Just Another Tuesday in Fantasy

There seems to be a fundamental difference in how I write stories and how many people think I should write them.

There is much to say about immersion and forgetting that you are reading a story. I get that. I think where things drift apart is how one can achieve this.

I am always very aware that I am writing a story and that on the other end, in the best possible scenario, is a person who reads that story. My job is to make this experience as enjoyable and accessible as possible.

It may not be transactional per se, but it is intentional.

So the question is, do I write from the head of the character or for the head of the reader?

I understand that while people in my fantasy world may not know what a “Tuesday” is, my reader will. And I am certain the people in my fantasy world have names for their days which, if I wanted everybody involved to do that work, I could use.

There is the discussion of “translating” from the secondary world. And if I go hardline on this, the probability that any secondary world uses English is zero. There is always the component of implicitly knowing that. Even if it’s just, let’s say a movie set in the little German village of Großheubach because why not. Even if the movie is produced completely in English there is the understanding that, in reality the people there would be speaking German.

Having them actually do that would work counter to the target audience of English-speaking people. And yet, I do not see the “translation” being an issue here. A Tuesday will be a Tuesday even if it is a Dienstag and people will be herding cats instead of “babysitting a bag of fleas.”

It is understood.

Yet, when I apply this to my fantasy, it is wrong and too much of a stretch? Like, yeah maybe my knight doesn’t know what a disco-ball is but there is certainly an in-world expression of saying his new armour is ridiculously shiny. One we may not get.

Here we get back to me writing for the person who reads it. I want them to know what the connotations are without having to work for it. That means liberally using all the contemporary language I have at my disposal.

(Discourse:
But Mel, won’t that date you book?
Yes, yes it will, and I am sure historians of the future will thank me for it. Next question.)

I understand that this is not a thing that works for everybody. But it works. And I will take an easily accessible, understandable, if modern turn of phrase over having to read half a page of background to get the in-world expression substituting for Tuesdays.

So,

A thin woman in black jeans and a black spaghetti strap top is dancing with her hands high before a yellow background. The caption below read "It's Tuesday" twice.

Futurescapes Face Journey 12: Conclusions

I think it is a great way to connect to others. Unfortunately, I am not great at doing that so I do not get as much from this as you could.

I like the idea to have a workshop in person I’ll never be able to afford it, though. I coasted on enough money for the online version by pure luck.

Your brain is with you all the time. If your group tells you your writing is doing okay, it is up to you to make your brainsoup believe it. *kicks soup with a ten foot toad*

There is no guarantee you will get to work with the faculty you ogled (respectfully).

I do not regret a single thing or buck. I always regret things I didn’t do more, so this is fine. I know now and certainty can’t be outweighed in gold. (Maybe in offers for my ms, but who’d ever do that?!?)

Would I have fallen apart if I had gotten to work with my top choice? For sure. But I learnt how to function while in pieces. One thing nd life has taught me. By now it is more awkward for those around me. I made my peace with it. I would have worked through it. It would have been one “what if” less on my plate.

Am I still sad I didn’t get to work with my top choice? You betcha. I would have loved nothing more than to know what they think of my pages.

On the other hand, I will soon-ish finish my Horny WIP and then I can go back to Sava 2. Once I finish that, nothing can keep me from thrusting it at all agents ever again. SHRUG EMOJI

I have definitely learned A Thing or maybe even 2 Thing. It helps to know that I can chill out and just keep writing my stories and yeet them at agents. The stories I want told and the style I want them told it may never make it over the gates of tradpub. It feels like a necessary step at the moment though. A thing that needs to be done unless I want to add to the Regret Eternal pile.

May I be granted the strength and resources to self-pub one day.

And this is it from me on Futurescapes 2022. Please remember this is a very subjective experience and your mileage will vary. I’m just a smol angy nd flipping over in their hamster wheel.

A Roborovski dwarf hamster is running in a red running wheel. Suddenly it is caught by the wheel and spins around in, flipping over and over.

Futurescapes Face Journey 11: Wrap-Up

After all that I had a nice sleep and did some self-care quests and hoped for the best for wrap-up. There was also more socialising but I spoke about that already. The only thing I did different this time was to keep the camera off except for when I asked a question. (Yes I ask questions, especially if I can and feel silence would be embarrassing for the host.

