Tricking Myself into Writing

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? It’s a gloomy Monday as I’m writing this and I don’t really feel like doing much of anything. So, I decided it’s as good a day as any to write my post for the week. The problem? I have nothing to ramble about. I should probably be working on an actual story or writing my May book review post or something, but I don’t want to. I can do that stuff tomorrow. But I am slowly starting to write again, thanks to the new computer. I guess I can ramble about that. It’s one of those weird cripple things, so be prepared to give me your best “huh?” look.

Yeah, that look.

When I first started using a laptop (actually, any computer), my typing options were to either figure out how to make the keyboard work for me or use Dragon Naturally Speaking (a dictation program). I tried the latter and it was horrible. No matter how much I trained it, at least every other word was wrong. It was more trouble editing stuff than it was worth. So, I decided to use a backscratcher in my right hand and my left index finger to make the hunt-and-peck method of typing work for me. And I was good at it too. Fast enough to keep up with multiple Yahoo chat conversations in a timely manner at least. And accurate enough that I rarely had to fix any typos. It was less hunting/pecking and more just my own form of two “finger” typing. But all good things must end.

After I went through a few different wheelchairs and just as many computers, I eventually reached a point where typing became more difficult than it was worth. Basically, each new chair changed the positions of my hands, the ease with which I could reposition my arms, etc. and each new computer positioned its keyboard and touchpad slightly differently until it all combined to screw with my typing (slowed it down and made the position I had to maintain uncomfortable) enough that I looked for alternatives. By that time, Microsoft had started getting into accessibility features and had added an on-screen keyboard. I’m certainly not as fast with it as I was at typing, but it works well enough. It got me through Stonecoast and has helped me write the majority of the stuff I’ve written since then, so I can’t complain.

Don’t feel bad. Losing stuff like the ability to type is a normal cripple thing.

When this computer arrived, I decided to try typing again. The keyboard is just too pretty not to touch. So, a couple of weeks ago, I started trying to type for 30 minutes at a time. The range of motion in my left arm is absolute shit, which is to be expected. I can’t even reach the E, R, and G keys enough to press them anymore. The number keys (I used to be able to press 1-4 with my left hand) are completely out of reach. And I have to nudge my hand with my backscratcher in order to reach the Q and W. But for some reason, I have a better reach with my backscratcher than I used to, so it compensates a bit for the lack of use in my left hand. Hopefully, with practice, I’ll at least get back enough range of motion for E, R, and G.

Don’t get too excited. I’ve only done this 5 times so far. It’s annoying getting my hands into position, but that should get easier over time. My muscles tire out well before the 30 minutes are up, but I push through and it’s already getting better. I started at 75 words in 30 minutes and have increased each time (reached 245 words when I did it today). I can do 350ish words in a half hour with the on-screen keyboard, so if I can break that, I’ll definitely keep it up. Hopefully, my arms and hands will keep cooperating with me. I don’t fully trust them yet.

Idle Hands. They have a mind of their own. Am I the only one who remembers this stupid movie?

Anyway, in order to practice typing, I needed something to write, so I started a short story. It’s already 1,500 words long because it starts out as typing practice, then I’m in a groove, so I write a little more with the on-screen keyboard. But yeah. All this post is meant to say is that I found a way to trick myself into writing even though I have no motivation. Wootwoot!

What about you? Do you have any weird ways you trick yourself into being productive? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

Another Round of Shameless Self-Promotion

Hello, hello! Can you believe it’s already May? But the good thing about May is that my flash fiction piece “Poisoned Honey and Pickled Pigs’ Feet” was just released in volume 1, issue 8 of Love Letters to Poe! You can buy a copy here with my story and three other lovely pieces, or you can subscribe to the newsletter to get a free copy of the first issue as well as weekly installments with stories from that month’s release and author interviews (mine goes out on the 6th, so sign up today!). I’ll also share a link to my story/interview on my social media pages Thursday or Friday for anyone who doesn’t sign up in time. And if you miss that, after the 6th just search for Love Letters to Poe wherever you get your podcasts and you’ll be able to listen to me read the story. No matter how you access it, please feel free to leave a review or rating on the GoodReads page!

