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Posts tagged ‘writing’

On Why My Fiction Writing is Necessary

To date, I haven’t earned more than $20 from my writing. To be a full time fiction writer is a dream come true, but the reality is that even if you have multiple books published, you still might have to do something else to support yourself (and your family). More practical people would see my work in the past years as a failure.

“Whaaa? You still haven’t published a novel?” they say.

It’s hard for me to explain to someone, who isn’t a writer, why I continue to write. There’s no money coming in from it, so why bother? It’s a hobby — a pastime, that I tinker with but don’t ever seem to get any traction on. At best, I’m an undiscovered genius. At worst, I’m a hack that is deluding herself.

Neither one of these is true for me.

I think I’m a good writer. I’m good enough to be on the shelf with my peers, but I’m not Margaret Atwood, or Octavia Butler. My ego tells me I’ve got something special and my common sense reels me back and says I need to work on that specialness. That sounds pretty healthy to me. You have to have some sort of ego to be any artist. You have to believe people will care about what you create. Otherwise why bother putting it out into the world? Just write your stuff in journals and stuff them under the bed.

As I look for new employment, I ask myself what made me stay at my previous job so long? I was there for almost eleven years. Not only that, but the job I had before, I was there for six and a half years. Clearly, I wasn’t there only for money. What were the traits of that job that made me stay so long and how can I find to same qualities in my next job? That’s the questions I ask myself as I comb through job announcements and email my resumes.

The first time I decided I wanted to write, I was twelve years old. That was thirty years ago! This is a hobby/hopefully second career that I’ve stuck with for more than half my life. So why have I done it?

First off, I’m an introvert. I’m not good at parties and I don’t want to be around people all the time. Even as I type this, I’m alone in my place with no plans to meet up with anyone today. That sounds great to me. Yep, I’m in the yoga pants, t-shirt, and house shoes.

Yet, I don’t want to cut myself off from the world all the time. Writing helps me connect because I can do it in the comfort of my house, but then share with all of you. I can be vulnerable and still feel protected at the same time.

Second, I do love stories. Not even kidding when I say that I can watch the same movies and TV shows multiple times, even if I enjoyed the story the first time around. (And let’s not forget I have a pretty good memory, so even if I remember the story-line, I’ll still watch it.) I just recently found the reruns of Monk on Hallmark’s Mysteries channel. They are still funny, wonderful stories. Also, I will reread some of my all time favorite short stories again and again. Recently, perused through Ted Chaing’s “Story of Your Life” again. (The movie came on Syfy.)

So I write stories that I really enjoy and want to read over and over. It’s a challenge and exhilarating. I love to push myself to go outside of the box and really write a story that is unique, but familiar. Odd, but comforting. I love the challenge and when I feel like I’ve written something good, oh my it is a happy day in my house.

Lastly, I do write stories for you the reader. I love to brighten someone’s day. Make them laugh and forget the crap they are dealing with. Make them say “Wow, what fun!” Making someone else feel better, have empathy, see through fresh eyes, or simple helping them escape for a few minutes is the best job in the world.

I’ve been fiction writing for thirty years, and I plan to do it for at least thirty more.

Continuing On…

It’s a new month and a new reality for me. The dust is starting to settle around my unemployment. I still feel like I should be working everyday and often I find notes written to myself about a work thing I needed to get done or a goal I wanted to hit. I forgot to stop the alerts on my calendar, so stuff pops up every now and then.

But I’ve also waded through the paper work for unemployment benefits, healthcare,  updating my resume, and job searching. I have to say – It’s nuts the way almost every employer wants you to create an account on their site just to submit a resume. I have so many passwords now… LOL.

Hey you gotta laugh, otherwise you’ll cry.

One thing I do want to address is my fiction writing career. For the first time in a long time, I have the time to really write, everyday, without feeling guilty. I apply to jobs in the morning and then in the afternoon, I pull out the stories. I don’t have to worry about taking time away from anything else, because I’m not doing anything else. It’s freeing.

