Category Archives: Living Deliberately

Should the Socially Awkward be Professional Writers?

A guest post by David Boop.

Despite what jocks, preps and princesses might believe, not all nerds are created equal. Just like any pool of people, some rise to the surface while others languish in the shadows.

Is this fair? Heavens, no. Is it reality? You bet your sweet bippy.

Whether or not you believe all persons are the same in the eyes of God, it is a truth that we place people in mental categories within our minds. Smart – Stupid. Safe – Dangerous. Normal – Awkward. It is easy to drop those we meet into virtual file cabinets of our brain to help us determine how much effort we’ll spend on them.

I grew up a geek in small town Wisconsin. I was verbally and physically abused by my classmates for it. This is a common experience among creative types, including writers, artists, and filmmakers. (Musicians seem to get away with more, I have no idea why. You can be a dork, play the guitar and somehow still be cool.)

It started with my last name, Boop; a funny sounding, easily picked on name. When you have a name like Boop, you’re put into a category of clown, even if you’re not one. My name was used as a swear word around my school.

“I’m going to go take a Boop.”

“I’m going to Boop you up!”

“I Booped your mother last night.”

I didn’t make things any better by not growing out of comics, action figures, video games, cartoons and science-fiction novels. I found very few people to share these interests with in a school focused on athletic excellence. Dating was next to impossible. I was told by a friend on Facebook that there were warnings not to date me or risk being removed from the popular crowd. Girls called me a “goon” behind my back. But this wasn’t solely due to my nerdy proclivities.

I was and, in many ways, still am socially awkward.

I didn’t walk the walk, nor talk the talk. I wasn’t into the same things other kids were and thus didn’t have the vernacular down. Slang eluded me. I came from a conservative household. It is hard to be a “good boy” while feeling pressure to lose your virginity, drink and raise hell. I finally caught up to my peers at nineteen when I went into radio, started working nightclubs and doing stand-up comedy. I finally understood what it took to be popular and that meant being a crazier bastard than everyone else in the room.

The “good boy/crazy bastard” dichotomy has carried over into my career as a writer. Yet, thirty years later, the tables have reversed. Now the popular kids want me to be a good boy; always be politically correct, sensitive to minority and women’s rights and not to sleep around at cons.

Wait! That’s not fair! I just got this down. Filthy mouth, bad jokes and loose morals meant popularity. How and when did that change? These new rules are the same rules my parents tried to instill in me as a child. You mean they were right? (Please tell my child that someday I might be right, too. Please?)

And so I shift again, not always as quickly or effectively as I’d like. I’m still that awkward kid, trying to get the vernacular right. Still trying to prove I deserve to be one of the cool kids.

With the accessibility of publishing and the growth of the genre market, writers who may never been that socially awkward kid are finding success, and thus have no frame of reference to what we’ve been through. And they’ve been given a platform called the Internet.  There are too many watchdogs with too little compassion for people like me who don’t always “get it.” Writing used to be a solitary craft with very little exposure to either other writers and/or fans. Back then, when authors did get together, everyone was socially awkward and more forgiving. They welcomed the weird with open arms and it was a safe place to be wrong sometimes.

Now that geek is chic, some people claim ownership of all things nerdy and say that nerds shouldn’t be creepy or inept, holding themselves up as examples. Shows like The Big Bang Theory and King of the Nerds poke fun at what are very serious issues for some nerds.  People say they want a Raj or Leonard in their life until one tries to make friends with them and they’re turned away and shunned. It has been my experience that there are writers with little-to-no tolerance for those not playing at their level mentally, socially or politically. Any mistake in judgment is highlighted and waved in front of millions. If the offender does not fit into their definition of “acceptable,” then they should be attacked, banned, kept from getting published in certain circles, despite any skill they might have.

And, to be honest, in some cases they have valid reasons. They are writers who don’t know when to lower their voices, use tact, pay attention to their audience. I have been accused of many of these things, and while I’ve learned and adapted, many others haven’t. Some of these writers are not used to being around the opposite sex, or try too hard to be liked by their peers. They miss social cues, speak out of turn and don’t know when to back off. And when they find themselves in the sights of the socially adept, they have no clue why. Even when they have a light-bulb moment, they don’t know how to change. Most times the damage is already done. They lose friends, contacts and opportunities.

