A Truant Disposition

"I must be idle."

It’s that (spooky) time of the year again!

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Oct• 11•17

It’s that time of the year again! With Halloween around the corner, I have to ask…Have you picked up my Halloween Soundscape yet? It’s available all year ’round, but this is really the season for it! (Oddly enough I often have a spike in sales in January, too. Perhaps evocative music for bleak winter days?) It’s good music not only for creeping out trick-or-treaters, but also for when you’re reading your favorite scary stories. The tracks were inspired by various classic stories. Check out the liner notes on my Gymshoe Music site for background on each story. This isn’t some cheesy sound effect album, but long ambient music tracks. Since price is usually based on number of tracks, and these tracks are long, this album is a good deal.

It’s available from iTunes, Amazon mp3, and other online stores.

P.S. Since the “season” for Halloween Soundscape is short so I appreciate you sharing links for the album, and writing reviews. This album’s success is largely dependent on word-of-mouth and social network sharing. I love seeing those shares on social networks! It makes things so much easier for me ’cause I’m not as comfortable flogging my albums and books as I need to be in the plugged in world. Thank you for your support— and enjoy the album!

On the Process of Draft and Revision

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Jun• 28•17

My process changed when I started using NaNoWriMo to do first drafts. There are very good things about this, but it did create problems with the process of rewriting that I’ve become aware of recently. Perhaps it’s just a problem with this draft, but it’s potentially a problem with any “fast draft”. Let me start with how I used to write, the old slow method, then I’ll show you the “good news/bad news” about fast drafting.

Prior to doing NaNo my books took years to be completed and I can’t tell you how many drafts I did because rewriting was part of the original writing process. I’d start writing a book, and as I inched my way forward, scene by scene, I’d continually (often daily) rewrite material that had come before. This made forward progress slow and it took years to finish a book from beginning to end — and I still had to do rewrites on the whole thing after that. As cumbersome as this method was, it worked for me because I’m basically a discovery writer. I know a number of things about the story and the characters (especially the characters!) before I begin, but I discover a lot of things along the way that connect up aspects of the book and build theme. I enjoy the little ah-ha moments when I realize how what I’m writing fits in with other things. The story is built up gradually and, as I figure things out, I rewrite even as I’m moving the story forward, so continuity is managed easily. I do brainstorm story ideas extensively prior to sitting down to write a book and a lot of the “discovery” process takes place before I write the first sentence. I need a certain basic understanding of characters and the situation before I can explore it. This is still true. If anything, my discovery brainstorming sessions take place over a longer period of time and are more and more extensive with each book. But they sort of have to be because of the way I’m starting books now.

Which brings me to NaNoWriMo. I’ve completed it successfully every year I’ve done it (so far). There are some very good things about NaNo if you can make it work for you. One is that it affords you the opportunity to play with a story idea, thoroughly explore it, and decide whether or not it’s going to work out well. I’ve had some “good” ideas that I’ve discovered just don’t work very well and I’ve wasted years struggling to write a book that had such fundamental problems there was no way I could turn that mess into a good book. With NaNoWriMo I’ve only invested a month in the project. If, at the end of it, nothing hangs together and there are horrible problems with the draft I can set it aside and do something else, maybe come back to it with fresh eyes some time much later and see if it can be reworked to make a good book, or bury it in my files never to be seen again. At the end of the month I have a very good idea of what I’m dealing with, so I’ve developed a story with very little investment of time if it doesn’t work out. All first drafts need rewrites anyway; the difference with NaNo is that I don’t do much in the way of rewrites as I go. I may go back and mark stuff and add notes as the story develops so that I know specific things early in the draft that will need to be changed for continuity, but no extensive rewriting because, afterall, I only have a month to finish it.

And I do try to finish the book. The first couple of times I did NaNo I was working on stories that I didn’t finish. I knew the ending, but I just didn’t get there during that month. I wrote over 50K words, but the drafts weren’t complete. I’m still working on those books off and on, inching my way toward the ending and rewriting as I go just like I had before. The last two times I did NaNo I not only did the 50K, but I had another goal which was to finish the draft. So my drafts for the books were very thin. Instead of writing expansively and then cutting and rewriting, I wrote some scenes fully, but other scenes very lightly. I hit all the plot points and completed the story from beginning to end. Sometimes I was very much aware of material that was being left out because my goal was not just to hit my personal word count goal, but to get to the end of the story before the end of the month. I would drop in a note or a placeholder scene which described a scene I was passing over in general terms.

