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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

But I Get Up Again

I never realized how stuck I’d gotten after writing that story that just failed.  I’ve started and not finished three stories in the last week.  Not finished.  I usually finish shorts in one sitting.  It’s the novels I poke at (and I’m poking, I’m poking.  Gotta get the MG one done soon, seriously).  I got stuck because I’m afraid that every word is more fail.

Fuck it. Seriously.  So I failed. That story really doesn’t work at all and nothing will save it (maybe the setting, the setting might, the setting is good.)  I have to get over that.  Move past it.  It’s so easy to dwell on what doesn’t work, what feels or reads wrong.  I think my academic side lets me down here, because I’ve been trained to pick things apart.  It’s time to get back up.  The mini self-inflicted rollercoaster of “I suck!” and “I might not suck!” annoys me.  It’s stupid and it is stopping my writing.

In 11 minutes I turn 29.  I hope that someday I’ll look back at my 20s as the years it really started.  Addicts have their sobriety dates, I guess writers have their “got serious” dates.  Mine is Feb 4th 2009.  I’ve got a year left of my 20s.  I want to make it a good one, one where I did everything in my power to reach my goals.  For my birthday I wrote myself a check and dated it Feb 4th, 2020.  I won’t say the amount, but it is fairly ambitious, at least I hope.  As I enter the final year of this decade of life, I want to know that I didn’t let the little things get me down.  And that when they did, I got back up.

Now, I should go practice what I preach and finish some damn stories.  Because no one is going to buy stuff I haven’t written and submitted.

Whew, Back to Work!

Got home from my trip to find two rejections waiting for me.  The one in my mailbox was a nice fat envelope from Analog, but alas, it faked me out.  It was fat because they’d folded up a couple pages of my story to send back, along with the longest form letter rejection I’ve ever seen.  Two single-spaced pages outlining guidelines and with check boxes next to things (none of which were checked…).  Oh well.  That story has space squid and FTL travel, so I figured it was a long shot story for that market anyway.  But in the name of not making decisions for editors, I sent it anyway.

Both stories are back out, one to a brand new market I’d never heard of (they aren’t that new, just my knowing about them).    I also managed to get two more stories out, one is new, one is the story I sold that has reverted to me, so I figured why not try to sell it again?  This brings me up to 22 stories out to markets.  Not quite up to 80 yet, am I? Oh well, there’s plenty of time left in the year to get there.

I’ve been doing a bunch of targeted reading lately as well.  If I’m going to get 80 stories out, they can’t all be spec fic.  I have 4 “literary” stories out at the moment and an idea for another one.  I went to the bookstore and got some mystery and thriller short story collections to pick through and dissect.  So far I’m really enjoying reading the stories, so hopefully that means I’ll enjoy writing some as well.  Meanwhile I’m trying to decide which novels of the ones I’ve read lately I want to reverse outline.  I’ve read about 15 books in the last couple weeks, hence the needing to decide which to focus on picking apart to see how they work.   The best part about this stretching and trying new genres is that I’m discovering authors and stories I’d never even heard of before (though I’m reading and re-reading some best-sellers, too).  I’ve been trying to focus on books by authors who have a long track record, since I figure if they’ve sold 10 or 30 or more books that something in all those books has to be working.

Once again, Dean Wesley Smith has a great post up about writers and practicing.  His comment about knowing what you are focusing on and working on with each piece of writing really hit home for me.  Sometimes I remember to figure that out, but lately I’ve been working on so many things I hadn’t really given it a ton of thought.  So I sat down and looked at my various projects and decided what I was going to work on for each.  So, because lists are so much fun, here they are:

Menagerie– not researching, ie just making shit up.  It’s fantasy and supposed to be fun and weird.

Hunting Delilah– pacing.

The City is Still Hungry– setting and noir pacing/feel.

To Honor and Obey– sex scenes, writing to a particular historical feel and tone.

The Weapons Master– sex scenes, not censoring myself.

And that’s just the novels.  Each short story I’m working on has its own practice goal as well. I’ve got about five lined up that need to get done in the next few weeks, one of which is about an hour from done… still. Sigh.  Need to stop poking at it and just get it done.  I think my practice failed with this one because man is it being stubborn about getting written, but oh well, I’ll keep the idea and re-do it at some point if I want.  Meanwhile, the story can go out into the wide world and get off my desk, so to speak.

Well, back to work.  Between family obligations, trips, and car issues, I’m feeling quite broke.  Need to write more, because no one can pay me for work I don’t do.

Vacation!

