Entering 3rd Year of WordPress

Yesterday was my third year anniversary with WordPress.

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I’ve been quiet for the last three weeks or so because I started a new job. Update on what else I’ve been up: I released the kindle edition of I, the One. That went and is going extremely well, getting reviews, hearing responses, and selling steadily every other day or so. My mailing list is finally live and growing. Decided on an author bio that I’ll probably stick to until next year unless there’s a specific need to create a new one.

A cover commission is in the works for Reptilian Wanderer. The editing has been stalled some as I didn’t finish writing the last few chapters according to my prior timeline before I snagged a job. Also decided to not pursue Createspace (Amazon now produces paperbacks directly?) or audible for I, the One.

So, what am I looking at for the next month or so?

Definitely having the official editing of Reptilian Wanderer underway as it’s a matter of writing out the already outlined words for the last chapters. The cover art will probably be complete by the end of July or sometime in August. Also, will be editing short stories that are involved in anthologies to prepare for final release sometime in fall. Perhaps my novel and an anthology will end up coming out around the same time.

Also want to share about three or four WordPress blogs about various writerly topics over the course of the next few weeks. I’m exploring a couple new avenues for short stories/novellas. Once Reptilian Wanderer is edited and moving closer to publication, then I’m going to be moving my attention to the next novel already. Haven’t decided which one it’ll be, but there’s about three or four contenders.

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Kindle Edition Release of I, the One

Yesterday, the kindle edition of “I, the One” released along with the new cover art.

“I, the One” is a short story in an etheric reality where souls are hunted, captured, consumed and willpower distinguishes the strong from the weak.

My first publication of many to come, I wanted to mark a moment I’ll remember in five years from now and set a foundation for the energy and aesthetic to present my work with.

It reached the Top 50 Best Sellers for its genre categories last night. A flash of success that inspires me to write harder with intention of publishing more.

Next to come is my debut novel, Reptilian Wanderer. Tentative release is set for Fall, but the sooner the better.

Don’t forget I have a Mailing List now for direct updates about book releases. No spam and not that many e-mails. Right now, it’s literally for sending information about any deals, releases, or similar data that has to do with my publications.

Here’s the Kindle Link to purchase;

I, the One

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Do Your Characters Control You?

As a creator of unique fictional worlds, it is important to remember that YOU are the one who controls canon over the setting, the plot, and the characters.

Writers flirt with giving characters “consciousnesses” and talking about fictional worlds as if they exist outside of themselves. There are a few reasons for this. One of which is to cope with the sensations of creation, especially when generating something that seems separate to the individual mind’s identification of itself.

It allows exploration for a stream-of-consciousness/brainstorming that eases rationality enough to consider ideas and character development without being hindered by technicalities. Giving characters “a life of their own” is a handy mind-trick to pump out dialogue and narrative quickly.

However, an idea, or character, should never be fully independent from a writer’s decision-making. This is where some writers tend to get lost. The ability to shape characters instead of acquiesce to them is a trait that distinguishes professional authors from fanficesque creatives.

Let’s take a fictional example of a character development process; say… a love interest for an unknown protagonist named Ikila. I’ll make it up right here and now.

Ikila will be inspired by a picture from Pinterest. I randomly grabbed the first character picture I saw on my general board.

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Ikila now has some traits that can be sourced; she’s female, black hair, tan/olive skin, brown/dark eyes with stately, effeminate facial features (trimmed brows, dark liner, slender nose, full lush lips, narrow jawline/chin, wide cheekbones, etc.). The jewelry suggests some kind of tribal mysticism or cultural significance, maybe even royalty depending on the world. The nudity suggests vulnerability, but paired with the set model expression gives a certain stoicism, again hinting at mannerisms that become a proper station in a society. Looking out away from the viewer can make her personality be determined or of a curious nature.

All of that comes from observing the picture and an identity is built to create the character. Let’s decide Ikila is a tribal princess who is smart beyond her years, but still growing up in a world that might be harsh, but adventurous.

With that simple description combined with the image, a writer can now begin to write Ikila in scenes and form further development around her character.