Unfortunately, the draft I’m working on now has a number of scenes that suffered from the “fast draft” method. For the second draft I went through and plugged the plot holes and continuity issues, filled in the missing scenes. So far, so good; I’d done that with the previous book and the method seemed to work well, but this book is more complicated and I’m plagued with “data dump” scenes in which nothing happens but I spewed (or had my characters spew) all the plot points that needed to be hit, and though I had filled in the placeholder scenes in the previous draft, now in the third draft I’m realizing that I have a number of scenes in which I just lightly skated over things that should have been developed more and better…they were essentially placeholder scenes, but not marked as such…and I didn’t realize that these scenes were a problem because everything is there. The book is complete, all the scenes are there. Everything that’s supposed to happen happens. But I’ve had to cut big scenes because they are dead weight and I’m still discovering small scenes that should be expanded because important things happen. Weight is really a good way of looking at the problem. Not every scene has the same weight in the book. Some scenes are necessarily small because they are transitional scenes, they bridge some pieces of the narrative, or they are useful for pacing and time passage. They are not substantial; they’re more like a prelude to something substantial, because the book can’t have nothing but intense exploding revelatory scenes. It’s a matter of pacing. If every single scene is cataclysmic the book is going to read like it was written by a highly caffeinated five-year-old. So there are big scenes and little scenes that lead to big scenes. But when I’m drafting during NaNoWriMo I don’t always weight scenes correctly; some days I just don’t feel like working out a very long difficult scene, so I hit the high points and move on the the next scene. I may not know yet quite how I want to handle certain things, so basically I write what I can day to day and I suppose that’s what I always do, but the pace of NaNoWriMo doesn’t allow me the luxury to step back, take time off, and just think about things. I have to move forward at a certain pace both to make the word count goal for the month and to reach the end of the story by the end of the month. So some scenes which aren’t very important are very fully written and some scenes which should be fully written aren’t.

Naturally, I felt like there was something wrong with the book, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it after I’d finished the second draft. I’d fixed continuity issues, back-filled all the missing scenes, and sent it out to beta-readers who found nothing major wrong with it. But it didn’t feel like the book I’d set out to write. It was all there. Everything was covered, scene by scene. It all made sense. I couldn’t find anything wrong in what I’d written (aside from the continual hunt for typos and an odd sentence here or there). I’ve only just now realized that I’d thinly written some scenes which, if properly written and given the proper weight in the overall book, would give the book that feel and balance that are missing.

NaNoWriMo sometimes can be good to get a manuscript off to a fast start, or to do a fast first draft to see if any idea will fly, but in terms of getting a book finished, rewritten, and polished, it seems like it isn’t saving any time for me from idea to book completion, at least not most of the time. I’ve got three books which started as NaNo projects that I’m still working on, including the book I started the first time I did NaNo. So far I’ve only gotten one draft that started as a NaNo project finished and published. All the others are taking a long time to finish and requiring extensive rewriting. I actually kind of enjoy doing NaNoWriMo —- I like the intensity and immersion in story — but rewriting takes way too much time, because the first draft is so very rough and uneven. I’m not saying I won’t do NaNo again — I probably will — but I need to do a better job of picking my projects for NaNo. Discovery writing a complex idea (even having brainstormed it beforehand) is not a good fit for the “fast draft” method. Of course complexity is in the eye of the beholder…I thought the book I’m rewriting now would be “easy”. [insert rueful laughter] I’m my own worst enemy; how much I love an idea has no bearing on how easy it will be to write. I tell myself all my books will be easy because I want to write them!

The Year So Far

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - May• 22•17

You may have noticed that I haven’t been on social media much this year; the reasons have nothing to do with politics, friends, or social media. A lot has happened this year.

First the bad news, because the good part of this post must necessarily come after the bad. In late December a routine scan of my elderly mother-in-law showed what could possibly be a return of her cancer. She’d had part of her lung removed 6 years earlier and been cancer-free since. The biopsy couldn’t be scheduled until after the first of the year, so it was a nervous holiday season for us. The biopsy came back positive for cancer. She did both chemo and radiation. It was daily outpatient treatment so family members swapped off driving her because the treatments made her too dizzy to drive. She had some problems and was hospitalized three times. The last time she ended up in ICU a few weeks after she finished the first round of treatment. The combination pneumonia and flu, on top of her existing COPD, plus a weakened immune system from the cancer treatment, and a weakened heart from a mild heart attack was just too much for her body to cope with. She didn’t respond to any medications. Eight days after being admitted and after a few days of being unresponsive, she passed away peacefully, surrounded by family.

