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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Shaking Off The Rust

Howdy, howdy!  Yesterday was Dad’s birthday, so I want to say another quick happy (belated) birthday to him!  Feel free to leave him a greeting here or on my social media pages and I’ll pass it on to him.  Anyway, this week, I want to ramble a bit about figuring out when to switch projects and when to power through the slow points, which is something I really struggle with.  I was always encouraged to finish a project before moving on to the next one.  But what happens when you try to push through the mental wall blocking you from the story and three months later you’ve only managed to move forward thirty pages?  When is enough enough?

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It’s kind of like when your EVA goes berserk and tries to smash through the wall, but there’s just more wall behind that wall, until it finally it runs out of energy and you, the pilot, are left a bleeding and broken mess.  Yeah, like that.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little (okay, extremely) stagnant when it comes to my writing.  I fully admit that I haven’t been working on that front as much as I should, even though I have no excuse not to be writing.  But the words refuse to come.  I know the storyline and everything, but the novel doesn’t excite me at the moment.  In fact, it doesn’t instill any emotions in me.  That’s not to say that I’ve given up on it.  Not at all.  I know exactly why I’m lacking any emotional investment in this book (it’s the second book in my Demonic Jewels series, the first of which I’m querying agents with and I can only take so many rejections before I start questioning the entire concept of the series, but that feeling will eventually pass, I hope).  And I’ve been trying to push through all of this for the better part of three months, but it’s proving impossible.

I’ve tried a number of tactics to get past the wall.  I wrote some short stories then tried to go back to the novel.  Didn’t help.  I worked on revisions to a different novel then tried once again to get back to Bailey and her crew.  No luck.  I even tried just plotting everything out in my head so I’d know exactly where I was going when I sat down to write (a method that has worked well in the past), and still nothing.  What else can I do?  Seriously, I’m open to suggestions.

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I don’t think dropping an anvil on me will work, but you can try!

However, over the past two weeks, some characters who have lived in my head for many years (at least 12) have been pushing their way to the front of my mind.  Normally, they only bring vague story ideas with them, but this time they have something concrete that I’m actually super in love with.  It’s well outside of my wheelhouse, combining fantasy (I can do that) with a cozy-esque mystery (not so sure I can pull that part off) and a dash of romance (will probably fail miserably at that part).  But I’m excited just thinking about it, and the last thing I felt this way about I finished in record time.  So, I’ve decided to put Bailey on the back burner again while I revise my other novel-in-progress and write this new one.  Is that a stupid decision?  Maybe.  But if it gets me writing, who cares?

wish+me+luckWhat about you?  What do you do when you can’t get past a block on a project?  How do you know when it’s time to set things aside and try something else?  Leave your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

Writing Cripple Characters

Hello, hello!  I hope all of my US and Canadian friends had wonderful independence days!  Mine was quiet.  It was spent writing this and playing mindless games, because I was a little tired and didn’t feel like doing anything else.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.  I wanted to tell you all a bit about the protagonist of my current series-in-progress and why I chose to make her cripple (this is my preferred term, so if it offends you… sorry, not sorry).

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I wish I had cupcakes.

Garnets and Guardians is the first book in my Demonic Jewels (working title) series.  The series follows Bailey Donovan, a thirteen-year-old who has recently been diagnosed with Limb-Girdle disease, as she struggles to cope not only with her illness, but also with moving to a new town and the dark discovery she makes there.  Despite everything, she remains fairly stoic, which occasionally causes drama within her family.  And yes, unlike many protagonists in the fantasy genre, Bailey’s family remains whole and supportive.

So, why did I choose to write about a young girl who is newly cripple?  I’ve actually heard a lot of theories on this in various workshops.  The one I get the most is that I’m writing what I know, or that Bailey’s a fantasy version of me, or similarly weird things.  In a lot of ways, she is like me.  She doesn’t do well with emotional displays and she likes to handle things her own way.  But her disability is nothing like mine, so she has to cope differently, which really means she’s a completely separate person from me.  There’s also the theory that I write cripple characters because they are few and far between in genre fiction and I want to see myself reflected in these genres I love.  I’ve covered that before: yes, diversity is important, but I (personally) don’t need or want characters to be cripple in order for me to identify with them.

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Apparently, this is a thing?  Interesting.  Chose to share because of number 3.

All of that is great and I’m sure it’s why some people choose to write cripple characters, but it’s not why I did.  Honestly, I just wanted to write about a hospital full of demons.  What better way to do that than to give my protagonist a chronic disease that forces interaction with such a place?  Yeah, I chose a disease within my realm of understanding, but that’s only because I hate doing immense amounts of research.  So, for me, writing a cripple character has less to do with crippleness itself and much more to do with what fits the story and me being too lazy to look stuff up.

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Writing is hard enough without the research.

Have you ever written a cripple character?  Did you do so for the sake of diversity or was it just something you wanted to try out?  Have you wanted to write a cripple character but chose not to?  Why?  No judgment here, so feel free to share your thoughts and stories and reasons below or on my social media pages!

Finding Your Genre

Hello, hello!  When submitting to agents, one of the most common questions a writer has to answer is what genre they write.  Sometimes, this is a really difficult thing to explain, especially if you’re not quite sure yourself.  Granted, I know some writers who can tell you what they write down to the subgenre’s subgenre.  But, I’m not one of them.  And honestly, they kind of freak me out (but I still love them).  I never really understood how people could stick to such narrow categories in order to be a specific type of writer.  It always seemed constrictive to me.  But I eventually fell into a genre and it felt good to know where I belonged, even if I do have a tendency to wander away from it.  So, I thought I’d share how I found my genre.

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A genre map… and this is just the basics, not including YA and the like.

When I first got into Stonecoast, I had people asking me what I wrote and my go-to response was horror.  At the time, it’s what most of my writing vaguely (and not so vaguely) fell under.  But the truth was, I was still searching for what I was most comfortable writing.  I liked dabbling in all kinds of genres, and still do.  It was always fun for me when I stepped outside of my comfort zone, so I never really felt right restricting myself with genre labels.  Don’t get me wrong, horror was and will always be my true love, but it’s not an entirely accurate description of my writing.

It wasn’t until my fourth semester, during my first half workshop with Nancy Holder (who had also been my mentor my first semester), that I started narrowing in on what genre I felt most comfortable in.  When I was on the chopping block, Nancy said my story was “vintage Shawna.”  She went on to explain that in her time working with me, she noticed that I tended to write about younger (usually teenaged) protagonists who stumbled upon hidden worlds.  She wasn’t wrong.  Apparently, I had fallen into the YA (young adult) realm when I wasn’t looking.

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I admit this is totally what I thought of when I was accused of writing YA.

It wasn’t exactly my genre of choice, but YA chose me, so I couldn’t argue with it.  Granted, I’ve managed to keep my horror leanings even in most of my YA work.  Demons and psychological torture and all of that still play big roles in my writing, but there’s also a stronger thread of good old-fashioned fantasy as well.  Now, I mostly tell people that I write supernatural YA (not to be confused with paranormal romance) or just YA fantasy.  It’s closer to the truth for the majority of my work.  Though, I do have pieces that don’t fall anywhere near those genres, because writing is hard enough without restricting yourself to one genre.

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It really is sometimes.

So, I found my genre when I wasn’t even looking.  Actually, I guess it found me.  But I will always suggest stepping outside your genre, whether when reading or writing or both.  It’s fun and challenging and you can learn a lot when you’re working outside your comfort zone.

What about you?  Have you found your genre yet?  If so, how?  Do you like working within super specific boxes or do enjoy the freedom of vagueness and blurred lines?  Share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!