Sorry for the short post. I’ll be back to our regularly scheduled randomness next week!

New Year, New Goals

Hello, hello! It’s another new year. We’re almost a week into it, so how’s 2021 treating people thus far? It’s been a mixed bag for me, but generally meh. I got some good news that I’ll share later. Aside from that, I started off the year with a rejection and am now up to three as I’m writing this (it’s just the 5th day of the year). Things have also been hectic for Dad because of some stuff with our neighbor that he helps out. So, yeah. I think meh is an apt description of 2021 so far. Anyway, since it’s the first Wednesday of the year and I have nothing to really ramble about, this is just going to be a yearly goal post.

I see a lot of people making vision boards and stuff like that for 2021, but I don’t really understand them, so I’ll just stick with written goals. But I think I’ll group them a little differently this year instead of just writing a random paragraph with multiple goals mushed together.

Writing Goals:

1. Write 3 short stories/flash fiction pieces. I need to replenish my stock of stories to send out into the slush void.

2. Finish the first draft of DS2. I lost steam on this one, but it’s not the story’s fault. I just need to suck it up and write words.

3. Dig out the sci-fi novel I stopped a few years ago because I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and see if I can rework it. I have a new idea that will require rewriting the whole thing, but it just might work. I’ll try, but I won’t force it if it fights me.

4. Pull out the “Lightning Bugs” novelette/novella that I haven’t worked on since Stonecoast (despite Nancy Holder’s cheerleading) and see if I can flesh it out and make it presentable. I’ve avoided it because, submission-wise, I don’t really know what to do with something of that length.

Shut up, Cass. I’m going to write. Soon.

Submission Goals:

1. Submit to two magazines or anthologies a week.

2. Query agents for DS1. I have about 10 to go on my list, but I’m at that point where I need to wait for responses before I can try other agents.

3. Query publishers for DS1. If I strike out with the agents, I have a few publishers I want to submit to before I debate trunking the book/series.

On my Kindle app, but yeah.

Reading Goals:

1. Read 35 books overall.

2. Of those 35, review at least 12.

3. Of those 35, I want at least 8 to be from my “want to read again” list.

Misc. Goals:

1. Finish the shawl of doom. This is entirely because I procrastinate too much, but I will finish the damned thing and move onto another project to procrastinate on.

2. Finish watching The Untamed. I don’t usually care about TV, but I’m behind on all of my foreign shows. It’s extremely rare for me to watch anything on my own (I’d rather read), but I will make time for at least The Untamed this year. I always need more adorable gay stuff in my life.

What about you? What are your goals for 2021? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media profiles!

Shameless Plug for Myself and Pseudopod

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? I have nothing to ramble about, so here’s a short post for the sole purpose of shameless self-promotion. As some of you know, I’m one of an amazing team of first readers for the wonderfully horror-filled podcast Pseudopod. In this past Friday’s (Dec. 4th) episode, I was lucky enough to write a review of The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: Volume One (edited by Paula Guran). The review is at the end of episode 734, after the delightfully creepy story “Anatomist” by Couri Johnson and a review by Kitty Sarkozy of Couri Johnson’s collection I’ll Tell You a Love Story. I’m not one for reading out loud, so Graeme Dunlop narrated my review. You can listen pretty much anywhere you stream your favorite podcasts or you can go here! My review is near the end, so be sure to listen to the whole episode. And tune into episode 736 on December 18th for another review by me after a great story by Lee Murray.

Be A Writer They Said…

Hello, hello! Welcome to September. I suppose Thanksgiving and Christmas are some time next week with how fast time is moving. Before you know it, this year will be over and we’ll get to see what 2021 decides to throw at us. My hopes aren’t very high. But I’ve been in a blah mood anyway, so maybe I’m wrong and next year will be great. I’m in one of my burned out periods again. I haven’t worked on the novel in a while, so that’s not getting done this month. Oh well. I just pushed myself too hard too fast. Anyway, being a writer is exhausting. I thought I’d take this post as a chance to whine a bit. Sorry in advance.

