Category Archives: Writing

On Trying Too Hard

Sometimes we hear something in one context, that has meaning in another. I was in karate class when one of my instructors said, “Stop trying so hard”. He was right. I was the least experienced in the class and was focusing very seriously on not being the slow learner and trying to earn my keep.

I connected this with my writing tonight after reading a comment someone left about me on one of my favorite stories. My best stories, the ones I’ve published, the ones that are getting the personal rejections, are the ones I had the most fun writing. Sitting down and enjoying the characters, enjoying the trouble I’ve thrown at them.

I’m constantly seeking improvement; what to work on next, what to study, etc. While it’s not that I should stop trying to improve, but every now and again, I need to step back and just let it go. This is timely for me, as February was tough on me writing-wise. Life required me to be fully present and not off in Dawnworld creating stories. Little writing done, no editing done. And that’s ok. It had to happen. But I’m pushing to get my schedule back this month, and when I do it, I’m going to start back in with the stories I love.

What about you guys? Do you ever find yourselves trying too hard? Does stepping back work for you?

Waylines Magazine

As I write this, the Waylines Year Two kickstarter has 39 hours to go and we have some distance to make up.

I’ve been with this ezine from Issue 1 as a slush reader. I’ve even plucked one myself out of the slush for publication. Our reading team is fairly large considering the amount of submissions we receive. It’s been a fabulous experience. I loved helping to bring amazing fiction to our readers for virtually no cost. There’s the catch. Virtually.

While Waylines doesn’t have a subscription rate, we do utilize crowd source funding. The editors aren’t pro writers with a bundle of cash flying in. We run this zine because we love fiction and we love that you do, too.

This is a little zine that’s growing. Last year it was streaming movies and new fiction. This year it’s going to be comics and poetry as well, if we fund. Pay rates are due to go up as well, to match SFWA’s requirement.

As a reader, there are a diminishing number of markets that publish good fiction, and fewer of them for free. We just ask for a little love up front. If you have it in your heart, please either consider donating or spreading the word that we’re in the final stages of our kickstarter and have this one final chance to help the speculative fiction community.

http://www.waylinesmagazine.com/

For those of you have spread the word or donated or both, thank you. 🙂

January Writing

The new year always starts hard and fast and this January was no exception. Writing, work, weather, it’s all extreme these days. But then, I ask myself, if you’re going to do something, why not do it all the way? 110%. 200%. Why not?

So here’s January in a nutshell:

  • 4 new short stories written
  • 7 revision passes
  • 3 new submissions + 20 resubmissions
  • 16 rejections
  • 1 novel critique (nearly complete)

In addition to this business, the editors at Stupefying Stories have put together an anthology listing authors who are eligible for the Campbell Award. Eligibility is trigged by a first professional publication, and eligibility is for two calendar years. I have a story in this anthology for my Nature publication of How Cherry Coke Saved My Life. There are tons of amazing stories in this anthology. The best part? It’s free. But it won’t be available for long.

I suggest downloading the anthology and reading some pretty awesome fiction. 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

 

2013 Accomplishments + 2014 Goals

2013 started in a darker place for me than I care to admit, but I threw myself into writing. I started karate with my daughter and lost my afternoon writing session, and signed on as a slush reader at Waylines. My new submissions fell short of expectation, but my focus on improvement made me really think about sending out new stories too quickly. Two stories were accepted and published this year. The novel progressed but isn’t yet finished.

  •  Short Story Writing: 23
  • Short Story Edits:  28
  • Short Story Submissions: 80 (including 6 new submissions)
  • Rejections:  74
  • Crits: 21
  • Book Reading: 17

 

 

On a personal note, I’ve learned I can lose the weight when I put my mind to it. Karate has become important to me but it’s still difficult to fit everything I want into my day, but I do my best. Better planning will help the fitness and weight loss without having to give up writing. I’ve known this next bit, but I have my friends (real life + online friends) to thank for supporting me. I hope I’ve made it a two way relationship for you folks. I appreciate you, and I’m going to get better at letting you know that.

 

2014 is going to be a challenge. Waylines work is continuing, karate has moved into year two, and my son will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Busy as always it seems, but that’s good. My focus this year is on specific areas of writing: description and voice.  I’ll be participating in writing challenges via Codex, FM Writers, Liberty Hall, and Write1Sub1.

 

  • Short Story Writing: 52 (include flash fiction)
  • Short Story Edits: 52
  • Novella Writing: 2
  • Novella Edits: 2
  • Novel: Winter Warrior (54k)
  • New Submissions: 24
  • Crits: 25
  • Book Reading:  25

 Looking forward to 2014. Have a wonderful year! I hope you achieve all you want.

 

 

Publication: How Cherry Coke Saved My Life

I’m pleased to anounce that my story How Cherry Coke Saved My Life has been published in Nature Magazine.  It’s free to read, so go enjoy.

Dawn

http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/arts/futures/

 

FADING LIGHT PUBLISHED IN BARDS AND SAGES QUARTERLY

Fading Light has been published in Bards and Sages Quarterly’s October issue.

Fading Light_Bards and Sages Quarterly_Oct 2013

Amazon Kindle Edition

Amazon Paperback Edition

Smashwords (EPUB, PDF, MOBI, LRF, PDB)

Rumors of my Cherry Coke Addiction Have Been Greatly Exaggerated . . . Or Not.

Hello Friends,

I have news. October is rolling in, and with it, two of my latest publications.

On October 1st, Bards and Sages Quarterly will be publishing one of my early favorites, Fading Light. (A link to the specific issue will be available next week – I’ll update you then.) It was heavily influenced by my husband’s grandmother, Joan Marshall, who had been diagnosted with cancer. She welcomed me into this family as much as anyone, and we shared a creative spark together. I have at least three of her paintings in my house. I didn’t know her for long, but she’ll always have a special place in my heart. 

My next story coming out later in the month, will be in Nature’s Futures and will be my first professional sale. It’s a quirky little piece, one I had fun writing and springing on family who don’t expect humor from my writing. The story, How Cherry Coke Saved My Life, was inspired by my own Cherry Coke addiction. I was drinking way too much of it then, a few cans a day easily. I knew I was overindulging. A fleeting thought occurred to me one day, the title, and I wondered what I could do with it. I wrote it down on a post it note and stuck it to the side of my monitor at work. (Hey, that’s where the idea hit me. This was the fertilizer.) I had an image of two characters, but I didn’t know who they were or what was wrong. Only that they didn’t know each other. The story came to me a few months after that. I can’t wait to share it. I’ll update you guys in late October when I’ve got a link to the story. (I’m also working out where the journal is available for purchase).

I am so excited about these stories. Nature and Bards and Sages are respectable publications and the editors have been fantastic to work with. It isn’t just the awesome professionalism and writerly things like galley proofs and artwork. It’s a unique experience of some reading something you wrote and loving it so much they’re willing to show it to the world.

