Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Four “Comforting” Things People Say to Pre-Published Writers (That are NOT)

4. You finished a book! Most people will never manage that!

Yeah, okay. I finished a book. Yay me! It is a big accomplishment, but it’s also one that I hit for the first time when I was 13. I’ve written almost SIX books now. It is hard to see writing additional books as anything but a failure—as in, I’ve written six fucking books that I can’t sell. I’m just piling up rubbish manuscripts, and that doesn’t feel like an accomplishment at all.

3. But writing is its own reward! Don’t think about getting published!

Writing is hard goddamn work. Which doesn’t mean that it can’t be its own reward, but it isn’t something that fills my life with rainbows and sunshine. I do derive great pleasure from perfecting a turn of phrase or making a plot come together just so. Obviously I must enjoy it for its own sake on some level or I wouldn’t still be doing it. And for some people, just writing is their goal. That’s great! But for me, I want to share my writing. And while I do that in various forms already, the biggest way that writers share their work is by publishing. That is my goal.

2. Well, I’ve read your stuff, and it’s so good!

I know, complaining about praise seems churlish. And I do love getting feedback of all kinds on my writing (seriously, I crave it, harsh or kind), and positive feedback can make me feel like a thousand bucks. But in the context of publishing, it’s disheartening. Because if I’m so good, then I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, which means I can’t fix it. And I’ll spend another 14 years doing whatever I’m doing and not getting anywhere with it. And even if I really am good (doubtful), then it just makes it feel unfair (ha, I know, that word) that I haven’t had any luck at all wading through the slush.

1. Yes, agents get tons of queries, but 90% of them are pure crap—can’t follow guidelines, can’t string together a sentence, can’t even spell check! The odds aren’t actually that bad for the good ones.

On first blush, this should be a good thing. I do research agents and their guidelines and requests extensively, and I do spend a lot of time and effort perfecting my query letter. I proofread and edit and still have not ever accidentally sent out one with the wrong name. So I should be ahead of the game! Except I’m not. Which means—oh gods, I must be the 90%. I must not be good at all. Worse, I am one of those delusional people who thinks she is doing okay. But I can’t even beat out the half-trained monkeys sending “To Whom It May Concern” queries about their sparkly teenage vampires. Fuck.

Anyway, I know this is all very complainypants, but I’m in a complainypants space right now. I may or may not have cried myself to sleep last night, as my queries for novel 7 draw to a close and novel 8 continues to refuse to come together. I’m feeling discouraged, and I want to feel uplifted, but it seems that every “inspiring” quote or post is just making me feel worse. I think maybe I need to disconnect from the writing community for a little while, do what I can for this first draft of novel 8, and remember that I do love writing for what it is—and right now, it definitely not is getting read.

Friday, June 26, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "Day in the Dog Park"

Congratulations on making it through another week! Or not, depending on how alive you are while reading this. Or whether it's your weekend. But for many of us—huzzah, we survived! Let's celebrate by watching videos on our breaks and fantasizing about all the ice cream we're going to eat. The pinnacle of a good weekend's plans, IMO.

In any case, enjoy this installment of #FlashFridayFootage!

Tweet: Check out this week's #FlashFridayFootage,

Friday, June 19, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "Buttons"

Huzzah, Friday again! An extra special Friday for me, since I am taking a half day from the day job and heading out to Denver for a friend's bachelorette party. It should be a Very Good Time and I am quite excited. But first--how could I kick off a good weekend without a little #FlashFridayFootage?

Yep, it feels so good to have this going again, and I hope you enjoy this week's story. Congratulations on surviving another week, and I'll see you next Friday!

(And if videos aren't your thing, you can always catch my flash fiction in print version over at Wattpad.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "The Light at Night"

Yes, you read that title right. After a tiny hiatus, #FlashFridayFootage is making its victorious 2015 comeback! Every Friday, except for the last of the month, will feature a brand new video with a brand new reading of a brand new story. Exciting stuff!

To be honest, one of the delays in bringing back #FlashFridayFootage was that I don't think anyone cares about it. It is a fair bit of work (not even including writing the stories), and I don't get very many views. But I thought about it a lot and decided that I have fun making the videos, so I'll keep doing it for me. And if someone else out there gets a couple minutes of pleasure from them too, that's just icing on the cake!

