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Another Quickie Post, Another Sale

I’m deep in the middle of “oh god oh god we’re all gonna die (before I finish this novel)” land, so this will be a quick post.

First, I sold another story.  My story “Insect Effect” will appear in the next issue of Contrary Magazine.  Does that title sound familiar? It should, because I put it up on Kindle.  See, I somehow mis-marked my submissions records and had the story listed as rejected.  Totally my fault.  Fortunately, the folks at Contrary were kind enough to overlook that (the story is down now, and won’t be available again except at the magazine until after the contracted date).  But it sure has taught me a lesson in double checking everything before doing anything that might compromise a sale.  Fortunately this time I don’t have to pay for my mistake and my story still gets published by an awesome ‘zine.  (They have some very odd, surreal, and beautiful stories, I’m happy that my odd and surreal story gets to be among them).

Well, my Friday novel deadline is looming tall.  Time to drink another monster, stab the short story plot demons in my head (seriously, my brain wants to go back to short fiction. It keeps trying to escape) and go right back to the novel.  I’m almost through the swampy middle and into the home stretch.  Writing a thriller has been different and more challenging than either of my other novels to date, but I think I’m learning a ton doing this, and hopefully will have a kick-ass book at the end.  But first… I gotta get to the end.

Novel Writing Overdrive!

I’ve just been reminded that I need to have my novel for the Novel Workshop in October done by September 10th.  Glancing at the calendar, that’s really not very far away at all. Meep.

This wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue as it seems like if I’d finished the novel I am currently working on (which is very nearly done, I’m over the middle hump but desperately trying to figure out how to make it long enough).  See, I don’t want to workshop *this* novel in October.  I want to workshop the one I intend to write after the current novel.

You know, that novel that I haven’t even started yet.  Oh, I have characters outlined, and a rough idea of what happens. And sort of the setting.  And I did some research, if you can call reading a few westerns and watching Deadwood and Silverado again “research”.  But hey! Who doesn’t love a challenge, right?

So it is time to go into novel writing OVERDRIVE!  You know, that magical “extra” gear that really tough people are supposed to have. Or race cars, or something.  Counting prior social obligations and leaving Saturdays free for “hi, still married” time, I have exactly twenty one writing days until September 10th.  21. Days. That’s like three weeks. Awesome.

Not a problem. Right?  So my goal will be five thousand 6250 words a day on each of those twenty one days.  This pace should give me two finished novels.  At least if I totally fail it I have the first finished novel as my back-up for the workshop.  But I’m not going to fail.  Even with a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I can probably find 4-5 6-7 hours a day for twenty one days to you know, do my job.  (I was almost at this pace before Starcraft 2 pwned my life).

And the plus side is that will leave me with the 10th through the 30th to actually write something for WotF fourth quarter.

Well, time to put the writing into overdrive.  Just think of it as my writer-fu leveling up. A lot.

Clarifying Myself, Again

Wow, I didn’t realize that my musings on whether or not to apply to Clarion/Clarion West would stir up the pot so much. Heh.  I guess it’s like writing anything, you never know when something will strike a chord or a nerve.  (Some of this post is also in response to some private conversations, so don’t think I’m necessarily replying here to any one person, I’m not).

So, to clarify, because clearly some misunderstandings about what/why I’m debating applying/going.

First, for the people who’ve just found this blog and haven’t read any of my older posts where I try to explain my process/speed/goals etc… I recommend this post.  And again the caveat, everything I say here applies only to me.  It might resonate with others, but I’m just talking about my experiences, my thoughts, and my writing life as it applies to myself.

My last post was just me wondering about Clarion and if it is what I need right now in my writing life.  That was it.  I asked for experiences/thoughts from those who had gone (or even just applied, I’m always happy to hear other people’s reasons for things) so that I could figure out for myself what I want to do.  I would never apply to Clarion without planning what might happen if I got in, that’s just silly to me.  One, it would be a waste of the application fee if I decided not to go and got in, and two, it would be poor planning in general (it’s six weeks! Even self-employed as I am, taking six weeks off/away from home isn’t simple).  So if I do apply, you’d better believe I’ll have sorted out how to afford it and if I want to go or not.  Hence my wondering aloud about whether it is what I need right now (or really, almost a year from now).

