A to Z is over… now what?

Hello, sports fans!

Welcome to May.

Yes, I know May has been going for more than a week now, but April was pretty busy and I took a few extra days to recover.

For those who were playing along, you are already aware that my A to Z challenge was completed with relative success.

I didn’t adore ever single story, but I got them all written, mostly on time. And I’m happy enough with the overall quality that I’m going to publish a collection!

What that means for you is that if you want to reread any of my stories you should do it sooner rather than later. I expect to leave everything up at least through the end of May, but once the collection is ready I’ll be taking down most of the stories here. My Blog Hop story (V is for Vortex) will stay put indefinitely, and I may pick one or two more to remain. I also need to do some rewrite on a couple of them, and I always like to include some bonus material so I need to write a few extra stories too. But I’m hoping to have the collection ready by mid-June at the latest. Watch this space.

Writing Stuff

In other writing news, I’m getting back to work on the revision that fell fallow over the last several weeks. As I think I’ve mentioned before, it is almost certainly going to end up as a complete rewrite. But I’m still taking the whole thing through a complete HTRYN-style revision process to get there. Partly because I want/need to fully understand that process. Partly because what I’ve done of that process so far has really helped me focus on what I think the story will end up being. I want to create a clear enough target that I know for certain that I’ll hit it the second time around. 🙂

I also have another idea percolating in the back of my head. It’s a young-adult-space-opera kind of thing that I worked on for a while and abandoned because I didn’t know what to do with it. But recently I’ve had some new ideas for the story so I want to take another stab and it. I think it will be 3 novella-length shorts, but it may decide to end up as a single, full-length novel. I’ll play that by ear as I’m working on it.

I’d really like to get both those ideas completed and published before the end of the year. It should be more than doable, but will require the kind of focus I employed during the A to Z. Sustained effort! Yikes!

If anyone wants to help, send chocolate! 😉

Moving Forward

In other news (that’s really related, but on a slightly different trajectory), another author has put a challenge out there to do what she is calling the 1000 Day MFA. Basically, it’s a process of intentionally self-educating by consuming lots of content and producing stories on a regular basis. Without the high price tag of a traditional education. Yeah – that’s a plus.

I’m at least tentatively committed to her plan which includes:

Reading/consumption
  • 1 short story, 1 poem, and 1 essay every day
  • watching 3 movies every week
  • reading 1 novel every week
  • reading 1 craft book (writing craft, duh–not arts-and-crafts) every month
  • (my own, personal addition) regularly listening to writing-related podcasts as a means of keeping up with author/writing/publishing news. I regularly listen to:
    • Writing Excuses
    • The Every Day Novelist
    • The Creative Penn Podcast
    • The Self Publishing Podcast
    • The Rocking Self Publishing Podcast
Writing/output
  • write 1 short story (or flash fiction story) every week
  • write 1 novel every year

My personal goals are actually a bit higher, but I don’t have the best track record of meeting my self-imposed goals, so going with these reasonable, doable plans is a good starting point.

Really, the overall goal is to get story and form and language and ideas percolating in my brain. That way, when sitting down to write, interesting things will end up on my page. I was already doing some of this. Joining this public-ish challenge seemed like a reasonable extension of my own personal commitment.

I haven’t quite “officially” started yet. I need to figure out a regular source for poems and essays since those have not been part of my usual intake up to now. This might be as simple as a visit to the library, but I also want to look into online resources. Additionally, I need to set up a tracking system both for what I’m consuming and for what I’m writing. That shouldn’t be too hard, especially since I have a husband who is the king of spreadsheets. But I need to figure out exactly what I intend to track and what I want that to look like.

The other bit I am adding that isn’t part of the “official” process–sharing things here. I want to start posting a weekly review of some kind. I want at least some of my short fiction to be practice in genres that are not my usual fare. And I want to get back in the habit posting weekly fiction or snippets here so y’all can follow along with what I’m doing. I probably also need to improve my blog organization so it’s easier to just get to what you want here. Right now it’s a bit of a mess, as per usual. * insert eye roll here *

Again–none of what I’m proposing should actually be that hard. The tough thing for me is going to be creating the habit.

Wish me luck!

And, like I said, send chocolate!

Sometimes the writer brain rebels

I was supposed to have an “R” story up by now.

I don’t have it written yet.

