My con season is starting up, and one of the ways I’ve been avoiding writing lately is by signing up for panels.
I generally try to do a couple of panels and a reading at most of the cons I go to. Not so much because I enjoy blathering on–though I do, a little. Mostly I do them because it’s another way to meet people. There’s the people who come to see the panel, who even if I don’t get a chance to talk to them at least they now have some vague idea that I exist. Then there’s the other panelists. I’ve been introduced to some great people by sharing a panel with them. It’s a nice icebreaker for an introvert like me– if I’ve already sat next to someone for an hour and yakked about some topic, I start to feel that I can say hi to them later.
I usually try to limit myself to three panels though. More than that, and I start to burnout. Too much talking to groups. They also take away time from the real purpose of the con– hanging out with all the cool geeks.
So I’m at the Science Online Conference. It’s basically a con for science writers and editors so we can learn how to effectively communicate science on the internet. So far, people seem to be a little more outgoing than at writing cons, but they are just as geeky. Thursday and Friday have game nights worked into the schedule, and there’s an “Intergalactic Gala,” which I suspect is a geek prom of sorts.
I love when my words collide is fabulous ways.
One trick a lot of writers use to keep stories on the market is to send a story back out the same day it comes back. That way stories don’t linger, and it takes some of the sting out of the rejection.
It’s also inefficient. Even if you have an ordered list of the next market for a story, each time you get a rejection, you have to check the list, double-check that you don’t already have something at that market, triple-check the guidelines (I can’t be the only one who’s ever accidentally sent something that’s too long, or too short), and finally send it off.
Not exactly onerous, true. But what if Story A comes back, and you send it to Awesome Stories, which is only open for one week every five months–and then Story B comes back the next day, and the only market left on its list is Awesome Stories, so now it will sit on your computer for five more months.
Ok, the chance of that happening is pretty slim. But it does.
For me it’s much simpler to deal with submissions once a week. I pretty much ignore rejections during the week. Sometimes I don’t even log them right away. (Acceptances, on the other hand, get dealt with instantly.) Every weekend I sit down with a list of stories to send out and decide which one is going where. In the scenario above, Story B goes to Awesome Stories. Story A has three other markets it can go to and still be back in time for Awesome Stories’s next reading period. Story C has 35 rejections and can go to this market with a 607-day response time so I don’t have to think about it for a while.
Then the rest of the week, I can leave my secretary hat off and just deal with the writing parts of writing.
Or as I like to think of it: OH MY GOD MY BOOK IS COMING OUT IN A MONTH AND I’M NOT READY AND THERE’S SO MUCH TO DO AND BREATHE BREATHE BREATHE BREATHE.
Fortunately, several lovely individuals have been helping me deal with these occasional freak outs by posting advance reviews of my book. Like Read, Write, Reflect. And Colby Sharp’s 10 Minute Review.
My editor also helpfully sent me the final, hardcover version of my book so I could hold it in my hands and have that spine-tingling moment of pure joy that happens when something you have worked so hard and so long for finally comes to be.
But probably the most helpful thing happened over a week ago when I visited with students who had gotten advance copies of the book to read. They gave me one copy back and wrote on it everything they loved about the story. Pages filled with writing, so many good thoughts. They marked their favorite parts in the book, drew their own dragonfly pictures, and wrote notes that left me feeling so humbled and grateful that I can’t adequately explain it.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. It’s going to be a good month. I want to remember everything about it.
Like many writers, I enjoy whining about never having enough time to get the writing done. So, with a contract in hand and a deadline looming, I decided to prioritize the writing. Two thousand words first, almost everything else later. Almost, because getting the kids fed, sorted, and out the door is pretty mandatory. After that though, writing.
This has been working out great. I’ve been reliably hitting my 2K a day goal (1K on weekend days), which means 10K a week. Which means draft 1 is almost done.
While the writing is getting done, little else is. My exercise program has gone out the window, and I’m too out of shape to chase it down. The house looks like a pack of wolves has gone through it, then left, disgusted by the service and complaining about the cleanliness. The children are still getting taken care of, but that’s because they insist on it, and muzzling them is apparently frowned upon. Also, my video games are so, so lonely.
