowed to say no. You are allowed to tell the people offering you a deal that you need to have someone look over it. You are allowed to tell them you’re not comfortable with something. You are allowed to tell them what kind of rights you want to keep. Don’t treat a contract as if it’s the TOS to just about every other social media you have. Treat it for what it is. If at any point you’re not comfortable with the risk: walk away.

(and it goes without saying, money will never go from the author to the publisher. Any “agent” that says otherwise is trying to get you to buy into a scam and you’re best running.)

The other thing with traditional publishing that is true is that it can take some time to get a deal. I went through 60 rejections over the course of a year. I know people who are three times the writer I am and they had double the rejections. It’s part of the risk. Self-publishing? Once you have the completed product, the entire thing took me about 2-3 hours. It’s that ease that facilitates problematic approaches to the craft.

“Hey, tell you what, Writer X! Just write the most base, trope-laden, typo-ridden, excuse for a novel, click submit, and then start working on the next one.”

I think that cheapens the art as a whole, and then it leads to attitudes of “Well, I’m a best-seller, I move so many units of books! Quality! Best-seller! Ranked #24 in Amazon for the web in the category of Spaceman Vampire Lover Robots!”

I’m being just a teensy bit hyperbolic there but the times I’ve wandered into listening to indie-pub podcasts there seems to be that air of talking about selling books with the air of a business major. Or they’ll spend less time talking about the craft of writing the book than they do about how to game Amazon algorithms.

That’s not what works for me. If it works for them, sure, good, but I personally feel it cheapens it and it even takes the fun out of it. Think about Painting With a Twist or Pinot Palette or Three Sheets Vermeer or Drunk Donatello or any of those painting programs that have you paint on canvas and have a glass or many while you do so. I think those are pretty fun. (Assuming they’re not…let’s say….creatively crowdsourcing their inspiration)

Now I think they’d stop being fun if I started going to several of those locations, taking the paintings I made, and then selling them on Etsy and then bragging about becoming some sort of incredibly-successful artist. Seems ridiculous, right? But this frantic need to just put out whatever cheapens everything as a whole.

I’m not in this business for the money.

I’m here to tell stories.

Now if you’re one of those people that wants to go into writing furiously and putting out the least-common-denominator of a product just to chase a pipe dream on the off-chance you can get a steady amount of bread…cool. But consider what you’re doing, especially if you’re a fan of the genres that you write in. Sci fi, romance, paranormal, fantasy.

All you’re doing is putting product out there that people can take and go “see, this is why I don’t read fantasy! These four books have the same plot and they didn’t even get edited properly!”

And I don’t mean all this to just rag on indie authors, just those that have the above approach. If you don’t, then there are many good reasons to go into indie publishing, indie authors who go into it for the love of the craft itself, love of just wanting to tell a story and not game the system. That, I can stand by. There’s also the idea that publishing as a whole has a history of not being super-friendly to BIPOC writers. There’s been a push to change that with smaller presses leading the way and giving shots to authors that are being ignored by the top publishing houses, but at the same time I totally understand that someone who feels disenfranchised doesn’t want to face rejection after rejection for telling their truth.

wInksday #6 Monteverde Ruby

Monteverde has been one of the inks that have been sneaking into my regular usage because 1) it’s one of the most affordable ink bottles I have and 2) it flows really well on most of the pens I’ve inked it with (the other one I have is the Monteverde Sapphire)

I was on the market for a red ink because at the moment I only really had my Pilot G-2s and the Pentel Energels with a neat red ink but I wanted a specific-red ink fountain pen ink. I had checked out the momiji but it was a little too pink and I needed something more red-red so I went for the Monteverde Ruby.

And I’ve dug it! It performs well, looks great on shitty and nice paper, and it’s a nice complement to the Pilot Metropolitan I have it inked with.

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This bottle also has the distinct/dubious honor of being the only ink bottle i’ve managed to knock over twice in one sitting.

Here comes the test.

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1. Leuchturm 2. Tomoe River 3. Clarefontaine 4. Notebook paper 5. Rhodia (on the right)
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Very light bleed through on the other side when, even on the cheapest paper.

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I think you can see the most vivid of the “Red-orange” here in the paper. As always, I’m a stan for the Leuchturm (and even the Wal-mart knockoff-Exceed) in place of the Moleskine. The ink also dried as quickly here as it did with some of the nicer paper.

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The Average Notebook Paper had been performing so well up to this point with some of the pricier inks but here it just took an L. Failed the water droplet test, the ink takes longer to dry and there’s more bleedthrough. I think if you’re going to use this ink grading papers I’d wait a little bit for the ink to dry.

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The Clairefontaine paper took another L. Again, this paper is a fantastic paper to write on but you’ve just got to be more mindful of the ink you’re using so you don’t end up writing a letter that’s going to end up being a smudged mess. Some people advise getting ink blotters (which look cool) but you can get the same job done with a handy paper towel if you’re paranoid about the smudging.

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The now-discontinued Tomoe River paper does well on the dry test, but takes a step back with the water droplet test (the water spreads the ink a lot).

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Overall, the Monteverde Ruby, like every other ink so far, performs the best on Rhodia paper. More of the shading is present, the water drop test leaves the ink droplet in place, dries quick.