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I have set out on a new course.  Or, I should say, not new, but resuming what I dropped the ball on.  From July 26, 2008 until March 15, 2010, I wrote every single day.  Yep.  596 days straight of at least 100 words a day.  In that time, I wrote about 240,000 words. 

But during the last month, I was getting really burned out and going through the motions by only writing 100 words per day.  So one thing led to another and I slowed and eventually came to a complete halt.  I had a spreadsheet tracking my progress, but I quit keeping track as my initiative slowed to a stop. 

So last week, when I decided it was high time I got back on that writing horse, I opened up my spreadsheet and started in again.  I'm not going to try to re-create my writing every single day.  I don't have a firm goal yet, as a matter of fact, but I'm toying with the idea of a monthly/weekly goal instead of daily.  Although, writing daily works for me, because it keeps me in the habit.

Nevertheless, I've spent this morning brushing the cobwebs off my spreadsheet.  And I realized all those blank lines from Jan. 2011 to present day weren't *really* blank, because I have continued to do the flash challenges at Liberty Hall.  So I went back today and entered all those stories in my spreadsheet.  Then I opened each story to get the word count.  And guess what I found?  There are lots of gems in those stories that I didn't think were worth finishing.  I haven't started a "new" story in probably a year -- or so I thought, until I reminded myself of those flash challenges.  See, we write using a prompt and a timer, for 90 minutes, and then turn in the "finished" flash story.  Except I'm famous for not finishing, because I have a hard time wriitng a flash story.  Every once in a while, I'll get on that can end in 1000 words, but often, it's the beginning of a longer story.  But I've never finished them because I never think they're worth finishing.  But maybe what I'm judging them on is how they compared to the other stories of the week, which is usually now great.  But today I realized that I need to judge them by what's started happening in the story, and I bet I can finish quite a few of them. 

Now I'm all jazzed that while I thought I had a dearth of stories to work from/with, I actually have a lot.  They can't all be rescued, of course, but there's a few gems in there.  I love discovering things like that.  So now I can go from not thinking I had a story to work on every day to realizing I have quite a few.
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I've got a story at market that's gone a day or two beyond their pretty-consistent form rejection time.  I'm trying not to obsess over it or check Duotrope fourteen times a day.  Actually, I'd like to not check Duotrope at all.  But it's difficult.  Good thing I've got a bunch of errands and chores to get done today.  *leaving, but NOT checking that-website-that-is-here-and-now-unnamed*
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I love writing prompts.  At Liberty Hall, we have weekly and monthly fiction writing contests that use prompts.  My favorites are always the picture prompts.  I found out last year why I get more inspired by pictures than words.  I'm a visual learner -- I have to see something to understand it.  I don't learn by reading instructions--I learn by following the instructions and seeing the steps.  I think that's why I do love description in a story, because it helps me visualize the scene.

But anywho, if you also love visual/picture writing prompts, here's one for you: writingprompts.us/

It's been put together by Sean Markey.  Some of you may know him from his various gigs.  The site is well organized by keywords, and the pictures are truly awesome.  My favorite so far is the Steampunk hand.  If that won't make a story burst your brain, what will, I ask?

You can sign up to get emails with the new prompts if you like.  Spread the word, too!  It's an awesome site.
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I was pointed to an awesome site today.  Ever wonder if that rejection letter you received from Editor X is a form reject or not?  In most cases, it's fairly easy to tell, but some Editors send out such nice letters, I've sometimes felt it was a personal reply, only to learn later that it wasn't.  So wonder no more, the Rejection Wiki is for you!  There's navigation links on the left so you can upload your own if you so desire.  I found out that my Asimov's rejection was a form, but the "higher tier" one, which makes me feel better. 

Curse you, Jack!  I had an awesome yoga workout today, and was overcome halfway through by a longing for a milkshake from Jack in the Box.  So I was going to HAVE to have a greasy taco and french fries to go with it, right?  At the signal, I almost talked myself into going left and going on home for a healthy yogurt and granola bar lunch, but I decided ice cream was more what I needed to indulge myself with, so I went straight.  But the drive through lane was full -- FULL, I tell you! -- and I wasn't desperate enough to get in line.  Dammit.  Grief goes better with ice cream, you know.  Last night we went to Baskin Robbins for $1 scoop night, and it really did soothe.  So, I came on home and consoled myself with a Frito Boat lunch.  There may have been one or two
each of these. 




