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Career changing Legal

Why you can’t charge for fanfiction

Why you can’t charge for fanfiction

I enjoy fanfiction as much as, perhaps, the next person. But you still can never, ever charge for it. I implore you: don’t even try.

Seriously, put it out of your mind.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Copyright and fanfiction
Copyright and fanfiction often collide

But aren’t there exceptions?

Yes, there are some. But first, let’s talk about why fan fiction is problematic.

Issues With This Form of Expression

For writers like you and me – and Stephen King and JK Rowling as well – we prepare our own universes. Some universes are familiar and take any number of real-life elements. For example, King’s The Stand mainly takes place in more or less present-day America. King does not run into any copyright issues with New York City being New York City. Other places in the book, though, are more the product of his imagination. In Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, though, a lot more of the scene is dreamt up by her.

For both authors, and for countless others, originality consists of creating a universe, creating characters, devising a plot, and then executing the plot in some fashion.

In fan fiction, another person (or persons) created the universe and the characters. Even when the fanficcer adds characters, the fictional world remains the original author’s creation. Hence one of the main issues with fan fiction is that it keeps the fanficcer from learning how to do that.

Benefits of Fanfiction

It’s not all bad, of course. The biggest and most measurable benefit is that it keeps you writing. Creativity is often sparked by simply being creative, that is, you write five or seven days per week, and you can fill up that writing time fairly readily. But if you only write three times per month, you may find you have writers’ block when you make the infrequent attempt. There is something about the pressure of deadlines or at least the pressure of your own internal expectations. It helps to not have a blank page to stare at all the time.

There is nothing whatsoever wrong with borrowing another’s universe in order to keep writing and exercising the creativity muscle.

Just don’t try to sell it.

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Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (visual elements)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (visual elements)

Visual elements. There are two areas on Twitter where you can make a visual impact, and it has nothing to do with what you’re actually tweeting. No, scratch that, there are three. Kinda.

Avatar

visual elements
ala10 Twibbon (Photo credit: ALA staff)

So the first, most obvious one, consists of the account’s avatar. Here’s where you should put the company logo. Don’t have a logo? Then it can be a picture of the person doing the tweeting, as this is supposed to be something of a conversation.

Other visual elements of choice for an avatar can be a picture of the company mascot, if there is one. Or a photo of one person (the main user) on the Twitter team, although if two or three people are doing the tweeting, what about a closeup of both or all three of them, photo booth style? This will depend upon your industry and your image therein. But at the very least, you must get away from a generic Twitter avatar.

Background Visual Elements

Where’s the second area where you can make a visual impact? It’s your background. Here’s where your company logo can go if it’s not already being used for the account’s avatar. And if you have a well-known logo, that will add to the visual impact, so long as you’re not using the logo for both the avatar and the background. Because that constitutes overkill unless both are subtle.

Depending upon monitor or device size and screen resolution, some parts of the background will be hidden or revealed. So make sure to place the logo on the left of the background, preferably near the top, and test the look on several different-sized monitors and devices, and utilizing different resolutions and operating systems. You will not be able to customize the look for each setup (like you can with Cascading Style Sheets), but at least you’ll get an idea of where you’re being cut off. Naturally, you want to optimize your visual elements for whatever setup your customers are most likely to be using — if your target audience has vision problems (e. g. perhaps they’re elderly), the most likely setup may very well involve a larger than standard screen resolution.

More About the Background

Below the upper left corner is some space directly to the left of where the tweeting actually occurs. To the left, vertically, you have a little room in which to place the company web address, a telephone number and possibly a short slogan. Twitter is meant to be short and sweet; don’t get caught up in adding a lot of verbiage here. Less can certainly be more in this case. Keep in mind, too, that no one can search on any verbiage you place here in the background image.

You can also add a picture just below your logo, or in place of it, in the upper left corner or along the left side. Try, perhaps, a picture of the Twitter team. Because you can great impact from offering pictorial evidence of who’s listening. Another option: place a picture of your main product here.

There is also some space to the right. However, this is the part that seems to grow or shrink depending upon monitor or device size and resolution. I recommend putting nothing much (if anything) here. This is because you don’t know how it will cut off. Although, if you have a color readily associated with your company (think of Starbucks green) or website, make sure that any unused portion of the background contains at least that color. Use that space as a part of a more unified design, not as a focal point.

