Reflecting on 2017: An IWSG Post

Good day, my writing and blogging friends. It’s the first Wednesday of December. (Hard to believe.) And as with every first Wednesday, it’s time for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Now before I get started, I have to thank the IWSG Administrative Team for allowing me the opportunity to share and encourage fellow writers. To be honest, when someone encouraged me—I forget who—to sign my blog up for this group, I had my doubts. I wasn’t sure how encouraging I would be seeing how I struggle with the writing process. I’m still learning things about the evolution of the writing process. I’m finding myself having to refresh myself on numerous factors of storytelling. And I’m still learning things about myself as a writer. But in writing these posts, the biggest I took is that not only am I encouraging others, but I’m being encouraged. And we all need encouraging once in a while. So thanks to the administrators for allowing me to share what I’ve learned in my writing journey this year, and I hope to continue to be a source of encouragement in the years to come.

So, now on to this month’s question:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

This came at the perfect time. I’m using the majority of the month to go through my Evernote notebooks and Pinterest boards. During this time, I’m thinking about all the goals I set for the year; about the reasons why I succeeded or failed to meet those goals. I usually reserve that post for the end of the year, but now is as good a time as any.

2017 was a mixed year. It was a year where I decided to expand my horizons in my writing. But like with any endeavor, there were setbacks. And there were things I wished I could have done differently. It seems pointless to be thinking about what I could have, would have, should have done. Especially for someone like me since I can obsess over failures more than successes. But there’s something to be said of being honest with yourself. While I have things I wish I could have done differently, it’s important for me to highlight my successes. So, let’s go.

Let’s start with Project Blacklight. This year, I added two serial blog posts. The IWSG being one. The second being the Weekend Coffee Share, where I create posts about events around my personal life. I interjected writing into the mix. Just recently, I found out the mediator shut down the Weekend Coffee Share postings. But I thought of opting out of the posts anyway because I don’t want to go into too much detail about what goes on in my life. I’ll still offer tidbits on the most relevant events of my life. Content-wise, there’s nothing I would have done differently. In terms of the blog as a whole, I wish I would have chosen a different name. It’s a moot point now, but I wish I could have given it more thought.

Next, social media. It’s not so much about what platforms I joined. It’s more about being more active. On Facebook, for example, I joined a new writing group. The 365 Writing Club. To do so, I had to sign up for their challenge. The idea behind it was to encourage and enrich daily writing habits. I say that it has worked out well, even though I didn’t write every day. And there were periods of time where I recorded consecutive zeroes and debated among myself on whether I should be a writer. Another thing I wish I could have done differently. But I got a lot of support from fellow members and administrators. And I’m seriously considering joining next year’s challenge, upping the word count goal to 500.

On Twitter, I joined the Flash Fiction Hive. I’ve talked about this group on several posts. Even shared some of the stories I wrote based on the prompts offered. The group went live in August and they post a month’s worth of prompts every other month. The best thing I’ve gotten out of the group is the writing hashtag games throughout the week. It sounds silly, but I thought I couldn’t do them because I didn’t have a WIP that involved the theme. But I didn’t need a WIP to participate. I wish I knew that sooner.

And finally, let’s talk about my writing. This year marked a big deal. I wrote some stories outside my genre. This is such a big deal. I felt locked in Contemporary Fiction. But after some encouragement, I took the plunge. I drafted a few stories in fantasy and sci-fi. But the one thing I regret was relying on other writers for inspiration. By that, I mean I posted polls on Twitter for what my next story should be about. I lacked a lot of confidence to come up with a story and I wrote them to please them, not myself. I wish I was more confident in myself to create the stories I wanted to write. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate their input or their encouragement. But I needed to stand on my two feet. Write what I felt gave me the best joy, even if I didn’t know all the rules.

Second, I set a goal this year to start submitting stories to contests and magazines. That hasn’t happened. I came up with a lot of excuses as to why it didn’t happen.

The fees were too expensive.

I didn’t know anything about the theme.

There were too many ways to interpret the theme.

I didn’t have the right software.

Over and over again, the same excuses. Truth is I could have submitted something, as long as it was polished to the best of my abilities. And even then, I used that as an excuse. But the biggest thing that stopped me was me. I was afraid to fall flat on my face. I’m someone who doesn’t like to admit faults and shortcomings. But everyone has them. Everyone is going to fail. Not every work that’s published is going to be the best. There will always be critics.

I’m still trying to get those realities into my head. I’m not going to be the best writer in the world. There will be others better than me. And that’s the biggest thing I would want a do-over. I would tell myself to not worry if I get rejected. It will happen. But at the same time, I would tell myself that it’s worth it to become a better writer. And that’s the end goal: to become better and better with each story. Not perfect, but better.