But don’t misinterpret what I’m saying that there aren’t dangerous people out there that need to be exposed. The predators who pretend to be what they are not. These are not socially inept people, they are sociopaths and bringing them out in the open is everyone’s responsibility.

Not all non-socially awkward people are evil and not all socially awkward  people are saints. If I’ve learned one thing, there are plenty of buttheads on both sides of any disagreement.  Heck, I know I’ve been accused of such by both sides.  But we’ve all been bound together by this need to express ourselves creatively.  Some of the most imaginative people I’ve read can barely carry on a conversation. Should they be ostracized for what may be the hardest thing in the world to them? I don’t think so.

Despite the challenges, I’ve adapted. I’ve learned to hold my tongue under most situations. I’ve developed patience and looked for deeper understanding when dealing with people in social circumstances. As I change, I’m building better relationships with other writers who understand, those who “get me.”

It’s worth it. I want to make writing work. I have to. The goal is worth the effort. Does that make me smarter than some? Does that make me better than others? No. I’m far from perfect and I still make mistakes…

And that just makes me human.

About David Boop:
writing bio picDavid Boop is a bestselling Denver-based speculative fiction author. In addition to his novels, short stories and children’s books, he’s also an award-winning essayist and screenwriter. His novel, the sci-fi/noir She Murdered Me with Science, will return to print in 2015 from WordFire Press. David has had over forty short stories published and two short films produced. While known for Weird Westerns, he’s published across several genres including media tie-ins for titles like The Green Hornet and Veronica Mars. His first Steampunk children’s book, The Three Inventors Sneebury, had a digital release in 2013 with a print release due in 2016. David tours the country regularly speaking on writing and publishing at schools, libraries and conventions.He’s a single dad, Summa Cum Laude graduate, part-time temp worker and believer. His hobbies include film noir, anime, the Blues and Mayan History. You can find out more on his fanpage, or Twitter @david_boop.

I Write For Money–Except When I Don’t


Money flows to the writer.

It’s a great rule, created to help new writers from being taken in by scam publishers who make their money by demanding payments from authors rather than from selling books to readers.

When I first began submitting my work, I made a deal with myself:  I was submitting only to markets that paid up front.  I wasn’t going to settle for “exposure in lieu of payment.”  If I wanted “exposure” I could post my stories on my tumblr.  I wanted to see cash up front.  And I wasn’t going to fill my garage with hundreds of copies of my books that would then be up to me to sell.

For the most part, this is a good rule and it’s served me well.  It’s a great feeling to be able to buy things and pay bills with the money I make from my writing.

But I’ve broken this rule a few times with short story anthologies, and I still feel good about it.  Here’s why.


Charity anthology 

I gave a short story to an anthology in support of animal welfare.  I give cash to the Humane Society, so I was also willing to give a story in lieu of cash, in support of a worthwhile cause.

Similarly, some of my writer friends have donated copies of their books or anthologies they are in from their stock (see below) to silent auctions and other fundraisers.  Although they’re out the cost of the book, they’ve increased visibility for their work and contributed to a good cause.

As with cash donations, writers need to strike a sustainable balance for giving away stories or hard copies.  You will need to decide for yourself how often you’re willing (or able) to give away your work for free.  If you’re gaining exposure in a way that counts–for example, appearing in a charity anthology with some big-name authors–or if you feel strongly about the cause you’re fundraising for, it’s worth doing this sometimes.


Payment in royalties

Payment in royalties is a gamble.  If the anthology sells well, I stand to make more than I might if I’d simply sold the story for a flat fee.  If it doesn’t, though, I risk seeing little if any return on those first publication rights.

The first time I took this gamble, I had a story that was shorter than my usual work.  It had been sitting on my hard drive for the better part of a year and I’d been having trouble thinking of where I might place it.  I finally found the perfect anthology call, but it paid only in royalties.  I decided to take the gamble.  It was accepted.  Currently, I’m still a little short of what I’d like to have sold it for, but the anthology is still in publication, meaning I will hopefully be seeing more royalties in the future.

