Fiction Fiction Fiction

Like what you’ve read? Want more? Why not help me out by buying me a coffee?

If I’m being honest, I couldn’t tell you how long I have been in this bus station. I couldn’t see any clocks on the walls, and I was too scared to talk to anyone. I was looking out at the world, watching everyone walk to and from the buses, entering and exiting an inbetween space, moving between worlds, guided by nothing more than a piece of metal on wheels.

It was a hot August evening, and I wore too many clothes. Starting a new life as a new person comes with a few challenges, and since everything was so fresh, I was still coming to terms with my body. My body. The same body it had always been, the same long, gnarled looking hands. The same stubby, a fat fingers. The same hairy knuckles, the same long, hairy arms. The exact same gangly teenage body I’d always had, and the same teenage body I feared I would always have.

Knowing this, I decided to cover up as much as possible. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, a black hoodie, Black denim jeans, repair of boots my dad had loaned me, and too much makeup that I didn’t know how to put on. Because of this, everything and started to run at the first sight of sweat, and now I look like a melting wax figure, hair sticking to my face coming away with globs of foundation concealer. My mascara was running, a web of black lines running down my cheeks onto my chin, make had been crying ink. Honestly, I have been crying, but the sweat did a pretty good job of concealing that.

So I sat alone in the corner of a bus station in Austin, Texas, waiting for someone— anyone—to arrive and take me from this place. I have finally arrived as the person that I wanted to be, and there was no one there to help me enjoy it. I looked at my phone, that little flip thing, wished the battery would come alive again, and close it. Breathing a heavy sigh, I leaned back, fishing through my pockets for anything that I can use to pay for a payphone, I Came up with nothing, insight again. At this rate, I would have to use what little money and I left with to pay for a taxi, and that didn’t sit very well with me. Austin wasn’t a place it was very friendly the taxi cab usage. 2007 Austin, much less.

I suppose I’ve been rambling for little bit, and overloading you with my problems. I wonder about this particular piece that I’m telling you right now– Should I be telling it to you in the present tense, or the past tense? Do you really think it matters? I’ve always found that things, when spoken in present tense, always feel like they’re in slow motion. Things in the past tense seem to move a great deal closer great to our normal time. I think, for the sake of my sanity, and yours as well, and anyone else’s who might happened upon this bit, I’ll tell it as if it’s a story that has already happened—which, if you’re paying attention, in clearly has.

That’s a confusing little bit, isn’t it? Trying to narrate a story, getting every little bit of detail in it, trying to taken and process every piece of sensory information for you. I’ll probably get a little conversational from time to time, and I’ll make sure that you know what’s happening from now on. Right now, I’ll get back to the story.

***

Since I’ve been rambling on for probably a little too long now, I thought you should probably know my name. My name is Emily, and that is the name I’ve always given myself, even if I’ve never said it out loud. My name is Emily my name is Emily, my name is Emily, and any other name that you hear referring to me is false. Any other name that a person would use to talk to me, or talk about me, is a lie.
The short time before I decided to leave for my third year at college, I came to a very long set of realizations. I learned that I hadn’t been the person that I wanted to be, even though I was living a life that felt close enough to truth. I learned some things don’t make sense, and you have to work through them. I realize that was not as sentence stone because other people were.
So I went on one of those really long soul-searching journeys, the kind that involve a lot of walking, thinking silently and alone, and only a little bit of magic. I went deep into my own memories trying to figure out who I could possibly be, and if that really meant anything now. Obviously, it does mean something, because I’m human being, and human beings deserve to be able to live the truth that they want.
When I came out of it, I had a new perspective. A new way of looking at life and my own existence. I could see that I wasn’t entirely anything. I can see that life was going to be different for me now. I looked at myself and said I had a new name, and I will be going by that new name for as long as I possibly can.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am what you might call transgender. Well, what you would definitely call transgender. I made the decision right away to start living as the self that I had discovered, and to follow that path whatever it may lead.

***

Yeah, so I’m Emily. I am Emily, I’m wearing too many clothes, I’m sweating like an idiot, I have a phone that doesn’t work, I have no way to contact any of my friends, and I’m too terrified to talk to anyone who could help me. What a combination.

