New Plan of Attack: Writing Work Days and Beyond!

I haven’t been posting about my writing work days of late. Namely because, in short, I haven’t been writing. I’m not going to list a litany of excuses: I know my mind, I know what’s valid and what isn’t, and I know that some of the time has been spent prepping for actual writing.

But I also have realized that writing one day a week isn’t going to cut it. I need some kind of momentum, even if I’m not writing every day. Today, I came up with a plan of attack:

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Lazy Sundays Are The Best

It’s unseasonably warm today, so I opened the back bedroom door to the deck so Storm Shadow could laze in the sun and stare out the storm door and keep watch over the great outdoors. The weather forecast is calling for stupidly cold temperatures starting tomorrow, which I suspect may wreck havoc with my sinuses, but for now, it’s good to sit back, relax, and enjoy the sun before the work week starts. It’s gonna be a busy week.

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Currently Writing: Codename: Magic Twins
Last night’s word count: 360 words
Total word count: 2,615 words
Not much, but it was still my double-spaced page-a-day, and that’s the goal. Movie lasted a while and I’d had a couple of drinks while watching, and when you’re reducing your calories, alcohol hits harder and faster than what you’re used to. Hopefully, what little I wrote is somewhat coherent.

Currently Reading: Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
I’ve been meaning to read this award-winning book for a very long time, and I only just started. It’s going to be a fast read, which is good, because my next few picks are going to have to focus on books that I think I may want to nominate for the Hugos.

Next up: More laundry! Probably forgoing completing the Batman marathon as the hubby wants to watch football and I want to watch the premiere of Galavant, which looks delightfully fun and ridiculous. I think I’ll have popcorn. Tomorrow the work week starts in earnest, and I have my first physical therapy session of the year. Yay?

Becoming Janus

Happy New Year’s Eve! It’s the time of year to sit down, reflect on what’s gone by, to look forward to the future, and to attempt to mold that future through a resolution or two. It sounds daunting because we’re talking about, yanno, a year, and it sounds daunting because we usually have BIG IDEAS and BIG PLANS for that year, and often, it’s easy to fall off the saddle before January has even wrapped up.

I have some friends who don’t do resolutions. Not just the ones who don’t do resolutions at all, but those who simply have a different approach. My friend Nu Yang names her years: she gives herself a theme and focuses each year to make sure everything she does is supporting that theme. I love that idea. It’s not one I can embrace for myself, because I need more direction, but I love it. However one approaches a new year, if it works, hats off to you!

As for me, it’s time to reflect: what happened, where I am now, and what I hope to maybe accomplish in 2015. If you’re interested, just click the cut. If you’re not, Happy New Year! May your 2015 be better than 2014.

I sure as hell hope mine is.

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The Write Stuff: 2/23/14

Originally, I was going to post when I accomplished something BIG in terms of my writing. Well, there’s not always going to be something BIG every month, and since I want to at least do monthly writing updates, I need to post whether I’ve got something big or not.

When last we left off, I’d sent off Magic Elves [codename] to my beta reader and was waiting on feedback. I’d also sent off my short story to the C.C. Finlay edited edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and I getting ready to work on a short story for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! edition of Lightspeed.

So let’s start there:

1) Got my feedback on Magic Elves and did a brainstorming session with my beta reader about revising. Got some great stuff, and I’m trying to work this into a synopsis/brainstorming guide for revisions. This is something I’m working on for my upcoming workshop, and it’s due March 5th. I started out writing a long, detailed synopsis, and that was just sucking any sort of energy or joy I might’ve had for it, so it’s time to go back to the drawing board. I keep thinking I have enough time, but I don’t: like I said, it’s due March 5th. Between that and taxes, there’s plenty to keep me busy.

2) My short story for F&SF was rejected, and that’s okay. Sure, I was bummed out, but honestly, that’s the best rejection I’ve ever gotten, particularly for that story. It’s a strange piece that straddles the line between fantasy and literary fiction, and I’ve submitted it to both markets. The irony, or funny thing, or whatever, is that both markets always say it isn’t for them and to try the OTHER market. It’s a piece I still love, and I suspect that if I can’t find a home for it, I may end up self-publishing it on my site. That’s a long way off into the future, but it’s something I’m keeping in my back pocket.

Also fascinating was Finlay’s blog post talking about what the submission process was like and what he learned from it. Very interesting: if you’re a writer, you should read this, whether not or you submitted to the Finlay issue of F&SF.

