Pen name ethics

There’s been some grumbling on Kboards about pen names and personas that has struck a chord with me. I use pen names and I don’t think anything is wrong with that. I don’t have a problem with anyone choosing to use them, for whatever reason they want to use them.

But I do have qualms about the use of personas. They ring of sock puppets and scam tactics to me, and although maybe that’s not how the authors who use them think of them, I can’t help but find it distasteful and deceptive.

On the one hand, making up a name doesn’t seem so different than making up a dog you don’t have. But to me, I do think of those things differently. When I interact with people, that fake name doesn’t really mean anything. I still interact with people as myself, even if it’s only using select attributes of myself.

Say I’m shy in real life (I’m not that shy, mostly standoffish, which is actually quite different). But say I am. I might dig deep and pull from the part of me that isn’t as shy and give myself permission to be more outgoing and brave with other people while interacting under the name of my pen name.

That kind of thing just doesn’t feel deceptive to me. That’s me behaving differently because of who I’m interacting with. I could choose to interact that way as me or as my pen name and no one would think much of it.

But if I give myself a fake dog, when I interact with others, if I choose to use my real name, then the people that know me are going to know I’m lying. Just because I choose to interact under a different name, a pen name, doesn’t mean I’m not lying any less.

So, no, I’m not supportive of authors who create entire personas that are fake. I just don’t think it’s right to do that kind of thing and present it as fact. It’s lying. It’s deception. It’s lying and deception meant for personal gain.

The thing about author bios is that it’s not generally accepted that they’re going to be fake. People, in general, expect bios to be genuine. When they’re not, it breaks a trust with the reader. I care about that. I don’t want any readers of mine to ever be able to come to me and say I lied to them or deceived them about who I am.

I hold back a lot in my bios. That’s because I’m not willing to lie about who I am, but I’m also not willing to give everything about myself away to people I don’t know. Personas are a way of trying to have it both ways.

There are authors I’ve read and loved in the past that I don’t read anymore because of this kind of thing. I have no interest in supporting people who enjoy deceiving others or who are willing to deceive others because they think it gives them an edge in whatever market they’re in. The thing about those kind of people is that they don’t care. They’ll probably never care. But I don’t have to like or support them.

Marketing has a bad reputation because of people who’ll do anything to make a sale. In my mind, I have no doubt that authors who adopt actual personas with made up details about their lives are some of those people.

Not so bad? WTF

I was reading this blog post on book stuffing this morning (and it’s a good one) and came to the screenshots that included comments someone had made in the Chance Carter Diamond Group.

Mind blown.

Why? Because I don’t understand who would look at that list of instructions on how to do the KU Flip and actually think anyone is worth that kind of time investment.

I understand there are people out in the world who feel entitled to steal other people’s time while providing nothing of real value in return, just so they can make a few extra dollars off each one. I do.

But I don’t understand why people value themselves so little that they would actually let it happen. It’s worth it for a free book? A chance at a prize? You’ve got to be kidding me.

And then to think that this character—this person—is already making thousands every month and these readers are giving up time—something that you never, ever get back—to give this person another $12-15 for a KU read? Ugh. Fuck that.

Inherently selfish people have no trouble taking advantage of givers. These poor givers are giving and giving, and this dude is just taking and taking and taking.

The only way this makes sense to me is if it’s all just a big pyramid scheme and the used are hoping to become the users at some point and recoup their investment. But that’s not what I’m hearing. These are readers, who’ve been drawn in by this person’s persona, and who choose to let themselves be used in this way.

I’m sad that I don’t really believe in karma in this life. Maybe in the next.

Taking another run at “The End” today

I’m off to a good start. Only 49 words up after two 45 minute sessions, but I’m through the editing completely and back into new words territory now. (Just finished deleting a decent chunk of several hundred words. I was up 162 words after the 1st session only to lose most of them in the 2nd.)

The plan is to keep doing the 45 minute sessions until I reach either 6 hours or the end of the book. (Hoping for the latter!)

Anyway, off to make something to drink and then I’ll be starting session three.

Here are the sessions so far.

Minutes Words Session WPH
45 162 162 216
45 49 -113 -151
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0

(Sometime very much later…)

I’m sitting here staring at my results today and more than a little disappointed that I finished only two 45 minute sessions.

I wrote three pages in my journal about not writing (typical) and then went website hopping for self-help articles to validate my feelings (also typical). It was stupid and I really don’t understand myself sometimes. Writing fiction is important to me.

One, it’s my life’s work. Two, it’s my job. Three, it keeps me from having to work as someone’s employee and live a lifestyle I absolutely hate.

The self-sabotage I’m capable of just boggles my mind. I’m destroying my chance for happiness by not sticking to a writing routine of some kind and actually putting out the words I ought to be perfectly capable of writing.

