Thursday, September 26, 2013

Working backwards....

I'm still plugging away. The toddler monster seems to finally be learning what bed time (and eve nap time) is once more and the last of my outside of family commitments is over this weekend. Since the last post I've been squeezing in more writing time. I was able to do a skype talk with a pro author and he gave me some advice about my goals and some general plotting techniques. It went pretty well and we're going to meet face to face at a con in January (I hope).

Meanwhile I've put aside my short stories for now and I'm writing on the novel. There is a lot I need to readjust. As has been the case at least 3 times now I've come up with a better beginning, but I'm holding off on writing it. Instead I wrote my last scene and started writing in tandem the climax and denouement and the planning scene leading up to it. And it was falling flat. I've spent the last few days trying to figure out how to make things suck more for my leads, and tonight I hit on a better solution. I've been rewriting and shuffling words around and hopefully I'll have a good scene written by tomorrow. Then I can write a new ending and starting working my way backwards until I ca slot in the scenes I've already written.

I'm over 30K into this novel but the progress has been jumpy enough I'm not sure how much will make it into the final novel. But we are nearly to the halfway point for finished word count. I expect the draft zero word count will end up a little higher then my goal. But draft 1 should end up fairly tight. I'm hoping I can power through the next months and end up with a draft by new years. We'll see how life goes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Holy Hectic Batman..... Writing as a mom

Life has been.... a little stressful. Actually that doesn't sum it up.... life has been a great big flaming pile of stress and chaos for the last few weeks. Why? Well we are in week four of the new school schedule and on top of my very busy, very upset his schedule changed, toddler I'm now part time watching 3 other children at varying intervals/days. It's made things rough and I hadn't written for about 3 weeks. So here's what I've been up to.

7:00 am Wake up and get ready. (7 am is actually sleeping in as the toddler has been known to wake up at 4,5, and 6 am depending on the day.)
7:20 am Two of my kids get dropped off. If Darian isn't awake and moving this is when I get him up and get breakfast.
7:45ish Kid one is off to school. Keep toddler and other child from murdering each other or dumping every toy on the floor while attempting to get toddler to eat breakfast and check my email.
8:30ish Child 2 is off to school, now I can sit back with a cup of tea.... except there are dishes to be done, a toddler wanting to play and I still haven't gone through my email. Put on PBS and let the toddler watch Cat in the Hat while I get stuff accomplished. Say good bye as husband goes to work. Split and apple with Toddler.
9:00ish TV is off. Now we are on to errands. Grocery shopping beckons.
10ish back home to put the groceries away and toddler is asking to play outside. Once the perishables are stowed we play outside for about an hour. He marvels at my ability to draw kermit the frog, rainbows and stars... I admire his ability to be covered in dirt, chalk, and water so quickly.
11ish Back inside and Mommy needs a minute to make lunch and do chores. Yay for PBS and another half hour show.
11:30 Lunch time! As a treat and reward for eating his whole lunch I split a caramel apple with the toddler. I've now eaten a whole apple! This is better than I manage most days.
12 pm And lunch is over. Now we get into the serious playing.... only a fraction of which is cooperative. My block towers are starting to reach spectacular heights.... his bulldozer brings them down to new lows.
1 pm snack time. More play. As he gets focused I can sometimes slip away and read 2-5 pages of a book, or check something online.... it's about a 5 minute window before he notices I'm gone.
2:30ish Kid number 4 is here. 4 isn't mobile yet so there is a small advantage there. Toddler decides to "help" push 4 in the infant swing. I intervene before toddler instills permanent motion sickness.
3ish Food time for 4... I put a show on for the toddler since my hands will be full. If I angle 4 just right I can use 2 fingers on one hand and 1 on the other to read some of the articles people have linked me too.
3:30ish Toddler wants company for his show. 4 is playing by himself. I spend a few minutes with Toddler until he's engrossed again, check on 4 and move him from the play area to the swing. This time I swing him gently. 4 wants more food and needs a diaper change. All of that accomplished I sit back down.
4pm The show is over. I turn the TV off. 4 has fallen asleep in the swing. I pack his things so he's ready to go. Then I get Toddler out of the swing vicinity. We pick up the trash cans from outside (he sits on the wet seat of his tractor so now his jeans are soggy.
4:30ish 4 get's picked up. Toddler and I play more blocks with a side t trains and pirate.
4:45 I need to start a side dish cooking for my husband. Fight with toddler to keep him out of the kitchen while I cook. Time outs are deployed. Rice is cooking.
5:30ish husband is home. He's cooking tonight. Yay! I wrangle kid back to the living room since hot stove/hot pans/ hot oil is a bad place for toddlers. More blocs and some legos.
6 pm diner is done. Toddler wont eat. He sits in a time out while we eat and his food ends up tossed. By now I need a break.
6:30 bath time. Daddy handles this. I spend 20 glorious minutes seated in a chair and catching up on facebook/twitter
6:50 book time. We pick out 3 books (he grabs 6, I tell him Mommy is only reading 3). We read 3 books. Toddler gets tucked into bed. Mommy and Daddy sing "The Wheels on the Bus." Mommy is thinking about adding harmonies and taking the show on the road. Daddy is not amused. One more short song and we shut to door.
7:20 Mommy pours her self a drink (alas not the alcoholic kind). Toddler leaves bedroom.
7:25 Mommy does the nice tuck back in. She takes the "leave my room" token and places it up high.
7:26 Toddler leaves room
7:27 Mommy does the stern tuck in
7:28 Toddler leaves room
And this is a good time for an intermission... all you'll miss is my head exploding which has a high ick factor and potential for a large drycleaning bill....
8:30 Toddler has fallen asleep (with his blanket and pillow) on the changing pad on his floor. "Good enough!" I say and turn out the lights. Time to finish big projects..... namely cleaning the basement.
9:00 For the first time in a week I'm not half dead.... time to walk to McDonalds (yeah some writers get classy coffee shops and fancy coffee... me I get late nights at Micky Dee's and fries). The staff kinda know me. I sit in the back and tune out everything but the fryer beeps (for some reason that cuts through my head phones). In about an hour I churn out about a thousand words. I caffeinate. This is not a great thing but it allows me to come home and write out rambling long posts like this. And a thousand words. I try coke zero. Not a fan.
10pm I come home and spend a few minutes with the husband. Then we both do our own things. He's catching up on the laundry.
12 am Toddler wakes up on the changing pad and comes out to visit. I tuck him into bed this time and finish writing this thing.
12:45 FAR FAR past my bed time and I'm crashing. But this schedule.... this is why I don't write a zillion words a day right now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A very late Clarion wrap up....

