Hope I’m not Overdoing It

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Image Source: Pinterst (Calvin and Hobbes, Created by Bill Watterson)

Every since I was a lowly undergraduate, cruising the English Department offices at U.T. Knoxville (& later U.T. Chattanooga) and seeing all those wonderful English related comics strips taped to professors doors, I’ve thought to myself that I’ve always wanted to something like that “when I grew up.”

I’ve never been one for customizing my “workspace” as the colleagues who I worked with at the public library can attest and I’m rarely at my workspace to begin with if I can help it.  However, you could always find one or two comic strips (like the one I found above by Bill Watterson) adorning my workspace in some capacity–either on the desk itself or in a drawer or stuck unobtrusively to a wall.

Now that I’ve completed a year at MTSU, I’ve begun to do the same with the small cabinet  that I was assigned in the Graduate Teaching Assistants office.  However, for some reason, I also find that I want to add copies of the first pages of my published work.  I hope I’m not trying to “show off” or “impress” the other G.T.A.s (nothing good comes of me trying to show off–I’ve learned that  through HARD experience).

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Image Source: Greensoul

Yet, I feel the need to customize my space, and to say, “hey, I’m a creative writer and this is what I do.” Perhaps, it is because at this level, creative writing is somewhat frowned upon.  There’s this idea that you’re not a true academic, that you’re not truly one of us, if you’re not writing papers for conferences, for (academic) publication, and for scholarly pursuits.  Perhaps, customizing my workspace is my need to say, “no, my creative writing is just as hard and matters just as much as your academic writing, maybe more so, because I’m doing both . . . your academic writing and my creative writing.”  I just hope that I’m not overdoing it and setting myself up for a fall.  It would be awesome to be able to put clips from both cartoon strips and my own published writing on my very own office door one day.

Keeping it Simple

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Image Source: iTunes (Apple.com)

When I write rough drafts for my stories, I’ve discovered that almost anything will work for me–notebook paper, notepads, scraps of paper that are around, the computer, the Notes App on my phone–pretty much anything that will allow me to get the idea into a fixed form.

However, once I’m ready to start drafting the “Working Draft,” I try whenever possible (for fiction) to move to SimpleNote.  I like SimpleNote because it is free (at least it was for me when I signed up at simplenote.com), but even more than that, I like it and use it because it allows me to quickly and easily sync between all my devices and as well as wherever I may be.  It has a website that you can use and log into, or an app that you can download.  I personally use the website on my laptop and the app on my phone and tablet.

For instance, I started Project OPaK on my phone at Walgreens Pharmacy while waiting on a prescription to be filled.  I hadn’t intended on waiting for the prescription, but since the pharmacist said that it wouldn’t take that long, I waited and in that time, I was able to write 3 basic paragraphs on my phone.  I can now log into my SimpleNote account on my computer and expand those paragraphs more.  Also, if I want to, as long as I log into my account and bring up the story beforehand, I disconnect from the internet while I’m writing to give myself a distraction free writing session and then when I reconnect to the internet, I only need to hit the little “save” button on the screen and my changes are uploaded to the server.

For me, SimpleNote gives me the flexibility to work on the working draft of the story pretty much anywhere even if the conditions aren’t ideal.  If I were ever to have enough time when school starts (which is doubtful) and I wanted to work on my story, I could log into my account on the school’s library computers or the writing center ones and use them to work on Project OPaK or any other story that I’m writing (so at least I know the capability is there should there be any downtime).  Now, before this starts to sound like an ad, there are many other apps that do the same thing/similar things (EverNote and OneNote are two that come to mind immediately), but in my quest to work “smarter, not harder,” I’ve found that SimpleNote helps to increase my productivity by allowing me to access my stories everywhere I go and it helps my writing process because I know that I always have access to the most current version of my story available for editing on SimpleNote’s servers.

The Writing Life: An Update

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Image Source: Really Deep Stuff

Before I start this blog entry, I’d like to say thanks to the bloggers who read (& liked) yesterday’s post).  It was really gratifying see that people really responded to it so much!