Tweet Now, Or Later?

What’s part three? Visuals are also something, like every other part of Twitter, that you can schedule. This can come from a free or quasi-free website or software like Buffer or HootSuite.

But, what do I mean by timing? Picture this. You’re up early, and you’re kind of groggy. So all you really need is a cup of coffee. Then wouldn’t an image of a cup of coffee catch your eye? It just might.

And maybe this is small or even too subtle. But it’s another way to use visuals. Consider what your Twitter stream’s day looks like. And when are your followers up? If your followers are in the Philippines and not Boston, then you will need to think of everything as 12 hours opposite from the way you see it. So don’t put up your happy wake up cup of coffee image when your Filipino followers are heading to bed or going out to parties.

Visual Elements: The Upshot

What you tweet is, naturally, important, but consider the other areas where you can enhance your message. These basic visual elements can help you to place an exclamation point at the end of your tweets.

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Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (verbal elements)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (verbal elements)

Verbal elements? Twitter is, of course, utterly verbal. It’s just about all text. But not all of that text is tweets.

Almost Everything But the Tweet - Conquering Twitter (verbal elements)

One piece is the profile. There isn’t a lot of space here. The good news is that these verbal elements are searchable. If you want to make it clear that your company is green, you can put that here. Separate short messages with delimiters like pipes (|) or asterisks (*). Don’t use semicolons as they can end up being converted to code. This is an easy section to change, so consider changing it as needed, perhaps as special events come up.

Another area is the site URL. In order to be better able to track traffic coming in from Twitter, how about using a unique URL here, say, http://www.yoursite.com/twitter? That page could contain a customized welcome message to Twitter users. This is another readily editable area of Twitter, so why not switch it up as circumstances change?

Your location is another verbal area. Of course it need not be a real place, but for a commercial Twitter account you can’t get too whimsical here. However, if you’ve got a multi-state presence (and want to get that across but not create separate Twitter accounts for each state), there’s nothing wrong with making your location something like United States or New England or Great Lakes Region.

Verbal Elements: Names

Another area is the name behind the account. This is a searchable field. A company can add a tiny bit of additional information here, such as the general company location. Hence the user name could be Your Company but the name behind it could be Your Company, Cleveland.

Yet another area is the name(s) of list(s) that your company uses to follow others. Does a company need Twitter lists? Not necessarily, but you can still use them to make certain accounts stand out. What about lists like customers or distributors? Perhaps not very imaginative, but these could prove useful in the future if Twitter ever makes it possible to send certain tweets only to certain lists.

Finally, although it is an issue to change it, the username is another nugget of non-tweet verbiage. Instead of changing it, what about creating a few accounts to cover different eventualities? Able2Know used to do this well (although some of these feeds are abandoned these days). Able2know had split off a few feeds as follows:

A user can follow any or all of these and see a different slice of that site. The individual user names for the accounts make it abundantly clear which cut of the site you’re following.

What do you want to get across? What image do you wish to project? Peripheral information can support or obfuscate your message. Choose what you really want your verbal elements to say.

Categories
Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (offsite connections)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (offsite connections)

Offsite connections. Because Twitter is so bare bones, any number of applications have sprung up around it in order to help you manage it and become as great as you can be. Try Twellow (many thanks to Bobbie Carlton for this particular tip).

This is essentially the Yellow Pages of Twitter. Put your company name here. You’ll have a bit more space to describe your site versus what Twitter gives you, so use that space wisely. Since most of the people checking you out on Twellow are also going to search for you on Twitter (probably after seeing your Twellow profile), make sure that your information is supportive and bolstering, but not redundant vis a vis your Twitter profile.

CrowdLens and Other Software

Another idea is CrowdLens, my friend Nick Ashley’s app. CrowdLens is designed to help remove redundancy (all that retweeting!) from your Twitter stream. CrowdLens can sometimes be slow. Here are some more sites to check out:

  • HootSuite – a tweet scheduling service (and more) whereby you can track stats and import your lists.
  • Social Oomph (formerly Tweet Later) – time tweets and gather simple metrics on shortened urls. You can set up more than one account this way.
  • Tweet Stats – a graph of, among other things, daily aggregate tweets, your most popular hours to tweet and who you retweet.
  • Idek – a url-shortening service that tracks metrics.
  • Twitter Reach – exposure and reach information, such as impressions and mentionings of any topic, word, phrase, userid or hashtag.

