Strike One

Have you ever noticed that when the flame on a match goes out, you can look at the head of the match and see that underneath the charred outer layer a glow remains for several seconds? Like the coals in a fire, red-hot under a coating of ash. It reminds me of a heart, the hidden thing that holds the key to life.

What are the matches trying to tell me?

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.

The Month That Time Forgot

The very beginning of February started out mildly hopeful, although pretty unproductive. Things quickly deteriorated from there. Without meaning to, I ended up taking a hiatus from writing and just about everything else I meant to do.

I blame it mostly on the weather. Blizzards piling on top of each other had such a strong effect on life in Boston this month that productivity suffered in all areas. I work from home, and so I didn’t have to go out in it or try to grapple with the sad public transportation more than a few times, but it seems to me that the energy of the city is frustrated and exhausted, which didn’t help me to feel more motivated. There were also a few social distractions, but that took a much smaller percentage of time than complaining about the weather did.

There was also the somewhat significant matter of not knowing what to write. When I hit a point in the story I had been writing where it just did not want to go any further, and I decided to take a break from it, I didn’t have another project lined up to work on instead. That, I guess, was a mistake. The few times I really made an effort to figure out what I wanted to do, I got nowhere. The creative juices are not flowing.

(Ever think about how weird that phrase is? It’s so weird. I don’t think people should say it anymore.)

As for the writing challenge, which I still intend to complete, I’m now about 30,000 words behind because of my lack of productivity. One thousand words a day is not actually very much if you keep up with it, but it’s a lot to catch up on if you miss more than a few days. Luckily, I still have ten months to go, which is plenty of time if I can make March go better. The way I see it, if I continue to get absolutely nothing done and write just a few words here and there, I can last through May before I’m beyond hope of reaching the end goal of 365,000 words. I am determined to do better than that, and to write much more regularly and hopefully in larger quantities (I’ll worry about quality when I get to editing), so I have plenty of time to catch up.

I also know that many of the ideas for stories and blog posts or internet articles need to be written soon, or I will completely lose track of them. Whether they end up being fit for a reader’s eyes is another question. For now, it’s time to get back into writing! Winter isn’t over yet but spring is closer than any of us think, I’d say. The urge to hibernate has (mostly) passed, and I believe that I can actually get things done as we move out of this blip of a month.

Your Blog Needs Proofreading

I really just HAVE to take a moment out of my day, away from any of the topics I have been meaning to write about here, to wonder at the horrible grammar that permeates the internet. On personal blogs and websites, it seems to matter less. Sure it’s still annoying if you’re reading it–whether you know the person who posted the content, or you just happened to stumble across it–but if the text is still readable, you can look past small mistakes.

When it’s a big, popular website and the problem is obvious, that’s when I become so very confused.

Through an article I was reading I clicked on what is apparently one of the biggest fashion blogs in the world (although I’d never heard of it before), and upon reading the “about” page it became clear that if it was edited or proofread at all, the person responsible had no idea what they were doing.

I see this way more often than you might think. You probably see it too, although you might not notice. Blogs with large followings and professional company websites keep publishing content that’s either full of typos and grammar errors or just plain bad writing. This bothers me because it almost always makes me think, “My content is better.” Yet I have such a small viewership. My stats show what looks to me like a high number of followers, but in terms of the internet it’s miniscule, and my actual page views never come near the number of “followers” that are displayed. This tells me only that all the advice about how to get and keep an audience is only true to a certain extent. These tips can work, but they aren’t the only thing that gets you views, and there are other “secrets” that never appear in those lists of tips to boost your audience.

Basically, it’s often pretty freaking arbitrary.

January in Review

Who knows if I’ll continue this through the year, but for now I want to implement a regular look-back into what I’ve been up to, writing-wise. Weekly is far too often, so monthly seems like the perfect option. Since my writing has no real deadlines right now, if I don’t find some way to make myself accountable for doing SOMETHING, I’ll probably just continue to procrastinate.

