SR

 

Image Alt Text: 

This image depicts a purple sun on a white background and overlaid with the words “Exploring the need for / Sensitivity Readers / a blog series / by E.J. Dawson, Tara Jazdzewski, Alex Woodroe, Ashley Dawn, Fay Lane and Alexa Rose”. To the right of this image are a series of words arranged beside a black triangle, and from the top, the words read “disability / race / orientation / culture / sex / gender / age / beliefs”.

Image Description:

This banner is part of an ongoing blog series about sensitivity readers. Graphic created by Alexa Rose, August 7, 2020.

 

A group of friends and I decided that one of the things we can do to help people understand why sensitivity readers are important. We came together to do this tour interviewing sensitivity readers of varying areas to talk to them about who they are and what they do.

 

Today I’m joined by Ana, also known as Kawaii on Twitter as she talks to me a little about what its like to be a Sensitivity Reader, ad some of the issues and challenges she faces.

 

1. What interested you about being a sensitivity reader?

I could make income for myself at home while helping others write better characters and so on with my knowledge. I didn’t even know that sensitivity readers were a thing until I researched enough to figure out what to call the new job I was doing for someone and would like to continue.

2. Are people generally receptive to your feedback? Can you give any examples?

Speaking for the people I work for? Yes, they are. When I told one of the writers I was working with that they should describe the skin or race for all instead of just black people they agreed with me and went to work on it. Another time was when I mentioned how they described the character’s actions with their hair wouldn’t have made sense with their style, they changed it accordingly. Now not all things I suggest happen, like mentioning how someone is toxic just in case that’s not what the writer wants or spelling (I help with other things than just community topics).

3. What are the challenges of reading for (reader specific) content?

Sometimes I’m nervous about saying things to come off stereotypical or just come off in a negative way I guess. Like when I was reading some horror like book, I wanted to so badly say how the black character most likely wouldn’t even be in this situation. But of course, that’s not always the case for everyone. It still bothered me though. Also, it can be nerve-wracking sometimes when I don’t know what may pop up with the story since all writers don’t mention possible triggers.

4. What issues do you find most as a sensitivity reader?

Proper payment and being acknowledged correctly. So many people don’t understand why the job even exists and think it’s censorship, the list goes on from there. It’s so sad and hilarious to see all these people get upset that they need readers from a community or communities they are writing about but have never existed in. And they still don’t see the problem with that. All they say is it’s been years and books have been just fine without us, which they are completely wrong about.

This also somewhat ties into the proper payment part. I’ve met enough people to say that they don’t realize what they are asking from us. They want to pay you little or nothing at all for you giving them information you know from years of experience and possibly will continue to live through it while they obviously don’t and might not ever go through. Not to mention all the reading for a story you may not have even read if it was for your entertainment. So to the fellow writers out there who don’t know, if you want to get your book published, expect money to be spent and don’t try to down pay people.

You can find Ana on Twitter and Wattpad where she writes like she’s running out of time.

SR

Image Alt Text: 

This image depicts a purple sun on a white background and overlaid with the words “Exploring the need for / Sensitivity Readers / a blog series / by E.J. Dawson, Tara Jazdzewski, Alex Woodroe, Ashley Dawn, Fay Lane and Alexa Rose”. To the right of this image are a series of words arranged beside a black triangle, and from the top, the words read “disability / race / orientation / culture / sex / gender / age / beliefs”.

Image Description:

This banner is part of an ongoing blog series about sensitivity readers. Graphic created by Alexa Rose, August 7, 2020.

 

 

A group of friends and I decided that one of the things we can do to help people understand why sensitivity readers are important. We came together to do this tour interviewing sensitivity readers of varying areas to talk to them about who they are and what they do.

 

The first tour is with Cain Wilson on Alexa Rose‘s blog series and you can find it here.

Healthy Writing

I’m going to tell you all something that should come as no surprise; I loathe exercise.

When I wake up in the morning I pour in Earl Grey tea and hope fortitude will get me through the day. I do walk my 35kg mastiff which is a challenge unto itself but that’s rostered under my “Take care of Pets” not exercise and therefore excusable.

Given we’re all trapped in our houses and even the introverts long for eye contact (who thought it would come to this?), I thought I’d seek out a professional. Someone wise in the way of regular physical activity that wasn’t smashing their head against the desk (it’s a writing activity not exercise).

Today on my blog one of the most physically fit whilst lying about his love of hiking writerly folk is here to talk about exercise, and why its important. Trey Stone is a gifted author who has taken the time to show us the importance of exercise and how you can include it in your daily schedule, but also the importance of physical health being attached to our mental health and positive attitudes.

When my bones and muscles have gotten the opportunity to exhaust themselves, my mind is at rest, and ready to go. - Trey Stone

I’m more than happy to talk about fitness, physical and mental health. It’s perhaps more important now than ever, with so much of the world in isolation.

First things first: I’m not a doctor, nor a personal trainer. Though I am married to one, I’m really just a guy who works out a lot, and over the last 14 months I have shed 20% of my body weight and I’m in the best shape of my life. But if you’re planning any major lifestyle changes, consult a professional.