Thanks for listening all these years. My hard work is starting to pay off. For those of you who have critiqued these stories, I especially thank you. I hope you all enjoy the stories. And by the way, the cola addiction is down to 1 – 2 a week.

Dawn

Writing Plans

Ten more days are left to September, and with it comes the adrenaline rush of trying to complete the many short story goals I made a few weeks ago. Following that is the excitement of returning to an older project, my novel. 

It’s time to get Winter Warrior finished. I have broken world-building and some character development to work on, but then there are about 60,000 words that need to be written.  The only problem for me is that this needs to be my total focus. No other writing projects during this time beyond a quick flash fiction on the weekend and some critiquing.

I’ll be posting weekly updates to keep myself honest and on track, and there might be snippets if anything appeals to me.

Fitness and Motivation: Goals Aren’t Enough

But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try

– Pink, “Try”

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Life is challenging sometimes. I had a fabulous fitness schedule in August due to a) my committing to multiple workouts per day to jump start the weight loss and b) sacrificing some writing time. My writing output decreased significantly, but the weight loss was phenomenal. Then school started up for the kids and I barely got in any workouts beyond karate class for about two weeks. Guess what? Some of the weight creeped back on. It happened so fast. I swear those two weeks passed in just a few blinks.

I got in touch with my trainer and asked for a new routine to work on, and wrote out an index card assigning both writing and fitness times. Both have to work together. It’s the eternal battle, I know. It hurts to give up one thing you love for something that you need to do. Fitness can be fun, especially if you have people supporting you. My routine involves lunch time workouts (yoga twice a week), weights + cardio four times  a week after work (when the kids are safely at school and after school care), then karate class 3 times a week (one of which is a double class of two segments of forty five minutes each).  Then there’s the Sunday running, too. It works because my kids know I’m getting healthier (I don’t use the F-A-T word around them and never will, though we did talk about how eating too much sugar and not excersizing will make your tummy squishy and that’s not healthy).

The karate has been a huge help for me this year. Nine months ago, i couldn’t do a single pushup or full situps. Today, I can do 15 pushups (full extension, not on my knees) and 20 – 35 situps based on how long ago I last ate. I’m working on planks now and pullups. The planks are 30 – 40 seconds but I’m trying to push that to a full minute. The pullups are assisted, but I want to get to the point I can do them on my own. That’s goal one.

Part of my inspiration for the sudden change in fitness goes right back to my karate instructor, Master Adam Kifer. He gave me the idea of multiple workouts (and reminded me how important dropping the soda and bad snacks really is).  If I stay on track, I could be testing for a black in about two years, and while I am getting stronger and my endurance is increasing, I need to step it up. I don’t want to just pass this test, I want to blow my instructors away. 

This is my focus and what gets me up early to do my writing in the morning so my afternoons are free for fitness.

If you need to get moving, get healthy, lose weight, or try something new, then start by staring it in the face and acknowledging that it isn’t going to be easy. Then search out your motivation. Choose a reason crucial in your life. Do it for yourself first, but find someone or something that makes achieving this goal important.

Usually Yoda’s advice (Do Not Try; Do or Do Not) sounds motivating. You choose to succeeed or you choose to fail, right? Because if you’re just trying, you’re not going to suceed. Guess what, sometimes you have to fail first. Sometimes you have to fight that burn to figure out exactly what you need and want.

Go ahead and try, just make sure your version of trying is giving it all your might. The moment you don’t is when failure steps in. But trying is the journey and the journey is what makes us human and real.

You can do this. I can do this. We just have to try and try and try and try.

I’d love to hear about your goals and motivations. What’s been working for you? Where have you been struggling? 

Revise vs Rewriting

 After Viable Paradise, I made it a point to temporarily trunk a lot of my submission stories. I wanted time to process what I learned and then review the work I had out there to make sure it still represented me or required some adjustments. Most of them it turned out, needed more work.

 Little by little, I’ve been tweaking those stories and getting them back out into revisions. I’ve sold two of them since then. But then I came across one that was a pain to read. I always suspected it was too long, but I discovered there was too much baggage on the main character and the story ended up drastically overwritten.

 I dug into it with my red pen, but then I discovered my normal revision process of marking up the manuscript wasn’t working. I don’t mind a lot of red on the page, to the contrary I love it, but there was more red ink flowing than there was original printing. So I’m starting a new process for this story that scares me. I’m taking one paragraph at a time and reading it, determing if it serves the new or old story, and then rewriting it as needed.

 I tried this approach many years ago and it killed the story for a few reasons. I got lost in what I was reviewing. It took too long to get through the story so I forgot a lot of what was old and what was new. My skills have improved since then, so maybe it’ll work this time. We’ll see if it works. If not, I may try the “full rewrite from 0 words” approach. I’ve given myself a deadline to get this done by Saturday night. Time is definitely not on my side since I write when I’m tired and the red marks on the manuscript form my revision map. I have no map. I have guidelines and determination. I also have a story whose core I love and I will see this thing fixed properly and resubmitted.

September Writing Check-In

Best summer ever. My writing has improved, I made a sale, and my health is improving due to some time sacrifices I’ve made in my writing time. It’s necessary now while the weather is still warm and I can exercise outside, but will balance out in January.  More details on the sale will come when I have a publication date. I’m currently awaiting proofs on my story that’s supposed to come out in October in Bards and Sages Quarterly.

 July Writing Check

  • 1 Story Written
  • 1 Story Revised
  • 3 Critiques
  • 6 Rejections
  • 6 Submissions

 

 

August Writing Check

  • 2 New Flash Written
  • 1 Short Story Revised
  • 3 Critiques
  • 5 Rejections + 1 Acceptance
  • 5 Submissions

  

My summer writing was slow, so much time with the kids, things to do to get ready for school, deal with the car total and replacement, vacation and birthdays, and a new fitness schedule/routine. It’s good – we’re empty shells if we write and ignore the outside world. But it’s back to business in September.

 

September Goals

 I’m not ready to dive back into the novel yet. I’m having too much fun with short stories, so I’m sticking with that for September.

 

  • 4 to 5  Short Story Drafts (Flash, most likely)
  • 5 Short Story Revisions (versions 3’s and 4’s, most should be ready to submit when I complete this next pass)
  • Slush (Waylines has opened to submissions again, so send us your best. I can’t wait to read them.)
  • 3 to 4 critiques

 

 

Best of luck to you in September. I hope you find your groove.

 

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De-stressing

De-stressing

This blog’s been quiet because I went on vacation, which means I was busy the week before and the week after. The destressing went extremely well, and I even came away with a new story.

May Writing Update

Best May ever!