I’m on vacation.  Because I work for myself and can go on vacation when I want.  Seriously.  Also, I was stressing myself out with made up deadlines because I knew I was going to be gone for almost two weeks in the beginning of April and the writing was starting to be very very not fun.  When I did my writing schedule at the start of the year, I left room for 6 months of “off” time because I know how I write and function.  I wanted to make sure I worked out a schedule that left me time for the rest of the things in my life I enjoy doing.  I’ve gotten a bunch accomplished this year already, I can afford a couple weeks off, especially if I return to the writing revitalized and ready to tackle it.  (And I’ll admit, I haven’t totally been on vacation, I’ve clocked a few hundred words on a story because it was there and I wanted to.  And my brain is full of scenes and ideas for one of my novels, plus I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers and looking at pacing and mood in them.)

I’ll be at Norwescon from the 1st through the 4th.  I imagine it will be a different experience than last year.  I’ve sold a story, have a lot more knowledge about publishing and writing, and will actually know people this year.  I’m looking forward to it, as well as the workshop portion.  I’m curious how the stories will go over, both have now garnered a few very nice rejections from various places, so I’m interested to see what this batch of pros has to say about them.

Then I’m down to Cali to see family, during which I will ride lots of rollercoasters and get zero writing done.  But I’m back and resuming mad writing plans as of the 12th.

So, to restate my crazy plan.  Get home, write five novels and 16 short stories.  That’s it. Though it looks like two of those novels will be done first, since they are getting the most brain time.  Also, once I get back I’ll be making my first ever submission to the market that started the whole wanting to be  writer madness: “MZB’s Sword and Sorceress”.  Finally have a story I think might work, after about 19 years.  It’ll be an historic moment.  Or something.  And if I get accepted I’m pretty sure my head will explode.  Good times.

Evolution of a Blog (and a writer)

It’s funny.  When I started this blog, I had little idea of what I wanted to put here.  Then I ran across an article in one of the Writer’s Market books.  In it, the author was talking about “how do you know when to quit?”.  He proposed that a person might be best served by writing a novel a year for ten years, and at the end of each year sending the finished novel out and moving to the next one.  If, after ten novels and ten years, you are unpublished, he suggested that then you might consider quitting.  Looking back, I’m not sure he, and I say he, because I recall the author being a he, but I’ve donated that book now, so I don’t have it to reference.  If I’m wrong, I apologize!, anyway, he probably knew that by the time a person got a few years and books in, they would likely never think of quitting.  When I first read the article, however, I thought “okay, I can do that.  And then I’ll know if I’m no good at all.”

I’m technically two years into that plan.  I’ve learned a ton (not the least of which was that hey, I can write a novel).  And the plan no longer works for me.  This blog was originally my ‘ten in ten’ record.  Now it has evolved to something else.  It’s just about me, as a writer and my plans to make a living (and a good one, hopefully) at writing fiction.

I had some funny realizations at the Dean Wesley Smith workshops I went to, things I have spent the last few weeks processing.  One was that even a year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to get all I got out of that experience.  It would have terrified me, froze me up.  Not because a year ago I felt that differently than I do now (I still feel like a rank amateur and imposter).  I’m not even sure why or what changed.  Somewhere I got serious about this.  And even I hadn’t realized that until the end of the week when a bunch of us at the workshop were sitting around and Dean asked if anyone was actually following completely Heinlein’s writing rules.

That is the moment it hit me, the moment I’ve been thinking about and using to put everything else about myself as a writer into context.

I am. I am following all of the rules now, almost completely by accident.  And I think this is what feels different.  A year ago, I wasn’t following the rules.  I had a lot of issues making myself mail things out.  I mailed some things but not others.  I was slow to get stuff back out.  I rewrote over and over and over on a few stories, worried that they were “bad” and “not perfect”.    I started a few things and had trouble finishing them (the novel currently out on submission, for example).  And then somehow I started following the rules.  I started pushing myself to finish things, even if they felt “wrong” or “bad”.  I gave myself permission to suck.  To fail.

And I finished a novel.  And I sold a story.

Ever since about October, I’ve been following the rules.  Stories that come back go right back out.  My novel is out to people who can pay me for it if they so choose (ie editors, not agents).  I’m working on five more novels and a bunch of short stories.  I finish something, it goes out after a clean up pass.  No multiple drafts, no crazy rewriting and agonizing because it isn’t “perfect”.

And that’s how I managed to survive a week surrounded by “real” pros as a complete impostor who sucks (so says the evil voice in my head), and still learned things.  I was ready to hear what they all had to say because I’m really doing this.  Having a name for it (Heinlein’s Rules), helps.  But in the end, it just is a way for me to see that I’m truly working at something and going for what I really want. And that feels really really good.

