Blog PSA

This is not a place of honour.
No highly esteemed opinion is chronicled here.
No wisdom is here.

This place is a message and part of a system of messages. (Pay attention to it maybe.)

Sending these messages was important to me. I consider myself to be part of this culture.

What is here may be dangerous and subversive. This is about the power of words.

The words are still present in your time.

The words can kill.

The words were written by me when disturbed substantially. I am best left alone, lest you want to see me flipping over angry in my nd 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.

The Story of Adding Up

In 2021 my friend A. R. Frederiksen set up a Secret Santa short story exchange. I signed up with a lot of writing friends and many great stories came from it. Also, Adding Up. Though it never made it into the exchange proper.

The system was old as time. Send a prompt, name the no-gos and let Amalie hook me up. In a stroke of luck, my prompt ended up in the capable hands of my digital Grandma Elisabeth Anderson. The resulting story, THE RAISING OF HESTER MACRAE, also didn’t make it into the free world because it was really good, so good indeed and got published. 🥳 (available in Dark Horses: The Magazine of Weird Fiction No. 4 )

I fully intended my story to be a free read dedicated to my prompt giver. I loved my prompt immediately. Amalie made a pretty graphic of it.

The background is a snowy forest, slender stems rise and a smattering of snow covered elaves is visible towards the top. A golden frame with a slichtly seethrough background is in the middle with the promt in black letter in the frame. Prompt:The lab coat hung of the back of the door. Triggers: sexual abuse, suicide

With the lab implied in the prompt, my first instinct was to go with sci-fi, the second love of my life. I had some ideas but not really led anywhere. Maybe one day the poor sod donning the lab coat like armour to go through the gauntlet of scientific challenges to – well that was the core of the problem. I didn’t know where they were going.

And then Doran turned up. Doran with that Chayne-shaped hole in their life and me with no clue how come or why. It was fun finding out what was going on with Doran. The relation to Chayne took some unexpected twists and I had to redo the beginning several times to adjust for that. When the reveal happened, I was as surprised as my protagonists.

But everything made sense and I got them to their deserved end. Then I edited and slapped the title on it and called it a day. I was so happy about my story that I commissioned a little art to go with it and post on my website alongside the story.

Two portraits. On the right an androgynous white person with ashy blond hair and straight brows and thin lips of the same colour . Their eyes are similar in colour with a hint of purple. On the left a black man with short hair that greys at the temples. His brows are gently curved over dark brown eyes and he smiles.

While I prepped the page for launch, I looked at the prompt again and that was when it all went – well, not as planned. I read the prompt again and the triggers and had to realise: I hadn’t manage to avoid the suicide subject completely.

My first thought was to just edit the half sentence. Couldn’t be that hard, could it? Unfortunately, the reveal and final twist relied heavily on the mentioning of suicide. It was, unfortunately, load-bearing.

So I did the hard thing. I put ADDING UP aside and sat down to write another story. I picked up the sci-fi idea again. But again I got nowhere with it. In the end, I go the opposite way. Where ADDING UP was contemporary fantasy at best, MISTAKES AND RESOLUTIONS would be devoid of any speculative elements.

I don’t really do that. I love my spec elements. Still I “swapped” the protagonists names removed the last speculative elements and wrote another short story about being angry and in love. MISTAKES AND RESOLUTIONS went up on my site as planned. It is still up in case you wanna compare. It’s quiet and soft and hopeful. A real Mel-story.

But now I was stuck with another homeless short. I was already shopping around a couple I wrote without much success. I even took up slush reading to try and understand why my stories didn’t get adopted. (that kinda somewhat helped). And now I had another one.

I really love Adding Up. It has a non-binary protagonist, my first enby protag to see the light of publishing. Since I wrote the story myself, the emotional punches hit just right. Doran gets to eat some of my favourite food. I wove my feelings through their emotional journey and put myself into so many of the details.

I wasn’t wild on racking in more passes, but if you wanna get a story out, that’s what you gotta do. I sent Adding Up to places I thought it’d fit. I sent it to the usual suspects with fast rejection times. And the passes kept rolling in from all directions. Well, I sent it out seven subs over six months and then shrugged.

