Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Net Gains

Now Playing: MEMORYHOUSE by Max Richter
Just Read: RAIN GODS by James Lee Burke--It was okay. I liked the gruff characters and settings but I thought the story ran a bit long and the big climax let me down--set up for a sequel when I thought it should have just ended.
Reading Now: WRITERS OF THE FUTURE, VOLUME XXIV

Back in November 2013 I won NaNoWriMo with my novel "Star Born," a story about a girl on an interstellar ship who discovers a plot to sabotage its upcoming landing, and the steps she takes to try to stop it. I wrote about 55K in one month and was very proud of myself.

What I really took away from NaNoWriMo was what exactly it took to achieve those kinds of gains--the time commitment, having the story constantly on my mind, asking questions to uncover plot holes, and planning chapters out on scrap paper to help fill in said holes. Spoiler alert: It's mainly a lot of hard work. But we knew that already, didn't we?

Something happened then in December, 2013. I had this novel, right? I knew it was basically finished--I figured it was 2/3 at least, as I was aiming for about 75K before I wrote THE END. But after the frenetic energy of November died away, I lost momentum. I stopped knowing where the story was supposed to go. I stopped realizing twists and turns were ahead. In short, I didn't know how to finish it, and I moved on.

That's right. With this massive project so close to completion, I left it unfinished to wallow.

Of course, I didn't stop writing. I just stopped writing "Star Born." Instead I refocused my efforts on the Writers of the Future contest and wrote stories I thought would be good for it. These stories ended up submitted to other places in the meantime, and I had a handful published. Not a lot, and not very frequently, but some success at least came my way.

Still, "Star Born" lay undone, always in the back of my mind like a guilty conscience, prodding me to do the morally right thing and finish the damn story. Sometimes, something in my life would remind me of "Star Born" and plant an idea. Then nothing for months. Then another idea.

Finally, in November 2015, two years after I originally started, I thought I had enough ideas collected that I could maybe pull off completing the novel. I got to work. It was a trudge--a slow, weary walk of a story trying to dig some steam and energy from somewhere and reach the finish line. The heat and passion of NaNoWriMo were absent.

Something else was present, though: the day-to-day grit I had developed in the interim. See, writing gets better with practice--it's a bit like strength training that way--and when I revisited the novel I was stronger than I was two years earlier. All the stories I wrote while "Star Born" sat ignored actually gave me the skills I needed. And this month, at long last, I wrote THE END.

The story isn't finished, of course. One thing being away from it for so long did was help identify parts where massive edits are needed. So now I'm going back through it and making those changes. I'm on Chapter 4 of 18. I think a reasonable goal is to have the edits finished by the end of February.

In the meantime, of course, I'll keep writing and keep submitting. I was a bit embarrassed and ashamed that "Star Born" languished for so long, but in the end I think it's a net gain. I have a completed novel, the best I've ever written. And I have all the stories I wrote since December 2013--at least one per month. I'm not going to be too hard on myself. The point is this: I kept writing, and with patience and persistence, my hard work paid off.

Hard work tends to do that.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year, or The End of an Era

Now Playing: HAVE FAITH IN ME by A Day to Remember


Happy New Year and best wishes for a wonderful, happy, healthy 2016!

2015 was a fantastic year for me. In life news, I got engaged, moved to Winston Salem, and got accepted into grad school at Wake Forest. I had two short stories published and four drabbles, wrote one new story per month to achieve my Write1Sub1 goals, and am currently working on completing a novel, having written about 9000 words toward its end in December.

The year ended on a high note--one accepted shorter story to be published in Perihelion on January 12, and eight drabbles accepted to be published over the next three months in SpeckLit! It's exciting to have publications right out of the gate, and I feel as though it provides a lot of momentum.

Like most people I have many high hopes for 2016, and goals I'm resolving to achieve. Among them are to finish this novel and edit it (maybe even query it?), read 50 books, and continue to write and submit at least one story per week.

That last goal has been one of mine every year since 2013 as a member of Write1Sub1. Beginnings and endings have a way of going together, and this New Year marks the end of a great era. The Write1Sub1 blog, which I had the honor of moderating for the past two years, is closing. The participation waned recently while the workload for us moderators seemed to increase, and I think we mutually wanted to dedicate more time to our writing projects.

