Quarterly Update: An IWSG Post

Good day, my writing/blogging friends.

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for this month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group entry. We’ve reached the end of the first three months of the year, going into the second three. There’s a lot going on in the writing/blogging community. Continue reading “Quarterly Update: An IWSG Post”

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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. 

Book Lovers Tag

Good morning. 

I read a post from Sarah Brentyn, the Lemon Shark. She participated in the Book Lovers tag. It sounds fun, so I’m jumping into the game. Now, I admit that I’m not a voracious reader, but as Stephen King eloquently puts it, “To write a lot, you must read a lot.” So I try to follow that mantra. 

Now, let’s get going…

Do you have a specific place for reading?

I don’t have a room where I can read in peace. My house is so small, so I have no privacy. I have to read during the evening. And I pick a spot where I’m most comfortable. 80 percent of the time, it’s my bedroom. 

Bookmarks or random pieces of paper?

I can never seem to keep up with bookmarks, so I stop buying bookmarks. I’ll tear off a piece of paper, and it does the job. This is especially true when I borrow books from the library. I’ll use the receipt that shows the due date. Besides, if I want a decorative bookmark, I can do it myself. Just don’t ask for any fanciful designs. I don’t have that kind of talent. 

Can you stop anywhere or must it be at the end of a chapter?

I can pretty much stop anywhere. But most of that is due to limited time. I prefer stopping at the end of a chapter, but if I can find a good point in the middle, that suits me just fine. 

Do you eat or drink while reading?

No to either one. I’m too focused on reading to think about eating or drinking anything. 

Music or TV while reading?

Since I’m a visual person, I’m easily distracted by TV. So I turn the TV off while reading. Music is another story. I try to find a playlist that councides with what genre I’m reading. Most of the time, it’s light classical. That mellows me out and gets me in the mood, especially after a long day. 

One book at a time or several?

One book at a time, for sure. I have no skills when it comes to multitasking. So trying to read several pieces at a time is near impossible. 

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I say reading at home, but it’s not by choice. I lost books and notebooks at work, so I’m nervous bringing them with me. The fear is too great. I may not have the privacy I want at home for reading, but I have security, and that’s what matters. 

Read out loud or silently?

I can’t imagine reading anything out loud, unless it’s instructions. Besides, most stuff I read are not suitable for younger ears. 

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I kind of do both. The only time I will skip pages is while I’m reading short story anthologies. I won’t read something like that cover-to-cover. An actual novel is another story. I can’t see myself skipping pages. I want to take in all the details, major and minor. 

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

It’s inevitable that the spine will break after reading something a few times. I try to keep anything like new, as impossible as that sounds. 

Do you write in your books?

Absolutely not. This goes along with the previous question. I try to keep things as new as possible. If I need to make notes, I’ll buy Post-It’s. Besides, there is the occasion where someone wants to borrow a book from me. So I want it to be in pristine order when I give it to someone, and expect it in the same order when I get it back. 

Well, that’s the Book Lovers Tag. Instead of tagging specific people/blogs, consider yourself tagged if you’re reading this and want to play along. All I ask is that you insert a link to your blog so as to acknowledge where the tag came from. 

I strongly encourage you guys to play. It’s a lot of fun. 

Until next time, take care. 

Would You Rather? Reader’s Edition

A couple of weeks ago, I told you all about a game a blogging friend, Rachel, posted, called “Would You Rather?”. She created a writer’s version and a reader’s version. Two weeks ago, I played the writer’s version. Today, it’s the reader’s version. The premise is the same: I’ll answer questions provided by Rachel. I won’t tag anyone, but you’re welcome to play along. The link to the reader’s version of her game is here

Here we go…

Would you rather read stand-alone books or books as part of a series?

This is an interesting question. It would be hard for me to keep up with a book series. So many characters, so many stories within a story. And there are some stories that read like stand-alone novels, I wouldn’t know it was part of a series unless I researched it. But I tried reading first installments of series, and they haven’t piqued any interest to reading more. But I think I would give it another try. It would have to be one that coincides with my interests. 

Would you rather only read print books or e-books?

Print books, for sure. Now yes, E-books are more convenient and just as easy to navigate. And I downloaded a free book onto my iPad. But there was something odd about holding my iPad like a book. It just felt…wrong. I like having a print book in my mind. Reminds me of simpler times. 

Would you rather never be allowed to re-read books or only be allowed to read five new books per year?

That’s tough. To not be able to re-read books is hard to think about. I have a few favorites in my little library, but I’m always on the hunt for something new. Reading five new books a year sounds limiting, but it works for someone like me. I typically don’t read fast, so I can stretch it out for as long as I want. 

