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Archive for the ‘plans’ Category

From Short to Long

I seriously need to stop writing short stories for the moment and get some real work done on my novels.  I’ve been poking at the novels a little, 500 words here, 1000 words there.  That would be fine if I wanted to write one or two books a year.  But I don’t.  I intend to write five.

Short stories are so satisfying, however.  I can start and end in the same sitting and have a finished product in relatively few hours.  Writing a novel takes more time, a lot more.  Even at my fastest typing speed while composing new words (I think I’ve written about 1500 words in an hour before), I couldn’t write a novel in a day, much less in the 4-7 hours a short story generally takes me.  I think if I absolutely had to, I could write a novel in about 7-8 days (novel here being defined as at least 85-90k words).  I’ve written 13k words in a day before, but my hands and tendons were not my biggest fan afterward.

I’ve been trying to write short stories and novels at the same time, and really, I just end up doing short stories because it still counts as writing in my brain and they are much more satisfying in the short run.  But the novels have to get done  for me to stay on goal this year (and on goal for my career plans).  So after this week (because I have three story ideas that HAVE to get done right now according to my brain), I’m done with short fiction until a couple of those novels get out the door.  Three more stories will put my total up to 29 on submission, which is respectable I think.

Then, longer stuff.  I think I can finish my middle grade novel by the end of may if I buckle down next week.  After that I’ll have five or six weeks to finish my thriller novel before I leave on vacation in July.  Then I plan to use July as a break month and write a more short stories before August when I’ll hopefully complete another (shortish) novel.  I figure Sept and October I can get another novel done, leaving Nov and Dec to finish the fifth novel, as well as more short stories.  Looking at the numbers and knowing I need to get novel writing done, I’m thinking I won’t hit 80 short stories out by the end of the year.  But five novels will make me happy and I think I can still manage to get 50 or so shorts out by January.

Of course, in the middle of this I’ve decided to take on another project that will be a giant experiment (and I’m not going to jinx myself by talking about it too much here).  I will say that I’ve been doing a lot of research into getting multiple streams of income going and have an idea for something that might or might not pay off.  But it will be awesome to write, so that’s a perk already.

Ok, time to get some words done on a short story or my middle grade.  I have the sneaking suspicion that two out of the three stories I want to write this week will end up being 7-12k words long.  I’m going to try really hard to keep them under 10k so as not to limit my markets too much, but in the end the story will be as long as it requires.

On Dreams and Goals

I have a friend who decided that she wasn’t happy with her life.  She has a MFA in Art, has been at her job for 9 years, has pets and friends and family where she is.  But she wanted a change.  Her dream, ever since becoming a huge fan of the TV show “Deadliest Catch”, is to work on fishing/crabbing boats.  That is her big dream, and I know plenty of people were skeptical that she could achieve it.  She has no experience with fishing or boats, she’s strong, but really short and hasn’t ever done truly heavy labor.

Did she care that many of the people around her thought it was a crazy dream? No.  She started reading about it, checking job sites, absorbing anything she could about how to get started.

Last weekend I drove her out to an interview with a crab boat captain.   Before she’d even flown back home, she had the job.  In a month or so, she’ll be on a boat, living her dream.

What does this have to do with writing? Plenty.  Dreams are important.  I know I tend to bog myself down in the nitty-gritty of the actual process.  But it isn’t just for the process that I’m writing.  I have a dream, too.  (That phrase is like “who you gonna call”, tainted by fame forever, hehe).  I don’t really talk about my bigger goals very specifically because frankly, I get a lot of criticism for them, both from fellow writers and from my friends and family.  The last time a friend asked what I hoped to do with my writing and I told answered, that friend then scoffed and said something like “yeah, I’d like to win the lottery too.”  That sort of talk is discouraging.  But I try not to let it get to me.  As I said, dreams are important because they provide something to work toward.

What’s my big dream? To consistently make 6 figures a year writing fiction.  I’d love to have a career that is a blend of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and JA Konrath.  (If you don’t know who JA Konrath is, go here and read his blog.  If you don’t know who the other two are, get out from under that rock already!)

How am I going to go about reaching that dream?  That is where goals come in.   My friend couldn’t just decide to go work on a fishing boat and then bam! it happened.  She had smaller goals that got her there (ie post on job boards, network with people, read up on the industry etc…).  My goals are all things I can control.

