Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson


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On Writing and Competitiveness

This post has nothing to do with entering contests. Many of them are wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade my experiences with them.

Today, I’m here to talk about competitiveness, not competition. There’s a difference. We can all enter writing competitions. I did and have and will again. The writing adrenaline junkie in me loves to get the feedback, to see how I did, to see who wins and why. Writing contests are a great way to receive input on our stories from people who’ve never read our work. Of course the feedback is subjective; of course it’s varied. That’s a good thing, because when our works are published and out there in the world, the reading audience will be varied and subjective. Fasten that suit of armor! Get used to it.

Here, have a nice relaxing picture I took in Mexico. Breathe deeply. Smell the salt air, feel the sand under your feet. It’s good to slow down once in a while, isn’t it?

Competitiveness in writing is a whole separate beast. It’s my firmly-held belief that writing is not a competitive sport. Say that with me one more time: writing is not a competitive sport. We don’t write to finish faster or with more words in ten minutes than our sprint partners. We don’t write because it’s a race to the end. We write because we have stories to tell–full stop. Stories inside our heads that we want to put out on the page, worlds to build, people to invent. These unique creations are ours and ours alone. No one else can write the stories I imagine, nor can I write the stories you imagine.

So why are we so competitive as writers? We sprint (“how many words did you get?”). We query (“how many full requests did you get? How many partials?”). We attract an agent’s interest (“how many offers did you get? How many did you have to turn down?”). On and on it goes, as if comparing our successes and failures will make us better at writing.

The only person I want to compete with on this writing journey is myself. I can set word count goals and if they’re too low, challenge myself to write more. I can set reading goals (Goodreads practically forces us to do so). I can set editing goals…but I don’t want to compete with my fellow writers on these things. The truth as I see it is this: we can only do what we can do. Just because one of my writing buddies might have daily word counts in the 5k range and mine level out around 3k or their query netted a 20% positive response rate and mine sits at 14%, it doesn’t matter. I write because I have stories to tell. Unique, personal creations living in my brain that want out on the page, and in that there is no competition.

Only creation.

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I said that last time. It became a pastime.

Bonus points! I got you here using Hamilton lyrics!

Seriously, though: we’re moving again. Last time I told myself it was our last move for a long time, but it hasn’t really been all that long. So it goes. Onward and upward, and hopefully this time will be the last time for a great many years.

I’m excited for it, but it’s put a cramp in my writing style. Today was a good day, though. For the first time in many weeks, I had a few uninterrupted hours to write so I took advantage of it. Getting back in the swing of this story felt so good.

Honestly, I’ve tried not writing and I just get cranky and depressed. It’s better for me (and for the world around me) if I take the time I need to be creative.


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I did some writing in 2016.

I’m not big on “my year in review” blog posts.

What the hell, though, right? We all do a lot of things all the time, every year. But since the point of this blog is for me to have a platform as a writer, I’m going to talk about that…mostly.

I rewrote a book for the fourth time.

Then that book made it into Pitch Wars, where I rewrote it a fifth time.

Right after that, I wrote a new book for NaNoWriMo. While I was working on my NaNo book I was also sending out requested material to Pitch Wars agents, and doing a bit of cold querying as well.

A lot of people were thrown by Election 2016. I’m usually fairly quiet about politics but ended up speaking out about it (mostly on Twitter). There are times and places to make one’s opinions known, but I can already feel myself withdrawing from public discourse on politics. It isn’t that I’ve stopped caring. Anything but. It’s just that I need to focus my efforts on other things for the time being.

Like writing. I’ve made some great new friends through Pitch Wars, and came out of that with a much better book than the one I had going in. I’ll keep working on it and with it, keep writing new things. I’m a pretty spotty writer, though: I need a bit of time to recharge. Especially if I’m going to veer away from the world I’ve been writing (and living in vicariously) to do something new. That will mean a change of pace, emotionally and mentally. It’ll probably be good for me.

But yeah, THREE BOOKS this year. The same one twice, and a brand new one. I’m pretty damn proud of that. And as I said on Twitter, that new book has some of my best writing yet. I’m proud of all of it.


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Writers: We Make Shit Up, and We Lie

Some days I feel like the world’s worst blogger. That’s because I don’t keep a schedule for updating (oh no, breaking one of the strongly-suggested Rules for Blogging Success™) and don’t post just to fill up space. I have enough self-imposed deadlines and goals. Why give myself another?

In the meantime, I’m happy to say I have been writing. You know how people say they have The Manuscript From Hell? Well, I have The Manuscript of Joy. This is my 4th major rewrite–don’t laugh at me, they’ve all been so worthwhile–and every time I work on it, this story makes me impossibly happy. In 15 days I’ve created more than 40,000 words using an outline calling for 55-60k. Go Gwynne! All the intense writing is $%($*&#-ing with my wrists, but I’m soldiering on. That’s what I do when I go to sleep thinking about tomorrow’s writing, and wake up determined to capture my sleepy thoughts.

I still do my best writing in the morning. This is a good thing to know, love, and appreciate about myself. I also have a reinvigorated dedication to my YA novel, thanks to my lovely critique partners, so I plan on entering it in #sffpit in a few weeks. I know, I know, I said no more twitter pitch contests. I lied. That’s what writers do. We make shit up, and we lie.

Would you have it any other way?


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Never Trust a Writer

Not even two weeks ago I swore I wasn’t going to work on this story for a long time, if ever. I needed a break, wasn’t interested, couldn’t face it.

All that changed the other day, and I’m cruising along writing. It’s too early for me to claim I’m back in some sort of groove, but it sure does feel good to be writing again…and to be enjoying what I see on the page.

The moral of the story: never trust me when I say I won’t be working on a specific piece, because while I’m probably being perfectly honest in the moment, I’ve got a Gemini ascendant and will undoubtedly be drawn to the very thing I thought I hated.

Swallowing my words!

Swallowing my words!


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I can’t be the only one who does this, can I?

Writing is an extension of acting for me, and I’ve always been a method actor. Obviously I’m not going to do everything my characters do (that would be stupid), but when I write them, I have to feel what they’re going through. If I can’t channel that aspect of the character, I can’t write them convincingly.

I’m not alone in this, right? I mean, making up characters and holding the baton that dictates their lives is a little bit crazy to start with. I guess there’s no harm in adding more to it.

On Twitter the other day, I said sometimes it’s hard to be myself when all these other characters want their turn in the spotlight, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I meant it. I love what I do.


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I lied.

I wasn’t finished. I mean, yes, I was finished with the rewrite draft and the first edit pass, but I’m a perfectionist and I declare it not finished.

I did move on to the next phase, which was making it available to read as a Kindle document (I see so many more things when I read my own words that way). Also, this weekend I attended a SCBWI workshop on writing dialog and while this isn’t a children’s book, the same rules apply. I’ve been able to go back and pick out what one of our speakers (Bill Konigsberg) referred to as the Seven Deadly Sins of Dialog. I’ve read this thing on my phone app two and a half times so far, and I keep finding things to fix.

Editing, I love you. It’s like watching errors filter through an hourglass: they get to the skinny spot and disappear, a little bit at a time. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun editing my own work before, and I am so happy to say “I’ll take it.” My work keeps getting better and better, just like magic! It’s not magic–just hard work–but if it ultimately looks like it was easy, so much the better.