Writing Update: Quarter 1

I think I’ve decided that having a quarterly check-in about my writing goals would be a good idea. Perhaps I’ll change my mind before too long, but for now that is what I’ll do.

March is very quickly ending, thus the first quarter is as well. I don’t have good news, unfortunately. If you have read my previous posts this year, you may know that I did okay in January, although not meeting the daily goal for the whole month, but hardly wrote anything in February. This trend continued in March. I could detail the reasons that I didn’t have the time, talk all about the circumstances I’ve been dealing with lately, but it is really just excuses. If I’m being completely honest, I think I haven’t been writing because it takes a lot of discipline, a conscious effort to MAKE time for it. Apparently, I haven’t been doing that.

The minimal word count I did complete (only a few days of writing out the entire month) consisted of blog posts and work on the same Sleeping Beauty retelling I have already talked about. For a while I was quite stalled on that story, but I decided to go back to it and move on to the more interesting parts, and figure out that whole post-exposition, pre-action section in the next draft. Or perhaps all of that is exposition.

I’m a little worried that I’ll finish it and determine that while it has points of interest, as a novel it will not be of great interest to readers. I mean that the people who read it will enjoy it a lot, not that a lot of people will read it… I think that I have a bit of a tendency to stick to my original story ideas as far as plot goes, where I should be learning to make better adjustments so that it’s just a better story. This can sometimes result in a story saying something very different than what you originally intended. Sometimes that’s a problem, and sometimes it’s okay.

I have a few days left in March and I do plan to get some writing in, but the most urgent thing right now is some spring cleaning. I’ve got much to organize, throw away, and clear out. I’m very, very behind in the 365k challenge, in terms of what my total word count should be. In February I didn’t mind this, but now it’s been going on much too long.

Would it be  so terrible if I don’t make the 365,000 word goal at the end of the year? No, not really. Not finishing would not affect my life much, really. But it would most certainly be fantastic to meet that goal, or even exceed it. Finishing would affect my life, even if only in the sense of developing better writing habits. I think that’s worth the effort.

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It’s in the Execution

I’m writing a post right now (not this one; it’s still in my drafts folder) that is swiftly becoming a timing problem. It’s the sort of post that only makes sense to publish at a certain time of year. It’s about seasons. And sure it will make exactly the same point no matter when I end up posting it, but if I don’t get to it in the next week or so, it will seem far less relevant and no one will care. I started writing the post and figured I’d finish it the day after that, but haven’t done a thing with it since.

This is actually two problems I have had as a blogger combined into one. The first is that I have many times started writing a post, based on an idea or the seed of an idea, and somehow found that it just doesn’t work out. I don’t finish it right away, and when I come back I can’t remember what I was intending to say. Or I just don’t like it. I am the first to say that not every blog post has to be a winning work of art, but I do think it should convey SOMETHING of value–and if I’m not really interested in what I’m writing, there’s no reason to expect anyone else will be. Besides, even though I tend to approach blogging as more informal writing, and therefore needing less polish than something that a “real publication” (whatever that means at this point) would print, I still do prefer to hold myself to a certain standard as a writer, which requires that I’m at least moderately pleased with the pieces I decide to put out on the vast emptiness of the internet.

The second problem, of course, is procrastination. It’s not actually that hard to think of a timely topic, but it can be a little more difficult to finish the piece while that topic is still relevant. I’m not saying I couldn’t do this if I had to, but it is one of the reasons I like to write about more general topics that are not time-bound, whether I’m writing in fiction or in the real world. (I would like to pause to acknowledge that at this point I have already done the backspace-shuffle, the typists’ most common finger dance, to fix numerous typos, and I’m wondering when I got so bad at typing. I used to be much better than this.) Ahem. Anyway. Procrastination is procrastination whether you open the file and stare at it with your fingers over the keys or go clean the kitchen instead–if you’re not writing, you’re not writing.

This leaves me in my current predicament. I can either make myself work on this post (I suppose if I hate it I just won’t post it) now-ish, or I can wait until next year, at which point I probably will have forgotten about it entirely. My concern, after looking at what I have so far, is that I won’t get the post to say what it is I am really trying to say. This is a constant struggle for me, in writing and in regular conversation. Somehow I always feel that the recipient of my thoughts just doesn’t quite get it. I don’t know it that’s my failing or theirs.

