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A Little Behind

Halfway through the NaNo month and I’m already behind. It shouldn’t surprise me as I’ve been hanging out with my wife every day since last Friday. It is easy enough to write and focus when the only distractions are the dog and maybe the urge for an outing to the bookstore, but when your favorite person is home, writing desire goes out the window.

And as today is my birthday (don’t ask, I’m really old), my motivations are low low low. I’ve new music to spin on the turntable and Sugarhouse BBQ is calling my name, begging me to come eat there tonight.

I’ll get it together, I promise. This weekend, I’ll be heading to Cedar City to drop my boys off at SUU for their Red Riot shindig for high school seniors. I’ll have 15 uninterrupted hours to write something clever.

The good news- Writing short stories has been a great idea. I’m sure they will all need loads of work after the month is over, but I honestly enjoy the editing/rewrite process (almost as much as the creating part). Once there is a completed draft to work with, so many interesting possibilities present themselves. I’m hopeful there is a quality manuscript waiting in the jumble of words and images I’ve been throwing together.

How about you fine writers? Any good works flowing from your fingertips?

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Out From Under

Hey friends. I’m sorry to have missed last week’s blogging fun, but I have been a bit under the weather. I’m sure you don’t need the details.

The good news is I feel mostly better and am back into the swing of most things. I’ve not been around to comment on all of your lovely blogs, but I hope to use some time today to do so.

On the writing front, NaNo is off and running, and I have chosen to write a collection of unconnected short fiction. So far so good, and I am right on word count to this point. Some of the stories are rewrites of older (often shorter) works, so I’m unsure if this really qualifies as a pure NaNo WIP. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. If some project gets me writing and creating again, that makes me happy.

What surprises me is how different my writing style has become over the last five years, from the way I approach the story, to the overall tone and voice I’m writing with. I will let you know if this is a good or bad thing as the month progresses.

Any of you taking the plunge this year? I’d love to hear about your progress.

Some blah news- As my stories did not score enough points, I will not be continuing on in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. I’m not surprised. I really didn’t write well for this competition, and was mostly unprepared for the way the assignments were structured. I’m not too discouraged and might even enter the contest again next go around. This is a learning experience, and gosh, I like learning.

As always, I’d love to read your comments and talk some about writing, yours and mine.

 

Trying Again

Last October I attempted to compose the first draft of my 4th novel. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. Honestly, I was surprised at the failure. Writing the first three books hadn’t been easy, but I’d remained focused, determined each time to pound out a draft. Three completed manuscripts are evidence of my success.

I don’t know what was different last time from the previous three years, but my usual tricks failed to keep me on track, and the story never seemed to find a solid foundation. Convinced the problem was with the story idea itself, I shifted gears and tried to write the sequel to the science fiction novel I’d written in 2014. Again, I was unable to keep focused, and while this story seemed to have direction, I still couldn’t complete a draft.

I was discouraged enough to leave both stories untouched for a full year. I’m still a bit shaken by the failure, and not convinced I’ve the stomach for another attempt. But November is nearly upon us, and I have to admit, I really want to try again. I’m going to take the next week and re-read my failed manuscripts, see if either of them has a second life. If not, a short story collection might be a really good idea. Either way, I need to fight through whatever this is and get writing.

I don’t like this feeling of not creating. It’s empty.

IWSG-August

As I missed most of the discussion last month, I’m quite excited to participate in this months Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog hop. If you don’t know about us, what we do, why we exist at this point, I’m pretty embarrassed for you. Seriously, do better. Check us out here. Sign up. Participate.

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It has been a very interesting month, writing wise. I spent two days working on a flash fiction challenge while trying to function on tiny amounts of sleep. I also spent a very stressful day tweeting different pitches for my three manuscripts during IWSGpit day. I didn’t get any nibbles from agents or publishers, and overall the day was difficult and frustrating. But I am grateful to the IWSG team for putting the event together, offering support to all the writers, and overall being super supportive and positive. Things may not have worked out as I’d hoped, but I am undeterred. Rumor has it another pitch party is on the calendar for January of 2018, and I will be sharpening my approaches to participate again.

Another positive thing- I’ve two stories in the final editing stage and plan to seek out places to submit them in the next two weeks. I really think I’m done sitting on the sidelines, hoping some miracle happens and my work magically finds someone who wants to publish it. I am the only one who can find that person, and it certainly won’t happen if I put in zero effort.

On the puppy front, Athena is growing and learning at a very fast pace. She is 14 weeks old, and weighed in at 32 pounds this morning. She still chews everything and has the occasional accident inside (almost always due to owner negligence), but her sweetness makes up for any bad moments. Here is a lovely photo of the two of us from the other day. Doggie.jpg

We were about to attend our second week of obedience training classes. It was socialization day, and the room was filled with all sorts of strange objects for the puppies to explore, climb on, into, over, through. My girl was all sorts of excited and brave. She still struggles with traffic noise, and the sight of moving cars frightens her. I hope continual exposure and positive experiences can do the trick. Wish us luck.

IWSGPit

Tomorrow is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group twitter pitch party! I’ve been gearing up for this day for the past three months, trying out various ways of pitching each of my three completed manuscripts, and somehow, I still don’t feel ready. When I look at what I’ve put on paper, each effort seems silly, and somehow not quite catching what I think the novels are really about.

