Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy New Year!! 2012 Wrap-up

Okay, so technically 2012 isn't over yet. But since I am sitting at the airport, preparing to jet off to Costa Rica with my amazing boyfriend, the writing year is over for me! I'm taking a real vacation for the next week and a half. NO guilting myself into writing (although if it happens, it happens) or freaking out about work. Can't wait! =D

But before that, I have to take a look back at what this writing year has been for me.

December was a little less productive than I would have hoped. One of my friends got married, which ended up wiping out a solid 4 days in the middle of the month, and after that I felt like I was playing catch up. So the month ended up being 3767 words total. (On only 4 different days!) Less than I'd hoped, but it represents another chapter done!

Which means that for the year, I clocked in at 38438 words. Yikes! But that was still more than 2011, and it met my goal  for the year. Because my goal was just to write, and I did.

But on the bright side, those words all represent progress on my novel. Brand new words that have never seen the light of day, coming together to build a new story! (I've dithered back on forth, but decided on not including my blogging in my wordcount.) And I only actually wrote on 43 separate days. Which means both that my writing sessions were decent when they occurred (~890 words on average), but woefully infrequent. Lots of room for improvement, then!

That's a good third of a novel. Sure, I'd like to write faster than 3 years per novel (I'm no GRRM!), but I won't turn my nose up at 1/3 of a novel!

For 2013, I have high but reasonable hopes. By this time next year, this novel is going to be complete. Originally I wanted to say second draft complete, but since that would include a month "rest" from the novel and an extensive drafting process...well, no need to set myself up for failure. I estimate that I have about 70k words to complete this first draft, and that seems like a decent increase over this year's lackluster total, but not an insurmountable task between work and travel and everything.

With a goal about twice what I wrote this past year, I'm looking at 86 writing days. That's less than 2 days per week! When I think about it that way, I know I can definitely do it. Butt in chair! And forward we go!

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Whatever your traditions, wherever you are, I hope you are having a wonderful day!

Here's hoping Santa brings me lots of words...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mental Tongue Twisters

I've had a few ideas percolating around in my brain lately (why is eggnog so delicious, will these cookies really go straight to my love handles, how feasible is it to take a redeye to see my boyfriend for about 4 hours, maybe this manuscript can write itself...okay, but I swear there are a couple pertaining to a blog post!), so here I am finishing up a blog post at 11 PM on Christmas Eve. Well, I live 3000 miles from anyone I'd want to spend Christmas with, so it's no skin off my back! Besides, I'm so full with hot spiced cider and eggnog that I could not possibly go to bed right now.

I Stumble my way around the internet a lot, and the other day I came across a list of 11 tongue twisters. Of course, human nature being what it is, I had to try them out. Some were easy, some were hard, and it wasn't always the obvious ones either. But I thought I made a pretty passable attempt at them in just my first couple tries. Proof:

Yup, I was way too proud of myself. But I had fun!

Okay, so, writing. Phew.

This collided with some other thoughts I had been having about writing, specifically in regards to naming and dialogue. I've been struggling with finding the right balance of naming in my current work. It takes place about 500 years in the future, so is Bob Smith a realistic name? And I came across this great quote on my @AdviceToWriters feed: "Realist dialogue doesn’t exist. We are all actors and we all play roles." (Jospeh L. Mankiewicz).

So what great conclusion did I draw from this weird amalgam of tongue twisters, unique names, and good dialogue? Don't use tongue twisters in your names or dialogue!

Seriously. I know it sounds kind of stupid, but it's astonishing how often this is ignored. Especially in SFF. Sure, you're a writer. Words on the page is your business. K'en'tisdl YuOli'main looks awesome on the page (it doesn't), so what does it matter? Because anyone who is reading that is going to react to it, and not in a "Wow, he sounds like a really great guy that could totally save the world even though he's just a farmboy" kind of way. They'll try to say it out loud, and they won't be able to. Yes, even with your handy pronunciation guide in the glossary. And then every time they come across the name, it will just be a blur of nonsense to them. He'll probably become "Ken" or "that K guy," and it's hard to get personally invested in someone you think of as "that K guy."