This is where the sensations of independence start to emerge, when the character seems to become something that is outside of the author, a grand illusion of their imagination.

At some point, the writer might need to make a decision. By this point, Ikila feels like a fleshed-out character who is an individual with energy of her own. The writer has reached a point in the plot where the Protagonist has to take an artifact somewhere – but up until this moment, Ikila’s tribal nature has been defined to care about keeping artifacts in their original places and not taking them away no matter what.

For purposes of this example, taking this artifact away is absolutely essential to the greater story and has to happen. Something else that has to happen is the protagonist needs his love interest by his side for a later dramatic scene that will take place.

So neither his love interest can go away or the artifact be left behind.

A meta-conflict arises, a creative battle occurs between whether to prioritize Character or Plot.

The Character-dominant writer looks at this conflict and responds with “But that’s not what Ikila would do.

They ignore the plot’s original direction and change the plot specifically to cater to Ikila’s development as a character so far. While technically the story continues on, the author made a decision on the character’s behalf instead of molding Ikila to better fit the story itself.

The Plot-driven professional wouldn’t do this. They wouldn’t utter the words “But that’s not…” to their own chosen outline and direction of plot. Instead they would look at what needs to happen in the plot and at the conflict with Ikila’s development so far. Retracing their steps, Ikila would be polished so that aspect of her personality becomes whatever would better suit the plot.

They might keep a semblance of the original trait, but make it less pronounced – assuming the trait has already been written about and doesn’t exist solely in the writer’s mind. If the latter, then the decision is simple and the author erases that bit of trait and moves on with the story as planned.

Most importantly, this can be done when a work is in progress, not published yet, and usually been outlined and is not free-writing. There is no limitation when it comes to changing characters and developing them to better present the plot itself when the writer can go in and edit things to fit.

For series already published, this becomes more difficult, but not impossible – which is why it’s important for a main series cast to have firmly understood traits and developments that are decided with the future in mind. This is why for some series, authors outline the entire arch of the greater story before even starting book one.

There are professionals who viciously cut out characters who distract the reader or merge characters that serve similar purposes. This is an old tactic that’s been used to create stronger works and tighter prose.

Character-driven writers forget this opportunity, often due to the imagination process dominating their creative decisions and becoming such fans of characters that the feeling of a character’s unique identity is all that matters. The writer becomes a player of their characters, rather than a creator. They forget the power they wield due to the illusion of independence caused by their own imagination.

Don’t let characters control you. Enjoy them, but don’t let them tyrannically rule over a story that you’re creating. Understand that a character’s independence only goes as far as you allow it. For authors writing fiction novels, it’s better to exert discipline over character development and prioritize plot when the two contradict one another.

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Chapter length: How long is too short?

Chapter length is a decision every author has to make when putting together a novel. While less of an issue with short stories, novels have to be broken up in ways that are easily consumable by readers.

There is no specific number that is the ideal length for a chapter.

Like most elements of a novel, the presentation’s success depends on the execution. Rather than think about ending a chapter after every scene change or character POV switch or basic points, consider it from a reader’s perspective.

It’s easy to consider chapter length from the writer’s perspective, what feels right to the author or editor about highlighting certain spots in the story by creating breaks through chapter cuts. However, this can cause chapters to become longer (or shorter) than they actually might need to be.

Using a reader’s framework, take a moment to look at the story how a reader will have to consume it – linearly.

It’s a mystery whether a reader will binge and read the book all in one go or if they will be reading a chapter a night or if they might get bits and pieces during a bus ride, but keep in mind that the best kind of chapter is one where the reader both feels something has been accomplished/revealed/shared in the story and also wants to keep reading later on when they have the chance.

Don’t make it painful for a reader to reach the end of a chapter. Similarly, extremely short chapters can be jarring so use sparingly if it doesn’t fit in with the average length of other chapters. Then again, short chapters can give a quick bite feel where a reader can get through many chapters and easily stop/disengage while being busy with life.

My own chapters range from a short 1k-2k to longer 4k-6k lengths and it depends on the novel in question as well. When I started writing my novels, a chapter was easily 20k in length. Eventually, through rewriting and editing, I realized that was much too long without any legitimate breaks offered for the reader. It was easy to write that way, but difficult to read.

