December Goals

Howdy, howdy!  It’s December again (didn’t we just do this?).  Happy holidays and all that jazz!  I don’t really have anything to talk about this week and I’ve been super slacking on the writing front (and at life in general), so I thought I would take a minute to make my goals for the month known.  This way, you can heckle me until I succeed.  I know these posts are pretty boring, so I try not to do them a lot.  Apologies in advance.  But here are my goals in no particular order!

hello-december
Cute pictures are fun.

December Goals:

1. Submit stuff 10 times (2 every Monday).  I’ve consistently submitted two stories a week all year long.  Granted, it wasn’t always on Mondays, but it got done even when I really didn’t feel like it.  I’m super proud of that.  Now, I just have to keep it up the rest of this month and do it all over again next year.

2. Revise more of LR.  Revising has been beyond slow and I have no one and nothing to blame but myself.  I love the story and I’m excited about it, but I can’t get into a good rhythm with the revisions.  I get into it a few days then can’t bring myself to open the files for a while.  It’s weird.

3. Read 2 books.  Actually, I need to finish two books (at least) this month.  I started them both last month.  When I got the okay on The Razor, I stopped in the middle of European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman.  There was just no way for me to finish both last month.  And I decided to start this month’s review book before I finish European Travel.  I somehow clumped too many long books together and it’s thrown my whole reading schedule off, but I’m past my goal for the year, so it’s okay.

ecde7721063e2c7fb6e48956f2daf116
The lazy voices in my head often enable me by telling the productive ones to shut up.

4. Make time for people.  It’s just really hard to talk to people when I like being a recluse so much.  Luckily, around the holidays, I randomly text people to wish them well and usually end up chatting with a few of them.  It’s the only time of year I’m not a completely shitty friend!

5. Decide on a couple of days to go through my files and tidy everything up.  I seriously need to do this.  I used to know exactly where every song, picture, and file was on my computer.  Now, I can’t find half the stuff I go looking for.  It’s a mess.

6. Start ripping old CDs to my computer.  A few months ago, I got a new radio because my 60 disc player stopped working.  Do you know how hard it is to find a new 60+ disc player that is it’s own stereo, not a component to a make-your-own stereo system?  Impossible.  In other words, I have a bunch of CDs that I need to transfer to my computer so I can play my old favorites and annoy the crap out of Dad.

hqdefault
Okay, I have that one on my computer, but this made my smile.

7. Attack the slush pile.  I’ve been sporadic with my first reader duties over at Pseudopod.  I need to buckle down and help get through this period’s submissions.  It’s always a fun experience.

Those are my goals.  What about you?  Do you have any stuff you want to focus on this month?  Feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

Guest Post: Joseph Carro On Writer’s Block

Howdy, howdy!  Welcome to another guest post.  This time, we have my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, Joseph Carro.  He’s got some super helpful tips for working around writer’s block, which I struggle with a lot.  So, read on!

106
Joe and I at the Harraseeket Inn.  Pretty sure that was January ’15.

On Writer’s Block

By Joseph Carro

Writing can be an extremely frustrating and hopelessly solitary artistic endeavor, and as writers we know and understand this when we choose it as our lifestyle. Yet it doesn’t make it any easier when we’re holed up in the basement, writing the next big thing on our minds. Whether you’re trying to write a blog post, a poem, a screenplay, or a novel – Writer’s Block afflicts us all. I know that personally, real life usually gets in the way and saps my creative juices with its constant demands, but to keep writing I have acquired several techniques which I use in order to get my brain jumpstarted again. My hope is to share a couple of my own techniques with you. I know that many of you have your own techniques, but as a writer – I usually appreciate any new ways in which I can defeat this annoying affliction. Feel free to chime in with your own methods below in the comments section.


WALK OR DRIVE: Walking, to me, is a lost pastime. And I’m not the only one to think so. If you’re stuck on a certain spot in your manuscript or post or what have you, get OUT of that space for a little while. If you don’t like walking, then just sit outside or maybe take a drive. Anything to get yourself out of your stagnant state. Maybe you’ll see or experience something that will ignite that spark. You just have to step outside your comfort zone for a bit. Fresh air does wonders for the mind and the thought process needed for writing.

giphy (8)

READ SOMETHING: As Stephen King once said; “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Writing is a skill in which you absorb technique and inspiration from reading other writers. To do so, you need to actually read. Sometimes, reading someone else’s work is the perfect way to jumpstart your own. In my case, I will sometimes put aside my writing for one day and try to finish the book I was already reading or start another one. By the time I’m through a few chapters, I’m usually chomping at the bit to get back into my writing project. Obviously, it’s “dangerous” to put aside the writing to do something else (because you can get too much into the habit of doing that), but in moderation I think it works. Just really pay attention to what the authors are doing; their prose, the construction of the novel or short story or poem or whatever, and the way in which the strongest parts of it make you feel as a reader. Try to infuse your writing with some of that magic, without trying to ape their style. Be you.

