I fell in love with fiction long before I started writing.
My mother and I would make a weekly trip to the Sun Valley Library and come back with stacks of books. I always had Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden books, because I liked the idea of solving mysteries, but I ventured into Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov with the discovery of Star Trek.
I started writing fiction when I was eight years old, inspired by a friend who was writing a school play. My stories were wanted I wanted to see in books: people like me–girls–having adventures. That’s in my stories today: women having adventures.
Maybe even solving a mystery.
Private First Class Linda Maye Adams, U.S. Army
And I’ve had adventures of my own. I enlisted in the Army and ended up going to war. Story adventures are much more fun!
I just follow the front of the story like an explorer and see where it takes me.
Contact me at LindaAdams900 AT outlook dot com.
The Army’s announced that they’re going to be revising the physical training standards so it’ll be one standard for both men and women. The current standard–probably the same one I had when I was in–had the same elements, but were adjusted for the women.
Or, basically, the original physical training test was developed with the strengths of men in mind. Most women don’t have the upper body strength to do 42 push-ups. The Army treated the women like men and just adjusted the standards by gender.
The men hated it. They always thought the women were getting over. No one seems to grasp that women have different body types, or that they were treating women as if they were men.
For example, make a fist and hold it up next to the fist of a person of the opposite gender. Women’s fists are at an angle; men’s are straight. It makes a difference in how women hold a sword–and they are taught to sword fight like a man (this came from a science fiction con I went to).
I remember going on Battalion runs, which I despised, because the sergeants would gather up all the stragglers at the end and try to embarrass us. The stragglers were always women. No one did the math and grasped that the average woman was a whole lot shorter than the average guy.
What I think is going to happen is the Army is going to set the standard to what the guys can do. Then two things will happen:
- The women will get injured trying to keep up with the guys. I got shin splits trying to march with a 6’4″ guy setting the pace. He had ten inches on me.
- The women will fail physical training tests and be kicked out, and the military will lose its diversity.
And I’m not talking diversity of gender…but diversity of experience. If the only tools you have are a hammer, then everything will look like it can be fixed with a hammer. The military already has a problem with getting rid of their technical skill. My brother was an Oracle programmer, and they reclassified his job, merging it with a computer operator. Then they told him he needed to change his job and get retrained. He thought that was crazy and got out. I’ve seen more recent stories on the Army doing this to people will skills they really do need.
This is just me, but the focus should be on fitness. It sounds like it is, but it actually is focused on failure or success, and how many points you get. It’s like being graded in school for how fast you run.
One possible option is a run timed based on your height and age. That’d take care of the problem of a 5’4″ woman trying to run to a time set for an average man. But it would also be fairer for the shorter guys. And it might save on the injuries that send people to sick call, and eventually to the VA.
Also maybe rethink the other two exercises (push-ups and sit-ups). The women have a lot of trouble with push-ups, and the men tend to have a lot of problems with sit-ups. Maybe instead of standardized testing for this, a required extra credit exercise that a soldier could pick from a list. It wouldn’t be scored in the same way, but maybe on how many you did, rather than how many you do based on your age. More you do, more points.
No one will probably do anything like this though. I imagine the Army will test the pilot, find out they’re losing all the women, and switch it back. We’ll see.
Thank you for the nomination from my my regular reader Pearl R. Meaker. I’ll have the rules for this below, after the questions.
Three things about me…okay, I got five.
1) Does your blog have a theme? If yes, why did you choose that theme?
The theme is me. The hardest thing for fiction writers is figuring out something that works. A lot of writers land in “How to write” craft posts, and often pass along bad advice (and I’ve been guilty of that myself). Most blogging advice says to blog as an expert, and fiction writers were directed to blog about the topic they had researched for their book. It’s silly advice to me, because it doesn’t get you the right kind of audience. I did a book set an alternate world that was Hawaii called Rogue God, but if I blogged about Hawaii, I’d have attracted people wanting to go to Hawaii, not readers.
2) Where is your favorite place to go for a vacation – or where you would like to go if you could go there.
My favorite place is the beach. I’m from Southern California, so I grew up seeing beaches pretty regularly. We used to drive north to Morro Bay, which is in central California. It has some beautiful–but cold!–beaches at the base of Morro Rock. There was a cool beach called Montana Del Oro that I really liked. It had all these rocky black cliffs–and a cave! Never could go into it, since it was facing out into the water, but I imagined exploring it.
3) Has your favorite subject in school stayed a part of your life? (As in, if it was art do you still do art things? Music – are still playing or singing?)
-I didn’t really have a favorite subject in school. I liked creative writing, but the schools only had two classes. I got into one, but the other one I was turned down for–likely because I wasn’t a good student. I’m a visual spatial learner, which means I learn better by pictures. Audio learning and nitpicking about details, which was how schools taught then, are the poorest ways for me to learn.