3) I ended up deciding not to submit to Lightspeed magazine. There were lots of reasons: A) the story I ended up deciding on had the serious potential to spiral into a novel, and I knew if I didn’t write it and let it be what it wanted, if I tried to force it into a certain word count, it’d be a crappy story. B) I also didn’t have enough time to get it written, get it out to critiquers, give them enough time to read and respond, and get it back in time to make proper revisions and get it back out. C) The issue was highly competitive. Very few slots were given to previously unpublished stories, and I knew that established authors had a far better chance at those slots than I would, someone who’s not been published, which led me to D) my submission wouldn’t just be considered for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! Issue, but also any issues thereafter. Which meant, really, there was no hurry. I wanted to focus on getting Magic Elves ready to start before I turn to a project that might or might not be a novel. Also, it’ll give me time to E) really get to know Lightspeed as a market. I submitted to the Kickstarter, and for my efforts I’ve got a yearlong subscription to the mag. This will give me plenty of fiction to chew on and figure out whether or not it’s really the right market for my work. And that’s a good thing.

So now that we’ve caught up there, what have I been doing? Well, if you saw yesterday’s post, you know my focus has been shot. I’ve spent part of my time reading Karl Iglesias’ Writing for Emotional Impact. This was homework from my beta reader, so I did that before attempting any work on my synopsis for the revised book. And, as I mentioned before, I’ve made a few stabs, but in truth, I’ve not accomplished much since January 13th. It is what it is: I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’ve got lots to do between now and the end of March, some of it writing-related, some of it not, and the way I figure, I’m just going to go with the flow.

The Write Stuff: 1/13/2014

I figured I could just do a writing update at the end of every month, but where’s the fun in being that predictable? Instead, I think I’ll post when I have something worth saying, such as after I’ve completed SOMETHING, and since the first quarter if this year is going to be full of various projects big and small, I think this is a good way to go about it.

So what’s up in my writing world?

Yesterday, I finished the proofreading/formatting pass of Magic Elves (code name). Here are the stats on that sucker: it took me 309 days in 2012 to write 579 pages, which added up to 132,013 words. That means, on average, I wrote 427.23 words per writing day. Talk about a huge difference between 2012 and 2013, where I averaged 916.77 words per writing day, where it took me 117 days to write 107,262 words on 473 pages in the LB Prequel. That’s a definite improvement, but there are a lot of factors to consider.

1) 2012 marked the first year I got back in the saddle after getting my Master’s in 2008 (and after I finished rewriting Telepathic Soulmates). It wasn’t that I didn’t write AT ALL between 2008 and 2012. I had spurts here and there, but I didn’t finish a thing. So it makes sense that getting back in the saddle took time and effort. I’ll never forget the first day of starting Magic Elves. Staring at the blank screen for what felt like hours, unable to swallow the knot of anxiety in my chest. I’m glad I’ve moved beyond that. That doesn’t mean you won’t catch me staring at a blank screen, or that I don’t get anxiety, but it’s for different reasons, and not the crippling kind.

2) Content: both projects I made up as I went along, but with Magic Elves, it was DEFINITELY a case where I didn’t know what I would do from one day to the next. I had a very basic idea, and then ground out a page per day (roughly). With LB Prequel, I was working in an existing world of my own creation, I knew the characters to a certain extent and was learning more about them, and therefore, I was already invested. It’s funny how, even after re-reading Magic Elves, I still find myself rather distant from the project. I hope that, once I really dig in and focus on what makes the novel cool and interesting, that I’ll be more invested during the rewrite, but there’s something to be said about working on a project that’s your baby (which for me is the world of LB Prequel and Telepathic Soulmates) and an idea that morphs into a project that hasn’t been years and years and years and years in the making.

That being said, both worlds — both projects — have been cannibalized from a fantasy novel I started when I was in college. Magic Elves would be more recognizable to those college readers in that the trappings are very similar. However, the characters of Telepathic Soulmates would be familiar to them too, as well as some of the key cultural THINGS that drive the story, albeit in an SF setting.