That was a few weeks ago. I’m still grieving, but oddly enough I’m sleeping better because I’m no longer anxious about her 24/7, which is what has defined my life this year. Phone calls to her, taking her to her many doctors appts and treatments, texting with family constantly, having a knapsack packed and being ready to run to her house, to the ER, whatever 24/7. Flinching every time the phone rang. Staying close to home so we could be there if there was a minor crisis, or a major emergency, both of which were not just potentialities, but actualities. My concentration has just been shot this whole year. I feel tired and generally bad all over a lot of the time. Those of you who have had to deal with a major medical thing involving a family member will know what I’m talking about. My wish for all of you is that neither you, nor anyone you love ever has to go through this.

Of course, it has been impossible for me to get any substantial amount of work done on revising the draft of the next book, but I gamely tried to work around her appointments and work through group text messaging sessions during her treatment and hospitalizations. Things stabilized —briefly — after she finished the first round of treatment. I had whole blocks of crisis-free time with few appointments on my agenda. I began to make progress. But when she was admitted to ICU, I stopped working on the book. I did a lot of knitting. She’s had a lot of health problems in the past couple of years. I’m glad I took up knitting again because it was relaxing and socks are a nice portable project. After she died I looked at my knitting projects and did a count: I worked on six pairs of socks and one sweater in ERs, hospital waiting rooms, hospital rooms, and doctor’s offices, at assorted medical facilities. Now I’m knitting through both grief and anxiety for friends. You see, she’s not the only one who has cancer.

This book I’m working on now has had the nasty shadow of cancer and death hanging over it from the time I started brainstorming the idea of doing a sequel. At that time I had two friends in hospice, dying of cancer. I drafted the book anyway, but it was very difficult, and the draft was a lot rougher than most of my first drafts are. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have even started this book. I had almost a year to revise the book before another friend was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer, but during that year my own mother had a medical crisis that landed her in the hospital, and my mother-in-law had hip surgery and assorted other medical crises, so I still felt like I was just lurching from crisis to crisis. Then came the ominous scan that indicated my mother-in-law’s cancer had come back. Then treatments, assorted medical emergencies related to treatments, then the end. The same week as her funeral we found out another friend has cancer. Which really hit us hard. The funeral flowers were still fresh, but the scent had started to turn. Also, the friend with the aggressive cancer had a setback. 

With the exception of my mother-in-law, who lived a long and full life, all the other people with cancer are/were far too young to die. I think, as much as my mother-in-law’s death, this is what just breaks my heart into pieces. Anger is usually listed as the second stage of grief, and I don’t know if I will ever have enough time between catastrophes to get past that. At this point I’ve already been in mourning for over a year and a half. I need everyone I know to live—preferably for 100 years or so.

As bad as all this sounds, it hasn’t been all bad, all the time. Sometimes it just seems that way because death and grief and anxiety distort my sense of time. This year I went to Arbor Day at the Houston Arboretum, the Art Car Parade, and I Marched for Science. Though I’ve had my moments of exhausted collapse, I’m still moving forward. Errands, chores, and the ongoing struggle with the Squirrel Army for control of the garden…The dogs are assisting me with that as well as comforting me.

All my plans for this year have fallen by the wayside. I’d planned on writing and posting serial fiction, as well as a nature journal on Wattpad this year. The nature journal was started but updates stopped because I was spending too much time in medical facility waiting rooms and not enough time in the woods to keep it up. Fiction, even short fiction, was just impossible because all I’ve been thinking about for months were things related to my mother-in-law’s medical situation. I don’t know when I’ll get back to work on revising the book, which is a sequel to last year’s If Wishes Were Spaceships. Writing and revising take a lot of time, concentration, and energy. I’ve been going in high gear, with a highly disrupted daily routine, for so long now that getting back to normal work flow will take some time. As I told my writing group, I still feel a bit crash-y.

There have been times this year when I just wanted to quit, set the sequel aside permanently, drop out of my party and guild on Habitica, cease being a writer because there was just too much other stuff going on. But I know from experience that I can’t give up writing; I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. It’s what I do; it’s who I am. I also know from experience that waiting until there’s a “perfect time” to write, or waiting until I’m less busy, or there’s less going on, or until some future time when things will be much more conducive to writing, that the “good time to work on a novel” will never, ever, come, or it will be so brief that I could not possibly finish a draft or polish a draft in that fleeting halcyon time. There is never a good time to write a book. There never has been and there never will be. There will just be times which are better or worse for working on a book. Everyone has to figure out for themselves under what conditions they can write and under what conditions it’s better to temporarily set a writing project aside—not until the world is right and things are good again, but until things are better, just “good enough” to pick up the work in progress again. I’m still figuring things out. I’ve been through enough in the past couple of years that I now have a passable set of guidelines. Friends in hospice; brainstorming is okay if my concentration isn’t yet gone, but actually drafting a novel, probably not. Elderly family member with chronic health problems that send her to the ER 1-3 times a year, yeah, I can definitely continue with editing and rewriting, just taking a day or two off as needed. Not sure if I could do a first draft under those conditions, though. Maybe. Elderly family member having outpatient cancer treatments and assorted hospitalizations, I definitely cannot write, nor can I do any major revisions or edits, though I discovered that I can do small highly focused edits and rewrites, setting myself a minimum of one paragraph per day, some days more, but never as much as a chapter. That’s how I’ve been working — when I’ve been working at all this year — literally one paragraph at a time.