This same thing applies to dialogue. If you try to read your dialogue out loud, and your mouth has difficult making the words, then it's not good dialogue. It's someone trying to sound fancier than they are. So unless that very specific effect is what you are going for, avoid the stilted speech. Characters aren't going to be any better at spouting "She stood on a balcony mimicking him hiccuping while amicably welcoming him in" than you or I are.

So, as sad as it makes me, I think it's probably time to admit that the surname Ykterby, which I was rather fond of for one of my secondary characters, is getting the axe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

November 2012 Wrap-Up

I'm a little late on this, but I have a good reason! My boyfriend was in town last weekend, and it was the first time I'd seen him in almost four months! Needless to say, I had much better—much!—things to do than write a blog post. Alas, my boyfriend is gone again (22 days until we meet again, boo!), and so here I am again.

November was a really good month for me. My goal was 10k. Not a NaNo, but a good chunk of writing nonetheless. If I could do that every month, I'd have a novel every year!

I was right on track to make, if not exceed, my goal for the month, but the last week derailed. I spent a lot of time trying to get everything just right for my boyfriend's visit. Yes, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I didn't get everything done, but we still had an almost perfect weekend, so I don't consider the effort wasted!

So, my final tally of words written in November: 8754.

Not bad! My most productive month of the year so far. I am pleased, and hopefully December will live up to the standard I just set. I'm slightly behind already, but I'll have plenty of time to catch up. I have no plans for the holidays, until the very end of the month when I'm headed to Costa Rica.

My goal for December is 5400 words. Should be an easy target! It would be great to finish off the year on a high note. Just worked through some plotting kinks for the next section of the novel, so I am ready to go on a bender until I have a few more chapters under my belt!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Writing Music

For some people, writing and music go hand in hand. I know several writers who have particular music they like to listen to when they write. That is not me!

I used to listen to classical music during my writing time. Then I realized that it was doing nothing for me. At best, I ignored it while I got in my groove and wrote. At worst, it distracted me from getting into my groove. (To be fair, when I'm having trouble getting into that groove, anything can distract me.) So I have nixed the classical playlists for my writing. I prefer to write in silence, now. No music, no TV. When I'm out in public, obviously I can't get silence, but background noise doesn't bother me. That's just white noise and easily blocked out. (Unless that couple at the table over is having a really intriguing conversation, which has happened from time to time, but some things are just worth missing a bit of writing time!)

So I don't listen to music while I write. But that doesn't mean I don't have writing music! There are a couple songs, in particular, that inspire me. My number one writing song is One Step At a Time by Jordin Sparks.

This song isn't about writing, of course. But it is about perseverance, believing in yourself, patience, and never giving up. If that isn't about writing, then I don't know what is!

I've been writing as long as I can remember. I wrote my first novel manuscript when I was 13. Sure, I didn't think I'd be a published author by 13. But by 25? Yes. Of course. I figured if you do anything for 12 years, you'd eventually succeed at it. Well, I was wrong. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. It means I have to keep going, one step at a time, and it will happen when it's supposed to happen.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ah, it's that time of year again. The time of elastic waistbands and tryptophan-induced couch naps, the one day where it is okay to be unabashedly gluttonous. Yes, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays!

I am on my own for the holiday this year, but that doesn't hold much sadness for me. I wish I could be with my boyfriend, of course, but since I can't, I am perfectly content to spend my day mired in pajamas, decaf coffee, and a nice dinner at Ruth's Chris.

I am thankful for many things in my life. Thankful to be well situated in life, thankful for my home, thankful for my boyfriend, thankful for a long weekend off work, thankful for my health, thankful for cinnamon tea and pumpkin pie. Thankful for my blog and my readers, few though they may be. =) I like having a day every year to not only stuff my face, but to take a moment to take a deep breath and let my complaints go for a while.

So whatever you are up to today, I hope you have something in your life to be thankful for!

