Saiun - technicolor Reishin

Yeah, so, whatever

Sorry I've been away. I've been busy submitting stories and getting rejected, and having weird reactions to allergy shots. This all puts me in a bad mood.

However, because it amuses me to make fun of marketing AI, I thought I'd take the time to demonstrate how dumb SEO tools can be, and/or waste your time.

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This is a silly example. It doesn't have much to work with, after all, but I guarantee the readability score won't go up much as I type, usually for the following reasons:


  1. Subheading distribution: I often type 300 (or more) words without dividing it into different sections.

  2. Sentence length: sometimes I use more than ten words in a sentence. Commence pearl-clutching.

  3. Transition words: good to have, but occasionally I don't use them because they don't make sense, and every goddamn paragraph has to start with one, apparently!

  4. Paragraph length: too long.

  5. Passive Voice: it'll ding you for using this more than 25% of the time. It might have a point. Maybe.



Now... to be fair, what this tool measures is search engine optimization (i.e., SEO), and it is meant to guide your writing in a way that gets good ranking on Google. Which is fine. Here's what I don't understand, though: all the raving in the comments about how this made various commenters' writing better, and their posts amazingly good, and so on.

If you're not a writer, I acknowledge that writing a blog post might be harder for you than it is for me. (Note I don't believe that's always true, but it's certainly a thing I keep in mind.) However, after working with this plugin for about seven posts, I've concluded that the nagging about passive voice is literally the only category that does me any good in terms of improving my writing.

Dividing your text with subheadings is fine when the subheading makes sense, and absolute garbage if you're only doing it because Yoast told you that it must happen every 299 words. Shortening your paragraph makes sense when you're dropping blocks of text on your reader and there are valid places within the paragraph to divide and transition. Writing 10-15 words per sentence is fine if that's your style, if it fits what you're writing, if it--well, this is style, in my opinion, and therefore subjective. Tons of short sentences can also make your work feel choppy and abrupt, which is bad for readability. Since readability is something this thing says it's measuring, that's a problem.

For me.

I'm picky.

Look, short sentences! Good jorb! But you've got no transition words. Bad jorb.

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Tl;dr, this plugin makes me angry. I hate seeing people put blind faith in a tool like this. It does function well for its purpose when used with care, but this is why you should have writers populating your business blog with content--because they'll know when to ignore bad advice.

For what it's worth, all of my posts score well on SEO, and that's in spite of the tool, not because of it. At least I'm developing good avoidance skills?

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/851469.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.


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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

Reading list since February. Plus some other stuff.

Some people throw themselves into their work when bad things happen. Me, I read. Currently I'm employed, but that isn't always the case since I'm basically a freelancer. Anyway, books I've read since life went to shit in February:

Cutting for length.Collapse )

Currently reading Water Sleeps (Glen Cook), on my way to finishing the Black Company series, which I have enjoyed in spite of some less-than-flattering reflections of how women are treated by fantasy in the earlier books. Also of note is the slow upswing of actual swearing as the series goes on. Which, I mean. Given how much I swear, that's really funny to me. I wonder if the author had to ration his allotment of swear words very carefully until he hit the 21st century.

So like... If you happen to be curious about any of these books or series, feel free to ask about them. There are so many that it's not efficient to write a post about each of them.

Anyway.

I'm about 60% finished with a novella, probably only 50% through the visual novel script (and it's a first draft just like any other, which means I have to rewrite it as soon as I'm done), and 98% finished tweaking that short story for sending out. It's language now, I guess.

All of this has slowed down a lot since I got the most recent contract. It was full time, which meant very little time for reading, and only slightly more for writing. My guild community keeps me sane when I would otherwise wallow in misery, so I dedicate a consistent amount of time to hanging out with them as well. Attendance each day varies, though, so there are long stretches where I can sit around and fill that time with reading, hence the long list.

Once upon a time I read this much without family tragedies to drive me, but then school cured me of the need to read at all unless it was required. That fatigue lasted about ten years. Now I uh, I guess it's gone?

There are just so many interesting books to read. :(

Haven't watched any anime in a while, but I've got my eye on Seikaisuru Kado and the new Heroic Legend of Arslan series. The original never made it over here fully, I guess, and that has always left me unsatisfied.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/851060.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.


