Making Timelines

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone’s August going?  I’m still on track with the goals I posted last week.  Writing and revision are slow, but I’m doing something every day.  As far as books go, I’m currently reading Sandra Scofield’s The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it as a craft book.  It’s not bad, but half the time she seems really into genre fiction and the other half it seems like she’s looking down on it.  I’m just getting mixed messages from it.  However, I have found many of the exercises in the book useful!  I wanted to talk about one of those today: making timelines.

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It’s not bad as far as craft books go.  I’d recommend trying it.

In all of the fiction writing classes I’ve taken, there’s always been at least one hardcore plotter (sometimes, it’s even the teacher).  These are the people who swear by creating outlines and timelines of every little thing before they even begin writing.  I’m not one of them.  Sure, I plot things out in my head, but writing it down feels constrictive.  I like to let my first drafts form organically.  There’s no theme in my mind, no worry about subplots, none of that.  I know point A and point B.  Getting from one to the other should be an adventure.  That’s just how I like it.

I admit that my approach makes revision difficult.  I have nothing but the manuscript to work with, so trying to rework it into something readable can be a daunting task.  That’s why, when someone in my writing group suggested the above-mentioned book, I decided to give it a shot.  And you know what?  It offered suggestions that I had never thought about before.  Did you know that you could write your first draft with no guidelines and then make timelines and outlines and all of that plotter stuff after you have that shitty draft finished?  Because I had never really thought about it.  And now I feel like a complete idiot for not thinking of it sooner.

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Me. Stupid face and all.

So, guess what I did!  I bought a bunch of sticky notes and wrote out the main plotline, filling in stuff and taking stuff away as needed.  In other colors, I took certain characters/groups of characters and wrote out what they were doing and important tidbits that needed to show up in the novel.  Dad stuck them up all over my mirrors and now they taunt me every day until I do my work.  I can’t say I did it correctly.  I didn’t give each little plot point its own Post-It (only the major ones got that honor).  I’m sure I could’ve used different colored pens for different plots and all that crap.  But for my first time, I’m happy with it and it’s working for me so far.

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Why?  Why is this so true?  Timelines as well.  So hard.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because you’re not a plotter doesn’t mean you can’t try their techniques during the revision process.  The book offers a lot of different suggestions, some of which I skipped in favor of others.  I’ll read about the ones that I know don’t work for me, but it doesn’t mean I have to do them.  If you’re having trouble finding a toehold in the revision process, pick up a craft book and try something new.  Make timelines.  Use sticky notes or index cards.  Have fun.  See what kind of pretty pictures your story makes.  Or keep it simple like I did.  Whatever works for you.

Speaking of things that work for you (or don’t), how do you go about revision?  Do you make timelines before or after the first draft or not at all?  Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and techniques here or on my social media pages!

Revision Prep: The Initial Read-Through

Howdy, howdy!  I recently started the initial read-through of LR (code name for novel attempt 2, draft 1) in preparation for beginning the editing process.  Yes, I know I should’ve done that a couple of months ago, but I didn’t.  So, here we are.  This is the part of revision where I haven’t looked at the story in a while (about six months for this one), so I’m reading it mostly in reader mode.  I have to remind myself that this is not the time for my inner editor to nag at every little thing, it’s time to just enjoy the story and see how it goes.  However, there are things I keep on the look out for in the back of my mind while I’m reading.  That’s what I want to ramble about today: the five things I look for during this read-through.

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The sooner I acknowledge it’s shitty, the easier it is to tune out my inner editor until I need her.

1. Gut reactions.  What makes me laugh?  What makes me want to cry?  What do I glance over?  I’m looking to see what parts of the story elicit emotional reactions and which parts are blah.  I want to keep the former (if possible) and tweak or get rid of the latter.  Also, I want to know if I still enjoy the story as much as I did when I wrote it.  I’m only like six chapters into LR as a reader, but I’m actually super surprised at how much I love it.  Yeah, it’s a shitty first draft, but the characters and story still really amuse me.  It makes me think I’m doing something wrong, because I feel like I’m supposed to hate it at this point.

2. Continuity errors.  Have I randomly changed someone’s name?  Did I move an entire building somewhere else halfway through?  Was someone right handed and suddenly they’re left handed?  Stupid things like that.  Some are glaringly obvious while others will only be noticed by a really close reading.  I already know my main character randomly goes from fourteen to seventeen (because fourteen was too creepily young for this particular story).  One of my “bad guys” changes her race halfway through because I originally couldn’t decide what group of shifters she belonged to, but then decided on one that was completely different from how I imagined her in the beginning.  And of course there are a bunch of little things as well.