I didn't reach my Clarion goal. Let me get that out of the way first of all. However.... I wrote three short stories, wrote a dozen or so story starts that didn't go anywhere.... yet, and I wrote several thousand words into the great beast that is my novel. I don't have an exact word count since everything was in different files but I wrote about 12,000 words.

Let me say that again, in one month I wrote 12,000 words... with a toddler at home. If I compare it... it's paltry. There are writers that write whole novels in the time it took me to write those 12,000 words. But me, where I am, squeezing writing into 2-3 hour blocks after the kids asleep, fifteen minutes while he's making puzzles at the library.... this is amazballs. I'm proud.

I'll be polishing off the short stories in the next weeks (August is the busy month of busyness for us!) and starting to send them out to market. And I'll be sending out my sponsor gifts soon. I'm not sure if I'll be trying Clarion next year or the Write-a-thon. Life has taken me to all sorts of unexpected places this year.

The rest of this month is going to full of polishing, resubmitting (ZOMG I have no short stories on submission right now... I must fix this!) and re mapping out the novel. After that I just have to take things as they come.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Writing ADD strikes again

I started writing short stories this spring so i could try and experiment and work on characterization or structure etc. in a small controlled setting. I've had reasonable success so far. I've completed five short stories. Three are making the short fiction pro rounds right now. So far all have acquired at least one personalized rejection, which is awesome. It's a place to start. If my very first story (excluding the horrible one I sent to MZB's anthology back in the late 90's) sold, I'd be over the moon. But realistically I'm still learning. My third story, my tenth story, my hundredth story. Somewhere in there I'll make a sale (or I'm doing something very wrong and I need to reevaluate).

My goal for Clarion was to write six short stories. I'd space them out one a week. It's a small goal. I write stories between 2-4k right now. But at the end six short stories to send out was a very good thing. I've made some starts. There's a regency Cinderella twist playing in my back brain that hasn't quite found the right gown for the ball. There's a faerie story. A military sci-fi tale. None of them are quite finished.

Now my writer's groups deadlines are bumping into my Clarion ones and I need a short story by tomorrow.