The technical presentation of novels is a balancing act between aiming to creatively evoke responses from readers and understanding that we don’t know what kind of life they’re living while reading the work. Thank your readers for that effort, not through literal thanks, but through presenting the story in the most entertaining way possible.

Read more about crafting Chapters here.

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May, the Fifth Month of 2017

Hello to new followers! Thanks for the follow. This blog primarily focuses on writing (with the exception of these personal 1-2 month updates) so please comment below with suggestions/requests for any topics or discussions you’d be interested in seeing on this blog (frequent readers can always comment as well, of course).

The start of May brings fresh energy to my writing endeavors. While I didn’t finish AtoZChallenge, I did complete CampNaNoWriMo. I decided to participate in AtoZ on a whim the day-of and it was an interesting exercise to come up with topics to post within the same day. It’s not what I usually do since I consider blog topics, draft a post or two, and then write it within a week or more depending on how much I want to edit so I can evaluate the topic’s presentation with fresh eyes before posting. On average, I probably spend more like two weeks on a single blog post.

Finding a compromise between that and the shorter length of prep time is something I’m still figuring out. Right now, a length of about ten days seems to allow for enough development, but five days or less encourages the initial momentum to keep.

As for writing, a fair amount has happened between now and last update in March. Stolen Control got set aside because I chose to work on Reptilian Wanderer for the last month or so. While I finished my goal, there’s a lot of rewriting I want to tackle before moving on to the next step. By the end of this month, I’ll have finished RW‘s manuscript and hopefully have found an editor that I want to work with by then. My first (and second) pick aren’t accepting new clients. But at the very least, I’ll grab a beta-reader or two and a proofreader.

My plan is to publish Reptilian Wanderer to Smashwords and Kindle by early Fall of this year.

Meanwhile, I’m formatting a Kindle edition for my short story; I, the One. There’ll be a new fancy illustration cover for that edition (so exciting). I’m considering exploring CreateSpace and Audible as well, using the story as a test run project to know whether those platforms are something I want to use with larger projects later on.

The Kindle edition should be released by either the end of this month or early June.

I’ve started the groundwork for a permanent Mailing List, which will be available by the time the Kindle Edition comes out. There’ll be a sign-up page on the blog here and I’ll post about it then to let interested people know. I still have to smooth out the images and color schemes of the forms, but soon.

Driven by my urge to write short stories in late March, I’ve followed through and am now in the process of working on about 4-5 short stories. Three of them are for collaboration projects, so that’s fun. One is nearly finished with the first draft and the other is getting there. The rest are still in the beginning stages. I’m in the early stages of romance with the stories, enjoying the characters involved.

On the personal front, we’re done with the move to our new home and have begun settling. I had a job interview a couple days ago and am waiting to hear back this coming week. There aren’t a lot of opportunities in this area, but it’s balanced by the cost of living being cheaper. All of that is kind of an afterthought right now as I’m focused on developments when it comes to my writing on both the literal writing side, the networking side, and on the business side of things.

Ideally, right now, I want to have enough hustle to develop writing into a publication pipeline that’ll be my primary job and income source. This is ambitious, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell any other writers who already understand the stakes involved with making fiction writing into a viable and supporting career (Trad pub or self-pub, either way). With that motivation in mind though, I intend to fan the flames to write more, collaborate more, and publish more. I know I’m ready for it, all that is left is to actually do the work.

I’ve started gardening again and found a great pilates class at a local gym, as well as making time for a 5×5 strength-training program. I’m back to drinking coffee regularly, but find that as long as I exercise/sweat during the day that it seems to balance out any excess anxiety that comes from the espresso.

Another effort of mine that got started this last month and will probably continue on for the next few months is that I’m trying to increase my output of usable writing. Aiming for 6k-8k per day and at the very least, finishing a chapter a day. Still searching for a system that works for me. Routine doesn’t come naturally to me, so it’s a bit of a trick, but I stubbornly want to find something that’ll work and I believe that it exists.