I don’t have much energy to submit. (I don’t have much energy most of the days but that is a different story.) Submitting a story always involves a degree of research. There’s anxiety to get names wrong (including my own) and the deep-sitting unease traditional formatting causes me. The urge to get the story into a decent, readably shape is strong. Shunn formatting makes me cry inside (and die a little but that is also a different story).

I had no idea what genre ADDING UP even was. Urban fantasy? Contemporary fantasy? Could I sneak it into fae territory for one side character that might fit if you squinted ferociously? In the end, I decided to let it lie around with the others and throw it at calls that looked like a good fit if they came my way.

I watch open markets mainly over twitter and mail subscriptions. When I was less resigned about my results, I also used the Submission Grinder and websites. But energy is sparse, so now the opportunities need to come to me 😅

And come, it did. When I saw the call for Kaleidoscope, ADDING UP was the short I thought of immediately. I hadn’t sent it out for four months then and all submissions came back as passes. (Except one, but I assumed it was a pass because I was way over time.)

I can’t describe how excited I was. I had sold my first short to a paying market recently, so this was unexpected and exhilarating. I accepted and sent the assumed pass an official withdrawal. (To which they replied saying the pass should have gone out way ago.🤷‍)

I can’t believe how fast things went ahead for Kaleidoscope. Tumbled Tales went at a much slower pace – acceptance, edits, cover. My part was done (except for marketing, which I am bad at, ngl) before ADDING UP was accepted, so I felt a little prepared for the process.

Reader, I was not prepared.

When the file with the edits came, I downloaded it and let it sit for a day. “Minor changes” was what INSIDE JOB got for the other anthology and that one had edits every other line. I prepared mentally for opening that file for a whole day. I was ready to give it a glance and let it lie for another three days so I could calm down.

That didn’t prove necessary. When I opened the file, the edits were, actually, minor. I think I accepted them all, because they all made sense to me. I found a few more issues when I got the proof copy but that’s what you get for not reading your own stuff carefully. Or maybe just having read it way too often and not seeing small stuff any longer.

I didn’t expect to get to read all other stories in advance either. Still haven’t read any from Tumbled Tales. It was a very welcome treat and an excellent holiday read. I love so many of the stories in there. Some of them hit me hard. Others were on a different wave length than I am. And while I marvel at the variety, I am proud to be in this company.

I don’t have a conclusion. Writing shorts is some kind of roulette and a journey. In the unmitigated pain that is the querying trenches, it sure is a beacon of light and a reminder why I even bother to put down my words.

Buy the book, maybe? 🤷‍♂️

Autism Informed Writing

I showed a friend my outline for the talk on autistic protags in fantasy I wanna do in October and she liked the angle of how the protag being autistic informs/should inform their reading. And then she asked, if I didn’t wanna do a bit on autistic writing style. How the autism informs the writing.

I am excited and devastated.

Because, yes, yes! It exists. I have seen it. I was privileged to read it. I totally want to talk bout that.

But I don’t know if I should because it never survives into published books. Autistic traits in writing are generally considered bad writing. And in the books I will talk about, those traits were not noticeable to me. (I shall definitely do a re-read with an eye out for that.)

I’m not saying the traits are all good or even useful. I am saying they exist and are informed by how we process and experience things differently. How we look at the world differently and translate those differences into the way we write.

So, what is it that I noticed?

1) Descriptions

We often don’t describe things. We focus on what is important and display that. In conversations, we have “talking head syndrome”, our characters walk and act in white rooms. I totally get that because when I focus on a thing, everything else might as well not exist.

This can be difficult to follow. I understand this when I read other people’s work. The author knows exactly how the surroundings look and filters out that noise. Thank you. Unfortunately, as a reader, I do not know what is around, so a leg up is appreciated.

I don’t think this is a characteristic that will ever make it into published work wholesale because while common, it is confusing. What I do think, though, is that we can get by on a lot less description than is currently expected. And a floating head or two hasn’t killed anybody yet.

I’d love to get to a point where “just enough description to keep you tethered” is a valid writing style.

2) One Word to Say it All

Tied to the above, when we try to describe stuff so our readers don’t get lost, we repeat words. A lot. Because we like to be precise and concise. I have a scene where a mage draws magic lights onto walls in swirling patterns. I use the word pattern about every other line. Because that is what it is.