And, frankly, I don’t think that Clarion is for everyone.  It isn’t just a matter of being able to do the work (one story a week? Read the goals/speed post. I’m really not worried about the work load).  I’ve talked to a double handful of people who’ve been through one of the Clarions now and while some rave about it, some don’t.   And I don’t know if it is right for me. That’s all I’m debating.  No value judgments here, just personal musings.

My reservations about applying/going: one, the round-robin critique style.  I’ve done it, lots.  I don’t really enjoy it anymore.  I think, personally, that it is too easy to get hung up on minor things because you are “critiquing” and therefore have to find something wrong, and I think it is easy for a writer (especially a beginning writer) to try to take everyone’s suggestions and possibly re-write their story into mush.  This has been my experience with round-robin style.  Feedback is good (I have a couple groups of first readers, whom I treasure and love (when I don’t want to kill them) and should probably bake cookies for more often).  Too much feedback just for the sake of having to say something, not so good.  I’ve also got my editing cycle down to a science that works for me.  It’s a quick cycle, and while I learn from feedback, I don’t re-write in the traditional sense anymore. Ever.  If a story is so broken that I’d have to do a major edit, I start over.  I’m a learn by doing sort, and doing for me is writing, not rewriting.

Second, six weeks is a huge time commitment.  It’s also something I’d have to plan my writing goals around.  I don’t write nearly as consistently when I’m not in my home space, so I’d have to try to adjust for that.  I’m also an introvert, and social situations drain me, so that is also something for me to consider. While I’d be getting a story a week done at the least, as I said in my last post, I’d be experimenting a lot (after all, isn’t that what workshops are about? Stretching yourself?) and don’t know how much of that writing would be in the “do over” category.  Next year my plan is to write four novels for e-books and four for traditional submission.  Losing six weeks means a bit of a time crunch.  It’s doable, but I’m lazy, remember? So I’d definitely need to plan (and being an introvert, honestly I’d probably lose more like eight weeks- the one before Clarion and the one after on recovery).  Clarion/CW’s focus is on short fiction, and while I’m still writing some short fiction (goal is to keep 40-50 shorts out at a time, writing to replace the ones that sell), I’ve transitioned to novels because my goal is to make a living and novels are good for that (and I like writing them).

So yeah, those are my current thoughts.  I know that I’d learn a lot and meet many interesting people if I applied/went.  I don’t doubt that for many people, Clarion/CW is a great stepping stone in their writer journey and that the experience is amazing.  These are things I’m considering and weighing against my other thoughts.  Basically, it boils down to this:

Do I want to go to Clarion or Clarion West? Yes.  Can I afford to go money-wise? Maybe (I could figure it out).  Can I afford to go time-wise? Maybe (again, I could figure it out).  Do I need to go in order to have a career as a writer? No.  Is Clarion/CW the best use of my time and resources for my writing/career goals right now in my life? I don’t know.  And that final question is all I’m trying to answer here.

Hopefully that clarifies things.

Now, to put down the blog (and Starcraft 2), and go finish this novel.

O Munde, hodie aliquid vincam!

Feet, Meet… Wet

So after a lot of thinking about it and some very good discussions with people at the workshop this last weekend, I’ve decided to get my feet wet with the whole electronic publishing thing. I already had plans for an experiment with longer fiction, which I’m going to talk about closer to the things happening date (not for months… stay tuned!). But I hadn’t really thought about putting up short fiction yet.

However, I do have a few literary stories that have made some submission rounds (you think spec fic mags are slow to respond? Try the lit fic world, whew). A couple even got nice rejections from what I think are prestigious literary magazines (and certainly ones that pay fairly well). Two of my stories got me into graduate school (MFA program which I then dropped out of…). So I know the stories aren’t horrible, they are just hard to place.