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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

Killing the Soul

Or: working in retail/food service.

Making it "Retail: Killing the Soul" felt even more melodramatic, but on second thought, the title I stuck with is not much of an improvement. Relevant, though, because this is all about writing, even if it doesn't seem like it for the first few paragraphs.

I don't remember if I talked much about writing while working at Starbucks, and how it basically didn't happen at all. I worked there for about a year and a half, and during that time I wrote once or twice; plenty of story brainstorming went on in my pocket notebook during breaks, but when it came to actual prose, i.e. stringing enough words together to make a story, the practice didn't exist for me. Why?

Because I was so fucking tired.

When people--myself included--talk about the soul-killing nature of working retail, I think we're usually referring to the corporate element, or the customer service element, both of which are miserable. Every day brings good people, tons of neutral people, and one or two bad ones, so not everything is bad... although you always remember the bad ones, especially when they're outrageous about it. And everyone complains about the dictates that come down from "corporate," many of which are dumb and tone-deaf on the local level. Barnes & Noble, for instance, used to insist on mimicking their New York displays in every single store, even when the topic wasn't necessarily relevant anywhere else. (They might still do this, but I don't know anybody who works there right now.) Starbucks insisted that we push the current hot variety of coffee bean (example: the Anniversary Bled), even on the morning shift when customers were emphatically not there to buy coffee beans for any reason. District managers will ding you for not up-selling.

Never mind not getting paid enough for this shit, the lack of control over one's schedule, absence of sick time, and the trouble one could make for oneself clocking a piddling five minutes of overtime.

So yeah, all of that is shitty. None of that made me feel so bad I couldn't write, however. Asshole customers suck in the moment, but become epic stories later on. And, in the end, you don't have to take your work home, because you're definitely not getting paid enough to worry about it off the clock. What sucked, what killed my ability to write, was being tired. All the time. I hesitate to call it exhaustion, because I could still get up in the morning and function, but... it was a cumulative effect, like a gathering avalanche. Miss an hour of sleep here, two hours there, get up most days at four in the morning and try to sustain eight hours of constantly moving, lifting, talking, smiling, smiling again when some asshole thinks you should know how many pumps of mocha it takes to make something "super sweet" (anything from the regular three, all the way to the twelve I should've told the barista to put in there, because fuck that dude). Smiling again when another asshole asks for pastry recommendations, and then looks me up and down when I say I don't know (couldn't eat them for allergy reasons), and says, "yes you do," implying I was too overweight not to know every pastry in the case. Smiling some more every time I was called "sweetheart." And then being told by management that I don't smile enough and should work on that for the next review cycle.

I was tired all the time. I got home and went to sleep, got up to make dinner, and then went to bed again, and got up tired the next morning at four to show up for another eight hour shift. Lunch was at eight AM, unless the timing was wonky that day and I had to take it at six instead, which meant I didn't get to eat later when I actually needed it. Every once in a while I got scheduled for a closing shift and then an opener, precisely eight hours apart...but not always. Technically you're not supposed to do that (which might be a state-level law, and not the same everywhere), but it happened. All the time.

Starbucks treats employees surprisingly well, but don't be fooled by all of their publicized effort on behalf of employees: they still don't pay their people enough for the effort they're expected to put in for the customer, and the philosophies they're expected to swallow and then parrot back. You still can't live off of your earnings, at least in NorCal. Most of my coworkers had second jobs, or lived with their parents, were in a relationship with somebody who made more money, or had a roommate or two. More than you might think had advanced degrees, some in fields like chemistry, that made me wonder why the fuck they were working at Starbucks when they could have a real career. Only, it was for the same reason I did: there weren't any other jobs.

Eventually, I had to quit because my knee wouldn't stop hurting, and my insurance didn't cover shit like that. It wasn't a work injury, so Starbucks wouldn't have done anything about it--and that's fine, I didn't expect them to. For what it's worth, I know that the company does step up when necessary, because coworkers of mine have been hurt on the job. I just didn't qualify.