I sat on a hard plastic booth with the table bolted to the wall. It was tucked away in the corner of the station, in the cafeteria. The cafeteria that serves food that most school districts turn away. I spent some cash on a bland hamburger and a terrible salad that didn’t come with dressing. The harsh fluorescent lights loomed over me, and the lack of air conditioning in this building made the air stale. I’m far too warm for to sit inside, but there I sit, with my suitcases, my backpack, and the entirely too large laptop used for school, and I waited. I waited for someone that might be able to find me. I waited and waited and waited and waited, I waited. I was infinitely patient.

I didn’t have much else to do, so I turned my eyes to the crowds that came and went before me. Trying to see how I could make sense of their lives. What kind of people they were, what might they be doing in this between space, this not-destination and not-origin.

First, my eyes met a very tall elf, pacing frantically near the entrance to the bus station. He had up some kind of noise canceling ward to make sure no one could hear what he was saying, but most everyone who looked at him knew that things weren’t very good. He looked like he was wearing only the clothes that he traveled in, and that he didn’t have much else beyond that. His face was drawn in a mixture of confusion and anger, and he was looking down at his phone repeatedly, as if he was waiting for something. Like I said, that ward meant that no one could really hear him, but he was shouting enough and flailing his arms around enough that we knew that something wasn’t going well for him. I assumed hey I just had a run of bad luck and things are getting worse for him very quickly, but I don’t know everything.

My clothes were sticking to me now, so bad was the sweat. My body felt like it was steaming from within, in the stink of the body of water was starting to waft out of my very long sleeves. I debated taking at least some of this off, but being in public meant I have to tough it out. No one wanted to see a shirtless idiot in the middle of the bus station–well, maybe they did. But I decided that it wouldn’t be me specifically. Could get kicked out for that, and that would be embarrassing, right?

Did I tell you I live in a magical world? Yeah, it’s a magical world. It’s one of those places with elves, and dwarves, and weird animals that also talk, and weird animals are also part people. The magic is just kind of free-floating in the air. Second thing is that people draw pictures and make up spells on-the-fly. It’s all very organized though –requires a lot of drawing, and chanting, making sure the conditions for casting spelling correct. It’s not as exciting as it sounds, but it’s more interesting than my explanation would imply.

I live in a magical world, I go to a magical college, and I do magical things of this magical college. I’m a magical liberal arts student. Very exciting. And what, might you ask, is a magical liberal arts student? It’s looks like the regular kind but with a little bit of a twist.

Five Writing Tips

Like what you read? Want more? Why not help me out by buying me a coffee?

1. Figuring out your process is key to writing well. You need to know what you do, how you do it, and how to maximize your ability to execute that particular process at its highest quality. All of the steps and recommendations aren’t hard rules, they’re guide posts to keep you on the path to getting better at writing. You take what you like, throw away what you don’t, and keep at it.
A caveat to this point is that sometimes, steps and advice that are initially bad are actually helpful tips in disguise. Mostly this is because we’ve never tried them before, and they’re not tailored to our specific needs. If you feel something can help, but it’s not firing for you 100%, keep at it. You may not have found your own groove in it yet.
This happened to me after I wrote my first book (which no one will ever see). I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I might need some sort of more detailed outline, let alone plotting the book completely before I sat down to write it. Well, after struggling to find a logical end point, and searching for ways to resolve and set up new plots for later stories, I was finally ready to accept that some sort of outlining was needed. I still haven’t found that right alchemical magic that makes it perfect, but my rewrite is in the outlining phase, and I’ve got a lot more threads to work with.

2. The first draft won’t be seen by anyone but you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a disaster. There is room to mess up, to get it wrong, to simply push those words out until the story is finished, but learning what goes into creating a first draft is a key step in getting better. We do a lot of stuff unconsciously, and there’s a natural enthusiasm to it that comes through on the page. Once we soberly revisit those pages, though, most of what we see is simply not good. Maybe the plotting is shoddy, or the story itself doesn’t make sense. Characters aren’t consistent, or they simply don’t need to be in the story.
This was a hard one for me to learn, and a big part of what spurred me on to recreate the story from the ground up. My first draft was bad—probably not a lost cause, but there was so much that needed to be fixed, rewritten, added, and removed, it would simply be less work to scrap it and start the series over.

