Monthly Archives: April 2013

Writing chains

I’m on day 62 of an attempt to write 250 words every day. Doing a chain like this is something I’ve tried in the past without a whole lot of success. I can write pretty quickly, but I spend a lot of time revising, so I would end up writing random stuff or garbage words, and that just wasn’t helping me meet my goals.

It came up again last summer at the workshop I was at, and I decided to try it again. It’s been going much better–obviously I haven’t written every single day since then, but I haven’t missed too many. 250 is a pretty easy target to hit. It helps that I’ve had an entire novel and several short stories to write, and another novel to plan (which involves writing snippets).

While it’s nice to celebrate hitting 50 days, or 60 days, or looking at my March calendar where every single day has an x through it–I’m not sure there’s much benefit in this other than making me feel good about myself. There’s also a danger in the temptation to type that 250th word and call it a day, even though I need a lot more words than that to get my novel done, and my backlog of revisions to do has reached an all-time high. Still, 250 words adds up pretty quickly, especially since I don’t usually stop as soon as I hit that number.

The only downside is that I know I’m going to miss a day sometime, and it’ll take me forever to catch up to my current mark.

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Blah. Busy month is busy.

April has gone all chock-a-block on me. Nothing big, just a pile of little things heaping up around me. Like spider eggs, they are small and unassuming, with the promise of a sticky tide or horror if ignored for too long.

Most are non-writing related– friends visiting, strangers visiting, house falling apart, children demanding celebrations of their successful invasions, that sort of thing. But the writing stuff is there too. Let’s see, there’s the four short stories in various states of revision and polish that need to be dealt with. Then there’s the novel outline I need to write. Then I should start on that novel. And I need to do a query letter and synopsis for the book I’m going to be spamming around soon.  Over all of that hangs the book that might be– if the publisher decides that they like the outline which I’ve done. Which would be great, but would mean that I would have to suddenly shift gears and throw myself into that project.

Stuff and stuff.

Well, May should be calmer. Except for the two cons I’m going to.


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Preaching to the reader

I’m currently taking a class in sustainability from Coursera.

When I signed up, I wasn’t sure whether I’d do any of the work, or just watch the lectures. But it turns out that one of the ways to earn a certificate in the course is to do a final project. And the project can be anything.

Enter my message story.

I already had a world sitting around, with one short story done and a novel planned, that takes place in a future Earth where people have drastically changed their lifestyles to help the planet recover from what (at least in the fictional universe) people did to it in this century. So I’m taking some of the topics from the course and addressing them in fiction, to explore how that society changed and how people’s lives were affected by the upheavals.

Tonight, I have to turn in a small sample of the story. I’ve only written a few snippets. Since it’s just the first draft, I’m letting the characters have the most awful dialogue. “As you know, Bob, if only those early 21st-century Americans had given up their cars, we wouldn’t be in this mess.” It’s boring and expository and preachy.

The really fun part will be after I get this draft done (I finally figured out the plot today, hooray) and go over it with an eye to making it a real story and not just a class project. Most of this preaching will have to go. For one thing, who wants to argue history with their colleagues when there are angry farmers to…persuade?

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I love reading …

… but sometimes it takes a great book to remind me of that.

Let me explain a dirty little secret about writing that your junior-high English teacher doesn’t tell you when you pipe up in class “I want to be a writer!”: learning the craft of writing sucks a little bit of enjoyment out of reading. Folks could write dissertations about that topic–it wouldn’t surprise me if someone has–but I’m going to hit the high points here. Writers write because they 1. love to read, 2. they love to tell stories, and 3. they want to write down those stories so lots of people can read them. In order to make sure people, you know, *read* them, you have to get good at it. And in order to get good at it, you have to read a lot. Which isn’t a problem, right, because we love to read! But there’s a difference between reading for pleasure and reading critically, between enjoying a story and picking it apart to see why it works. Eventually it’s hard to enjoy a book because we see the plot twist coming, not because it’s trite or overdone, but because we see the seeds the author planted in chapter two. We see them because we’ve tried to plant them ourselves.

I read a lot of books, some of them by author-friends, and I enjoy the time I spend doing it. I appreciate their artistry, I giggle at the right places, I wish I could write as well as them. I still like reading, of course, but it’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s kept me up at night.

Which brings me to what I’m reading now: Brent Week’s Way of Shadows. It’s an epic fantasy with an assassin and his apprentice at the core. The writing style is easy to read; the politics are complex but not overly so; it makes me root for a bad guy who isn’t a villain. It’s hitting all my trigger points, and it’s compulsively readable. I understand that what does it for me doesn’t do it for others, and that’s part of what makes the reading/writing gig so great; there’s something for everyone. But this book is reminding me why I love reading–and ultimately why I write–so damn much. It’s fun. It’s entertainment. It’s escape. It’s caring about what happens to people who don’t exist. And being a writer means bringing that joy to others.

Thanks, Mr. Weeks. You’ve reminded a discouraged writer why she shouldn’t give up.


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