Building Wings

“…jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down.” – Ray Bradbury

Friday night I finished up my work on, and submitted my space octopus sci-fi/horror short story, which became titled “The Dark Reaches”. Having that completed I took the weekend off of writing projects while Tabitha and I indulged in a Read-a-thon. We both finished the book we’d been trying to complete and read another whole book.

Starting a new week I began thinking about the writing projects I have in different stages of progress.

– Three stories in process of editing. (1 of which I have an anthology to which I’d like to submit it to early in June.)

– A fantasy novella/novel idea that I’ve kind of started and have about 60% plotted.

The fantasy novel has been in the works for a long time. Too long.

I’ve decided, that beginning tonight, I am going to restart this project (which like most of my stories — don’t have actual titles until the very last minute). With parts of a couple chapters started, Neith, (as I’ve grown to call this, based solely on it being the main character’s name) will be getting a fresh start based on my recent eureka plotting moments.

The title of this weeks blog I chose because I don’t have the entirety of Neith plotted, but I have a good idea where I want the story to go. I could spend years nitpicking the plot points I’ve already worried over or I could just build my wings on the way down.

That said:

Goals

– minimum of 30 minutes each day writing

– grand total of 5000 words written

All the Editing

Restarting my blog, I aimed to post every Monday to get back in the swing of things. I’m three weeks in and I’m already behind.

In my defense, the reason I didn’t write and post last night was two-fold. Tabitha and I were watching a movie which will be discussed on the podcast (The Geek Awakens) we are a part of. Then after finishing the first round of edits on my story I was awake until 12:30 at night retyping all 5000 words (because it was faster than cutting and pasting).

I met my goal and got my edits completed including rewriting three decent sized chunks to better fit the movies the submission call noted for comparison.

Tabitha was a rock star and completed her edits in short order today. I’m going to begin working through her notes and tweaking what needs to be done.

I’m into the final stretch before submission. T-minus 3 days!

Goals

– Get story polished and submitted (includes coming up with a damn title)

– Refocus as I gear up to begin writing new words again next week

Week 2

As I finished my blog last week I stated that my goal was to have a first round of edits completed on my “Space Octopus” story. Well, that didn’t happen. I’m about halfway through. Which isn’t bad, but not exactly where I wanted to be.

I did come to some realizations about this story. The call for submissions point to a number of classic sci-fi movies for reference. Alien, The Blob, The Thing among them. I’ve seen Alien, but neither The Blob or The Thing. Having found The Blob on a streaming service I set it up while I was working on other things. Along with my watching of that and having seen Alien as well as cursory knowledge of The Thing I made some notes about some pretty serious tweaks I need to make to the ending of my story. (Now just to make it that far in my edits…)

So, I’m going to keep this short this week as I head back to work on those edits, but I have to give a huge thank you to my amazing and thoughtful girlfriend that found me a fantastic lap desk that I can use for writing and editing. It’s what I’m typing on currently!

This week’s goal is simple as I begin to stare down the deadline for this story.

– Finish edits

– Pass off to my amazing and incredibly helpful girlfriend and alpha reader.

It’s Been…One Week

It has officially been one week since I restarted my blog and posted my first round of goals. And taking a look back at those goals today I realized that was able to complete both the goals I set for myself.

I wanted to write 500 words a day or for 5 hours total throughout the week. I can happily report that I totaled 4500 words which is 1000 above where I hoped to be.

Secondly, I wanted to complete a draft of a sci-fi/horror short story I hope to submit for an anthology at the end of the month. Thanks to a massive 2000 words yesterday I can check both my goals for Week 1 off the list.

Now, comes the hard(er) part.

When I edit I have a system. I double space my story, toss on some page numbers, and print a hard copy. Then with a red pen and a notebook I begin the process.

I took today off of writing or editing to give the words a moment of space. I’ve found that if I begin editing the instant I’m done writing the story is still too fresh and I’m seeing what I want the story to be, not what it actually is.

So, now, with my printed copy and my red pen, tomorrow I dive into edits.

Week 2:

– Complete first round of edits on my “Space Octopus” (damn I need a title) short story.

Getting Into the Groove

Over the last month or so I’ve been trying to make an effort to start writing more regularly again. As is typical for me I have about 397 anthology calls that I would love to write a story for, but I also have been thinking more and more about the (probably grimdark) fantasy novel/novella that has been floating around in my head for a few years.

Thanks to my incredible girlfriend for pushing the button on Amazon, I have a writing space that allows me to stretch out and work comfortably. She saw my creative wheels beginning to turn as I would randomly text her in the middle of the day as ideas attempted to form in my brain.

After setting up my desk I ended up talking with an online writing friend, Michael, about plotting and the different forms it takes for each of us. I had taken to writing “bones” of my novel on index cards and sticking them on the wall in front of my desk to help organize my thoughts. He also has become more active on his blog as he’s using it as a forum to publicly announce goals and give weekly updates to his progress.

