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.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pretty Cool Stuff

Now Playing: SO FAR DOWN by Creed
Just Read: THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir--So good! Funniest book I've read in a long time; I wish I had written it, because it was right up my alley and I loved the main character. Heard it's gonna be a movie!
Reading Now: THE PROMETHEUS DECEPTION by Robert Ludlum

In the past, one of my stories (Good Business, With Guns) was read on a science podcast, directed by a guy named Paul Cole. The podcast is called Beam Me Up, and they read fiction and talk about science and generally have a great time. I'm excited to say that a few weeks ago Paul read another of my stories, Skipping Stones, originally published in Daily Science Fiction.

You can listen to the hour-long broadcast here: http://www.beammeuppodcast.com/shows/bmu_416.mp3 My story is the last thing before he signs off.

It's always cool to see another's interpretation of your work. I was talking to a friend about that last night, particularly about writing screenplays and seeing an actor's interpretation. Mostly I think it's a great time, and though I know some people get up in arms when someone takes their piece in an unplanned direction, I think it's kind of fun.

In other news, I've been doing a lot of my own research on cosmic science and particle physics (because you know, I'm a sci-fi nerd and that's what we do). The coolest thing I've taught myself is how fundamentally connected we are to everything around us. How similar the DNA chains of any organism is to any other. How looking at distant galaxies is tantamount to looking back in time. And most heavily of all, how the elements that make up our planet and our bodies were forged long ago, in the distant and massive explosion of a dying star, ejected as dust until it underwent accretion and coalesced to form the unique, loved, amazing person that is you. That's spiritual. You are a spirit living in stardust.

Be mesmerized. Be imaginative. Be thankful.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Some Easier than Others

Now Playing: FLAWED LEGACY by Michael Salvatori and Martin O'Donnell

One way I know a story has a lot of potential is when it comes really hard for me.

I think Stephen King said that writing is best when it's a kind of inspired play. Well, the story I wrote for June (mostly that is--I just finished it tonight and we're a week into July . . . ) was all play until the time came to sit down and write it.

I had it all thought out: girl in trouble, girl figures way out of trouble, girl realizes her plan wasn't so foolproof after all and must deal with the consequences. I wanted it to be a longer tale, because I plan on subbing it to the Writers of the Future Contest, and in my experience the winners are longer stories. But I didn't expect the challenge this kind of length entailed.

It's difficult to keep momentum when the story is 12,000 words. You write a novel, you think, "I just have to do this sip by sip, and eventually I'll have downed the whole drink." In other words--one to two thousand words a day, and in two or three months you've got a novel. But a short story, for me anyway, usually starts with a different mindset: "Let's pound out a story, scratch it off the 'to-be-written' list, and move on to the next one."

June's story is titled "Frost and Flame." It refused to let itself be pounded out and set aside, to be crossed off as average stories are. It reached for greater depths, fished for more developed characters, and wouldn't let itself be neatly tied off, as I think I'm prone to doing (an amateur trait, I've come to think more and more). These are all good things, as they raise the bar for my quality; I can honestly say now that I've had a story idea that can hold its own against professionally published pieces I've read.

It's a bit like working out, maybe. Once you run two miles every day for a month, two miles isn't a workout anymore. You have stretch it to four or five. True, two miles is still something, and you should be proud of that. But you aren't here for a stroll--you're here to work out. So stretch it to four or five miles and be proud of how shaky your quads feel.

That's the way I feel after finishing "Frost and Flame." Like I just maybe ran a bit farther than I could comfortably handle, but here I am, and now I can't go back and run a two mile course because I know that's beneath my ability. That's wanting to stay comfortable, but working out isn't about being comfortable. Neither is writing--the good stories, the ones that tell you they want to go somewhere, leave you aching all over once you type "The End."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sit Down

Now Playing: World Cup, duh
Just Read: THE CAPTAINS by W.E.B Griffin--Pretty fun and historically informative. Not the most exciting novel, but funny at times and definitely enjoyable.
Reading Now: A TIME TO KILL by John Grisham

Most young writers I've spoken to agree: one of the hardest parts of being successful is finding the time, energy, and dedication to actually sit down and produce. We usually have lots of ideas and a grasp of the craft that will surely get better with practice, if only we could make ourselves sit down.

A great part of being a member of Write1Sub1 is that it holds you responsible--you committed to a story per month (or week), and you have to report in each Sunday on your progress. It's like a fabricated deadline. You have a reason, a requirement, to do your work.

I am terrible about putting things off if they can be done tomorrow. What's the number one thing that can be delayed? Writing, of course. I have to go to work. I have to go to the bank or post office before they close. I have to run to the grocery store and then cook dinner and then clean the kitchen, and since I've got the broom out I might as well clean the rest of the apartment. Then there's a world cup match on, and some friends want to get together to watch it. Well . . . you can see there isn't much time in there to write a novella.

This month's story is particularly long for me--I'm already at 4000 words and it seems like it's barely started. With five days left in June, three of which I work, it's going to be a challenge to complete it.

So I added another fabricated deadline. A girl I work with is also a writer, but she hasn't written anything new in a long time. I told her that if she could finish a story by July 1, I would too, and we could swap. So now I'm obliged twice to finish this story by the deadline.

Better sit down and get to work.