Post #33 – The Running Plotter

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8/9/18

I’m a plotter. I can’t deny or hide from it. Even when I’m stuck on a plot point and say I’ll write up to that point and see where the story takes me, I still can’t be a pantser. I write to the sticking point and then get no further until I’ve plotted the next part.

When do I plot? Thank you for asking. I don’t sit down and have brainstorming sessions to develop a plot. That sounds like something a professional would do. I don’t have time for that. When I have time to write, I need to write not plot.

Instead, I plot at two other times: when running and when falling asleep. I didn’t develop into a runner until law school and even then I didn’t develop into a decent runner until years later. I’d get through runs in those first years by thinking about things. An early favorite was naming all a band’s albums, like Pink Floyd or Tom Petty.

Now I plot during my runs. I don’t listen to music or podcasts. Those mess with my pace. Plus I think it’s safer to listen to my surroundings. Keeping my mind from wandering is a constant battle, but when it doesn’t, I plot. I’ve come up with some decent plot points. I now find runs almost unbearable when I’m not working on a new piece and therefore don’t have anything to plot. As an alternative, I’m often able to develop a story on the spot. Sometimes I’m not. Recently, it’s been the latter, so I’ve worked on plotting blog posts instead. Got to keep the weekly ideas coming!

The other time I plot is in that netherland of consciousness found between wakefulness and asleep. I use plotting as a sleep aide. No Ambien for me. Thinking about that next plot point usually puts me right to sleep. It doesn’t even matter if I come up with the next plot point or if I remember it when I do. Sleep is it’s own reward. I find when the plot point does come to me, I readily remember it when I turn next to writing that story. It may take me nights, or weeks, but eventually the next plot point works itself out. In the meantime, I sleep soundly.

Let me know in the comments when you plot, if you are a plotter. If you’re a pantser, what do you think about while running and falling asleep?

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire via PixaBay

Post #32 – Submission Dilemma 2

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8/2/18

I have another submission dilemma. I’ve talked for weeks here about the novella I’m writing for a Tor call for submissions. The submission window closes in mid-August.

The novella consists of three linked stories I wrote over the past year, the last of which I greatly expanded to meet the call’s minimum word count. Before combining and expanding these stories, I had submitted each to various markets. None were accepted.  That’s part of why I decided to go the novella route.

When I made that decision, I stopped submitting those three stories to markets as a rejection came in. The problem is one of the three is still under consideration at a market. It’s been there since the first week of May.

My experience with this market’s response time varies. Twice, this market rejected my submission in under a week, but another time this market took just shy of three months to reject my submission. Was the latter story held for further consideration? I’d like to think so, but the eventual rejection was not a higher tier one according to Rejectionwiki. Now I’m approaching the same three month mark with the story I submitted in May. The Submission Grinder says this market typically has a 24 day response time. (If that’s true, then my stories rejected in under a week must have had something wrong with them. Either they were terrible, or I didn’t follow the submission guidelines.)

Neither the market this short story is at or Tor accepts simultaneous submissions. What do I do if I don’t receive the missing rejection? Do I submit the novella to Tor on the assumption the short story will be rejected? Do I hold off on submitting to Tor and hope it has another call for novellas in the future? Do I submit to Tor and if the short story rejection turns out to be an acceptance, do I withdraw my submission from Tor or hope the short story’s rights revert to me before Tor publishes the novella (which assumes Tor accepts the novella)? In that case, is the novella a reprint? Does it even matter when the short story is about 5500 words of a 21,000 word novella?

Let me know in the comments what you think is my best course of action.

Photo credit: qimono via Piaxabay

Post #31 – Not Submitting Your Best Work

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7/26/18

Have you ever submitted something that was not your best work? Maybe you were in a rush to meet a submission deadline. Maybe you knew a piece wasn’t working, but you didn’t want to spend the time to fix it. Or you didn’t know how to fix it then and didn’t want to put it aside for too long. Maybe you needed to meet a word count minimum and added unnecessary fluff to a piece to reach it. Or the opposite is true – you wanted to meet a word count maximum and cut prose vital to the piece.

I’m likely guilty of most of those.  I’ve rushed stories out the door before they were ready to meet a submission deadline.  I’ve cut words to meet the maximum word count for a writing contest.  I’ve sent a story out I knew needed its exposition rewritten to avoid the dreaded info dump.

I soon may be guilty of sending out a story that is not my best because I’m attempting to meet a word count minimum. As mentioned in Post #28 and #29, I’m working on a novella for a Tor call for submissions. The minimum word count is 20,000. I don’t have any one story that length. I did have three interrelated stories totally about 11,000. The last of the three was a flash fiction piece of only 1000 words. I decided to combine the three and flesh that last story out in the hopes of adding another 9,000 words to meet Tor’s minimum requirement.