And now they are available online. I bundled two surreal shorts together, and then put up the longer ones separately. Will I sell any copies? Who knows? But I haven’t resubmitted them in a bit (even though it would have increased my race score I guess) and so they weren’t doing me much good sitting on the computer. If you want to read them, they are cheap (inexpensive?) and found here for Kindle and here for other formats (the sidebar there has the other two stories).

So I’ve decided to change my submission habits a little.  I still intend to submit every story I write to every pro-paying magazine and to the handful of good semi-pro zines that I love.  If a story then doesn’t sell to those magazines, I’ll put it up online.  It’ll take a while for each story to make those rounds (looks like about a year to two years so far), but at least there will be no trunk.  I’ll also probably (depending on if/how well anything sells online) put up stories of mine that I have sold and then gotten the rights back from.  This ebook stuff is a brave new world and interesting changes are coming for everyone, and damn but I want to be a part of that.  I think it’s good to stay on top of the changes and for me to get my feet wet learning how to put things online.  There are readers out there and they’ll vote with their dollars on the quality of things.  Plus it is good practice for writing blurbs, right? *grin*

Anyway, as other stories finish the submission rounds, I’ll be slowly putting them online.  I have a great friend doing my covers and I spent quite a few painful hours learning to format for Kindle.  It’s a fun new thing to try at the very least.  And as I said, I have a crazy/awesome idea for an experiment starting up in a few months, so eventually I’ll post a nice long thing about that.

Meanwhile, I am running into my own writing deadlines full speed.  I signed up for another novel workshop in October and haven’t even started the book I want to workshop.  So I guess I’d better stop blogging and go (have my characters) kill a few people and wrap up the current novel.  Lots of work ahead, but I feel good about.  I’m so busy between writing and Starcraft 2 that I’m (mostly) not even stressing about WotF results.  Crazy 🙂

Hope Has a Flavor

Last week was filled with disappointment and rejections. No news for me on the second quarter of the WotF contest yet, which means I’m HM or worse for the fourth time (looks like the finalists have been notified). Got a form letter rejection from one place that had held a story for final consideration, heard back about another (rejected as well, though very nicely). Oh well, back into the mail they go. For now.

And yet, I feel good. I went to a workshop on how to pitch ideas and write blurbs this weekend and got my mental ass kicked… and I still feel good. Hopeful even. Happy. Why? Because I sat and listened to a bunch of professional writers discussing this interesting new publishing world (and the interesting old publishing world) and I have to say, these are damn exciting times to be starting a writing business in. I came home with new skills, new ideas, and the germs of exciting plans that will be revealed soon (and more on that sekrit project I keep mentioning).

I’m thrilled to be a part of this stuff. There is so much for me to learn, and things are changing all the time. It’s awesome to attend Dean’s workshops and be surrounded by pros living and doing the things I’m working on doing. I feel more like a professional myself these days, growing all the time.

So yeah, I’m exhausted and excited and my brain’s full of stuff I need to sit down and really process. I’ll work on that and hopefully get some more comprehensive posts out about my plans and my latest writing adventures.

It’s a good time to be a writer.

Perception vs Reality

I’ve had some low moments this past week (really, couple of weeks).  The lowest came the other night as I sat in front of the computer having just finished up the eighth chapter of my current work in progress (WIP?).  I’d hit the 10k word mark, which is great on the one hand, and terrible on the other.  Eight chapters, only 10,000 words.  Short chapters are fine (it’s a suspense novel, I’ve noticed lots of authors use short chapters in those).  What isn’t good is that my outline only had 28 chapters listed out.  At my current chapter average, I was going to top out at 35k words.  That’s not a novel.

The good news was that my early chapters where things are getting set up were really short, while the later ones had been growing (averaging more 1500-1800 words each).  I guessed I’d be hitting more like 55-60k words at that rate.  Which is still too short.

