Thursday, June 30, 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo

My my, I have a lot to do.

My last day of class was today.  School is finally over!  Hooray!  Now I can focus on all of the other stuff I've been seriously neglecting.

One - I just found out that Camp NaNoWriMo is starting tonight at midnight.  I just finished school, I have no serious commitments for the next month, and I've been struggling lately to get into the writing mood.  I'm feeling this.  I really, really am.  Just something to get me excited, to keep me in line, and make writing my priority again.    So, exciting.

Two - editing!  I haven't worked on editing my novel in FOREVER!  I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that I'm not doing it wrong when I sit down with a stack of three hundred pages and a red pen.  That's the right way to do it.  It's not as much fun as writing, but it needs to be done.  So while I'm writing and not doing anything else in July, I'm also going to be editing my novel, The First Task of Symon Daye.

Three - getting a story on Smashwords.  Tomorrow!  It's called Luna, and it's about people living on the moon, and the dangers of leaving our home world for the unknown of space.  It's gonna be lots of fun.  It's not very long, but it's one of my more recent stories and I really like how it turned out.  I'm gonna link the crap out of it once it's 'published', so look here for that and others to come, depending on what happens with this first one.

So... working on my novel (which really, really needs to be worked on), editing another novel, and providing all you fine people of the internet with free entertainment.

I'm so super serious about all of this.  I need to get my act together, and this is now I'm jump starting myself.  Last year, after NaNo, I totally just stopped writing.  It was too much all at once.  Now, I'm in the exact opposite boat.  I need to get myself motivated, and I really think that having a reason to write every day is a good one.  I'll post my progress here.

And I'll keep up with the regular posts.  Last year, when I was doing NaNo, I wasn't talking about much else.  Just stay tuned!  I'll make it worth your while, I promise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing about writing

I've been noticing, lately, that when I sit down to write all I do is write about writing.

I have a weekly goal, that I sometimes do and sometimes do not meet.  Stories, books, blog posts, and daily prompts all count toward that weekly goal, and when I sit down at the end of the week to recap most of my words aren't exactly writing, but writing about it.

My blog, for example.  My blog isn't writing.  I did a post about this a long time ago, where I talked about work and what does and what doesn't 'count' as writing.  I see writing as fiction.  Every word of fiction I write a week, is writing.  So this blog isn't fiction, and isn't work.  it's writing about writing.  It's cheating.

I've stopped writing stories.  Sad, but true.  I haven't been writing stories.  I've been writing about stories.  I'll take a story, an idea, and I'll start... and then this happens, because of this.  And then he says this.  And then she does this.  And by the end of it I have a fully formed plot, a plan, a solid thousand words, but I didn't write anything.  Not a single line of dialogue.  Not one description.  Just honing the idea, writing down research, and doing absolutely no writing.

I'm sure that there's something to be gained from all this.  More developed works before I even start writing them, maybe.  An idea of what I'm doing and what my plans are.  But there are greater weaknesses than strengths.

I've been writing about writing and thinking about writing so much that I've stopped doing what it is that I love - namely, writing.  It's fine to think about theory.  Really, it is.  And I've been reading a lot of articles about theory, trying to learn more about my craft and to make it better.  But I've lost track of what it really is that improves my writing, and that is to write.

I just opened two documents that I've been 'working' on, with every intention of getting to work as soon as I'm finished here.  They're both good ideas, and now that I know what's wrong, I can fix it.

Thanks for stopping by, catch you later!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Once more, with feeling

Writing emotionally is, at this point in time, my biggest hurdle in my work.  I do not let myself get emotionally involved, and my writing suffers for it.  I tell the story, instead of showing it.  

This is the first time in recent memory that I became emotional while writing.  I'm Lego_my_Lego, if that clarifies things.  And that only came about because I was thinking about my aunt, and was able to use those same emotions to write something similar but fictitious.  This is something brand new to me.  When I was young and even more stupid than I am now, I was still writing, but it was mopey, high school drama.  Too emotional.  Stupidly emotional.  Everyone was dying, or had died, and everyone was depressed, and suicidal, and there was just angst dripping from every sentence in everything I wrote.  I'm long past that stage of my life, and I made a decision that I wouldn't do that again, make these overly deep emotions, because it didn't feel real anymore.  It just felt like fourteen year old girl writing - drama and more drama.  

So here I am, ten years later, and I've removed most of those emotions from my stories, from my writing.  And now I need them.  

