Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Stupid June (and Butterfly Update)

Well, squiders, yesterday morning, the other butterfly hatched. And it did exactly what you would expect it to–it climbed all the way out of its cocoon, hung there with its wings nice and straight until they dried out, and has since been climbing and flying around the butterfly habitat.

So there’s something definitely wrong with that first one. Poor guy. I think he didn’t come out right, or maybe he didn’t form right in the first place.

With the second butterfly out, I needed to refill the sugar water and put out a new banana slice for them, and both of those seemed like a bad idea with the first butterfly still hanging out in the water bowl, so I very carefully lifted him up with the flat side of a butter knife and put him out on the ground part. He’s definitely still alive, but he can really only move the top part of one wing.

Tomorrow is release day (technically today should have been for the first one; the instructions say to release them three days after they hatch) and he is going to be eaten by a bird. I am sorely tempted to at least try to smooth his wings into the right position but that it probably not going to help anything.

The smaller, mobile one is overjoyed by her one functional butterfly, so there is that. But, man, if I’d known how emotional this was going to be, I would have bought her…I don’t know, sea monkeys or something. Do they still sell sea monkeys? What even is a sea monkey?

Maybe I should have gotten the ants.

June was basically a wash in terms of story writing. We talked about what I did get done earlier, but in terms of writing writing, I wrote a grand total of 2.4K, 1000 of which was a prompt response, and 1.4K of which were on my changeling story at the very beginning of the month. I mean, it’s not the worst, but it is pretty bad for me, especially since the changeling story (did I tell you guys the working title? It’s Through the Forest Dark and Deep. I made icons and a banner and everything.) was going so well at the end of May.

I didn’t even get my two prompt responses for the month. I’ve been sitting on my Pinterest prompts for weeks, and I finally consolidated a plot to go with them a few days ago, but still haven’t written it. I gotta say, the Pinterest prompts are both an excellent and a terrible idea. Since I’m picking prompts purely on age (how long they’ve been on the board) and not how well they go together, some–all right, most–of the stories have been a challenge, and now I need to do two this month to catch up. But combining prompts that don’t go together has been interesting and challenging.

But, anyway, screw June. And it’s over. July may not be much better–a lot of the challenges that messed up June are still here, after all–but at least, for now, there’s potential, you know?

How are you faring, squider? Is it hot where you are? It is so hot here, augggh.

What Happened to June?

Other than giving everybody whiplash and churning out new things every three seconds.

I mean, we’re a week out from the end of the month, and I’m not even sure what I’ve done for the past few weeks.

Not writing, that’s for sure. I wrote a short prompt response on Sunday, and it was the first time I’d written in forever.

Well, there was the anthology. Since I book format professionally (and because I love it a lot), I’m always in charge of doing anthology formatting. I also coordinated the intros for each story, wrote the intro for the anthology (and the back cover copy/description), and made the cover.

So that’s not too shabby!

I also took on a paying client for a nonfiction book, and I’ve been participating in the Summer Marathon over at my speculative fiction forum. I’ve talked about the winter/summer marathon before, but it’s basically a 12-week intensive critique cycle, where people in the group give you feedback on your story and you give them feedback on theirs. This time through I’m doing my scifi horror that I finished earlier in the year (now tentatively titled Rings Among the Stars) and it’s going really well. And because it’s a novella, I’m actually going to make it through the whole story over the course of the marathon, which is amazingly valuable.

There’s eleven stories in the marathon, though, so it takes some time to get through everybody else’s. You don’t have to–you only have to do two–but everybody always does everybody, or tries to.

So. Hm. That’s probably where my time has been going.

Plus I did something called the Stay-at-Home Story Summit, which was a mixture of marketing and craft webinars. That…may not have been the best use of my time. And I went to a couple of panels at TorCon for industry research. Yes. We will call it that.

Oh! And I started listening to my podcasts again. (I haven’t been for about a year.) I was already wildly behind, and so I continue to be so. I did drop one, one of my fantasy stories, because I realized I didn’t actually care about it that much and slogging through six years of podcasts to catch up sounded unbearable.

This post is actually very cathartic. I’d been feeling so bad because I wasn’t writing (or reading, either), and now I can see that I’ve actually been fairly productive, all things considered.

How has your month gone, squiders? Getting everything done that you hoped to?

Stupid Middles

Well, squiders, if you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said my changeling story was going great! I figured out a potential title, writing was going good, I’d gotten my main characters into the same place. Things were lovely.

Today everything is awful.