Maybe, but maybe not.

And it’s true. Being a writer can be fun. Telling stories and reading and gathering with fellow writers to discuss writerly things can be amazing. But no one ever tells you that being a writer is so much more than writing. It’s the one thing I was disappointed about when it came to my MFA program: they glossed over everything included in being a professional writer that wasn’t writing or editing. I get it, it’s a writing program, but it would’ve been nice to be a little prepared for everything else. That one lecture on contracts and being told in our graduation semester that we needed to make a website didn’t quite cut it. I’m slowly figuring things out, though.

That website they randomly told me I had to make for my graduation semester? I had to design it myself because what beginning writer can afford a web designer? It has to be maintained and updated. And in order to make a website, you have to have content. Like a blog that you update weekly. And contact information. You can’t be a new anything nowadays without a social media presence. Those social media profiles need attention and updates just about every day if you want to keep your followers. It’s not exactly hard work, but all of this stuff takes up time. And if you’re popular and have tons of comments and emails to respond to, it could potentially get overwhelming. Sure, there are people you can hire for all that, but it costs money.

Yes, it can.

That’s not all. You also have to be an editor to your own work, a critic who can pull apart everyone else’s work and see what’s working and what isn’t, and a diligent student constantly improving their craft. After that, you have to sell your work and yourself to agents and publishers and readers alike. People have to like you to want to work with you, right? This usually entails submitting and querying lots of people who each have slightly different guidelines that you have to adhere to and getting told no by most of them. Then, if you’re lucky enough to make a deal, you have to pull on your lawyer pants and review every aspect of the contract to make sure everyone involved is getting a fair deal. It’s terrifying and exhausting and no one seems to want to talk about it all.

I know.

And to top it all off, there’s always someone pointing out that you should be actually writing, like everything else involved in being a writer doesn’t count as work. It’s enough to put anyone off writing for a while. But then you get the rare acceptance or encouraging note from a complete stranger or something like that and it’s all worth it again. So yeah, being a writer is exhausting and sometimes it’s fun, but it’s so much more than just writing. Be warned, then become a writer. It’ll be fun.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or questions or comments here or on my social media pages!

How Writers Are Created

Hello, hello! How is everyone today? I’m a little annoyed because WordPress has forced an upgrade to the block editor and I have no idea what I’m doing, so if my posts look wonky for a while, that’s why. I don’t like change, in case you haven’t noticed. Anyway, I don’t want to rant about that. I want to talk about those magical creatures known as writers. While I’m convinced some of us just naturally spring from the sea or earth or a river of lava, most of us are created. It’s a long, drawn out process. And there’s no one right way to make a writer. But I thought I’d share a few starting points in case you want to try making one of your own.

Mostly, except I know what I really do. I think nothing else.

In no particular order:

1. Introduce your writer-in-progress to reading early. Let them explore different genres and styles until they discover what they have an affinity for by themselves. I admit that I came to like reading later than most of my writer friends, but when I finally found my way to it, I glommed on obsessively. So, even if your writer is resistant early on, don’t give up. They might just be a late bloomer. However, avoid pushing too much in genres they’ve already expressed a dislike of or they may become resentful toward reading in general.

2. Teach your writer-in-progress the art of productive procrastination. What is productive procrastination? It’s when you avoid doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing by doing something else you’re supposed to do at some point. For instance, answering important emails instead of calling someone back or cleaning the kitchen instead of writing or things like that. It’s really the only way writers get anything done.

Yup.

3. Instill in your writer-in-progress the idea that the worst someone can do is say no, so there’s no real harm in asking. It makes the whole submission and querying processes that much easier. Not to mention asking for beta readers. Sure, all of these people might say no, but you won’t get a yes if you don’t put yourself out there. It’s a crucial skill for writers to master.

