Potpourri: The Writing Life


Today’s blog will be a short one on a few things that happened over the weekend pertaining to my writing life.  These are mostly updates that I feel are important milestones, but each one isn’t really so important that it requires its own blog post.  So, in no particular order, here we go:

Submitted All Tomorrow’s Children

So I submitted All Tomorrow’s Children (ATC) to its first market over the weekend. The market is a “major” market in the Science Fiction and Fantasy short fiction landscape, but I doubt they’ll accept it.  While they say there never receive enough Sci-Fi (and ATC is Sci-Fi), their Acceptance rate is .09%.  That means they reject 99.91% percent of the stories that are sent to them.  Still, I had to try as they are one of the “new” big publishers of Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories.  If the market doesn’t take ATC, I have two more publishers that I consider “big” to send it to and then I’ll step down a tier to the mid-level markets.  You never know until you try.

“Blogging” My Way to 250 Words-a-Day

So, I have a confession to make.  I have several Word Processors–Pages, SimpleNote (Mac App & Website), Scrivener, IAWriter App, and a couple of lesser Word Processors (and have access to Word through my school account and on their computers).  However, I found over the past few weeks, that for fiction, I really just like the ease and simplicity of SimpleNote (which I’ve mentioned in the past), but also, just the WordPress Text Editor that I use to create my blog entries.  While I used to draft in SimpleNote, I’ve now switched to the WordPress blog editor because I can quickly see the word count and when I reach my 250 limit for the day, I then copy and paste the work over to SN.  One I have a completed draft, I then copy and paste that over to Scrivener and make my major edits there.  Scrivener makes compiling a submission draft a breeze and that’s the draft I use to submit.  It was this workflow that helped me to get All Tomorrow’s Children off my computer and out the door to a publisher.

Finished (FINALLY) the Rough Draft of “Project Skye”

I finished this over the weekend as well.  It clocks in at about 4,000 words, but really needs some substantial TLC.  This was an exploratory draft and written “by the seat of my pants” because 1) I wanted to get an idea of the character and 2) I thought I knew enough about the world in order to just write.  The draft is a “poster child” for why I don’t write without outlining.  There are plot threads that just drop out, there are character motivations that don’t work, there’s setting issues, there’s a storm that never develops, etc.  This draft is an absolute “mess” and I will most likely have to rewrite the entire story from beginning to end rather than what I did with All Tomorrow’s Children which was “build” the story from the ground up.  This illustrates the difference in my writing styles: ATC was fun to write for me, while Project Skye was an absolute slog.  I can’t even show it to the Writing Center consultant to illustrate Skye’s character (which is the reason I wrote the story) because it really isn’t a “story” yet (at least, not in the way I think of “story”).  But its done–that’s the best part.  And what do they say?  If you’re at the bottom, you can only go up from there–hopefully, by the summer, I can put together a draft that I feel proud to show off–because it isn’t there yet!



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!



Read, Write, and Improve

I written on the blog before that I haven’t really been able to write like I’ve wanted to based on the demands of life.  I expect that to continue for the near future for reasons that I won’t go into here, but I’m going to try my best because I feel like I’m missing a “piece” of me by not writing everyday/reading things for myself rather than school everyday.

I was really excited after reading the article on PBS.org profiling author Jesmyn Ward called “Persist.  Read, Write, Improve,” by Elizabeth Flock.  It was a short, but informative article and it really seemed to set out a “path” that I wanted to follow for 2018 (the closest thing a New Year’s Resolution as it were).  My goal was simple.  I would persist through 2018 by reading and writing every day and at the end of the year, I would (hopefully) see improvement.


This is my most favorite thing to do, but I haven’t been reading like I wanted to.  I think it is because over the break, I was able to devote an hour (sometimes up to two hours) just to read every day and make substantial progress on my books.  I just don’t have that much time in the day.  I finally decided to devote half an hour to reading each day.  Also, last year I didn’t really have anything to read because I only certain authors (the few who aren’t drawn to the Dark Side of the Force with the allure of “GrimDark”).  However, ALL my favorite authors published material last year, so I want to read all of my favorite series and I just don’t have the time and it is really frustrating.  I’m also “supposed” to be reading books for school, both books and articles assigned for class as well as books in my “field” (English) on my own.  It is hard to enjoy my “reading” time when I have to read a book called Multimodality during my “reading time”when what I want to read is Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson.

