Butterfly & flower, zhangkaiyv

Writing over the last month

I tried something new that lasted just over half of August. I woke up half an hour earlier than usual and, after getting ready for work, I wrote for 15-20 minutes before I left. Over the 19 days that I sustained it, I averaged 230 words per day, never wrote less than 100 words a day, and hit 4,368 words. Before the end of the month, I wrote on one more day, in order to finish a short story that I had promised to send to my writing group for critique, so my monthly grand total was 5,076 words. That’s pretty much a 100% increase in writing totals over the 3-4 months prior to August.

In total, I wrote 7 poems (yes, poems, me!) and a complete short story. I’m hoping to spend some time revising those pieces before I find somewhere to submit them.

That’s the other thing I’ve focused on over the last month and a half. I started submitting short fiction to places with both online and print offerings. I’d done it now and again before, in particular with all of the big science-fiction magazines, to no success. (Not that I’m surprised – I didn’t expect to get accepted somewhere like that, though when the first one returned with a personal rejection explaining their disappointment in the ending, I did think changing the ending and submitting elsewhere might bring about an acceptance. Alas, it did not.) I pay for duotrope and was rarely using it, so I’m trying to get better about it.

I have several submissions out, and I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful because – and here’s the great news to share! – I had a piece of flash fiction accepted at Ghost Parachute!! It will be in the October issue, which is out October 1. I have to admit that when I received the email, I expected another rejection. How excited and, well, elated was I to see that it was, in fact, an acceptance! Ghost Parachute features a new piece of artwork for each story and I can’t wait to see what they were inspired by with my piece.

Additionally, while I don’t query agents with much regularity anymore, I do send one off when I see an agent with a #MSWL or something else that I believe fits really well with one of my projects. (Of course, I’ve had agents say specifically that they “would love a summer camp romance,” sent them The Rules of Summer Camp, and received a form “this isn’t for me” rejection, so I don’t usually have much faith in #MSWL asks.) But an agent whom I really like posted recently about “geeky hobbies” in an ask, so I sent First to Find off to her and she requested a full! I’m excited to have her read it and need to tell myself continually to be optimistic and hopeful, since over the last few years my mood with regards to finding an agent has been rather nihilistic. It feels good to have a request like that after so many query form rejections.

All this to say that after months, many months, of feeling defeated and uninterested when it comes to writing (not that that’s been eliminated from my brain and life entirely), I’m feeling better about what I can do, what I’ve done, and have hope for what I will do.

Big Ben, London | Grzegorz Mleczek

I want to be brave

I consider myself brave, but I don’t know if that’s entirely true. There are too many things that I hold back from doing to be truly brave.

If I were brave, I would take chances when I don’t know the outcome. Or I wouldn’t hold myself back from doing something I want to do just because it’s not an ideal situation. Or because I’m not sure about cost. Or because I’m worried. Or because I’d probably be doing this alone. Or any number of other things.

Sometimes I play around on Google Flights. I found a really good flight deal to London for several dates this fall. I hesitated. Could I buy a flight, go to London, plan a trip? Could I do this on my own? Do I have enough money, vacation time, will to do this?

Other people travel all the time. I see my friends on Snapchat, instagram, Facebook – traveling alone, visiting a place for a second (or third) time. And every time I ask myself, why aren’t I doing this? Why am I stuck in a rut? Why haven’t I been out of the country in years? Why can’t I even just take a long weekend and drive to Canada and eat some food and relax and enjoy myself in a new place?
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Flame, urbex clan

On not finishing this year’s novel writing month

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I struggled to write the 800 or so words that I needed to reach 40K on my NaNoWRiMo novel. I was already behind, unable to make my word count every day for a week, at least. I tried to use weekends to double or triple my word count, and for a while that was working. I started the month ahead of the game. I hit the halfway mark earlier than I thought I would. The words were flowing easily. The story was interesting. I was finally getting back into the groove of writing on a daily basis. And then – nothing. That week of forcing the words. Of opening my notebook or the document on my computer and then finding anything else to do except write.

