May Writing Projects…and Some Furniture Moving

pinkflowerHow you like this newness? Yeah, I’m feeling bored and uninspired with this bit of blog. I want to do something different with it, but I don’t know what I want to do with it. I’m sort of an asshole like that. So, I figured that maybe a little bit of a layout change my help with my blahness. So far it’s only sort of working.

At least I’ve been productive on the To Do List of Doom, though.

Basically, aside from some cover art and print proofs, I’m set for the rest of the year when it comes to the self-publishing schedule. Everything I’m working on for the rest of the year will be stuff coming out for next year. Right now that’s looking like an anthology and some novellas. One of the novella ideas could go full novel, but I don’t know. We’ll see.

This month I’m going to finish the first drafts of “The Electronic Looking Glass” and “Cabintown Road” which I started at the end of the last month. Then I’m going to start working on one of the novella ideas I’ve got. There are four and their themes are sort of similar so they might actually make a good collection. Not naming any names because I’m not sure which one I’m going to work on and I’m not sold on the titles yet and I’ll probably change them and a 30,000 word story doesn’t need 95 tags because I keep changing my mind.

I’ve got two weeks off of one of my day jobs this month (this year teaching our “spring break” is two weeks in May; “summer vacation” will be two weeks in September) so I’m hoping to use that time to get a lot of writing done.

Yeah, I was laughing before I even finished typing that sentence.

Writing–Let’s See Where This Goes

Rainbow paperI’ve been working  on “Nadie Has a Dog” for the better part of the month and I’m finally getting to the point where it’s wrapping up.

I’ll be honest with you; I’m only now sure how it will end. I wasn’t sure before. In fact, the ending is nowhere near where I thought it’d be.

That’s probably because when I started the story, I only had a couple of scenes in mind.

-The beginning, in which we establish who Nadie is and how she got her name.

-The scene in which she acquires her dog.

-The first scene illustrating what she and her dog do.

After that, I figured I’d wing it. More than likely, writing those scenes, stringing together those parts of the story would lead me to the end. Actually, I thought the last scene was the climax and Nadie and her dog would ride off into the sunset.

Only they didn’t.

And I had to see where the story decided to go.

That happens occasionally with my short stories. I try to be a little more planned out with my longer works, like novellas and novels, just because there’s so much going on that I need to keep track of all of my threads. I let myself have some room to play, of course, but it’s more like dallying between set pit stops on a road trip rather than full on wandering in the woods.

With short stories, I can wander more, though I don’t usually. When I sit down to write, I know what the story is. I still manage to surprise myself, but the overall story is usually written with a solid beginning and ending.

With Nadie, I thought I knew the ending, but I didn’t. There was more story there than I’d originally thought. That’s both scary and neat. The potential to go so far off the rails that the story meanders into nothingness is there and that worries me. I don’t like it when my stories end up as bupkiss. But it is kind of a thrill to just write as it comes and see what happens and see where things go.

Nadie has turned out to be longer and not as overtly shocking as I thought it’d be. Instead there’s a touch of sweetness and a even a little humor to the story. And I like that! It feels right.

Sometimes it’s good to wander.

Writing–October Projects

pumpkinsJust because I’m experiencing a writing crisis of sorts doesn’t mean the party stops. While I’m  seeking validation by submitting to agents, I also have a different plan on the board that I’m executing, one that is sort of independent of that whole writer-validation thing that I talked about doing last week. Basically, it’s Operation: Get Some of This Shit Off Your To Do List, Woman!

So, last month involved me doing a round of revisions on the Zak novella (no, it still doesn’t have a title), writing a couple of short stories (“The Seaweed Man” is a lot longer than I thought it’d be and I’ll need another week or so to finish it; I also ended up writing another short story called “People Are Terrible”), and getting the pre-order of Spirited in Spite set up. All of the was done even while I was having my “Why am I here?” troubles.

This month, since it is of course October, I will have NaNo prep, which will basically just be me going over my outlines for the next two Ivy Russell novellas to make sure I know what I’m doing. Yes, I’m doing two novellas again for this NaNo and I will talk more about them in another post.

Speaking of Ivy Russell, to help me get in tune with that world, I’m going to finish the rewrites on The Timeless Man, which means finally figuring out and writing the new ending. It will be smooth sailing on further revisions once that is done.

