Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Still Writing (Almost) Every Day

Yes, I'm still writing (mostly) every day. But, for the moment at least, this is the final blog post for the Write Every Day blog.

This blog, an adjunct to my main blog, was launched earlier this year to be a supplement to my book "Write Every Day: Hints and Tips Towards a Daily Writing Routine." I've enjoyed talking to the people who have read that book. Hearing that what I've presented has helped inspire other people to have a regular writing routine is very gratifying.

My original idea of producing new content on this blog every day was ultimately too ambitious; even with some rather simple things like writing prompts two days per week I found myself struggling to keep up. Cutting back to one post per week helped on that front, but as I've mentioned in posts on my main blog, I'm looking to decrease the amount of time I spent on blogging in general in 2013. Part of that decrease involves no longer producing new content for the Write Every Day blog.

The existing posts will remain here and I may decide to add something new to this site from time to time. And while I haven't released official plans for a new schedule for my main blog, I can tell you that I absolutely will be continuing to blog there regularly. If you're not already following me there, I would invite you to do so. I'll continue to talk there about topics relating to writing, including the psychology of writing, and about my own goals and news about fiction I have published.

I'd like to thank everyone who has purchased Write Every Day. If you've come to this site after purchasing this book and would like to reach out to me, please feel free to leave a comment here or contact me using my contact form.

Best of luck to you all in your writing endeavors!

-Michael Haynes

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Link(s) of the Month: Submissions Without Duotrope

Well, last month's "Link of the Month" post went well...

I've still got mixed feelings about the Duotrope situation. I can see ways in which their site can be useful and provide enough value to be worth $5 per month. But I've gotten such a negative sense from how the folks behind Duotrope have handled the transition that I'm really disinclined to be a part of funding the site going forward.

So I've been working in recent days on doing my submissions without using Duotrope. For the most part, it's been going fine. With that in mind, here are some links that other folks might want to keep in mind if they aren't going to use Duotrope.

Ralan.com - If you're writing speculative fiction (SF, fantasy, horror) then you should be able to get nearly as much market information by going to Ralan as you could get at Duotrope.

Dark Markets - For horror-specific information, this site looks to be very useful.

Google Drive - If you're going to be tracking your own submission information manually, you'll most likely want some form of spreadsheet. You could certainly use Excel or another PC-based program, but if you don't already own software like that, Google Drive is a free alternative. (If you do use a PC-based program and want an easy way to have access to it on multiple computers, Dropbox is a good alternative.)

Sarah Hans' Blog - One of the things I liked on Duotrope was its calendar of upcoming submission calls. A decent percentage of the information from my Upcoming Deadlines posts was drawn from that calendar. Sarah puts up monthly posts with quite a few submission calls.

Hopefully, if you decide to go Duotrope-free, some of those links will help out. If you have other links you'd like to recommend, please feel free to note them in the comments!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Black Apples, Sword and Mythos, Spellbound

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about three such calls for submissions.

First up is an anthology from Belladonna Publishing. "Black Apples" is looking for "gothic fairytales starring the classic fairytale princess – but her ending is maybe not so happy, her quest is perhaps more grim and the darkness of the tale might just come from within." This anthology is not restricted to classic princess characters nor is there a restriction that the stories can't be set in the future as long as the core fairytale princess element is present. This submission call runs through January 15th, 2013. They pay a flat rate of $120 for stories of 3,000-10,000 words.

The people who run Innsmouth Free Press are working on an anthology called "Sword and Mythos." The theme here is a combination of Cthulhu Mythos and Sword-and-Sorcery elements. Submissions for this project are open from January 15th-February 15th, 2013. Do NOT send stories before January 15th as they will not be considered. The pay rate is 5 cents per words for stories of up to 5,000 words.

Finally, the Summer 2013 issue of Spellbound, a fantasy magazine aimed at 8-12 year old readers, will focus on the theme of "Dragons." The reading period for this theme runs from January 1st-March 31st, 2013. Payment is 2.5 cent per word for stories of up to 2,500 words.

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

No Interview Today & More On Duotrope

I don't have an interview or guest post lined up for today, so I'll be skipping that for this month unless someone is anxious to be interviewed yet in December. If so, feel free to contact me.

The other thing I wanted to touch on today was another follow-up on Duotrope.

After having promoted the site late last month and then written a follow-up post on it last weekend, I felt that I should continue to keep folks aware of my thoughts on the topic as they develop.

Having watched things play out over the past few days, particularly the tone of communications sent to Duotrope users, I've come to the conclusion that I am going to try working without Duotrope. $50-60 a year isn't a huge amount for me to spend in the abstract, but it's more than I spend on any other writing service. I'd contributed (at above the recommended amount) multiple times in the past but the new price is more than I spend on any other writing service and if I'm going to increase my outlay to that extent there are other ways I'd prefer to direct that money.

I've already transitioned back to using a spreadsheet for my submission tracking. By using Dropbox I'll have access to this spreadsheet virtually as readily as I had access to Duotrope. If I find down the road that I feel like I'm truly missing something, I'll check back in to Duotrope and see if I want to subscribe at that time.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Duotrope Is Going To a Paid Subscription Model

EDITED to add a link to my December 5, 2012 blog post about my decision to leave Duotrope.

Just about ten days ago I promoted Duotrope as my "Link of the Month."

Today they announced that they are going to a paid-subscription model. This has been the topic of quite a few discussions today in various places online. Since I had so recently called them out as being a site worth exploring, I felt it appropriate to put in my two cents on the changes.

From reading their statement on the changes, it sounds like the site will be pretty much of very little use for non-subscribers after the 1st of January. Pretty much everything I listed as being a worthwhile feature of the site will require payment starting 1/1/2013. The payment is $5 month and they offer a $10 discount when paying for the whole year, making the yearly rate $50.

That's a non-trivial amount of money, relative to my writing income. And while I've donated to Duotrope in the past, it had not been at anything even close to that level.

To be honest, when I first heard the rate and it was quoted as $50 per year, my first reaction was "No way!" At $5 a month, I suspect I'll hang around for at least a few months to see how things go and give myself time for a graceful exit strategy from the site if I decide it's not worth the new expense. Yes, if I end up sticking around throughout the whole year I'll end up paying $60 for 2013 instead of $50. But I'll have the freedom to stop whenever I find the site no longer worthwhile for me and I won't have to pony up all the cash at once.

The ultimate question will be: Is Duotrope worth $4-5 a month to me? Financially  probably not. Ultimately, there are very few paying markets which I've recently heard about only via Duotrope. For the most part, news of new markets spreads rather quickly. I do, however, like the ability to access the response time information which they compile. But there's the rub -- if too many people drop Duotrope altogether, the number of responses coming in will drop, thereby degrading the value of that data. That's where being able to go month-to-month will help; I can specifically watch and see how much impact the change has on the utility of those stats.