Keep an eye out. If you see a post from me very soon about the myth of summertime leisure (oo, I think that’s a much better title than what I had), then you’ll know that I succeeded in finishing the piece. If you don’t… well then you know the other thing happened.

The Reason for Writing

I have a confession. I lost my way on the writing path…

I seem to have forgotten my own definition of “success,” which is not about money and not even necessarily about visibility. My definition of success as a writer is creating work that I am proud to share, work that I myself enjoy reading, and work that connects with someone out there. The point is to capture something about the world, to distill pieces of reality into my weird speculative fiction. And instead of doing that, I’ve been obsessing over writing work that will “sell,” or that will be popular.

In regard to my writing here on wordpress, I blame Freshly Pressed. Now, before there is any confusion, I must say that I think it’s great that it exists. It makes perfect sense for wordpress to select posts that they feel would be entertaining or illuminating for many people and help them reach a wider audience. I completely get that and I applaud everyone who makes it into that category (although I guess some people don’t think of it as such a big deal). What bothers me is that the selection seems arbitrary to a certain degree. They have made posts that explain what makes a post more likely to become Freshly Pressed, but those posts don’t fully explain it. I’ll still go through them sometimes and think, “these posts aren’t better than my posts. I could be Freshly Pressed.” So then, I try to think of what I could do to make a post that would be featured by wordpress, or maybe “go viral.” This is a terrible approach.

The way I see it, there are three basic ways to approach writing. One is just as a hobby, and that to me means that it’s something that you enjoy doing but isn’t incredibly important to you. The other two ways are: writing to make money, and writing because it’s in your soul and you can’t possibly be happy if you don’t. Writing as ART. Writing as art does not often overlap with writing popular works. There are plenty of popular books that can be considered real literature, but it seems that the majority of the moneymakers in the publishing world are NOT impressive literary works.

Being popular as a writer should not matter to me. You have only to look at the Twilight books to see that the masses are not the best judges of quality. That is, being popular as a writer should not be how I define success; but it does matter. It matters, and I will tell you why.

It matters because although I am writing for myself, I do not exist in a vacuum. I have to write for myself, because I am the first person who will ever read it, and I certainly believe the saying that if I don’t want to read it, no one else will either. However, the intention, after that first viewing, is to reach as many people as I can–to connect, even with people I never meet. To express for my readers things that they cannot find the words to say themselves. To allow my readers to enter the worlds I create, whether in a meaningful way or as pure recreation. And none of that can ever happen if I can’t get people to read the work.

I think that becoming well-known, maybe even being able to support myself financially, as a writer will always be a dream of mine, whether or not I ever come close. For now, I have to put that aside and find my way back. I have to remember that I am writing for me. Plenty of readers seem to like what’s come out of that approach in the past… I’m sure some will again.

Slow Spring

I have suffered a distinct lack of blog posts lately, and I have the lack of views to prove it. Somehow my energy has been channeled toward other, somewhat pointless things during my free time. Such as Netflix… I seriously mean to change it, which I think means it’s time to come up with some more Another Life posts – as well as updates on my short stories. Let’s start with that now –

I started my second version of Creme Brulee, the one I intend to publish. So far I’ve got an opening scene and three named characters. I’ve made a resolution to finish it very soon… we’ll see how that goes.

In an attempt to be more productive, I’ve bought a moleskin planner to keep track of/organize my writing projects. It starts in July, so I still have a few weeks left before I can start using it. I have to say, I’m looking forward to being organized about writing – although I have a feeling that it will be cluttered with little notes about anything and everything, so it’ll be “organized” the way my bedroom is – I can usually find everything, but it tends to look like a bit of a mess, and there’s never any free surface space.

 

I also want some more short stories to write. Does anyone have any story ideas they would like me to try? I’m open to suggestion and you never know, I just might pick yours. I’ll even credit you for the idea if I ever end up publishing what I write.

Sadly I have to go to work again, but I will try my best to write more often for those who are interested in my writer’s journey.

Somewhat random question: Who thinks more people will be interested after I have work published and a solid fan base?