Offsite Connections: The Upshot

As Twitter continues to mature as a business tool, I predict that more and more of these off-site services will spring up. The most successful one will, in my opinion, combine the best features of all, coupled with ease of use and an ability to show trends over time.

And finally, Twitter changes things almost as much and as fast as Facebook does. So keep in mind, these instructions may need some tweaking.

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Facebook Social Media

… And Facebook for All Your Account Settings

… And Facebook for All – Your Account Settings Explained

… And Facebook for All – Your Account Settings – in Facebook, how to do you change your account settings? When you pull down on the Account section of Facebook, you see a few choices but they change. Keep in mind that Facebook is continuously testing its format. What worked a year ago might not work now, but these are pretty close to being right although some of the parts have moved around on the page or might now have new names.

Your Account Settings
Your Account Settings
  • Edit Friends
  • Manage Pages
  • Account Settings
  • Privacy Settings
  • Help Center, and,
  • Log Out

Edit Friends

First of all, you get a list of your friends. And if you have separate friend lists (say, for work or school), those lists are on the left. Facebook does move these sorts of settings around. By the time you read this blog post, this feature could potentially have been moved. Truth is, it may be gone by now.

You can add friends to various lists, remove them, or delete them from your list altogether. There are also suggested names to be added to various lists (assuming you’ve chosen a list, versus all of your friends). The default here is not only to show the entire list of friends, but to put the ones you’ve interacted with most recently up at the top.

Account Settings: Manage Pages

If you manage pages – and you may very well have that as a task if you are using Facebook for your business – here is a link straight to each page and how to change it. Simply click “Go to Page” and you are transported to the correct page in question. I’ll get into the specifics of what you can do from there later in this series.

Account Settings

This is a part of Facebook that always seems to be changing. It is entirely possible that, by the time you read this blog post, these instructions will be obsolete. I’ll keep everything at a high level and won’t get into too many specifics. So it is divided as follows:

  • Settings
  • Networks
  • Notifications
  • Mobile
  • Language
  • Payments

Account Settings: Basics

This section is currently divided as follows:

  • Name – your real name
  • Username
  • Email – self-explanatory
  • Password – self-explanatory
  • Linked Accounts – you can put more than one account together
  • Security Question – self-explanatory
  • Privacy – control the information you put out there. But do keep in mind: if something is truly personal, the Internet is an awfully foolish place to put it in.
  • Account Security – you can add some form of extra protection
  • Download Your Information – save your photos, etc. to a ZIP file
  • Deactivate Account – self-explanatory

Networks

You can join networks, such as identifying yourself with an employer or a school you’ve attended.

Notifications

Control settings for notifications such as when someone tags you in a photo. I think that the default settings are pretty excessive. I like to know if someone wants to add me as a friend, and when I’ve been tagged in a photograph. Other than that, I’ll just check when I’m online. Obviously, my preferences need not be identical to yours.

Mobile

Activate a phone and register for Facebook text messages here.

Language

Set a primary language or translate Facebook into other languages from here. There’s currently a rather extensive list, including some languages not written with a Western alphabet.

Payments

So track your credits balance, credits purchase history, payment methods and preferred currency here.

Privacy Settings

Control some aspects of the sharing experience here. So this includes who can see your photographs, religious and political views, etc.

Help Center

This area is undoubtedly going to continue to evolve as questions come up and the increasingly complicated Facebook system breaks in all sorts of interesting and as-yet unexpected ways. So you can even ask a question, and the most common questions are listed. Unsurprisingly, these include topics such as how to delete your account or change your name.

But keep in mind: Facebook won’t answer 99%+ of any questions you have for them. Why? Because they are running an enormous site with a surprisingly tiny number of employees. Hence many of the judgement calls come from bots.

Log Out

Pretty self-explanatory. Click here and you’ll log out of Facebook.