As far as my Year of Writing challenge goes, I haven’t kept up with it as well as I would have liked. I rarely wrote much more than 1,000 words, which is the daily goal, and I fell short of it too often for my liking. I wrote nothing at all on at least four days. Sometimes I only managed a few hundred. I’m still feeling mildly proud of myself, because for such a long time I wasn’t writing regularly at all. My year so far has been much better than my past writing habits for many years before that. That might be the answer. I’m so out of the habit that it’s just going to take a while to really get back to a productive place, as far as writing is concerned. Still, I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to do better yet. I’m about 5,000-6,000 words behind at this point, and I don’t like that…

In addition to a few blog posts and random journal-y type things that will never be publicly viewed (I hope), I’ve mainly been working on a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that I think I started writing in 2011. It sat essentially neglected for three to four years and now I’ve finally picked it up again. It felt great to make some progress on one of my old ideas. I have a tendency to hang onto concepts and ideas and story beginnings without ever producing a finished product; this is a bad habit I hope to fix.

Now, this project has stalled. I was trying to work on it yesterday and every sentence I thought of slipped away from me even faster than it came. Looking back now, I wonder–have I actually made progress? I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to completely rework the part of the book I’ve written in the past month when it comes to revisions, because it just doesn’t have a good flow. It seems that I got so caught up in trying to build up the story in a certain way, with the belief that I couldn’t just skip right to the “good parts,” that I let it get bogged down in details that don’t necessarily serve the story. (Instant reaction: OMG I’m a terrible writer! More thoughtful reply: If I were really a terrible writer I wouldn’t realize that the product was bad, and now that I have, I’ll be able to fix it.)

I haven’t quite decided if I’m going to continue writing this story, skipping to the “good parts” to fill in whatever other details might be needed later, or move on to some other projects that have been stewing in my mind. I just came up with a really interesting beginning to a story today, which would probably apply best to a thriller, but I don’t know if I want to write a thriller. I might write through the idea and see where it goes…

Writing something I’m not pleased with always feels like wasted time. In a month, I could have written at least as much GOOD quality stuff, if I had been writing better. This is both very obvious and sort of stupid. (Another one of my bad habits is dwelling on the past, and I have to try very hard to focus on just letting it go and moving forward.) It does no good to grumble about what I could have or should have done in regard to my writing or anything else in life.

Next up: The Shortest Month. February contains my birthday, which usually means a VERY slight uptick in social plans, and while it’s never as exciting or memorable as I want my birthday to be, I appreciate spending time with people who care about me. It also means the least amount of time (by just a few days, but still) between bill due dates. Much less fun. Before you know it, it’ll be over, and we’ll have to trudge through the slowest month that ever existed–March. Gee, I can’t wait.

Writer in the Storm

The Big Blizzard is pretty much done. I’ve been cooped up inside too long and I think that if things were a little different, I would go walking outside. Like if I had someone to walk with me, or if I were making an artistic video of walking in the snow. If I were better at filming, that is something I might do. As it is now, I can predict that my efforts would look like a bad school project. A B at best. More likely a C.

This would have been a good opportunity to hunker down (I’m wondering where that phrase comes from. I have never in my life performed an action that I would think of as “hunkering,” nor have I witnessed it from anyone else as far as I can remember) and spend the day reading and writing. Big storms are excellent excuses to be lost in literature. …But I didn’t. I’ve read a little bit, and I’ve written only the smallest amount today. Not creative work, either, just journaling, thought-dumping, if you will. It’s not even the sort of journal-writing people will want to read if I ever get famous. It is, to be blunt, crap.

I’ve fallen behind a bit in the 365 day challenge. At this point I am several thousand words behind, and I have not been meeting the 1,000 word per day goal regularly. I feel very bad about this–most of all when I didn’t write anything, despite having plenty of time. I look back at the end of the day and I feel that I’ve accomplished nothing, and I wonder how I have managed to waste so much time.

What is the solution? Is there a solution, other than “Just do it, stop whining”? Is there something people do to convince themselves that they can do it, whatever it may be that they’re trying to do?

I had more to say, but I’ve been momentarily distracted and lost it, so I should just stop here and say that if you want to find out what happens, come back in a few weeks or months to see if I ever manage to meet my writing goals! Who knows, maybe I’ll even post my word count next time.

Oh, It’s Winter.

When I woke up today it was snowing. I have very mixed feelings about snow. I think it’s beautiful and if it’s not too cold or too wet or icy, I can really enjoy walking in it. However, I do not like being cold and once the salt has been put down, it starts to look really gross. Here in Boston we have slush more often than real snow–at least, that’s how it’s been for the past few years.

It hasn’t been very snowy this winter. There’s been no accumulation at all, and when it does snow, it’s disappeared within a few days. I prefer a slightly warmer winter, but I wouldn’t argue with a persistent, manageable layer of snow throughout the season.