Wrap up was with the leader from the first workshop. I was looking forward to that because for my needs, she had the best leading style. I was still not really in speaking order. I tried not to and only to react when spoken to. It may have been noticed this time. 😅

ngl, I wished I could just have used the chat to communicate. I mean, why not? My spelling is atrocious when I type fast, but we were all writers with a huge imagination here… But that is not the accepted and normal way of communication. And yes, I will always try to be normal. It is in me by now. I have worked on little else for over 30 years. I think it will be difficult to shed.

As before, everybody was very kind and understanding. I am not sure if I will ever get used to it. I was able to explain some of the factors that made this hard on me.

  • I am working on a different WIP and am lot loving the one workshopped as much as I would had I been working on that
  • I was horribly prepared for the query and that I didn’t think it through on my own compounded the stress.
  • I feel like a burden to the rest of the participants because I can’t keep it together.
  • My head kept turning positive feedback into bad loops

There were positive things, too. Things not connected to the words I had brought. My writing is doing ok and my current WIP is lovely. I am in the scary position where people have already volunteered to beta this heap of fluff’n’porn. Like, more than for Sava. Maybe, if things go well I’ll have it ready for Queery Fest.

It was great to hear where everybody was planning to go next on their journey. Everybody sounded invigorated and motivated to pursue their stories and their path. I had also learned things about my writing and my path. None of which made me starry-eyed though.

The books of our workshop leader sound absolutely amazing. I am happy to have met her and that she is now part of my twitter feed. 🤩

The closing ceremony was also nice. I kept the camera off and apart from a second of acute envy for not winning a thing I only knew about for half a minute it was not exciting. So I’ll just pin it on here with the this one paragraph.

Futurescapes Face Journey 10: Group C

I felt better prepared for group C. I hadn’t worked on the beginning and instead chose a scene where I introduce my fave side character. I may have fudged it a little to fit the 500 Word Limit. 😅

That helped. It also helped that the workshop leader was an agent who already rejected book one. The possibility to impress her into remembering (with regret) the ms she rejected some time ago was non-existent. I had nothing to prove and only my peers to entertain. I was positive that this would go well enough. They already admitted to being entertained by my writing.

One of us had actually brought a reworked beginning.

I had to think super hard on what everybody else brought, which should tell you something about the stress-levels I was still having.

Two others also brought something we had wanted as a group, snippets from a little later in the ms introducing people or showcasing them. One brought a prologue. Ngl, I felt strange seeing all this prologue thingie when I had just nixed mine.

Reading went okay. I am more used to it than I was on grounds of trying to keep Sunday Sound Snippets alive on twitter. (It is not working.) So I had read a few of my things before and knew the most important thing was to slow down. More. Even more. No, go SLOWER! Almost there.

I don’t think anybody laughed but I was very concentrated on slowing down the words coming out of my mouth. Which, on top of liking those words, helped a lot staying afloat.

The feedback was pointing out several (expected) things. The voice was still working. It was still unclear what the Agency does and why. At least nobody harped on Sava for being unprofessional for thinking about banging first and foremost. (Maybe because this time she looked at a guy? Hm.)

The dialogue was moving too fast, it was not grounded, it didn’t give the reader time to think. And while I appreciate the notion, why should the reader get the time to think during talking when I do not? Also, the free-floating dialogue hit home hard because it was a comment I made on a fellow workshopoer’s words. I was like, if everybody does it, and nobody really has a problem with it, why do we have to stop? It doesn’t compute. There will be a blog post about that.

Suffice it here to say that in general I am aware of the phenomenon and have to actively look for it if I want to remove it. (Which, let’s be honest, I have to for marketability reasons.) On the other hand not having much around the dialogue to move forward faster and make people skip over things – yes, yes I am doing that.

It is something I should look at, though, to make sure it fires precisely. I love having my readers overlook crucial details because the banter is too funny or the pun so bad. 😅

I am not sure what to do about the feedback on the agency and its motives. There is literally nothing there but a frame for the stories. I don’t think about it any more than I would about putting kingdoms into fantasy because that will give me kings and borders and conflict and an environment. Maybe it’s something about taking things at face value. Another subject I think about a lot.