Even when I was working full-time and I would take vacation days, I still didn’t write with total freedom. Days off meant doing things I would have the chance to do like travel and do house projects. Now I really have the time. I have to keep myself busy and active. The last thing I want is to start waking up at 10am and not get dressed until the afternoon.

Nope. Not a good idea.

So, I’m up at my usual time of 6am. I do my usual morning routine: lemon water, vitamins, scripting, and exercise. Then it’s make tea, get dressed, plan my day, and see what’s going on the world (usually an hour or so of morning talk shows). Then at 8am or so my (new) workday starts. So far so good.

As a reminder, I had 4 writing goals this year:

-Finish my novel

-Write 6 new short stories (1 down, 5 more to go.)

-Write 100K words

-Gain more followers on the blog (Got a nice little bump in April.)

That should be plenty to keep me busy. Let’s do this!

Keep Going!

Today I was reminded that it has been a year since I put a down payment on my first home. Two years ago, I lived in a different place and was plugging away at my goal to save up money. Time seemed to move much slower while I worked toward my goals. The days repeated over and over.

I felt like I would never get there.

I feel like that now. I’m plugging away at my novel and stories, but not really making any progress. Things are still unfinished. I know that I will be done one day. But that day seems so far off.

I have to remember that sometimes when you are in the middle, it is tough to see the end, but it is there. There is an end. You have to keep going and trust that you will get there.

I’ve done it before. I’ve gotten degrees, paid off lots of debt, saved up large sums of money, and written novels (and lots of short stories). All long-term goals I achieved. This should be a familiar thing to me.

And it is, but sometimes I need to be reminded. I need to keep going and until I get to the end.

I Did It! 30 Straight Days of Posting!

Hearts stand for the days I wrote.

Here we are at the end of the month. It was either March 30 or 31 when I decided to embark on this expirement. I figured I shouldn’t think about it too hard. I would go for it and see what happened.

For the first few days I didn’t even want to say publicly what I was doing. Many times I say I will do something and then life happens and I don’t get to it. So I thought I would post for a while and, if I made it to day ten, then I would say something. Not only did I make it to April 10, but all the way to day 30.

So what did learn by doing this?

First, as I said earlier, I do have the time to write. This month I had a birthday, worked full-time, had some personal and professional bad news, and had all the everyday pressures we all have. Also this month was arguably the biggest month for pop culture. Through all of this, I managed to post everyday. Sometimes it was late at night, but I posted.

Second, my fiction writing fell way behind. Although I wrote everyday, I didn’t write much fiction. Easter was the big fiction writing day, because that post was very short. I figured most people would be busy. This is partly why the posting will scale back to one a week. (I’m thinking Wednesday.) I want to keep up the daily habit, but apply it more to fiction.

I have a big goal this year to write 100K. Plus I want to fix this problem with my novel and finally finish it. Also, I have 5 more short stories to write this year. Clearly, I have no shortage of projects that need my attention.

Thanks to everyone who read and shared these posts. It was fun. Maybe I’ll do it every year in April.

And a big HELLO to all the new people who are following!

How I Found My Literary Voice Part 2

After I graduated from undergrad with my BA in English, I had a plan. I wanted to find a job that paid me enough to live and still left me with free time to write. I got my wish with an electronic publishing company in Northern Virginia. The job was interesting and the people were great. I didn’t make huge amounts of money, but it was enough to pay the bills.

I had been so inspired by Raymund Chandler, I thought I would write mystery novels. Through out my teen years, I read Mary Higgins Clark, Jonathan Kellerman, and the Nancy Drew stories. So after settling into my new adult life complete with my own apartment and new job, in a new city, I started to write my mystery story. It was slow going. I liked the idea, but it just didn’t feel right. After a few months, I put it aside.

I had a dilemma now. This was my best idea. If I wasn’t going to work on it, what would I do? My typical writing schedule was to work on my lunch hour and a couple of hours when I got home. In March 2000, I started a short story on my lunch hour. I was just playing around, trying to think of something to write, when an idea came over me. The story would be about a girl who was scared to grow up, so much so that her fear came to life. It was a strange, weird idea that I found compelling, so I followed the thread.