3. Learning brings unconscious habits to the foreground, where they can trip us up unless we learn to improve them. We, as people, consume a lot of media. Books, comics, music, movies, television shows, photography, fashion, etc.—all of it contributes to our understanding of art. We learn about the components of art-making, how they fit together to create a particular piece, but we don’t really learn about what those components mean, or how they come to be in the first place. We piece together how to create art through the art we consume, and we can unconsciously build a rudimentary thing based solely on that.
And that’s great! We are all artists in some way, and we have an instinctive understanding of narrative and structure. What we don’t have is an understanding of the purpose of these things.
I wrote the first draft without a clear understanding of what these things were, and it shows. I knew what needed to go into a superhero origin story, but I had no understanding of why those particular things needed to be in the narrative. I’ve watched countless movies, read a ton of books and comics, and knew some stuff by heart. They’re teens—they’re not all friends, not together by choice. They’re superheroes—need something to give them powers. Need villains. A mentor?
Once I finished it, I started doing a lot of reading on story construction. I started to figure out what I did unconsciously. Inciting incidents, three-act structure, midpoints, character arcs. All of that stuff was in there, but I didn’t get why. Once I ventured to try and understand why, I realized how little I knew, and how much I had to learn.
Which leads to

3. A lot of the advice—hell, almost all of it—is focused on streamlining the actual time spent putting words on the page.
By figuring out ways to improve storytelling, to word count increasing strategies, every bit of writing advice is ultimately about making the actual act of writing as easy as possible.
And it’s for a very simple reason: the actual act of writing? It’s tedious. It can be hellish and boring. It can be complete torture if you’re flying in blind and have no idea what you’re doing. It’s why so many authors advocate some amount of pre-plotting and outlining, and recommend knowing at least some amount of your story beforehand. This ensures that some part of the narrative is concrete, and gives you something to write towards. You get a better story on the first pass if points are set to write around.
Many independent authors also talk about maximizing your time spent writing, but for different reasons. They talk a lot about maximizing raw word count through these strategies, and it’s easy to see why. Self-publishing is a fast moving industry, and cranking out books at a consistent pace is critical. For these reasons, an author must get as many words as possible down on the page at a time. Plotting, outlining, and pre-writing are all in service of making the time at the keyboard go as smoothly as possible. Writing, as stated above, is tedious and difficult. Figuring out ways to make it easier and get out as much as possible is just good sense.
There are other strategies, as well. Dictating is gaining traction, and it’s a very interesting way to really supercharge your word count. It has a ton of benefits, but getting the most out of it takes a lot of work and a lot of pre-writing prep. Dictating itself is tough as well, as you have to retrain yourself to do something in between natural speaking and typing. Once you find yourself in that sweet spot, it results in a dramatic increase in word count.
Getting started on a novel was tough enough, but there were days when the words just wouldn’t come to me. I had to work to get every 1000 on the page every day, and learning new strategies to both decrease the time needed to write and getting the highest number from that time has helped immensely.
I experiment with dictation myself, but it clashes with my fiction writing voice. If I continue with it as a regular tool it will simply be for blog posts and non-fiction.

4. Every writer writes about writing as some point. Whether it’s an essay or a series of books, every single author has something to say about the craft. Whether artistic in nature or deeply nuts and bolts kind of stuff, it’s just natural to talk about writing. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there is a danger of overloading on information, and attempting to implement too many things at once.
I basically read every book on writing I could find after writing my first draft, and was overwhelmed with inputs, some good, some bad. Lots of authors, especially in self-publishing, are prominent in the writing advice biz, and it’s up to us to figure out which ones are real and which ones are just hustling another revenue stream.