Well, I need something.  I've been through some stuff in my life, but I hate writing about myself.  Fiction is safe.  Much more safe than drawing from my life experiences, that's why I do it.  I've gone through pain, but it's my pain, private.  I don't want to show it to outsiders.  I keep that secret part of myself, and because of that, I have nothing left to make my characters feel.  I am currently trying to reconcile this.  Writing about emotions that I myself have felt and that I was deeply moved by necessitates me living through them again.

I guess it doesn't have to be all bad.  I just need to make my characters feel all kinds of emotions, and not just the negative ones I was going through as one of those 'off' kids in high school.  I've also had all sorts of positive emotions.  Love, awe...  I've traveled the world and seen all kinds of beauty.  These, too, have a place in my writing.  As long as it is an emotion that I've experienced strongly, it has a place.  

I have to remember that even writing fiction I'm writing truth.  These are real emotions I'm talking about.  These characters don't have to be physically real, but they do have to be alive, both to me and the reader.  Fiction is folks, and folks feel.            

I'm still working on this.  Years and years of emotional repression are finally just starting to be unraveled.  And it is hard.  Consciously trying to improve your art isn't easy.  I'm used to it being one way, and the way I've been doing it isn't that bad.  But it could be so much better, if only I tried a little harder.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Just now, checking to make sure I could use the word 'Melancholia' in the title of this post, I learned that it means 'black bile', from the idea of the hour humors.  You learn something every day.  The word, melancholia, has such a better feel to it than black bile.  One is romantic and sad, and the other is blunt and sounds a little gross.  But I didn't come here to talk to you about that.

I haven't been writing much lately.  I feel like I don't have much to work on.  I finished some short stories I was working on, and now I just feel kind of stuck.  I have my novel that I can work on, but that's such a commitment, getting into a novel.  I haven't been working on it, and I would just be going back into it blind.  What do you do with novels that have been left behind?  I want to finish it.  I have plans for this book.  That this will be the one that I need to write, to improve myself, to get all of my philosophies in one place.  I can't give up now.

I'm in summer school right now, so this situation is temporary, but it still bites.  I was getting up early for a while, having my time in the morning to write and blog and come up with writing prompts.

And there's the problem.  I get sad when I'm not productive.  And then, when I'm sad, I get even less done.  I have email that needs to be checked, people to call, jobs to find, things to do.  When I miss one, or two, things start to snowball.  I promised on here that I would have a short story ready on  Smashwords, and that hasn't happened either.

I'll bounce back.  I always do.  This week, though, has been particularly bad.  I have the weekend to catch up, and I will do so.  When I really set my mind to something, it happens.  I just have to be serious about it first.  Less sad, more proactive.

So, I'm going to set the release date of my first self published short story for next Friday, a week from today.  I'm sure you'll hear more about it before then, and next time I write I'll give you a blurb and a synopsis, so you'll know why you want to read it.  Until then, I'm going to keep working on working, and stop trying to sabotage my own work.

Thanks for sticking around, you have yourself a great day!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When you know you're a writer

There comes a point when you know you're a writer.  When all of the silly self doubts and uncertainties about your future get cleared away like a dirty table at a five star restaurant.  How? you may ask.  You'll just... know.  Here's how I knew.  This is the point when I knew I was a writer, and nothing else.  When it was hammered into my brain that this is what I want to do.  This is what I need to do.  My dearly beloved tells me that writers are arrogant things, drunk on the belief that everyone in the world wants to hear what they have to say.  That's not why I'm here.  That's not why I write.  Writing is the only true way I know how to express myself.

My aunt Olivia died recently.  I'm 24 years old, and she is the only person close to me who has ever died.  I consider myself lucky that I've gone this long without losing a family member, and I'm grateful that I'm old enough both to remember her and to cherish the memories of her that I've had since I started forming memories.  She died of cancer on my grandmother's 91st birthday.

I knew I was a writer when I heard her shuffling down the hallway of the trailer she lived in with her husband.  It's a trailer, so imagine the sound.  Thump.  Pause.  Thump.  Pause.  I was sitting on a couch where I could hear, but not see, her approach.  I was watching my father's eyes as he took her in, looking down the hallway where she was struggling to come to us, the last time she would ever see us all together.  I was watching his eyes as he saw his dying sister.  They were watching her.  I was watching them.  And there was nothing I wanted to do more at that point in time then to take my notebook out of my purse and start taking notes.

I felt like a monster.  I felt inhuman, an emotionless being that had no right to intrude in on this scene of grief.  But I still wanted it.  More than anything, I wish I could have been left alone with her.  For ten minutes.  A half hour.  I wanted to sit with her and ask her what she was feeling, what she was thinking, now that death was so close.  Now that there was no escape.  I wanted to sit and ask her the questions that were burning in my mind, that have always burned there.  What is death like, for one so close to it?  What does dying feel like?