Don’t think I’m making excuses – I’m totally not. I had every intention of being multiple stories ahead of the publishing schedule for my challenge and I just didn’t quite get there. Instead I’ve been squeaking in barely under the wire (or, in many cases, just past it in the wee hours of the following day). So, yeah. Time management fail.

But today in particular I was running on too little sleep, even after sleeping half the morning. I had an appointment in the afternoon that ate a good portion of my usable day. We had plans with the offspring to celebrate the son-in-law’s birthday tonight. And by the time I sat down to write it was already nearly 11pm.

And I’ve just sat here. Puttered on Facebook a bit. Spent some time on my writers’ forum. All the while trying to decide what I would write for the letter “R.”

Not entirely unlike what I did last night trying to write a story for “Q.”

Except last night I got an idea I liked and cranked out a story relatively quickly.

Tonight it didn’t happen.

So, here it is at half-past tomorrow and I’m going to bed. I’ll write an “R” story tomorrow. And an “S” story, since that’s what’s due tomorrow. And maybe an extra one to get ahead of schedule for the first time this month.

We’ll see how it goes.

Kicking 2016 in the pants, and a forecast for 2017

img_0456It’s hard to believe it’s here already. Welcome to 2017.

I think maybe it feels surreal mainly because 2016 felt like the year that wouldn’t end.

    • So much political animosity.
    • So many celebrities and childhood icons passing away.
    • So little writing getting done.

Ugh.

2016

I was considering doing a wrap-up of 2016, but other than clobbering my personal reading goal I don’t have much to say about it.

But, yeah, my personal reading goal. I read 105 books in 2016. Some were short stories or novellas, but still, that is a lot of reading. I’m pretty pleased with myself.

Now, not every book I read was worth the time, but a whole bunch of them were. And even the bad ones have things in them for me to learn about storytelling… even if it’s just what not to do.

Interesting to me was that I read several books by podcasters I listen to. But the ones I thought I wouldn’t care for actually kept me completely riveted. And some I thought I would really enjoy I found I didn’t really care for. Success doesn’t guarantee a well-written book.

Names are withheld to protect the guilty. (Although I’d like to point out that I’m not talking about any of the Writing Excuses regulars here.)

It just goes to show that personality has very little to do with whether you will like someone’s writing. In other words, don’t judge a book by its podcaster. 😉

I will also not judge the podcasters by their books. In all cases, these are people who are making a living from their writing. Whether or not I actually like their writing, they are doing something right. I’ll learn what I can from whoever has something to teach.

And as a friend often says, I’ll eat the meat and spit out the bones. (He’s a Texan. Texans say things like that with surprising regularity.)

I have little else good to say about 2016, so I won’t. Onward.

2017

Writing

This year, I am quite certain, will be a better year for me in practically every way.

I’m planning to write and publish (or submit) at least a dozen short stories or flash collections. I am going to start purposely searching for markets and contests where I can submit because getting professional feedback can only help… and if I sell a few stories in the process, so much the better! But I also want to be very intentional about putting out more of my own writing, either as flash fiction on this blog, or short format fiction on Amazon or elsewhere.

It’s not because I want to start making money at this writing thing. Or not just that… making money would be awesome, let’s not lie.

But more than the money, I want to be really intentional about writing and improving my craft. So I’m committing to writing every day. I have things I know I need to do

  • deliberate practice,
  • stretch my abilities,
  • build on my skills, and
  • get out of my comfort zone.

I can’t do any of those things if I’m not writing regularly. So writing regularly it shall be.

I also want to (finally) write and publish at least one long-format story this year. A novel or long novella. Fully completed and published. Probably at least 40,000 words, but possibly up to 80,000 or more, depending on what I end up writing and how it goes. I have some ideas that I want to revisit, but I may start something brand new when I’m ready to do this. I’m not really sure… stay tuned to find out!

So between short stories, long stories, blog posts, etc, I should be well in excess of 150,000 words this year.

And make no mistake, I fully expect some of what I write to be crap. That’s where editing comes in. Learning how to self-edit is also on my list of goals for 2017. I’ll be using Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel class to walk through the process. And I know that by doing it, by being intentional (there’s that word again), that I’ll learn how to better recognize what is working in my own writing, and what still needs more attention. I’ll learn how to take a crappy story and make it better. I’ll learn how to take a decent story and make it something I can really be proud of.

All of this won’t happen overnight. Depending how long it takes me to learn the editing bits, it might actually affect my goals for the publishing bits. But that’s OK, as long as I’m making progress.