After the trail the second workshop was, this went pretty well. I can’t remember if I said a single thing outside of my segment though.

Futurescapes Face Journey 9: Group B

Welcome to my nightmare.

Where do I even start? A lot came together here.

  • I had done a lot of socialising for one person in the last day and was looking at even more of it.
  • I was acutely aware that my query was for an unfinished book and there was little I could do to sharpen it up because I had no idea what would actually happen.
  • I was beating myself up for not sending the query for book 1 which was finished and in the trenches, so a critique would be actually useful. Not thinking of that was stupid. (I was stupid. You see where this is going, right?)
  • I was about to show my whole ass with the queries I overhauled to the best of my knowledge even though my own query was trunking in the trenches. (Hubris! Hypocrisy!)
  • I would have to get through this in a workshop lead by CL Polk who is an amazing person, wonderful inspiration, and also headliner of the event

No pressure. I mean, I was set up good with the query I sent, right? No regrets there, right? The workshop wasn’t being tiring in unexpected way or anything, right?

Yeah, yeah. I was overwhelmed before it even started. But at least I was holding up. (I also had ordered a second weighted blanket which definitely had nothing to do with my urge to turn into a human pancake and just – let things blow over.)

I don’t know why this felt like the shortest of the workshops. And still I feel I remember most from this one. Maybe because seeing Polk’s perspective on queries was something new. We get fed the same formula from all sides (ngl, I crafted my own and the overhauls on that formula) and Polk did not support it for all novels.

Which, valid. It is difficult to put an epic fantasy with many PoVs into it. I can see it work with two PoVs, but more than that? So seeing other angles to lean into. Not sure I’ll remember it if I ever need it. Looking ahead, all my future writing is fortunately one person’s head.

Polk coaxed out information about the novels for the query and showed up ways to incorporate the selling points and what excites the writer about them. I was already trying to discorporate, because I had nothing to coax out.

After their comments, it was our turn. Several of us spoke up simultaneously. I stepped down. By the time the others were don and I tried to speak, time was over and I was cut off by the workshop leader.

Yeah. That went down about as well as you might expect from former blog entries. I went non-verbal, which oop, bad when my turn was still ahead. Also, trying to battle this and not just break apart showed clearly and damn I really should just have unplugged the camera and had a good cry there. I would not make it through this without one anyways.

On the positive side, I don’t think anybody noticed I didn’t even try to speak up again. On the not-so-positive side, I knew I’d just fall apart the moment I opened my mouth.

Long story short. I did.

When asked about the query and the book, I had nothing. Worst, the questions as to why the agency that facilitates interdimensional travel and hands out the missions exists and what their goal is. le what? Ask me why my sci-fi is set in space. Ask me why there’ll be a HEA at the end of my romance.

Like.

That’s literally the premise? Sava is an adventure series about visiting strange places, meeting strange people, and solving mysterious cases. If there is nothing to give you cases and send you places, there is no story.

I have considered putting a big overarching plot involving the agency and its work into the series. I have some excellent starting points in the first book, too. Honest? I don’t want to. It’s a good place with good intentions doing good work. It is exactly what it says on the the box.

This is a thing I guess I’ll have to address some other time. Things being what it says on the box. No more, no less, no mystery.

Back to the query workshop. Everybody was very kind about my breakdown and CL Polk apologised when they had no reason to. I was just in no state or shape to workshop, especially not a useless unfinished thing.

But I got through this, if in pieces.

And I was not really looking forward to the next workshop being only half an hour later. Might be enough for a good cry and some full-body stimming. Would definitely not be enough to return me into a state where I could sensibly workshop.

Well, you live and you learn. Next time *lol* it will be camera off and letting it all put. Yes, by now I can cry and keep going at the same time but is in uncomfortable.

Futurescapes Face Journey 8: Group A

Where do I start and how do I word it so nobody sues me out of my last binder?

Facts first. I got my second choice as leader for Workshop A which covered 3k of an anything, preferably a beginning because it takes less explaining. I had a fun time cursing when I found out, bit by bit and after sending my materials, that I could have sent in about anything as long as it was 3k. Though it was probably better this way. The amount of things I could have chosen from and my inability to choose would have made it a lot worse than it already was.