Maybe I could read school books during the week and my personal books on the weekend?


This is where I really feel that I let myself down.  Partially, it wasn’t an intentional act of laziness on my part.  Forgetting the computer, one week, and the charger, the next week meant that I was without my computer for essentially a week and half (pretty much all of my time here school).  Now I did have access to the school’s computers and since I have the blog and many of my writing files online, I could have gone there to write, but the frigid weather and uncertainty of the car starting put a major damper on that, so the end result is that none of the goals that I set for January were finished.  I’d really wanted to finish a Rough Draft, Working Draft, and Edited Draft every month, but perhaps that was too ambitious based on the amount of school work that I have.

While I can’t devote two hours every day, perhaps I just need to find a way to better utilize the time I do have.  I was up early to work on the blog–perhaps shorter, more consistent blog entries and use the remaining time to work on the writing projects I have in mind?


What I really want to see from my writing and my reading is an improvement in my ability to write long.  I don’t want just write short stories–my real desire is to write novels, screenplays, graphic novels, and pilots for television (of course, Sci-Fi/Fantasy based).  While I most certainly want to improve my storytelling abilities on ALL fronts, I really feel that improvement is needed in my ability to write long and to craft stories that can exist in the long-form media in order to see success as a writer.  That’s what I’m hoping Jesmyn Ward’s advice will help me accomplish this year.


The author Jesmyn Ward was recently interviewed on PBS.org’s website and she talked about the writing life.  However, she gave 4 pieces of advice.  I want to talk about the first one here and I’ll go into the other 3 on the next blog post.  Her four big takeaways are “Persist. Read. Write. Improve.”

Time and again, I’ve heard the adage: “Persistence is the key to success,” so whenever I tried to do something, I try to be persistent at it, to have grit as Angela Duckworth and other educational theorists have defined it–the ability to stick to a task even when it is hard. In writing this is true as well.  I’ve seen many writers (students and non-students) give up writing after their first rejection or after several rejections, but I tried to push through and I earned my first publication nearly 20 years ago.  However, the journey from neophyte writer to a successful one has not quite gone as I’d envisioned after making that first sale.

Keep Going
Her advice rings true.  I need to simply persist.  I honestly wondered whether I should continue writing in early to mid December, but after the break I think I just need to focus on getting projects done and enjoying that aspect.  It was so refreshing to have worked on the outlines for the projects with Tana on Ship of Shadows.  Even if they are never published (even though I sincerely hope that’s not the case), I still had fun creating them and coming up with them while wrapped up in a warm blanket on a snowy day.  The sheer joy of writing, of creating, is why I find being a writer (or to be Writing to reference an earlier post) to be so much fun and liberating.  Unfortunately, “life” got in the way yesterday, and I wasn’t nearly as productive writing as I should have been–I only wrote a “note card” of one potential project and it was extremely tentative (wrote it late at night when I should have been in bed because of school) and as such, I don’t have the same “euphoria” that I did after the first Snow Day.

I must learn to be both Persistent in my writing and also to be consistently persistent.  That way, even if I can’t publish the way I’d like, I can still have fun and enjoy the challenge of creating and writing the things that I love.

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

Drafting up a Skye (Project Skye)

So in the last blog post, I talked about planning a story for January.  In this blog post, I’m going to talk about drafting (aka writing) a story.  The story that I’m writing for January 2018 is Project Skye (the short story).

Short Story as Character Sketch
I’m writing this story as a way to examine Skye’s character.  I was tasked to come up with a character sketch for Skye by the MTSU Writing Center as I struggled to try to create a novel this past semester.  I struggled to do the character sketch because all my choices seemed arbitrary.  So, I decided to write a story which puts Skye into jeopardy to see how she would react–to reveal her character through action.