And—just to make this somewhat relevant—I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue my dream of being a "real" writer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: You Can Do It!

I wanted to make a post about NaNoWriMo. (On a side note, how is it time for NaNo again? I swear this just happened--where does the time go?!) I am not attempting this year. I know I wouldn't be able to make it, and setting an unreachable goal is worse than useless. It actually just makes things worse. So I've set my own goal for the month (10k, not quite on track but still determined), but I want to let the real NaNoers (NaNites?) know that they aren't alone.

Because I had some time on my hands (okay, yes, I was procrastinating my own writing), I made a little pep talk video:

Here are the twitter accounts I mention following: Jon WinokurDaily Writing TipsFuel Your Writing, and (And, of course, my own twitter!)

You can find a library near you, or of course just stick to Starbucks. Venti decaf skinny vanilla latte with extra foam, anyone?

Whatever form inspiration and perseverance take for you, I wish you all the best of luck with NaNoWriMo or any of your other writing goals this month!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October 2012 Wrap-Up

I haven't done a monthly wrap-up in ages. I've had a very good reason--I haven't had enough progress to be wrapped up in anything other than a very depressing package. But I think I have finally gained some traction on a new project, Novel #6. Of course it will be only my fourth completed novel but there is hope, someday, that some of the others might get finished.

There were a few wrenches thrown into the works, with being carted halfway around the world and changing 12 time zones at once, etc. Trying to get back into the swing of things now that I am back home, and I've found that my time for writing seems to somehow have disappeared. Work, work out, make dinner, take care of the random things that pop up in life, and then it's pretty much time to rinse and repeat. But I am positive I can make more time as things get settled!

So, for all this talk of progress, it might seem a little low. Words written in October: 5864. But keep in mind that is about 22% of the total words I have written this year. And my second most productive month. (September was a whopping 7474!)

With another few thousand words under my belt, I am feeling good about getting more down. My goal for November is to double my October production. That's right--10k! It may not sound like much, but it feels like my own mini NaNoWriMo.

And, best of all, I think these are good words that I've written. I am really excited about this project. I've let my alpha read the first chapter, and it's just a first draft, but he said that it feels polished and like a "real book." Of course, he is my boyfriend, so perhaps not an unbiased opinion, but he usually is honest with me so I'll trust him on this one too. Just hope the rest of the chapters live up to it!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Tortoise

I’ve never been overly fond of the fable about the tortoise and the hare. While I understood the message (that arrogance can be your downfall, to always persist and do your best), I found that the tale itself was incredibly contrived. No way is the hare going to lose that race. But I suppose that isn’t the point, and I shall try to overlook that and remember that slow and steady wins the race.

Because I am the tortoise. A couple hundred words a day, eking out my novels one paragraph at a time. Building scenes slowly, putting scenes together into chapters, letting it unfold before me. It’s like a house of cards. If I despair and move too quickly, the whole thing might come tumbling down.

So I am determined to not give up the race. The hare might be prettier and faster and seem more promising at getting published, but just maybe slow and steady really can win. I am proud of what I have been able to get done. Those hundreds of words add up, over time, and time is one thing I have in plenty. Having recently passed my 25th birthday, I know that I’m not quite over the hill yet. If it takes me a year—two years!—to finish this manuscript, that’s hardly the end of the world.

Today I am lifting a glass (of tea) to all the tortoises of the world. May we plod ever onwards and win our races!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Far Off Places

Just a quick note to say I am still alive! Unfortunately it is a hazard of the job with the Navy that you can be called away for weeks at time with very little warning. And Blogger isn’t high on the list of bandwidth requirements. (It is, in fact, not on the list at all!) But I finally think I have figured out how to post via email. So I shall cook up an update, assuming this works!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Day in the Life

I'm pretty sure every single writer ever has, at some point, procrastinated. Or at least I hope so! Then I don't feel quite so bad. If you have never experienced the utter frustration of your mind wanting to focus on any single thing except what you want to write, then this post is not for you. Leave us poor procrastinators to wallow in our misery!