Which is precisely why my brain added about 4,000 words onto my novel. Mind you they aren't tidy words. I've got a lovely scene where the two main characters meet, and some knife fighting and some mystery. It might be the first chapter, with a hole or three in the center still. At least the novel ticker jumped up a little. Now I need to plow through and see if I can break 1,000 words on the latest short story start before I crash.

Maybe tomorrow will give me brainpower for both, but the short story absolutely HAS to come first. You hear that brain. Short story!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Clarion Write-a-thon day 1

Well we started today with a ripple. I wrote 705 words of a short story this afternoon. It's in that messy middle stage where the beginning is stronger then how I ended it. That usually means I've miscalculated the ending somehow. I'll sleep on it and try to finish it tomorrow.

The goal this week is to finish my story early, say by Wednesday, and get moving on the next one. This week and the next are mostly open, but the week of the 4th and the weekend after and brimful of plans. If I can have three stories done before the 4th then the remainder should go easier. We'll see.

I'm still adding words to the novel. It's also mired, although there the issue is trying to find the best place to start it. Writing it at three ends at once fills a lot of brain-space. So slowly.

I'm editing as well. Cold and The Tannerspeak Witch have both come back from the last markets with rejections. I'm trying to tighten Cold and put a little more emotion into it. Tannerspeak is just getting a check. And Split needs it's final edits entered and I can get it sent out into the world. So far the two stories have garnered 7 rejections, 3 personalized. I see that as good progress.

If you are interested in supporting either of the Clarion Writer Workshops than I ask you to sponsor me. If you sponsor me with either of the workshops (and you leave a comment here or email me), I will send you a copy of all my write-a-thon stories (after they have been edited to coherence, probably early in autumn). And that's not all! (I've always wanted to say that!) If you donate I'll either, write a story based on a prompt from you (quality may be questionable depending on the prompt), add your name or a name you pick into the story (subject to negotiation as I don't fancy writing about Dick Arseface or the like), or if you are a friend I see with any regularity I will make you something baked, sewn, or crafted in some manner.

The links and information for donating is below. Now off to do some edits.

Clarion West's donation page.

Clarion SD's donation page.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Short or long....

If you asked me a year ago if I was a short story writer, I'd tell you "no." I've written a couple back in my high school and college days, however I had grand epics just waiting for me to write them down. My stories couldn't be compressed into a word limit of under 10,000 words. Besides everyone knows that the short story market is dying. Short stories were a waste of my time. It was utter bullshit.

I wrote my first new short story in February. I wrote two, actually, Cold and The Tannerspeak Witch, over a handful of Panera visits while my son was visiting his grandparents. I didn't expect them to be great, just something that would show my skills enough to get into Clarion. That didn't happen, but those two short stories were the strongest things I had work-shopped since I joined the writer's group. Since then I've written three more stories with various success. 11320 words. That's nearly as much as I wrote all last year. And I've added words to my new novel, over 1400 of them (my ticker is a little off).

Having the small goals makes me more productive. And seeing a story finished makes me want to push further and write a new one. Add another scene to my novel, try a little harder.

I compare writing short stories to sprinting a 100 meter race and writing a novel to running a marathon. Just because you are good at one doesn't mean you will be good at the other. But either way you're an athlete.

Short stories are a microcosm of story. Mine tend to be under 5,000 words. Fitting everything in, keeping the world grounded, the characters real and telling a story is hard. In my novel I can waffle around a little. If I digress on magical theory for a paragraph or two, as long as I don't bore you to tears, it's alright. There's room to meander. Every word in a short story has to serve the story, build the character, the world or both. Applying that to my novel has made that work stronger.

I've been able to test out resolutions, dialect dialogue, world build for another novel, and poke all my weak spots to see where I can toughen up.

The biggest benefit to writing short stories is the immediate feedback.It's hard to critique a novel chapter when it's been three weeks since you saw the previous chapter, and in the meantime the author has rewritten the scenes, rebuilt the world and axed a character. I feel like I put better work and get better feedback (more helpful not necessarily more positive) with short stories. And I can put them in front of real editors. I'm up to 8 or none rejections now. But they are teaching me things. A few rejections have been personalized with specific reasons why the story isn't right. Most aren't. But each "not for us" is telling me that there is something to improve. And that knowledge is gold.