So I did what any self-respecting novelist would do.  I quit and went and read a book, went for a walk, and watched some soccer replays.  In my brain I despaired.  How could I waste the last couple weeks of effort? I’d pushed through writing with a hurt shoulder, I’d forced myself to do at least some words each day.  I’d pulled 10k words out onto the page and the story was really starting to rev up.

That night was not my finest hour.  I came this –  – close to quitting the novel entirely and starting yet another something else.

Then yesterday morning I got up, watched a bunch of soccer, and in between matches I decided to look at my outline one more time.  Were there places I could add things? Were there scenes that weren’t fleshed out enough? And I looked at each transition and told myself the thing I always tell myself: “Need more peril!”.   Guess what? I found places that could use more peril.  Shocking, I know.  I found little areas between the described chapters where I’d let the pressure off the main character, I found places where I’d skipped journeys that had potential for danger, and meetings with people that could possibly go horribly wrong instead of smoothly right.

And I added ten chapters to my outline.  I don’t know if I’ll make my goal of 80k words, but I think I’ll get a within striking distance.  I’ve never had an outline be so much work before. Whew.

Which brings me to my perception vs reality.  Even up to a year or two ago, I would have told anyone who asked me about it that I want to write epic fantasies (or as E.Bear calls them- fat fantasies with maps).  I’ve always had this image of myself as a writer of giant novel books, thick tomes full of adventure and sweeping setting.

How many of these epics have I actually written? None. (No, I don’t count the 40 page ‘novel’ I penned at the age of 11.  It was only epic to the poor people slogging through it).  I don’t generally write long.  I don’t know how that happened.  My fat fantasy novel currently out on submission is a whopping 88k words.  I figure this suspense novel will be lucky to bump up against 80k words.  I have a couple short stories that go over 6k words, but just a couple (and some of my 4-6k stories are ones that I’m sure others would advise cutting a bit out of).

I don’t know why I can’t seem to write long.  I have a suspicion that it is in part a weakness in my writing.  I’m probably glossing over parts that might need more description, leaving out setting when I should build it up, skimming conversations between characters, and probably missing points where more pressure could be applied to the story.  I think the fact that I was able to go into my outline and dig another ten chapters out of it indicates that I missed a lot on the first pass through the outline, in my first concept of the story as a whole.  Come to think of it, this is the third time I’ve revised an outline for a novel to be bigger than it was initially.  This process is becoming part of my novel writing process.  Which I don’t think is a bad thing.  I’d rather revise the outline as I go and find the points of pressure or setting or whatever that I’m missing than miss it all entirely.

But I should probably stop thinking about myself as an epic fantasy writer.  That or write an epic fantasy or three.  If I can.  I don’t know if I could.  Seems like a challenge I should take up.  You know, once I’m done writing the other ten things on my plate. *grin*

My Goals… And Speed.

I feel I should clarify my goals and my writing speed.  Dean’s already warned me to keep my mouth shut in public about how much or how fast I write, and while I’ll probably take his advice and be more vague at Cons and such, this is my blog and I’m not a prevaricating kind of girl *grin*.

First, my goals are just that.  Mine.  They certainly don’t reflect anything but how I want to go about pursuing writing as my career.  I’ve never been a “kinda” person.  I learned to win at poker by playing 2 cent/4 cent limit online 15-20 hours a day, everyday for weeks while reading every source on poker that I could get my hands on (And I still graduated college, a miracle!).  I did this because I liked poker, I was broke, and I hate being crappy at things (and broke).  I took that same mentality to my jobs over the years, too, and it got me stressed-out with 70 work weeks.  I’m not saying it is always a good mindset, this all or nothing.  But it’s mine, and that’s how I am, so I deal with it.

Writing is the same way for me.  I spent 20 years writing stories, showing very few to anyone because I was certain they sucked (and they did, they really did) and very very frustrated that I couldn’t improve.  I was trapped in the “real writers are re-writers” myth and going nowhere.