For me, at the moment, it will be worth paying the $5 per month because I've been lazy about maintaining a separate spreadsheet of submissions. That's totally my fault and I specifically suggested that people NOT be wholly dependent on Duotrope in that way in Write Every Day. This is a time I wish I'd heeded my own advice since I figure it will take me a couple of hours to get everything back up to date. Every month I pay Duotrope $5 I put off that task. Of course, every month I pay Duotrope $5 and don't work on that task I only make it more onerous. The smart thing to do, assuming I decide I want to disconnect from Duotrope at some point in the future, is to start slowly updating my old personal spreadsheet a bit at a time until I get to the point where I could make the switch whenever I felt Duotrope was no longer worth it to me. That will also protect me if this switch to a paid model is an utter failure and the site goes dark sometime down the road.

What would I suggest to someone who had not used Duotrope yet? If you can, take it for a "test drive" in December and see if you find it worth $5 a month. Make a point to NOT make yourself, in any way, dependent on their service during that month. If you don't think it's worth it, then you can let it go at the end of the month. If you do find it worthwhile, then you can decide if you want to go monthly or annual.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Three Things I Learned From Attending Philcon

Philcon was, in many ways, my first "real" science fiction convention as a writer. (I wrote up a brief trip report on my main blog.) I attended Context earlier this year and had a very good time but was only there for one day and wasn't a participant on any panels, so it was a different type of experience from Philcon. Being in the Philadelphia area for all three days of Philcon, staying in the convention hotel, and being on my first panel all made for a very different type of experience. Here are three things which I took from that trip:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Link of the Month: Duotrope

EDITED to add a link to my December 1, 2012 post on Duotrope's move to a paid subscription model.
EDITED a second time to add a link to my December 5, 2012 post on deciding to leave Duotrope.

Duotrope is likely best known for its extensive database of markets for short fiction and poetry. While that's certainly the core feature of the site, there are a number of ways which writers can use the site to their benefit.

  • The Theme Calendar is one of the major sources which I use for generating the monthly Upcoming Deadlines posts. Currently there are over 200 listings in the calendar, primarily for short fiction submission calls.
  • The Interview page has a collection of over 500 interviews with editors of various periodicals. For publications you are not familiar with, this can be an additional way of learning about the preferences of the people who will be reviewing your submission.
  • The Market News and Updates page is a very quick way to see what entries have been added to the market database in the past week.
  • Finally, the Submission Tracker allows you to easily stay on top of your current and historical submissions. If you've got a lot of stories or poems out at market, this can be extremely useful.
If you haven't already used Duotrope, it's definitely worth your time to check it out. Are there any features of Duotrope which aren't mentioned above which you have found useful? If so, please mention them in the comments.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview with Alexis A. Hunter

Alexis A. Hunter is a writer from West Virginia whose short fiction has appeared in Post Mortem Press's The Ghost IS the Machine, Insatiable Magazine, Interstellar Fiction, Kazka Press, and many other publications. I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly at Context earlier this year and am glad that she was interested in doing this interview. I'm also glad that she was patient as I worked to pull this post together in my post-Philcon rushing around.

Alexis A. Hunter

1) Can you describe what your usual writing routine is like?

Usually I start with at least an idea – sometimes that idea is taken from a first-line or photo prompt, a specific submissions call or contest. I like to listen to music as I write, just to tune out everything else, so I've got a set "writing" playlist on Youtube. Headphones are a must as well. I don't usually do a lot of plotting ahead of time unless it's a larger project. I like to just take the idea and run with it, allowing the pieces to come together as they flow from my brain and out of my fingers.

2) Do you find trying to write every day to be a comfortable routine or do you prefer working differently?

Writing every day is a fascinating and extremely helpful challenge in terms of strengthening my writing. However, I have trouble keeping up all year round, so I usually resort to a story a week. Sometimes I write more frequently – for instance I hammered out 5 stories over two weeks not too long ago and felt pretty great after that.

I love working on prompt-based or challenge-based writing, so I often scour submissions calls and contests in search of inspiration. Sometimes I just work better having that focused goal and the limitations that come with it.

3) You did "Story-A-Day May" earlier this year, a feat which I'm truly in awe of. Can you talk about what that experience was like? The good and the bad?

Story-A-Day May is one of the most thrilling challenges I've ever participated in – and much more beneficial to me, a short story writer, than NaNoWriMo. I've participated for the past two years, sitting down every day in May and writing a story. Sometimes that meant taking a notebook to work and scribbling down stories on my fifteen minute and lunch breaks.

The good part is, it really gets your brain in the habit of taking little ideas, words and images and blowing them into something larger, a story you might not have thought of afterward. I usually sit down each night as the prompt is revealed and think out my story ahead of time. I honestly rarely had trouble during the challenge coming up with some idea to write.

The bad part is it can wear you out. By the end of May, I usually begin to feel the toll. Which means, in June, I don't normally write a lot. I'm usually so busy editing the pieces I wrote and taking a break that I just can't manage it. I actually still have pieces from May I haven't touched. It really builds up your story catalogue!

4) Are there some authors that you feel have been especially influential in your development as a writer?

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I don’t read a lot of big name authors. The one author who I know has had a major impact on my writing is Matthew Stover. I've only read one book of his – don't laugh, it's "Revenge of the Sith", the Star Wars novel. He used a lot of sentence fragments to great effect in the book, and I remember reading it and just instantly being rocked by how awesome the fragments punctuated certain lines, emotions and moments. I went overboard for a while with the fragments in my own writing, but I've learned to scale back and only use them when most effective.

5) You attended Context here in Columbus earlier this year. What were you favorite parts of that experience? Do you think you're likely to attend future conventions as time and such allow?

I had quite a few favorite parts of Context. I loved getting to hang out with other writers, especially the ones I'd come to know online quite well. The workshops were amazing, especially Timon Esaias' Self Editing and Rewriting workshop. I learned so much and took so many notes, it'll probably take me eons to soak all that information up. I also really enjoyed the flash fiction contest hosted Friday night of the convention – I made myself participate and really found it a rewarding and fun experience. And yes – I'd definitely love to go back if time and such allow.

6) What comes to you most easily in writing?

I'd have to say either dialogue or communicating backstory through subtle hints and references.

Dialogue has always sort of flowed for me without much work. Maybe that's because I was super shy growing up and did a lot of listening, not just to kids my age, but really mostly to adults.