It’s easy to get discouraged.  The downside of having a lot of stuff in the mail is that sometimes I get two or three rejections in a day.  It is easy for me to get frustrated and feel like I have no control over anything.  That’s why I like rules.  I think it is what attracted me to the article about ten novels in ten years.  That in a way was someone else saying “do this! see what happens”.  Heinlein’s rules are the same way, but without an end date.

I can write and finish what I write.  I can rewrite only to editorial order (and only if I agree).  I can send what I write out to someone who can pay me for it and keep it out until it sells.  I have control over these things.  That’s a job description I can live with.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to say in this post is coming across, but basically I’m ditching (have already ditched) the ten in ten idea.  I’m going with the unending plan of writing, finishing, mailing.  That’s what this blog will be about (and has really been about for a while, even though I was too wrapped up in the process to tell).  I’m following a simple set of rules, and I’ve never felt so free.  Which isn’t to say there won’t be hiccups, because fear gets me all the time.  I imagine that if I start selling more I’ll likely face a whole new set of fears since success has always been one for me (that’s another post for another time, for sure).

So yeah. That’s where I am right now.  Now, back to my job.  *grin*

Workshop Week

I’m headed out shortly to go the Coast for two Dean Wesley Smith workshops.  First is a novel workshop, the second a short story one.  I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t totally nervous, but hey, worst that can happen is … wait… let’s not think about that. *grin*

I imagine in reality I’ll just learn a ton, and at the end of the novel workshop at least I’ll have my novel wending its way to the desks of editors, ready for the cold harsh evil world.  And I’ll get to meet a lot of interesting people.

In other news, I’m back in nail biting territory on a couple of submissions.  Having a nice spreadsheet that tracks what is where and how long each rejection took etc is very nice.  Having all this information so that I know when a market is behaving differently from the 5-10 times previous that I submitted? Not as nice.  Right now two, yes two, markets have held stories far longer than they usually do.  And a third is right at the query point, which they’ve done to me before (last time I got a very nice, detailed rejection on the day I was going to query).  So either somehow all three stories were lost in transit (I know that at least one wasn’t because of the email auto-reply), or they are all maybe getting real consideration.  Yeah, yeah. I know I shouldn’t even be thinking about it or trying to dissect what it all ‘means’ because it probably doesn’t mean anything.  But I can’t help getting anxious.  Le sigh.

I’ll take notes and hopefully have something more interesting to say after the workshops.

End of Year Wrap-up

This year was my first for submitting my work for publication.  Over all, it was frustrating, but I think I made a lot of progress as a writer, so it could have been worse.

My ‘stats’ for the year:

8 short stories written.

1 novel finished.

38 rejections, 26 of which came with personal and generally positive notes (only one neg note).

1 novella finished, 1 started.

1 novel started and not finished.

Multiple writer friends connected with, and a ton of information and good advice gleaned (hard thing to quantify, but man I’ve learned a lot this year and really expanded my support/information network).

All in all, not that bad considering that grad school hijacked by time and energy for a while, as did family/obligations for much of last summer.

So I close out 2009 still unpublished, but a better writer.  I’ve learned how to finish things, I’ve stopped being afraid of writing dialog, and I have some idea of what I want to accomplish in the future and how to start doing it.  I also developed some pretty good writing habits, which I hope to continue and improve upon in 2010. And I seem to have more or less gotten over my crippling fear of submitting my work or letting other people read it at all.  Go me.

Update:  I do not, in fact, finish 2009 without selling a story.  Sweet.

New Year’s Resolutions, Early!

That’s right, I’m bucking the trend baby.  I’m posting my writing resolutions early.  Sit back and be amazed at how high my expectations can soar.  Though I am keeping the goals/resolutions limited to things within my power.

1. Write 4 novels and submit them

2. Have at least 30 short stories in my folders and keep them out on markets until they sell or have nowhere to go

3. Finish everything I start

4. Submit everything I finish

5. Keep track of receipts and other things for taxes (I was abominable about it this last year, sigh)

6. Try writing at least three things outside my genre comforts (mystery, horror, erotica, something…)

7. Keep going, never look back, never surrender and all that

That’s it.  Well “it” is pretty relative here.  That’s a lot, I think, but not out of the realms of possibility.  And it will get a lot of things out there were someone might see them, which is a good thing if I want to ever actually make any money at this whole “my job” thing.  Yep.