But it was a poor comparison to a strawberry milkshake with whipped cream topping.  *sigh*

Am doing much better today, although the house seems awful empty.  But at least I know poor Crooked Cat isn't hurting anymore, because in hindsight I see now how truly awful and pathetic he was at the end.  Thank you all for listening. 
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I was accepted into the Odyssey Online class, Narrative Structures in Fantastic Fiction, taught by Bruce Holland Rogers, and our first class was last night.  One concept, in particular, made me sit up and take notice.  It relates to a problem my stories often have, and that is that the reader sees the ending coming almost from the beginning, which makes for a rather flat read.  The lesson was about creating anticipation in the reader--how a reader's interest will be piqued by trying to guess the outcome of the story, i.e., worrying about what will happen.  And here's the explanation on how to do this:

How do I make a reader worry?

1.  The reader must be able to imagine two possible outcomes.
2.  The reader must care which outcome occurs.
3.  The undesirable outcome must look more likely.

#1 is the important thing to me.  I guess I've never considered this, not formally, anyway, and I've found that until I can visualize something, it just floats around my brain as a rather nebulous idea that I can't really grasp.  I've known that I should try to lead the reader astray from the end of the story, so the ending is a surprise, but I haven't really planned it, haven't chosen that second possible outcome and led the reader in that direction so that #3 comes into play, that the reader thinks the other outcome is the most likely one to happen.

Now to see if I can actually put this into practice with the next story I write!
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One of my favorite authors, Kate Elliott, has posted a series of articles on her blog, describing her revision process.  It's a great peek into how one writer works, from which you might pick up a few hints that might help you in your own revisions.  I find writing processes fascinating, and I really appreciated all the work Elliott took to put her process down.  It's not a follow-by-number design, but more a list of things to consider.

It's a 3-parter:

The Revisions Process: Part One: On A Theory of Revising

The Revisions Process: Part Two: What My Own Eyes Look For

The Revisions Process: Part Three: I answer two questions re: debut novelists & working with an edit
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I'm pleased to announce my story, "Fighter's Heart" is now available in Golden Visions Magazine -- the print version, Issue 13, Winter, 2011

It's available HERE -- scroll down the page for the print version, which is also available as a PDF for only $2.50!  Woohoo! 
Oh, and btw, I publish as Pam L. Wallace, not musingaloud!  Harhar!


Since I'm on the subject of me, I also saw a review of the October issue of Daily Science Fiction, which contained my story, "Memory Boxes".  The reviewer calls it a "nice piece", and also says that “Memory Boxes is heart-warming but thin”  To which I'll agree, as far as the "thin" goes, but it was written as a flash piece, so I was keeping the word count under 1k.  Anyway, should you care to read the review, you can find it HERE
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Ok, I'm NOT going to finish/win Nano.  I figured from the beginning that I wouldn't, given my problems with November as the month.  I gave up yesterday.  The WIN is that I did get 27 k written and further along in the plot than I've ever been before, with even a hint of where to go from here and how to end.  So it's not all loss.  Nano is never, in my mind, about winning, but only about writing as much as possible and pushing past the "I can't do it" mind set.  And writing even though the inner editor is whispering insidious words about how horrible you are as a writer.  So, even though I officially "lost", I'm not counting it as that.  Any progress made is always a win.

However, I am soooo jealous of those who are swimming their way through, and wish I could do it, too.  I know I CAN write 50k in a month, I did it in July last year.  But November is just the most hellish month that could have been picked for me on a normal basis (ok, besides December), and this year was even worse.  Vacation, procrastination, medical procedures, procrastination, antibiotics that have put my entire system into overdrive, procrastination, and Thanksgiving and its preparations are just too much for me. 

I feel better now the pressure is off.  And I'll just suck it up and pay full price for Scrivener when it debuts.  If I decide to buy it.  I have the Beta version but haven't had time (see above) to play around with it yet.
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I had the most ... interesting ... experience the other night.  I was really tired, and it was late, and I was trying to finish up my word count for the day.  I should have quit and gone to bed already, but I'm stubborn that way.  Three separate times I woke up to find I'd written sentences that had absolutely no meaning whatsoever.  I deleted them and wrote something that actually made sense (I hope!).  Then I'd doze off and wake up and find I'd done it all over again.  I realize now I should have left them for comic purposes anyway.  I've already forgotten what they were, dangit.  I probably could have had a good laugh at my own expense.  