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I feel like I’ve used this before, but it’s appropriate.

3. Plot holes.  Have I left any threads undone?  Did I randomly start something in the middle with no lead up to it?  Is what the character’s doing feasible in the world I created?  Is it something they actually would do?  These are definitely things I have to make notes about so I can fix them or change them or remove them entirely.  There’s this thing with a fox in the first chapter of LR and by chapter two, it’s been completely forgotten.  I have no idea where that was going, but if I don’t figure it out by the end of this read-through, I either need to cut it or make something up.  These are important changes for me to consider as I read.

4. Useless characters.  Do I have any characters who are just there to do one thing and then they disappear?  Can someone more pertinent to the story do the thing?  Could that character become someone important?  I know most books have at least a couple of superfluous characters, but I like to weed them out if I can.  In LR, there’s the principal’s secretary whose sole job seems to be giving my main character his late slips for class.  I’m debating whether or not to combine her with another character or just giving her a bigger role in the next book.  Then again, I might keep her as she is because that’s life.  Someone has to pass out the tardy slips.

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Went looking for typo demon pictures and got distracted by manga demons.  It’s Lucifer from Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary.

5. Blatant typos and grammatical errors.  These aren’t things I actually look for in this read-through, but if they pop out at me, I either make a note or fix them.  I try to save this stuff for later read-throughs, though.

What about you?  Do you have anything you look for when you’re getting reacquainted with stories you want to revise?  Feel free to share your thoughts and 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

The Lessons of Writing Every Day

Howdy, howdy!  How is everyone’s April going so far?  Are you keeping up with all of your goals?  I actually want to talk about how I’ve been doing with that whole “write every day” thing that I mentioned trying back in March.  It’s been working!  Every day in March (including Sundays and those days when I really didn’t want to), I wrote at least 50 words.  Sometimes, I even made it up to 1,000 words.  When April arrived, I upped it to at least 100 words a day.  So far, I’ve kept at it!  And I’ve learned some things from my experience thus far, which is what I’m going to ramble about right now.

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Well, a computer.

Thing the first: Sunday will never be a good writing day for me.  Right now, Sunday is set aside for things that take up most of the day, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up with even 50 words.  I did.  Even 100 words has proven to be doable.  But I don’t think I’ll ever do more than that on Sundays.  It’s actually kind of annoying writing on those days.  I miss my day off.

Thing the second: I still write better at night.  I’ve tried for a long time to adjust to writing in the late afternoon/early evening with mixed results.  Sometimes, words flow easily and I finish my 1,000 words before I even realize it.  A lot of times, writing the words is like pulling teeth.  But, I’ve found that when I open a story around 11ish at night to write my words on those days I’m too lazy to do it in the afternoon, the words always flow.  Granted, I’m usually only aiming for 100-150 at that point, so it might just be that I’m not pressuring myself with a difficult goal.  It’s just something I noticed.  But I’ve always been a night owl, so this is no surprise.

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Pretty much.

Thing the last: writing every day is not a stress reliever for me.  A lot of people I know say that they feel so much better after they write their words for the day.  It’s like a catharsis for them to get words on the page (even if it’s just 50 words).  I am not one of these people.  I usually feel the same or worse after I write, unless I hit one of those rare days where the words tumble out onto the page almost by themselves.  Most of the time, I’m just happy that I can play games or read or watch anime or whatever without feeling guilty.  At least until I realize that it’s too late to do any of that stuff, then I’m just annoyed that I don’t have a day off to do any of it.

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When you finish writing and realize you don’t have time for anime.

In other words, my experiment with writing every day is going well.  I’m about halfway through the last chapter of my current novel attempt (hoping to finish by the end of the week).  When I switch to revision mode, I’m not sure if I’ll keep up with writing every single day, but I’m glad I’ve done it.  I admit that setting low goals for each day is a helpful way of getting back into the sway of writing.  Do you have any experience with something like this?  As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Random Spring Thoughts

Howdy, howdy!  I want to take a second to say thank you to Derek Hoffman one more time for his guest post last week!  I’m in the process of lining up more guests in the future, so if you’re interested in something like that, feel free to e-mail me (shawna.n.borman@gmail.com) or get in touch via my social media pages.

