Sunday, August 6, 2017

Favorite Season

Now Playing: SLEEPWALKING by Bring Me The Horizon
Just Read: A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS by George R.R. Martin--Great fun! Exactly what I was hoping for. This is the kind of fiction I would love to write, and think I can.
Reading Now: PACKING FOR MARS by Mary Roach

Summer is definitely my favorite season. The others have lots of attractive aspects, but the whole package of summer is unbeatable to me. Unlike others (ie, my wife), I love the heat. I could go to the pool every day. I love that it's sunny early--give me energy right away. And I love how long the days are, because it makes me feel like I can work forever.

And, I write my best stuff in the summer. Autumn and winter put me in a particular mood, where I tend to write specific kinds of stories full of descriptions and details, but summer is the season where I'm able to sit down and actually DO the most.

That has definitely been the case this summer. Sure, I'm not in class every day like the other seasons, so I have more time off to spend writing. But I also have energy that I don't always have: I can drink a cup of coffee, write, go to the gym, write, sit by the pool, write, read on the back porch, write, watch baseball, write, and not feel burnt out by the end of the day. Just the opposite--I feel energized, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

This summer I've finished two longer pieces--one 10,000 words and one 6300 words--and submitted them both. I've also finished a flash piece that I'm planning on reviewing one last time and submitting tomorrow. Also, I've begun plotting for two more longer pieces that I think will be good Writers of the Future submissions.

Oh! That reminds me, big news--I won my fourth honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest with a story that I honestly didn't think would place. I didn't think it was as good as stories I've submitted previously. So I was very humbled and happy to hear that I had earned an honorable mention. After four, I feel like I might be getting the hang of this whole writing thing, that maybe I'm knocking on the door of actually winning!

Only one way to do that--keep writing! I'm off!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Crawling Forward

Now Playing: DESPAIR by Hans Zimmer
Just Read: READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline--Great book! This one was pretty inspirational for me, an interesting and intricate look at a possible future. Well plotted and fun!
Reading Now: MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL by John Berendt

The death of many would-be writers is stagnation. Time they could be writing is instead spent doing other things, and the writing just never happens. It's insidious and lethal, and I'm trying my hardest to avoid it.

The opportunity to put writing aside is so easy. I have clinical every day. I have graduate school assignments and tests and papers. I'm trying to buy a house. I love spending time with my wife watching our favorite TV shows. It's perfect weather for the pool. I want to make sure I get a workout in every day. For others it's work, kids, pets, vacations . . . endless reasons.

And none of these things are bad! They're all good--going to the gym on a day off isn't a bad habit, it's a great habit. But it's also time not spent writing. I can't look at any of these other taxes on my time and think, "Well, if i just cut down on the ____, I'll be a better writer for it." I'm not binge watching Game of Thrones instead of writing (yet).

That's why I changed my outlook this year, to make sure I stayed positive and moving the right direction. Moving AT ALL is the goal--stagnation is the enemy. I've got my notebooks in which to jot thoughts, Twitter to follow writers and editors and agents and keep up with some news, my notes app to plot story ideas, and, sometimes, when I can, my computer to write actual, real prose.

Today was one of those days. I hammered out--and it wasn't easy, wasn't without rust--about 1,000 words or so on a story that I think is ambitious but could be good, if I can pull it off. I'd love to finish it this week because I'm going away next weekend, and a magazine it might be good for has open submissions this week. Wish me luck! I'm going to get back to it, and see if I can write just a little bit more.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fool's

Now Playing: SHERLOCK HOLMES by Hans Zimmer

It's April Fool's day, but no joke--I just finished a 10,000 word story that I started in March and worked on pretty vigorously between studying for pharmacology and regional anesthesia tests. I wrote on the weekends and on off days and in the evenings after coming home from clinical. I wrote in short bursts and long marathons. I got it done!

I'm proud of myself. It hasn't been easy to muster the energy to write new fiction during grad school. Class is demanding, but also more constrained by time. I mean, I can put off writing a story until later, but I can't put of studying for a test indefinitely. I have papers due and projects to complete and group meetings to attend. My days start early and end late, and somewhere in there I'm trying to squeeze in some fiction composition. I don't always succeed.

Like I said, though, I've changed my paradigm for this year, and since my amazing wife got me these awesome moleskin notebooks I can carry around, I've been able to take care of some story planning and draft outlines when I have breaks in class or downtime. I've still been adding to ideas in my notes app; there must be 200 budding stories saved in there, waiting to be written. I'm looking forward to finding out what they're all about.

But I doubt they'll all be done by graduation. :P

Monday, January 16, 2017

This Year's Paradigm

Now Playing: SAY THIS SOONER by The Almost
Just Finished: BREATH OF EARTH by Beth Cato--Great novel, very imaginative, fast-paced, and fun. Looking forward to more in this series.
Reading Now: READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

Happy New Year! It's 2017, and with the changing of the calendar comes ambitions for the upcoming year. For me that means writing goals. Mine are simple. Read more, write more.

Accomplishing this may involve a shift in my writing paradigm; being in graduate school is a real art-limiter, you know? Major bummer.

Totally worth it, I believe, and I love being a graduate student. But I also love writing stories, and being a student doesn't allot much time for those kinds of hobbies/passions.

I'm going to make 2017 a bit of a work-around. Here's the plan: every day I'll do something related to writing, even if it doesn't include putting new words down on paper. Thinking up new titles to future stories, jotting ideas for stories in my notes app, editing old pieces, tweeting about writing, putting together some poetry, blogging, submitting or re-submitting stories, or actually writing new prose. Even reading short stories. I'll count it all as forward progress.