If I had to define 2017 in one sentence, it would be, “I tried something that scared me.” Now yes, there were some things I didn’t try. And sure, I had moments I wished I could backtrack and change some things around. But overall, I’m proud of myself. And that’s the important thing of why I did what I did this year. I wanted to say I did this, I did that, and it felt so good. Whether it was writing so many words a day or writing outside my comfort zone or being a voice of encouragement even though I had doubts myself. I set out to become a better writer and I feel I’m on the right track heading into the new year.

So, how about you? What are some of your successes in 2017? What’s something you wish you could have done differently? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

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Why I Don’t Do NaNo: An IWSG Post


Good day, my friends. 

It’s the first Wednesday of the month. And that means it’s time for my contribution to the Insecure Writers Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, writers and bloggers share their writing stories to encourage writers of all levels. If you have any questions or would like to participate, clink on the link to learn more. 

So by this time, many writers have started their quest to write 50k words for NaNoWriMo. And this month’s optional question was geared toward NaNo. I haven’t even participated in NaNo, so answering the question is out of the question. But I thought I would insert my two cents and explain why I haven’t participated in NaNo at all.

I’ve been encouraged by a lot of writing friends to participate in this challenge. And it is a challenge. Even certain members of my family have spurred me to do it. But I feel NaNo isn’t right for me. But before I begin, this requires a preface. I recently posted on social media that I was listing off a lot of regrets in my writing journey. And it’s come at an inopportune time. So, take it with a grain of salt.

Now, here’s why I don’t think NaNo will work for me:

  1. I’m not good with word count goals. Don’t get me wrong. Writing so many words is a huge benchmark. But coming up with about 1700 words a day is daunting. It’s hard enough to produce even 1000 on any given day. And that’s even with me joining a Facebook writing group that encourages meeting word counts. Writing so many words for 30 days straight doesn’t seem feasible, even though I did such a feat back in July. And that leads me to my next reason. 
  2. I don’t have the time to sit and write every day. Like most writers, I have to balance writing with a full-time life. I work two jobs and I help out with the family. That’s roughly 3/4 of my day. Granted, I have my breaks during work, so I can write then, but I’m a slow writer. For me, meeting the ideal daily word count goal will take hours (with breaks sprinkled in, of course).
  3. I’m a writing perfectionist. Finding time to write is challenging enough for me. But I’m really bad when it comes to perfectionism. Even with a first draft, my inner critic is ever present, looking over my shoulder. It doesn’t matter if I write on my laptop or with paper and pen. Every fiber wants to make changes while I write. (It’s worse writing on my laptop, by the way.) I feel like I get nothing accomplished; like I made no progress. 
  4. I’m bad when it comes to creating ideas for projects. It’s said that there are no more original ideas; just better ways to tell the story. And I wholehearted agree with that statement. I will dare take it a step further and say the retellings are becoming redundant. Now granted, this is a lame excuse. I can research prompts on Google, Pinterest, or anywhere on social media. The problem is, like my yearning to be perfect in writing my draft, I have this need to be perfect in my execution. I freeze in fear just at the thought of trying to come up with something new.
  5. I’m constantly comparing myself to others. Like the perfectionism, there’s this fear that I will not be as good as others. I want to be happy for my fellow writers, but there’s a part of me that feels I should be where they are. I feel reading word count statuses will make things worse for my self-esteem. It’s bad enough I beat myself up for things I haven’t done. NaNo might make it ten times worse.
  6. I have a fear of failure. This is the last, and arguably, the most crippling reason. As much as I say I don’t, I can be pretty competitive. I feel the need to be good at whatever I do. Especially writing. 50k words is certainly doable, but what if I don’t meet that goal? What does that say to me as a writer? These are questions I ask myself even with the Writing Club on Facebook. I look at the stat sheet and see how many words people produce in a day. I feel inadequate because I have trouble meeting my measly goal every day. 

I apologize that this post is contradictory to the purposes of the group. But I have a responsibility to be honest with my blog followers. Now by no means, this is not to discourage anyone from participating in NaNo. And it’s not to say that I will never try at hand at the challenge. I might do Camp NaNo where I can set my own word count goal. But right now, I’m not at a place where I can commit to such a challenge. But rest assured, I will be on the sidelines, cheering my fellow writers on.

What about you? Are you participating in NaNo this year? Have you participated before? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments. I want to know your thoughts. 

Write on, my friends. And to those participating in NaNo, good luck. 

    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.)

    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”

    Cutting Edge: An IWSG Follow-Up

    Good afternoon,

    I want to share a little something about what I’m writing right now. In my last IWSG post, I evaluated some goals for this year. One is to start a short story series. I tried the past couple of years to get the ball rolling, but I hit dead ends. Regardless of reasons, I failed to meet this goal. But this year, I believe I am on the verge of something. 

    It started with a dare. My wife challenged me to write a light-hearted story set in a barbershop. I laughed it off, but wrote it anyway, thinking it was a waste. But I showed it to her and one of my writing friends on Facebook. They enjoyed it, much to my surprise.

    I wrote the first draft three weeks ago. I’m on the fourth draft now. It’s much different than the first draft, including a new title (still temporary). I’m on the fence on whether or not to post this story on my blog. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing, so I want everything to be perfect. (I’m working on purging that mentality from my thought process.)