And the backstory thing – I'm not a huge fan of exposition. I don't like reading stories where I'm told something, I like that little thrill I get when I put together the puzzle pieces about a character's past. Or realize a character is pregnant just by the subtle way that character touches their stomach. I enjoy that thrill, so I like to try to offer that for my readers as well.

7) What do you find most difficult about writing?

My plots tend to wobble a bit, mostly because I don't plan out a lot before writing. Sometimes the endings feel a bit unresolved for the same reason.

I also have a hard time doing major edits or rewrites. If I don't nail it the first time around, the story is somewhat doomed. I'm great with cutting parts out of my writing – just not so great at adding stuff in afterward or rearranging it.

8) Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers about?

Two things.

One, if you get a chance, try out Story-a-Day May. That challenge has done wonders for my writing. I used to face bouts of extreme writer's block, sometimes stretching for weeks or months. After participating in SaDM, I rarely run into such problems. I think it's about getting your mind in the habit of constantly imagining, constantly spawning ideas from the little things.

Two, check out Scribophile.com. I've been a member of the site for about a year to a year and a half now. In that time, my writing has improved leaps and bounds. I know I would not be anywhere near where I am today if I hadn't joined Scrib. I've developed many great friendships and critiquing relationships with writers on that site from all nationalities and walks of life. That sort of varied feedback, from newbies to pros, really helps me hone my skills.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Gaia's Misfits, Night Terrors, Arc

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Since these markets tend to be open for only short periods of time, they're also good to keep track of for submissions of stories which you have already written which might fit more general themes. Below you will find information about three currently-open calls for submissions.

The one with the tightest timeline is Gaia's Misfits, an anthology of Young Adult Fantasy aimed at readers 11 and up. Submissions are due for this anthology by December 1st, 2012. They're looking for stories of 1,500-10,000 words and the payment is a flat rate of $15. There is some room left open in the guidelines for possible use of previously-published stories and the guidelines suggest that no exclusivity period would be required by the publisher.

Another submission call with an even broader theme is for Night Terrors III from Blood Bound Books. They are looking for previously-unpublished horror stories of 750-5,000 words and the pay rate is 5 cents per word. Submissions are open through January 1st, 2013.

Finally, Arc (a publication of the New Scientist) is currently running a contest for science fiction stories on the theme of "Is the Future Friendly?" The submission call is open through January 13, 2013. (The website says "before January 14, 2012." I presume the year to be a typo and since they say "before" I would be inclined to not push my submission to the last moment and get it in by the 13th.) They want stories between 3,000 and 5,000 words and will be paying £500 for one winning story and £200 for five runners-up.

I hope that one or more of these submission calls strikes you as being interesting. Best of luck with your writing and submitting!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This Week's Interview Delayed

Due to a variety of circumstances including a lack of wifi on my train, this week's interview is delayed. I'll post it before TOO long.

UPDATED November 14th:So... Philcon and related travel definitely did a number on my scheduling. I'm going to get this week's Upcoming Deadlines post up late tonight or sometime tomorrow (Thursday 11/15) and I'm aiming to get last week's interview posted on Monday 11/19. I figure I should have everything back in gear just in time for next week's Thanksgiving holiday to knock me off-schedule again!  ;-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Moments That Make The Work of Writing Worthwhile

Some days writing feels relatively easy; other days, not so much. For me, developing a daily writing routine has helped me push through the not-so-easy days because making the time to work on writing every day has simply become part of daily life for me, part of my routine. But, whether it's a day when the writing feels like a breeze or a day when it feels like I'm pulling every word out of my brain Syllable. By. Syllable. there's one thing that's true. It is work and it does take up part of the 24 hours that I have for that day.

But there are rewards. Oh, yes, there are! Here are some of the moments that make all of the work I have put into writing feel worthwhile to me.
  1. Finding the right word for a sentence or the right approach for a story. Mark Twain famously said "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—'tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning." Finding those right words can be a tremendous feeling when you just know that you've hit on the way to describe something that lives only in your mind in a way that other people will find affecting.
  2. Selling a story. Maybe some day I'll be so jaded that each new story sale is "Well lookee there. Ho hum." I'm nowhere close to that. Getting news of a story sale is still very exciting to me as each one both represents someone saying "I value this enough to pay money for it." and an opportunity for my story to be available for others to read.
  3. Seeing someone enjoy something I've written. Granted, I rarely truly "see" this in the sense of watching someone read something I've written. But through various message boards, forums, etc. I can get a sense of the reactions of people to my stories. There's always the chance that the reaction won't be wholly positive but so far I've felt very fortunate in the responses I've received. The outpouring of positive comments on Facebook and Twitter for my recent Daily Science Fiction story "Scraps" was particularly gratifying.
  4. Holding a physical copy of a book or a magazine with a story of mine in it. In this age of electronic publications, this has been a somewhat-rare thing for me so far. I have an issue of Nature with "An Unsuitable Job for a Human" in it and my copy of The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes. Both were a thrill to receive.
  5. Being able to help another writer. Whether it's been in a blog post or a critiquing exchange or even just talking something through relating to writing, there have been times where something I've said has seemed to really resonate with another writer. I like this both because it's nice to be able to help someone else along but also because of all the help I have received from other writers. I feel like I'm part of a larger community of writers when this happens.
I'm sure I could come up with other moments that make the effort I put into writing feel worthwhile and, of course, every writer's list may look different. What are some of the things that make writing feel worthwhile to you?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Four Reasons to Give NaNoWriMo a Try

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is one of the most talked-about writing events of the year. Since starting more than a decade ago, it has grown to the point where tens of thousands of participants sign up each year.

Last year, I was one of those participants. This year, I will not be, though I'm not passing it up without a bit of reluctance. However, as I've chosen to focus my writing time on short fiction and trying to write 50,000 words of short fiction in a month is an even more significant task than trying to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month, NaNo is not in the cards for me this year.