Once I left, I started writing again. Once I didn't need to sleep so long, that is. Once my life wasn't work, sleep, do all the cooking and shit, sleep some more, work some more... Some people can write through that, but I just kept getting sick. I don't think I do my best work when I'm sick or exhausted. I did what I could, when I had a few moments awake that didn't also involve some kind of work, but for a year and a half I didn't produce a story.

I don't feel bad about it. Or, to be more truthful: I do feel bad about it (or I wouldn't be writing this entry), but I am determined to kill that guilt, because I think it's misguided.

Fuck anybody who doesn't like that, in fact. I'm not interested in showing myself mercy most of the time, but in this case, I have to admit: it's awfully hard to write when you're asleep or in constant pain. By the end I couldn't straighten my right leg (too stiff, too much pain), and that took a few months to clear up and stop hurting. I once was forced to take a week off because of intense abdominal and/or back pain that they never found a reason for, but which inspired my doctor to tell me to find a different job. I caught every flu virus making the rounds via ringing people up, because god forbid anybody sanitize their hands after they sneezed into them, but before they handed their credit card to me. I never got enough sleep, and was always on my feet. I was so fucking tired it took me a month to learn how to function like a normal human being after quitting, and even then I couldn't walk without pain. So yeah, about that writing?

I decided it could wait.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/850463.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.


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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

Projects are nice. I like them.

Things to Decide:
  1. Should I post once a week?**
    (For the sake of discipline, keeping ideas moving, etc. It's easy to fall into a rut.)
    • If yes, see list #2.

    • If no, what can I do to engage with people not in my head?
      (Which, for the record, is not something I'm good at. See: how I fail at characterization.)

    • If yes, still wondering if I should continue the "100 Things" tagging or just retag as "pretentious writing posts."
      (Don't get me wrong; I could write 100 posts about writing, but the question is whether I should.)

  2. Big projects: good idea, Y/N? Blog, or resource, or hahahahaha updating the rest of Guardian Angels (but I like the misleading update text. It makes me laugh)?


** Edit 05.21.2018: more like post once a month. How the fuck is it almost June?


God, nesting lists is ugly.


Things I Could Do:
  • What about that Heian-era-for-writers resource thing. Some kind of resource probably already exists, but it would be fun.
    (Also, it would make me read books. And Scrivener is actually a great tool for world-building documents...)

  • Replay and blog... Xenosaga. Or some other game, but I feel a nagging guilt for the way I talked about it back in the day.

  • Actually move down my Steam list and play/blog new games.

  • Be a good student and do some marketing research, e.g. analyze Starbucks internal marketing vs. external, the disaster of the Villainess relaunch, etc. This would not be on DW.

  • Slink back into my corner and do nothing productive.


Hm.

Been thinking of playing NeiR: Automata. Friends want me to play The Witcher 2 and 3, and there are a ton of visual novels on my list that I should read if I intend to write a script for one. (Not for any official purpose--just a personal project.)

Someday I should finish Fire Emblem: Fates. I want to, but I also don't want to. The last time I played it, bad things were happening, and it's hard to kill the associations. On the other hand, I could start over and fucking marry Xander! I mean. Hold me, big brother. I doomed myself searching for fan art just now.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/850324.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.


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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

And then I'll be free.

It's funny that The Writer's Guide to Beginnings doesn't have a terribly compelling opener. Beginnings ARE hard, but I mean... good job.

I picked the book up because I need some inspiration. Writing books tend to remind me of things I already know, but for some reason have forgotten. Over time I've discovered that the only two books I really need, if I'm having craft issues, are the same two books I've had all along. Everything else is just a new way to say an old thing--and that's why they're such effective reminders.

Anyway, there's this story that's been a weight around my neck for seven or eight years. I've mentioned it once or twice. You wouldn't be interested because I'm not willing to tell you enough about it to catch that interest, but let's just say that I actually like the way it turned out--I've liked the direction it was going for quite some time--and that feeling is the most paralyzing problem I've ever encountered when working on a story. It means either a) the story is shit, or b) it's decent, but will probably still get rejected by everyone and rip my soul apart in the process.

Either way, I don't really want to know. That makes finishing it very hard.