Holiday Blues and Sundry

Had a small slew of rejections come in, and while I’d love to turn the stories around and submit somewhere else, most of the markets next on my list are closed right now.  Stupid holidays.  I guess I’m taking a couple weeks off submitting until things open back up.  In some ways this isn’t so bad.  It means that I three stories I can choose from for the first quarter of WotF if I decide I can’t get the novella formerly known as Werewolves in Space done in time to send it in.

Made a new spreadsheet for tracking submissions as well.  Before I just had a single rather messy page in excel with stories down one side and markets across the top.  But I kept adding stories and markets and it started to look like a giant mess.  So now there’s a master list of stories on the first sheet, and then each story has its own sheet with markets listed down the side.  Each row has room for date submitted, date rejected/sold (wishful future-thinking there), and a place to put any editor comments that might come back with it. (“graceful” “unexpectedly moving” “writing is top quality” always followed by some version of “this ultimately didn’t work for me, good luck elsewhere, send us more!”).  I have about 25 markets listed, not all pro-rate of course, but the few that aren’t are either damn close or else highly regarded.  This means that even if I wrote nothing new (which is practically impossible), it’ll be more than a hundred rejections before I run out of markets for my current 12 stories.  Not every story fits every market, of course, but each has at least 10-14 it can go out to.

In more thrilling news, or not, I finally have a working title for Chwedl that actually sounds readable.  So novel project #2, formerly known as “Chwedl” is now called “A Heart in Sun and Shadow”.  That sounds appropriately fantasy I think and somewhat captures the themes/images within the novel.  If I manage to sell this thing, I doubt that will be its final title, but hopefully this new title will catch the eye better than “incomprehensible word” did.

Now, if I could just figure out the title to novel project #3, and a good title for formerly “werewolves in space”.  Originally that novel was going to be called “Predators”, so I suppose I could title the novella such until its written at least.  Titles are funny things.  A good one makes me want to read something, a bad one might turn me away (though rarely).  This is even more true with short stories for me than books.  And yet titles are my least favorite part.  I suck at them.  I have a hell of a time thinking them up and always feel like I could have done so much better.  Just part of my process I guess.

Well, happy holidays.  I’m going to be right here, at the computer, busting my ass to try to make “A Heart in Sun and Shadow” into something someone might want to buy someday.  “Busting my ass” of course might also mean “working on novel project #3”, but hey, it’s all work, right? Right?

Mind: Blown

Went to Orycon this weekend, spent too much money on art (damn you awesome artists at conventions, why do you tempt me?), and attended some panels where I learned some things, had other things I already knew drilled deeper into my head, and generally had a decent time.  The insomnia issue meant I had a very short energy buffer for dealing with people, but I adjusted (and spent Friday night sitting in a hotel room playing Magic the Gathering).

Also had lunch with an author/friend who was very reassuring even if yet another story of 10+ years of toil= overnight success is somewhat daunting.  But after 10 months of trying to be a working writer, I suppose I shouldn’t complain yet.

Came home to yet another ‘nice’ rejection and felt like tearing my hair out and giving it all up for the ghost, but decided to haunt the internets instead.  On a suggestion from aforementioned writer friend, I signed up for Dean Welsey Smith’s novel workshop in Feb.  I Hopefully that’ll get me on a good path to selling this thing.  As prep I decided to read all of his blog last night.  Mind blown.  Seriously.  There is some fairly tough to hear information contained in his posts, and I’m not sure all of it would work for me, but there are things I think I should give a shot.

What especially called to me was the publishing as numbers game.  I agree wholeheartedly that writing is practice, and rewriting/editing isn’t really practice, though I do think some things can benefit from a pass or two.  But the only way to get better that I’ve found is to write new things taking what I’m learned worked or didn’t work from the stuff that came before.  I also was floored by the whole goals side of things on Dean’s blog.  I like the idea of having a sort of shoot for the moon longer term goal and then shorter term goals entirely within your power.  I started this blog to record my journey to write ten novels in ten years, but really, wouldn’t it be cooler to publish ten novels in ten years?  According to Dean, that means I should write 3 novels a year.

At first, that number looks crazy daunting.  But really, is it?  At the pace I write novels, I can get 100k word novel done in about 2 months.  Then take a month off to let my readers weigh in and have a month to revise/clean up.  Send it out, rinse, repeat.  Really, not that bad.  And I could use the month off between edits and writing to work on short stories.  I aim to have 30 shorts making the rounds by next year, I’ve got 10 now, with two more that will be sent out in about a week as soon as I take another pass at them to catch the last (hopefully) typos and such.

So that’s where I am.  Going to revise Chwedl this month, write a couple new stories, get something in for 1st quarter WotF, and get started on this new novel.  Hello December.