Wednesday, August 12, 2020

August's Stories

 Now Playing: REMEMBER by Hans Zimmer

I've written two stories since becoming a dad!

It's funny how that moment so quickly became a demarcation--there was a life before I was a dad, and a life after. My son is only six weeks old tomorrow, but that short amount of time was enough to change everything around here. And I definitely like it this new way. 

Having a newborn does wonders to your time, though. It's like a drain opened up and all my free time went spiraling into oblivion. Since I've started going back to work, I've had to really think about time as a much more limited resource, one which requires planning to use efficiently. I've tested it a few times to figure out how to squeeze in the writing. 

So, the two stories I've written have been flash fiction--one 900-words, the other 1400-words. Figured I'd start small. I wrote them in my office while my son slept, or sitting beside my wife on the couch while the baby nursed. A few hundred words here, a few more there. I know lots and lots of professional writers get their fiction on paper with kids (and with a day job too!), so there's no reason I can't. But it takes some deliberate focus that I didn't necessarily need before. 

I'm hopeful I will be able to keep up my goals of writing and submitting at least one story per month, and preferably two. I'm trying not to stress too much about it, though--I'm enjoying these fleeting newborn moments too much! But there's a part of me, always piping up in the background of my mind, that gets anxious when I don't write. 

I'm reminded of a line from Hamilton: Why do you write like you're running out of time? I definitely feel that way sometimes, like writing is a desperate thing that has to be done before I can feel accomplished. If I don't do it now, it won't get done, and I won't be a writer because a writer writes, and that would be awful. It need to temper this feeling, so I can just enjoy myself and my son. The fiction will come.

Anyway, diaper change--gotta run! 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

I Have a Son!

Now Playing: WORK by Jimmy Eat World
Just Read: THE BREACH by Patrick Lee--Very enjoyable. A fast-paced thriller full of cool science fiction. Definitely the kind of book I'd love to write.
Reading Now: THE EYE OF THE WORLD by Robert Jordan

The world will never be the same! My son was born earlier this month, and it's been a whirlwind ride getting him home from the hospital and taking care of him here. Forgive me if my fiction in the near future is all about being a new dad--I'm obsessed!

Somehow, though, in my spare time while he's napping during the day or while I'm rocking him in the middle of the night, I managed to peck out a few words and submit some stories. My last few rejection letters have actually contained some really positive feedback, which is very encouraging.

I've also had some time to do some reading this week, while my son is snoozing or while he's eating. I started reading The Wheel of Time novels at the hospital. I thought there was some symbolism there, I don't know. Like I was starting a long and life-changing journey as a father, and at the same time starting a long epic journey in literature. Maybe if he's really inconsolable, I'll read a few chapters aloud to him. Give him a break from Dr. Seuss books (which I've recently rediscovered, and are even more amazing than I remember).

Perhaps I'm being foolishly optimistic, but I'm still going to shoot for at least one new story per month. I've written 8 stories so far in 2020, and July's is underway. I'm planning for it to be a flash piece--seems like a more manageable project with an infant. Also, I submitted my quarterly story for the Writers of the Future contest, am still waiting for last quarter's result, and have this quarter's submission ready for editing, so that I'll still be able to meet my goal of submitting every quarter.

I hope one day I'll be able to tell my son that I wrote such-and-such story/novel while juggling feeding him,  changing him, playing with him, reading to him. It would be really cool to pick up a novel I wrote and had published and remember how old he was and what he was doing while I wrote it. The future is bright for all of us!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Productivity and Momentum

Now Playing: COME ON EILEEN by Dexys Midnight Runners
Just Read: THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly--Definitely a cool mystery, with some intriguing characters. I've never read a Harry Bosch story before, and it struck me how vulnerable and imperfect he was.
Reading Now: THE BREACH by Patrick Lee

Moderation is good--sometimes I think it's the most important thing there is--but I have noticed that binge-working is so productive and satisfying.

I know I'm a writer because finishing a story leaves me with such a rewarding feeling of accomplishment. For this reason, the more productive I am, the more momentum I seem to get. The more I write, the more I want to write. And often, the opposite is true, too--the more I'm away from writing, the harder it is to get back into it.

Is there a happy medium somewhere, where I can write a satisfying and rewarding number of words per day while still performing at my day job and balancing my home life? It's a question I see lots of people talking about on #WritingCommunity on Twitter. Until writing is the primary source of income, I think a lot of writers struggle to parse out time of their day for it--getting paid is an objective validation of your writing ambition, and if you aren't getting paid, why are you doing it? For me, it's for that reward. The money will come in the future--I hope!--but I really just enjoy telling stories.

So, I'm working for that elusive moderation. It's a kind of bullseye, and my darts are sticking all around the perimeter. But that's okay. I really believe that I can find a routine that will maximize my writing quality and quantity without sacrificing the other parts of my life. Every year--every writing session, really--I get a little closer to it.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Revising the Times

Now Playing: ANNA MOLLY by Incubus
Just Read: SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Stephen King and Owen King--Turned out to be a big world, slow pace/high build sort of novel. Not terrible by any means, but there were a few times where I was a bit checked out. Overall, enjoyed it.
Reading Now: THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly

Well, the pandemic hit. So far, we're staying healthy here and getting ready for a new baby to arrive. We both work in hospitals, but the testing for COVID-19 has increased, and we're able to keep ourselves pretty safe.