Deliberate practice.

Intentional progress.

Excellent watchwords for the year.

Professional Development

Another goal I have for the year is to attend at least one professional writing event. As much as I would really, really, REALLY like to go on the Writing Excuses cruise again this year, I don’t know that I’ll have the financial wherewithal to make that happen. (Someone offered to pay for the cruise itself, but I’d still have airfare, hotels before and after, and incidental expenses to consider. And since it would be 2 of us, and the cruise is in Europe, those “incidentals” are not all that incidental.) I still have hope, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

However, all is not lost. I am already registered to attend the Life, the Universe, and Everything Sci-Fi and Fantasy Symposium that’s held in Provo, Utah every year. I still have to pay for my airfare and meals, but the conference itself is a mere $55, meaning the total cost of the conference, lodging, airfare, car, and meals will possibly cost me only slightly more than just the price of admittance to some of the bigger conferences out there. How could I not? If anyone else is going, let me know. Maybe we can hang out while we’re there.

Everything else

I, of course, have other goals for the year. Let’s not call them resolutions, shall we?

There’s, of course, the perpetual personal fitness goal. Eat less, move more. Be healthier. Blah, blah.

I won’t quantify that goal… partly because the numbers are depressing, but mostly because it’s not about the numbers. Toward the end of 2016 I was making some progress, eating differently, walking more. I will continue that trend in 2017. If I’m walking 4-5 days a week, that’s already a win. Like I said, specific numbers don’t matter.

I’ll also be continuing to read as much as possible. Last year I actually set a goal on GoodReads to read 100 titles, and I made it. This year I think I want to be more about quality than quantity. If I don’t enjoy something, I won’t finish it just so I can mark it as read. I want to read more books on craft. I want to read more things that will enrich me. I’ll still read fiction because I want to be entertained. But I’ll also read more deliberately to discover what I can learn about story and plot and character from what others are writing.

I suspect I may still approach the 100-book mark I hit last year, but I’ll be creating a goal that’s only half that because, once again, it’s not about the numbers.

Let me say that again. I need to hear it and keep on reminding myself… in all my goals.

It’s not about the numbers.

It’s about deliberate practice and intentional progress.

If you see me moping this year about what I’m not accomplishing, remind me to kick my butt out of 2016 (or you’ll do it for me…) and move forward.

There’s so much 2017 ahead I can’t afford to waste my time not celebrating it.

Procrastination

Hi. My name’s Liz and I’m a procrastaholic. appointment-15979_1920

I start out with really good intentions to sit down and write, or plan, or edit. I have the tools I’ll need at the ready. I have a gigantic cuppa coffee to keep me fueled up.

But then I lose focus.

Usually it starts pretty innocently. I don’t quite know where to start, so I’m looking for inspiration. Or I feel stuck on a particular project and I’m trying to decide what to do about it.

So I sit there. Thinking. Processing. And I’m inside my head, knowing I really should be doing something rather than just mulling it over.

And that makes me feel guilty. So to block out the guilt I try to think of something to do. Then I’ll make the mistake of opening my email. Or Facebook. I’ll go to check something out on the internet.

Once that happens, it’s all over. Ten minutes of email turns into, “how the heck did it get to be 4:00 in the afternoon?” And as much as I hate to admit it, there are other things I have to do besides staring at my computer. There’s housework and a husband and dinner to be cooked and eaten. There are the other commitments I have that I can’t simply blow off for more screen time. There are books to be read. There’s a dog to be walked.

Far too often I find that the time I have available for writing simply slips away from me, like mist across the water.

But I have a plan. That plan is to learn how to plan.

No kidding.

I’ve always been more of a pantser. That’s a writer who writes by the seat of her pants, for the uninitiated. One who sits down and just writes without necessarily having a concrete idea of where a story might be going ahead of time.

Pantsing feels more creative than plotting. Plotting feels too structured, too organized. Plotting will suck the life out of my writing. Pantsing seems so much more free.

Now is when you might ask, And how’s that working out for you?

Clearly, it ain’t. It’s fantastic for developing my procrastination skills, and terrible for getting any actual words on the page.

So this coming week my goal is to create a plot outline for at least one of the stories that have been percolating in my brain or languishing on my computer. The good news? I have plenty to choose from!