So by early July, I aim to have Kindle edition of I, the One available, a permanent mailing list for readers to sign up for direct information about my releases, a slick bio written to match on all social media outlets that I have a presence on, official editing and/or beta-reading of Reptilian Wanderer underway, a cover commission in the works for RW, possibly Createspace offering of I, the One and an Audible production developed, participation in two collaboration anthologies (thus, two new short stories published), a short story submission to a magazine, a few blog posts here and there, maybe an independent short story/novella available or in the works, further development of Stolen Control, and…

…geez, put together that all sounds like a lot… But it’s doable because a lot can happen in two months.

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S is for Self-Editing #AtoZChallenge

Self-editing is best done as a multi-stage process. Don’t expect to edit everything at once and be done with it. There are a great deal of articles written about this topic and here is a link roll of them!

Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book

Self-Editing by Lori Handeland

How to Write Well: 10 Essential Self-Editing Tips

How to Edit a Book: The Ultimate 21-Part Checklist

19 Self-Editing Tips for Your Writing

Self-Editing: How to Improve Your Writing

Writing: How to Self-Edit your Novel

Self Editing for Fiction Writers

There are also an increasing amount of programs to help writers with their editing as well, beyond the simplistic red-lines of Word Documents.

Copy Editing Software for Authors

Want Help with Writing? Try Free Editing Programs

The Best Free Software for Writers in 2017

Editor for Windows (one-time $)

AutoCrit (subscription $)

Editor Software (licenses $) StyleWriter

ProWritingAid (subscription $)

SmartEdit (license $)

Hemingway Editor

Of course, editing software only suggests what you might overlook due to being tired or too close to the work or obvious grammar errors. Don’t automatically fix everything that a program suggests, think about whether it actually fits what you’re trying to accomplish with the writing. Basically, don’t expect to use any software as a crutch to avoid actual work when it comes to self-editing.

One of my favorite tricks when it comes to self-editing; start at the last word and work backwards with each sentence. Hold a piece of paper’s edge to distinguish which line you’re on. Be brutal in notes and decision-making.

Be honest about what works and doesn’t work, if you can identify an issue, then you should be able to problem-solve how to fix it. The answer is in there somewhere, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to identify the issue at all.

 

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L M N O P Q R #AtoZChallenge

I fell behind in the #AtoZChallenge some. For good reason, I’m busy with a few different things – exciting things – but things that are still in process.

So, flash time! For every letter, I will aim to write a few sentences and then move on about the topic. Not going to even edit! Quick, instant thoughts about each topic in reference to writing.

L is for Light

When writing in your own space, something to consider is what light you work best in. This will change from time to time, but you can manipulate your moods (and thus, the creative decisions you make) by what lighting you immerse yourself in. Beyond daylight, if writing in the evening or night (or a dark room), placing different colors in an overhead or hanging light can create an atmosphere of color. For instance, I make use of a green light and turn it on when I want an eerie (but calm) mood for writing.

M is for Meaning

The meaning behind a writer’s creative decision can range from completely spontaneous (no conscious meaning at all) to being highly thought-out (extremely consciously aware). Character names, appearances, personalities can all be metaphors with meanings behind them. The same can be said for nearly every creative decision possible within fiction writing, including world settings, plot choices, and more.

N is for News

News can sometimes inform stories and characters, but be careful when using news stories for ideas. A lot of news outlets have narratives and agendas, so what you’re looking at is cherry-picked examples of things that’ve happened that a wider range of companies want you to know about. When using news for ideas, it is better to scour obscure references like small-time news presses or historical articles or even fictional/satirical outlets because it should be about sparking creativity in your mind.

O is for Outline

Outlines are an indispensable tool for many writers and some swear that it is impossible to properly write without them. There are many frameworks for outlines and different approaches from beat sheets to overarching plot summaries. Outlines provide the function of seeing a work from a larger picture and catch potential plot holes or errors in characterization from a quick glance. It, also, provides the writer to not have to think so much about creative decisions while writing the actual story because they simply follow an outline they already have set out.

