A New Feature: “Read It & Write” Blog Series

How many times have you read a novel and been inspired to work on your own stories? If so, it could be you’re either a writer or someone who wants to write. (Stop wanting, and go write! But read this post first, you may find it helpful.)  J

Let’s talk about short stories. Reading them, writing them, they make me and a lot of other people happy. The best part is that one story can be started and finished in a sitting. Whether you’re tied up in your own projects or between books, a short story can fill a gap between these things like a palette cleanser, or create an experience that’s intense or vastly different from your novel interests. You can read it without investing too much of yourself but still fall under its spell.

My intention with this blog series is to share stories I’ve read, whether I love or hate them, we’ll deal with later. (Yes, I’ve found inspiration in stories I didn’t like.) You may find new authors you’d like to read from this. And, my favorite part, I can turn them into writing prompts.

In each post, I’m going to review the story, what worked or what didn’t, and what drew me in regardless of how I liked the story. I’m going to create a writing prompt from that story that I’ll share with you. Seriously, how many times have you read a story and been inspired to write one yourself on that topic, but you just need to spin it differently?

I’ve wanted to do this for a while and it’s time to dive in. You’ll see Read It & Write posts monthly for now.  Please let me know if you find either the review or prompt helpful, and if you’ve had any writing success with it.

Happy Reading & Writing,

Dawn

Adjusted Motivations for Healthy Eating and Weight Loss

Motivation Image for post

Once upon a time, a writer gave birth to one child, then another, and woe to the weight she had gained. Nine months later, the weight was gone, lost through lots of hard work but the details of which were lost to the new-baby-haze memory issues. That’s not entirely true. There is one strand of memory in which the young mother desperately wanted to be attractive to her husband again. Shopping ensued, and the horrors of a lingerie shop mirror send the mother – who was quite lovely and had nothing to hide – running. And the weight returned, unchecked.

Baring my soul here, there’s a reason for this. I had a revelation yesterday, on Facebook of all places. A woman posted about her own weight loss issues, and she learned what motivated her, and how once she lost the weight, she was lost on what to do. She’d always been trying to lose weight. She was there, as I was once. Both our motivations were wrong. She made me see this.

So I had to rework my process, figure out why I’m trying so hard. Sure, everyone wants to be attractive to their spouse, right? I need more than that. I want to be a role model for my children, to teach my son to respect women no matter what they looked like, to teach my daughter that strength not fear of obesity was important. I’m strong. I often tell my mother than when I’m helping her with stuff around the house or taking her arm as she steps down a steep curb. And I am. Karate taught me that. My strength is a good direction.

One of the areas I’m exceptional at is making goals for my writing and making ways to meet them. I measure my progress by what I’ve completed and each year I strive to improve those. I’m using that approach to improve my health and fitness life.

The weight on the scale is but one measurement which is often screwy. Very technical term here I know, but I’m dead serious. Changing my body from fat to muscle means creating a tighter more compact form that may actually be heavier than a non-muscular body of the same size. So I can’t go by the scale anymore. I need to measure what my body can do.

Since I love Excel, I drew up a bunch of spreadsheets tracking monthly:

  • body measurements (for evidence of fat loss) including BMI;
  • cardio distances covered in 30 minutes in various ways: cycling, walking, running, rowing;
  • plyometric:
    • pushups, sit-ups, burpees done in one minute;
    • chin-ups and pulls ups in one minute (none right now, but give me six months)
    • planks and length of time held.

Monthly measurements and comparisons will help me see first that I’m getting stronger, and second, when the scale doesn’t move, it’s going to remind me that I AM changing, I AM improving, and that scale can go to hell. It’s just one number.

The theory is that by working on my strength, I’m not focused on one end goal. I’m working on different goals that will always be there in one form or another. For example, I can currently do 8 pushups in one minute. My goal is to hit 25. I’m better with sit-ups. I can walk great distances at a decent pace but my running is severely lacking. My goal is to run a 5k eventually and get my time under 50 minutes. At the moment, my goal is to be able to run for 30 minutes without a significant break. Eventually no break. These are all measurable and the kinds of things that motivate me. Be a better me than I was yesterday or last week, or last month.

If you or someone you know is struggling with weight issues, I encourage a rethinking of philosophy and approach. My way may not be anyone else’s way, but don’t be afraid to turn things upside down. There should be something there to get anyone where they want to be.

I’m strong. I want to be stronger. I can do this. We can all do this. Or maybe you’ve got something else that’s working. Tell us about in comments. It’s not easy being healthy, and it can be a lonely road sometimes.

Live Strong,

Dawn

 

Photo Credit: Joshua Santino via https://unsplash.com/

Growth

Times of pain in writing are often followed by periods of growth. I’ve been experiencing writing pain in that I know something is wrong, but I don’t get what that is or how to fix it. Critiquing a lot can help, having my own stories critiqued as well, but that last is based on the attention of the person providing feedback.

I had the pleasure of participating in a special critique in which critiquers read about 20 thousand words of my writing across 9 stories: a spectrum from which to make observations about my writing.

Waiting for the feedback was terrifying. With that much ammunition, someone would surely cut me to pieces, except that I trust my writing group. No one would do that. It was more a question of was I ready to hear what they had to say? Hell yes.

I’m bursting with happiness that they provided me problems that were within my ability to learn to fix. My writing is flawed but not hopeless. (We all fear we’re hopeless, don’t we?) So deep was this feedback on so many levels, I’m rereading my previously written stories and cringing. Why? Not because I’ve sent these out to countless editors – it’s their job to read writer’s crap and send rejections, sometimes guiding us along the way – but it’s that I have so much work to do. I see what needs to be done and I don’t have enough time. How am I supposed to handle this? I’m going to have to prioritize.