Then I basically said “fuck it”, applied to an MFA program, started writing more, realized the MFA program was not at all for me (but I learned some tricks and made a couple friends in one of the workshops at the least, so it wasn’t a total waste).  Then I discovered Heinlein’s Rules, had a writer friend point me to Dean Wesley Smith’s website, and suddenly (or so it seemed), I started improving.  Because I was writing. I was writing a lot (well, a lot more anyway).  New stuff. Not picking over draft after draft, but just taking what I thought worked and trying it again. And again. And again.

Writing all this new stuff has opened methods of practicing things I’d never gotten to really try before.  Picking over the same old story again and again didn’t let me try out the techniques I found in the books I love.  But writing a new story did.  I could take that story and write it with Donald E. Westlake’s surprising way of describing things in mind.  Or with Terry Brook’s way of making you love a character and then twisting the knife.  Or Elizabeth Moon’s way of making kick-ass seem normal and flawed and still cool.  Or Michael Connelly’s way of making each victory both awesome and Pyrrhic. Or George RR Martin’s epic feel. I could go on and on.  Writing new stuff lets me practice these things over and over, and if I fail it isn’t a teeth-grinding ordeal anymore because I know that I can just try to fail differently (fail better?) next time instead of knowing I now have to spend the next six months of my life editing and rewriting the failed story.

So, how this relates to speed is two-fold.  One, I want to be the best damn writer I’m capable of being at any given point in time.  The more practice I get in, the better I’ll get (hopefully).  Second, I have a crazy brain full of a million things all the time and writing is the best way I’ve found to let off the pressure.  The faster I write, the sooner I’ll finish any one thing and be able to start another, and the more quiet I might gain inside my head.  So between the two, and for my goals, I want to get faster and more consistent.  For me, because that’s the way I work.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to work up to full eight-hour days writing (which would get me 7,500 to 10,000 words done) because I am also crazy about other things like reading and gaming (rpgs and videogames).  But I do hope to be able to consistently write multiple books a year as well as keep a goodly number of shorts circulating.  And I want to keep my level of practice up, because every time I open a book it seems I find some new thing or idea or technique I want to try in my own work.

So basically to sum up:  I want to get faster with my writing because writing lots is how I practice and I want to practice as much as I can (and hopefully someday sell as much as I can, cause hey, this *is* my career, after all).  That’s it, I’m just long-winded at 4am I guess.

Getting Over Lazy

I’ve been writing a fair amount in the last month, but when I looked at the results in terms of finishing projects, it doesn’t look so good.  I’ve finished two things in the last month. Two.  Not exactly on target with where I want to be by the end of the year.  It’s time to quit being lazy and work on the second of Heinlein’s Rules: finish what you write.

It’s easy for me to finish short stories generally.  Once I’m writing one, I tend to just get it done (usually within one or two sittings).  Novels are tougher to finish, though the endings so far of them are a lot easier than the beginnings and middles.  I’ve been tinkering between two novels lately, getting some done on each but not really making huge progress with either.  Part of this is fear.  Once I’m done, I have to send it out.  I’ve worked out a way to overcome that fear by putting together the package for each novel before I finish, so at least that part of the work will be done so I can just focus on getting the book done.

The other part of this is just sheer laziness.  I like to work in bursts, when stuff “comes” to me because I’m lazy and making my brain focus and compose is annoying if I’m not in the mood.  Yep, just lazy.  I know it is laziness because if I have deadlines (real or imagined), I have no problem dumping the “must be in the mood” and getting the work done.  I think I can combat my current lazy with some good old habit-forming.  I like to take days off writing, but for the next while, I’m not going to.  I think I need to build up a nice streak, get in the habit of not letting myself take days off (usually I justify days off because I know I *can* write 10k words in a day to catch up if I have to).  So starting today, I’m going to get in at least 3,900 words of fiction a day at least 6 days a week, with the seventh day goal being 1,250 words.  At that pace I should be able to finish everything I want to finish by the end of the year.  It really doesn’t help that I keep adding things I’d like to finish to my project list.