P is for Paragraph

A paragraph should not be forgotten when writing. Paragraphs can range from a single word for the more dramatic of lines to a multi-page soliloquy. Paragraph format tends to depend on the author and what they’re looking to accomplish. Similar to the aspect post I wrote, having variety for paragraphs helps readers stay engaged with the work. There are different suggestions when it comes to formatting a paragraph for narrative versus a paragraph for dialogue, as well. This can be played with by an author to find what works best for the flow of the reader’s eye.

Q is for Quality

What decides quality of literature and stories? Or more… who? It’s often been pointed out that high-quality and best-seller do not go hand-in-hand with one another. The same can be said for traditional publishing and what gets put on bookshelves by the Big Five. There are standards, a certain threshold of quality determined by editors, but top quality is not the top priority when it comes to actually marketing books to the masses. Understanding this can take some pressure off writers who are more perfectionist by nature (ala being me) and allow them to finish work that isn’t perfect quality, but the best that it can be at the time.

R is for Reading

It’s cliché and talked about so very much, but reading is considered a necessity for writers to keep up on the markets and literary techniques. The most important thing about reading as a writer is to maintain awareness when you see something you like in a way that you can deconstruct what is happening and why you like it so much. Being able to deconstruct and reconstruct literary elements can provide an understanding which will be applied to your own writing over time. Reading also happens in the form of research for actual topics (such as history) and genre-exploration when considering entering the market for a specific niche. Just remember to read for fun and enjoyment sometimes and keep a list of authors and genres where you can relax some.

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K is for Knockoff #AtoZChallenge

Originality is a concern of a lot of writers, especially when first starting out. Despite pitches being based on “it’s like X met Y and a little bit of Z”, some writers are terrified to be compared to other works in that way. It’s a worry that they’re just some kind of cheap copy of an idea already perfected by another creator.

There’s a lot of approaches to originality and that can be seen in the distribution of tropes that’ve grown over the years. Thanks to TV-tropes, the understanding of various storytelling techniques seem to be ubiquitous. With the advent of the Internet, writers can’t hide as much behind the ignorance of audiences. With enough will and a strong memory, most elements of stories can be seen in other stories.

Thus, some writers reach the point where they don’t worry about originality of ideas. It’s not about the idea, it’s about the presentation to them. The uniqueness of style and the way that an individual creator develops an idea. However, this relies on the fact(?) that all humans are the expressive conclusions of a mixture of differences… rather than there is the possibility that humans can and do express things in similar ways. It’s a large case study to look at. So people fall to anecdotes to comprehend humans as individuals and of course, they would write differently and make different creative decisions than other individuals!

I don’t know whether that is the case, but I understand that it can seem like that.

Anyways, there are times when people specifically make fun of being a knockoff. Here parodies are born. Parodies are usually meant to be sarcastic knockoffs of another’s creation. What’s interesting about parodies is that there are unique parodies that can be extremely funny, but then there are parodies that use heavy tropes to buy a few cheap laughs. Even in the parody genre, there can be knockoffs.

For people who say that there is no such thing as a knockoff, I beg them to look at the movies in the cheap bin at their nearest big box store (Wal-Mart, etc.). In these bins, one can find the most prime example of a knockoff; Disney clones that seem just a little… erm… off.

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Another easy example is in products. There is almost always a cheap version of a product in every big box store. For makeup, for cereal, for almost everything. So why is literature considered immune from this human tendency?

A writer shouldn’t be paranoid about using similar ideas that’ve been used in the past, especially if the ideas are general like “space war” or “magic school”. However, that doesn’t mean cross-referencing should be forgotten. Being aware of what ideas are within a work is a good way to develop creative decisions, though this is a preference for the individual writer to make.

Don’t aim for being ‘unique’, but do think about the decisions you are making and why they are right for what you are creating. Be wary of taking any idea/name/element for granted.

Personally, I constantly cross-reference. I don’t just check titles, I scour terms and names and more. It takes up a lot of time, but I wouldn’t be suggesting the points above if I didn’t live them myself.

When I encounter a similarity with a greater known work, I make a hard decision whether to keep the name/element/etc. (and be aware of the similarity) or to change it to something less known.