I don’t want to write. That’s just all there is to it. I look at my book, think about the writing, and just do not want to do it.

I think I know why, but I can’t seem to fix it.

Writing is a chore because I make it hard. Every time I sit down, I spend loads of time redoing sentence after sentence, word after word, trying to find my way. Trying to capture a feeling or a scene that I can’t seem to capture no matter how hard I try. Second-guessing every decision, writing for everyone except myself, even though that is exactly what I do not want to do.

I didn’t used to be this way. I’m not sure what happened or when it changed, but writing has felt hard for a couple of years now. I’ve been publishing since 2012. It’s 2017 now. Somewhere in there, something changed. It could have been a slow slide or a sudden shift, but it happened, and I’ve been left standing on a ledge. The rocks under my feet are crumbling and I’m starting to feel a little desperate.

I need to find a way off this damn ledge.

I tried changing up my formatting on my book-in-progress to see if that refreshed my feelings for the writing, but it was a wasted effort. I tried multiple formats and ended up right back where I’d started: Times New Roman 12 pt, single spaced text, first line indent.

It was a band-aid anyway.

The problem isn’t how the text looks. It isn’t the fact that I can’t get comfortable. I can get comfortable enough to web-surf for hours on end and read online articles, or read forum threads, or read a book that takes all day long to read, but I can’t get comfortable enough to type words into my computer? Give me a break. My comfort isn’t the problem.

The problem is that I don’t want to write.

But it’s not just the writing. I don’t want to do anything. That’s the real problem. I just want to be, and let me tell you, that’s the stupidest thing in the world, because I know as well as the next person that you don’t make it through life that way with your self-respect intact.

Is depression something that can last for years? Because I’m seriously starting to wonder if there’s something serious behind this weird combination of worry, apathy, and lack of motivation I’ve had going on for so long.

Something’s just not right.

You know the funniest part of this all? This post is 669 words long.

I’m not laughing.

Tuesday the 31st of October: the beginning of the rest of my life

Today is Tuesday the 31st of October. It’s also the beginning of the rest of my life. What I do today and tomorrow does not have to follow the pattern of what I did yesterday and the day before.

That’s my truth.

That’s my resolution.

Journaling my way to success?

I started an experiment four days ago on Friday (see the post).

Fri: 198 (deleted a chunk of words that knocked this down by about 300)
Sat: 2,088
Sun: 1,185
Mon: 1,544

I’ve had a few times where I just forgot to journal at my break but overall, it is keeping me focused. On the other hand, I admit, I went back to running my timer as I worked, not because I’m going to agonize over my words per hour numbers, but because I just feel less at loose ends when the timer is going. And it doesn’t hurt to look back at a less than stellar word count day and see that I put in a decent amount of effort so I shouldn’t be criticizing myself for it!

(Honestly, it’s the first step of reform for me. I have to quit being so hard on myself all the time. I’m not talking about what I expect from myself, because I think it’s good to push for more than my average as often as I can. I’m talking about how I talk and think about myself and my efforts. Talking down to myself is just not a viable long-term happiness strategy.)

Not going to give up without a fight

I’m trying to come up with my goal for today. I think I’m done with the catch-up attempt for hours because I’m further behind now than I was when I started yesterday. On the other hand, this morning, I’ve already written for 13 minutes and put down 87 words of stuff. It’s a start.

I’m actually very concerned that I haven’t gained any speed or momentum after what feels like a significant time investment over the last few weeks. I’ve spent 47.93 hours writing in the last 19 days and my cumulative word count for all that time is 3,982 words.

3,982 ÷ 47.93 = 83 words an hour. I type at about 60 words a minute. Typing isn’t writing, I know, but has my brain really slowed down to the point that I can’t write at even 10 words a minute?

I’m in uncharted territory, because I can’t recall ever spending so much focused time writing and ending up with so little progress. It’s obvious something is going on with my writing that I don’t understand because my word counts have dwindled to half what they used to be just three years ago and I’ve lost a significant portion of the excitement I used to feel when I write.

I kind of feel like I’m making progress on the last of that, but the first—obviously—hasn’t improved or it wouldn’t be 33 days since my last day of 1,000+ words.

The fact is I’m trying. I don’t know what kind of hole it is I’m trying to dig myself out of but I am trying.

I want this career, and I’m not going to give up on myself without a fight.

So off I go again today, trying to make progress, or recapture some momentum, or something, anything that will prove the creative part of my brain hasn’t up and died on me.

As for today’s goal? I think I’ll just start with the basics. 1,557 words. When I reach that, I’ll evaluate how much time beyond three hours I’m going to aim for.

Progress will be in my next post. It’s easier than revisiting an already long-enough post and scrolling down every time I want to add a line. :)

Funnily enough I feel good about writing today

After last night’s contemplative mood, I’m surprised by how well I feel today, about writing, about the future, about everything.