So, I can now firmly state.  DO NOT WRITE WHILE TIRED!  Anyone else ever done anything silly like that?
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Debate on the value of Nanowrimo is all over the net.  Some people think it's silly to try to write a novel in 30 days, but I think they're missing the point.  I know I'm not going to write a complete novel in 30 days--a 50k story is not a full length novel.  I think most of us are just trying to get the basic idea of a novel down--maybe a 50k synopsis--or perhaps the first half in rough draft form. 

I am worried that I'm putting down words without caring what the heck they are.  I'm not sure it's leading me to an end state of the story or if I'm just wasting time and causing myself more work in revision time. Without a road map, I'm afraid the story's going to end up lost in the woods and never be able to find its way to completion.  I'm reminding myself that anything I write can be undone later (although it'll be a heck of a lot of work!).  All this writing is good practice, even writing bad words can be good, as long as I recognize what I've done wrong and figure out how to change it.

I think the important point about Nano is learning to set a daily goal of writing X number of words and sticking to it.  And to turn off the damned internal editor until Draft 2.  I started out miserably, missing 3 days completely and not hitting goal in several others.  But the last three days have been going quite well and I feel confident that I can make up for those lost days -- even though it will mean writing every single day from here on out, even though there is Thanksgiving coming and jury duty and a day lost to medical procedure.  I'm aiming for 2-2.5 k a day from now on out, and if I hit the 2.5, I'll have caught up by next week.  And if I can keep that pace up, then I'll finish a day or two early, which would please me immensely. 

But the story is starting to get into VERY unfamiliar territory, and I really don't know where its going.  Which will be leading me to a new post in a day or two (sorry for the length of this one!  If you hung in until the end, then you get a big virtual {{hug}}.) about how I'm beginning to see the value in *gasp* outlining.
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Setback:  I'm sick.  I blame my hubby cause he got it first.  With him coughing his germs all over, it was inevitable that I'd get it. 

This is how it goes in our world.  He gets sick once in a blue moon and then he's sick for maybe a day, AND he keeps working.  Me?  I don't get sick all that often, really, but when I do, I'm down and on my back for days.  And there's no way I can work. 

I ache and my throat hurt.  I thought my head was going to explode this morning.  I *wished* it would explode, it hurt so bad.  I think it was sinuses, because it hurt in my forehead, but guess what, migraine medication works for the whatever-this-is.  I actually feel halfway okay right now.  I'm going to try to get my 100 words in now.  No telling what I'll feel like tomorrow.  maybe better, eh? 
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The other day at yoga I felt very unbalanced and almost fell over once.  But when jiggling around trying to stay on your feet -- or hands, as the case may be -- the initial reaction is to tighten up and try to stay put, but what I've found to be more effective is to relax, to not fight the sway, but to give in to it, and that usually settles my balance.  I think this relates to writing, because sometimes the words won't come, and I sit and tighten up and get more and more confused, when the thing to do is to just relax on into and write words, without worrying if the writing is smooth and unencumbered.  Get the thoughts down without thinking too hard, let them flow out in disjointed phrases, in unconnected thoughts.

This worked pretty well for me the other day when I couldn't find the way into my story.  I just wrote down whatever came to mind, even though I was repeating myself, or unable to finish a sentence.  I just left it all as it was, and kept pushing on through.  Last night I came back to the story and was able to edit and revise out all the repetition and stunted words.  It's a good reminder to never not start just because the writing isn't flowing smoothly.  Sometimes it's enough to wriggle around until the rough spots are past.
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I'm having trouble with a story.  It started out as a flash, and now I'm trying to expand it full length by adding another scene to the beginning.  I can't find the right words.  I try to make a sentence and end up with about 5 different tries -- all fragments.  Then I realize, it's not the words I'm having trouble with, it's the voice.  I haven't found the voice for the story yet.  I never realized that's what's so hard about openings, is finding the right voice for the story.  And so I decided that instead of trying to find the perfect sentence, I should concentrate just on getting some thoughts and words and ideas down and muscle along until I know enough of the story to find the voice--or let the voice find me. 

ETA:  And.... it's worked.  I kept stumbling along and writing down ideas and words, even if they were essentially repeats of what I'd just said, even if they were out of order, and lo and behold, the story found me.  Or the scene.  I have the whole end, I just need to add a new scene onto the beginning, and then do some expanding on the rest.  This is the feeling I've been looking for, for quite a while now.  That big excitement and joy in writing, the enthusiasm to finish the story, to discover that world.  I've been in a very blah mood about writing, and was beginning to fear I would never feel inspired again.  I'm so very glad I kept hammering away at it.