So feel free to scroll on by if it's not your thing, but if you want to check it out, here is the first 2015 #FlashFridayFootage video!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Which I Burden Characters with Terrible Names (Throwback Thursday)

Welcome to another Throwback Thursday! I found this gem of a story saved under simply “story.doc” in an old folder. The date created is September 27, 2005 (my freshman year of college), but I think that is the date I transferred it and that it is even older. In any case, it is pretty terrible. I hereby apologize and promise to never use the name Arlina von Dryke ever again. Ever.

I have zero clue where the rest of the story was going. This is all that there is in the file.
            Arlina flicked a strand of pale red hair back from her face and eyed her opponent warily.  Tall, but so was she; strong, but so was she; tricky and wily, but so was she.  An even match, overall, and the spectators all held their breath in anticipation of the next move.
            “All done now, pretty girl?” Dreyson sneered, his handsome face showing his scorn.
            Let him waste his time giving taunts, Arlina thought fiercely, feinting in to probe his weak side reflexes.  If he worries so much about that, I’ll find a way past his defenses.  Yet for all her inner bravado, Arlina was worried.  So far, Dreyson had evaded her attacks well, and keeping him at bay had been no easy task.
            “Kill her, Drey!” someone shouted from the crowd, which ignited cheers from some and boos from others.
            He’s mine! Arlina cried inwardly, darting under Dreyson’s sudden jab and nailing him in the side of the face.  Stunned that she had managed to place a good blow, Dreyson dropped his shield stance just a hair, which was all the opening Arlina needed.  Before he could recover, she was beating him back, raining blows on him.  In the flurry of attack, she neglected to maintain all of her defense, and Dreyson gave her some good bruises before the bell was finally rung.
            “And the winner is Arlina von Dryke!” declared the overseer.  Arlina gave a small bow, a half-smile quirking her lips.
            “Good fight, Drey,” she told her opponent.
            “I must be having a bad day if I’m getting beat by a girl,” Drey replied ruefully.  “Hey, catch you later for dinner?  I think Kelly is having people over.”
            Arlina shook her head.  “Send him my regrets.  I’ve got to head over and see my parents.”
            “How’re they doing?  Last I heard it wasn’t looking too good.”
            “It’s not, that’s why I’m going over.  I don’t want to, you know; wish I had spent more time with them.”  Arlina shrugged.
            “Well, Kelly will certainly miss seeing you, but I’m sure he’ll understand and admire you for what you are doing,” Dreyson replied, a mischievous smile stealing across his face.
            “Oh, shut up,” Arlina told him sourly.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
            She could hear Dreyson’s laughter as she made her way to her car, smiling ruefully.  It was true that she seemed to be able to do no wrong as far as Kelly was concerned.
Was this a contemporary story? Fantasy? Some weird mash-up? One has no idea. One doesn't really want to know, truthfully, because it sucks. Sorry, ghost-of-Nora-past, keep trying!

My scanner is broken, so this throwback photo is going back only so far as Facebook allows. Please enjoy this example of me being almost too willing to make fun of myself. Spring break, sophomore year of college. I was 19—so yeah, a baby. And yet older than I was when I wrote the von Dryke! Yeesh. Now I feel old...

Literally feeding the jokes.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Case of the Mondays

Some days are harder than others.

This morning the alarm went off and I groaned. I can’t face today. I just want to sleep forever. But instead I roll over and shuffle to the bathroom. I brush my teeth in a Monday morning fog and sit down at my computer with a sense of dread. But I am here. I am doing it. The words trickle out—it’s a slow morning for me, not even 600 words, but I did it. I sat here for my morning writing session and did what I could. That’s a victory. My Monday is already looking up.

The feeling doesn’t last. I scan my query list. Outstanding queries waiting to be closed for no response. An ever-dwindling number of agents left to query. The palpable feeling of failure that accompanies yet another soon-to-be-trunked novel. I really liked this one, but no one else does. Why? No idea. I haven’t netted a single non-form rejection that would give me any insight.