In honor of the snow, have a look at the short story I’ve had on this page for a pretty long time now. And leave a comment or rate the page if you have any thoughts.

Off to try to be productive…

Ramblings of an Insomniac Writer

It’s 5 a.m. and I am unable to get to sleep. I could keep trying, and I’d end up falling asleep around 6 or 7, and accidentally sleeping until 1 p.m., which would pretty much ruin my plans for the day. So I’ve decided that instead, I’ll just not sleep. This might mean I’ll be too tired to be productive this afternoon, or that I’ll crash really early tonight and sleep through until Saturday morning. The only time I’ve ever pulled a true all-nighter (it wasn’t studying, in case you’re wondering), I slept for about fourteen hours the following night.

There are two upsides to my problem: 1. This gives me the chance to get things done much earlier in the day than I usually would. Prime example: I’m getting some of my daily word count in now, instead of starting in the evening like I usually do. 2. At least I don’t HAVE to be up right now, getting ready for work, or anything like that. I am convinced that it would make the situation far worse if that were the case.

I had a few days so far where I wrote nothing at all, and I was unhappy about it, but there’s no sense dwelling on that kind of thing. More recently I have been doing very well with keeping up with the word count, although I am about 1500 words behind. I’ve been writing all sorts of things. Stories, blog posts, journal-y rants about whatever’s on my mind. I’ve started to get a little farther on the first project I started to work on this year, a novel based rather loosely on Sleeping Beauty that I started years ago. (Side note: I should do a post about my fairy tale rewrites and why I approached them the way I did.) It’s becoming more and more clear that this is not going to be a good first draft. It will need a hell of a lot of revision in the second draft.

I’ve realized that the part of the story I’ve been working on is, in fact, incredibly boring. It’s sort of a between-plot-points spot that will most definitely have to be rewritten, and may end up being scrapped almost entirely. I think that in order to keep my own interest in the story, I have to move it on to when things are actually happening. When I was first writing it, I was enjoying the beginning of the novel. I happen to like exposition, if it is interesting exposition. But even if that’s the case, there comes a point when there’s just too much introduction and it’s not helping the story, it is killing it. So this will have to be remedied, but seeing as this is the first draft of the story, I’m going to let this be something I worry about later. As the outline I wrote a few days ago indicates, it’s not too long after this part of the story when things actually manage to get interesting!

But revising is going to be a bitch.

The End (version 2)

The night you said you loved me, the stars fell into the lake. We sat on a hill watching them approach from the horizon. Pinpricks winked out and tails of flame extinguished themselves in the water. I wondered what would happen when the sky was empty.

You looked into my eyes and I said nothing, but thought if the world is ending, at least you’re holding my hand.

Writing Year: Week 1, January 1-7

It’s time to recap the first week of the 365k365day challenge! I don’t plan to do this every single week, but I will probably update periodically just so I can have some record of my progress (other than the word tracker).

The Word Count

The first few days I did very well. I wrote just above the goal of 1,000 words. Then, day six came around, and I was so focused on work stuff that I didn’t have any time to write. day seven, I was intending to catch up, but unfortunately I was short of the daily goal, let alone the catch-up goal. Luckily, I even get to count THIS post toward the word count, even if it’s not very eloquent. I still have plenty of time today to write, but the past two days my motivation dropped a lot. I hope I can get it back.

The Projects

So far I’ve mostly been working on the Sleeping Beauty novel I started a few years ago. I haven’t touched it in quite a while, but I have been thinking about it for a few months, so I used my new writing goal as a reason to get back to it … not that I should need one, but you know, you do what you have to. One day when I was at a somewhat boring part of the story, I wrote an outline for the rest of the novel; the next day, most of my word count came from a journaling session that I titled “I don’t feel like writing” or something along those lines. Journaling counts, but I usually like to with a pen and paper, and then I’d have to count the words manually.

For now I plan to continue with Sleeping Beauty. There are a few short stories that I have first drafts of so far, that I’m planning to work on and either publish on this blog or submit somewhere. I’m also thinking I will write a little more of my Helen of Troy novel, but I might still want to do a bit of research first–which is the original reason I set that novel aside after writing the first two chapters. If you want to see what I have so far, you could click on the “Helen” tab above.

I have many other story ideas noted, some of which I am very eager to start, and I have a few blog posts planned as well. Hopefully, as I get back in the habit of writing, I will be writing even more than my daily goal on a regular basis. I might even feel like a real writer again.