So first, I found out via queries that two of my submissions made it into the second round at their markets. I know that doesn’t mean a contract is coming, but it’s a sign of progress. The road to publishing is a long one, so these kinds of things help with the mental battle.

Short stories, ah, my lovelies. I wrote 7 new short stories (some were flash). Probably the best first drafts I’ve done in a while. I have two more that are half done (longer stories, multiple depths of meanings). I also started Holly Lisle’s Flash Fiction Class and have several flash pieces in progress based on the assignment.

May was playtime, but June is back to scheduled writing. The novel needs finishing. A short story needs revision for entry into Writers of the Future. Then there’s critiquing and slushing. And I’m sure one or two of those new stories will get a revision.

And time to get a quick look at my annual stats. June should put me at the halfway mark for most of these, but I’m behind on some.  No worries, I’m thrilled with my progress this year.

2013 Writing

X/Y = x is what I’ve done, y is my goal for the year.

  • Winter Warrior: 5k/54k
  • Short Story Writing: 14/24
  • Short Story Edits:  13/36
  • Short Story Submissions: 28
  • New Submissions: 5/12
  • Crits: 12/48
  • Book Reading: 7/30
  • Rejections:  23
  • Publications: 1 (scheduled for October)
  • Acceptance: 1

Projects & Progress

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

Writing projects are like chocolate cookies fresh from the oven: you can’t have just one, and you certainly don’t just bake one. I’ve got a novel going, the one I’ve been working with on and off since last spring. It’s going well, especially after workshop feedback. The secondary projects are a handful of short stories in various phases of existence. One idea is for a contest in my writer’s group (in research phase), another idea is based on a dream I’ve had (worldbuilding phase – though I’m thinking this one is going to be a novella based on research), and yet another idea based off of something that two people in a chat room said to me combined with something my father-in-law threw at me on vacation. But this month is special when it comes to short stories. For members of http://www.fmwriters.com, it’s May Story A Day (SAD).

May SAD has been an annual event in my life since I joined FM writers. We pull writing prompts from our choice of source (I prefer the Seventh Sanctum elements) and try to draft a story. I’ve managed anywhere from 1 – 10 stories each May. Last year I generated a bunch of outlines, but didn’t yet write the stories due to a family situation. This year, I’m going for ten and hoping for more.

My system gives me three days to write a story, though the best stories come together in the first day to completion. The idea is on day one to pull the prompt, figure out plot, character and world. Once the outline comes together, I can bang out the first draft in two to three writing sessions. This takes two to three days because of the job and family, etc.

So far, I’ve got one story done, and I’m working on the outline to my second story.

This challenge always gives me a jump in progress, whether I’m counting the number of stories in my arsenal, or progressing my skills further.

Hope your May is great!

Dawn

Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic, “Projects Progress”. 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. Next up is Raven on the 7th.

Spin That Routine On Its Head

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

The most common writing advice is: write every day. The idea is fabulous, but I’d like to put a twist on it that will give it more value. Write every day that you can. The difference is that “every day” routines fail when life with multiple levels of responsibility take precedence to the writing. It isn’t that we want it to be that way. That responsibility might be our families, our jobs, our fitness routines, residence management, financial management, reading, sleeping, and eating. We can’t do it all. What we can do, is break things up and fit in the writing and all those other things, in increments.

For me, it’s a weekly assessment. What project is going on at work – will there be overtime or early mornings? Which kid is sick and going to need a visit to the doctor? What volunteer task did I nominate myself for at school? What bills need to be paid? What portion of my workout needs to be done – weights vs cardio? On the crazy weeks, it turns into a daily assessment. And if something goes wrong, it gets reassessed.

This works only when I promise myself to fit bits of it all in there. It’s helped me learn to write fast because I might only get a half hour one day, or an hour over the course of two days. It means I need to be flexible about where I am. Maybe the writing gets done in a notebook while my son is in his speech session. Or maybe I read that story for critique while my daughter is doing her homework. Or the slush gets read while the water for the pasta is boiling. Or I challenge myself and wait until everyone’s in bed and push out as many words as a I can.

It’s not as stressful as it sounds. It’s just a matter of give and take. Some weeks, the ‘rest of my life’ takes more. Other weeks, the writing takes more. My husband watched the kids most of one weekend while I wrote a 20k novella over the span of 3 days.

What’s the key to a successful routine? For me, it’s a combination of wanting it and having movable pieces in your day. I organize the other pieces of my life in order to fit this crucial writing piece. The reason why this works? Because I cannot allow myself to become stuck in one routine. I need the variance. If I had the same routine every day, I’d constantly leave out things I need or want to do.  I enjoy being busy and trying to fit too much in. (Yes, I actually said that).

Do you have a routine or are you still trying to work yours out? What challenges are you facing? Do you need flex in your schedule or do you work better with a rigid plan?

Happy Writing

Dawn

Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic,  “Writing Routines”.  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. Next up is Raven on the 7th.

Writer’s Block

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

Now that I’m taking Karate classes, this term has a new angle of thought for me. When we block, we’re defending ourselves from incoming force. In writing, when we cite a block, we claim we are blocked, kept away from something we want. Sometimes it can be procrastination, or a lack of knowledge of a particular topic, but it could also be that we’ve come up against an obstacle we’re unable to overcome on our own at this point in time.

I really don’t like the term writer’s block. It’s too easy to use when something in your writing isn’t going along the way you want it to. So the writer claims, “I’m blocked on this project”, and now they have an excuse to put it down, which leads to an incomplete story languishing in a drawer forever. Using this rationale, I never experience Writer’s Block. That doesn’t mean I never have issues though.
I believe issues are based on knowing enough to know that something isn’t working, but lacking either the skill to identify the problem or the resolution. For example, I attempted to write a fantasy story about this girl being followed and having an encounter with a wolf and a goddess. I literally wrote it ten different ways. After some time in a decent critique group, I looked at the story again, threw out everything I had previously written, and started over. The new version earned me a semi-finalist in a highly competitive contest.

In my mind, a block is an excuse. Any time I start thinking I’m blocked, I make myself take another angle on the problem. Sometimes, the problem is something in the story that simply can’t be fixed. It can happen. What writer has never written themselves into a corner only to find it’s round not square…and then you get stuck in the hamster ball. You get my point, right?

We learn by doing and sometimes what we’ve written sucks. In these situations, it’s okay to toss the story into a drawer. But after you do that, go pick up something else. Start a new story. Don’t whine about what you can’t write. Move on to something else. And sometime in the future, come back to that round corner you painted yourself into. You just might surprise yourself.

Speaking of surprising yourself… do you have a drawer with half finished projects? What would happen if you took a peek inside?

Happy Writing
Dawn

Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic, “Writer’s Block”. 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. Next up is Raven on the 7th.

Viable Paradise 2013 – Applications are Open!