And now, on to this week.  Happy spring!  I had zero ideas what to blog about this week, so Dad suggested I do a post of random thoughts I’ve been having lately.  Therefore, if you don’t like this post, blame him.  Anyway, here are five things that have been on my mind recently.

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They’re so cute and fuzzy!!!  Yes, cute and fuzzy makes me abuse the exclamation mark.

1. I’ve been wondering why it always seems harder to write words the closer I get to the end of a story.  I still haven’t finished the shitty first draft of my current novel attempt (I know, I know… judge me all you want), even though I’m only a few thousand words away from typing THE END.  Revision ideas keep popping into my head, but I make a note and then ignore them, like a good little writer.  It’s like my brain doesn’t want me to finish.  But I will prevail!  I’ll reach THE END, then I’ll get stuck in the editing process and complain about that for a while.  Am I the only one with this problem?

2. Recently, I finished reading a book and told myself I wasn’t going to start another one until I finished the one I put down without finishing for various reasons (none of which have to do with the book itself).  The next day, I wore my Howl’s Moving Castle t-shirt and realized I hadn’t read the book yet, so I started reading that instead.  I feel like a very fickle reader.  Shame on me.

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I should probably buy some new shirts.

3. Honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about my Stonecoast friends.  I was feeling really isolated, especially since it’s pretty much writing con season (ICFA, AWP, StokerCon, etc.).  But then I realized my Stonecoast people are magical psychic unicorns, because within a few days of my thoughts, I received a Facebook message saying someone was thinking of me and a surprise package in the mail from someone else.  Also, I know I’m not the best at keeping in touch with people, but I really do appreciate them.

4. I want to start drawing again.  It’s something I’ve randomly thought about for a while now, but I’ve been too lazy to see if my tablet thingamajig even works any more.  It’s super old.  Maybe I’ll just buy a new one so I don’t have excuses.  (P.S. This drawing desire will fade soon, so don’t expect anything new from it.)

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It’s the only realistic picture I’ve drawn that I really liked, even though I totally screwed up the perspective of the flooring in the background.  I mostly just like to color.

5. Multiplication tables.  When I have trouble getting to sleep, I’ve started doing multiplication in my head.  I start at one and go up to thirteen, then two to thirteen, and so on until I reach thirteen times thirteen or until I fall asleep.  It’s actually been pretty helpful with the sleep bit, but I’m still slow at math.

There you have it.  Five bits of random thoughts.  Feel free to share some of your own thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Looking Forward: 2018 Goals

Howdy, howdy!  A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I would be interested in creating some writing goals for the new year and sharing them with each other for accountability purposes.  I agreed, because accountability is the best way to motivate me.  So, since we’re (not so) slowly making our way through December, I thought I would go ahead and share them with everyone.  As I’ve probably said before, I don’t care for the idea of making resolutions, because they’re usually vague things (eating healthier, exercising more, going out more, spending less, etc.) that people keep up with for a few days or even weeks then forget.  Goals, on the other hand, tend to be more specific, thus easier to keep track of and definitively complete.  So, here are my writerly goals for 2018.

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Pretty much.

1. Finish the first draft of DS1 (code name for my novel-in-progress).  I probably should’ve finished this by the end of December, but I hit a road block and decided to work on my fetish fairy tales for a little while.  I’ll finish the fairy tale I’m working on this week, then get back into DS1.  I should finish that by the end of January/middle of February.

2. Revise LR1 (code name for the shitty first draft of the last novel I wrote).  I’m actually really interested in getting back to this one.  No idea if it’s still as awesome as it felt while I was writing it (first drafts never are), but I’m looking forward to tearing it apart and making it better.  Hopefully revisions won’t take me more than two months, but we’ll see.  I’m not the best at revising things.

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It’s not wrong.  Though, I’m still using .doc instead of .docx.

3. Revise DS1.  Despite getting a little stuck on this one, I still absolutely love the idea and the characters.  I hope I feel the same way after I finish it.  My biggest problem is that I know the ending, I just don’t know how to elegantly connect it to what I have thus far.  I guess I’ll smash it all together and smooth things out during the revision process!

4. Query 100 agents for LR1 or DS1 depending on which is better.  I’ve decided to put G&G away for a while and focus on the other two novels.  Hopefully one of them will have more appeal for agents.  I can always go back to G&G later, but after 100 rejections, Bailey definitely deserves a nice little break.