Another Life #11

I haven’t slept for seven months. I work during the day. The rest of the time, between preparing and eating meals and running necessary errands, I write. I’ve written three book-length stories in that time. None of them are finished, of course. They need editing. But the lack of sleep has given me some excellent writing fodder. The hallucinations started in week two. I know they’re hallucinations because I see people who have died. Among other… things. Creatures, horrors, fairies, paradise, forests, valleys, trenches, deep abysses I fall through as I sit at my desk and type furiously.  I write about what I see, and I know I never could have come up with these things on my own. People will be dying to find out where I get my ideas. When they ask, I will say, “I come up with a concept before I can see the image, and as I write it takes form in my mind’s eye.” And of course, they’ll believe me. If I can survive that long on no sleep.

[Note: before you ask, no, this is not even remotely true. I sleep too much. There is a reason this is part of the Another Life series.]

Being a Better One-Who-Writes

I created a FictionPress account so that I could post some of my writing that I didn’t want to wait for a publisher/publication to accept. It’s effective because I get to post my own work, and there are hundreds of thousands of users on the site. The problem with the FictionPress community is that so many of the users are high school students (or younger) whose writing style has not developed to the point where I can bear to read it. That means, most likely, I’m not reaching my target audience by publishing there, unless I do post my fairy tales. I need to find the sub-set of people who are talented, serious writers, but I have no idea how to do that.

 

I came across a post about Morning Pages, which is a practice for writers. Although it seems annoying to do it every morning, it sounds as if it could be extremely helpful. Morning Pages, for those who don’t know, are three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing, supposedly completed in fifteen minutes, that you do every morning as soon as you wake up.

I do think it sounds like a good idea, so I plan to start doing it. My personal adaptation of Morning Pages says that if my stream of consciousness doesn’t want to fill three pages, then I’ll do as much as I can according to that morning’s thoughts, 1 and 1/2 pages minimum, depending on how large my handwriting is that day (it varies).

I’ll let you know how it goes…

End of Year Update

I’m going to take a moment right now to do something I hate to do – talk about how little I’ve written.

Totaling everything up, I’m fairly certain that I didn’t write nearly as much this year as I did last year. I did that thing, where I made a New Year’s resolution to write every day. It didn’t have to be a lot, just a few sentences would have been enough to get me into the habit of productivity. The trouble with New Year’s resolutions, I find, is that most people make them at the New Year but forget to renew the resolution every day, which is what you have to do in order to stick to it. Me, I didn’t make my daily resolution to write, so I didn’t write every day.

This year I won’t make a resolution. I’ll just kick myself every once in a while instead, and say, “Hey! Why aren’t you writing?”

I bring this up because, since my last post, another Another Life installment, I really haven’t written anything at all, aside from Christmas cards. Between finally having some work (and being out of the house for large amounts of time because of it), making holiday plans (much traveling involved), and watching lots of Buffy with several of my housemates, most of my time is forfeit. The good news is that over the holidays, I expect to have at least a few hours with absolutely nothing to do, and I hope to take advantage of those hours for a bit of productivity. Maybe in Helen, maybe in an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty which I might self-publish (more on that later).

I expect that I’ll do another flash piece or two before 2010 does end, but here’s what you might expect in 2011:

– more Another Life pieces

– Chapter 3 of Helen, as well as updates about the process and progress of this project.

– links posted for my fictionpress.net account, where I plan to publish some of my fairy tales, and possibly other short stories. For those of you who are unfamiliar, fictionpress.net is a free site, where all writing posted is free to read i.e. the only payment I’ll get for publishing my stories there is publicity – maybe. The site itself is the original fiction version of fanfiction.net, which… I’m not going to explain that one.

Assuming I ever actually write/edit these short stories I want to submit to online publications and fiction contests, the ones that are not published elsewhere after being submitted to multiple places will end up on this site. I would like some real publication credits, but I also want to have these stories read. If no one else wants to publish them, I’ll put them up here myself. The downside to that – I am very certain that my blog has a lot less visibility than those sites to which I submit.

 

Ah, well. Perseverance is the thing. I’ve hardly had enough rejections to merit a publication accepting my work. Who was it who got 38 or so rejections from publishers? It was someone famous, I know, for a very well-known book.

So, in short, have some happy holidays and look out for one or two more posts before the end of the year.