However, I had a great time last year and I think it's worth giving it a try if you're intrigued by the idea. Here are four reasons why.
  1. It gives you a very specific time period in which you can prove to yourself that you can writing a novel. This was the biggest thing I got from NaNo last year. And, if I never whip my first draft into shape for submission, it will be the main thing I got from it. But it was a significant thing for me to learn. I've always been a short story writer but I no longer think to myself "I don't know how to write a novel." I do know how to write one. (Well, the first draft of one at least. Maybe sometime soon I'll learn how to edit a novel!) And, if you don't "win" NaNo by getting through those 50,000 words in November, that doesn't mean that you've proven you can't write a novel; it just means that you didn't do it that time under those circumstances. Frame it that way for yourself and it's a no-lose proposition.
  2. The community opportunities are fun. Admittedly, this may not be as relevant if you live somewhere very remote, but the fondest memories I have of last year's NaNo are of the vacation days I took (one a week) when I went to a local write-in and spent three to five hours working on my novel project. There were a handful of us who were regulars and meeting and bonding with them was both a huge encouragement for my work and a lot of fun. In fact, one of the people I met later offered to critique a short story for me and her input was valuable to that story's development. Getting to know people can be both fun and valuable. And, even if you do live somewhere remote, there are plenty of on-line opportunities for socializing and cheering each other on during NaNoWriMo, both on the official site and on other sites like Twitter.
  3. It could be a part of building a daily writing routine. One way to approach NaNoWriMo is to plan to write a certain number of words every day. You could aim for the 1667 words per day required to hit 50,000 by the end of the month. Or you could set a floor of, say, 1000 words and plan to exceed it significantly some days. You can also do NaNoWriMo without working on your novel project every day; as I recall, I skipped one or two days to work on other projects during 2011's NaNo. But it's a high-energy, high-support time to try to get through the beginning portion of developing a daily writing routine.
  4. You'll most likely learn something about yourself as a writer. As the post I linked to in point #1 above indicated, I learned that I can write a novel. You might learn something different, but an experience this focused is likely to help you learn something about yourself, especially if you're relatively new to writing.
What reasons do you have for trying -- or NOT trying -- NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Link of the Month: Write 1/Sub 1

Among the things which I credit as having helped me to develop a stable writing routine, the online "Write 1/Sub 1" community is high up on the list.

"Write 1/Sub 1" is based on a philosophy attributed to Ray Bradbury of writing and submitting a short story every week. Several years ago, some writers developed a shared blog to experiment with carrying through that philosophy though with the option to have a monthly, rather than weekly, commitment. It's also a routine which could be used by those writing poetry rather than solely short fiction.

I first came to interact with W1S1ers through the forum devoted to the topic on Absolute Write's Water Cooler. (Two links for the price of one this week!) They're a friendly and supportive group of people and include a number of writers who are at a similar stage of their writing career as me. In fact, since W1S1 writers tend to have a fair amount of story "inventory" I've ended up sharing Tables of Contents with many of these writers whom I've grown to become friends with.

Deciding to follow the W1S1 spirit, particularly if you're up for the weekly routine, encourages you to write regularly and to get your stories out on submission. This doesn't mean you should shirk going through multiple drafts if a story requires that and no one's going to kick you out of the club if you miss a week (or a month) or ten. But like many of the other things we've discussed on this blog and that I talk about in "Write Every Day", W1S1 can be a part of your support structure for your writing career.

If you're working at developing a routine of writing short fiction or poetry and especially if you're having some difficulty getting over the initial hurdles of submission and publication, I would definitely encourage you to join in the discussion at the blog, the forum, or both places. I think you'll find it well worth your time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Legends of the Buckeye State, Oomph, and The Future Embodied

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about three such calls for submissions.

The first is one related to my own personal stomping grounds. "Legends of the Buckeye State" is looking for atmospheric horror or dark fiction "based on known myths and legends within the state of Ohio." This submission call runs through November 30th, 2012. They pay 5 cents per word for stories of up to 2,500 words.

The people who run Crossed Genres are working on a side anthology called "Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way." Submissions for this project are open through January 15th, 2013. The pay rate is a flat $20 plus print and ebook copies of the anthology for stories of 2,000-8,000 words.

Here's one that's a ways off in the future. "The Future Embodied" is an anthology of stories dealing with "medical and aesthetic body modification."  Submissions are only open during March, 2013. However, that would give you an opportunity to write a story with this market in mind and also try submitting it first to some of the faster pro-rate markets. Payment is 1 cent per word for stories of 2,000-5,500 words plus a contributor copy of the print book and eBook.

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Stop back on the second Wednesday of November for more Upcoming Deadlines!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Interview with Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

In the interview below, Kathryn and I discuss her first published mystery novel, her writing routine, and more.


MH) It looks like "Scrambled" is your first published mystery. What interested you about working in that genre?
KEJ) The interest began about 2004 when I was still in college. One of the assignments from the instructor was to write a short story using specific words. After finishing the first few pages I realized that I had a mystery novel. I put the book aside for a few years, graduated from college in 2009 and then took another look at it, finished the book and then gave it to some readers. They liked it. Scrambled was born.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday List: Four Ways To Get Your Writing Back in Gear

Many writers hit a down spot in their writing routines. For some, it's perceived as full-blown writers' block where they feel like they can't get anything new written. For others, it may be more subtle -- a sense that they are not writing as much or as well as they are capable of doing.

Whichever the case may be, there are a variety of things you can do to try to get your writing routine back in gear when it feels like it's not where it should be. Here are several of the ones which I would personally consider using at a time like that.
  1. Change Your Physical Location -- One of the things I've noticed is that when I make a point to actually go somewhere (library, coffee shop, etc.) to write, I typically end up being particularly productive. For me, I think there are several reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that those writing sessions tend to be longer than average. But it's also a psychological indicator to myself that "this time is for writing" and not for anything else.
  2. Write Something Different From Your Usual Fare -- I've written a whole blog post about some of the benefits of writing something different than what you usually write. If you're struggling to get words down, particularly if you're feeling that what you're writing isn't "good enough", then you could use this as an opportunity to write something with no expectations of yourself other than getting new words down.
  3. Set A Specific Short-Term Goal For Yourself -- Be careful, as this can be a double-edged sword. If you set too ambitious of a goal and don't meet it, you run the risk of reinforcing negative mental narratives. But, if you set a goal which is challenging enough to make you feel as if you've accomplished something significant while also being reasonably attainable, it can give you an opportunity for a short-term "win." Bear in mind that goals are best when they revolve around things entirely within your power. Setting a "goal" of having a story accepted by a specific magazine isn't something you can completely control. That could be an "ambition", certainly. A better goal -- one that's entirely within your control -- would be to plan to write a new story aimed specifically toward that publication and submit it there within the next month.
  4. Find Productive Tasks Related To Your Writing Which Aren't "Writing" -- Setting aside for the moment notions specifically of "writing every day," there are plenty of writing-related tasks which need attention. Perhaps you have work which you are circulating to publishers in general but which is not currently out on submission. Then get it back out the door! Maybe you have promised to critique a story by someone else but haven't done that yet. Use some of your writing time to get the critique written up. And so on. These aren't necessarily glamorous things to be doing, but if you get them finished, then you no longer have them sitting out there needing your attention "sometime." And maybe that "sometime" will be a time when you have an especially productive writing day.
Those are four tools I have used and would use again. What do you do to try to help get yourself back into gear when things aren't going as well as you would like?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Link of the Month: NaNoWriMo