It’s like when I was working on World’s Edge for Nano, actually. Now that I think about it, I had issues in the exact same spot then. The beginning is fine–there are things that need to happen to get the plot rolling, and then there are other things. And there are things that need to happen in the middle, and then things that need to happen at the end.

But that section between the beginning events and the midpoint is a sink hole.

In structural terms, I’ve heard this section of Act II referred to as the “reaction” phase. (Act II is often broken into two halves, one before the midpoint and one after.) Basically, the idea is that the main character is reacting to whatever the turning point between Acts I and II, and that goes on to the midpoint, when things pivot in some manner, and then in the second half the character makes a decision and starts to act on it.

It’s an easy place to get lost, unfortunately.

I don’t necessarily remember having middle issues in general, but it’s been a while since I’ve written a full novel draft from scratch and maybe I always have. Or maybe, because my pacing and structure used to have issues, I had different issues. Who knows? Besides, each book is different, and there are different problems each time.

But, anyway, my Act II Part 1 section has 20,000 words assigned to it, and I’m 10K in, and I’m a little lost. Each scene needs to progress the plot and the character arcs, so I can’t throw in a lot of random stuff, but I’m not quite sure what to do instead.

The good news is that, hooray, revision is a thing. And I know from experience that it is easier to tweak arcs and make sure theme and tone are consistent if the story is already written and you generally know where you’re going.

So I just need to get through this, and it can all be fixed later.

So that’s where I am. Aside from today being like pulling teeth, I’m on track and making fairly good progress, and I should be done with the draft by the end of July.

How are your projects going?

2020 is Lasting Forever and Yet…

…and yet, nothing is getting done.

Well, not nothing. But I think it feels like nothing, for a lot of people, because of the distortion in how time is passing. Since it feels like a hugely long time period, it feels like we should have been able to do a bunch, but it’s all an illusion.

That being said, April went pretty well for me. I set a goal of 10,000 words on my changeling story for camp, which I managed (as well as my two prompt responses for the month, and several pages on my handwritten story).

Speaking on the handwritten story, I’m running into an issue I didn’t consider, which is that I’m having issues figuring out my pacing. As you know, pacing is not something that comes naturally to me, and I’ve started building my pacing into my outlining to help me not have to add it in during revision.

Now, I haven’t outlined the handwritten story that completely (I did major plot points and plot/character arcs), but even if I had, word count is hard to tell, so it’s a little hard to tell where I am in the great scheme of my story. That’s a little problematic, but it’s probably not the end of the world if I just let the story go and fix it later. I have experience with that, at least.

The changeling story is going pretty well, actually! This is my third start on the story (the previous two starts add up to about 6K total) and I’m about 12K right now out of what I think will be about 75K in the end. I haven’t actually re-outlined or changed anything (except character names keep changing between drafts–the MC’s name has changed each iteration, and the love interest and sister have both also gone through a name change) but I did add in another point of view. We’ll see how that goes in the long run–I’d originally planned on setting it up like a romance (so female main character and male main character points of view) but my inclination is that this will work better for the story overall.

Well, we’ll see.

It feels weird not to be working on the nonfiction books after working on them for so long, but also nice to be done with the project. And there’s the SkillShare classes too, so it’s not like I’m abandoning the idea completely.

My goals for May are to write 20K on the changeling story, another 5 pages on the handwritten story, and do my two monthly prompt responses. I’ve also picked another drawing class to take and will be doing a story arc class as part of my year of education.

May kind of feels like it’s going to go the way March did–taking a million years because everything changes from day to day–but I guess we’ll have to see.

How are you doing, squiders? Any major plans for the month?

Cycles of Creativity

I realized last week that at some point in the recent past I’d entered a new phase of my creative life.

Also, I realized that I had phases. So that was a thing.

I’ve been writing for most of my life. I started where most people do, making derivative stories off of other stories. Mine all had pictures when I was younger, because I wanted to be an artist. My mother wrote stories when I was little, so I’d watch her type and then go off and type as well.

So. Cycles. I think I’m in my third cycle on my writing.

The first started about 2004 and probably lasted until 2009. I finished my first complete novel draft in 2004/2005, and over the next several years I wrote several more. I experimented. I joined writers’ groups and made writing friends.

This was a cycle of learning and creation. At the very end of it, I started publishing (I had a short story published in an anthology in 2007, and the first edition of Hidden Worlds came out at the end of 2009), but in general I was just creating.

So then the second cycle goes from about 2010 to late 2018. In that cycle, I was focused on craft. I started writing and submitting short fiction (something I almost never wrote during that first cycle, because for a long time I didn’t think I was capable of it, and also didn’t see the point of short stories when I was writing novels).