094

LISTEN TO MUSIC: This one is very divisive within the writing community. In one camp, you have people who absolutely cannot listen to music while writing. Or, they at least must listen to very quiet, ambient music rather than anything heady with lyrics. That’s okay, this technique may not be for you either. However – when I’m trying to write a certain scene or a certain tone to my short story or screenplay, I sometimes pick an appropriate piece of music. For a tone, I will generally choose a playlist I’ve created on Spotify or find a playlist on YouTube – for example, if I’m looking for a melancholy tone I will choose a playlist that’s labeled as “sad songs” or “bittersweet songs”. Generally, the mood conveyed through these songs, and the emotions they bring out enhance my writing. It’s all about knowing your tolerance for this kind of distraction while you’re trying to write. This also works if you just need to listen to a song or two BEFORE you write, rather than listening to entire tracks during your actual writing. Just make sure to fire up another song here and there to renew your creative juices and emotions, because sometimes sitting in a chair and writing prose does not automatically generate emotions until you really get into the meat of the story. Writing is both a technical skill and an art, and art comes from emotion. Sometimes, we wade too far into the technical aspects and lose the emotional momentum.

where_words_fail_music_speaks_art_print-r5a683fbc46c54ffe83e696870a409b8e_zv9_8byvr_307

USE WRITING EXERCISES AND PROMPTS: This method is actually my favorite, and thanks to the internet, there are countless online sources for finding writing ideas. These aren’t necessarily meant to replace the project you’re working on, but are more for trying to write something in general when you’re stuck. However, if you need some distance from your novel, it’s okay to take a brief respite and write something else. A few of my favorite sources for writing prompts are from books I’ve found or have been given. My wife gifted me a sort of “activity book” called 400 Writing Prompts by Piccadilly Inc and that one has given me quite a few ideas. A couple of other books I’ve found to be pretty useful are The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1,001 Prompts To Ignite Your Fiction from Writer’s Digest Books, What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, and The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing by Monica Wood. There are also lots of online sources out there as I mentioned above, and some of my favorites are Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, tumblr, and even reddit. Various bloggers like myself also dedicate entire sections of their blog to writing prompts. My own blog, Away With Words, has just such a section that you can find HERE. I try to do at least one weekly prompt, but sometimes I do more.

13055369_10154016166591291_2581038575776862019_n


These are just some tools for trying to get back into the swing of things, and my hope is that by using these techniques and resources, you can dig yourself out of whatever funk you’re in and get back to writing. Remember – try not to be too hard on yourself. Writing is hard work, it’s thirsty work, and your brain can quickly become parched when it’s dealing with the same tedious task over and over. Give it some variety and keep yourself from getting mired. Good luck!

406072_10150922800201931_1610089937_n

My name is Joseph Carro, and I am a Maine-based freelance writer and editor trying to make it in the big world of letters and semi-colons. I work currently as a barista to (barely) pay the bills, and in the meantime, I’m working on a YA novel, currently untitled, as well as various other works like screenplays, comic scripts, short stories, and flash fiction. Heck, you may as well toss in some comic books with that, too.

I live in Portland, here in Maine – with my beautiful wife and our five-pound chihuahua, Brewtus.

Above photo courtesy of Helen Peppe.

Celebrating National Poetry Month

Howdy, howdy!  It’s (already) April once again.  Can you believe it?  A quarter of the year has passed us by.  As many of you know, that means it’s National Poetry Month.  I admit that I haven’t given poetry much of my time this past year, but I want to change that.  At least for a month.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until my Facebook friends started posting daily poems.  So, I thought I would devote this post to a few of the ways that I hope to celebrate this month.

hello-april-1

1. Write a poem.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote one.  But I recently had a nostalgia moment where I read through some of the ones I wrote as an undergrad, and that made me really miss the structure that poetry provides.  I used to love writing villanelles and haikus and sestinas.  Anything with strict constraints.  I liked looser forms as well, but they weren’t as challenging.  That little trip down memory lane even resulted in me submitting a poem to a contest.  Send good vibes!

2. Read a book of poetry.  Maybe I’ll read an anthology filled with different authors writing about the same subject.  It’s always interesting to see how different people tackle the same basic topic.  Then again, maybe I’ll read a collection by one author.  I like to see how a collection connects from one poem to the next (or doesn’t connect at all).  Hell, maybe I’ll read both kinds.  It’s still early in the month after all.

l-cohen-poetry-ash-quote-crop-2

3. Base a story off a poem.  I’m almost done with my current novel attempt, so I’m hoping to work on more short stories and flash pieces, that way I have more things to submit.  I know I use art a lot for inspiration, but I’ve also been known to use songs and poetry in the past as well.  It might be an adaptation, or it could just be loosely connected, but hopefully it’ll be something good.

4. Take the time to listen to some poetry.  I don’t know of any upcoming readings around here, but YouTube has plenty.  And there are always podcasts.  I’m sure if I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations, I’d come away with too many options to check out in a month.  Feel free to shoot me some podcast or other ideas for places to listen to poetry here as well!

robertfrost1-2x

5. Look back at some of my old favorites.  I used to have a few poems memorized, but I can’t get all the way through any of them anymore.  From Ai to Donne to Poe, there are a lot of poems I should probably revisit.