 

Psst, hey you… you’re a writer, aren’t you? Thought so. I bet you’ve been thinking about applying to Viable Paradise, haven’t you? I can help you, at least with the “thinking” part. If you are thinking about it, do it. I know you’ve got doubts and questions, but who are you to self reject yourself? If you love writing and you’re willing to sacrifice a little sleep to get better, then do it!

Take a look at your most recent works. Anything look good? Something you can pass to your closest writer buds and ask them to tear apart? Choose something you love.

Seriously. I applied with short stories that I liked, that did fairly well in the rejection rounds, but didn’t get in. When I applied with chapters of a novel I spent all spring planning and writing and absolutely LOVED, I was accepted.

You want these awe inspiring instructors to teach you writing? Then show them your stuff. Let them choose you, because hell, you deserve it! Even if you have to write something new, go for it. Applications are open until June 15th.

 

You might be wondering if you really want to go. Is it worth the money and travel and going to Martha’s Vineyard in the off season? It was for me. I met twenty-three other writers who are awesome and easy to talk to. They’ve become my friends, my critique partners, my cheerleaders. And when the going gets tough, they know what to say and I know it’s real and that they mean it. Since VP, I’ve expanded my writing horizons. I’ve tried new writing forms, I’ve joined a neo-pro writer’s group, and I started reading slush for a new ezine that has aspirations of being a SFWA market. Guys, it hasn’t even been six months since the workshop and I am so freaking glad I went.

 

You know how they say Viable Paradise is the workshop you’ve been searching for? It really is. The application is here.  Go get started on it.

A Fitness Theory

You work all day, manage the kids, juggle homework and dinner, then wrangle everyone into bed and heave a sigh of relief. A moment of panic hits. You’ve forgotten something. Oh, right. The work out. Again.

When you’ve got a full schedule, working out is really the last thing you have energy for, but it’s what you need to lose a few pounds (thanks, sedentary day job), it’s what you need to regain your energy. But when it comes down to it, you hit the snooze instead of rolling out of bed early, or you choose to work through lunch to offset the growing workload. If you do this, you’re human. There’s a truth you and I know, and it’s this: it has to change.

The problem is what we call it. ‘Working out’. Yes, we know it’s work. Do we really need to be reminded that it’s work? Yes, it’s hard. It takes some effort. My theory is that a fitness routine requires a level of enjoyment beyond the exertion. For some people, running provides a focus,  For others, it’s group exercise classes. I used to take cardio kickboxing, but the scheduled class was never at the right time – conflicts with the family resposibilitiies.

Then my daughter comes along, and this little challenge I gave her (5 Brave Things), which she totally rocked, resulted in her reward: I joined her karate class. I was worried about feeling silly at first. About a quarter of the class is adults, less than that some days. Fortunately, my height allows me to blend in with the older kids. 😉 I wanted to be an example of good behavior for my daughter, so I focused on the class, the teachings, the actual karate. It took me two classes to realize that I didn’t even watch my daughter during these classes: I was too focused on the moves, getting it right. Actually streaming IYAH with the rest of the class when we punched, jabbed and kicked.

I think I like karate better than my kids like it.

So, part of the theory is you have to find something you love to maintain a routine. I found it by accident, and I have my daughter to thank for that. The other part of the theory is having this activity you love, means you want to be good at it. Excel. And that means figuring out your weakness and improve on this. By going to the gym.

That’s right.

Last week, we were working on upper cuts, which requires repeated squat-like motions with every punch. I tired quickly. Also, when you’re told to do ‘Black Belt Pushups’, you know no one is looking at you doing them slower than everyone in the class, and less than half the amount. I’m sure they cut the adults some slack, we weigh a lot more than these kids. Still, I didn’t want an excuse or to stand out because I’m the slow one or the tired one. I hit the gym.

It’s an entirely different experience doing extra pushups and weights, squats and lunges when the reason for it goes beyond “I need to lose weight”. I have a purpose for being there, and I damn well better make some progress because if I’m going to karate with my kid, I’m not half-assing it.

Theory: love what you do for fitness, and use your gym time to improve your skills needed for that activity.

I’ll check back in a few months, but the preliminary report is this. After just a few weeks, my clothes are fitting better, my food consumption has become healthier and better proportioned, my water take has increased. Best yet, I feel fantastic.

It’s been years since I’ve felt this good. I can’t believe I’ve forgotten what this feels like.

If you’re struggling to find something fun, talk to your friends, relatives, kids. There’s something out there for everyone. And you deserve to feel good. Whatever it is, I hope you have it or find it. Life is too short to spend miserable.

I’m glad I found my favorite workout. My daughter is too. This one got me a double win.

 

 

January Results / February Goals

January Results

January was a bit of an experiment with flash fiction and now slushing for an ezine, and having a house guest for nearly three weeks, but not only did I survive, I flourished. It feels good getting the writing moving again like this.

  • Short Stories Drafts: 6 Flash Fiction
  • Short Story Revisions:  5 Flash Fiction + 1 short story (still in progress)
  • Rejections:  2
  • Submissions:  2 new and 3 resubmissions
  • Critiques: 3
  • Reading: 2 (The Runelords by David Farland, Kitty Goes To Washington by Carrie Vaughn)

February Goals

I wasn’t able to work on the novel in January because I underestimated how much time a contest in my writer’s group required, plus it would have been unfair to my houseguest. That goal is moving out to February and March. It’s increasing my daily wordcount, but that’s manageable if I manage my secondary projects carefully. I do have submission deadlines, and my short story activity will be adjusted to deal with those.

 

  • Winter Warrior – Read, review outline, resume writing (1125 words daily x 6 days weekly)
  • Short Story Drafts – 2 (for Triangulation contest and anthology)
  • Short Story Revisions – 3 (for the above and the next WOTF deadline)
  • Crits (because I owe people)
  • Blogging when it suits me
  • Reading (continue Chi Running, + 2 novels)

FM Merry Go Round: Projects

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

I love starting a new year, don’t you? All last year’s mistakes have been erased and we’ve got a clean slate that won’t bog us down with guilt just yet. It’s the perfect time to start new projects with all the positive energy they deserve. Except that in my case, my writing project  isn’t a new one. It’s a novel I started last year and workshopped at Viable Paradise. It needs finishing, and revising. I’ll be working on both this year.

This will be the first time I revise a novel that soon after I finish the first draft. I think this is a good step forward for me. The alternative would be letting it languish in a drawer.

I’m also going to be working a bit in a new science fiction universe. I have several short stories (in various phases of being written and planned)  that are linked. It might eventually lead to a novel, but this is my way of playing with some characters in a more carefree manner than a novel requires.

So, a fun year is ahead for me. What projects do you have going on?

Happy Writing

Dawn

Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic,  “Projects/Anticipation”.  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. Next up is Raven on the 7th.