At any rate, I’ve sent Magic Elves off to my brainstorming reader. While I’m waiting on her feedback, I’ll be working on a short story for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! issue of Lightspeed Magazine. I’ve got three story candidates in mind, and all of them need some serious revision. That being said, I’m going to browse through the magazine some, get a better feel for what they publish, so that I can determine which of those stories might be the best fit (or determine if I’m barking up the wrong creek and need to churn out something completely new and fresh). Now that I’ve sent off my piece to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, I can focus on this next project, which will be good for me. Already, after re-reading the story I sent off to F & SF, I’m starting to see how my writing style is evolving, and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps, sometime in the near-future, I won’t be working on a novel so much as writing some short fiction, just to see what I can do.

But that’s a musing for another day.

At any rate, it seems that January will be the month where I officially finished writing the discovery draft of the LB Prequel, which I sent off to my daily readers and posted a survey for them to respond to, proofread and adjusted the formatting of the discovery draft of Magic Elves and sent it off to my brainstorming reader, and then posted a short story to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, of which I’ll get a response hopefully no later than February. No, I’m not telling you the name of the story or what it’s about or even its specific spec-fic genre. I’m kind of superstitious about that, for some reason. But when I get a response, I’ll let you know how it shakes out, okay?

January isn’t over yet, obviously. I have an SF short to get into shape, get feedback on, and get out by February 14th. And by then, I hope to have my feedback, erm, back for Magic Elves, wherein I’ll start working out a synopsis for the rewrite.

I think I can count all of this as a win, no?

On Writing: 2013 Wrap-Up and 2014 Outlook

In my 2013 Reflection post, I talked a little bit about what I was writing in 2013 and my vague plans for 2014. I want to talk more in detail here, and give a kind of outline for 2014 and what I want to accomplish.

2013 marks the second year in a row where I sat down and completed a novel from start to finish. Not a rewrite, not a revision. A zero-draft. A make-it-up-as-you-go-along draft. A crap draft. A dogfood draft. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the draft where you have an idea and want to explore it and see where it takes you. No pressure, no outlines, no real deadlines, just the need to sit down and prove it can be written. In 2012 that zero-draft was Magic Elves (codename). 2013 was the LB Prequel (I don’t even have a real title for this project, but it’s a prequel to Telepathic Soulmates). I didn’t QUITE finish LB Prequel in 2013. I did spend a good chunk of New Year’s Eve pounding out 33 pages, getting me through the major climax and turning points of the novel. I thought, afterwards, I’d only have two scenes left to wrap up the book, but when I sat down on New Year’s Day, I realized I was very much mistaken, and it took me all afternoon/evening to write 21 pages. A lot of that time was spent staring at the screen, trying to figure out just what the right note was to end the book on. It’s a different sort of ending for me. All of my novels (three to date) have bittersweet endings of sorts, but this one is happier than the other two (though my daily readers might disagree with that once they see what I did in the climax), which is a nice difference. I made a conscious effort not to do certain things in this particular ending, and I think I’m growing a bit, even if the bare bones of the zero-drafts still need a lot of work.

That being said, considering I started the LB Prequel thinking it’d be a novella and a straight up romance at that (SF romance, mind you, but primarily romance), this project turned into something quite different, something much bigger. It’s still a romance, and it’s still set in the SF world established in Telepathic Soulmates, but calling the story SF might be charitable. Let’s go with soft/social SFR, how’s that?

Yet I have to give myself some props: for Magic Elves, I basically wrote for 309 days to complete the zero-draft. I can’t tell you how many pages it is or how many words it is as I’m still compiling a full manuscript from my daily pages (stupid me not doing that as I went along; consider that lesson learned), but the goal was a page a day for a full year.

With the LB Prequel, it took me 117 days to write 107,262 words, which averages 916.77 words per day (and by per day, I mean per writing day). That is the fastest I’ve ever written a zero-draft, I’m pretty sure. I’d have to go look at the zero-draft of Telepathic Soulmates to be certain, but considering how long it took me to get to the point where I could even churn out a zero-draft without starting over? I’ve come a LONG way, baby, and I think this paragraph alone is a testament of why it’s important to have projects, to have some kind of daily goal, to have some kind of structure. Because even if you tell yourself you’re writing crappy, zero-drafts that will need a shit-ton of work and should never see the light of day until said shit-ton of work is finished, you’re still teaching yourself how to be a writer.