I could not have done even that much if it hadn’t been for Habitica and my party of writers there. The To Do list functioned as a second brain for me because in the past five months I’ve often been so overwhelmed by details and a highly fluid situation that I was afraid of losing track of things, of dropping some vital thread. The Habits list encouraged me to keep to certain routines and good lifestyle habits as much as possible even though some days were borderline chaotic. I redid some of my Dailies to accommodate my more fluid and volatile schedule and deactivated others or moved them to Habits. And when things got really bad, as they did occasionally this year, I checked into the Inn, which stopped the game from accounting any losses I might incur. I tried to keep my time away from Habitica as minimal as possible because even when I was technically not active, I depended on my To Do list and other lists to help me keep some semblance of a life balance. Chores and errands were done less promptly, but they were done. It served as a reminder for important things I otherwise might’ve forgotten.

But most of all my party of writers there really helped me get through these past 5 months. One of them told me about the Calm app which was a real life-saver. I’d been trying to get back into meditating regularly last year before things got really bad, but once things got bad, it just seemed even more difficult. The Calm app helped tremendously. Other party members suggested ways of coping with an ever-changing daily schedule, and it was a relief and reassuring to have other writers to talk to about whether I should even try to keep writing. I felt guilty about not writing and felt like a monster if I kept at it. They were very insightful and supportive. They are the reason I didn’t just put the book away forever, drop out of everything, and disappear completely for a year or so. My party in Habitica was this little bubble of calm and happiness, even though I wasn’t the only one who was going through bad things this year. That’s an important point too: they need my support as much as I need their support. Life — and death — happen; there’s never a good time to write a novel. Writing is a solitary task and the work is brain-work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard, but there’s no one else who can write your book except you; it’s all on the shoulders of the novelist. That’s why it’s good to have other writers standing shoulder to shoulder with you. Habitica stresses “accountability” as being a big thing in its system of parties and guilds, but I think of it more in terms of community. I appreciate the support of real life friends right now, but having a virtual writer’s group composed of members all over the world has the advantage of being a (virtual) place that can be supportive and helpful—and be totally separate from whatever hellish thing is happening in real life. My real life friends are grieving with me: most of them knew my mother-in-law. My online friends are sorry for my loss, but they’re not wobbling under the burden of grief themselves, and that’s comforting to me in its own way. They’re still writing and wrestling with rewrites, and — eventually — I’ll return to work on my book, too. Because we are writers. That’s what we do. And we’ll somehow write our way through.

​Trash and trains: thoughts on metaphor

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Mar• 29•17

Recently my social network feeds were filled with posts about the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). One metaphor in particular struck me, partly because so many people were using the same language: “a dumpster fire”. That got me thinking about metaphors for “a disaster”. I’d heard “dumpster fire” before, but it seems to me that it’s a recent addition to the vernacular; I’m not sure I’d heard it prior to entering the 21st century. A common phrase used in the past when something happened that was chaotic, bad, and a total mess, has been “a train wreck”. I don’t hear “train wreck” much any more. I’m not sure if it’s because trains are less in the public consciousness than in the previous century, or if it’s because much more colorful phrases, rich in connotations, have supplanted it. Like “dumpster fire”.

I found myself pondering the impact and implications of “dumpster fire” versus “train wreck” in describing something that is an unmitigated disaster (in the view of the speaker). Surely a train wreck is much worse than a dumpster fire, but the use of these phrases doesn’t seem to take into account the real actual weight of the comparative events, dumpster fires and train wrecks. One would think that since the issue of health care is one that affects life and death matters for at least some people, that “train wreck” might be a more apt pejorative phrase since actual train wrecks are a matter of life and death to the people involved. Perhaps “train wreck” has become weakened in meaning due to overuse in the previous century and become a cliche, or perhaps people have decided that train wrecks are too heinous to be bandied about in casual usage, or perhaps trains just seem too archaic to have much impact to modern ears.

