Monthly Archives: January 2015

At Home with Prepping

 

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A while back I talked about what I planned to do this year with regards to writing. Last time around I showed everyone what I’d done with a piece of micro fiction. And there things have stayed.

This time, though, I’m reporting what’s been going on for the past two weeks. I’ve been prepping for a big push. I’ve been pulling out stories, flash fiction, memoir pieces, poetry, etc. for the sake of getting the best revised and submitted.

Some of what’s been brought back to light will go into short chapbooks for release on Kindle. I have some surprises there. Some are stories which will be submitted to journals or publishing houses for anthologies that have deadline dates. And some will be piled into full length efforts for publication.

Castle Fantasy BackdropAlong the way I also did some serious research into setting aspects for one episodic fantasy series, as well as a few things that will deepen the mystery I’m finishing.

As you can see, I’ve not been idle, though I haven’t been around here to keep everyone company. I study my coursework, do a bit of research, and find time for my critique group and my write-in group and the meetings that go along with those. I’m also taking the time to play on the weekends now.

Play is such a vital piece of a healthier lifestyle. That’s what I needed and what I’m working toward. I have plenty of work to Happy Girl Making A Wish And Making Bubbleskeep me occupied, without having to create any more. My focus is now on finishing and shopping the writing I’ve already got underway.

If I keep harping on marketing from time to time, it’s because I’ll be hip-deep in it every week. If I write about editing and what a write can learn by tearing apart a paragraph and rebuilding it, it’s because my time is spent doing that each day. A case in point—I’m doing a full rewrite and edit of my mystery “Dreamie’s Box” at the moment. I should have it finished completely by the end of February so that it can go to the copywriter and then the formatter.

What I’ve found, though, during this editing process, is that a third of what I wrote for the first draft and its progeny is now in the recycle bin. Why? Because anytime you can trash a complete chapter and not miss any of it in the next reading, tells me that it wasn’t necessary in the first place. And that’s what’s happened. So far, I’ve chucked four full chapters and the majority of two others. Even my critique group—who’ve been through the whole process with me—can’t tell what’s missing.

That, my friends, constitutes a major success in my book—literally.

Now you know what’s been keeping me away and up to my eyeballs during the day. Evenings I’m taking for my own, as well as the weekends. Life’s too short to do it any other way. At least for me.

Take the time to evaluate your own situation. Have you given yourself permission to enjoy your life as well as the things with which you fill it? Do you give yourself time and opportunity to laugh with friends and family and care about the time you devote to them? And do you come back to your vocation/avocation with recharged batteries and a positive attitude?

Let me know. Tell me about it. We all have the same opportunities to screw up. Why keep them to yourselves and feel guilty about them. Hang ‘em on the clothesline and air them out. They always smell fresher after a good airing.

‘Til next week, create something no one else has ever done and enjoy.

 

At Home with Short

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Hello again, everyone. “Short” has kept me focused for several days. What is short? For many writers, it’s any piece of writing with less than ten thousand words.

Not that many years ago, the average short story, for instance, had at least ten thousand words. Now, the length has come down to an average of around 7500 words or less. Short stories come in a variety of lengths, with a corresponding number of “shorts” in from of it.

You have the short story at 7500 words, the short-short story at 3500-5000 words, children’s short stories of 1500 words or less, and then comes flash fiction, which can weigh in at anything from one to 1000 words, according to specified guidelines and definitions. Confusing, huh?

This last week, though, my thoughts have been on flash fiction and those teenier bits of fiction better described as nano/micro fiction. The 55-word stories (exact count) are far more difficult to write than anyone would expect, but they are truly satisfying. Have you ever tried writing an entire story in exactly 55 words?

I took the plunge back in 2013. Between those and regular flash fiction, I was getting a real workout on the shortness front. Then, for no apparent reason, I stopped doing both. The circle has finally closed.

There was a need to write something today. A micro story flashed through me. Here’s what emerged. The first section is the first draft—complete at 134 words. The second is the actual micro story at 55 words–titles are counted. Let me tell you, that edit was a killer, trying to keep the essence of the story without losing the flavor or final question for the character. I hope you like it. If you have any suggestions, please drop them in a comment.

Self-Witness

As he rushed through the terminal, he felt a tug on his sleeve, which stopped him and drew his attention to a stooped lady standing in the middle of the concourse

“Please sir. My eyes don’t work well. Does the reader board show a flight to Atlanta at one of these gates?

He brushed her hand away, shaking his head, and ready to dismiss her. He finally looked at her face and was captured by her watery, dim eyes behind thick spectacles. As he met those eyes, his perspective shifted, causing him to see himself as the world say him—an impatient, oblivious man without compassion or love.

An instant of eternity later, he saw the woman again and heard her say, “Don’t fret, sir. I’ll ask another,” and she turned and moved away.

 Self-Witness

As he rushed down the concourse, a lady tugged his sleeve.

“Please, sir. Is there a flight to Atlanta at these gates?

He brushed her hand away, but her watery gaze captured his. Eternity’s instant behind her eyes revealed him—impatient, scowling, without compassion or love.

She turned away, saying, “Don’t fret, sir. I’ll ask another.”

 

Have a terrific and productive week, peeps. Small steps still take you forward. Not everyone plays leapfrog.