For me, it’s learning that unless I’m taking a vacation/sick/mental-health/drinking-too-much day (aka, take the night off), I need to head to my office around 9:00-9:30 pm, sit down, and start writing until it’s bedtime (and since I work a full 40 hours a week, that means going to bed before midnight on most days). In 2012, it was a page-a-day of Magic Elves. In 2013, it was progress in LB Prequel. My unconscious minimum was always at least a single, double-spaced page, but for the LB Prequel, I often wrote far more than that. Maybe I shouldn’t be so proud that it took me less than half a year to write it, because I was familiar with the world and the characters, and so what I was discovering wasn’t coming from the ground up. But whatever: the LB Prequel had a lot of surprises for me, some outright delightful ones in terms of plotting and character and motivation, so even though it needs a lot of work before I’d ever consider submitting it, I’m pretty happy with what I was able to do. I’m pretty happy with the habits that I’m instilling in myself as a writer.

What have I learned? That I’m happiest when I dedicate myself to a specific project for a set amount of time (beyond REASONABLE set amount of time, mind you). That I’m pretty much a night-writer, with exception of coming right up on my self-imposed deadlines, in which case I can plunk myself in front of a computer and write my ass off. You’d think these lessons would’ve been learned and instilled in my during my 2.5 years at my Master’s program, but there were other factors demanding my attention there, so I’m not surprised it’s taken me doing this on my own (with the help and encouragement of my daily readers, as I would literally be wallowing in self-hatred without them) to learn these lessons.

So with that in mind, what’s in store of 2014?

Yesterday, I sent a survey to my daily readers to fill out once they finish reading LB Prequel. Because while I have no intention on revising this beast this year, I do want those comments handy for the day when I do sit down and whip the sucker into shape. I wish I’d done it with Magic Elves, because 2014 is the year I plan on whipping Magic Elves into shape. The plan is to compile all those daily pages into a single, full manuscript, read the sucker and take notes (and hate myself and how bad and awful it is), and then write a synopsis as it stands. A long, detailed synopsis. Which will be critiqued by a highly intelligent and awesome group of writer friends and colleagues, and then using that feedback, and all of my notes, I’ll brainstorm the bastard with one of my daily readers and come up with an official outline for revision. It’s a funny thing, outlines: I’ve learned I can’t use them for zero-drafts. If I do, I drive myself crazy and fall out of love with the story. So essentially, the zero-draft is my discovery draft. But once that’s done and I can see the shape and potential of it? Outline all the way, baby.

The brainstorming session will happen end of March, early April. Which means from early April on, I’ll be rewriting Magic Elves (unless something new and shiny distracts me. I should always allow for the possibility of distraction when it comes to cool new ideas). I suppose the deadline to finish that rewrite will be the end of 2014, but I think I’ll wait to make any promises until I see what the rewrite will entail. I may need a shorter period. I may need a longer one.

Until then, I plan on using my evening writing time to focus on submitting short fiction for both the Charles Coleman Finlay guest-edited issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (deadline for submissions January 14), and the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of Lightspeed Magazine (deadline February 14th). Once those deadlines are passed, I should be working hard on that synopsis, the crafting of which will take me to my March/April brainstorming session.

So that’s that. Plans are subject to change, of course, and while I’m not currently working on a new novel, I may designate some of these night-writing times for blogging, because I’d like to do more of it this calendar year, but I’m not going to make any goals or resolutions for that. Writing fiction is the priority. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

A Year in Reflection: 2013

Every year, I struggle to believe that it’s already over. I remember when I was a child, when my year was structured into definitive patterns: school, break, vacation, etc. Now the months just slide on by, because every day of every month is marked with more of the same. Work, eat, sleep, repeat. When I was compiling addresses for Christmas cards this year, I always felt at a loss when people asked what I’ve been up to lately, because for me, the answer is, the same old thing. I don’t look at my life as anything interesting or exciting, and as a result, when people ask what’s up, all I do is shrug, you know?

I realized, a few days ago, that such a response is somewhat disingenuous of me. Because while my life is not filled with the crazy ups and downs (we don’t have kids, we’re not having marital difficulty, we’ve not moved or had major job upheavals, etc), there are things I should be really, really proud of this year, things that are worth talking about. So I thought I’d share them here, with you.

1) I retired the book blog. It was a bittersweet event, but one I knew needed to happen, because it was a major source of anxiety for me, and I found I was getting more and more jaded by the books I read, rather than simply enjoying them for what they were. Looking back, I’m very proud of all the work I did there and the community I fostered, but I don’t regret closing it. I can’t believe I found the time to read so much or write so many reviews. But that’s because I’ve filled that time with other things.