Next: Company Pages

Categories
Career changing

Starting a Twitter stream

Starting a Twitter stream

How do you go about starting a Twitter stream? Should you plunge right in, or hang back?

Twitter Stream
Starting a Twitter Stream isn’t Hard

Your Account

You need a name! Let’s say you’ve taken my advice (or decided this on your own), and gone with an account just for writing. If you want a personal account, you make a second one.

Fine, but you need a name. How about a word like writer or author somewhere in there? You can’t go beyond 15 characters. Fortunately, you’ve got both letters and numbers, so you could conceivably add wr1ter or auth0r if you liked. Go as short as you can while remaining coherent and unique.

Your look

Settings are important in Twitter as they are with every social network. Twitter moves them on occasion (every large site does beta testing, where they experiment with different layouts and looks to see what you’ll click on more often – this is normal); currently, they are under your profile image. Add a profile image and make it a head shot or at least a picture of the cover of your book, if you have one. Don’t keep the egg!

A background image is nice but not strictly necessary; Twitter has some pretty decent generic images if you are unsure of how you want things to look.

Who do you follow?

Spend a little time chasing hashtags. #amwriting, #amediting, #PitMad, and #MSWL are great for getting started. Know an author you like is on Twitter? Then follow him or her! Publishers and agents are also good choices, as are your friends from NaNoWriMo or Wattpad or the rest of the writing community, even the fan fiction writing community. Follow people who put words together into sentences and stories. Applaud their efforts and read what they have to say. It matters.

More to come later!

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Transitioning from fanfiction

Transitioning from fanfiction

If you first wrote in someone else’s universe, and now you want to claim your own, you may be transitioning from fanfiction.

Going from fan fiction writing to wholly original writing

It’s more than just ‘filing off a few serial numbers’.

How writing fanfiction can help you

It teaches you how to follow continuity. It can keep you writing when you’re stuck. Writing begets more writing (even fan fiction!), so it pays to keep going. You are better off, in terms of preventing writer’s block, to just keep on writing. Hence, if all else fails, go with fan fiction. Of course there are plenty of places to post it online. Here’s one.

How writing fanfiction can hurt you

It does not teach you how to make your own world, and it can hamper your growth in this area. Furthermore, if you are not used to making your own characters, it can hurt you there, as well.

Flip Your Perception

So consider what the foundational IP (intellectual property) does, and why it matters to you as you start the process of transitioning.

  • Interesting stories – spend some time deconstructing your favorites. Where did the writers hand-wave a problem away? Also, where did they get confusing? In addition, where did they deliver on the promise of their teaser/preview?
  • Compelling characters – why do the canon characters matter to you? Again, engage in some deconstruction. Forget who plays a character. So consider how you would feel about a character if someone else played them. Furthermore, consider how you would feel if the character’s gender and/or sexuality were swapped. Would you feel different if the character was of a race different from the current actor’s? Be your own casting director. Who, living or dead, could play the role better?

More ideas

  • Fascinating scenes – even within a familiar place, commercial intellectual property exists inside its own bucket. It might be a city block, a hospital, a car driving across the country, or somewhere else. What would happen if the scene shifted? Does the work succeed if it moves from Milwaukee to San Diego to Angkor Wat?
  • Action-driving plots – what kicks things off? If it’s a television program, what happened during the pilot? Did someone new move in? Did someone lose their job? Have a wedding? Have a kid? Graduate? Get arrested? Would the storyline still work if the pilot was different?
  • Believable effects, makeup, costumes, lighting, scenery, etc. – technology is a part of onscreen fiction writing. New techniques are constantly being invented, as studios save money but also enhance believability. What happens if an older show or film gets new makeup and green screening? Does that help the story, or harm it?

Blaze Your Own Trail

For every exciting intellectual property out there, whether it’s books, films, YouTube videos, TV programs, or something else, it all started somewhere.

So what is your story? Who are your characters?

Who knows? Maybe someday someone will want to write fan fiction about your work.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Scene Setting

Scene Setting

Scene setting is important to know.

What is Scene Setting?

Basic scene setting is a fundamental skill which every writer needs to perfect. Let’s look at some ways to do it.