We’re all trained to catch word echoes. This is not a helpful trait for keeping the vibe of the description. If I add another descriptor, that one has to be pertinent and significantly add to what the thing is. And the thing may not even be important

Which leads to another reason we repeat words, often generic umbrella terms: the thing we describe isn’t really important. We’re in a city. There are many houses. So. Many. Houses. It doesn’t really matter what the houses look like (see point 1). So we say “house” and move on.

I don’t see why this should be a problem when the things described are unimportant according to point 1. If anything about the house was important, we’d tell you.

3) Focus Words

I know you prefer to call them something else, but I have found them in the writing of autistic people and since you assume they are there because of untrained writing, I may as well assume they are there because they have a function. For us at least.

Ever heard how things can get overwhelming for autistic people? That there can easily be too much especially when there’s people involved? I find it very hard to focus when there is a lot going on. I know I may chose the wrong thing to concentrate on.

Enter the focus word. It will let me know exactly where to put my effort. Expressions containing “hear, feel, see, notice” point me in the direction of the important thing going on. (For me they also work like a close-up.) The party may be loud and overcrowded, but when I “feel a hand descend on my shoulder” I know this is where the focus should be.

Something I have no insight on outside myself, is tied into point 1 again. If I don’t consciously focus on a thing, it’s not there. So saying something is a thing I hear/see/feel makes it real and turns it into something that exists and that I consciously notice.

Motivation and Agency 😤

We don’t really need it. “Because it was the right thing to do” goes miles and miles. “Because it seemed like a good idea” has a lot of legs to stand on. As does the belief that this is something is the Done Thing. We may not understand why because it comes from neurotypical rules. Accordingly application may be more or less successful.

Many of us have learnt how be reactive. Our instincts of what to do were proven wrong (for NTs) too often and there were repercussions. We react. We let the other side start the script because that gives us a leg up on successfully getting through the interaction without crashing it.

Agency is a big deal in publishing. But it is also a privilege and that needs to be considered.

I’m sure there’s more if you look closely. But these were the ones that immediately came to my mind. And I’m not saying this needs to be in our books 1:1. But we should be allowed to write less descriptions, more constructions that reflect our experiences, and protagonists whose agency is closer to our won.

Angy nd out.

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.

No Lowest Point We Die Like Winners

You know the point 2/3rds into the book where the hero should be at their lowest? Where everything seems to be lost and no hope remains?

I don’t like it.
I don’t want it.

I just read an amazing book I loved to bits. And yet, when I reached that point I rolled my eyes and went “oh, really?”. I love the book but I still didn’t like that.

You know what I want instead? Winning. The hero wins and that makes everything worse. That is my preferred modus operandi.

I can’t come up with books that do that from the top of my head. A perfect moment of YAY followed by oh shit. If you know Dragon Age Inquisition, closing the Breach and the party afterwards in Haven are such a set up. We won! Only, we didn’t. And now things are worse.

And it doesn’t have to be that the god you freed turns out to be the devil because history is a liar told by liars. Maybe you retrieved the Relic of Righteousness and now 83% of the country is after you to get it. You deal with the baddy and now their mum is mad at you and gathering an army. You put the moon back into a stable orbit, but the changes in gravity and magnetics play havoc with nature now.

I like my protagonists winning. I also like for them to have bigger problems because of it.

PS: Not sure if this, too, is informed by my autism. Because if I get what I want, it often makes things worse because people don’t understand it. And what I is not in the canon of culturally appropriate things to want.

Musing on the State of My Writing Career

It’s been about 2 years since I started querying Sava. The only agents left on my list (of 142 agents) by now are those who were closed whenever I looked (maybe even all the time) and those whose agency siblings have a query at the moment.

I sent 102 queries in these two years. Of those, 68 were passed on. Only 2 of those 68 agents said to send more materials should I query something else. One pass was personalised but with no actionable feedback which was fine.

I hat 1 request of a full and 1 request for a partial so far. The full came back with a form rejection which broke my heart. The request for the partial came from a query I CNRed to query somebody else at the agency. (And got a quick pass on.) I am grateful for the turn of events but also very confused.

I CNRed 6 queries to query somebody else at the agency. 9 queries are at a place where I could CNR them but since there’s nobody else I wanna query, I do not. If they have no time line to when “no reply means no” those queries will just keep floating around as undecided until I need to do an action.