When I started out this year, I was thinking I’d write four novels and get to 30 or so short stories out to markets.  Then I kept having novel ideas, so it turned into five novels.  Then because of a conversation at one of the workshops, I decided I was going to aim for 80 short stories on top of that.  I’ve since revised that down to 40 or so shorts, not because I don’t think I could write 80, but because at 27 I’m already a little sick of the admin work of keeping track of them so I don’t accidentally sim-sub or something that I think 40-50 will be the max I want to track at a time (and it’ll be a level that, god forbid, if I start selling some, I can replace them).  And on top of that, the novel ideas just keep pouring in.  I’ve shunted four over to next year already.  I’m aiming at seven this year (two of which are shorter, one 50k, one 65-75k).  Frankly, I’d love to slow down, but my brain won’t let me.  See why I can’t afford to continue being fearful and lazy?  I don’t have time!  At the least I’ll be getting a lot of practice in and hopefully improving.

Current projects and current word count:

MG novel- ~12k

Suspense/Crime novel- ~8k

Sci/fi novel- ~7k

Sekrit Experiment project- ~1k

Paranormal Mystery, Horror Western, Irish Historical, and Regency Romance- no words yet

Also have one novella that stands at ~1300 words and another that had nearly 5k on it (which I haven’t touched in a year since I really need to redraft the whole beginning, grr).

So… plenty to finish.  I should get on that.

At Least Now I Can Stop Counting

Rejections 99 and 100 came today.  One personal, one form letter (on a third of a sheet of paper, I admire the thriftiness). *grin*

Time to plan the party.  At least, as the subject says, I can stop counting now until I think I might be close to 200, or 500.  We’ll see.  It’s just easier to not keep track.

Time to get another story into the mail. Can’t lose my race score points.

Random Thoughts #209

That thing I said last week about starting long stuff? I guess I meant medium stuff.  I finished a novella, which will be my WotF Q3 entry.  It kept trying to become a novel.  I won though, the story stayed under 17,000 words.   Now, to actually finish a novel. Seriously.  As soon as I finish just one last short story. (I’m like an addict, one more hit, just one more, ooh, wait, okay, one more).

First up on the plate is my middle grade novel.  I’m practicing not doing any research.  I realize this is a strange thing for a writer to practice, but I think sometimes I clog my brain with needing to find “true” details to stick in and don’t let the imagination run where it might.  The story is a fantasy with entirely made up everything, so it seemed like a good time to just, well, make shit up.  I’ve always believed that internal consistency matters a hell of a lot more for storytelling (especially in any story with magic or a made-up world) than having things be “realistic”.  I decided to make this novel my practice for making shit up after I was brainstorming about it and realized the princess in my head had bright pink hair.  My first thought after that was “oh, she can’t have pink hair, that’s totally unrealistic.”  Yeah, this is doubly funny if you know me, since I rarely have ‘hair’ colored hair (it’s blue and purple at the moment).  That was when it clicked that maybe my critical side was interfering in the fun of writing.  So I’m rolling with my imagination, whatever it wants, it gets this time around.  Pink hair it is!

I’m attending two more workshops this year, and hopefully Orycon as well (I’m thinking of seeing if I can’t get on a panel or two).

4 more rejections until I throw a 100 rejection party.  The more stuff goes out, the faster the responses stack up.  I figure once I hit 100 I’m going to go back to not keeping track anymore until I think I might be getting close to 200, when I plan to throw another party (100,200,500, 1000, 10000 etc).

Oh, and in cool news, an artist friend of mine is doing up a graphic novel version of one of my favorite stories (story hasn’t sold yet, sigh, but I’m hopeful).  Even if I never sell the story, I originally envisioned it as a script for her, so that is pretty sweet.  She and I used to do a webcomic together years and years ago, and I miss comics as a medium.  It’ll be cool to see what she does with the story visually.