5. Write 10 short stories/flash pieces OR 1 new novel.  I really want to use 2018 as the year of revision.  But at the same time, I also want to keep producing new work.  I’m leaning more towards the short stories/flash fiction option because I could take a couple of days off of revision each month to work on something fresh, but like I mentioned above, I don’t really know how long revision will take me.  If it doesn’t take too long, I wouldn’t mind working on another novel.

6. Submit short stories/flash pieces (2+ subs a week).  I admit that I’ve been neglecting my short story submissions this year.  I want to change that in 2018.  Maybe I’ll eventually snag someone’s attention!

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Maybe.  I doubt it.  Reassurance, please!

And those are my writing goals for 2018.  Do you have any goals for next year yet?  Feel free to share them here or on my social media pages!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

September Is Coming

 Hello, hello!  August is coming to a close, bringing the beginning of September with it.  I’ve been having trouble finding the motivation to keep up with my work, despite my current novel attempt being enjoyable, so I thought I would post my main goals for the coming month right here.  I find it more difficult to avoid the things I need to do once someone else knows what my goals are.  The potential for public shame is an awesome motivator.  Plus, I know I have a few friends who will crack the whip at me if they know I should be doing things and they catch me on Facebook instead.

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Whips and pleather can be motivational too, I guess.

Goal 1: write 18,000+ words.  I know I’m capable of writing 4,500 words a week and September is about four weeks long, so I should at least be writing this much.  Only words toward the WIP, short stories/flash pieces, and the blog count towards this number.  And only words over my current written words, not revisions.  It’s the goal I’ve been struggling with the most, so if I’m slacking, feel free to break out the whip.

Goal 2: read at least 2 books.  One book will be for my review on the 27th, and the second will be for a book club I just joined.  I’m also currently reading a book with my writing group, but we’re taking it slow, so I might not finish it by the end of the month.  I admit that I don’t read nearly enough, so I’m trying to change that.  I was able to read 2 books a month at Stonecoast and keep up with my writing, so it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

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That’s what they keep telling me, anyway.

Goal 3: query 16 more agents.  I’ve been querying four a week for what seems like forever now.  No, I really have no clue how or why I settled on the number four.  But I do know that I’ve currently sent out 84 queries and have no idea how many rejections/assumed rejections (because some agencies don’t send out rejections, but give you a “if you haven’t heard back in x weeks we’re passing” instead) I’ve gathered up and I don’t feel like checking my spreadsheet right now.  It’s a numbers game, I’m told, and I’ll keep trying for a while longer.  But I’m thinking 100 sounds like a good place to take a break and regroup and wait to see what happens with the queries still in limbo.

Goal 4: submit at least one thing to my critique group.  The group seemed to go on hiatus for the past couple of months as our members used the summer for some much needed family time.  But now that school has started, critique submissions are starting to trickle in and I want to be among them.

Goal 5: make time to text/message some people besides the usual two or three.  Because I’ve been a shitty friend and I know that.  I promise I’ll try to be better, but I usually fail miserably at this type of stuff too.

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And I don’t even talk to them much.

So, those are my September goals.  It feels a little overwhelming to see them written out like this, but I can do it.  And if I can’t, you get to publicly shame me!  What about you?  What are your main goals for the month?  Feel free to share them here or on my social media pages!

See you next week!

How Short Is Too Short?

Howdy, howdy!  I’ve noticed a strange trend in the world of short stories lately: they keep getting shorter.  It kind of reminds me of cellphones.  They started out as these huge, bulky things that people wanted smaller and smaller, then all of a sudden people wanted them bigger again.  Is that what’s going to happen with short stories?  I don’t know.  But I do know that short stories are getting smaller and smaller at the moment.  When I first noticed it, there was flash fiction (1,000 words or less), then micro fiction (100 – 500 words depending on who you ask) popped up, and now I’m seeing a lot of talk about 50 word stories.  It’s not that I mind this trend, I’m just curious about what it means for the writing world in general.

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I suppose we’ve reached the early 2000s by comparison.

Personally, I enjoy writing and reading flash fiction.  It’s a challenge to write a story that feels complete and satisfying in under 1,000 words, but it’s possible.  Micro fiction, on the other hand, I tend to look at more as poetry or as excerpts.  It’s rare for me to find one that works as an actual story in my mind.  And I have a feeling I’ll be looking at these 50 word stories the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written things that were super short as an exercise in conciseness, but I never considered them to be worth submitting anywhere.  I never realized it was something people were interested in to be honest.  And why are people so interested in them?  Is it because of the time we live in?  In the day and age of Tweets and instant gratification, do we just not have the attention span to read something longer?  The cynical part of me believes that has a lot to do with it.  Another part of me thinks it started out the way I started doing it, as a personal challenge, that someone decided to share with other people who took the challenge upon themselves.  Whatever the reason, it’s apparently a thing now.

it-s-a-writer-thing-unisex-tri-blend-t-shirt-by-american-apparel
It’s okay.  I’m a writer and I don’t entirely understand.