Royalties are a lot more common when you’re writing in longer forms.   My first novella (written under a pseudonym) also pays entirely in royalties, so I’m waiting to see whether I get more, or less, than I would’ve gotten if I’d cut it down to anthology length and sold it to an anthology for a single up-front payment.


Stocking your work

On occasion I’ve paid more than I’ve earned getting extra copies of the anthologies my work appears in.  The first time, I looked at that box of books and my empty wallet and winced a little.  In the end, though, having a few copies on hand has proven to be worth the investment.

Earlier this year, I participated in an author launch and came away with cash in hand—even after giving copies to the event organizer, my fellow authors, and our fearless sales-table staffer.  I also attended Ad Astra convention in Toronto and sold enough books to pay for my food and travel expenses, making the con much more affordable.  The launch party and the convention gave me the ability to promote my work to a wider audience, something I couldn’t have done as easily without stock on hand to sell.

Another factor is when acquaintances, co-workers and party guests ask me:  oh, you’re a writer?  Can I see your work?  I’ve gotten my anthologies into a number of hands just by saying:  yes, I have some copies on hand, this one is $15…

So how much stock should you have?  I’ve had authors recommending five copies of each work as their ideal stock number.  Other factors to consider include how much money you can afford up front, how much space you have to store stock, how many anthologies you’re in, and how marketable each book is (for example, in-person I attend more sci-fi events than romance events, so I stock more of my sci-fi themed work.)  I also find that I get better shipping prices on 10-20 books than I do on 5; fortunately, I have family and friends who lay claim to most of the difference, which helps to keep my first stock shipment affordable.


Writing for fun

I enjoy online role playing, fan fiction, talking about themes in my favourite comics, and other kinds of writing that don’t pay me money.  I’ve scrutinized my hobbies to avoid wasting time I could spend on paying writing, and have decided that if I accomplish my professional writing goals, I am just as entitled to spend my relaxation time on role playing as on video games, crafts or any other form of entertainment.  Sometimes, when I’ve edited a story for the tenth time or a conclusion just isn’t coming together or I’ve received a disappointing rejection, I feel that I hate writing, and ask myself why I’m doing this.  And then I hammer out a goofy little fan-fic, fall in love with my craft all over again, and the next morning feel inspired when I return to my original work.

What I Set Out to Do: Closing the Door on 2014

With one day left in the year, I think it’s safe to say I will not achieve the goals I set out for myself in 2014. I was hoping to complete three books, and instead I completed precisely zero. This suggests that I failed rather spectacularly, though the truth is not nearly so dire when I drill down to the amount of work I actually completed. The primary book I intended to write was supposed to be finished at approximately 100,000 words, and indeed I wrote 110,000 words—so I’m not done yet, but not for lack of trying. There’s just more story than I anticipated when I started it back in January. The other two books are already written more or less in full, and only require some polish to get ready. And therefore, with great confidence, I am able to predict that I will not only write, but also publish, three books minimum in 2015. A fourth book is not out of the question.

A year ago, I think I might have found a year in which I published no new titles discouraging. As important as it is to be releasing new material as often as possible, though, it’s also important to realize that one must devote the necessary time to producing quality writing. For me, 2014 was just such a year, and I expect to reap the rewards starting in the spring. So despite my seeming failure, the past twelve months have in reality been very productive. I’m enthusiastic about the coming months as I creep closer to the finish line on these multiple projects.

My primary novel-writing endeavour this year was getting through The Law of Radiance, the still somewhat tentative title of the third and final book in my Watchers Chronicle trilogy. In past years, I’ve adopted some pretty solid techniques for maintaining productivity and discipline, but this year the challenge was more about bringing a long-form story like this one to a close in as satisfying a manner as possible. Tying up the various plot and character threads of a single novel is challenging enough, so tying up three novels’ worth is a tall order. I’ve definitely learned a few things I’ll be taking into account next time I attempt a story on this scale.

Other lessons learned: don’t let yourself lose momentum when you reach a difficult yet critical juncture in your work in progress. My tendency is to work my way up to those big difficult moments, then back away for a few weeks, using the excuse, “I need to think this through before I move on.” The end result is that I typically go back and write it according to my first instinct anyway, so I don’t gain much by the delay and lose quite a lot of time in the process.

