the writing life, Write On

Write On – a short practical guide to becoming a published author.

Getting Started – the tools of the trade.

Hoards of people want to write a novel. Just as doctors find that everyone they meet tells them about their ailments, authors find that everyone tells them about the novel they intend to write. Authors generally nod politely, say “oh, how interesting!” and go home secure in the knowledge that about 99% of the people who ‘want’ to write a novel will never put pen to paper because they don’t really want it at all.

It’s only when the partygoer/man on the bus etc says “I am writing a novel” that it’s worth while rolling up a trouser leg, exchanging the secret handshake of writerdom and settling down to talk shop. Like winning the pools, owning a dream house, being famous, going on Britain’s Got Talent, meeting [movie star of your choice] and dazzling them with your wit, for most people writing a book is one of those ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ things that will never come to pass.


The people who enjoy dreaming about being a famous author – of looking seriously out of a window while the sun floods over their manuscript and somewhere in the distance an influential reviewer is overwhelmed by their profundity – are probably better off not considering the reality of the thing. This is advice for the other people, the ones who want it enough to actually do something about it.

So, you’ve never written anything before, and you want to become a published novelist. There is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed in this goal. It’s not like my desire to go and live in Rivendell – a resolution hampered by the fact that the Last Homely House is sadly fictional. Becoming a published author is entirely in the realms of the possible, providing you’re willing to put the work in for as long as it takes.

How to start?

Writers are very fortunate. The tools we need to begin writing professionally are very simple. At their most basic they are even very cheap. You can go from aspiring writer to Writer using nothing more than a pen or pencil and a piece of paper.

Writing in longhand in a notebook has the advantage that a certain degree of slowness is built in. It gives you lots of time to think as you work. If you’re starting to write fiction from a basis of never having done anything of the sort before, a pen and notebook can seem less intimidating than a computer. Plus it’s more private and more portable than all but the smallest net books.

If you’re going from zero to novel, it can be helpful to do a lot of your initial character and plot roughing out in longhand. However, I really wouldn’t recommend writing out your entire novel in longhand if you have another choice. You can, if you honestly can’t afford a computer. But then you’ll have to send it off to be typed by someone who does have one, because no publisher takes longhand manuscripts. In fact, most publishers will only accept emailed manuscripts in electronic file format these days, so there’s no getting out of it. Just the researching, marketing and networking opportunities of the internet make it worthwhile alone.

So, a computer with word processing software ought to be down there as one of your necessities. In the short term it will make the mechanical act of getting the words down easier. In the medium term, the internet connects you to beta readers, advice, publishers and agents, submissions calls and places where you can begin to establish yourself as a voice to be heard. And in the long term your publishers and editors will need to be able to contact you by email and send your edits back and forth with tracked changes attached.

In short, you can learn the craft of writing using pen and paper but once you’ve done that, if you mean to write for publication, you’ll need a computer.

I should probably just assume you have a computer already, shouldn’t I? After all, how else would you be reading this post?

Assuming you have a computer, you also need some kind of word processing software. In the long term, most publishers will require you to have Microsoft Word, because that’s what they use, and it has the nifty Tracked Changes ability which editors use extensively. You may also end up using a dedicated programme for writers, such as Scrivener. I can’t get along with it, but many writers seem to swear by it.

In the short term, I recommend LibreOfficeWriter. I do all my writing on this. It’s completely free, it does almost everything Word does, it even opens Word docx files which my version of Word itself won’t do, and once you’re finished it can save its files in a doc format indistinguishable from that made by Word, so nobody knows the difference.

OK, we have pen, paper, a computer, a word processing programme and the internet. What else?

The final things you need to get hold of before you can write are time and space.

It’s finding these things which proves so difficult many people don’t even start. Anyone can buy a pen and some software, but ordering your life so that you can have time to write is a sure sign of being sufficiently committed to actually succeed.

What you need is a place where you can achieve a deep state of concentration, and enough time to use that state for something productive. Finding this place and time varies from writer to writer according to their individual circumstances. In my case, I began writing when I was at home all day with the baby. The baby would sleep for approximately one and a half hours in the middle of the day. I would put her down, tuck her up, switch the computer on and write until she woke up. This meant sacrificing all of my “Oh, thank God, peace and quiet and space to be an adult” time, but it was worth it.