Anyway, I was inspired to put this together today. I thought it would be amusing and, of course, it provided me the perfect excuse to not get any writing done...

(I am paying for that now, though, as it is way past my bedtime, and I've still got writing to do!)

So true? So false? Am I the only one?!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Crisis of Faith

Recently, I went through a crisis of faith about myself and my writing career. (I deliberated using writing "career" there, but I am endeavoring to be more positive!)

I, like many, have doubts about whether or not I am cut out to be a writer. There are times when it seems all I ever wanted, and there are times when it seems like I am wasting a good chunk of my life. When the words won't come and I am mired in procrastination, when I wonder what the hell I was ever thinking, when I get no bites after casting again and's frustrating. It's easy to wonder if this is worth it all. And lately I was coming down on the side that it's not worth it.

After a lot of self-examination and some good discussions with my boyfriend, who is my rock, I realized I couldn't do it. I couldn't walk away from one of my major goals and passions in life just because it was hard. What I really was looking for was permission from myself to stop feeling guilty about my lack of progress. But, in the end, that's just not who I am. Permission denied. Faith must persist!

Perhaps faith is the wrong word. Faith is belief without evidence or reason, and I don't think it's a virtue. I don't want to have faith in my writing. That would make me like one of those poor, misguided souls who puts their typo-ridden, substandard work out for Kindle and thinks they'll sell a million copies. I should say instead that I want to have confidence in my writing. Because I do have reason to believe that I have decent skills when it comes to writing. I seek out feedback on my writing all the time, and of course I'm not the next coming of Ray Bradbury so it isn't all positive, but enough of it is that I don't think I'm just fooling myself.

So I just need to have confidence, and perseverance, and keep improving in my craft. And someday get lucky!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Oftentimes, it seems that our writing goals are always our works in progress. It makes sense, of course. For many of us, the end goal is to be published (or to be published again), and to do that, you have to produce manuscripts. Sometimes it is easy to lose focus on other writing tasks that just don't seem as important, and I think that's a shame. I love my SFF genre, but if I spend all my time trying to come up with innovative new ways of hiding the savior to the world on a far-flung farm (I kid!), I'm bound to lose some of the other writery skills that I need.

Something that I like to do is jot down brief sketches from time to time. I will spend fifteen minutes just writing a character sketch about one of the multitudes of people that live on the fringes of my brain. This character is not intended for use in any particular project that I'm working on--it's merely a practice for me at coming up with characters. And, of course, if I need a character later on, it can come in handy! Especially for  providing depth to tertiary characters without derailing yourself from your current project. I often include a snippet of a scene that places the character in context, giving me a chance to see how the character acts. Sometimes this even leads me down the road of a new idea for a novel or story!

Another kind of sketch that I like is to try to capture pictures. I'm sure we've all had moments where our breath catches at the unique beauty (or horror) of something that we are observing. At least for me, I want to share that with people, but this is no easy task. Can you really explain the curve of that mountain fading into the distance? With practice, perhaps! I keep a file on my computer where I will type up a sentence or two and try to capture a particular moment in time. This is something that is very difficult for me--my writing tends to be terse and action-oriented--and so I must practice.

Here is an example about the view I had of downtown when I got to work the other morning:

The city rises into the sky, the highest buildings piercing into the bottom of a heavy gray cloud. Their tops are lost in the gloom, but between them rays of sunlight find a way to peek through, lancing through the buildings from some distant place where clouds do not hold sway.

Will this ever be useful in one of my projects? I don't know. I don't tend to write many locales that involve skyscrapers! But even so, I think it is useful to develop my skills in passing along inspiring, vivid scenes to my readers.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Settling In

I have been mired in the often-painful process of moving across the country over the past few weeks, and it has taken over my life! It is hard to make time for writing when your apartment is a mess of boxes and heaps of junk, and your to-do list gets longer every day, not to mention getting acclimated to a new job and the sudden loneliness of leaving behind a serious boyfriend. So writing has not so much been happening.