Not as Easy as it Sounds
This sounds easy–I wrote a brief one sentence outline of everything that I wanted in the story.  I wrote a beginning, middle, and end for the story.  I wrote a 1 sentence brief outline of the scenes (3 scenes) in the beginning, middle, and end.  I’m about halfway done, but I’m having problems working on it because 1) I now realize the setting actually needs to be changed (this is happening in their aircraft when it should be in “hovercars,” 2) this was to be a “prologue” event to show how they know each other (there needs to be a different prologue event and this needs to happen later in the novel’s timeline), and 3) The first section is waaaayyyy longer than I’d intended it to be (by about double–I feel like I need that length, but it is making the rest of the story unbalanced by comparison).  Basically, I can see all the flaws that I want to go back and fix (i.e., start over).  I’m going to try to trudge to the end, but when I’m not happy with the results of my writing, it is very difficult to finish.

Knowing When its “Right”
When HawkeMoon was “finished,” I knew that it was “right.”  The same is true with Silence Will Fall (although I knew at the time that I’d written away from the ending I had in mind–so that’s why I had to rewrite the ending last year–to bring it more in line with the original ending that I’d dreamed about with that story).  However, I’m not even finished with Project Skye and I know it isn’t right.  I’m going to need at least one more draft to get it where I think it needs to be.  That is the hardest part of drafting for me–having to keep going even when I know that the draft is lacking because I want to fix it immediately.  I think, because I just dove into the project, without doing what I normally do (i.e., writing a draft that is just for me–my own personal “telling” myself the story, I don’t think that I have the action as firmly in place as I should).

Lesson Learned
As I go throughout this year, planning stories, the end goal needs to be: sometime during the last week of the month I need to write out a Rough Draft in which I “Tell, Don’t Show.”  This draft is For My Eyes Only and will aid me when the time comes to turn my story into a draft for the audience where I then “Show, Don’t Tell.”  If I don’t do a “Rough Draft,” then I’m going to have to spend even more time “fixing it” with another draft later on down the line.

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.

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).

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.


Everyday Writer

So (hopefully today won’t jinx it), but everyday this week I’ve sat down and wrote.  I know, I know, from a writer that’s not much news, but for me, a person who usually writes in “spurts,” it’s a big deal.

Hobby Writer vs Professional Writer
I don’t really know if writing everyday is the best for me, but in this case it is a matter of expediency.  I have approximately 3 weeks before school resumes and I promised to have the short story for Project Skye done upon returning for school.  Once the holidays hit, my time (like most) will be restricted to family activities, so it is imperative that I carve out some time to simply write on the story everyday in order to finish it.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade
I’ve used this quote as the title to a blog post, but I’m using is again as inspiration to actually getting the writing done.  My computer is old–it was top of the line when I bought it, but it is old now and really needs to be replaced.  However, it still functions (mostly) and I usually don’t like replacing something until if finally breaks.  So my laptop battery, like many laptops, has decided it really doesn’t want to hold a charge anymore so that when I take it off its charging cord, it has about 45 mins of power before it needs to be recharged again.  That’s the window of time I’m using to write.  I simply disconnect, write until my computer warns me that it is about to go to “sleep” due to lack of power, then reconnect it back to the charger.  Simple.  Easy.  Effective.  No internet because the WiFi adapter is “borked,” no real time to do any other processor intensive tasks like Keynote or searching for files, just the time I have remaining on the battery sensor vs. me getting the words down.

Weekday Drafter vs Weekend Writer
So, all I’ve done this week is draft, that is put words on the page.  I have several projects that are already finished that I need to revise, however.  I’m experimenting with doing that on the weekends.  If it works out during this Winter Break, I will work to continue it during the upcoming semester.  If nothing else, I’d like to become a more productive “Hobby” writer and finish more of the projects that I swirling around in my head.  By revising and making my stories better on the weekend, including submitting them, and just using the weekdays to draft whatever I’m currently working on, I hope to increase my productivity, at the very least.