So even though there is a limited pro market for short stories. And even though writing a good short story will not guarantee writing a good novel or securing an agent or publisher.... it's worth it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I signed up for the Clarion Write-a-thon. I'm planning to shadow the Clarion conference and write a new short story every week while the workshop is going on. If you are a writer and would like to sign up by June 22ed, Clarion will received a $3,000 grant (to fund future workshops and scholarships) if they can get 300 participants. And if you have some funds burning a whole in your pocket you can sponsor me. If you decide to sponsor me send me an email or message here and I'll email you a copy of the stories you sponsored (once I've edited them, no one wants to read my rough drafts. :-p).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


If you are expecting a bitter diatribe.... well maybe check in with me in four or five years. Right now rejection letters are novel and new, even the form ones. I've set my publishing bar high, I'm only going after pro markets, so I knew I would have to have the best stories. And I knew that the first stories I put out there might not be the best.

I have 2 in the rounds so far and between them (and the story I submitted in high school) I have half a dozen rejections. I think the stories are good, but I think I can do better.

Just submitting is motivating me right now. Writing Excuses has a podcast about "Fake it til you make it." So I changed my occupation for "blank" to "writer" on my online profiles and I'm pushing forward.

I've got one more short story I need to re-edit the ending and three more in process. I've found that I needed to pull back and do story on a small scale for a while to test out techniques and strengthen my skills. I'm still puttering away on the novel but a little more carefully.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Still here....

I've had some health issues this spring that have made my writing a little erratic, but I've written a little. More importantly I've started submitting.

I wrote two short stories for my Clarion West application this year. I did not get into Clarion (They take 18 people each year) however I did receive the "nice" form of the rejection letter where they said that the readers commended my work. I'm taking it as a good sign.

I've submitted both stories to pro markets now. One has received it's first rejection from Shimmer. And it was a lovely rejection. The issues they highlighted I can see in the story. It's off again at another market but if it gains a rejection there I'l probably try to revise the last half to get deeper into the emotions I dredged up in the beginning.

Maybe this summer I'll pull down my old MZB rejection letter and start my own rejection file. Meanwhile I'm back at short stories. I keep getting lost with the novels, way to much content and it's like trying to juggle 5 balls when your limit is two. I'm hoping the short stories will bring my ball count up.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Updated how I write...

I am not going back to a regular schedule right now but I figured I should update with some of my latest techniques to keep writing.  My computer died in the beginning of December.  We are planning to revive it, or at least empty the hard drive.  In the mean time I've upgraded to a Win 8 machine and getting things set up lead me to some new tools.

I've continued to use Ywriter to organize my manuscript. I love a silly irrelevant feature that lets it sound like a typewriter when I type.  It's the little things.  It's not a great tool for editing the words but it is wonderful for organizing the structure.

For distraction free writing I've been using Edit 2.  I like the target word count feature and the count down feature on the bottom, and the fact that it does not check my spelling while I am writing.

Another online program I have been using is 750 words. This website encourages you to write 750 words a day.  It gives badges and points when you make those goals and it adds you name to it's wall of shame when you fail to meet them for a month.  It's surprisingly motivating and responsible for a good chunk of my current WIP.

My alpha smart is another great tool.  Having a device that I can take out to eat or to the library or a coffee shop has given me some freedom when the internet is too shiny and distracting.

I've also been writing longhand a little and transcribing it later, and occasionally using a manual typewriter.

For line editing I'm trying open office.  This is my first time using it, and since I haven't been doing a lot of editing I can really speak to it's effectiveness yet but it seems pretty straight forward.

One of the neat things about Ywriter and 750 words is that they track my productivity.  Unsurprisingly I am the most productive after my son has gone to bed and during nap times.  More surprising was that most of my word count seems to come out between 9-11pm.  I thought I was more of a morning person creatively   We'll see if this continues to hold true.  I'm trying to put the techniques from my earlier post to work.

Last year was my most productive year since I got pregnant.  This year I hope to blow those numbers out of the water.  We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Year in review....

I've fallen off the blogging wagon... but this time it was for a very good reason.... I was writing.  In 2011 and 2010 I doubt I put together more then a thousand words as any sort of story.  In 2012 I hit about 16,000.  It's a pathetic number if you compare it to most authors.  But for me it's so much better then it was.  Most of that was hit in the last part of the year.  If you charted my progress July and November had the most words. This year I am trying to keep it going.  I might not start churning out 10,000 words a month.... things might drop off for a bit if I end up with a crunch to my 2 year old munch.... but I'm still here, and the story is still coming out.