Celebrate Good Times

Important Note:  This is the final week of school for me and then Final Exam Week occurs Friday through Thursday of the following week.  I have a final paper and final exam (and to be honest, I’m behind on other school work as well), so the blog entries may be a bit erratic for the next two weeks.  I’ll try to be consistent, but I may not always upload a daily entry during these two weeks.

Celebrating Student Writing

I missed Friday’s blog entry because I attended an event at my school, MTSU called the Celebration of Student Writing (CSW).  This is the second year that it was held and it is a really neat event for student writers.  Imagine a Science Fair, but instead of science projects, the students talk about the writing projects that they’ve been working on in class.  While some students used technology (one presentation that I listened to was a Podcast)for the most part, it is a decidedly old school affair with tri-fold poster-boards and images to help illustrate the topic.

I’m including a link to a video that Dr. Detweiler of MTSU and his students helped to create last year about the CSW.  Fun fact: I’m actually in the video (unknown to me before I saw it–see if you can find me)

Student Writing

This event is important in that it gives students a chance to talk about their writing in an authentic writing environment.  Too often, papers are just that: “papers” written only to be turned in or read by professors/teachers.  Events like this gives students a chance to interact with an audience to be able to engage and explain their writing work and choices.

Not to go too political here, but this is where politicians err when it comes to funding of higher education and education initiatives.  They complain that higher education is too liberal (or conservative, or whatever is popular to “hate” on in the moment), and complain about the quality of students’ reading/writing/learning (the whole “Why Johnny can’t read” motif), but when events such as the CSW are planned and initiated, they neither show up, nor provide funding, nor talk about them as successes to counteract the stigma that they themselves have created.

This event was dreamed, planned, and executed by a core group of English professors, graduate students, and of course, the writers of the future–student writers.

Have a great day!

Sidney



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Being a More Prolific and Professional Writer

So, this will be a shorter post today, but I wanted to riff on something that I read today.  I found a writing prompt that I would like to use with my students–Simile But Different.  There is an extra box in the Pdf version that talks about being a better writer and not comparing yourself/competing with other writers and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Being more Prolific

The advice that the article mentions is that if you want to be more prolific, you need to set aside more time for writing.  This is the change that I’ve been making for the past few weeks and this has helped immensely.  I tend to wake up early on most days, so I try to get up and just draft.  Sometimes that means working on the blog and sometimes it means working on my fiction.  I really need to find a way to shorten the time it takes to write the blog so that I can get both blog and fiction done at the same time.  I have a tendency to either 1) write long or 2) spend too much time trying to get everything just right that it also takes more time to write and I end up either giving my fiction not enough time or not working on the fiction at all.  I still have a lot of downtime where I’m waiting in lines at the store or something similar where I could whip out my phone and pop a couple of sentences/paragraphs out, so I still have some work to do.

Being more Professional

The second piece of advice that I really liked in the piece is that is argues that if you want to be more professional, you should makes sure your work is edited and revised before you send it out.  I’m going to have to work on this myself.  Here Be Monsters has had 25 submissions so far without a sale, so I decided that I should probably relook at it and I found so many issues that I could have sworn that I fixed in the original editing pass.  Since it had so many problems, I also decided to do what Rhonda Parrish had me do with Faerie Knight which was to cut essentially 1/3rd of the story.  Rhonda Parrish also had me look at the ending and essentially end it without any falling action–just climax, and one sentence of understanding/epiphany and then end the story.  While I wasn’t able to quite get there for HBM, I did rework the ending to make Rafe (the main character) more appealing than he was originally (one market didn’t like HBM because they didn’t think he was a very sympathetic/appealing character and this change was to alleviate this problem).

Anyway, that’s all for today.  Have a good one!