4. Expose your writer-in-progress to rejection and teach them that it isn’t the end of the world. This one goes hand-in-hand with number 3. It’s not enough to warn your writer that they’re going to get told no. A lot. You also need to teach them that while it’s okay to be sad, it’s not okay to argue with the no or have a temper tantrum over it. No means no. Accept it and move on to the next person. If they’re lucky, your writer might even get some helpful feedback with the no. Teach them to appreciate it when it happens and to consider using it if it helps improve their work.

Be okay with no.

5. Let your writer-in-progress hoard things like books and journals and pens even if they don’t use them. Writers are like little dragons. We each have things we hoard. Some of it isn’t even related to writing. That’s okay. It’s a source of joy. They’ll need something like that when all the rejections start rolling in.

I could go on with this list, but I need to go get some reading done. As always, feel free to share your own tips for creating a writer or your comments and thoughts about my list here or on my social media pages!

Five Ways To Handle Rejection (And Five Things Not To Do)

Howdy, howdy! The first week of July kind of disappeared into thin air. I have no idea where it went, but that’s been this whole year for me. Anyway, as many of you know, I’ve started another agent search. What does that mean? It means my next few months will be filled with even more rejection than usual. Depressing, right? But that’s the way it is when it you’re trying to make a career out of writing. I realize I’ve posted about rejection before, but it’s been a while and I’ve learned a lot since then, including things I wish I didn’t know (looking at you don’t #1). So, I thought I would update my rejection advice with five ways to handle it and five things not to do.

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Do #1: Print out your rejections and burn them or rip them up or reupholster your office chair with them. Whatever makes you feel better. I just save them and when I get an acceptance, I scroll through and stick my tongue out at every rejection for that particular story. It’s childish, but it works for me.

Don’t #1: For the love of whatever you worship, do NOT write someone back and cuss them out or demand an explanation. Just take the no and move on. I never even thought that would be a thing until I started slushing. I’ve been lucky. The only emails I’ve received were thank yous for taking the time to comment and one polite request for suggestions of other places to submit. But I know people who have gotten really rude and occasionally threatening responses. Don’t do that.

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Do #2: Acknowledge that writing is extremely subjective. Not everyone is going to like what you submit. That’s not your fault. The story just might not have been a good fit like the rejection says.

Don’t #2: Don’t take form rejections to heart. They usually just mean your story wasn’t a good fit for that person or venue. It’s not a comment on your writing ability.

Do #3: Be proud of a personal rejection. I know you’re thinking “but it’s still a rejection!” Yeah, but it means either the story or writing caught the person’s attention enough that they want to help you improve on it.

Don’t #3: Unless specifically stated, a personal rejection is not an invitation to revise and resubmit. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is. If there’s nothing in the letter about it, check their guidelines.

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Do #4: Take a break. Rejections can get depressing. It’s okay to take a break from writing and/or submitting when you start to feel burned out. We all need to take care of ourselves.

Don’t #4: Making the decision to stop writing isn’t something you should do rashly. If you’re overwhelmed by the rejection, take some time away. Don’t immediately declare that you’re never going to write again. Cool off and weigh the pros and cons rationally.

Do #5: Get a second creative outlet. Preferably something new, so you aren’t as critical of yourself when you’re doing it. Something for fun, not work.

Don’t #5: Try not to forget that writing is work. Sure, you’re passionate about it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t draining.

That’s my advice this week. I’m sure I won’t listen to myself about much of this. Who takes their own advice? But take from it what you will. What is some advice you have for dealing with rejection? As always, feel free to share your comments here or on my social media pages!

The Agent Hunt Begins

Hello, hello! How is everyone’s May going? Are you still staying at home? Is your area opening back up? North Texas is opening new stuff every week or so, but Dallas county alone is still gaining around 250 new cases every day. Needless to say, Dad and I are staying home for the foreseeable future. What does that mean for my productivity? Nothing. I’ve been pretty lazy the last couple of weeks. I know what I should be doing, but I can’t find the motivation. At least I couldn’t find it until I got an email on Monday informing my that the next PitDark is on the 21st. That means I have about a week to get my shit together and get ready to start my agent hunt. What does that entail? Panic. And some other stuff I’ll ramble about right now.