I was excited and scared. Excited because new people! And scared because – well, exactly the same thing. I can be a lot and I have stopped being enormously apologetic when it shows. Also, there were men in my group which is always extra amounts of work. (ngl, I prefer men to enter my life vetted through people I trust. The omfg-no rate drops to about zero that way.)

Kudos to my workshop leader. She did an amazing job, first giving us time to get to know each other and also first my impression was, yes, indeed this is an excellent person. Sometimes even I luck out.

Can’t say I wasn’t burning nervous about the critiquing. On the one hand, I do have a perspective. On the other hand I also do have Impostor Syndrome. At least my pages were not the first. I was just the first to add my comments on it.

It went ok. All of the critiques went ok. Nobody thought I should maybe get my hubris sanded down or anything. I learnt that being German can be of great help when you are scared to point out things that can be read right-wing because, well – *waves vaguely in the direction of Nazi-Germany*

I learnt that what looked well-meaning but misguided came actually from a well-thought-out place and just didn’t have the background. A bit of a Mitsubishi Pajero incident.

The critique that went best was me requesting the full of the manuscript dropped into my DMs ASAP (and got it 😭). I may have been prejudiced there, because enby co-protag.

Am I avoiding to talk about my critique went? Yes, yes I am.

It was amazing to see how people from such different backgrounds agreed on some things and had completely opposing ideas about some others. I was also very pleased that I didn’t see a single bit of Middle-Aged White Literature!Literature Snob Man attitude. (Which tells you all you need to know about the last official writing thing I did.)

I was also very happy that on story I felt very helpless with, the group had good insights and ideas. The idea that I am not being useful is something I should probably see a therapist about. Maybe I’ll do a blog post instead. 😋

So, what did they say about my beginning of Sava 2?

They liked it. 😱

It was a good thing I wasn’t allowed to say anything. I had expected this detailed take-down on how things did not work and why. Because it still feels as if I am breaking all the rules of writing fantasy and I shouldn’t get away with it.

And here were smart people with good critiquing skills and sharp minds to poke at bad writing and –

It felt more like a positivity pass than anything else. I mean, world’s most expensive positivity pass, I guess. But how do you tell your brainsoup that obviously the voice works and the things happening keep people reading well enough and yes, Freya comes across as gorgeous and amazing as she is.

There’s definitely stuff I want to work on. I know it is a second part, but I really want people to be able to just Start Here and feel confident. Which is a problem I have since Book 1, Page 1, Word 1. To circle back, it is extremely interesting to see what different people consider important information to feel grounded in a beginning.

Another thing that stuck was, how unprofessional Sava appeared falling head over heals for Freya. Isn’t she supposed to be on a job? Shouldn’t she be less smitten or at least keep it under control?

I have bad news for everybody. Sava is not professional. She sees a woman, her head short-circuits. She is solving her cases not through clever sleuthing and deductions. Sava is using Big Bard energy to get out of her cases. She is doing monsters (and gets paid for that. Dream job indeed…).

Unexpectedly, but not unsurprisingly, the monster of author envy reared its head when one of my friends got to work with my first choice for Group A. Such is life. It sucks. You cry. You move on. (Also damn! Good on her.)

Futurescapes Face Journey 7: Socialising 😬

I was agonising over this one because I am not the type to socialise. I am the type to hide under a rock or behind the potted plants.

I am awkward for many reason, one of them being that I don’t like people. I have over 40 years experience being around people the the amount of times this went down absolutely horrible – let’s just say it left a mark.

I was very pleasantly surprised there was always a channel for queer and one for neurodiverse people. I chose neurodiverse more often because I think I am surrounded by queers already (sry straights, I keep forgetting you’re straight.)

So, I joined the Discord. I introduced myself. I had no idea what to do next so I wandered off again. That’s pretty much how it stayed for the discord. I am slow interacting. If there isn’t an active community already that allows me to dip in my toe every now and then until I feel safe, I will never warm up.

(Spoiler: I didn’t. I am as yet on the servers because of FOMO. I am playing with the thought of leaving at least on of them.)