The Craziest Year of My Life: 2012

So much happened in 2012, that looking back upon it all, I’m dizzy.  The day job, which I rarely mention publicly, has been moving in the right direction. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a little about project management and my work is improving for it. I’m looking forward to more learning and new projects in the coming year.  The family situation had some serious bumps which will not ever be forgotten. I try to hold it close and apply it to my daily life to make better decisions. The kidlets and spouse went through some of those bumps as well, but they’re back to their old selves. The Girl is excelling in school but still experiencing shyness issues, and the Boy continues to outshine me in the independence department which makes some days really interesting. The spouse continues to make me proud, and the cats, well, they’re still vomiting everywhere but I’m grateful to have them with us at the ripe old kitty age of fourteen.

And you thought all I ever talked about was my writing. Wait for it….

The writing. It’s been a tremendous year from my writing. I spent the early part of the year planning and world building a novel and characters to write Winter Warrior. I wrote 8 chapters, and revised three of them for submission to Viable Paradise. I was accepted into the 2012 class and attended the workshop in October. Being accepted was only half as exciting as actually attending.  I’ve written since the workshop: two short stories and a novella. I’ve been revising some older items that needed a clean up post workshop. I gave one of the new stories a serious overhaul, which will go into submissions very shortly. This is good, but I definitely note that this year was a “quality” year as opposed to “quantity”. I wrote some really good stories, and spent lots of time learning about my writing and figuring out how to fix what needs fixing.

I attempted Write1Sub1 for the second year in a row. Since the quantity angle didn’t quite work, I didn’t make my W1S1 goals. I’ll be trying again in 2013.

Writing Friends. Between WorldCon and Viable Paradise, I met a lot of people who were previously screen names and email addresses to me before. There were personalities behind those avatars, but there isn’t anything like meeting those people in person and seeing them for who they really are. I met a bunch of people whom I had no idea existed, who have become part of a special circle of friends. We may not talk much or see each other often, but the bond is there. I hope to try and keep these new friendships going in 2013.

Here’s the official count for 2012:

  • ·         Novel Draft: Winter Warrior – in progress 26/80k
  • ·         Short Story Drafts 6
  • ·         Novella Drafts/Conversions 1
  • ·         Short Story Revision: 11
  • ·         New Submissions: 4
  • ·         Short Story Submissions: 80
  • ·         Short Story Rejections  86
  • ·         Short Story Acceptance: 1
  • ·         Critiques: 22
  • ·         Reading: 23
  • ·         May SAD = 12 outlines
  • ·         VP 16 application work (26k written, 8k revised)
  • ·         Worldcon 8/30-9/3
  • ·         Viable Paradise 16 10/7-12
  • ·          W1S1 Monthly (faltering progress)

 

Let’s look ahead to 2013, shall we? I’ve learned a lot that I need to put to use. (Not that I haven’t, mind you, but it’s one of those use-it-or-lose-it notions.)  The novel needs to be finished and revised. I’d like to get it out to critiquers by the end of 2013 in hopes of revising it for submission in 2014. I’m also keeping up with the short fiction.

 

Monthly Writing Goals

  • Novel Writing: Winter Warrior – Jan, Feb, Mar (15k monthly/5k weekly)
  • Novel Revision: Winter Warrior – April – October
  • Short Story (Write 2 – Revise 3 – Submit 1)
  • Blog: 4-8x
  • Critique: 4
  • Read: 2-3

 

This means Write 1 Sub 1 again. This means FMWriters’ May Story-A-Day Challenge. This means getting my schedule back on track, fast. I’m getting back to my morning workouts, which will help my fitness goals. Those aren’t as complex as the writing goals, fortunately, but I’ll be evaluating them monthly as well. I’ll be training for a 5k in May, so the running needs to get back on track. I’d like to be able to run the full race course as opposed to last year’s ½ run ½ walk.  To prepare this, I need to run three times a week, and lift weights twice. The new schedule I’ve devised should help, taking away the question of “what do I do today” and having the plan ready to go. In the recent past, overworking (trying to do too much across the board) and undersleeping have made mornings difficult. The 5am alarm doesn’t wake me. Instead, I go into autopilot and turn it off. I have discovered a new trick – using the alarm in my cell phone, which has a soft chime and a light that goes on when the chime starts. Getting the fitness on track will help get everything else to line up where and when it should.

So that’s the plan.

It IS a plan. These are not resolutions. I’ll be updating on the 1st of each month with my progress, but in between those updates, I plan on blogging a bit about my fitness adventures, and also about some cooking fun. I’m no chef, but I do love food, and I’d like to share my favorite recipes and experiments with you.

Thank you all for sticking me this year, and especially to those of you who reached out in my silence. I’m grateful for this blog and the people I keep in touch with because of it, my writing communities, and the ability to connect at any given moment. The writing life can be a solitary one, but with people like you, it isn’t. I wish you the best 2013 possible and if there’s some way I can help make it better, let me know.

Dawn

Writing: October & November Results, December & Year End Goals

October was without a doubt the most volatile month of my life. I went from the high of attending Viable Paradise, to my father’s death, to the hurricane experience. If it wasn’t for my writing and the venting and rampaging via the written word, I would not have been as strong as I was.

Writing came off schedule for these two months, but my accomplishments are good enough, considering everything.

October Results

  • Short Stories:  3 written, 2 revisions
  • Rejections:  2
  • Resubmissions:  1 (after a revision)
  • Critiques: 5 (via the workshop)
  • Viable Paradise Workshop

November Results

  • Short  Stories:  1 revision (in progress), 1 novella draft (in progress)
  • Reading:
    • Discord’s Apple (Vaughn)
    • Kitty and The Midnight Hour (Vaughn)
    • Trading In Danger (Moon)
    • Critiques: 3
    • Rejections:  2

December Goals & Expectations

I’m picking and choosing what to finish this year. I won’t make all the goals I’d hoped to make, but I’ve also learned the difference between quality work with takes more revision time as opposed to quantity which means stories may not be ready if I rush the revision. With my schedule, that means I’m taking as much as two weeks for the full revision.

Year end for me in 2012 will be getting stories back into submissions, and getting my new short stories revised and critiqued. If I can get them out before 12/31, I will, but not by sacrificing a story’s revision quality to make a number.  The first novella (and yes, this one is just a novella!) needs finishing.

Blogging: my blogging will be minimal this month as I try to tie things up and prepare for 2013. I’ve been wanting to broaden my blog content by writing about cooking/baking, diet/fitness, and the occasional parenting failure lesson. I could write these up into articles and sell them, but I’m just not there time wise. I’d rather just share. More on that next month.

So, these are my December plans. What are you up to in the next few weeks? Are holidays taking over your life or have you promised yourself some quiet time with a good book?

Dawn

PS Erin Hartshorn hit me up with The Next Big Thing meme. I’ll be responding to that this week.