I didn't get my ten minutes.  Even if I had gotten the chance, I wouldn't have done it.  She was a human being, deserving of the respect that I was reluctant to give, more enthralled with the story than the human element of it.  

I loved her.  I still love her.  I only got to ask her one question.  I was saying goodbye to her.  We were holding each other's hands, and I was looking into her eyes, bright and a color of blue that I had never really paid attention to before, and we were crying.  She told me that it was okay.  And do you know my question?

Do you promise?

Like a child.  Just like a child.  And she told me yes.

This is the first time I've written this down.  Do you know why I'm a writer?  To deal with the world.  To ask the questions that can never be answered.  To heal my hurts, to soothe my pains.  Writing is the struggle to hold my broken heart together.  Writing is the release of every joy I have ever experienced.  Writing is sorrow, frustration, elation; writing is my life.

When it happens to you, you'll know it, too.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Regularly Scheduled Post

I think.  I'm not exactly sure when my update schedule is, anymore.  

It's finally summer in Arizona.  And it is hot outside.  So hot that I don't feel like doing anything, so hot that it's uncomfortable.  My mind is a pile of hot sludge, my body is more sweat than skin.  What do I do?  How do I write under these conditions?  

I've been looking for jobs, recently.  That's right, folks.  I, officially, have Stepped It Up A Notch.  Well, maybe unofficially.  I've been going to Craigslist, looking at writing jobs.  I spent hours reading awful Patterson books to learn how to 'Pattersonize' my own writing.  I looked up the legality of unpaid internships before responding to one...  I don't think I'm going to hear back from them.  I submitted a story to an actual magazine and am still waiting to hear back.  This is the first time I have ever submitted anything to anyone, besides a open call for my community college to publish in their literary magazine.  I got in the top ten, but I was not published.  I am Serious.

And that got me to thinking, what else can I be doing?  I'm blogging more, I'm writing more, I'm going to other blogs more, and I'm finally trying to get myself out there.  I'm looking into getting one or two short stories self published, just to have something out there that has my name on it.  In fact, I have a vague date planned for one of them, a strange little story, and that will be available on Smashwords (something I just found today) in a couple of days.  For free, if I didn't mention that.  Absolutely, 100% for free.  So, stay posted.  I'll be very vocal when that happens.  

I think I've mentioned that I've been trying to be a little more of a presence on other blogs.  Not much of one, really, when I say 'presence' I mean that I've gone to a blog or two and left a comment, and the biggest thing it's done for me is to remind me that I'm not a very good social networker.  So, you know what?  I'm going to stop having that as my goal.  I'm a writer.  First and foremost, I'm a writer.  I like blogging, and I've gotten to enjoy reading other posts and leaving comments that actually have to do with what was written, and just isn't some excuse to try and get people to get to my blog.  This doesn't have to be big.  I like it as something just a little private, a little personal.  This is me.  This isn't advice from someone who has blog posts scheduled for the next two weeks.  I write these things and 'publish' them without looking at them twice.  I don't have any wisdom to dispense, nothing to sell, no advice for anyone else that they haven't heard a million times before.  Oh well.  I'm okay with that.  I'm on my own path, and I'll get there in my own way.  

That's where jobs come in.  I'm looking into becoming a contributor for a writing blog (for free, with the tentative promise of future pay).  I'm sending emails to people looking for writers, I've done ridiculous things to try and get enough experience to do something that people wouldn't mind actually paying for.  So, I'm still trying.  I haven't given up hope.  I'm just not going to stress about it anymore.  One of these things that I'm doing is the right thing to do, I know it.  I just don't know which one yet.  

If you got this far, thanks for listening to me ramble.  I've been torn between writing the same kind of stuff that everyone else seems to be writing, and just being myself.  I'm just going to be myself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pattersonization (part two)

Hello again!

Today, I'm taking the scene that I wrote yesterday and making it into the first chapter of a James Patterson novel.  I've been doing some research, and here's what I've found:

1.  Short chapters are key.  Two or three pages, four max.
2.  Short paragraphs are also key.  One sentence.  Two sentences.  Anything to keep your reader's eye on the page.
3.  The main character is always in first person.  If we're not in a chapter that focuses on the main character, it's going to be in third.
4.  There's never more than a couple of paragraphs with nothing happening.  There's a lot of dialogue, a lot of action.  Especially the first chapter - start with something wrong.