But what’s the linguistic allure of “dumpster fire”? Based on amount of usage I’ve seen lately, people like it. It’s an effective rhetorical device. Here’s why I think this phrase has a nice solid impact as a metaphor. Rarely have I ever been in proximity with a dumpster that doesn’t reek. Although some dumpsters have a lot of waste paper, dumpsters are —  in most people minds — associated with rotting organic matter like food and the accompanying bad smells. Dumpsters are unsavory; they are located behind buildings and in dark alleyways. They conjure up in the image in people’s mind of poorly lit areas, foul odors, a mixed lot of refuse, and unsanitary conditions. Some things just have worse connotations than others. “Train” doesn’t have an inherently bad connotation. “Dumpster” has unpleasant connotations. So, dumpster is a good word if you want to convey something is bad. “Dumpster fire”, however, takes it to a whole new level. Now you have something nasty and foul smelling that’s a conflagration, so “fire” acts as an intensifier to “dumpster”. Together, however, they bring to the metaphor a deeper level of meaning. 

As it happens, I’ve seen two dumpster fires in two very different circumstances. There are basically two causes of dumpster fires: stupidity and malice. The first dumpster fire I saw was next to the apartment where I lived at the time. The apartment manager told me disgustedly that someone had stupidly dumped the still hot coals and ash from their hibachi into the dumpster. At the time little hibachis were popular for patio or balcony cookouts in the apartment complex; so it could’ve been any one of my neighbors. (One thing I didn’t like about apartment living was that your home was only as safe as your stupidest neighbor; several families in the building next to ours lost their homes in a separate fiery incident of stupidity.) The other dumpster fire I saw was behind a building that was closed for a couple of days. They didn’t make food or sell anything flammable; the dumpster was probably full of paper or cardboard. The important point is that the building it was behind was not open for business, so there were no employees that could’ve accidentally caused it. In other words: the fire probably was deliberately and maliciously set. With fire, context is everything. Candles: good. Fireplace: good. Wildfire in the field behind your house: bad. Dumpsters: bad. 

Metaphorically, a dumpster fire is a very nearly perfect phrase to use to condemn something that’s an unmitigated disaster, particularly for a needless heedless act or event in which you want to convey connotations of: rubbish, foulness, stinkiness, shadiness, stupidity, or malice. I don’t know who coined the phrase “dumpster fire”, or how long it’s been in the vernacular, but I suspect the richness of connotations will keep it in use for a long time. 

Green Mind Seeing

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Jan• 23•17

Green Mind Seeing

I’m doing something a bit different over on Wattpad; in addition to occasionally posting short fiction there, I’ve also begun a sort of nature journal, Green Mind Seeing. Short pieces with observations and thoughts on the natural world. Some pieces are fanciful, some natural history, some gardening. If you, too, enjoy green things, give it a look. This week I delved into my archive for “Orchid Reverie”, which provided the inspirations (after sitting in my mind for many years) for the “Cha Buddhism” mentioned in my most recent book, If Wishes Were Spaceships, and explored in more depth in the sequel I’m currently working on. If that’s a bit too mystical for you, last week I wrote about radishes. 🙂 If you’re only interested in sci-fi and fantasy, never fear, I’ll be posting more of that in the coming weeks as well. Unlike last year, I haven’t set a schedule to release material there. My writing schedule is taking some hits this year; sometimes real life has to take precedence over imaginary worlds. I’m still writing, mostly working on books, but I’ll be doing a bit of shorter stuff, both fiction and non-fiction, for immediate consumption. I’ve got three pieces currently in Green Mind Seeing, and will be adding more to that ongoing work, as well as adding new short fiction to Wattpad. The best way to keep up is to follow me on Wattpad.

Be A Hero

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Jan• 20•17

I woke up this morning, inauguration day 2017, with “It’s the End Of The World As We Know It” by REM going through my head. No kidding. My first thought was that the parenthetical part of the title (and second line of the chorus) “(And I Feel Fine)”, of course, didn’t apply, but as I showered and dressed I realized that it did. I do feel fine. I feel strong and determined. Today is not the day for distress and mourning. We’ve had months since the election for that. Today the fight for the future of our great nation begins. We cannot afford to shrink away from the political conflict, to hide our heads in the sand, or — despairing — duck our heads, do nothing, and try to get on with our lives as best we can. It’s all very well to wave banners for our political candidates and ideals, but no good can come if, having lost the initial fight, we then pack our banners and ideals away to passively wait four years to engage the enemy again. Our country needs us now more than ever to be citizens in participatory democracy to stand firm for what is good, right, and just.