2) I’m slowly getting over my cooking-phobia. It’s a running joke in mine and my husband’s families: I don’t cook. I can do a few things, sure, but any more than those few things I’m likely to screw up somehow (like the time I put the Hot Pocket in the microwave without its cooking sleeve). My husband and I have a handful of things we argue about, and cooking is one of them. However, ever since I discovered the Andes Mint Cookie recipe, I’ve been starting to branch out and getting a wee bit more comfortable in the kitchen. Mostly cookies, and cake-mix cookies at that. However, I’ve also tried a few glazes for salmon, and of the meals we usually make, I started helping out more and have gradually gotten to the point where, if need be, I can do it myself. I know I need to branch out even more, but this year’s been a good step.

3) I’ve actually developed an exercise regimen and I’ve stuck to it. Mostly. The spring got me walking again, and my employer’s walking initiative kicked my motivation into competitive mode so that I can reach and pass 10,000 steps a day. Not only did that get me walking daily, but it also got me on the elliptical every morning before work for 30 minutes. The walking initiative is over, and with the time change and colder weather, walking is on the back-burner until the weather warms up again, but I’ve kept up the elliptical, which is something of an amazing accomplishment for me. I’d like to find something to complement it next year, and that’s going to take some digging, but working out on a regular basis has been an amazing thing, not because I love exercise or anything, but because I’ve kept it up (we won’t talk about the recent holiday gorging on sweets or the days I’ve been skipping due to my cold, no sir).

4) While I can’t talk specifics, we reached a great milestone at work, and as a result, I was treated to an all-expense paid trip to St. Louis to visit headquarters and attend some fantastic sessions to keep upping my game at work and sessions that I could also apply to my own personal life in terms of, well, just being better. Learning how to undo negative thinking and trying to take more positive routes isn’t something that’s done overnight, but trying to take the more positive route in my head instead of the negative one has been really helpful and uplifting. I find myself more cheerful and less stressed. That doesn’t mean NO stress. I’ve had a few late nights at work where it felt like everything was piling up on me, but the difference is before, I would’ve gone home with a migraine, and now I’m not. This is something I’m still working on, but that trip to St. Louis taught me a lot about myself and my job and what I want to accomplish, and that’s a good thing.

5) This is more nebulous, but I realized I’ve got to stop compartmentalizing my life. I’ve always treated my life like a little kid treats their dinner plate: things must not touch! So I had college friends in one box, writing friends in another, family in another, my interests in a billion different ones, and so on and so forth. Do you know how draining it is trying to be one person for each of things things, rather than embracing it all and saying if you don’t like it, fuck it? Seriously. Growing up, I groomed myself to be the kind of person that is accommodating and to be what other people want and expect. And to some extent, that’s a good trait to have (especially when you work with the public on any level), but everywhere else, it’s exhausting. I shouldn’t be apologetic for my interests, no matter how disparate they appear, and I need to stop living in the mind set of “One day, when I grow up, life will be THIS.” Fuck that. I’m 33 years old and living life NOW. What, exactly, am I waiting for? It’s time to take who and what I am and take the cards life’s given me and play the best hand possible, rather than waiting on the magical winning hand that’ll give me the ever-elusive jackpot. And on that note:

6) Like Minute Maid’s slogan says, “Put good in, get good out.” Where I live often gives me a crushing feeling of isolation. None of the people I would call good friends or even best friends are local, and all the writing events or readings I would love to attend aren’t even remotely local, which means in order to visit the people I love, or attend the events I want to, I need to travel, which costs vacation time and money, both of which are not limitless. As a result, I’d find myself feeling bruised and chafed when friends would talk about things they did on Facebook, things I would’ve loved to do but I wasn’t able to (or wasn’t invited). But I realized: what do I expect? I’m not reaching out to these people, I’m not making my interests or wants or desires known. I’ve let my relationships go stagnant, so how can I expect them to include me when I’m probably just an occasional reminder on a Facebook page? I have to start putting myself out there. I have to start re-cultivating these relationships. I have to stop looking at my local friendships as less superior and embrace the time I have with these people, because while I am an introvert by nature, I require a healthy dose of social interaction. In person, online, whatever: put good in, get good out. Time to stop looking in and start looking out.