 

 

 

 

At Home Out in the Cold

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The phrase is an old one—being out in the cold. It means being outcast, set apart, exiled. And what does this have to do with anything? Well, I think all of us feel left out in the cold once in a while. We might be the third wheel, tagging along with a pair of potential lovers who’d rather be alone. We might be the new kid in the neighborhood who can’t make friends because everyone is so clickish.

Don’t say you’ve never felt that way.

When it comes to writing, the phrase takes on a slightly different meaning for me. When you’ve worked with a set of characters for a long while, they become like family members, sometimes more. If, for whatever reasons, you abandon them for a lengthy stretch, coming back is like being that new kid who isn’t trusted because the others don’t know you anymore.

009I’ve always had an issue with rejoining any group of people whom I haven’t seen or communicated with for a long time. Extended family, who came onto my horizon once a year if I was lucky, fell into that category, too. When Mom, Dad, Brother, and I arrived at the grandparents’ house for vacation, I was the one who tolerated being touched by them, cajoled, and cossetted. Later, as other members of the family joined us, my reserve grew more pronounced.

I’d watch everyone from a distance, deciding if they were the same as when I last interacted with them. I listened to voices to hear the emotions filtered by the crowd. There was always a big crowd. By the end of the vacation, I was again comfortable enough with these people to join in freely and enjoy myself and them.

My long-established habit of “observe first and connect later” has stayed in place throughout the years. I take little for granted about relationships. And the same holds true with my story characters.

004-stock-photo-fI walked away from serious writing for several months. Oh, I continued to write, but it was all surface stuff. No thoughtful poetry, no deep relationships with characters, old or new, took center stage during my hiatus for burn-out recovery.

As a result, coming back to revision work on Dreamie’s Box—my women’s cozy mystery—has been both a challenge and a blessing. I had to reintroduce myself to these people of the South. I was forced to see them, warts and all, and decide if they’d changed in my absence.

And you know what? They had, just as I had.

My heroine is not as stiff and formal when I work on her now. Her story doesn’t need to include every tiny detail of her day. She’s more comfortable with the role into which she’s been pushed.

Dreame’s not the only one who’s changed. Subtle shifts have taken place; teeny additions are present to impose better pacing and minor clues. Red herrings are swimming by with regularity.

In other words, the whole thing is better, richer, more defined, and the characters have accepted me back into the role of observer without reservation. My sleep comes now with thought tangents to add to the mix the next day—tangents I couldn’t have seen before now.

My personal quirk has become an advantage in my work. Most writers talk about stepping back and giving a story room to breathe before beginning a revision. For the first time, I’ve connected with the joy of revising a story and the gratification of seeing what it was supposed to be rather than what I expected it to be.

At Home with a New Year

stock-photo-13Yep, it’s finally come to this—2015, a new year. Have you had a terrific holiday season and a fantastic New Year’s Eve? Did you have champagne and watch fireworks? Do you have a hearty cup of hot chocolate in your hand calming those after party nerves? If not, grab one. It does wonders for others.

Everything begins anew today; new goals, new aspirations, and definitely new life plans. What do you mean you haven’t made life plans? You made resolutions, didn’t you? Well, those are considered life plans.

Puts a whole different perspective on things, doesn’t it?

Now, you might ask what new plans I have. I’ll tell you. While I have goals that contain writing and other creative arts, resolutions aren’t in the mix. I stuck them in my goals list. It’s easier to deal with them there.

Take health, for instance. Many of us resolve to do better in our health department over the next year, but how many actually follow through and for how long? If it’s a goal, you can create changes in smaller increments without having to leap off the cliff at the outset and expect to fly on the way down.

My health goal is simple. Each day I’ll get on that exercise bike for 5-10 minutes for the first week. The second week I’ll increase each day for another five minutes, and so on until I reach half an hour. I’ll stay at that time but increase speed. On a recumbent bike, different rules apply. Along with that change, I will decrease my sugar intake. Most of those treats will have to go. Between those two things and my current breathing exercises, I’ll be content until around May when I’ll add something else to the regimen.

That goal, taken in smaller increments will get me what I need—more endurance, loss of weight, healthier eating, and better lifestyle. Simple, huh.

Creative work isn’t the same. I can resolve to write the great American novel this year, or I can make a goal of finishing those projects that are already sitting on my storyboard. Those, too, can be done in smaller increments for completion. I can work for an hour a day on each of three projects and get something accomplished more slowly, or dig in and slog through a vast project and go down the burnout road again. Not a good choice there.

I’ve had enough people tell me in the past few months to progress more slowly that I’ve chosen that route. The one specific goal of mine that deserves to be fulfilled each and every week is the submission of at least one project to a publisher. It doesn’t matter whether it’s poetry, flash fiction, a Kindle ebook, a short story, or a non-fiction piece. I’ve practiced fiddling long enough. It’s time to play for the audience.

Those are my strategies for this coming year. I’ve make only a few goals, all doable with determination and perseverance. Lifestyle changes will evolve as a result. Now, I have to go to work on a poem for today. I have the prompt. All I need is the spark.

Raise your cocoa cups in a toast to all of us: May the New Year brings each of us what we need for an inspiring life and a changing scene.

See you all next week, if not sooner. Happy New Year, all.