So, why workout?

Other than the obvious physical benefits, like becoming faster, stronger, lighter and what have you, there’s a tremendous mental gain. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is, but being physically active does something to your state of mind. I guess the short answer is endorphins, but I’d say it goes beyond that.

There’s more than that short term feeling of happiness you get from physical exhaustion, when you do something over time and get better at something.

My main argument that this has to be true, is this: I don’t always like training. If I just did it for endorphins you’d imagine I loved it all the time, but in fact I often hate it. I make myself go workout 7 days a week, even when I don’t want to, because it makes me feel great after. In the long run. It makes me sleep better, think better, feel better, be better, and write better. (Also, I think I can see an ab.) Honestly, there’s so many great side effects of looking after your physical health.

So, what do you do if you’re new to training?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

First of all, you don’t need to workout 7 days a week. Almost nobody does. The only reason I do is because I have very specific goals I want to meet in a very specific time, and my personal trainer wife is helping me make sure I don’t overdo it.

I’d recommend three times a week for most beginners who are used to being generally active in their daily life. A very sedentary person might just start with 30 minutes a week to get things going (often people think it would be the other way around, but that’s how you overload and get hurt.)

Thirty minutes a day should be enough for most people as well, as long as you’re making sure you’re actually working out during that time. For example: thirty minutes of running is a lot. Thirty minutes of weightlifting isn’t as much (because of the amount of breaks you’ll need).

How do you do that as a writer?

Here’s the first half of my answer to that: if you have a standing desk, stand up. Not necessarily throughout the whole day, but occasionally. Stretch your legs; walk around. Also, if you have the opportunity, take the stairs. I’m still bad at taking the stairs, even when it’s just as few floors, but it all adds up. If you’re looking for more specific exercises, do some air squats and push-ups off the side of your desk.

But here’s the second half of my answer to that: if you have time to workout later, don’t work out at your desk. I’d recommend focusing on doing your work (but still remembering to take breaks and stretch in between), and then focus on doing a workout later. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like separating those two things makes both of them better.

For optimum results, for people who are just starting out:

– Go for a walk. Thirty minutes. When you’re sick of walking, start jogging. In the beginning you can jog ten minutes and walk twenty. If you’re really clever, you walk the first ten, jog for ten, and then walk again. Soon you’ll be running for half an hour. Doesn’t have to be fast, at all. Just get it done.

– Burpees. Whenever someone asks for ‘the’ exercise to do, this is what I got. It was invented as way to gauge the fitness level of an individual, without having them do multiple things, and, they, burn! There are several different versions of these floating around the web these days, but I do like to do them like this: (1) jumping up in the air, (2) jumping down and out in a plank position, (3) lying down on the ground, (4) pushing off the floor, (5) tucking your legs underneath your body, and (6) squatting back up to standing. If you ever plan on doing just one thing, do this.

– For my third thing I’m going to cheat and say push-ups and air squats. They require no equipment, exercise nearly your entire body, and almost everyone can do in some form regardless of fitness level (if you look closely, both of these are incorporated into my version of the burpee). People often seem to think that exercising needs to be difficult and that you need access to a whole warehouse full of equipment, but I promise if you 20-30 of these every day, you’ll see results.

Again, I want to emphasize that you don’t have to love training.

I sure don’t, yet I’ve somehow become a guy people go to when they ask for training advice. Being active helps everything, I promise. Four years ago, I didn’t do any type of activity beyond walking to the shops and I wish I started sooner. It sounds cliché, but it really does give you more energy to do other things when you phyiscally exhaust yourself occasionally. And during the lockdown/isolation period we’re in now it’s been especially valuable.

Especially when it comes to mental health.

When it comes to writing, to give a direct example, I find it makes me so much more focused. I spend less time writing now than I used to, but at the same time I write much more. Before, I had to sit down and spend ages getting in the zone, making sure all the circumstances were right so I could concentrate.

Now, I have the ability to just mash out words. It goes back to that thing I said about state of mind. When my bones and muscles have gotten the opportunity to exhaust themselves, my mind is at rest, and ready to go. I’d almost go as far as to say ‘eager’, in the sense that I’m looking forward to sitting down and doing something else. And it’s probably a confidence thing too.

If physical training has taught me anything, it’s that I’m much more capable than I thought.

I can do things I only ever dreamed of before, and that transfers to other things, writing included. A lot of us dread the blank page, that first draft, worrying about how it’s going to turn out. Now, more often than not, it’s a challenge I’m happy to take on. It’s like breaking personal records in the gym, proving myself that I can do better. There’s this famous quote that exists in various iterations (which I thought was attributed to Bruce Lee, but don’t quote me on that), and it goes something like: “Keep your mind strong and your body will follow.”

Well, I’d say that’s just as important if you turn it the other way around.

 

You can find Trey on Twitter, and his book, The Consequence of Loyalty, is available on Amazon.

E. J. Dawson & Alex Woodroe

 

Over the years I’ve come to recognize the Writing Community on Twitter as… complicated. And no, this isn’t your Facebook relationship status kind of complicated. Whether or not I think these people should be named is irrelevant because it incites the very behavior I am about to admonish.

