Writing Update: An IWSG Post


Hello,

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s Insecure Writers Support Group Day. By this time, you know the drill. So I’ll go ahead and give thanks to the administrators of this group, which underwent some changes since last time. More details about the group can be found here. Have a look, see what the group’s about, and sign up. 

I can’t believe we’re in the home stretch of 2017. It’s been a tumultuous year as I’m sure you can surmise. Political unrest, protests, disasters. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this year to be over. But enough about the world. Let’s get to the writing. 

I had to look at the archives to remember all the goals I set. I had four main goals plus some I added midway through the year. And there are some more that I added in the last three months. But before I get to them, let’s discuss what progress I’ve made with the previous goals. 

Write a Short Story Outside My Genre. Success. I didn’t have a particular order in terms of priority, but this was a topic of conversation throughout the year. I’m happy to say that I succeeded in this goal. I have a fantasy and science fiction story in my notebook. And I actually enjoyed writing them. I think it helped listening to music put me in the right frame of mind. I haven’t written a second draft on either one. I put them aside for the time being. I certainly plan on revisiting them before the year is over.

And while I accomplished this “feat,” this challenge is far from over. I plan on taking on another genre. The superhero genre. After talking with some writers on Twitter, I decided that this will be the next challenge on my list. I love what Marvel and DC have produced in the last several years. And while it won’t be on the grand scale in terms of writing, I think I can create a good universe. Right now, it’s in the planning phase. When it’s done, I plan on posting it on my blog. More details to come as the project progresses.

Submit a Short Story to a Writing Contest or Magazine. Not Started. Next to the short story venturing, this was another priority. Unfortunately, I haven’t started this process. Blame procrastination. Blame fear of failure. Blame not trying new genres. Blame not having the right tools. Whatever. It doesn’t change the fact that I have yet to submit a story. There have been plenty of opportunities. I follow a Twitter handle that posts free writing contests. I follow a blogger that posts writing contests every month. And yet, I fold. I psych myself out every time. If I’m going to improve as a writer, I need to stop making excuses and get this done. 

Compile Stories For a Series. Fail. For over a year, I told you, my writing/blogging friends, that I would write a short story series and post them on my blog. In the three years I’ve had Project Blacklight, I had three ideas for short story series and they flopped. The first, and perhaps the more truthful reason why these failed to gain traction, is that I lacked the motivation to keep writing the stories. I wrote one story, but gave up on them when I found myself stuck.

In addition, I didn’t have a plan. I’m someone that has to have a plan for everything. Especially when it comes to writing. I can’t just write by the seat of my pants, even if it’s a short story. Consider it a lesson learned from this experience. 

Write Twelve Short Stories This Year. In Progress. To be honest, I forgot about the original goal until I pulled it up from my last post. It was to write a short story a month. I’m altering this goal for two reasons. One, I have drafts scattered all over the place. I have some on Google Docs and some in my notebook. And two, I wrote more than one story on various months. I’m guessing I’m three-quarters of the way through. I’ll have to flip through my notebook and check the time stamps on Google Docs to get a more accurate measurement. 

Read a Book Outside My Genre. In Progress. This was one of two goals that I added to my list this year. This coincides with having a plan for my writing. I have to have guidelines. Plus, it’s said the best way to write a lot is to read a lot. And not just within your genre of choice. I have to say this has been a struggle. I have choices. I asked for recommendations and received some good ones. And I borrowed books from local libraries. The real struggle is making the time to read. Like some writers, I have a day job and family responsibilities. So time to myself is very scarce. Even more so with a second job I picked up recently. 

And then, there’s the issue of losing interest. I’ve mentioned this on a few occasions that I’m in the firm belief that watching so much TV has spoiled me. I’m not very patient. And I’m very picky about books. AND my interest in genres wavers. Like right now, I’m interested in the superhero genre. I read one book this year, Wayne of Gotham, but haven’t read another superhero book since. But this is where I need to think about what I like and don’t like about facets of different genres and find books that mostly match my criteria. 