Lifechanging

The past month has been life changing. It started on a good note, with my attending the workshop of my dreams, making new friends, and learning the ins-and-outs of my own writing. I’ve posted about VP. I don’t need to repeat how incredible an experience it was. However, it had one more benefit.

It didn’t stop my dad from dying; it didn’t stop the hurricane that hit while I was at my mom’s house in Brooklyn, N.Y. But it put things in perspective and helped me process these experiences.

As hard as writing can be at times, it’s easy when compared with taking your loved one through a battle with cancer. Though my relationship with my father has been a long distance one for the past fifteen years, he’ll forever be my father. Distance and a physical body don’t matter. What does matter is that he supported me and was encouraging even when this vile thing consumed him from the inside. He never let on if he had any moments of anger or doubt. I know my mom dealt with some of that. It wasn’t easy for her, and I don’t envy the side of things she had to experience. I can well imagine what she went through and it breaks my heart, especially knowing that what I’m picturing is probably only half accurate.

I’m the emotional one in my family, usually the first one to break into tears. That’s not how I wanted to say good-bye to my dad. So I made plans. At the visitation and wake, I was my father’s daughter: I greeted all the friends and family that came to pay their respects. By making it about my father rather than about me, I learned how much he was loved by people outside the family. It’s one thing to know your dad is a good guy. It’s entirely another thing to hear so many people say it, to hear it in their accounts antics at work. (I’m not the only one who knew what a stubborn and funny man my dad was…)

I wrote and presented his eulogy. It was easier to write than I expected, but much more difficult to deliver. My sister Christina accompanied me to the podium in church. Without the warmth of her hand on my back, I’d have broken down in tears on the first page. What kept me from doing this was knowing that Dad was proud of both of us standing there together.

The cemetery was the hardest part. At that point, I was done being there for everyone else. My sisters and I hung back, allowing family and friends to place their flowers on dad’s coffin. When they stepped away, we had the chance to say the final goodbye.

Even my sisters pulled away finally, but this is where I got stuck. I suddenly felt like I was abandoning the last bit of him. It awoke the pain I felt when I received the phone call that he’d died. I can’t even describe the pain. It’s not physical. It’s like something reached in and tried to strangle my soul. I know the body in that coffin isn’t him anymore, but it’s one thing to know it and another thing to actualize it. Some of you might even understand what that means.

I’m okay most of the time, but this has changed me in a few ways. The very thing I loved about my father was his sense of humor and his joy of children. My best memories of us were from my childhood. I want my children to remember me the same way. Sometimes, when my kids are down, I think of him and wonder what he’d do cheer them up.

The other thing that changed for me was what I call “the moment”. I work hard at my day job and my writing. I work hard to keep the house in order and the laundry cycled fast enough. I work my tail off trying to keep the kids up to date on their homework and medical needs. Sometimes I fail. But in all that day-to-day stuff, there are moments that count more than others (like the ones I referred to earlier) and there are moments that are wasted that should have been spent on something else.

I feel older after all this. It’s not that I don’t have a dad anymore. I do, he’s just not on the same plane of existence as I am right now. It’s that I really do think I lost a piece of myself. I think we all do when we lose someone we love that much.

As things went downhill with my dad, one of my biggest personal fears was being unable to write when things went ultimately wrong. The day before my dad died, I started a story for him about a woman diagnosed with rapidly terminal cancer. I was never going to show him, that would have been too much. The day he died, I flew home to Brooklyn. On that flight, I finished the story by hand. I spent the next week transcribing it little by little. It was torture, but I made it through. I think it’s the best story I’ve written to date. It incorporates something of my dad and something of myself. I’ve been revising and worldbuilding other projects since then. It wasn’t until tonight that I really drafted new words on a story. It was hard to write because the words kept coming out in the voice from the story I wrote for my dad. It means I’m not done with it. I’ll be finishing that revision before moving on to this new project, but don’t think for a minute that I don’t consider this not writing.

I just need to finish this level of emotion before I go into the next phase. I have enough moments of anger to know that this next story will play out when the time is right.

I don’t like this new club I belong to, but that’s life and death. We’re in it. Might was well live it to the fullest. Fight til we can’t breathe. Love til there’s no heart left to love with. Whatever you do, do it your way. Do it proudly.

Applying What I’ve Learned

One piece of advice that I received from two instructors at the workshop was to SLOW DOWN. Story is plot; what happens next. I read that way and I write that way. So guess what? I write fast and skip the side details as I race for the finish. (How the hell did they know I write like that?!)

I picked up an anthology and read a short story and made myself read slowly. I noticed the details, body language, setting, etc, that added to the story. Then I got to work planning my story. I learned in doing this, that my visual of the story is not complete. I see the action, I see what the characters are doing, but they are more ghostlike and the setting is equally ghostlike. I need to watch the scene a few times, filling in those telling details before writing.

And just to throw a wrench into things, I decided to use my digital recorder. I knew the outline of the first scene (which took place in a car, interestingly enough) and dictated my scene on the way to work.

That afternoon, I transcribed/documented the dictated scene. As I typed it up (frequently hitting pause) I found myself adjusting the sentences and adding in the additional description that I missed the first time around.

Then I ran out of time. The instructor asked for a story by Friday (my VP homework assignment!) and I really wanted to get it to him. So for the next two scenes, I went back to my ‘natural’ method of writing. Outline the scene then write it fast fast fast.

The quality of this first draft is seriously confusing. It’s like one person wrote the first scene and someone else wrote the rest.

I do need to slow down. The digital recorder forced me to do that, but it isn’t the only method. It just forced me to use the advice I was given. Advice that was DEAD ON.

Thanks Bear, thanks Jim. 🙂 And maybe Sherwood too? It’s starting to all blend by now.

Dawn

Viable Paradise: A Dream Realized

The first thing I learned about Viable Paradise, is that they were not joking about sleep. There is NO sleeping at VP. For about 3 – 4 hours each night, I fell into bed only to be woken by an alarm bleeping at me that I should definitely not be sleeping. As you might be aware, it takes only three days to turn a behavior into a habit, so by the time Friday night rolled around and I decided to go to bed early, I tossed and turned all night.

Prior to the workshop, I had been conducting a series of self examinations. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workshop aside from the hope of learning a few things. I definitely learned; there were lectures, group critiques, writing challenges, and one-on-one sessions with the instructors where my writing was broken down, defined, and summed up. The biggest thing was that the instructors provided feedback on both a macro and micro level, the content of which I never would have gotten from a critique group. I also learned that my faith in my writing and myself are legitimate; I can write a good story. But it isn’t enough to write a good story. I need to sharpen my tools to make those stories amazing. I have the tools, but the instructors and my classmates have give me a flashlight so I can see properly to sharpen those tools. I can work in a specific direction instead of guessing and proceeding like a woman blinded by darkness.