If you’re lucky enough to be someone who can concentrate in a crowded room, you may find you can write for half an hour every day in the coffee shop on your way home from work. You could take the laptop to the library at lunch time. When I had two children with asynchronous sleep cycles I booked an exercise class at the local gym, put them in the creche and typed for two hours in the cafe instead.

If you’re a person who can’t concentrate without solitude and silence, you may have to go to more extreme measures, such as getting up half an hour early every day and locking yourself in whichever room in the house the rest of the family are unlikely to disturb when they wake. Or even taking a camping heater down to the garden shed and typing until your laptop battery runs out.

Going to the effort of building writing time into your day is a good litmus test of how serious you are about this writing lark. Much of what separates the writer from the wannabe comes down to how much effort you’re willing to put in. So finding the time to actually do it is the most important step of all.

The next most important step is finding something to write about, and that’s what I want to talk about next week, in Getting Started – What’s the Idea?

Fantasy Writing, the writing life, writing tips

How to convert your fanfiction to original fiction so you can publish it and make a ton of money.

First I’d like to say that fanfic is awesome. A lot of people will try to make you feel ashamed about having written fanfic. I’ve read blogs where readers have said ‘I loved that book! Now I know it was fanfic once, I feel betrayed.’ I don’t personally understand that attitude, but I know it’s out there. I know there are people who naturally assume all fanfic is cack, and who say so. There are people who assume all fanfic lacks any kind of originality. There are writers outside fanfic who think fanfic of their work is tantamount to abusing their babies, and there are people inside fanfic who seem to feel that a fanfic author who goes pro is betraying the community in some way I’m not entirely clear about.

If you decide to convert your fanfic into original fic, you are going to find yourself the target of all this. I suggest, personally, that the solution to this part of the problem is simply to say ‘fuck them all’, because if you get published, that’s proof that you’ve written something publishable, and if you’ve written something publishable, you deserve to be proud.

One thing that’s become more obvious since 50 Shades of Grey, is that although you know you’re going to get moral outrage for publishing your fanfic cum original fic, the legality of publishing de-fandomed fanfic has never looked better. If there was going to be a lawsuit, you’d think it would happen between the massive juggernauts of Twilight and 50 Shades. The fact that there hasn’t been, even though everyone knows one is ex fanfic of the other shows that – to the best of our current knowledge – successfully filing off the identifying marks from your story means there is no legal case to answer.

Good news!

As far as ‘filing the serial numbers off’ goes, my feeling is that’s not going far enough. You don’t want to just slap a false beard on your fic and hope that no-one will notice. I prefer to look at the process of conversion as being one of turning fanfic into original fic. Breaking all the connections to the fandom, replacing all those things that you owe to the fandom with other things that belong only to you. Just filing the numbers off isn’t enough. Turn that thing into original fic by taking out everything that isn’t yours and replacing it with stuff that is.

The first thing, obviously, is to change the names. It’s striking how much difference it makes, psychologically, to you as an author when you’ve changed your characters’ names. This is the big break, where you cut that umbilical to the fandom. Cut it thoroughly. Don’t do a half-assed job by giving them names people in the fandom can parse. Don’t rename your pirate ‘Jim Finch’ when you mean Jack Sparrow, for example. That’s a case of not letting the fandom go, and it will hamper all your other efforts to make this thing your own. Renaming is vital, not just for legal reasons but because this is the first step of making the characters someone else altogether – and although it will feel like murdering them, it’s actually the first stage of allowing those characters to become your own.

After that it becomes easier to change everything else. Give them slightly different personalities. Alter the settings, change their jobs, their hair colour, the era the story takes place in. Even go to the trouble to edit out turns of phrase and metaphors specific to the fandom. (For example, I knew instantly that one book had originated in Thor fandom when the big blonde character was described as being like a golden retriever. However apt it was, it was a dead giveaway, so it should have come out.)

And once you’ve cut the link to fandom, firmly, it also becomes easier to see where you need to start putting new stuff in. Suddenly your readers don’t know these characters from Adam, and it’s apparent that they need backstories and context and establishing scenes… etc etc.

This sounds like a lot of work, and it is… but it’s still less work than writing a new book from scratch, and some of it can be done with ‘search and replace all.’