Then, when school is on break or if I have a long weekend with some free time, I'll try to dedicate those times to relaxation and writing, and maybe even reading some fiction. Nonfiction dominated the second half of 2016, and while I like reading about nurse anesthesia, I do miss novels terribly. I was glad to get back to reading during Christmas break! Maybe the local library will reopen and I can go checkout some books on CD to listen to during my commute . . . .

But, yeah, that's it. I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing: trying to juggle lots of things at once and do them the best I can. I'm excited about what stories will emerge in 2017! Let's get it rolling.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

November Nostalgia

Now Playing: CRACKLING YULE LOG FIREPLACE
Reading Now: MORE TEXTBOOKS!

It's textbooks galore here in graduate school, but I'm not complaining. I'm actually really enjoying school--the worst part is how the time requirement restricts my freedom to write, but I knew that going in. I'd say the lack of negative surprises is a win!

As November came to a close I found myself thinking a lot about November of 2013 with great nostalgia. That month, I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel I've titled "Star Born." It's probably my favorite story that I've written so far. I wrote "The End" after 78,000 words or so. But it isn't finished. 

Good stories go like that sometimes, I think. When I ponder the story, I get a sense that there's more to tell, more detail to go into, other subplots I'm missing out on, further details to describe. Periodically, ideas to fill those gaps pop into my head, and I make a note on my iPhone to revisit later. 

"Star Born" will need more time and dedication to finish the way I want than I have to offer it now. Grad school does that. But like I said, I'm not complaining. I'm thinking about this period as a kind of training, because I want to be at my best when I finally do tackle and polish that manuscript. 

I have lots and lots of ideas for short stories that are begging to be written, and I'm hoping December and its winter break will allow for a few of them to be see the light of day. I've managed to keep up with my submissions, but new ideas far outnumber new stories written. I can tell it's been a while since I've written completely new things because my mind is crowded. Part of that, I think, is that November revs up my creativity because I'm subconsciously dwelling on how amazing that November three years ago was for my writing. My hope is that, one November in the future, I'll take part in NaNoWriMo again. Maybe to write "Star Born"'s sequel. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Both Feet

Now Playing: SHERLOCK HOLMES by Hans Zimmer
Just Read: TEXTBOOKS!
Reading Now: MORE TEXTBOOKS!

It's October! How miraculously fast time goes, right? It's Fall, y'all!

I've jumped into my first semester of graduate school with both feet, and so far I'm swimming sometimes, treading water sometimes, but otherwise keeping my head above water. Naturally, my writing output has dropped, but I'm not kicking myself for it. It hasn't been a complete desert, and working on anesthesia material has to be my top priority, and it has paid off.

Still, there's news. In my last blog post I mentioned that I received my second honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. Well, I recently received my THIRD! My story "Scouting Trip" won an honorable mention, and tonight I've been trying to read through it for further submission to other venues. I'm super excited about it! Two in a row! This definitely means my writing quality is improving. I already submitted another story to the WotF contest, so wish it luck!

As for new stuff, I wrote about 1000 words of a new story that I'd played around with some in the past but never actually put down. I was thinking it'd be a flash piece but it isn't close to being finished. Gonna shoot for the 2500-3000 range now, I think.

I've been doing a lot of reading, but all of it nonfiction. Which, like I said, is fine. I still have the same number of stories popping into my head, and when I do get some time to read some fiction, like today, it does wonders for my creativity. So, in short, I'm managing.

COFFEE BREAK'S OVER! BACK ON YOUR HEADS!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hoops

Now Playing: THE HOURS by Philip Glass
Just Read: OUTLANDER by Diana Gabalon--Very enjoyable. Parts of it felt a bit too slow-paced, but overall it was an engaging read, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Reading Now: T-E-X-T-B-O-O-K-S!

It seems like a writer's life is full of things that come between him or her and the actual putting down of words on paper. The "day-job" for example. For some people it's kids or family obligations. Frequently, the writer gets in his or her own way and doesn't write for reasons like "I don't know where the story's going!" or "I just can't relate to these characters." Might as well go see what else is on the TV.

I've faced a lot of obstacles so far in my amateur writing career, and I've written through them all with various successes. The thing about not having a deadline--or, not being a full-time writer who writes to pay the bills--is that I'm the only one who holds me accountable for not writing. I've blogged before about feeling guilty for not writing for long stretches, and that's always been true, but not usually around unavoidable circumstances like going to a family wedding or studying for exams during finals week.

These metaphorical hoops to jump through as an amateur writer, I'm sure, will always exist. Even with them I've written dozens and dozens of short stories and four novel manuscripts, so I think I'm doing okay. Last month I received my second honorable mention from the WotF contest; hopefully that means I'm heading generally upward.

The latest, though, is a doozy--a behemoth called graduate school. You may have noticed my latest update on what I'm reading now: textbooks. I'm in a two-year nurse anesthesia program at Wake Forest, and it's time consuming. There's a lot I have to learn and not a lot of time. We go through classes in just a few weeks and have tests that bear a lot of weight, so it's important to do well on them. My goal of writing and submitting one story per month has never faced such a monstrous obstacle.

Still, I accomplished August. I submitted a few recycled stories and wrote one new one before school really got too underway. Tomorrow I'm planning on doing some editing (as a study break) on the piece I want to submit for this quarter's WotF. Hopefully it turns out okay and doesn't need too much overhaul, because I'm not sure I have the time for it. Test Monday!

Anyway, enough blogging. Back to the books!