    While writing drafts on this story, I thought about this as the first of a short story series. If I do post this story on my blog, the series will be exclusive. I have a title for the series, Cutting Edge. (The idea came from the name of a barbershop I visited when I was younger.) I’m brainstorming characters and storylines. I created a Pinterest board for the series, pinning hairstyles, models, and barbershops of course. (It’s a secret board for the time being.) And I spoke to a couple of friends on their experiences with the barbershop institution. I gained a lot of insight from the conversations. Insights that can lead to potential conflicts in and out the barbershop.

    As I mentioned in the IWSG post, I am particularly passionate about this goal. I hear it’s better not to share your progress on a project. I know this to be true because I shared goals on this blog before and I felt disappointed when I failed to meet those goals. Too much pressure on myself, I suppose. But I learned another way to look at it. I believe seeing my goals on my blog gives me something to strive for. And, if other people see my goals, it can lead to accountability. So I’m taking a chance.

    Until next time…

    My Writing Journey So Far: An IWSG Post

    Here is my latest post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Every first Wednesday of the month, I and many other bloggers publish posts in the hopes to encourage writers of all levels. 

    Today, I am assessing my writing goals for the first three months.

    I didn’t announce all my goals in previous posts for fear that I would be a failure if I didn’t accomplish said goals. That being said, I think it’s about time I bring these goals to light. It’s like losing weight. You need an idea of where you want to be. And you need a plan to reach that “finish line,” whatever that may be. Equally as important is having people to hold you accountable, to spur you on when you feel like quitting and give you a swift kick in the rear when they see you’re waning. I’ve been lucky enough to find some writing buddies that I can pass my work along and will be honest with me. I need that in many facets of my life. 

    Okay, on to the assessment…

    Goal #1: Write a short story outside my genre. For those who don’t know already, I write Mainstream Fiction. It’s what I “know.” But I want to try other genres to give myself a challenge, especially in the short story category. I hear writing in genres to a hardcore degree is difficult. But a writer seeks to push himself; to not limit himself to one genre. Out of the genres and subgenres out there, I chose Science Fiction because it’s a genre that fascinates me above all else. I have a rough draft, but nothing past that point. I’m going over it and realize there’s more I need to add to the story. That’s what a rough draft is for, obviously. For now, I’m putting it on the shelf until I can work out the details better. 

    Goal #2:  Compile short stories for a series. I’m focusing on this goal more than the others. And this is a goal I sought after last year, but failed. I think the big reason was that there weren’t enough stories to build on. But now, I believe I have legitimate stories I can build serials on. One idea came from a story I wrote on a dare; a story set in a barbershop. I wrote it thinking I wasn’t going to like it. But the more I invested, the more it grew on me. So now I’m brainstorming ideas for stories in this barbershop setting.

    The second idea, again from a story, is a series of stories set in transit stations. Bus stops, subway stations, wherever. I shared the “first” story to a writing friend. She said it has potential. That’s something to go on. Juggling between these two will be hard to do, but I believe it can be done. 

    Goal #3: Submit a story for publication. This is another work in progress, but this is more about overcoming the mental blocks I’ve put up over the years. I follow one blogger who posts writing contests once a month. I read them and make note of entry fees, deadlines, rewards, and so forth. And a friend on Twitter sent me an email with links to writing magazines. I’m researching them, too. And I receive emails from two websites always looking for submissions.

    Despite these resources, I have yet to follow through on any of them. Why? Because I fear rejection. The last time I had a story published was Freshman year of college. Taking classes on Creative Writing and reading stories from my peers reinforced my fears. Obviously not intentional, but I kept comparing their works to mine, like it was second nature. I doubted myself then, and doubt myself now. I’m working on overcoming those doubts and taking the plunge. Being on a deadline helps. 

    And finally…

    Goal #4: Write a short story a month. It’s been said that a writer should be able to write a short story a week. The same blogger I follow posts a story a week on her blog. I’ve never been a person to write that fast. But I can, if I apply myself. I cite schedules, duties to family, lack of energy, not having enough ideas. You get the point. But all that’s false; all I’m doing is making up excuses.

    There are three reasons I can churn out a story. One, I don’t have to be on a laptop to get words down. I have a notebook. I have a smartphone with Google Docs. Two, I can make time to write. I can “sacrifice” free time to write scenes out. And three, after I read a post on a writing blog, I realized I’ve been approaching short story writing wrong. There’s a formula that breaks down the steps to writing a short story. So within my goal of writing a story a month, I shall attempt to write a story a week. 

    A Plan for 2017: An IWSG Post


    This is my first post ever for the Insecure Writers Support Group. A friend on Twitter suggested I start writing posts for this group, which is weird because I feel like I’m one of the writers that need encouragement. But I am reminded that I can encourage others with my experiences. So, here goes.  Continue reading “A Plan for 2017: An IWSG Post”