All of these things have led me back here, to my own blog where I will update (fingers crossed) on a regular basis what I’m working on as well as both successes and failures of my weekly goals.

Week 1:

– Finish drafting a sci-fi horror short story that is due for submission by April 30th.

– Write 500 words a day or total 5 hours of writing.

Too Weird

I have always been a reader of science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy the books that take on the tried and true tropes, but are written well and involve such incredible world-building. When done correctly the fact that the characters and settings are typical of the genre don’t detract from the atmosphere and the ambiance created by the author. On the other hand I love when an author can take those same tropes and successfully turn them upside down.

There have always been authors that blur the lines of genre; pushing boundaries. In the last 20 or so years doing so has not only become more common, but when done well, it can draw significant attention in the literary and book communities. I recently read “The Sky is Yours” by Chandler Klang Smith. The world she creates, with the melding of flying cars dodging two dragons that fly above the city, is fantastic.

Along with that blending of genres has come a new “style” often referred to as the “new weird.” In many ways it is related to both slipstream and bizarro fiction. The whole point is to mash genres together with a literary bent. As of recently I’ve attempted a few works categorized in the new weird. I have finished a collection of short stories and two of three novels in a trilogy.

As a fan of things that stretch my imagination I had very high hopes for what I would find among the pages of these books. At this point in my reading journey, I have to admit at being disappointed. Not entirely, to the point of giving up on these authors or the genre, but unsure how much farther I’m willing to dive in. There are hints and glimmers of what I wanted to find, but apart from a few of the short stories in the collection living up to my expectations, my interest in waning.

It’s possible that I should have done more research about the new weird before beginning. I was expecting a wonderful blend of Joe Hill, Ray Bradbury, and Lovecraft. My overall impression so far is that these authors desperately wanted to create something as unsettling and unnerving as Lovecraft and the old gods, with skewed view of reality that comes with so much Bradbury, while upping the literary “chops” of the book. My opinion is that they haven’t quite done what they set out to accomplish. (My opinion may be incorrect, if not blatantly wrong to some people … and that’s fine. It’s just my opinion.)

Too much time is spent in these books and stories attempting to give eerie and analogous descriptions of creatures or creations that don’t belong in the natural world. In wanting to leave dark spots for the reader’s imagination to fill in, for me, they end up just being vague and not giving shape to whatever they’re envisioning.

Often, it also seems that these authors try to give sudden shocks to the reader presented as eye-opening revelations. A particular twist in the book I just finished was certainly meant to give the reader a jaw-dropping reaction, while for me it simply garnered a “I thought that guy was dead?” response. And did not generate a desire to find out where he’d been before being tossed into the story.

I will finish the trilogy. I’m two books in. I can hope that the payoff at the grand conclusion will offer some retroactive enthusiasm. For the time being, I’ll be happy with a generic explanation and a tidy wrap-up.

I’m not calling with quits with the “new weird” yet, but maybe it’s just a little too weird for me. I’ll take concrete descriptions and hair-raising situations over ambiguity.

Which Notebook?

It seems to be a common problem among writers (and probably most creative-types) to have an infatuation with collecting pens or writing utensils and notebooks. Myself, I have to purposefully avoid those aisles, particularly around back to school time. If I don’t, I’ll come home with at least one notebook to add to the stack that I already have.

I have enough ideas for stories and novels floating around in my head at any one time to fill every notebook and run the ink out of every pen I have.

I have small notebook that I carry with me every time I go to work, just in case something were to spark an idea. I have another that is essentially my default. It’s where most of the ideas belonging to my current Work In Progress start.

random crap notebook

Then I have a few notebooks that are empty. Or nearly so. If I have so many ideas and so many notebooks why aren’t they all used. The struggle I tend to have when using my notebooks, is finding the right notebook to match the idea that is currently percolating. A while back I purchased a couple of real leather, parchment paged, notebooks. One is completely empty. The other, I wrote enough to fill a few pages, but is 98% blank. I haven’t found the right idea, the one that belongs, or fits, in that notebook.

As with always, there are multiple stories bouncing around in my brain. One, I am currently workshopping with a number of other writers from a Facebook group, and another that continues to marinate. I have needed to collate all my random notes and thoughts for this second story in one place. Needless to say, I think I’ve finally found the idea worthy of the notebook I’ve been wanting to use so badly since the day I bought it. I may be crazy, but I have a sense that on the right pages, in the right notebook, the right story can grow and flourish before I actually begin writing.

tree notebook

Guess we’ll find out.

Graphic Novels AS Reading

A large number of my posts regard epiphanies or thoughts relating to whatever my current writing situation is. As we enter the last quarter of 2018 I’ve started thinking some about 2019 and what kind of reading and writing goals I would like to accomplish.