So here is my game plan.  By Jan 2011 I will have 6 novels and 80 short stories out on submission.  (I’m at 1 novel and 24 short stories thus far).  That is just to get my butt in gear and because I’m practicing writing a bunch of different stuff.  Starting next year I intend to write four novels and at least 30 short stories a year which is about 550,000 words.  Half a million words seems like a lot.  Ok, maybe it is a lot.  But I broke that down into even smaller goals.  (I did this before in December, but I’ve revised what I’m doing, so now I get to toss different numbers out).

To get to 550,000 words in a year, I intend to spend at least 30 weeks a year writing 5 days a week (or really, knowing me, the equivalent time to that, probably spread out a little differently).    That’s roughly 18,300 words per week, which for a five day work week means 3,660 words a day.  Three to four hours of writing a day.  Not that scary when it is broken down like that, and it means I have time to take care of all the other stuff that crops up (like mailing stories back out: the more I have out, the more rejections that come back.  Who knew?!).

I write because it is what I do.  Getting paid for what I would do anyway? Awesome.  And that is why I have a dream, a dream that is possible, a dream that will allow me to keep doing what I do already.  And every time someone shakes their head at my dream, I’m going to remember my friend and think about her on the boat pulling crab pots.  And then I’ll smile.

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.

Lists and Motivation

Spent all afternoon not writing because I was scrubbing my hard drive of a nasty virus.  Very frustrating.  Fortunately, I seem to have obliterated it.  Whew.  Nothing is scary like thinking about trying to type five novels on a netbook screen. Seriously.

Spent another chunk of today brainstorming titles (I like to have a working title for any project, it helps gel it in my head) and looking around at what is out there already.  I also secured three website domains for my pen names after making sure the names weren’t anything famous already.  Don’t have a YA pen name yet, but not actually sure I can write YA type stuff, so screw it.  I’ll cross the bridge when I get there.

I did some maths.  Cause I like maths.  I find doing simple math like finance spreadsheets and word count goals relaxing.  (I also find watching friends shoot zombies relaxing, I’m weird.)  In order to complete things on a schedule I feel comfortable with, I need to be writing about 105ppw (pages per week).  That’s an average of six hours of typing each weekday, five if I’m really on a role.  Over 5k words a day.  Possible.  I think I might add a weekend day to this though, just a couple of hours.  And I’m allowing in this page goal 25-30ppw for a short story, because if all I work on is novels I will go crazy from lack of completion.  Especially working on five novels.  I’m not structuring it beyond this.  Whichever novel is dominating my thoughts when I sit down to write will get the pages for that day.

My goal is to have all the novels done by September, along with at least 17 short stories.  I say 17 and not 25 because I’m giving myself room to take days and weeks off if needed.  105ppw puts me at completion of novels by about 17 and a half weeks in.  So I’m leaving wiggle room.  It would be stupid not to. Life happens.

But I’m poor.  Poor is a great motivator to write and submit things.  My dad always used to say he liked it when his kids were broke, because it meant we’d be practically begging to do farm work for cash.  And every time I’m tempted to throw my hands in the air and not write cause I don’t feel like it, well, I’ll keep in mind that this sure as hell beats 70 hour weeks and having to deal with stupid people or drunk people or dead people or things on fire.  Just in case that wasn’t enough motivation, Final Fantasy XIII comes out tomorrow.  And I’m not allowing myself to have it until these five novels are all done and in the mail.  I’ve been waiting for that game for years now. YEARS.  Sooner I get this stuff done, sooner I get to disappear for two months into video game heaven.  Yesh. Will…be…Mine! (I’m 4 years old inside, seriously).

Oh, I promised lists!

What’s out:

20 short stories.

1 novel (to five editors and an agent).

To be done list:

The City is Still Hungry, 90-100k words

Hunting Delilah, 90-100k words

To Honor and Obey, 60-80k words

The Weapons Master, 60-75k words

Menagerie, 30-50k words

Write 17 new short stories and get them out to markets.

Continue to keep existing stories out to markets.

~350,000 words stand between me and Final Fantasy XIII.  I will be … victorious.