All the old familiar places

When your story takes place during the present day, you’re in luck! You can get away without going over basic information. Present-day Moscow has cars. Today in Paris, people used the metric system. Current day Kentucky has telephones. So your really basic information is already there. Don’t waste time or pixels or reader good will by explaining any of that, unless it’s somehow important. E. g. if your Russian character was raised in the sticks, maybe they never saw a car before. If your Parisian is a transplant from the United States, she might occasionally forget that most countries use different systems for weights and measures. And if your Kentuckian was deaf and now suddenly can hear (and also led a sheltered life) telephones might be odd things which now have a purpose they didn’t have before.

Familiar place, unfamiliar time

Then there’s the scenario where your location is close or familiar. But the time is now. So, what is it, the past or the future?

Forward into the past

If it’s the past, then you need to do some research. Wikipedia is not a good final source, but it’s not a bad first one. What I mean is, you can start there, particularly if you are unsure about names or parameters. But then you need to branch out. Hence if you are trying to determine whether there were gas lamps lighting the streets of Berlin in 1740, you might want to start with looking up gas lamps and moving on from there. If they were invented later, then your question is answered. But if they were invented earlier (I honestly don’t know), then you should be looking at other sources. You can check footnotes, or just do some creative Googling. I have found The Library of Congress has some great old images, but you may need to spend some time looking, as not everything is logically labelled.

Back to the future

For the future, of course you can invent what you like (and I will get into that with a later blog post). But it pays to do some research anyway. Get an idea of what’s coming. If, say, solar-powered belt buckles are being patented, then why not put them in your near-future story? However, if you are writing a deeper, later future, you might want to make them passé.

Familiar times, unfamiliar places

Is the place found on planet earth? Then do some digging. And don’t just look at touristy sites! I live in Boston. It’s not all Faneuil Hall Marketplace, not by a long shot . By the way, a public service announcement from me: Harvard University is in Cambridge, not Boston. And it is far from the only university in this city.

For alien places, consider what it means if the gravity is stronger, or weaker. What happens if the atmosphere is thinner? One way to make things easier on you is to research similar locations. The Andes or the Himalayas could stand in for a planet with thinner air, for example.

Totally alien

Consider not just the look, but what happens when you engage your other senses. Is the place hot? Smelly? Smoggy? Is the landscape muddy? Frozen? Sandy? Do your characters have to climb? Cross rivers?

Takeaways

Put the reader in the action by engaging multiple senses. Latch onto the familiar if you can. Analogize to give the reader a faster understanding of the place. Do the homework, even on the small almost throwaway scenes, so your readers won’t have to.

Categories
Career changing Publishing

Genre Treatments

Genre Treatments

What are genre treatments?

Genre Treatments

When it comes to genre treatments, do you treat horror, science fiction, and romance all the same way? Or do you just stick to one genre and call it a day?

What are Literary Genres?

It might help to understand just what literary genres are. Let’s start with the short one.

Nonfiction

Narrative nonfiction tells a story. Biographies and autobiographies are often more or less subsets. While it’s possible to relate a biography in a non-narrative form, that’s pretty rare. Essays are a form of short nonfiction. And speech is pretty self-explanatory.

Fiction

There’s a lot more here. Poetry is usually rhythmic (although it doesn’t have to be) and has evocative imagery. Drama is serious stuff, and it can be a part of theatrical performances.

Humor or Comedy?

Humor is of course the funny stuff. Don’t confuse it with comedy (although we use the terms interchangeably in common parlance). Comedy is just when the protagonist lives at the end of the piece. Contrast that with tragedy, which is where the protagonist dies by the end. But comedy, traditionally, does not mean something is funny.

By this definition, A Clockwork Orange is a comedy.

Fantasy or Myth?

Science fiction and fantasy are pretty close. While fantasy is generally more otherworldly, science fiction usually dovetails with possible science, no matter how far-fetched. Fairy tales, in contrast, are generally drawn from folklore. The more general term, folklore, goes beyond stories to songs and proverbs from long ago. Legends, on the other hand, often have a basis in fact. This can be the subject (a national hero, like El Cid) or the plot. A fable is often short, but it always contains a moral lesson. A short story is generally too brief for a subplot.

