Summer Vacation – 2021 Style

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This summer, the family took a road trip to several state and national parks in New Hampshire and Maine. None of us had every been. It felt like an extension of our time in the Smokey Mountains over Spring Break back in April. When you don’t want to catch COVID, avoid people by going to giant parks.

I often experience some of my best inspiration and motivation to write while on vacation. It makes me wonder how productive I would be as a writer without a pesky day job. (There’s also that pesky income that comes with the day job.)

Unfortunately, this was not one of those trips where I was inspired to write. Instead, I was inspired to edit. I furiously edited my middle grade work-in-progress before departing. I wanted to churn out another draft, so my daughter could read it during the trip. We also were visiting my cousin’s family, and I wanted her son to read it as well. Both are in the target audience for the book, and I wanted their feedback both overall and on the specific language used, i.e. did I use terms that 7-8 year olds understand.

During the trip, I edited a couple stories that needed revisions but mostly needed to be lengthened before they went off to their next submission. That added a few hundred words to my quarterly total, but not too much.

I also edited a novella of a fellow writer in the Northern Virginia Writers Club. The novella was set in the South, and being a Southerner, he asked for comments on its authenticity. I readily obliged.

Then I tackled a stack of magazines that had piled up. They tend to do that throughout the year until I tear through them all at once, like on this trip.

Finally, it was time to come home. Our two weeks were up, and I’d barely written a thing. I still felt productive. I often find that editing gives a similar satisfactory feeling to writing, once it’s done. It’s kind of a slog during. It’s an especially nice feeling when you reread what you wrote, realize it’s not total crap, and know you’ve made it better with the edits.

I’m still hoping to get some more words in this quarter. I have about six weeks. I would love to get a couple stories written before October when I’d like to turn to outlining my NaNoWriMo project. I’ll have more on that with my 3Q21 update.

2Q21 Update

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Another quarter makes like a staked vampire and bites the dust, so it’s time to look back at my writing exploits (or lack thereof).

  • Words written = 2,050
    • Submissions = 29
    • Rejections = 31
    • Acceptances = 1
    • Shortlists = 0
    • Publications = 1
    • Rewrites = 0
    • Withdrawals = 0

My submissions were right in line with last quarter (28 v. 29), and I’m on track for my goal of 100 for the year. I was sitting at 57 as of the end of the quarter and have sent two more since.

Rejections were up. I suspected my rejection number from 1Q21 was unusually low. While I hoped that meant a couple submissions were under further consideration, no such luck. More likely several editors pursued other interests away from the slush pile. How dare they!

I technically had one acceptance, thus meeting my goal of one a quarter. My story, “Lottery Winnings,” appears in the Summer 2021 Journal of the Virginia Writers Club, a publication of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry written by members of the Virginia Writers Club. The bar for acceptance wasn’t too high, but I appreciate being included.

The amount of actual writing I did was pitiful. Those 2050 words went toward three projects. About half were spread across two existing stories that needed a little editing before heading off for their next submissions. The other half went to a new horror flash fiction story. It’s based on a gate that I saw while on vacation to the Smokey Mountains in March. In fact, it’s pictured in the featured image for this post. I knew the first time I drove by (it was on the way to our rental) that I needed a picture and it would inspire a great story. And it did! I just need an editor somewhere to think so too.

Other than that horror flash story, I’ll admit I’m in a bit of a creative funk as far as ideas for new stories go. However, I have been doing a lot of editing. I’m even finally editing my middle grade WIP. I went old school and printed out a copy, and now there are blue ink edits all over the clean, white pages. I prefer blue over red. My beta readers, who were awesome, for the WIP consistently had two comments. First, I should mention a couple characters early on, who play a larger role later in the story, so those characters don’t appear to come out of nowhere. The second was I should flesh out the description of a couple scenes. The latter point I had suspected and had asked my beta readers specifically to look at. I thought the former point was spot on as well, and I’ve done just that. There happened to be a perfect spot in the story early on where I could name drop those characters.