PitDark-May-October
Borrowed the image from the site listed on it. Click here for the link.

First, if you’re not familiar with Twitter pitch sessions (and you haven’t clicked the link under the picture), you’re probably wondering what PitDark is. It’s a chance for writers of horror/dark fantasy/murder mysteries/anything on the darker side to pitch completed manuscripts to participating agents and publishers. Anything from middle grade to adult is welcome. Basically, you post a Tweet-length pitch with all of the appropriate hashtags (see the website above for that info) up to once an hour per manuscript from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern time) on May 21st and if an agent or publisher hits the little heart button, it’s an invitation to query them if you want to.

Luckily, I’ve finished my revisions of DS1 and also completed a round of edits for consistency and grammar and typos. I’ve just been trying to convince myself to prepare everything I’ll need in order to query agents. What does that include? Most importantly, a query letter that contains a blurb about the book to hook the agent (basically like what you find on the back of books to let you know what they’re about), a brief summary of my publication history, anything unique about me that informs my writing of this particular book, and a brief introduction reminding them if we’ve met or why we might work well together just to show I’ve done my research. Sometimes, that letter and the first few pages (or chapters) of the book are all you need. But some agents also require a synopsis. There’s the standard 1-2 page synopsis that introduces everything, but doesn’t necessarily spoil the ending. Most of the time, that’s enough. However, there’s also the 3-5 page synopsis that gives away everything. Some agents ask for that or both types of synopses. In other words, I have to write all of these things PLUS a Tweet-length pitch if I want to participate in PitDark and be ready to submit to someone if they like my pitch.

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And that’s not all. I also need to research agents. This I can do as I go along or after PitDark is over in the event that I don’t get a bite. The list of participating agents on the PitDark website is a good place for me to start. I can look at their preferences and see if we might be a good fit, then query them if they’re accepting unsolicited queries. I can also look at other agents within the bigger agencies to see if I can find a better fit. Some agencies have the policy that a no from one agent is a no from them all. Other agencies allow you to query multiple agents (one at a time of course). So, it’s good to find agents who are looking for work similar to your own instead of randomly querying everyone. I have a list of 101 agents from when I queried for G&G, but most of them wouldn’t be interested in DS1. However, I can use my list as another starting point because I listed the agencies they were with as well, so I can look at other agents in each agency. Otherwise, there’s always Google and checking to see who reps authors of similar works and a million other sources it would take too long to list.

SoulfulAmusingGalapagoshawk-size_restricted

Anyway, my next few days will consist of writing a query letter and two synopses. If you notice my Twitter feed spammed with hourly pitches on the 21st, now you’ll know why. I’m not crazy, I’m just searching for an agent. As always, feel free to post your thoughts or comments or advice or good vibes or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Goal Check-In

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone doing?  Is 2020 treating you well?  It has been a quiet month for me.  I’ve been working hard.  And since I have nothing to really talk about right now, I thought I would let you know how my goals are going thus far.  I mean, it’s only been 22 days, but I’m a little impressed by how well I’m keeping up with things.  I’ve usually dropped the ball on at least one of my goals by now.  I can admit that.  But not this time.  Not yet.

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Dropping the ball and judgment all in one GIF.

Revision: I’m a little more than a quarter of the way through the major changes in DS1. I fell behind a little last week because some unforeseen errands popped up, but I managed to tack some extra words on my writing days to make up for the 1,000 words I missed.  I’m still on track to meet my March 20th deadline.  February might upset this rhythm a little bit (one of my favorite people is coming to visit one weekend! Yay!), but I can play around with word count to catch up on anything I miss if I really want to.  Or I can just be happy that I’ll still be ahead of my April 30th deadline because I’m lazy.

