Published in Daily Science Fiction

My story Time Monkeys and the Fullness of Glasses is up. Daily Science Fiction is fantastic and free – I’m so  happy this story found a home there.

 

Improving the Craft

FMWriters is traveling the web via the Merry Go Round Blog Tour. Site members have grouped together to write monthly on themed topics and turn the blog tour concept on its head: we’re not the ones touring: you are, as you read one writer’s perspective after another. This is my contribution to the Merry Go Round Tour. Enjoy your ride. ~ Dawn

In my mind, there are three ways to improve one’s craft, and I actively participate in all three, sometimes over-indulging on one form over the others for a perspective change. There’s input, output, and one-step-removed analysis.

Input Phase: this is research and reading, but it’s also absorption of anything that can and may be used in writing. Vacationing can be input if you pay attention to details. My daughter and I went on vacation last summer and I set out with a goal of coming home with a story idea if not a story itself. So I kept my eyes and ears and all my other senses open while relaxing. And one evening it hit me. The balcony door was open, the breeze streaming in, and after a few too many kicks to the kidney from my sleeping seven year old, I stepped out onto the balcony. I was rewarded with a gorgeously dark view of the island that I couldn’t see during the day – and immediately I had a title. A story sprang forth from that. And this isn’t waiting for inspiration – I’d been feeding my brain all these details all week – and it seized upon what was different and unique.

Output Phase: Practicing my skill is necessary. Writing requires brain muscle to be exercised. I try to vary what I work on between genres, lengths, and characters. May is a short story output month. June through August is short story revision. November is for novellas. September through December is usually novel work. By focusing on one particular aspect of writing, those skills experience improvements. I don’t abandon other forms of writing during these times – they just aren’t my primary focus. In any given August, I may write a flash and a short story while revising two others.

One-Step-Removed Analysis Phase: Critiquing. Whether it’s a short story or a novel or something in between, critiquing activates the editor in my brain and looking at an unpublished piece of fiction gives me the distance to discern what isn’t working or weaknesses and strengths of the writing itself. It helps me understand what bumps there are, and like my annual glasses prescription change, reveals quirks I may be using in my own writing. Another benefit here is that when you end up trading stories, this person does the same for you and can point out what’s not working in your writing that you were unable to see yourself.

The bottom line is that if you want to improve (I do!), you have to use the skill. It doesn’t have to be the same skill every day. Variety is good – but use it. I’ve taken writing breaks twice in my life (new baby phase – it’s like going into survival mode) – and each time I felt rusty upon my return and had to work hard to get back to my pre-baby skill level. But I did and moved on past that. I’ve seen massive improvements in my writing over the years. I can tell because I have stories I’m now abandoning because there’s too much to fix without rewriting the entire piece. Instead, I have new stories, better stories to work on, all because I’m putting the time in.

Time is another consideration. It’s one of those “quality, not quantity” creatures. With my schedule (kids, work, karate), I get my lunch break at work and then about an hour each evening, sometimes two if I stay up too late. Every little bit goes a long way.

Is my approach working? One indicator is being published tomorrow in Daily Science Fiction. Work hard, play hard, and the rewards will come. I’m just starting to see them, I’m still working hard, and plan on doing so until I can’t anymore. :)

Dawn

Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic, Improving the Craft “. If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read about their ideas, then check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour..

Writing Update

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve pushed myself extra on the writing and started scaling back a little on the social media, but I need to keep up with you guys, so here’s the deal. May was awesome for short stories! Work and family needed me more involved, so I had to abandon Dawn World and return to real life a bit sooner than I preferred. But I wrote 13 stories in May – the most I’ve ever written for a SAD before. Most of them were around 1k words, but they’re complete stories! About 10 or 11 of these are salvageable. With a little more detail and some polish, I’ll be submitting them soon.

How about some annual stats?

  • Short Story Writing: 18
  • Short Story Edits: 15
  • Short Story Submissions: 56
  • New Submissions: 5
  • Crits: 4
  • Book Reading: 6
  • Rejections: 54
  • Acceptances: 1 (Daily Science Fiction)

Yes! My latest short story will be appearing in Daily Science Fiction on June 10th. Subscribe for emails (free!) at http://www.dailysciencefiction.com or watch their Facebook page for the link when it goes live. I’ll post here, too.

I love this story (a fun one!) and can’t wait to share it with you. It’s called “Time Monkeys and the Fullness of Glasses”.

SAD Update 5/20/2014

I’m up to 12 stories for the month, several of which are screaming at me to revise and submit. Part of me wants to listen. The other part of me says keep writing. :)

Time for some Tug of War.

SAD Update 5/11/2014

It’s been another crazy week of writing and I’m loving it. I wrote a story every day except for Friday. I started a story on Friday, but it’s a format that doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’m trying to work through it. At the same time, my kids were majorly burnt out from the week and needed some Mommy Super Powers, so I put the writing aside for the day.

My count as of yesterday is nine. One more story and I’ll top my record for completed story output during any Story A Day May since I started this.

Thanks for keeping up!

SAD Update

Good Morning,

May Story A Day is going well. I’ve managed a story each day, the first two hitting 1k and the third one not quite, but should make an effective flash after revision and maybe another hundred words.

Last night’s story had me worried as it was my husband’s birthday and we were busy all day. I usually like to pull my prompts early in the day and mull them over to let them grow in my head before I hit the keyboard. Luckily, this was the weekend and I utilized Liberty Hall’s 90 minute deadline to write this story.

Variety is the key here and not just with story length. I’ve written urban fantasy, traditional fantasy, and science fiction. There have been Ninja Kitties, dragons, and aliens.

I hope your week has been as enjoyable for you. :)

May Story-A-Day

Psst, hey you, you like stories? Writing ‘em?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know May is my favorite writing month of the year. I’ve been part of the FM Writers community for eleven years, which means I’ve been participating in this challenge for as long. The idea is to pull prompts to trigger a story. Ideally, one a day. Most of the people I write with don’t make 31, but some do, and I’m in awe of them. I usually manage 7 – 10 stories each May. I’ve always wanted to hit the full 31. A few things have changed this year, which makes me believe that I can.

I’ve been working on flash fiction. A lot of my flash drafts turn into longer stories – which is fine with me since they’re fun stories. But I’m tightening them up. I’ve also learned to write under the gun thanks to Liberty Hall challenges – a weekly challenge that gives participants a prompt to write a story from in 90 minutes.

I have a plan, and I hope it makes it to the battlefield. If it doesn’t, because we know some stories just plain don’t work, then I’m okay so long as I really gave it a shot. But that shiny number 31 is dancing in front of me right now. This might be the year. :)

If you’re interested in trying the challenge, check out http://www.fmwriters.com. There are other variations online which you’ll find by Googling Story A Day, but this one on FM is my favorite.

Happy Writing, Happy May, and crazy writing away!!