 

I have a few followers, I don’t follow everyone back, I talk about why repeatedly. I do follow accounts that I interact with a lot, industry professionals, and fellow writers who are doing the same stuff I am; turning a hobby into a career or just writing because they love it.

 

One of the things I like to do is talk not just about writing but the writing world itself and sometimes that means making people aware of certain… things that we don’t always acknowledge as openly as we should. There are quite a few controversial opinions out there and this blog isn’t about what they are, where I stand (pretty self-evident from my Tweets or blog), or to even talk about where you stand.

 

I’m kindly joined in this blog post by Alex Woodroe, after both of us witnessed some of the behavior I’ve been alluding to, and we came to a very firm conclusion; its toxic. But worst still we identified these same people having followers and sympathizers who had no clue as to their behavior on other threads and timelines.

 

How do we tell you who these people are? We don’t. We tell you the kind of behavior they are engaging in so you can find out for yourself. What you do is up to you, but what you do about these people indicates to others whether you condone their behavior and as we’re about to go into, some of its pretty dreadful.

 

What is this toxic behavior you are referring to?

 

Alex: In one word, duplicity. There are loads of other issues, but this is one of the heaviest ones. We have people exploiting the fact that they can curate their “image”, so they’ll do horrible things – often bigotry and abuse, then erase all evidence and turn around to show easy “support”. You know the type: “you’re so precious, every book is valid, our souls, our freedom, our community”, etc. They will use that support to get interaction and sales sometimes from the very people they’re bigoted against. It’s awful.

 

EJ: I want to use an example but some of them are going to stand out like sore thumbs and I have no wish to incite either an attack from followers (which has happened to me), or bring up the past. What did occur is the toxic abuser made comments of a hurtful nature that dismissed and degraded other people, and when someone said it wasn’t okay, the abuser threatened that person, deleted the tweet soon after, and then cried “poor me” to the tens of thousands of followers. They still had tens of thousands of followers even after screenshots of the threat went out around the community. Why didn’t you hear about it?.

 

 

Yeah, how come I didn’t hear about that?

 

EJ: The simple fact of the matter is; you don’t. Even if you had the luxury of being able to scroll Twitter all day looking up this sort of stuff you’d never catch it all. Also, people have done stuff like this, amended their ways and grown and improved as people. A single tweet might be a mistake, its when the behavior repeats itself that you should keep an eye out for. Screenshots are a good idea if you see the behavior, but also its best to see the screenshots for yourself so you can make a judgment FOR yourself. No one wants to be told to follow or not follow one person without seeing for themselves – otherwise its a mob mentality of ganging up on people for what might be a misconstrued comment shoved into a very small box. Please remember; this is twitter, you’re limited in what you show of your personality, but the same limitations apply to everyone.

 

Alex: It’s astounding what you don’t hear about or miss, especially when people are clever about it – and the worst ones often are.

I’ll use a personal example if I can – I spent ages (or what would be considered ages on Twitter, which is a few months) in conversation with someone on shallow topics like food and music. They seemed perfectly fine. There was exchange of support and retweets and encouragement. Two months later, the same person turns around and abuses some of their reviewers with horrific rhetoric – sexism, “snowflakes”, racism, just the worst stuff. I only saw it because it went on for days, otherwise the fact that it was all in comments and the time zone difference would have meant I’d still be there retweeting the book of someone who, it turns out, thinks all us ladies belong in the kitchen.

 

What behavior should I look out for?

 

Alex: It’s hard to say, because any behaviour we point out – there’s probably a legitimate situation in which it wasn’t harmful. That’s why using your judgment and avoiding knee-jerk sympathy or anger is key.

One thing I’m always wary of is when people manipulate empathy. For example, someone blocks everyone who disagree with them, then goes off about how they’ve been trolled and abused and “woe-is-me” where they know we don’t get the other side of the story – usually because on the other side, there are decent people who don’t wield attention like a weapon.

Any situation in which someone calls for support from people who don’t actually know what’s going on beyond a tweet or two is a potential red flag – but again, there are circumstances where this isn’t at all badly intended. Apply common sense liberally.

I’ve seen people call for support in totally valid situations. Usually, they will have a litany of screenshots from both private and public messages where they’ve been attacked, and everyone can judge for themselves.

Using ten thousand fans against someone who doesn’t have that kind of support is a big no-no even if you are right. It’s an abuse of power. I’ve screwed this up in the past, retweeting someone’s hurtful comment to me – they got blasted by twenty people who were way angrier than I was an I felt miserable for doing it immediately. So I’m trying to do better there.

Oh, and, deleting your side of the argument? Huge red flag. If you’re hiding what you did, then you probably owe someone an apology.