This year I have put a lot of effort into attempting to read a short story every day. I find it a way to make myself spend at least a little bit of time each day reading, while also using it as a chance to study the form of short stories more. I figure its a good idea, since that’s what I find myself writing as of recently. I’m definitely on target, at this point to make my goal. While I won’t have read one each and every day, I’ll have read one FOR every day of the year.

Next year, I want to incorporate collections of short stories among my reading of novels, which will free up the time I’ve spent on short stories each day. So, my hope for next year is to focus on graphic novels. Recently, the Booker Prize (a very prestigious book award) has, for the first time, shortlisted a graphic novel. And I got to thinking.

I’ve enjoyed comic books for a very long time and I read an number of monthly titles, but there are some stories better designed for a longer graphic format than 25-30 pages a month. Thanks to the wonderful people at Lion Forge comics, through the podcast (The Geek Awakens) I’m a part of, I’ve gotten the chance to read a few of these such graphic novels, Lighter Than My Shadow and Sheets (just to name a couple). The story telling in conjunction with the incredible and poignant art is a fantastic medium; something I feel like as a story teller I could definitely use as a learning tool.

So, here’s my question to you, my readers. Do you have any of these such graphic novels that you’ve read that you feel like everyone should read? It can be something as pop-culture as Frank Miller’s Dark Knight trilogy or something as literary as Maus. (Needless to say, those are both already on my list for next year.) But, what else have you got? Give me some suggestions. I want 52. 1 per week for all of 2019.

Don’t Give Up

About a year ago, after I’d started carving out time to work on my writing on a regular basis, I got the point where I seriously doubted whether it was a past time that was really worth pursuing. At that point it had been more than six months since I’d finished drafting my first novel and was feeling lost since I hadn’t completed self-revisions and no idea when I would. I had spent some time working on a few other short stories. A couple that I’d submitted, but had been rejected.

What would I do? Where would I go? The prospect of diving full-bore into revisions of Hush was so incredibly daunting. And even if I got through it and found an editor, I had only published one short story a few years before. Aside from family and friends, who would be my audience, my readers?

I’m still not sure what changed my mind at that point, but I made a conscious choice. At least for a short time, I’d focus on creating short stories. The goal was dual pronged. My creative high is the creation of the new stories. If I managed to get published I would be increasing my reader base, beginning to grow an audience that had heard of me. The self-revision and editing along with the stress of submitting and waiting would be ugly but necessary to the process.

Since then, I have turned quite a corner. Two of those stories I wrote last year and were rejected have both been accepted for publication (one placed 2nd in a contest and the other is one of twenty accepted for an anthology). If all goes right, I will have stories appearing in at least five anthologies this year. All while continuing to work on other new stories and revising old ones that I hope to find homes for.

I have every intention of going back and continuing my work on Hush. I don’t see myself attempting another novel until that one has been completed and is well along on the path to publication (even if I choose to self-publish). But at the same time, with the recent success I’ve had with short stories and knowing that I can keep the exciting feeling of publications going, I can’t say when that will be at this point.

Just like so many things in writing, if the “path” you’re on doesn’t seem to be working even though it works for other people, try something different. Don’t give up on yourself or on stories that you truly believe have the chance to be something.

Finding a Niche

As a writer social media can be the worst thing for productivity. It is easy to get lost in the news feed, seeing updates from friends, following movie stars extravagant lifestyles, and endlessly scrolling through funny jokes and infamous cat pictures. But like everything, it can extremely useful and encouraging.

While I definitely use Facebook to keep up with friends and family, I also have found a few writing groups to be incredibly useful and a couple are a great source for answering questions that a growing writer can struggle with. I’ve mentioned at least once that I have an inability to only work on one project at a time and it’s not because I need the challenge of juggling multiple stories simultaneously. In order to grow as a writer, I should always be practicing my craft. A way I’ve found to do that is to scour a couple Facebook groups that focus solely on spreading the word when a member finds calls for stories from different venues. I’m currently waiting to hear on two stories I submitted thanks to these seemingly random posts.

I use Twitter to help myself connect with other writers. I have found that I can engage in fun discussions and discover new authors based on likes and retweets of people I already follow. I recently found this author, KL Burd because of one such like or RT.

He and I tweeted a few times back and forth commiserating on a topic I recently blogged about … finding time to read while writing. We connected via a common issue and to learn that there are other writers with similar struggles is incredibly encouraging.

Another encouraging writer I’ve begun following recently is @Katie_Masters29. She’s constantly tweeting reminders to keep going, push forward, and don’t be ashamed of your goals. Not to mention that she’s super awesome about responding to replies.

I guess, like everything else, when it comes to writing, social media is what you make of it. Find the things that make it beneficial and champion those. Share, like, RT, post about, etc.