I decided a week ago that I wasn’t going to keep working on this after November 30. Maybe it was too early to make that decision. Maybe it still is too early. Maybe I need to set it aside and wait until I want to write instead of forcing myself to write. It’s an interesting novel. I have no idea where it’s going. Of the three voices I’m following, two are easy. The third is where I can pinpoint this month’s failure germinating. I chose to try the third voice, follow that third character around for a while. I hated it. Those were the two days when I struggled the most, and since then, even picking up with one of the other characters, it hasn’t been any better.

Honestly, the thought of writing 10K words in the next 5 days (that’s only 2K words a day and not impossible at all), makes me want to cry. I hate that. Because I hate giving up. I want to get to 50K and be “successful” at NaNoWRiMo. Not that writing 50K words in a month is the only measure of success. It’s not. I’ve done it before just fine. This was just an excuse to get back into writing. It was an excuse to push myself into doing something I haven’t felt inclined to do in a while. At the beginning, it felt good. Now, it doesn’t.
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Tree, Buzz Andersen

Another novel in a month?

I decided quite abruptly that I’ll be attempting NaNoWRiMo again this year. That means 50K words in a month. All right, so I’ve been successful before. Great. I can do it again, right?

Easier said than done, of course. For instance, this year, I don’t have any ideas for a novel. Actually, that’s a lie. I have a lot of novel ideas, however they are all for YA novels and at the moment, I am done thinking about YA novels. I want to try writing literary fiction. I simply have no idea how to do that.

What do I have? A title and a cover.

Yes, I created a cover for a book that only has a title, but that’s because the NaNo website claims that participants have a better shot of “winning” (writing 50K words in the month of November) if they upload a cover to the website. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I like designing book covers, so that’s what I did. Honestly, the cover is beautiful. I’d pick up that book and give it a read without knowing what it was about, wouldn’t you?

So I have a few weeks to come up with some kind of plot. I have a few tendrils of one sliding around, but nothing concrete. Nothing that might jump-start 50K words in 30 days. I have a story line that I’ve wanted to explore for a while. I have another story line that could be interesting and tie in to the first. And I have a third story line to tie in as well.

However, I’m not certain narrator-wise how to deal with it. I’m leaning to third-person narration, somewhat limited. But I don’t want just to have three characters without any connections, unless the connection comes through the story lines. I was thinking of using three sisters, but that won’t necessarily work. And I also don’t have sisters. Which isn’t a huge problem, but there are also a lot of sisters books out there written by women who have sisters. But I want it to be women-focused.

I guess I have more than a few tendrils. I guess I just need to take those tendrils and figure out the whatever that they are all a part of. I guess I just need to write.

Lost Trail, Jaxon Stevens

Now that I’ve lost my way

I’m not writing (much of anything). I don’t even want to. Both the idea of revising my latest novel and starting something new makes my stomach twist. It makes me lightheaded and weary. The very thought causes my palms to sweat and my head to ache. The sight of a blank page, paper or computer screen, turns me off. Stringing even these words together is ten times more difficult than it has ever been for me before.

I could go on and on about what writing means to me, about how people tell me that being a writer doesn’t mean being published, that some writers never get published, that I ought to just write for fun, that I should – I should – I should love writing for writing’s sake.

I don’t. I want to be published. I want a book on the library shelf and the bookstore shelf. I could do that. I have the skill set to self publish. I wouldn’t make any money but it would look good. I could probably even market it a little bit, get a few people to buy it, to read it. But I don’t want to do that.

I want validation. And I’m not talking about from friends and family. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to connect with an agent, then an editor, then a sales team, then a marketing team – to have a group of people I don’t know rally behind my writing. It’s not unreasonable because there are thousands of people who have that happen to them all the time. I’m just not one of them.

I wish I could say that I was okay with that. I wish I could say that I just love writing so much that it doesn’t matter if people ever read it. That it doesn’t matter if all my stories and novels remain on my hard drive for the rest of my life. I envy people who write for themselves. If I could change that about myself, I would. But I can’t.

And the very fact that it’s out of my control (and don’t tell me that “it’ll happen next time” or “just keep writing” or “you just need to write another novel”) is maddening. It has sucked all the joy I have ever felt at writing right out of me.