I'm also paranoid, because I put the story up for critique once, in a locked community that I believe was built of trustworthy people, but... still paranoid.

tl;dr, someday soon I'll make myself declare the story finished and start sending it out, and then there'll be a post about revision, and how you should never do what I did, or at the very least never let yourself end up on the same kind of timeline.

I just need to get the beginning where I want it.

And no, I'm not nitpicking; it's the last part that really does need work before I can tweak the language and say good-bye.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/849470.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.


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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

I don't remember how to write.

A search on “writing and grief” turns up some interesting stuff. Not the “how to write grief in your novel” stuff, which is all cookie-cutter and boring, but the links here and there about using writing to work through the experience of grief. The New York Times turned up a conversation between Joyce Carol Oates and Meghan O’Rourke about their respective memoirs on their own grief, and how they came to be written, which was pretty interesting, but also out of my area of expertise. (This journal excepted, I have no plans whatsoever to do autobiographical work. DW is just a place for me to whine, not an attempt at memoir.) I only perused the first search page, because I’m the embodiment of typical consumer behavior as researched by marketing firms, which insists that worship of the SEO gods is the only way to get read--i.e. get your link to appear on the first page of search results. Which...yeah, it’s true sometimes.

So anyway, some writers use writing to deal with tragedy. Many of the writers I know say they started writing for reasons like that. I feel like an alien for not doing that. I know that I’m not; lots of us wanted to be princesses or space commanders (or both at the same time), and started writing to make those dreams come true. Only, it seems like most people eventually get over the urge to write that and start trying to express deeper emotions or issues in their stories, and I never did.

So basically, all I’m good for writing is Mary Sue.

There might be some trauma behind that. Someday I’ll give in and start seeing a therapist, and those sessions will reveal that I write Mary Sues because I felt powerless when I was younger, and needed a way to deal with it or get away. Or--something like that. I’m not a therapist, so who knows.

It’s possible writing is my way of dealing with emotions and situations I didn’t fully know how to handle. Maybe it still counts. I can’t pick up my emotional ball-and-chain and use it to produce work, though--or even journal entries meant to clear my mind. Some things can’t be cleared out or dealt with that easily. If I sit down and think, today I’m going to write about so-and-so’s death, or today I’m going to talk about what it was like to do this hospice thing, it’s not going to happen. Nothing will come out. When I sat on the couch to watch my mother-in-law, just in case she woke up and needed water, morphine, whatever, I could not write. When I got home at the end of my “shift,” I couldn’t write. Had no desire to write, in fact. I didn’t write when she was in the hospital and we weren’t sure what the outcome would be; I didn’t write when we brought her home to start hospice care; I didn’t write when she died, or after, for a very long time. All I could think about when I tried was the sound of the oxygen unit, with that rhythm we all agreed was the perfect nightmare fuel. And the fact that she wasn’t here anymore. Two years later there are still moments it doesn’t feel real.

Everything stops when someone is going to die. During the six weeks we cared for Dash, I read twenty books because I couldn’t stand to think, but stopped listening to music, stopped talking to people, and did not write a single word. We didn’t watch anything, go anywhere. The silence got to the point where turning a page sounded as loud as ripping up a cardboard box or dropping a pan in the kitchen--a phenomenon I had always thought was a shortcut to writing these exact feelings in a way that “shows” instead of “tells,” only now I know it’s real. The sound of my pen on paper stopped me before anything like writing happened. Not that this made a difference, because there was nothing to say. “Yesterday was better. Today he won’t eat. Last night we discovered he couldn’t see when he tried to reach the water fountain.“

Even writing that much hurts. I don’t know how to use it to work through the emotion; I don’t need help crying about this. Normally I don’t cry, but rules are temporarily suspended, and it’s hard to stop.

I used to call this feeling writer’s block. It’s hard or impossible to write; no ideas, no words, hard to string sentences together in an aesthetically pleasing way. No desire to do so.

But this isn’t a block. Writing more doesn’t help the words flow, and my feelings aren’t blocking them. I just don’t want to write. Why should I write when someone important to me just died? Fuck writing. I don’t want to escape from it and I don’t need a story or journal to understand how I feel; I want to remember this person, this cat, and feel the hole their passing just created in my life, and learn to live with it. I need to cry my way through two boxes of kleenex.