The worst part—the thing that makes me want to cry into my afternoon tea—is that I am doing everything I can. I quite honestly have no idea what else to do. It is the thing I want most in my life, one of the very few things that I have any ambition about at all, and I am floundering. “The secret to getting published is writing a great novel,” people advise. I envision them nodding sagely to each other behind publishing contracts. I fucking know that. I’m doing my best. I write a novel and edit it and love it and then trunk it and try again. I kill my darlings and write new darlings, I practice my writing and buff up on my comma placement and sentence structure. I take it very seriously. I read books and articles on craft and the writing business. I pore over agent details, trying to concoct that perfect line of personalization that will make them spend more than .4 seconds on my query.

None of it works.

So where do I go from here? What else is there to do? I’m getting a worse response for novel 7 than novel 6. I could hardly be said to be improving in any meaningful sense of the word. I am willing to do things, but I don’t know what things to do. My options are to give up, which makes me a quitter and guarantees I will never achieve that dream, or to keep doing this, which is the definition of insanity.

Friday, May 1, 2015

If You Want Change, Change It Up!

My most productive writing month ever was July 2014. My boyfriend was on deployment, and I was unemployed. It was basically a glimpse of what life could be like as a full-time writer, and it was awesome—I wrote 24,172 words! (Okay, boyfriend being gone sucked, but it did make for a lot of free time.) It was no surprise that my productivity tapered off as I started a new job in August, but I did still manage to finish and edit novel 7. It was back to normal for juggling writing with a lot of other priorities.

And so it remained. August 2014: 8165 words. September 2014: 1374 words. October 2014: 4124 words. November 2014: 10,286 words. December 2014: 4484 words. January 2015: 5129 words. February 2015: 127 words. March 2015: 9629 words. April 2015: 23,459 words.

Wait, what?

How did I manage my #2 most productive month ever while working full time, spending time with my boyfriend, going back to school for accounting, bonding a pair of stubborn bunnies, and training for a half-marathon? I briefly touched on this in my last post, but now with more data under my belt I want to re-emphasize it.

First of all, I started writing a new manuscript, which obviously is going to boost word count. Writing short stories and editing just don’t produce as much raw new words. Secondly, productivity breeds productivity. Having to actually think about what is most important and how I am going to manage things can lead to a lot more work getting done then when I know I have plenty of time to do it, which I then fritter away. But the biggest source of this productivity surge was a schedule change.

I am not a morning person. Really. Given my way, I’d stay up until 3 AM every night and wake up at my leisure. Sadly, no one seems to want to give me my way in all things. Until I win the lottery or retire or decide to drop off the grid, I am chained in part to the rat race. And it’s exhausting. My day job schedule is approximately 7:30 - 4:30 with a 15-minute commute on each end. It leaves plenty of time in the evenings, but it doesn’t leave plenty of energy in the evenings. I would come home, get through my workout, scrounge some sort of dinner, and collapse into my couch-potato spot until bedtime (about 10:30). I would kick myself for wasting those 2-3 hours. Plenty of time for writing, Nora! You’re just lazy!

Okay, well maybe I am. But I was just expecting too much of myself. So I decided—what if I got my writing done before my soul was sucked away at my day job? Since I can’t stay up all night anyway, does it matter if I have to go to bed at 10 PM instead of 11 PM? Is getting up at 6 AM any worse than getting up at 7 AM? I figured I would give it a try.

And I’m still trying it! Since I started this, I have missed only ONE day of my pre-work writing. No matter how much I hate it when my alarm goes off, no matter how much I think “I can’t do this,” I force my sorry ass out of bed and into my desk chair. And then I write. I focus on time, not output. It works out to ~45 minutes of writing, or usually 900-1000 words. Five days a week. That is easily 20k words a month, not including any bonus sessions I do on weekend. That’s a first draft in four months! Considering the first draft of novel 6 took me, oh, almost two years, I would call that a success. (Novel 7 took much less time, but was also only 42k long in its first draft, so not very comparable.)

Unprecedented pace of writing for me.

I honestly never thought that writing in the morning would work for a night owl like me. But identifying an obstacle (lack of motivation to write after work), implementing a trial solution (getting up earlier to write before work), and observing the results (33k words into novel 8) is never a bad idea. And if it comes to a point that this isn’t working for me, I’ll try something else. But just trying to do the same old thing and berating myself for failing at it was a terrible strategy. Don’t do it!