It's hard to explain just how much good Write1Sub1 has done for my career. I'm sorry future young writers won't have it to inspire them, direct them, and drive them to further their writing aspirations. But I'm also hopeful that the next generation of beginners will come together in their own way, like we did, and support each other in an awesome community of optimism, togetherness, and hard work.

All isn't over, though. The members of Write1Sub1 may be going their own ways, but the spirit of it lives on in each of us. Like I mentioned, I plan on continuing the goals of writing and submitting one story per month and sharing my accomplishments on Twitter with #Write1Sub1. I'm sure a lot of us will take the work ethic and productivity the blog provided and keep it up moving forward.

This will be the toughest year ever to meet those goals--between planning a wedding and starting grad school in August the demands on my time will be huge--but I'm up to the challenge. I'm ready to work. I'm ready to tackle some great new stories and send them to amazing magazines. Let's get 2016 started strong. Here's to greatness in the year to come!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Electric Again!

Now Playing: THE HOBBIT by Howard Shore
Just Read: THE BAT by Jo Nesbo--Greatly enjoyed it. Not a perfect detective, but I liked that about the case. Definitely dark, and made me pick up the sequel in B&N tonight.
Reading Now: RAIN GODS by James Lee Burke

I had a story published last week!

It had been a long drought--something like a year, which is a long time for me--but I have had a short story accepted, edited, and published in Electric Spec Magazine!

The story, titled "A Walk Among the Ivy", takes place at an old manor house in rural North Carolina (where I grew up . . . the rural part, not the manor house) and includes characters from Georgetown University Hospital (where I once worked as a travel nurse). I like that I was able to include little details I knew from experience. I think those details helped make the story more rich.

This is my second story to appear in Electric Spec's pages. The first one was called "Tom the Sheller" and appeared in 2009. The links to both are now available to the left. Head on over--I hope you enjoy!

I've been averaging something like two publications per year. If I include my four 100-word stories accepted this fall, I have met my average. I'm always trying to get better, though, and have some stories lined up to help achieve that mark. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

100 words

Now Playing: SHOT IN THE DARK by A Day to Remember
Just Read: PARASITE by Mira Grant--Didn't realize this was going to be a zombie apocalypse book when I started it. Usually not a huge zombie person but I liked the twists in this story.
Reading Now: THE BAT by Jo Nesbo

I recently had four 100-word stories accepted at a magazine called SpeckLit. Woohoo! My second acceptance for this year. My averages seem to stay pretty steady at one story written per month, two acceptances per year.

SpeckLit only publishes stories that are exactly 100 words in length--kind of a challenge to get a complete story in such a small amount of words, but also a lot of fun. You can do a lot of random things that don't come as easily to longer stories, and play around with style and syntax and tone in new ways. I really enjoyed writing those "drabbles" as they're called over at SpeckLit.

The magazine does something pretty cool where they archive their work by author name. So, you can go to their website and look my name up on the right hand column and click to read all the stories of mine they've published. Or, simply click on the new link on my blog's left-hand side.

In other, life-altering, non-writing news: I GOT ACCEPTED INTO GRADUATE SCHOOL! I'm going to start the Nurse Anesthesia Program at Wake Forest School of Medicine starting in August. My fiance is in the program now, and from her I've learned just how little time is available to students once they start. But, they recommend keeping up one hobby that doesn't have anything to do with school. No surprises here: mine will be writing. That's why finding SpeckLit was so fortunate. Stories of 100 words can be tough but because of their brevity they don't take very long. I'm hoping I'll be able to manage my time well enough during school to maintain some kind of writing output, and now that I know I have 100-word stories as an outlet, I believe that to be an attainable goal.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Living the Dream

Now Playing: INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE by John Williams
Just Read: CALICO JOE by John Grisham--A fun read. I love baseball, and he does a good job of portraying the magic baseball holds, especially over kids.
Reading Now: PARASITE by Mira Grant

It was a good September for me! I wrote two solid stories and began a third, which I'm planning on finishing for October's W1S1 requirement. I have some goals beyond that, but I'll get to them later. October is going to be a great month for me as well.

But not as great as it will be for my favorite author of 2014, Andy Weir. He wrote an awesome book called "The Martian" and I recommend it. It's a kind of Sci-Fi Robinson Crusoe story where an astronaut is stranded on Mars and has to use his limited resources and considerable wit to survive. It was his debut novel, and it just came out as a motion picture directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.