 

EJ: If someone is picking a fight, using curse words, being abusive or dismissive, or retweeting a comment that disagrees with them, these are obvious signs of trollish behavior. There is a fine line between doing these things over something you care about and being toxic. Deleting tweets, responses that feel… off. Posting tweets victimizing themselves when in reality they’ve just committed the very crime they are seeking sympathy for. It paints a picture of themselves as innocent and abused when in reality they perpetuate the abuse, and for those who don’t see it, sympathize with a glossed over tailored version of who they think that person is. Its lying and manipulation. Sugarcoating it is painting a giant turd in gold. Making hateful statements justified as a freedom of speech. There is a vast difference between whether you like pineapple on a pizza and whether or not a trans person is entitled to proper medical attention. Did I oversimplify that? Yes, I did. Why? Because you need to ask yourself this question when faced with these thinner lines. Because they do occur and telling the difference is hard.

 

What do you feel about this behavior on Twitter?

 

EJ: Lying in order to sell books is simply old hat to me at this point in time. I’ve spoken before about things I’ve witnessed. One set of behavior is to claim your twitter is to connect, and then a day latter say you’re a failure because no one buys your books. That latter one is one I see a lot and it basically invites people to fork out a couple of bucks on a book they otherwise would not have bought. See, the thing is, if I see a book on Twitter I like, I normally buy it then and there. But saying no sales is ‘honesty’ but makes you sad, more than once, frequently in fact, emotionally blackmails fellow writers into buying your book. Its… its really fucking gross.

 

Alex: I am just so exhausted by people manipulating others for book sales. It’s not right, it’s not fair, it brings the entire publishing community down, it promotes stories from people who have certain kinds of behavior rather than stories which actually deserve to be told, we end up missing good content because our feeds get over-full with complaining, lifts, fake support, and drama. My patience for it grows thinner by the day.

 

What do I do about it when I see it?

 

Alex: Totally your call, but use your judgment. Always be a critical thinker. Personally, I try to never give blanket support (or abuse) to people I don’t know.

“Trolls trolled me, poor me” will never get me to say “fuck them, they don’t deserve you”. Not after the things I’ve seen. Because, more often than not, those “trolls” end up being the ones who had a good point, and you risk being offhand-abusive to people you don’t even know.

“Trolls trolled my book” will never get me to automatically pity-buy it. It’ll get me to download a sample to see if they have a point. It’ll get me to check whether the author is the one angry-replying to reviews, screenshotting, doxing, or trolling reviewers.

“I have to stand up for what I believe in! You are all valid!” Will never get me to reply “hell yeah”. Let’s see what we’re talking about, first. Is it about inclusion, or is it about the fact that “everyone can write whatever they want and you can’t tell me not to use the n-word”, because those are two very different kinds of “all”.

The bottom line is this: give people your support, time, and money discerningly. Giving a kid a cookie for having a temper tantrum encourages more temper tantrums, right? Adults are no different.

And remember that you’re curating a community for the people around you, too, not just yourself. “They were nice to me” isn’t good enough if the same person is hurtful to others.

 

EJ: That’s up to you. I mean that. It’s your platform but to be honest I usually unfollow, or soft block or flat out block depending on the level. I have purposefully soft blocked people so this didn’t come back to bite me. Sometimes it has anyway. In other instances on platforms with huge followers I can’t ignore it, and I share it. There are some fights you can’t walk away from. But its not up to me to decide those fights for you; you have to find out, and fight based on what you think is right.

 

 

My philosophy has always been thus: we cannot police the writing community or the self-publishing community. We are autonomous agents of the worth we wish to sell to the world. But while we do it, we can stand for the morals we believe in against those that wish to capitalize on our own sympathies and fears.

 

We don’t say their name; we call out their behavior, because there are more than one, and each one introduces a new level of toxicity. We do not abandon the Writing Community tag, we defend it, because we are a part of it. We don’t have to agree; but we do have to outcast hatred, toxic behavior, and those who seek to do writers harm.

 

Happy Hug Your Cat Day!

 

I’m going to start by telling you all something I’m very proud of; I’m a panster.

 

I rarely plot a novel, I have a few images in my head and an end scene usually and that end scene in my head often drives the rest of the story. The sense of discovery and how it comes to that point. Sometimes it’s in reverse and I have an opening idea, a character a scene, that throws me into the mystery of it all.

 

And I write. And I write a fuckload. I talk about sprinting often through writer’s block but here is what I want you to know; it’s not always a good thing.

 

We aren’t always who we say we are on the screen and I’ve been hurting for about six months. I’ll keep it short; it is because my stories were all broken. In little ways, but broken all the same. They were good ideas. They had creative spark. All the feedback from publishers, agents, editors, critique partners, and betas was that they liked it, but there was still something fundamentally wrong.

 

This came to a head a few weeks ago where the spark just left me and I decided I had to do something about it if I wanted to get better.

SAVE THE CAT

 

I’d previously dismissed Save the Cat for novices who weren’t sure what made good storytelling because of one thing I’d been reassured was that I told good stories. But it wasn’t enough. I had to fix what was wrong with all my current stories, that little flaw so different in each one came back to a similar problem. I sat down again and decided I would read this book, properly, and use it for the script I’m going to submit to PitchWars this year.

 

AND I WAS BLOWN AWAY.

 

One of the things about having Aspergers is that learning new stuff is intimidating as fuck for one reason alone; you will either just “click” and get the premise, or it will be a serious struggle to learn, even if its explained very simply and easily. Sometimes your brain just doesn’t understand the new information.