Sidney



 

One Down, Two To Go

Citizen X
So, the disadvantage to being able to check your email on your phone means that you are never “disconnected.”  During a bit of downtime during the Super Bowl on this past Sunday, I happened to check my phone and saw that I had an email from the market where Citizen X was on the short list.  I also noticed just by the first sentence that it was a Rejection Notice (You can always tell a Rejection Notice by the way it starts–that “formality” that we all shift into whenever we have to tell another person bad news).  It didn’t put a damper on the game/commercials/fun of the evening, but it was distracting.  Something that I wished that I could have seen on Monday morning, rather than on Sunday evening.  Ah, well, that’s life.  At least, it was short-listed.

Silence Will Fall
I should probably here of SWF’s fate shortly.  The email mentioned early February is when the market whose short-list SWF is on would make a decision.  HawkeMoon was on the short-list at this market as well, but it didn’t make it, but who knows if SWF will make it or not.  I like Silence Will Fall quite a bit, but then I liked HawkeMoon as well, so its always a bit of a “crapshoot.”  There’s a movie coming out soonish that seems to have the same take on SWF (i.e., if you make noise, bad things will happen, but it looks to be a “zombie” movie, rather than a science fiction one).  I hope that the movie doesn’t render my story as an “also-ran” because mine was conceived first and deals with a science fiction concept, but the key idea of “sound” is in both which may be detrimental to my being able to market it in the future (i.e., we’ve seen that concept already in such-and-such movie).

Here Be Monsters
While this one isn’t on a short-list, it is still out for consideration at a market with an upcoming anthology.  Don’t know if the editor is going to choose this story or not.  He’s accepted one story and rejected two others, so far I believe (going by what has been reported via authors who track their stories on Duotrope.  However, my story is one of at least 17 submissions (again, based on Duotrope’s tracking) still awaiting a decision.  Nothing to do here except be patient and see what happens.

Upcoming
Rather than just resting on my laurels, I am actively working on trying to finish the rough draft of Project Skies (the short story with Skye to discover her character)–I am currently drafting section 3 of 3, revising All Tomorrow’s Children to start submitting (I’m currently revising section 2 of 3), researching my next story, Project OPaK.  I had to go all the way back to June of last year to discover the name that I’d given this project.  I also noticed that I really like to introduce Projects, but I’m much slower at finishing them (a blog post for another time).  I have photocopied research for this project and I will transition into Project OPaK as soon as I finish Project Skies.

Two stories Shortlisted–“Citizen X” and “Silence Will Fall”

I just wanted to let everyone know that I currently have two short stories on the “Short List” at two different publishers.  I should learn of their fate later this month.

Citizen X
Citizen X was a bit of a surprise.  I wrote it around the time of Here Be Monsters, but much like HBM it wasn’t highly regarded as I submitted it.  The ending was also something that seemed a bit controversial, so I pulled it from, intending to rewrite it.  However, I began to feel that I was too harsh towards the story and began submitting it again.  I was fairly surprised that it made it to the “short list” round for a publication–I mean, I wrote it, so of course I liked it, but I didn’t publishers would.  Here’s keeping my fingers crossed for it.  Even if it doesn’t make it for publication, I have to count it as a small victory that it made it to the “short list.”

Silence Will Fall
Silence Will Fall is a story that I’ve chronicled many times on the blog–it even has its own Author’s Note where I talk about the genesis and writing of the story.  It also is a triumph of the MTSU Writing Center, as my Consultant graciously helped with a revision of the piece to make sure that the ending that I “re-wrote” made sense and matched the rest of the tone of the piece.  While I have no control of the process anymore–it is strictly in the editors’ hands–I’d love for this one to get published, if only to give my Writing Center Consultant praise for a job well done!

The Short List
In case there are any who may not know what a “Short List” is: it simply means that the story has passed the first round of initial rejections.  The editors will then make a decision for the stories included in their publication from these stories.  Essentially, stories from this “short list” will make it in.  Making it to the short list is similar to making it to a 2nd interview to get a job, or getting nominated in a category for a prestigious award, like the Oscars.  There’s no guarantee of getting the job, or winning the award, but your chances are better–you haven’t been rejected altogether.  That’s the way it works in publishing as well.  No guarantees–they both could come back with a rejection, but at least those two stories haven’t been rejected outright.

