Writing–May Projects

pinkflowerThe final polish of A Tale of Two Lady Killers is done. The contest essay is submitted. The slog to get projects completed continues.

Next up will be the final polish of Spirited in Spite.

And then I will be back to revising.

I probably should get back to The Timeless Man, but I haven’t quite worked out everything that needs to be fixed yet, so I don’t want to start it until I know the solutions to all of the problems. It can sit another month or so while I work the last few kinks out in my head.

Instead, I’m going to take another hack (pun intended!) at Hatchets and Hearts and maybe try to get in another round of revisions done on “She’s Not Here Anymore”. Of course, the latter will depend on how well the revisions of the former go. If they turn out to be a big struggle, then I’m not going to add to my pain. I anticipate the revisions on both of these projects, even though they’ve each been revised/rewritten before, to be rough.

But if by some miracle, they both end up being easier than I anticipated, there’s plenty of things left of my To Do List to fill my time.

Writing–April Projects

Yellow flowersRevising. That’s all I’m going to do in April. Just revising. My To Do list is filled with revising.

My essay for a contest is going to be revised and polished this month. The deadline is next month and it needs to be done and ready to go with time to spare. It has top priority.

Also getting revised this month is Spirited in Spite. I actually don’t think it needs much in the way of revisions, but I’m going to comb through it one more time just to be safe.

After that, anything is up for grabs. I’ve got one short story, one novel, and four novellas that need revisions. I guess whatever I feel like working on will get worked on.

It’s going to be a while before I write anything new, I think, which is fine. I’ve found it’s sort of hard for me to think about writing a first draft of a new project when I have all these other drafts of these other projects hanging out patiently on my list.

So starting now, my focus is totally on eliminating what I can from this To Do List. That means revising. Revising, revising, revising. Then polishing.

Now watch me get another brilliant idea that I can’t pass up and I end up writing that instead.

Writing–Essay Conclusion

a Prince Consort Essay

When we last left our hero, the first draft of the personal essay I was working on, I wasn’t happy with it. I couldn’t get the emotions working the way I wanted them to. I was struggling because I was too hesitant and couldn’t stop myself from holding back. The solution was rewriting the first draft from scratch and then working with the new draft.

The good news is that this approach worked. I rewrote the draft in my journal where my emotions are free to roam without judgment, and then typed up the result. Subsequent revisions from this new draft worked well and I’m pretty happy with the end result. I think I fixed the problems that plagued it in the beginning.

The bad news is that I really don’t have the confidence to submit it to the contest. I like it, but I’m not sure it’s good enough. And with money tight, spending 25 bucks on something I’m not sure of doesn’t make sense. I feel like I could benefit from more practice before I think about submitting again.

I know that I submitted one piece to a contest before, but that was just to do it. It was an opportunity to try something new. However, if I’m going to pursue this seriously, then I’m definitely going to have to get more practice and build up my confidence before I submit again.

I don’t mind taking my time in this case.

Writing–April Projects

Tree - leaf canopy

Last month my main goal was to get down a first draft of a personal essay that I want to submit to a contest. This month my main goal is to see if I can work that first draft into something I want to spend 25 dollars on in order to submit it to a contest. I believe the early bird deadline is May 1st. So, this will be fun. No pressure as I reserve the right not to submit an essay I don’t think is good enough to go since it will cost me 25 bucks to submit and right now money ain’t growing on trees.

Other April projects include revising “Gone Missing”, the not so short story. The first draft ended up being just about fifty pages, a little over 10,000 words. I need to figure out what I’m going to do with it. It’s hard enough for me to sell a story period. Trying to sell a longer story like this one ups the level of difficulty. I’m looking into the possibility of self-publishing it, say on Smashwords so it would be available strictly for e-readers, but my self-publishing success hasn’t been the greatest. But then, my publishing success in general is questionable, so really, I think I can hack it and break even either way.

I’ve also got a novel idea that has taken hold of my brain and won’t let go. I’ve got the basic plot, a subplot, the main characters (all except the bad guy…he doesn’t have a face or a name yet, but that will come, oh yes), and an idea of what I’m doing. I’ve already started working on an outline and jotted down a few scenes so I don’t forget them. Writing this a little a day will be a nice break from revising.

My quest to get 50 rejections this year continues. To check in, as of then end of March I have 3 rejections, 1 acceptance, 9 stories still out, and 2 ready to go. Obviously, more submitting will be done.

Let’s hope the next time I check in at the end of June, there’ll be more rejections (and acceptances!) counting towards my goal.

Writing–Getting Personal II: Getting Emotional

Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

I have tasked myself with writing another personal essay for a contest. On top of learning to write a personal essay, there’s an added degree of difficulty involved with this one in that I will be putting more of my emotions on paper. I’ll be the first to admit that the first essay I wrote and entered into a contest was a bit restrained on the emotional side.