I mean . . . WOW!

Talk about living the dream! The guy's DEBUT NOVEL reaches these heights! If someone had asked me, "What is your writing dream?" my answer would pretty much be Andy Weir's life.

I've spent most of 2015 writing longer short stories to send to some pro magazines and the WotF Contest. I'm going to finish October's, then spend the rest of 2015 trying to finish a novel. I am embarrassingly far in it, but petered out when I wasn't sure how to finish it. I got distracted by other stories begging to be written. So now I'm going to revisit it and see if I can finally write "The End" behind it and be proud. Heck, maybe I'll even query it to an agent and try to get it published.

Perhaps it'll even get turned into a movie starring Matt Damon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Happy Birthday!

Now Playing: JURASSIC PARK by John Williams

My birthday was this week! Happy Birthday to me! I'm twenty-six!

I had a great birthday, and two pieces of good news on the writing front made it even better. I had a story accepted at Every Day Fiction! It's called "Ink Night" and it's about a guy who decides to try a new kind of drug. Needless to say, his night doesn't go quite as planned.

Additionally, my story "The Lion's Den" was published in BEYOND: SPACE OPERA, a collection of swashbuckling tales edited by Milo James Fowler. I'm very excited to appear in the Table of Contents with some great writers whose work I've read over the years and with whom I've communicated through Write1Sub1.

Check out the site and read the stories--they're all great! Here's the link: https://beyondspaceopera.wordpress.com/

So yeah, it's been a pretty awesome week. I also started on a new story, my second for August, which is nice because July was such a sluggish month for my writing. I'm getting back in the groove of sitting down and pounding out a lot of words; this piece promises to be about 6000-7000 words, and I intend to submit it to the Writers of the Future Contest in September. I've been reading more stories from their anthologies and think this one will fit in nicely.

Let's hope the rest of the month goes just as well!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

July!

Now Playing: BLANK SPACE by I Prevail
Just Read: MR. MERCEDES by Stephen King--Very enjoyable! King is so good at characterization. I read this and couldn't help but take notes.
Reading Now: WHITEOUT by Ken Follett

Wow! Is July over already? This might seriously have been the fastest month of my life. I went to New York for a wedding, Myrtle Beach for a family reunion, moved 90 miles west, started a new job, helped my fiance prepare for school to start in two weeks, booked people for my own wedding, had an engagement party, took a graduate level statistics class . . . AH!

When in there was I supposed to write stories?

The thing is, the pros do it. That's the part that irks me, and I think a lot of other amateur writers too. You hear professional writers give advice to the younger generation, they say things like "If I waited until I had time to write I'd never write anything at all!" or "I write every day, including my birthday and Christmas." Well, I think that's awesome, and I strive to have that routine and count myself their peer one day.

It does come with certain social sacrifices, though. And as a 25-year-old dude with a lot of fun and amazing things going on, I'm not sure I want to give those things up yet. I know, I know--this is a dangerous way to think if I'm serious about being a writer, because while today it's a new job and moving apartments and putting furniture together, tomorrow it'll be going to kids' baseball games or walking the dog or whatever. There's ALWAYS something to do besides writing.

Balance is the elusive key, I've come to believe. I want to write. More than I want to be great at anything, I want to be great at writing. That takes dedication and time and work. But I'm not going to kill myself to get there. I'm going to keep working and trudging through the mud, but when life comes first it comes first, and I can't beat myself up about it. Because I was beating myself up--I was feeling guilty about how much writing I wasn't doing; for the first time in a long time I didn't reach my W1S1 goals this month. But that's okay. It's a new month now, with new things on the horizon. The storm has passed, and the writer can poke his head out of his den and sniff the clean air.

And speaking of new things coming, an end to my publication drought is upon me! On August 15, a story of mine will appear in BEYOND: SPACE OPERA, a collection of short stories about adventures in space. The collection is edited by Milo James Fowler and features several other great stories by wonderful authors. My story in it is called "The Lion's Den," originally published in Ray Gun Revival magazine, now closed. It'll be good to see my name in print again, and will probably light a fire under me. I look forward to that inspiration, and I'll post details on how to get your hands on it when the date draws nearer.