Well, except for the spider infestation I seem to be dealing with. Not so happy about that! But they’re little spiders, with feathery legs, and those kind don’t trigger my phobia the way most other spiders do.

Still, not that happy that one landed on my bed last night and started trucking it right up beside my leg. I couldn’t find any sign of where it came from, but I’ll be vacuuming my bedroom ceiling today regardless. Then of course I came down to find one tucked up in the corner over the breakfast room window and another in the corner of the hallway that leads to the garage. I vacuumed those ceilings just a couple of days ago. Let me just say, as a five foot one person with nine foot high ceilings, this has been a chore and a half! My bedroom has a tray ceiling and the middle section is ten foot high. That’s going to be fun.

So, on that note, I’d like to finish my writing before I have to go up and start vacuuming ceilings again. I figure when I’m done, all I’m going to want to do is crash on the couch and read a book!

Okay, on to today’s plan. I’m going to go with 45 minute blocks, because they divide evenly into 3 hours. I’m planning four of them.

I decided last night after some vague contemplation (I wasn’t forcing these thoughts) that 3 hours a day even if I reach 1,557 words earlier isn’t a bad expectation. I see no reason why I wouldn’t want to write for at least that long most days. So although I haven’t decided it’s a rule or anything, I think aiming for a complete 3 hours each day of writing isn’t asking too much of myself. Preferably I’ll do this in the mornings, but on days when I don’t, I’ll try not to stretch out my day to the point that I’m finishing an hour of writing at bedtime. Some authors do well writing late at night. I don’t. I give up much too easily when I’m tired. So I have to stop putting myself in that position.

Write early, write more later if I want.

Now to go write.

I don’t know

I let my streak of writing every day end yesterday. Technically, I did sit at the computer and write, but it was of such a small amount that it didn’t overcome a few minor deletions and left me with a net word count of -40 for the day.

So why am I not counting it?

I asked myself that last night when I consciously decided I just wasn’t going to write any more and I wasn’t going to count what I’d done. The streak was dead. I read a book yesterday, finished it even (not one I’d recommend so I’ll just leave it there), and I was tired. Not too tired to write at least a few hundred words. But a hundred or two words felt like a token number just so I could count it for the streak, and I had a moment where I just thought, that’s ridiculous. And it really felt ridiculous. Even now, it feels kind of ridiculous. So I let it die.

I’ve always had a lot of difficulty figuring out exactly what I want of myself when it comes to writing, because there are so many things I want and not all of them make sense when taken together. I want to be prolific and write every day and finish books unusually fast. I want to sit down in the mornings and write until I’m tired of writing and then get on with my day. I want to split up my writing throughout the day so I don’t feel trapped in a routine. I only want to write when I want to write, but I want that to be every day.

What I do know:

Writing every day isn’t as important as writing most days. (Is this self-justification for last night’s choice?)

Writing 1,557 words every day isn’t as important as averaging 1,557 words a day. (We all know every day just isn’t going to happen in the real world. Not with something that’s going to take over an hour even on the absolute best of days.)

Still, 1,557 words a day is a nice number. A magic number, if you will, because I always feel like I can write that number of words in a very short amount of time, even if that hasn’t proven to be true, yet, with this particular book.

Knowing how other people self-publish and market doesn’t interest me. I’ll do things my way until my way doesn’t work anymore. Then I’ll worry about figuring out how to do things some other way.

I write fiction for a reason that has more to do with lifestyle than money.

What I need to do is stop thinking so much about the why and how and when, and just write.

Routines bore me. But I’m constantly fighting the feeling that I need a routine. I want one. I daydream about having one, how my life would be so calm and awesome and I’d sit down in the mornings with a cup of tea or coffee (which I no longer drink) and I’d write my words, and then I’d get up and go for a walk, then sit down with a good book, have lunch, go out, and go to bed feeling accomplished and satisfied, then I’d get up the next day and do it all over again.

It’s a very detailed daydream. ;)

The only problem is that I have no idea how to make it a reality because every time I try to get a routine going, I bail on it. I can’t take it after a while. I feel like I’m suffocating. It’s horrible. I hate it. I get bored so easily and that routine, the one I daydream about, would kill me after about three weeks.

So what do you do when the life you imagine you want isn’t the life that actually fits your personality?

I don’t know.

So here I am. It’s 8:41 pm and I haven’t written any fiction today. I did read every article I had waiting for me in Pocket—quite a few actually. They’d been building up. I talked to my mother. I watched a few episodes of television.

Now I’m feeling contemplative, but I need to start writing.

I guess I’ll do that.