My little group also created out own Discord. It is a very small and quiet place. Which is fine because among strangers I am also a very small and quiet presence. (People who get to know me possibly remember those times with nostalgia. 😋 )

I stumbled through the Thursday Midday Social Hour. I totally didn’t anything that was going on. I am horribly bad at making myself heard. Like, by the time a lull in the conversation is long enough for me to consider speaking up, somebody else has long started.

Or worse, we start up at the same time. I will always slink back into silence mortified. I am very sensitive to taking up space and the push-back against that however accidental. If I encounter resistance, I will just stop. And nine times out of ten, nobody notices I am not speaking any longer.

Another me-problem is that on zoom, once in a room I am scared to leave. What will the others think?!? So I stayed longer in some rooms than I wanted maybe because I couldn’t leave.

I didn’t attend any of the attendee-organised things. I was rather overwhelmed by everything being everything despite my best efforts and while I sometimes enjoy just sitting back and watching, it felt like too much stress to commit to even more things.

I wondered if an in-person event would be better for me. I am more experienced in not breaking when among actual people and not holed up in my Safe Space™. By now I have also learnt to just leave and hole up in my room when it gets too much. Yes, I miss a lot and have FOMO, but I do not have a meltdown where people can see it.

I do not like that.

So, maybe in-person is better for me despite everything. Considering the cost of the workshop alone in the real word, I will never be able to attend, though. And that is before I add on the cost for travelling around the globe.

I consider it a win if I come out of such an event with +1 contact that will probably hold up. I hope to have managed that.

Also hoping that agent gives out the personal agent mail-addy at all events and not just paid ones. This is pay to play and though I will certainly make use of it I still think it is grossly unfair. Even if it’s just the fast track to rejection. (For the amount the workshop cost, I feel entitled to my rejection within the week. 😋)

Futurescapes Face Journey 6: 20k in 9 Days

No, I don’t want the math, thank you very much. I know I am slow, very behind on the ms I agreed to beta (so sorry Max 😭) and now I have to read and comment one submission a day if I want to stay on track.

When I would much rather write my Horny WIP which has arrived at a place where whump and sex take turns which like, nice.

We were sort of introduced to each other in a group mail. I was excited about that part at least. I am an optimist and immediately believe I will get to read six of the most amazing book beginnings ever. On the day of the mail, only one other group member spoke up and sent their material. Welp.

But it turned out out fine. I got my material within days and was hype as always, expecting to rad six exceptional book beginnings. And, as always, no such luck.

I am the first to admit I am a very picky reader. My sensitivity to casual sexism is very high and if I find racism, however implicit, you should be worried. (Insert rant how I shouldn’t be the one to tell people a story reeks of white saviour complex, like come ON. I am white. If I see it, it’s bad. This is NOT about any of the things I read for Futurescapes, just to be clear.)

Back to business.

I hope my discord takes me by my word and kicks my ass into next week should I ever get the idea to critique as a service. Man, I hate having to work on things I don’t connect to. Also, I wish I wouldn’t think “why do we allow men to write novels again?” so often because there’s obviously men around to who this isn’t applicable. Still. There’s some systemic shit going down that route. Just saying.

As I sat reading and pinning down my thoughts, Impostor Syndrome-san came home to hit me hard. Like, who am I to tell people their queries could be better, when my query was out there not garnering requests either? The gall!

But not all was bad. It never is. When joining up for critiquing stuff (or slushing) I will always hope for bags of golden words thrown at me. Yes, I will always be wrong. But there will still be gold.

The greatest challenge for me is trying to help with a genre or setting I know zilch about. Like, nobody explicitly asked for the opinion of a neurodiverse, non-binary, German!

Is it a different perspective on the writing? I guess it is.

Is it a helpful one?

close up of a white man who is searching fro words. His right hand comes up gesticulating until he gives up and rests his chin in it.

I am also not the best at wrapping up criticism about things I’m just *le tired* about. (And I am tired of so many things.) On the other hand, I love leaving happy notes and emojis in the comments. I think it is very important to let authors know what works for you. And in every pages I read, there was always something that worked.

On the third hand I got more and more nervous about my own pages. Nothing I had gotten was remotely close to what I sent out. I felt like the class clown nobody had requested. Sava isn’t ‘serious fiction’. Sava couldn’t be serious for a second if her life depended on it.