After which you can apply to publishers with it. I recommend being up-front with them that it is re-worked fanfic. They will probably not mind. If it was wildly popular in fandom, that will actually be a recommending feature suggesting it’ll be wildly popular elsewhere too. And if they do mind, it’s best to know at once. If it’s good enough to be published by one publisher, another one will take it.

Looking back on this, I see it’s more a summary than a detailed walk through. So when I get back from London on Monday, I’ll follow it up with a ten step guide. In the mean time if you have any questions, hit me up and I’ll answer them then 🙂


How to swap your books from Createspace to KDP

I’m glad to say I’ve finally got this done. I’ve been periodically clicking the “migrate your books from Createspace” link over on KDP, only to find that while it took me to the correct account, it persistently refused to actually verify that account.

I also tried logging on to Createspace, waiting for a popup window to materialize to allow me to do it from the other direction. That didn’t happen either.

I was worried that whatever system they’d written did not work for me and I would have to wait for the mass migration and take my chances.

However, entirely without me doing anything, today I logged into Createspace again and there the popup window was. I followed the instructions and it went ahead without a hitch. Which suggests to me that they just hadn’t got round to my region yet, and I should have had patience.

The actual process itself does not link your paperback to the ebook version of the novel. You have to do that manually. Go to your paperback and click “Link existing ebook.” If your ebook has the same title as your paperback, it will show up in the results box. Then you click on it and lo and behold, the two versions are linked.

I had a slight problem because–out of curiosity, and once or twice just out of absent-mindedness–I had started to create KDP paperbacks of books I already had in paperback on Createspace. These unfinished, draft KDP paperbacks were already linked to the ebooks, meaning that the finished and perfected Createspace paperbacks could not be linked.

The solution to that turned out to be to go to the KDP paperback details and click “De-link this book.” After which you could go to the ex-Createspace paperback and go through the “Link existing ebook,” process.

Before I transferred over, I also turned some of my Createspace paperbacks off distribution. They were transferred over as drafts, and as they are the Alex Beecroft versions of books I will be re-issuing under the new pen names, I am keeping them as drafts. I’ll replace them with an Alex Oliver version as soon as I can manage it.

Altogether, relatively painless when it does happen, but if it hasn’t happened for you yet I don’t think there’s anything you can do to hurry it up.

the writing life

Another day, another cover re-design

As is often the case, now I’ve started doing cover re-designs I looked at the rest of my books and thought ‘should I update these too?’

As per usual, the answer was ‘well, let’s at least try.’

I went looking for a new picture for the cover of The Witch’s Boy, but in the end couldn’t find one I liked more than the original. But of course, you can do all kinds of things to the same photo to make it look different. So here’s a redesign of The Witch’s Boy to try to make it look a bit more grown up and in line with current tastes. Which one of these two do you like best?*

Also as per usual, by the time I’ve finished working on it, I can no longer tell whether it’s any good or not. I think I like it. What do you think?

*The new one is on the left and the old on the right.

(As an aside, I should finish writing the cozy mystery I’m working on by this time next week. At which point I can start thinking about writing actual new SF/F instead of tinkering with the old.)

cover art tips

How not to do cover art – a case study

I’m sure there are people who approached becoming an indie author with A PLAN and researched how to do it properly before they even started. I didn’t. I became a published author more or less by fluke, and when my publishers folded I found myself with several books and no ideas of what to do with them.

But my experience of publishers had not been good. Some of them give you terrible covers and bad edits. Some of them make morally questionable business decisions. Some of them fold your royalties up in so many shell companies you end up getting nothing and knowing less. The good ones go bust… To make a long story short, I didn’t want to resubmit my books to anyone else.

So, self publishing. I don’t claim to know what I’m doing here, but I am learning. For example, take the Cygnus 5 books – a space opera trilogy in which a disgraced female starship captain and war hero is shipwrecked on a penal planet and decides she is absolutely DONE. She’s fed up of religious dystopias and capitalist dystopias and – with the help/hindrance of an alien doomsday device and some pirates – she’s going to build a utopia of her own.

Because I’d started off in Romance, the first cover I made for this looked like a badly made sci-fi romance:


Spot the old pen name too. That’s my m/m romance pen name. I was trying to get my m/m romance fans to buy SF/F in which there is a low-key het romance. Why on earth I thought that would work, I don’t know. It must surely be a better idea to offer SF/F to people who like SF/F?