It may still be summer here for a little while longer in the Northern Hemisphere, but it's also just over six weeks until the first of November and with that, the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

I've got a whole chapter in "Write Every Day" about my experience with NaNoWriMo and how it might fit into developing a Daily Writing Routine. Here is an excerpt:



If you're excited about the idea of trying to write every day but nervous about doing it "on your own" here's an option to at least consider. You could jump into the deep end with tens of thousands of other people in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
[...]
The first thing I would suggest if you're going to try to use NaNoWriMo as a springboard to developing daily writing habits is to put your focus specifically on those habits and not on "winning" NaNoWriMo by getting to 50,000 words. If you've struggled to be consistent with your writing in the past and find that having the support of the community around the activity helps you write each of the 30 days but you "only" end up with 25,000 words, I would say that you'd have an accomplishment there to feel good about. The goal, then, would be to keep that rhythm and energy moving forward into December and beyond.
So, if I'm saying that trying to meet the stated NaNoWriMo objective of 50,000 words needn't be your top priority, why am I mentioning it at all? Simply because there is so much energy and support in the community around the event. The NaNoWriMo website has forums filled with conversations, particularly during the month itself. If you live near a decent-sized city you can also find scheduled "write-ins" where groups of people working on a novel that month will get together for part of a day at a coffee shop, library, etc. and hang around and write together.

If you're a writer who likes to have things planned out to some degree before you starting writing, now would be a good time to consider your approach if you want to participate in NaNoWriMo this year.

As for me, I'm not likely to actively do NaNoWriMo this year. I still need to revise last year's novel if I want to see it published some day and I don't need to be piling up more unfinished work. But I'll probably try to latch on to the energy around the month online and maybe try to go to a write-in or two.

Are you thinking about doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, are you planning in advance or just intending to hit the ground running 11/1 with only the beginning of an idea?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Penumbra, Tin House, and Crab Orchard Review

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about three such calls for submissions.

Actually, four, since before I get to the other submission calls, I'd like to remind my readers that I am currently guest-editing the Kazka Press flash fiction contest for this month on the theme of "Love Beyond Death". Stories need to be submitted by September 20th and Kazka will be paying a flat rate of $10 for stories of 713-1,000 words.

Penumbra has opened submissions for their January 2013 issue, a tribute to Ray Bradbury. They specifically say that they are not looking for "fan fiction" but rather for stories in a similar style or dealing with similar themes. This submission call runs through November 30th, 2012. They pay 5 cents per word for stories of 500-3,500 words.

Tin House is currently reading for their Spring 2013 issue, with the theme "This Means War."  About the theme, they said: "We’re looking for the grey, the messy, the not-so-easily classified. We’re not just looking for work about armed conflict, but domestic, political, ecological, religious, and moral battles." They are looking for essays or stories of up to 10,000 words or poems (submit up to five). Submissions for this theme are open through October 31st, 2012. Pay rates are not stated in an obvious place on their website, but Duotrope does list them as having professional pay rates for fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.

Finally, Crab Orchard Review is looking for poetry, fiction, or literary nonfiction relating to the portion of the United States (generally speaking) East of the West Coast states and West of the Mississippi. (That's not wholly accurate, so please take a look at the specific regions they are including.) They describe the theme as being "Prairies, Plains, Mountains, Desert." They do not take email submissions; submissions must be postmarked by November 3rd, 2012. Creative non-fiction and fiction should be 25 pages or fewer, novel excerpts are allowable, and up to six poems may be submitted at once. Payment is $25 per printed page in the magazine with a minimum of $50 for poetry and $100 for prose plus two copies of the issue.

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Stop back on the second Wednesday of October for more Upcoming Deadlines!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Updated Blog Schedule

After giving a lot of thought to balancing time for my various writing tasks, I've decided that I'm going to cut back on blogging somewhat. I'll be retaining my usual Monday/Thursday/Sunday schedule on my main writing blog. However, instead of having daily blog posts here on the "Write Every Day" blog, I'm going to switch to a once-a-week schedule. So, starting this week I'll be having a post on this site every Wednesday.

The content will remain roughly the same, just spread out differently. Here will be the overall schedule:
  • 1st Wednesday of the Month - Guest Post/Interview
  • 2nd Wednesday of the Month - Upcoming Deadlines
  • 3rd Wednesday of the Month - Link of the Month
  • 4th Wednesday of the Month - Wednesday List post
Questions Which Might Be Frequently Asked:
  • Ah, but wait! Some months -- such as, in fact, the very next month, October -- have not just four Wednesdays but five! What then?
    • Well, it won't just be a lie-about Wednesday for me. But what it will be is Grab Bag -- whatever I feel like posting about for that day. The one thing it will do is, in some way, relate to writing or reading.
  • We've already passed the first Wednesday of September.
    • Correct! But that's not a question.
  • Oh, sorry... Ahem... What about the first Wednesday of this month? I didn't see a Guest Post or Interview then.
    • Indeed. So the first Guest Post/Interview with this new schedule will actually come around on October 3rd. I don't have anyone lined up just yet for that so if you're interested in participating, let me know!
So, apparently there really aren't that many questions which might frequently be asked... But if you have a question I didn't think of, do feel free to ask me in the Comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Writing Prompt: Friday August 31, 2012

(I'm on a blogging hiatus until September 10th. Enjoy the start of September!)

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll be posting one or more writing prompts as possible starting points for stories or poems. Sometimes when I'm having trouble getting started on a particular day, I'll look for a writing prompt to help get my imagination going. This has helped me keep up my routine of writing every day.

For the prompts on this site, I'll be mixing this up as much as possible and will sometimes utilize quotes, photos, music, and anything else I can think of which might help get your creative inspiration going.

Today's writing prompt is:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
-Winston Churchill
I hope this prompt inspires some of you to write something amazing. If you end up writing a story, poem, or anything else based on this prompt and it gets published somewhere (including your blog or personal website) please stop by and leave a comment so I can see what you came up with.

Come back on Tuesday September 11th for another Writing Prompt.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Malfeasance Occasional and Tomorrow

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about two such calls for submissions.

The Criminal Element website has rebooted their short fiction efforts with a new periodical called Malfeasance Occasional. For their first issue, they are looking for crime and mystery stories with the theme "Girl Trouble." This submission call runs from September 26th to October 10th, 2012. They pay a flat rate of $350 for stories of 3,000-6,000 words.

Kayelle Press is putting together an anthology of post-apocalyptic stories titled "Tomorrow." The submission call for this anthology runs through September 30th, 2012 and they will be paying $20 (Australian) for stories of 3,000-6,000 words.