4) When was the last time you played a board game or a card game using real cards? (FUN QUESTION)
The game was gin, and it was about ten years ago. That was when I was still writing with a co-writer, and he introduced me to the game. I was pretty horrible at it. Takes a while for me to process how to play and figure out strategies.
5) Do you read to relax? If you do, do you have a genre that is your go-to relaxation genre?
I read all the time. Someone on a productivity board asked if reading two books a week was too aggressive. I’d done five…no six. Hmm. I bounce around genres a lot. I just read Tamara Pierce’s new book that just came out (about time!), which was a YA Fantasy, but I was also in progress of reading Dean Wesley Smith’s Thunder Mountain book bundle and there’s a really interesting book called The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy. Always something new to read…
Guidance for the Mystery Award
The creator of this award: Okoto Enigma has this to say: “I created the award because there are a lot of amazing blogs out there that haven’t been discovered, yet.”
- Put the award logo/ image on your blog
- List the rules
- Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
- Mention the creator of the award and provide a link to their blog as well
- Tell your readers three things about yourself
- You have to nominate 10-20 people
- Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
- Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
- Share a link to your best posts
And questions for the next group:
- What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
- What’s the best way to market your books?
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
- The weird question: Do you believe in sea monsters?
Last week, Tamora Pierce’s new book Tempests and Slaughter came out. Long-awaited for me. I love reading her books.
But animals also die in her books.
I don’t mind that because she portrays them as characters. They carry the same weight as human characters. If we mourn the loss of a human character, we mourn the loss of an animal character.
Are others offended that animals die in her books?
I’ve had problems with thrillers. If a cat or dog makes an appearance in one of those, I’m done. I stop reading. Most the writers of those books kill the animal to show how evil the kill is. In one book, I was pretty sure the writer was fictionally killing off the cat his wife had forced him to have.
Do other people read through those books and enjoy them?
It’s part of writing stories that we have to push at our boundaries.
And sometimes make people uncomfortable.
Star Trek also did that.
It’s one of the reasons the show has endured despite 50 years. No one apologized. They simply did.
But as I was driving into work this morning, I heard a story about the new Peter Rabbit movie. Seemed that a scene offended people so the movie company apologized.
I haven’t seen the film, but the scene sounded like teenage bullying…with rabbits. So we can’t use movies to bring up bullying? Or that it should only be in a certain way? That the readers aren’t capable of figuring things out for themselves?
Sometimes books and movies are a safe place to push at a boundary. Star Trek was great because it was set in the future and could be escapist at the same time. But now, somehow, it’s become the thing not to offend.
Yeah, there are people like artists who do something for the shock value. Then there are those who bring their experiences to the story and show us a different perspective. They make us think.
Problem is that people can be offended by pretty much anything.
So we rob our society of the ability to do social commentary of differing viewpoints. We end up with the watered down “committee” stories because people are afraid a reader will call offense.
Star Trek is still relevant today. Yet, Chris Pine, the “new” Captain Kirk says we couldn’t make show like that today.
Think about that. Think about that a long time.
My interview for the Remembering Warriors bundle went up over at the Library of Erana, A.L. Butcher’s site. Answering one of questions created my last post. It’s was a lot of fun doing it, so please check it out!
And you can find out where to get the bundle here.
I was working on interview questions for the Remembering Warriors book bundle this week and the above question stuck with me.
There’s a lot of really bad writing advice out there. Beginning writers pass around advice as if they were experts, and there’s a confirmation bias from other beginners, so no one questions it. The problem is so bad that when an experienced, well-published writer gives advice, they will say he’s wrong because it doesn’t agree with all the advice the beginners are giving.
But the worst writing advice I received was that I needed to outline.
It doesn’t bother me if someone else needs to outline to produce a book. It’s whatever works, and everyone is different.
But the reverse is not true.
When I started writing, I naturally gravitated to just starting the story and writing it. It’s called pantsing, and pantsers discover what the story is about by writing it.
From the start, people were horrified! I was eight. Why did it matter?
At least two different people instructed me on how to outline. Neither of them were writers, or even English majors. They simply could not imagine how I could write a story without outlining it first.
But I didn’t realize how pervasive this was in the writing industry. I wanted to get published, so I studied Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and any craft book I could lay my hands on. When the internet was invented, I jumped on and read site after site on writing craft.
I didn’t know that all those resources defaulted to the assumption I was outlining.
I kept trying to write novels. But they were born broken. Really broken. Not fixable broken. Alien spaceship takes out a city broken. I didn’t realize at the time the source of this was all the craft advice that assumes outlining. My subconscious was picking up on the outlining parts and slipping into the story, causing it to break.
I made it worse by going back to craft books, searching for answers. I explained my problems on writing message boards. The default response from writers?
You guessed it. Outline.