Now, may I direct you, if you haven't seen it yet, to Nathan Bransford's post HERE. Specifically the part about relationships.  It strikes me as very true, and something to keep in mind when crafting stories.   It's about creating tension for the reader by having the character's relationship being full of up's and down's.  One moment the boy feels the girl enjoys the heck out of him, the next moment, he feels she's ignoring him. 
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Many of my LJ friends have playlists.  Some for routine listening music, some have specific playlists for specific novel-writing.  I don't normally listen to music while writing, but music moves me in a deep way, so perhaps I should try it.  But it makes me wonder what it is about music that connects. 

I can get a very visceral reaction to certain songs.  I can literally get chills when music hits a certain note or tone.  I heard "I Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum the other day, and that is definitely a song that touches me in a very physical way.  It's the tone of the female singer's voice that resonates with me, like I'm attuned to that certain vibration.  And voices in harmony that move me.  It's very hard to explain, because I don't understand what happens, but I have a feeling some of you understand this.  I don't know if this is something that everyone experiences.  Is it something tied into a creative process?  Does each person have their own set of rhythms and tones that resonate within? 

I've tried to touch upon this in a couple of stories before.  I'd love to do a story about drumming.  Peoples have been using drums and musical instruments since time immemorial for ritualistic and even healing purposes.  I think there's a lot to explore and discover on the uses and effects of music.

What music/songs move you?
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I'm trying to revise a story.  What I usually do is revise a story using the track changes feature in Word.  Then I let it sit for a while, so I can come back and read with a *somewhat* clearer eye, so that hopefully I've forgotten enough of the story and the way it was worded to be able to tell if it still reads smoothly and gets the required information across.

So I read through the story and approved all the changes.  And then I get to the end.  My protagonist kills the dreaded creature that's attacked them.  Boom it dies and it's over.  A little too quick, there.  Then more stuff happens, and boom, the story ends.  It's ok. It's not great.

I have notes at the end suggesting a different ending.  Adding in another element earlier on, where my hero was going to leave as soon as they returned.  Now end the story when she's killed the creature, with some begging for her to not go, they've accepted her now, and her deciding if she should stay or go (they've been mean to her).  This way, we'll have some self-discovery of some sort (still undecided what that should be!) and it will probably be a better ending.  

But geez, I'm heartily sick of working on this story.  This is when I usually trunk the story for months on end, because I don't want to do it.  It's really not that much work to change it.  Why am I so reluctant?  This revising stuff sucks sometimes.

But I am determined to get through all my story drafts and get them finished.  Some have languished for way too long, and I like the stories.  I just gave up on working on them.  And I'm not going to let that happen. 
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Thanks to a bladder infection that kept me up til 3 am Sat. night, I finished Water for Elephants.  I've had many people tell me what a *great* book it was.  I enjoyed it.  I wasn't blown away.  I really enjoyed it from a historical perspective, she certainly did her research on the subject.  However, by a little over the halfway point, I'd had it with Jacob.  I was really tired of his immaturity and pouts and sulks and stupid decision-making.  People tried to be his friend and he was always pushing them away and being rude.  At the end of the book edition I had, was an interview with the author, and she said she enjoys writing flawed characters, and that at some point in the reading, she *wants* the reader to want to throttle the characters. 

I think you walk a very fine line using this approach.  I think characters do need to be flawed, but I think they also have to have more redeeming qualities than flawed.  In Jacob's case, his redeeming qualities was the way he cared for a couple of the characters and the animals (eventually, anyway--his awakening to recognize the animals needed him should have happened much sooner, IMO).  But I felt his flaws outweighed these qualities.  I was really tired of him by the end when he finally does redeem himself.  It happened way too late, IMO, and affected my overall enjoyment of the book.
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Finally saw the WotF blog yesterday (where was I for those two days?  I *thought* I was here, but apparently I was not) and my story for whatever quarter that was, 4th I guess, was an Honorable Mention.  That was nice, as that story submission has a story behind it, which I am not going to divulge, so there!  Wonder your little hearts away!  (I must be feeling devilish this morning)

Also received an email this morning from Warrior Wisewoman which made me go, "Ah, CRAP!" because usually when I see an email in my inbox from a submission, it's a rejection, and I knew my sub was in the date range to be among the next read.  Well, it was a pleasant surprise, my story made it past the first read.  Usually hold notices for me are a prolonged wait for a rejection.  I've never survived one yet.  I probably just jinxed myself by stating that out loud. 