Writers of the Future Q1 2010

Honorable mention. Again.  About all there is to say about that.  I keep joking with people that I’m going to make it as a writer “the hard way”, ie never winning a contest, never getting into one of the big workshops.  Who knows, I might actually end up having to do that.  Hell, I’ve got contingency plans for if I’ve written 20-30 novels and they never sell to NY.  It could very well end up I do this whole damn thing the hardest way possible. Sigh.

Meanwhile, I’m not even close to that point yet.  This week I’m giving in to my brain’s desire to write five novels at the same time.  Well, the five that it will let me outline.  Sindra’s Storm is being back-burnered until it grows a cohesive form.  Take that, novel.  I’m hoping that as I get going on the various projects that one will take over.  But worse comes to worse, I’ll have five novels done in the next few months.  It’s not as much work as it sounds like.  I imagine three out of the five will be short novels, one possibly very short since I’m going to try writing it as a middle grade.  So even being written much at the same time, the finishing dates should stagger out nicely.

I also am going to try to work in more short story writing time.  I’m feeling incredibly poor, and as my father always said, poor is motivating.  The more work out to markets, the more likely I am to get a sale.  Never thought I’d empathize with Dickens.  Life is full of surprises.

Also, my blog seems to be doing weird things.  Catagories and links are apparently missing, but yet they show up in my admin pages.  Sigh.  Not going to worry about it right now.  Hopefully Word Press will get around to fixing whatever is broken.

Home and House Cleaning

Added a link to my story at AlienSkin Magazine.  As I get things published (hopefully!), I’ll toss up links there in the side-bar if the story is available online.

I have a ton of new information and ideas swimming around in my head from the workshops.  And three new stories to get out on market.  I’ll probably talk more about the workshops when I’ve managed to settle back into routine and had some time to think about things.

Meanwhile, this week is going to be for some basic tasks I should have done but hadn’t yet.  So, here, have a boring list of things I’ll be doing this week:

-get all four stories (three from workshop, one that came back this morning with a nice rejection) into the mail.  This will bump my race score to 23 (20 from short stories alone, wee).

-write 10,000 words of new fiction.  I’m ditching the novel I’ve been piecing together and going to write a different one this month.  The other one needs more time to solidify in my head.

-put up static websites for my three pen names.  All three domains are free, just need to purchase them and code a very basic site for them.  I’ll probably link to this blog for now at least on one of them.

-expand and update my submissions spreadsheet and make a new one for novels.

-mail two more packages to editors for my novel.

-join twitter (groan).

Boring stuff (except the writing part), but necessary.

I think I am also going to return to doing short story Mondays, and add short story Thursdays to the mix.  The workshops proved I can get off my ass and write a decent short story in a small amount of time, so I should do that.  Next week the word count goals will improve, I’m giving myself a break this week to get other stuff done and recharge.  Being away from home is tough for me and I get pretty drained having to interact with strangers.  But to get a novel done by Norwescon, I need to write about 20k a week after this.

Strangely Stuck

I don’t generally start short stories and not finish them in one or maybe two sittings.  Usually by the time I’m sitting at the computer and writing I’ve spent weeks or months working on the story in my head and it is ready to hit the page.

I currently have four short stories and one novella sitting between 200-1000 words on each.  1-4 pages, basically, on each one.  I can’t seem to finish them.  It isn’t that I don’t know exactly what happens (in fact, if we count scribbled notes and scenes, the novella has a few thousand more words on it).  I know all of these stories beginning to end.  Which is maybe the problem.  I already know what is going on, so somehow the urgency to ‘tell’ the story is gone.  My brain has moved on.  I’m in novel mode (specifically Sindra’s Storm), and I really need to finish up the other bits before I spring into that.  And on top of it all, I have to write a story this week for the workshop I’m attending.  I have that story figured out too, though a few details came to me today while I was walking that will help refine the plot.

I know I just need to buckle down and get it all done.  Not just the writing, but the reading and other parts too.  But the writing is foremost.  If I get these stories done by the time I’m out of town for a week, I’ll have five more things in the submission launcher to fire and forget.  Five more things that can start collecting rejections.  That would put me at 16 stories out on submission, which is halfway towards my goal of at least 30.