I also need to do another revision of Hatchets and Hearts. I’m changing the time period. I think that will be the final big change that will really tie the whole thing together. It seems like everything I wrote during a certain few months of last year/this year was nothing but a struggle. It will be a victory when I get that all sorted.

And so there won’t be any dull moments, I’ve got a couple of new short stories I could write if I need to: “The House Down the Road” and “Nadie Has a Dog”.

Slowly, but surely, I’m going to get this To Do List whipped.

Writing–July Projects

Rainbow paperIt’s official. I am burned out on revising.

This revision/rewrite of The Timeless Man has been most successful. I think I’ve fixed most if not all of the major story problems that were plaguing it. It’s not nearly as boring now! Everything in it now has a purpose. The only thing left hanging right now is the ending. It needs to be changed, yet be the same, if that makes any sense at all. Don’t worry if it doesn’t. I’m not exactly sure how to work that either.

But since I’ve had my revising, I’m going to take a step back from that and focus some energy elsewhere.

The read of (Vampires) Made in America continues (I got a late start on it last month and I measure out the reading so I fully digest what I’m I’m dealing with). The ideas I had for fixes going into the reading are sort of not going to happen at all. It seems that the first draft was a better than I remembered it being, so far story-wise. There are some changes that need to be made, but they’re not nearly as big as I thought they’d be.

I’ll be honest with you. When I got to the end of the first chapter, the last line made me laugh out loud. Now that doesn’t mean I’m fucking brilliant or anything, but it did signal to me that maybe this story wouldn’t be so bad after all.

To counteract my revising fatigue, I’m going to write something new. Sure that seems counter-intuitive since I’ve already got a huge list of projects that need revising and duh, stupid, why are you adding to it? But I need to flex my first draft muscles more often than just in November. The idea is for a longer short story, possibly novella, something that I’ve been kicking around in my brain for a while. I think it’ll be nice to just take the month and play in that world for a while.

And finally, I’ve decided to journey back into print, at least for a while. I’m going to put together a special print edition of Yearly featuring Gone Missing. I may throw in the first part of Night of the Nothing Man, just to see if I can’t drum up some interest in it. If this project goes well, I might look into giving other projects the same type of treatment, most notably A Tale of Two Lady Killers, since it is a novel. It’s going to have sell a more than a few more copies before I commit to that, though.

I’m really looking forward to shaking things up in July. My brains need the break.

Writing–Shelving It

Rainbow paperYou remember that untitled novella I was writing at the same time I was writing The Timeless Man? The one that was so insistent on being written that I decided to humor it and write it? Yeah, well, I didn’t finish it. I only wrote about seventeen pages, then made notes on what the rest of the first draft was about, and then shelved it.

I shelved the first draft of a short story I wrote earlier this year, too.

I’ve got plenty of stories on the shelf.

It’s not an easy decision for me to shelve a story. Usually, it’s a finished draft of something that I look at and go “no”. Rarely is the draft unfinished, but that happens on occasion. I don’t like to do it it, but it’s usually for the best.

When stories end up on the shelf, it’s usually because of how I feel about the story. There’s something about it that makes me realize the story isn’t meant to be worked on. It’s not to be done. I don’t hate the story. Worse than that. I don’t feel anything for it. Whatever burning need I had to get it out of my head and down on paper is long gone and I’m left with nothing but a sense of meh. That apathy is pretty much what dooms a story to the shelf. I can get past hating a story to get it done to completion. But if I have no feelings at all then I’m not going to force it. No good story comes from no feeling.

It’s not necessarily the end of the story, though. It’s on the shelf, not in the trash.

There’s always a chance that I might need that story later, that the initial feeling of urgency and NEED to write that story can return. And when it does, it’ll be right where I left it and I’ll be ready. It’s a win.

Sometimes being a pack rat can have its advantages.

Writing–March Projects

cloverThe main project for March is to finish writing the first draft of The Timeless Man. It’s more than half-way done and boring as hell, but I can fix that later. I just need to get it done. This is a project that I want to have completely done by the end of the year and the way I’m struggling with the first draft, I might already be in trouble.

The other novella that I’m working on, remember it? The one that was so insistent on my brain last month? Well, it’s not as insistent now. I’ll still be working on it throughout the month, but more as a distraction from The Timeless Man, a break from the blahs I’m having about that first draft.