(You can actually see my mindset on that change, since I started the blog in 2010.)

I focused on editing those novels I wrote during the first cycle. I went to some writers’ conferences, studied marketing and publication, tried my hand at getting an agent a few times. This was a cycle of…mastery, maybe. A focus on craft, and process, and all the logical stuff that goes into writing as a career.

I did not do a lot of novel writing during that time period. Oh, I rewrote earlier novels, sure, but with purpose. I think I only did two in that entire time period (one being City of Hope and Ruin, and the other being my space dinosaur adventure).

I learned a ton in that second cycle. And I felt like I was doing what I had to, to be successful as a writer. And maybe I did need to do all that. Time will tell.

That brings us to now, to the third cycle. Last year, I started to get the itch to write new things, instead of constantly revising and polishing things I’d written during that first cycle. To do the creative side rather than the business side.

I mean, I do think you need both sides. But now that I’m out the other side of that second cycle, I wonder if I couldn’t have broke it up a little better.

So what does this third cycle look like? It’s probably too early to tell.

But it has reminded me of something. And that something is…creativity is occasionally nebulous and hard to tame.

If you’ve got a deadline, or a theme to follow, then, yeah, sure, you can probably write a story that works. But if you’re left to your own devices, where you can write anything or everything…

Writers are like crows. We like shiny things. We are easily distracted by shiny things.

I think, in my head, I was remembering that first cycle as being fairly linear. I started a novel, I finished a draft of that novel. Then I started the next one, and so forth.

But I bet you if I go back through my saved files from that time period, I’d find half a dozen other novels that I started and never got anywhere on. Stories that I laid out but did not write. Forgotten missteps and lost scenes, even from stories that did eventually get finished.

You see, I was feeling a little frustrated with myself because I’ve started a bunch of stories in the last year that I’ve not really gotten anywhere with.

Yes, I finished my scifi horror novella (and my beta said it gave her nightmares! bwhahahaha), but it still was 30K over six months, which isn’t terribly impressive. And the CoHaR sequel isn’t solely my responsibility, which makes it hard to make headway on by myself.

But even ruling that out, I’m on my third start for my changeling story (though I’m at 6K, so the current start has done better than the other two attempts). And there’s the Luddite story, and World’s Edge is still sitting at 55K…

But then I realized…this is how these creative cycles go. Some things work. Others don’t. Some of those might work later, in different circumstances. The trick is not to get too hung up on it and to make sure you are creating, even if it’s 20K here and there. Things will get done. And some things aren’t worth doing.

Now, 2020 is the year of education, so I’m not worrying too much about it, but maybe moving forward I can do a better job of mixing the creative and left-brained cycles a little more. Write something, then revise something. Learn something, then put it into direct use.

Plus, you know, the world has problems, and I should probably be glad that I’m producing anything at all.

How are you doing, squiders?

I Have Made a Decision

Good news, squiders, I have made a decision about which story to use for the Luddite challenge.

(Also, How to Submit and Publish is now live! Hooray! Success! And I finished the presentations for my next SkillShare class, so I just need to record the videos.)

(I’m getting a ton of new students over at SkillShare. I assume it’s because everyone is bored and learning new things due to being stuck at home, but it’s cool all the same.)

Anyway! Last week we talked about the Luddite Challenge and how I’d picked out two potential stories, yet neither of them was working.

(The Luddite Challenge, as a refresher, is where you handwrite a story instead of using your normal technology.)

I poked both stories some more and even discussed them with a friend, but they still weren’t working. (One was planned out but I wasn’t feeling it, and the other had so many potential ways the story could go that I couldn’t pin down an actual story.)

So I gave up on both of them. Another time, I guess.

I poked around in my Google Drive, where I have several stories in various stages of planning, as well as lists of premises that could be stories if I poked at them, etc. And I found one!

So, way back in 2014, Turtleduck Press put out an anthology called Under Her Protection. The idea was to write fantasy stories where the girl saved the guy rather than vice versa. My story for the anthology, Drifting, is a fairy tale-esque story about a girl who goes through a portal, like many in her family before her, in an attempt to rescue a prince.

Under Her Protection cover

When the anthology was coming together, the editor asked me to expand the ending a bit–just a few sentences–but I ran into an issue. When I tried to expand, instead of getting a few sentences, I got a whole novel.

(Not, like, specifics. But sometimes an idea will blossom and I can see the general shape of it and how long it will take to form into said shape. A little annoying because they don’t generally come with enough information to start writing.)

