Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rough Hands

From the Speakers: ROUGH HANDS by Alex is on Fire

Been writing my latest story by hand. It's rare for me to use a pencil and not the computer, for a few reasons. The computer is faster. I don't have to rewrite the draft once I finish it. Mostly, I feel "in the mood" when I'm at my desk, surrounded by what's familiar. My hand starts to cramp after a while.

But somehow, since it's such an infrequent practice for me, new things begin to happen when I write by hand. My entire voice is different. I really have no idea why. It's a more . . . poetic, loquacious, often dark voice that comes out when I write with pencil and paper. Also, the story tends to be shorter and more poignant.

I'm totally cool with this. So the other day, bored, watching some sports game I cared nothing about, I picked up a notebook and started asking my roommates for the opening line of a story. Now I have a dark, fun piece about a guy surviving in the woods, hiding out from an overbearing Polity, 1984 style.

No idea where this idea came from.

It's been fun. Wouldn't do it every time, but I've got this neat system figured out where I change things up with the process a bit and cause a change in my usual style. Being a writer is great--it's so flexible!

Now, to find a magazine that likes this story as much as I do!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

From the Speakers: MY LIFE by Billy Joel

Too full to blog. That's how you know it's been a great holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

5 stories, 1 week

From the Speakers: IN THE END by Linkin Park
Just Read: GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins--At times I thought the writing needed work, but over a fun adventure. I love Boots!
Just Read: THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick--I was skeptical about all the drawings to being with, but they're actually pretty awesome. Made it feel like you were speed-reading.
Reading Now: THE THIEF LORD by Cornelia Funke

I've prided myself on my commitment to writing lately. Being a nurse, I have a varying work schedule, but it comes down to three days in the hospital each week. That leaves a large chunk of time each week to work on my craft.

This week, I've been especially busy. I've sent off five stories to various magazines, bringing my total number of stories floating around to nine. That's a lot of crossed fingers.

A few of the stories have been flash fiction--that's stories with fewer than 1000 words. It's a challenge to write these, but I think they're very fun, and have a lot of creative potential. Their brevity may contribute to how prolific I've been lately, but it's been a blast researching flash fiction markets, reading some great samples, and picking the right magazines for each story. It's like playing the right card in a tight game of rummy.

One thing I've noticed about writing, there's a definite positive feedback loop involved. The more I submit, the  more driven I am to write and submit even more. The more comments I get from magazines, the more I want to send them something else. Thank goodness for this.

Set the bar high last week. Gotta make sure I jump over it this week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Four Steps Forward, One Step Back

From the Speakers: TRUE LOVE WAY by Kings of Leon

The other day I sat down and, in about four hours, wrote four thousand words.

I had this magazine in mind, Penumbra Magazine, and they look for certain themes or stories about whatever subject to tie each issue together. I like this because it's a bit of a challenge, and it forces me to sit down and write with direction.

Well, the last call was for steampunk. So I spent the duration of a long car ride last week thinking about what my steampunk story would be about. Finally I came up with something I thought was good, and in four hours I had a complete four thousand-word story, hot off the presses.

But here's the thing: Penumbra Magazine has a word-count restriction of 500-3000 words, meaning I'd have to cut mine by a fourth to make it submission worthy. It took two days of hard work to finally get it down within the range. Why in the world was it so much harder to cut words out of the story than put them in? Why didn't I just leave all those words out to begin with and save myself the trouble? Deleting 1000 words was like taking a step backward after charging forward four steps.

But, as is usually the reward with nose-to-the-grindstone work, the story is better for it.

Once again, the . . . act? duty? joy? trails? . . . of writing reflect the struggles of real life. You'd think by now I'd stop being surprised.

Monday, November 7, 2011

183 Pages, One Day

From the Speakers: SWALLOWED  by Bush
Just Read: STARDUST by Neil Gaiman--Great book with a great voice! One of those books that boosts my own creativity.
Just Read: WIZARD'S FIRST RULE by Terry Goodkind--Big commitment, but certainly an enjoyable, well-crafted fantasy. Slow pace, high build, long journey. Great for when you're in the mood for an epic.
Reading Now: GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins

The other day, I decided I wasn't going to work on anything new. I'd spent the last week on new stuff, and writing query letters, so I'd been thinking about my novel for a while. I went through it to see if anything jumped out at me as in need of revision.


I'm not sure how many words that is, but it was a lot. I ended up cutting out a bunch, making certain verbs a lot stronger, and getting a better all-around feel for the novel. It was an awesome day. I'm not doing the NaNoWriMo challenge--although I would love to, one day, probably on my own . . . maybe next July--but I definitely did a lot of work on it this month. I'm giving a lot of thought to doing the Write1Sub1 commitment, though . . .

I felt like I'd run a marathon by the end. Well, let me clarify that--I felt like someone in shape enough to run a marathon and feel alive at the finish line. It was a feeling of immense accomplishment.

Only 190 pages left until the whole novel is edited. We'll see if I can get that done in one day . . . here we go!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bring It On

From the Speakers: TRAIN WRECK by Tipsy Bacchanals

Just worked all night, so short post:

After feeling a bit down and posting my last post, this was great to come across:

The things in that article are very true. I knew them all once, just needed to be reminded. I'm saving this link, so that in a few months, when I'm sinking toward posting about how terrible a career choice writing is, I'll have a line to pull myself out with.

Thanks. That's all for now--there're stories to be told.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From the Speakers: DIAMONDS AND COAL by Incubus

With four days off a week, I've been writing more regularly than I have for a while. It's been great--I spent September working on a novel, lost a bit of momentum, decided I wanted to take a break and picked up on some ideas I'd had for short stories. Wrote many new ones, edited a few old ones, got some positive feedback from magazines.

And all the while, this novel called "The Duelers" I've had finished now for a year has been waiting, incubating. (Do "incubate" and "incubus" come from the same root?) For a few weeks I sent out a new query letter every day. My days off consisted of vigorous agent research, critiquing my query letter to perfection for that particular agent, and casting it into the water with a prayer. No bites.

Each new agent I discover and query seems PERFECT. I mean, their submission guidelines practically describe my book. They all seem enthusiastic and like great people to work with. Perhaps if they seemed like jerks it'd be less heartbreaking to constantly get form rejections from them. But then, I probably wouldn't query them if that were the case.

I'm not saying I feel like giving up. I approach agents like I'm Jimmy V, but that doesn't mean it isn't discouraging. And I keep hearing that it doesn't reflect on my book or me or my writing--the agent might have a full plate or can't afford to rep my genre at the moment . . . and sure, that makes me feel a bit better, but it still leaves me in the same spot: agentless, with a polished manuscript getting dusty and more unread every day.

Anyway, enough venting. Enough feeling sorry for myself. I'll keep on keeping on, fighting the good fight, until I'm successful. I've wasted enough time complaining, time to get back to work. One day this lowly aspiring writer will be on the top, helping young writers who remind me of me long ago. Even diamonds start as coal.