In the meantime, quarantine has meant lots of writing time. I always aim to produce at least one new story per month. It's May, and I've finished six and have started on a seventh so far in 2020, so I'm a little ahead of my goal, which is always great.

Most of my efforts lately, though, have been on revision. I took an editing class online in the hopes of improving those skills, as editing my own work has always been my greatest challenge as a writer. I also took two writing classes through Great Courses, and I think the focus on actively getting better as a student of the craft has paid off. I guess we'll find out when I start sending out these stories or having friends give me some feedback.

I finished a novel manuscript in the fall, and after completing those courses, I've spent a lot of time editing it. My goal is to finish a solid second draft by the end of this weekend, and maybe see if some friends are interested in giving me their feedback. I've also been reading a lot of writing advice (using my quarantine time to study!) and have written a few drafts of query letters that might go out sometime this summer.

Lots to look forward to, despite the times. Writing is a kind of constant, something that doesn't change in all the madness in the world. It's more important to have fiction as an escape than ever--reading is a balm for my mental health, and writing is an outlet for a hundred different reasons. All I can do is keep getting better as a writer at whatever pace I can and in whatever ways help the most.

Stay healthy out there! Wash your hands, don't touch your face!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Early Progress Report

Now Playing: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS by Michael Giacchino
Just Read: THE LAST WISH by Andrej Sapkowski--Greatly enjoyed all of these stories! I'm looking forward to reading the next installment. And the show was awesome, too!
Reading Now: SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Stephen King and Owen King

Not doing too badly on my 2020 goals so far. I'm almost finished with my fourth new story of the year, have submitted stories nine times so far since January (and plan on submitting another today), and I am about to finish reading my eighth book. So all in all, I've stayed pretty close to my goals. I still have a ways to go, and maybe a little bit of ground to make up, but I can't beat myself up too badly.

It's March, and that means a few deadlines are approaching. The Writers of the Future Contest quarter ends at the end of this month, and I've got a story I'd like to edit and submit. Also, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is open to submissions this month, and I have another story I'd like to edit for them. Their word count limit is 10,000 words, which means I'll have to find about 1000 words to cut out of the story I have in mind, but that should be doable.

Also, I started looking into local writing opportunities around me here in North Carolina. I really want to go to a writers conference sometime this year, but the one close to me is on the same day as a wedding I'm going to, so that's out. Instead, I met up with a local writer's group this past week and found out about some open mic nights to attend, and some book signings at stores in the area. Maybe a helpful critique group could come out of it. We'll see. Until then, more writing!

Monday, January 13, 2020

2020 Goals

Now Playing: DAY ONE by Hans Zimmer
Just Read: END OF WATCH--Interesting how this series ended up with a supernatural twist. Didn't expect that, considering the first two books were simpler private investigator mysteries. Good stories, though.
Reading Now: THE LAST WISH by Andrzej Sapkowski

So, about my 2020 writing goals . . . .

The gist of it is to keep it up. I would like to read 50 books this year (I reached 48 in 2019), write 5000 new words of fiction per week, and dedicate 5 hours per week to studying writing. I added this last goal because I feel like I've stagnated a bit over the past few years. I've published about 25 short stories, all in semi-pro or token magazines, with one publication in Daily Science Fiction. I have won 12 Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest, which people say is like a letter saying I am "almost there." In 2020, I'd like to get "there."

So, to that end, I have a few books on the style and craft of writing that I'm going to work through and see if their bits of advice can help me elevate my game. I might even look into a Master Class. I've already been listening to more podcasts on writing, and I would like to read more short stories, too. I'm also going to try to submit more stories--so far, I've submitted four--and work on writing stories that are shorter. For the past two years or so, most of my stories have been around 10,000 words. Those are harder to sell. In 2020, I'm going to shoot for stories under 7500 words.

That's really it! I want 2020 to be a year of hard work and, hopefully, reap the benefits of that hard work. Let's get to it! Happy New Year everyone, and good luck achieving your own goals!

Friday, December 6, 2019

NaNoWriMo From the Sidelines

Now Playing: SCAR TISSUE by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Just Read: TRIPWIRE by Lee Child--LOVED the twist to this one, and thought the idea behind this story had endless potential. Very exciting book!
Reading Now: END OF WATCH by Stephen King

November was a busy month, even without doing NaNoWriMo!

I won NaNo last year, though the novel I wrote, called Star Struck, still isn't finished. I bet I still have another 20-25K words to go. I put it down to write a different novel, called Active Shooter, which I started in mid-July. I had been steady progressing on Active Shooter for months, but really kicked it into high gear in November.

Despite not starting a new project, just being surrounded by the NaNo community inspired me to write as much as possible. In November alone, I wrote about 20K words, and finished the first draft of Active Shooter at 85K words. Now, I'll let it sit for a while and take a step away from it to work on other projects, such as editing a story for Writer's of the Future submission this month, and maybe even trudging toward the completion of Star Struck, if I can find the energy.

And it's time to start thinking about what my 2020 goals are, too. The most productive year I've ever had was doing Write1Sub1, where I wrote and submitted one story per week for a year. I don't know if I have it in me to do that, but maybe two stories per month is manageable.

Lots to mull over! And definitely a lot of fun on the horizon.