After about a week I made myself start writing again every day. It isn’t hard, in the sense that I have ideas. I don’t feel “blocked” in that way. I often wonder if I have any future in this field because ideas I can turn into stories are hard to come by, or feel like they are, but that isn’t abnormal, or a sign of grief or block. I’m just not great at stories, and when I feel like this, staring out the window is much more appealing than trying to write one, and it isn’t necessarily an imperative to overcome that and start typing.

I’ve been forced before to learn, the hard way, that sometimes writing isn’t always the answer, no matter what Goldberg or whoever might say. Everyone is different. Sometimes it’s better to stop for a while. Feel things. Stare at things. If not for that time, I wouldn’t have realized how silent my world became when Dash was sick, and how that felt, how it was echoed by my feelings, and how that might be useful if I’m dumb enough to try to write about the experience later.

To be honest, writing feels pointless and unimportant right now, but it’s what I do, supposedly, so it’s getting done.

This entry was originally posted at https://myaru.dreamwidth.org/849313.html. Discuss here or there as you prefer.


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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

Vindicator of Divine Justice

There’s a story I found during my university days, early in that period when I had nothing better to do than spend four hours in the library between classes. I lived too far away to go home. I spent most of that time on the fourth floor, seated by a window with a lovely view of the quad, where grass, pines, and windswept cypress made layers of green between banks of fog. This was early in the morning, when the sky was still gray and, sometimes, the orange lights still hadn’t gone out. I’d stare out there for a good long while, still half-asleep, before I started looking at books. My table was right next to the shelves with obscure religious texts. By obscure, I mean apocalypses like The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (not as epic as it sounds), excerpts from The Zohar, wide volumes of The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. That sort of thing. Even several volumes of the Talmud, which arguably isn’t obscure, depending on who you are.

In one of these books, I found a story about Elijah after his ascent to Heaven. He has a reputation for running around amongst rabbis and other citizens and variously helping or punishing the deserving. Once, he wrestled with the Angel of Death. He’s an interesting figure who unfortunately is used often to tell moralistic tales.

There’s one in particular running through my head on repeat right now. I will probably retell it badly, but here goes. Read more...Collapse )

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ToB - Perfect World

The Perfect Critique (Elements of Critique, 4/4)

Last in the series. Take a look at the opening explanation if you haven't already. What I define as critique/concrit might not be what you expect if you've been pointed here from a fandom source.

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Obviously, there's no such thing as a perfect critique. But I wrote three entries about critique habits I hate. My suggestions for good critique habits are in there, but perhaps harder to find than my complaints, so it's only fair that I take the time to outline them more clearly.Read more...Collapse )
Saiun - technicolor Reishin

The Elements of Critique, 3/4: Unsolicited Commentary

Take a look at the opening explanation if you haven't already. What I define as critique/concrit might not be what you expect if you've been pointed here from a fandom source.

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The message here is, essentially: consider why an author has decided to show their work to you before you comment.

Imagine you have just finished a story or article you’re proud of. You take it to your nearest friend or reader, ask them to have a look at it. What do you think? you may ask. You might be interested in their initial thoughts, or maybe you just want someone to see what you created. That’s okay, by the way.

Instead of delivering a few comments, your reader launches into a full-on critique of the work, complete with discussions on how it can be improved. That’s awesome, because we want our criticism to be delivered with ideas on how we can address the problems being outlined, right? Right.

However… maybe you weren’t ready for that level of commitment. There is a difference between asking for someone’s opinion and asking for a critique. Read more...Collapse )

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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

The Elements of Critique 2/4: Stream-of-Consciousness Criticism

Take a look at the opening explanation if you haven't already. What I define as critique/concrit might not be what you expect if you've been pointed here from a fandom source.

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Continuing with the theme introduced in the previous post - critique as a way of helping the author as well as oneself - we have what I call the "stream-of-consciousness critique," or the practice of taking notes as you go along and dishing that out to the author.

Like I said, the most well-meaning attempt at critique can be unhelpful at best, and destructive at worst. This is one way a critique can be misleading without the critic realizing how or why. Read more...Collapse )

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