Reading: I’ve finished 2 books so far.  One of them, I will be reviewing either next week or the end of February (I haven’t decided).  The other book was my first re-read of the year: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  It wasn’t as fun this time around.  I’m hoping the series gets better as I get further in because I don’t remember much about the other books at all.  I’m also currently reading two other books.  One will be my review book for next week or February depending on how fast I can finish it.  The other is a book of essays.  You can stalk me on GoodReads if you want to see exactly what I’m reading.

funny-book-meme-monday-L-j9eKK9

Submitting and querying: I’m still submitting two pieces a week.  I’ve got a couple of pieces shortlisted (fingers crossed) and have already received a few rejections this year.  As far as querying goes, that has to wait until I’m done with revisions, so as long as they’re on track, I consider my querying goal on track.

Crocheting: It’s been slow since I’m focusing on revision, but I am still doing it.  Some days I don’t crochet at all, but even if I can only squeeze in a half hour’s worth, I try to do it.  I think once I’m done with revising and back on a writing schedule, I’ll have a little more free time.  Not much, but a little.

for-the-next-three-months-above-a-pic-of-a-monk-standing-on-a-ledge-staring-off-into-the-mountains
Accurate.

Socializing: This wasn’t actually a goal, but I thought I’d mention it.  I’m doing better than usual.  As I said, someone is coming to visit in February.  And I’ve been texting people in a semi-timely fashion.  I still need to write a couple of letters.  One of which I will write as soon as I’m done with this post.

So yeah.  I think I’m doing pretty well.  Are you keeping up with your goals for the year or month or week?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Self-Imposed Deadlines: Do They Work?

Hello, hello!  How did your first week of 2020 go?  Were you as productive as you wanted to be?  My week has been pretty good.  I made a revision schedule for DS1 and came up with two deadlines (the ideal one versus the actual one).  I’ll share them with you along with my thoughts on self-imposed deadlines in a moment, but first I wanted to say that I’m ahead of schedule and (so far) sticking to the goals necessary to complete the revisions ahead of my ideal schedule.  I’m not crocheting as much as I want, but I’ll eventually find a balance.  Anyway, the year has been good and productive thus far!  Huzzah!

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Go me! I’m not above celebrating myself.

So, like I said, I made a revision schedule for DS1. If I revise a 1,000-word chunk four days a week, I will be able to finish the second draft of this novel (draft one was 66,100ish words) by April 30th. That’s my actual goal.  It’s realistic and easily doable even if I fall a little behind.  Why only four days a week?  Because Sunday is shower day, which is an all day thing; Tuesday (or sometimes Monday) is blog writing day, which I usually don’t feel like do anything productive afterwards; and one day a week for doctor’s appointments, errands, crocheting, or just me time.  I think that’s a reasonable schedule at this point.  However, if I continue with the same basic schedule, just with revising 1,500-word chunks, my finish date becomes March 20th (my ideal deadline).  So far, I’m keeping up with the latter date, plus I already had about 2,000 words revised that held up well under scrutiny, so I’m ahead of the March 20th deadline by about a day.

I realize that these are self-imposed deadlines, which a lot of people think are useless.  There aren’t any real consequences if I miss them, so are they really that helpful?  For me, the answer is yes and no.  Let’s tackle the no first.  The efficacy of self-imposed deadlines really depends on my mood.  If I’m feeling depressed and unmotivated and all of that, a self-imposed deadline means absolutely nothing to me.  All it does is make me feel worse because I let myself down.  You give me a deadline for a paying job or if I’m taking a class or something and I’ll get everything done a day early come Hell or high water.  But a self-imposed deadline doesn’t offer me the same kind of motivation.

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Accurate.

If that’s the case, then how are self-imposed deadlines helpful to me?  Because they remind me that I have my own pace.  That I know my own abilities.  In a couple of weeks, when I’m looking at my revisions and upset that I’m not closer to the end, I will be able to look at my deadlines and remind myself that I’m on track according to my own abilities.  I’m not capable of writing 5,000 words in one sitting.  I can’t fully revise 6,500 words in one day.  Other people can.  I’m not them.  And having those self-imposed deadlines reminds me that I have a plan, that I made this plan for a reason and it’s catered to my own abilities.  It helps me from getting too discouraged.

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I think.

What are your thoughts on self-imposed deadlines?  Are they helpful to you?  Do you stick with them?  As usual, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!