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.