I’ll probably start with something relatively short, but not too short. One of my short story or novella ideas should work. I’ll create a basic structure for it, fill in a few details, and know what story I want to tell.

pen-994464_1920And from that, hopefully, I’ll be able to sit down with my coffee and my blank page and fill up the one while I empty the other.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

D is for delayed. And dog. And dentist.

I haven’t written yet today, so I decided I needed to say something about the delay in meeting my challenge.

I’m a little disappointed (another D) to have slipped a little so early on in this process. But today, there are good reasons.

Oreo - 2003

Oreo – 2003

Oreo - 2015

Oreo – 2015

 

 

Oreo - 4/4/2016

Oreo – 4/4/2016

This morning we had to take Oreo, our almost-14-year-old border collie, to the vet for the last time. She was old and sick. She had arthritis and cataracts. She was mostly deaf, and had a hard time walking. So we took her to the vet and sat with her as she escaped the prison her body had become. I have no doubt that she is now enjoying flowered fields, barking at birds and clouds and rainbows. I’m sure she’ll have steak for every meal. She’s better and happy now, but our hearts are more than a little broken.

It’s hard to write when you’re feeling broken.

This afternoon was a little less traumatic, at least for me. I took my husband to the dentist for a tooth extraction. May as well get all the crap out of the way on the same day, I guess. He’ll be uncomfortable for a couple of days, but at least it’s the end of the ongoing discomfort of a broken tooth. And we stopped on the way home to buy yogurt and pudding – soft things that he can eat easily. We never get pudding, so yay, pudding. 🙂

So here I sit, fairly late in the day, thinking about what D could possibly be for. Maybe David. Or Danger. Or even (dare I attempt it?) Dog.

I don’t really know yet. Check back later to find out what I (D) discover.

Incarnations of Creativity

I’ve always been a believer that everybody is creative in some way.

Not everybody becomes an author or artist. Not everyone takes award-winning photographs or sings like Leontine Price (or Taylor Swift). But every human being has an innate urge to create. It’s in our DNA.

Many of us create in multiple arenas.

Napa2011-304 Obviously I do the writing thing. I also dabble a little bit in art (not well, but I do dabble). I’ve been involved with music most of my life. And I’m a pretty reasonable hobbyist photographer.

Recently (well, maybe a year or so ago), I had the opportunity to make some greeting cards for an event using some of the photographs I’ve taken over the years. I’ve been offering cards for sale, on a very small, local level, ever since.

But I’m actually thinking about branching out a bit. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m seriously considering setting up an Etsy or similar shop to sell cards and prints of my photos. I may eventually include some original artwork as well … or even cards and prints from my artwork.

August 2013-599It feels very nervy to consider it. It’s an entirely different kind of publishing than I’ve been working on. But it would be exciting to know that something I created got to wish someone I never met a happy birthday. Or whatever.

Anyway, just thinking at this point. But I’ll let you know if/when I decide to move forward with it.

FWIW – the photos on this page are a couple of my favorites! And the cover of my most recent collection, Flashes of Magic, is based on a photo I took.

These images were taken by me and are copyrighted – All Rights Reserved

Monday Mumblings

Yeah… don’t know if that name will stick. We’ll see.

This past weekend I had a really interesting opportunity. I got to participate in a class on life coaching. It’s potentially the first step to becoming certified as a life coach.

This isn’t exactly something I’ve dreamed of for ages on end. Nope. Never even really thought about it. But then the opportunity opened up, and there I was.

And I have to admit, I was fascinated.

Unlike so many things, Life Coaching isn’t about teaching someone what they need to do or how to live their life. It’s not about training someone to become  mini version of the expert. It’s not counseling.

board-784363_1280Life Coaching is about drawing out the wisdom someone already has, and letting them figure out how to use it in their own favor. A coach asks a lot of questions. A good coach doesn’t give a lot of answers – they let their clients come up with those answers for themselves.

It’s an interesting process. I’m still trying to decide if I’d be good at it.

But here’s the thing – I am (as you might guess) passionate about creativity. I think everyone is creative, but a ton of people just don’t understand what creativity really is. I’ve played with the idea of helping people determine the kind of creative they are. And I’ve thought about what it might look like to help people explore their own creativity in a judgement-free environment.

I won’t be giving up writing – probably not ever. But the possibility exists that I might add Coaching to the list of things I do.

It’s an intriguing possibility.

If I pursue it, I’ll let you know.

