Tag Archives: writing life

Bad Advice and knowing what’s coming next

blogtriteim1Seems to me that I’m spending all my writing time working to get over and unlearn all the bad advice from years (decades) of well-intentioned suggestions, poorly considered courses and lengthy apparently learned blog posts.
One thing that I just remembered was a piece of advice which went something like “Finish a writing session at a point where you know what comes next” and associated with that was one like “Stop halfway through a sentence. That way when you sit down again, you just carry on with that sentence”. The reason I remembered was because I finished up a writing session knowing absolutely nothing about what was going to come next.
Not a thing.
I realize that I’ve been doing this for awhile now. Stopping the writing session when I don’t know what comes next. Frankly, my writing is a whole lot more fun too. I remind myself that it’s no special jewel or flower. It’s just a story. Entertainment. And the first person I’m entertaining is myself.
Looking back, I’ve tried the ‘knowing what comes next’ thing and just found myself actually struggling to remember what it was I’d thought of when I sit down at the next session. What was it? She was running toward something, and what’s-his-name was doing that other thing, but what was the whole point? Or something like that.
And a half a sentence? Sheesh. I’ve always ended up just deleting the half and starting a new sentence.
Somehow, after years of angst with this, I’ve finally reached a point of just stopping. Stopping when I don’t know what next. Often times that ends up being the end of a chapter. I might type in “Chapter Twenty Three” ready to go for the next session.
Not one idea what that’s going to be.
I also realize that this does not exist in isolation. It’s paired with a whole lot of other things I’ve been learning, as I fill those gaps of unlearning.
One is cycling. I read back through the work as I go. That’s enough for a post of its own.
Another is ‘being there’. I spotted this in a short essay by James Patterson (at least that’s where I thought I’d seen it, looking back now, the essay I was thinking of doesn’t mention this). Reading through, that is, cycling back, I play at putting myself in my character’s situation. Attempting to ‘be there’. What’s her experience of the place? What’s his reaction to that last thing?
It turns out my subconscious is ready and raring to go. Those next lines and next events show up. I get out of my own way, entertain myself and let the story grow.
I don’t know what’s coming next, and the writing is a whole lot more fun.

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Trusty old submissions tracking book.

trusty tracking booktrusty tracking book interior pageEver since I’ve been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers, I’ve needed a way to keep track of those submissions. I’ve been around long enough that those first submissions went as a printed manuscript, inside a full-sized envelope, with postage on a slightly smaller envelope inside. To match the very physical nature of this, my tracking system also exploited the benefits of paper and ink. An accounting book, to be precise. And mostly pencil, since it lends itself to updates more readily than ink.

I’ve continued the practice into the present day. I’ve just come to the last page of my second book.

I do subscribe to Duotrope, which has a built-in tracking system for stories. That might be the way to go. But I do have another blank book all set. Starting next week, when my latest story will be ready to venture out into the wilds.

The value of persistence

IMG_20180420_072542So I’m posting here a photo of my Sir Julius Vogel award. It’s cool, and I guess I’m bragging a bit. But see those three folders underneath? Those are my rejection slips. You know, the letter you get from a publisher who for one reason or another isn’t taking your story. Gathered over more years than I care to admit.

I think there are about two thousand. I have a feeling I’ve lost some over the years.

Most of them are form rejections. Some are very nice personal rejections. One is a disappointingly rude personal rejection (I haven’t submitted to that magazine since).

And there, standing on the shoulders of all those rejections, is an award. To me this is the value of persistence. I mean this to be encouraging. Keep at it. Keep going. Pursue what you love doing. It’s not about the award (though that’s nice), it’s about loving doing it.

Q&A with me at Asimov’s From Earth to the Stars editor’s blog

asimovs march april 2018I neglected to give anything more than a passing mention that I got interviewed at the Asimov’s blog, specifically about my story in the March April 2018 issue.

The interview is here. I talk with the editors about my process for creating “The Billows of Sarto”, and my general writing process, and a few other things.

Check out the other interviews on the site too. You’ll build up a pretty good picture of authors writing for Asimov’s today.

 

Failing to success

 

Low memory small

Low Memory – image by Luca Oleastri

After writing about a novel a month for three months as part of Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge, I thought why not try for one more novel in the following month. With the challenge, there was some flexibility, in that up to half of the novel could be written in the previous month. The challenge  ran through June, July and August. I began the first novel on May 18th, and wrote about 14,000 words by May 30th. Less than half the novel. I finished the last of the three novels on August 22nd. So it took a bit over three months to complete the three.

 

I decided to have a go at writing a novel within a calendar month (yes I know about nanowrimo). I started Low Memory on September 1st. Come September 30th, I hadn’t finished. I’d written 53,000 words and the novel wasn’t finished. It feels like the story wants to be longer, so I’ll continue to the end. All three of the challenge novels were 50,000 words or under.

So I failed. Failed to write a novel in a calendar month. But guess what? There’s success in there. It feels like the novel will come to an end in the next few days. Probably close to 60,000 words. So, even though I didn’t write a novel in a month, I will have written a novel in around 35 days.

I’ll call that a success.

Three months down, three novels complete.

Ice Huntersglass baysmDeuterium shine small

I’ve done it! I’ve completed the challenge. Three months. Three novels.

I started in on Dean Wesley Smith’s challenge on May 18th. Under the terms of the challenge, I could write up to half of a novel in the previous month (as in, write up to half of June’s novel in May, half of July’s novel in June, half of August’s novel in July). I finished up Deuterium Shine on August 22nd. Three months and four days.

Two science fiction. One thriller. Obvious from the covers, I hope.

Two from series. One stand alone (Deuterium Shine, though that might need a sequel).

Short novels, I’ll admit (41,000, 45,000 and 50,000 words respectively). Most of my previous novels run to about 60,000 words. One or two have crept up over 80,000 words. Still, it’s 136,000 words for the three months, only around 1400 words per day (though there were a few side tracks in the novels I cut out, so still closer to my usual 1500 words per day actual writing).

Now to get them tidied, copyedited and out into the world.

Writing these has been the: Best. Fun. Ever. Right now I’m working on a few short stories, but I’m thinking I’m going to continue with writing a novel a month for the rest of the year. Might as well, since it’s, you know, so much fun. Who knows, I might complete a few more novels by year’s end.

Onward.

Images by; Algol (Ice Hunters), Claudio Arnese (Glass Bay), Savagerus (Deuterium Shine), all Dreamstime.

Two thousand days of writing every day

quito2000daysA thousand days back I posted about writing every day for a thousand days. That’s almost three years. Now, after five and a half years, I’ve hit that two thousand days mark. Funny thing, that happened almost a week back and I missed it. Too busy scribbling away, I guess.

Now, I guess that for someone who’s a writer the idea of writing every day is pretty obvious. Somewhere over the years I guess I let that tumble away. I suspect I also bought into the myths that writing is hard and I needed to rest my brain and that I needed to gather my thoughts and I needed to think about what I was going to write before I wrote it.

Kind of, I guess, like a tennis player thinking about playing tennis before entering a tournament. Thinking about has its place, but exercising the muscles and getting out on the court figure pretty highly too.

But more than all that, I’ve seen more success with my writing from that. I’ve won a couple of contests, I’ve had numerous professional stories published, and I’ve indie-published a whole lot of novels, stories and collections. Those would not have happened had I not put my focus back on writing. So, I recommend it.

And about missing the actual milestone day, I think a part of that really is that the habit is so established that, even though I track my word count and other marks for each day, I feel like I’ve fully integrated the habit. I recommend that too.