I never had an “OMG” moment, but I had lots of “oh, that’s right” and then a moment of bewilderment of “why have I never seen that before?”.  A cumulative feeling for the week is more along the lines of an amazing series of events and knowledge gathering, the forging by fire of new friendships, and the knowledge that I belong somewhere. I belong in speculative fiction. I am a writer. I am a good writer. And I’m in good company.

The magic of Viable Paradise is the experience of learning, combined with the feedback, combined with meeting people as skilled as you (or more!). It’s the silencing of the real world for days on end and focusing on nothing but writing.

Viable Paradise is not the Easy Button that will get you automatically published. It’s one of those things that depends on how open your mind is, how willing you are to accept someone else’s assessment of your work, how willing you are to try a new direction and break your own expectations.

I have a strategy for the next few months to work on short fiction instead of my novel. I learned way too much to put into fixing my current novel. I will get back to it, but I don’t want to shut my brain down while trying to fix something that’s slightly beyond my capability at this moment. Instead, I’m writing new short stories and will be submitting those (till hell won’t have ’em). I’m playing with my new tools and having fun with them. Later, after some practice, it’ll be novel time again.

Who would I recommend to apply to Viable Paradise? If you’re a speculative fiction writer, if you want to improve your craft, if you want to know what glowing jellyfish look like, if you want to know what it’s like to have your brain turn to jelly and ooze out your ears, Viable Paradise is for you.

I’ll have more to say later as I digest all I’ve learned this past week. In the meantime, I have a story to write.

Z-Squad 10.06.2012

Epic wierdness today. It started when I was rushing to start dinner before Sean brought the kids home from school. The knife slipped and like a moron I tried to catch it. (Note to self: next time the knife slips, just get out of the freaking way.) I fumbled it like nobody’s business and the handle bounced off my fingertips and landed point first on my forearm. Despite the cut not appearing deep, the blood flowed and flowed.
Dinner would have to wait until I got this thing stitched up. I wrapped it up in gauze as tight as I could, then grabbed my purse and keys. The urgent care clinic was only a five-minute drive, but the wait was over an hour. The waiting room was clogged with pasty feverish kids and moms, and this horrible moaning came from the curtained off area. They finally took me, but the nurse looked frazzled, her hands shaking as she unwrapped my injury. She stared at the blood then up at me. She didn’t seem to believe my knife juggling story, but what can I say? She resigned herself to the task and started gathering needle and thread when a commotion came from beyond my blue curtain.  The man who came through the curtain looked like a dead man with that grey pallor and that unseeing look in his eyes.
Terror ran up my spine at the way he moaned. How was he walking around in such pain? Was he on drugs? He reached for my nurse who screamed. He lifted her off her stool and–I dont’ know what he intended, but I just acted. I kicked her stool at him, the knee high chair crashing into his legs with little effect. That’s when the security guards came in, guns raised.  I’ve shot a gun, back in my college days and I knew I was too close to this guy. I grabbed the nurse’s arm and yanked her with me as I started for the other side of the room.
 
Three shots went off. Blood showered over us–that and something dark and gelatinous. I’m really grossed out.
 
I slipped away while someone helped that nurse calm down. I don’t think I’m going back to that clinic. The gauze will do, I wrapped it up tight after a scalding shower. I can’t get the icky feeling off.
 
Sean took the kids out for pizza and ice cream, so maybe I’ll lie down for a bit. I’m still a little shaky and my head feels hot. I’ll check in with you all tomorrow.
THIS FICTION BROUGHT TO YOU BY ERIN UNDERWOOD’S Z-SQUAD
Tune in tomorrow to see if this writer survives the apocalypse…

Professional, To Be or Not To Be…

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

This is an interesting topic for me right now, considering the workshop I’ll be attending in a few days. My definitions may change between now and its finish. If it does, I’ll post a follow-up to this.

In my mind, there are two levels of professional writer.

The first and most important is the manner in which you handle your writing, regardless of how many stories (if any!) you’ve published. Do you treat your submissions with care, reading the guidelines each time and making sure you have the correct editor’s name and address? Do you follow instructions regarding simultaneous submissions (the same story to multiple markets) and multiple submissions (several stories to the same market)? Do you take the feedback some took the time to provide you and –if you’re not ready to use it– secure it someplace to analyze later?  In my opinion, if you’re writing to submit, you really should be acting professionally. The publishing industry is not about the writers, it’s about the readers, and the editors do their best to satisfy those readers. If they send you a form rejection, it’s not because you suck; it’s because they have a magazine to run to keep their readers happy so they can maybe buy your next story instead.

How do you treat your writing? Do you try your hardest to give it life? Do you sit down and write on a schedule? Do you claim responsibility to yourself if you don’t get done what you planned because you were lazy? Your written work is important, a learning experience at the very least. If you act professionally, you’ll learn from your mistakes, not just make the same ones repeatedly.

The second level of being a professional writer is synonymous with success. Writing and selling enough fiction to transfer your passion into your day job. This is the dream for many of us. Some fear it as much as they yearn for it. Some of us read Whatever and sigh, knowing John Scalzi’s got it made. But, does he? If he stopped writing tomorrow, would he be able to keep up his income and support his family? Maybe. But the mortgage isn’t paid on maybes. (Sorry for picking on you JS, but I’m slightly miffed that I missed you at VP by two years. So there.)

If you can’t tell by my goals and the pressure I put on myself to meet those goals, I want the dream. I want the day-job-writer so I don’t have to wake at 4:30 in the morning so I can get words on my novel. It’d be much nicer writing them at 6:30. Then going for a run or a swim. Then writing some more. Get some lunch, prep dinner for the family, work on revisions while the kids do their homework. Family time after dinner. Leisurely reading before bed. Maybe I’d even be able to play video games again–no, the jury’s out on that one.

So that’s the fun side, the daydream. The reality I see is a calendar with dates circled in red and maybe occasionally getting up at 4:30am so I can make a tight deadline or simply because I had such an awesome scene to write, I couldn’t wait until 6:30 and had to get up and get to it right away.

There’s more to it, I know. And maybe one day, I’ll see for myself. If that’s your goal too, I wish you a healthy sprinkling of muse-dust.

Happy Writing

Dawn

Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic,  “What Professional Means To Me”.  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. Bonnie is up next at Cowgirl in New England.

August + September Accomplishments — October Goals

August & September

It sure was a crazy summer. My family is growing up and doing new things. It’s wonderful but exhausting and time-consuming. I’m fighting still for my writing time, but I think I did a bang-up job of catching p with my reading.