 

Learning is hard. Save the Cat is not.

 

The reassurances from the author throughout the book against how difficult it is to plot, how its not any more formulaic because ALL stories follow a similar pattern, the examples, its all just…

chef kiss

Let me start by stating one of the key takeaways for me was the break down which as a panster was a bit of a hurdle. However, once I read the book and understood the points I just wrote down a single line for each one because I knew that was all I needed. You don’t have to over plot this; the book makes it clear this isn’t a case of writing down every nuanced detail. It even goes into how the beat points will probably change during the course of writing it, and that is fine.

Understanding those points of the story, and what was truly happening was made very easy to understand by the use of examples.

What I appreciated most about these examples was the diversity of genre. We all write different stories, surely its not all the same! Welp, point of fact it is – but especially if you want to make your book commercial.

From Sci-Fi to romance books, at each stage there were easily recognizable points to the stories I’ve known all my life. In the way they are alike and this is where the book excels because it brings in a different kind of story-identification as well.

The story of a hero, rites of passage, dudes with problems, and none of this is going to make sense to you unless you go read it because we don’t just break stories into “categories/genres” but also what happens. A mystery/thriller/horror can be all about “whydunit”, a term in the book used to describe a mystery to be solved, during which there are shocking revelations. Using this type of genre then helps how you develop the story. Not only does the story go into explicit detail for all these different types of genres, it then helps you figure out how to do something that’s magic.

 

That’s right; you get to learn magic.

magic

Any one of you who’s ever had to sit down and write a pitch or synopsis I am going to give you the golden stamp for why you would need this book. It tells you exactly how to do it. Not a hint or guesswork or vague instructions you somehow have to manipulate. Very, fucking, specific, instructions.

 

For those querying, you need this. It’s your query letter, elevator pitch, and tweet for pitmad.

For those self pubbing, you need this. It’s your sales tweet, back cover blurb, and Amazon sales point.

 

And that’s what matters to many of us; the difference between whether an idea is attractive enough for a reader to buy the book in any form.

For those who think; I don’t want to write commercial formulaic fiction that is okay. This might not be for you. You may be writing a new breed or genre of story that’s specific and unique and I wish you the best of luck with that.

 

But most of you I know what to sell your stories. No, be honest, if not with me than yourselves. You’re selling to an agent/editor/publisher. You’re selling your work to an audience via Amazon. What you get out of it may not be money (not much at all in point of fact) but the feeling that someone loved your story. They cried, laughed, and spent time lost in your world of words.

The kicker here is that story telling is all the same. But you’d never compare The Handmaiden’s Tale to the Great Gatsby, would you? Yeah? Well, go read Save the Cat because it tells you exactly why.

When its broken down into these points all you are doing is what we’ve done since the dawn of time, and as Save the Cat is quick to point out and prove; stories are all fundamentally the same.

 

Taking Down Trolls

The last time I fought I troll I did so quietly and with anonymity.

Last night on Twitter that did NOT happen. Was it the glass of wine or the late hour on a Friday night or the nature of the attack? Nope, it was because this guy had nothing to spew but a generalized hatred of the world, its laser beam focused on me. Why? I invited him to.

giphy1

On this thread on Twitter, one of its known trolls on the #MSWL and #querying tags is a fellow called Gary Kadet. I’d seen him in a tweet against me last year when I’d started my querying journey and decided to stay the hell away. But in the thread, I did comment that some of the contents of the article were frankly disgusting. Because child pornography is disgusting.

It was a very detailed well-researched timeline of Gary Kadet’s publishing timeline and some other facts that were disturbing but appeared accurate enough to be retweeted by the esteemed Victoria Strauss. For those who don’t know; she’s a fabulous writer and runs Writers Beware, a website dedicated to protecting authors.

But my comments were noticed.

Out of the blue an account, I now know attacks Victoria Strauss regularly had a go at me.

Proserpine Katz

And I stared at that for a few minutes… and decided that this time I wouldn’t slink off or ignore it.

giphy2

I retweeted the comments bringing the account to the attention of Victoria Strauss in case she wasn’t aware of it (and I’ve since found out she’s aware of the account). In the meantime it appeared Proserpine wasn’t done mocking me.

Proserpine Katz 2

What proceeded was a series of tweets where I damn well stood up for myself.

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And then another account started screenshotting my comments from the main thread and starting vitriolic nonsense.

Oscar MadisoyOscar Madisoy 2Oscar Madisoy 3Oscar Madisoy 4

I called him on his shit and he blocked me. I then asked for the #WritingCommunity’s support and got in spades, but made it abundantly clear that the behaviour wasn’t acceptable, I wasn’t going to lie down, and I wasn’t going to just “take” it.

Other accounts talking the same trash blocked me, and do you know what? It felt fucking glorious.

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You don’t get to win against the trolls and the bullies of the world very often, and I’m honestly pretty proud of myself for standing up to that nonsense. So what’s the point of the article? You can too.

Don’t let yourself be bullied by anyone.

You can walk away, block, or vanish. Or you can fight back. Either is valid but you have to decide for yourself what you will and will not tolerate, I’m just here to show you it can be done.