That’s my plan for celebrating National Poetry Month.  What about you?  Are you going to read or reread some of your favorite poems?  Maybe you’ll write some of your own poetry.  What about my visual art friends?  Have you thought about making your art based around a poem?  Feel free to share your plans here or on my social media pages!

Goals Vs. Allergies: The Struggle Is Real

Howdy, howdy!  Welcome to February.  Today, I want to share my goals for the month, but I also want to talk about allergies.  Down here in Texas, the trees are getting ready for spring by spewing pollen everywhere.  Depending on which way the wind’s blowing and which trees are shaking off their dust, this can create a miserable environment for people with allergies.  People like me.  Which, in turn, makes completing goals hard.  So, along with my goals, I’ll talk about how I work them around the worst of my allergy days.

CM-quotes-February
Pretty picture.

So, here are my goals:

1. Finish DS1’s shitty first draft.  Writing in general is super hard when your head feels like it’s going to explode and your mucus can’t decide if it wants to hole up in your sinuses or pour all over your face (spoiler: it decides to do both).  Sure, you can take a bunch of allergy meds and hope they don’t knock you out before you get your words done, but we both know that won’t work.  Instead, I try to make sure I work as much as possible on the days I feel okay, so that I don’t feel too guilty for slacking on the days I feel like crap.  That’s really all we can do to get the writing goals done during allergy season.

2. Submit stuff 8 times (2 every Monday).  This is the kind of thing I do regardless of whether allergies are kicking my ass or not.  My cover letter is already written and my manuscript is properly formatted.  All I have to do is double check submission guidelines, make any formatting tweaks, and send stuff out.  It doesn’t take much energy or time, so if I’m feeling really bad, I can put it off until the initial medication drowsiness has faded.

wG6X5.gif
Just add some snot and drool and it’s close enough.

3. Write 1 flash piece OR short story.  For those days you feel good enough to write but don’t have the brain function to focus on your novel.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I just need something quick to distract me from all the plot lines I have to keep straight in the novels.  Especially when my brain already feels fuzzy from allergies.

4. Read 2 books.  I tend to save reading for the days when I just can’t bring myself to write, but feel like I should be doing something productive.  If  it gets too hard to focus, I can always switch to Netflix.

5. Make time for people/leaving the house.  I’m always bad at this whether allergies are involved or not.  But I do have a tendency to say yes to leaving the house (running errands with Dad) when I don’t feel up to writing.  It makes me feel productive in a different way and I don’t have to worry about the allergies making my words come out weird.

tenor (3)
It really is.

Those are my goals for February.  I figure it’s easier to stick to a few just in case my allergies get evil.  What are some of your goals this month?  How do you work around your allergies?  Or do you prefer to push through them?

November Has Arrived

Hello, hello!  I hope everyone had a delightfully scary Halloween!  It was pretty dreary around here, so we just sat in the house and waited to see if any trick-or-treaters were going to show up (only my four munchkins showed up).  Anyway, since it’s now the first (and apparently national author’s day), I thought I would post something writerly in celebration of the day.  Actually, it’s not so much writerly as it is something to hold me accountable to my writerly things.  I’m talking about goals.  It worked really well for me in September, so I’m posting them publicly again.

I got a rock
Rocks are nice, Charlie Brown.

1. Write 18,000+ words.  I know it’s not NaNoWriMo levels of writing (I like what little sanity I have left, so I don’t participate in that), but it’s something I can accomplish in a reasonable fashion without killing myself.  Plus, it leaves me with time to do the rest of the things I have to do each day.  But I wish everyone doing NaNoWriMo well.  I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines!

2. Read two and a half books.  I’m currently in the middle of The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle for my own amusement.  I’m supposed to read Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate for the book club I’m in.  Then, I have an ARC (advanced reader copy) of The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross, also by Tuttle, to review by the end of November.  Not to mention reading all the little things I have to keep up with.

51y1ZNO8aCL._SY445_QL70_
A little slow, but decent so far.

3. Revise and send a flash fiction piece out into the slush-void.  I got some wonderful feedback from my critique group on the piece I sent to them back in September.  They all insisted that I clean it up and send it out.  Some of them might flog me if I don’t, so here… it’s officially on my to-do list.

4. Submit a story to my critique group.  It’s just another flash piece that I forgot I wrote a long time ago.  It suddenly popped back into my head a few days ago.  So, after I find it and clean it up a little bit, I’ll send it their way.

5. Last, but not least, I want to write one new short story or flash fiction piece.  I know that I mainly want to work on my novel, but I haven’t written anything short in a long time.  I miss the feel of completing something in a few days instead of months.  I’m probably rusty, but I want to get back to the conciseness inherent in short stories.  I’m afraid I’ve grown too accustomed to writing longer pieces.  I don’t want to lose the ability to focus on something short.

VlQje

So yeah.  Those are my writerly goals for November.  What about you?  Is there anything specific you hope to accomplish this month?  Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media accounts!  Let’s hold each other accountable.