Have a good weekend!
Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

 

Taking Advantage of “Free” Time

So, I was very tempted to  to call this blog post Snow Day #2 or *2 or something similar as my school is closed for the second straight day), but decided against it at the last moment.  I wanted to give an idea of how much one can get done with a little “free” time.  Here’s a little of what I worked on yesterday:

2018: Year of Ship of Shadows
So I am devoting the whole of 2018 to “preproduction” and drafting of various projects related to my story “Ship of Shadows” (which is available on Amazon.com in the anthology Visions IV: Space Between Stars).  I am going to “remix” it in as many ways possible this year and I wrote several outlines of how the character of Tana and her story might inhabit/play-out in different media or forms.  It is super early in the year, but as the projects progress, I will definitely keep readers of the blog informed.

Writing Reorganization
I also began a reorganization for my writing files that will hopefully make me more productive.  I’ve organized my writing into three distinct areas: planning (“preproduction” – to steal a movie term), drafting (“production”), and revising/editing (“postproduction”).  I have various projects in various stages of completion–drafts that are completely written that just need editing, drafts that need various elements revised, projects that need characterization or characters that need plots, etc.  I’m “stealing” the movie industry’s terms of “preproduction,” “production,” and “postproduction” in order to finish projects in a more organized and orderly fashion.  I’ve wanted to make this change for a while now–since early Spring of 2017 and the Snow Day allowed me to get it done.

Dreaming up New Projects/Characters
Much of the fun of writing comes from the act of creating something new.  Thanks to the Snow Day, I was able to come up with “tentative” ideas for two or three new projects and story ideas and characters.  These are in the embryonic stages, but hopefully if my school work will allow, I can more fully plan these projects out in the summer and write them later this year.

I have no idea if I’ll be nearly this prolific on this second Snow Day, but I will most certainly give it a try!  🙂

Sidney
Read Skin Deep for Free at Aurora Wolf
Read Childe Roland for Free at Electric Spec

“Don’t Be a ‘Writer.’ Be Writing”

This quote from William Faulkner is as close to a New Year’s Resolution as I will allow myself for this year.  I’ve tried too hard to be a “writer.”  I need to just write.  I need to plan what I want to write (for me that generally means character sketches and plot outlines, along with world building) and I need to revise what I write (getting it in good enough shape to submit and making adjustments as necessary).  But most importantly I need to just write (to draft project after project regardless of whether I’m selling the projects or not).

Planning to Write
I’m working on planning at least one project to write every month.  If I finish planning a project early, then I will pull out another project and plan it, but every month I plan to have at least one project done (so I should have 12 new projects ready by the end of 2018).  This is both attainable (hopefully given school work) and measurable (I report back at the end of the year to see how closely I matched this goal).  I created a Planning Checklist in Numbers (Apple’s answer to Excel) to track the days that I can actually work on planning and on the days I do, I simply place a checkmark beside it to give visual feedback on how well I’m doing.  Thanks to my illness, I only got to work on planning 2 days last week.

Writing
This is where the rubber meets the road.  This where I actually sit down and draft out a story, trying to adhere to all the story conventions (Character, plot, dialogue, setting, beginning, middle, end, exposition, rising action, climax, resolution, etc.).  I intend to create a checklist for this process as well to help give me visual feedback on how well I’m doing.  Thanks to my illness last week, I didn’t get any drafting done last week, although I did draft 5 days consecutively the week before Christmas.  The same thing applies: every month I’m drafting 1 project, so that at the end of the year I should have at least 12 projects written.  I want to be a little “harder” on myself on this step as it is doable.  Just pull the internet connection on the laptop and write until the battery drains (which in the case of my late 2008 Macbook Pro is only about 45-50 minutes), so this is where Faulkner’s quote comes in: don’t be a ‘writer’ Be writing.  This is where I really want to show growth/improvement in the coming year–(again, based on schoolwork).