Write Every Day For a Month. Success. I was worried about meeting this goal. I decided on July to be the month where I set out to write every day. And it just so happened to coincide with Camp NaNo. With the lack of free time, I had to get creative on some days. On others, I had to hunker down to get words on paper. But I can say that it was a success. I’m actually thinking about taking on this goal again during the real NaNoWriMo, though I won’t participate in the festivities. (Don’t ask why.)

So, that’s my progress. The last three months should be promising for my writing. I would love to hear from you.

How has your writing come along? What goals have you yet to accomplish? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time, take care…

(Note to self: I need to come up with a better exit line.)

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My Writing Rituals

Everyone has a set way of doing things. A certain process or procedure they follow deliberately and zealously. A ritual. Whether it be how you get the day started, the roads you take to work, the way you eat your lunch or dinner, how you wind down. Whatever you do, there’s a ritual. And certainly applies to writing. Some writers can be meticulous—borderlining on OCD—when it comes to their rituals. It’s like the stars have to be aligned just right—figuratively—in order to have a great writing session.

Over the last week or so, I watched YouTube videos on authors and their writing rituals. YA authors Kim Chance and Mandi Lynn started the tag and I’ve seen other videos by authors participating in the tag. Their answers are quite fascinating and they take pride in their rituals. As I listened, I found myself agreeing with some of these activities. More than I thought or imagined. So, even though I don’t have a YouTube channel, I thought I’d share my rituals with you, my blogging audience.
So, let’s get started.

1. When do you write? Day? Time? I don’t have a set day time to write. I work two jobs throughout the week, but when I have a break, which varies upon the schedule, that’s when I write. Evenings or weekends don’t work because I’m either working or spending time with the family.

2. How do you seclude yourself from the outside world? That’s hard for me to do. I steal time to write whenever I’m not with the wife and kids. I’ll put the phone on silent and will go somewhere else. Most of the time, my room. I’ll put on earbuds, turn on Spotify, and tune to a station that I know will help with my writing. I wear a Fitbit so I’ll get a notification when someone calls me. So unless it’s someone important, I won’t bother answering it. 

3. How do you review what you wrote the previous day? It depends on the stage that I’m at in my story. Overall, I don’t go in depth on what I wrote the previous day. I’ll skim over it and mark on my outline the section I completed. If I get a new idea for my story, I’ll revise my outline, then start fresh on a clean page in my notebook if it’s the first draft. On later drafts, I’ll start a new paragraph.

4. What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired? I listen to a few stations on Spotify, and it will usually depend on what I’m writing at the time. For everyday writer’s block, I listen to Lindsey Stirling and the like. Recently, I found an artist on YouTube I really liked named Taylor Davis. She does violin covers of popular anime and gaming tracks. So I subscribed to her station recently. I have a “writing music” station I listen to when writing Contemporary Fiction. I love listening to music scores and Hans Zimmer and Steve Jablonsky are two of my favorite composers. And lastly, a band called Two Steps From Hell. Kim mentioned this band in her Writing Tag video. If you’ve watched any action film trailer in the last several years, you might recognize their work, or something similar from artists like E. S. Posthumus. I’m trying to branch out to different genres like science fiction and fantasy, and those songs get me pumped, especially when writing an action scene. 

5. What do you do when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block? I do a few things. Instinctively, I’ll turn to YouTube and watch videos from different authors. I recently subscribed to Kim’s channel. But I watch videos from Kristen Martin and Jenna Moreci. I also watch TV show clip compilations or Internet-based shows. I subscribe to ScrewAttack, a gaming channel. The channel does Top 10 lists and a show called Death Battle. If you want a good laugh watching characters from gaming and anime fight to the death, it’s worth watching. I also write in my journal. I write to vent my frustrations about a story or whatever is going on throughout the day. I have a journaling app on my phone called One Day I use mostly. I also have a hardbound journal, but I fear losing it when I’m at work. 