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

Thomas Paine, The Crisis No. I (December 23, 1776)

We admire people who have stood up against tyranny and fascism, both historically — and also in popular culture. Our books and movies are filled with characters we identify with who band together and engage in the struggle against big powerful people, organizations, corporations, and oppressive and destructive governments. They oppose them at every turn and we cheer. We cannot afford to be merely spectators to our political situation; we cannot afford to be bystanders. Think about it for a moment, think about all those books and movies you love. Bystanders are victims. Only those who take action can have any hope of escaping unscathed.

Now is the time for us to band together and be heroes. I never in my life ever considered that I might someday live under a fascist regime — and I won’t because I will oppose it. If, four years from now, you can say, “it wasn’t that bad” it will be because people of goodwill banded together and did everything they could to protect this great nation from those who would tear it down from within the government for their own egocentric gratification and personal financial gain. This is still a democracy. We, the people, still have power to prevent the worst excesses of an intemperate government. It won’t be easy. As Thomas Paine said, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” We can do it if we work together. So much that is truly good about this country will be under attack by the new administration; it can be overwhelming to think of all that could be systematically destroyed from within the highest echelons of government. Pick something that worries you most, something that will affect you the most, something that you believe in passionately, and work for that cause. This is our time. This is it. America needs defenders, citizen heroes, who will not stand idly by complaining and cringing, but who will step forward shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other and working for the good of the nation. Don’t be a bystander, a spectator and commenter on political mayhem, a “sunshine patriot” who comes out every four years like some sort of belated groundhog; don’t be a victim. Get involved and do something. Be a hero.

The End of a Busy Productive Year!

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Dec• 14•16

If Wishes Were Spaceships
Cover design by Donna Harriman Murillo

My end of year summations are typically about invisible things. Invisible, because though I’m very busy and working hard, what I do every day isn’t visible to the world at large until something is published. Books take time and all sorts of things can delay them. But this year saw the publication of a new science fiction book, If Wishes Were Spaceships, as well as two new short stories (and reprinting some older ones) on Wattpad. Short stories are often difficult for me, so I’m as happy about completing two of them as I am the book publication. And I’m very happy about the book. I’m working on a sequel to it, as well as continuing work on the first book of another series, so it’s been in many ways a typical year, with me working away at invisible things. Invisible imaginary fictional things, which you will eventually see and read.

I’m looking ahead to the new year and taking time to consider what else I’ll be doing (as if working on two books is not enough). Just keep in mind that even if you don’t see me online that I’m still out there, making up stories and writing them down. I’ve been less active on social media this year, or more erratically active might be a better way of describing it. The beginning of the year I flogged the upcoming new book as diligently as I was supposed to, then having done that, I ducked out of sight to write. Because, after all, I’m a writer and I can’t write if I’m chatting on social media all the time. (There are authors who spend so much time on social media that I really can’t figure out how they manage to write their books because they don’t ever seem to stop posting long enough to write.) I need large blocks of time with zero distractions. I can make-do with small blocks of time, and frequent distractions, but only occasionally, not for the long haul of seeing a book from conception to publication, with all the writing, rewriting, and editing that goes into it. If you don’t see me much online, it’s because I’m hanging out with my imaginary friends, and writing stories so that you can eventually hang out with my imaginary friends, too!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all the best in the coming year. Thank you for being a fan.

NaNoWriMo Hints for Success

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Nov• 08•16

Even though I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, I know a lot of people are, so here’s some tips to help you out, based on my experiences successfully completing NaNo. Everyone has a different process, and different constraints on the time they have to write, so take whatever you think will work for you and leave the rest. Good luck to all the WriMos out there! 🙂

1. Shoot for 2 K per day. You need to forget about that 1667 per day number. That’s what you need to have averaged over 30 days. As a daily goal, it’s less helpful and can potentially screw you up.

2. Write in the morning, if at all possible. As soon as possible. That way if some unforeseen disaster strikes that totally messes up your day, your schedule, and your mind, then you’ve still got your words –or at least some of your words — done. A bad day doesn’t have to equal a bad writing day.

3. Don’t check your word count until you’ve finished your daily writing. Write as much as possible in a single sitting. Check word count. If it’s over 2 K, you’re done for the day. If it’s under 2K, take a break and then sit down and write more. The break can be short or long. This is another reason I advise writing in the morning as soon as possible; if you don’t hit your word count goal, or the writing isn’t going well, then you can take another crack at it later in the day or evening.