Oh, and here’s an essay I read this afternoon that I can recommend and it ties in nicely to my previous post: “Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet” by Rolf Dobelli. Yes, I did seek out a few articles in support of my decision to cut out news and a few of them applied quite perfectly well to forums too. I was surprised by how closely the essay mirrored some of my own thoughts.

It’s time for a permanent reduction in distractive reading

I’ve started using the Mind the Time add-on for Firefox again, temporarily, to help me keep an eye on time I’m spending on things I need to cut out of my day so I have more time for reading fiction, watching TV, doing random stuff, all while still having plenty of time for writing.

See that number 1 in the picture above? Yeah. I’m not surprised, believe it or not. I know I have a problem with that site. And FYI, that 8:13 is hours and minutes not minutes and seconds!

Thirty-four percent of my time online is going to clicking through forum threads and reading them, and almost never engaging in actual discussion. It’s stressful. Maybe that doesn’t make a lot of sense, because why go there when I don’t actually enjoy it? But I do go there—every time I get a little antsy and start looking for a distraction.

I’m going to have to make it a rule that I can’t go there anymore. I really don’t know how else to stop this massive waste of my valuable time.

Same goes for news. Almost nothing I read has any relevance to my life at all, and yet, every time I get on my phone or tablets or my browser, I end up scrolling through the headlines, looking for something interesting to read. It’s like an addiction. I really don’t like feeling addicted to things.

Not only that, but I keep telling myself I’m going to watch more tutorials on design, I’m going to read more fiction, I’m going to study a language, I’m going to learn to draw, I’m going to write more every day, I’m going to go out more, I’m going to visit family more often, and yet I keep wasting vast amounts of valuable time reading news and forum topics that are just a repeat of what I read yesterday. It doesn’t make any sense to let it continue.

in light of that, I’m making a new rule for myself: no more trending news, no more NPR, no more Kboards, no more The Passive Voice. I already don’t watch news videos or television news, read newspapers, or news magazines, so I think that’ll cover it.

I’ve reduced my media intake before and I quite liked it. It’s time to make it permanent. It’s like that old adage of closing one door to let another open.

I will seek out the things that matter to me, and in the process, I’m sure I’ll come across other topics that I’ll feel are important enough for me to delve into in depth. No more skimming news items or forum topics looking for my next distraction.

Even writing that, I feel a huge sigh of relief just waiting to escape. It’s the right thing to do for me and I already feel better.

Ah… :D

4:52 pm and a 2,800 word goal

Today started off well enough. I finished organizing (cleaning out) my music directory. Doing that was a better use of my time than (re)organizing my email again, but that’s not possible any more because sometime last month I deleted all my email. I saved a few particular pieces of interest to a few relevant folders and I absolutely did delete thousands of emails. They’ll never be seen again. I kept only one backup, stored in an inaccessible location, with the intent to delete it at year’s end. I don’t doubt that I will too.

But that’s all beside the point. The point is that I need to write some real words today and I’m really getting tired of failing.

So I’m not going to fail anymore.

Missing a goal once in a while is no big deal and doesn’t feel anything like failure. Missing a goal every single time is not a good thing. There are repercussions to that kind of repetitive failure. I’m done with that. I just can’t be that person, that kind of writer, any longer.

So, despite the fact that it is now 4:59 pm, I’m going to sit my ass down and I’m going to write 2,800 words this evening.

To make it easy, I’m going to break it down into 21 minute sessions. I’ll do as many as it takes, but I’m planning for 10.

During at least one of those sessions, I want to reach the best word count per hour I’ve ever reached, and I’m going to reach it by having fun with this damn book. I love the characters. There’s no reason it should be so damn hard to have fun.

Now, I’m going to go trim my fingernails so I can get my first session started.

Session # Cumulative Words WPH
1 29 82.85714
2 54 77.14286
3 72 68.57143
4 82 58.57143
5 142 81.14286
6 251 119.5238
7 285 116.3265
8 0
9 0
10 0

Okay, so I’m calling it a night. It’s 12:29 am and I’m disappointed at my speeds tonight. I spent a lot of time redoing a chapter but I’m glad I did it, because I like what I’ve got now better than what I had.

I’m 3 sessions short of the 10 I wanted to do. I’m also short a ton of words. On the other hand, I totally don’t feel like a failure, because I literally did the best I could tonight. I took short breaks when I had to, and I focused hard when I wrote. I just can’t always predict what kind of writing day I’m going to have. This was one of those days.

So all in all, I’m satisfied. But one thing for sure: I’m going to do better tomorrow, because I’m going to start a lot earlier and I’m going to put in the extra sessions if I come up short on word counts like I did this evening.

But 12:33 pm is too late to keep going if I want to get some sleep tonight. The one thing I can count on is waking up at 7 in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. I need to go to bed before it gets any later.

See you here again tomorrow.