I keep thinking to call it quits for Sava. I will keep querying her until I have my next fantasy ms ready to send. I’m at a point where I can’t muster the energy to send e-mail queries. Query Manager exists. I love the thing. Maybe there will be days when I can send e-mail queries. I don’t know.

Also, I have been querying so long, that by now agents changed agencies. Something my spreadsheet doesn’t always catch because it’s sorted by agency. I do not need the mortification of realising I sent another query to an agent who already passed on the ms.

I have learnt a lot in the past two years. Unfortunately, a lot of that made me disillusioned about tradpub. Why even bother getting an agent when editors sell their novels in-house in six-figure deals without jumping through any hoops?

In general tradpub is very conservative with their choices, so what chance do I even have? I am tired of the staples that tradpub loves. Who will even want my autistic protags when the story is in no way centred around that fact at all? How do I make readers realise their protag is neuro-atypical if simply writing people like me just makes them unrelatable?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m finding my niche that is just be autistic enby protags in fantasy and sci-fi. I’m just not sure what to do here now.

For Sava? I think once she died in the querying trenches, I will overhaul her to make her autistic traits more visible. That won’t be anything major, so I can’t yeet her at agents again afterwards. Maybe my next ms will score an agent. Maybe they will be happy to have another ready-to-go autistic fantasy.

I’m mostly disappointed and resigned, though. I’m going through the moves because it is what you do and right now I have nothing else. I started to save a little each month for selfpub. If by the time it amounts to enough to get a book out sensibly, I am still in the querying trenches, Sava might go that way.

Or maybe the erotica thriller (or so I have been told) goes that way first. I know nothing about the genre and don’t see myself returning to it. Maybe I’ll throw out my novellas that way. There’s a play in the depths of my portfolio and one or two volumes of poetry.

What I wish for most is the time, energy and money to pursue selfpub. But I gotta eat and my full-time job eats most of my time and energy. I make my peace with the possibility I may never get published traditionally. It helps that one of the major reason I want this (marketing) is a game of luck in tradpub anyway and there I a great chance I wouldn’t even get any.

On a positive note, I have seen friends get/become agents in the past two years. I see time and again that it is not completely hopeless. At least not for others.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere.

Publishing has a survivors bias and I’m just shouting out before it swallows me whole.

Afterword on short stories

I write a few of them. And I accepted from the get-go that subbing shorts is a lottery.

But it is overall easier. My heart is less invested in most of the short subs. I shrug the passes off more easily. It feels more like a hobby because there is no way in which selling shorts could be a noticeable contribution to my income.

I sold my first short to the third market I subbed to (the first always being Clarkesworld and Asimov’s because of their fast reply times). I have been shopping around other stories for over two years now. That’s just how selling shorts goes.

My Hive Mentor Experience 2023

Mentorships are a big thing and twitter made them an even bigger thing. I remember applying for them and crying when I didn’t get in. So this time I decided to do things differently.

You never stop learning about your craft, process and self. I have learnt a lot in the last year which enabled me to change my approach. And my expectations.

Today I know that once I put my heart’s love into the story through edits I am a lot less open to changes. I have been writing for over 25 years. Many things are my style, my way of writing, my voice. A lot of that is not marketable right now. I am AuDHD. It can be difficult to connect to my characters because of that. But I won’t have my lived experience invalidated by tradpub preferences.

This time, I chose a manuscript I had not yet edited my heart into. They always say to send a the ms in the best shape you can get it into. I could do that. But then you’d be running into walls with all improvement ideas. Let’s not do that.

The manuscript is decent. I needs editing and some work. I am ready to do that. I hope that outside help will show me bits I am blind to already. Ways to tread the line between being authentic and sellable. Not to mention advice for whatever path of publishing the mentor does.

I found a whole of 4 mentors who might take on a ms with as much porn as I put into mine. So selection wasn’t really that difficult. I chose somebody who knew what they’d get into with me (or so I hoped) and people who shared my marginalisation, baring that were from a marginalised group.

Did I think my ms had the best chances with those mentors? No.

Did I hope they’d chose me anyway? Also no.

During the selection period I heard back from exactly one mentor who had all the questions I’d have had in their place as well. I answered truthfully. Which didn’t increase my chances any but I have to be truthful in situations like that.

