Tuesday, September 29, 2015

500 Writing Prompts: Message in a Bottle

As I sit in the fallow zone between projects (letting novel 8 marinate and waiting on novel 6 beta readers), I find that I am itching to write. Something, anything, to scratch that existential need. Usually I say that I will fill the space with short stories, but that almost never actually happens. I don’t have a strong affinity for shorts, and whenever I come up with an idea I am passionate enough about, I end up wanting to turn it into a novel. So while I was at Barnes and Noble, looking to spend a gift card I’d won in a drawing at work, I saw this book of prompts and knew it would be perfect. Short, easy bites, a chance to write without the sometimes-exhausting effort of creation, and a chance to write outside my normal wheelhouse. I picked it up and planned to do one prompt every night.*


That hasn’t exactly worked out, but I have done a few of them and found them to be an interesting thought exercise. (Like the one that made me realize I don’t have ten items to put on a bucket list—I need more aspirations in life, apparently!) I thought I would share the very first one I did, and perhaps I will return to this and share some future ones if they resonate.

*I am still planning to do short stories, of course, but I just am trying to be realistic about how that usually goes.

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say? Who would you like to find it?

The message would mostly be for myself. After all, I could never be sure who would find it or if they even would. I would probably write down a small piece of me. An attempt to define part of who I am when there is no audience to please. Not necessarily a secret, but an intimacy. Describing my situation when I wrote it, what I was doing and feeling. And if someone did find it, I would be free of the burden of knowing how and why they would react. But I would hope that it would help them. Give them an insight into the human condition. Give them a glimpse of someone who is of a different gender or race or class or even time. I would probably include a message of hope. Hope for myself, hope for the finder, hope for the world.

Or, if I was marooned, it would just be a plea for help with as many details as I could come up with. And I would hope the Coast Guard or their analogue would find it—and quickly!

Monday, September 7, 2015


Today is my BIRTHDAY! Huzzah!

I know lots of adults think birthdays are meh, but I love them. A whole day dedicated to me and no one else. Well, everyone else who shares my birthday and (some years) Labor Day and lots of other things. But it's fun to be queen for a day, and I enjoy celebrating milestones like anniversaries and birthdays. Making it through one more year alive is pretty awesome!

Anyway, in honor of my birthday, I decided I would finally properly introduce myself with an "about me" vlog. So...hello!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Time of Death: Now

It’s always a sad day to close the lid on a novel. To admit to yourself (and to the world) that the thing you wrote and edited and loved just isn’t going to make it. And so I am sounding a solemn dirge today for novel 7. In fact, I actually declared it Over and Done on August 23, closing out the last lingering queries and shading its spreadsheet tracker to gray. But today I am finally taking the time to mourn that little guy, who I loved so much.

You were fantastic, novel 7!

Novel 7 was conceived on June 14, 2014. At least, that is the day I created a WikidPad file and began to type up some of the notes that were accumulating in my writing notebook. I sketched out characters and locations, developed mythical mythologies and pantheons. The plot bunnies that had been cavorting about my brain started to get corralled into an outline. The outline went through multiple iterations, as I attempted to decide whether I would use a multiple or single POV for the story. It seemed to cry out for single POV—it was truly the story of this one god—but I worried that it would be too slight in that form. I planned out a beefier multi-POV version, but it didn’t feel right. I settled on the single POV and wrote up a scene plan.

And so novel 7 was born on June 17, 2014, when I created the draft 1 file. It started that day with a modest 1k, but it quickly grew under my fingers. By the end of June 2014, it was almost 15k strong. It lived and breathed, begging to be developed. I wrote like a madwoman that July, spurred on by unemployment and loneliness in part, but mostly answering that siren’s call of creation. And on August 11, 2014, that first draft rested complete at barely 41k words.

Well, that wouldn’t do at all. It was novel 7, not novella 7! I let it rest while I turned my attentions to a doomed #PitchWars bid for novel 6. Eventually, I came back. I re-read, made notes. I wrote a new scene plan. On October 8, 2014, I started a second draft. It was difficult but rewarding to find the areas to tease out more story, to fill in some of the gaps my initial rush had missed. The second draft came to rest on December 13, 2014 at close to 58k.

Still, I knew it wasn’t enough. I went back through, armed with post-it notes and a dazzling array of colored pens. I sought critiques and beta readers. I vowed that I would do justice to this story that resonated through me. I wrestled with every scene, contemplated adding entire new storylines, and eventually settled on to a final version of novel 7. It was about 63k words.

I sent out the first query on February 2, 2015. I overhauled my query countless times. I worked on a synopsis, which I actually liked. I overhauled the query again. I queried more, and more, and more. I racked up rejections and non-responses, moped about it, and sent out more queries. I sent my 96th and last query on August 7, 2015. Overall, I had 2 partial requests (1 form rejected, 1 never heard from again) and 1 full request (polite rejection). Not the greatest track record. It was time to admit defeat.

I can’t say for sure what it was that did in novel 7. I did not receive a lot of personalized responses from the professionals, and the beta readers seemed to love it. I suspect it was the length, which at 63k for adult fantasy is LOW. I knew that going in, but I had told the story I wanted to tell. I still think it is the best piece I have ever written. (Disappointing, in fact, to know that novel 8 is so much worse and wonder if I peaked with an unpublishable novel.) Perhaps someday it will find a home, but for now, the coffin is closed and the nails driven. RIP, novel 7.