So, let's take a second to reassess my scene from yesterday.  It's short, sure.  But the paragraphs are too long, and the plot is moving too slowly for a Patterson.  Also, most of his first chapters start from the POV of the hero, and therefore in first person.  I'm not too attached to Joanne Thomas, and I don't really think she's the likely hero of this story.  So, I'm going to make the hero the handsome gym attendant, who in real life works... I don't know, as a private detective.  Is that Patterson enough for you?  Work is slow, so he picked up an extra job, and he happens to be there on the one night when his skills are the most needed.

This is typed right into my 'new post' box.  This is straight from my mind to the blogosphere, so anything incredibly idiotic is just a little added bonus for you.

Take Two:

     I'd never worked at a gym half this exciting. I could see him, the little bastard, hiding behind a corner and watching one of the women working out.
     “Hey,” I said, and felt a stirring of pride when he flinched before looking at me.
     I still got a kick out of intimidating weasels like this guy, even three years off the job. And a man who doesn't respect a woman is someone who needs to be taught some kind of lesson.
     “Look man,” he whined, “Don't report me, okay? I'm in enough trouble as it is.”
     “Trouble?” Now he had my attention.
     “I got busted a couple of weeks ago for being in the women's locker room, okay?”
     I saw red, but luckily for the guy in front of me, only for a few seconds before I got it back under control. Jesus, I thought. I almost lost it there.
     The guy was still looking at me, like he had done nothing wrong and wanted me to let him off the hook with nothing but a warning. That would never do.
     He had no idea how close he was to getting pulled outside and taught a lesson on how to respect women.
     “Yeah,” I finally managed, through gritted teeth. “You can go.” He must have seen the effort it had taken to say those words, so he went, and went quickly.
     I had tried, once before, to teach one of the creeps here just what I thought about men who tried to use women in ways they didn't want to be used. I had almost gotten fired over it, but the guy in question had never come back.
     I looked over at the woman who had been the unwitting show for this evening. My eyes widened as I took her in. I knew her.
     But my thoughts were cut off with a loud grunt of pain from behind me.

Still not perfect, but I'm working on it.  My other half says that being able to perfectly impersonate Patterson would be an awesome thing to put on a resume.  I think it would be strange, but also hilarious.

What do you think?  Let me know!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pattersonization (part one)

For a few days now, there has been a post on Phoenix Craigslist where some person is offering a ridiculous amount of money to an author who can 'Pattersonize'.  That is, take a work of fiction, and make it into something that James Patterson would write.  When I say a ridiculous amount of money, I mean it - $50/hour, or $10/page.  Considering that I'm making $0 (hour or page) now, that's a pretty tempting offer.  It's also a pretty silly one.

So!  I am going to 'Pattersonize' something.  And as well as sending it to this gentleman/woman, I'm going to post it here for the enjoyment of everyone who likes bad James Patterson knockoffs and and has a little time to kill.

The original work:

      Joanne Thomas got into the gym, waved hi to the attendant who was so used to seeing her there that he never even checked her card, and stretched quickly before getting on one of the exercise bikes, and setting it for forty minutes. It was already late when she got in, nine o'clock, even later than she usually managed to get here, when the place finally started to empty out. It was hard to get there any earlier, really, with work and the damned awful commute back home, and when she got home she ate, and nothing was worse than working out on a full stomach.
     She tried to get to the gym as often as she could, which was four to five times a week. Ever since she had turned thirty, and ever since she started seeing how her mother was letting herself go, she had made a personal goal to never let herself get to that point. It was different when she had been married, and how hard it was then to keep herself motivated to stay in shape, especially when looking good for Charlie would only make him want to touch her, and there was nothing more vile than the touch of her ex-husband's greedy hands on her skin. She hated it so much that she was only now becoming the woman that she had been before she met him.
     Jo eased off the bike pedals, and upped the difficulty. If she was going to beat the poor thing to death, she might as well burn as much as she could doing it. She was starting to sweat already, the handles of the stationary bike were slick.
     There was one person on a bike halfway down the row, and two more on treadmills on the other side of her, when she started working out. By the time she was finished, there was only one other man in the place, working out his arms, besides her and the female attendant working behind the counter. She took a towel and rubbed the bike down, then her face. She used to hate how gross and wet she felt after working out. Now she loved it. It made her feel powerful, like every drop of sweat was the bad that was being forced out of her body, and only the good was going in. Hard work. Exercise. Determination. Joanne had all of these, in droves. If she hadn't, she never could have escaped from the deranged pervert that was her ex-husband.
     Her legs tingled as she walked over to the drinking fountain and took long pulls of cold water from the low faucet. Then she went to do her laps.
     There was a track on the upper floor of the gym, going around the basketball court that, in the middle of the day, was filled with young kids, mostly students, noisily showing their love of the sport. Teams formed and collided, merging together and forming new teams, until everyone was tired. This late at night, the court was empty, and no one was around except the three racquetball players that always managed to still be playing by the time she to to the track.
     The first two laps were easy. Nice and slow, a cool down from the bike as well as a warm up for the run still to come. The track was empty, just like she liked it. No trying to be polite about lanes, no couples blocking the track by walking right next to each other. Just her and the echoes of her shoes. After her warm up, she did one more round of stretching and waved to the guys in the racquetball court, who finally looked like they were about to call it a night.
     Then she started to run. One lap, two laps. A half mile. At ten, the light for the basketball court turned off, leaving the track lit by the dim emergency lighting by the exit doors and the blinding glare from the racquetball courts, whenever she was on that side of them. As much as her heart was pounding, Jo never gave into exhaustion. Never thought about the jarring thud of each foot hitting the ground, giving her the power to push off, into the next stride. It was flow. It was magic. Her breathing smoothed out into one continuous pattern. In for three, out for three. In for three, out for three.
     So when she heard the sound behind her, it took some time for the thought to sink in through the sound of her own footsteps. Another person was on the track behind her. They were hard to hear, because they were almost exactly in time with her own unhurried pace. The only time she could hear anything was when their strides fell out of time, like two blinker signals at a stop light.
     She wasn't worried. No, not worried. It was a public gym. So she hadn't seen whoever it was get on the track. It didn't mean that it was anything to worry about. But it had thrown her off of her rhythm, and she hesitated to let herself lose herself so completely when there was an unknown around her.
I could just look back, she thought. It's not like it would be weird. They're the one following a woman in the dark. It only took another few seconds to decide her. She wasn't scared. She was a powerful strong woman, and she wasn't scared. So, casually, she turned her head over her shoulder, just to make friendly eye contact. And when she did, she gasped.