I've been a horrible slug lately and haven't accomplished much in my own writing folders.  Last night after slugging my way through multiple games of Spider Solitaire, I finally got busy and read through a story that has been languishing away, just waiting for a final read-through/spiffing so it can be subbed.  I think I've decided on all the changes.  I've saved a copy, written up the cover letter.  I just want to wait until maybe tomorrow to read the final copy just one last time and then out it goes.  I've decided that since inspiration is so low for new writing, that each and every day for the next week, I will be working on that spiffing process.  I need to get all those orphaned stories kicked out the door, even if they are screaming and crying and holding onto the doorframe with their sticky little fingers.  No sympathy.  Out you all go!

Now I need to get busy and get to the gym and then we Master Gardeners are having a Winter Gardening Festival -- all free, where we give advice on rose pruning and all manner of landscape plants.  My table will be on shade gardens and shrubs.  Thank goodness it's not raining and no fog today either (so far, anyway.)

Over and out.
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Haven't been posting much, mainly because I don't feel I have anything interesting to say. I've been writing every day, but only a basic ten-minutes or so, just to say I did. I've been doing better the last week or so, but I have 2 stories I need to finish in a week and both are giving me fits. One I keep stumbling on, even though I have a pretty good idea of what I want it to be (except for the ending which is a little grayish) and the other is an idea looking for a story to go along with it. Can't get that one figured out.

I read an interesting post the other day talking about the difference between a story idea and a story. Wish I could remember whose post this was, because I've really been thinking about it a lot the last few days. (If you know, please let me know in comments)

Basically it was saying that sometimes stories are written that are really only about an idea, as if the writer is saying, hey look, I had this great idea. But there's really not a *story* there. I guess basically they're saying it's a plot without an actual story. What is it that makes a story then? I'm thinking it's the character's journey. What does the character want? I mean, *really* want, not just his/her story goal. And what's standing in their way? Or whom is standing in their way?
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We're at the coast for a week.  Yay for vacation!  Except today we washed windows and mini blinds, so that didn't feel very vacation-y.  I haven't been posting much, I was busy trying to do the 50k in a month thing, and then I think I was burned out and just needed to chill for a while.  But I'm getting back into the groove, although just a tad overwhelmed with various crit responsibilities which I am far behind in.

We went for a long walk on the beach this morning.  It was low tide, and fairly early enough that not a lot of people had been walking yet in the wet sand.  I found myself following someone's footprints and becoming intrigued with the idea of tracking.  Someone was barefoot, and I noticed that the big toe, which was elongated and thinner at the tip, didn't press into the sand as deep as the smaller toes.  Which was contrary to what I would have thought.  I know nothing about tracking, but I imagine someone that was good at it could tell all sorts of things by following footprints.  Probably the size of the person, if they were running or walking, if they had a limp, how tall they were by the length between steps.  Plus I was surprised at how distinctive the prints were from each other.  I'd like to know more -- I don't know why, but it seems an interesting story idea, someone who hires out to be a tracker, someone who's an expert at it. 

July stats

Aug. 1st, 2009 04:24 pm
musingaloud: (Default)
July Stats:

Subs: 0
Rejections: 1
Stories at Market: 6
Publications:  2 -- Lorelei Signal and Shock Totem
Days writing at least 100 words per day:  369
Words Written:  52,422

Yes, I did Julnawrimo.  Yes I finished.  No am not anywhere close to having a story in those 50K of stilted words.  Yes, I probably have at least 20k that needs to be cut.  But I feel it was a worthwhile exercise in learning to write a set amount of words per day in a short amount of time.  I had a goal of 2k a day, which would have resulted in my being done with my 50k on July 25 or 26, since I didn't write 2k on July 4th.  But I was 6k short by that day.  And then I hit a real slump for another few days.  I'm glad I gave myself the extra room, because I ended up doing over 5k the last 2 days to finish.

Here are my pro's and con's in doing a Novel in a Month Challenge:

Pro:
You can end up with a very rough complete first draft if you stick to the basics.
Writing this fast will make it easier to remember what you've already written.
Good for plotting out the storyline
Good for character basics
It does help you realize what details need to be thought about beforehand (maps, town names, level of technology, do they have books and paper?  

Con:
Your writing will not improve from this exercise.
You will not end up with a "Book"
Not optimal for character development

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