And now, on with today’s blog.  So, after last semester, I managed to have four stories out to markets that I was proud of and didn’t think needed major work (in terms of revision).    In other words, I had them in a state where I thought they were strong stories and marketable to markets that deal in Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I’ve got some news on them, so I thought I update you how where they stand currently.

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Image Source: Haiku Deck

HAWKEMOON: Just heard from this market today.  It is currently on the “maybe” list.  If it holds up well against the other stories that come in during the reading period, then it has a chance to be published.  This is actually very good news.  It’s sort of like going to a job with two Interview components and passing the first Interview.  If HawkeMoon passes the second “interview,” then it gets the” job” (to extend the metaphor).  It is also a lesson in persistence; this is the 10th story that I’ve submitted to them (they’ve actually seen my entire catalog except for Silence Will Fall & Citizen X), but this is the first time that I’ve gotten onto the “maybe” list!  Wahoo for small victories!  (I won’t name the market until they actually accept the piece, but fingers crossed that the “maybe” turns into a “yes!”)

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Image Source: Seriable.com

SILENCE WILL FALL: On this one, I actually wanted to revise it and did so last semester with the help of the MTSU Writing Center (where I also worked as a Consultant, in addition to teaching a Freshman English Class).  I knew that I wanted the ending to more closely match the ending of the dream that had originally inspired to the story, so I rewrote it and made sure (via the Writing Center) that it made sense and have started to submit it again.  It received a rejection letter (again just this morning), but I’m happy with the way the story ends, so I will continue to send it out until I find a market that likes it (see above about persistence).   Will be sending it to a new market this weekend.

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Image Source: Pinterest

I, MAGI: So this one went out to the market in January and I still haven’t heard about its fate.  According to Duotrope, it has been out for about 150 days.  The market is still replying to submissions, but I’m probably going to have to request an update for the story over the weekend.  Now, I’m patient (I’ve waited over 9 months for a response for one market before), but they do say to query if they’ve taken over 45 days to respond and  I would like to send I, Magi back out if they aren’t going to use it.  If they don’t respond, I’ll probably give them another 30 days and then move onto the next market.

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Image Source: Pinterest

HERE BE MONSTERS: The market for this one unexpectedly went on hiatus this week with my story still under consideration.  I’m usually pretty good about sensing a market’s imminent change in status (this is actually only the 2nd time this has happened to me in over a 132 total submissions tracked by Duotrope).  However, this one caught me off-guard.  There was nothing to indicate there was anything out of the ordinary happening, until I checked the listing on Duotrope and saw that the website was no longer functioning.  Alarm bells began ringing at that point and I hoped that it was just a temporary hiccup, but no, it looks like the market just didn’t have the resources to continue.  So, I’ll pick a new market and resubmit this story over the weekend.

So there you have it–a (mostly) complete update on the status of the four stories that I currently have out at the moment.  Lesson to take away = persistence, persistence, and more persistence.

Breakfast and a Blog

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Image Source: Hostelling International Blog

Long time readers of the blog may have noticed that I have blogged six days out of the week (Monday-Saturday) for the past two weeks.  This is highly unusual for me and you might be wondering why I made this change.  Well, to be succinct, I’ve been wanting to change my writing habits for a while.  I’ve wanted to follow the advice of one my professors who suggested that life as a PhD student would be much easier if you found a regular time to write that works you and you stuck to it.

Now, I have a lot of dedication, but I tend to be more mercenary with my time as an adult than as a child.  As a child, I read every night from 10:00pm to 11:00 pm (my curfew) without fail.  Even as an adult, I read regularly on my 30 min. breaks at the Public Library (17 years of regular reading).

Yet, as an adult I’ve written (creatively) on my lunch hour when I worked at Eastgate Public Library (the air conditioning was too cold, so I’d sit out in the car) and that’s how I wrote, revised, and published my first article.  I’ve written short-stories at 7:00 pm (right after dinner), 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 2:00-4:00 pm, 5:00 pm (right before dinner), etc.  My point is, unlike my reading habits, my writing habits have been much more scattered.