7) Part of that “put good in, get good out” philosophy is something I’m attributing to myself as a writer. Last year, I finished the crap-draft of a fantasy novel that, in 2014, I’m going to sit down and really hammer into shape. But for 2013, I’m close to finishing a prequel novel to my thesis novel (code name Telepathic Soulmates for those of you who are following up on that). The prequel wasn’t originally going to be an actual novel, but it’s kind of turned into that. I would kill to have it done by the end of the year, but that means I probably shouldn’t be writing this blog post, because I’ve got a decent chunk to churn out if I want to meet that deadline. Regardless, I’ve been happy with my progress this year. I’m starting to take myself a little more seriously as a writer, and I’m trying to look ahead about what I want to accomplish, when I want to accomplish it, and how. The Telepathic Soulmates world is a big one, and I realize it’s not something I want to rush out, because I’m still making discoveries that are molding and shaping the world and its characters. That’s why I’m going to polish the fantasy novel (code name: Magic Elves) next year so that I’ll have something to shop around that isn’t my precious, you know? Also helping shape my writerly frame of mind is the weekly podcast Writing Excuses (15 minutes, because you’re in a hurry, and they’re not that smart–>that’s their slogan. If that doesn’t make you want to listen to the podcast, I don’t know what will). If you’re a writer of any sort (hobby, amateur, want-to-be-professional, whatever), start listening to this puppy. It’s free, and it’s worth it.

8) On December 30th, my husband and I will celebrate our 15 year Together anniversary, and our 5 year wedding anniversary. That’s right: we got married on our ten year dating anniversary. The plan, provided this cold I’m fighting doesn’t get in the way, to go to our favorite fancy-pants restaurant and enjoy good food and good drinks. But 15 years together without killing each other is an amazing thing, and hell, so is five years married. We’ve got each other, and we’ve got the cat. Things are good.

9) I got off the pill. Women know of what I speak. While the hubby and I aren’t trying to have children, being on the pill for so long was doing things to my hormone levels that frankly wasn’t good for me mentally. I’ve been off the pill since June, and that, combined with the exercise and various tweaks I’m making to my diet, have me feeling far, far better, which makes everyone happy.

10) No list is complete without 10 items, right? So last but not least, I’m trying to be more decisive. It’s not that I wasn’t before, but you remember what I said about being accommodating? It’s a bad thing when you’re doing it all the time, or when you think your wants aren’t as important, or you feel like you shouldn’t have the things you want for whatever reason (but namely reasons that are all in your head and involve you punishing yourself). So to that affect, I’ve been trying to be a bit more assertive in the little things: if I want something (for dinner, to listen to on a car ride, to watch a particular movie), I say so. If I definitely don’t want something, I say so. It doesn’t mean I get my way every time, but at least I’m making a clear declaration, you know?

BONUS ITEM: I served on a jury for the first time this year, on a murder trial no less. It was fascinating, and if you missed my break down, you can read all about it here.

That’s my 2013. There were other minor ups and downs, but nothing to expound upon here (though I could put up a post from my cat’s point of view of the year. That would be mighty entertaining). I’ll probably try and put up a post about what I hope for 2014 or what I look forward to, but that’s gonna have to wait. Right now, I’ve got laundry to do, reading to do, and a book to finish writing.

How was your 2013? What was your biggest accomplishment? Any regrets? Things that you want to make better?

Challenge Me

I’ve been thinking about writing. A lot. And by thinking, I’m not talking about, “Oh, I think I should go write,” and then I don’t do it and/or feel like I can’t. That’s writer’s block, to a point, and I’m rather well-researched in that (in fact, I taught a class on it). Rather, I’ve been thinking about the act of writing, and what’s going on in my head/life that isn’t giving me the gas I need to actually write. I’ve come up with a lot of interesting conclusions, but those conclusions are for a separate post.

Today I’ve been emailing with a friend of mine who is doing a final read on Telepathic Soulmates* before I lay into the manuscript and polish it into a diamond. We’ve been talking about my work from a more thematic standpoint, and it’s quite an interesting discussion, especially since she’s very familiar with the current as well as previous drafts of Telepathic Soulmates as well as my most recently completed novel Magic Elves. And I can’t tell you why I realized the following, but it was an epiphany of sorts, and I think I know what I need to start a new project.

Because having a wicked cool idea isn’t enough to make me write. Some people write to see how the wicked cool idea plays out. I just play it out in my head. So scratch that for inspiration.

The idea of having my work published and in the hands of readers is also not enough to inspire me. In fact, it does quite the opposite, for reasons I’ll talk about in a future post.

No, what keeps me going, what makes me write and stick to it come hell or high water, kicking and screaming, is a challenge.

