Dipping My Toe Into Non-Fiction Waters

One of the funniest things that happens to me when I come back to this blog is looking at the titles of all the blog posts that I started to write, but didn’t. I mean, if I were more diligent, you (dear Reader) could have been learning about things like My Year In Review, Planning for My Inevitable Failure (on Twitter, not in life, for the record), and The Future Is Horrible (But The Present’s Just Fine). But alas, I usually only post here when I get passionate enough about something to let it bubble up to the surface into one long post about THINGS I CARE ABOUT!!1!!111!!

However, there are times when I do write non-fiction from start to finish, and those are when I have been asked to by an editor. In fact, all of my non-fiction pieces have either been solicitations or through a personal connection (AKA I threw myself at the mercy of the editors of the soap opera anthology I am in because I have always wanted to write something about soap operas). I feel very fortunate to occasionally pop up on people’s radars, and recently, it’s led to me writing my first ever set of reviews.

The first review, Rebirth, Truth-with-a-Tea, and FIYAH, is appearing in People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, and is a look at the first two issues of FIYAH, the new magazine of black speculative fiction. The second is a review of the book Sleeping With Monsters, which is itself a book of reviews and personal essays by Tor.com columnist Liz Bourke (a review of reviews! I’m so meta!). So…how did I do it? Here is a quick look into my reviewing process:

Act I

  1. Read the thing.
  2. Take notes on the thing I am reading as I go. The notes are not super in-depth. More like a reminder of what the individual story/section was about and how I felt about it – my first impressions, so to speak.
  3. Become overwhelmed by all the thoughts that I have about the thing I read. Go back and re-read parts. Take more notes. Look for themes in current notes and write them down. Think about what I have written.
  4. Remind myself that I have a deadline to meet and I have to write something that can be put in print somewhere.
  5. Start writing.
  6. Erase what I wrote.
  7. Start writing again.
  8. Curse the day I ever learned to put pen to paper. Scroll through Facebook. Discover that all my writing friends have written 2,000,000 words for their latest project in the last 15 minutes. Simultaneously cheer them and sigh.
  9. Start writing again. Kind of like what I’m writing. Keep going for a bit.
  10. Lose my train of thought. Go back to the thing and read again.  Possibly take a break for loud singing along to musical theater.

Act II

  1. Get back in the mood. Hit my stride. Typity typity type type type.
  2. Agonize over an ending line. Avoid agony by revising the first unrevised section.
  3. Repeat step 12 until the ending is all that is left.
  4. Remind myself that I have a deadline to meet and I have to finish the review. Repeat “the perfect is the enemy of the good” like a mantra under my breath. Finish the review.
  5. Send the review to editor. Read it again after it is gone. Discover 1,000 ways I could have made it better. Decide all 1,000 ways are my brain playing tricks on me, like an editorial mirage.
  6. Get revisions back from editor. Review and implement changes. Think on how brilliant editor is and make my goal to reach similar editorial heights in future.
  7. Send final version to editor.
  8. Have existential crisis about the nature of judgment.
  9. Sing more musical theater and/or watch episodes of shows I have seen 500 times already but still love.
  10. Wait until the review hits the stands (so to speak). Hope that it was helpful. Get nostalgic over previous 19 steps. Move on to the next thing.

And there you have it. Hopefully what I’ve put together turns out to be worth it to whoever is reading it, but regardless (and this isn’t just the nostalgia talking), I had a blast. I can’t wait for my next non-fiction adventure.



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