But now, as I get settled in, I finally have my desk set up and am ready to get some words flowing! And just in case I was lacking in inspiration, the recent move has unearthed random things I had forgotten about (as moves do), and I find it hilarious.

I keep a small notebook by my bed. I jot dreams down in it if they strike me as very vivid. Who knows, maybe I'll dream the next Star Wars? But alas, no luck so far. I found this page, hastily scrawled in a half-asleep state some long ago morning:

She meeets [sic] these aliens and accepts a job with them but then finally lands an acting job, not realizing it was arranged by the alien people, frozen lake walking 4 girl friends.

I'm not sure what the hell that was about, but maybe someday you'll see my bestseller on the shelves...Frozen Lake Walking 4 Girl Friends. Chick lit meets sci fi meets nonsense! (Or meeets nonsense.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rejection Collection

I have mentioned before that I have a positive relationship with my rejection letters. I have been submitting things and being rejected for them for years--honestly I do not even remember how long ago my first submission was. Sadly, that letter is lost. The earliest letter that I have saved in my collection is from the summer of 2004. That may not sound so long ago, but at the time I was 16 and preparing to enter my senior year of high school, so it certainly seems ages ago to me!

I am in dead seriousness when I say I have a collection. Proof:

Sure, it's cheesy. (Yes, that is crayon!) But I love it. Even when I receive them by email, I print them out so I can add them to my binder. It reminds me that, however stagnant I might feel, I do produce work. Okay, maybe not work that anyone wants to publish, but so what? No one gets published right away. And someday, when I do get that yes, I will have this as proof that I have worked my butt off.

So today, as I sent off a slew of queries, I am not scared about the rejections I know I'll get back. I'm excited to add to my rejection collection!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Kind of Dog Do I Have?

Well, none, because I'm not a dog person.

But that's not the point, obviously, or it would be both a very short and very non-writing-related post!

So currently my beta reader is my boyfriend, after my other beta readers flaked out and he kept insisting he wanted to read some of my writing. I like letting him read it, but I also know it's not really what I need. Because, you know, even though I make him swear to be honest, at the end of the day he still wants to sleep with me. But he still has some good insights, and he isn't completely sugarcoating it.

The other day he was reading a book I recommended to him (The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch) and he pointed out a paragraph in the scene he was reading. "I'm glad you don't do stuff like this." (I'm a better writer than Scott Lynch! Well maybe not...) What he was referring to was a descriptive paragraph that had nothing to do with the scene. My writing tends to be very action-oriented--my polite way of saying that I hate writing description and have entirely too little of it. So then my boyfriend pointed out to me another paragraph in the scene where the description is integrated into what is actually happening. "I like that," he told me. "And you do that really, really well. But you don't do it enough."

And he's right. Adding description is one of the biggest things I try to do on re-writes, and it's hard. It would be a lot easier to go back and cut unnecessary crap out than try and shoehorn in more. I know my writing is too lean--this WIP is sitting right at about 80k words--and it's frustrating as hell.

So what my boyfriend told me is that some books are like Great Danes. Huge and thick and full of everything. And that maybe my book is a poodle--and no matter how much I feed it, it's never going to be a Great Dane or a German Shepherd.

That shook me pretty deeply. This WIP is the best thing I've got, and now I'm facing the idea that I can mess around with it forever but it will never be good enough. That I need to start over, at 0 words, with another idea. That terrifies me.

I'm not giving up on this WIP. I'm through 12 chapters of my rewrite and going to start shopping it again when I'm finished. But now I'm excited to start something new and see how much better I can do this time around. After all, I did first start working on this WIP when I was 16. Hopefully by now I've got something bigger than a poodle trying to get out.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wishful Thinking

I haven't updated the blog recently because I was really, really hoping that my next post would be one with good news. I submitted a couple of my short stories to a few different publications back in March, and I had a good feeling about them. Maybe something would come of it, even if just a little nibble in the form of a personalized rejections.

(Rejections, honestly, do not faze me. I've been collecting rejection letters since I was like 12, and it is always the expected outcome. But hey, at least it means I'm trying! I only wish I hadn't lost some of my rejection letters over the years and moves.)