A couple of weeks later, I had to put the story aside. I was being laid off and job hunting became a priority at lunch time, instead of writing. Plus my apartment turned out to have so many problems that my roommate and I needed to start looking for a new place to live. My strange story would have to wait. I packed it away in a box.

Months later I had a new job and a new place. The apartment was good, but the job was taxing. I had a long commute and had zero energy to write when I got home. I also made the mistake of moving myself and instead of doing it in one or two days, I moved little by little over the course of a month. (Pro tip: Never move yourself. Pay people to do it. Trust me.) I didn’t really relax until the holidays.

I opened my writing box and there, on top of a stack of papers, was my story. Funny thing, I didn’t remember writing it. I read it with fresh eyes and realized: 1)I didn’t write an ending and 2) the story was good. I wrote the ending right there on my bed. Also, I realized I needed to quit my job. Writing was my calling and this demanding job that drained me, added thirty pounds of stress on my body, and left me unhappy had to go.

By the end of January 2001, I had a new job (back to electronic publishing) with a sensible commute and plenty of time to write. I enrolled in a community writing class and work-shopped my story. I had no idea how people would react, but I was damn proud of the story. It was the first thing I wrote out of school that I felt was in my true voice.

The class was good and most people reacted to it just as I hoped. But there was this one woman (I can’t even remember her name.) who hated it. She said to me, “I don’t understand anything that is going on here. Why don’t you just get rid of all this supernatural stuff and write a real story.” I was utterly confused by that and, at twenty-three, had never met people who were so hostile to genre stories. I have since met plenty of others who were just at snotty and I steer clear of them. My stuff is not for them, plain and simple.

Anyway, after this lady said her piece, an older woman named Carol took one look at her and shook her head. She leaned closer to me and said, “Ignore her. You write magical realism. That’s who you are.” I had never heard the term, but you’d better believe I went home and googled it. I took a look at my bookshelf and sure enough next to the Chandlers and the Dashell Hametts were Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and quite a few of those teen horror/fantasy books from Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine. (Remember those?) Turns out I had a strong streak of the supernatural in me.

And to even solidify this realization, I found a note written on a realistic story that I had written while at UNM in Advanced Creative Writing. My professor wrote in the margin — This is good, but it is all a bit magical. My true voice had been inching out years earlier and just didn’t see it. After that class, I knew who I was as a writer.

I knew my voice.

Be that Quirky Writer

We writers are an odd lot. I started reading this book, It Takes a Certain Type of to be a Writer by Erin Barrett and Jack Mingo. It’s full of quirky anecdotes about writers and their behavior. My take away is that every writer has a certain set of rituals, behaviors, and tics that makes them create that magic that ends up in their writing.

So I started thinking about some of my own quirky habits.

First, I write 90% of my stuff long hand first. After a long day of working at my computer for my day job, sometimes I just can’t look at another screen. Hand writing my stories ensures that the writing gets done for the day. One exception is the blogging. I always compose these posts on the computer.

Second, I need a good dose of caffeine just before I start. In the winter, it’s black or green tea. In the summer, it’s ice tea. Back in the day, it was a Cherry Coke or Coke Zero, but, ya know, we’re trying to clean up our diet, so that don’t fly no more. The drink not only perks me up, but also is a break between what I was doing before and the writing time. My brain switches over and once I finish, I’m ready to work.

Third, I  don’t like to talk about works in progress. In the past, I’ve opened up about stories I’m working on, detailing plot and character, but I always regret it. So my new rule is, no details until I’m good and ready.

Fourth, I like black ink. I’ll tolerate blue (or other colors), but I prefer black.

Fifth, I used to write my first drafts to music. That habit has changed over the years. Now I prefer silence. Occasionally I will turn the tv for the white noise, but it has to be something that I can tune out like white noise in the background.

Those are all the quirks I can think of now. I’m not too exciting with my writing rituals. I don’t like writing in bed, nor do I pace around like others. My little habits get the work done and I’ll keep doing them as long as they keep working.