It was a good conversation. I got Christmas presents out of it.

Was I chosen?

But I’m cool with it. I don’t think I make a good chosen one. I dislike the trope. Also, I mostly participated to shut up the FOMO gnome. Would it have been great to work on Horny WIP with a mentor? You bet! Will I get it done without one? *indistinct mumbling*

The lesson, if there is one to be had, is that it’s fine to do stuff to shut up the FOMO gnome.

See you next year in the application piles. 😊

Nightsky of A Hundred Shattered Dreams

Querying is hard and we do what we can to stay afloat. Having a writing community is of utmost importance. I don’t know how anybody stands the pressure, consistent hits on the self-esteem and doubting your writing abilities without people to cheer and uplift one. I know I could not.

What else can you do?

I decided to have a visual (and pretty) representation of the passes that come in. I expected there to be many because fantasy is a tight market, and my stories are niche and not on trend. So I got myself a nice canvas and glittery stars and decided to count to 100 passes with it.

Lo and behold, my WIP:

A square white canvas that is partially covered up with black clour onto which glittering stars of many colours are glued. Where the canvas is unpainted, you an see a grid drawn on with pencil. . Two of the stars are bigger ans silver. One star has a tiny, handwritten name tag. The canvas is a little over half filled with stars.
Nightsky of a Hundred Shattered Dreams

The big silver stars are for agents that asked to see another manuscript, should I get one finished. Personalised passes got their name tacked onto the star. Yes, yes there is exactly one of them and no, that was not on the full I had out.

It includes the stars where I thought in retrospect that I dodged a bullet. There’s passes on there when I am in hindsight happy it was a pass because I don’t think it would have worked on a personal level.

Querying is highly subjective – from both sides. I have a little insight on querying from the other side and it’s not much easier for agents. They are flooded with good work each day every day and have to make the hard decisions on who they can successfully represent. The reasons for a pass a varied and many of them are not about the quality of the work.

Still, each star on this canvas represents a pass. If I added stars for each query, I don’t expect to hear back from I’d probably be close to done by now. But I am petty, and I have petty dreams for the future. In case I ever get an agent, my plan is to inform everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, who didn’t officially pass on my manuscript an update note.

Then I shall imagine, most incorrectly, I know, how those agents search their inboxes for a query I sent over a year ago. I started querying at the end of 2021 and the longer I’m in the trenches the funnier it gets for me. I know I’m petty. But Query Manager exists, and every agent is free to close for queries any given time.

I still have agents many on my query list. Most of them have been closed whenever I looked to send more queries. Some, I think, were actually closed since I started querying.

I don’t really have a point to make. Just – make sure you have your community. Find ways to keep track of your querying distress in a way that helps. Hype your friends when you can. I know sometimes it’s hard when you feel it’s never gonna be you.

I’m rooting for you!

The Unrelatable Character

Not so long ago I wrote books with protags that I kept getting the feedback on that they were not relatable. I cried. Because those characters were like me. In lieu of finding protagonists that were like me in SFF, I wrote them Only to be told that they were not making sense, nobody would be/think/act like that.

And that hurt immensely because while those characters are not me, the things pointed out often were things that made them more like me. Especially the way they experience and process the world and emotions. (Not that I haven’t been told that I’m doing that wrong before.)

I have learnt a lot about me and about publishing since then. Do I write character that are more relatable now?

Half body shot of David Tennant as Benedic from Much Ado About nothing. He is wearing a superman tee and holds a can of soda with a curly straw while he says: I think not.

But no I do not cry about it the way I did before any longer. I have learnt that the things that make my protagonists stand out (like a sore thumb), the things that make them like me, are traits of my autism ADHD.

And agents have been no more trained to interact and relate to autistic characters than normal people. Of course they have difficulties relating. What am I expecting?

Truth be told? I don’t even know any longer.

Of course I could just reign it in and make my protags palatable. I thought about that, naturally, since I want to get pubbed really bad. Right now, I’m like, fuck it! With each book, my protagonists get more autistic. Maybe being blatantly obvious about it will work better.

But I want to be unapologetic about who I am. And I don’t want to have to justify and explain why I am the way I am. If you need an explanation to accept that I like eating the same thing over and over and love to bury myself under 13kg of blankie at night – fuck you.