6. What tools do you use when you’re writing? I have several tools depending on the stage of my projects. For brainstorming, I use Evernote on my phone. I have a notebook for writing notes. Then one for each project. They usually compose of character sketches and plot outlines. When writing first drafts, I use a pen and composition book so as to force myself to get the story out on the page. I don’t really bother with separate notebooks for my stories, unless they’re for a series of stories.  For later drafts, I have WordPerfect on my laptop. I recently bought the software so I’m still getting a feel for it. I also use Google Docs when I don’t have my laptop on hand. And finally, I have a 4-in-1 pen I use mostly for editing. I use red ink for striking out words and sentences, the green for adding words, and the blue for highlighting questions on certain sections of a story.

7. What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session? I have a couple of things, but since I have to choose one, it would be my 4-in-1 writing pen. It’s my go-to pen. I love how the smoothness when I’m writing with it. It’s wide enough to where I don’t have to worry about my hands cramping during a writing session. And most importantly, I love the convenience. I don’t have to fumble around my laptop bag or my pencil case to find the right pen for whatever task I need accomplished. And it’s useful for not just for writing stories, but pretty much anything where I apply pen to paper.

8. How do you fuel yourself during a writing session? Just about any beverage except tea. I used to not be a coffee drinker, but my wife turned me on to it. I don’t have a preferred flavor mostly because I use flavored creamer and whatever sweetener is available to offset the bitterness. Sometimes, it’s sugar; sometimes, agave nectar. If I’m at Starbucks, depending on the season, I’ll order either a Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino or a Caramel Apple Spice. Anywhere else, it’s a toss-up. I won’t order food because I worry about leaving my grease prints on the paper. 

And finally…

9. How do you know when you’re done writing? I really don’t have a way of knowing when a story’s done. When I feel like I’m dragging a story along, that’s when I know it’s time to end it. Now, if it’s a lengthy piece, I’ll refer back to my outline, noting specific plot points. When I feel like I reached a good stopping point, I’ll call it a session. I don’t go by time or word count because–again–I try to write whenever the opportunity presents itself. 

So, there you have it. My writing rituals. In the videos, Kim and Mandi tagged certain authors, but that’s optional. I’m not going to tag anyone on this blog, but I am interested in what everyone’s writing rituals are. If you want to participate, go right ahead. And if you have any questions or comments about my rituals, let me know. 

Until next time…

Surprises About My Writing: An IWSG Post


Hey there. 

It’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post for the month. As always, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and crew for the opportunity for us writers and bloggers to encourage others with our stories about our writing journey. If you want to know more or join us in supporting others, click here

Today, I’m going to answer this month’s question:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? 

There are many ways to answer this questions. I can think of a couple of ways. First, and I think it’s the most obvious, I’m surprised at what I’ve written. For those who don’t know, I “specialize” in contemporary short stories. Lately, though, I’ve felt this urge to branch out in other genres. There’s a part of me that has wanted to broaden my horizons. The thing that scared me from trying is that I didn’t know the “rules” when it came to certain genres. The common threads. The clichés to avoid. The differences between casual and hardcore. The ways to incorporate these “rules” into short story writing. All these factors intimidated me from writing in different genres. But friends on Twitter encouraged me to go for it. As one friend put it, “go into overdrive.” As far as the “rules,” everyone said the same thing: the “rules” are more like guidelines than actual rules. So, I took stabs at them. A couple of months ago, to challenge myself, I wrote a fantasy and sci-fi short story. It took some time; more time than I anticipated. But it helped listening to music to put me in the right frame of mind. And when I finished and looked it over, I felt proud at what I accomplished. Sure, they were only first drafts, but I felt this surge of confidence. Like I could write anything. 