Eventually, I tried outlining. I figured, why not? I actually tried several different types of outlines.
One was this four week class on “Pantser-Friendly Outlining,” where one writer taught her method. I almost quit that class each of the four weeks (that pesky Army “Accomplish the mission” kicked in). The instructor got very impatient with me because I wasn’t doing it “right,” and other writers jumped in, trying to explain it to me.
Not one person said “Maybe you’re not an outliner.”
The default was to outline. Period. No one gave any other answers or options.
For a field that starts with creation and imagination, this seems rather…limiting. There is no one size fits all in writing.
What’s the worst advice you’ve run into?
All the books in Rabbit Bundle, Remembering Warriors.
When I first started writing, there was already a writer in the family. Where other people had House Beautiful as coffee table magazines, he had The Writer. With those digest style covers that The Writer had for many years, and finally had to change because it was too old-fashioned.
Things have changed so much since those days. We can find writing advice really, pretty much, everywhere. But should we follow it? Will it make us better writers?
Not Everyone is an Expert—But They Think They Are
The more I write, the more I realize how little I actually know. I’ve been taking a workshop called Plotting with Depth and learning about tags (which is not what you think they are) and am astounded at what I’m learning. All I need to do is pick up a book like the latest Jack Reacher one and I can start finding examples. I’ve been trying to incorporate what I’m learning in my current project, and it’s challenging. But it’s a fun challenge.
Meanwhile, there’s a writer who I know from a blogging class way back at least seven years ago. She’s teaching online classes on how to write fiction. So I wandered onto Amazon to check out how many novels she had written.
None. Zero. Zip.
But she had written a whole lot of non-fiction books on how to write fiction.
For a while I made the circuits of the various cheapie writing classes that are all over the place. They were $30 and about 4-6 weeks. Usually had 20-30 people in the class.
I tried to screen them. I checked the writer background to see if they wrote fiction. Yes. As a pantser, I also asked if they taught to pantsers. I was always told “Sure! I teach pantsers and outliners.”
That turned out to be code for, “I have no idea what to do with a pantser. I was expecting you to outline.” There was one horrifying class that I almost quit four times (and should have. The Army soldier kicked in and said, “Accomplish the mission” when I should have just blown up the bridge and been done with it.). I did not understand at all what was being taught. The instructor kept telling me I was doing it wrong and explaining the same thing, really, like I was stupid for not getting it. The problem was that it required outlining to understand, and I was never going to understand it that way.
Being Vigilant With Learning
But those classes taught me to be vigilant and selective with what I was learning:
- To make sure that what I did do was a good use my time. Way too many writers don’t think that their is valuable, or perhaps a better phrase is they’re not even aware it is valuable.
- To always ask questions about what’s being taught, and if I don’t like the answers I’m coming up with, then to walk away.
And probably the most important thing of all: Push the skills. Always push the skills. It’s hard and can be painful. I spent almost three years trying to get setting into my books, and now I don’t have to think as much about it. But part of being a better writer is wanting it.
And earning it.
It’s hard to believe that about 2010, I was thinking I was never going to be able to write a novel. My process of writing because a source of great frustration.
The more I revised something, the more broken it got. It went from a two car accident to a spaceship crashes and destroys an entire city.
I remember one writer offering to look at what I’d written to see if she could see what was wrong and I was embarrassed to let her see it. I knew I was a better writer than what I was producing.
So I attended a lot of classes, searching for answers. One was with Bob Meyer, one of the earlier indie successes. I was so frustrated that I described my writing as a “screwy way of writing.”
He said “Never put down your writing. There will be someone else who will be happy to do that for you.”
A lot of the starts with respecting the writing, not treating it like a weird thing from outer space.
There’s a hella out there that does the opposite. (That’s California slang, by the way).
The writing community, craft books, and even writing magazines are rife with put downs. Some of it is quite subtle. Some of it is blatant. Some of it you may be saying yourself.
- “My writing is crap.”
- “My first drafts are shitty.”
- “All first drafts are terrible.”
So you’ve just said you can’t write. What the heck does that do to the little kid in you who is doing the writing?!!
What does that do in how you write that story?!!
Some people think their first draft is so crappy that they race through it so they can get to the revision. Contrary to popular believe, revision isn’t where the real writing happens–it’s the first draft.
And that first draft is being labeled as crap. That’s a lonely place for the muse to be.
We’re constantly bombarded by advice that we’re not “good enough.” The writing magazines have what amounts to diet advice, that there’s something we’re not doing right, something that we should be checking the box on that is keeping from getting us published (rather than another skill level of writing).
I used to be on a message board where anyone experimenting was told, “Most writers screw it up anyway, so don’t even bother.”
This stuff is TOXIC.
Our words have power. Just read a book that makes you want to re-read it all over again once you’ve finished it.
If we say put downs to ourselves and repeat them, how can they NOT have that power?