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Stop back next Thursday for more Upcoming Deadlines!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Three Ways I Keep Writing

For me, the next few days are sort of exciting, in terms of personal writing milestones. A year ago today, I wrote my blog post titled "The Seinfeld Chain" which was the origin of my Daily Writing Chain and, eventually, what brought me to write the book "Write Every Day."

I started formally writing every day on September 1st, 2011. With the leap day earlier this year, that means that tomorrow (August 30th, 2012) will be my 365th consecutive day of writing with August 31st then marking the end of one calendar year of writing every day and September 1st starting a new year.

In honor of all of this, I've marked down the price of Write Every Day to 99 cents (and its equivalent in other countries) for the next few days. The price will go back up to $3.99 on the 2nd of September. So, if you have been on the fence about purchasing Write Every Day, now is a great time to go for it!

This past year hasn't always been easy for me, either on the writing side (lots of rejections before starting to get some sales) or on the personal side (it started with major unplanned home repairs and saw multiple other issues including serious health issues to both one of my parents and one of my wife's parents). And yet, I've written every day during that time. Here are three things that helped me along the way:

Writing Prompt: "Tuesday August 28, 2012"

I apparently really need that blogging hiatus. Here it is almost an hour into Wednesday in my time zone and I haven't gotten Tuesday's writing prompt up yet!

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll be posting one or more writing prompts as possible starting points for stories or poems. I'll be mixing this up as much as possible and will sometimes utilize quotes, photos, music, and anything else I can think of which might help get your creative inspiration going.

Here's today's writing prompt with apologies for its lateness:
"Think of me what you will. I did naught but that with your best interests at heart."
I hope that it inspires some of you to write something amazing. If you end up writing something based on this prompt and it gets published somewhere (including your blog or personal website) please stop by and leave a comment so I can see what you came up with.

Come back on the second Tuesday in September for another Writing Prompt.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Motivation: Using Deadlines

The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It's the lack of a deadline.
- Chris Baty

When I saw this quote, I had to stop and think for a moment. I knew the name Chris Baty was familiar. But why? After a quick Google search, I had my "A-ha" moment, seeing that he was the founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And the quote certainly fits in that context.

It's easy to set aside the things you want to do or to work on them at such a slow pace that little progress is possible. I'm not sure I'd be quite so dismissive or talent as Baty seems to be in this quote, but I agree with the general point that many people don't chase those dreams because there's nothing prodding them to do so. It certainly was true for me for the first 20 years of my adult life. I've learned to build my own goals and deadlines and it's allowed me to have a very productive year (plus!) of writing since I got back into it last summer.

If you're saying you want to write "someday" then start today. After all, today is indeed some day.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Upcoming Blog Hiatus (September 1-9)

As mentioned recently, I'm going to be taking a short hiatus from blogging. I've got some goals specific to my September writing which I want to focus on heavily during that time and I also expect I'll be busy helping wrap up the final considerations around the Table of Contents for Unidentified Funny Objects (submission guidelines | Kickstarter campaign).

My plan is to be on hiatus from the 1st through the 9th of September. So I'll have regular posts through this Friday, August 31st and then be back on Monday, September 10th. I am also considering making some revisions to my blogging schedule and I might (or might not) have news in that regard when I return on the 10th.

Also, look for an announcement about "Write Every Day" later this week. I started my daily writing chain on September 1st, 2011 so I'll hit my 365th day of daily writing on August 30th (due to the leap day) and start a whole new year of writing every day on September 1st, 2012 with my 367th day of daily writing.

I'm still looking to bring back guest posts and interviews. With the hiatus, that would now begin on Sunday, September 16th. So, if you're interested, please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Link of the Week: The Pomodoro Technique

This week's link is for the Wikipedia page about the Pomodoro Technique. It sounds fancy, but "Pomodoro" is simply the Italian word for "tomato" and this technique takes its name for a tomato-shaped kitchen timer that the technique creator originally used.

The basic concept is simple. Commit to a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on the task until the timer stops. If an interruption arises, either defer the interruption until the end of your 25 minute interval (itself called a "pomodoro") or abandon the pomodoro if the interruption can't wait. Once you've completed your pomodoro, if you intend to keep at your task, take a five minute break before diving in for another 25 minutes. If you complete four sets (two hours, in total, with the breaks) then take a longer break. The Wikipedia page provides some additional information and some of the rationale behind the approach.

I haven't personally used this technique but know multiple people who swear by it for both writing and software development. There's a company out there which sells official timers, a book, etc. but for experimenting with this technique, I would suspect that the bare bones as described on the Wikipedia page are sufficient.

Have you used Pomodoros in your work? If so, what's your experience been with them?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Writing Prompt: Friday August 24, 2012

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll be posting one or more writing prompts as possible starting points for stories or poems. Sometimes when I'm having trouble getting started on a particular day, I'll look for a writing prompt to help get my imagination going. This has helped me keep up my routine of writing every day.

For the prompts on this site, I'll be mixing this up as much as possible and will sometimes utilize quotes, photos, music, and anything else I can think of which might help get your creative inspiration going.

Today's writing prompt is this image:

Photo by Chris Potako
I hope this prompt inspires some of you to write something amazing. If you end up writing a story, poem, or anything else based on this prompt and it gets published somewhere (including your blog or personal website) please stop by and leave a comment so I can see what you came up with.

Come back on Tuesday for another Writing Prompt.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Scheherezade’s Bequest & Stealing Time

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about two such calls for submissions.

The magazine Scheherezade’s Bequest is moving toward print publication. For their first print issue, they are looking for issues featuring the archetypal figure of The Loathly Lady. The guidelines note that straightforward retellings of this character's story may be "a hard-sell." This submission call runs through November 30th, 2012. They pay a flat rate of $30 for stories over 1,000 words and a flat rate of $15 for poems and stories of 1,000 words of fewer.

Stealing Time is a publication aimed at parents, with the idea of producing a literary magazine of relevance particularly to topics of parenting. They have multiple themed calls up for consideration. The one ending soonest is on the topic of Celebration. This submission call runs through October 1st, 2012. They pay an indeterminate amount but state that most pieces will be paid in the range of $100-500 for stories of 500-3,000 words.