People are weird. People are different in all directions. I don’t need to know why. (Unless they ask for help being less weird. Which generally, we don’t.) You can’t tell me people can’t relate to my character because they are like me, when I related to characters that were not like me my whole life.

I am also certain that there are people out there just waiting for more autistic protags in SFF. We want to see ourselves in the main character. And as it takes one to know one? We know. Better believe we know. We see it, when it’s there. And we want it. Want more of it. (Please rec me SFF with autistic protags. 🥺)

To circle back to writing unrelatable characters. I thought it was a me-problem, that I was incapable to write characters that readers can identify with. I have made it into a you-problem. I am writing characters you were not confronted with before. I am refusing to spoon-feed you the autistic experience. I am offering it to you in the form I experience the world (and it’s reactions to me).

I understand that tradpub doesn’t like it because it is new and untested. I understand that my voice is not seen as marketable. While some readers will easily identify with my characters, the majority is not used to them and will have to put some work into relating to them. Don’t worry. It gets easier over time. I’ve been doing it for over 40 years now and barely notice any longer.

This will not improve with more books. I am veering away from traditional, tightly-wound, fast-paced, three-act structure stories. I write what I want to read. And I know by the time tradpub deigns to publish some of that, I will be long dead.

Being relatable is a non-measure for a character. It is usually cut down to how much of a background you share with the person portrayed. And how much work you are willing to put into understanding them. I get now that for many people this amount is none. I feel I should be less surprised because it’s exactly what happens most times in life.

It was probably naive to think that things will be different in publishing just because it is allegedly a creative business looking for the fantastic. It’s still a business and what it looks for first and foremost is selling books.

My characters aren’t unrelatable. They are unprofitable.

When Plotting Isn’t About Things That Happen

I never really got the whole deal with plotting. Not just because I’m a pantser, maybe torch writer. I wondered why what happened in the story was so important and how it could come first. How did you know what you needed to happen?

I think I figured it out.

I start my stories with one protagonist and, so far, one main character. The goal of the book is to get the two from the constellation at the start to relate in a different constellation to each other at the end. Plus a few emotional ups and downs for the protag.

Have bad graphics:

Sava starts out emotionally bad, goes through ups and downs while getting close to Thanhan and end in a better headspace.

Salma starts out emotionally better, has deeper falls because she’s higher up but ends up with Samson and overall on a higher note.

If you look at the emotional graph from above, it’s just a line, going through the story. I’ll chose a straight line for the protag (because a token straight thing can’t hurt). They are the constant other characters are put in relation to. Because the second important thing is the protag’s relationship/constellation with the main character(s). This, so far, has also been easy because there was exactly one and the motion was getting the two closer:

A time line showing the story progress with a black dart going left to right at the bottom. Over it are a purple line for the protag and a dark green line for the mc. On the left the lines are fat apart, on the right the lines almost touch.

So on the one hand, I’m putting my protag through emotional states that usually correspond with shifts in how they relate to and/or feel about the main character(s). So far the latter was easy because it was mainly, separate at the beginning, close and committed in some way at the end.

This is my foundation for anything that happens. I cannot plot before I do not know what emotions and changes in constellation I want my protag to go through. What use is a quest for riches if that doesn’t move my characters into new constellations that will lead the emotional roller-coaster for the protag?

This became clear to me with the current ms. Poor Yles is going through a lot. I tried for a happy end but so far I am failing. The nice thing about this method is that I can start writing easily because the first motion of the emotional graph is always up. Protag gets something they can lose.

By the time I have set up things, characters have arrived. Now begins my work. I knew that without the happy end the emotional graph for Yles looks something like the above, only with a drop at the end instead of a final high.

There are drops and plateaus, each strengthening Yles in their belief they will make it. (But they wont.) So my “plotting” was taking the possible emotional hits and seeing how they’d bring the greatest pain. Which emotional turmoil would bring the desired effect on the emotions graph?

So I decided to go from small to big punches. Mam dies first because it is a difficult and distant relationship. Yles has their brother and a burgeoning love to absorb the pain. They get really close with their brother. Unfortunately, they are now caught in their mother’s dream, tasked with executing a life they never wanted. But for their brother and friend, Yles sure will.

