Saturday, June 13, 2015

Late Night Antics

Now Playing: OUT OF TIME by A Day to Remember
Just Read: THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES by Tom Wolfe--Great writing and fun dialogue, though I gotta say I didn't really like any of the main characters. I guess that was kind of the point; they were all vain douche bags.
Reading Now: MR. MERCEDES by Stephen King

I really hope these apartment walls are thick.

It's the middle of the night, which frequently finds me at my writing desk. I have some goals for these two nights in between shifts at the hospital (too few to bother trying to flip back to a day schedule). Among these goals are finishing a series of 100-word stories I'd like to submit, and working hard on a flash piece for June.

Also, I recently discovered two magazines I haven't submitted to before and I'm looking forward to some quick rereading/polishing to get some stories to them. June is also a deadline month for WotF contest, and I think this quarter I will be redoing a former submission, because I think it's a good fit and recently got some good feedback from an editor for how to make it better. If I keep my fingers crossed, maybe it will fair better this go-around.

I have some high hopes for the second half of this month--I received some really encouraging rejections lately (I know that sounds strange but if you're a young amateur fiction writer you probably understand) and I'm hoping with a little tweaking I can get a few stories over the hump and into acceptance quality. It's been a long time since I've had a story published, a drought that might be the longest since I had my first story accepted at seventeen years old. That's gotta change.

Despite the drought, I really believe my writing is getting better. I'm hoping a lot of the drought can be attributed to submitting to professional magazines almost exclusively, which is a very high bar to jump over, considering all the established writers also submit there and are my competitors.

Writing is a grind, man. Grind, grind, grind. Please, be like most things and pay off in the end. Here's to a payday in the near future.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Relaxation vs. Guilt

Now Playing: LIGHT & SHADOW by Philip Wesley
Just Read: THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht--A cool magical realism book; I loved the parts the grandfather told. The present moment parts weren't as good but overall I enjoyed the story and writing.
Reading Now: THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES by Tom Wolfe

I haven't been writing much at all these past two weeks. I mean hardly a word at all. But I feel like I have a pretty good reason: I WAS IN DISNEY WORLD!!

It really is the most magical place on Earth to me. The Disney stories were the ones I grew up on and fell in love with, the ones that made me seek adventures and use my imagination. In Epcot there's a fireworks show called Illuminations; the first time I saw it I was ten years old, and it heavily influenced me toward being a writer. A fireworks show! Who knew such a thing could have that kind of power.

It's not much different for me as a 25-year-old. Disney. Is. Awesome. Looking around at all the marvels and being a part of the magic just drops story ideas into my head like nothing else. And it makes me want to create.

Here's the problem: While I'm on vacation, I don't really do anything related to work. I mean, maybe I'll study by the pool. I'll read. But writing takes a lot of energy, and on vacation all my energy is geared toward the fun I'm having.

Now that vacation's over, two weeks have gone by and I haven't finished the story I started before I left, and tomorrow is May, so I'm behind on my April W1S1 goal. I hate being behind on my goals. HATE IT. Especially lately, because lately I've felt that I haven't been doing all I can to get my stories out there and published. I have a lot of good ideas and not a lot of great stories on paper. I need to change that. I NEED TO. It eats at me, but should I really feel bad for enjoying my vacation to the max? It's a battle: Relaxation vs. Guilt.

Ultimately I think relaxation wins, and here's why: The vacation was awesome and I had a great time and don't regret a bit of it. What irks me is the time I wasn't producing fiction. But that feeling also lights a fire under me, makes me wanna jump back into it full force and energized. So in that sense relaxing on vacation is potentially good for my productivity--if I harness this energy and turn it into some feverish working, ride the wave of hard work that follows vacation like a rubber band rebounding, then I can get some serious work done.

Moral of the story: I should go on more vacations.

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

SUBMISSION!

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.
Reading Now: ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey

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

Now Playing: HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE by Nicolas Hooper
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.