But mostly, at the moment, my brain wants to be writing “Sindra’s Storm” and doing pretty much nothing else.  Maybe I’ll just stop fighting it (after I fulfill my workshop obligations) and go with that.  Though I truly hate leaving a short story sitting in a file unfinished.  Grr.  Welcome to my crazy process, heh.  There’s the insane part of me that wonders if I could finish all five in a giant push this week, which would mean finishing about two a day.  Also, of course, wondering if the stories would end up any good that way.  Can I jump through five totally different voices and worlds that fast?  One is first person from a macro-biologist’s POV and is sort of survival/thriller sci/fi, one is about an aging militia facing its final battle, one is about a  damaged bounty-hunter set in a re-imagined Ukraine,  another deals with Munchhausen’s by Proxy and sort of a Cinderella myth, and the final one has a man dealing with an unwanted gift.  Five stories.  One a novella, so it’s sort of like two stories length-wise.  But to have them done, that would be nice.  We’ll see how crazy I feel.

Guess it is time to stop blogging and start writing.  I think I can get a couple thousand words in tonight.  Must. Get. Unstuck.

Cleanup Week

Novel editing is done.  Novel bits are mailed and emailed off to appropriate places for the workshop.  Now to get the rest of the stuff done this week that should get done.

I have two stories I need to mail off.  I’m discouraged in that I’m fairly sure I’ve sent them to the most ideal markets for each, which means now I start sort of shooting in the dark.  One of the stories is pretty much hard sci/fi, in that there is nothing in it which isn’t utterly possible in the near future.  But it’s a love story, not a traditional hard sci/fi story.  So I’m not sure if the harder sci/fi markets are right for it.  Never know til I try I guess, right?

The other story is sort of fable/fairytale-esque and has gotten some really nice rejections, but now I’m low on markets for it.  It has eight rejections, which isn’t enough for me to trunk it, but the next two most likely markets for it have other things subbed to them already.  So I think maybe I’ll sit on this one, much as I hate to, and wait for one of those markets to open back up again.  Or I could send it off to a major long-shot.  Hmm.

I have four short stories and a novella to finish, hopefully this week.  Then, next week, I start “Sindra’s Storm”.  For real. Outline or no outline.  Who knows? Maybe one will miraculously come to me this weekend to be written down hurriedly on hotel stationery.  If not, well, I have enough to get started.  I know the general plot and have the shape of the first few chapters.  I even have villain motivation and all that good stuff.  It might be that I just have to sit back and let the book write itself, so to speak.  Not something my control freak brains are good at doing.  Normally I have to be inside everything, figuring out what is going on and what is going to happen next, and I prefer to work from an outline that tells me where the story is going (even if I generally end up revising this outline four or five times while writing).    This time, maybe not.  I’ll know in a week.

I’m setting a totally arbitrary deadline for finishing the rough draft of this novel as March 26th.  Eight weeks. 110,000 words.  About 2,000 words a day.  This’ll be fun!

Writers of the Future Q4

I’m on the HM list that was just posted tonight.  I won’t pretend I’m not disappointed.  I thought my story really had a chance, given the feedback I’ve gotten on it.  It stings to just get another HM.  And yes, I know that this is better than a straight rejection, but at this point I’ve been pretty much spoiled by the fact that a form letter is actually a fairly rare occurrence for me.  I’m at over 2-1 on personal vs form.  I’m aiming for the stars here, not for “almost”.

Oh well. Keep writing, keep sending out, keep hoping I win before I’m disqualified (it only takes one novel sale, and as much as I’d love to have that sale, winning WotF seems to be a huge advantage/door opener).

Going to finish my novella this week for second quarter and send it in.  Then finish edits on novel.  Then, I’m going to write some erotica novellas I think.  I need to give my brain something new to do and I have some markets in mind for that sort of writing.  Besides, I’ve always been curious if I could actually write a coherent erotica/romance story.  Time to find out, and hopefully they’ll sell, cause this whole poor artist thing pretty much sucks.

I’m starting to get super nervous about the workshops in Feb.  I keep looking at my novel and thinking it is going to be the worst one there. Sigh.  The short story workshop also makes me nervous.  What if I’m the only one whose story doesn’t get chosen for an anthology? Or what if after reading my sample (of the story or the novel…) I get told that I’m not right for the workshop and should work on things and come back another time?

Bleh. I’ve just had a pretty awful week so far.  Clearly I need to just stick the whining, insecure bits of my brain in a ditch and get back to work.

And Congrats to Oso for being a finalist.  I might be biased (having read his story), but damnit, he better win 😉