I’ve attempting to follow the advice by regularly writing this blog as I eat breakfast.  This gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and put them down on (digital) paper before the day starts for me–no matter how hectic the day is.  I’m finding that by doing this, I’ve been much more creative and I’m enjoying the writing process even more.  I also try to keep the blog entries much shorter and tighter, and I try not to write more than 30 minutes (I’m actually at 35 mins. right now) in order to not to be too long-winded.  Here’s hoping that I can keep up this routine as I really enjoy the effect that it is having on both my enjoyment of writing and the production of entries on this blog–and here’s hoping that I can find a way to transfer this technique to my creative writing.

I don’t know if you read the blog, but thanks for the advice, Dr. R!  It has been really, really helpful!

Summer Inspiration & Writing Projects

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Now that E3 is over, I find myself turning my attention back to my creative writing.  I found that I’ve been very inspired to create new projects over the last few weeks and I’ve been brainstorming several.  On Friday afternoon, I actually just took a moment and sat at the kitchen table and wrote the “rough draft” of a new short-story (fantasy) that I want to write.  I wrote it from the outline I’d written earlier in the year and the drafting process was super easy as well as very rewarding creatively.

Now comes the much more difficult part, drafting a “Working Draft,” which is my terminology for the draft that “shows, don’t tell.”  The Working Draft forms the basis of the story that people will be reading.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun to write it, but the as many creative people will tell, the true joy is in the initial creation of the work.  The rough draft was pure creativity, but the Working Draft is about evolution and refinement.  Often, the success of the project hinges on how well I can translate the passion of the rough draft into the refinement of the Working Draft.  This is where characterization, sensory details, imagery, dialogue, setting, etc., all get “set” into place.

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Image Source: RenaissanceClothingCostumes.com

Project OPaK

So this is my new naming convention for stories that I’m working on.  In most cases, I already know what the title is.  Project OPaK is just the first letters of the title.  I’ve divided the story into three parts (Beginning, Middle, and End) and I will update you when I’ve finished each of the main parts, with a beginning update letting you know when I’ve actually started writing the project.  At the end, when I’ve finished Project OPaK, I will continue to do an Author’s Note and give a detailed breakdown of the genesis of the work (how it came into being, what my writing process was for it, etc.).  If it gets published in a hardcopy form, I will also try to remember to take pictures of the work and post those pics on the blog (like I did for The Last GunKnight, but forgot to do for other projects). The above picture, while not representative of the actual characters in the story, gives a good idea of the time period and themes that I’m aiming for within Project OPaK.

Here’s to a successful writing project–and a successful summer of developing many more!

 

 

Working Smarter, Not Harder

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Source: Lifehack.org

 

WORK-LIFE BALANCE

As I work to perfect my “Work-Life” Balance, I have found that I haven’t been utilizing my time and resources as effectively as I could and this blog entry details some of the ways in which I have developed to address this imbalance.  In 2015, I wrote a lot, but did not maximize the submissions part of my writing.  In 2016, I wrote a little, but I really focused on the submissions aspect, and did not really focus as much on my writing.  This year, I’ve tried to focus on both, but the amount of schoolwork has limited my ability to really write creatively, as you can see through the lack of blog entries that I have posted this year.  So, I had fallen back to prioritizing submissions as a way to still feel connected with the creative writing part of my life.

STEPPING STONES

However, after recently dusting off an older story that was already published and sending it to a market that accepts reprints, I realized that I already have a cache of material, that with a little reworking, that I can use as “stepping stones” to create longer, and more lucrative works.  Ship of Shadows (SoS) is a story that I created, submitted and was published in Visions IV: Space Between Stars.  I have detailed its genesis in this blog entry.  I am really proud of this story, but rather than try to reprint it in other Visions IVanthologies/markets (although I totally could as the rights have reverted back to me), I wondered if there was a way to “expand” upon it in some way, and to make it longer and more in-depth.  In other words, was there a way that I could revise (“re-vision”) the story and take the same “kernel” of the story, but “re-see” it in a new, longer form work?  I then began to brainstorm what that would look like.  First, I would need to know what longer form work is it that I’m envisioning.  The options that I would be interested in working on at the moment are graphic novels, screenplays, and novels.  In my mind, the next logical stepping stone up from a short story is the graphic novel–it is short enough to be read in one sitting (in many cases), but tells a more elaborate story.  I already know that the characters, setting, and plot are strong because it was published (& something an editor paid to publish), so why not work smarter and try to “build” upon a structure that I already know has the potential for success?  So I am currently working on outlining the graphic novel version of SoS.  I am hopeful that I will be able to write a strong rough draft from my outline during my Summer Break.  I will, of course, be detailing its construction in this blog.