4. Don’t take too long on a scene that you know is just not working. This is a first rough draft. Get down the essentials of the scene and move on to the next scene. You can go back and fill in more later, and rewrite it later.

5. You don’t have to write every scene. You can drop a comment that you need to put a certain scene or p.o.v. there and just go on to the next scene.

6. You don’t have to write scenes in order. If you’re holding the whole climax of the book in your head, go ahead and write it. Sometimes it can help to write key later scenes which you’ve already worked out in your mind; then the earlier scenes can naturally work toward those key scenes. I would warn, however, that if you truly write almost every scene in a random order that you could end up with a lot of great scenes that don’t hold together or have narrative flow, which will make rewriting as tough as writing. Try to string some scenes together. Though it’s generally advised not to revise during NaNoWriMo (because revision so often equals cutting and you need the word count), go ahead and put scenes in order as much as possible as you go if you’re writing them in a more or less random fashion as the mood strikes you. This will help keep the story straight in your head and help prevent you from straying too much. Also, it will show you the gaps in the narration that need to be filled and so act as writing prompts for days when you don’t know what you’re going to write.

7. If revision means filling out things you sketched over too lightly, filling in gaps in the narration, adding another p.o.v. or swapping around a scene or two, or anything that is likely to add words, but not cut them, then do it. If you see a horrible sentence that’s three times as long as it should be, highlight it and maybe rewrite it in a comment (which isn’t counted in your word count). Ditto for paragraphs. You can mark things you wrote on bad days for cutting or revision, but unless you’re adding something, such as description or information that needed to be in there, don’t do anything that hurts your word count. You can revise, but be smart about it and don’t do too much. Revision takes up writing time and the number of words you add may not be sufficient to justify it. I don’t know about you, but for me writing goes much faster than revision. For example: if revision nets you 100 more words in a hour and writing a new scene nets you 800-1000 words in an hour, and you’ve only got an hour or an hour and a half when you can sit down and write without distractions and interruptions, then using some of that time to revise is unwise, no matter how awful you think that early chapter is. You can always revise later. This isn’t supposed to be anything like a polished draft. It’s supposed to be rough and fast.

Everyone has a different process. Every life is different. What works for me may not work for you because of the way your creative process works, or because of your work schedule and life. Some of these hints should help most WriMos. Implement what you think is useful, leave the rest.

Halloween Goodies

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Oct• 21•16

Ghost stories and eerie music, they really go together, don’t they? I have both! All this month I’m posting my ghost stories on Wattpad and if you want a bit of ambient music to go with it, check out my Halloween Soundscape album on iTunesAmazon, or other digital music stores. This music is good for setting an unsettling atmosphere for trick-or-treaters, or ambient music for your Halloween party. Not a cheesy sound effect album, these long ambient tracks were inspired by classic scary stories. For liner notes (and more albums) see my Gymshoes Music site.

The first two ghost stories up on Wattpad are old stories, and at the moment they are just for Wattpad followers. This week’s story is public, and it’s a long one which I broke into five parts for Wattpad publication, posting one part per day this week. The final part of “The Ice Cream Castle” is now up on Wattpad! The story is now complete, and is public. Response to the story has been great; it’s not only ranked, it’s already surpassed my other ranked story…and that was before I published the final section today! Thanks so much to all who have been reading along all this week as I’ve posted the sections of “The Ice Cream Castle”! Next Friday I’ll post a brand new ghost story that I’ve just finished. Follow me on Wattpad for more fiction!

New Short Stories and Why Wattpad

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Oct• 03•16

I’m going to be posting ghost stories on Wattpad this month, some old, some new, some private (followers only), some public. Friday I posted a brand new science fiction story (public) on Wattpad, “Etiquette For the End of the World”. Below is the publication schedule for the month, and also thoughts on why Wattpad is a good venue for my stories.

Ghost Stories for October! Here’s the publication schedule for short stories this month. The first 2 stories will be private, so only followers will have access to them. (Something I’m experimenting with.) The others will be public. Follow if you want to read all of them!

Oct 7: Ashes

Oct 14: Doug’s Night Out

Oct 17-21: Ice Cream Castle
(Divided into 5 parts, one part daily Mon-Fri of that week.)

Oct 28-31? I’ve started brainstorming a new ghost story which I hope to have finished by the 28th, or Halloween at the latest.

