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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.

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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

Flash Fiction Challenge

As if having a 12 week old, teething, biting, super curious, super sweet, quite devious puppy taking up most my time wasn’t hard enough, I decided it would also be super smart to enter a flash fiction contest run by NYC Midnight.

Writers are put into groups, given a genre, location, and item, all of which must be written into a story of no more than 1000 words. Oh, and that story must be completed and submitted 48 hours after receiving the assignment. Super easy, right? Even under normal circumstances, I’d struggle with something so structured. Add to that some severe sleep deprivation and I was in for a rough weekend.

Still, I was excited to get the email, find out what sort of story I was going to be writing. At 10:59 PM Friday night, my path was revealed-Romantic comedy, a tropical island, a brick.

What? People actually write romantic comedy flash fiction? Visions of Love Actually and a half dozen Adam Sandler, Drew Berrymore movies instantly came to my head. This genre was definitely not in my wheelhouse or toolbox. I would rather have had romance, a soviet era gulag, a french fry.

My first attempt on Saturday Morning was a disaster. I had a couple, a clever way for them to meet, but that moment itself took 400 words. Scratch that. Delete. Try again.

A second idea had more promise, but also took up too many valuable words without getting me anything resembling a story.

Then the tiredness took over. I couldn’t concentrate, spell, type, do much of anything but stare at the screen. Also, the puppy needed attention, and the puppy comes first right now.

A few hours later, I tried again, this time with some more success. I had several awkward encounters, silly moments, and the outline of a story. An ending still eluded. I had Sheryl read what I’d written so far and while she liked it, she agreed it wasn’t quite right.

Sunday could not have been a more awful day. I didn’t rest well, and a very intense wave of puppy depression hit me early that morning. I felt overwhelmed and hopeless. Writing was impossible. The contest was out of my mind completely.

I did some heavy soul searching that day, spent a lot of time talking with my amazing wife. I am so grateful for her advice, patience, love. She is my best friend and perfect companion.

With less than 3 hours until I had to submit the story, I had no draft, no ending, and very few ideas, but I was determined. I sat at the computer and hammered out three very sloppy endings, picking one to flush out and use. I read through, edited, read through again, edited, then asked Sheryl for her opinion.

“It’s okay, but the ending lacks pop. It’s too sweet. Something needs to happen that puts them at odds again.”

I was crushed, out of ideas, ready for defeat.

“Something like…” and she said it. The exact ending. And I loved it. With forty minutes to go, I rewrote the ending, not worrying about word count. When it was finished, I was at 1020 words, but the ending was just what this brief romantic comedy needed.

I spent the remaining time cutting words (easier than I thought) until I was at 997. One more read and edit, just to make sure, and it was time to submit. My first romantic comedy was complete. I’m not sure it will get me enough points to move out of the second round (two rounds are guaranteed each writer), but that is fine with me.

I’ll keep you posted.

Wish me good sleeps. I still need them.

And dogs are awesome.

 

Under the Influence

Music has always been a very influential part of my life. It is hard for me to remember a day without the presence of some song or other. I’ve talked before about how music (and books) are sacred to me. Musicians are storytellers, and as a storyteller I feel a connection with them that goes beyond just enjoying their talents. Certain music has the ability to reconnect me with my past, transport me places, allow me the opportunity to experience old emotions, people. I’ve been moved to tears by music more times than I can count, and each time I’ve been grateful for the experience.

Music also fuels my writing.

There was a time when I needed silence to work, and any outside distraction was a detriment. I don’t know what changed, but now I cannot compose anything without some music playing. It influences the direction of my writing, the tone, the development. I know certain scenes in my first novel were created in direct response to what was on the stereo at the time I was writing them.

And I have so much  of it.

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Hundreds of vinyl records. Thousands of compact discs. A few lonely cassette tapes.

I’m always acquiring more as well. The more new stuff that I add to the collection, the more some albums get forgotten. Some albums have not been played in years, maybe decades.

In order to try and remember the lost ones, I determined to listen to each of my CD’s (in reverse alphabetical, reverse chronological order) over a two year period. I call it “The Great CD Listening Adventure. I started in the fall of 2016 and just moved through L and into the letter K this morning (L7 to Kylesa, in case you were wondering).

Because some albums have not aged well, I give myself some outs- I play everything, but if after three songs, I’m not feeling it, the disc gets yanked (set on the pile to take to my local record store where I can get store credit). I can skip live albums and greatest hits collections. Singles are also optional. Otherwise, it’s every album by every artist. It’s been so much fun. I’ve rediscovered some forgotten gems, and realized that I’ve lost interest in some bands completely.

My tastes have always been all over the place, ranging from bubblegum pop to Black Metal and most everything in between. I firmly believe that there is a gem in every genre, and that some of the best music ever made is being created right now. If you’re wondering, disagreeing, curious, I can give you a nice list of artists to consider.

What about you? What sort of role does music play in your life, your writing? When authors use music, does it have any affect on the way you perceive a scene?

Who are some of your favorite artists? Who are you listening to right now? Tell me all about your love of music, please.

 

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?

Some Changes

I’ve been playing about with this blog for almost 6 years. Originally, I planned to use this space as a showcase for writing ideas, flash fiction, poetry, other ramblings, and as a way to share those things with friends and family. I hoped that making myself accountable to something (committing to posting two or three times a week, sharing, sharing, sharing) that my writing voice would improve, and my work would become more accessible. I’ve had some successes and I am grateful for those who have stayed with me from the beginning.

Over the past year or so, I’ve tried to narrow the focus this blog, posting almost exclusively about writing and the things that inspire my creativity. I’ve stopped sharing bits of poetry and fiction (and in some cases, deleted old entries), not because I don’t want them out there, but because I felt that those posts were difficult for many to leave meaningful comments. What can you say beyond, “I like this” or “good job”? I’ll pretend no one ever wanted to type, “well that sucked.

Since implementing that change, I’ve seen an increase in readership and met some clever new friends.

I’ve tried building a reading base through social media as well.

From the beginning  I’ve shared the blog posts on my personal Facebook page, and that has been a very good thing. However, it has meant many great comments and ideas that could spark further conversation on the blog have been only seen by Facebook friends.

Twitter has been a different and strange friend, connecting me to some great people, but overall, so hit and miss that I’m not sure it has been as helpful as I’d like, at least the way I’ve been using it.

In order to change that, I’ve created a twitter account I will use exclusively to follow other writers and to eventually market my own work. If you are interested in that sort of thing (and who wouldn’t be interested in what I’m working on and thinking about, really), follow me HERE

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I’m hoping this new account will bring me some new readers and also offer me the chance to connect with  writers from all over the world. In the two days I’ve been using the account, I’m already having a great time. There are so, so many writers out there and most of them (wink wink) are creating amazing content. I’m excited to finally be participating in a more proactive and meaningful manner.

All of these tiny (but significant) changes are part of my grand plan (created in partnership with my wonderful spouse) to self publish and market a novella (I’ve been talking about recently), along with some accompanying short fiction (what stories and how many have yet to be finalized). I don’t have many concrete details, but once things start to take shape, I’ll certainly be posting about them on this blog and my other social media accounts (another swell reason to follow that new twitter account). For those of you who have self published, or published at all, expect lots of questions.

I’m nervous and excited at all of this, and hope I can have your support going forward.

People over things, always…