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Stop back next Thursday for more Upcoming Deadlines!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Three Books on Writing I Want To Read

In addition to the time I spent writing and the time I spend reading fiction, I also enjoy reading about the process of writing. Lately, a lot of that has taken the form of reading blog posts, etc. but there are three books I'm looking forward to reading on this topic.
  1. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury - In honor of Bradbury's birthday today, this title gets top spot. I have a copy sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. Now it's just a matter of making the time for it!
  2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - This book was recommended to me by a fellow writer. I had put it on hold at the library but then didn't get around to picking it up before the hold expired. So I won't be reading this one right away, but it is still on my mental "to read" list.
  3. On Writing by Stephen King - This one is a bit of a cheat, I guess, since I read it shortly after it came out. But I remember greatly enjoying it and I haven't read it since shortly after it came out. I think it's just about time to give this one another go.
What about you? Do you have writing-related books on your "to read" list?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Writing Prompt: Tuesday August 21, 2012

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll be posting one or more writing prompts as possible starting points for stories or poems. I'll be mixing this up as much as possible and will sometimes utilize quotes, photos, music, and anything else I can think of which might help get your creative inspiration going.

Here's today's writing prompt:
Photo by Elena Lagaria
I hope that it inspires some of you to write something amazing. If you end up writing something based on this prompt and it gets published somewhere (including your blog or personal website) please stop by and leave a comment so I can see what you came up with.

Come back on Friday for another Writing Prompt.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Motivation: Take Your Shot!

You miss 100% of the shots you never take.
- Wayne Gretzky

Oh, come on. You knew I'd have to sneak some hockey in here sometime, right?

This is a great quote, though, to think of when you consider submitting stories/novels/poems/articles for publication. If you don't try, if you self-reject either by not sending your work out at all or skip sending your work to high-end markets because you feel like you're not at "their level", then you're "missing" those shots. Maybe you would get rejected. Heck, at least in the world of pro spec-fic short fiction markets, probably you're going to get rejected. Some of these places get a hundred or more submissions for every one slot available in their publication.

Yes, your chance may be small. But unless you go ahead and submit, you've got no chance of getting that publication credit. And (at least metaphorically, if not mathematically) even a small chance is infinitely greater than no chance.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Blog Update: Interviews/Guest Posts and an Early-September Hiatus

I'm still looking for future interviewees and guest posters. However, I'm planning on taking a short blogging hiatus around the beginning of September. So, I'm not planning to have any interviews or guest posts until Sunday September 16th which gives plenty of time for us to coordinate if you are interested. So, if this is something you would like to do, please contact me.

Thanks!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Link of the Week: Printable Calendars

This week's Link of the Week is for the site where I go to get my printable calendars. Yes, I probably could whip something up in Excel for this, but I like the ease of just going out to the My Boat Club site once a month and printing the current month's calendar.

I always print mine out landscape to have the biggest boxes available for use. Here's the link to the calendar for September, if you want to try printing one out for next month.

Once you've been using the calendars and checking off boxes for a while, you might end up having something that looks sort of like this:


The site is free, though they ask for a small donation via Paypal if you use the site regularly but it is -- as the site says -- strictly an on-your-honor thing. There's no registration, etc.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Writing Prompt: Friday August 17, 2012

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll be posting one or more writing prompts as possible starting points for stories or poems. Sometimes when I'm having trouble getting started on a particular day, I'll look for a writing prompt to help get my imagination going. This has helped me keep up my routine of writing every day.

For the prompts on this site, I'll be mixing this up as much as possible and will sometimes utilize quotes, photos, music, and anything else I can think of which might help get your creative inspiration going.

Today's writing prompt is this article about eBay banning the sale of all magic, including potions, curses, and hexes. How desperate must someone be to buy a mail-order curse? (Hat tip to L. Lambert Lawson who noted that this would make a cool writing prompt.)

I hope this prompt inspires some of you to write something amazing. If you end up writing a story, poem, or anything else based on this prompt and it gets published somewhere (including your blog or personal website) please stop by and leave a comment so I can see what you came up with.

Come back on Tuesday for another Writing Prompt.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: THEMA and Arcane II

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about two such calls for submissions.

The journal THEMA (as the names suggests) specializes in themed issues. The theme which is coming up soonest for them is "Eyeglasses are needed." This submission call runs through November 1st, 2012. They pay a flat rate of $25 for stories over 1,000 words and a flat rate of $10 for poems and stories of 1,000 words of fewer.

The second submission call for this week is for the Arcane II anthology. This is an anthology of horror, dark fantasy, and weird fiction short stories. This submission call runs through September 30th, 2012. They pay 1 cent per word plus a copy of the anthology. There is a cap of $50 on the payment.

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Stop back next Thursday for more Upcoming Deadlines!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three Benefits Of Using Duotrope

The Duotrope website went through a major overhaul earlier today, which seems to make this a prime opportunity to discuss the site. If you submit short fiction or poetry to periodicals/anthologies and you're not already using Duotrope, there's a very good chance that you could benefit from using the site.

Duotrope is a free site; they ask for donations to help keep it that way. I have happily donated in the past and plan to do so again in the future. You do have to register to access some of the features of the site, but since it's free to try, though, you can get a good feel for its value to you before making any financial committment.

And now, three benefits of using Duotrope:
  1. Market research and submission tracking. This is what I'd call the "core competency" of Duotrope. You can use Duotrope to research markets which might be interested in publishing things which you have written. You can also track your submissions on the site; this allows you to easily avoid submitting two stories at the same time to a market which doesn't allow for this, submitting the same poem a market has already rejected to them again, etc. Now, I do suggest that people have some kind of backup of this submission tracking data external to Duotrope, just in case something should happen and the service should be temporarily or permanently unavailable. But as a day-to-day resource, I find it very easy to use.
  2. Keeping track of upcoming deadlines. Duotrope has a Theme and Deadline Calendar feature which can help you keep track not just of themed deadlines like those I write about every Thursday but also when submission windows are closing for other publications.
  3. Spotting signs that a market might be having difficulty. Admittedly, this one involves making some educated guesses. But there's a lot of information around the response time statistics of markets which can be viewed on Duotrope. Often, before I submit to an unfamiliar market, I will look at the "Response Times" section of the market's Duotrope page and also click on the link on that market's page titled "View report of recent responses from this market." Between those two sets of data, I can see if it looks like the market has been doing a poor job of responding to recent submissions and that does sometimes influence my decision of which markets to prioritize.
If you already use Duotrope and have a favorite feature which I didn't call out, give it a mention in the comments below. I'd be happy to learn more about how to use the site.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Writing Prompt: August 14, 2012

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll be posting one or more writing prompts as possible starting points for stories or poems. I'll be mixing this up as much as possible and will sometimes utilize quotes, photos, music, and anything else I can think of which might help get your creative inspiration going.

Here's today's writing prompt:
"The weather that day was quite unlike any other I had experienced before."
I hope that it inspires some of you to write something amazing. If you end up writing something based on this prompt and it gets published somewhere (including your blog or personal website) please stop by and leave a comment so I can see what you came up with.

