Writing–March Projects

February was a disaster in terms of productivity, but I’ll get to that let down next week. Instead, let’s look at what I can be expected to do (and hopefully, actually get done) this month.

I really need to get back to revising The World (Saving) Series. It needs to go back to being top priority. Bottom line, I’m spending my Ides with Stanley.

I need to review/revise a few stories, two of which are a hold over from last month. I need to review “Another Deadly Weapon” and “Erin Go Bragh”. I keep going back and forth on changing the ending of “Another Deadly Weapon”, but I think I’m going to leave it for one last submission. “Play Chicken” needs to be revised. I think I’ve left it alone long enough to gain some perspective on how to achieve the effect and pacing it needs.

I should also probably start work on another freebie story for the blog, but I’ve got some time so that’s pretty low on the priority list for the month.

Here’s to hoping this workload is more compatible with my day job than the last.

Stories By The Numbers

Submitted: 3(Sent out “Summer Rot”; “Spillway” and “Such a Pretty Face”are still out)
Ready: 3
Rejections: 1 (“Soul Sister”)

Writing–February Projects

New month, new schedule. It’s going to be a hectic one.

Revisions on The World (Saving) Series will be ongoing. I’ll be rewriting “The Guinea Pig” in anticipation of a deadline. I’ll also be revising “Another Deadly Weapon” and “Play Chicken” for deadlines and “Phobias Are How Rumors Get Started” for the blog (only a couple of more weeks to enjoy “An Old Fashioned Vacation”!). And finally, I’ll review “Summer Rot” for possible submission.

I have no idea how I’m going to do all of that with a day job and blogging and all of the other bits and bobs in my life, but I’m going to try. I’ve got to make good on my committment not to slack.

Stories By the Numbers

Sent Out: 3
Ready: 3
Accepted/Rejected: 0

Writing–Kiki and the Idea Notebook

If I were a more popular writer, I’m sure more people would ask me where I get my ideas from. And I would tell them that I get my ideas from my notebook.

Shall I clarify? I suppose I’d better. Don’t want to be thought of as any more of a loon than I already am.

I get my ideas from my idea notebook. Of course, I have to put the ideas into my idea notebook, too. A lot of those ideas have been in that idea notebook for so long that I don’t remember where they’ve come from, though. Some of the ideas I don’t even remember having them, can’t remember writing them down. Those are the best. They’re so fresh and new. It’s like they were put there by an idea fairy.

As for the rest, I had to get those ideas the old-fashioned, hard way. I kept my eyes and ears open and asked “what if” a lot.

To me, ideas and inspiration can strike anywhere. I get hit with it a lot either in the shower or doing laundry. I don’t know why, but those two activities tend to bring out the best ideas in me. I can almost understand it with the laundry. I write a lot of horror, my washer is in the basement, and my basement can be a creepy place to be. I guess when I’m showering, I’m just looking for a way to keep myself entertained while I go through my daily cleansing ritual without much thought.

My ideas are all different. Sometimes it’s just a scene. Other times it’s a character. There are times when I’ve read an article in the paper or saw a segment on the news or some other program and just kept asking “what if” until I had something I liked. No matter what, almost all of them go into the notebook.

Few ideas come to me fully formed and ready to write at that moment. Even fewer insist on being written that second (if I really like those ideas, I will rearrange my schedule to accomodate them so I don’t lose their urgency and thrill). The fully formed ideas are harder to put into the notebook. They seem to go stale quicker than the fragments, suggestions, images, and dialogue.

I like to flip through my idea notebook at least once a month to refresh my memory on what goodies are lurking in there. Sometimes an old idea jumps out at me like a new frog fresh out of the pond. Sometimes I wonder what the hell what I was thinking when I wrote this bit down. But I don’t get rid of it.

The idea notebook is sacred like that. It’s where my ideas come from. 

Stories By the Numbers

Sent Out: 3
Ready: 3
Rejections: A story I called rejected last week due to no response last week got an official rejection this week (with a personal invitation to submit again because they liked my story, but didn’t think it worked with what they were doing for that project).

Writing–Social Anxiety Network

A big part of a writing career these days is networking. Getting to know fellow writers, making connections with them that could lead to making connections with other people in the business, other writers, agents, publishers, editors.

Networking is also how writers today build a fanbase and attract attention. Through Twitter and Facebook and other fabulous internet socializing tools, writers can sell themselves and their work to the readers they’re hoping to attract.