August Results

  • Winter Warrior: Ch 7 written
  • Short Stories: 1 written & revised
  • Reading: 4
    • Down The Darkest Road (Tami Hoag)
    • So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (Douglas Adams)
    • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
    • Fuzzy Nation (John Scalzi)
  • Rejections:  6
  • Resubmissions:  5
  • Critiques: 1
  • Worldcon (8/30-9/3)

September Results

  • Short  Stories:  1 written, revised twice and submitted to WOTF
  • Reading:
    • The Lost Gate (Orson Scott Card)
    • Land of Mist & Snow (Doyle & MacDonald)
    • World War Z (Max Brooks)
  • Critiques: 2
  • Rejections: 7
  • Resubmissions: 3 + 1 new
  • Worldcon (8/30-9/3)

October Goals & Expectations

I’m leaving my goals open this month since I’m attending the workshop during the second week and I’m expecting it’s going to have some impact on my writing plans. I do know that I want to finish the novel, and that I want to revise and submit a short story for the next quarter of Writers of the Future.

Beyond that, there are a ton of short stories I need to reevaluate post-workshop. I’m not expecting miracles from the workshop, but I do expect to learn a few things, whether it’s about myself or the industry, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to make me think before sending my stories back out. Part of me also says that if I’m going to throw a comment on my cover letters that I attended VP, I damn well better be sending them worthy of having the VP name out there.  I also suspect that I will see the brokenness of some of those stories and retire them. I’m supposed to grow as a writer, and some of these stories are old. Some of them give me a feeling that something is off (or I know what’s off) but I lack the skills currently to fix it. Maybe it’s just vision. We’ll see.

I’m also going to be launching my new blog series. Watch out for an announcement later this month. It’s called Read It & Write which I believe will be of interest to readers and writers alike. More details soon!

In the meantime, here are my October writing plans:

  • Viable Paradise
  • Winter Warrior
  • Short Story Work (WOTF Q1 deadline 12/31)
  • Read
  • Critique

Here we go!

 

One Writer On Revision

I’m in between projects at the moment (literally; if I don’t get my critiques back this evening I’m going to pull a writing prompt and start a new story), so I wanted to share some thoughts I had on revision. I like my revision process. I have two elements of writing, the muse, whom I often envision is a blip of fuzzy blue light (she has no voice, just an overbearing presence at times), and the editor, he is also intangible, but he’s got this enormous red pen wherever he goes, so it’s easy to draw him in: I just pick up his red pen.

I love revising. The second draft is where the story truly comes alive for me. My subconscious did a lot of work during the bang-it-out-fast first draft, and this is where I go picking through the treasure. The step is read the story, and this is where muse and editor dance, sometimes in unison sometimes in the most discombobulated imitation of a pre-k dance recital. Amusing, yes, but not productive. That’s because not every story really works. Some stories can’t be fixed. Those stories were practice. But I still do this process for those because it’s experience I can learn from. (That doesn’t mean I spend the week inputting those changes: it’s the analysis that’s important).

Back to the reading: as I do, I outline each scene on a sheet of notebook paper, just using the left half of the page. As I’m reading, I realize where the scene went wrong or missed something, so on the right side, I record/outline what the scene should be, aligning it to fit the story I wanted to tell, rather than the story I told.

During this read-through, I’ve got my red pen and I circle grammar and misspellings; paragraphs that cover the right material but need to be rewritten because the writing is crap, those paragraphs get a vertical red line in the ride margin. I don’t worry about fixing these until the input phase because I need the muse to put the puzzle back together. The editor is just telling us what’s wrong.

I prepare another sheet of paper, unlined if possible (lines are too constricting for this part). Ideas are coming to me–the muse is starting her dance–things that needed to happen that didn’t, mentions that were never born, or elements that repeat throughout the story. I number these down the page. It can be something as small as “change hair to long and blonde” or “foreshadow the tools she needs for her self-rescue”. Anywhere in the manuscript this needs to come up, I write the number in the margin on the left and circle it. I’ll refer back to this sheet during the input phase. I should mention that this kind of stuff, story elements rather than writing mechanics end up in blue ink. The manuscript is so marked up, it bleeds.

It keeps the muse happy, just as the red keeps my editor happy.

It takes me about 2 – 3 hours (about 2 writing sessions) to get this part done. The inputs take about a week. Then I pass it on either to a crit group if I’m feeling good about it, or to a friend or two if I know something is off but can’t quite figure it out. Reader comments often shine a light on something I missed, so it’s helpful. Then I can go in, fix these items, then present the story to one of my crit groups or buddies.

While I’m waiting, for feedback, I’ll either work on another smaller project or work on doing critiques for other people. But when the feedback comes back, I print the clean manuscript, and mark it up with the comments (or just circling). I then get to see where the holes are and were something bothered a lot of my readers. I take a few days to make, brainstorm, research, and polish. I have a checklist that I review during the polish to make sure I reviewed my weak areas plus a reminder of short story basics (sometimes those disappear if I’m too excited – it’s good to make sure they stay in the story.) Then I submit it. I do like to wait a day before submitting. Sometimes something will jump out at me or hit me overnight in my sleep.

I thoroughly enjoy the process. It’s the perfect balance of analysis and creativity that doesn’t exist any place else in the world for me.

 

Rolling With Change

The universe is testing my will to write again, or more specifically, my desire to be a good mom and a good writer are at conflict. The school year has gotten off to a good start, we’re enrolled in after school activities, I’m trying to keep myself fit, and I’m trying to keep the writing constant. Again, I’m reminded I can’t do it all, despite the fact that before, it seems like I did.

Bottom line: I’m losing my after work writing time. Every hour my daughter spends in after-school care costs me more money. After school activities cost me time.

By the time I get the little ones in bed and settled enough that I can migrate to the basement for the evening, i am so tired that my productivity slows to a screeching halt. Maybe not so dramatically, but enough that I’m trying to think of new ways to find time in my day.

THERE ARE NO NEW WAYS. There are only the ways that cost me energy. I’ve been failing at the early morning wake-ups. So I’ve been writing at lunch instead of working out, or staying up late and taking 2 hours to do what I used to in twenty minutes. I just need to get myself in gear and wake up earlier. The first step is admitting that I’ve truly lost that after work writing time. I can’t tell you how much this saddens me. The flip side is that I’m spending more time with my kids and taking them places where they can experience things and become better people and happier children.

I need to start the 4:15 wakeups. I think I should do it military style. Throw myself out of bed and onto the floor and force out 20 pushups and situps. Get the blood flowing, right?

Maybe not. 🙂 But I do need to get down to my computer and start typing. This post is the first step. It’s worked before, and i’ll do it again, I just need the push. I can do this. If my writing is going to survive, I have no other choice. I want to be awesome at two things which require more time than I can spare.

Starting tonight, 10:15 bedtime, 5:00 wake ups.  After a week or two of this and judging my productivity, I’ll see how much earlier I need to move this.

Anyone else depriving themselves of pre-sunrise sleep? I’m sure I’m not alone…