Challenge #1: Actually finish writing a book (this applies to the first completed draft of Telepathic Soulmates).
Challenge #2: Rewrite and finish and improve Telepathic Soulmates so I could get my Masters (done, with the student debt to prove it!).
Challenge #3: Write a page-a-day and complete a novel in a calendar year (done! With Magic Elves. It needs a complete rewrite, but it’s done!).

Realizing this, I kind of sat back at work and asked, “What’s next?”

Idea challenges don’t work for me: cool ideas are just that: cool ideas. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t keep me writing.

Publishing goals don’t work either: it also won’t produce a new novel. Rather, said goals (sending manuscript out to agents, etc) are cleaning up old writing, not producing new.

So I’m pondering. Those of you who know me and personally know my work are, admittedly, at a better advantage to know what makes me tick and what might be a solid goal that’ll get me working on a new novel. Because once I meet a goal, I just can’t do it again. The point of a challenge is to find out if you can do it, and once you’ve done it, it’s not a challenge anymore, is it?

But whether or not you know me, I’m open to suggestions. The challenges listed above that resulted in complete novels (and trust me, if you were to see the first draft of Telepathic Soulmates, you’d understand why I count three completed novels under my belt rather than just two. When I rewrite, I eviscerate!) aren’t exactly ground-breaking or super-ambitious, but they were what I needed to write and keep writing.

So share with me: what are the challenges you’re working on in your own fiction? What gets you writing? And what could my next challenge be?

* = a reminder: all titles listed on this blog are code names for the real titles. I explain why here. Because that’s how I roll.

Progress Report: 3/3/2013

So I promised my two readers that I would start some sort of project in March. I decided on Space Vampires. Unlike last year, where I was writing Magic Eaters by the seat of my pants and sending them at least a page daily, I’m going for a more prepared focus. Instead of a page-a-day, I’m going to send them chapters. Ideally, I’d like to do a chapter a week at minimum, so we’ll see how it goes.

Every Sunday, I’ll do my best to post some kind of progress report on whatever writing-related activities I’m doing.

Project: Space Vampires
Word Count: 1,545 words
Completed: started the prologue on Friday, finished on Saturday, but let it sit before sending it out. Was in a hurry on Saturday to write, and thinking things over is a good thing: a minor, technical detail that was alluding me on Saturday became clear, so I was able to iron out a few things before sending it to my readers.

And that’s that! Hopefully, this coming week will have more to talk about, perhaps even on multiple projects!

You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours…

In 2012, I got back on the writing saddle. Independent of one another (they didn’t even KNOW each other), two friends of mine challenged me to write a page-a-day to get back on track. Jen, the first person who approached me, did it out of love: she’s been a fabulous voice in the past when it came to giving me feedback, and she really wanted to see me put my work out there. The page-a-day project was something she’d done the year before, and she knew how beneficial it could be. Alicia, the second friend, was also wanting to get back into the writing saddle, and she wanted a partner in crime. I figured, hey, two people are basically feeding me the same idea, so I should take them up on it. So I did. Magic Elves was the result.

Every night, I uploaded my page (or two) to Google Docs, which allowed both Jen and Alicia to read at their leisure and cheer me on. It was a very informal process: Jen knew that in order to get me back in the saddle, I couldn’t take what I was writing too seriously, so the rule was general support in terms of feedback, to show that they were reading. It morphed into something else over the year, though: they were able to ask questions about what was happening and draw my attention to things I might’ve forgotten about. They also became a sounding board for ideas. It was mightily useful.

Alicia had her own project, so what she did for me, I did for her. Jen, however, was on a different playing field, sending out queries for her YA fantasy World Maker and hoping an agent would bite. Fortunately, one did, and last weekend, I spent my time reading her “getting-it-ready-for-an-editor” draft. I’d only read the first chapter of the project before, and the premise interested me enough that I was curious to see what the book was about (spoiler alert: it’s awesome. It beats the pants of a lot of published YA that came out last year).

Here’s the thing: Jen is one of those people that I’ll read anything for. She’s been a tremendously huge support for me and my writing, and better still, I really love reading her fiction. That she’s not published yet makes me want to cry, so I really, really hope it happens for her.

This sentiment of “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine,” is what I want to talk about when it comes to critiquing, because believe me, just because someone’s willing to read your work and vise-versa doesn’t mean it’s going to be a pleasant experience on either side. Continue reading