Revision
While I understand the market isn’t perfect and I’m not the flavor of the month, I still want to publish my work.  To that end, like the other two steps, I want to try to revise at least 1 project every month and put it out on the market.  I plan to follow the same “mold” as the other two steps in creating a checklist to help give me visual feedback on the days I worked on the project.  I worked 1 day on HawkeMoon last week due to the illness.  I want to submit it to an anthology that has a deadline of Feb. 1st, 2018.  I intend to enlist aid from either another grad. student or the Writing Center to help get the story where I want it for this market.  I intend to write an Author’s Note for it as well as to write a more in-depth Revision Note section on what I want to revise and why and try to solicit feedback on how to achieve this goal.  As I type these words, I just got an email from a market that Silence Will Fall made it to the second stage (the “maybes” pile) at a market–so there’s hope still that some markets do, in fact, like what I write.

Well, that’s all for now–while I might not touch on this monthly (although I might give periodic updates, I’m not sure yet), I will try to revisit this in an end-of-year post to see how well I’ve done.  All of this is dependent on school/classwork which is the great unknown in this endeavor, but hopefully I can find 45 minutes somewhere in my day to not be a writer, but to be writing.

Sidney



Back to Basics Writing Approach

Sorry that I’ve been away from blogging for a while, but between grading, students’ presentations, my own Final Exams and related schoolwork, I’ve been too overworked to get much in the way of writing (for this blog or for myself) done.  However, I realize after getting a particularly “hard” rejection letter that I’m probably never going to be much more than a “hobby” writer despite my best efforts.  I like different things than what editors and audiences want apparently (as seemingly confirmed by the Rejection Letter that found its way into my inbox not more than 5 minutes ago).  What I like are heroes and what’s popular are villains who masquerade as heroes, so with two different competing philosophies, the one who controls the “gate” (aka the “gatekeepers”) win.  So be it.  Since it looks like I’m not going to be doing this for the “money” and only for the “love,” I intend to do this my way.  Rereading a book on writing and the writing process as I brainstormed how I would set up my next class, I came across a simple statement of the writing process that I’m going to adhere to: research, prewriting, drafting, and revision.

Research
Most of the time, I’m inspired to write something based on something external, so I do research, but I don’t really make it a formal step.  For instance, All Tomorrow’s Children was inspired by a Special Report on Sky News about Jihadi Brides.  However, rather than have a formal “research” period, I took the idea and started writing.  I think now I’m going to actually take a period of time (a week, two, whatever is necessary) and find out all I can about that topic.

Prewriting
I generally start here with an outline.  I think the outline comes too soon.  I think here is where I need character traits, motivations, etc.  Once I nail this down, then I think my outline will work better.  There’s nothing wrong so much with my plots (to me), but I think my characters leave a lot to be desired.  I feel that the characterizations are consistent and adequately explained, but the rejections notices would say otherwise.

Drafting
Here I think I’m pretty good, although I’ll look for places to get better.  I can write a rough draft in a day or two usually, and (when school isn’t too rough), I can write a submission draft in a couple of weeks to a month.  Drafting isn’t really a problem, except when life comes pounding at my door, demanding that I do X, Y, and Z all in one day or the entire world will explode–that’s when I don’t do drafting well (as this past Finals Week has illustrated).

Revision
Again, I feel I’m pretty good here too, although I feel that I have work to do.  I usually only revise or change when I feel it is necessary, but I’m trying to be more receptive to feedback that I get back from editors.  There’s a danger in listening to someone who’s rejecting your story as they don’t have a vested interest in seeing it succeed (as opposed to someone who offers to publish it if it is revised.  However, I’m trying to submit to markets who seem to give good feedback (say, Cosmic Landscapes) as opposed to markets whose comments have been “nitpicky.”  I think this is where going to the Writing Center and running it by a Consultant that I trust is also helpful–it helps me see it with an objective eye, something I can’t do no matter how much time passes between my writing it and my revising it.