So, what’s the deal with Wattpad, anyway? I know it’s annoying for people who aren’t on Wattpad to maneuver around their sign-up pop-up (I did it for a while before joining). How can that possibly be good? Weeellllll….let’s be brutally honest here: my author site and this blog typically get zero traffic, which ticks up to a few people when I post. This is one of the reasons I don’t post much here. Why write long thoughtful posts that almost no one reads? I get more hits for short random not-terribly-great posts on my Mighty Microblog than here. As for short stories…I’m not primarily a short story writer. I like long. Short is difficult for me, so I don’t write many short stories. I’m not one of those authors who can build a following on short stories, and because of that I don’t go through the trouble of submitting stories to an assortment of magazines because it’s literally more trouble than it’s worth given my low output. My time and energy is better spent writing and marketing novels, which is what I primarily write and which pays better than an occasional short story. So I’ve been posting new short stories here on my author blog. No one is reading the stories I post here. I mean that almost literally no one. Compare the stats for the first story I posted on Wattpad to the same story which I posted here on my blog. In the first 48 hours after posting on Wattpad “The Shepherd of the Uncanny Valley” had 17 views, 3 likes, and 6 comments, which is not bad for 2 days considering that I’m new to Wattpad, this was my first story there, and I only had 4 followers (at that time; I pick up more followers with each story I post). In contrast, the same story posted on my blog 3.5 years ago has gotten a total of 4 views, no likes, no comments. So, yeah, I’m pretty happy with Wattpad. The idea of joining Wattpad is to expose my work to more people in order to increase the audience for my work. I have no idea if Wattpad activity will translate into increased book sales, but increased visibility has to be good. After all, it’s much harder to sell a book to someone if they’ve never heard of you and haven’t read anything you’ve written, than if you’re someone they interact with online whose stories they read and like. Posting short stories to this blog is just throwing them away. Based on the stats, it’s clear that not even my real life close friends are reading them (I’ve got more than 4 friends! LOL), liking them or commenting. The stats for the few other stories I’ve posted here are about the same: few views, no likes, and usually no comments.

But, I can hear some other authors exclaim, “You’re just giving your stories away!” Well, yeah. Short story markets don’t pay well, so even if I went with traditional publication, I’d get a pittance and since short stories are more difficult for me to write than novels (and some, sad to say, have taken almost as long to write), there’s no way a paying publication would give me anything remotely like adequate compensation for my effort. I’m not one of those people who can knock out a brilliant story often, and on a regular basis. So giving away short stories means that I lose a very small amount of income—assuming that I can sell them—and I save myself the hassle of submission. It also means that more people have access to my short stories. Potentially millions of people online. Who are potentially buyers of my books. And it’s that potential that’s the real nub of the situation. If 4 friends read my story on the blog (or no friends, and 4 strangers) over the course three and a half years, then that story is just being wasted. For all intents and purposes, it has no audience, no one who likes (or Likes) it; a few people encounter it ever so briefly, and the only comments it’s likely to garner are from spammers (which my spam filter and moderation catch). I have zero interaction with readers, zero conversations about the story. As many people have said, the biggest problem for authors who aren’t well known is getting attention, standing out in all the noise of the internet, finding a way for their potential audience to find them and become their readers, their fans. That is not happening at all on this blog. No one is finding me, no one is becoming a fan, no one is reading most of the posts I write here (which is why I don’t write more; the time and words are better spend on novels, which people do read).

So I’ve got a choice. 1. I can write occasional short stories and tuck them away in the archive and no one reads them (which just strikes me as idiotic: the act of writing presupposes readers). 2. I can go through the hassle of submission, taking time and energy away from working on other things, perhaps get a story published somewhere and maybe get paid something and have a very few people read a very few short things I’ve written. 3. I can post the occasional story I write to my blog and have a very few people read a very few short things I’ve written and not get paid anything, but perhaps gain one new reader, maybe, if it’s some kind of fantastically extraordinary day. 4. I can post my story to Wattpad which is a community of avid readers and writers and get more readers every day, more likes, more comments and discussions with my readers, and build a following.

So, no, I’m not getting paid from Wattpad publication, but unlike everywhere else there’s a very good chance of building a fanbase of regular readers. Will that translate into book sales? I don’t know, but anything that raises the profile of an obscure writer is a good thing. If I build a good following there over time, and even a small percentage buy my novels, then that’s a net gain that, clearly, I am not getting from posting the stories here, where there’s almost no traffic. It will be interesting to see what the numbers for my stories on Wattpad look like after a year, or two, or three. Perhaps I’ll reevaluate things after that, but right now—with me still being a newbie with not a lot of followers yet—I’m already getting both new readers and more readers. I don’t expect my numbers to rise fast, but they are rising.

No one writes stories hoping that no one will ever read them. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write more stories now that I know there is an audience for them, people out there who are waiting for my next stories to appear…on Wattpad.