So, that's way longer than I expected it to be.  So, instead of posting both of these, I'm going to post the second half, the actual Pattersonization, tomorrow.  It'll be a two-parter, eh?  And yes, I wrote this just now, and no, I didn't actually take the time to reread it for glaring spelling errors before putting it on the internet for everyone to see.  But, y'know, if any are too embarrassing, please tell me while I still have something to be ashamed of.

See you tomorrow!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Six Things

Six things I wish I had been told about writing before I decided to make it a career choice:

1.  It's going to be the hardest thing you'll ever do.  Not just because everyone out there with an ounce of creativity and the desire to change the world is out there trying to do the same thing, but because writing is a craft that takes all of your passion and all of your emotion to do.

2.  It's going to be the most rewarding thing in your life.  Every good writing day.  Every time you finish a story.  Every time you finish a novel.  You'll know that you're doing something with your life that many people won't.  It's worth everything I've been through to call myself a writer.  A novelist.      

3.  You have to give up a lot of things to be a good writer.  I stay at home a lot.  I don't have many friends.  I have goals that I need to meet, and that keeps me a little bit of a homebody.  I'm okay with all of this, absolutely.  I love to write, I want to go somewhere with it, and (this may come as a shock) but I'm quite a bit of an introvert anyway.  The only other thing is that it doesn't really give me time for other hobbies, but I'm gaining hobbies that have to do with writing, like blogging.    

4.  As soon as you think you're better than someone else, you're going in the wrong direction.  I think I'm a good writer.  I think I'm above average.  But looking down at people who aren't as talented as I am is thinking the wrong way.  Instead, you have to remember everyone above you, who is better than you and who you are 'competing' against for sales.  You can't just look down.  That gives you a false sense of superiority.  Look up, and always be working to improve your writing, especially if you think you're good at it.

5.  Write for the right reasons.  Write because you have a story to tell.  Write because you love it.  Write because you can't imagine life if you aren't doing it.  We've all heard the advice, write the story you want to read.  I want to expand that to, write the story that will make you better.  Better as a writer.  Better as a person.  Write what will make you think, and make you learn.  If you do that every time you sit down to write, you'll improve.  Simple as that.

6.  Expand.  Learn how to write resumes, or grants, or how to edit.  Sticking with novels and fiction is great, but if you let yourself learn a little more outside of your comfort zone, you'll be more of a resource for others who may need your talents, and you'll give yourself the opportunity to make money writing, which is what you're going for, isn't it?

I submitted a short story today.  I'll keep you posted about what happens next.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How to stay focused

I have cleaned out my works in progress file.  It feels pretty good.  All I have in there now are novels, though, so that's the end of my easy projects for a while.  I'm 13k words into two of them, but it's taken me a bit to get to that point.  Novels take a long time to write.