Eventually I did take a hard look at the cover and think, ‘It really doesn’t say science-fiction, does it?’ So at that point I made a new cover that looked like this:


To be honest, I still quite like this one. But it is very dark and there’s no real sense of action, and it says ‘hard SF’ rather than ‘space opera.’ If readers of hard SF like the cover, they’re going to read the blurb and be put off. And there’s still the problem of the romance pen name.

Eventually, I took another look at this one and addressed one of those problems. I decided to make it more space opera.

Naturally, I did that by thinking back to the pulp SF of my youth – things like Andre Norton’s Forerunner Foray, which was a big influence on the ‘abandoned alien artifacts’ part of the story. I created the most pulp SF/space opera-y cover I could manage:


I’m still very fond of this one too. If I had seen that in the library when I was a teenager, I’d have snatched it off the shelf in a blink.

The trouble is, I was a teenager in the 70s/80s. It hadn’t occurred to me that this is not what book design looks like right now. Also, note that the pen name still has not changed.

Eventually (say what you like about how slow my process is – or how I ought to have done all this at the start – but I don’t rest until I’ve really thought something through,) I thought, ‘You know, maybe asking Romance readers to read SF is asking too much? Maybe I ought to be separating out my SF under a new pen name?’

Hence *waves a hand vaguely at the new website* Alex Oliver came into being. Initially, I simply changed the author name on the cover immediately above and re-released it.


But then… FINALLY. FINALLY, OMG! it occurred to me to actually look at the covers of all the other books being sold as Space Opera. I put ‘space opera’ in the search bar on Amazon, and guess what I found? Pretty much every book in the top 40 had three things in common.

  1. Title in great big font – usually silver
  2. BLUE omg, every single book is blue.
  3. Spaceships – almost every one had a spaceship on the front.

I find that last thing cool, because exactly the same was true thirty years ago, although in those days they looked more like rocket ships.

So, after finally doing some market research I made two new mockups and asked people which one they liked best. 100% of people went for the one I liked least, which was – presumably not coincidentally – also the one that more closely matched the three points above.

I call that a very encouraging result. So here is the most up-to-date cover:


We’ll see how it does under this one, but I have to say I personally like it the best of all of them so far. I’m gently geeking out to have a cover like this, even if I did make it myself.


What have I learned from this process that you can skip straight to and hopefully avoid the two years of experimentation to get here?

I suggest:

  1. Decide what genre your book belongs to and attempt to make it attractive to readers of that genre.
  2. Don’t try to sell your SF/F to Romance readers and vice versa. You may think that they will read it because they like your other work, but you would be wrong.
  3. It’s better to start off with a new pen name and no reputation than it is to try to overcome a reputation for the wrong thing. (ie, even if you’re a really good Romance writer, SF/F fans will see that as evidence that you can’t write good SF/F.)
  4. Before you make (or buy) cover art CHECK TO SEE WHAT’S SELLING NOW. You may think you know what a space opera cover looks like, but you could be just as wrong as I was.
about me, Fantasy Writing, the writing life

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi,

I need your expert eagle eye.

The Cygnus Five books have been through an array of covers. It’s almost embarrassing. The first ones looked like Romance covers – not really appealing to fans of space opera. The second ones resembled hard SF and were colourless and unappealing. For the third ones, I went too far into the territory of old fashioned pulp SF from the 1970s – which was when I started reading SF/F, and thus burned into my brain as what SF/F ought to look like.

Finally it occurred to me to actually look at the covers of books that are selling today. Astonishing, I know.

I discovered three things;

  2. They’re all blue
  3. They have spaceships on them.

Cool, I thought. Let’s make a cover which is blue and has a spaceship on it. So I went to look for some pictures, and the first one I really loved was bright green. *Sigh.* So I attempted to make the bright green one blue. Then I made an actual blue one as well.

So now I really need your advice. Which of these two mockups do you think is the best?

the writing life

How to Finish your novel – two essential tips.

Strangely enough, it took me years before these two things occurred to me. Although they’re very simple and very basic indeed, they are my most indispensable weapons in my whole writerly armoury.

How to finish a story no.1:

Start at the beginning and go on until the end. Do not, at any point, ever go back to revise or change anything that you have already written. Do not stop until the story is finished. Keep moving forward. If new ideas occur to you which would mean the first chapter needs rewriting, note those new ideas down in a separate ‘notes’ file, but keep writing from the point that you have already reached until you get to the end.