I can’t say this won’t come back to haunt me, it might. Just like those original comments, I posted on that thread. But I won’t be bullied by the likes of Gary Kadet and his sock puppets, I’m not afraid of them, and you don’t have to be either.

The trolls of this world will be called out, and if they come for me, guess what? I’m ready.

Cue the Editor

When I set out on my self-publishing journey I knew that I’d need a good editor. I spoke to a friends, found a few people who might help, and sent them firstly my novella. The people I spoke to had varying degrees of warmth – all of them charging a reasonable rate but to me was half a fortune.

 

Editing is expensive because its work. In my case a LOT (but I’m getting better, I swear!).

 

People make a living off editing and the self-publishing community’s frustration with the fees is completely negligent of the fact that you’re asking someone to work for you. I’ve worked with many editors over the years but what I found in my first editor was what I’ve looked for in all my other editors.

 

Support and enthusiasm for my work and that is why you need an editor who works well with you. The same as any professional you want to assist you.

 

This isn’t just about the time, or the story that’s dear to you. You want people to love it as much as you do and your champion for that story will always be your editor.

 

When I brought the piece to Scott in 2014 he was keen. He liked the idea of the Last Prophecy series and it was that enthusiasm that drew me to him, but I’ve kept contact and working with him over the years and other projects because I liked what he said.

 

He didn’t just correct my words, he took the time to tell me why, what I could do to improve, and found the bits of my writing that were good. It was the grounding I needed in becoming a better writer. Your first editor is possibly your most important and making sure you have a good relationship of honesty and constructive criticism is vital to becoming a better writer.

 

Scott was kind enough to answer a few questions for me this weekend to talk about editing.

 

How did you become an editor?

I’d just quit a job at a call centre when a friend of a friend needed someone with some science and editing skills. I’d originally studied and worked as a scientist, and had recently finished my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing course with an eye to improve my writing. Along the way I fell in love with relearning grammar and punctuation rules and editing as a subject. I was able to fuse my previous background and new skills and help with a science textbook. This pretty much kickstarted editing as a career for me, and I’ve since branched out to many kinds of texts.

 

What kind of editing do you do?

Educational textbooks are my bread-and-butter work. They make up the bulk of my work and the bulk of my income. But I’ll happily edit anything I can get my hands on. My passion is in speculative fiction and roleplaying games, which I’ve edited in, and which often keep me excited to be editing. I’ve worked on self-help books, business books, boardgames, young adult books and children’s books to mention a few others. I also do some manuscript assessment, an area I’m keen to get more involved with.

 

What is the most rewarding part about it?

There’s a few parts that are rewarding. Finding a manuscript that’s already written well, and making that absolutely shine feels amazing. I also love when I’m able to help an author – could be an emerging writer or an experienced writer – learn something new or even just to find that one idea or twist of phrase to improve a story.

 

Do you have a part of editing you like more than others?

I try not to be complacent about the work and feel there are always opportunities to improve and fine-tune my abilities as an editor. The editing work keeps me on my toes because of the continual challenge of feeling out and learning about a new project. I like the idea of always being an eternal learner in my work and the particular project I’m working on.

 

Is there any editing advice you can give writers?

Spend time with your words, no matter how awkward it feels to look at them and rework them. Find new ways to read and experience your words – go for a walk thinking about your story, craft an atmospheric soundtrack to feel out a scene or two, try writing and editing your work in a burbling café, read or experience something new and take something from that into your writing.

 

 

You can find Scott on his website, and twitter where he talks about his editor work, past history, and how you can get in touch with him.

 

E. J. Dawson.COM


We’re all trying to find our way, learn from our mistakes, and grow into this new and uncertain world.

 

We’re living in a world with a lot of chaos and fighting.

 

Covid. The BLM movement. The art vs artists arguments.

 

The truths coming about from the traditionally publishing industry, agencies that have had staff walk out, the disparaging differences for advances to black authors, and most recently the NYT revelations.

*deep breath*

 

All of these are confronting and difficult and we need to hear them.

 

So let’s also talk about the much-maligned/contradictory self-publishing/Writing Community.

 

I recently saw people have abandoned the Writing Community tag to form the Writerscafe to get away from the follow for follow trains and lifts.

 

Let’s start with the fact that many of these carry a subculture of bullying I’ve talked about before, but that the reason many of these accounts claim the following is done in support. Why? Because agents want you to have a platform. In the self-publishing case thousands, tens of thousands of followers will buy your books.

 

This is true.

 

But what agents and publishers and editors want to see is a reader base, especially if you’ve self-pubbed or went with an indie press. Not necessarily a host of other writers. And if you are seeking an agent straight off the bat, many represented authors DON’T have those bloated follower counts, some have less than a hundred. (As a side note; if you don’t at least check the feeds of those you follow you could end up following a pedophile, and oh yeah, MANY PEOPLE DID).

 

Why do it if that’s the case?

 

Because you DO want to find and support other writers, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands, and you will never know who your newest best friend is as a writer if you don’t know them. Maybe their content is funny, engaging, helpful. Maybe they work in the same genre as you. You can beta swap and find critique partners and retweet pitches and ALL OF THAT IS VALID.