So, The Timeless Man is the biggest priority this month.

However, I’ve been trying to come up with story for a contest open to various genres and essays. I think I’ve actually hit on an essay idea that might work for it and I think I’m going to give it a go and see what I can make of it. I’ve only written one other and it was pretty much garbage, but I’d like give it a go so I can feel like I’m doing something towards this deadline.

Last month I read through A Tale of Two Lady Killers, but didn’t get around to doing any of the little revisions that need to be done. I also realized that if I want to self-publish The World (Saving) Series, as I’ve been thinking about doing, then I’m going to make some changes to the manuscript. Maybe this month I’ll get around to doing those two things.

But like I said, first draft’s first.

Writing–Three Day NaNo Weekend

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

The stars aligned for me this year when it came to NaNo’s kick-off.

This year NaNo happened to start on a Friday that I didn’t have to work. I chose to seize this opportunity and schedule myself a three day weekend devoted to eating, sleeping, and NaNoWriMo.

I was originally going to start at midnight like I used to do and try to get a couple thousand words in right out of the gate. It turns out that I like sleep too much and ended up going to bed around eleven.

But I made up for it.

After my usual round of procrastination that usually happens whenever I start any new project (but happens most notably with NaNo), I found that the words came a lot easier than I thought they would with this project. An hour and a half in and I had 2,100 words. After a lunch break, I got another 2,000 words or so in that same amount of time. I decided to do a third jag just to finish the section I was working on and ended up with 4,457 words. Not as much as I was hoping for, but I did have to write a couple of blog posts, so it was a good enough start.

That sort of productivity really lights a fire under my ass. I feel invincible, like I’ve got the story by the tail and I can go as far as I want to and this weekend, I wanted to go far. I wanted to get as much done.

On Saturday, I decided I need to really push it. I ended up writing 6,100 words (bringing the total to 10,557) and feeling like I didn’t write enough. It’s part of my stupid writing guilt; I feel like I never work enough even when I exceed my goals/expectations. I did 2,000 more words than I’d hoped to do (I was gunning for 8,000 total) and it still felt like I should have done more.

I’d originally had a goal of 12,000 total for Sunday, but since I’d done that extra 2,000 on Saturday, I bumped it up to 14,000. The words didn’t come nearly as easily as they had on Friday and Saturday, but I still managed to exceed my goal, writing 4,443 words, bringing my total word count to 15,000.

This is probably the most I’ve ever written in a three day period. I think 8,000 words might have been the most I’ve ever written in a day, but the 6,1000 I wrote on Saturday were probably the easiest mass I’ve ever typed out.

What’s more, a lot of what I’ve written isn’t bad. The story is good enough that I should have something to work with when it comes to revising.

This opening weekend has given me some confidence that this NaNo might be okay, no matter how many jobs I’m working. It also shows me how far I’ve come as a writer when it comes to my discipline and my ability to turn off my internal-editor and just let the words fly.

I’m calling it a success.

Writing–Writing Longhand

The English alphabet, both upper and lower cas...

Using my child-tending mornings two/three days a week to work on writing projects has me writing in a notebook. My laptop is in need of a new battery, but even if it didn’t, it’s much easier to walk a notebook next door than to bother with my laptop. It’s been a while since I’ve written longhand this much.

Back in the day, when I first started to write seriously for publication, I drafted all of my short stories longhand. I’d do my first round of revisions when I typed the story up. It’s a habit I got into because I was working retail and I’d write on my breaks. It’s a habit I got out of when I stopped working in retail because I had my computer at my disposal at all times. It seemed silly to bother with writing it out longhand and then typing it up. It was like a waste of paper.

Getting back to it now in the mornings I’m telling the boy it’s time to take a shower and eat his breakfast to break up his Pokemon DS quests, I realize that it’s not silly or wasteful. It’s true I don’t get as much done in that time span writing it out by hand, but I’m a little more thoughtful doing it that way. It’s not as easy to correct myself with ink and paper. And I don’t like a lot of scribbles marking up my paper, even if it is a first draft. So I pay a little more attention. The idea that I can go back and fix it (which plagues me because I still do battle with the voice in my head that I MUST get it right the first time) is still present in some sense, but I think I end up with a slightly better first draft than when I type it on the computer first.