This is all well and good. It’s a great way to connect with readers and it’s a great way to connect with others in the writing business. It brings down walls and makes the writing feel less lonely. Many writers, even the most shy ones, thrive doing this sort of thing.

However, I am not one of these people.

As ridiculous as it sounds (particularly if you follow me on Twitter), I have social anxiety on the Internet. For most people, the anonymity of the Internet allows them to be more outspoken, more bold. While that does apply to me in certain situations (again, Twitter), that anonymity doesn’t cover them all.

For example, other blogs. I read other blogs, but unless I know the person, I rarely comment. Even if I do know the person, that doesn’t mean I’ll comment. Sometimes I have nothing to say and I really don’t want to force something just for the sake of conversation. Most of the time, I don’t feel comfortable with commenting. I don’t feel smart enough, established enough, or legit enough to share my two cents. I feel awkward coming out of lurkerdom to comment as there is no established rapport. I’m just a stranger stopping by and saying a few words without introduction.

Which is just silly because I don’t feel that way about people who comment on my blog (or reply or retweet me on Twitter). Once I get over the shock that people are actually reading and not everything I babble just disappears into a void, I’m cool with it. I don’t know why I’d feel differently with the roles switched.

It takes me a while to warm up, I suppose.

I’m focusing on blogs because I’m a little more vocal on Twitter, but there’s still a certain amount of anxiety and awkwardness in following people and responding to certain people’s tweets. As much as I’d like to be one of the cool kids, I never have been, never will be, and I still get nervous, even on the Internet, when it comes to talking to them.

It’s a silly little thing, but it’s one that’s holding me back and is going to continue holding me back unless I overcome it. Naturally, that’s what I intend to do.

I prefer to have making an ass of myself on Twitter be my biggest social problem.

Stories By The Numbers

Stories Submitted: 3
Stories Ready: 3
Acceptances/Rejections: 0

Writing–January Projects

New month, new year, new projects on the whiteboard of my writing life.

The big project this month is revising The World (Saving) Series. I’ve been itching to get my revising hands on this first draft since I wrote the last word. I love this story and I want to make it better.

I’m re-reading it and making revision notes on it now and for the most part, there’s nothing major story-wise that I need to overhaul, which is nice. Most of the revisions now are just little story things like fixing some details and turning the telling into showing. I think this time I got the story right the first time.

I’m planning on this round of revisions to take two months. Planning. If I can get them done sooner, I will not complain. However, I know they won’t be done there. Not only will the technical aspects still need to be cleaned up, there are certain details I’m still going to be lacking. I’m writing about places I’ve never been to and in some case, never seen. It’s a challenge I’m going to have to overcome, but at a later date.

As I like to say, one catastrophe at a time.

With a big project that’s going to take me all month and beyond, it’s nice to say that I’ve already accomplished something in submitting three short stories. It’s nice to be able to wipe something off of the whiteboard.

Stories By the Numbers

Submitted: 3
Ready: 3
Rejected: 2 (“Game Night” and “Another Deadly Weapon”; both no response rejections)

Stories By the Numbers for 2010

Submitted: 14
Accepted: 2
Rejections: 23

Writing–First Draft Love/Hate

I have such a love/hate relationship with writing a first draft.

The love comes from the excitement I get from finally getting this idea that’s been drifting around in my head for days/weeks/months down on paper. Breathing life into my characters, letting the story unfold, putting in that little twist or three, filling in the details, giving myself something substantial to work with in revisions that makes the first draft worthwhile for me and makes up for the hate part.

Oh, and there’s so much I hate about writing the first draft.

Rarely does it ever come out right the first time. It’s not supposed to, I know that. That’s the point of a first draft. But, it frustrates me to no end when I can’t get what’s in my head onto the page, when the words I put on the paper don’t do my idea justice. The characters are two-dimensional, the mood isn’t right, the beginning is flat, the ending is awkward, and in my longer works there’s ALWAYS too much telling and not enough showing. The perfectionist in me hates it when I can’t get it rigth the first time. Of course, I know that’s what revisions are for and I’m one hell of a revisor. I actually like revising my first draft more than writing it most of the time. I love making something great out of something lackluster, and in some cases absolutely craptacular.

(Wait, weren’t we talking about hate? Damn love sneaking in there.)