Things I’m learning about myself

When you get to be a certain age (and I will let that age remain ambiguous – don’t ask, don’t tell), you expect to have life kind-of figured out. At least the part of it that related directly to you. Everyday type stuff seems like it should just be a given.

Why then do I continue to be surprised and find out new things about myself?

old-books-436498_1280This thing I’m doing, the writing, was a smallish thing to find out.

I’ll admit, I am not one of those people who always knew I wanted to be a writer. I always loved books. I was always a reader. But I don’t think it occurred to me until the last decade or so that I even had the potential to be a writer. It’s been even more recent that I’ve actively pursued writing in a serious way.  And it hasn’t even been 6 months since I decided to make writing my primary focus. It’s weird for it to be such a big part of who I am now considering what a recent revelation it was to me. It was unexpected.

Probably a bigger surprise, though, is that, when necessary, I can and will be the kind of leader who will kick butts and take names.

What I mean by that is that I get frustrated when people I’m working with don’t get their act together and take things seriously. When they waste time. When they dawdle. When the thing I see as important seems to be ancillary to them.

Drives. Me. Crazy.

And I’ll start pushing a little to get people to do what they’ve said they would do. Which is funny (strange, not ha ha) because I spent many, many years being that person who doesn’t take things seriously, wastes time, dawdles, and has a problem with focus. In some arenas I’m actually still that person. Sometimes we all are. I think that’s OK-ish, if you’re aware of it and don’t commit to what you’re not going to take seriously. The reality is that not everyone can take every ball and run with it. There’s a big difference between having an interest in something, and feeling called to it. Something being a hobby is worlds away from something being your life.

heart-370621_1280And when you find that thing that is going to be your life, it frustrates you to see people treat it like a hobby.

It’s the difference between a time-filler and a passion. And here’s the thing – the passion will take more time and will force you to let go of things that are just filling time. Those time-fillers aren’t bad things. In fact, they are probably the passion of someone you respect, and admire, which is probably how you got involved in the first place. But when passion comes along, do the passion. Because there’s nothing more satisfying that pursuing your passion… and catching it.

I know this was a bit of a rambly post. I hate to say it, but get used to it. I’m prone to the occasional ramble. But usually there’s something buried in there that is worth considering. I hope that’s the case today. 😀

Remembering What’s Important

I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people who can sometimes get way too easily frustrated.

It’s not that I’m a jerk or anything–at least, I don’t think I’m a jerk. But I like things the way I like them. I am a creature of habit. I thrive on routine.

 I tried to deny it for years, but over time it became all too obvious to me.

I don’t like change. Not even small changes. Not really.

Change bugs me. It throws me off my game. I am the most productive and creative when everything going on around me is absolutely predictable. I know it’s not that way for everyone, but it is absolutely that way for me.

Anyone who has ever experienced life at any level can now guess why I get easily frustrated.

Change happens. You can’t stop it. It is all around you all the time. And, intellectually, I totally get that change is good.

It still irks me.

But this isn’t a post about change. Not really. It’s a post about getting over the frustrations of life and getting on with it… even if things aren’t going perfect, or I’m distracted, or my usual routine gets disrupted. Because, you guessed it, those things happen. Sometimes they’re planned, and sometimes they’re not. And either way, you just have to roll with it.

Today (Monday) is one of those days when I have a planned alteration in my routine. I could let it frustrate me. I could use it as an excuse to not get things done that need to get done. I could decide that losing several hours in the middle of my day means that really the whole day is shot.

But I won’t. And part of the reason is that tomorrow’s disruption is also a huge inspiration.

I’m driving a friend to her doctor’s appointment. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in January, and has just finished 5 rounds of chemotherapy, with the next phase of treatment due to take several weeks, and her physical recovery expected to take the rest of the summer, if not longer.

Talk about change and distraction. That’s that kind of disruption to your life that could ruin everything.

And yet, she keeps on fighting. She keeps going, one day at a time, with a very real reminder that, under different circumstances, she might not have had these days.

 The good news is that it’s looking good that she will make a full recovery.

The bad news is that life was interrupted. She was distracted from her job, her routine, her whole life, and had no choice but to keep moving forward or give up and die.

She kept moving.

And with an example like that, how could I choose to do anything different? So in the face of the kind of routine, ordinary, everyday frustrations that I know I’ll be facing this week, I will keep moving forward.

Will I still get irritated at interruptions to my routine? Of course I will. But I won’t let them stop me from doing what I’m supposed to do.