Realistic fiction is also fairly self-explanatory. It’s fiction which could be real. Historical fiction adds a historical dimension although it’s often also meant to be realistic.

Horror evokes fright and visceral reactions. Tall tales are overly exaggerated and are virtually the opposite of realistic fiction. Mythology is a traditional narrative with a religious or faith-based component. Mystery involves the solving of a crime or uncovering secrets. Finally, fiction in verse is much longer poetry which contains subplots and major themes.

What are generally not considered to be full-blown genres? Young adult, adventure, romance, etc. Hence the idea, for the most part, has more to do with length and execution than subject matter.

How Do You Treat These Genres?

First of all, consider pacing. Horror often slows down, and then speeds up. Mystery might take a while to build to a satisfactory conclusion. Furthermore, mysteries contain red herrings. Myths might contain repetition. Some of that comes from oral tradition. Humor is all about timing. Drama can often be slow and building. Traditional poetry has a sing-song rhythm.

What is your particular spin? Do you use short, choppy sentence to speed up the action? Do you also choose shorter words?

Consider your genre as you write.

Categories
Book Reviews

Self-Review – The Real Hope of the Universe

Review – The Real Hope of the Universe

Hope was a huge theme in this book.

The Real Hope of the Universe picks where The Real Heart of the Universe left off. As the book to wrap up the trilogy, it had to resolve a number of subplots. So many subplots. Hence the first draft clocked in at over 185,000 words. Oh. My. God.

I didn’t need an editor. I needed a weed whacker.
Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | The Real Hope of the Universe width=

Background

To wrap up the series, the aliens needed to leave our world. But how?

In addition, there were numerous subplots to resolve. For me, it can be hard to get all of that fixed and sewn up, tied neatly with a bow. This made for any number of issues with length. For after I wrote the first draft, my mission was to cut it by 50,000 words. The second draft (what I call a second draft is often what people call a fifth or a sixth draft) was about 48,500 words less. Much, much better, but still a bear.

Plot for The Real Hope of the Universe

When we first see Ceilidh, Devon, Shannon, and Jake, they are riding in a carriage in Scotland. It’s the 1880s, and there are strange things happening throughout the planet. Some of these odd occurrences happen due to alien intervention. But some of them happen because of what human beings do.

Unlike the other two books, I had to devote this one to far more science fiction. And so it is! Yet at the same time, I had to resolve the subplots. Hence I wrote meanderings to here and there. But as I ruthlessly slashed away at the first draft, I tied a lot more of the subplots’ resolutions to science fiction.

Characters

The characters are the main character, Ceilidh O’Malley. Also, her boyfriend (later husband) Jake Radford and her employer, Dr. Devon Grace. In addition, there is the colony known as Shannon Duffy and the members of a secret society. These include men from both North America and Europe.

Memorable Quotes from The Real Hope of the Universe

They stopped on the steps for a second. “If you wish to leave now, say so.”

“If you’ll have any family you can talk to at all in the future, it shall likely be Luke.”

“So it would seem we should stay and wait it all out. So at least there’s a fighting chance of pulling out the whole truth, and he gets my side of things.”

“Not your side, Jake. Our side.”

“Ours, then. You are my truest companion.” He smiled a little, but it wasn’t in his eyes, which darted to the left for a second. His hand on hers was damp with sweat.

“Coming, you coward?” John sneered. “Or will you stand on the stairs forever, like a mental defective?”

“John,” Ceilidh said, “Kindly don’t speak to us this way. You may have arguments with my husband. He and I are willing to hear them. But a schoolyard bully’s insults are beneath you.”

John was nonplussed, and seemed to be deciding if she’d insulted or praised him. “Just get in the library already.” The library was a dark room, paneled in oak, with more decorations than books in the shelves.

Rating

The story has a K+ rating. As this one has more Gothic elements to it, there are some occasional squicky moments. For anyone who enjoys reading Gothic tales, some of the scenes should be familiar.

Upshot

Because it was the end of the series, I struggled to let go. This is a normal pattern for me. It is quite literally nothing new. Hence the ending is dragged out far more than it ever needed to be.

When the first draft was done, it was the longest piece I had ever written. It took me about four and a half months to finish the first draft. And this was writing every day!

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