The flip-side of this particular hate is that on the rare occurances that my first draft does go well and does adhere to my vision pretty closely, it worries me. It makes me think that I’m missing something, that I’m overlooking some glaring flaw that won’t be found until the story is rejected three or four times and then I finally see it and end up absolutely ashamed that I sent it out looking like that. Let the agony of self-doubt begin as I stare at that first draft wondering why more doesn’t demand to be rewritten.

First drafts, at least for me, are truly writer’s hell. I’ve yet to find a way to skip over that part and get right down to the revising. And if it wasn’t for the little bits of writing a first draft that I love, I’d be really bitter about that.

Stories By the Numbers

Stories Out: 2
Stories Ready: 3

Writing–Writing Around December

Stephen King has said he writes every day, even on Christmas. I only wish I was as gifted. I don’t write every day. I tried, I failed, I found a schedule that works for me.

I’ve got a whiteboard in which I put a monthly schedule, four months at a stretch. For every month, I write down what I want to accomplish in that month. From there, I organize my projects further by writing in my day planner what I want to work on for a given day. Sometimes I can do this all at once at the beginning of the month; sometimes I go week by week. Either way, my projects get scheduled and I stick to that schedule (mostly). When it comes to short stories, I sometimes have a lot of things going on in one month. This helps keep me organized. I thrive on organization. It makes up for my declining memory.

The goal of this monthly system is to get things done and get a few days off. If I get everything done in a timely fashion, then I have a few days off at the end of the month to let my brain rest. The more efficiently I get my work done, the more time I have for resting and working on goof projects (projects that are purely for pleasure). The more I slack during the month, the less time off I have, if I get any at all.

For the most part, this scheduling system works out very well for me. December, however, is the notable exception. It’s the busiest leg of the Holiday Gauntlet and I always think I can manage my time better than I’m actually capable of and end up overscheduling myself, much to my disappointment. It’s no way to end a year.

This year I managed to wise up and gave myself a reduced schedule. So far, it’s working out very well. I’m accomplishing things without getting overwhelmed and stressed. Finally! The brains kick in and I do something smart!

With only one more item to go on my monthly writing to-do list, I’m taking this week off to enjoy the holiday and I’m doing it without guilt. Well, writing guilt, anyway.

Maybe one day I can work up to the writing stamina Stephen King has, but for now, I’m looking to end this year on a feel-good note and I’m good with that.

Stories By the Numbers

Ready: 3
Sent Out: 2
Rejected: 1 (“Erin Go Bragh”; the Universe wanted to prove the point I made in last weeks Writing Wednesday by sending me a “It’s not you, it’s me” rejection)

Writing–Rejection Subjective

One of my biggest obstacles to changing my writing from hobby to job was the fear of rejection. I don’t do well with failure. Even as a kid it gave me serious anxiety. I’d be so afraid of failing or making a mistake that I’d just freeze and wouldn’t do anything. Then once I was forced to actually do it and found out that even if I did make a mistake or fail, it wasn’t the end of the world and then I had no troubles.

Writing was no different. The idea of being rejected (and therefore, not good enough) stopped me cold in my tracks. It was the combination of entering contests (because in my head that’s not being rejected, it’s just not winning, and I can handle not winning) and reading Stephen King‘s On Writing that helped me get past my rejection fear.

The first story that ever brought me any kind of validation that I might be good writing was “Such a Pretty Face”. It won 10th place in the Genre category of a Writer’s Digest story contest. It got me 25 bucks, but didn’t get the story published (I did get to see my name in print in a magazine, though, and that was pretty cool). I was really proud of the acoomplishment and proud of the story. I then decided to try to get “Such a Pretty Face” published.

And that’s when I learned a valuable lesson in rejection. It’s a subjective thing.

Despite placing in the contest, “Such a Pretty Face” has been rejected six times since then. SIX! You’d think that 10th place showing would count for something. It’s a GOOD story. Someone told me so. I’ve got a certificate to show for it.

It was very frustrating to have one person say the story was worthy of a ribbon, but everyone else not think it was worthy of being read.

Of all the rejections I’ve received for “Such a Pretty Face”, only one suggested I make any changes to it. The changes he suggested made me realize that he totally missed the point of the story. And that made me realize that I was forgetting the human element of the submission process.