Today I'm going to write about a point very close to my heart - staying focused, staying on task.  I've been flirting with staying on track for months... no, years.  I've tried many things, and some have succeeded, and some have failed.  I've written an entire novel in one month, and I've been crippled by self doubt for twice that.

There are a lot of words on the internet dedicated to this topic, and it's easy to see why - there's at least one 'answer' to this problem for every single person who deals intimately with the written word.  I have three - filing, scheduling, and my writing journal.  I also blog and run a small online community for daily writing prompts.  I'm working on getting into blogging for a larger site, to get my writing seen by a larger number of people.  These are all things I do to stay on track, and also the things that I need to stay on track for.  The cycle is self-perpetuating.

Because there are so many 'how tos' floating out there, I'm just going to say what works for me, personally.  Maybe it'll work for you, too.  

I've talked about filing lately, so I'll only give that a brief overview.  As a writer, I believe that having an organized place to see all of your projects is very important.  The feeling of not only finishing something, but having some place to put it, gives the emotional satisfaction that is often lacking when the work is simply finished.  I don't know about you, but I sometimes get this empty feeling when I finish something.  Like, 'that's it?'  Having a place to put the work (and look at it often) makes me feel like I have actually accomplished something.

Scheduling is something new to me.  I'm usually the kind of person who flies through life by the seat of my pants.  But when I have trouble sitting down to write, a schedule keeps me to it.  Just having some time when I know I'm supposed to write.  I've been getting up much earlier than I usually do, when the house is asleep and quiet, making myself a cup of tea, and sitting down at my computer.  I drink my tea and do my 'morning internet' (comics, email, reddit), and I've been starting to visit blogs and leave comments on them.  It's past time I joined the blogosphere.  Knowing that I have that time to myself and knowing that it's likely to be my only time during the day to get my stuff done really helps.

I've also mentioned my writing journal before.  The one piece of advice I can possibly give to new writers is to keep a word count journal.  I make notes of what I'm working on, how many words I write per day, and when I finish each piece.  I have a goal of 10,000 words per week, and seeing my progress toward that goal day by day is necessary for me to keep doing what I'm doing.  Meeting goals is awesome.  It feels good, and I feel like it gives me some bragging rights (just to my fiancé).

Basically, my schedule exists to keep my honest.  My word count is a constant and daily measure of how I'm doing, and my daily prompt is to keep me thinking.  This is what works for me, right now.  I'm still not where I want to be - I'm writing, but not editing, and I'm finishing pieces, but I'm not submitting.  I'm not perfect.  But neither is anyone else out there.

What's something you do that works to keep you writing?  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


From this writing prompt on Reddit.  

“I'm sorry... She's gone.”

Gone? She was just... just gone? Jared's vision blurred, and he couldn't lift his hands to wipe the tears from his face. How was this possible? He was crying. Crying, crying like a child, like a bereaved woman, like... like a man who had just lost the woman he loved. Like a husband who had just lost his wife. He had broken his vows. She had broken hers. He was trying to contain himself. To sit straight, and let the sadness float around him, to be an island in a sea of grief. But there was no chance to float in this feeling. Instead, he drowned.

“But... she... we...” He didn't realize that it was he speaking until the other took his arm and held it tightly. Jared was torn between revulsion and a dangerous, dangerous attraction. It was against his faith to let someone not of the Devout touch him, and he reached up with his uninjured hand to push the other away, but when his fingers met skin he grabbed it tightly, and held on. His mind was still there. It was whirling, chaotic, but it was still there. But that didn't translate to his body, which was reacting by itself. While he processed what was happening to him his body doubled over, still holding on to the doctor like he was his only link to reality, heedless of the salty tears that were falling on the ground like watery meteorites. His brain was there. Unable to stop what his body had started, even if he wanted to.

The doctor was rubbing his back. “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.”

Sorry? He was sorry? Jared's body continued to fold in on itself, collapsing into a single point of sorrow. His wife, his Sati. Gone. Gone. Gone. His mind was a dervish, a demon, finding every single memory that had ever meant anything to him and replaying them, over and over. He was clenching and unclenching his hands, barely feeling the left when the bones ground against each other. Damn the pain. No, welcome it. It gave him something else to focus on. Something that wasn't the unclean touch of the doctor's arm around his shoulders, something that wasn't the slimy feel of his own fluids dripping off of his chin.