I think part of that is because writing it out by hand does slow me down. I type like 70 words per minute (that’s an estimate based on a typing test I took at some point in high school, so there’s very much a margin of error here). Because my fingers can nearly keep up with my thoughts, I don’t take much time to pause and reflect when I’m getting that first chunk of story down. Writing longhand slows that whole process down. I can’t think about what’s coming next because I’m still working on what’s happening right now.

It’s a nice change of pace. Writing on the computer and then writing on paper is doing me more good than harm. The back and forth makes me feel more productive and better at what I’m doing.

It makes me FEEL that way. I can’t guarantee that’s actually happening. But it’s a nice feeling.

Writing–I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

Question mark

I feel like that sometimes, like I have no clue what the hell I’m doing. Not just when I’m working on my writing, either, though that happens plenty of times. For every day I think I know what I’m doing, there are two that I feel like I don’t.

I’m still not sure I know how to write a novel because I’ve yet to successfully revise one into completion. Working on short stories, more than once I’ve stopped to ask myself, “Is this right?” Even when it comes to blogging, I feel lost at times, like I’m just faking my way through it, looking like an idiot all the way.

But this feeling of not knowing what I’m doing goes beyond the writing doubts. It encompasses my whole career (if you want to call it that). Should I be splitting my time between writing novels and working on short stories? Is the Outskirts a waste of time? Should I really be self-publishing my novellas? Should I even be writing novellas? Should I focus all of my time and energy on getting one novel manuscript finished so I can start shopping it to agents? How do I connect more with the writing community? I need to get into it, but where do I start? Should I wait until I do have a novel manuscript finished and few agent rejections so I don’t look like the impostor I feel like? I consider myself a writer, but will they?

It feels like flies on a dead body in June when my brain buzzes like this. It freezes me. I can’t make any decisions, can’t even look for a logical place to start trying to figure anything out. I can’t even figure out what I DO know because I’m not sure I actually know it.

It’s kind of a bitch.

When this sort of overwhelming “where am I?” happens, I find myself throwing up my hands and yelling “fuck it!” at the sky and going back to work on whatever it is I’m working on. Do I know what I’m doing? Fuck it! I’ll do it anyway! That’s the spirit!

Which really doesn’t do me any good because it doesn’t fix the underlying problem, but at least I do get something done. And the productivity makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I at least know how to cross something off my To Do List for that given day. It’s a sense of accomplishment.

It’s just the rest of it I still need to work out.

Writing–NaNo Completed

calendar -  November 2012

What? Already?

Of course. That’s my goal every year. I always aim to finish before Thanksgiving and this year I finished nearly a week before the turkey deadline.  I did fall short of some other goals, though.

I aim for 60,000 words. That didn’t happen this year. I ran out of story right around the 50,000 word mark, which is great for winning NaNo, but not so hot with my own personal pride. I could have added an additional ten thousand words on a related story that would reveal what really happened to the missing girl that sort of threads the story together, but in the end I decided to just stick with the novel itself and let my ego take that lump.

I also put an interesting restriction on myself. Since the story is set in the 70′, I challenged myself to not use any language that would have been censored on 70’s era television. It was a silly little challenge designed to make me think a little bit more on my dialogue and encourage myself to be a little more creative rather than relying on the easy out of swear words for insults and exclamations. I mostly did it. Mostly.  I fully admit to writing while tired and not caring about this self-imposed little demand.

On the other hand, I really pushed myself on the word count, writing 4,000 words a day four days a week instead of just on the weekend like usual and then sticking to 2,000 words on the three days of the week that I worked more than one job. It’s nice to know that I can maintain that level of demand if I really put my mind to it.

Overall, I’m rather pleased with the way the novel worked out. Not getting too far ahead on my outlining wasn’t a big deal and I think actually helped me be a little more creative with my story since I wasn’t concerned about getting too far off track. On the other hand, I think I could have benefited with a general story line set out before hand instead of going in as cold as I did. I admit, I didn’t have an ending when I started and that usually doesn’t bode well for me. This time it worked out.

As of right now, I rather like Night of the Nothing Man. It’s a pretty simple, straight-forward horror story. I’m thinking that it could be edited and revised down into a nice novella and I think I’m going to try for that.

All in all, I’m going to say this was a pretty successful NaNoWriMo. I certainly didn’t think it would turn out this well.

I love it when a plan comes together.