And as usual, the biggest professional obstacle standing in my way is my handling of the day job, which I routinely allow to take precedence over my writing. Which is, of course, a common scenario. This always seems to make sense at the time, but looking back over the past year, my biggest regrets revolve around not taking full advantage of the short periods of free time between my day job hours. It seems to me I could have squeezed out several more chapters if I’d made myself fill in all the cracks in my schedule that way.

Well, there’s always next year!

Cracking the Whip: Hard Enough, But Not Too Hard

A Guest Post by Travis Heermann


A professional writing career lives and dies by discipline—or the lack thereof.

Maybe you have talent, but talent is only the beginning.

There’s honing one’s craft (got to practice and study until professional-level prose is automatic). There’s learning how to deal with rejection (growing a callus on one’s heart). There’s learning how to market one’s work effectively (most writers revile, loathe, and despise self-promotion). There’s connecting with a community of other writers, finding your tribe (who will sustain you through the long, dark nights of the soul).

And then there’s the simple fact that one has to insert one’s backside (Tab A) into the chair (Slot B), apply one’s hands to scribing tools (Assembly C), and wiggle them around until beauty and pathos are released into existence.

It all sounds so simple. But if it were, the world would harbor more professional writers.

It’s easy to pour something onto the page when the flush of inspiration is hot and new, when the Muse is sitting in one’s lap with a martini in one hand, stroking your hair with the other, and whispering thrills into your ear. Call it what you will—The Muse, inspiration, your subconscious, whatever—I’m talking about those moments when you realize two hours have passed and there are many more words on the page now than there were before, artful words poured forth from the chalice of your amazing subconscious.

However, the Muse is a fickle tart and simply doesn’t show up every day.

But you’re the professional. You have to show up to work even when the Muse doesn’t. You have to slog it out, even when the Muse is out there draping her(him)self over the lap of some other writer. The bottom line is this: the Muse most often visits writers who are working.

It is working that’s the hard part. Carving out a writing schedule when other demands on your time swarm like rabid termites out of the woodwork, and then guarding that time like a snarling, viciously aroused mama tiger, is where the discipline to finish books comes from.

One of the best ways to develop writing discipline is to set daily goals.

  • A paragraph.
  • A page.
  • A thousand words.
  • A chapter.

These are all good starts. A thousand words a day is a great round number, because it means in 60-90 days you will have a completed novel draft. If you write 250 words a day, a single page, you’ll have a novel draft in a year.

Regularly meeting a simple, achievable goal helps develop good, steady production habits. After a while, you may find that it becomes easier and easier to meet your production goals. In that case, try ramping up a little. Challenge yourself. Instead of a thousand words a day, try 1,500.

You will find, once you establish reasonably regular butt-in-chair discipline, that the Muse finds you increasingly sexy and comes over for trysts more frequently.

Nevertheless, there are limits. You should push those limits, yes, but you must make sure your goals are achievable. If there is no way you can write 3,000 words in a day, making that your goal, only to fail every single day unless you skip showering and sleep and feeding the kids, is a fabulous way to dive headfirst into the crazy pool. It will destroy your confidence like those dreams where you’re walking around naked at work. The Muse likes you best if you’re properly groomed and smelling nice.

For the last two years, I have successfully completed NaNoWriMo. This year was a real struggle, because I lost more than a week of writing time to travel and household emergencies. But I succeeded—51,000 words in about three weeks. It was a struggle. I had to make sacrifices. Friends and family saw me less often, because I had a goal. And I made it. That success alone was a tremendous confidence boost.

Fortunately I have learned to surround myself with people who understand and support my goals. They miss me, but they’ll get over it when the book is done.

In the coming months, I have a number of goals.

  • Finish the third volume of my Ronin Trilogy, Spirit of the Ronin.
  • Write seven short stories for various anthologies.
  • Launch, promote, and oversee the Spirit of the Ronin Kickstarter campaign.

Creating and running a Kickstarter campaign relates squarely to goal setting, but that’s a topic for another time, except to say I would really appreciate your support. The campaign will launch in mid-January, 2015. Please follow this link to view the Kickstarter campaign, and consider supporting this project.

Then go put your butt in the chair and invite the Muse over for a booty call.