Only when the first draft is finished are you allowed to go back to the beginning and alter anything.

Before this rule, I would usually get five chapters in to something, and then I would think of something to change or polish in those first five chapters. I would go back and re-write them. Then I would go back and re-write them again. And again. And then I would be bored of the whole project and frustrated with my inability to pin it down. So I would start something new, and the whole process would begin again. I have so many abandoned starts of novels you could leaf a forest with them.

Nowadays, however, I only have finished stories. Many are very rough and need a lot of editing, but all of them have a beginning, middle and end, and are therefore capable of becoming a complete, polished novel in a way that five perfect chapters and nothing more are not.

How to finish a story no.2:

This is less of a technique and more of a psychological pointer. The ‘start at the beginning and go on to the end. Then stop.’ Tip at no.1 is all you need to finish a story. However, no.2 will help you to manage it.

You see, your brain, like mine, is probably highly conflicted about the act of writing. If it’s anything like mine, it loves starting stories. It loves the discovery, the sense of adventure, the freshness and glee of starting something new.

But that wears off once the novelty is past and you begin to realize that there are months of solid writing before you. Suddenly your brain is making you want to do housework, or read Tolstoy’s complete works, or take up quilting, or go back to the beginning to put this cool new idea in. Your brain, if it is anything like mine, does not want to do the long slog of writing day after day that is necessary to get through the middle of the novel.

This is where it helps to know that it is normal and expected to hate the story and to believe that the concept is boring and your talent has left you. It isn’t and it hasn’t. It’s just your brain trying to sabotage you and get you to skive off.

Ignore it. It’s lying to you. Carry on writing anyway, even though it’s a slog and you hate everything you’re writing. Just keep going.

Eventually, as if you have pushed a stone up to the top of the hill and over the top, the story will begin to flow again, your writing will look good to you again, and you will once more be enjoying the process of writing. Hurray!

But beware, your brain doesn’t like finishing a story either. That means tackling the difficult bit of making everything resolve neatly, and when you have done so there will be the pain of parting with these characters you love. Woes! To avoid this, your brain will try to trick you into not finishing. Once more, writing will be like swimming in treacle, your words will look lame and facile, and you will be convinced this is the worst story ever.

Don’t believe it this time either. It’s still lying. Push on and finish the story. And when you have, a miracle will happen. You’ll give it a couple of days to rest, come back to it, and it will turn out to be really not that bad at all! You will have a finished first draft and it will be good.

If you can learn your own pattern – the ups and downs of when you hate your work and when you love it – you will be prepared, and you won’t abandon a promising novel in the middle because you were secretly sabotaging yourself. Learn when to tell yourself to take a running jump, carry on writing anyway, and I guarantee you will have no more half finished novels abandoned in disgust.

How long it will take before you can bear to edit your finished first drafts is a separate question, of course 😉


Asexual and Agender; My journey to understanding the invisible orientations

It wasn’t until I was in my early fifties that I finally worked out that I was agender and asexual. Figuring out that I was asexual was the easier part of the equation. That really only required coming across knowledge of the orientation. But it still took me 45 years to get to that point, because it took me 45 years before I heard of asexuality.

How did I know I was ace? Well… At school I had no interest whatsoever in dating. My time was amply occupied with Star Wars and science fiction, and it honestly never occurred to me that I might want a boyfriend (or a girlfriend). (On further reflection there may be a degree of gray-aromanticism in my mix too.) I wasn’t physically attracted to anyone, and I didn’t want anyone to be physically attracted to me. I remember once getting a secret valentine card and being horribly upset because that was not something I wanted to be dealing with at all. Ugh!

Pretty much the same thing went on at university – my life was full of interesting things. I was having fun, making friends, learning new things, playing D&D. I felt no need to add a relationship to that mix, and there was no pull towards anyone to make me feel it. By this time, however, I had begun to realize that I was unusual in this.

Everyone was talking about sex. Everyone – including doctors – were assuming that I was interested in or actively having sex. That seemed very offputting and mildly disgusting to me. Every time some evidence came up that society expected mixed groups of men and women to be having sex, I would be baffled. But why? I would ask. Why do they assume that sex is going to happen? And then everyone would laugh as though I was joking, or at the very least being some kind of adorable innocent from planet alien. I never really got an explanation except for a shrug and a “because it is.”

