Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Crunch Time

Now Playing: TOP OF THE WORLD by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman
Just Read: ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey--Very fun! I've been meaning to read this one for a while and it didn't disappoint. Great writing--awesome analogies--and great story.
Reading Now: THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht

I think I have discovered that I work well with deadlines.

They are, of course, purely imaginary at this point in my career. My Write1Sub1 goals don't cost me anything if I don't meet them, but they're there to challenge me and keep my writing on track. Likewise, some magazines have their own deadlines: limited submission windows, or contests like Writers of the Future that starts over every three months. I've done well trying to position stories for submission within these windows.

Winning  the Writers of the Future Contest is a huge goal I've set for myself. I first started submitting in . . . 2007? . . . took some time off but have submitted every quarter regularly for the past three years. I received an honorable mention two quarters ago, but everything else has been a form rejection. However, I think my stories have gotten progressively better, and the contest itself has made my writing more disciplined.

Reading some of the winners' anthologies, I started to pick up that the contest tends to lean toward longer stories. Perhaps it's a mark of a new writer's control, like being able to keep a story together for a higher word count is tougher and therefore more worthy of winning. The problem with writing longer pieces is they take longer to perfect. So I've gotten into a habit of writing a longer piece for one month's W1S1 goal, then two shorter pieces for the next two months while I work on editing the longer piece for the WotF Contest. By the time the deadline comes around, it's usually ready.

This quarter ends on March 31st. I have a story edited and prepared . . . but is it perfect? That's what I'll be asking myself over the next few days as I try to nail it down and send it toward the higher ranks of submissions. It's crunch time! Let's win this thing.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Publicizing Goals

Now Playing: DRACARYS by Ramin Djawadi

Following up on my last post: I managed to submit four stories since bringing an increased number of submissions to the forefront of my writing goals for the near future. In one form or another, they have all been rejected by other magazines, but I've since spent some time working on them, polishing them, prepping them to perform better at their next editor's interview. I enjoy all these stories--I don't enjoy all of mine, and if I'm being honest with myself I can gauge objectively just how good or bad one is--so my hopes are high.

I like publishing my goals on my blog. It gives me a reason to readdress them frequently. I've blogged before about how one of the hardest parts about writing is showing up, because young writers before they have agents or deadlines are only accountable to themselves, so if a writer can't hold himself or herself accountable he or she is doomed to fail.

So knowing that I had already blogged about and made myself aware of how behind I was on my submissions schedule, I felt more compelled to fix the problem. In two weeks I've submitted four stories, and I've been researching the requirements for some other magazines that are newer and might be a good fit for me, so ideally I'll have some new venues to send to. Also, a few of these magazines are themed, which I've always found inspiring because it takes away that "What am I going to write about . . . " question that floats to my frontal lobe when I first sit down.

Since the last goal-posting (sounds like that should mean hitting the pole with a slap shot) worked out well for me, here's my next: my ensuing story will be directed toward one of these new publication finds that have themed issues, so I can submit to them with confidence. They have lengthy breaks between publications, which gives me enough time to write a directed piece, go back to my own random work, and come back to a directed piece without getting annoyed.

These are my goals. I'll report back on my mission progress.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Now Playing: ISENGARD UNLEASHED by Howard Shore
Just Read: 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez--Interesting book. Good writing. I think I enjoyed it. But it wasn't really my kind of book.

What I need to do better is submit.

As part of Write1Sub1 it's my goal to write one story and submit one story per month, every month, month after month, world without end.

The thing is, I've been a part of this online community of writers since 2012, and I've built up a lot of fiction in my "Completed Stories" folder. I manage to submit one story per month to any of a variety of magazines, but I tend to draw the stories for submission from my most recent three or four months' worth of new stories. Older than that I seem to forget about.

That's a lot of neglected fiction that still has a lot of potential.

So what I'm trying to focus on for these next few weeks is sorting through my folder and submitting stories I have essentially forgotten about for a while. The larger pool of fiction I have making the rounds, the better chance I have at getting a story published, and the more editors will start to recognize my name and associate it with a large base of stories.

Thank to Duotrope, the Twitter universe, and the word of so many writers at W1S1, I know of a lot of magazines. I'm setting a goal now to edit and shop out the stories from the past two years to those magazines until, hopefully, they find homes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Honor

Now Playing: THE LEGEND OF ZELDA by Taylor Davis

Exciting news! Last week I got an email from the Writers of the Future Contest. As far as I know, it's the biggest amateur writer's contest in the country, open only to contestants who've never published a novel or more than three short stories professionally. I've been submitting regularly every quarter for about three years now, and last week's email informed me that my story "Frost and Flame" received an honorable mention in this year's fourth quarter!

"Frost and Flame" is about a young witch who makes her reflection come to life to stand in for her obligation to do something unpleasant. However, she never stopped to think that her reflection wouldn't appreciate this very much, and now she must deal with the fallout.