They have friends, too and are generally on a good trajectory and open themself for more love, even if that one comes with pain packed. In Yles words: it’s better to cry at the end than not have you scent on my soul.

So I can slowly move out the brother and move in the second LI. At the moment when the brother is removed, Yles can fall back on their stable polycule. They can make it, even if it is hard. And they still have friends and a place to call home and improve.

Enter the removal of the second LI. Yles has only their first LI to fall back on and that is not enough. So they reach out to their friends. It helps a little, but catalyst friend takes the chance to push their agenda and cause the final disaster.

Emotional graph plunges. See you in hell.

This, this is my plot. This is what my story is all about. The events I make up to make this happen are secondary. Many will serve their purpose. It’s pretty much a game of luck about what I come up with from where my peeps are, their resources, the environment and what I need out of the events.

And this is what the emotional graph and constellations timeline look like for Yles. Characters come into play, get closer or leave the scene (line stops).

It’s more complicated for me because I have to align the above curve to the shifting constellations below and some of them are working opposite directions. Things need to compound and I am bad at maths.

So yeah. Plotting doesn’t make sense for me. Things Happening is not the underpinning of my stories. People Relating To Each Other is.

And that’s why I will always fail to plot a book from scratch. I need my emotions and constellations. If the events are not serving a higher purpose, they are useless.

The WIM Experience

Weclome to my end-of-experience ramble. 😅

I really loved free-styling last year’s WIM. I waffled about signing up because I was sure that if I did the official thing, nothing would work any more. In the end I did it anyway. (I argued that I could still drop out if I couldn’t whip up a shitass story in the first week.)

I already needed help from a friend (Thanks Erin Fulmer 😊) signing up. Might have been a sign. Almost missed the prompt too.

I like the picture, don’t get me wrong. But last year, I took one look at the prompt and the story flowed out of my veins like liquid smoke. This year – not so much. I was work. I stared at that winter landscape and didn’t know what to do with it.

The first thing that came to me was the feeling of being cast immovable over the ocean, hanging in the sky frozen with this view. Nest step was thinking what could get you into that situation. And then my general, undirected anger with the obsession with protagonist’s agency kicked in.

I cobbled together something that might pass for a story. If you squint. With a lot of goodwill. The first draft ended up feeling like a short version of my current novel WIP. (Though is is definitely not. It’s just a brainsoup thing.)

The first draft ended up about 200 words too long. I also did some soft editing while stitching the pieces together. Well, almost together. I left a gap I didn’t care for and just put a scene changer in there. 🤷‍


Self-editing now. Where do I even start. I hate editing. I hate it with a passion. Short stories are especially difficult for me because when I write them down and get to finish them, usually I think they’re really neat already.

This time was no different. I like how it came out and dig the prose. Some polishing, sure, but big changes? I don’t see it.

That’s also why I signed up because if I can’t see where the story need editing, maybe somebody else can?

I did what I thought necessary and helpful and sent to my CP. Asked for help cutting stuff. I’ll see how it goes. Ngl, I am worried about the editor round because I don’t know if I can cut 200 words and still love the story. And I’d rather have a story I love than a pass with an editor.


The edits of my CP were stuck in the outbox so I got them a little later than I would have liked. Unsurprising to anybody but me (again) it was not a detailed take-down of how the story is trash and I should find something else to do with my time. 🤷‍

Some of the feedback was surprising. Mostly in a prolly takes one to know one or target audience kind. Others was not. I knew I could save up on A Lot of words if I cut down my pretty prose. Some of it showed that what I wanted to do worked – my CP just didn’t know what to do with it.

I’m a little sorry because I am currently ranting against prescriptive writing advice and publishing wisdom in my shorts. The Power Of is basically me giving the finger to the idea that a protagonist needs to have agency. The protag does shit nothing in the story.

I thought about all the questions. I like getting questions as feedback because it makes me think about what I want to achieve with my words and if it is working acceptably. Took some of the suggestions. Called stet on others. Didn’t cut many words.

Accordingly, I agonised about the length of my story and the edit looming on the horizon. The choice I had was to send a story that was too long and not get an editing eye on it. Or to cut it down into 1k which I didn’t care if it rolled into Satan’s asscrack.