5. You have to commit yourself to writing, not simply love to write. Over and over again, past the encouragement and advice, there’s the need to be a writer.
This goes hand in hand with point 3, I think. Being an author means getting those words out, polishing them, and doing your best to make the best book you can. It’s work. It takes a willingness to learn, to fail, to press on when things look bad. I myself deal with this feeling a lot when I’m down. I have to figure out my own process to be the best writer I can be, and I know that it’s going to be a lot of work to get there. I accept that as part of the deal.
You have to do that too. After getting into it, I’m not sure I can do anything else now. I’m a writer, and I’m going through all of this stuff for the first time. It’s frustrating and depressing sometimes, but that happens because I’m up against a wall of my own making. I need to learn how to break it down, and get back on my thing. It’s learning.
You may feel incompetent when you start, and that’s okay. You, and every writer before you, might have felt like that too. You have to be open to the experience, and be ready to figure out what makes you work best. You’ll get there, if you decide to do the work.

Things I’ve Learned

Like what you’ve read? Want more? Why not help me out by buying me a coffee?

There aren’t a lot of secrets to blogging, or writing in general. There are rules, and there are things that you learn that work for you, but there’s no hidden knowledge, nothing behind the curtain that will guarantee success.

The practical parts of writing will serve you pretty well if you stick to them and try to improve every time you sit down to write.

Write as much as you can. That can mean every day, some days, or even a single day a week if that’s all you can get. Get as much written in your writing time as you can.

Read. Read anything and everything. Don’t limit yourself. Getting better is a matter of learning what others do and applying it to your own habits and processes. A writer who doesn’t read is just someone putting words on a page.

Keep it constant and consistent. Try to stick to a schedule, and hold yourself to it. The more comfortable you get with it, the more of a habit it will become, to the point where it becomes automatic.

Always be open to learn. I can’t stress that one enough. Your mind needs to be ready to absorb things, new ways of thinking, of creating.

Don’t take it too seriously. Have fun with it.

Just stay the course, don’t give up, and push yourself each day. Try something new, or get that thing finished. You’ll be surprised how much you can do if you just stick with it. I’ve had my down moments, and when they happen, I just remember a couple of these little tips, and just like that, I’m back and getting the work done. It’s as simple as that.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Do you play games often? Card games, board games, RPG’s, video games? I used to play all the time, but in the past few years, I find myself playing video games less and less. It’s just such a huge investment of time!

I get a little bit of something in every week, but I find myself turning more frequently towards reading.

Habits and Routines

Like what you’ve read? Why not help me out by buying me a coffee?

How much do I write per day? That’s a good question. My answer? It depends. On a lot of things.

I usually center my writing on a few set times per day. Each work day, I get up, have my coffee, take my vitamins and my fish oil like a real adult, do a light workout (at least a jog of 20 minutes or more), and then cool down at home for about an hour. Then I take my meds, have my breakfast shake, and mentally prepare myself for writing.

The beginning of the ritual has changed over time, and I’m always open to changing it to suit my needs.

Right now, it goes like this: first, I turn off the overhead lights in my apartment, and turn on the white LED lamp next to my desk. Then, I pull out my “process diary” and note the date, time, project, and duration of this particular writing block. So, “8/1/17 10:05AM, blogging, 40 min”.(If you’re wondering, yes, some of my posts are written ahead of time, including this one. I do my best to give myself a comfortable lead on content creation, so I’m not losing my mind to make sure I have a post ready for publication.)

After that, I note my location, what kind of notes I’m working with, how I’m writing, and things like noise or music going while I’m working. Example: “@computer, no notes, typing, noise app/music”. Then, at the noted time, I start the timer and write.

When I’m in my time, all I do is write. I sit at my desk and type or write by hand, and that’s all I do. Every device is disconnected from the internet (as much as one can in this day and age), I close out any applications that might draw my attention away from what I’m doing, and I keep focused on the task at hand.

After the timer goes off, I make a few notes about the session—how it felt, what I wrote, what I might need to do in the future, etc. I take a deep breath, quiet my mind, and take a short break. Stretching and flicking through stuff on my phone happens here. The process begins again after the break is over, and continues like that until I’m satisfied with what I’ve done for the day.

On days where I work in the afternoon, I usually only have one longer session. Focused and intense writing can leave me with a lot of anxious energy, and I don’t want to take that with me to work. My evening shifts are easier to manage, and sessions in the afternoon, should I take them, are much lower in intensity and focus.

I try not to put too much stock in word counts beyond a rough estimate for a given project. I’ve found that trying to work towards a specific count tends to negatively affect the writing process. I’ve caused myself a lot of stress in my time by working too hard to hit arbitrary counts, and letting go of that particular part of the process has been freeing for me.

