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.

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.

Tree Branches, Clem Onojeghuo

So I Had a Bad Week

Last week was a really hard week for me.

I got sick for the second time in a month. While it wasn’t the awful flu that took me out a few days while on vacation in Walt Disney World, it was still not much better. An acute upper respiratory infection plus two ear infections. I’ve never had a cough this bad before that I can remember. It’s all-encompassing and worse when I sit up which made sitting and concentrating at a desk all week incredibly difficult.

I took off work Tuesday and left early on Wednesday. I made it through all of Thursday, just barely, and my emotional well-being deteriorated due to some things that happened at work that I wish I could go into but have done so privately enough to keep myself from doing so in a public forum. I went to urgent care where I got my diagnosis, four medications, and a doctor’s note to miss again on Friday. Then I went to sleep.

Despite being off work on Friday, I still took care of some things at home because I care about my job, knew I left some things open, and because I’m good at my job. But that apparently wasn’t enough and I had a minor breakdown about my job late Friday night into early Saturday morning that only succeeded in making me even sicker.

Sometimes there are things that you can’t control in the moment. I can’t control my job right now. I love my job. I love where I work. There are just some aspects about it that are making it difficult to remember all the things I love about it. I don’t want to look for another job. It’s an additional stress I don’t want in my life right now. Right now I’ve marked that the part of my life that is my job – a bit part considering that working 40 hours a week is pretty much the overarching feature of my job for the majority I’m awake – isn’t controllable at the moment. I can’t immediately change or fix or better that situation.

So my sickness, low moments, and frustration forced me to ask, what can I control right now?
Continue reading →

Bricks, Seref Yucar

I hit a brick wall

It comes and goes but most of the time I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. I’m stuck. The story is there but it won’t come out. I try to force it and nothing happens. Write, I say. Just write. Whatever comes out, let it out. Just let the words come out even if they are awful and nonsensical and don’t get me anywhere.

The worst of it is, I know where I want this novel to go. I have it planned out. I have a very loose outline that tells me that, barring any unforeseen character actions, I have 10 scenes left to write at about 1,500 words each. That’s 15,000 words which puts me at my ultimate word count goal of about 75,000 words. I wrote 50,000 words in one month last November and I can’t write 15,000 words right now.

Maybe I’m looking at it too clinically. Maybe I’m being too pragmatic. As I’ve said before, I’ve never been the type of writer to outline. Outlines make me feel claustrophobic, boxed in. Outlines kill my writing. That’s what I did here, I know it. But I thought I had to. I want to finish this book. I thought if I just gave myself a deadline – March 31 according to my day planner – then I’d be able to complete the draft. I need to complete this draft.

I’m tired of feeling stuck. Stuck not only in my writing but in my life. I know that plans don’t ever go the way we anticipate them to, but I guess I thought I’d be published by now. I thought that I’d have an agent and a book deal and a book on the shelves at the local bookstore and library. I’m tired of writing and failing again and again.
Continue reading →

Frosted Leaf, Aaron Burden

Editing: the re-read

The first step with any edit is to re-read everything you’ve already written.

I tend to go through a lot of varying emotions during that initial re-read.

It’s an ominous start because while I remember writing, I always have a feeling that the writing is crap. I don’t know what I’m getting into as I open it up and start on page one. Will this be awful? Will I have to toss it all and start over? Will I be surprised that it isn’t awful? Will I never want to write again?

Going into this re-read, I knew what to expect: the first half of what I wrote in November is really solid. The second half? Not so much. However, I was still surprised at just how solid that first half is. Sure, it’s wordy – I was trying to write 50K words in a month, after all – and slightly repetitive, but you know what? It’s really good. Like, really good. Like, even though I wrote it and knew what was happening, I still felt like it’s a page-turner and felt invested in the characters and the story. In fact, re-reading it is fueling my drive to want to finish it.

During a re-read, I do minor editing. Mostly for my typos and awkward word choices and unnecessary sentences or words. In the first half, I ended up cutting a lot that just didn’t need to be there anymore. However, I didn’t see any major edits that I need to do. I could probably add another scene or two, but I don’t want to add a scene just to up the word count. It needs to make sense and move the story along and right now, I’m not sure what that would be.

Then I got to the second half of what I have written.
Continue reading →