So the ending stayed put, I wrote down some notes about a potential sequel novel, and then I went off on my merry way.

I’d honestly forgotten about it, though it is on my massive list of novel ideas that I glance at before each Nano (normally before choosing something completely different), but when I found it again, it clicked.

I re-read the original story, wrote down some notes and a very vague outline, and started writing.

So far so good. And it feels great to get back to a story I’d always meant to write.

Fingers crossed.

How are you doing? Anything coming together for you?

Luddite Challenge

Man, squiders. I was doing better. I remembered Tuesday! But then I forgot Thursday completely, so here we are.

Sometime soon, I will be able to remember what day of the week it is. I promise.

So, over at WriYe, they’ve got a year-long challenge going called the Luddite Challenge (luddite, n., 1. a person opposed to new technology or ways of working). In this case, the idea is that you write a story by hand rather than using whatever technology you normally use to write.

Much like writing books (this month’s is bird by bird, by Anne Lamott), I have been accumulating notebooks. I buy them because they are pretty, or have a nice saying on the front, or look like they’re from medieval times, and then I never use them because they have to be saved for something special, and then I end up using cheap old college-ruled notebooks for my writing stuff.

It’s ridiculous. I am aware it’s ridiculous. So I signed up for the Luddite Challenge at the beginning of the year, figuring I could use up one of my notebooks and it would be a good way to get some writing done while the small, mobile ones were home for the summer.

(Little did I know that they would be home two months early. Ha!)

Anyway, because the small, mobile ones ARE home, and because it is hard to get working time without over-utilizing screens (and also the laptop that I normally write on is on the fritz and needs to be reformatted), I’ve decided to start on the challenge a little early.

(Here’s the notebook I chose. It was a Christmas present from my mother-in-law some years ago. I think it’s out of Museum Replicas or someplace like that.)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_20200417_151817806.jpg

(I can’t ever remember which way the clasps go. Whoops.)

Now the question is: what story do I write in it?

I’d like it to be a new story. I’ve got two I’m pondering: a fantasy romance novella that I’ve outlined that was originally going to be a TDP serial (and may yet be–I ended up not writing it at the time because there were too many serials already in works by other people); and a premise I’ve been sitting on for probably fifteen years that goes by “Maze Story.”

The problem with the maze story is that it has a ton of potential, and hence a ton of directions it could go in. I’m not even sure what age range I should be aiming for.

Of course, I am by no means limited to just these two ideas. I’ve got a ton lined up, after all, and maybe it’ll be best to poke them all and see what gels into something with, you know, characters and plot.

Not really what I planned for the year, but, hey, interesting times call for us all to be flexible.

How are you, squiders?

Let’s Not Be Sad

Good Lord, squiders. I have sat here all day, trying to figure out what to blog about. My thoughts keep going back to what’s going on in the world, which is depressing and awful, and, to be honest, I don’t want to talk about that. Everyone is talking about that. It is everywhere and inescapable. I mean, it makes sense, because it’s affecting everyone, but me talking about it isn’t going to add anything to the conversation.

(Monday I made face masks out of my leftover fabric from the bookmarks I made people for Christmas. That was…surreal. Also the first mask was super easy and then the second and third masks kept jamming my sewing machine and I didn’t change anything so I don’t know why.)

And, I mean, it’s April Fools Day. Now, I’m not a huge AF fan anyway, but you know how many AF jokes I’ve seen today? None. Nada. Not a single one. The whole world said, “Nope, not this year.” I appreciate that. But it’s still kind of depressing.

So! Let’s focus on the positives, shall we?

March was a freaking roller coaster that lasted forever, but it wasn’t all bad. I did some really nice watercolors in my travel journal (though the travel watercolor set I have has some…interesting colors). I got to rib my sister about getting old (she’s two and half years younger than me, but as older sister I am required by law to tease when appropriate). It is well and truly spring now.

I also got some things accomplished. I finished the draft of the scifi horror story. (And found a title for it! Finally.) I finally got through my February writing book. I’ve got the final nonfiction book more or less ready to go. My Pinterest prompt spawned a whole novel idea…which, uh, I guess I’ll add it to my list? (I wrote creation myth for the prompt.) I wrote more than I did in February.

And April, even if we’re still in the midst of all this, well, it kind of feels like a new start. At least March is over, amirite? Plus, there’s Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I’m going to work on the changeling story I started as part of How to Think Sideways last year. I stopped cuz I lost interest in the story, but I’m hoping I can poke it into something usable.