I start my pages with a bloody meme and it goes downhill from there. I wrote that! There’s likely horrible puns in it already. The horse is called potato. Sava can’t look at a woman without going Hot Damn™. I end the pages sounding like Varric Tethras.

Close up of Varric Tethras from Dragon Age Inquisition saying "well, shit."

Nothing to do but wait, read, and worry.

Futurescapes Face Journey: 5 The Group Announcement

I won’t lie, I got a little anxious as time went by. Not just because I was so scared about the group announcements and getting or not getting what I had asked for. I’m not stupid. I know my first choice had all kinds of troubles attached, me being a hyperventilating wreck on main being probably the smallest of them. I have amazing brainsoup. The things that could go wrong!

Also, I read slow af. And there could be six people in my group and then that is 18k to read plus queries. I need time for that. I want to give good and useful feedback. Not that I am always convinced I can do that. I try to be very gentle (I think) with my feedback, trying to take into consideration from where the author is coming and why the things are written the way they are.

(Listen, LISTEN, the flak nd writers get under the guise of feedback each day every day! Do not tempt me. I will rant!)

When the mail with the announcement came in I was excited! And then I was devastated.

I had not received any workshop with my first choice.

It was a punch in the gut. No way around it, I cried, because, damn! I wanted this so bad. Another dream broken. Despite it being all double edged and such. The heart wants what the heart wants.

It didn’t help that I got my query workshop with C. L. Polk. Nothing against them, truly. It’s just – they’re the headliner. Like, I got the headliner and was crying my stupid little heart out over not getting my first choice. How petty does that even feel?!?

Also, I did get my second choice for the 3k workshop. Like, I did well. Stars were aligning to teach me excellently [Good Things] and I cry. I felt sad, ungrateful, and undeserving.

Thank the stars for my writing community that lets my wail and cry over such things, too. I mean, how does that look on main? Do not want.

The 500 word workshop would with an agent that already turned down the first part of the series. I expected that to be fun, in case she even remembered it. But agents get a lot of subs. And while I dream of being special enough to remember, I don’t believe it. Especially not after a form rejection.

At least my pay-to-play fears were now alleviated.

Futurescapes Face Journey: 4 The Choice

I was terribly excited about getting to choose. I mean, I had my number one unstoppable top choice. The rest – I was open to opportunities. And in the fantasy workshop a high ranking choice dropped because I wasn’t sure our communication was compatible. Also Luke warned us about choosing the hard hitters because everybody wanted them.

Truth. 😔

I fell on the list of 29 people like the meteor wiping out the dinosaurs. There were some easy choices. Number one, naturally. But also some I didn’t think fit me and my needs well. I know I write niche stuff (that will sell like hot cakes once it gets out there, is2g!) and there were a few that didn’t want adult.

I whittled it down and was glad I got seven choices. I would have cried for day over a top 3. As it was, I only cried a little. Also, removed some heavy hitters from my list. Overall I felt good about those. I didn’t even have C. L. Polk on my list. I am not lucky like that ever. Also, they were actually not the reason I signed up. (sry C. L. Polk. 🙈)

I knew in the end I’d get a mix of editor, agent, author. So for my list I focussed on editors/agents. Nothing against authors. I know many and they are lovely! But I know my head and how likely it is to accept advice. When it is ready to accept author advice, I run wailing into my groups. (Which also have the advantage that I know those authors and can assess their feedback on a solid foundation.)

Anyway, I chose.

I took a deep breath and hit send.

I could have gone without naming names. I sure would have made things easier for Luke. (sorry Luke). But I know my brainsoup. If I didn’t name names, I would always, always, always wonder if it had worked if I had. I don’t need even more Regret Eternal in my life.

If I shot my shot and didn’t get who I wanted, that was how things were. I’d accept it and move on to learn a thing or two. Maybe make a friend. (I think I made a friend!) I was also pleasantly surprised at the possibility to have my workshops at somewhat decent times.

ngl, top choice would have had me hooked to coffee IV At 4am. But knowing that I can have a nice, evening workshop that will allow me to fret all night is also nice. I went back to writing my Horny WIP, though I started to feel I might not get it finished by workshop time.