Despite consistently adding to the text, with the few cuts I also made, the WIP only grew by about 900 words. But I’ll include those in the tally for 3Q21 since I finished editing in July. I plan to ask my oldest daughter and her cousin, both who are in the target audience for this middle grade book, to be my final two beta readers. I’ll see how these harshest of critics react.

This is where I outline my goals for the next quarter, but I’m drawing a blank. Once I get comments back from my two young beta readers, I plan to do another thorough edit of my middle grade WIP. I also have an idea for a story, but I’ve been debating whether it’s of flash length or a more typical short story length. Part of this may be related to my laziness. It’s much less time consuming to work on a flash story. I should simply start writing and see what length the story wants to be. The family is going on vacation again later this summer. Maybe I can find several quiet nights to hammer out this story and see where it takes me.

That’s it on my end. How’d your quarter/month/week of writing turn out?

Acceptances = Free Stories

Everyone likes free, right? Good! We’ll get to that.

But first, there’s the good news. I’ve had two flash stories accepted already this year. After missing my goal of one acceptance a quarter last year, I’m already 50% toward the same goal in 2020. Both are online only magazines, but I’m not complaining.  Both are fun publications, and I encourage you to read their content, after reading my stories first, of course.

The first of the two to be published, The Sea Lords Script, went live today at Ash Tales. This is a market devoted to post-apocalyptic stories.  I got the idea for my tale while on vacation in Luxembourg last year. Not wanting to spoil the story, I’ll say I found inspiration in something that came with my daughters’ Kinder Eggs.

The second story, All Rhodes, will be posted March 13th by Fudoki Magazine, so mark your calendar. This market is dedicated to myths, legends, fairy tales, and the like. The story features the architect who designed the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, in ancient Greece. I did a project on the Seven Wonders way back in elementary school, and that has stuck with me to this day. I consider the story to be my first stab at historical fiction. While the architect and the Colossus of Rhodes were real, I took several historical liberties from there.

What do these two stories have in common? Besides my enjoying writing them, they both have comical twist endings. And best of all, both are/will be free to read!

My First Drabble

It’s been a while since I had a publication to announce, so I’m pleased to share one. Today, The Drabble published my drabble (an exactly 100-word story). Check it out here.

Thanks goes to my oldest daughter for the story idea.  I had just heard about drabbles as a type of story and was looking for inspiration.  She stepped up one weekend while we were doing laundry.

I hope you enjoy it!

Netherlands-Belgium-Luxembourg Writing Adventure

Last year, I blogged here and here about writing while on vacation in France. Both the cultural experiences, mostly art museums, and the setting in Paris and the French Riviera were inspiring. Though my writing had nothing to do with either, I hammered out a good many words and better yet, felt productive.

This year, the family toured the Benelux countries. There was plenty of culture to soak up, but it felt different. The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam was impressive and should be inspiring to any artists out there. My oldest daughter enjoys attempting to recreate the works of famous artists and had brought along her own self portrait to compare to Van Gogh’s numerous ones. But I didn’t feel the inspiration, like the year before.

I still managed to get some words on the screen. Most of the trip I worked on a new short story. I’m continuing to work on that one now that we’re home. It needs one more scene, which just happens to be the climax, so not difficult at all! I also wrote a flash story that’s a little political satire.

One of the last days in Luxembourg, the kids got these chocolate eggs that had a toy inside each. My wife tells me it’s a thing. Well, one of the little toys was a miniature dolphin. Like any toy these days, it came with instructions and a chocking hazard warning—in 30+ languages. This thing is like Pit Bull, worldwide.

And darned if that set of instructions wasn’t inspirational. A flash story idea popped into my head, and I got it on the screen that night with a few tweaks the next day.

Before these vacations, I hadn’t thought much about locations being inspirational, especially since I don’t write stories set in these locals. Now I know the location itself can feed the creative drive even if your story is set out in the solar system. Going forward, I need to make sure our vacations are set in the appropriate locales, and we visit the necessary sights, to get the creative energy going. I also need to read more toy instructions.

Let me know in the comments if you derive inspiration from your writing locations—or toy instructions.