I guess if I can’t, there’s always the story I came up from my Pinterest prompts? Or I could go back and finish the draft from Nano. Always options. Too many options.

How did March go for you, squiders? Plans for April?

How Goes the Education?

If you guys remember, my word for the year is education.

We’re three months in, now, so how’s it going?

Ha. Haha.

No, actually, it’s going decently. It may be the only thing making any real progress, thanks to the medical issues with my husband and other issues going on around these parts.

Except the programming. I have more or less given up on the programming. I don’t have time, it frustrates me, and the more I poke at it, the more I think that it’s not a good fit. (Which isn’t a huge surprise–it’s never really been my forte. In college, I’d write a program, it wouldn’t work, I’d borrow a classmate’s program, compare, and they would be identical, except theirs would work and mine wouldn’t.) I am good at adjusting programs–I can make changes in a test environment, or modify Fortran to do what’s necessary–but writing code from scratch sucks.

And to be honest, I don’t want to program so much as it feels like I should know how to program, if that makes sense. I need to take a closer look at the jobs I’m considering and see if that’s actually a necessary skill or not.

(Also, part of it is that programming classes are very open-ended. This skill here, this skill there, with no clear indication how some of it would be used in a practical manner. I’m quite good at picking up specifics for a particular task, but the open-endedness here is throwing me off.)

I may look more at other types of classes–software test, or UX/UI–later in the year, when/if things stabilize a bit.

The writing books…go. I was a little afraid this would happen when I set the goal of one of month. They’re hard to get through quickly, since I’m trying to focus and absorb. I’m still working on February’s. To off-set that, I’ve watched one of the tutorial videos I purchased from Writer’s Digest whenever they had that big sale. It was a good course, about the foundations of a good plot. It was short, so I’ve watched it twice to try and absorb the information as much as possible.

Not sure that worked, but eeeehhh.

The art classes are going great. I’ve really enjoyed the three classes I’ve done so far (art journaling, figure drawing, and I’m working on faces this month) though I don’t know if I’m actually getting any better. But practice makes perfect, right?

(I’m certainly accumulating art supplies, whoops.)

The prompts are going well too. It’s freeing, to write without trying to do anything with it (which is probably good, because I suspect none of them thus far are any good). I don’t think I actually explained the concept to you guys.

I’ve been accumulating pins on Pinterest for years: characters, scenery, prompts, etc. But I hardly ever do anything with them (especially these boards, since I tend to draw off my Inspiration board or my separate Writing Prompts board when looking for story ideas). So each month I’m taking the oldest pin from each board (character, scenery, prompt) and writing a short story on them. There have been some…odd combinations.

This month’s are:
Character: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331718328795863331/
Setting: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331718328796303296/
Prompt: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331718328795821985/

The cozy mystery idea isn’t going anywhere, since I’d like to finish up some drafts before I start new ones.

Those were my main areas of focus, so yay, I guess? Things are going, I’m enjoying myself mostly (except for programming), and there’s still plenty of year to go.

How are you doing on your goals?

Book Sales and Updates

Hey, squiders. I smashed my thumb in the car door on Sunday, and let me just say, that hurts a stupid amount. Like, it’s some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life, and it’s not even broken (though I suspect I may lose the fingernail in the coming weeks). What the heck, thumb.

At least I can touch things again, though, without it sending sharp waves of pain up my entire forearm. I mean, seriously.

But, anyway! On to more interesting things.

Smashwords is doing their Read an Ebook Week sale this week, so you can get Hidden Worlds or Shards for half off!

(Man, I still can’t believe HW is ten years old. Madness. Older than my actual small, mobile ones.)

The nonfiction books and workbooks continue apace. The sixth is currently up for pre-order and will be released next week.

I’m actually really excited to have this one coming out. It’s the first one I wrote (and so was not blogged and is completely new content) and the one that made me think about doing the series in the first place. It’s about working on more than one project at a time, and how to make sure you’re not wasting time and energy waffling about what to work on or wishing you were working on something else.

(And there’s a workbook that goes with it.)

As we get to the end of the Writers’ Motivation series (at least for now, and at least in book form–I’m working on my next SkillShare class at the moment, about how to set goals and stick to them), it is interesting to look back on the exercise. It’s a project I started on a whim because I took a webinar back in 2015, and it’s cool to finally see it out in the world. There’s one more book (about submission and publication) for now, and then we’re done!

(Here are the books again:

…and the workbooks:

It’s a lot of books, all the way around. Always neat to get to the end of a project.

What have you been up to, squiders?