Bouncing Around

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.

Procrastination

1/24/19

Some call it writer’s block, but I just call it procrastination. It seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. The Writer’s Path recently had an interesting post about writers block, and The Green Room had a post about procrastination yesterday. Is it a winter thing? I’d think being stuck indoors would lead to more writing when compared to the distractions caused by nicer weather. Maybe my own experience is indicative of this phenomenon.

After getting 17,000 words down in my WIP novel for NaNoWriMo in November, I did very little in December. I sent the usual batch of submissions as rejections came in for the various short stories I have out, but I did next to no writing, especially in the WIP novel. I maybe added 1000 words there the entire month.

So what gives? Honestly, I felt a little burned out after writing every day for a month in November. I’d never done that before. I’ve read, and I believe it, that writing is like any other endurance activity. The more you do it, the more you build up your ability to do it. However, too much can still burn you out. I’m an avid runner, but I don’t run every day. I never have. I’ve never wanted to run so much I get sick of it or risk injury.

I opened the file for my novel in mid-January and saw I hadn’t worked on it since December 19, over three weeks at that point. I needed motivation. I’d continued to plot the storylines during my runs, but that hadn’t driven me to put anything on the screen yet.

On one of those runs, I came up with the idea for a flash fiction piece. I immediate hammered that story out in the hopes the process would reignite the fire. It was to no avail, though that piece turned out fine and will start making the submission rounds soon after a quick edit.

Then a snow day hit on a Sunday, the day I reserve for my long run. With a snow storm forecasted, I decided to move my run up to Saturday afternoon, thus freeing up my Sunday morning. I took advantage. While the family slept, I got up and wrote.

It still took me awhile to get back into the story. I had to reread the last chapter to remember where I was and to fix some things in that chapter. I only ended up with about 300 new words before the family got up, but it felt good to get those down. Now I’m feeling better about continuing. I’ve since added some more totally about another 1000 in the novel. At that rate I’ll finish in four years. I’ll reserve figuring out how to increase that productivity for a later post.

The longer I was away from the WIP, the more likely I was to stay away. I’d find any excuse to do something else rather than work on the novel, even if the distraction was writing related. While I think a short break was needed after NaNoWriMo, the break I took was too long. It just made things harder.

What has been your experience with burnout, procrastination, or writer’s block? Are they all the same for you, or do they manifest themselves differently? How did you combat them?

Post #52 – Writing Prompts

12/20/18

Do you use them? Do you shun them?

According to Amazon and a perusal of my local Barnes & Nobel, there are numerous books full of writing prompts. How many would you like? There are books with 300, 400, 642 (oddly specific), and 1000. Or, if you want to go big (because there is no reason to go home), how about a box set of 5000! There are books devoted to just science fiction prompts.  Too limiting? There are books for science fiction and fantasy prompts. Not your thing? There are books with prompts for westerns. Too broad? There is a book with prompts for western romances. Clearly, there is something for everyone.

Don’t want to buy? Searching “writing prompts” in Google returned 183 million hits.  Have at it!

Earlier this year, I came across an interesting take on the writing prompt phenomenon.  A literary publication, The First Line, provides authors with a writing prompt in the form of the first line for every story. As the website puts it, “[e]ach issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line.”

I have mixed feelings about prompts. Part of me feels I shouldn’t need them. I can come up with story ideas on my own, can’t I? That’s ego speaking though. I take story ideas from lots of sources, so why is it cheating to use a supplied prompt?

The other part of me is scared to even look at them for fear I’ll come up with a story idea and feel the pressure to write it. For example, I received an email from The First Line with its list of lines for 2019. Instead of one line per quarter, for the journal’s 20th anniversary, they offer several first lines from past issues for each quarter next year. I made the mistake of clicking through to look at the available prompts. I couldn’t even get through those for the first quarter. After reading almost every first line, a story began to form in my head. I couldn’t take it. I had to look away. I didn’t want all these new stories bouncing around in my head while I’m at work, for starters, and also while I’m still plugging away at the WIP novel.

If I had more time, I might consider going for it and attempt to come up with a story for each first line. Even if several went nowhere, there likely still would be numerous ideas worth fleshing out. Right now, I have plenty to keep me busy. I hope I recall correctly Mike Resnick saying he wrote down story ideas on little pieces of paper, which littered his office. Over the years he accumulated so many, he had no hope of ever writing them all. That’s how I would feel if I attempted this.

I actually wrote a nonfiction piece for The First Line. The market accepts essays discussing the first lines of novels. As soon as I read that, I knew I had to write about the first line in Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. So I did. The essay wasn’t accepted by The First Line, but I was pleased when Page & Spine accepted it. You can read it here. Maybe prompts aren’t so bad after all.

Let me know in the comments how you feel about writing prompts. Love ’em or hate ’em?

Photo credit: OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay

Post #50 – 2018 NaNoWriMo Recap

12/6/18

Last week, I finished my first NaNoWriMo. I didn’t do too bad, for me. My grand total was 15,616 words written. That’s easily the most I’ve ever written in a month. The least amount of words I wrote in any one day was 110, and the most was 1249. I averaged 520 words a day.

I wrote something every day of the month. That was my biggest achievement. Though I didn’t even get to half of the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal, I’d never written every day for an entire month before.

I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were going into NaNoWriMo. I knew I wouldn’t make 50,000 words, but I didn’t have a feeling for what progress I could make. I’ve never tried to hammer out that many words on a single project. I’m still not sure I can, but I intend to keep trying. I plan to continue working on my novel, though not every day. It has a ways to go.

I enjoyed the sense of community created by the NaNoWriMo website and community, though I could have participated more. There were numerous write-ins in my area, not to mention the virtual ones online. My writers club even hosted a write-in, but otherwise my only involvement was watching my friend’s (Michelle McBeth) word count surpass, then double, then triple mine. Like me, she has two small distractions at home, so I’m impressed she found the time. She also has done this before, several times. This is her fifth novel. Congrats to her for winning NaNoWriMo 2018! Check out her work here and grab a copy of one of her novels.

At least with my 15,616 word total, I already reached my word goal for the fourth quarter. Everything else written in December will be gravy. That takes the pressure off, especially since I had a light October. I may even forgo trying to write for most of the month and focus more on reading. I’m feeling the need for a recharge. I always can use my morning runs to plot more scenes in the novel and then use the holidays to write when I may have more free time.

Let me know in the comments if you completed NaNoWriMo. If you didn’t, did you reach your goals? Do you plan to continue adding to your WIP?

Photo credit: StartupStockPhotos via Pickabay