 

What isn’t is when you decide to bully people about it.

 

When “Follow me because I follow you” becomes the ONLY reason for engagement. Many of these accounts with their super high followers (we’re talking plus 20k here), do not have a lot of engagement. Look at their tweets. Many of these people do not engage in active dialogue – they serial retweet other accounts doing the same things as them.

 

These “writerslifts” and predominately self-published authors are not the ONLY ones, but they can make it seem like its either a join them or leave. That if you aren’t with them you aren’t a real supportive writer, and you won’t make it and GUYS, THIS IS NOT HOW SELF PUBLISHING WORKS.

 

There is a huge hidden part of the self-publishing world that cheats. They buy fake reviews, they swap stories and post it under different names, they use advertising and falsified buying and reading to up their ranking on Amazon so more people buy a trending book. I’ve talked about it a lot in the past and there are many places that talk about it in great detail.

 

And when we talk about supporting the writing community and that’s just your opinion, please remember the damaging behaviour of exclusiveness, and I would like to segue this dialogue to talk about… Rowling.

 

Many authors put their Hogwart houses on their bios to show their allegiances/preferences/and often writing style too. It’s become inconsiderate now because JK Rowling has made many public statements that she doesn’t support trans people.

 

So now writers are stating they need to remove it from their bios and they’re anti-trans if they’re don’t. There is the rise of separating the art from the artists and why this is understandable reaction given writers like Tolkien and Lovecraft.

 

Guys… they’ve been dead a long time and no longer profit from your patronage. Rowling does.

 

Separating the art from the artist is hard when integral parts of the storytelling carry themes that are hateful/thinly veiled phobias. When we’ve grown up with these stories and they’ve influenced who we are and the people we want to become. The shades of grey and uncertainty about where the line is, for me, still a little vague, but I am trying to seek clarity in what I am reading and writing. I still think the HP world has a lot to offer, but have also had my eyes opened from a tumbler post to a lot of the themes in the book that promotes slavery and exclusiveness.

 

You know… like… the Writing Community follow for following?

 

You can choose to keep enjoying HP, no one is telling you what you can and can’t do – as long as you are aware of what else is involved, and that your continued support will be clear to others about what you do and don’t believe in. It’s the same reason people ask you put your gender referral into your bio; not just to identify yourself to others, but to show that you understand and support those who’s genders are not clearly defined by a photo or even their bodies.

 

That you care about them and their lives and equality for those lives.

 

You cannot please everyone, someone is invariably going to take my words here and twist them or attack me for them and this is the thing; I am open to a reasonable discussion and learning from my mistakes. I removed my Hogwarts house from my bio the FIRST time I found out about Rowling and I didn’t exclude all of you who still kept it in your bio. I have Aspergers and sometimes my brain just works in weird ways and I try very hard to articulate that and maybe I’ve messed it up. But I can admit to my mistakes, and to try to improve.

 

I am here to support other authors and I do that many ways that involve sometimes never speaking to them or following them on twitter. I feature them on my website with book tours, blog posts, interviews and reviews of their work.

 

THAT’S HOW YOU SUPPORT A WRITER; YOU BUY THEIR BOOK AND REVIEW IT AND TALK ABOUT IT.

 

And if you find out that writer has a different political viewpoint from you; you can block or unfollow or whatever. But please remember your actions speak volumes and we aren’t just talking about opinions. Stating pineapple belongs on pizza (a gross preference I loathe, yeah I said it) is an opinion. Liking the colour green instead of purple and that purple sucks is an opinion.

 

The inclusion of the trans community is a human fucking right. A basic human right. Like everything else we are fighting for and that is not opinion, it is fact. Everyone deserves the same chance, the same support, and the same inclusiveness that the rest of us have held onto for centuries.

 

And we need to be clearer about it, and the kind of behaviour we want to see in our communities if we hope to be the ones doing the decent human thing. We’re making ourselves aware, we’re talking about it, and the effects that is has on our community.

 

Self publishing has no one direct leader, we aren’t beholden to five big publishing companies, a swathe of literary agencies or qualified editors who influence and direct our work. We are beholden to ourselves and each other. With so many voices, I refuse to let a single few dictate it for all, to devolve down to us vs them, to just a few of the squabbling children the rest of the professional writing industry not so subtly call the self publishing community.

 

My eyes are open, and I’m trying to make my community wider. Are you?

Ugliness in the Publishing Industry

 

I’m angry. I’m furious. I’m at the end of my fucking rope.

I’d like to say its about the BLM movement, and what’s happening in Australia and America is terrible.

I’d like to say it’s the #Publishingpaidme tag and the disparagement between black authors and white authors is sickening.

I’d like to say it’s the transphobic tweets from JK Rowling this morning but to be honest it was one tweet.

 

Just one.

 

And it has me tearing down the walls.

Bursting into tears.

So mad I was physically sick.

I’ve never been so angry and upset I’ve vomited before, but there you have it.

Because the BLM movement triggered transparency in the publishing industry about advances. Advances are paid by publishing houses to authors with the expectation the book sales will exceed the advance. Twitter is rife with authors talking about how much they got paid for their books and one clear comparison is the black to white author advance deals. Some have been frankly disgusting.