I’m itching to work on longer pieces, a novella, maybe a novel, but I have so many short stories I want to share that need revising before I submit them. This is one of the hardest things: which project is next? I’ll work through this issue on my own, no worries. ;) I’ll get to the short stories and the novella and the novel. It’ll just take a while.

In the meantime, what about you? Have you learned anything new about your work/hobby/passion? Did someone help you or did you push through to this new level on your own?

Pushing Through

The critiquing helped and the reading never happened, but two new flash fictions have been written,  and I’ve got a story in revision for the F&SF deadline next week (this week? geez!). I’m also working on the Writing Excuses prompts, one which really really wants to be a story RIGHT NOW.

Yep, things are looking up. Writing is one hell of a roller coaster sometimes.

Writing Excuses 2015

Hi there.  Have you heard of Writing Excuses? It’s a really neat writing podcast hosted by some fun writers (Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Brandon Sanderson, and Dan Wells) that always seem to know the right questions to answer, and when to prod me with another perspective on a writing technique.

They’ve got a new format for their weekly podcast: they’re presenting it like a writing class. Previously they always created a writing prompt at the end of the episode and it didn’t matter if you used ir or not, but now they’re giving homework that you need to do and take with you to the next podcast.

Here’s the link, take 15 minutes and go listen: http://www.writingexcuses.com.

Now that you’ve listened, what do you think? The first assignment is easy enough. (The hard part is actually waiting to go along with the assignment and NOT writing it RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT, because you know, I pounce on those short story ideas and bang ’em out fast.)

I’m always eager to try a new approach, to add new tools to my writer’s toolbox.  Kudos to the Writing Excuses crew for coming up with yet another fantastic idea.

That Voice. . . Again? Already? So SOON?

The voice is assaulting me today. You know the one. It tries to convince you that you aren’t good enough, that you’ll never write a story as good as the last one that published, that your endings suck and you’ll never figure out how to end a story properly except by accident or good critiquers offering suggestions. This is a nasty voice, and I’m usually pretty good at telling them to suck it and go back to the rock from which they.. you know. Except for the first time in a while, I really do feel stuck.

I’m dissatisfied with my short stories right now. I can’t seem to end any of them right. Most of them have a major issue I just haven’t been able to resolve. And I’ve got a critique deficit to fill, so I can’t just start posting my stories for feedback.

I do have a few things in the works that should help. I’ll get through this, I always find a way. But I wanted to share this with you so that if you’re struck by all the massive stats other writers have been posting, or intimidated by others’ grand plans for writing in 2015, you’ll know you’re not alone. Right now, I want to throw my 2015 plan away. I know, five days into the year, brilliant. But that is what the voice does. Right when you’re trying to get your feet under you, it’s wriggling in the mud and trying to tunnel through to trip you up.

I am going to revise my goals, but in a manner I think will help. I’m going to critique massively. One, it’ll take away that deficit and two, spending this energy on actual critiques is a good use of it. I don’t knock other people’s writing, I analyze it, so if the voice wants to tire itself out on what everyone is writing, it can and no one will know of it. Next, I’m going to read for fun. Remind myself why I’m writing, what I want to aspire to. And third, I signed up for an online workshop February/March which should help deal with some of those issues.

Looking back at other times that voice has reared its ugly head, I realize I had something to fight against. It’s an odd motivation, but it results in change.

So if that voice is harassing you? Use it.

P.S. Oddly enough the workshop I’ll be taking is about Character and… You got it: Voice.  I like weird connections like this. Onward and upward!

Out With The Old, In With The New (2014/2015)

This blog is about my writing journey. It’s for me as much as it’s for you. It keeps me honest, it keeps me accountable. If I say I’m going to do something, I try like hell to get it done. Writing isn’t my full time gig yet, so I’m not always in control of Life Issues and the affect they have on my writing. (And fortunately, life issues aren’t always bad. They just affect the writing time).

2014 was incredible in that I made 2 professional writing sales, both to Daily Science Fiction. Once upon a time, I could only write flash fiction by accident. I’ve been working on it, don’t you know, and at least two editors out there like my work. :)

I recorded my general stats, which I’ll add below. The big thing for me was that while I didn’t accomplish as many revisions (my to-revise pile is currently frighteningly high), the ones I did revise fared so much better. Am I spending more time revising? Am I revising better? I’m not sure yet. Maybe the first drafts were in better shape than others. I’m not spending too much time worrying about the how and why. I have newly written stories that need revising, and I’m going to work as hard as I can and make them the best I can. Hopefully, you’ll get to read them soon (preferably in a published zine or anthology).

2014 Results:

  • New Short Stories: 26
  • New Novellas: 1
  • Short Story Edits: 22
  • New Submissions: 6
  • Total Submissions: 87
  • Rejections: 87
  • Acceptances and Publications: 2
  • Critiques Given: 14 (including 2 novel and 4 novellas)
  • Books Read: 14

2015 Plans

I’m gearing up toward working on longer projects, my novella series for one, and completing a novel I started a few yerars ago but never finished. I’m sticking with the short stories, of course, they’re too much fun not to write. I’m trying to get into some online classes and workshops. There are areas in which I’d like to improve, but I need some help.

Best of luck to you in your goals and plans for 2015. May it be productive for all of us.