Not every rejection I get is because the story was bad. Sure, I’ve sent out stories I shouldn’t have and they were rejected for very good reasons. But some rejections left me scratching my head. Now I realize that maybe those form looking rejections might not have all been form rejections and maybe they meant it when they said these weren’t the stories that they were looking for.

It seems silly, but up until that point it didn’t occur to me that someone just might not like my story. I never thought that maybe it might not what they were looking for or they’d already seen too many similar stories lately or they didn’ t think the story fit with the publication as well as I did. Yes, until that point, I didn’t realize that rejection might not have anything to do with the quality of the story.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, it should be no suprise that I am this slow on the uptake.

So  my attitude towards rejection has changed a bit. It’s still disappointing, but now that I know that it doesn’t automatically mean that my story is shit, the sting doesn’t linger quite as long. Getting back on that horse is quicker and easier.

And if it’s the last thing I do, I will see “Such a Pretty Face” published.

Stories By the Numbers

Ready: 3
Submitted: 3

Writing–You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

Having a story accepted is as rare to me as being asked out on a date, but it’s pretty much a given that I’m more excited to have my story accepted than to be asked out, usually because the person asking me out isn’t someone that I want to date in the first place (but that’s another post for another day).

Toiling away, such that I do, pretty much in isolation because I’m terrible at networking and I’ve only got a few friends that are writers, selling a story becomes the bottom line for validation. Rejection is the rule of the day and I know I’ll see more of it than anything else. But, to open that email (or letter; I still do some snail mail subs that call for SASE) and read the words that I long to read, especially when I’m expecting rejection, is one of the most victorious moments in my short career. We’re talking fist pumping and saying, “Yes!” over and over like I just hit the walkoff home run to win the World Series. It’s the sign that I’m always looking for, the one that says that this isn’t just a hobby, that I’m good at this and I can make money doing this and most importantly, people want to read what I write. It’s that last one that boosts my ego the most.

The best part is that the feeling of jubilation and absolute victory hasn’t changed. Oh, maybe I’m a little more sophisticated in expressing those feelings (read: I don’t yell as loudly as I used to), but that warm, bubbly, my-day-has-been-made feeling is still the same. And I love it. And I can’t wait to put that feeling to the test with more acceptances to see if the feeling will ever fade or if it will only get better.

I look forward to doing this experiment.

Stories by the Numbers

Ready: 3
Submitted: 3
Accepted: 1! “Sentries” will be published in the Library of Horror anthology Fearology 3: Planting the Seeds of Horror

Writing–A Change in Plans

Submitting my short stories is always a stressful activity to me. Not so much the actual submitting, but the finding of ezines, magazines, and anthologies to submit to is stressful for me. I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now and I have concluded that I’m just terrible at it.

I don’t think I’m a very good judge of my own work in terms of establishing that it’s a good fit for a publication. I typically teeter on the fence of decision for a bit before finally falling to the side of NO. Rarely do I hit on a publication that just screams PERFECT at me so loudly that I cannot deny it (we’ll just never mind the inevitable rejection). It’s when I get to the end of my futile search empty-handed that I start to wonder if the story I’ve written is just impossible to publish because it doesn’t fit anywhere. And then I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere in my writing career. This torture has made researching publications my least favorite part of being a writer.

After my latest round of torture, I decided that I needed to change my plan.

My usual tactic was to hit up Duotrope as soon as I had a story (or two or three) ready to submit, paw through the listings looking for a fit, and get incredibly discouraged if I couldn’t find something so I could submit the story that day.

My revised plan will be a little less stressful, a little more laid back, but hopefully (in the long run, at least) be more productive. I’ll keep a list of stories that are ready to go. I’ll hit up Duotrope once a week. If I find something, great. If not, there’s always next week. Meanwhile, I can continue to add to my ready list and not feel entirely like I’m failing.

This less-pressure method might work for me. It might not. But I’ve got to try something new because the old method isn’t working for me. And I’ve got to be more willing to acccept that something isn’t working and come up with a new game plan.

I’m a bit of goat when it comes to insisting on doing things the hard way.

As NaNoWriMo is done for me for yet another year, I propose to introduce a new Writing Wednesday feature to help keep me publicly accountable for my short stories. It will account for the number of stories I have done, the stories I have out, and any acceptances or rejections I get for the week, on the occasion that I get them (those are few and far between most of the time, but rejections are more likely than acceptances).

Stories by the Numbers

Ready: 3
Submitted: 3
Rejections: 3 (no response)