But the proverbial thing that has me crying with absolute RAGE is the author who got nearly a million dollars for a YA fantasy who was also prolifically self-published. That she got picked up by a traditional publisher after she’d been self-published, and gained readers, but traditional publishers STILL shit on self-publishing.

And the money she earned? She reinvested it into her self published market.

Keep in mind for a VERY critical moment that the #Publishingpaidme tag was MEANT to be about the disgusting difference between black and white authors, and that the amount white authors get paid for their books in comparison is obscene. Keep remembering that this tag was supposed to address the gap and encourage authors to come forward but also for black authors to know their worth. Stay focused on the fact that this tag was inspired by the need for equality and that the industry doesn’t currently serve that need.

 

Now… LETS TALK ABOUT THE WAY SELF PUBLISHING IS VIEWED.

 

One person being thankfully honest about the #publishingpaidme tag has admitted in the late naughties she got close to one million for her books. ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

 

Anyone saying that isn’t much please remember; MOST AUTHORS (TRAD INCLUDED) ARE LUCKY TO MAKE 10K A YEAR.

 

She writes about the possibility of self-publishing with the proper amount of dollars invested into self-publishing is very lucrative. After already earning nearly a million dollars in a trad contract.

 

And you should know, without spending, I don’t know maybe a million dollars, on a marketing campaign, your self-published novel probably won’t get far.

 

What drove me the most to my anxiety about all of this was that the idea that self-pub is lesser. That its full of scammers, low lifes out to make a dollar, those who dont care about story telling.

 

I GET IT.

 

There are a host of authors out there aiming to make a buck. I write articles on them.

There are a host of authors trying to game the system. I write articles about them.

There are a host of authors who do not accept editing. I write articles about them.

 

But when the idea is thrown in front of me that you can just go ahead and self-publish after being rejected by trad publishers, I want to scream. Why? Because I remember the same author who started the #Publishingpaidme tweet did NOT ask for any self-published work in a recent tweet about books. In fact she made a point of asking for traditionally published books. As though they were the only ones that mattered.

 

Let’s keep in mind this tag was supposed to bring about equality.

 

Down in the grey waters of ignored society trying to share their diverseness in a way that would have their stories celebrated and embraced MANY SELF PUBLISHED AUTHORS COME FROM SMALL DEMOGRAPHICS.

OH and in case you are wondering about my ability to be here let impart a couple of things;

 

I’m white.

I’m Australian.

I’m fat.

I have PCOS.

I have Aspergers.

I’m closeted bi, and consider myself her/they and don’t advertise it because there are others who’s gender stories are more important/I don’t feel comfortable doing it.

And I don’t need your fucking judgment on any of those parts of myself.

The tweets going around about a self-published author getting a trad deal implies a disparaging tendency to only accept what’s “trending”. This kind of behavior encourages only writers of a certain “quality”. This kind of writing is actively against the very authors it claims to be seeking action for.

 

Don’t have an agent?

Don’t have a publishing contract?

Don’t have a social media platform?

 

Get the fuck out.

 

God I wish this wasn’t the case but staring at all this and listening to these deals I am sitting over here stating; I DON’T HAVE ANY OF THIS. Neither do a bunch of authors who deserve it more.

 

I didn’t get an advance from Literary Wanderlust and I didn’t expect one; they are a small press I trusted with my story. I wonder how many other writers did the same. And no you shouldn’t HAVE to get an advance to feel of value but with so much pressure being placed on that right now you might be thinking it’s the difference between a good and bad book.

 

No, its not.

 

The same way a self pub and trad book is not the difference between a good and bad book.

 

You wanna talk self pub in comparison to trad? Yeah, I’m happy to talk about it, but what I want to talk about is the quality of the book – not whether or not it made money. Or did we forget somewhere along the line it was supposed to enrich lives?

 

Time and again I’ve been told I’m a good story teller. Time and again I’ve been told my writing needs to improve. And I have no problem with this.

 

My problem is with ANY author shutting out self-published authors BECAUSE THEY ARE SELF PUBLISHED.

 

As though they are inferior.

 

I’ve seen the very people traditional authors claim to represent write GREAT stories in the indie and self pub community. I don’t know what kind of a wake up call they need to grasp the self pub industry holds a SWATHE of great story telling. But having read and reviewed many of them I can say one thing to these authors calling on diverseness and equality in writing, who are ignoring the self publishing industry.

 

YOU ARE FUCKING LATE.

 

 

 

I have not been silent on my support of the Black Lives Matters movement and I’ve been doing that by one action alone; sharing and retweet the voices of those it affects most.

Today some of those words were lost. A clear screen shot on Taia Dominique’s Twitter can be seen that she posted the whole poem, but that later other parts of it were taken down.

This is not right, the words she’s spoken are true to what she feels and those are the words we need to hear right now.

Take the time, read the words, learn to listen.

I find that it is easier to die in this world than it is to live here Along with having the life squeezed out of you, like a fresh fruit for its juice, you can be told that your life is worthless. You won't be told t(3)