He loved her. He loved her, and they swore before God that they would love each other until their deaths. Why would God take her away now? Why would he kill an entire village, and leave only one man alive? Alone, he was alone. Oh, God, alone. When his parents had died, he had been alone. He had lived his life alone, and hadn't even known how empty he was until Satalia had found him, and then he wasn't alone anymore. Now the only person in the world he had any connection to was seriously injured, the only other survivor of the freak disaster that had killed everyone else. Jared didn't even know who the man was, who had lived through that night. And he didn't care. It wasn't Sati. And if it wasn't her, it didn't matter who was lying in that other bed. He would still be alone.  

Writing what you need to write

I just read this article, by William Zinsser, about writing for the wrong reasons.  The article talks about different people, writers, who aren't writing what they want because they're working on something that will get them more recognition, or money.  All of the people he was talking about actually had something going for them, unlike me.  Published works, agents, journalists, you know.  People who have gotten much farther than I have, so the post was only semi-relevant.  Good advice, for when I get to that point.  Never give up the book you need to write for the book that makes you money, or gets you noticed.  Good enough advice, from someone who's already established, and probably doesn't have the same worries as someone just breaking into the field.  "Think about other financial solutions that will free you to focus on the primary task of becoming a writer," he says.  I'm a full time student, I work two days a week, and I'm already depending on my fiancé to take care of us, financially,  a position that neither of us are particularly happy with.  So I was perfectly willing to dismiss this article.  

Until I got to the last sentence.  "Your most important work-in-progress is you."  And that got me thinking.  That changed the meaning of the article, to me.  It's not about money, it's only about craft.  And that strokes a chord with me.  

I'm always thinking about my craft.  Trying to improve myself, and my writing.  I try new things, I'm taking classes, I'm putting myself out there in ways I'd never before dreamed of, and it's all at once terrifying and exhilarating.  The reason I'm telling you all of this is because I'm working on the project that I need to write.  I've written novels.  A few of them.  Two finished, one mostly finished stuck on an ancient laptop, and bits of others.  Mostly fantasy, science fiction.  Decent enough stories, but nothing with any real emotional connection.  I didn't have to write them because they meant something to me, I had to write them because I had this great idea that I wanted to get down on paper.  

This new novel I'm working on isn't like that, at all.  It's vaguely genre fiction, but it could happen here, or could have happened here.  Almost every bit of it is true, but the pieces of truth are put together in such a way as to make it fictional.  It's about a man who loses his wife, experiences a crisis of faith, and has to learn to live without both.  It's like nothing I've ever written, and it's the book I need to write, for me. It's a place to put all of the philosophies I've been working on. It's a place for me to experience real emotion while I'm writing. And most of all, it's a way for me to work through my own losses, my own loss of faith, and what that means to me. Even if it never gets published, this is a book that I need to write. It's my book. The most personal thing that I've ever written. And it's really hard.

I suppose that it's something I'm writing for the right reasons. And I agree, the most important work in progress is you.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Freelance Editing

Freelance editing is something I've considered before.  I'm really pretty good at it, one of my few true strengths, which I've employed time and time again as an amateur.  I enjoy it.  I'm good at making stories better, at seeing things that need to be fixed.  But I can only do it with writing that isn't my own.

I replied to a craigslist post today.  This unknown person was looking for an editor, and after thinking on it for a few minutes, I thought, 'why can't it be me?'  I'm a good editor.  The more help a work needs, the better I am at working on it.  So, me being me, I take my sweet time doing research, drafting the perfect email back to this person, constantly asking myself and my betrothed if this was really something I could do, if this was really something I was good at, even though I know in my heart of hearts that it is.  I looked up fees, what should be charged for copy-editing and deep editing a book, and I took the average of those fees and halved them.  I would not feel comfortable charging someone for anything that I was not a professional at.

I still haven't heard back, and I don't really expect to.  Even halved, someone on craigslist is probably looking for someone whose fees are more along the lines of, "give me $20 and a case of beer."  But that's fine.  The point of this story is the last time I asked my fiancé if he thought I was in the right for asking someone for actual money to edit something of theirs.  His response?

That I need to edit my own stories, before I think about editing for someone else.  That the best thing I could do to pad my resume wouldn't be that I've written two novels that are currently sitting in a desk drawer, but that I've written, edited, and published two novels.  He has a very good point.  I can edit.  I can, I can.  There's a disconnect, though, between my own work and the work of others.  It's so easy to see what others have done that can be fixed, and so hard to see it in my writing.  I'm still working on it.  Slowly, slower than I could be going (I'm a full time student!  I have a job!  I've run out of excuses!).

