Where to stop?

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I previously posted about different takes on when a writer stops writing for the day (or night).  Some writers keep going until meeting a specific word goal. Others try to finish a chapter or short story. Still others set a time limit and stop when the counter reaches zero.

For those that write toward a word goal or for a set time, I came across an interesting debate. Where do you stop when you reach the word goal or time limit? Do you finish the page? Do you finish the paragraph? Do you even finish the sentence?

Common sense seems to advocate at least finishing the sentence–if not paragraph–the writer is on when reaching his or her self-imposed limit. What if you forget the idea you’re working on? What if you can’t replicate the writing grove you’re in the next time?

I certainly followed this line of reasoning. When I had more time to write, my goal for a writing session was to finish a scene. If I finished that scene before my writing time ran out, I’d usually still quit, enjoying the sense of accomplishment and the unexpected free time. I also dreaded getting in the grove of writing the next scene and having to stop midway.

As my time to write decreased, I had to settle for stopping at the appointed time. Even so, I would finish the paragraph I was on. Then I listed to an interview with speculative fiction author Tim Powers on the Reading and Writing Podcast. He writes each day to a specific word goal and stops when he reaches that goal, regardless of whether he is in the middle of paragraph or in the middle of a sentence. He argues it is easier and more exciting to resume writing when you have to dive back into the middle rather than starting at the beginning of something new.

I was skeptical but put this nugget in the back of my mind. Lately, as my writing time each day diminished further, I almost had no choice but to give it a shot. I first ended a couple evening writing sessions at the end of a sentence, no matter if it was the end of a paragraph. Then, I took the leap and ended in the middle of a sentence. It was a line of dialogue, and I simply stopped three words in. The next evening I picked it right back up with little hesitation.  And I didn’t hate it.

It worked so well, I’ve continued with this technique. Sometimes that last paragraph or sentence can take another 2, 5, or 10 minutes. I’m already under pressure to finish and get ready for bed, which can’t help the writing process. So now I stop. Period. Though admittedly, the stopping point is not necessarily a period.

If you haven’t already, I recommend giving this approach a try. If you have or when you do, let me know in the comments what you think. Did it work for you, or was it a catastrophe?

Bouncing Around

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I’ve been bouncing around a lot these days. I’ve lacked focus on any of my writing. I’ve even put off submitting those works that have received a rejection. So what gives? Good question. I don’t know.

According to Word, I haven’t worked on my WIP novel in over a month. I’ve finished three flash stories though, and I’m one scene away from finishing the novella I thought I’d finish last summer. That’s some progress, I guess.

I feel like I’m waiting for something, which is probably the wrong approach. If there is any upside, it’s by not resubmitting my stories, I have a catalogue worth I can combine into a collection for the contest mention in Submission Dilemma III. Needless to say, I’m going for it. I’ll spend the $25 on the submission fee and take my chances.

But, first, I need to finish the novella. The submission guidelines say no story should be longer than 15,000 words. The novella is longer but already broken down into a couple stories. I estimate the longest of those stories will come in just under 15,000 words. Regardless, I plan to spread the individual stories out in the collection to build tension.

Collecting my stories into a single work will reduce my number of submissions for the year while I wait to hear back from the contest, but I’m okay with that. I like the idea of having a collected works manuscript. Now I just need to finish the novella and organize the collection before the April 15 deadline.

How has your writing focus been lately? Have you been productive, or are you finding distractions? Let me know in the comments.

Collaboration II

I finally did it. I started the draft story I hope to collaborate on with one of my beta readers. I wrote about this way back on Post #27. See how long that took?

Here’s what happened. Back then, I had a story in mind the two of us could work together on. I sat down to write my part, but I kept going. And going. Until I finished the entire story. Oops! So much for that idea.

Then my beta reader was in town, and she and her husband came over for dinner. The beta reader and I talked writing while the spouses talked about something probably way more meaningful. Anyway, during our discussion, my beta reader mentioned an image she had for a story. She didn’t have the plot or any characters or really anything beyond this single image.

I decided to run with that image. I wrote the first scene which ends on that image and then sent it to my beta reader. While I mentioned at our dinner that I’d be interested in collaborating on a piece and possible using her story idea, I didn’t tell her I started the story until I sent a draft of that first scene.

The best part is she agreed to work together to flesh out the story. I proposed we follow the round robin method where each of us takes a turn drafting the subsequent part. She’s game for tackling the next scene.

I initially thought about including notes with my chapter about where I thought the plot could go and explaining a couple of vague references I included in that first chapter. Then I thought better if it. I don’t want to limit my writing partner with where she can take the story. For starters, it was her idea, but I also want to see what she comes up with. I want to be surprised just like a reader would be. I’ve been a little stagnant lately with my writing, so I like that this has me excited again.

Have you ever collaborated with another author? If so, did you use the round robin method or another technique? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments.

Submission Dilemma III

I haven’t had one of these in a while. The ole do I or don’t I submit dilemma. The C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize is open to submissions of short story collections until April 16. I meet all the requirements. I live in the Southeastern United States. I’m an emerging writer. I have enough stories to reach the 140-220 page (35,000-55,000 word) range. And the manuscript wouldn’t be that difficult to put together, simply cutting and pasting several stories into one file.

The contest winner gets $10,000 and their manuscript published. Sounds great, so what’s my hold up? Like a lot of publishing contests, this one has an entry fee–$25. I have yet to pay to play as a writer. I believe in the old adage that money flows one way from the publisher to the writer. I understand the economics of a lot of publishing these days, especially in the literary magazine industry, is difficult and holding contests with paid entries helps pays the bills. I don’t fault that, and I don’t fault those who enter for a chance to win additional compensation beyond what normally would accompany acceptance in a literary magazine.

The contest fees I’ve seen generally run in the $5-$25 range. While not cost prohibitive, those fees can add up if a writer constantly applies to these contests.

If I’m so opposed, why would I even consider this contest? For starters, it’s the first I’ve seen geared towards collections of short stories. Usually the contests I come across are for a single short story. I have plenty of those still making the rounds with the literary magazines and not a whole lot to show for it. I’m intrigued by the thought of collecting my stories into a single work. That has been a goal of mine from the start, though I had hoped it would be a collection of reprints. I’d be happy with the publication of a collection of original works too!

Also, like I mentioned earlier, I meet all the criteria. How often does that happen?

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if I should fork over the $25 and submit a collection of short stories to this contest.

More Shameless Self Promotion

It finally happened. The Virginia Writers Club got its act together and posted not only the winners of the 2018 Golden Nib Writing Contest but also the winning entries. The collected winners can be found here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I took third place in the nonfiction category. I was happy to get that. I had written my short essay (under 1000 words) for another market, which didn’t accept it, and only put it in for consideration in last year’s contest on a lark. Looking back, I’m glad I did. Having focused on speculative fiction, I’m not sure what other nonfiction markets are out there for this type of essay.

Now as the 2019 president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the club, I’m excluded from participating in this year’s contest. I’m not terribly upset by this, though I am pleased that winners going forward will finally be announced and their works posted, which was supposed to be a selling point of the contest from the start.

Peruse the other winners and see what you think. You can let me know what you think about mine as well. I can take it.