Would you rather read 50 pages a day or only five books per month?

For sure, read 50 pages a day. Like I said, I’m not a fast reader. Also, I like to take in everything I read, to really get immersed in a story. It’s hard to do reading a book a week, as it averages out. 

Would you rather read only one genre all the time or read in every genre except my favorite?

First of all, I really don’t have a favorite. If I had to choose one, it would be General Fiction since I write in it the most. So to answer the question, I would love to read in every genre except my favorite. I know that’s probably easy to say really considering the genre is pretty broad. But I think about Stephen King’s words of wisdom: “To write a lot, you must read a lot.” Or something to that effect. I think that expands to reading stories outside your expertise. Something I haven’t done in my writing journey. And if I want to write a sci-fi or romance story, I better have a feel for the genre.

That’s all the questions. I encourage you all to read and play along. 

Until next time…

Weekend Coffee Share: Rest Time

Good morning,

I’m afraid I don’t have much to talk about today. You might have noticed that the house feels a little more spacious. That’s because we’ve been purging the past few days. We’ve been clearing out the clutter, getting more organized. I have to say I feel a little calmer after the purge. At least, I can sit at my table without having to move stuff around.

So, if we were having coffee, I’d tell you about finally pulling the trigger on joining LA Fitness. The representatives were kind enough to give us guest passes until we were ready. We’ve been taking advantage of it, going whenever possible, which was just about every day. So last night, after work, we signed up and became full-fledged members. Now, the question becomes finding days to work out. With the schedules I have and one car between four people, it’s hard. So the next thing to get is a calendar so we can plan out the days for us to go to the gym.

This week has been somewhat stressful. There was the stress of coordinating doctor’s visits with both of my jobs. And then there was the stress of keeping up with this writing club I’m in on Facebook. I vented some of my frustrations this week, from not being able to write what I want to getting burnt out on writing just to meet word count goals. I wasn’t someone who really cared about meeting word counts. Since joining this club, that has changed. I know it’s not about meeting the goals every day; it’s about developing the habit of writing every day. But there are days when it’s hard to sit down and write something.

A lot of people suggested taking a day off writing once in a while. It’s one thing to take a day off writing, and another thing when you’re too occupied to sit down and write. The latter is usually the case with me these days. But there have been days where I stepped away from writing. But there were times were days became weeks and weeks became months. I definitely don’t want it to get to where I don’t write for an extended period of time.

If we were having coffee, I’d show a book I started reading. I bought it years ago at a local bookstore, but never read it through. It’s a collection of short stories written by African-American authors. It’s two volumes worth of stories. It touches on a lot of different subjects. Most of them relatable and could transcend into what African-Americans face today. I am going to try to read one story a day, which I’ll probably do right before bed.

Well, that’s all. Take care.

How Writing Has Shaped How I Read: An #IWSG Post

Hey there, readers and bloggers.

In case you don’t know, I’m one of many bloggers who write for the Insecure Writers Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month, imparting our wisdom and offering support to fellow writers. I don’t have a particular topic for this month’s post, so I’m going to respond to this month’s question.

How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

Before I started writing, I read simply for entertainment, even though I didn’t read that much. Then, as I went through school, I learned about how stories are broken down. There’s the five-act structure, of course. And there are other aspects like symbolism, point of view, style, dialect, theme, and so on. It was simpler back then. 

When I started writing stories, I learned to go beyond the simplistic. I learned that some research is necessary to make a story as authentic as possible. I learned the age-old adage of “show, not tell.” I learned to delve deeper into characters; that their motives aren’t always black and white. But I think the biggest thing I learned from being a writer is how stories can break the “traditional” and redefine what society deems as “normal,” no matter the genre.

Being a writer has changed how I read. It has taught me to be a critic, dissecting stories and judging whether the author has applied the techniques well. But it’s kind of a double-edged sword. On one hand, learning about how an author writes is useful when I discovered my voice and style. There are plenty of references, thus many styles to learn about. As such, I’ve taken what I learned and applied certain characteristics to develop my own style. In doing so, I discovered my voice. On the other hand, I’ve become more critical of myself, especially when I try to emulate someone else’s style and voice. Writers are unique. Their style and voice are unique. Therefore, it’s impossible to emulate one writer completely. It’s only going to lead to depression and failure. And that’s a lesson I’m still working on applying.