I’m all for conciseness, but how short is too short?  Are there going to be 10 word stories next?  Serious questions, I’m not being facetious.  I was always told that a story should have a beginning, middle, and end.  That was the golden rule when I started writing.  But nowadays, some stories start in the middle and only hint at a beginning or even start at the end and that’s all okay.  I don’t mind things breaking the rules if it works.  I’m curious though, when a reader has to build a story in their head around the 50 or 100 or however many words they get, can the author still really take credit for the story?  Yeah, the words planted the idea, but the reader had to do most of the work.  Maybe that’s the whole purpose of stories that short, to make the readers work for it.

overthinking
I know I’m overthinking it.  It’s what I do.

I don’t have the answers, but these are the kind of things I think about.  What about you?  What are your thoughts on 50 word stories and this trend of short stories becoming shorter in general?  Feel free to post your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Always Changing

Hello, hello!  As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was planning on starting a new novel in order to respark my writing passion.  I started it on Saturday and have worked on it regularly since then.  I admit that I’m still not up to my usual word count per day yet, but whenever I open the file, I’m filled with the desire to move forward instead of dread.  That’s a win!  But, as I noticed with my last novel attempt, this novel has its own flow and wants to create its own routine.  I don’t remember having to adapt to new writing habits with every new short story I wrote, but apparently novels are different beasts entirely and each one is going to require special treatment.  Today, I wanted to ramble a bit about how my routine has changed with this novel compared to the other two of which I have (at least) completed first drafts.

change all the things
When you sit down to start a new novel and everything is perfect, then the novel decides your previous routine isn’t good enough…

My first novel was written completely in pantser mode.  Music from my iTunes (which basically runs the gamut of styles) played in the background for almost every writing session.  When I hit snags, I usually figured everything out after random bursts of subconscious ideas.  And in the end, the first draft was an unreadable mess that took another year or longer to clean up.  It was fun.  It was hard.  It was draining.  But I got it done with plenty of help from my Stonecoast mentors and compadres.  Honestly, if I hadn’t had help and people telling me that I had to finish it, I don’t think I would’ve been able to keep going.

The second novel that I actually finished (I started one between them, but got stuck halfway through because I stepped too far outside of my comfort zone), was wildly different.  I had the first half plotted out and knew where it would end, but switched to pantser mode to connect the beginning and end.  It was written mostly in silence because music distracted me.  When I got stuck, I’d actively plot things out in my head, but rarely thought about it otherwise unless I was working on it.  I wrote it in about seven months, a record for me, with little help.  Only a handful of people have actually seen any of it.  But when I read it to start revisions, I was surprised that it made sense and flowed as well as it does.  It still needs a lot of work, but I’m happy with how it turned out with that routine.

tenor
When you’re down and don’t want to do anything, but the new novel idea won’t leave you alone.

Again, I started and stopped a novel before deciding to switch to my novel-in-progress.  I was in a position where I didn’t want to write anything when this idea started pestering me.  I’ve got the major plot points figured out and there hasn’t been a night that’s passed by without me laying awake in bed plotting out the next scene.  It’s a little scary to think I might be turning into a plotter on this one.  I’ve tried writing with iTunes and in silence, but neither feels quite right, so I’m going to try my CDs (my teenage anthems sprinkled with some more recent music) next.  I’ve also had the urge to find reference pictures for my characters, which is something completely new for me.  I never needed pictures of my characters before, so part of me thinks I’m just looking for excuses to feed my need for eye candy, but I’m going with the flow and looking for some.  Granted, this is just the beginning of the process.  I might revert to pantser mode later on.  But the new process feels right so far.

Hiro from Nocturnal Bloodlust is basically Jyou (one of my protagonists).

Maybe I’ve just been refining my technique with each new novel or maybe my routine really will have to change with each new novel.  Either way, I’m just happy to be enjoying writing again.  It’s been a while since I could say that.  What about you?  Do you notice changes in your writing routine between each novel/story?  Or have you found something that works consistently for you?  Share your thoughts, comments, questions, or whatever here or on my social media pages!