This isn’t really surprising. There’s only so much time to jam activities into. The writing goes up, everything else goes down. I could stress about it (and I will!) but that uses up more time. Better to accept it, and just do what I can, when I can. I mean, it’s winter. I have a few months before the plagues of locusts come for the kitchen, right?
Ah, multitasking. It’s the best way to ensure that all your successes will be neatly matched with failures.
So I’ve been invited to start a new writing gig (I’m going to stay quiet about just what that gig is until it’s offical and such) and I’m excited. I’m a bit stressed, too. While the pay is minimal, the potential exposure will be nice, and I’ll get to flex my critical-thinking-about-literature muscles. It’s one more thing on top of an already busy schedule, and that stresses me out a little. The nature of the content stresses me out, too, but we’ll get into that more once I make the gig public.
I want to say more but I don’t want to jinx the gig. You understand. Perhaps this should have been a “writer’s superstitions” post.
Filed under reading, writing
Reading: I love it and I never read as many books as I would like. Last year, I upped my reading by first, vowing to read books instead of blog posts, and later, by listening to audiobooks instead of podcasts.
That still leaves me with a big stack of unread books. It’s mostly a virtual stack, but they nag at me. I’ve recently reframed the way I think about reading, though. Instead of “I want to read this book and this book and this book…” I’ve been aiming to read at certain times–not just before bed, but at dinner, weekend breakfasts, and thanks to audiobooks, while walking or cleaning.
This sounds kind of stupid when I write it out–who gets stressed out by unread books?–but thinking about it as just something to do, instead of a project to complete, gets rid of the stress and guilt of all those lurking books. Plus all those half-finished nonfiction books “count”.
Good thing, too, because you won’t believe how many good books I can check out in e- or audio form from my library.
Sometimes I get so tired of the writing business. Not the craft of it, mind you, or the nuts-and-bolts, aaaaahhhhh-I’m-so-busy-deadlines-are-eating-me aspect of it. And not the office-type work of contracts and tracking income/expenses. No, what makes me tired is politics.
I’m not going to get into here, but a writing organization to which I belong has a storied history of conflict. And not just conflict but table-flipping, curse-you-to-hell, fuck-you-I’m-taking-my-ball-and-going-home arguements. The kind of fights that result in family estrangements. Except these fights happen all over the internet for the entire world to see. It makes my head hurt. Not because the conflict is happening–the issues the conflicts are about absolutely need to be discussed–but the manner in which the conflict happens is distressing.
I just want to write stories for people to read. I want to make someone’s life a little better, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Internal political dramas don’t stop me from doing my job, of course, but it’s distracting. It makes it harder to do my job sometimes. And that makes me tired.
Keeping on with the advice theme, stopping in the middle is one that sounds good, but I’ve never been able to implement it. Except accidentally, when I run out of time, which is all too frequent.
It doesn’t seem to help, even though it should. I think it’s because I have a bad memory. So I forget that I was writing a cool scene yesterday, and I’m not any more motivated to write than usual. Or I forget what was supposed to happen in the scene, unless I leave myself really detailed notes, and at that point I might as well just keep writing.
Usually, though, if I’ve got a lot of momentum going–I keep writing. I’d rather finish the scene than risk losing the momentum and not getting it back the next day.
Of course, I skip all the sword fights in the first draft anyway, so what do I know.
I kept trying to do a long post on my opinion on “If you can quit, quit” but I gave up.
Let’s just say that I’ve decided I dislike that piece of advice because it leads me into rambling, contradictory arguments with myself that ultimately don’t make much sense.
Instead, here’s a piece of writing advice that is working well for me right now– stop in the middle.
Let me expand, in case you haven’t heard this one before. Basically, this says that you shouldn’t stop writing at the resolution points of your story, when things are slowing down. That seems natural, but it can work against you. Instead, stop writing in the middle of a sword fight, an argument, some kissy stuff, whatever, because that’s interesting and your brain will keep mulling it over. So when you plop your butt back into the chair, you already have some momentum going.
I heard that one a while back, and it’s worked really well for me. It’s just a lot easier to wade into the WIP if I’m starting out in the middle of a scene. Things are all ready in motion, I just get them resolved and roll into the next thing.