Come back on Friday for another Writing Prompt.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Motivation: Get Started!

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
- unknown (attributed often to both Mark Twain and Agatha Christie)

So we don't know who said this, but it's often attributed to one of two writers, so that will have to be good enough for this writing-related blog!

One of the things that paralyzes many people (not just writers) is fear, and one way that fear paralyzes people is by keeping you from getting started. After all, if you don't start -- if you don't try -- well, then, you can't fail! Of course, you also can't succeed. And there are many, many ways that writers can identify success, depending on their own personal goals. Even if it's not "getting ahead" in the way that people might traditionally think of that phrase, you can be a success, but only if you first get started.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Looking for Interviewees and Guest Posters

Right now my schedule is clear for future interviewees and guest posters. I'd like to start having some again starting on August 26th or September 2nd, so if you are interested in being a guest poster, please contact me.

Thanks!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Link of the Week: Five Golden Rules for Successful Goal Setting

Every Saturday I highlight a link that I think is worth checking out for writers, particularly those who are working on developing a daily writing routine. This week's link is "Five Golden Rules for Successful Goal Setting."

I set goals for myself every month and then go back at the end of the month and track how I did at accomplishing them. (I also typically do a "status check" on my goals at least once mid-month.) My goals are always around things that are, for all intents and purposes, completely within my control. So I wouldn't list "sell two stories" as a goal because I can't control whether editors buy my stories. All I can do is send them out and wait for the reply. But I could list "write two new stories and get them both submitted for the first time" as a goal because that's something which is on me to either do or do not. (There is, after all, no try.)

The post I'm linking to this week does a great job of talking about best practices for goal setting. I hope that it provides some useful insights to you!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Writing Prompt: Friday August 10th, 2012

Every Tuesday and Friday, I'll be posting one or more writing prompts as possible starting points for stories or poems. Sometimes when I'm having trouble getting started on a particular day, I'll look for a writing prompt to help get my imagination going. This has helped me keep up my routine of writing every day.

For the prompts on this site, I'll be mixing this up as much as possible and will sometimes utilize quotes, photos, music, and anything else I can think of which might help get your creative inspiration going.

Today's writing prompt is:
"The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary."
(From Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream)
I hope this prompt inspires some of you to write something amazing. If you end up writing a story, poem, or anything else based on this prompt and it gets published somewhere (including your blog or personal website) please stop by and leave a comment so I can see what you came up with.

Come back on Tuesday for another Writing Prompt.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Upcoming Deadlines: Slice Magazine & Dreaming of Djinn

One of the tools I've used sometimes to help myself get started on writing is writing towards prompts or themes for upcoming publications, either anthologies or themed issues of periodicals. Below you will find information about two such calls for submissions.

Slice Magazine is currently reading stories and poems on the theme of "Obsession." This issue's submission call runs from August 31st, 2012 and Kazka will be paying a flat rate of $100 for stories of up to 5,000 words and $50 for poems.

The second submission call for this week is for the Dreaming of Djinn anthology. It's described by the publishers as follows:
[This anthology] will look at romantic Orientalism through a speculative fiction lens. You might find lost cities, magical lamps, mummies, thieves, intrepid explorers, slaves, robotic horsemen, noble queens, sorcerers, outcast princes, harems, dancers, djinn, assassins and even smart-talking camels and cats, set in exotic Persia, Egypt, Arabia, the Ottoman Empire, or a modern incarnation of these.
This submission call runs through October 15th, 2012. They pay 2 cents (Australian) per word plus two copies of the anthology for stories of 2,000-7,500 words.

Edited to add: I've had a conversation about the appropriateness of some of the language in the "Dreaming of Djinn" call. I had a brief concern, myself, last night and I suspect I should have heeded that and selected a different anthology to include in this post. I'm going to leave it here, with this comment, rather than erase my own decision. My hope is that the editors are looking for respectful/respectable stories with the themes of lost cities, etc. but it's fair to question that given some of the language they chose to use. A quick search led me to a blog post which explains the concerns well. Given that the blog post is from four months ago, it seems that either Ticonderoga is unaware of the concerns or chose not to react to them. Ultimately, what I want to say, is that I apologize to anyone who is offended by this anthology's inclusion in this week's "Upcoming Deadlines" post and I will give greater consideration to these issues when selecting publications for future posts. Thank you. -MH

As always, please make sure to read the linked guidelines pages closely to ensure that you understand details of the submission guidelines, terms, payment information, etc.

Stop back next Thursday for more Upcoming Deadlines!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Three Signs Your Process Might Not Be Working

Ultimately, the only person who can say whether your writing process is truly working is you. Because you're writing for your own goals. (I'm assuming here that you're not dealing with other parties who have a vested interest in the outcome of your writing.)

That said, here are three things which might be a warning sign that your process isn't taking you where you want it to.
  1. You're ending up with lots of unfinished work. I know some people who say that this is part of their process, and if they're still meeting their goals, I certainly can't say that they're "doing it wrong." But, to me, unfinished work represents time spent with only minimal return on the time. (I wouldn't say none, since you're getting more experience as a writer even then. Though, on the flip side, you could be reinforcing some bad habits.) If I put even a couple of hours into writing something, I'd like to think that it will be something that someone else will read eventually and (hopefully) that I'll get paid for. If I don't finish a first draft, or if I finish a first draft but don't revise, then I'm not going to meet those goals.
  2. You're spending a lot more hours working than seems appropriate for your output. Again, everyone's different, so this is something that really only you can decide if it applies to your situation. For me, if I found I was spending lots of hours at the computer and only getting a single short-short (flash) story out of it, I'd feel like there was something amiss. And to a certain extent, I think it's reasonable to include ancillary time (writing-related correspondence, chat rooms, message boards, etc.) as part of your "working" time. None of those things are bad things, but they aren't inherently "writing" and while some of them may be necessary (submitting stories, dealing with contracts, etc.) it's still good to keep an eye on your overall time "spend."
  3. You're not having fun. Writing, for many of us, is work. Writing, for many of us, is also play. It's an interesting dynamic. If it's starting to feel like drudgery, not just once in a while, but on a regular basis, then you might want to take a step back and evaluate what you're doing and why. It may be more than just a "process" issue, in this case, but a malfunctioning process could be one possible cause.
One of the things that helps me is to do a certain amount of self-evaluation of these things (and others). Am I getting stories finished and out the door? Am I spending a "normal" (for me) amount of time on writing? Am I having fun? When I can answer "Yes" to all three, I know I'm in a good place.