Being nd doesn’t help. I have a thing about rules. I like them if they are clear and consistent and easy to understand. I understand when I do not follow. And I am ready to accept the consequences. I could not – could not – send a thousand words I care nothing about to my assigned editor.

I explained myself and sent my too long story with little hope.


I started off this part by dying. You can kill me with the smallest bit of kindness. I don’t expect it, I’ll never see it coming and it will always knock me over. So getting the edit anyways did just fine.

Unsurprising to anybody but me (again) it was also not a detailed take-down of how the story is trash and I should find something else to do with my time.

Not sure how fun it is to find out the noun you were certain is a noun isn’t really a noun after all. 😬 Thanks for nothing Marilyn Manson. OK, I looked it up and it seems to be a noun after all. Maybe not a terribly common one. Anyway, stet. 😅

One of my writing quirks seems to be the casual use of “you” constructions out of the blue. Not sure where that will lead me but since this is a thing that’s followed me for years now I will look into it. One day that will be its own blog post, I guess.

Also not sure if the number of times I called a stet on the editor suggestions bodes well for my tradpub future. I understand where the changes come from. I get it. On the other hand, I have chosen the words and punctuation carefully. Does it read like a slightly disjointed, unrelated staccato? Yes, yes it does. I actually meant to do that.

It feels a little like moving the “only” around in “She believed him” and thinking any position would do the same thing. Even if they are all perfectly fine. Moments like that I have to take deep breaths and remember that this is my story and my vision. Yes, it can be made more palatable. Yes, it can be streamlined. But I wouldn’t think of editing the nose off Barbara Streisand either.


Overall, I really need to learn to trust my process more. I need believe my inner voice when it tells me something is fine (for a first draft), it’s FINE.

The story didn’t change much. I thought about the feedback. I have made changes based on it, even if sometimes those went a completely different direction than suggested. I leant hard into poetic language in this story and I understand that that doesn’t always work with common grammar. Common grammar is a sacrifice I am willing to make. 😅

And something I need to learn even more, something I need to lean into hard, is that I am writing for my own pleasure first and foremost. I am old and I am stubborn. I know what I like and since I rarely get it served in the writing world, I’ll create my own.

And that’s where it may stop. My own. For me and maybe a couple of people who get to see it in the process. And that’s okay. Because I still have it to make me happy. Maybe someday somebody else in a relevant position will get it and lets me show it to the world. Hope dies last.

Anyway, see you next year for WIM. 😄

OMG You’re Hilarious – Thanks I’m Autistic

—no no bear with me. Those two a not only intricately intertwined, they are causative.

But, how, I hear you ask. Autistics don’t understand humour! 🙄

Well, firstly, fuck you.
And secondly, fuck off.

I know humour is hard. You know what else is hard? Socially acceptable replies. There’s so fucking many situations. It takes forever to learn them all. I am far from done, I tell you. Just recently, when I couldn’t fall back on a joke in a conversation I was floundering. Absolutely lost.

But in 80% of situations, you can get away with a joke. Make that 95% if you are willing to take a little awkwardness. (Not comparable with the Big Awkwardness™ resulting from a Bad reply.)

And you know what autistics are good at? CORRECT! Pattern recognition. And humour has a pattern. It takes some time to recognise. I don’t think I was very funny before I turned – oh, 30 at least.

It is a tentative estimate and I put it with me starting to write my hilarious PoV which I have now honed very much. But it started back then and I learnt a lot from the kind people commenting on my updates and telling where they laughed. I put that to good use.

And once I mastered the trick – it worked.

I rarely have to fear spouting a Bad Reply nowadays. If in doubt, joke it out.

The time before tended to be excruciating. Learning humour isn’t fun and having jokes fall flat or bite you in the ass hurts. It was, overall, easier than learning my replies to all possible social situations. (Full disclosure, I don’t think you can do that.)

I also don’t know how I did it in detail. Trail and error at least because I remember some ear-burning shame for really bad jokes that didn’t make it. The positive enforcement from humour that did land would have been double, though: getting around a social interaction I had no idea how to master plus being seen as a fun functional person.

I may or may have neglected my snooping out how to properly react skills. (I think I did.) I’m a waking joke-machine. And while I like it for obvious reasons, I am not sure how good it really is for me.

Also, maybe I am completely wrong about this and the gods just gifted me with a late-blooming talent for utter hilarity. 🤷‍