I was very happy to hear that I'd gotten an honorable mention, but in truth it is a little bit like coming in fourth place--gahhhh so close! If you place first, second, or third, you get a cash prize, your story published in the annual anthology, and a trip to LA for a week-long writer's retreat to work with professionals and judges, culminating in a huge awards gala. It's incredible. The prize of a lifetime. Potentially a catapult into a career. And I was THIS CLOSE!

Ah well. I'm still eligible to submit since I didn't place, and the thing about receiving this feedback is that it is an undeniable affirmation of my ambition to be a writer--it's pretty objective evidence that I'm getting better, that I'm figuring out what a good story feels like. And at a time where my work ethic is pretty low and my story ideas seem daunting, that's a priceless gift.

Monday, November 17, 2014

T-12 Months

Just Read: THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER by Beth Cato--Great! A very fun adventure with lots of unique magic, and all the things that make steampunk great. Awesome book by a fellow W1S1 writer!
Reading Now: THE MAGICIAN'S LAND by Lev Grossman

So about my last post. I know, it was a little melodramatic. A little woe is me, a bit of a cry for some undeserved pity. I have owned up to it.

One thing I think successful writers will agree on is that pity doesn't fly here. Who am I accountable to as a writer? Only myself. Being melodramatic may be a common trait among writers, but I'd hazard a guess that it's rare among the successful ones.

I've done a lot of research on what it takes to be a good writer, and on what the difference is between people who write amazing fiction and sell lots of stories and win lots of awards, and people who call themselves writers but don't have the words to back up their claim. In general, hard work and persistence are the difference. Most writers go through the same stages of rejection and self-doubt, and some choose to cry "Woe is me!" while others pin the rejection notices to their wall and sit beneath it and write another story. This latter breed of writers are the ones who go on to be winners.

Thus, in the interest of taking an observation and applying it in a positive way to myself, I have spent the first half of this month reading my NaNoWriMo from last year, the one I never finished. My goal is to jump back into the sprinting mindset I had so locked onto last November and finish the damn thing.

The thing is, as I was rereading it, I couldn't help but think that I really enjoyed it! I mean, it was a fun story, and there were some parts I think were really good. So hopefully I can continue that vein until I reach the ultimate destination to a young fiction writer: THE END.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Novel Confession

Now Playing: SKYRIM by Jeremy Soule
Just Read: THE PROMETHEUS DECEPTION by Robert Ludlum--Not my favorite book of his. It seemed a bit more harried and chaotic than his usual plots, and the writing wasn't as strong. 
Reading Now: THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER by Beth Cato

It is with profound guilt that I make a confession: Last November I was a part of NaNoWriMo and completed over 50,000 words of a new novel . . . and I STILL haven't finished it. 

In fact, I haven't touched it since February. I think I ran out of gas on December First of last year--I knew and still know how the book is going to progress and how the climax will end, but I could no longer sit down and tackle it. Instead I moved on to other short stories and novellas that had taken a back seat to the novel project, and left the novel to collect figurative dust. 

The worst part is that I really like the story! I opened it today for the first time in forever and read the first two pages . . . and I was hooked! But still the prospect of rereading it (it's like 57,000 words, and I wrote it in a flurry, so I don't think I could pick up where I left off with much success) and finishing it is daunting. 

It's been almost a year since I started that novel, and though I've had a great writing year, accomplished a lot both in writing and life, and stayed true to my Write1Sub1 goals, I wish wish wish I had been able to finish that book. One of these days, I'll have some time to dive into it, and I know I'll get the spark again, but until then, the layer of figurative dust grows.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Now Playing: SAMWISE THE BRAVE by Howard Shore

I listen to Film Scores Radio on Pandora while I write. It does a few things for me: for one, whenever it comes on, whether the song is familiar or new, it puts me in the mind of creativity. It's a bit like smelling a scent that takes you back to a time and a place you smelled it before--once the music plays, click! It's writing time.

But also, all these tracks correspond with some story or another. Pirates of the Caribbean. Skyfall. Alice in Wonderland. Inception. They remind me of great stories, and make me want to write some of my own. It's like they're saying, "You could have this if you would just GET TO WORK!"

Getting to work is one of the hardest things to make yourself do as a writer. I have hundreds of notes on my iPhone about future story ideas, and the oldest one is from November 2012. That's a lot of stories I haven't written! Granted, it's easier to jot a note than write a story, but still, as an amateur who wants to be taken seriously and publish short fiction and novels professionally, I have to write a lot. The music helps set the tone.

My personal opinion: Lord of the Rings has some of the best musical numbers in cinematic history. Sure, some tracks of other greats are amazing, like Pirates or Star Wars or Indiana Jones . . . but overall, taking the average, Lord of the Rings is just an amazing film score. Every track . . . so good. Every time a track plays, I give it the thumbs up--writers of science fiction and fantasy can never have enough Lord of the Rings, right?

In other news, I watched Peter Jackson's video blog about the making of the Hobbit--so cool! I would LOVE to be involved with making a movie one day, maybe as a screenwriter, or have a novel made into a movie . . . big dreams here. Anyway, they won't come true unless I GET TO WORK, so gotta run, more to come later.