Anyway, here we are now, and it is May and I haven't heard anything. Not a peep. It's been about 5 weeks, which was generally listed as the response time, so I'll either start hearing soon or I'll know it wasn't meant to be this time. It's a little disheartening (give me a rejection letter any day, but sitting around waiting is killer!), but it's not like I've been sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I've been working busily on my rewrite of my novel.

So it's not quite the good news I was hoping to post, but it is good news. I've finished eight chapters--there are only eighteen in all, so I'm almost half done. And now that I'm finished at work for a while, I am getting one or two chapters done every day. I should be finished with this rewrite by the end of next week. And THAT is good fucking news.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February 2012 Wrap-Up

Okay, another month is come and gone. This one is a little shorter than most (although longer than usual!), so less time for getting all the things done that I want!

But while I won't expose myself by admitting my small numbers for the month, I will go ahead and say that I feel good about getting the wheels rolling again.

By the end of March, I plan to be done with an edit of my Novel 1. DONE. I mean it. And to finish up and polish up and attempt to shop a short story I'm almost done with.

Yes I can!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Writing Excuses

As I am once again gearing down to get writing done, I am looking for new ways to inspire myself. To light that spark that my fellow writers know and love (and hate!) so well. I find that is better to actively seek out inspiration than to sit around hoping it will come, and something that I found recently is the wonderful podcast Writing Excuses.

I am not generally a fan of podcasts. I never feel that I have a good chance to listen to them. In my car, I listen to radio or CDs (I have no connection for my ipod). At home, I read or watch TV or do something else that doesn't lend itself well to listening to someone drone on. At work, any personal electronic device more complicated than a wristwatch is banned and can't enter the building.

But when I read about Writing Excuses on another writing blog I follow (the Scribophile blog), it piqued my interest. It's short, so I don't feel like I have to have a long block of time available to dedicate to listening. It's done by authors that I know dealing specifically with the genre (science fiction/fantasy) that I write. And I've found that it is easy enough listening that I can listen while I workout.

Best of all, listening to an episode of Writing Excuses makes me want to write. It reminds me about the joys in writing and is a welcome reminder that I am far from the only one that struggles with any given issue that they are tackling.

They give writing prompts at the end of each episode, and so far I have yet to act on those. I have been so focused on needing to find an idea that I can carry through to a novel that I haven't been writing anything at all until I have that magical idea. And this is leading to my previously-mentioned atrophying skills. So now I am going to actually take these writing prompts and use them as an exercise. Just as I am spending the time now plugging away at getting miles so I can perform well at my upcoming 10K race in March, I need to put in the time practicing writing, even if just for my own benefit, so I can eventually produce a publishable, readable product.

And along the way, I'll be stashing ideas into my Bag O' Ideas to pull out later for a "real" writing project. Win-fucking-win!

Happy New Year! Um...

Okay, so I've been trying to convince myself to write a new year's post for a while now (about a month and 8 days!), but I kept putting it off. Because it was a pitiful year for me. Truly, gut-wrenchingly terrible. I'm pretty sure at this point my writing skills have atrophied into a twisted ball of lols and emoticons. (The majority of the writing I do consists of gchats with my boyfriend and the occasional tweet or facebook update.)

For a concrete measure of how little I got done, in the entire year of 2011, I wrote 24,045 words (according to my spreadsheet). Which I guess is better than nothing, although one could argue that it effectively is nothing, given that none of those 24k words have gone to a project that I think has real potential.

Reading through last year's wrap-up is painful. 2010 ended on such a great note. I was sending out a few queries in January 2011! I had novel ideas galore! I was going to have SO much more time! My goal was 180,000 words! And yet all that time came to nothing. I can blame it on my divorce, or stress at work trying to get through my training pipeline at the front of the group, or the happier distractions of a new relationship, but the truth of it is that I just lost the will to write. Not the desire to write, but the will.

So: no lofty goals for 2012. My only writing goal for this year is to write. And that is, hopefully, one that I can keep.