Going along with the works I’ve written in the last couple of months, I found I have the capacity to create some interesting stories. For starters, I have to give credit to the Flash Fiction Hive on Twitter. If you’ve read my blog, you know how much I’ve talked about this group recently. I also have been gathering prompts on Facebook and Pinterest. They range from the rooted to the outlandish. The important thing is that the prompts have pushed me to think outside the box. To step up my writing game. This has especially been helpful because for a while, I wasn’t posting a lot of stories. That has changed. I feel like I can post more and be confident in doing so. 

Those are ways my writing has surprised me. What about you? Has your writing surprised you? If yes, how so? Let me know in the comments. I would love to encourage you. 

Until next time, take care…

Let’s Celebrate: An IWSG Post

Good day,
It’s the first Wednesday of August. (Can’t believe we’re in August already.) As such, it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Alex Cavanaugh, the fearless leader, spearheads this campaign to encourage writers of all levels with stories from our peers. Those who participate either post a story from their experience or answer an optional question provided by the captains. Any questions or to learn more about the group can be found here.

So, let’s chat. Continue reading “Let’s Celebrate: An IWSG Post”

Growing One Follower at a Time

This is indeed a joyous occasion. This week, I reached a milestone. I have 200 followers on my blog. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s kind of a big deal. I understand if I reached 500, I’d be raising banners or something. But I’ll take it for what it’s worth. 200 followers is something I didn’t think would happen. Hell, I thought I would never reach 100 followers. It’s been a slow process. And I’m sure along the way, I lost some followers. Continue reading “Growing One Follower at a Time”

2017 Midyear Update: An IWSG Post

Good morning,

The first Wednesday of the month has arrived. So, it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. For those unfamiliar with this, bloggers all over post something the first Wednesday of the month, sharing something about their writing journey. The purpose is to encourage writers of all levels. If you want more information, click on the link here.

So, the bloggers of the IWSG have options. We can share something original or can answer a question provided by the group leaders. Today, seeing as we’re midway through the year, I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to thus far.

At the beginning of the year, I kept my goals to myself. I thought there was no need to put my business out there because it meant I wouldn’t be as disappointed if I failed to meet my goals. But three months ago, in another IWSG post, I did. I had to share my goals. I needed encouragement, yes, but I also needed accountability. And I thought that by posting my intentions, people would read it and volunteer to hold me to what I set out to do. I had a few people step up after the post. But I’m always searching for more.

All right, enough of the prelude. I set four goals this year. Here’s the progress report. 

Write a short story outside my genre. I kind of put a halt on this goal. I did write a draft of a science-fiction story, but it’s been only the first draft. I haven’t started the second draft. But I’m looking to start a new story in another genre. Maybe fantasy. Maybe adventure. Haven’t decided yet.

Submit a short story to a magazine or contest. I just about gave up on this goal, but thanks to one of my Twitter friends, Julie, I decided to pick this goal back up. She gave me a website that had a database of contests and magazines I could submit my work to. I’m sure many of you have heard of it, Poets and Writers. I have it bookmarked on all my electronic devices. So I’m still trying to decide on where to send my work. 

Compile stories for a short story series. I have one story written, but am working on more. I almost gave up on this goal as well, especially given my track record. But I’m pushing through. I am bound and determined to make this happen. 

Write a short story a month. Out of the four initial goals, this is one where I haven’t done so well. I’ve lost track on how many stories I’ve done, but I know it’s not where I hoped I would be.

Honestly, I could have done better with the progress of these goals. In between the last update and this one, I about gave up on writing for some dumb reasons. The biggest was that I wasn’t writing every day. I’m part of a writing club on Facebook where you record word counts each day. In the month of May, I recorded more zeroes than in previous months. Some days I recorded back-to-back zeroes. In addition, I felt like I was getting a lot of support in what I was writing: contemporary short stories. And I posted my frustrations on both on social media.

I acknowledge the stupidity of those reasons. And I say stupid because after my rants, I was reminded of the support I have from fellow writers, even though they write works that are different from mine. And it also helped that I followed some friends’ advice to search outside the box, especially on Twitter.

