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it’s a short story or a novel or something in between, critiquing activates the editor in my brain and looking at an unpublished piece of fiction gives me the distance to discern what isn’t working or weaknesses and strengths of the writing itself.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. 🙂


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 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 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!!

Story Sold to Daily Science Fiction

Nothing’s more exciting than sales news. 🙂

I sold a science fiction story to Daily Science Fiction. They post stories on their website, plus email it to subscribers one week in advance. It’s a really neat market that publishes something for everyone.

I’ll post dates when I have them.




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.

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.




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.


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”


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.






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, 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!


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


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

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)

5 Brave Things: A Parenting Post

When a person loves something as passionately as I love my kids, then it can’t help seep into my writing life. For the first time today, I realized the opposite is also true. The organization skills I learned in managing my writing, specifically goal setting, is helping me in my parenting.

My six-year-old is painfully shy. I’m her security blanket when we’re out and she has to talk to anyone, literally. You know that sinking-into-the-floor feeling of anxiety? She really does it. She slips down to the floor and tries to disappear.

Recently, she had to appear onstage in front of the half the school for a spelling bee. It was torture for both of us getting her on stage and into her seat. She did the melting-into-the-floor trick and wouldn’t move, not even for the teacher running the event. I had to go up onto stage, take her hand and walk her to her seat. She was nervous still after that, but she did participate through round five, beating out several kids older than her.

We praised her up and down for being brave. And then inspiration struck. If she could do this, even with the earlier trouble, she can get past being shy. The proper motivation is absolutely required.

Both kids are in a karate school that encourages family participation. She’s been wanting me to join her class, I’ve been delaying. That’s the carrot. Now here’s the stick: that spelling bee is the first of 5 BRAVE THINGS she has to do. As a reward, when she’s done, I’ll join her class.  We’ve even talked to her karate teacher and he’s agreed to provide her opportunities in class to complete a BRAVE THING.

Just like writing, change comes a little at a time and needs the proper motivation and reward system. I hope I’ve stumbled onto the right solution for her.

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


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.


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?


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