I succeeded. The first draft of that fleshed out story came to 9,800 words. I’m currently editing the entire piece, and so far have only added, not subtracted, words. I expect the final version to be in the 21,000-22,000 range.

Here’s the kicker. When going back through the piece, I don’t think it’s my best work. I think the piece is better without the first of the three stories included. However, if I cut that part out, it eliminates 3,500 words, putting me under the word minimum.

What should I do? I could cut the first part and try to add a scene somewhere else to make up the difference. Trouble is I don’t have anything in mind, and the deadline is looming.

I could put off submitting, giving me time to devise further scenes, and hope Tor has another call for novellas in the future. Tor already stopped accepting short stories, so I wonder how much longer it will have calls for novellas.

Or I could submit what I have. I’ve submitted the three stories independently to various markets, all of which sent rejections. I’m not overly optimistic Tor will accept the combined work either. If it doesn’t, I may continue to submit the first part as a stand-alone story and the next two parts as a single story. Given the length of the latter, the available markets will be few. However, as I edit the combined piece, I’ve realized it’s not that bad. I think it will find a home somewhere, even if it’s not my best work.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve submitted something that wasn’t your best work.

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Post #30 – Writer’s Guilt

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7/19/18

A recent post on The Writer’s Path discussed the guilt the author felt when carving out time for writing.  The thinking was guilt arose because the time used to write was time not spent with family and friends and therefore was selfish.

I have the opposite problem. I feel guilty when I don’t write. The truth is I have plenty of excuses not to write. Writing is not my day job. Well, I actually spend the majority of my day job writing, but emails and memos and revising contracts isn’t the fun type of writing. So the day job gets in the way, and then life gets in the way. That’s how it goes. I accept I have responsibilities that often take precedence over my writing, but I still feel guilty about it.

Like any guilt, it eats at me until I do something about it. For traditional guilt, that’s usually making amends in some manner. For my writer’s guilt, the only way for me to get over it is to write something.

In the past, I’ve said I try to do at least one writing related activity a day. If that’s not actually writing, it’s adding to my spreadsheet of submission markets, or submitting a rejected story to the next market, or editing a finished story, or reading about the craft of writing. When I’m feeling the writer’s guilt, these tasks only take the edge off. The fix still has to come from writing.

The odd thing is I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t seriously focus on writing until about this time last year. Before that, I never experienced writer’s guilt. If I gave up writing, which I have no intention to, would the guilt fade or would it continue to build? Let’s hope I don’t have to find out.

Let me know in the comments whether you’ve experienced writer’s guilt and in what form.

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Post #29 – Do I or Don’t I?

7/12/18

The 2018 Golden Nib contest of the Virginia Writers Club is upon us. Chapter level entries were due by June 30. The winners from each chapter are judged and sent on to the state level by August 13, with the winners announced at the annual meeting in November.

As mentioned in Post #8, I question the rationale for submitting to this contest. On the one hand, there is the chance of being dubbed an “award winning author.” On the other hand, winning means I can’t submit that story to another market, unless the market accepts reprints, because the Virginia Writers Club asks for first publication rights. The problem is the Club hasn’t published the winning stories in years, not even as a PDF on the Club’s website.

One of the reasons I joined the Club last year when I did was to submit to this contest. I feel I’ve gained so much more by joining the Club while the contest has diminished in importance. I’m reluctant to give up first publication rights when there is no guarantee of publication.

When I addressed this issue previously, I noted becoming an award winning author doesn’t get me closer to my goal of being a member of the SFWA. If that truly is my goal, then other possible accolades are irrelevant.

An additional factor to weigh when submitting is the story length. The limit for the Golden Nib contest is 3500 words. That’s fairly short for the stories I write. One thought I had was to write the story I mentioned in Post #22 that fit a specific call for submissions, the deadline for which was the end of June. If I could have hammered that out in June, I expected it to be 3500 or less. That story likely is too specific to the call for submissions to submit to other markets. While I had the story idea, unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to write it. I focused on my novella instead.

The contest has three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A Club member may submit one work in each. So what did I do?

First, I submitted a poem. It’s the only poem I’ve written since high school, and I’ve never submitted it anywhere.

Next, I submitted a nonfiction piece, again, my only one to this point. I’ve submitted this piece a couple of times and received the corresponding rejections. It’s currently out at a market that accepts simultaneous submission, so I decided to submit it to the contest as well. If it’s selected by either venue, I’ll withdraw from the other.

What about the fiction category? I decided not to submit. The choice was made easy for two reasons. I either didn’t have a story short enough to fit, or for those that were short enough, they currently are under consideration at markets that do not accept simultaneous submission. As I mentioned in Post #24, read and reread the submission guidelines.

Let me know in the comments if you think I should have tried harder to submit a fiction piece (i.e. write a specific story for the contest), publication rights be damned.

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