I spent a lot of time being vaguely repulsed by society and media and jokes and all the nudge-nudge-wink-wink apparatus of sexuality that simultaneously tries to tell you that it’s ubiquitous but you must be ashamed of it anyway. I felt as though I was made wrong in some way, so that my mind just didn’t grasp this concept and why it was so damn important to people. Surely they were exaggerating? Making it up? Celibacy? – I didn’t see what the big deal was, it sounded easy. Cheating, pre-marital sex, sleeping around? – I didn’t see why on earth you would. What would anyone get out of those things anyway?

Despite all this, I fell in love and got married, still assuming that I was some kind of strange straight person. Marriage was idyllic, except for the sex life – I had gone from ‘naturally virtuous’ to ‘frigid’ overnight. I didn’t see why he was so damn insatiable. He didn’t see why I wasn’t attracted to him when I kept telling him I loved him. It was the one thing we couldn’t ever seem to compromise on or fix. I thought it was my fault for being unnaturally disinterested in something I had been told all my life was a universal human drive. If I could have taken Flibanserin then, I absolutely would have done, not realizing that I was attempting to medicate myself out of my orientation.

From very early days, I had felt a draw towards the LGBT community, not knowing exactly why, except that it felt more like home than mainstream society did. So it was in the queer community on Tumblr that I first came across the idea of Asexuality. I wasn’t sure about it at first – I’d wondered before if I was bisexual, or transgender, and each time on examination the label fitted less and less. But asexuality got more and more plausible – explained more and more things – the longer I thought about it.

Eventually I was sure enough about it to tell my husband I was asexual. After an initial shock, it came as a relief to him too to learn that it wasn’t his fault that I was as disinterested in sex as I was – it wasn’t that I didn’t like him – I didn’t like anyone in that way.

So the asexual part of it was relatively easy. I’m sure I would have known I was asexual earlier if its existence had been made known to me earlier.

Being agender was different.

I was your typical tomboy. I didn’t want to be a girl. I wasn’t interested in girl things. And that was considered almost praiseworthy for pre-pubescent children in the 1960s, so everything was fine until I hit puberty. At that point I developed a mild case of dysphoria for my body – I didn’t want my breasts. I wished I could get rid of them, and I put a lot of effort into concealing them. I still thought I wanted to be a boy, but I wasn’t brave enough to say so out loud in the 1970s.

Then I discovered feminism, and I began to unlearn some of my deeply buried internalized misogyny. I was forced to consider that being a woman was not a shameful second class thing. Was my rejection of the idea that I was a girl down to being taught that boy-stuff was the only interesting stuff? I couldn’t be sure.

I found myself identifying with creatures and characters whose gender was indistinct. Sex-changing Loki. Sexless angels. Eunuchs of the ancient world. The genderless people of Ursula LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness.”

I discovered enough social anthropology and gender theory to realize that things I had thought were laden with gender were actually not gender specific at all. Skirts were just kilts or sarongs in disguise. What was a male job in one society was a female job in another… etc

“Oh!” I thought, gladly. “This means gender doesn’t actually exist. It’s a vile oppression forced upon us by society. We are all just people! Let’s not do gender at all!”

And that’s pretty much where I’ve stayed ever since. I loathe being talked about as though I’m a woman. But I don’t really think I’m a man. I’m a person. For fifty years I’ve gazed into the void of me and tried to work out my gender, and nothing looks back. I still can’t find it.

I thought this was how it was for all people, until my children were born. My first, a cis girl, rejected all my attempts at gender-neutral parenting and insisted that I acknowledge that she was a girl and that was very important to her. My second, a trans boy, was telling me he was a boy from the moment he could speak. It became obvious to me that – for other people – gender was something innate and powerful and obvious.

The fact that it wasn’t any of those things for me became diagnostic in the end. It wasn’t that I felt like a girl sometimes and a boy at other times. It was that I didn’t feel like either of those things at any time. I threw my hands up. I went “Damn it, I don’t know! I don’t think I have one!”

And that’s how I decided I was agender. I went looking for my gender, and I kept not finding anything. Surprise surprise, there’s actually a word for that, and I am very relieved to be able to finally stop, and say “Stuff it, I’m not a man or a woman, I’m just me.” Other people can do gender from now on. I don’t get it at all.