I’ve always struggled with describing the first novel. I have three different query letters for it, each highlighting a different part of the story, and I am equally unimpressed with all three. Now, I’m trying to pitch the same novel in less than 100 characters. Thank goodness I have a clever wife who has a gift for simplification. She was able to send me two really decent ideas, both of which I will be using tomorrow.

As for the other two manuscripts, I feel a bit better about what I’ve put together for them, but I still wouldn’t say I’ve got it all figured out. And that’s okay, really.

I am going into this event with my eyes wide open. It is likely I won’t get any interest from publishers or agents. If  I do get a nibble, the manuscript or query letter might not satisfy. But this is all part of the process, part of putting myself out there and taking risks. Sitting back, doing nothing hasn’t been all that successful a strategy, so perhaps it is time to try a new, bolder approach.

Wish me luck.

Any of you planning on participating? How have your pitches come together and are you feeling confident?

And just because, here is a picture of my sleeping Athena. Athena

Old Things

I’ve had a really good week as far as writing goes. A short story idea has been rolling around in my head for months, and I finally sat my rear end in the chair and attacked it. The first few pages came quickly, and for a while I was convinced it would only take three writing days before a draft was complete. I should have known better.

As soon as I’ve nailed down one aspect of the story, something else decides to be a problem. The strange part is, I’m excited that it is being difficult. I want to be pushed and stretched. None of this effort means the story will be any good, but it will be rewarding to finish.

The only real distraction is another idea that popped into my head while I was reading a book called “Slow Boat”, by Hideo Furukawa. I’d written a story more than a decade ago that shared similar elements to one chapter of “Slow Boat”. As soon as I finished the book (it’s wicked short), I went to my computer and opened the file. The story was still in very rough condition, and I remembered I’d only loosely edited it after finishing the first draft. Reading through, I liked the flow of the story, and thought it would only need a few tweaks to be ready for sharing. Four hours later I’d rewritten most of it, changed the overall tone, and given the story an entirely different ending. It was the most fun I’d had with writing in more than a year.

Finding life in one old idea got me thinking about other abandoned work, paragraphs, pages, two or three lines that had promise, but I either lost interest in or wasn’t skilled enough to write at the time. I’m making a list of texts that need attention, and it is a good long one. I’m certain many of them won’t become anything more than they already are, but there are likely three or four that have some serious potential. The prospect is keeping me up at night, pondering.

What about you fine people? Have you ever gone back to an old idea and found it had new life? How did you approach the project? Were you successful?

One other note-

The shelf I was using to display my vinyl was near capacity, and I was not excited about the prospect of using crates or boxes to store things. I dislike clutter. Over the weekend, we picked up this fine shelf from IKEA.

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I’ve triple the space now. You should all come over and we can have a listen party. You bring the drinks, I’ll provide the food and music.

 

 

 

 

IWSG-June

“The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.” Members post about their writing lives, their successes and failures, goals, achievements, and offer support and advice to others in the group. It is a time to lay our insecurities bare, because all writers are insecure writers at heart.

If you aren’t already a member, check us out and join up HERE.

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You can also follow and participate on Facebook and Twitter.

The optional question for this month’s blog post is- Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

I’ve said I quit many times before, mostly when I was younger and more prone to extreme emotional responses to writing difficulty. I’ve torn poems and stories from notebooks, ripped them to shreds because someone I respected didn’t like them, the people the writing was about made me feel unimportant somehow, or I was having a bad stretch and was sure all my writing was crap.

These fits rarely lasted more than a day or two.

I can only recall one instance where I actually quit writing for any extended period of time. I’d just graduated from the University of Utah with a (super useful) degree in English. Applications for graduate school had been submitted (to MFA programs), and I was supremely confident that very soon I would be sorting through multiple acceptance offers. In fact, I can’t think of a time I had been more sure of my writing ability, more certain that success was waiting for me to grab it.

One by one, each of the schools to which I’d applied sent rejections. Each was painful to receive, but the letter from the University of Utah delivered a crushing blow. The application deadline was July 15th, and my rejection was dated June 25th. Yeah, rejected before all applicants were considered. Ouch.

Convinced I was the worst writer of all time, I completely abandoned the craft

I spent the next two years without composing a single poem or short story. I did a masterful job of deceiving myself that I didn’t miss it, but that sort of dishonesty is hard to maintain.

Poetry brought me back. I’d joined an online community for a band I really liked, and many of the others participants were creative types. They shared snippets of stories, lines of poetry, other art, some of it quite good, and somewhere inside of me, I felt a compulsion to participate.

Completing five or ten line poems took hours at first. I questioned every word, every phrase and image, often deleting everything and starting over. It was difficult for sure, but I think I need writing to be very hard for a while. I had to earn back the skills I’d selfishly cast away in a fit of self pity.

Writing fiction again took me another four years. It wasn’t until I was well into earning a Masters degree in Library Science that I could no longer ignore the need to tell prose stories again (poems are stories, right?). There wasn’t single catalyst or event to get the ball rolling. Multiple factors came into play, but at my core, I’ve always felt compelled to write fiction most, and finally that voice refused to remain silent.

What about you? Have you ever quit writing? Why did you stop, and what brought you back?