MAXIMIZING FREE TIME

Okay, look, I’m a PhD student.  My days are jam-packed with reading, teaching, reading, working, reading, writing (academic), reading, grading, reading, reading, reading . . . you get the picture.  Heck, even as I type these very words, I have a 5-7 page paper to complete and an annotated bibliography to start, so my time is precious to me.  This, unfortunately, means that creative writing has gotten the short shrift during the past two semesters.  I realize, however, that I have a lot of time (free) built into my days that I’m not utilizing in a very productive way.  On those days where I’m “free” (i.e., no classes, I should take an hour as I’m eating to simply write on the current draft that I’m working on).  On the days I have to “work” (i.e., days where I have classes or academic commitments, I should simply outline/rough draft future works).  That way, I’m always working on something current and will be ready for those extended “Breaks” (Summer & Winter) when I can devote my full time and resources to the things that I’ve outlined or rough drafted.  On weekends, my time should be used for preparing submissions.  If I can somehow achieve and maintain this balance, I think my writing production and my satisfaction with the writing process will improve immensely.

Well, that’s all I have time for this week.  I’ve got assignments to write, papers to grade, and books to read, so I’ll sign off.  Here’s hoping you have a successful week, and with luck, hopefully I’ll have a successful writing week as well.

Did You Miss Me?

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I have been “gone” for a while and I’ve let my blog (in addition to many of my writing projects) languish over the course of these last few months.  This has been partially my fault as I have felt too tired, discouraged, or overworked at various times and in varying degrees during these past two semesters to give the blog (or my creative writing) anything close to the time required to keep pushing through as I did when I was a teacher.

However, one of my professors was instrumental in reigniting the fire of my desire to write creatively at a high level.  On the first day of class, she showed a short YouTube video about Neil Gaiman’s writing process that really inspired me and made me start to want to try to write again.  I’m including the link below (although according to WordPress’s analytics, no one ever clicks on the links to the videos that I include, but I’ll include it in the off-chance it will inspire someone as it inspired me.)

YouTube video: Neil Gaiman

I have started watching Babylon 5 (the first season–yes, I know it’s old, but it was on sale on iTunes and I never did get to see more than a handful of episodes during its first run–though strangely enough, I did see the conclusion, so I know how B5 ends–I just don’t know how it got there) and Stranger Things (I started with The Expanse, but didn’t like it, so I switched to ST and I’m about half-way through and really enjoying it).  I’ve also seen Logan and Kong: Skull Island. Expect Mini-Reviews for all those in the coming weeks/months.  I would also like to redo/revise my Marvel Movie listing as it is the most popular post on this blog and several movies, including Dr. Strange have come out in the interim and I would like to keep it as up-to-date as possible.

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While I don’t have a ton of time, I really don’t like not writing creatively.  If it means that I’m not a “true scholar,” then so be it.  I only have one life to live (to my knowledge as much as people rave about The Walking Dead, last I heard it was still only fiction) and I have to be true to myself.

I may never have the advantages that many celebrities have (like a Radio DJ playing a certain recording artist’s neophyte songs over and over for an entire summer until he got “discovered” by a major record label and now he’s an international star–true story).  And maybe I’ll never make the millions that the particular superstar is making, but if he gets to make the “art” that he wants because he had people to help him, then by golly-gosh, I’m going to make the art I want, even if I never have anyone to help me.  And if I die in obscurity and poverty, which is looking ever more likely as the years go by, then at least I’ll die knowing that I tried–and that’s all any human can do.