Like I said, I feel like I made some slow progress on the initial four. But I developed some new goals along the way. 

Write a short story a week. This wasn’t something I initially thought about doing. It’s hard enough to write a draft, edit, and compose a polished piece in a month. Doing it all in a week sounds near impossible. And yet, I keep hearing that it’s possible for writers to write a short story in a week. So, I’m going to try it. I have a bunch of prompts I’ve pulled from Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook (thanks to the 365 Writing Club), and searching Google. And the prompts vary in genre. So I am going to pick the four that scream to me to be written. I’ve already started one. Wish me luck on the rest. 

Read a book outside my genre. I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago. To summarize, I regretted not reading more books outside of school requirements and I’m trying to make up for it. Reading more leads to writing more and writing better, as it has been quoted numerous times. And my thought is that if I am to write outside my genre, I need to know some things about those genres that interest me. Research is involved, yes, but I think it’s going to take reading and studying the stories to learn what works and what doesn’t. I got some good suggestions from some fellow bloggers. And I’m on the hunt for more leads. 

Write every day for a month. This sounds generic and highly unlikely. I joined the afore mentioned Facebook club with the intent to write every day. But that May, I lost sight of the purpose of the club: to build a healthy, realistic writing routine. So, this month, I’m going into writing every day with that mindset. And it helps that I have some friends on Twitter that are going to hold me and each other accountable.

Well, that’s where I stand halfway through the year. I want to hear from you, my fellow writers and bloggers. 

Where are you as far as your writing journey goes? Is there anything I can do to encourage you? Do you need an accountability partner? Please let me know in the comments. Whatever you need, I’m here. Let’s help each other.

Until next time, take care…

I Need an Intervention

Good day, my friends. 

I hope you don’t mind, but I felt the need to address something nagging at me earlier today. 

On a Storycrafter chat, hosted by Faye Kirwin, she asked, “Which books have you emotionally connected with more than any other?”. I had no response. I couldn’t think of one book that resonated with me the most. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized a more pressing problem. I haven’t read a lot of books.

That’s right. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not something I’m proud of. Reading so many writers’ profiles and biographies, a common thread is how certain books influence what they write. (I find this especially the case with fantasy writers.) I can’t say that there’s a book that influenced me to write what I write.  I read books that were “required reading.” And that’s it. I didn’t take the initiative to read anything past it. I didn’t explore all that was available. And I regret it to this day.

It’s been said that we have to read if we are to write better. Regardless of genre and format, we need to learn from the past. Study the techniques from authors we admire. Learn what works and what doesn’t. And then, create something unique to us, even if the story’s been told hundreds of times.

The problem is that I’ve consumed so much “visual media.” I let TV and movies give me unrealistic expectations. For example, I expect a story to jump me right into the action, allowing no time for backstory and exposition. Now, this may be frowned upon in books generally, but I developed an extreme intolerance for it. If something doesn’t grab my attention right away, I don’t consider it worth reading. And on that note, I don’t take the time to properly invest in a story and all the aspects. I indulge YouTube, Twitter, whatever social media is out there rather than take the time to let my imagination run wild. 

So, I’m staging an intervention on myself. I need help in developing a healthy taste for reading. I don’t want to be limited to one genre and one format. I know there are classics I’ve never read or heard of. There are modern novels that might be considered classics in the future. There are numerous book series waiting for me to ingest. There’s so much to learn about the world today that stories can tell in their own unique way. And I’m missing out. 

So, for everyone reading this post, I’m asking for your input. I’m tackling this issue with an open and flexible mind. Name a book that has impacted you the most. A book or series of books that you think I should read. 

I will not use genre as an excuse. I will not use format as an excuse. I will not use time as an excuse. And I want you to hold me to these promises. I need this. If I am to be a better writer, I need to read more than I ever had before. 

Thank you in advance for your support. Until next time, take care.