So, that’s my two cents on how writing has changed how I read. I would like to know how writing has changed you. Feel free to respond in the comments. Until next time…

Baby Steps in Branching Out

I promise this will be a short post.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a Twitter chat session. Somehow, I got off tangent with the thread and talked about writing and reading in different genres. Because I hadn’t read other genres, I couldn’t write in other genres. But the moderator suggested I try flash fiction. Get a feel for writing in other genres, see if I like it. Continue reading “Baby Steps in Branching Out”

WNF: Will Not Finish

Everyone’s heard the old saying, “Don’t start what you can’t finish.” I think it’s a flawed philosophy, but one with a sliver of truth. Those who know me know I don’t like to leave anything hanging. Whether it’s in my writing, or when I’m prepping pizza dough, or when I’m activating a phone for a customer. I want to see a task all the way through, or at least reach a comfortable stopping point. But in my walk through life, I realized that finding resolution is not always possible. That you have to stop wherever you’re at and move on to something else. 

I’ve experienced these feelings with my writing over the past several months. Each of the following scenarios marked good intentions, but ultimately ended up on the shelf. 

Exhibit A: Earlier this year, I posted some goals I wanted to accomplish. One was posting a short story series. I had everything pretty much figured out. Then as I wrote them and telling others about it, I slowed down and eventually stopped. Bottom line, I wasn’t happy with how the stories turned out, so I scrapped the series. 

Exhibit B: A few weeks ago, I started writing a story that basically was a modernized version of a published work. I started typing it out, but didn’t feel right about it, but a week later, felt compelled to write a different story. So I abandoned the reboot. As it stands now, I’m trying to make time to get the new story into my laptop and into the hands of potential readers.

Exhibit C. Back in April, when a new bookstore opened, I bought Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” Four months later, I started reading it. A week into it, I’m thinking about selling it. It’s not as enjoyable, despite being an American Classic. It just doesn’t do it for me.

There are more examples. These are the most recent. Two concepts are prevalent in those scenarios. One, I lost the passion and enthusiasm I had for them in the beginning. The energy wasn’t there. Two, in the middle of the activities, I “found” something better. But I learned that can be a curse in that there can be so many unfinished projects that it’s hard to keep them straight. Now, this isn’t to say that I will never go back to them. Maybe they need time to marinate. Perhaps I need to look at them from a new perspective. But currently, I am making the decision to stop, move on to different projects.

In life, we all have choices to make. I decide whether to have a good day or not. I decide whether to eat healthy or not. And so on. Writing has its own set. And I have to listen to what my heart and head says what I should do with my writing. Ultimately, it’s my decision. And if that means I stop a certain project midway, so be it. 

Outside the Box

I have a story I’m working on as this gets published. As such, I won’t spend too much time on this random thought. 

I took part in a Twitter chat session this past weekend about overcoming fear in writing. I shared a few things I’m fearful of. One of those fears, and thus the reason for this post, is writing outside my genre. 

In case I haven’t mentioned this on my blog or Twitter or Facebook, I write short stories. And all those stories fall into the category of mainstream, or general, fiction. It’s what I’m most familiar with. But as I read Twitter bios and “About Me” pages on blogs, one thing stands out: how authors of multiple genres influenced what they wrote. I’m fascinated and, at the same time, feel this sense of shame. I didn’t read much except what was assigned in school. But it’s not to say I can’t start now. As I peruse bookstores, I look for books outside my “expertise.” But a writer I follow on Twitter, Nicole Rivera, told me that I shouldn’t read to “find” something; that I should absorb stories I like and see if it leads me to write in that genre. That’s a good point. Yes, we learn what works and what doesn’t in a particular story, but we shouldn’t strive to write our story the same way. Our stories are unique, and should be written as such. 

What scares me about writing in a different genre is that it won’t be any good; that what I write will come off as too cliché. But a fellow writer reminded me of something: there will always be that fear of our writing not being any good, no matter the genre; that the important thing is to try. It’s true. I won’t know if what I write will be any good if I don’t jump in. And another piece of advice I received is to start small. Write flash fiction or short stories. Will there be clichés? Sure. But that’s why we have critique partners and beta readers: to learn about those clichés and discover ways to either avoid them or make them better. 

I recently read a post about the progression of why writers write from when they started to today. In it, the author pointed out that when writers started writing, it wasn’t about making money or recognition; it was about having fun and experimentation. Even the most seasoned writers didn’t have an established formula. They experimented with different forms and genres. As I read that post, I thought about my stories of the heroic Detective Falcon  in middle school. I thought about a story I wrote in the form of a journal that got published in junior college. I remembered writing a couple of romance stories as I pursued my degree in Creative Writing. I didn’t think half of them were any good, but it didn’t matter. I got joy out of writing them, and that’s what the post encouraged writers to get back to. 

Looking back, I wish I experimented more with writing. It probably would take away some of the anxiety. But it’s not too late to try something new. I can get back to writing for fun, even if no one reads it. I can experiment and see if it fits me. Anything is possible. 

But before I do, I have another story to finish.