This is going to be a post for a later day, but yesterday I drove down to Tucson with my family, and there I said goodbye to my aunt.  She has cancer, and the difference between how I saw her on Easter and how I saw her yesterday was striking.  It was very, very hard to see her, and even harder to say goodbye, so I don't know how much I can say about it, but her life has been sad.  Her life has been sad, and now her death is tragic.  Not all deaths are so.  Sometimes you can look back and find plenty to smile about, images that let you celebrate the life, and not mourn the death.  Right now, I can't seem to find many of the former.  I have resolved that my life shall not be that way.  I don't want anyone to look back on my life and not think that I was happier more often than I saw sad, that I didn't accomplish the things in my life that I set out to do.  I need to take a good, hard look at myself, at my life, at my craft, and at my plan, and I need to do what needs to be done.  No excuses.  No more procrastination.  I refuse to let my death be tragic, so I need to live my life exactly how I want it to go.

I'm thinking about you, Liv.  I love you.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Hey, all.

I have great news!  This post is going to be about two things - the importance of filing, and getting things done.

I just got back from an overseas trip on Monday, and it took me a couple of days to get back into the swing of things.  I've been telling myself for a very long time - weeks?  Months? - that I need to finish these short stories I've been working on.  I've been working on one of them almost all year, and kept taking breaks, putting it off, working on other projects.  Part of the problem is that I love the act of creation more than I actually like the work of sitting down and finishing something.  I love writing, but I find the ideas to be the fun part.  This is something that has changed since I finished my first novel, unfortunately, and is something I'm working on changing back.  The other part of the problem is that I see everything as a book.  I cannot stop writing a short story, because I can see it going on indefinitely, 'the end' of a short story doesn't seem like the appropriate place to end it.  A recent short story came out as 10k words, and turned into the prologue of a novel about the future Chinese revolution.  I am a novelist, at heart.  

So I told myself, when I got back, that I was going to finish both of these short stories I've been stuck on.  And I have.  One each day.  This may not sound like such a big deal.  Understandable.  I'm a writer, finishing a piece should not really be a cause for celebration.  And it's not so much the finishing that's got me excited, it's the willpower that got me to finish it.  It's a good sign, that I can tell myself to finish a piece, and write 2100 words to do so that day.  Two finished short stories!  That gives me a grand total of six in my 'Finished Stories' folder, and five of them need to be edited.  But that brings me to my next point, filing.

I think having a filing system is key.  My current system is one folder for each major aspect of writing: notes, novels, finished stories, and works in progress.  Each is split further from there, but that's mostly my OCD at that point.  I think having a filing system is key for two things - being able to find anything you're working on quickly, and being able to move things from one place to another.  The feeling of accomplishment I had when I was able to move a story from 'works in progress' to 'finished stories' was an even better feeling than actually finishing the story.  I know the story isn't finished, and needs to be edited, but having it in some place other than 'works in progress' makes me feel like someone.  It makes me feel like a real, accomplished writer.  Look at me!  I can finish a story.  And not only can I finish them, but I can do it whenever I want, as long as I put my mind to it.

So can you!  Writer's block is the name given to your own fears and insecurities.  I've been through it, too.  The best way to get over writer's block is with brute force.  Thanks for stopping by, see you Monday!    

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wow, what a trip

Hey!  I'm back!  I've actually been back for a couple of days, but somehow I ended up getting busier than I expected yesterday and wasn't able to get back on schedule on schedule.

I did something that I was pretty proud of while on vacation.  I took a journal with me, and every hour, I wrote a page.  Every hour.  I missed a couple, and sometimes I made those up by doing two in one hour, but for the most part, one page of journal, every hour I was awake.  Some of these are actual journal entries, not very interesting, detailing what happened to be going on, where I was, personal details and the like.  But sometimes, I did what I call 'written sketches'.  What I was touching, smelling, tasting, seeing.  I came up with some really good lines, and I was in a lot of interesting places where I was able to write almost a scene in a place I might never return to.  I did journal entries in the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter's basilica, Napoleon's Tomb, the top of the Eiffel Tower, and at the top of the Notre Dame cathedral, to name just a few of the places I was able to write.  I've never been interested in travel writing, which is what my step father called what I was doing.  I don't know if I would call it that.  I wasn't writing about travel so much as I was traveling while writing.

I filled up two whole journals in the two weeks I was gone.  Some of it was good, some of it is my complaining about my mother.  They can't all be winners.  Today, I'm going to share an entry with you, one of the first nights we were in Rome.  They're a little strange out of context.

Piazza Navona at night is not the same piazza as it is during the day.  The street performers are louder, there are fewer people, and the noises are from full restaurants and loud music rather than bustling tourists.

A man on electric guitar is playing feet away from the bench I'm sitting at, and moments ago we walked by a trio with a female vocalist playing a version of 'Eye of the Tiger' I'm sure the original band never could have conceived of.