I’m not an emotional person. I don’t like to get emotional. I don’t share my emotions freely (aside from happy) with people. And though it’s easier for me to explain myself by putting words on paper, I find that I still have an emotional block.

This is a problem. The essay that I’m working on, the one that I would like to submit, needs emotion in order for it to work. It’s about an emotion. Without putting real feeling into it, it’s going to come off as sterile as a research paper. And what good is that? I’ve written my share of research papers. Not the same as a personal essay.

And I struggled mightily with this during the first draft. I wrote it in bits and pieces, out of order, which isn’t the way I normally work. When it comes to writing, I seem to do better going straight from A to B when working on a first draft. I then assembled the bits and pieces I wrote into a coherent form and found that when put together…the draft was definitely less than the sum of its parts.

It was pretty frustrating.

The individual bits, I felt, contained the emotion the piece needed, but when the bits were put together, it lacked the emotion I wanted and instead came off like a soppy mess. It wasn’t saying what I wanted it to say and it wasn’t evoking the emotion I wanted it to evoke.

It was, to put it nicely, garbage.

So, I put it aside and decided that maybe this wasn’t the essay I should write and maybe I shouldn’t be writing personal essays at all. Fiction is my forte and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I let that crappy first draft sit and in the back of my mind wondered if there was anything I could do to salvage it because I hate to say that I’m going to do something and then, for whatever reason, I don’t do it. I don’t like giving it up. And I wasn’t quite ready to give up on this piece. I knew what I wanted to say, but I didn’t say it in the first draft because I was holding back, no matter how pretty those bits and pieces were.

The idea for the fix came to me when I was scribbling away in my journal. There I can go on and on about my emotions without fear of exposure and judgement. That’s what I needed to do for this essay to have a chance at working. I need that feeling of safety and freedom.

So I wrote a new first draft in my journal. This draft came out a whole lot easier and a whole lot better. I’m still not sure I can make it into something worth submitting. That’s a different battle.

But to get that first draft out, the draft I knew I could write and the one I wanted to write, was quite a relief.

Writing–March Projects

The Daffodil, the floral emblem of March

My dedication to short stories last month didn’t exactly work out as well as I’d hoped. I did manage to get four done, but only one submitted. Progress was made, but victory was not established.

Obviously, if I’m going to make my goal of getting 50 rejections this year, I’m going to continue to work on my short stories. But they won’t be the big project this month.

The focus this month will be on putting together the first draft of a personal essay I’m hoping to submit to a contest. I expect it to be difficult simply because I’m venturing into new territory (I’ve only written one other essay that I submitted to a different contest, and that was only done for the experience) and because I’m really going to be pushing myself to really put my emotions down on paper. But that’s another post for another day.

Last month, in taking a break from working on the short stories (I’ve got a post about the outcome of that, too, but for another day), I read the first few chapters of A Tale of Two Lady Killers. I was less than thrilled with the draft. But! I do have a couple of ideas that I might work on to give myself another project when the essay and short stories start to frustrate me.

March should prove to be an important month if only for the essay part. If I can put together a satisfactory first draft of it, I’m going to call that a big win.

Writing–Getting Personal

Earlier this month I took a step in a new writing direction. I submitted a personal essay for a contest.

I’ve thought about writing personal essays before, because if there’s one thing I love, it’s talking about myself. I wasn’t exactly sure HOW to write a personal essay, but I’ve never let lack of knowledge stop me from trying anything.

I read several how-to articles on writing personal essays. Lack of knowledge doesn’t stop me from doing things, which includes educating myself so I don’t end up looking like a fool. While I learned, I jotted down ideas in a notebook. In November, I decided to try my hand at it. During a marathon day waiting in the hospital while my dad had surgery, I ended up writing two essays in my notebook (along with meeting my word count for Nano that day, reading two magazines, and killing my phone; it was a REALLY long day). Once Nano was over, I typed them both up and picked the one that I thought would be the best to enter into the contest.

I don’t expect to win. I think the essay I submitted is a passable first legitimate attempt and I think it’s good enough to encourage me to keep doing it.

In fact, it’s given me an idea.

There’s a definite theme to the two essays that I wrote and the ideas I’ve been putting in my notebook. It’s developed into a new project for me. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, whether I put it this project up here for free or self-publish it. I may try submitting more of the essays I end up writing if I can find places in that market.

At any rate, it’s a project I’m going to continue to work on and develop. It uses different writing muscles for me. It’s like blogging, in a way, but there’s far more emotional content to it. There’s definitely more refinement than my typical blog post and more of a narrative need, like fiction-writing. It’s a challenge, particular the emotional part. Sure, I like talking about myself, but I like to keep it superficial. Digging out those emotions and putting them out there for other people to see is a little daunting, but it’s something I have to do if I want the essays to be good.

And I want the essays to be good.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly stop writing fiction. I think it’s good for me to explore and experiment. It builds up the writing muscles and helps me get better.

And in the end, getting better is what I really want to do.