Of course, I don’t expect to be 100% in this process.

There are always going to be (obscure) works that strangely coincide with our own for whatever reason (collective consciousness?), but those type of occurrences can be fun and intriguing! They’re a lot funner when you actually did the work to be aware of parallels with existing works… and some readers can pick up on those otherwise unseen patterns.

I’ve run into more than a few with my works. Some even happened AFTER I started developing a project and I’ve had to choose to change/keep something in the midst of the creation. It isn’t about being unique, but it is about being aware and making choices for the direction of the story’s presentation.

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J is for Journal #AtoZChallenge

Journaling can be such an essential part of the writing process. Whether it’s taking notes every day, every week, or over the course of a month, I keep a specific notebook to pair with a manuscript, world, or story that I’m developing. This is in addition to personal notebook-journals as well.

The benefits of journaling are great, it can provide clarity, a venting space, a spot to collect lists and mind-maps. It’s no secret that private journaling can be therapeutic and offer relaxation, hope, and understanding to the writer. For instance, practicing gratitude affirmations in a diary can reduce anxiety and provide perspective to struggles when they arise.

One of my favorite journaling exercises is collecting quotes that I resonate with, usually at the top of the pages where I write entries.

Having a record of experiences lends to analysis of modes of behavior and how they relate to thought over time. It can be used to find similarities and differences between different states of mind and do what humans do best; discover patterns. Spiritual-minded people tend to wield journaling to track synchronicities, results of spellwork, dream collection, symbol analysis, and more.

The expressive act of deriving mind to literal words is also a freeing act, though one might consider being careful of where to store these journals and perhaps consider burning (or deleting if digital) them eventually… in case they worry if someone might read upon death or imprisonment. Some people journal specifically so their writing will be found in these cases.

Journaling and keeping a diary is also a way to work through traumatic stress and depression. It’s been suggested in studies that continually journaling about emotional or personal topics might benefit the immune system including antibody responses, liver function, lung function, and blood pressure. An interesting correlation is that people who practice journaling can be found to become re-employed sooner after losing jobs, missing fewer days of work, and more. (source)

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I is for Independent #AtoZChallenge

Otherwise known as Indie. This is a broad term that defines indie literature as any book published outside mainstream publishing (especially the Big Houses). Small presses are considered indie publishers if they make under $50 million in annual sales.

While small presses are different from vanity presses and self-publishing could be considered entirely different, it also could be said that all three are under the umbrella of independent work.

Self-publishing is incredibly independent, if not “indie”. Ebook self-publishing isn’t a rarity or an off-chance anymore, not with works like The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey. As Wikipedia says, “the key distinguishing characteristic of self-publishing is that the author has decided to publish independently of a publishing house.”

In 2015, indie-published sales surpassed the “big five” sales.

Times have changed. With the history of self-publishing, one has to wonder if all the assumptions about the act of self-publishing might be false narratives spread by the Big Five to keep control over the means of production when it comes to literature. PR damage control, so to speak.

Self-publishing is now nearly mainstream with many professional services catering to the different aspects of the process (Reedsy, Pronoun, Self-Pub Book Covers, etc.) and it is entirely up to the author how polished or rough their e-book will be.

With unlimited money, an author could outsource every aspect of the book except for the actual writing part (unless they get a ghost-writer, then they really are just an independent publisher!). This can result in an extremely high quality book.

I chose the indie/self-publishing route for a number of personal reasons. It seems the way to go. I’ve never had much of a dream of being published by major houses, though I used to think that was the only way to actually get a book out there. With Amazon and Smashwords and the like, that isn’t the case anymore.

While I don’t have unlimited money, thus forced to performing most of the tasks myself or finding helpers for free; I don’t want to stay that way forever. I plan to have budgets for my novels as soon as possible and spend those budgets accordingly on a team of creatives to bring my work to the highest quality and polish that I can coordinate.

Elements like illustrated book covers and advanced formatting with superior editing, that is my dream.

For now, I have to do what I can with the resources I have… and isn’t that the essence of being independent?

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