I’ve found that I write more when I don’t have a specific goal in mind. There is a need to keep things from spiraling away from me, but that’s about the extent of it.

Fragment

So there she was, sitting in the corner of the shop, tuning her guitar. I saw her almost every night, sometimes playing, sometimes behind the bar, smiling, singing, glaring, staring off into space—all of it. She’d gone through the range of human emotion in the time that I’d walked by this particular coffee shop. I can’t remember how many times I’d done it—weeks, months, maybe a year already. I came this way after my shift, without fail. There were a few times I took a different route at the beginning, but once I saw her, I kept on this one route. Going home this way was longer, a little bit. I had to take an extra elevator, and I had to walk a bit of a roundabout route to get there, but it was comforting to see her every evening.
And yes, I know that sounds creepy. I would walk by a coffee shop, look in the window, and see a beautiful girl whom I’d never spoken to going about her day. Yeah. I get that. I didn’t do anything creepy though. Just walked by, glanced in, went about the rest of my day. There were no fantasies, no carefully constructed unrealities that made her into a whole person, no elaborate meet cutes that would bring us together—none of that. Just me, walking, comforted by the fact that she was there. She probably never noticed me. She was always busy around that time of day—night?—evening?—early morning?—can’t really be sure, working on a space station and all. There’s clocks everywhere, and the lights get brighter and darker depending on what the numbers say, but people couldn’t tell. We were in a vast, gigantic, metal and ceramic box hurtling through space to who knows where, living our lives, doing our best to pretend like we were still on Earth.
The district towers reached up and down so far, that when the light was right—probably around “dawn” or “dusk”—their bases and tops disappeared. We spun, but we didn’t feel it most of the time. All of us had our own place, but some coupled up. Made it less lonely. Some liked living alone. Earth was crowded, and then you got on this thing and bam, you’re suddenly able to live by yourself, and not get in trouble for it. People loved that. It made monitoring for warning signs a bit more difficult, but the freedom of your own, real, actual, physical place tended to perk people up more than bring them down.
Anyway, I’m getting off base. I was talking about me. My walk home. From my job to my home. I would see her every night, but she wouldn’t see me. Looking back, I wish I had the courage to do what I did sooner.
So one night, I’m on my way home, and like always, I see her. There she is, being her radiant self. She was kinda tall, maybe six feet? Didn’t realize that before. I’m about five and a half, so you can see what I mean. Her hair was down. She wore it down when she wasn’t making coffee for people. It was auburn, I think. A kind of deep reddish brown, a color that changed in the light. Like a spectrum of red when the light hit it at the right angle. I wonder what it would look like if we had natural light…
Oh well. Can’t win em all.
Her skin was lovely. It was tan, dark. Ruby underneath, like when someone puts on makeup, it brings out that, uh, undertone! Undertone, that was it. The light would bring out the undertone. I like that word, don’ t you? Lovely face, too. Soft cheeks that bunched up in that cute way when she smiled. Eyes the color of…what was that damn color? Hazel. Grey when the light—ah, you get it.
Something about the light. Something about how she caught it. I got the feeling that it didn’t happen as much up here as it did when she was back on the planet. But my, she was beautiful. Just a vision.
But there I was, on my way home, and I see her. Nothing out of the ordinary. But something takes me. A little thought. I get moved by something, and not the guy trying to get by behind me. No, it was something like, I was moved by a spirit. Fate. That kinda thing. I decide that I’m gonna make a change. I grab the door, and I open it. I freeze for a sec, a small bit of a sec, so small no one notices but me, but my mind just races. I feel like I’m standing there for an hour, thinking about what could happen if I step inside. All of those damn what-if’s, every single possibility hitting me like a meteor shower. But I keep stepping, and like that, I’m in. I’m inside this little coffee shop I’ve seen for ages, and I’m there. I’m there.
Whoever made it did their best to make it look homey or something. Lot of yellow lights, not those harsh white ones in the work areas. Dark, finished wood. Comfy chairs, pillows, a few low tables near the stage. Bits of lights hanging from the ceiling—antique stuff, like Christmas lights. Most of them didn’t work, but it was a nice touch.